The Holocaust

The Holocaust
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What is the Holocaust?

The Holocaust was the systematic annihilation of six million Jews by the Nazi regime during World War 2. In 1933 approximately nine million Jews lived in the 21 countries of Europe that would be occupied by Germany during the war. By 1945 two out of every three European Jews had been killed. The European Jews were the primary victims of the Holocaust. But Jews were not the only group singled out for persecution by Hitlerís Nazi regime. As many as one-half million Gypsies, at least 250,000 mentally or physically disabled persons, and more than three million Soviet prisoners-of-war also fell victim to Nazi genocide. Jehovahís Witnesses, homosexuals, Social Democrats, Communists, partisans, trade unionists, Polish intelligentsia and other undesirables were also victims of the hate and aggression carried out by the Nazis.

How many Jews were murdered during the Holocaust?

While it is impossible to ascertain the exact number of Jewish victims, statistics indicate that the total was over 5,830,000. Six million is the round figure accepted by most authorities.

What is a Jew? 

The Jews are a diverse religious and cultural group whose origins are described in the Bible. The term Jewish is not a race in any sense of the word, since there are no physical characteristics that can be defined as Jewish. A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of religious conversion to Judaism

What does Final Solution mean?

The term Final Solution (Die Endlosung) refers to the Germansí plan to physically liquidate all Jews in Europe. The term was used at the Wannsee Conference held in Berlin on January 20, 1942, where German officials discussed its implementation.

How many children were murdered during the Holocaust? 

The number of children killed during the Holocaust is not fathomable and full statistics for the tragic fate of children who died will never be known. Some estimates range as high as 1.5 million murdered children. This figure includes more than 1.2 million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Gypsy children and thousands of institutionalized handicapped children who were murdered under Nazi rule in Germany and occupied Europe.

Who betrayed Anne Frank?

The German journalist, Melissa Muller, presents evidence in her Anne Frank: A Biography, based on police reports and an investigation after the war, implicating the cleaning woman, Lena van Bladeren Hartog, as having leaked information to the Gestapo that there were Jews in a secret annex of Otto Frank's warehouse. Lena van Bladeren Hartog, whose husband worked at the warehouse illegally (having ignored a summons for labor service), died in 1963, a few months before the case was reopened by the Amsterdam police.

How to find Holocaust survivors? 

Holocaust Global Registry is an online database designed to assist anyone searching for Holocaust survivors and to survivors seeking family members. This initiative, which is unprecedented on the Web, was undertaken by JewishGen, an organization very active in the field of Jewish genealogy.

How did the world respond to the Holocaust

The world outside Nazi Europe received numerous press reports in the 1930s about the persecution of Jews. By 1942 the governments of the United States and Great Britain had confirmed reports about the Final Solution - Germany's intent to kill all the Jews of Europe. However, influenced by antisemitism and fear of a massive influx of refugees, neither country modified their refugee politics. No specific attempts to stop or slow the genocide were made until mounting pressure eventually forced the United States to undertake limited rescue efforts in 1944. In Europe, rampant antisemitism incited citizens of many German-occupied countries to collaborate with the Nazis in their genocidal policies. There were, however, individuals and groups in every occupied nation who, at great personal risk, helped hide those targeted by the Nazis. One nation, Denmark, saved most of its Jews in a nighttime rescue operation in 1943 in which Jews were ferried in fishing boats to safety in neutral Sweden.

How did the world know? 

Jan Karski was a Polish resistance hero and the man who first told the world about the horrors of the Holocaust. After a very dangerous journey he brought his story to the West, briefing political and religious leaders in London and then in July 1943 met personally with President Franklin Roosevelt. However, Karski was unable to convince them to take military action against death camp targets. President Roosevelt in the US, and even prominent American Jewish leaders, all listened politely, but all were disinclined to believe Jan Karski's gruesome narrative of mass murder in the Warsaw Ghetto and in the extermination camps. Their first priority remained the defeat of the Third Reich, rather than the rescue of European Jewry. The slaughter went on.

FAQ sources:
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Simon Wiesenthal Center Multimedia Learning Center Online