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September 3: Jews in World War II

September 2, 2016

ed2cef65ff6bbe894de6b5e4af7a3c1dTwo days after the Nazi blitzkrieg against Poland began, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on this date in 1939. Massacres of Polish Jews (and Polish POWs) were already underway in towns on Poland’s western frontier. A total of 1.5 million Jewish men and women served in the militaries of nations fighting Germany and its Axis allies: 555,000 Jewish Americans, 500,000 Soviet Jews, 116,000 British Jews (26,000 from Palestine and 90,000 from various British colonies and Commonwealth members); and 243,000 other European Jews. American Jewish casualties in the war totaled 11,000 killed, 7,000 of them in combat. Beyond military casualties, according to the Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, 87% of Poland’s 3.25 million Jews would be murdered, as were 32% of the USSR’s 2,825,000; 74% of Hungary’s 725,000; close to half of Romania’s 441,000; 91% of the Netherlands’ 112,000; 88% of Lithuania’s 155,000; 86% of Greece’s 73,000; 74% of Slovakia’s 89,000; 30% of Austria’s 191,000; 84% of the Czech Republic’s 92,000; 45% of Belgium’s 60,000; 29% of France’s 260,000; and 25% of Germany’s 566,000. Historian Martin Gilbert estimates that 5.7 million (78%) of the 7.3 million Jews in German-occupied Europe were murdered. Historian Timothy Snyder estimates that 10.4 million people overall, including 5.4 million Jews, were deliberately exterminated by the Nazis. Victims included more than 200,000 handicapped people, close to 2 million Polish civilians and more than 300,000 Serbs, and millions of civilians and POWs from the USSR. World War II took the lives of 60 million people, about 3% of the world population, in less than six years.

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower