We explain what the Holocaust was, the context in which it occurred and what were its causes. In addition, its characteristics and consequences.

During the Holocaust, approximately 6 million Jews were murdered.

What was the Holocaust?

It is known as the Holocaust or Shoah (from the Hebrew “catastrophe”), genocide perpetrated by the Nazi regime of Germany during World War II against the Jewish people. The code name for him in the Nazi bureaucracy was the “final solution” (endlosungin German) of the “Jewish question”.

It was about a systematic plan of persecution and extermination deployed in the territories controlled by the Third Reich in Europe. The exact dates of its start are difficult to pin down, since anti-Semitic activities in Hitlerite Germany began long before the start of the war.

The first antecedents of this plan are observed when the german state begins to take away civil rights to the Jewish inhabitants of its territory. Simultaneously, they were made victims of the political propaganda of the fascist regime.

It culminated in 1945, with the German defeat and the liberation of the extermination camps by the Soviet army. The exact number of Jewish victims attributable to the genocidal policies of Nazism is unknown. The symbolic figure of 6 million murdered Jews is handledbut they could have been more.

The Nazi regime also persecuted and murdered gypsies, blacks, homosexuals, communists and other ethnic groups perceived by the Nazis as “inferior” and therefore worthy of extermination. However, the Jewish people was the most discursively punished and is the one that carries the stigma of the Holocaust to this day.

See also: State terrorism

Origin of the term Holocaust

They began to talk about the Holocaust with that name around 1950by Jewish historians.

The term comes from ancient greek olokaustoswhich refers to religious sacrifice by fire.

is also employed the hebrew word shoah (“catastrophe”) and the yiddish hurb’n europe which translates “destruction” [de las comunidades judías] of Europe”.

However, all these denominations are after the fact.

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At the time when these occurred, the holocaust had no other name than the key terms of Nazism, such as “final solution” to “the Jewish question” and other euphemisms with which they bureaucratically disguised selective extermination.

Historical context of the Holocaust

Holocaust - Adolf Hitler
The war had started in 1939 when Hitler decided to invade Poland.

The Holocaust It took place in the middle of World War II, when Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler had imposed itself on almost all of Europe and North Africa. His rapid expansion method of warfare was called blitzkrieg (“Blitzkrieg”).

The war had started in 1939 when Hitler decided to invade Poland, after annexing in peace the territories of Austria and the south-east of Czechoslovakia. Only then did the European powers (especially France and England) that had been complacent with Nazism realized that there was no alternative but war.

Throughout the militarily dominated countries, Nazism imposed a vicarious regime that obeyed the commands of Berlin. Among them was included his racial policy, which maintained the superiority of the Aryan race over the others, especially the mixed race or those considered pernicious or parasites, such as the Jews.

The conflict was devastating for the entire continent and culminated in 1945. Then the concentration camps were liberated and the first footage of the victims of the Holocaust and its 42,500 incarceration, forced labor and extermination facilities across Europe appeared.

Causes of the Holocaust

nazism was guided by a kind of social Darwinism, according to which the inferior peoples should serve the superiors. According to this logic, the strong must thus eat the weak, as occurs among animals in nature.

Due, rights were taken away from all the peoples they considered inferior. They focused especially on the Jewish community, for holding it responsible for all the ills that afflicted Germany, even turning them into slaves and subjecting them to inhumane treatment.

This model of racist and xenophobic thought He had been entrenched in Germany for years. The Jewish people had always been prone to discrimination, not because of the characteristics of its members, but because it was a wandering, exiled nation, since ancient times.

The Nazi government decided that they must be useful to the motherland in some way, since they were responsible for its sinking. A) Yes, They were sentenced to forced labor in inhumane conditions.to medical experimentation and total extermination.

Deportations and ghettos

holocaust star of david
Jews were originally required to wear a Star of David on their clothing.

The beginning of the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people involved a brutal propaganda campaign against him. Simultaneously, the State gradually withdrew their civil rights. Thus, they were soon prohibited from conducting their own business or having bank accounts, and were forced to wear a yellow Star of David sewn on their clothing.

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Then came the forced deportations and the crowding of entire families into ghettos: walled neighborhoods with an entrance controlled by the police, kind of prelude to the concentration camp. There the Jews were forced to live, crowded into precarious buildings and stripped of everything they could not take with them.

The “Final Solution”

The so-called “final solution” It was devised by the Nazi domes in 1941 and the term first used by Adolf Eichmann. He initially described a plan to forcefully deport Jews to eastern Europe.

He considered a number of alternatives: their employment as slave labor in the coal minesas exchange hostages or the forced sterilization of all Jewish women.

at that moment already the III Reich had started “Operation Barbarosa”: invasion of the Soviet Union, accompanied by death squads (the einsatzgruppen) to liquidate the Russian population. Then it was decided to dispose of all the resources of the State to favor the fight on the eastern front, aspiring to a quick victory that they could not achieve.

In the fall of 1941, when the “Final Solution” became state policy, the Nazis they had already murdered about 100,000 European Jews. At the beginning of 1942, the figure already rose to 1,000,000 victims.

Death camps

holocaust death camps
In Auschwitz more than a million people were murdered.

The first killing fields were opened in Poland as part of the SS “Operation Reinhard”, the militarized police of the Nazis. This is how the Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka camps were born, which began operations in 1942.

In addition, the enormous field of Auschwitz prisoners of war and political prisoners. In one of its locations, known as Auschwitz-Bierkenau, there were two gas chambers with a capacity of 800 and 1,200 people respectively, together with a crematory oven to dispose of the corpses.

Auschwitz was the best known and feared of the extermination camps.in which between 1,100,000 and 1,500,000 people were murdered between 1942 and 1945, of whom 90% were Jews.

The resistance

Holocaust - Mordechai Anielewicz
Jews led by Mordechai Anielewicz resisted the SS troops.

Attempts to resist include the Warsaw ghetto uprising, which took place in 1943, during the second wave of mass deportations to the death camps. Using guerrilla tactics, Jews led by Mordechai Anielewicz resisted the SS troops commanded by Jürgen Stroop for 20 days before succumbing.

Another major incident took place at Auschwitz itself, where dozens of prisoners They organized to blow up a crematorium. They were then publicly captured and executed.

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Consequences of the Holocaust

The holocaust meant a deep mark in the history of the German people, whose shame still leaves its mark on the oldest generations alive. Nazism is strictly prohibited in that country, as well as any racist or xenophobic pronouncement in public, with penalties of a fine and imprisonment.

On the other hand, the international Zionist movement born at the end of the 19th century (in its secular version, at least) gained more strength after the Holocaust than ever. Thus, he achieved with the support of the victors of the war establish the world’s first and only modern Jewish state: Israel, in 1948.

Presence of the Holocaust in culture

holocaust culture cousin levy
Levi is a Holocaust survivor who wrote “The Auschwitz Trilogy.”

Numerous works of art, literature, and cinema have explored the human context of the Holocaust. It is considered one of the worst tragedies in modern history. of humanity and a scar in the history of the 20th century, heir to the rationalist traditions of the 19th century, committed to progress and science.

The Holocaust showed how human organized thought can be fully applied to evil and cruelty, instead of for progress and bliss.

Some works related to the Holocaust are:

  • Ana Frank’s diary (book, 1942-44) by Anne Frank.
  • The Auschwitz Trilogy (books, 1947, 1963 and 1989) by Primo Levi.
  • no destination (book, 1975) by Imre Kertész.
  • schindler’s list (film, 1993) by Steven Spielberg.
  • Life is Beautiful (film, 1998) by Roberto Benigni.
  • The pianist (film, 2002) by Roman Polanski.

denial theory

There is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that denies Jewish genocide during World War II. According to this theory, it would be a propaganda hoax or at most an exaggeration, elaborated by Jewish interests that benefit from the image of victims that they would like to project.

These theories are completely discredited, but persist despite overwhelming evidence that exists in this regard, including testimonies from survivors, film and photographic records, and documents from the time.


  • “Holocaust” on Wikipedia.
  • “The Jewish Holocaust, Hitler’s Mass Extermination Campaign” in the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
  • “The Holocaust” at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  • “History of the Holocaust” in Muy Historia.
  • “Chronicle of the Holocaust” at Yad Vashem, World Center for the Commemoration of the Shoah.
  • “The Nazi holocaust in Auschwitz, remember not to repeat” in National Geographic.
  • “Holocaust” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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