The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were “racially superior” and that the Jews, deemed “inferior,” were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community. It is important to note that during the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived “racial inferiority. Such groups included the Gypsies, the disabled, and some of the Slavic people including the Poles and the Russians. Other groups, including the Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds.
In the early years of the Nazi regime, the National Socialist government established concentration camps to detain real and imagined political and ideological opponents. To concentrate and monitor the Jewish population as well as to facilitate later deportation of the Jews, the Germans and their collaborators created ghettos, transit camps, and forced-labor camps for Jews during the war years. Between 1941 and 1944, Nazi German authorities deported millions of Jews to ghettos and to killing centers, known as extermination camps, where they were murdered in specially developed gassing facilities.
In the final months of the war, SS guards moved camp inmates by train or on forced marches, known as “death marches,” in an attempt to prevent the Allied liberation of large numbers of prisoners. The marches continued until May 7, 1945, the day the German allied forced surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.
In the aftermath of the Holocaust, many of the survivors found shelter in displaced persons (DP) camps administered by the Allied powers. Between 1948 and 1951, almost 700,000 Jews emigrated to Israel, including 136,000 Jewish displaced persons from Europe. Other Jewish DPs emigrated to the United States and other nations. The last DP camp closed in 1957.
The crimes committed during the Holocaust devastated most European Jewish communities and eliminated hundreds of Jewish communities in occupied Eastern Europe entirely.
(Information taken from the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum website http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/