Sunday, August 12, 2012

World War II: Aftermath Facts

The cost of World War II is uncalculable in human or financial terms. estimates indicate that about 55 million people died in Europe during the World War II; of these, about 8 millions were German. Death was not for soldiers  – civilians died in their millions too, and came from many different  directions through these cruel years. In the opening stages of the war, as the German armies invaded Poland, Adolf Hitler wasted little time in organizing the killing of large numbers of non-combatants.
He wanted to minimize the potential for trouble making amongst the Polish people, and so he tasked Himmler with eliminating the political and cultural elite. Since the job was effectively wholesale murder, it was given to the SS rather then a regular army. Several units of 400 to 600 men were assembled – these were not fighting forces, but death squads. Called Einsatzgruppen, their role was to go in after the invading armies had passed  and arrest and murder certain categories of civilians. These included government officials, aristocrats, priests, and business people.

Jews in Lodz train station

The squads also sought out Jews and forced them into overcrowded ghettos. The final death toll of Polish Jews was over 3 million, but another 3 million or more non-Jewish Polish civilians also died in the war. This amounted to losing around 18 percent of its prewar population – this was a greater toll than for any other country in the world.
Originally there were plans to ship the German  Jews to Madagascar where they would be corralled in special colonies. This became impracticable once war has started, especially when millions more Jews were captured in the occupied countries of the east. Instead, Hitler and Himmler decided that mass extermination was the answer, and so the Holocaust began. The Nazi’s “Final Solution” killed in the order of 6 million Jews, as well as countless homosexuals, the mentally ill, German political prisoners and Bolsheviks. On the top of this, a million Serbs were executed and around 1.5 million Romanies died during the period 1933 – 1945. It is estimated that the Nazis executed about 12 million civilians in all.

There were death camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belsen, Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek, Dachau, Chelmno and many others elsewhere in Germany and Poland. One of the death camps outside this countries was Jasenovac in today’s Croatia, then Independent State of Croatia, Nazi Germany’s most faithful ally. Camps in Germany and Poland were run by Himmler’s Special Duty Section (Sonderdienst or SD) who supervised mass extermination in the killing chambers which they disguised as showers. These had been specially developed to kill large numbers of people with a gas called Zyklon-B, a form of cyanide. The dead then were searched for gold teeth; their bodies were often also boiled up to extract fat, which was used to make soap or candles. Read more

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