26 Holocaust Facts

26 HOLOCAUST FACTS: The Holocaust is without a doubt one of the darkest chapters in human history. Here are 26 facts about the Holocaust which will hopefully help you understand the immensity of the tragedy.
WARNING: Some of the historical photos presented below are disturbing.

1. MEANING OF THE NAME: The term Holocaust comes from the Greek word hólos meaning “whole”, and kaustós meaning “burnt”. The word Holocaust had been used in English for hundreds of years to refer to huge massacres, but since the 1960s it’s come to usually just refer to the genocide of Jews in World War II.  

holocaust-death-camp-inmatesPrisoners faced inhuman conditions in the concentration camps. This photo, showing cramped sleeping arrangements, was taken at Buchenwald Concentration Camp near Berlin after its liberation by American infantry.
@ Holocaust Facts

2. ALTERNATIVE NAME: The Holocaust is also known as the Shoah, meaning “catastrophe” in Hebrew.

3. FINAL TOLL: About six million Jews were killed by the Nazi regime.  Keep in mind there were only nine million Jews living in Europe before the war began.  About three million victims were men, two million were women and one million were children.

holocaust-deaths-chartA breakdown of Holocaust deaths. @ Holocaust Facts4. OTHERS KILLED: Although the term “Holocaust” is often used to refer to the Jewish tragedy, between five and 11 million members other minority groups were victims of Nazi genocide.  These included Polish, blacks, homosexuals, Romani and other “gypsy” groups, people with disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Freemasons, criminals, political prisoners and Soviet civilians and prisoners of war.

5. SYMBOLS: Imprisoned Jews were identified by a yellow star on their uniforms.  Homosexuals had to wear pink inverted triangles and Jehovah’s Witnesses wore purple ones. Criminals wore green triangles, Roma and other groups wore black or brown.

6. RELOCATION: Jews were often first sent to ghettos or concentration or labor camps, where they would either be worked or starved to death or sent on to extermination camps (also called death camps).

7. GHETTOS: These were parts of a city where Jews were compelled to live.  In the beginning many ghettos were “open” meaning Jews were allowed to come and go, but later they were all walled off. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest with other 445,000 Jews packed into 3.4 square km (1.3 square miles). In just two months in 1942 over 250,000 Jews were sent from the Warsaw Ghetto to their deaths at the Treblinka extermination camp.

warsaw-ghetto-uprisingJews being led for deportation in the Warsaw Ghetto. This was taken during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943.@ Holocaust Facts

8. HITLER: Nazi leader Adolf Hitler voiced his plans for the Holocaust as early as 1922.  He then told a journalist: “Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows – at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example – as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit. As soon as they have been untied, the next batch will be strung up, and so on down the line, until the last Jew in Munich has been exterminated. Other cities will follow suit, precisely in this fashion, until all Germany has been completely cleansed of Jews.”

9. WANNSEE: The Holocaust was organized in Berlin at the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942.  Senior Nazi Reinhard Heydrich presented a plan for the deportation and eventual extermination of all Jews from Europe and French North Africa.

10. THE FINAL SOLUTION: Hitler called the Holocaust die Endlösung der Judenfrage, the “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem”. To justify the killings Nazis also used the phrase Leben unwertes Leben – “Life unworthy of life”.

zyklon-bA Zyklon-B container on display at Auschwitz-Birkenau,
which is now a Holocaust museum. @ Holocaust Facts
11. ZYKLON-B: This was the cyanide-based pesticide used in gas chambers at Auschwitz and other camps. In quantitative terms only 5% of Zyklon-B delivered to Auschwitz was used in the gas chambers, the rest was used for delousing prisoners. This poison has become a central symbol of the Holocaust.

12. HIMMER: SS commander Heinrich Himmler is, other than Hitler, the Nazi considered most responsible for the Holocaust. Himmler considered the annihilation of the Jews a necessary step in the Germanization of Eastern Europe. He was arrested by British soldiers at the end of the war and committed suicide in his cell. In 2008 German news magazine Der Spiegel called Himmler “the greatest mass murderer of all time”.

13. COLLABORATION: Practically every part of Nazi German society was in some way, at least indirectly, involved with the Holocaust. Universities refused to admit Jews, the Post Office delivered deportation and denaturalization orders, churches and the Interior Ministry supplied birth records to show who was Jewish.  In addition, companies fired Jewish workers, drug companies used camp prisoners as guinea pigs and the victims’ personal property was sent back to Germany to be reused.

punishment-in-a-death-camp A punishment at Dachau Concentration
Camp. This prisoner was forced to stand
for hours on end without moving .
All part of daily life during the Holocaust.
@ Holocaust Facts
14. PUBLIC REACTION: Despite this after the war most Germans claimed to be at most “vaguely aware” of the genocide. The common belief was that the concentration camps in Germany itself were just prisons and the Jews were being “resettled” in the East.

15. OTHERS RESPONSIBLE: Holocaust killings were not only perpetrated by Germans.  Local populations in occupied Soviet territories, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania were also involved in the genocide.

16. EXCEPTED: People of Jewish ancestry were sometimes able to escape being sent to the camps if their grandparents had converted to christianity before 18 January, 1871.  This date marked the start of Germany’s unification and the start of the German Empire

17. ORIGINS: Some scholars maintain that anti-Semitism had pervaded German society since the Middle Ages. In the 1800s something called the Völkisch movement arose viewing the Jews as locked into mortal combat with the “Aryans” for world domination. Scientific racists also believed that some people were more “valuable” than others.

Never before in word history had there been places like the Holocaust extermination camps – places which existed for the sole purpose of killing en masse.

19. EXTERMINATION CAMPS: There were three types of extermination camps. At Aktion Reinhardt extermination camps prisoners were gassed upon arrival.  At Concentration–extermination camps some prisoners were chosen for slave labor instead of immediate death and minor extermination camps operated as prisons and transit camps until late in the war, when portable gas chambers and gas vans were used to execute the prisoners.

20. NUMBERS OF VICTIMS: The deadliest extermination camps were Auschwitz-Birkenau (where 1,100,000 died), Treblinka (700,00 – 800,000), Majdanek (360,000), Chelmno (320,000) and Sobibor (250,000).

21. AHNIHILATION: About 90 per cent of Jews living in Germany, Austria, Poland and the Baltic states were annihilated in the Holocaust.

holocaust-victimsJews from Carpathia arrive at Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in May, 1944. Most were sent to the gas chambers for execution just hours afterwards. @ Holocaust Facts

22. MEDICAL EXPERIMENTS: German doctors often used prisoners in macabre medical experiments. These included freezing victims, amputations of awake victims’ limbs, transplantations, placing them in pressure chambers, drug testing and experiments with poison, malaria and mustard gas.

josef-mengele The "Angel of Death" Josef
Mengele. @ Holocaust Facts
23. ANGEL OF DEATH: One of the most notorious of these physicians was Josef Mengele, known as the “Angel of Death”. Mengele had a particular fascination with twins and performed experiments on nearly 1500 sets of twins at Auschwitz. He escaped after the war and lived in South America until 1979, despite being hunted as a Nazi war criminal.

24. RESISTANCE: Jews often tried to resist the genocide.  The most famous case of resistance was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in January 1943 which went on for four weeks. Jews also fought as partisans in Eastern Europe and were highly active in the French Resistance.

25. DENIAL: Some people believe the Holocaust never happened and is the work of deliberate Jewish conspiracy.  Holocaust denial is universally condemned by scholars and is a crime in Germany, France, Poland, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria and Lithuania.

26. SCHINDLER: German businessman Oskar Schindler was a German businessman who secretly opposed the Holocaust and saved over 1000 mostly Polish-Jewish refugees by employing them in his factories. The film Schindler’s List, based on the novel Schindler’s Ark, tells his story.

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Written by C. Anderson, Feb 2012. Last updated October 2013.

References for 26 Holocaust Facts

• Auschwitz - The Nazis and The Final Solution, (DVD), 2005

• Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews, Peter Longerich, 2010

• The Nazis - A Warning From History, Laurence Rees, 2006

•  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holocaust




Photo sources for 26 Holocaust Facts

• Buchenwald sleeping conditions en.wikipedia.org

• Holocaust deaths chart http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WWII-HolocaustDeaths-Pie-All.png

•Warsaw Ghetto Uprising http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stroop_Report_-_Warsaw_Ghetto_Uprising_09.jpg

• Zykon-B container http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/eb/Zyklon_B_Container.jpg

• Punishment in a concentration camp http://history1900s.about.com/library/holocaust/bldachau8.htm

• Jews arriving at Auschwitz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:May_1944_-_Jews_from_Carpathian_Ruthenia_arrive_at_Auschwitz-Birkenau.jpg

• Josef Mengele http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Josef_Mengele.jpg

Unless otherwise stated, all photos used on the page 26 Holocaust Facts are, to our knowledge, in the public domain. If you think otherwise, please let us know.