Before that, in 1938, the Nazi rulers had occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia and now persecuted the Jews there as well, driving many into exile or deporting them to extermination camps. With the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, the extermination work of the Wehrmacht and SS units expanded against many Eastern European Jewish communities that had been settled in shtetls or ghettos for centuries.

A little more than two years later, at the so-called “Wannsee Conference” on January 20, 1942, the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” and thus the industrial mass killing by gassing, poisoning, shooting and burning in extermination camps in the East was decided. Until shortly before the end of the war in 1945, about 6 million Jews, about 500,000 Sinti and Roma and many other prisoners were murdered.
Few had survived when the Red Army opened the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27, 1945, and the British Army opened the gates of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945. They liberated starving people and gave testimony to the world public of the genocide committed in the German name.

After the surrender of the German Reich on May 8, 1945, the victorious Allied powers – the Soviet Union, the United States, Great Britain and France – quickly began the search for the war criminals. At the same time, they also took the first step toward a re-education for a postwar development of Germany oriented toward freedom and democracy. They were unable to apprehend all of the Holocaust’s henchmen and bring them all to justice: some, such as Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler, had cowardly evaded responsibility by committing suicide, others went into hiding and were only later discovered and brought to justice – and still others, such as the notorious SS camp doctor at Auschwitz concentration camp, Josef Mengele, were never caught.


Fig. 6: Man with Jewish star (Source: Berlin, Man with Jewish star, Bundesarchiv, via Wikipedia Commons)
Fig. 7: Star of David (Source: Star of David, Daniel Ullrich, Threedots, via Wikipedia Commons)
Fig. 8: Prisoners in Auschwitz camp (Source: Auschwitz Liberated January 1945, Unknown, assumed to be the work of the Red Army, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Fig. 9: Imprisoned children in the Auschwitz camp (Source: Mujeres y niños en los campos de concentración nazi, AlanMe123, via Wikimedia Commons).
Fig. 10: “Materials for Jewish resettlement” served to conceal the mass murder of Jews (Source: Order of departure for a 5-tons truck with a trailer to Dessau for materi- als for Jewish resettlement, SS, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).