Dates of the Holocaust
Jamie McCarthy answers:
I am one of the volunteers who answers questions for The Holocaust History Project.
I would say the most common dates given for the duration of the Holocaust would be 1939-1945. The mass internment of the Jews, with no longer any pretense for treating them like human beings, did indeed begin with the start of the war on September 1, 1939.
I have also seen:
1933-1945: by those who believe the persecution of the Jews must be dated from the moment Hitler came to power in Germany;
1938-1945: by those who believe Kristallnacht was an important turning point: the "Night of Broken Glass" in Nov. 1938 when the Nazi Party invoked a pogrom against the Jews (so-called because of the shattered Jewish shop windows).
And, what we would call mass murders, as opposed to forced internment and other persecution, did not begin until mid-1941.
That's probably more than you needed to know, but I hope it was interesting. If you have other questions, please let us know.
Andrew E. Mathis answers:
The primary reason that the Nazi treatment of Jews changed from one of non-murderous persecution to genocide between 1939 and 1945 was the onset of World War II. Hitler had stated repeatedly that if a war were to break out in Europe, he would unleash tremendous suffering on European Jewry, whom he blamed for war-mongering. He made good on his promise.
The war itself was precipitated by Germany's invasion of Poland, which brought under the Third Reich's control a population of nearly 3 million Jews, who were immediately ghettoized and/or sent to concentration camps. The subsequent invasion of the Soviet Union by the Nazis in June 1941 brought even more Jews under Nazi control, and knowing this eventuality beforehand, Hitler sent in four units called Einsatzgruppen, who were deployed specifically to kill civilian Jewish populations, as well as Soviet commissars and partisans. This marks the beginning of an open genocide program. The decision in early 1942 on a "Final Solution" for European Jewry, i.e., complete extermination, led to the installation of gassing facilities at the already existing Auschwitz concentration camp and the building of other extermination camps in Poland. The "Final Solution" having been decided upon, the majority of Jews under Nazi control ended up in these camps. The chaos of the war on the Eastern Front provided the Nazis with the ability to carry out their extermination program in a relatively secret manner, though reports of mass genocide did escape from Eastern Europe as early as 1942.
When did the Holocaust end?
Andrew Mathis Responds:With regard to your question of when the Holocaust ended, it ended May 8, 1945, when the Germans unconditionally surrendered and all remaining concentration camps were accessed by Allied forces.
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Last modified: September 18, 2004