Events in the History of the Holocaust
On 27 February 1933 the Reichstag (Parliament) in Berlin is set on fire. Marinus van der Lubbe (1909-1934), a Dutch anarchist, is taken into custody as the arsonist and later executed. It is unclear to this day whether van der Lubbe acted alone, or as part of a group, or whether the Nazis themselves started the fire. The Nazi government exploits the fire to declare a state of emergency.
On 5 March 1933 elections for the Reichstag take place. Although this is not a genuinely free election, since many Social Democrats and Communists were already in hiding or exile, the Nazi Party gains only 44% of the vote.
After the Nazis gained only 44% of the votes in the election earlier in March, Hitler forms a coalition with the conservative Nationalists. On 21 March 1933, the new Reichstag opens in the Garrison Church in Potsdam; this ‘Day of Potsdam’ is intended to show Hitler as a conservative national leader, symbolically continuing in the tradition of German-Prussian history.
On 23 March 1933 the Enabling Act is passed in the Reichstag, granting the government dictatorial powers for four years.
On April 7, 1933 The Nazi government passes the Law for the Reform of the Civil Service. The law bans Jews and dissidents from the Civil Service. After the intervention of President Hindenburg, Jewish front-line soldiers of the First World War are excluded from the ban.
The ritual slaughter of animals according to Jewish dietary laws is prohibited.
On 14 July 1933 the Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases is passed, mandating compulsory sterilisation of the disabled. Coming into effect in 1934, up to 400,000 people were sterilised as a result. The law was the first of many and led to the programme of euthanasia of certain classes of the ‘incurable’.
On 25 August 1933 the Nazi government, the Zionist Organisation of Germany and the Anglo-Palestine Bank sign the Haavara Agreement. This allows Jewish emigrants from Germany to transfer part of their property to Palestine in the form of export of German goods.
The Reich Representative Council of German Jews is set up through an independent Jewish initiative. It was later renamed the Reich Representative Council of Jews in Germany (a subtle but important difference), and was replaced in 1939 on the orders of the Nazis by the Reich Union of Jews in Germany, seen by the Nazis as a vehicle for ‘cleansing’ the Reich of Jews chiefly by means of emigration.
The Law on Reich Chamber of Culture is passed, barring non-‘Aryans’ from formal participation in German culture, the arts, literature, music and so forth.
The ‘Schriftleitergesetz’ is passed, stipulating that all editors must be ‘Aryan’ and that even being married to a non-‘Aryan’ is grounds for exclusion.
Hitler announces Germany’s withdrawal from the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations on the grounds that Germany was being discriminated against under the Versailles Treaty.
Germany and Poland sign a 10-year non-aggression pact.
On 30 June 1934, Ernst Roehm who was one of the first members of the Nazi Party, is executed on Hitler’s order. Roehm, who was appointed commander of the SA in 1930, wanted it to be incorporated into the German Army. Because Hitler fears this emerging power base, Roehm is arrested and shot. The SA subsequently becomes less significant, while Himmler’s SS gradually emerges as the supreme agency of law enforcement and the implementation of racial policy. This purge becomes known as the ‘Night of the Long Knives’.
On 23 January 1935 ninety percent of the electors vote for a re-union of the Saar with Germany instead of remaining under French control. The referendum is supervised by the League of Nations. The Saar becomes German on 1 March.
On 16 March 1935 Germany renews universal military conscription, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.
On 25 May 1935 the SA stirs up anti-Jewish riots in Munich.
Jews barred from military service","From 31 May 1935 Jews are barred from serving in the German armed forces.
On 18 June 1935 Germany and the United Kingdom sign the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. It eases the restrictions imposed on Germany after the First World War and regulates the size of the German navy in relation to the Royal Navy.
On 16 July 1935 violent anti-Jewish demonstrations break out in Berlin.
On September 6 1935 the sale of newspapers to Jews is prohibited.
On 15 September 1935 Hitler proclaims the antisemitic Nuremberg Laws at the annual party rally of the Nazis. The Nuremberg Laws consist of two separate laws, namely the ‘Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour’ and the ‘Reich Citizenship Law’. The first prohibits marriages and relationships between Jews and Germans; the second strips Jews of their German citizenship. This image from a schoolgirl’s textbook shows the rules for determining who would now be defined as a ‘Jew’ under German law.
As of 15 September 1935 German banks are prohibited from granting credits or loans to Jews.
From 18 October 1935 people with ‘hereditary diseases’ are barred from marrying
The Winter Olympic Games are held at the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen from 6 February to 16 February.
On 7 March 1936 the German army reoccupies the Rhineland, which has been demilitarised since the Treaty of Versailles.
The end of the second Italo-Abyssinian War, leading to the incorporation of Ethiopia into the Italian Empire
On 12 July 1936 the Sachsenhausen concentration camp is established in Oranienburg, near Berlin.
On 17 July 1936 the Spanish Civil War begins, following a fascist coup.
On 18 November 1936, volunteer troops from the German Luftwaffe (known as the Condor Legion) are sent to Spain to fight on the side of Francisco Franco’s Fascists.
On 25 November 1936, Germany and Japan sign the Anti-Comintern Pact. The agreement aims to safeguard German and Japanese interests from Soviet threat.
On 26 April 1937, the Spanish city of Guernica is bombed by the German airforce and destroyed
On 15 July 1937 a concentration camp is established at Buchenwald in Germany.
On 19 July 1937 the propaganda exhibition ‘Entartete Kunst’ or ‘Degenerate Art’ opens in Munich. It presents paintings, sculptures and books from Germany’s public galleries that are considered to be ‘un-German’ and therefore unacceptable.
On 25 September 1937, Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) visits Germany and meets with Hitler. Three months later Italy withdraws from the League of Nations.
On 6 November 1937, Italy becomes a member of the Anti-Comintern Pact. The pact was established between Germany and Japan in November 1936 against the Soviet Union and the Communist International (Comintern).
From 1 January 1938, Jews are forbidden to become members of the German Red Cross.
On 12 March 1938, the German Army invades Austria and enters Vienna. Austria is annexed by Germany and Austria’s 200,000 Jews are now subject to the same antisemitic legislation as German Jews.
From 14 June 1938, all businesses owned or run by Jews have to be registered and marked as Jewish.
On 15 June 1938, any Jew previously convicted of a crime, even petty criminal offences, are arrested and taken to the concentration camps at Buchenwald, Dachau and Sachsenhausen.
Between 6 July and 15 July 1938, representatives of 32 states and 24 voluntary organisations meet in Evian-les-Bains, France, to discuss the international refugee problem. The conference formed the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR) but it had minimal powers and limited support.
On 17 August 1938 a law is passed stating that all Jews in Germany (except those with ‘typical’ Jewish first names) are required to take a new middle name by 1 January 1939; ‘Israel’ for men and ‘Sara’ for women. The names must be registered at the registry office and used on all official documents.
On 27 September 1938, Jewish lawyers are banned from practicing law in Germany
At the end of September 1938, a conference is held in Munich in order to resolve the ‘Sudetenland crisis’ and discuss German territorial demands. Czechoslovakia is not invited to attend the conference, but the main European powers – Britain, France, Italy and Germany – take part. The meeting ends with the ‘Munich Agreement’, signed in the early hours of 30 September 1938, which effectively divides Czechoslovakia between Germany, Poland and Hungary. The settlement cedes the Sudetenland to Germany, provided that Germany will raise no further territorial demands.
By 10 October 1938, the Sudetenland is occupied by the German ‘Wehrmacht’ and annexed by Germany, forcing the majority of the Czech population to flee to other areas of Czechoslovakia.
On 28 October 1938, approximately 18,000 Jews living in Germany but holding Polish passports are expelled to the Polish border. The Poles refuse to accept them and they remain stranded in the town of Zbaszyn.
During the night of 9-10 November 1938, a pogrom, organised by the Nazis, takes place against Jews throughout Germany and annexed Austria. Synagogues are desecrated and destroyed, and Jewish owned shops are looted and ransacked. 91 Jews are killed and thousands of Jewish men are taken to concentration camps.
As of 15 November 1938, Jewish children are no longer permitted to attend German schools. They have to attend special Jewish schools.
On 23 August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union sign a non-aggression pact in Moscow. Also known as the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, the agreement delays the war on the Eastern Front.
On 1 September 1939 German Forces invade western Poland.
In a letter dated 1 September 1939, Hitler authorises the euthanasia of adults as part of Operation T-4 to eliminate mentally and physically disabled children and adults from the Third Reich. The program was officially ended in August 1941, but in reality the killing continued until 1945.
On 3 September 1939, Great Britain and France declare war on Germany.
During the years of the Nazi regime, the Sinti and Roma, like the Jews, were persecuted and murdered. On 21 September 1939, the Nazi party made the decision to deport Germany’s Sinti and Roma to special internment camps in Poland. This photograph of a young Sinti or Roma woman held at Auschwitz was taken by the SS for their files
On 8 November 1939, Georg Elser (1903-1945) tries to assassinate Adolf Hitler during a local party meeting of the Nazi party at the Bürgerbraukeller in Munich. The assassination fails, Elsner is arrested and imprisoned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau, where he is killed in April 1945.
From 23 November 1939, all Jews in Poland are forced to wear an armband depicting a Star of David whenever they are in public.
Three months after Germany’s invasion of Poland, on 30 November 1939, the Soviet Union invades Finland. The invasion signals the beginning of the Winter War, lasting until 13 March 1940.
On 9 April 1940, the German Army invaded Denmark and Norway as part of Operation Weserübung.
On 30 April 1940 the Jewish Ghetto in Lodz is sealed off from the rest of the city – all non-Jewish inhabitants have to leave and guards are put in place.
On 10 May 1940 Churchill becomes Prime Minister of an all-party coalition in Britain.
On 14 June 1940, Paris is occupied by German troops.
On 10 July 1940, the German Air Force attack British targets, beginning the Battle of Britain.
On 7 September 1940, the German air raids of Great Britain begin. Known as the Blitz, the bombing lasts until May 1941.
On 27 September 1940, Germany, Italy and Japan sign a 10-year military and economic agreement, also known as the ‘Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis’
On 3 October 1940 the first antisemitic statute is passed by the government of Vichy – the ‘Statut de Juifs’. It defines as Jewish any person with three Jewish grandparents or, if the spouse is Jewish as well, two Jewish grandparents.
On 28 October 1940, Italian troops invade Greece
The Warsaw Ghetto is the largest of the Jewish ghettos set up by the Germans. Established on 16 October 1940 it is sealed on 15 November 1940. Its population is approximately 440,000 people, more than three quarters of Warsaw’s population. However, the area of the ghetto encompasses only 4.5 % of the total area of Warsaw.
On 6 April 1941 Germany invades Greece and Yugoslavia.
On 22 June 1941 German armed forces invade the Soviet Union, breaking the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939.
On 15 September 1941, deportations to camps in Transnistria, Western Ukraine begin. Approximately 150,000 Bessarabian Jews are deported, and approximately 90,000 of them die. In total more than 270,000 Romanian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust
On 23 September 1941, the first experimental killings with gas take place at Auschwitz.
From Kiev the Germans herd thousands of Jews to the nearby ravine of Babi Yar. On approaching a fenced off area they are forced to undress, hand over their valuables and walk forwards in ranks of ten. When these small groups reach the edge of the ravine, they are shot. Between 29 and 30 September 1941, 33,771 Jews are shot.
The construction of Belzec camp begins in southeast Poland. Four months later the systematic murder of Jews begins in Belzec.
On 24 November 1941 Theresienstadt is established. It initially serves as a collection and transition camp for Jews from Bohemia and Moravia. Following the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942, Theresienstadt is also used as a camp for prominent and elderly Jews from Germany and other European countries.
On 25 November 1941, the 11th Ordinance to the ‘Reichsbürgergesetz’ (Reich Citizenship Law) comes into effect and all Jews residing outside of Germany lose their citizenship and become stateless refugees. They forfeit all their belongings and assets in Germany.
On 7 December 1942, Japanese air forces attack the American naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. The American navy incurs heavy losses
On 8 December 1941, the United States, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand declare war on Japan.
On 11 December 1941, four days after Pearl Habour, Germany and Italy declare war on the United States.
On 27 March 1942 the first transport of French Jews to Auschwitz takes place.
As of 24 April 1942 Jews are banned from using public transport within the ‘German Reich’.
On 27 May 1942 Reinhard Heydrich, SS-Obergruppenführer and Head of the Reich Security Main Office is shot in Prague; he dies one week later.
On 2 June 1942 the first German Jews are deported to Theresienstadt.
On 30 June 1942 Jewish schools in Germany are forced to close.
On 15 July 1942 the deportation of Amsterdam’s Jews from Westerbork transit camp to Auschwitz-Birkenau begins.
On 28 October 1942, the first transport from Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia arrives at Auschwitz.
Several national parliaments issue a joint statement condemning the mass killings Jews by the Nazis in Eastern Europe.
On 16 December 1942 a decree is passed in Germany stating that all German Sinti and Roma are to be deported to Auschwitz and destroyed.
On 18 January 1943 the Germans resume deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto. This sparks the first acts of overt resistance from the Warsaw Jews leading to violent fighting in the ghetto. Thousands of Jews are deported to Treblinka.
On 2 February 1943 the German Army surrenders to Soviet forces at Stalingrad, Russia. This is considered to be a significant turning point in the war.
On 19 April 1943 the final liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto begins with over 2,000 soldiers invading the ghetto. The Jews revolt, armed with pistols and rifles, fighting the Germans in the streets. On 20 April 1943 the Germans begin burning down the ghetto. Any Jews emerging from the burning buildings are murdered. The uprising of the Warsaw ghetto becomes a symbol of Jewish resistance.
On 25 July 1943, mounting pressure resulting from military set-backs leads to a vote of no confidence in Mussolini and he is dismissed from office. Mussolini is imprisoned and replaced by Pietro Badoglio.
The Jewish inmates of Treblinka stage a violent revolt on 2 August 1943 that allows approximately 350 of the camp’s inmates to escape. Many who escape are recaptured and murdered.
On 3 November 1943, on the order of Heinrich Himmler, Jewish inmates of the concentration camps of Trawniki, Poniatiowa and Majdanek were murdered. A total of circa 43,000 people were murdered on that day. This ‘operation’ was code-named ‘Erntefest’ or ‘harvest festival’. The motivation was the fear the Nazis felt after the uprisings of inmates at Sobibor and Treblinka.
German troops occupy Hungary in ‘Operation Margarethe’.
Alfred Wetzler and Rudolf Vrba, both Slovakian Jews, escape from Auschwitz on 10 April 1944. They write a detailed eyewitness report on the camp and the fate of the Jews. The document is translated and passed on to the West in May 1944.
Following the German occupation of Hungary, the first deportations of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz begin on 15 May 1944.
On 6 June 1944 the Allied forces land on the beaches of Normandy. The Battle of Normandy begins, signalling the first phase of the liberation of Europe. The day is known as D-Day.
On 23 July 1944 Red Cross representatives visit Theresienstadt. The Germans prepare the visit by opening fake shops, cafes etc.
On 23 July 1944 the Soviet army liberates Majdanek. Many of Majdanek’s prisoners have previously been sent to Auschwitz by the Germans in anticipation of the approach of the Soviet army.
On 18 January 1945, realising that the Soviet army is approaching, the Germans force 58,000 prisoners of Auschwitz on Death Marches to the concentration and labour camps in Germany.
From 13 to 15 February 1945, the British and American air forces carry out bombing raids on the German city of Dresden.
On 11 April 1945 American forces liberate approximately 21,000 prisoners from Buchenwald and its sub-camps.
On 15 April 1945 British forces liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
On 28 April 1945 Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci are captured near lake Como while attempting to flee Italy. They are both executed.
Hiding in the Reich Chancellery, Hitler marries his mistress, Eva Braun on 29 April and writes his political last will, naming Martin Bormann as his deputy. On 30 April 1945 both he and Eva Braun commit suicide.
On 2 May 1945 the Soviet Army occupies the city of Berlin, fighting its way from street to street.
On 7 May 1945 at 2.41pm, General Jodl and Admiral Friedeburg sign documents of unconditional surrender at Eisenhower’s headquarters.
8 May 1945 is declared the Day of Victory in Europe by Churchill and Truman. Throughout the allied countries the population celebrates the victory.
On 16 July 1945 at the Potsdam Conference, Germany is partitioned into four zones. A Soviet zone in the East, an American zone in the West, a British zone in the North-West and a French zone in the South-West. Berlin is placed under quadripartite control.
The US aircraft, the Enola Gay, drops the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima at 8.15am. 80,000 people are killed immediately. Thousands more will die of their injuries and radiation sickness.
A second atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki, killing 40,000 immediately. President Truman threatens further atomic bombing.
Japan’s surrender is announced on 15 August 1945 in a radio address by Emperor Hirohito. The government signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on 2 September 1945, officially ending World War II.
On 20 November 1945 the trials of 22 top-level Nazi war criminals begin at Nuremberg. The court is composed of judges from the four Allies. Twelve of the defendants are sentenced to death.