The Holocaust is the name given to one specific case of genocide: the attempt by the Nazis and their collaborators to destroy the Jewish people. Other genocides committed by the Nazis during the Second World War were the genocides of Poles and of Roma. All were attempts to destroy a group of people, and all were accompanied by mass murder. However, the genocide of the Jewish people was unprecedented in its totality: in the Nazis’ attempt to murder every last Jewish man, woman and child.
While this attempt at total murder was a distinctive feature of the Holocaust, it is important to note that it does not constitute part of the definition of genocide. Genocide is defined as intent to destroy a group, not necessarily to kill every member of that group. So, while the Holocaust is an extreme example of genocide it should not be taken as a threshold in defining genocide.
A well-informed and clear appreciation of the Holocaust helps everyone understand the context of mass atrocities, genocides and breaches of human rights. That is why it is important that today’s young people should have an understanding of these past events in order to put in perspective what is going on in the world around them today.
There are substantial resources on the websites of the world covering the Holocaust.
The Tikvah website considers the impact of the Holocaust on the Jewish people of Oradea, but before we do so, we want to provide a Historical background covering Jewish persecution more generally.
Then we aim to cover more thoroughly, what has become known as “The Final Solution” as the National Socialists of Germany sought to eliminate those minorities which, in their view, threatened the purity of the Third Reich.
Bringing the effects of these policies geographically closer to Oradea we trace what was happening in the years after 1940 in Northern Transylvania and how this had a bearing on what would happen later in Oradea.
The most traumatic year for the Jewish people of Oradea was towards the end of World War II. In 1944 in Oradea we document how the Jewish people were progressively robbed of ordinary citizen’s rights;how they were stygmatized then lost their right to free movement by being incarcerated in ghettos; and eventually close to 30,000 men, women and children were forcibly deported to labour camps or the extermination camps of German-occupied Poland.
To document the horrors of these events (and whilst it is possible to obtain first-hand accounts) many efforts have been made to capture Survivors’ testimonies and a number of respected organisations have filmed and documented them. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be many stories captured from people from Oradea, which is perhaps surprising as Oradea had the largest ghetto area in a Hungarian-speaking territory after Budapest.
Another important topic is the recognition of those who put their lives at risk through offering Help and rescue to Jews in Oradea and our website, over time, wants to trace many more of them. One particular event, the Escape from the ghetto tells a remarkable story.
In 2005, a museum to cover Holocaust events in Northern Transylvania was established in Simleu Silvaniei (Muzeul Memorial al Holocaustului din Transilvania de Nord) and with their permission, we reproduce information of particular interest for Oradea in our Simleu museum section.
We cannot leave the subject of the Holocaust without making clear that the Roma community also suffered horrific losses at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Finally in order for the serious researcher to study the treatment of Holocaust issues in a variety of countries we have compiled a listing of Worldwide links.