Overview of the Holocaust


Auschwitz CorridorRescue operations in Occupied Western Europe succeeded in saving a large number of their nations’ native Jewish communities. Danish citizens organized flotillas that helped almost all of the country’s Jews escape to neutral Sweden. The French, including entire villages and the underground Circuit Garel, rescued some 7,000 children by hiding them in foster homes and smuggling many into Sweden, Spain, and Switzerland. Individuals in Poland, in spite of the harsh rule of Nazi domination, helped rescue thousands of Jews.

There was extreme danger for rescuers under the tough laws enforced by the Nazi military and Special Forces. The non-Jewish men and women whose actions helped to rescue many Jews are designated as “Righteous among the Nations,” a designation conferred by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial to those individuals who selflessly risked their lives to save Jews from certain deportation and death.


Julia and Henry in Berlin 1946Near the end of World War II in 1945, Allied troops entered Nazi-occupied territories, and the final rescue and liberation began. Troops who stumbled upon the concentration camps were shocked at what they found. Large ditches filled with bodies, rooms full of baby shoes, and gas chambers with fingernail marks on the wall all testified of Nazi brutality. Those who survived the Holocaust found themselves without their properties and most, if not all, of their family members. Children were collected into displaced persons camps that were formerly concentration camps. Their futures uncertain, their lives altered forever, displaced children were sent to relatives abroad or to orphanages with the help of social workers. Many Jews emigrated to the United States, South Africa, or Palestine, which became the State of Israel in 1948.

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