The word originates in the Greek “holókaustos,” which means “burnt offering.” In English, it means total annihilation. Today, Holocaust is the synonym for the Nazi state mass killing of Jews during World War II. Jews call it “Shoʾah.” That is Hebrew for catastrophe.
While Europe had problems with anti-semitic behavior for hundreds of years, the worst was yet to come. When Adolf Hitler and Nazism took over Germany in 1933, they declared Jews as an inferior race. Besides Jews, they also say Gypsies, Slavs, and Blacks as secondary to themselves. They took the blame for everything.
During the years leading to World War II, the Nazis introduced a series of anti-Jew laws. A notable event was the assassination of diplomat Ernst vom Rath. As a result, the regime carried out a series of brutal attacks on Jews. The night from 9th to 10th November is known as the Night of Broken Glass.
Holocaust, the final solution
The Night of Broken Glass was to culminate. It was only a prelude to Hitler’s “final solution to the Jewish question.” World War II., which broke out in 1939, served as a cover to the manslaughter of Jews and their allies.
At first, they created ghettos which Jews were not allowed to leave. Forcing more and more Jews inside, the Nazis let the ghettos to heavily overcrowd. It was most common in occupied Poland. Infamous is the Warsaw ghetto, where just under half a million Jews lived on less than 3 kilometers squared.
Soon followed deportations to concentration camps where they were treated in horrible conditions and forced to inhumane work. Mass killing began in 1941. The most infamous death camps, symbols of terror, were in Poland (Chełmno, Auschwitz, Belzec, or Treblinka).
Many died from thirst, hunger, deadly diseases, or total exhaustion. However, the Nazis wanted to kill them by dozens, hundreds, and thousands. They forced Jews into gas chambers and murdered them with the pesticide Zyklon-B. To fasten burial, they introduced crematories.