What Was The Holocaust?
Sho·ah n. [ˈʃɔɑː]
The mass murder of European Jews by the Nazis during World War II.
[Hebrew: calamity, destruction]
The Holocaust refers to the systematic murder of six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War Two.
Yad VaShem's Introduction
USHMM's Introduction to the Holocaust
Europe's Jewish population in the 1930's numbered nine million. Poland was at that time home to the world's largest Jewish community. It had been so for centuries.
By the time World War II ended in 1945, six million European Jews had been murdered. Many had been reduced to ashes in facilities purposely built by Hitler's regime for the annihilation of Jewish people. The Nazis referred to the murder of Jews as The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem.
Poland's Jewish community, formerly over three million, had been reduced to about 300,000. Large numbers of Gypsies, homosexuals, and other groups were murdered by the Nazis, but it was the Jewish people who were most intensively and intentionally targeted.
The Holocaust raises many perplexing questions.
Why did so many ordinary Europeans cooperate with Hitler's programme of Jewish persecution (actively or passively), and why did relatively few resist?
Was the systematic murder of Jews on an industrial scale an anomaly of history, or merely the worst manifestation of a hatred that for thousands of years has simmered and frequently boiled over?
How was it possible that a "Christian" society as highly educated and cultured as that of 1930's Germany could spawn such evil?
Shadows of Shoah, alone, cannot provide satisfactory answers. It can and does, however, convey some of what happened and, importantly, it provides a human face for what has become, for many, merely a faceless statistic.
Please view our Education page for resources and external links to a variety of Holocaust institutions.