Jews have perished because of their beliefs since the beginning of time but never have so many Jews been persecuted worldwide as they were in World War II. Anne Frank’s diary reaches a place within all of our hearts because it reminds us how easily the innocents can suffer. Sometimes we may choose to close our eyes or look the other way when unjustifiable things happen in our society and Anne’s tale reminds us that ignorance, in part, claimed her life. Sadly, her story is but one of many of those who died in the Holocaust and as with other Jews, her fate was determined by the country she lived in, her sex and her age.
Jews all over Europe feared for their lives and many were aware that the punishment for their religion depended on the country they were fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to live in. Hitler not only held prejudice against Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and those who harboured any of the above, but also held firm convictions that some countries’ citizens were fit to die, no matter their religion. No one was hit harder by this prejudice as was Poland. Hitler hated all Polish citizens and hated Polish Jews even more. In Warsaw, Jews were confined to a blocked off area which came to be known as the Warsaw Ghetto. Many of these Jews never saw outside the Ghetto again and for those who did it was only en route to a concentration camp or labour prison. Food rations inside the Ghetto were very low and though many outsiders smuggled food in, there was not nearly enough to keep everyone alive. Many died of starvation or died due to illness they had contracted because their bodies had grown so weak. Throughout the war, Sweden remained neutral and many Jews from neighbouring countries were smuggled in. Nazi police soon realized that they had to find ways to prevent this from happening and turned to the animal world. Dogs were trained to detect the scent of humans and soon, all boats leaving for Sweden were searched to detect any Jews that were hiding in basement compartments. Most Jews were discovered before they could escape and this discouraged many more from attempting to do the same. Jews that were apprehended were not treated much differently by the Nazis but the Jews left behind received the brunt of the their anger. Danish Jews in particular were often accused of planning to escape because of their proximity to Sweden. There are stories of countless …
…opted children. When the war ended, many children did not return to their biological families because they were so young when they were stolen that they didn’t know the truth. Many that could remember were too scared to leave or feared that their parents had already been killed. Children were trained to lie without understanding why and the lies caused them to lose the ability to separate reality from fiction. Children should never have been forced to deal with so much, so quickly. They were robbed of a real childhood when they should have been encouraged to explore their surroundings. The youth, like Anne, who grew up in World War II were tainted by these events and have undergone much more trauma than most of us can even imagine.
The Holocaust will forever remain one of the most horrific events in history and it is important to remember that there were many different endings for the many different Jews affected. It should not have mattered where the Jews lived, how old they were or the sex they were, none of them should have been persecuted in the first place. Reflecting on the tragic events of the war, all we can do is make sure that these horrific things never happen again.