A summary of the Holocaust

A sign reading 'No Jews Allowed', a burning synagogue and a Nazi soldier guarding a concentration camp.

After 1919, Jewish people in Germany were free and legally equal and often felt more German than Jewish. Many were wealthy and successful.

But there was an undercurrent of anti-Jewish racism, called 'anti-Semitism', in Germany. Hitler appealed to this anti-Semitism by blaming the Jewish people for Germany's defeat in the First World War. Nazi race-scientists incorrectly claimed that the Jewish people were sub-human.

As soon as Hitler came to power he introduced a programme of persecution. The Nuremberg Laws (1935) deprived Jewish people of many of their civil rights. On 9 November 1938, Kristallnacht or the 'Night of Broken Glass' took place. Jewish businesses, synagogues and homes were attacked and destroyed. This was a response to the assassination of a German diplomat by a Polish Jewish man in Paris.

After the outbreak of World War Two in 1939, the Nazis stepped up the persecution of the Jewish people:

  • They were herded into over-crowded 'ghettos'.
  • After 1941, following the invasion of the Soviet Union, Nazi death-squads, called 'einsatzgruppen', murdered more than a million Jewish people in eastern Europe.
  • In 1942, a Nazi conference at Wannsee decided on the 'Final Solution' – the Jewish people were to be systematically taken to camps such as Auschwitz and gassed.

Nobody knows how many Jewish people died during the Holocaust, but the usual figure given is 6 million.

Young Jews talk with a survivor to try to improve their understanding of The Holocaust