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The Holocaust History Project.
The Holocaust History Project.

General short questions and answer.

This file consists of short questions and answers of a general nature. The questions are in italics, the answerers identified by initials: GM = Gordon McFee, HWM = Harry W. Mazal OBE, DM = Professor Daniel Mittleman, JM = Jamie McCarthy, YFE= Yale F. Edeiken.

What was Hitler's childhood like?

GM: Could I suggest Hitler by Joachim Fest.

About how many concentration camps were there during the Holocaust, and what were some of the jobs that the prisoners had to do?

GM: Either Hilberg's Destruction of the European Jews or Gilbert's The Holocaust would be helpful here.

Where was the first attack on the Jews, and where and why did it happen?

GM: See Hilberg.

Were there any other kind of torture sites used for killing the Jews during the Holocaust?

GM: See Reitlinger's The Final Solution.

About how many Nazi soldiers were there, and what were they like?

GM: See The German Generals Talk, edited by B.H. Liddell Hart.

where did thge jews of europe live in 1933?

HWM: The Jews (the 'J' is capitalised) in Europe lived in every country in Europe.

what was life like for them at this time?

HWM: Until Hitler became the leader (Fuehrer) of the Germans, Jews lived happily and in peace.

how did hitler and his nazi policies treat the jews?

HWM: As a resultof Hitler's anti-Jewish policies, some 6 million Jews died.

what myths and sterotypes of jews excited at he time 1933?

HWM: The same myths and stereotypes that persist to this day. For example: People who hate Jews believe that Jews own the governments, the newspapers, the banks and all trade. At the same time these bigoted people accuse the Jews of being the founders of Communism! There are many fallacies about the Jews just as there are many fallacies among the Americans about the British.

why was the"final soloution"able to happen?

Six million people died because nobody cared enough to stop the Nazis when they first took over Germany.

I suggest that you go to the library in your school and find an excellent book on the Holocaust written by a British scholar Show the following to your librarian and he/she will find it for you:

The Holocaust
Martin Gilbert
c. 1985, Holt Rinehart and Winston
ISBN 0-023-062416-9

Professor Gilbert is a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford.

I would like to know how the Jew's hid from the Nazi's all out slaughter, and what organizations helped them.

HWM: This is a very complex question for which there is no single answer. Very much depends on the country in which the Jews resided. I can only give you the merest of thumbnail sketches. I suggest that you visit your local library for more detailed information.

In some countries such as Denmark and Bulgaria there was an official policy to assist the Jews. The Danes put most of their Jews on boats and sent them to safety in Sweden. The Bulgarian government, although strongly fascist, did not allow the Germans to enforce their racist laws. Although there were practically no Jews in Finland, the pro-Nazi government did not allow the Germans to remove their Jews.

In other countries, such as Italy, many of the Jews were strongly assimilated and were therefore "invisible"to the occupying German forces. Some Catholic temples gave sanctuary to Jews. Nontheless many Italian Jews perished in the Holocaust. You might want to read Primo Levi's book Survival in Auschwitzfor an Italian Jew's point of view.

Austrian, German, Dutch, Hungarian, Slovakian, Czech, Belgian, French, Norwegian, Luxembourgian, Yugoslav, Greek, and, of course, Polish Jews did not have much luck.

In your opinion,what do you think caused the downfall of the 3rd Reich?

HWM: Militarily, I would say that the two-front war depleted Germany's human and material resources; add to that the enormous might and logistical capabilities of the Americans. Germany should have quit while they were ahead after taking over Czechoslovakia. When they attacked Poland, even in partnership with the Russians, they were doomed to failure. This was exacerbated wheen Hitler fooolishly turned on the Russians, opening up a two-front war.

Are there any organizations today dedicated to seeking vengance upon any NAZI who participated in the Holocaust, such as an officer or such?

HWM: Most Nazi's who participated in the atrocities are dead. Those who remain are very, very old. I don't think that there is a very active effort to dig out those relics of evil.

Is there any Holocaust survivors living around Springfield, Illinois?

DM: I don't know. But I do have some suggestions for you. First, you might Contact the rabbi at Jewish Temples or Synagogues in Springfield to see if he or she can put you in touch with local survivors. If there are any survivors in your area, they may or may not be comfortable talking to you about the Holocaust. Some of them will be happy to tell you about what happened. For others it may still be too painful, even though more than 50 years have passed.

There are also several organizations that have been collecting stories from survivors of the Holocaust. You can read about some of this on the Internet. First, you might choose to visit The Shoah Foundation at http://www.vhf.org/. They videotape interviews with Holocaust survivors all over the world. However, none of those tapes are available on the Internet right now. You might visit The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at http://www.ushmm.org/ and at that site take a look at Jewish Displaced Persons http://www.ushmm.org/~osa/dp/index.htm and The Displaced Persons' Camp Experience http://www.ushmm.org/~osa/dpcampex.htm. These pages (and their links) talk about what happened to many of the survivors in the years immediately following WWII as they were moved through displaced persons and refugee camps. Many people don't realize that the horrors of the Holocaust didn't end at the end of the war. For example the parents of a friend of mine were held in a relocation camp until 1953 before being released and allowed to emigrate to the United States. This web site talks about the things that happened after 1945 to the people who survived the Holocaust. Also among those links is a pointer to the Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

If you would like to read some of the testimonies and statements survivors have made, you might want to visit the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at http://www.library.yale.edu/testimonies/homepage.html. At this site are actual audio and video interviews with Holocaust survivors.

About how many Jews were killed?

About 6,000,000 (six million) Jews were killed during the Holocaust. It is impossible to know exactly how many people died as the deaths were comprised of thousands of different events over a period of more than four years. About 3,000,000 Jews died in concentration camps or death camps such as Auschwitz. But another 3,000,000 or so Jews died when Nazi soldiers marched into many large and small towns in Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union and other areas and murdered people by the dozens or by the hundreds.

In fact, these systematic murders, in many ways, are similar to what the Serbians are doing right now to the Albanians (and why we currently are at war with them.) The Nazis who marched into towns and shot Jews were known as the Einsatzgruppen. If you are interested in this topic, there is an excellent essay called "An Introduction to the Einsatzgruppen" at http://www.holocaust-history.org/intro-einsatz/

It is also very important to know that about 6,000,000 non-Jews were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. These included people who were murdered because they were Catholic, Communist, Disabled, or Homosexual, among other reasons.

Could you send me some infomation on Hitler?

DM: I don't have any information about Hitler with me at my computer. However, it is very easy to find out about Hitler by going to the library or by searching for his name on the Internet. Most likely more books have been written about Hitler than about anyone else who lived during the 20th century. There should be several books in your school library about him. If you school library has old magazines (or microfilm of old magazines) you might take a look at Time or Newsweek between 1933 (when Hitler came to power) and 1945 (when he died) to see what was written about him at that time.

If you search on the Internet you will find over 50,000 web sites that mention Hitler. But if you do this, be careful because there are several web sites out there that glorify Hitler. Should you stumble across one of those web sites, read it with a very critical eye.

Could you tell me about the consention camps?

DM: There were many many concentration camps set up as work camps. In these camps the prisoners would be put to work doing slave labor. But apart from these camps were a handful of camps (most of them located East of Gernany in what is now Poland) called death camps. In these few camps the Nazis built gas chambers disguised as showers in which they led Jews and then gassed them to death. In some of these camps, the process of gassing and then burying people was too slow, so eventually the Nazis resorted to forcing the Jews to dig ditches in the woods, and then lined the Jews up next to the ditches and machine gunned them down.

Many of the things that happened are not at all pleasant to read about. If you were wondering up top why some of the survivors might not want to talk about it even 50 years later, maybe information like this can help you understand why.

There is a web site that describes details about the death camps (and shows many photographs, some rather horrid) at http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/camps/

You may want to give some thought to this before going to look at it.

While the information is not very pleasant, I hope that you find it helpful as you try to learn more about the Holocaust.

What was the holocaust and what did it mean for Jewish people?

DM: This is a very general question. Let me point to you an essay called "Tell Me Everything" at http://www.holocaust-history.org/short-essays/general.shtml.

This essay will get you started with the general information and list for you several books you might look at to learn more. In addition to those books, I can refer you to several web sites including:

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at http://www.ushmm.org/ The Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center at http://motlc.wiesenthal.com/ Yad Vashem at http://www.yad-vashem.org.il/ and Nizkor at http://www.nizkor.org

All of these site can help provide you with answers to the basic question "what was the Holocaust?"

Explain why the Holocaust is still significant to jews

This is a much more difficult question. The web sites above might begin to help you understand the answer to it. I can give you my personal answer to this question. My answer is that many, if not most, Jews lost relatives during the Holocaust.

For older people, those who died were real people - either those whom they remember from their childhood or close relatives their parents told them about. So the Holocaust is very real to them through personal or family experience.

For others and for younger Jews, the Holocasut is more representative of how fragile life is. In 1930 there was a large vibrant Jewish community in Germany. By 1945 that entire community was gone. Most of the people were dead. Those who weren't dead were scattered across the world. The culture that had existed only 15 years earlier was gone forever. Jews, whether they personally remember the Holocaust or not, recognize from it that they as a people can be wiped out in a very short time. This is a very sobering thought.

What do you think are the best ways of honouring the memory of those who suffered in the Holocaust.

DM: This too is a difficult question as honouring memory can be a very personal thing. I think that the best way to honour their memory is to [1] never forget what happened; this means to carry on educational activities so that future generations are apprised of the Holocaust. [2] work for a community where it will never happen again; this means fighting for open democratic societies with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. [3] work to make sure that ethnic cleansing is not practiced on any other racial, religious, or ethnic group around the world; and this speaks the NATO's current involvement in Serbia. But this is only my personal answer. I think that everyone has to establish this answer for themselves.

I would like to know how the number of jewish people killed at the hands of the Germans was tabulated.

JM: There are two ways of doing this, both of which arrive at roughly the same answer. One can compare the number of Jews living before and after the war. Or one can examine the number of Jews shipped to the camps and ghettos, and compare to the number who left.

The Nazis' own figures often came in handy. Goebbels wrote in his diary halfway through the war that there were eleven million Jews in the areas the Reich controlled. There survives a map of the Baltic states used in a summary presentation of the Einsatzgruppen's efforts, which indicates the number of deaths very precisely printed next to coffin symbols, and tells which areas are "Judenrein" (free of Jews).

For one example of how historians arrive at their figures, please consult Reitlinger, Gerald, The Final Solution, Appendix I. In my first edition (1953) this is pp. 489-501. Reitlinger breaks down the figures by source country. Example quotation, for the country of Germany (pre-1938 frontiers):

Shortly after Hitler's rise to power, in June, 1933, a census was taken of the pure Jews of Germany and it showed 499,682. By the outbreak of war emigration had reduced this number according to the Reichsvereinigung to 215,000 -- a rather problematic figure which must be our starting point. ^6 A second Reichsvereinigung census, dated October 1st, 1941, shows 163,696 registered Jews, a loss exceeding 50,000, of which only 8,000 heads can be attributed to deportation. One has to decide what portion of the remaining 43,000 escaped by voluntary emigration. Dr. Korherr, in observing that there had been 7,659 natural deaths of Jews...


For Auschwitz specifically (as an example), see Piper, Francizek, "The Number of Victims," in Gutman et al., Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, 1994, pp. 61ff.

Does it include all jewish people who died during this 14 year period?

JM: The Third Reich was in power for 12 years.

Of the eleven million or so Jews of Europe, approximately half (six million) were killed in just the years 1941-45. Whether the hypothetical natural rate of death should be subtracted from this total or not is quite insignificant numerically.

I have recently seen that the Yad Vashem has now after 50 years just arrived at three million names. Does this include Anne Franke who died of disease?

JM: I can't imagine why this would matter.

I presume it does. And why not? Anne Frank was murdered just as surely as anyone killed by poison gas. If one forces innocent civilians, including children, into a camp with almost no food or clean water, intolerable sanitation, and rampant disease, then one is responsible for their resulting deaths.

A survivor of the holocaust recently came to our school and spoke about her experiences. My world history teacher asked our class to write a paper on the holocaust and how we feel about it. I've read the story Night , but I don't know very much about what happened. I would like to know what caused the holocaust? What kind of things happened daily at the concentration camps? How many people died , and how did they die? How many people excaped the concentration camps? And what caused the holocaust to end?

JM: I am one of the volunteers who answers questions for The Holocaust History Project. Let me try to address each of your questions.

As far as what caused the Holocaust, this is a complex question. The simple answer is that the Hitler government, brought to power in 1933, was grossly antisemitic, viewing the Jews as the source of all Germany's troubles. Over the next twelve years, they took the steps which their nightmarish fantasies required: gradually at first, then once the world was embroiled in war, quickly and finally.

Regarding daily life in concentration camps, the best work I've read on this is by Primo Levi. It is a smallish book called Survival in Auschwitz.

The number of victims: all told, almost twelve million civilians perished at the hands of the Nazis. Something around six million of those were Jews -- the lowest estimates are in the low five millions, the highest closer to six million. Numerically, most of the remainder were Russian POWs and Poles. Most of the victims were killed by simple means: shooting, and also forcing them to succumb to a combination of starvation, disease, labor, and unsanitary conditions. Roughly three million people, almost exclusively Jews, were killed in gas chambers.

I do not have a single source for the number of escapees from concentration camps. Surely the largest number who escaped were those freed at the end of the war -- there were only about 500 prisoners who actually escaped from Auschwitz over five years, whereas 8,000 were liberated. And Auschwitz was the largest of the hundreds of camps. My _guess_ would be that well under 100,000 people escaped or were liberated from the system of Nazi camps, but that is all it would be, a guess -- if my colleagues at THHP have any better information, they may contact you as well.

The Holocaust did not end until the spring of 1945, when the invading Allies overran the camps where its victims were held. An order by Himmler in November 1944 had put an end to most of the gassing operations, but the murders continued right up to the last days of the war.

I hope this is of some use to you. Thank you for writing.

1.)How many Jews were able to escape from Europe prior to the Holocaust? 2.)Was Auschwitz the first Nazi concentration camp?


Hello. I am one of the volunteers who answers questions for The Holocaust History Project. In answer to your first question, it is hard to state how many actually escaped before the Nazi persecution of the Jews turned into genocide. Part of the reason is that many who "escaped" were later caught when the forces of the Third Reich over-ran most of Europe. Ann Frank and her family, for example, were German Jews who "escaped to the Netherlands in the 1930's. What is clear is that few Jews were able to escape to safety to the U.S., Canda, Great Britain, or the Palestinian Mandate.

In answer to your second question. Auschwitz was, in fact, one of the last of the major concentration camps established. While there were so ad hoc camps begun within days of Hitler taking power, the first "official" concentration camp was Dachau which served not only as a concentration camp but a training facility for the SS soldiers operating the concentration camps.

I hope this helps with your research.

Were the jews specifically targetted because of their religion?

DM: Yes they were. Nazi Germany proclaimed that it would undertake a "final solution" to what they deemed to be "the Jewish problem." Take a look at our essay "Why the Jews?" at http://www.holocaust-history.org/short-essays/why-the-jews.shtml This essay well addresses your question.

Was there any resistance from the Jews? And if not, why not?

DM: There were pockets of resistance and some stories of individuals Jews or small communities holding out, but, in general, there was not the kind of resistance we would imagine by looking at the situation in hindsight. There are many possible explanations for this. Consider, the Holocaust had not yet happened (or at least they did not know it was beginning) when most Jews were rounded up and placed on trains to the concentration and death camps. While relocation is a bad thing, is it worth fighting to the death over? It makes sense that most Jews chose relocation - and the hope of keeping their families together - over fighting back. Unfortunately, once the Jews reached the death camps, the first order of business was often to split the families apart.

You might be interested in reading our essay Cooperation and Resistance of Jews at http://www.holocaust-history.org/questions/cooperation-resistance.shtml.

What does the word 'holocaust' mean? DM: You can look it up in the dictionary. My dictionary (Merriam-Webster Online) says,

1 : a sacrifice consumed by fire
2 : a thorough destruction involving extensive loss of life especially through fire
3 a: often capitalized : the mass slaughter of European civilians and especially Jews by the Nazis during World War II -- usually used with the
b: a mass slaughter of people; especially : GENOCIDE

Prior to World War II, the word holocaust was most often used to describe loss of life via fire. It was applied to the genocide of the Jews during WW II. Since then, this third meaning has become very common.

Please tell me about the death camps. How many were there?

DM: There were six. You might be interested in reading our essays "Camp Types" http://www.holocaust-history.org/questions/camp-types.shtml and "Death and Life in the Camps" http://www.holocaust-history.org/questions/camp-types.shtml

1. From the Nazi's point of view, was the Holocaust successful?

DM: Very interesting question. I have never heard it framed this way before. I guess one would have to ask a Nazi to get a bona fide answer.

My answer would be first: No. The Nazi attempt to eliminate the Jewish population in Europe spread the resources of their Reich thinner than would otherwise have been the case and deprived the Nazis of valuable resources and labor they might have better put to use elsewhere. In these ways, the Holocaust contributed to the downfall of the Nazis.

On the other hand, one might answer Yes. The Nazi's were successful in virtually eliminating a rich Jewish culture that had previously existed in Germany and Poland. In this way the genocide was a regrettable success.

Were any of Hitler's friends or family Jews? Did they escape the Holocaust?

DM: None of Hitler's family at the time of the war were Jewish. There have been rumours over the years that one of his grandfather's was Jewish, though this has never been conclusively established. See http://www.thhp.org/questions/hitler-jewish.shtml. I am not aware of Hitler having Jewish friends, but my knowledge is far from complete on this subject.

Did the majority of Germans agree with Hitler's policies on the Holocaust?

DM: This is another excellent question. There was recently a book written on this subject by Daniel Goldhagen called _Hitler's Willing Executioners_. Here is the Amazon.Com page for it: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0679772685/o/qid=955061784/sr=8-1/002-4596533-0834642; you can go there and read the reviews and reader comments about the book. Richard Green from THHP has written an essay about Goldhagen book reviews at http://www.thhp.org/questions/goldhagen.shtml In the book Goldhagen argues that many average everyday Germans were supportive of the idea of the Holocaust and did things that contributed to it. On the other hand, many historians disagree with Goldhagen and believe that the Holocaust was carried out by a small number of Nazis who kept the mass of the German population in the dark about Holocaust activities.

In fact, Nazi officers working on the Holocaust were directed never to make any radio transmissions mentioning it. The six death camps were all located in Poland rather than in Germany, possibly to prevent information about the occurences in those camps from leaking back to the German population.

You might wish to read our essay, "Why the Germans" at http://www.thhp.org/short-essays/why-the-germans.shtml. This essay addresses your question directly.

How did Hitler convince the people of Germany that Jews were responsible for Communism when Communism is the eliminating of religion?

DM: I am not sure that Hitler convinced the majority of Germans that Jews were responsible for Communism. To the extent he tried to do this, he probably used the same technique anti-Semites in other countries have used. He probably pointed out that many of the founders of Communism were Jews (or at least born Jewish). You are absolutely right in noting the paradox between Communism looking to eliminate religion and a religious group being responsible for it. Note that the founders of Communism came from both Jewish and non-Jewish heritages. Also note that those same founders, as individuals, tended to be not at all religious. For more about this read "The Bolshevik Canard" at http://www.thhp.org/bolshevik-canard/

Also note that there was considerable anti-Semitism present in Germany when Hitler came to power. Germany was in the midst of a depression and Hitler labelled the Jews as responsible for this depression. It was through this mechanism much more than the mechanism of labelling Jews as Communisits, that Hitler was able to paint the Jews to be scapegoats.

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