European rail system, 1939
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
The European rail network played a crucial role in the implementation of the Final Solution. Jews from Germany and German-occupied Europe were deported by rail to extermination camps in occupied Poland, where they were killed. The Germans attempted to disguise their intentions, referring to deportations as "resettlement to the east." The victims were told they were to be taken to labor camps, but in reality, from 1942 onward, deportation meant transit to killing centers for most Jews. Deportations on this scale required the coordination of numerous German government ministries, including the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), the Transport Ministry, and the Foreign Office. The RSHA coordinated and directed the deportations; the Transport Ministry organized train schedules; and the Foreign Office negotiated with German-allied states to hand over their Jews.
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