The Holocaust Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Hitler's persecution of the Jews in Germany started soon after he became chancellor in 1933. Jews lost their citizenship under the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, and by the time of the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938 their property was being openly destroyed or confiscated. Isolation in ghettos and imprisonment in concentration camps occurred soon thereafter, and from 1942 Jews in Nazi-controlled regions across Europe were being systematically removed to concentration camps and extermination centers. Although there were small pockets of resistance here and there, no large-scale program of assisting Jews was forthcoming from the Allied governments. Jews seeking to emigrate during the period of persecution found few countries willing or able to accept them. By the end of the war, nearly 6 million Jews had been murdered.

Hitler's persecution of the Jews in Germany started soon after he became chancellor in 1933. Jews lost their citizenship under the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, and by the time of the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938 their property was being openly destroyed or confiscated. Isolation in ghettos and imprisonment in concentration camps occurred soon thereafter, and from 1942 Jews in Nazi-controlled regions across Europe were being systematically removed to concentration camps and extermination centers. Although there were small pockets of resistance here and there, no large-scale program of assisting Jews was forthcoming from the Allied governments. Jews seeking to emigrate during the period of persecution found few countries willing or able to accept them. By the end of the war, nearly 6 million Jews had been murdered.

In the United States, the State Department obstructed the processing of refugee visas, so that only a small percentage of victims got through. Moreover, when the first reports of the Holocaust reached the United States in 1942, the State Department kept them under wraps on the grounds that they needed to be verified. Even when confirmed, the reports did not garner the attention one might expect. Anti-Semitism played a strong roll, as did disbelief that such an event, so fundamentally at odds with Western principles, could have unfolded under the gaze of all. The main focus, most everyone argued (from Roosevelt down), should be winning the war, not attending to the needs of “political refugees.” Ultimately, it was private Jewish groups and others who worked to aid the victims as best they could.

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