Holocaust facts and figures
The Holocaust was the killing of around six million Jewish people by the Nazi regime from 1933 up to the end of the Second World War in 1945.
Nazi ideology surfed on centuries-old hatred of the Jews, employing powerful propaganda tactics to portray the Jewish people as enemies of a superior, “Aryan” race.
This ideology – allied to a ruthless warmongering machine – saw relentless persecution develop into slaughter on an industrial scale for the first time in history. It culminated in the systematic organised murder of Jews in extermination camps as part of the Nazis’ “Final Solution”.
The Nazis did not carry out all the killings themselves. In all the territories they dominated, they found collaborators – individuals and governments – who helped them execute the genocidal programme.
Jews were not the only victims of the Nazis’ mass killings, although they died in larger numbers and were specifically targeted for extinction. Millions of others were also murdered by the racist regime, including Slavs and so-called “Asiatics”, homosexuals, people with disabilities and the Roma population.
The Imperial War Museum, London
What is Holocaust Memorial Day?
Holocaust Memorial Day may refer to a number of world-wide commemorations of the Holocaust.
It is often commemorated on January 27 each year, as it was on this date in 1945 that the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated.
A United Nations resolution passed in 2005 designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day, urging countries to implement educational programmes to pass on information about the Holocaust to future generations to prevent genocide from happening again.
In the UK Holocaust Memorial Day is also promoted as a time to remember subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur.
What happened after the Holocaust?
The Holocaust resulted in the decimation of most European Jewish communities (see below).
The liberation of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps by Allied and Soviet forces, led to widespread exposure of the Nazis’ crimes.
Three years later, in response to the Holocaust and other atrocities committed in World War II, the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide was adopted.
Seventy years on, a documentary film partly edited by Alfred Hitchcock is going on general release for the first time. It used footage from a British film unit showing the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp but was shelved for political reasons.
How did Europe’s Jewish population change between 1933 and after World War 2?
Our snapshot look at European countries shows how the continent’s Jewish population changed.
The number of Jewish people living in Poland went from 3 million in 1933 to just 45,000 by 1951, according to data from the American Jewish Committee Archives.
The United Kingdom was one of the few European countries we looked at that experienced a rise in the number of Jewish people, jumping from 300,000 in 1933 to 450,000 in 1950.
Overall Europe’s Jewish population dropped for 9.5 million in 1933 to 3.5 million in 1950, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
How does Israel fit into the picture?
The United Nations adopted resolution 181 on November 29, 1947, recommending that Palestine be split into an Arab and Jewish state. It was accepted by Jewish representatives with reservations, but rejected by Palestinians and Arabs.
Following massive Jewish migration, Israeli independence was declared in 1948. At the time the Jewish population in Israel was 806,000, doubling to more than 1.6 million five years later, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.
In 1933 three-in-five Jewish people lived in Europe. However, by 1950 the majority, 51 percent, lived in North and South America.