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Blitzkrieg: The Invasion and Occupation of the West

"Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all of the odious apparatus of Nazi rule we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end." Winston Churchill, House of Commons, June 4, 1940

On May 10, 1940, German forces swept westward. By May 15, Holland surrendered, twelve days later, Belgium, and by June, France had collapsed. More than half a million additional Jews were thus swiftly trapped in the Nazi orbit.

Unlike Eastern Europe, the Nazis did not see Western Europe as a viable area for the mass- murder of Jews. The different character of the West European Jewish communities and the different attitude of local populations required new patterns of persecution from those utilized in Poland.

The dive bombing Stuka terrorized civilian populations during the German's blitzkrieg. CL: Imperial War Museum, London

Adolf Hitler and his staff visiting the Eiffel Tower on June 23, 1940. From left to right: Wolff, Giesler, Brueckner, Speer, Brandt, Hitler, Bormann, Breker, and Dietrich. CL:BPK
Western Europe was not in the arena for mass murder; it was a staging area for deportations to the East via Drancy (France), Malines (Belgium), and Westerbork (the Netherlands). In September 1940, the French conducted a census of Jews in the occupied North and in October registered all Jewish property and assets. The first roundups of foreign Jews occurred in May 1941. In the French unoccupied zone, the fascist Vichy government created the Commissariat for Jewish Affairs under the notorious antisemite Xavier Vallat. In France, Belgium and the Netherlands, the registration, segregation, and isolation of foreign and native Jews was complete by early 1942; these steps were the precursors to later deportation and murder.

The Jewish Quarter in Amsterdam. CL:Yad Vashem

Le Vernet, an internment and transit camp in southern France. CL:Joint Distribution Committee. New York
"Information coming out of Holland proves that each week four thousand Dutchmen are being sent to Poland and that is no guess. It is based upon one of the best secret service organizations in Europe." Edward R. Murrow Broadcast, December 13, 1942

A Jewish family being deported from Amsterdam was allowed to take only what they could carry. CL:Yad Vashem

Jews being deported to Gurs (France), October 1940. CL:BPK

The Nazi policy in Western Europe also called for the forced deportation of Jews to Eastern European killing centers. More than 400,000 Western European Jews were loaded into trains and shipped east to Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Maidanek, Sobibor or Treblinka, where they were murdered.

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