The Holocaust began with Hitler's rise to power in January of 1933 and ended on VE Day (May 8, 1945). During this time, more than 6 million Jews and millions of other groups that caught the negative attention of Nazi Germany. While all the murders were devastating to native populations, none were so devastating than that of the Jews. During this period, 5,000 Jewish communities were wiped out and the total that died represented 1/3 of all Jewish people alive at that time.
Due to a series of events, Hitler assumed dictatorial powers in March 23, 1933 when the Enabling Act was passed. With total power available to him, he quickly developed a sophisticated police and military force and used them to squelch anyone who criticized his authority. From this authority stemmed the first concentation camp, Dachau, just outside of Munich which started as a political prison camp but evolved over time into a full scale Nazi concentration camp to exterminate Jews and others.
By the end of 1934, Hiter's campaign against the Jews was in full force. The Nazis weere claiming them to be mongrels who were corrupting the pure German race and persecutions of the Jewish grew in strength. Those who could, fled Germany to other European countries which gave them safety for a while.
The next major event that led towards the widescale destruction of the Jews was the Meeting in July of 1938 where representatives of 32 countries met in the French town of Evian to discuss the refugee problems created by the Nazis - but since no conclusive action was taken, Hitler took that as defacto notice that no one would act against him while he worked to purge the Jews from his territories.
Germany started World War II with the invasion of Poland in September of 1939 and in 1940 established Jewish ghettos in Poland where they could be isolated from the rest of society and kept an eye on. Conditions in the ghettos were deplorable - not enough food, water, space, sanitation facilities, etc., and many died from the horrid conditions.
In June 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union and began the implementation of the Final Solution - the beginnings of the systemized destruction of the undesirables. At first they were just gathered up, shot and thrown into mass open graves. It is estimated that over 1 million people died in this manner. But it wasn't efficient enough so more and more death camps sprang up.
From this point, the Germans worked on more and more efficient ways to liquidate the undesirables by bringing them to death camps to systematically kill them and recycle any valuables for the war effort. And in this instance, a valuable was a healthy person - so the Germans would work the prisoners until they had no more energy to produce and then kill them. In effect, that had millions of slaves being forced to work to death to help the Germans in their war efforts.
This atrocity continued to the end of the war - with liberation not happening until July 1944 and later. In July 1944, the Soviet Union liberatated Maidanek concentration camp and then in January 1945 - Auschwitz concentration camp and so on until Nazi Germany was totally defeated and all peoples were freed.
All told, there were only about 200,000 Jewish survivors by the end of the liberation and the death counts from the holocaust were estimated to be around 6 million Jews and millions of other people who did not fit the Aryan mold.
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For more details on concentration camps, visit the NAZI Concentration Camps, Holocaust Camps & Death Camps Film Collection