The Yellow Star: The Persecution of the Jews in Europe, 1933-1945

By Gerhard Schoenberner | Go to book overview

POLAND — EXPERIMEΝTAL FIELD

The denigration of the Jews as “subhumans” was in keeping with the concept of a Nordic “master race” possessing the natural right to conquer the world and enslave other nations. Once the dictator was established in his own country, expansion beyond the frontiers followed in accordance with a well-prepared plan.

Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the District of Memel were just a curtain raiser. The Second World War extended Hitler’s sovereignty to the whole of Europe. One country after another was crushed by the German war machine. Everywhere they went, German occupation forces arrested the democratic politicians, oppressed the population, carried off millions to Germany for forced labor, and ruthlessly exploited the land to support the war economy.

Treatment of the Slavic countries was particularly brutal. The Nazis regarded these people, next to the Jews, as an “inferior race,” to be decimated and reduced to the status of slaves if the plan to exterminate them seemed impracticable.

Hundreds of thousands of people of all nations, millions of Polish, Serbian, and Soviet citizens, were killed by the Nazis in the course of this war. One sector of the population, however, was almost completely exterminated—the Jews.

On September 1, 1939, Hitler’s army invaded Poland. Over two million Jews fell into German hands. Heydrich’s men, who had organized the “Night of the Broken Glass” in Germany, followed on the heels of the fighting forces to instigate pogroms everywhere.

The conquerors amused themselves by cutting off the beards of pious elderly Jews, making them do “gymnastics,” robbing them, and beating them up. They searched Jewish shops and homes “for weapons,” smashed furniture, and pocketed whatever took their fancy. Only in the Soviet-occupied part of Poland, the other side of the demarcation line, were the Jews protected for the time being.

After the terror and pillage of the first few weeks, the German civil administration began its legal war against the Jewish population with proclamations, decrees, and pronouncements.

Wearing the yellow star insignia as a mark of identification by all Jews over the age of ten; identification of shops; reporting of assets; introduction of forced labor; banishment from certain parts of the town, from parks and public squares; exclusion from public transportation—these were only the first of an entire series of measures, all directed toward the same end: to take from the Jews the economic basis of their livelihood, to rob them and deprive them of all rights.

The persecuted people hoped at first that Jewish Councils, set up on German orders, would represent their interests and afford them some protection from arbitrary action. Over the

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The Yellow Star: The Persecution of the Jews in Europe, 1933-1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Introduction xi
  • In Hitler’s Germany 1
  • Poland — ExperimeΝtal Field 33
  • In the Ghettos 55
  • Mass Executions 93
  • The Deportations 123
  • The Extermination Camps 159
  • Resistance 203
  • Liberation 227
  • Epilogue 263
  • Chronological Table 269
  • Military Ranks 280
  • Abbreviations 281
  • Sources 282
  • Bibliography 287
  • Resistance 290
  • Acknowledgments 291
  • The Yellow Star Project 293
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