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The Ethnic Cleansing of the Jews by

In 1933, two Nazi theorists formulated their own responses to the “Jewish Question”, an anti-Semitic belief that stated the existence of Jews in Germany posed a problem for the German state. Johann von Leers and Achim Gercke put forward the idea of the Madagascar Plan, a proposal to forcibly relocate German Jews to the island of Madagascar. Henrich Himmler, a leading member of the Nazi Party, once said that he had hoped to see “the term ‘Jew’…completely eliminated through the massive immigration of all Jews to Africa or some other colony.”

The idea was formally proposed in June 1940 by the German Foreign Office, and by 15 August, Adolf Eichmann released a memorandum calling for the deportation of Jews over a period of four years, with Madagascar itself governed as a police state under the control of the SS. The naval blockade of Germany by Britain, however, delayed such plans. After the Nazis lost the Battle of Britain in September 1940 and commenced their policy of the Final Solution in 1942, the plan was eventually abandoned.

It is not clear exactly when Hitler decided to murder Europe’s Jews. Of the many death camps that existed all over Europe, Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest, noted for its torture, sadism and mass killings. Approximately one point three million inmates lived in Auschwitz. Around one point one million were murdered against their will.

The photos below come from the Auschwitz Album, a collection of photos that exist as the only surviving visual evidence of the mass killing in Auschwitz. The photos were taken at the end of May or the beginning of June 1944, either by Ernest Hofmann or Bernhard Walter, both SS officers whose task was to take photographs and fingerprints of the inmates (not of the Jews who were sent directly to the gas chambers). The photos in the album show the entire process except the killing itself.

The individuals who entered the death camps in Nazi Germany did so as with experiences, hobbies, interests and most importantly, humanity. Yet Nazi Germany would strip them of this very essence and relegate them to mere numbers. “They brought us into Auschwitz,” said Sara Zuchowicki, a survivor. “I could see the chimneys burning, smell the smoke. I did not think about it. They gave us tattoos: 33076. I did not have a name anymore; just a number.”


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