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Holocaust Timeline
On January 30, 1933, President Paul von
Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor.
The Nazi regime passed civil laws that
barred Jews from holding public office or
positions in civil service. They were also
forbidden to be employed by press and
The Nazis encouraged boycotts of Jewishowned shops and businesses and began
book burnings of writings by Jews,
pacifists, communists, and others not
approved by the Reich.
German men and youth pose beneath an
anti-Jewish banner that reads, "Help
liberate Germany from Jewish capital.
Don't buy at Jewish stores." .
Photo credit: Main Commission for the
Investigation of Nazi War Crimes,
courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives
Jews were not allowed to have national health insurance.
Hitler elevated himself to the position of Führer, or absolute leader, of the German
nation following President Hindenburg's death. Ninety percent of German voters
approved of Hitler’s new powers.
Hitler announced the Nuremberg Laws that stripped
Jews of their civil rights as German citizens and
separated them from Germans legally, socially, and
politically. Jews were defined as a separate race
under "The Law for the Protection of German Blood
and Honor." This law forbade marriages or sexual
relations between Jews and Germans.
Photo credit: USHMM Photo
Photo: Adolf Hitler opening
the 1935 Party Day of
freedom in the historic
Nuremberg town hall.
More than 120 laws, decrees, and ordinances were
enacted after the Nuremburg Laws and before the
outbreak of World War II, further eroding the rights
of German Jews. Many thousands of Germans who
had not previously considered themselves Jews
found themselves defined as "non-Aryans" which
included anyone who had at least one parent or
grandparent of the Jewish faith. People who had
converted to Christianity were still considered Jews if
they had Jewish grandparents. Thus the Germans
used race, not religious beliefs or practices, to define
the Jewish people.
Nazis banned Jews from serving in the military.
Jews were denied the right to vote.
Open antisemitism became
increasingly accepted, climaxing
in the "Night of Broken Glass"
(Kristallnacht) on November 9,
1938, when nearly 1,000
synagogues were set on fire and
76 were destroyed. More than
7,000 Jewish businesses and
homes were looted, about one
hundred Jews were killed and as
many as 30,000 Jews were
arrested and sent to
concentration camps. Within
days, the Nazis forced the Jews
to transfer their businesses to
Aryan hands and expelled all
Jewish pupils from public schools.
The Nazis further persecuted the
Jews by forcing them to pay for
the damages of Kristallnacht.
During Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, a
synagogue burns in Siegen, Germany. November
10, 1938.
Photo credit: The Pictorial History of the
Holocaust, Yitzhak Arad, Ed., Macmillan
Publishing Co., NY, 1990, p. 58, courtesy of
Shamash: The Jewish Internet Consortium.
Nazis prohibited Jews from trading and providing a variety of commercial services.
Nazis ordered Jews over age 15 to apply for identity cards from the police, to be
shown on demand to any police officer.
Jews were prohibited from practicing medicine and law.
Jewish passports were required to be stamped with a large red "J."
The U.S. convened a League of Nations conference in France with delegates from 32
countries to consider helping Jews fleeing Hitler but no country would accept them.
On September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded
Poland, officially starting World War II. In
less than four weeks, Poland collapsed.
Germany's military conquest put it in a
position to establish the New Order, a
plan to abuse and eliminate so-called
undesirables, notably Jews and Slavs.
Nazis forced Jews to hand over all gold
and silver items.
On November 14, 1939, the President of
Lódz decreed that all Jews must wear
arm bands or badges with a Jewish star.
Photo credit: Meczenstwo Walka,
Zaglada Zydów Polsce 1939-1945.
Poland. No. 43.
Jews lost rights as tenants and were
relocated into Jewish houses.
Jews were denied the right to practice
Jews were forbidden to be outdoors after
8 p.m. in winter and 9 p.m. in summer.
The Lodz Ghetto in occupied Poland was
sealed off from the outside world with
230,000 Jews locked inside.
The Warsaw Ghetto, containing over
400,000 Jews, was sealed off.
Photo: In 1940, this brick wall was built
sealing the Warsaw ghetto off from the
rest of the city. Approximately 138,000
Jews were herded into this ghetto while
113,000 Poles were evacuated from this
section of the city.
Photo credit: Meczenstwo Walka,
Zaglada Zydów Polsce 1939-1945.
Poland. No. 74.
In the beginning of the systematic mass
murder of Jews, Nazis used mobile killing
squads called Einsatzgruppen. The
Einsatzgruppen consisted of four units of
between 500 and 900 men each which
followed the invading German troops into
the Soviet Union. By the time Himmler
ordered a halt to the shooting in the fall
of 1942, they had murdered
approximately 1,500,000 Jews.
Jewish women and children who have
already surrendered their belongings
form a small group as others in the
background are ordered to discard their
outer clothing and their possessions prior
to execution. Photograph was taken
October 16, 1941 in Lubny, the Ukraine.
In September 1941, the Nazis began
using gassing vans--trucks loaded with
groups of people who were locked in and
asphyxiated by carbon monoxide. These
vans were used until the completion of
the first death camp, Chelmno, which
began operations in late 1941.
Photo credit: Hessisches
Hauptstaatsarchiv, courtesy of USHMM
Photo Archives
Six death or extermination camps were
constructed in Poland. These so-called
death factories were Auschwitz-Birkenau,
Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibór, Lublin (also
called Majdanek), and Chelmno. The
primary purpose of these camps was the
methodical killing of millions of innocent
people. The first, Chelmno, began
operating in late 1941. The others began
their operations in 1942.
Camps were an essential part of the
Nazis' systematic oppression and mass
murder of Jews, political adversaries, and
others considered socially and racially
undesirable. There were concentration
camps, forced labor camps, extermination
or death camps, transit camps, and
prisoner-of-war camps. The living
conditions of all camps were brutal.
Nazis forbid emigration of Jews from the
German Jews were forced to wear a
"yellow star."
View of the kitchen barracks, the
electrified fence, and the gate at the
main camp of Auschwitz (Auschwitz I).
In the foreground is the sign "Arbeit
Macht Frei" (Work makes one free).
Photo credit: Glowna Komisja Badania
Zbrodni Przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu,
courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives
In January 1942, SS official Reinhard Heydrich held a meeting of Nazi government
officials to present the Final Solution. At this meeting, known as the Wannsee
Conference, the Nazi officials agreed to SS plans for the transport and destruction of
all 11 million Jews of Europe. The Nazis would use the latest in twentieth century
technology, cost efficient engineering and mass production techniques for the sole
purpose of killing off the following racial groups: Jews, Russian prisoners of war, and
Gypsies (Sinti-Roma). British Foreign Secretary Eden tells the British House of
Commons the Nazis are "now carrying into effect Hitler's oft repeated intention to
exterminate the Jewish people of Europe."
German Jews are banned from using public transportation.
Starting early in 1942, the Jewish genocide went into full operation.
The Berlin resistance group engaged in open political actions. Betweeb July 1942 and
September 1943, twenty-two members of this group were caught and murdered.
All Jews who were still remaining and performing forced labour were arrested and
deported to Auschwitz where they faced certain death. Those who could, tried to go
into hiding. One of the groups that remained active up until the end providing Jews a
place to hide, documents and food was Chug Chaluzi (Pioneer Circle). It is estimated
that only one-third of those in hiding survived. Most were denouced or discovered
and them deported to a concentration camp. (Learn more about resistance from
testimonies collected by the British Library.)
The total figure for the Jewish genocide, including shootings and the camps, was
between 5.2 and 5.8 million, roughly half of Europe's Jewish population, the highest
percentage of loss of any people in the war.