“The big mass of Germans always ignored the most atrocious details of what happened later in the Lager: the methodical and industrialized extermination on the scale of millions of people, toxic gas chambers, crematory ovens, the abject exploitation of corpses, all this should not have been known, and in fact few people knew it, until the end of the war. Among other precautions, in official language only cautious and cynical euphemisms were used to keep the secret: « extermination » was not written but «definitive solution», not « deportation» but « transfer», not « gas killing» but «special treatment», and so forth. (Primo Levi)
For example, “white cottage” and “red cottage” were the names used to indicate the first two gas chambers (temporary) located in the birch forest (Birkenau = birch) next to the Auschwitz 2 camp.
It was not only for this reason that the Nazis decided to use “tactful” words to define and describe their plan for the Jewish population’s annihilation : the Final Solution; this linguistic artifice was also useful as an ideological justification, as if the final solution was really solving an important and essential problem..
This expression (in the German language Endlösung der Judenfrage) was used by the National Socialists starting from the end of 1940, with reference to Jews’ forced displacements and deportations, then, since August 1941, it had been used to indicate their systematic extermination. Today it is commonly identified with the term Shoah, and in the Anglo-Saxon world with the word “Holocaust”.
- We do not know when Hitler decided to kill European Jews, probably in 1941, during the invasion of the Soviet Union
- On January 20th, 1942, during the Wannsee Conference organised by Reinhard Heydrich, the decision to proceed with the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was announced.
- Nazi leaders planned the killing of 11 million Jews, they managed to kill 6 million of them.