• Between 1941 and 1945, Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews in Europe

    What was the Holocaust or SHOAH?

    The Holocaust, an overview

    Insight on the genocide of European Jews during WW2
In honor of the victims of WWII
Important notice!
These pages contain images and videos of the Holocaust and concentration camps. The images are genuine give an accurate report on the Holocaust. Some viewers however may find the images or videos disturbing to watch. Viewer discretion is advised when viewing these pages, specially if you are underage. Also visit the veteran stories pages.

The SS-Totenkopfverbände was the organization responsible for administering the Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps for Nazi Germany. Among others, the annihilation of the Jews and other so called "Enemies of the Reich"

Gütschein 50 Reichspfennig
Concentration camp "voucher"
Gütschein 1 Reichspfennig
Wertkmarke from Dora
Above items are from my private collection.

The genocide of the European Jews

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was a genocide of the European Jews during World War II. Between 1941 and 1945, across German-occupied Europe, Nazi Germany and its collaborators systematically murdered some six million Jews, around two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population.
The murders on the Jewish population were first carried out by so called "Einsatzgruppen" or Death squads during pogroms and mass shootings (also know as the Holocaust by bullets) throughout Eastern Europe. Under the direction of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler (Head of the SS) and the supervision of SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, the Einsatzgruppen operated in territories occupied by the Wehrmacht (German army) following the invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Heinrich Himmler found that the killing methods used by the Einsatzgruppen became inefficient, they were too costly, demoralising for the troops and sometimes did not kill the victims quickly enough. Many of the troops found the massacres to be difficult if not impossible to perform.

How were the Einsatzgruppen arranged?

  • Commander: SS-Brigadeführer Dr. Franz W. Stahlecker
    Consisted of an estimated 1.000 men
    Einsatzgruppe A was assigned to Army Group Nord from Von Leeb, operated in the Baltic states up to Leningrad. It was divided into Sonderkommandos 1a and 1b, after which Sonderkommando 1b was divided into Einsatzkommandos 2 and 3.
  • Commander: SS-Brigadeführer Arthur Nebe
    Consisted of an estimated 650 men
    Einsatzgruppe B was assigned to Von Bock's Army Group Mitte, had its headquarters in Smolensk and operated in Belarus, from Belarus to Moscow. It was divided into the Sonderkommandos 7a and 7b, and the Einsatzkommandos 8 and 9, and a special group of Sonderkommando 7c, which could advance to Moscow when in German hands.
  • Commander: SS-Gruppenführer Dr. Otto Rasch
    Consisted of an estimated 700 men
    Einsatzgruppe C was assigned to Gerd von Rundstedt's Heeresgruppe Süd, had its headquarters in Kiev and operated in the northern and central part of Ukraine. It was divided into Sonderkommandos 4a and 4b and the Einsatzkommandos 5 and 6.
  • Commander: SS-Gruppenführer Dr. Otto Ohlendorf
    Consisted of an estimated 650 men
    Einsatzgruppe D was assigned to the 11th Army, had its headquarters in Sevastopol (Simferopol) and operated in Moldavia, southern Ukraine (Bessarabia), the Crimea and (if it came to that) the Caucasus. It was divided into Sonderkommandos 10a and 10b and the Einsatzkommandos 11a, 11b and 12.
Some of the perpetrators suffered physical and mental health problems, and many turned to alcohol. Therfor they came up with a industrial way of killing through concentration- and death or extermination camps such as Auschwitz, Bełżec, Chełmno, Majdanek, Sobibór, and Treblinka which were located in occupied Poland. From 1933 to 1945, Nazi Germany operated more than a thousand concentration camps on its own territory and in parts of German-occupied Europe all were run exclusively by the SS.

The difference between the Holocaust and concentration camps

The following is something most people are not aware of. The Holocaust, the systematic murder of millions of  Jews by the Nazi regime and its allies and collaborators. Holocaust is a word of Greek origin meaning "sacrifice by fire" or "burnt offering".
The concentration camps can therefor not be equated with the Holocaust and were basically "just" a means of bringing about the Holocaust. This is because sometimes Jews were sent to concentration camps for work only.
There are strong interactions and overlaps between the Holocaust and concentration camps because they coexcisted. Concentration camps are in most peoples’ minds equal to the Holocaust, which is fully understandable but not historically correct.
Wannsee Conference, 20 January 1942
The Wannsee Conference was a meeting of senior government officials of Nazi Germany and Schutzstaffel (SS) leaders, held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on 20 January 1942. The purpose of the conference, called by the director of the Reich Main Security Office SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, was to ensure the co-operation of administrative leaders of various government departments in the implementation of the Final solution to the Jewish question, whereby most of the Jews of German-occupied Europe would be deported to occupied Poland and murdered.

Conference participants included representatives from several government ministries, including state secretaries from the Foreign Office, the justice, interior, and state ministries, and representatives from the SS. In the course of the meeting, Heydrich outlined how European Jews would be rounded up and sent to extermination camps in the General Government (the occupied part of Poland), where they would be killed.
  • The Wannsee Conference was a meeting of senior government officials of Nazi Germany and Schutzstaffel (SS) leaders, held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on 20 January 1942.
    Wannsee Conference
    The villa Am Großen Wannsee 56–58, is now a memorial and museum.
  • The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 employed a pseudo-scientific basis for racial discrimination against Jew
    Wannsee Conference
    Chart showing racial classifications under the Nuremberg Laws
  • Wannsee Conference
    Letter from Heydrich to Martin Luther, Undersecretary at the Foreign Office, notifying him that the conference would be delayed.
  • Wannsee Conference
    Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich (7 March 1904 – 4 June 1942)
  • Wannsee Conference
    Otto Adolf Eichmann (19 March 1906 – 1 June 1962)
  • The Wannsee Conference was a meeting of senior government officials of Nazi Germany and Schutzstaffel (SS) leaders, held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on 20 January 1942.
  • The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 employed a pseudo-scientific basis for racial discrimination against Jew

Discrimination against Jews began immediately after the Nazi seizure of power on 30 January 1933. Violence and economic pressure were used by the Nazi regime to encourage Jews to voluntarily leave the country. After the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the extermination of European Jewry began, and the killings continued and accelerated after the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. On 31 July 1941, Hermann Göring gave written authorization to Heydrich to prepare and submit a plan for a "total solution of the Jewish question" in territories under German control and to coordinate the participation of all involved government organisations. At the Wannsee Conference, Heydrich emphasised that once the deportation process was complete, the fate of the deportees would become an internal matter under the purview of the SS. A secondary goal was to arrive at a definition of who was Jewish.

In retrospect

At the conclusion of the meeting Heydrich gave Eichmann firm instructions about what was to appear in the minutes. They were not to be verbatim: Eichmann ensured that nothing too explicit appeared in them. He said at his trial: "How shall I put it  certain over plain talk and jargon expressions had to be rendered into office language by me".

Eichmann condensed his records into a document outlining the purpose of the meeting and the intentions of the regime moving forward. He stated at his trial that it was personally edited by Heydrich, and thus reflected the message he intended the participants to take away from the meeting. Copies of the minutes (known from the German word for "minutes" as the "Wannsee Protocol") were sent by Eichmann to all the participants after the meeting.

Most of these copies were destroyed at the end of the war as participants and other officials sought to cover their tracks. It was not until 1947 that Luther's copy (number 16 out of 30 copies prepared) was found by Robert Kempner, a U.S. prosecutor in the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, in files that had been seized from the German Foreign Office.

Protocol of the conference
20 January 1942
First page of the Wannsee Protocol marked “Secret Reich Matter.” Courtesy of the Museum and Educational Site-House of the Wannsee Conference
Page 6 of the protocol
20 January 1942

For unknown reasons, Adolf Eichmann included the number of all the registered Jews in the Netherlands, it clearly shows that registration and (possible) deportation went hand-in-hand.

"For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing."
Simon Wiesenthal
Nazi concentration camp tagging system

Beginning in 1937, the SS created a system of tagging prisoners in concentration camps. Sewn onto uniforms, the color-coded badges identified the reason for an individual’s incarceration, with some variation among camps. The Nazis used this chart (in the right bar) as prisoner markings in the Dachau concentration camp. Shape was chosen by analogy with the common triangular road hazard signs in Germany that denote warnings to motorists. Here, a triangle is called inverted because its base is up while one of its angles points down.

Nazi concentration camp badges, primarily triangles, were part of the system of identification in German camps. They were used in the concentration camps in the German-occupied countries to identify the reason the prisoners had been placed there. The triangles were made of fabric and were sewn on jackets and trousers of the prisoners.

These mandatory badges of shame had specific meanings indicated by their colour and shape. Such emblems helped guards assign tasks to the detainees. For example, a guard at a glance could see if someone were a convicted criminal (green patch) and thus likely of a tough temperament suitable for kapo duty.

Someone with an escape suspect mark usually would not be assigned to work squads operating outside the camp fence. Someone wearing an F could be called upon to help translate guards' spoken instructions to a trainload of new arrivals from France. Some historical monuments quote the badge-imagery, with the use of a triangle being a sort of visual shorthand to symbolize all camp victims.

The system of badges varied between the camps and in the later stages of World War II the use of badges dwindled in some camps and became increasingly accidental in others. The following description is based on the badge coding system used before and during the early stages of the war in the Dachau concentration camp, which had one of the more elaborate coding systems.

Red triangle was for "political" prisoners.
From my personal collection

Remember the people behind the words
Miss Jirina Heringova, a letter from Ravensbrück
Transit camp Westerbork (NL) passageway to the concentration camps
Established by the Dutch government in the summer of 1939, Camp Westerbork was meant to serve as a refugee camp for Jews who had illegally entered the Netherlands. Camp Westerbork was utilized as a staging ground for the deportation of Jews. Only one-half square kilometer (119 acres) in area, the camp was not built for the purpose of industrial murder as were Nazi extermination camps. Westerbork was considered by Nazi standards as “humane”. Jewish inmates with families were housed in 200 interconnected cottages that contained two rooms, a toilet, a hot plate for cooking, and a small yard. Single inmates were placed in oblong barracks which contained a bathroom for each sex.

Transport trains arrived at Westerbork every Tuesday from July 1942 to September 1944, and deported an estimated 97.776 Jews during the period. Jewish inmates were deported in waves to Auschwitz concentration camp (65 train-loads totaling 60.330 people), Sobibor (19 train-loads; 34.313 people), Theresienstadt ghetto, and Bergen-Belsen concentration camp (9 train-loads; 4.894 people). Almost all of the 94.643 persons deported to Auschwitz and Sobibor in German-occupied Poland were killed upon arrival.

Camp Westerbork also had a school, orchestra, hairdresser, and even restaurants designed by SS officials to give inmates a false sense of hope for survival and to aid in avoiding problems during transportation. Cultural activities provided by the Nazis for designated deportees included metalwork, jobs in health services, and other cultural activities. A special, separate work cadre of 2.000 “permanent” Jewish inmates was used as a camp labor force. Within this group was a sub-group constituting a camp police force which was required to assist with transports and keep order. The SS actually had very little to do with selecting transferees; this job fell to another class of inmates that made up a sort of security service. Most of these 2.000 "permanent" inmates were eventually sent to concentration or death camps themselves.
Westerbork camp "vouchers"
Transit Camp Westerbork
One the plaques of the transport trains...

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