18.3 The Holocaust

Hitler came to power in the midst of the Great Depression, promising to end reparations, create jobs, and defy the hated Versailles treaty by rearming Germany. Hitler also played on anti-Semitism, which had existed for centuries in Europe. Hitler saw Jews as a separate, inferior race whom he blamed for Germany's defeat in World War I. He launched a campaign against the Jews, which began with persecution and escalated to mass murder.

Photo of a group of people of all ages in civilian dress holding up their hands in surrender, surrounded by armed soldiers.

The Warsaw Uprising ended on October 2, 1944. The entire civilian population of the Warsaw ghetto was expelled; most were sent to labor and death camps.


  • Identify the roots of Nazi persecution of the Jews.
  • Describe how the Nazis carried out a program of genocide.
  • Describe the various acts of Jewish resistance.
  • Summarize the response of the Allies to the Holocaust.

Key Terms

  • concentration camp
  • crematorium
  • Holocaust
  • Auschwitz

The Nazi Campaign Against the Jews

Early Persecution

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 put Nazi racist ideology into practice. They removed citizenship from German Jews and banned marriage between Jews and non-Jews. Before long, the Nazis imposed other restrictions that forced Jews from their jobs and homes and embarked on escalating violence and terror against Jews. Schools and the Hitler Youth Movement taught children that Jews were “polluting” German society and culture.

Anti-Semitic propaganda triggered one of the most violent early attacks on Jews. In November 1938, Nazi-led mobs smashed windows, looted, and destroyed Jewish homes, businesses, and places of worship. This wave of violence in Germany and Austria became known as Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass.

Nazi Concentration Camps

After gaining power in 1933, the Nazis began rounding up political opponents and placing them in concentration camps, detention centers for civilians who were considered enemies of the state. Before long, they were sending Jews, communists, and others they despised to these camps.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments