The Holocaust
The Holocaust

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The Holocaust

1 Precursors?

World War I has a claim to being called the first industrialised war in the sense that, for the first time, the full power of industrial technology was deployed in concentrated ways on the battlefields. During the Second World War, what might be termed industrialised mass killing was employed for the first time – not on the battlefields but in specially designated areas behind the battle fronts. The perpetrators were directed by educated men, little different socially from the bureaucrats in other European states proud of their ‘civilisation’. The firms that competed for contracts to build the extermination plants and supply the killing gas were, in the run of things, ordinary businesses, but the specifications to which they worked and their bills of lading reveal that they knew clearly in what they were involved. The victims were non-combatants selected primarily because of their racial origin. European Jewry was the principal target of this killing; however, the Nazis also used their killing machinery against Gypsies and Slavs, and they murdered others regarded as mentally defective or deviant and who, in consequence, were considered a threat to the ‘Aryan race’. (See Table 1 below for estimates of the numbers killed.)

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