The threat of impending war loomed across the world, but it wasn’t until the attack on Pearl Harbor did things come into a turning point. After suffering losses, the United States declared war on Japan, and soon after, Germany declared war on the United States. According to authors Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt, Hitler trusted the American Jews, whom he believed to be as powerful enough to keep the United States away from the war, for the sake of German Jews. To Hitler, the declaration of war by America happened because of the Jews. His racism against Jews and the plans to exterminate them was officially declared 3 years earlier according to history, when he delivered a speech addressing Reichstag: should international Jewish interfere with world affairs and trigger another world war, the result would be the eradication of the Jewish race in Europe. A day after Hitler’s speech, Joseph Goebbels, a Nazi politician and Minister of Propaganda, wrote in his diary dated December 1941:
That wasn't just a catch-word. The world war is here and the annihilation of the Jews must be the necessary consequence.
As the world became divided between Allied Forces and Axis Powers, the ultimate plan to exterminate Jews as formalized at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942. Here, the conference indicated that 11,000,000 Jews in Europe would fall under the “Final Solution”. The Nazi party not only wished to eradicate Jews in the Axis-controlled European countries – the extreme plan of racism and violence had to be done to neighboring countries, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden, and Ireland, to name a few.
Upon developing the gas vans, the Germans moved on to gas chambers. These were then installed in extermination camps, which was different from concentration camps. Being sent to a concentration camp meant forced labor; extermination camps meant death. These camps were erected in various locations across Germany, Austria, and Poland, the most infamous of which is Auschwitz. The victims usually arrived at the camps by freight train, where they were subjected to no food and water for days, cramped into crates with little to no air circulation. Many die in the journey, but those who survived the travel were directly sent to the gas chambers. Others deemed fit to work were chosen to replace dead workers. As laborers, they were subject to dehumanization - all hairs were cut off and belongings were taken away. In turn, they were given striped uniforms and serial number tattoos, their brand new identities. Even as laborers, death was apparent. There was no food and camp conditions were horrid, and soon strength forsakes them. Meanwhile, those selected for death were ordered to undress and leave their valuables to camp workers. Naked, they were forced into a gas chambers guised as showers and delousing chambers. Toxic gas would then be dropped as soon as the doors are sealed, where the victims choke to death. Accounts in history say that these chambers are now forever graced with claw marks of victims, fighting hard to stay alive. No one could escape, however. The bodies would be retrieved from the chambers to be exhumed, and the ashes were thrown around the camp, sometimes dumped into rivers. Other camps would pile bodies up in ditches, covered with lime, and then buried.
Some survivors of this extreme case of racism in Europe, perhaps the entire world, against Jews and other “lesser beings” eventually reached out to tell their stories. Some accounts say that soldiers toss babies up to shoot them mid-air in their idea of fun. Killing innocent children seems much too cruel, but for the perpetrators, the action ensures the Jews’ extinction.
Each morning, dead bodies decorated the barbed wire fences surrounding the camp; these were usually electrified, and survivors strongly believe that these cases were acts of suicide. Those who tried to escape were shot on the spot, and those who stopped to rest were given the same treatment. Death was everywhere, and according to survivors, sometimes someone just doesn’t wake up.
The Jewish Resistance
The kind of racism and bigotry promulgated by the Nazis was met with resistance, even though it took quite some time to boil. After the deportations were enacted, ghettos in Poland at the end of 1942 sought the need for armed resistance. The Jewish Combat Organization and the Jewish Military Union, for instance, were one of the many groups formed underground. History accounts for over 100 revolts and uprisings, and the most well-known resistance is the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April 1943. When the Germans arrived to round up the remaining inhabitants to be sent to extermination camps, they were met with armed fighters. Although poorly armed, the Jewish resisters held the SS at bay for almost four weeks. The Germans reported only 16 deaths, but Polish and Jewish accounts say that thousands of Germans were killed. According to Gwardia Ludowa, a Polish resistance newspaper, here the supposed exceptional combat skills Germans had waned – their victory was one through burning and destruction. The fighting Jews pulled the truth out of Germany; their weakness.
The spirit of resistance also visited Auschwitz. In 1944, when 300 Jewish members of the Sonderkommando learned they were about to be murdered, they attacked the guards and blew up a crematorium. One of the SS officers was stuffed into an over, and two more were killed. Unfortunately, none of the rebels survived, as they were quickly swamped by armed guards.
As the Germans execution the termination of an entire race, the world war waged on. The Red Army and US soldiers broke through their defenses, and soon they were sent panicking. Such cruelty cannot survive long in the world, as even when Adolf Hitler rose to power, he too came crashing down.