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How and when the mass killings of Jewish population started?

As soon as Germany invaded the Soviet Union, special murder units of the SS and the German police entered and began murdering primarily Jews, and also various Communist officials and so on, but their main target was Jews.

But by the end of 1941, in that first stage, the first 6 months of murder, they had already murdered 800,000 Jews or even more. But the murder expanded gradually, beginning in the second half of the summer of 1941, with discussions inside of Nazi Germany about bringing other Jews into this picture of murder.

Because as Germany now looked around and saw they had even more millions of Jews under their rule and there was nowhere to send them, and there is no other solution, they felt themselves, ironically, trapped, and now they had to deal with the problem of so many millions of Jews.

And they determined that the only solution to the problem was to kill the problem. But it was a process to reach that decision: They began discussing including the Jews of the Third Reich in the murder, parallel to the murder in the Soviet Union. Their ally – Romania, began murdering Jews on their own in territories that Romania controlled in Romania and the Ukraine.

And particularly inside of Poland, one SS general named Odilo Globocnik began organizing plans to murder the Jews of the areas of Poland where he had influence, which included more than two million Jews, and that became, later on, what was known as “Operation Reinhardt”. Parallel to that, experiments began at the end of the summer of 1941 to design gas vehicles – lorries, or vans – into which you could load several dozen Jews, drive around for a few minutes and kill them.

They experimented with a number of prototypes until they reached the correct model, and then they
began using that model in various places, but primarily in a new camp, that was constructed in November of 1941 and opened on December 8th 1941, that was Chelmno. Parallel to that they experiment with a different kind of gas, at the concentration camp known as Auschwitz. And in early September 1941, the first experiment using Zyklon B, the prussic acid, which was a pesticide for agriculture, was being adapted, and the experiment was found to be successful enough that they then embarked upon improving on the model and looking to build gas chambers that would use that method of gassing.

Therefore we have parallel developments during the course of the second half of 1941: Massive shooting, gas vans, murder in other places, planning on bringing Jews from all over Europe into the murder areas that were being prepared, and murder by the exhaust of engines, “Operation Reinhardt” being planned by Globocnik – all of this coalesced, by the end of 1941, became the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”.

Materials are published in accordance with Yad VaShem Remembrance Centre.