Overview of the Holocaust


Exodus to GhettoFor centuries, Jews had faced persecution and were often forced to live in designated areas called ghettos. The Nazis’ ghettos differed, however, in that they were the first step in the annihilation of the Jews, rather than just a place to segregate them. The ghettos were used to imprison Jews in their own communities.

Cramped living spaces, food shortages, unsanitary conditions, disease, deprivation, and other harsh realities of ghetto life created an environment where the threat of death was always present. Ghetto residents fell to illness, starvation, suicide, exhaustion, and epidemics. For the Nazis, this fatal process proved too slow. Since ghettos conveniently organized residents into a confined space, they became instrumental in expediting deportation to concentration camps. During the Holocaust, as many as 200 men, women, and children, were herded into cramped railcars at a time and transported to death camps.


Women in barracksClose to 6 million, roughly 2/3 of Europe’s Jewish population, were killed. In concentration camps, Nazis murdered almost 3 million Jews, over 1.1 million in Auschwitz-Birkenau alone.

In concentration camps, inmates lived with the constant smell of death, falling ashes from the burning bodies, and the knowledge of being condemned to die at any time. They were dehumanized by tattooed numbers, nudity, inadequate clothing, and standing in place for hours in all kinds of weather.

When it became evident that the Nazis would lose the war, they removed their prisoners from the camps and forced them to march for hundreds of miles into German held territories. These death marches claimed another quarter million victims through sickness, starvation, or being shot.

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