HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: ANNE FRANK´S DIARY
The background setting for Anne Frank’s diary is World War II, which was started by Germany and lasted from 1939 - 1945. Having lost World War I, Germany dreamed of revenge and the recapture of lost territories; but the Republic of Germany, known as the “Weimar Republic,” was unable to cope with post-war problems and gave rise to a dictatorship. Hitlerand his Nazi party rose to power by appealing to the many discontented German citizens and quickly suppressing their adversaries. On March 23, 1930, Hitler, with his totalitarian regime, assumed total control of the country. He immediately outlawed all other political parties, churches, and labor unions. He also formed the Gestapo, a regimented military police organization, to enforce his newlaws. At the same time, radio, newspapers, and even motion pictures were seized by the government to issue Nazi propaganda.
With a strong belief in ethnic cleansing, Hitler began his attempt to purify Germany by eradicating all but the true Aryan (Germanic) race. False arrests, tortures, illegal imprisonments, and even murders were commonplace. He then created concentration camps to house the manyprisoners who were opposed to his government or who came from the wrong race; when the prisoners arrived in the camps, their heads were shaved and their arms were tattooed with their identification number. In the camps, many of those interred, especially the Jews, were exterminated through starvation, sickness, unmerciful beatings, firing squads, and gas chambers. Those who were not killed weretotally humiliated and forced into hard labor, including the children. The women were often sexually abused and raped.
By the time that Otto Frank left Germany to live in Holland with his family in 1933, the Nazi persecution of the Jews had already begun, and Hitler had started to re-arm Germany for a future war, in blatant violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Then in 1938, he invaded and annexedAustria and Czechoslovakia, telling the world it was a move towards peace. When Hitler began an invasion of Poland in l939, France and Britain finally declared war on Germany, and World War II had begun. Hitler, however, had amassed a mighty and well-armed fighting force, and by 1940, he had overrun Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France. In 1941, Hitler launched an attack againstRussia. Throughout the next few years, the persecution of the Jews intensified, and virtually all of Europe was controlled by the brutal Nazis. By the time that Hitler was defeated and the war ended in 1945, more than six million Jewish men, women, and children had been killed, which was over 60% of the total number of Jews in the world.
The History of Anti-Semitism
In orderto understand the Holocaust, is it helpful to explore the foundations of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is the unfounded hatred of Jews because they are Jews. That hatred has had a long history in Europe and beyond. In earlier times, Jews were subject to discrimination and persecution because they refused to accept the religion of the majority. Jews who converted, or so Christians claimed, were nolonger considered outsiders; they belonged. In the 1800s, a new form of anti-Semitism emerged. It was based on the false notion that humans are divided into separate and distinct “races,” and therefore people born as Jews, regardless of their religious beliefs, belonged to an evil and dangerous “race.” Jews were now considered permanent outsiders. In times of crisis, Jews and other minorities havealways been at risk, and the upheavals after World War I and the worldwide depression that began in the 1930s were no exceptions. In such times, many people are attracted to simple answers to complex problems. Those answers often place the blame for the crisis on the “other” in the society. Anti-Semitism rose in nearly every nation in Europe and the Americas during those crises. The Rise of Nazi...
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