In January 1945 there were over 714,000 prisoners in the vast system of concentration camps and labour camps still operating in the Third Reich. Three months later, when the war in Europe ended, at least 250,000 of them were dead. Because this horrific loss of life came at a time of apocalyptic events during which the advancing Allies and even the Germans had their eyes elsewhere, it was not much noticed and was overlooked after the fighting stopped. The victims were a heterogeneous bunch, although the majority were Jewish, and no one made it their business to find out what had happened or to hold anyone responsible. There were just a few investigations, mainly conducted by Soviet officials, and some trials in Austria or East Germany, where the worst prisoner massacres had occurred.
Historians gave only cursory attention to the phenomenon. Military historians focused on the treatment of POWs. German researchers dwelt on the mass suffering of the civilian population, especially those fleeing from the Red Army. Jewish historians tended to assume that the last frenzy of killing in the camps