What were the methods of executions of the Nazis

Who were the victims of the Holocaust?

Who were the victims of the Holocaust?

All Jews in Europe were systematic targets for their murderous intentions for the Nazi regime. The National Socialists viewed the Jews as a “deadly threat” to the German “race”.

Two thirds of the European Jews, this corresponds to around six million people, were killed by the National Socialists and their collaborators.

What other groups were targeted by Nazi persecution and why?

Roma and Sinti were classified as "gypsy harassment". They were considered "racially inferior people" with criminal habits. Up to 250,000 of them were killed across Europe.

Germans with mental and physical disabilities were considered “useless eaters” and “genetically defective”. 250,000 were killed.

Poles were called "subhuman Slavs". They suffered from a brutal occupation by the Germans. Tens of thousands of members of the Polish elite were killed or imprisoned as potential leaders of the Polish resistance.

Captured Soviet soldiers were also referred to as "subhuman Slavs". The National Socialists were convinced that they were part of a "Jewish-Bolshevik threat". 3.3 million Soviet soldiers died in executions or from starvation and mistreatment.

Other groups were also targeted by the Nazi regime. These included actual and suspected political opponents, Jehovah's Witnesses, men accused of engaging in homosexual acts, and people who were considered "anti-social". You were among the hundreds of thousands of victims who were imprisoned and killed in concentration camps. They died of starvation, illness, exhaustion, abuse or were deliberately executed.

The extermination of the European Jews in the Holocaust

In the Nazi ideology, however, Jews were not only viewed as foreign and "biological subhumans". They were also considered "enemies of death". The National Socialists believed that Jews were “harmful” to the strength and purity of the “German race”. According to the Nazi view, the Jews had to be exterminated in order to ensure the long-term survival of the people of “German blood”. In the 1930s, the regime primarily pursued the forced emigration of Jews from Germany and neighboring Austria. The measures intensified during World War II when millions more Jews came under German control. The anti-Semitic Nazi policy initially turned into mass murder and later into systematic genocide. Not only German Jews, but all Jewish men, women and children who came within the reach of the Nazi regime were systematically declared a target of killing. This approach went down in history as the “final solution to the Jewish question in Europe”.

Before the Nazis came to power, Jews had lived across Europe for many centuries. The Second World War began in September 1939. At that time Jews lived in 20 countries where they were supposed to be persecuted and killed by Nazi occupation units and their collaborators during the war. Two thirds of the European Jews, this corresponds to around six million people, were murdered by the National Socialists and their collaborators. That number includes around 1.5 million children aged 0-17. About 75% or 4.5 million of all Jews killed lived in Poland, the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries. For historical reasons, the Jewish population in these areas was more numerous.

The Jewish victims came from all walks of life. Among them were rich and poor, Orthodox and secular Jews, and supporters from across the political spectrum. In addition, the Nazis classified Jews on the basis of their “blood” or “race”. So they were not targeted because of their religion alone. Protestants and Catholics whose parents or grandparents were Jews were also victims of persecution and genocide by the National Socialists.

How did some Jews survive the Holocaust?

A small minority managed to find a safe haven in the 1930s. In no country were the gates wide open for Jewish refugees. The war created many other obstacles to emigration. Some Jews survived imprisonment in Nazi camps or in the underground. Others survived in the unoccupied territories of the Soviet Union, far from the military front. After the war, many Jews lived in camps for refugees. Some spent many years there because they could not return to their homeland and emigration was still very difficult. Ultimately, many survivors emigrated to Palestine and the United States. Other emigration destinations were Canada, Australia, South Africa and Latin America.

Further victims of the Nazi regime and its collaborators

Target group Roma and Sinti: "racial threat" and "socially deviant"

This ethnic minority, often referred to as "gypsies", is made up of various groups known as "tribes" or "peoples". In Germany and Western Europe, the Sinti generally predominated. The Roma were mainly resident in Austria as well as in Eastern and Southern Europe.

Roma and Sinti were viewed by the National Socialists as "asocial" (living outside of "normal" society), as "racially inferior" and as "gypsy harassment". An estimated one million members of this minority lived in the countries of Europe before the war. Up to 250,000 of them were killed by the Nazi regime and its collaborators during the war. Men, women and children alike were victims of the genocide. Both nomadic Roma and Sinti, whose number declined in the 1930s, and people with permanent residence in cities and municipalities were affected.

Under the Nazi regime, some people identified as “gypsies” were also sterilized against their will. An unknown number of Roma and Sinti were imprisoned as "anti-social" in concentration camps.

Target group people with disabilities: "racial threat" and "burden"

The National Socialists also targeted people with hereditary mental and physical disabilities. The National Socialists viewed them as biologically "defective" and saw them as a burden on the state treasury. In Nazi propaganda they were referred to as "useless eaters". A law passed in 1933 was intended to prevent the birth of children with genetic “defects”. It introduced compulsory sterilization (see glossary) of people diagnosed with certain mental or physical illnesses. An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 men and women were sterilized. There were also many young people among the sterilized people.

The National Socialists used the war-related “national emergency” as a cover. In 1939 the regime tightened its policy towards people with disabilities. The stated aim was the murder of disabled patients who lived in psychiatric and other care facilities. A total of 250,000 people were killed in the "T4" secret operation and the associated euthanasia programs in the "Greater German Reich". Most of the victims were ethnically German, not Jewish. Around 7,000 children were among the victims. The victims of the T4 program were killed in gas chambers disguised as showers. This was the first time this method of murder and deception had been used.

Target group Poland: "racial and political threat"

In the Nazi ideology, Poles were considered to be “subhumans” who occupied areas that were vital for Germany. The National Socialists pursued the goal of preventing the organized resistance of the Poles after the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. As part of this policy, the National Socialists killed or imprisoned tens of thousands of men and women of the Polish elite. The victims included wealthy landowners, clergymen, government officials, teachers, doctors, dentists, military officers and journalists. Less educated Polish citizens, including many young men and women, were mostly transported to Germany against their will to work. There the around 1.5 million Poles were exposed to massive discrimination, just like other Eastern Europeans. Hundreds of Polish men were executed for having sexual relations with German women. The National Socialists saw it as an act of "racial disgrace".

Target group Soviet prisoners of war: "racial and political threat"

Many Soviet soldiers were captured by the German Wehrmacht after the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. The soldiers were considered "subhuman Slavs" and part of the "Jewish-Bolshevik threat". According to Nazi ideology, Judaeo-Bolshevism was a Jewish-Communist plot against Germany.

A total of 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war, including women soldiers, were killed. They died from execution or from starvation, illness, cold, violence and other ill-treatment. The treatment of Soviet prisoners of war by the Germans was a violation of the Geneva Convention and standards of international law. Unlike the Soviet prisoners, most British and American prisoners of war survived German captivity. According to Nazi ideology, they were racially equivalent.

Political and other prisoners in Nazi concentration camps

Political opponents The first prisoners in Germany were in the Nazi concentration camps. This category of prisoners included activists who revolted against the Nazi regime, outspoken dissidents and members of European resistance groups. However, there were also people who were only suspected of anti-Nazi sentiments or who criticized or mocked the Nazi regime in their private sphere. An indefinite number of men and women incarcerated as political prisoners died or were killed.

The Jehovah's Witnesses were a religious group. In 1933 it had around 20,000 members in Germany. Because of their strict beliefs, they refused to swear allegiance to any secular government or to bear arms. As small as the movement was, it nevertheless undermined the National Socialists' demand for unconditional loyalty to Hitler and the state. About 1,900 Jehovah's Witnesses died in the camps. Most of the victims were men of German citizenship.

Homosexuals were viewed by the National Socialists as "socially deviant". The National Socialists saw in them an obstacle to the realization of their political goals, especially that of increasing the birth rate of the Germans. Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested in Germany under Section 175 of the German Criminal Code. Of the 50,000 men convicted as so-called "175s", 5,000 to 15,000 were imprisoned in concentration camps. Hundreds, possibly thousands, died as a result of the brutal treatment.

To the "Antisocial“According to Nazi opinion, the unemployed and homeless, recipients of social benefits, prostitutes, beggars, alcoholics and drug addicts belonged to them.

Last edited: Sep 10, 2020