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All Jews in Germany and the occupied countries were deported to sealed ghettos as a holding area.
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Many were then shipped in cattle cars to labor camps where they lived under brutally inhuman conditions. Hundreds of thousands were sent directly to the gas chambers in death camps. As the Allies advanced on the camps, death marches further depleted the ranks of potential camp survivors.
An entire state bureaucracy was mobilized solely for the purpose of annihilating Jews. German technological expertise was harnessed to make the mass murder as efficient and low-cost as possible. The conditions in these death camps and other concentration camps were brutal, and designed purposely to make survival only temporary. The Madagascar Plan see below was one example of strategies which were formulated to remove Jews from Germany and its occupied lands.
As is described in more detail in Chapter 11, many countries refused to accept Jewish refugees. This shift in policy resulted in the deportation of Jews to camps and ghettos in the East.
In , plans were devised by the Nazis to ship all Jews under Nazi control to Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean. Chelmno was the site of the first gassing of Jews, which occurred on December 8, The Nazi war machine had limited resources, including slave labor, much of it Jewish.
Even so, the Nazis made a decision that the annihilation of the Jews of Europe was a more important achievement than the value of their labor.
Similarly, the Nazis made a decision not to let the need for transport for the war effort interfere with the need for trucks and rail cars to carry the Jews to concentration camps and death centers. It was Adolf Eichmann who masterminded the logistics of the deportation of Jews. Each was told to take some clothing, blankets, shoes, eating utensils but no knife , a bowl, and some money. Rounded up, they were herded into trucks for the trip to the rail station, or were forced to walk. The rail cars were often strategically located at a distance from the passenger terminals, so that this scene would not arouse the ire of the local populace.
Many who did see chose not to protest. The deportees were forced into rail cars, most of which were windowless, unheated cattle cars, and squeezed in so tightly that most were forced to stand.
The doors were then sealed shut from the outside. Neither drinking water nor sanitary facilities were available. Each car held more than people, and many froze or suffocated to death or succumbed to disease during the trip to the camps. The dead were not removed from the cars during the journey because the Nazi bureaucracy insisted that each body entering a car be accounted for at the destination.
The Nazi officer in charge of this duty was Adolph Eichmann, who traveled from country to country that was under German occupation to systematically plan the deportation of the local Jewish population to the death camps. Eichmann received various levels of cooperation from each of the various occupied governments. But in countries such as Holland, Belgium, Albania, Denmark, Finland and Bulgaria, some Jews were saved from their deaths by the action of the sympathetic populace and government officials.
In other countries such as Poland, Greece, France, and Yugoslavia, the deportation of Jews to the death camps was facilitated by the cooperation of the government. Ghettoization December to March Although the Nazis were successful in isolating Jews socially and economically, the actual physical isolation of the Eastern European population did not begin until December Jews had known the ghetto since the Middle Ages, although Jews were then permitted to leave the ghetto during the day and participate in the business of the general community.
The purpose of the Nazi ghetto, however, was to create a total confinement for the Jewish population, turning entire neighborhoods into a prison unlike the ghettos of centuries past. The Nazis hoped that the wretched ghetto conditions would deplete the Jewish population quickly and naturally through starvation, disease and cold. The ghetto also served as the holding area for eventual transport to the death camps for those who were able to survive.
Ghetto inhabitants in many areas were forced to become slaves for German industry. Factories were built alongside or within ghetto walls so that industries could take advantage of this free labor. Life in the ghetto was abominable, and thousands died. There was no medicine. The food ration allowed was a quarter of that available for the Germans, barely enough to allow survival.
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The water supply was contaminated in many ghettos. Epidemics of tuberculosis, typhoid, and lice were common. Bodies of new victims piled up in the streets faster than they could be carted away. In the Warsaw ghetto, more than 70, died of exposure, disease, and starvation during the first two winters.
Almost all of those who survived the Warsaw ghetto were either killed when the ghetto was razed in or died in the death camps. Theresienstadt Ghetto The Theresienstadt ghetto was established by the Nazis in an 18th century fortress in Czechoslovakia on November 24, More than , Jews passed through the ghetto during its four-year existence, which was used as a holding area for eventual murder in Auschwitz.
By , rumors began circulating in the international community that the Nazis were exterminating Jews in gas chambers, and that the conditions of the ghettos did not permit survival. Flower gardens were planted in the ghetto. Shops, schools, and a cafe were built.
When an investigating commission of the International Red Cross came to visit, they did not see a typical ghetto. In July the Nazis made a documentary propaganda film about life in this ghetto. The meeting was convened by Reinhard Heydrich, who was the head of the S. Deportation of Jews to killing centers. Immediate death for those who were unable to work or the very young, the old, and the weak.
Segregation by gender of the remaining Jews. Decimation through forced labor with insufficient nourishment.
Eventual death for the remnant. Concentration Camps The Nazi concentration camps were established beginning in for the purpose of imprisoning political opponents. Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen were among the first concentration camps built by the Nazis near Munich, Weimar, and Berlin respectively. Upon arrival at a camp, the inmates were usually stripped of all their valuables and clothes. They were then shorn of body hair, disinfected, given a shower, and issued a striped prison uniform without regard to size.
Each step of the process was designed to dehumanize the prisoners, both physically and emotionally. Each prisoner was given a number. At Auschwitz, for example, the number was tattooed on the arm, but some camps did not tattoo their inmates. Life in the camps was a living hell. Frequently three to four prisoners shared each bunk, not permitting space enough for them to stretch out for normal sleep. The inmates were organized into groups to go to the toilets, marched to a distribution center for a breakfast consisting of some bread and a liquid substitute for tea or coffee, and then sent out to work for hours in mines, factories, and road or airfield building, often in sub-zero weather or the severe heat of summer.
They were subjected to constant physical and emotional harassment and beating. Those who resisted orders of the guards were shot on the spot. Numerous roll calls were held to assure that no prisoners had escaped. If one did attempt an escape, all of the inmates suffered for it. Unlike concentration camps, death camps had no barracks to house prisoners, other than those for workers at the camps. In order to process the murder of thousands of people, great pains were taken to deceive the victims concerning their fate.
Jews deported from ghettos and concentration camps to the death camps were unaware of what they were facing. The Nazi planners of the operation told the victims that they were being resettled for labor, issued them work permits, told them to bring along their tools and to exchange their German marks for foreign currency.
Food was also used to coax starving Jews onto the trains. Once the trains arrived at the death camps, trucks were available to transport those who were too weak to walk directly to the gas chambers.
The others were told that they would have to be deloused and enter the baths. The victims were separated by sex and told to remove their clothes. The baths were in reality the gas chambers.
The shower heads in the baths were actually the inlets for poison gas. At Auschwitz, the gas chambers held 2, people at a time. With the introduction of a cyanide-based gas called Zyklon B, all 2, occupants could be killed in five minutes. Before the bodies were removed by workers with gas masks and burned in crematoria, the teeth of the victims were stripped for gold, which was melted down and shipped back to Germany.
Innocent victims were exploited and desecrated to a degree unknown in human history. Unlike the death camps of Treblinka, Chelmno, Sobibor, and Belzec, which were built and operated solely to kill Jews, the two death camps of Maidanek and Auschwitz also had a work camp attached. Upon arrival at these two camps, a selection was made at the train station concerning which Jews about 10 percent of the arrivals would be permitted to live and escape immediate gassing in the gas chambers.
They were given a food ration that permitted them to survive for only three months. As they died from exhaustion, beatings, and starvation, they were replaced with newly arrived victims. Auschwitz was also used as the site for medical experimentation. Many of these experiments had little scientific value but were only exercises to discover how much torture a victim could endure until death. By the end of , an estimated two-and-a-half million Jews had died at Auschwitz.
More than a quarter of a million Gypsies also died there. Their orders were to execute on the spot all Communists, Jews, and Gypsies.
It is estimated that by the end of , they had killed more than a million Soviet Jews. These victims were shot or loaded into enclosed trucks modified for the introduction of carbon monoxide to asphyxiate its victims. An additional , were killed by other S. Thousands of Jews were brought to a ravine on the outskirts of Kiev and mowed down by machine guns.
Many who were not wounded, including thousands of children, were thrown into the pit of bodies and were buried alive.