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 population there.

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