Prologue to annihilation : a study of the identification, impoverishment and isolation of the Jewish victims of Nazi policy / Raul Hilberg
Includes bibliographical references (p. -404)
The destruction of the European Jews was a process of the utmost administrative and psychological complexity. In 1933, the Jewish community in Europe was a highly urbanized, highly developed population which was integrated almost completely into the political, economic, and social life of the continent. The Nazi machine of destruction succeeded to uproot the Jews in a step by step process which ended with'ithe physical annihilation of the victims. The "Prologue to Annihilation" deals with the introductory phase of this destruction process. The Germans did not have a basic plan, but their actions fell into a basic pattern. No group of people can be killed before measures are taken to isolate them and their property, and no concentration measures will be effective before the perpetrator knows which group precisely is to be destroyed. The German definition of the term "Jew" was based on the descent of the prospective victim. Everyone was considered a Jew, if he had three or four Jewish grandparents who had belonged to the Jewish religion. A person with only two Jewish grandparents was classified as Jewish, if he was a Jew or if he was married to a Jewish person at the time of the issuance of the decree. Under this definition, a victim was powerless to escape from the application of hostile Nazi measures. Once it had become clear who was liable to suffer anti-Jewish action, the bureaucracy could proceed with the systematic expropriation of the Jewish property. The expropriatory operation began with the dismissals of Jewish employees. It continued with the "aryanization" of Jewish enterprises. "Aryanization" meant the transfer of a Jewish business into non-Jewish hands. Before November 1938, the Jews were not forced to sell their holdings, but after 1938 all transactions were carried out in a compulsory process by "trustees" responsible to the State alone. Since the "aryanizations" placed large amounts of credits into Jewish hands, the Finance Ministry decided to levy two major property taxes upott the Jews: an emigration tax and a billion Reichsmark "fine." Most other Jewish assets were later blocked. The Jews were forced into hard menial labor, their wages were decreased, and their earnings were subjected to a special tax. The third step of the destruction process, concentration, was carried out in the Reich by marking the Jews with a star and by restricting their movements. In Poland, the victims were crowded into medieval-like ghettos which were closed off from the outside world. Food shipments to the ghettos were gradually decreased to the starvation point. Survival in the ghettos became more and more difficult. At the end of 19U1* the Polish ghetto Jews were dying at the rate of about 1.5% per month. At this rate, they faced extinction within a generation. However, the German bureacracy could not wait that long. They had to "solve the Jewish problem" right then and there. Accordingly, in the summer of 19 Ul, massive killing operations were launched against European Jewry. The annihilation phase of the anti-Jewish destruction process - which includes killing operations conducted by mobile SS and Police units in the occupied USSR as well as deportations to gassing centers in the rest of Axis Europe - is a story which is described in another fifteen hundred pages that were not included in the "Prologue." It is hoped that some day the entire work will be available to readers in the form of a book.
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