Jewish Life on the Brink of Extinction–Yvonne

The Holocaust was a series of mass murders of Jews, with the intent to destroy their existence. The Holocaust started in 1933, when the Nazis gained political power in Germany and began to invade other European countries. In 1933 the largest Jewish populations (9 million) were concentrated in Eastern Europe, namely the Soviet Union, Romania, Hungary, and Poland.

The Nazis believed they were of the best and highest race and the Jews were very much inferior; hence they had to make them extinct. They also murdered Gypsies and even mentally or physically challenged Germans.  Sephardic Jews suffered as well, and their unique culture and language (Ladino) was almost lost.

The Germans invaded Soviet Union and other countries in 1939 and they collectively devised methods to kill the Jews. They built death camps, concentration camps and labor camps. On September 1941 Zyklon B (prussic acid) was used to successfully murder a large number of Jews in Auschwitz. By 1943, they had expanded their concentration camps.

Jews living in Bosnia and Croatia, Macedonia, Thrace and Serbia were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau (a large labor and extermination camp) to be killed.  In 1943 the Nazis closed the camps at Treblinka and Belzec because the destruction of Polish Jewry had been completed.

Greece refused to implement the Nazis’ Anti-Jewish laws, hence refusing to deport Greek-Jews to Germany. The Nazis conquered Greece 8th September 1943 and murdered over eighty-percent of the Greek-Jews. However, the Bulgarian government refused to deport the 50,000 Jews living in Bulgaria and this was due to the pressure from clerics and intellectual community. Norbert Yasharoff (a Bulgarian Jew), wrote a letter to his older cousin in 1943 describing his experiences during this trying time. In his letter, he described a scene where some Macedonian and Thracian Jews were locked up in box cars awaiting to be sent to Poland. The people begged for water but the guards prevented Norbert and the Jewish elders from giving them water.

Upon arrival to the concentration camps, they were classified according to those who could work and the elderly and children (who could not work) were put in large gas chambers and killed. The women were separated from the men and all their belongings were taken from them. Those who were kept, were stripped of all their clothing and shoes and given uniforms and wooden clogs, their heads were shaved and used to make cloth and they slept in dorms. Many died out of tiredness, hunger and insanitation.  Their dorms did not have restroom, so they used buckets; which made it a privilege if one worked in the latrines. They went through periodic selections, during which people who were ill, too thin or unwanted were selected and killed.

 

Their belongings were sorted, processed and sent out to Germany. The camps had electric fences, which out of desperation, people touched to commit suicide. The Holocaust lasted until the end of World War II in 1945.

A group of countries formed the Allied forces; an army that sought to end the ‘world tyranny’ and also the Holocaust. On May 9th the German armed forces surrendered to the Allied forces and 8th May, 1945 the World War II was officially over. The Allied forces were Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, United States and China.  By the end of the Holocaust about 6 million were killed and a fraction of them survived (3 million).

The survivors gave accounts of the gruesome ordeal and some of their descendants helped museums gather information about the occurrence by providing personal letters and family pictures.

Norbert Yasharoff

Norbert Yasharoff

Victoria Sarfati and Yehuda Beraha in 1943

Victoria Sarfati and Yehuda Beraha in 1943

Sources

“Zagreb, Croatia – Nazi Officer Who Saved a Jew from Death During World War II, Gets Award.” Zagreb, Croatia – Nazi Officer Who Saved a Jew from Death During World War II, Gets Award. Web. 07 Mar. 2016.

“Day in Auschwitz – Amazing New Documentary 2015.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 07 Mar. 2016.

“Yad Vashem.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 07 Mar. 2016.

https://www.ushmm.org/

https://www.ushmm.org/information/exhibitions/online-features/collections-highlights/sephardi-jews-during-holocaust/wedding-portrait

http://www.britannica.com/topic/Allied-powers-World-War-II

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/world-war-ii-overview

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