All Nazi camps were death camps and millions of people of every race, colour and creed were starved, tortured and murdered in them. The mass murder of the Jews that was already in full swing in the Soviet Union from June 1941 was extended from 1942 onwards to constitute a clear attempt to kill all Jews in Europe under German occupation or influence. The six exter mination camps which played the most important role in carrying out the policy of physical extermination of the Jews, outside the Soviet Union, were Chełmno, Belzec, Majdanek, Sobibór, Treblinka and the most infamous camp of all: Auschwitz-Birkenau. They were all located in the Generalgouvernement area of Poland. The murder of Jews in these extermination camps was accomplished through the authority of a group of German bureaucrats operating within a clear administrative structure. The vast majority of the leading figures who carried out the Holocaust in the extermination camps were middle-class, university educated academics, lawyers and doctors who were supported by high-ranking police and security personnel and a plethora of administrators who carried out the process at each level with cold and detached efficiency. The major focus of this chapter is to go in search of the insular world of the extermination camps that implemented ‘the Final Solution of the Jewish Question’.
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- Life and Death in the Extermination Camps
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