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The Holocaust

The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its allies and collaborators. The Nazis came to power in Germany in January 1933. They believed that the Germans belonged to a race that was "superior" to all others. They claimed that the Jews belonged to a race that was "inferior" and a threat to the so-called German racial community.

By 1945, the Germans and their allies and collaborators killed nearly two out of every three European Jews as part of the "Final Solution." 


Prewar European Jewish population: 9.5 million.

Before World War II, more than half of the world's Jewish population lived in Europe. Most Jews lived in eastern Europe, primarily in the Soviet Union and Poland.

The Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933. The Germans moved to extend their power in central Europe, annexing Austria and destroying Czechoslovakia.

Germany invaded Poland in 1939, beginning World War II. Over the next two years, German forces conquered most of Europe. The Germans established ghettos in occupied eastern territories, isolating and persecuting the Jewish population.

Nazi anti-Jewish policy expanded with the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Mobile killing units murdered Jews, Roma (also called Gypsies), Soviet political commissars, and others.

The Germans and their collaborators deported Jews to killing centers in occupied Poland. At the largest killing center, Auschwitz-Birkenau, transports arrived almost daily from across Europe.

Postwar Jewish Population, ca. 1950: 3.5 million


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum

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