6 million: what does that number really mean?

For decades, we’ve heard the statistic that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. I personally think that the figure has lost much of its meaning, so I’ve decided to put it into perspective.

In 1933, around 9.5 million Jews lived in Europe, comprising 1.7 percent of the population of Europe. This means that nearly 2/3s — or 66 percent — of Jews in Europe were murdered in the Holocaust. In other words: out of every 3 European Jews, 2 of them died in the Holocaust.

88 years later, the Jewish population in Europe stands at a meager 1.4 million, or 0.2 percent of the European population.

Prior to the Holocaust, Poland had the largest Jewish population in Europe, standing at 3 million, or 9.5 percent of the total Polish population. 2.7 million — or 90 percent — of Polish Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Lithuanian Jews comprised 7.5 percent of the total Lithuanian population in 1933. Nearly 95 percent of Lithuanian Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Lithuania had long been a center of Jewish religious life, so much so that the city of Vilnius was known as the “Jerusalem of the north.” Only 2500-6500 Jews remain in Lithuania today, down from 155,000 in 1933.

In 1939, Jews comprised 0.8 percent of the global population. Today, 82 years later, Jews comprise 0.2 percent of the global population.

The Jewish world population peaked at around 16.6 million in 1939. Today, 82 years later, the Jewish population stands at around 14.7 million. So has our population almost recovered from the Holocaust?

No, not quite.

The world population today stands at around 7.7 billion. In 1939, the world population was 2 billion. That means that, proportionally, for the Jewish population to “recover,” it would currently have to stand at 62 million.

When we speak of the “6 million” lost, it’s easy to forget that this figure is not simply a number or a catch phrase.

6,000,000 Jewish lives were taken during the Holocaust, including over 1,000,000 Jewish children. Each victim had a name and a unique story. They had their own unique thoughts, experiences, beliefs, dreams, strengths, weaknesses, and more.

For this reason, it’s  important not to homogenize Holocaust victims. The Holocaust didn’t just take 6,000,000 Jewish people; it took 6,000,000 Jewish worlds.

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