Adolf Hitler and the other Nazi leaders of Germany believed that Jews were racially inferior and dangerous. They used propaganda to convince the German people that they had to be dealt with. The Nazis made laws that deprived Jews of their rights and property. Then they forcibly separated them from the rest of German society and put them into ghettos.
They were made to wear yellow triangles so that everyone would know they were Jews. They made a plan to kill not only all the Jews in Germany but all the Jews in the countries that Germany had conquered. They called this plan the ‘Final Solution’ to the Jewish ‘problem.’ The world has come to call this terrible atrocity the ‘Holocaust.’ Jews call it ‘Shoah.’
Between 1941 and 1945 almost 9 million European Jews were murdered. This genocide was one of the largest in history. And not only Jews were oppressed and killed. Russians, Poles, Romani (Gypsies), the physically and mentally disabled, communists, homosexuals and many other minority groups suffered.
Every branch of the German government was involved in the genocide. Over 200,000 officials were involved in the murders. Germany ran 42,500 concentration camps and other facilities involved in moving, detaining and killing Jews and other people. Some of the most infamous of the extermination camps were Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Belzec. Most were killed with poisonous gas.
Others were shot or worked to death. Before the poor victims were killed, they were often made to work for the Nazis without proper food and rest. Nazi doctors also performed horrible experiments on them.
After the war, Nazi leaders were put on trial by the Allies or these and other crimes. The trials took place at Nuremberg in Germany. Many were found guilty and imprisoned or executed.
German war photographers took pictures of all that happened in the Third Reich that included the treatment of the Jews.
We have made a selection of these pictures that have been made available by the Bundesarchiv.
Poland – Jews in a Jewish prison camp in 1939
France – On the border between Nazi-occupied France and Vichy France a large sign says, “Jews are not allowed to cross the demarcation line into occupied France.”
Translated Nazi propaganda text: “We’ve got them at last!’ Jews from Germany, who escaped via Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Warsaw to Amsterdam and are interned in the Netherlands in order to spread their nasty stories all over the world. We have managed to capture a few of those Jews leading this, others managed to escape to Paris and London, but we’ll find them and find a fitting punishment for their poisonous interference!”
A large sign outside the Ghetto Litzmannstadt; “Jewish living area, entry forbidden.”
Source of all images: Bundesarchiv / Federal Archives