Frequently Asked Questions
The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived “racial inferiority”: Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.
Hostility and prejudice directed against Jewish people.
Jews, Political Opponents such as Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats and Trade Union Leaders, Roma (gypsies), Poles and other Slavic people, the Disabled, Homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, Free Masons, Afro-Germans and prisoners of war, particularly Russian.
During the early years of the Holocaust, Jewish emigration was supported by the Nazi Party, as the Nazis were trying to rid Germany of Jews. However countries in the 1930s had quotas for the number of immigrants that they would allow through their borders, and this included the United States. Other obstacles to immigration included financial (the cost of leaving the country), cultural (having to learn a new language, culture and customs) as well as the difficulty of trying to obtain the legal documents to leave Germany and enter a new country. During the early stages of the Holocaust Jews did not know they would be targeted for extermination as they had been German citizens and were assimilated into German society, living in the same neighborhoods, attending the same schools and shopping in the same stores as their non-Jewish neighbors. It was only in 1938 when violence against Jews escalated (Kristallnacht) many realized that they need to emigrate, however the borders of Germany had almost sealed entirely, making it nearly impossible for Jews to leave.
Yes, Jews did fight back against the Nazis and their collaborators. Resistance took on many forms during the Holocaust, both armed and unarmed, adult men, women and even teenagers fought back against the Nazi regime. Although there was resistance during the Holocaust, the percentage of people that were able to resist was very small. Factors such as disease, starvation and availability of weapons all contributed to the small percentage of resisters.
Nazi officials used census records and synagogue lists, non-Jews were also encouraged to turn on their Jewish neighbors, reporting where they were living/hiding. Eastern European Jews were recognizable by their distinctive orthodox dress, and men were recognizable by their large beards and peyot (long, curled sideburns). Additionally, the Nazis took steps to ensure that Jews were easily identifiable, this included stamping ID cards with a red J, forcing Jewish men to take the middle name “Israel,” and Jewish women the middle name “Sara,” and forcing Jews to wear badges bearing the Star of David.