The Holocaust

"The Holocaust was the state-sponsored, systemic persecution, and annihilation of the European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators, between 1933 and 1935."

Led by Adolf Hitler (a high school dropout who became interested in politics after his application to art school was rejected), the Holocaust was the murder of millions of people, mostly Jews and several others, including gypsies, handicapped people, mentally disabled, Poles, homosexuals, Jehovah's witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, and political dissidents.

Hitler's Rise to Power

Germany's government was at a low point, which allowed Hitler to easily rise to power and gain favor around the country. He was a phenomenal public speaker and was able to convince thousands of citizens to agree with him, no matter how horrible his plans were. He told his audience that the German race was being threatened by other races, and that he was only defending them by murdering the Jews. In 1923, the Nazis had nearly 56,000 members. In 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor. He began preparing his country for war, while continuing to abolish the Jewish race.

Free-Labor Camps

After members of targeted groups were singled out, they were sent to concentration camps. After Hitler became chancellor in January 1933, the first camps were established, guarded by SS units (an organization that served as Hitler's personal guard, police units, and special forces). Even more camps were created after World War II began. The prisoners were horribly mistreated. The officials saw this as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: killing prisoners and getting free labor. Prisoners were forced to work until they died of exhaustion, starvation, or exposure.

U.S. Involvement

America did not intend to join World War II, nor was rescuing Jews from Hitler's merciless wrath a priority for the U.S. However, they did provide refuge for Jewish immigrants from 1939 to 1940. During that time more than half of all America's immigrants were Jewish. After America joined the war as a result of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, immigration halted abruptly. From 1933 to 1945, more than 200,000 Jews had found a safe place in America's border. Meanwhile, the U.S. received very little news about the happenings in Germany. When they finally did, it was tremendously downplayed in newspapers around the U.S., minimizing the importance of the ordeal.

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