Shoah [Hebrew] - The planned genocide of
European Jewry perpetrated by the Nazis and based on the racist doctrine
was one of the pillars of German fascism. This ideology proclaimed the
need to remove Jews and other "lower" races from the German Lebensraum.
The history of the Holocaust may be broken down into three phases:
1933-39, 1939-41 and 1941-44. After Hitler came to power in 1933, the
Nuremberg laws were adopted, depriving Jews-and individuals of Jewish
descent-of their civil rights. The laws also made it possible to loot
Jewish property (in the name of economic "Aryanization"), send Jews to
concentration camps and strip them of their citizenship. The
implementation of this legislation was accompanied by a campaign of
terror, which culminated in an enormous pogrom in 1938 that came to be
known as Krystallnacht. The Nuremberg laws were also introduced in
Austria and the Czech lands, which had been annexed to the Reich, and
later also in other conquered countries.
The second phase began when German troops entered Polish territory,
and is described by the expression "policy of annihilation". The special
Einsatzgruppen detachments that followed the Wehrmacht formations were
the first to carry out this policy. The Einsatzgruppen arrested
political activists and members of the intelligentsia, executed Jews,
set fire to synagogues and exacted contributions.
In October 1939, the Germans began implementing
their plan to separate Jews from the rest of the population.
Deportations began and Jews began to be concentrated in ghettos, where
they fell victim to hunger, disease and systematically applied terror.
After the invasion of the Soviet Union, in late 1941 and early 1942,
almost all of European Jewry found itself under German control. At that
time, the final phase of the Holocaust was launched-direct
extermination, preceded by massacres of Lithuanian, Belarusian and
Ukrainian Jews carried out by the Einsatzgruppen. By late 1941, almost
half a million Jews had been killed.
From mid-1941, the Nazis began developing a faster method of killing
people that could be applied on a mass scale. Beginning in December, a
"gassing truck" was tested in the Chelmno camp: Jews brought from
ghettos in central Poland were killed with exhaust fumes directed into
closed trucks. The details of how the Endlösung was to be carried out
were decided on at the Wannsee conference on January 20, 1942.
Construction of new death camps began, most of which were located on
Polish territory. Their location in Poland was because of the large
population of Jews in Poland, as well as from a need to hide the
genocide from the rest of the world. An industrial killing machine was
established, using Zyklon B gas, gas chambers and crematoria. The
victims, under the pretext of being resettled in the eastern
territories, were sent to the death camps. After they arrived, the Jews
were taken to the "baths" - which were disguised gas chambers. This gave
an illusory hope of surviving and eliminated the urge to resist.
The corpses, stripped of their valuables, were
cremated. The victims' belongings, including jewelry and money, were
appropriated by the SS. Jews in the Generalgouvernement were the first
to be killed: in the spring of 1942, residents from the ghettos in the
Lublin region, eastern Malopolska and the Krakow are deported to death
camps. In summer, deportations began to be sent from the Warsaw ghetto.
During that time, about one million Jews perished. In the autumn of
1942, "remant" ghettos remained in most of the larger cities; their
residents became forced laborers.
After the Warsaw and Bialystok ghetto uprisings were suppressed
(resistance in the ghettos and camps), by the autumn of 1943, virtually
all Polish Jews had been killed. Death camps did not cease their
operations, however-Jewish citizens of German-occupied countries were
sent there, including those from France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark,
Hungary and the Czech lands. The concentration camps and labor camps
were also an instrument of extermination; the death marches comprised
the last act of the Holocaust. The exact number of those killed is not
known, though it is estimated that from five to six million Jews were
killed, which was half their prewar population in Europe. The losses in
Poland were even greater, and amounted to 90% of the prewar Jewish