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< Fundamentals of Teaching the Holocaust

Frequently Asked Questions about the Holocaust

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Museum staff developed the following questions based on feedback from educators. They are meant to assist with questions frequently asked by students when learning about the Holocaust. Visit the Museum’s Holocaust Encyclopedia for detailed articles about the people, places, and events of the Holocaust.

What was the Holocaust?

The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored, persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945 across Europe and North Africa. The height of the persecution and murder occurred during the context of the Second World War. By the end of the war in 1945, the Germans and their collaborators had killed nearly two out of every three European Jews.  

The Nazis believed that Germans were “racially superior” and that Jews, deemed inferior, were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community. While Jews were the primary victims, this genocide occurred in the context of Nazi persecution and murder of other groups for their perceived racial or biological inferiority: Roma; people with disabilities; some of the Slavic peoples (especially Poles and Russians), and Black people. Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological or behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, men who were accused of “homosexuality,” and people whom the regime identified as “asocials” and “professional criminals.”

What does the word Holocaust mean?

Holocaust is a word of Greek origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.” By the late 19th century, holocaust most commonly came to mean “a complete or wholesale destruction.” The word was applied to a variety of disastrous events ranging from pogroms against Jews in Russia, to the persecution and murder of Armenians by Turks during World War I, to the attack by Japan on Chinese cities, to large-scale fires where hundreds were killed.

As early as 1941, writers occasionally employed the term holocaust with regard to the Nazi crimes against the Jews, but it was not the only term they used. After World War II, Holocaust (with either a lowercase or capital H) became a more specific term in English-speaking countries, and by the late 1970s became the standard English word used to refer to the systematic annihilation of European Jews by Germany’s Nazi regime. In Israel, it is more common to use the word sho’ah, which is the Hebrew equivalent of “Holocaust.” 

When did the Holocaust happen?

The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored, persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945.

The Nazi Party took control in January 1933, when its leader, Adolf Hitler, was appointed the chancellor of Germany. The Nazi Party quickly turned Germany from a weak new democracy into a one-party dictatorship. The German government began persecuting German Jews almost immediately after Hitler became chancellor. By 1935, Jews were stripped of their German citizenship, and in 1938, Jewish men began to be arrested and sent to concentration camps just for being Jewish. 

Nazi Germany also annexed, invaded, and occupied neighboring countries to obtain Lebensraum (living space). In September 1939, the German invasion of Poland led Great Britain and France to declare war, and World War II began. As Germany’s territory grew, millions of Jews were under Nazi control. German authorities rounded up Jews and forced many of them into ghettos. By the summer of 1941, Nazi Germany and its collaborators began to systematically murder European Jews, a plan the Nazis referred to as the “Final Solution.” Sometimes Jews were killed outright—entire villages rounded up and shot, or murdered in killing centers—while in other areas, Jews were forced to labor for the German war effort until they died of overwork or starvation. The Allies defeated Nazi Germany in World War II in May 1945; by that time, the Nazis and their collaborators had murdered approximately six million Jews. 

What caused the Holocaust?

The Holocaust was caused by many factors, including millions of individual decisions made by ordinary people who chose to actively participate in—or at least tolerate—the persecution and murder of their neighbors.  

The following factors contributed to the Holocaust: 

Racial Antisemitism

Antisemitism, the fear or hatred of Jews had existed in Europe for centuries. In the late 19th century, the pseudoscience of eugenics became popular. Eugenics was the theory, which has now been proven false, that humans can be categorized in specific races, each with its own unchangeable traits, and that some “races” were biologically, culturally, and morally superior to others. The Nazis promoted racial antisemitism. It did not matter whether a person practiced the Jewish faith because the Nazis believed Jews belonged to a separate race and had distinct “Jewish blood.” This belief was false: there is no biological difference between Jews and non-Jews. The Nazis attributed a wide variety of negative stereotypes to Jews and “Jewish” behavior and saw Jews as the source of all evil: disease, social injustice, cultural decline, capitalism and communism.

Political Instability

Many Germans were willing to tolerate Nazi antisemitism because they believed the Nazi Party was restoring Germany’s status as an international power after its humiliating defeat in World War I (1914–1918). The Nazis also promised to restore Germany economically after years of inflation and economic depression, and to end years of political instability and violence that immediately preceded Htiler’s appointment as Chancellor. Hitler was a strong and popular leader, and blamed Jews for all of Germany’s problems. The Nazi regime economically, politically, and socially marginalized the Jewish community over a period of years, attempting to force Jews to emigrate out of German territory. The Jewish community made up less than one percent of Germany’s population; the Nazi regime was easily able to marginalize such a small community with virtually no public protest. 

War

In defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany remilitarized and readied itself for war. The United States and other countries, still suffering under the Great Depression and remembering the needless destruction of World War I, did not meaningfully intervene to protest Nazi militarization or Nazi antisemitic policies until Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Even then, the United States remained neutral in World War II until December 1941, and prioritized the defeat of Nazi Germany militarily over the rescue of Jews. During World War II, as the German military invaded and conquered territories, millions of European Jews came under Nazi control. Nazi policy moved from forced emigration to mass murder. By 1945, when the Allied nations defeated Germany in World War II, the Nazis and their collaborators had murdered six million European Jews. 

Collaboration

The Holocaust could not have happened without the active or passive participation of millions of people, each of whom acted for their own reasons. Some people recognized that they could personally benefit from the persecution and murder of Jews. Sometimes that meant acquiring the property or homes of Jews who were deported or murdered, or the businesses of Jews forced to immigrate or sent to concentration camps. Other people found jobs in the Nazi regime, which gave them newfound financial or political power and influence. In countries that Germany invaded, many collaborators saw the benefit of assisting their new leaders and took advantage of the opportunity to take revenge on their Jewish neighbors by denouncing them. 

Propaganda and Societal Pressure

There was also a great deal of pressure to conform. Even if people were not antisemitic to begin with, Nazi leaders and propaganda provided ample reasons to help them, with time, to come around to this point of view. Nazi ideas about “race” and the supposed inferiority of Jews were taught in schools, and the government arrested political opponents or members of the press who criticized Hitler or the Nazi Party and put them in jails and concentration camps. Few people were brave enough to publicly speak out or to help Jews, especially when they could be arrested or executed for doing so.

Who were the Nazis?

The National Socialist German Workers’ Party—also known as the Nazi Party—was the far-right racist and antisemitic political party led by Adolf Hitler. The Nazi Party was founded in 1920. It sought to lure German workers away from socialism and communism and commit them to its antisemitic and anti-Marxist ideology. Adolf Hitler became the Führer (or Leader) of the Nazi Party and turned it into a mass movement. The Nazi Party grew steadily under Hitler’s leadership. It attracted support from influential people in the military, big business, and society. The Party also absorbed other radical right-wing groups. Hitler emphasized propaganda to attract attention and interest. He used press and posters to create stirring slogans. He displayed eye-catching emblems and uniforms. The Party staged many meetings, parades, and rallies. In addition, it created auxiliary organizations to appeal to specific groups. For example, there were groups for youth, women, teachers, and doctors. The Party became particularly popular with German youth and university students.

Political instability in Germany after World War I meant that Germany was a weak new democracy. Other politicians thought they could control Hitler and his followers, but the Nazis used emergency decrees, violence, and intimidation to quickly seize control. The Nazis abolished all other political parties and ruled the country as a one-party, totalitarian dictatorship from 1933 to 1945. Hitler and the Nazi Party aimed to lead the German “master race” to victory in the “racial struggle” against “inferior” peoples, especially the Jews. The Party used its power to persecute Jews. It controlled all aspects of German life and waged a war of territorial conquest in Europe from 1939-1945 (World War II), during which it also carried out a genocide now known as the Holocaust. The Nazis’ power only ended when Germany lost World War II.

Why the Jews?

It is important to remember that Jews were not to blame for the Holocaust, and did not do anything to “cause” antisemitism. Antisemitism, the specific hatred of Jews, had existed in Europe for centuries. The early Christian church had portrayed Jews as unwilling to accept the word of God, or as agents of the devil and murderers of Jesus. (This accusation was renounced by the Vatican in the 1960s.) During the Middle Ages, State and Church laws restricted Jews, preventing them from owning land and holding public office. Jews were excluded from most occupations, forcing them into pursuits like money-lending, trade, commerce. They were accused of causing plagues, of murdering children for religious rituals, and of secretly conspiring to dominate the world. None of these accusations were true.

The second half of the 19th century saw the emergence of yet another kind of antisemitism. At its core was the theory that Jews were not merely a religious group but a separate “race” set apart because of genetically inherited characteristics. Antisemites believed racial characteristics could not be overcome by assimilation or even conversion. Jews were said to be dangerous and threatening because of their “Jewish blood.” Antisemitic racism united these pseudoscientific theories with centuries old anti-Jewish stereotypes. These ideas gained wide acceptance.

After World War I, the new Nazi Party and it’s leader, Adolf Hitler, blamed Jews for Germany’s defeat. They claimed that German Jews, a small minority of Germany’s population, had “stabbed Germany in the back.” This too, was untrue—German Jews fought and died for Germany during the war. Historians cannot trace Hitler’s antisemitism to any specific event or incident. 

The Nazis falsely defined Jews as a “race.” Whether a person participated in the rituals of the Jewish faith didn’t matter, because the Nazis falsely believed Jews had distinct “Jewish blood.” The Nazis attributed a wide variety of negative stereotypes about Jews and “Jewish” behavior and saw Jews as the source of all evil: disease, social injustice, cultural decline, capitalism and communism. When the Nazi Party took power in Germany in 1933, their antisemitic racism became official government policy. 

Did Hitler brainwash the Germans? Why did so many people go along with his plans?

Hitler and other Nazi Party leaders played a central role in the Holocaust. Nazi propaganda demonized Jews, but the German people were not brainwashed, nor were any of the Nazis’ collaborators. In countries across Europe, tens of thousands of ordinary people actively collaborated with German perpetrators of the Holocaust, each for their own reasons, and many more supported or tolerated the crimes. Millions of ordinary people witnessed the crimes of the Holocaust—in the countryside and city squares, in stores and schools, in homes and workplaces. The Holocaust happened because of millions of individual choices.

Some people were motivated by antisemitism—the centuries-old hatred of Jews—or at least tolerated their neighbors’ antisemitism. As early as the Middle Ages, religious antagonism towards Europe’s Jews had resulted in anti-Jewish legislation, expulsions, and violence. In much of Europe, government policies, customs, and laws segregated Jews from the rest of the population, relegated them to particular jobs,and prohibited them from owning land. Although life for Jews had improved in many parts of Europe—including Germany—in the century prior to the Holocaust, these prejudices remained. When the Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933, many Germans tolerated Nazi antisemitic policies because they supported Nazi attempts to improve the country economically. Hitler was a strong and popular leader, and they believed the Nazi Party was restoring Germany’s status as an international power after its humiliating defeat in World War I (1914–1918).

Some people recognized that they could personally benefit from the persecution and murder of Jews. Sometimes that meant acquiring the property or homes of Jews who were deported or murdered, or the businesses of Jews forced to immigrate or sent to concentration camps. Other people found jobs in the Nazi regime, which gave them newfound financial or political power and influence. In countries that Germany invaded, many collaborators saw the benefit of assisting their new leaders and took advantage of the opportunity to take revenge on their Jewish neighbors by denouncing them.

There was also a great deal of pressure to conform. Even if people were not antisemitic to begin with, Nazi leaders and propaganda provided ample reasons to help them, with time, to come around to this point of view. Nazi ideas about “race” and the supposed inferiority of Jews were taught in schools, and the government arrested political opponents or members of the press who criticized Hitler or the Nazi Party and put them in jails and concentration camps. Few people were brave enough to publicly speak out or to help Jews, especially when they could be arrested or executed for doing so.

Did Hitler have Jewish relatives?

There is no credible evidence that Hitler had any Jewish ancestors. Hitler’s rivals in the early days of the Nazi Party (1919–1921) spread this rumor, and Hitler’s own refusal to talk about his ancestors led the rumor to continue. Hitler’s father, Alois, was born to an unwed mother, and historians have not been able to confirm the identity of Alois’s father. However, there is no evidence that Alois’s mother had any contact with anyone who was Jewish. Read Adolf Hitler: Early Years 1889–1913 to learn more.

How did the Nazis know who was Jewish?

It’s important to remember that the Nazis considered Jews to be a separate race from Germans. Jews were said to be dangerous and threatening because of their “Jewish blood.” The Nazis considered the Jewish religion irrelevant, so Jews could not just convert to Christianity to escape persecution. The Germans and their collaborators used paper records and local knowledge to identify Jews to be rounded up or killed. Records included those created by Jewish communities of their members, parish records of Protestant and Catholic churches (for converted Jews), government tax records, and police records, including registries of Jews compiled by local, collaborating police.

In both Germany and occupied countries, Nazi officials required Jews to identify themselves as Jewish, and many complied, fearing the consequences if they did not. Some were forced to wear markings, like stars on their clothing, or to add the new middle names of “Israel” or “Sara” to their identification documents. In many countries occupied by or allied with Germany during World War II, local citizens often showed authorities where their Jewish neighbors lived, if they did not themselves help in rounding them up. 

Jews in hiding everywhere lived in constant fear of being identified and denounced to officials by individuals in exchange for money or other rewards. Some Jews in larger cities tried to “pass” as non-Jews, particularly if they had lighter hair or eyes. (German propaganda often highlighted blonde hair and blue eyes as markers of the “Aryan” race, the supposed superior race to which non-Jewish Germans purportedly belonged. Of course, Hitler and many Nazis leaders did not have blonde hair or blue eyes, but as with all racists, their prejudices were not consistent or logical.) It was dangerous for Jewish people to openly “hide” with papers identifying them as Christians—if they were recognized by a former neighbor and denounced, they could be killed. This was especially true for Jewish men: circumcision is a Jewish ritual, but was uncommon for non-Jews at the time. Jewish men knew they could be physically identified as Jewish. Read Locating the Victims to learn more.

Why didn’t the Jews just leave?

Similar to their fellow Germans, German Jews were patriotic citizens. More than 10,000 died fighting for Germany in World War I, and countless others were wounded and received medals for their valor and service. The families of many Jews who held German citizenship, regardless of class or profession, had lived in Germany for centuries and were well assimilated by the early 20th century. At first, Nazi Germany targeted the 525,000 Jews in Germany at a relatively gradual pace, attempting attempted to make life so difficult that they would be forced to leave their country. Up until the nationwide anti-Jewish violence of 1938, known as Kristallnacht, many Jews in Germany expected to be able to hold out against Nazi-sponsored persecution, as they hoped for positive change in German politics. Before World War II, few could imagine or predict killing squads and killing centers.

Those who tried to leave had difficulty finding countries willing to take them in, especially since the Nazi regime did not allow them to take their assets out of the country. A substantial percentage tried to go to the United States but American immigration law limited the number of immigrants who could enter the country. The ongoing Great Depression meant that Jews attempting to go to the United States or elsewhere had to prove they could financially support themselves—something that was very difficult since they were being robbed by the Germans before they could leave. Even when a new country could be found, a great deal of time, paperwork, support, and sometimes money was needed to get there. In many cases, these obstacles could not be overcome.

By 1938, however, about 150,000 German Jews had already left. But after Germany annexed Austria in March 1938, an additional 185,000 Jews came under Nazi rule. Once Germany invaded and occupied Poland, millions of Jews were suddenly living under Nazi occupation. The war made travel very difficult, and other countries—including the United States—were still unwilling to change their immigration laws, now fearing that the new immigrants could be Nazi spies. In October 1941, Germany made it illegal for Jews to emigrate from any territory under its control; by then, Nazi policy had changed from forced emigration to mass murder. Visit the Americans and the Holocaust online exhibition and the Challenges to Escape lesson plan for more information.

Why didn’t the Jews fight back?

The idea that Jews did not fight back against the Germans and their allies is false. Jews carried out acts of resistance in every German-occupied country and in the territories of Germany’s Axis partners. Against impossible odds, they resisted in ghettos, concentration camps, and killing centers. There were many factors that made resistance difficult, however, including a lack of weapons and resources, deception, fear, and the overwhelming power of the Germans and their collaborators. Read a Holocaust Encyclopedia article about Jewish resistance for more information.

Was the Holocaust a secret?

In Europe, the Holocaust was not a secret. Even though the Nazi government controlled the German press and did not publicize mass shooting operations or the existence of killing centers, many Europeans knew that Jews were being rounded up and shot, or deported and murdered. Many individuals—in Germany and collaborators in the countries that Germany occupied or that were aligned with Germany during World War II—actively participated in the stigmatization, isolation, impoverishment, and violence culminating in the mass murder of six million European Jews. 

People helped in their roles as clerks and confiscators of property; as railway and other transportation employees; as managers or participants in round-ups and deportations; as informants; sometimes as perpetrators of violence against Jews on their own initiative; and sometimes as hand-on killers in killing operations, notably in the mass shootings of Jews and others in occupied Soviet territories in which thousands of eastern Europeans participated as auxiliaries and many more witnessed. 

Many more people—the onlookers who witnessed persecution or violence against Jews in Nazi Germany and elsewhere—failed to speak out as their neighbors, classmates, and co-workers were isolated and impoverished—socially and legally, then physically. Only a small minority publicly expressed their disapproval. Other individuals actively assisted the victims by purchasing food or other supplies for households to whom shops were closed; providing false identity papers or warnings about upcoming roundups; storing belongings for those in hiding that could be sold off little by little for food; and sheltering those who evaded capture, a form of help that, if discovered, especially in Nazi Germany and occupied eastern Europe, was punished by arrest and often execution. 

Did the Nazis only go after Jews or other people too?

Although Jews were the main target of Nazi hatred, they were not the only group persecuted. Other individuals and groups were considered “undesirable” and “enemies of the state.” Once the voices of political opponents were silenced, the Nazis stepped up their terror against other “outsiders.” Some were targeted because of their perceived racial and biological inferiority: Roma, people with disabilities, some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others), Soviet prisoners of war, and Black people. Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological or behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, men who were accused of “homosexuality,” and people whom the regime identified as “asocials” and “professional criminals.”

Did Americans know about the Holocaust and what did they do?

American newspapers reported frequently on Hitler and Nazi Germany throughout the 1930s. Americans read headlines about book burning, about Jews being attacked on the street, and about the Nuremberg Race laws in 1935, when German Jews were stripped of their German citizenship. The Kristallnacht attacks in November 1938 were front-page news in the United States for weeks. Americans staged protests and rallies in support of German Jews, and sent petitions to the US government calling for action. But these protests never became a sustained movement, and most Americans were still not in favor of allowing more immigrants into the United States, particularly if the immigrants were Jewish.

It was very difficult to immigrate to the United States. In 1924, the US Congress passed the Johnson-Reed Act in order to set limits on the maximum number of immigrant visas that could be issued per year to people born in each country. These quotas were designed to limit the immigration of people considered “racially undesirable,” including southern and eastern European Jews. Unlike today, the United States had no refugee policy, and Jews could not come as asylum seekers or migrants. Approximately 180,000-220,000 European Jews immigrated to the United States between 1933-1945, most of them between 1938-1941.

The US Government learned about the systematic killing of Jews almost as soon as it began in the Soviet Union in 1941. In late November 1942, just weeks after American and British troops began to battle the Germans and their allies in North Africa, newspapers reported that two million Jews already had been murdered as part of the Nazi regime’s annihilation plan. In response, the United States and eleven other Allied countries issued a stern declaration, vowing to punish the perpetrators of this “bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination” after the war had been won.Yet saving Jews and others targeted for murder by the Nazi regime and its collaborators never became a priority.

As more information about Nazi mass murder reached the United States, public protests and protests within the Roosevelt administration led President Roosevelt to create the War Refugee Board in January 1944. The establishment of the War Refugee Board marked the first time the US government adopted a policy of trying to rescue victims of Nazi persecution. The War Refugee Board coordinated the work of both US and international refugee aid organizations, sending millions of dollars into German-occupied Europe for relief and rescue. The War Refugee Board also recommended to the War Department that the US military bomb the gas chambers at Auschwitz Birkenau, but the War Department responded that it was not a military priority. The War Refugee Board’s final report estimated that it rescued “tens of thousands” of people and assisted “hundreds of thousands” more.

The US military fought for almost four years to defend democracy during World War II, and more than 400,000 Americans died. The American people—soldiers and civilians alike—made enormous sacrifices to free Europe from Nazi oppression. The United States could have done more to publicize information about Nazi atrocities, to pressure the other Allies and neutral nations to help endangered Jews, and to support resistance groups against the Nazis. Prior to the war, the US government could have enlarged or filled its immigration quotas to allow more Jewish refugees to enter the country. These acts together might have reduced the death toll, but they would not have prevented the Holocaust. Visit the Americans and the Holocaust online exhibition for more information.

How did the Holocaust end?

The Holocaust ended in May 1945 with the military defeat of Nazi Germany and its European collaborators in World War II. Although the liberation of Nazi camps was not a primary objective of the Allied military campaign, Soviet, US, British, and Canadian troops freed prisoners from their SS guards, provided them with food and badly needed medical support, and collected evidence for war crimes trials.

How do we know how many people died in the Holocaust?

The Holocaust is the best documented case of genocide. Despite this, calculating the exact numbers of individuals who were killed as the result of Nazi policies is an impossible task. There is no single wartime document that spells out how many people were killed. 

Historians estimate that approximately six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, including approximately 2.5 million in killing centers, two million in mass shooting operations, and more than 800,000 in ghettos. Although the Holocaust specifically refers to the murder of European Jews, Nazi Germany and its collaborators also killed non-Jews, including seven million Soviet citizens, three million Soviet prisoners of war, 1.8 million non-Jewish Polish civilians, between 250,000-500,000 Roma, and 250,000 people with physical and mental disabilities.

What happened to the Nazis after the Holocaust?

Beginning in the winter of 1942, the governments of the Allied powers announced their intent to punish Nazi war criminals. In August 1945, three months after the end of World War II, France, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the United States created an International Military Tribunal (IMT) to try German leaders. After much debate, 24 defendants were chosen to represent a cross-section of Nazi diplomatic, economic, political, and military leadership. Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels could not be tried because they committed suicide at the end of the war or soon afterwards. 

The trial began on November 20, 1945, in the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Germany. The Nazi defendants were indicted on four charges:

  1. Conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity;
  2. Crimes against peace;
  3. War crimes; and
  4. Crimes against humanity.

The Holocaust was not the main focus of the trial, but considerable evidence was presented about the “Final Solution,” the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jewish people. This information included the mass murder operations at Auschwitz, the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto, and the estimate of six million Jewish victims. The trial hearings ended on September 1, 1946. On October 1, 1946, the judges delivered their verdict. They convicted 19 of the defendants and acquitted three. The judges of the IMT sentenced twelve defendants to death.

The IMT trial is the most famous of the war crimes trials held after World War II. During the five years that followed the end of the war, hundreds of thousands of Nazi perpetrators and their collaborators were tried by other courts in Germany and in the countries that were allied to or occupied by Nazi Germany. 

The Allied military authorities, which now occupied the defeated Germany, began a process of denazification. “Denazification” entailed renaming streets, parks, and buildings that had Nazi or militaristic associations; removing monuments, statues, signs, and emblems linked with Nazism or militarism; confiscating Nazi Party property; eliminating Nazi propaganda from education, the German media, and the many religious institutions which had pro-Nazi leaders and clergymen; and prohibiting Nazi or military parades, anthems, or the public display of Nazi symbols. The distribution of Nazi propaganda continues to be illegal in Germany today.

Why do we study the Holocaust?

The Holocaust was a watershed event, not only in the 20th century but also in the entire course of human history. Studying the Holocaust reminds us that democratic institutions and values are not automatically sustained, but need to be appreciated, nurtured, and protected. The Holocaust was not an accident in history; it occurred because individuals, organizations, and governments made choices that not only legalized discrimination but also allowed prejudice, hatred, and ultimately mass murder to occur. It also teaches us that silence and indifference to the suffering of others, or to the infringement of civil rights in any society, can—however unintentionally—perpetuate these problems.