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Common Questions

When speaking about the Holocaust, what time period are we referring to?

The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored murder of six million European Jews by Nazi Germany and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945. 

How many people were murdered during the Holocaust?

It is estimated that approximately six million Jews and millions of others were murdered during the Holocaust. Other victim groups included political opponents of the Nazis, persons with disabilities, Roma and Sinti, Poles and Slavs, Soviet prisoners of war, gay men, Afro-Germans, and others. 

How many camps were there? Were they all the same?

Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its allies established more than 44,000 camps and other incarceration sites (including ghettos). There were various types of camps, performing different functions: concentration camps were for the detention of real or perceived “enemies of the Reich,”; forced-labor camps exploited the labor of prisoners for economic gain and to meet labor shortages in Germany; transit camps served as temporary holding facilities for prisoners awaiting deportation; prisoner-of-war camps held Allied POWs, including Poles and Soviet soldiers; and killing centers were established primarily or exclusively for the murder of large numbers of people immediately upon arrival to the site.

Of the 44,000+ camps created, six camps were designated as “killing centers” and they were: Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibór, Treblinka, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and Majdanek.

Why did the Nazis target Jews?

 Antisemitism, hostility to or prejudice against Jews, existed in Europe for centuries before the Holocaust. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the core of antisemitism turned towards the theory that Jews were not merely a religious group but a separate “race.” The Nazi Party and its leader, Adolf Hitler, used antisemitism to fuel their racist and genocidal policies. 

How did the Nazis define who was Jewish?

On November 14, 1935, Germany defined a “Jew” as anyone with three or more Jewish grandparents. Those with one or two Jewish grandparents were considered a Mischling (an insult for someone of “mixed race”). These definitions had nothing to do with the individuals’ current religious practice, demonstrating how the Nazis viewed Jewish people as a different “race.” Those identified as Jews experienced the Holocaust differently than those identified as Mischlings, but all were excluded or ostracized in some fashion and subject to murder.

    What was the difference between the persecution of the Jews and the persecution of other groups by the Nazis?

    Due to the Nazi Party’s antisemitism and belief that Jewish people were of a separate, inferior race that was dangerous and threatening to the “superior Aryan-race,” Jewish people were targeted for genocide.

    Other targeted groups were deemed “inferior” by the Nazis based on “race” and social behaviors.

    What does the term “Final Solution” mean?

    The term “Final Solution” – in full, the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” – was a Nazi euphemism which referred to the mass murder of Europe’s Jewish population. It brought an end to policies aimed at encouraging or forcing Jews to leave the German Reich and other parts of Europe. Such policies were replaced by systematic mass murder.  

    Did all German citizens (and citizens from other nations who fell under the Third Reich during the Holocaust) know about the mass murder? Did they support it?

    People’s knowledge and responses to the Nazis existed on a spectrum. Some chose to act out against Nazi policy, some stood by, and some supported and collaborated with Nazi actions.

    In what ways did Jewish people, and other persecuted groups, resist the Nazi regime?

    Resistance took many forms during the Holocaust. Some resisted spiritually – continuing to practice their religion, others continued to preserve Jewish culture by fostering community in the ghettos and documenting personal or community experiences. Some engaged in armed resistance through ghetto revolts, camp uprisings, and partisan warfare. Additionally, many individuals found a way to escape the Reich despite the dangers associated with doing so.

    What was the response of the Allies to the persecution of the Jews? Could they have done anything to help?

    The Allies responded on a spectrum specific to their countries wartime goals. Overall, every country prioritized ending the war over Jewish rescue.

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