10 Facts About the Holocaust, Ethnic Cleansing and Race in World War Two | History Hit

10 Facts About the Holocaust, Ethnic Cleansing and Race in World War Two

Simon Parkin

09 Aug 2018
Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria. 7 May 1945.
Image Credit: Lt. Arnold E. Samuelson / National Archives / Public Domain

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.

Here are 10 facts about these especially horrific facets of World War Two.

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.’

Newly appointed Chancellor Adolf Hitler greets President von Hindenburg at a memorial service. Berlin, 1933

2. Ghettos developed in Poland from September 1939 as Nazi officials began dealing with the ‘Jewish question’.

Herman Rothman and Henry Glanz are two survivors of the Kindertransport, and Dan went to talk to them and find out more about their escape from antisemitic Nazi Germany.
Listen Now

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

The walls of Auschwitz.

4. 100,000 mentally and physically disabled Germans were murdered between the start of the war and August 1941

Hitler had 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

The railway wagon from Auschwitz II.

6. Perhaps as many as 2,000,000 Jews in the western Soviet Union were murdered between 1941 and 1944

It is known as the Shoah by Bullets.

7. The roll-out of death camps by the Nazis at Bełżec, Sobibór and Treblinka was named Aktion Reynhard in ‘remembrance’ of Heydrich

In this fascinating documentary, Clare Mulley reports on the unveiling of the new sculpture and reflects on the Kindertransport as an extraordinary moment in British history, questioning how we can learn from our past when faced with the refugee crisis of today.
Watch Now

Heydrich had 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

They re-used 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

This 30 minute documentary explores Germany’s extraordinary post World War Two memorial culture, featuring Gunter Demnig, Keith Lowe, Dr Sabrina Mittermeier and Professor Dr. Susan Neiman.
Watch Now

It was 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.

Simon Parkin