as late as 1941 it was possible for Jews to leave Germany and other
Reich-occupied territories. Many were imprisoned, many were killed but
there was no policy to attempt to exterminate them as a whole. The 1935
Nuremberg Laws simply excluded the Jews from citizenship of the
Reich, although these paved the way for further repression.
invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) in the summer of
1941 brought another 2 million Jews under Nazi rule. It also directly
precipitated the move towards the 'final solution of the Jewish question'.
On Himmler's orders, SS mobile killing groups followed the German Army,
killing Jews by shooting and by inciting the local populations to carry
out pogroms. This was the first stage of the final solution. Himmler
was anxious however of the effect the brutality of the shootings were
having on his officers who were carrying them out. Mobile
gas vans were then employed for extermination. Between December
1941 and the spring of 1943 over 20,000 Polish Jews and thousands of
gypsies and Soviet POWs (prisoners of war) were killed in this way.
A new stage
in industrialised mass murder was entered with the establishment of
death camps in Poland. The first one was Chlemo, which began operating
in December 1941.