What was the Holocaust?

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A charcoal drawing entitled 'Cattle Train to Auschwitz', from the series 'Because They Were Jews!'. The artist is David Friedman, a survivor of the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Gleiwitz I sub-camp of the Auschwitz camp complex.
Copyright © 1989 Miriam Friedman Morris, 
All Rights Reserved

The Holocaust (Shoah) was a unique event in 20th century history.

The events of the Holocaust evolved slowly between 1933 and 1945. They began with discrimination; then the Jews were separated from their communities and persecuted; finally they were treated as less than human beings and murdered.

During the Second World War the Nazis sought to murder the entire Jewish population of Europe and to destroy its rich and diverse cultures. In 1941 there were about 11 million Jews living in Europe; by May 1945 the Nazis had murdered six million of them. One-and-a-half million of these were children.

We now call these events the Holocaust (Shoah).

Whilst the Jews of Europe were the Nazis’ primary target, many millions of other people were also imprisoned, enslaved and murdered. These people included Roma, those with mental or physical disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, trade unionists, political opponents, Poles and Soviet prisoners of war.

The Nazis did not act alone. The perpetrators were supported and assisted by collaborators from within the countries they occupied across Europe. Most countries stood by while the Nazis and their accomplices carried out the mass murder of the Jewish people.

Now you have read the introduction to the Holocaust you can begin to explore the Key Stage 4 version of The Holocaust Explained web resource.