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The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, meaning catastrophe, was the genocide of approximately six million Jews during World War II in a systematic state-sponsored program to wipe them out by Nazi Germany. The country was led by Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), commonly known as the Nazi Party, throughout German-occupied territory.
This episode is one of the most horrifying in the History of Mankind. Of the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe before the Holocaust, it is stated that approximately two-thirds were killed.
Over one million Jewish children perished during the Holocaust, including approximately two million Jewish women and three million Jewish men. A network of over 40,000 facilities in Germany and German-occupied territory were used to concentrate and kill Jews.
History shows that the persecution and genocide were carried out in stages and that various laws to especially remove the Jews from civil society were enacted in Germany years before the outbreak of World War II. Concentration camps were established in which inmates were subjected to slave labor until they died of exhaustion or disease. Where Germany conquered new territory in Eastern Europe, specialized units called Einsatzgruppen murdered Jews and political opponents in mass shootings. The occupiers required Jews to be confined in overcrowded ghettos before being transported by freight train to extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, most were systematically killed in gas chambers.
Even though the Holocaust generally refers to the extermination of Jews, some also argue that it should also include others who have been killed for being adherents of a different religion, having a different color or of being of another race. Those with mental afflictions also were not spared in the drive to create a super race. It is said that during the Nazi reign, between 1939 and 1941, 80,000 to 100,000 mentally ill adults in institutions were killed as well as 5,000 children.
The annihilation of Jews and other “undesirables” as the Nazi call them, was a genocide on another level, because never before has there been a genocide based purely on ideology; an ideology that somehow the Jews and other nonwhite races were taking over the world and were out to destroy the Aryan race.
This dark side of History is remembered throughout the year. Right here in Addis Ababa too, a memorial, organized by the Embassies of Israel, German and Poland, countries that are very much in the center of this tragedy, was held in honor of all those who had lost their lives needlessly. The memorial was held on Monday, April 8th at the Goethe Institute in the presence of ambassadors and the international community. The ceremony included the lighting of torches, a musical presentation and a short documentary film titled, “The last Korczak boy”.
Although the Holocaust occurred far away from our own land, we empathize greatly and also learn from history, so that nothing like this will ever happen again, anywhere in the world.