"Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other . . . and among these nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place, but there . . . a trembling heart, failing eyes and anguish of soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you and you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life." -(Deuteronomy 28:65-68)
These prophetic words were uttered well over two thousand years ago, yet they describe, with frightening accuracy, the history of the Semitic peoples. From enslavement under the pagans of antiquity, to the Egyptian and Babylonian Captivities and the later atrocities of Antiochus Epiphanes, through the terrors of the Inquisition and living Hell of the Holocaust, these, the decendents of Shem, have truly " found no rest." Adolf Hitler's mystical Third Reich hosted what are perhaps the most extreme cases of libel, discrimination and brutality ever to applied to the House of Jacob, in their attempt to rectify Europe's "Jewish Problem."
Although few Germans matched Hitler's zealous and perverse hatred of Jews, the Fatherland was deeply rooted in anti-Semitic sentiment. In fact, proud citizens of the state, with notable exceptions, showed indifference at best to the gross injustice that had come to rule the streets and government of Germany. The Fuhrer's exploitation of this general spirit of malice was influential in his rise to power among the fickle masses of bitter Germans and soon found destructive expression after he was sworn in as Chancellor on January 30, 1933. (Leckie 49)
During the early months of that pivotal year, affiliates of the omnipresent Nazi party incited riots, assaulting Jews with violence and vandalism. Encouraged by the Gestapo's covert acts of terrorism and by Herman Goering's refusal to "make the police guardians of Jewish department stores." (Rogasky 35), urban disturbances raged on with disasterous effects. When foreign powers voiced disapproval and went so far as to boycott German goods, Hitler countered with a one-day boycott of all Jewish products. (Rogasky 25). Six days later, on April 7 came the first law in a stream of anti-Semitic legislation. This "Law for the Restoration of the Civil Service" or "Aryan Law" removed all Jewish citizens from civil employment, defined a Jew as having one Jewish parent or two Jewish grandparents, and set the stage for more restrictions and regulations regarding racial identification. (Rogasky 26). Over the course of the year, the Jewish community would face their banning from employment in the legal and medical fields, refusal of admittance to universities and expulsions from establishments of the arts and the press. (Leckie 67).
By now, the wave of active abuse was gaining the momentum of unquestioning public support, as demonstrated in the May 1 book burning initiated by students at Berlin University. 70,000 tons of books, an estimated one third of the library books in Germany, perished that night along with the "...age of extreme Jewish intellectualism." (Rogasky 26). In September, Germany witnessed the re-birth of a some traditional forms of persecution under the Nuremberg Laws which in effect stripped Jews of all civil liberties, even citizenship itself, and established new standards for racial definition. (Leckie 67). The first division of these laws involved invasive measures to prevent the inter-breeding of Jews with other Germans, thereby insuring the "Protection of German Blood", and the second half or "Reich Citizen Law" made all German Jews resident aliens with no rights or protection under the law. (Rogasky 28).
Through these laws, the people of the Reich obtained the liberty to do as they pleased with their second class neighbors and were encouraged by the authorities become active in persecution. The resulting pogroms culminated in the devastating "Kristallnachte" when the Nazis exploited the assassination of a German official by a Jewish youth and organized a night of terror. (Rogasky 29). The figures of death, destruction and deportation are staggering, and yet they were only a prelude of horror to come as new regulations robbed Jews of property and posession, and the right to travel freely. The times of intimidation and pressure to emmigrate were passing as the Star of David once again marked the outsiders and more than 30,000 Jewish males were deported. Now Hitler's more sinister designs loomed on the horizon. (Rogasky 29).
It is difficult to imagine that a modern society could, within a matter of years, set its heart and mind to the destruction of one of its most vital corporate members until we can see the brokenness and internal division of that society and recognize, as Hitler did, the unifying effect of a common scapegoat. Hitler wisely chose Europe's favorite, and his own personal, whipping boy-the Jewish community- and used a common prejudice to bring about reconciliation within his divided masses along social, political, religious and financial lines. Hitler found in anti-semitism the means to solidify a national vision that exalted himself as the very essence of Germany, while satiating his own blood-lust and rage. (Meltzer 6). Hitler relied heavily on the myths of Jewish conspiracies regarding market control, world conquest and internal sabotage of society that are still popular throughout the world today and, at the same time, reinforced a common German notion that the Jewish community dominated the national economy and government. This idea was obviously ridiculous as Jews comprised less than one percant of Germany's population. (Meltzer 7). Also influential, were traditional cultural and religious stories that sprang from the Middle Ages. The title of "Christ-killer" and the black legend known as the "Blood-Libel" followed European Jews wherever they went and became, like the Christian doctrine against usury, an acceptable cause to persecute them when their presence was not required. (Rogasky 10).
The most popular form of propaganda, however, was incubated in a pseudo-science popularized by literature such as the Foundations of the Nineteenth Century. These books taxonomized all of mankind into separate races, attempting to trace their origins and establish a hierarchy of human worth based on supposed scientific evidence. It was through these ideas that the Semitic race was condemned as beyond improvement and universally declared to be inferior and dangerous. On these grounds genocide was merely the removal of a cancer from the body of worthy human beings-namely, the mythical Aryan race. (Rogasky 14).
In 1939, ghettos were constructed in German-occupied Poland for the purpose of temporarily holding all of the growing Reich's unwanted Jewish population. Because of its own anti-Semitic heritage, its huge population of Orthodox Jews and its spacious geography, Poland became the chief sight for these deportees as other occupied states toiled to reach the status of "Judenfrei" or "Jew free". (Rogasky 36). Starvation was an epidemic that was allowed to kill as many as five hundred people weekly in the ghetto at Warsaw and other camps suffered similar caualties. (Rogasky 48) Those who made it to the ghettos at all were lucky , though, not to have been among the some two million Jews executed in the firing squads of the SS's Special Action Groups or among those sent to the dreaded labor camps where one was literally worked to death, where most ghetto-dwellers would eventually be shipped. (Meltzer 9).
On January 2, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich submitted, in accordance to Hitler's order, his plan for the "complete solution of the Jewish question...". (Rogasky 53). Made possible by recent success of a deadly experiment at Auschwitz, this plan would continue the policy of death by labor, while the administration of the poisonous gas, Zyklon B would supplant the less efficient shootings and mobile gassings as the primary means of execution. (Rogasky 53).
From this time until the final defeat of Nazi Germany three years later, the atrocities would plunge to unprecedented depths of sadistic evil. Adolf Hitler's loyal butchers competed with each other for infamy in death camps across Eastern Europe. As rulers of their appointed dominions, men like Joseph Mengele wrote their names in the book of history's most despised and hung their portraits in the nightmares of ages to come. Yet despite the industrious murder and mutilation of over six million human beings, and in spite of a largely apathetic world, Hitler and his evil regime failed to destroy the Jewish people. The Third Reich has fallen never to rise again, its imagined millenial reign cut off in its infancy, but the people of Israel have survived and regained the land of their ancient fathers. This peculiar people now thrives in the land that it holds as a promise from heaven that it will endure, despite present threats, until the end of time.
Leckie, Robert. Delivered from Evil: The Saga of World War II.
New York: Harper & Row, 1987.
Meltzer, Milton. Rescue: The story of How Gentiles Saves Jews in
the Holocaust. New York, Harper &Row, 1988.
Rogasky, Barbara. Smoke and Ashes: the Story of the Holocaust.
New York: Holiday House, 1988.
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