As war raged across Europe, Americans were aware of the plight of children in Europe through daily newspaper accounts of bombings, rationing and suffering throughout the continent. However, the situation was far worse than Americans imagined because they were not aware of the full extent of the Nazi campaign to exterminate Jews, Gypsies and other civilian populations in Poland, the Soviet Union and elsewhere.
It is estimated that as many as 1.6 million Jews, including children, were killed in open-air mass executions by late 1941 before concentration camps were even established. Thousands more died from bombings, fires and sickness brought on by warfare.
In December 1941 the Nazis opened Chelmno in Poland, the first of seven extermination camps dedicated entirely to mass murder on an industrial scale, as opposed to the labor or concentration camps.
While statistics on children killed during the Holocaust vary, some estimates range as high as 1.5 million. This includes more than 1.2 million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Gypsy children and thousands of institutionalized handicapped children who were murdered in Germany and occupied Europe.