The Holocaust

The Final Solution

1. Large numbers of German Jews had been sent to concentration camps since the Nazis came to power. After the conquest of countries in western Europe, many more Jews had been deported to camps. When Germany invaded Poland and the Soviet Union, even more Jews fell under Nazi control.

2. The Nazis planned to deport them to a Jewish reservation in German-occupied Poland - but the idea was dropped because the area couldn't possibly hold all of Europe's Jews. Instead Jews were to be killed. This was described as the 'final solution to the Jewish question.'

3. As a temporary measure, the Nazis created ghettos - small areas of towns and cities where Jews were to be gathered together, away from the rest of the population.

4. Conditions in the ghettos were terrible. Many people died of disease or starved. Some were used for slave labour, e.g. in weapons factories.

5. After the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, Einsatzgruppen followed the German army. These were units of ** soldiers whose job was to murder 'enemies' of the Nazi state in occupied eastern Europe. They were a key part of the final solution and killed in huge numbers, especially in poland and the Soviet Union. 

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Death Camps

1. To slaughter on the scale of the Nazis required, death camps were built in Eastern Europe. Heinrich Himmler, head of the **, was in overall charge of this operation.

2. The camps included gas chambers to carry out the mass murder, and crematoria to burn the bodies.

3. The plan was to kill around 11 million people - all of the Jews living in Nazi-controlled territory.

4. People were transported to the camps from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. They could take luggage and even paid for their own train tickets - the Nazis wanted to hide their intentions to prevent panic.

5. Mainly Jewish people were killed, but other groups were targeted as well, for example Slavs (e.g. Russians and Poles), Romani, black people, homosexuals, disabled people and communists.

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It's Hard to understand How it happened.

1. By the end of the war, the Nazis had killed approximately 6 million Jews and countless other people.

2. Before the war ended, orders went out to destroy the camps - but there wasn't time.

3. After the war, people around the world found it hard to believe that this inhuman, cold-blooded extermination had taken place, and that so many soldiers were involved. It had been argued that they might have gone along with the Nazi leadership for various reasons:

  • The Nazi guards felt they had to 'do their duty' and obey orders. They might have feared their leaders, or just felt that obeying orders was the right thing to do.
  • Jews may not have been regarded as fully human - so killing them didn't matter to guards.

The world only discovered the horror of the death camps as the Allies advanced in 1945. Some historians claim there's evidence leaders like Churchill were told about the camps - but didn't believe the facts.

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