The Holocaust Collection

Sir Martin writes:

The systematic attempt to destroy all European Jewry – an attempt now known as the Holocaust – began in the last week of June 1941, within hours of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.  This onslaught upon Jewish life in Europe continued without respite for nearly four years.  At its most intense moments, during the autumn of 1941, and again during the summer and autumn of 1942, many thousands of Jews were killed every day.  By the time Nazi Germany had been defeated, as many as six million of Europe’s eight million Jews had been slaughtered:  if the killing had run its course, the horrific figure would have been even higher.

Sir Martin reading to his group of students at the railway line at Birkenau, just in front of the entrance gate and ruins of Crematorium III, June 1996
Sir Martin reading to his group of students at the railway line at Birkenau, just in front of the entrance gate and ruins of Crematorium III, June 1996

Jews perished in extermination camps, execution sites, ghettos, slave labour camps, and on the death marches.  The testimony of those who survived constitutes the main record of what was done to the Jews during those years.  The murderers also kept records, often copious ones.  But the victims, the six million who were done to death, could leave no record.  A few fragments of diaries, letters and scribbled messages do survive.  But in the main, others must bear witness to what was done to the millions who could never tell their own story.

On This Day: 8 June 1939

The SS St Louis, an ocean liner with 927 German Jewish refugees on board, having been refused by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay to take any refugees, found sanctuary for 22 refugees in Cuba, but the United States and Canada refused to help:  “On June 8, Fredrick Blair, the Director of the Immigration Branch of the Canadian government, wrote that no country could ‘open its doors wide enough to take in hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who want to leave Europe:  the line must be drawn somewhere.’ ”

(On 5 November 2000, members of the Canadian clergy, including Fredrick Blair’s great-nephew Doug Blair, apologised to the 25 surviving St Louis passengers, and on 20 January 2011, a sculpture was unveiled at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax, to commemorate the St Louis.)

 Kristallnacht, Prelude to Destruction 


Read more about Sir Martin’s inspiration and interest in the Holocaust, his blogs, films and book talks:

 Sir Martin & The Holocaust

The Holocaust: The Human Tragedy

The murder of six million Jewish men, women and children during the Second World War was a crime of unprecedented and unparalleled bestiality. Since the end of the war evidence of the savage cruelty of the murderers has emerged in every country in Europe, and from each one of the

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Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction

Starting in the early hours of 10 November 1938, and continuing until nightfall, violence against the Jews of Germany was unleashed in a whirlwind of destruction. Within a few hours more than a thousand synagogues were set on fire and destroyed. Where it was thought that fire might endanger nearby

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The Boys: Triumph Over Adversity

When Britain declared itself willing in the summer of 1945 to take in one thousand young survivors of the Holocaust, no more than 732 could be found.  During the following eight months they were flown from Prague and Munich to Windermere and Southhampton, as well as to Scotland and Northern

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Never Again: A History of the Holocaust

A history of the Holocaust in 78 two – page spreads, each spread has a specific theme, and is illustrated with photographs, colour maps, art work, recollections, and commemorative postage stamps. Themes include pre-war Jewish life, Kristallnacht, Education and Culture in the ghettos, the Warsaw Ghetto revolt, Escape to the

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The Holocaust: Maps and Photographs

Published for the Holocaust Educational Trust, this slim atlas chronicles in photographs and maps the scale of the slaughter – six million Jews murdered – the widespread acts of Jewish resistance, the fate of many millions of non-Jews who were also murdered, the often inadequate response of the world outside

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