Karolina Umiecka, Secondary School No 1, Gdynia, Poland
In Hebrew, the word "holocaust" means a sacrifice made of lamb burned as a whole during a religious holiday. This was one of the most important offerings in the Jewish tradition. Unfortunately, yet another, even more recognizable meaning of this word is another terrible event made to the whole Jewish nation right before and during World War II.
Historically, Adolf Hitler ruling Germany in the 1930's, believed that the
Jewish people were evil and that all of them were the personified cause of all the problems of the German nation. He and members of his government, called the Nazis, refused the Jewish people the most basic rights, including the right to live. This ideology was the fundamental cause of the planned and realized attempt of extermination of the whole Jewish nation.
View from tower at Birkenau
At first, in the very beginning of his political career, Hitler implemented rules that were created to make life difficult and unpleasant for all the Jewish citizens living in Germany. It was forbidden for them to use means of public transportation, and they were not allowed to drive cars or use phones. Special announcements saying: "not for Jews" could be found in more and more public places in German towns and cities. Afterwards, their freedom was limited: they were not allowed to travel or stay outside their homes after eight o'clock in the afternoon. Later, their properties were confiscated by the state, and their personal security was no longer protected. This caused a growing wave of terror. Many Jewish people were just killed by groups of young Germans who believed in Hitler's ideology. Of course none of the killers were caught or punished.
lt. is impossible to describe all forms of terror and injustice that was implemented to the Jewish people in Germany at that this time.
Terror concerned every Jew no matter how important or rich he was. In addition, no German law was implemented to German citizens with Jewish nationality.
In fact, they become second class citizens and later, slaves.
After Hitler started ruling in occupied countries, all practices described above were implemented in those countries as well. On the l9th of September, 1939, the Germans started building thc first ghettos in Poland. Ghetto means a part of the city where all the Jewish people were transported and forced to live. Such territories were guarded and none of the Jews living in the ghetto
were allowed to leave its area under the death penalty. So called "cleaning actions" became everyday practice in all ghettos in the occupied countries. Small groups of soldiers were ordered to enter ghettos in the night and kill as many sleeping Jewish people as possible, no matter if they were kids, women or adults. In Riga, one of such a squads hit a horrible record, killing 10,600 people during (Auschwitz - Birkenau, Poland) one night. During
such actions lasting from 1941 till the end of 1942 more than 900,000 of the Jewish people were killed.
Since that time early and avoidable death has been planned to be the only destination for the whole Jewish nation. Reinforced by his victories in many battlefields and supported by his evil ideology, Hitler decided to get rid of all representatives of the Jewish nation not only in Germany, but also in all conquered countries and later in the Europe and the whole world. The Germans started organizing "concentration camps" which were designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest time. First gas chambers were implemented as early as 1939, but in 1941 the concentration camp Auschwitz in the Polish city of Oswiecim was enlarged and modernized, becoming a real factory of death. It was designed to kill people from all over Europe, but the Jewish nation
was an absolute majority. Gas chambers using “Zycklon B” poison gas were used to kill millions of people, whose bodies were immediately burned in special crematories. Soon another camp was founded in Majdanek and later in other places.
Till the end of the World War II more than 67% of Jewish people living in Europe were killed by the Nazis.
As I read now about those terrible times in history I can not understand many things. The most frightening fact for me was that almost all the people of a nation living in Europe for many centuries were exterminated just for being different, for having another religion and for no other reason. There was nobody in Germany at that time to stop the Nazis and to take the power away from them before they started their sick activity all over Europe. I don’t understand why did German people accepted Nazi ideology, being so cruel for their friends and neighbours just for being Jews. And the final question is why this horrible sacrifice of Jewish nation did not improve human beings even a bit? Why people still make wars and kill other people just because they have different nationality or religion?
I am only 13 years old and I can’t understand many things yet, but have my hopes and believes. I hope that this horrible sacrifice of a single nation will always be remembered and the next century will be free of wars and mass killings. I really believe that one day all people will understand that all human beings are equal and all of them have equal right to live in peace.