The history of the Holocaust is complex and vast. While The Holocaust Explained is not able to cover every aspect of Holocaust history, it does seek to aid understanding and help learners to navigate through the sequence of events. This timeline aims to take readers through the main events preceding, during, and following the Holocaust.
Events in the History of the Holocaust
The first Nazi concentration camp was established in Dachau. Until its liberation in 1945, more than 188,000 prisoners were incarcerated here, at least 28,000 of which died.
The Enabling Act was passed in the Reichstag, granting the government dictatorial powers for four years.
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service banned Jews and dissidents from the Civil Service. As a result, Jewish teachers, professors, judges and other civil servants lost their jobs.
Germany and Poland signed a 10-year non-aggression pact.
The German government issued a ban on all organisations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code was revised to impose stricter penalties on any sexual contact between men, increasing the number of convictions by ten. Many of the convicted were taken to concentration camps.
The German army reoccupied the Rhineland. This action directly broke the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
The Rome-Berlin Axis was agreed, with Germany and Italy informally promising to support each other in the event of war.
Representatives of 32 states and 24 voluntary organisations met in Evian, France, to discuss the international refugee problem.
A decree banning Jews from owning businesses and selling goods was issued.
Nazi troops invaded Czechoslovakia and occupied Prague, breaking the Munich agreement which was agreed just six months prior.
Hitler authorised the euthanasia of adults as part of Operation T-4. The Nazis aimed to totally eliminate the disabled and mentally ill from the Third Reich. The order was actually signed in October 1939, but backdated to 1 September 1939 to suggest it was related to the war efforts.
The German army invaded France. After six weeks of battle, the French surrendered and signed an armistice with the Nazis.
Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, breaking the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939.
The first experimental killings with gas took place at Auschwitz.
The Nazis herded thousands of Jews from Kiev, in the occupied Ukraine, to the nearby ravine of Babi Yar. The Jews were forced to undress and hand over their valuables and then shot. Over the course of two days, 33,771 Jews were murdered.
Killing operations began in Chełmno, the first stationary facility using poison gas for mass murder.
Following the United States declaration of war on Japan, Germany and Italy declare war on the United States.
The Allies attacked Nazi troops stationed near El Alamein in Egypt. By the 2 November 1942, the Nazi defenses were near breaking point. By the 11 November, the battle was over, leaving the Allied troops victorious. The battle marked a turning point in the North Africa campaign, reviving the morale of the Allied troops following the failure of the Battle of France.
Prisoners in Treblinka rose up against the SS. They attacked guards and set buildings on fire. Around 300 prisoners manage to escape, but only 100 were not recaptured. All remaining prisoners were murdered.
The Battle of Monte Cassino took place from the 17 January 1944 to the 18 May 1944. It was a series of four offensives carried out by Allied troops in central Italy (who was a key ally of Germany) in an attempt to breakthrough the Winter Line and occupy Rome. On the 18 May, Polish troops captured the Abbey at the top of Monte Cassino. The Battle for Monte Cassino was over.
Alfred Wetzler and Rudolf Vrba escaped from Auschwitz. They wrote a detailed eyewitness report on the camp and the fate of the Jews. The document was translated and passed on to the West in May 1944.
Following the German occupation of Hungary, the first deportations of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz began. Within the following two months, approximately 440,000 Hungarian Jews were deported.
Having learned that the SS planned to liquidate them, members of the Sonderkommando started an armed rebellion. They managed to blow up a crematorium with smuggled gunpowder, but ultimately, the revolt was crushed.
Hitler commited suicide in his bunker in Berlin.
At 2.41pm, General Jodl and Admiral Friedeburg signed documents of unconditional surrender at Eisenhower’s headquarters. The following day was declared the Day of Victory in Europe by Churchill and Truman.
At the Potsdam Conference, both Germany and Berlin were partitioned into four zones of occupation. A Soviet zone in the East, an American, a British and a French zone in the West.
The US army dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima at 8.15am. 80,000 people died immediately. Thousands more died of their injuries and radiation sickness.