How did the Nazis deflate individuals to turn them into inmates?

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csherrie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to understand the fate of the Jews under the Third Reich, we have to take note of the force that was levied upon them. Historical accounts of this time period often depict the Final Solution as a sudden occurrence. Rather, the capture and murder of Jews in Europe was a carefully planned process that began with the spreading of propaganda that inspired fear in the hearts of Europeans.

The Nazi Party depicted the Jews as dirty, money-hungry infidels who were the reason for the economic crisis that plagued Europe (Germany, in particular). This propaganda was spread far and wide, on street corners, radio stations, and school curriculum. The contrasting images were pure German citizens, strong in body, mind, and spirit.

Once they succeeded in tarnishing the reputation of the Jews, the Nazi Party began to systematically pass legislation that made it lawful to marginalize them, as well as other minority groups.  Segregation became the way of the land. In fact, if a citizen in a Nazi-occupied country tried protect Jews in any way, they faced the possibility of imprisonment or execution. For this reason, thousands of people who wish they had the heart to resist the Nazi influence felt restrained from helping those in need. An iron cage had been built, fortified by a formidable army and everyday Europeans who were united against a common enemy.

Once the time had come for the Nazis to capture and murder the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, handicapped, and other people they deemed unsuitable, there was simply no one around who was willing or able to stop them. Other countries turned a blind eye and members of those small resistance groups who raised a voice were executed. When we look at photos and videos of the Jews in the concentration camps, the starved and shaven victims appear to be strikingly passive. And to a large degree, this was indeed the case. Everything imaginable had been taken from them: freedom, health, wealth, identity, dignity, home, family—you name it, it was gone. The SS soldiers presented themselves as cold-blooded machines who would kill dissenters without thinking. For most of the victims, trying to escape seemed to be the surest path to death. 

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