Remembering Holocaust 74 years later

  • Published
  • By Tom Brannon
  • 505th Training Squadron
Sunday is Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Holocaust was the result of Adolph Hitler's vision of a racially pure Germany. To achieve that purity, Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers Party, also known as the Nazis, began the systematic process of identifying the "racially impure" and other "inferior people" and isolating them in what became concentration camps and eventually extermination camps.

The Nazis built more than 2,000 camps of various types including forced labor, mass killing, public relations, transit and munitions production. Six million men, women and children died during the Holocaust.

The Holocaust began when Hitler became the head of the German government in 1933. He surrounded himself with men who were corrupt and amoral, yet highly intelligent and talented. One of those men was Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi Protective Squad Schutzstaffel, known as the SS. The Nazis quickly suppressed the legislature and began governing by decree.

The Nazi Decree of Feb. 28, 1933, suspended German civil rights, while the Enabling Act of March 24,1933, gave Hitler unlimited power. Meanwhile, Himmler assumed control of the Gestapo, placed it under the SS and tasked it to eliminate opposition to the Nazi Party. Himmler and the SS now had total police power over Germany. 

From this, Germany's Nazi government empowered itself to eradicate Judaism and Jews in Germany and German occupied territories.

While the goal of the Holocaust was eradicating Judaism and Jews, the SS also arrested and murdered millions of non-Jews in concentration camps and elsewhere. The list includes Russian prisoners-of-war, Catholics, senior German military officers, Lutherans, poets, writers, painters, mentally and physically handicapped persons, the elderly, Masons, union leaders, intellectuals, scientists, wealthy land owners, homosexuals and more.

So how could this happen in Germany? In 1933, Germany did not have a vibrant constitution or vigorous defenders of civil liberties. Therefore, the Nazis couldn't be stopped without military intervention.

Key dates in the Holocaust:

March 22, 1933 - Dachau Concentration Camp opens. Nazi political opponents are incarcerated there.

June 30, 1934 - Hitler orders the brutal murder of thousands of his former supporters during the Night of the Long Knives.

Nov. 7, 1938 - SS troops ransack Jewish businesses throughout Germany in what became known as Krystalnacht.

Sept. 3, 1941 - First use of poisonous gas Zyklon B; Soviet POWs and Polish prisoners are murdered at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

Jan. 20, 1942 - The Wannsee Conference ends with an agreement to initiate the "Final Solution" in Europe, which called for the eradication of Jews by murder.

April 29, 1945 - U.S. 7th Army liberates Dachau

Oct. 16, 1946 - Herman Goering, former head of the Luftwaffe, found guilty of mass murder at Nuremburg War Crimes Trial, committed suicide prior to his execution.