By 1934, Hitler had given Heinrich Himmler the power to take full control of the concentration camps throughout Germany.

After World War II began, the Nazis built many more camps for Jews from Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe as well as resistance fighters, Roma (Gypsies), Slavs, and other “racially undesirable elements.” The physically and mentally disabled, homosexuals, and ordinary criminals were also sent to the camps. So, too, were political and religious leaders who spoke out against the Nazis.

During the war, Nazis used people in the camps as forced laborers, who. had to produce weapons and other goods for the German war effort. They faced brutal mistreatment, hunger, disease, and execution. Hundreds of thousands of people were murdered.

“I was 9 weeks in Majdanek, 9 weeks, you see, 9 weeks! And I never washed my face the whole 9 weeks because then in the barracks there was no water. We had to go out, you know, in a shed, washing the face, or needing to go to the toilet.”

—Solomon Radasky, a Holocaust Survivor

Brutal Medical Experiments

In some camps, Nazi doctors conducted painful and deadly medical experiments on prisoners. They tested dangerous new drugs on prisoners and tried out treatments designed to help Axis forces survive injuries. They also ran experiments to try to prove Nazi racial ideas.

Josef Mengele, a physician at the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp, conducted experiments to see how different ethnic groups responded to contagious diseases such as malaria or yellow fever. Still other experiments were linked to the Nazi goal of sterilizing people they claimed were “inferior races.”

Hitler's “Final Solution”

As Nazi troops advanced into Eastern Europe, they forced Jews in Poland and elsewhere to live in ghettos, or restricted areas where they were sealed off from the surrounding city. By 1941, however, Hitler and other Nazi had devised what they called the “Final Solution to the Jewish question.” Their goal was the extermination of all European Jews. This campaign of genocide eventually became known as the Holocaust.

Hitler took steps to carry out his Final Solution. After the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, mobile killing units followed the German army and murdered over a million Jewish men, women, and children in Eastern Europe.

A map shows Nazi concentration camps from 1933 to 1945. Although concentrated in Germany, labor camps were dispersed throughout Europe north of the Alps. The death camps were located in western and central Poland.

Analyze Maps

Where were the death camps located? How did this location reflect the goals of the “Final Solution”?


End ofPage 751

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