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  • Writer's pictureMichael Baker

The Real Holocaust

Today the Holocaust is misunderstood. At worst, it is simply equated with the death camp at Auschwitz, which actually killed only 1 in 6 Jews during the war, and became active, from the spring of 1943, only after three-quarters of all Jews killed in the Holocaust were dead. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of Jews killed never set foot in a concentration camp and most concentration camp victims were not Jews - concentration camps were not the same as death camps but housed slave labour, albeit in appalling conditions that led to many deaths. We tend to see the Holocaust as a single event, and as a purely German-directed undertaking, controlled from the top down, when in reality it was a complex, evolving, Europe-wide process, often inconsistent and contradictory, which could only have been carried out with the support and initiative of many non-German perpetrators, at a national, regional and local level.

In Episode 5 of the new series of Unknown Warriors, one of the most eminent Holocaust historians Christian Gerlach offers a much more nuanced and complex perspective on the Holocaust which takes into account the wider context of the bitter Soviet-German struggle on the eastern front in which arbitrary and lethal violence was also perpetrated against millions of non-Jewish victims.

If you think you know about WW2, it's time to think again.

An Understanding History podcast

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