Launch the interactive Genocide Under the Nazis Timeline.
By BBC History
Last updated 2011-02-17
Launch the interactive Genocide Under the Nazis Timeline.
Adolf Hitler, leader of the largest party in the German parliament, achieves power legally and is sworn in as Chancellor of Germany.
Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) came to power legally in Germany on 30 January 1933, after his National Socialist German Worker's party - the Nazis - had become the largest party in the German parliament. But Hitler was not voted into power.Instead, a clique of conservative politicians had persuaded the aging German head of state, President Paul Hindenberg, to offer Hitler the position of chancellor as a way of bringing the Nazis into a coalition government of right-wing parties that lacked a mass base. They feared that otherwise Germany, suffering massive unemployment and social distress, would fall under the control of socialists and Communists.They thought that the Nazis were just another right-wing, nationalist party and that Hitler would be 'tamed' by power. But Hitler had a radical ideology that went beyond restoring Germany's national pride.The new chancellor wanted to reconstruct Germany on a racial basis, and believed that Germany had to conquer other countries to secure its future. He had no interest in democracy or legality, other than as a façade, and at the earliest opportunity he used the 'Reichstag Fire' (when the German parliamentary building was attacked by arsonists) as an excuse to suspend the civil rights of the German people (see next entry).The last 'free' election in Germany for many years was held in March 1933, in an atmosphere of violent intimidation, and even then the Nazis got only 43 per cent of the vote. Soon afterwards Hitler created a one-party state by brutally suppressing rival political organisations.
Arson attack on German parliament building gives Hitler the pretext for emergency laws that enable repression of his political opponents, especially Communists. Civil liberties of German populace suspended.
By this date, the police and the SA are recorded as having closed down many bars and meeting places frequented by homosexuals.
General election in Germany. Despite massive intimidation of opponents, Nazi party wins only 44 per cent of the votes - but gains a majority of deputies in coalition with another right-wing party. Socialist and Catholic voters reject Hitler.
The SA (Sturm Abteilung)- the brown-shirted Storm Troopers who comprise the Nazi party militia - attack Jewish-owned shops and stores. Sporadic anti-Jewish violence flares up across Germany.
Dachau, the first of Germany's concentration camps, is established near Munich. The first prisoners are mainly political opponents of the regime, especially Communists and Socialists.
Enabling Act is passed by the Reichstag allowing Hitler to rule by decree simply announcing laws without needing to pass them through the Reichstag
Hitler calls for a boycott of Jewish-owned businesses.
A boycott of Jewish businesses starts today. The SA (Sturm Abteilung) - Hitler's brown-shirted Storm Troopers - paint Stars of David and slogans on windows of shops owned by Jews, and try to intimidate shoppers.
The Jews of Germany numbered about 565,000 in 1933, forming under one per cent of the total German population. Most of them lived in cities, although there were many small-town and rural Jewish communities.Jews were mainly middle class, highly assimilated and proud German citizens. But they were bunched in certain professions, such as law, medicine or journalism, that had a high profile, and also dominated sectors of the retail trade.Resentment against the success of Jews blended with a centuries-old hatred of Judaism, rooted in Christian polemics. Because intellectuals and activists of Jewish origin had been prominent in the development of Marxism and socialist parties in Germany, right-wing Germans also blamed Jews for the rise of socialism and identified Communism as virtually a purely Jewish movement. It was common for German nationalists to believe that Jews were responsible for their country's defeat and humiliation in the aftermath of the Great War.A document called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion that had been forged by anti-semitic Russians was an article of faith for many Nazis, and convinced them of the fantastical idea that Jews were all-powerful and were engaged in a world-wide conspiracy for global domination.The Nazis exploited anti-Jewish feeling in their propaganda, and after they came to power the brown-shirted party militia, the SA (Sturm Abteilung), embarked on an orgy of violence against Jews. Hitler's new government was worried by the effect this was having on the country's image abroad, and tried to channel the thuggery by staging a boycott of Jewish shops. The boycott upset a lot of people, and was quickly suspended.But it was a signal that the new regime boded ill for the Jews. As an alternative way of dealing with the Jews, the Nazis set about eliminating them from state employment and public life.
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service serves as a pretext for purging the civil service of political opponents and Jews. President Paul von Hindenburg, who led Germany during World War One, nevertheless insists on an exemption for Jews who fought in the trenches, were wounded or lost sons for the fatherland. Under this law, young Jewish doctors and dentists are forbidden to work for public health schemes, teachers are dismissed, and Jewish lawyers are barred from state employment.
The Prussian minister of the interior, Hermann Goering, asks local authorities to provide statistics concerning the 'Rhineland Bastards' - black Germans who are the offspring of German women and French colonial soldiers who served in the French occupation force in Germany in the 1920s.Also affected are the children of German colonialists, who married African women and returned with them to Germany in the aftermath of World War One. Calls are made to end the 'black curse' by 'sterilisation of the half-castes'. Racial 'experts' also target Roma and Sinti ('Gypsies') for sterilisation.
German Jews set up - under some coercion - a nationwide body to represent them and soften the impact of the new anti-Jewish measures. Aid comes from Jews outside Germany.
The slaughter of animals according to Jewish religious law is prohibited.
A law is introduced against the 'overcrowding' of schools and colleges. This provides the basis for a restrictive quota on the number of Jews allowed into state-run education. Jewish communities set up their own schools, staffed by Jewish teachers sacked from state-run schools.
Students of the Berlin School for Physical Education demolish Magnus Hirschfield's progressive Institute of Sexual Science.
Students in Berlin organise the public burning of books by Jews, Communists, Socialists, and 'degenerate' authors who exemplify modernist art and literature.
The Nazis hated most aspects of modern culture - literature, theatre, music, art - and called it decadent or degenerate. They especially hated the work of Jewish cultural figures and blamed Jews for destroying traditional forms of expression. Thanks to the genius of Albert Einstein they even thought that much modern science, such as relativity, was a Jewish invention. Psychoanalysis was dismissed by them as 'Jewish' because it was pioneered by a Viennese Jew, Sigmund Freud.German students were the most right-wing and nationalistic group in the country, and had gone Nazi before most other people. Incited by Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister, they took armfuls of books out of university and public libraries in central Berlin and organised a huge bonfire of works they disliked. To many onlookers this symbolised a return to ignorance and barbarism.
The Committee of Experts for Population and Racial Policy is established by the minister of the interior, Wilhelm Frick. Its main aim is to prepare a law for the sterilisation of those considered 'hereditarily ill'.
A law is introduced for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Progeny. This empowers doctors to determine if someone has a hereditary sickness- and to order their sterilisation. Hereditary Health Courts are set up to rule on individual cases.
This edict (it was never debated in parliament) empowered doctors to determine if someone had a hereditary sickness, and set up a mechanism by which Hereditary Health Courts could rule that individuals should be sterilised so that they could not pass on their alleged disease. This was a key step according to Nazi thinking and crucial to the creation of the 'racial state'.The Nazis took their ideas from the racial-biological thinking of the time. This was the belief that humanity is divided into different races, some better and some worse than others, and that each race passed on their characteristics genetically.The Nazis also believed in social Darwinism, and were convinced that the races were in conflict, and that only the fittest would survive. So the Aryan race, of which the Germans were the finest example, had to protect itself from racial outsiders, such as Jews, and purge weak members who had genetic illnesses or weaknesses.Such ideas were common in many countries, including England, but it was only in Nazi Germany that a group of fervent believers in the racial-biological principle ever took power in a modern state. Then once in power, they used bureaucracy and government agencies to create a 'racial state'.This had far-reaching consequences, because their idea of racial flaws included such vague notions as 'congenital feeble-mindedness', schizophrenia and manic depression, as well as Huntingdon's chorea, hereditary blindness, hereditary deafness, hereditary epilepsy and serious physical deformities and chronic alcoholism. By 1945, about 400,000 Germans, about one per cent of the entire population, had been sterilised on these grounds.
First purges of Jews from university faculties - instigated by the universities themselves.
The Ha'avara ('transfer') agreement between Jewish leaders from Palestine and the Nazi authorities is established, to enable German Jews to emigrate to the Jewish national home with some of their possessions. During this year about 10,000 Jews will flee Germany, many to Palestine.
The establishment of the Reich Chamber of Culture by Joseph Goebbels leads to the eventual prevention of Jews from working in broadcasting, cinema, theatre, music, and the press.
First raids against 'vagrants' (the term 'vagrants' being used loosely, to include anyone the authorities are suspicious of). Thousands are arrested, although most are soon released. Welfare authorities tighten restrictions against 'vagrants'. 'Disorderly vagrants' can be arrested, assigned to compulsory labour schemes, or incarcerated.
Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels decrees the removal of non-Aryan editors from German newspapers.
Law against Dangerous Habitual Criminals already empowers the state to detain people with two criminal convictions for unlimited periods in 'protective custody'. On this date, the law is extended to cover beggars, 'vagabonds', prostitutes, pimps, and the 'workshy'. It will soon also entrap Roma and Sinti ('Gypsies').
This measure emerged from the dangerous blurring of racial-biological thinking and criminology. Certain German theorists claimed that the habit of committing crime was a hereditary trait.Such measures were popular with many Germans, who saw them as restoring law and order to a society losing its cohesion. The attack on marginal social groups also played to widespread prejudice.
A supplementary decree to the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Progeny makes it compulsory for physicians to report those of their patients who are 'hereditarily diseased' to the authorities.
The Committee of Experts for Population and Racial Policy discusses forced sterilisation as a way of solving the so-called problem of the 'Rhineland Bastards' (racially-mixed Germans). They decide they cannot sterilise black children without Hitler's authorisation. By 1937, however, the Gestapo will have formed 'Special Commission No. 3' to locate the children to be sterilised because of their racial heritage.
Nazi rabble-rouser Julius Streicher brings out a special issue of his paper, Der Sturmer, reviving the medieval charge (known by Jews, and anti-anti-Semitic non-Jews, as the 'blood libel') that Jews kill Christian children.
A bloody purge, known as the 'Night of the Long Knives', against Hitler's rivals in the SA (Sturm Abteilung, or Storm Troopers) is disguised as a crackdown on homosexual men. This gives him the excuse to order a central register of all men known to engage in homosexual activities.
The 'Aryan paragraph' of the Armed Forces Law excludes Jews and 'non-Aryans' from military service, and prevents Jews in the German Army from becoming officers.
Amendment to the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Progeny enables compulsory abortions to be carried out on 'hereditarily ill women or women who become pregnant by a hereditarily ill partner' up to 6 months into their pregnancy.
Paragraph 175 of the criminal code is amended to include any form of 'criminal indecency' between men, and behaviour likely to offend 'public morality'. This amendment will lead to increased arrests of homosexual men, who will often then be given the full sentence of ten years imprisonment for their alleged offence.
Civil marriages between Aryans and non-Aryans forbidden.
The Nuremberg Laws. The Reich Citizenship Law reduces Jews to subjects with limited civil rights. The Law for the Protection of the Blood prohibits marriages and extra-marital relations between 'Aryans' and 'non-Aryans' (Jews, Sinti and Roma, people of African descent).
Two measures were announced by Hitler to the party rally in Nuremberg. They were known in combination as the Nuremberg Laws, and created an apartheid state in Germany. Under the Reich Citizenship Law Jews lost many of their civil rights, and were reduced to second-class status. The Law for the Protection of the Blood prohibited marriages and extra-marital relations between the majority population and 'non-Aryans' (this term mainly referred to Jews).But the Nazi race experts found it impossible to prove scientifically that Jews were a 'race' and fell back on a blend of religious and racial definitions of who was a Jew. The Reich Citizenship Law was the basis of a series of measures that stripped Jews of any residual rights, their jobs, property - and finally their lives.
A circular is issued by the Ministry of Interior, requiring couples to provide 'testimonials of fitness to marry'. This is intended to prevent 'progeny deleterious to German blood', if an 'Aryan' marries ''Gypsies' (Roma/Sinti), Negros and their bastards'.
Jewish families are denied child allowances.
Before the opening of the Olympic Games in Germany, 600 Sinti and Roma ('Gypsies') are rounded up in Berlin and corralled on wasteland at Marzahan. Many die from disease as a result. There are similar round-ups in other German towns.
Heinrich Himmler orders that 'professional or habitual criminals and those who offend public decency should be taken into protective custody'. (For Himmler these are catch-all terms, to cover anyone he considers a threat to society. This is his initiative alone, there is no ministerial decree to support this order.) Many in this category will subsequently be sent to labour camps.
Heinrich Himmler instructs the Central Office for the Fight Against the Gypsy Nuisance, which he set up in 1936 under the auspices of the Criminal Police national headquarters, 'to evaluate the findings of racial-biological research' on the Sinti and Roma.
Buchenwald concentration camp, near Weimar, in Germany, opens.
A Ministry of the Interior circular on 'the preventative fight against crime' enables any 'asocial' with minor but repeated infractions of the law to be placed in 'preventive custody'. The definition of 'asocials' includes 'beggars, tramps, 'Gypsies' (Roma/Sinti), whores, alcoholics with contagious diseases particularly STDs'. Homosexual men are now also sent to concentration camps if they are arrested.
Germany occupies and later annexes Austria (an event known as the Anschluss), to wild acclaim from most Austrians.
While Jews are abused on the streets of Vienna, and their homes are looted, all the anti-Semitic laws passed in Germany from 1933 to 1938 are instantly applied in Austria.
About 185,000 Jews lived in Austria when it was occupied and annexed by Germany. For days after the German take-over, Austrians engaged in a frenzy of violence and looting against the Jews. In panic, thousands tried to emigrate.About 130,000 Jews were able to get out, mostly passing through the Central Office for Jewish Emigration set up by SS lieutenant Adolf Eichmann. This office gave Jews the necessary exit papers, in return for which they were effectively stripped of all their assets and left as penniless refugees. Hundreds of Jews, despairing of the future and unable to emigrate, committed suicide in Vienna.
First major arrests of the 'asocials'. Hundreds are sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. By the end of the year, 8,000 homosexual men will also have been arrested.
Hitler and many in his entourage were homophobic. They believed that homosexual men weakened the German Volk (or race), and deemed them 'asocial'. Homosexual men had been victimised under previous governments, but the Nazis cracked down on this way of life with a new, terrifying vigour.Thousands of homosexual men were arrested and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. By the end of the year, 8,000 had been arrested.
The Decree Regarding the Reporting of Jewish Property is passed. - Jews now have to register all assets of 5,000RMs or more with the authorities. This is part of the 'Aryanisation' drive that is progressively eliminating Jewish-owned businesses by forced sales or closures.Sackings and 'Aryanisation' will cause massive unemployment and hardship amongst German and Austrian Jews, in the run-up to World War Two, with 60,000 in receipt of relief from the Jewish community, helped by Jews abroad, during 1938-9.
A first group of Jews begins forced labour at Mauthausen concentration camp, Austria.
'Gypsy clean-up week' is launched in Germany, and will continue until 18 June. Police are issued with arbitrary arrest quotas to fulfil.Only males capable of work are to be arrested. Subsequently they will be sent to concentration camps at Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald and Dachau. Many Jews and Sinti and Roma will also be arrested as part of this campaign. By 15 June, 1,500 German Jews will be imprisoned in camps.
Although Hitler was not too concerned about Sinti and Roma ('Gypsies'), many top Nazis shared the widespread public prejudice against them and saw the authoritarian methods of the government as an opportunity to clamp down on travelling people. The Sinti and Roma groups fell foul of the law under numerous headings - they could be called 'asocial', accused of being 'workshy', or charged with 'hereditary crime'. Hundreds were arrested.
Politicians from several countries meet at Evian, in France, in an attempt to manage the refugee crisis. The event is prompted by the exodus of tens of thousands of Jews from Austria and Germany. No country is willing to accept Jewish refugees.The British Dominions report that they lack space or jobs for Jews. Britain, which controls Palestine, closes the country to Jewish emigrants after violent protests by the Arab population against the arrival of over 100,000 Jews since 1933. This conference will turn out to be fruitless.
Separate park benches are designated for Jews and 'Aryans', as a form of apartheid spreads through all those social and recreational facilities that Jews are still permitted to use.
A junior SS officer, Adolf Eichmann, is appointed to run the Central Office for Jewish Emigration that he has devised in Vienna.
Until 1941, it was Nazi policy to get Jews out of Germany and the territory under German control by emigration - at first voluntary and later forced. About 150,000 emigrated from Germany between 1933 and 1938, but this was considered too slow by radicals in the Nazi ranks.In March 1938, the young SS officer Adolf Eichmann, was sent to Vienna to bring order to the chaotic process of organising the emigration. Eichmann forced local Jews to suggest ways of speeding things up, and on this basis established the Central Office for Jewish Emigration.It brought under one roof all the agencies a prospective emigrant needed to visit in order to get the correct papers. Jews got the necessary exit papers only after they were stripped of all their assets and turned into penniless refugees.Eichmann also used terror to encourage Jews to leave. Thus, with its ruthless bureaucratic efficiency to help, his system contributed to the forced emigration of over 50,000 Jews within five months. His bosses were so impressed, they set up offices in Berlin and Prague modelled on his system.
To avoid the imposition of visa restrictions on Germans by those countries, notably Switzerland and Britain, scared of an influx of Jewish refugees, the German government orders that from 1939 Jews must use the first names Sara or Israel.Their passports are to be stamped with a red J - for Jude (Jew) - so that Swiss and British immigration officials will be able to spot would-be asylum seekers
After an international crisis, with Hitler threatening war, Germany is allowed by Britain and France to annex the Sudeten border region of Czechoslovakia, where ethnic Germans live. Jews flee the area.
17,000 Polish Jews are arrested in Germany, to pre-empt their denationalisation by the Polish government, and are dumped at the Polish frontier. The Polish government refuses to admit them, and they remain in makeshift refugee camps in 'No-mans land'.
A young Polish Jew called Herschel Grynszpan, whose parents have been stranded between Poland and Germany (see previous headline), goes into the German Embassy in Paris and shoots Ernst vom Rath, a minor functionary there. Vom Rath will die from the gunshot wounds two days later.
Joseph Goebbels, with Hitler's approval, engineers a massive pogrom against the Jews throughout Germany and Austria. It will be called Kristallnacht (the 'Night of Broken Glass') by the Nazis, after the devastation and piles of smashed shop windows that are its result.
The November pogrom against the German and Austrian Jews marked a watershed in Nazi policy on the 'Jewish Question'. The pretext was the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, a minor German consular official in Paris, by a Polish-born Jew called Herschel Grynszpan.He was motivated by anger at the treatment of his parents, who were among 17,000 Polish Jews rounded up by the German authorities on 28 October 1938. They were dumped at the Polish frontier to pre-empt measures by the anti-Jewish Polish government to revoke their nationality and prevent their legal emigration from Germany.When he heard of the shooting Joseph Goebbels saw it as an opportunity to take the lead in anti-Jewish actions. With Hitler's approval he unleashed the SA (Sturm Abteilung) - Hitler's brown-shirted Storm Troopers - on the Jews, inciting his followers to burn synagogues and destroy Jewish-owned property as an expression of German outrage against Grynszpan's deed.In a night and day of terror, 1,000 synagogues were set alight, 7,000 businesses were destroyed, 26,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps, and 91 Jewish men were murdered.Heinrich Himmler, head of the police and the SS was not consulted, nor was Hermann Goering who was in overall charge of the German economy. Both were annoyed by the pogrom - though not out of sympathy for the Jews. Two days later Goering convened a meeting at which he reasserted control over 'Jewish policy' and criticised Goebbels for triggering so much wanton destruction. Goering decreed that German Jews would be forced to pay a one billon RM fine to 'atone' for the death of vom Rath.Jews were ordered to cover the cost of the damage so that German insurance companies would not have to pay for it. The meeting also agreed to extend measures to exclude Jews from German economic and social life. This process, known as 'Aryanisation', went into top gear and resulted in the confiscation of most of the remaining Jewish-owned businesses. A hail of decrees banned Jews from schools, theatres, cinemas, concerts and restaurants.
Racial laws are introduced in Italy by the Italian government, on instructions from Mussolini. The ill treatment of Italians of mixed race will end in May 1943, long before the end of the war.
Hermann Goering convenes a top-level meeting of state officials to follow-up on Kristallnacht (the 'Night of Broken Glass', when Jews and their property were attacked throughout Germany). The following decisions are declared:Jews are to be held collectively responsible for the assassination of vom Rath, and are to pay one billion RM to 'atone'.Jews must cover the cost of the damage, so that German insurance companies will not have to pay out.The exclusion of Jews from German economic and social life is to be accelerated. 'Aryanisation' is to be intensified to close down the last Jewish businesses, and Jews are to be excluded from schools, theatres, cinemas, concerts and restaurants.
Hermann Goering issues Decree on Eliminating the Jews from German Economic Life, to complete the 'Aryanisation' of the economy.
In a circular on the 'Fight Against Gypsy Nuisance' Heinrich Himmler refers to 'The Final Solution of the Gypsy Question' - although this does not yet mean genocide.
In a speech to the German parliament Hitler proclaims, 'If the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevising of the earth and thus a victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!'
Decree Regarding Employment of Jews allows for Reich Jews to be taken for forced labour.
Germany invades Czechoslovakia, occupies the regions of Bohemia and Moravia (called the Protectorate), and sets up Slovakia as a puppet-state.
German racial laws are applied to the Protectorate.
Regulations are promulgated to enable local authorities in Germany to evict Jews from their homes, and to concentrate them in segregated housing.
The first of three anti-Jewish laws is passed in Hungary, squeezing Jews out of education, the economy and public life, causing hardship and fanning anti-Semitism.
The Central Office for Jewish Immigration is established in Prague, under Adolf Eichmann, but large-scale Jewish emigration is almost impossible, due to world-wide immigration restrictions against Jews.
The first state-sanctioned euthanasia is carried out, after Hitler receives a petition from a child's parents, asking for the life of their severely disabled infant to be ended.This happens after the case has been considered by Hitler's office and by the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious and Congenitally Based Illnesses, whose 'experts' have laid down the basis for the removal of disabled children to special 'paediatric clinics'.Here they can be either starved to death or given lethal injections. At least 5,200 infants will eventually be killed through this programme.
All doctors are required to report all cases of deformed newborn infants to the authorities. This order will later be extended to include children and teenagers.
Invasion of Poland by Germany. This is accompanied by random killings of Jews and Polish civilians, mainly by Waffen-SS (SS military formations) and Einsatzgruppen (special SS units, with security and intelligence tasks).
A severe night-time curfew is imposed against German Jews. Later they will be forbidden radios, telephones, bikes, typewriters, access to libraries. Of the 560,000 Jews living in Germany in 1933, 350,000 have already emigrated. Many of the remainder are middle-aged or elderly, are poor, or are married to 'Aryans'.
Hitler's invasion of Poland leads Britain to declare war on Germany.
Stutthof camp is established for 'civilian prisoners of war' in Poland.
Himmler orders all 'insurgents' in Poland (for Himmler this means anyone that the 'Einsatzgruppe' considers a threat to society) to be shot. 12,000 will be killed in September and more than 4,000 in October.
Occupation of Krakow, Poland, by Germany. Population includes 60,000 Jews.
Occupation of Lublin, Poland. Population includes 40,000 Jews. Polish Jews are seized to be taken to forced labour camps, Jewish property is confiscated, and Jews are ordered to wear yellow star badges, to denote their Jewish status.Synagogue services in Poland are prohibited, and some synagogues are destroyed. Economic sanctions are promulgated against the Jews in Lodz, Poland.
Reinhard Heydrich holds a conference on racial policy for Poland. The 1.5 million Jews in German-occupied Poland will be concentrated in cities, prior to being moved eastwards to a 'reservation' in the Lublin area.
Within three weeks of the German invasion of Poland, Hitler's forces had overwhelmed the Polish army and split the country with the Russians who were, temporarily, their ally. As a result, 1.5 million Polish Jews (out of a Polish Jewish population of over 3 million) fell under their control. Hundreds were shot or mistreated, mainly by SS units, in the first weeks of the Occupation.Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the SS Main Office and directly responsible to Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS, was charged with enforcing Nazi racial policy in Poland. Heydrich told a key gathering of SS officers that Jews would be deported out of areas of Poland annexed to Germany. They would be concentrated in cities prior to being moved eastwards to a 'reservation' in the Lublin area.Each Jewish community would be forced to set up a Jewish Council, Judenrat, to implement Nazi decrees and hand over Jewish property and assets. Heydrich ordered a census of Polish Jews, and a survey of the workforce and of Jewish property throughout Poland. Heydrich was also responsible for clearing Roma and Sinti ('Gypsies') out of Germany and dumping them in Poland.
Mass killing of patients in mental hospitals spreads to German-occupied Poland, and to territory annexed to Germany. 30,000 Polish and German inmates of such institutions will be murdered in the next two years, by lethal injection, mass shooting and by pumping carbon monoxide gas into sealed vans or gas chambers containing the victims.
Poland is formally partitioned between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Some 1.5 million Jews are now under German rule. Thousands of Jews flee to Soviet zone.
Hitler issues an amnesty for those Einsatzgruppen members who murdered Jews in Poland. Later SS units are removed from army jurisdiction.
Hitler announces the ethnic-racial reconstruction of Poland.
Hitler envisaged the reorganisation of Germany and all conquered territory on racial-biological lines. He wanted the German-annexed areas of Poland cleared of Poles and Jews and resettled with ethnic Germans brought 'home to the Reich' from regions of eastern Europe where they had lived for centuries.Heinrich Himmler was named Reich Commissar for the Strengthening of the German People, and placed in charge of the programme. It was implemented by various agencies of the SS. Between 1939 and 1941, about 500,000 Poles and some 65,000 Jews were brutally evicted under this policy to make way for 500,000 ethnic Germans.But the programme caused huge problems and eventually provoked the Nazis to attempt a more radical solution of the 'Jewish question'. Himmler envisaged using the area of south-west Poland called the Generalgouvernement, administered by Hans Frank, as a dumping ground. But Frank objected. And there wasn't enough transport to move all these people around.As a result, the Jewish population in occupied Poland was forced into segregated districts of the cities in which they lived, until somewhere could be found for them. Eventually, these districts were walled in and became ghettos. The first ghetto was established in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Jewish population 18,000, on 8 October 1939.
The first Jewish ghetto is established in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland. Population includes 18,000 Jews.
On this date Hitler is thought to authorise the euthanasia campaign or 'mercy killings' of the physically and mentally 'disabled' in Germany. Authorisation is backdated to 1 September to use war as 'cover'.
Nazi eugenics and racial-biological thinking led to the systematic murder of those deemed 'useless mouths' or 'life unworthy of life' - individuals of no utility or value to the Volk.By this date Hitler had already sanctioned the medicalised killing of a severely disabled child (in July of this year). The case was considered by 'experts' who laid the basis for the systematic murder of disabled children in special 'paediatric clinics'.Then in August of this year, a programme of compulsory euthanasia was set in motion with Hitler's express approval. This was to be run under the auspices of the Reich Chancellery - Hitler's office. The operational headquarters was at Tiergarten 4, which led to the code-name T4. The T4 operation eventually ran five 'clinics' in sanatoria and asylums across Germany. In these 'clinics' gas chambers were constructed to kill patients deemed 'unworthy of life' by the doctors and nurses who were supposed to care for them.A fleet of vans was chartered to carry the doomed inmates to the killing centres. They were led by nursing staff into changing rooms, undressed and then placed in sealed gas chambers disguised as shower rooms. Carbon monoxide gas was released into the chambers from pressurised bottles. Afterwards gold tooth fillings were extracted from the corpses, and they were cremated. Over 70,000 people were killed in this way.The T4 programme was poorly disguised, and rumours about it were widespread. Eventually it was halted because of a public protest by Bishop Cardinal Galen in a sermon on 3 August 1941. The Nazi authorities had, anyway, murdered most of those initially targeted.Compulsory 'euthanasia' continued in the concentration camps, under the codename 14f13, and in occupied territories. In all 200-275,000 people were murdered in this way.
Express letter sent from the new Reich Main Security Office (which runs the SS), stating that the 'Gypsy question' in the Reich will be settled by confining Sinti and Roma to designated sites and encampments.
Adolf Eichmann has already organised the forced 'resettlement' of 2,700 Jews to Poland - hundreds of whom have died in the process. From today's date, however, this first attempt at mass deportation is halted, because all transport is needed for the resettlement of ethnic Germans, and because of army objections.
Taking their cue from Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, SS officers in Germany, Austria and the occupied Czech lands organised the round-up and deportation of thousands of Jews to the planned dumping ground for 'racial undesirables' in south-east Poland, in the first of what were called 'territorial solutions' of the 'Jewish question'.Adolf Eichmann took charge of the arrangements, during which the deportees were transported on trains from Vienna, Prague, Ostrava (Protectorate) and Kattowice (annexed from Poland to Germany) to Nisko, on the San River, in south-east Poland.This initial attempt at mass deportation was halted, because transport was needed for the resettlement of ethnic Germans and because the army objected to Jews being dumped near sensitive military zones.Nevertheless, hundreds of those Jews who were deported to Poland died of brutal treatment by SS guards, exposure and disease. And Eichmann proved that with the minimum of effort, and at almost no cost, thousands of Jews could be deported simply by issuing orders and working through Jewish communal organisations.
Generalgouvernement is established under Hans Frank in those areas of Poland not incorporated into the Reich.
The Judenrat (Jewish Council) in Warsaw is ordered to conduct a census: Population includes 375,000 Jews.
The Gestapo begin rounding up Polish intelligentsia. Under the Occupation, 50,000 Polish priests, professors, officers, teachers and cultural figures will be shot or killed in concentration camps.
Lodz, Poland, where the population includes 223,000 Jews, is annexed to Germany.
Police are ordered to arrest all Sinti and Roma ('Gypsies') in Germany, and deport them to concentration camps.
The Polish Generalgouvernment orders all Jews under its jurisdiction to wear yellow star badges to denote their Jewish status, and also to mark Jewish businesses with yellow stars.
SS special commandos extend the euthanasia campaign in annexed areas of Poland, and start to gas patients from Polish mental asylums, in specially adapted vans.Heinrich Himmler personally witnesses an 'operation'.
Mass deportation of Poles and Jews from Warthegau, a district of Poland annexed to Germany, to the Generalgouvernemnt (the area of south-west Poland not incorporated into the Reich) area of Poland. This will leave land free (in line with the policy of lebensraum) for 'Aryan' Germans. The region will be 'ethnically cleansed' of nearly 90,000 within weeks.
The SS evict hundreds of Jews from their homes in Lodz, Poland, and send them to the site of a planned ghetto in the slum district of the city.
The 'euthanasia campaign' gathers momentum in Germany, as six special killing centres and gas vans, under an organisation code-named T4, are used in the murder of 'handicapped' adults. Over 70,000 Germans will eventually be killed in this act of mass murder - it is the first time poison gas will be used for such a purpose.
Creation of Lodz ghetto, in Poland, is decreed.
Second wave of deportation of Jews, Poles, Roma and Sinti ('Gypsies') from the incorporated Polish territories continues - in order to free up land for ethnic Germans. In this way, over 40,000 from the annexed areas will be forcibly 'resettled'.
Deportation of 5,000 (out of planned 30,000) Roma and Sinti ('Gypsies') to Polish ghettos.
30 German criminals arrive at the newly established Auschwitz concentration camp, to act as prisoner functionaries, or Kapos. They will help the SS to supervise the camp's prisoners, who will start arriving in earnest in June. The decision to create the Auschwitz camp was made by Heinrich Himmler in mid-April, after months of investigative research. The camp commandant is Rudolf Hoss.
With defeat of France and its empire imminent, Heinrich Himmler considers deportation of 'all Jews to a colony in Africa or elsewhere'.
German Foreign Office officials propose deporting Jews of western Europe to the French-owned island of Madagascar, an old idea amongst anti-Semites that was investigated by the Polish government in the 1930s.
For decades European anti-Semites had dreamed of sending Jews who lived in European communities away to an African colony, as a means of getting rid of them. The island of Madagascar was the favoured destination for these Jews.In the mid-1930s the anti-Semitic Polish government had seriously investigated this suggestion, seeing its implementation as a way of ridding Poland of its large Jewish population. After the Nazi defeat of France, when it seemed as if the Germans were about to be victorious over Britain too, German Foreign Office officials remembered the plan, and saw the chance of stealing a march on the SS - bogged down with massive population transfers in Poland - by offering their own sweeping solution to Europe's 'Jewish question'. They proposed deporting the Jews of western Europe to Madagascar, while those in the east were left as 'hostages'.Reinhard Heydrich of the SS, however, refused to let the Foreign Office outdo him, and charged Adolf Eichmann with preparing a rival plan. Eichmann's version of the Madagascar Plan embraced 4 million European Jews - those living anywhere in Europe from the English Channel to Warsaw - and suggested that the island should be ruled by the SS. The Madagascar Plan was not explicitly genocidal, but its implementation would have resulted in mass deaths, because the island could not possibly maintain such a large European population..In anticipation of the plan being realised, ghetto building in Poland stopped and Nazi officials waited for the ships to sail. But the idea was abandoned when Britain succeeded in holding off German attack, and retained control of sea lanes. From this point onwards, however, the Nazis thought in terms of dealing with all the Jews of Europe. And any semblance of legality or humanitarian treatment was gone.
47,000 Jews, 'asocials', Roma and Sinti ('Gypsies'), and the mentally ill, are deported from annexed Alsace Lorraine to France.
The quasi-independent French government, set up in Vichy after France's surrender to Germany, enacts severe anti-Jewish laws.
Warsaw ghetto is sealed, with 445,000 Jews (30 per cent of the city's population) walled inside an area encompassing 2.5 per cent of the city. Up to 2,000 people a month will die in the ghetto while it stands.
The walling-in of the ghettos in occupied Poland was an admission that policy on the Jews had run into a dead end. Thwarted by their lack of ability to ship Jews out of Europe altogether, the Germans had no wish to maintain them under their jurisdiction. Their frustration led to a humanitarian catastrophe.Over 440,000 Jews from Warsaw and surrounding areas were herded into a tiny area of the city. Stripped of any means of livelihood, overcrowded and starved, the Jews inevitably succumbed to disease and malnutrition on a massive scale. Within months, up to 2,000 people were dying every month in Warsaw.In their fantasy world, the Nazis believed that they could squeeze wealth out of the Jews by denying them food supplies. When they were confronted by the threat of rampant disease, however, they relented and permitted Jews to work in return for supplies.By 1941, a modus vivendi had developed between the German authorities and the Jewish 'elders' of the ghettos. Although some Nazis continued to argue for starvation as a policy, most were happy to see the ghettos turned into production centres for the German war effort - centres that generated a handsome profit for corrupt Nazi officials.
Heinrich Himmler orders the construction of Birkenau concentration camp, close to Auschwitz, in anticipation of an inflow of Russian prisoners-of-war.
Ghetto established in Krakow, Poland.
German security police smash a strike by Dutch workers in Amsterdam. The strike is in protest against the deportation of 430 Jews, which itself is in reprisal for the killing of a Nazi in a brawl. This is the first and last mass protest in the West against the deportation of Jews.
Radom ghetto, in Poland, is sealed. Population includes around 30,000 Jews.
Lublin ghetto, in Poland, is sealed
Hitler issues the so-called Commissar Order to the Supreme Command. The order calls for the liquidation of the Soviet Union's political commissars (Communist party officials), and exempts German soldiers from the provisions of international law in the coming war against the Soviet Union.It states that political officers in the Soviet Army must be singled out and killed.
Germany invades Russia, in what Hitler tells his generals will be an 'ideological war of extermination'.
Hitler always saw 'the east' as the region where the Germans would find 'living space'. The east would allow Germany to settle populations, and also provide the food and raw materials to make the Reich invincible. Hitler had a particular hatred of the Soviet Union, because to him it was the incarnation of Jewish-Bolshevism.As early as 18 December 1940 he had issued a directive to the army to prepare the invasion of Russia, an invasion known as Operation Barbarossa. He also told his generals it was to be no ordinary war - no quarter would be given to the Communists.On 6 June he issued the 'Commissar Order', calling for liquidation of commissars (Communist Party officials) in the Red Army and exempting German soldiers from the provisions of international law. The German Army was an accomplice to this barbaric adventure - their military planners had anticipated that 20-30 million Soviet civilians would die, because the invaders intended to live off the land and had no intention of supplying food or raw materials to Russian cities after the expected easy victory.After the combat units had moved into their selected area of Russia, they were followed by four mobile killing units, the Einsatzgruppen. They had various intelligence and policing tasks, but they were primarily tasked with the mass shooting of Communists and male Jews of military age.The Einsatzgruppen recruited local volunteers and auxiliaries in Lithuania, Latvia, and areas of Polish Ukraine that were 'liberated' from the Red Army. Within weeks of the invasion, they had shot to death tens of thousands of Jews, and forced the rest into ghettos.
Four Einsatzgruppen - A, B, C and D - begin the mass shooting of commissars (Communist party officials) and Jews in the Soviet Union. Daily reports are sent to SS headquarters. Einsatzgruppen recruit local volunteers and auxiliaries in Lithuania, Latvia, and areas of Ukraine 'liberated' from the Red Army.
Germans capture Vilna, in Lithuania. Population includes 55,000 Jews. With the help of local volunteers, the occupiers will soon shoot dead 5,000 of Vilna's Jews in Ponary Forest, some way from the town.A ghetto will also soon be formed in the town, and repeated 'actions' will result in the murder by shooting here of 33,500 Jews by the end of the year.
Germans capture Kovno, in Lithuania. Population includes 40,000 Jews. The occupiers stand by as pogroms result in thousands of Jewish deaths. Over 10,000 are shot.A ghetto is formed, with a population of 30,000 Jews. During the following months over 12,000 Jews will be shot, mainly by local Lithuanian auxiliaries.
Germans secure Bialystok, in north-eastern Poland. Population includes 50,000 Jews. Within weeks the occupiers will have shot dead 6,300 Jews, and set up a ghetto.
Germans capture Riga, in Latvia. Population includes 43,000 Jews. Local pogroms will follow, in which thousands will be killed, and a ghetto will be formed for 'working' Jews.By December, 20,000 local Jews will have been shot in the Rumbula Forest. Later still, 16,000 Jews will be deported to Riga from Germany.
Germans secure Lvov, in south-eastern Poland. Population includes 110,000 Jews - plus tens of thousands of Polish-Jewish refugees. Within days local pogroms will have killed 6,000 Jews, and concentration camps and ghettos will have been set up. 5,000 Jews 'unable to work' will have been shot.
Germans occupy Minsk, near the Russian-Polish border. Population includes 80,000 Jews. Over 20,000 local Jews will be murdered here, in mass shootings that will begin on 8 July.A ghetto will be set up by 20 July, containing 100,000 Jews, including 35,000 from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
Reinhard Heydrich obtains from Hermann Goering the authority to prepare 'a complete solution of the Jewish question within the German sphere of influence in Europe'.
With the initial successes of their war against Russia, the ambitions of the Nazi leadership swelled, and they saw a new way to get rid of unwanted Jews in their territories. The Jews could be sent east, and left to rot in the wastes of Siberia, or driven into the vast marshlands of central Russia. Reinhard Heydrich obtained authorisation from Hermann Goering to prepare a plan along these lines, and left Adolf Eichmann to draw up the details.This was not to be a 'final solution' in the sense of genocide, but it had lethal implications since the 'east' was becoming a vast killing field. In late July, Heinrich Himmler augmented the Einsatzgruppen by large SS units and police battalions. They began shooting Jewish women and children, as well as male Jews. Soon whole communities were being annihilated.
Bishop Cardinal Galen delivers a sermon condemning euthanasia, while the Reich Ministry of Justice is getting many complaints about 'mercy-killing'.
23, 600 Jews, 14,000 of whom have been deported from Hungary, are murdered at Kamenets-Poldolsk, in Ukraine.
The T4 euthanasia programme in Germany is closed down, but it continues, code-named 14f13, in the concentration camps, and in occupied territories.Between 200-275,000 people will eventually be murdered in this way.
First experimental gassings carried out at Auschwitz.
Jews in the Reich are required to wear yellow star badges, to denote their Jewish status.
33,771 Jews from Kiev, in Ukraine, are shot in two days at Babi Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of the city.
Mass deportation of German Jews to the Polish / Lithuanian / Russian towns of Kovno, Lodz, Minsk and Riga begins, later destinations will include Warsaw and Lublin.
In October 1941, Hitler agreed to demands from Joseph Goebbels, the senior Nazi Party official of Berlin, and other party bosses, to deport those Jews still remaining in Germany to the east. This was not the first step in a wider genocidal programme - in fact, Hitler ordered that the German Jews were not to be killed. But several train loads of German Jews were massacred when they arrived in Riga and Kovno.Most were unloaded in ghettos in Poland, including those in Warsaw and Lublin, where they suffered terribly. But the deportations also had more murderous consequences. In order to make space for the influx, the ghetto commanders in Lodz, Minsk, Kovno, and Riga ordered the mass shooting of local Jews. Since these mass killings were wearing on the 'shooters', Himmler had already set in motion, earlier that year, various experiments with different killing methods.The experience of operatives involved in the euthanasia programme for those deemed 'unworthy of life' was drawn upon, to devise methods of mass killing using poison gas. Thus the knock-on effect of the deportation of German Jews was to accelerate the development of the technology of mass killing.
Germans and Romanians capture Odessa, in Ukraine. Population includes 200,000 Jews. Although 90,000 will flee, 40,000 will be killed within days, while 40,000 will be ghettoised.
Construction of the Belzec extermination camp, in Poland, begins.
It was Odilo Globocnik, a senior SS officer in Lublin, who began the construction of the fixed-site killing centre at Belzec. The extermination camp was under the command of an SS officer, Christian Wirth, who had formerly been employed in the compulsory euthanasia programme for those deemed 'unworthy of life'.The first three gas chambers were quite small - with a capacity of less than 200. This suggests that Belzec was designed with only local killing operations in mind. But it was a highly streamlined operation. Jews arrived on trains from Lublin, at a small station. They were told that they were being sent for labour, but had to shower first and get rid of lice. Men were separated from women and children, and then herded up a fenced path to the building with the gas chambers.They were then driven into the gas-tight rooms, and killed with poison carbon monoxide gas, piped in from a diesel engine. Teams of Jewish labourers then removed the corpses, and removed gold fillings from their teeth. The bodies were thrown into burial pits.Later the capacity of the gas chambers was greatly enlarged, and the corpses were burned. It is estimated that by the time Belzec was shut down, 600,000 Jews had been killed there.
A passage is incorporated into SS and police disciplinary procedures, whereby homosexual members of the SS and police are to be executed.
First Jews are sent from Prague to Theresienstadt (in the Czech Protectorate), which Reinhard Heydrich intends will become a 'model' ghetto for old and 'privileged' German Jews, and Jews he orders to be cleared from the Protectorate.Within a year over 50,000 Jews will be concentrated in the ghetto, which will also act as a transit camp for 88,000 sent on to the death camps. Over 33,000 will die of disease and malnutrition in this 'model' ghetto.
The Night and Fog Decree (Nacht-und-Nebel-Erlass) is issued. It states that anti-Nazi opponents in Germany itself can be arrested at night (and by implication 'disappear').
The beginning of the mass killing of Jews by poison gas at Chelmno, in German-annexed Poland.About 320,000 Jews will be murdered there, including tens of thousands from Lodz.
At Chelmno the Germans used gas vans of the kind that had been developed for the compulsory euthanasia programme for those deemed 'unworthy of life'. The exhaust fumes were piped into the rear compartment of a furniture removal-style van, which had strengthened and airtight walls. These gas vans were also employed in Ukraine and Serbia, but nowhere for so long and to such murderous effect as at Chelmo.The makeshift concentration camp was commanded by an SS officer, Herbert Lange, who had murdered the inmates of asylums in occupied Poland earlier in the war. The victims were mainly Jews transported from the nearby city of Lodz. The hundreds of thousands of bodies were at first buried in mass graves, and later cremated on huge pyres in the surrounding forest.
Germany, as Japan's ally, declares war on USA following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
A Russian counter-offensive drives German forces back from Moscow, and ends Hitler's hope of quickly defeating the USSR.
At Bogdanovka, Ukraine, local Romanians, with Ukrainian auxiliaries, begin shooting Jews deported to Transnistria district. They will have killed 41,000 Jews by New Years Eve.
5,000 Sinti and Roma ('Gypsies'), who have been deported from Austria to the Lodz ghetto, are gassed at Chelmno, in Poland.55,000 German and Austrian Jews will also have been sent to Chelmno by the end of the war.
The Wannsee Conference is held, chaired by Reinhard Heydrich. The meeting is told that emigration of Jews abroad, or deportation to 'reserves' in the east, or transportation to Siberia, are no longer an option. Those present concur with an SS-led plan to deport all European Jews to 'the east', where they can be immediately killed, or worked to death.
By December 1941, Hitler had decided to annihilate all the Jews of Europe. The task was to be carried out by the SS under Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich. But Heydrich wanted to stamp his authority on 'Jewish policy' and also to bring rivals and subordinates in the party and state apparatus into line. It was also essential to coordinate the major state agencies, so as to avoid the problems that had bedevilled early attempts at a 'solution' of the 'Jewish problem.'For this purpose he used a meeting that had been summoned at the end of November, but postponed, to coordinate the deportation of Jews to the east. The meeting was eventually held on 20 January 1942 in a lakeside villa in a smart suburb of Berlin.Those invited included representatives of the Generalgouvernement (the area of Poland not incorporated into the Reich), the Ministry for the Eastern Territories, the Ministry of the Interior, the Foreign Ministry, the Office of the Four Year Plan, the Ministry of Justice, the Party Chancellery, the Reich Chancellery and five senior SS officers from the central SS apparatus and from the field in eastern Europe.Heydrich chaired the meeting and Adolf Eichmann, who had made the arrangements, also took care of the record. Heydrich informed the meeting that Jewish emigration was no longer possible, and that other 'territorial solutions' were out of the question. Instead Jews would be 'evacuated' to the east and put to work building roads.Any who survived this forced labour would also be killed, to prevent the Jewish race regenerating. Elderly and 'privileged' German Jews, those who had fought in the trenches of World War One, would be sent to the 'model' ghetto at Theresienstadt in Bohemia. The meeting spent much time trying to define who was exempt from deportation because they were only partially Jewish. The meeting concluded with a late lunch and drinks.
Einsatzgruppe A reports that 70,000 Latvian Jews have been killed. (Pogroms in Latvia started in June/July 1941.) Only 3,750 Jewish labourers remain in Latvia.
Construction begins on Sobibor extermination camp, in Poland.
At Belzec extermination camp, in Poland, the killing of prisoners begins. About 600,000 Jews will eventually be murdered here, using poisonous exhaust fumes from a tractor engine piped into gas chambers.
Two peasant huts converted into gas chambers are used to murder prisoners at Birkenau concentration camp, near Auschwitz.
Last year, two million out of three million captured Russians died in POW camps, due to wilful neglect while in captivity by the German army, under instruction from the Nazis.On this date, the deportation of 60,000 Slovakian Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau begins - initially they replace expected Russian POWs, who don't arrive because there has been a mass murder of these prisoners.
The deportation begins of 70,000 French Jews to the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Sobibor death camps.
The compulsory wearing of the yellow star identification badge, denoting Jewish status, is extended to Jews in the Netherlands. This will also be made compulsory for Jews in Belgium and France within a few weeks.
First 'selection' for gassing takes place at Auschwitz-Birkenau. From now on most deportees will be murdered immediately on arrival at the concentration camp, and only a small proportion of Jews will be saved temporarily for work purposes.
In April 1940 a Polish army barracks in the small town of Oswiecim, called Auschwitz by the Germans, was converted into a concentration camp intended to instil terror into the population of German-occupied Poland. The first commandant, Rudolf Hoess, quickly established a brutal regime over the 10,000 Poles who were sent there.A year later, Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, decreed the expansion of the camp to hold 100,000 slave labourers who would be worked to death for the profit of the SS and the German industrial conglomerate IG Farben - the new camp was called Birkenau.The slave workers were supposed to be Russian soldiers captured after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. But few POWs survived. So Himmler ordered that Jews should be sent to the new camp. The conditions were barbaric. Thousands of men and women were crammed into barns designed for stabling horses. The pathetic sanitary facilities produced misery. In anticipation of a massive death rate from disease, starvation and physical exhaustion, the Nazi architects planned two elaborate crematoria.After Hitler unleashed the genocide against Europe's Jews in 1941, moves were started at Birkenau to convert it to a death camp. Gas chambers using the deadly Zyklon-B gas were improvised in a mortuary and in converted peasant huts. Trains carrying Jews started rolling to Auschwitz-Birkenau from across Europe.The first trains carried Jews destined for labour. Early in May the arrivals were separated on arrival into those who were 'fit for work' and those who were to be sent to the gas chambers. Initially the bodies were buried in mass graves. Later they were burned in cremation pits. In March 1943 purpose-built gas chambers and crematoria were opened.
Opening of Sobibor extermination camp, in Poland. By Autumn 1943, some 250,000 Jews will have been murdered in the camp.
A Communist-Jewish resistance group in Berlin, led by Herbert Baum, stages an attack on an anti-Soviet exhibition. The group is uncovered by the Gestapo, and annihilated.
Czech and Slovak commandos, sent from Britain, fatally wound Reinhard Heydrich in Prague. 252 inhabitants of Lidice (a small village near Prague) are murdered by the Nazis in revenge.
The mass deportation to death camps, of Jews from the Netherlands, Belgium and France, begins.
A 'grand round-up' of foreign Jews in Paris results in the detention of 12,887 Jews. They are held in Drancy before being sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The killing of prisoners at Treblinka extermination camp, in Poland, begins, as the mass deportation of Warsaw's Jews begins. Numbers sent to their deaths at the camp will reach 300,000 by September. 870,000 Jews, and thousands of Sinti, will be killed in Treblinka before the war ends.
Switzerland closes its borders to 'racial refugees'. 24,000 Jews are turned away at Swiss frontiers.
Gerhard Reigner, a Jewish official in Geneva, sends a telegram to Jewish leaders in London and New York, conveying information from an anti-Nazi German industrialist, Theo Schulte. He reveals that the Nazis are carrying out a plan to exterminate all of Europe's Jews.
Reich Minister of Justice Otto Thierack agrees to hand over 'asocials' to the SS, 'for extermination through labour'.
Italian racial laws are extended to Libya, which has a Jewish population of 30,000. Hundreds of Jews held in forced labour camps in Africa, working for the Italian army and Rommel's Afrika Korps, will die of ill treatment before the war ends.
Allied landings in North Africa lead to German occupation of Tunisia. The resulting anti-Jewish measures against 90,000 Tunisian Jews, will include forced labour to construct defences for Rommel's Afrika Korps.
Heinrich Himmler orders deportation of Germany's 'mixed-race' Sinti and Roma ('Gypsies') to Auschwitz, where a special 'Gypsy camp' is created.
Allies issue a declaration condemning German policy of 'extermination'. After the foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, reads the declaration in the House of Commons, MPs stand in an unprecedented one-minute silence.
The British and Americans knew about the slaughter of Jews by the Einsatzgruppen in Russia. They were also aware of the deportations 'to the east'. During the summer of 1942, information reached the democracies that the Nazis had embarked on a policy of extermination. In July the Polish underground and the Bund (a Jewish political organisation) told the Polish government-in-exile that 700,000 Polish Jews had been murdered so far.On 8 August 1942 Gerhard Reigner, a Jewish official in Geneva, sent a telegram to Jewish leaders in London and New York conveying information from an anti-Nazi German industrialist, Theo Schulte, who said that the Nazis were carrying out a plan to exterminate all of Europe's Jews.In November Jan Karski, an envoy for the Polish underground, brought an eye-witness account of the Warsaw ghetto and of the deportations to Belzec. The British and American governments were initially reluctant to believe the reports, and did not want to give credence to 'atrocity propaganda'. Nor did they want to appear to be favouring Jews above the other suffering peoples of Nazi-occupied Europe.However, the evidence was overwhelming. A joint Allied declaration condemning Nazi crimes was issued, and retribution was promised. But little was accomplished by way of rescue.
A ghetto is established in Salonika, Greece. Population includes 50,000 Jews.
'Aryan' women married to Jews in Berlin gather in Rosenstrasse, outside an SS prison, to protest against the impending deportation of their Jewish husbands. The SS are forced to back down, and the men are released.
A few hundred armed Jews, from amongst the 60,000 Jews left in the Warsaw ghetto, resist new round-ups and begin an uprising that lasts four weeks, before it is suppressed.
On 22 July 1942 the Nazis had begun deporting Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to the death camp that had been built at Treblinka, a remote village in north-eastern Poland. Within three months 300,000 Jews had been deported. Only those with jobs in the German-run factories in the ghetto, or those hiding underground, were left.During the deportations, groups of young Jews, mainly active members of the Zionist and socialist parties, had got together to plan defiance. When the Nazis resumed the deportations in January 1943, they were met by armed Jewish resistance, and withdrew.They returned in force in April, only to meet tough opposition from Jews who were operating from a network of elaborate bunkers. But it was an unequal struggle. The 1,000 fighting Jews were poorly armed - their efforts to obtain arms from the Polish Home Army and the Communist underground had met with a cool response.Nevertheless, the fighting continued for four weeks, and the SS units suffered losses as they blasted and burned the Jews out of their hideouts, building by building. Eventually the resistance ended and the 60,000 surviving Jews were rounded up and sent to the camps.
Anglo-American Bermuda conference begins, to discuss rescue and aid to 'refugees'. Nothing is achieved.
Public opinion in the USA and Britain was stirred up by the information at the end of 1942 that hundreds of thousands of Jews had died, and that a programme of extermination was underway. In order to placate the public, the British and US governments announced a conference, to be held in Bermuda, to discuss aid to Jewish 'refugees'.But the gathering was calculated to achieve nothing. It was held far from Jewish populations who might demonstrate or lobby the delegates. It was decided in advance that the British and American delegations would avoid asking the other to take steps that would be politically awkward. So the US was never asked to open its gates to refugees, and the Britain were not asked to allow Jews escaping from Europe to enter Palestine, where the Jewish national home existed under British control.
Legal measures are approved by the Nazis in Germanyfor the 'ruthless removal of criminals unworthy of life'.
Nazis begin the exhumation and burning of corpses on occupied-Soviet territory threatened with liberation (or re-occupation) by the Red Army, to obliterate evidence of their genocide and mass murder.
Heinrich Himmler orders the liquidation of all ghettos in the German-occupied Soviet Union.
The deportation of 1,800 Jews from Rhodes to Auschwitz-Birkenau begins.
Treblinka Uprising. 750 Jewish workers at the Treblinka concentration camp rebel. 70 escape.
Treblinka was one of the three death camps, the others were Belzec and Sobibor, built in Poland, where 'Operation Reinhardt' - the attempted total annihilation of Polish Jews - was carried out.It was located in a remote forest site, but close to a major railway line. The camp opened on 22 July 1942, and those in command of it were eventually responsible for the murder of around 800,000 Jews. The camp was run by just 20 to 30 SS men, commanded by Franz Stangl, with a guard company of 120 Ukrainians.The heavy work was carried out by between 700 and 1,000 Jewish men, selected from the incoming transports. In summer 1943 the camp was wound down, and the Jewish workers, fearing that they would all be put to death, planned a revolt.The plan misfired, but hundreds broke through the fence and 70 survived the war. On 14 October 1943, in Sobibor, a similar uprising occurred, organised and led by Jewish officers and soldiers from the Red Army - men who had been sent to the camp.
German Army occupies Italy and Italian-occupied Balkans and France.
Danish resistance members arrange evacuation of 7,200 Jews to Sweden, on the eve of a planned Nazi round-up.
Denmark had enjoyed favourable treatment by Germany during the first years of the war, despite having been occupied by the Nazis in 1940, and it had even kept its own government. The country supplied abundant food to the Reich, and the Germans did not want to upset the locals.However, in August 1943 discontent with the Occupation grew, and the Germans reacted by imposing direct rule. For them, this also eased the way to seizing Denmark's small Jewish population of 7,000. The local SS commander, Werner Best, however, lacked the manpower to carry out the planned round-up. Word of the plan also leaked out, and the Danish underground and the Jewish community was put on alert.Thus, on the eve of the round-up, most Jews in the cities went into hiding, and were then taken by sympathisers across the sea to Sweden, which had modified its pro-German stance and had signalled its readiness to accept the refugees. Adolf Eichmann was furious that the Danish Jews had escaped the Nazis, but Best was content that they had been driven out.The rescue of the Danish Jews is the most dramatic, single case of intervention by a local population during World War Two to save its Jewish citizens. Nothing like it occurred anywhere else in German-occupied Europe.
The Sobibor uprising is organised and led by Polish Jews and Russian Jewish officers and soldiers from the Red Army, all inmates of the camp. Some 300 prisoners escape past the Ukrainian guards, and through the minefield surrounding the camp, to reach nearby woods. Over half their number will be recaptured and killed, but about fifty will get away entirely, and survive the war.
1,000 Jews are arrested by the Nazis in Rome, within sight of the Vatican, and deported to Auschwitz.
43,000 Jews are shot in Operation 'Harvest Festival', in order to liquidate labour camps at Poniatowa, Trawniki and Majdanek, in Poland.
Jews in Florence, Milan and Venice are arrested for deportation to Auschwitz.
German army occupies Hungary, and Adolf Eichmann takes personal control of the destruction of the 750,000-strong Jewish population of Hungary.
In early 1944, the 750,000 Jews on Hungarian territory were the last relatively unscathed Jewish community in Axis Europe. They had suffered years of anti-Jewish laws and the young men had been sent to labour battalions in Russia (from which few returned).There had also been a deportation of 15,000 'alien' Jews, who were subsequently massacred in Ukraine. Otherwise, they were convinced that they had been protected by the Hungarian regime, and anticipated that now Germany was losing the war no harm would befall them.However, the government's efforts to escape Hitler's alliance provoked the Germans into occupying Hungary, and Adolf Eichmann descended on the country with a special kommando of the most experienced and brutal SS men. He took personal control of the destruction of the Jewish population of Hungary, assisted with great zeal by the anti-Semitic members of the new pro-Nazi regime installed in Budapest.On 19 April the ghettoisation of the Hungarian Jews started, driven forward by Hungarian gendarmes. A month later the trains began to roll to Auschwitz-Birkenau. By 9 July 1944, 437,000 Hungarian Jews had been deported, of whom 75 per cent were immediately murdered.The Hungarian head of state, Admiral Miklos Horthy, stopped the deportations, because he saw that Germany was doomed and he feared retribution from Germany's opponents. The Vatican, the Swedish government and the American president had all addressed appeals to him not to do the Germans' bidding. Meanwhile, the British and the Americans had rejected the bizarre offer made by Eichmann to Jewish leaders - to trade one million Jews for 10,000 trucks for use on the Eastern Front.
Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler escape from the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. They are to pass a detailed report of the killings at the camp, and the Auschwitz Protocols, to the papal representative in Slovakia. It will take weeks for the report to reach the Vatican and the Allies.
Until 1944, the Allies did not have detailed information about the layout of Auschwitz, and were hazy about its function. Although they knew it was a labour camp with a massive death rate, they did not have specific information about the gas chamber complexes.Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler had been in the camp for years, and had acquired a detailed knowledge of its landscape. They also knew it was being prepared for the influx of Hungarian Jews, and were desperate to alert the world so that something could be done to prevent the impending mass murder.On 7 April 1944 they escaped, and successfully made their way to Slovakia, where they contacted the local Jewish leadership. They, in turn, passed on the Vrba-Wetzler report to the Vatican and to Allied leaders. Despite this detailed information, and even though American bombers were regularly flying over Auschwitz, nothing was done to bomb the camp or the railroads that led to it.
Crew members on Allied planes take photographs of industrial plants at Auschwitz, in so doing, they also accidentally record extermination facilities there.
Ghettoisation of Hungarian Jews starts.
The deportation of Hungarian Jews begins. Adolf Eichmann tells Jewish rescue workers he will consider trading one million Jews for 10,000 trucks for use on the Eastern Front, if they can get permission from the Western allies. The ploy fails when the British war cabinet refuses any contact with the Nazis.
Kovno ghetto is liquidated. Only 2,000 Jews (there were 40,000 Jews in the city when it was first occupied in 1941) will still be alive when the city is liberated a month later.
In response to international pressure, the Hungarian government temporarily halts deportations to Auschwitz. 437,000 Hungarian Jews have been deported up to this date, of whom 75 per cent have already been murdered.
Liberation of Vilna, in Lithuania. Of 37,000 Jews who once lived there, it will be found that 2,500 remain alive.
A plot hatched by senior army officers despairing about Hitler's direction of the war, with the collaboration of civilian resisters who oppose Nazi policies, miscarries. The bomb intended to kill Hitler in his military HQ only lightly injures him. The German resistance is brutally crushed.
Liberation of Majdanek extermination camp. Liberation of Lublin, Poland.
Liberation of Lvov, Poland. No Jews are found alive, out of a pre-war Jewish population of 110,000.
20,000 Roma gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, in the 'Gypsy-action'.
Anne Frank and family are arrested in Amsterdam, and sent to Westerbork concentration camp, in the Netherlands. From there they will be sent to Auschwitz.
Liquidation of Lodz ghetto completed. 70,000 Jews are sent to death-camps at Chelmno and Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Revolt of Jewish sonderkommando (prisoners forced to dispose of corpses) at Birkenau, where the prisoners turn on their guards, kill four people, and set fire to crematorium IV. The revolt spreads to crematorium II before SS guards regain control. Over 451 prisoners will die - some during the revolt, and others shot in cold blood in reprisal for it. Two days later, 4,000 Jews from Birkenau, Trieste and Theresienstadt will be gassed.
Pro-Nazi coup in Budapest enables Adolf Eichmann to resume deportations of Budapest Jews, by foot, on death marches. At the same time, Swiss consul Carl Lutz, and Swedish diplomat Raul Wallenburg extend diplomatic protection to Jews.
Heinrich Himmler orders destruction of gas chambers and crematoria at Birkenau.
Liberation of Warsaw. 11,500 Jews (the pre-war population of Warsaw was 375,000) will be found to have survived in hiding.
Evacuation of Auschwitz begins, as Red Army troops approach. 66,000 prisoners begin death-march towards Germany. Krakow is liberated.
The Polish city of Lodz is liberated from its German occupiers by Red Army troops.
50,000 Jews are evacuated by foot from the Stutthof concentration camp, in German-annexed Poland, and its satellites - and moved back towards Germany. 26,000 of them perish.
Liberation of Auschwitz.
As German forces retreated under the weight of Allied attacks, and the Red Army neared Auschwitz, the SS blew up the camp's crematoria and gas chambers, burned their files, and marched the 66,000 able-bodied prisoners in the camp westwards. When the Soviet troops arrived they found only about 7,000 survivors, mostly ill.They also discovered storerooms bulging with the belongings taken from the doomed Jews who had died in the camp. The loot included 840,000 items of women's clothing, 43,535 pairs of shoes and 7 tons of human hair shaved from Jews before they were murdered.
40,000 prisoners from Gross-Rosen concentration camp, in Germany, are forced to march to the German interior. Thousands die.
Prisoners are evacuated from Buchenwald concentration camp, and dispersed amongst camps located all over what remained of Nazi-controlled Germany.
Liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp, Germany, by the US Army.
British troops liberate the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, in Germany. Of the 60,000 mostly Jewish survivors of the camp, 14,000 will die over the next few weeks from disease and malnutrition. Troops and relief workers will, however, succeed in saving thousands.
Belsen was established as a concentration camp for those Jews who had a special value as hostages, or for exchange. But in 1945 it became a dumping ground for Jews and prisoners evacuated from camps in the east. In December 1944 it had held 15,257 prisoners in rapidly worsening conditions, as transport and supply-lines in Germany collapsed under the weight of Allied attacks.But by mid-April it was crammed with 60,000, mostly Jewish, prisoners, thousands of whom had arrived from Auschwitz. Conditions were horrific, and there was no food or water.Typhus raged through the camp population - 35,000 inmates had died during the first four months of 1945, and thousands of unburied bodies littered the camp grounds. Anne Frank (the young Dutch writer of a diary that would become world famous when the war ended) was amongst them. In desperation, in April, the SS handed the camp over to the advancing British Second Army.When British troops arrived they encountered a nightmarish scene. Although medical personnel were rushed in, and 97 student doctors were flown over from London, at first they could do little to stem the death rate. More than 14,000 prisoners died over the next few weeks due to disease and the effects of malnutrition.Thanks to a heroic effort by army personnel, the volunteers from London, and Red Cross workers, about 40,000 survived - most of them Jews, the remnants of destroyed communities from across Europe.
7,000 prisoners at Dachau concentration camp are force-marched south.
The last prisoners to be murdered by the Nazis are gassed at Mauthausen extermination camp, Austria.
Hitler commits suicide. In his last will and testament he reiterates his hatred of the Jews.
The Nazi authorities invite the International Committee of the Red Cross to assume responsibility for running the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia.
Liberation of Mauthausen, Austria.
Germany signs an unconditional surrender to the Allies.
VE (Victory in Europe) Day. Nazi Germany has been defeated, Europe lies shattered. Thousands of former concentration camp inmates will die in the months after liberation, too weakened by their brutal captivity to survive.
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