The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was a genocide in which approximately six million Jews were killed by Adolf Hitler‘s Nazi regime and its collaborators. Some historians use a definition of the Holocaust that includes the additional five million non-Jewish victims of Nazi mass murders, bringing the total to approximately eleven million. Killings took place throughout Nazi Germany and German-occupied territories. From 1941 to 1945, Jews were systematically murdered in a genocide, one of the largest in history, and part of a broader aggregate of acts of oppression and killings of various ethnic and political groups in Europe by the Nazi regime.
Every arm of Germany’s bureaucracy was involved in the logistics and the carrying out of the genocide, turning the Third Reich into “a genocidal state”. Other victims of Nazi crimes included Romanis, ethnic Poles and other Slavs, Soviet POWs, communists, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the mentally and physically disabled. In total, approximately 11 million people were killed, including approximately one million Jewish children.Initially the German government passed laws to exclude Jews from civil society, most prominently the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. A network of concentration camps was established starting in 1933 and ghettos were established following the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
In 1941, as Germany conquered new territory in eastern Europe, specialized paramilitary units called Einsatzgruppen were used to murder around two million Jews and “partisans”, often in mass shootings. By the end of 1942, victims were being regularly transported by freight trains to specially built extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, most were systematically killed in gas chambers. The campaign of murder continued until the end of World War II in Europe in April–May 1945. The first major camp to be directly encountered by Allied troops, Majdanek, was discovered by the advancing Soviets on 23 July 1944. Chełmno was liberated by the Soviets on 20 January 1945. Auschwitz was liberated, also by the Soviets, on 27 January 1945.
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