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The Nazis began experimenting with poison gas for the purpose of mass murder in late 1939 with the killing of patients with mental and physical disabilities (in the Euthanasia Program).
In 1942, Germany dominated most of Europe. Greater Germany had been enlarged at the expense of its neighbors. Austria and Luxembourg were completely incorporated. Territories from Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Belgium, and the Baltic states were seized by Greater Germany. German military forces occupied Norway, Denmark, Belgium, northern France, Serbia, parts of northern Greece, and vast tracts of territory in eastern Europe. Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Finland, Croatia, and Vichy France were all either allied to Germany or subject to heavy German influence. Between 1942 and 1944, German military forces extended the area under their occupation to southern France, central and northern Italy, Slovakia, and Hungary.
In Nazi usage, "euthanasia" referred to the systematic killing of those Germans whom the Nazis deemed "unworthy of life" because of alleged genetic diseases or defects. Beginning in the fall of 1939, gassing installations were established at Bernburg, Brandenburg, Grafeneck, Hadamar, Hartheim, and Sonnenstein. Patients were selected by doctors and transferred from clinics to one of these centralized gassing installations and killed. After public outrage forced an end to centralized killings, doctors instead administered lethal injections to those selected for "euthanasia" in clinics and hospitals throughout Germany. In this way, the "euthanasia" program continued and expanded until the end of World War II.
Killing centers (also referred to as "extermination camps" or "death camps") were designed to carry out genocide. Between 1941 and 1945, the Nazis established six killing centers in former Polish territory—Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau (part of the Auschwitz complex), and Majdanek. Chelmno and Auschwitz were established in areas annexed to Germany in 1939. The other camps (Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Majdanek) were established in the Generalgouvernement (General Government) of Poland. Both Auschwitz and Majdanek functioned as concentration and forced-labor camps as well as killing centers. The overwhelming majority of the victims of the killing centers were Jews. An estimated 3.5 million Jews were killed in these six killing centers as part of the Final Solution. Other victims included Roma (Gypsies) and Soviet prisoners of war.
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