Memphis Jewish Federation’s 8th Annual Holocaust Art and Essay Competition drew an unprecedented 87 essay entries and 85 art entries from students in Tennessee and the Mid-South. This year’s theme was Degradation and Dehumanization: The Nazi Assault on Human Dignity. The contest was sponsored by the Memphis Commissioners of the Tennessee Holocaust Commission, along with their spouses: Jack and Marilyn Belz, Allen and Eileen Exelbierd, Jan and Andy Groveman, Josh and Joanna Lipman, and Leonid and Friderica Saharovici.
JCPConnect will be publishing the two honorable mention essays, the second place winning essay, and the winning essay. Each will be paired with one of the top four winning art entries.
Essay by Nicolas Reed, 10th grade, White Station High School. Art by Noah Sandler, 7th grade, Bornblum Jewish Community School. -Photo by Steve Conroy
During the Holocaust in WWII, the Jewish populations of Europe had been persecuted and almost exterminated by the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler. During this time of the war there were many atrocities committed against the Jewish people and other minorities who were seen as “impure”. These “impure” people were seen as less than human, commonly portrayed as parasites, rats, or as people who seek world domination. Through years of propaganda that the German government had put out under Hitler’s rule, this made the regular everyday citizens of Germany start to believe everything that they were told.
There were many atrocities committed under the mask of World War II in labor camps, concentration camps, and “scientific institutions” all throughout Nazi occupied Europe. There were families ripped apart at the seams when these people were taken from their homes at all times of day. Once taken away they were either sent straight to a ghetto or they were separated by age and gender, loaded onto cattle cars, then sent to work camps or extermination camps, like the infamous Auschwitz. The ghettos that these people were sent to were heavily overcrowded, unsanitary, had many diseases spreading easily, and the living conditions would normally be two or three families living in a small two-bedroom apartment with little food or water. These were just some of the things the Nazis used to humiliate and dehumanize the Jewish people living in Nazi occupied Europe.
Paul Joseph Goebbels was the Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany. He developed and authorized many forms of dehumanizing propaganda pieces depicting the Jewish people and many other minorities as parasites leeching off of the German people. He heavily portrayed the Jews as rats and fleas that needed to be gotten rid of so that the German people could prosper once more like they did before World War I. Goebbels was one of the men responsible for the burning of thousands of Jewish works of literature and art. They burned anything from nonfiction books, to Torahs, and even entire synagogues all in the name of trying to destroy an entire people that Hitler and a handful of sick people thought were unclean and unfit to live.
One of the reasons the German citizens were okay with Hitler’s plans was that they were in deep debt and they sought someone to blame for it. They were so desperate for anything to believe in that would help them or their families. Hitler had ordered, throughout the years he was Fuhrer of Germany, thousands of pieces of hate speech against the Jews. It was even taught in schools that Jews were the enemy of the Germans and that they should be sent away from the country. If only the desperate citizens of Germany had really known about what was happening to their neighbors that they sent away on trains and treated so badly. I believe if they really knew what was going on they would have tried to stop it, or at least made sure no one was killed the way that the Nazis were killing them. Sadly, they found out too late and by that time 6 million Jewish people, around 7 million Soviet civilians, 3 million Soviet prisoners of war, 1.8 million Non-Jewish Polish civilians, and hundreds of thousands more that had died at the hands of the Nazis in their extermination and work camps.