Responses to persecution Essay

This essay has a total of 3975 words and 17 pages.

Responses to persecution

Responses To Persecution
Jews are no strangers to suffering. Throughout the ages, many others have also been
victims to unspeakable cruelty, but the judgement of Winston Churchill is almost certainly
the definitive description of the uniqueness of the Holocaust: "The Final Solution is
probably the greatest, most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the

Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt points out two reasons why the German program of
genocide remains in a class by itself as an example of evil: "It was the only time in
recorded history that a state tried to destroy an entire people, regardless of an
individual's age, sex, location, profession, or belief. And it is the only instance in
which the perpetrators conducted this genocide for no ostensible material, territorial, or
political gain." In fact, the Holocaust remains incomprehensible. But that is all the more
reason why it must at the very least be remembered.

Hitler played heavily on the anti-Semitism already rooted within his people. He
resurrected ideas that a previous king of Germany, Frederick the Great, had introduced.
There were distinct categories of human beings. Essentially, the Germans were Aryans, and
everyone else was sub-human. Hitler took these ideas and embellished them. He blamed the
Jews for "two great wounds upon humanity: "Circumcision of the Body and for the conscience
of the soul."

As Hitler gained popularity, his hatred of Jews spread and became a rallying cry.
The Nazi propaganda paper, Der Sturmer, revived the "Blood Libels." The church would warn
their constituents: "Watch your children 6-7 weeks before Passover… Everyone knows that
just before Passover Jews need the blood of a Christian child, maybe, to mix in with their

The attitude taught to the children was, "Just as one poisonous mushroom can poison a
whole family, one Jew can poison a whole town or a whole country!"

Der Sturmer was running contests encouraging German children to write in. One little girl
wrote, "People are so bothered by the way we're treating the Jews. They can't understand
it, because they are God's creatures. But cockroaches are also God's creatures, and we
destroy them."

Words can create an attitude. If a person says something loud enough and often enough, he
creates a climate. And under that climate, all sorts of things can happen. This was one of
the was the Jews where terribly and horrifically persecuted.

The German scientific community got on the bandwagon with scientific presentations. The
theory was that Jewish features could be scientifically determined. Many Germans were
measured to absolve themselves of the "taint" of Jewish genes. Store windows displayed a
device that could be placed on a person's head. Twirl the dials, and it was guaranteed to
tell whether the person was an Aryan or a Jew. Apparently, Jewish heads are round and fat,
and Aryan heads are narrow and thin. A person could buy it for a few marks. Another, cheap
and cruel way to persecute the Jews.

Germany was on the cutting edge of everything at the turn of the century. Education,
science, technology, you name it - Germany was there. And Jews were in the forefront.

From 1901 until 1933 there were 37 German Nobel Prize winners - 11 of them were Jewish.
The first three atomic bombs were built by Jewish scientists. Two of them - Teller and
Einstein - were people that Hitler threw out.

Up to this time, especially in Germany, Jews had seemingly been making tremendous gains in
liberty and rights. Germany never built the bomb, but during the war this was a big worry.
They were years ahead of anyone else in research, and they had Heisenberg. It was said
that if anyone could build an atomic bomb, Heisenberg was the man.

After the war, it came out why the Nazis never built the bomb. Speer, the Nazi armaments
minister, said that Hitler referred to atomic physics as "Jewish physics," "Jewish
science." They never actually developed a nuclear program because they considered the
field tainted by Jews.

Germany was starting to get bad press all over the world because of the way it was
treating the Jews. The Germans, in their way of thinking, said: "It's all because of the
Jewish lobby, overseas". So they thought: " We're going to hit them where it hurts - to
quiet them down. We're going to hit them in their pocketbook." They declared a boycott
against all Jewish businesses.

They placed their S.A.'s, their bully-boy storm troopers, in front of the Jewish
businesses all over Germany for a one-day boycott. If anyone tried to go in to a Jewish
business or store, he was subject to a beating or re-education in a camp.

Hitler took the sludge off the streets and gave them a stick and a salute and a brown
shirt and a badge. That was the S.A. In his country of 65 million people, he had over
400,000 of these people. Another disgusting anti-Semitic act by Hitler.

Yet we must remember that the Jews where prosecuted throughout the years by a number of civilisations and acts.
One of the first major anti-Semitic massacres took place during the
Crusades. It was a period in which much of the civilized world lived under
a feudalistic government. In such a system priests, bishops, and most of
all, dukes, had power over the people. In this time, many
Christian authorities blamed Jews for killing Jesus and took the
opportunity to use that allegation to gather money for their crusades. The
Duke of Lorraine wanted to go on such a crusade, and to collect money he
spread the rumour that he would kill the Jews to avenge the death of Christ.
The Jews of the Rhineland paid him 500 pieces of silver as ransom, but some
refused, and crusaders slaughtered Jews of Rouen and other cities in
Lorraine. An estimated 8,000 Jews were massacred in France and Germany for such purposes.
Although most of the people were anti-Semitic,

some did protect the Jews. One of them was King Richard, but when he left
on his own crusade, the anti-Semitic crusaders in England assembled and
attacked Jewish Communities. Some Jews were able to take refuge in King
Richard's castle. However, those Jews who did not reach the castle were
killed. The English burnt down the quarters of Port of Lynn in Norfolk,
and murdered the Jews there. In York alone, 1,500 Jews were massacred.
Many other cases of extreme anti-Semitism took place in the crusade period,
and the Jewish population took a death toll of as many as 46,821.
In Benediction 12 of the New Testament, one can find the statement,
"For the renegades let there be no hope, and may the arrogant Kingdom soon
be rooted out in our days, and the Nazarenes and the minim perish as in a
moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may
they not be inscribed. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the
arrogant." The choice of words in the passage is by many people
considered anti-Semitic because "the renegades" refers to Jews, who refused
to believe Jesus was the "Messiah." It states that these renegades should
be "rooted out" or killed. Abelard Reuchlin, in his "The True Authorship
of the New Testament," says, "More vengeance was wrought by Piso by his
picturing of the Jews, in successive gospels, as increasingly evil." In
Matthew, chapter 23, Piso has his character ‘Jesus' repeatedly call the
Scribes and Pharisees hypocrites and vipers. Abelard also wrote, "The New
Testament pictures the Jews as the enemies of Jesus, of Paul, and o f the
message of the Gospel." (Duran)
Another example from the bible that refers to the Jewish people,
"What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of
circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were
committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? shall
their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let
God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be
justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged."(Rom
3) also could be contemplated to be anti-Semitic. The statement says that
on the day of Judgement, Jews will not be allowed in heaven because of
their disbelief (Davies 57). Although these statements generally or are
not intended to be anti-Semitic, many people have interpreted them that way,
and used the Bible as an excuse for killing the Jews. Hitler was thought
to be a good Roman Catholic and used these lines from the bible to justify
his views of the Jews, which ended in the biggest massacre ever know to
Lastly, the greatest anti-Semitic movement other than the Holocaust
took place from the year 1881 to 1917. Medieval tradition isolated the
Jews as an alien economic and social class. An example of prejudice in
Russia, are the measures that had been taken to prevent Jews from owning
any land and to admit Jews to only occupy three to ten percent of an
institution's enrolment. The persecution of Jews in East Europe came to a
climax in a series of well-organized massacres, known as the pogroms
(Rosenthal). These pogroms caused one of the major emigrations in Jewish
history in which four million Jews fled to Western Europe and America.
However, there too, Jews were restricted and suffered from the old
accusations. Many laws were written to take away the freedoms of the Jews,
and not until the start of the Great War (WWI) were they abolished.
Although, the main reason they were revoked was so that the Jews could
fight for Holy Mother Russia in the War. Grand Duke Sergei, Commander-in-
Chief of th e Russian armed forces ordered the relocation of all Jews so
they could serve the army. 600,000 were forcibly transported to the
inferior of Russia. An estimate of 100,000 of them died from exposure and
starvation. Later, 200,000 more were murdered in Ukraine during the
October Revolution in Russia and the ensuing civil war.
In my opinion a central pillar of Jewish belief is that nothing happens without a meaning
from god. History has meaning, oppression has meaning, suffering has meaning. Jews are a
people whose essence is meaning. It's the lifeblood of who they are and what they stand
for as a nation.

If this is true - and the Jewish people have fought to preserve this truth for 3,500 years
- then the Holocaust must have meaning as well. Beneath the suffering and pain of the
Holocaust lie the seeds of understanding our unique mission as Jews even today.

This is not to suggest that I believe any one explanation will ever fully help us to come
to terms with the persecution and murder of millions of innocent people.

Still, it does mean that we must try to contend with the Holocaust on a number of levels.
For with every victim an entire world was lost(1), with every survivor, a new lesson must
be learned. In this light, the meaning of the Holocaust is as varied.

But we must also wrestle with the Holocaust from a larger perspective, a perspective that
includes the history of the Jewish people. For the Holocaust is the story of the Jewish
nation under siege. It was a war to destroy the Jewish people and the message the Jewish
nation has been trying to bring to mankind for some time now.

"You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."(2) These are the words that
describe the Jewish people's unique covenant with God. We have been chosen to be a light
unto the nations,(3) an eternal people bearing a message of God's morality: "Love your
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