Holocaust definition ww2 is derived from the Greek word “holos” (whole) and “kaustos” (burned). Holocaust is also known as The Shoah, meaning “destruction. 

Since World War II, The Holocaust is famously known for the genocide of the Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany under the chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler. Between 1941-1945

The ideology behind the mass murder of millions of jews (as well as millions of others, including Romani, the intellectually disabled, dissidents, Soviet civilians, prisoners of war, and homosexuals) was that they considered an inferior race, a grave threat to the purity of the German race.

The Germans called it their “final solution to the Jewish question.” After Hitler’s plenary powers, the government began isolating Jews from civil society.

The ideology behind the mass murder of millions of jews (as well as millions of others, including Romani, the intellectually disabled, dissidents, Soviet civilians, prisoners of war, and homosexuals) was that they considered an inferior race, a grave threat to the purity of the German race.

The Germans called it their “final solution to the Jewish question.” After Hitler’s plenary powers, the government began isolating Jews from civil society.

And after Germany annexed Austria, triggering World War II, the genocide of the European Jews was carried out in large concentration camps and gas chambers in the German extermination camps of occupied Poland.

What was the Holocaust

The origin: Antisemitism

Even long before the Nazis came to power, throughout the middle ages in Europe, antisemitism still lived, and the Jews were subjected based on their Christian theology, which blamed them for killing Jesus.

It became common for people, and they soon adopted the ideology that did not see people as racial equals with equal hereditary values. Nazis adopted antisemitism, anti-communism, and scientific racism.

After Germany’s defeat in World War I, many people still couldn’t believe the defeat and started insinuating political leaders, mainly Jewish and Communist, had orchestrated German’s surrender.

Early antisemites in Nazi Party included the publisher of the party’s newspaper, Volkischer Beobacchter, who wrote many articles surrounding antisemitism. Hitler’s world views revolved around two things: territorial expansion, Lebensraum (living space), and racial supremacy.

In Mein Kampf’s (“My struggle”), Hitler developed an idea of the Jews as an evil race struggling for world domination. Hitler viewed Jews as cancer to the German society and focused on retrieving Germans from its ill-ridden politics.

The Nazis portrayed the Jews as a race and not religion, and this racial antisemitism further led to the annihilation.

When Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany in January 1933, his priority was to exterminate political oppositions such as Marxists, liberals, and Christians.  Nazi policies divided the population into two groups, the Volksgemeinschaft (“people’s community”) and the Gemeinschatfsfremde (“community aliens”).

The assault against the Jews began on April 1, 1933, when they boycotted all Jewish businesses, and later the Law of Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed, which denied Jews and other “Non-Aryans” from civil service.

Jews were disbarred from practicing law, owning farms, being editors of newspapers, forced to resign as doctors, and Jewish students were restricted in German schools by a Quota by the end of April.

On May 10, thousands of Nazi professors and students rushed into university libraries and book stores throughout Germany to remove tons of books written by Non-Aryans and those who opposed the Nazi ideology. The books were burned down in an effect to clean the German culture.

The discrimination against the Jews increased, and on 15 September 1935, passed the Nuremberg Laws. Anyone with three or more Jewish grandparents was classified as Jews, sexual relationships between Jews and citizens of  “German or kinder blood” were criminalized, and Jews were also not allowed to employ Germs women under the age of 45 in their homes.

By the end of 1935, half of the German Jewish population fled the country, Albert Einstien who was in the United States when Hitler came to power, and never returned to Germany.

The Night of Broken Glass

On 7 November 1938, a Polish Jew, Herschel Grynszpan shot the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in the German Embassy in Paris. On 9 November, the day Ernst vom Rath died, violence eroded throughout the Reich. Over the next three days, rioters burned and damaged more than 1000 synagogues, looted and attacked 7000 Jewish shops, police stood the violence as according to Joseph Goebbel’s diary, Hitler decided that the police should be withdrawn: “for once the Jews should feel the rage of people.” Goebbels reported him as saying.

Some 30,000 Jewish men between the age of 16 to 60 were arrested and sent to concentration camps. This devastation is known as the Kristallnacht (“Crystal Night” or “The Night of Broken Glass”), after which the Jews lost any hope that they had a future in Germany, and pulled up their efforts to leave the country.

The German Jewish community was collectively held responsible for the entire damage and was fined over a billion Reichmarks. Insurance payments of damage to their property were confiscated by the government. In addition, they were responsible for cleaning up the damage

Ghettos, Extermination and world war II

The Germans annexed Austra and Sudetenland by September 1938 to establish control over the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (now in the Czech Republic) in March 1939

When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, triggering World War II. All this time, Germany was trying to get rid of itself of its Jews via forced emigration, but its territorial expansion kept bringing more Jews under its control.

More Jews lived in Poland in 1939 than anywhere else in the world when the German armed forces (Wehrmacht) invaded Poland, setting off a declaration of war from the United Kingdom and France.

Germany gained control over about 2 million Jews of occupied Poland, as the rest of Poland was occupied by the Soviet Union.

The German’s plan for the occupied territory of Poland was to expel all the Non-Jewish Poles from large areas and make room for German citizens. 

The armed force of Germany was accompanied by Enisatzkommando (a sub-group of up to 3000 men, whose mission was to exterminate Jews, Polish intellectuals, Romani, and communists), whose role was to deal with all the ‘Anti-Germans’ in the hostile country after the troops in combat.

Germans sent Jews from all the territory they had annexed to the central portion of Poland, called the Central Government. From there, they were to be expelled to other parts of Poland not annexed by Germany.

In the meantime, they also sent Jews to the “Ghettos” set up by the Nazis across all German-occupied Europe to segregate and confine Jews into small sections and towns and cities.

Reinhard Heydrich, a police official, and the principal architect of the Holocaust. Ordered the establishment of the Judenrat (“Jewish Council”), comprising of 24 men who were made responsible for carrying out German orders. These orders included facilitating deportation to extermination camps.

When the Nazis sealed the Warsaw Ghetto, the largest German-occupied Poland’s Ghetto, which in the near end of 1941 contained 445,000 people, the second-largest, held 160,000 as of May 1940.

In the Fall of 1940, almost 30% of Warsaw’s population was forced into 2.4% of cities area, averaging over 9 people per room.

And the conditions they had to live in were equally horrible, Inhabitants had to pay for food and other supplies by selling whatever good that they can produce.

Disease, poverty, malnutrition, and poor living conditions took their toll even before the first bullet was fired.

The Ghetto was a temporary solution for the Jews, the Jews thought they would be forced to live until the end of the war. And to live they worked their ways around the restrictions.

When the Nazis prohibited school, they opened a clandestine school and used humor to defiance, so too songs.

To this date, many Historians debate if the decision of Murder of Jews, or so-called “the final solution”, was a central decision or a series of regional decisions


Einsatzgruppen, (“deployment groups”) unit of Nazi security forces that acted as a mobile killing unit during the invasion of Poland (1939) and Soviet Union (1941), the commandos described them as “Bolshevist Funtionries”, and at first targetted male Jews aged 15-60 who had worked for the state and in certain professions.

From 1941, they began to murder women and children too. Sometimes alone or with the help of local police, native Anti-Semitic. An Einsatzgruppen would round up their victims, heard them outside the town, and shoot them.

It is estimated that Einsatzgruppen killed more than 1.3 million people, most of whom were Jews.


By June 1940, Germany had completely occupied Norway, and by the end of the year, Germans began suppressing the country’s Jews. They were banned from many occupations, and in 1941 all the Jews had to register their property with the government.

In May 1940, Germany invaded France and Belgium along with many other low countries. After Belgium’s surrender, many anti-Jew laws were approved against its 90,000 Jews, most of which were refugees from Germany or Eastern Europe.

In the Netherlands, almost 140,000 of the country’s Jews were persecuted, in February 1941, Non-Jewish Dutch citizens staged a strike in protest that was quickly crushed. The jews were forced out of their jobs and had to register with the government.

Germany Invaded Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941. Greece was divided into occupation zone by Germany and Italy, the pre-war Greek Jewish population was around 75,000. By the end of the war, some 10,000 remained, representing the lowest survival rate in the Balkans. In Yugoslavia, 80,000 Jews were dismembered.

During that time the Independent State of Croatia was an ally to Germany and Serbia, governed by military and police administrators. Croatia’s ruling population, the Ustashe, killed the majority of the country’s Jews and massacred, expelled, or forcibly converted to Catholicism, and by August 1942, Serbia was declared free of Jews.

Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Breaking the non-aggression pact between the two.

By early 1942, Germans occupied the Soviet territories including Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine, and most of the Russian territories west of the line Leningaurd-Moscow-Rostov, which contained about Four million Jews, who were either employed in military industries or were family members of the servicemen.

Of four million about a million succeeded in escaping further east

The Einsatzgruppen were limited to Poland until 1939 but now were active on a much larger scale. Most of their victims were harmless Jewish civilians, and by the end of 1941, the Einsatzgruppen had killed 15 percent of the occupied Soviet territories.

Madagascar Plan

After the Germans invaded France in 1940, they planned to deport all European Jews to France’s acquired land, Madagascar.

The Germans planned to deport all captured Jews there, it was thought that the area’s harsh living conditions would hasten Jews to death, for some time being Madagascar plan was nothing but an initiative, and no evidence of the planning exited until after the defeat of France in June 1940.

The Madagascar plan had to be put down because of Germany’s inability to defeat Britain, which averted the movement of Jews across the sea, hence the foreign minister had to call off the plan in February 1942.

Hell and Hunters

Extermination, Concentration, and labor camps

In 1942, Germans held a conference to organize the “final solution to the Jewish question.” And started building extermination camps across occupied Poland, the death camps were to be a necessary step to the “final solution.”

The Einsatzgruppen traveled to hunt down their victims, but with the killing centers, the process was reversed. By the summer of 1942, gas chambers were installed. The SS liquidated Ghettos, and the victims were taken by trains, often in cattle cars from all over Europe to these camps.

The Jewish families had no idea about the consequences, thinking they were being resettled, arrived with their belongings

At first, the Nazis used mobile gas vans. Later they built permanent gas chambers linked to the crematoria where bodies were burned. Carbon monoxide was the gas used in most of the chambers.

Germans built extermination camps in Poland: Auschwitz II, Belzec, Chelmon, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka.

Auschwitz was the most dangerous and lethal of all the camps, were three camps in one: Auschwitz I (a prison camp), Auschwitz II (extermination camp), and Auschwitz III (slave labor camp).

Upon arrival at these camps families and people would be separated based on the handicapped, sick, children, woman, pregnant woman, and infirm for immediate death in gas chambers, the Germans selected able-bodied prisoners for forced labor in factories next to Auschwitz

Forced labor for prisoners was a ruthless place, the guards were brutal, and the death rate increased as the guards not only beat and starved prisoners but killed them more often.

Deprived of food, shelter, and clothing the prisoners were worked to death, or physical exhaustion, at which point they would be gassed or shot.

It is estimated that the average prisoner’s lifespan in the camps was only three months. Prisoners were made to wear colored badges with their uniforms, colors being the reasons for their incarceration.

Jews wore two yellow triangles, gay men wore pink, criminals wore black and green, and red signified a political prisoner.

Camps other than Auschwitz were also very savage with prisoners, the extermination camps at Belzec, Chelmno, Treblinka, and Sobibor killed a combined total of 2,040,000 Jews.

At Treblinka alone staff of 120, of whom 30 were SS(the Nazi paramilitary corps,) gassed 870,000 Jews during the camp’s 17 months of operation.

At first, the victims at these extermination camps were buried in pits, but from mid-1942, prisoners were forced to exhume and burn bodies that had been buried.

The impact of the Holocaust was different in different regions from year to year, in the 21 countries that were directly affected. It was clear that the Germans were losing the war by 1943, but shipment of Jews to the extermination camps was a priority to the German Railway over anything but the army’s needs.

The mass murder of Jews reached a wild phase in 1944, hundreds and thousands of Jews were being shifted and gassed in these extermination camps.

Nowhere the Holocaust was more brutal and fast than in Hungary, which entered the war as an ally to German, but after Germans invaded Hungary on March 19, 1944, Hitler ordered the military occupation of Hungary and dispatched a SS to supervise the deportation of its Jews, on May 1, the deportation began, and over the next 55 days, the Nazi deported 440,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz on 147 trains.

Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust

People often ask, was there any resistance from the Jews for the oppression by the Germans?

For a long time, the Jews couldn’t do anything about it, they were surrounded by a native anti-Semitic population who might be working alongside Nazis, plus the lack of the right resources to fight back, make an impact. So the Jews in the Ghettos often hesitated to resist, and there was almost no resistance in Ghettos in Poland until the end of 1942.

It all changed when the Germans ordered the liquidation of the Ghettos and residents to extermination camps, the Jews started holding back and resisting in forests, in Ghettos, and also in death camps

Mane resistance groups were formed such as the Jewish Combat Organisation (ZOB), and Partisan Organization in Vilna, and Jewish Military Union (ZZW) in the Warsaw Ghettos.

One of the best-known is the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, resistance by the Polish Jews to the deportation from Warsaw to the Treblinka extermination camp.

It all started when Jews of Warsaw were being transferred to death camps, with more than 5000 Jews being deported in one day, as the deportation continued, a newly formed organization (ZOB) slowly took effective control of the Ghetto, soon the fighters of ZZW joined the elements of ZOB, around 1000 Poorly armed Jews of the ZOB and ZZW held the bay and fought the SS for four weeks straight.

It is said that hundreds of Germans had been killed, while the Germans only reported 16 deaths. The Germans eventually managed to take it down, civilians hiding there surrendered, but many surviving ZOB fighters took their own lives before being captured.

In March 1943, a resistance group led by a homosexual artist and author, William Arondeus bombed a population registry in Amsterdam, destroying the records of Jews and others sought by the Nazis.

In August of the same year, Jewish prisoners in Sobibor planned to escape, during that attempt, they killed 11 SS along with 2 Ukrainian Guards, this was the highest number of SS officers killed in a single revolt, around 300 prisoners managed to escape.

In the occupied Soviet and Poland, hundreds and thousands of Jews fled into swamps and forest and joined the Partisans, an estimate of 20,000 to 30,000 joined the Soviet Partisan movement. One of the famous Jewish Group was the Bielski partisans in Belarus

More than 100 revolts and uprising occurred when Jews realized their life is on the line. By the end of 1944, the SS officials became more frantic and restless to evacuate the camps and conceal what had taken place as the Allied armies were closing in day-by-day, prisoners from concentration and extermination camps forced to march westwards during the winters of 1944-145.

With almost no food, water, and rest, the prisoners had to march hundreds of miles towards the heartland of Germany

When the American and British forces entered these camps and caught a glimpse of what had taken place, it made them sick, hundreds and thousands of prisoners had died, these camps were far from deadly, The surviving prisoners were so weak, even after being freed most of them died.

Conditions in Bergan-Belson were so horrible that almost 28,000 soldiers died after being rescued, the entire camp had to be burned down to prevent the spread of typhus.

Allies who happen to have early information about the annihilation of Jews didn’t do much about it, made no special military operation to bombs the camps or railways leading to them. In the United States, where antisemitism was common, the government feared turning the war into one about the Jews.

They felt that only after victory could something be done about the Jew situation, but no solid action was taken to prevent or halt the genocide

The Aftermath

Although the Germans killed many other groups, the Holocaust was primarily focused on the murder of Jews. The elimination of the Jews was a central theme in Hitler’s ideology of the New Germany.                              

About seven to nine million people were displaced by the war. Many of them fled to other countries because they feared persecution. For the Jews, their homes were destroyed or occupied by strangers.                                 

Many of the camps’ survivors had lost their families and were unable to return home. Their homes were destroyed or occupied by strangers. Their families were ravaged and dispersed. The late 1940s saw an influx of displaced persons who were forced to flee their homes.                              

Many Jews were forced to live in displaced-person camps. Their presence in Europe and the absence of a home country motivated the Allies to resolve the issue of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Many efforts were made to bring Jews to Palestine.

The establishment of Israel and the liberalization of immigration laws in the US in 1948 and 1949 were the factors that led to the finding of homes for the survivors.

Many of the SS personnel who were captured and tortured by the Allied units were later punished. Others were arrested and held for trials.             

One of the most famous postwar trials was the Nurnberg trial held in 1945-1946, The Nuremberg trials were held in Germany after the Allies invaded the country.

They were held for the leaders of the German Reich. The first trial was held in 1945, and it involved 22 political and military leaders. The IMT, International Military Tribunal tried 22 Nazi officials for war crimes and crimes against. humanity.

The tribunal passed judgments ranging from an acquittal to death by hanging Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels had committed suicide months earlier.

The first trials involved 185 defendants, The subsequent Nuremberg trials, 1946–1949, tried another 185 defendants many of whom were doctors, Nazi prosecutors, and business leaders.

A necessary effort was made to restore a semblance of justice in the aftermath of so great a crime. Their cases were split into 12 groups, with judges who preserved the legal facade for Nazi crimes.     

The number of trials conducted after the Second World War increased significantly. These trials, which included those of Adolf Eichmann, who supervised the deportations of Jews to the death camps, and other Nazi officials, brought about a new generation of Israelis to the realization of the Holocaust.

The trials allowed the victims to confront the perpetrator, and in doing so, brought him to justice. These events also became known as precedents for other crimes against humanity.

In 1951, the Israeli government asked the Federal Republic of Germany for $1.5 billion to finance the rehabilitation of 500,000 Jewish survivors. After negotiating the claims in the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, the Israelis resettled in New York on $845 million.