Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The first draft of this post was titled “children of the Holocaust.” I wanted to honor the children who suffered unimaginable torture and death under the Nazi regime.
It’s been a while since I forced myself to look at photos from the Holocaust and read about its horrors.
As I was reading through awful testimonials and looking at terrible, heart wrenching photos of suffering, murder and indifference, I knew that what I really wanted to discuss here today is the racial basis to the Nazi ideology.
If we are to use this day as a day to not only remember the millions who suffered and died under the Nazi regime, but also as an opportunity to try and understand what made an evil of this magnitude possible, and to prevent it from ever happening again, we need to remember that the Holocaust happened because of racism.
The Holocaust was an extreme manifestation of racism, and Nazi racism produced murder on an unprecedented scale, but any form of racism is extremely dangerous and has the potential to lead to genocide.
Racism is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Racists believe that the value of a human being is not determined by his or her individuality, but instead by membership in a so-called “racial collective nation.”
The most coherent effort at presenting the ideological characteristics of Nazism can be found in Hitler’s autobiographical work, Mein Kampf (‘My Struggle’). In his book, Hitler presents his ‘worldview,’ which after the Nazi takeover became the political-ideological basis of the new regime.
In Mein Kampf, which was basically a system of prejudices that lacked any logic, Hitler presented a racist interpretation of world history, where the Aryan race is presented as ‘creating cultures’ and the Jewish race as ‘destroying cultures’; A social-Darwinist view of life according to which the strong survive and the weak perish; A love of war, since only in war does man show his true abilities; and a belief that Germany can and should become a world power.
Hitler believed in the biological and cultural superiority of the Aryan race. It was consequently a very important part of Hitler’s ideology that the races should not be mixed. He saw the ‘purity of the blood’ a prerequisite for the coming greatness of the German people.
The image is titled “Jewish Calculation,” and its caption reads, “We are Jews. We are destroying. She is fooled by the glitter. The Jewish name does not bother her.”
When the Nazis came to power they began to put this ideology into practice with the support of German scientists who believed that the human race could be improved by limiting the reproduction of people considered “inferior.” The Nazi ‘racial hygiene’ ideology was carried out systematically with great cruelty after 1933. German physicians were allowed to perform forced sterilizations of gypsies, handicapped and mentally ill individuals, and African-German. During the last six months of 1939, German physicians began to murder disabled residents of institutions throughout Germany.
Jews received a special treatment: the Nazis viewed them as a poisonous “race,” which “lived off” the other races and weakened them. They presented the Jews as a universal explanation to all of Germany’s problems and maintained that the Jews were responsible to a worldwide conspiracy to cause the downfall of the Aryan race.
This evoked “The Jewish Question,” of how to get rid of the Jews. Hitler’s answer to the Jewish Question was “The Final Solution” – the Nazi comprehensive plan to concentrate and eventually exterminate the entire Jewish population.
The Nazis conducted many experiments in an attempt to identify physical evidence of Aryan superiority and non-Aryan inferiority. Despite murdering countless non-Aryan prisoners in the course of these experiments, the Nazis were never able to find any evidence for their theories of biological racial superiority.
Sources: Auschwitz, Wikipedia, Children and the Holocaust, Nazi Racism, Holocaust Encyclopedia, The IB Holocaust Project, The Danish Center For Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Photo:Typical Nazi propaganda