The key aim of this learning story is to establish that the Holocaust took place between 1941 and 1945, in the context of the Second World War, and that mass murder primarily occurred in Poland and eastern Europe.
The primary victims were not German Jews, although clearly they were affected. The Holocaust affected Jews from across Europe, and many countries (for example, Poland) had much larger Jewish populations than did Germany.
This resource aims to emphasise that the Holocaust was not all about Auschwitz, which is often the most familiar camp for students. There were other death camps, and a large proportion of the victims of the Holocaust were murdered in mass shootings in far eastern Europe.
There is also some consideration of the victim groups (Jews and Roma – who were also targeted in a racist genocidal campaign). The 1.5 million Soviet prisoners of war deliberately starved to death might also be included as victims of genocide. There were other groups of victims of the Nazis who were targeted for attack but who were victims of persecution and not genocide (such as homosexuals, political opponents, disabled people). Although there were murders of members of all of these groups, the Nazis carried out a systematic campaign to eradicate disabled people in Germany.
There are suggestions of some of the features of the Holocaust that could be considered further, such as the arrests and transportation of Jews, and the use of Jews as slave labour (‘extermination through labour’).
NOTE: All the following images, along with the questions and answers can be found in presentation and print format in the Resources page.
Examine this photograph.
It was taken by a member of the SS, a Nazi organisation, in Warsaw during the Holocaust.
1. Who do you think is shown in this photograph? What is happening here?
2. What do you understand the term ‘the Holocaust’ to mean?
3. The Holocaust was an example of a genocide. Do you know what the term genocide means?
Examine the photograph below.
4. What do you think it might depict?
5. In what year might this photograph have been taken?
6. Do you think that there is any connection between the events depicted in this photograph and the Holocaust?
7. When do you think the Holocaust occurred?
Study the map below. It indicates the approximate size of Jewish populations in European countries at the time that the Nazis came to power in Germany.
8. Where do you think the Holocaust took place?
The ‘Holocaust by bullets’
The Holocaust started at the time of the German invasion in June 1941 of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. As the German army advanced through the Baltic states, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, SS killing squads, called Einsatzgruppen, and their collaborators organised mass shootings of Jews and others. Around half the victims of the Holocaust were murdered in these areas.
The map below is from a SS report.
9. What part of the world / countries does it depict?
10. What do you think that the map shows?
11. What was the Nazis’ ultimate aim for the Jewish population of these areas?
- Baltic States – A term used to refer to the countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
- Collaborators - Helping another person to carry out an act. In this context the act is usually evil or illegal.
- Extermination camps - Extermination camps were camps set up by the Nazis from 1941 to 1945 to murder Jews, Roma, Poles, Slavs, Soviet prisoners, political opponents, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others thought to be ideologically undesirable. Over three million people were killed at these camps over the course of the Holocaust.