Interwar Europe

Grup de jueus internats al camp de Weesterbok (Holanda) saludant als que marxen deportats al camp d’Auschwitz. © Yad Vashem.

Grup de jueus internats al camp de Weesterbok (Holanda) saludant als que marxen deportats al camp d’Auschwitz. © Yad Vashem.

On 30th January 1933, Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany. Nationalism and anti-Semitism had taken hold of a country still traumatised by its defeat in the First World War and the aftereffects of the economic slump of 1929. The NSDAP soon began to persecute its political enemies and the Jews. Between 1933 and 1945, almost 2,000 anti-Semitic decrees and ordinances were issued in the territory controlled by the Third Reich alone. Before the Second World War began, thousands of German, Austrian and Czech Jews managed to flee to France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Palestine.

With the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Germany took control of 2 million Polish Jews, a figure that drastically increased as the Wehrmacht seized control of new territories in the Baltic area and Eastern Europe. Until 1941, The Nazis opted to keep the Jews together in ghettos in order to exploit them. In the middle of 1941, they introduced mobile commands (Eisatzgruppen) which carried out mass killings and, finally, at the Conference of Wannsee in January 1942, they laid down the foundations for the systematic deportation of Jews to seven extermination camps that were constructed specifically for this purpose.

Nens jueus internats al camp de Gurs (FRança) amb els metges i treballadors socials que els atenien. © Yad Vashem.

Nens jueus internats al camp de Gurs (FRança) amb els metges i treballadors socials que els atenien. © Yad Vashem.

The situation of the Jews who had sought refuge in France changed in June 1940 following the signing of the armistice between France and Germany. On the initiative of the Vichy regime, they were considered enemies and orders were given for their detention in internment camps. Those with most foresight decided to seek refuge in Switzerland or to emigrate to America, Palestine or the USA from either the French ports or the Iberian Peninsula. In July 1942, there was a substantial change in their situation when the Vichy regime detained thousands of Jews and handed them over to the Germans. They were first driven to the transit camp of Darcy, which was the stop before Auschwitz. At the same time, the mountains of the Pyrenees became a place through which many of those facing persecution chose to flee in search of salvation. The overwhelming majority used the Iberian Peninsula as a point of transit in order to travel outside Europe.

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Here you will find a collection of videos to learn about the personal statements of anonymous people who have become true witnesses of these historical facts.

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Arkia + Info.
Xarxa de Juderies Espanyoles + Info.
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Centro Sefarad - Israel + Info.