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The Holocaust is the name given to the murder of millions of Jews, Gypsies etc. by the Nazis during World War Two. During the Holocaust, factories of death, such as at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibor, Chelmno and Treblinka, were built to ensure that the mass murders were carried out.
Hitler had made it perfectly clear in “Mein Kampf” what he thought of the so-called “untermenschen” (the sub-humans) but to most people, these were the thoughts of a madman and not ones to be taken seriously.
However, during “Krystalnacht” in 1938 the Nazis had shown their desire to persecute the Jews and in the war Hitler had the opportunity to carry out his plan to rid Nazi-occupied Europe of all undesirables (from his point of view) and he concentrated his efforts in Eastern Europe. After the attack on Russia, murder squads from the SS moved behind the army and systematically wiped out towns and villages containing Russian people (the same people who had welcomed the German Army into Russia as liberators against the Russian leader Stalin).
However, the process was slow and the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, was concerned that the men doing the evil deed were becoming demoralised shooting innocent civilians and he looked for another solution. The lead to the Final Solution decided at the infamous Wannsee Conference in 1942 when it was ordered that all Jews in Europe be killed in extermination camps. With due speed, German industrialists were required to design and produce ovens and gas chambers that would enable the mass murders to be carried out quickly and cleanly without involving German personnel too much.
The most infamous camps were at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. Here Jews, Eastern Europeans (many of whom were also Jewish), gypsies and the physically and mentally handicapped were brought and murdered.
For many years there has been an accepted figure for the number of Jews murdered - six million. As a result of recently found evidence, this figure is now being upgraded and some historians have put the figure as high as 7 to 8 million. To this day mass graves are still found in Russia of Jews murdered by the Einsatzgruppen (SS) and so the final figure may never be truly known. The gypsy community claims that 50% of all gypsies in Europe (21,000 out of 23,000 at Auschwitz, for example) were murdered while the number of handicapped people murdered is not really known.
As the war came to a close the Nazis destroyed many of the records they held but the survivors of the extermination camps have given us an accurate portrayal of what 'life' was like in these hell-holes. The death camps were seen as factories which had to make profits such as extracting the gold teeth from the victims and selling it and the camp commanders exchanged ideas on how to make their camps more efficient and therefore more profitable.
Deaths of Jews in the Holocaust
|Poland||3,000,000||90% of all Jews there|
|Germany||210,000||90% of all Jews there|
|Czech.||155,000||86% of all Jews there|
|Holland||105,000||75% of al Jews there|
|Hungary||450,000||70% of all Jews there|
|Ukraine||900,000||60% of all Jews there|
|Roumania||300,000||50% of all Jews there|
|Russia||107,000||11% of all Jews there|
Total number of European Jews killed = 6 millions
Added to this must be those other groups murdered in the death camps such as gypsies, the physically disabled, the mentally disabled and those involved in resistance movements against Hitler.
Hitler decided on the fate of the Jews at a meeting of senior Nazi figures headed by Reinhard Heydrich in a Berlin lakeside mansion at Wannsee on January 20th 1942.
Here is an extract from the minutes of that meeting:
|“In the course of the Final Solution, the Jews will be brought to the east for labour. Large labour gangs will be formed, with the sexes separated, which will be used for road construction. No doubt a lot of them will drop out through natural wastage. The remainder who survive will have to be dealt with accordingly.”|
“Accordingly” meant the building of what were literally factories to kill people - the death camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibor, Treblinka.
Each death camp was expected to make a profit and each camp was in competition with the others to see which could make the most. Hence why hair was shaved from the heads of victims (to use in mattresses), gold teeth were taken out etc. There was even 'competition' to see which gas was the most effective, though each death camp eventually used Zyklon B (hydrogen cyanide), whose effectiveness was found by an officer at Auschwitz called Fritsch. Each camp had to keep an accounts book that could be inspected. Jews were selected to help in the murder of other Jews, the Sonderkommandos, before they themselves were murdered.
The above photo is the memorial in Warsaw where tens of thousands of Jews from Warsaw were sent to the death camps. This memorial is shaped like the carriages of the cattle wagons that took these people to their deaths. The names of the families known to have died are carved on the inside of the 'wagons'.