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With factorylike precision they were murdered, sterilized or starved to skeletal shadows, innocent victims of the Nazi machinery that rose to power in 1933.
By the time the nightmare now known as the Holocaust or Shoah was over more than a decade later, 11-million human beings had perished at the behest of Adolf Hitler's dictatorship. Six-million of them were Jews -- children, women and men.
At war's end, two out of every three European Jews were dead, and Jewish communities, whose European roots reached back centuries, had withered.
When Hitler was named chancellor in 1933, Germany, recovering from its World War I defeat and in the throes of an economic depression, willingly listened when he blamed Jews for Germany's problems. Hitler also convinced his followers that Jews and other groups were racially inferior to what he proclaimed to be the German master race, the Aryans.
As the Nazis marched across Europe, their systematic persecution and murder would include not only Jews but Gypsies, homosexuals, political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah's Witnesses, the mentally and physically disabled and Afro-German children.
Six death camps in Poland -- Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek -- helped carry out the mission. Captured and herded like cattle to their annihilation, victims either were killed outright, many in gas chambers, or worked and starved to death.
As most of the world watched silently, a few survived. In the Tampa Bay area, they number at least 125. They survived
Almost 2-million European Jews survived the Holocaust, 300,000 from concentration camps. Some of the 1.5-million who survived outside the camps did so by escaping from Germany and the countries it occupied. Some lives were spared because the Nazis ran out of time as the Allies approached. Additionally, the courageous actions of a few non-Jews helped to save others.
Times art / Teresanne Cossetta
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