“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” Elie Wiesel

The Holocaust

The Holocaust: Preserving the History in Our Community

The effects of Hitler’s attempt to eradicate the Jewish people are still felt today, in our community.

During the 1930s and 1940s, Adolph Hitler’s Nazi regime committed unspeakable atrocities on innocent people he deemed “Untermenschen”–  subhuman. In Germany and across Nazi held territories, Jewish men, women and children were systematically imprisoned in concentration camps and murdered.  Although to some young people the Holocaust is just a historical event that happened in the distant past, they don’t realize how the horrors that unfolded 80 years ago across Europe have shaped the lives of their neighbors here in Iowa. As the philosopher George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The legacy of the Holocaust must be maintained, if we are to prevent such inhumanity in the future.

As early as 1933, the Nazis began passing anti-jewish laws in Germany, and by 1938, anti-semitic actions were reaching horrendous proportions. November 9-10th, 1938 is known as “Kristallnacht”, or “The Night of Broken Glass.” Journalist and Coe College graduate William L. Shirer was a witness to these events, and wrote about them in his landmark book,  The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

It was a night of horror thoughout Germany. Synagogues, Jewish homes and shops went up in flames and several Jews, men woman and children were shot or otherwise slain while trying to escape burning to death…815 shops destroyed, 171 dwellings set on fire, 119 synagogues set on fire…30,000 Jews arrested.

By the time the concentration camps were liberated in the spring of 1945, Hitler’s regime had murdered  six million jews, along with five million other “Untermenschen,” Roma Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, homosexuals, disabled and political prisoners.

Several area residents directly experienced the tragedy of the Holocaust. Some were survivors of the Nazi concentration camps. Some escaped imprisonment, but lost family and loved ones. A few Iowans were also among the American soldiers who liberated the camps. As the years pass, fewer and fewer are alive to tell their stories, but their families and friends keep their memories alive. With the help of the Thaler fund, the legacy will be maintained for Eastern Iowans.

To read more about Eastern Iowans who experienced the Holocaust, please visit Our Stories


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