Jewish Reactions to the Holocaust: A Learned Behavior

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Jewish Reactions to the Holocaust: A Learned Behavior

When thinking of Jewish persecution, images of Nazi Germany, concentration camps, and the Holocaust are most likely to be conjured. Although these images do represent the attempted destruction of the Jews, persecution actually began thousands of years earlier. The Holocaust, or Final Solution, which was the destruction of European Jews by the Nazis, was the culmination of attempts by other groups to eradicate Jews from their society.1 Reacting in many different ways to persecution, the Jewish sect has undergone years of harsh treatment, climaxing during the Holocaust.

Jewish persecution did not begin in Europe with the onset of World War II; rather, anti-Semitism had existed for the past several thousand years. The rise and eventual domination of Christianity resulted in the persecution of the Jews starting in fourth-century Rome and lasting through the Middle Ages, when huge numbers of Jews were massacred during Christian crusades.2 Also, during the Middle Ages, the Christian Church attempted to convert Jews to Christianity. This policy was put into affect in order to ensure that "Christians were ‘protected’ from the ‘harmful’ consequences of intercourse with Jews by rigid laws against intermarriage, by prohibitions of discussions about religious issues, by laws against domicile in common abodes…by burning the Talmud and by barring Jews from public office."3

The second anti-Jewish policy in history is known as expulsion, or the attempt by European countries to force the emigration of Jews during the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries. Jews were no longer being required to convert to Christianity because Christians then thought that "Jews could not be changed, ...

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... 13. Dawidowicz, 342-43.

14. Hilberg, 16.

15. Hilberg, 17.

16. Hilberg, 664.

17. Hilberg, 665.

18. Hilberg, 666-67.

19. Dawidowicz, 344.

20. Dawidowicz, 347.

21. Hilberg, 3-4.


- "Anti-Semitism" Encarta Concise Encyclopedia. (26 October


- Dawidowicz, Lucy S. The War Against The Jews: 1933-1945. New York: Holt, Rinehart and

Winston, 1975.

- Haines, Grove C. and Ross J. S. Hoffman, The Origins and Background of the Second

World War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1943.

- Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. New York: Harper and Row,

Publishers, 1961.

- Rubenstein, Richard L. and John K. Roth. Approaches to Auschwitz. Atlanta: John Knox

Press, 1987.
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