World War II: The Holocaust


One of the most horrific terms in history was used by Nazi Germany to designate human beings whose lives were unimportant, or those who should be killed outright: Lebensunwertes Leben, or "life unworthy of life". The phrase was applied to the mentally impaired and later to the "racially inferior," or "sexually deviant," as well as to "enemies of the state" both internal and external. From very early in the war, part of Nazi policy was to murder civilians en masse, especially targeting Jews. Later in the war, this policy grew into Hitler's "final solution", the complete extermination of the Jews. It began with Einsatzgruppen death squads in the East, which killed some 1,000,000 people in numerous massacres, and continued in concentration camps where prisoners were actively denied proper food and health care. It culminated in the construction of extermination camps -- government facilities whose entire purpose was the systematic murder and disposal of massive numbers of people. In 1945, as advancing Allied troops began discovering these camps, they found the results of these policies: hundreds of thousands of starving and sick prisoners locked in with thousands of dead bodies. They encountered evidence of gas chambers and high-volume crematoriums, as well as thousands of mass graves, documentation of awful medical experimentation, and much more. The Nazis killed more than 10 million people in this manner, including 6 million Jews. (This entry is Part 18 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)

Warning: All images in this entry are shown in full, not screened out for graphic content. There are many dead bodies. The photographs are graphic and stark. This is the reality of genocide, and of an important part of World War II and human history.
Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Bibek Ghosh / 2020 Audubon Photography Awards

    The 2020 Audubon Photography Awards

    Some of the best bird photography of the year—a collection of the 2020 winners and runners-up

  • Dave Allen Photography / Shutterstock

    Tennessee: Images of the Volunteer State

    A few glimpses of Tennessee’s landscape, and some of the animals and people calling it home

  • Gary Hershorn / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Chicken Offering, Virginia Creeper, Comet Neowise

    Ominous statues in Thailand, solar boats in the Netherlands, the empty streets of Pamplona, a zoo reopening in Ecuador, a nuclear-power plant in France, and much more

  • Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters

    Photos: Deadly Flooding in Japan

    Days of unprecedented rainfall have caused rivers to overflow their banks, sweeping away bridges and roads, thereby cutting off many communities.