The Holocaust refers to the mass-murder or genocide that was carried out during the World War II, aimed at eradicating the Jewish population of Europe. Before the WW2, there were about 9 million Jews residing in Europe, out of which 6 million were victims of the Holocaust. It was an operation that was backed by Nazi Germany, which was led by Adolf Hitler. Having killed over a million children, and 2 million women, it goes down in history as one of the biggest affliction mankind has brought upon itself.
The Holocaust did not care for its victims. It did not care who the victims were, what they had done, as long as they were Jew. Therefore, the victims comprised of some very prominent names of the time. In this article, we discuss these famous names, whose blood is on the hands of the Nazi Regime.
1. Lili Henoch
Lili Henoch was a multi-talented track and field athlete, who was machine-gunned to death, along with her mother. Henoch set world records in discus throw, shot put and 4×100 relay events, while also winning the German national championships 10 times, in 4 different fields. After Hitler came to power, the new race laws meant that Henoch, along with all other Jews, had to leave BSC. She became an inductee of the International Jews Sports Hall of Fame, in 1990. In 2008, a ‘Stolperstein’ was erected in her memory, in Berlin.
2. Alfred Flatow
Another athlete who makes the list, Flatow was a gymnast, who participated in 1896 Olympics, in Athens. It was this Olympics, where he won 3 gold medals and a silver one. He was an integral part of the German team, which successfully won gold in both, horizontal and parallel, team events. In 1933, he fled to the Netherlands. Little did he know that the Netherlands would also succumb to the Nazi power. After the occupation of the Netherlands, German forces deported him to a concentration camp, where he died at the age of 73. In modern-day Berlin, there is a lane, near the Olympic Stadium, named ‘Flatowallee’, which translates to ‘Flatow Lane.’ In addition, there exists a Flatow-Sporthalle (sports hall) at Berlin-Kreuzberg with a celebratory inscription.
3. Kaj Munk
Kaj Munk was a Danish playwright and a Lutheran pastor. Munk was a former admirer of Hitler, and looked upon him as a unifying force. However, after Hitler policies against Jews came into practice and the Jewish community had to run for their lives, Munk’s views changed drastically. He created plays that were directed towards the disgust he held for the Nazis and publically opposed the occupation of Denmark. After his arrest, he was murdered by the Gestapo. His body was thrown in a nearby ditch, with a note that said ‘Swine, you worked for Germany just the same.’ At this time the Danish people had resigned themselves to the powerful German forces of Hitler. However, this enraged them and served as a motivating force, which made Denmark stand up against their oppressors.
4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Another Lutheran pastor in the list, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was also a theologian, rebellious anti-Nazi and an important founding member of the Confessing Church. He was famous for his theological writing, however, his fame rose when he publically opposed the Nazi dictatorship, especially, the euthanSasia programme and the continuing genocide. He assisted members of German Military Intelligence, in their attempts to assassinate Hitler. After he was arrested, he was kept at a concentration camp near the Gestapo, where he was subsequently hanged. 23 days after his execution, German forces surrendered.
5. Saint Edith Stein
Also known as ‘Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross’, Edith Stein was a philosopher and nun. After graduating with flying colors, Edith Stein held several different positions in several different institutions. Although, she was born in a Jewish family, she converted to Christianity, later on. After the Nazis came into power and passed laws against the Jewish population, she was forced to resign. After her resignation, she joined the Monastery of Cologne, where she took her famous name of Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross. Later on, she fled to the Netherlands, along with her sister. However, after the Dutch Bishop’s conference, which condemned the Nazis, the retaliation came in form of arresting all the convert, who were previously spared. This led to the arrest of both, Edith and her sister. Later, she was killed in a gas chamber. She was sanctified as a martyr on May 1, 1987, in Cologne, Germany by Pope John Paul II and then canonized, 11 years later.
6. Ernst Cohen
A chemist by occupation, Cohen’s fame resides in his works on the allotropy of metals. Throughout his life, he studied chemistry, which was precisely aimed towards allotropy of tin. He published more than 400 papers, and several books. After serving as an assistant for several lecturers and scientists, he became a lecturer at the University of Utrecht. He was nominated a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 1926. He has also been credited and appreciated for his efforts to bridge the gap between the scientists of Western Europe and those of Germany. He was killed on 5th March, 1944, in a gas chamber, Auschwitz concentration camp.
7. Georg Alexander Pick
Arguably one of the greatest minds that the world lost during the Holocaust, Pick was an Austrian mathematician. In his last days, Pick had fled to Prague. However, after Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, Pick was sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp, where he spent his final moments, dying just two weeks later. The reason Pick makes this list was his contribution to mathematics. He is best known for Pick’s Formula, which he invented to measure the area of lattice polygons. His research spread to mathematical physics as well and has the honor of working with the great Albert Einstein. While at the German University of Prague, Pick worked with Einstein and familiarized him with the works of Italian mathematicians, in the field of absolute differential calculus. This was a great stepping-stone in Einstein’s formulation of General Relativity. Pick was known to be a very smart and dedicated person, who had a gift of getting in the depth of ideas. He is also credited for formulation of Schwarz-Pick lemma and Schwarz-Ahlfors-Pick theorem.
8. Abraham Icek Tuschinski
Tuschinski was a Dutch businessman, who is famous for his construction of Tuschinski Theatre, in Amsterdam. Tuschinski had a chance to emigrate to the U.S but decided to stay in Rotterdam, where he opened 4 more theatres, with the most luxurious being the Grand Theatre. He enjoyed immense success in his theatre business and his Tuschinski Theatre was the biggest in the Netherlands, at the time. The city was, however, bombed during the World War II. Later, he was arrested and murdered at Auschwitz concentration camp.
9. Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Bloch
Rabbi Bloch was one of the greatest pre-Holocaust Rabbinic dignitaries. He was part of the third generation of family leadership in Telz. His grandfather was also a notable Chief Rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in Telz. Rabbi Bloch showed promise from early age and was said to be a brilliant learner. Bloch is known for his endeavors towards different approaches to Torah study. He is credited for pioneering the method ‘Telzer Derekh.’ One the eve of July 15, 1941, Nazi forces executed all male residents of Telz, including Rabbi Bloch and his faculty.
10. Hana Brady
Hana Brady was no intellectual, nor was she a rabbi or an athlete. She was just a girl, just another teenage girl who died at the hands of merciless Nazis, while she was just 13 years of age. An age where girls grow up, see the world around them, figure themselves out and enjoy life, Brady was killed at a gas chamber, as soon as she arrived at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
While Brady was just one of a million children killed during the Holocaust, her story gained attention of the entire world, after Fumiko Ishioka, a Japanese educator and social worker showcased Hana’s suitcase, which Ishioka found at Auschwitz, in 1999. When the story of this 13 year old girl hit the media and the entire world got to know about it, it sent a wave of utter sadness through the hearts of many. This story told a story of a kid whose life had just started, a kid who should be eating candies and watching movies, not rotting in concentration camps, for reasons unknown to her. Her story was turned into a book, by Kevin Levine, who said: “I first read about Hana’s suitcase in December 2000. I read about Hana’s suitcase in The Canadian Jewish News. My heart started to beat. I fell in love with the story instantly. This was a different kind of Holocaust story. It had at its centre a terrible sadness, one we all know too well. But it had a modern layer to it that lifted it up, that had connection, and even redemption.” The book was an instant success, making it a best seller, and accumulating several awards, including the Yad Vashem award.
These personalities range from political to religious, from sports to educational, and each one of them tells a story. Getting to know what these victims were about, what contributions they made to the world and how they died in vain, makes one understand how cruelty can be so blinding. It helps one appreciate life. When we read through these stories, we find out that the people who died in the Holocaust were not just Jewish fighters, they were not even enemies of the Nazis, all they had done, their only sin was being Jewish. Rest did not matter. Young or old, sick or healthy, if you were a Jew back then, you should be dead. That was how things were done back then. War is not a pretty sight, it never solves problems. However, these atrocities, these genocides only makes the picture even filthier.