The Holocaust (from the Greek ὁλόκαυστος holókaustos: hólos, "whole" and kaustós, "burnt") also known as Shoah (Hebrew: השואה, HaShoah, "catastrophe"; Yiddish: חורבן, Churben or Hurban, from the Hebrew for "destruction"), was the mass murder or genocide of approximately six million Jews during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, throughout German-occupied territory.
Of the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe before the Holocaust, approximately two-thirds were killed. Over one million Jewish children were killed in the Holocaust, as were approximately two million Jewish women and three million Jewish men. A network of over 40,000 facilities in Germany and German-occupied territory were used to concentrate, hold, and kill Jews and other victims.
Some scholars argue that the mass murder of the Romani and people with disabilities should be included in the definition, and some use the common noun "holocaust" to describe other Nazi mass murders, including those of Soviet prisoners of war, Polish and Soviet civilians, and homosexuals. Recent estimates based on figures obtained since the fall of the Soviet Union indicates some ten to eleven million civilians and prisoners of war were intentionally murdered by the Nazi regime.
The persecution and genocide were carried out in stages. Various laws to remove the Jews from civil society, most prominently the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, were enacted in Germany before the outbreak of World War II in Europe. Concentration camps were established in which inmates were subjected to slave labor until they died of exhaustion or disease. Where Germany conquered new territory in eastern Europe, specialized paramilitary units called Einsatzgruppen murdered Jews and political opponents in mass shootings.
The occupiers required Jews and Romani to be confined in overcrowded ghettos before being transported by freight train to extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, most were systematically killed in gas chambers. Every arm of Germany's bureaucracy was involved in the logistics that led to the genocides, turning the Third Reich into what one Holocaust scholar has called "a genocidal state".