Singling out Jews for complete annihilation in the Holocaust was not the full extent of Nazi persecution. Anyone they believed threatened their ideal of a ‘pure Aryan race’ of Germans were targeted for persecution and discrimination across Nazi-occupied Europe.
Nazi beliefs categorised people by race – exalting ‘Aryan’ and above all ‘Nordic’ people as being superior to others. Their pseudo-scientific devotion to ‘racial purity’ and opposition to racial mixing was part-justification for their hatred against Jews, Gypsies (Romani), and Black people who lived in Germany. Slavic people were dismissed as Untermenschen – inferior people living in areas needed for German expansion to the east. Extreme ideas associated with eugenics (the aim to improve the genetic composition of the population) were used to justify persecution of disabled people and gay people. The Nazis also targeted political opponents – primarily communists, trade unionists and social democrats – and people whose religious beliefs conflicted with Nazi ideology – such as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Hundreds of thousands of lives were destroyed or changed beyond recognition because of Nazi persecution, and many groups did not receive acknowledgment of their suffering until years after 1945.