Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Posts tagged “Holocaust

Boy in Bergen Belsen Camp, WWII, 1945

iyYfv6XThis is a George Rodgers photo. He took a number of photos of the camp shortly after it was liberated. These were published in Life Magazine. (They are online here)

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The Night of Broken Glass marked the beginning of the Holocaust.

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Kristallnacht, also to referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, and also Reichskristallnacht, Pogromnacht, and Novemberpogrome, was a pogrom or series of attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on November 9–10, 1938.

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Jewish homes were ransacked, as were shops, towns and villages, as SA Stormtroopers and civilians destroyed buildings with sledgehammers. Around 1,668 synagogues were ransacked, and 267 set on fire. In Vienna alone 95 synagogues or houses of prayer were destroyed.

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Martin Gilbert writes that no event in the history of German Jews between 1933 and 1945 was so widely reported as it was happening, and the accounts from the foreign journalists working in Germany sent shock waves around the world. The Times wrote at the time: “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.” (Source)

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The day after the attacks, on November 11, 1938, both Hitler and his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, appeared at a press conference for foreign correspondents in Munich. There Goebbels announced, “We shed not a tear for them [the Jews.]” He went on to comment on the destruction of synagogues saying, “They stood in the way long enough. We can use the space made free more usefully than as Jewish fortresses.”

“Kristallnacht” provided the Nazi government with an opportunity at last to totally remove Jews from German public life. It was the culminating event in a series of anti-Semitic policies set in place since Hitler took power in 1933. Within a week, the Nazis had circulated a letter declaring that Jewish businesses could not be reopened unless they were to be managed by non-Jews. On November 15th, Jewish children were barred from attending school, and shortly afterwards the Nazis issued the “Decree on Eliminating the Jews from German Economic Life,” which prohibited Jews from selling goods or services anywhere, from engaging in crafts work, from serving as the managers of any firms, and from being members of cooperatives. In addition, the Nazis determined that the Jews should be liable for the damages caused during “Kristallnacht.” “The Decree on the Penalty Payment by Jews Who Are German Subjects” also imposed a one-billion mark fine on the Jewish community, supposedly an indemnity for the death of vom Rath.

Although the atrocities perpetrated during the Night of Broken Glass did arouse outrage in Western Europe and the United States, little concrete action was taken to help the Jews of Germany. At a press conference on November 15th, President Roosevelt said, “The news of the past few days from Germany has deeply shocked public opinion in the United States… I myself could scarcely believe that such things could occur in a 20th century civilization.” The president also instructed that the 12,000-15,000 refugees already in the U.S. on temporary visitor visas could remain in the country indefinitely. (Source)

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The Kroll Opera House in Berlin on April 28, 1939. Hitler makes keynote address answering Roosevelt’s appeal to avoid war.

I play a little game, a variant of “where’s Waldo”, with pictures like this.
The challenge is to try and figure out everyone in the photo who will be dead or in jail by 1946. It’s quite gratifying.

Hitler’s speech that day was a response to a letter sent by Roosevelt to get Hitler’s assurances that it would not attack other countries. You can read it here.

Roosevelt asked for Hitler to give assurances that he would not invade a number of specific countries, mostly British possessions and European neighbors, most of which became involved in the war anyway. Hitler’s view of peace seemed to be between the major powers, and that Germany should be entitled to expand into Poland and Czechoslovakia if it wanted to. He was telling Britain, France, the US and Russia to stay out of Germany’s area so that he could continue his ambitions. This is not at all what those other countries, especially Poland wanted.

In my understanding this letter came at a time when the world had already geared up for war. Although it hadn’t been declared yet, all the major powers were building up their stockpiles and constructing more and more weapons, like bombers. Even the US, which wouldn’t join the war for another 2 years was already preparing for it.

There were a few warning signs that that just got ignored. One that I think should not be forgotten is that most Western countries did not raise their immigration quotas and allow more Jewish refugees to enter their countries until late in the war. Anti-semitism and fear over immigration in general led to refugees being rejected until public opinion turned around 1944. Even though their was ample evidence of violence and discrimination, the US and Britain still refused to increase their quotas. It saddens me to think about the lives that could have been spared by a bit of bureaucratic empathy.

It is possibly the greatest tragedy of human history that the Second World War happened with so much warning, yet nothing was done to truly stop it.

(Here’s some of the speech, with subtitles.)


Eyes of Hate: Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1933 of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels

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At a League of Nations conference in 1933, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels remains seated while speaking to his interpreter. German-born Alfred Eisenstaedt, later one of the founding photographers of LIFE, recalled that Goebbels smiled at him until he learned that Eisenstaedt was Jewish — a moment Eisenstaedt captured in this photo. Suddenly, “he looked at me with hateful eyes and waited for me to wither,” the photographer recalled. “But I didn’t wither.” Not only didn’t he wither, he managed to take perhaps the most chilling portrait of pure evil to run in LIFE’s pages.


From the 1985 book, ‘Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt: A Self-Portrait

In 1933, I traveled to Lausanne and Geneva for the fifteenth session of the League of Nations. There, sitting in the hotel garden, was Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. He smiles, but not at me. He was looking at someone to my left. . . . Suddenly he spotted me and I snapped him. His expression changed. Here are the eyes of hate. Was I an enemy? Behind him is his private secretary, Walter Naumann, with the goatee, and Hitler’s interpreter, Dr. Paul Schmidt. . . . I have been asked how I felt photographing these men. Naturally, not so good, but when I have a camera in my hand I know no fear.


A woman hitting a Neo-Nazi with her handbag, Sweden, 1985. The woman was reportedly a concentration camp survivor.

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I love the mouth agape look of disbelief on the guy’s face in the back right. 

The photo was taken at a provocative demonstration by ten Neo-Nazis at the corner of Norrgatan-Kronobergsgatan in Växjö (very close to another demonstration by the communist party). The Nazis were attacked by the public and chased to the Växjö train station where they locked themselves in the bathroom – and had to be rescued by police.

his is a news segment on Swedish television of the event. (Skip to 0:37)


Tereska, draws a picture of “home” while living in a residence for disturbed children; Poland, 1948.

This is a fantastic example of the art style known as Art Brut. Collectively, the art of children, the insane, and those who are "outsiders", this style has been described as a pure or raw form of artistic expression.

This is a fantastic example of the art style known as Art Brut. Collectively, the art of children, the insane, and those who are “outsiders”, this style has been described as a pure or raw form of artistic expression.

Life Magazine:Tereska Draws Her Home”, photo by David Seymour, Vol. 25, No. 26, December 27, 1948, p. 16.

The original caption reads as follows:

Children’s wounds are not all outward. Those made in the mind by years of sorrow will take years to heal. In Warsaw, at an institute which cares for some of Europe’s thousands of “disturbed” children, a Polish girl named Tereska was asked to make a picture of her home. These terrible scratches are what she drew. (p. 17)


This photograph was taken by Chim (David Seymour) in a home for emotionally disturbed children (Warsaw, 1948). It’s generally agreed upon that the subject, Tereska, was a victim of the Holocaust.

This was part of a series on Europe’s postwar children commissioned by UNICEF.


More Information:

Tereska’s family had no idea that her photo is famous around the world and used by psychologists to research what war does to children’s mind.

It turns out that Tereska – “Niuńka” as the family called her – has never been to concentration camp. Her drawing may show war, of course, but as children were ask to draw “home” it may show rubble. Tereska’s house was ruined during Warsaw uprising seconds after she and her older sister managed to run away. We don’t know exactly what she might have seen cause there are no living family member who was there with her, but it happened during Wola massacre so we can just imagine. During bombing a fragment of brick hit Niuńka. Her central nervous system was harmed and ever since she had physical and mental problems.

Tereska died tragically in 1978 in a mental hospital nearby Warsaw.