With World War II came new but grim ideologies coupled with the state-sponsored mass murder of inferior groups, including Jews, intellectually disabled, homosexuals, Roma, and dissidents. During the Nazi rule in Germany, concentration and extermination camps were set up in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek, Chelmno, and Sobibor, to name a few: The Nazis imposed their power through the camps (Pettigrew & Karayianni, 2021). Besides persecution, inmates were subjected to harsh conditions and were exploited for labor. The anti-Semitic Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, considered Jews a threat to Germany’s racial purity. Mikel (2019) highlights that approximately eleven million Jews people were killed at the camps during the Holocaust. The Holocaust extensively documents dehumanization, atrocity, and apathy, still felt today.
Key moral, political, and psychosocial factors set the Holocaust in motion. In the wake of instability ushered in by the First World War, extremist movements like National socialism, communism, and fascism became apparent. The 1917 Russian Revolution sparked a communist revolution between the upper and middle classes (David-Fox, 2017). Consequently, Western societies faced social unrest, especially when the Russian communists banned religious practices and private property.
The primary aim was to start a global revolution, including in Germany. During the war, the harsh terms of peace profoundly impacted Germany’s economic and political state. As such, the Nazi Party sold its ideologies to restore Germany to greatness after the economic Depression (Dinning, 2021). In exchange for dictatorship and loss of democratic constitution, Germans hoped that Adolf Hitler would end communism and improve the economy.
Hitler’s dictatorship limited freedom and fundamental rights by promoting National communism, which excluded Jews, individuals with mental and physical disabilities, Roma, and homosexuals (Dinning, 2021). The Nazis mainly targeted the Jews by enforcing cultural, political, and social norms. According to Curran (2019), the government drafted laws that deprived German Jews of their rights, citizenship, and even property. Before World War II, the Nazi regime wanted to drive Jews out of Germany, but emigration was costly, and few countries accepted immigrants (Gehman, 2021). With the war, the Nazi’s ideologies toward the inferior group turned genocidal. Therefore, the Holocaust was primarily made possible by the Nazi’s rise to power and their impact on Germany’s democracy.
Another factor that produced the Holocaust was antisemitism, as Jews faced longstanding persecution and discrimination. Paulovičová (2018) states that concerns over international and regional development after the war influenced antisemitism. Before the Nazi regime, Jew intolerance was widely known in Russia, Germany, and other parts of Europe (Bartrop & Grimm, 2019). As the Nazis escalated into power, antisemitism became more apparent, and ideologies about Jews pervaded the military and other forms of culture. The Nazis abolished freedom of speech, which ensured no advocacy in Germany. Antisemitic propaganda created a climate of indifference and stirred anti-Jewish prejudice in other countries to get needed support in oppressing the Jews, eventually leading to mass murder.
Moreover, the Second World War radicalized Hitler’s anti-Semitism and culminated in Germany’s military success. As the war took precedence, the Nazi regime had the motive and opportunity to segregate Jews (Palamarchuk et al., 2017). Additionally, the collapse of the Soviet Union left a lasting tendency on anti-reform politics in Germany and further escalated genocidal actions toward the Jews, including the mass murder at Reinhard Heydrich (Bartrop & Grimm, 2019).
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising inspired revolts in concentration camps but ended in killing several Jews and survivors sent to extermination camps (Estraikh, 2021). Over the ensuing decades, Germany struggled with Holocaust’s legacy and consequences. In recent years, Germany acknowledged its complicity with Nazis’ dehumanization, atrocity, and apathy, and established funds to aid victims of genocide and rights abuse.
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