- What was the Holocaust?
- Judaism and Jewish life
- What is antisemitism?
- How did the Nazis gain power?
- Life in Nazi-controlled Europe
- What were camps?
- What was the Final Solution?
- How did people respond?
- Survival and legacy
Hitler dreamed of creating a great German world power. He wanted to invade the East and conquer Poland. The lands in the East would create more living space (lebensraum) for the German people. The local population would be driven out, become slaves or be murdered.
On 23 August 1939 the two traditional enemies, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, made a pact to divide the independent state of Poland. The Germans would conquer the West, while the Soviets attacked from the East.
The German conquest of Western Poland brought one and a half million Jews under Nazi rule. The Nazis divided up the area they conquered. They named one of these areas the General Government and this was to be the area of Jewish concentration. It was to affect not only Polish Jews, but Jews from Austria and the Czech lands, who were forcibly moved there.
Jews were driven into ghettos in towns and cities as a temporary solution. Conditions were terrible. At least 450,000 people died because of overcrowding, disease, starvation and brutality.
On 22 June 1941 the Germans broke their agreement and invaded the Soviet Union. Hitler regarded the Soviets (Slavs) as sub-human. He also believed the Jews had created communism. The war in the East was aimed not merely at conquest but at the destruction of millions of Soviets and Jews.