hitler adolf

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January 27th 1945: Liberation of Auschwitz

On this day in 1945, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland was liberated by the Soviet Red Army. One of the most notorious camps of Nazi Germany, Jews and others persecuted by the Nazi regime were sent to Auschwitz from 1940 onwards. During its years in operation, over one million people died in Auschwitz, either from murder in the gas chambers or due to starvation and disease. As the war drew to a close and the Nazis steadily lost ground to the Allied forces, they began evacuating the camps and destroying evidence of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed there. The leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, ordered the evacuation of the remaining prisoners at the camp as the Soviet Red Army closed in on the area. Nearly 60,000 prisoners from Auschwitz were forced on a march toward Wodzisław Śląski (Loslau) where they would be sent to other camps; some 20,000 ended up in the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany. However, thousands died during the evacuation on the grueling marches, leading to them being called ‘death marches’. 7,500 weak and sick prisoners remained in Auschwitz, and they were liberated by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Soviet Red Army on January 27th 1945. Auschwitz remains one of the most powerful symbols of the Holocaust and the horrific crimes committed by the Nazi regime against Jews and numerous other groups.

I have 8 minutes left before midnight, when Holocaust Remembrance Day will end, so let me tell you the 8 things that I remember most vividly from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

1. The entire museum is suffocating. It’s quiet and somber and can sometimes feel like you’re mourning the loss of all of humanity at once. It feels like a crypt, an urn, where 6 million people are interred.

2. The Holocaust didn’t start with Hitler screaming rabidly about filthy Jews. It started when Hitler slipped dangerous rhetoric into his speeches, blaming crime and unemployment on them.

3. There’s a three-story tall room where every inch of the walls are covered with pictures. Little kids smiling cheesily and older couples sitting next to each other, families. The only thing they have in common? Their lives were exterminated during the Holocaust.

4. A man nicknamed the Angel of Death did medical experiments on children. CHILDREN. He gouged out their leg muscles and introduced life threatening infections just to see how their bodies would react.

5. There’s a boxcar that you’re made to go into on the tour. It’s a real part of a train that transported thousands to death camps. It’s cold and it’s cramped, and the tiny windows don’t give nearly enough light to let you feel relief from the nauseating claustrophobia that creeps on you.

6. There was a children’s transport camp called Terezin, where an art teacher helped the kids express their frustration and terror through their art. They have it hanging on the walls there. It’s normal kid stuff. Butterflies and houses, people performing on stages. Underneath, the name of the child is written, and their date of death. 90℅ of them didn’t make it past 1945.

7. The worst room, by far, are the shoes. It’s a simple exhibit. Both sides of the room have containers simply filled with shoes, old and rotten. It’s not objectively sinister. Until you read the caption and realize that every last shoe came from someone gassed to death. That’s when you start noticing the petite flats and the heavy work shoes, the tiny toddler Mary Janes, faded red. You notice that each shoe had a pair of feet attached, and each pair of feet had a body attached, and each body had a life, a story, a personality, a soul, attached. And you read the poem above, which bitterly notes that the only reason that these shoes weren’t burned with their owner was because they were made of leather and not flesh and blood.

8. You end in a memorial Hall. It’s made of bright marble, and each wall bears the name of a concentration camp. There, you can light a candle. It’s small, it’s insignificant, it does nothing to stop the atrocities committed, but helps. You look above it, and you read: “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

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In the years leading up to WWII, Adolf Hitler spent the majority of his time painting. He produced hundreds of paintings and even attempted to make a living out of his art. In his youth, Hitler had aspired to become a professional artist. However, he was rejected twice by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. The institute were displeased by how Hitler had much preferred painting architecture to people.

Shortly before the outbreak of WWII, Hitler told British ambassador Nevile Henderson: “I am an artist and not a politician. Once the Polish question is settled, I want to end my life as an artist.” Even while serving in WWI, Hitler continued to paint during his downtime. One can’t help but question whether Hitler had succeeded in his childhood dreams, then maybe he could have gone down a different and positive path.

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March 23rd 1933: Enabling Act passed

On this day in 1933, the German Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which essentially secured Adolf Hitler’s position as dictator of Germany. The law gave Chancellor Hitler legal powers to establish his dictatorship as it gave the Cabinet the power to enact laws independently of the legislature - the Reichstag. Its formal name was ‘Law to Remedy the Distress of People and Reich’. Hitler had been appointed Chancellor on January 30th and just before the scheduled election, the Reichstag fire occurred. The Nazis used the incident to suggest a Communist revolution was imminent and passed the Reichstag Fire Decree which suspended civil liberties and habeas corpus. The Nazis failed to gain an absolute majority in the Reichstag, so Hitler drafted the Enabling Act to secure his position. The Nazis pressured and threatened representatives of the Reichstag to pass the bill, positioning SA men and Nazi swastikas in and around the building. With the bill’s passing, Hitler’s dictatorship was assured, and thus began a brutal regime which would last until 1945.

“The authority of the Führer has now been wholly established. Votes are no longer taken. The Führer decides. All this is going much faster than we had dared to hope”
- Joseph Goebbels after the passage of the Act