Holocaust FAQ’s


*NOTE: Some of the material below is graphic and may not be suitable for sensitive or young readers.

Those of us whose parents and grandparents lived during the time of the Holocaust were raised with an acute sense of that odious time. Through our families and friends, we learned of the atrocities, the barbarism that led to the largest genocide of a targeted group, We Jews, in modern history.

The affect of this intimate knowledge on Boomers and the feelings engendered were multi-pronged, and are frequently debated. In the 1940s and fifties there was shock,  insurmountable sorrow, and soul-wrenching rage. There was also fear among our parents. What Jewish Boomer didn’t hear: “Marry in! If it happens here … which side will your partner stand on?”

With the passing years and distance, the debate widens for our children and grandchildren for whom the Holocaust has become part of the history pages, much as WW1 was to our generation. After all, Jews in the U.S. and in many parts of Europe have “melded” into the mainstream, and the question: “Could it happen here?” sounds paranoid to Gen Y’s and Z’s who too often see little point in re-hashing old horrors.

While we don’t wish to pass on fears and anxieties, it’s critical to pass on knowledge. It’s only through knowledge that we can grasp the import of history, and apply its lessons to the future to indeed make sure “It never happens here.”

It is for this generation, that I present these Faqs, still studied for their incomprehensible consequences, to educate and to inform.

Q: When and what was the Holocaust?

A: The term “Holocaust” was used in the Bible and means “burnt offerings.” “Shoah” which is also used, is Hebrew for “destruction.” The Holocaust refers to Hitler’s systemized plan to perform genocide on non-Aryans and “undesirables” in order to form a pure Germanic “race.” It technically spanned a 12- year period starting when Hitler came to power in January, 1933 until liberation by the Allies on May 8, 1945 (V.E. Day), however its effect is enduring. For years it was thought that over 11 million human beings were murdered, six million of whom were Jews, specifically targeted for destruction. In March of 2013, Researchers at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum released documentation proving that the atrocities and death toll were actually far larger. We now know that between 15 and 20 million died or were imprisoned by the Nazis. At least 1/3 of all European Jews were murdered.

Q: How was “Jewish” defined?

A: Those of Jewish descent could be spared only if their grandparents had converted to Christianity before January 18, 1871 (the founding of the German Empire).

Q: What happened to Jews in the early days of the Holocaust?

Hitler progressively eliminated Jews.

Nuremberg Laws:  In 1935, Hitler introduced laws that: stripped Jews of their German citizenship and most of their civil rights;  making marriage between Jews and Germans illegal.

Kristallnacht or “Night of Broken Glass:”  On November 9, 1938, the Nazis brutalized Jewish communities throughout Germany and Austria, looting, destroying businesses, Jewish hospitals, schools, cemeteries, and more than 1,000 synagogues. In the aftermath, 96 Jews were murdered, and 30,000 were arrested.

“Regulations Against Jews’ Possession of Weapons:” On November 11, 1938 Germany made it illegal for Jews to carry firearms or other weapons. Jews were also tortured and shot indiscriminately. The largest mass shooting took place in September, 1941. Over 33,000 Jews in Kiev were forced to the edge of the Babi Yar Ravine where they were shot and thrown into the chasm. It took the Nazis two days.

“The Eternal Jew:” A 1940 Nazi pseudo-documentary, the “film” made the case that Jews were genetically inferior cultural parasites. It was a propaganda piece to justify the annihilation of Jews from Europe.

Ghettos: Jews were forced into ghettos, deprived of their liberty and the tools of survival. During the Holocaust, there were 1,150 Jewish ghettos. The largest was the Warsaw ghetto, established in November of 1940, populated by 400,000 Jews.  Over 100,000 of them died in the ghetto due of starvation, disease, or were killed wantonly by the Nazis. Within two months in 1942, over 250,000 Warsaw Ghetto prisoners were then deported to the Treblinka extermination camp. On January 18, 1943, the Germans entered the Warsaw ghetto. In a few hours, over some 600 Jews were shot and 5,000 others rounded up. In a remarkable feat of courage, they were met with armed Jewish resistance, under the leadership of Mordechai Anielewicz, among others. The final battle started on the eve of Passover of April 19, 1943, when several thousand Nazi troops headed up by field command of Jürgen Stroop blew up the ghetto buildings, murdering or sending over 56000 people in “cattle cars” to death camps. Mordechai Anielewicz and many of his group committed suicide at their surrounded command post. In a final blow, the Great Synagogue of Warsaw was decimated on May 16, 1943.


*NOTE: Some of the material below is graphic and may not be suitable for sensitive or young readers.

Q: To what does “The Final Solution” refer?

A:  The “Final Solution” (German: Die Endlösung) as it was euphemistically termed, was Nazi Germany’s plan to annihilate all European Jews. The chief architect was Heinrich Himmler, who, with 14 high-ranking Nazis in attendance, designed the plan during the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942. Massacres occurred prior, but The Final Solution led to the deadliest part of the Holocaust. Extermination camps, gas chambers, and mobile killing vans were built, subjecting victims to industrialized, systematic mass slaughter.

Q:    What were mobile killing vans?

A: Called Einsatzgruppen (“task forces”) they were trucks with exhaust pipes into the cargo area. As many as 90 Jews were herded into each trucks, and 1.2 million Jews were slaughtered.

Q: What were “cattle cars?”

A:  Hitler’s plan required mass transport to labor and death concentration camps. The term “cattle cars” or “cattle wagons” refer to the inhumane vehicles the Nazis used for deportation. Victims were crowded into these “cars” without water, food, toilets or ventilation. Many didn’t survive. The longest journey was 18 days – with no survivors.

Q: How did Hitler establish concentration camps?

Hitler used two primary methods to build concentration camps.  First, he established the Enabling Act, to provide a “legal” basis for brutality.  Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels created a large propaganda machine to dehumanize Jews and justify their annihilation.  The first concentration camp was Dachau. Initially the camp imprisoned political opponents of Hitler; communists, socialists, and political Catholics. Later, it became an extermination camp for Jews.

Q: Who “policed” the camps?

A: The soldiers who worked in the camps were known as Totenkopfverbande, or “Death’s Head” detachments. They wore skull-and-crossbones insignias on their uniforms.

Q: Were there different types of camps?

A: There were several types of concentration camps: transit camps, POW camps, detention and death camps. The death camps, all in Poland included:

The Auschwitz complex, which consisted of a concentration camp, a death camp and a slave labor camp, including Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Monowitz was the largest (19 square miles) and most organized death complex in human history. It was opened in June 1940. By 1945, over 1.25 million had been killed and thousands were sterilized by radiation.

Treblinka: Almost 900,000 Jews were killed by a staff of only 150. There were less than 100 known survivors.

Sobibor, Belzec, Chelmno,and Majdanek:  The last two were also slave labor camps.

Q: Upon arrival, what did the term “left” or “right” mean?

A: At the entrance to each death camp, there was a process of Selektion or Selection. Those lined up and sent to the “left”  were targeted for instant murder. An SS officer, frequently a doctor, made this call based on age, and health. Pregnant women, children, the elderly, the handicapped and those who appeared unfit for hard labor were sent to the “left.” “Prisoners” chosen for labor, were sent to the “right.”

Q: What was life like in the camps?

NOTE: The Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Those sent to the “right” for forced labor were first dehumanized. Their hair was shorn    (and used to make felt, thread, socks, bombs, mattress stuffing, and rope), their personal possessions were taken. They had to wear striped garb, ill-fitting shoes, then each was tattooed with a registration number. More, they learned of the fate of their murdered loved ones … those who were sent to the “left.” Three prisoners across slept on wooden bunks in cramped barracks. Toilets were an overflowing bucket. Each morning, they would be assembled, standing for hours in extreme weather for roll call (Appell). They were then marched to their work detail, hard labor, followed by another roll call. Food was usually some watery horse-meat soup, and a small piece of bread. Starvation was a never-ending form of torture. 

Q: What were the Nazi “medical” experiments in the camps?  

A:  As prisoners arrived, Nazi doctors would choose those for “experimentation.” People  who were physically different, for example, twins and little people were earmarked. At Auschwitz, the two most notorious doctors were Dr. Carl Clauberg and Dr. Josef Mengele. Clauberg focused on finding bizarre ways to sterilize women. Mengele experimented on identical twins, to find a secret to cloning “the perfect Aryan.” At some camps, prisoners were exposed to high altitudes, freezing temperatures, extreme atmospheric pressure, and hepatitis, tuberculosis, and malaria. In Bergen-Belsen experiments included using human skin for lampshades. Victims of these inhuman experiments were almost always murdered and dissected.  Adults were left deformed, and medically mutilated.

Q: … and what of the gas chambers?

Gas chambers were the method of used by the Nazis to industrialize the death of camp victims in large numbers. The first mass gassing of Jews took place in the Chelmno camp. The chambers appeared as “showers.” Typical entrance signs read: “Baths,” “Disinfecting rooms” or “Cleanliness brings freedom!” Nazi doctors would “examine” each to identify those with gold teeth to be plundered after gassing.  Deputy Furher Rudolph Hess described how Jews were tricked into entering by a Special Detachment Team to “reassure” and assist in undressing. Victims would enter, the doors screwed closed and Zyklon B (a powerful insecticide) pellets were put into vents releasing poison gas. Victims died a torturous, bloody death. It took 20 minutes to kill all in the chamber. Those at Auschwitz/Birkenau could kill 6,000 people in 24 hours.

NOTE: In 1946, two partners in the leading pest control company, Testa, were charged with genocide by a British military court. They were convicted and hanged.

Q: What was the death total by camps?

A: Estimated Camp Deaths:  Auschwitz, 2,000,000;  Belzec, 600,000;  Bergen-Belsen, 70,000; Buchenwald, 56,000;  Chelmno,  340,000; Dachau, 30,000;  Flossenburg, 30,000; Majdanek, 1,380,000;  Mauthausen, >95,000;  Ravensbruck,  >90,000;

Sachsenhausen,100,000; Sobibor, 250,000;  Treblinka,  900,000

Q: Is it true that many citizens, including high-ranking German businessmen “didn’t know?”

A: When Nazi Germany became a genocide state dedicated to exterminating Jews, every major institution was involved. Churches provided the birth records of Jews. Jewish property was seized by The Finance Ministry. Universities became centers of research on efficient murder.  Government transport bureaus supplied the “cattle cars” to the camps. German corporations such as BMW, Daimler-Benz (Mercedes-Benz), Messerschmitt, and Krupp used slave labor, a German chemical conglomerate, I.G. Farben, invested millions of Reich marks to build a petrochemical plant at Auschwitz III, staffed by human slaves. The vastness of these most unspeakable crimes cannot possibly have gone unnoticed by Germans and by the world. No one can claim being “an innocent bystander.” In just one example, on May 11, 1945, German citizens were forced to walk past bodies of Jewish women who starved to death in one 300-mile march across Czechoslovakia. All who stood by seeing their neighbors disappear, smoke stacks, bodies, shootings, torture, share responsibility for allowing the brutality to continue by feigning ignorance.

Q: Did U.S. companies wittingly or unwittingly contribute to the Holocaust?  

A: American companies also participated in fueling the death machine. For example, IBM provided precision technology to facilitate Nazi genocide by tabulating census data with special “computer” punch cards. With such information readily accessible – including family trees, address changes and personal data – the door was shut on Jews who had hoped to hide from Nazi claws. Every Nazi concentration camp also maintained a system of IBM punch cards to keep tabs on inmates. 


*NOTE: Some of the material below is graphic and may not be suitable for sensitive or young readers.

Q: As the war wound down, how did the Nazis deal with the camps?

A:  Starting in late 1944 when the Nazis, trapped between the Soviets moving in from the East, and Britain and the U.S. from the west, knew defeat was inevitable, they tried to destroy evidence of the Holocaust. The SS let prisoners starve, shot many who survived or evacuated them in an attempt to move them closer to or within Germany. The first evacuations of Majdanek inmates started in April 1944. Prisoners of Kaiserwald were either killed or transported to Stutthof. At Auschwitz, Himmler ordered the crematoria destroyed and human remains thrown into pits, covered with grass. In January 1945, they removed most of the remaining 60,000 prisoners from Auschwitz.  Bergen-Belson was liberated by the Western Allies on April 15, 1945. Originally designed to house 10,000, during the last month of the war, it held 41,000. On Mittelbau-Dora was evacuated in April 1945.

Q: What were the death marches?

A: Death marches during the Fall of 1944 through Spring of 1945, refer to the forced evacuations of hundreds of thousands of camp victims. Prisoners, already brutalized, starved, and ill from the camps were marched for miles in the freezing cold once again to cattle cars without water, food or shelter from exposure. Those who couldn’t keep pace during these marches were routinely executed on the spot. An estimated 100,000 Jews died during these “death marches.” In his haunting book, “Night,” Elie Wiesel, on such a death march from Buna to Buchenwald, describes the horror.

Q: Did the rest of the world step in to help the Jews during the Holocaust and after liberation?

A: For Jews attempting to flee the Holocaust, astonishingly, most of the world had no “room” for them. As far back as 1938, a conference consisting of 32 countries met in France to discuss the “refugee” crises.  Nothing concrete was adopted, and Jews were left to languish, locked in by the Nazi death machine.

Here are some policy examples:

*United States Policy Toward Jewish Refugees: the U.S. did not pursue a specific rescue policy for Jewish victims of Nazi Germany until 1944. Reasons included financial uncertainty, xenophobia, and anti-Semitic attitudes on the part of the public and major government officials. In 1944, FDR bowed to pressure from some government insiders and American Jews, establishing the War Refugee Board which rescued thousands of European Jews. He also designated that Fort Ontario, New York, become a free port for refugees. However, only a few thousand refugees were allowed to enter, and only from liberated, not from Nazi-occupied areas. Unlike FDR, President Truman favored a liberal immigration policy toward refugees, issuing the “Truman Directive” on December 22, 1945, allowing more refugees to enter, but the numbers were still small (23,000, two-thirds of whom were Jews). Due to intense lobbying by American Jews, in 1948 Congress passed legislation to admit 400,000, but only 20 percent were Jewish as entry favored agricultural laborers, mostly Christians. Truman considered the law “flagrantly discriminatory against Jews.” It was amended in 1950, but by that time most Survivors had gone to Palestine (and remained in the newly established State of Israel). NOTE: By 1952, 137,450 Jewish refugees had settled in the U.S.

*Great Britain: claimed there was no room to accept them.

*Australia: “We don’t have a racial problem and we don’t want to import one.” *Canada: said “none was too many” in speaking of the Jews.

*Holland and Demark: offered a few refugees temporary asylum.

Only the Dominican Republic offered to take 100,000 Jews, but overwhelmed,

only a relative handful of Jews were taken in.

Q: What was the role of the American media to the Holocaust as it was happening?

A: As documented in the book, Buried by the Times, the American media largely ignored the Holocaust. The New York Times – the newspaper of record – implemented an editorial policy that minimized and diluted history’s worst genocide. This was due primarily to the assimilationist outlook of the Times’ Jewish owner, Arthur Sulzberger, who for political and personal reasons did not want his paper characterized as “Jewish.”

For example, as the genocide of Hungarian Jewry hit full stride, with 400,000 Jews murdered and another 350,000 to be exterminated within weeks, the Times posted the news as a small item on page 12. Of more than 17,000 Times editorials during the war, only five mentioned Europe’s Jews. By defining the Holocaust as a non-story for the national media, the Times made it impossible for others to galvanize the public or politicians to save Hitler’s Jewish victims. Other media took the cue; BBC records show explicit orders not to report on the Holocaust. 

Q: Who were some of the major architects of the Holocaust and what happened to them at the end of the war?

Joseph Goebbels: Nazi minister of propaganda. A violent anti-Semite after Hitler’s take-over he drove Jews out of the arts. He, along with his wife and six children committed suicide the final week of the war in Hitler’s underground bunker.

Heinrich Himmler: Nazi most involved the establishing concentration camps. He opened Dachau and the extermination camps in Eastern Europe. Himmler was captured by the British at the end of the war, but he committed suicide before he could be brought to trial.

Adolf Eichmann: Directed the implementation of the Final Solution. He escaped, but in 1960 with the aid of Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, the Israeli secret service captured him in Argentina and secretly brought him to Israel for trial (1961). He was hanged in 1962 for crimes against humanity.

Hermann Goering: Commander of the Luftwaffe (German air force),  his rabid ambition was to control the German economy. Not only did he plunder Jewish businesses, but personally stole major art works. He committed suicide the night before his execution.

Martin Bormann:  Head of the Party Chancellery (Parteikanzlei) and private secretary to Adolf Hitler. He advocated of extremely harsh, radical treatment of Jews.

Among other decrees, Bormann passed along Hitler’s orders for Jewish extermination.  He disappeared after the war and his fate was shrouded in mystery and supposition. Early in 1973 a Berlin forensic expert established “with near certainty” that a skeleton unearthed during construction in West Berlin in December 1972, was that of Bormann, and on April 11, 1973, West German authorities officially declared him dead.

Adolph Hitler and his wife Eva Braun committed suicide in their bunker, 55 feet under the Hitler’s chancellery on April 30, 1945. Per his instructions, their bodies were wrapped in blankets and carried up into the Chancellery garden where they were burned. On May 1, Goebbels’ wife poisoned her six children, then she and Joseph Goebbels committed suicide.


*NOTE: Some of the material below is graphic and may not be suitable for sensitive or young readers.

Q: Who were among the first to liberate the death camps and what was their reaction?

A:  Disbelief. On July 23, 1944, when Soviet soldiers liberated the death camp, Majdanek, initially, most of the world refused to believe the reports of the atrocities they found.  When General Eisenhower learned of the Ohrdruf concentration camp (a subcamp of Buchenwald), he ordered every American soldier nearby to visit the camp. He said that if they did not know what they were fighting for, now they would know “what they were fighting against.” He also ordered every single citizen of the German town of Gotha to tour Ohrdruf. After the town’s mayor and his wife did so, they went home and hanged themselves. After the war, the Allies felt that the German people should know of the atrocities, and many citizens were forced to view the bodies at the concentrations camps.

Q: What exactly were the Nuremberg Trials?

A:  In August 1945, the Allied powers created the International War Crimes Tribunal. These were a series of military tribunals held by the Allied forces to prosecute prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany. The trials were held in the city of Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany, staring in November, 1945 to 1946 at the Palace of Justice, hence they were known as The Nuremberg Trials. Presiding Judges were from the U.S., Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and France. This was the first time in history that individuals from a nation at war were held accountable before the world, for crimes against humanity.

The first and best known of these trials, was the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT). Held between November 20, 1945 and October 1. 1946, over 20 of the leaders of the Third Reich were tried. Not included were Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels, all of whom had committed suicide.  Martin Bormann, was tried in absentia, while another, Robert Ley , head of the German Labour Front from 1933 to 1945, committed suicide within a week of the trial’s commencement. Hermann Goring was the highest ranking Nazi tried.

A second set of trials of lesser war criminals was conducted under Control Council Law No. 10 at the US Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT); among them included the Doctors’ Trial and the Judges’ Trial.  (NOTE: For more information on sentences: Go to:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_Trials)

Q: What were the results of the Nuremberg Trials?

The verdicts were announced on October 1, 1946. Eighteen of the defendants were found guilty, three were acquitted. Eleven of the guilty were sentenced to death by hanging, the remainder received prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life.

Each of those tried, was accused of at least one to four crimes: crimes against peace; war crimes; crimes against humanity; conspiracy to commit crimes alleged in other counts. Specific charges included the murder of over 6 million Jews, pursuing an aggressive war, the brutality of the concentration camps, and the use of slave labor.

Q: What  were the reactions of the defendants?

Most proclaimed their innocence, many declaring that they were “just following orders.” They also questioned the authority of the court to pass judgment. Dr. G. M. Gilbert was a prison psychologist monitoring the behavior of the defendants. Here are some of his excerpted observations. (Note:  http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/nuremberg.htm)

Hermann Goering: “ He came down first and strode into his cell, his face pale and frozen, his eyes popping. ‘Death!’ he said, as he dropped on the cot and reached for a book. His hands were trembling in spite of his attempt to be nonchalant. His eyes were moist and he was panting, fighting back an emotional breakdown.  … He said that he had naturally expected the death penalty, and was glad that he had not gotten a life sentence, because those who are sentenced to life imprisonment never become martyrs. But there wasn’t any of the old confident bravado in his voice. Goering seemed to realize, at last, that there is nothing funny about death, when you’re the one who is going to die.”

Rudolph Hess: Sentenced to life in Spandau prison.  “Hess strutted in, laughing nervously, and said that he had not even been listening, so he did not know what the sentence was and what was more, he didn’t care.”

Joachim von Ribbentrop: Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany from 1938 until 1945. He also played an important part in Hitler’s ” final solution” of the Jews. (NOTE: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/judribb.asp) “He wandered in, aghast, and started to walk around the cell in a daze, whispering, ‘Death!-Death! Now I won’t be able to write my beautiful memoirs. Tsk! Tsk! So much hatred! Tsk! tsk!’ Then he sat down, a completely broken man, and stared into space . . .”

Albert Speer: Hitler’s friend, favorite architect, and Minister of Armaments from 1942 until the end of the war, responsible for the use of slave labor in armaments production. Speer was one of the very few who expressed repentance and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. “Speer laughed nervously. ‘Twenty years. Well, that’s fair enough. …  I said the sentences must be severe, and I admitted my share of the guilt, so it would be ridiculous if I complained about the punishment.’ ”


Q: Once the world knew the extent of the Holocaust, what other actions were taken so this can never happen again?

A:  After the Holocaust, the U.N. formed the Commission of Human Rights in June 1946. In December 1948, the Commission approved two historic agreements: the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, with Iranian leaders threatening nuclear annihilation of the state of Israel, many are calling for their arrest and trial for incitement to genocide.

Q: What of  Germany in the wake of the Holocaust?

A:  The three Western powers engaged in de-Natzifying Germany. Not only were over 3.4 million former Nazis sentenced, but racial and other oppressive laws were eliminated, and Nazi organizations disbanded. German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (from 1949-63) acknowledged guilt for the Holocaust and agreed to pay damages to individual survivors. In 1954 the West German government paid $6 million in pensions. By 1961, the total was about $100 million. By agreement, reparations were not meant to either lessen German guilt or “repay” Jews for the torment of  the Holocaust.

Q: Apart from the Nuremberg trials, were there other action(s) taken to bring the Nazis to justice?

A: Following the war, there were Jews and non-Jews determined to find and bring Nazis in hiding to justice. Many had been given asylum in South America. The most famous Nazi hunter was Simon Wiesenthal, a survivor who, with the help of the various governments, found 1100 war criminals, including Adolf Eichmann, the administrator of the slaughter of the Jews, and Franz Murer, “The Butcher of Wilno.” On September 20, 2005, Simon Wiesenthal died peacefully at his home in Vienna at age 96. The service was attended by Austrian Prime Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, government officials, diplomats and religious leaders. He was laid to rest in Herzliya, in Israel. Mr. Wiesenthal said he will go to his grave with two unsolved cases nagging him – that of Gestapo chief Heinrich Müller, and Alois Brunner, inventor of the mobile gas chambers who went on to become an advisor to the Syrian government.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, headquartered in Los Angeles, California, was established in 1977 as an international Jewish human rights organization. The Center’s multifaceted mission generates changes through the Snider Social Action Institute and education by confronting anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promoting human rights and dignity, standing with Israel, defending the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.

Among Mr. Wiesenthal’s many honors include decorations from the Austrian and French resistance movements, the Dutch Freedom Medal, the Luxembourg Freedom Medal, the United Nations League for the Help of Refugees Award, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal presented to him by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, and the French Legion of Honor which he received in 1986. In 1981, the Wiesenthal Center produced the Academy Award-winning documentary, Genocide, narrated by Elizabeth Taylor and the late Orson Welles, and introduced by Simon Wiesenthal.

In his eulogy, Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said, “As you go to your eternal repose, I am sure there is a great stirring in heaven as the soul of the millions murdered during the Nazi Holocaust get ready to welcome Simon Wiesenthal, the man who stood up for their honor and never let the world forget them.”

Altogether, 5000 Nazi war criminals were executed, and 10,000 imprisoned between 1945 and 1985.


The Holocaust gave new urgency to the Jewish quest for a homeland in the Middle East.

If there is any way to make sense of the madness, we can look to Israel, a homeland, in part borne of the commitment: “Never again.” As survivors found a home in Eretz Israel, within a few short years, they were again fighting for their survival.  But this time it was in freedom – to insure freedom for Jews everywhere.

In 1953, Yad Vashem became Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The name “Yad Vashem” is from the Book of Isaiah 56:5: “Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name (yad vashem) better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 56:5). Naming the Holocaust memorial “yad vashem” conveys the idea of establishing a national depository for the names of Jewish victims who have no one to carry their name after death.

Yad Vashem is located on the western slope of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, 2,638 ft. above sea level and adjacent to the Jerusalem Forest. Yad Vashem is a 1,900,000 square foot complex containing the Holocaust History Museum, memorial sites such as the Children’s Memorial and the Hall of Remembrance, The Museum of Holocaust Art, sculptures, outdoor commemorative sites such as the Valley of the Communities, a synagogue, archives, a research institute, library, publishing house and an educational center, The International School for Holocaust Studies. Yad Vashem also honors non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust, at the  Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority. It includes the names of over 10,000 people who risked their lives to save the Jews during the Holocaust. In Hebrew, these heroes are called Hasidei Umot Haolam, or the “Righteous among Nations of the World.”

Today, Yad Vashem receives more than one million visitors annually. Admission is free.

Today, the same number visit the site of the former concentration camp Auschwitz.  Admission?  To look squarely at a beast; one that must never be forgotten.