The Shame of the 20th Century: The Holocaust
The Jewish Holocaust
The Holocaust: Crimes against humanity
The oppression against Jews continued throughout the ages. The Assyrians, Babylonians and the Romans massacred and exiled the Jews and destroyed their temples and cities. In medieval times Jews were once again targeted: Labeled, discriminated against and chased from wherever they settled or took shelter… During World War II and the years leading up to it, many innocent Jews were subjected to persecution and genocide. They were forced out of their homes, and incarcerated in concentration camps under inhumane conditions. Millions of Jews were tortured and murdered in the Holocaust, which was a horrific period unprecedented in the history of mankind.
This was one of the gravest tragedies in history, yet many countries were apathetic and indifferent. It took some time for the United States to take action. The United Kingdom was aware of what was happening and nevertheless followed a policy that emboldened Hitler. Today the picture is quite different. In the Western Countries, the Holocaust has acquired the status and is now affirmed in the legislation in many countries. This however, is not the same case in the Muslim world of today. There is an indifference to anything to do with the Holocaust which results from both ignorance and a very one-sided propaganda.
As Muslims, it is very important to make the Islamic World aware of the reality of this unprecedented tragedy; that is the holocaust of the Jewish people. Today, it is crucial to revive the tenets of Islam that require upholding justice, protecting the oppressed, and showing mercy and compassion towards the innocent.
However, the lack of information on how the Jews were mercilessly massacred and the horror of the gas chambers, the concentration and exterminations camps during the Holocaust, leave many Muslims unaware of and totally indifferent to the inhumane brutality of the Nazis and their collaborators. So it is incumbent on us Muslims to put the facts of history straight by examining and questioning this horrendous crime against humanity. Too many people and too many countries condone or deny the horrors of the Holocaust.
The Nazis targeted the Gypsies, the mentally and physically handicapped, Poles, and Slavs as well as the Jews for extermination. From 1941 to 1945, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime systematically repressed large sections of the society and regarded them as enemies of the Regime. 26 million people lost their lives as a result of the Nazi massacres of civilians. Of these, 6 million were Jews, up to 750,000 Gypsies and the remainder Slavs, living in countries like Poland, the Ukraine, Russia and Yugoslavia.
The total number of those who died in World War II is a staggering 55 million and this includes both military and civilian casualties. In the face of such an atrocity and considering these facts, it is impossible today to deny the Holocaust, which remains one of the most evil and one of the greatest calamities in the history of mankind.
Nazi Propaganda against the Jews
The Holocaust did not occur in a vacuum. It was based on anti-Semitic beliefs, which means the hatred of the Jew, and it is the most lethal and ancient of all hatreds. Hitler used his ideological propaganda to infuse millions. He had a hypnotic effect and swayed millions into believing that the Jews, who represented less than 1% of the total German population, had to be eradicated.
The Nazis began by targeting the Jews with ideological propaganda to brainwash and indoctrinate the German people with hatred and hostility against the Jews. “Propaganda tries to force a doctrine on the whole people,” Adolf Hitler wrote in his book Mein Kampf in 1926. He advocated the use of propaganda in order to spread hatred against Jews and other minority groups. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Hitler established a Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, headed by Joseph Goebbels.
The aim of this “black propaganda machine” was to spread throughout Germany the enmity against the Jews and other minority groups that were targeted, the “undesirables” as they were coined.
Therefore, even before coming to power, and as a result of the continual brainwashing of the German public against the Jews, the Nazi street gangs known as the SA storm troopers staged attacks on Jewish homes and businesses. Once the Nazis came to power, with Hitler’s directives, the SA initiated full-scale attacks on the Jews, and anyone or anything that was Jewish or belonged to the Jews. An elderly Jew walking down the street or a little Jewish child on the way to school could easily be assaulted by the brutal Nazi gangs without any questions asked.
The Nazis also initiated a boycott aimed at Jewish shops and businesses. Throughout Germany posters were hung, portraying the Jews as ugly monsters carrying slogans like “Don’t buy Jewish goods”. In September 1933, a law was passed prohibiting Jews from owning land. In November, Jews were banned from being newspaper editors. Further laws were passed in November, excluding Jews from trade unions and health insurance, and banning them from working as lawyers or judges. In 1935 all Jews were expelled from the army. Under the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, Jews were no longer able to work in many areas of German society. This extended into every sphere of life. Jews were now forbidden to marry Germans. Jews were no longer permitted to be teachers, doctors or dentists, and the cruel pretext was that “they would physically or spiritually poison the German people”. In 1940, the anti-Semitic film The Eternal Jew was screened in movie theatres all over Germany. In schools, teachers warned their students of the so-called “Jewish menace”, and during lessons Jews were wickedly insulted and maligned. It is no secret that Nazi Germany focused its attention on earning the support of some Muslim leaders and this continued during the War. They employed similar propaganda tactics in many countries in the Middle East. Radio Berlin began with Arabic and Persian radio broadcasts with the objective of creating hostility and hatred against the Jews.
The Chain of Events that led to the “The Final Solution”
On March the 15th 1939 the German Wermacht army invaded Czechoslovakia. On September the 1st with the outbreak of the War, Germany invaded Poland. Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. The invasion of Poland brought a new dimension to the Nazi’s twisted ideas of the “Jewish Problem”. In the areas occupied by Nazi Germany (in Radom, Warsaw, Lublin and Krakow), the Nazis confined the Jews to ghettos, always in the poorest areas of the neighborhood with no infrastructure, in dilapidated buildings with about 10 people in every room, and deported the Jews to newly constructed forced labor and concentration camps. All Jews were forced to wear yellow stars of David on their clothes so they could be immediately identified. It was now easy to mark, single out and target the Jews.
Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Gestapo, was so brutal that he was coined the “butcher of Prague”. He gave orders for the SS Special Action Units - death squads, mobile killing units known as Einsatzgruppen A B C D, to find every Jew in these occupied territories. Thus began the manic obsessive Nazi drive to comb Europe, intercept every Jew, deport him and murder him.
In the first two years of World War II, Hitler and his allies captured most of the continent of Europe, from the French coast to Moscow, from Denmark to Greece. Shortly before their collapse in 1945, the Nazis initiated a ruthless and murderous campaign in all the occupied regions under Nazi rule. Jews in particular, and then other ethnic and religious groups, were systematically murdered and this continued towards the middle of 1944, even when it became clear that Germany was losing the war.
Life and Death in the Ghettos
The largest of the ghettos was that in Warsaw, the capital city of Poland. The poorest areas of the district were set aside for the Jews and Jewish residents from all the other parts of the city. The Jews were now forcibly moved into the ghetto. Before they were incarcerated in the Warsaw Ghetto, all their money and valuables were taken from them. Life in the Ghetto was horrendous. Death stalked the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto, which was eternally gripped by fear. One of the greatest enemies on the streets of the ghetto was total starvation as Jews were given only 184 calories a day. An average of 8 to 10 people were crowded into one room, inside dilapidated buildings. Every day, those living in the ghetto could be subjected to any form of abuse from the Nazis. Each day, an average of 100 people died of hunger, illness, or maltreatment of one form or another. 100,000 Jews died in 1940 and 1941 in the Warsaw Ghetto.
“The Final Solution”: Setting up the Extermination and Concentration Camps
On the 20th of January 1942, the Wansee Conference took place, in a magnificent villa just outside Berlin and over a sumptuous banquet. In this mansion, Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Eichman and 15 senior Nazi officials decided on the “Final solution to the Jewish problem”. This meant the systematic extermination of all Jews: Men, women and children and even babies, not leaving one Jew alive… This would take place in all the territories occupied and controlled by the Nazis. In accordance with this decision, the concentration and extermination camps and Auschwitz were established. Jews from all the countries occupied by the Nazis were transferred to these camps by SS units specially assigned to this task. When the Jews arrived at these camps in cattle-cars under inhumane conditions, most were gassed immediately and the rest were selected for forced labor. This occurred especially in Birkenau (also called Auschwitz II).
This process of “transporting–deporting” the Jews reveals the inhumane cruelty that the Nazis inflicted on the Jews. Entire Jewish families were rounded up from their homes or the ghettos at gunpoint with blows and abuse, and forced into cattle-cars that had earlier on transported mostly cattle, other animals, or goods. 100-120 people were crammed into each cattle-car.
The Death Camps
In the camps, under horrendous conditions, the Nazis murdered some 11 million people. How monstrous and ruthless can human beings become when they turn away from religious moral values and silence the voices of their conscience!
The concentration camps were first set-up as “labor camps”. Almost all, and Auschwitz in particular, were opened alongside major industrial complexes. Detainees who were brought to the camps were forced to serve the German war machine as slave laborers in these industrial areas. Nazi ideology did not restrict itself to the “pragmatic oppression” but turned these camps into sites with the sole purpose of exterminating all the “undesirables”, as they were coined.
During the last months of 1941 and until the end of 1944, a total of 11 million people, of whom 5.5 million were Jews, were murdered in gas chambers and by other brutal means. Many of the inmates died of starvation, illness, disease and maltreatment. 6 million Jews were murdered during the War. The Nazis had no compassion for infants and innocent children whose sole crime was that they were Jewish, for the old, and wretched, the handicapped and the sick; and the henchmen set about exterminating these victims with sadistic brutality.
The Nazis’ Hatred of Religion
The memoirs of Jews subjected to Nazi brutality and fanaticism show the Nazis’ “hatred of religion”. The most poignant examples are of how Nazis attacked the Jewish religious, distinctive symbols: A Jew with a beard and earlocks, who was wearing a black kaftan and a hat could be easily targeted, singled-out and marked.
Members of the SS and other Nazi groups mercilessly intercepted devout Jews, especially the elderly in the streets, brutally tearing and cutting their beards and earlocks; which are important symbols of faith for an ultra-orthodox Jew. They burned and tore up Jewish holy books and Torah scrolls and torched and burned thousands of synagogues.
The destructive propaganda against the Jews that began with Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 filtered itself into many areas of influence in so many parts of the world. Nazi Propaganda was not limited to the radio. The Nazis prepared training programs for the youth in the Islamic world depicting the Jews as enemies. It is of the utmost importance today to awaken people who are ignorant as to how the Jews were horrendously maltreated and oppressed in history. This should also be accompanied with an in-depth study of the Holocaust.
Today, two-thirds of the world population have neither heard about the Holocaust or they deny it. Denial of or indifference to such a tragedy is unforgiveable. Therefore, it is a moral responsibility that those who are knowledgeable about the horror that occurred between 1933 and 1945 must transmit this information to others.
Under the influence of and subjected to biased teachings and hate indoctrination against the Jews, some Muslim groups have become predisposed to denying this atrocity. The truth is, the denial of the Holocaust is the denial of historical facts and an ignorance of the systematic and dreadful massacre inflicted upon innocent Jewish communities throughout Europe. The Jews had no intention of entering the war or of attacking the countries where they were citizens and had lived for centuries. On the contrary, wherever they settled, they contributed culturally, socially, financially and even politically and so they became an integral part of the society in so many European countries. Jews were farmers, tailors, seamstresses, factory hands, accountants, doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers and small business-owners.
Some families were wealthy, others were poor and by the early 30’s with the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany, the Jews became potential enemies.
During World War II every single human right was violated under Nazi Rule and this escalated with the hateful indoctrination of the Nazis against the Jews. The Nazis implemented a reign of terror. Exposed to the ever-present cruelty of the Nazi regime, the world became a place of hitherto unseen savagery.
Today, anti-Semitism is rampant throughout the world. It seems as if history might repeat itself and in order to prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again, the countries of the world should unite to make sure that this horror never recurs.
Muslims should also lead a common and cultural “campaign” against groups that are in denial of the Holocaust. The educated and knowledgeable Muslims must explain to those who are unaware of the policies that paved the way to one of the greatest tragedies that mankind has ever witnessed.
Why is it so important to acknowledge and not to deny the Holocaust? The reason is that in the future if any atrocities like this ever happen, targeted at the Jews or any other race, nation or religion, people will hopefully have learned and so will not suppress their consciences and remain silent or indifferent but they will actively oppose these wrongs. They must openly oppose and stand up bravely to this injustice; always drawing the strength to fight injustice, from their faith in God. A true Muslim should never accept being a bystander to such tyranny.
The indifference of so many to the horrors of the Holocaust stems from a lack of proper education, the ongoing “black propaganda” and disinformation. People of good conscience need to instill courage, resoluteness and honesty to stand up against evil ideologies.
All Muslim community leaders, whether they are political or religious leaders, have an important duty. These Muslim leaders must provide a comprehensive analysis of this atrocity to their communities and explain that Islam would never permit such hatred or persecution. They must inform their communities that any Jew, or any other people that are afflicted, should always be helped by Muslims according to the Qur’an. It is of utmost importance and a moral obligation to alert a person’s conscience and to make sure that tragedies like this never recur.
Examples of Muslims who rescued the Jews
During World War II, there were many Muslims who risked their lives to help Jews flee and hide from the Nazis. Albania is an Islamic country, and was the only European country which hosted a fair number of the Jewish population that fled from Nazi brutality.
Dervis Korkut from Bosnia sheltered Mira Papo, a female resistance fighter. He also saved the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the rarest manuscripts written in Hebrew.
Selahattin Ulkumen, a Turk, saved 50 Jews from the gas chambers in Auschwitz. In retaliation, the Nazis murdered his wife, just after she had given birth to her son.
Hundreds of Jews were saved by Turkish diplomats during the War. The Turkish diplomats issued Turkish visas to these Jews who fled Nazi persecution, and organized their journey to Turkey where they were received with Turkish hospitality.
Behic Erkin was Turkey’s ambassador to Paris between 1939 and 1943. Kudret Erbay was the consul general in Hamburg from 1938 to 1942. These two Turkish diplomats were also personally involved in saving Jews from the Nazi occupied regions.
Arlette Bules, who was Jewish, discovered that her father was imprisoned by the Nazis and deported to the internment camp of Drancy, outside Paris.
In her memoir, she writes… “My mother immediately went to the Turkish Embassy and asked for help rescuing my father. Thanks to the letters written by the ambassador, my father was rescued”. During the last 500 years, when Jews and Turks were closely associated, there are many examples of how Jews and Turks helped one another in difficult times.
In a world where moral values were disintegrating, a small minority mustered up courage during the dark years of the Holocaust. These people are honored by Israel and called “The Righteous Among the Nations”. These brave non-Jews risked their lives in order to save Jewish lives and were exposed to lurking dangers, eternal threats without waiting anything in return. These righteous non-Jews regarded the Jews as fellow human beings and believed that it was a moral obligation to help these hapless Jewish victims in spite of the dangers that they were exposed to.
As Muslims, we stand against all kinds of tyranny in the world, including prejudice and hatred against the Jewish Nation.
We remember those who lost their lives and those who were witnesses to the horrors of the Holocaust and survived in spite of the Nazis’ murderous intentions.
It is imperative that all the countries fully understand that this horror must never happen again!