New research shows that Nazis murdered about 15,000 people per day during the first months of Operation Reinhard.

WASHINGTON — A quarter of the approximately six million people murdered during the Holocaust were killed by Nazi soldiers in a three-month period during World War II, a new study finds.

Researchers analyzed the number of people sent to death camps during the Nazi Operation Reinhard, the largest single genocide campaign of the Holocaust occurring between 1942 and 1943.

The Nazis kept meticulous records of their detestable deeds, but the records revealing their brutal efficiency in annihilating Jewish communities and others during Operation Reinhard were destroyed during the war.

Yitzhak Arad, an Israeli historian specializing in the Holocaust, used data from the Reichsban — the German railway system that transported millions of people to their deaths during the Holocaust — to determine the number of people who were killed. Arad examined data from 480 train deportations from 393 towns in Poland to three major death camps in the area: Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

Using Arad’s estimations for the number of people on each train, Tel Aviv University Biomathematician Lewi Stone calculated the rate at which Jews and other persecuted people were murdered by the Nazis during Operation Reinhard. Stone’s analysis showed that more than three-quarters of the Holocaust victims were killed within the first three months.

In total, 1.78 million people were killed during Operation Reinhard, with 1.32 million of them killed in August, September, and October of 1942. During these three months, Stone estimated that about 15,000 people were killed every day in Nazi death camps.

The 1.32 million people killed during the first three months of Operation Reinhard make up about a quarter of the total killed during the Holocaust. When comparing the highest murder rate of Operation Reinhard with the 1994 Rwandan genocide, often cited as having a higher murder rate than the Holocaust, Operation Reinhard’s murder rate per day was 83 percent higher.

Stone hypothesized that the only reason the murder rate tapered off in November 1942 was because there was practically no one left to kill.

The study was published in the journal Science Advances.

About Ben Renner

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