Despite the varied and courageous efforts of Jewish groups leading to the rescue of thousands of their co-religionists, they could do little to save millions of European Jews from the Nazi genocide.
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.
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.
By the late 1940s, concerns about the Cold War caused interest in prosecuting Nazi crimes to wane. Convicted perpetrators were released from prison, while many thousands more were never arrested or tried. Two major trials in the early 1960s led to greater public awareness of the Holocaust and renewed efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. Certain individuals and governments took the lead in these efforts, which forced hundreds of perpetrators to face accountability for their acts. The search for perpetrators continues, but as nearly all have died, only a small minority will ever have been brought to justice.
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.
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