The History of the Jewish People
Adolf Hitler, who became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, made Antisemitism an official creed. Hate propaganda depicted the Jews in the traditional Antisemitic stereotypes as an inferior people. A systematic policy was set in motion to rid Germany of its Jews, as the beginning of an attempt to destroy the Jewish people. Most countries were unwilling to accept Jewish refugees in great numbers. Palestine which could have received many of them, was sealed off.
In Germany and the countries it conquered during World War II, Jews were stripped of civil rights, herded into ghettos and concentration camps, forced into slave labour, and finally murdered in death camps specially set up for this purpose. All in all, some six million Jews were killed: a third of the world's Jewish population. Nothing was done to halt the genocide. even the major religious organisations did not, with few exceptions, take any action. In World War II the allied powers refused to divert any of their military potential to bomb the death installations and thus delay the destruction of the Jews.
In World War II, Jews fought in all the Allied armies. 40 000 Palestinian Jews served in the British Army, some undertaking dangerous missions behind enemy lines. Germany was defeated in 1945, but except for the USSR, Central and Eastern European Jewry was virtually liquidated. All the great centres of Jewish life and culture - such as those in Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Hungary and Romania - no longer existed. Those refugees who managed to survive the Holocaust gathered in the Displaced Persons Camps established in war torn Europe by the allied powers. In these camps, the remnants of Europe's Jews started to plan and organise themselves for 'ascent' Aliyah to their own land, Israel, with the help of emissaries sent from there. The British government, still holding the Mandate for Palestine, severely restricted immigration, mainly under pressure from the Arab states. A network for clandestine immigration was organised, and thousands of Jews left the shores of Europe for the Land of Israel.
Next Step: The Struggle for Statehood
Index to Footsteps through Jewish History