Anti-Semitism, the hatred of Jews based on racist principles, is the main element of Nazi ideology. From 1933 on, Jews were increasingly excluded from society.
When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, systematic acts of murder took root there. These acts targeted the civilian population, in particular the Polish ruling elite and Jews.
The Nazis’ war of conquest and extermination against the Soviet Union starting in June of 1941 was marked by war crimes and violence. Following the troops of the German Wehrmacht came the mobile killing units of the Security Police and the Security Service (SD) of the SS, which murdered more than two million Jewish men, women, and children by shooting them or asphyxiating them in gas vans.
Operation Reinhardt, the systematic mass murder of the Polish Jews, began in the extermination camps in the winter of 1941/42. From 1942 on, Jews were deported from throughout German-occupied Europe to Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and murdered there. A total of roughly six million Jews as well as several hundred thousand Sinti and Roma became victims of Nazi genocide.
Starting in the fall of 1941, the Nazi leadership was determined to murder all Jews in Europe. At a discussion on January 20, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Security Police and the Security Service (SD) of the SS, coordinated the implementation of the program of murder. More than eleven million people were to be killed. The meeting was later referred to as the Wannsee Conference, named after the meeting location at Wannsee Lake in Berlin.
In February 1942, SS Colonel Karl Jäger reported the number of people murdered in Lithuania to his superiors in the mobile killing unit Einsatzgruppe A of the Security Police and the Security Service (SD) of the SS. Between July 1941 and January 1942, the subunit under his command, Einsatzkommando 3, shot to death more than 138,000 people, most of them Jews.
Between 1941 and 1943, the SS in Belzec extermination camp murdered more than 430,000 people by means of engine exhaust fumes. In the Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka extermination camps, a total of more than 1.7 million Jews and more than fifty thousand Sinti and Roma were killed during the murder operations known by the code name Operation Reinhardt.