The Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Europe did not happen suddenly. It was the end of a long process of anti-Semitism and the belief in the pseudo-science of eugenics. The Nazis used propaganda and terror to enforce their anti-Semitic policies. By 1938, the lives of Jews living in Germany had become intolerable. A policy of annihilation called 'The Final Solution' was planned and put into practice in Nazi-occupied parts of Europe after the Second World War broke out in 1939.
The Nazi racist ideology of a Herrenvolk ('master race') was used to justify their eugenics program aimed at weeding 'undesirable' genes from the population. The Holocaust was the consequence of this racism.
At the time the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, there were 500 000 Jews living in Germany. They saw themselves as Germans, who differed from other Germans only in religion. Hostility towards Jews had existed for hundreds of years in Europe. Jews were often used as scapegoats when things went wrong and were blamed for no reason. Anti-Semitism was therefore not unique to Nazi Germany. The Nazis extended the ideas of Anti-Semitism and Social Darwinism that were popular in Europe at the time.
Anti-Semitism was a major part of Nazi Party ideology. The false Social Darwinist theory of a hierarchy of human beings claimed that some groups of people were born with superior talent, ability and worth. In his book Mein Kampf Hitler argued that the German 'race' was superior to all others. He wrongly described gentile (ie non-Jewish) Germans as the 'Aryan race' or 'Herrenvolk' ('master race') and believed they had a duty to control the world.
Jews were blamed for all Germany's troubles and were demonised by Nazi propaganda, even though Jews made up less than 1% of the German population. The popular stereotype and Nazi