Timeline of the Holocaust

Timeline of the Holocaust

A synagogue burns on 10 November 1938

When did the Holocaust actually begin?  The world knows now of the atrocities during World War II and all about death camps and gas chambers, but actually seeds of anti-semitism had been planted much earlier; at best guess, probably 1933 when Hitler assumed power of Germany.

The majority of Germans did not even vote for Hitler. Hitler was only elected Chancellor because of luck on his part, back-room deals by German officials and had nothing whatsoever to do with democracy.  Why then, did the 63% of Germans opposed to Hitler not take action or speak up against the Nazi party?  The answer was simply because Germany was in a terrible state of distrust.  The Nazi’s were bold, rash and powerful, slicing away at policies with propaganda and eventually terrors.  Everyone was a Gestapo of each other; individualism was crushed, informants were everywhere and by accepting the Nazi salute and Nazi-inspired patriotic songs, the offer of comradeship by Fascism was strong.  The change to a totalitarian government was in progress.

Timeline of events 1933 to 1945




4/1/1933 Boycott of all Jewish run business establishments
9/15/1935 Nuremburg Laws were in effect – excluding all Jews from public life in Germany and Austria
1936-1937 Law prohibiting marriage and/or extramarital sexual relationships between Jews and Germans.  Punishable by losing citizenship.Other anti-Jewish laws were adopted; Jews were excluded from walking in parks, any civil service jobs, owning property, and Jewish doctors could only practice on Jewish patients.
11-9&10-1938 The event of Kristallnacht, “Night of the Broken Glass” happened in Austria and Germany.  There was pillaging and looting of Jewish establishments, burning of Synagogues, and physical attacks.  300,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
1939 (Start of World War II) All Jews were ordered to wear the yellow star of David for identification purposes. Jewish people had to live in special areas called ghettos in small apartments.  Many were crammed together with other families.  Open ghettos had curfews; closed ghettos would not allow occupants to leave.
3/1941 The major ghettos were: Bialystok, Kovno, Lodz, Minsk, Riga, Vilna and Warsaw, which had over 445,000 Jews. Each Ghetto was forced to have “Judenrat” or Jewish councils to regulate and administer Nazi demands.
1941-1943 Deportations started.  Sometimes as many as 1,000 Jews (and other undesirables like gypsies and cripples) a day were loaded on trains and told they were being taken to work camps; in truth they were being led to their deaths.
4/13/1943 The only rebellious event for the Jews was what is now called the “Warsaw Ghetto Uprising,” when the Jewish resistance held the Nazis off by fighting for 28 days, longer than most cities held out in military battles.  This was a fight they eventually lost when the Nazi were liquidating whole ghettos at one time.

 The Nazi Camps

 There were actually five different types of camps utilized by the Nazis:

  • Concentration Camps
  • Extermination Camps
  • Labor Camps
  • Prisoner of War (POW) Camps
  • Transitional Camps

At 10 a.m. on 1 April 1933, members of the Sturmabteilung moved into place all over Germany, positioning themselves outside Jewish-owned businesses to deter customers. These stormtroopers are outside Israel’s Department Store in Berlin. The signs read: “Germans! Defend yourselves! Don’t buy from Jews.” (“Deutsche! Wehrt Euch! Kauft nicht bei Juden!”)[34] The store was ransacked during Kristallnacht in 1938, then handed over to a non-Jewish family.

The first concentration camp to open was at Dachau March, 20, 1933.  From 1933 to 1938, this camp held all political and asocial prisoners.  In other words, the inhabitants were all those who had spoken against Hitler and his Nazi regime in some way.

The labor camps made the prisoners work at extremely hard physical labors, but fed them tiny rations of food and three or more people had to share wooden bunks with no mattresses or pillows.  They were starved and severely tortured and many were killed or became part of medical experimentation. Major labor or work camps were also part of death camps like Auschwitz and Majdanek.

“Selektion” on the Judenrampe, Auschwitz, May/June 1944. To be sent to the right meant slave labor; to the left, the gas chamber. This image shows the arrival of Hungarian Jews from Carpatho-Ruthenia, many of them from the Berehov ghetto. The photographer was Ernst Hofmann or Bernhard Walter of the SS. Image courtesy of Yad Vashem

One of the most noteworthy medical experiments that came out of the Holocaust, was conducted by Dr. Josef Mengele at Auschwitz in 1943. Searching for ways to save the future of the world with blue-eyed, blond haired Germans, he experimented with and tested heredity.  Obsessed with twins, he pulled out more than 3,000 twins from the evacuees. Parents were not sure whether it was good or bad to point out their twins, as they were separated from the families, but it probably saved the 100 to 200 that survived.

One can only visualize the “ramp” technique of dividing the Jewish, Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s witnesses and the disabled that had been ferreted out of Nazi Germany as undesirables.  Some to the left to work, some to the right to the gas chambers and some pulled out for experimentation or worse.

Jewish refugees from Czechoslovakia being marched away by British police at Croydon airport in March 1939. They were put on a flight to Warsaw.

The Holocaust, from the Greek word “holokauston” meaning sacrifice by fire, and called “Shoah” by Hebrews, for devastation, ruin or waste is most remembered for the death camps.  Over one million prisoners at Auschwitz were told to undress for group showers.  Humiliated, degraded, and fearful of the unknown, they marched single file into the gas chambers and to death.

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