The Diversity of Nazi Victims

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1Dr. Monte S. Finkelstein

FSU Holocaust Institute

Summer 2008
“The Diversity of Nazi Victims”
Berenbaum, Michael, editor. A Mosaic of Victims: Non Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis (New York, 1990)
Burleigh, Michael and Wolfgang Wippermann. The Racial State: Germany, 1933-1945 (Cambridge, 1991)
Evans, Richard. The Coming of the Third Reich (New York, 2003)
Friedlander, Henry. The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution (Chapel Hill, 1995)
Friedlander, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Extermination, 1939-1945 (New York, 2007)
Gutman, Yisrael and Michael Berenbaum, editors. Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp (Bloomington, Indiana, 1994)
Jehovah Witnesses Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault, Video (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, New York, 1996)
King, Christine Elizabeth. The Nazi State and the New Religions: Five Case Studies in Non-Conformity (New York, 1982)
Koonz, Claudia. The Nazi Conscience (Cambridge, Mass., 2003).
Lewy, Guenter. The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies (New York, 2000)
Lifton, Robert. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (New York, 1986)

Lukas, Richard C. The Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under the German Occupation, 1939-1944 (Lexington, Kentucky, 1986)

Mitchell, Joseph R. and Mitchell, Helen. The Holocaust: Readings and Interpretations (New York, 2001)
Plant, Richard. The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals (New York, 1986)
Porraimos: Europe’s Gypsies in the Holocaust, video, (The Cinema Guild, New York, 2003)
Pringle, Heather. The Master Plan; Himmler’s Scholars and the Holocaust (New York, 2006)
Proctor, Robert N. Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis (Cambridge, Mass., 1988)
Purple Triangles -Video- (Bible and Tract Society, New York, 1991)
Reynaud, Michel and Graffard, Sylvie. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Nazis: Persecution, Deportation and Murder, 1933-1945 (New York, 2001)
Wytwycky, Bohdan. The Other Holocaust: Many Circles of Hell (Washington, D.C., 1980)
Yahil, Leni. The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry (New York, 1990)
See the publications of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

on the Handicapped, Homosexuals, Poles, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Sinti and Roma

1. 19th century racial hygiene movement was aimed at discovering which people or groups of people were of inferior intelligence, sought to manipulate breeding to improve human race

2. numerous governments acted against those considered inferior

3. those “unworthy of life” were said to deserve a painless death; killing would benefit society; phrase and idea predated the Nazis who adopted it
4. Nazis followed a distinct pattern in their killings:

Exclusion, followed by end of legal protections, followed by death

5. Nazis first target were the handicapped; this operation allowed Nazis to develop the selection process, killing techniques, disposal process, and the means to hide the murders


1. July 1933 law called for the handicapped to be sterilized; aimed at adults who were labeled a burden on the community

2. October 1935 marriage law prevented marriages between those considered carriers of hereditary degeneracy

3. euthanasia of children began in 1939; those with particular deformities were targeted; physicians cooperated with promise that they would not be prosecuted later

4. children starved or medicated to death

5. killings defended on grounds that children had incurable ailments or would never have led productive li
6. at almost same time, Nazis started the T4 program
7. T4 operation was supposed to be secret; had a massive infrastructure of doctors and bureaucrats
8. T4 program laid background for future slaughter of Jews by setting up procedures for rounding up the victims, transporting them, processing them and killing them
9. Nazi officials lied to families about the fate of their relatives
10. in August 1941 Hitler ordered a formal halt to the killings; public opposition, church opposition
11. T4 personnel moved to the east for larger killing tasks; killing of handicapped continued during the war; in occupied territories and in Germany; often called the “wild euthanasia program”
1. Gypsies originally came India; migrated west to Europe; historical target of discrimination; labeled as liars, thieves, criminal, and even cannibals
2. Divided into two major groups: Roma are those who have lived in Eastern Europe; Sinti are West European Gypsies
3. Gypsies target of prejudice in pre-Nazi Germany; many efforts made to control and restrict their activities
4. When Hitler came to power he simply borrowed and applied laws that were already in place to control the Gypsies; Nazi leaders had conflicting ideas on the treatment of Gypsies

5. Nazi racial scientists divided Gypsies into pure Gypsies were considered of good blood; those who had intermingled were impure

6. in 1935, Gypsies first rounded up and placed into special Gypsy camps; conditions in camp depended upon location and person in command
7. in 1936, Reich Central Office for the Fight Against the Gypsy Nuisance was created
8. September 1939- Conference held in Berlin; called by Reinhard Heydrich; probably decided on a Final Solution to the Gypsy problem
9. 1939-mass round up of Gypsies began; sent to various concentration camps; others deported to Poland for forced labor or placed in ghettos or simply dumped
10. December 1942- all Gypsies left in the Reich ordered to Auschwitz; Auschwitz contained largest population of Gypsies; had a separate section in the camp; Gypsy camp existed for 17 months; in August 1944, last of the Gypsies in the camp were gassed
11. Gypsies subject to all types of experiments by Nazi doctors
12. in most other parts of Europe Gypsies turned over to the Germans and killed
1. persecuted on religious grounds; had chance to escape persecution by renouncing their religious beliefs; most refused to do so
2. Witnesses came to Germany in the 1890's; only 20,000 Germans were Witnesses in the 1930s
3. disliked by mainstream Protestant and Catholic Churches; individual German states did seek to ban their literature

4. Nazis disliked Witnesses for many reasons: Witnesses taught that forces of Jehovah would defeat the forces of Satan as personified in the Nazis; Witnesses refused to pledge allegiance to German state or serve in the army; identified as communists; denounced for international ties; also denounced for supposed connection to Judaism

5. Witnesses tried to persuade Nazis that they were not their enemy; 1933- Declaration of Facts a Witness work designed to inform the Nazi government of their neutrality
6. 1935- Nazis pass laws barring Witnesses from civil service jobs, lost government benefits, children barred from schools, etc.,
7. 1936-1939- Witnesses under constant attack by Nazis; as repression got worse, they continued their resistance
8. Witnesses sent to concentration camps; maintained their religious beliefs; continued their attack on the Nazi state; subject to punishment and torture
9. considered model prisoners; accepted order and authority; part of a divine plan; sustained in camps by family and faith
1. Homosexual behavior had been outlawed in Germany for years; in liberal climate of the Weimar Republic gay culture had flourished; there was homosexual rights movement (Magnus Hirschfeld)
2. paragraph 175 of an 1871 law code formed basis far persecution of homosexuals in Germany
3. Hitler and Himmler considered homosexuality a predisposition which could not be changed; believed that only a few homosexuals could be “rehabilitated”; believed that a final solution was as inevitable for them as it was for the Jews
4. Himmler the most homophobic of all Nazi leaders; explained the reasons for the extermination of male homosexuals in terms of population and race
5. in 1933, storm troopers began to raid gay bars and some homosexuals were arrested and detained but most felt safe because Ernst Roehm, head of the SA was a notorious homosexual
6. Roehm’s murder by Hitler in June 1934, opened gates for widespread persecution of homosexuals
7. in December 1934- law changed so that homosexual intent was now grounds to arrest someone for being homosexual
8. by 1938-1939 all gay bars and organizations had been shut down

  1. Himmler ordered death for any homosexuals in the SS; German

military did not follow same rules and many gays joined the military

and found refuge during the war

  1. Homosexuals sent to camps; forced to wear Pink Triangles; among the

most hated, despised, punished and isolated group of prisoners
11. Nazis feared that homosexuals would convert guards and other prisoners to the gay lifestyle
12. homosexuals used heavily for experiments; attempts were made to “rehabilitate” or “straighten them out”


1. Hitler hated Poles for both racial and political reasons; invasion of Poland led to massive slaughter
2. Western Poland annexed to Germany; Poles driven from this area; Germans moved in; towns and cities given German names

  1. Remaining part of Poland designated the General Government; run by

Germans; Hitler saw it a dumping ground for undesirables, a reservoir

of slave labor; and a location for concentration camps

4. in early 1940, close to one million Poles deported from annexed area to General Government
5. in General Government Germans made considerable efforts to exterminate all the leading strata of the Polish people; killed professors, educated classes in general, civic and political leadership
6. Germans aimed at destroying Polish people and culture at the same time
7. Polish children kidnapped; sent to Germany for possible Germanization or death
8. Nazis strictly subjugated Poles, starved them; Nazis aimed to depopulate Poland and make room for German settlers
9. Poles executed almost daily in parts of Poland; other sent to camps were they were worked to death, starved, or gassed
10. many Poles and historians believe that if war had continued, Poles would have been obliterated by the Germans


1. small group of children; had German mothers; fathers were black French soldiers from Morocco who had occupied Germany after World War I; at least one father was an African-American
2. Nazi government registered children; 385 of them; children examined to prove their “racial inferiority”
3. sterilized by doctors
1. after the Jews, Russian POWS numerically the largest number of victims
2. approximately 5.7 million Red Army soldiers taken prisoner during the war; over half perished
3. died in camps or in transport; died from hunger, lack of shelter; thousands shot; brutally treated by German military
4. ordeal of Soviet prisoners did not end with the war; rejected by Soviet community after the war; many sent to the Gulag by Stalin

These victims should never be forgotten, especially when we think of the numerous reasons for which they were persecuted.

Must not forget that some of the same prejudices that motivated the Nazis, still exist and motivate some people today.

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