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  • Thursday, January 27, 2005


    Non-Jewish Holocaust History

    I've always been a little perplexed at the facts usually associated with the Holocaust during WWII. The Nazis certainly killed many people between 1933-45. As a group, Jews probably suffered the greatest percentage of population deaths. But I've always wondered why we so rarely see the rest of the figures on the number of those killed by the Nazis. I'm not trying to deny the very real impact on the Jewish people. I think 2/3s of the Jews in Poland died. That kind of genocide is staggering, difficult to comprehend.

    I'm not entirely sure about the complete accuracy of the following excerpt from Overlooked Millions: Non-Jewish Victims of the Holocaust by Karen Silverstrim, MA Candidate, University of Central Arkansas, but the figures generally match what I've picked up over the years.

    Elie Wiesel, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, has said, "while not all victims were Jews, all Jews were victims," so careful handling of the definition of the Holocaust is important. No one can deny that Jewish people were the primary targets of the Nazis, nor should one belittle their suffering. But neither should the millions of other victims of the Nazis be forgotten. The same respect and remembrance afforded the Jewish victims should be extended to include the non-Jewish victims as well.

    The Nazis sought to annihilate all Jews and all enemies of the state. Every Jew was to be wiped out, but not necessarily every Russian, Serb, or Yugoslavian. That millions of non-Jews were also killed demonstrates the determination and magnitude of the Nazi extermination program to eliminate anyone who could even remotely be considered an enemy of the state. Current estimates based on documents from Nazi war records, and official government documents of various countries, place the death toll of people murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust as conservatively over 15 million non-combatant people.(5) One official source estimates the number killed at 26 million.(6) However, "with the mass graves on the eastern front, exact figures will never be known".(7)

    These figures represent a common denominator between Jews and Gentiles -- total lives lost. The "six million" figure used for Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust includes deaths attributable to starvation, beatings, street executions, concentration camp deaths, overwork, and relocations, to name just a few of the categories. Nazis targeted Jews for complete extermination and used whatever means were necessary and available. Many non-Jewish victims also died in concentration camps by gassing, lethal experiments, starvation, overwork, or beatings, but a greater number perished because of the aggressive tactics of the Nazis in rounding up their victims and in street assassinations. The death toll reported in Table 1 is of civilian lives lost unless otherwise noted. The Nazis deliberately killed these people who were undesirable to the Nazi vision of an Aryan state. Jews were the most intensely targeted victims, but the common denominator for all victims was death.

    As is obvious from Table 1, no single group of people suffered as devastating a loss as did the Jewish people. Ukrainian deaths, however, ranged from five and a half million to seven million. The Ukrainian deaths represent an area of conflict for people determining who were victims of the Holocaust and whose deaths should be counted as Holocaust-related. The Ukrainian and Russian people were at various times during the war both victims and perpetrators. Should the vast majority of Ukrainian civilians killed by Nazis and Russians be discounted if some small group of Ukrainians turned perpetrator and killed Jews? Do Holocaust deaths only include people killed by the Nazis? Do Holocaust deaths only include those killed on German soil? Do Holocaust deaths only include deaths attributable to gassings in concentration camps?

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