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Jewish families are forced from the Warsaw Ghetto in the aftermath of its destruction by the SS in 1943. Their final destination was the killing center at Treblinka.

The Holocaust was systematic destruction by the Nazis of Jewish culture, society, and, in die Endlösung (the Final Solution), the lives of Jews, Slavs, the disabled, Communists, Roma, and all others viewed as racially inferior, from 1933 to 1945. Before Hitler and the Nazis came to national power in 1933, they demonized the Jews as subhuman and the cause of all Germany's troubles. Once in power, the Nazis first removed the Jews from positions of power and prestige, initially by gun control;[1] from 1938–41 they imposed severe restrictions on Jews in Germany (many of whom fled). The systematic killings started in 1941, as the SS under Heinrich Himmler rounded up all the Jews they could find in the areas under Nazi control, and ultimately killed about 6 million through mobile SS death squads and in the extermination camps. Millions of non-Jews were also killed in separate Nazi operations.

The Holocaust was known but downplayed between 1945–1960, but since 1960 has become one of the central memories and horrors of World War II, shaping policies by and towards Israel and profoundly shaping the modern conceptions of guilt and evil.

The Holocaust is perhaps the textbook example of the moral unacceptability of socialism, its values, and its consequences.


Hatred of the Jews has a long history all over Europe, but the modern forms of antisemitism emerged in the 19th century as a new spirit of nationalism allowed some Germans to sharply differentiate themselves from the Jews, a cultural subgroup that was well integrated into German society. By the end of the century, ant-semitic politicians and organized movements had emerged. Antisemitism was muted during World War I, but exploded in 1919 as the defeated war veterans looked about for someone to blame for the national disgrace.

Stage 1: to 1933

The Nazi Party emerged among veterans in the early 1920s, with a violent attack on Jews as Adolf Hitler's central theme. After years of struggling to push their ideology into the masses through propaganda and violence, the Nazi Party in Germany came to power in January 1933, with Hitler as Chancellor, with his ideology firmly entrenched within the party. In his book Mein Kampf, Hitler expounded on the idea that the Aryan race, of which he was a part, was the so-called “master race”, and had a moral right and duty to subjugate the world; in the way stood the untermenschen (“sub-humans”), which, according to the Nazis, were meant to serve the master race as slaves. At the very bottom were the Jews, who were depicted as an evil race bent on world domination.

The Nazis violently hated all the Jews and everything for which they stood. They worked relentlessly toward the goal of removing all possible Jewish influences. Starting in the 1920s (when they were a small party) with a violently anti-Semitic rhetoric that blamed Jews for all the problems of Germany and the modern world, the Nazis defined Jews as a permanent “race” that would never change and could never be improved. The Nazis also strongly disliked Christianity as being too Jewish. Their goal was to return to a pre-Christian, all-Aryan (imaginary) world.

The Nazi goal was first to remove all Jewish influence, then deport all Jews from Europe.

Stage 2: 1933–38

The second stage of Nazi policy concerning Jews, from 1933 to 1938, when Hitler was dictator in a peacetime Germany, involved the removal of Jews from all public office. The Nazis encouraged the Jews to leave and half of the Jewish population in Germany did so (including famous scientist Albert Einstein and the teenaged Henry Kissinger). The Nazis opened Dachau and other “concentration camps” to punish thousands of their political enemies—including many Jews. About 1,000 Jews were murdered in concentration camps inside Germany before 1939; these were distinct from the death camps that were opened in 1942 in Poland.

Jewish businesses began feeling the effects of a boycott that began on April 1, 1933, followed by the dismissal of Jewish civil service workers, judges, and university professors a week later. On May 10, some ten days after laws were enacted which prevented Jewish children from attending public schools except by quota, thousands of university students and professors stormed bookstores and libraries to remove books they deemed “un-Germanic” and opposed to Nazi teachings, throwing them into public bonfires. The Nuremberg Laws were enacted in 1935, which revoked German citizenship from Jews as well as declaring the marriage between a Jew and a German illegal. By 1938, the political and economic foundations of German Jewry were completely decimated.

Stage 3: 1938–41

For a more detailed treatment, see Kristallnacht.

Stage three, from 1938 to 1941, involved increasingly severe and humiliating restrictions for Jews. “Kristallnacht” in November 1938 was a systematic violent attack on all synagogues. World public opinion grew hostile to the Nazi actions; they responded by supporting pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic political movements in France and other countries, including the “German-American Bund.” After invading Poland in September 1939, the Nazis forced two million Jews into a few ghettos with below-starvation food allotments. Before the war plans were made to start deporting Jews from Germany. The war meant Nazi control of millions of Jews in the east and occupied west as well, and deportation became impossible. That left extermination as the Nazi plan.

Crystal Night

On November 7, 1938, Herschel Grynszpan, a German Jew living in Paris and upset over his family's forced deportation to Poland, shot the third secretary (Ernst vom Rath) to the German ambassador in France, who died two days later. His assassination touched off a wave of riots on November 9, seemingly at the behest of the Nazi minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, but this was expanded and organized better with the issuing of orders by the deputy chief of the SS, Reinhard Heydrich, later that evening, who specified that SS and SA units in various cities would march out with sledgehammers against Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues - but in civilian clothes only (to symbolize the “righteous” anger of the German people). Business could not be looted, as the property inside was deemed property of the state; Jewish property near German shops and homes could not be burned, but smashed; and many Jewish males, particularly the wealthy, were subject to arrest. Over 35,000 men were arrested that night, and according to figures released by Heydrich the total number of arrests exceeded 100,000; 815 Jewish businesses were destroyed, 191 synagogues were destroyed or demolished, and over 2,000 were dead. By the end of the week, local jails as well as the new Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps were quickly filled. The Jews were declared responsible for the damages done to their property and ordered to pay the staggering sum of one billion Reichmarks.

The sidewalks were littered with shards of the expensive storefront glass that was preferred for shops in Germany and neighboring Austria, which was called Kristallglas for its high-quality. The amount of glass left behind gave the incident its name: Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night”), or the Night of Broken Glass.

World War II: 1939–41

When World War II in Europe began in the fall of 1939, Jews in Germany were completely marginalized. They could not own property, use parks, associate with Germans, enter a library or museum, work in any professional field or engage in business, nor could their children attend public schools. Public transportation was forbidden to them in 1941, and the wearing of the yellow Star of David badge on their clothing became mandatory. They were also, prior to September 1, forced to migrate from countries and territories which had come under Hitler's wing (the Rhineland, Austria, the Sudetenland), with many being deported to Poland.


By September 21, 1939, Poland was now the “General Government” protectorate under former lawyer Hans Frank, and on that day Heydrich ordered the establishment of Judenrates (Jewish councils) which comprised 24 men - political leaders and rabbis – and whose personal responsibility was to carry out, to the letter, all German orders. This would include supplying people for work details, usually mundane tasks like digging ditches to amuse their Nazi overlords. Later, they were required to supply thousands of people a day for the “work” camps of Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, and new one under construction near the town of Oswiecim, which the Germans called Auschwitz.

Thousands, nearly 30% of the total population of Warsaw, were crammed into just over 2% of the city's total land, a density of 200,000 people per square mile. Disease and malnutrition would take its toll, but for the German overlords this was a minor inconvenience. The ghetto was a temporary place to hold all of Europe's Jews until a final solution was determined, and when the Nazis attacked its ally, the Soviet Union, in June 1941, the killing began in earnest.

Black soldiers

The Germans did not generally commit atrocities against Allied soldiers in the West in 1940, with one major exception. About 40,000 black African combat troops in the French Army became targets of the Nazis. German units, acting on their own in accord with longstanding racial hatred of Africans, shot about 1500 to 3000 black soldiers in French uniforms after they had surrendered.[2]

Stage 4: 1941–42

Stage 4 began when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. All Russian Jews were assumed to be Communist agents and large scale killing of political enemies began in Poland. Special units of the SS, the Security Police, and the Security Service (Einsatzgruppen der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD, Einsatz- and Sonderkommandos) not only massacred large numbers of Jews, but routinely included handicapped persons in open-air mass shootings. Seven of the “Einsatzgruppen” rounded up and shot many Polish Catholic priests, intellectuals, and political leaders. Another five units (with 3,000 men) followed the Red Army and executed Communist commissars and partisans, and about 600,000 Russian Jews.

The Einsatzgruppen

Path of the Einsatzgruppen

Alongside the German Army were special mobile units whose job it was to locate and kill Jews, Gypsies, Soviets commissars, and others deemed unfit in the areas controlled by the army. These Einsatzgruppen (“special units”) were also aided by local populations in Ukraine, Lithuania, and Latvia who felt the Germans had relieved them of Soviet occupation as well as sharing a hatred for Jews and other minorities. Making no difference between young or old, male or female, the Einsatzgruppen killed 70,000 Jews at Ponary, near Vilnius, Lithuania; 33,771 Jews were machine-gunned in a ravine known as Babi Yar near Kiev, Ukraine, between September 28–29, 1941;[3] 9,000 Jews were killed at the Ninth Fort at Kaunas, Lithuania, on October 28, of which half of the dead were children. On November 30 in the Rumbula Forest outside of Riga, Latvia, between 25,000-28,000 were killed.

By mid-1941, the Ukrainian SSR had the largest population of Jews in Europe. The addition of the eastern provinces of Poland in late 1939 (western Ukraine after 1945), as well as the seizure of sections of Romanian territory in June 1940, led to some 2.7 million Jews living within the borders of the newly enlarged republic. About 85% lived in cities. By 1944, 1.6 million of these Jews had died at the hands of the Germans and their allies and auxiliaries. Unlike the majority of the Holocaust's later victims who died in the industrialized mass murder of the death camps, the overwhelming bulk of Ukraine's Jews died in mass shootings during the initial stages of the war.

The killings were done in first and second waves, with the bodies buried in mass graves. When the Soviet Red Army threatened and carried out counter-offensives to reclaim lost territory, special units made up of concentration camp inmates (sonderkomandos) would return to the sites, dig up the bodies, and burn them in mass pyres, destroying the evidence of their crimes. The number of individual persons killed by the Einsatzgruppen has been estimated at a minimum of one million.

Stage 5: 1942–1944

1943 German photo of Soviet POWs forced to dig up the thousands of Jews killed at Babi Yar two years before; the Nazis destroyed the evidence by burning the bodies.

Stage 5 began at The Wannsee Conference in January 1942 began stage five of Nazi power; it was then that top Nazis decided on a “Final Solution” —to round up and secretly execute all the Jews of Europe. Killing centers were opened in Poland, and thousands of trainloads of Jews were transported there. Jews were gassed immediately upon arrival. Over three million Jews (and numbers of gypsies and other hated groups) were murdered, mostly in 1942–1943.

Wannsee Conference

On January 20, 1942 at a villa near Berlin named Wannsee a conference was convened by Heydrich to implement methods and ideas for a "final solution to the Jewish question" (die Endlösung der Judenfrage). At the conference were fifteen men, among them Heydrich's head of Jewish affairs, Adolf Eichmann, who would be instrumental in providing the logistical plans for removing the Jews to the camps. The men represented government agencies, such as the Gestapo, the Race and Resettlement Office, the SS, as well as a representative from the General Government in Poland. As Heydrich explained near the beginning of the conference, ideas were in play on relocating Jews:

“Another possible solution of the [Jewish] problem has now taken the place of emigration—i.e., evacuation of the Jews to the east…Such activities are, however, to be considered as provisional actions, but practical experience is already being collected which is of greatest importance in relation to the future final solution of the Jewish problem.”

The minutes of the meeting were kept, but were edited by Heydrich. The language used contains euphemisms in place of what was really said. Evacuation of Jews to the east and resettlement meant relocation to the concentration and extermination camps in Poland; special handling regarded the killing of Jews, either through slave labor in which the Jew was worked to death, or being killed immediately on arrival. The final solution was put into practice within a few months of the conference, as the bullets of guns and the exhaust of carbon monoxide were replaced by the more efficient killing methods installed in the first gas chambers.

Stage 6: 1944–45

Stage 6 arrived when the Soviet armies overran the Polish camps in 1944–45 and, liberated the survivors.

But the killing continued unabated, even to the last week of the war. As territory was regained by Soviet forces, the death camps were evacuated of survivors and destroyed as much as possible in a futile attempt to hide the evidence. The survivors were moved west into Germany, usually in hellish death marches, and interned in concentration camps where death still awaited them; such killing by the S.S. took priority over military matters at times.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower saw for himself the carnage wrought by the Nazis when he toured the Ohrdruf concentration camp on April 12, 1945. These prisoners were executed prior to the camp's liberation.

In all, six million Jews were murdered; most of the 300,000 survivors emigrated to the United States or Israel.

The people involved

Analytically, the people involved in the Holocaust can be divided into the following groups:


Millions were victimized by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. The Jews were always the principal targets; Anne Frank in the Netherlands was the most famous victim. However, the Nazis also systematically hunted down and murdered the Roma people (“Gypsies”). They also targeted special enemies, including Communist activists, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals (Femmes faction), and people with disabilities. The last group was the target of euthanasia programs carried out in German hospitals in 1939–1941. Some of these programs were stopped when German Christian leaders mobilized public opinion against them.


Under the guidance of an all-powerful Führer (Hitler), the Nazis believed fervently in force, violence, and terror as their best weapons. Many of the most fanatical Nazis joined the SS, which carried out most of the executions. The Final Solution was directed by Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS and Minister of the Interior. His top aide was Reinhard Heydrich, head of the SD and Gestapo, then after 1939, of all the secret police and security agencies grouped into the RSHA; he was assassinated by Czech commandos with British help in 1942. Adolf Eichmann was the senior SS bureaucrat in charge of handling deportation and transportation. However, regular German army police units also systematically killed large numbers of civilians and POWs on the Eastern Front.[4]


Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, the man who convened the Wannsee Conference with the intention of determining a "final solution to the Jewish question".
To Gruppenführer Heydrich:
Supplementing the task assigned to you by the decree of January 24, 1939, to solve the Jewish problem by means of emigration and evacuation in the best possible way according to present conditions, I hereby charge you to carry out preparations as regards organizational, financial, and material matters for a total solution (Gesamtlösung) of the Jewish question in all the territories of Europe under German occupation.
Where the competency of other central organizations touches on this matter, these organizations are to collaborate.
I charge you further to submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired final solution (Endlösung) of the Jewish question. (Order from Hermann Göring to Reinhard Heydrich, July 31, 1941)

The death camps

Selektion of Hungarian Jews at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in May/June 1944. To be sent to the right meant slave labor; to the left, the gas chambers.

In the early years of Nazi Germany concentration camps were built with the expressed purpose of housing political prisoners; this was quickly expanded to Jews and other people the Nazis considered undesirable. By 1942 new camps were built in eastern Poland as death camps; the victims, once targeted by the Einsatzgruppen coming to them, had been rounded up by units of the Army and Waffen-SS, and forced to travel to their own destruction. The victims were packed tightly into cattle cars - so tight in fact that many would die standing up – and transported by rail to the new extermination camps of Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek, and Belzec. The camps were essentially factories which specialized in death, making the process from arrival to counting to shower to disposal coldly efficient.

As they arrived the victims were divided in two: those fit for work, usually young to middle aged men, or possessed a special skill needed in the camp, and the remainder sent for delousing in the showers. Deceived to the end, the “showers” was actually a sealed room in which a chemical tablet known as “Zyklon B” was dropped through a hole in the ceiling. The cyanide-based vapors would kill the entire room within minutes; within thirty, the room was emptied by the sonderkomandos, cleaned, and ready for another group of victims.

The "Operation Reinhardt" camps (Chelmno, Sobibor, Majdanek and Belzec, used a different execution method; the gas chambers were pumped full of carbon monoxide generated by gasoline engines from vehicles and captured Soviet tanks. At these camps all arrivals were gassed, as the camps were pure extermination facilities with no attached work camps.

Of the death camps, the one at Osweicim, Poland – Auschwitz – was perhaps the most notorious. Auschwitz was three camps: a prisoner-of-war camp (Auschwitz I), a slave-labour camp (Auschwitz III–Buna-Monowitz) and the extermination camp (Auschwitz II–Birkenau). The arrivals would disembark the trains at Auschwitz II, where the old, handicapped, infirm, sick, and pregnant women would face a German doctor (among them the notorious Joseph Mengele) in the selektion, where a flick of a thumb could mean the difference between slave labor in the nearby factory run by I.G. Farben (which took advantage of the forced labor by investing some 700 million Reichsmarks in the project), or to their immediate deaths. Those selected for labor would be worked to death by a combination of hard labor and inadequate food and medical care; a second selektion of their numbers, if they had survived, would mean a trip to the gas chambers.


In recent years much controversy has arisen over when President Franklin D. Roosevelt learned about the Nazis programs, and what he did or did not do. Switzerland was neutral and accepted in some refugees, but it also made large profits by trading and banking with Germany. The Swiss were forced in the 1990s to make reparation payments.


In rounding up Jews the Nazis sometimes had the enthusiastic cooperation of pro-Nazi governments (as in France and Slovakia). A few countries, including Italy and Hungary, tried to stall the Nazis, but the Germans took power directly and seized the Jews. Only Bulgaria and Denmark were largely successful in protecting their Jews.


Resistance took many forms, from individual acts to hundreds of examples of organized, armed resistance. The most famous episode was the month-long uprising of 60,000 remaining Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto in April 1943. At the Sobibor death camp, an uprising in October 1943 allowed 600 prisoners to escape.

Jews stood virtually alone against the Nazi death machine and those who collaborated with them, receiving no aid or assistance from outside, as well as having no access to arms with which to defend themselves. Further, the Nazis took great care to prevent their victims from knowing their true plans right up to the moment of their deaths; at Babi Yar many had believed they were being transported to a “family work camp” right up to the point of standing before their own mass grave. There was also the fear of reprisals against large numbers of Jews within the ghettos, which also prevented resistance. But word of the unbelievable atrocities of the death camps filtered into places like Warsaw, and as the trains were leaving packed with Jews many saw that resistance was preferable to the death that awaited them.

Nine months after the Warsaw deportations had commenced, and after confirmation that their destination was the Treblinka extermination camp, 24-year-old Mordecai Anielewicz and his Jewish Resistance began the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on April 19, 1943, which lasted just over a month.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Christian pastor and theologian who was opposed to the goings on in Germany. He was involved in the German Resistance and took part in a plan to assassinate Hitler. This led to his capture and eventual execution, under Hitler's order, at Flossenbürg concentration camp on April 9, 1945.

Jews fought alongside partisans elsewhere in France, the Balkans, and Soviet Russia during the last three years of the war. Uprisings also occurred in two of the death camps, Treblinka and Sobibor; the latter was closed as a result and the site razed to hide the evidence.

In a unique case of resistance, the Jews of Denmark were almost entirely saved by the good will of their neighbors. The Danish government had arranged a system by which they maintained control of the government except for foreign affairs. This allowed the Jews of Denmark to live unmolested for several years. When the Nazis did move to deport the Jews in 1943 the Danish Government resigned in protest. The Danish people began a process of evacuating all of the Jews, en masse, to Sweden. The universities closed so students could assist the evacuation, congregations were urged to help, and the fishing fleets helped to evacuate the Jews by sea. In the end, only 500 Danish Jews were captured and placed in Theresienstadt where they remained until the end of the war thanks in part to the continued attentions of the Danish people.[5]


Rescuers hid potential victims as best they could; the tragic story of Anne Frank is the most famous. The Pope helped protect some Italian Jews; it is still being debated whether he could have done much more. The most famous rescuer was Oskar Schindler; —“Schindler’s List” the movie is a tells the true story about of how he saved 1,100 Jews from the Nazis by setting up factories that produced defective munitions.[6]

In territory occupied by the Germans, the situation was bleak for Jews. Their allies were few and resources were meager. Despite this, many put their lives on the line to provide aid and comfort, as well as putting them in hiding or through a network of underground units to get them to safety. In Poland, it was punishable by death to aid Jews, yet a “council for the aid of Jews” known as the Zegota rescued about 5,000 men, women, and children, providing hiding places and forged identity papers. A similar number was hidden by French Huguenots in the little town of Le Chamblon-sur-Lignon.


Although criticized by many for his silence about the Nazi persecution of the Jews, Pope Pius XII hid several hundred inside the Vatican, away from Mussolini and German occupiers and quietly worked behind the scenes to do what they could. The Vatican estimates they were able to save upwards of 150,000 Jews during this horrible time. For those who say the Vatican should have done more to save Jews, it should be noted that they weren't even able to stop the killing of Polish Catholics, of whom more than a million lost their lives, so how could they stop the killing of Jews?


Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenburg, in an attempt to save the last remaining Jews in Hungary, arrived in Budapest on July 9, 1944, and working with neutral diplomats and the Vatican, secured the release of several thousand; his efforts at the rescue of Jews would total well over 100,000 by war's end, including Tom Lantos, a survivor who became a powerful member of the U.S. Congress.


A Nazi businessman who took advantage of the slave labor conditions to make a personal profit, Oskar Schindler, would use that profit to bribe camp guards and Nazi officials at the Plazow camp to ensure that the workers he had grown to love and admire would survive the end of the war; among the individuals he played cat and mouse with for their lives was the camp's commandant, Amon Goeth, a sadistic SS officer who shot Jews for target practice from his villa and tortured a captured escapee by shooting the prisoners around him. These men and women, who hid Jews out of a sense of common humanity, would not be forgotten: the state of Israel would recognize them with honorary citizenship several years later.


The Allies liberated the concentration camps in 1945 — but the question remains as to whether they could have bombed the camps or otherwise stopped the Final Solution.


The survivors of the Final Solution were very quiet about their experiences until about 1961, when Adolf Eichmann was captured in South America by Israel, tried in Jerusalem, and executed. Since then the Holocaust has become recognized as the most horrible episode of the 20th century, and it has been analyzed in numerous with many books, courses, museums, and movies. The most important museums are Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the Holocaust Museum in Washington, and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

Non-Jewish victims

Jews were not the only victims of Nazi persecution.[7] Members of unions, members of the Social Democratic Party, and political dissidents were also sent to the camps; indeed they were among the first ones incarcerated immediately following Hitler's appointment as chancellor. Some 20,000 Jehovah's Witnesses also were rounded up and sent to the camps, primarily because of refusal to register for the draft, swear allegiance to the state, or give the “Heil Hitler” greeting. Homosexuals were arrested if they were of the Femmes faction; they were forced to wear a pink triangle on their prison garments; and sent to the camps. Gypsies as well were rounded up and imprisoned, and like the Jews, were deliberately marked for killing.

The mentally retarded, the disabled, and the insane were selected for the "T-4" Program, which was created in 1939. Dubbed “useless eaters” by SS general Ernst Kaltenbrunner, these people were murdered as part of a “euthanasia” campaign, usually by placing them in a special room where a vehicle's engine provided the carbon monoxide gas that flowed in through a hose in a wall.

Following the outbreak of World War II in Poland, the Nazis killed Polish intelligentsia in territories under their control, politicians, priests, and anyone else deemed part of a Polish leadership; the remainder were deemed slaves to serve their new masters; many were forced to perform hard labor, while many of the children who happened to look Aryan were kidnapped and raised as Germans in German households.

As Hitler was pro-animal rights and environmentalism, hunters, fishermen, lumberjacks, farmers, and builders were also killed by Nazis.

Amon Goeth, commandant of the Plazow concentration camp near Kraków, Poland. A sadistic man, his recreation was to target and kill individual Jews in the camp with a hunting rifle from the balcony of his villa.


The number of Jews put to death were staggering. Beginning in the summer of 1942 a bare minimum of 960,000 were believed killed at Auschwitz during its three years in operation. At Treblinka, between 750,000-900,000 Jews were killed within 17 months, considering the staff and guards there numbered 120. 600,000 Jews died at Belzac within 10 months by a staff numbering 104. In the eighteen months of its operation, Sobibor killed 250,000.

Jewish Death Statistics during the Holocaust
Country Prior Jewish Population Estimated Number Killed Percentage of Total Estimated Number of Survivors
Poland 3,300,000 3,000,000 91% 300,000
Germany 566,000 200,000 36% 366,000
USSR 3,020,000 1,100,000 36% 1,920,000
Hungary 800,000 596,000 74% 204,000
Lithuania 168,000 143,000 85% 25,000
Estonia 4,500 2,000 44% 2,500
Latvia 95,000 80,000 84% 15,000
France 350,000 77,320 22% 272,680
Austria 185,000 65,000 35% 120,000
Netherlands 140,000 100,000 71% 40,000
Belgium 65,700 28,900 45% 36,800
Romania 342,000 287,000 84% 55,000
Bohemia Moravia 118,310 71,150 60% 47,160
Greece 77,380 67,000 87% 10,380
Czechoslovakia 88,950 71,000 80% 17,950
Yugoslavia 78,000 63,300 81% 14,700
Italy 44,500 7,680 17% 36,820
Bulgaria 50,000 0 0% 50,000
Denmark 7,800 60 .8% 7,740
Finland 2,000 7 .03% 1,993
Norway 1,700 762 45% 938
TOTAL 9,508,340 5,962,129 63% 3,546,211


More than nine million people were discovered by the Allies to have been displaced throughout the European Theater of the war; of these, six million were returned to their native lands. One million refused, citing either a fear of communist persecution or a fear of being discovered to have collaborated with the enemy. The remainder, more than three and a half million Jews, had nothing. For these survivors, life after the war meant searching for loved ones, as well as recovering from the severe effects of malnutrition and disease at the hands of the Nazis.

As to the future of finding homes for the surviving Jews, that was solved in part by both covert and well-publicized efforts to pressure Great Britain into relinquishing control of Palestine for the purpose of a Jewish homeland, as well as the relaxing of American immigration laws in 1948 which allowed a large influx of Jewish refugees. So shocking was the Holocaust to the Jewish mindset that it caused a determination of survivors to speed the creation of the State of Israel in May, 1948, vowing that a repeat of the Holocaust, as well as previous pogroms against the Jews in the past, would not happen again. Since 1948, Israel has fought in four major wars against their neighbors bent on eradicating it, and each time Israel has emerged victorious.

The Allies were just as shocked over the conditions which prevailed at the Nazi death camps, and set up military tribunals as a result. The most famous was the Nürnberg Trials, taking place 1945-1946 near the site of the Nazi mass rallies. For the first time in history, an international tribunal would try the 22 major living Nazis for crimes against humanity; all but one would be found guilty, and more than half would suffer death by hanging.

Unfortunately, some survivors of the horrific event have exploited this tragedy to push more horrific aspects. An infamous example is Simone Veil, née Simone Jacob, an ethnic non-practicing Jew who was along two of her three eldest siblings among the few survivors in her family of the holocaust due to being arrested despite getting fake papers hiding her family's Jewish identity, who later was responsible for the passage of "loi Veil", France's equivalent of Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion, with there being sufficient evidence to suggest that Veil used her status as a holocaust victim to push its legalization.[8]


Hitler and Goebbels committed suicide as the Russians were capturing Berlin. Himmler was captured in late May 1945 and committed suicide before he could be brought to trial for his war crimes. The main war criminals were tried at the International War Crimes Tribunals at Nuremberg in 1945–1947, and at smaller trials throughout Europe. The Holocaust was mentioned at the trials, but the major allegation against defendants was the systematic planning of an unjust war.[9] Many Nazis fled justice, reaching Argentina or other distant locations. Adolf Eichmann, a chief architect of the Holocaust, was captured while hiding in Argentina under an assumed name, brought to Israel, and put on trial in 1961. He was found guilty, and suffered the first and only death penalty carried out in Israel's history. Other Nazis would eventually be brought to trial: Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyon”, was tried in France in 1987, as well as Maurice Papon a decade later for collaborating with the Nazis. These trials brought to new generations an awareness of the Holocaust.


The word Holocaust comes from the Greek word holokaustos (holos: complete, and kaustos: a sacrificial or burnt offering to a god); the Hebrew words Sho'ah (Catastrophe) and Hurban (destruction)[10] were also used, and survivors have used both to refer to what seemed to be the complete and utter destruction of the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis, specifically in the crematoria of the extermination camps built for that purpose. Many victims have taken offense to the term Holocaust because of the meaning of the word. The term Sho'ah has become the preferred term in some parts of the world[11]

Books and film

See also

Römische Campagna by Lovis Corinth; returned to the heirs of a Jew in 2007.

External links


  1. See many articles from Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership
  2. Raffael Scheck, Hitler's African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940 (2006) online review.
  3. [1]
  4. After the war, West Germany recognized its guilt and made large financial payments to Israel; Communist East Germany refused to do the same.
  5. http://www.ushmm.org/research/library/faq/languages/en/04/01/denmark2.php
  6. For further information, see
  7. It is estimated that around 6 million Jews were killed during the Final Solution, along with as many as another 6 million non-Jews. [2]
  8. https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/france-mourns-the-loss-of-a-politician-who-wrote-countrys-abortion-law
  9. The Far East War Crimes Trials were held from 1946 to 1948, and resulted in the conviction of 25 Japanese generals and high officials accused of crimes against peace. Over 2,000 local and regional trials convicted 4,000 Japanese officers accused of mistreating prisoners and civilians.
  10. https://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/269548/Holocaust
  11. http://www1.yadvashem.org/yv/en/holocaust/resource_center/the_holocaust.asp


Surveys and victims

  • Bloxham, Donald and Kushner, Tony. The Holocaust: Critical Historical Approaches. (2005). 238 pp.
  • Brandon, Ray, and Wendy Lower, eds. The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization. (2008). 378 pp. online review
  • Dawidowicz, Lucy. The War Against the Jews, 1933–1945 (1986)
    • Hitler's War Against the Jews: A Young Reader's Version of the War Against the Jews, 1933-1945, by Lucy S. Dawidowicz (1978) excerpt and text search
  • Edelheit, Abraham et al. History Of The Holocaust: A Handbook and Dictionary (1995) 544pp, a standard reference work online edition
  • Friedlander, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews: 1933-1945 (2009) abridged version of standard 2 volume history:
    • Friedlander, Saul. The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 (2007), the standard scholarly history excerpt and text search
    • Friedlander, Saul. The Years of Persecution:1933-1939 (1998)
  • Friedman, Saul S. A History of the Holocaust. (2004). 494 pp.
  • Gilbert, Martin. Never Again: The History of the Holocaust (2000) excerpt and text search
  • Gilbert, Martin. The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War (1987) excerpt and text search
  • Gilbert, Martin. The Routledge Atlas of the Holocaust (2002)excerpt and text search
  • Gutman, Israel. ed. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (4 vol 1990), a standard reference work
  • Lacqueur, Walter, ed. The Holocaust Encyclopedia (2001).
  • Landau, Ronnie. The Nazi Holocaust (2002)
  • Marrus, Michael A. The Holocaust in History (1989)
  • Niewyk, Donald, and Francis Nicosia. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust. (2000) online edition; online review
  • Rosen, Philip. Dictionary of the Holocaust: Biography, Geography and Terminology. (1997)
  • Rothkirchen, Livia. The Jews of Bohemia and Moravia: Facing the Holocaust. (2006). 447 pp.
  • Spector, Shmuel ed., The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life: Before and During the Holocaust (2001).
  • Yahil, Leni. The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry, (1990).


  • Browning, Christopher. Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers (2000)
  • Burleigh, Michael. The Third Reich: A New History. 2000. 864 pp., stresses central role of antisemitism.
  • Dawidowicz, Lucy. The War Against the Jews, 1933–1945 (1986)
  • Friedlander, Henry. The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. (1995) 445 pp. online review;online edition
  • Friedlander, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews: Volume 1: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939 (1998)), the standard scholarly history
  • Friedlander, Saul. The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 (2007), the standard scholarly history excerpt and text search
  • Gaunt, David; Levine, Paul A.; and Palosuo, Laura, eds. Collaboration and Resistance during the Holocaust: Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. (2004). 519 pp.
  • Goldhagen, Daniel Joseph. Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1997).
  • Graml, Hermann. Antisemitism in the Third Reich (1992).
  • Gutman, Israel, ed. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, 4 vol (1989)
  • Johnson, Eric A. Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans (2000). excerpt and text search
  • Lewy, Guenter. The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies (2001). excerpt and text search
  • Levy, Richard, ed. Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution (2005)
  • Lower, Wendy. Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine. (2005). 307 pp.
  • Wachsmann, Nikolaus. "Looking into the Abyss: Historians and the Nazi Concentration Camps," European History Quarterly, 4 2006; vol. 36: pp. 247 - 278. fulltext in Sage; historiography
  • Wistrich, Robert S. Hitler and the Holocaust. (2001). 295 pp.


  • Bartov, Omer. Mirrors of Destruction: War, Genocide and Modern Identity. (2000). 310 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-507723-0. online review; excerpt and text search
  • Bloxham, Donald. Genocide on Trial: War Crimes Trials and the Formation of Holocaust History and Memory. (2001) 292pp ISBN 978-0-19-820872-3. online review
  • Carrier, Peter. Holocaust Monuments and National Memory Cultures in France and Germany since 1989: The Origins and Political Function of the Véd'Hiv' in Paris and the Holocaust Monument in Berlin. (2005) 267 pp.
  • Douglas, Lawrence. The Memory of Judgment: The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and History in the Trials of the Holocaust (2000) excerpt and text search
  • Greenspan, Henry. On Listening to Holocaust Survivors: Recounting and Life History. (1998) 220 pp. ISBN 978-0-275-95718-6. online review
  • Haggith, Tony and Newman, Joanna, ed. Holocaust and the Moving Image: Representations in Film and Television. 2005. 317 pp.
  • Mikhman, Dan. Holocaust Historiography: A Jewish Perspective: Conceptualizations, Terminology, Approaches, and Fundamental Issues (2003)
  • Roseman, Mark. A Past in Hiding: Memory and Survival in Nazi Germany (2001). excerpt and text search
  • Rosen, Philip. and Nina Apfelbaum. Bearing Witness: A Resource Guide to Literature, Poetry, Art, Music, and Videos by Holocaust Victims and Survivors (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Stone, Dan, ed. The Historiography of the Holocaust. (2004). 573 pp
  • Waxman, Zoe Vania. Writing the Holocaust: Identity, Testimony, Representation (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Wiesel, Elie, and Robert Franciosi. Elie Wiesel: Conversations (2002) excerpt and text search
  • Weisel, Elie. Night (1999).

Reactions and memory in U.S.

Primary sources

  • Aroneanu, Eugene and Thomas Whissen, eds. Inside the Concentration Camps: Eyewitness Accounts of Life in Hitler's Death Camps (1996) 176 pp, online edition
  • Greene, Joshua M, and Shiva Kumar, eds. Witness: Voices from the Holocaust (2000). excerpt and text search
  • Klemperer, Victor. I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years 1942–1945 (2001). excerpt and text search vol 2
  • Kremer, S. Lillian, ed. Holocaust Literature: An Encyclopedia of Writers and Their Work (2002).
  • Siedlecki, Janusz Nel, et als. We Were in Auschwitz (2000).
  • Szpilman, Wladyslaw. The Pianist (2000). excerpt and text search

International Justice

  • Pritchard, R. John, “War Crimes, International Criminal Law, and the Postwar Trials in Europe and Asia.,” in Loyd E. Lee ed., World War II in Asia and the Pacific and the War’s Aftermath, with General Themes, edited by Loyd E. Lee (1987).


  • “Schindler’s List” (DVD and VHS) (1993).
  • USC Shoah Foundation, largest video archive of testimonies of Holocaust survivors and witnesses,