After Nazi (the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) troops invaded Poland on September 1 1939 and up until Germany's surrender on May 8 1945 Hitler was waging two wars. One was on three continents against Allied forces and the other was against the Jews.The war against the Jews is known as the Holocaust and had in fact been underway since the enactment of the 1935 Nuremberg Race Laws.
The word Holocaust is derived from the Greek word holokauston, which means sacrifice, totally burned by fire. The term was applied to the destruction of the Jews of Europe by the Nazi German state in the 1950s.The estimated number of Jews (5 to 6 million) who perished at the hands of the Nazis comprises two-thirds of all European Jews and in countries like Poland, the Ukraine and Belarus the Jewish death toll was 90%. These statistics demonstrate how close Hitler came to total victory in this particular conflict.Unfortunately the Jewish tragedy is not unique, as the 20th century has seen the Armenian genocide, the Cambodian killing fields and the slaughter in Bosnia and Rwanda.
What does stand out with Hitler's genocidal (a term which generally means the killing of people belonging to a specific racial, ethnic or religious group in a bid to destroy the group completely) campaign is its technological thoroughness. Every living Jew was slated for destruction under the Nazi rule. And it didn't matter if the Jew was young or old, male or female.In Eastern and Central Europe Jews were very quickly stripped of all rights and property. They were required to wear stars on their clothing and then were herded into ghettos (An enclosed district where Jews were forced to live usually before being transferred to concentration camps) where the days were marked with disease, starvation and over work. The largest ghetto was in Warsaw and by the middle of 1941 4000 to 5000 Warsaw Jews perished on a monthly basis from hunger and disease.
The majority of the murders happened in the East and it was trial and error as to how the mass murders would be achieved. Before the use of gas SS forces used open air shooting. Jews were also marched into local woods and shot by the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads).In early 1942, to ease the psychological problems for the troops (many became queasy after shooting young children) the Nazis resorted to mass gassing.
This type of extermination was carried out in six killing centers Belzec, Chelmo, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka and of course Auschwitz. Occasionally some camps did deploy mobile gas vans.Jewish communities that had existed for nearly a millennium had ceased to exist by the beginning of 1945.Many of the small number of Jews who survived the camps came out broken of body and spirit. It is only of recent times that survivors of the holocaust have started sharing their stories.
Because of the trauma suffered, most preferred not to speak of it, and for many there was a lot of mourning for family members that they hoped they would meet again, but in their hearts knew they never would.
.Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Holocaust.
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