Category Archives: World War II

Post Traumatic stress disorder

Post traumatic stress disorder

Combat Stress is here to support you

In the UK, there are various charities and service organisations dedicated to aiding veterans in readjusting to civilian life. The Royal British Legion and the more recently established Help for Heroes are two of Britain’s more high-profile veterans’ organisations which have actively advocated for veterans over the years. There has been some controversy that the NHS has not done enough in tackling mental health issues and is instead “dumping” veterans on charities such as Combat Stress.

Visit the website: www.combatstress.org.uk/veterans

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See Shell Shock – The Trauma of Battle

shellshocked-soldier-001

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BBC documentary about PTSD

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)[note 1] is a mental illness that can develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, terrorism or other threats on a person’s life.[1] Symptoms include disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyperarousal, continue for more than a month after the occurrence of a traumatic event.[1]

Most people who have experienced a traumatizing event will not develop PTSD.[2] People who experience interpersonal trauma (e.g., sexual assault, child abuse) are more likely to develop PTSD, as opposed to people who experience non-assault based trauma such as accidents, natural disasters and witnessing trauma.[3] Children are less likely to develop PTSD after trauma than adults, especially if they are under ten years of age.[2]

Psychotherapy is the “gold standard” of treatment for PTSD. Various psychotherapies are evidence-based for PTSD, including prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, cognitive restructuring therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, brief eclectic psychotherapy, narrative therapy, and stress inoculation training.[4][5] Therapists generally meet one-on-one with individuals with PTSD, but frequently group therapy or more intensive settings are also beneficial. Serotonergic antidepressants (such as fluoxetine and paroxetine, which are the only medications FDA approved for PTSD) are the first-line pharmacologic agents used for PTSD, but medications are best used as in addition to psychotherapy as they rarely result in recovery from PTSD, alone.[4][6][7][8] Most other medications do not have enough evidence to support their use, may only improve symptoms a small amount without resulting in functional recovery, or, in the case of benzodiazepines, have actually been found to worsen and prolong PTSD, including inhibiting the benefits of psychotherapy.[9][10]

The term “posttraumatic stress disorder” was coined in the early 1970s in large part due to diagnoses of US military veterans of the Vietnam War.[11] It was officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III).[12] Trauma-related mental disorders have been documented since at least the 17th century, and became more commonly recognized during the World Wars under various terms including “shell shock,” “combat fatigue,” and “war neurosis.”

Classification

Posttraumatic stress disorder was classified as an anxiety disorder in the DSM-IV, but has since been reclassified as a “trauma- and stressor-related disorder” in DSM-5. The characteristic symptoms are not present before exposure to the violently traumatic event. In the typical case, the individual with PTSD persistently avoids trauma-related thoughts and emotions, and discussion of the traumatic event, and may even have amnesia of the event. However, the event is commonly relived by the individual through intrusive, recurrent recollections, flashbacks, and nightmares.[15] While it is common to have symptoms after any traumatic event, these must persist to a sufficient degree (i.e., causing dysfunction in life and/or clinical levels of distress) for longer than one month after the trauma to be classified as PTSD (clinically significant dysfunction or distress for less than one month after the trauma may be acute stress disorder).[1][16][17][18]

Risk factors

No quieren (They do not want to) by Francisco Goya (1746–1828) depicts an elderly woman wielding a knife in defense of a girl being assaulted by a soldier.[19]

PTSD is believed to be caused by the experience of a wide range of traumatic events and, in particular if the trauma is extreme, can occur in persons with no predisposing conditions.[20][21]

Persons considered at risk include, for example, combat military personnel, victims of natural disasters, concentration camp survivors, and victims of violent crime. Individuals frequently experience “survivor’s guilt” for remaining alive while others died. Causes of the symptoms of PTSD are the experiencing or witnessing of a stressor event involving death, serious injury or such threat to the self or others in a situation in which the individual felt intense fear, horror, or powerlessness.[22] Persons employed in occupations that expose them to violence (such as soldiers) or disasters (such as emergency service workers) are also at risk.[22]

Children or adults may develop PTSD symptoms by experiencing bullying.[23]

Several biological indicators have been identified that are related to later PTSD development. Heightened startle responses and a smaller hippocampal volume have been identified as biomarkers for the risk of developing PTSD.[24] Additionally, one study found that soldiers whose leukocytes had greater numbers of glucocorticoid receptors were more prone to developing PTSD after experiencing trauma.[24]

Genetics

There is evidence that susceptibility to PTSD is hereditary. Approximately 30% of the variance in PTSD is caused from genetics alone. For twin pairs exposed to combat in Vietnam, having a monozygotic (identical) twin with PTSD was associated with an increased risk of the co-twin’s having PTSD compared to twins that were dizygotic (non-identical twins).[25] There is evidence that those with a genetically smaller hippocampus are more likely to develop PTSD following a traumatic event. Research has also found that PTSD shares many genetic influences common to other psychiatric disorders. Panic and generalized anxiety disorders and PTSD share 60% of the same genetic variance. Alcohol, nicotine, and drug dependence share greater than 40% genetic similarities.[26]

Trauma

Most people will experience at least one traumatizing event in their lifetime.[27] Men are more likely to experience a traumatic event, but women are more likely to experience the kind of high-impact traumatic event that can lead to PTSD, such as interpersonal violence and sexual assault.[2]

Posttraumatic stress reactions have not been studied as well in children and adolescents as adults.[2] The rate of PTSD may be lower in children than adults, but in the absence of therapy, symptoms may continue for decades.[2] One estimate suggests that the proportion of children and adolescents having PTSD in a non-wartorn population in a developed country may be 1% compared to 1.5% to 3% of adults, and much lower below the age of 10 years.[2]

Predictor models have consistently found that childhood trauma, chronic adversity, and familial stressors increase risk for PTSD as well as risk for biological markers of risk for PTSD after a traumatic event in adulthood.[28][29][30] Peritraumatic dissociation in children is a predictive indicator of the development of PTSD later in life.[26] This effect of childhood trauma, which is not well-understood, may be a marker for both traumatic experiences and attachment problems.[31][32] Proximity to, duration of, and severity of the trauma make an impact, and interpersonal traumas cause more problems than impersonal ones.[33]

Quasi-experimental studies have demonstrated a relationship between intrusive thoughts and intentional control responses such that suppression increases the frequency of unwanted intrusive thoughts. These results suggest that suppression of intrusive thoughts may be important in the development and maintenance of PTSD.[34]

Foster care

Adults who were in foster care as children have a higher rate of PTSD.[medical citation needed]

Domestic violence

An individual that has been exposed to domestic violence is predisposed to the development of PTSD. However, being exposed to a traumatic experience does not automatically indicate that an individual will develop PTSD.[16] There is a strong association between the development of PTSD in mothers that experienced domestic violence during the perinatal period of their pregnancy.[35]

Military experience

A U.S. Long-Range Patrol team leader in Vietnam, 1968.
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BBC Interview PTSD Treatment
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Early intervention appears to be a critical preventive measure.[36] Studies have shown that soldiers prepared for the potential of a traumatic experience are more prepared to deal with the stress of a traumatic experience and therefore less likely to develop PTSD.[16]

Among American troops in Vietnam a greater portion of women experienced high levels of war-zone stress compared to theater men—39.9 percent versus 23.5 percent. The key to this fact is that the vast majority (6,250 or 83.3%) of the women who served in the war zone were nurses who dealt almost daily with death. Black veterans had nearly 2.5 fold the risk of developing war zone-related PTSD as compared to white/other veterans. Hispanics had more than three times the risk. But the most revealing fact, theater veterans injured or wounded in combat had nearly four times the risk of developing PTSD compared to those not injured/wounded according to two key studies—the August 2014 National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study (NVVLS). Paired with the late 1980s National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS).[37]

The long-term medical consequence of PTSD among male veterans who served in the Vietnam War was that they were almost twice as likely to die in the quarter of a century between the two key studies than those who did not have PTSD. It was also found those with PTSD were more likely to die of chronic conditions such as cancer, nervous system disorders, and musculoskeletal problems. The etiology of this relationship is not certain other than lingering stress from combat such as nightmares, intrusive memories, and hyper-vigilance are aggravating factors contributing to psychological and physiological illnesses.[37]

The racial similarity between Hispanic and Vietnamese soldiers, and the discrimination Hispanic soldiers faced from their own military, made it difficult for Hispanic soldiers to dehumanize their enemy. Hispanic veterans who reported experiencing racial discrimination during their service displayed more symptoms of PTSD than Hispanic veterans who did not.[38]

PTSD is under-diagnosed in female veterans.[39] Sexual assault in the military is a leading cause for female soldiers developing PTSD; a female soldier who is sexually assaulted while serving in the military is nine times more likely to develop PTSD than a female soldier who is not assaulted. A soldier’s assailant may be her colleague or superior officer, making it difficult for her to both report the crime and to avoid interacting with her assailant again.[40] Until the Tailhook scandal drew attention to the problem, the role that sexual assault in the military plays in female veterans developing PTSD went largely unstudied.[41]

Protective effects include social support, which also helps with recovery if PTSD develops.[42][43] For more aggravating factors to recovery once home, see social alienation among returning war veterans.

Drug and substance abuse

Drug abuse and alcohol abuse commonly co-occur with PTSD.[44] Recovery from posttraumatic stress disorder or other anxiety disorders may be hindered, or the condition worsened, by medication or substance overuse, abuse, or dependence; resolving these problems can bring about a marked improvement in an individual’s mental health status and anxiety levels.[45][46]

Pathophysiology

Neuroendocrinology

PTSD symptoms may result when a traumatic event causes an over-reactive adrenaline response, which creates deep neurological patterns in the brain. These patterns can persist long after the event that triggered the fear, making an individual hyper-responsive to future fearful situations.[16][47] During traumatic experiences the high levels of stress hormones secreted suppress hypothalamic activity that may be a major factor toward the development of PTSD.[48]

PTSD causes biochemical changes in the brain and body, that differ from other psychiatric disorders such as major depression. Individuals diagnosed with PTSD respond more strongly to a dexamethasone suppression test than individuals diagnosed with clinical depression.[49][50]

In addition, most people with PTSD also show a low secretion of cortisol and high secretion of catecholamines in urine,[51] with a norepinephrine/cortisol ratio consequently higher than comparable non-diagnosed individuals.[52] This is in contrast to the normative fight-or-flight response, in which both catecholamine and cortisol levels are elevated after exposure to a stressor.[53]

Brain catecholamine levels are high,[54] and corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) concentrations are high.[55][56] Together, these findings suggest abnormality in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

The HPA axis is responsible for coordinating the hormonal response to stress.[26] Given the strong cortisol suppression to dexamethasone in PTSD, HPA axis abnormalities are likely predicated on strong negative feedback inhibition of cortisol, itself likely due to an increased sensitivity of glucocorticoid receptors.[57]

Translating this reaction to human conditions gives a pathophysiological explanation for PTSD by a maladaptive learning pathway to fear response through a hypersensitive, hyperreactive, and hyperresponsive HPA axis.[58]

Low cortisol levels may predispose individuals to PTSD: Following war trauma, Swedish soldiers serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina with low pre-service salivary cortisol levels had a higher risk of reacting with PTSD symptoms, following war trauma, than soldiers with normal pre-service levels.[59] Because cortisol is normally important in restoring homeostasis after the stress response, it is thought that trauma survivors with low cortisol experience a poorly contained—that is, longer and more distressing—response, setting the stage for PTSD.

Other studies indicate that people that suffer from PTSD have chronically low levels of serotonin, which contributes to the commonly associated behavioral symptoms such as anxiety, ruminations, irritability, aggression, suicidality, and impulsivity.[60] Serotonin also contributes to the stabilization of glucocorticoid production.

Dopamine levels in a person with PTSD can help contribute to the symptoms associated. Low levels of dopamine can contribute to anhedonia, apathy, impaired attention, and motor deficits. Increased levels of dopamine can cause psychosis, agitation, and restlessness.[60]

Hyperresponsiveness in the norepinephrine system can be caused by continued exposure to high stress. Overactivation of norepinephrine receptors in the prefrontal cortex can be connected to the flashbacks and nightmares frequently experienced by those with PTSD. A decrease in other norepinephrine functions (awareness of the current environment) prevents the memory mechanisms in the brain from processing that the experience, and emotions the person is experiencing during a flashback are not associated with the current environment.[60]

However, there is considerable controversy within the medical community regarding the neurobiology of PTSD. A review of existing studies on this subject showed no clear relationship between cortisol levels and PTSD. However, the majority of reports indicate people with PTSD have elevated levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone, lower basal cortisol levels, and enhanced negative feedback suppression of the HPA axis by dexamethasone

Three areas of the brain in which function may be altered in PTSD have been identified: the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus. Much of this research has utilised PTSD victims from the Vietnam War. For example, a prospective study using the Vietnam Head Injury Study showed that damage to the prefrontal cortex may actually be protective against later development of PTSD.[63] In a study by Gurvits et al., combat veterans of the Vietnam War with PTSD showed a 20% reduction in the volume of their hippocampus compared with veterans having suffered no such symptoms.[64] This finding could not be replicated in chronic PTSD patients traumatized at an air show plane crash in 1988 (Ramstein, Germany).[65]

In human studies, the amygdala has been shown to be strongly involved in the formation of emotional memories, especially fear-related memories. Neuroimaging studies in humans have revealed both morphological and functional aspects of PTSD.[66] However, during high stress times the hippocampus, which is associated with the ability to place memories in the correct context of space and time, and with the ability to recall the memory, is suppressed. This suppression is hypothesized to be the cause of the flashbacks that often affect people with PTSD. When someone with PTSD undergoes stimuli similar to the traumatic event, the body perceives the event as occurring again because the memory was never properly recorded in the person’s memory.[26][67][unreliable medical source?]

The amygdalocentric model of PTSD proposes that it is associated with hyperarousal of the amygdala and insufficient top-down control by the medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus in particular during extinction.[68] This is consistent with an interpretation of PTSD as a syndrome of deficient extinction ability.[68][69] A study at the European Neuroscience Institute-Goettingen (Germany) found that fear extinction-induced IGF2/IGFBP7 signalling promotes the survival of 17–19-day-old newborn hippocampal neurons. This suggests that therapeutic strategies that enhance IGF2 signalling and adult neurogenesis might be suitable to treat diseases linked to excessive fear memory such as PTSD.[70] Further animal and clinical research into the amygdala and fear conditioning may suggest additional treatments for the condition.

The maintenance of the fear involved with PTSD has been shown to include the HPA axis, the locus coeruleusnoradrenergic systems, and the connections between the limbic system and frontal cortex. The HPA axis that coordinates the hormonal response to stress,[71] which activates the LC-noradrenergic system, is implicated in the over-consolidation of memories that occurs in the aftermath of trauma.[72] This over-consolidation increases the likelihood of one’s developing PTSD. The amygdala is responsible for threat detection and the conditioned and unconditioned fear responses that are carried out as a response to a threat.[26]

The LCnoradrenergic system has been hypothesized to mediate the over-consolidation of fear memory in PTSD. High levels of cortisol reduce noradrenergic activity, and because people with PTSD tend to have reduced levels of cortisol, it is proposed that individuals with PTSD fail to regulate the increased noradrenergic response to traumatic stress.[73] It is thought that the intrusive memories and conditioned fear responses to associated triggers is a result of this response. Neuropeptide Y has been reported to reduce the release of norepinephrine and has been demonstrated to have anxiolytic properties in animal models. Studies have shown people with PTSD demonstrate reduced levels of NPY, possibly indicating their increased anxiety levels.[26]

The basolateral nucleus (BLA) of the amygdala is responsible for the comparison and development of associations between unconditioned and conditioned responses to stimuli, which results in the fear conditioning present in PTSD. The BLA activates the central nucleus (CeA) of the amygdala, which elaborates the fear response, (including behavioral response to threat and elevated startle response). Descending inhibitory inputs from the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) regulate the transmission from the BLA to the CeA, which is hypothesized to play a role in the extinction of conditioned fear responses.[26]

Studies have also shown that PTSD patients show hypoactiviation or decreased brain activity in the dorsal and rostral anterior cingulate cortices and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, areas linked to the experience and regulation of emotion.[74]

Diagnosis

Screening and assessment

A number of screening instruments, including the UCLA PTSD Index for DSM-IV, which have good reliability and validity, are used for the screening of PTSD for children and young adults.[75] Primary Care PTSD Screen and PTSD Checklist are other screening tools.[76]

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry practice parameters is a guidelines for the assessment and treatment of PTSD.[77]

Diagnostic and statistical manual

Since the introduction of DSM-IV, the number of possible events that might be used to diagnose PTSD has increased; one study suggests that the increase is around 50%.[78] Various scales to measure the severity and frequency of PTSD symptoms exist.[79][80] Standardized screening tools such as Trauma Screening Questionnaire[81] and PTSD Symptom Scale[82] can be used to detect possible symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and suggest the need for a formal diagnostic assessment.

In DSM-5, published in May, 2013, PTSD is classified as a trauma- and stress-related disorder.[1]

International classification of diseases

The diagnostic criteria for PTSD, stipulated in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10 (ICD-10), may be summarized as:[83]

  • Exposure to a stressful event or situation (either short or long lasting) of exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature, which is likely to cause pervasive distress in almost anyone.
  • Persistent remembering, or “reliving” the stressor by intrusive flash backs, vivid memories, recurring dreams, or by experiencing distress when exposed to circumstances resembling or associated with the stressor.
  • Actual or preferred avoidance of circumstances resembling or associated with the stressor (not present before exposure to the stressor).
  • Either (1) or (2):
  1. Inability to recall, either partially or completely, some important aspects of the period of exposure to the stressor
  2. Persistent symptoms of increased psychological sensitivity and arousal (not present before exposure to the stressor) shown by any two of the following:
  • difficulty in falling or staying asleep
  • irritability or outbursts of anger
  • difficulty in concentrating
  • hyper-vigilance
  • exaggerated startle response.

The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10 diagnostic guidelines state:[83] In general, this disorder should not be diagnosed unless there is evidence that it arose within 6 months of a traumatic event of exceptional severity. A “probable” diagnosis might still be possible if the delay between the event and the onset was longer than 6 months, provided that the clinical manifestations are typical and no alternative identification of the disorder (e.g., as an anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder or depressive episode) is plausible. In addition to evidence of trauma, there must be a repetitive, intrusive recollection or re-enactment of the event in memories, daytime imagery, or dreams. Conspicuous emotional detachment, numbing of feeling, and avoidance of stimuli that might arouse recollection of the trauma are often present but are not essential for the diagnosis. The autonomic disturbances, mood disorder, and behavioural abnormalities all contribute to the diagnosis but are not of prime importance. The late chronic sequelae of devastating stress, i.e. those manifest decades after the stressful experience, should be classified under F62.0.

Differential diagnosis

A diagnosis of PTSD requires exposure to an extreme stressor such as one that is life-threatening. Any stressor can result in a diagnosis of adjustment disorder and it is an appropriate diagnosis for a stressor and a symptom pattern that does not meet the criteria for PTSD, for example a stressor like a partner being fired, or a spouse leaving. If any of the symptom pattern is present before the stressor, another diagnosis is required, such as brief psychotic disorder or major depressive disorder. Other differential diagnoses are schizophrenia or other disorders with psychotic features such as Psychotic disorders due to a general medical condition. Drug-induced psychotic disorders can be considered if substance abuse is involved.[15]

The symptom pattern for acute stress disorder must occur and be resolved within four weeks of the trauma. If it lasts longer, and the symptom pattern fits that characteristic of PTSD, the diagnosis may be changed.[15]

Obsessive compulsive disorder may be diagnosed for intrusive thoughts that are recurring but not related to a specific traumatic event.[15]

Malingering should be considered if a financial and/or legal advantage is a possibility.

Prevention

Modest benefits have been seen from early access to cognitive behavioral therapy.[84] Critical incident stress management has been suggested as a means of preventing PTSD, but subsequent studies suggest the likelihood of its producing negative outcomes.[85][86] A review “…did not find any evidence to support the use of an intervention offered to everyone”, and that “…multiple session interventions may result in worse outcome than no intervention for some individuals.”[87] The World Health Organization recommends against the use of benzodiazepines and antidepressants in those having experienced trauma.[88] Some evidence supports the use of hydrocortisone for prevention in adults, however no evidence supports propranolol, escitalopram, temazepam, or gabapentin.[89] In fact, taking benzodiazepines after trauma is associated with a 2-5 times increased risk of developing PTSD and major depressive disorder.[9]

Psychological debriefing

Trauma-exposed individuals often receive treatment called psychological debriefing in an effort to prevent PTSD.[84] Several meta-analyses; however, find that psychological debriefing is unhelpful and is potentially harmful.[84][90][91] This is true for both single-session debriefing and multiple session interventions.[87] The American Psychological Association judges the status of psychological debriefing as No Research Support/Treatment is Potentially Harmful.[92]

Psychological debriefing was; however, the most often used preventive measure, partly because of the relative ease with which this treatment can be given to individuals directly following an event. It consists of interviews that are meant to allow individuals to directly confront the event and share their feelings with the counselor and to help structure their memories of the event.[84]

Risk-targeted interventions

For one such method, see trauma risk management.

Risk-targeted interventions are those that attempt to mitigate specific formative information or events. It can target modeling normal behaviors, instruction on a task, or giving information on the event.[93][94]

Management

An assistance dog trained to help veterans with PTSD

Psychological

Many forms of psychotherapy have been advocated for trauma-related problems such as PTSD. Basic counseling practices common to many treatment responses for PTSD include education about the condition and provision of safety and support.[16][82]

The psychotherapy programs with the strongest demonstrated efficacy include cognitive behavioral programs, variants of exposure therapy[citation needed], stress inoculation training (SIT), variants of cognitive therapy (CT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR),[95] mindfulness-based meditation[96] and many combinations of these procedures.[97]

EMDR and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TFCBT) were recommended as first-line treatments for trauma victims in a 2007 review; however, “the evidence base [for EMDR] was not as strong as that for TFCBT … Furthermore, there was limited evidence that TFCBT and EMDR were superior to supportive/non-directive treatments, hence it is highly unlikely that their effectiveness is due to non-specific factors such as attention.”[98] A meta-analytic comparison of EMDR and cognitive behavioral therapy found both protocols indistinguishable in terms of effectiveness in treating PTSD; however, “the contribution of the eye movement component in EMDR to treatment outcome” is unclear.[99]

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) seeks to change the way a trauma victim feels and acts by changing the patterns of thinking or behavior, or both, responsible for negative emotions. CBT has been proven to be an effective treatment for PTSD and is currently considered the standard of care for PTSD by the United States Department of Defense.[100] In CBT, individuals learn to identify thoughts that make them feel afraid or upset and replace them with less distressing thoughts. The goal is to understand how certain thoughts about events cause PTSD-related stress.

Recent research on contextually based third-generation behavior therapies suggests that they may produce results comparable to some of the better validated therapies.[101] Many of these therapy methods have a significant element of exposure[100] and have demonstrated success in treating the primary problems of PTSD and co-occurring depressive symptoms.[102]

Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy[103] that involves assisting trauma survivors to re-experience distressing trauma-related memories and reminders in order to facilitate habituation and successful emotional processing of the trauma memory. Most exposure therapy programs include both imaginal confrontation with the traumatic memories and real-life exposure to trauma reminders; this therapy modality is well supported by clinical evidence[citation needed]. The success of exposure-based therapies has raised the question of whether exposure is a necessary ingredient in the treatment of PTSD.[104] Some organizations[which?] have endorsed the need for exposure.[105][106] The US Department of Veterans Affairs has been actively training mental health treatment staff in prolonged exposure therapy[107] and Cognitive Processing Therapy[108] in an effort to better treat US veteranswith PTSD.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy developed and studied by Francine Shapiro.[109] She had noticed that, when she was thinking about disturbing memories herself, her eyes were moving rapidly. When she brought her eye movements under control while thinking, the thoughts were less distressing.[109]

In 2002, Shapiro and Maxfield published a theory of why this might work, called adaptive information processing.[110] This theory proposes that eye movement can be used to facilitate emotional processing of memories, changing the person’s memory to attend to more adaptive information.[111] The therapist initiates voluntary rapid eye movements while the person focuses on memories, feelings or thoughts about a particular trauma.[2][112] The therapists uses hand movements to get the person to move their eyes backward and forward, but hand-tapping or tones can also be used.[2] EMDR closely resembles cognitive behavior therapy as it combines exposure (re-visiting the traumatic event), working on cognitive processes and relaxation/self-monitoring.[2] However, exposure by way of being asked to think about the experience rather than talk about it has been highlighted as one of the more important distinguishing elements of EMDR.[113]

There have been multiple small controlled trials of four to eight weeks of EMDR in adults[114] as well as children and adolescents.[112] EMDR reduced PTSD symptoms enough in the short term that one in two adults no longer met the criteria for PTSD, but the number of people involved in these trials was small.[114] There was not enough evidence to know whether or not EMDR could eliminate PTSD.[114] There was some evidence that EMDR might prevent depression.[114] There were no studies comparing EMDR to other psychological treatments or to medication.[114] Adverse effects were largely unstudied.[114] The benefits were greater for women with a history of sexual assault compared with people who had experienced other types of traumatizing events (such as accidents, physical assaults and war). There is a small amount of evidence that EMDR may improve re-experiencing symptoms in children and adolescents, but EMDR has not been shown to improve other PTSD symptoms, anxiety, or depression.[112]

The eye movement component of the therapy may not be critical for benefit.[2][111] As there has been no major, high quality randomized trial of EMDR with eye movements versus EMDR without eye movements, the controversy over effectiveness is likely to continue.[113] Authors of a meta-analysis published in 2013 stated, “We found that people treated with eye movement therapy had greater improvement in their symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder than people given therapy without eye movements….Secondly we found that that in laboratory studies the evidence concludes that thinking of upsetting memories and simultaneously doing a task that facilitates eye movements reduces the vividness and distress associated with the upsetting memories.”[95]

Interpersonal psychotherapy

Other approaches, in particular involving social supports,[42][43] may also be important. An open trial of interpersonal psychotherapy[115] reported high rates of remission from PTSD symptoms without using exposure.[116] A current, NIMH-funded trial in New York City is now (and into 2013) comparing interpersonal psychotherapy, prolonged exposure therapy, and relaxation therapy.[117][full citation needed][118][119]

Medication

Most medications do not have enough evidence to support their use.[10] With many medications, residual symptoms following treatment is the rule rather than the exception.[120]

SSRIs and SNRIs

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may have some benefit for PTSD symptoms.[10][121] Tricyclic antidepressants are equally effective but are less well tolerated.[122] Evidence provides support for a small or modest improvement with sertraline, fluoxetine, paroxetine, and venlafaxine.[10][123] Thus, these four medications are considered to be first-line medications for PTSD.[121][124]

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are not recommended for the treatment of PTSD due to a lack of evidence of benefit and risk of worsening PTSD symptoms.[9][125] Some authors believe that the use of benzodiazepines is contraindicated for acute stress, as this group of drugs promotes dissociation and ulterior revivals.[126] Nevertheless, some use benzodiazepines with caution for short-term anxiety and insomnia.[127][128][129] While benzodiazepines can alleviate acute anxiety, there is no consistent evidence that they can stop the development of PTSD and may actually increase the risk of developing PTSD 2-5 times.[9] Additionally, benzodiazepines may reduce the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic interventions, and there is some evidence that benzodiazepines may actually contribute to the development and chronification of PTSD. For those who already have PTSD, benzodiazepines may worsen and prolong the course of illness, by worsening psychotherapy outcomes, and causing or exacerbating aggression, depression (including suicidality), and substance use.[9] Other drawbacks include the risk of developing a benzodiazepine dependence, tolerance (i.e., short-term benefits wearing off with time), and withdrawal syndrome; additionally, individuals with PTSD (even those without a history of alcohol or drug misuse) are at an increased risk of abusing benzodiazepines.[9][124][130] Due to a plethora of other treatments with greater efficacy for PTSD and less risks (e.g., prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, cognitive restructuring therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, brief eclectic psychotherapy, narrative therapy, stress inoculation training, serotonergic antidepressants, adrenergic inhibitors, antipsychotics, and even anticonvulsants), benzodiazepines should be considered relatively contraindicated until all other treatment options are exhausted.[4][5][9] For those who argue that benzodiazepines should be used sooner in the most severe cases, the adverse risk of disinhibition (associated with suicidality, aggression and crimes) and clinical risks of delaying or inhibiting definitive efficacious treatments, make other alternative treatments preferable (e.g., inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, dialectic behavior therapy; and other fast-acting sedating medications such as trazodone, mirtazapine, amitripytline, doxepin, prazosin, propranolol, guanfacine, clonidine, quetiapine, olanzapine, valproate, gabapentin).[4][7][8] “PTSD recovery should denote improved functioning (e.g. healthy relationships, employment), not simply sedation…. For years, sedatives were the only thing we had in our armamentarium for PTSD. Now, we have many more tools and our patients – whether survivors of assault, combat or any other trauma – deserve those treatments that have proven to be safer and more effective.”[9]

Glucocorticoids

Glucocorticoids may be useful for short-term therapy to protect against neurodegeneration caused by the extended stress response that characterizes PTSD, but long-term use may actually promote neurodegeneration.[131]

Cannabinoids

The cannabinoid nabilone is sometimes used off-label for nightmares in PTSD. Although some short-term benefit was shown, adverse effects are common and it has not been adequately studied to determine efficacy.[132] Additionally, there are other treatments with stronger efficacy and less risks (e.g., psychotherapy, serotonergic antidepressants, adrenergic inhibitors).

Other

Exercise, sport and physical activity

Physical activity can have an impact on people’s psychological wellbeing[133] and physical health.[134] The U.S. National Center for PTSD recommends moderate exercise as a way to distract from disturbing emotions, build self-esteem and increase feelings of being in control again. They recommend a discussion with a doctor before starting an exercise program.[135]

Play therapy for children

Play is thought to help children link their inner thoughts with their outer world, connecting real experiences with abstract thought.[136] Repetitive play can also be one of the ways a child relives traumatic events, and that can be a symptom of traumatization in a child or young person.[137] Although it is commonly used, there have not been enough studies comparing outcomes in groups of children receiving and not receiving play therapy, so the effects of play therapy are not yet understood.[2][136]

Military programs

Many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced significant physical, emotional, and relational disruptions. In response, the United States Marine Corps has instituted programs to assist them in re-adjusting to civilian life, especially in their relationships with spouses and loved ones, to help them communicate better and understand what the other has gone through.[138] Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) developed the Battlemind program to assist service members avoid or ameliorate PTSD and related problems.

Epidemiology

Disability-adjusted life year rates for posttraumatic stress disorder per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004.[139]

  no data
  < 43.5
  43.5-45
  45-46.5
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There is debate over the rates of PTSD found in populations, but, despite changes in diagnosis and the criteria used to define PTSD between 1997 and 2007, epidemiological rates have not changed significantly.[140]

The United Nations’ World Health Organization publishes estimates of PTSD impact for each of its member states; the latest data available are for 2004. Considering only the 25 most populated countries ranked by overall age-standardized Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) rate, the top half of the ranked list is dominated by Asian/Pacific countries, the US, and Egypt.[141] Ranking the countries by the male-only or female-only rates produces much the same result, but with less meaningfulness, as the score range in the single-sex rankings is much-reduced (4 for women, 3 for men, as compared with 14 for the overall score range), suggesting that the differences between female and male rates, within each country, is what drives the distinctions between the countries.[142][143]

Age-standardized Disability-adjusted life year (DALY) rates for PTSD, per 100,000 inhabitants, in 25 most populous countries, ranked by overall rate (2004)
Region Country PTSD DALY rate,
overall[141]
PTSD DALY rate,
females[142]
PTSD DALY rate,
males[143]
Asia / Pacific Thailand 59 86 30
Asia / Pacific Indonesia 58 86 30
Asia / Pacific Philippines 58 86 30
Americas USA 58 86 30
Asia / Pacific Bangladesh 57 85 29
Africa Egypt 56 83 30
Asia / Pacific India 56 85 29
Asia / Pacific Iran 56 83 30
Asia / Pacific Pakistan 56 85 29
Asia / Pacific Japan 55 80 31
Asia / Pacific Myanmar 55 81 30
Europe Turkey 55 81 30
Asia / Pacific Vietnam 55 80 30
Europe France 54 80 28
Europe Germany 54 80 28
Europe Italy 54 80 28
Asia / Pacific Russian Federation 54 78 30
Europe United Kingdom 54 80 28
Africa Nigeria 53 76 29
Africa Dem. Republ. of Congo 52 76 28
Africa Ethiopia 52 76 28
Africa South Africa 52 76 28
Asia / Pacific China 51 76 28
Americas Mexico 46 60 30
Americas Brazil 45 60 30

United States

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US Army Infantryman talks about PTSD

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The National Comorbidity Survey Replication has estimated that the lifetime prevalence of PTSD among adult Americans is 6.8%, with women (9.7%) more than twice as likely as men[60] (3.6%) to have PTSD at some point in their lives.[144] More than 60% of men and more than 60% of women experience at least one traumatic event in their life. The most frequently reported traumatic events by men are rape, combat, and childhood neglect or physical abuse. Women most frequently report instances of rape, sexual molestation, physical attack, being threatened with a weapon and childhood physical abuse.[60] 88% of men and 79% of women with lifetime PTSD have at least one comorbid psychiatric disorder. Major depressive disorder, 48% of men and 49% of women, and lifetime alcohol abuse or dependence, 51.9% of men and 27.9% of women, are the most common comorbid disorders.[145]

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 830,000 Vietnam War veterans suffered symptoms of PTSD.[146] The National Vietnam Veterans’ Readjustment Study (NVVRS) found 15.2% of male and 8.5% of female Vietnam veterans to suffer from current PTSD at the time of the study. Life-Time prevalence of PTSD was 30.9% for males and 26.9% for females. In a reanalysis of the NVVRS data, along with analysis of the data from the Matsunaga Vietnam Veterans Project, Schnurr, Lunney, Sengupta, and Waelde found that, contrary to the initial analysis of the NVVRS data, a large majority of Vietnam veterans suffered from PTSD symptoms (but not the disorder itself). Four out of five reported recent symptoms when interviewed 20–25 years after Vietnam.[147]

A 2011 study from Georgia State University and San Diego State University found that rates of PTSD diagnosis increased significantly when troops were stationed in combat zones, had tours of longer than a year, experienced combat, or were injured. Military personnel serving in combat zones were 12.1 percentage points more likely to receive a PTSD diagnosis than their active-duty counterparts in non-combat zones. Those serving more than 12 months in a combat zone were 14.3 percentage points more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD than those having served less than one year. Experiencing an enemy firefight was associated a 18.3 percentage point increase in the probability of PTSD, while being wounded or injured in combat was associated a 23.9 percentage point increase in the likelihood of a PTSD diagnosis. For the 2.16 million U.S. troops deployed in combat zones between 2001 and 2010, the total estimated two-year costs of treatment for combat-related PTSD are between $1.54 billion and $2.69 billion.[148]

As of 2013, rates of PTSD have been estimated at up to 20% for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.[27] As of 2013 13% of veterans returning from Iraq were unemployed.[149]

Society and culture

United States—veterans

Other countries—veterans

In the UK, there are various charities and service organisations dedicated to aiding veterans in readjusting to civilian life. The Royal British Legion and the more recently established Help for Heroes are two of Britain’s more high-profile veterans’ organisations which have actively advocated for veterans over the years. There has been some controversy that the NHS has not done enough in tackling mental health issues and is instead “dumping” veterans on charities such as Combat Stress.[150][151]

Veterans Affairs Canada offers a new program that includes rehabilitation, financial benefits, job placement, health benefits program, disability awards, peer support[152][153][154] and family support.[155]

History

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Shell Shock in WWI

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The 1952 edition of the DSM-I includes a diagnosis of “gross stress reaction”, which bears striking similarities to the modern definition and understanding of PTSD.[156] Gross stress reaction is defined as a “normal personality [utilizing] established patterns of reaction to deal with overwhelming fear” as a response to “conditions of great stress”.[157] The diagnosis includes language which relates the condition to combat as well as to “civilian catastrophe”.[157]

Early in 1978, the term was used in a working group finding presented to the Committee of Reactive Disorders.[158] The condition was added to the DSM-III, which was being developed in the 1980s, as posttraumatic stress disorder.[156][158] In the DSM-IV, the spelling “posttraumatic stress disorder” is used, while in the ICD-10, the spelling is “post-traumatic stress disorder”.[159]

The addition of the term to the DSM-III was greatly influenced by the experiences and conditions of US military veterans of the Vietnam War.[11] Due to its association with the war in Vietnam, PTSD has become synonymous with many historical war-time diagnoses such as railway spine, stress syndrome, nostalgia, soldier’s heart, shell shock, battle fatigue, combat stress reaction, or traumatic war neurosis.[160][161] Some of these terms date back to the 19th century, which is indicative of the universal nature of the condition. In a similar vein, psychiatrist Jonathan Shay has proposed that Lady Percy‘s soliloquy in the William Shakespeare play Henry IV, Part 1 (act 2, scene 3, lines 40–62[162]), written around 1597, represents an unusually accurate description of the symptom constellation of PTSD.[163]

Statue, Three Servicemen, Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The correlations between combat and PTSD are undeniable; according to Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker, “One-tenth of mobilized American men were hospitalized for mental disturbances between 1942 and 1945, and, after thirty-five days of uninterrupted combat, 98% of them manifested psychiatric disturbances in varying degrees.”[164] In fact, much of the available published research regarding PTSD is based on studies done on veterans of the war in Vietnam. A study based on personal letters from soldiers of the 18th-century Prussian Army concludes that combatants may have had PTSD.[165]

The researchers from the Grady Trauma Project highlight the tendency people have to focus on the combat side of PTSD: “less public awareness has focused on civilian PTSD, which results from trauma exposure that is not combat related… “ and “much of the research on civilian PTSD has focused on the sequelae of a single, disastrous event, such as the Oklahoma City bombing, September 11th attacks, and Hurricane Katrina”.[166] Disparity in the focus of PTSD research affects the already popular perception of the exclusive interconnectedness of combat and PTSD. This is misleading when it comes to understanding the implications and extent of PTSD as a neurological disorder. Dating back to the definition of Gross stress reaction in the DSM-I, civilian experience of catastrophic or high stress events is included as a cause of PTSD in medical literature. The 2014 National Comorbidity Survey reports that “the traumas most commonly associated with PTSD are combat exposure and witnessing among men and rape and sexual molestation among women.”[167] Because of the initial overt focus on PTSD as a combat related disorder when it was first fleshed out in the years following the war in Vietnam, in 1975 Ann Wolbert Burgess and Lynda Lytle Holmstrom defined Rape trauma syndrome, RTS, in order to draw attention to the striking similarities between the experiences of soldiers returning from war and of rape victims.[168] This paved the way for a more comprehensive understanding of causes of PTSD.

Terminology

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not hyphenate ‘post’ and ‘traumatic’, thus, the DSM-5 lists the disorder as posttraumatic stress disorder. However, many scientific journal articles and other scholarly publications do hyphenate the name of the disorder, viz., post-traumatic stress disorder.[169] Dictionaries also differ with regard to the preferred spelling of the disorder with the Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged using the hyphenated spelling, and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition and the Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary giving the non-hyphenated spelling.[170]

Research

To recapitulate some of the neurological and neurobehavioral symptoms experienced by the veteran population of recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, researchers at the Roskamp Institute and the James A Haley Veteran’s Hospital (Tampa) have developed an animal model to study the consequences of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and PTSD.[171] In the laboratory, the researchers exposed mice to a repeated session of unpredictable stressor (i.e. predator odor while restrained), and physical trauma in the form of inescapable foot-shock, and this was also combined with a mTBI. In this study, PTSD animals demonstrated recall of traumatic memories, anxiety, and an impaired social behavior, while animals subject to both mTBI and PTSD had a pattern of disinhibitory-like behavior. mTBI abrogated both contextual fear and impairments in social behavior seen in PTSD animals. In comparison with other animal studies,[171][172] examination of neuroendocrine and neuroimmune responses in plasma revealed a trend toward increase in corticosterone in PTSD and combination groups.

Psychotherapy adjuncts

MDMA was used for psychedelic therapy for a variety of indications before its criminalization in the US in 1985. In response to its criminalization, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies was founded as a nonprofit drug-development organization to develop MDMA into a legal prescription drug for use as an adjunct in psychotherapy.[173] The drug is hypothesized to facilitate psychotherapy by reducing fear, thereby allowing patients to reprocess and accept their traumatic memories without becoming emotionally overwhelmed. In this treatment, patients participate in an extended psychotherapy session during the acute activity of the drug, and then spend the night at the treatment facility. In the sessions with the drug, therapists are not directive and support the patients in exploring their inner experiences. Patients participate in standard psychotherapy sessions before the drug-assisted sessions, as well as after the drug-assisted psychotherapy to help them integrate their experiences with the drug.[174] Preliminary results suggest MDMA-assisted psychotherapy might be effective for individuals who have not responded favorably to other treatments. Future research employing larger sample sizes and an appropriate placebo condition, i.e., one in which subjects cannot discern if they are in the experimental or control condition, will increase confidence in the results of initial research.[175][176]

Clinical research is also investigating using D-cycloserine, hydrocortisone, and propranolol as adjuncts to more conventional exposure therapy

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See Shell Shock – The Trauma of Battle

Combat Stress is here to support you

In the UK, there are various charities and service organisations dedicated to aiding veterans in readjusting to civilian life. The Royal British Legion and the more recently established Help for Heroes are two of Britain’s more high-profile veterans’ organisations which have actively advocated for veterans over the years. There has been some controversy that the NHS has not done enough in tackling mental health issues and is instead “dumping” veterans on charities such as Combat Stress.

Visit the website: www.combatstress.org.uk/veterans

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The Holocaust- Genocide of six million Jews

The Holocaust

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27 January each year. –

See  Here for more details

The Holocaust (from the Greek ὁλόκαυστος holókaustos: hólos, “whole” and kaustós, “burnt”),[2] also known as the Shoah (Hebrew: השואה, HaShoah, “the catastrophe”), was a genocide in which approximately six million Jews were killed by Adolf Hitler‘s Nazi regime and its collaborators.[3] Some historians use a definition of the Holocaust that includes the additional five million non-Jewish victims of Nazi mass murders, bringing the total to approximately eleven million. Killings took place throughout Nazi Germany and German-occupied territories.[4]

From 1941 to 1945, Jews were systematically murdered in a genocide, one of the largest in history, and part of a broader aggregate of acts of oppression and killings of various ethnic and political groups in Europe by the Nazi regime.[5] Every arm of Germany’s bureaucracy was involved in the logistics and the carrying out of the genocide, turning the Third Reich into “a genocidal state”.[6] Other victims of Nazi crimes included Romanis, ethnic Poles and other Slavs, Soviet POWs, communists, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the mentally and physically disabled.[7] In total, approximately 11 million people were killed, including approximately one million Jewish children.[8][9] Of the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe before the Holocaust, approximately two-thirds were killed.[10] A network of about 42,500 facilities in Germany and German-occupied territories were used to concentrate victims for slave labor, mass murder, and other human rights abuses.[11] Over 200,000 people are estimated to have been Holocaust perpetrators.[12]

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Footprints in the Snow – Holocaust Documentary

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The persecution and genocide were carried out in stages, culminating in what was termed the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” (die Endlösung der Judenfrage), the agenda to exterminate Jews in Europe. Initially the German government passed laws to exclude Jews from civil society, most prominently the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. A network of concentration camps was established starting in 1933 and ghettos were established following the outbreak of World War II in 1939. In 1941, as Germany conquered new territory in eastern Europe, specialized paramilitary units called Einsatzgruppen were used to murder around two million Jews and “partisans”, often in mass shootings. By the end of 1942, victims were being regularly transported by freight trains to specially built extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, most were systematically killed in gas chambers. The campaign of murder continued until the end of World War II in Europe in April–May 1945.

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BBC’s World at War- The Final Solution

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Overall, Jewish armed resistance was limited. The most notable exception was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, when thousands of poorly-armed Jewish fighters held the Waffen-SS at bay for four weeks. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Jewish partisans actively fought against the Nazis and their collaborators in Eastern Europe.[13][14] French Jews were also highly active in the French Resistance, which conducted a guerilla campaign against the Nazis and Vichy French authorities. In total, over a hundred armed Jewish uprisings took place.

Etymology and use of the term

The term holocaust comes from the Greek word holókauston, referring to an animal sacrifice offered to a god in which the whole (olos) animal is completely burnt (kaustos).[16]

Writing in Latin, Richard of Devizes, a 12th-century monk, was the first recorded chronicler to use the term “holocaustum” in Britain.[17] Sir Thomas Browne employed the word “holocaust” in his philosophical Discourse Urn Burial in 1658[18] and for centuries, the word was used generally in English to denote great massacres. Since the 1960s, the term has come to be used by scholars and popular writers to refer specifically to the Nazi genocide of Jews.[19] The television mini-series Holocaust is credited with introducing the term into common parlance after 1978.[20]

The biblical word shoah (שואה; also transliterated sho’ah and shoa), meaning “calamity” became the standard Hebrew term for the Holocaust as early as the 1940s, especially in Europe and Israel.[21] Shoah is preferred by some Jews for several reasons including the theologically offensive nature of the word “holocaust” which they take to refer to the Greek pagan custom.[22]

The Nazis used a euphemistic phrase, the “‘Final Solution to the Jewish Question” and the formula “Final Solution” has been widely used as a term for the genocide of the Jews.

Distinctive features

Institutional collaboration

Ghettos were established in Europe in which Jews were confined before being shipped to extermination camps.

Every arm of Germany’s bureaucracy was involved in the logistics that led to the genocides, turning the Third Reich into what one Holocaust scholar, Michael Berenbaum, has called “a genocidal state”.[6]

Every arm of the country’s sophisticated bureaucracy was involved in the killing process. Parish churches and the Interior Ministry supplied birth records showing who was Jewish; the Post Office delivered the deportation and denaturalization orders; the Finance Ministry confiscated Jewish property; German firms fired Jewish workers and disenfranchised Jewish stockholders.

The universities refused to admit Jews, denied degrees to those already studying, and fired Jewish academics; government transport offices arranged the trains for deportation to the camps; German pharmaceutical companies tested drugs on camp prisoners; companies bid for the contracts to build the crematoria; detailed lists of victims were drawn up using the Dehomag (IBM Germany) company’s punch card machines, producing meticulous records of the killings. As prisoners entered the death camps, they were made to surrender all personal property which was catalogued and tagged before being sent to Germany to be reused or recycled. Berenbaum writes that the Final Solution of the Jewish question was “in the eyes of the perpetrators … Germany’s greatest achievement.”[23] Through a concealed account, the German National Bank helped launder valuables stolen from the victims.

Saul Friedländer writes that: “Not one social group, not one religious community, not one scholarly institution or professional association in Germany and throughout Europe declared its solidarity with the Jews.”[24] He writes that some Christian churches declared that converted Jews should be regarded as part of the flock, but even then only up to a point. Friedländer argues that this makes the Holocaust distinctive because antisemitic policies were able to unfold without the interference of countervailing forces of the kind normally found in advanced societies such as industry, small businesses, churches, trade unions, and other vested interests and lobby groups.[24]

In many other genocides, pragmatic considerations such as control of territory and resources were central to the genocide policy. Israeli historian and scholar Yehuda Bauer argues that:

The basic motivation [of the Holocaust] was purely ideological, rooted in an illusionary world of Nazi imagination, where an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world was opposed to a parallel Aryan quest. No genocide to date had been based so completely on myths, on hallucinations, on abstract, nonpragmatic ideology—which was then executed by very rational, pragmatic means.[25]

German historian Eberhard Jäckel wrote in 1986 that one distinctive feature of the Holocaust was that:

Never before had a state with the authority of its responsible leader decided and announced that a specific human group, including its aged, its women and its children and infants, would be killed as quickly as possible, and then carried through this resolution using every possible means of state power.[26]

The killings were systematically conducted in virtually all areas of German-occupied territory in what are now 35 separate European countries.[27] It was at its most severe in Central and Eastern Europe, which had more than seven million Jews in 1939. About five million Jews were killed there, including three million in occupied Poland and over one million in the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands also died in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Yugoslavia, and Greece. The Wannsee Protocol makes it clear that the Nazis intended to carry their “final solution of the Jewish question” to Britain and all neutral states in Europe, such as Ireland, Switzerland, Turkey, Sweden, Portugal, and Spain.[28]

Anyone with three or four Jewish grandparents was to be exterminated without exception. This has never happened before, anywhere. Also, the Nazi’s envisioned the extermination of the Jews – where possible – worldwide, not only in Germany proper.[29] Unless their grandparents had converted before 18 January 1871.[30]

Extermination camps

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Nazi Concentration and Prison Camps (1945) Nuremberg Trials Documentary_WWII Footages_Full Length

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Main article: Extermination camp

The use of extermination camps (also called “death camps”) equipped with gas chambers for the purpose of systematic mass extermination of peoples was a unique feature of the Holocaust and unprecedented in history. Never before had there existed places with the express purpose of killing people en masse. These were established at Auschwitz, Belzec, Chełmno, Jasenovac, Majdanek, Maly Trostenets, Sobibór, and Treblinka. The death camps were built to systematically kill millions, primarily by gassing, but also by execution and extreme work under starvation conditions.[31] The idea of mass extermination with the use of stationary facilities built exclusively for that purpose was a result of earlier Nazi experimentation with chemically manufactured poison gas during the secretive Action T4 euthanasia programme against mental patients.[32]

Medical experiments

Further information: Nazi human experimentation

Romani children in Auschwitz, victims of medical experiments.

A distinctive feature of Nazi genocide was the extensive use of human subjects in “medical” experiments. According to Raul Hilberg, “German physicians were highly Nazified, compared to other professionals, in terms of party membership.”[33] Some carried out experiments at Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald, Ravensbrück, Sachsenhausen, and Natzweiler concentration camps.[34]

The most notorious of these physicians was Dr. Josef Mengele, who worked in Auschwitz. His experiments included placing subjects in pressure chambers, testing drugs on them, freezing them, attempting to change eye color by injecting chemicals into children’s eyes, and various amputations and other surgeries.[34] The full extent of his work will never be known because the truckload of records he sent to Dr. Otmar von Verschuer at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute was destroyed by von Verschuer.[35] Subjects who survived Mengele’s experiments were almost always killed and dissected shortly afterwards.

He worked extensively with Romani children. He would bring them sweets and toys and personally take them to the gas chamber. They would call him “Onkel (Uncle) Mengele”.[36] Vera Alexander was a Jewish inmate at Auschwitz who looked after 50 sets of Romani twins:

I remember one set of twins in particular: Guido and Ina, aged about four. One day, Mengele took them away. When they returned, they were in a terrible state: they had been sewn together, back to back, like Siamese twins. Their wounds were infected and oozing pus. They screamed day and night. Then their parents—I remember the mother’s name was Stella—managed to get some morphine and they killed the children in order to end their suffering.[36]

Development and execution

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Science and the Swastika :The Deadly Experiment

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Origins

“The whole problem of the Jews exists only in nation states, for here their energy and higher intelligence, their accumulated capital of spirit and will, gathered from generation to generation through a long schooling in suffering, must become so preponderant as to arouse mass envy and hatred. In almost all contemporary nations, therefore – in direct proportion to the degree to which they act up nationalistically – the literal obscenity of leading the Jews to slaughter as scapegoats for every conceivable public and internal misfortune is spreading.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, 1886, [MA 1 475][37]

Yehuda Bauer and Lucy Dawidowicz maintained that from the Middle Ages onward, German society and culture were suffused with antisemitism, and that there was a direct ideological link from medieval pogroms to the Nazi death camps.[38]

The second half of the 19th century saw the emergence in Germany and Austria-Hungary of the Völkisch movement developed by such thinkers as Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Paul de Lagarde. The movement presented a pseudo-scientific, biologically based racism that viewed Jews as a race locked in mortal combat with the Aryan race for world domination.[39] Völkisch antisemitism drew upon stereotypes from Christian antisemitism but differed in that Jews were considered to be a race rather than a religion.[40]

In a speech before the Reichstag in 1895, völkisch leader Hermann Ahlwardt called Jews “predators” and “cholera bacilli” who should be “exterminated” for the good of the German people.[41] In his best-selling 1912 book Wenn ich der Kaiser wär (If I were the Kaiser), Heinrich Class, leader of the völkisch group Alldeutscher Verband, urged that all German Jews be stripped of their German citizenship and be reduced to Fremdenrecht (alien status).[42] Class also urged that Jews should be excluded from all aspects of German life, forbidden to own land, hold public office, or participate in journalism, banking, and the liberal professions.[42] Class defined a Jew as anyone who was a member of the Jewish religion on the day the German Empire was proclaimed in 1871 or anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent.[42]

The first medical experimentation on humans and ethnic cleansing by Germans took place in the death camps of German South-West Africa during the Herero and Namaqua Genocide. It has been suggested that this was an inspiration for the Holocaust.[43][44]

During the German Empire, völkisch notions and pseudo-scientific racism had become common and accepted throughout Germany,[45] with the educated professional classes of the country, in particular, adopting an ideology of human inequality.[46] Though the völkisch parties were defeated in the 1912 Reichstag elections, being all but wiped out, antisemitism was incorporated into the platforms of the mainstream political parties.[45] The National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi Party; NSDAP) was founded in 1920 as an offshoot of the völkisch movement and adopted their antisemitism.[47] In a 1986 essay, German historian Hans Mommsen wrote about the situation in post–First World War Germany that:

If one emphasizes the indisputably important connection in isolation, one should not then force a connection with Hitler’s weltanschauung [worldview], which was in no ways original itself, in order to derive from it the existence of Auschwitz … Thoughts about the extermination of the Jews had long been current, and not only for Hitler and his satraps. Many of these found their way to the NSDAP from the Deutschvölkisch Schutz-und Trutzbund [German Racial Union for Protection and Defiance], which itself had been called into life by the Pan-German Union.[48]

Tremendous scientific and technological changes in Germany during the late 19th and early 20th centuries together with the growth of the welfare state created widespread hopes that utopia was at hand and that soon all social problems could be solved.[49] At the same time a racist, social Darwinist, and eugenicist world-view which declared some people to be more biologically valuable than others was common.[50] Historian Detlev Peukert states that the Shoah did not result solely from antisemitism, but was a product of the “cumulative radicalization” in which “numerous smaller currents” fed into the “broad current” that led to genocide.[51] After the First World War, the pre-war mood of optimism gave way to disillusionment as German bureaucrats found social problems to be more insoluble than previously thought, which in turn led them to place increasing emphasis on saving the biologically “fit” while the biologically “unfit” were to be written off.[52]

In Germany, Sturmabteilung stormtroopers urge a national boycott of all Jewish businesses on 1 April 1933. These SA stormtroopers are outside Israel’s Department Store in Berlin to deter customers. The signs read: “Germans! Defend yourselves! Don’t buy from Jews.” (“Deutsche! Wehrt Euch! Kauft nicht bei Juden!“)[53] The store was later ransacked during Kristallnacht in 1938, then handed over to a non-Jewish family.

The political situation in Germany and elsewhere in Europe after World War I also contributed to virulent antisemitism. Many Germans did not accept that their country had been defeated in battle, giving rise to the Stab-in-the-back myth. The myth insinuated that it was disloyal politicians, chiefly Jews and Communists, who orchestrated Germany’s surrender. Inflaming the anti-Jewish sentiment espoused by the myth was the apparent overrepresentation of ethnic Jews in the leadership of Communist revolutionary governments in Europe, among them Russian Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, and in Germany itself Ernst Toller as head of a short lived revolutionary government in Bavaria, contributing to the canard of Jewish Bolshevism.[54]

The economic strains of the Great Depression led many in the German medical establishment to advocate the idea of euthanisation of the “incurable” mentally and physically disabled as a cost-saving measure to free up money to care for the curable.[55] By the time the Nazis came to power in 1933, a tendency already existed in the German social policy to save the racially “valuable” while seeking to rid society of the racially “undesirable”.[56]

Although Hitler never wrote that he would exterminate the Jews, he was open about his hatred of them. Although the origin and first expression of Hitler’s anti-Semitism remain a matter of debate.[57] Hitler states in Mein Kampf that he first became an anti-Semite in Vienna.[58] In Mein Kampf, he announced his intention of removing them from Germany’s political, intellectual, and cultural life. From the early 1920s Hitler linked the Jews with bacteria and that they should be dealt with in exactly the same way; in August 1920 he said that resolving “racial tuberculosis” would be solved by the removal of the “causal agent, the Jew”.[59] In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote: “The nationalization of our masses will succeed only when, aside from all the positive struggle for the soul of our people, their international poisoners are exterminated.”[59] Hitler with the idea of poisoning the poisoners suggested: “If at the beginning of the War and during the War twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas, as happened to hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers in the field, the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain”.[59] Hitler had by now viewed Marxism as a Jewish doctrine and proclaimed he was fighting against “Jewish Marxism“.[60]

During his time writing Mein Kampf, Hitler reflected on the Jewish Question and concluded that he had been too soft and that in the future only the most severe measures were to be taken if there was any chance of solving it. Hitler believed that the Jewish Question was not only a problem for the German people but for all peoples as “Juda is the world plague”.[61] Ian Kershaw writes that some passages in Mein Kampf are undeniably of an inherently genocidal nature.[59]

In 1922, he allegedly told Major Joseph Hell, at the time a journalist:

Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows—at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example—as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit. As soon as they have been untied, the next batch will be strung up, and so on down the line, until the last Jew in Munich has been exterminated. Other cities will follow suit, precisely in this fashion, until all Germany has been completely cleansed of Jews.[62]

As early as 1933, Julius Streicher was calling for the extermination of the Jews in the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer.[63] During the war, Streicher regularly authorized articles demanding the annihilation and extermination of the Jewish race.[64]

Mommsen suggested that there were three types of antisemitism in Germany: There was 1) the cultural antisemitism found among German conservatives, especially in the military officer corps as well as in the top members of the civil administration; 2) there was the “volkisch” antisemitism or racism which advocated using violence against the Jews; and 3) the religious anti-Judaism, particularly within the Catholic Church. The cultural antisemitism kept the ruling establishment from distancing itself or opposing the violent, racial antisemitism of the Nazis, and religious antisemitism meant that the religious establishment did not present opposition to racial persecution of the Jews.[65]

Legal repression and emigration

With the establishment of the Third Reich, Nazi leaders proclaimed the existence of a Volksgemeinschaft (“people’s community”). Nazi policies divided the population into two categories, the Volksgenossen (“national comrades”), who belonged to the Volksgemeinschaft, and the Gemeinschaftsfremde (“community aliens”), who did not. Nazi policies about repression divided people into three types of enemies, the “racial” enemies such as the Jews and the Gypsies who were viewed as enemies because of their “blood”; political opponents such as Marxists, liberals, Christians and the “reactionaries” who were viewed as wayward “National Comrades”; and moral opponents such as homosexuals, the “work-shy” and habitual criminals, also seen as wayward “National Comrades”.[66] The last two groups were to be sent to concentration camps for “re-education”, with the aim of eventual absorption into the Volksgemeinschaft, though some of the moral opponents were to be sterilized, as they were regarded as “genetically inferior”.[66]

“Racial” enemies such as the Jews could, by definition, never belong to the Volksgemeinschaft; they were to be totally removed from society.[66] German historian Detlev Peukert wrote that the National Socialists’ “goal was an utopian Volksgemeinschaft, totally under police surveillance, in which any attempt at nonconformist behaviour, or even any hint or intention of such behaviour, would be visited with terror”.[67] Peukert quotes policy documents on the “Treatment of Community Aliens” from 1944, which (though never implemented) showed the full intentions of Nazi social policy: “persons who … show themselves [to be] unable to comply by their own efforts with the minimum requirements of the national community” were to be placed under police supervision, and if this did not reform them, they were to be taken to a concentration camp.[68]

Leading up to the March 1933 Reichstag elections, the Nazis intensified their campaign of violence against the opposition. With the co-operation of local authorities, they set up concentration camps for extrajudicial imprisonment of their opponents. One of the first, at Dachau, opened on 9 March 1933.[69] Initially the camp primarily contained Communists and Social Democrats.[70] Other early prisons—for example, in basements and storehouses run by the Sturmabteilung (SA) and less commonly by the Schutzstaffel (SS)—were consolidated by mid-1934 into purpose-built camps outside the cities, run exclusively by the SS. The initial purpose of the camps was to serve as a deterrent by terrorizing those Germans who did not conform to the Volksgemeinschaft.[71] Those sent to the camps included the “educable”, whose wills could be broken into becoming “National Comrades”, and the “biologically depraved”, who were to be sterilized, were to be held permanently, and over time were increasingly subject to extermination through labor, i.e., being worked to death.[71]

Throughout the 1930s, the legal, economic, and social rights of Jews were steadily restricted. The Israeli historian Saul Friedländer writes that, for the Nazis, Germany drew its strength “from the purity of its blood and from its rootedness in the sacred German earth.”[72] On 1 April 1933, there occurred a boycott of Jewish businesses, which was the first national antisemitic campaign, initially planned for a week, but called off after one day owing to lack of popular support. In 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed which excluded all Jews and other “non-Aryans” from the civil service. All persons in the civil service had to obtain an Ariernachweis (Aryan certificate) in order to prove their Aryan ancestry. The first antisemitic law passed in the Third Reich; the Physicians’ Law; and the Farm Law, forbidding Jews from owning farms or taking part in agriculture.

Jewish lawyers were disbarred, and in Dresden, Jewish lawyers and judges were dragged out of their offices and courtrooms and beaten.[73] At the insistence of President Paul von Hindenburg, Hitler added an exemption allowing Jewish civil servants who were veterans of the First World War or whose fathers or sons had served, to remain in office, but he revoked this exemption in 1937, after Hindenburg’s death. Jews were excluded from schools and universities (the Law to Prevent Overcrowding in Schools), from belonging to the Journalists’ Association, and from being owners or editors of newspapers.[72] The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung of 27 April 1933 wrote:

A self-respecting nation cannot, on a scale accepted up to now, leave its higher activities in the hands of people of racially foreign origin . . . Allowing the presence of too high a percentage of people of foreign origin in relation to their percentage in the general population could be interpreted as an acceptance of the superiority of other races, something decidedly to be rejected.[74]

In July 1933, the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring calling for compulsory sterilization of the “inferior” was passed. This major eugenic policy led to over 200 Hereditary Health Courts (Erbgesundheitsgerichte) being set up, under whose rulings over 400,000 people were sterilized against their will during the Nazi period.[75]

Racial classification chart based on the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.

In 1935, Hitler introduced the Nuremberg Laws, which: prohibited “Aryans” from having sexual relations or marriages with Jews, although this was later extended to include “Gypsies, Negroes or their bastard offspring” (the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor),[76] stripped German Jews of their citizenship and deprived them of all civil rights. At the same time the Nazis used propaganda to promulgate the concept of Rassenschande (race defilement) to justify the need for a restrictive law.[77] Hitler described the “Blood Law” in particular as “the attempt at a legal regulation of a problem, which in the event of further failure would then have through law to be transferred to the final solution of the National Socialist Party”. Hitler said that if the “Jewish problem” cannot be solved by these laws, it “must then be handed over by law to the National-Socialist Party for a final solution”.[78] The “final solution“, or “Endlösung“, became the standard Nazi euphemism for the extermination of the Jews. In January 1939, he said in a public speech: “If international-finance Jewry inside and outside Europe should succeed once more in plunging the nations into yet another world war, the consequences will not be the Bolshevization of the earth and thereby the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation (vernichtung) of the Jewish race in Europe”.[79] Footage from this speech was used to conclude the 1940 Nazi propaganda movie The Eternal Jew (Der ewige Jude), whose purpose was to provide a rationale and blueprint for eliminating the Jews from Europe.[80]

Jewish intellectuals were among the first to leave. The philosopher Walter Benjamin left for Paris on 18 March 1933. Novelist Lion Feuchtwanger went to Switzerland. The conductor Bruno Walter fled after being told that the hall of the Berlin Philharmonic would be burned down if he conducted a concert there: the Frankfurter Zeitung explained on 6 April that Walter and fellow conductor Otto Klemperer had been forced to flee because the government was unable to protect them against the mood of the German public, which had been provoked by “Jewish artistic liquidators”.[81] Albert Einstein was visiting the US on 30 January 1933. He returned to Ostende in Belgium, never to set foot in Germany again, and calling events there a “psychic illness of the masses”; he was expelled from the Kaiser Wilhelm Society and the Prussian Academy of Sciences, and his citizenship was rescinded.[82] When Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Sigmund Freud and his family fled from Vienna to England. Saul Friedländer writes that when Max Liebermann, honorary president of the Prussian Academy of Arts, resigned his position, not one of his colleagues expressed a word of sympathy, and he was still ostracized at his death two years later. When the police arrived in 1943 with a stretcher to deport his 85-year-old bedridden widow, she committed suicide with an overdose of barbiturates rather than be taken.[82]

Kristallnacht (1938)

Main article: Kristallnacht

A synagogue burns on 10 November 1938.

On 7 November 1938, Jewish minor Herschel Grünspan assassinated Nazi German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris.[83] This incident was used by the Nazis as a pretext to go beyond legal repression to large-scale physical violence against Jewish Germans. What the Nazis claimed to be spontaneous “public outrage” was in fact a wave of pogroms instigated by the Nazi Party, and carried out by SA members and affiliates throughout Nazi Germany, at the time consisting of Germany proper, Austria, and Sudetenland.[83] These pogroms became known as Reichskristallnacht (“the Night of Broken Glass”, literally “Crystal Night“), or November pogroms. Jews were attacked and Jewish property was vandalized, over 7,000 Jewish shops and more than 1,200 synagogues (roughly two-thirds of the synagogues in areas under German control) were damaged or destroyed.[84]

The death toll is assumed to be much higher than the official number of 91 dead.[83] 30,000 were sent to concentration camps, including Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, and Oranienburg,[85] where they were kept for several weeks, and released when they could either prove that they were about to emigrate in the near future, or transferred their property to the Nazis.[86] German Jewry was collectively made responsible for restitution of the material damage of the pogroms, amounting to several hundred thousand Reichsmarks, and furthermore had to pay an “atonement tax” of more than a billion Reichsmarks.[83] After these pogroms, Jewish emigration from Germany accelerated, while public Jewish life in Germany ceased to exist.[83]

Resettlement and deportation

Before the war, the Nazis considered mass deportation of German (and subsequently the European) Jewry from Europe. Hitler’s agreement to the 1938–9 Schacht Plan, and the continued flight of thousands of Jews from Hitler’s clutches for an extended period when the Schacht Plan came to nothing, indicate that the preference for a concerted genocide of the type that came later did not yet exist.[87]

Nazi bureaucrats also developed plans to deport Europe’s Jews to Siberia.[88] Palestine was the only location to which any Nazi relocation plan succeeded in producing significant results, via an agreement begun in 1933 between the Zionist Federation of Germany (die Zionistische Vereinigung für Deutschland) and the Nazi government, the Haavara Agreement. This agreement resulted in the transfer of about 60,000 German Jews and $100 million from Germany to Palestine, up until the outbreak of World War II.[89]

Plans to reclaim former German colonies such as Tanganyika and South West Africa for Jewish resettlement were halted by Hitler, who argued that no place where “so much blood of heroic Germans had been spilled” should be made available as a residence for the “worst enemies of the Germans”.[90] Diplomatic efforts were undertaken to convince the other colonial powers, primarily the United Kingdom and France, to accept expelled Jews in their colonies.[91] Areas considered for possible resettlement included British Palestine,[92] Italian Abyssinia,[92] British Rhodesia,[93] French Madagascar,[92] and Australia.[94]

Of these areas, Madagascar was the most seriously discussed. Heydrich called the Madagascar Plan a “territorial final solution”; it was a remote location, and the island’s unfavorable conditions would hasten deaths.[95] Approved by Hitler in 1938, the resettlement planning was carried out by Adolf Eichmann’s office, only being abandoned once the mass killing of Jews had begun in 1941. In retrospect, although futile, this plan did constitute an important psychological step on the path to the Holocaust.[96] The end of the Madagascar Plan was announced on 10 February 1942. The German Foreign Office was given the official explanation that due to the war with the Soviet Union, Jews were to be “sent to the east”.[97]

Nazi resettlement schemes entailed taking the necessary measures to prepare the way eastwards. Ethnic Germans required more Lebensraum (living space) according to Nazi doctrine so population displacement (which included murder) and colonial settlement were intrinsically linked.[98] Once the Nazis embarked on their push eastwards through Poland and later into Russia with Operation Barbarossa, there was a radicalization in the speed and brutality of their methods. Winning land from the Russian and Slavic peoples in the east was more than just territorial aggrandizement for Hitler; it was part of the final reckoning with Jewish Bolshevism.[99]

Early measures

In German-occupied Poland

Germany’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 increased the urgency of the “Jewish Question”. Poland was home to approximately three million Jews (nearly nine percent of the population), in centuries-old communities, two-thirds of whom fell under Nazi control with Poland’s capitulation.

In September 1939, Himmler appointed Reinhard Heydrich chief of the Reich Main Security Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA). This organization was made up of seven departments, including the Security Service (SD), and the Gestapo.[100] They were to oversee the work of the SS in occupied Poland, and carry out the policy towards the Jews described in Heydrich’s report. The first organized murders of Jews by German forces occurred during Operation Tannenberg and through Selbstschutz units. Heydrich (later the Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia) recommended concentrating all the Polish Jews in ghettos in major cities, where they would be put to work for the German war industry. The ghettos would be in cities located on railway junctions to furnish, in Heydrich’s words, “a better possibility of control and later deportation.”[101] During his interrogation in 1961, Adolf Eichmann recalled that this “later deportation” actually meant “physical extermination.”[102]

I ask nothing of the Jews except that they should disappear.
— Hans Frank, Nazi governor for occupied Poland.[103]

The Jews were later herded into ghettos, mostly in the General Government area of central Poland, where they were put to work under the Reich Labor Office headed by Fritz Sauckel. Here many thousands died from maltreatment, disease, starvation, and exhaustion, but there was still no program of systematic killing. There is little doubt, however, that the Nazis saw forced labor as a form of extermination. The expression Vernichtung durch Arbeit (“destruction through work”) was frequently used.

Although it was clear by late 1941 that the SS hierarchy was determined to embark on a policy of killing all the Jews under German control, there was still opposition to this policy within the Nazi regime, although the motive was economic, not humanitarian. Hermann Göring, who had overall control of the German war industry, and the German army’s Economics Department, argued that the enormous Jewish labor force assembled in the General Government area (more than a million able-bodied workers), was an asset too valuable to waste, particularly with Germany failing to secure rapid victory over the Soviet Union.

In other occupied countries

Jewish mass grave near Zolochiv, west Ukraine (Nazi occupied USSR). Photo was found by Soviets at former Gestapo headquarters in Zolochiv.

When Germany occupied Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France in 1940, and Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941, antisemitic measures were also introduced into these countries, although the pace and severity varied greatly from country to country according to local political circumstances. Jews were removed from economic and cultural life and were subject to various restrictive laws, but physical deportation did not occur in most places before 1942. The Vichy regime in occupied France actively collaborated in persecuting French Jews. Germany’s allies Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Finland were pressured to introduce antisemitic measures, but for the most part they did not comply until compelled to do so. During the course of the war some 900 Jews and 300 Roma passed through the Banjica concentration camp in Belgrade, intended primarily for Serbian communists, royalists and others who resisted occupation. The German puppet regime in Croatia, on the other hand, began actively persecuting Jews on its own initiative, so the Legal Decree on the Nationalization of the Property of Jews and Jewish Companies was declared on 10 October 1941 in the Independent State of Croatia.

In North Africa

Though the vast majority of the Jews affected and killed during Holocaust were of Ashkenazi descent, Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews suffered greatly as well.

In the 1930s, the Fascist Italian regime passed anti-Semitic laws barring Jews from government jobs and government schools, and required them to stamp “Jewish race” into their passports.[104] But this was not enough to deter Jews from Libya, as 25% of Tripoli‘s population was Jewish, and it had over 44 synagogues.[105] In 1942, the Nazis occupied Benghazi‘s Jewish Quarter and deported more than 2,000 Jews to Nazi labor camps. By the end of WWII, about one-fifth of those who were sent away had perished.[106] Several forced labor camps for Jews were established in Libya, the largest of which, the Giado camp, held almost 2,600 inmates, of whom 562 died of weakness, hunger, and disease. Smaller labor camps were established in Gharyan, Jeren, and Tigrinna.[106][107]

Tunisia, the only North African country to come under direct Nazi occupation, had 100,000 Jews when the Nazis arrived in November 1942. During their six months of occupation, the Nazis imposed anti-Semitic policies in Tunisia, including forcing Jews to wear the Yellow Star, fines, and property confiscation. Some 5,000 Tunisian Jews were subjected to forced labor, and some were deported to European death camps.[108] More than 2,500 Tunisian Jews died in slave labor camps during the German occupation.[109]

General Government and Lublin reservation (Nisko plan)

Main articles: Nisko Plan and General Government

On 28 September 1939, Germany gained control over the Lublin area through the German-Soviet agreement in exchange for Lithuania.[110] According to the Nisko Plan, they set up the Lublin-Lipowa Reservation in the area. The reservation was designated by Adolf Eichmann, who was assigned the task of removing all Jews from Germany, Austria, and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.[111] They shipped the first Jews to Lublin on 18 October 1939. The first train loads consisted of Jews deported from Austria and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.[112] By 30 January 1940, a total of 78,000 Jews had been deported to Lublin from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.[113] On 12 and 13 February 1940, the Pomeranian Jews were deported to the Lublin reservation, resulting in Pomeranian Gauleiter Franz Schwede-Coburg to be the first to declare his Gau (country subdivision) judenrein (“free of Jews”).[114] On 24 March 1940 Göring put the Nisko Plan on hold, and abandoned it entirely by the end of April.[115] By the time the Nisko Plan was stopped, the total number of Jews who had been transported to Nisko had reached 95,000, many of whom had died from starvation.[116]

In July 1940, due to the difficulties of supporting the increased population in the General Government, Hitler had the deportations temporarily halted.[117]

In October 1940, Gauleiters Josef Bürckel and Robert Heinrich Wagner oversaw Operation Bürckel, the expulsion of the Jews into unoccupied France from their Gaues and the parts of Alsace-Lorraine that had been annexed that summer to the Reich.[118] Only those Jews in mixed marriages were not expelled.[118] The 6,500 Jews affected by Operation Bürckel were given at most two hours warning on the night of 22–23 October 1940, before being rounded up. The nine trains carrying the deported Jews crossed over into France “without any warning to the French authorities”, who were not happy with receiving them.[118] The deportees had not been allowed to take any of their possessions with them, these being confiscated by the German authorities.[118] The German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop treated the ensuing complaints by the Vichy government over the expulsions in a “most dilatory fashion”.[118] As a result, the Jews expelled in Operation Bürckel were interned in harsh conditions by the Vichy authorities at the camps in Gurs, Rivesaltes and Les Milles while awaiting a chance to return them to Germany.[118]

During 1940 and 1941, the murder of large numbers of Jews in German-occupied Poland continued, and the deportation of Jews to the General Government was undertaken. The deportation of Jews from Germany, particularly Berlin, was not officially completed until 1943. (Many Berlin Jews were able to survive in hiding.) By December 1939, 3.5 million Jews were crowded into the General Government area.

Concentration and labor camps (1933–1945)

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Horrifying pictures from the German death camps of the Nazi holocaust

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12 April 1945: Lager Nordhausen, where 20,000 inmates are believed to have died.

The Third Reich first used concentration camps as places of incarceration. And though death rates were high—with a mortality rate of 50%—they were not designed to be killing centers. After 1939, the camps increasingly became places where Jews and POWs were either killed or made to work as slave laborers, undernourished and tortured.[119] By 1942, six large camps were built in Poland solely for mass killing. It is estimated that the Germans established 15,000 camps and subcamps in the occupied countries, mostly in eastern Europe.[120][121] New camps were founded in areas with large Jewish, Polish intelligentsia, communist, or Roma and Sinti populations, including inside Germany. Prisoner transportation was often carried out under horrifying conditions in rail freight cars; many died before reaching their destination.

Extermination through labor was a policy of systematic extermination – camp inmates would literally be worked to death, or worked to physical exhaustion, when they would be gassed or shot.[122] Slave labour was used in war production, for example producing V-2 rockets at Mittelbau-Dora, and various armaments around the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex.

Some camps tattooed prisoners with an identification number on arrival.[123] Those fit for work were dispatched for 12 to 14-hour shifts. Roll calls before and after could sometimes last for hours; prisoners regularly died of exposure.[124]

Ghettos (1939–1945)

Main ghettos: Białystok, Budapest, Kraków, Kovno, Łódź, Lvov, Riga, Vilna, Warsaw

A starving child lying in the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto.

After invading Poland, the Nazis established ghettos in the incorporated territories and General Government to confine Jews. The ghettos were formed and closed off from the outside world at different times and for different reasons.[125] Ghettos were intended to be temporary until the Jews were deported. But deportation never occurred. Instead, the ghettos’ inhabitants were sent to extermination camps.

Germany required each ghetto to be run by a Judenrat (Jewish council). The first order establishing a council is contained in a 29 September 1939 letter from Heydrich to the heads of the Einsatzgruppen.[126] Councils were responsible for a ghetto’s day-to-day operations, including distributing food, water, heat, medical care, and shelter. The Germans also required councils to confiscate property, organize forced labor, and, finally, facilitate deportations to extermination camps.[127] The councils’ basic strategy was one of trying to minimise losses, largely by cooperating with Nazi authorities (or their surrogates), accepting the increasingly terrible treatment, bribery, petitioning for better conditions, and clemency.[128] Overall, to try and mitigate still worse cruelty and death, “the councils offered words, money, labor, and finally lives.”[129]

The ultimate test of each Judenrat was the demand to compile lists of names of deportees to be murdered. Though the predominant pattern was compliance with even this final task,[130] some council leaders insisted that not a single individual should be handed over who had not committed a capital crime. Leaders who refused to compile a list, such as Joseph Parnas in Lviv, were shot. On 14 October 1942, the entire council of Byaroza committed suicide rather than cooperate with the deportations.[131] Adam Czerniaków in Warsaw killed himself on 23 July 1942 when he could take no more as the final liquidation of the ghetto got under way.[132] Others, like Chaim Rumkowski, who became the “dedicated autocrat” of Łódź,[133] argued that their responsibility was to save the Jews who could be saved, and that therefore others had to be sacrificed.

The councils’ importance in facilitating Germany’s persecution and murder of ghetto inhabitants was not lost on the Nazis: one official was emphatic that “the authority of the Jewish council be upheld and strengthened under all circumstances”,[134] another that “Jews who disobey instructions of the Jewish council are to be treated as saboteurs.”[135] When cooperation crumbled, as happened in the Warsaw ghetto after the Jewish Combat Organisation displaced the council’s authority, the Germans lost control.[136]

The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest, with 380,000 people; the Łódź Ghetto was second, holding 160,000. They were, in effect, immensely crowded prisons serving as instruments of “slow, passive murder.”[137] Though the Warsaw Ghetto contained 30% of Warsaw’s population, it occupied only 2.4% of the city’s area, averaging 9.2 people per room.[138]

Between 1940 and 1942, starvation and disease, especially typhoid, killed hundreds of thousands. Over 43,000 Warsaw ghetto residents, or one in ten of the total population, died in 1941;[138] in Theresienstadt, more than half the residents died in 1942.[137]

The Germans came, the police, and they started banging houses: “Raus, raus, raus, Juden raus.” … [O]ne baby started to cry … The other baby started crying. So the mother urinated in her hand and gave the baby a drink to keep quiet … [When the police had gone], I told the mothers to come out. And one baby was dead … from fear, the mother [had] choked her own baby.

— Abraham Malik, describing his experience in the Kovno Ghetto[139]

Himmler ordered the start of the deportations on 19 July 1942, and three days later, on 22 July, the deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto began; over the next 52 days, until 12 September 300,000 people from Warsaw alone were transported in freight trains to the Treblinka extermination camp. Many other ghettos were completely depopulated.

Further information: Timeline of Treblinka

The first ghetto uprising occurred in September 1942 in the small town of Łachwa in southeast Poland. Although there were armed resistance attempts in the larger ghettos in 1943, such as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Białystok Ghetto Uprising, in every case they failed against the overwhelming Nazi military force, and the remaining Jews were either killed or deported to the death camps.[140]

Pogroms (1939–1942)

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Emaciated prisoners of a Nazi concentration camp in Ebensee

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A number of deadly pogroms occurred during the Second World War. The Nazis encouraged some and others were spontaneous. Notable are the Iaşi pogrom in Romania on 30 June 1941, in which as many as 14,000 Jews were killed by Romanian residents and police. In the infamous series of Lviv pogroms committed in occupied Poland by nationalists from the Ukrainian People’s Militia in Lwów (now, Ukraine), some 6,000 Polish Jews were murdered in the streets between June 30 and July 29, 1941, on top of 3,000 arrests and mass shootings by Einsatzgruppe C.[141][142] Other pogroms perpetrated by the Ukrainian militia in Polish provincial capitals included Łuck and Tarnopol. During the Jedwabne pogrom of July 1941, in the presence of the Nazi Ordnungspolizei 300 Jews were burned to death in a locked barn by local Poles, which was preceded by German execution of 40 Jewish men at the same location.[a]

Death squads (1941–1943)

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einsatzgruppen actual footage

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Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 opened a new phase in the Holocaust. Even before the invasion of the Soviet Union, German troops had been indoctrinated with anti-Bolshevik, anti-Semitic and anti-Slavic ideology via movies, radio, lectures, books and leaflets.[147] Following the invasion, Wehrmacht officers told their soldiers to target people who were described as “Jewish Bolshevik subhumans”, the “Mongol hordes”, the “Asiatic flood” and the “red beast”.[148] Nazi propaganda portrayed the war against the Soviet Union as both an ideological war between German National Socialism and Jewish Bolshevism and a racial war between the Germans and the Bolsheviks, Jews, Gypsies and Slavic Untermenschen (“sub-humans”).[149] Hitler on 30 March 1941 described the war with the Soviet Union as a “war of annihilation”.[150] The pace of extermination intensified after the Nazis occupied Lithuania, where close to 80% of the country’s 220,000 Jews were exterminated before year’s end.[151] The Soviet territories occupied by early 1942, including all of Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Moldova and most Russian territory west of the line Leningrad-Moscow-Rostov, contained about three million Jews at the start of the war.

Executions of Jews by German army mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) near Ivanhorod, now Ukraine. The photo was mailed from the Eastern Front to Germany and intercepted by a member of the Polish resistance.

Local populations in some occupied Soviet territories actively participated in the killings of Jews and others.[152] But it was ultimately the Germans who organized and channelled these local efforts.[152] Due to shortage of manpower, an order of February 1943 forbid anyone to characterize the peoples of Eastern Europe as “beasts,” “subhumans” or other derogatory descriptions in order to gain their support in “the struggle against Bolshevism.”[153][154] Many of the collaborators enlisted in the Waffen-SS participated in the killings of Jews.[155] In Lithuania, Latvia, and western Ukraine locals were deeply involved in the murder of Jews from the very beginning of the German occupation.[152] The Latvian Arajs Kommando are an example of an auxiliary unit involved in these killings.[152] And Latvian and Lithuanian units left their own countries to murder Jews in Belarus. To the south, Ukrainians killed approximately 24,000 Jews.[152] Some Ukrainians went to Poland where they served as concentration and death-camp guards.[152] Ustaše militia in Croatian areas also carried out acts of persecution and murder.

Einsatzgruppe A; members execute Jews on the outskirts of Kovno, 1941-1942.

Many of the mass killings were carried out in public, a change from previous practice.[152] German witnesses to these killings emphasized the locals’ participation.[152]

The large-scale killings of Jews in the occupied Soviet territories was assigned to SS formations called Einsatzgruppen (“task groups”), which were under Heydrich’s overall command. These had been used to a limited extent in Poland in 1939, but were organized in the Soviet territories on a much larger scale. Einsatzgruppe A was assigned to the Baltic area, Einsatzgruppe B to Belarus, Einsatzgruppe C to north and central Ukraine, and Einsatzgruppe D to Moldova, south Ukraine, Crimea, and, during 1942, the north Caucasus.[156] The Einsatzgruppen’s commanders were ordinary citizens: the great majority were professionals, most were intellectuals, and they brought to bear all their skills and training in becoming efficient killers.[157]

According to Otto Ohlendorf at his trial, “the Einsatzgruppen had the mission to protect the rear of the troops by killing the Jews, Gypsies, Communist functionaries, active Communists, and all persons who would endanger the security.” In practice, their victims were nearly all defenseless Jewish civilians (not a single Einsatzgruppe member was killed in action during these operations). By December 1941, the four Einsatzgruppen had killed, respectively, 125,000, 45,000, 75,000, and 55,000 people—a total of 300,000 people—mainly by shooting or with hand grenades at mass-killing sites outside the major towns.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum provides the account of one survivor of the Einsatzgruppen in Piryatin, Ukraine, when the Germans killed 1,600 Jews on 6 April 1942, the second day of Passover:

I saw them do the killing. At 5:00 pm they gave the command, “Fill in the pits.” Screams and groans were coming from the pits. Suddenly I saw my neighbor Ruderman rise from under the soil … His eyes were bloody and he was screaming: “Finish me off!” … A murdered woman lay at my feet. A boy of five years crawled out from under her body and began to scream desperately. “Mommy!” That was all I saw, since I fell unconscious.[158]

Men forced to dig their own graves by Einsatzgruppe troops, Šiauliai, July 1941.

The most notorious massacre of Jews in the Soviet Union was at a ravine called Babi Yar outside Kiev, where 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation on 29–30 September 1941.[159] The decision to kill all the Jews in Kiev was made by the military governor Major-General Friedrich Eberhardt, the Police Commander for Army Group South SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, and the Einsatzgruppe C Commander Otto Rasch. A mixture of SS, SD, and Security Police, assisted by Ukrainian police, carried out the killings. Although they did not participate in the killings, men of the 6th Army played a key role in rounding up the Jews of Kiev and transporting them to be shot at Babi Yar.[160]

On 29 September Kiev’s Jews gathered by the cemetery as ordered, expecting to be loaded onto trains. The crowd was large enough that most of the men, women, and children could not have known what was happening until it was too late; by the time they heard the machine gun fire, there was no chance to escape. All were driven down a corridor of soldiers, in groups of ten, and shot. A truck driver described the scene:

one after the other, they had to remove their luggage, then their coats, shoes, and outer garments and also underwear … Once undressed, they were led into the ravine which was about 150 meters long and 30 meters wide and a good 15 meters deep … When they reached the bottom of the ravine they were seized by members of the Schutzpolizei and made to lie down on top of Jews who had already been shot … The corpses were literally in layers. A police marksman came along and shot each Jew in the neck with a submachine gun … I saw these marksmen stand on layers of corpses and shoot one after the other … The marksman would walk across the bodies of the executed Jews to the next Jew, who had meanwhile lain down, and shoot him.[161]

From left to right; Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, and Karl Wolff (second from the right) at the Obersalzberg, May 1939. Wolff wrote in his diary that Himmler had vomited after witnessing the mass shooting of 100 Jews.[162]

In August 1941 Himmler travelled to Minsk, where he personally witnessed 100 Jews being shot in a ditch outside the town. Karl Wolff described the event in his diary: “Himmler’s face was green. He took out his handkerchief and wiped his cheek where a piece of brain had squirted up onto it. Then he vomited. After recovering his composure, Himmler lectured the SS men on the need to follow the “highest moral law of the Party” in carrying out their tasks.[163]

Germany usually justified the Einsatzgruppen’s massacres on the grounds of anti-Bolshevik, anti-partisan or anti-bandit operations, but the German historian Andreas Hillgruber wrote that this was merely an excuse for the German Army’s considerable involvement in the Holocaust in Russia. He wrote in 1989 that the terms “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” were indeed correct labels for what happened.[164] Hillgruber maintained that the slaughter of about 2.2 million defenseless men, women, and children based on a racist ideology cannot possibly be justified for any reason, and that those German generals who claimed that the Einsatzgruppen were a necessary anti-partisan response were lying.[165]

Army co-operation with the SS in anti-Bolshevik, anti-partisan and anti-Jewish operations was close and intensive.[166] In mid-1941, the SS Cavalry Brigade, commanded by Hermann Fegelein, killed 699 Red Army soldiers, 1,100 partisans, and 14,178 Jews during the course of “anti-partisan” operations in the Pripyat Marshes.[166] Before the operation, Fegelein had been ordered to shoot all adult Jews and herd the women and children into the marshes. After the operation, General Max von Schenckendorff, who commanded the rear areas of Army Group Center, ordered that all Wehrmacht security divisions should emulate Fegelein’s example when on anti-partisan duty, and organized a joint SS-Wehrmacht seminar on how best to kill Jews.[166] The seminar ended with the 7th Company of Police Battalion 322 shooting 32 Jews before the assembled officers at a village called Knjashizy as an example of how to “screen” the population for partisans.[167]

As the war diary of the Battalion 322 read:

The action, first scheduled as a training exercise, was carried out under real-life conditions (ernstfallmässig) in the village itself. Strangers, especially partisans could not be found. The screening of the population, however resulted in 13 Jews, 27 Jewish women and 11 Jewish children, of which 13 Jews and 19 Jewish women were shot in co-operation with the Security Service[167]

Based on what they had learned during the Mogilev seminar, one Wehrmacht officer told his men: “Where the partisan is, there is the Jew and where the Jew is, there is the partisan”.[167]

Head of the OKW, Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, in an order on 12 September 1941, declared:

The struggle against Bolshevism demands ruthless and energetic, rigorous action above all against the Jews, the main carriers of Bolshevism.[168]

In Order No. 24 24 November 1941, the commander of the 707th division declared:

Jews and Gypsies:…As already has been ordered, the Jews have to vanish from the flat country and the Gypsies have to be annihilated too. The carrying out of larger Jewish actions is not the task of the divisional units. They are carried out by civilian or police authorities, if necessary ordered by the commandant of White Ruthenia, if he has special units at his disposal, or for security reasons and in the case of collective punishments. When smaller or larger groups of Jews are met in the flat country, they can be liquidated by divisional units or be massed in the ghettos near bigger villages designated for that purpose, where they can be handed over to the civilian authority or the SD.[169]

Jürgen Förster, a leading expert on the Wehrmacht’s war crimes, argued that the Wehrmacht played a key role in the Holocaust. He said it is wrong to describe the Shoah as solely the work of the SS with the Wehrmacht as a passive and disapproving bystander.[170]

New methods of mass murder

Starting in December 1939, the Nazis introduced new methods of mass murder by using gas.[171] First, experimental gas vans equipped with gas cylinders and a sealed trunk compartment, were used to kill mental-care clients of sanatoria in Pomerania, East Prussia, and occupied Poland, as part of an operation termed Action T4.[171] In the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, larger vans holding up to 100 people were used from November 1941, using the engine’s exhaust rather than a cylinder.[171] These vans were introduced to the Chełmno extermination camp in December 1941, and another 15 of them were used by the Einsatzgruppen in the occupied Soviet Union.[171] These gas vans were developed and run under supervision of the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office) and were used to kill about 500,000 people, primarily Jews but also Romani and others.[171] The vans were carefully monitored and after a month of observation a report stated that “ninety seven thousand have been processed using three vans, without any defects showing up in the machines”.[172]

A need for new mass murder techniques was also expressed by Hans Frank, governor of the General Government, who noted that this many people could not be simply shot. “We shall have to take steps, however, designed in some way to eliminate them.” It was this problem which led the SS to experiment with large-scale killings using poison gas. Christian Wirth seems to have been the inventor of the gas chamber.

Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution (1942–1945)

The dining room of the Wannsee villa, where the Wannsee conference took place. The 15 men seated at the table on 20 January 1942 to discuss the “final solution of the Jewish question[173] were considered the best and the brightest in the Reich.[174]

Facsimiles of the minutes of the Wannsee Conference. This page lists the number of Jews in every European country.

The railway line leading to the death camp at Auschwitz II (Birkenau).

Empty poison gas canisters used to kill inmates, along with piles of hair shaven from their heads, are stored in the museum at Auschwitz II.

The ruins of the Crematorium II gas chamber at Auschwitz II (Birkenau). Holocaust scholar Robert Jan van Pelt comments that more people lost their lives in this room than in any other room on Earth: 500,000 people.[175]

The Nazis methodically tracked the progress of the Holocaust in thousands of reports and documents. Pictured is the Höfle Telegram sent to Adolf Eichmann in January 1943, that reported that 1,274,166 Jews had been killed in the four Aktion Reinhard camps during 1942.

Reinhard Heydrich convened the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942 in Berlin’s Wannsee suburb. It brought together 15 Nazi leaders, including a number of state secretaries, senior officials, party leaders, SS officers, and other leaders of government departments responsible for policies linked to Jewish issues. The conference’s initial purpose was to discuss plans for a comprehensive solution to the “Jewish question in Europe.” Heydrich intended to “outline the mass murders in the various occupied territories . . . as part of a solution to the European Jewish question ordered by Hitler . . . to ensure that they, and especially the ministerial bureaucracy, would share both knowledge and responsibility for this policy.”[176]

List of Jewish populations by country used at the Wannsee Conference in 1942.

A copy of the minutes drawn up by Eichmann has survived, but on Heydrich’s instructions, they were written in “euphemistic language” so the exact words used at the meeting are not known.[177] But Heydrich announced that the emigration policy was superseded by a policy of evacuating Jews to the east. This was seen to be only a temporary solution leading up to a final solution that would involve some 11 million Jews living not only in territories then controlled by Germany, but in major countries in the rest of the world including the UK and the US.[178] There was little doubt what the solution was: “Heydrich also made it clear what was understood by the phrase ‘Final Solution’: the Jews were to be annihilated by a combination of forced labour and mass murder.”[179]

The officials were told there were 2.3 million Jews in the General Government, 850,000 in Hungary, 1.1 million in the other occupied countries, and up to five million in the USSR, although two million of these were in areas still under Soviet control – a total of about 6.5 million. These would all be transported by train to extermination camps (Vernichtungslager) in Poland, where almost all of them would be gassed at once. In some camps, such as Auschwitz, those fit for work would be kept alive for a while, but eventually all would be killed. Göring’s representative, Dr. Erich Neumann, gained a limited exemption for some classes of industrial workers.[180]

Reaction

German public

In his 1983 book, Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich, Ian Kershaw examined the Alltagsgeschichte (history of everyday life) in Bavaria during the Nazi period.[181] Describing the attitudes of most Bavarians, Kershaw argued that the most common viewpoint was indifference towards what was happening to the Jews.[182] Kershaw argued that most Bavarians were vaguely aware of the Shoah, but were vastly more concerned about the war than about the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”.[182] Kershaw made the analogy that “the road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference”.[183]

Kershaw’s assessment that most Bavarians, and by implication most Germans, were indifferent to the Shoah faced criticism from the Israeli historian Otto Dov Kulka, an expert on public opinion in Nazi Germany, and the Canadian historian Michael Kater. Kater maintained that Kershaw downplayed the extent of popular antisemitism, and that though admitting that most of the “spontaneous” antisemitic actions of Nazi Germany were staged, argued that because these actions involved substantial numbers of Germans, it is wrong to see the extreme antisemitism of the Nazis as coming solely from above.[184] Kulka argued that most Germans were more antisemitic than Kershaw portrayed them in Popular Opinion and Political Dissent, and that rather than “indifference”, “passive complicity” would be a better term to describe the reaction of the German people.[185]

In a study focusing only on the views about Jews or Germans opposed to the Nazi regime, the German historian Christof Dipper in his 1983 essay “Der Deutsche Widerstand und die Juden” (translated into English as “The German Resistance and the Jews” in Yad Vashem Studies, Volume 16, 1984) argued that the majority of the anti-Nazi national-conservatives were antisemitic.[184] Dipper wrote that for the majority of the national-conservatives “the bureaucratic, pseudo-legal deprivation of the Jews practiced until 1938 was still considered acceptable”.[184] Though Dipper noted no one in the German resistance supported the Holocaust, he also commented that the national-conservatives did not intend to restore civil rights to the Jews after the planned overthrow of Hitler.[184] Dipper went on to argue that, based on such views held by opponents of the regime, “a large part of the German people … believed that a “Jewish Question” existed and had to be solved …”.[184]

A study conducted in 2012 established that in Berlin alone there were 3,000 camps of various functions, another 1,300 were in Hamburg and its co-researcher concluded that it is unlikely that the German population could avoid knowing about the persecution considering such prevalence.[11] Robert Gellately has argued that the German civilian population were, by and large, aware of what was happening. According to Gellately, the government openly announced the conspiracy through the media and civilians were aware of its every aspect except for the use of gas chambers.[186] In contrast, some historical evidence indicates that the vast majority of Holocaust victims, prior to their deportation to concentration camps, were either unaware of the fate that awaited them or were in denial; they honestly believed that they were to be resettled.[187]

International

Motivation

In his 1965 essay “Command and Compliance”, which originated in his work as an expert witness for the prosecution at the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials, the German historian Hans Buchheim wrote there was no coercion to murder Jews and others, and all who committed such actions did so out of free will.[188] Buchheim wrote that chances to avoid executing criminal orders “were both more numerous and more real than those concerned are generally prepared to admit”,[188] and that he found no evidence that SS men who refused to carry out criminal orders were sent to concentration camps or executed.[189] Moreover, SS rules prohibited acts of gratuitous sadism, as Himmler wished for his men to remain “decent”, and that acts of sadism were taken on the individual initiative of those who were either especially cruel or who wished to prove themselves ardent National Socialists.[188] Finally, he argued that those of a non-criminal bent who committed crimes did so because they wished to conform to the values of the group they had joined and were afraid of being branded “weak” by their colleagues if they refused.[190]

In his 1992 monograph Ordinary Men, the Holocaust historian Christopher Browning examined the deeds of German Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the Ordnungspolizei (Order Police), used to commit massacres and round-ups of Jews as well as mass deportations to the Nazi death camps. The members of the battalion were middle-aged men of working-class background from Hamburg, who were too old for regular military duty. They were given no special training for genocide and at first, the commander gave his men the choice of opting out of direct participation in murder of 1,500 Jews from Józefów if they found it too unpleasant. The majority chose not to exercise that option; fewer than 12 men, out of a battalion of 500 did so on that occasion. Influenced by postwar Milgram experiment on obedience, Browning argued that the men of the battalion killed out of peer pressure, not blood-lust.[191]

The Russian historian Sergei Kudryashov similarly to Browning studied the guards trained at the Trawniki SS camp division (“Trawniki men“), who provided the bulk of personnel for the Operation Reinhard death camps, and performed massacres for Battalion 101. Most of them were former Red Army soldiers who volunteered to join the SS in order to get out of the POW camps.[192] Christopher R. Browning wrote that Hiwis “were screened on the basis of their anti-Communist (and hence almost invariably anti-Semitic) sentiments.”[193] The majority of the “volunteers” were from Ukraine, but also from Latvia and Lithuania (Hilfswillige, or Hiwis).[193] Kudryashov claimed that prior to their capture many had been Communists.[194] The vast majority faithfully carried out the SS’s expectations of how to mistreat Jews.[194] Almost all Trawniki men working as guards in the Operation Reinhard camps personally killed an unknown number of Jews.[195] Following Christopher Browning, Kudryashov argued that the Trawniki men were examples of ordinary people becoming willing killers.[196]

The “Trawniki men” were deployed in all major killing sites of the “Final Solution” – it was their primary purpose of training. They took an active role in the executions of Jews at Belzec, Sobibór, Treblinka II, Warsaw (three times), Częstochowa, Lublin, Lvov, Radom, Kraków, Białystok (twice), Majdanek as well as Auschwitz, not to mention Trawniki itself,[193] and the remaining subcamps of KL Lublin/Majdanek camp complex including Poniatowa, Budzyń, Kraśnik, Puławy, Lipowa, and also during massacres in Łomazy, Międzyrzec, Łuków, Radzyń, Parczew, Końskowola, Komarówka and other locations.[197]

Extermination camps

Main article: Extermination camp
Approx. number killed at each extermination camp[198]
Camp name Killed Coordinates Ref.
Auschwitz II 1,000,000 50°2′9″N 19°10′42″E / 50.03583°N 19.17833°E / 50.03583; 19.17833 (Oświęcim (Auschwitz, Poland)) [199][200][201]
Belzec 600,000 50°22′18″N 23°27′27″E / 50.37167°N 23.45750°E / 50.37167; 23.45750 (Belzec (Poland)) [202][203]
Chełmno 320,000 52°9′27″N 18°43′43″E / 52.15750°N 18.72861°E / 52.15750; 18.72861 (Chełmno (Poland)) [204][205]
Jasenovac 58–97,000 45°16′54″N 16°56′6″E / 45.28167°N 16.93500°E / 45.28167; 16.93500 (Jasenovac (Sisačko-Moslavačka, Croatia)) [206][207][208]
Majdanek 360,000 51°13′13″N 22°36′0″E / 51.22028°N 22.60000°E / 51.22028; 22.60000 (Majdanek (Poland)) [209][210]
Maly Trostinets 65,000 53°51′4″N 27°42′17″E / 53.85111°N 27.70472°E / 53.85111; 27.70472 (Malyy Trostenets (Belarus)) [211][212]
Sobibór 250,000 51°26′50″N 23°35′37″E / 51.44722°N 23.59361°E / 51.44722; 23.59361 (Sobibór (Poland)) [213][214]
Treblinka 870,000 52°37′35″N 22°2′49″E / 52.62639°N 22.04694°E / 52.62639; 22.04694 (Treblinka (Poland)) [215][216]

During 1942, in addition to Auschwitz, five other camps were designated as extermination camps (Vernichtungslager) for the carrying out of the Reinhard plan.[217][218] Two of these, Chełmno[219] and Majdanek, were already functioning as, respectively, a labor camp and a POW camp: these now had extermination facilities added to them. Three new camps were built for the sole purpose of killing large numbers of Jews as quickly as possible, at Belzec, Sobibór and Treblinka, but Auschwitz was the most radically transformed in terms of systematic killing.[220] A seventh camp, at Maly Trostinets in Belarus, was also used for this purpose. Jasenovac was an extermination camp where mostly ethnic Serbs were killed.

Extermination camps are frequently confused with concentration camps such as Dachau and Belsen, which were mostly located in Germany and intended as places of incarceration and forced labor for a variety of enemies of the Nazi regime (such as Communists and homosexuals). They should also be distinguished from slave labor camps, which were set up in all German-occupied countries to exploit the labor of prisoners of various kinds, including prisoners of war. In all Nazi camps there were very high death rates as a result of starvation, disease and exhaustion, but only the extermination camps were designed specifically for mass killing.

There was a place called the ramp where the trains with the Jews were coming in. They were coming in day and night, and sometimes one per day and sometimes five per day . . . Constantly, people from the heart of Europe were disappearing, and they were arriving to the same place with the same ignorance of the fate of the previous transport. And the people in this mass . . . I knew that within a couple of hours . . . ninety percent would be gassed.

— Rudolf Vrba, who worked on the Judenrampe in Auschwitz from August 18, 1942 to June 7, 1943.[137]

There were another few “concentration” camps, such as the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in pre-war Austria, which were designed as Extermination through labor camps. These were specifically for the process where very extreme hard labor was deliberately intended to murder. This is in contrast to those concentration camps, where the murder was “incidental” to the extremely harsh conditions.

Gas chambers

At the extermination camps with gas chambers all the prisoners arrived by train. Sometimes entire trainloads were sent straight to the gas chambers, but usually the camp doctor on duty subjected individuals to selections, where a small percentage were deemed fit to work in the slave labor camps; the majority were taken directly from the platforms to a reception area where all their clothes and other possessions were seized by the Nazis to help fund the war. They were then herded naked into the gas chambers. Usually they were told these were showers or delousing chambers, and there were signs outside saying “baths” and “sauna.” They were sometimes given a small piece of soap and a towel so as to avoid panic, and were told to remember where they had put their belongings for the same reason. When they asked for water because they were thirsty after the long journey in the cattle trains, they were told to hurry up, because coffee was waiting for them in the camp, and it was getting cold.[221]

Picture of Auschwitz–Birkenau taken by an American surveillance plane, 13 September 1944.

According to Rudolf Höss, commandant of Auschwitz, bunker 1 held 800 people, and bunker 2 held 1,200.[222] Once the chamber was full, the doors were screwed shut and solid pellets of Zyklon-B were dropped into the chambers through vents in the side walls, releasing toxic HCN, or hydrogen cyanide. Those inside died within 20 minutes; the speed of death depended on how close the inmate was standing to a gas vent, according to Höß, who estimated that about one-third of the victims died immediately.[223] Johann Kremer, an SS doctor who oversaw the gassings, testified that: “Shouting and screaming of the victims could be heard through the opening and it was clear that they fought for their lives.”[224] When they were removed, if the chamber had been very congested, as they often were, the victims were found half-squatting, their skin colored pink with red and green spots, some foaming at the mouth or bleeding from the ears.[223]

The gas was then pumped out, the bodies were removed (which would take up to four hours), gold fillings in their teeth were extracted with pliers by dentist prisoners, and women’s hair was cut.[225] The floor of the gas chamber was cleaned, and the walls whitewashed.[224] The work was done by the Sonderkommando, which were work units of Jewish prisoners. In crematoria 1 and 2, the Sonderkommando lived in an attic above the crematoria; in crematoria 3 and 4, they lived inside the gas chambers.[226] When the Sonderkommando had finished with the bodies, the SS conducted spot checks to make sure all the gold had been removed from the victims’ mouths. If a check revealed that gold had been missed, the Sonderkommando prisoner responsible was thrown into the furnace alive as punishment.[227]

At first, the bodies were buried in deep pits and covered with lime, but between September and November 1942, on the orders of Himmler, they were dug up and burned. In early 1943, new gas chambers and crematoria were built to accommodate the numbers.[228]

Another improvement we made over Treblinka was that we built our gas chambers to accommodate 2,000 people at one time, whereas at Treblinka their 10 gas chambers only accommodated 200 people each. The way we selected our victims was as follows: we had two SS doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the incoming transports of prisoners. The prisoners would be marched by one of the doctors who would make spot decisions as they walked by. Those who were fit for work were sent into the Camp. Others were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of tender years were invariably exterminated, since by reason of their youth they were unable to work. Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process. Of course, frequently they realized our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties due to that fact. Very frequently women would hide their children under the clothes but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated. We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy but of course the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz.

— Rudolf Höss, Auschwitz camp commandant, Nuremberg testimony.[229]

Jewish resistance

Jews captured and forcibly pulled out from dugouts by the Germans during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The photo is from Jurgen Stroop‘s report to Heinrich Himmler.

Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

In his study, Peter Longerich observes: “On the Jewish side there was practically no resistance.”[230] Hilberg accounts for this compliant attitude by evoking the history of Jewish persecution: as had been the case so many times before down through the centuries, simply appealing to their oppressors, and complying with orders, would hopefully avoid inflaming the situation and so mitigate the damage done to the Jews until the onslaught abated. “There were many casualties in these times of stress, but always the Jewish community emerged once again like a rock from a receding tidal wave. The Jews had never disappeared from the earth.” They were “caught in the straitjacket of their history”, and the realisation that this time was different came too late.[231]

In The Destruction of the European Jews, Raul Hilberg noted:

The reaction pattern of the Jews is characterized by [an] almost complete lack of resistance. In marked contrast to German propaganda, the documentary evidence of Jewish resistance, overt or submerged, is very slight. On a European-wide scale the Jews had no resistance organization, no blueprint for armed action, no plan even for psychological warfare. They were completely unprepared.
… Measured in German casualties, Jewish armed opposition shrinks into insignificance.
… A large component of the entire [destruction] process depended on Jewish participation, from the simple acts of individuals to the organized activity in councils.
… Jewish resistance organizations attempting to reverse the mass inertia spoke the words: “Do not be led like sheep to slaughter.”
Franz Stangl, who had commanded two death camps, was asked in a West German prison about his reaction to the Jewish victims. He said that only recently he had read a book about lemmings. It reminded him of Treblinka.[232]

Armed members of the Jewish resistance, the Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye, active in the Vilnius Ghetto. The motto of the FPO was “We will not allow them to take us like sheep to the slaughter.”[233]

Discussing the case of Warsaw, Timothy Snyder notes in a similar vein that it was only during the three months after the massive deportations of July–September 1942 that general agreement on the need for armed resistance was reached, and lays the passivity emanating from the conservative center of Jewish politics at the door of the overall success the Jewish community had enjoyed by engaging in a quid pro quo with the pre-war Polish government.[234] By the time of the biggest act of armed resistance, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of spring 1943, only a small minority of Polish Jews were still alive.[230]

Yehuda Bauer and other historians argue that resistance consisted not only of physical opposition, but of any activity that gave the Jews dignity and humanity in humiliating and inhumane conditions.[235]

In every ghetto, in every deportation train, in every labor camp, even in the death camps, the will to resist was strong, and took many forms. Fighting with the few weapons that would be found, individual acts of defiance and protest, the courage of obtaining food and water under the threat of death, the superiority of refusing to allow the Germans their final wish to gloat over panic and despair.

Even passivity was a form of resistance. To die with dignity was a form of resistance. To resist the demoralizing, brutalizing force of evil, to refuse to be reduced to the level of animals, to live through the torment, to outlive the tormentors, these too were acts of resistance. Merely to give a witness of these events in testimony was, in the end, a contribution to victory. Simply to survive was a victory of the human spirit.

— Martin Gilbert. The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy.[236]

Captured members of the Jewish resistance, Warsaw Ghetto, 1943.

Hilberg argued against overstating the extent of Jewish resistance, or using all-encompassing definitions of it like that deployed by Gilbert. “When relatively isolated or episodic acts of resistance are represented as typical, a basic characteristic of the German measures is obscured”, namely that the merciless slaughter of peaceable innocent people is turned into some kind of battle. “The inflation of resistance has another consequence which has been of concern to those Jews who have regarded themselves as the actual resisters. If heroism is an attribute that should be assigned to every member of the European Jewish community, it will diminish the accomplishment of the few who took action.” Finally, the blending of the passive majority with the active few was “not merely a form of dilution, which blurred the multitudinous problems of organizing a defense in a cautious, reluctant Jewish community; it was also a way of shutting off a great many questions about that community, its reasoning and survival strategy.” Without posing these questions, Jewish history could not be written.[237]

The most well known example of Jewish armed resistance was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of January 1943, when thousands of poorly armed Jewish fighters held the SS at bay for four weeks before being crushed by overwhelmingly superior forces. According to Jewish accounts, several hundred Germans were killed, while the Germans claimed to have lost 17 dead and 93 wounded. 13,000 Jews were killed, 57,885 were deported and gassed according to German figures. This uprising was followed by the revolt in the Treblinka extermination camp in May 1943, when about 200 inmates escaped from the camp. They overpowered and killed a number of German guards and set the camp buildings ablaze, but 900 inmates were also killed, and out of the 600 who successfully escaped, only 40 survived the war. Two weeks later, there was an uprising in the Białystok Ghetto. The uprising was launched on the night of 16 August 1943 and was the second-largest ghetto uprising organized in Nazi-occupied Poland after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April–May 1943.[238] The revolt began upon the German announcement of mass deportations from the Ghetto. A group of 300 to 500 Jewish insurgents armed with 25 rifles, 100 pistols and home-made Molotov cocktails attacked the overwhelmingly larger German force.

In September, there was a short-lived uprising in the Vilna Ghetto. The armed Jewish resistance group Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (United Partisan Organization), which was one of the first resistance organizations established in the Nazi ghettos during World War II, was formed to defend the ghetto population and sabotage German industrial and military activities. When the Nazis came to liquidate the ghetto in September 1943, members of the FPO fled to the forest and fought with the partisans. In October, 600 Jewish prisoners, including Jewish Soviet prisoners of war, attempted an escape at the Sobibór death camp. The prisoners killed 11 German SS officers and a number of camp guards. However, the killings were discovered, and the inmates were forced to run for their lives under heavy fire. Three hundred of the prisoners were killed during the escape. Most of the survivors either died in the minefields surrounding the camp or were recaptured and executed. About 60 survived and joined the Soviet partisans. On 7 October 1944, 250 Jewish Sonderkommandos (laborers) at Auschwitz attacked their guards and blew up Crematorium IV with explosives that female prisoners had smuggled-in from a nearby factory. Three German guards were killed during the uprising, one of whom was stuffed into an oven. The Sonderkommandos attempted a mass breakout, but all 250 were killed soon afterwards.

Jewish Soviet POW captured by the German Army, August 1941. About 500,000 Jews served in the Soviet Army during World War II.

An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Jewish partisans (see the list at the top of this section) actively fought the Nazis and their collaborators in Eastern Europe.[13][14] They engaged in guerilla warfare and sabotage against the Nazis, instigated Ghetto uprisings, and freed prisoners. In Lithuania alone, they killed approximately 3,000 German soldiers. As many as 1.4 million Jewish soldiers fought in the Allied armies.[239] including 500,000 in the Red Army, 550,000 in the U.S. Army, 100,000 in the Polish army and 30,000 in the British army.[240] About 200,000 Jewish soldiers serving in the Red Army died in the war.[241] The Jewish Brigade, a unit of 5,000 Jewish volunteers from the British Mandate of Palestine, fought in the British Army. German-speaking Jewish volunteers from the Special Interrogation Group performed commando and sabotage operations against the Nazis behind front lines in the Western Desert Campaign.

In occupied Poland and Soviet territories, thousands of Jews fled into the swamps or forests and joined the partisans, although the partisan movements did not always welcome them. In Lithuania and Belarus, an area with a heavy concentration of Jews, and also an area which suited partisan operations, Jewish partisan groups saved thousands of Jewish civilians from extermination. No such opportunities existed for the Jewish populations of cities such as Budapest. However, in Amsterdam, and other parts of the Netherlands, many Jews were active in the Dutch Resistance.[242] Timothy Snyder wrote that “Other combatants in the Warsaw Uprising were veterans of the ghetto uprising of 1943. Most of these Jews joined the Home Army; others found the People’s Army, or even the antisemitic National Armed Forces. Some Jews (or Poles of Jewish origin) were already enlisted in the Home Army and the People’s Army. Almost certainly, more Jews fought in the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944 than in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April 1943.”[243] Joining the partisans was an option only for the young and the fit who were willing to leave their families. Many Jewish families preferred to die together rather than be separated.

French Jews were also highly active in the French Resistance, which conducted a guerilla campaign against the Nazis and Vichy French authorities, assisted the Allies in their sweep across France, and supported Allied including Free French forces in the liberation of many occupied French cities. Although Jews made up only one percent of the French population, they made up fifteen to twenty percent of the French Resistance.[244] The Jewish youth movement EEIF, which had originally shown support for the Vichy regime, was banned in 1943, and many of its older members formed armed resistance units. Zionist Jews also formed the Armee Juive (Jewish Army), which participated in armed resistance under a Zionist flag, and smuggled Jews out of the country. Both organizations merged in 1944, and participated in the liberation of Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Grenoble, and Nice.[245]

Many people think the Jews went to their deaths like sheep to the slaughter, and that’s not true—it’s absolutely not true. I worked closely with many Jewish people in the Resistance, and I can tell you, they took much greater risks than I did.

— Pieter Meerburg[246]

SS troops stand near the bodies of Jews who committed suicide rather than be captured, Warsaw Ghetto, 1943.

For the great majority of Jews, resistance could take only the passive forms of delay, evasion, negotiation, bargaining and where possible, bribery of German officials. The Nazis encouraged this by forcing the Jewish communities to police themselves, through bodies such as the Reich Association of Jews (Reichsvereinigung der Juden) in Germany and the Jewish Councils (Judenräte) in the urban ghettos in occupied Poland. They held out the promise of concessions in exchange for each surrender, enmeshing the Jewish leadership so deeply in well-intentioned compromise that a decision to stand and fight was never possible. Holocaust survivor Alexander Kimel wrote: “The youth in the Ghettos dreamed about fighting. I believe that although there were many factors that inhibited our responses, the most important factors were isolation and historical conditioning to accepting martyrdom.”[247]

The historical conditioning of the Jewish communities of Europe to accept persecution and avert disaster through compromise and negotiation was the most important factor in the failure to resist until the very end. The Warsaw Ghetto uprising took place only when the Jewish population had been reduced from 500,000 to 100,000, and it was obvious that no further compromise was possible. Paul Johnson writes:

The Jews had been persecuted for a millennium and a half and had learned from long experience that resistance cost lives rather than saved them. Their history, their theology, their folklore, their social structure, even their vocabulary trained them to negotiate, to pay, to plead, to protest, not to fight.[248]

The Jewish communities were also systematically deceived about German intentions, and were cut off from most sources of news from the outside world. The Germans told the Jews that they were being deported to work camps – euphemistically calling it “resettlement in the East” – and maintained this illusion through elaborate deceptions all the way to the gas chamber doors (which were marked with labels stating that the chambers were for the removal of lice) to avoid uprisings. As photographs testify, Jews disembarked at the railway stations at Auschwitz and other extermination camps carrying sacks and suitcases, clearly having no idea of the fate that awaited them. Rumours of the reality of the extermination camps filtered back only slowly to the ghettos, and were usually not believed, just as they were not believed when couriers such as Jan Karski, the Polish resistance fighter, conveyed them to the western Allies.[249]

Jewish resistance leaders

Belorussia, 1943. A Jewish partisan group of the brigade named after Valery Chkalov.[250]

A few examples of notable Jewish resistance leaders include:

Climax

Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated in Prague in June 1942 by soldiers from Czechoslovakia’s army-in-exile on a clandestine mission codenamed Operation Anthropoid.[251][252] He was succeeded as head of the RSHA by Ernst Kaltenbrunner.[253] With Heydrich’s death, Kaltenbrunner inherited the responsibility of the Gestapo, Sicherheitsdienst, the concentration camps, and the administrative apparatus designed to carry out the Final Solution.[254] During 1943 and 1944, the extermination camps worked at a furious rate to kill the hundreds of thousands of people shipped to them by rail from almost every country within the German sphere of influence.[255] By the spring of 1944, up to 8,000 people were being gassed every day at Auschwitz.[256]

Despite the high productivity of the war industries based in the Jewish ghettos in the General Government, they were liquidated during 1943, and their populations shipped to the camps for extermination.[257] The largest of these operations, the deportation of 100,000 people from the Warsaw Ghetto in early 1943, provoked the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which was suppressed with great brutality.[258][259] Approximately 42,000 Jews were shot during the Operation Harvest Festival on 3–4 November 1943.[260] At the same time, rail shipments arrived regularly from western and southern Europe. Few Jews were shipped from the occupied Soviet territories to the camps: the killing of Jews in this zone was left in the hands of the SS, aided by locally recruited auxiliaries.[261] In any case, by the end of 1943 the Germans had been driven from most Soviet territory.

Budapest, Hungary – Hungarian and German soldiers drive arrested Jews into the municipal theatre. October 1944.

Budapest, Hungary – Captured Jewish women in Wesselényi Street, 20–22 October 1944.

Shipments of Jews to the camps had priority on the German railways, and continued even in the face of the increasingly dire military situation after the Battle of Stalingrad at the end of 1942 and the escalating Allied air attacks on German industry and transport. Conducting a global war did not deter the Nazis from directing resources to their killing operations. Confounding as it must have been for military leaders, strategy suffered as additional manpower and material allocations needed to transport Jews took priority and train schedules were adjusted accordingly.[262]

Army leaders and economic managers complained about this diversion of resources and at the killing of irreplaceable skilled Jewish workers; however, Nazi leaders rated ideological imperatives above economic considerations.[263] In fact, many of the industries supporting the war effort using SS slave labor from the east and Jews were more productive when the SS was far removed from their operations;[264] otherwise their brutality and inconsideration for human needs proved counterproductive.

By 1944, it was evident to most Germans not blinded by Nazi fanaticism that Germany was losing the war. Many senior officials began to fear the retribution that might await Germany and them personally for the crimes being committed in their name.[265] But the power of Himmler and the SS within the German Reich was too great to resist, and Himmler could always evoke Hitler’s authority for his demands.

In October 1943, Himmler gave a speech to senior Nazi Party officials gathered in Posen (now Poznań in western Poland). Here he came closer than ever before to stating explicitly that he was intent on exterminating the Jews of Europe:

I am now referring to the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. It’s one of those things that is easily said: ‘The Jewish people are being exterminated’, says every party member, ‘this is very obvious, it’s in our program, elimination of the Jews, extermination, we’re doing it, hah, a small matter.’ And then they turn up, the upstanding 80 million Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. They say the others are all swines, but this particular one is a splendid Jew. But none has observed it, endured it. Most of you here know what it means when 100 corpses lie next to each other, when there are 500 or when there are 1,000. To have endured this and at the same time to have remained a decent person — with exceptions due to human weaknesses — has made us tough, and is a glorious chapter that has not and will not be spoken of. Because we know how difficult it would be for us if we still had Jews as secret saboteurs, agitators and rabble-rousers in every city, what with the bombings, with the burden and with the hardships of the war. If the Jews were still part of the German nation, we would most likely arrive now at the state we were at in 1916/17.

The hard decision had to be made that this people should be caused to disappear from earth…Perhaps, at a much later time, we can consider whether we should say something more about this to the German people. I myself believe that it is better for us – us together – to have borne this for our people, that we have taken the responsibility for it on ourselves (the responsibility for an act, not just for an idea), and that we should now take this secret with us to the grave.[266]

Jewish women and children from Carpatho-Ruthenia after their arrival at the Auschwitz death camp. May/June 1944.

The audience for this speech included Admiral Karl Dönitz and Armaments Minister Albert Speer. Dönitz successfully claimed at the Nuremberg trials that he had had no knowledge of the Final Solution. Speer declared at the trial and in a subsequent interview that “If I didn’t see it, then it was because I didn’t want to see it.”[267] The text of this speech was not known at the time of their post-war trials.

The scale of extermination slackened somewhat at the beginning of 1944 once the ghettos in occupied Poland were emptied, but on 19 March 1944, Hitler ordered the military occupation of Hungary, and Eichmann was dispatched to Budapest to supervise the deportation of Hungary’s 800,000 Jews. Hitler had personally complained to the Hungarian regent Admiral Miklós Horthy on the previous day, 18 March 1944, that:

Hungary did nothing in the matter of the Jewish problem, and was not prepared to settle accounts with the large Jewish population in Hungary.[268]

More than half of them were shipped to Auschwitz after the occupation. The commandant, Rudolf Höss, said at his trial that he killed 400,000 Hungarian Jews in three months.[269]

“Blood for Goods”

The operation to kill Hungarian Jews met strong opposition within the Nazi hierarchy, and there were some suggestions that Hitler should offer the Allies a deal where they would be spared in exchange for a favorable peace settlement. There were unofficial negotiations in Istanbul between Himmler’s agents, British agents, and representatives of Jewish organizations; at one point an attempt by Eichmann to exchange one million Jews for 10,000 trucks—the so-called “blood for goods” proposal—but there was no real possibility of such a deal being struck on this scale.[270][271] During Eichman’s trial in Jerusalem, he denied having knowledge of this attempt to blackmail the Allies in this manner but the evidence showed otherwise.[272]

Escapes, publication of existence (April–June 1944)

Bratislava, June–July 1944. Rudolf Vrba (right) escaped from Auschwitz on April 7, 1944, bringing the first credible news to the world of the mass murder that was taking place there. Arnost Rosin (left), escaped on 27 May 1944.[273]

“The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland”, by the Polish government-in-exile addressed to the wartime allies of the then-United Nations, 1942.

Escapes from the camps were few, but not unknown. In 1940, the Auschwitz commandant reported that “the local population is fanatically Polish and … prepared to take any action against the hated SS camp personnel. Every prisoner who managed to escape can count on help the moment he reaches the wall of a first Polish farmstead.”[274] According to Ruth Linn, however, escapees, particularly Jewish ones, could not rely on help from the local population or the Polish underground.[275]

In February 1942, an escaped inmate from the Chełmno extermination camp, Jacob Grojanowski, reached the Warsaw Ghetto, where he gave detailed information about the Chełmno camp to the Oneg Shabbat group. His report, which became known as the Grojanowski Report, was smuggled out of the ghetto through the channels of the Polish underground to the Delegatura, and reached London by June 1942. It is unclear what was done with the report at that point.[204][276][277][278] In the meantime, by 1 February, the United States Office of War Information had decided not to release information about the extermination of the Jews because it was felt that it would mislead the public into thinking the war was simply a Jewish problem.[279]

By at least 9 October 1942, British radio had broadcast news of gassing of Jews to the Netherlands.[280] In December 1942, the western Allies released the Joint Declaration by Members of the United Nations, that described how “Hitler’s oft-repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe” was being carried out and which declared that they “condemn in the strongest possible terms this bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination.”[281]

In 1942, Jan Karski reported to the Polish, British and US governments on the situation in Poland, especially the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Holocaust of the Jews. He met with Polish politicians in exile including the prime minister, as well as members of political parties such as the Socialist Party, National Party, Labor Party, People’s Party, Jewish Bund and Poalei Zion. He also spoke to Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary, and included a detailed statement on what he had seen in Warsaw and Bełżec.[282] In 1943 in London he met the then-well-known journalist Arthur Koestler. He then traveled to the United States and reported to president Franklin D. Roosevelt. His report was a major factor in informing the West.

In July 1943, Karski again personally reported to Roosevelt, telling him about the situation in Poland and becoming the first eyewitness to tell him about the Jewish Holocaust.[283] During their meeting Roosevelt asked about the condition of horses in Poland,[284] but did not ask one question about the Jews.[285] He also met with many other government and civic leaders in the United States, including Felix Frankfurter, Cordell Hull, William Joseph Donovan, and Stephen Wise. Karski also presented his report to the media, bishops of various denominations (including Cardinal Samuel Stritch) and members of the Hollywood film industry and artists, but without success. Many of those he spoke to did not believe him, or supposed that his testimony was much exaggerated or was propaganda from the Polish government in exile.[286]

News about gassing Jews was also published in illegal newspapers of the Dutch resistance, like in the issue of Het Parool of 27 September 1943. However, the news was so unbelievable that many assumed it was merely war propaganda. The publications were halted because they were counter-productive for the Dutch resistance. Nevertheless, many Jews were warned that they would be murdered, but as escape was impossible for most of them, they preferred to believe that the warnings were false.[287][288]

Auschwitz concentration camp photos of Pilecki (1941).

In September 1940, Captain Witold Pilecki, a member of the Polish underground and a soldier of the Polish Home Army, worked out a plan to enter Auschwitz and volunteered to be sent there, the only person known to volunteer to be imprisoned at Auschwitz. He organized an underground network Związek Organizacji Wojskowej (translation: “Union of Military Organizations”) that was ready to initiate an uprising but it was decided that the probability of success was too low for the uprising to succeed. UMO’s numerous and detailed reports became a principal source of intelligence on Auschwitz for the Western Allies. Pilecki escaped from Auschwitz with information that became the basis of a two-part report in August 1943 that was sent to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in London. The report included details about the gas chambers, about “selection”, and about the sterilization experiments. It stated that there were three crematoria in Birkenau able to burn 10,000 people daily, and that 30,000 people had been gassed in one day. The author wrote: “History knows no parallel of such destruction of human life.”[289] When Pilecki returned to Poland after the war the communist authorities arrested and accused him of spying for the Polish government in exile. He was sentenced to death in a show trial and was executed on 25 May 1948.

Before Pilecki escaped from Auschwitz the most spectacular escape took place on 20 June 1942, when Ukrainian Eugeniusz Bendera and three Poles, Kazimierz Piechowski, Stanisław Gustaw Jaster and Józef Lempart made a daring escape.[290] The escapees were dressed as members of the SS-Totenkopfverbände, fully armed and in an SS staff car. They drove out the main gate in a stolen Steyr 220 automobile with a smuggled first report from Witold Pilecki to the Polish resistance about the Holocaust. The Germans failed to recapture any of them.[291]

Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, Jewish inmates, escaped from Auschwitz in April 1944, eventually reaching Slovakia. The 32-page document they dictated to Jewish officials about the mass murder at Auschwitz became known as the Vrba-Wetzler report. Vrba had an eidetic memory and had worked on the Judenrampe, where Jews disembarked from the trains to be “selected” either for the gas chamber or slave labor. The level of detail with which he described the transports allowed Slovakian officials to compare his account with their own deportation records, and the corroboration convinced the Allies to take the report seriously.[292]

Two other Auschwitz inmates, Arnost Rosin and Czesław Mordowicz escaped on 27 May 1944, arriving in Slovakia on 6 June, the day of the Normandy landing (D-Day). Hearing about Normandy, they believed the war was over and got drunk to celebrate, using dollars they’d smuggled out of the camp. They were arrested for violating currency laws, and spent eight days in prison, before the Judenrat paid their fines. The additional information they offered the Judenrat was added to Vrba and Wetzler’s report and became known as the Auschwitz Protocols. They reported that, between 15 and 27 May 1944, 100,000 Hungarian Jews had arrived at Birkenau, and had been killed at an unprecedented rate, with human fat being used to accelerate the burning.[293]

The BBC and The New York Times published material from the Vrba-Wetzler report on 15 June,[294] 20 June, 3 July[295] and 6 July[296] 1944. The subsequent pressure from world leaders persuaded Miklós Horthy to bring the mass deportations of Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz to a halt on 9 July, saving up to 200,000 Jews from the extermination camps.[293]

On 14 November 2001, in the 150th anniversary issue, The New York Times ran an article by former editor Max Frankel reporting that before and during World War II, the Times had maintained a strict policy in their news reporting and editorials to minimize reports on the Holocaust.[297] The Times accepted the detailed analysis and findings of journalism professor Laurel Leff, who had published an article the year before in the Harvard International Journal of the Press and Politics, that The New York Times had deliberately suppressed news of the Third Reich’s persecution and murder of Jews.[298] Leff concluded that New York Times reporting and editorial policies made it virtually impossible for American Jews to impress Congress, church or government leaders with the importance of helping Europe’s Jews.[299]

Death marches (1944–1945)

Grave and Memorial in Wodzisław of the most infamous Death march from Auschwitz Birkenau to Wodzisław Śląski.

By mid-1944, the Final Solution had largely run its course. Those Jewish communities within easy reach of the Nazi regime had been largely exterminated, in proportions ranging from about 25 percent in France to more than 90 percent in Poland. On 5 May, Himmler claimed in a speech that “The Jewish question has in general been solved in Germany and in the countries occupied by Germany.”[300] During 1944, in any case, the task became steadily more difficult. German armies were evicted from the Soviet Union, the Balkans and Italy, and German forces—as well as forces aligned with them—were either defeated or were switching sides to the Allies. In June, the western Allies landed in France. Allied air attacks and the operations of partisans made rail transport increasingly difficult, and the objections of the military to the diversion of rail transport for carrying Jews to Poland more urgent and harder to ignore.

At this time, as the Soviet armed forces approached, the camps in eastern Poland were closed down, any surviving inmates being shipped west to camps closer to Germany, first to Auschwitz and later to Gross Rosen in Silesia. Auschwitz itself was closed as the Soviets advanced through Poland. The last 13 prisoners, all women, were killed in Auschwitz II on 25 November 1944; records show they were “unmittelbar getötet” (“killed outright”), leaving open whether they were gassed or otherwise disposed of.[301]

Despite the desperate military situation, great efforts were made to conceal evidence of what had happened in the camps. The gas chambers were dismantled, the crematoria dynamited, mass graves dug up and the corpses cremated, and Polish farmers were induced to plant crops on the sites to give the impression that they had never existed. Local commanders continued to kill Jews, and to shuttle them from camp to camp by forced “death marches” until the last weeks of the war.[302]

Already sick after months or years of violence and starvation, prisoners were forced to march for tens of miles in the snow to train stations; then transported for days at a time without food or shelter in freight trains with open carriages; and forced to march again at the other end to the new camp. Those who lagged behind or fell were shot. Around 250,000 Jews died during these marches.[303]

The largest and best-known of the death marches took place in January 1945, when the Soviet army advanced on Poland. Nine days before the Soviets arrived at Auschwitz, the SS marched 60,000 prisoners out of the camp toward Wodzisław (German: Loslau), 56 km (35 mi) away, where they were put on freight trains to other camps. Around 15,000 died on the way. Elie Wiesel and his father, Shlomo, were among the marchers:

An icy wind blew in violent gusts. But we marched without faltering. . . .

Pitch darkness. Every now and then, an explosion in the night. They had orders to fire on any who could not keep up. Their fingers on the triggers, they did not deprive themselves of this pleasure. If one of us had stopped for a second, a sharp shot finished off another filthy son of a bitch. …

Near me, men were collapsing in the dirty snow. Shots.[304]

Liberation

A grave inside Bergen-Belsen.

The first major camp to be directly encountered by Allied troops, Majdanek, was discovered by the advancing Soviets on 23 July 1944. Chełmno was liberated by the Soviets on 20 January 1945. Auschwitz was liberated, also by the Soviets, on 27 January 1945;[305] Buchenwald by the Americans on 11 April;[306] Bergen-Belsen by the British on 15 April;[307] Dachau by the Americans on 29 April;[308] Ravensbrück by the Soviets on the same day; Mauthausen by the Americans on 5 May;[309] and Theresienstadt by the Soviets on 8 May.[310] Treblinka, Sobibór, and Bełżec were never liberated, but were destroyed by the Nazis in 1943. Colonel William W. Quinn of the US 7th Army said of Dachau: “There our troops found sights, sounds, and stenches horrible beyond belief, cruelties so enormous as to be incomprehensible to the normal mind.”[311][312]

Starving prisoners in Mauthausen camp liberated on 5 May 1945.

In most of the camps discovered by the Soviets, almost all the prisoners had already been removed, leaving only a few thousand alive—7,600 inmates were found in Auschwitz,[313] including 180 children who had been experimented on by doctors. Some 60,000 prisoners were discovered at Bergen-Belsen by the British 11th Armoured Division,[314] 13,000 corpses lay unburied, and another 10,000 died from typhus or malnutrition over the following weeks.[315] The British forced the remaining SS guards to gather up the corpses and place them in mass graves.[316]

The BBC’s Richard Dimbleby described the scenes that greeted him and the British Army at Belsen:

Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which . . . The living lay with their heads against the corpses and around them moved the awful, ghostly procession of emaciated, aimless people, with nothing to do and with no hope of life, unable to move out of your way, unable to look at the terrible sights around them . . . Babies had been born here, tiny wizened things that could not live . . . A mother, driven mad, screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child, and thrust the tiny mite into his arms . . . He opened the bundle and found the baby had been dead for days. This day at Belsen was the most horrible of my life.[317]

Victims

Victims (enlarged) Killed Source
Jews 5.93 million [318]
Soviet POWs 2–3 million [319]
Ethnic Poles 1.8–2 million [320][321]
Serbs 300,000–500,000 [322][323]
Disabled 270,000 [324]
Romani 90,000–220,000 [325][326]
Freemasons 80,000–200,000 [327][328]
Slovenes 20,000–25,000 [329]
Homosexuals 5,000–15,000 [330]
Jehovah’s
Witnesses
2,500–5,000 [331]
Spanish Republicans 7,000 [332]

The number of victims depends on which definition of “the Holocaust” is used. Donald Niewyk and Francis Nicosia write in The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust that the term is commonly defined as the mass murder of more than five million European Jews.[333] They further state that ‘Not everyone finds this a fully satisfactory definition.’[334] According to British historian Martin Gilbert, the total number of victims is just under six million—around 78 percent of the 7.3 million Jews in occupied Europe at the time.[335] Timothy D. Snyder wrote that “The term Holocaust is sometimes used in two other ways: to mean all German killing policies during the war, or to mean all oppression of Jews by the Nazi regime.”[336]

Broader definitions include the two to three million Soviet POWs who died as a result of mistreatment due to Nazi racial policies, two million non-Jewish ethnic Poles who died due to the conditions of Nazi occupation, 90,000-220,000 Romani, 270,000 mentally and physically disabled killed in Germany’s eugenics program, 80,000–200,000 Freemasons, 20,000–25,000 Slovenes, 5,000–15,000 homosexuals, 2,500–5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses and 7,000 Spanish Republicans, bringing the death toll to around 11 million. The broadest definition would include six million Soviet civilians who died as a result of war-related famine and disease, raising the death toll to 17 million.[333] A research project conducted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum estimated that 15 to 20 million people died or were imprisoned.[11] R.J. Rummel estimates the total democide death toll of Nazi Germany to be 21 million.

Jewish

The following figures from Lucy Dawidowicz show the annihilation of the Jewish population of Europe by (pre-war) country:[318]
Country Estimated
Pre-War
Jewish
population
Estimated
killed
Percent
killed
Poland 3,300,000 3,000,000 90
Baltic countries 253,000 228,000 90
Germany and Austria 240,000 210,000 90
Bohemia and Moravia 90,000 80,000 89
Slovakia 90,000 75,000 83
Greece 70,000 54,000 77
Netherlands 140,000 105,000 75
Hungary 650,000 450,000 70
Byelorussian SSR 375,000 245,000 65
Ukrainian SSR 1,500,000 900,000 60
Belgium 65,000 40,000 60
Yugoslavia 43,000 26,000 60
Romania 600,000 300,000 50
Norway 2,173 890 41
France 350,000 90,000 26
Bulgaria 64,000 14,000 22
Italy 40,000 8,000 20
Luxembourg 5,000 1,000 20
Russian SFSR 975,000 107,000 11
Denmark 8,000 52 <1
Total 8,861,800 5,933,900 67
The following updated figures are from Wolfgang Benz in the Holocaust Encyclopedia show the Jewish death toll for post-war European countries.[337]
Country Death toll of Jews
Germany 144,000
Austria 48,767
Luxembourg 720
France 76,000
Belgium 28,000
Netherlands 102,000
Denmark 116
Norway 758
Italy 5,596
Albania 591
Greece 58,443
Bulgaria 7,335
Yugoslavia 51,400
Hungary 559,250
Czechoslovakia 143,000
Romania 120,919
Poland 2,700,000
Soviet Union 2,100,000

Since 1945, the most commonly cited figure for the total number of Jews killed has been six million. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, writes that there is no precise figure for the number of Jews killed,[338] but has been able to find documentation of more than three million names of Jewish victims killed,[339] which it displays at its visitors center. The figure most commonly used is the six million attributed to Adolf Eichmann, a senior SS official.[340]

Early calculations range from about 4.2 to 4.5 million in The Final Solution (1953) by Gerald Reitlinger (arguing against higher Russian estimates),[341] and 5.1 million from Raul Hilberg, to 5.95 million from Jacob Lestschinsky. Yisrael Gutman and Robert Rozett in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust estimate 5.59–5.86 million.[342] A study led by Wolfgang Benz of the Technical University of Berlin suggests 5.29 to 6.20 million.[343][344] Yad Vashem writes that the main sources for these statistics are comparisons of prewar and postwar censuses and population estimates, and Nazi documentation on deportations and murders.[343] Its Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names currently holds close to three million names of Holocaust victims, all accessible online. Yad Vashem continues its project of collecting names of Jewish victims from historical documents and individual memories.[345]

Hilberg’s estimate of 5.1 million, in the third edition of The Destruction of the European Jews, includes over 800,000 who died from “ghettoization and general privation”; 1,400,000 killed in open-air shootings; and up to 2,900,000 who perished in camps. Hilberg estimates the death toll of Jews in Poland as up to 3,000,000.[346] Hilberg’s numbers are generally considered to be a conservative estimate, as they typically include only those deaths for which records are available, avoiding statistical adjustment.[347]

Martin Gilbert arrived at a “minimum estimate” of over 5.75 million Jewish victims.[348] Lucy S. Dawidowicz used pre-war census figures to estimate that 5.934 million Jews died (see table below).[349]

There were about eight to ten million Jews in the territories controlled directly or indirectly by Germany (the uncertainty arises from the lack of knowledge about how many Jews there were in the Soviet Union). The six million killed in the Holocaust thus represent 60 to 75 percent of these Jews. Of Poland’s 3.3 million Jews, about 90 percent were killed.[350] At the beginning of World War II, the Jewish population of the Baltic States was around 350,000: 250,000 in Lithuania, 95,000 in Latvia, and 4,500 in Estonia.[351] By the end of 1941, close to 230,000 Jews in Latvia and Lithuania had been murdered during the previous six months. [352] Of 4,000 Jews in Estonia before the German invasion, some 3,000 fled to the Soviet Union. The remaining 1,000 were all murdered by the SS killing squads.[353]Of the 750,000 Jews in Germany and Austria in 1933, only about a quarter survived.[citation needed] Although many German Jews emigrated before 1939, the majority of these fled to Czechoslovakia, France or the Netherlands, from where they were later deported to their deaths.

In Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Yugoslavia, over 70 percent were killed. 50 to 70 percent were killed in Romania, Belgium and Hungary. It is likely that a similar proportion were killed in Belarus and Ukraine, but these figures are less certain. Countries with notably lower proportions of deaths include Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Italy, and Norway. Albania was the only country occupied by Germany that had a significantly larger Jewish population in 1945 than in 1939. About two hundred native Jews and over a thousand refugees were provided with false documents, hidden when necessary, and generally treated as honored guests in a country whose population was approximately 60 percent Muslim.[354] Additionally, Japan, as an Axis member, had its own unique response to German policies regarding Jews; see Shanghai Ghetto.

Year Jews killed[355]
1933–1940 under 100,000
1941 1,100,000
1942 2,700,000
1943 500,000
1944 600,000
1945 100,000
Extermination Camp Estimate of
number killed
Ref
Auschwitz-Birkenau 1,000,000 [199][356]
Treblinka 870,000 [215]
Belzec 600,000 [202]
Majdanek 79,000–235,000 [209][357]
Chełmno 320,000 [204]
Sobibór 250,000 [213]

This gives a total of over 3.8 million; of these, 80–90% were estimated to be Jews. These seven camps thus accounted for half the total number of Jews killed in the entire Nazi Holocaust. Virtually the entire Jewish population of Poland died in these camps.[318]

In addition to those who died in the above extermination camps, at least half a million Jews died in other camps, including the major concentration camps in Germany. These were not extermination camps, but had large numbers of Jewish prisoners at various times, particularly in the last year of the war as the Nazis withdrew from Poland. About a million people died in these camps, and although the proportion of Jews is not known with certainty, it was estimated to be at least 50 percent.[citation needed] Another 800,000 to one million Jews were killed by the Einsatzgruppen in the occupied Soviet territories (an approximate figure, since the Einsatzgruppen killings were frequently undocumented).[358] Many more died through execution or of disease and malnutrition in the ghettos of Poland before they could be deported.

By country

Jewish Holocaust death toll as a percentage of the total pre-war Jewish population.[citation needed]

In the 1990s, the opening of government archives in Eastern Europe resulted in the adjustment of the death tolls published in the pioneering work by Hilberg, Dawidowicz and Gilbert (e.g. compare Gilbert’s estimation of two million deaths in Auschwitz-Birkenau with the updated figure of one million in the Extermination Camp data box). As pointed out above, Wolfgang Benz has been carrying out work on the more recent data. He concluded in 1999:

The goal of annihilating all of the Jews of Europe, as it was proclaimed at the conference in the villa Am Grossen Wannsee in January 1942, was not reached. Yet the six million murder victims make the holocaust a unique crime in the history of mankind. The number of victims — and with certainty the following represent the minimum number in each case — cannot express that adequately. Numbers are just too abstract. However they must be stated in order to make clear the dimension of the genocide: 165,000 Jews from Germany, 65,000 from Austria, 32,000 from France and Belgium, more than 100,000 from the Netherlands, 60,000 from Greece, the same number from Yugoslavia, more than 140,000 from Czechoslovakia, half a million from Hungary, 2.2 million from the Soviet Union, and 2.7 million from Poland. To these numbers must be added all those killed in the pogroms and massacres in Romania and Transitrien (over 200,000) and the deported and murdered Jews from Albania and Norway, Denmark and Italy, from Luxembourg and Bulgaria.

— Benz, Wolfgang The Holocaust: A German Historian Examines the Genocide[359]

Considering the massive numbers of killed Jews all across Europe, Benz erroneously must have thought that the same would be the case for Denmark and Albania. However, in Albania no Jew was deported, and in Denmark about 1 percent of the Jewish population was deported.[360]

Effect on the Yiddish and Ladino languages

Entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1945.

Because the significant majority of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust were speakers of Yiddish, the Holocaust had a profound and permanent effect on the fate of the Yiddish language and culture (see Yiddish Renaissance). On the eve of World War II, there were 11 to 13 million Yiddish speakers in the world.[361] The Holocaust led to a dramatic, sudden decline in the use of Yiddish, because the extensive Jewish communities, both secular and religious, that used it in their day-to-day life were largely destroyed. Around five million (85%) of the victims of the Holocaust were speakers of Yiddish.[362]

Of the remaining non-Yiddish speaking population, the Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish) speaking Jewish communities of Greece and the Balkans were also destroyed, which contributed to the near-extinction of this language.

Non-Jewish

Slavs

Main articles: Generalplan Ost and Hunger Plan

Europe, with pre-World War II borders and showing the extension of the future Generalplan Ost master plan.

Hitler declared in Mein Kampf that the German people needed Lebensraum (“living space”) in Eastern Europe at the expense of the racially inferior Slavs.[363] The Nazis considered the Slavs as Untermenschen (subhumans).[364]

Heinrich Himmler in his secret memorandum “Reflections on the Treatment of Peoples of Alien Races in the East” dated 25 May 1940 expressed his own thoughts and the future plans for the populations in the East.[365] Himmler stated that it was in the German interests to discover as many ethnic groups in the East and splinter them as much as possible, find and select racially valuable children to be sent to Germany to assimilate them and restrict non-Germans in the General Government and conquered territories to four-grade elementary school which would only teach them how to write their own name, count up to 500 and to obey Germans.[365] Himmler believed the Germanization process in Eastern Europe would be complete when “in the East dwell only men with truly German, Germanic blood”.[366]

Himmler’s Generalplan Ost (General Plan East), which was enthusiastically agreed to by Hitler in the summer of 1942, involved exterminating, expelling, or enslaving most or all Slavs from their native lands so as to make living space for German settlers, something that would be carried out over a period of 20–30 years.[367]

Author and historian Doris L. Bergen has written: “Like so much Nazi writing, General Plan East was full of euphemisms. … Nevertheless its intentions were obvious. It also made clear that German policies toward different population groups were closely connected. Settlement of Germans and ethnic Germans in the east; expulsion, enslavement, and decimation of Slavs; and murder of Jews were all parts of the same plan.”[368]

Historian Rudolph Rummel estimates the number of Slav civilians and POWs murdered by the Nazis at 10,547,000.[369]

According to historian William W. Hagen:

Generalplan Ost . . . forecast the diminution of the targeted east European peoples’ populations by the following measures: Poles – 85 percent; Belarusians – 75 percent; Ukrainians – 65 percent; Czechs – 50 percent. These enormous reductions would result from “extermination through labor” or decimation through malnutrition, disease, and controls on reproduction. . . . The Russian people, once subjugated in war, would join the four Slavic-speaking nations whose fate Generalplan Ost foreshadowed.[370]

It is a question of existence, thus it will be a racial struggle of pitiless severity, in the course of which 20 to 30 million Slavs and Jews will perish through military actions and crises of food supply.

—  Heinrich Himmler spoke about Operation Barbarossa, June 1941[371]
Ethnic Poles

A 12-year-old Polish girl in Auschwitz 1942/43. Prisoner identity photographs.

Auschwitz I patch with the letter “P”, required wear for Polish inmates.

Polish civilians executed in Warsaw.

Announcement of death penalty for Poles helping Jews.

Execution of Poles by Einsatzkommando, Leszno, October 1939.

German planners had in November 1939 called for “the complete destruction” of all Poles.[372] “All Poles”, Heinrich Himmler swore, “will disappear from the world”.[373] The Polish state under German occupation was to be cleared of ethnic Poles and settled by German colonists.[374] Of the Poles, by 1952 only about three–four million of them were to be left in the former Poland, and only to serve as slaves for German settlers. They were to be forbidden to marry, the existing ban on any medical help to Poles in Germany would be extended, and eventually Poles would cease to exist. On 22 August 1939, just over a week before the onset of war, Hitler declared that “the object of the war is … physically to destroy the enemy. That is why I have prepared, for the moment only in the East, my ‘Death’s Head’ formations with orders to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish descent or language. Only in this way can we obtain the living space we need.”[375] Nazi planners decided against a genocide of ethnic Poles on the same scale as against ethnic Jews; it could not proceed in the short term since “such a solution to the Polish question would represent a burden to the German people into the distant future, and everywhere rob us of all understanding, not least in that neighbouring peoples would have to reckon at some appropriate time, with a similar fate”.[376]

The actions taken against ethnic Poles were not on the scale of the genocide of the Jews. Most Polish Jews (perhaps 90% of their pre-war population) perished during the Holocaust, while most Christian Poles survived the brutal German occupation.[377] Between 1.8 and 2.1 million non-Jewish Polish citizens perished in German hands during the course of the war, about four-fifths of whom were ethnic Poles with the remaining fifth being ethnic minorities of Ukrainians and Belarusians, the vast majority of them civilians.[320][321] At least 200,000 of these victims died in concentration camps with about 146,000 being killed in Auschwitz. Many others died as a result of general massacres such as in the Warsaw Uprising where between 120,000 and 200,000 civilians were killed.[378][379]

The policy of the Germans in Poland included diminishing food rations, conscious lowering of the state of hygiene and depriving the population of medical services. The general mortality rate rose from 13 to 18 per thousand.[380] Overall, about 5.6 million of the victims of World War II were Polish citizens,[321] both Jewish and non-Jewish, and over the course of the war Poland lost 16 percent of its pre-war population; approximately 3.1 million of the 3.3 million Polish Jews and approximately two million of the 31.7 million non-Jewish Polish citizens died at German hands during the war.[381] According to recent (2009) estimates by the IPN, over 2.5 million non-Jewish Polish citizens died as a result of the German occupation.[382] Over 90 percent of the death toll came through non-military losses, as most of the civilians were targeted by various deliberate actions by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.[378]

A few days before the invasion of Poland, on 22 August 1939, Adolf Hitler said to his generals:

Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter—with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. … Our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness—for the present only in the East—with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians? … Poland will be depopulated and settled with Germans. … As for the rest, gentlemen, the fate of Russia will be exactly the same as I am now going through with in the case of Poland.[383][384]

Other West Slavs

Other West Slavic populations were persecuted to some extent. By one estimate, 345,000 Czechoslovak citizens were executed or otherwise killed, and hundreds of thousands more of all of these groups were sent to concentration camps and used as forced labor.[385] The villages of Lidice and Ležáky were completely destroyed by the Nazis; all men over 16 years of age from the village were murdered and the rest of the population was sent to Nazi concentration camps where many women and nearly all of the children were killed.

The German ethnic Sorbian population was also persecuted.

Ethnic Serbs and other South Slavs

Croatian Ustaše sawing off the head of Branko Jungić, an ethnic Serb from Bosnia.

In the Balkans, up to 581,000 Yugoslav civilians were killed during World War II in Yugoslavia.[386][387] German forces, under express orders from Hitler, fought with a special vengeance against the Serbs, who were considered Untermenschen (sub-humans).[388] The Ustaše collaborators conducted a systematic extermination of large numbers of people for political, religious or racial reasons. The most numerous victims were Serbs.

Bosniaks, Croats and others were also victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp. According to the US Holocaust Museum:

The Ustaša authorities established numerous concentration camps in Croatia between 1941 and 1945. These camps were used to isolate and murder Serbs, Jews, Roma, Muslims [Bosniaks], and other non-Catholic minorities, as well as Croatian political and religious opponents of the regime.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and Jewish Virtual Library report between 56,000 and 97,000 persons were killed at the Jasenovac concentration camp.[389][390][391] Yad Vashem reports an overall number of over 500,000 murders of Serbs “in horribly sadistic ways” at the hands of the Ustaše.[322]

According to the most recent study, Bošnjaci u Jasenovačkom logoru (“Bosniaks in the Jasenovac concentration camp”) by the author Nihad Halilbegović, at least 103,000 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) perished during the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazi regime and the Croatian Ustaše. According to the study, “unknown is the full number of Bosniaks who were murdered under Serb or Croat alias or national name” and “a large numbers of Bosniaks were killed and listed under Roma populations”, therefore in advance sentenced to death and extermination.[392][393] Excluding Slovenes under Italian rule, between 20,000 and 25,000 Slovenes were killed by Nazis or fascists (counting only civilian victims).[394]

Albanian collaborationists cooperated with the Nazis and what followed was an extensive persecution of non-Albanians (mostly Serbs) by Albanian fascists. Most of the war crimes were perpetrated by the Albanian SS Skenderbeg Division and the Balli Kombëtar. 3,000 to 10,000 Kosovo Serbs were murdered by the Albanians during the war, and another 30,000 to 100,000 were expelled.[395]

East Slavs

Mass murder of Soviet civilians near Minsk, Belarus, 1943.

Soviet civilian populations in the occupied areas were also heavily persecuted (in addition to the barbarity of the Eastern Front frontline warfare manifesting itself in episodes such as the siege of Leningrad in which more than one million civilians died).[396] Thousands of peasant villages across Soviet Russia, Belarus and Ukraine were annihilated by German troops. Bohdan Wytwycky has estimated that as many as one-quarter of all Soviet civilian deaths at the hands of the Nazis and their allies were racially motivated.[333]

The Russian Academy of Sciences in 1995 reported civilian victims in the USSR at German hands, including Jews, totaled 13.7 million dead, 20% of the 68 million persons in the occupied USSR. This included 7.4 million victims of Nazi genocide and reprisals.[397]

In Belarus, Nazi Germany imposed a regime in the country that was responsible for burning down some 9,000 villages, deporting some 380,000 people for slave labour, and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. More than 600 villages, like Khatyn, were burned along with their entire population and at least 5,295 Belarusian settlements were destroyed by the Nazis and some or all of their inhabitants killed. Tim Snyder states: “Of the nine million people who were on the territory of Soviet Belarus in 1941, some 1.6 million were killed by the Germans in actions away from battlefields, including about 700,000 prisoners of war, 500,000 Jews, and 320,000 people counted as partisans (the vast majority of whom were unarmed civilians.”[398]

The German racists assigned the Slavs to the lowest rank of human life, from which the Jews were altogether excluded. The Germans thus looked upon Slavs as people not fit to be educated, not able to govern themselves, worthy only as slaves whose existence would be justified because they served their German masters. Hitler’s racial policy with regard to the Slavs, to the extent that it was formulated, was “depopulation.” The Slavs were to be prevented from procreating, except to provide the necessary continuing supply of slave laborers.

—  Lucy Dawidowicz, The Holocaust and the historians[399]

Naked Soviet POWs in Mauthausen concentration camp. Unknown date.

Soviet POWs

According to Michael Berenbaum, between two and three million Soviet prisoners-of-war—or around 57 percent of all Soviet POWs—died of starvation, mistreatment, or executions between June 1941 and May 1945, and most of those during their first year of captivity. According to other estimates by Daniel Goldhagen, an estimated 2.8 million Soviet POWs died in eight months in 1941–42, with a total of 3.5 million by mid-1944.[400] The USHMM has estimated that 3.3 million of the 5.7 million Soviet POWs died in German custody—compared to 8,300 of 231,000 British and American prisoners.[401] The death rates decreased as the POWs were needed to work as slaves to help the German war effort; by 1943, half a million of them had been deployed as slave labor.[319]

Romani people

Main article: Porajmos

[T]hey wish to toss into the Ghetto everything that is characteristically dirty, shabby, bizarre, of which one ought to be frightened and which anyway had to be destroyed.

— Emmanuel Ringelblum on the Roma.[402]

Because the Romani are traditionally a private people with a culture based on oral history, less is known about their experience of the genocide than about that of any other group.[403] Yehuda Bauer writes that the lack of information can be attributed to the Romani’s distrust and suspicion, and to their humiliation, because some of the basic taboos of Romani culture regarding hygiene and sexual contact were violated at Auschwitz. Bauer writes that “most [Romani] could not relate their stories involving these tortures; as a result, most kept silent and thus increased the effects of the massive trauma they had undergone.”[404]

Map of persecution of the Roma.

The treatment of the Romani was not consistent in the different areas that Nazi Germany conquered. In some areas (e.g. Luxembourg and the Baltic countries), the Nazis killed virtually the entire Romani population. In other areas (e.g. Denmark, Greece), there is no record of Romanis being subjected to mass killings.[405]

Donald Niewyk and Frances Nicosia write that the death toll was at least 130,000 of the nearly one million Romani in Nazi-controlled Europe.[403] Michael Berenbaum writes that serious scholarly estimates lie between 90,000 and 220,000.[406] A study by Sybil Milton, senior historian at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, calculated a death toll of at least 220,000 and possibly closer to 500,000, but this study explicitly excluded the Independent State of Croatia where the genocide of Romanies was intense.[325][407] Martin Gilbert estimates a total of more than 220,000 of the 700,000 Romani in Europe.[408] Ian Hancock, Director of the Program of Romani Studies and the Romani Archives and Documentation Center at the University of Texas at Austin, has argued in favour of a much higher figure of between 500,000 and 1,500,000, claiming the Romani toll proportionally equaled or exceeded that of Jewish victims.[326][409]

Before being sent to the camps, the victims were herded into ghettos, including several hundred into the Warsaw Ghetto.[138] Further east, teams of Einsatzgruppen tracked down Romani encampments and murdered the inhabitants on the spot, leaving no records of the victims. They were also targeted by the puppet regimes that cooperated with the Nazis, e.g. the Ustaše regime in Croatia, where a large number of Romani were killed in the Jasenovac concentration camp. The genocide analyst Helen Fein has stated that the Ustashe killed virtually every Romani in Croatia.[410]

In May 1942, the Romani were placed under similar labor and social laws to the Jews. On 16 December 1942, Heinrich Himmler, Commander of the SS and regarded as the “architect” of the Nazi genocide,[411] issued a decree that “Gypsy Mischlinge (mixed breeds), Romani, and members of the clans of Balkan origins who are not of German blood” should be sent to Auschwitz, unless they had served in the Wehrmacht.[412] On 29 January 1943, another decree ordered the deportation of all German Romani to Auschwitz.

This was adjusted on 15 November 1943, when Himmler ordered that, in the occupied Soviet areas, “sedentary Gypsies and part-Gypsies (Mischlinge) are to be treated as citizens of the country. Nomadic Gypsies and part-Gypsies are to be placed on the same level as Jews and placed in concentration camps.”[413] Bauer argues that this adjustment reflected Nazi ideology that the Romani, originally an Aryan population, had been “spoiled” by non-Romani blood.[414]

Persons of color

The number of black people in Germany when the Nazis came to power is variously estimated at 5,000–25,000.[415] It is not clear whether these figures included Asians. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., “The fate of black people from 1933 to 1945 in Nazi Germany and in German-occupied territories ranged from isolation to persecution, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality, and murder. However, there was no systematic program for their elimination as there was for Jews and other groups.”[416] Meanwhile, Afrikaaners, Berbers, Iranians and Pre-Partition Indians were classified as Aryans, so they were not persecuted (see main article). Racial restrictions were relaxed to the extent that Turkic peoples, Arabs and South Asians were recruited by the German military due to the shortage of manpower.[417]

Other

Disabled and mentally ill

Hitler’s order for Action T4.

Our starting-point is not the individual, and we do not subscribe to the view that one should feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty or clothe the naked—those are not our objectives. Our objectives are entirely different. They can be put most crisply in the sentence: we must have a healthy people in order to prevail in the world.

Nazis used the phrase Lebensunwertes Leben (Life unworthy of life) in reference to their victims in an attempt to justify the killings.[419]

In October 1939 Adolf Hitler signed a “euthanasia decree” backdated to 1 September 1939 that authorized Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler, the chief of his Chancellery,[420] and Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician, to carry out the programme of involuntary euthanasia (translated as follows):

Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr. Brandt are entrusted with the responsibility of extending the authority of physicians, designated by name, so that patients who, on the basis of human judgment [menschlichem Ermessen], are considered incurable, can be granted mercy death [Gnadentod] after a definitive diagnosis.

— Adolf Hitler[421]

The Action T4 program was established to maintain the racial purity of the German people by killing or sterilizing citizens who were judged to be disabled or suffering from mental disorder.[422]

Between 1939 and 1941, 80,000 to 100,000 mentally ill adults in institutions were killed; 5,000 children in institutions; and 1,000 Jews in institutions.[423] Outside the mental health institutions, the figures are estimated as 20,000 (according to Dr. Georg Renno, the deputy director of Schloss Hartheim, one of the euthanasia centers) or 400,000 (according to Frank Zeireis, the commandant of Mauthausen concentration camp).[423] Another 300,000 were forcibly sterilized.[424] Overall it has been estimated that over 270,000 individuals[324] with mental disorders of all kinds were put to death, although their mass murder has received relatively little historical attention. Along with the physically disabled, people suffering from dwarfism were persecuted as well. Many were put on display in cages and experimented on by the Nazis.[425] Despite not being formally ordered to take part, psychiatrists and many psychiatric institutions took part in the planning and carrying out of controversial practices at every stage, and constituted the connection to the later annihilation of Jews and other deemed undesirable in the Holocaust.[426] After strong protests by the German Catholic and Protestant churches on 24 August 1941 Hitler ordered the cancellation of the T4 program.[427]

The program was named after Tiergartenstraße 4, the address of a villa in the Berlin borough of Tiergarten, the headquarters of the General Foundation for Welfare and Institutional Care,[428] led by Philipp Bouhler, head of Hitler’s private chancellery (Kanzlei des Führer der NSDAP) and Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician.

Brandt was tried in December 1946 at Nuremberg, along with 22 others, in a case known as United States of America vs. Karl Brandt et al., also known as the Doctors’ Trial. He was found guilty and was sentenced to death. He was hanged at Landsberg Prison on 2 June 1948.

Homosexuals

The Homomonument in Amsterdam, a memorial to the homosexual victims of Nazi Germany.

Between 5,000 and 15,000 homosexuals of German nationality are estimated to have been sent to concentration camps.[330] James D. Steakley writes that what mattered in Germany was criminal intent or character, rather than criminal acts, and the “gesundes Volksempfinden” (“healthy sensibility of the people”) became the leading normative legal principle.[429] In 1936, Himmler created the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion.[430] Homosexuality was declared contrary to “wholesome popular sentiment,”[330] and homosexuals were consequently regarded as “defilers of German blood.” The Gestapo raided gay bars, tracked individuals using the address books of those they arrested, used the subscription lists of gay magazines to find others, and encouraged people to report suspected homosexual behavior and to scrutinize the behavior of their neighbors.[330][429]

Tens of thousands were convicted between 1933 and 1944 and sent to camps for “rehabilitation”, where they were identified by yellow armbands[431] and later pink triangles worn on the left side of the jacket and the right trouser leg, which singled them out for sexual abuse.[429] Hundreds were castrated by court order.[432] They were humiliated, tortured, used in hormone experiments conducted by SS doctors, and killed.[330] Steakley writes that the full extent of gay suffering was slow to emerge after the war. Many victims kept their stories to themselves because homosexuality remained criminalized in postwar Germany.[429]

The political left

German opponent of Nazism executed at Dachau.

German communists, socialists and trade unionists were among the earliest domestic opponents of Nazism[433] and were also among the first to be sent to concentration camps. Hitler claimed that communism was a Jewish ideology which the Nazis termed “Judeo-Bolshevism“. Fear of communist agitation was used as justification for the Enabling Act of 1933, the law which gave Hitler his original dictatorial powers. Hermann Göring later testified at the Nuremberg Trials that the Nazis’ willingness to repress German communists prompted president Paul von Hindenburg and the German elite to cooperate with the Nazis.[citation needed] MI6 assisted the Gestapo via “the exchange of information about Communism”, and as late as October 1937, the head of the British agency’s Berlin station, Frank Foley, described his relationship with Heinrich Müller‘s so-called communism expert as “cordial”.[434]

Hitler and the Nazis also hated German leftists because of their resistance to the party’s racism. Many leaders of German leftist groups were Jews, and Jews were especially prominent among the leaders of the Spartacist uprising in 1919. Hitler already referred to Marxism and “Bolshevism” as a means of “the international Jew” to undermine “racial purity” and survival of the Nordics or Aryans, as well as to stir up socioeconomic class tension and labor unions against the government or state-owned businesses. Within concentration camps such as Buchenwald, German communists were privileged in comparison to Jews because of their “racial purity”.[435]

Whenever the Nazis occupied a new territory, members of communist, socialist, or anarchist groups were normally to be the first persons detained or executed. Evidence of this is found in Hitler’s infamous Commissar Order, in which he ordered the summary execution of all political commissars captured among Soviet soldiers, as well as the execution of all Communist Party members in German-held territory.[436][437] Einsatzgruppen carried out these executions in the east. Nacht und Nebel (“Night and Fog”) was a directive of Hitler on 7 December 1941 signed and implemented by Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Wilhelm Keitel, resulting in kidnapping and the disappearance of many political activists throughout Nazi Germany’s occupied territories.

Among the well-known leftist prisoners of the concentration camps were German socialists Hermann Brill, Rudolf Breitscheid, Heinrich Bußmann, Josef Felder, Heinrich Fulda, Ernst Heilmann, and Alfred Schmieder; German communists Emil Carlebach, Ernst Grube, Walter Krämer, Adolf Maislinger, Oskar Müller, Beppo Römer, Werner Scholem, and Ernst Thälmann; Jewish socialist and former French Prime Minister Léon Blum; Slovenian socialist activist Andrej Gosar; Jewish Austrian socialist Robert Danneberg; and Austrian socialist (and later Interior Minister) Franz Olah. Kurt Schumacher, a leading German socialist politician, was imprisoned in various concentration camps for ten years, and left the camps severely ill, leading to the amputation of his leg in 1948 and ultimately his death in 1952; however, during that time he played an instrumental role in re-establishing the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

Freemasons

A memorial for Loge Liberté chérie, founded in November 1943 in Hut 6 of Emslandlager VII (KZ Esterwegen), one of two Masonic Lodges founded in a Nazi concentration camp.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that Freemasonry had “succumbed” to the Jews: “The general pacifistic paralysis of the national instinct of self-preservation begun by Freemasonry is then transmitted to the masses of society by the Jewish press.”[438] Within the Reich, however, the “threat” posed by Freemasons was not considered serious from the mid-1930s onwards.[439] Heydrich even established a Freemasonry museum—at which Eichmann spent some time early in his SD career[440]—for what he regarded as a “disappeared cult”.[441] Similarly, Hitler was happy to issue a proclamation on 27 April 1938 whose third point lifted restrictions on Party membership for former Freemasons, “provided the applicants had not served with the Lodge as high degree members.”[442] The Führer still maintained Freemasonry within his conspiratorial outlook,[443] but its adherents were not persecuted in a systematic fashion like groups such as the Jews.[439] Those Freemasons who were sent to concentration camps as political prisoners were forced to wear an inverted red triangle.[444]

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum believes that, “because many of the Freemasons who were arrested were also Jews and/or members of the political opposition, it is not known how many individuals were placed in Nazi concentration camps and/or were targeted only because they were Freemasons.”[445] However, the Grand Lodge of Scotland estimates the number of Freemasons executed between 80,000 and 200,000.[327]

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Refusing to pledge allegiance to the Nazi party or to serve in the military, roughly 12,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses were forced to wear a purple triangle and were placed in camps where they were given the option of renouncing their faith and submitting to the state’s authority. Between 2,500 and 5,000 were killed.[331] Historian Detlef Garbe, director of Hamburg’s Neuengamme Memorial, writes that “no other religious movement resisted the pressure to conform to National Socialism with comparable unanimity and steadfastness.”[446]

Spanish Republicans

After losing the Spanish Civil War many republicans fled to France. With the subsequent fall of France, many were sent to concentration camps, particularly the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, where about 7000 died.[332][447]

Uniqueness

Dr. Shimon Samuels, director for International Liaison of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, describes the acrimonious debate that exists between “specifists” and “universalists”. The former fear debasement of the Holocaust by invidious comparisons, while the latter places the Holocaust alongside non-Jewish experiences of mass extermination as part and parcel of the global context of genocide. Dr. Samuels considers the debate, ipso facto, to dishonour the memory of the respective victims of each genocide. In his words, “Each case is specific as a threshold phenomenon, while each also adds its unique memory as signposts along an incremental continuum of horror.”[448] Peter Novick argued, “A moment’s reflection makes clear that the notion of uniqueness is quite vacuous [… and], in practice, deeply offensive. What else can all of this possibly mean except ‘your catastrophe, unlike ours, is ordinary’.”[449]

Adam Jones, professor at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (Canada), believes that claims of uniqueness for the Holocaust have become less common since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.[450] In 1997, the publication of The Black Book of Communism led to further debate on the comparison between Soviet and Nazi crimes; the book argued that Nazi crimes were not very different from the Soviet ones, and that Nazi methods were to a significant extent adopted from Soviet methods;[451] in the course of the debate, the term “Red Holocaust” appeared in discourse.[452] Some scholars strongly dissent from this view.[453] In his controversial book,[454][455] The Holocaust Industry, Norman Finkelstein argues that the uniqueness theory does not figure within scholarship of the Nazi Holocaust.[further explanation needed] He writes that the reason these claims persist is because claims of Holocaust uniqueness also confer “unique entitlement” to Jews, and serve as “Israel’s prize alibi.”[further explanation needed] [456] Steven Katz of Boston University has argued that the Holocaust is the only genocide that has occurred in history, and he defines “Holocaust” to include only “the travail of European Jewry” and not other victims of the Nazis.[further explanation needed][457]

Aftermath

Nuremberg trials

Defendants in the dock at the Nuremberg trials. The main target of the prosecution was Hermann Göring (at the left edge on the first row of benches), considered to be the most important surviving official in the Third Reich after Hitler’s death.

The Nuremberg trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the Allied forces after World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany. The trials were held in the city of Nuremberg, Germany. The first, and best known of these trials, described as “the greatest trial in history” by Norman Birkett, one of the British judges who presided over it,[458] was the trial of the major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT). Held between 20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946,[459] the Tribunal tried 23 of the most important political and military leaders of the Third Reich (except for Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels, all of whom had committed suicide several months before).[460]

The International Military Tribunal was opened on November 19, 1945, in the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg.[461][462] The first session was presided over by the Soviet judge, Nikitchenko. The prosecution entered indictments against 24 major war criminals and seven organizations – the leadership of the Nazi party, the Reich Cabinet, the Schutzstaffel (SS), Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the Gestapo, the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the “General Staff and High Command”, comprising several categories of senior military officers.[463] These organizations were to be declared “criminal” if found guilty.

The indictments were for: participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace; war crimes; and crimes against humanity. The Tribunal passed out sentences ranging from acquittal to 10 to 15 years in prison, to life imprisonment, to death by hanging (standard drop method).

Creation of the state of Israel

There is debate as to whether the Holocaust was a key factor that led to the creation of the state of Israel as a homeland for the Jews. One writer argues that the “…establishment of the State of Israel would have been possible without the Holocaust due to the [actions of the] Zionist movement.”[464] Nevertheless, the “….Holocaust played an important role in the founding and long term visibility of the State of Israel in three respects: The Holocaust motivated large numbers of immigrants to move to the new country, providing the necessary population; secondly, the Holocaust enabled Israel to pressure Germany into supplying the economic base necessary to build infrastructure and support those immigrants; and finally, the Holocaust swayed world opinion so that the United Nations approved the State of Israel in 1948.”[464]

Reparations

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the Jewish Agency led by Chaim Weizmann submitted to the Allies a memorandum demanding reparations to Jews by Germany but it received no answer. In March 1951, a new request was made by Israel’s foreign minister Moshe Sharett which claimed global recompense to Israel of $1.5 billion based on the financial cost absorbed by Israel for the rehabilitation of 500,000 Jewish survivors. West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer accepted these terms and declared he was ready to negotiate other reparations. A Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany was opened in New York City by Nahum Goldmann in order to help with individual claims. After negotiations, the claim was reduced to a sum of $845 million in direct and indirect compensation to be paid over a period of 14 years.

Railcar manufactured by Maschinenfabrik Esslingen in the old train station of Jerusalem, shortly after delivery as part of the reparations agreement with Germany.

On 1952 Ben Gurion argued that the reparation demand was based on recovering as much Jewish property as possible “so that the murderers do not become the heirs as well”. His other argument was that the reparations were needed to finance the absorption and rehabilitation of the Holocaust survivors in Israel.[465]

In 1988, West Germany allocated another $125 million for reparations.[466] In 1999, many German industries such as Deutsche Bank, Siemens or BMW faced lawsuits for their role in the forced labour during World War II. In order to dismiss these lawsuits, Germany agreed to raise $5 billion of which Jewish forced laborers still alive could apply to receive a lump sum payment of between $2,500 and $7,500.[466] In 2012, Germany agreed to pay a new reparation of €772 million as a result of negotiations with Israel.[467]

In 2014, the SNCF, the French state-owned railway company, was compelled to allocate $60 million to American Jewish Holocaust survivors for its role in the transport of deportees to Germany, a sum equivalent to about $100,000 for each survivor.[468] This is despite the fact that SNCF was forced by German authorities to cooperate in providing transport for French Jews to the border and did not make any profit from this transport, according to Serge Klarsfeld, president of the organization Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France.[469]

These reparations were sometimes criticized in Israel where they were seen as “blood money”.[466] The American professor Norman Finkelstein wrote The Holocaust Industry to denounce how the American Jewish establishment exploits the memory of the Nazi Holocaust for political and financial gain, as well as to further the interests of Israel.[470] Some of the reparations money was subject to a fraud between 1993 and 2009, in which $57 million was diverted to people who were not eligible.[471]

War Remembrance Day Poppy – Wear it with PRIDE. In Flanders fields the poppies blow…….

Remembrance Day Poppy 

pumpkin soildier

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In Flanders Fields

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Wear it with PRIDE

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John McCrae’s War – In Flanders Fields – Documentary

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John McCrae

John McCrae

“In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Major John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres.

According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. “In Flanders Fields” was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

A sculpture in the form of an open book. The text of the poem
Inscription of the complete poem in a bronze “book” at the John McCrae memorial at his birthplace in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Inscription of the complete poem in a bronze “book” at the John McCrae memorial at his birthplace in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

 

It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. As a result of its immediate popularity, parts of the poem were used in propaganda efforts and appeals to recruit soldiers and raise money selling war bonds. Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world’s most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. The poem and poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada, where “In Flanders Fields” is one of the nation’s best-known literary works. The poem also has wide exposure in the United States, where it is associated with Memorial Day.

Backgound

John McCrae was a poet and physician from Guelph, Ontario. He developed an interest in poetry at a young age and wrote throughout his life.  His earliest works were published in the mid-1890s in Canadian magazines and newspapers. McCrae’s poetry often focused on death and the peace that followed.

At the age of 41, McCrae enrolled with the Canadian Expeditionary Force following the outbreak of the First World War. He had the option of joining the medical corps because of his training and age, but he volunteered instead to join a fighting unit as a gunner and medical officer.

It was his second tour of duty in the Canadian military. He had previously fought with a volunteer force in the Second Boer War. He considered himself a soldier first; his father was a military leader in Guelph and McCrae grew up believing in the duty of fighting for his country and empire.

McCrae fought in the second battle of Ypres in the Flanders region of Belgium where the German army launched one of the first chemical attacks in the history of war. They attacked the Canadian position with chlorine gas on April 22, 1915, but were unable to break through the Canadian line, which held for over two weeks. In a letter written to his mother, McCrae described the battle as a “nightmare”:

“For seventeen days and seventeen nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots even, except occasionally. In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds…. And behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way.”

 

Alexis Helmer, a close friend, was killed during the battle on May 2. McCrae performed the burial service himself, at which time he noted how poppies quickly grew around the graves of those who died at Ypres. The next day, he composed the poem while sitting in the back of an ambulance at an Advanced Dressing Station outside Ypres.

This location is today known as the John McCrae Memorial Site.

 

The poem handwritten by McCrae. In this copy, the first line ends with

An autographed copy of the poem from In Flanders Fields and Other Poems. Unlike the printed copy in the same book, McCrae’s handwritten version ends the first line with “grow”.

 

The first chapter of In Flanders Fields and Other Poems, a 1919 collection of McCrae’s works, gives the text of the poem as follows:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

As with his earlier poems, “In Flanders Fields” continues McCrae’s preoccupation with death and how it stands as the transition between the struggle of life and the peace that follows.  It is written from the point of view of the dead. It speaks of their sacrifice and serves as their command to the living to press on.

As with many of the most popular works of the First World War, it was written early in the conflict, before the romanticism of war turned to bitterness and disillusion for soldiers and civilians alike.

Publication

A page from a book. The first stanza of the poem is printed above an illustration of a white cross amidst a field of red poppies while two cannons fire in the background.

Illustrated page by Ernest Clegg. Note that the first line ends with “grow”.

 

Cyril Allinson was a sergeant major in McCrae’s unit. While delivering the brigade’s mail, he watched McCrae as he worked on the poem, noting that McCrae’s eyes periodically returned to Helmer’s grave as he wrote. When handed the notepad, Allinson read the poem and was so moved he immediately committed it to memory.

He described it as being “almost an exact description of the scene in front of us both”.

According to legend, McCrae was not satisfied with his work. It is said he crumpled the paper and threw it away. It was retrieved by a fellow member of his unit, either Edward Morrison or J. M. Elder, or Allinson himself.  McCrae was convinced to submit the poem for publication.

Another story of the poem’s origin claimed that Helmer’s funeral was actually held on the morning of May 2, after which McCrae wrote the poem in 20 minutes. A third claim, by Morrison, was that McCrae worked on the poem as time allowed between arrivals of wounded soldiers in need of medical attention.

Regardless of its true origin, McCrae worked on the poem for months before considering it ready for publication. He submitted it to The Spectator in London, but it was rejected. It was then sent to Punch, where it was published on December 8, 1915. It was published anonymously, but Punch attributed the poem to McCrae in its year-end index.

The word that ends the first line of the poem has been disputed. According to Allinson, the poem began with “In Flanders Fields the poppies grow” when first written.

However, since McCrae ended the second-to-last line with “grow”, Punch received permission to change the wording of the opening line to end with “blow”. McCrae himself used either word when making handwritten copies for friends and family.

Questions over how the first line should end have endured since publication. Most recently, the Royal Canadian Mint was inundated with queries and complaints from those who believed the first line should end with “grow” when a design for the ten-dollar bill was released in 2001 that featured the first stanza of “In Flanders Fields”, ending the first line with “blow”.

In song

It was set to music by Frank E. Tours. The score was published in New York and Chicago by M. Witmark & Sons in 1918.

Popularity

Painting of a soldier staring down at a white cross surrounded by red poppies. The text

Aspects of the poem were used in propaganda, such as this Canadian war bonds poster

 

According to historian Paul Fussell, “In Flanders Fields” was the most popular poem of its era. McCrae received numerous letters and telegrams praising his work when he was revealed as the author.

The poem was republished throughout the world, rapidly becoming synonymous with the sacrifice of the soldiers who died in the First World War. It was translated into numerous languages, so many that McCrae himself quipped that:

“it needs only Chinese now, surely”.

Its appeal was nearly universal. Soldiers took encouragement from it as a statement of their duty to those who died while people on the home front viewed it as defining the cause for which their brothers and sons were fighting.

It was often used for propaganda, particularly in Canada by the Unionist Party during the 1917 federal election amidst the Conscription Crisis. French Canadians in Quebec were strongly opposed to the possibility of conscription, but English Canadians voted overwhelmingly to support Prime Minister Robert Borden and the Unionist government. “In Flanders Fields” was said to have done more to “make this Dominion persevere in the duty of fighting for the world’s ultimate peace than all the political speeches of the recent campaign”.

McCrae, a staunch supporter of the empire and the war effort, was pleased with the effect his poem had on the election. He stated in a letter: “I hope I stabbed a [French] Canadian with my vote.”

The poem was a popular motivational tool in Great Britain, where it was used to encourage soldiers fighting against Germany, and in the United States where it was reprinted across the country. It was one of the most quoted works during the war, used in many places as part of campaigns to sell war bonds, during recruiting efforts and to criticize pacifists and those who sought to profit from the war.

American composer Charles Ives used “In Flanders Fields” as the basis for a song of the same name that premiered in 1917. Fussell criticized the poem in his work The Great War and Modern Memory (1975).He noted the distinction between the pastoral tone of the first nine lines and the “recruiting-poster rhetoric” of the third stanza. Describing it as “vicious” and “stupid”, Fussell called the final lines a “propaganda argument against a negotiated peace”.

Legacy

McCrae was moved to the medical corps and stationed in Boulogne, France, in June 1915 where he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, and placed in charge of medicine at the Number 3 Canadian General Hospital.  He was promoted to the acting rank of Colonel on January 13, 1918, and named Consulting Physician to the British Armies in France. The years of war had worn McCrae down, however. He contracted pneumonia that same day, and later came down with cerebral meningitis.

On January 28, 1918, he died at the military hospital in Wimereux and was buried there with full military honours.

A book of his works, featuring “In Flanders Fields” was published the following year.

“In Flanders Fields” has attained iconic status in Canada, where it is a staple of Remembrance Day ceremonies and may be the most well known literary piece among English Canadians.

It has an official French adaptation, entitled “Au champ d’honneur“, written by Jean Pariseau and used by the Canadian government in French and bilingual ceremonies.

In addition to its appearance on the ten-dollar bill, the Royal Canadian Mint has released poppy-themed quarters on several occasions. A version minted in 2004 featured a red poppy in the centre and is considered the first multi-coloured circulation coin in the world.Among its uses in popular culture, the line “to you from failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high” has served as a motto for the Montreal Canadiens hockey club since 1940.

McCrae’s birthplace in Guelph, Ontario has been converted into a museum dedicated to his life and the war. In Belgium, the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, named after the poem and devoted to the First World War, is situated in one of Flanders’ largest tourist areas.

Despite its enduring fame, “In Flanders Fields” is often ignored by academics teaching and discussing Canadian literature. The poem is sometimes viewed as an anachronism; It spoke of glory and honour in a war that has since become synonymous with the futility of trench warfare and the wholesale slaughter produced by 20th century weaponry.

Nancy Holmes, professor at the University of British Columbia, speculated that its patriotic nature and usage as a tool for propaganda may have led literary critics to view it as a national symbol or anthem rather than a poem.

Remembrance poppies

 

Main article: Remembrance poppy

Several wreaths of artificial red poppies with black centres. The logo of various veterans and community groups are printed in the middle of each.

Poppy wreaths at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium

 

The red poppies that McCrae referred to had been associated with war since the Napoleonic Wars when a writer of that time first noted how the poppies grew over the graves of soldiers. The damage done to the landscape in Flanders during the battle greatly increased the lime content in the surface soil, leaving the poppy as one of the few plants able to grow in the region.

Inspired by “In Flanders Fields”, American professor Moina Michael resolved at the war’s conclusion in 1918 to wear a red poppy year-round to honour the soldiers who had died in the war. She also wrote a poem in response called “We Shall Keep the Faith“.

She distributed silk poppies to her peers and campaigned to have them adopted as an official symbol of remembrance by the American Legion. Madame E. Guérin attended the 1920 convention where the Legion supported Michael’s proposal and was herself inspired to sell poppies in her native France to raise money for the war’s orphans.

In 1921, Guérin sent poppy sellers to London ahead of Armistice Day, attracting the attention of Field Marshal Douglas Haig. A co-founder of The Royal British Legion, Haig supported and encouraged the sale. The practice quickly spread throughout the British Empire. The wearing of poppies in the days leading up to Remembrance Day remains popular in many areas of the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly Great Britain, Canada, and South Africa, and in the days leading up to ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand.

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The Remembrance Poppy

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The remembrance poppy (a Papaver rhoeas) has been used since 1921 to commemorate soldiers who have died in war. Inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields“, and promoted by Moina Michael, they were first adopted by the American Legion to commemorate American soldiers killed in that war (1914–1918). They were then adopted by military veterans‘ groups in parts of the former British Empire: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Today, they are most common in the UK and Canada, and are used to commemorate their servicemen and women killed in all conflicts since 1914. There, small artificial poppies are often worn on clothing for a few weeks prior to Remembrance Day/Armistice Day (11 November).

Poppy wreaths are also often laid at war memorials.

The remembrance poppy is especially prominent in the UK. In the weeks leading up to Remembrance Sunday, they are distributed by The Royal British Legion in return for donations to their “Poppy Appeal”, which supports all current and former British military personnel. During this time, it is an unwritten rule that all public figures and people appearing on television must wear them; some have berated this as “poppy fascism” and argued that the Appeal is being used to glorify current wars.

It is especially controversial in Northern Ireland; most Irish nationalists and Irish Catholics refuse to wear one, mainly due to actions of the British Army during the Troubles, while Ulster Protestants and Unionists usually wear them.

Origins

The use of the poppy was inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields“. Its opening lines refer to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth of soldiers’ graves in Flanders, a region of Europe that overlies a part of Belgium.

The poem was written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae on 3 May 1915 after witnessing the death of his friend, a fellow soldier, the day before. The poem was first published on 8 December 1915 in the London-based magazine Punch.

Moina Michael on a 1948 U.S. commemorative stamp

 

In 1918, Moina Michael, who had taken leave from her professorship at the University of Georgia to be a volunteer worker for the American YWCA, was inspired by the poem and published a poem of her own called “We Shall Keep the Faith“.

In tribute to McCrae’s poem, she vowed to always wear a red rememberance poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who fought and helped in the war. At a November 1918 YWCA Overseas War Secretaries’ conference, she appeared with a silk poppy pinned to her coat and distributed 25 more to those attending. She then campaigned to have the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance.

At a conference in 1920, the National American Legion adopted it as their official symbol of remembrance. At this conference, French-woman Anna E. Guérin was inspired to introduce the artificial poppies commonly used today. In 1921 she sent her poppy sellers to London, where they were adopted by Field Marshal Douglas Haig, a founder of the Royal British Legion. It was also adopted by veterans’ groups in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Usage

Canada

In Canada, the poppy is the official symbol of remembrance worn during the two weeks before 11 November, having been adopted in 1921. The Royal Canadian Legion, which has trademarked the image, suggests that poppies be worn on the left lapel, or as near the heart as possible.

Until 1996, poppies were made by disabled veterans in Canada, but they have since been made by a private contractor. The Canadian poppies consist of two pieces of moulded plastic covered with flocking with a pin to fasten them to clothing. At first the poppies were made with a black centre. From 1980 to 2002, the centres were changed to green. Current designs are black only; this change caused confusion and controversy to those unfamiliar with the original design.

In 2007, sticker versions of the poppy were made for children, the elderly, and healthcare and food industry workers. Canada also issues a cast metal “Canada Remembers” pin featuring a gold maple leaf and two poppies, one representing the fallen and the other representing those who remained on the home front.

Following the installation of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa in 2000, where the national Remembrance service is held, a new tradition formed spontaneously as attendees laid their poppies on the tomb at the end of the service. This tradition, while not part of the official program, has become widely practised elsewhere in the country, with others leaving cut flowers, photographs, or letters to the deceased.

The poppy is also worn on Memorial Day, celebrated on July 1 each year in Newfoundland and Labrador.

United Kingdom

Royal British Legion poppy

 

A volunteer makes poppies at the Royal British Legion Poppy Factory in London, where over 30 million poppies are made by a small team each year

 

A poppy on a bus in Southampton, England (November 2008)

 

In the United Kingdom, remembrance poppies are sold by The Royal British Legion (RBL). This is a charity providing financial, social, political and emotional support to those who have served or who are currently serving in the British Armed Forces, and their dependants. They are sold on the streets by volunteers in the weeks before Remembrance Day. Other products bearing the Poppy, the Trademark of The Royal British Legion are sold throughout the year as part of the ongoing fundraising.

The RBL state,

“The red poppy is our registered mark and its only lawful use is to raise funds for the Poppy Appeal”;

its yearly fundraising drive in the weeks before Remembrance Day. The RBL says these poppies are:

“worn to commemorate the sacrifices of our Armed Forces and to show support to those still serving today”.

 

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the poppies have two red paper petals, a green paper leaf and are mounted on a green plastic stem. In Scotland, the poppies are curled and have four petals with no leaf. The yearly selling of poppies is a major source of income for the RBL in the UK. The poppy has no fixed price; it is sold for a donation or the price may be suggested by the seller. The black plastic center of the poppy was marked “Haig Fund” until 1994 but is now marked “Poppy Appeal”.

A team of about 50 people—most of them disabled former British military personnel—work all year round to make millions of poppies at the Poppy Factory in Richmond. Scottish poppies are made in the Lady Haig Poppy Factory in Edinburgh.

In the early years after World War I, poppies were worn only on Remembrance Day itself. However, today the RBL’s “Poppy Appeal” has a higher profile than any other charity appeal in the UK. The poppies are widespread from late October until mid-November every year and are worn by the general public, politicians, the Royal Family and others in public life. It has also become common to see poppies on cars, lorries and public transport such as aeroplanes, buses, and trams. Many magazines and newspapers also show a poppy on their cover page, and some social network users add poppies to their avatars.

In 2011, a Second World War plane dropped 6,000 poppies over the town of Yeovil in Somerset.

Some have criticised the level of compulsion associated with the custom, something Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow has called “poppy fascism”. Columnist Dan O’Neill wrote that “presenters and politicians seem to compete in a race to be first – poppies start sprouting in mid-October while the absence of a poppy is interpreted as absence of concern for the war dead, almost as an unpatriotic act of treachery”.

Likewise, Jonathan Bartley of the religious think-tank Ekklesia said “public figures in Britain are urged, indeed in many cases, required, to wear … the red poppy, almost as an article of faith. There is a political correctness about the red poppy”.

Journalist Robert Fisk complained that the poppy has become a seasonal “fashion accessory” and that people were “ostentatiously wearing a poppy for social or work-related reasons, to look patriotic when it suited them”. Kleshna, one of two businesses with an exclusive tie-in with the RBL, sells expensive crystal-clad poppy jewellery that has been worn by celebrities. In 1997 and again in 2000 the Royal British Legion registered the Poppy under Intellectual Property Rights (1997 Case EU000557058) and Trade Mark (2000 Trade Mark 2239583).

Northern Ireland

The Royal British Legion also holds a yearly poppy appeal in Northern Ireland and in 2009 raised more than £1 million. However, the wearing of poppies in Northern Ireland is controversial. It is seen by many as a political symbol  and a symbol of Britishness, representing support for the British Army.

The poppy has long been the preserve of the unionist/loyalist community.  Loyalist paramilitaries (such as the UVF and UDA) have also used poppies to commemorate their own members who were killed in The Troubles.

Most Irish nationalists/republicans, and members of the Irish Catholic community, choose not to wear poppies;  they regard the Poppy Appeal as supporting soldiers who killed Irish civilians (for example on Bloody Sunday) and who colluded with illegal loyalist paramilitaries (for example the Glenanne gang) during The Troubles.

In 2008, the director of Relatives for Justice condemned the wearing of poppies by police officers in Irish nationalist areas, calling it “repugnant and offensive to the vast majority of people within our community, given the role of the British Army“.

In 2009, Sinn Féin‘s Glenn Campbell berated the policy that all BBC TV presenters must wear poppies in the run-up to Remembrance Day and urged the BBC to drop the policy, as it is a publicly funded body. In the Irish Independent, it was claimed that “substantial amounts” of money raised from selling poppies are used “to build monuments to insane or inane generals or build old boys’ clubs for the war elite”.

However, on Remembrance Day 2010 the SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie was the first leader of a nationalist party to wear one.

Republic of Ireland

During World War I, all of Ireland was part of the UK and about 200,000 Irishmen fought in the British Army (see Ireland and World War I). Although the British Army is banned from actively recruiting in the Republic of Ireland, some of its citizens still enlist.

The RBL thus has a branch in the Republic and holds a yearly Poppy Appeal there.

Each July, the Republic has its own National Day of Commemoration for all Irish people who died in war. However, the wearing of poppies is much less common than in the UK and they are not part of the main commemorations. This is partly due to the British Army’s role in fighting against Irish independence, its activities during the War of Independence (for example the Burning of Cork) and the British Army’s role in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Nevertheless, the RBL holds its own wreath-laying ceremony at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, which the President of Ireland has attended.

United States

In the United States, the Veterans of Foreign Wars conducted the first nationwide distribution of remembrance poppies before Memorial Day in 1922. Today, the American Legion Auxiliary distributes crepe-paper poppies in exchange for donations around Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Elsewhere

In Hong Kong—which was formerly part of the British Empire—the poppy is worn by some participants on Remembrance Sunday each year.  It is not generally worn by the public, although The Royal British Legion’s Hong Kong and China Branch sells poppies to the public in a few places on the Hong Kong Island only.

Never Again symbol from Ukraine

 

During Victory Day 2014—which marks Nazi Germany’s surrender to the Soviet Union—some Ukrainians wore remembrance poppies instead of the usual Ribbon of Saint George, as the ribbon had become associated with pro-Russian separatists. A poppy logo was designed by Sergiy Mishakin, containing the text: “1939-1945 Never Again”.

From 2015 also official symbol of Remembrance and Reconciliation (May 8) and Victory Day over Nazism in World War II (May 9) days.

In Pakistan, in Northern Punjab and a few parts of the North-West Frontier (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), a private ceremony is celebrated each 11 November where red poppies are worn, by direct descendants of World War 1 veterans from the old British Indian Army belonging to these parts;  these people belong to the ‘Great War Company’, a non-governmental, non-profit organisation.

In Albania, government representatives including Prime-Minister Edi Rama, Speaker of the House Ilir Meta, and Minister of Defense Mimi Kodheli, wore the Remembrance Poppy during the commemoration ceremonies for the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Albania, in November 2014.

Other designs and purposes

White poppies

A white poppy left on Anzac Day in New Zealand, 2009

 

Some people choose to wear white poppies as a pacifist alternative to the red poppy. The white poppy and white poppy wreaths were introduced by Britain’s Co-operative Women’s Guild in 1933.

Today, white poppies are sold by Peace Pledge Union or may be home-made.

Purple poppies

To commemorate animal victims of war, Animal Aid in Britain has issued a purple poppy, which can be worn alongside the traditional red one, as a reminder that both humans and animals have been – and continue to be – victims of war.

Protests and controversy

Football clubs commonly wear jerseys with a poppy emblazoned on, as Celtic controversially did in 2010.

 

In 1993, The Royal British Legion complained about the logo of the game Cannon Fodder, because its use of iconography closely resembling of remembrance poppy. The Royal British pronunciated about, saying that was ‘sick and degenerate’ before its release trying to ban the game. A newspaper quoted the British Legion, Liberal Democrat MP Menzies Campbell and Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, calling the game offensive to “millions”, “monstrous” and “very unfortunate” respectively.

In the run-up to Remembrance Day, it has become common for UK football teams to play with artificial poppies sewn to their shirts, at the request of the Royal British Legion. This has caused some controversy. At a Celtic v Aberdeen match in November 2010, a group of Celtic supporters, called the Green Brigade, unfurled a large banner in protest at the team wearing poppies.

In a statement, it said:

“Our group and many within the Celtic support do not recognise the British Armed Forces as heroes, nor their role in many conflicts as one worthy of our remembrance”.

 

It gave Operation Banner (Northern Ireland), the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War as examples. In November 2011, it was proposed that the England football team should wear poppies on their shirts in a match against Spain. However, FIFA turned down the proposal, saying it would “open the door to similar initiatives” across the world, “jeopardising the neutrality of football”.

FIFA’s decision was attacked by Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron, who said he would back any player who ignored the ban.

Members of the English Defence League (EDL) held a protest on the roof of FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich. Instead, the English Football Association came up with other ways to mark Remembrance Day; for example, the England players would wear poppies before kickoff and black armbands during the match, there would be a minute’s silence, a poppy wreath would be set on the pitch during the national anthems, poppies would be sold in the stadium and would be shown on the scoreboards and advertising boards.

FIFA subsequently allowed the English, Scottish and Welsh teams to wear poppies on black armbands. Irish footballer James McClean, who has played for a number of English teams, has received death threats and abuse since 2012 for refusing to wear a poppy on his shirt during matches. McClean is from Derry, where British soldiers shot dead 14 unarmed civilians on Bloody Sunday.

Other public figures have also been attacked for not wearing poppies. British journalist and newsreader Charlene White has faced racist and sexist abuse for not wearing a poppy on-screen. She explained “I prefer to be neutral and impartial on screen so that one of those charities doesn’t feel less favoured than another”.

Newsreader Jon Snow does not wear a poppy on-screen for similar reasons. He too was criticized and he condemned what he saw as “poppy fascism”. Well-known war-time journalist Robert Fisk published in November 2011 a personal account about the shifting nature of wearing a poppy, titled

“Do those who flaunt the poppy on their lapels know that they mock the war dead?”.

British Prime Minister David Cameron rejected a request from Chinese officials to remove his poppy during his visit to Beijing on Remembrance Day 2010. The poppy was deemed offensive because of its association with the Anglo-Chinese Opium Wars in the 19th century, after which the Qing Dynasty was forced to tolerate the British opium trade in China and to cede Hong Kong to the UK.

However, Cameron wore a poppy in October 2015 when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping in London.

A 2010 Remembrance Day ceremony in London was disrupted by members of Muslims Against Crusades, who were protesting against British Army actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. They burnt large poppies and chanted “British soldiers burn in hell” during the two-minute silence. Two of the men were arrested and charged for threatening behaviour. One was convicted and fined £50.

The same group planned to hold another protest in 2011, but was banned by the Home Secretary the day before the planned protest.

In recent years, people have been arrested in the UK for burning remembrance poppies. In November 2011 a number of people were arrested in Northern Ireland after a picture of two youths burning a poppy was posted on Facebook. The picture was reported to police by a member of the RBL.

The following year, a young Canterbury man was arrested for allegedly posting a picture of a burning poppy on Facebook, on suspicion of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act.

In 2011 it was revealed that Kleshna, one of two businesses selling its own poppies on the RBL website, gives only 10% of its sales to charity. Kleshna sells crystal-clad poppy jewellery which has been worn by celebrities on television

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Victoria Cross & Victoria Cross and Bar – What’s it all about

Victoria Cross

Established 29 January 1856
First awarded 1857
Last awarded 26 February 2015
Total awarded 1,358
Distinct
recipients
1,355

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy” to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories] It is first in the order of wear in the United Kingdom honours system, and takes precedence over all other orders, decorations, and medals, including the Order of the Garter. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians under military command. The VC is usually presented to the recipient or to their next of kin by the British monarch at an investiture held at Buckingham Palace.

The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. Since then, the medal has been awarded 1,358 times to 1,355 individual recipients. Only 15 medals, 11 to members of the British Army, and four to the Australian Army, have been awarded since the Second World War. The traditional explanation of the source of the metal from which the medals are struck is that it derives from Russian cannon captured at the Siege of Sevastopol. Some research suggested a variety of origins for the material actually making up the medals themselves.[4] Research has established that the metal for the medals came from two Chinese cannons[5] that were captured from the Russians in 1855.

Owing to its rarity, the VC is highly prized and the medal has fetched over £400,000 at auction.[6] A number of public and private collections are devoted to the Victoria Cross. The private collection of Lord Ashcroft, amassed since 1986, contains over one-tenth of all VCs awarded. Following a 2008 donation to the Imperial War Museum, the Ashcroft collection went on public display alongside the museum’s Victoria and George Cross collection in November 2010.[7]

Beginning with the Centennial of Confederation in 1967, Canada[8] followed in 1975 by Australia[9] and New Zealand[10] developed their own national honours systems, separate and independent of the British or Imperial honours system. As each country’s system evolved, operational gallantry awards were developed with the premier award of each system, the VC for Australia, the Canadian VC and the VC for New Zealand being created and named in honour of the Victoria Cross. These are unique awards of each honours system, recommended, assessed, gazetted and presented by each country

Origin

In 1854, after 39 years of peace, Britain found itself fighting a major war against Russia. The Crimean War was one of the first wars with modern reporting, and the dispatches of William Howard Russell described many acts of bravery and valour by British servicemen that went unrewarded.[11]

Before the Crimean War, there was no official standardised system for recognition of gallantry within the British armed forces. Officers were eligible for an award of one of the junior grades of the Order of the Bath and brevet promotions while a Mention in Despatches existed as an alternative award for acts of lesser gallantry. This structure was very limited; in practice awards of the Order of the Bath were confined to officers of field rank.[12] Brevet promotions or Mentions in Despatches were largely confined to those who were under the immediate notice of the commanders in the field, generally members of the commander’s own staff.[13]

Other European countries had awards that did not discriminate against class or rank; France awarded the Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour) and The Netherlands gave the Order of William. There was a growing feeling among the public and in the Royal Court that a new award was needed to recognise incidents of gallantry that were unconnected with a man’s lengthy or meritorious service. Queen Victoria issued a Warrant under the Royal sign-manual on 29 January 1856[11][14] (gazetted 5 February 1856)[14] that officially constituted the VC. The order was backdated to 1854 to recognise acts of valour during the Crimean War.[15]

Queen Victoria had instructed the War Office to strike a new medal that would not recognise birth or class. The medal was meant to be a simple decoration that would be highly prized and eagerly sought after by those in the military services.[16] To maintain its simplicity, Queen Victoria, under the guidance of Prince Albert, vetoed the suggestion that the award be called The Military Order of Victoria and instead suggested the name Victoria Cross. The original warrant stated that the Victoria Cross would only be awarded to soldiers who have served in the presence of the enemy and had performed some signal act of valour or devotion.[17] The first ceremony was held on 26 June 1857 where Queen Victoria invested 62 of the 111 Crimean recipients in a ceremony in Hyde Park, London.[11]

It was originally intended that the VCs would be cast from the cascabels of two cannon that were captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopol.[18][19][20] In 1990 Creagh and Ashton conducted a metallurgical examination of the VCs in the custody of the Australian War Memorial.[21][22] Later, the historian John Glanfield,[4] wrote that, through the use of x-ray studies of older Victoria Crosses, it was determined that the metal used for VCs is from antique Chinese guns and not of Russian origin.[4][19][20] Theories abound. One theory is that the cannon were originally Chinese weapons but the Russians captured them and deployed them at Sevastopol. They are indeed Chinese cannon: Creagh [21] noted the existence of Chinese inscriptions on the cannon which are now barely legible due to corrosion. It was also thought that some medals made during the First World War were composed of metal captured from different Chinese guns during the Boxer Rebellion. This is not so, however. The VCs examined by Creagh and Ashton [21][22] both in Australia (58) and at the QE II Army Memorial Museum in New Zealand (14) [21] spanned the entire time during which VCs have been issued and no compositional inconsistencies were found.[21] It was also believed that another source of metal was used between 1942 and 1945 to create five Second World War VCs when the Sevastopol metal “went missing”.[4] Creagh [21] accessed the Army records at MoD Donnington in 1991 and did not find any gaps in the custodial record. The composition found in the WW2 VCs, amongst them those for Edwards (Australia) and Upham (New Zealand), is similar to that for the early WW1 medals. This is likely to be due to the reuse of material from earlier pourings, casting sprues, defective medals, etc.

The barrels of the cannon in question are on display at Firepower – The Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich. The remaining portion of the only remaining cascabel, weighing 358 oz (10 kg), is stored in a vault maintained by 15 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps at MoD Donnington. It can only be removed under armed guard. It is estimated that approximately 80 to 85 more VCs could be cast from this source. A single company of jewellers, Hancocks of London, has been responsible for the production of every VC awarded since its inception.[23]

Appearance

The obverse and reverse of the bronze cross pattée medal; obverse showing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion with the inscription FOR VALOUR with a crimson ribbon; the reverse shows the inscription of the recipient on the bar connecting the ribbon with the regiment in the centre of the medal.

The front and back of Edward Holland‘s VC.

The decoration is a bronze cross pattée, 1 39/64″ (41 mm) high, 1 27/64″ (36 mm) wide, bearing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion, and the inscription FOR VALOUR.[24] This was originally to have been FOR THE BRAVE, until it was changed on the recommendation of Queen Victoria, as it implied that not all men in battle were brave.[19] The decoration, suspension bar and link weigh about 0.87 troy ounces (27 g).[25]

The cross is suspended by a ring from a seriffed “V” to a bar ornamented with laurel leaves, through which the ribbon passes. The reverse of the suspension bar is engraved with the recipient’s name, rank, number and unit.[16] On the reverse of the medal is a circular panel on which the date of the act for which it was awarded is engraved in the centre.[16]

The Original Warrant Clause 1 states that the Victoria Cross “shall consist of a Maltese cross of bronze”.[24] Nonetheless, it has always been a cross pattée; the discrepancy with the Warrant has never been corrected.[26]

The ribbon is crimson, 1 1/2 ” (38 mm) wide. The original (1856) specification for the award stated that the ribbon should be red for army recipients and dark blue for naval recipients.[27] However the dark blue ribbon was abolished soon after the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918. On 22 May 1920 King George V signed a warrant that stated all recipients would now receive a red ribbon and the living recipients of the naval version were required to exchange their ribbons for the new colour.[28] Although the army warrants state the colour as being red it is defined by most commentators as being crimson or “wine-red”.[29]

Award process

The obverse of the bronze cross pattée medal; showing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion with the inscription FOR VALOUR with a blue ribbon

The obverse of William Johnstone’s VC showing the dark blue ribbon for pre-1918 awards to naval personnel.

The Victoria Cross is awarded for

… most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.[2]

A recommendation for the VC is normally issued by an officer at regimental level, or equivalent, and has to be supported by three witnesses, although this has been waived on occasion.[30] The recommendation is then passed up the military hierarchy until it reaches the Secretary of State for Defence. The recommendation is then laid before the monarch who approves the award with his or her signature. Victoria Cross awards are always promulgated in the London Gazette with the single exception of the award to the American Unknown Soldier in 1921.[31] The Victoria Cross warrant makes no specific provision as to who should actually present the medals to the recipients. Queen Victoria indicated that she would like to present the medals in person and she presented 185 medals out of the 472 gazetted during her reign. Including the first 62 medals presented at a parade in Hyde Park on 26 June 1857 by Queen Victoria, nearly 900 awards have been personally presented to the recipient by the reigning British monarch. Nearly 300 awards have been presented by a member of the royal family or by a civil or military dignitary. About 150 awards were either forwarded to the recipient or next of kin by registered post or no details of the presentations are known.[32]

The original Royal Warrant did not contain a specific clause regarding posthumous awards, although official policy was not to award the VC posthumously. Between the Indian Mutiny in 1857 and the beginning of the Second Boer War the names of six officers and men were published in the London Gazette with a memorandum stating they would have been awarded the Victoria Cross had they survived. A further three notices were published in the London Gazette in September 1900 and April 1901 for gallantry in the Second Boer War. In an exception to policy for the South Africa War 1899–1902, six posthumous Victoria Crosses, three to the officers and men mentioned in the notices in 1900 and 1901 and a further three, the first official posthumous awards, were granted on 8 August 1902.[33][a] Five years later in 1907, the posthumous policy was reversed and medals were sent to the next of kin of the six officers and men.[34] The awards were mentioned in notices in the Gazette dating back to the Indian Mutiny. The Victoria Cross warrant was not amended to explicitly allow posthumous awards until 1920, but one quarter of all awards for World War I were posthumous.[35][36] Although the 1920 Royal Warrant made provision for awards to women serving in the Armed Forces, no women have been awarded a VC.[37]

In the case of a gallant and daring act being performed by a squadron, ship’s company or a detached body of men (such as marines) in which all men are deemed equally brave and deserving of the Victoria Cross then a ballot is drawn. The officers select one officer, the NCOs select one individual and the private soldiers or seamen select two individuals.[38] In all 46 awards have been awarded by ballot with 29 of the awards during the Indian Mutiny. Four further awards were granted to Q Battery, Royal Horse Artillery at Korn Spruit on 31 March 1900 during the Second Boer War. The final ballot awards for the army were the six awards to the Lancashire Fusiliers at W Beach during the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 although three of the awards were not gazetted until 1917. The final seven ballot awards were the only naval ballot awards with three awards to two Q-Ships in 1917 and four awards for the Zeebrugge Raid in 1918. The provision for awards by ballot is still included in the Victoria Cross warrant but there have been no further such awards since 1918.[30]

Between 1858 and 1881 the Victoria Cross could be awarded for actions taken “under circumstances of extreme danger” not in the face of the enemy.[39] Six such awards were made during this period—five of them for a single incident during an Expedition to the Andaman Islands in 1867.[40] In 1881, the criteria were changed again and the VC was only awarded for acts of valour “in the face of the enemy”.[40] Due to this it has been suggested by many historians including Lord Ashcroft that the changing nature of warfare will result in fewer VCs being awarded.[41] The prevalence of remote fighting techniques has meant that opportunities to carry out acts of bravery in the face of the enemy are diminishing. Since 1940, military personnel who have distinguished themselves for gallantry not in the face of the enemy have been awarded the George Cross, which is immediately after the VC in the Order of Wear.[citation needed]

Colonial awards

The Victoria Cross was extended to colonial troops in 1867. The extension was made following a recommendation for gallantry regarding colonial soldier Major Charles Heaphy for action in the New Zealand land wars in 1864.[42] He was operating under British command and the VC was gazetted in 1867. Later that year, the Government of New Zealand assumed full responsibility for operations but no further recommendations for the Victoria Cross were raised for local troops who distinguished themselves in action.[43] Following gallant actions by three New Zealand soldiers in November 1868 and January 1869 during the New Zealand land wars, an Order in Council on 10 March 1869 created a “Distinctive Decoration” for members of the local forces without seeking permission from the Secretary of State for the Colonies.[44] Although the governor was chided for exceeding his authority, the Order in Council was ratified by the Queen. The title “Distinctive Decoration” was later replaced by the title New Zealand Cross.[43]

The question of whether recommendations could be made for colonial troops not serving with British troops was not asked in New Zealand, but in 1881, the question was asked in South Africa. Surgeon John McCrea, an officer of the South African forces was recommended for gallantry during hostilities which had not been approved by British Government. He was awarded the Victoria Cross and the principle was established that gallant conduct could be rewarded independently of any political consideration of military operations. More recently, four Australian soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross in Vietnam although Britain was not involved in the conflict.[45]

Indian troops were not originally eligible for the Victoria Cross since they had been eligible for the Indian Order of Merit since 1837 which was the oldest British gallantry award for general issue. When the Victoria Cross was created, Indian troops were still controlled by the Honourable East India Company and did not come under Crown control until 1860. European officers and men serving with the Honourable East India Company were not eligible for the Indian Order of Merit and the Victoria Cross was extended to cover them in October 1857. It was only at the end of the 19th century that calls for Indian troops to be awarded the Victoria Cross intensified. Indian troops became eligible for the award in 1911. The first awards to Indian troops appeared in the London Gazette on 7 December 1914 to Darwan Sing Negi and Khudadad Khan. Negi was presented with the Victoria Cross by King George V during a visit to troops in France. The presentation occurred on 5 December 1914 and he is one of a very few soldiers presented with his award before it appeared in the London Gazette.[46]

Separate Commonwealth awards

The cross pattée bearing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion with the inscription FOR VALOUR etched into stone.

Victoria Cross as it appears on Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones.

Since the Second World War, most but not all Commonwealth countries have created their own honours systems and no longer participate in the British honours system. This began soon after the Partition of India in 1947, when the new countries of India and Pakistan introduced their own systems of awards. The VC was replaced by the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) and Nishan-e-Haider (NH) respectively. Most if not all new honours systems continued to permit recipients of British honours to wear their awards according to the rules of each nation’s order of wear. Sri Lanka, whose defence personnel were eligible to receive the Victoria Cross until 1972, introduced its own equivalent, the Parama Weera Vibhushanaya medal. Three Commonwealth realms—Australia, Canada and New Zealand[47]—have each introduced their own decorations for gallantry and bravery, replacing British decorations such as the Victoria Cross with their own. The only Commonwealth countries that still can recommend the VC are the small nations, none of whose forces have ever been awarded the VC, that still participate in the British honours system.[48]

Australia was the first Commonwealth realm to create its own VC, on 15 January 1991. Although it is a separate award, its appearance is identical to its British counterpart.[49] Canada followed suit when in 1993 Queen Elizabeth signed Letters Patent creating the Canadian VC, which is also similar to the British version, except that the legend has been changed from FOR VALOUR to the Latin PRO VALORE This language was chosen so as to favour neither French nor English, the two official languages of Canada.[50] New Zealand was the third country to adapt the VC into its own honours system. While the New Zealand and Australian VCs are technically separate awards, the decoration is identical to the British design, including being cast from the same Crimean War gunmetal as the British VC.[47][49] The Canadian Victoria Cross also includes metal from the same cannon, along with copper and other metals from all regions of Canada.[51]

Five of the separate VCs have so far been awarded. Willie Apiata received the Victoria Cross for New Zealand on 2 July 2007, for his actions in the War in Afghanistan in 2004. The Victoria Cross for Australia has been awarded four times. Mark Donaldson was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia on 16 January 2009 for actions during Operation Slipper, the Australian contribution to the War in Afghanistan.[52] Ben Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia on 23 January 2011 for actions in the Shah Wali Kot Offensive, part of the War in Afghanistan.[53] Daniel Keighran was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia on 1 November 2012 for his actions during the Battle of Derapet in Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan, on 24 August 2010.[54] A posthumous award was made to Corporal Cameron Baird for actions in Afghanistan in 2013. A Canadian version has been cast that was originally to be awarded to the Unknown Soldier at the rededication of the Vimy Memorial on 7 April 2007. This date was chosen as it was the 90th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge but pressure from veterans’ organisations caused the plan to be dropped.[55]

Authority and privileges

As the highest award for valour of the United Kingdom, the Victoria Cross is always the first award to be presented at an investiture, even before knighthoods, as was shown at the investiture of Private Johnson Beharry, who received his medal before General Sir Mike Jackson received his knighthood.[18] Owing to its status, the VC is always the first decoration worn in a row of medals and it is the first set of post-nominal letters used to indicate any decoration or order.[48] Similar acts of extreme valour that do not take place in the face of the enemy are honoured with the George Cross, which has equal precedence but is awarded second because the GC is newer.[56]

There is a widespread though erroneous belief that it is statutory for “all ranks to salute a bearer of the Victoria Cross”. There is no official requirement that appears in the official Warrant of the VC, nor in Queen’s Regulations and Orders, but tradition dictates that this occurs and as such the Chiefs of Staff will salute a Private awarded a VC or GC.[56]

The Victoria Cross was at first worn as the recipient fancied. It was popular to pin it on the left side of the chest over the heart, with other decorations grouped around the VC. The Queen’s Regulations for the Army of 1881 gave clear instructions on how to wear it; the VC had to follow the badge of the Order of the Indian Empire. In 1900 it was ordained in Dress Regulations for the Army that it should be worn after the cross of a Member of the Royal Victorian Order. It was only in 1902 that King Edward VII gave the cross its present position on a bar brooch.[57] The cross is also worn as a miniature decoration on a brooch or a chain with mess jacket, white tie or black tie. As a bearer of the VC is not a Companion in an Order of Chivalry, the VC has no place in a coat of arms.[58]

Annuity

The original warrant stated that NCOs and private soldiers or seamen on the Victoria Cross Register were entitled to a £10 per annum annuity.[59] In 1898, Queen Victoria raised the pension to £50 for those that could not earn a livelihood, be it from old age or infirmity.[60] Today holders of the Victoria Cross or George Cross are entitled to an annuity, the amount of which is determined by the awarding government. Since 2015, the annuity paid by the British Government is £10,000 per year.[61] This is exempted from tax for British taxpayers by Section 638 Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003, along with pensions or annuities from other awards for bravery.[62] In Canada under the Gallantry Awards Order, members of the Canadian Forces or people who joined the British forces before 31 March 1949 while domiciled in Canada or Newfoundland receive Can$3,000 per year.[63] Under Subsection 103.4 of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986, the Australian Government provides a Victoria Cross Allowance.[64] Until November 2005 the amount was A$3,230 per year. Since then this amount has been increased annually in line with the Australian Consumer Price Index.[65][66]

Forfeited awards

The original Royal Warrant involved an expulsion clause that allowed for a recipient’s name to be erased from the official register in certain wholly discreditable circumstances and his pension cancelled.[67] King George V felt very strongly that the decoration should never be forfeited and in a letter from his Private Secretary, Lord Stamfordham, on 26 July 1920, his views are forcefully expressed:

The King feels so strongly that, no matter the crime committed by anyone on whom the VC has been conferred, the decoration should not be forfeited. Even were a VC to be sentenced to be hanged for murder, he should be allowed to wear his VC on the scaffold.[31]

The power to cancel and restore awards is still included in the Victoria Cross warrant but none has been forfeited since 1908.[31]

Recipients

The 93rd Highlanders storming Sikandar Bagh. National Army Museum, London (NAM 1987-06-12)

A total of 1,358 Victoria Crosses have been awarded since 1856 to 1,355 men.[68] There are several statistics related to the greatest number of VCs awarded in individual battles or wars. The greatest number of Victoria Crosses won on a single day is 18, for deeds performed on 16 November 1857, during Second Relief of Lucknow (primarily the assault on and capture of Sikandar Bagh), during the Indian Mutiny; the greatest number won in a single action is 28, for the whole of the Second Relief of Lucknow, 14–22 November 1857.[citation needed] The greatest number won by a single unit during a single action is seven, to the 2nd/24th Foot, for the defence of Rorke’s Drift, 22–23 January 1879, during the Zulu War.[69] The greatest number won in a single conflict is 628, being for the First World War.[70] There are only six living holders of the VC—four British, one Australian, one Gurkha—one award for the Second World War and four awards since; in addition one New Zealander holds the Victoria Cross for New Zealand and four Australians hold the Victoria Cross for Australia. Eight of the then-twelve surviving holders of the Victoria Cross attended the 150th Anniversary service of remembrance at Westminster Abbey on 26 June 2006.[71]

In 1921 the Victoria Cross was given to the American Unknown Soldier of the First World War (the British Unknown Warrior was reciprocally awarded the US Medal of Honor).[72] One VC is in existence that is not counted in any official records. In 1856, Queen Victoria laid the first Victoria Cross beneath the foundation stone of Netley Military hospital.[73] When the hospital was demolished in 1966 the VC, known as “The Netley VC”, was retrieved and is now on display in the Army Medical Services Museum, Mytchett, near Aldershot.[73]

Three people have been awarded the VC and Bar, the bar representing a second award of the VC. They are: Noel Chavasse and Arthur Martin-Leake, both doctors in the Royal Army Medical Corps, for rescuing wounded under fire; and New Zealander Charles Upham, an infantryman, for combat actions.[74] Upham remains the only combatant soldier to have received a VC and Bar. An Irishman, Surgeon General William Manley, remains the sole recipient of both the Victoria Cross and the Iron Cross. The VC was awarded for his actions during the Waikato-Hauhau Maori War, New Zealand on 29 April 1864 while the Iron Cross was awarded for tending the wounded during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71.[75] New Zealand Flying Officer Lloyd Trigg has the distinction of being the only serviceman ever awarded a VC on evidence solely provided by the enemy, for an action in which there were no surviving Allied witnesses.[76] The recommendation was made by the captain of the German U-boat U-468 sunk by Trigg’s aircraft. Lieutenant Commander Gerard Roope was also awarded a VC on recommendation of the enemy, the captain of the Admiral Hipper, but there were also numerous surviving Allied witnesses to corroborate his actions.[77]

The St Nazaire Raid or Operation Chariot on 28 March 1942, a successful British amphibious attack on the heavily defended Normandie dry dock at St Nazaire in German-occupied France, resulted in the award of five Victoria Crosses.[78]

Since the end of the Second World War the original VC has been awarded 15 times: four in the Korean War, one in the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in 1965, four to Australians in the Vietnam War, two during the Falklands War in 1982, one in the Iraq War in 2004, and three in the War in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2012.[72] The three awards given in the 21st century to British personnel have been for actions in the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War. On 18 March 2005, Lance Sergeant (then Private) Johnson Beharry of the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment became the first recipient of the VC since Sergeant Ian McKay in 1982.[18] One of the most recent awards of the Victoria Cross to a British service person was the posthumous award on 14 December 2006 to Corporal Bryan Budd of 3 Para. It was awarded for two separate acts of “inspirational leadership and the greatest valour” which led to his death, during actions against the Taliban in Afghanistan in July and August 2006.[79] Another Victoria Cross has been awarded in March 2013 to British Lance Corporal James Ashworth, who showed a courage “beyond words” during a fierce battle with the Taliban in Helmand’s Nahr-e Saraj district, Afghanistan, and was fatally wounded as a result.[80] On 26 February 2015 a further award was announced, to Joshua Leakey of the Parachute Regiment for actions in Afghanistan in 2013.[81]

Public sales

Since 1879, more than 300 Victoria Crosses have been publicly auctioned or advertised. Others have been privately sold. The value of the VC can be seen by the increasing sums that the medals reach at auction. In 1955 the set of medals awarded to Edmund Barron Hartley was bought at Sotheby’s for the then record price of £300 (approximately £7000 in present-day terms[82]). In October 1966 the Middlesex Regiment paid a new record figure of £900 (approximately £15000 in present-day terms[82]) for a VC awarded after the Battle of the Somme. In January 1969, the record reached £1700 (£25000[82]) for the medal set of William Rennie.[83] In April 2004 the VC awarded in 1944 to Sergeant Norman Jackson, RAF, was sold at auction for £235,250.[84][85] On 24 July 2006, an auction at Bonhams in Sydney of the VC awarded to Captain Alfred Shout fetched a world record hammer price of A$1 million (approximately £410,000 at then exchange rates).[6]

Thefts

Several VCs have been stolen and, being valuable, have been placed on the Interpol watch-list for stolen items.[86] The VC awarded to Milton Gregg, which was donated to the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum in London, Ontario Canada in 1979, was stolen on Canada Day, (1 July 1980), when the museum was overcrowded[87] and has been missing since. A VC awarded in 1917 to Canadian soldier Corporal Filip Konowal[88] was stolen from the same museum in 1973 and was not recovered until 2004.[89]

On 2 December 2007, nine VCs were among 100 medals stolen from locked, reinforced glass cabinets at the QEII Army Memorial Museum in Waiouru, New Zealand with a value of around NZD$20 million. Charles Upham’s VC and Bar was among these.[90] A reward of NZ$300,000 was posted for information leading to the recovery of the decorations and conviction of the thieves, although at the time there was much public debate about the need to offer reward money to retrieve the medals.[91] On 16 February 2008 New Zealand Police announced all the medals had been recovered

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Victoria Cross and Bar

There have only been three men in history who have Victoria Cross & Bar

Those who have won the Victoria Cross twice—the subsequent award is the Bar attached to the original Victoria Cross. There are only three men who have been awarded the VC twice.

Noel Godfrey Chavasse

N.G. Chavasse, VC.jpg
Noel Godfrey Chavasse
Born (1884-11-09)9 November 1884
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Died 4 August 1917(1917-08-04) (aged 32)
Brandhoek, Belgium
Buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1913–1917
Rank Captain
Unit Royal Army Medical Corps
Battles/wars First World War

Awards Victoria Cross & Bar
Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Other work Olympic athlete

Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse VC & Bar, MC (9 November 1884 – 4 August 1917) was a British medical doctor, Olympic athlete, and British Army officer from the Chavasse family. He is one of only three people to be awarded a Victoria Cross twice.[1]

The Battle of Guillemont was to see acts of heroism by Captain Chavasse, the only man to be awarded the Victoria Cross twice during the First World War. In 1916, Chavasse was hit by shell splinters while rescuing men in no-man’s land. It is said he got as close as 25 yards to the German line, where he found three men and continued throughout the night under a constant rain of sniper bullets and bombing. He performed similar heroics in the offensive at Passchendaele to gain a second VC and become the most highly decorated British officer in the war. Although operated upon, he was to die of his wounds two days later in 1917

Childhood

Noel Godfrey Chavasse was the younger of identical twin boys born to the Rev. Francis Chavasse (later Bishop of Liverpool and founder of St Peter’s College, Oxford) and Edith Jane Chavasse (née Maude) on 9 November 1884 at 36 New Inn Hall Street, Oxford.[3] Christopher Maude was born 20 minutes before his brother. In all, there were seven children born to the Chavasse family, in age order: Dorothea, Christopher, Noel, Edith, Mary, Francis and Aidan. The twins were so small and weak at birth that their baptism was delayed until 29 December 1884 and both were very ill with typhoid in their first year of life.

Chavasse was educated at Magdalen College School in Cowley Place, Oxford, where a blue plaque was dedicated to him in 2005, Liverpool College and Trinity College, Oxford.[3][4] The family grew up in Oxford until, on 3 March 1900, Rev. Chavasse was offered the Anglican Bishopric of Liverpool. The move was not without regrets as Liverpool during this time was one of the busiest seaports in the Empire and also had a great deal of religious turmoil in progress. The family moved to the Bishop’s Palace at 19 Abercromby Square, Liverpool. Noel and Christopher went to school at Liverpool College where they excelled at sports from the start. Their academic progress was initially rather slower but as they grew older, both did well until in 1904, both were admitted to Trinity College, Oxford.[3]

University and early professional career

In 1907, Noel graduated with First-class honours[3] but Christopher failed, leading to a nervous breakdown. Both of them stayed at Oxford, Noel to study medicine and Christopher to retake his exams. During their time at Trinity, both men had not neglected their sports, rugby union being a favourite of theirs. In 1908, both twins represented Great Britain in the Olympic Games in the 400 metres. Noel finished third in his heat while Christopher finished second, neither time being fast enough to progress further.[5]

In January 1909, Noel joined the Oxford University Officers’ Training Corps Medical Unit. By the following May, he was promoted to Lance-Sergeant. Noel finished his studies at Oxford in July 1909 and returned to Liverpool to continue his studies under such eminent teachers as Sir Robert Jones who went on to become a leading authority in orthopaedic surgery.

On returning to Liverpool, Chavasse resumed his connection with the Grafton Street Industrial School, an institution for homeless boys in Liverpool. In the autumn, he went to London to sit his examination for Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons. He failed, apparently because of ill health. When he sat the examination again in May 1910, he passed it with ease. Christopher, in the meantime, was well into his studies for the ministry under his father’s guiding hand. Noel progressed through his studies having studied pathology and bacteriology. As part of his course, he was obliged to undertake a hospital “placement”. He found a position at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. Whilst Chavasse liked Dublin, his first experience of living in a Roman Catholic community disturbed him.

In January 1912 Chavasse passed his final medical examination, and was awarded the university’s premier medical prize, the Derby Exhibition, in March that year. On 22 July 1912, Noel registered as a doctor with the General Medical Council. His first placement was at the Royal Southern Hospital in Liverpool,[3] initially until 31 March 1913 and then for a further six months. He then became house surgeon to Robert Jones, his former tutor.

Military career and decorations

In early 1913, after discussions with some of his fellow doctors, Chavasse applied for and was accepted by the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC); he was commissioned as a lieutenant on 2 June.[6] Thanks to one of his mentors, Dr McAlistair, who was then Surgeon-Captain of the 10th Battalion of the King’s (Liverpool Regiment), the Liverpool Scottish, he was attached to the battalion as Surgeon-Lieutenant.[citation needed] The 10th Kings had been a Territorial battalion since the Haldane Reforms in 1909. Chavasse joined the battalion on 2 June 1913 and was welcomed by Lieutenant-Colonel W. Nicholl, the commanding officer. As an officer in a Territorial unit, Chavasse now had to attend to both his civilian and military duties.

During the First World War, Chavasse was a captain with the Royal Army Medical Corps, British Army attached to the 1/10th (Scottish) Battalion of the King’s (Liverpool Regiment).

Chavasse was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry at Hooge, Belgium in June 1915, although the award was not gazetted until 14 January 1916.[7] He was promoted captain on 1 April 1915;[8] on 30 November 1915 that year he was Mentioned in Despatches.

Victoria Cross

Medals of Noel and Christopher Chavasse. Noel’s medals are top row. Christopher’s medals are bottom row.

Chavasse was first awarded the VC for his actions on 9 August 1916, at Guillemont, France when he attended to the wounded all day under heavy fire. The full citation was published on 24 October 1916 and read:[9]

Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, M.C., M.B., Royal Army Medical Corps.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty.

During an attack he tended the wounded in the open all day, under heavy fire, frequently in view of the enemy. During the ensuing night he searched for wounded on the ground in front of the enemy’s lines for four hours.

Next day he took one stretcher-bearer to the advanced trenches, and under heavy shell fire carried an urgent case for 500 yards into safety, being wounded in the side by a shell splinter during the journey. The same night he took up a party of twenty volunteers, rescued three wounded men from a shell hole twenty-five yards from the enemy’s trench, buried the bodies of two officers, and collected many identity discs, although fired on by bombs and machine guns.

Altogether he saved the lives of some twenty badly wounded men, besides the ordinary cases which passed through his hands. His courage and self-sacrifice, were beyond praise.

Bar to Victoria Cross

Chavasse’s headstone in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery.

Chavasse’s second award was made during the period 31 July to 2 August 1917, at Wieltje, Belgium; the full citation was published on 14 September 1917 and read:[10]

War Office, September, 1917.

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of a Bar to the Victoria Cross to Capt. Noel Godfrey Chavasse, V.C., M.C., late R.A.M.C., attd. L’pool R.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when in action.

Though severely wounded early in the action whilst carrying a wounded soldier to the Dressing Station, Capt. Chavasse refused to leave his post, and for two days not only continued to perform his duties, but in addition went out repeatedly under heavy fire to search for and attend to the wounded who were lying out.

During these searches, although practically without food during this period, worn with fatigue and faint with his wound, he assisted to carry in a number of badly wounded men, over heavy and difficult ground.

By his extraordinary energy and inspiring example, he was instrumental in rescuing many wounded who would have otherwise undoubtedly succumbed under the bad weather conditions.

This devoted and gallant officer subsequently died of his wounds.

Chavasse died of his wounds in Brandhoek and is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, Vlamertinge.[11] His military headstone carries, uniquely, a representation of two Victoria Crosses.[3]

Chavasse was the only man to be awarded both a Victoria Cross and Bar in the First World War, and one of only three men ever to have achieved this distinction.[3]

Personal life

Noel’s memorial at the Chavasse family grave at Bromsgrove

At the time of his death, Chavasse was engaged to one of his cousins, Frances Gladys Ryland Chavasse (1893–1962), daughter of his uncle Sir Thomas Frederick Chavasse (1854–1913) of Bromsgrove, a surgeon. Noel’s engagement is mentioned on a plaque at the Chavasse family grave at Bromsgrove. Gladys Chavasse was mentioned in despatches 1945 at Monte Cassino, Italy, and killed in 1962 in an accident in France while crossing the road.[12]

Commemoration

Noel Chavasse Memorial on display at the Army Medical Services Museum

Chavasse is believed to be commemorated by more war memorials in the UK than any other individual. Sixteen have currently been recorded by the UK National Inventory of War Memorials.

Chavasse’s medals, which had been left by his family to St Peter’s College, Oxford, were purchased in 2009 by Lord Ashcroft for around £1.5 million, a world record price.[13] The medals, along with others, are displayed in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum.[13]

A piobaireachd commemorating him Lament for Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, VC and Bar, MC, RAMC was composed in his honour by Joe Massey

Chavasse Park in Liverpool city centre was named in honour of the Chavasse family; Francis (2nd Bishop of Liverpool) and his twin sons Christopher Maude Chavasse (an Olympic athlete and later Bishop of Rochester), and Noel Godfrey Chavasse.[14]

A hospital ward is named after him at the Walton Centre in Liverpool.

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Arthur Martin-Leake

Arthur Martin-Leake.jpg
Arthur Martin-Leake

Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Martin-Leake VC & Bar (4 April 1874 – 22 June 1953) was a British double recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Martin-Leake was the first of only three men to be awarded the VC twice.

Born (1874-04-04)4 April 1874
Standon, Hertfordshire
Died 22 June 1953(1953-06-22) (aged 79)
High Cross, Hertfordshire
Buried at High Cross Church
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1899–1902
1914–1918
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit Imperial Yeomanry
South African Constabulary
Royal Army Medical Corps
Commands held 46th Field Ambulance
Battles/wars Second Boer War
First World War
Awards Victoria Cross & Bar

Early life

Arthur, the fifth son of Stephen Martin-Leake of Thorpe Hall, Essex,[1] was born at Standon, near Ware, Hertfordshire, and was educated at Westminster School before studying medicine at University College Hospital, qualifying in 1893. He was employed at Hemel Hempstead District Hospital before enlisting in the Imperial Yeomanry, to serve in the Boer War in 1899.[2]

Boer War

Monument commemorating Martin-Leake, farm Syferfontein, South Africa

Martin-Leake first served in the Second Boer War as a trooper in the Imperial Yeomanry. After his year service was completed he stayed on in South Africa as a civil surgeon. He then joined the South African Constabulary until he was forced to return home due to his wounds.

He was 27 years old, and a surgeon captain in the South African Constabulary attached to the 5th Field Ambulance during the Second Boer War on 8 February 1902, at Vlakfontein when he won his first VC.

During the action at Vlakfontein, on the 8th February, 1902, Surgeon-Captain Martin-Leake went up to a wounded man, and attended to him under a heavy fire from about 40 Boers at 100 yards range. He then went to the assistance of a wounded Officer, and, whilst trying to place him in a comfortable position, was shot three times, but would not give in till he rolled over thoroughly exhausted. All the eight men at this point were wounded, and while they were lying on the Veldt, Surgeon-Captain Martin-Leake refused water till every one else had been served.[3]

He received the decoration from King Edward VII at St James’s Palace on 2 June 1902.[4]

Interbellum

Martin-Leake qualified as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1903 after studying while convalescing from wounds. He then took up an appointment in India as Chief Medical Officer with the Bengal-Nagpur Railway.[2]

In 1912 he volunteered to serve with the British Red Cross during the Balkan Wars, attached to the Montenegran army, and was present during the Siege of Scutari (1912–13) and at Tarabosh Mountain. He was awarded the Order of the Montenegran Red Cross.[2]

First World War

On the outbreak of the First World War Martin-Leake returned to service, as a lieutenant with the 5th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, on the Western Front.[2]

He won his second VC, aged 40 years, during the period 29 October to 8 November 1914 near Zonnebeke, Belgium whilst serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps, British Army.

His award citation reads:

Lieutenant Arthur Martin Leake, Royal Army Medical Corps, who was awarded the Victoria Cross on 13th May, 1902, is granted a Clasp for conspicuous bravery in the present campaign: —

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty throughout the campaign, especially during the period 29th October to 8th November, 1914, near Zonnebeke, in rescuing, whilst exposed to constant fire, a large number of the wounded who were lying close to the enemy’s trenches.[5]

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Army Medical Services Museum, Aldershot, England.

He was promoted captain in March 1915, major in November the same year, and in April 1917 took command of 46th Field Ambulance at the rank of lieutenant colonel.[2]

Postwar

Martin-Leake retired from the army after the war and resumed his company employment in India until he retired to England in 1937. Although there is no record of his being a pilot, he was registered in 1939 as the owner of a De Havilland Moth Minor aircraft, registered G-AFRY [6]

During the Second World War he commanded an ARP post.[2]

He died, aged 79, at High Cross, Hertfordshire. Following cremation at Enfield, Middlesex, Martin-Leake was buried in St John’s Church, High Cross. He is commemorated with a plaque and a tree at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire.

Memorial service at High Cross, Hertfordshire, for Martin-Leake, 2002. Major C.D.V. Bonfield, RAMC, Mrs Sybil Martin-Leake, Mr Hugh Martin-Leake, Major Charles Monk and Trumpeter C/Sergeant Gardner, The Royal Anglian Regiment.

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Charles Upham

VCCharlesHazlittUpham.jpg
Charles Upham

Captain Charles Hazlitt Upham, VC & Bar (21 September 1908 – 22 November 1994) was a New Zealand soldier who earned the Victoria Cross (VC) twice during the Second World War: in Crete in May 1941, and at Ruweisat Ridge, Egypt, in July 1942. He was the last of only three people to receive the VC twice, the only one to receive two VCs during the Second World War and the only combat soldier to receive the award twice.[4] As a result, Upham is often described as the most highly decorated Commonwealth soldier of that war, as the VC is the Commonwealth’s highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy

Nickname(s) Pug[1]
Born (1908-09-21)21 September 1908
Christchurch, New Zealand
Died 22 November 1994(1994-11-22) (aged 86)
Christchurch, New Zealand
Allegiance New Zealand
Service/branch New Zealand Military Forces
Years of service 1939–45
Rank Captain
Unit 20th Battalion
Battles/wars Second World War

Awards Victoria Cross & Bar
Mentioned in Despatches
New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal[2][3]
Order of Honour (Greece)
Other work Sheep Farmer

Early life

Upham was born at 32 Gloucester Street in Central Christchurch on 21 September 1908, the son of John Hazlitt Upham, a lawyer, and his wife, Agatha Mary Coates. He boarded at Waihi School, near Winchester, South Canterbury, between 1917 and 1922 and at Christ’s College, Christchurch, from 1923–27. He attended Canterbury Agricultural College (now known as Lincoln University) where he earned a diploma in agriculture in 1930.[1]

He worked first as a sheep farmer, later as manager, and then valuing farms for the New Zealand government. In 1937, he joined the Valuation Department as assistant district valuer in Timaru. The following year he became engaged to Mary (Molly) Eileen McTamney (a distant relative of Noel Chavasse, VC and Bar). In 1939, he returned to Lincoln to complete a diploma in valuation and farm management.

Second World War

In September 1939, Upham enlisted in the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF) at the age of 30, and was posted to the 20th Canterbury-Otago Battalion, part of the New Zealand Division.[1] Despite the fact that he already had five years experience in New Zealand’s Territorial Army, in which he held the rank of sergeant, he signed on as a private.[6] He was soon promoted to temporary lance corporal, but initially declined a place in an Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU). In December, he was promoted to sergeant and a week later sailed for Egypt. In July 1940, he was finally persuaded to join an OCTU.

First

The Victoria Cross, twice awarded to Upham

In March 1941, Upham’s battalion left for Greece and then withdrew to Crete, and it was here that he was wounded in the action, from 22 to 30 May 1941, that gained him his first VC. When informed of the award, his first response was: “It’s meant for the men.”[7]

Citation

War Office, 14th October, 1941.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of awards of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned: —

Second Lieutenant Charles Hazlitt Upham (8077), New Zealand Military Forces.

During the operations in Crete this officer performed a series of remarkable exploits, showing outstanding leadership, tactical skill and utter indifference to danger.
He commanded a forward platoon in the attack on Maleme on 22nd May and fought his way forward for over 3,000 yards unsupported by any other arms and against a defence strongly organised in depth. During this operation his platoon destroyed numerous enemy posts but on three occasions sections were temporarily held up.
In the first case, under a heavy fire from a machine gun nest he advanced to close quarters with pistol and grenades, so demoralizing the occupants that his section was able to “mop up” with ease.
Another of his sections was then held up by two machine guns in a house. He went in and placed a grenade through a window, destroying the crew of one machine gun and several others, the other machine gun being silenced by the fire of his sections.
In the third case he crawled to within 15 yards of an M.G. post and killed the gunners with a grenade.
When his Company withdrew from Maleme he helped to carry a wounded man out under fire, and together with another officer rallied more men together to carry other wounded men out.
He was then sent to bring in a company which had become isolated. With a Corporal he went through enemy territory over 600 yards, killing two Germans on the way, found the company, and brought it back to the Battalion’s new position. But for this action it would have been completely cut off.
During the following two days his platoon occupied an exposed position on forward slopes and was continuously under fire. Second Lieutenant Upham was blown over by one mortar shell, and painfully wounded by a piece of shrapnel behind the left shoulder, by another. He disregarded this wound and remained on duty. He also received a bullet in the foot which he later removed in Egypt.
At Galatas on 25th May his platoon was heavily engaged and came under severe mortar and machine-gun fire. While his platoon stopped under cover of a ridge Second-Lieutenant Upham went forward, observed the enemy and brought the platoon forward when the Germans advanced. They killed over 40 with fire and grenades and forced the remainder to fall back.
When his platoon was ordered to retire he sent it back under the platoon Sergeant and he went back to warn other troops that they were being cut off. When he came out himself he was fired on by two Germans. He fell and shammed dead, then crawled into a position and having the use of only one arm rested his rifle in the fork of a tree and as the Germans came forward he killed them both. The second to fall actually hit the muzzle of the rifle as he fell.
On 30th May at Sphakia his platoon was ordered to deal with a party of the enemy which had advanced down a ravine to near Force Headquarters. Though in an exhausted condition he climbed the steep hill to the west of the ravine, placed his men in positions on the slope overlooking the ravine and himself went to the top with a Bren Gun and two riflemen. By clever tactics he induced the enemy party to expose itself and then at a range of 500 yards shot 22 and caused the remainder to disperse in panic.
During the whole of the operations he suffered from dysentery and was able to eat very little, in addition to being wounded and bruised.

He showed superb coolness, great skill and dash and complete disregard of danger. His conduct and leadership inspired his whole platoon to fight magnificently throughout, and in fact was an inspiration to the Battalion.

— London Gazette, 14 October 1941[8]

Bar to VC

Upham was evacuated to Egypt, now promoted to captain. He received a Bar to his VC for his actions on 14–15 July 1942, during the First Battle of El Alamein.

Citation

War Office, 26th September, 1945.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of a Bar to the VICTORIA CROSS to: —

Captain Charles Hazlitt UPHAM, V.C. (8077), New Zealand Military Forces.

Captain C. H. Upham, V.C., was commanding a Company of New Zealand troops in the Western Desert during the operations which culminated in the attack on El Ruweisat Ridge on the night of 14th–15th July, 1942.

In spite of being twice wounded, once when crossing open ground swept by enemy fire to inspect his forward sections guarding our mine-fields and again when he completely destroyed an entire truck load of German soldiers with hand grenades, Captain Upham insisted on remaining with his men to take part in the final assault.

During the opening stages of the attack on the ridge Captain Upham’s Company formed part of the reserve battalion, but, when communications with the forward troops broke down and he was instructed to send up an officer to report on the progress of the attack, he went out himself armed with a Spandau gun and, after several sharp encounters with enemy machine gun posts, succeeded in bringing back the required information.

Just before dawn the reserve battalion was ordered forward, but, when it had almost reached its objective, very heavy fire was encountered from a strongly defended enemy locality, consisting of four machine gun posts and a number of tanks.

Captain Upham, without hesitation, at once led his Company in a determined attack on the two nearest strongpoints on the left flank of the sector. His voice could be heard above the din of battle cheering on his men and, in spite of the fierce resistance of the enemy and the heavy casualties on both sides, the objective was captured.

Captain Upham, during the engagement, himself destroyed a German tank and several guns and vehicles with grenades and although he was shot through the elbow by a machine gun bullet and had his arm broken, he went on again to a forward position and brought back some of his men who had become isolated. He continued to dominate the situation until his men had beaten off a violent enemy counter-attack and consolidated the vital position which they had won under his inspiring leadership.

Exhausted by pain from his wound and weak from loss of blood Captain Upham was then removed to the Regimental Aid Post but immediately his wound had been dressed he returned to his men, remaining with them all day long under heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire, until he was again severely wounded and being now unable to move fell into the hands of the enemy when, his gallant Company having been reduced to only six survivors, his position was finally overrun by superior enemy forces, in spite of the outstanding gallantry and magnificent leadership shown by Captain Upham.

The Victoria Cross was conferred on Captain Upham for conspicuous bravery during the operations in Crete in May, 1941, and the award was announced in the London Gazette dated 14th October, 1941.

— London Gazette, 26 September 1945[9]

King George VI had invested Upham with his first Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace on 11 May 1945. When the recommendation was made for a second VC, the King remarked to Major-General Howard Kippenberger that a bar to the cross would be “very unusual indeed” and enquired firmly, “Does he deserve it?” Kippenberger replied, “In my respectful opinion, sir, Upham won the VC several times over.”[10]

With this award, Upham became the third man to be awarded a Bar to the VC. The previous recipients were Captain Arthur Martin-Leake and Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, both doctors serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Martin-Leake received his VC for rescuing wounded under fire in the Second Boer War, and the Bar for similar actions in the First World War. Chavasse was similarly decorated for two such actions in the First World War, subsequently dying of wounds received during his second action. Neither of these men were combatants, so Upham remains the only fighting soldier to have been decorated with the VC and Bar.

POW in Colditz Castle

Having been taken prisoner of war (POW), he was sent to an Italian hospital where an Italian doctor recommended his wounded arm be amputated in view of their extremely scarce supplies and ability to prevent or treat gangrene. Upham strenuously refused, in no small part because the operation would have to be carried out without anaesthetic and he had witnessed other patients dying in agony under surgery.[11] He remained in the hospital to recuperate but attempted to escape numerous times before being branded “dangerous” by the Germans.

One attempt to escape occurred when a group of POWs were being transported in open trucks through Italy. Upham jumped from the truck at a bend and managed to get 400 yards (370 m) away before being recaptured. He had broken an ankle in jumping from the moving truck.

Another attempt occurred when he was being moved between prison camps on a civilian train while guarded by two Germans. Upham was only allowed to visit the toilet when the train was travelling at high speed, to prevent him from jumping through a window. Nevertheless, Upham pried open the toilet window and jumped onto the tracks, knocking himself unconscious.

On a third occasion, he tried to escape a camp by climbing its fences in broad daylight. He became entangled in barbed wire when he fell down between the two fences. When a prison guard pointed a pistol at his head and threatened to shoot, Upham calmly ignored him and lit a cigarette. This scene was photographed by the Germans as “evidence” and later reprinted in his biography (Mark of the Lion, by Kenneth Sandford).

After this incident, Upham was considered extremely dangerous and was placed in solitary confinement. He was only allowed to exercise alone, while accompanied by two armed guards and while covered by a machine gun in a tower. Despite these precautions, Upham bolted from his little courtyard, straight through the German barracks and out through the front gate of the camp. The guard in the machine-gun tower later told other prisoners that he refrained from shooting Upham out of sheer respect, and as he could see German soldiers coming up the road who he expected to capture Upham.

Upham was soon recaptured and sent to the infamous Oflag IV-C (Colditz) on 14 October 1944.

Aftermath

When Colditz Castle was captured by American forces, most of the inmates made their own way home immediately. Upham joined an American unit, was armed and equipped, and wanted to fight the Germans.

Upham was keen to see action again, but was instead sent to Britain where he was reunited with Molly McTamney, who was then serving as a nurse. They were married at New Milton, Hampshire, on 20 June 1945. He returned to New Zealand in early September, and she followed him in December.

Upham was also mentioned in despatches on 14 November 1946.[12]

Post-war

Charles Upham’s gravestone

After the war Upham returned to New Zealand, and the community raised £10,000 to buy him a farm. However, he declined and the money went into the C. H. Upham Scholarship for children of ex-servicemen to study at Lincoln College or the University of Canterbury.[10]

He obtained a war rehabilitation loan and bought a farm on Conway Flat, Hundalee, North Canterbury. It is said that for the remainder of his life, Upham would allow no German manufactured machinery or car onto his property.[1]

Although somewhat hampered by his injuries, he became a successful farmer and served on the board of governors of Christ’s College for nearly 20 years. He and Molly had three daughters, and lived on their farm until January 1994, when Upham’s poor health forced them to retire to Christchurch.

He died in Canterbury on 22 November 1994, surrounded by his wife and daughters. His funeral in the now-destroyed Christchurch Cathedral was conducted with full military honours. The streets of Christchurch were lined by over 5,000 people.[13] Upham is buried in the graveyard of St Paul’s Church Papanui.[14] His death was also marked by a memorial service on 5 May 1995 in London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, attended by representatives for the Royal Family, senior New Zealand government and political figures, senior members of the British and New Zealand armed forces, Valerian Freyberg, 3rd Baron Freyberg, grandson of VC holder Lord Freyberg, the commander of Allied forces in Crete and 7th Governor-General of New Zealand, representatives of veterans’ organisations and other VC and George Cross holders.[15]

In November 2006, Upham’s VC and Bar were sold by his daughters to the Imperial War Museum for an undisclosed sum.[16] However, as New Zealand legislation prohibits the export of such historic items, the Imperial War Museum agreed to a permanent loan of the medals to the Waiouru Army Museum.[3] On 2 December 2007, Upham’s VC was among nine stolen from locked, reinforced glass cabinets at the Museum.[17] His VC and Bar was on display at the QEII Army Memorial Museum, Waiouru, until its theft in December 2007. On 16 February 2008, the New Zealand Police announced all the medals had been recovered as a result of a NZ$300,000 reward offered by Michael Ashcroft and Tom Sturgess.[18]

Other honours

Charles Upham statue in Amberley.

In 1992, he was presented with the Order of Honour by the Government of Greece, in recognition of his service in the Battles of Greece and Crete.[6]

HMNZS Charles Upham, a Royal New Zealand Navy ship, was commissioned in 1995, and decommissioned in 2001

A bronze statue stands outside the Hurunui District Council buildings in Amberley, North Canterbury, depicting Charles Upham “the observer”.[19]

A street in suburban Christchurch is named Charles Upham Avenue. There is also a street in Havelock North, Hawkes Bay, named Upham Street, accompanied by fellow VC recipients Elliot, Grant, and Chrichton.[clarification needed]

A Jetconnect Boeing 737-800 was named Charles Upham in August 2011

Edith Cavell – 100 years on: Heroine WW1 nurse receives royal commemoration

Edith Cavell

A British Heroine of WWII

A new memorial to Edith Cavell was unveiled in Brussels

See BBC New for full story

New memorial to Edith Cavell in Brussels
A new memorial to Edith Cavell was unveiled in Brussels

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Edith Cavell’s funeral, 1910’s – Film 1514

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Edith Louisa Cavell (/ˈkævəl/; 4 December 1865 – 12 October 1915) was a British nurse. She is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides without discrimination and in helping some 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during the First World War, for which she was arrested. She was subsequently court-martialled, found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Despite international pressure for mercy, she was shot by a German firing squad. Her execution received worldwide condemnation and extensive press coverage.

She is well known for her statement that “patriotism is not enough”. Her strong Anglican beliefs propelled her to help all those who needed it, both German and Allied soldiers. She was quoted as saying, “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved.”[1] 12 October is appointed for her commemoration in the Church of England, although this is not a “saint’s feast day” in the traditional sense.

Edith Cavell, who was 49 at the time of her execution, was already notable as a pioneer of modern nursing in Belgium.

Early life and career

Cavell in a garden in Brussels with her two dogs before the outbreak of war

Cavell (seated centre) with a group of multinational student nurses whom she trained in Brussels

Edith Cavell was born on 4 December 1865[2] in Swardeston, a village near Norwich, where her father was vicar for 45 years.[3] She was the eldest of the four children of the Reverend Frederick and Louisa Sophia Cavell and was taught always to share with the less fortunate, despite her family’s meagre income.[2] After a period as a governess, including for a family in Brussels 1890–1895, she trained as a nurse at the London Hospital under Matron Eva Luckes and worked in various hospitals in England, including Shoreditch Infirmary. In 1907, Cavell was recruited by Dr Antoine Depage to be matron of a newly established nursing school, L’École Belge d’Infirmières Diplômées, (or The Berkendael Medical Institute) on the Rue de la Culture (now Rue Franz Merjay), Ixelles in Brussels.[1] By 1910, “Miss Cavell ‘felt that the profession of nursing had gained sufficient foothold in Belgium to warrant the publishing of a professional journal’ and, therefore, launched the nursing journal, L’infirmière“.[1] A year later, she was a training nurse for three hospitals, 24 schools, and 13 kindergartens in Belgium.

When the First World War broke out, she was visiting her widowed mother in Norfolk in the East of England. She returned to Brussels, where her clinic and nursing school were taken over by the Red Cross.

First World War and execution

In November 1914, after the German occupation of Brussels, Cavell began sheltering British soldiers and funnelling them out of occupied Belgium to the neutral Netherlands. Wounded British and French soldiers and Belgian and French civilians of military age were hidden from the Germans and provided with false papers by Prince Reginald de Croy at his château of Bellignies near Mons. From there, they were conducted by various guides to the houses of Cavell, Louis Séverin and others in Brussels, and furnished by them with money to reach the Dutch frontier and with guides obtained through Philippe Baucq.[4] This placed Cavell in violation of German military law.[3][5] German authorities became increasingly suspicious of the nurse’s actions, which were backed up by her outspokenness.[3]

She was arrested on 3 August 1915 and charged with harbouring Allied soldiers. She had been betrayed by Gaston Quien, who was later convicted by a French court as a collaborator.[6][7] She was held in Saint-Gilles prison for 10 weeks, the last two in solitary confinement.[3] She made three depositions to the German police (on 8, 18 and 22 August), admitting that she had been instrumental in conveying about 60 British and 15 French soldiers and about 100 French and Belgians of military age to the frontier and had sheltered most of them in her house.[4]

In her court-martial she was prosecuted for aiding British and French soldiers, in addition to young Belgian men, to cross the border and eventually enter Britain. She admitted her guilt when she signed a statement the day before the trial. Cavell declared that the soldiers she had helped escape thanked her in writing when arriving safely in Britain. This admission confirmed that Cavell had helped the soldiers navigate the Dutch frontier, but it also established that she helped them escape to a country at war with Germany.[8]

The penalty according to German military law was death. Paragraph 58 of the German Military Code said; “Will be sentenced to death for treason any person who, with the intention of helping the hostile Power, or of causing harm to the German or allied troops, is guilty of one of the crimes of paragraph 90 of the German Penal Code.”[8] The case referred to in the above-mentioned paragraph 90 consists of “Conducting soldiers to the enemy”, although this was not traditionally punishable by death. [8] Additionally, the penalties according to paragraph 160 of the German Code, in case of war, apply to foreigners as well as Germans.

A propaganda stamp issued shortly after Cavell’s death.

While the First Geneva Convention ordinarily guaranteed protection of medical personnel, that protection was forfeit if used as cover for any belligerent action. This forfeiture is expressed in article 7 of the 1906 version of the Convention, which was the version in force at the time.[9] The German authorities instead justified prosecution merely on the basis of the German law and the interests of the German state.

The British government could do nothing to help her. Sir Horace Rowland of the Foreign Office said, “I am afraid that it is likely to go hard with Miss Cavell; I am afraid we are powerless.”[10] Lord Robert Cecil, Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, said, “Any representation by us”, he advised, “will do her more harm than good.”[10] The United States, however, had not yet joined the war and was in a position to apply diplomatic pressure. Hugh S. Gibson, First Secretary of the U.S. legation at Brussels, made clear to the German government that executing Cavell would further harm Germany’s already damaged reputation. Later, he wrote:

“We reminded [German civil governor Baron von der Lancken] of the burning of Louvain and the sinking of the Lusitania, and told him that this murder would rank with those two affairs and would stir all civilised countries with horror and disgust. Count Harrach broke in at this with the rather irrelevant remark that he would rather see Miss Cavell shot than have harm come to the humblest German soldier, and his only regret was that they had not “three or four old English women to shoot.”[11]

Baron von der Lancken is known to have stated that Cavell should be pardoned because of her complete honesty and because she had helped save so many lives, German as well as Allied. However, General von Sauberzweig, the military governor of Brussels, ordered that “in the interests of the State” the implementation of the death penalty against Baucq and Cavell should be immediate,[4] denying higher authorities an opportunity to consider clemency.[5][12] Cavell was defended by lawyer Sadi Kirschen from Brussels. Of the 27 put on trial, five were condemned to death: Cavell, Baucq (an architect in his thirties), Louise Thuliez, Séverin and Countess Jeanne de Belleville. Of the five sentenced to death, only Cavell and Baucq were executed; the other three were reprieved.[4]

Cavell was not arrested for espionage, as many were led to believe, but for ‘treason’, though not a German national. [3] She may have been recruited by the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and turned away from her espionage duties in order to help Allied soldiers escape, although this is not widely accepted.[13] Rankin cites the published statement of M. R. D. Foot, historian and WW2 British intelligence officer, as to Cavell’s having been part of SIS or MI6.[14]

When in custody, Cavell was questioned in French, but the session was minuted in German. This gave the interrogator the opportunity to misinterpret her answers. Although she may have been misrepresented, she made no attempt to defend herself. Cavell was provided with a defender approved by the German military governor. A previous defender, who was chosen for Cavell by her assistant, Elizabeth Wilkins,[3] was ultimately rejected by the governor.[12]

George Bellows, The Murder of Edith Cavell, 1918, Princeton University Art Museum

The night before her execution, she told the Reverend Stirling Gahan, the Anglican chaplain who had been allowed to see her and to give her Holy Communion, “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”[15] These words are inscribed on her statue in St Martin’s Place, near Trafalgar Square in London. Her final words to the German Lutheran prison chaplain, Paul Le Seur, were recorded as, “Ask Father Gahan to tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country.”[citation needed]

From his sick bed Brand Whitlock, the U.S. minister to Belgium, wrote a personal note on Cavell’s behalf to Moritz von Bissing, the governor general of Belgium. Hugh Gibson; Maitre G. de Leval, the legal adviser to the United States legation; and Rodrigo Saavedra y Vinent, 2nd Marques de Villalobar, the Spanish minister, formed a midnight deputation of appeal for mercy or at least postponement of sentence.[16] Despite these efforts, on 11 October, Baron von der Lancken allowed the execution to proceed.[5] Sixteen men, forming two firing squads, carried out the sentence pronounced on her and on four Belgian men at the Tir national[3] shooting range in Schaerbeek, at 7:00 am on 12 October 1915. There are conflicting reports of the details of Cavell’s execution. However, according to the eyewitness account of the Reverend Le Seur, who attended Cavell in her final hours, eight soldiers fired at Cavell while the other eight executed Baucq.[3] Her execution, certification of death, and burial was witnessed by the German poet Gottfried Benn in his capacity as a ‘Senior Doctor in the Brussels Government since the first days of the (German) occupation’. Benn wrote a detailed account titled ‘Wie Miss Cavell erschossen wurde’ (1928), which has recently been translated by David Paisey ‘How Miss Cavell was shot’ in Gottfried Benn, ‘Selected poems and prose’. (Gottfried Benn, Selected poems and prose, Fyfield Books, Carcanet, 2013.)

There is also a dispute over the sentencing imposed under the German Military Code. Supposedly, the death penalty relevant to the offence committed by Cavell was not officially declared until a few hours after her death.[1]

On instructions from the Spanish minister, Belgian women immediately buried her body next to Saint-Gilles Prison.[5] After the War, her body was taken back to Britain for a memorial service at Westminster Abbey and then transferred to Norwich, to be laid to rest at Life’s Green on the east side of the cathedral. The King had to grant an exception to an Order in Council of 1854 which prevented any burials in the grounds of the cathedral, to allow the reburial.[17]

Role in First World War propaganda

An anti-German post-First World War poster from the British Empire Union, including Edith Cavell’s grave

The Cavell Case (1919), an American film on Edith Cavell.

In the months and years following Cavell’s death, countless newspaper articles, pamphlets, images, and books publicised her story. She became an iconic propaganda figure for military recruitment in Britain, and to help increase favourable sentiment towards the Allies in the United States. She was a popular icon because of her sex, her nursing profession, and her apparently heroic approach to death.[1] Her execution was represented as an act of German barbarism and moral depravity.

News reports shortly following Cavell’s execution were found to be only true in part.[3] Even the American Journal of Nursing repeated the fictional account of Cavell’s execution in which she fainted and fell because of her refusal to wear a blindfold in front of the firing squad.[3] Allegedly, while she lay unconscious, the German commanding officer shot her dead with a revolver.[5] Numerous accounts like these stimulated international outrage and general anti-German sentiments.

Along with the invasion of Belgium, and the sinking of the Lusitania, Cavell’s execution was widely publicised in both Britain and North America by Wellington House, the British War Propaganda Bureau.[18]

Because of the British government’s decision to publicise Cavell’s story as part of its propaganda effort, she became the most prominent British female casualty of First World War.[12] The combination of heroic appeal and a resonant atrocity-story narrative made Cavell’s case one of the most effective in British propaganda of the First World War,[18] as well as a factor in enduring post-war anti-German sentiment.

Before the First World War, Cavell was not well known outside nursing circles.[3] This allowed two different depictions of the truth about her in British propaganda, which were a reply to enemy attempts to justify her shooting, including the suggestion that Cavell, during her interrogation, had given information that incriminated others. In November 1915, the British Foreign Office issued a denial that Cavell had implicated anyone else in her testimony.

One image commonly represented was of Cavell as an innocent victim of a ruthless and dishonourable enemy.[12] This view depicted her as having helped Allied soldiers to escape, but innocent of ‘espionage’, and was most commonly used in various forms of British propaganda, such as postcards and newspaper illustrations during the war.[12] Her story was presented in the British press as a means of fuelling a desire for revenge on the battlefield.[12] These images implied that men must enlist in the armed forces immediately in order to stop forces that could arrange the judicial murder of an innocent British woman.

Another representation of a side of Cavell during the First World War saw her described as a serious, reserved, brave, and patriotic woman who devoted her life to nursing and died to save others. This portrayal has been illustrated in numerous biographical sources, from personal first-hand experiences of the Red Cross nurse. Pastor Le Seur, the German army chaplain, recalled at the time of her execution, “I do not believe that Miss Cavell wanted to be a martyr…but she was ready to die for her country… Miss Cavell was a very brave woman and a faithful Christian“.[3] Another account from Anglican chaplain, the Reverend Gahan, remembers Cavell’s words, “I have no fear or shrinking; I have seen death so often it is not strange, or fearful to me!”[5] In this interpretation, her stoicism was seen as remarkable for a non-combatant woman, and brought her even greater renown than a man in similar circumstances would have received.[12]

German response

Unlike the rest of the world, the Imperial German Government thought that it had acted fairly towards Cavell. In a letter, German undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Dr Alfred Zimmermann (not to be confused with Arthur Zimmermann, German Secretary for Foreign Affairs) made a statement to the press on behalf of the German government:

It was a pity that Miss Cavell had to be executed, but it was necessary. She was judged justly…It is undoubtedly a terrible thing that the woman has been executed; but consider what would happen to a State, particularly in war, if it left crimes aimed at the safety of its armies to go unpunished because committed by women.[19]

From the Germans’ perspective, had they released Cavell, there would have been a surge in the number of women participating in acts against Germany because they knew they would not be severely punished. It was up to the responsible men to follow their legal duty to Germany and ignore the world’s condemnation. Their laws do not make distinctions between sexes, the only exception to this rule being that according to legal customs, women in a “delicate” (probably this means “pregnant”) condition could not be executed.[19]

The German government also believed that all of the convicted people were thoroughly aware of the nature of their acts. The court paid particular attention to this point, releasing several accused persons because there was doubt as to whether the accused knew that their actions were punishable.[19] The condemned, in contrast, knew full well what they were doing and the punishment for committing their crimes because “numerous public proclamations had pointed out the fact that aiding enemies’ armies was punishable with death.”[19] The Allied response to this was the same as to Bethmann-Hollweg‘s announcement of the invasion of Belgium, or the notice given in the papers of intent to sink such ships as the RMS Lusitania; to make a public proclamation of a thing does not make it right.

Burial and memorials

Memorial to Cavell outside Norwich Cathedral

A marble statue of Edith Cavell in nurse's uniform backed by a large granite column, surmounted by a figure representing Humanity

Edith Cavell Memorial, St Martin’s Place, London

War memorial in Rue Colonel Bourg, Schaerbeek including Cavell’s name

Monument to Edith Cavell and Marie Depage, Brussels

Interior of the Cavell Van at Bodiam railway station

Cavell’s remains were returned to Britain after the war. As the ship bearing the coffin arrived in Dover, a full peal of Grandsire Triples (5040 Changes, Parker’s Twelve-Part) was rung on the bells of the parish church. The peal was notable: “Rung with the bells deeply muffled with the exception of the Tenor which was open at back stroke, in token of respect to Nurse Cavell, whose body arrived at Dover during the ringing and rested in the town till the following morning. The ringers of 1-2-3-4-5-6 are ex-soldiers, F. Elliot having been eight months Prisoner of War in Germany.” Deep (or full) muffling is normally only used for the deaths of sovereigns.[20] After an overnight pause in the parish church the body was conveyed to London and a state funeral was held at Westminster Abbey. On 19 May 1919, her body was reburied at the east side of Norwich Cathedral; a graveside service is still held each October.[21] The railway van known as the Cavell Van that conveyed her remains from Dover to London is kept as a memorial on the Kent and East Sussex Railway and is usually open to view at Bodiam railway station.

In the Calendar of saints (Church of England) the day appointed for the commemoration of Edith Cavell is 12 October. This is a memorial in her honour rather than formal canonisation.

Following Cavell’s death, many memorials were created around the world to remember her. One of the first was unveiled on 12 October 1918 by Queen Alexandra on the grounds of Norwich Cathedral, during the opening of a home for nurses which also bore her name.[22]

To commemorate her centenary in 2015, work is to go ahead to restore Cavell’s grave in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral after being awarded a £50,000 grant.[23]

During October 2015, a railway carriage (Cavell Van) used to transport Cavell’s body back to the United Kingdom will be on display outside the Forum, Norwich.[24]

The centenary has been marked by two new musical compositions:

Cavell is to be featured on a UK commemorative £5 coin, part of a set to be issued in 2015 by the Royal Mint to mark the centenary of the war.[26]

Other honours include:

Memorials

For places and organisations named after her, see List of dedications to Edith Cavell.

Normandy Landings – D-Day – They Fought & Died for our Freedom

Normandy Landings –  D-Day

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Rare D Day Footage In Colour

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The Normandy landings (codenamed Operation Neptune) were the landing operations on 6 June 1944 (termed D-Day) of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. The largest seaborne invasion in history, the operation began the liberation of German-occupied northwestern Europe from Nazi control, and contributed to the Allied victory on the Western Front.

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Archive Video Of The D-Day Normandy Landings

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Planning for the operation began in 1943. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deception, codenamed Ope