After taking over Poland Adolf Hitler had another three and a half million Jews under his control. For a time there was talk of deporting all Jews to Madagascar or keeping them confined to a small area in Poland.
The number of Jews under Hitler's control grew as German forces advanced deeper into the Soviet Union. Over two million Jews lived in the Soviet Union and most of them lived in the areas under German occupation. It was while the SS were rounding up the Jews in the Soviet Union that Hitler decided on what became known as the Final Solution.
In 1942, Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary about Hitler's plans: "The Fuehrer... expressed his determination to clean up the Jews in Europe... Not much will remain of the Jews. About sixty per cent of them will have to be liquidated; only about forty per cent can be used for forced labour."
Special units from the SS were set up under the control of Heinrich Himmler to carry out this extermination programme. At first the victims were shot but, with a high proportion of those involved in the killings suffering from nervous breakdowns a more impersonal method was developed.
By the beginning of 1942 over 500,000 Jews in Poland and Russia had been killed by the Schutz Staffeinel (SS). At the Wannsee Conference held in January 1942, Reinhard Heydrich chaired a meeting to consider what to do with the large number of Jews in Germany's concentration camps. Also at the meeting were Heinrich Muller, Adolf Eichmann and Roland Friesler.
Those at the meeting eventually decided on what became known as the Final Solution. From that date the extermination of the Jews became a systematically organized operation. After this date extermination camps were established in the east that had the capacity to kill large numbers including Belzec (15,000 a day), Sobibor (20,000), Treblinka (25,000) and Majdanek (25,000). It has been estimated that between 1942 and 1945 around 18 million were sent to extermination camps. Of these, historians have estimated that between five and eleven million were killed.