The Wannsee Conference

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Ukrainian Jews forced to undress by an Einsatzgruppe detachment, Lubny, Soviet Union, 16 October 1941
© 2011 Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.

After the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939, the Nazis sent many thousands of Czech Jews to ghettos in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. This meant there were over two million people in the overcrowded ghettos.

In order to make way for these new prisoners, the SS took many thousands of Jews from the ghettos of Kovno, Riga, Minsk, Lodz, Lvov and Lublin to be murdered by the Einsatzgruppen.

During the summer of 1941 the German invasion of the Soviet Union brought many more Jews within German-controlled territory.

Some Polish Jews had managed to escape into the Soviet Union during the German invasion of Poland. Now, as the German army rolled into the Soviet Union, they were again trapped.

Heinrich Himmler (leader of the SS) witnessed the Einsatzgruppen killing process. He ordered a more organised and less random method of mass murder. This was to become an industry of death.