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Persecution Toward the Holocaust

Guest Author - Rebecca Graf

Religious persecution continued in Europe with the massacre of the Huguenots of France and anyone who was on the opposite religious side of the current ruler in England. Many were sought and burned alive. It was in late eighteenth century that focus on a common enemy turned from race or religion. It focused on class. As revolution swept through France, anyone of the aristocracy was murdered. The period of the revolution was called the Reign of Terror which “ruthlessly exterminated all potential enemies, of whatever sex, age, or condition” which lasted from September 1793 until July 1794. It received its name because “during the last six weeks of the Terror alone (the period known as the "Red Terror") nearly fourteen hundred people were guillotined in Paris alone.”

Too many have attributed all such focus on groups of people that resulted in death and extermination to history and not something that could happen during modern times. It was during 1937 that the Japanese entered China and began to brutally massacre half of those that called Nanking home. More than 300,000 were killed in just a few months. Chinese soldiers were killed which might appear as just casualties of war. It was after the soldiers died that the Japanese turned their attention to the defenseless citizens as they “turned their attention to the women of Nanking and an outright animalistic hunt ensued. Old women over the age of 70 as well as little girls under the age of 8 were dragged off to be sexually abused. More than 20,000 females (with some estimates as high as 80,000) were gang-raped by Japanese soldiers, then stabbed to death with bayonets or shot so they could never bear witness.” It did not stop there as women who were pregnant were “raped, then had their bellies slit open and the fetuses torn out. Sometimes, after storming into a house and encountering a whole family, the Japanese forced Chinese men to rape their own daughters, sons to rape their mothers, and brothers their sisters, while the rest of the family was made to watch.” Thousands died and were tortured less than one hundred years ago.

Before the Rape of Nanking, over a million Armenians in Turkey died from 1915-1918. Discrimination against Armenians had been going on for several generations. It was at this time that the “decision to annihilate the entire population came directly from the ruling triumvirate of ultra-nationalist Young Turks.” It was in April 1915 that hundreds of well-educated Armenian leaders were “taken from their homes, briefly jailed and tortured, then hanged or shot.”

These few examples from the pages of history make up the path to the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and anyone who was considered the enemy of the state. Being different from the majority of society usually led to the death of many. Suspicion, fear, and arrogance have helped make the Holocaust possible.

Suspicion of Jews came easy as they rarely ‘fit’ into society. They kept to their conservative, religious ways which brought them into the crossbows of persecution. Gypsies were very much the same as most of the world has considered them “outsiders and non-citizens, their long hair, clothes, tents, caravans, and lifestyle were viewed with suspicion” which commonly led to the accusation of witchcraft. The Middle Ages brought severe persecution to the Gypsies.

Homosexuals were persecuted by many throughout time with a few instances in history where it was acceptable and even promoted such as in Ancient Greece. Whenever homosexuals have been the focus of persecution and death has been when the society they loved in looked up on them as different, abnormal, or inhuman. The Nazis saw them as citizens that needed to be eliminated no matter what race or religion they claimed to be.

“Armenians in Turkey 1915-1918.” The History Place. 2000. http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/armenians.htm, (accessed January 15, 2011).

Cantor, Norman F. The Civilization of the Middle Ages: A Completely Revised and Expanded Edition of Medieval History. New York: Harper Perennial, 1994.

Cody, David. “French Revolution”, The Victorian Web, http://www.victorianweb.org/history/hist7.html, (accessed February 18, 2011).

Hale, J.R. Renaissance Europe 1480-1520. Malden: Blackwell, 2000.

Hopkins, Keith. “The Colosseum: Emblem of Rome.” BBC History. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ history/ancient/romans/colosseum_01.shtml, (accessed February 12, 2011).

McAlister, Lyle N. Spain and Portugal in the New World, 1492-1700. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1984.

Newman, Leonard S. and Ralph Erber, ed. Understanding the Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust. Cary: Oxford, 2002.

Pomeroy, Sarah B., Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan, and Jennifer Tolbert Roberts. Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. New York: Oxford, 2008.

Robinson, B. A. “The Reconciliation Walk.” Religious Tolerance. Org, http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_cru1.htm, (accessed February 10, 2011).

Schleunes, Karl A.The Twisted Road to Auschwitz: Nazi Policy Toward German Jews 1933-1939. Chicago: University of Illinois, 1990.

Supple, Carrie. From Prejudice to Genocide: Learning About the Holocaust. Staffordshire: Trentham, 2009.

“The Inquisition”, Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ jsource/History/Inquisition.html, (accessed February 18, 2011).

“The Rape of Nanking 1937-1938”. The History Place. 2000. http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/nanking.htm, (accessed January 15, 2011).

Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006.
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