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The horror of war


The night of broken glass
The night of broken glass

Already in 1933, the Nazi government had begun construction of concentration camps to imprison enemies of the regime, including political opponents, as well as Jews, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, Communists, religious dissenters, Jehovah’s Witnesses, professional criminals, and prostitutes. Many people fled the country as Nazi repression became increasingly severe, particularly after the 1935 enactment of the Nürnberg Laws, which deprived German Jews of citizenship and various civil rights. Once the international attention of the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936 had passed, Jewish firms were systematically liquidated or purchased for a fraction of their actual value. Sporadic attacks on Jewish individuals and property were also common. The most dramatic was Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”) on November 9, 1938, when Nazis and their sympathizers randomly killed more than 90 Jews, set fire to synagogues, and smashed the windows of thousands of Jewish-owned stores. Hundreds of thousands of Jews fled the country to escape persecution, but many more could not or would not leave.

When Germany occupied Poland in September 1939, Polish Jews were killed or forced into walled ghettos, where many died of starvation and illness. The conquests of France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Yugoslavia, and Greece brought hundreds of thousands more Jews under German rule. Following its invasion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in June 1941, the German army sent in death squads to execute nearly 1 million Jews in Russia, Belorussia, and Ukraine.

In the growing number of concentration camps throughout the expanded German empire, Jews and other inmates were exploited as forced laborers; when no longer able to work, they were killed by gassing, shooting, or fatal injections. Inmates were also used for medical experiments.

BBy January 1942 Hitler’s staff had formulated a “final solution” to what they called “the Jewish problem.” Extermination centers were built to kill entire populations in the most efficient manner possible; at full operation, the gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz and Birkenau could kill up to 9,000 people within 24 hours. By the end of the war, Jewish dead numbered between 5.6 million and 5.9 million, an unprecedented act of genocide later known as the Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands of other “inferior” or “treasonous” individuals also perished in German camps during the 12 years of the Third Reich. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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