What is the Holocaust
A Brief Introduction to the Holocaust
The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews including 1.5 million Jewish children in Europe by the Nazi regime and its collaborators that took place between 1933-1945. Millions of others were caught up in the Nazi web of destruction as well. When Hitler became chancellor in 1933, the German government began passing laws removing the rights of the Jews as citizens. Ultimately, in German-occupied Europe, the Jews were forced by law to live in specific zones within the cities, called ghettos. From there, the Nazis deported many Jews to labor camps and death camps. In addition to the Jews, the Nazis targeted other minority groups including, political dissidents, the disabled and those with genetic diseases, the Roma or Gypsies, the Poles, Soviet POWs, male homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In December of 1942, a single Nazi decree ordered Gypsies from all over Europe to be deported to the death camp in Auschwitz; 16,000 were immediately murdered. Such crimes as these finally stopped when American troops liberated the camps in 1945 and ended the Nazi regime. Many of the survivors were forced to go to Displaced Persons (DP) camps because their homes and families had been destroyed. Children were hidden in orphanages throughout Europe, while their surviving relatives struggled to find them. Although the world has attempted to prosecute many of the Nazi war criminals in trials such as the famous Nuremburg Trials, many escaped with light sentences, if any at all. Moreover, some of these Nazi officials are still in hiding today.
Timeline of the Holocaust
Adolf Hitler becomes the chancellor of Germany.
Nazis declare act of emergency after Reichstag fire and used it to consolidate power.
First concentration camp is opened in Dachau, near Munich in southern Germany.
Books written by Jewish authors and other Nazi opponents are publicly burned.
Law is passed in Germany providing forced sterilization of handicapped persons, Gypsies and Blacks. Nazi Party becomes the one and only legal party in Germany.
Germany and Poland sign a non-aggression pact.
Hitler proclaims himself Führer and Reichskanzler - Leader and Reich Chancellor. Armed forces must swear allegiance to him.
The Nazi government banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses because of the religion’s refusal to swear allegiance to the state.
The German Ministry of Justice revised the criminal code to make it a crime to perform homosexual acts between men.
Nuremberg Laws are passed. These Laws state that Jews are no longer considered German citizens, cannot marry Aryans, and cannot fly the German flag.
The term "Jew" is defined as anyone with three Jewish grandparents or someone with two Jewish grandparents who identifies him/herself as a Jew.
Germany occupies Rhineland, flouting the Versailles Treaty.
The 1936 Olympic Games take place in Berlin.
Hitler and Benito Mussolini form the Rome-Berlin Axis.
Buchenwald concentration camp opens in eastern central Germany.
Hitler declares the end of the Versailles Treaty.
Germany and Japan sign a military and political pact.
Austria is annexed by Germany (the "Anschluss"). All anti-Semitic decrees are immediately applied to the Jews of Austria.
Evian Conference is held at Evian-les-Bains in France to discuss the Jewish refugee problem. Little action is taken to solve the problem.
The Great Synagogue in Munich is torn down on Nazi orders.
The Munich Conference is held. Great Britain and France agree to grant Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia, to Germany.
15,000 Polish citizens who live in Germany are forced to go back to Poland, which denies them entry.
Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass): a systematically planned anti-Jewish pogrom in Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland. In this tragedy, 200 synagogues are destroyed, 7,500 Jewish shops are looted, and 30,000 Jewish males are sent to concentration camps.
Hitler announces in a Reichstag speech that if a war erupts, it will mean the extermination of European Jews.
The "St. Louis", a ship, carrying 937 Jews, is denied entrance to Cuba and the U.S, sending its passengers back to Nazi occupied Germany.
The British White Paper is published. This paper limits the number of Jewish immigrants to Palestine, a Middle-Eastern territory where Jews desired a homeland.
A non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Germany is signed.
Germany invades Poland, beginning World War II
Great Britain and France declare war against Germany.
The Red (Soviet) Army annexes parts of eastern Poland.
The first ghetto is established in Poland, in Protrokow Trybunalski.
Jews in German-occupied Poland are forced to wear an armband with a yellow star.
Germany occupies Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland and Northern France.
The Lodz Ghetto is created in Lodz, Poland.
The Auschwitz concentration camp is established outside of Osweicim, Poland.
The Nazis order the creation of the Warsaw Ghetto in Warsaw, Poland.
The Warsaw Ghetto, containing 500,000 people, is sealed.
Anti-Jewish riots in Romania: hundreds of Jews are killed.
Jews throughout Eastern Europe are forced into ghettos.
11,000 Jews are massacred in Romania.
The Einsatzgruppen, mobile units of the German army which carry out mass killing of Jews and other "undesirables," follow the invading German army and start operations in the Soviet Union.
Reinhard Heydrich is appointed to implement the "Final Solution" of the "Jewish question" -- the extermination of European Jewry.
"Babi Yar" massacre of approximately 100,000 people, most of whom were Jews, near Kiev.
Japan attacks U.S. at Pearl Harbor; U.S. declares was on Japan and her Allies.
Germany and Italy declare war on the United States.
Beginning in 1941, there were numerous mass killings of Jews, first in Russia and then throughout the rest of Europe. Many victims were transported to concentration camps where they were worked to death or murdered.
The Wannsee Conference is held in Berlin with fifteen high-ranking Nazi party and German government leaders to coordinate the "Final Solution" – the extermination of all Jews.
SPRING - SUMMER
Deportations from Polish ghettos to death camps begin.
Many ghettos are emptied as Jews are deported to concentration camps and death camps. The Jewish partisan movement is organized in forests near Lublin, Poland.
Bermuda Conference ends in a fruitless discussion of rescuing Jewish victims.
The liquidation of Warsaw ghettos begins.
APRIL 19 - MAY 16
The Warsaw Ghetto uprising begins as Germans attempt to liquidate 70,000 inhabitants.
Heinrich Himmler orders the liquidation of all ghettos in Poland, which continues until August, 1944.
OCTOBER 1 - 2
The Danish population begins a systematic rescue of 7,200 Danish Jews by ferrying them to Sweden, saving most of the Danish Jews.
Soviet forces begin the liberation of Transnistria, crossing the Bug River and reaching the Dneister River on March 20. Only 30,000 of the 330,000 Jews in the region are still alive.
D-Day: Allied forces land in Normandy with the largest seaborne force in history.
Soviet troops liberate the Majdanek camp outside of Lubin, Poland.
Death marches from the camps begin. Soviet troops liberate the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.
APRIL - MAY
The Allied Forces continue to liberate concentration camps.
Hitler commits suicide in his bunker in Berlin.
Germany surrenders unconditionally to the Allies.
V.E. Day - Victory in Europe. The war in Europe officially ends.
The Nuremberg Trials begin. Trials of Nazi war criminals are held before the International Military Tribunal (IMT). This group tries captured political, military and economic Nazi leaders for crimes against humanity.