What was the Holocaust? 

These days people often use the term “holocaust” to refer to any genocide, but that is incorrect. The answer to the question “What was the Holocaust?” is simple: the Holocaust was the systematic and deliberate attempt to exterminate the Jewish people during the Second World War, orchestrated by the Germans but perpetrated with the active or passive help of most of the people in Europe.

Gabriel Wilensky

The Holocaust

Antisemitism—ingrained in the psyche of most Christians in Europe through almost 2000 years of anti-Jewish teachings in Christianity—made possible the acceptance of the racial antisemitism espoused by the Nazis, and made it acceptable to most people, indeed desirable, to want to eliminate the Jews from their midst.

“Antisemitism—ingrained in the psyche of most Christians in Europe through almost 2000 years of anti-Jewish teachings in Christianity—made possible the acceptance of the racial antisemitism espoused by the Nazis.”

The Holocaust was the systematic attempt to exterminate the Jewish people. Shortly after Adolf Hitler took over power in Germany in 1933 he began to implement eliminationist measures deigned to disenfranchise German Jews from economic and social positions. In 1935 the Nazis passed laws which stripped Jews of their German citizenship and took away their livelihood. Life for Jews became increasingly worse until the onset of WWII in 1939, when the Germans began to take away their lives. From that point onwards the Germans began deporting Jews to overcrowded ghettos and concentration camps. Appalling conditions, disease, brutal treatment, exposure to the elements, forced starvation and labor killed thousands.

In the East, the Germans, aided by the local population, dragged hundreds of thousands of Jews from the villages where they lived into ravines or forests nearby where they were mercilessly murdered and buried in mass graves.

The Germans also established death camps, places where Jews were transported in cattle car trains from all over Europe and where they were murdered in gas chambers.

During the six years of the war, 6,000,000 Jews – including 1,500,000 children – were murdered by the Nazis. Hitler’s deliberate annihilation of the Jews killed one-third of the Jewish population of the world or two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe.

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