10 Holocaust Facts That Will Bring Tears To Your Eyes

By C.L. Illsley on June 15 2020 in Society

The horror stories of the Holocaust teaches us the lowest to which humans can drop. Image credit: Rolf E. Staerk/Shutterstock.com
The horror stories of the Holocaust teaches us the lowest to which humans can drop. Image credit: Rolf E. Staerk/Shutterstock.com
  • The ITS Holocaust Archive located in Bad Arolsen, Germany contains fifty million pages detailing Nazi persecution during the Holocaust,
  • The Holocaust began after Hitler gained power in Germany in 1933. It ended on Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945.
  • 11 million people, including six million Jews, perished in the Holocaust.

The Holocaust took place in Nazi Germany during World War II from 1941 to 1945. Led by Adolf Hitler's Third Reich this barbaric genocide can only be remembered in terms of being  one of the darkest and most horrific chapters in all of human history. In total approximately eleven million  people; mostly Jewish citizens, lost their lives.  

1. Anti-Semitism Was Already Prevalent

Anti Semitism was prevalent in German society even before Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party's rise to power. Violent riots and percecution of Jews had previously taken place beginning in the late 1800s in a variety of countries including Russia and Ukraine. The death toll resulting from the mass killing of Jewish citizens during this time has been estimated to total 250,000 human beings.

Auschwitz Birkenau, Nazi concentration and extermination camp. Pile of shoes from the victims of holocaust. Image credit: Brais Seara/Shutterstock.com

2. Prisoners Kept In Inhumane Conditions

Prisoners sent to concentration camps suffered unspeakable living conditions. Food was scarce, torture was common, and hard labor was a strictly enforced. At night prisoners slept at least three to a bunk with no bedding. All of the possessions brought to the camp by prisoners were immediately confiscated. These precious few items included jewlery such as rings and watches as well as eyeglasses, gold fillings, and anything else that was thought to be of value. Prisoners also had their heads shaved and their hair was used for making thread, felt, socks for military members, rope, and even as stuffing for mattresses.     

Austrian Nazis and local residents look on as Jews are forced to get on their hands and knees and scrub the pavement.

3. Children Were Also Not Spared And Experimented On

A stunning 1.1 million children were murdered during the Holocaust. Large numbers of these children, twins in particular, suffered and perished at the hands of the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele, also known as the Angel of Death. Mengele forced the children to serve as test subjects in his cruel and inhumane experiments. The majority of those who managed to survived these experiments were killed and their bodies dissected.  Others were left permanently disfigured or paralysed. 

Mengele, who was known to the camp's children as Onkel Mengele, was particularly fascinated by twins. According to one account he once attempted to "make" Siamese twins by sewing four year old twins together. Ultimately the parents of the children killed them in order to put an end their suffering.

Two young children who starved to death in the Nazi German Belsen Concentration Camp. April 1945, World War 2. Image credit: Everett Historical/Shutterstock.com

4. Nazi Camps Served As Killing Centers

The Nazis built and ran 39 concentration camps including Chelmno, Belzec, Majddanek, Mauthausen, Dachau, Belsen, and Buchwald. Six camps operated as major killing centers. All of these were located in Poland. These included Treblinka, Auschwitz, and Sobibor.  It's believed that in total the Nazis murdered eleven million human beings in these camps including a one third of all Jews alive at the time. 

Jews on selection ramp at Auschwitz, May 1944

5. Forced To Dig Their Own Graves Before Being Killed

In 1941 after Germany invaded the Soviet Union local Jews were rounded up by the Einsatzgruppen and swifly executed. Some faced death by gassing in specially designed killing vans. Others were taken to wooded areas and shot after being forced to dig mass graves. The Einsatzgruppen (or mobile killing squads) consisted not only of Nazi soldiers but also collaborators from the local area. According to historians at least a million or more Soviet Jews were victims of Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union. 

6. Gay Men Subjected To Torture And Experimentation

Figures from the U.S. National Holocaust Museum estimate that its total death toll includes six million Jews, 5.7 million civilian Soviets, three million Soviet prisoners of war, 1.9 million non Jewish Polish citizens, 312,000 Serbs, 250,000 disabled people, 250,000 Roma, 1,900 Jehovah's Witnesses, 70,000 or more asocials (repeat criminal offenders), and an unknown number of homosexuals and political activists.

It is believed that about 10,000 to 15,000 gay men were sent to concentration camps where they were forced to wear pink triangle symbols on their prison uniforms. Some were the subject of experiments involving injections of male hormones while others were offered freedom if they underwent castration or agreed to become prostitutes or submit to sexual abuse. The estimated number of homosexuals who lost their lives in the camps is thought to number between six and nine thousand.   

7. All Opponents Silenced

The first concentration camp, Dachau, was established in 1933 near Munich, Germany.  It consisted of 32 barracks and was overseen by notorious Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler who is a figure considered to be the architect of the Holocaust. Construction on the first death (or extermination) camp, Chelmo, began in 1941. This site was used to eliminate political opponents, Jews, communists, and members of the European Roma also known as gypsies. 

8. Newborn Babies Taken Away From Mothers For Cruel Experiments

Forced medical experiments which took place at Dachau involved the use of pressure chambers for high altitude experiments, freezing water which induced hypothermia, as well as experiments involving subjects forced to drink salt water. Camp doctors such as Dr. Claus Schilling also tested vaccines for diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and hepatitis on prisoners. One horrific experiment documented to have taken place at a camp involoved taking newborn babies away from their mothers in order to  observe how long they would live without being fed.

9. Gas Chambers Equipped To Kill 6,000 Human Beings Per Day

"Selection" of Hungarian Jews on the ramp at Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland, around May 1944. 

Upon arriving in camps such as Auschwitz families were seperated and split into two lines. Those on the left were mostly comprised of women, small children, older people, the handicapped, and anyone who looked ill or unable to work. These people were then promptly marched to their deaths in the camp's gas chamber. Those on the right were individuals, mostly young men, who had been deemed to be suitable for forced labor. The gas chambers at Auschwitz/ Birkenau were capable of killing 6,000 human beings per day.  

10. Prisoners Led To Gas Chambers Were Unaware Of Their Deadly Fate

Jews and others taken to the gas chambers were unaware of the deadly fate that awaited them. This was because German officers feared that if they knew the truth they would attempt to fight back. Instead people were told that before they could be inturned in the camp they had to be washed and undergo disinfection in communal showers. To further calm the concerns of the prisoners Nazis utilized Jewish inmates (so called Special Detachment Teams) in order to comfort and assist them. Once they undressed every man, woman, and child was ushered naked into the chamber where they stood helplessly huddled together. After the poison gas (Zyklon B) was released death wasn't instantaneous but took about twenty minutes to kill all those crammed  into the chamber. Upon realizing the true purpose of the showers prisoners panicked with some even attempting to claw open the doors with their bare hands. 

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