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The Holocaust (from the Greek ὁλόκαυστος holókaustos: hólos, "whole" and kaustós, "burnt"), also known as the Shoah (Hebrew: השואה, HaShoah, "the catastrophe"), was a genocide in which approximately six million Jews were killed by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. An additional five million non-Jewish victims of Nazi mass murders are included by many historians bringing the total to approximately eleven million, although this is not uncontroversial. Killings took place throughout Nazi Germany and German-occupied territories.
From 1941 to 1945, Jews were targeted and methodically murdered in a genocide, the largest in modern history, and part of a broader aggregate of acts of oppression and killings of various ethnic and political groups in Europe by the Nazis. Every arm of Germany's bureaucracy was involved in the logistics of the genocide, turning the Third Reich into "a genocidal state". Non-Jewish victims of broader Nazi crimes include Gypsies, Poles, communists, homosexuals, Soviet POWs, and the mentally and physically disabled. In total, approximately 11 million people were killed, including one million Jewish children alone. Of the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe before the Holocaust, approximately two-thirds were killed. A network of about 42,500 facilities in Germany and German-occupied territories were used to concentrate, confine, and kill Jews and other victims. and between 100,000 and 500,000 people were direct participants in the planning and execution of the Holocaust.
The persecution and genocide were carried out in stages. Initially the German government passed laws to exclude Jews from civil society, most prominently the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. A network of concentration camps was established starting in 1933 and ghettos were established following the outbreak of World War II in 1939. In 1941, as Germany conquered new territory in eastern Europe, specialized paramilitary units called Einsatzgruppen were used to murder around two million Jews and "partisans", often in mass shootings. By the end of 1942, victims were being regularly transported by freight train to specially built extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, most were systematically killed in gas chambers. The campaign of murder continued until the end of World War II in Europe in April–May 1945.
Jewish armed resistance to the Nazis occurred throughout the Holocaust. One notable example was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of January 1943, when thousands of poorly armed Jewish fighters held the SS at bay for four weeks. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Jewish partisans actively fought the Nazis and their collaborators in Eastern Europe. French Jews were also highly active in the French Resistance, which conducted a guerilla campaign against the Nazis and Vichy French authorities. In total, there were over a hundred armed Jewish uprisings.
- Etymology and use of the term 1
Distinctive features 2
- Institutional collaboration 2.1
- Ideology and scale 2.2
- Extermination camps 2.3
- Medical experiments 2.4
Development and execution 3
- Origins 3.1
- Legal repression and emigration 3.2
- Kristallnacht (1938) 3.3
- Resettlement and deportation 3.4
Early measures 3.5
- In German-occupied Poland 3.5.1
In other occupied countries 3.5.2
- In North Africa 188.8.131.52
- General Government and Lublin reservation (Nisko plan) 3.5.3
- Concentration and labor camps (1933–1945) 3.6
- Ghettos (1940–1945) 3.7
- Pogroms (1939–1942) 3.8
- Death squads (1941–1943) 3.9
- New methods of mass murder 3.10
- Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution (1942–1945) 3.11
- German public 3.12.1
- International 3.12.2
- Motivation 3.13
Extermination camps 3.14
- Gas chambers 3.14.1
- Jewish resistance 3.15
- "Blood for Goods" 3.16.1
- Escapes, publication of existence (April–June 1944) 3.17
- Death marches (1944–1945) 3.18
- Liberation 3.19
Victims and death toll 4
- By country 4.1.1
- Effect on the Yiddish and Ladino languages 4.1.2
- Ethnic Poles 184.108.40.206
- West Slavs 220.127.116.11
- Ethnic Serbs and other South Slavs 18.104.22.168
- East Slavs 22.214.171.124
- Soviet POWs 126.96.36.199
- Romani people 4.2.2
- Persons of color 4.2.3
- Disabled and mentally ill 4.2.4
- Homosexuals 4.2.5
- The political left 4.2.6
- Freemasons 4.2.7
- Jehovah's Witnesses 4.2.8
- Spanish Republicans 4.2.9
- Slavs 4.2.1
- Jewish 4.1
- Uniqueness 5
- Reparations 6
See also 7
- By country 7.1
- Perpetrators and collaborators 7.2
- Victims and survivors 7.3
- Involvement of other countries and nationals 7.4
- Individual rescuers 7.5.1
- Legal response 7.6.1
- Memorials 7.6.2
- Cultural, political, and scholarly responses 7.6.3
- Miscellaneous 7.7
- Other genocides and mass killings 7.8
- Footnotes 8
- Bibliography 9
- External links 10
Etymology and use of the term
Writing in Latin, Richard of Devizes, a 12th-century monk, was the first recorded chronicler to use the term "holocaustum" in Britain. Sir Thomas Browne employed the word "holocaust" in his philosophical Discourse Urn Burial in 1658  and for centuries, the word was used generally in English to denote great massacres. Since the 1960s, the term has come to be used by scholars and popular writers to refer specifically to the Nazi genocide of Jews. The television mini-series Holocaust is credited with introducing the term into common parlance after 1978.
The biblical word shoah (שואה; also transliterated sho'ah and shoa), meaning "calamity", became the standard Hebrew term for the Holocaust as early as the 1940s, especially in Europe and Israel. Shoah is preferred by some Jews for several reasons, including the theologically offensive nature of the word "holocaust", which they take to refer to the Greek pagan custom.
The Nazis used a euphemistic phrase, the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" (German: Endlösung der Judenfrage), and the phrase "Final Solution" has been widely used as a term for the genocide of the Jews. Nazis used the phrase lebensunwertes Leben (Life unworthy of life) in reference to their victims in an attempt to justify the killings.
Every arm of Germany's bureaucracy was involved in the logistics that led to the genocides, turning the Third Reich into what one Holocaust scholar, Michael Berenbaum, has called "a genocidal state".
Every arm of the country's sophisticated bureaucracy was involved in the killing process. Parish churches and the Interior Ministry supplied birth records showing who was Jewish; the Post Office delivered the deportation and denaturalization orders; the Finance Ministry confiscated Jewish property; German firms fired Jewish workers and disenfranchised Jewish stockholders.The universities refused to admit Jews, denied degrees to those already studying, and fired Jewish academics; government transport offices arranged the trains for deportation to the camps; German pharmaceutical companies tested drugs on camp prisoners; companies bid for the contracts to build the crematoria; detailed lists of victims were drawn up using the Dehomag (IBM Germany) company's punch card machines, producing meticulous records of the killings. As prisoners entered the death camps, they were made to surrender all personal property, which was catalogued and tagged before being sent to Germany to be reused or recycled. Berenbaum writes that the Final Solution of the Jewish question was "in the eyes of the perpetrators ... Germany's greatest achievement." Through a concealed account, the German national bank helped launder valuables stolen from the victims.
Saul Friedländer writes that: "Not one social group, not one religious community, not one scholarly institution or professional association in Germany and throughout Europe declared its solidarity with the Jews." He writes that some Christian churches declared that converted Jews should be regarded as part of the flock, but even then only up to a point. Friedländer argues that this makes the Holocaust distinctive because antisemitic policies were able to unfold without the interference of countervailing forces of the kind normally found in advanced societies, such as industry, small businesses, churches, trade unions and other vested interests and lobby groups.
Ideology and scale
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Part of Jewish history
In other genocides, pragmatic considerations such as control of territory and resources were central to the genocide policy. Israeli historian and scholar Yehuda Bauer argues that:
The basic motivation [of the Holocaust] was purely ideological, rooted in an illusionary world of Nazi imagination, where an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world was opposed to a parallel Aryan quest. No genocide to date had been based so completely on myths, on hallucinations, on abstract, nonpragmatic ideology—which was then executed by very rational, pragmatic means.
German historian Eberhard Jäckel wrote in 1986 that one distinctive feature of the Holocaust was that:
never before had a state with the authority of its responsible leader decided and announced that a specific human group, including its aged, its women and its children and infants, would be killed as quickly as possible, and then carried through this resolution using every possible means of state power.
The killings were systematically conducted in virtually all areas of German-occupied territory in what are now 35 separate European countries. It was at its most severe in Central and Eastern Europe, which had more than seven million Jews in 1939. About five million Jews were killed there, including three million in occupied Poland and over one million in the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands also died in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Yugoslavia, and Greece. The Wannsee Protocol makes it clear that the Nazis intended to carry their "final solution of the Jewish question" to Britain and all neutral states in Europe, such as Ireland, Switzerland, Turkey, Sweden, Portugal, and Spain.
Anyone with three or four Jewish grandparents was to be exterminated without exception. In other genocides, people were able to escape death by converting to another religion or in some other way assimilating. This option was not available to the Jews of occupied Europe, unless their grandparents had converted before 18 January 1871. All persons of recent Jewish ancestry were to be exterminated in lands controlled by Germany.
The use of camps equipped with gas chambers for the purpose of systematic mass extermination of peoples was a unique feature of the Holocaust and unprecedented in history. Never before had there existed places with the express purpose of killing people en masse. These were established at Auschwitz, Belzec, Chełmno, Jasenovac, Majdanek, Maly Trostenets, Sobibór, and Treblinka.
A distinctive feature of Nazi genocide was the extensive use of human subjects in "medical" experiments. According to Raul Hilberg, "German physicians were highly Nazified, compared to other professionals, in terms of party membership." Some carried out experiments at Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald, Ravensbrück, Sachsenhausen, and Natzweiler concentration camps.
The most notorious of these physicians was Dr. Josef Mengele, who worked in Auschwitz. His experiments included placing subjects in pressure chambers, testing drugs on them, freezing them, attempting to change eye color by injecting chemicals into children's eyes, and various amputations and other surgeries. The full extent of his work will never be known because the truckload of records he sent to Dr. Otmar von Verschuer at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute was destroyed by von Verschuer. Subjects who survived Mengele's experiments were almost always killed and dissected shortly afterwards.
He worked extensively with Romani children. He would bring them sweets and toys, and personally take them to the gas chamber. They would call him "Onkel (Uncle) Mengele". Vera Alexander was a Jewish inmate at Auschwitz who looked after 50 sets of Romani twins:
I remember one set of twins in particular: Guido and Ina, aged about four. One day, Mengele took them away. When they returned, they were in a terrible state: they had been sewn together, back to back, like Siamese twins. Their wounds were infected and oozing pus. They screamed day and night. Then their parents—I remember the mother's name was Stella—managed to get some morphine and they killed the children in order to end their suffering.
Development and execution
Yehuda Bauer and Lucy Dawidowicz maintained that from the Middle Ages onward, German society and culture were suffused with antisemitism, and that there was a direct ideological link from medieval pogroms to the Nazi death camps.
The second half of the 19th century saw the emergence in Germany and Austria-Hungary of the Völkisch movement, developed by such thinkers as Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Paul de Lagarde. The movement presented a pseudoscientific, biologically based racism that viewed Jews as a race locked in mortal combat with the Aryan race for world domination. Völkisch antisemitism drew upon stereotypes from Christian antisemitism, but differed in that Jews were considered to be a race rather than a religion.
In a speech before the Reichstag in 1895, völkisch leader Hermann Ahlwardt called Jews "predators" and "cholera bacilli" who should be "exterminated" for the good of the German people. In his best-selling 1912 book Wenn ich der Kaiser wär (If I were the Kaiser), Heinrich Class, leader of the völkisch group Alldeutscher Verband, urged that all German Jews be stripped of their German citizenship and be reduced to Fremdenrecht (alien status). Class also urged that Jews should be excluded from all aspects of German life, forbidden to own land, hold public office, or participate in journalism, banking, and the liberal professions. Class defined a Jew as anyone who was a member of the Jewish religion on the day the German Empire was proclaimed in 1871, or anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent.
The first medical experimentation on humans and ethnic cleansing by Germans took place in the death camps of German South-West Africa during the Herero and Namaqua Genocide. It has been suggested that this was an inspiration for the Holocaust.
During the German Empire, völkisch notions and pseudoscientific racism had become common and accepted throughout Germany, with the educated professional classes of the country, in particular, adopting an ideology of human inequality. Though the völkisch parties were defeated in the 1912 Reichstag elections, being all but wiped out, antisemitism was incorporated into the platforms of the mainstream political parties. The National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazi Party; NSDAP) was founded in 1920 as an offshoot of the völkisch movement, and adopted their antisemitism. In a 1986 essay, German historian Hans Mommsen wrote about the situation in post–World War I Germany that:
If one emphasizes the indisputably important connection in isolation, one should not then force a connection with Hitler's weltanschauung [worldview], which was in no ways original itself, in order to derive from it the existence of Auschwitz ... Thoughts about the extermination of the Jews had long been current, and not only for Hitler and his satraps. Many of these found their way to the NSDAP from the Deutschvölkisch Schutz-und Trutzbund [German Racial Union for Protection and Defiance], which itself had been called into life by the Pan-German Union.
Tremendous scientific and technological changes in Germany during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, together with the growth of the welfare state, created widespread hopes that utopia was at hand and that soon all social problems could be solved. At the same time a racist, social Darwinist, and eugenicist world-view which declared some people to be more biologically valuable than others was common. Historian Detlev Peukert states that the Shoah did not result solely from antisemitism, but was a product of the "cumulative radicalization" in which "numerous smaller currents" fed into the "broad current" that led to genocide. After the First World War, the pre-war mood of optimism gave way to disillusionment as German bureaucrats found social problems to be more insoluble than previously thought, which in turn led them to place increasing emphasis on saving the biologically "fit" while the biologically "unfit" were to be written off.
The economic strains of the Great Depression led many in the German medical establishment to advocate the idea of euthanisation of the "incurable" mentally and physically disabled as a cost-saving measure to free up money to care for the curable. By the time the Nazis came to power in 1933, a tendency already existed in German social policy to save the racially "valuable" while seeking to rid society of the racially "undesirable".
Hitler was open about his hatred of Jews. In his book Mein Kampf, he gave warning of his intention to drive them from Germany's political, intellectual, and cultural life. He did not write that he would attempt to exterminate them, but he is reported to have been more explicit in private. As early as 1922, he allegedly told Major Joseph Hell, at the time a journalist:
Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows—at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example—as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit. As soon as they have been untied, the next batch will be strung up, and so on down the line, until the last Jew in Munich has been exterminated. Other cities will follow suit, precisely in this fashion, until all Germany has been completely cleansed of Jews.
Mommsen suggested that there were three types of antisemitism in Germany: There was 1) the cultural antisemitism found among German conservatives, especially in the military officer corps as well as in the top members of the civil administration; 2) there was the "volkisch" antisemitism or racism which advocated using violence against the Jews; and 3) the religious anti-Judaism, particularly within the Catholic Church. The cultural antisemitism kept the ruling establishment from distancing itself or opposing the violent, racial antisemitism of the Nazis, and religious antisemitism meant that the religious establishment did not present opposition to racial persecution of the Jews.
Legal repression and emigration
Right from the establishment of the Third Reich, Nazi leaders proclaimed the existence of a Volksgemeinschaft ("people's community"). Nazi policies divided the population into two categories, the Volksgenossen ("national comrades"), who belonged to the Volksgemeinschaft, and the Gemeinschaftsfremde ("community aliens"), who did not. Nazi policies about repression divided people into three types of enemies, the "racial" enemies such as the Jews and the Gypsies who were viewed as enemies because of their "blood"; political opponents such as Marxists, liberals, Christians and the "reactionaries" who were viewed as wayward "National Comrades"; and moral opponents such as homosexuals, the "work-shy" and habitual criminals, also seen as wayward "National Comrades". The last two groups were to be sent to concentration camps for "re-education", with the aim of eventual absorption into the Volksgemeinschaft, though some of the moral opponents were to be sterilized, as they were regarded as "genetically inferior".
"Racial" enemies such as the Jews could, by definition, never belong to the Volksgemeinschaft; they were to be totally removed from society. German historian Detlev Peukert wrote that the National Socialists' "goal was an utopian Volksgemeinschaft, totally under police surveillance, in which any attempt at nonconformist behaviour, or even any hint or intention of such behaviour, would be visited with terror". Peukert quotes policy documents on the "Treatment of Community Aliens" from 1944, which (though never implemented) showed the full intentions of Nazi social policy: "persons who ... show themselves [to be] unable to comply by their own efforts with the minimum requirements of the national community" were to be placed under police supervision, and if this did not reform them, they were to be taken to a concentration camp.
Leading up to the March 1933 Reichstag elections, the Nazis intensified their campaign of violence against the opposition. With the co-operation of local authorities, they set up concentration camps for extrajudicial imprisonment of their opponents. One of the first, at Dachau, opened on 9 March 1933. Initially the camp contained primarily communists and Social Democrats. Other early prisons—for example, in basements and storehouses run by the Sturmabteilung (SA) and less commonly by the Schutzstaffel (SS)—were consolidated by mid-1934 into purpose-built camps outside the cities, run exclusively by the SS. The initial purpose of the camps was to serve as a deterrent by terrorizing those Germans who did not conform to the Volksgemeinschaft. Those sent to the camps included the "educable", whose wills could be broken into becoming "National Comrades", and the "biologically depraved", who were to be sterilized, were to be held permanently, and over time were increasingly subject to extermination through labor, i.e., being worked to death.
Throughout the 1930s, the legal, economic, and social rights of Jews were steadily restricted. The Israeli historian Saul Friedländer writes that, for the Nazis, Germany drew its strength "from the purity of its blood and from its rootedness in the sacred German earth." On 1 April 1933, there occurred a boycott of Jewish businesses, which was the first national antisemitic campaign, initially planned for a week, but called off after one day owing to lack of popular support. In 1933, a series of laws were passed which contained Aryan paragraphs to exclude Jews from key areas: the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, the first antisemitic law passed in the Third Reich; the Physicians' Law; and the Farm Law, forbidding Jews from owning farms or taking part in agriculture.
Jewish lawyers were disbarred, and in Dresden, Jewish lawyers and judges were dragged out of their offices and courtrooms and beaten. At the insistence of then president Paul von Hindenburg, Hitler added an exemption allowing Jewish civil servants who were veterans of the First World War, or whose fathers or sons had served, to remain in office. Hitler revoked this exemption in 1937. Jews were excluded from schools and universities (the Law to Prevent Overcrowding in Schools), from belonging to the Journalists' Association, and from being owners or editors of newspapers. The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung of 27 April 1933 wrote:
A self-respecting nation cannot, on a scale accepted up to now, leave its higher activities in the hands of people of racially foreign origin . . . Allowing the presence of too high a percentage of people of foreign origin in relation to their percentage in the general population could be interpreted as an acceptance of the superiority of other races, something decidedly to be rejected.
In July 1933, the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring calling for compulsory sterilization of the "inferior" was passed. This major eugenic policy led to over 200 Hereditary Health Courts (Erbgesundheitsgerichte) being set up, under whose rulings over 400,000 people were sterilized against their will during the Nazi period.
In 1935, Hitler introduced the Nuremberg Laws, which: prohibited "Aryans" from having sexual relations or marriages with Jews, although this was later extended to include "Gypsies, Negroes or their bastard offspring" (the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor), stripped German Jews of their citizenship and deprived them of all civil rights. At the same time the Nazis used propaganda to promulgate the concept of Rassenschande (race defilement) to justify the need for a restrictive law. Hitler described the "Blood Law" in particular "the attempt at a legal regulation of a problem, which in the event of further failure would then have through law to be transferred to the final solution of the National Socialist Party". Hitler said that if the "Jewish problem" cannot be solved by these laws, it "must then be handed over by law to the National-Socialist Party for a final solution". The "final solution", or "Endlösung", became the standard Nazi euphemism for the extermination of the Jews. In January 1939, he said in a public speech: "If international-finance Jewry inside and outside Europe should succeed once more in plunging the nations into yet another world war, the consequences will not be the Bolshevization of the earth and thereby the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation (vernichtung) of the Jewish race in Europe". Footage from this speech was used to conclude the 1940 Nazi propaganda movie The Eternal Jew (Der ewige Jude), whose purpose was to provide a rationale and blueprint for eliminating the Jews from Europe.
Jewish intellectuals were among the first to leave. The philosopher Walter Benjamin left for Paris on 18 March 1933. Novelist Lion Feuchtwanger went to Switzerland. The conductor Bruno Walter fled after being told that the hall of the Berlin Philharmonic would be burned down if he conducted a concert there: the Frankfurter Zeitung explained on 6 April that Walter and fellow conductor Otto Klemperer had been forced to flee because the government was unable to protect them against the mood of the German public, which had been provoked by "Jewish artistic liquidators". Albert Einstein was visiting the US on 30 January 1933. He returned to Ostende in Belgium, never to set foot in Germany again, and calling events there a "psychic illness of the masses"; he was expelled from the Kaiser Wilhelm Society and the Prussian Academy of Sciences, and his citizenship was rescinded. When Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Sigmund Freud and his family fled from Vienna to England. Saul Friedländer writes that when Max Liebermann, honorary president of the Prussian Academy of Arts, resigned his position, not one of his colleagues expressed a word of sympathy, and he was still ostracized at his death two years later. When the police arrived in 1943 with a stretcher to deport his 85-year-old bedridden widow, she committed suicide with an overdose of barbiturates rather than be taken.
On 7 November 1938, Jewish minor Herschel Grünspan assassinated Nazi German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris. This incident was used by the Nazis as a pretext to go beyond legal repression to large-scale physical violence against Jewish Germans. What the Nazis claimed to be spontaneous "public outrage" was in fact a wave of pogroms instigated by the Nazi Party, and carried out by SA members and affiliates throughout Nazi Germany, at the time consisting of Germany proper, Austria and Sudetenland. These pogroms became known as Reichskristallnacht ("the Night of Broken Glass", literally "Crystal Night"), or November pogroms. Jews were attacked and Jewish property was vandalized, over 7,000 Jewish shops and more than 1,200 synagogues (roughly two-thirds of the synagogues in areas under German control) were damaged or destroyed.
The death toll is assumed to be much higher than the official number of 91 dead. 30,000 were sent to concentration camps, including Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, and Oranienburg, where they were kept for several weeks, and released when they could either prove that they were about to emigrate in the near future, or transferred their property to the Nazis. German Jewry was collectively made responsible for restitution of the material damage of the pogroms, amounting to several hundred thousand Reichsmarks, and furthermore had to pay an "atonement tax" of more than a billion Reichsmarks. After these pogroms, Jewish emigration from Germany accelerated, while public Jewish life in Germany ceased to exist.
Resettlement and deportation
Before the war, the Nazis considered mass deportation of German (and subsequently the European) Jewry from Europe. Hitler's agreement to the 1938–9 Schacht Plan, and the continued flight of thousands of Jews from Hitler's clutches for an extended period when the Schacht Plan came to nothing, indicate that the preference for a concerted genocide of the type that came later did not yet exist.
Plans to reclaim former German colonies such as Tanganyika and South West Africa for Jewish resettlement were halted by Hitler, who argued that no place where "so much blood of heroic Germans had been spilled" should be made available as a residence for the "worst enemies of the Germans". Diplomatic efforts were undertaken to convince the other colonial powers, primarily the United Kingdom and France, to accept expelled Jews in their colonies. Areas considered for possible resettlement included British Palestine, Italian Abyssinia, British Rhodesia, French Madagascar, and Australia.
Of these areas, Madagascar was the most seriously discussed. Heydrich called the Madagascar Plan a "territorial final solution"; it was a remote location, and the island's unfavorable conditions would hasten deaths. Approved by Hitler in 1938, the resettlement planning was carried out by Adolf Eichmann's office, only being abandoned once the mass killing of Jews had begun in 1941. In retrospect, although futile, this plan did constitute an important psychological step on the path to the Holocaust. The end of the Madagascar Plan was announced on 10 February 1942. The German Foreign Office was given the official explanation that, due to the war with the Soviet Union, Jews were to be "sent to the east".
Nazi bureaucrats also developed plans to deport Europe's Jews to Siberia. Palestine was the only location to which any Nazi relocation plan succeeded in producing significant results, by means of an agreement begun in 1933 between the Zionist Federation of Germany (die Zionistische Vereinigung für Deutschland) and the Nazi government, the Haavara Agreement. This agreement resulted in the transfer of about 60,000 German Jews and $100 million from Germany to Palestine, up until the outbreak of World War II.
In German-occupied Poland
Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939 increased the urgency of the "Jewish Question". Poland, was home to approximately three million Jews (nearly nine percent of the population), in centuries-old communities, two-thirds of whom fell under Nazi control with Poland's capitulation.
Reinhard Heydrich, Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, recommended concentrating all the Polish Jews in ghettos in major cities, where they would be put to work for the German war industry. The ghettos would be in cities located on railway junctions in order to furnish, in Heydrich's words, "a better possibility of control and later deportation." During his interrogation in 1961, Adolf Eichmann recalled that this "later deportation" actually meant "physical extermination."
I ask nothing of the Jews except that they should disappear.
—Hans Frank, Nazi governor for occupied Poland.
In September, Himmler appointed Heydrich head of the Operation Tannenberg and through Selbstschutz units. The Jews were later herded into ghettos, mostly in the General Government area of central Poland, where they were put to work under the Reich Labor Office headed by Fritz Sauckel. Here many thousands died from maltreatment, disease, starvation, and exhaustion, but there was still no program of systematic killing. There is little doubt, however, that the Nazis saw forced labor as a form of extermination. The expression Vernichtung durch Arbeit ("destruction through work") was frequently used.
Although it was clear by late 1941 that the SS hierarchy was determined to embark on a policy of killing all the Jews under German control, there was still opposition to this policy within the Nazi regime, although the motive was economic, not humanitarian. Hermann Göring, who had overall control of the German war industry, and the German army's Economics Department, argued that the enormous Jewish labor force assembled in the General Government area (more than a million able-bodied workers), was an asset too valuable to waste, particularly with Germany failing to secure rapid victory of the Soviet Union.
In other occupied countries
When Germany occupied Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France in 1940, and Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941, antisemitic measures were also introduced into these countries, although the pace and severity varied greatly from country to country according to local political circumstances. Jews were removed from economic and cultural life and were subject to various restrictive laws, but physical deportation did not occur in most places before 1942. The Vichy regime in occupied France actively collaborated in persecuting French Jews. Germany's allies Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Finland were pressured to introduce antisemitic measures, but for the most part they did not comply until compelled to do so. During the course of the war some 900 Jews and 300 Roma passed through the Banjica concentration camp in Belgrade, intended primarily for Serbian communists, royalists and others who resisted occupation. The German puppet regime in Croatia, on the other hand, began actively persecuting Jews on its own initiative, so the Legal Decree on the Nationalization of the Property of Jews and Jewish Companies was declared on 10 October 1941 in the Independent State of Croatia.
In North Africa
In the 1930s, the Fascist Italian regime initiated anti-Semitic laws which barred Jews from government jobs, government schools and required them to stamp "Jewish race" into their passports. However, this was not enough to deter Jews from Libya, as 25% of the population in Tripoli was Jewish with over 44 synagogues in existence. In 1942, the Jewish Quarter of Benghazi was occupied by the Nazis and more than 2,000 Jews were deported and sent to Nazi labor camps. By the end of WWII, about one-fifth of those who were sent away had perished. Several forced labor camps for Jews were established in Libya, the largest of which, the Giado camp, held almost 2,600 inmates, of whom 562 died of weakness, hunger, and disease. Smaller labor camps were established in Gharyan, Jeren, and Tigrinna.
Tunisia, the only North African country to come under direct Nazi occupation, had 100,000 Jews when the Nazis arrived in November 1942. During their six months of occupation, the Nazis imposed anti-Semitic policies in Tunisia, including forcing Jews to wear the Yellow Star, fines, and confiscation of property. Some 5,000 Tunisian Jews were subjected to forced labor, and some were deported to European death camps. More than 2,500 Tunisian Jews died in slave labor camps during the German occupation.
General Government and Lublin reservation (Nisko plan)
On 28 September 1939, Germany gained control over the Lublin area through the German-Soviet agreement in exchange for Lithuania. According to the Nisko Plan, they set up the Lublin-Lipowa Reservation in the area. The reservation was designated by Adolf Eichmann, who was assigned the task of removing all Jews from Germany, Austria and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. They shipped the first Jews to Lublin less than three weeks later on 18 October 1939. The first train loads consisted of Jews deported from Austria and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. By 30 January 1940, a total of 78,000 Jews had been deported to Lublin from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. On 12 and 13 February 1940, the Pomeranian Jews were deported to the Lublin reservation, resulting in Pomeranian Gauleiter Franz Schwede-Coburg to be the first to declare his Gau (country subdivision) judenrein ("free of Jews"). On 24 March 1940 Göring put the Nisko Plan on hold, and abandoned it entirely by the end of April. By the time the Nisko Plan was stopped, the total number of Jews who had been transported to Nisko had reached 95,000, many of whom had died from starvation.
In July 1940, due to the difficulties of supporting the increased population in the General Government, Hitler had the deportations temporarily halted.
In October 1940, Gauleiters Josef Bürckel and Robert Heinrich Wagner oversaw Operation Bürckel, the expulsion of the Jews into unoccupied France from their Gaues and the parts of Alsace-Lorraine that had been annexed that summer to the Reich. Only those Jews in mixed marriages were not expelled. The 6,500 Jews affected by Operation Bürckel were given at most two hours warning on the night of 22–23 October 1940, before being rounded up. The nine trains carrying the deported Jews crossed over into France "without any warning to the French authorities", who were not happy with receiving them. The deportees had not been allowed to take any of their possessions with them, these being confiscated by the German authorities. The German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop treated the ensuing complaints by the Vichy government over the expulsions in a "most dilatory fashion". As a result, the Jews expelled in Operation Bürckel were interned in harsh conditions by the Vichy authorities at the camps in Gurs, Rivesaltes and Les Milles while awaiting a chance to return them to Germany.
During 1940 and 1941, the murder of large numbers of Jews in German-occupied Poland continued, and the deportation of Jews to the General Government was undertaken. The deportation of Jews from Germany, particularly Berlin, was not officially completed until 1943. (Many Berlin Jews were able to survive in hiding.) By December 1939, 3.5 million Jews were crowded into the General Government area.
Concentration and labor camps (1933–1945)
From the beginning of the Third Reich concentration camps were founded, initially as places of incarceration. Although the death rate in the concentration camps was high, with a mortality rate of 50%, they were not designed to be killing centers. (By 1942, six large extermination camps had been established in Nazi-occupied Poland, which were built solely for mass killings.) After 1939, the camps increasingly became places where Jews and POWs were either killed or made to work as slave laborers, undernourished and tortured. It is estimated that the Germans established 15,000 camps and subcamps in the occupied countries, mostly in eastern Europe. New camps were founded in areas with large Jewish, Polish intelligentsia, communist, or Roma and Sinti populations, including inside Germany. The transportation of prisoners was often carried out under horrifying conditions using rail freight cars, in which many died before reaching their destination.
Extermination through labor was a policy of systematic extermination – camp inmates would literally be worked to death, or worked to physical exhaustion, when they would be gassed or shot. Slave labour was used in war production, for example producing V-2 rockets at Mittelbau-Dora, and various armaments around the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex.
Upon admission, some camps tattooed prisoners with a prisoner ID. Those fit for work were dispatched for 12 to 14-hour shifts. Before and after, there were roll calls that could sometimes last for hours, with prisoners regularly dying of exposure.
After the invasion of Poland, the Nazis established ghettos in the incorporated territories and General Government in which Jews were confined. These were initially seen as temporary, until the Jews were deported out of Europe; as it turned out, such deportation never took place, with the ghettos' inhabitants instead being sent to extermination camps. The Germans ordered that each ghetto be run by a
For an opposing view on the allegedly offensive nature of the meaning of the word holocaust, see Peterie 2000.
Transit and collection
End of World War II
Library resources about
Further examples of this usage can be found in: Bauer 2002, Cesarani 2004, Dawidowicz 1981, Evans 2002, Gilbert 1986, Hilberg 1996, Longerich 2012, Phayer 2000, Zuccotti 1999
One reads that the Łódź ghetto was closed in April 1940 to force the Jews inside to give up money and valuables they did not actually have; that the Warsaw ghetto was closed for health considerations (of people outside, not inside, the ghetto); but that the Lublin ghetto was not established until April 1941.
See also Goldensohn 2005, p. 298, quoting Rudolf Höss: "We cut the hair from women after they had been exterminated in the gas chambers. The hair was then sent to factories, where it was woven into special fittings for gaskets." Höß said that only women's hair was cut and only after they were dead. He said he had first received the order to do this in 1943.
Karski reached London where he had an interview with the foreign secretary Anthony Eden, the first of many top officials to effectively ignore his account of the Nazis’ systematic effort to exterminate European Jewry. The very enormity of Karski’s report paradoxically worked against him being believed, and paralysed any action against the killings. Logistically unable to reach Poland, preoccupied with fighting the war on many fronts, and unwilling to believe even the Nazis capable of such bestiality, the Allies put the Holocaust on the back burner. When Karski took his tale across the Atlantic, the story was the same. President Roosevelt heard him out, then asked about the condition of horses in Poland."
Karski first told Roosevelt that the Polish nation was depending on him to deliver them from the Germans. Karski said to Roosevelt, "All hope, Mr. President, has been placed by the Polish nation in the hands of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Karski says that he told President Roosevelt about Belzec and the desperate situation of the Jews. Roosevelt concentrated his questions and remarks entirely on Poland and did not ask one question about the Jews ". Watch the video, or see the full transcript
According to Krakowski 1989, p. 476, death marches were a frequent occurrence throughout the war. The inaugural one commenced on 14 January 1940 in occupied Poland, when the SS escorted 800 Jewish POWs from the Polish army to Biała Podłaska from Lublin—a distance of 100km in a matter of days in the depths of Polish winter. Massacred all along the way, less than 5% of the 800 survived the journey.
Perpetrators and collaborators
Victims and survivors
Involvement of other countries and nationals
Cultural, political, and scholarly responses
Other genocides and mass killings
For an opposing view on the allegedly offensive nature of the meaning of the word holocaust, see Peterie 2000.
These reparations were sometimes criticized in Israel where they were seen as "blood money". The American professor Norman Finkelstein wrote The Holocaust Industry to denounce how the American Jewish establishment exploits the memory of the Nazi Holocaust for political and financial gain, as well as to further the interests of Israel. These reparations also led to a massive scam where $57 millions were fraudulently given to thousands of people who were not eligible for the funds.
In 2014, the Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France.
In 1999, many German industries such as Deutsche Bank, Siemens or BMW faced lawsuits for their role in the forced labour during World War II. In order to dismiss these lawsuits, Germany agreed to raise $5 billions of which Jewish forced laborers still alive could apply to receive a lump sum payment of between $2,500 and $7,500. In 2012, Germany agreed to pay a new reparation of €772 millions as a result of negociations with Israel.
In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the Jewish Agency led by Chaim Weizmann submitted to the Allies a memorandum demanding reparations to Jews by Germany but it received no answer. In March 1951, a new request was made by Israel's foreign minister Moshe Sharett which claimed global recompense to Israel of $1.5 billion based on the financial cost absorbed by Israel for the rehabilitation of 500,000 Jewish survivors. West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer accepted these terms and declared he was ready to negociate other reparations. A Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany was opened in New York City by Nahum Goldmann in order to help with individual claims. After negociations, the claim was reduced to a sum of $845 millions direct and indirect compensations to be installed in a period of 14 years. In 1988, West Germany allocated another $125 million for reparations.