The Killing Machine

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One of the most notorious aspects of the Holocaust is the Deportations not only took place from German-occupied countries, as for instance the Netherlands, but also from states allied with Germany. From 1942 up until the very end of World War II, trains rolled through Europe towards the extermination camps in Poland or to overcrowded concentration camps in Germany itself.


The Netherlands: At the beginning of World War II around 140,000 Jews lived in the Netherlands. The German occupation power quickly began sending Jews to concentration camps as retaliation for Dutch acts of resistance. In  the course of the war the Nazis succeeded in deporting approximately 107,000 Dutch Jews. In general, the Dutch Jews were sent to Auschwitz, but also to Sobibor, and, later, to Bergen-Belsen. Around 102,000 of them perished.


Belgium: At the time of the German invasion of Belgium, in the early summer of 1940, around 66,000 Jews lived in the country, but hardly any of them were Belgian citizens. They were mainly immigrants or refugees from Eastern Europe or Germany. Starting in 1941, the Nazis began segregating the Jews: they were listed, registered, marked, and their property was confiscated. A total of 28,500 Jews were deported from Belgium during the war.


France: After Germany’s victory over France in the summer of 1940 the country was divided: the Germans occupied the northern part of the country and the entire French Atlantic coastline, while the remaining parts of the country became the so-called ‘Vichy State’.  The Nazis began deporting the French Jews in the summer of 1942. In June-July approximately 5,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz. The Reich Security Main Office had a set goal: to deport 125,000 Jews in 1942. Because of transportation problems, a “mere” 42,000 were actually deported.


On 11 November 1942 the Germans and their Italian allies began occupying the remaining parts of France. This meant a new situation for those Jews that had lived in relative safety in the Vichy State. Beginning in February of 1943 the Nazis hoped to resume the deportations, but the were met with great political resistance from the French. Even the Italians did not support the German efforts.


In the autumn of 1942 the Germans themselves began deporting Jews from France, but without the cooperation of the French authorities such a venture was nearly impossible. From April through August 1944 around 6,000 French Jews were deported.
A total number of approximately 73,000 Jews were sent to the east from France in the course of the war. Around 24,000 of them were French citizens.
Denmark: The Nazis did not succeed in deporting the Danish Jews to extermination camps. In October 1943 the large majority of the Danish Jews succeeded in escaping to neutral Sweden.


Norway: Norway had a small Jewish population of around 2,000 at the beginning of World War II. In the autumn of 1942 the Nazi occupation power carried out the deportation of around half of them, 770 Jews in total. The rest of the Norwegian Jews succeeded in escaping, mainly to Sweden.


The German Reich: The first wave of deportations from the German Reich was carried out from mid-October 1941. In the course of just less than three weeks 25,000 German Jews were deported to the ghetto of Lodz in Poland. Soon afterwards, more than 33,000 Jews were deported from Germany eastwards, to Riga, Kaunas and Minsk. Most of them were placed in the local ghettos, but 6,000 were shot immediately upon arrival.
From March through June 1942 a total of 55,000 German Jews were sent to the east. Starting in May 1942 German Jews were also sent to Minsk in Byelorussia, where they were either shot or gassed on the spot.  The last phase of the deportation of the German Jews was initiated in December 1942. All remaining Jews, including valuable workers, were to disappear. By mid-1942 this phase was largely completed.


Romania: Romania was one of the Third Reich’s most important allies during World War II, where they contributed troops for the attack on the Soviet Union.  Romania had a large Jewish population of around 320,000, and anti-Semitic sentiments were widespread.  The Romanians murdered thousands of Soviet Jews, as part of the attack on the Soviet Union, but deportations of their own Jewish population was not seriously contemplated until the summer of 1942. Then it happened on German initiative. However, the Romanian government remained very hesitant, and the deportation plans were postponed until 1943. The plans were dropped after orders from Heinrich Himmler in January 1943, because of the resistance of the Romanian government.


Bulgaria: Bulgaria had a Jewish minority of about 50,000 people at the beginning of World War II. Bulgaria was not particularly anti-Semitic, and the Jewish population was highly assimilated.  From March 1943 onwards around 11,000 Greek and Macedonian Jews were deported from the Bulgarian-occupied parts of Greece. All of them were murdered in the Treblinka extermination camp.  The opposition to the deportations was so outspoken in Bulgaria itself that further deportation plans had to be dropped.


Slovakia: Slovakia was proclaimed an independent state in 1939, when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. Slovakia had a Jewish population of around 90,000. In the beginning of 1942 the German foreign ministry requested that the Slovakian Jews come under their control. The Slovakian government was favourably disposed to the proposal, and on 25 March 1942 the transport of Jews left Slovakia for Auschwitz. In the course of 1942 around 50,000 Slovakian Jews were deported to the extermination camps at Auschwitz, Majdanek and Sobibor.  In August 1944 Germany decided to occupy Slovakia for strategic reasons, which led to a witch-hunt for the Jews. More than 12,000 were rounded up and deported.


Hungary: Hungary had a very large Jewish population of around 725,000 at the beginning of World War II. The country was characterised by widespread anti-Semitism, but in spite of this there was a strong reluctance to deport the Hungarian Jews. Non-Hungarian Jews, on the other hand, were merely viewed as a burden.  In 1943 the Germans renewed their pressure to have the Hungarian Jews deported, but the Hungarian government kept delaying the decision.
In March 1944, German troops invaded Hungary, and the SS were put in charge of the occupation. The deportation of the Hungarian Jews received the highest priority and was carried out with terrible efficiency. In the course of seven weeks, beginning in May of 1944, more than 430,000 Hungarian Jews were sent to Auschwitz.


Croatia: Croatia had a Jewish population of around 30,000. As early as 1941 the totalitarian regime in Croatia introduced anti-Jewish measures, following Germany’s example. 15,000 Jews were gathered in concentration camps, where they lived under terrible conditions. In the summer of 1942 around 5,000 Croatian Jews were deported to Auschwitz.


Italy: Italy was Germany’s most important ally during World War II. This meant that the Germans remained very restrained in their policies towards the Italians. Around 57,000 Jews lived in Italy, of which approximately 47,000 were Italian citizens. The country was not characterised by any widespread anti-Semitism, although Mussolini from the 1930’s onwards introduced a large number of anti-Jewish measures.
In September 1943 the Italians withdrew from the war, but the Germans responded by occupying the country. As a consequence, the Nazi occupation power tried to carry out the deportation of the Italian Jews, but with no great success. At the end of 1944, 5,000 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz. Around 80% of the Italian Jews survived the war.


Greece: Greece was divided into two occupation zones during World War II: one German, the other Italian. Around 55,000 Jews lived in the German zone, 13,000 in the Italian zone. The deportation of Greek Jews began in March 1943: around 45,000 were sent to Auschwitz. The Jews in the Italian occupation zone were gathered in concentration camps, but not deported.


In September 1943 Germany occupied the Italian-controlled parts of Greece, following Italy’s withdrawal from the war. As a result, the Nazis resumed the deportations to Auschwitz, this time including the Jews in the former Italian zone.


Serbia: At the beginning of the war around 80,000 Jews lived in Serbia. On 4 October 1941 the commander of the German forces in Serbia issued a proclamation establishing a 100:1 ratio of retaliation for partisan attacks. As a result, 2,000 Jews (and 200 gypsies) were murdered. By the end of October 1941 the German army had shot the majority of Jewish men in Serbia. Approximately 20,000 women, children and elderly were gathered in a ghetto. Starting in early 1942, the 7,500 surviving Jews were gassed to death upon orders from the Security Police. In May of 1942 Serbia was declared “free of Jews”.  A total of only 20,000 Serbian Jews, from a pre-war population of 80,000, survived the war.