Operation Reinhard, known as the single largest murder campaign during the Holocaust, was worse than historians imagined. In a mere three months, at least 1.32 million Jewish people died — close to one-quarter of all the Jewish victims who perished during World War II, a new study finds.
The finding is based on an old data set that tallied the number of Jews who were forced from their homes onto trains, which then took them to the death camps in Poland known as Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. Once there, the majority of these victims were killed in gas chambers.
This data set allowed study researcher Lewi Stone, a professor of biomathematics at Tel Aviv University in Israel and a professor of mathematics at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, to estimate the rate at which the Nazis killed their victims during Operation Reinhard.
Stone’s analysis shows how the Nazis worked toward their “goal of obliterating the entire Jewish people of occupied Poland in as short a time [as] possible, mostly within three months,” Stone told Live Science in an email.
The mass killing happened quickly and in complete secrecy, which “ensured the Jewish people did not have a chance,” Stone said. “And [it] made the formation of organized resistance extremely difficult.”
The scale of the killing happened so quickly and was so extreme that it exceeds that of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which is often considered the most intense genocide of the 20th century, Stone said. [Continue reading…]