The Holocaust is the term generally used to describe the killing of approximately six million European Jews during World War II, as part of a program of deliberate extermination planned and executed by the Nazi regime in Germany led by Adolf Hitler.  After legislation to remove the victims from civil society, the machinery of the state was used to kill them in extermination camps. Where the Third Reich conquered new territory in eastern Europe and Russia, specialised units, the Einsatzgruppen, murdered Jews and political opponents by shooting. Ghettos were established to concentrate and contain the victims before their destruction. In western European countries occupied by the Nazis, Jews were interned before being deported to the death camps.
Other groups were also persecuted and killed by the regime, including 220,000 Sinti and Roma in the Great Devouring, the Porajmos. Earlier, disabled people were killed for eugenic reasons in Action T4. Other victims were homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet POWs, Polish citizens, and political prisoners. 
Many scholars do not include these groups in the definition of the Holocaust, defining it as the genocide of the Jews, or what the Nazis called the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" ("Die Endlösung der Judenfrage"). Taking into account all the victims of Nazi persecution, the death toll rises considerably; estimates generally place the total number of victims at nine to 11 million.
The term holocaust originally derived from the Greek word holókauston, meaning a "completely (holos) burnt (kaustos)" sacrificial offering to a god. It is also known as Ha-Shoah (Hebrew: השואה), Khurbn (Yiddish: חורבן or Halokaust, האלאקאוסט). Since the late 19th century, "holocaust" has primarily been used to refer to disasters or catastrophes. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word was first used to describe Hitler's treatment of the Jews from as early as 1942, though it did not become a standard reference until the 1950s. By the late 1970s, however, the conventional meaning of the word became the Nazi genocide. The term is also used by many in a narrower sense, to refer specifically to the unprecedented destruction of European Jews in particular. Some historians credited Elie Wiesel with giving the term 'Holocaust' its present meaning. The biblical word Shoa (שואה) (also spelled Shoah and Sho'ah} meaning "calamity" in Hebrew, became the standard Hebrew term for the Holocaust as early as the early 1940s. Shoa is preferred by many Jews and a growing number of others for a number of reasons, including the potentially theologically offensive nature of the original meaning of the word holocaust.
The word "genocide" was coined during the Holocaust. In 1944, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published Raphael Lemkin's most important work, entitled Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, in the United States. This book included an extensive legal analysis of German rule in countries occupied by Nazi Germany during the course of World War II, along with the definition of the term genocide.
The Holocaust was characterized by the efficient and systematic attempt on an industrial scale to assemble and kill as many people as possible, using all of the resources and technology available to the Nazi state. Germany was, at the time, one of the world's leading nations in terms of technology, industry, infrastructure, research, education, bureaucratic efficiency, and many other fields.
For example, detailed lists of potential victims were made and maintained using Dehomag statistical machinery, and meticulous records of the killings were produced. As prisoners entered the death camps, they were made to surrender all personal property to the Nazis, which was then precisely catalogued and tagged, and for which receipts were issued.
In his book, Russia's War, British historian Richard Overy describes how the Nazis sought more efficient ways to kill people. In 1941, after occupying Belarus, they used mental patients from Minsk asylums as guinea pigs. Initially, they tried shooting them by having them stand one behind the other, so that several people could be killed with one bullet, but it was too slow. Then they tried dynamite, but few were killed and many were left wounded with hands and legs missing, so that the Germans had to finish them off with machine guns. In October 1941, in Mogilev the Germans incorporated gassing as a technique for mass murder for the first time. Gas was poured into a Gaswagen or "gas car". It took more than 30 minutes for people inside the Gaswagen to die. Later, the Germans used a larger truck exhaust, which only took only eight minutes to kill all the people inside.
In the spring of 1942, the Aktion Reinhard camps began operating. Carbon monoxide was used in the gas chambers at Belzec, Sobibór, and Treblinka, whereas Zyklon B,a cyanide-based insecticide, was employed at Majdanek and Auschwitz.
The disposal of large numbers of bodies presented a logistical problem as well. The Nazis were constantly studying ways to improve fuel efficiency, using a combination of different fuels, such as coke, wood and body fat. According to surviving Sonderkommandos, multiple bodies were added to the furnaces to obtain optimal fuel efficiency and speed, particularly when the demand was higher.
Corporate involvement in the Holocaust has created significant controversy in recent years. Rudolf Höß, Auschwitz camp commandant, said that far from having to advertise their slave labour services, the concentration camps were actually approached by various large German businesses, some of which are still in existence. Technology developed by IBM also played a role in the categorization of prisoners, through the use of punched card machines.[
The Holocaust was geographically widespread and systematically conducted in virtually all areas of Nazi-occupied territory, where victims were targeted in what are now 35 separate European countries, and sent to labor camps in some countries or extermination camps in others. The mass killing was at its worst in Central and Eastern Europe, which had more than 7 million Jews in 1939; about 5 million Jews were killed there, including 3 million in occupied Poland and over 1 million in the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands also died in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Yugoslavia, and Greece.
Documented evidence suggests that the Nazis planned to carry out their "final solution" in other regions if they were conquered, such as the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The extermination continued in different parts of Nazi-controlled territory until the end of World War II, only completely ending when the Allies entered Germany itself and forced the Nazis to surrender in May 1945.
The Holocaust was carried out without any reprieve even for children or babies, and victims were often tortured before being killed. Nazis carried out deadly medical experiments on prisoners, including children. Dr. Josef Mengele, medical officer at Auschwitz and chief medical officer at Birkenau, was known as the "Angel of Death" for his medical and eugenical experiments, e.g., trying to change people's eye color by injecting dye into their eyes. Aribert Heim, another doctor who worked at Mauthausen, was known as "Doctor Death".
The guards in the concentration camps carried out beatings and acts of torture on a daily basis. Some women (usually convicted prostitutes) worked in brothels for the guards and privileged prisoners. It has been argued that some were forced to do so.. Russian prisoners of war were used for experiments, such as being immersed in ice water or being put into pressure chambers in which air was evacuated to see how long they would survive as a means to better protect German airmen.
Homosexual men suffered unusually cruel treatment in the concentration camps. They faced persecution not only from German soldiers but also from other prisoners, and many homosexual men were beaten to death. Additionally, homosexuals in forced labor camps routinely received more grueling and dangerous work assignments than other non-Jewish inmates, under the policy of "Extermination Through Work". German soldiers also were known to use homosexuals for target practice, aiming their weapons at the pink triangles their human targets were forced to wear.
During the selection process, children were divided into two groups: those who were fit for work, and those who were not. Those who were deemed healthy enough to work had their prisoner ID tattooed on them, and were given a uniform. The children who were sent to work, most often in munitions factories, were not anticipated to survive for much longer than a few weeks. This was due to the workload placed on them by the Nazis and due to the lack of food and unhygienic conditions within the camp.
Those children deemed unfit for work were immediately taken to the gas chambers. These children were often very dependent on their mothers. However, some children, particularly twins, were kept by the camp "doctor" for medical experimentation.
At the Auschwitz concentration camp, Dr. Josef Mengele was infamous for carrying out medical experiments on human subjects. These included placing subjects in pressure chambers, testing various drugs on them, freezing them to death, and various other usually fatal traumas. Of particular interest to Mengele were twins, Gypsies, dwarves and infants. Beginning in 1943, twins were selected and placed in special barracks.
Almost all of Mengele's experiments were of little scientific value, including attempts to change eye color by injecting chemicals into children's eyes, various amputations and other brutal surgeries, and in at least one case attempting to surgically transform normal twins into Siamese twins.
The full extent of Mengele's work will never be known because the two truckloads of records he sent to Dr. Otmar von Verschuer at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute were destroyed by the latter. Subjects who survived Mengele's experiments were almost always killed after the experiments for dissection.
While Mengele's experiments were the most notorious, his behavior was not an isolated aberration. Other Nazi physicians also engaged in human experimentation at several concentration camps, including Dachau, Buchenwald, Ravensbrück, Sachsenhausen, and Natzweiler concentration camps.
While the victims of the Holocaust were primarily Jews, the Nazis also persecuted and slaughtered the members of other groups they considered inferior, undesirable or dangerous, including Poles and other Slavic peoples such as Russians, Belarusians and Serbs, Bosniaks, Roma & Sinti (also known as Gypsies), and some Africans, Asians and others who did not belong to the "Aryan race"; the mentally ill and the physically disabled; homosexuals; and political opponents and religious dissidents such as communists, trade unionists, Freemasons and Jehovah's Witnesses.
The victims of the Holocaust were generally described by the Nazis as "undesirables," "enemies of the state", "asocial elements," and "moral degenerates," labels that went hand-in-hand with their term Untermensch ("sub-human").
The exact number of people killed by the Nazi regime may never be known, but scholars, using a variety of methods, including documentation from the Nazis of determining the death toll, have generally agreed upon common range of the number of victims. Recently declassified British and Soviet documents have indicated the total may be somewhat higher than previously believed. The following estimates provide a range of the number of victims:
An estimated 5 to 6 million Jews, including 3 million Polish Jews
1.8 – 1.9 million Christian Poles and other (non-Jewish) Poles (estimate includes civilians killed as a result of Nazi aggression and occupation but does not include the military casualties of Nazi aggression or the victims of the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland and of deportations to Central Asia and Siberia)
200,000–800,000 Roma & Sinti (Gypsies)
200,000–300,000 people with disabilities
80,000-200,000 European Freemasons
10,000–25,000 homosexual men
2,500–5,000 Jehovah's Witnesses
Raul Hilberg, in the third edition of his ground-breaking three-volume work, The Destruction of the European Jews, estimates that 5.1 million Jews died during the Holocaust. This figure includes "over 800,000" who died from "Ghettoization and general privation"; 1,400,000 who were killed in "Open-air shootings"; and "up to 2,900,000" who perished in camps. Hilberg estimates the death toll in Poland at "up to 3,000,000". Hilberg's numbers are generally considered to be a conservative estimate, as they generally include only those deaths for which some records are available, avoiding statistical adjustment. British historian Martin Gilbert used a similar approach in his Atlas of the Holocaust, but arrived at a number of 5.75 million Jewish victims, since he estimated higher numbers of Jews killed in Russia and other locations
Lucy S. Dawidowicz used pre-war census figures to estimate that 5.934 million Jews died. Using official census counts may cause an underestimate since many births and deaths were not recorded in small towns and villages. Another reason some consider her estimate too low is that many records were destroyed during the war. Her listing of deaths by country of origin is available in the article about her book, The War Against the Jews.
One of the most authoritative German scholars of the Holocaust, Prof. Wolfgang Benz of the Technical University of Berlin, cites between 5.3 and 6.2 million Jews killed in Dimension des Volksmords (1991), while Yisrael Gutman and Robert Rozett estimate between 5.59 and 5.86 million Jewish victims in the Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust (1990).
The following groups of people were also killed by the Nazi regime, but there is little evidence that the Nazis planned to systematically target them for genocide as was the case for the groups above.
3.5–6 million other Slavic civilians
2.5–4 million Soviet POWs
1–1.5 million political dissidents
Additionally, the Ustaša regime, the Nazis' allies in Croatia, conducted its own campaign of mass extermination against the Serbs in the areas which it controlled, resulting in the deaths of 500,000–1.2 million Serbs.
The summary of various sources' estimates on the number of Nazi regime victims is given in Matthew White's online atlas of 20th century history.
After the 1932 elections it became clear to the Nazi leaders that they would never be able to secure a majority of the votes and that they would have to rely on other means to gain power. Leading up to the 1933 elections, the Nazis began intensifying acts of violence to wreak havoc among the opposition. At the same time, with cooperation from local authorities, they set up camps as concentration centers within Germany. One of the first was Dachau, which opened in March 1933. These early camps were meant to hold, torture, or kill only political prisoners, such as Communists and Social Democrats. Eventually, the Nazis imprisoned Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, critical journalists, and other undesirables.
These early prisons—usually basements and storehouses—were eventually consolidated into full-blown, centrally run camps outside of the cities and somewhat removed from the public eye. By 1942, six large extermination camps, located in Nazi-occupied Poland, had been established.After 1939, with the beginning of the Second World War, the concentration camps increasingly became places where the non-political enemies of the Nazis, including Jews and POWs, were either killed or forced to act as slave laborers, and kept undernourished and tortured.
During the War, concentration camps for Jews and other "undesirables" were spread throughout Europe, with new camps being created near centers of dense "undesirable" populations, often focusing on areas with large Jewish, Polish intelligentsia, communist, or Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) populations. Concentration camps also existed in Germany itself. Most of the camps were located in the area of General Government in occupied Poland, but there were camps in every country occupied by the Nazis. The transportation of prisoners was often carried out under horrifying conditions using rail freight cars, in which many died before they reached their destination.
While not specifically designed as a method for systematic extermination, many concentration camp prisoners died because of harsh conditions or were eventually executed.
Upon admission, some camps tattooed prisoners with a prisoner ID. Those fit for work were dispatched for 12 to 14 hour shifts. Before and after, there were roll calls that could sometimes last for hours; sometimes, prisoners would die of exposure.
Between the time of registration into the camp and death, prisoners were subjected to a number of demeaning and torturous ordeals. Prisoners were often beaten, whipped, or hung from beams with their hands behind them. This ordeal was done with their feet just inches from the ground. Prisoners were also shot arbitrarily.
These dreadful ordeals combined to create a miserable experience within the camps. As a result, many inmates embraced or welcomed death
In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that Freemasonry had "succumbed" to the Jews and has become an "excellent instrument" to fight for their aims and to use their "strings" to pull the upper strata of society into their alleged designs. He continues, “The general pacifistic paralysis of the national instinct of self-preservation begun by Freemasonry is then transmitted to the masses of society by the Jewish press”.
Many scholars date the beginning of the Holocaust itself to the anti-Jewish riots of the Night of Broken Glass ("Kristallnacht") of November 9, 1938, in which Jews were attacked and Jewish property was vandalized across Germany. Approximately 100 Jews were killed, and another 30,000 sent to concentration camps, while over 7,000 Jewish shops and 1,574 synagogues (almost every synagogue in Germany) were damaged or destroyed. Similar events took place in Vienna at the same time.
A number of deadly pogroms by local populations occurred during the Second World War, some with Nazi encouragement, and some spontaneously. This included the Iaşi pogrom in Romania on June 30, 1941, in which as many 14,000 Jews were allegedly killed by Romanian residents and police, and the Jedwabne pogrom in which between 380 and 1,600 Jews were allegedly killed by local Poles.
The preserved records of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main Office) show the persecution of the Freemasons. RSHA Amt VII, Written Records—overseen by Professor Franz Six—was responsible for "ideological" tasks, by which was meant the creation of anti-semitic and anti-masonic propaganda. While the number is not accurately known, it is estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons were exterminated under the Nazi regime. Freemasonic Concentration Camp inmates were graded as “political” prisoners, and wore an inverted (point down) red triangle.
In 1938, a forget-me-not badge—made by the same factory as the Masonic badge, and first used by the Grand Lodge Zur Sonne, in 1926—was chosen for the annual Nazi Party Winterhilfswerk. Winterhilfswerk was a supposed charitable organization, which actually collected money used for rearmament. This coincidence enabled Freemasons to wear forget-me-not badge as a secret sign of membership
After the invasion of Poland, the Nazis created ghettos to which Jews (and some Roma and Sinti) were confined, until they were eventually shipped to death camps and killed. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest, with 380,000 people and the Łódź Ghetto, the second largest, holding about 160,000, but ghettos were instituted in many cities (list). The ghettos were established throughout 1940 and 1941, and were immediately turned into immensely crowded prisons; though the Warsaw Ghetto contained 30% of the population of Warsaw, it occupied only about 2.4% of city's area, averaging 9.2 people per room. From 1940 through 1942, disease (especially typhoid fever) and starvation killed hundreds of thousands of Jews confined in the ghettos.
On July 19, 1942, Heinrich Himmler ordered the start of the deportations of Jews from the ghettos to the death camps. On July 22, 1942, the deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto inhabitants began; in the next 52 days (until September 12, 1942) about 300,000 people were transported by train to the Treblinka extermination camp from Warsaw alone. Many other ghettos were completely depopulated. The first ghetto uprising occurred in September 1942 in the small town of Łachwa in southeast Poland. Though there were armed resistance attempts in the larger ghettos in 1943, such as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Białystok Ghetto Uprising, in every case they failed against the Nazi military, and the remaining Jews were either slaughtered or sent to the extermination camps.
As many as 1.6 million Jews were murdered in open-air shootings by Nazis and their collaborators, especially in 1941 before the establishment of the concentration camps. During the invasion of the Soviet Union, over 3,000 special killing units (organized into the four Einsatzgruppen) followed the Wehrmacht, conducting mass murders of Poles, Communist officials, and the Jewish population that lived in Soviet territory.
Poles were an early target in the AB Action, in which 30,000 Polish intellectual and political figures were rounded up, and 7,000 eventually murdered. By the summer of 1941, the Einsatzgruppen turned to targeting Jews, starting with the extermination of 2,200 Jews in Bialystok on June 27, 1941, and quickly increased in scale. 1,500 Jews were murdered in Kaunas on June 26 by the German SS forces. 4,000 Jews murdered in Lviv on June 30–July 3, 1941 by Ukrainian collaborators. From September to the end of 1941, a series of mass murders took place throughout Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Latvia: over 33,000 Jews were killed at Babi Yar, 25,000 at Rumbula by Latvian Nazis (Arajs Commando), over 36,000 at Odessa by Romanian forces, 19,000 at the Ninth Fort of Kaunas, and 40,000 (up to 100,000 by 1944) at Paneriai by the German SS forces. These, and similar slaughters throughout Europe, murdered around 100,000 Jews per month for five months. By the end of 1943, another 900,000 Jews would be murdered in this manner, but the pace was not fast enough for the Nazi leadership, who, at the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942, began the implementation of the Final Solution, the complete extermination of the Jews of Europe.
Serbs were victims of an extermination policy of Croat NDH since this Nazi puppet state was formed in 1941. The murders took many forms: burning of live Serbs forced into churches; slaughter of Serbs by small death squads, often numbering only three, called "black threes", who rampaged by night through villages in which dogs were first poisoned. The squads filled foiba pits with still-living Serbs, often connected by barbed wire, and practiced extremely cruel methods of torture and execution such as gouging eyes and cutting salted necks. They also nailed guts of slaughtered victims to the roofs. Extermination in Jasenovac camp existed since its onset in 1941, at the time when Germans had not yet started their systematic genocide, and it has appalled even the SS, though soon enough they were organizing systematic extermination in their camps too.
Since 2004, the Ukraine Project led by Father Patrick Desbois has uncovered over 500 mass graves in the Ukrainian countryside with the remains of Jews shot by the Einsatzgruppen. More 1,700 mass graves are believed to existe only in Ukraine.
In December 1941, the Nazis opened Chelmno, the first of what would soon be seven extermination camps, dedicated entirely to mass extermination on an industrial scale, as opposed to the labor or concentration camps. Over three million Jews would die in these extermination camps. The method of killing at these camps was by poison gas (Zyklon B or carbon monoxide), usually in "gas chambers", although many prisoners were killed in mass shootings and by other means. The bodies of those killed were destroyed in crematoria (except at Sobibór where they were cremated on outdoor pyres), and the ashes buried or scattered.
In 1942, the Nazis began this most destructive phase of the Holocaust, with Aktion Reinhard, opening the extermination camps of Belzec, Sobibór, and Treblinka. More than 1.7 million Jews were killed at the three Aktion Reinhard camps by October 1943. The largest death camp built was Auschwitz-Birkenau, which had both a labor camp (Auschwitz) and an extermination camp (Birkenau); the latter possessing four gas chambers and crematoria. This camp was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.6 million Jews (including about 438,000 Jews from Hungary in the course of a few months), 75,000 Poles and gay men, and some 19,000 Roma. At the peak of operations, Birkenau's gas chambers killed approximately 8,000 a day.
Upon arrival in these camps, all valuables were taken from the prisoners, and the women had to have their hair cut off. According to a Nazi document, the hair was to be used for the manufacture of stockings. Prisoners were divided into two groups: those too weak for work were immediately executed in gas chambers (which were sometimes disguised as showers) and their bodies burned, while others were first used for slave labor in factories or industrial enterprises located in the camp or nearby. Shoes, stockings, and anything else of value was recycled for use in products to support the war effort, regardless of whether or not a prisoner was sent to death. Some prisoners were forced to work in the collection and disposal of corpses, and to extract gold teeth from the dead.
As the armies of the Allies closed in on the Reich at the end of 1944, the Nazis decided to abandon the extermination camps, moving or destroying evidence of the atrocities they had committed there. The Nazis marched prisoners, already sick after months or years of violence and starvation, for tens of miles in the snow to train stations; then transported for days at a time without food or shelter in freight trains with open carriages; and forced to march again at the other end to the new camp. Prisoners who lagged behind or fell were shot. The largest and most well known of the death marches took place in January 1945, when the Soviet army advanced on Poland. Nine days before the Soviets arrived at the death camp at Auschwitz, the SS guards marched 60,000 prisoners out of the camp toward Wodzislaw, 56 km (35 mi) away, where they were put on freight trains to other camps. Around 15,000 died on the way. In total, around 100,000 Jews died during these death marches.
In July 1944, the first major Nazi camp, Majdanek, was discovered by the advancing Soviets, who eventually liberated Auschwitz in January 1945. In most of the camps discovered by the Soviets, the prisoners had already been transported away by death marches, leaving only a few thousand prisoners alive. Concentration camps were also liberated by American and British forces, including Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945. Some 60,000 prisoners were discovered at the camp, but 10,000 died from disease or malnutrition within a few weeks of liberation.
Due to the organization and overwhelming military might of the Nazi German state and its supporters, few Jews and other Holocaust victims were able to resist the killings. There are, however, many cases of attempts at resistance in one form or another, and over a hundred armed Jewish uprisings.
The largest instance of organized Jewish resistance was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, from April to May of 1943, as the final deportation from the Ghetto to the death camps was about to commence, the ZOB and ZZW fighters rose up against the Nazis. Most of the resistors were killed, but the few who did survive the war are currently residing in Israel. There were also other Ghetto Uprisings, though none were successful against the German military.
There were also major resistance efforts in three of the extermination camps. In August 1943, an uprising also took place at the Treblinka extermination camp. Many buildings were burnt to the ground, and seventy inmates escaped to freedom, but 1,500 were killed. Gassing operations were interrupted for a month. In October 1943, another uprising took place at Sobibór extermination camp. This uprising was more successful; 11 SS men and a number of Ukrainian guards were killed, and roughly 300 of the 600 inmates in the camp escaped, with about 50 surviving the war. The escape forced the Nazis to close the camp. On October 7, 1944, the Jewish Sonderkommandos (those prisoners kept separate from the main camp and involved in the operation of the gas chambers and crematoria) at Auschwitz staged an uprising. Female prisoners had smuggled in explosives from a weapons factory, and Crematorium IV was partly destroyed by an explosion. The prisoners then attempted a mass escape, but all 250 were killed soon after.
There were a number of Jewish partisan groups operating in many countries (see Eugenio Calò for the story of a Jewish Italian partisan). Also, Jewish volunteers from the Palestinian Mandate, most famously Hannah Szenes, parachuted into Europe in a failed attempt to organize resistance.
Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany were persecuted between 1933 and 1945. They were scorned by the name Ernste Bibelforscher (Earnest Bible Students) at that time, because Jehovah's Witnesses would not give allegiance to the Nazi party, and refused to serve in the military, they were detained, put in concentration camps, or imprisoned during the Holocaust. Unlike Jews, homosexuals and Gypsies, who were persecuted for racial, political and social reasons, Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted on religious ideological grounds. The Nazi government gave detained Jehovah's Witnesses the option: if they were to renounce their faith, submit to the state authority, and support the German military, they would be free to leave prison or the camps. Approximately 12,000 Jehovah's Witnesses were sent to concentration camps where they were forced to wear a purple triangle that specifically identified them as Jehovah's Witnesses. In the end, about 2,000 of their members who were incarcerated perished under the Nazi system. All lost their employment. Dr. Detlef Garbe Historian and director at the Neuengamme (Hamburg) Memorial stated: “Taking everything into consideration, it has been established that no other religious movement resisted the pressure to conform to National Socialism with comparable unanimity and steadfastness.
In three cases, entire countries resisted the deportation of their Jewish population.
King Christian X of Denmark and his subjects saved the lives of most of the 7,500 Danish Jews by spiriting them to safety in Sweden via fishing boats in October 1943. See Rescue of the Danish Jews. Moreover, the Danish government continued to work to protect the few Danish Jews captured by the Nazis. When the Jews returned home at war's end, they found their houses and possessions waiting for them, exactly as they left them.
In the second case, the Nazi-allied government of Bulgaria, led by Bogdan Filov, did not deport its 50,000 Jewish citizens, after yielding to pressure from the parliament deputy speaker Dimitar Peshev and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, saving them as well, though Bulgaria did not prevent Germany from deporting Jews to concentration camps from areas in occupied Greece and Macedonia.
The government of Finland refused repeated requests from Germany to deport its Finnish Jews to Germany. German requirements for the deportation of Jewish refugees from Norway was largely refused. In Rome, some 4,000 Italian Jews and prisoners of war avoided deportation. Many of these were hidden in safe houses and evacuated from Italy by a resistance group that was organised by an Irish priest, Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty of the Holy Office. Once a Vatican ambassador to Egypt, O' Flaherty used his political connections to great effect in helping to secure sanctuary for dispossessed Jews.
Another example of someone who assisted Jews during the Holocaust is Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes. It was in clear disrespect of the Portuguese state hierarchy that Sousa Mendes issued about 30,000 visas to Jews and other persecuted minorities from Europe. He saved an enormous number of lives, but risked his career for it. In 1941, Portuguese dictator Salazar lost political trust in Sousa Mendes and forced the diplomat to quit his career. He died in poverty in 1954.
In April, 1943, a few members of the Belgian resistance stopped the Twentieth convoy train to Auschwitz, and freed 231 people (115 of whom escaped the Holocaust).
Some towns and churches also helped hide Jews and protect others from the Holocaust, such as the French town of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon which sheltered several thousand Jews. Similar individual and family acts of rescue were repeated throughout Europe, as illustrated in the famous cases of Anne Frank, often at great risk to the rescuers. In a few cases, individual diplomats and people of influence, such as Oskar Schindler or Nicholas Winton, protected large numbers of Jews. Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, the Italian Giorgio Perlasca, Chinese consul-general to Austria Ho Feng Shan, and others saved tens of thousands of Jews with fake diplomatic passes. Between 1933 and 1941, the Chinese city of Shanghai accepted unconditionally over 30,000 Jewish refugees escaping the Holocaust in Europe, a number greater than those taken in by Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India combined during World War II. After 1941, the occupying Nazi-aligned Japanese ghettoised the Jewish refugees in Shanghai into an area known as the Shanghai ghetto. Some of the Jewish refugees there aided the Chinese resistance against the Japanese. Many of the Jewish refugees in Shanghai migrated to the United States and Israel after 1948 due to the Chinese Civil War (1946–1950).
There were also groups, like members of the Polish Żegota organization, that took drastic and dangerous steps to rescue Jews and other potential victims from the Nazis. Witold Pilecki, member of Armia Krajowa (the Polish Home Army), organized a resistance movement in the Auschwitz concentration camp from 1940, and Jan Karski tried to spread word of the Holocaust.
Since 1963, a commission headed by an Israeli Supreme Court justice has been charged with the duty of awarding such people the honorary title Righteous Among the Nations.
A wide range of German soldiers, officials, and civilians were in some way involved in the Holocaust, from clerks and officials in the government to units of the army, the police, and the SS. Many ministries, including those of armaments, interior, justice, railroads, and foreign affairs, had substantial roles in orchestrating the Holocaust; similarly, German physicians participated in medical experiments and the T-4 euthanasia program. And, though there was no single military unit in charge of the Holocaust, the SS under Himmler was the closest. From the SS came the Totenkopfverbände concentration camp guards, the Einsatzgruppen killing squads, and many of the administrative offices behind the Holocaust. The Wehrmacht, or regular German army, participated directly far less than the SS in the Holocaust (though it did directly take part in the massacre of some Jews in Russia, Serbia, Poland, and Greece), but it supported the Einsatzgruppen, helped form the ghettos, ran prison camps, occasionally provided concentration camp guards, transported prisoners to camps, had experiments performed on prisoners, and substantially used slave labor.
German police units, all under the control of the Nazis during the war, also directly participated in the Holocaust; for example, Reserve Police Battalion 101, in just over a year, shot 38,000 Jews and deported 45,000 more to the extermination camps. Even private firms helped in the machinery of the Holocaust. Nazi bankers at the Paris branch of Barclays Bank volunteered the names of their Jewish employees to Nazi authorities, and many of them ended up in the death camps.
Hitler authorized the mass killing of those labelled by the Nazis as "undesirables" in the T-4 Euthanasia Program. Hitler encouraged the killings of the Jews of Eastern Europe by the Einsatzgruppen death squads in a speech in July, 1941, though he almost certainly approved the mass shootings earlier. A mass of evidence suggests that sometime in the fall of 1941, Himmler and Hitler agreed in principle on the complete mass extermination of the Jews of Europe by gassing, with Hitler explicitly ordering the "annihilation of the Jews" in a speech on December 12, 1941 (see Final Solution). To make for smoother intra-governmental cooperation in the implementation of this "Final Solution" to the "Jewish Question", the Wannsee conference was held near Berlin on January 20, 1942, with the participation of fifteen senior officials, led by Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann, the records of which provide the best evidence of the central planning of the Holocaust. Just five weeks later on February 22, Hitler was recorded saying "We shall regain our health only by eliminating the Jew" to his closest associates. However despite many years of investigating the documentation the third reich were so thorough in producing, there has never been any written proof that any order was given by Hitler at this or any other meeting or conference.
Arguments that no documentation links Hitler to "the Holocaust" ignore the records of his speeches kept by Nazi leaders such as Joseph Goebbels and rely on artificially limiting the Holocaust to exclude what we do have documentation on, such as the T-4 Euthanasia Program and the Kristallnacht pogrom.
Some claim that the full extent of what was happening in German-controlled areas was not known until after the war. However, even though Hitler did not talk about the camps in public, numerous rumors and eyewitness accounts from escapees and others gave some indication that Jews were being killed in large numbers. Since the early years of the war, the Polish government-in-exile published documents and organised meetings to spread word of the fate of the Jews. By early 1941, the British had received information via an intercepted Chilean memo that Jews were being targeted, and by late 1941 they had intercepted information about a number of large massacres of Jews conducted by German police. In an entry in the Friedrich Kellner Diary dated October 28, 1941, the German justice inspector Friedrich Kellner recorded a conversation he had in Laubach with a German soldier who had witnessed a massacre in Poland. Churchill, who was privy to intelligence reports derived from decoded German transmissions, first began mentioning "mass killings" in public at the same time. In the summer of 1942, a Jewish labor organization (the Bund) got word to London that 700,000 Polish Jews had already died, and the BBC took the story seriously, though the United States State Department did not. In the United States, in November of 1942, a telegram from Europe which contained word about Hitler's plans was released by Stephen Wise of the World Jewish Congress, after a long wait for permission from the government. This led to attempts by Jewish organizations to put Roosevelt under pressure to act on behalf of the European Jews, many of whom had tried in vain to enter either Britain or the U.S.
On December 17, 1942, however, after receiving a detailed eyewitness account from Jan Karski, the Allies issued a formal declaration confirming and condemning Nazi extermination policy toward the Jews. The US State Department was aware of the use and the location of the gas chambers of extermination camps, but refused pleas to bomb them out of operation. On May 12, 1943, Polish government-in-exile and Bund leader Szmul Zygielbojm committed suicide in London to protest the inaction of the world with regard to the Holocaust, stating in part in his suicide letter:
I cannot continue to live and to be silent while the remnants of Polish Jewry, whose representative I am, are being killed. My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto fell with arms in their hands in the last heroic battle. I was not permitted to fall like them, together with them, but I belong with them, to their mass grave.
By my death, I wish to give expression to my most profound protest against the inaction in which the world watches and permits the destruction of the Jewish people.
The death camps were discussed between American and British leaders at the Bermuda Conference in April of 1943. The large camps near Auschwitz were finally surveyed by plane in April of 1944, many months after the German air force ceased to be a serious danger. While all important German cities and production centers were bombed by Allied forces until the end of the war, no attempt was made to collapse the system of mass annihilation by destroying pertinent structures or train tracks, even though Churchill was a proponent of bombing parts of the Auschwitz complex. Throughout the war, Britain also pressed European leaders to prevent "illegal" Jewish immigration and sent ships to block the sea-route to Palestine (from which Britain withdrew in 1948), turning back many refugees.
Debate also continues on how much average Germans knew about the Holocaust. Recent historical work suggests that the majority of Germans knew that Jews were being indiscriminately killed and persecuted, even if they did not know of the specifics of the death camps. Robert Gellately, a historian at Oxford University, conducted a widely-respected survey of the German media before and during the war, concluding that there was "substantial consent and active participation of large numbers of ordinary Germans" in aspects of the Holocaust, and documenting that the sight of columns of slave laborers were common, and that the basics of the concentration camps, if not the extermination camps, were widely known. Other scholars, like Peter Longerich, have argued that most Germans did not know about the mass-murders as they were occuring. 
The Holocaust and the historical phenomenon of Nazism, which has since become the dark symbol of the 20th century's crimes, is the subject of numerous historical, psychological, sociological, literary, and philosophical studies. All types of scholars have tried to explain what appears as the most irrational act of the Western World, which, until at least World War I, had been so sure of its eminent superiority to other civilizations. Frankfurt school philosopher Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer thus began the Dialectic of Enlightenment:
"Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. Yet the wholly enlightened earth is radiant with triumphant calamity.
Theodor Adorno went as far as ceasing to work as a composer, declaring: "writing any more poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric". Thus, Auschwitz became the metonymic name for the Holocaust and the Nazi barbarity. Although Adorno later retracted this statement, declaring that "Perennial suffering has as much right to expression as the tortured have to scream...", the concepts of civilization and of progress themselves were called into question more profoundly than had happened after the slaughter of World War I. Germany, considered to be one of the most enlightened European countries, radiant with art, literature and philosophy, had made itself guilty of one of the most enormous crimes against humanity ever committed. It was left to literature, such as Primo Levi's If This Is a Man (1947) or Robert Antelme's The Human Race (1947) to describe what poetry, according to Adorno, could not describe.
The enormity of the Holocaust has prompted much analysis. Hannah Arendt, in her 1963 report on Adolf Eichmann, presented him as a symbol of dull obedience to authority in what was at first seen as a scandalous book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), which has since become a classic of political philosophy. Thus, Arendt opposed herself to the first, immediate, explanation, which accused the Nazis of "cruelty" and of "sadism". Many people who participated in the Holocaust were normal people, according to Arendt, and that is the real scandal. This led Stanley Milgram's to conduct psychological experiences on obedience, opening up the way to understanding the psychological experiences of "authority" and charisma. The question of charisma was renewed by Gustave Le Bon's 19th century studies about crowd psychology. Thus, his work acquired new force, although Hitler himself had been inspired by Le Bon's description of propaganda techniques to write Mein Kampf. Furthermore, Hannah Arendt and some authors such as Sven Lindqvist and Olivier LeCour Grandmaison tried to point toward a relative continuity between the crimes committed against "primitive" people during colonialism and the Holocaust. They most notably argued that many techniques that the Nazis industrialized had been experimented on in other continents, starting with the concentration camps invented during the Second Boer War if not before. This thesis was met with fierce opposition by some groups who argued that nothing could be compared to the Holocaust, not even other genocides: although the Herero genocide (1904-07) and the Armenian genocide (1915-17) are commonly considered as the first genocides in history, many argued that the Holocaust had taken proportions that even these crimes against humanity had not achieved.
The Holocaust was indeed characterized by an industrial project of extermination; compared to it, other genocides seemed to lack "professionalism". This led authors such as Enzo Traverso to argue in The Origins of Nazi Violence that Auschwitz was "an authentic product of Western civilization". Beginning his book with a description of the guillotine, which according to him marks the entry of the Industrial Revolution into capital punishment, and writes: "Through an irony of history, the theories of Frederick Taylor" (taylorism) were applied by a totalitarian system to serve "not production, but extermination." (see also Heidegger's comments). In the wake of Hannah Arendt, Traverso describes the colonial domination during the New Imperialism period through "rational organization", which lead in a number of cases to extermination. However, this argument, which insists on the industrialization and technical rationality through which the Holocaust itself was carried out (the organization of trains, technical details, etc. — see Adolf Eichmann's bureaucratic work), was in turn opposed by other people. These point out that the 1994 Rwandan genocide only used machetes.
Others have presented the Holocaust as a product of German history, analyzing its deep roots in German society: "German authoritarianism, feeble liberalism, brash nationalism or virulent anti-Semitism. From A. J. P. Taylor's The Course of German History fifty-five years ago to Daniel Goldhagen's recent Hitler's Willing Executioners, Nazism is understood as the outcome of a long history of uniquely German traits", writes Russell Jacoby. Furthermore, while many pointed out that the specificity of the Holocaust was also rooted in the constant antisemitism from which Jews had been the target since the foundation of Christianity (and the myth of the "deicide people"), others underlined that in the 19th century, pseudo-scientific racist theories had been elaborated in order to justify, in a general way, white supremacy. In his works on "biopolitics", philosopher Michel Foucault also traced the origins of "state racism" to the eugenicist policies invented during the 19th century. (One of the few compliments that Foucault accorded to Freud's psychoanalysis was that Freud adamantly opposed such a project of "racial hygiene".)
Until recently, Germany refused to allow access to massive Holocaust-related archives located in Bad Arolsen due to, among other factors, privacy concerns. However, in May 2006, a 20-year effort by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum led to the announcement that 30-50 million pages would be made accessible to historians and survivors.
The Holocaust and its aftermath left millions of refugees, including many Jews who had lost most or all of their family members and possessions, and often faced persistent anti-Semitism in their home countries. The original plan of the Allies was to repatriate these "Displaced Persons" to their country of origin, but many refused to return, or were unable to as their homes or communities had been destroyed. As a result, more than 250,000 languished in DP camps for years after the war ended.
While Zionism had been prominent before the Holocaust, afterwards it became almost universally accepted among Jews. Many Zionists, pointing to the fact that Jewish refugees from Germany and Nazi-occupied lands had been turned away by other countries, argued that if a Jewish state had existed at the time, the Holocaust could not have occurred on the scale it did. With the rise of Zionism, Palestine became the destination of choice for Jewish refugees, but local Arabs opposed the immigration, the United Kingdom refused to allow Jewish refugees into the Mandate, and many countries in the Soviet Bloc made any emigration illegal. Former Jewish partisans in Europe, along with the Haganah in Palestine, organized a massive effort to smuggle Jews into Palestine, called Berihah, which eventually transported 250,000 Jews (both DPs and those who hid during the war) to the Mandate. By 1952, the Displaced Persons camps were closed, with over 80,000 Jewish DPs in the United States, about 136,000 in Israel, and another 20,000 in other nations, including Canada and South Africa.
The juridical notion of crimes against humanity was developed following the Holocaust. The sheer number of people murdered and the transnational nature of the slaughter shattered any notion of national sovereignty taking precedence over international law when prosecuting these crimes. There were a number of legal efforts established to bring Nazis and their collaborators to justice. Some of the higher ranking Nazi officials were tried as part of the Nuremberg Trials, presided over by an Allied court; the first international tribunal of its kind. In total, 5,025 Nazi criminals were convicted between 1945-1949 in the American, British and French zones of Germany. Other trials were conducted in the countries in which the defendants were citizens — in West Germany and Austria, many Nazis were let off with light sentences, with the claim of "following orders" ruled a mitigating circumstance, and many returned to society soon afterwards.
An ongoing effort to pursue Nazis and collaborators resulted, famously, in the capture of Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann in Argentina (an operation led by Rafi Eitan) and to his subsequent trial in Israel in 1961.. Simon Wiesenthal became one of the most famous Nazi hunters. Some former Nazis, however, escaped any charges. Thus, Reinhard Gehlen a former intelligence officer of the Wehrmacht, managed to turn around and work for the CIA, and created in 1956 the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the German intelligence agency, which he directed until 1968.
Klaus Barbie, known as "the Butcher of Lyon" for his role at the head of the Gestapo, was protected from 1945 to 1955 by the MI5 and the CIA, before fleeing to South America where he had a hand in Luis García Meza Tejada's 1980 Cocaine Coup in Bolivia. Barbie was finally arrested in 1983 and sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity in 1987.
In October 2005, Aribert Heim (aka "Doctor Death") was found to be living for twenty years in Spain, protected by ODESSA.
The Holocaust also galvanized the international community to take action against future genocide, including the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948. While international human rights law moved forward quickly in the wake of the Holocaust, international criminal law has been slower to advance; after the Nuremberg trials and the Japanese war crime trials it was over forty years until the next such international criminal procedures, in 1993 in Yugoslavia. In 2002, the International Criminal Court was set up.
Although the Holocaust is often cited as the canonical example of genocide, none of its perpetrators were tried for that crime, as the crime of genocide had not been established at that stage. The first-ever convictions for genocide under the 1948 Convention were handed down on September 2, 1998, when the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda found Jean-Paul Akayesu, the former mayor of a small town in Rwanda, guilty of nine counts of genocide committed during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. No state has as yet been convicted of genocide. Only one inter-state case has so far been brought before the International Court of Justice, that of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro, which has yet to be resolved.
As of 2005, of the nearly 400,000 Holocaust survivors residing in Israel, 40% live below the poverty line, increasing significantly since 1999 and resulting in heated and dramatic protests on the part of survivors against the Israeli government and related agencies. The average rate of cancer among survivors is nearly two and a half times that of the national average. The average cases of colon cancer among survivors are nine times higher than the national average, which is attributed to the conditions of starvation experienced by survivors as well as extreme stress.
On account of the magnitude of the Holocaust, many theologians have re-examined the classical theological views on God's goodness and actions in the world. Some believers and former believers question whether people can still have any faith in God after the Holocaust, and some of the theological responses to these questions are explored in Holocaust theology. In it orthodox Jews state their reasons for why they believe the Holocaust happened and, to a more extreme degree, why they felt the Jews of Europe deserved to die.
German philosopher Theodor Adorno famously commented that "writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric," and the Holocaust has indeed had a profound impact on art and literature, for both Jews and non-Jews. Some of the more famous works are by Holocaust survivors or victims, such as Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, Viktor Frankl and Anne Frank, but there is a substantial body of literature and art in many languages. Indeed, Paul Celan wrote his poem Todesfuge as a direct response to Adorno's dictum.
The Holocaust has also been the subject of many films, including Oscar winners Schindler's List and Life Is Beautiful. With the aging population of Holocaust survivors, there has been increasing attention in recent years to preserving the memory of the Holocaust. The result has included extensive efforts to document their stories, including the Survivors of the Shoah project and Four Seasons Documentary, as well as institutions devoted to memorializing and studying the Holocaust, including Yad Vashem in Israel and the US Holocaust Museum. The historic tale of the Danish Jews fleeing to Sweden by fishing boat is recounted in an award-winning American children's novel.
After World War II, the blue forget-me-not flower was used again as a masonic emblem at the 1948, first Annual Convention of the United Grand Lodges of Germany, Ancient Free & Accepted Masons. The badge is now worn in the coat lapel by freemasons around the world to remember all those that have suffered in the name of Freemasonry, and specifically those during the Nazi era.
In a unanimous vote, the United Nations General Assembly voted on November 1, 2005, to designate January 27 as the "International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust." January 27, 1945 is the day that the former Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated. Even before the UN vote, January 27 was already observed as Holocaust Memorial Day in the United Kingdom since 2001, as well as other countries, including Sweden, Italy, Germany, Finland, Denmark and Estonia. Israel observes Yom HaShoah vea hagvora, the "Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and the courage of the Jewish people ," on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which generally falls in April. This memorial day is also commonly observed by Jews outside of Israel.
Holocaust denial is the assertion that the Holocaust did not occur, or that far fewer than six million Jews were killed by the Nazis; that there never was a centrally planned attempt to exterminate the Jews; or that there were no mass killings at the extermination camps. Those who hold this position often claim that Jews or Zionists know that the Holocaust did not occur and are engaged in a conspiracy to further their political agenda. As the Holocaust is considered by historians to be one of the most documented events in recent history, these views are not accepted as credible, with organizations such as the American Historical Association stating that Holocaust denial is "at best, a form of academic fraud." Public espousal of Holocaust denial is a crime in ten European countries, including France, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Romania, and Germany.
Holocaust deniers often prefer to be called Holocaust "revisionists." Most scholars contend that the term is misleading. Historical revisionism is a mainstream part of the study of history; it is the reexamination of accepted history, with an eye towards updating it. In contrast, negationists may willfully misuse historical records; as Gordon McFee writes: "Revisionists depart from the conclusion that the Holocaust did not occur and work backwards through the facts to adapt them to that preordained conclusion. Put another way, they reverse the proper methodology ... thus turning the proper historical method of investigation and analysis on its head." Public Opinion Quarterly summarized that: "No reputable historian questions the reality of the Holocaust, and those promoting Holocaust denial are overwhelmingly anti-Semites and/or neo-Nazis."
Holocaust denial has become popular among Muslim opponents of Israel. The doctoral dissertation of Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority since 2005, raised doubts that gas chambers were used for the extermination of Jews and suggested that the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust was less than a million. Abbas has not espoused this position since his appointment as Palestinian Prime Minister in 2003, and has denied being a Holocaust denier. In late 2005 Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the Holocaust as "the myth of the Jews' massacre." An underlying reason for the increase of this view among Israel critics is that the legitimacy of Israel as a state is seen as associated to the persecution of Jews over the centuries, and more particularly, to the Nazi Holocaust. Therefore, challenging the very existence of the Holocaust would also question the legitimacy of the creation of the State of Israel.