The Holocaust Essay Introduction

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Had the Nazis realized their goal of world domination, every single Jew in the world, 16.9 million by 1939 estimates, would have been a target for annihilation.

As it unfolded, the Holocaust was not one event, but a series of policies and actions.

According to Public Act 18-24, the Connecticut Holocaust and Genocide Education and Awareness Act (Act), public schools in Connecticut are required to provide Holocaust and genocide education to their students beginning on July 1, 2018.

The Act states, “each local and regional board of education shall include Holocaust and genocide education and awareness as part of the social studies curriculum for the school district.” Further, the Act authorizes local and regional school boards to make use of “existing and appropriate public or private materials, personnel and other resources” in their efforts to provide Holocaust and genocide education, and encourages districts to seek “gifts, grants and donations, including in-kind donations,” to support implementation of the Act.

One of the first acts of the newly created United Nations, after the conclusion of the Second World War and the Holocaust, was to adopt an international convention seeking to prevent and punish the crime of “genocide” -- a term that had only recently been coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Jewish legal scholar from Poland who had lost 49 relatives in the Holocaust.

The new term was defined as certain acts committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” (The Convention went on to list a specific set of actions covered by the convention, including “Killing (or) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction..; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”) The UN recognized that the crimes of the Nazi regime were particularly horrific not just for the sheer number of victims, but because they entailed an effort to eradicate an entire identity from human existence.Studying other genocides leads students to recognize that those horrors were not confined to one episode, and may indeed represent an enduring tendency throughout human history.The second justification is a democratic rationale, which recognizes that the Holocaust and episodes of genocide have almost always been projects of the state, and therefore reflect moments of political failure.Although Jews, whom the Nazis deemed a priority danger to Germany, were the primary victims of Nazi racism, other victims included millions of Slavs, primarily Russians, Poles, Serbs, and Slovenes. Homosexuals and other religious minorities were also targeted.At least 200,000 mentally or physically disabled patients, mainly Germans, living in institutional settings, were murdered in the so-called Euthanasia Program.The groundwork was laid in the 1930s, as the Nazi regime first attained and then consolidated power.New laws, such as the Nuremberg Laws (1935), permitted and codified systematic discrimination against Jews.The first is simply an historical rationale: students are expected to learn about and understand critical events of the past, and how those events have shaped our world.The Holocaust was a global watershed event -- a moment of abject horror that was both intertwined with other horrors of World War II, and tremendously consequential in its own right: through the loss of lives, through subsequent emigration out of Europe, through the impetus it provided for the creation of Israel.For example, some countries, in adopting the Genocide Convention into their own legal frameworks, have included political groups or gender-based identity as well.Meanwhile, efforts to come to grips with the concept need not be bound by the Convention’s legal language.

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