Even before Hitler came into power in Eastern Europe Jewish people were still treated as a separate community, they spoke their own language and lived in predominantly Jewish towns or villages, called shtetls. They read Yiddish books, and attended Yiddish theater and movies. Although many younger Jews in larger towns were beginning to adopt modern ways and dress, older people often dressed traditionally, the men wearing hats or caps, and the women modestly covering their hair with wigs or kerchiefs.
In comparison, the Jews in western Europe — Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium — made up much less of the population and tended to adopt the culture of their non-Jewish neighbors. They dressed and talked like everyone else, and traditional religious practices and Yiddish culture played a less important part in their lives. They tended to have better education than eastern European Jews and to live in towns or cities.
Jews could be found in all walks of life, as farmers, tailors, seamstresses, factory hands, accountants, doctors, teachers, and small-business owners. Some families were wealthy; many more were poor. Jewish Life during the WWII As early as 1933, the Nazis had been sending people to concentration camps. Initially, these camps were located in Germany (like Dachau and Bergen-Belsen) and were used for “undesirable” people. To the Nazis, these undesirable people included Communists, Democrats, Socialists, political prisoners, homosexuals, and Jews.
As the Nazi control spread through Europe, the deportation of Jews to concentration camps and death camps grew. Between 1939 and 1941, Austria, Hungary, and even France (led by the Vichy government) deported Jews. The ghettos of Poland were another Nazi creation. To get the Lebensraum he wanted from Poland, Hitler needed to clear the Jews from the Polish countryside. To do this, the Nazis forced the Jewish population to sections of cities, which they were then forbidden to leave.
Often, walls surrounded these areas, which were patrolled by heavily armed guards, trapping the people within. Each ghetto had a Jewish council (the Judenrat), which was responsible for ensuring that people followed Nazi policies. The council, made up of rabbis and other leaders in the Jewish community, was also responsible for distributing food, policing the ghetto, and taking care of the health and welfare (such that it was) of the people. The living conditions in the ghettos were horrible.
Deprived of food (the people in the ghetto were to receive the leftovers from the general population, but not more than was needed for bare sustenance), medical care, many of the basic necessities of life, and used extensively as slave labor, many Jews died of malnutrition, disease, and starvation. Several Jews were also executed for alleged crimes. During the years that Hitler ruled Germany; over 100 concentration camps appeared all over Europe. Although not used strictly for extermination purposes, the living conditions at the concentration camps were brutal and the death rates high.
The function of the prisoners in the concentration camps was to work, but their lives were worthless to the guards, the camp commanders, and the ever-present SS. Anyone who couldn’t work was killed, and those who could work were usually worked to death. The death camps, like Auschwitz, Birkenau, Chelmno, Treblinka, and Sobibor, were unique in that they were simply temporary holding areas for the murder of people. Jews were unloaded from train cars and in many cases headed directly to gas chambers or firing squads. Those who escaped immediate death were often used as slave laborers at the camp itself.
The bodies of the victims were stripped of any remaining valuables, such as gold from their teeth and rings, and then burned in ovens built especially for this purpose. When the ovens gave out, as they did in some death camps because of the number of people killed, the Germans burned the bodies out in the open. The night of broken glass On the night of November 9, 1938, violence against Jews broke out across the Reich. It appeared to be unplanned, set off by Germans’ anger over the assassination of a German official in Paris at the hands of a Jewish teenager.
In two days, over 250 synagogues were burned, over 7,000 Jewish businesses were trashed and looted, dozens of Jewish people were killed, and Jewish cemeteries, hospitals, schools, and homes were looted while police and fire brigades stood by. The pogroms became known as Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” for the shattered glass from the store windows that littered the streets. The morning after the pogroms 30,000 German Jewish men were arrested for the “crime” of being Jewish and sent to concentration camps, where hundreds of them died.
Some Jewish women were also arrested and sent to local jails. Businesses owned by Jews were not allowed to reopen unless they were managed by non-Jews. Curfews were placed on Jews, limiting the hours of the day they could leave their homes. After the “Night of Broken Glass” life was even more difficult for German and Austrian Jewish children and teenagers. Already banned from entering museums, public playgrounds, and swimming pools, now they were expelled from the public schools. Jewish youngsters, like their parents, were totally segregated in Germany.
In despair, many Jewish adults committed suicide. Most families tried desperately to leave. Kindertranport After seeing the violence committed toward them, Jewish parents tried to get there children out of the country, this is where kinder transport was created. Approximately 10,000 children, mostly Jewish, who were sent on transports from Nazi Germany and Austria, Czechoslovakia and later Poland, between December 1938 and September 1939. They came to the safe shores of Britain. Already after the First World War, Jewish children were subjected to bullying; anti-Semitism was rife.
German schoolchildren were allowed to wear swastikas, anti-Semitism was spread quite openly throughout institutions and organizations, and the appointment of Hitler as Chancellor in 1933 brought along further restrictions for the Jewish population, and I think the Jewish children really did suffer immensely; beaten up, called names, humiliated by their teachers. Private Citizens or organizations had to guarantee to pay for each child’s care, education, and eventual emigration from Britain. In return for this guarantee, the British government agreed to allow unaccompanied refugee children to enter the country on temporary travel visas.
It was understood at the time that when the “crisis was over,” the children would return to their families. Parents or guardians could not accompany the children. The few infants included in the program were tended by other children on their transport. Nuremberg Law At the annual party rally held in Nuremberg in 1935, the Nazis announced new laws which institutionalized many of the racial theories prevalent in Nazi ideology. The laws excluded German Jews from Reich citizenship and prohibited them from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of “German or related blood.
” The Nuremberg Laws, as they became known, did not define a “Jew” as someone with particular religious beliefs. Instead, anyone who had three or four Jewish grandparents was defined as a Jew, regardless of whether that individual identified himself or herself as a Jew or belonged to the Jewish religious community. Many Germans who had not practiced Judaism for years found themselves caught in the grip of Nazi terror. Even people with Jewish grandparents who had converted to Christianity were defined as Jews.