As a result of the Second World War, some 57 million people lost their lives, among them millions victims of the Holocaust, the Nazi’s industrialised system of mass murder based on ethnicity, race, ideology and pseudo-scientific eugenics.
What follows are 10 facts based on these especially horrific and unique facets of the Second World War.
1. Hitler outlined his intentions to conquer vast territories for a new Reich in Mein Kampf (1925):
‘The plough is then the sword; and the tears of war will produce the daily bread for the generations to come.’
2. Ghettos developed in Poland from September 1939 as Nazi officials began dealing with the ‘Jewish question’.
3. Carbon dioxide-filled chambers were in use to kill mentally handicapped Poles from November 1939. Zyklon B was first used at Aushwitz-Birkenau in September 1941.
4. 100,000 mentally and physically disabled Germans were murdered between the start of the war and August 1941, with Hitler having ratified an official campaign of euthanasia to rid the nation of such ‘Untermenschen’.
5. The Nazi Hunger Plan led to the deaths of over 2,000,000 Soviet prisoners in 1941.
6. Perhaps as many as 2,000,000 Jews in the western Soviet Union were murdered through what is known as the Shoah by Bullets between 1941 and 1944.
7. The roll-out of death camps by the Nazis at Bełżec, Sobibór and Treblinka was named Aktion Reynhard in ‘rememberance’ of Heydrich, who died after the contamination of wounds suffered in an assassination attempt in Prague on 27 May 1942.
8. The Nazi regime ensured that they took the maximum material benefit from their mass murders, re-using the possessions of their victims as raw materials for the war effort, gifts for their soldiers and clothing for Germans bombed out of their homes.
9. In July 1944 Majdanek became the first camp to be liberated as the Soviets progressed, being followed by Chelmno and Aushwitz in January 1945.
The Nazis destroyed a number of death camps, such as Treblinka after an uprising in August 1943. Those remaining were liberated as the Allies advanced on Berlin.
10. Around 6,000,000 Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Including the diverse range of non-Jewish victims, the total death toll was upwards of 12,000,000.