Holocaust Memorial Day – 27 January 2013 – Remembering the victims of the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and subsequent genocides – Updated 070213 1820z

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The Holocaust

Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis attempted to annihilate all of Europes Jews. It is this event which we now refer to as The Holocaust or the Shoah, a variation on a Hebrew word.

The Nazis spread their hatred through the use of propaganda and legislation designed to deny human rights to Jews and used centuries of anti-semitism as their foundation. By the end of the Holocaust, 6 million Jewish men, women and children had been murdered in ghettos, mass-shootings, in concentration and extermination camps, and many millions more were affected by the Nazis extreme policies.

As soon as the Nazis came to power they introduced laws and legislation intended to deny Jews the freedom of movement, work and other basic rights. Boycotts of Jewish doctors, lawyers and shops began in 1933 and by 1935 Jews were not allowed to join the civil service or the army. The introduction of the Nuremberg laws in September 1935 further increased Jewish marginalisation. Jews were banned from marrying non-Jews and their citizenship was removed including their right to vote. As time progressed, more restrictions were brought in and Jews were barred from all professional occupations and Jewish children were prohibited from attending public schools. In 1938, further laws decreed that men must take the middle name Israel and women Sarah, all German Jews would have their passports marked with a J

On 9 November 1938 the Nazis initiated pogroms (an organised persecution of a particular group) against the Jews in all Nazi territories. It was a night of vandalism, violence and persecution that many have since described as the beginning of the Holocaust. 91 Jews were murdered, 30,000 were arrested and 191 synagogues were destroyed. This night became known as Kristallnacht the night of broken glass, so called because of the smashed glass which covered the streets from the shops which were looted.

listen to the testimony of Holocaust survivors such as Dr Martin Stern.

find out about the Nazis final solution to annihilate all of European Jewry.

read about the ghettoisation programme.

The Rise of the Nazi Party

1919 German Workers Party (later, Nazi Party) established.

1921 Adolf Hitler becomes Party Chairman.

1921-1922 Period of growth in support for the Nazis due to the appeal to young unemployed men who were suffering due to the economic crisis under the Weimar Republic.

1922 Inspired by the National Fascist Party in Italy, Hitler introduced the straight-armed salute, which became synonymous with the Nazi party, and is still used by Neo-Nazi and Fascist groups today.

1923 The Nazi Party carried out an unsuccessful coup against the government which resulted in imprisonment for Hitler. Whilst incarcerated Hitler wrote his manifesto Mein Kampf in which he outlined his ideology on a true Aryan race and expressed his violent anti-semitism.

1923-27 the Nazi Party continued to gain popularity.

1929 By this point, the Nazi Party had approximately 130,000 members. The Nazis gained support by implanting the idea that the ongoing financial crisis, which saw unemployment rise and businesses fail was due to Jewish financiers, building on existing anti-semitism.

1933 With over 400,000 party members, Hitler was appointed Chancellor. Once in office, he quickly secured almost unlimited power through manipulation and terror, though he remained publicly respectful to the President, Paul Von Hindenburg. When the latter died in 1934 Hitler became Fuhrer. Governmental practice was changed, with a law being passed which allowed the Nazis to pass laws without parliamentary approval. They later banned all other political parties, turning Germany into a one-party state.

Kindertransport & Refugees

The Kindertransport

The Kindertransport was a unique humanitarian programme which ran between November 1938 and September 1939. Approximately 10,000 children, the majority of whom were Jewish, were sent from their homes and families in Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland to Great Britain.

Immediately after the Nazis came to power in 1933 the persecution of Jews began this reached a pre-war peak with Kristallnacht (the Night of the Broken Glass) on 9/10 November 1938. 267 synagogues were destroyed, 100 people were killed, all remaining Jewish stores in the Reich were destroyed and almost 30,000 people were taken to concentration camps.

Sir Samuel Hoare, the Home Secretary, agreed that to speed up the immigration process by issuing travel documents on the basis of group lists rather than individual applications. Strict conditions were placed upon the entry of the children. Jewish and non-Jewish agencies promised to fund the operation and to ensure that none of the refugees would become a financial burden on the public. Every child would have a guarantee of 50 to finance his or her eventual re-emigration.

The Movement for the Care of Children from Germany, later known as the Refugee Childrens Movement (RCM), sent representatives to Germany and Austria to establish the systems for choosing, organising, and transporting the children. On 25 November, after discussion in the House of Commons British citizens heard an appeal for foster homes on the BBC Home Service. Soon there were 500 offers, and RCM volunteers started visiting these possible foster homes and reporting on conditions. They did not insist that prospective homes for Jewish children should be Jewish homes.

The first Kindertransport from Berlin departed on 1 December, and the first from Vienna on 10 December. In March 1939, after the German army entered Czechoslovakia, transports from Prague were hastily organised. Trains of Polish Jewish children were also arranged in February and August 1939.

The last group of children from Germany departed on 1 September 1939, the day the German army invaded Poland and provoked Great Britain, France, and other countries to declare war. The last known Kindertransport from the Netherlands left on 14 May 1940, the day the Dutch army surrendered to Germany.

After the war ended many of the children stayed in Britain or emigrated to the newly formed state of Israel, America, Canada or Australia. Most of the children had been orphaned since leaving their homes, losing their families in the Ghettos or camps they had escaped.

Refugees

The Jewish refugees who fled to Britain before the outbreak of war in 1939 to escape Hitler came from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. They were the first sizable group of refugees in the successive waves of immigration that flowed into Britain from the middle decades of the last century. By 1939, Britain was playing host to over 60,000 some 50,000 of whom settled permanently. They were joined after 1945 by a smaller group of Jews who had survived the Holocaust in Europe.

These refugees sought asylum from racial, religious and political persecution; even though Nazi measures against the Jews had not by 1939 escalated into the attempt at total extermination witnessed during the wartime Holocaust. The vicious and systematic discrimination to which Jews were subjected made life intolerable for them even before 1939.

The admission of Jewish refugees from Central Europe was opposed by sections of the press, by right-wing political forces, by groups like Oswald Mosleys British Union of Fascists, and by those arguing for the preservation of British jobs at a time of high unemployment against the perceived threat of imported foreign labour. The refugees had their supporters in liberal circles and among those whose compassion was aroused by the plight of the Nazis victims. Only after the intensification of Nazi persecution of the Jews that took place in 1938/39 did Britain accept larger numbers of refugees, admitting some 50,000 in the last eighteen months before the outbreak of war, including some 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children who came on Kindertransport.

The pre-war refugees from Germany were drawn largely from the Jewish middle classes. Well educated, cultured and often with professional qualifications or experience, they had mostly been well integrated into the societies of their native lands, and they continued on the path of assimilation in Britain. After the war most took British nationality and settled down to build new lives for themselves and their families.

They largely preserved their German-language culture and their Continental identity, while integrating broadly successfully into British society. The skills, enterprise and education that they brought with them ensured that they contributed significantly to British life.

Ghettos & Deportation

Ghettos

During the Nazi regime of hatred, ghettos were a central step in the process of control, dehumanisation, and mass murder of the Jews and Gypsies.

Nazi Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 and as a result, the UK and other Western European countries declared war. Thus, the Second World War began but the initial fighting in Poland lasted only a few weeks, as Polands old-fashioned army was quickly defeated by the modern, advanced German forces. In spring 1940 the Nazis established ghettos in the larger towns and cities across Poland.

The Germans regarded the establishment of ghettos as a provisional measure to control and segregate Jews while the Nazi leadership in Berlin deliberated upon options to realise the goal of removing the Jewish population, which in turn formed the Final Solution.

The largest ghetto in Poland was Warsaw, where 400,000 Jews were crowded into 1.3 square miles of the city. Other ghettos in Poland included those in the cities of Lodz, Krakow, Bialystok, Lvov, Lublin, Vilna, Czestochowa, and Minsk. Many thousands of western European Jews were also deported to ghettos in the east.

The ghettos were specially selected areas where Jews were forced to live. Some had walls built around them, others were marked out by barbed wire. They were nearly always in the poorest areas of town and desperately cramped with poor sanitation. As time went on, food restrictions were introduced and terrible conditions led to hundreds of thousands dying from disease or malnutrition. Men, women and children were forced to leave their homes taking only the possessions they could carry and move into overcrowded houses and rooms, where their movement was strictly prohibited. Conditions in the ghettos were appalling, where families were crowded together without adequate supplies of food or water. Many people died from starvation, disease and casual executions carried out by the Nazis.

All Jewish inhabitants of the ghettos were forced to wear a Star of David, making them instantly recognisable to the Nazi authorities. Many Jews were used as forced labour in factories and businesses outside of the ghetto. Daily life in the ghettos was administered by Nazi-appointed Judenraete (Jewish Council). Ghetto police carried out the orders of the Nazis, assisting with deportations, punishment and oppression.

Deportations

After the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 the Nazis stepped up their policy against those they hated through murder on an industrial scale. By December 1941 over 1.5 million Jews had been killed by beatings, starvation or mass shootings. Camps were established as soon as the Nazis came to power and those who were considered to be opponents of the regime were imprisoned and treated with great brutality.

The first concentration camp was established at Dachau on 23 March 1933. Following Kristallnacht huge numbers of Jews were imprisoned in camps simply because they were Jews. As the Nazis captured more territory the camp system was greatly expanded and used as a tool in the creation of the racial state.

The Wannsee Conference (20/01/1942) attended by German SS and State Officials saw the formulation of the attempted mass-deportation of European Jews to extermination camps that existed or were being constructed in German-occupied Poland. If successful this Final Solution would see the extermination of Jews, not only in Nazi-occupied countries, but throughout Ireland, Great Britain, Sweden and Turkey. Deportation on this scale required organisation on an industrial scale and included many Government departments the Ministry of Transportation to arrange train schedules and routes, the Order of Police to direct and manage the deportation and the Foreign Office to organise cross-border travel for Jews in allied countries. The co-ordination of these deportations showed how normal hatred had become.

It is generally accepted that the Nazis attempted to disguise their intent, referring to the removal of Jews from ghettos to extermination camps as resettlement in the East. Jews would be rounded up from the ghettos and made to prepare for their resettlement taking with them few of their most valuable possessions if they were able.

The Germans used freight and passenger trains for the deportations. No food or water was provided for those on the trains, despite being sealed into packed freight cars with little or no room to sit or lay down those inside endured intense heat during the summer and freezing temperatures during the winter. Aside from a bucket, there was no sanitary facilities, adding to the indignity faced by those being deported. Many of those packed onto these trains died on route to the camps through starvation or over-crowding.

Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest Nazi extermination camp, where transports such as these arrived on a daily basis from virtually every Nazi-occupied country in Europe.

Life in the Camps

The first concentration camp was established at Dachau on 23 March 1933. As the Nazis captured more territory, the camp system was greatly expanded and used as a tool in the creation of a single-race state. In total, the Nazis created approximately 20,000 camps including transit, forced labour, and extermination camps throughout German-occupied countries.

Camp inmates were subject to forced labour, overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, starvation and cruel treatment with many thousands dying.

The Nazis extended the camp system to include 6 extermination camps: Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau. The mobile killing units which were originally used to kill inmates were expanded with the development of gas chambers.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

Arrival in the camp started with a selection process men, women and children were removed from the transports, which arrived daily and had their valuables taken away. Men were separated from women and children. A Nazi physician would quickly assess whether each person was healthy enough to survive forced labour, and based on this visual inspection, individuals were sent to the camps or to the gas chambers. The disabled, elderly, pregnant women, babies, young children or the sick, stood little chance of surviving this selection.

Those who were selected for death were led to the gas chambers, and, in order to prevent panic, some victims were told they were going to the showers to remove the lice from their bodies. They were made to hand over any remaining valuables and remove all of their clothes. After being ushered into the gas chambers, the doors would be shut and bolted. In some extermination centres, carbon monoxide was pumped into the chambers, and in others, a toxic insecticide called Zyklon-B. The poison took up to 20 minutes to kill those in the chambers. Camp prisoners were then forced by the SS guards to remove the corpses from the chambers and to remove hair, gold teeth and fillings. The corpses were then burned in ovens within the crematoria or were buried in mass graves.

Bergen Belsen

Bergen Belsen was set up in 1940 as a Prisoner of War camp until 1943, when it was divided into the prisoners camp and the Star Camp in which prisoners classed as valuable and whom the Nazis planned to exchange with the Allies for German civilians. Few prisoners were exchanged. Bergen-Belsen also served as a collection camp for sick and injured prisoners transported from other concentration camps. They were housed in a separate section, the so-called hospital camp. Bergen Belsen was also the destination of survivors of death marches from other concentration camps. It is estimated there were over 60,000 prisoners in Belsen by April 1945. Approximately 35,000 prisoners died of typhus, malnutrition and starvation in the first few months of 1945.

Many Nazi concentration camps were built as forced labour camps, supplying cheap manual labour to local industries. Work was hard and treatment was brutal. Not working quickly or hard enough, whilst being starved, was punishable by death.

Theresienstadt concentration camp

Theresienstadt (often referred to as Terezin) was set up as a transit camp. Its main purpose was to serve as a transit camp for European Jews on their way to Auschwitz. Conditions were incredibly harsh. In a space previously inhabited by 7,000 Czechs, now over 50,000 Jews were gathered. Food was scarce, punishment by beatings or death was the norm. Terezin supplied slave labour to local industries.

Terezin was publicised by the Nazis as a place of high culture many artists, musicians and others from the arts were held there prior to deportation. But the camp served as a much more sinister propaganda exercise. Under pressure from the international community, the Nazis permitted the International Red Cross to visit the transit camp in July 1944. An intensive period of deportations took place prior to the visit, and the camp was beautified gardens were planted, concerts were held and a propaganda film was created. The hoax worked and the International Red Cross were satisfied with the treatment of the prisoners. After the visit, deportations resumed.

Badge system

Although the symbols worn by prisoners differed from camp to camp, the Nazis used the wearing of badges to differentiate between the prisoners in camps. The wearing of badges and prisoner numbers signified the absolute removal of human rights of an individual.

The badges sewn onto prisoner uniforms enabled SS guards to identify the alleged grounds for incarceration, although these did differ from camp to camp, its generally accepted that:

Yellow star or triangle Jewish prisoner
Green triangle Criminals
Red triangle Political prisoners
Black triangles Roma & Sinti (Gypsies), asocials, (nonconformists, vagrants, Lesbians)
Pink triangles Gay men
Purple triangles Jehovahs Witnesses

Prisoners also had the first initial of the place they came from on their badges if they were non-German, and a variety of colours if they fell into a number of categories (ie a Jewish political prisoner would have a yellow and red star).

We look to survivor stories to tell us more about what life was like in the camps.

Liberation, Resistance & Rescuers

Resistance

Jews responded to the ghetto restrictions with a variety of resistance efforts. Ghetto residents frequently engaged in so-called illegal activities, such as smuggling food, medicine, weapons or intelligence across the ghetto walls, often without the knowledge or approval of the Jewish councils.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The most well-known attempt by Jews to resist the Nazi regime took place in the Warsaw Ghetto in April 1943 and lasted for almost a month.

This was organised by the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa Z.O.B (Jewish Fighting Organisation), and headed by 23 year old Mordecai Anielewicz with the aim of encouraging Jewish inhabitants to resist being rounded up into rail cars which would take them to the concentration camps.

In January 1943 shots had been fired during one such deportation by the Z.O.B using the small number of arms that had been smuggled into the Ghetto. After a few days of the attack, Nazi troops retreated. This success inspired further revolt.

On 19 April 1943 the Nazis entered the Warsaw Ghetto to carry out its liquidation approximately 750 Z.O.B fighters fought the well-armed and trained soldiers. The revolt lasted for just over a month until, on 16 May they were finally defeated. More than 56,000 Jews were taken from the Warsaw Ghetto during the liquidation with 7000 being shot upon capture and the remaining 49,000 deported to concentration camps.

There were also violent revolts in Vilna, Bialystok, Czestochowa, and several smaller ghettos.

Rescuers

Many people and organisations rescued victims of the Nazi regime. Some non-Jewish rescuers have been recognised by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations for their actions during the Holocaust. Those regarded as rescuers may have hidden someone for a few hours, overnight or two or three years. Some may have saved one life, others saved thousands. Whatever the scale each deed was as significant as each other. Both the Talmud and the Koran remind us: Whoever saves a life, it is as if he saved the world entire.

During the Nazi period everyone had to make moral choices. Some people became perpetrators, others were bystanders. A small minority chose to help the persecuted these are the rescuers and helpers. This was an extraordinary selfless choice. It meant risking not only their own lives but the lives of their own family and children. Many paid with their lives. None succeeded in halting the Holocaust but many people were enabled to survive as a result of their efforts. Each chose to defy the power of the Nazis and their collaborators mostly single-handedly. That choice made a huge difference to many individual lives. More importantly they showed the power of the individual and provided hope in otherwise hopeless circumstances by demonstrating the importance of moral courage in action.

During the Nazi period the vast majority of people were not perpetrators, but bystanders. We know that fear was a major contributing factor to the success of Nazi policy generally and the genocide of Jews, and the persecution of Roma and Sinti, Black, disabled and Lesbian and Gay people specifically.

But there were courageous people who stood out from time to time. They were found in every Nazi-occupied country and from all walks of life. What is clear is that most of these people were very ordinary people, making individual choices of conscience. Their actions demonstrated that true heroes are often just ordinary people acting on their convictions. Many were surprised that what they had done was deemed to be exceptional.

The Nazis were brutal in their reprisals against anyone caught trying to assist. Bystanders therefore had good reason to be concerned for their personal safety. This in turn makes the actions of those who did resist the more remarkable. Their actions were selfless, but no less calculated. They knew the potential risk, but took the risk anyway.

Frank Foley

Frank Foley was born in Somerset in 1884. In the 1930s, he worked for the Foreign Office and became Head of the British Passport Control Office in Germany. Eyewitnesses recall Mr Foley as an unassuming hero a small, slightly overweight man with round glasses. However, Foley was in fact Britains most senior spy in Berlin.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/8c/Frank_foley.jpg

During his time in Berlin, Foley is known to have saved an estimated 10,000 German Jews after Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933. He used his role in the Passport Office as a cover for his real job as an Intelligence Officer working for the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), later called MI6. This made his efforts on behalf of the Jews even more dangerous.

Foley first moved to work in Berlin in 1920. He was therefore able to observe and report back on the political and social changes that took place in Germany as a result of the rise to power of Hitler and the Nazi Party. Foley was also able to see the impact of the many anti-Semitic measures introduced by the Nazis and the effect these had on the every day lives of Jews.

If he had been arrested, Foley would have had no diplomatic immunity as he was working as a spy, but for years he ignored many Nazi laws and helped Jews leave the country. He made no money from his rescue efforts but risked his own life to save so many others. He also did not seek recognition or praise for his acts of rescue.

Foley broke many Nazi laws, for example he entered concentration camps such as Sachsenhausen and presented visas to the camp authorities so that Jews could be freed to travel. Foley also hid Jews in his home and used his secret service skills to help them obtain false papers, forged passports and visas. By issuing these visas, Foley was also breaking British laws.

Whilst Oskar Schindlers efforts in saving thousands of Jews were immortalised in the book Schindlers Ark by Thomas Keneally and the film Schindlers List by Steven Spielberg, Frank Foleys bravery has gone largely unnoticed.

Schindler was a factory owner, employing and thereby saving the lives of 1,400 Jews who would ordinarily have been sent to the concentration camps.

Many of the Jews Schindler saved remained in contact after fleeing Germany, thus giving a voice to his story.

In contrast, many of the thousands helped to safety with forged visas supplied by Frank Foley, were unaware of the identity of their life saving benefactor.

Many Jews would arrive in Palestine with visas they knew they shouldnt have, so understandably kept this information quiet.

During his lifetime, Foley received no recognition or honour for his actions in the UK. In 1999 though, Foleys actions resulted in his being recognised as Righteous Amongst the Nations at Yad Vashem in Israel.

On 24th November 2004, the 120th anniversary of Foleys birth, a plaque was unveiled in his honour at the British Embassy in Berlin. Amongst those who travelled to Berlin to take part in a special ceremony was Elisheva Lernau, 91 who had been rescued by Foley. Elisheva said, His name is written on my heart I owe my life to this man I never met, a man of humanity in a time of unparalleled inhumanity.

In Highbridge, Somerset a plaque has been placed on the house where Foley was born and in May 2005 a statue was unveiled in his honour.

Liberation

When Allied troops began a number of offensive strikes in Nazi-occupied Europe, they began to uncover the concentration camps throughout. After the first liberation the camp of Majdanek in Poland in summer 1944, Nazi forces began to burn down the crematoria and the mass graves. Prisoners were forced to walk into the interior of Germany, already suffering from starvation and ill-treatment, many died on the enforced death march.

In late 1944, Soviet troops also overran the sites Sobibor, Belzec, and Treblinka, which had been disused by the Nazis from 1943.
Soviet soldiers liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau on 27 January 1945. They found several thousand emaciated survivors, and the smouldering remains of the gas chambers and crematoria the Nazi attempt to destroy evidence of their crimes against humanity. In the following months, the Soviets liberated Stutthof, Sachsenhausen and Ravensbruck.

US troops liberated Buchenwald in April 1945, followed by Flossenburg, Dachau and Mauthausen.

British Troops liberated Bergen Belsen on 15 April 1945. Liberator Iolo Lewis recalls the sight that met the liberators:

I was absolutely horrified to find out what had happened where I stood and the inhumanity of man against man. I have never been the same since, mentally. How could people do this sort of thing to other people? The people were not lively. They were treated like animals. They had lost reason. When the medics came in they tried to save a lot of people.

We cannot begin to imagine the scenes which confronted the liberators. Disease such as typhoid was rife, and an ever present danger to the malnourished survivors. Many camps had to be burnt to the ground in order to ensure the containment of diseases. The liberation of the camps exposed the full extent of the Nazis Final Solution to the rest of the world.

Life after the Holocaust

The Nuremberg Trials

After the war, judges from the Allied powers convened to bring those responsible for crimes committed during the Holocaust to trial. These took place in Nuremberg, Germany between 1945 and 1946. 22 Nazis were bought before the court, with 12 being sentenced to death. Charged with Crimes against Humanity, the majority of the defendants pleaded guilty to the charges against them, but claimed they were just following orders. Those who were directly involved with the murder of over 11 million men, women and children were most harshly sentenced however, those who played a large role in the Holocaust, who facilitated the Nazis Final Solution (eg Government officials, business-men who used forced labour, and other executives) were sentenced to lenient prison sentences or no punishment at all.

Many Nazi war criminals, including Adolf Hitler who committed suicide at the end of the war, were never sentenced. Many fled the country and have never been found. However, people like the late survivor Simon Wiesenthal continued to hunt Nazis across the world. Wiesenthal found Adolf Eichmann, who had helped to instigate the Final Solution in Argentina, and he was brought to trial and executed in 1961.

The Nuremberg Trials led to the establishment of The International Criminal Court in 2002 over 50 years later as a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression, although it cannot currently exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. As of July 2010 111 States are members of the ICC.

(Goaty: How Nazis Escaped Justice in SouthAmerica: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/new-book-explores-how-so-many-nazis-escaped-justice-in-south-america-a-879101.html)

Rebuilding Lives

Despite what they went through survivors never clamoured to be heard and did not demand attention. Few sought revenge against those who had tormented them and most only reluctantly claimed compensation, even for what was theirs by right. Instead, they quietly went about the business of rebuilding lives and reconstructing the societies in which they lived. They set an unrivalled example of dignity to us all.

Many survivors share their stories with us. They do not insist on any reward: to them it is a civic duty. They take heart that society is learning from what they had to suffer, the knowledge that younger generations are listening to what they have to say and carrying their message forward. Survivors are not special just because they are survivors. Most will say that they did not escape from Germany or live through the ghettos or the camps because of something intrinsic to them. Most will readily admit that they survived thanks to sheer luck. Survivors of Nazi persecution and mass murder are special because of what they survived and what they have to tell us about that horrific experience.

Few comforting stories emerged from the Nazi dark ages. One of the most important things we can learn from the survivors of Nazi persecution and mass murder is that for people who emerge from war and genocide, suffering and grief do not end instantly with the declaration of peace.

For those in the camps, liberation was a muted experience. They were alive, but they had lost everything. Thousands died of malnutrition and disease even after Allied troops arrived. The sights that greeted Allied servicemen and women marked them for ever. They brought immediate aid to the survivors in terrible conditions and at great risk to themselves. The troops and relief workers should be honoured for that bravery and skill.

But after the initial rescue, survivors often faced incomprehension and even hostility. Those who went back to their own countries frequently discovered that their homes were occupied by other people and that their belongings were gone. They were treated with fear and resentment.

About 50,000 Jewish camp survivors gathered in the British and American zones of occupation in Germany, refusing to return to places that were no more than a graveyard. Outbreaks of violent anti-semitism in Poland led to over a hundred thousand Polish Jewish survivors joining them. But no country in the world was willing to take substantial numbers of Jewish Displaced Persons, DPs, as the survivors became known.

The British government refused to allow an influx of Jewish refugees and only a few thousand came to Britain under a scheme for the distressed relatives of Jews already in the UK. The Government permitted 10,000 Jewish and non-Jewish children to enter the country but ruled out any old enough to work, even though tens of thousands of non-Jewish DPs, including Poles, Balts, Ukrainians, and ethnic Germans, were recruited for labour in Britain.

Few survivors received anything more than essential medical treatment. About 750 boys and girls who were brought to Britain by the British Jewish community were given excellent care and sustained attention but they were the exception. Neither the survivors nor the liberating troops, many of whom were traumatised by what they had seen, received the kind of support that we would deem essential to their psychological well-being.

In the post-war trials of war criminals the testimony of survivors was almost totally ignored and they were at the bottom of the list of those to get restitution. It took decades before they obtained justice. In Germany Roma and Gay men had no chance of obtaining redress: the laws under which they had been persecuted remained in force for many years. Their experiences, like the Nazi treatment of Black people, were hardly mentioned. And yet most of the former Jewish refugees and the camp survivors who reached Britain between 1938 and 1945 came through and avoided the canker of bitterness. Some completed education while others began their schooling in a new tongue. They mastered trades and professions, and embarked on productive working lives. They married and raised families. They maintained their religious affiliations and cherished memories of a culture that was now in ruins. Above all, they avoided the temptation to hate or to teach their children to hate.

Victims of Nazi Persecution

The Nazis intended to create a society which valued everyone being the same and hated anyone who did not conform to their idea of a true Aryan.

Singling out Jews for complete annihilation in the Holocaust was not the full extent of Nazi hatred. Anyone who did not fit their narrow idea of who was normal was targeted for persecution and discrimination across Nazi-occupied Europe.

The Porrajmos

Europes Gypsies were targeted by the Nazis for total destruction. The Porrajmos (The Devouring) is the term used to describe the Nazi genocide of Europes Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) population. Upward of 200,000 Gypsies were murdered or died as a result of starvation or disease. Many more were imprisoned, used as forced labour or subject to forced sterilisation and medical experimentation.

In June 1936, a Central Office to Combat the Gypsy Nuisance opened in Munich and later that year, Berlin police were given the authority to conduct raids against Gypsies so that they would not mar the image of the city as the host of the summer Olympic Games.

Between 1939 and 1940 labour camps for people avoiding work and living off crime were set up in the Czech Republic. Roma and Sinti men, women and children were also sent to camps in Lety and Hodonin, and in 1940, statistics about Gypsies, mixed Gypsies and people with Gypsy style of life were officially collected. Those found to be in any of these categories were sent to the camps. Out of c.2500 internees at these camps, over 50% were deported to Auschwitz and many more died due to starvation and maltreatment within the camps.

In June 1938, Gypsy Clean-up Week took place throughout Germany. In Roma and Sinti men, women and children were targeted for persecution, hatred and imprisonment.

The experience of Europes Gypsy population has parallels with that of the Jewish people. Both were targeted on the grounds of their race and had previously suffered centuries of discrimination. The Nuremberg Laws which prohibited marriage between Jews and Aryans and enshrined the loss of citizenship rights were also applied to Gypsies. As with Jewish children, Gypsy children were banned from public schools and Gypsies found it increasingly difficult to maintain or secure employment.

As the Second World War began, the persecution of Gypsies intensified. Deportations of Gypsies to ghettos including Lodz and to concentration camps including Dachau, Mauthausen and Auschwitz-Birkenau which had a specific Gypsy Camp began.

On 26 February 1943, the first transport of Roma and Sinti men, women and children arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Of the 23,000 Gypsies imprisoned within the camp, its estimated that around 20,000 were murdered.

On 2 August 1944 the Zieguenlager (Gypsy Camp) at Auschwitz was liquidated and 2897 Roma and Sinti were exterminated in the gas chambers. The surviving prisoners were deported to Buchenwald and Ravensbruck concentration camps for forced labour.

Despite the atrocities committed against Gypsies by the Nazi regime their experiences were only fully recognised by the West German Government in 1981 and the Porrajmos is only now becoming more widely known.

listen to historian Donald Kenrick talk about the Porrajmos

Gay Victims of Nazi persecution

Lesbian and gay life in Germany began to thrive at the beginning of the 20th century. Berlin in particular was one of the most liberal cities in Europe with a number of lesbian and gay organisations, cafs, bars, publications and cultural events taking place.

By the 1920s, Paragraph 175 of the Penal Code (which criminalised homosexual acts) was being applied in an increasingly limited fashion. Magnus Hirschfelds Institute for Sexual Science led the world in its scientific approach to sexual diversity and acted as an important public centre for Berlin lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered life. In 1929 the process towards complete decriminalisation had been initiated within the German legislature.

Nazi conceptions of race, gender and eugenics dictated the regimes hostile policy on homosexuality. Within days of Hitler becoming Chancellor repression against gay men and lesbians commenced. On 6 May 1933, the Nazis violently looted and closed The Institute for Sexual Science, burning its extensive collection on the streets. Other organisations were also shut down. The existing laws were toughened and the courts and police were encouraged to take draconian steps. Unknown numbers of German gay men and lesbians fled abroad, entered into marriages in order to appear to conform to Nazi ideological norms, and experienced severe psychological trauma. The thriving gay culture in Berlin was lost.

The police established lists of homosexually active persons. Records from 1937-1940 include the names of over 90,000 suspects. Significant numbers of gay men were arrested, of whom an estimated 50,000 received severe jail sentences in brutal conditions. Most homosexuals were not sent to concentration camps but were instead exposed to inhumane treatment in police prisons. There they could be subjected to hard labour and torture, or be executed or experimented upon. The Nazis dehumanised the prisoners in their camps and some of their prisons by giving them a symbol, which coded them according to the reason for their detention, and assigned them a number to replace their name. Some 10-15,000 people were deported for being gay to concentration camps. Many, but not all, were assigned pink triangles. Most died in the camps, often from exhaustion. Many were castrated and some subjected to gruesome medical experiments. Collective murder actions were undertaken against gay detainees, exterminating hundreds at a time. Some people belonged to more than one targeted group. For example, Jewish gays wore a yellow triangle and a pink triangle together.

During the 1935 redrafting of Paragraph 175 in Germany, there was much debate about whether to include lesbianism, which had not been recognised in the earlier version. Ultimately lesbians were not included in the legislation and they were subsequently not targeted in the same way as gay men. In Austria, after Anschluss (the annexation of Austria into greater Germany under the Nazi regime), a similar debate led to the inclusion of lesbianism in the penal code. lesbians suffered the same destruction of community networks as gay men. They were allowed to play no role in public life and therefore they often experienced a double economic disadvantage.

After the war, the Allies chose not to remove the Nazi-amended Paragraph 175. Neither they, nor the new German states, nor Austria would recognise homosexual prisoners as victims of the Nazis a status essential to qualify for reparations. Indeed, many gay men continued to serve their prison sentences.

People who had been persecuted by the Nazis for being gay had a hard choice: either to bury their experience and pretend it never happened with all the personal consequences of such an action or to try to campaign for recognition in an environment where the same neighbours, the same law, same police and same judges prevailed.

Unsurprisingly very few victims came forward. Those who did even those who had fought the Nazis and survived death camps were thwarted at every turn. Few known victims are still alive but research is now beginning to reveal the hidden history of Nazi homophobia and post-war discrimination.

read the testimony of Albrecht Becker who was persecuted by the Nazis

listen to Ben Sumerskill of Stonewall speak about LGB discrimination

In 1934, a special Gestapo (Secret State Police) division on homosexuals was set up. One of its first acts was to order the police pink lists from all over Germany The police had been compiling these lists of suspected homosexual men since 1900. On September 1, 1935, a harsher, amended version of Paragraph 175 of the Criminal Code, originally framed in 1871, went into effect, punishing a broad range of lewd and lascivious behavior between men. In 1936 Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler created a Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion: Special Office (II S), a subdepartment of Executive Department II of the Gestapo. The linking of homosexuality and abortion reflected the Nazi regimes population policies to promote a higher birthrate of its Aryan population. On this subject Himmler spoke in Bad Tlz on February 18, 1937, before a group of high-ranking SS officers on the dangers both homosexuality and abortion posed to the German birthrate.

Under the revised Paragraph 175 and the creation of Special Office IIS, the number of prosecutions increased sharply, peaking in the years 1937-1939. Half of all convictions for homosexual activity under the Nazi regime occurred during these years. The police stepped up raids on homosexual meeting places, seized address books of arrested men to find additional suspects, and created networks of informers to compile lists of names and make arrests.

An estimated 1.2 million men were homosexuals in Germany in 1928. Between 1933-45, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested as homosexuals, and of these, some 50,000 officially defined homosexuals were sentenced. Most of these men spent time in regular prisons, and an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 of the total sentenced were incarcerated in concentration camps.

How many of these 5,000 to 15,000 175ers perished in the concentration camps will probably never be known. Historical research to date has been very limited. One leading scholar, Ruediger Lautmann, believes that the death rate for 175ers in the camps may have been as high as sixty percent.

All prisoners of the camps wore marks of various colors and shapes, which allowed guards and camp functionaries to identify them by category. The uniforms of those sentenced as homosexuals bore, various identifying marks, including a large black dot and a large 175″ drawn on the back of the jacket. Later a pink triangular patch (rosa Winkel) appeared. Conditions in the camps were generally harsh for all inmates, many of whom died from hunger, disease, exhaustion, exposure to the cold, and brutal treatment. Many survivors have testified that men with pink triangles were often treated particularly severely by guards and inmates alike because of widespread biases against homosexuals. As was true with other prisoner categories, some homosexuals were also victims of cruel medical experiments, including castration. At Buchenwald concentration camp, SS physician Dr. Carl Vaernet performed operations designed to convert men to heterosexuals: the surgical insertion of a capsule which released the male hormone testosterone. Such procedures reflected the desire by Himmler and others to find a medical solution to homosexuality.

The vast majority of homosexual victims were males; lesbians were not subjected to systematic persecution. While lesbian bars were closed, few women are believed to have been arrested. Paragraph 175 did not mention female homosexuality. Lesbianism was seen by many Nazi officials as alien to the nature of the Aryan woman. In some cases, the police arrested lesbians as asocials or prostitutes. One woman, Henny Schermann, was arrested in 1940 in Frankfurt and was labeled licentious Lesbian on her mug shot; but she was also a stateless Jew, sufficient cause for deportation. Among the Jewish inmates at Ravensbrck concentration camp selected for extermination, she was gassed in the Bernburg psychiatric hospital, a euthanasia killing center in Germany, in 1942.

Consequently, the vast majority of homosexuals arrested under Paragraph 175 were Germans or Austrians. Unlike Jews, men arrested as homosexuals were not systematically deported to Nazi-established ghettos in eastern Europe. Nor were they transported in mass groups of homosexual prisoners to Nazi extermination camps in Poland.

It should be noted that Nazi authorities sometimes used the charge of homosexuality to discredit and undermine their political opponents. Charges of homosexuality among the SA (Storm trooper) leadership figured prominently among justifications for the bloody purge of SA chief Ernst Rhm in June 1934. Nazi leader Hermann Gring used trumped-up accusations of homosexual improprieties to unseat army supreme commander Von Fritsch, an opponent of Hitlers military policy, in early 1938. Finally, a 1935 propaganda campaign and two show trials in 1936 and 1937 alleging rampant homosexuality in the priesthood, attempted to undercut the power of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, an institution which many Nazi officials considered their most powerful potential enemy.

After the war, homosexual concentration camp prisoners were not acknowledged as victims of Nazi persecution, and reparations were refused. Under the Allied Military Government of Germany, some homosexuals were forced to serve out their terms of imprisonment, regardless of the time spent in concentration camps. The 1935 version of Paragraph 175 remained in effect in the Federal Republic (West Germany) until 1969, so that well after liberation, homosexuals continued to fear arrest and incarceration.

Research on Nazi persecution of homosexuals was impeded by the criminalization and social stigmatization of homosexuals in Europe and the United States in the decades following the Holocaust. Most survivors were afraid or ashamed to tell their stories. Recently, especially in Germany, new research findings on these forgotten victims have been published, and some survivors have broken their silence to give testimony. ushmm.org

Full movie “Bent” starring Clive Owen, also Mick Jagger.

A film about the rarely acknowledged persecution and annihilation of German homosexuals in the Nazi concentration camps.

Disabled Victims and the T4 Euthanasia Programme

Mentally and physically disabled people were targeted under Nazi hatred. From 1939 1941 the Nazis carried out their T4 programme (so called because Tiergartenstrasse 4 was the headquarters of the General Foundation for Welfare and Institutional Care in Berlin).

People with physical disabilities, mental health needs and chronic illnesses were deemed to be damaging to the common good by the Nazi party. In 1933 the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring allowed for the forced sterilisation of those regarded as unfit, including people with conditions such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and alcoholism. Prisons, nursing homes, asylums, care homes for the elderly and special schools were targeted to select people for sterilisation. It has been estimated that between 1933 and 1939, 360,000 individuals were subjected to forced sterilisation.

In 1939 the killing of disabled children and adults began. From August 1939 the Interior Ministry required doctors and midwives to report all cases of newborns with severe disabilities. All children under the age of three who were suffering from illnesses or disabilities, such as Downs syndrome, hydrocephaly, cerebral palsy or suspected idiocy, were targeted under the T4 programme. A panel of medical experts were required to give their approval for the euthanasia of each child.

Many parents were unaware of the fate of their children, instead being told that they were being sent for improved care. After a period of time parents were told their children had died of pneumonia and their bodies cremated to stop the spread of disease.

Following the outbreak of war in September 1939 the programme expanded with less emphasis on assessment and approval. Adults with disabilities, chronic illnesses, mental health problems and criminals who were not of German origin were included in the programme. Six killing centres were established to speed up the process, the previous methods of killing people by lethal injection or starvation being too slow to cope with large numbers of adults. The first experimental gassings took place at the killing centre in Brandenberg and thousands of disabled patients were killed in gas chambers disguised as shower rooms.

The model used for killing disabled people was later applied to the industrialised murder within Nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.

It is estimated that close to 250,000 disabled people were murdered under the Nazi regime.

watch the story of Robert Wagemann whose Mother saved him from the T4 programme

Black experience

Although there was no systematic elimination of Black people under the Nazi regime it is clear that many were persecuted, alienated and even murdered during this period. In the 1920s, around 24,000 Black people were living in Germany.

Following World War One and the Treaty of Versailles (1919), the victorious Allies occupied the Rhineland in western Germany. The use of French colonial troops, some of whom were Black, in these occupation forces exacerbated anti-Black racism in Germany. Racist propaganda against Black soldiers depicted them as rapists of German women and carriers of venereal and other diseases. The Nazis, at the time a small political movement, viewed them as a threat to the purity of the Germanic race. In Mein Kampf, Hitler charged that the Jews had brought the Negroes into the Rhineland with the clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily-resulting bastardisation. Nazi propaganda posters, showing friendship across racial groups, referred to a loss of racial pride. African-German mixed race children were economically and socially marginalised in German society, and not allowed to attend university. Racial discrimination prohibited them from seeking most jobs, including service in the military.

When the Nazis came to power, one of the first directives was aimed at these mixed-race children. Underscoring Hitlers obsession with racial purity, by 1937, every identified mixed-race child in the Rhineland had been forcibly sterilised, in order to prevent further race polluting, as Hitler termed it.

Hans Hauck, a Black survivor of Nazi racial policies and a victim of the mandatory sterilisation programme, explained in the film Hitlers Forgotten Victims that, when he was forced to undergo sterilisation as a teenager, he was given no anaesthetic. Once he received his sterilisation certificate, he was free to go, as long as he agreed to have no sexual relations with Germans.

To help usher in the Nazi dream of a pure, blond haired, blue-eyed race, Black Germans, like Jews, Roma and Sinti, Gay people and those with any criminal record were called asocial. Many Black people found that under the Nazis they no longer had jobs and that they were excluded from many aspects of life.

European and American Blacks were also interned in the Nazi concentration camp system. Lionel Romney, a sailor in the U.S. Merchant Marine, was imprisoned in the Mauthausen concentration camp. Jean Marcel Nicolas, a Haitian national, was incarcerated in the Buchenwald and Dora-Mittelbau concentration camps in Germany. Jean Voste, an African Belgian, was incarcerated in the Dachau concentration camp. Bayume Mohamed Hussein from Tanganyika (today Tanzania) died in the Sachsenhausen camp, near Berlin.

Black prisoners of war faced illegal incarceration and mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis, who did not uphold the regulations imposed by the Geneva Convention (International agreement on the conduct of war and the treatment of wounded and captured soldiers). Lieutenant Darwin Nicholas, an African American pilot, was incarcerated in a Gestapo prison in Butzbach. Black soldiers of the American, French, and British Armies were worked to death on construction projects or died as a result of mistreatment in concentration or prisoner-of-war camps. Others were never even incarcerated, but were instead immediately killed by the SS or Gestapo.

As the war progressed and Prisoners of War were taken, the Nazi regime separated Black prisoners from white ones. Once taken prisoner by Hitlers troops, Black prisoners received harsher treatment and less food than white POWs and whilst most white POWs were imprisoned many of the Black soldiers either worked until they died or were executed.

read about the persecution of Black people under the Nazi regime

Jehovahs Witnesses

On 1 April 1935 the Nazis made it illegal to be a Jehovahs Witness. Thousands were imprisoned or murdered for their refusal to swear allegiance to the Nazi regime or to participate in military combat. Jehovahs Witnesses faced an impossible decision. They could only secure their own release by renouncing their faith. Most refused and faced continued imprisonment or execution.

Approximately 2,000 Jehovahs Witnesses were murdered under the Nazi regime, 250 of whom were executed for refusing to take part in armed conflict.

read the testimony of Simone Arnold

Asocials

The Nazis incarcerated and murdered those they deemed to be asocial including those who were politically opposed to national socialism, such as Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Trade Union leaders and those who were imprisoned due to criminal activity.

In order to identify these prisoners within a camp, the Nazis used a badge system criminals wore a green triangle, political opponents a red triangle and black for non-conformists (including vagrants and in some cases, the Roma and Sinti).

read the collected letters of Marian Serejski in I am healthy and I feel fine who was held as a political prisoner in Auschwitz

Non-Jewish Poles and Slavic Prisoners of War

The Nazis viewed Poles and other Slavic peoples as inferior, and slated them for subjugation, forced labour, and eventual annihilation. Poles who were considered ideologically dangerous (including thousands of intellectuals and Catholic priests) were targeted for execution in an operation known as AB-Aktion. Between 1939 and 1945, at least 1.5 million Polish citizens were deported to German territory for forced labour. Hundreds of thousands were also imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps. It is estimated that the Germans killed at least 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians during World War Two.

In the German-occupied Soviet Union, the Commissar Order (issued to the German army by the Armed Forces High Command) targeted Red Army political officers to be murdered. During the autumn and winter of 1941-1942, German military authorities and the German Security Police collaborated on a racist policy of mass murder by shooting of Soviet Prisoners of War, Jews, persons with Asiatic features, and top political and military leaders. Around three million others were held in makeshift camps without proper shelter, food, or medicine with the deliberate intent that they die.

read This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman, a series of short stories by Polish Poet who was imprisoned in Auschwitz

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Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
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Colour footage of the Third Reich and their crimes

(Credit: Youtube user itseasyforyou)

WARNING THIS VIDEO IS GRAPHIC

Victims of Nazi anatomists named

BBC NEWS 28 January 2013 Last updated at 03:39

By Victoria Gill BBC reporter

Liane Berkowitz (c) German Resistance Memorial Centre Teenage victim: Liane Berkowitz was pregnant when she was imprisoned by the Nazi regime

Liane Berkowitz was just 19 years old when she was executed by the Nazis.

She was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942 when they caught her putting up posters that displayed messages of protest against an exhibition of Nazi propaganda. She was pregnant at the time of her arrest, but this just led to her execution being postponed until after the birth of her child.

Lianes grim story did not end in her death; her body was one of thousands that were delivered to anatomists and used for dissection and experimentation.

The identity of victims who met this same fate is now coming to light thanks to researchers who are scouring legal records to identify the victims of Nazi terror who ended up on anatomists dissection tables.

Liane was one of 182 people whose corpses were claimed by the anatomy researcher Hermann Stieve, who, at the time, was a leading anatomist at the University of Berlin.

The full names of the people on Stieves list the vast majority of whom were women has now been published by Dr Sabine Hildebrandt, a German-born anatomist based at the University of Michigan.

Stieve himself put this list together in 1946, explained Dr Hildebrandt, who has been investigating the history of German anatomy for a decade. Stieves own thorough record of his macabre work has enabled her to identify his victims.

Stieves crimes have been exposed, but Dr Hildebrandt has now focused her efforts of telling the stories of his victims.

I wanted to find out who these people were, Dr Hildebrandt told the BBC. I wanted to make them known again.

Doomed women

Stieve was interested particularly in reproductive anatomy; a key reason why so many victims on his list were women.

Before 1933, he was able to source the bodies of executed men, but no women; Germany was not executing women.

Then, suddenly, during the Third Reich, women were being executed too.

About half of these women, including Liane Berkowitz, were executed for treason; some were betrayed to the Gestapo by fellow citizens for airing their anti-Nazi politics.

William Seidelman, former professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, has also spent years uncovering links between medicine and murder in the Third Reich.

In a 1999 paper in Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies he revealed some of the details of how Stieve worked closely with the prison in Berlin where prisoners were executed.

When a woman of reproductive age was due to be executed, Stieve was informed, a date of execution was decided upon, and the prisoner told the scheduled date of her death, wrote Prof Seidelman.

Stieve was particularly interested in the effects of stress and psychological trauma on the doomed womans menstrual pattern.

Upon the womans execution, her pelvic organs were removed for examination. Stieve published reports based on those studies without hesitation or apology.

Stieve referred to the organs he used as material. His publications during this time were some of the first to suggest that stress in the form of being sentenced to death disrupted a womans menstrual cycle.

In a mission to reveal the human lives behind this material, Dr Hildebrandt studied through the personal files of Stieves victims, which are held at the Memorial Site for the German Resistance in Berlin.

She cross-checked each file against a copy of Stieves list that is on file at the German Ministry of Justice, identifying every person on the list.

Continue reading the main story

Nazi experiments

  • According to medical historian Paul Weindling, almost 25,000 victims of Nazi scientific experiments have now been identified.
  • Dr Weindling says there were different phases to the Nazis experiments. The first was linked to eugenics and forced sterilisation.
  • The second phase coincided with the start of the war. Doctors began experimenting on patients in psychiatric hospitals, Prof Weindling writes in a BBC report. Sporadic experiments were made in concentration camps like Sachsenhausen near Berlin, and anthropological observations at Dachau.
  • The third phase began in 1942, when the SS and German military took greater control of the experiments. There was a surge in the numbers of experiments, with lethal diseases including malaria and louse-borne typhus administered to thousands of victims.
  • During a fourth phase in 1944-45, explains Dr Weindling, scientists knew the war was lost but they continued their experiments.

Dr Hildebrandt noted the correct spelling of the names of the 174 women and eight men on the list, their exact dates of birth and death, their nationality, the reason for their execution and any other biographical information she could find.

Some of the files contained personal letters expressing final wishes of condemned prisoners. Some of them expressed wishes to be reunited with their families in death, said Dr Hildebrandt.

One letter by Libertas Schulze-Boysen, a German-born resistance fighter who was once a member of the Nazi party, but left in 1937 and went on join the resistance and collect photographic evidence documenting National Socialist crimes of violence.

Libertas was arrested in September 1942 and sentenced to death for treason in December of the same year.

In a letter to her mother, she wrote: As a last wish I have asked that my material substance be left to you. If possible, bury me in a beautiful place amidst sunny nature.

Dark history

Dr Hildenbrandt said that her research made it painfully clear how little anatomists at the time were interested in the fate of the people whose bodies they were dissecting.

This left German anatomical research tainted by association.

Of the 31 anatomical departments at universities in Germany and its occupied territories between 1933 and 1945, Dr Hildebrandt found that all of them without exception received bodies of the executed from execution chambers.

The issue only came to public attention in the past two decades.

Prof Seidelman explained that, in 1989, an anatomy lecturer at the University of Tubingen indicated that specimens he was showing were from Russian or Polish slave labourers executed during the Third Reich.

Prof Seidelman told the BBC: The students were dismayed and demanded an explanation.

The university held a formal investigation, and all anatomy specimens of suspect or uncertain origin were buried in a special section of the Tubingen cemetery and, on July 8, 1990, a commemorative ceremony was held.

Continue reading the main story

Pernkopfs Atlas: A textbook tainted by Nazi association

Image from Pernkopf's Atlas of Anatomy
  • Eduard Pernkopf, chairman of anatomy at the University of Vienna between 1933 and 1945, was a member of the Nazi party whose sourcing of executed prisoners for dissections is on permanent record in his now infamous anatomical atlas.
  • The detailed illustrations in anatomical atlas that Pernkopf produced made it famous among anatomy students.
  • Pernkopf worked 18-hour days dissecting corpses while a team of artists created the images; he worked for over two decades on the book.
  • AS Sabine Hildebrandt revealed in a 2006 paper in the journal Clinical anatomy, as well as confirming Pernkopfs strong affiliation to the Nazi party, this project revealed the delivery of at least 1,377 bodies of executed persons to the Anatomical Institute of Vienna during the Third Reich. The possible use of these bodies as models cannot be excluded for up to half of the approximately 800 plates in the atlas.

Several universities, have carried out formal investigations into their own anatomy departments procurement of bodies during the Third Reich.

Many institutes in Austria were also involved, notably the University of Vienna.

The University of Vienna had a special streetcar hearse that delivered the cadavers from the execution chamber of the regional court to the anatomy institute, explained Prof Seidelman.

Eduard Pernkopf, who was chairman of anatomy there between 1933 and 1945, left a printed legacy in the form of a now infamous anatomy tome. It is now understood that many of the incredibly detailed illustrations in Pernkopfs atlas depicted the bodies of victims of Nazi terror.

Prof Seidelman said that researchers were at the very early stage of the journey of revealing the stories of those humans who became experimental material.

They became inanimate objects, he added.

Dr Hildebrandt agrees that the issue still casts a shadow on anatomy today, and while a great deal has been published about the crimes of the perpetrators, German post-war anatomy was built in part on the bodies of [the] victims.

She added: Its time to return the names to the numbers to give faces and biographies to the so far anonymous victims of anatomy in the Third Reich in order to remember and honour their humanity and the iniquities they had to endure.

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There are many organisations which will be able to assist and advise you with the organisation of your event. Some work with Holocaust and genocide survivors, others focus on remembrance and education and some work in community relations.

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
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45 Aid Society Holocaust Survivors
Established in 1963 the 45 Aid Society consists mainly of survivors of concentration camps who came to Britain in 1945/46. The Society is active in the community, helps members and charities and is a major source of survivors who give testimony of their experiences to schools, councils and community groups.
Flat 4, Broadlands, Hillside Road, Radlett, Hertfordshire, WD7 7BX
Tel: 01923 850816
Email: 45aidsociety@onetel.com

Aegis Trust
The Aegis Trust campaigns to prevent genocide worldwide. Aegis activities include: research, policy, education, remembrance, awareness of genocide issues in the media and humanitarian support for victims of genocide.
Aegis Trust, P.O. Box 2002, Newark, Nottinghamshire NG22 9ZG
Tel: 01623 836627
Email: office@aegistrust.org
Website: www.aegistrust.org

Arnold-Liebster Foundation
The Arnold-Liebster Foundation provides information and resources for teachers and students wishing to explore the experience of Jehovahs Witnesses under the Nazi regime. The website provides survivor testimony, study guides, DVD & Video resources and much more.
Email: alst@alst.org
Web: www.alst.org

Article 1
Article 1 works to inform governments and citizens about the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. We investigate and expose systematic and grave violations of human rights, making recommendations to decision-makers, the media and the public.
Tel: 020 7243 0300
Email: benedetta.cassinelli@article1.org
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WagingPeace
Twitter: @WagingPeaceUK
Website:www.article1.org

Association of Jewish Refugees
The Association of Jewish Refugees provides an extensive range of social and welfare services, and grants financial assistance to Jewish victims of Nazi persecution living in Great Britain. In addition to a dedicated social services team, AJR operates a nationwide network of regional groups and offer a volunteers service and advice on Holocaust compensation claims.
Jubilee House, Merrion Avenue, Stanmore, Middlesex, HA7 4RL
Tel: 0208 385 3070
Email: enquiries@ajr.org.uk
Website: www.ajr.org.uk

Anne Frank Trust
The Anne Frank Trust works with young people in Britain today to help build a society based on acceptance, mutual respect, compassion and responsibility.
It does this through touring exhibitions about Anne Frank and educational work in schools. Opened in October 2010, The Anne Frank Library is the newest lending and reference specialising in books and resources about Anne Frank, the Holocaust and the wider topics of prejudice and discrimination, social responsibility, conflict and behaviour, and all the moral issues surrounding these topics. Teachers and HE/FE students are welcome to use the library, but strictly by appointment only, via the details below. The Online Catalogue enables remote access to an index of the resources available in The Anne Frank Library.
Star House, 104/108 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 4BA
Tel: 020 7284 5858
Email: info@annefrank.org.uk
Website: www.annefrank.org.uk

New iPad app: Seeing the world through Anne Franks eyes http://dlvr.it/2rVPKK

Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre
Beth Shalom, The Holocaust Centre was Britains first dedicated Holocaust Memorial and Education centre and supports anyone needing resource and ideas for commemoration. Resources designed for commemoration are available. The Holocaust Centre is also open for individual and group visits.
Laxton, Newark, Notts, NG22 0PA
Tel: 01623 836627
Email: office@bethshalom.com
Website: www.bethshalom.com

Black History Month
Black History Month is celebrated across the UK every October and highlights and celebrates the achievements of the Black community and aims to uncover hidden histories of Black communities.
Studio 4, Hiltongrove, 14 Southgate Road, London, N1 3LY
Tel: 020 7407 7747
Email: info@blackhistorymonthuk.co.uk
Website: www.blackhistorymonthuk.co.uk

Board of Deputies of British Jews
Protects and supports the interests, religious rights and customs of Jews in the UK. The education department monitors trends in education and ensures sensitivity to Jewish needs within the national education system.
6 Bloomsbury Square, London, WC1A 2LP
Tel: 020 7543 5400
Email: info@bod.org.uk
Website: www.bod.org.uk

Child Survivors Association AJR
The Child Survivors Association AJR represents a group of child survivors of the Holocaust and their partners which arranges regular meetings. It is a Special Interest Group of the Association of Jewish Refugees. For more details contact Henri on 020 8954 5298 or email H.Obstfeld@talk21.com

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI)
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland is the umbrella body for all the major Christian Churches in Britain and Ireland. It liaises with ecumenical bodies in Britain and Ireland as well as ecumenical organisations at European and world levels.
Tel: 020 7654 7254
Email: info@ctbi.org.uk
Website: www.ctbi.org.uk

Claims Conference
The Claims Conference was set up in 1951 to negotiate compensation and lost assets taken by the Nazis during the Holocaust. They also obtain funds for relief, rehabilitation and resettlement of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution.
Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany Inc. (Claims Conference)
1359 Broadway, Room 2000, New York, NY 10018.
Tel: +001 (646) 536-9100
Email: info@claimscon.org
Website: www.claimscon.org/index.asp

The Council of Christians and Jews
The Council of Christians and Jews was founded in 1942. Against a background of the Second World War and the Holocaust, Chief Rabbi Hertz and Archbishop William Temple decided to take an initiative that would bring Christians and Jews together to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice in Britain. Today CCJ has more than 50 branches throughout the UK and continues to enjoy support at all levels. CCJ works with Christian and Jewish communities to promote mutual understanding and combat prejudice and anti-Semitism.
CCJ, 1st Floor, Camelford House, 89 Albert Embankment, LONDON SE1 7TP
Tel: 020 7820 0090
UK local rate number 0845 1662 205
Email:cjrelations@ccj.org.uk
Website: www.ccj.org.uk

Equality and Human Rights Commission
The Equality and Human Rights Commission champions equality and human rights for all. The Equality and Human Rights Commission was established on 1 October 2007 and carries on the work of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission which have now been abolished.
3 More London, Riverside, Tooley Street, London, SE1 2RG
Tel: 020 3117 0235
Email: info@equalityhumanrights.com
Website: www.equalityhumanrights.com

Hindu Forum
The Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB) is the largest umbrella body for British Hindus with over 270 member organisations from different regions around the country. HFBs main activities are public policy and community consultation for the government; capacity building and project development for the Hindu community; and developing good interfaith relations with other faith communities to build a cohesive and inclusive Britain.
Unit 3, 861, Coronation Road, Park Royal, London NW10 6PT
Tel: 020 8965 0671 or 07915 383 103
Email: info@hinduforum.org
Website: www.hinduforum.org.uk

Holocaust Educational Trust
HET works to promote knowledge of the Holocaust and its relevance for today and provides an outreach programme including educator-led workshops and survivor speakers. The Lessons from Auschwitz Course for teachers and post-16 students incorporate a visit to the former Nazi camp and pre and post-visit seminars.
The Holocaust Educational Trust, BCM Box 7892, London WC1N 3XX
Tel: 020 7222 6822
Email: info@het.org.uk
Website: www.het.org.uk

Holocaust Survivors Centre
The Holocaust Survivors Centre is part of Jewish Care and is a Jewish Social Centre for Survivors who lived in Europe or came to Britain as refugees. The centre offers a varied social programme including art and creative writing classes, outings to theatre, as well as a drop in cafe facility for informal get-togethers. The centre also offers practical advice and befriending. Survivor testimonies are recorded and public speaking skills developed.
Melanie Gotlieb & Rachelle Lazarus
Corner of Church Road & Parson Street, Hendon NW4 1QA
Tel: 0208 202 9844
Email: hsc@jcare.org

The Holocaust Survivors Friendship Association
The HSFA is a Leeds-based charity set up in 1996. Their primary aim is to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and use its lessons to work towards a more tolerant society in which difference and diversity are celebrated. HSFA members regularly visit schools to give living witness accounts of their personal experiences as refugees, hidden children and survivors of Nazi concentration camps.
Contact HSFA Website: HSFA

Hope Survivors Foundation
Hope Survivors Foundation is an UK-based organisation, founded by survivors of the Rwandan genocide, with their supporters and friends. Formerly operating as IBUKA (UK), Hope Survivors Foundation is continuing with the same mission and objectives as before to support survivors of the genocide in Rwanda and to raise awareness of the genocide and contribute to a world free from genocide and crimes against humanity.
Tel: 07507 360001
Email: info@hope-survivors.org.uk
Website: www.hope-survivors.org.uk

Imperial War Museum (The Holocaust Exhibition and Crimes against Humanity)
The Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum receives around 700 visitors daily, and features archival material and testimony to describe the Nazi persecution of the Jews and other groups. Surrounding galleries tell the wider story of conflict since 1914 and include Crimes against Humanity, an exhibition on genocide. Open daily 10am 6pm, free entry.
Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, London,SE1 6HZ
Tel: 020 7416 5320
Website: www.iwm.org.uk

Institute of Education, Holocaust Education Development Programme
FREE Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in Holocaust Education is now available to secondary school teachers and PGCE students across England. The high quality, high-impact CPD is delivered by internationally recognised experts from the Holocaust Education Development Programme (HEDP), part of the world renowned Institute of Education, University of London. The CPD has been informed by an in-depth national survey and is delivered in regional workshops providing effective, age-appropriate, classroom-ready resources.
Website:www.hedp.org.uk

Inter Faith Network for UK
The Inter Faith Network for the UK was founded in 1987 to promote good relations between people of different faiths in this country. Its member organisations include representative bodies from the Bahai; Buddhist; Christian; Hindu; Jain; Jewish; Muslim; Sikh; and Zoroastrian communities; national and local inter faith bodies; and academic institutions and educational bodies concerned with inter faith issues.
Website: www.interfaith.org.uk

Jehovahs Witnesses
There were 25,000 Jehovahs Witnesses in Germany in 1933. Thousands suffered in Nazi prisons and camps. Unlike other prisoners, each Witness could be set free simply by signing a statement renouncing his faith. They were the only religious group to take a consistent, organised stand against the Nazi regime. Jehovahs Witnesses in Britain offer the Jehovahs Witnesses Stand Firm against Nazi Assault teaching pack.
Office of Public Information for Jehovahs Witnesses in Britain
Watch Tower House, The Ridgeway, LONDON NW7 1RN
Tel: 020 8906 2211

Jewish Museum, London
The Jewish Museum aims to increase knowledge and understanding of Jewish history, culture and religious life, as part of Britains diverse heritage. The London Museum of Jewish Life was founded in 1983 as the Museum of the Jewish East End, with the aim of rescuing and preserving the disappearing heritage of Londons East End the heartland of Jewish settlement in Britain. While the East End has remained an important focus, the Museum expanded to reflect the diverse roots and social history of Jewish people across London. It also developed an acclaimed programme of Holocaust and anti-racist education.
Website: www.jewishmuseum.org.uk

Jewish Music Institute
The Jewish Music Institute is dedicated to the celebration, preservation and development of the living heritage of Jewish music for the benefit of all. JMI Forums such as the International Forum for Suppressed Music, the International Forum for Yiddish Culture and the Forum for the Promotion of Arab-Jewish Dialogue Through Music, provide an international focus for study and musicianship.
Jewish Music Institute, SOAS, University of London, PO Box 232, Harrow, Middx, HA1 2NN
Tel: 020 8909 2445
Website: www.jmi.org.uk

Kindertransport
A special interest group of the Association of Jewish Refugees, the Kindertransport represent the children who fled Nazi-controlled Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia between 1938 and 1939 and prior to the start of the Second World War.
Contact can be made through the offices of the AJR or with Bertha on 0208 952 4280 or Hermann on 0208 427 6754

LGBT History Month
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender History Month takes place in the UK every February and celebrates the lives and achievements of the LGBT community.
BM LGBT History Month, London, WC1N 3XX
Website: http://www.lgbthistorymonth.org.uk/
Email: listmgr@lgbthistorymonth.org.uk

London Jewish Cultural Centre
The London Jewish Cultural Centre works to promote anti-racist education and citizenship initiatives. Its cultural and educational programmes are aimed at a broad audience of Jews and non-Jews, encouraging inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue and activities. They work with Holocaust survivors who tell their stories to students in schools and colleges throughout the UK. The LJCC aims to build bridges between the Jewish experience of persecution and racism and that faced by those persecuted today, whether because of race, ethnicity or cultural difference.
London Jewish Cultural Centre, Ivy House, 94 96 North End Road, London, NW11 7SX
Tel: 020 8457 5000
Email: admin@ljcc.org.uk
Website: www.ljcc.org.uk

Manchester Jewish Museum
Manchester Jewish Museum contains the History, culture and religion of Manchester Jewry. The Holocaust is featured as it impacted upon people who came to Manchester before 1939 or who survived to leave testimonies on tape and written form. They have a number of resources about the Holocaust and can put people in contact with survivors.
Manchester Jewish Museum, 190 Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester, M8 8LW.
Tel. 0161 834 9879
Website: www.manchesterjewishmuseum.com

The Refugee Council
The Refugee Council is the largest organisation in the UK working with asylum seekers and refugees. The Refugee Council not only gives help and support, but also works with asylum seekers and refugees to ensure their needs and concerns are addressed.
Refugee Council Head Office, 240-250 Ferndale Road, London SW9 8BB
Tel: 020 7346 6700
Website: www.refugeecouncil.org.uk

Show Racism the Red Card
Show Racism the Red Card is an anti-racism charity, which was established in January 1996. The aim of the organisation is to produce anti-racist educational resources, which harness the high profile of professional footballers to combat racism.
Tel: 0191 257 8519
Email: info@theredcard.org
Website: http://www.srtrc.org/

Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust
Established in 1998, the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust invests in young people whose aspirations and life chances are constrained by economic, cultural and social hardship, brroadens access to the architectural, planning and associated professions and promotes equality, diversity and social cohesion.
The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, The Stephen Lawrence Centre, 39 Brookmill Road, London, SE8 4HU
Tel: 020 8100 2800
Email: information@stephenlawrence.org.uk
Website: www.stephenlawrence.org.uk

The Forum for Yom Ha Shoah
For all enquiries relating to Yom Ha Shoah, the annual Jewish day of remembrance for victims of the Holocaust, please contact the Forum.
Email: info@yomhashoah.org.uk
Website:http://www.yomhashoah.org.uk/

The Survivors Fund (SURF)
SURF was established in 1997 to assist survivors of the Rwandan genocide, and works through survivor led partner organisations in Rwanda to address the complex needs of survivors. SURFs vision is a world where the rights and dignity of survivors are respected, its mission is to rebuild a sense of self and trust in humanity amongst survivors. Survivors Fund can provide resources on the Rwanda genocide, and will try to provide speakers for events where possible.
10 Rickett Street, West Brompton, London SW6 1RU
Tel: 020 7610 2589
Email: info@survivors-fund.org.uk
Website: www.survivors-fund.org.uk

USC Shoah Foundation Institute
Established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg to collect and preserve the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world. The Institute is part of the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at the University of Southern California; its mission is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry and the suffering they cause through the educational use of the Institutes visual history testimonies.
Website:http://college.usc.edu/vhi/
Teacher Education and Resources:http://college.usc.edu/vhi/education/
Watch videos on the Institutes Youtube Channel
Join the Institutes Facebook community
Follow the Institute on Twitter

Wiener Library
The Wiener Library is the worlds oldest Holocaust memorial institution, tracing its history back to 1933. It collects material related to the Holocaust, its causes and legacies.
The Wiener Library, Institute of Contemporary History
29 Russell Square, London WC1B 5PD
Email: info@wienerlibrary.co.uk
Website: www.wienerlibrary.co.uk

3 thoughts on “Holocaust Memorial Day – 27 January 2013 – Remembering the victims of the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and subsequent genocides – Updated 070213 1820z

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