Skip links
Published on: Questions & answers

What had changed with the the start of the War?

On September 1st 1939 Germany invaded Poland and that brought the beginning of World War II. And with the invasion of Poland, they suddenly had in their hands an additional nearly two million Jews. Months after that, they invaded Scandinavia and conquered Norway and Denmark, and then Western Europe. They conquered Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, and France, and with all of these conquests, by the summer of 1940, Germany found itself now not with a problem of a few hundred thousand Jews inside the Third Reich, but with a problem of several million Jews across territories they had conquered in Europe.

And they continued their pursuit of some solution to this problem. They looked for places to send the Jews. Perhaps they could create some gigantic ghetto somewhere, they thought about the Lublin area as one of those solutions – that didn’t work. Perhaps they could shove all the Jews into the Soviet Union, but that didn’t work either – the Soviet Union was not going to receive millions of Jews simply because Germany wanted to get rid of them. They thought of places that were maybe far away, they could push the Jews far, far from Europe, such as the island of Madagascar, but that too was logistically impossible.

But this pursuit of a solution was something the Nazis never left. And once they conquered Poland, and particularly for Eastern European Jews, it was a good option in that local and regional commanders of the Nazis could pursue the idea of putting Jews into ghettos as a kind of holding pen, until they could find a solution for the Jews.

Materials are published in accordance with Yad VaShem Remembrance Centre.