Section: What was the Holocaust?

What was the Holocaust?

This young Jewish girl was deported from her home country of Czechslovakia in 1942. Her destination is unknown.
This map indicates the number of Jews murdered by the Einsatzgruppen (killing squads which followed the German army) in each country. The map shows modern day Belarus, at the bottom, then continuing clockwise, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Russia.
German Wehrmacht soldiers capture on film the massacre of Jews in the Lviv Pogroms of July 1941, carried out by the Einsatzgruppe C and the Ukrainian National Militia.
A group of Roma in 1940. Roma were judged to be racially ‘undesirable’ and therefore were also highly persecuted under Nazi rule.
Nazi occupied countries complied with, and in some cases willingly implemented, Nazi policies and laws. Here two women wear yellow “Jude” badges in Paris, France.

The Holocaust (or Shoah) is the term for the murder of around six million Jews and other victims by the Nazi regime and their collaborators during the Second World War.

Between 1941 and 1945, the Nazis sought to eradicate the entire Jewish community of Europe. Victims were murdered by death squads or transported to death campsSix million of the eleven million European Jews perished. The Holocaust mainly occurred in Eastern Europe, in places such as Poland and Ukraine.

The term ‘Holocaust’ can also refer to the orchestrated murder of other groups targeted by the Nazi regime, including Roma, disabled people, Soviet Prisoners of War and civilians, Polish civilians, homosexuals, socialists, communists and trades unionists, Freemasons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Nazis did not act alone. Countries which were occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War, such as Lithuania and the Ukraine, assisted the perpetrators.



The Holocaust Explained

The Holocaust Explained is a website which aims to answer common questions about how the Nazis were able to plan and carry out the mass murder of over six million Jews, and millions of non-Jews.

The truth is that there are no easy answers to these questions, and there is no way to ‘explain’ the Holocaust in a single page of text.

We encourage learners to move through the website section by section, starting with the concept of genocide itself.

We hope that when people reach the last section, Survival and Legacy, they will have learned a great deal about what the Holocaust was and why it is essential that we all continue to learn about it.

The Holocaust Explained is run by the Wiener Library for the Study of Holocaust and Genocide.


Topics in this section

What is genocide?
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Life before the Holocaust

Life before the Holocaust

What happened in December