The Aftermath Of The Holocaust Essay

You may be interested in reading more recent items on my

There is also an entire Series of Essays on being the
Child of 2 German Jewish Refugees

Below is an article that I wrote in 2007.
I leave it here for historical purposes, but as you can see some of my views have grown since then.


Living in the aftermath of the Holocaust for over sixty years, we all can learn several lessons from what happened so that it does not occur again. Hitler�s basic strategy consisted of creating scapegoats, sub-humans or perpetual enemies, then escalating the discrimination to murder. For the past two millenniums, when Christians and Muslims weren�t killing each other, they took turns in killing their Jewish neighbors, mostly in the name of their religion. Jews have been the scapegoat of choice throughout western civilization. But the Nazis perfected the art of scapegoating into a science. By disseminating vicious propaganda, passing discriminatory laws, spiraling down freedoms with increasing terrorism, the Nazis succeeded in turning a civilized democratic German state into a mass killing machine.

The larger question is however, how did Hitler get away with it? The Nazis started off gradually, first by de-humanizing a small �fringe� or defenseless elements of society. Prior to passing the notorious 1935 Nuremberg laws, the Nazis formed the Committee to Combat Homosexuality and Abortion. They murdered the disabled, who they considered parasites not worthy of living, and treated homosexuality as a crime worthy of a capital offense. The Nazis began their deconstruction of Western civilization by picking off those groups they knew the mainstream citizenry would not fight to defend. We can only wonder what would have happened if the world started boycotting Nazi Germany in 1933 and not waited until the appeasement talks of 1938?

The famous poem by Martin Niemoller (1892-1984), the noted anti-Nazi theologian, is as relevant today as it was during Hitler�s time, even if he left out many of the other victim groups.

�They came for the Communists, but I didn't speak up because I was none of those. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I didn't practice a trade. Then they came for the Catholics, and I was a Protestant so I didn't speak up. Then they came for me... by that time there was no one left to speak up."

The Nazis first started off by killing thousands of disabled people with carbon monoxide bus rides (and later on with Zyclon B gas), followed by arrests and concentration camp internment of homosexuals, Communists, political opponents, Jehovah Witnesses and Gypsies. On the Night of the Long Knives he used homosexuality as a cover for the murder of the thugs that he no longer needed. He saw that it was possible to kill hundreds of soldiers and get away with it. Years later, Kristallnacht was Hitler�s way of testing this process to see if he could escalate Jewish discrimination into random killing and finally a planned genocide. He wanted to see if the world would react negatively to the arrest of 20,000 Jewish men, random murders of Jews, the destruction of hundreds of Synagogues and thousands of Jewish businesses. He got his answer; the world sat by in silence. Hitler then permitted 936 Jews to leave Germany on the S.S. St. Louis�s �Voyage of the Damned� to test the waters to see if any country wanted them. Sadly, the Fuhrer was right again. In the summer of 1939 the Jewish passengers of the St. Louis returned to Europe, and many were doomed to their death after the Nazis conquest expanded.

Politicians often attribute the world war and the Holocaust to Neville Chamberlain�s appeasement of Hitler�s annexation of former German speaking regions. But what if the world had adamantly protested 5 years before Kristallnacht or if several countries had given sanctuary to the refugees on the St. Louis? Possibly the Germans would have had second thoughts about how launching their Final Solution.

When I was younger I would ask myself why didn�t the German Jews start leaving Germany en masse in 1933? As I got older some of the answers became more evident. Firstly, where could they go when countries (like the U.S.) were granted so few visas under strict quotas. Secondly, the German Jews became accustomed to the history of granting and removing civil rights for Jews ever since the French Revolution. In a way, today�s struggle for total equal rights for America�s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community reminds me of the same pattern. When I was younger all 50 states criminalized same sex love making. Then it was a state by state struggle until in 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court decriminalized same sex relations in all 50 states. Then the struggle continued with gaining civil rights in housing, employment, public accommodations, the military and marriage/immigration/taxation became the next goal. Every year we win some, we lose some and we then regain some progress towards the American declaration that �all men are created equal�. So the German Jews, like today�s American LGBT community, stay put and hope for the day when all of their rights will be guaranteed by the government.

Then I also wondered why America didn�t boycott Germany as soon as the Nazis started removing civil rights from Jews, political opponents, disabled people and homosexuals in 1933? Most people would say that Americans didn�t know what was going on either in the early years or when the extermination began in 1939. But I have read New York Times articles refuting these excuses. I tend to believe that America was not in a position to criticize Hitler when he curtailed civil rights because our national policy towards segregation was similar to the early Nazi restrictions placed on Jews and homosexuals. German Jews and homosexuals had more civil rights than their American counterparts during the Weimar Republic. In addition, the official and unofficial policies towards our African American population gave Hitler even more cover to force segregation in housing, employment and public accommodations, let alone the similar practices of the S.A. and the K.K.K. towards their respective minorities.

We complain that the Nazis closed the gay bars in Berlin in 1933; but how many openly gay bars even existed in America at that time? The repeal of the German Sodomy laws passed the Law Committee of the Reichstag at the end of the Weimar Republic, but these laws remained on the books in all states of America until the 1970�s and was finally declared unconstitutional in 2003. Jews in America were restricted from living in certain areas and couldn�t go to certain hotels or Universities or even apply for jobs that were listed as �For Christians Only�. All of this was legal after the 1896 Supreme Court case of �Plessy v. Ferguson� legalized �separate but equal treatment� as being acceptable under our concept of �all men being created equal�. It was sort of another �Talmudic� approach to sidestepping the actual words of our Constitution. The Nazis were not the only political group that twisted the plain meaning of words.

Earlier in America, we fought England for our freedoms and then found legal ways to legalize slavery. On the one hand our Declaration of Independence stated that, �We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal� and then we used spin to determine who was included in the definition of �men�. Women were excluded and citizens of African descent voted as 3/5 of a man.

When German Jewish refugees fled to America, their new life was more restricted than what they were used to during the Weimar Republic. Many American Universities would not hire German Jewish professors, so many went down South to work in the Black Colleges. When my own father was released from Dachau and made his way to America and enlist in the U.S. Army he had to go to the deep South for basic training. He would see treatment of blacks that resembled life as he recalled in Nazi Germany.

Maybe if American society was less segregated and truly treated all its citizens equally, then maybe our public outrage could have started a boycott or early condemnation of Nazi Germany. It is hard to complain when you are doing the same thing. I feel that this twisting of �equal rights� is still in affect when you look at today�s LGBT Community. Although all people are to have �equal protection under the law�, we spin the issue and treat this community differently when it comes to fundamental rights of marriage, or taxation or immigration. Once again, we are letting right wing forces to create second class citizens.

Once a regime turns totalitarian, it�s too late to stop scapegoating. Scapegoating must be exposed as soon as the first defenseless group is attacked. When Hitler orchestrated the murders during the �Night of the Long Knives� at the end of June 1934, there was no outrage when he killed Ernst Roehm and many of the S.A. thugs saying they were homosexuals. While most of the men killed that night were evil thugs who forcefully promoted Nazism, but the mere charge of homosexuality was enough of an excuse to rationalize the killings. Even my 14 year old father at that time knew that Roehm was homosexual from a dirty poem he learned at the time.

�Der ist der Stabschef Roehm, sein Leben war nicht schoen. Denn zum foegeln sind die Madchen da und nicht die Tochess der S.A.� {Loose translation: Here is Roehm whose life was not nice; he should have hit on women and not the SA�s behinds.]

The reason he was told that Roehm was killed was that he was a homosexual. I am not memorializing these early Nazis, just noticing how homophobia can be used as a cover for murders. We could have learned to speak up immediately when people are killed for the reason of being gay, but unfortunately it is still going on in the Middle East on a regular basis. I guess the lesson of countries demanding an end to killings for sexual orientation differences hasn�t been learned.

Another lesson we can learn is that totalitarianism can break out in a democratic state, such as the Weimar Republic, where leaders are duly elected. We should look at the rise of Nazism to try to prevent history from repeating itself.

Hitler was appointed to the position of Chancellor after a much contested election in January 1933, with the strong support from the Southern States and the Vatican. After a �terrorist attack� on the Reichstag early in the Nazi administration, Hitler asked for a temporary relaxation of civil rights so that he could protect the German people from future attacks. That temporary relaxation lasted until his death in 1945. In the interim, Hitler concentrated under his power all branches of the government, including the judiciary, culminating in his March 1933 appointment as Fuehrer. With the assistance of his goon squads, the S.A. and later the S.S., he continued to reduce the civil rights of victims. The Nazis then picked on the most vulnerable or fringed minorities and started to pick up disabled people and quietly sent them to their death. Homosexuals were also an early target of discrimination and arrests. Then there was a focus on reducing homosexuality and abortion for Germans. In their case it was for ideological and military reasons and not religious ones. That was followed by a tightening of the laws for marriage, ensuring that traditional marriage between only Aryans would be sanctioned. Then when the society was terrified and broken, the Nazis could escalate the discrimination into outright confiscation and murder. The Final Solution was brought into being.

What better argument can one make for maintaining a system of checks and balances in government in the face of politicians who strive to dominate legislative branch and intimidate the judiciary. America seemed to learn this lesson of the Holocaust and Bush II and his advisors could not use the same play book. Eventually the opposition was able to balance any misuses of power.

In recent times, America has turned away from using Jews as scapegoats. I think that the Christian Evangelical movement�s love of Israel for their Messianic prophesy to be fulfilled has served to reduce traditional anti-Semitism in our country. A prophesy by the way, that doesn�t end well for those Jews who don�t believe that Jesus is a divinity. But now undocumented immigrants, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people have become the new scapegoats of choice of the American Right.

Fortunately, the Right Wing has so far failed to incorporate this new form of legal discrimination into all State Constitutions. They have used their Biblical prowess to harm many LGBT families, just as former anti-Semites used their Biblical interpretations to kill Jews. You can no longer use the Bible to justify slavery, or polygamy or restrictions on women, colonizing other people, or killing Sabbath violators; but some on the Religious Right can still pull out their Bibles to rationalize discrimination against gays. Thank God most rational people stop short of the literal commandment of murdering men lying with men, even though that passage is often quoted in order to terrorize the LGBT community. Can you imagine how each LGBT child feels the first time they read that line in Leviticus and sees Reverend Phelps�s clan holding signs proclaiming the death penalty? It is just as scary as when Jews would read Hitler�s views in �Mein Kampf�. Again, Biblical scholars have interpreted away most of the death penalties in the Bible for over 1,200 years, but it still leaves you with the thought that some crazy fanatic will take this line literally and kill you. Isn�t that terrorism?

The Religious Right worked with the Republican Party�s right wing to help create the new American scapegoat for election purposes. Homophobia is still a very strong fear and the Right plays on it to get votes. Even African Americans and Hispanics followed their priests and preachers in condemning the LGBT community. They would place this hatred even above their own economic interests or political advancement in order to see homosexuals marginalized and stigmatized.

As a Jew, it didn�t sound like a very Christian thing to do, but somehow Jesus has been transformed from a 1960�s loving, peaceful, inclusive God who cared for the lepers and prostitutes into a war-loving Crusader who hates gay couples. Propaganda was such a powerful tool of the Nazis, that it must be considered even when it comes to today�s religious politicians.

By manipulating the small group of voters in the 50%-50% electorate with these wedge issues, the social conservatives were able to tip the national elections in 2000 and 2004. But just as the Germans woke up in 1945 questioning why they spent so much time, effort, money and energy on hating and killing their fellow Jews, I think that even some social conservatives are questioning why they are making life so much harder for their LGBT neighbors and relatives.

Again, this is a lesson that we learned from the Holocaust. At every occasion Hitler used his bully pulpit to attack Jews and turn them into a group of people not deserving full civil rights and passed laws to make sure that they would remain second class citizens. In today�s world, the Religious Right and their cable television and talk radio stars considers it judicial activism to interpret that same sex couples have equal protection defenses in our Constitutions as Justice O�Connor found in Lawrence v. Texas. Instead they want to actually write discrimination into our Constitution by officially limiting the rights of LGBT families. Even those politicians who are in favor of civil unions for same sex couples are actually creating a separate and unequal second class status for our community. I am sure that it is not just coincidental that the Massachusetts Supreme Courts passed their �Gay Marriage Law� exactly 50 years to the day after Brown v. Board of Education made �separate by equal� schools unconstitutional. Thank God for our activist judges when it comes to protecting our equal rights.

Just as bells should have gone off in the early Hitler years when Hitler started the Committee to Combat Homosexuality and Abortion and when the disabled and homosexuals were being persecuted or gassed, Americans should have been leery of Heinrich Himmler�s �family values� campaign being used to marginalize and dehumanize the LGBT community.

In our country some people are quick to condemn Islamic religious extremism, but look the other way when Jews and Christians go off the deep end. Just as America is seeking �friendly Muslim� nations to condemn extremists who use the Koran to justify violence and �terrorism�; it is imperative for moderate Christians and Jews to condemn extremists in their own religions who misinterpret or �cherry pick� passages from the Bible in order to incite hatred towards free choice advocates or the LGBT community.

It is not just a coincidence, that so much of right wing Nazi ideology is reflected in the hatred being spewed by extreme Muslims, Christians and even some right wing Jews. The Nazis denigrated the modern world and its culture considering it degenerate. They suppressed the homosexual community and thought that a woman�s place was in the home and maternity ward. Abortions of Aryans were illegal and against the furtherance of the Fatherland�s ability to create more soldiers. They didn�t believe in free thinking and expected that the masses should trust in authority figures that would do the thinking for them. All personal freedoms were squashed including sexual and reproductive freedoms for their notion of the common good.

The simple fact is that the Nazis, Al Qeada, Heredi Ultra Orthodox Jews, the Catholic Church, and social conservative Evangelists all view homosexuality, abortions, sexual freedoms and modernity as evil. Thank God that only a few Christian, Muslim and Jewish extremists have turned to violence or terrorism to achieve their regressive agendas. The bombing of abortion clinics and gay bars and youth centers, and attacking or killing people like Marsha P. Johnson or Mathew Shepard are also a form of terrorism that must be condemned by the mainstream. As someone who has been �fag-bashed� on two occasions, I can attest that it is a form of terrorism.

What we now call �Hate Crimes� are basically the tools that the Nazis used in the early years to intimidate entire groups of people. These are not like most criminal acts where the perpetrator either knows the victim or wants to do harm, or is seeking material gain and wants to rob to obtain it. Hate Crimes are designed to spread fear and terror into a certain part of society where the perpetrator doesn�t know the victim and is not seeking any material gain. That is why a lesson from the Holocaust is to support Hate Crime Laws that try to nip the dehumanizing process in the bud. Is it any surprise that the conservative forces in our society are opposed to Hate Crime Bills that protect the LGBT community? I think that deep inside they fear increased punishment for homophobic acts that they have done or secretly supported in the past.

As a Jew, it is doubling embarrassing for me to see ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, America or Europe supporting right wing fundamentalist religious fanatics in their condemnation of LGBT Rights. You would think that they would have learned the lessons from the Holocaust to not get into bed with people with a tradition of creating scapegoats and persecuting them. Just look at the historical patterns of who these people tried to suppress in the past. You will see the same pattern used against women, African Americans, Native Americans, Jews, foreigners, etc.

Another lesson that I learned from the Holocaust was that we Jews should not fight over the concept of �Who is a Jew�? Hitler considered all Jews to be Jews. He didn�t care if someone was Reform, Reconstructionist, Orthodox or Conservative or Secular. All those who stood naked and shaved in the camps were just Jews. Why can�t we learn from that experience and stop all this internal arguments and agree that we are all Jews, but practice our religion is different ways. Some groups follow Orthodox interpretations while other groups follow Reform interpretations; but we all share a common history, culture and basic view of one God. Jews are now almost as diverse and wide spread around the world as gay and lesbian people. But this is not a new phenomenon. The slogan �we are everywhere� really applies to both groups.

Strangely, I feel more distant from some ultra Orthodox Jews than from progressive Christians or Muslims and Buddhists. Where wars used to be fought between religions, now the battle grounds are between progressive religions and ultra-fundamentalists religions.

Although my family was comprised of both Orthodox and Reform (Liberal) Jews, the Nazis deported all of them to their deaths. We were all Jews no matter if Sephardic or Ashkenazi or Reform or Orthodox. Now that the persecution is gone, so is the notion that we are all Jews and should help each other to survive and even thrive. Why can�t we just respect that we follow different rabbinical teachings and respect that our different rabbis have the right to make their interpretations? I am more scared that some are using governmental power to force one group�s religious values on the rest of society, while still hiding behind a notion of a separation of Church and State.

Why can�t we try to have a secular government that protects all of our rights; which I think is closer to the original intent of our founders? No one is forcing a socially fundamentalist Jew, Christian or Muslim to marry a same-sex partner, or have to have an abortion. But the fundamentalist Jews, Christians and Muslims are trying to use the government�s laws (or terrorism) to force the rest of society to adhere to their beliefs and disappear from the media.

Another lesson of the Holocaust is that we must avoid the tendency to say that all views or values are morally equivalent. Nazi views that dehumanize and diminish other people�s rights are morally wrong. So I believe that if a Biblical interpretation wants to dehumanize others or restrict their rights, it is morally wrong and should be legally wrong. That means that using Biblical interpretations to justify killing people is morally wrong. If fringe groups say that their Biblical interpretation states that Arabs should be removed from Israeli lands because God sanctioned earlier conquests, in today�s world it is wrong. The views of the perpetrators and victims are not the same and one should be legally protected and the other should be prohibited. Most civilized nations (and religious interpretations) have long rejected the literal words in the Bibles about capital punishment for Sabbath violators, adulterers, or even gay men.

Some socially conservatives may not like to hear it, but since they are not on the side of those protecting people�s civil rights, they are sharing the views of those who dehumanized the rights of others. Just as some conservatives used the Bible to justify slavery or the denial of women�s rights, some are now using the Bible to justify discrimination against the LGBT community and their families.

It is wrong to remove civil rights from people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, just as it is wrong to discriminate on religion, race, and sex. In addition, as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, private sex acts between consenting adults who are not related should not be criminalized, and therefore people who engage in these non-criminal sex acts should not be discriminated against.

This is why the social conservatives are so opposed to the current United States Supreme Court�s view that Americans have privacy rights which permit women to have an abortion, and also permits consensual adult sexual relations done in private. Americans should be more vigilant on protecting these privacy rights and I believe that we should consider adding a constitutional amendment that clearly protects our right to privacy in order to counter the Right�s campaign to limits everyone�s reproductive rights and to prevent them from adding anti-LGBT provisions to the Constitution.

A final lesson that I learned from the Holocaust deals with sacred space, and how to mourn loved ones who have no graves. This issue became very poignant after attending so many meetings listening to the families of victims of 9/11. There was a clamoring to turn the World Trade Center site into a cemetery or sacred space, because people�s loved ones died in that proximity. I was thinking of how my father must have felt not even knowing where his 17 relatives were killed during the Holocaust.

It is a trying question. In New York City, a Holocaust Memorial Park was created so that people could write names on markers that resemble tombstones so that they would have a place to go to remember loved ones killed in the Holocaust. There is no nexus between Auschwitz and New York City, but it does give one the ability to see a name on a monument.

The Science Building at NYU once was the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire where 146 young female immigrants died in 1911. While there is a plaque on the building and an annual ceremony given by the Fire Department, there was no sacred space notion given to the building. When the Pentagon was attacked on 9/11 and immediately rebuilt, again there was no sacred space attached to the offices.

But some of the families of the World Trade Center attack are still grieving and want to add sacredness to the memorial planned for the site. They might be able to learn from the survivors or the children of Holocaust Survivors on how to keep memories of loved ones alive. I never even met my relatives who died in the Holocaust since they perished before I was born, yet I can tell you some stories about each one. The way to memorialize people is just not with tombstones or demanding that certain spaces become sacred, but to pass on the stories of their lives to future generations to learn. Many of my relatives were murdered in Auschwitz, yet no one from my family has ever been there to visit them. Memorials are important for their educational and emotional impact, but do not have to be turned into religious sacred spaces in order to show respect.

These are the lessons that I have learned as a gay son of Holocaust Survivors.

Rick Landman
Copyright 2007

Copyright 2007. Do not publish without written permission from the author.

Is It Too Soon For a Jewish Contingent in the Steuben Parade?

By Rick Landman (9/21/2013)

For the 4th time, there was a Jewish Contingent walking in the Steuben Parade to commemorate German Jewish Contributions to America. When I had the idea, I wondered if this mere act could be considered insensitive for some Jews. I remember my own mixed emotions the first time I walked in the Parade. While I think most Americans today can separate the Nazi period from the rest of German History, there still seems to be some difficulty for some in the Jewish Community to publicly display pride of their German roots.

My paternal grandparents came to America as sole survivors; losing their siblings, parents and relatives to the Holocaust. Seventeen immediate family members were murdered. And while I cannot forget or forgive the actual perpetrators or collaborators; I no longer blame today�s Germans for the past atrocities. This is not only unfair to them, but it also negates the hundreds of years of deep Jewish history in Germany and the re-emergence of Jewish life since the end of the war. There is much Jewish-German history to be proud of in both America and Germany as well. There were also dark periods in our country�s history; yet I am still a proud American.

Maybe my personal life is rather unique, since I not only heard of first-hand horrors; but I also heard stories of my family�s lives in Germany before the Nazi period. Like other first generation Americans, I heard the foreign language at home, and ate the foods of my ancestral home. Unlike Jews in Eastern European countries, where they were always segregated, discriminated and attacked; Jews in Germany had full citizenship and considered themselves German from 1871-1933. So I understand why Jews might not want to march in a Polish Parade or Ukrainian Parade. But Jews in Germany had more civil rights than Jews did in America from 1896-1933. Almost every country in Europe killed Jews in their past and many participated in the Final Solution without much of a fight. The real enemy is dehumanizing and exterminating minorities word-wide; not hating today�s Germans.

Many German Jews in1933 didn�t want to come to New York because of American prevailing national segregation and discrimination laws. All minorities (including African Americans, Irish, Jews, Catholics, Native Americans, Asians, etc.) were legally excluded from various �white-Christian� neighborhoods, resorts, country clubs, colleges, and jobs. Hitler�s SA learned a lot about terror from our KKK. If only America could have spoken out with one unified strong voice against Hitler�s Anti-Jewish policies in 1933 then maybe the Holocaust would never have happened. But each test that Hitler tried including the 1936 Olympic cover-up, Kristallnacht (1938) and the ill-fated St. Louis Voyage (1939) gave him the conviction to go into Poland and start the Final Solution. America couldn�t strongly protest against the Anti-Jewish policies because a large segment of our country agreed with Hitler�s �Separate but Equal� segregation/discrimination policies at the time.

When I asked German Jewish Institutions if they wanted to join in, the typical official response was that the Parade was on a Saturday (Shabbos). {Note: the date of the Steuben Parade was voluntarily moved twice so it wouldn�t conflict with Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur�s traffic pattern for Fifth Avenue.} When asked if individuals from these institutions could join in, the answer was either yes, followed by an excuse; or just a no thank you. Each year at its peak about 12 people said they would walk with me, before the amount of cancellations would come. In 2011 we did have 4 walkers.

So that is why I think this endeavor is important, and why I walked again this year even though about a dozen others cancelled out on me. I was expressing my emotional growth by using my feet in public. Today the LGBT Community marches with pride in their Pride Parade each year, but in 1970 it was an act of courage to run up 6th Avenue in a demonstration called by the Gay Liberation Front. I know; I was there.

That is why I don�t think it is too soon to ask the question why the descendants of German Jews (especially those who recently obtained dual citizenship) and the institutions who support German Jewish culture are not participating in the Parade. Reform Judaism started in Germany and many NYC Jews travel on the Shabbos. If anyone wants more information about joining in next year�s Jewish Contingent in the 2014 Steuben Parade, go to or contact me directly at


Further information: Responsibility for the Holocaust

The Holocaust had a deep effect on society in both Europe and the rest of the world. Its impact has been felt in theological discussions, artistic and cultural pursuits, and political decisions.

The after effects are still evident today in children and adults whose ancestors faced this horrible scene.

Evidence in Germany[edit]

See also: Responsibility for the Holocaust § The German people

German society largely responded to the enormity of the evidence for and the horror of the Holocaust with an attitude of self-justification and a practice of keeping quiet. Germans attempted to rewrite their own history to make it more palatable in the post-war era.[1] For decades, West Germany and then unified Germany refused to allow access to its Holocaust-related archives in Bad Arolsen, citing privacy concerns. In May 2006, a 20-year effort by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum led to the announcement that 30–50 million pages would be made available to survivors, historians and others.[2]


Displaced Persons and the State of Israel[edit]

Main article: Sh'erit ha-Pletah

The Holocaust and its aftermath left millions of refugees, including many Jews who had lost most or all of their family members and possessions, and often faced persistent antisemitism in their home countries. The original plan of the Allies was to repatriate these "displaced persons" to their countries of origin, but many refused to return, or were unable to as their homes or communities had been destroyed. As a result, more than 250,000 languished in displaced persons camps for years after the war ended.

With most displaced persons being unable or unwilling to return to their former homes in Europe, and with restrictions to immigration to many western countries remaining in place, Palestine became the primary destination for many Jewish refugees. However, as local Arabs opposed their immigration, the United Kingdom refused to allow Jewish refugees into the Mandate territory. Countries in the Soviet Bloc made emigration difficult. Former Jewish partisans in Europe, along with the Haganah in Palestine, organized a massive effort to smuggle Jews into Palestine, called Berihah, which eventually transported 250,000 Jews (both displaced persons and those who had been in hiding during the war) to Mandate Palestine. By 1952, when the displaced persons camps were closed, there were more than 80,000 Jewish former displaced persons in the United States, about 136,000 in Israel, and another 10,000 in other countries, including Mexico, Japan, and countries in Africa and South America.

Resurgence of antisemitism[edit]

See also: Antisemitism in Europe and Neo-Nazism

The few Jews in Poland were augmented by returnees from the Soviet Union and survivors from camps in Germany. However, a resurgence of antisemitism in Poland, in such incidents as the Kraków pogrom on August 11, 1945, and the Kielce pogrom on July 4, 1946, led to the exodus of a large part of the Jewish population, which no longer felt safe in Poland.[3] Anti-Jewish riots also broke out in several other Polish cities where many Jews were killed.[4]

An important reason for the atrocities was a widespread Polish belief that the Jews were supporters of the new communist regime and the new oppressors of the Polish state. This belief, termed "Żydokomuna", was fuelled by the fact that two of the three Communist leaders who dominated Poland between 1948 and 1956, Jakub Berman and Hilary Minc, were of Jewish origin. The attitude of Christian Poles towards Polish Jews hardened significantly and hundreds of Jews were killed in anti-Jewish violence. Some were simply killed for financial reasons.[5] As a result of the exodus the number of Jews in Poland decreased from 200,000 in the years immediately after the war to 50,000 in 1950 and 6,000 by the 1980s.[6]

Lesser post-war pogroms also broke out in Hungary.[5]

Welfare in Israel[edit]

As of May 6th 2016 45,000 Holocaust survivors are living below the country’s poverty line and need more assistance. Situations like these result in heated and dramatic protests on the part of some survivors against the Israeli government and related agencies. The average rate of cancer among survivors is nearly two and a half times the national average, while the average rate of colon cancer, attributed to the victims' experience of starvation and extreme stress, is nine times higher. The population of survivors that now live in Israel has now dwindled to 189,000. [7][8][9]

Searching for records of victims[edit]

There has been a recent resurgence of interest among descendants of survivors in researching the fates of their relatives. Yad Vashem provides a searchable database of three million names, about half of the known Jewish victims. Yad Vashem's Central Database of Shoah Victims Names is searchable over the internet or in person at the Yad Vashem complex in Israel. Other databases and lists of victims' names, some searchable over the internet, are listed in Holocaust (resources).

Impact on culture[edit]

Effect on Yiddish language and culture[edit]

In the decades preceding World War II, there was a tremendous growth in the recognition of Yiddish as an official Jewish European language, even a Yiddish renaissance, in particular in Poland. On the eve of World War II, there were 11 to 13 million speakers of Yiddish in the world.[10] The Holocaust destroyed the Eastern European bedrock of Yiddish, though the language was rapidly declining anyhow. In the 1920s and 1930s the Soviet Jewish public rejected the cultural autonomy offered to it by the regime and opted for Russification:[11] while 70.4% of Soviet Jews declared Yiddish their mother tongue in 1926, only 39.7% did so in 1939. Even in Poland, where harsh discrimination left the Jews as a cohesive ethnic group, Yiddish was rapidly declining in favour of Polonization. 80% of the entire Jewish population declared it mother tongue in 1931, but among high school students this number fell to 53% in 1937.[12] In the United States, the preservation of the language was always a unigenerational phenomenon, and the immigrants' children quickly abandoned it for English.[13]

Starting with the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, and continuing with the destruction of Yiddish culture in Europe during the remainder of the war, Yiddish language and culture were almost completely rooted out of Europe. The Holocaust led to a dramatic decline in the use of Yiddish, as the extensive Jewish communities, both secular and religious, that used Yiddish in their day-to-day lives were largely destroyed. Around five million victims of the Holocaust, or 85% of the total, were speakers of Yiddish.[14]

Holocaust theology[edit]

Main article: Holocaust theology

Holocaust theology is a body of theological and philosophical debate concerning the role of God in the universe in light of the Holocaust of the late 1930s and 1940s. It is primarily found in Judaism; Jews were drastically affected by the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were murdered in a genocide by Nazi Germany and its allies.[15][16] Jews were killed in higher proportions than other groups; some scholars limit the definition of the Holocaust to the Jewish victims of the Nazis as Jews alone were targeted for the Final Solution. Others include the additional five million non-Jewish victims, bringing the total to about 11 million.[17] One third of the total worldwide Jewish population were killed during the Holocaust. The Eastern European Jewish population was particularly hard hit, being reduced by ninety percent.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have traditionally taught that God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omnibenevolent (all-good) in nature. However, these views are in apparent contrast with the injustice and suffering in the world. Monotheists seek to reconcile this view of God with the existence of evil and suffering. In so doing, they are confronting what is known as the problem of evil.

Within all of the monotheistic faiths many answers (theodicies) have been proposed. In light of the magnitude of depravity seen in the Holocaust, many people have also re-examined classical views on this subject. A common question raised in Holocaust theology is "How can people still have any kind of faith after the Holocaust?"

Orthodox Jews have stated their reasons for why they believe the Holocaust happened and, to a more extreme degree, why they felt the Jews of Europe deserved to die.[18]

Art and literature[edit]

Main article: The Holocaust in art and literature

John Hancock commented that "writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,"[19] and the Holocaust has indeed had a profound impact on art and literature, for both Jews and non-Jews. Some of the more famous works are by Holocaust survivors or victims, such as Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, Viktor Frankl and Anne Frank, but there is a substantial body of literature and art in many languages. Indeed, Paul Celan wrote his poem Todesfuge[20] as a direct response to Adorno's dictum.

The Holocaust has also been the subject of many films, including Oscar winners Schindler's List, The Pianist and Life Is Beautiful. With the aging population of Holocaust survivors, there has been increasing attention in recent years to preserving the memory of the Holocaust. The result has included extensive efforts to document their stories, including the Survivors of the Shoah project and Four Seasons Documentary,[21] as well as institutions devoted to memorializing and studying the Holocaust, including Yad Vashem in Israel and the US Holocaust Museum. The historic tale of the Danish Jews fleeing to Sweden by fishing boat is recounted in an award-winning American children's novel.[22]

One Holocaust survivor's artwork was recently revealed by her. This woman, Doris Mirman, a survivor of the Koszedary labor camp in Poland, wrote poems in Yiddish as soon as she could find a piece of paper and a pencil. When she arrived in the United States, in July 1949, she translated the poems into English. She feels her poetry comes from a deep, embedded place in her. Decades later, as another form of artistic catharsis, Doris went on to paint and make collages.

Three of her more notable works are from a much later period, during the 1970s: She constructed two collages, and one painting. Her first collage is simply entitled, “The Holocaust”. Jewish life, Jewish culture, and Jewish communities are burned to ash and destroyed. Two hands hold the word “Yiskor”, which means, “Do not forget. Remember.” One can also see the prayer for the dead. It is not hard to see the various atrocities that occurred – how all life was ruined. The second collage with a large Jewish star in the middle is called, “The Rebirth of Israel”. This collage is a testament to the elements that pushed towards the climax of returning to the Jewish homeland – the living Bible, the Balfour Declaration, overwhelming support for Israel, the shofar, and winning the 1967 War when Jerusalem was reunited. The third work, a painting, is of a fish in murky waters. For her, this represents the loneliness she felt after the war – a single fish in murky water with no vision of where to turn next.[23]

Pre-1945 European art[edit]

Huge amounts of works of art were looted by the Nazis from Jewish art collectors and dealers, either through outright theft or fire sales under extreme duress. Thus, any work of art that existed prior to 1945 has a potential provenance problem. This is a serious obstacle for anyone who currently collects pre-1945 European art. To avoid wasting thousands or even millions of dollars, they must verify (normally with the assistance of an art historian and a lawyer specializing in art law) that potential acquisitions were not stolen by the Nazis from a Holocaust victim. The highest-profile legal case arising from this problem is the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Republic of Austria v. Altmann (2006), in which the Court held that U.S. courts could retroactively apply the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 to Austria for torts that allegedly occurred before 1976.


Main article: Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the Jewish Agency led by Chaim Weizmann submitted to the Allies a memorandum demanding reparations to Jews by Germany but it received no answer. In March 1951, a new request was made by Israel's foreign minister Moshe Sharett which claimed global recompense to Israel of $1.5 billion based on the financial cost absorbed by Israel for the rehabilitation of 500,000 Jewish survivors. West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer accepted these terms and declared he was ready to negotiate other reparations. A Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany was opened in New York City by Nahum Goldmann in order to help with individual claims. After negotiations, the claim was reduced to a sum of $845 millions direct and indirect compensations to be installed in a period of 14 years. In 1988, West Germany allocated another $125 million for reparations.[24]

In 1999, many German industries such as Deutsche Bank, Siemens or BMW faced lawsuits for their role in the forced labour during World War II. In order to dismiss these lawsuits, Germany agreed to raise $5 billions of which Jewish forced laborers still alive could apply to receive a lump sum payment of between $2,500 and $7,500.[24] In 2012, Germany agreed to pay a new reparation of €772 millions as a result of negotiations with Israel.[25]

In 2014, the SNCF, the French state-owned railway company, was compelled to allocate $60 millions to American Jewish Holocaust survivors for its role in the transport of deportees to Germany. It corresponds to approximately $100,000 per survivor.[26] Although the SNCF was forced by German authorities to cooperate in providing transport for French Jews to the border and did not make any profit from this transport, according to Serge Klarsfeld, president of the organization Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France.[27]

These reparations were sometimes criticized in Israel where they were seen as "blood money".[24] The American professor Norman Finkelstein wrote The Holocaust Industry to denounce how the American Jewish establishment exploits the memory of the Nazi Holocaust for political and financial gain, as well as to further the interests of Israel.[28] These reparations also led to a massive scam where $57 millions were fraudulently given to thousands of people who were not eligible for the funds.[29]

While the restitution movements of the mid-1990s reunited some families with their stolen property, Holocaust remembrance also served as an important part of the reparation and restitution movement. The main idea of Holocaust remembrance comes from Dan Diner's article "Restitution and Memory: The Holocaust in European Political Cultures" which is the idea that Europe is now bound together by a collective memory of the Holocaust. This unified memory is one of the main reasons Diner lists for the flourishing of the restitution movement of the mid-1990s, following that of the initial movement immediately after World War II. This unified memory allowed for all European countries to come together after such a tragic event to establish the Holocaust at its center as one the most damaging occurrences of the 20th century leading to a greater consciousness and awareness of this horrific event, in addition, to beginning countless discourses on the topic. Immediately after the Holocaust, countries such as the United States were preoccupied with the Cold War, whereas countries like Germany were controlled by foreign powers, and the Holocaust was not the main concern. Only as time went on did Europe begin to understand the importance of restitution and reparations. As the restoration of property increased, an increase in the memories for Holocaust survivors was found to be a direct correlation. The connection between property and memory proved to be a key in unlocking more details about the Holocaust, further adding to this collective European memory, and thereby increasing and furthering the restitution movement.[30]

Holocaust Memorial Days[edit]

Main article: Yom HaShoah

The United Nations General Assembly voted on November 1, 2005, to designate January 27 as the "International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust." January 27, 1945, is the day that the former Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated. The day had already been observed as Holocaust Memorial Day a number of countries. Israel and the Jewish diaspora observe Yom HaShoah Ve-Hagvora, the "Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and the courage of the Jewish people," on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which generally falls in April.[31]

Holocaust denial[edit]

Main articles: Holocaust denial and Historical negationism

See also: Criticism of Holocaust denial

Holocaust denial is the claim that the genocide of Jews during World War II–usually referred to as the Holocaust[32]–did not occur in the manner and to the extent described by current scholars.

Key elements of this claim are the rejection of the following: that the Nazi government had a policy of deliberately targeting Jews and people of Jewish ancestry for extermination as a people; that between five and seven million Jews[32] were systematically killed by the Nazis and their allies; and that genocide was carried out at extermination camps using tools of mass murder, such as gas chambers.[33][34]

Many Holocaust deniers do not accept the term "denial" as an appropriate description of their point of view, and use the term Holocaust revisionism instead.[35] Scholars, however, prefer the term "denial" to differentiate Holocaust deniers from historical revisionists, who use established historical methods.[36]

Most Holocaust denial claims imply, or openly state, that the Holocaust is a hoax arising out of a deliberate Jewish conspiracy to advance the interest of Jews at the expense of other peoples.[37] For this reason, Holocaust denial is generally considered to be an antisemitic[38]conspiracy theory.[39] The methods of Holocaust deniers are often criticized as based on a predetermined conclusion that ignores extensive historical evidence to the contrary.[40]

See also[edit]

Documentaries that have to do with life after the Holocaust:


  1. ^Margolin, Elaine. "The Post-War West Germans’ Post-Holocaust Distortions."Jewish Journal. 6 February 2014. 9 February 2015.
  2. ^Germany to open Holocaust archivesAl-Jazeera 19 April 2006.
  3. ^Columbia University release [1]
  4. ^Yad Vashem website [2]
  5. ^ abWistrich, R.S. (1995). Terms of Survival: The Jewish World Since 1945. Routledge. p. 271. ISBN 9780415100564. Retrieved February 23, 2017. 
  6. ^Bolaffi, G. (2003). Dictionary of Race, Ethnicity and Culture. SAGE Publications. p. 220. ISBN 9780761969006. Retrieved February 23, 2017. 
  7. ^"40% of Holocaust Survivors in Israel Live Below Poverty Line"[permanent dead link], Haaretz, December 29, 2005.
  8. ^"Social Safety Nets" (PDF), In Re Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation (Swiss Bank), September 11, 2000.
  9. ^(
  10. ^Jacobs, Neil G. Yiddish: A Linguistic Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005, ISBN 0-521-77215-X.
  11. ^David Shneer, Yiddish and the Creation of Soviet Jewish Culture: 1918-1930, Cambridge University Press, 2004. pp 13-14.
  12. ^David E. Fishman, The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture‏, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005. pp 84-85.
  13. ^: Jan Schwarz, Survivors and Exiles: Yiddish Culture after the Holocaust, Wayne State University Press, 2015. עמ' 316.
  14. ^Solomo Birnbaum, Grammatik der jiddischen Sprache (4., erg. Aufl., Hamburg: Buske, 1984), p. 3.
  15. ^Snyder 2010, p. 45.
    Further examples of this usage can be found in: Bauer 2002, Cesarani 2004, Dawidowicz 1981, Evans 2002, Gilbert 1986, Hilberg 1996, Longerich 2012, Phayer 2000, Zuccotti 1999
  16. ^Dawidowicz 1975, p. 403.
  17. ^Donald L. Niewyk and Francis R. Nicosia (2003). The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust. Columbia University Press. pp. 45–46. 
  18. ^An example can be found in Lamm, Rabbi Dr. Norman. "Is God a Mass Murderer?: Rejecting the Haredi Theodicy". Retrieved January 23, 2007. 
  19. ^"Poetry After Auschwitz: Is John Barth Relevant Anymore?". 
  20. ^Celan, Paul. "Fugue of Death". Archived from the original on 2 February 2007. Retrieved January 23, 2007. 
  21. ^"Four Seasons". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. 
  22. ^"Number the Stars". 
  23. ^"Doris Mirman. Her Holocaust Story. Her Artwork". 
  24. ^ abcJewish Virtual Library, Holocaust Restitution: German Reparations [3]
  25. ^Der Spiegel, Holocaust Reparations: Germany to Pay 772 Million Euros to Survivors[4]
  26. ^Le Monde, Pour le rôle de la SNCF dans la Shoah, Paris va verser 100 000 euros à chaque déporté américain[5]
  27. ^Serge Klarsfeld (26 June 2012). "Analysis of Statements Made During the June 20, 2012 Hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee of the Judiciary"(PDF). Memorial de la Shoah. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2 December 2013. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  28. ^Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry[6].
  29. ^Haaretz, Ringleader of $57 million Holocaust survivor fraud found guilty[7]
  30. ^Diner, Dan (2003). "Restitution and Memory: The Holocaust in European Political Cultures". New German Critique (90): 36–44. doi:10.2307/3211106. 
  31. ^Harran, Marilyn. The Holocaust Chronicles, A History in Words and Pictures, Louis Weber, 2000, p. 697.
  32. ^ abDonald L Niewyk, The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, Columbia University Press, 2000, p.45: "The Holocaust is commonly defined as the murder of more than 5,000,000 Jews by the Germans in World War II." Estimates by scholars range from 5.1 million to 7 million. See the appropriate section of the Holocaust article.
  33. ^Key elements of Holocaust denial:
    • "Before discussing how Holocaust denial constitutes a conspiracy theory, and how the theory is distinctly American, it is important to understand what is meant by the term "Holocaust denial." Holocaust deniers, or "revisionists," as they call themselves, question all three major points of definition of the Nazi Holocaust. First, they contend that, while mass murders of Jews did occur (although they dispute both the intentionality of such murders as well as the supposed deservedness of these killings), there was no official Nazi policy to murder Jews. Second, and perhaps most prominently, they contend that there were no homicidal gas chambers, particularly at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where mainstream historians believe over 1 million Jews were murdered, primarily in gas chambers. And third, Holocaust deniers contend that the death toll of European Jews during World War II was well below 6 million. Deniers float numbers anywhere between 300,000 and 1.5 million, as a general rule." Mathis, Andrew E. Holocaust Denial, a DefinitionArchived 2011-06-09 at the Wayback Machine., The Holocaust History Project, July 2, 2004. Retrieved December 18, 2006.
    • "In part III we directly address the three major foundations upon which Holocaust denial rests, including... the claim that gas chambers and crematoria were used not for mass extermination but rather for delousing clothing and disposing of people who died of disease and overwork; ... the claim that the six million figure is an exaggeration by an order of magnitude—that about six hundred thousand, not six million, died at the hands of the Nazis; ... the claim that there was no intention on the part of the Nazis to exterminate European Jewry and that the Holocaust was nothing more than the unfortunate by-product of the vicissitudes of war." Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman. Denying History: : who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and why Do They Say It?, University of California Press, 2000, ISBN 0-520-23469-3, p. 3.
    • "Holocaust Denial: Lies that the mass extermination of the Jews by the Nazis never happened; that the number of Jewish losses has been 'greatly exaggerated'; that the Holocaust was not systematic nor a result of an official policy; or simply that the Holocaust never took place." What is Holocaust Denial, Yad Vashem website, 2004. Retrieved December 18, 2006.
    • "Among the untruths routinely promoted are the claims that no gas chambers existed at Auschwitz, that only 600,000 Jews were killed rather than twelve million, and that Hitler had no murderous intentions toward Jews or other groups persecuted by his government." Holocaust DenialArchived 2007-04-04 at the Wayback Machine., Anti-Defamation League, 2001. Retrieved June 28, 2007.
  34. ^"The kinds of assertions made in Holocaust-denial material include the following:
    • Several hundred thousand rather than approximately twelve million Jews died during the war.
    • Scientific evidence proves that gas chambers could not have been used to kill large numbers of people.
    • The Nazi command had a policy of deporting Jews, not exterminating them.
    • Some deliberate killings of Jews did occur, but were carried out by the peoples of Eastern Europe rather than the Nazis.
    • Jews died in camps of various kinds, but did so as the result of hunger and disease. The Holocaust is a myth created by the Allies for propaganda purposes, and subsequently nurtured by the Jews for their own ends.
    • Errors and inconsistencies in survivors’ testimonies point to their essential unreliability.
    • Alleged documentary evidence of the Holocaust, from photographs of concentration camp victims to Anne Frank’s diary, is fabricated.
    • The confessions of former Nazis to war crimes were extracted through torture." The nature of Holocaust denial: What is Holocaust denial?Archived July 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., JPR report #3, 2000. Retrieved December 18, 2006.
  35. ^Refer to themselves as revisionists:
    • "Holocaust deniers often refer to themselves as ‘revisionists’, in an attempt to claim legitimacy for their activities." (The nature of Holocaust denial: What is Holocaust denial?Archived July 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., JPR report #3, 2000. Retrieved May 16, 2007)
    • "The deniers' selection of the name revisionist to describe themselves is indicative of their basic strategy of deceit and distortion and of their attempt to portray themselves as legitimate historians engaged in the traditional practice of illuminating the past." Deborah Lipstadt. Denying the Holocaust—The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, Penguin, 1993, ISBN 0-452-27274-2, p. 25.
    • "Dressing themselves in pseudo-academic garb, they have adopted the term "revisionism" in order to mask and legitimate their enterprise." Introduction: Denial as Anti-SemitismArchived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine., "Holocaust Denial: An Online Guide to Exposing and Combating Anti-Semitic Propaganda", Anti-Defamation League, 2001. Retrieved June 12, 2007.
    • "Holocaust deniers often refer to themselves as ‘revisionists’, in an attempt to claim legitimacy for their activities." The nature of Holocaust denial: What is Holocaust denial? , JPR report #3, 2000. Retrieved May 16, 2007.
  36. ^Denial vs. "revisionism":
    • "This is the phenomenon of what has come to be known as 'revisionism', 'negationism', or 'Holocaust denial,' whose main characteristic is either an outright rejection of the very veracity of the Nazi genocide of the Jews, or at least a concerted attempt to minimize both its scale and importance... It is just as crucial, however, to distinguish between the wholly objectionable politics of denial and the fully legitimate scholarly revision of previously accepted conventional interpretations of any historical event, including the Holocaust." Bartov, Omer. The Holocaust: Origins, Implementation and Aftermath, Routledge, pp.11-12. Bartov is John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History at the Watson Institute, and is regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on genocide ("Omer Bartov", The Watson Institute for International Studies).
    • "The two leading critical exposés of Holocaust denial in the United States were written by historians Deborah Lipstadt (1993) and Michael Shermer

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