Why did the Nazis order the Final Solution?

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Zyklon B

In the summer of 1941 Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, received orders from Heinrich Himmler to begin experimenting with Zyklon B gas. On 3 September 1941 the Auschwitz deputy camp commandant Karl Fritzsch experimented on 600 Russian prisoners of war and 250 Polish inmates by gathering them in the basement of Block 11 and gassing them with Zyklon B.


Using the text from this page and the sldes (above), make notes about the key events and key decisions that led up to the ordering of the Final Solution. (You might want to add your notes to a mind map)

  1. Read other pages from the 'Final Solution' section of The Holocaust Explained to help you gain information.
  2. Rank the events into order of importance. 
  3. Now use your notes to answer the question: 'Why did the Nazis order the Final Solution?'

From 22 July 1941, as the Werhmacht invaded the lands occupied by the Soviet Union the mobile killing squads or Einsatzgruppen carried out the brutal murder of Jewish men, women and children in the areas being conquered. These Einsatzgruppen, were supported by local collaborators from across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Ukraine. 

During the summer of 1941, 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.

The Nazis had discovered that gassing was an effective and efficient way of killing people.

In Germany, since October 1939, they had been murdering mentally and physically disabled people (the euthanasia programme). In the beginning doctors killed them by lethal injection. But this was efficient enough, so they developed the process of gassing them. Over 70,000 people were killed in this way.

Killing centres

In October 1941 the Nazis began turning the concentration camp at Majdanek into a death camp. They then began the construction of killing centres at Belzec, Treblinka, near Warsaw, and at Sobibor.

The first mass gassing of Jews began in Chelmno on 8 December 1941, when the Nazis used gas vans to murder people from the Lodz ghetto.

The Nazis also ordered the expansion of the Auschwitz camp complex to increase the capacity for murder.

Consequently six factories of death were created in eastern Europe