A photo dated April 1945 of women prisoners of the Nazi concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, near Hanover in northern Germany, gathering dead fellow inmates before burying them. Photograph: (AFP)
What came as a forerunner to the extermination of Jews was the ‘Euthanasia Programme’ where the Nazis gassed about 275,000 handicapped people
Killing of other human beings in cold blood is something no society should be proud of. But yet in the last century, almost six million people approximately have lost their lives, brutally being slaughtered and killed. It is a day to remember that humans have the ability to fall to their lowest possible point.
The Holocaust was the systematic eradication of the Jews in Europe by Adolf Hitler during the Nazi rule. The narrative of the Holocaust is one that continues to this day, though it is not restricted against those of the Jewish faith. Hitler believed, as did many others of that time, that Germany’s loss in WWI was caused by the Jews. The Jewish population of Germany came to thrive with several prominent intellectuals and captains of industry. Hitler thought they were racially inferior to the white Aryan race.
What came as a forerunner to the extermination of Jews and gypsies was the ‘Euthanasia Programme’ where the Nazis gassed a total of about 275,000 handicapped people with mental or physical disabilities through Germany and later Europe in secret. Concentration camps came much later, the persecution of Jews started by marking them, by forcing them to wear a yellow star wherever they went. They were forced into ghettos and their possessions taken away from them. Between 1933 and 1939 several Jews left Germany so that they did not have to live in constant fear.
As Hitler continued expanding into Europe, Jews from all around his conquered territories were transported to the Polish ghettos. In 1941, the Nazis started their experiments with mass killing. They gassed 500 Soviet POWs with Zyklon-B, a pesticide, killing them. Next came the gas chambers in the concentration camps.
Over six million Jews and European gypsies were killed during the genocide. The UN marks the 27th of January as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The first mass gassings began at the camp of Belzec, near Lublin, on March 17, 1942. Five more mass killing centres were built at camps in occupied Poland, including Chelmno, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and the largest of all, Auschwitz-Birkenau.
During the summer of 1944, even as the events of D-Day (June 6, 1944) and a Soviet offensive the same month spelled the beginning of the end for Germany in the war, a large proportion of Hungary’s Jewish population was deported to Auschwitz, and as many as 12,000 Jews were killed every day.
In his last will and political testament, dictated in a German bunker that April 29, Hitler blamed the war on “International Jewry and its helpers” and urged the German leaders and people to follow “the strict observance of the racial laws and with merciless resistance against the universal poisoners of all peoples”–the Jews. The following day, he committed suicide. Germany’s formal surrender in World War II came barely a week later, on May 8, 1945.
We as humanity have said never again many times but have gone on to kill more people.
If we have to call ourselves human beings we will have to first stop right here and make sure we stop the persecution of people based on religion, colour, caste, sex. But we have to remember that we haven’t yet become a mature civilisation to handle this because every now and then we see streaks of animal behaviour. May be one day we will see light at the end of the tunnel. We will then be able to say never again.