the late 1930's the Nazis killed thousands of handicapped
Germans by lethal injection and poisonous gas. After the
German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, mobile
killing units following in the wake of the German Army
began shooting massive numbers of Jews and Gypsies in open
fields and ravines on the outskirts of conquered cities
Eventually the Nazis created a more secluded and organized
method of killing. Extermination centers were established
in occupied Poland with special apparatus especially
designed for mass murder. Giant death machines.
Auschwitz-Birkenau became the killing centre where
the largest numbers of European Jews were killed. By mid
1942, mass gassing of Jews using Zyklon-B began at
Auschwitz, where extermination was conducted on an
industrial scale with some estimates running as high as
three million persons eventually killed through gassing,
starvation, disease, shooting, and burning. 9 out of 10
were Jews. In addition, Gypsies, Soviet POWs, and
prisoners of all nationalities died in the gas chambers.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was located nearby the provincial
Polish town of Oshwiecim in Galacia, and was established
by order of Heinrich Himmler on 27 April 1940. Private
diaries of Goebbels and Himmler unearthed from the secret
Soviet archives show that Adolf
Hitler personally ordered the mass extermination of
the Jews - as Goebbels wrote "With regards to the
Jewish question, the Fuhrer decided to make a clean sweep
The world outside Nazi Europe received numerous press
reports in the 1930s about the persecution of Jews. By
1942 the governments of the United States and Great
Britain had confirmed reports about the Final Solution
- Germany's intent to kill all the Jews of Europe. However,
influenced by antisemitism and fear of a massive influx of
refugees, neither country modified their refugee politics.
No specific attempts to stop or slow the genocide were
made until mounting pressure eventually forced the United
States to undertake limited rescue efforts in 1944.
In Europe, rampant antisemitism incited citizens of many
German-occupied countries to collaborate with the Nazis in
their genocidal policies. There were, however, individuals
and groups in every occupied nation who, at great personal
risk, helped hide those targeted by the Nazis.
One nation, Denmark,
saved most of its Jews in a nighttime rescue operation in
1943 in which Jews were ferried in fishing boats to safety
in neutral Sweden.