The Holocaust was the mass murder of Jewish people and other people that Hitler didn’t like. Between 1941 and 1945, 16 million people were killed because of the Holocaust. This included 6 million Jews.
The Holocaust involved sending people that the Nazis didn’t like, such as Jews and communists, to concentration camps. There they would be worked to death, living in cramped conditions with little food or water. Later in the Holocaust, Hitler came up with a “final solution” to the “Jewish problem”, which involved sending Jewish people to concentration camps and killing them inside gas chambers.
Hitler thought that Jews caused all the problems in society. Since he had come into power in 1933, he had decreased the quality of life for Jewish people by gradually removing their freedoms.
The Nuremberg Laws
The Nuremberg Laws were introduced on the 15th September 1935. It meant Jews could no longer marry Germans or be a German citizen. The Nazis also used the Nuremberg Laws to define who was and who wasn’t Jewish. For example, if you were 3⁄8 or 1⁄2 Jewish, you would be classed as “mixed race”. This meant you could still have German citizenship. However, if you were 3⁄4 or entirely Jewish, you couldn’t have citizenship. You can find out more about the classifications here.
The treatment of Jews in Germany gradually deteriorated, with many Jews being sent to ghettos. Ghettos were areas of a city where Jews were separated from the rest of society. They were usually very dirty, cramped and small.
The “final solution”
The Nazis “final solution” to the “Jewish problem” was to send Jews to extermination camps. At these camps, families were separated. Men were usually sent to areas where there would work, whilst women and children would be sent to gas chambers. Before they got there, they would be stripped of all their clothes, valuables and even their hair. These would either be sold or used to make products.
The gas chambers were disguised as “showers”. In these chambers, there were holes where the mustard gas would be sent in. The gas would kill those inside the gas chambers very slowly. The bodies would then be taken out of the chambers and burnt on a large bonfire.
When concentration and extermination camps were liberated by Soviet, American and British forces in late 1944 and early 1945, they usually found many prisoners in terrible condition. They also found the gas chambers and unburied corpses inside the camp. A BBC war correspondent there at the time said this about what he saw:
Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which. …
The living lay with their heads against the corpses and around them moved the awful, ghostly procession of emaciated, aimless people, with nothing to do and with no hope of life, unable to move out of your way, unable to look at the terrible sights around them …
Babies had been born here, tiny wizened things that could not live. …
A mother, driven mad, screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child, and thrust the tiny mite into his arms. …
He opened the bundle and found the baby had been dead for days. This day at Belsen was the most horrible of my life.BBC War Correspondent