11 million innocent lives unjustly taken; people robbed of their future families, friends and successes. The Holocaust spanned 12 years of dictatorship and terror, with the intent on wiping out the entire Jewish race, but did this historical genocide really take place? Statistics say only 54% of the global population have heard about the Holocaust, and from that percentage, one third believe that the genocide has not been accurately described (Upworthy. 2016). Even with eyewitnesses, testimonies and genuine artifacts from this horrifying time, Holocaust deniers are flourishing with new theories as the number of survivors decreases with time. The world cannot decide what to believe; was this historical event an unjust massacre, or simply a myth used for Jewish people to gain success in a crumbling economy?
Eighty-four years ago Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. His prideful ways and bold actions quickly gained him loyal followers, eventually allowing him to form The Nazi Party, a group of more than 180,000 people dedicated to expanding Germany. In 1934, the German president, Paul von Hindenburg, died, making Hitler, Führer, the most influential man in Germany. With this newfound power, The Nazi Party quickly took over, opening concentration camps, and abolishing minorities’ human rights (History Place, 1996).
As Nazi forces expanded, Hitler’s reign took over surrounding countries, condemning Jewish people, and other minorities to live in hiding and fear for their lives. British and French officials became aware of the dangerous dictatorial power of Hitler when Nazis invaded Poland, in September of 1939. War was officially declared two days later (Lorraine, G. 1995. Pg 276-277), but this did not deter Hitler. The Nazi Party instated new laws saying that Jewish people could not have government jobs, they could not be German citizens and they could not own any property (ADL. 2017). This forced citizens to give up their businesses and forfeit any income they would normally receive, making it impossible to afford food, clothing, and housing.
Six million Jewish people died during the horrific empowerment of Adolf Hitler. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. n.d.). Millions were arrested and shipped in crowded train cars to concentration camps, where they were stuffed into specially made gas chambers and forced to breath Zyklon-B, a “powerful insecticide which serves as a carrier for the gas Hydrocyanic acid, or HCN... [this gas] is extremely poisonous to humans” (The Nizkor Project. n.d.). The registrar of new arrivals at Auschwitz, Hans Stark, recalled pouring the Zyklon-B pellets into a gas chamber. He says, “At another ... gassing—also in Autumn 1941—[Maximilian] Grabner ordered me to pour Zyklon B into the opening [of the gas chamber]. As the Zyklon B ... was in granular form, it trickled down over the people as it was being poured in. They then started to cry out terribly for they now knew what was happening to them. I did not look through the opening because it had to be closed as soon as the Zyklon B had been poured in. After a few minutes there was silence. After some time had passed, it may have been ten to fifteen minutes, the gas chamber was opened. The dead lay higgledy-piggledy all over the place. It was a dreadful sight” (The Nizkor Project, n.d.).
With Germany lying in ruins after six devastating years of war, and with defeat imminent, Adolf Hitler decided to take his own life. He succeeded the 30th of April, 1945, in his Berlin bunker. Shortly after his death, Germany surrendered to the Allied forces, ending Hitler's dreams of a “pure” and clean world (Diamond, J. 2007. Pg 336).
As with most epic-sized events, there are multiple theories as to what really happened between the years 1939 and 1945. Many conspiracists believe that Hitler only wanted to deport Jewish people from Germany, others play with the idea that the Holocaust death toll is significantly smaller than advertised. The most popular conspiracy, however, is that Jewish people made up the Holocaust in order to gain interest and money (United States Holocaust Museum, n.d., Holocaust deniers and public misinformation). Before Hitler came to power, a total of roughly nine million Jews lived in and around Europe. They spoke their own language, they had their own businesses, they believed in their own religious ways. Some were wealthy but most were poor, giving way to the theory that the Holocaust was made up in order for Jewish people to gain social status (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d., Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust).
Smaller skeptics attack the accuracy and claims about the Holocaust. Robert T. Carroll (2015) states, “[Deniers] deal with details and technical issues: Were there six million or four million Jews who died or were killed? Could this particular shower have been used as a gas chamber? Were these deaths due to natural causes or not?” He goes on to state that skeptics often leave out important information and evidence in order for their theories to make sense.
These conspiracies, whether they're true or not, are being fueled by the internet and are becoming more and more popular. Anonymous users can post their thoughts wherever and whenever they please, making it dangerous for researchers trying to learn the truth. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (n.d.) states, “Holocaust denial on the Internet is especially a problem because of the ease and speed with which such misinformation can be disseminated... The Internet is now the chief source of Holocaust denial and the chief means of recruiting for Holocaust denial organizations.”
To conclude, in 1945, 72 years ago, a powerful dictator died, ending an influential period of terror and strife. 11 million minorities were targeted, but what really happened? Historians present facts and evidence supposedly proving that the devastating Holocaust really took place, but with every new statement questions are raised by skeptics who ignore what may change their views. With so many people who have so many varied opinions, will the thoughts on this conflicting genocide ever be settled? Only time will tell.
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Lorraine, G. (1995) Our times, the illustrated history of the 20th century. New York, NY: Pub Overstock Unlimited Inc.
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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (n.d.) Holocaust deniers and public misinformation. Retrieved from https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007272#
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (n.d.) Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust. Retrieved from https://www.ushmm.org/outreach/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007689#