The DAP was a comparatively small group with fewer than 60 members.[30] Nevertheless, it attracted the attention of the German authorities, who were suspicious of any organisation that appeared to have subversive tendencies. In July 1919, while stationed in Munich army Gefreiter Adolf Hitler was appointed a Verbindungsmann (intelligence agent) of an Aufklärungskommando (reconnaissance unit) of the Reichswehr (army) by Captain Mayr the head of the Education and Propaganda Department (Dept Ib/P) in Bavaria. Hitler was assigned to influence other soldiers and to infiltrate the DAP.[33] While attending a party meeting on 12 September 1919, Hitler became involved in a heated argument with a visitor, Professor Baumann, who questioned the soundness of Gottfried Feder's arguments against capitalism; Baumann proposed that Bavaria should break away from Prussia and found a new South German nation with Austria. In vehemently attacking the man's arguments, Hitler made an impression on the other party members with his oratorical skills; according to Hitler, the "professor" left the hall acknowledging unequivocal defeat.[34] Drexler encouraged him to join the DAP.[34] On the orders of his army superiors, Hitler applied to join the party[35] and within a week was accepted as party member 555 (the party began counting membership at 500 to give the impression they were a much larger party).[36][37] Among the party's earlier members were Ernst Röhm of the Army's District Command VII; Dietrich Eckart, who has been called the spiritual father of National Socialism;[38] then-University of Munich student Rudolf Hess;[39] Freikorps soldier Hans Frank; and Alfred Rosenberg, often credited as the philosopher of the movement. All were later prominent in the Nazi regime.[40]
Influenced by the Völkisch movement, the regime was against cultural modernism and supported the development of an extensive military at the expense of intellectualism.[8][187] Creativity and art were stifled, except where they could serve as propaganda media.[188] The party used symbols such as the Blood Flag and rituals such as the Nazi Party rallies to foster unity and bolster the regime's popularity.[189]
In the 1920s, political opponents of the NSDAP in the German labour movement seized on this and – using the earlier abbreviated term "Sozi" for Sozialist (English: Socialist) as an example[8] – shortened the first part of the NSDAP's name, Nationalsozialistische, to the dismissive "Nazi", in order to associate them with the derogatory use of the term mentioned above.[9][7][10][11][12][13]
A concentration camp to house Soviet prisoners of war and Poles had been established at Majdanek, close to the Polish city of Lublin, during 1941. In the spring of 1942 gas chambers and crematoria were added, turning Majdanek into an extermination camp that would murder 78,000 people. Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most infamous of the Nazi death camps, was a massive concentration, forced labour and extermination camp at the centre of a network of more than 40 satellite camps. Upwards of 80 per cent of those Jews transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau were selected for immediate death.

These sights, like the truck full of bodies, are not beyond belief—we know that they were true—but they are, in some sense, beyond imagination. It is very hard, maybe impossible, to imagine being one of those men, still less one of those infants. And such sights raise the question of why, exactly, we read about the camps. If it is merely to revel in the grotesque, then learning about this evil is itself a species of evil, a further exploitation of the dead. If it is to exercise sympathy or pay a debt to memory, then it quickly becomes clear that the exercise is hopeless, the debt overwhelming: there is no way to feel as much, remember as much, imagine as much as the dead justly demand. What remains as a justification is the future: the determination never again to allow something like the Nazi camps to exist.


From 1928 onward, the Nazi Party's growth into a large national political movement was dependent on middle class support, and on the public perception that it "promised to side with the middle classes and to confront the economic and political power of the working class." [178] The financial collapse of the white collar middle-class of the 1920s figures much in their strong support of Nazism.[179] Although the Nazis continued to make appeals to "the German worker," historian Timothy Mason concludes that "Hitler had nothing but slogans to offer the working class."[180]
After Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, sparking World War II, the Germans converted Auschwitz I from an army barracks to hold Polish political prisoners.[3] The first prisoners, German criminals brought to the camp as functionaries, arrived in May 1940,[4] and the first gassing of prisoners took place in block 11 of Auschwitz I in September 1941. Auschwitz II–Birkenau went on to become a major site of the Nazis' Final Solution to the Jewish Question. From early 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews from all over German-occupied Europe to the camp's gas chambers. Of the estimated 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, at least 1.1 million died,[5] around 90 percent of them Jews.[6] Approximately one in six Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the camp.[7] Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 non-Jewish Poles, 23,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah's Witnesses, tens of thousands of others of diverse nationalities, and an unknown number of gay men. Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died because of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.
When the Soviet army entered Auschwitz on January 27, they found approximately 7,600 sick or emaciated detainees who had been left behind. The liberators also discovered mounds of corpses, hundreds of thousands of pieces of clothing and pairs of shoes and seven tons of human hair that had been shaved from detainees before their liquidation. According to some estimates, between 1.1 million to 1.5 million people, the vast majority of them Jews, died at Auschwitz during its years of operation. An estimated 70,000 to 80,000 Poles perished at the camp, along with 19,000 to 20,000 Gypsies and smaller numbers of Soviet prisoners of war and other individuals.

When the Nazi Party emerged from obscurity to become a major political force after 1929, the conservative faction rapidly gained more influence, as wealthy donors took an interest in the Nazis as a potential bulwark against communism.[39] The Nazi Party had previously been financed almost entirely from membership dues, but after 1929 its leadership began actively seeking donations from German industrialists, and Hitler began holding dozens of fundraising meetings with business leaders.[40] In the midst of the Great Depression, facing the possibility of economic ruin on the one hand and a Communist or Social Democratic government on the other hand, German business increasingly turned to Nazism as offering a way out of the situation, by promising a state-driven economy that would support, rather than attack, existing business interests.[41] By January 1933, the Nazi Party had secured the support of important sectors of German industry, mainly among the steel and coal producers, the insurance business and the chemical industry.[42]


Those who were selected for work were set on a whole range of tasks. These included sorting and processing the possessions of everyone who arrived at the camp and heavy manual work. Some Jewish prisoners were put into units called Sonderkommandos, whose role was to work in the gas chambers and crematorium. They were kept apart from the rest of the camp prisoners, but were also sent to their deaths in the gas chambers after a few weeks or months of work.
In March 1941, Himmler ordered a second, larger complex to be built next to the original camp. It was called Auschwitz II - Birkenau. The camp at Birkenau was divided into subsections surrounded by electric fences with barbed wire. During 1943 and 1944 the BIIb section became the location of the „Terezín family camp“. At its summit, Birkenau had over 100 000 inmates. In March 1942, the Auschwitz III camp was set up at nearby Monowitz, also known as Buna Monowitz. German company I.G. Farben set up a synthetic rubber factory there, in which it used the prisoners' slave labour. Auschwitz also had a further 45 auxiliary camps, where prisoners were forced to engage in slave labour, mostly for German companies.
“It's utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”
In the early years of the regime, Germany was without allies, and its military was drastically weakened by the Versailles Treaty. France, Poland, Italy, and the Soviet Union each had reasons to object to Hitler's rise to power. Poland suggested to France that the two nations engage in a preventive war against Germany in March 1933. Fascist Italy objected to German claims in the Balkans and on Austria, which Benito Mussolini considered to be in Italy's sphere of influence.[52]
Anne Frank Stichting. Anne Frank 1929–1945. Heidelberg: 1979; Idem. Exhibition catalogue in Dutch and English, Anne Frank in the World 1929–1945. Amsterdam: 1985; Idem. Exhibition catalogue in Japanese, Anne Frank in the World. Amsterdam: 1985; Idem. Exhibition catalogue in English, Anne Frank: A History for Today. Amsterdam: 1996; Idem. Anne Frank Magazine 1998. Amsterdam: 1998; Bernard, Catherine A. Tell Him that I …: Women Writing the Holocaust. Stanford: 1995; Barnouw, David, and Gerrold van der Stroom (editors). The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition. London: 1989; Bettelheim, Bruno. “The Ignored Lesson of Anne Frank.” Harper’s, November 1960, 45–50; Boonstra, Janrense, and Jose Rijnder. The Anne Frank House: A Museum with a Story. Amsterdam: 1992; Doneson, Judith E. “The Diary of Anne Frank in the Context of Post-War America and the 1950s.” In The Holocaust in American Film, 57–85. Philadelphia: 1987; Idem. “The American History of Anne Frank’s Diary.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies Vol. 2 No. 1 (1987): 149–160; “ Evans, Martin, and Kenneth Lunn (editors). War and Memory in the Twentieth Century. London: 1997; Fogelman, Eva. Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust. London: 1995; Frank, Anne. Tales from the Secret Annexe. London: 1982; Gies, Miep, and Alison Leslie Gold. Anne Frank Remembered. New York: 1987; Gill, Anton. The Journey Back from Hell: Conversations with Concentration Camp Survivors. London: 1988; Gold, Alison Leslie. Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend. New York: 1997; Goodrich, Frances, and Albert Hackett. The Diary of Anne Frank. London: 1970; Graver, Lawrence. An Obsession with Anne Frank: Meyer Levin and the Diary. London: 1995; Hellwig, Joachim, and Gunther Deicke. Ein Tagebuch für Anne Frank. Berlin: 1959; Hillesum, Etty. Letters from Westerbork. London: 1986; Holliday, Laurel (editor). Children’s Wartime Diaries. London: 1995; de Jong, Louis, and Simon Schema. The Netherlands and Nazi Germany. Connecticut: 1990; Kedward, H. R. Resistance in Vichy France. Oxford: 1978; Kolb, Eberhard. Bergen-Belsen from 1943–1945. Gottingen: 1988; Lasker-Wallfisch, Anita. Inherit the Truth: 1939–1945. London: 1996; Lee, Carol Ann. Roses from the Earth. London: 1999; Levin, Meir. Obsession. New York: 1973; Levy, Isaac. Witness to Evil: Bergen-Belsen 1945. London: 1995; Lindwer, Willy. The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank. New York: 1991; van Maarsen, Jacqueline. My Friend Anne Frank. New York: 1996; Marks, Jane. Hidden Children: Secret Survivors of the Holocaust. London: 1995; Melnick, Ralph. The Stolen Legacy of Anne Frank. Connecticut: 1997; Moore, Bob. Victims and Survivors: The Nazi Persecution of the Jews in the Netherlands 1940–1945. New York: 1997; Mulder, Dirk. Kamp Westerbork. Westerbork: 1991; Müller, Melissa. Das Mädchen Anne Frank. München: 1998; Nijstad, Jaap. Westerbork Drawings: The Life and Work of Leo Kok 1923–1945. Amsterdam: 1990; Pick, Hella, and Simon Wiesenthal. A Life in Search of Justice. London: 1996; Presser, Jacob. Ashes in the Wind: The Destruction of Dutch Jewry. London: 1968; Reilly, Jo, David Cesarani, Tony Kushner and Colin Richmond (editors). Belsen in History and Memory. London: 1997; van der Rol, Ruud, and Rian Verhoeven. Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary. London: 1993; Roodnat, A. C., and M. de Klijn. A Tour of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Amsterdam: 1971; Rosenfeld, Alvin H. “Popularization and Memory: The Case of Anne Frank.” In Lessons and Legacies, edited by Peter Hayes, 243–279. Evanston, Illinois: 1991; Sanchez, Leopold Diego. Jean-Michel Frank. Paris: 1980; Schloss, Eva, with Evelyn Julia Kent. Eva’s Story: A Survivor’s Tale by the Step-sister of Anne Frank. London: 1988; Schnabel, Ernst. The Footsteps of Anne Frank. London: 1976; Shapiro, Eda. “The Reminiscences of Victor Kugler, the ‘Mr Kraler’ of Anne Frank’s Diary.” Yad Vashem Studies 13 (1979); Shawn, Karen. The End of Innocence: Anne Frank and the Holocaust. New York: 1989; Steenmeijer, Anna G., and Otto H. Frank (editors). A Tribute to Anne Frank. New York: 1971; Stoutenbeek, Jan, and Paul Vigeveno. A Guide to Jewish Amsterdam. Amsterdam: 1985; Wiesenthal, Simon. Justice Not Vengeance: The Test Case. London: 1989; Wilson, Cara. Love, Otto. Kansas: 1995; von Wolzogen, Wolf. Anne aus Frankfurt. Frankfurt: 1994.

On 6 June 1944, American, British, and Canadian forces established a front in France with the D-Day landings in Normandy.[133] On 20 July 1944, Hitler survived an assassination attempt.[134] He ordered brutal reprisals, resulting in 7,000 arrests and the execution of more than 4,900 people.[135] The failed Ardennes Offensive (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was the last major German offensive on the western front, and Soviet forces entered Germany on 27 January.[136] Hitler's refusal to admit defeat and his insistence that the war be fought to the last man led to unnecessary death and destruction in the war's closing months.[137] Through his Justice Minister Otto Georg Thierack, Hitler ordered that anyone who was not prepared to fight should be court-martialed, and thousands of people were put to death.[138] In many areas, people surrendered to the approaching Allies in spite of exhortations of local leaders to continue to fight. Hitler ordered the destruction of transport, bridges, industries, and other infrastructure—a scorched earth decree—but Armaments Minister Albert Speer prevented this order from being fully carried out.[137]
Though most Nazi concentration and extermination camps were destroyed after the war, some of them were turned into permanent memorials, and museums. In Communist Poland, some camps such as Majdanek, Jaworzno, Potulice and Zgoda were used by the Soviet NKVD to hold German prisoners of war, suspected or confirmed Nazis and Nazi collaborators, anti-Communists and other political prisoners, as well as civilian members of the German-speaking, Silesian and Ukrainian ethnic minorities. Currently, there are memorials to the victims of both Nazi and communist camps at Potulice; they have helped to enable a German-Polish discussion on historical perceptions of World War II.[55] In East Germany, the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen were used for similar purposes. Dachau concentration camp was used as a detention centre for the arrested Nazis.[56]
After conquering Poland, Hitler focused on defeating Britain and France. As the war expanded, the Nazi Party formed alliances with Japan and Italy in the Tripartite Pact of 1940, and honored its 1939 Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact with the Soviet Union until 1941, when Germany launched a massive blitzkrieg invasion of the Soviet Union. In the brutal fighting that followed, Nazi troops tried to realize the long-held goal of crushing the world’s major communist power. After the United States entered the war in 1941, Germany found itself fighting in North Africa, Italy, France, the Balkans and in a counterattacking Soviet Union. At the beginning of the war, Hitler and his Nazi Party were fighting to dominate Europe; five years later they were fighting to exist.

When the stock market in the United States crashed on 24 October 1929, the effect in Germany was dire.[11] Millions were thrown out of work and several major banks collapsed. Hitler and the NSDAP prepared to take advantage of the emergency to gain support for their party. They promised to strengthen the economy and provide jobs.[12] Many voters decided the NSDAP was capable of restoring order, quelling civil unrest, and improving Germany's international reputation. After the federal election of 1932, the NSDAP was the largest party in the Reichstag, holding 230 seats with 37.4 percent of the popular vote.[13]
But the effort to preserve the site is not without its critics. One is Robert Jan van Pelt, a cultural historian in the school of architecture at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and the leading expert on the construction of Auschwitz. He supports the preservation of the Auschwitz main camp, although he acknowledges it is a “kind of theme park, cleaned up for tourists.” In any event, it’s a fully equipped museum, complete with exhibits and conservation facilities, where most of the original buildings still stand. But van Pelt views the Birkenau site in a different light. For one thing, 80 to 90 percent of the original structures are gone or in a state of ruin. Most important, it’s where most of the killings took place, so it is a core site of the Holocaust itself. He says letting Birkenau disintegrate completely would be a more fitting memorial than constantly repairing the scant remains. Birkenau is “the ultimate nihilistic place. A million people literally disappeared. Shouldn’t we confront people with the nothingness of the place? Seal it up. Don’t give people a sense that they can imitate the experience and walk in the steps of the people who were there.”
Lt.-Col. Anatoly Shapiro, Ukrainian Jew, commanded the Red Army’s 1085th ‘Tarnopol’ Rifle Regiment that liberated Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. The soldiers found about 650 corpses inside the barracks and near them — mostly women who died of exhaustion or were shot by the SS the night before. Altogether, the Soviet troops found at least 1,200 emaciated survivors in Auschwitz and another 5,800 at Birkenau. They fed them but most could not eat because they were too malnourished. Ultimately, another soldier said the Red Army managed to save 2,819 inmates in Red Army Military Hospital 2962.

The DAP was a comparatively small group with fewer than 60 members.[30] Nevertheless, it attracted the attention of the German authorities, who were suspicious of any organisation that appeared to have subversive tendencies. In July 1919, while stationed in Munich army Gefreiter Adolf Hitler was appointed a Verbindungsmann (intelligence agent) of an Aufklärungskommando (reconnaissance unit) of the Reichswehr (army) by Captain Mayr the head of the Education and Propaganda Department (Dept Ib/P) in Bavaria. Hitler was assigned to influence other soldiers and to infiltrate the DAP.[33] While attending a party meeting on 12 September 1919, Hitler became involved in a heated argument with a visitor, Professor Baumann, who questioned the soundness of Gottfried Feder's arguments against capitalism; Baumann proposed that Bavaria should break away from Prussia and found a new South German nation with Austria. In vehemently attacking the man's arguments, Hitler made an impression on the other party members with his oratorical skills; according to Hitler, the "professor" left the hall acknowledging unequivocal defeat.[34] Drexler encouraged him to join the DAP.[34] On the orders of his army superiors, Hitler applied to join the party[35] and within a week was accepted as party member 555 (the party began counting membership at 500 to give the impression they were a much larger party).[36][37] Among the party's earlier members were Ernst Röhm of the Army's District Command VII; Dietrich Eckart, who has been called the spiritual father of National Socialism;[38] then-University of Munich student Rudolf Hess;[39] Freikorps soldier Hans Frank; and Alfred Rosenberg, often credited as the philosopher of the movement. All were later prominent in the Nazi regime.[40]


As the Russians closed in on Auschwitz, the Germans became desperate, destroying as much evidence of war crimes as they could, including records and property seized from prisoners, and forcing as many prisoners as they could on what became death marches. The day before the Russian Army liberated Auschwitz, Edith died there. On January 27 Otto was liberated and taken to Odessa and then France before being allowed to return to Amsterdam in June 1945.


The Germans reaffirmed their alliance with Italy and signed non-aggression pacts with Denmark, Estonia, and Latvia whilst trade links were formalised with Romania, Norway, and Sweden.[76] Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop arranged in negotiations with the Soviet Union a non-aggression pact, the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, signed in August 1939.[77] The treaty also contained secret protocols dividing Poland and the Baltic states into German and Soviet spheres of influence.[78]
Adolf Hitler replaces elected officials in state governments with Nazi appointees. One of the first steps in establishing centralized Nazi control in Germany is the elimination of state governments. Hermann Goering, a leading Nazi, becomes minister-president of Prussia, the largest German state. By 1935, state administrations are transferred to the central government in Berlin.

The racialists were not capable of drawing the practical conclusions from correct theoretical judgements, especially in the Jewish Question. In this way, the German racialist movement developed a similar pattern to that of the 1880s and 1890s. As in those days, its leadership gradually fell into the hands of highly honourable, but fantastically naïve men of learning, professors, district counsellors, schoolmasters, and lawyers—in short a bourgeois, idealistic, and refined class. It lacked the warm breath of the nation's youthful vigour.[175]


Nazi ideology advocated excluding women from political involvement and confining them to the spheres of "Kinder, Küche, Kirche" (Children, Kitchen, Church).[181] Many women enthusiastically supported the regime, but formed their own internal hierarchies.[182] Hitler's own opinion on the matter of women in Nazi Germany was that while other eras of German history had experienced the development and liberation of the female mind, the National Socialist goal was essentially singular in that it wished for them to produce a child.[183] Based on this theme, Hitler once remarked about women that "with every child that she brings into the world, she fights her battle for the nation. The man stands up for the Volk, exactly as the woman stands up for the family".[184] Proto-natalist programs in Nazi Germany offered favourable loans and grants to newlyweds and encouraged them to give birth to offspring by providing them with additional incentives.[185] Contraception was discouraged for racially valuable women in Nazi Germany and abortion was forbidden by strict legal mandates, including prison sentences for women who sought them as well as prison sentences for doctors who performed them, whereas abortion for racially "undesirable" persons was encouraged.[186][187]

The ideology of Nazism brought together elements of antisemitism, racial hygiene and eugenics, and combined them with pan-Germanism and territorial expansionism with the goal of obtaining more Lebensraum (living space) for the Germanic people.[8] Immediately after the Nazi seizure of power in Germany, boycotts of German Jews and acts of violence against them became ubiquitous,[9] and legislation was passed excluding them from the civil service and certain professions, including the law.[10][a] Harassment and economic pressure were used to encourage them to leave Germany; their businesses were denied access to markets, forbidden to advertise in newspapers, and deprived of government contracts.[11]

In 1957, Fria ord ("Free Words"), the magazine of the Swedish neofascist organization National League of Sweden published an article by Danish author and critic Harald Nielsen, who had previously written antisemitic articles about the Danish-Jewish author Georg Brandes.[93] Among other things, the article claimed that the diary had been written by Meyer Levin.[94]
The preservation lab, with high-end technology, opened in 2003. One afternoon last week, Nel Jastrzebiowska, 37, a paper conservator, was using a rubber eraser to clean a row of papers in files. They were letters on Auschwitz stationery, written in German in rosy prose intended to slip past the censors. “I’m in good health,” one read, adding, “Send me money.”
Among the key elements of Nazism were anti-parliamentarism, Pan-Germanism (a political movement aiming for unity of the German-speaking peoples of Europe), racism, collectivism (any moral, political, or social outlook, that stresses human interdependence and the importance of a collective, rather than the importance of separate individuals), antisemitism (intense dislike for and prejudice against Jewish people), anti-communism, totalitarianism and opposition to economic liberalism and political liberalism, and eugenics (scientific field involving the selective breeding of humans in order to achieve desirable traits in future generations).

That same day, Gestapo official SS Sergeant Karl Silberbauer and two Dutch police collaborators arrested the Franks; the Gestapo sent them to Westerbork transit camp on August 8. One month later, on September 4, 1944, SS and police authorities placed the Franks and the four others hiding with them on a train transport to Auschwitz-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland.


On the morning of Monday, 6 July 1942,[22] the Frank family moved into their hiding place, a three-story space entered from a landing above the Opekta offices on the Prinsengracht, where some of his most trusted employees would be their helpers. This hiding place became known as the Achterhuis (translated into "Secret Annex" in English editions of the diary). Their apartment was left in a state of disarray to create the impression that they had left suddenly, and Otto left a note that hinted they were going to Switzerland. The need for secrecy forced them to leave behind Anne's cat, Moortje. As Jews were not allowed to use public transport, they walked several kilometres from their home.[23] The door to the Achterhuis was later covered by a bookcase to ensure it remained undiscovered.[24]
Action T4 was a programme of systematic murder of the physically and mentally handicapped and patients in psychiatric hospitals that took place mainly from 1939 to 1941, and continued until the end of the war. Initially the victims were shot by the Einsatzgruppen and others; gas chambers and gas vans using carbon monoxide were used by early 1940.[312][313] Under the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, enacted on 14 July 1933, over 400,000 individuals underwent compulsory sterilisation.[314] Over half were those considered mentally deficient, which included not only people who scored poorly on intelligence tests, but those who deviated from expected standards of behaviour regarding thrift, sexual behaviour, and cleanliness. Most of the victims came from disadvantaged groups such as prostitutes, the poor, the homeless, and criminals.[315] Other groups persecuted and killed included Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, social misfits, and members of the political and religious opposition.[186][316]
The concentration camps increasingly became sites where the SS authorities could kill targeted groups of real or perceived enemies of Nazi Germany. They also came to serve as holding centers for a rapidly growing pool of forced laborers used for SS construction projects, SS-commissioned extractive industrial sites, and, by 1942, the production of armaments, weapons, and related goods for the German war effort.
But individual deaths, by sickness or violence, were not enough to keep the number of prisoners within manageable limits. Accordingly, in early 1941 Himmler decided to begin the mass murder of prisoners in gas chambers, building on a program that the Nazis had developed earlier for euthanizing the disabled. Here, again, the camps’ sinister combination of bureaucratic rationalism and anarchic violence was on display. During the following months, teams of S.S. doctors visited the major camps in turn, inspecting prisoners in order to select the “infirm” for gassing. Everything was done with an appearance of medical rigor. The doctors filled out a form for each inmate, with headings for “Diagnosis” and “Incurable Physical Ailments.” But it was all mere theatre. Helm’s description of the visit of Dr. Friedrich Mennecke to Ravensbrück, in November, 1941, shows that inspections of prisoners—whom he referred to in letters home as “forms” or “portions”—were cursory at best, with the victims parading naked in front of the doctors at a distance of twenty feet. (Jewish prisoners were automatically “selected,” without an examination.) In one letter, Mennecke brags of having disposed of fifty-six “forms” before noon. Those selected were taken to an undisclosed location for gassing; their fate became clear to the remaining Ravensbrück prisoners when the dead women’s clothes and personal effects arrived back at the camp by truck.
After Auschwitz they transferred me to Mauthausen, then Gozen and Hanover. From there they sent us on foot to Bergen-Belsen, where I was finally liberated. It was 14 April (1945). I was so weak I could hardly stand and it was all I could do to lift my head slightly from the ground where I was lying as British army tanks started arriving to save us. But for all the great things the British did then, I can only say they made many other mistakes and what’s going on in Israel now is largely Britain’s fault.
Serena now lives in New Jersey with her family, including three children and grandchildren. We’ve both managed to hang on in there, but she can’t come to Auschwitz because her elderly husband is sick. For years when we talked about our experience she’d say to me: “You probably don’t remember, you were too young,” as I was four years younger, but some things I remembered even more sharply than her and my aunt.

But even within a democratic constitutional system, white supremacy in the United States has persisted, ebbing and flowing along the course of history, receding at times and then returning with a vengeance. At the heart of the current white nationalist project is the racial supremacy of people who believe that America was exclusively founded for them. Race madness has taken over the Trump base, and the White House has become home to those who seek racial purification. The project to erode citizenship rights, restrict immigration, and reclaim the American idea as a white idea is already underway. The United States is denying passports to citizens on the southern border. Denying bond hearings to those immigrants—even permanent residents—who are incarcerated. Separating children from their parents. Banning Muslim travelers. Refusing green cards to Americans who need public assistance. Politicians and law professors debate the merits of ending birthright citizenship; while currently a fringe idea, a future Supreme Court decision severely limiting birthright citizenship seems foreseeable. This purification agenda is being carried out by deportation squads roving the country in search of targets. Alarm bells ought to be going off about this program of national cleansing. We do not yet know where this ends.
In January 1934, Germany signed a non-aggression pact with Poland.[73] In March 1939, Hitler demanded the return of the Free City of Danzig and the Polish Corridor, a strip of land that separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany. The British announced they would come to the aid of Poland if it was attacked. Hitler, believing the British would not actually take action, ordered an invasion plan should be readied for September 1939.[74] On 23 May, Hitler described to his generals his overall plan of not only seizing the Polish Corridor but greatly expanding German territory eastward at the expense of Poland. He expected this time they would be met by force.[75]
Today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the diary has not lost its power: in 2002, Habimah staged the play for the sixth time in Israel, an average of once per decade. In March 2002, Carol Ann Lee’s biography of Otto Frank, The Hidden Life of Otto Frank, had the Netherlands in an uproar. She places responsibility for the discovery of the attic’s inhabitants on Anton (Tony) Ahlers, a sworn antisemite and a member of the Dutch Nazi party who systematically informed on Jews. Ahlers was Frank’s business partner and knew that his spice company had done business with the Wehrmacht at the beginning of the war. Frank evidently paid Ahlers hush money even before his family entered the attic. Afterwards, he paid him not to reveal to the Dutch government that he had done business with the Wehrmacht, and apparently continued to pay him off until his death in 1980. Following the public furor, which spread to the United States, The Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, the main organization that researches Anne Frank’s legacy today, announced that it would investigate Lee’s claims and soon publish its findings. Lee’s biography turns Anne’s father, the man who influenced her more than anyone and won her total admiration, into a man of flesh and blood devoid of the saintly image that had previously clung to him. It also placed the issues of informing and collaboration in the Netherlands and in Europe back on the public agenda, along with the question of the relationship to the Jewish citizens of those countries and their fate. Once more, Anne’s image hovers over the controversy, with its dark eyes and penetrating gaze, its hopes for a new world and faith in humankind.
Nazism’s principal instrument of control was the unification, under Heinrich Himmler and his chief lieutenant, Reinhard Heydrich, of the SS (the uniformed police force of the Nazi Party) and all other police and security organizations. Opposition to the regime was destroyed either by outright terror or, more frequently, by the all-pervading fear of possible repression. Opponents of the regime were branded enemies of the state and of the people, and an elaborate web of informers—often members of the family or intimate friends—imposed utmost caution on all expressions and activities. Justice was no longer recognized as objective but was completely subordinated to the alleged needs and interests of the Volk. In addition to the now-debased methods of the normal judicial process, special detention camps were erected. In these camps the SS exercised supreme authority and introduced a system of sadistic brutality unrivaled in modern times.
We tried to get out – we’d seen the signs of what was to come, not that we could really have known the full extent of what would happen. My uncle had worked in Palestine in 1917 but had been forced to return to Poland when he got sick. We tried to use the contacts he still had there to escape, but the British (who were in control of it) wouldn’t give us permission to go there. In my mind they carry a lot of the blame for the deaths of many of the Jews – especially the Polish Jews – who perished.
We know this because there is no shortage of texts from victims and survivors who chronicled the fact in vivid detail, and none of those documents has achieved anything like the fame of Frank’s diary. Those that have come close have only done so by observing the same rules of hiding, the ones that insist on polite victims who don’t insult their persecutors. The work that came closest to achieving Frank’s international fame might be Elie Wiesel’s Night, a memoir that could be thought of as a continuation of Frank’s experience, recounting the tortures of a 15-year-old imprisoned in Auschwitz. As the scholar Naomi Seidman has discussed, Wiesel first published his memoir in Yiddish, under the title And the World Kept Silent. The Yiddish book told the same story, but it exploded with rage against his family’s murderers and, as the title implies, the entire world whose indifference (or active hatred) made those murders possible. With the help of the French Catholic Nobel laureate François Mauriac, Wiesel later published a French version of the book under the title Night—a work that repositioned the young survivor’s rage into theological angst. After all, what reader would want to hear about how his society had failed, how he was guilty? Better to blame God. This approach did earn Wiesel a Nobel Peace Prize, as well as a spot in Oprah’s Book Club, the American epitome of grace. It did not, however, make teenage girls read his book in Japan, the way they read Frank’s. For that he would have had to hide much, much more.

None of the categories are independent - one could classify many camps as a mixture of several of the above. All camps had some of the elements of an extermination camp, but systematic extermination of new arrivals by gas chambers only occurred in specialized camps. These were extermination camps, where all new-arrivals were simply killed—the "Aktion Reinhard" camps (Treblinka, Sobibór and Belzec), together with Chelmno. Two others ( Auschwitz and Majdanek) operated as combined concentration- and extermination-camps. Others like Maly Trostenets were at times classified[by whom?] as "minor extermination camps".[50]
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