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Photograph of the gatehouse of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp . Taken from the train ramp inside the camp by Stanisław Mucha , February/March 1945
Cremation of corpses by the Sonderkommando KZ Auschwitz-Birkenau , photographed by Alberto Errera , August 1944

Holocaust [ ˈhoːlokaʊ̯st, holoˈkaʊ̯st ] (English, from Ancient Greek ὁλόκαυστος holókaustos 'completely burned') and Shoah (also Shoah , in English transcription Shoah or Shoa ; Hebrew הַשּׁוֹאָה ha'Shoah for "the catastrophe", "the great misfortune/disaster") are the terms most commonly used today for the National Socialist genocide of 5.6 to 6.3 million European Jews during the Second World War . From 1941 to 1945, Germans and their helpers pursued the goal of systematically murdering all Jews in the German sphere of influence, from 1942 also using industrial methods. This crime against humanity was based on the anti-Semitism propagated by the state and the corresponding racist legislation of the Nazi regime . In Nazi ideology, the genocide of the Jews, which began with the invasion of Poland in 1939, was justified as the “ destruction of life unworthy of life ”, as was the Porajmos , the collective annihilation of Sinti and Roma , the Nazi killings of the sick , the “ Action T4 ” for the murder of disabled people and the “ child euthanasia ”. The final decision to murder all Jews was made in the summer of 1941 in connection with the war of extermination against the USSR .


Since 1940, the National Socialists have officially called their goal of making EuropeJew -free” the “ Final Solution to the Jewish Question ”. Since 1941, this expression has been used as a camouflage to describe their systematic murder of the Jews. He is often quoted in historical works about it. The term “resettlement”, which was frequently used externally, also served to cover up the Nazi crimes.

In the German-speaking world, the genocide (or democide ) has been known as the extermination of the Jews , the murder of the Jews, or the mass murder of European Jews since May 1945 . As a result of the first Frankfurt Auschwitz trial, since 1963 Auschwitz , the name of the largest Nazi death camp ( Auschwitz -Birkenau concentration camp ), has also been used as a symbolic designation for the entire event.

The now-usual designation Holocaust derives from the Greek adjective ὁλόκαυστον ( holókauston ), meaning 'completely cremated', denoting an animal sacrifice completely cremated on altars . Since about 1600, the English word Holocaust has also referred to deaths by fire, since about 1800 also massacres , since 1895 also ethnic massacres such as the later genocide of the Armenians . The British newspaper News Chronicle used the word for the first time in December 1942 to refer to Adolf Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jews, but without any knowledge of the Nazi methods of extermination. By 1972, it had become common practice in United States historical scholarship. Since 1978, the television series Holocaust - The History of the Weiss Family spread it in many other countries, including the Federal Republic of Germany. Since then, the term has mostly been limited to the systematic murder of European Jews. Sometimes it also includes the Porajmos , the genocide of several hundred thousand Roma , who the National Socialists, as “ Gypsies ”, also declared to be an “inferior foreign race” and wanted to exterminate. Only rarely is it referred to the entire National Socialist policy of extermination.

The designation of the extermination of the Jews as "Holocaust" was often viewed as problematic because of the origin of the word from the religious sacrificial cult and the earlier use in Christian anti -Judaism. In Israel and Judaism , the crime has been known as the Shoa (“catastrophe”, “great misfortune”) since 1948. This has been commemorated since 1959 by the commemoration day Yom Hasho'ah . Since 1985, the Hebrew word has also been used in Europe for the Holocaust. Jewish theologians sometimes refer to the event as the third Churban (Hebrew: "annihilation", "devastation") and thus interpret it, like the two destructions of the Jerusalem Temple (586 BC and 70 AD), as one of all descendants of the Israelites , i.e major catastrophe affecting all Jews.

"Crimes against humanity", "war crimes", "genocide" and "Holocaust" are often incorrectly used as synonyms. The first three terms are legal terms that are also scientific categories.

  • Crimes against humanity ” are widespread or systematic attacks on civilian populations. In international law, they represent a generic term that includes both “war crimes”, “ crimes against peace ” and “genocide”.
  • War crimes are criminal acts committed during an armed conflict that violate, in particular, the Geneva Conventions .
  • Genocide is the coordinated and planned destruction of a group of people, with that "group" being defined by the perpetrators.


One of the historical preconditions for the Holocaust is modern anti-Semitism , which arose in Europe from about 1870 and, in turn, had a long history in Christian anti- Judaism . The First World War from 1914 to 1918 and the global economic crisis from 1929 to 1932 were among the factors that caused National Socialism to emerge and rise .

goals of National Socialism

With its 25-point program , the NSDAP , founded in 1919, aimed at the exclusion and expulsion of Jews from the German “ Volksgemeinschaft ”. As early as 1919, before joining the party, Adolf Hitler had declared the “removal of the Jews in general” to be the political goal of such a state. In an interview with a Catalan journalist in November 1923, he declared that killing all of Germany's Jews "would of course be the best solution". Since this is not possible, however, the only solution is mass expulsion. In his two-part manifesto Mein Kampf (1925/1926) and his unpublished second book (1928), he explained his racial anti-Semitism, advocated mass murder of Jews in the event of a new world war and declared the annihilation of "Jewish Bolshevism" to be the main goal of National Socialist foreign policy. What was meant was the military conquest of the Soviet Union , which was ruled by an alleged “ world Jewry ” and the subsequent Germanization through mass resettlement and mass murder.

The consistent, fanatical "redemption anti-Semitism" of Hitler and his followers (a term Saul Friedländer coined ) is considered an essential, but not the sole and sufficient condition for the Holocaust.

Persecution of the Jews in the German Reich 1933-1939

Until 1941, the National Socialists aimed at the expulsion and expropriation of German Jews . Immediately after Hitler came to power on January 30, 1933, the NSDAP and its sub-organizations SA , SS , NSDStB and Hitler Youth began with partly unplanned, partly organized acts of violence against Jews. A state “Jewish policy” only emerged as a reaction to this. Important stations were the " boycott of Jews " of April 1, 1933 and the law for the restoration of the professional civil service of April 7, 1933, which provided for the dismissal of all "non-Aryan" civil servants and thus introduced a racial criterion in a state law for the first time. It initiated the social exclusion of Jews from professional associations, companies, clubs, schools and cultural life. This was continued with numerous other anti-Jewish laws and regulations and constantly tightened up to 1945. Also in 1933, concentration camps (KZ) were set up, mostly under the leadership of the SA. Political opponents were arrested first. The Dachau concentration camp , run by the SS, became a model for later labor and extermination camps for Jews and other racially persecuted groups. Starvation, torture and random murders were part of everyday life in the first concentration camps. Jewish camp inmates were already particularly harassed there and had the highest mortality rates. On April 12, 1933, Jews were also murdered for the first time in the Dachau concentration camp. B. Rudolf Benario , six months later the murder of concentration camp inmates was legalized by means of the " post obligation ".

In the summer of 1935, the party base of the NSDAP again organized boycott actions. In response, the Nazi regime hastily enacted the Nuremberg Laws in September , severely restricting the civil rights of German Jews. “Full Jews” and “ Jewish half-breeds ” were defined in ordinances that were submitted later. Non-Jews who married a Jew or who had converted to the Jewish religion were declared “ valid Jews ” , regardless of their origin . In 1936 and 1937 Hitler hardly spoke about Jews and took no further initiatives for their complete expulsion. But on November 30, 1937, according to Joseph Goebbels , he affirmed : "The Jews have to get out of Germany, yes, out of all of Europe." That would take a while, but he was "firmly determined" to do so. In 1938, parallel to the ongoing rearmament of the Wehrmacht and preparations for war, the Nazi regime intensified the persecution of the Jews again. For example, they also had to adopt “typically Jewish” first and last names (January), were robbed en masse after the annexation of Austria (March), had to “register” their entire fortune (April 26), received no more government contracts and licenses ( September), but a Jew stamp in their passports (October), which was justified with foreign measures against Jewish emigrants. Jews without a “typical Jewish” name also had to adopt the name “ Sara ” for women and “Israel” for men due to the name change decree in August 1938 .

German Reich Law for the Disarmament of the Jews (November 12, 1938)

During the “ Poland Action ” of October 27, 1938, around 15,000 Jews were forcibly deported from Germany to Poland. Herschel Grynszpan 's murder of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath served as a welcome pretext for the nationwide November pogroms of 1938 , in which around 400 people were murdered, more than 1,400 synagogues , other meeting rooms and cemeteries were destroyed and up to 36,000 Jews were interned in concentration camps. With the “ Jewish penance ” imposed on November 12, the victims had to pay for the destruction; the state “ Aryanization ” was accelerated with the ordinance for the elimination of Jews from German economic life and the ordinance for the use of Jewish property . Even without a “fundamental plan”, the measures taken by the Nazi regime created essential administrative prerequisites that made the Holocaust possible: including the legal definition of the term “Jew”, expropriation and concentration in special residential areas. National Socialist persecution and murder of the Jews are therefore described as an intertwined, inseparable "policy of annihilation".

Video: The flight of the Jews from the National Socialists

Of the 510,000 German Jews who were affiliated with the Israeli religious communities in 1933, 278,000 to 315,000 emigrated by the start of the war in September 1939; by 1940 another 15,000 fled. Of Jews living in “mixed marriages” or hiding in the Reich, 10,000 to 15,000 escaped the Holocaust. Up to 195,000 German Jews were murdered there. About 6000 survived the camps. Of around 200,000 Austrian Jews, around 65,500 were killed during the Nazi era, the rest were able to flee after the Anschluss and the beginning of the war.



Holocaust research refers to the process of extermination as the “Holocaust” or “genocide of the Jews”, which in World War II ranged from ordered mass shootings of Eastern European Jews to the systematic gassing of Jews from all German-occupied areas of Europe in extermination camps set up especially for this purpose.

For some historians, the Holocaust began in September 1939 because thousands of Jews were murdered during the attack on Poland and afterwards (see also Jews in Poland ) and most of the later methods of extermination were tested: isolation in ghettos and camps, starvation, deportation , mass shootings and murders with poison gas. For many historians, the Holocaust began with the war against the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, because then systematic, centrally prepared and ordered mass murders of Jews began in entire regions. In his main work, The Destruction of European Jews , Raul Hilberg described its beginning as early as 1933 with the systematic and quasi-legal exclusion of the population group.

The murders happened regionally at different speeds and at different times. They were extended to more and more groups of victims and carried out with more and more radical methods. While some groups of victims were still expelled or deported, others were already exterminated, so that "conception, decision-making and implementation cannot always be clearly demarcated".

Peter Longerich concludes from the information in the Jäger report that between August 5 and August 16, 1941 at the latest, an order must have reached the Hamann Rolling Command , according to which, in principle, no distinction was made between the murder of men and women and the killing of children was released. From October, German Jews were also deported and the construction of the first death camps began. From November 25, German Jews were also shot. From December 8, Jews were murdered with exhaust gases. From February 1942, Western and Southern European Jews were also deported to Eastern Europe. From March, extermination camps with gas chambers were put into operation and Jews deported there were murdered immediately upon their arrival. From July, Jews from all occupied countries in Europe were deported to extermination camps. The Nazi regime postponed some of these steps at best, but never set any limits to the murders, never stopped them and never reversed any decision to do so. The temporarily suspended murder of the Hungarian Jews was continued and accelerated long after the defeat in the war was certain. The survivors of dissolved extermination and labor camps were sent on death marches .

First mass murders and deportations

With the attack on Poland, around two million Polish Jews came under the rule of the National Socialists. On September 3, 1939, two days after the beginning of the war, Germans carried out the first massacre of Polish Jews, which they claimed was revenge for the Bloody Sunday in Bydgoszcz . By the end of December 1939, members of the German SS, SD and Wehrmacht had murdered around 7,000 Polish Jews, some indiscriminately. These murders accompanied the massacres of more than 60,000 Poles by German task forces, which the Nazi regime ordered and prepared with lists of targets. They were supposed to disempower and intimidate the Polish upper class and expel as many Polish Jews as possible from the German-occupied part of western Poland to eastern Poland .

On September 21, 1939, Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler , Reinhard Heydrich and Albert Forster had agreed in Berlin as a short-term goal to bring all “Reich Jews” to a monitored, inhospitable “Jewish reservation” near Lublin in Poland within one year and have them do forced labor there . For this purpose, Adolf Eichmann , then head of the “ Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Prague ”, created the Nisko Plan . From October 18 to 26, 1939, he had about 5,000 Jews from Vienna , Katowice and Ostrava brought to Nisko and forced them to build an alleged transit camp for later "relocations". These transports were intended to test and prepare for comprehensive deportations from the "Old Reich", but were discontinued on Himmler's orders. Most of the deportees fled across the border to eastern Poland or died of hunger and cold in the camp.

The German security police in annexed western Poland wanted to expel all Jews in their area into the newly created General Government. From December 1939 to March 1940, around 175,000 Poles, including many Jews, were deported there. In March 1940, these transports were stopped for the time being due to organizational problems, without abandoning the "resettlement" plans. This established a pattern for dealing with Jews in the conquered areas: German district administrations pushed for their deportation to neighboring areas, which was organized at short notice and brutally carried out with rail transport without regard to human life. The SS and police shot some deportees upon arrival.

The first euthanasia murders with gas vans happened in Poland. From May 1940, Jewish patients in German sanatoriums and nursing homes were singled out and murdered with poison gas as part of Action T4 , later Action 14f13 .


Map of Ghettos in Eastern Europe (1941/1942)

The ghettoization of "Reich Jews" was considered in 1938 and initially implemented in the form of Jewish houses . Since the beginning of the war, the German municipalities began to separate Jews in special residential areas or to deport them. Thousands of Polish Jews living in the German Reich were interned in concentration camps and their subcamps.

Instead of the initially failed “Jewish reservation” a “Reichsghetto” was planned in Poland. In December 1939, Gauleiter in the Wartheland and the city administration of Łódź began to set up the Litzmannstadt ghetto , which existed until 1944. By April 1940, they forced 157,000 Jews to move there. It was walled off and guarded by the police, and a shoot-to-fire was issued for attempted escape. In the autumn of 1940, the German city administration in Warsaw divided off a "plague restricted area" and made it the hermetically sealed Warsaw Ghetto (Jewish residential area) . Around 500,000 Polish Jews were imprisoned there until May 1941.

As early as the winter of 1940/41, thousands of ghetto residents, mostly children and the elderly, died of starvation, cold, untreated illnesses and exhaustion. The official food rations were extremely low and designed to prevent mass deaths. In addition, there were random murders by the Nazi guards on a daily basis. By the fall of 1942, around 100,000 Jews had died in Warsaw and around 25,000 in Łódź. Only the few residents who still had connections outside the ghetto borders and who were in good physical condition had a chance of surviving.

In the spring of 1941, the German city and district administrations set up many ghettos in the Generalgouvernement without central orders in order to free up apartments for Wehrmacht soldiers and to prepare for the expected imminent deportation of Polish Jews to conquered Soviet territories. Some officials limited themselves to curfews in non-walled "Jewish residential areas". From 1942, the new ghettos served directly to prepare the transport of Jews to be murdered.

Big ghettos Country interned Jews from until transports to
Budapest Hungary 120,000 November 1944 January 1945 Auschwitz
Ghetto Lviv Ukraine 115,000 Nov. 1941 June 1943 Belzec, Janowska
Litzmannstadt ghetto Poland 200,000 February 1940 Aug 1944 Chelmno, Auschwitz
Warsaw Ghetto Poland 450,000 October 1940 May 1943 Treblinka, Majdanek

deportation plans

On October 7, 1939, after the victory in the invasion of Poland, Hitler appointed Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler as " Reich Commissioner for the Consolidation of German Nationality ". This gave Himmler responsibility for all racist " repopulation plans " in the conquered or future conquered areas of Eastern Europe . Himmler commissioned the Generalplan Ost , which was expanded from June 24, 1941 and provided for the deportation of up to 31 million Slavs and their mass deaths by the millions. Jews were not mentioned because their "disappearance" was assumed.

In May 1940, as victory in the western campaign became apparent, the Foreign Office and the Reich Security Main Office considered the Madagascar Plan : it envisaged taking over the island of Madagascar from defeated France and deporting up to 5.8 million European Jews there. Himmler hoped to see the "concept of the Jews" "completely wiped out" through this "emigration". He considered the assimilation of “racially valuable elements” from non-Jewish minorities by abducting children and depriving of education to be “the mildest and best” if one rejected the “Bolshevik method of physical extermination of a people out of inner conviction as un-Germanic and impossible”. Accordingly, genocide was already being considered in Himmler's environment, but the idea was still rejected.

In the night from October 21 to 22, 1940 (Day of the Feast of Tabernacles ) the so-called “ Wagner-Bürckel-Action ” took place, during which more than 6,500 Jews from Baden and the Saar -Palatinate were deported to the Camp de Gurs internment camp in southern France . Adolf Eichmann was responsible for rail transport. The next day, Wagner signed a decree declaring that the entire property of the Jews expelled from Baden was “forfeited to the state”. The Jews had already been deported from conquered Alsace and Lorraine to occupied France.

In November 1940, after the Battle of Britain , the Madagascar plan became illusory. Nevertheless, some Nazi files still mentioned him up until the beginning of 1942. Documents from 1941 spoke of a "territorial final solution" "in a territory still to be determined". After the war against the Soviet Union, which was being prepared at the time, Himmler and Heydrich considered deporting the Jews to inhospitable regions behind the Urals , the Pripyat swamps or the Arctic Ocean camps and letting them perish there.

The projects reflect a lack of an overall plan, a chaos of competences and competition between the Nazi authorities involved, as well as their constant push for a "final solution". Since, on the one hand, they could more easily treat the Jews as internal opponents of the war during the war and, on the other hand, they could no longer simply deport them to unoccupied areas, more radical ideas for solutions gained ground. According to Dieter Pohl , all of these large-scale deportation plans were aimed at creeping genocide because they included poor living conditions, forced labor and forced sterilization : the deportees were supposed to be the last generation of Jews.

decision making

Adolf Hitler Speaking Before the Reichstag (October 1939)

How the Nazi regime came to the decision not only to remove the Jews from German dominion, but to kill them all is a matter of debate in historical research. For one thing, it is not clear whether this decision was a direct result of Hitler's radical anti-Semitic "program", as the so-called intentionalists assume, or whether it was "improvised" within the National Socialist polycracy between various rival actors in Berlin and on the periphery - this is the view of the so-called functionalists .

It is also disputed when or if Hitler gave the order for the Holocaust at all. The NS regime had as few decisions on NS crimes as possible recorded in writing, treated them as secret Reich matters and had many files destroyed because the extent and scope of their crimes were clear to the decision-makers. Written documents were often used for subsequent legitimation, i.e. they presupposed informal decisions and may have been accompanied by more extensive verbal instructions.

Although Hitler's speeches were deliberately general, ambiguous and obscure, they acted as guidelines for numerous measures by the Nazi authorities dealing with Jews, which complied with the "leader's will" and which Hitler in turn approved. On January 30, 1939, in the Reichstag, he threatened the "annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe" in the event of a new world war . He left open whether this was to be understood as a result of deportations or a direct intent to murder; an extermination plan did not yet exist. He often returned to this speech during the Holocaust, four times each in 1941 and 1942 alone, and indicated its execution: “The Jews in Germany once laughed at my prophecies. […] Of those who laughed back then, countless numbers no longer laugh today...” According to the historian Hans Mommsen , Hitler’s main aim in this speech was, on the one hand, to give the Western powers foreign currency in connection with the Rublee Committee negotiations that were taking place at the same time to squeeze Jewish emigration and on the other hand - with the Jews as hostages - to force them to behave politically well towards the German Reich.

A written Holocaust order from Hitler has not been found and probably did not exist. However, several written and verbal orders from Hitler for individual extermination steps are documented. He had ordered Aktion T4 in October 1939, backdating the written decree to September 1, 1939, the beginning of the invasion of Poland . He understood the " destruction of unworthy life " to "purify Aryan blood" as part of his war. The decree legitimized the secretly prepared murder of the sick in order to avoid a public euthanasia law and to dispel fears of criminal consequences among the doctors involved. After church protests had become loud despite the secrecy, Hitler had Action T 4 stopped on August 24, 1941, but continued the killing of the sick in the occupied areas of Eastern Europe. According to Karl Schleunes , this showed his calculus not to jeopardize domestic approval of his policy in order to carry out the racist annihilation unhindered. This attitude also determined his approach to the Holocaust.

From February 1941, the Nazi regime planned the war of annihilation against the Soviet Union with the SS and Wehrmacht generals. Mass killings were discussed at various meetings. On March 3, Hitler gave the OKW guidelines to work with the SS and police to eliminate the "Jewish-Bolshevik" intelligentsia. As in Poland in 1939, the elites in the state, party and army were to be decimated first. The martial law decree issued by the OKW on May 13, 1941, ordered by Hitler, allowed Wehrmacht soldiers to shoot civilians suspected of resistance immediately without having to fear any consequences under military law. Hitler's commissar order of June 6, 1941, ordered that political officers of the Red Army who were taken prisoner of war be immediately singled out and shot. Added to this was the hunger calculation of feeding the German troops on the ground and handing over millions of Soviet civilians to starvation in return. These orders and plans particularly affected Jews because they were identified with troublemakers and "Bolsheviks" and lived primarily in cities.

In May 1941, on Hitler's orders, Heydrich had four mobile " Operations Groups of the Security Police and SD " (A to D) set up and trained within a few weeks. From July, several task forces “for special use” (e.g. V.) were added. Their official mission was to fight partisans behind the advancing army groups of the Wehrmacht through "reprisals", i.e. massacres in retaliation for alleged or actual attacks on German soldiers. The army high command allowed them to act independently with an agreement and at the same time promised them close cooperation. In addition, there were a few battalions of the Order Police and two brigades of the Waffen-SS under the " Reichsfuhrer SS Command Staff " without any particular task. The Himmlers reported directly to three Higher SS and Police Leaders (HSSPF) Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski , Friedrich Jeckeln and Hans-Adolf Prützmann , who directed and coordinated the murder operations of all these groups.

Forced Shaving of a Ukrainian Jew by Wehrmacht Soldiers (July 1941)
Russian Jews captured as alleged “snipers”, including a rabbi

In his diary entries and in his Posen speeches of October 1943, Himmler often referred to Hitler's personal order to "exterminate" the Jews. According to his personal physician Felix Kersten , he is said to have received this order in the spring of 1941. For this reason, the thesis was widely held that Hitler had already given the order for the Holocaust in the spring or summer of 1941. On May 21, Himmler gave the HSSPF a “special order from the Führer” in writing to carry out his “special orders” in the future occupied areas. On June 17, Heydrich verbally instructed them in Berlin to trigger a "self-purification" - pogroms - against Jews and Communists in the soon-to-be-occupied territories. In his operational orders of June 29, 1941, he reminded them of this. On July 2, he listed the groups of people they had been commissioned to murder. He explicitly added "Jews in party and state positions" and allowed the perpetrators to expand the groups of victims with deliberately vague terms. Further orders from the RSHA required the Wehrmacht to hand over all Jewish prisoners of war to the SS. Accordingly, the addressees did not yet have a general order to murder the Jews from the Reich Chancellery.

On July 16, 1941, at his insistence, Hitler gave Himmler the leadership of the SS, police and SD in the East as well. By the end of the year, Himmler had reinforced the Einsatzgruppen from 3,000 to 33,000 men, including willing residents of the occupied territories. On July 31, Hermann Göring commissioned Heydrich to draw up an "overall draft" for an "overall solution to the Jewish question". The text was written in the Reich Security Main Office and only submitted to Göring for signature, so it was intended to authorize ongoing plans. According to Lars Lüdicke, Göring wrote the letter himself, based on a draft commissioned by Heydrich. Hitler radioed the task force leaders on August 1 to keep him informed of their findings.

According to unanimous later statements by the commanders involved, Jeckeln ordered them in August to extend the executions to women and children "to prevent avengers from arising." On August 15, a task force report listed "Jews, Jewish women and Jewish children" as murder victims for the first time. At the end of August, Einsatzgruppe D reported that their area of ​​operations was now " free of Jews ". At the same time, all Jews from the conquered areas were to be taken to ghettos and registered; the registered Jews were all shot soon afterwards. According to the head of the Einsatzkommando, Otto Bradfisch , Himmler replied to his query in the presence of all the shooters at a mass shooting in Minsk : There was a "Fuehrer's order to shoot all Jews" that had the force of law. According to Jeckeln, before the "Riga Bloody Sunday" (November 30, 1941), Himmler instructed him to tell Hinrich Lohse : "...it is my order, what is also the Führer's wish." Hans Mommsen, on the other hand, sees the extension of those to be murdered to include Jewish women and children not motivated by explicit orders, but by a dynamic of its own: The leaders of the Einsatzgruppen saw their delegation as an opportunity to prove themselves and therefore saw themselves in competition with each other for the highest odds; the myth of Jewish Bolshevism made the perpetrators of resistance retaliate with even more murders of Jews.

As the German advance faltered at the end of August, it became clear that hopes of a quick German victory were deceived. Until then, Hitler had scheduled the “final solution to the Jewish question” for the time after the hoped-for victory over the Soviet Union. On September 17, 1941, he then gave in to the urging of Alfred Rosenberg and Joseph Goebbels, who wanted to have the Jews from the German Reich and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia deported to the east during the war. The Swiss historian Philippe Burrin believes that this was the situation in which Hitler made the final decision to commit genocide: faced with the failure of his blitzkrieg strategy , he tried to seize the initiative again and decided to annihilate those he considered source of his failure. According to the historian Peter Longerich , the decision to deport the German and Czech Jews had other reasons: the justification given by the National Socialists to take revenge for the deportation of the Volga Germans to Siberia and Kazakhstan was at best the reason for Hitler's change of heart. More important to him was the imminent entry of the United States into the war: Since Hitler firmly believed in a Jewish world conspiracy in which Bolshevism and financial capitalism were two sides of the same coin, he thought he could use the deportation to influence American foreign policy . Added to this was the domestic political motive of presenting one's own people with a scapegoat for the beginning bombing war .

On October 2, Himmler suggested to Hitler that Jews from Germany and the Reich Protectorate be "relocated" to the ghettos of Riga, Reval, and Minsk. On October 10 in the RSHA, Heydrich reaffirmed Hitler's goal of making the German Reich "Jew-free" by the end of the year, and named not only ghettos but also newly built concentration camps as destinations. On October 18, 1941, Himmler issued a decree forbidding all Jews to emigrate from Germany, effective October 23. On October 25, Viktor Brack offered to use his euthanasia machines to gas unfit Jews from the ghettos in the east. On November 1, the SS began building the Belzec extermination camp , intended to empty overcrowded ghettos.

During these weeks, Hitler's internal hateful statements about Jews, whom he saw as the "enemy of the world" behind all powers at war with Germany, increased and escalated. The "elimination" of the Jews is a condition for any positive change in the occupied or allied countries, since otherwise they would have a destructive effect through racial mixing. On October 21, he declared: "If we eradicate this plague, we will accomplish a deed for humanity, the importance of which our men outside can not yet imagine." On October 25, he reminded the Nazi leaders of his "Prophecy" of January 30, 1939: "It is good if the terror precedes us that we exterminate the Jews."

In research, a connection between the decision-making on the Holocaust and the conduct of the war of annihilation against the USSR is suspected. British historian and Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw emphasizes that the annihilation of "Jewish Bolshevism" was central to this war. During the summer and fall of 1941, Hitler repeatedly spoke in the most brutal terms about the destruction of the USSR and indulged in barbaric generalizations about the Jews as a whole. Thus, "due to the contradictions and the lack of clarity in the anti-Jewish policy, a program for the murder of all Jews in Europe conquered by the Germans was able to take concrete shape". According to the American Holocaust researcher Christopher Browning , “the preparations for 'Operation Barbarossa' set in motion a chain of fateful events, and the murderous 'war of annihilation' then quickly led to systematic mass murder, first of Soviet Jews and soon afterwards of other European Jews as well “.

list of Jews planned for extermination according to area; Document of the Wannsee Conference, January 20, 1942
Video: The murder of the Jews under National Socialism

The historian Christian Gerlach, on the other hand, interprets two sources from December 1941 as Hitler's order for the Holocaust: On the one hand, on December 12, one day after his declaration of war on the USA , he declared to the Gauleiters assembled in the Reich Chancellery: Since the world war had now begun, the extermination of the Jews must be "the necessary consequence". On the other hand, Gerlach refers to a note in Himmler's service calendar from December 18, which, after a conversation with Hitler, states that the Jews are to be "exterminated as partisans".

Referring to Göring's instructions, Heydrich had invited the most important ministry officials to the Wannsee Conference on December 11, which was postponed to January 20, 1942 because of Hitler's declaration of war. There they discussed the further organization of the ongoing Holocaust. According to the only surviving minutes of the conference, 11 million Jews in Europe were scheduled for deportation. All important Nazi spheres of power were supposed to be involved, and all participants agreed to the implementation. Heydrich's "Judenreferent" Adolf Eichmann , organizer and recorder of the conference, testified in 1961 during his imprisonment in Israel that Heydrich had told him personally and verbatim a few days before the conference: "The Führer has ordered the physical annihilation of the Jews." Im Eichmann process , he also confirmed what the cover language of the protocol meant: "It was spoken of killing and eliminating and destroying."

Because of the course of events and the documents that have been preserved, historians assume that Hitler and the top Nazi representatives did not decide, plan, order or allow the Holocaust to happen on a single date, but rather over a longer period of time. They assume that the decision to deport and murder the remaining European Jews was only made after the murders of the Einsatzgruppen had begun. There was no express order from Hitler for the “final solution”. The local Nazi groups of perpetrators, in close cooperation with the central authorities, had expanded the groups of victims. Hans Mommsen sees the Holocaust as the end result of a complex process of increasing radicalization of the persecution of Jews and warfare. The attack on the Soviet Union represented the decisive turning point in the radicalization of the anti-Semitic policy of the Nazi regime. A few months later, the "scenario for carrying out the Holocaust [...] in October 1941 already existed". Nevertheless, Mommsen does not believe in a specific order from Hitler for the Holocaust: he deliberately avoided formal identification with the murder program, which was unpopular among the German population, and left the initiative to Himmler, Heydrich and Odilo Globocnik .

Systematic mass shootings

The Jews of Storow (Ukraine)
Dig Their Graves Before They Are Executed (July 4, 1941)
Shooting of Jews from Kiev near Ivangorod , Ukraine (1942)

On June 24, 1941, two days after the attack on the Soviet Union, the Einsatzgruppen shot the adult male Jews in a village in Garsden for the first time. In the first six weeks, mass murders of hundreds to thousands of people followed in each operation.

From July onwards, fascist volunteers in north-eastern Poland, western Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus, in close cooperation with German task forces and the Wehrmacht, carried out pogrom-like mass murders of Jewish men, which they justified as revenge for previous mass murders by the NKVD , which were allegedly controlled by Jews . Such militias as the Arājs Command had emerged from nationalist and paramilitary movements such as the Lithuanian ' Iron Wolf ' group ( Geležinis vilkas ) and the Latvian ' Thunder Cross ' ( Pērkonkrusts ); there were also several such groups in Ukraine, such as the OUN . Since the spring of 1941, the Reich Security Main Office and German military intelligence had established contacts with them and planned to use them to trigger pogroms against "Jewish Bolsheviks" after the attack. Around 40,000 Soviet Jews fell victim to this wave of murders.

On July 15, all Jews in a town were murdered in Mitau for the first time. From August 15, the Einsatzkommando 3 in Lithuania and Latvia in particular shot Jewish women, children and old people almost daily at assembly points in conquered Soviet locations; in Kaunas , Ponar near Wilna , who had a Jewish ghetto, also several times. About 1,000 Jews were able to escape in Estonia; 950 were murdered.

At the massacre of Kamenets-Podolsk on 29/30. On August 1, 1941, according to an agreement between Jeckeln and the Wehrmacht, all Jews in a larger city were murdered for the first time. Among the 23,000 victims were 14,000 Jews deported from Hungary. From September 15, the Einsatzgruppen C and D and the police battalions began to murder all Jews in larger cities in Ukraine: first in Zhitomir , in the Babyn Yar gorge near Kiev , then in the Drobytskyi Yar gorge near Kharkiv . Beginning in October, task forces and battalions in western Ukraine murdered all the Jews left behind in the first wave of murders. In Belarus, too, from October the Schutzstaffel, police and the 707th Infantry Division murdered the Jews in larger cities such as Vitebsk , Polotsk , Borisov and in rural areas. In areas further east in Russia, many Jews were able to escape in time; those who remained were also murdered, for example in Smolensk , Rostov and Kalinin . On November 30th and November 7th/8th On December 11, the new Higher SS and Police Leader Friedrich Jeckeln had the majority of Latvian Jews murdered in Riga with all available police battalions in order to empty the ghetto there for the following transports of Jews from the German Reich.

From November 25 to 29, 1941, the first transports of deported Jews from Berlin arrived in Kaunas . Task Forces shot them as soon as they arrived; so also on November 30th in Riga. It is true that Himmler forbade the shooting of Berlin Jews on November 30 and reprimanded Friedrich Jeckeln for disregarding his "guidelines". But it is believed that he only wanted to postpone the assassination a little longer in order to prevent news of it from leaking out in the Reich. In February 1942, German Jews were again deported to Lublin and shot in Riga. From then on, German Jews were involved in the ongoing Holocaust.

While most of the Jews in the Generalgouvernement were already being murdered in extermination camps, mass shootings continued in areas formerly occupied by the Soviets and now by the Germans. In the forests near large cities, the order police set up cordoned off execution sites : Ponar near Vilnius, the Rumbula forest , the Biķernieki forest near Riga, the Bronnaja Gora extermination camp near Brest and others. The victims transported there had to undress and were shot in groups at the edges of dug pits, into which they then fell. The Reserve Police Battalion 101 was involved in the execution of 38,000 Jews and the deportation of 45,000 Jews to extermination camps. Among them was the Józefów massacre on July 13, 1942. Jews living in Serbia , Croatia and Romania were also shot en masse from September 1941 onwards.

The following, incomplete table includes only major and exemplary minor mass shootings. Abbreviations for Einsatzgruppe = EG, Einsatzkommando = EK, Lithuanian Activist Front = LAF, Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists = OUN, Police Battalion = PB, Sonderkommando = SK, Security and Order Police = OP.

location date perpetrator unit victim
Garsden June 24, 1941 EK Tilsit 200 men, one woman
Bialystok June 27, 1941 PB 309 2,000 men and women
Lviv 30 June to 2 July 1941 OUN 4,000 men
Dunaburg 1st/2nd July 1941 EC 1a 1,150 men
Riga early July 1941 EG A, Lithuanian Auxiliary Police 400
Zolochiv early July 1941 SK 4b, OUN, SS Vikings 2,000
Ternopol July 7, 1941 SK 4b, OUN 800
Lutsk July 2, 1941 SK 4a 1,160 men
Lviv 2nd-6th July 1941 EC 5, 6, e.g. b. V 2,500 men
Kaunas 4th-6th July 1941 EC 3 2,977 men
Brest July 6, 1941 PB 307 4,000 men
Bialystok July 8, 1941 PB 316, 322 3,000 men
mitau July 15, 1941 EC 2 1,550
Kaunas 25-28 July 1941 LAF 3,800
Lviv 29-31 July 1941 OUN 2,000
Pinsk 7th/8th Aug 1941 SS Cavalry Brigade 9,000
Kamenetz-Podolsk 27-29 Aug 1941 PB 320, pp 26,500
Zhitomir September 19, 1941 EG C,D 3.145
Kiev , Babyn Yar 29/30 Sep 1941 SK 4a, PB 45, 314 33,771
Belarus from October 1941 707th Infantry Division 19,000
Dnepropetrovsk 13./14. October 1941 PB 314 11,000
Rovno 5th/6th Nov. 1941 EK 5, PB 320 15,000
Riga November 30th, 7th/8th December 1941 all PB, Command Arājs 26,000
Simferopol 13-15 December 1941 EG D, Wehrmacht 12,000
Kharkov from January 1, 1942 PB 314 12,000
Minsk 28-30 July 1942 OP 10,000
Lutsk 19-23 Aug 1942 OP 14,700
Vladimir Volynsk 1st-3rd Sep 1942 OP 13,500
Brest 15./16. October 1942 OP, PB 310 19,000
Pinsk October 28, 1942 PB 306, 310 18,000

On December 31, 1941, Himmler reported to Hitler that 363,000 Jews had been murdered as "partisans" between August and November. By the end of the year, the criminal units had murdered at least 500,000 of the approximately 2.5 million Soviet Jews living in the German-occupied areas. By the time of the Wannsee Conference on January 20, around 900,000 Jews had been murdered. The Einsatzgruppen and police battalions shot a total of at least 1.3 million Jews.

extermination camp

Map of the labor and death camps and deportation routes in German-occupied Europe around 1942
Announcement on the “downsizing” of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto (August 22, 1944)

In the spring of 1941, when planning the war of annihilation against the Soviet Union, Hitler had promised Hans Frank that the General Government should be the first to be “judenrein”, i.e. deport the Jews living there to the conquered areas. When it became apparent that the course of the war would thwart this, the Gauleiters in occupied Poland demanded the mass murder of the Jews in the ghettos there. As a result of the deliberate overcrowding and complete sealing off, epidemics spread in the ghettos. Alleged incapacity to work, risk of infection and burdens on the Germans and the Wehrmacht from "useless eaters" were some of the pretexts for demanding "radical solutions" for the ghetto residents.

On July 31, 1941, Göring, who was commissioned by Hitler with the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question", asked Reinhard Heydrich to work out a detailed plan for it. Mass shootings were soon considered “inefficient”. What was meant was not only the low rate of murder, but also the perpetrators' problems with the murder work, which was too time-consuming, nerve-wracking and, above all, too conspicuous. Anonymous killing methods should lower or eliminate the mental inhibitions of the perpetrators. In the summer and early autumn, the idea arose of carrying out the murders in extermination camps that were set up specifically for this purpose and were organized purely as “death factories”. This should also make it easier to keep the crimes secret.

In October 1941, the Gauleiter of the Wartheland , Arthur Greiser, in consultation with Viktor Brack , one of the organizers of the Nazi euthanasia , achieved that the murder method of gassing with carbon monoxide used in Action T4 could be used in his Gau. For this purpose, a special commando of the SS, whose members were involved in the murder of the sick in 1939/40, set up the Kulmhof (Chelmno) extermination camp in just a few weeks . On December 8, 1941, the first group of Jews from Prague were gassed there.

Children from the Łódź ghetto await deportation to the Kulmhof extermination camp

In order to empty the large German ghettos in occupied Poland as planned by murdering their inhabitants, the Belzec , Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps were built from November 1941 to July 1942 . Most of the doctors, administration and transport specialists there came from Action T4 and some rose in the SS hierarchy. On September 26, 1941, Himmler commissioned the camp commandant, Rudolf Höß, to convert the forced labor camp, which had existed since 1940, into an extermination camp. Other extermination camps were the Majdanek and Maly Trostinez concentration camps near Minsk in Belarus.

On March 16, 1942, the SS and police, in consultation with the military administration, began to empty the ghettos of Lemberg and Lublin, and from May onwards those in the Kraków district, and to transport the residents to Belzec. Jewish councils were forced to select the victims, who were murdered immediately upon arrival. From May 1942, Jews from the vicinity who were classified as “unable to work” were murdered in Sobibor. The civil administration offices in Poland classified all Jews into the three categories of "fit for war", "fit for work" and "unfit for work". At the end of May, there was a consensus among all these agencies to murder all those who were "unable to work". Jewish ghettos were also set up in smaller towns. The preparations were organized centrally in Lublin; the entire murder project was named Aktion Reinhardt after Reinhard Heydrich, who had been murdered shortly before . Engine exhaust fumes were mostly used as a method of murder. Almost all those who arrived were killed regardless of their ability to work and were only spared in exceptional cases in order to be integrated into an internal prisoner commando.

From August 1942, on the orders of the military administrations, which wanted to save on food quotas, the remaining ghettos in Belarus and Ukraine were "emptied": This meant the complete murder of their inhabitants, especially in Volhynia, Lutsk, Vladimir Wolynsk, Brest-Litovsk and Pinsk. Gas vans were also used in Maly Trostinez. Wehrmacht units, three police battalions, the stationary police, the gendarmerie and foreign helpers were directly involved in many of these massacres.

A group of privileged Jews used the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Terezín near Prague , known as the Theresienstadt Ghetto, to camouflage the planned murder . In 1941 it was set up as a transit camp for later transport to the extermination camp. Jews from Germany could even “buy” there under the alleged promise that they would be cared for. More than 140,000 Jews lived in the concentration camp in a very small space with minimal "Jewish self-government". This concentration camp was presented to a Red Cross delegation in July 1944 as a place where the prisoners supposedly lived “normally”.

Deportees in Birkenau on the way to the "death barracks" for the sick
Jews from Carpathian Ukraine Wait for their Selection at the Ramp of Auschwitz (May 1944)
Incinerators in the crematorium at Buchenwald concentration camp ; Picture taken on April 16, 1945 after the liberation by the American army

In 1942, the main destination of the transports from all parts of Europe was the largest of all extermination camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau II . There, individual murders by security guards were part of everyday life. Between August 31 and September 5, 1941 , Karl Fritzsch had 850 Soviet prisoners of war and sick inmates murdered for the first time on his own initiative to test the product containing poisonous gas, Zyklon B. Six large crematoria were planned for the additional camp . Whether they were intended for murder when construction began is uncertain. At the end of June 1942, the selection of able-bodied Jews who were to be murdered immediately began at the ramp where the trains arrived. From July 1942, two gas chambers ("bunkers") were completed, where the murders took place until February 1943. In March 1943, the crematoria, each with a gas chamber, were completed and were then used for the daily murder and immediate cremation of thousands of newcomers.

From Europe occupied by German troops, the National Socialists had masses of people deported to the extermination camps by rail. Quite a few deportees died being transported by train in unheated cattle cars . Upon arrival at the camp, the SS selected the prisoners into those who were able to work and those who were not. Immediately after the selection, children, their mothers, the elderly and the sick were taken to gas chambers disguised as shower rooms. At Auschwitz, the SS used Zyklon B for the assassination. The vast majority of the deportees were gassed immediately without being given a tattooed prisoner number. The hydrogen cyanide gas caused cyanide poisoning , which, depending on the inhalation strength, could cause agonizing internal asphyxiation lasting up to 20 minutes . The SS had the victims' hair, gold teeth and private belongings, such as clothing, shoes, glasses and suitcases, used for financial purposes. Prisoners then had to burn the corpses in crematoria and incineration pits.

The SS had human experiments carried out in various concentration camps for military, medical and other purposes. For example, victims were exposed to extremely high or low air pressure in hyperbaric chambers, supercooled in ice water, infected with bacteria and used for surgical experiments. The perpetrators, such as the SS doctor Josef Mengele , consciously and without any scruples accepted the death or lifelong damage to the health of the test subjects. Until recently, human body parts that had been requested and delivered by the National Socialists for “examination purposes” were found at many German and Swiss research institutions.

Raul Hilberg gives an exemplary description of Auschwitz-Birkenau in his standard work: After the deportation trains had been unloaded, the selection took place ; Old, sick and occasionally small children were already sorted out on the ramp. In the main camp at Auschwitz, the elderly and sick were taken to the gas chambers on trucks, while the strongest people were initially assigned to work. The selection was superficial, those who arrived were herded past the doctor, who pointed in one of two directions: either to work or immediately to the gas chamber. Regular selections also took place in the camps themselves (for example on the roll call square and in the camp hospital). The men and women assigned to the gas chamber had to undress, giving the impression that the clothes would be returned after the announced shower together. For example, to deceive, to avoid panic and to speed up the process, the guards claimed that one should hurry, otherwise the water in the showers or the soup after the shower would get cold. In the gas chambers, the victims discovered that the supposed showers did not work. After closing the doors, the guards turned off the electric lights. An SS man with a special gas mask opened the cover of the chute on the ceiling and poured Zyklon B pellets onto the floor of the gas chamber. The highly volatile hydrocyanic acid outgassed from the granules and spread throughout the room. In a panic, the stronger pushed the weaker people down, pushed away from the throw-in point, stood on those who were falling or lying down in order to reach layers of air that were free of poisonous gas. Unconsciousness or death occurred in the first victims near the insertion point after about two minutes. The screaming stopped and the dying fell on top of each other if there was enough space. After fifteen minutes everyone in the gas chamber was dead. The SS let the gas escape and after about half an hour the prisoner special commando opened the door. The bodies were found piled high, some in a sitting or semi-sitting position, with children and the elderly at the bottom. There was a vacant space where the gas had been thrown because people had retreated from there. A crowd of people were pressed against the front door, which they had tried to open. The skin of the corpses was pink, some foamed at the lips or nosebleeds had started. Some bodies were covered with feces and urine, some pregnant women had started giving birth. Jewish special commandos with gas masks first had to clear away the corpses at the door in order to clear the way. Then they had to hose down the bodies and tear them apart. If the women's hair had not already been shaved, they now had to cut it and wash it in ammonia solution before packing it up. In all camps, the body cavities were searched for hidden valuables, and the gold teeth were pulled out. Finally, the corpses were transported to the crematoria.

Secretly photographed cremation, Auschwitz-Birkenau, August 1944

Over three million people were killed by poison gas; a third of them by Zyklon B, most of them by engine exhaust.

warehouse start of building beginning of murder end of mass killings murdered
Auschwitz-Birkenau II October 1941 March 1942 November 1944 900,000-1,100,000
Kulmhof October 1941 December 1941 July 1944 more than 150,000
Belzec Nov. 1941 March 1942 December 1942 435,000
Sobibor February 1942 April 1942 October 1943 150,000-250,000
Treblinka June 1942 July 1942 Aug 1943 more than 900,000
Majdanek October 1941 February 1943 July 1944 at least 78,000
Maly Trostinez Nov. 1941 May 1942 June 1944 60,000

Europe-wide extermination of the Jews

Beginning of systematic deportations

date County town aim
October 15, 1941 Vienna Łódź Ghetto
October 16, 1941 Luxembourg, Trier Łódź Ghetto
October 16, 1941 Prague Łódź Ghetto
October 18, 1941 Berlin Łódź Ghetto
November 24, 1941 Prague Theresienstadt
November 25, 1941 Berlin Kaunas, Riga
March 16, 1942 Lublin Belzec
June 30, 1942 Vienna Sobibor
July 17, 1942 France, Belgium, Netherlands Auschwitz
July 22, 1942 Warsaw Auschwitz
March 4, 1943 Thrace, Macedonia, Pirot Treblinka
March 15, 1943 Greece Auschwitz
October 2, 1943 Denmark Theresienstadt
October 17, 1943 Italy Auschwitz
May 15, 1944 Hungary Auschwitz

Benelux countries

Arrest of Emigrated Jews in Amsterdam (June 4, 1940)

The deportation of Jews from Luxembourg began on October 16, 1941, since Luxembourg was tacitly treated as part of the Reich when it came to the Jewish question . By June 17, 1943, 683 Jews of various nationalities were deported from Luxembourg.

In July 1942 the deportations of about 25,000 Jews from Belgium and about 107,000 Jews from the Netherlands began .

Of the 140,000 Dutch Jews, over 110,000 were deported. Over 100,000 were killed; about 6,000 survived. The Netherlands has by far the highest deportation rate in all of Western Europe. For comparison: the abduction rate was 40% in Belgium and Norway, 25% in France, 20% in Italy and 2% in Denmark. Following the German model, the persecution of the Jews began in 1940 with the dismissal of the Jews from public service, led to the registration of all Jews in 1941 and led to social ostracism and a ban on entering public facilities. The deportations finally began in the summer of 1942, and as early as 1943 the Netherlands were considered practically “free of Jews”. The trains rolled into the extermination camps via the police transit camp in Westerbork near the German border. Dutch-born historian Rémy Limpach published a paper in 2007 on how the Netherlands, a country known for its liberal and tolerant traditions, was able to achieve such a high deportation rate.


In Bulgaria , in January 1941, the government introduced the Law for the Protection of the Nation as a racial law against the Jewish population. In the spring of 1943 , at the German request , they released the Jewish population of the Greek regions of East Macedonia and West Thrace , which they had occupied during the 1941 Balkan campaign , for deportation. At least 11,343 Jewish Greeks were rounded up and extradited by the Bulgarian army and police. Almost all of them were killed in the German concentration camps of Auschwitz and Treblinka. Bulgaria did not follow the German suggestion that the Jewish Bulgarians should also be extradited. King Boris III , Metropolitan Stefan of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church of Sofia , the Bulgarian Parliament and the Bulgarian population unanimously opposed it.


On September 17, 1941, Hitler decided to begin the post-war deportation of all German and European Jews from German-occupied areas to Eastern Europe during the war. Now the first transport trains drove from Berlin, Munich, Vienna and Prague to Łódź , initially to lock 19,000 Jews into the already completely overcrowded ghetto there. From January 1942, non-German ghetto residents were taken to Kulmhof to be gassed. From March onwards, Jews over the age of 65 who had been spared until then had to board the deportation trains. The press was no longer allowed to report on it. In May, large groups of German Jews were also murdered in Minsk and Kulmhof. From June there is evidence of the first direct transports from the Reich to extermination camps such as Sobibor and Belzec.


Capture of Jews in Paris (August 1941)

On March 27, 1942, French Jews were also deported for the first time: a train transported 1,112 people from Compiègne to the Auschwitz concentration camp . In May, Heydrich visited Paris to discuss a major deportation program with the Vichy regime . These included the introduction of the Star of David . On July 16 and 17, the police in Paris arrested about 13,000 Jews without valid passports in a major raid . They were taken on regular trains from the Drancy assembly camp to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they were usually murdered immediately. From August 17, 1942, Jews who had immigrated from the unoccupied zone of France, together with their children, who actually enjoyed legal protection as French citizens, were deported to an Eastern European extermination camp. After the Wehrmacht invaded the previously unoccupied part of France on November 11, 1942 (“ Operation Anton ”), these transports were organized by Eichmann’s followers. French and Italian authorities in the zone around Nice , which was occupied by Italians until September 1943 , often refused extradition; more than half of all French Jews escaped deportation. About 75,000 of them were deported, about 3,000 of them survived.


From 1938 onwards , Italian racial laws discriminated against Jews with the aim of inducing them to emigrate. When Italy entered the war in June 1940, foreign Jews and Jews from the country who were considered dangerous were treated and interned as nationals of enemy states. Until the Cassibile armistice in September 1943, under the rigors of internment and racial laws, Jews lived better in the Italian sphere than Jews anywhere in the Nazi sphere. Italy did not extradite Jews. Officers and diplomats in the Italian-occupied areas of Croatia, Greece and southern France also protected the Jews there from German deportation demands.

After the fall of Mussolini and the armistice of Cassibile, Wehrmacht troops occupied large parts of Italy in September 1943 ( fall of the Axis ). About a month after the occupation, a mobile unit under SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Theodor Dannecker von Eichmann was tasked with the arrest and deportation. The unit conducted several raids, including those captured by Rome on October 16 with 1,259 Jews. Meanwhile, with German help, the Italian Social Republic was constituted and the Italian Jews were declared enemy foreigners in the Charter of Verona. On November 30, 1943, Interior Minister Guido Buffarini-Guidi ordered the arrest and delivery of all Jews to Italian concentration camps. Dannecker was then replaced by the German side and Friedrich Boßhammer organized the final solution to the Jewish question at the BdS Italy in Verona. German transit and transit camps for the deportations in Italy were police detention camps at Borgo San Dalmazzo , transit camps in Fossoli , Risiera di San Sabba and transit camps in Bozen . Over 9,000 Jews were deported between October 1943 and December 1944, most of them to Auschwitz. Until the end of the war, the personnel of “Aktion Reinhard” were active in the Trieste area as a special unit, Einsatz R , which moved from Poland to Italy in September 1943. Murders were still taking place there on April 26, 1945.

For a long time, the participation of the Italian police, the fascist militia and the municipal administrations in the kidnapping was hardly noticed in public perception, research and legal processing due to the Brava Gente myth .


Weeping woman on deportation from Ioannina , Northwest Greece (March 25, 1944)

In Greece , Jews were treated very differently depending on the country of occupation. In the Italian-occupied western part of the country, the authorities protected them until September 1943; In the eastern parts occupied by Germans and Bulgarians, the Jews from several assembly camps were transported from Salonika in 19 freight trains from March 1943, primarily to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp to be murdered. After Italy's capitulation to the Western Allies (September 1943), the Germans sent thousands of other Jews from Corfu and Rhodes , then Italian , to extermination camps at great logistical expense. At least 58,885 Jews from Greece were murdered. There were some rescue operations, for example the rescue of almost all Jews on the island of Zakynthos by the island population or the issuing of false identity cards and birth certificates to Jews by the Athenian authorities.


Entrance to the Jasenovac concentration camp

In what was then the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), the fascist Ustasha regime under Ante Pavelić enacted racial laws against Serbs , Jews and Roma as early as April 1941 , which soon received clothing identification for Jews in the form of a round, yellow emblem with a “Z” for Židov (= Jew) followed. In addition, around 40 concentration and internment camps were set up on the territory of the state . After members of the Serb minority, from August 1941 they also murdered thousands of Croatian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian Jews in camps set up for this purpose. From August 1942, at the insistence of the Germans, they deported 5,500 interned Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau. In May 1943, the transports, which had been suspended under Italian pressure, were resumed. In order to protect the Jews in the Italian-occupied part of Yugoslavia from being murdered, the Italian military, on the orders of Marshall Cavallero , had them interned in the fall of 1942 and brought them to the Kampor concentration camp on the island of Rab in the summer of 1943 , where they settled after the armistice of Cassibile liberated themselves in September 1943 and mostly joined Tito's Yugoslav partisans .

According to Yad Vashem , a total of 30,000 Jews were murdered in the NDH state, around 40% in the Jasenovac concentration camp alone .



Deportation of Jewish Women Supervised by a Romanian Soldier (July 17, 1941)

The Romanian government under Antonescu almost completely exterminated about 350,000 Romanian Jews in the areas it occupied in large mass murders. Only the Jews of Transylvania remained under Hungarian protection until March 1944 , when they too were deported directly to Auschwitz with the Hungarian Jews . In October 1942, the head of state surprisingly stopped the planned deportation of the Jews of old Romania. However, these continued to be subjected to persecution and pogroms .

See also: Curăţirea terenului (Purification of the Land)


After the Balkan campaign , the German military administration set up camps for opponents, partisans and Jews in Serbia . From September 1941, she initiated mass murders of male Jews in the villages. From October 16, hundreds of interned Jews were murdered after every partisan attack. From December 1941, Serbian Jewish women, children and old people were interned in the Sajmište concentration camp . In May 1942, the local Gestapo murdered 6,000 of them with a gas van. The Serbian Nedić collaborationist regime enacted racial laws and was involved in the imprisonment of Jews. The Serbian Volunteer Corps under Dimitrije Ljotić stood by the SS.


Denmark was occupied by the Wehrmacht on April 9, 1940. His democratically elected government was initially allowed to continue working under German occupation. She successfully prevented the introduction of the Star of David and racial laws. As the Danish resistance grew in the summer of 1943, the German military administration decided to deport the Danish Jews. Because the 1st/2nd October 1943, when the date of the arrest was leaked out, 7,200 of them were able to flee in fishing boats to neutral Sweden in time. 483 Danish Jews were deported to Theresienstadt, where all but 50 survived (see Rescue of the Danish Jews ).

In Norway , the collaborationist government under Vidkun Quisling , monitored by Reichskommissar Josef Terboven , did not initially take open action against the Jews. From October 1942 to February 1943, Norwegian and German forces carried out the deportations and Aryanization of assets in rapid, systematic steps. Unlike in the other occupied Western European countries, a Jewish star was not introduced. 734 Norwegian Jews died in Auschwitz.

Finland refused to extradite Finnish Jews. Of these, some fought on the German side against the Soviet Union.


The Slovakian puppet regime formed in March 1939 under Jozef Tiso had already begun in November 1938 with its own deportations of Slovakian Jews to Hungary and to labor camps. At the urging of the Slovak Prime Minister Vojtech Tuka , around 58,000 Slovak Jews were deported to the Lublin district , to Auschwitz and Majdanek from March 1942 under Eichmann's direction. Most died there of starvation, forced labor and epidemics. In August 1942 these transports were temporarily stopped after church protests. Two years later, the Wehrmacht occupied Slovakia; a special task force arrested and deported about 12,000 Slovak Jews who had gone into hiding .

Czech Republic

The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia , established on March 16, 1939, immediately after the destruction of Czechoslovakia , was directly part of the Reich and had only extremely limited self-government. In July, the SS set up the Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Prague , which from 1941 carried out the systematic deportation of Czech Jews to extermination camps. In October 1941, Reinhard Heydrich gave the order to deport all Jews in the Protectorate to the Theresienstadt concentration camp , which was set up as an assembly and transit camp. From December 1941 there was a general ban on leaving the country for Jews. A total of 81,000 Jews from the Czech lands were deported to concentration and extermination camps. Around 10,500 of them survived the war.


Capture of Jews in Budapest for deportation to Auschwitz death camp (October 1944)

Hungary was officially allied with Nazi Germany from late 1940 to October 1944 by joining the Tripartite Pact . It had occupied the Carpathian-Ukraine and was granted the northern part of Transylvania by Hitler in 1940 .

Immediately after the invasion of the Soviet Union (from June 22, 1941), in which Hungary was involved, the government of Miklós Horthy began to drive the Jews from the Hungarian-occupied territories across the eastern borders and to deport them to eastern Galicia . This was a contributory cause of the Kamenetz-Podolsk massacre , where 14,000 deported Hungarian Jews had gathered. After that, Horthy refrained from further deportations, but created battalions of Jewish forced laborers who had to fight with the Hungarian troops against the Red Army. Of these, around 42,000 died, many also as a result of murders by German police officers.

Because Horthy had not yet had the other Hungarian Jews deported, despite the proximity of the Red Army, the Wehrmacht occupied Hungary in March 1944 ( Operation Margarethe ). An SS task force sent on Hitler's orders, the Eichmann Command (named after its leader Adolf Eichmann ), set up ghettos for the Jews with the help of pro-German Hungarian officials and police. From May 15, 1944, a total of 437,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz, first from the peripheral provinces and from July 1944 also from Budapest ; 320,000 of them were directly gassed there. Many corpses were cremated in the open air because the crematoria did not work fast enough. 15,000 Jews were deported to Strasshof an der Nordbahn in Lower Austria , contrary to Hitler's principle of 1941 that no more Jews should be brought into the German Reich .

After massive protests from the western powers and the Vatican , Horthy had the transports interrupted on July 6. Eichmann was then able to carry out a few more transports.

On October 15, the right-wing extremists , with German help, staged a coup against Horthy. They murdered about 9,000 Jews from the Budapest ghetto. Many ghetto residents were temporarily able to survive with Swedish or Swiss protective passports. About 78,000 of the remaining Jews in Hungary were caught and sent by Eichmann on death marches towards Austria. Jews had to do forced labor in camps on the south-east wall . General der Waffen-SS Hans Jüttner was so shocked by what he saw on an inspection drive that he complained to the Higher SS and Police Leader in Hungary, Otto Winkelmann .

final phase

Participants in special action 1005 next to a bone mill in the Janowska concentration camp (summer/autumn 1943)

As early as late 1941, after the lost battle before Moscow , the Holocaust perpetrators in the RSHA were planning to eliminate traces of Nazi mass murder before the Red Army could discover them. From the fall of 1942, bodies were first exhumed and burned in Kulmhof and Belzec. The camp was closed. The buildings and fences of the Treblinka camp had to be demolished by “work Jews”; then they were shot. The land was plowed up and trees were planted on it.

After Wehrmacht soldiers had discovered mass graves of victims of the Soviet Katyn massacre in April 1943 , the RSHA had “Sonderaktion 1005” initiated: several special units forced Jews and Soviet prisoners of war to dig up the mass graves of Jews and burn their corpses, for example in Babyn Yar near Kiev . They had to grind up the bones of murder victims and scatter them in forests along with the ashes of the corpses. In March 1944 these forced laborers were also murdered as unwelcome witnesses. Such cover-up attempts followed in Poland and the Balkans. Since mass shootings and camp locations could hardly be kept secret, almost all mass graves of Nazi crimes were discovered after the end of the war.

After losing the Battle of Stalingrad in March 1943, the Wehrmacht gradually withdrew from Eastern Europe. Under no circumstances should prisoners of the Germans fall into the hands of the Red Army. During the retreat, the security guards, Gestapo and security police carried out many massacres on tens of thousands of prisoners and camp inmates, partly on their own initiative, partly on central orders. On July 20, 1944, the head of the Security Police in the General Government ordered the “total evacuation” of all prisons there, the “liquidation” of the inmates if transport was impossible, the burning of the corpses and the building blown up.

Accordingly, camp administrations and regional police leaders had organized the first transports to the west since December 1943, selecting and directly murdering people who were “unfit for transport”. In January 1945, the "evacuation" of all concentration camps in the east began, which continued until the last days of the war in April. 17,000 people from the Stutthof concentration camp and 58,000 people from Auschwitz had to march west on foot. Anyone who didn't keep up or fell was shot by guards, some of whom were locals, as they passed through a village. Thousands also died during further transport in completely overcrowded trains, as well as in reception camps. Only about 1,500 people from these two death marches reached the Old Reich alive.

During these measures, the roughly 200,000 Jews who had survived the forced labor and extermination camps up to that point were once again treated particularly brutally. It is estimated that around 100,000 people died in death marches and a total of 300,000 in prisoner killings.

From February 1945, the Nazi authorities also had files burned. Gauleiters issued circulars ordering the destruction of "Fuhrer's secret orders" and other secret documents on murder and extermination orders.

Total Numbers of Jewish Victims

Up until 1990, the number of victims of the Holocaust could only be roughly estimated. NS newspapers had often quoted realistic numbers of victims: Der Danziger Vorposten wrote on May 13, 1944 about "severe losses" of Jewry in Eastern Europe. In Poland and Hungary alone, five million Jews were "eliminated" and a further 1½ million were exposed to corresponding "legal measures". In the Nuremberg trial of the main war criminals in 1946, the approximate figure of six million murdered Jews was mentioned for the first time. In an affidavit, Wilhelm Höttl , who worked in the Reich Security Main Office until 1945 , said that Eichmann had reported to him:

"About four million Jews were killed in the various death camps, while a further two million died in other ways, most of them being shot by the Einsatzkommandos of the Security Police during the campaign against Russia."

However, Holocaust researchers initially assumed that fewer Jews were murdered between 1939 and 1945: Gerald Reitlinger estimated the number at 4.2 to 4.7 million in 1953, and Raul Hilberg in 1961 at 5.1 million. Martin Gilbert came up with 5.7 million in 1982. In 1987, the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust , written by an international collective of authors, compiled the most accurate estimates possible at the time from many individual countries and came up with about 5.6 million.

The release of Soviet archives since 1990 has made it possible to check the previously uncertain number of victims for Poland and the Soviet Union, for example using deportation lists, train timetables and lists of members of Jewish communities before and after the Holocaust. It turned out that the number of victims in the Auschwitz concentration camp was lower than previously assumed, but that 1.1 million people, including at least 900,000 Jews, had been murdered there alone.

In Dimension des Genocides (published in 1991, 2nd edition 1996), Wolfgang Benz dealt with all sources, methods of evaluation and calculation of the number of victims that have been available since 1990. In 2002, Burkhard Asmuss published a list with some rough estimates. Overall, a total of at least 5.6 to 6.3 million murdered Jewish people was confirmed. There are also figures for injured and displaced persons.

In December 2010, the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem named more than four million victims in its personal file, i.e. as identified. 2.2 million of these names were contributed by relatives or friends, the others come from archives or research.

country Dimension of Genocide (2/1996) Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (4/2002) Burkhard Asmuss (1/2002)
Albania 3 4 591 3
Belgium 28,518 28,900 25,000
Bulgaria 1 11,393
Denmark 3 116 60 3
Germany 2 160,000 134,500 165,000
Estonia 1,000
France 76,134 77,320 75,000
Greece 59,185 60,000 59,000
Italy 6,513 7,680 7,000
Yugoslavia 60,000 56,200 65,000
Latvia 67,000
Lithuania 160,000
Luxembourg 3 1,200 1,950 3
Netherlands 102,000 100,000 102,000
Norway 3 758 762 3
Austria 65,900 50,000 65,000
Poland 2,700,000 2,900,000 3,000,000
Romania 211.214 271,000 350,000
Soviet Union 2,100,000 1,211,500 1,000,000
Czechoslovakia 143,000 146,150 260,000
Hungary 550,000 550,000 270,000
other countries 3 2,800
cocking 5 6,276,522-6,316,522 5,596,022 - 5,863,122 5,673,800

Remarks :
No information: —

1According to Asmuss ( Holocaust ), the numbers refer to Jews from Bulgarian occupied territories; all Bulgarian Jews were saved.
2Benz ( dimension of the genocide ) gives 165,000 as a realistic estimate.
3 Asmuss summarizes the victims from Albania, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and North Africa in a number under "other countries".
4 Deported to Asmus
5 guaranteed minimum number and probable maximum number.


The Holocaust was not a project of a single authority and was not only carried out by certain perpetrators commissioned to do so, but was made possible, supported, planned, organized and carried out by many institutions from all areas of German society. Since the research of Raul Hilberg , bureaucratic decision-making processes, division of labor, responsibilities and their interaction have been examined, but also common interests, ideological consensus and practical alliances between old and new elites, leadership and populations.

Historians today assume that there were up to 500,000 people involved in the murder of the Jews “at their desks as well as on the scenes”, mostly male, Germans and Austrians, as well as another several hundred thousand collaborators from the states occupied by Germany or allied with it. The main perpetrators were members of all power pillars of the Nazi state:

  • Hitler and the inner circle of leaders of the Nazi regime, who determined the guidelines for the policy of annihilation and translated them into general orders and ordinances,
  • the mass party NSDAP, which unfolded the hate propaganda, which prepared and accompanied the Holocaust, whose Gauleiter and Ortsgruppen leaders promoted the disenfranchisement and deportation of the Jews and other victim groups in their area, whose SA and Hitler Youth participated directly in persecution and murder actions in the pre-war period (e.g Jew boycotts 1933ff., November pogroms 1938) and towards the end of the war (final phase crimes against concentration camp prisoners on death marches, etc.);
  • the SS as an elite terrorist organization personally committed to the "Führer" whose widely ramified subdivisions carried out the racist population and extermination policy in the conquered and annexed areas and organized the corresponding camp and ghetto system there. Here not only the task forces, but also the police battalions and their respective superiors, the higher SS and police leaders and the SS main offices - especially the Reich Security Main Office - are assigned primary responsibility for the mass murders.
  • the Gestapo, law enforcement, security and criminal police : they were supposed to track down, monitor and “eliminate” as many “enemies of the Reich and the people” as possible and work together with the SS.
  • the Wehrmacht: Their high command and generals supported the annihilation goals of the war against the Soviet Union, implemented them in orders that violate international law and helped in many ways with the extermination of the Jews, for example by making soldiers available for mass shootings, forcing Jews to be marked in occupied territories, and separating out Jewish prisoners of war and had Jews murdered as partisans or murdered them themselves.
  • many business and industrial associations and companies that benefited from and participated in the Aryanization, forced labor and the development of the extermination industry in the camps
  • the civilian and military occupation administrations, especially in Eastern Europe, which organized the economic exploitation and racist population policies in their areas, carried out some of them in a race to "dejudaize" them and put pressure on the Berlin central authorities to do so. The Reich Ministry for the occupied eastern territories under Alfred Rosenberg in Berlin was responsible, the so-called East Ministry, which was also responsible for the Reich Commissariat Ostland , for example .
  • the staff of many state and administrative authorities who were involved in the persecution, exclusion, deportation and extermination of the Jews with laws, regulations, administrative acts and specific measures: "There was hardly an authority […] that was not 'officially' was responsible for the 'solution' of a 'Jewish matter'."

The following groups of perpetrators are considered to be indirect, but no less responsible for this:

  • Scientific institutes, universities and faculties that – e.g. B. in medicine, ethnology and spatial planning - provided ideological reasons with interest-led research, drew up plans, awarded orders and - for example by removing corpses for "anatomical race studies" or of living prisoners for human experiments - participated in murder operations.
  • the churches, which made their baptismal and marriage registers available for recording the "non-Aryans", themselves created " Aryan proofs " and mostly exonerated the perpetrators morally.
  • Sections of the population in the German Reich and in the occupied territories who supported the persecution of the Jews.

Knowledge of the Holocaust during the Nazi era

Deutsches Reich

NS propaganda pursued a dual strategy in public: on the one hand, the spokesmen of the NS dictatorship spoke openly about “the Jewish question”, about the extermination and annihilation of the Jews, and on the other hand they deliberately left open when and how this would happen. Ambiguous rhetoric was intended to keep the Germans in the dark about what actually happened. The increasing persecution of Jews in Europe happened before everyone's eyes. The deportations took place in public squares and train stations, but were presented as “relocations” to labor camps. With regard to the extermination actions, the regime ordered the strictest secrecy, SS members were forbidden to report on it under threat of death .

The isolation, disenfranchisement, impoverishment and gradual disappearance of the Jews from social life in the German Reich were obvious. The deportations were accepted by most Germans. As the Holocaust progressed, more and more details leaked out; secrecy could at times not be strictly enforced and violators sometimes went unpunished. Some Germans learned from soldiers on home leave, by listening to enemy radio stations , through “ whispered propaganda ” ( Hannah Arendt ) that “resettlement” actually meant mass murder. The resistance fighter Helmuth James Graf von Moltke wrote in 1943: “At least nine tenths of the population does not know that we killed hundreds of thousands of Jews.” But even the tenth that received more detailed information – with a few exceptions – did nothing about it. Not knowing and not wanting to know about the Holocaust merged.


Since 1933, foreign countries have criticized National Socialist domestic policies, especially the persecution of Jews and other minorities. However, the immigration quotas for the Jewish refugees in the USA remained unchanged. At the Évian Conference initiated by US President Roosevelt in July 1938, almost no participating state was willing to take in Jewish refugees or increase their immigration quotas.

After the beginning of the war, criticism from the Allies intensified ; nevertheless, the European Jews were not evacuated extensively in advance of the advancing Axis forces. From 1941 onwards, the Allies became aware of the Nazi regime's systematic policy of extermination by decoding the codes for the regular police reports to Berlin. They condemned them extremely sharply and used them to justify their war strategy. In mid-December 1942, the United States, Great Britain and ten other governments warned the German government that "those responsible would not escape retaliation" ( Inter-Allied Declaration on the Extermination of the Jews , December 17, 1942). However, they did not take specific measures to end or stop the Holocaust. Since the USA entered the war, their warfare has been aimed at the complete surrender of the Nazi regime.

When the first news about the mass extermination, such as an article in the Daily Telegraph written by Szmul Zygielbojm about the gassing of Jews, was published, the US State Department tried to suppress its publication. Under pressure from public opinion, an international conference met again in Bermuda in April 1943 to discuss solutions for refugees. Like the pre-war Évian Conference, it was fruitless. Only after the intervention of Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau did Roosevelt announce the creation of the War Refugee Board on January 22, 1944 . This body contributed to the rescue of several thousand Jews.

The British government obstructed and in individual cases withheld possible assistance. When in December 1942 some British MPs demanded that Jewish refugees be promised safe refuge, the British Foreign Secretary refused on the grounds that there were "security concerns" and "geographical problems". At the beginning of 1943 it became known that 70,000 Romanian Jews could have been saved in Switzerland if a certain sum had been deposited. However, the government blocked the plan because it feared it would weaken its own position and strengthen Germany's.

The Soviet authorities handed over German Jews - including many communists who had sought refuge in the Soviet Union - to the Nazis after the conclusion of the Hitler-Stalin Pact in August 1939. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the particular danger posed to Soviet Jews was not taken into account. The Soviet reporting kept silent about the German policy of extermination. It is estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 Jews were active in partisan groups across Europe. In German-occupied Poland and the Soviet Union, thousands fled to the swamps or forests and joined the partisans, although not all partisan groups welcomed Jews.

resistance and rescue attempts


Jewish partisan group in Belarus (1943)

On December 31, 1941, Abba Kovner issued a flyer calling on Jews all over the world to resist and criticized the victims for being led “like sheep to the slaughterhouse”. This created the stubborn cliché of the unresisting behavior of all victims. Research has only differentiated and corrected this picture since the 1980s.

Only a few Jews suspected the extent of what was happening. Many considered information about mass extermination camps, which were increasingly circulating in the ghettos of Poland , Lithuania and Belarus around 1942/43 , to be just rumours. An extermination plan against all Jews seemed unbelievable to most at first because of the dimensions. Many believed they could at least survive as slave laborers until the Germans were defeated.

A counterexample and an impetus for the Jewish resistance as a whole was the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto from April 19 to May 16, 1943. This was organized by the Jewish combat organization "ZOB" when the National Socialists completely dissolved the ghetto and all remaining Jews in the extermination camps, especially to Treblinka , wanted to deport. At the risk of their lives, couriers had smuggled weapons into the sealed-off Jewish ghetto. In this way, the underground organization was initially able to inflict high casualties on the invading SS clearance squads and put them to flight. When the SS returned with tanks and artillery , the Jewish resistance groups held out for about four weeks despite their superior strength in house fighting . In the end they had to give up and were mostly shot. Only a few participants were able to escape through sewers.

The photo of the boy from the Warsaw Ghetto , considered one of the most famous photographs of the Holocaust, was probably taken during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Resistance groups also formed in other Jewish ghettos, which helped ghetto residents to flee and individual revolts began, for example in Białystok and Vilnius . There were also uprisings by Jewish prisoners in some camps, such as the Treblinka uprising of around 400 prisoners on August 2, 1943, which led to a mass flight of Jewish camp inmates and was intended to destroy the camp. On October 14, 1943, Soviet Jewish prisoners of war led the Sobibór Uprising in eastern Poland. Those involved killed nine members of the guards , causing a mass uprising by the prisoners. 65 Jewish prisoners managed to escape. At the end of 1943, the National Socialists gave up the camp.

There were around 700 escape attempts from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, of which around 300 were successful. On October 7, 1944, there was an uprising by the Jewish special commando that was deployed at the incinerators for the gassed corpses. Part of crematorium IV was destroyed with explosives smuggled in by women. 250 prisoners tried to escape but were soon caught and killed.

Thousands of Jews in hiding were involved in partisan warfare against the German occupiers across Europe, particularly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, the Balkans, the Soviet Union and Greece. In Eastern Europe, especially in Catholic Poland, Jews who had escaped from concentration camps and ghettos were rarely able to join existing partisan groups, since some Nazi opponents there were also anti-Semites. Therefore, their own Jewish partisan units were formed there, which, despite their initial inexperience, were soon regarded as particularly determined and motivated fighters against the Germans. The advancing Red Army then supplied them with weapons, in some cases preferentially, especially for the “ rail war ” with attacks and sabotage actions against Wehrmacht rail transports to the Eastern Front. During " Operation Torch " , Jewish resistance fighters stormed the Algiers fortress , which was considered impregnable , from the inside and thus made a decisive contribution to the landing of the Allies and their subsequent successful campaign against the German Wehrmacht in North Africa.

Many Jews who were able to emigrate to safe foreign countries in the 1930s and at the beginning of the war joined the Allied troops there. "Hundreds of thousands of Jews managed to flee into the interior of the Soviet Union." Of the Jews who remained under National Socialist occupation, around 1.5 million were victims of mass murder. Many armies had their own Jewish units, such as the Jewish Brigade in the British Army . 10,000 German-speaking Jews fought there, around 9,500 in the US armed forces. 350,000 to 500,000 Jews fought in various, often leading positions in the Red Army in the German-Soviet war, including many women. This meant that every fourth soldier in the Red Army was of Jewish background. Their magazine, edited by the "Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee," wrote, in Yiddish, that the war was Far zayn foterland un zayn yidishn folk . Towards the end of the war, the Jewish escape aid movement Beriha (Hebrew "escape") was founded, with the help of which around 250,000 Jews were able to flee from Eastern European countries between 1944 and 1948. After the war, German Jews who had emigrated often served the Allies as translators in occupied Germany. It is estimated that up to 1.5 million Jews across Europe were involved in regular military and partisan combat against the Nazi regime.

In Berlin, the Zionist group Chug Chaluzi tried to find escape routes abroad or to organize the life of illegal Jews by procuring and distributing ration cards, forged identity papers and money.

Gentile Germans

Occasionally, non-Jewish Germans also took a stand against the planned and ongoing genocide of the Jews. Such rescue actions were associated with constant mortal danger and were rare.

The German industrialist Oskar Schindler saved 1,200 Jewish forced laborers from annihilation in the German Reich by declaring them to be important for his business until the end of the war and by personally paying for their upkeep.

The Berlin group known as the Red Orchestra also hid Jews and helped them get false passports with which they could emigrate. The Grüber office of the Confessing Church has been helping Christians of Jewish origin since 1938 , but also Jews to emigrate. There was also a similar contact point on the Catholic side.

On February 27, 1943, the spouses and relatives of "mixed Jews" who were employed as forced laborers in Berlin armaments factories and were now to be deported, gathered in front of the Gestapo headquarters on Berlin's Rosenstrasse. This was the only public protest demonstration during the war against deportation that was also successful: the people imprisoned were released.

The hiding of Jewish residents during the Nazi era to save them from deportation led to the idiom "living as a U-boat". Some of the people concerned tried to make this disappearance plausible by faking suicide or by announcing a trip. The disappearance from the list of residents could have serious consequences for the person designated as the submarine and for their helpers.

In case of discovery, the person was arrested without a valid residence permit. However, she could not count on legal proceedings, and as a rule became a prisoner in a concentration camp. Before that, however, came a period of interrogation and torture by the Gestapo , who were looking for more "U-boats" in this way. Should the connection to other helpers become known, these were also massively endangered. The legal or factual threats could differ according to Reich territory or occupation statute and according to the position of the respective person in relation to the occupying power, the police or the NSDAP offices.

In Germany there were relatively many local covert networks of helpers who helped people in need (refugees, especially Jews). The refugees often had with them addresses of people they did not know, but who they knew through others who would help them on their escape. The refugees were then often given another address by these helpers as a new point of contact on their way. As a rule, it was private individuals who, out of their conscience, hid people on the run or otherwise helped them and did not take into account that they and their families could expect bad things if they were discovered. Such networks have emerged partly from the persecuted political parties and organizations and partly from Christian groups. In many cases, people acted in favor of these escape networks because relatives had already died at the hands of the NSDAP or Gestapo agencies and they therefore possibly underestimated their own lives or out of a deep, inner humanism, which the propaganda of the Nazis, which has been going on for years had not shaken the National Socialists: more in-depth scientific investigations are still required.

It was difficult for a person to go into hiding in a country marked by a war economy. Groceries were not available on the open market, but only against sections of ration cards that required eligibility and verification. Carrying luggage could immediately arouse suspicion during checks. Staying longer than usual in a restaurant, library or cinema could trigger questions about identity. The Gestapo tried to smuggle informers into networks - a well-known example of this is Stella Goldschlag .

Occupied or Allied States

A small number of Jews were rescued because the governments of their home countries refused to yield to the German Reich's demands for their extradition.

Finland , Germany's ally in the war against the Soviet Union since 1941 , did not hand over most of its Jews, although Himmler had demanded this from the Finnish government during a stay in Finland in the summer of 1942. Prime Minister Rangell reportedly replied that Finland's Jews were citizens like everyone else and also served as soldiers in the war against the Soviet Union. However, this practice was discontinued as early as December 1942 after newspapers and some politicians protested against it. Jewish refugees were temporarily denied entry to Finland; but the approximately 1,800 Finnish Jews escaped the grasp of the Germans. However, some foreign Jews were extradited because they were communists. Recent research revealed that Finland handed over a total of 129 refugees to the German Reich from 1941 to 1944, as well as over 2,800 Soviet prisoners of war, 78 of whom were Jews.

Boat with Jews crossing from Falster to Ystad in Sweden, September/October 1943

In Denmark , King Christian X took the side of the Jews when the German occupation authorities tried to force them to wear the Jewish star. The German Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz warned the Danish resistance of imminent SS raids . In September and October 1943, with the help of large sections of the population, it was then possible to smuggle most of the approximately 6,000 Jews living in the country into neutral Sweden , which was willing to accept them. As a result of diplomatic pressure from the Danes, Adolf Eichmann received the life-saving promise on November 2, 1943 that the deported Jews from Denmark should not be transported from Theresienstadt to the extermination camps .

In Italy, the Jewish Delegazione per l'Assistenza degli Emigrant Ebrei ( DELASEM ) initially supported foreign and Italian Jews in the internment camps and when leaving for safe countries. After the occupation of Italy in September 1943, they had to go underground and, with the support of priests, partisans and police officers, provided the persecuted Jews with forged papers, money and accommodation. While the attitude of the Church and of Pope Pius XII. is viewed critically during the Holocaust, individual clergymen, cardinals, monastic fraternities and convents unselfishly helped the Jews.

The example of Bulgaria - also an ally of Germany - proves that determined resistance could successfully thwart German plans. About 50,000 Jews were saved here thanks to the firm stance of the government and the population.

In Poland, in addition to people who handed over Jews - many of them to survive themselves - there were some groups (including Catholic ones) such as the Żegota who helped the Jews, although, unlike in Western Europe, the individual helpers were not only punished with the death penalty , but also regularly threatened his family or the whole village. More than half a million Polish Jews survived the Holocaust, many with help from the public. Many Poles were appalled by the murder of Jewish children and hid them, for example, in the countryside, with the partisans or in Catholic monasteries. The Poles represent more than a third of all those honored as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem .


Neutral Switzerland , surrounded by the Axis powers , did not extradite Jews with Swiss citizenship. During the war, it legally took in tens of thousands of refugees, including many Jews; many more managed to cross the border illegally and were kept in the country by the authorities (tolerated) or by private individuals (illegal). A total of 275,000 refugees survived in Switzerland, including 26,000 Jews who had fled to Switzerland from abroad. However, a large, unknown number of refugees were turned back at the border or those who had entered the country illegally were handed over to the National Socialists.

Switzerland was repeatedly asked by Germany not to take in any more Jews and to hand over escaped Jews. At least the latter demand was not met. During the war, Switzerland tried to find a balance between its humanitarian principles (taking in refugees) and military self-protection interests (minimizing invasion intentions on the part of the National Socialists).

Liberation of the camps by the Allies and confrontation of the population

A Train Compartment of the Death Train from Buchenwald (April 29, 1945)

Survivors in the camps were liberated at very different times according to the progress of the Allied attacks against the Hitler coalition . As examples, concentration camps are given here that were reached first by one of the Allies in his front section.


  • July 23: The Red Army liberated the Majdanek concentration camp as the first of the large concentration camps or extermination camps in German-occupied Poland.
  • In August 1944, Western journalists were also able to report from the Majdanek concentration camp for the first time (cover stories in Life Magazine on August 28 and in the New York Times on August 30, 1944).


In the East:

  • January 27: The concentration camp Auschwitz-Monowitz was liberated in the morning, the main camp Auschwitz I and the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in the early afternoon by the soldiers of the Soviet 322nd Division.

In the West:

In the months that followed, most of the former concentration camp prisoners who were still alive were returned to their home towns/countries (keywords Displaced Persons – DP camps). After the harsh winter of 1945/1946, groups of DPs remained homeless in Germany for a variety of reasons and were no longer repatriated.

Almost everywhere in the liberated camps, prisoner associations were formed , which initially performed important social (survival) functions for the fellow prisoners.

In some cases, the Allied troops confronted the local population with what was happening in the concentration camps, and documentary films such as Nazi Concentration Camps (1945) were made.


Memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Hall of Remembrance

traumatization of the survivors

Many survivors of the death camps and people who were able to escape the threat of murder by fleeing or other circumstances suffered and still suffer from post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst William Niederland coined the term survivor syndrome in the 1960s . For some Holocaust survivors it was and is not possible to speak about their experiences in the death camps, others reported and report as contemporary witnesses in the Auschwitz trials. The consequences of trauma are known in the context of transgenerational transmission up to the second and third generation, so they can affect the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the survivors.

Legal processing

The full extent of the National Socialist crimes first came to light when Allied troops liberated the areas in which the concentration and extermination camps were located. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Allies had agreed not only on demilitarization but also on the thorough " denazification " of Germany for the period after their victory and confirmed this decision at the Potsdam Conference at the end of July 1945.

Punishment of Nazi crimes began with the Nuremberg Trials opened by the Allied powers and the subsequent trials between 1945 and 1948, most notably the Nuremberg Trials of the Major War Criminals .

Since 1945, a total of 912 trials have been conducted in West Germany against 1,875 people for Nazi homicides committed during World War II. Of the accused, 14 were sentenced to death, 150 to life imprisonment and 842 to limited-term imprisonment.

From 1949, after the founding of the two German states, criminal prosecution became their responsibility. However, it soon came to a standstill as a result of the Cold War . At the same time, however, the annulment of unjust Nazi verdicts and the German policy of reparations , particularly with regard to expropriated victims, were pursued.

In the GDR , a number of show trials took place against subordinate functionaries of the Nazi regime, in which it was less about their individual responsibility and more about assigning blame to the West German side. Former NSDAP members could have a career in the GDR as long as they recognized the sole rule of the SED.

In the Federal Republic of Germany , the less vigorous prosecution is often explained by a lack of interest among the population or the influence of former NSDAP members in the state and administration. The initiative to track down Holocaust perpetrators was largely left to private individuals such as Simon Wiesenthal and Beate Klarsfeld .

It was not until 1958 that the West German judiciary began to prosecute Nazi crimes on a larger scale as a result of the Ulm Einsatzgruppen process and the founding of the Central Office of the State Judicial Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes. At that time, the President of the International Auschwitz Committee , Hermann Langbein , and the Hessian Attorney General, Fritz Bauer , succeeded in pursuing a criminal complaint filed by Adolf Rögner . It led to the arrest of former SS man and torturer Wilhelm Boger .

After the Israeli secret service Mossad kidnapped Adolf Eichmann from Argentina to Jerusalem in 1960, the internationally acclaimed Eichmann trial took place there in 1961 . The process observer Hannah Arendt described Eichmann's bureaucratic coldness in her book " Eichmann in Jerusalem " as "the banality of evil" and thus promoted the discussion about the perpetrator's motives in the Federal Republic. Eichmann was sentenced to death and hanged in 1962.

After many years of investigations by Bauer, the main proceedings of the Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt am Main were opened in 1963. The reports of witnesses and the large media response to these trials made many Germans aware of the Nazi crimes, but also increased public demands for a “ line to the bottom ”. The accused in the Auschwitz trials showed no sign of remorse and always referred to the so-called “ state of emergency ”. Her defense attorneys and part of the media tried to discredit the trials as " show trials ".

Since the statute of limitations for Nazi crimes was originally 20 years from the time of the crime in 1945, a statute of limitations debate erupted in the German Bundestag in 1965 . First, the statute of limitations was postponed to 1969, based on the founding year of the Federal Republic of Germany, 1949. In 1969 the statute of limitations was extended by ten years, and in 1979 it was lifted for murder and genocide.

In the following trials (as with many major crimes) only the perpetrators directly responsible for the crime, lower in the chain of command, were prosecuted. The last major trials against Nazi perpetrators were the Majdanek Trials from 1975 to 1981 before the Düsseldorf Regional Court . Eight of the original 15 accused were convicted, seven of them to prison terms of between three and twelve years and one to life imprisonment. The verdict sparked global protests.

In Austria, war crimes of the Nazi era were rarely prosecuted. Only 20 people have been sentenced in Austria since 1955, 23 have been acquitted. A critical memorandum by Simon Wiesenthal on how the Austrian authorities dealt with Nazi crimes had no effect.


The Allied military administrations for occupied Germany and Austria – as well as the later governments of the Federal Republic, the GDR and Austria – issued regulations that suspended all measures taken by the Hitler regime to disenfranchise and dispossess the Jews. There was no full compensation, at least for the material losses of those affected. Numerous survivors of the death camps and their legal heirs had to sue for the restitution of property or compensation payments before German and Austrian courts, some of them for decades.

The government of the GDR declared itself to be in an anti-fascist tradition. Until shortly before German reunification, she rejected all claims that could arise from the actions of the German Reich. According to the Federal German view, however, the Federal Republic is the legal successor of the Reich. Under the first chancellor , Konrad Adenauer , this led to a reparation policy that at least partially provided for collective compensation.

In negotiations with David Ben-Gurion , Adenauer agreed on support payments for the state of Israel, which was regarded as the legal successor to the murdered Jews. These payments were not least in the interest of the Federal Republic, which wanted to be a respected member of the international community. The so-called compensation payments have been rejected by German right-wing extremists to this day. But they also met with severe criticism (“blood money”) in Israel.

According to the Federal Ministry of Finance , by the end of 2010 the Federal Republic had paid around 68 billion euros in compensation for Nazi injustice, including lifelong pensions for around 29,000 survivors of Nazi persecution.

Church processing

First declarations in the EKD after the end of the war, such as the Stuttgart Confession of Guilt (October 1945) and the Darmstädter Wort (1947) did not name the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism, but spoke of Christian complicity in the World War, in the rise and crimes of National Socialism. Even these general statements triggered widespread public outrage and violent opposition in West Germany and met with little approval. In a word on the Jewish question (1948), the EKD leadership even interpreted the "Jewish fate" as God's punishment as a warning to Jews and as an admonition to them to become Christians. It was not until 1950 that the EKD distanced itself from this view and from anti-Semitism. In the 1960s, an intensive discussion began, which, since the Rhenish Synodal Declaration of 1980 , has been reflected in numerous state church commitments to God’s “uncancelled covenant” with the people of Israel and in constitutional changes by the state churches: without Jewish life, being a Christian would itself be called into question.

Inside and outside of the Catholic Church , the behavior of Pope Pius XII. controversial to this day during the Holocaust. On the one hand, he had campaigned for the rescue of the Roman Jews, on the other hand, he remained silent about the Holocaust, even though the facts had become known to him. Critical confrontation with one's own guilt for anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism and with the responsibility of Catholics for the Holocaust only began after Pius' death in 1958. His successor John XXIII. addressed the Jews as “brothers” for the first time in the history of the papacy. In 1965, the Second Vatican Council , which he initiated , passed the declaration Nostra aetate , which rejected the theory of deicide , recognized the independence of Judaism and declared combating anti-Semitism a Christian duty.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum , Washington, DC, since 1993

root cause analysis

denial and belittlement

Immediately after the end of the war, anti-Semites and historical revisionists began either to deny or to relativize, and sometimes even to glorify, the Holocaust. Holocaust denial is a basic tendency in right- wing extremism , is also represented by parts of the New Right , Islamism and anti-Zionism and has developed into an internationally networked current. Antisemitism research classifies denial and relativization as secondary antisemitism .

Denial of the Holocaust is punishable in the Federal Republic of Germany as incitement of the people under Section 130, Paragraph 3 of the Penal Code , and as denigration of the memory of the deceased under Section 189 of the Penal Code. Similar laws against Holocaust denial exist in several other states.

admonition and reminder

Memorial stone for Margot and Anne Frank in the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

Various Holocaust memorial days are celebrated around the world every year, e.g. B. In mid-April in Israel as the national holiday of Yom Hasho'ah on the 27th of Nissan in the Jewish calendar : the sirens wail throughout the country and the nation stands still for a minute. About 179,000 Holocaust survivors lived in Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021.

Today numerous memorials and museums around the world commemorate the Holocaust (see list of memorials for the victims of National Socialism ). In addition, initiatives and organizations at the most varied of levels and with the most varied of means make their contribution to remembering and coming to terms with the Holocaust. Some of these reconciliation initiatives are, for example, the Reconciliation Campaign and the Austrian Memorial Services .

The most important Holocaust memorial is Yad Vashem in Jerusalem , where, among other things, the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations is located. In Germany and the formerly German-occupied territories, the memorial sites on the grounds of the former concentration camps are of particular importance, in particular the Polish State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau . Significant institutions include the documentation center of the Association of Jewish Victims of the Nazi Regime in Vienna, the US Holocaust Memorial in Washington, DC, the Hungarian Documentation Center in Budapest, the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, which was dedicated in 2005. The JewishGen database opens up genealogical insights. In many European cities there are also so-called stumbling blocks , which individually commemorate the victims of the National Socialists.

In May 2021, the first public documentation on the Holocaust on the Arabian Peninsula opened in Dubai ( United Arab Emirates ) with the permanent exhibition "We Remember" in the Museum Crossroads of Civilisation.

In Germany, January 27 has been a day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism since 1996 . “On January 27, 1945, the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by Russian soldiers. Auschwitz symbolizes the murder of millions of people – primarily of Jews, but also of other ethnic groups. It stands for brutality and inhumanity , for persecution and oppression, for the 'annihilation' of people organized in perverse perfection Victims of the Holocaust . It has been celebrated worldwide since 2006.

The project A Letter To The Stars was initiated in spring 2002 and is an important contemporary history project in schools in the Republic of Austria. In 2008 contemporary witnesses and survivors from Israel were invited to many school locations. In Serbia , April 22 is a national day of remembrance of the genocide of Serbs, the Holocaust and other victims of fascism .

Gravestone at the Jewish cemetery in Hagen in Bremen with an inscription referring to the Holocaust

Since 2006 (France) and 2008 (Germany), the traveling exhibition Special Trains to Death has commemorated the deportation of hundreds of thousands of people with the former Reichsbahn to the Nazi concentration and extermination camps, primarily in train stations.

The memorial book – Victims of the persecution of the Jews under the National Socialist tyranny 1933-1945 is a list of names published by the German Federal Archives that lists people who fell victim to the Nazi persecution of the Jews because of their real or supposed Jewish religion or origin. In addition to the printed edition, there has also been an online edition since 2007.

Artistic processing

"The Ramp" memorial by ER Nele in Kassel
  • The sculptress ER Nele dealt with the subject of the Holocaust several times in her work . The memorial "Die Rampe" (K 18 during Documenta VII) is in Kassel.


The main article list mentions a great many titles; of about 70 documentaries and even more feature films and series, in the chronological order of their creation. Most films deal with individual aspects. André Singer's and Claude Lanzmann's documentaries try to depict the overall events with very different stylistic devices. The situation of the Russian population and the Russian prisoners of war in Germany is often ignored, hence the title here. So here is just a short selection from the list:


overall representations

Persecution of the Jews from 1933

concentration and extermination camps

single regions

decision-making process

perpetrators and accomplices

  • Rainer C. Baum: The Holocaust and the German Elite. Genocide and National Suicide in Germany, 1871-1945. Rowman and Littlefield, Totowa, London 1981, ISBN 0-7099-0656-0 .
  • Daniel Goldhagen : Hitler's willing executors. Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. Goldmann, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-442-15088-4 .
  • Raul Hilberg: perpetrators, victims, spectators. The Extermination of the Jews 1933-1945. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-596-13216-9 .
  • Richard Rhodes: The German Murderers. The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Holocaust. Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2004, ISBN 3-7857-2183-8 .
  • Karin Orth : The concentration camp SS. Socio-structural analyzes and biographical studies. DTV, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-423-34085-1 .
  • Peter Longerich: "We didn't know anything about that." The Germans and the persecution of the Jews 1933-1945. Settlers, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-88680-843-2 .
  • Bernward Dörner : The Germans and the Holocaust. What nobody wanted to know, but everyone could know. Propylaea, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-549-07315-5 .
  • Michael Wildt : People's community as self-empowerment. Violence against Jews in the German provinces from 1919 to 1939. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-936096-74-3 .
  • Klaus Kellmann: Dimensions of Complicity. European collaboration with the Third Reich. Böhlau, Vienna 2019, ISBN 978-3-205-20053-6 .


  • Wolfgang Benz (ed.): Dimension of the genocide. The number of Jewish victims of National Socialism. DTV, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-423-04690-2 .
  • Alexandra Rossberg, Johan Lansen (eds.): Breaking the silence. Berlin lessons on the late effects of the Shoah. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-518-39231-X .
  • Claude Lanzmann : Shoah. Nevertheless, Grafenau 1999, ISBN 3-922209-87-4 (interviews with survivors; companion book to Lanzmann's film documentation on DVD).
  • Martin Doerry (ed.): Monika breeding (photographs): Nowhere and everywhere at home. Conversations with survivors of the Holocaust. DVA, 2006, ISBN 3-421-04207-1 .

resistance and relief actions

Jews as groups of people

  • Michael Berger , Gideon Römer-Hillebrecht (eds.): Jewish soldiers - Jewish resistance in Germany and France. Schöningh Verlag, Paderborn 2012, ISBN 978-3-506-77177-3 .
  • Arno Funeral : To the fight for life and death. The Book of Jewish Resistance 1933-1945. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2002, ISBN 3-89996-269-9 .
  • Wilfried Löhken, Werner Vathke (eds.): Jews in resistance. Three groups between struggle for survival and political action, Berlin 1939-1945. Edition Hentrich, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-89468-068-7 .

Gentile Germans

  • Kurt R. Grossmann : The unsung heroes. People in Germany's Dark Days. arani Verlags-Gesellschaft, Berlin 1961 (new edition: Ullstein, 1984, ISBN 3-548-33040-1 ).
  • Anton M. germ (ed.): Benyamin Z. Barslai: Yad Vashem: The Jews rescuers from Germany. 2nd edition, Matthias-Gruenewald, 1984, ISBN 3-7867-1085-6 .
  • Wolfram Wette (ed.): Civil courage. Outraged, helpers and rescuers from the Wehrmacht, police and SS. Fischer paperback publisher, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-596-15852-4 .
  • Center for Research on Antisemitism at the TU Berlin (ed.): Solidarity and help for Jews during the Nazi era. Metropol, Berlin 1996 ff. (seven volumes so far).


  • Carol Rittner, Sondra Myers: The Courage to Care: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust. New York University Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8147-7397-4 .
  • Nechama Tec: When light pierced the darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1986, ISBN 0-19-503643-3 .
  • Alexander Bronowski: There were so few. Savior in the Holocaust. (1991) Haenssler, 2002, ISBN 3-7751-3811-0 .
  • Wolfram bet (ed.): Silent heroes. Rescuers of Jews in the border triangle during the Second World War. Herder paperback, Freiburg 2005, ISBN 3-451-05461-2 .
  • Franz Severin Berger, Christiane Holler, Holly Elder: Survive in hiding. fate in the Nazi era. Ueberreuter, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-8000-3836-6 .

Legal processing

  • The trial of the major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal. Nuremberg November 14, 1945 – October 1, 1946. 23 volumes. Nuremberg 1947.
  • Hermann Langbein : The Auschwitz Trial. A documentation. 2 volumes. Europe, Vienna 1965.


  • Stefanie Endlich: Paths to Remembrance. Memorials and places for the victims of National Socialism in Berlin and Brandenburg. Metropol, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-938690-45-1 .
  • Claudia Bruns, Asal Dardan, Anette Dietrich (eds.): "Which of the stones you lift." Cinematic memory of the Holocaust. Series: media culture 3. Bertz + Fischer Verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-86505-397-8 ( contents ).
  • S. Lillian Kremer: Holocaust Literature. An Encyclopedia of Writers and Their Work. Routledge, New York 2002. Volume 1: ISBN 0-415-92983-0 , Volume 2: ISBN 0-415-92984-9 (English).
  • Mirjam Schmid: Representability of the Shoah in novels and films. Sonnenberg, Annweiler 2012, ISBN 978-3-933264-70-1 .
  • Günther Jikeli and others (Ed.): Views on the Holocaust among Muslims in an international comparison. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2013, ISBN 978-3-593-39855-6 ( Introduction )
  • Alvin H. Rosenfeld: The End of the Holocaust (Original title: The End of the Holocaust. Translated by Manford Hanowell). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Goettingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-525-54042-8 .
  • James E. Young : Forms of Remembrance: Holocaust Memorials. Passagen-Verlag, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-85165-174-X (English 1993).
  • Nora Sternfeld : Contact zones of conveying history. Transnational Learning About the Holocaust in the Post-Nazi Migration Society, Zaglossus, Vienna 2013, ISBN 978-3-902902-02-3 .

web links

Commons : Holocaust  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Holocaust  - explanations of meaning, word origin, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Shoah  - Explanations of meaning, word origin, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Holocaust  - Quotations



  1. Dieter Pohl: Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi period 1933-1945. Darmstadt 2003, p. 116.
  2. Ulrich Wyrwa: "Holocaust". Notes on the history of concepts. In: Yearbook for Research on Antisemitism 8 (1999), pp. 300-311.
  3. James E. Young: The Names of the Holocaust. In: James E. Young: Describing the Holocaust. Presentation and consequences of the interpretation. Frankfurt am Main 1992, pp. 139–163.
  4. Holocaust and Other Genocides , International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  5. Michael Wildt : "Volksgemeinschaft". Version 1.0. In: Docupedia Contemporary History , June 3, 2014, accessed May 18, 2019.
  6. ^ Quoted by Christian Hartmann , Thomas Vordermayer, Othmar Plöckinger, Roman Töppel (eds.): Hitler, Mein Kampf. A Critical Edition . Institute for Contemporary History Munich - Berlin, Munich 2016, vol. 1, p. 208.
  7. Saul Friedländer: The Third Reich and the Jews: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939. Munich 2000, pp. 87–128.
  8. Yaacov Lozowick : Hitler's bureaucrats. Eichmann, his willing enforcers and the banality of evil. Pendo, Zurich 2000, p. 85.
  9. Heinz Höhne : "Give me four years". Hitler and the beginnings of the Third Reich. Ullstein, Berlin 1996, pp. 96–116; Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German social history , vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914-1949. Beck, Munich 2003, p. 653; Hans Mommsen : The Nazi Regime and the Extinction of Jewry in Europe . Wallstein, Goettingen 2014, pp. 37–43.
  10. Ian Kershaw, The Nazi State. Hamburg 1999, p. 171.
  11. The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels , Part 2/Volume 3, November 30, 1937, p. 351.
  12. Raul Hilberg: The Destruction of the European Jews , Volume 1. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1990, ISBN 3-596-24417-X , p. 56 f.
  13. Peter Longerich: Politics of extermination: An overall presentation of the National Socialist persecution of the Jews. ISBN 3-492-03755-0 , p. 16.
  14. a b Austrian Historical Commission: Final Report of the Historical Commission of the Republic of Austria. Volume 1. Oldenbourg Verlag, Vienna 2003, pp. 291-293; Wolfgang Benz: History of the Third Reich. Beck, Munich 2000, p. 228 .
  15. Eberhard Jäckel, Jürgen Rohwer (eds.): The murder of the Jews in the Second World War. Fischer TB, Frankfurt am Main 1987, p. 10.
  16. Dieter Pohl: Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi period 1933-1945. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-534-15158-5 , p. 70.
  17. Christopher Browning: The Final Solution and the German Foreign Office. Holmes & Meier Publishers, New York/London 1978, ISBN 0-8419-0403-0 , p. 8.
  18. Peter Longerich (1998): Politics of annihilation: An overview of the National Socialist persecution of the Jews. p. 16.
  19. Peter Longerich: Policy of extermination - An overall presentation of the National Socialist persecution of the Jews . p. 392.
  20. e.g. B. First train from France to Auschwitz 27 March 1942, see article Chronology of the Vichy government's collaboration in the Holocaust
  21. Martin Broszat , in: Eberhard Jäckel, Jürgen Rohwer (eds.): The murder of the Jews in the Second World War. Fischer TB, Frankfurt am Main 1987, p. 66.
  22. Dieter Pohl: Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi period 1933-1945. Darmstadt 2003, p. 49 f.
  23. Christopher Browning: The Unleashing of the 'Final Solution' - National Socialist Jewish Policy 1939-1942 , Munich 2003, ISBN 3-549-07187-6 , p. 73.
  24. Dieter Pohl: Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi period 1933-1945. Darmstadt 2003, p. 64 f.
  25. Dieter Pohl: Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi period 1933-1945. Darmstadt 2003, pp. 32 and 69.
  26. Dieter Pohl: Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi period 1933-1945. Darmstadt 2003, pp. 32 and 69.
  27. Götz Aly: Final solution: displacement of peoples and the murder of the European Jews. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1998, ISBN 3-596-14067-6 , pp. 127–131.
  28. Dieter Pohl: Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi period 1933-1945. Darmstadt 2003, pp. 65–68.
  29. Markus Leniger: National Socialist "Volkstumsarbeit" and resettlement policy 1933-1945: From minority support to settler selection. 2nd edition, Frank & Timme, 2010, ISBN 978-3-86596-082-5 , p. 11.
  30. Dieter Pohl: National Socialist persecution of Jews in East Galicia 1941-1944. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-486-56233-9 , p. 97.
  31. Quoted from Katharina Meng: Russia-German language biographies. Fool, 2001, ISBN 3-8233-5151-6 , p. 491 .
  32. Peter Longerich: Politics of Destruction. Munich 1998, ISBN 3-492-03755-0 , p. 273.
  33. Cf. Die Zeit 2r. 42, 15 October 2015, p. 19.
  34. Dieter Pohl: Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi period 1933-1945. Darmstadt 2003, pp. 65 and 80.
  35. Cf., for example, the essays by Andreas Hillgruber : The “Final Solution” and the German Eastern Empire as the core of the racial ideological program of National Socialism , and by Hans Mommsen : The Realization of the Utopian: The Final Solution of the Jewish Question in the Third Reich , both in: Wolfgang Wippermann (ed.): Controversies surrounding Hitler . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1986, pp. 219-298; Klaus Hildebrand : The Third Reich (= Oldenbourg outline of history , vol. 17), 4th edition, Oldenbourg, Munich 1991, pp. 202–206.
  36. Eberhard Jäckel : Decision- making as a historical problem. In: the same and Jürgen Rohwer (ed.): The murder of the Jews in World War II. Decision-making and implementation Fischer TB, Frankfurt am Main 1987, pp. 14-17.
  37. Eberhard Jäckel: Hitler's world view. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1981, ISBN 3-421-06083-5 , pp. 72-75.
  38. Hans Mommsen: The Nazi regime and the extinction of Judaism in Europe. Wallstein, Göttingen 2014, p. 107 f.
  39. Eberhard Jäckel: The formation of decisions as a historical problem. In: the same and Jürgen Rohwer (ed.): The murder of the Jews in World War II. Decision making and implementation Fischer TB, Frankfurt am Main 1987, p. 15.
  40. Karl A. Schleunes: National Socialist decision-making and Action T 4. In: Eberhard Jackel, Jürgen Rohwer (eds.): The murder of the Jews in World War II. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1987, pp. 70–78.
  41. Dieter Pohl: Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi period 1933-1945. Darmstadt 2003, pp. 31 f., 55 f. and 71.
  42. Rolf-Dieter Müller, Hans-Erich Volkmann: The Wehrmacht: Myth and Reality. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-486-56383-1 , p. 841 .
  43. Dieter Pohl: Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi period 1933-1945. Darmstadt 2003, p. 71 f.
  44. Dossier Kersten in the Center de Documentation Juive or Felix Kersten: The Kersten Memoirs, 1940–1945. Time Life Education, 1992, ISBN 0-8094-8737-3 .
  45. For example Andreas Hillgruber: The historical place of the extermination of the Jews . In: Eberhard Jäckel, Jürgen Rohwer (eds.): The murder of the Jews in World War II. Decision making and implementation Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1987, p. 221; Hermann Graml : On the Genesis of the "Final Solution" . In: Walter H. Pehle (ed.): From the "Reichskristallnacht" to the genocide . Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1988, p. 173 f.; Klaus Hildebrand: The Third Reich (= Oldenbourg outline of history, vol. 17), 4th edition, Oldenbourg, Munich 1991, p. 200 f; Hans-Ulrich Thamer : Seduction and Violence. Germany 1933-1945. Siedler, Berlin 1994, p. 700 ff.
  46. Alfred Streim : On the opening of the general order to exterminate the Jews. In: Eberhard Jäckel, Jürgen Rohwer (eds.): The murder of the Jews in World War II. Frankfurt am Main 1987, p. 112.
  47. Ian Kershaw: Turning Points. Key decisions in World War II. 2nd edition, Munich 2008, p. 570.
  48. Jonathan C. Friedman : The Routledge History of the Holocaust. Taylor & Francis, 2011, ISBN 978-0-415-77956-2 , p. 159 .
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  52. Gerald Fleming: Hitler and the Final Solution. Limes, 1982, ISBN 3-8090-2196-2 , pp. 57 and 62.
  53. Ian Kershaw, The Nazi State. Frankfurt am Main 1994, p. 157.
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  55. Philippe Burrin, Hitler and the Jews. The Decision for Genocide . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1993, p. 154, p. 175 ff.
  56. Peter Longerich: Heinrich Himmler. Biography. Siedler, Munich 2008, p. 560 ff.
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  58. Raul Hilberg: The Reinhard action. In: Eberhard Jäckel, Jürgen Rohwer (eds.): The murder of the Jews in World War II. Frankfurt am Main 1987, pp. 125–128.
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  64. Gideon Botsch (ed.): The Wannsee Conference and the genocide of the European Jews: Catalog of the permanent exhibition. Publishing House of the Wannsee Conference, Memorial and Educational Site, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-9808517-4-5 , p. 121.
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  67. Joachim Tauber : Report of the events in Gargždai/Garsden in June 1941 (PDF; 91 kB). In: annaberger-annalen.de, retrieved on May 2, 2019.
  68. ^ Peter Longerich, Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews. 2010, p. 192 f.
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