is the title of this story in today's New York Times by Eric Lichtblau. Lichtblau begins by telling of an effort begun 13 years ago at the Holocaust Museum to
all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.Ponder that for a moment. And consider this is as well:
What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.
The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.
The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.Please, either read the Lichtblau now, or else keep reading below the squiggle.
Lichtblau is a Visiting Fellow at the Holocaust Museum as well as being a Times reporter.
The article includes the memories of an 84 year old survivor named Henry Greenbaum who went through 5 different sites.
Some of the sites were small.
Some we already know were massive.
But the numbers identified so far are staggering:
30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettos; 980 concentration camps; 1,000 prisoner-of-war camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm, performing forced abortions, “Germanizing” prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers.The scale makes it clear that most Germans had to know, especially when you consider that there are some 3,000 documented sites in Berlin and 1,300 in Hamburg.
As I look at those numbers, I am reminded that the resources dedicated to the extermination of the Jewish presence in Europe were resources not dedicated to prosecuting the war. It is one reason perhaps that the term "holocaust" as in burnt offering might not be as off-target as some make it, preferring to use instead the Hebrew term Shoah. We know that transports to Auschwitz at times took precedence over supply and troop trains moving to the Eastern Front. One cannot help but wonder had the Nazis not be so determined to make Europe "Judenrein" (Jew free) whether the ending of the war might not have required the deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe.
History is not a fixed set of facts.
As we learn new things - in this case from documents, in other cases from artifact and from archaeology - our understanding can change.
The article talks about legal implications - insurance claims previously denied which might now have to be reopened as claimants and/or their survivors can now prove losses under insured circumstances. Property ownership can also be challenged.
To give a sense of the scope, let me push fair use by quoting just one more paragraph:
The lead editors on the project, Geoffrey Megargee and Martin Dean, estimate that 15 million to 20 million people died or were imprisoned in the sites that they have identified as part of a multivolume encyclopedia. (The Holocaust museum has published the first two, with five more planned by 2025.)15 million to 20 million people passed through these sites. For point of reference, the 1940 Census of the United States was 123,202,624 persons. Today we are about 312.8 million or roughly 2.5 times as much (the population did not grow as much as normal during the war years).
Take those figures of 15-20 million, multiply them by 2.5 and you would in today's terms 37.5 million to 50 million.
As vast as some of the modern day slaughters have been, they pale in comparison.
The mind has trouble grasping this scope. For point of comparison, the estimated population of California in 2012 was 37.2 million people.
Only two volumes have been published so far of the massive work. Perhaps as the publishing continues even more sites will be discovered.
Even if not, consider again those numbers
-- of sites: 42,500
-- of people 15 to 20 million
The Holocaust did just get much more shocking, even for someone like me who has studied it for years, who lost extended family in Europe, who had family and friends who were survivors.