The Holocaust, also known as Shoah is the term generally used to describe the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II, a program of systematic state-sponsored extermination by Nazi Germany, under Adolf Hitler, its allies, and collaborators. Some scholars maintain that the definition of the Holocaust should also include the Nazis' systematic murder of millions of people in other groups, including ethnic Poles, the Romani, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, people with disabilities, gay men, and political and religious opponents. By this definition, the total number of Holocaust victims is between 11 million and 17 million people.
The persecution and genocide were carried out in stages. Legislation to remove the Jews from civil society was enacted years before the outbreak of World War II. Concentration camps were established in which inmates were used as slave labor until they died of exhaustion or disease. Where the Third Reich conquered new territory in eastern Europe, specialized units called Einsatzgruppen murdered Jews and political opponents in mass shootings. Jews and Romani were crammed into ghettos before being transported by freight train to extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, the majority of them were killed in gas chambers. Every arm of Nazi Germany's bureaucracy was involved in the logistics of the mass murder, turning the country into what one Holocaust scholar has called "a genocidal state".