Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany, is known as one of the most murderous figures in history. His regime, known as the Third Reich, presided over the deaths of an estimated 17 million civilians, per Statista. Hitler targeted those he believed were “degenerate,” including homosexuals, the disabled, and ethnic groups such as the Slavs and Roma. However, the group targeted the most was the Jewish population, and by 1945, two out of every three European Jews had been killed. In addition to targeting civilians, Hitler also instigated World War II, which claimed at least 15 million lives on both the Allied and Axis sides, according to the National World War II Museum.
Though these deadly tragedies are well known across the globe, less known are the creepy and horrific facts about both Hitler’s personality and the Nazi regime that paint a portrait of true evil. From the fact that Hitler helped plan the murder of one of his best friends to the fact that concentration camp prisoners were forced to say “Ich Danke” — aka “I thank you” — while being tortured, here are some less known details that show the scary and bone-chilling nature of the Third Reich.
Hitler and Nazi leadership used victims' body parts as clothing
Even after murdering victims, Hitler and Nazi leadership took their evil a step further by actually using the body parts of those who were killed. When prisoners were taken to the concentration camps, their hair was shaved off. Though part of this was a way to dehumanize Jews and other victims, there was another more sinister reason for the move. According to The New Yorker, the hair would be “cured” above the camp’s crematorium and then gathered into bales. From there, it was spun into thread and used for purposes such as making rope for ships, stuffing mattresses, and even creating detonating cords for time-delayed bombs.
But there were even creepier ways in which the hair-based thread was utilized, and that was in the clothing of Nazi troops. The thread was often used in socks for sailors who were stationed on submarines, as a lining in uniforms, and as an insulating material for cold-weather boots. Moreover, the use of hair was such a focus that “camp commanders were required to submit monthly reports on the amount of hair collected,” according to the “Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp.” Piles of unused hair still remain today, as seen in these horrifying photos.
The fact that Nazi leadership felt no guilt or shame in using the hair of dead victims for clothing and other items exemplifies how their warped mindset saw Jews and other so-called undesirables as less than human.
Nazis tortured concentration camp prisoners by making them dance and sing
Hitler didn’t just rely on physical torture in Nazi concentration camps, but psychological torture as well. One of the most gut-wrenching examples of the latter was forcing slave laborers to sing and dance for the guards’ entertainment, per “Music and Torture in Nazi Sites of Persecution and Genocide in Occupied Poland.” In the paper, one former prisoner recalled how the Nazis forced women to sing while they executed a number of men, many of whom were their friends and family. The survivor described the scene as containing the sound of gunshots “[intermingled] with the tones of the forced songs.”
Songs were often a daily ritual as part of the afternoon roll call. This meant prisoners would sing and dance after spending the day completing tasks such as cleaning blood off of the gas chambers’ walls or sorting through the clothing of dead Jews. “I am aghast: they kill people there, in the chamber, and we are to sing,” recounted one survivor.
Worse, many of the songs were made specifically for the prisoners and included lyrics that cruelly made fun of their fates. “Because our fate is tara-ra / That’s why we’re in Treblinka today / And sent here for this short time,” were some of the lyrics in the “anthem” of Treblinka, an extermination camp that killed around 925,000 Jews and an untold number of Poles, Roma, and Soviet POWs, per The Holocaust Encyclopedia.
Hitler and the Nazis specifically targeted children
Though children are generally considered the most innocent and helpless members of society, the Nazis had no shame in torturing and killing babies, toddlers, and kids. Even worse, members of the regime actually targeted children.
There were two sick reasons behind the policy. The first was that children were a drain on resources and had little to no value as laborers; thus, the Nazis could not profit off of their imprisonment as they did with adults. The second was that the Nazis were obsessed with creating an Aryan master race, and therefore anyone who was of reproductive age or could reproduce in the future had to be eliminated. “[Children] posed a particular threat to the Nazis’ plan to annihilate the Jewish people, because were they to survive, they would grow up to parent a new generation of Jews,” chillingly explained The Holocaust Encyclopedia.
As a result, children would often be the first group of prisoners condemned to death in the camps — and were sometimes even driven away with their parents forced to watch, as was heart-wrenchingly recreated in a scene from World War II drama “Schindler’s List.” Women who were pregnant or of child-bearing age were treated similarly and often sent to the gas chambers first as part of the Nazi “selektion” (i.e. selection) process, according to Fact Retriever.
Hitler felt like it was morally wrong to eat meat
Hitler found it cruel to consume meat and was even a vegetarian (though it has been speculated that he did sometimes indulge in a sausage or two). In fact, Nazi Germany enacted a plethora of animal rights laws and even established one of the first international conferences on animal protection, according to Psychology Today.
German schools were required to have curriculums focused on the humane treatment of animals, and medical researchers were severely restricted on how they could use animals in testing. Meanwhile, scientists in concentration camps were able to perform gruesome human experimentation without issue. The Nazi Party was the first governing body in the world to pass laws to ensure that animals used in film were not mistreated, and animal abusers were sentenced to up to two years in prison if found guilty.
Heinrich Himmler, the mastermind of the extermination camps, even asked an avid hunter how he could find pleasure “in shooting from behind at poor creatures browsing on the edge of a wood. It is really murder,” he reportedly stated.
In addition, Hitler openly admitted in his autobiography “Mein Kampf” that he would give some of his food to mice if they looked like they were hungry. It is hard to fathom how Hitler and the Nazi regime were able to fret about the ethics of horse racing yet were heartless enough to encourage horrors such as throwing babies directly into ovens.
Last but not least, Hitler prioritized killing Jews over saving Germany
Finally, one of the most striking facts of World War II is that Hitler decided to prioritize killing Jews and other prisoners of the concentration camps over potentially saving Germany. “What happened when the Germans started to lose the war?” asked Professor Jordan Peterson in a clip available on Youtube. He pointed out that the Nazis had diverted troops and resources from the frontline to execute the “final solution” and that leadership would have to have questioned the value of continuing to exterminate prisoners while suffering defeat after defeat on the battlefield.
Peterson added that the “logical” move would have been to keep as many prisoners alive as possible so that they could be used for slave labor for the Third Reich. “You can suspend your [strategically] unnecessary demolition of people, win the war, and then pick it up afterward, or — while you’re losing — you can just accelerate the mayhem even though it’s counterproductive,” Peterson said, laying out the two options that faced German commanders. But even though pausing the murder of concentration camp prisoners might have helped the Nazis stave off defeat, Hitler and other Nazi officials decided that their hatred of Jews and other so-called undesirable people trumped their desire for victory in a truly cruel and evil decision.
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