What is the Holocaust?
Tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews are forced to leave their homes, and move into specially designated ghetto areas. (Atlas: 1944)
A roundup of Jews
Deportation of Jews from Kovno Ghetto to Auschwitz
(October 26, 1943. Photo by George Kadish)
A newly arrival of Hungarian Jews at Birkenau (Auschwitz II) in 1944. The crematorium II (with the long chimney) is seen in the back at right.
[Courtesy of Yad Vashem Archives.]
Survivors of Auschwitz at Liberation
April 12, 1945: Nordhausen Concentration Camp,
where 20,000 inmates were believed to have died.
World War II (WWII), initiated by Hitler's Nazi Germany in 1939, killed some 67 million people (according to Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute) out of which some 27 million were Soviet citizens with some 16 million of them civilians.
In Nazi Germany, Jews were required to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothing. [Photo Credit: USHMM]
Nazis holding hands at the University of Vienna (1933), Austria, to "protect" it from Jews.
In occupied Poland, Jews are being searched as a form of harassment.
In occupied Austria, SS Nazis and local residents watch with delight as Jews are being humiliated by being forced to get on their hands and knees and scrub the pavement.
Nazi's Holocaust emerged from a Persecutory Campaign initiated by Hitler's Nazi Germany against the ethnically undesirable people with the primary focus on the Jews. That persecutory campaign, during the war years, evolved and transformed into a distinctive genocidal component of WWII whose objective was the total annihilation of Hitler's perceived "undesirables" that were targeted for what they were rather than for what they did or believed in. The so-called "world Jewry," in Nazis' parlance, became Nazis' primary fixation towards total eradication.
In the prewar years (1933-1939), the unfolding Jewish Persecutory Program (that was to become the starting point of the emerging Holocaust) began markedly noticeable to the outside world after Adolph Hitler became the German Chancellor (in January 1933) with the systematic and planned persecution of Jews and their businesses (through the passing of various Anti-Jewish Laws and with the implementation of the so-called Aryanization/Arisierung program), and which evolved with their deprivation of liberty (by round up, forced evacuation and eventual deportation).
[See also in here from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Anti-Jewish Legislation in Prewar Germany.]
.1935 Germany: Jews Are Not Wanted Here in Behringersdorf
Photo Credit: The Potter Collection
One of the most noticeable and dramatic action taken against the Jewish citizens of Germany and Austria during that time (that for many observers was the first hint of what was yet to come) was the nationwide pogrom in the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938 known as the Kristallnacht or "The Night of Broken Glass" pogrom.
[See in here the historical Note from Yad Vashem entitled "On the fate of Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria from 1933 to the outbreak of World War II in 1939."]
During the War years (1939-1945) that had followed, the Jewish Persecutory Program developed and transformed into a genocidal Persecutory and Victimization Program --the Holocaust, with a machinery set in place primarily for the complete destruction of the entire European Jewry.
Kristallnacht ("The Night of Broken Glass")
.On April 1, 1933, members of the SS Storm Detachment (called Stormtroopers, in German Sturmabteilung) moved into place all over Germany, positioning themselves outside Jewish-owned businesses to deter customers. In this picture, these Stormtroopers are outside Israel's Department Store in Berlin. The signs read: "Germans! Defend yourselves! Don't buy from Jews." ("Deutsche! Wehrt Euch! Kauft nicht bei Juden!"). Five years later, the store was ransacked during Kristallnacht on November 8-9, 1938, and then handed over to a non-Jewish family.
.The next store, presumably owned by "Aryans," remains untouched,
While many Germans were privately appalled at the violence unleashed that night, few publicly spoke out against what had occurred...
.Jews forced to scrub a street in Nazi occupied Austria.
.Beginning of the Nazi Holocaust ...
Synagogue set on fire. Germany,
Imposing total boycott on Jewish businesses, Germany,
The burning of the synagogue in Ober Ramstadt during Kristallnacht. The local fire-department prevented the fire from spreading to a nearby home, but made no attempt to intervene in the synagogue fire. [Trudy Isenberg Collection, USHMM Archive]
.The Great Synagogue of Essen, Germany,
set on fire during the Kristallnacht.
That tumultuous period of massive hostility towards Jews culminating with the Kristallnacht was the prelude of what would come (to be known as the Holocaust) and, it can be said to be characterized by
- a) oppressive, non-genocidal suffering and by,
- b) sporadic, non-genocidal murders.
Also it should be noted that soon after Hitler's appointment as chancellor in January 1933, the first concentration camps (Konzentrationslager; KL or KZ) were established. Those camps however, as the one at Oranienburg (photo at left) were initially for political prisoners. Later on from 1939, all those camps of the so-called "subversive elements" (that included hard-core criminals as well) evolved and expanded considerably as the nature of the detainees changed completely: the new arrivals contain now, in ever larger numbers, people who were detained and imprisoned not because of what they did or believe it, but because of who they were --the Jews,
by a large margin. (Upon arrival of the Jewish population in those Nazi concentration camps, the most anti-Semitic hard-core criminals that were there were "promoted" by the Nazis to the position of "Kapo" as supervisors.)
"Kapo August Adam of Mauthausen picked out the professors, lawyers, priests and magistrates and cynically asked them: "Are you a lawyer? A professor? Good! Do you see this green triangle? This means I am a killer. I have five convictions on my record: one for manslaughter and four for robbery. Well, here I am in command. The world has turned upside down, did you get that?"
From Vicenzo and Luigi Pappalettera book: "The Brutes Have the Floor."
[For more information on the first concentration camps in Nazi Germany, see this from USHMM.]
In 1942, following the notorious Wannsee Conference, the implementation of the so-called "Final Solution" of the Jewish Problem began, full speed, in Sobibor, Treblinka, Belzec, Auschwitz-Birkenau and other concentration camps.
Now, during that period of time,
- .A) the non-genocidal suffering has reached a new level of intensity --a peak in human suffering that could be called the genocidal (or mass suffocating) suffering and,
- .B) the non-genocidal murders have been transformed into a genocidal (or mass-murder) machinery.
A member of the German SS supervises the boarding of Jews onto trains during a deportation action in the Krakow ghetto. Krakow, Poland, 1941-1942.
-- Archiwum Dokumentacji Mechanicznej -- <ushmm.org/wlc/media_ph.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10007084&MediaId=5175>
Round-up of Jews in Warsaw, Poland.
Round-up of Dutch Jews under heavy SS escort.
Deportation of Hungarian Jews
Massive grief and suffering in Jewish ghettoes
(Photo by George Kadish)
Selection at the arrival ramp in Auschwitz-Birkenau Complex.
At the arrival, the deported Jews were either selected for work or for immediate gassing. In the background: a group of people on their way towards gas chamber No. II.
Trapped in Auschwitz,
walking unknowingly to their death.
Female inmates at forced labor in Ravensbrueck concentration camp. Germany, 1940-1942.
From Holocaust's tragic legacy.
As trainloads of Jews arrived from all over Europe, many were gassed to death in specially designed chambers (disguised as shower facilities), or shot by firing squads. The rest were forced to work under the most terrible conditions, which ultimately led to death by starvation or execution.
[For a comprehensive list of the Concentration Camps (with their respective sub-camps) located in each country, see this link.]
More Images from the Holocaust and its Tragic Legacy
Forced Slave Labor
.Fromt Majdanek Concentration Camp
Women's Slave Labor at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp
And The Mass Murders ...
The "Bloody Wednesday" of November 3, 1943
From the Majdanek Camp:
Polish Jews of Lublin marching to their death on "bloody Wednesday" November 3, 1943
--the largest mass execution carried out at any of the concentration camps in the history of the Holocaust
And the SS Firing Squads ...
Photo Credit: Yad Vashem --The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority
EINSATZ GRUPPEN: THE KILLING SQUADS
Behind the advances of the German army during the war were four Einsatzgruppen --special German commando units. Each consisted of 500 to 1,000 men. Their job was to follow behind the German army, round up all the Jews in the newly conquered towns, and murder them. The Jews would be herded to the outskirts of town, often to anti-tank trenches. Sometimes the Jews would be forced to dig their own graves. The Nazis would line them up, and force the Jews to undress. Then, they would shoot them over the trenches. [Picture 1 and Picture 2 herein, NOT SUITABLE FOR MINORS.] In one incident lasting 3 days, over 52,000 men women and children were murdered outside of Kiev, in the Babi Yar forest. [Picture below.]
.The murders at Babi Yar
Landsberg Displaced Persons (DP) Camp, Germany
[PHOTO CREDIT: Pfc. Bertram Sanders,
The caption reads:
The victims of the "master race" were crowded into these unspeakably filthy huts. Dead and dying prisoners can be seen lying on the ground in this picture.
cameraman of US 103rd Infantry Division]
Walking Skeletons ...
Buchenwald KZ, Germany, April 11, 1945
Camp inmates after their liberation by elements of the U.S. 6th Armored Division
[ Not suitable for minors. ===>
<=== Not suitable for minors. ]
Corpses from the Holocaust ...
"Dead men will have indeed died in vain if live men refuse to look at them."
LIFE magazine, May 7, 1945.
.Photo Credit: Yad Vashem --The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.
A British Army bulldozer pushes bodies into a mass grave at Bergen-Belsen. 19 April 1945.
A Mass Grave of Hungarian Jews
Soviet officials view stacked corpses of victims at the Klooga camp. Due to the rapid advance of Soviet forces, the Germans did not have time to burn the corpses.
Klooga, Estonia, 1944.
[Photo Credit: Beit Lohamei Haghettaot]
Confronting the Remnants of the Holocaust
Corpses at Dachau
Bergen-Belsen Death Camp at liberation by the British Army.
.Buchenwald at liberation by the US Army
From the United States National Archives and Records Administration Archives
"A thousand years will pass and the guilt of Germany will not be erased."
Hans Frank [Governor of occupied Poland], convicted of major Nazi war criminal at Nuremberg.
(October 16, 1946.)
During those genocidal years, in Nazi-occupied Europe of some nine (9) million Jews (as derived from the population census of the Wannsee Protocol)***, some six (6) million of them were murdered with the rest being deprived of liberty, human dignity and forced evacuation from their homes and businesses.
[For an overview of the killing centers, see this link from USHMM.]
By 1945, in Nazi-occupied Europe, 2/3 of its Jewish population
--men, women and children-- were murdered.
That is, two out of every three Jews had been murdered.
*** NOTE: The Wannsee Conference census estimating the existence of eleven (11) million European Jews included all of the neutral countries (Spain, Portugal, UK, Ireland, Sweden, Turkey --the European part, and Switzerland) and, as well, the unoccupied territories of France and Soviet Union. The combined Jewish population of those parts of Europe was estimated to be at some two (2) million and thus, it needs to be subtracted from the total Wannsee figure.
.In addition, it is worth mentioning that the Nazi Holocaust while was quintessential confined within the geographical boundaries of Europe, it was nevertheless not limited to the European soil. Indeed, the Holocaust was able to extend its reach to the shores of North Africa as a result of the existing European colonies that were in existence during the Holocaust years. Notably in this respect is the reach of the Holocaust in the French Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and the Italian Libya. Thus, this extension of the Holocaust to North Africa while marginal compared to the one of Europe, needs nevertheless be acknowledged in the context of the Wannsee Conference. This very point was in fact stressed with considerable clarity by Sir Martin Gilbert when he noted that
"The French North African colonies of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia were also called 'France,' thus they were part of France, and the Jews there were considered European Jews. That's why they were counted at the Wannsee conference among the Jews in France."
A closer look at these rather obscure and distant geographical fringes of the Holocaust can be seen in the posting of Dr. Seith Ward's "Holocaust in North Africa" placed in the SepharicGen website.
The Holocaust ended with the end of WWII when Hitler's Nazi Germany was defeated by the three major campaigns of the Allies in their finest and most costly triumphs of modern History.
Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin
at Yalta Conference in February 1945.
(Primary credit goes to the Great Britain --under the incomparable Winston Churchill,
the Soviet Union --under the ruthless and larger than life dictator Joseph Stalin, and
the United States --under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only U.S. President to be reelected three times).
Asides from the Nazis' primary fixation --that of total eradication of the Jews, another ethnically undesirable people set by the Nazi machine for total annihilation were the European Romanies (Roma/Sinti) better known by their derogatory name as "Gypsies." It is estimated that some one-half million of them were murdered during the same genocidal period representing some 50% of their total European population.
By 1945, one out of every two European "Gypsies" had been murdered.
Apart from their primary targets --the Jews and the Romanies ("Gypsies"), Hitler's Nazi regime had also envisioned the elimination of all Poles and eventually all Slavs (under the so-called General Plan Ost that called for the removal of native populations from the Eastern Europe and resettlement with Germans) if the Nazi's Third Reich would have lasted, as envisioned, 1000 years. However, that never materialized as the Third Reich lasted only 12 horrendous years (1933-1945).
During the War years (1939-1945) that constituted also the Holocaust murderous years, some three (3) million non-Jewish Poles were also murdered, but they were murdered not because of their ethnicity, religion or creed, but rather because they were viewed as subversive, threatening, or particularly dangerous to the Nazi regime. (Examples of such Poles that were murdered by the Nazis were the elite of the Polish people, their political, civic, and spiritual leaders, members of the intelligentsia, cultural and scientific figures, as well as members of the resistance movement, officers, and so on.) Thus, in this respect, that Polish victimization campaign was a campaign of the War and not of the Holocaust and, as such, those Polish victims need be considered as casualties of the War and not of the Holocaust. That distinction and differentiation is paramount in defining and understanding the Nazi Holocaust (written always with capital letter to be distinguished from any other genocidal event or holocaust parlance).
The Holocaust should never ever be confused with the totality of killings of World War II that was a part of, nor be blurred with other atrocities and brutalities of the War.
A Survivor of Bergen-Belsen Death Camp.
The Holocaust was a distinct, massive, persevering, persecutory and victimization genocidal event of World War II, prosecuted by the Nazi Germany, that was based primarily on race and ethnicity with the sole purpose and goal of "purifying" the European races from the perceived "undesirables," and as such, it needs to be separated from all other killings and brutalities associated with the War.
From immemorial times, each society had their own "undesirables" (most notable, the hard-core criminals, and those holding a particular creed, belief, or political view deemed to pose a threat to the society) and, that component clearly existed within the Nazi Germany. But those particular types of victims of the Nazi Germany (such as the Communists, religious and political opponents, or Jehovah's Witnesses) should never ever be associated nor incorporated with the true victims and survivors of the Holocaust. That is because those groups of people became victims of the Nazi Germany not because of who they were, but because of what they did or believed in. It is therefore important to note that not all victims of the Nazi Germany were victims of the Holocust and, that the Nazi victimization program extended well outside the boundaries of the Holocaust.
.The cleansing of Europe from racially and ethnically "inferior or degenerate breeds" was an essential ingredient in the formulation of a new Europe as envisioned by the Nazi regime. In the so-called "Final Solution" of the Jewish Problem, the rapid extermination of all European Jewry was at the core and center stage of the entire Nazi mass murder process. After all it was argued, this unprecedented "solution" was needed --as a public health campaign-- for the betterment of the world in the pursuit of creating a new "pure" (aka Aryan) "super" race.
Survivors of the Ebensee Camp,
one of sub-camps of the Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp.
Consistent with the creation of a "pure" superior race, the Nazi regime had targeted in addition those with various incurable mental and physical disabilities murdering some 300,000 patients in various hospitals and asylums under the so-called T-4 Euthanasia program. That race "purification" program must also be included as part of the Holocaust.
In the name of perceived race "purification," the homosexuals were also targeted for complete annihilation and thus, they need to be included into what we call the Holocaust. (It is important to stress in here, for that complex category of Holocaust victims, that even if the Genetic Biology ultimately will determine that the homosexuality is not derived from a genetic condition but rather from a lifestyle condition, the Nazis --for sure-- considered them as "carrying" hereditary genes of homosexuality that needed to be rooted out. Indeed, in their campaign against the homosexuals, Nazis relentlessly pursued not only their current homosexuals, but also their family hereditary traits. That Nazi pursuit was directed primarily towards the male homosexuals as the female homosexuals were, by in large, ignored and tolerated. That duality in the Nazi policy between the male and female homosexuality has had its primary roots in the Christian religion where the sodomy has always been regarded as an absolute sin.)
To recapitulate, the Jewish Holocaust (known also as the Shoah), the Romani (Roma/Sinti) or the "Gypsy" Holocaust (known also as the Porrajmos), the Psychiatric/Eugenic Holocaust (known also as the so-called T4 Holocaust of the disabled), and the Gay Holocaust, were the only components of what is known as the Nazi Holocaust.
Jewish women and children at Birkenau marching towards the gas chambers.
[Yad Vashem -- The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.]
In a nutshell thus, the Holocaust (that developed from its prewar Nazi Persecutory Campaign of the "undesirables") was a machinery set in place by the Nazi regime of cleansing the European races from all the perceived "inferior and degenerate breeds" that the Jews, the Romanies/Gypsies, the mentally and physically disabled, and the Homosexuals were considered to be. That was the "line" of the Holocaust that was a clear and unmistakable "line" that needs not be confused or blurred with any other murderous "line" of World War II.
Any other victims during the Holocaust years need to be considered as being part of the casualties of war and not of Holocaust. This explicit distinction and demarcation is, as already noted, essential in the precise, unambiguous definition and formulation of the Nazi Holocaust.
Another way of looking at the Holocaust "line" is how the Texas University Professor, Dr. Ian Hancock sees it, as a genetic "purification" line designed to eradicate the perceived genetic "contaminants" from the European gene pool in pursuit of creating a "pure" superior "master race."
As a historic event, the Nazi Holocaust is of enormous complexity:
- How could such an event ever take place?
- How could a most cultured nation in the center of Europe be responsible for such mass atrocities that are defying human comprehension?
- How could the average mass German population embraced and supported with such zeal Hitler, the Nazis, and the Third Reich?
- How and Why was democracy lost in Germany in 1933?
How a mighty country such as The United States of America that was founded through its July 4, 1776, Declaration of Independence that begins with this fundamental proposition,
"We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"
could have closed its eyes on the Holocaust for so long, is a perplexing question for the ages, as the deprivation of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" were at the core and center stage of the entire machinery of the Holocaust. Arguably, the simple answer to this is that no national security interest was involved and thus, no compelling interest existed to intervene. That may be so, if only we could divorce ourselves from the conscience of humanity.
How the great majority of ordinary European people stood by --at best-- in apathy during the Nazi's racial and ethnical cleansing, and --at worst-- taking an active role in it, is a most profound and troublesome question that cannot escape our attention when looking at the present or at the future.
Murdering of Jews in Kovno by Lithuanian Nationalists
Under the Eyes of the SS. (June 1941.)
When the SS mobile killing units reached Kovno in the first few days of the war against the Soviet Union, they persuaded the anti-communist partisan leader Klimatis to turn his forces against the Jews, to demonstrate that "the liberated population had resorted to the most severe measures against the ... Jewish enemy."
The humanity should never ever be allowed to be buried by evil forces and blind ambitions. Next time --if not on guard-- another mass group or groups of people could be targeted for their complete annihilation. As the late Simon Wiesenthal so eloquently put it, "It is not a written law that the next victims must be Jews."
Let this be the great lesson of the Nazi Holocaust that humanity, at all cost, must always be present, preserved, and remain within us. Hate and blind ambitions should never ever be allowed to overcome and poison our judgments and deeds.
Never again the humanity should be absent from a society's deeds and moral judgments. The Creator endowed us with a most precious commodity --the humanity, vested in compassion and tolerance towards others, and this --in fact-- is what separates us, humans, from the rest, in the vast Kingdom of the Living.
The massive human, spiritual, and intellectual destruction that the Nazi Holocaust has brought is beyond quantification. The human talent lost during the Holocaust is impossible to be quantified as we can only ponder how many of the caliber of Jonas Salk were lost and thus, how many cures of various deadly diseases could have been found long time ago. To this if we add the potential loses in other sciences and the arts, the total loss could be staggering and arguably irreplaceable. It is a sobering reflection that cannot escape our thoughts.
On the Origin of the Word 'Holocaust' and Its Current Usage
Statistics of the Holocaust
What is Holocaust Denial?
Editor's Critical Assessment
On the Current Mainstream Definitions of the Holocaust
Taking Exception to (the late) Dr. Stephen Feinstein's Teachings of the Holocaust