The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately 6 million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. The Nazis believed that Germans were racially “superior” and that Jews were a threat to the “German community.” Although Jews were the primary targets, Nazi authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived “racial inferiority,” including Gypsies, the mentally and physically disabled, and some Slavic peoples. Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals. Initially, Nazis persecuted Jews with racist laws. By 1942, the Nazis had decided on the “Final Solution”—death camps. Required to report for deportation, Jews marched to railroad stations and crowded onto freight cars. Upon reaching the camps, some might be deemed fit to work at hard labor. Many went straight to the gas chambers.
Allentown native James Christie was among the troops who entered the Dachau Concentration Camp a day or two after it was liberated. He later wrote a letter about his experiences there, saying “There were approximately 200 people lying together in a line about 3 deep. They were all dead, either from starvation and malnutrition or burning (while still alive)…It is terrible how these human beings, created by God, were treated. It is almost impossible to believe.”
Allentonian Elwood Kolb, then a Technician 4th Grade remembers that as his unit marched across Germany they met a group, “walking, crawling, hobbling down the hill, some on makeshift crutches, some with canes, all in black and white striped prison outfits, some stopping to eat grass…people who had just been released from one of the concentration camps. They reminded me of the stick pictures we drew of people when we were young children.”
Nazis march Polish Jews
out of the ghetto
|The story of Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank and her famous diary in many ways symbolize the Holocaust and Nazi terror. Anne was a Jewish girl born June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt Germany. As Nazi state-supported anti-Semitism increased, Anne and her family fled to Amsterdam in 1933. When Germany invaded the Netherlands, persecutions against the Jewish population in Amsterdam followed. Anne and her family went into hiding in the attic of her father’s office in July of 1942. While in hiding, Anne kept a diary chronicling her thoughts about the war, her life in hiding, and the people who surrounded her. On August 4, 1944 the secret hiding place of Anne and her family was over-run by German Security Police. Sentenced to hard labor, Anne was relocated to a series of concentration camps. Sadly, at the age of 15 Anne Frank died in a typhus epidemic, just weeks before the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she was held, was liberated by British troops on April 15, 1945.
Anne’s diary has become one of the most influential literary works in the world. More than 25 million copies of the diary have been published in dozens of languages. Through her diary, Anne lives today and forever, a symbol of courage and wisdom in the face of the horrors of war and prejudice.