What groups of people were persecuted during the Holocaust?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When we talk about the Holocaust, we are generally talking about the time when the Nazis killed millions of Jews.  However, Jews were not the only group that the Nazis killed.  Instead, they targeted other groups that they thought were inferior and/or harmful.

The Nazis believed that they, the Aryan people, were superior to all others.  The Jews were one of the groups that they felt were inferior.  However, they also believed that other groups were below them.  They felt that Slavs were inferior and were, by their proximity, a major danger.  Therefore, they killed many Poles, Ukrainians, and Russians even outside of those who were killed in battle.  The other ethnic group that the Nazis targeted was Gypsies.  The Nazis killed as many as 500,000 Gypsies.

Outside of “inferior” ethnic groups, the Nazis also targeted people based on their religious or political beliefs.  They killed Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They killed communists, socialists, Social Democrats, and Freemasons.  They killed people from these groups because they disagreed with their politics or because they disliked the fact that they were loyal to authorities other than the Nazis.

Finally, the Nazis killed other people that they thought were harmful to their society.  They killed homosexuals.  They also killed mentally disabled people.  These people, they believed, would weaken their society either through harming its moral fiber or by reducing the quality of its gene pool.

While the Holocaust was mainly about the Nazis killing Jews, there were also other groups that the Nazis targeted for extermination.

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