The Holocaust is the name given to the planned mass extermination of all groups of people considered inferior by the Nazis; political opponents of the Nazis were also victims of the genocide commonly known as The Holocaust. The largest groups of victims included Jews, Poles, Gypsies, Communists & other political opponents of the Nazis, Homosexuals, and other Slavic nationalities. Estimates of the number of people murdered by the Nazis are as high as 20 million, although some sources place the figure at only 12 million.
German support for the Holocaust
The extent to which Germans knew about and participated in the Holocaust is a highly debated subject. It is frequently asserted that the Germans did not know about the Holocaust, or knew very little, while veterans of World War II and Holocaust survivors assert that the Germans did in fact have a great knowledge about the Holocaust. The reason for this disparity in opinions about German knowledge and responsibility for the Holocaust has to do with the way in which Germans knew about and reacted to it. Most Germans were extremely well aware of the persecution, and later in the Third Reich, the extermination of the Jews. However, they were extremely apathetic to the persecution and extermination of Jews, mainly as the result of the extremely anti-Semitic propaganda produced by the Nazis. Opposition by Germans against the Nazis was almost entirely unrelated to the persecution and extermination of Jews. A number of other factors also indicate German knowledge of the Holocaust, such as the proximity of the concentration camp at Dachau to the city of München.
Planners and Executors
More Info: Schutzstaffel Adolf Hitler founded the Schutzstaffel (SS) in April of 1925, as a group of personal bodyguards. As time went on, this small band of bodyguards grew from 300 members in 1925 to 50,000 in 1933 when Hitler took office. The man responsible for this growth was Heinrich Himmler, who commanded the SS from 1929 until its disintegration in 1945. Between 1934 and 1936, the SS gained control of Germany's police forces and expanded their responsibilities. Because of these new responsibilities, the SS divided into two sub-units: the Allgemeine-SS (General SS), and the Waffen-SS (Armed SS). Combined, these two organizations consisted of over 250,000 troops by 1939.
More Info: Einsatzgruppen
The Einsatzgruppen were killing squads that were put use by the SS in the Eastern Front. They were mobile killing units that would go through towns systematically killing all citizens that the Nazis deamed unfit, this consisted of mostly Jewish people, but the aged, ill, and handicapped were included as well.
At first the Einsatzgruppen would shoot their victims execution style, but not before making many dig their own graves. Eventually the high command of the SS started to be concerned about the long term effects that the continued killing at such close contact would have on his soldiers. They were concerned that this type of hand to hand 'combat' would have an adverse, long-term psychological affect on the men. In response to this concern mobile gassing units were devised. Large vans with the exhaust siphoned into the back of them would drive around for as long as it took to kill the people inside. Depending on the number of victims this usually took 20 to 30 minutes.
The Einsatzgruppen are the precursor to the systematic killing that took place in the concentration camps. They were some of the most brutal units of men in all of the war.
The word Holocaust literally translates from the Greek as 'Burned whole'. It was originally applied to a sacrifice consumed by fire, such as the burned offering of the Old Testament, when slaughtered animals or birds were burned on the alter, with the skin being given to the priest performing the ritual
The current used of the word, introduced by historians in the 1950s as an equivalent of the Hebrew Shoah (Catastrophe) or Hurban (Destruction), was probably suggested by the crematoria in which the victims bodies were burned.
- Rummel, R J. Hawaii.edu. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NAZIS.CHAP1.HTM.
- P. 4. Kershaw, Ian. Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution. Binghamton, NY: Vail-Ballou Press, 2008.
:The Germans had full knowledge of the Holocaust, however, they had such apathy that they did not appear to know about it since they did not discuss it or record it in journals or in other ways.
- Introduction. Kershaw, Ian. Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution. Binghamton, NY: Vail-Ballou Press, 2008.
- Chapter 5. Kershaw, Ian. Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution. Binghamton, NY: Vail-Ballou Press, 2008.
- Room, Adrian. Brewers. Page 580.
Room, Adrian. Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable - Millennium Edition.