Introduction to the Holocaust Videos
In the aftermath of World War I, Germans struggled to understand their country’s uncertain future. Citizens faced poor economic conditions, skyrocketing unemployment, political instability, and profound social change. While downplaying more extreme goals, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party offered simple solutions to Germany’s problems, exploiting people’s fears, frustrations, and hopes to win broad support. Part 1 of 4 in this video series.
With the rise of support for the Nazi Party in the 1920s and early 1930s, President Paul von Hindenburg invited Hitler to serve as Chancellor in a coalition government. After Hindenburg’s death, Hitler declared himself Führer and Reich Chancellor, leader of the nation and head of the government. The Nazi Party boosted the economy's recovery and national morale with huge public works projects for the unemployed and with open defiance of the Treaty of Versailles. They were delivering on their promises to restore and strengthen the nation. Their achievements encouraged many people to overlook, or even to support, radical Nazi policies. Part 2 of 4 of this video series.
Through hundreds of legal measures, the Nazi-led German government gradually excluded Jews from public life, the professions, and public education. The goal of Nazi propaganda was to demonize Jews and to create a climate of hostility and indifference toward their plight. On Kristallnacht—the Night of Broken Glass—Jewish businesses and synagogues were destroyed in the first act of state-sponsored violence against the Jewish community. Many Jews who had the means tried to leave Germany but encountered countless bureaucratic hurdles. Part 3 of 4 of this video series.
With the start of the second World War and a swift succession of German victories, the Nazi regime began realizing its longstanding goal of territorial expansion. Under conditions of war and military occupation, they could pursue racial goals with more radical measures. The German Army, military, SS, and German police units took an active part in authorized mass murders of Jews in the Soviet Union. The Germans and their collaborators deported roughly 2.7 million Jews and others from occupied Europe to killing centers in German-occupied Poland. At the largest of the camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau, transports arrived from all across Europe. The camps of Majdanek and Auschwitz were the first liberated, as Soviet troops reached Poland. As more Allied soldiers saw the camps with their own eyes, the truth was undeniable. Part 4 of 4 of this video series.