'20 Million' Victims?

The scale of the Holocaust is something that is extremely difficult to comprehend, both in terms of the areas attributed to it and those who suffered during it. Auschwitz alone, for example, was not just comprised of three main camps (Auschwitz I, Birkenau and Monowitz) but also consisted of around 40 smaller sub-camps. Aside from the concentration camp network, there were also the ghettoes, extermination centres and sites of mass killings by firing squad.
Additionally, historians and researchers believe between 4.5 - 6 million people were killed as a result of the Nazis' anti-Semitism and 'Final Solution'. It is nigh on impossible to put an exact number to the tragedy as, although the Nazis kept meticulous records, many transports went straight to the gas chambers or were shot without having their names or exact total recorded.

The facts and statistics are both terrible and shocking. Now, however, researchers from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have stated that the true extent of the Holocaust could be far worse than previously thought. In this article on The Jewish Chronicle website, it says as many as 20 million people may have been 'brutalised' by the Nazis between 1933 - 1945.

The research being undertaken will be carried out over a period of 13 years, and will be completed in 2025. Two volumes of findings, however, have already been made public. Those involved apparently expected to find around 7,000 sites related to the Holocaust, particularly in Germany, but claim to have already found evidence for at least 42,500 sites. More details can be found in the article mentioned above.

As if the atrocities committed by the Nazis were not incomprehensible enough before, now we are faced with the possibility that the figures previously drawn upon may be inaccurate, and actually up to six times larger. We also have to bear in mind that this particular piece of research has 12 more years until completion. What does this mean in terms of our understanding of the Holocaust?

The first point which sprung to my mind immediately after reading the article was the issue of Holocaust denial. If there are people in the world who already say that the Holocaust didn't happen, or try and undermine it, how on earth will they be convinced of an even worse Holocaust than we already know of? They already dismiss the figure of 6 million and cite lack of evidence; how much evidence will it take to convince them that as many as 20 million people were affected by the Nazis' persecution in some way? The project is far from finished, too, meaning deniers have plenty of time to conjure up counter-arguments and seize upon small pieces of unconfirmed evidence to challenge this research.

The other part of the article that took me by surprise is the idea put forward by project leader Dr. Martin Dean that ordinary Germans did know what was going on. He is quoted as saying, "You literally could not go anywhere in Germany without running into forced labour camps, PoW camps, concentration camps. They were everywhere."
This is sure to anger a lot of Germans and their relatives, as many people have stated that they were only aware of rumours and some milder persecution during the Second World War. Is it really possible that such places scattered the entire country and ordinary citizens were not aware of them, or at least suspicious of what might be taking place there? To answer this, I suppose, the evidence will have to be thoroughly examined when published.

It is hard to think that the Holocaust may have been so much worse than previously thought. It is our duty, however, to remember those who suffered and who perished under the Nazi regime; to keep their stories alive and challenge those who seek to say otherwise, no matter what the figures say.