The
notion of human rights is a relatively new concept that has only been
implemented within the last century. Several factors have influenced its
formation into a modern idea, one of the most influential and explicit being
the Holocaust during World War II. The formation of the United Nations in 1945
came at a pivotal point in history with the goal of solving international
conflict and negotiating peace and stability that had not previously been
present. The Holocaust during World War II and its flagrant human rights
violations catalyzed the formation of a necessary international regime aimed at
creating a universal framework of rights and protections that have now evolved
into what has become the modern idea of human rights.

One
of the most detrimental and atrocious events of World War II that has immensely
impacted international human rights is the systematic and state-sponsored
execution of six million individuals. The Holocaust began when the Nazi party
rose into power in Germany around January 1933, when the Jewish population in
Europe exceeded nine million. The Nazi party believed that Germans were
“racially superior” and that the Jewish people, deemed “inferior,” served as a
threat to the German racial community (USHMM). Although the Jewish population
was the primary subject, German authorities also targeted groups from other
countries, including Polish, Russian, homosexual, and disabled people. Over
three million prisoners of war were murdered or died of starvation, disease, or
maltreatment in Nazi concentration camps. Between 1941 and 1944, millions were
deported for forced labor to Nazi-occupied territories, where these individuals
worked and were often murdered in gassing facilities. By 1945, the end of World
War II, the Nazi party murdered two out of every three European Jews as part of
the “Final Solution,” the Nazi plan to wipe out the European Jewish population.

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After
the war, from 1945-1946, some of the Nazis who were responsible for crimes
committed during the Holocaust were brought to court during the Nuremberg
Trials. Judges from the Allied Powers–France, Great Britain, the United
States, and the Soviet Union–officiated the hearings of twenty-two major Nazi
generals. During these trials, former Nazi leaders were indicted and tried as
war criminals by an international military tribunal. Twelve prominent Nazi
generals were found guilty and sentenced to death at these trials. This set a
new precedent in international law, demonstrating that no one, not even an
authoritative general or public official, was immune from punishment for war
crimes. These crimes include “crimes against peace—namely, the planning,
initiating, and waging of wars of aggression…and crimes against humanity—that
is, extermination, deportations, and genocide…” (Ishay).

The
Holocaust in World War II drew attention to the dire need for more rights
protecting individuals worldwide from the horrors of genocide and prohibiting
the events of the Holocaust from ever repeating. Consequently, following the
Nuremberg Trials, on December 9th 1948, the UN Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted unanimously as the first human
rights treaty by the UN General Assembly, only one day before the ratification
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When the UN General Assembly adopted this convention, it created
international norms and standards that still apply to today’s society. It
states that “genocide is a crime under international law, contrary to the
spirit and aims of the United Nations and condemned by the civilized world;
recognizing that at all periods of history genocide has inflicted great losses
on humanity…” (OHCHR). As a result of the Holocaust, this convention
continues to impact the world’s view on violence by banning any acts
perpetrated with the intent to harm or destroy an ethnic, national or religious
group.

The
Holocaust still has a profound effect on society
in both Europe and the rest of the world. On November 1st 2005, the United Nations
General Assembly officially voted to designate January 27th as the “International
Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust” since January
27th 1945 was the liberation day of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a former Nazi concentration camp. This day serves a day of
remembrance for all of the lives taken away during the tragic and horrifying
events of the Holocaust, still currently acknowledged in the modern world.

In
conclusion, the longevity of Holocaust’s
influence on the world can be attributed to the mass murder of millions, which
ultimately transformed international human rights by introducing the
much-needed concept of ending and preventing genocide and inhumane acts of
violence targeted at innocent individuals. The Holocaust caused extreme international
conflict due to its disturbing events so, as a result, there was a powerfully
demonstrated surge in demand for respect of human rights following World War II.
The modern idea of human rights includes a right to life and the Holocaust
stripped that away from millions of people, causing the United Nations to adopt
the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to
further elaborate on human rights, organize global progress and avoid
regression of balance of power worldwide going forward. This convention is
meant to prevent and prohibit abuses like torture and genocide in order to
protect people’s right to life around the world. Without the Holocaust, this revolutionary
convention would not be present today. 

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