A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust-Victims

Posted By on October 18, 2021

Approximately 11 million people were killed because of Nazi genocidal policy. It was the explicit aim of Hitler's regime to create a European world both dominated and populated by the "Aryan" race. The Nazi machinery was dedicated to eradicating millions of people it deemed undesirable. Some people were undesirable by Nazi standards because of who they were,their genetic or cultural origins, or health conditions. These included Jews, Gypsies, Poles and other Slavs, and people with physical or mental disabilities. Others were Nazi victims because of what they did. These victims of the Nazi regime included Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, the dissenting clergy, Communists, Socialists, asocials, and other political enemies.

Those believed by Hitler and the Nazis to be enemies of the state were banished to camps. Inside the concentration camps, prisoners were forced to wear various colored triangles, each color denoting a different group. The letters on the triangular badges below designate the prisoners' countries of origin.

This photo shows a chart of the prison badges used in concentration camps.

At first, the Nazis boycotted Jewish businesses for one day in April 1933. Then legislation excluded Jews from certain professions. The Nuremberg Laws created very detailed Nazi definitions of who was Jewish. Many people who never considered themselves Jewish suddenly became targets of Nazi persecution.

The world accessible to German Jews narrowed. Jews were no longer allowed to enter cinemas, theaters, swimming pools, and resorts. The publishing of Jewish newspapers was suspended. Jews were required to carry identification cards and to wear Star of David badges. On one night, Nazis burned synagogues and vandalized Jewish businesses. The arrests and murders that followed intensified the fear Jews felt. Next, Jewish children were barred from schools. Curfews restricted Jews' time of travel and Jews were banned from public places. Germany began to expel Jews from within its borders.

Germany's invasion of Poland in late 1939 radicalized the Nazi regime's policy toward Jews. Hitler turned to wholesale death of the European Jewish population. He swept Jewish populations into ghettos in eastern Europe. Simultaneously, mobile squads killed millions. The next step was to send Jews to squalid concentration and death camps. Approximately six million died for one reason: they were Jewish.

More information about Jewish victims of the Holocaust, with links to other Web sites and documentary materials.

Although the Nuremberg Laws did not specifically mention them, Roma were included in the implementation of the statutes. Like Jews, they were deprived of their civil rights. In June 1936, a Central Office to "Combat the Gypsy Nuisance" opened in Munich. By 1938, Sinti and Roma were being deported to concentration camps.

The fate of the Romani peoples paralleled that of the Jews after the beginning of World War II: systematic deportation and murder. First, western European Roma were resettled in ghettos. Then they were sent to concentration and extermination camps. Many Roma in the east--Russia, Poland, and the Balkans--were shot by the Einsatzgruppen. In total, hundreds of thousands of Sinti and Roma were killed during the Holocaust.

Further information about the Sinti and Roma, a photo, and links to other Web sites.

It is often forgotten that Christian Poles and other Slavs, notably Ukrainians and Byelorussians, were also primary targets of Nazi Germany hatred during World War II. To the Nazis, the Slavs were considered Untermenschen,or subhumans, and nothing more than obstacles to gaining territory necessary for the superior German race. This philosophy is apparent in Hitler's statement, "The destruction of Poland is our primary task. The aim is not the arrival at a certain line but the annihilation of living forces...."

The combination of a Nazi genocidal policy and the Nazis' thirst for more living space resulted in disaster for Polish, Ukrainian, and Byelorussian populations. Millions of Slavs were deported to Germany for forced labor. Intelligentsia, consisting of teachers, physicians, clergy, business owners, attorneys, engineers, landowners, and writers, were imprisoned in concentration camps or publicly executed. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians were executed by mobile killing squads, or Einsatzgruppen.

Those who were sent to camps had to wear badges, of course. There was not one badge designation for Poles and other Slavs. Rather, a Polish or Slavic person was categorized as a criminal, asocial, political prisoner, and so on.

Millions upon millions of non-Jews were slaughtered in the Slavic countries.

Further information about the Nazi treatment of the Polish people.

In 1933, the Roman Catholic Church signed a concordat or agreement with the new Nazi government, recognizing the legitimacy of the Third Reich. The Protestant Church was united into a single Reich Church under one bishop. In September 1933, Martin Niemller, a pastor of a fashionable church in Berlin, set up a Pastors' Emergency League which led to the formation of the anti-Nazi Confessional Church. This church wrote a memorandum to Hitler attacking the government's anti-Christian campaign, policies of antisemitism, and terrorizing tactics. Hitler responded with a crackdown on members of the Confessional Church. Hundreds of dissenting clergy were arrested, many were imprisoned, and also executed.

Further information about the Nazi treatment of political prisoners and dissenting clergy.

In 1934, forced sterilization programs sterilized 300,000 - 400,000 people, mainly those in mental hospitals and other institutions. Propaganda was distributed which helped build public support for these government policies. Persons who were mentally ill or physically disabled were stigmatized, while the costs of care were emphasized in propaganda campaigns.

In 1939, a Nazi "euthanasia program" began. This term is used as a euphemism for the Nazi plan to murder those with physical or mental defects. Unlike the sterilization program, the "euthanasia" program was conducted in secrecy. "Operation T4" was the code term used to designate this killing project.

As word leaked out about the "euthanasia" program, some church leaders, parents of victims, physicians, and judges protested the killings. Hitler ordered the end of Operation T4 in August 1941. However, the murders continued in a decentralized manner. Doctors were encouraged to kill patients with disabilities by starvation, poisoning, or injection.

Further information about the Nazi treatment of persons with physical or mental disabilities.

The Nazis did not tolerate the Jehovah's Witnesses' refusal, which was based on religious principles, to salute flags, to raise their arms to "Heil Hitler,"or to serve in the German army. The group was banned by national law in April 1935. Those Witnesses who defied the ban on their activities were arrested and sent to prisons and concentration camps.

Marked with purple triangular badges, the Witnesses were a relatively small group of prisoners in the concentration camps, numbering several hundred per camp. If Jehovah's Witnesses within the camps signed documents renouncing their religious beliefs, they would be freed. Very few, even in the face of torture, signed the declarations. In all, about 10,000 Jehovah's Witnesses were imprisoned in concentration camps. Of these, approximately 2,500 to 5,000 died in Dachau, Belsen, Buchenwald, Auschwitz, and other camps.

Further information about the Nazi treatment of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Some homosexuals spent time in regular prisons, and an estimated 5,000-15,000 were sent to concentration camps. Even within the confines of the camps, homosexuals were mistreated and tormented by other inmates.

The Nazi regime claimed its concern about homosexuality related to keeping the Aryan birthrate high. German and Austrian gays were subject to arrest and imprisonment, but in German-occupied countries, Nazis did not deport homosexuals and send them to camps.

Memorial photographs, Web links, and a bibliography related to homosexual victims of the Third Reich.

Asocials were another category of people that Nazis deemed undesirable, and necessary for eradication. Nazis targeted numerous vagrants, prostitutes, alcoholics, and others who were considered unfit for society.

Interactive quiz on victims.

Lesson plans, discussion questions, term paper topics, reproducible handouts, and other resources for teaching about victims are available here.

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A Teacher's Guide to the HolocaustProduced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,College of Education, University of South Florida 1997-2013.

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A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust-Victims

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