Understanding the Holocaust

The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored murder and persecution of 6 six million Jews that was conducted by the Nazi regime. Holocaust is a Greek word meaning “sacrificing by fire”. The Nazis, who took power in Germany in 1933, believed that Germans were a “superior” race, and the Jews were deemed an “inferior” race.

During the Holocaust era, the German authorities also attacked and killed other groups who were perceived as “racially inferior”: Roma, the Slavic people, and the disabled. Other groups were executed on political grounds, behavioral, and ideological grounds, among them homosexuals, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Communists.

In 1993, the population of Jews in Europe was over nine million. Most of these Jews lived in countries which Nazi Germany would influence or occupy during World War II. By 1945, the Nazis and its allies murdered nearly two out of every three Jews in Europe as part of the “Final Solution” – a Nazi policy to kill the Jews of Europe.

Although the Jews were the main victims of Nazi racism, others who suffered include: 200,000 Romas and at least 200,000 disabled people were killed in the so-called Euthanasia program.


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