What was the Holocaust?

By Ilona Gersh
December 18, 2023

The over 1,200 Jews slaughtered in the Oct. 7 Tehran-backed Hamas pogrom against Jews in Israel was the largest number of Jews killed in a single day since the Nazi Holocaust in the second imperialist world war. Some 3,000 more were wounded and over 240 kidnapped and dragged back to Gaza to have their lives dangled as trade bait.

The Oct. 7 pogrom by the Hamas killers showed their determination to follow the same path as the Nazis. Their slogan — chanted by middle-class radicals in the U.S. and worldwide — is “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” They mean, “Palestine will be free of Jews.” It is a call today to implement Hitler’s “Final Solution” to the Jewish question in the Middle East.

The Holocaust

Six million Jews were killed by the Nazis from 1941 to 1945 through murderous pogroms and in Hitler’s death camps in Germany, Poland and other conquered nations.

More than 33,000 Jews were shot dead in just two days in September 1941 at Babyn Yar, a gully on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. German occupation forces organized to put up 2,000 posters in Russian, Ukrainian and German ordering all Jews in the city and the surrounding area to show up Monday morning with all their documents, money and valuables. The Nazis spread a rumor that they would be put on American boats and shipped to Palestine.

Instead, they were stripped naked, the gold was taken from their teeth, and then pushed into the ravine in waves and shot dead.

In 1933 the Jewish population of Ukraine was more than 1.5 million. Today it is 40,000.

The largest single slaughter was called Operation Reinhard, in Poland. In three months, from September to November 1942, at least 1.32 million Jews were killed, about 15,000 a day, close to one-quarter of all Jews murdered during World War II. They were rounded up and transported to four concentration camps in Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

Others were shot down where they lived, to terrorize others and discourage rebellion. Those deemed “not fit for transportation,” including the elderly, sick and orphans, were shot on the spot.

The prewar population of Jews in Poland was 3 million. Today it is only 4,500.

Overall, the world Jewish population was slashed by almost 30%, from 15,300,000 in 1933 to 11,000,000 in 1945. Hitler’s aim was the complete annihilation of the Jewish people.

Of the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust, almost 3 million were murdered at extermination camps, 2 million were murdered in mass executions and related massacres, and 1 million died of brutal treatment and violence where they lived. They were killed for only one reason — they were Jews. That is what genocide means.

The Nazis announced their intentions with the Nov. 9-10, 1938, Kristallnacht pogrom in Germany, which marked a decisive turning point in the Nazis’ war to exterminate the Jews. Nazi thugs destroyed at least 267 synagogues and 7,000 Jewish businesses, vandalized cemeteries and schools, destroyed an untold number of homes and murdered at least 91 Jews and raped hundreds of women. Some 30,000 more Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps, where more than 1,000 perished.

SWP demands: ‘Open the borders!’

The Socialist Workers Party fought for the U.S. government to open its doors to Jews fleeing this terror. But at the outbreak of World War II, the “democratic” imperialist governments of the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere slammed their borders shut to Jews.

More Jews began to see no alternative but to look to Palestine as a homeland where they could seek shelter. Some 4,500 refugees from camps in Europe set out for Palestine on the ship Exodus in 1947, but the capitalist rulers of the U.K., who ruled over Palestine as their colony, attacked the ship and forced the Jews back to internment camps in Germany. “The ‘crime’ of those refugees in the eyes of the British Government is their attempt to escape from Germany, where they saw their friends and relatives perish at the hands of the Nazi regime,” the Militant said in a Dec. 1, 1947, editorial. The paper blasted the refusal of the U.S. government to lift a finger to help.

“It is up to the labor movement to combat this callous attitude,” the Militant said. “Invite the ‘Exodus’ refugees to come to America!”

Jews had lived in Palestine for thousands of years. In 1931 there were 175,000 Jews there. By 1948, when Israel was formally recognized as a state, there were 650,000. Today there are over 7 million, and Jews seeking shelter from growing Jew-hating violence continue to look to Israel.