Historical Background

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Quite early the Germans designated Poland as the center of Jewish destruction. Jews from different European countries were forcibly brought to Poland to die. As the center of Jewish annihilation Poland provides the key to an understanding of the Holocaust in general. — THE HIDDEN CHILDREN By Jane Marks


I commanded Auschwitz up until 1 December 1943 and estimate that at least 2 ½ million victims were executed or eliminated there by gassing or burning. At least a further half a million died as a result of hunger and illness, which makes a total of about 3 million. This figure represents about 70 or 80 percent of all people who were sent as prisoners to Auschwitz. — “THE GOOD OLD DAYS” By Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, and Volker Riess


Regardless of the massive genocide by the Soviets or the communist Chinese, the only government mass murder that the world remembers and our school books describe is the Nazi genocide of the Jews in which “6 million” were slaughtered. But even then this count ignores the vast number of people exterminated. Overall, by genocide, the killing of hostages, reprisal raids, forced labor, “euthanasia,” starvation, exposure, medical experiments, terror bombing, and the concentration and death camps, the Nazis murdered from about 15,000,000 to over 31,600,000 people, most likely closer to 21 million men, women, handicapped, aged, sick, prisoners of war, forced laborers, camp inmates, critics, homosexuals, Jews, Slavs, Serbs, Czechs, Italians, Poles, Frenchmen, Ukrainians, and so on. Among them were 1 million children under eighteen years of age. — DEATH BY GOVERNMENT By R. J. Rummel


Auschwitz has long been the symbol of the Holocaust. The Nazis murdered almost one million Jews Here, more than in any other single place. And only in Auschwitz did they systematically kill Jews from all across the continent, deported to their deaths from Hungary, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Italy, and Norway. In part, Auschwitz was so lethal because it operated so much longer than other killing sites. In late spring 1944, when the three death camps in the General Government had long closed down again, Auschwitz was only just beginning to reach its murderous peak. And after Soviet troops finally liberated the camp in January 1945, much of the infrastructure of murder remained on-site, in contrast to Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka, where the traces of genocide had been carefully concealed. This is one reason why we know so much more about Auschwitz than about the other death camps. Another is the abundance of testimony. Several tens of thousands of Auschwitz prisoners survived the war and many of them told their story. By contrast, hardly anyone left the other death camps alive, since they functioned purely as extermination sites; only three survivors ever gave testimony about Belzec. — KL – A HISTORY OF THE NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS By Nicolaus Wachsmann


Why were the Germans so powerful? Most historians agree that their Prussian culture, in which civilians were treated almost like soldiers who were required to obey orders or die, was a powerful influence. “War was the national industry of Prussia.” And this was Germany’s fifth war of aggression in seventy-five years, so they had plenty of practice. German civilians admired and deferred to officers in uniform. Germany had long been a paternalistic society in which commands were obeyed instantly with a nod of the head and a click of the heels. It was one of the reasons why blitzkrieg tactics worked so well for them: they required close cooperation and instant disciplined reaction between all armed services. — HOW CHURCHILL SAVED CIVILIZATION By John Harte


Dachau was the first of many SS concentration camps. Established inside Germany in the early years of Hitler’s rule, these camps soon spread, during the Nazi conquest of Europe from the lat 1930’s, to Austria, Poland, France, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, and even the small British Channel Island of Alderney. In all, the SS set up twenty-seven main camps and over 1,100 attached satellite camps over the course of the Third Reich, though members fluctuated greatly, as old camps closed down and new ones opened; only Dachau lasted for the entire Nazi period. – KL – A HISTORY OF THE NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS By Nicolaus Wachsmann


Between 1933 and 1939, the Nazis would progressively strip the German Jews – which in 1933 numbered 503,000, only .076 percent of the country’s population – of their rights and equality as citizens, deprive them of their principal means of assimilation into German society, and persecute them in numerous ways. Simultaneously National Socialist propaganda boasted of the never more ruthless measures taken against the victims. During its first six years, the National Socialist regime implemented roughly four hundred pieces of anti-Jewish legislation. –– HITLER’S SHADOW WAR By Donald M. McKale


“Tonight,” Hitler announced, “Poland has for the first time fired on our territory with regular troops. Since 5:45 a.m., fire is being returned!” There had indeed been trouble on the German-Polish border in Upper Silesia. But it had all been staged by the Nazis themselves: dramatic political theater – devised by Hitler and Himmler, directed by Heydrich, performed by special Nazi forces – to give an excuse, however flimsy, for German aggression. “The victor,” Hitler had bluntly told his military commanders a few days earlier, “will not be asked whether he told the truth or not.” — KL – A HISTORY OF THE NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS By Nicolaus Wachsmann


Between 22 July and 12 September, some 265,000 inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto and 112,000 from other parts of the Warsaw district were deported to Treblinka and murdered. — HITLER’S SHADOW WAR By Donald M. McKale


By the end of 1942 the killing centers of Sobibor and Treblinka had murdered over one and a half million Jews, most of them from occupied Poland. Of the nearly 1.2 million Jews who entered Treblinka in 1942 and 1943, only fifty-four are known to have survived; most of them escaped during an uprising of Jewish prisoners at the camp in August 1943. — HITLER’S SHADOW WAR By Donald M. McKale


Nearly one-third of the world’s nineteen million Jews perished during the Holocaust. — HITLER’S SHADOW WAR By Donald M. McKale


“I would not like to be a Jew in Germany,” Hermann Goring quipped on November 12,1938, at a top-level Nazi meeting on anti-Jewish policy, only days after a devastating state-sponsored pogrom had engulfed Germany, with Nazi mobs razing thousands of synagogues, shops, and houses, and humiliating, robbing, and assaulting tens of thousands of Jews; hundreds had died, murdered during the storm of violence or driven to suicide. The pogrom was the climax of years of Nazi persecution, which saw the gradual but relentless exclusion of Jews from German social, cultural, and economic life, pursued by radical forces from below and above. It was becoming impossible for Jews to live in Germany, and around half of the estimated five hundred thousand Jews left their fatherland during the prewar years, despite the uncertainties of life abroad, the Nazi levies on emigration, and the difficulties of securing visas. The remaining Jews – impoverished, isolated, and deprived – faced a desperate future trapped inside the Third Riech.” — KL – A HISTORY OF THE NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS By Nicolaus Wachsmann


At the very center of Hitler’s worldview – together with his fanatical hatred of Jews and Bolsheviks – stood the belief that Germany could not survive without the conquest of living space. Hitler had already made up his mind about this in the mid-1920’s, when he still seemed destined for political obscurity. Germany needed to expand, he believed, and its future lay in the east, above all in the Soviet Union, with its vast stretches of land and rich agricultural resources. Hitler remained fixated on this goal for the rest of his life. Even as he was cowering in a maze of bunkers under the garden of the bombed Reich Chancellery, not long before his suicide in April 1945, he talked feverishly about the German mission to secure living space in the east. Back in summer 1941, right after the start of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s dream appeared to be within his grasp. Germany was on course for a crushing victory over the Soviet Union, or so it seemed; within a month of the invasion, the Wehrmacht had crossed the Dnieper, taken Smolensk, and closed in on Kiev. On July 16, 1941, in a top-level conference, Hitler laid out his vision. All the European areas of the Soviet Union would remain in German hands, Hitler announced: “We have to turn the newly gained eastern territories into a Garden of Eden.” — KL – A HISTORY OF THE NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS By Nicolaus Wachsmann


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