Never to Forget: The Jews of the Holocaust is Milton Meltzer’s highly personalized look at the attempted extermination of an entire ethnic group during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Meltzer looks specifically at the years between 1933, when the Nazi Party came to power in Germany, through 1945, the year that it lost power. During those twelve years, two out of every three Jews in Europe were murdered. These events are known collectively as the Holocaust.
The work is divided into three sections, labeled books. Book 1 deals with the history of hatred, persecution, and discrimination directed against Jews. The background of how and why the Holocaust occurred in Germany and the events leading to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power are explored in five chapters. Although Germany is the country in which modern anti-Semitism reached its zenith, the roots of discrimination against Jews goes back much further in history. The accusation that the Jews were to blame for the crucifixion of Jesus was used to make them outcasts in society as early as the fourth century. This popular and enduring hatred of Jews was systematically exploited by Hitler. Through a well-orchestrated propaganda campaign, Hitler used anti-Semitism brilliantly to unite the German people. Jews were portrayed as parasites on society and blamed for the ills of post-World War I Germany. While persecution of Jews was not new, the Nazi anti-Semitism was preached with a boundless fury, beyond the portrayal of Jews as scapegoats or inferiors to charges that they were the cause of every major problem—and thus, the solution to all problems existed in the elimination of the Jews. As the persecution and violence escalated against the Jewish population, no one intervened. Hitler continued until the plan known as the “final solution” was in place: the death of all Jews.
The “final solution,” the systematic destruction of the Jewish population as carried out by Hitler’s government, is the subject of book 2. The historic tragedy unfolds as told through first-person narratives, eyewitness accounts, and surviving diaries of Holocaust victims. Starting with November 9, 1938, the Kristallnacht (the “night of broken glass”), a nationwide German program in which the Nazis destroyed Jewish shops, synagogues, businesses, and homes, Meltzer takes the readers through the Holocaust years. Stories from the Warsaw ghetto, mass murders in Germany and Russia, and life in the concentration camps are chronicled.
Book 3 tells the story of Jewish resistance to the Holocaust. One question asked in the third part of Never to Forget is “How could the Jewish people fight back?” Another question examined is “What degree of resistance existed among non-Jews?” Hitler’s army swept over Europe with incredible speed. How could Jews who had nothing retaliate? Nevertheless, many Jews did. Resistance fighters, those who worked underground and those who organized violent rebellion, are profiled. Included in the story of the resistance is the rebuilding process that the Jews faced at the end of World War II. Those who survived had no family, no home, and a difficult future. Although the Jewish...
(The entire section is 1297 words.)