Auschwitz - a timeline
Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp, is established near Munich.
Rudolf Höss arrives in the Polish town of Oswiecim to create a new
concentration camp on the site of a deserted Polish army barracks.
14 June 1940
The first transport of Polish political prisoners arrives at Auschwitz.
22 June 1941
Germany invades the Soviet Union. Special Nazi killing squads, the
Einsatzgruppen, operate behind the German army in Russia, inciting pogroms
against the Jews and murdering 'Jews in the service of the party or
28 July 1941
Five hundred and seventy-five sick and disabled inmates at Auschwitz
are selected for gassing. There is nowhere to kill them without disturbance,
so they are sent back to Germany to be murdered there.
14 August 1941
Himmler visits the headquarters of Einsatzgruppe B in Minsk and discovers
that shooting women and children is causing some of his troops psychological
damage. He contemplates other methods of killing Jews in the East.
The first gassing experiments take place using Zyklon B, a powerful
disinfectant, in order to exterminate supposed Soviet 'commissars' as
well as those at the camp who are considered to be unfit for work.
Plans of the new camp extension at Birkenau are altered to exclude
basic living space. 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war arrive to build the
The first German Jews are deported to eastern Europe. Belzec, a small
experimental gas camp, is used as a place to kill 'unproductive' Jews.
20 January 1942
Senior Nazis meet at the Wannsee conference to co-ordinate the 'Final
Solution of the Jewish Question' and to agree a definition of 'Jew'.
The first large-scale gassing of Silesian Jews in Auschwitz-Birkenau
20 June 1942
Prisoner Kazimierz Piechowski escapes from Auschwitz with three other
prisoners, dressed as SS men.
2 July 1942
In France, the Vichy Government agrees that gendarmes will co-operate
in rounding up foreign Jews throughout France, provided Jews with French
citizenship are allowed to remain.
19 July 1942
Himmler orders the General Government (eastern Poland) to be 'cleansed'
of Jews by the end of the year.
The hot summer has rotted thousands of corpses. Höss visits Chelmno
to inspect machinery for incinerating bodies.
The new crematoria are put into operation at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Dr Josef Mengele joins Auschwitz as camp physician and begins to carry
out experiments on inmates.
The heads of the Danish churches publish a strong protest against Nazi
treatment of Jews. Danish social and economic organisations and King
Christian X also object strongly, and universities close for a week
The war is not going well for Nazi Germany and some other countries,
such as Bulgaria and Romania, resist handing over their Jews.
14 October 1943
Half of the 600 Jews in Sobibor concentration camp manage to escape
on one day. Fifty of them evade capture and survive the war.
17 March 1944
Hitler orders the occupation of Hungary, fearing that the Hungarians
might be thinking of changing sides. Jewish deportations begin under
31 May 1944
A meeting of the British War Cabinet Committee on the Reception and
Accommodation of Refugees discusses Eichmann's 'goods for blood' offer
of swapping Jewish prisoners for money. The committee recommends that
the Cabinet rejects his offer.
24 June 1944
The most detailed news yet about the mass gassings of Jews reaches
the US War Department. It is based on reports from a number of escaped
30 June 1944
A train takes 1,684 to freedom, brokered directly between Eichmann
and Jewish organisers. The Nazis charge $1,000 per head for the places.
The train eventually makes it to Switzerland and freedom.
2 August 1944
The Gypsy camp at Auschwitz is liquidated.
7 October 1944
The Sonderkommando in Crematorium IV of Auschwitz instigates a revolt,
and is later joined by those from Crematorium II. They are brutally
put down by the SS.
27 January 1945
The Red Army liberates Auschwitz-Birkenau and its remaining 7,000 prisoners.
12 March 1945
Himmler signs an agreement not to pass on Hitler's order to destroy
all concentration camps and kill all prisoners. In early April, against
Hitler's express wishes, he permits the Allies to take Bergen.