What was the Holocaust?

8118.jpg
The infamous gateway at Auschwitz 1 concentration camp. The sign reads; 'Work makes you free'. In fact, Jews and other groups went through this gateway to their death, rather than to freedom.
© 2011 Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.

The Holocaust (Shoah) was a unique event in 20th century history. It evolved slowly between 1933 and 1945. It began with discrimination; then the Jews were separated from their communities and persecuted; and finally they were treated as less than human beings and murdered.

During the Second World War the Nazis sought to murder the entire Jewish population of Europe and to destroy its culture. In 1941 there were about 11 million Jews living in Europe; by May 1945 the Nazis had murdered six million of them. One-and-a-half million of these were children.

We now call these events the Holocaust.

Whilst the Jews of Europe were the Nazis’ primary target, many millions of other people were also imprisoned, enslaved and murdered. These people included Roma, those with mental or physical disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, trade unionists, political opponents, Poles and Soviet prisoners of war.

The Nazis did not act alone. They were supported and assisted by people from within the countries they occupied across Europe. Most countries stood by while the Nazis and their accomplices carried out the mass murder of the Jewish people.

 

Now you have read the introduction to the Holocaust you can begin to explore The Holocaust Explained web resource.