Entrance to USHMM in Washington, DC
Out of curiosity, I googled the word Holocaust and the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum came up first in the search results. Sorry, but I don’t think that the USHMM website is the best one to explain the True Believer side of the Holocaust story. Of course, there is nothing at all about the Holocaust denier side of the story. Whatever happened to the idea of a newspaper telling both sides of a story?
My photo of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum
The following quote is from the beginning of the text on the USHMM website:
The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Holocaust is a word of Greek origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.” The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were “racially superior” and that the Jews, deemed “inferior,” were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.
During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived “racial inferiority”: Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.
I don’t believe that the “German authorities” targeted anyone because of “racial inferiority.” Jehovah’s Witnesses” were targeted because they refused to serve in the German Army. Homosexuals were targeted because homosexuality was against the law in Germany. The Roma were targeted because everyone in Germany had to have a permanent address. The disabled were targeted because they were walking on all fours and were unable to function as human beings.
Exterior of Holocaust Museum with Washington Monument shown in the background
The USHMM building, shown in the photo above, which incorporates symbolic design features that are intended to be evocative of the Holocaust, was done in a modern architectural style, which Hitler would have called “degenerate.”
The USHMM was not designed to be a dull, boring documentation of historical fact, but rather it is intended to be an intensely personal experience in which the building itself is part of the exhibit. Nothing is spared to convey the horror of the Nazi tyranny and the annihilation of the Jews in Europe.
For visitors who know little or nothing about the Holocaust, a trip to the Museum is a gut-wrenching experience which could cause nightmares; it is not recommended for children under 11 years of age. However, a special exhibit, called Daniel’s Story, which is based on a book of fiction, is designed to introduce children as young as 6 to the basic facts of the Holocaust.
Located at 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, the Holocaust museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Christmas Day and Yom Kippur, a Jewish religious holiday which falls on a different day each year, usually in the month of September.
At the beginning of 1933, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, there were 9 million Jews in all of Europe, including 568,417 in Germany, approximately 250,000 in Austria and 3,028,837 in Poland. On January 30, 1933, after Adolf Hitler had received 38% of the popular vote in the three-way 1932 German presidential election, he was appointed Chancellor of Germany by newly-reelected President Paul von Hindenburg. Two months later, Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in as the president of the United States.
In 1933, both America and Germany were in the throes of the Great Depression, caused by the stock market crash in 1929, but Germany was worse off because of its defeat in the first World War and the devastating terms of the Treaty of Versailles which Germany was forced to sign. Hitler blamed the loss of the war and all of Germany’s subsequent economic, social and political problems on the Jews.
Hitler’s first priority was to unite all the ethnic Germans in Europe under one government and one leader, himself. (“Ein Folk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer”) There would be no place for Jews or Gypsies in Hitler’s new Germany; only the Volkdeutsch (ethnic Germans) would be citizens.
Hitler planned to take back German land given to Poland after World War I, as well as the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine and other territory lost as a result of Germany’s defeat in World War I.
Hitler’s new Germany would be called Gross Deutschland (Greater Germany). Historians would call Hitler’s regime “the Third Reich.” The first Reich was the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation and the second Reich was the unification of the German states in 1871.
The capital of Gross Deutschland was to be Germania, which was Hitler’s new name for the city of Berlin. Hitler and his state architect, Albert Speer, began designing magnificent new state buildings in the classic style of Greek and Roman architecture, but none of these buildings were ever built. Hitler envisioned that his nationalist empire, which he called the Thousand Year Reich, would defeat the Communists, and after the demise of the Communists, Germany would be the dominant country in a Jew-free Europe.
Twelve years later, at the end of the World War II, both Hitler and Roosevelt were dead, along with 6 million Jews, which was two-thirds of the total number of Jews in Europe in 1933.
Berlin had been reduced to a pile of rubble and Washington, DC was now the undisputed capital of the free world. Hitler’s Third Reich will be remembered for a thousand years, but as the empire which tried to destroy the Jews and failed, not as the glorious empire that Hitler had envisioned.
In the aftermath of World War II, Germany was divided into two new countries and Austria became independent again. Germany lost more territory and the ethnic Germans were scattered more than ever before. Soon after the defeat of Germany and its Fascist allies, the eastern half of Germany and all of Eastern Europe came under the control of our allies and Germany’s arch enemies, the Communists.
In order to hold back the threat of Communism to America, West Germany was made our new ally in 1948 and the Cold War against our former ally, the Communist Soviet Union, became the prime source of anxiety for Americans.
During this period, Americans were mainly concerned with building bomb shelters in their back yards, in preparation for the anticipated nuclear war; they had no interest in learning about the destruction of European Jewry in the last war. The word Holocaust was not yet in general use.