The Holocaust. The Holocaust. - In 1942, Hitler proclaimed his strategy for ridding Europe of Jews, political prisoners and a number of other minority groups - His plan called for mass extermination – genocide on a colossal scale
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- In 1942, Hitler proclaimed his strategy for ridding Europe of Jews, political prisoners and a number of other minority groups
- His plan called for mass extermination – genocide on a colossal scale
- He called this the ‘Final Solution’ to Europe’s ‘Jewish Problem’
- The Nazis established many different types of concentration camps located in occupied Europe. These included:
Hostage CampsLabour CampsPOW CampsCamps for re-educating Polish peopleTransit CampsExtermination Camps
- In total, around 1200 camps were established
- Concentration Camps were typically run by Hitler’s special police force / private army, the SS (Schutzstaffel)
- Heinrich Himmler was ultimately in charge of the administration of the camps
- Additionally, the German regular army worked in the camps, assisting with basic operations. Doctors and university researchers worked at the camps as well, studying the inmates and performing horrifying experiments on them
-Most of the camps were used as sources of free labour to support the German war effort
- This meant that inmates were used as slaves, building weapons, sewing uniforms, producing food for the armies, making boots, etc.
- Inmates would often be worked to exhaustion before receiving any food or a break.
-Many were simply worked to death. When this happened, the body would be removed to a mass grave and another slave would quickly be brought in to replace the dead inmate
- Many camps had a sign over the entrance that read “ARBEIT MACHT FREI”
- The Nazis set up six Extermination Camps, all located in Poland. These were Chelmno, Treblinka, Belzek, Sobibor, Maidanek and Auschwitz-Birknau
- Prisoners at these camps were put to work on war-related projects, but were also systematically killed and cremated
- Initially, inmates were shot, hanged, tortured to death or simply overworked. Eventually, to streamline the process, the Nazis introduced gas chambers
- Auschwitz-Birkenauis the most notorious Extermination Camp. The four gas chambers here were disguised as showers. Inmates were stripped of belongings, crowded into the room and a can of Zyklon B gas would be dropped into the middle of the room, killing everyone in a few minutes
- Bodies would be removed by a special detachment of prisoners, who would then remove any gold fillings that could be found. These would be melted down into gold bars
- Bodies were then cremated in special ovens
- 6,000 people could be put to death each day in this manner
- What the American, Canadian and British forces discovered as they liberated camp after camp during their push toward Berlin was beyond comprehension. Many soldiers could not cope with these discoveries
- A common theme all over Germany was that locals claimed to have no idea about the camps – even those who lived in towns right near them
- A number of these camps have been preserved and are now museums. At Auschwitz, it is still possible to visit the gas chambers to pay homage to those who died there.