Germany in WW2
Nazi Party

Which groups did the Nazis target as victims?

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January 21, 2016 5:39AM

Short answer: Jews, 'gypsies' (Romanies and Sinti), Soviet prisoners of war, Communists, liberals, other political dissidents, incurables, Jehovah's Witnesses and homosexuals.

When used by professional historians the term the Holocaust generally refers specifically to the genocide of the Jews.


  • Jews
  • Roma/Sinti (Gypsies, Romanies)
  • Freemasons
  • Opponents of the Nazis, including communists, socialists, labor leaders and people who opposed the Nazis on religious grounds
  • Soviet political advisers ('Politruks')
  • Soviet prisoners of war (with 3.3 million to 3.5 million killed, this was by far the largest group after the Jews)
  • Resistance fighters
  • 'Unco-operative' Poles
  • Polish academics and other intellectuals and other members of the Polish elite
  • Gays
  • Jehovah's Witnesses
  • Various incurables (mental and physical)
  • Social 'misfits' (for example, prostitutes and people with no fixed address, beggars, the 'unemployable')

Although the Jews were targeted by Nazis, there were many others who are often overlooked. The Nazis wanted 'Lebensraum' (meaning 'living space') to the east, so each of the eastern countries bordering Germany was targeted (at least for enslavement). The Polish people were among the victims of the Nazi extermination, referred to in this 22 August 1939 speech excerpt from Adolf Hitler to Reichmarshal Hermann Goering and the commanding generals at Obersalzberg:

"Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter - with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It's a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me.

I have issued the command - and I'll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad - that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness - for the present only in the East - with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

Please see the related question below.