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One of the most notorious aspects of the Holocaust is the deportation of Jews from all over Europe. Deportations not only took place from German-occupied countries, as for instance the Netherlands, but also from states allied with Germany. From 1942 up until the very end of World War II, trains rolled through Europe towards the extermination camps in Poland or to overcrowded concentration camps in Germany itself.

> Map of deportation routes (from USHMM)

More about:
Deportations from Western Europe
Deportations from Germany and its allies
Deportationer fra the Balkans
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Deportations from Western Europe

Jews from the Dutch concentration camp Westerbork are deported to extermination camps in Poland, USHMM #18197g

The Netherlands

At the beginning of World War II around 140,000 Jews lived in the Netherlands. The German occupation power quickly began sending Jews to concentration camps as retaliation for Dutch acts of resistance. The Germans also carried out anti-Jewish measures: registration, confiscation of Jewish property, marking with the Star of David, and forced labour.

In June of 1942 the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) decided to deport 40,000 Dutch Jews. The first two transports, comprising 2,000 Jews, left the Netherlands for Auschwitz on 15-16 July 1942. The RSHA reached their goal in the course of 1942: almost 38,000 Jews were deported from the Netherlands.

In January of 1942 the deportations were resumed, and in the course of the war the Nazis succeeded in deporting approximately 107,000 Dutch Jews. In general, the Dutch Jews were sent to Auschwitz, but also to Sobibor, and, later, to Bergen-Belsen. Around 102,000 of them perished


At the time of the German invasion of Belgium, in the early summer of 1940, around 66,000 Jews lived in the country. But hardly any of them were Belgian citizens. They were mainly immigrants or refugees from Eastern Europe or Germany. Starting in 1941, the Nazis began segregating the Jews: they were listed, registered, marked, and their property was confiscated.

In June 1942 the Nazis decided on the first deportations from Belgium. 4 August 1942 the first transport of Jews from Belgium left for Auschwitz. In the course of 1942 exactly 16,882 Jews were deported from Belgium – of which none were Belgian citizens.

Starting in the summer of 1942 the Germans began to deport Jews that were Belgian citizens. In the course of 1943 and 1944 more than 8,000 were deported to Auschwitz. A total of 28,500 Jews were deported from Belgium during World War II – only around 1,000 of them were Belgians.


Jews are deported to the camp at Gurs in France.

After Germany’s victory over France in the summer of 1940 the country was divided: the Germans occupied the northern part of the country and the entire French Atlantic coastline, while the remaining parts of the country became the so-called ‘Vichy State’.

The Nazis began deporting the French Jews in the summer of 1942. In June-July approximately 5,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz. The Reich Security Main Office had a set goal: to deport 125,000 Jews in 1942. Because of transportation problems, a “mere” 42,000 were actually deported.

On 11 November 1942 the Germans and their Italian allies began occupying the remaining parts of France. This meant a new situation for those Jews that had lived in relative safety in the Vichy State. Beginning in February of 1943 the Nazis hoped to resume the deportations, but the were met with great political resistance from the French. Even the Italians did not support the German efforts.

In the autumn of 1942 the Germans themselves began deporting Jews from France, but without the cooperation of the French authorities such a venture was nearly impossible. From April through August 1944 around 6,000 French Jews were deported.

A total number of approximately 73,000 Jews were sent to the east from France in the course of the war. Around 24,000 of them were French citizens. The rest were stateless Jews, who the Vichy State saw no reason to protect.


As is well known, the Nazis did not succeed in deporting the Danish Jews to the extermination camps. In October 1943 the large majority of the Danish Jews succeeded in escaping to neutral Sweden. For the failed plan to deport the Danish Jews please see:

> The fate of the Danish Jews


Norway had a very small Jewish population of around 2,000 at the beginning of World War II. In the autumn of 1942 the Nazi occupation power carried out the deportation of around half of them, 770 Jews in total. The rest of the Norwegian Jews succeeded in escaping, mainly to Sweden.

Deportations from Germany and its allies

Elderly Jews are deported from Würzburg in Germany to the extermination camps in Poland. The victims thought they were to be re-settled and therefore brought their personal belongings with them.

The German Reich

The first wave of deportations from the German Reich was carried out from mid-October 1941. Joseph Goebbels, who besides being minister of propaganda was also the party leader (Gauleiter) in Berlin, thought it completely unacceptable that thousands of Jews remained in Germany itself at this point. In the course of just less than three weeks 25,000 German Jews were deported to the ghetto of Lodz in Poland.

The second wave of deportations took place as an immediate continuation of the first. More than 33,000 Jews were deported from Germany eastwards, to Riga, Kaunas and Minsk. Most of them were placed in the local ghettos, but 6,000 were shot immediately upon arrival, as a local initiative.

From March through June 1942 a new wave of deportations was initiated. Jews from all over the German Reich were deported to the Lublin District in the General Government, where they “replaced” those Polish Jews that had been sent to the extermination camps. A total of 55,000 German Jews were sent to the east during this period. Starting in May 1942 German Jews were also sent to Minsk in Byelorussia, where they were either shot or gassed on the spot.

The last phase of the deportation of the German Jews was initiated in December 1942. All remaining Jews, including valuable workers, were to disappear. By mid-1942 this phase was largely completed.


Jews murdered during a pogrom in Bucharest, Romania.

Romania was one of the Third Reich’s most important allies during World War II, where they contributed troops for the attack on the Soviet Union.

Romania had a large Jewish population of around 320,000, and anti-Semitic sentiments were widespread.

The Romanians murdered thousands of Soviet Jews, as part of the attack on the Soviet Union, but deportations of their own Jewish population was not seriously contemplated until the summer of 1942. Then it happened on German initiative. However, the Romanian government remained very hesitant, and the deportation plans were postponed until 1943. In reality the plans were dropped after orders from Heinrich Himmler in January 1943, because of the resistance of the Romanian government.


Deportation of Macedonian Jews to the extermination camp Treblinka.

Bulgaria had a Jewish minority of about 50,000 people at the beginning of World War II, constituting only around one percent of the total population. In comparison with for instance Romania, Bulgaria was not particularly anti-Semitic, and the Jewish population was highly assimilated.

The Germans first proposed deporting the Bulgarian Jews in the summer of 1942, but their Bulgarian allies were not enthusiastic about this proposition. The plans were therefore postponed, but resumed in January of 1943. The Germans were particularly interested in approximately 20,000 Jews from the Bulgarian-occupied parts of Greece. From March 1943 onwards around 11,000 Greek and Macedonian Jews were deported to the General Government. All of them were murdered in the Treblinka extermination camp.

The opposition to the deportations was so outspoken in Bulgaria itself that further deportation plans had to be dropped. The Bulgarians were completely unwilling to deport their own countrymen, and from mid-1943 the Germans fortunately no longer possessed authority enough to seriously threaten this reluctant ally.


Slovakian Jews are deported.

Slovakia was proclaimed an independent state in 1939, when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. The Czech parts of the country became the ‘Reich Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia’, whereas Slovakia became an independent nation under absolute German control. Slovakia had a Jewish population of around 90,000.

In the beginning of 1942 the German foreign ministry requested that the Slovakian Jews come under their control. The Slovakian government was favourably disposed to the proposal, and on 25 March 1942 the transport of Jews left Slovakia for Auschwitz. In the course of 1942 around 50,000 Slovakian Jews were deported to the extermination camps at Auschwitz, Majdanek and Sobibor.

In the early summer of 1943 18-25,000 Jews remained in Slovakia. The Germans were eager to resume the deportations, but the Slovakian authorities now turned down this demand. In August of 1944 Germany decided to occupy Slovakia for strategic reasons, which led to a witch-hunt for the Jews. More than 12,000 were rounded up and deported.


Hungarian Jews are deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Hungary had a very large Jewish population of around 725,000 at the beginning of World War II. The country was characterised by widespread anti-Semitism, but in spite of this there was a strong reluctance to deport the Hungarian Jews. Non-Hungarian Jews, on the other hand, were merely viewed as a burden.

In 1943 the Germans renewed their pressure to have the Hungarian Jews deported, but the Hungarian government kept delaying the decision.

Hungarian Jews on their way to the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1944.

In March 1944 the catastrophe happened: German troops invaded Hungary, and the SS were put in charge of the occupation. The deportation of the Hungarian Jews received highest priority and was carried out with terrible efficiency. In the course of seven weeks, beginning in May of 1944, more than 430,000 Hungarian Jews were sent to Auschwitz. The Nazis’ number one deportations expert, Adolf Eichmann, was personally in charge of the operation in Hungary. Unfortunately, large parts of the Hungarian state administration were more than willing to lend a helping hand.


Jews murdered by the Ustasha, Croatia.

Like Slovakia, Croatia came into existence at Germany’s mercy, following the invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941. The country had a Jewish population of around 30,000. As early as 1941 the extremely totalitarian regime in Croatia introduced anti-Jewish measures, following Germany’s example. 15,000 Jews were gathered in concentration camps, where they lived under terrible conditions. In the summer of 1942 around 5,000 Croatian Jews were deported to Auschwitz.


Hitler and Mussolini, 28 October, 1940.

Italy was Germany’s most important ally during World War II. This meant that the Germans remained very restrained in their policies towards the Italians. Around 57,000 Jews lived in Italy, of which approximately 47,000 were Italian citizens. The country was not characterised by any widespread anti-Semitism, although Mussolini from the 1930’s onwards introduced a large number of anti-Jewish measures.

In September 1943 the Italians withdrew from the war, but the Germans responded by occupying the country. As a consequence, the Nazi occupation power tried to carry out the deportation of the Italian Jews, but with no great success. At the end of 1944, a “mere” 5,000 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz. Around 80% of the Italian Jews survived the war.


Soviet air raid on Helsinki, Finland.

Finland was allied to Germany for one reason only: to fight against the Soviet occupation of a large part of their country. Around 2,000 Jews lived in Finland, and the Finns had no intention to surrender them to the Germans. Probably due to the very small number of Jews, the Germans refrained from pushing the issue in the face of Finnish opposition. All Finnish Jews survived the war.

Deportations from the Balkans

Deportation of Jews to the extermination camp Treblinka.


Greece was divided into two occupation zones during World War II: one German, the other Italian. Around 55,000 Jews lived in the German zone, 13,000 in the Italian zone.

The Italians were not interested in deporting the Greek Jews, so beginning in 1943 the Germans carried out anti-Jewish measures (definition, registration, marking and ghettoisation) in their own zone.

The deportation of the Greek Jews was begun in March of 1943: around 45,000 were sent to Auschwitz. The Jews in the Italian occupation zone were gathered in concentration camps, but not deported.

In September 1943 Germany occupied the Italian-controlled parts of Greece, following Italy’s withdrawal from the war. As a result, the Nazis resumed the deportations to Auschwitz, this time including the Jews in the former Italian zone.


Germany invaded Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, primarily in order to support its ally, Italy. After only a few weeks of fighting, Yugoslavia had to surrender, and the country was then divided into different zones of occupation. One of these zones was a German-occupied Serbia. At the beginning of the war around 80,000 Jews lived in Serbia.

In a fashion typical for the Nazi occupation powers, the Serbian Jews were first registered, and then marked with certain Jewish characteristics (e.g. the Star of David). Following this, all Jewish property was confiscated, and the Jews were then finally isolated from the remaining Serbian society. The German occupation power, in this case the regular army, carried out strong anti-Semitic propaganda in order to make the Jews appear responsible for all opposition to the occupation. Beginning in the autumn of 1941 Serbian Jews were executed as retaliation for the increasing number of Serbian resistance actions.

On 4 October 1941 the commander of the German forces in Serbia issued a proclamation establishing a 100:1 ratio of retaliation for partisan attacks. As a result, 2,000 Jews (and 200 gypsies) were murdered. By the end of October 1941 the German army had shot the majority of Jewish men in Serbia. Approximately 20,000 women, children and elderly were gathered in a ghetto. Starting in early 1942, the around 7,500 surviving Jews were gassed to death upon orders from the Security Police. In May of 1942 Serbia was declared “free of Jews”.

As regards the number of Jewish victims during World War II, Serbia was percentage-wise one of the hardest hit areas. A total of only 20,000 Serbian Jews, from a pre-war population of 80,000, survived the war.

Want to know more?

> The extermination camps
> The fate of the Danish Jews

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