The term holocaust, first used in 1895 by the New York Times to describe the massacre of Armenian Christians by Ottoman Muslims.
After World War I (1914–1918), many Germans did not accept that their country had been defeated, which gave birth to the stab-in-the-back myth. This insinuated that it was disloyal politicians, chiefly Jews and communists, who had orchestrated Germany's surrender. Inflaming the anti-Jewish sentiment was the apparent over-representation of Jews in the leadership of communist revolutionary governments in Europe, such as Ernst Toller, head of a short-lived revolutionary government in Bavaria. This perception contributed to the canard of Jewish Bolshevism.
With the appointment in January 1933 of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany and the Nazi's seizure of power, German leaders proclaimed the rebirth of the Volksgemeinschaft ("people's community").
Before and after the March 1933 Reichstag elections, the Nazis intensified their campaign of violence against opponents, setting up concentration camps for extrajudicial imprisonment.
Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp, opened on 22 March 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) became chancellor of Germany.
On 1 April 1933, there was a boycott of Jewish businesses.
Jewish businesses were targeted for closure or "Aryanization", the forcible sale to Germans; of the approximately 50,000 Jewish-owned businesses in Germany in 1933.
On 7 April 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed, which excluded Jews and other "non-Aryans" from the civil service. Jews were disbarred from practicing law, being editors or proprietors of newspapers, joining the Journalists' Association, or owning farms.
On 14 July 1933, the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring (Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses), the Sterilization Law, was passed.
The New York Times reported on 21 December that year: "400,000 Germans to be sterilized". There were 84,525 applications from doctors in the first year. The courts reached a decision in 64,499 of those cases; 56,244 were in favor of sterilization. Estimates for the number of involuntary sterilizations during the whole of the Third Reich range from 300,000 to 400,000.
On 15 September 1935, the Reichstag passed the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, known as the Nuremberg Laws. The former said that only those of "German or kindred blood" could be citizens. Anyone with three or more Jewish grandparents was classified as a Jew.
The second law said: "Marriages between Jews and subjects of the state of German or related blood are forbidden." Sexual relationships between them were also criminalized; Jews were not allowed to employ German women under the age of 45 in their homes.
On 12 March 1938, Germany annexed Austria. Austrian Nazis broke into Jewish shops, stole from Jewish homes and businesses, and forced Jews to perform humiliating acts such as scrubbing the streets or cleaning toilets. Jewish businesses were "Aryanized", and all the legal restrictions on Jews in Germany were imposed.
The Évian Conference was held in France in July 1938 by 32 countries, as an attempt to help the increased refugees from Germany, but aside from establishing the largely ineffectual Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, little was accomplished and most countries participating did not increase the number of refugees they would accept.
In August that year, Adolf Eichmann was put in charge of the Central Agency for Jewish Emigration in Vienna (Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung in Wien).
On 7 November 1938, Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jew, shot the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in the German Embassy in Paris, in retaliation for the expulsion of his parents and siblings from Germany.
When vom Rath died on 9 November, the government used his death as a pretext to instigate a pogrom against the Jews. The government claimed it was spontaneous, but in fact, it had been ordered and planned by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, although with no clear goals, according to David Cesarani. The result, he writes, was "murder, rape, looting, destruction of property, and terror on an unprecedented scale".
Between 9 and 16 November, 30,000 Jews were sent to the Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. Many were released within weeks; by early 1939, 2,000 remained in the camps. German Jewry was held collectively responsible for restitution of the damage; they also had to pay an "atonement tax" of over a billion Reichmarks. Insurance payments for damage to their property were confiscated by the government.
Known as Kristallnacht (or "Night of Broken Glass"), the attacks on 9–10 November 1938 were partly carried out by the SS and SA, but ordinary Germans joined in; in some areas, the violence began before the SS or SA arrived.
By the end of 1938, approximately half the German Jewish population had left, among them the conductor Bruno Walter, who fled after being told that the hall of the Berlin Philharmonic would be burned down if he conducted a concert there. Albert Einstein, who was in the United States when Hitler came to power, never returned to Germany; his citizenship was revoked and he was expelled from the Kaiser Wilhelm Society and Prussian Academy of Sciences. Other Jewish scientists, including Gustav Hertz, lost their teaching positions and left the country.
In 1939 that marked the transition in Nazi racial antisemitism toward genocide. To justify the murder of the Jews both to the perpetrators and to bystanders in Germany and Europe, the Nazis used not only racist arguments but also arguments derived from older negative stereotypes, including Jews as communist subversives, as war profiteers and hoarders, and as a danger to internal security because of their inherent disloyalty and opposition to Germany.
About 100,000 Austrian Jews had left the country by May 1939, including Sigmund Freud and his family, who moved to London.
The German army, the Wehrmacht, was accompanied by seven SS Einsatzgruppen ("special task forces") and an Einsatzkommando, numbering altogether 3,000 men, whose role was to deal with "all anti-German elements in the hostile country behind the troops in combat". Most of the Einsatzgruppen commanders were professionals; 15 of the 25 leaders had PhDs.
When Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, triggering a declaration of war from France and the UK, it gained control of an additional two million Jews, reduced to around 1.7 – 1.8 million in the German zone when the Soviet Union invaded from the east on 17 September.
According to a letter dated 21 September 1939 from SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA or Reich Security Head Office), to the Einsatzgruppen, each ghetto had to be run by a Judenrat, or "Jewish Council of Elders", to consist of 24 male Jews with local influence.
In October 1939 Hitler signed a "euthanasia decree" backdated to 1 September 1939 that authorized Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler, the chief of Hitler's Chancellery, and Karl Brandt, Hitler's personal physician, to carry out a program of involuntary euthanasia. After the war this program came to be known as Aktion T4, named after Tiergartenstraße 4, the address of a villa in the Berlin borough of Tiergarten, where the various organizations involved were headquartered.
In December 1939 and January 1940, gas vans equipped with gas cylinders and a sealed compartment had been used to kill the handicapped in occupied Poland.
Germany invaded Norway and Denmark on 9 April 1940, during Operation Weserübung. Denmark was overrun so quickly that there was no time for a resistance to form. Consequently, the Danish government stayed in power and the Germans found it easier to work through it. Because of this, few measures were taken against the Danish Jews before 1942.
In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France. After Belgium's surrender, the country was ruled by a German military governor, Alexander von Falkenhausen, who enacted anti-Jewish measures against its 90,000 Jews, many of them refugees from Germany or Eastern Europe.
By June 1940, Norway was completely occupied.
In July 1940, the Jews in the parts of Alsace-Lorraine that had been annexed to Germany were expelled into Vichy France.
The Polish government-in-exile in London learned about Auschwitz from the Polish leadership in Warsaw, who from late 1940 "received a continual flow of information" about the camp, according to historian Michael Fleming.
In early 1941, the Warsaw ghetto contained 445,000 people, including 130,000 from elsewhere, while the second-largest, the Łódź ghetto, held 160,000. Although the Warsaw ghetto contained 30 percent of the city's population, it occupied only 2.5 percent of its area, averaging over nine people per room. The massive overcrowding, poor hygiene facilities, and lack of food killed thousands. Over 43,000 residents died in 1941.
In the Netherlands, the Germans installed Arthur Seyss-Inquart as Reichskommissar, who began to persecute the country's 140,000 Jews. Jews were forced out of their jobs and had to register with the government. In February 1941, non-Jewish Dutch citizens staged a strike in protest that was quickly crushed.
Yugoslavia and Greece were invaded in April 1941 and surrendered before the end of the month. Germany and Italy divided Greece into occupation zones but did not eliminate it as a country. The key areas of Central Macedonia, Athens, and Thessaloniki were occupied by Germany while others by Italians and parts by Bulgarian forces.
Thousands of Jews were killed in January and June 1941 in the Bucharest pogrom and Iași pogrom. According to a 2004 report by Tuvia Friling and others, up to 14,850 Jews died during the Iași pogrom.
In June 1941, Romania joined Germany in its invasion of the Soviet Union. Jews were forced from government service, pogroms were carried out, and by March 1941 all Jews had lost their jobs and had their property confiscated.
Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, a day Timothy Snyder called "one of the most significant days in the history of Europe ... the beginning of a calamity that defies description".
During the Jedwabne pogrom on 10 July 1941, a group of Poles in Jedwabne killed the town's Jewish community, many of whom were burned alive in a barn. The attack may have been engineered by the German Security Police.
In June and July 1941, during the Lviv pogroms in Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine), around 6,000 Polish Jews were murdered in the streets by the Ukrainian People's Militia and local people.
Notable massacres include the July 1941 Ponary massacre near Vilnius (Soviet Lithuania), in which Einsatgruppe B and Lithuanian collaborators shot 72,000 Jews and 8,000 non-Jewish Lithuanians and Poles.
In July 1941 Mihai Antonescu, Romania's deputy prime minister, said it was time for "total ethnic purification, for a revision of national life, and for purging our race of all those elements which are foreign to its soul, which have grown like mistletoes and darken our future".
Several forced labor camps for Jews were established in Italian-controlled Libya; almost 2,600 Libyan Jews were sent to camps, where 562 died.
In August 1941, after protests from Germany's Catholic and Protestant churches, Hitler canceled the T4 program, although the handicapped continued to be killed until the end of the war. The medical community regularly received bodies for research; for example, the University of Tübingen received 1,077 bodies from executions between 1933 and 1945.
In the Kamianets-Podilskyi massacre (Soviet Ukraine), nearly 24,000 Jews were killed between 27 and 30 August 1941.Lviv, Ukraine
The largest massacre was at a ravine called Babi Yar outside Kiev (also Soviet Ukraine), where 33,771 Jews were killed on September 29–30, 1941.
On 3 October 1941, the American Hebrew used the phrase "before the Holocaust", appears to refer to the situation in France, and in May 1943 the New York Times, discussing the Bermuda Conference, referred to the "hundreds of thousands of European Jews still surviving the Nazi Holocaust".
Hitler "announced his decision in principle" to annihilate the Jews on or around 12 December 1941, One day after he declared war on the United States. on that day, Hitler gave a speech in his private apartment at the Reich Chancellery to senior Nazi Party leaders: the Reichsleiter, the most senior, and the Gauleiter, the regional leaders.
Himmler and his subordinates in the field feared that the murders were causing psychological problems for the SS, and began searching for more efficient methods. In December 1941, similar vans, using exhaust fumes rather than bottled gas, were introduced into the camp at Chełmno, Victims were asphyxiated while being driven to prepared burial pits in the nearby forests.
On 6 January 1942, the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vyacheslav Molotov, sent out diplomatic notes about German atrocities. The notes were based on reports about mass graves and bodies surfacing from pits and quarries in areas the Red Army had liberated, as well as witness reports from German-occupied areas.
SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Security Head Office (RSHA), convened what became known as the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942 at Am Großen Wannsee 56–58, a villa in Berlin's Wannsee suburb.
The following month, Szlama Ber Winer escaped from the Chełmno concentration camp in Poland and passed information about it to the Oneg Shabbat group in the Warsaw Ghetto. His report, known by his pseudonym as the Grojanowski Report, had reached London by June 1942.
From July 1942, over 107,000 Dutch Jews were deported; only 5,000 survived the war. Most were sent to Auschwitz; the first transport of 1,135 Jews left Holland for Auschwitz on 15 July 1942. Between 2 March and 20 July 1943, 34,313 Jews were sent in 19 transports to the Sobibór extermination camp, where all but 18 are thought to have been gassed on arrival.
Raul Hilberg accounted for this by evoking the history of Jewish persecution: compliance might avoid inflaming the situation until the onslaught abated. Timothy Snyder noted that it was only during the three months after the deportations of July–September 1942 that agreement on the need for armed resistance was reached.
By late July or early August 1942, Polish leaders in Warsaw had learned about the mass killing of Jews in Auschwitz, according to Fleming.
At the end of 1941 in occupied Poland, the Germans began building additional camps or expanding existing ones. Auschwitz, for example, was expanded in October 1941 by building Auschwitz II-Birkenau a few kilometers away. chambers had been installed in these new facilities, except for Chełmno, which used gas vans.
In Finland, the government was pressured in 1942 to hand over its 150–200 non-Finnish Jews to Germany. After opposition from both the government and public, eight non-Finnish Jews were deported in late 1942; only one survived the war.
The Romanian military killed up to 25,000 Jews during the Odessa massacre between 18 October 1941 and March 1942, assisted by gendarmes and the police.
Vichy France's government implemented anti-Jewish measures in French Algeria and the two French Protectorates of Tunisia and Morocco. Tunisia had 85,000 Jews when the Germans and Italians arrived in November 1942; an estimated 5,000 Jews were subjected to forced labor.
Between September and November 1942, on the orders of Himmler, 100,000 bodies were dug up and burned. New gas chambers and crematoria were built to accommodate the numbers.
On 26 November 1942, 532 Jews were taken by police officers, at four o'clock in the morning, to Oslo harbor, where they boarded a German ship. From Germany, they were sent by freight train to Auschwitz. According to Dan Stone, only nine survived the war.
On 10 December 1942, the Polish Foreign Affairs Minister, Edward Raczyński, addressed the fledgling United Nations on the killings; the address was distributed with the title The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland. He told them about the use of poison gas; about Treblinka, Bełżec and Sobibór; that the Polish underground had referred to them as extermination camps; and that tens of thousands of Jews had been killed in Bełżec in March and April 1942.
On 17 December 1942, 11 Allies issued the Joint Declaration by Members of the United Nations condemning the "bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination".
Treblinka was an extermination camp, built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. It was in a forest north-east of Warsaw, 4 km (2.5 mi) south of the village of Treblinka in what is now the Masovian Voivodeship.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the 1943 act of Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Poland during World War II to oppose Nazi Germany's final effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Majdanek and Treblinka death camps.
By 1943, it was evident to the armed forces' leadership that Germany was losing the war. The mass murder continued nevertheless, reaching a "frenetic" pace in 1944 when Auschwitz gassed nearly 500,000 people.
In the Białystok Ghetto on 16 August, Jewish insurgents fought for five days when the Germans announced mass deportations.
In a speech on 6 October 1943 to party leaders, Heinrich Himmler said he had ordered that women and children be shot, but Peter Longerich and Christian Gerlach write that the murder of women and children began at different times in different areas, suggesting local influence.
On 14 October, Jewish prisoners in Sobibór attempted an escape, killing 11 SS officers, as well as two or three Ukrainian and Volksdeutsche guards. According to Yitzhak Arad, this was the highest number of SS officers killed in a single revolt.
The SS liquidated most of the Jewish ghettos of the General Government area of Poland in 1942–1943 and shipped their populations to the camps for extermination.
Between March 1942 and November 1943, around 1,526,500 Jews were gassed in these three camps in gas chambers using carbon monoxide from the exhaust fumes of stationary diesel engines.
On 19 March 1944, Hitler ordered the military occupation of Hungary and dispatched Adolf Eichmann to Budapest to supervise the deportation of the country's Jews.
From March 22nd, Jews were required to wear the yellow star; were forbidden from owning cars, bicycles, radios, or telephones; and were later forced into ghettos.
On 18 April 1944 Croatia was declared as Judenfrei. Approximately 55,000-60,000 Yugoslav Jews were killed in the Holocaust, representing nearly 80% of its pre-war population.
Between 15 May and 9 July, 437,000 Jews were deported from Hungary to Auschwitz II-Birkenau, almost all sent directly to the gas chambers.
Between 15 May and early July 1944, 437,000 Jews were deported from Hungary, mostly to Auschwitz, where most of them were gassed; there were four transports a day, each carrying 3,000 people.
The first major camp to be encountered by Allied troops, Majdanek, was discovered by the advancing Soviets, along with its gas chambers, on 25 July 1944.
Jews also joined Polish forces, including the Home Army. According to Timothy Snyder, "more Jews fought in the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944 than in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April 1943.".
On 7 October 1944, 300 Jewish members, mostly Greek or Hungarian, of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz learned they were about to be killed, and staged an uprising, blowing up crematorium IV. Three SS officers were killed.
In Budapest in October and November 1944, the Hungarian Arrow Cross forced 50,000 Jews to march to the Austrian border as part of a deal with Germany to supply forced labor. So many died that the marches were stopped.
As the Soviet armed forces advanced, the SS closed down the camps in eastern Poland and made efforts to conceal what had happened. The gas chambers were dismantled, the crematoria dynamited, and the mass graves dug up and corpses cremated. From January to April 1945, the SS sent inmates westward on "death marches" to camps in Germany and Austria.
On 17 January 1945, 58,000 Auschwitz inmates were sent on a death march westwards; when the camp was liberated by the Soviets on 27 January, they found just 7,000 inmates in the three main camps and 500 in subcamps.
Buchenwald was liberated by the Americans on 11 April.
Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the British on 15 April.
The British 11th Armoured Division found around 60,000 prisoners (90 percent Jews) when they liberated Bergen-Belsen, as well as 13,000 unburied corpses; another 10,000 people died from typhus or malnutrition over the following weeks. The BBC's war correspondent Richard Dimbleby described the scenes that greeted him and the British Army at Belsen, in a report so graphic the BBC declined to broadcast it for four days, and did so, on 19 April, only after Dimbleby threatened to resign.
Ravensbrück was liberated by the Soviets on 30 April.
In January 1945, the Germans held records of 714,000 inmates in concentration camps; by May, 250,000 (35 percent) had died during death marches.
The Red Cross took control of Theresienstadt on 3 May.
Yom HaShoah became Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day in 1951.
The government of Israel requested $1.5 billion from the Federal Republic of Germany in March 1951 to finance the rehabilitation of 500,000 Jewish survivors, arguing that Germany had stolen $6 billion from the European Jews.