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Opinion | The Israeli Feminist Trying to Save Liberal Zionism – The New York Times

Posted By on March 5, 2021

Shes convinced that there remains a large constituency for a two-state solution, at least in principle. Of course there is a huge majority that does not believe it is achievable, she said.

Thats true not only in Israel, and not only on the right. The inexorable growth of Israels occupation, and the increasing power of those in Israel calling for outright annexation of Palestinian lands, can make it hard to believe that a two-state solution is still viable. If it isnt, neither is Israeli democracy, unless and until the country is prepared to give equal rights to the Palestinians it rules. For years, its been a truism to say that Israel is approaching the point where it can be Jewish or democratic, but not both. Its possible that, as much as liberal Zionists dont want to admit it, that point has been crossed.

So I asked Michaeli why American Jews committed to liberal democracy should still feel connected to Israel. She grew vehement, saying that the experience of living under Donald Trump should redouble our empathy for Israels embattled progressives.

Michaelis first four years in the Knesset coincided with Barack Obamas second term. I spent those four years being attacked by liberal American Jews for failing to replace Netanyahu, failing to be an effective opposition, she said. She grew deeply frustrated trying to explain the near impossibility of constraining a demagogue.

And then when Donald Trump was elected, I was devastated, but at the same time, I said to my friends, Welcome to our lives, she said. Now you will understand us better, because you felt the same its the way your life changes. All of the sudden your president becomes your life, and your jaw drops 10 times a day, and you experience how a scandal happens every 10 minutes and everybody becomes numb, and you run out of words to express how horrible things are. With Trump, she said, I thought that my American liberal friends will at last understand what we have been up against all this time.

Instead, Michaeli feels that some liberal American Jews are giving up on their Israeli peers. Dont you get that we need you and you need us? she asked. You need us, because as long as Israel, which used to be a true democracy, and is half of the Jewish people, is under such threat, you need us to get over this as much as we need you to be able to strengthen your democracy.

She insists, however hard it is to imagine now, that a two-state solution is still within reach. It has to happen, said Michaeli. Im convinced that it will, eventually.

Really? I asked.

Yeah, of course, she said. Listen, I brought Labor back almost from the dead.

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Opinion | The Israeli Feminist Trying to Save Liberal Zionism - The New York Times

Turkish Textbooks Increasingly Demonize Israel and Zionism, Refer to Jews as ‘Infidels,’ Says New Report – Algemeiner

Posted By on March 5, 2021

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin (not pictured), following a meeting in Moscow, Russia, March 5, 2020. Photo: Pavel Golovkin / Pool via Reuters.

A new report has found that the latest editions of Turkish school textbooks take a strongly negative view of Israel and now describe Jews as infidels.

The report by IMPACT-se, which examines education materials on the basis of UNESCO standards related to peace, human rights, and tolerance, has found an increasing Islamization of the Turkish curriculum, in accordance with the Islamist AKP government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the textbooks, three categories of human beings are posited: Muslim believers; Muslim hypocrites who try to tempt Muslims to sin; and infidels, consisting of all non-Muslims.

The report notes that previous curricula have referred to Jews as people of the book, but Jews are now referred to solely as infidels, as are Christians.

March 4, 2021 5:44 pm

Marcus Sheff, the CEO of IMPACT-se, commented, We have identified a marked deterioration in Turkish textbooks since our last review in 2016.

School books have been weaponized in Erdogans attempts to Islamize Turkish society and to hark back to a nostalgic age of Turkish domination, he said. We note increased demonization of Israel and antisemitic aspersions that must make Turkish-Jewish school students feel unsafe.

The groups report found that several incendiary attacks on Israel by Erdogan, such as those made after Israels Operation Cast Lead in 2008, appear in the textbooks. The Palestinian cause is promoted throughout, and students are encouraged to support and take part in it.

It also said the curriculum seeks to demonize Zionism, calling it the Zionism Problem and claiming it is an imperialist conspiracy to take over all the land between the Nile and Euphrates rivers a common antisemitic conspiracy theory in the Muslim world.

This is coupled with the false claim that Zionists are planning to take over parts of Turkey and annex them into a Greater Israel.

The textbooks also falsely claim that the goal of Zionism is for the Jews to construct a Third Temple in place of the Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount.

Major crises in the Middle East, including the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, and the military coup in Egypt, are blamed on Zionism. Students are further asked to discuss the destructive impact of Zionism and Israel on the Middle East in general.

However, the report notes, certain textbooks do show respect for Judaism itself and the Hebrew and Aramaic languages many of its sacred texts are written in.

Some textbooks, moreover, do teach about the Holocaust, though the report refers to much of this curriculum as underdeveloped.

IMPACT-se found that the textbooks are increasingly radicalized by the ideology of political Islam, promoting a combination of ethnic, nationalist, and religious imperialism involving concepts such as Turkish World Domination and a neo-Ottoman Ideal of the World Order.

The report also noted material that was violently anti-American, anti-Armenian, and anti-Kurdish, and that omitted Turkish atrocities committed against Armenians and Greeks.

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Turkish Textbooks Increasingly Demonize Israel and Zionism, Refer to Jews as 'Infidels,' Says New Report - Algemeiner

Israel Elections: Is it time to say goodbye to Israel? – opinion – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on March 5, 2021

One of the Happiness Pillars if you believe in creatively enhancing happiness is to never grouch and groan. No one wants to hear. Thats why I dont usually share my loneliest moments or coping strategies for stormy evenings. However, the time has come to vent.Whenever I feel particularly cheated that my lovely husband is no longer around, I focus fiercely on gratitude. At least I was never abused, I tell myself. At least I never felt the brutality of betrayal; at least I never once considered divorce. That has to be worth something. Im not familiar with the ache that surely accompanies the sound of a marriage breaking down; the drip drip of details that suddenly coagulate into a startling thought: Is this what I want for the rest of my life?

Now, shockingly, the lure of divorce seems increasingly lovely; the freedom from madness and chaos and pain. Nor am I alone. The chatter over coffee is increasingly of friends working on foreign passports for their children, or encouraging them to go on extended relocations abroad. Gung-ho Zionists and born-in-Israel realists seem to be reluctantly reexamining their motives for living in the Jewish state. Many of the sane secular are unhappily discussing divorce breaking up with the land we have loved our whole lives.

Until now.

We have not changed much my family, friends and I in the 50-odd years we have lived and worked in our small homeland; the country has. There was more uncovered hair in Jerusalem when I was a student there; there were fewer restaurants displaying large kashrut certificates. As the religious, and especially the ultra-religious, have been fruitful and multiplied exceedingly, the demography of cities has shifted inexorably. All citizens are not equal anymore, and some are much more unequal than others.

I will give you an example.

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I have a friend whos a successful businessman. Hes an Israeli citizen whos lived here on and off since 1976. He has a home in Tel Aviv, pays bituah leumi and health insurance, and salaries. Each morning he wakes up in London at 5:45 a.m. to do deals in Israel. He donates to Israeli charities and runs support groups. Michael also has a home in London, but he wants to come home from home.

The airport has been closed since January 26, when Israel became the only country in the world to bar its own citizens from entering. Israeli doctors are stuck in New York, Israeli mothers are frantically begging to be let in from Frankfurt, and Israeli tourists in Dubai are running out of money. Yet the airport is hermetically sealed.

Except for the exceptions.

Anecdotal evidence is flooding in. The few passengers who are allowed onto El Al evacuation flights report that the majority of their fellow flyers wear the black coats of the very pious. They, according to eyewitnesses, often refuse to wear masks, despite entreaties of the crew. Their demands have not mellowed with the emergency; some still refuse to sit next to women, vociferously voicing their moral superiority.

CRACKS IN THIS godly holiness that are frantically covered over are beginning to emerge. The sealed border from Sinai was mysteriously opened to let Arye Deris family slip into Israel on the sly. (Deri is Israels interior minister who has served jail time for corruption, and now, surrealistically, faces yet another similar trial.)

Deris devout family is not alone in their privilege. Ori Mishgev, a reporter from Haaretz, went to Ben-Gurion Airport early on Thursday morning, February 18, to meet El Al flight 014 from New York. (Haaretz, February 21, 2021). The plane landed at 5:20, in time for travelers to say the morning Shema. Mishgev, who was not allowed inside Terminal Three for COVID-related reasons, stood outside and counted the recently embarked passengers. Of the 169 people who left the terminal with luggage, 114 were haredim (ultra-Orthodox), the vast majority young Yeshiva students. They didnt look like humanitarian cases, he claimed, or medical emergencies who merited speedy airlifting to Israel.

The unholy mess just gets worse. The story stinks so badly one wishes it was all fake news. There are rumors that pious politicians, from the parties of God, are helping their constituents enter the country, while secular Michaels have to wade through oceans of paperwork that seem endless. (How many days in 2003 did you spend in Israel?) Black coats, it seems, can get you on a flight. It is well known that prior to elections, Haredi voters flock to Israel in droves. Here we go again.

Scenarios that once seemed utterly far-fetched have become utterly plausible. Perhaps our crime minister is barring the secular from coming home for fear that they will vote him out of office. Otherwise, why isnt he giving citizens banned from returning the right to vote from the nearest Israeli Embassy? Haredim are pouring in every day as part of our Eternal Leaders bloc the more the merrier for him.

Israel was formed to be a safe haven for the Jews; thats the raison detre of the country: a shelter for us when trouble hits, a place that will always take us in. Now Israelis are banned from coming home (unless they can pull protekzia). Every other country in the world is taking in its citizens; only the Jewish state is deciding which Jews can enter. Whats happening to us?

There is one man responsible for this chaos, and hell apparently do anything to stay in power and stop his trial. In the process he is gutting democracy, and pushing anyone who dares oppose him off the playing field.

We know what happens to people imprisoned in miserable marriages; are doomed for the rest of our lives to depressed days and sleepless nights punctuated with panic attacks? Is this what living in a crumbling democracy is about to do to us?

No! We sane citizens are sure as hell not giving up on our ancestral home without a squeak. It feels as if this is our last chance for salvation. Anyone with a modicum of decency can surely see that we cant be ruled by black-coated cultists and Kahane Hai crazies for one day more, without going crazy ourselves.

Think carefully before you give Benjamin Netanyahu another shot at abusing us all. We have to get down to the business of bringing back sanity. For the sake of our children we have no choice. Please vote with caution this time around. Lets all live in a country that celebrates civil, human rights. Not just of the boys in black.

The writer lectures at IDC and Beit Berl.

Join her for a weekly lecture on Enjoying Literature see Facebook: Pamela Peled

Israel Elections: Is it time to say goodbye to Israel? - opinion - The Jerusalem Post

British university accused of ‘absolute failure’ to address professor’s biased conduct – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on March 5, 2021

The United Kingdoms Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and Bristol Jewish Society (J-Soc) have accused Bristol University of an absolute failure of their duty of care after the school refused to condemn the anti-Semitic conduct of a sociology professor.

In a statement released on Wednesday, UJS and Bristol J-Soc said their representatives had a virtual meeting with the universitys senior management a day earlier so that the school could present a set of action points they will be taking against sociology professor David Miller.

The student group said: Unfortunately, the answer we received was that the university cannot tell us if any action is being taken. They also told us they are unable to publicly condemn the abuse Jewish students are receiving, in order to remain neutral.

Neutrality and silence in the face of the targeted attacks on Jewish students and their representative society and union is unacceptable and an absolute failure of their duty of care to Jewish students, they added.

More than 400 academics from around the world signed an open letter on Tuesday accusing Miller of making morally reprehensible comments that risk the personal security and well-being of Jewish students and, more widely, Jews in the U.K.

The signatories noted that Miller specifically accused Jewish students of being directed by the State of Israel to pursue a campaign of censorship that endangers Muslim and Arab students. The letter said his depiction of Jewish students is false, outrageous and breaks all academic norms regarding the acceptable treatment of students.

The professor also previously described J-Soc and UJS as formally members of the Zionist movement and described the movement as an enemy to be targeted.

The letter added that Millers singling out of individual student leaders within those organizations emphasizes the threatening nature of his remarks.

It was not the first time Miller has raised concerns: Jewish students filed a complaint in 2019 regarding a lecture slide presentation that blamed the Zionist movement as one of the five pillars of Islamophobia.

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British university accused of 'absolute failure' to address professor's biased conduct - Cleveland Jewish News

The Holocaust – Wikipedia

Posted By on March 5, 2021

Genocide of European Jews by Nazi Germany

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah,[b] was the genocide of European Jews during World War II. Between 1941 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its collaborators systematically murdered some six million Jews across German-occupied Europe, around two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population.[a][c] The murders were carried out in pogroms and mass shootings; by a policy of extermination through work in concentration camps; and in gas chambers and gas vans in German extermination camps, chiefly Auschwitz, Beec, Chemno, Majdanek, Sobibr, and Treblinka in occupied Poland.[4]

Germany implemented the persecution in stages. Following Adolf Hitler's appointment as Chancellor on 30 January 1933, the regime built a network of concentration camps in Germany for political opponents and those deemed "undesirable", starting with Dachau on 22 March 1933.[5] After the passing of the Enabling Act on 24 March, which gave Hitler plenary powers, the government began isolating Jews from civil society; this included boycotting Jewish businesses in April 1933 and enacting the Nuremberg Laws in September 1935. On 910 November 1938, eight months after Germany annexed Austria, Jewish businesses and other buildings were ransacked or set on fire throughout Germany and Austria during what became known as Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass"). After Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, triggering World War II, the regime set up ghettos to segregate Jews. Eventually thousands of camps and other detention sites were established across German-occupied Europe.

The segregation of Jews in ghettos culminated in the policy of extermination the Nazis called the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, discussed by senior Nazi officials at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in January 1942. As German forces captured territories in the East, all anti-Jewish measures were radicalized. Under the coordination of the SS, with directions from the highest leadership of the Nazi Party, killings were committed within Germany itself, throughout occupied Europe, and within territories controlled by Germany's allies. Paramilitary death squads called Einsatzgruppen, in cooperation with the German Army and local collaborators, murdered around 1.3million Jews in mass shootings and pogroms between 1941 and 1945. By mid-1942, victims were being deported from ghettos across Europe in sealed freight trains to extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, they were gassed, worked or beaten to death, or killed by disease, medical experiments, or during death marches. The killing continued until the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945.

The European Jews were targeted for extermination as part of a larger event during the Holocaust era (19331945), in which Germany and its collaborators persecuted and murdered millions of others, including ethnic Poles, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, the Roma, the disabled, Jehovah's Witnesses, political dissidents, gay men, and Black Germans.[d]

The term holocaust, first used in 1895 by the New York Times to describe the massacre of Armenian Christians by Ottoman Muslims, comes from the Greek: , romanized:holkaustos; hlos, "whole" + kausts, "burnt offering".[e] The biblical term shoah (Hebrew: ), meaning "destruction", became the standard Hebrew term for the murder of the European Jews. According to Haaretz, the writer Yehuda Erez may have been the first to describe events in Germany as the shoah. Davar and later Haaretz both used the term in September 1939.[10][f] Yom HaShoah became Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day in 1951.

On 3 October 1941 the American Hebrew used the phrase "before the Holocaust", apparently to refer to the situation in France, and in May 1943 the New York Times, discussing the Bermuda Conference, referred to the "hundreds of thousands of European Jews still surviving the Nazi Holocaust".[14] In 1968 the Library of Congress created a new category, "Holocaust, Jewish (19391945)". The term was popularised in the United States by the NBC mini-series Holocaust (1978) about a fictional family of German Jews, and in November that year the President's Commission on the Holocaust was established. As non-Jewish groups began to include themselves as Holocaust victims, many Jews chose to use the Hebrew terms Shoah or Churban.[g] The Nazis used the phrase "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" (German: die Endlsung der Judenfrage).

Most Holocaust historians define the Holocaust as the genocide of the European Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1941 and 1945.[a][h] Donald Niewyk and Francis Nicosia, in The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust (2000), favor a definition that includes the Jews, Roma and handicapped: "the systematic, state-sponsored murder of entire groups determined by heredity".

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum distinguishes between the Holocaust (the murder of six million Jews) and "the era of the Holocaust", which began when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.[31] Victims of the era of the Holocaust include those the Nazis viewed as inherently inferior (chiefly Slavs, the Roma, and the disabled), and those targeted because of their beliefs or behavior (such as Jehovah's Witnesses, communists, and homosexuals). Peter Hayes writes that the persecution of these groups was less consistent than that of the Jews; the Nazis' treatment of the Slavs, for example, consisted of "enslavement and gradual attrition", while some Slavs were favored (Hayes lists Bulgarians, Croats, Slovaks and some Ukrainians). Against this, Hitler regarded the Jews as what Dan Stone calls "a Gegenrasse: a 'counter-race'... not really human at all".[d]

The logistics of the mass murder turned Germany into what Michael Berenbaum called a "genocidal state". Eberhard Jckel wrote in 1986 that it was the first time a state had thrown its power behind the idea that an entire people should be wiped out.[i] Anyone with three or four Jewish grandparents was to be exterminated, and complex rules were devised to deal with Mischlinge ("mixed breeds"). Bureaucrats identified who was a Jew, confiscated property, and scheduled trains to deport them. Companies fired Jews and later used them as slave labor. Universities dismissed Jewish faculty and students. German pharmaceutical companies tested drugs on camp prisoners; other companies built the crematoria. As prisoners entered the death camps, they surrendered all personal property, which was cataloged and tagged before being sent to Germany for reuse or recycling. Through a concealed account, the German National Bank helped launder valuables stolen from the victims.

According to Dan Stone, it became increasingly clear after the fall of former communist states in Central and Eastern Europe, and the opening of their archives to historians, that the Holocaust was a pan-European phenomenon, a series of "Holocausts" impossible to conduct without local collaborators and Germany's allies.[41] Stone writes that "many European states, under the extreme circumstances of World War II, took upon themselves the task of solving the 'Jewish question' in their own way". The industrialization and scale of the murder were unprecedented. Killings were systematically conducted in over 20 countries across German-occupied Europe. Nearly three million Jews in occupied Poland and between 700,000 and 2.5million Jews in the Soviet Union were killed. Hundreds of thousands more died in the rest of Europe.

At least 7,000 camp inmates were subjected to medical experiments; most died during them or as a result. The experiments, which took place at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, Natzweiler-Struthof, Neuengamme, Ravensbrck, and Sachsenhausen, involved the sterilization of men and women, treatment of war wounds, ways to counteract chemical weapons, research into new vaccines and drugs, and survival of harsh conditions.

After the war, 23 senior physicians and other medical personnel were charged at Nuremberg with crimes against humanity. They included the head of the German Red Cross, tenured professors, clinic directors, and biomedical researchers.[46] The most notorious physician was Josef Mengele, an SS officer who became the Auschwitz camp doctor on 30 May 1943. Interested in genetics, and keen to experiment on twins, he would pick out subjects on the ramp from the new arrivals during "selection" (to decide who would be gassed immediately and who would be used as slave labor), shouting "Zwillinge heraus!" (twins step forward!). The twins would be measured, killed, and dissected. One of Mengele's assistants said in 1946 that he was told to send organs of interest to the directors of the "Anthropological Institute in Berlin-Dahlem". This is thought to refer to Mengele's academic supervisor, Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, director from October 1942 of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics in Berlin-Dahlem.[49][j]

There were around 9.5million Jews in Europe in 1933. Most heavily concentrated in the east, the pre-war population was 3.5million in Poland; 3million in the Soviet Union; nearly 800,000 in Romania, and 700,000 in Hungary. Germany had over 500,000.

Throughout the Middle Ages in Europe, Jews were subjected to antisemitism based on Christian theology, which blamed them for killing Jesus. Even after the Reformation, Catholicism and Lutheranism continued to persecute Jews, accusing them of blood libels and subjecting them to pogroms and expulsions.[52] The second half of the 19th century saw the emergence, in the German empire and Austria-Hungary, of the vlkisch movement, developed by such thinkers as Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Paul de Lagarde. The movement embraced a pseudo-scientific racism that viewed Jews as a race whose members were locked in mortal combat with the Aryan race for world domination.

These ideas became commonplace throughout Germany; the professional classes adopted an ideology that did not see humans as racial equals with equal hereditary value.[54] The Nazi Party (the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or National Socialist German Workers' Party) originated as an offshoot of the vlkisch movement, and it adopted that movement's antisemitism.

After World War I (19141918), many Germans did not accept that their country had been defeated. A stab-in-the-back myth developed, insinuating that disloyal politicians, chiefly Jews and communists, had orchestrated Germany's surrender. Inflaming the anti-Jewish sentiment was the apparent over-representation of Jews in the leadership of communist revolutionary governments in Europe, such as Ernst Toller, head of a short-lived revolutionary government in Bavaria. This perception contributed to the canard of Jewish Bolshevism.[56]

Early antisemites in the Nazi Party included Dietrich Eckart, publisher of the Vlkischer Beobachter, the party's newspaper, and Alfred Rosenberg, who wrote antisemitic articles for it in the 1920s. Rosenberg's vision of a secretive Jewish conspiracy ruling the world would influence Hitler's views of Jews by making them the driving force behind communism. Central to Hitler's world view was the idea of expansion and Lebensraum (living space) in Eastern Europe for German Aryans, a policy of what Doris Bergen called "race and space". Open about his hatred of Jews, he subscribed to common antisemitic stereotypes. From the early 1920s onwards, he compared the Jews to germs and said they should be dealt with in the same way. He viewed Marxism as a Jewish doctrine, said he was fighting against "Jewish Marxism", and believed that Jews had created communism as part of a conspiracy to destroy Germany.

With the appointment in January 1933 of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany and the Nazi's seizure of power, German leaders proclaimed the rebirth of the Volksgemeinschaft ("people's community"). Nazi policies divided the population into two groups: the Volksgenossen ("national comrades") who belonged to the Volksgemeinschaft, and the Gemeinschaftsfremde ("community aliens") who did not. Enemies were divided into three groups: the "racial" or "blood" enemies, such as the Jews and Roma; political opponents of Nazism, such as Marxists, liberals, Christians, and the "reactionaries" viewed as wayward "national comrades"; and moral opponents, such as gay men, the work-shy, and habitual criminals. The latter two groups were to be sent to concentration camps for "re-education", with the aim of eventual absorption into the Volksgemeinschaft. "Racial" enemies could never belong to the Volksgemeinschaft; they were to be removed from society.

Before and after the March 1933 Reichstag elections, the Nazis intensified their campaign of violence against opponents, setting up concentration camps for extrajudicial imprisonment. One of the first, at Dachau, opened on 22 March 1933. Initially the camp contained mostly Communists and Social Democrats. Other early prisons were consolidated by mid-1934 into purpose-built camps outside the cities, run exclusively by the SS. The camps served as a deterrent by terrorizing Germans who did not support the regime.

Throughout the 1930s, the legal, economic, and social rights of Jews were steadily restricted.On 1 April 1933, there was a boycott of Jewish businesses. On 7 April 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed, which excluded Jews and other "non-Aryans" from the civil service. Jews were disbarred from practicing law, being editors or proprietors of newspapers, joining the Journalists' Association, or owning farms. In Silesia, in March 1933, a group of men entered the courthouse and beat up Jewish lawyers; Friedlnder writes that, in Dresden, Jewish lawyers and judges were dragged out of courtrooms during trials. Jewish students were restricted by quotas from attending schools and universities. Jewish businesses were targeted for closure or "Aryanization", the forcible sale to Germans; of the approximately 50,000 Jewish-owned businesses in Germany in 1933, about 7,000 were still Jewish-owned in April 1939. Works by Jewish composers, authors, and artists were excluded from publications, performances, and exhibitions. Jewish doctors were dismissed or urged to resign. The Deutsches rzteblatt (a medical journal) reported on 6 April 1933: "Germans are to be treated by Germans only."

The economic strain of the Great Depression led Protestant charities and some members of the German medical establishment to advocate compulsory sterilization of the "incurable" mentally and physically disabled, people the Nazis called Lebensunwertes Leben (life unworthy of life). On 14 July 1933, the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring (Gesetz zur Verhtung erbkranken Nachwuchses), the Sterilization Law, was passed. The New York Times reported on 21 December that year: "400,000 Germans to be sterilized".[82] There were 84,525 applications from doctors in the first year. The courts reached a decision in 64,499 of those cases; 56,244 were in favor of sterilization. Estimates for the number of involuntary sterilizations during the whole of the Third Reich range from 300,000 to 400,000.

In October 1939 Hitler signed a "euthanasia decree" backdated to 1 September 1939 that authorized Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler, the chief of Hitler's Chancellery, and Karl Brandt, Hitler's personal physician, to carry out a program of involuntary euthanasia. After the war this program came to be known as Aktion T4, named after Tiergartenstrae4, the address of a villa in the Berlin borough of Tiergarten, where the various organizations involved were headquartered. T4 was mainly directed at adults, but the euthanasia of children was also carried out. Between 1939 and 1941, 80,000 to 100,000 mentally ill adults in institutions were killed, as were 5,000 children and 1,000 Jews, also in institutions. There were also dedicated killing centers, where the deaths were estimated at 20,000, according to Georg Renno, deputy director of Schloss Hartheim, one of the euthanasia centers, or 400,000, according to Frank Zeireis, commandant of the Mauthausen concentration camp. Overall, the number of mentally and physically disabled people murdered was about 150,000.

Although not ordered to take part, psychiatrists and many psychiatric institutions were involved in the planning and carrying out of Aktion T4. In August 1941, after protests from Germany's Catholic and Protestant churches, Hitler canceled the T4 program, although disabled people continued to be killed until the end of the war. The medical community regularly received bodies for research; for example, the University of Tbingen received 1,077 bodies from executions between 1933 and 1945. The German neuroscientist Julius Hallervorden received 697 brains from one hospital between 1940 and 1944: "I accepted these brains of course. Where they came from and how they came to me was really none of my business."

On 15 September 1935, the Reichstag passed the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, known as the Nuremberg Laws. The former said that only those of "German or kindred blood" could be citizens. Anyone with three or more Jewish grandparents was classified as a Jew.[94] The second law said: "Marriages between Jews and subjects of the state of German or related blood are forbidden." Sexual relationships between them were also criminalized; Jews were not allowed to employ German women under the age of 45 in their homes.[94] The laws referred to Jews but applied equally to the Roma and black Germans. Although other European countriesBulgaria, Independent State of Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, and Vichy Francepassed similar legislation,[94] Gerlach notes that "Nazi Germany adopted more nationwide anti-Jewish laws and regulations (about 1,500) than any other state."

By the end of 1934, 50,000 German Jews had left Germany, and by the end of 1938, approximately half the German Jewish population had left, among them the conductor Bruno Walter, who fled after being told that the hall of the Berlin Philharmonic would be burned down if he conducted a concert there. Albert Einstein, who was in the United States when Hitler came to power, never returned to Germany; his citizenship was revoked and he was expelled from the Kaiser Wilhelm Society and Prussian Academy of Sciences. Other Jewish scientists, including Gustav Hertz, lost their teaching positions and left the country.

On 12 March 1938, Germany annexed Austria. Ninety percent of Austrian's 176,000 Jews lived in Vienna. The SS and SA smashed shops and stole cars belonging to Jews; Austrian police stood by, some already wearing swastika armbands. Jews were forced to perform humiliating acts such as scrubbing the streets or cleaning toilets while wearing tefillin. Around 7,000 Jewish businesses were "Aryanized", and all the legal restrictions on Jews in Germany were imposed in Austria. The vian Conference was held in France in July 1938 by 32 countries, to help German and Austrian Jewish refugees, but little was accomplished and most countries did not increase the number of refugees they would accept. In August that year, Adolf Eichmann was appointed manager (under Franz Walter Stahlecker) of the Central Agency for Jewish Emigration in Vienna (Zentralstelle fr jdische Auswanderung in Wien). Sigmund Freud and his family arrived in London from Vienna in June 1938, thanks to what David Cesarani called "Herculean efforts" to get them out.

On 7 November 1938, Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jew, shot the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in the German Embassy in Paris, in retaliation for the expulsion of his parents and siblings from Germany.[k] When vom Rath died on 9 November, the synagogue and Jewish shops in Dessau were attacked. According to Joseph Goebbels' diary, Hitler decided that the police should be withdrawn: "For once the Jews should feel the rage of the people," Goebbels reported him as saying. The result, David Cesarani writes, was "murder, rape, looting, destruction of property, and terror on an unprecedented scale".

Known as Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass"), the pogrom on 910 November 1938 saw over 7,500 Jewish shops (out of 9,000) looted and attacked, and over 1,000 synagogues damaged or destroyed. Groups of Jews were forced by the crowd to watch their synagogues burn; in Bensheim they were made to dance around it and in Laupheim to kneel before it. At least 90 Jews died. The damage was estimated at 39million Reichmarks. Contrary to Goebbel's statements in his diary, the police were not withdrawn; the regular police, Gestapo, SS and SA all took part, although Heinrich Himmler was angry that the SS had joined in. Attacks took place in Austria too. The extent of the violence shocked the rest of the world. The Times of London stated on 11 November 1938:

No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults upon defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday. Either the German authorities were a party to this outbreak or their powers over public order and a hooligan minority are not what they are proudly claimed to be.[117]

Between 9 and 16 November, 30,000 Jews were sent to the Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. Many were released within weeks; by early 1939, 2,000 remained in the camps. German Jewry was held collectively responsible for restitution of the damage; they also had to pay an "atonement tax" of over a billion Reichmarks. Insurance payments for damage to their property were confiscated by the government. A decree on 12 November 1938 barred Jews from most remaining occupations. Kristallnacht marked the end of any sort of public Jewish activity and culture, and Jews stepped up their efforts to leave the country.

Before World War II, Germany considered mass deportation from Europe of German, and later European, Jewry. Among the areas considered for possible resettlement were British Palestine and, after the war began, French Madagascar, Siberia, and two reservations in Poland.[124][l] Palestine was the only location to which any German resettlement plan produced results, via the Haavara Agreement between the Zionist Federation of Germany and the German government. Between November 1933 and December 1939, the agreement resulted in the emigration of about 53,000 German Jews, who were allowed to transfer RM100million of their assets to Palestine by buying German goods, in violation of the Jewish-led anti-Nazi boycott of 1933.

Between 2.7 and 3 million Polish Jews died during the Holocaust out of a population of 3.33.5 million.[127] More Jews lived in Poland in 1939 than anywhere else in the world; another 3 million lived in the Soviet Union. When the German Wehrmacht (armed forces) invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, triggering declarations of war from the UK and France, Germany gained control of about two million Jews in the territory it occupied. The rest of Poland was occupied by the Soviet Union, which invaded Poland from the east on 17 September 1939.

The Wehrmacht in Poland was accompanied by seven SS Einsatzgruppen der Sicherheitspolitizei ("special task forces of the Security Police") and an Einsatzkommando, numbering 3,000 men in all, whose role was to deal with "all anti-German elements in hostile country behind the troops in combat". German plans for Poland included expelling non-Jewish Poles from large areas, settling Germans on the emptied lands, sending the Polish leadership to camps, denying the lower classes an education, and confining Jews. The Germans sent Jews from all territories they had annexed (Austria, the Czech lands, and western Poland) to the central section of Poland, which they called the General Government. Jews were eventually to be expelled to areas of Poland not annexed by Germany, but in the meantime they would be concentrated in ghettos in major cities to achieve "a better possibility of control and later deportation", according to an order from Reinhard Heydrich dated 21 September 1939.[m] From 1 December, Jews were required to wear Star of David armbands.

The Germans stipulated that each ghetto be led by a Judenrat of 24 male Jews, who would be responsible for carrying out German orders. These orders included, from 1942, facilitating deportations to extermination camps. The Warsaw Ghetto was established in November 1940, and by early 1941 it contained 445,000 people; the second largest, the d Ghetto, held 160,000 as of May 1940. The inhabitants had to pay for food and other supplies by selling whatever goods they could produce. In the ghettos and forced-labor camps, at least half a million died of starvation, disease, and poor living conditions. Although the Warsaw Ghetto contained 30 percent of the city's population, it occupied only 2.4 percent of its area,[140] averaging over nine people per room. Over 43,000 residents died there in 1941.[142]

Peter Hayes writes that the Germans created a "Hobbesian world" in Poland in which different parts of the population were pitted against each other. A perception among ethnic Poles that the Jews had supported the Soviet invasion contributed to existing tensions, which Germany exploited, redistributing Jewish homes and goods, and converting synagogues, schools and hospitals in Jewish areas into facilities for non-Jews. The Germans announced severe penalties for anyone helping Jews, and Polish informants (Szmalcowniki) would point out who was Jewish during the Judenjagd (hunt for the Jews). Despite the dangers, thousands of Poles helped Jews. Nearly 1,000 were executed for having done so, and Yad Vashem has named over 7,000 Poles as Righteous Among the Nations.[150]

There had been anti-Jewish pogroms in Poland before the war, including in around 100 towns between 1935 and 1937,[151] and again in 1938. David Cesarani writes that Polish nationalist parties had "campaigned for Polonization of the economy and encouraged a boycott of Jewish businesses. Pogroms continued during the occupation. During the Lviv pogroms in Lww, eastern Poland (later Ukraine)[n] in June and July 1941the population was 157,490 Polish; 99,595 Jewish; and 49,747 Ukrainiansome 6,000 Jews were murdered in the streets by the Ukrainian People's Militia, aided by Polish and Ukrainian locals. Jewish women were stripped, beaten, and raped. There were also mass shootings, most likely by Einsatzgruppe C. During the Jedwabne pogrom, on 10 July 1941, a group of 40 Polish men killed several hundred Jews; around 300 were burned alive in a barn.[158] According to Hayes, this was "one of sixty-six nearly simultaneous such attacks in the province of Suwalki alone and some two hundred similar incidents in the Soviet-annexed eastern provinces".

At the end of 1941, the Germans began building extermination camps in Poland: Auschwitz II,[159] Beec,[160] Chemno,[161] Majdanek,[162] Sobibr,[163] and Treblinka.[164] Gas chambers had been installed by the spring or summer of 1942. The SS liquidated most of the ghettos of the General Government area in 19421943 (the d Ghetto was liquidated in mid-1944), and shipped their populations to these camps, along with Jews from all over Europe.[167][o] The camps provided locals with employment and with black-market goods confiscated from Jewish families who, thinking they were being resettled, arrived with their belongings. According to Hayes, dealers in currency and jewellery set up shop outside the Treblinka extermination camp (near Warsaw) in 19421943, as did prostitutes. By the end of 1942, most of the Jews in the General Government area were dead. The Jewish death toll in the extermination camps was over three million overall; most Jews were gassed on arrival.[citation needed]

Germany invaded Norway and Denmark on 9 April 1940, during Operation Weserbung. Denmark was overrun so quickly that there was no time for a resistance to form. Consequently, the Danish government stayed in power and the Germans found it easier to work through it. Because of this, few measures were taken against the Danish Jews before 1942. By June 1940 Norway was completely occupied. In late 1940, the country's 1,800 Jews were banned from certain occupations, and in 1941 all Jews had to register their property with the government. On 26 November 1942, 532 Jews were taken by police officers, at four o'clock in the morning, to Oslo harbor, where they boarded a German ship. From Germany they were sent by freight train to Auschwitz. According to Dan Stone, only nine survived the war.

In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France. After Belgium's surrender, the country was ruled by a German military governor, Alexander von Falkenhausen, who enacted anti-Jewish measures against its 90,000 Jews, many of them refugees from Germany or Eastern Europe. In the Netherlands, the Germans installed Arthur Seyss-Inquart as Reichskommissar, who began to persecute the country's 140,000 Jews. Jews were forced out of their jobs and had to register with the government. In February 1941, non-Jewish Dutch citizens staged a strike in protest that was quickly crushed. From July 1942, over 107,000 Dutch Jews were deported; only 5,000 survived the war. Most were sent to Auschwitz; the first transport of 1,135 Jews left Holland for Auschwitz on 15 July 1942. Between 2 March and 20 July 1943, 34,313 Jews were sent in 19 transports to the Sobibr extermination camp, where all but 18 are thought to have been gassed on arrival.

France had approximately 300,000 Jews, divided between the German-occupied north and the unoccupied collaborationist southern areas in Vichy France (named after the town Vichy). The occupied regions were under the control of a military governor, and there, anti-Jewish measures were not enacted as quickly as they were in the Vichy-controlled areas. In July 1940, the Jews in the parts of Alsace-Lorraine that had been annexed to Germany were expelled into Vichy France. Vichy France's government implemented anti-Jewish measures in French Algeria and the two French Protectorates of Tunisia and Morocco. Tunisia had 85,000 Jews when the Germans and Italians arrived in November 1942; an estimated 5,000 Jews were subjected to forced labor.[180]

The fall of France gave rise to the Madagascar Plan in the summer of 1940, when French Madagascar in Southeast Africa became the focus of discussions about deporting all European Jews there; it was thought that the area's harsh living conditions would hasten deaths.[181] Several Polish, French and British leaders had discussed the idea in the 1930s, as did German leaders from 1938. Adolf Eichmann's office was ordered to investigate the option, but no evidence of planning exists until after the defeat of France in June 1940. Germany's inability to defeat Britain, something that was obvious to the Germans by September 1940, prevented the movement of Jews across the seas, and the Foreign Ministry abandoned the plan in February 1942.

Yugoslavia and Greece were invaded in April 1941 and surrendered before the end of the month. Germany and Italy divided Greece into occupation zones but did not eliminate it as a country. The pre-war Greek Jewish population had been between 72,00077,000. By the end of the war, some 10,000 remained, representing the lowest survival rate in the Balkans. Yugoslavia, home to 80,000 Jews, was dismembered; regions in the north were annexed by Germany and regions along the coast made part of Italy. The rest of the country was divided into the Independent State of Croatia, nominally an ally of Germany, and Serbia, governed by military and police administrators. According to Jeremy Black, Serbia was declared free of Jews in August 1942. Croatia's ruling party, the Ustashe, killed the majority of the country's Jews, and killed or expelled Orthodox Christian Serbs and Muslims. Jews and Serbs alike were "hacked to death and burned in barns", according to Black. According to Jozo Tomasevich, the Jewish community in Zagreb was the only one to survive out of 115 Jewish religious communities in Yugoslavia in 19391940.

Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, a day Timothy Snyder called "one of the most significant days in the history of Europe... the beginning of a calamity that defies description". German propaganda portrayed the conflict as an ideological war between German National Socialism and Jewish Bolshevism, and as a racial war between the Germans and the Jewish, Romani, and Slavic Untermenschen ("sub-humans"). The war was driven by the need for resources; including, according to David Cesarani, agricultural land to feed Germany, natural resources for German industry, and control over Europe's largest oil fields. Between early fall 1941 and late spring 1942, according to Jrgen Matthus, 2million of the 3.5million Soviet soldiers captured by the Wehrmacht had been executed or had died of neglect and abuse. By 1944 the Soviet death toll was at least 20million.

As German troops advanced, the mass shooting of "anti-German elements" was assigned, as in Poland, to the Einsatzgruppen, this time under the command of Reinhard Heydrich. The point of the attacks was to destroy the local Communist Party leadership and therefore the state, including "Jews in the Party and State employment", and any "radical elements".[p] Cesarani writes that the killing of Jews was at this point a "subset" of these activities.

Einsatzgruppe A arrived in the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) with Army Group North; Einsatzgruppe B in Belarus with Army Group Center; Einsatzgruppe C in the Ukraine with Army Group South; and Einsatzgruppe D went further south into Ukraine with the 11th Army. Each Einsatzgruppe numbered around 6001,000 men, with a few women in administrative roles. Traveling with nine German Order Police battalions and three units of the Waffen-SS, the Einsatzgruppen and their local collaborators had murdered almost 500,000 people by the winter of 19411942. By the end of the war, they had killed around two million, including about 1.3million Jews and up to a quarter of a million Roma.

According to Wolfram Wette, the Germany army took part in these shootings as bystanders, photographers, and active shooters. To justify their troops' involvement, army commanders would describe the victims as "hostages", "bandits" and "partisans". Local populations helped by identifying and rounding up Jews, and by actively participating in the killing. In Lithuania, Latvia and western Ukraine, locals were deeply involved; Latvian and Lithuanian units participated in the murder of Jews in Belarus, and in the south, Ukrainians killed about 24,000 Jews. Some Ukrainians went to Poland to serve as guards in the camps.

Typically, victims would undress and give up their valuables before lining up beside a ditch to be shot, or they would be forced to climb into the ditch, lie on a lower layer of corpses, and wait to be killed. The latter was known as Sardinenpackung ("packing sardines"), a method reportedly started by SS officer Friedrich Jeckeln.

At first the Einsatzgruppen targeted the male Jewish intelligentsia, defined as male Jews aged 1560 who had worked for the state and in certain professions (the commandos would describe them as "Bolshevist functionaries" and similar), but from August 1941 they began to murder women and children too.[206] Christopher Browning reports that on 1 August 1941, the SS Cavalry Brigade passed an order to its units: "Explicit order by RF-SS [Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfhrer-SS]. All Jews must be shot. Drive the female Jews into the swamps." In a speech on 6 October 1943 to party leaders, Heinrich Himmler said he had ordered that women and children be shot, but Peter Longerich and Christian Gerlach write that the murder of women and children began at different times in different areas, suggesting local influence.[208]

Notable massacres include the July 1941 Ponary massacre near Vilnius (Soviet Lithuania), in which Einsatgruppe B and Lithuanian collaborators shot 72,000 Jews and 8,000 non-Jewish Lithuanians and Poles. In the Kamianets-Podilskyi massacre (Soviet Ukraine), nearly 24,000 Jews were killed between 27 and 30 August 1941. The largest massacre was at a ravine called Babi Yar outside Kiev (also Soviet Ukraine), where 33,771 Jews were killed on 2930 September 1941.[210] Einsatzgruppe C and the Order Police, assisted by Ukrainian militia, carried out the killings, while the German 6th Army helped round up and transport the victims to be shot. The Germans continued to use the ravine for mass killings throughout the war. The total killed there could be as high as 100,000.

Historians agree that there was a "gradual radicalization" between the spring and autumn of 1941 of what Longerich calls Germany's Judenpolitik, but they disagree about whether a decisionFhrerentscheidung (Fhrer's decision)to murder the European Jews had been made at this point.[q] According to Christopher Browning, writing in 2004, most historians say there was no order, before the invasion of the Soviet Union, to kill all the Soviet Jews. Longerich wrote in 2010 that the gradual increase in brutality and numbers killed between July and September 1941 suggests there was "no particular order". Instead it was a question of "a process of increasingly radical interpretations of orders".

Germany first used concentration camps as places of terror and unlawful incarceration of political opponents. Large numbers of Jews were not sent there until after Kristallnacht in November 1938. After war broke out in 1939, new camps were established, many outside Germany in occupied Europe.[221] Most wartime prisoners of the camps were not Germans but belonged to countries under German occupation.

After 1942, the economic function of the camps, previously secondary to their penal and terror functions, came to the fore. Forced labor of camp prisoners became commonplace. The guards became much more brutal, and the death rate increased as the guards not only beat and starved prisoners, but killed them more frequently. Vernichtung durch Arbeit ("extermination through labor") was a policy; camp inmates would literally be worked to death, or to physical exhaustion, at which point they would be gassed or shot. The Germans estimated the average prisoner's lifespan in a concentration camp at three months, as a result of lack of food and clothing, constant epidemics, and frequent punishments for the most minor transgressions. The shifts were long and often involved exposure to dangerous materials.

Transportation to and between camps was often carried out in closed freight cars with little air or water, long delays and prisoners packed tightly. In mid-1942 work camps began requiring newly arrived prisoners to be placed in quarantine for four weeks. Prisoners wore colored triangles on their uniforms, the color denoting the reason for their incarceration. Red signified a political prisoner, Jehovah's Witnesses had purple triangles, "asocials" and criminals wore black and green, and gay men wore pink. Jews wore two yellow triangles, one over another to form a six-pointed star.[229] Prisoners in Auschwitz were tattooed on arrival with an identification number.[230]

According to Dan Stone, the murder of Jews in Romania was "essentially an independent undertaking". Romania implemented anti-Jewish measures in May and June 1940 as part of its efforts towards an alliance with Germany. By March 1941 all Jews had lost their jobs and had their property confiscated. In June 1941 Romania joined Germany in its invasion of the Soviet Union.

Thousands of Jews were killed in January and June 1941 in the Bucharest pogrom and Iai pogrom. According to a 2004 report by Tuvia Friling and others, up to 14,850 Jews died during the Iai pogrom. The Romanian military killed up to 25,000 Jews during the Odessa massacre between 18 October 1941 and March 1942, assisted by gendarmes and the police. In July 1941, Mihai Antonescu, Romania's deputy prime minister, said it was time for "total ethnic purification, for a revision of national life, and for purging our race of all those elements which are foreign to its soul, which have grown like mistletoes and darken our future". Romania set up concentration camps in Transnistria, reportedly extremely brutal, where 154,000170,000 Jews were deported from 1941 to 1943.[238]

Bulgaria introduced anti-Jewish measures between 1940 and 1943 (requirement to wear a yellow star, restrictions on owning telephones or radios, and so on). It annexed Thrace and Macedonia, and in February 1943 agreed to a demand from Germany that it deport 20,000 Jews to the Treblinka extermination camp. All 11,000 Jews from the annexed territories were sent to their deaths, and plans were made to deport 6,0008,000 Bulgarian Jews from Sofia to meet the quota. When this became public, the Orthodox Church and many Bulgarians protested, and King Boris III canceled the plans. Instead, Jews native to Bulgaria were sent to the provinces.

Stone writes that Slovakia, led by Roman Catholic priest Jozef Tiso (president of the Slovak State, 19391945), was "one of the most loyal of the collaborationist regimes". It deported 7,500 Jews in 1938 on its own initiative; introduced anti-Jewish measures in 1940; and by the autumn of 1942 had deported around 60,000 Jews to Poland. Another 2,396 were deported and 2,257 killed that autumn during an uprising, and 13,500 were deported between October 1944 and March 1945. According to Stone, "the Holocaust in Slovakia was far more than a German project, even if it was carried out in the context of a 'puppet' state."

Although Hungary expelled Jews who were not citizens from its newly annexed lands in 1941, it did not deport most of its Jews until the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944. Between 15 May and early July 1944, 437,000 Jews were deported, mostly to Auschwitz, where most of them were gassed; there were four transports a day, each carrying 3,000 people. In Budapest in October and November 1944, the Hungarian Arrow Cross forced 50,000 Jews to march to the Austrian border as part of a deal with Germany to supply forced labor. So many died that the marches were stopped.

Italy introduced antisemitic measures, but there was less antisemitism there than in Germany, and Italian-occupied countries were generally safer for Jews than those occupied by Germany. Most Italian Jews, over 40,000, survived the Holocaust.[248] In September 1943, Germany occupied the northern and central areas of Italy and established a fascist puppet state, the Republica Sociale Italiana or Sal Republic.[249] Officers from RSHA IV B4, a Gestapo unit, began deporting Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The first group of 1,034 Jews arrived from Rome on 23 October 1943; 839 were gassed.[251] Around 8,500 Jews were deported in all.[248] Several forced labor camps for Jews were established in Italian-controlled Libya; almost 2,600 Libyan Jews were sent to camps, where 562 died.[252]

In Finland, the government was pressured in 1942 to hand over its 150200 non-Finnish Jews to Germany. After opposition from both the government and public, eight non-Finnish Jews were deported in late 1942; only one survived the war. Japan had little antisemitism in its society and did not persecute Jews in most of the territories it controlled. Jews in Shanghai were confined, but despite German pressure they were not killed.

On 7 December 1941, Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor, an American naval base in Honolulu, Hawaii, killing 2,403 Americans. The following day, the United States declared war on Japan, and on 11 December, Germany declared war on the United States. According to Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt, Hitler had trusted American Jews, whom he assumed were all powerful, to keep the United States out of the war in the interests of German Jews. When America declared war, he blamed the Jews.[256]

Nearly three years earlier, on 30 January 1939, Hitler had told the Reichstag: "if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will be not the Bolshevising of the earth, and thus a victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"[257] In the view of Christian Gerlach, Hitler "announced his decision in principle" to annihilate the Jews on or around 12 December 1941, one day after his declaration of war. On that day, Hitler gave a speech in his apartment at the Reich Chancellery to senior Nazi Party leaders: the Reichsleiter and the Gauleiter.[258] The following day, Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda, noted in his diary:

Regarding the Jewish question, the Fhrer is determined to clear the table. He warned the Jews that if they were to cause another world war, it would lead to their destruction. Those were not empty words. Now the world war has come. The destruction of the Jews must be its necessary consequence. We cannot be sentimental about it.[t]

Christopher Browning argues that Hitler gave no order during the Reich Chancellery meeting but made clear that he had intended his 1939 warning to the Jews to be taken literally, and he signaled to party leaders that they could give appropriate orders to others. According to Gerlach, an unidentified former German Sicherheitsdienst officer wrote in a report in 1944, after defecting to Switzerland: "After America entered the war, the annihilation (Ausrottung) of all European Jews was initiated on the Fhrer's order."

Four days after Hitler's meeting with party leaders, Hans Frank, Governor-General of the General Government area of occupied Poland, who was at the meeting, spoke to district governors: "We must put an end to the Jews... I will in principle proceed only on the assumption that they will disappear. They must go."[u] On 18 December 1941, Hitler and Himmler held a meeting to which Himmler referred in his appointment book as "Juden frage | als Partisanen auszurotten" ("Jewish question / to be exterminated as partisans"). Browning interprets this as a meeting to discuss how to justify and speak about the killing.

SS-Obergruppenfhrer Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Security Head Office (RSHA), convened what became known as the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942 at Am Groen Wannsee 5658, a villa in Berlin's Wannsee suburb.[265] The meeting had been scheduled for 9 December 1941, and invitations had been sent between 29 November and 1 December, but on 8 December it had been postponed indefinitely, probably because of Pearl Harbor. On 8 January, Heydrich sent out notes again, this time suggesting 20 January.

The 15 men present at Wannsee included Heydrich, SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, head of Reich Security Head Office Referat IV B4 ("Jewish affairs"); SS Major General Heinrich Mller, head of RSHA Department IV (the Gestapo); and other SS and party leaders.[v] According to Browning, eight of the 15 had doctorates: "Thus it was not a dimwitted crowd unable to grasp what was going to be said to them." Thirty copies of the minutes, the Wannsee Protocol, were made. Copy no.16 was found by American prosecutors in March 1947 in a German Foreign Office folder. Written by Eichmann and stamped "Top Secret", the minutes were written in "euphemistic language" on Heydrich's instructions, according to Eichmann's later testimony.

Discussing plans for a "final solution to the Jewish question" ("Endlsung der Judenfrage"), and a "final solution to the Jewish question in Europe" ("Endlsung der europischen Judenfrage"),[273] the conference was held to share information and responsibility, to coordinate efforts and policies ("Parallelisierung der Linienfhrung"), and to ensure that authority rested with Heydrich. There was discussion about whether to include the German Mischlinge (half-Jews). Heydrich told the meeting: "Another possible solution of the problem has now taken the place of emigration, i.e. the evacuation of the Jews to the East, provided that the Fuehrer gives the appropriate approval in advance."[273] He continued:

Dining room in which the conference took place

Under proper guidance, in the course of the Final Solution, the Jews are to be allocated for appropriate labor in the East. Able-bodied Jews, separated according to sex, will be taken in large work columns to these areas for work on roads, in the course of which action doubtless a large portion will be eliminated by natural causes.

The possible final remnant will, since it will undoubtedly consist of the most resistant portion, have to be treated accordingly because it is the product of natural selection and would, if released, act as the seed of a new Jewish revival. (See the experience of history.)

In the course of the practical execution of the Final Solution, Europe will be combed through from west to east. Germany proper, including the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, will have to be handled first due to the housing problem and additional social and political necessities.

The evacuated Jews will first be sent, group by group, to so-called transit ghettos, from which they will be transported to the East.[273]

These evacuations were regarded as provisional or "temporary solutions" ("Ausweichmglichkeiten").[x] The final solution would encompass the 11million Jews living not only in territories controlled by Germany, but elsewhere in Europe and adjacent territories, such as Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, Turkey, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, and Hungary, "dependent on military developments". There was little doubt what the final solution was. According to Longerich, "the Jews were to be annihilated by a combination of forced labour and mass murder."

At the end of 1941 in occupied Poland, the Germans began building additional camps or expanding existing ones. Auschwitz, for example, was expanded in October 1941 by building Auschwitz II-Birkenau a few kilometers away.[4] By the spring or summer of 1942, gas chambers had been installed in these new facilities, except for Chemno, which used gas vans.

Other camps sometimes described as extermination camps include Maly Trostinets near Minsk in the occupied Soviet Union, where 65,000 are thought to have died, mostly by shooting but also in gas vans;[290] Mauthausen in Austria; Stutthof, near Gdask, Poland; and Sachsenhausen and Ravensbrck in Germany.[293]

Chemno, with gas vans only, had its roots in the Aktion T4 euthanasia program. In December 1939 and January 1940, gas vans equipped with gas cylinders and a sealed compartment had been used to kill disabled people in occupied Poland. As the mass shootings continued in Russia, Himmler and his subordinates in the field feared that the murders were causing psychological problems for the SS, and began searching for more efficient methods. In December 1941, similar vans, using exhaust fumes rather than bottled gas, were introduced into the camp at Chemno, Victims were asphyxiated while being driven to prepared burial pits in the nearby forests. The vans were also used in the occupied Soviet Union, for example in smaller clearing actions in the Minsk ghetto, and in Yugoslavia. Apparently, as with the mass shootings, the vans caused emotional problems for the operators, and the small number of victims the vans could handle made them ineffective.[300]

German extermination and other camps in Poland

Christian Gerlach writes that over three million Jews were murdered in 1942, the year that "marked the peak" of the mass murder. At least 1.4million of these were in the General Government area of Poland. Victims usually arrived at the extermination camps by freight train. Almost all arrivals at Beec, Sobibr and Treblinka were sent directly to the gas chambers, with individuals occasionally selected to replace dead workers. At Auschwitz, about 20 percent of Jews were selected to work. Those selected for death at all camps were told to undress and hand their valuables to camp workers. They were then herded naked into the gas chambers. To prevent panic, they were told the gas chambers were showers or delousing chambers.

At Auschwitz, after the chambers were filled, the doors were shut and pellets of Zyklon-B were dropped into the chambers through vents, releasing toxic prussic acid. Those inside died within 20 minutes; the speed of death depended on how close the inmate was standing to a gas vent, according to the commandant Rudolf Hss, who estimated that about one-third of the victims died immediately. Johann Kremer, an SS doctor who oversaw the gassings, testified that: "Shouting and screaming of the victims could be heard through the opening and it was clear that they fought for their lives." The gas was then pumped out, and the Sonderkommandowork groups of mostly Jewish prisonerscarried out the bodies, extracted gold fillings, cut off women's hair, and removed jewelry, artificial limbs and glasses. At Auschwitz, the bodies were at first buried in deep pits and covered with lime, but between September and November 1942, on the orders of Himmler, 100,000 bodies were dug up and burned. In early 1943, new gas chambers and crematoria were built to accommodate the numbers.

Beec, Sobibr and Treblinka became known as the Operation Reinhard camps, named after the German plan to murder the Jews in the General Government area of occupied Poland.[315] Between March 1942 and November 1943, around 1,526,500 Jews were gassed in these three camps in gas chambers using carbon monoxide from the exhaust fumes of stationary diesel engines.[4] Gold fillings were pulled from the corpses before burial, but unlike in Auschwitz the women's hair was cut before death. At Treblinka, to calm the victims, the arrival platform was made to look like a train station, complete with fake clock. Most of the victims at these three camps were buried in pits at first. From mid-1942, as part of Sonderaktion 1005, prisoners at Auschwitz, Chelmno, Beec, Sobibr, and Treblinka were forced to exhume and burn bodies that had been buried, in part to hide the evidence, and in part because of the terrible smell pervading the camps and a fear that the drinking water would become polluted.[317] The corpses700,000 in Treblinkawere burned on wood in open fire pits and the remaining bones crushed into powder.[318]

There was almost no resistance in the ghettos in Poland until the end of 1942. Raul Hilberg accounted for this by evoking the history of Jewish persecution: compliance might avoid inflaming the situation until the onslaught abated. Timothy Snyder noted that it was only during the three months after the deportations of JulySeptember 1942 that agreement on the need for armed resistance was reached.[322]

Several resistance groups were formed, such as the Jewish Combat Organization (OB) and Jewish Military Union (ZW) in the Warsaw Ghetto and the United Partisan Organization in Vilna. Over 100 revolts and uprisings occurred in at least 19 ghettos and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The best known is the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April 1943, when the Germans arrived to send the remaining inhabitants to extermination camps. Forced to retreat on 19 April from the OB and ZW fighters, they returned later that day under the command of SS General Jrgen Stroop (author of the Stroop Report about the uprising). Around 1,000 poorly armed fighters held the SS at bay for four weeks. Polish and Jewish accounts stated that hundreds or thousands of Germans had been killed, while the Germans reported 16 dead. The Germans said that 14,000 Jews had been killed7000 during the fighting and 7000 sent to Treblinkaand between 53,000 and 56,000 deported. According to Gwardia Ludowa, a Polish resistance newspaper, in May 1943:

From behind the screen of smoke and fire, in which the ranks of fighting Jewish partisans are dying, the legend of the exceptional fighting qualities of the Germans is being undermined.... The fighting Jews have won for us what is most important: the truth about the weakness of the Germans.

During a revolt in Treblinka on 2 August 1943, inmates killed five or six guards and set fire to camp buildings; several managed to escape.[331] In the Biaystok Ghetto on 16 August, Jewish insurgents fought for five days when the Germans announced mass deportations. On 14 October, Jewish prisoners in Sobibr attempted an escape, killing 11 SS officers, as well as two or three Ukrainian and Volksdeutsche guards. According to Yitzhak Arad, this was the highest number of SS officers killed in a single revolt.[333] Around 300 inmates escaped (out of 600 in the main camp), but 100 were recaptured and shot.[334] On 7 October 1944, 300 Jewish members, mostly Greek or Hungarian, of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz learned they were about to be killed, and staged an uprising, blowing up crematorium IV.[335] Three SS officers were killed. The Sonderkommando at crematorium II threw their Oberkapo into an oven when they heard the commotion, believing that a camp uprising had begun. By the time the SS had regained control, 451 members of the Sonderkommando were dead; 212 survived.[338]

Estimates of Jewish participation in partisan units throughout Europe range from 20,000 to 100,000. In the occupied Polish and Soviet territories, thousands of Jews fled into the swamps or forests and joined the partisans, although the partisan movements did not always welcome them. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 joined the Soviet partisan movement. One of the famous Jewish groups was the Bielski partisans in Belarus, led by the Bielski brothers. Jews also joined Polish forces, including the Home Army. According to Timothy Snyder, "more Jews fought in the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944 than in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April 1943."[ab]

The Polish government-in-exile in London received information about the extermination camp at Auschwitz from the Polish leadership in Warsaw from 1940 onwards, and by August 1942 there was "a continual flow of information to and from Poland", according to Michael Fleming. This was in large measure thanks to Captain Witold Pilecki of the Polish Home Army, who was sent to the camp in September 1940 after allowing himself to be arrested in Warsaw. An inmate until he escaped in April 1943, his mission was to set up a resistance movement (ZOW), prepare to take over the camp, and smuggle out information.[350]

On 6 January 1942, the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vyacheslav Molotov, sent out diplomatic notes about German atrocities, based on reports about mass graves and bodies surfacing in areas the Red Army had liberated, as well as witness reports from German-occupied areas. According to Fleming, in May and June 1942, London was told about the extermination camps at Chemno, Sobibr, and Bezc. Szlama Ber Winer escaped from Chemno in February and passed information to the Oneg Shabbat group in the Warsaw Ghetto;[161] his report was known by his pseudonym as the Grojanowski Report.[353] Also in 1942, Jan Karski sent information to the Allies after being smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto twice.[354] By c.July 1942, Polish leaders in Warsaw had learned about the mass killing of Jews in Auschwitz.[ac] The Polish Interior Ministry prepared a report, Sprawozdanie 6/42, which said at the end:

There are different methods of execution. People are shot by firing squads, killed by an "air hammer" /Hammerluft/, and poisoned by gas in special gas chambers. Prisoners condemned to death by the Gestapo are murdered by the first two methods. The third method, the gas chamber, is employed for those who are ill or incapable of work and those who have been brought in transports especially for the purpose /Soviet prisoners of war, and, recently Jews/.

Sprawozdanie 6/42 had reached London by 12 November 1942, where it was translated into English to become part of a 108-page report, "Report on Conditions in Poland", on which the date 27 November 1942 was handwritten. This report was sent to the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C. On 10 December 1942, the Polish Foreign Affairs Minister, Edward Raczyski, addressed the fledgling United Nations on the killings; the address was distributed with the title The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland. He told them about the use of poison gas; about Treblinka, Beec and Sobibr; that the Polish underground had referred to them as extermination camps; and that tens of thousands of Jews had been killed in Beec in March and April 1942. One in three Jews in Poland were already dead, he estimated, from a population of 3,130,000. Raczyski's address was covered by the New York Times and The Times of London. Winston Churchill received it, and Anthony Eden presented it to the British cabinet. On 17 December 1942, 11 Allies issued the Joint Declaration by Members of the United Nations condemning the "bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination".[361]

The British and American governments were reluctant to publicize the intelligence they had received. A BBC Hungarian Service memo, written by Carlile Macartney, said in 1942: "We shouldn't mention the Jews at all." The British government's view was that the Hungarian people's antisemitism would make them distrust the Allies if Allied broadcasts focused on the Jews.[362] In the United States, where antisemitism and isolationism were common, the government similarly feared turning the war into one about the Jews. Although governments and the German public appear to have understood what was happening to the Jews, it seems the Jews themselves did not. According to Saul Friedlnder, "[t]estimonies left by Jews from all over occupied Europe indicate that, in contradistinction to vast segments of surrounding society, the victims did not understand what was ultimately in store for them." In Western Europe, he writes, Jewish communities failed to piece the information together, while in Eastern Europe they could not accept that the stories they had heard from elsewhere would end up applying to them too.

By 1943 it was evident to the armed forces leadership that Germany was losing the war. Rail shipments of Jews were still arriving regularly from western and southern Europe at the extermination camps. Shipments of Jews had priority on the German railways over anything but the army's needs, and continued even in the face of the increasingly dire military situation at the end of 1942. Army leaders and economic managers complained about this diversion of resources and the killing of skilled Jewish workers, but Nazi leaders rated ideological imperatives above economic considerations.

The mass murder reached a "frenetic" pace in 1944 when Auschwitz gassed nearly 500,000 people.[372] On 19 March 1944, Hitler ordered the military occupation of Hungary and dispatched Adolf Eichmann to supervise the deportation of its Jews. Between 15 May and 9 July, 440,000 Jews were deported from Hungary to Auschwitz II-Birkenau, almost all sent directly to the gas chambers. A month before the deportations began, Eichmann offered through an intermediary, Joel Brand, to exchange one million Jews for 10,000 trucks from the Allies, which the Germans would agree not to use on the Western front.[375] The British thwarted the proposal by leaking it. The Times called it "a new level of fantasy and self-deception".[376]

As the Soviet armed forces advanced, the SS closed down the camps in eastern Poland and tried to conceal what had happened. The gas chambers were dismantled, the crematoria dynamited, and the mass graves dug up and corpses cremated. From January to April 1945, the SS sent inmates westward on death marches to camps in Germany and Austria.[379] In January 1945, the Germans held records of 714,000 inmates in concentration camps; by May, 250,000 (35 percent) had died during these marches. Already sick after exposure to violence and starvation, they were marched to train stations and transported for days without food or shelter in open freight cars, then forced to march again at the other end to the new camp. Some went by truck or wagons; others were marched the entire distance. Those who lagged behind or fell were shot.[381]

The first major camp encountered by Allied troops, Majdanek, was discovered by the advancing Soviets, along with its gas chambers, on 25 July 1944.[382] Treblinka, Sobibr, and Beec were never liberated, but were destroyed by the Germans in 1943. On 17 January 1945, 58,000 Auschwitz inmates were sent on a death march westwards; when the camp was liberated by the Soviets on 27 January, they found just 7,000 inmates in the three main camps and 500 in subcamps. Buchenwald was liberated by the Americans on 11 April; Bergen-Belsen by the British on 15 April; Dachau by the Americans on 29 April; Ravensbrck by the Soviets on 30 April; and Mauthausen by the Americans on 5 May. The Red Cross took control of Theresienstadt on 3 May, days before the Soviets arrived.

The British 11th Armoured Division found around 60,000 prisoners (90 percent Jews) when they liberated Bergen-Belsen,[392] as well as 13,000 unburied corpses; another 10,000 people died from typhus or malnutrition over the following weeks.[393] The BBC's war correspondent Richard Dimbleby described the scenes that greeted him and the British Army at Belsen, in a report so graphic the BBC declined to broadcast it for four days, and did so, on 19 April, only after Dimbleby threatened to resign. He said he had "never seen British soldiers so moved to cold fury":

Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which.... The living lay with their heads against the corpses and around them moved the awful, ghostly procession of emaciated, aimless people, with nothing to do and with no hope of life, unable to move out of your way, unable to look at the terrible sights around them... Babies had been born here, tiny wizened things that could not live. A mother, driven mad, screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child, and thrust the tiny mite into his arms.... He opened the bundle and found the baby had been dead for days. This day at Belsen was the most horrible of my life.

The Jews killed represented around one third of world Jewry and about two-thirds of European Jewry, based on a pre-war figure of 9.7million Jews in Europe.[398] The most commonly cited death toll is the six million given by Adolf Eichmann to SS member Wilhelm Httl, who signed an affidavit mentioning this figure in 1945.[ad] Jack Fischel writes that historians' estimates range from 4,204,000 to 7,000,000, "with the use of the round figure of six million Jews murdered as the best estimate". David M. Crowe's range is 4.7 to 7.4million. According to Yad Vashem, "[a]ll the serious research" confirms that between five and six million Jews died.[ad] Early postwar calculations were 4.24.5million from Gerald Reitlinger, 5.1million from Raul Hilberg, and 5.95million from Jacob Lestschinsky. In 1990 Yehuda Bauer and Robert Rozett estimated 5.595.86million, and in 1991 Wolfgang Benz suggested 5.29 to just over 6million.[ad] The figures include over one million children.[406]

Much of the uncertainty stems from the lack of a reliable figure for Jews in Europe in 1939, border changes that make double-counting of victims difficult to avoid, lack of accurate records from the perpetrators, and uncertainty about whether to include post-liberation deaths caused by the persecution.

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The Holocaust – Facts, Victims & Survivors – HISTORY

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The word Holocaust, from the Greek words holos (whole) and kaustos (burned), was historically used to describe a sacrificial offering burned on an altar. Since 1945, the word has taken on a new and horrible meaning: the ideological and systematic state-sponsored persecution and mass murder of millions of European Jews (as well as millions of others, including Romani people, theintellectually disabled, dissidents and homosexuals) by the German Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945.

To the anti-Semitic Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, Jews were an inferior race, an alien threat to German racial purity and community. After years of Nazi rule in Germany, during which Jews were consistently persecuted, Hitlers final solutionnow known as the Holocaustcame to fruition under the cover of World War II, with mass killing centers constructed in the concentration camps of occupied Poland. Approximately six million Jews and some 5 million others, targeted forracial, political, ideological and behavioralreasons, died in the Holocaust. More than one million of those who perished were children.

Anti-Semitism in Europe did not begin with Adolf Hitler. Though use of the term itself dates only to the 1870s, there is evidence of hostility toward Jews long before the Holocausteven as far back as the ancient world, when Roman authorities destroyed the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and forced Jews to leave Palestine. The Enlightenment, during the 17th and 18th centuries, emphasized religious toleration, and in the 19th century Napoleon and other European rulers enacted legislation that ended long-standing restrictions on Jews. Anti-Semitic feeling endured, however, in many cases taking on a racial character rather than a religious one.

Did you know? Even in the early 21st century, the legacy of the Holocaust endures. Swiss government and banking institutions have in recent years acknowledged their complicity with the Nazis and established funds to aid Holocaust survivors and other victims of human rights abuses, genocide or other catastrophes.

The roots of Hitlers particularly virulent brand of anti-Semitism are unclear. Born in Austria in 1889, he served in the German army during World War I. Like many anti-Semites in Germany, he blamed the Jews for the countrys defeat in 1918. Soon after the war ended, Hitler joined the National German Workers Party, which became the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), known to English speakers as the Nazis. While imprisoned for treason for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, Hitler wrote the memoir and propaganda tract Mein Kampf(My Struggle), in which he predicted a general European war that would result in the extermination of the Jewish race in Germany.

Hitler was obsessed with the idea of the superiority of the pure German race, which he called Aryan, and with the need for Lebensraum, or living space, for that race to expand. In the decade after he was released from prison, Hitler took advantage of the weakness of his rivals to enhance his partys status and rise from obscurity to power. On January 30, 1933, he was named chancellor of Germany. After President Paul von Hindenburgs death in 1934, Hitler anointed himself as Fuhrer, becoming Germanys supreme ruler.

WATCH: Third Reich: The Rise on HISTORY Vault

The twin goals of racial purity and spatial expansion were the core of Hitlers worldview, and from 1933 onward they would combine to form the driving force behind his foreign and domestic policy. At first, the Nazis reserved their harshest persecution for political opponents such as Communists or Social Democrats. The first official concentration camp opened at Dachau (near Munich) in March 1933, and many of the first prisoners sent there were Communists.

Like the network of concentration camps that followed, becoming the killing grounds of the Holocaust, Dachau was under the control of Heinrich Himmler, head of the elite Nazi guard, the Schutzstaffel (SS), and later chief of the German police. By July 1933, German concentration camps (Konzentrationslager in German, or KZ) held some 27,000 people in protective custody. Huge Nazi rallies and symbolic acts such as the public burning of books by Jews, Communists, liberals and foreigners helped drive home the desired message of party strength.

In 1933, Jews in Germany numbered around 525,000, or only 1 percent of the total German population. During the next six years, Nazis undertook an Aryanization of Germany, dismissing non-Aryans from civil service, liquidating Jewish-owned businesses and stripping Jewish lawyers and doctors of their clients. Under the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, anyone with three or four Jewish grandparents was considered a Jew, while those with two Jewish grandparents were designated Mischlinge (half-breeds).

Under the Nuremberg Laws, Jews became routine targets for stigmatization and persecution. This culminated in Kristallnacht, or the night of broken glass in November 1938, when German synagogues were burned and windows in Jewish shops were smashed; some 100 Jews were killed and thousands more arrested. From 1933 to 1939, hundreds of thousands of Jews who were able to leave Germany did, while those who remained lived in a constant state of uncertainty and fear.

In September 1939, the German army occupied the western half of Poland. German police soon forced tens of thousands of Polish Jews from their homes and into ghettoes, giving their confiscated properties to ethnic Germans (non-Jews outside Germany who identified as German), Germans from the Reich or Polish gentiles. Surrounded by high walls and barbed wire, the Jewish ghettoes in Poland functioned like captive city-states, governed by Jewish Councils. In addition to widespread unemployment, poverty and hunger, overpopulation made the ghettoes breeding grounds for disease such as typhus.

Meanwhile, beginning in the fall of 1939, Nazi officials selected around 70,000 Germans institutionalized for mental illness or disabilities to be gassed to death in the so-called Euthanasia Program. After prominent German religious leaders protested, Hitler put an end to the program in August 1941, though killings of the disabled continued in secrecy, and by 1945 some 275,000 people deemed handicapped from all over Europe had been killed. In hindsight, it seems clear that the Euthanasia Program functioned as a pilot for the Holocaust.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1940, the German army expanded Hitlers empire in Europe, conquering Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Beginning in 1941, Jews from all over the continent, as well as hundreds of thousands of European Romani people, were transported to the Polish ghettoes. The German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 marked a new level of brutality in warfare. Mobile killing units called Einsatzgruppenwould murder more than 500,000 Soviet Jews and others (usually by shooting) over the course of the German occupation.

A memorandum dated July 31, 1941, from Hitlers top commander Hermann Goering to Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the SD (the security service of the SS), referred to the need for an Endlsung (final solution) to the Jewish question. Beginning in September 1941, every person designated as a Jew in German-held territory was marked with a yellow star, making them open targets. Tens of thousands were soon being deported to the Polish ghettoes and German-occupied cities in the USSR.

Since June 1941, experiments with mass killing methods had been ongoing at the concentration camp of Auschwitz, near Krakow. That August, 500 officials gassed 500 Soviet POWs to death with the pesticide Zyklon-B. The SS soon placed a huge order for the gas with a German pest-control firm, an ominous indicator of the coming Holocaust.

READ MORE: Horrors of Auschwitz: The Numbers Behind WWII's Deadliest Concentration Camp

Beginning in late 1941, the Germans began mass transports from the ghettoes in Poland to the concentration camps, starting with those people viewed as the least useful: the sick, old and weak and the very young. The first mass gassings began at the camp of Belzec, near Lublin, on March 17, 1942. Five more mass killing centers were built at camps in occupied Poland, including Chelmno, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and the largest of all, Auschwitz-Birkenau. From 1942 to 1945, Jews were deported to the camps from all over Europe, including German-controlled territory as well as those countries allied with Germany.The heaviest deportations took place during the summer and fall of 1942, when more than 300,000 people were deported from the Warsaw ghetto alone.

Fed up with the deportations, disease and constant hunger, the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto rose up in armed revolt. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising from April 19-May 16, 1943 ended in the death of 7,000 Jews, with 50,000 survivors sent to extermination camps. But the resistance fighters had held off the Nazis for almost a month, and their revolt inspired revolts at camps and ghettos across German-occupied Europe.

Though the Nazis tried to keep operation of camps secret, the scale of the killing made this virtually impossible. Eyewitnesses brought reports of Nazi atrocities in Poland to the Allied governments, who were harshly criticized after the war for their failure to respond, or to publicize news of the mass slaughter. This lack of action was likely mostly due to the Allied focus on winning the war at hand, but was also a result of the general incomprehension with which news of the Holocaust was met and the denial and disbelief that such atrocities could be occurring on such a scale.

At Auschwitz alone, more than 2 million people were murdered in a process resembling a large-scale industrial operation. A large population of Jewish and non-Jewish inmates worked in the labor camp there; though only Jews were gassed, thousands of others died of starvation or disease. And in 1943, eugenicist Josef Mengele arrived in Auschwitz to begin his infamous experiments on Jewish prisoners. His special area of focus was conducting medical experiments on twins, injecting them with everything from petrol to chloroform under the guise of giving them medical treatment. His actions earned him the nickname the Angel of Death.

By the spring of 1945, German leadership was dissolving amid internal dissent, with Goering and Himmler both seeking to distance themselves from Hitler and take power. In his last will and political testament, dictated in a German bunker that April 29, Hitler blamed the war on International Jewry and its helpers and urged the German leaders and people to follow the strict observance of the racial laws and with merciless resistance against the universal poisoners of all peoplesthe Jews. The following day, Hitler committed suicide. Germanys formal surrender in World War II came barely a week later, on May 8, 1945.

German forces had begun evacuating many of the death camps in the fall of 1944, sending inmates under guard to march further from the advancing enemys front line. These so-called death marches continued all the way up to the German surrender, resulting in the deaths of some 250,000 to 375,000 people. In his classic book Survival in Auschwitz, the Italian Jewish author Primo Levi described his own state of mind, as well as that of his fellow inmates in Auschwitz on the day before Soviet troops arrived at the camp in January 1945: We lay in a world of death and phantoms. The last trace of civilization had vanished around and inside us. The work of bestial degradation, begun by the victorious Germans, had been carried to conclusion by the Germans in defeat.

READ MORE: The Horrifying Discovery of Dachau Concentration CampAnd Its Liberation by US Troops

The wounds of the Holocaustknown in Hebrew as Shoah, or catastrophewere slow to heal. Survivors of the camps found it nearly impossible to return home, as in many cases they had lost their families and been denounced by their non-Jewish neighbors. As a result, the late 1940s saw an unprecedented number of refugees, POWs and other displaced populations moving across Europe.

In an effort to punish the villains of the Holocaust, the Allies held the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-46, which brought Nazi atrocities to horrifying light. Increasing pressure on the Allied powers to create a homeland for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust would lead to a mandate for the creation of Israel in 1948.

Over the decades that followed, ordinary Germans struggled with the Holocausts bitter legacy, as survivors and the families of victims sought restitution of wealth and property confiscated during the Nazi years. Beginning in 1953, the German government made payments to individual Jews and to the Jewish people as a way of acknowledging the German peoples responsibility for the crimes committed in their name.

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The Holocaust - Facts, Victims & Survivors - HISTORY

Introduction to the Holocaust: What was the Holocaust …

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The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its allies and collaborators. Holocaust is a word of Greek origin meaning "sacrifice by fire." The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.

During the Nazi era, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived racial and biological inferiority: Roma (Gypsies), people with disabilities, some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others), Soviet prisoners of war, and Black people. Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and homosexuals.

In 1933, the Jewish population of Europe stood at over nine million. Most European Jews lived in countries that Nazi Germany would occupy or influence during World War II. By the end of the war in 1945, the Germans and their allies and collaborators killed nearly two out of every three European Jews as part of the "Final Solution."

The Nazis considered Jews to be the inferior race that posed the deadliest menace to the German Volk. Soon after they came to power, the Nazis adopted measures to exclude Jews from German economic, social and cultural life and to pressure them to emigrate. World War II provided Nazi officials with the opportunity to pursue a comprehensive, final solution to the Jewish question: the murder of all the Jews in Europe.

While Jews were the priority target of Nazi racism, other groups within Germany were persecuted for racial reasons, including Roma (then commonly called "Gypsies"), Afro-Germans, and people with mental or physical disabilities. By the end of the war, the Germans and their Axis partners murdered between 250,000 and 500,000 Roma. And between 1939 and 1945, they murdered at least 250,000 mentally or physically disabled patients, mainly German and living in institutions, in the so-called Euthanasia Program.

As Nazi tyranny spread across Europe, the Germans and their collaborators persecuted and murdered millions of other people seen as biologically inferior or dangerous. Approximately 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war were murdered or died of starvation, disease, neglect, or brutal treatment. The Germans shot tens of thousands of non-Jewish members of the Polish intelligentsia, murdered the inhabitants of hundreds of villages in pacification raids in Poland and the Soviet Union, and deported millions of Polish and Soviet civilians to perform forced labor under conditions that caused many to die.

From the earliest years of the Nazi regime, German authorities persecuted homosexuals and other Germans whose behavior did not conform to prescribed social norms (such as beggars, alcoholics, and prostitutes), incarcerating tens of thousands of them in prisons and concentration camps. German police officials similarly persecuted tens of thousands of Germans viewed as political opponents (including Communists, Socialists, Freemasons, and trade unionists) and religious dissidents (such as Jehovah's Witnesses). Many of these individuals died as a result of maltreatment and murder.

World War II provided Nazi officials the opportunity to adopt more radical measures against the Jews under the pretext that they posed a threat to Germany. After occupying Poland, German authorities confined the Jewish population to ghettos, to which they also later deported thousands of Jews from the Third Reich. Hundreds of thousands of Jews died from the horrendous conditions in the ghettos in German-occupied Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, SS and police units perpetrated mass shootings of Jews and Roma, as well as Soviet Communist Party and state officials in eastern Europe. The German units involved in these massacres included Einsatzgruppen, Order Police battalions, and Waffen-SS units. As they moved through eastern Europe, these units relied on logistical support from the German military (the Wehrmacht). In addition to shootings, these units also used specially designed mobile gas vans as a means of killing. Mass shootings of Jews in eastern Europe continued throughout the war. Of the approximately 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust, at least 1.5 million and possibly more than 2 million died in mass shootings or gas vans in Soviet territory.

In late 1941, Nazi officials opted to employ an additional method to kill Jews, one originally developed for the Euthanasia Program: stationary gas chambers. Between 1941 and 1944, Nazi Germany and its allies deported Jews from areas under their control to killing centers. These killing centers, often called extermination camps in English, were located in German-occupied Poland. Poison gas was the primary means of murder at these camps. Nearly 2.7 million Jews were murdered at the five killing centers:Belzec, Chelmno, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Some able-bodied Jewish deportees were temporarily spared to perform forced labor in ghettos, forced labor camps for Jews, or concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Poland and the Soviet Union. Most of these workers died from starvation and disease or were killed when they became too weak to work.

My mother ran over to me and grabbed me by the shoulders, and she told me "Leibele, I'm not going to see you no more. Take care of your brother."Leo Schneiderman describingarrival at Auschwitz, selection, and separation from his family

In the final months of the war, SS guards moved camp inmates by train or on forced marches, often called death marches, in an attempt to prevent the Allied liberation of large numbers of prisoners. As Allied forces moved across Europe in a series of offensives against Germany, they began to encounter and liberate concentration camp prisoners, as well as prisoners en route by forced march from one camp to another. The marches continued until May 7, 1945, the day the German armed forces surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.

On May 7, 1945, German armed forces surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. World War II officially ended in most parts of Europe on the next day, May 8 (V-E Day). Because of the time difference, Soviet forces announced their Victory Day on May 9, 1945.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, an estimated 250,000 Jewish survivors found shelter in displaced persons camps run by the Allied powers and the United Nations Refugee and Rehabilitation Administration in Germany, Austria, and Italy. Between 1948 and 1951, most Jewish displaced persons immigrated to Israel, the United States, and other nations outside Europe. The last camp for Jewish displaced persons closed in 1957.

The crimes committed during the Holocaust devastated or completely destroyed Jewish communities across Europe.

Author(s): United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC

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Holocaust | Definition, Concentration Camps, History …

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Holocaust, Hebrew Shoah (Catastrophe), Yiddish and Hebrew urban (Destruction), the systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children and millions of others by NaziGermany and its collaborators during World War II. The Germans called this the final solution to the Jewish question. Yiddish-speaking Jews and survivors in the years immediately following their liberation called the murder of the Jews the urban, the word used to describe the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 bce and the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 ce. Shoah (Catastrophe) is the term preferred by Israelis and the French, most especially after Claude Lanzmanns masterful 1985 motion picture documentary of that title. It is also preferred by people who speak Hebrew and by those who want to be more particular about the Jewish experience or who are uncomfortable with the religious connotations of the word Holocaust. Less universal and more particular, Shoah emphasizes the annihilation of the Jews, not the totality of Nazi victims. More particular terms also were used by Raul Hilberg, who called his pioneering work The Destruction of the European Jews, and Lucy S. Dawidowicz, who entitled her book on the Holocaust The War Against the Jews. In part she showed how Germany fought two wars simultaneously: World War II and the racial war against the Jews. The Allies fought only the World War. The word Holocaust is derived from the Greek holokauston, a translation of the Hebrew word olah, meaning a burnt sacrifice offered whole to God. This word was chosen because in the ultimate manifestation of the Nazi killing programthe extermination campsthe bodies of the victims were consumed whole in crematoria and open fires.

Smoke, oil on linen by Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak, 1997.

Even before the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, they had made no secret of their anti-Semitism. As early as 1919 Adolf Hitler had written, Rational anti-Semitism, however, must lead to systematic legal opposition.Its final objective must unswervingly be the removal of the Jews altogether. In Mein Kampf (My Struggle; 192527), Hitler further developed the idea of the Jews as an evil race struggling for world domination. Nazi anti-Semitism was rooted in religious anti-Semitism and enhanced by political anti-Semitism. To this the Nazis added a further dimension: racial anti-Semitism. Nazi racial ideology characterized the Jews as Untermenschen (German: subhumans). The Nazis portrayed the Jews as a race and not as a religious group. Religious anti-Semitism could be resolved by conversion, political anti-Semitism by expulsion. Ultimately, the logic of Nazi racial anti-Semitism led to annihilation.

Hitlers worldview revolved around two concepts: territorial expansion (that is, greater Lebensraumliving spacefor the German people) and racial supremacy. After World War I the Allies denied Germany colonies in Africa, so Hitler sought to expand German territory and secure food and resourcesscarce during World War Iin Europe itself. Hitler viewed the Jews as racial polluters, a cancer on German society in what has been termed by Holocaust survivor and historian Saul Friedlnder redemptive anti-Semitism, focused on redeeming Germany from its ills and ridding it of a cancer on the body politic. Historian Timothy Snyder characterized the struggle as even more elemental, as zoological, and ecological, a struggle of the species. Hitler opposed Jews for the values they brought into the world. Social justice and compassionate assistance to the weak stood in the way of what he perceived as the natural order, in which the powerful exercise unrestrained power. In Hitlers view, such restraint on the exercise of power would inevitably lead to the weakening, even the defeat, of the master race.

When Hitler came to power legally on January 30, 1933, as the head of a coalition government, his first objective was to consolidate power and to eliminate political opposition. The assault against the Jews began on April 1 with a boycott of Jewish businesses. A week later the Nazis dismissed Jews from the civil service, and by the end of the month the participation of Jews in German schools was restricted by a quota. On May 10 thousands of Nazi students, together with many professors, stormed university libraries and bookstores in 30 cities throughout Germany to remove tens of thousands of books written by non-Aryans and those opposed to Nazi ideology. The books were tossed into bonfires in an effort to cleanse German culture of un-Germanic writings. A century earlier Heinrich Heinea German poet of Jewish originhad said, Where one burns books, one will, in the end, burn people. In Nazi Germany the time between the burning of Jewish books and the burning of Jews was eight years.

Germans burning books on the Bebelplatz, Berlin, 1933.

As discrimination against Jews increased, German law required a legal definition of a Jew and an Aryan. Promulgated at the annual Nazi Party rally in Nrnberg on September 15, 1935, the Nrnberg Lawsthe Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour and the Law of the Reich Citizenbecame the centrepiece of anti-Jewish legislation and a precedent for defining and categorizing Jews in all German-controlled lands. Marriage and sexual relations between Jews and citizens of German or kindred blood were prohibited. Only racial Germans were entitled to civil and political rights. Jews were reduced to subjects of the state. The Nrnberg Laws formally divided Germans and Jews, yet neither the word German nor the word Jew was defined. That task was left to the bureaucracy. Two basic categories were established in November: Jews, those with at least three Jewish grandparents; and Mischlinge (mongrels, or mixed breeds), people with one or two Jewish grandparents. Thus, the definition of a Jew was primarily based not on the identity an individual affirmed or the religion he or she practiced but on his or her ancestry. Categorization was the first stage of destruction.

Cover page of a German passport stamped with the letter J (for Jdin), identifying its holder, Karoline Rlf, as a Jewish woman.

Responding with alarm to Hitlers rise, the Jewish community sought to defend their rights as Germans. For those Jews who felt themselves fully German and who had patriotically fought in World War I, the Nazification of German society was especially painful. Zionist activity intensified. Wear it with pride, journalist Robert Weltsch wrote in 1933 of the Jewish identity the Nazis had so stigmatized. Religious philosopher Martin Buber led an effort at Jewish adult education, preparing the community for the long journey ahead. Rabbi Leo Baeck circulated a prayer for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) in 1935 that instructed Jews on how to behave: We bow down before God; we stand erect before man. Yet while few, if any, could foresee its eventual outcome, the Jewish condition was increasingly perilous and was expected to worsen.

By the late 1930s there was a desperate search for countries of refuge. Those who could obtain visas and qualify under stringent quotas emigrated to the United States. Many went to Palestine, where the small Jewish community was willing to receive refugees. Still others sought refuge in neighbouring European countries. Most countries, however, were unwilling to receive large numbers of refugees.

Responding to domestic pressures to act on behalf of Jewish refugees, U.S. Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt convened, but did not attend, the vian Conference on resettlement, in vian-les-Bains, France, in July 1938. In his invitation to government leaders, Roosevelt specified that they would not have to change laws or spend government funds; only philanthropic funds would be used for resettlement. Britain was assured that Palestine would not be on the agenda. The result was that little was attempted and less accomplished.


Holocaust | Definition, Concentration Camps, History ...

An Introductory History of the Holocaust

Posted By on March 5, 2021

BackgroundPropaganda: The Jews Are Our MisfortuneThe Jews Are Isolated from SocietyThe Jews Are Confined to GhettosThe Final SolutionJewish ResistanceLiberationVictims

The Holocaust (also called Ha-Shoah in Hebrew) refers to the period from January 30, 1933 - when Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany - to May 8, 1945, when the war in Europe officially ended. During this time, Jews in Europe were subjected to progressively harsher persecution that ultimately led to the murder of 6,000,000 Jews (1.5 million of these being children) and the destruction of 5,000 Jewish communities. These deaths represented two-thirds of European Jewry and one-third of all world Jewry.

The Jews who died were not casualties of the fighting that ravaged Europe during World War II. Rather, they were the victims of Germanys deliberate and systematic attempt to annihilate the entire Jewish population of Europe, a plan Hitler called the Final Solution (Endlosung).

After its defeat in World War I, Germany was humiliated by the Versailles Treaty, which reduced its prewar territory, drastically reduced its armed forces, demanded the recognition of its guilt for the war, and stipulated it pay reparations to the allied powers. With the German Empire destroyed, a new parliamentary government called the Weimar Republic was formed. The republic suffered from economic instability, which grew worse during the worldwide depression after the New York stock market crash in 1929. Massive inflation followed by very high unemployment heightened existing class and political differences and began to undermine the government.

On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party, was named chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg after the Nazi party won a significant percentage of the vote in the elections of 1932. The Nazi Party had taken advantage of the political unrest in Germany to gain an electoral foothold. The Nazis incited clashes with the communists and conducted a vicious propaganda campaign against its political opponents the weak Weimar government and the Jews whom the Nazis blamed for Germanys ills.

A major tool of the Nazis propaganda assault was the weekly Nazi newspaper Der Strmer (The Attacker). At the bottom of the front page of each issue, in bold letters, the paper proclaimed, The Jews are our misfortune! Der Strmer also regularly featured cartoons of Jews in which they were caricatured as hooked-nosed and ape-like. The influence of the newspaper was far-reaching: by 1938 about a half million copies were distributed weekly.

Soon after he became chancellor, Hitler called for new elections in an effort to get full control of the Reichstag, the German parliament, for the Nazis. The Nazis used the government apparatus to terrorize the other parties. They arrested their leaders and banned their political meetings. Then, in the midst of the election campaign, on February 27, 1933, the Reichstag building burned. A Dutchman named Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested for the crime, and he swore he had acted alone. Although many suspected the Nazis were ultimately responsible for the act, the Nazis managed to blame the Communists, thus turning more votes their way.

The fire signaled the demise of German democracy. On the next day, the government, under the pretense of controlling the Communists, abolished individual rights and protections: freedom of the press, assembly, and expression were nullified, as well as the right to privacy. When the elections were held on March 5, the Nazis received nearly 44 percent of the vote, and with 8 percent offered by the Conservatives, won a majority in the government.

The Nazis moved swiftly to consolidate their power into a dictatorship. On March 23, the Enabling Act was passed. It sanctioned Hitlers dictatorial efforts and legally enabled him to pursue them further. The Nazis marshaled their formidable propaganda machine to silence their critics. They also developed a sophisticated police and military force.

The Sturmabteilung (S.A., Storm Troopers), a grassroots organization, helped Hitler undermine the German democracy. The Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei, Secret State Police), a force recruited from professional police officers, was given complete freedom to arrest anyone after February 28. The Schutzstaffel (SS, Protection Squad) served as Hitlers personal bodyguard and eventually controlled the concentration camps and the Gestapo. The Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsfhrers-SS (S.D., Security Service of the SS) functioned as the Nazis intelligence service, uncovering enemies and keeping them under surveillance.

With this police infrastructure in place, opponents of the Nazis were terrorized, beaten, or sent to one of the concentration camps the Germans built to incarcerate them. Dachau, just outside of Munich, was the first such camp built for political prisoners. Dachaus purpose changed over time and eventually became another brutal concentration camp for Jews.

By the end of 1934 Hitler was in absolute control of Germany, and his campaign against the Jews in full swing. The Nazis claimed the Jews corrupted pure German culture with their foreign and mongrel influence. They portrayed the Jews as evil and cowardly, and Germans as hardworking, courageous, and honest. The Jews, the Nazis claimed, who were heavily represented in finance, commerce, the press, literature, theater, and the arts, had weakened Germanys economy and culture. The massive government-supported propaganda machine created a racial anti-Semitism, which was different from the longstanding anti-Semitic tradition of the Christian churches.

The superior race was the Aryans, the Germans. The word Aryan, derived from the study of linguistics, which started in the eighteenth century and at some point determined that the Indo-Germanic (also known as Aryan) languages were superior in their structures, variety, and vocabulary to the Semitic languages that had evolved in the Near East. This judgment led to a certain conjecture about the character of the peoples who spoke these languages; the conclusion was that the Aryan peoples were likewise superior to the Semitic ones

The Nazis then combined their racial theories with the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin to justify their treatment of the Jews. The Germans, as the strongest and fittest, were destined to rule, while the weak and racially adulterated Jews were doomed to extinction. Hitler began to restrict the Jews with legislation and terror, which entailed burning books written by Jews, removing Jews from their professions and public schools, confiscating their businesses and property and excluding them from public events. The most infamous of the anti-Jewish legislation were the Nuremberg Laws, enacted on September 15, 1935. They formed the legal basis for the Jews exclusion from German society and the progressively restrictive Jewish policies of the Germans.

Many Jews attempted to flee Germany, and thousands succeeded by immigrating to such countries as Belgium, Czechoslovakia, England, France and Holland. It was much more difficult to get out of Europe. Jews encountered stiff immigration quotas in most of the worlds countries. Even if they obtained the necessary documents, they often had to wait months or years before leaving. Many families out of desperation sent their children first.

In July 1938, representatives of 32 countries met in the French town of Evian to discuss the refugee and immigration problems created by the Nazis in Germany. Nothing substantial was done or decided at the Evian Conference, and it became apparent to Hitler that no one wanted the Jews and that he would not meet resistance in instituting his Jewish policies. By the autumn of 1941, Europe was in effect sealed to most legal emigration. The Jews were trapped.

On November 9-10, 1938, the attacks on the Jews became violent. Hershel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Jewish boy distraught at the deportation of his family, shot Ernst vom Rath, the third secretary in the German Embassy in Paris, who died on November 9. Nazi hooligans used this assassination as the pretext for instigating a night of destruction that is now known as Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass). They looted and destroyed Jewish homes and businesses and burned synagogues. Many Jews were beaten and killed; 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, beginning World War II. Soon after, in 1940, the Nazis began establishing ghettos for the Jews of Poland. More than 10 percent of the Polish population was Jewish, numbering about three million. Jews were forcibly deported from their homes to live in crowded ghettos, isolated from the rest of society.

This concentration of the Jewish population later aided the Nazis in their deportation of the Jews to the death camps. The ghettos lacked the necessary food, water, space, and sanitary facilities required by so many people living within their constricted boundaries. Many died of deprivation and starvation.

In June 1941 Germany attacked the Soviet Union and began the Final Solution. Four mobile killing groups were formed called Einsatzgruppen A, B, C and D. Each group contained several commando units. The Einsatzgruppen gathered Jews town by town, marched them to huge pits dug earlier, stripped them, lined them up, and shot them with automatic weapons. The dead and dying would fall into the pits to be buried in mass graves. In the infamous Babi Yar massacre, near Kiev, 30,000-35,000 Jews were killed in two days. In addition to their operations in the Soviet Union, the Einsatzgruppen conducted mass murder in eastern Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. It is estimated that by the end of 1942, the Einsatzgruppen had murdered more than 1.3 million Jews.

On January 20, 1942, several top officials of the German government met to officially coordinate the military and civilian administrative branches of the Nazi system to organize a system of mass murder of the Jews. This meeting, called the Wannsee Conference, marked the beginning of the full-scale, comprehensive extermination operation [of the Jews] and laid the foundations for its organization, which started immediately after the conference ended.

While the Nazis murdered other national and ethnic groups, such as a number of Soviet prisoners of war, Polish intellectuals, and gypsies, only the Jews were marked for systematic and total annihilation. Jews were singled out for Special Treatment (Sonderbehandlung), which meant that Jewish men, women and children were to be methodically killed with poisonous gas. In the exacting records kept at the Auschwitz death camp, the cause of death of Jews who had been gassed was indicated by SB, the first letters of the two words that form the German term for Special Treatment.

By the spring of 1942, the Nazis had established six killing centers (death camps) in Poland: Chelmno (Kulmhof), Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Maidanek and Auschwitz. All were located near railway lines so that Jews could be easily transported daily. A vast system of camps (called Lagersystem) supported the death camps. The purpose of these camps varied: some were slave labor camps, some transit camps, others concentration camps and their subcamps, and still others the notorious death camps. Some camps combined all of these functions or a few of them. All the camps were intolerably brutal.

The major concentration camps were Ravensbruck, Neuengamme, Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen, Gross-Rosen, Buchenwald, Theresienstadt, Flossenburg, Natzweiler-Struthof, Dachau, Mauthausen, Stutthof, and Dora/Nordhausen.

In nearly every country overrun by the Nazis, the Jews were forced to wear badges marking them as Jews, they were rounded up into ghettos or concentration camps and then gradually transported to the killing centers. The death camps were essentially factories for murdering Jews. The Germans shipped thousands of Jews to them each day. Within a few hours of their arrival, the Jews had been stripped of their possessions and valuables, gassed to death, and their bodies burned in specially designed crematoriums. Approximately 3.5 million Jews were murdered in these death camps.

Many healthy, young strong Jews were not killed immediately. The Germans war effort and the Final Solution required a great deal of manpower, so the Germans reserved large pools of Jews for slave labor. These people, imprisoned in concentration and labor camps, were forced to work in German munitions and other factories, such as I.G. Farben and Krupps, and wherever the Nazis needed laborers. They were worked from dawn until dark without adequate food and shelter. Thousands perished, literally worked to death by the Germans and their collaborators.

In the last months of Hitlers Reich, as the German armies retreated, the Nazis began marching the prisoners still alive in the concentration camps to the territory they still controlled. The Germans forced the starving and sick Jews to walk hundreds of miles. Most died or were shot along the way. About a quarter of a million Jews died on the death marches.

The Germans overwhelming repression and the presence of many collaborators in the various local populations severely limited the ability of the Jews to resist. Jewish resistance did occur, however, in several forms. Staying alive, clean, and observing Jewish religious traditions constituted resistance under the dehumanizing conditions imposed by the Nazis. Other forms of resistance involved escape attempts from the ghettos and camps. Many who succeeded in escaping the ghettos lived in the forests and mountains in family camps and in fighting partisan units. Once free, though, the Jews had to contend with local residents and partisan groups who were often openly hostile. Jews also staged armed revolts in the ghettos of Vilna, Bialystok, Bedzin-Sosnowiec, Krakow, and Warsaw.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the largest ghetto revolt. Massive deportations (or Aktions) had been held in the ghetto from July to September 1942, emptying the ghetto of the majority of Jews imprisoned there. When the Germans entered the ghetto again in January 1943 to remove several thousand more, small unorganized groups of Jews attacked them. After four days, the Germans withdrew from the ghetto, having deported far fewer people than they had intended. The Nazis reentered the ghetto on April 19, 1943, the eve of Passover, to evacuate the remaining Jews and close the ghetto. The Jews, using homemade bombs and stolen or bartered weapons, resisted and withstood the Germans for 27 days. They fought from bunkers and sewers and evaded capture until the Germans burned the ghetto building by building. By May 16, the ghetto was in ruins and the uprising crushed.

Jews also revolted in the death camps of Sobibor, Treblinka and Auschwitz. All of these acts of resistance were largely unsuccessful in the face of the superior German forces, but they were very important spiritually, giving the Jews hope that one day the Nazis would be defeated.

The camps were liberated gradually, as the Allies advanced on the German army. For example, Maidanek (near Lublin, Poland) was liberated by Soviet forces in July 1944, Auschwitz in January 1945 by the Soviets, Bergen-Belsen (near Hanover, Germany) by the British in April 1945, and Dachau by the Americans in April 1945.

At the end of the war, between 50,000 and 100,000 Jewish survivors were living in three zones of occupation: American, British and Soviet. Within a year, that figure grew to about 200,000. The American zone of occupation contained more than 90 percent of the Jewish displaced persons (DPs). The Jewish DPs would not and could not return to their homes, which brought back such horrible memories and still held the threat of danger from anti-Semitic neighbors. Thus, they languished in DP camps until emigration could be arranged to Palestine, and later Israel, the United States, South America and other countries. The last DP camp closed in 1957

Below are figures for the number of Jews murdered in each country that came under German domination. They are estimates, as are all figures relating to Holocaust victims. The numbers given here for Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania are based on their territorial borders before the 1938 Munich agreement. The total number of six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, which emerged from the Nuremberg trials, is also an estimate. Numbers have ranged between five and seven million killed. The exact number will never be known because of the many people whose murders were not recorded and whose bodies have still not be found.







































Soviet Union




TOTAL: 6,258,673

Sources: David S. Wyman, The United States, in David S. Wyman, ed., The World Reacts to the Holocaust, (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 707-10;Leni Yahil, The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 36.Holocaust Memorial Center6602 West Maple RoadWest Bloomfield, MI 48322Tel. (248) 661-0840 Fax. (248) 661-4204[emailprotected];

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An Introductory History of the Holocaust

Concentration Camps, 19331939 | The Holocaust Encyclopedia

Posted By on March 5, 2021

Concentration camps (Konzentrationslager; abbreviated as KL or KZ) were an integral feature of the regime in Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945.

The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy.

The first concentration camps in Germany were established soon after Hitler's appointment as chancellor in January 1933. In the weeks after the Nazis came to power, the SA (Sturmabteilung; commonly known as the Storm Troopers), the SS (Schutzstaffel; Protection Squadronsthe elite guard of the Nazi party), the police, and local civilian authorities organized numerous detention camps to incarcerate real and perceived political opponents of Nazi policy.

German authorities established camps all over Germany on an ad hoc basis to handle the masses of people arrested as alleged subversives. The SS established larger camps in Oranienburg, north of Berlin; Esterwegen, near Hamburg; Dachau, northwest of Munich; and Lichtenburg, in Saxony. In Berlin itself, the Columbia Haus facility held prisoners under investigation by the Gestapo (the German secret state police) until 1936.

The SS gained its independence from the SA in July 1934, in the wake of the Rhm purge. Hitler then authorized SS leader Heinrich Himmler to centralize the administration of the concentration camps and formalize them into a system. Himmler chose SS Lieutenant General Theodor Eicke for this task. Eicke had been the commandant of the SS concentration camp at Dachau since June 1933. Himmler appointed him Inspector of Concentration Camps, a new section of the SS subordinate to the SS Main Office.

After December 1934, the SS became the only agency authorized to establish and manage facilities that were formally called concentration camps. Local civilian authorities did continue to establish and manage forced-labor camps and detention camps throughout Germany. In 1937, only four concentration camps were left: Dachau, near Munich; Sachsenhausen near Berlin; Buchenwald near Weimar; and Lichtenburg near Merseburg in Saxony for female prisoners.

Concentration camps are often inaccurately compared to a prison in modern society. But concentration camps, unlike prisons, were independent of any judicial review. Nazi concentration camps served three main purposes:

Already as commandant of Dachau in 1933, Eicke developed an organization and procedures to administer and guard a concentration camp. He issued regulations for the duties of the perimeter guards and for treatment of the prisoners. The organization, structure, and practice developed at Dachau in 193334 became the model for the Nazi concentration camp system as it expanded. Among Eicke's early trainees at Dachau was Rudolf Hss, who later commanded the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Special political units on alert (Politische Bereitschaften) originally guarded the SS concentration camps. They were renamed SS Guard Units (SS-Wachverbnde) in 1935 and SS Death's-Head Units (SS-Totenkopfverbnde) in April 1936. One SS Death's-Head Unit was assigned to each concentration camp. After 1936, the camp administration, including the commandant, was also a part of the SS Death's-Head Unit.

Although all SS units wore the Death's-Head symbol (skull and crossbones) on their caps, only the SS Death's-Head Units were authorized to wear the Death's Head Symbol on their lapels. The SS Death's-Head Division of the Waffen SS was created in 1940. Its officers were recruited from concentration camp service. They also wore the Death's-Head symbol on their lapel.

The SS Death's-Head Unit at each camp was divided into two groups. The first was the camp staff, which covered:

The second group constituted the guard detachment (SS-Wachbataillon), which prior to 1939 was at battalion strength.

The model established by Eicke in the mid-1930s characterized the concentration camp system until the collapse of the Nazi regime in the spring of 1945. The daily routine at Dachau, the methods of punishment, and the duties of the SS staff and guards became the norm, with some variation, at all German concentration camps.

After 1938, authority to incarcerate persons in a concentration camp formally rested exclusively with the German Security Police (made up of the Gestapo and the Criminal Police).

The Security Police had held this exclusive authority de facto since 1936. The legal instrument of incarceration was either the protective detention (Schutzhaft) order or the preventative detention (Vorbeugungshaft) order. The Gestapo could issue a protective detention order for persons considered a political danger after 1933. The Criminal Police could issue a preventative detention order after December 1937 for persons considered to be habitual and professional criminals, or to be engaging in what the regime defined as asocial behavior. Neither order was subject to judicial review, or any review by any German agency outside of the German Security Police. As the concentration camp system expanded, the camps fell within the exclusive authority of the SS. The German judicial administration had no jurisdiction with the growing camp system.

Nazi Germany expanded by bloodless conquest into Austria and Czechoslovakia between 1938 and 1939. The numbers of those labeled as political opponents and as asocials in German society increased, requiring the establishment of new concentration camps.

By the time the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, unleashing World War II, there were six concentration camps in the so-called Greater German Reich: Dachau (founded 1933), Sachsenhausen (1936), Buchenwald (1937), Flossenbrg in northeastern Bavaria near the 1937 Czech border (1938), Mauthausen, near Linz, Austria (1938), and Ravensbrck, the women's camp, established in Brandenburg Province, southeast of Berlin (1939), after the dissolution of Lichtenburg.

From as early as 1934, concentration camp commandants used prisoners as forced laborers for SS construction projects such as the construction or expansion of the camps themselves. By 1938, SS leaders envisioned using the supply of forced laborers incarcerated in the camps for a variety of SS-commissioned construction projects. To mobilize and finance such projects, Himmler revamped and expanded the administrative offices of the SS and created a new SS office for business operations. Both agencies were led by SS Major General Oswald Pohl, who would take over the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps in 1942.

Beginning a pattern that became typical after the war began, economic considerations had an increasing impact on the selection of sites for concentration camps after 1937. For instance, Mauthausen and Flossenbrg were located near large stone quarries. Likewise, concentration camp authorities increasingly diverted prisoners from meaningless, backbreaking labor to still backbreaking and dangerous labor in extractive industries, such as stone quarries and coal mines, and construction labor.

After Nazi Germany unleashed World War II in September 1939, vast new territorial conquests and larger groups of potential prisoners led to the rapid expansion of the concentration camp system to the east. The war did not change the original function of the concentration camps as detention sites for the incarceration of political enemies. The climate of national emergency that the conflict granted to the Nazi leaders, however, permitted the SS to expand the functions of the camps.

The concentration camps increasingly became sites where the SS authorities could kill targeted groups of real or perceived enemies of Nazi Germany. They also came to serve as holding centers for a rapidly growing pool of forced laborers used for SS construction projects, SS-commissioned extractive industrial sites, and, by 1942, the production of armaments, weapons, and related goods for the German war effort.

Despite the need for forced labor, the SS authorities continued to deliberately undernourish and mistreat prisoners incarcerated in the concentration camps. Prisoners were used ruthlessly and without regard to safety at forced labor, resulting in high mortality rates.

Author(s): United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC

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Concentration Camps, 19331939 | The Holocaust Encyclopedia

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