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Methods of mass murder

Jewish women before they are shot by the SD. A beach near Liepaja (Latvia), 15 December 1941, USHMM #19121.

The Nazis and their helpers used the most terrible methods of murdering Jews, gypsies and other “undesirable” population groups. In the attempt to carry out the Final Solution as effectively as possible, different methods of mass murder were tested. The Nazis began by using mass shootings, then used gassing trucks (in the first extermination camp, Chelmno) and ended up by constructing large industrialised facilities of mass destruction as in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the highly effective Zyklon B gas was used.

More about:
Mass shootings
Gassing trucks
Extermination camps

Mass shootings

German soldiers from the Waffen-SS look on while a member of an Einsatzgruppe shoots a Ukranian Jew, USHMM #64407.

From June 1941 until the end of the war, the four Einsatzgruppen (A-D), together with their eager Eastern European auxiliaries killed around 1,5 million Jews in the occupied parts of the Soviet Union. The method was first of all mass shootings. The Jews were captured or arrested, forced to dig their own graves or simply placed along large mass graves, and then shot so that they fell into the grave.

> The murder of the Soviet Jews

A group of Jewish men await their death in one of Chelmno's gassing trucks, USHMM #51736.

Gassing trucks

On of the killing methods was using mobile gassing trucks. It happened as follows: the Jews were forced into a hermetically sealed truck, and then exhaust gas from the engine was led into the truck. The Jews were thus suffocated.

The method was first used in the Soviet Union by the four Einsatzgruppen, in an effort to make their killing operations more effective (than by using the mass shootings). Also, gassing trucks were introduced in an effort to avoid that the killers became emotionally hit by the murders. But gassing trucks were also used to murder Jews in Poland (Lublin) and in Serbia (Belgrade). The Einsatzgruppen in the occupied parts of the Soviet Union used an estimated 15 gassing trucks.

Extermination camps

Gas chamber in Auschwitz I.

One of the most effective killing methods was by forcing Jews into gas chambers, where they were gassed to death using exhaust fumes or Zyklon B.

In five of the six extermination camps gas chambers were constructed with the single purpose of killing Jews, gypsies and other ’undesirables’. In the Chelmno extermination camp gassing trucks were used for this horrible enterprise.

The procedure of killing the victims in gas chambers was the following: the victims were forced into the gas chamber, the door was closed and either exhaust fumes or Zyklon B-gas was led into the room. In the extermination camps at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka exhaust fumes were used, while Zyklon B was used in Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau.

At least 3 million Jews were killed in the extermination camps that had been constructed with the single purpose of killing Jews as effectively, quickly and secretly as possible.

> The extermination camps

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