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Holocaust Memorial Education Center

Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center

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The Beginning of the Final Solution


The naked people stepped down the stairs carved in the pit’s wall, and walked over the heads of those who lay there to the spot where the SS man told them. Then they lowered themselves atop of the dead or those who were still alive. A volley of shots was heard. I looked into the pit and saw the stirring bodies and the bodies down below which didn’t stir. Blood was running from the back of their necks.

From the testimony of Herman Friedrich Graebe, director of the Ukraine branch of the Jung company, about what he witnessed in Dubno, Volhynia, on October 5, 1942. The testimony was given before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.

The mass murder of the Jews began with the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. By the end of 1941 80% of Lithuanian Jewry had been murdered, and by the beginning of 1943, most of the Jews of the western parts of Ukraine and Belorussia had been murdered. Additionally, Romanians and Germans murdered 150,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews in the first months after the invasion of the Soviet Union. In January 1942 a conference was held in Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin, in order to coordinate the implementation of the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”, the codename for the plan to murder all Jews within reach.