January 27 is known as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a solemn occasion that commemorates the lives lost during World War II of the millions of civilians including some six million Jews who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis from 1933 to 1945 – all in pursuit of a Socialist and atheistic ideal of racial supremacy.

Here are some important facts you need to know to commemorate these lives properly and respectfully:

70 to 85 million people died in World War II

Piles of Dead Prisoners from a Nazi Concentration Camp (Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WWII_Europe,_Germany,_Concentration_Camps,_%22Piles_of_dead_prisoners%22_-_NARA_-_195344.tif
Piles of Dead Prisoners from a Nazi Concentration Camp. (Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a well-known fact that World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history, with over 70 to 85 million military personnel and innocent civilians dying for the war. Forty million were said to be civilian deaths from genocide, bombings, starvation, and disease.

In terms of casualties by country, it was the Soviet Union who lost the most lives at 27 million people. Ironically, more civilians died when compared to military personnel, with civilian casualties at 19 million and 8.7 million for the Red Army. Germany, on the other hand, sustained 5.3 million military casualties. The Chinese also suffered 7.5 million deaths at the hands of the brutal Japanese Imperial Army, where the Nanking Massacre and Sanko Sakusen killed over 2.7 million people with 300 thousand Chinese civilians raped.

The total amount of casualties amounted to 3% of the world’s population at that time, where 85% of the dead were from the Allies, and 15% were from the Axis. The war marked the first time a nation attempted to exterminate whole populations on an industrial scale.

There Were Over 1,000 Concentration Camps

Map of Nazi concentration camps exhibited at Pohl Trial (Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_Nazi_concentration_camps.jpg
Map of Nazi concentration camps exhibited at Pohl Trial (Wikimedia Commons)

Contrary to popular belief that there were only a few concentration camps, the most infamous being the Auschwitz Concentration Camp located in Southern Poland, there were hundreds of smaller camps situated in various parts of German-occupied Europe.

First established in 1933, these concentration camps were run by the Schutzstaffel (SS) during World War II. However, these camps originally started during the Weimar Republic, when Hitler became chancellor. The Reichstag fire was used as the main reason to arrest various political rivals, mostly those who were part of the rival Communist Party of Germany. Seventy camps were said to be established during the early 1930s, and most of them did not include killing the prisoners but reeducating them in the ideology of Nationalist Socialism.

The real Nazi concentration camps were institutionalized in 1934 when anti-semitism was rapidly rising due to Nazi propaganda. In one instance in 1939, prisoners from these earlier prison camps were dressed as Polish soldiers and sent to the Polish border to set a false flag attack so that the Nazis could invade Poland. This was known as the Hochlinden incident, also known as Operation Himmler.

According to historians, there were 27 main concentration and labor camps and around 1,100 satellite camps. However, these numbers tend to fluctuate depending on the author.

There were also different types of camps during the Third Reich. Concentration camps were more for the civilians labeled as enemies of the state. Transit camps were temporary shelters for captured Jews, often en route to their last stop, the killing centers. These killing centers were for the large-scale killings of the Jews. Forced labor camps were where prisoners of war were forced to work for the Third Reich. Lastly, the prisoner-of-war camps were for allied soldiers who were captured by the Nazis.

The deadliest concentration camp of them all was the Auschwitz camp, where over 1.1 million people were killed. Other deadly concentration camps were the Belzec, Chelmo, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka complexes where jews and prisoners would be killed through poison-gas chambers using Zyklon-B.

Czechs, Poles, and Soviets Were Also Killed

Auschwitz I entrance in Poland where over 1.1 million Jews were killed (Wikimedia Commons)

The purist Nazis killed 6 million Jews in concentration camps. But did you know Soviet civilians, prisoners of war, Poles, Serbs, Romani, Freemasons, Spanish Republicans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and even disabled people were killed in the Holocaust?  Some two million Catholics(mostly Poles) were also murdered by the Nazis in the concentration camps.

Records captured after the war revealed the true horror of the Nazi plans for the racial purification of Europe, an entire continent to be cleansed of all Jews and other racially undesirable people.  Their deaths would not come quickly either, the Germans would first starve and beat them, force them to labor for the Reich until collapse, experiment on them medically, and sexually abused millions of civilians resulting in a death toll of 11 million more. If added to the Jewish death toll, this would result in 17 million men, women, and children annihilated in monstrous genocide.

Visit a Holocaust Museum To Commemorate

There are tons of Holocaust Museums you can visit today to commemorate the lives we’ve lost during World War II. If you’re in the US, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC is open for you. Alternatively, you can visit the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, FL too!

Internationally, commemorators and tourists can visit The Holocaust Centre in the United Kingdom, Yad Vashem in Israel, Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre in Canada, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland.

While all wars are human tragedies and represent a failure of diplomacy to settle differences between nations, WWII was something very different.  Modern and Civilized countries had tried to impose rules of armed conflict to prevent the needless slaughter of civilians in war,  armies wore uniforms, under orders of military authorities acting on behalf of the government of a nation-state.  There were treaties and agreements about how countries would conduct warfare and treat prisoners that even attempted to restrict when and how a submarine could fire a torpedo at a ship. All of this was calculated to reduce the casualties among the civilian population.  In 1939, it all went wrong and what commenced was the bloodiest war in human history where most of the casualties were civilians, who were killed not for differences in the political beliefs or ideology that began the war,  but because of their religious faith.