A study by Lewi Stone, a mathematical biologist at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel, set out to determine the rate at which victims of the Holocaust were killed by the Nazis in World War II. Previous estimates suggested that 6,000 people were murdered daily at Auschwitz alone, but exact figures were difficult to verify because the deaths were covered up by the Nazis.
Stone focused his study on records of the “special trains” used to transport people. Overall, some 480 train trips were made from 393 separate Polish towns, destined for death camps such as Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. Though also used for extermination, Auschwitz was also a forced-labor camp.
Stone’s research revealed a “three-month phase of hyperintense killing” highlighting the Nazis’ “pure focused goal of obliterating the entire Jewish people of occupied Poland in as short a time as possible.”
“Apart from very few exceptions, victims who were transported to the death camps were rapidly murdered upon arrival in the gas chambers, thus giving the system perfected by the Nazis all the characteristics of an automated assembly line,” Stone told Newsweek.
At its peak, the Nazis were killing about 15,000 Jews every day in the camps of German-occupied Poland under Operation Reinhard. According to the study, of the 1.7 million people killed between 1942 and 1943 about 1.32 million died in a 100-day period between August and October of 1942. This three month period accounted for more than one-quarter of the total number of people known to have been killed in the Holocaust.
“To my surprise historians have completely avoided quantitative approaches for examining this period. But the graphs show with chilling immediacy the bloodlust of the Nazi program to obliterate the Jewish people in as short a time as possible,” Stone told the Daily Telegraph.
The study, “Quantifying the Holocaust: Hyperintense kill rates during the Nazi genocide,” was published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.
According to Stone, the pace abated only when victims became rare and difficult to find.
“The subsequent rapid plunge in the death rate in November and December 1942 simply reflects that there were very few Jewish victims left alive to murder,” Stone said. “It highlights the frenzied killing the Nazis planned for the Final Solution to the Jewish Question and their ability and eagerness to carry it out.”
The new estimates are based on work by Yitzhak Arad, an Israeli historian who compiled data on 480 train deportations from 393 Polish towns and ghettos during the German offensive.
“The Holocaust stands out as a demonstration of how the efficient machinery of government was turned on people in an unparalleled way,” Stone concluded. “It transcended in its ruthlessness and systemic efficiency. This is the key lesson of the Holocaust that I believe must not be forgotten.”