Triangles, Badges & Stars:
Remembering the Mosaic of Victims of the Holocaust


By Shannon Hill
Ocala, Florida 


 

 

America has risen to one of most powerful nations in the world. The mosaic of people that make up the "melting pot of the world" are entirely responsible for the success of this country. Diverseness unifies a nation, while prejudice and discrimination cause emotional and physical separation among the inhabitants of a country; "A nation divided cannot stand." Adolph Hitler and the Nazis, however, chose to follow their theories and ideas of creating a "supreme race" despite the contradiction with the universal principles that acknowledge the power of diversity. Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Slavs, the physically and mentally disabled, Jehovah's witnesses, homosexuals, political prisoners, dissenting clergy, and others who were considered unworthy of being a member of society, all fell Nazi victims. Over eleven million diverse, innocent people were slaughtered by the Nazis as a result of their desire to create an identical race of people.

Hitler believed Marxism contrived to bestow the world to the Jews. Hitler predicted the Marxists would use democracy until they got the support of the intellectual world, then they would kill the populations. Hitler believed the most powerful nation would be one that is composed of a folkish state. Hitler's folkish philosophy promotes the supremacy of the "better and stronger" and the surrender of the "inferior and weaker." He believed that only this mightier race of people would be strong enough to withstand and overcome the problems of the future (Hitler 1: 4-l 0). Hitler wanted to rid the country of religion. He felt with all its indistinct characteristics and multiple forms, it was not only insignificant for human life, but it would lead

to the disintegration of mankind. He believed that he needed to eliminate the Jewish and "harmful" concepts, opinions, and aims to be able to create this folkish state. Many Germans already had strong feelings of resentment and animosity towards the Jews. Hitler provoked these feelings by convincing them that the Jews were the cause of all evil. On February 24, 1920, during the festsaal of the Munich Hofbrauhaus, the principles of the new party's program was presented to the crowd. After every point, the two thousand people excitedly approved (Hitler 5: 201-203).

When Hitler came into power, he created a series of policies and regulations that gradually captured the rights of the Jews in Germany. In 1933, the Nazis began to boycott Jewish businesses. The Nuremberg Laws were then established. These foreboded Jews to enter public places such as cinemas and resorts, suspended the publishing of Jewish newspapers, and required Jews to carry identification cards and Star of David badges. The Nazis burned synagogues, arrested and murdered Jews, banned their children from school, and appointed harsh curfews. After Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler demanded death for all European Jews. Many were herded into ghettos, while others were being killed by the millions from mobile squads. They were then led to concentration camps where six million died for being Jewish (Laska 101).

The Nazis saw Gypsies as asocial and inferior to Germans. Although the Gypsies were not specifically mentioned in the Nuremberg Laws, they were included in the actions of the Nazis. They were deprived of their civil rights, sent to ghettos and concentration camps, used in medical experiments, and injected with lethal substances. 30,000 German Gypsies were deported East between 1939 and 1943. Gypsies who were married to Germans were excused but were sterilized. Many were also murdered by-the Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi firing squad. They were shot naked facing their pre-dug graves for the sake of efficiency. According to Nazis, they preferred shooting the Jews because they would stand still unlike the Gypsies who would cry, scream moan, and move about. Hundreds of thousands of European Gypsies were killed during the Holocaust, most of them being gassed in Auschwitz (Hilberg 641).

Poles and other Slavs also fell victim to the Nazi terror. They were considered to be

subhumans and merely a hindrance to gaining more territory for Germany. Hitler quoted that "The destruction of Poland is our primary task. The aim is not the arrival of a certain line but the annihilation of living forces..." (Hitler 5: 204) Polish, Ukrainian, and Byelorussian people became targets of the Nazi genocide policy. Millions were deported to Germany. Polish teachers, physicians, clergy, business owners, attorneys, engineers, and other professionals were sent to concentration camps or publicly executed. Poles and other Slavs sent to execution camps had to wear the badges specified for criminal and political prisoners because there was no specific badge for them (Holocaust).

The physically and mentally disabled were executed because they were considered a hindrance to the Nazi plan for the "perfect race." They were rarely sent to concentration camps so therefore never assigned a specific badge. The nazis created sterilization programs and in 1934, 300,000-400,000 disabled were sterilized. The majority of these people were in mental hospitals and various other institutions. Propaganda campaigns emphasizing the costs of care of the disabled were used to create public support of Nazi programs. In 1939, the secret Nazi plan of exterminating the physically and mentally handicap began (Holocaust). This was known as the "euthanasia program." People became aware of the euthanasia killings and protested against them. Hitler ordered an end to the program in August 1941. Because of strong encouragement from the Nazis, however, the doctors continued killing handicapped patients through starvation, poisoning, or injections (Laska 154).

In 1933, Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany were forbidden Corn attending their religious meetings. Many, however, continued to practice their beliefs. In 1934, they had congregations send letters to the German government explaining their political indifference and religious principles. Some of these principles included their refusal to salute flags, raise their arms to "heil Hitler" or serve in the army. In 193 5, Jehovah's Witnesses were banned by law. Those who ignored the ban on their activities were arrested and sent to concentration camps. They were pinned with purple triangular badges and could only be freed if they signed a document abdicating their religion. Very few, however, would agree to sign the documents. Approximately 2,500 to 5,000 of the estimated 10,000 Jehovah's Witnesses imprisoned were exterminated (Holocaust).

In 1933, a state policy of persecution of homosexuals was enacted in Germany. A special Gestapo division was set up in 1934. The criminal code on homosexuality was made harsher and in 1935, a new law legalized the "compulsory sterilization (often castration)of homosexuals." In 1942, the death penalty was the consequence for homosexuality in the army and the SS. During the twelve year Nazi rule, almost 50,000 were found guilty of homosexuality. Most were sent to concentration camps and the majority of them were murdered. Even in the cam.. s, they were tortured by other inmates. Homosexuals were forced to wear pink triangles. They were given the hardest jobs in the camps and used as living targets at the firing range. Towards the end of the war, the homosexuals in Auschwitz were told that they would be set free if they let themselves be

castrated. The ones who agreed were sent to Dirlwanger penal division of the Russian front (Holocaust).

During the early years of the Nazi reign political prisoners made up a large portion of the inmates in the concentration-camps. Dachau was the main camp for political prisoners. Hitler also ordered the imprisonment of the dissenting clergy of the Confessional Church. This action was the result of the church writing a memorandum to Hitler criticizing the government's anti-Christian campaign. The Nazis also victimized vagrants, prostitutes, alcoholics, and others who were considered asocials (Laska 205).

Through Hitler's beliefs and propaganda almost twelve million innocent people were massacred. Hitler believed diversity in a nation only caused severe problems and wanted a folkish state with a "supreme race" of people. He wanted to rid Germany of people he felt were asocial and inferior to the Germans. Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Slavs, the handicapped, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, political prisoners, and various others all fell victim to Hitler's destruction. The quantity of diverse people the Nazis murdered can never be replaced; only remembered and infinitely honored as a mosaic of innocent victims.

 

Works Cited

 

Hitler, Adolph. Volume Two "The National Socialist Movement Chapter 1, 5: Philosophy and

Party." Mein Kampf. National Vanguard Books, 1924.

Hilberg, Raul. "The Destruction of the European Jews" Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 196 1. p. 641 Vera Laska (ed.), Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust: The Voices of Eyewitnesses,

Greenwood Press, Westport &London, 1983.

" The Holocaust." 27 March 1999. <http://qhes. pasco. k12. fl.us/QHEIntranet/Curriculum/Holocaust/

 


The opinions, comments, and sentiments expressed by the participants are not necessarily those of 
Holland & Knight LLP or the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc.


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