The Holocaust

The Holocaust
Part of World War II
Selection Birkenau ramp.jpg
Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz II-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland, May 1944. Most were "selected" to go straight to the gas chambers.[1]
(from the Auschwitz Album)
LocationNazi Germany and German-occupied Europe
Attack type
Genocide, ethnic cleansing
DeathsAround 6 million European Jews;[a]
using broadest definition, 17 million victims[b]
PerpetratorsNazi Germany and its allies

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah,[c] was a genocide in which Nazi Germany, aided by its collaborators, systematically murdered some six million European Jews—around two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe—between 1941 and 1945, during World War II.[a][d] Jews were targeted for extermination as part of a larger event during the Holocaust era, in which Germany and its collaborators persecuted and murdered other groups, including Slavs (chiefly ethnic Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, and Soviet citizens); the Roma; the "incurably sick"; political and religious dissenters such as communists and Jehovah's Witnesses; and gay men, resulting in up to 17 million deaths overall.[b]

Germany implemented the persecution in stages. Following Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1933, the government took steps to exclude Jews from civil society, which included organizing a boycott of Jewish businesses and passing the Nuremberg Laws in 1935. Starting in 1933, the Nazis built a network of concentration camps in Germany for political opponents and people deemed "undesirable". After the invasion of Poland in 1939, the regime set up ghettos to segregate Jews. Over 42,000 camps, ghettos, and other detention sites were established across occupied Europe.[6]

The deportation of Jews to the ghettos culminated in the policy of extermination the Nazis called the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question", discussed by senior Nazi officials at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in January 1942. As German forces captured territories in the East, all anti-Jewish measures were radicalized. Under the coordination of the SS, with directions from the highest leadership of the Nazi Party, killings were committed within Germany itself, throughout occupied Europe, and across all territories controlled by the Axis powers. Paramilitary death squads called Einsatzgruppen, in cooperation with Wehrmacht police battalions and local collaborators, murdered around 1.3 million Jews in mass shootings between 1941 and 1945. By mid-1942, victims were being deported from the ghettos in sealed freight trains to extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, they were killed in gas chambers. The killing continued until the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945.

Terminology and scope


The term holocaust, first used in 1895 to describe the massacre of Armenians,[7] comes from the Greek: ὁλόκαυστος, translit. holókaustos; ὅλος hólos, "whole" + καυστός kaustós, "burnt offering".[8][e] The Century Dictionary defined it in 1904 as "a sacrifice or offering entirely consumed by fire, in use among the Jews and some pagan nations".[f]

The biblical term shoah (Hebrew: שׁוֹאָה‬), meaning "destruction", became the standard Hebrew term for the murder of the European Jews, first used in a pamphlet in 1940, Sho'at Yehudei Polin ("Sho'ah of Polish Jews"), published by the United Aid Committee for the Jews in Poland.[11][12][7] In October 1941 the magazine The American Hebrew used the phrase "before the Holocaust", apparently to refer to the situation in Europe,[13] and in May 1943 The New York Times, discussing the Bermuda Conference, referred to the "hundreds of thousands of European Jews still surviving the Nazi Holocaust".[14] In 1968 the Library of Congress created a new category, "Holocaust, Jewish (1939–1945)";[15] the term was popularized in the United States by the NBC mini-series Holocaust (1978), about a fictional family of German Jews.[16] As non-Jewish groups began to count themselves as victims of the Holocaust too, many Jews chose to use the terms Shoah or Churban instead.[13][g] The Nazis used the phrase "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" (German: die Endlösung der Judenfrage).[18]


Most Holocaust historians define the Holocaust as the enactment, between 1941 and 1945, of the German state policy to exterminate the European Jews.[a] In Teaching the Holocaust (2015), Michael Gray, a specialist in Holocaust education in high schools, offers three definitions: (a) "the persecution and murder of Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945", which views the events of Kristallnacht in Germany in 1938 as an early phase of the Holocaust; (b) "the systematic mass murder of the Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators between 1941 and 1945", which acknowledges the shift in German policy in 1941 toward the extermination of the Jewish people in Europe; and (c) "the persecution and murder of various groups by the Nazi regime and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945", which includes all the Nazis' victims. The third definition fails, Gray writes, to acknowledge that only the Jewish people were singled out for annihilation.[26]

Hitler came to see the Jews as "uniquely dangerous to Germany", according to Peter Hayes, "and therefore uniquely destined to disappear completely from the Reich and all territories subordinate to it". The persecution and murder of other groups was much less consistent. For example, he writes, the Nazis regarded the Slavs as "sub-human", but their treatment consisted of "enslavement and gradual attrition", while "some Slavs—Slovaks, Croats, Bulgarians, some Ukrainians—[were] allotted a favored place in Hitler's New Order".[20]

Dan Stone, a specialist in the historiography of the Holocaust, lists ethnic Poles, Ukrainians, Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah's Witnesses, black Germans, and homosexuals as among the groups persecuted by the Nazis; he writes that the occupation of eastern Europe can also be viewed as genocidal.[h] But the German attitude toward the Jews was different in kind, he argues. The Nazis regarded the Jews not as racially inferior, deviant, or enemy nationals, as they did other groups,[i] but as a Gegenrasse: "a 'counter-race', that is to say, not really human at all". The Holocaust, for Stone, is therefore defined as the genocide of the Jews, although he argues that it cannot be "properly historically situated without understanding the 'Nazi empire' with its grandiose demographic plans".[24] Donald Niewyk and Francis Nicosia, in The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust (2000), favour a definition that focuses on the Jews, Roma, and Aktion T4 victims: "The Holocaust—that is, Nazi genocide—was the systematic, state-sponsored murder of entire groups determined by heredity. This applied to Jews, Gypsies, and the handicapped."[5]

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum defines the Holocaust as the "systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators",[28] distinguishing between the Holocaust and the targeting of other groups during "the era of the Holocaust". The latter include those persecuted because they were viewed as inferior, including for reasons of race or ethnicity (such as the Roma, ethnic Poles, Russians, and the disabled); and those targeted because of their beliefs or behavior (such as Jehovah's Witnesses, communists, and homosexuals).[29] In the UK, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, a British government charity, similarly defines the Holocaust as the systematic attempt, between 1941 and 1945, to annihilate the European Jews.[30] Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, defines it as "the murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators" between the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and the end of the war in Europe in May 1945.[31] According to Yad Vashem, most historians regard January 1933, when Hitler was named chancellor of Germany, as the start of the "Holocaust era".[32]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Holocaust
አማርኛ: ሆሎኮስት
Ænglisc: Eallbærnet
العربية: الهولوكوست
aragonés: Holocausto
asturianu: Holocaustu
azərbaycanca: Holokost
تۆرکجه: هولوکاست
Bân-lâm-gú: Holocaust
башҡортса: Холокост
беларуская: Халакост
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Галакост
български: Холокост
Boarisch: Holocaust
bosanski: Holokaust
brezhoneg: Loskaberzh
буряад: Холокост
català: Holocaust
Чӑвашла: Холокост
čeština: Holokaust
chiShona: Rushigido
Cymraeg: Yr Holocost
dansk: Holocaust
Deutsch: Holocaust
eesti: Holokaust
Ελληνικά: Ολοκαύτωμα
español: Holocausto
Esperanto: Holokaŭsto
euskara: Holokaustoa
فارسی: هولوکاست
Fiji Hindi: The Holocaust
føroyskt: Holocaust
français: Shoah
Frysk: Holokaust
Gaeilge: Uileloscadh
Gàidhlig: Uile-losgadh
galego: Holocausto
한국어: 홀로코스트
հայերեն: Հոլոքոստ
hornjoserbsce: Holocaust
hrvatski: Holokaust
Ilokano: Holokausto
Bahasa Indonesia: Holokaus
interlingua: Holocausto
íslenska: Helförin
italiano: Olocausto
עברית: השואה
Basa Jawa: Holocaust
Kabɩyɛ: Soowa (Shoah)
Kapampangan: Holocaust
ქართული: ჰოლოკოსტი
қазақша: Холокост
kernowek: Loskaberth
kurdî: Holokost
Кыргызча: Холокост
Ladino: Olokósto
Latina: Soa
latviešu: Holokausts
Lëtzebuergesch: Holocaust
лезги: Холокост
lietuvių: Holokaustas
magyar: Holokauszt
македонски: Холокауст
Malti: L-Olokawst
მარგალური: ჰოლოკოსტი
مازِرونی: هولوکاست
Bahasa Melayu: Holokus
Mirandés: Houlocausto
монгол: Холокост
Nederlands: Holocaust
नेपाल भाषा: होलोकस्ट
norsk: Holocaust
norsk nynorsk: Holocaust
occitan: Olocaust
олык марий: Холокост
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Holokost
پنجابی: ہولو کاسٹ
Patois: Di Olokaas
Piemontèis: Olocàust
Plattdüütsch: Schoah
português: Holocausto
română: Holocaust
Romani: Holokausto
rumantsch: Holocaust
Runa Simi: Ulukawstu
русиньскый: Голокауст
русский: Холокост
саха тыла: Холокост
sardu: Olocàustu
Scots: Holocaust
Seeltersk: Holocaust
shqip: Holokausti
sicilianu: Olucaustu
Simple English: The Holocaust
slovenčina: Holokaust
slovenščina: Holokavst
Soomaaliga: Holokost
کوردی: ھۆلۆکۆست
српски / srpski: Холокауст
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Holokaust
suomi: Holokausti
svenska: Förintelsen
Tagalog: Holocaust
татарча/tatarça: Holokost
Türkçe: Holokost
українська: Голокост
Tiếng Việt: Holocaust
Võro: Holokaust
Winaray: An Holokausto
Zazaki: Holokost
žemaitėška: Huoluokausts