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A lunatic Chaplin imitator
and his greatest fans

Icon nazi.svg
First as tragedy
Then as farce
Hate for hate's sake
Perpetuating prejudice
Hate mongers
Time does not heal all wounds; there are those that remain painfully open.
—Elie Wiesel

The Holocaust (termed, by Nazis, the Final Solution to the Jewish Question) refers to the industrialized mass-murder of ethnic Jews, Slavs, Roma, homosexuals, transgender people, and the handicapped by the Nazi Party during World War II (1939-1945). The Nazis intended to eliminate these "undesirables" from Germany but also from a wider Europe. Axis-endorsed authorities murdered approximately 17 million people in the course of the Holocaust, about 6 million of them Jews.[1]

Origin of term[edit]

The term Holocaust ("burnt offering; sacrifice by fire") came into widespread usage during the mid-1970s after it was popularized in writings and through a TV miniseries of the same name.[citation needed] It had been known in Hebrew as the Shoah ("catastrophe") since it happened in the 1940s. The term "final solution" or "Hitler's final solution" also refers to the Holocaust and was widely used before Holocaust became the best-known term for it.


The Holocaust was initially carried out by military death squads (EinsatzgruppenWikipedia or "task forces") sweeping through newly-occupied Polish and, later, Soviet territory during World War II. These squads would round up the Jewish population and shoot them. This was eventually regarded as wasteful of military resources, damaging to the soldiers' morale, and inefficient, leading to innovations such as gassing in mobile vans and concentration camps. The largest and most infamous was the Auschwitz campWikipedia near the town of OświęcimWikipedia in Poland, although TreblinkaWikipedia (also in Poland) and Bergen-BelsenWikipedia (Germany) are also well known. It involved systematic use of gas chambers using either carbon monoxide or the gas Zyklon BWikipedia (a form of the poison cyanide) as the most common means of mass murder. These camps are also sometimes called extermination camps. There were also widespread deaths in them from systematic starvation and from disease exacerbated by a system of forced labor intended to wring the last bit of useful work from the victims. Horrific forced medical experiments were also conducted on prisoners.


The got the actual content of measures which they took. For example, the barring of Jews from office, the prohibition of intermarriages and of the employment in Jewish homes of female persons under the age of forty-five, the various marking decrees — especially the Jewish star — the compulsory ghetto, the voidance of any will executed by a Jew that might work in such a way as to prevent inheritance of his property by someone who was a Christian. Many such measures had been worked out over the course of more than a thousand years by authorities of the church and by secular governments that followed in those footsteps. And the experience gathered over that time became a reservoir that could be used, and which indeed was used to an amazing extent. one can compare a rather large number of German laws with their counterparts in the past and find complete parallels, even in detail, as if there were a memory which automatically extended to the period of 1933, 1935, 1939 and beyond.

They invented very little, and they did not invent the portrait of the Jew, which was also taken over lock, stock and barrel from writings going back to the sixteenth century. So even the propaganda, the realm of imagination and invention — even there they were remarkably in the footsteps of those who preceded them, from Martin Luther to the nineteenth century. And here again they were not inventive.

They had to become inventive with the "final solution". That was their great invention, and that is what made this entire process different from all others that had preceded that event. … Even here I would suggest a logical progression, one that came to fruition in what might be called closure, because from the earliest days, from the fourth century, sixth century, the missionaries of Christianity had said in effect to the Jews: "You may not live among us as Jews." The secular rulers who followed them from the late Middle Ages then decided: "You may not live among us," and the Nazis finally decreed: "You may not live."
—Raul Hilberg, historian[2]:71-72[3]
Entrance to Auschwitz I

The Nazis began setting up concentration camps as early as 1933, such as the Dachau camp in southern Germany. At the time they were used for forced labor and imprisonment of political dissidents and other "undesirables." Death tolls from starvation, disease, exposure, and the guards' cruelty were high (and similar to those in similar camps set up by the British during the Boer War, when the term concentration camp was coined), but initially there was no systematized programme of extermination carried out there, and some inmates were released. Some of those original concentration camps did switch over to being used as extermination camps. During this period many Jews, homosexuals, Roma and others were sent to the camps. The large-scale systematic relocation of Jews and others to the camps for mass extermination in gas chambers began about 1942 and lasted until the camps were liberated by Soviet and Allied forces at the end of World War II in 1945. The scope and scale of this genocide once it was seen firsthand shocked even a world already weary of several years of world war.

The Auschwitz camp is now a United Nations World Heritage Site, and has been transformed into a museum commemorating the horrors perpetrated there. Famous tenants of Auschwitz include Anne Frank, Primo Levi, Witold Pilecki and Leo Bretholz.

Other participants[edit]

The Nazis found that the local citizenry in parts of eastern Europe such as Lithuania and the Ukraine were quite willing to aid in the extermination of local Jews. In Croatia the Ustaše party, which ruled under Axis protection between 1941 and 1945, carried out its own extermination campaign against Serbs, Jews, Roma and others, including Muslim dissidents, in conjunction with the Nazis, doing so on their own initiative. Vichy France also actively collaborated with the Nazis in rounding up Jews. Other Axis-aligned countries, however, (Japan, Italy, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria) did not comply except in a few cases when they were compelled to by their Nazi allies.

Death toll[edit]

Holocaust victims at Nordhausen concentration camp.

Among the number of people killed are counted 6 million Jews,[4] nearly 3 million non-Jewish Poles,[5] 600,000 Serbs and close to 500,000 Roma (Gypsies).[6] Further groups of victims include 1-1.5 million political activists and opponents of the Nazi regime (including communists, social democrats, socialists, trade unionists and anarchists), 3 million Soviet POWs,[7] 7,000-16,000 Spanish POWs, 80,000-200,000 Freemasons, 75,000-250,000 disabled[8] and 2,500-5,000 Jehovah's Witnesses. In addition, 5,000-15,000 gay men were gathered in concentration camps[9] with an estimated death rate around 60%.[10] All in all, this accounts for about 14 million deaths.[11] An estimated one million died at Auschwitz alone. A broader definition of the Holocaust would include up to 17 million deaths.[12]


Flashbacks are common in Holocaust survivors, and can unfortunately have several extremely common triggers, including crowded trains, uniforms, medical exams, showers, discarded bread, or the German language.[13] Chronic depression, sleep and memory impairments, and survivor's guilt are all common. Higher rates of PTSD have been shown in the children of survivors. These conditions are not unique to the Holocaust and are found in the families of those affected by other genocides. Survivors living in Israel have been shown on average to have higher reported well-being than those living in other countries.[14]

In 1961 Milgram's obedience study sought to determine the role of social compliance in the millions who perpetrated the Holocaust.[15]

The questions of many adolescents in Israel were answered with silence, until the Eichmann trial; however one of the few outlets of information was the fictitious pornographic novel, House of Dolls.[16] Sexually sensationalized written and drawn accounts of the Holocaust were featured in many Israeli dime store novels and became the genre of Stalag fiction.Wikipedia

Functionalism vs Intentionalism[edit]

A major debate in the study of the Holocaust is that between functionalism and intentionalism. Neither of these interpretations are Holocaust denial, though the controversy might be abused by Holocaust deniers.

Intentionalists believe that the Holocaust was planned, ordered and directed by Hitler — that he devised it and put it into place, and had even been secretly planning it before he came to power. Functionalists believe that the Holocaust was not directly planned but organically evolved in response to bureaucratic pressures within the Nazi state.

Intentionalists believe that Hitler personally ordered the murder of millions of Jews — although, we are lacking the "smoking gun" of a direct order or plan from him stating the same. For example, intentionalists believe that Hitler ordered the deportation of Jews to Eastern Europe as a prelude to killing them, and that his cryptic phrase "the final solution of the Jewish question" was code for extermination. Functionalists believe that Hitler gave the order for deportation with no particular end-goal in mind; but when the Jews arrived in Poland, local Nazi officials did not know what to do with them and decided that killing them was the simplest solution of their problem. Functionalists do not deny that Hitler had a major moral responsibility for the Holocaust, by helping to create and maintain the climate of anti-Semitism which made it possible and by authoring or approving some of the decisions which produced it — but they see the origin of the Holocaust as more a process of bottom-up innovations than top-down designs. Even if Hitler did not originate the idea for the Holocaust, he would have become aware of it, yet having so become aware he did nothing to stop it.

See also[edit]

External Links[edit]


  1. Documenting Numbers of Victims of the Holocaust and Nazi Persecution
  2. Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust. The Complete Text of the Film by Claude Lanzmann (1985) Pantheon. ISBN 0394551427.
  3. Raul Hilberg Film | Accession Number: 1996.166 | RG Number: RG-60.5045 | Film ID: 3768, 3769, 3770, 3771, 3772, 3773, 3774, 3775, 3776, 3777, 3778, 3779, 3780, 3781, 3477, 3478, 3480. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  4. http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/faqs/answers/faq_3.html
  5. Wikipedia: Nazi crimes against ethnic PolesWikipedia
  6. http://www.guardian.co.uk/secondworldwar/story/0,14058,1361751,00.html
  7. The Treatment of Soviet POWs: Starvation, Disease, and Shootings, June 1941–January 1942
  8. Lifton, Robert J. "The Nazi Doctors": Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. London: Papermac, 1986 (reprinted 1990) p. 142.
  9. The Holocaust Chronicle, Publications International Ltd., p. 108.
  10. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/gaycomp.html
  11. Persecution and Resistance of Jehovah's Witnesses During the Nazi-Regime, 1933-1945: Social Disinterest, Governmental Disinformation, Renewed Persecution, and Now Manipulation of History? p. 251.
  12. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust by Donald Niewyk and Francis Nicosia (2000) Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231112009. "The Holocaust is commonly defined as the mass murder of more than 5,000,000 Jews by the Germans during World War II. Not everyone finds this a fully satisfactory definition. The Nazis also killed millions of people belonging to other groups: Gypsies, the physically and mentally handicapped, Soviet prisoners of war, Polish and Soviet citizens, political prisoners, religious dissenters, and homosexuals. Can it be said that any of these groups were treated in the same way as the Jews and for the same reasons and hence deserve to be included in the history of the Holocaust? A positive answer to this question would require a broader definition of the Holocaust and acknowledging as many as 17,000,000 victims. A more expansive view might also induce us to push the start of the Holocaust back from 1941 to 1939 (if we include the handicapped) or even to 1933 (if we assume that the whole thing was premeditated)." (page 45)
  13. http://amcha.org/Upload/folgen.pdf
  14. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/09/holocaust-survivors.aspx
  15. http://books.google.com/books/about/Conscience.html?id=85E0kn5yKF4C
  16. בית-הבבות by 135633 דביר (1953) ק.צטניק. Later translated into English as House of Dolls.