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This content is taken from the Tel Aviv University & Yad Vashem's online course, The Holocaust: an Introduction - Part 1. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second Welcome back. It is wonderful to see you again. In our last lesson, we discussed Nazi ideology and analysed the collapse of German democracy, which allowed the rise of Nazi Germany. Today, I want us to broaden our perspective beyond Germany and better understand German occupation patterns throughout Europe. As we will see, presenting the fate of European citizens under the influence of Hitler is critical for understanding the life and death of Jews in those places. Why did Nazi Germany repeatedly attack its neighbours? One of the things we must remember is that Nazi ideology did not limit itself to the Jews and to the aspiration of their disappearance and annihilation.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds It also wanted to shape the whole world according to its racial ideology, and create a new order in Europe and beyond. Jews were considered an anti-race, a destructive, undermining, and polluting element. A hazard to humanity. Other people and nations were categorised, rated and ranked according to a racial hierarchy. In the Nazi worldview, Aryans were considered the master race. Consisting, above all, of the Germans and ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe. But also Northwestern populations, such as the Dutch and the Scandinavians. People belonging to this group were not only viewed by the Nazis as superior, but also as those who needed, and deserved, more. More rights, more food, more space– Lebensraum, living space. From whom and where could this Lebensraum be taken?

Skip to 1 minute and 40 seconds From those who Nazi Germany saw as subhuman, as Untermenschen. Those were the nations and people who were placed by the Nazi racist ideology at the bottom of the racial scale. Slavic nations, such as the Russians and Poles, as well as others. Generally speaking, Western countries were seen as present or potential future allies of Nazi Germany. The existence of Eastern European nations was to be tolerated by the Nazis only if they serve the superior race. But if so, why did Nazi Germany support Ukrainian nationality, an Eastern Europe nation, and divide France, a Western country by all accounts? Well, “generally speaking” is only rarely accurate in history.

Skip to 2 minutes and 28 seconds We can portray the larger picture by major trends, but if we want to understand a given historical reality, we will need much more. We will need to take into consideration not only ideology, but also practical and local interests and factors. Keeping this in mind, let us turn to a brief description of some of the rapid and radical changes which swept Europe during the Second World War.


Nazi occupation policies and treatments towards local populations varied greatly throughout Europe. This week we will focus on Nazi “World Order”, on different occupation patterns and on the many changes that occurred in Europe under Nazi rule.

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This video is from the free online course:

The Holocaust: an Introduction - Part 1

Tel Aviv University