The Holocaust, sometimes called The Shoah (Hebrew: השואה), was a genocide in which Nazi Germany systematically killed people during World War II. About six million Jews were killed,[a] as well as five million others that the Nazis claimed were inferior (mostly Slavs, communists, Romani/Roma people, people with disabilities, homosexuals, and Jehovah's Witnesses). These people were rounded up, put in ghettos, forced to work in concentration camps, and then killed in gas chambers. Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David, a symbol of their religion.
|Part of World War II|
|Description||Genocide of the European Jews|
|Location||Nazi Germany and German-occupied Europe|
|Genocide, ethnic cleansing|
|Deaths||Around 6 million Jews[a]|
|Perpetrators||Nazi Germany and its collaborators|
|Trials||Nuremberg trials, Subsequent Nuremberg trials, Trial of Adolf Eichmann, and others|
Why were the Jews killed?
There was hatred and persecution of Jews (anti-Semitism) in Europe for hundreds of years. Many people wrongly thought that all Jews became rich by stealing money from other people, such as Christians; that they did not like people other than their fellow Jews; and that they harmed children to use their blood for religious rituals (blood libel). These beliefs were not true, and were based on stereotypes and prejudices.
However these beliefs were popular in the German-speaking world and elsewhere in the late 1800s.
Adolf Hitler was born in Austria during this time, when many people disliked Jews. He may have been jealous of Jewish success in Austria. However, in a book he wrote called Mein Kampf ("My Struggle"), he said it was the Jews' fault that Germany and Austria lost World War I. He also wrote that Germany's economic problems were the Jews' fault. Many people agreed with Hitler’s ideas and supported him as the leader of the Nazi Party.
Not all deaths were written down, so the exact numbers are unknown. However various sources approximate:
- Jews (5.1–6 million killed), including:
- Polish Jews (3 million killed);
- Ethnic Poles (1.8-2 million killed);
- Romani/Roma people (200,000–800,000 killed);
- Disabled people (200,000–250,000 killed);
- Homosexuals (22,000–25,000 killed);
- Jehovah's Witnesses (950–2500 killed).
Led by Hitler, the Nazis killed millions of Jews. They forced Jews to wear the golden Star of David on their upper bodies. Jews were rounded up by the thousands and crammed into trains that took them to concentration camps like Auschwitz as well as death camps. Most of the Jews killed in the Holocaust were not German. They were from Poland or the Soviet Union.
The Nazis killed millions of people, hundreds at a time, with poison gas in special rooms called gas chambers. They forced others to dig giant holes in the ground where, after days of hard work, Jews and other prisoners were shot, buried, and burned in a mass grave. The Nazis executed many others by shooting, stabbing, or beating them to death. Still others died in forced marches from one camp to another. Many other people died of starvation, diseases, and freezing to death because of the terrible conditions in the concentration camps.
On the other hand, there were people who saved Jews from the Holocaust, because they thought it was the right thing to do. Some of them were later given "Righteous Among the Nations" awards by Yad Vashem.
Some people say the Holocaust did not happen at all, or was not as bad as historians say it was. This is called Holocaust denial. However, almost all historians agree that the Holocaust did happen and has been described correctly. Many Holocaust deniers profess that the Nazis did not kill as many people as historians say. Instead, they claim many of these people died from disease or lack of food, usually in order to shift blame from the Nazis. These ideas have been disproven by historical accounts, eyewitness evidence, and documentary evidence from the Nazis themselves. Also many Jews were killed because Hitler ordered it. In some countries in Europe, including Germany, it is against the law to say that the Holocaust never happened.
- Matt Brosnan (Imperial War Museum, 2018): "The Holocaust was the systematic murder of Europe's Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Second World War." Jack R. Fischel (Historical Dictionary of the Holocaust, 2010): "The Holocaust refers to the Nazi objective of annihilating every Jewish man, woman, and child who fell under their control." Peter Hayes (How Was It Possible? A Holocaust Reader, 2015): "The Holocaust, the Nazi attempt to eradicate the Jews of Europe, has come to be regarded as the emblematic event of Twentieth Century ... Hitler's ideology depicted the Jews as uniquely dangerous to Germany and therefore uniquely destined to disappear completely from the Reich and all territories subordinate to it. The threat posted by supposedly corrupting but generally powerless Sinti and Roma was far less, and therefore addressed inconsistently in the Nazi realm. Gay men were defined as a problem only if they were German or having sex with Germans and considered 'curable' in most cases. ... Germany's murderous intent toward the handicapped ... was more comprehensive ... but here, too, implementation was uneven and life-saving exceptions permitted .... Not only were some Slavs—Slovaks, Croats, Bulgarians, some Ukrainians—allotted a favored place in Hitler's New Order, but the fate of most of the other Slavs the Nazis derided as sub-humans ... consisted of enslavement and gradual attrition, not the prompt massacre meted out to the Jews after 1941." Raul Hilberg (The Destruction of the European Jews, 2003): "Little by little, some documents were gathered and books were written, and after about two decades the annihilation of the Jews was given a name: Holocaust." Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, UK (2019): "The Holocaust (The Shoah in Hebrew) was the attempt by the Nazis and their collaborators to murder all the Jews in Europe." Ronnie S. Landau (The Nazi Holocaust: Its History and Meaning, 1992): "The Holocaust involved the deliberate, systematic murder of approximately 6 million Jews in Nazi-dominated Europe between 1941 and 1945." Michael Marrus (Perspectives on the Holocaust, 2015): "The Holocaust, the murder of close to six million Jews by the Nazis during the Second World War ...". Timothy D. Snyder (Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, 2010): "In this book the term Holocaust signifies the final version of the Final Solution, the German policy to eliminate the Jews of Europe by murdering them. Although Hitler certainly wished to remove the Jews from Europe in a Final Solution earlier, the Holocaust on this definition begins in summer 1941, with the shooting of Jewish women and children in the occupied Soviet Union. The term Holocaust is sometimes used in two other ways: to mean all German killing policies during the war, or to mean all oppression of Jews by the Nazi regime. In this book, Holocaust means the murder of the Jews in Europe, as carried out by the Germans by guns and gas between 1941 and 1945." Dan Stone (Histories of the Holocaust, 2010): "'Holocaust' ... refers to the genocide of the Jews, which by no means excludes an understanding that other groups—notably Romanies and Slavs—were victims of genocide." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Holocaust Encyclopedia, 2017): "The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators."
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- Brosnan, Matt (12 June 2018). "What Was The Holocaust?". Imperial War Museum. Archived from the original on 2 March 2019. Retrieved 2 March 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
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- "The Holocaust". Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. Archived from the original on 10 February 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
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- Stone 2010, pp. 1–3. sfn error: no target: CITEREFStone2010 (help)
- "Introduction to the Holocaust". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived from the original on 1 October 2017. Retrieved 4 October 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "What was the Holocaust?". Yad Vashem. Archived from the original on 2 March 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Rubenstein, Richard L.; Roth, John K. (2003). Approaches to Auschwitz: The Holocaust and Its Legacy. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 381. ISBN 978-0-664-22353-3.
- Willoughby, Susan (2002). The Holocaust (20th Century Perspectives). Heinemann. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-431-11990-8.
- The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking March 1, 2013 The New York Times
- Kershaw, Ian (2010). Hitler: A Biography. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-33761-7.
- Stern, Fritz (2007). Five Germany’s I Have Known. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-53086-0.
- Benz, Wolfgang (1996). Dimension des Volkermords. Die Zahl der judischen Opfer des Nationalsozialismus (in German). Dtv. pp. 145 ff. ISBN 978-3-423-04690-9.
- Bauer, Yehuda; Rozett, Robert (1990). "Appendix". In Gutman, Israel (ed.). Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. New York: Macmillan Library Reference. pp. 1797–1802. ISBN 978-0-02-896090-6. Unknown parameter
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- The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority
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