Country Number Percent of Jewish Population
Poland 3,000,000 90
SSR Ukraine 900,000 60
Hungary 450,000 70
Romania 300,000 50
SSR White Russ. 245,000 65
Baltic States 228,000 90
Germany/Aus. 210,000 90
Other 600,900 -
TOTAL 5,933,900 67
(Dawidowicz, 1975, p. 402)
Nation Number of Jews Killed
Poland up to 3,000,000
USSR over 700,000
Hungary over 180,000
Lithuania up to 130,000
TOTAL 5,100,000 (Hilberg, 1985, p. 1220)
The Holocaust did not start spontaneously, however, with bullets or gas chambers in the 1940s, but rather with a carefully sculpted campaign of bigoted rhetoric and direct action which escalated throughout the 1930s. The official Nazi propaganda bureaucracy orchestrated a systematic effort to scapegoat responsibility for Germany's military, diplomatic and economic defeats on to Jews. Media campaigns labeled Jews as rodents or vermin unfit for inclusion in an Aryan society. Nazi laws worked hand in glove with economic deprivation and social castigation to remove Jews from meaningful participation in German society.
On November 9, 1938 a two day long attack of coordinated hate crimes by roving bands of Nazi mobs commenced across Germany and Austria resulting in the death of 96 Jews, and the illegitimate arrest of 30,000 more. Arsons, vandalism and looting destroyed thousands of Jewish businesses, homes and synagogues. As correspondent Otto Tolishus reported in the New York Times, "...by nightfall there was scarcely a Jewish shop, cafe, office or synagogue in the country that was not either wrecked, burned severely, or damaged." The combination of government complicity and the lack of any meaningful public condemnation in Germany to this initial violent salvo is widely regarded as a crucial turning point for the even greater atrocities that followed (Berenbaum, 1993, p. 54; ADL,1991, p. 7).
The final stages of the Nazi atrocities involved the complete isolation of Jews from society. Victims were stripped of their belongings and forcibly removed from their homes. In violation of Judaic law victims were tattooed with identification numbers on their forearms. They were transported in sealed railroad cattle cars to cramped unsanitary slave labor camps ringed by electrified fences, guard towers, and armed soldiers.
Most of the Jewish deaths that occurred under the Nazi regime occurred at 17 major concentration camps spread across Eastern Europe from 1942-1945. While most died from gassings involving either the insecticide Zyklon B or carbon monoxide, a smaller number died from shootings, beatings, anatomical experimentation and disease (Berenbaum, 1993, p.123; O'Brien & Palmer,1993, p.68).
These concentration camps were the most efficient killing machines ever developed in human history. Those who were infirm, elderly, or too young for forced labor were immediately segregated and executed upon arrival. All others, except the few liberated by the Allies, were killed after a period of forced labor. At the conclusion of their period of forced labor, most victims were stripped naked and herded into large enclosures where they faced a painful death through asphyxiation from poison gas. The bodies of the victims were, contrary to Judaic law, cremated and reduced to ash in a mass collection of superheated black industrial iron ovens located on the premises.
In disputed Soviet territory roaming Nazi SS and police killing squads called Einsatzgruppen, summarily executed whole communities of Jews. Approximately 25% of the Jews killed during the Holocaust were actually executed by the Einsatzgruppen (Berenbaum, 1993, p. 95). Nearly all the Jews who failed to escape European countries under Nazi domination during that period perished in concentration camps. One third of the world's Jewish population and nearly all of mainland European Jewry was obliterated (O'Brien & Palmer,1993, pp. 68-9; Berenbaum, 1993, p. 95). Others systematically executed included devout Christians, gypsies, gays, intellectuals, and the disabled.
Notwithstanding wartime chaos and the Nazi's intentional attempt to hide the nature and extent of their brutality, the Holocaust is one of the most thoroughly documented events in human history. After Hitler's initial proclamation in 1939 authorizing the extermination of the disabled, explicit official documentation of extermination was still extensive, but involved the use of code words (Berenbaum,1993, p. 65). After the liberation of the concentration camps by the allies various members of Congress, the military, survivors and the press helped document the atrocities. The 1946 Nuremberg Trials presented exhaustive proof of the Nazi's extermination plan against European Jewry. During the trial the defendants did not deny the atrocities, but rather proffered that they were merely obeying commands. Among the damning evidence was Rudolf Hoess' admission to English interrogators on March 16, 1946 that he "personally arranged on orders received from Himmler in May 1941, the gassing of two million persons between June-July 1941 and the end of 1943, during which time I was Commandant of Auschwitz" (Stern, 1993, p. 69).
The Nizkor Project
A resource for those dedicated to combating bigotry both online and within
their communities. http://www.nizkor.org
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) http://www.adl.org
American Jewish Committee www.ajc.org
Simon Weisenthal Center http://www.wiesenthal.org/
Interfaith Committee of Remembrance Honors Holocaust victims and survivors through a series of musical concerts and events http://www.holocaust-concerts.org
Holocaust/Shoah Page http://www.mtsu.edu/~baustin/holo.html
United States Memorial Holocaust Museum http://www.ushmm.org