Holocaust victims: Wikis


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Inmates of Buchenwald concentration camp. 16 April 1945

While the term "Holocaust victims" generally refers to Jews, the German Nazis also persecuted and often killed millions of members of other groups they considered inferior (Untermenschen), undesirable or dangerous. In addition to Jews, the targeted groups included Poles (of whom 2 million gentile Poles were killed) and some other Slavic peoples, Soviets (particularly prisoners of war), Romanies (also known as Gypsies), some Africans, Asians and others who did not belong to the "Aryan race", the mentally ill, physically disabled and the mentally retarded, homosexuals and transsexual people, and political opponents and religious dissidents such as communists, trade unionists, and Jehovah's Witnesses.[1][2] Taking into account all of the victims of Nazi persecution, the Nazis systematically killed an estimated 6 million Jews and were responsible for an estimated 11 million additional deaths during the war. Donald Niewyk suggests that the broadest definition, including Soviet civilian deaths, would produce a death toll of 17 million people killed.[3]

Despite often widely varying treatment (some groups were actively targeted for genocide, while others were mostly not), these victims all perished alongside one another, some in the Nazi concentration camps, and some as victims of other forms of Nazi brutality, according to the extensive documentation left behind by the Nazis themselves (written and photographed), eyewitness testimony (by survivors, perpetrators, and bystanders), and the statistical records of the various countries under occupation.


Ethnic criteria

The paramilitary campaign to remove certain classes of persons, but primarily and above all Jews, from Germany using methods of extreme brutalily is known as the Holocaust. The Holocaust was carried out above all by German forces and certain collaborative persons, Germans and otherwise. As the war started, millions of the Jews were concentrated into the closed Ghettos. By 1941 large massacres of Jews took place, and, by December 1941, Hitler decided to completely exterminate European Jews.

In January 1942, during the Wannsee conference, several Nazi leaders discussed the details of the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" (Endlösung der Judenfrage). Dr. Josef Bühler urged Reinhard Heydrich to proceed with the Final Solution in the General Government. They began to systematically deport Jewish populations from the ghettos and all occupied territories to the seven camps designated as Vernichtungslager, or extermination camps: Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Maly Trostenets, Sobibór and Treblinka. Sebastian Haffner published the analysis in 1978 that Hitler from December 1941 accepted the failure of his goal to dominate Europe forever on his declaration of war against the United States, but that his withdrawal and apparent calm thereafter was sustained by the achievement of his second goal—the extermination of the Jews.[4] Even as the Nazi war machine faltered in the last years of the war, precious military resources such as fuel, transport, munitions, soldiers and industrial resources were still being heavily diverted away from the war and towards the death camps.

Poland, home of the largest Jewish community in the world before the war, had had over 90% of its Jewish population, or about 3,000,000 Jews, killed. The penalty imposed by the Germans for hiding Jews was death, and this was carried out mercilessly. In spite of this some Poles hid Jewish children and families and saved their lives at risk to their own families. Despite detailed reports on the Holocaust reaching western leaders, public awareness in the United States and the Western countries of genocidal mass murder of Jews in Poland was extremely poor at the time; the first references in The New York Times in 1942 were not front-page stories, and these news articles were more in the nature of unconfirmed reports.

Greece, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Lithuania, Bohemia, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Latvia each had over 70% of their Jewish population destroyed. Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Norway, and Estonia lost around half of their Jewish population, the Soviet Union over one third of its Jews, and even countries such as France and Italy had each seen around a quarter of their Jewish population killed. Denmark was able to evacuate almost all of the Jews in their country to nearby Sweden, which was neutral during the war. Using everything from fishing boats to private yachts, the Danes whisked the Danish Jews out of harm's way. Some Jews outside Europe under Nazi occupation were also affected by the Holocaust and treatment from the Nazis.

In all, more than 60% of the Jews in Europe were murdered in the Holocaust. The world's Jewish population was reduced by a third, from roughly 16.6 million in 1939 to about 11 million in 1946.[5] Even sixty years later, there are still fewer Jews in the world today than there were prior to 1940.[6]


The Nazi occupation of Poland was one of the most brutal episodes of the war, resulting in 2 million deaths, in addition to the deaths of some 3 million Polish Jews.[7] The five million Poles killed, Jewish and gentile, accounted for a full 14% of Poland's population.[7] Poles were one of the first targets of extermination by Hitler, as outlined in the speech he gave the Wehrmacht commanders before the invasion of Poland in 1939. The intelligentsia and socially prominent or influential people were primarily targeted, although there were some mass murders committed against the general Polish population, as well as against some other groups of Slavs. Hundreds of thousands of gentile Poles were sent to Auschwitz and the other concentration camps, while the Polish intelligentsia were the first targets of the Einsatzgruppen death squads.[8] The anti-Polish campaign culminated in the complete destruction of the capital Warsaw ordered by Hitler and Himmler in 1944.

Soviet Slavs and POWs

During Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, millions of Red Army prisoners of war (POWs) were arbitrarily executed in the field by the invading German armies (in particular by the notorious Waffen SS), died under inhuman conditions in German prisoner of war camps and during death marches, or were shipped to concentration camps for execution. The German captors killed an estimated 2.8 million Soviet POWs through starvation, exposure, and summary execution, in a mere eight months of 1941-42.[9] According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, by the winter of 1941, "starvation and disease resulted in mass death of unimaginable proportions". Among the dead, up to 500,000 died in the concentration camps.[10]

Soviet civilian populations in the occupied areas were also heavily persecuted (in addition to the barbarity of the Eastern Front frontline warfare manifesting itself in such episodes like the siege of Leningrad in which more than 1.2 million civilians died). Thousands of peasant villages across the Russia, Belarus and Ukraine were annihilated by German troops. During occupation, Russia's Leningrad, Pskov and Novgorod region lost around a quarter of its population. Some estimate that as many as one quarter of all Soviet civilian deaths (5 million Russian deaths, 3 million Ukrainian deaths and 1.5 million Belarusian deaths) at the hands of the Nazis and their allies were racially motivated.[11]

The Russian Academy of Science in 1995 reported civilian victims in the USSR, including Jews, at German hands totaled 13.7 million dead, 20% of the 68 million persons in the occupied USSR, including 7.4 million victims of Nazi genocide and reprisals; 2.2 million deaths of persons deported to Germany for forced labor; and 4.1 million famine and disease deaths in occupied territory. There were an additional estimated 3.0 million famine deaths in the territory not under German occupation. These losses are for the entire territory of the USSR in 1946-1991 borders, including territories annexed in 1939-40 [12] The deaths of 8.2 million Soviet civilians, including Jews, were documented by the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission [13]

Romanies (Gypsies)

Romaniies arrivals in the Belzec death camp awaiting instructions.

The genocide of Gypsies was ignored by scholars until the 1980s, and opinions continue to differ on its details. Some say that, proportional to their population, the death toll of Romanies (Roma (Romani subgroup), Sinti, and Manush) in the Holocaust was the largest of any group of victims. Others say that the genocide of these groups began later than the genocide of the Jews and that a smaller proportion was killed.[14] Hitler's campaign of genocide against the Romani population of Europe involved a particularly bizarre application of Nazi "racial hygiene". Although, despite discriminatory measures, some Romani groups, including some of the Sinti and Lalleri of Germany, were spared deportation and death, the remaining Romani groups suffered much like the Jews.

Between one quarter to one half of the Romani population was killed, 500,000 to 1,500,000 people.[15] In Eastern Europe, Romanies were deported to the Jewish ghettos, shot by SS Einsatzgruppen in their villages, and deported and gassed in Auschwitz and Treblinka.

Disabled people

At least 75,000 mentally and physically disabled people also were executed. Following a eugenics policy, the Nazis believed that the disabled were a burden to society because they needed to be cared for by others, but first and foremost, the mentally and physically handicapped were considered an affront to Nazi notions of a society peopled by a perfect, superhuman Aryan race. Around 400,000 individuals were sterilized against their will for having mental deficiencies or illnesses deemed to be hereditary in nature.

People with disabilities were among the first to be killed, and the United States Holocaust Memorial museum notes that the T-4 Euthanasia Program, established in 1939, became the "model" for future exterminations by the Nazi regime.[16] The T-4 Program was established in order to maintain the "purity" of the so-called Aryan race by systematically killing children and adults born with physical deformities or suffering from mental illness. Officially 75,000 to 250,000 people were killed between 1939 and 1941, including in the first Nazi gas chambers.

The T-4 program set important precedents for the later "Final Solution" of the Jews of Europe.


The Nazi regime promoted xenophobia of all "non-Aryan" races. African (black sub-Saharan or North African) and Asian (i.e. East Asian and South Asian) residents in Germany, and black prisoners of war (like the French colonial troops captured during the Battle of France), were also victims.[17]

Japan signed on September 27, 1940 the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy and was therefore part of the Axis Pact, and no Japanese people were known to be deliberately imprisoned or killed. South Africans and white Europeans of non-Jewish ancestry from other continents were exempt, as were many Latin Americans of "evident" Germanic or "Aryan" ancestries, but not mestizos.

German homosexuals

Homosexuals were also targets of the Holocaust, as homosexuality was deemed incompatible with Nazism because of their failure to reproduce the "master race". This was combined with the belief among the Nazis that homosexuality could be contagious. Initially homosexuality was discreetly tolerated while officially shunned. By 1936 Heinrich Himmler led an effort to persecute homosexuals under existing and new anti-homosexual laws.

More than one million homosexual German men were targeted, of whom at least 100,000 were arrested and 50,000 were serving prison terms as convicted homosexuals. An additional unknown number were institutionalized in state-run mental hospitals. Hundreds of European homosexual men living under Nazi occupation were castrated under Nazi court order. It is estimated that between 5,000 and 15,000 homosexual men were imprisoned in concentration camps,[18] but it is difficult to put an exact number on just how many perished in death camps. According to Heinz Heger, in the concentration camps homosexual men "suffered a higher mortality rate than other relatively small victim groups, such as Jehovah's Witnesses and political prisoners."[19] Male homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps were identified with a pink triangle printed on their shirts.

Lesbians were not normally treated as harshly as homosexual men. They were labeled "anti-social", but were rarely sent to camps for engaging in homosexuality.[citation needed]

Political criteria

Political prisoners

Another large group of the victims were various German and foreign civilian activists opposed to the Nazi regime from all over the political spectrum, as well as the captured WWII resistance fighters (great many of whom were immediately executed or killed during of after their interrogation), and sometimes also their families.

German political prisoners were for example the substantial group among the first inmates of Dachau, the prototype Nazi concentration camp. The political People's Court became infamous for the enormous number of death sentences.[citation needed]


German communists were among the first victims to be sent to concentration camps. They concerned Hitler due to their ties with the Soviet Union and because the Nazi Party was intractably opposed to communism. Rumors of pending communist violence were started by the Nazis as justification for the Enabling Act of 1933, the law which gave Hitler his original dictatorial powers. Hermann Göring later testified at the Nuremberg Trials that it was the Nazis' willingness to repress German communists that prompted Hindenburg and the old elite to cooperate with the Nazis.

Hitler and the Nazis also hated German leftists because of their resistance to Nazi racism. Many leaders of German leftist groups were Jews; Jews were especially prominent among the leaders of the Spartacist Uprising in 1919. Hitler already referred to Marxism and "Bolshevism" as a means of "the international Jew" to undermine "racial purity" and survival of the Nordics or Aryans (sometimes of all white Europeans), as well to stir up socioeconomic class tension and labor unions against the government or state-owned businesses. Within the concentration camps such as Buchenwald, German communists were privileged in comparison to Jews because of their "racial purity."[1]

Whenever the Nazis occupied a new territory, members of communist, socialist, or anarchist groups were normally to be the first persons detained or executed. Evidence of this is found in Hitler's infamous Commissar Order in which he ordered the summary execution of all political commissars captured among Soviet soldiers, as well as the execution of all Communist Party members in German held territory.They were treated like slaves


The leons claimed that high degree Masons were willing members of "the Jewish conspiracy" and that Freemasonry was one of the causes of Germany's loss of the First World War. The preserved records of the RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt - Office of the High Command of Security Service pursuing the racial objectives of the SS through Race and Resettlement Office), show the persecution of the Freemasons.[20] The number of Freemasons from Nazi occupied countries who were killed is not accurately known, but it is estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons were murdered under the Nazi regime.[21] It is impossible to arrive at a total figure as no one knows the number of Freemasons from occupied countries who were killed.[22]

Enemy nationals

Thousands of persons (mostly diplomats) belonging to certain nationalities associated with the Allies (e.g. China and Mexico), as well as Spanish Civil War refugees in occupied France, were also interned or executed.

Additionally, after Italy changed sides in 1943, thousands of Italian nationals, including many former Italian Army soldiers disarmed by the Germans, were sent to concentration camps.

Religious targets

The Nazis also targeted some religious groups, though Jews were actually the main target for total extermination during the Holocaust.

Additionally, thousands of Christian clergy were killed by the Nazis. Some were killed either because of Jewish background (as in the case of Edith Stein) or were killed as part of the Nazi's campaign against the Polish intelligentsia, but others were killed in a general campaign against the Catholic Church in Poland. In the countries in which Roman Catholic bishops, and even Catholics themselves had openly protested and attacked Nazi policies, like in the Netherlands and Poland where bishops and priests had protested the deportations of Jews, the clergy was either threatened with deportation themselves and kept in custody (as in the case of German bishop Clemens von Galen), or directly deported to concentration camps (as in the cases of the Dutch Carmelite priest Titus Brandsma and Polish Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, who was later canonized).

The Catholic Church was particularly suppressed in Poland. Between 1939 and 1945, an estimated 3,000 members, 18% of the Polish clergy, were murdered; of these, 1,992 died in concentration camps.[23] In the annexed territory of Reichsgau Wartheland it was even harsher than elsewhere. Churches were systematically closed, and most priests were either killed, imprisoned, or deported to the General Government. The Germans also closed seminaries and convents persecuting monks and nuns throughout Poland. Eighty percent of the Catholic clergy and five of the bishops of Warthegau were sent to concentration camps in 1939; in Chełmno, 48%.[23] One hundred eight of them are regarded as blessed martyrs.[23] Among them, Maximilian Kolbe was canonized as a saint.

Not only in Poland were Christians persecuted by the Nazis. In the Dachau concentration camp alone, 2,600 Catholic priests from 24 different countries were killed.[23]

Some dissenting Protestant clergy, such as those who founded the anti-Nazi Confessing Church, were also persecuted.


In Eastern and Southern (and later also Western) Europe the SS and police troops often unleashed mass actions against civilians with alleged links with the resistance movements, in numerous cases resulting in the deaths of hundreds. In Poland, Nazi Germany formally imposed the death penalty for anybody found sheltering and helping Jews, often extended to all inhabitants of the house.

"Social deviants" - prostitutes, vagrants, alcoholics, drug addicts, open dissidents, pacifists, draft resisters, and common criminals - were also often imprisoned in concentration camps. The common criminals often became Kapos, the inmate-guards policing other prisoners.

In the late 1930s, the Nazi program to punish many rich German persons as "enemies of the state" confiscated properties and placed thousands of them in concentration camps; according to Nazi policies in part by Joseph Goebbels comments on the matter, the rich elite manipulated the German economy and held seditious liberal views. The Nazis had targeted other groups to be imprisoned for their political views deemed threatening by Hitler or the party, like the members of women's rights groups (now referred to as feminists) accused of spouting "communist-socialist" dogmas of gender equality.

German and Austrians who had lived outside these countries for a significant proportion of their lives were deemed to have too much exposure to foreign ideas, so many were put into concentration camps. These prioners were called "Emigrants" and marked with the blue triangle.[24]

See also


  1. ^ Berenbaum, Michael. The World Must Know, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, pp.125ff.
  2. ^ "Non-Jewish victims of Nazism," Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  3. ^ A figure of 26 million is given in Service d'Information des Crimes de Guerre: Crimes contre la Personne Humain, Camps de Concentration. Paris, 1946, p. 197. Other references: Christopher Hodapp, Freemasons for Dummies, 2005; Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 2003; Martin Gilbert, Atlas of the Holocaust, 1993; Israel Gutman, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, 1995.
  4. ^ Sebastian Haffner, The Meaning of Hitler ISBN 0-674-55775-1, translated from Anmerkungen zu Hitler, Publishing house. Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main. ISBN 3-596-23489-1.
  5. ^ American Jewish Committee, Harry Schneiderman and Julius B. Maller, eds., American Jewish Year Book, Vol. 48 (1946-1947), Press of Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1946, page 599
  6. ^ Jewish Virtual Library, American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise
  7. ^ a b Craughwell, Thomas J., The Gentile Holocaust Catholic Culture, Accessed July 18, 2008
  8. ^ Yisrael Gutman, Michael Berenbaum, Raul Hilberg, Franciszek Piper, Yehuda Baur, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Indiana Univ]ersity Press, 1998, p.70
  9. ^ Case Study: Soviet Prisoners-of-War, Gendercide Watch.
  10. ^ The Treatment of Soviet POWs: Starvation, Disease, and Shootings, June 1941-January 1942, Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  11. ^ Donald L Niewyk, The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, Columbia University Press, 200, p 49
  12. ^ The Russian Academy of Science Rossiiskaia Akademiia nauk. Liudskie poteri SSSR v period vtoroi mirovoi voiny:sbornik statei. Sankt-Peterburg 1995 ISBN 5-86789-023-6
  13. ^ A Mosaic of Victims- Non Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis. Ed. by Michael Berenbaum New York University Press 1990 ISBN 1-85043-251-1)
  14. ^ The Columbia guide to the Holocaust By Donald L. Niewyk, Francis R. Nicosia, page 50-52, Columbia University Press, 2000
  16. ^ "Euthanasia Program" from the US Holocaust Museum's Encyclopedia of the Holocaust
  17. ^ Blacks during the Holocaust from the US Holocaust Museum's Encyclopedia of the Holocaust
  18. ^ http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/hsx Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
  19. ^ Heinz Heger, Men with the Pink Triangle, Alyson Publishing: 1994
  20. ^ Documented evidence from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum pertaining to the persecution of the Freemasons accessed 21 May 2006
  21. ^ Freemasons for Dummies, by Christopher Hodapp, Wiley Publishing Inc., Indianapolis, 2005, p.85, sec. Hitler and the Nazi
  22. ^ Grand Lodge of Scotland Holocaust FAQs, “It is impossible to arrive at a total figure as no one knows the number of Freemasons from occupied countries who were murdered.” Accessed March 22, 2006.
  23. ^ a b c d Craughwell, Thomas J., The Gentile Holocaust Catholic Culture, Accessed July 18, 2008
  24. ^ http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/holocaust/h-dach-early.htm

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