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1933: The Nazi State Begins
 pg. 57 
What Is the Holocaust?

The Holocaust was the systematic, state-organized persecution and murder of at least six million Jews--as well as other targeted groups--by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. They slaughtered two-thirds of Europe's Jews and one-third of the world's Jewish population. In addition, Nazi Germany's genocidal policies destroyed millions of other defenseless people, including Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), Polish citizens, Soviet prisoners of war, homosexuals, the handicapped, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other political and religious dissidents within Germany itself.

At least four terms name this immense tragedy, which continues to raise questions concerning why and how it happened. Masters of euphemistic language, the Nazis spoke of die Endlösung, the "Final Solution" of their so-called "Jewish question." In the early 1940s Eastern European Jews turned to Jewish scripture and used the Yiddish word churb'n, which means "destruction," or the Hebrew term sho'ah, which means "catastrophe," to name the disaster confronting their people.

Sho'ah is widely used in Israel, and the official remembrance day for the Holocaust is called Yom ha-Sho'ah. However, "Holocaust," a term that began to achieve prominence in the 1950s, remains the most common term in the English-speaking world. It derives from the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, which employs holokaustos for the Hebrew olah. Those biblical words refer to a completely consumed burnt offering. While the destruction perpetrated by Nazi Germany must be named lest it be forgotten, the problematic religious connotations surrounding the term "Holocaust" suggest that no name can do it justice.

The Nazi faithful enthusiastically salute their leader as Hitler looks out from the second-story window of his new office in Berlin. This scene creates the impression of unflagging loyalty to the new chancellor. The Nazis effectively choreographed Hitler's every appearance to highlight his power and give the impression of mass support. The Nazi swastika, the Sieg Heil salute, and the ever-present stone-faced SA and SS troops reinforced the image of an omnipotent Nazi state.
Photo: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
 1933: Schlageter, a pro-Nazi play by Hanns Johst, premieres. It is a tribute to Nazi "martyr" Albert Leo Schlageter, who was executed by the French in 1923 after defying French authority in the Ruhr.
 1933: German-Jewish physicist Albert Einstein criticizes the new Nazi regime: "I shall live in a land where political freedom, tolerance, and equality of all citizens reign." Einstein subsequently takes his genius to the United States.
 1933: The Silver Shirts, a Nazi-like political group, is founded in America.
 1933: The first issue of the antisemitic National Worker is published in London by Colonel Graham Seton-Hutchinson.
 1933: An antisemitic feature film entitled Pettersson and Bendel is produced in Sweden.
 January 1933: A pastoral letter of Austrian Bishop Gfollner of Linz states that it is the duty of all Catholics to adopt a "moral form of antisemitism."
 January 4, 1933: Hitler and former Prime Minister Franz von Papen meet secretly to discuss Hitler's future in the German government.
1933: The Nazi State Begins
 pg. 57 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.