The Holocaust, the German attempt to annihilate European Jewry between 1933 and 1945, took the lives of six million Jews. Although genocide was not unprecedented, the Holocaust was unique not just in its numerical magnitude. Never before had a state government attempted to annihilate an entire people who were not military enemies but a defenseless civilian population. Gypsies and German handicapped were also marked for death as part of the Holocaust. Nazi Germany tyrannized homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, Polish nationalists, and resistance fighters. Millions died as a result.
Elected by the German people in 1933, the Nazi party quickly instituted a totalitarian regime built on pseudo-scientific racial and anti-Semitic principles. The German people ardently supported the Nazi regime until the latter stages of World War II when defeat was imminent. Hundreds of thousands of German citizens and nationals of other countries allied with the Germans were involved in the killing process either as guards at camps, member of mobile killing units, architects who designed gas chambers, engineers who built crematoria, railway personnel, and bureaucrats who oversaw the distribution of the victims possessions' including the gold in their teeth. Although many perpetrators claimed they had no choice, there is no
record of anyone being punished for refusing to participate in the killings.
Through the Holocaust occurred as part of World War II, it was in fact something distinct. Its objectives often directly impeded the military effort. Trains, materiel, soldiers, and munitions needed for the war were used instead to deport Jews and kill death camp inmates. During the last twelve months of the war, when it was obvious that Germany was going down to defeat, the pace of killing continued and in certain cases increased in intensity.
Many countries and neutral international agencies were aware of what was being done to Jews and other victims. Few, if any, were willing to speak out in protest. To compound the horror, most countries closed their doors to those who tried to escape the Holocaust.
Deborah E. Lipstadt, Ph.D., Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies, Emory University.
(Inscription on the wall) (Left side) On both sides of the track rows of red and white lights appeared as far as the eye could see. ...with the rhythm of the wheels, with very human sound now silenced, we awaited what was to happen. (Right side) In an instant our women, our parents, our children disappeared. We saw them for a short while as an obscure mass at the other end of the platform. Then we saw nothing more. Pesno Levy, survival in Auschwitz.
(Inscription at the bottom of the monument) Those who could not remember.