World War I (1914–18) marked the first great international conflict of the twentieth century. The trauma of the war would profoundly shape the attitudes and actions of both leaders and ordinary people during the Holocaust. The impact of the conflict and its divisive peace would echo in the decades to come, giving rise to a second world war and genocide committed under its cover.
In the first six years of Adolf Hitler's dictatorship, Jews felt the effects of more than 400 decrees and regulations on all aspects of their lives. The regulations gradually but systematically took away their rights and property, transforming them from citizens into outcasts. Many of the laws were national ones issued by the German administration, affecting all Jews. State, regional, and municipal officials also issued many decrees in their own communities. As Nazi leaders prepared for war in Europe, antisemitic legislation in Germany and Austria paved the way for more radical persecution of Jews.
The Nuremberg Race Laws were two in a series of key decrees, legislative acts, and case law in the gradual process by which the Nazi leadership moved Germany from a democracy to a dictatorship.
The Holocaust is the best documented case of genocide. Despite this, calculating the exact numbers of individuals who were killed as the result of Nazi policies is an impossible task. There is no single wartime document that spells out how many people were killed.
The Holocaust occurred in the broader context of World War II. World War II was the largest and most destructive conflict in history. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime envisioned a vast, new empire of "living space" (Lebensraum) for Germans in eastern Europe by the removal of existing populations. The Nazi goal to strengthen the German “master race” resulted in the persecution and murder of Jews and many others.
During the first six years of Hitler’s dictatorship, government at every level—Reich, state and municipal—adopted hundreds of laws, decrees, directives, guidelines, and regulations that increasingly restricted the civil and human rights of the Jews in Germany.
Communism is an economic and political philosophy grounded in the belief that societies are shaped by their economic systems. According to communism, capitalism creates social problems by dividing wealth unfairly between two classes of people. Therefore, the economic system must be reformed to distribute wealth equally. Communist ideas spread rapidly in Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries, offering an alternative to both capitalism and far-right fascism and setting the stage for a political conflict with global repercussions.
We would like to thank The Crown and Goodman Family and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors.