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world war I

  • World War II in Europe


    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. 

    World War II in Europe
  • The History of the Swastika


    The swastika is an ancient symbol that was in use in many different cultures for at least 5,000 years before Adolf Hitler made it the centerpiece of the Nazi flag. Its present-day use by certain extremist groups promotes hate.

    The History of the Swastika
  • Victims of the Nazi Era: Nazi Racial Ideology
  • Theresienstadt: Key Dates


    Key dates in the history of the Theresienstadt "camp-ghetto," which existed for three and a half years, between November 24, 1941, and May 9, 1945. During its existence, Theresienstadt served multiple purposes.

    Theresienstadt: Key Dates
  • Oranienburg


    Millions of people suffered and died in camps, ghettos, and other sites during the Holocaust. The Nazis and their allies oversaw more than 44,000 camps, ghettos, and other sites of detention, persecution, forced labor, and murder. Among them was the Oranienburg camp. 

  • Public Humiliation


    During the twelve years of the Third Reich (1933-1945), Nazi officials and organizations perpetrated public humiliations of individuals in Germany and Nazi-occupied  countries. The Nazis singled out Jews and other victims who violated racial laws as targets for humiliation. For example, Jewish men often had their beards forcibly shaved and endured  physical punishment.


    Public Humiliation
  • Joseph Goebbels
  • Yonia Fain describes leaving Warsaw after the German invasion of Poland

    Oral History

    After World War I, Yonia's family moved to Vilna. Yonia studied painting and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vilna. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Yonia was living with his wife in Warsaw. They fled to Brest-Litovsk in eastern Poland, occupied by Soviet forces in mid-September 1939. Then Yonia and his wife escaped to Vilna. After the Soviets occupied Vilna in June 1940, Yonia and his wife forged Japanese transit visas and left for Japan. In Japan, they were unable to obtain valid visas for another country and were forced to remain. Japanese authorities required them to relocate to Shanghai in Japanese-occupied China in the fall of 1941. They remained in Shanghai for the duration of the war. In 1948, Yonia and his wife immigrated to Mexico. In 1956, Yonia immigrated to the United States.

    Yonia Fain describes leaving Warsaw after the German invasion of Poland
  • World War II: In Depth


    The mass murder of Europe’s Jews took place in the context of World War II. As German troops invaded and occupied more and more territory in Europe, the Soviet Union, and North Africa, the regime’s racial and antisemitic policies became more radical, moving from persecution to genocide.

    Tags: World War II
    World War II: In Depth
  • Reinhard Heydrich: In Depth


    Reinhard Heydrich was one of the main architects of the “Final Solution.” He was chief of the Reich Security Main Office, the SS and police agency most directly concerned with implementing the Nazi plan to murder Jews of Europe during World War II.

  • United States Immigration and Refugee Law, 1921–1980


    Before World War II and the Holocaust, American law made very little distinction between refugees forced to flee their countries due to persecution, and immigrants seeking a better life. After the war, the United States and the international community used a series of directives, organizations, and laws to help displaced European refugees, including Holocaust survivors, immigrate to new countries. Although refugees gained legal status under postwar international law, the scope of these laws were narrow and limited at first, before expanding to their current form.

  • What conditions, ideologies, and ideas made the Holocaust possible?

    Discussion Question

    The leaders of Nazi Germany, a modern, educated society, aimed to destroy millions of men, women, and children because of their Jewish identity. Understanding this process may help us to better understand the conditions under which mass violence is possible and to take steps to prevent such conditions from developing. 

    Explore fundamental questions about how and why the Holocaust was possible. 

    What conditions, ideologies, and ideas made the Holocaust possible?
  • How did the United States government and American people respond to Nazism?

    Discussion Question

    Consideration of American responses to Nazism during the 1930s and 1940s raises questions about the responsibility to intervene in response to persecution or genocide in another country. As soon as Hitler assumed power in 1933, Americans had access to information about Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews and other groups. Although some Americans protested Nazism, there was no sustained, nationwide effort in the United States to oppose the Nazi treatment of Jews. Even after the US entered World War II, the government did not make the rescue of Jews a major war aim.

    Explore this question to learn about the factors and pressures that influenced America’s responses to Nazism.

    How did the United States government and American people respond to Nazism?
  • Introduction to the Holocaust


    The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million European Jews by the Nazi German regime and its allies and collaborators. The Holocaust was an evolving process that took place throughout Europe between 1933 and 1945.

    Introduction to the Holocaust
  • What were some similarities between racism in Nazi Germany and in the United States, 1920s-1940s?

    Discussion Question

    The meanings of “race” and “racism” have varied over time and in different political, social, and cultural settings. Nazi racism and American racism are distinct and complex topics. This discussion question focuses on the history of racial antisemitism in Germany and its relationship to racism in the United States. Learn more about some aspects of these histories that are similar and some that are different.

    What were some similarities between racism in Nazi Germany and in the United States, 1920s-1940s?

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