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Eastern Europe: The Arena for Mass Murder

Child selling armbands in the Warsaw Ghetto, Winter 1941. CL:Joe Heydecker, Vienna and Sao Paulo, Brazil
"They broke out crying wailed, screamed. Some tried to escape on the way there but they were shot dead....The condemned were stripped of their clothes. and in groups of three hundred they were forced into the ditches. First they threw in the children. The women were shot at the edge of the ditch, after that it was the turn of the men. Many were covered while they were still alive."
Dr. Helen Kutorgene, Survivor, Kovno, Lithuania, October 28, 1941

The women of one Jewish family (Grandmother, mother, children) photographed by an execution squad prior to their murder. Liepaja, Latvia. Dec. 15, 1941. CL:Zentrale Stelle. Ludwiqsburq
On September 27, 1939, the Polish capital of Warsaw fell and the conquest of Poland was completed within four weeks. Almost two million Polish Jews were now under Nazi rule. Even before the invasion of Poland, the Nazis had chosen Eastern Europe (Poland, the Baltic States, and the Soviet Union) as the ideal arena for the mass murder of Europe's Jews. They reasoned that: the largest numbers of Jews lived in these areas; they were removed from neutral observers; the local populations were traditionally hostile to the Jews; and the killing could be camouflaged as part of the war effort and the struggle against Bolshevism.
Group of Polish partisans being led to Beuthen in October 1939. CL:BPK
Terror was the basis of Nazi policy in occupied Poland. At first the Nazis focused on eliminating the Polish intellectual elite. Over 10,000 Polish priests, teachers, and political leaders were murdered in the first months of occupation. Over 120,000 Jews died during the same period as victims of the concentrated aerial bombardment of known Jewish sections of Warsaw; or as victims of execution squads; or as soldiers in the Polish army. By the summer of 1941, 3 million Jews would be trapped in Poland. "In our scroll of agony. not one small detail can be omitted. Even though we are now underqoinq terrible tribulations and the sun has grown dark for us at noon, we have not lost our hope that the era of light will surely come. Our existence as a people will not be destroyed. Individuals will be destroyed. but the Jewish community will live on. Therefore. every entry is more precious than gold. so long as it is written down as it happens. without exaggerations and distortions." Chaim A. Kaplan, The Warsaw Diary, October 26, 1939
Second selection of the remaining Jews of Olkusz, 1942. CL:Zentrale Stelle. Ludwigsburg

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