Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 






The World Wars and Interwar Period 

1914-1945


 


The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


 



Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937

 

 

 


The Second World War
 


1939-1945
 

 


Allied forces propaganda poster, 1943

 

With its attack on Poland in September 1939, the German Nazi regime under Hitler initiated the most devastating military conflict in world history to date. Before the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, World War II claimed the lives of some 62 million people. The heavily ideological aspect of the war led to incomprehensible crimes against humanity. World War II fundamentally altered the international political situation. The victorious United States and the Soviet Union became the leading world powers.

 


The Murder of the European Jewry
 

After unleashing the war, the Nazi leadership radicalized the persecution of Jews and introduced systematic mass murder in the occupied East.

 

The racist policies of the Nazis were spread all over Europe with the German military victories throughout the war until 1941. The isolated position of the Jews was intensified.

By 1941, Jews in all of the German-controlled territories were forced to wear the 1 yellow Star of David.

The organized concentration and deportation of European Jews in Polish ghettos began in the summer of 1940.

Many Jews were used as 2 slave labor following the principle of "extermination through labor."


1 Yellow Star of David from the
Nazi period, 1941


2 Jewish slave labor in the Warsaw ghetto,
ca. 1942

Under the direction of SS leader 4 Himmler, the number of concentration camps in the occupied territories increased to 22 by 1944, with 165 labor camps annexed to them.

In the summer of 1941, Hitler decided to have all Jews within the areas over which he had control murdered. Under the chairmanship of 3 Reinhard Heydrich, high-ranking bureaucrats at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in January 1942 defined the groups of persons to be killed and planned the cooperation of the departments most effective in the implementation of the murder operations.


4 SS leader Hemrich Himmler


3 Reinhard Heydrich, 1940

The mass executions by the SS following the invasion of the Soviet Union marked the beginning of the organized genocide to which almost the entire Jewish population of the Baltic states, Byelorussia, and Ukraine fell victim. Extermination camps, in which Jews were murdered primarily with poison gas, were erected in Poland from autumn 1941: Treblinka, Belzec, Vlajdanek, Sobibor, and Chelmno.

Millions of Jews were transported in cattle cars from all parts of Europe to these camps. The largest "death factory" was 6, 7 Auschwitz-Birkenau.

At least a million persons died in its 5 gas chambers alone.


6 Selection process at the ramp in Birkenau, 1944


7 Identification photos of a Hungarian boy in the
concentration camp Auschwitz, 1942


5 Gas chamber in Auschwitz

From arrival at Birkenau to completed cremation generally took no more than 90 minutes. When the Red Army was closing in at the end of 1944, the gassing was stopped and the camps disbanded, yet innumerable people still died on the death marches to the West in the spring of 1945.

A total of about six million European Jews fell victim to Nazi racist fanaticism.

At least 500.000 other "undesirables," primarily Sinti and Roma ("Gypsies"), were also 8 murdered.


8 Corpses of prisoners in the concentration camp

 

 

The Concentration Camp Theresienstadt

Theresienstadt, 35 miles outside Prague, served as a stopover on the way to the extermination camps. In Nazi propaganda films, the world was shown peaceful life in a camp designed with the needs of the people in mind.

Even the foreign representatives of the Red Cross who visited
Theresienstadt were fooled.


Theresienstadt,
today the Terezin Memorial

 

 



The Holocaust of European Jewry

(1933-1945)



Marc Chagall
"The Falling Angel"

 

 


Holocaust


Budapest, Hungary - Hungarian and German soldiers drive arrested
Jews into the municipal theatre dated October 1944.

Overview
European history
Hebrew Shoʾah, Yiddish and Hebrew Ḥurban (“Destruction”)
Systematic state-sponsored killing of Jews and others by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II.

Fueled by anti-Semitism, the Nazi persecution of Jews began soon after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933 with a boycott of Jewish businesses and the dismissal of Jewish civil servants. Under the Nürnberg Laws (1935), Jews lost their citizenship. About 7,500 Jewish businesses were gutted and some 1,000 synagogues burned or damaged in the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938, and thereafter Jews were imprisoned in concentration camps or forced into ghettos. German victories early in World War II (1939–45) brought most European Jews under the control of the Nazis and their satellites. As German armies moved into Poland, the Balkans, and the Soviet Union, special mobile killing units, the Einsatzgruppen, rounded up and killed Jews, Roma (Gypsies), communists, political leaders, and intellectuals. Other groups targeted by the Nazis included homosexuals and the mentally retarded, physically disabled, and emotionally disturbed. At the Wannsee Conference (1942), a “final solution” was formulated for the extermination of European Jewry, and thereafter Jews from all over Nazi-occupied Europe were systematically evacuated to concentration and extermination camps, where they were either killed or forced into slave labour. Underground resistance movements arose in several countries, and Jewish risings took place against overwhelming odds in the ghettos of Poland (see Warsaw Ghetto Uprising). Individuals such as Raoul Wallenberg saved thousands by their efforts; whether the Allied governments and the Vatican could have done more to aid Jews has long been a matter of controversy. By the end of the war, an estimated six million Jews and millions of others had been killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.

Main
European history
Hebrew Shoʾah, Yiddish and Hebrew Ḥurban (“Destruction”)

the systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children and millions of others by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. The Germans called this “the final solution to the Jewish question.” The word Holocaust is derived from the Greek holokauston, a translation of the Hebrew word ʿolah, meaning a burnt sacrifice offered whole to God. This word was chosen because in the ultimate manifestation of the Nazi killing program—the extermination camps—the bodies of the victims were consumed whole in crematoria and open fires.

Nazi anti-Semitism and the origins of the Holocaust
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”; 1925–27), 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 Jews as a race and not 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.

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 Heine—a German poet of Jewish origin—had 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.

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 Nürnberg on September 15, 1935, the Nürnberg Laws—the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour and the Law of the Reich Citizen—became the centerpiece 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 Nürnberg 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 practiced but on his ancestry. Categorization was the first stage of destruction.

Responding with alarm to Hitler’s 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 Wildest wrote in 1933 of the Jewish identity the Nazis had so stigmatized. 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 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 expected to get worse.

By the late 1930s there was a desperate search for countries of refuge. Those who could get 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. President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened, but did not attend, the Évian Conference on resettlement, in Évian-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. The result was that little was attempted, and less accomplished.


From Kristallnacht to the “final solution”
On the evening of November 9, 1938, carefully orchestrated anti-Jewish violence “erupted” throughout the Reich, which since March had included Austria. Over the next 48 hours rioters burned or damaged more than 1,000 synagogues and ransacked and broke the windows of more than 7,500 businesses. The Nazis arrested some 30,000 Jewish men between the ages of 16 and 60 and sent them to concentration camps. Police stood by as the violence—often the action of neighbours, not strangers—occurred. Firemen were present not to protect the synagogues but to ensure that the flames did not spread to adjacent “Aryan” property. The pogrom was given a quaint name: Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night,” or “Night of Broken Glass”). In its aftermath, Jews lost the illusion that they had a future in Germany.

On November 12, 1938, Field Marshall Hermann Göring convened a meeting of Nazi officials to discuss the damage to the German economy from pogroms. The Jewish community was fined one billion Reichsmarks. Moreover, Jews were made responsible for cleaning up the damage. German Jews, but not foreign Jews, were barred from collecting insurance. In addition, Jews were soon denied entry to theatres, forced to travel in separate compartments on trains, and excluded from German schools. These new restrictions were added to earlier prohibitions, such as those barring Jews from earning university degrees, from owning businesses, or from practicing law or medicine in the service of non-Jews. The Nazis would continue to confiscate Jewish property in a program called “Aryanization.” Göring concluded the November meeting with a note of irony: “I would not like to be a Jew in Germany!”


Non-Jewish victims of Nazism
While Jews were the primary victims of Nazism as it evolved and were central to Nazi racial ideology, other groups were victimized as well—some for what they did, some for what they refused to do, and some for what they were.

Political dissidents, trade unionists, and Social Democrats were among the first to be arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps. Under the Weimar government, centuries-old prohibitions against homosexuality had been overlooked, but this tolerance ended violently when the SA (Storm Troopers) began raiding gay bars in 1933. Homosexual intent became just cause for prosecution. The Nazis arrested German and Austrian male homosexuals—there was no systematic persecution of lesbians—and interned them in concentration camps, where they were forced to wear special yellow armbands and later pink triangles. Jehovah’s Witnesses were a problem for the Nazis because they refused to swear allegiance to the state, register for the draft, or utter the words “Heil Hitler.” As a result the Nazis imprisoned many of the roughly 20,000 Witnesses in Germany. The Nazis also singled out the Roma (Gypsies). They were the only other group that the Nazis systematically killed in gas chambers alongside the Jews.

In 1939 the Germans initiated the T4 Program—framed euphemistically as a “euthanasia” program—for the murder of mentally retarded, physically disabled, and emotionally disturbed Germans who departed from the Nazi ideal of Aryan supremacy. The Nazis pioneered the use of gas chambers and mass crematoria under this program.

Following the invasion of Poland, German occupation policy especially targeted the Jews but also brutalized non-Jewish Poles. In pursuit of Lebensraum (“living space”), Germany sought systematically to destroy Polish society and nationhood. The Nazis killed Polish priests and politicians, decimated the Polish leadership, and kidnapped the children of the Polish elite, who were raised as “voluntary Aryans” by their new German “parents.” Many Poles were also forced to perform hard labour on survival diets, deprived of property and uprooted, and interned in concentration camps.


Nazi expansion and the formation of ghettos
Paradoxically, at the same time that Germany tried to rid itself of its Jews via forced emigration, its territorial expansions kept bringing more Jews under its control. Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 and the Sudetenland (now in the Czech Republic) in September 1938. It established control over the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (now in the Czech Republic) in March 1939. When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, the “Jewish question” became urgent. When the division of Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union was complete, more than two million more Jews had come under German control. For a time, the Nazis considered shipping the Jews to the island of Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa. But as the seas became a war zone and the resources required for such a massive deportation scarce, they discarded the plan as impractical.

On September 21, 1939, Reinhard Heydrich ordered the establishment of the Judenräte (“Jewish Councils”), comprising up to 24 men—rabbis and Jewish leaders. Heydrich’s order made these councils personally responsible in “the literal sense of the term” for carrying out German orders. When the Nazis sealed the Warsaw Ghetto, the largest of German-occupied Poland’s 400 ghettos, in the fall of 1940, the Jews—then 30 percent of Warsaw’s population—were forced into 2.4 percent of the city’s area. The ghetto’s population reached a density of over 200,000 persons per square mile (77,000 per square km) and 9.2 per room. Disease, malnutrition, hunger, and poverty took their toll even before the first bullet was fired.

For the German rulers, the ghetto was a temporary measure, a holding pen for the Jewish population until a policy on its fate could be established and implemented. For the Jews, ghetto life was the situation under which they thought they would be forced to live until the end of the war. They aimed to make life bearable, even under the most trying circumstances. When the Nazis prohibited schools, they opened clandestine schools. When the Nazis banned religious life, it persisted in hiding. The Jews used humour as a means of defiance, so too song. They resorted to arms only late in the Nazi assault.

Historians differ on the date of the decision to murder Jews systematically, the so-called “final solution to the Jewish question.” There is debate about whether there was one central decision or a series of regional decisions in response to local conditions; but in either case, when Germany attacked the Soviet Union, its former ally, in June of 1941, the Nazis began the systematic killing of Jews.


The Einsatzgruppen
Entering conquered Soviet territories alongside the Wehrmacht (the German armed forces) were 3,000 men of the Einsatzgruppen (“deployment groups”), special mobile killing units. Their task was to murder Jews, Soviet commissars, and Roma in the areas conquered by the army. Alone or with the help of local police, native anti-Semitic populations, and accompanying Axis troops, the Einsatzgruppen would enter a town, round up their victims, herd them to the outskirts of the town, and shoot them. They killed Jews in family units. Just outside Kiev, Ukraine, in the valley of Baby Yar, an Einsatzgruppe killed 33,771 Jews on September 28–29, 1941. In the Rumbula Forest outside the ghetto in Riga, Latvia, 25,000–28,000 Jews died on November 30 and December 8–9. Beginning in the summer of 1941, Einsatzgruppen killed more than 70,000 Jews at Ponary, outside Vilna (now Vilnius) in Lithuania. They slaughtered 9,000 Jews, half of them children, at the Ninth Fort adjacent to Kovno (now Kaunas), Lithuania, on October 28.

The mass shootings continued unabated, with a first wave and then a second. When the killing ended in the face of a Soviet counteroffensive, special units returned to dig up the dead and burn their bodies to destroy the evidence of the crimes. It is estimated that the Einsatzgruppen killed more than one million people, most of whom were Jews.

Historians are divided about the motivations of the members of Einsatzgruppen. Christopher Browning describes them as ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances in which conformity, peer pressure, careerism, obedience to orders, and group solidarity gradually overcame moral inhibitions. Daniel Goldhagen sees them as “willing executioners,” sharing Hitler’s vision of genocidal anti-Semitism and finding their tasks unpleasant but necessary. Both concur that no Einsatzgruppe member faced punishment if he asked to be excused. Individuals had a choice whether to participate or not. Almost all chose to become killers.


The extermination camps
On January 20, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich convened the Wannsee Conference at a lakeside villa in a Berlin suburb to organize the “final solution to the Jewish question.” Around the table were 15 men representing government agencies necessary to implement so bold and sweeping a policy. The language of the meeting was clear, but the meeting notes were circumspect: “Another possible solution to the [Jewish] question has now taken the place of emigration, i.e., evacuation to the east.…Practical experience is already being collected which is of the greatest importance in the relation to the future final solution of the Jewish question.” Participants understood “evacuation to the east” to mean deportation to killing centres.

In early 1942 the Nazis built extermination camps at Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec in Poland. The death camps were to be the essential instrument of the “final solution.” The Einsatzgruppen had traveled to kill their victims. With the extermination camps, the process was reversed. The victims traveled by train, often in cattle cars, to their killers. The extermination camps became factories producing corpses, effectively and efficiently, at minimal physical and psychological cost to German personnel. Assisted by Ukrainian and Latvian collaborators and prisoners of war, a few Germans could kill tens of thousands of prisoners each month. At Chelmno, the first of the extermination camps, the Nazis used mobile gas vans. Elsewhere, they built permanent gas chambers linked to the crematoria where bodies were burned. Carbon monoxide was the gas of choice at most camps. Zyklon-B, an especially lethal killing agent, was employed primarily at Auschwitz and later at other camps.

Auschwitz, perhaps the most notorious and lethal of the concentration camps, was actually three camps in one: a prison camp (Auschwitz I), an extermination camp (Auschwitz II–Birkenau), and a slave-labour camp (Auschwitz III–Buna-Monowitz). Upon arrival, Jewish prisoners faced what was called a Selektion. A German doctor presided over the selection of pregnant women, young children, the elderly, handicapped, sick, and infirm for immediate death in the gas chambers. As necessary, the Germans selected able-bodied prisoners for forced labour in the factories adjacent to Auschwitz where one German company, IG Farben, invested 700,000 million Reichsmarks in 1942 alone to take advantage of forced labour. Deprived of adequate food, shelter, clothing, and medical care, these prisoners were literally worked to death. Periodically, they would face another Selektion. The Nazis would transfer those unable to work to the gas chambers of Birkenau.

While the death camps at Auschwitz and Majdanek used inmates for slave labour to support the German war effort, the extermination camps at Belzec, Treblinka, and Sobibor had one task alone: killing. At Treblinka, a staff of 120, of whom only 30 were SS (the Nazi paramilitary corps), killed some 750,000 to 900,000 Jews during the camp’s 17 months of operation. At Belzec, German records detail a staff of 104, including about 20 SS, who killed some 600,000 Jews in less than 10 months. At Sobibor, they murdered about 250,000. These camps began operation during the spring and summer of 1942, when the ghettos of German-occupied Poland were filled with Jews. Once they had completed their missions—murder by gassing, or “resettlement in the east,” to use the language of the Wannsee protocols—the Nazis closed the camps. There were six extermination camps, all in German-occupied Poland, among the thousands of concentration and slave-labour camps throughout German-occupied Europe.

The impact of the Holocaust varied from region to region, and from year to year in the 21 countries that were directly affected. Nowhere was the Holocaust more intense and sudden than in Hungary. What took place over several years in Germany occurred over 16 weeks in Hungary. Entering the war as a German ally, Hungary had persecuted its Jews but not permitted their deportation. After Germany invaded Hungary on March 19, 1944, this situation changed dramatically. By mid-April the Nazis had confined Jews to ghettos. On May 15, deportations began, and over the next 55 days, the Nazis deported some 438,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz on 147 trains.

Policies differed widely among Germany’s Balkan allies. In Romania it was primarily the Romanians themselves who slaughtered the country’s Jews. Toward the end of the war, however, when the defeat of Germany was all but certain, the Romanian government found more value in living Jews who could be held for ransom or used as leverage with the West. Bulgaria permitted the deportation of Jews from neighbouring Thrace and Macedonia, but government leaders faced stiff opposition to the deportation of native Bulgarian Jews.

German-occupied Denmark rescued most of its own Jews by spiriting them to Sweden by sea in October 1943. This was possible partly because the German presence in Denmark was relatively small. Moreover, while anti-Semitism in the general population of many other countries led to collaboration with the Germans, Jews were an integrated part of Danish culture. Under these unique circumstances, Danish humanitarianism flourished.

In France, Jews under Fascist Italian occupation in the southeast fared better than the Jews of Vichy France, where collaborationist French authorities and police provided essential support to the understaffed German forces. The Jews in those parts of France under direct German occupation fared the worst. Although allied with Germany, the Italians did not participate in the Holocaust until Germany occupied northern Italy after the overthrow of the Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini.

Throughout German-occupied territory the situation of Jews was desperate. They had meagre resources and few allies and faced impossible choices. A few people came to their rescue, often at the risk of their own lives. Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg arrived in Budapest on July 9, 1944, in an effort to save Hungary’s sole remaining Jewish community. Over the next six months, he worked with other neutral diplomats, the Vatican, and Jews themselves to prevent the deportation of these last Jews. Elsewhere, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a French Huguenot village, became a haven for 5,000 Jews. In Poland, where it was illegal to aid Jews and where such action was punishable by death, the Zegota (Council for Aid to Jews) rescued a similar number of Jewish men, women, and children. Financed by the Polish government in exile and involving a wide range of clandestine political organizations, the Zegota provided hiding places, financial support, and forged identity documents.

Some Germans, even some Nazis, dissented from the murder of the Jews and came to their aid. The most famous was Oskar Schindler, a Nazi businessman, who had set up operations using involuntary labour in German-occupied Poland in order to profit from the war. Eventually, he moved to protect his Jewish workers from deportation to extermination camps. In all occupied countries, there were individuals who came to the rescue of Jews, offering a place to hide, some food, or shelter for days, weeks, or even for the duration of the war. Most of the rescuers did not see their actions as heroic but felt bound to the Jews by a common sense of humanity. Israel later recognized rescuers with honorary citizenship and commemoration at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Holocaust.


Jewish resistance
It is often asked why Jews did not make greater attempts at resistance. Principally they had no access to arms and were surrounded by native anti-Semitic populations who collaborated with the Nazis or condoned the elimination of the Jews. In essence the Jews stood alone against a German war machine zealously determined to carry out the “final solution.” Moreover, the Nazis went to great lengths to disguise their ultimate plans. Because of the German policy of collective reprisal, Jews in the ghettos often hesitated to resist. This changed when the Germans ordered the final liquidation of the ghettos, and residents recognized the imminence of their death.

Jews resisted in the forests, in the ghettos, and even in the death camps. They fought alone and alongside resistance groups in France, Yugoslavia, and Russia. As a rule, full-scale uprisings occurred only at the end, when Jews realized the inevitability of impending death. On April 19, 1943, nine months after the massive deportations of Warsaw’s Jews to Treblinka had begun, the Jewish resistance, led by 24-year-old Mordecai Anielewicz, mounted the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Vilna partisan leader Abba Kovner, recognizing the full intent of Nazi policy toward the Jews, called for resistance in December 1941 and organized an armed force that fought the Germans in September 1943. In March of that year, a resistance group led by Willem Arondeus, a homosexual artist and author, bombed a population registry in Amsterdam to destroy the records of Jews and others sought by the Nazis. At Treblinka and Sobibor uprisings occurred just as the extermination camps were being dismantled and their remaining prisoners were soon to be killed. This was also true at Auschwitz, where the Sonderkommando (“Special Commando”), the prisoner unit that worked in the vicinity of the gas chambers, destroyed a crematorium just as the killing was coming to an end in 1944.

By the winter of 1944–45, with Allied armies closing in, desperate SS officials tried frantically to evacuate the camps and conceal what had taken place. They wanted no eyewitnesses remaining. Prisoners were moved westward, forced to march toward the heartland of Germany. There were over 50 different marches from Nazi concentration and extermination camps during this final winter of Nazi domination, some covering hundreds of miles. The prisoners were given little or no food and water, and almost no time to rest or take care of bodily needs. Those who paused or fell behind were shot. In January 1945, just hours before the Red Army arrived at Auschwitz, the Nazis marched some 60,000 prisoners to Wodzisław and put them on freight trains to the camps at Bergen-Belsen, Gross-Rosen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Mauthausen. Nearly one in four died en route.

In April and May of 1945, American and British forces en route to military targets entered the concentration camps in the west and caught a glimpse of what had occurred. Even though tens of thousands of prisoners had perished, these camps were far from the most deadly. Still, even for the battle-weary soldiers who thought they had already seen the worst, the sights and smells and the emaciated survivors they encountered left an indelible impression. At Dachau they came upon 28 railway cars stuffed with dead bodies. Conditions were so horrendous at Bergen-Belsen that some 28,000 inmates died after they were freed, and the entire camp had to be burned to prevent the spread of typhus. Allied soldiers had to perform tasks for which they were ill-trained: to heal the sick, comfort the bereaved, and bury the dead. As for the victims, liberation was not a moment of exultation. Viktor Frankl, a survivor of Auschwitz, recalled, “Everything was unreal. Unlikely as in a dream. Only later—and for some it was very much later or never—was liberation actually liberating.”

The Allies, who had early and accurate information on the murder of the Jews, made no special military efforts to rescue them or to bomb the camps or the railroad tracks leading to them. (See Sidebar: Why wasn’t Auschwitz bombed?) They felt that only after victory could something be done about the Jewish situation. Warnings were issued, condemnations were made, plans proceeded to try the guilty after the war, but no concrete action was undertaken specifically to halt the genocide. An internal memo to U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., from his general counsel in January 1944 characterized U.S. State Department policy as “acquiescence to the murder of the European Jews.” In response Morgenthau helped spur the creation of the War Refugee Board, which made a late and limited effort to rescue endangered Jews, mainly through diplomacy and subterfuge.


The aftermath
Although the Germans killed victims from several groups, the Holocaust is primarily associated with the murder of the Jews. Only the Jews were targeted for total annihilation, and their elimination was central to Hitler’s vision of the “New Germany.” The intensity of the Nazi campaign against the Jews continued unabated to the very end of the war and at points even took priority over German military efforts.

When the war ended, Allied armies found between seven and nine million displaced persons living outside their own countries. More than six million people returned to their native lands, but more than one million refused repatriation. Some had collaborated with the Nazis and feared retaliation. Others feared persecution under the new communist regimes. For the Jews, the situation was different. They had no homes to return to. Their communities had been shattered, their homes destroyed or occupied by strangers, and their families decimated and dispersed. First came the often long and difficult physical recuperation from starvation and malnutrition, then the search for loved ones lost or missing, and finally the question of the future.

Many Jews lived in displaced-persons camps. At first they were forced to dwell among their killers because the Allies did not differentiate on the basis of religion, merely by nationality. Their presence on European soil and the absence of a country willing to receive them increased the pressure on Britain to resolve the issue of a Jewish homeland in British-administered Palestine. Both well-publicized and clandestine efforts were made to bring Jews to Palestine. In fact, it was not until after the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948 and the liberalization of American immigration laws in 1948 and 1949 (allowing the admission of refugees from Europe) that the problem of finding homes for the survivors was solved.

Upon liberating the camps, many Allied units were so shocked by what they saw that they meted out spontaneous punishment to some of the remaining SS personnel. Others were arrested and held for trial. The most famous of the postwar trials occurred in 1945–46 at Nürnberg, the former site of Nazi Party rallies. There, the International Military Tribunal tried 22 major Nazi officials for war crimes, crimes against the peace, and a new category of crimes: crimes against humanity. This new category encompassed “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population…persecution on political, racial, or religious grounds…whether or not in violation of the domestic laws of the country where perpetrated.” After the first trials, 185 defendants were divided into 12 groups, including physicians responsible for medical experimentation (but not so-called euthanasia), judges who preserved the facade of legality for Nazi crimes, Einsatzgruppe leaders, commandants of concentration camps, German generals, and business leaders who profited from slave labour. The defendants made up, however, a miniscule fraction of those who had perpetrated the crimes. In the eyes of many, their trials were a desperate, inadequate, but necessary effort to restore a semblance of justice in the aftermath of so great a crime. The Nürnberg trials established the precedent, later enshrined by international convention, that crimes against humanity are punishable by an international tribunal.

Over the ensuing half-century, additional trials further documented the nature of the crimes and had a public as well as a judicial impact. The 1961 trial in Jerusalem of Adolf Eichmann, who supervised the deportations of Jews to the death camps, not only brought him to justice but made a new generation of Israelis keenly aware of the Holocaust. The Auschwitz trials held in Frankfurt am Main, West Germany, between 1963 and 1976 increased the German public’s knowledge of the killing and its pervasiveness. The trials in France of Klaus Barbie (1987) and Maurice Papon (1996–98) and the revelations of Franƈois Mitterrand in 1994 concerning his indifference toward Vichy France’s anti-Jewish policy called into question the notion of French resistance and forced the French to deal with the issue of collaboration. These trials also became precedents as world leaders considered responses to other crimes against humanity in places such as Bosnia and Rwanda.

The defeat of Nazi Germany left a bitter legacy for the German leadership and people. Germans had committed crimes in the name of the German people. German culture and the German leadership—political, intellectual, social, and religious—had participated or been complicit in the Nazi crimes or been ineffective in opposing them. In an effort to rehabilitate the good name of the German people, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) firmly established a democracy that protected the human rights of all its citizens and made financial reparations to the Jewish people in an agreement passed by parliament in 1953. West German democratic leaders made special efforts to achieve friendly relations with Israel. In the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), the communist leaders attempted to absolve their population of responsibility for the crimes, portraying themselves as the victims of the Nazis, and Nazism as a manifestation of capitalism. The first gesture of the postcommunist parliament of East Germany, however, was an apology to the Jewish people. At one of its first meetings in the newly renovated Reichstag building in 1999, the German parliament voted to erect a Holocaust memorial in Berlin. The first state visitor to Berlin after its reestablishment as capital of a united Germany was Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the history of the Holocaust continued to be unsettling. The Swiss government and its bankers had to confront their role as bankers to the Nazis and in recycling gold and valuables taken from the victims. Under the leadership of German prime minister Gerhard Schröder, German corporations and the German government established a fund to compensate Jews and non-Jews who worked in German slave labour and forced labour programs during the war. Insurance companies were negotiating over claims from descendants of policyholders killed during the war—claims that the companies denied immediately after the war by imposing prohibitive conditions, such as the presentation of a death certificate specifying the time and place of death of the insured. In several eastern European countries, negotiations addressed Jewish property that the Nazis had confiscated during the war but that could not be returned under the region’s communist governments. Artworks stolen during the war and later sold on the basis of dubious records were the subject of legal struggles to secure their return to the original owners or to their heirs. The German government continued to pay reparations—first awarded in 1953—to individual Jews and the Jewish people to acknowledge responsibility for the crimes committed in the name of the German people.


Artistic responses to the Holocaust
Artists the world over and camp survivors themselves have responded to the Holocaust through art. The very existence of Holocaust art can, however, create a sense of unease. Critic Irving Howe has asked, “Can imaginative literature represent in any profound or illuminating way the meanings of the Holocaust? Is ‘the debris of our misery’ (as one survivor described it) a proper or manageable subject for stories and novels? Are there not perhaps extreme situations beyond the reach of art?” Similarly, philosopher Theodore Adorno has commented that writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. Yet poetry has been written—moving poetry that seeks to come to terms with the tragedy even in the German language—in works by Nelly Sachs and Paul Celan, among others. Gripping work dealing with the horror, pain, and loss of the Holocaust has appeared in every literary genre and in music, film, painting, and sculpture.

Survivors of the Holocaust have produced powerful works that record or reflect on their experiences. Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl (originally in Dutch, 1947), Eli Wiesel’s Night (originally in Yiddish, 1956), and works by Primo Levi are some of the most memorable in the field of literature. Paintings and drawings by survivors Samuel Bak, Alice Lok Cahana, and David Olère document the horrors that they experienced in ghettos and death camps. Holocaust survivors have also composed a wide variety of music, including street songs, which gave voice to life in the ghetto; resistance songs, such as Hirsh Glik’s “Song of the Partisans” (composed and first performed 1943, published 1953); and classical compositions, such as Quartet for the End of Time (first performed 1941) by Olivier Messiaen and the opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis oder der Tod dankt ab (first performed 1943; “The Emperor of Atlantis or Death Abdicates”) by Victor Ullman.

Artists of all kinds, regardless of any firsthand experience with the Holocaust, have sought to grapple with this tragedy. George Segal’s memorial sculpture, Holocaust, is but one notable example. Visual art in response to the Holocaust includes paintings by Holocaust refugees Marc Chagall and George Grosz and the illustrated story Maus (published in installments 1980–85) by Art Spiegelman, the son of a survivor. Notable musical responses to the Holocaust include Arnold Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw (first performed 1947), Dmitri Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony (first performed 1962), which used the text of the poem “Baby Yar” (1961) by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and works by composers Charles Davidson, Michael Horvitz, and Oskar Morawetz.

Film, too, has been a prime medium for dealing with the Holocaust. Shortly after World War II, several eastern European filmmakers, including Aleksander Ford, Wanda Jakubowska, and Alfred Radok, attempted to capture the experience of Holocaust victims. Some of the most influential films since then include The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), directed by George Stevens; Il Giardino dei Finzi-Contini (1970, The Garden of the Finzi Continis), directed by Vittorio De Sica; the nine-hour documentary Shoah (1985), directed by Claude Lanzmann; Au Revoir les Enfants (1987, Goodbye, Children), directed by Louis Malle; Schindler’s List (1993), directed by Steven Spielberg; La Vita è Bella (1997; Life Is Beautiful), directed by Roberto Benigni; and Bent (1997), directed by Sean Mathias and based on Martin Sherman’s 1979 play about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals.


Conclusion
Today the Holocaust is viewed as the emblematic manifestation of absolute evil. Its revelation of the depths of human nature and the power of malevolent social and governmental structures has made it an essential topic of ethical discourse in fields as diverse as law, medicine, religion, government, and the military.

Many survivors report they heard a final plea from those who were killed: “Remember! Do not let the world forget.”

To this responsibility to those they left behind, survivors have added a plea of their own: “Never again.”

Never for the Jewish people. Never for any people. They hope that remembrance of the Holocaust can prevent its recurrence. In part because of their efforts, interest in the event has increased rather than diminished with the passage of time and in fact Holocaust Remembrance days are observed each year in many countries. More than half a century after the Holocaust, institutions, memorials, and museums continue to be built and films and educational curricula created to document and teach the history of the Holocaust to future generations.

Michael Berenbaum

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 


Marc Chagall
"War"

 

 


Warsaw Ghetto Uprising


Warsaw Ghetto Destruction, 1943

Main
Polish history

resistance by Polish Jews under Nazi occupation in 1943 to the deportations from Warsaw to the Treblinka extermination camp. The revolt began on April 19, 1943, and was crushed four weeks later, on May 16.

As part of Adolf Hitler’s “final solution” for ridding Europe of Jews, the Nazis established ghettos in areas under German control to confine Jews until they could be executed. The Warsaw ghetto, enclosed at first with barbed wire but later with a brick wall 10 feet (3 metres) high and 11 miles (18 km) long, comprised the old Jewish quarter of Warsaw. The Nazis herded Jews from surrounding areas into this district until by the summer of 1942 nearly 500,000 of them lived within its 840 acres (340 hectares); many had no housing at all, and those who did were crowded in at about nine people per room. Starvation and disease (especially typhus) killed thousands each month.

Beginning July 22, 1942, transfers to the death camp at Treblinka began at a rate of more than 5,000 Jews per day. Between July and September 1942, the Nazis shipped about 265,000 Jews from Warsaw to Treblinka. Only some 55,000 remained in the ghetto. As the deportations continued, despair gave way to a determination to resist. A newly formed group, the Jewish Fighting Organization (Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa; ŻOB), slowly took effective control of the ghetto.

On January 9, 1943, Heinrich Himmler, the chief of the SS (the Nazi paramilitary corps), visited the Warsaw ghetto. He ordered the deportation of another 8,000 Jews. The January deportations caught the Jews by surprise, and ghetto residents thought that the end had come. Making use of the many hiding places that they had created since April, Jews did not report as ordered. The resistance sprang into action. Jewish fighters could strike quickly, then escape across the rooftops. German troops, on the other hand, moved cautiously and would not go down to cellars. When the German deportation effort ended within a few days, Jews interpreted this as a victory. From then on, the resistance dominated the ghetto. The resistance fortified hideouts and strengthened fighting units in preparation for the next battle. As one ŻOB leader recalled,

We saw ourselves as a Jewish underground whose fate was a tragic one, the first to fight. For our hour had come without any sign of hope or rescue.



Warsaw Ghetto Inhabitants Hide in a Bunker

Having withdrawn, the Germans suspended deportations until April 19, when Himmler launched a special operation to clear the ghetto in honour of Adolf Hitler’s birthday, April 20. April 19 was also the first day of Passover, the Jewish holy days celebrating freedom from slavery in Egypt. Before dawn, 2,000 SS men and German army troops moved into the area with tanks, rapid-fire artillery, and ammunition trailers. While most remaining Jews hid in bunkers, by prearrangement, the ŻOB and a few independent bands of Jewish guerrillas, in all some 1,500 strong, opened fire with their motley weaponry—pistols, a few rifles, one machine gun, and homemade bombs—destroying a number of tanks, killing German troops, and holding off reinforcements trying to enter the ghetto. The Germans withdrew in the evening. The next day the fighting resumed and casualties mounted. The Germans used gas, police dogs, and flamethrowers in an effort to rout the Jews from their bunkers, leaving the city under a pall of smoke for days. On the third day the Germans’ tactics shifted. They no longer entered the ghetto in large groups but roamed it in small bands. Then they made a decision to burn the entire ghetto.

The Germans had planned to liquidate the ghetto in three days. The Jews held out for nearly a month. Resistance fighters succeeded in hiding in the sewers, even though the Germans tried first to flood them and then force them out with smoke bombs. Not until May 8 did the Nazis manage to take the ŻOB headquarters bunker. Civilians hiding there surrendered, but many of the surviving ŻOB fighters took their own lives to avoid being captured alive; so died Mordecai Anielewicz, the charismatic young commander of the underground army. The one-sided battle continued until May 16, becoming sporadic as Jewish ammunition was exhausted. Total casualty figures for the uprising are uncertain, but the Germans likely lost several hundred soldiers during the 28 days that it took them to kill or deport over 40,000 Jews. SS Major General Jürgen Stroop supervised the coup de grace: the dynamiting of the Great Synagogue of Warsaw. Thereupon he wrote his report: “The Warsaw Ghetto Is No More.”

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was nothing less than a revolution in Jewish history. Jews had resisted the Nazis with armed force. The significance and symbolic resonance of the uprising went far beyond those who fought and died. As Anielewicz wrote to his colleague Yitzhak Zuckerman,

My life’s dream has now been realized: Jewish self-defense in the ghetto is now an accomplished fact.…I have been witness to the magnificent, heroic struggle of the Jewish fighters.


Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw in 2006

Some aspects of the Warsaw uprising were common to all ghetto insurrections. Resistance came at the end, when all hope for survival was abandoned and when trust in the leadership of the Nazi-created Judenräte (“Jewish Councils”) was lost. More than 300,000 had died at the extermination camps; the rail cars were at the station. The fighters knew that they were bound to lose. There was no longer a choice between life and death, but the honour of the Jewish people was at stake. They chose to die fighting and to inflict casualties on the enemy.

Jewish fighters faced overwhelmingly superior forces. Even if they are understated with regard to their losses, the German figures reported after the battle reflect the mismatch. Of the Jews captured, the Germans shot 7,000 and transported 7,000 to the death camp at Treblinka, 15,000 to Majdanek, and the remainder to forced-labour camps. The Germans captured 9 rifles, 59 pistols, and several hundred grenades, explosives, and mines. Among the Germans and their collaborators, the stated losses were 16 dead and 85 wounded.

Michael Berenbaum

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 


Marc Chagall
"Solitude"

 

 


The Holocaust

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

Victims of the Holocaust.


The Holocaust (from the Greek ὁλόκαυστον (holókauston): holos, "whole" and kaustos, "burnt"), also known as The Shoah (Hebrew: השואה, Latinized ha'shoah; Yiddish: חורבן, Latinized churben or hurban) is the term generally used to describe the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II, a program of systematic state-sponsored extermination by Nazi Germany, under Adolf Hitler, its allies, and collaborators.

Some scholars maintain that the definition of the Holocaust should also include the Nazis' systematic murder of millions of people in other groups, including ethnic Poles, the Romani, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, people with disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other political and religious opponents. By this definition, the total number of Holocaust victims would be between 11 million and 17 million people.

The persecution and genocide were carried out in stages. Legislation to remove the Jews from civil society was enacted years before the outbreak of World War II. Concentration camps were established in which inmates were used as slave labor until they died of exhaustion or disease. Where the Third Reich conquered new territory in eastern Europe, specialized units called Einsatzgruppen murdered Jews and political opponents in mass shootings. Jews and Romani were confined in overcrowded ghettos before being transported by freight train to extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, the majority of them were killed in gas chambers. Every arm of Nazi Germany's bureaucracy was involved in the logistics of the mass murder, turning the country into what one Holocaust scholar has called "a genocidal state".


Etymology and use of the term

The term holocaust originally derived from the Greek word holókauston, meaning a " whole (holos) burnt (kaustos)" sacrificial offering to a god. Its Latin form (holocaustum) was first used with specific reference to a massacre of Jews by the chroniclers Roger of Howden and Richard of Devizes in the 1190s. For hundreds of years, the word holocaust was used in English to denote massive sacrifices and great slaughters or massacres. During World War II, the word was used to describe Nazi atrocities regardless of whether the victims were Jews or non-Jews. Since the 1960s, the term has come to be used by scholars and popular writers to refer exclusively to the genocide of Jews.

The biblical word Shoah (שואה) (also spelled Sho'ah and Shoa), meaning "calamity," became the standard Hebrew term for the Holocaust as early as the 1940s. Shoah is preferred by many Jews for a number of reasons, including the theologically offensive nature of the word holocaust, as a Greek pagan custom.

 

Historical usage of Holocaust, Shoah, and Final Solution

The word holocaust has been used since the 18th century to refer to the violent deaths of a large number of people. For example, Winston Churchill and other contemporaneous writers used it before World War II to describe the Armenian Genocide of World War I. Since the 1950s its use has increasingly been restricted, with its usage now mainly used as a proper noun to describe the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany.

Holocaust was adopted as a translation of Shoah—a Hebrew word connoting catastrophe, calamity, disaster, and destruction—which was used in 1940 in Jerusalem in a booklet called Sho'at Yehudei Polin, and translated as The Holocaust of the Jews of Poland. Shoah had earlier been used in the context of the Nazis as a translation of catastrophe; for example, in 1934, Chaim Weizmann told the Zionist Action Committee that Hitler's rise to power was an "unvorhergesehene Katastrophe, etwa ein neuer Weltkrieg" ("an unforeseen catastrophe, perhaps even a new world war"); the Hebrew press translated Katastrophe as Shoah. In the spring of 1942, the Jerusalem historian BenZion Dinur (Dinaburg) used Shoah in a book published by the United Aid Committee for the Jews in Poland to describe the extermination of Europe's Jews, calling it a "catastrophe" that symbolized the unique situation of the Jewish people. The word Shoah was chosen in Israel to describe the Holocaust, the term institutionalized by the Knesset on April 12, 1951, when it established Yom Ha-Shoah Ve Mered Ha-Getaot, the national day of remembrance. In the 1950s, Yad Vashem was routinely translating this into English as "the Disaster"; at that time, holocaust was often used to mean the conflagration of much of humanity in a nuclear war. Since then, Yad Vashem has changed its practice; the word Holocaust, usually now capitalized, has come to refer principally to the genocide of the European Jews.

The usual German term for the extermination of the Jews during the Nazi period was the euphemistic phrase Endlösung der Judenfrage (the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question"). In both English and German, "Final Solution" is widely used as an alternative to "Holocaust". For a time after World War II, German historians also used the term Völkermord ("genocide"), or in full, der Völkermord an den Juden ("the genocide of the Jewish people"), while the prevalent term in Germany today is either Holocaust or increasingly Shoah.

 

Use of the term Holocaust for Jewish and non-Jewish victims

While the terms "Shoah" and "Final Solution" always refer to the fate of the Jews during the Nazi rule, the term "Holocaust" is sometimes used in a wider sense to describe other genocides of the Nazi and other regimes.

The Columbia Encyclopedia defines "Holocaust" as "name given to the period of persecution and extermination of European Jews by Nazi Germany". The Compact Oxford English Dictionary and Microsoft Encarta give similar definitions. The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines "Holocaust" as "the systematic state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children and millions of others by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II".

Scholars are divided on whether the term Holocaust should be applied to all victims of the Nazi mass murder campaign, with some using it synonymously with "Shoah" or "Final Solution of the Jewish Question", and others including the killing of Romani peoples (Roma and Sinti), Poles, the deaths of Soviet prisoners of war, Slavs, gay men, Jehovah's Witnesses, the disabled, and political opponents.

Yehuda Bauer contends that the Holocaust should include only Jews because it was the intent of the Nazis to exterminate all Jews, while the other groups were not to be totally annihilated. Besides Bauer, scholars Xu Xin, Ben Kiernan, Edward Kissi, Simone Veil, Monika Richarz, and Francis Deng refer solely to the destruction of the European Jewry when using the term "Holocaust".

Inclusion of non-Jewish victims of the Nazis in the Holocaust is objected to by many persons including Elie Wiesel, and by organizations such as Yad Vashem established to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. They say that the word was originally meant to describe the extermination of the Jews, and that the Jewish Holocaust was a crime on such a scale, and of such totality and specificity, as the culmination of the long history of European antisemitism, that it should not be subsumed into a general category with the other crimes of the Nazis.

Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wippermann maintain that although all Jews were victims, the Holocaust transcended the confines of the Jewish community - other people shared the tragic fate of victimhood. László Teleki applies the term "Holocaust" to both the murder of Jews and Romani peoples by the Nazis.

Sometimes, the term "Holocaust" is used to describe events that have no connection with World War II. The terms "Rwandan Holocaust" and "Cambodian Holocaust" are used to refer to the Rwanda genocide of 1994 and the mass killings by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia respectively, and "African Holocaust" is used to describe the slave trade and the colonization of Africa, also known as the Maafa.

 

Distinctive features

Compliance of Germany's institutions

Michael Berenbaum writes that Germany became 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 carefully 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."

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, and other vested interests and lobby groups.

Dominance of ideology and the scale of the genocide
In other genocides, pragmatic considerations such as control of territory and resources were central to the genocide policy. 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."

Responding to the German philosopher Ernst Nolte who claimed that the Holocaust was not unique, the German historian Eberhard Jäckel wrote in 1986 that the Holocaust was unique because:

"the National Socialist killing of the Jews was unique in 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 slaughter was systematically conducted in virtually all areas of Nazi-occupied territory in what are now 35 separate European countries. It was at its worst 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 clear that the Nazis also intended to carry out their "final solution of the Jewish question" in England and Ireland.

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 prior to January 18, 1871. All persons of recent Jewish ancestry were to be exterminated in lands controlled by Germany.



Medical experiments


Romani children in Auschwitz,
victims of medical experiments

Another distinctive feature of the Holocaust was the extensive use of human subjects in medical experiments. German physicians carried out such 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 brutal surgeries.[41] 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 were destroyed by von Verschuer.Subjects who survived Mengele's experiments were almost always killed and dissected shortly afterwards.


He seemed particularly keen on working with Romani children. He would bring them sweets and toys, and personally take them to the gas chamber. They would call him "Onkel 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

Origins

Yehuda Bauer, Raul Hilberg and Lucy Dawidowicz maintained that from the Middle Ages onward, German society and culture were suffused with anti-Semitism and there was a direct link from medieval pogroms to the Nazi death camps of the 1940s. Hans Küng has written that "Nazi anti-Judaism was the work of godless, anti-Christian criminals. But it would not have been possible without the almost two thousand years' pre-history of 'Christian' anti-Judaism..." The Nazi Party under Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany on January 30, 1933, and the persecution and exodus of Germany's 525,000 Jews began almost immediately. In Mein Kampf (1925), Hitler had been open about his hatred of Jews, and gave ample 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. ”

 

Legal repression and emigration

Throughout the 1930s, the legal, economic, and social rights of Jews were steadily restricted. In legally defining "who is Jew", the Nazis considered anyone of Jewish descent, even the descendents of converts who converted from Judaism after January 18, 1871, (the founding of the German Empire) were still considered Jews. Friedländer writes that, for the Nazis, Germany drew its strength for its "purity of blood" and its "rootedness in the sacred German earth." 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 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 insistance of then president 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. (Hindenburg was disturbed that people who had fought and bled for Germany would be forced from their state jobs.) Hitler revoked this exemption in 1937. Jews were excluded from schools and universities, (Law to prevent overcrowding in schools) and from belonging to the Journalists' Association, or from being owners or editors of newspapers . The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung of April 27, 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 1935, Hitler introduced the Nuremberg Laws, which: prohibited Jews from marrying Aryans, annuled existing marriages between Jews and Aryans (the Law for the protection of German blood and German honor,) prohibited Jews from serving as civil servants, stripped German Jews of their citizenship and deprived them of all civil rights. In his speech introducing the laws, 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 (Endlösung)." The expression "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."

Jewish intellectuals were among the first to leave. The philosopher Walter Benjamin left for Paris on March 18, 1933. Novelist Leon 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 April 6 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 U.S. on January 30, 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. 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 died ostracized 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.
 

Kristallnacht (1938)

On 7 November 1938, Jewish minor Herschel Grünspan assassinated Nazi German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris. This incident was used by the Nazis to initiate the transition from legal repression to large-scale outright violence against Jewish Germans. What the Nazis claimed to be spontaneous "public outrage", was a concerted action of Nazi party and SA members and affiliates, who after a Joseph Goebbels hate speech started mass pogroms throughout Nazi Germany, then consisting of Germany proper, Austria and Sudetenland. The progroms became known as (Reichs-) Kristallnacht ("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 1,668 synagogues (almost every synagogue in Germany) 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 concentration camp, were they were kept for several weeks. and released when they could either prove that they were about to emigrate in the near future, or after property transfers to the Nazis. The German Jewry was collectively made responsible for restitution of the material damage of the pogrom, amounting to several hundreds of thousand Reichsmark, and furthermore had to pay collectively an "atonement tax" of more than a billion Reichsmark.

After these pogroms, Jewish emigration from Nazi Germany accelerated, while public Jewish life in Germany ceased to exist.
 

Early measures in German occupied Poland

The question of the treatment of the Jews became an urgent one for the Nazis after September 1939, when they invaded the western half of Poland, home to about two million Jews. The pre-war Second Polish Republic had been split between the Nazi German and Soviet dictators, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, in the preceeding Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Of the German share of Poland, the northwestern parts were annexed, while the southeastern parts were made the Generalgouvernement led by Hans Frank. The invasion led Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and France to declare war - World War II had started.

Himmler's right-hand man, Reinhard Heydrich, 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, so that, in Heydrich's words, "future measures can be accomplished more easily." During his interrogation in 1961, Adolf Eichmann testified that the expression "future measures" was understood to mean "physical extermination."

“ I ask nothing of the Jews except that they should disappear. ”
—Hans Frank, Nazi governor of Poland.


In September, Himmler appointed Reinhard Heydrich head of the Reich Security Head Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA, not be to confused with the RuSHA), a body overseeing the work of the SS, the Security Police (SD), and the Gestapo in occupied Poland and charged with carrying out the policy towards the Jews described in Heydrich's report. The first organized murders of Jews by German forces occurred during Operation Tannenberg and through Selbstschutz units. Later, the Jews were 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 Saukel. Here many thousands were killed in various ways, and many more died of disease, starvation, and exhaustion, but there was still no program of systematic killing. There is no 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 1941 that the SS hierarchy led by Himmler and Heydrich was determined to embark on a policy of killing all the Jews under German control, there were important centers of opposition to this policy within the Nazi regime. The grounds for the opposition were mainly economic, not humanitarian. Hermann Göring, who had overall control of the German war industry, and the German army's Economics Department, representing the armaments industry, 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 while Germany was preparing to invade the Soviet Union.
 

Early measures in other occupied countries

When Nazi Germany occupied Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France in 1940, and Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941, anti-Semitic 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. The German puppet regime in Croatia, on the other hand, began actively persecuting Jews on its own initiative.
 

Resettlement and deportation to colonies and reservations

Madagascar and similar plans

Before the war, the Nazis had thought of mass resettlements of the German (and subsequently the European) Jewry to areas outside Europe. Because Germany had lost her colonies in World War I, diplomatic efforts were undertaken to negotiate arrangements with the colonial powers, primarily the United Kingdom and France. These efforts included plans to resettle Jews to British Palestine, Italian Abessinia, British Guinea, British Rhodesia, French Madagascar, and Australia.

Plans to reclaim former German colonies like Tansania and Namibia as a place to resettle Jews were halted by Adolf 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".

Of the envisioned resettlement areas, Madagascar was the most seriously discussed. While Jews had been murdered on mass scale since 1939, in 1940 some Nazis considered eliminating Jews by the unrealistic Madagascar Plan which, however futile, in retrospect did constitute an important psychological step on the path to the Holocaust. The planning was carried out by Eichmann's office; Heydrich called it a "territorial final solution". The plan was to ship all European Jews to Madagascar. In view of the difficulties of supporting more population in the General Gouvernment in July 1940, Hitler, still hoping for success with the Madagascar plan, stopped the deportation of Jews there. This was temporary, however, as the military situation offered no possibility to conquer Britain. The plan may have been foreseen as a remote and slower genocide through the unfavorable conditions on the island. Although the Final Solution was already in place and Jews were being exterminated, the formal declaration of the Plan's end was abandoned on February 10, 1942, when the German Foreign Office was given an official explanation that due to the war with the Soviet Union Jews are going to be "sent to the east".
 

General Government and Lublin reservation (Nisko plan)

On September 28, 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 October 18, 1939. The first train loads consisted of Jews deported from Austria and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. By January 30, 1940, historians estimate 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 "judenrein" ("free of Jews"). On March 24, 1940 Hermann Göring put a hold on the Nisko Plan, and by the end of April, abandoned it entirely. 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 due to starvation.

During 1940 and 1941, the murder of large numbers of Jews in German occupied Poland continued, and the deportation of Jews were deported to the General Gouvernment 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)


April 12, 1945: Lager Nordhausen,
where 20,000 inmates are believed to have died.

Leading up to the 1933 elections, the Nazis began intensifying acts of violence to wreak havoc among the opposition. With the cooperation of local authorities, they set up camps as concentration centers within Germany. One of the first was Dachau, which opened in March 1933. These early camps were meant to hold, torture, or kill only political prisoners, such as Communists and Social Democrats.

These early prisons – usually basements and storehouses – were eventually consolidated into full-blown, centrally run camps outside the cities. By 1942, six large extermination camps had been established in Nazi-occupied Poland. After 1939, the camps increasingly became places where Jews and POWs were either killed or forced to live as slave laborers, undernourished and tortured. It is estimated that the Germans established 15,000 camps in the occupied countries, many of them in Poland.

New camps were focused on 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 labour, a means whereby camp inmates would literally be worked to death – or frequently worked until they could no longer perform work tasks, followed by their selection for extermination – was invoked as a further systematic extermination policy. Furthermore, while not designed as a method for systematic extermination, many camp prisoners died because of harsh overall conditions or from executions carried out on a whim after being allowed to live for days or months.

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.

 

Ghettos (1940–1945)

After the invasion of Poland, the German Nazis established ghettos in which Jews and some Romani were confined, until they were eventually shipped to death camps to be murdered. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest, with 380,000 people, and the Łódź Ghetto the second largest, holding 160,000. They were, in effect, immensely crowded prisons, described by Michael Berenbaum as instruments of "slow, passive murder." Though the Warsaw Ghetto contained 400,000 people—30% of the population of Warsaw—it occupied only 2.4% of the city's area, averaging 9.2 people per room.

From 1940 through 1942, starvation and disease, especially typhoid, killed hundreds of thousands. Over 43,000 residents of the Warsaw ghetto died there in 1941,[85] more than one in ten; in Theresienstadt, more than half the residents died in 1942.

“ The Germans came, the police, and they started banging houses: "Raus, raus, raus, Juden raus." … [O]ne baby started to cry … The other baby started crying. So the mother urinated in her hand and gave the baby a drink to keep quiet … [When the police had gone], I told the mothers to come out. And one baby was dead … from fear, the mother [had] choked her own baby. ”
—Abraham Malik, describing his experience in the Kovno ghetto.

Each ghetto was run by a Judenrat (Jewish council) of German-appointed Jewish community leaders, who were responsible for the day-to-day running of the ghetto, including the provision of food, water, heat, medicine, and shelter, and who were also expected to make arrangements for deportations to extermination camps. Heinrich Himmler ordered the start of the deportations on July 19, 1942, and three days later, on July 22, the deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto began; over the next 52 days, until September 12, 300,000 people from Warsaw alone were transported in freight trains to the Treblinka extermination camp. Many other ghettos were completely depopulated.

Berenbaum writes that the defining moment that tested the courage and character of each Judenrat came when they were asked to provide a list of names of the next group to be deported. The Judenrat members went through the tried and tested methods of delay, bribery, stonewalling, pleading, and argumentation, until finally a decision had to be made. Some argued that their responsibility was to save the Jews who could be saved, and that therefore others had to be sacrificed; others argued, following Maimonides, that not a single individual should be handed over who had not committed a capital crime. Judenrat leaders such as Dr. Joseph Parnas in Lviv, who refused to compile a list, were shot. On October 14, 1942, the entire Judenrat of Byaroza committed suicide rather than cooperate with the deportations.

The first ghetto uprising occurred in September 1942 in the small town of Łachwa in southeast Poland. Though there were armed resistance attempts in the larger ghettos in 1943, such as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Białystok Ghetto Uprising, in every case they failed against the unmatched Nazi military force, and the remaining Jews were either killed or deported to the death camps, which the Germans euphemistically called "resettlement in the East."

 

Death squads (1941–1943)


A member of Einsatzgruppe D is about
to shoot a man sitting by a mass grave
in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, in 1942. Present in
the background are members of the
German Army, the German Labor Service,
and the Hitler Youth. The back of the
photograph is inscribed
"The last Jew in Vinnitsa"
 

The German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 opened a new phase. The Holocaust intensified after the Nazis occupied Lithuania, where close to 80 percent of Lithuanian Jews were exterminated before the end of the year. The Soviet territories occupied by early 1942, including all of Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Moldova and most Russian territory west of the line Leningrad-Moscow-Rostov, contained about three million Jews, including hundreds of thousands who had fled Poland in 1939. Despite the chaos of the Soviet retreat, some effort was made to evacuate Jews, and about a million succeeded in escaping further east.[citation needed] The remaining three million were left at the mercy of the Nazis.

Members of the local populations in certain occupied Soviet territories participated substantially in the killings of Jews and others. In Lithuania, Latvia and western Ukraine, locals were deeply involved in the murder of Jews from the very beginning of the German occupation. The Latvian Arajs Kommando was an example of such an operation. To the south, Ukrainians killed approximately 24,000 Jews. In addition, Latvian and Lithuanian units left their own countries, and committed murders of Jews in Belarus, and Ukrainians served as concentration and death camp guards in Poland. Many of the mass killings were carried out in public, a change from previous practice. German witnesses to these killings emphasized the participation of the locals. Ultimately it was the Germans who organized and channelled the local participants in The Holocaust.

Raul Hilberg writes that the German Einsatzgruppen commanders were ordinary citizens; the great majority were university-educated professionals.They used their skills to become efficient killers, according to Michael Berenbaum.

The large-scale killings of Jews in the occupied Soviet territories was assigned to SS formations called Einsatzgruppen ("task groups"), under the overall command of Heydrich. These had been used on a limited scale in Poland in 1939, but were now organized on a much larger scale. Einsatzgruppe A (commanded by SS-Brigadeführer Dr. Franz Stahlecker) was assigned to the Baltic area, Einsatzgruppe B (SS-Brigadeführer Artur Nebe) to Belarus, Einsatzgruppe C (SS-Gruppenführer Dr. Otto Rasch) to north and central Ukraine, and Einsatzgruppe D (SS-Gruppenführer Dr. Otto Ohlendorf) to Moldova, south Ukraine, the Crimea, and, during 1942, the north Caucasus. Of the four Einsatzgruppen, three were commanded by holders of doctorate degrees, of whom one (Rasch) held a double doctorate.

According to Ohlendorf at his trial, "the Einsatzgruppen had the mission to protect the rear of the troops by killing the Jews, Gypsies, Communist functionaries, active Communists, and all persons who would endanger the security." In practice, their victims were nearly all defenseless Jewish civilians (not a single Einsatzgruppe member was killed in action during these operations). By December 1941, the four Einsatzgruppen listed above had killed, respectively, 125,000, 45,000, 75,000, and 55,000 people—a total of 300,000 people—mainly by shooting or with hand grenades at mass killing sites outside the major towns.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tells the story of one survivor of the Einsatzgruppen in Piryatin, Ukraine, when they killed 1,600 Jews on April 6, 1942, the second day of Passover:

I saw them do the killing. At 5:00 p.m. they gave the command, "Fill in the pits." Screams and groans were coming from the pits. Suddenly I saw my neighbor Ruderman rise from under the soil … His eyes were bloody and he was screaming: "Finish me off!" … A murdered woman lay at my feet. A boy of five years crawled out from under her body and began to scream desperately. "Mommy!" That was all I saw, since I fell unconscious.

The most notorious massacre of Jews in the Soviet Union was at a ravine called Babi Yar outside Kiev, where 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation on September 29–30, 1941. The killing of all the Jews in Kiev was decided on by the military governor (Major-General Friedrich Eberhardt), the Police Commander for Army Group South (SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln) and the Einsatzgruppe C Commander Otto Rasch. It was carried out by a mixture of SS, SD and Security Police, assisted by Ukrainian police.

On Monday the Jews of Kiev gathered by the cemetery, expecting to be loaded onto trains. The crowd was large enough that most of the men, women, and children could not have known what was happening until it was too late: by the time they heard the machine-gun fire, there was no chance to escape. All were driven down a corridor of soldiers, in groups of ten, and then shot. A truck driver described the scene:

“ Kikes of the city of Kiev and vicinity! On Monday, September 29, you are to appear by 08:00 a.m. with your possessions, money, documents, valuables, and warm clothing at Dorogozhitskaya Street, next to the Jewish cemetery. Failure to appear is punishable by death. ”
—Order posted in Kiev in Russian and Ukrainian, on or around September 26, 1941.

[O]ne after the other, they had to remove their luggage, then their coats, shoes, and overgarments and also underwear … Once undressed, they were led into the ravine which was about 150 meters long and 30 meters wide and a good 15 meters deep … When they reached the bottom of the ravine they were seized by members of the Schutzpolizei and made to lie down on top of Jews who had already been shot … The corpses were literally in layers. A police marksman came along and shot each Jew in the neck with a submachine gun … I saw these marksmen stand on layers of corpses and shoot one after the other … The marksman would walk across the bodies of the executed Jews to the next Jew, who had meanwhile lain down, and shoot him.


From left to right; Heinrich Himmler,
Reinhard Heydrich, and Karl Wolff
(second from the right) at the
Obersalzberg, May 1939.
Wolff wrote in his diary that Himmler
had vomited after witnessing the
mass shooting of 100 Jews.
 

In August 1941 Himmler travelled to Minsk, where he personally witnessed 100 Jews being shot in a ditch outside the town, an event described by SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff in his diary. "Himmler's face was green. He took out his handkerchief and wiped his cheek where a piece of brain had squirted up on to it. Then he vomited." After recovering his composure, he lectured the SS men on the need to follow the "highest moral law of the Party" in carrying out their tasks.

 

Pogroms (1939–1942)

A number of deadly pogroms by local populations occurred during the Second World War, some with Nazi encouragement, and some spontaneously. This included the Iaşi pogrom in Romania on June 30, 1941, in which as many 14,000 Jews were killed by Romanian residents and police, and the Jedwabne pogrom, in which between 380 and 1,600 Jews were killed by local Poles in July 1941.
 

New methods of mass murder
 

Gas van in Chełmno extermination camp

Starting in December 1939, the Nazis introduced new methods of mass murder by using gas. First experimental vans, equipped with gas cylinders and a sealed trunk compartment, were used to kill mental care clients of sanatoria in Pomerania, East Prussia, and occupied Poland since 1939, as part of an operation termed Aktion T4.[98] In the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, larger vans holding up to 100 people were used in a similar way since November 1941, yet the gas did not come from a cylinder but directly from the engine's exhaust. These vans were introduced to the Chelmno concentration camp in December 1941, and another 15 of them were used by the death squads in the occupied Soviet Union. These gas vans were developed and run under supervision of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Bureau), and were used to kill about 500,000 people, primarily Jews, but also Romani and others. The vans were carefully monitored and month later a report stated that 'ninety seven thousand have been processed using three vans, without any defects showing up in the machines'.

A need for new mass murder techniques was also expressed by Hans Frank, governor of the General Government, who noted that this many people could not be simply shot. "We shall have to take steps, however, designed in some way to eliminate them." It was this dilemma which led the SS to experiment with large-scale killings using poison gas. Finally, SS Obersturmführer Christian Wirth seems to have been the inventor of the gas chamber.

 

Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution (1942–1945)
 

By the end of 1941, Himmler and Heydrich were becoming increasingly impatient with the progress of the Final Solution. Their main opponent was Göring, who had succeeded in exempting Jewish industrial workers from the orders to deport all Jews to the General Government and who had allied himself with the Army commanders who were opposing the extermination of the Jews out of mixture of economic calculation, distaste for the SS and (in some cases) humanitarian sentiment. Although Göring's power had declined since the defeat of his Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain, he still had privileged access to Hitler.


The Nazis methodically tracked the progress of the Holocaust in thousands of reports and documents. Pictured is the Höfle Telegram sent to Adolf Eichmann in January, 1943, that reported that 1,274,166 Jews had been killed in the four Aktion Reinhard camps during 1942.Heydrich therefore convened the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942 at a villa, Am Großen Wannsee No. 56-58, in the suburbs of Berlin to finalize a plan for the extermination of the Jews. The plan became known (after Heydrich) as Aktion Reinhard (Operation Reinhard). Present were Heydrich, Eichmann, Heinrich Müller (head of the Gestapo), and representatives of the Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, the Ministry for the Interior, the Four Year Plan Office, the Ministry of Justice, the General Government in Poland (where over two million Jews still lived), the Foreign Office, the Race and Resettlement Office, and the Nazi Party, and the office responsible for distributing Jewish property. Also present was SS-Sturmbannführer Rudolf Lange, the SD commander in Riga, who, with Friedrich Jeckeln had recently carried out the liquidation of 24,000 Latvian Jews from the Riga ghetto in the Rumbula massacre.

Michael Berenbaum writes that the 15 men seated at the table were considered the best and the brightest; more than half of them held doctorates from German universities.

A plan was presented for killing all the Jews in Europe, including 330,000 Jews in England and 4,000 in Ireland, although the minutes taken by Eichmann refer to this only through euphemisms, such as " … emigration has now been replaced by evacuation to the East. This operation should be regarded only as a provisional option, though in view of the coming final solution of the Jewish question it is already supplying practical experience of vital importance."

The officials were told there were 2.3 million Jews in the General Government, 850,000 in Hungary, 1.1 million in the other occupied countries, and up to 5 million in the Soviet Union (although only 3 million of these were in areas under German occupation) —a total of about 6.5 million. These would all be transported by train to extermination camps (Vernichtungslager) in Poland, where those unfit for work would be gassed at once. In some camps, such as Auschwitz, those fit for work would be kept alive for a while, but eventually all would be killed. Göring's representative, Dr. Erich Neumann, gained a limited exemption for some classes of industrial workers.



Extermination camps
 

Camp name
Killed
Auschwitz II
1,400,000
Belzec
600,000
Chelmno
320,000
Jasenovac
600,000
Majdanek
360,000
Maly Trostinets
65,000
Sobibór
250,000
Treblinka
870,000
 


During 1942, in addition to Auschwitz, five other camps were designated as extermination camps (Vernichtungslager) for the carrying out of the Reinhard plan. Two of these, Chelmno (also known as Kulmhof) and Majdanek were already functioning as labor camps: these now had extermination facilities added to them. Three new camps were built for the sole purpose of killing large numbers of Jews as quickly as possible, at Belzec, Sobibór and Treblinka. A seventh camp, at Maly Trostinets in Belarus, was also used for this purpose. Jasenovac was an extermination camp where mostly ethnic Serbs were killed.

Extermination camps are frequently confused with concentration camps such as Dachau and Belsen, which were mostly located in Germany and intended as places of incarceration and forced labor for a variety of enemies of the Nazi regime (such as Communists and gays). They should also be distinguished from slave labor camps, which were set up in all German-occupied countries to exploit the labor of prisoners of various kinds, including prisoners of war. In all Nazi camps there were very high death rates as a result of starvation, disease and exhaustion, but only the extermination camps were designed specifically for mass killing.

“ There was a place called the ramp where the trains with the Jews were coming in. They were coming in day and night, and sometimes one per day and sometimes five per day … Constantly, people from the heart of Europe were disappearing, and they were arriving to the same place with the same ignorance of the fate of the previous transport. And the people in this mass … I knew that within a couple of hours … ninety percent would be gassed. ”
—Rudolf Vrba, who worked on the Judenrampe in Auschwitz from August 18, 1942 to June 7, 1943.

The extermination camps were run by SS officers, but most of the guards were Ukrainian or Baltic auxiliaries. Regular German soldiers were kept well away.

 

Gas chambers

At the extermination camps with gas chambers all the prisoners arrived by train. Sometimes entire trainloads were sent straight to the gas chambers, but usually the camp doctor on duty subjected individuals to selections, where a small percentage were deemed fit to work in the slave labor camps; the majority were taken directly from the platforms to a reception area where all their clothes and other possessions were seized by the Nazis to help fund the war. They were then herded naked into the gas chambers. Usually they were told these were showers or delousing chambers, and there were signs outside saying "baths" and "sauna." They were sometimes given a small piece of soap and a towel so as to avoid panic, and were told to remember where they had put their belongings for the same reason. When they asked for water because they were thirsty after the long journey in the cattle trains, they were told to hurry up, because coffee was waiting for them in the camp, and it was getting cold.

According to Rudolf Höß, commandant of Auschwitz, bunker 1 held 800 people, and bunker 2 held 1,200. Once the chamber was full, the doors were screwed shut and solid pellets of Zyklon-B were dropped into the chambers through vents in the side walls, releasing toxic HCN, or hydrogen cyanide. Those inside died within 20 minutes; the speed of death depended on how close the inmate was standing to a gas vent, according to Höß, who estimated that about one third of the victims died immediately. Joann 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." When they were removed, if the chamber had been very congested, as they often were, the victims were found half-squatting, their skin colored pink with red and green spots, some foaming at the mouth or bleeding from the ears.

The gas was then pumped out, the bodies were removed (which would take up to four hours), gold fillings in their teeth were extracted with pliers by dentist prisoners, and women's hair was cut. The floor of the gas chamber was cleaned, and the walls whitewashed. The work was done by the Sonderkommando prisoners, Jews who hoped to buy themselves a few extra months of life. In crematoria 1 and 2, the Sonderkommando lived in an attic above the crematoria; in crematoria 3 and 4, they lived inside the gas chambers. When the Sonderkommando had finished with the bodies, the SS conducted spot checks to make sure all the gold had been removed from the victims' mouths. If a check revealed that gold had been missed, the Sonderkommando prisoner responsible was thrown into the furnace alive as punishment.

At first, the bodies were buried in deep pits and covered with lime, but between September and November 1942, on the orders of Himmler, they were dug up and burned. In the spring of 1943, new gas chambers and crematoria were built to accommodate the numbers.

Another improvement we made over Treblinka was that we built our gas chambers to accommodate 2,000 people at one time, whereas at Treblinka their 10 gas chambers only accommodated 200 people each. The way we selected our victims was as follows: we had two SS doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the incoming transports of prisoners. The prisoners would be marched by one of the doctors who would make spot decisions as they walked by. Those who were fit for work were sent into the Camp. Others were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of tender years were invariably exterminated, since by reason of their youth they were unable to work. Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process. Of course, frequently they realized our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties due to that fact. Very frequently women would hide their children under the clothes but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated. We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy but of course the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz.

– Rudolf Höß, Auschwitz camp commandant, Nuremberg testimony.

 

Jewish resistance


Jews captured and forcibly pulled out from dug outs by the Germans during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
The photo is from Jurgen Stroop's report to Heinrich Himmler


Yehuda Bauer and other historians argue that resistance consisted not only of physical opposition, but of any activity that gave the Jews dignity and humanity in humiliating and inhumane conditions.

"In every ghetto, in every deportation train, in every labor camp, even in the death camps, the will to resist was strong, and took many forms. Fighting with the few weapons that would be found, individual acts of defiance and protest, the courage of obtaining food and water under the threat of death, the superiority of refusing to allow the Germans their final wish to gloat over panic and despair. Even passivity was a form of resistance. To die with dignity was a form of resistance. To resist the demoralizing, brutalizing force of evil, to refuse to be reduced to the level of animals, to live through the torment, to outlive the tormentors, these too were acts of resistance. Merely to give a witness of these events in testimony was, in the end, a contribution to victory. Simply to survive was a victory of the human spirit."

– Martin Gilbert. The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy.

There are many examples of Jewish resistance, most notably the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of January 1943, when thousands of poorly armed Jewish fighters held the SS at bay for four weeks, and killed several hundred Germans before being crushed by overwhelmingly superior forces. This was followed by the uprising in the Treblinka extermination camp in May 1943, when about 200 inmates escaped from the camp after overpowering the guards. Two weeks later, there was an uprising in the Bialystok ghetto. In September, there was a short-lived uprising in the Vilnius ghetto. In October, 600 Jewish and Russian prisoners attempted an escape at the Sobibór death camp. About 60 survived and joined the Soviet partisans. On October 7, 1944, the Jewish Sonderkommandos at Auschwitz staged an uprising. Female prisoners had smuggled in explosives from a weapons factory, and Crematorium IV was partly destroyed by an explosion. The prisoners then attempted a mass escape, but all 250 were killed soon after.



Insurgents from Armia Krajowa (the Polish resistance movement)
fighting during the Warsaw Uprising
 

An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Jewish partisans (see the list at the top of this section) actively fought the Nazis and their collaborators in Eastern Europe.[137] The Jewish Brigade, a unit of 5,000 volunteers from the British Mandate of Palestine fought in the British Army. German-speaking volunteers from the Special Interrogation Group performed commando and sabotage operations against the Nazis behind front lines in the Western Desert Campaign.

In occupied Poland 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. In Lithuania and Belarus, an area with a heavy concentration of Jews, and also an area which suited partisan operations, Jewish partisan groups saved thousands of Jewish civilians from extermination. No such opportunities existed for the Jewish populations of cities such as Budapest. However in Amsterdam, and other parts of the Netherlands, many Jews were active in the Dutch Resistance. Joining the partisans was an option only for the young and the fit who were willing to leave their families. Many Jewish families preferred to die together rather than be separated.

"Many people think the Jews went to their deaths like sheep to the slaughter, and that's not true—it's absolutely not true. I worked closely with many Jewish people in the Resistance, and I can tell you, they took much greater risks than I did."

– Pieter Meerburg. The Heart Has Reasons: Holocaust Rescuers and Their Stories of Courage.

For the great majority of Jews resistance could take only the passive forms of delay, evasion, negotiation, bargaining and, where possible, bribery of German officials. The Nazis encouraged this by forcing the Jewish communities to police themselves, through bodies such as the Reich Association of Jews (Reichsvereinigung der Juden) in Germany and the Jewish Councils (Judenrate) in the urban ghettos in occupied Poland. They held out the promise of concessions in exchange for each surrender, enmeshing the Jewish leadership so deeply in well-intentioned compromise that a decision to stand and fight was never possible.

Holocaust survivor Alexander Kimel wrote: "The youth in the Ghettos dreamed about fighting. I believe that although there were many factors that inhibited our responses, the most important factors were isolation and historical conditioning to accepting martyrdom."

The historical conditioning of the Jewish communities of Europe to accept persecution and avert disaster through compromise and negotiation was the most important factor in the failure to resist until the very end. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising took place only when the Jewish population had been reduced from 500,000 to 100,000, and it was obvious that no further compromise was possible.

Paul Johnson writes: "The Jews had been persecuted for a millennium and a half and had learned from long experience that resistance cost lives rather than saved them. Their history, their theology, their folklore, their social structure, even their vocabulary trained them to negotiate, to pay, to plead, to protest, not to fight."



Warsaw Ghetto uprising
 

The Jewish communities were also systematically deceived about German intentions, and were cut off from most sources of news from the outside world. The Germans told the Jews that they were being deported to work camps – euphemistically calling it "resettlement in the East" – and maintained this illusion through elaborate deceptions all the way to the gas chamber doors (which were marked with labels stating that the chambers were for removal of lice) to avoid uprisings. As photographs testify, Jews disembarked at the railway stations at Auschwitz and other extermination camps carrying sacks and suitcases, clearly having no idea of the fate that awaited them. Rumours of the reality of the extermination camps filtered back only slowly to the ghettos, and were usually not believed, just as they were not believed when couriers such as Jan Karski, the Polish resistance fighter, conveyed them to the western Allies.
 

Climax


Budapest, Hungary - Captured Jewish women in Wesselényi Street, 20-22 October 1944

Heydrich was assassinated in Prague in June 1942. He was succeeded as head of the RSHA by Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Kaltenbrunner and Eichmann, under Himmler's close supervision, oversaw the climax of the Final Solution. During 1943 and 1944, the extermination camps worked at a furious rate to kill the hundreds of thousands of people shipped to them by rail from almost every country within the German sphere of influence. By the spring of 1944, up to 8,000 people were being gassed every day at Auschwitz.

Despite the high productivity of the war industries based in the Jewish ghettos in the General Government, during 1943 they were liquidated, and their populations shipped to the camps for extermination. The largest of these operations, the deportation of 100,000 people from the Warsaw Ghetto in early 1943, provoked the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which was suppressed with great brutality. At the same time, rail shipments arrived regularly from western and southern Europe. Few Jews were shipped from the occupied Soviet territories to the camps: the killing of Jews in this zone was left in the hands of the SS, aided by locally recruited auxiliaries. In any case, by the end of 1943 the Germans had been driven from most Soviet territory.

Shipments of Jews to the camps had priority on the German railways, and continued even in the face of the increasingly dire military situation after the Battle of Stalingrad at the end of 1942 and the escalating Allied air attacks on German industry and transport. Army leaders and economic managers complained at this diversion of resources and at the killing of irreplaceable skilled Jewish workers. By 1944, moreover, it was evident to most Germans not blinded by Nazi fanaticism that Germany was losing the war. Many senior officials began to fear the retribution that might await Germany and them personally for the crimes being committed in their name. But the power of Himmler and the SS within the German Reich was too great to resist, and Himmler could always evoke Hitler's authority for his demands.

In October 1943, Himmler gave a speech to senior Nazi Party officials gathered in Posen (Poznan in western Poland). Here he came closer than ever before to stating explicitly that he was intent on exterminating the Jews of Europe:

I may here in this closest of circles allude to a question which you, my party comrades, have all taken for granted, but which has become for me the most difficult question of my life, the Jewish question … I ask of you that what I say in this circle you really only hear and never speak of … We come to the question: how is it with the women and children? I have resolved even here on a completely clear solution. I do not consider myself justified in eradicating the men—so to speak killing them or ordering them to be killed—and allowing the avengers in the shape of the children to grow up … The difficult decision had to be taken, to cause this people to disappear from the earth.

The audience for this speech included Admiral Karl Dönitz and Armaments Minister Albert Speer, both of whom successfully claimed at the Nuremberg trials that they had had no knowledge of the Final Solution. The text of this speech was not known at the time of their trials.

The scale of extermination slackened somewhat at the beginning of 1944 once the ghettos in occupied Poland were emptied, but in March 19, 1944, Hitler ordered the military occupation of Hungary, and Eichmann was dispatched to Budapest to supervise the deportation of Hungary's 800,000 Jews. Hitler had personally complained to the Hungarian regent Admiral Miklos Horthy on the previous day, March 18, 1944, that:

“ Hungary did nothing in the matter of the Jewish problem, and was not prepared to settle accounts with the large Jewish population in Hungary. ”

More than half of them were shipped to Auschwitz in the course of the year. The commandant, Rudolf Höß, said at his trial that he killed 400,000 Hungarian Jews in three months. This operation met strong opposition within the Nazi hierarchy, and there were some suggestions that Hitler should offer the Allies a deal under which the Hungarian Jews would be spared in exchange for a favorable peace settlement. There were unofficial negotiations in Istanbul between Himmler's agents, British agents, and representatives of Jewish organizations, and at one point an attempt by Eichmann to exchange one million Jews for 10,000 trucks—the so-called "blood for goods" proposal—but there was no real possibility of such a deal being struck.
 

Escapes, publication of news of the death camps (April–June 1944)

Escapes from the camps were few, but not unknown. The few Auschwitz escapes that succeeded were made possible by the Polish underground inside the camp and local people outside. In 1940, the Auschwitz commandant reported that "the local population is fanatically Polish and … prepared to take any action against the hated SS camp personnel. Every prisoner who managed to escape can count on help the moment he reaches the wall of a first Polish farmstead."

In February 1942, an escaped inmate from the Chelmno extermination camp, Jacob Grojanowski, reached the Warsaw Ghetto, where he gave detailed information about the Chelmno camp to the Oneg Shabbat group. His report, which became known as the Grojanowski Report, was smuggled out of the ghetto through the channels of the Polish underground to the Delegatura, and reached London by June 1942. It is unclear what was done with the report at that point. In the meantime, by the 1st of February, the United States Office of War Information had decided not to release information about the extermination of the Jews because it was felt that it would mislead the public into thinking the war was simply a Jewish problem.

In 1943 the news about gassing Jews was at least broadcasted from London to The Netherlands. It was also published in illegal newspapers of Dutch resistance (for example in Het Parool of September 27, 1943). However, the news was so unbelievable that many assumed it was merely war propaganda. The publications were halted because they were counter-productive for the Dutch resistance. Nevertheless, many Jews were warned that they would be murdered, but as escape was impossible for most of them, they preferred to believe that the warnings were false.

In September 1940, Captain Witold Pilecki, a member of the Polish underground and a soldier of the Home Army, worked out a plan to enter Auschwitz and volunteered to be sent there, the only known person to volunteer to be imprisoned at Auschwitz. He organized an underground network Związek Organizacji Wojskowej - (eng.Union of Military Organizations) that was ready to initiate an uprising but it was decided that the probability of success was too low for the uprising to succeed. UMO's numerous and detailed reports became later a principal source of intelligence on Auschwitz for the Western Allies. Pilecki escaped from Auschwitz with information that became the basis of a two-part report in August 1943 that was sent to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in London. The report included details about the gas chambers, about "selection," and about the sterilization experiments. It stated that there were three crematoria in Birkenau able to burn 10,000 people daily, and that 30,000 people had been gassed in one day. The author wrote: "History knows no parallel of such destruction of human life." Raul Hilberg writes that the report was filed away with a note that there was no indication as to the reliability of the source. When Pilecki returned to Poland after the war the communist authorities arrested and accused him of spying for the Polish government in exile. He was sentenced to death in a show trial and was executed on May 25, 1948.

Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, Jewish inmates, escaped from Auschwitz in April 1944, eventually reaching Slovakia. The 32-page document they dictated to Jewish officials about the mass murder at Auschwitz became known as the Vrba-Wetzler report. Vrba had an eidetic memory and had worked on the Judenrampe, where Jews disembarked from the trains to be "selected" either for the gas chamber or slave labor. The level of detail with which he described the transports allowed Slovakian officials to compare his account with their own deportation records, and the corroboration convinced the Allies to take the report seriously.

Two other Auschwitz inmates, Arnost Rosin and Czesław Mordowicz escaped on May 27, 1944, arriving in Slovakia on June 6, the day of the Normandy landing (D-Day). Hearing about Normandy, they believed the war was over and got drunk to celebrate, using dollars they'd smuggled out of the camp. They were arrested for violating currency laws, and spent eight days in prison, before the Judenrat paid their fines. The additional information they offered the Judenrat was added to Vrba and Wetzler's report and became known as the Auschwitz Protocols. They reported that, between May 15 and May 27, 1944, 100,000 Hungarian Jews had arrived at Birkenau, and had been killed at an unprecedented rate, with human fat being used to accelerate the burning.

The BBC and The New York Times published material from the Vrba-Wetzler report on June 15 and June 20, 1944. The subsequent pressure from world leaders persuaded Miklos Horthy to bring the mass deportations of Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz to a halt on July 9, saving up to 200,000 Jews from the extermination camps.

 

Death marches (1944–1945)



Children from Auschwitz liberated by the Red Army in January, 1945.
Although most children were immediately killed upon arrival, this
group includes Jewish twins kept alive to be used in Mengele's
medical experiments
 

By mid 1944, the Final Solution had largely run its course. Those Jewish communities within easy reach of the Nazi regime had been largely exterminated, in proportions ranging from more than 90 percent in Poland to about 25 percent in France. In May, Himmler claimed in a speech that "The Jewish question in Germany and the occupied countries has been solved." During 1944, in any case, the task became steadily more difficult. German armies were evicted from the Soviet Union, the Balkans and Italy, and German allies were either defeated or were switching sides to the Allies. In June, the western Allies landed in France. Allied air attacks and the operations of partisans made rail transport increasingly difficult, and the objections of the military to the diversion of rail transport for carrying Jews to Poland more urgent and harder to ignore.

At this time, as the Soviet armed forces approached, the camps in eastern Poland were closed down, any surviving inmates being shipped west to camps closer to Germany, first to Auschwitz and later to Gross Rosen in Silesia. Auschwitz itself was closed as the Soviets advanced through Poland. The last 13 prisoners, all women, were killed in Auschwitz II on November 25, 1944; records show they were "unmittelbar getötet" ("killed outright"), leaving open whether they were gassed or otherwise disposed of.

Despite the desperate military situation, great efforts were made to conceal evidence of what had happened in the camps. The gas chambers were dismantled, the crematoria dynamited, mass graves dug up and the corpses cremated, and Polish farmers were induced to plant crops on the sites to give the impression that they had never existed. In October 1944, Himmler, who is believed to have been negotiating a secret deal with the Allies behind Hitler's back, ordered an end to the Final Solution. But the hatred of the Jews in the ranks of the SS was so strong that Himmler's order was generally ignored. Local commanders continued to kill Jews, and to shuttle them from camp to camp by forced "death marches" until the last weeks of the war.

Already sick after months or years of violence and starvation, prisoners were forced to march for tens of miles in the snow to train stations; then transported for days at a time without food or shelter in freight trains with open carriages; and forced to march again at the other end to the new camp. Those who lagged behind or fell were shot. Around 250,000 Jews died during these marches.

The largest and best-known of the death marches took place in January 1945, when the Soviet army advanced on Poland. Nine days before the Soviets arrived at Auschwitz, the SS marched 60,000 prisoners out of the camp toward Wodzislaw, 56 km (35 miles) away, where they were put on freight trains to other camps. Around 15,000 died on the way. Elie Wiesel and his father, Shlomo, were among the marchers:

An icy wind blew in violent gusts. But we marched without faltering.
Pitch darkness. Every now and then, an explosion in the night. They had orders to fire on any who could not keep up. Their fingers on the triggers, they did not deprive themselves of this pleasure. If one of us had stopped for a second, a sharp shot finished off another filthy son of a bitch.
Near me, men were collapsing in the dirty snow. Shots.

 

Liberation



A grave inside Bergen-Belsen
 

The first major camp, Majdanek, was discovered by the advancing Soviets on July 23, 1944. Auschwitz was liberated, also by the Soviets, on January 27, 1945; Buchenwald by the Americans on April 11; Bergen-Belsen by the British on April 15; Dachau by the Americans on April 29; Ravensbrück by the Soviets on the same day; Mauthausen by the Americans on May 5; and Theresienstadt by the Soviets on May 8. Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec were never liberated, but were destroyed by the Nazis in 1943. Colonel William W. Quinn of the U.S. 7th Army said of Dachau: "There our troops found sights, sounds, and stenches horrible beyond belief, cruelties so enormous as to be incomprehensible to the normal mind."

“ We heard a loud voice repeating the same words in English and in German: "Hello, hello. You are free. We are British soldiers and have come to liberate you." These words still resound in my ears. ”
—Hadassah Rosensaft, inmate of Bergen-Belsen.

In most of the camps discovered by the Soviets, almost all the prisoners had already been removed, leaving only a few thousand alive—7,000 inmates were found in Auschwitz, including 180 children who had been experimented on by doctors. Some 60,000 prisoners were discovered at Bergen-Belsen by the British 11th Armoured Division, 13,000 corpses lay unburied, and another 10,000 died from typhus or malnutrition over the following weeks. The British forced the remaining SS guards to gather up the corpses and place them in mass graves.

The BBC's Richard Dimbleby described the scenes that greeted him and the British Army at Belsen:

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.

 

Victims and death toll

Victims              Killed

Jews                     5.9 million
 
Soviet POWs       2–3 million

Ethnic Poles        1.8–2 million

Romani                 220,000–1,500,000

Disabled               200,000–250,000

Homosexuals      5,000–15,000

Jehovah's
Witnesses           2,500–5,000


The number of victims depends on which definition of "the Holocaust" is used. Donald Niewyk and Francis Nicosia write in The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust that the term is commonly defined as the mass murder, and attempt to wipe out, European Jewry, which would bring the total number of victims to just under six million — around 78 percent of the 7.3 million Jews in occupied Europe at the time.

Broader definitions include between 220,000 and 500,000 Romani, and the 200,000 disabled and mentally ill who were also targeted for eradication. A broader definition still includes political and religious dissenters, two to three million Soviet POWs, and 5,000 to 15,000 gay men, bringing the death toll to nine million. This rises to 11 million if the deaths of 1.8 to 2 million ethnic Poles are included. The broadest definition would include 6 million Soviet civilians, raising the death toll to 17 million. R.J. Rummel estimates the total democide death toll of Nazi Germany to be 21 million.

Since 1945, the most commonly cited figure for the total number of Jews killed has been six million. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, writes that there is no precise figure for the number of Jews killed. The figure most commonly used is the six million cited by Adolf Eichmann, a senior SS official. Early calculations range from 5.1 million from Raul Hilberg, to 5.95 million from Jacob Leschinsky. Yisrael Gutman and Robert Rozett in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust estimate 5.59–5.86 million. A study led by Wolfgang Benz of the Technical University of Berlin suggests 5.29–6.2 million. Yad Vashem writes that the main sources for these statistics are comparisons of prewar and postwar censuses and population estimates, and Nazi documentation on deportations and murders.[184] Its Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names currently holds close to 3 million names of Holocaust victims, all accessible online. Yad Vashem continues its project of collecting names of Jewish victims from historical documents and individual memories.

 

Jews


Entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1945
 

Hilberg's estimate of 5.1 million, in the third edition of The Destruction of the European Jews, includes over 800,000 who died from "ghettoization and general privation"; 1,400,000 killed in open-air shootings; and up to 2,900,000 who perished in camps. Hilberg estimates the death toll of Jews in Poland as up to 3,000,000. Hilberg's numbers are generally considered to be a conservative estimate, as they typically include only those deaths for which records are available, avoiding statistical adjustment.

British historian Martin Gilbert used a similar approach in his Atlas of the Holocaust, but arrived at a number of 5.75 million Jewish victims, since he estimated higher numbers of Jews killed in Russia and other locations. Lucy S. Dawidowicz used pre-war census figures to estimate that 5.934 million Jews died (see table below) here).

There were about 8 to 10 million Jews in the territories controlled directly or indirectly by the Nazis (the uncertainty arises from the lack of knowledge about how many Jews there were in the Soviet Union). The six million killed in the Holocaust thus represent 60 to 75 percent of these Jews. Of Poland's 3.3 million Jews, over 90 percent were killed. The same proportion were killed in Latvia and Lithuania, but most of Estonia's Jews were evacuated in time. Of the 750,000 Jews in Germany and Austria in 1933, only about a quarter survived. Although many German Jews emigrated before 1939, the majority of these fled to Czechoslovakia, France or the Netherlands, from where they were later deported to their deaths. In Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Yugoslavia, over 70 percent were killed. More than 50 percent were killed in Belgium, Hungary, and Romania. It is likely that a similar proportion were killed in Belarus and Ukraine, but these figures are less certain. Countries with notably lower proportions of deaths include Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Italy, and Norway.
 

Year                Jews Killed

1933–1940        100,000

1941                   1,100,000

1942                   2,700,000
 
1943                   500,000

1944                   600,000

1945                   100,000



The number of people killed at the major extermination camps is estimated as:

Auschwitz-Birkenau: 1.4 million;
Treblinka:                     870,000;
Belzec:                         600,000;
Majdanek:                    360,000;
Chelmno:                     320,000;
Sobibór:                       250,000.


This gives a total of over 3.8 million; of these, 80–90% were estimated to be Jews. These seven camps thus accounted for half the total number of Jews killed in the entire Nazi Holocaust. Virtually the entire Jewish population of Poland died in these camps.

In addition to those who died in the above extermination camps, at least half a million Jews died in other camps, including the major concentration camps in Germany. These were not extermination camps, but had large numbers of Jewish prisoners at various times, particularly in the last year of the war as the Nazis withdrew from Poland. About a million people died in these camps, and although the proportion of Jews is not known with certainty, it was estimated to be at least 50 percent.[citation needed] Another 800,000 to one million Jews were killed by the Einsatzgruppen in the occupied Soviet territories (an approximate figure, since the Einsatzgruppen killings were frequently undocumented). Many more died through execution or of disease and malnutrition in the ghettos of Poland before they could be deported.

 

By country
The following figures from Lucy Dawidowicz show the annihilation of the Jewish population of Europe by (pre-war) country:

 

Country  
Estimated Pre-War Jewish population  
Estimated Jewish population annihilated  
Percent killed  
Poland
3,300,000
3,000,000
90
Baltic countries
253,000
228,000
90
Germany & Austria
240,000
210,000
90
Bohemia & Moravia
90,000
80,000
89
Slovakia
90,000
75,000
83
Greece
70,000
54,000
77
Netherlands
140,000
105,000
75
Hungary
650,000
450,000
70
Byelorussian SSR
375,000
245,000
65
Ukrainian SSR
1,500,000
900,000
60
Belgium
65,000
40,000
60
Yugoslavia
43,000
26,000
60
Romania
600,000
300,000
50
Norway
2,173
890
41
France
350,000
90,000
26
Bulgaria
64,000
14,000
22
Italy
40,000
8,000
20
Luxembourg
5,000
1,000
20
Russian SFSR
975,000
107,000
11
Denmark
8,000
52
<1
Finland
2,000
22
1
Total
8,861,800
5,933,900
67

 

 




Non Jewish victims
 

Slavs
One of Hitler's ambitions at the start of the war was to exterminate, expel, or enslave most or all Slavs from their native lands so as to make living space for German settlers. This plan of genocide was to be carried into effect gradually over a period of 25–30 years.

Ethnic Poles

The actions taken against ethnic Poles were not on the scale of the genocide of the Jews. Most Polish Jews (90%) perished during the Holocaust, while most Christian Poles (94%) survived brutal German occupation.[195] German Nazi planners in November 1939 called for nothing less than ‘the complete destruction’ of the Polish people. "All Poles", Heinrich Himmler swore, "will disappear from the world". The Polish state under German occupation was to be cleared of ethnic Poles and settled by German colonists. Of the Poles, by 1952 only about 3–4 million of them were supposed to be left residing in the former Poland, and then only to serve as slaves for German settlers. They were to be forbidden to marry, the existing ban on any medical help to Poles in Germany would be extended, and eventually Poles would cease to exist. On August 22, 1939, about one week before the onset of the war, Hitler "prepared, for the moment only in the East, my 'Death's Head' formations with orders to kill without pity or mercy all men, women and children of Polish descent or language. Only in this way can we obtain the living space we need."

Nazi planners decided against a genocide of ethnic Poles on the same scale as against ethnic Jews, it could not proceed in the short run since "such a solution to the Polish question would represent a burden to the German people into the distant future, and everywhere rob us of all understanding, not least in that neighbouring peoples would have to reckon at some appropriate time, with a similar fate". Between 1.8 and 2.1 million non-Jewish Polish citizens perished in German hands during the course of the war, about four-fifths of whom were ethnic Poles with the remaining fifth being ethnic minorities of Ukrainians and Belarusians, the vast majority of them civilians. At least 200,000 of these victims died in concentration camps with about 146,000 being killed in Auschwitz. Many others died as a result of general massacres such as in the Warsaw Uprising where between 120,000 and 200,000 civilians were killed. The policy of the Germans in Poland included diminishing food rations, conscious lowering of the state of hygiene and depriving the population of medical services. The general mortality rate rose from 13 to 18 per thousand. Overall, about 5.6 million of the victims WW2 were Polish citizens, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and over the course of the war Poland lost 16 percent of its pre-war population; approx. 3.1 million of the 3.3 million Polish Jews and approx. 2 million of the 31.7 non-Jewish Polish citizens died at German hands during the war. Over 90 percent of the death toll came through non-military losses, as most of the civilians were targeted by various deliberate actions by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

Ethnic Yugoslavs

In the Balkans, up to 581,000 Yugoslavs were killed by the Nazis and their Ustaše fascist allies in Yugoslavia. German forces, under express orders from Hitler, fought with a special vengeance against the Serbs, who were considered Untermensch. The Ustaše collaborators conducted a systematic extermination of large numbers of people for political, religious or racial reasons. The most numerous victims were Serbs.

Bosniaks and Croats were also victims of Jasenovac. According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum:

"The Ustaša authorities established numerous concentration camps in Croatia between 1941 and 1945. These camps were used to isolate and murder Serbs, Jews, Roma, Muslims [Bosniaks], and other non-Catholic minorities, as well as Croatian political and religious opponents of the regime."

The USHMM and Jewish Virtual Library report between 56,000 and 97,000 persons were killed at the Jasenovac concentration camp. However, Yad Vashem reports 600,000 deaths at Jasenovac.

As per the most recent study, Bosnjaci u Jasenovackom logoru ("Bosniaks in Jasenovac concentration camp") by the author Nihad Halilbegovic, at least 103,000 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslim Slavs) perished during Holocaust at the hands of the Nazi regime and Croatian Ustaše. According to the study "unknown is the full number of Bosniaks who were murdered under Serb or Croat alias or national name" and "large numbers of Bosniaks were killed and listed under Roma populations", therefore in advance sentenced to death and extermination.

East Slavs

Main articles: Occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany and Reichskommissariat Ukraine
In Belarus, Nazi Germany imposed a regime in the country that was responsible for burning down some 9,000 villages, deporting some 380,000 people for slave labour, and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. More than 600 villages, like Khatyn, were burned along with their entire population and at least 5,295 Belarusian settlements were destroyed by the Nazis and some or all of their inhabitants killed. Altogether, 1,670,000 civilians (18 percent of the population) were killed during the three years of German occupation. including 245,000 Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen.

Soviet POWs


Soviet POWs in German captivity

According to Michael Berenbaum, between two and three million Soviet prisoners-of-war—or around 57 percent of all Soviet POWs—died of starvation, mistreatment, or executions between June 1941 and May 1945, and most those during their first year of captivity. According to other estimates by Daniel Goldhagen, an estimated 2.8 million Soviet POWs died in eight months in 1941–42, with a total of 3.5 million by mid-1944. The USHMM has estimated that 3.3 million of the 5.7 million Soviet POWs died in German custody—compared to 8,300 of 231,000 British and American prisoners. The death rates decreased as the POWs were needed to work as slaves to help the German war effort; by 1943, half a million of them had been deployed as slave labor.

 

Romani people

Because the Roma and Sinti are traditionally a secretive people with a culture based on oral history, less is known about their experience of the genocide than about that of any other group. Yehuda Bauer writes that the lack of information can be attributed to the Roma's distrust and suspicion, and to their humiliation, because some of the basic taboos of Romani culture regarding hygiene and sexual contact were violated at Auschwitz. Bauer writes that "most [Roma] could not relate their stories involving these tortures; as a result, most kept silent and thus increased the effects of the massive trauma they had undergone."

Donald Niewyk and Frances Nicosia write that the death toll was at least 130,000 of the nearly one million Roma and Sinti in Nazi-controlled Europe. Michael Berenbaum writes that serious scholarly estimates lie between 90,000 and 220,000. A detailed study by the late Sybil Milton, formerly senior historian at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, calculated a death toll of at least 220,000, and possibly closer to 500,000. Martin Gilbert estimates a total of more than 220,000 of the 700,000 Romani in Europe. Ian Hancock, Director of the Program of Romani Studies and the Romani Archives and Documentation Center at the University of Texas at Austin, has argued in favour of a higher figure of between 500,000 and 1,500,000. Hancock writes that, proportionately, the death toll equaled "and almost certainly exceed[ed], that of Jewish victims."

“ … they wish to toss into the Ghetto everything that is characteristically dirty, shabby, bizarre, of which one ought to be frightened and which anyway had to be destroyed. ”
—Emmanuel Ringelblum on the Roma.

Before being sent to the camps, the victims were herded into ghettos, including several hundred into the Warsaw Ghetto. Further east, teams of Einsatzgruppen tracked down Romani encampments and murdered the inhabitants on the spot, leaving no records of the victims. They were also targeted by the puppet regimes that cooperated with the Nazis, e.g. the Ustaše regime in Croatia, where a large number of Romani were killed in the Jasenovac concentration camp.

In May 1942, the Romani were placed under the same labor and social laws as the Jews. On December 16, 1942, Heinrich Himmler, Commander of the SS and regarded as the "architect" of the Nazi genocide, issued a decree that "Gypsy Mischlinge (mixed breeds), Romani, and members of the clans of Balkan origins who are not of German blood" should be sent to Auschwitz, unless they had served in the Wehrmacht. On January 29, 1943, another decree ordered the deportation of all German Romani to Auschwitz.

This was adjusted on November 15, 1943, when Himmler ordered that, in the occupied Soviet areas, "sedentary Gypsies and part-Gypsies (Mischlinge) are to be treated as citizens of the country. Nomadic Gypsies and part-Gypsies are to be placed on the same level as Jews and placed in concentration camps." Bauer argues that this adjustment reflected Nazi ideology that the Roma, originally an Aryan population, had been "spoiled" by non-Romani blood.

 

Disabled and mentally ill

“ Our starting point is not the individual:
We do not subscribe to the view that one should feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, or clothe the naked … Our objectives are different: We must have a healthy people in order to prevail in the world.”
—Joseph Goebbels, 1938.

Action T4 was a program established in 1939 to maintain the genetic purity of the German population by killing or sterilizing German and Austrian citizens who were judged to be disabled or suffering from mental disorder.

Between 1939 and 1941, 80,000 to 100,000 mentally ill adults in institutions were killed; 5,000 children in institutions; and 1,000 Jews in institutions. Outside the mental health institutions, the figures are estimated as 20,000 (according to Dr. Georg Renno, the deputy director of Schloss Hartheim, one of the euthanasia centers) or 400,000 (according to Frank Zeireis, the commandant of Mauthausen concentration camp). Another 300,000 were forcibly sterilized. Overall it has been estimated that over 200,000 individuals with mental disorders of all kinds were put to death, although their mass murder has received relatively little historical attention. Despite not being formally ordered to take part, psychiatrists and psychiatric institutions were at the center of justifying, planning and carrying out the atrocities at every stage, and "constituted the connection" to the later annihilation of Jews and other "undesirables" in the Holocaust. After strong protests by the German Catholic and Protestant churches on 24 August 1941 Hitler ordered the cancellation of the T4 program

The program was named after Tiergartenstraße 4, the address of a villa in the Berlin borough of Tiergarten, the headquarters of the Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Heil und Anstaltspflege (General Foundation for Welfare and Institutional Care),[236] led by Philipp Bouhler, head of Hitler’s private chancellery (Kanzlei des Führer der NSDAP) and Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician.

Brandt was tried in December 1946 at Nuremberg, along with 22 others, in a case known as United States of America vs. Karl Brandt et al., also known as the Doctors' Trial. He was hanged at Landsberg Prison on June 2, 1948.

 

Homosexuals

Between 5,000 and 15,000 homosexuals of German nationality are estimated to have been sent to concentration camps. James D. Steakley writes that what mattered in Germany was criminal intent or character, rather than criminal acts, and the "gesundes Volksempfinden" ("healthy sensibility of the people") became the leading normative legal principle. In 1936, Himmler created the "Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion". Homosexuality was declared contrary to "wholesome popular sentiment," and homosexuals were consequently regarded as "defilers of German blood." The Gestapo raided gay bars, tracked individuals using the address books of those they arrested, used the subscription lists of gay magazines to find others, and encouraged people to report suspected homosexual behavior and to scrutinize the behavior of their neighbours.

Tens of thousands were convicted between 1933 and 1944 and sent to camps for "rehabilitation", where they were identified by yellow armbands and later pink triangles worn on the left side of the jacket and the right trouser leg, which singled them out for sexual abuse. Hundreds were castrated by court order. They were humiliated, tortured, used in hormone experiments conducted by SS doctors, and killed. Steakley writes that the full extent of gay suffering was slow to emerge after the war. Many victims kept their stories to themselves because homosexuality remained criminalized in postwar Germany. Around two percent of German homosexuals were persecuted by Nazis.
 

Freemasons

In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that Freemasonry had "succumbed" to the Jews: "The general pacifistic paralysis of the national instinct of self-preservation begun by Freemasonry is then transmitted to the masses of society by the Jewish press." Freemasons were sent to concentration camps as political prisoners, and forced to wear an inverted red triangle. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum believes “because many of the Freemasons who were arrested were also Jews and/or members of the political opposition, it is not known how many individuals were placed in Nazi concentration camps and/or were targeted only because they were Freemasons.”

Jehovah's Witnesses

Refusing to pledge allegiance to the Nazi party or to serve in the military, roughly 12,000 Jehovah's Witnesses were forced to wear a purple triangle and placed in camps, where they were given the option of renouncing their faith and submitting to the state's authority. Between 2,500 and 5,000 were killed. Historian Detlef Garbe, director at the Neuengamme (Hamburg) Memorial, writes that "no other religious movement resisted the pressure to conform to National Socialism with comparable unanimity and steadfastness."

Political activists

German communists, socialists and trade unionists were among the earliest domestic opponents of Nazism and were also among the first to be sent to concentration camps. Hitler claimed that communism was a Jewish ideology which the Nazis termed "Judeo-Bolshevism". Fear of communist agitation was used as justification for the Enabling Act of 1933, the law which gave Hitler his original dictatorial powers. Herman Göring later testified at the Nuremberg Trials that the Nazis' willingness to repress German communists prompted President Paul von Hindenburg and the German elite to cooperate with the Nazis. The first concentration camp was built at Dachau, in March 1933, to imprison German communists, socialists, trade unionists and others opposed to the Nazis. Communists, social democrats and other political prisoners were forced to wear a red triangle.

Hitler and the Nazis also hated German leftists because of their resistance to the party's racism. Many leaders of German leftist groups were Jews, and Jews were especially prominent among the leaders of the Spartacist Uprising in 1919. Hitler already referred to Marxism and "Bolshevism" as a means of "the international Jew" to undermine "racial purity" and survival of the Nordics or Aryans, as well to stir up socioeconomic class tension and labor unions against the government or state-owned businesses. Within the concentration camps such as Buchenwald, German communists were privileged in comparison to Jews because of their "racial purity."

Whenever the Nazis occupied a new territory, members of communist, socialist, or anarchist groups were normally to be the first persons detained or executed. Evidence of this is found in Hitler's infamous Commissar Order, in which he ordered the summary execution of all political commissars captured among Soviet soldiers, as well as the execution of all Communist Party members in German held territory. Einsatzgruppen carried out these executions in the east.

Nacht und Nebel (German for "Night and Fog") was a directive (German: Erlass) of Hitler on December 7, 1941 signed and implemented by Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Wilhelm Keitel, resulting in kidnapping and disappearance of many political activists throughout Nazi Germany's occupied territories.

 

 

Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

 
| privacy