Until The Last Jew... Until The Last Name
While the Nazi persecution of the Jews began in 1933, the mass murder was committed during World War II. It took the Germans and their accomplices four and a half years to murder six million Jews. They were at their most efficient from April to November 1942 – 250 days in which they murdered some two and a half million Jews. They never showed any restraint, they slowed down only when they began to run out of Jews to kill, and they only stopped when the Allies defeated them.
There was no escape. The murderers were not content with destroying the communities; they also traced each hidden Jew and hunted down each fugitive. The crime of being a Jew was so great, that every single one had to be put to death – the men, the women, the children; the committed, the disinterested, the apostates; the healthy and creative, the sickly and the lazy – all were meant to suffer and die, with no reprieve, no hope, no possible amnesty, nor chance for alleviation.
1944 was a decisive year in World War II. Allied victory was clearly in the offing and, despite stiff resistance, defeat after defeat was inflicted on the German forces, pushing them back towards Germany. And 1944 was the year in which Nazi Germany determined to complete the most important task it had set for itself—the murder of European Jewry, the achievement of the “Final Solution.” Driven by a radical and uncompromising antisemitic ideology, the Nazis redoubled their efforts to reach every last Jew before the war ended. They were in a rush; time was running out.
The photos in this exhibition reflect the uncompromising efforts of the Nazis to murder every Jew in Europe. Although the Allied victory seemed imminent, the Nazis gathered their remaining resources to locate, deport and murder Jews. These photos bear witness to their relentless and uncompromising efforts and to the enormous pain of their victims.
One of Yad Vashem's first projects was to begin documenting the names and fates of the victims. Since 1953, more than 3,000,000 names have been recorded on Pages of Testimony and other documents. Included in this exhibition are Pages of Testimony of victims who perished during the events recorded by these photos.