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Intro To The Holocaust  

Historical Background

The Holocaust, defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a sacrifice consumed by fire,” but historically it refers to Nazi Germany’s mass murder of six million Jewish men, women and children during World War II (1939-1945). The term “Holocaust” is in some ways a misnomer, as the genocide was not seen as a “sacrifice” by the Nazis. In Hebrew it is called the “Shoah,” referring to annihilation.

It is important to note that Jews were not the only group to be targeted by the Nazis. Millions of non-Jews were also murdered. This included homosexuals, Soviet POWs, communists, the mentally handicapped and other various opponents of the Nazi regime.

The destruction of two-thirds of European Jewry was unique, both in its numbers, and in its rationale. No other people were destroyed in the same way, and in no other case in history was there such a determination to annihilate an entire population.

This was the policy of Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party.  The Nazi party became the dominant political party in Germany in 1933 by winning more than 280 seats in the German national legislature. This absolute power gave them the ability to cripple any political opponents.  Hitler’s quickly became a dictator whose immediate international goal was massive expansion of German territory to the east; in conquering Eastern Europe Hitler not only enlarged Germany, but gained control of millions of Jews — the largest concentration in Europe. Hitler’s primary goals were German domination of Europe and the world and the elimination of the Jewish people.

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