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  • Paris, 1900. More than fifty million people from around the world visited the Universal Exposition

  • —a world's fair intended to promote greater understanding and tolerance among nations,

  • and to celebrate the new century, new inventions, exciting progress.

  • The 20th century began much like our ownwith hope that education, science and technology could

  • create a better, more peaceful world. What followed soon after were two devastating wars.

  • The first "world war," from 1914 to 1918, was fought throughout Europe and beyond.

  • It became known as "the war to end all wars." It cast an immense shadow on tens of millions of people.

  • "This is not war," one wounded soldier wrote home. "It is the ending of the world."

  • Half of all French men aged 20 to 32 at war's outbreak were dead when it was over.

  • More than one third of all German men aged 19 to 22 were killed.

  • Millions of veterans were crippled in body and in spirit. Advances in the technology of killing included the use of poison gas.

  • Under the pressure of unending carnage, governments toppled and great empires dissolved.

  • It was a cataclysm that darkened the world's view of humanity and its future.

  • Winston Churchill said the war left "a crippled, broken world."

  • The humiliation of Germany's defeat and the peace settlement that followed in 1919 would

  • play an important role in the rise of Nazism and the coming of a second "world war" just 20 years later.

  • What shocked so many in Germany about the treaty signed near Paris, at the Palace of Versailles,

  • was that the victors dictated a future in which Germany was deprived of any significant military power.

  • Germany's territory was reduced by 13%.

  • Germany was forced to accept full responsibility for starting the war and to pay heavy reparations. To many,

  • including 30-year old former army corporal Adolf Hitler, it seemed the country had been

  • "stabbed in the back"—betrayed by subversives at home and by the government who accepted the armistice.

  • In fact, the German military had quietly sought an end to the war it could no longer win in 1918.

  • "It cannot be that two million Germans should have fallen in vain,"

  • Adolf Hitler later wrote. "We demand vengeance!"

  • Many veterans and other citizens struggled to understand Germany's defeat and the uncertain future.

  • Troops left the bloody battlefields and returned to a bewildering society. A new

  • and unfamiliar democratic form of governmentthe Weimar Republicreplaced the authoritarian

  • empire and immediately faced daunting challenges. Thousands of Germans waited in lines for work and food in the early 1920s.

  • Middle class savings were wiped out as severe inflation left the currency worthless.

  • Some burned it for fuel. Economic conditions stabilized for a few years,

  • then the worldwide depression hit in 1929. The German banking system collapsed,

  • and by 1930 unemployment skyrocketed to 22%. In a country plagued by joblessness, embittered

  • by loss of territory, and demoralized by ineffective government, political demonstrations frequently turned violent.

  • Many political parties had their own paramilitary units to attack opponents

  • and intimidate voters. In 1932, ninety-nine people were killed in the streets in one month.

  • Right-wing propaganda and demonstrations played on fears of a Communist revolution spreading from the Soviet Union.

  • New social problems emerged from the impact of rapid industrialization and the growth

  • of cities. Standards of behavior were changing. Crime was on the rise. Sexual norms were in

  • flux. For the first time, women were working outside the home in large numbers, and the

  • new constitution gave women the right to vote. Germany's fledgling democracy was profoundly

  • tested by the crumbling of old values and fears of what might come next. Adolf Hitler

  • had been undisputed leader of the National Socialist German Workers Partyknown as

  • Nazissince 1921. In 1923, he was imprisoned for trying to overthrow the government. His

  • trial brought him fame and followers. He used the jail time to dictate his political ideas

  • in a book, Mein KampfMy Struggle. Hitler's ideological goals included territorial expansion,

  • consolidation of a racially pure state, and elimination of the European Jews and other

  • perceived enemies of Germany. He served only a short jail sentence, and after the ban was

  • lifted on his National Socialist Party, Hitler and his followers rejoined the battle in the

  • streets and in the countryside.

  • The Nazi Party recruited, organized, and produced a newspaper to spread its message. While downplaying

  • more extreme Nazi goals, they offered simple solutions to Germany's problems, exploiting

  • people's fears, frustrations, and hopes. In the early 1930s, the frequency of elections

  • was dizzying. So was the number of parties and splinter groups vying for votes. Hitler

  • proved to be a charismatic campaigner and used the latest technology to reach people.

  • The Nazi Party gained broad support, including many in the middle classintellectuals,

  • civil servants, students, professionals, shopkeepers and clerks ruined by the Depression. But the

  • Nazis never received more than 38% of the vote in a free national election. No party

  • was able to win a clear majority, and without political consensus, successive governments

  • could not effectively govern the nation.

  • Adolf Hitler was not elected to office and he did not have to seize power. He was offered

  • a deal just as the Nazis started to lose votes. In January 1933, when the old war hero, President

  • Paul von Hindenburg, invited Hitler to serve as Chancellor in a coalition government, the

  • Nazis could hardly believe their luck. The Nazis were revolutionaries who wanted to radically

  • transform Germany. The conservative politicians in the new Cabinet didn't like or trust Hitler,

  • but they liked democracy even less, and they saw the leftist parties as a bigger threat.

  • They reached out to the Nazis to help build a majority in Parliament. They were confident

  • they could control Hitler. One month later, when arson gutted the German parliament building,

  • Hitler and his nationalist coalition partners seized their chance. Exploiting widespread

  • fears of a communist uprising, they blamed Communists for the fire, and declared emergency

  • rule. President Hindenburg signed a decree that suspended all basic civil rights and

  • constitutional protections, providing the basis for arbitrary police actions.

  • The new government's first targets were political opponents. Under the emergency decree, they

  • could be terrorized, beaten and held indefinitely. Leaders of trade unions and opposition parties

  • were arrested. German authorities sent thousands, including leftist members of Parliament, to

  • newly established concentration camps. Despite Nazi terror and brutal suppression of their

  • opponents, many German citizens willingly accepted or actively supported these extreme

  • measures in favor of order and security. Many Germans felt a new hope and confidence in

  • the future of their country with the prospect of a bold, young charismatic leader. Nazi

  • propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels planned to win over those who were still unconvinced.

  • One must govern well, and for good government one must also practice good propaganda. They

  • work together. A good government without propaganda is not more possible than good propaganda

  • without a good government.

  • Hitler spoke to the SA, his army of storm troopers.

  • Germany has awakened! We have won power in Germany. Now we must win the German people.

  • The ceremonial reopening of Parliament, orchestrated by Joseph Goebbels, aimed to link the Hitler

  • government to Germany's imperial past and portray the Nazis as saviors of the nation's

  • future. The event was carefully staged to reassure the German establishment, including

  • the military, that Hitler would respect their traditions. Nazi--controlled newsreels then

  • gave the impression that the Army supported the new government. Though Hitler walked behind

  • longtime President Hindenburg for now, the new chancellor would soon be Germany's absolute dictator.

  • Today was dedicated to the New Germany. And more than one hundred thousand schoolchildren

  • stood, shoulder to shoulder, as the car bearing the aged President and the Chancellor proceeded

  • through the crowd to the speaker's stand. Whether you agree with his doctrines or not,

  • it must be admitted that the leadership of Hitler has united the German people for the

  • first time since the war. Their almost fanatical enthusiasm is a marvel to the entire world...

  • Hindenburg remained President until his death in August 1934. With Hindenburg gone, Hitler,

  • by agreement with the army, abolished the office of President, declaring himselfhrer

  • and Reich Chancellor, leader of the nation and head of the government. Now there was

  • no authority above or beside him. Immediately, the armed forces swore an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler.

  • I swear by God this sacred oath to thehrer Adolf Hitler to render unconditional obedience...

  • All civil servants, including teachers and police, members of parliament and the judiciary,

  • swore an oath of loyaltynot to any constitutionbut to Hitler ashrer of the German nation.

  • The economy had reached rock bottom when the Nazis came to power. They boosted its recovery

  • with huge public works projects for the unemployed.

  • A half million folk comrades have gone back to work this year. Since the takeover of power,

  • unemployment has fallen by more than half.

  • Hitler christened new autobahns triumphantly in a display of national will that would unite

  • the country and facilitate the secret expansion of Germany's armed forces. In 1935, Germany

  • openly defied the 1919 Treaty of Versailles by reinstituting the draft and increasing

  • its military strength. The Nazis were delivering on their promises to restore and strengthen

  • the nation. Their achievements encouraged many people to overlook radical Nazi policies,

  • or even to support them. In September 1935, the Nazi Party gathered in Nuremberg for its

  • annual rally. It opened with a traditional hymn that added solemnity and a sense of continuity

  • with the past. It ended with a special session of Parliament far from Berlin. New race laws

  • were introduced by Hitler and read by Parliament President Hermannring.

  • German citizenship is restricted to persons of German or kindred blood. Marriages between

  • Jews and citizens of German or kindred blood are forbidden. [Cheering]

  • The Nazi regime aimed to create a racially pure Germany whose so-called "superior traits"

  • would make it ideally suited to rule the entire European continent. Nazism taught that racial

  • struggle was the driving force in history—"superior" races must battle "inferior" races or be corrupted

  • by them. The Nazi concept of a national community was exclusive and based on race, as defined

  • in the new laws and decrees. Heinrich Himmler and the SS led the ideological battle. Racist

  • ideas were taught in schools. Some groups, such as Jews, Slavs, Blacks and Roma (also

  • called Gypsies) were labeled racially inferior. People with mental or physical disabilities

  • were designated "unworthy of life." Scientists and medical professionals applied pseudo-scientific

  • theories for measuring and valuing racial characteristics.

  • Before the Nazis assumed power, Jews enjoyed all rights of citizenship in Germany. After

  • 1933, the German government gradually excluded Jews from public life and public education.

  • Newly established Jewish private schools provided a safe learning environment for some. By 1938,

  • German authorities had isolated and segregated Germany's Jews, expelling them from the professions

  • and eliminating most opportunities to earn a living.

  • We felt so... why can't we be part of it? Why can't we? Everybody said, "Heil Hitler,"

  • like this. I did, too. What did I know? I was eight years old. So my mother said to

  • me, "You're not supposed to do that." I said, "Why not?" She said, "Haven't you been told

  • that you are Jewish?" I said, "Oh, I forgot."

  • Germany's Jews would get plenty of reminders.

  • Ladies and gentlemen, this is a boycott of Jewish shops. Please keep moving.

  • This sense of isolation that came upon us after 1933, gradual and increasing, it also

  • affected us psychologically. We knew we were in a hostile world.

  • Between 1933 and 1939, the German government enacted hundreds of laws to define, segregate

  • and impoverish German Jews.

  • My sister and I used to slink by those huge banners that were all over the city. And we

  • used to just try not to see them, thinking if we didn't see them, they weren't there.

  • But they were there. That just, little by little, that really took over.

  • ...without a solution to the Jewish question, there will be no solution for humanity.

  • The goal of Nazi propaganda was to demonize Jews and encourage Germans to see Jews as

  • dangerous outsiders in their midst. After 1935, everyday antisemitism was a regular

  • part of carnival parades and floats. Public displays of antisemitism reinforced a climate

  • of hostility toward Jews in Germany, or at the least, indifference to their treatment.

  • In March 1938, German troops moved into neighboring Austria. Germany shredded another provision

  • of the Versailles Treaty, as Hitler's homeland was incorporated into Germany. It was a disaster

  • for Austrian Jews. Within a year, the Nazis achieved in Austria what had taken five years to carry out in Germany.

  • On November 9th, the Nazi Party orchestrated an outbreak of anti-Jewish violence throughout

  • Greater Germany. It was a lawless onslaught that outraged the world and provoked criticism

  • of the regime by many Germans. Jewish businesses that had already suffered antisemitic attacks

  • were targeted for deliberate vandalism disguised as spontaneous public action. Party officials

  • directed the SA, SS and Hitler Youth to destroy Jewish shops and torch synagogues. Over 7,000

  • Jewish-owned businesses were vandalized. Germans named the violent attacks KristallnachtNight

  • of Broken Glassfor the shattered windows of Jewish-owned stores that littered the streets.

  • The nationwide violence damaged or destroyed more than 250 synagogues.

  • After Kristallnacht, I remember driving through Berlin and seeing the synagogues in flames

  • and all the glass on the streets, and the people huddled and depressed. They walked

  • around like the victims, like the hunted.

  • German police filled the concentration camps with thousands of Jewish inmates. The SS released

  • them only if they agreed to emigrate. But Jews faced increasingly restrictive immigration

  • quotas in most countries and bureaucratic hurdles in Germany. A new law issued in October

  • 1938 required Jews to surrender their old passports, which would be valid only after

  • the letter "J" was stamped on them. Two months later, another law prevented the flight of

  • capital owned by Jews, when the Economics Ministry froze all Jewish property and assets.

  • Many who had the means and somewhere to go tried to leave Germany. Some families sent

  • their children alone to other, safer countries. They could not know how soon the world would be at war.

  • As the Nazi regime implemented its long-standing goal of territorial expansion, aggression

  • against Germany's neighbors initially succeeded without encountering armed resistance. Hitler

  • counted on the reluctance of Britain and Europe to intervene, for fear of another war. The

  • German occupation of Prague, capital of Czechoslovakia, left no doubt as to Germany's intent on military

  • conquest in Eastern Europe. On September 1, 1939, a massive German force invaded and conquered

  • Poland within a month. It was the start of the Second World War. In April 1940, Germany

  • occupied Denmark and Norway. In May, the German armed forces attacked France, the Netherlands,

  • Luxembourg and Belgium. In June, Paris fell and France surrendered. The swift and unexpected

  • victory over France avenged Germany's defeat and humiliation in the First World War. It

  • propelled Hitler to a new level of popularity and trust among the German people. In June

  • 1941, the German Army, with more than three million soldiers, invaded the Soviet Union

  • to wage a war of annihilation that targeted tens of millions of civilians. Under conditions

  • of war and military occupation, the Nazi regime could pursue its political and racial goals

  • with more radical measures. As German troops advanced into eastern Europe, Germany's power

  • extended over millions more Jewish inhabitants in the occupied lands, where German authorities

  • could exploit existing anti-Jewish attitudes among local populations.

  • Across eastern Europe, German authorities forced those identified as Jews into tightly

  • packed areas called ghettos. Separated from the non-Jewish population, Jews in the larger

  • ghettos were imprisoned behind brick walls and barbed wire. The German drive eastward

  • was cast as a crusade against Judaism and Communismin the Nazi view, two aspects

  • of the same evil. German soldiers and police officials treated Soviet prisoners of war

  • as sub-humans, either shooting them or deliberately causing their deaths by exposure to the elements

  • and by starvation. Millions died in German captivity. On the eastern front, racial political

  • instruction was part of regular training for all types of German occupation forces. SS

  • chief Heinrich Himmler referred to the war against the Soviet Union in an address to

  • his men: "This invasion is an ideological battle and a struggle of races. Here in this

  • struggle stands National Socialisman ideology based on the value of our Germanic, Nordic

  • blood... On the other side stands a population of 180 million, a mixture of races whose very

  • names are unpronounceable, and whose physique is such that one can shoot them down without

  • pity and compassion..." In July 1941, HermannringHitler's second--in--commandauthorized

  • all necessary preparations for the "final solution of the Jewish question" in the European territory under German control.

  • As German military forces advanced, mobile killing squads advanced with them. The German

  • Army, military SS and German police units took an active part in authorized mass murders.

  • The Germans and their accomplices rounded up the victims, drove them on foot or in trucks

  • to a killing site, often made them remove their clothes, and shot them. Participants

  • in the murders included local collaboratorsespecially policein Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine

  • and Belarus. The German killing squads and their auxiliaries murdered at least two million

  • Jewish men, women and children in mass shooting operations.

  • Back in Germany, SS and police deported the remaining Jews to the occupied eastern territories.

  • In German-occupied Warsaw, the walled ghetto that German Jews entered as newcomers in 1942

  • was already a place of mass suffering due to terrible overcrowding, lack of sanitation,

  • disease and starvation imposed by the Germans. Despite all efforts of the imprisoned Jews

  • to find ways of surviving and sustaining their communities, those conditions increasingly

  • led to death for scores of thousands. Most vulnerable were the orphaned children.

  • Originally, German occupation authorities established ghettos to concentrate Jews and

  • separate them from the non-Jewish population. Later in the war, many ghettos served as staging

  • grounds for the transportation of Jews to the east, euphemistically called "resettlement"

  • by the Germans, who promised their captives better conditions and opportunities to work.

  • People endured unimaginable suffering on journeys that lasted days, without food, water, or

  • toilet facilities. Many of the weak, the young, and the elderly died before reaching the destination.

  • The Germans and their collaborators deported roughly 2.7 million Jews and others to killing

  • centers in German-occupied Poland. At the largest of the camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau,

  • transports arrived from all across Europe.

  • Transports were coming in every day, people with all kinds of different languagesHungarian,

  • Poles, Czechoslovakians, from Holland, from France, from Belgium, from Germany, from Italy,