The majority of Jews persecuted by the Nazis shared the experience of being forced to live in a ghetto for a certain period of time. Some of these ghettos existed for several years, others only for a few weeks or even days. While several ghettos were hermetically sealed and surrounded by a wall or a fence, others remained open and were only defined by designating certain streets.

The camps, more than any other phenomenon created by the Nazi regime, became the utmost symbol of the inexplicable cruelty and the highhanded waste of human lives that characterized this regime during the Second World War and the Holocaust. Since their inception, in the early 1930s, the mere knowledge that camps existed sent a shiver down people's spine – they were a closed secret world shut away from the normal one, and each of them was a closed world of its own, living by its own rules.

On the eve of World War II, about five percent of the population of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was of Jewish descent. By the middle of 1941, there were about 2.7 million Jews in the territory of what today is the independent state of Ukraine, including the Crimean peninsula. During the German-led war against the Soviet Union between June 1941 and May 1945, some 1.5 million of these Jews died at the hands of Germans, but also Romanians, Hungarians, Ukrainians, and others. In Ukraine, only about 100,000 survived the war and the Holocaust in areas under German rule. Thus about 60 percent of Ukraine’s pre-war Jewish population was murdered—and it all was done in less than two years.

The Jewish communities in Western Europe display remarkable differences, sociologically and economically, which has to be taken into consideration in order to get an appropriate first overview of the subject. It shows the different starting points and historical backgrounds the Nazis had to deal with when introducing their anti-Jewish legislation that led to the persecution and deportation of these communities.

It goes without saying that the Holocaust was first and foremost an event of German history, as the German state under Nazi dictatorship is held responsible for the mass murder of the European Jews. Nevertheless, there is constant debate on the origins of the Holocaust. Two major questions arise: What are the causes of the Holocaust, or to be more precise: how far can they be traced back in German history, and, secondly, are these German preconditions unique in Europe; thus, the questions of continuity and comparison.