PFI [14]: The Persecution

The Persecution

When Hitler finally came to power in Germany, the fate of the Jews in Europe was sealed.

Like many before and after him, Hitler blamed the Jews for all the ills of society.

He saw the Treaty of Versailles that ended the First World War as a Jewish document. Weaknesses in the German economy were attributed to the Jews.

He faulted the Jews for the birth and presence of communism in the world.

He accused the Jews of being revolutionary and instigating internationalism, a supposed plot of the Jews to destroy Germany and seize control of the world. They became his favorite scapegoat, and their suffering at his hands rivals the most gruesome of human crimes.

Hitler’s persecution of the Jews began in 1933; shortly after he took office. On April 7 of that year he stripped all Jews of offices in the German civil service. Government officials, doctors, lawyers, and workers in educational and cultural fields were all required to sign the following statement:

I declare officially herewith I do not know of any circumstance — despite careful scrutiny — that may justify the presumption that I am not of Aryan descent; in particular, none of my paternal or maternal parents or grandparents was at any time of the Jewish faith. I am fully aware of the fact that I expose myself to prosecution and dismissal if this declaration proves untrue.

Within three months, thirty thousand heads of Jewish families had been deprived of income.

The future sufferings of the Jews were also announced in two lines of a song called “The Horst Wessel Song1),” which became the theme of every major parade in Germany.

Translated, two lines of the song were:When Jewish blood flows from the knife, Things will go much better.

Under Hitler’s direction there was a steady rise in outrageous demands and unlawful acts against all Jews. By 1938 every synagogue in the nation had been burned, the windows of every Jewish establishment had been shattered, and twenty-five thousand innocent Jews were in concentration camps.

In the infamous Buchenwald camp Jews were shipped and tortured during the day, while throughout the night a voice shouted over the loudspeakers, “Any Jew who wishes to hang himself is asked first to put a piece of paper in his mouth with his number on it so that we may know who he is.

Nazi atrocities against the Jews began to stir world opinion. Finally, in July of 1938, a conference of thirty-two nations was called in order to consider some means of rescue for these persecuted people. Spokesmen for various Jewish groups were heard, including Golda Meir, and the sufferings of the Jews in Germany for the previous five years were reviewed, as well as the evident course of persecution in the future.

Hitler was bent on raising a generation of Jew-haters.

Proof of this was demonstrated by the following statement from one of the new German school reading books:

Remember that the Jews are children of the devil and murderers of mankind. Whoever is a murderer deserves to be killed himself.

That look at the direction of education in Hitler’s Germany ought to have been enough to move the conference to positive action.

But the world united to trap the Jews for Hitler.

A tragic provision was passed on the final day of the conference that closed the door to freedom for the Jews in Germany and most of Europe.

The measure read:

The delegates of the countries of asylum are not willing to undertake any obligations toward financing involuntary immigration.
In other words, only Jews who could pay their own way would be able to escape. Since Hitler forbade Jews to leave the country with more than five dollars, that resolution made escape impossible.

The action of the conference was so negative that it not only closed the door to freedom for Jews but also closed the mouths of critics in other nations.

Hitler reacted to the decision of the conference in a speech, stating:

The other world is oozing sympathy for the poor tormented people but remains hard and obdurate when it comes to helping them.

He informed the South African defense minister:

We shall solve the Jewish problem in the immediate future… the Jews will disappear.

Shortly thereafter, the official newspaper of the Gestapo declared,

Because it is necessary, because we no longer hear the world’s screeching, and because after all no power on earth can hinder us, we will now bring the Jewish question to its totalitarian solution.

World War II was especially historic to Jews because it was the first time world Jewry found themselves fighting a common enemy since they had battled the Romans in the first century. In other wars they had patriotically defended the nations in which they had made their homes. Now, recognizing that Hitler was their declared foe, Jews everywhere gave full effort to defeating him.

In 1939, when England declared war on Germany, 130,000 of the 450,000 Jews in Palestine volunteered for combat service with Britain. Jews performed valiantly during the war, both behind enemy lines, where they were in double jeopardy as Jews and freedom fighters and in conventional warfare as part of the armed forces of the Allied nations.

While devotedly serving the Allies, however, the Jews found themselves in a conflicting situation. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were fleeing before the advancing German army, hoping for entry into Palestine. Incredibly, the doors to that land were closed to them because of Britain’s strict immigration policies. Nevertheless, the Jews gave hand and heart to the war effort, fighting as if the hated white paper that barred entrance to their homeland did not exist.

It is doubtful that any people ever suffered as did the Jews during World War II when they were the special object of Hitler’s hatred. As the pace of the war increased, so did the mad dictator’s effort to destroy the Jews. When German military successes increased Nazi-controlled territory, the noose around Jewish necks was drawn tighter. And the conquest of adjacent nations meant the encirclement of hundreds of thousands more of the Jews in Europe, who then became raw materials for Hitler’s death factories, targets for his Jew-killing machine.

Moses had written:

Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee (Deut. 28:47, 48).

Hunger, thirst, and nakedness were only part of the privations and persecutions experienced by the Jews within Hitler’s reach. German technical genius was set to work to build efficient equipment for the total destruction of the Jews. In Hitler’s words, this was to be the “final solution” to the Jewish problem.

The Murder Missions

When the German army moved into Russia, mobile killing units were dispatched for the sole purpose of following the army and killing Jews. Within five months, these murder missions had brought death to 500,000 Jews. Ultimately, about one and one-half million of the children of Israel would fall before the bullets of the Einsatsgruppen (the mobile killing units).

Equally dangerous to Jews were the mobile gas vans which were first used in Kelmo, Poland. Ninety Jews at a time were packed into each van and asphyxiated by carbon monoxide. The death rate in this operation ran about one thousand Jews per day.

But without doubt, the most efficient Jew killers were the Nazi concentration camps or “death factories.”

And there were many: Westerbork, Vught, Bergen-belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Grossrosen, Mauthausen, Ebensee, Theresienstadt, Sobibor, Auschwitz, Treblinka, and others.

Like a great industrial complex stretching across the ever-enlarging German empire, the camps were fed by trainloads of raw materials — Jews — and expected to produce whatever would pro fit the Third Reich. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were loaded into cattle cars and shipped like animals to the camps to be processed through the gas chambers and ovens.

The story is almost too hideous to tell. Moses had written, “Thy life shall hang in doubt before thee” (Deut. 28:66) and the prophecy was literally fulfilled in the concentration camps of Hitler’s “final solution.”

Auschwitz was equipped to execute 10,000 Jews per day. Treblinka could destroy 25,000 per day. Arriving at one of these nightmare stations, a Jew might have life or death determined by the whim of one army officer. As the refugees came off the trains, one man might stand motioning to either the right or left. The left could mean the gas chambers while the right might allow a little time to work around the camp before the end.

We will continue our look at this persecution in our next newsletter.


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Missionarius Apostolicus

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