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The Holocaust was the systematic, state-organized mass murder of European Jewry perpetrated by Nazi Germany, its allies and collaborators. The Nazi leadership perceived eradicating Jews as an essential element of World War II, paramount to the establishment of a new German order in Europe.
The “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” a euphemism for annihilation, was implemented through mass killing and forced labor in all German occupied and controlled countries and territories. This “Final Solution” engendered unprecedented and unparalleled genocidal operations against the Jewish people. Its goal was not subjugation but annihilation of an entire people. As a result, six million Jews lost their lives. While the Nazi security apparatus, namely the Schutzstaffel, or SS, were specifically persecuting the Jews in Europe, all components of the Nazi bureaucratic state system – including the mundane cooperation of ordinary Germans who would not otherwise be involved – assisted in the war against the Jews.
The term “Holocaust” has come to denote this destruction of European Jews by Nazi Germany. The word “holocaust,” which generally means “burning,” can be found in the Biblical text 1: Samuel 7-9 and refers to the consumption of a sacrifice by fire. The Hebrew term for the state-organized extermination of European Jewry is “Shoah,” which connotes a calamity, disaster, or destruction that cannot be fully described by human language.
- January 1933 Nazi Party, lead by Adolf Hitler, rises to power. On January 30, 1933, in the effort of the Nazi success in parliamentary elections, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor.
- March 1933 Nazis established the first major concentration camp for political opponents. After the Novemberpogrom (Kristallnacht), 10,000 Jewish men were incarcerated in this camp in "protective custody."
- September 1935 Nuremberg Laws, or Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor. Restrictive anti-Jewish legislation passed on 15 September, 1935, defining who was a Jew. These laws denied citizenship to Jews and forbade intermarriage. The Laws were expanded to Nazi-occupied countries and territories and their implementation was a matter of life and death to individuals.
- March 1938 Anschluss of Austria (in German union). Anti-Jewish laws immediately implemented for the Austrian Jewish population.
- September - October 1938 Munich Agreement and annexation of Sudetenland, partition of Czechoslovakia
- November 9 – 10, 1938 Novemberpogrom or Kristallnacht. Nazis ravaged the Jewish communities in Germany, Austria, the Sudetenland, and Danzig (Gdansk) as a revenge for the assassination of Ernst vom Rath, third secretary of the German embassy in Paris, by a young Jewish man named Herschel Grynszpan. Hundreds of synagogues and Jewish businesses were vandalized or destroyed.
- March 15, 1939 Nazi regime dismembers the rampant Czechoslovakian state. On 15 March, 1939, the German troops marched into Prague. Slovakia is established as a German-satellite state. The Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia is created out of two Czech provinces. The Jewish population subjugated to all anti-Jewish laws and eventual deportation to the East or to Theresienstadt Ghetto.
- 23 August 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Non- Aggression Pact between Nazi Germany and the USSR, named by the signatories, Soviet foreign minister Viacheslav Molotov and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. The secret protocol to this treaty provisioned the division of Poland between Germany and the USSR and the annexation of East European countries and territories in favor of the USSR. In return, the USSR withdrew from the anti-German negotiations with Great Britain and France. After the German Army invaded Poland, the Soviet Army entered the Polish provinces from the East. Despite the Soviet betrayal, the Polish Army courageously fought for one month. Jewish population of Poland demonstrated valor defending the common homeland.
- 1 September 1939 German invasion of Poland. The Second World War began. On 3 September, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. Until the German invasion of western Europe in the spring of 1940, it was waged as a "phony" war, there was no warfare on the Western Front. Polish Government went into exile in London. Polish resistance to German occupation began. Polish underground army, the Home Army (Armia Krajowa) unites the multiple resistance units in February 1942, it is 400,000 men strong and received order from the Polish Government in London.
- 1933 - 1939 Nazis enacted 400 anti-Jewish laws
- 1939 - 1940 Nazi authorities divided Poland, annexing its western part to the Greater Germany and establishing on the rest of the Polish territory as the General Gouvernement, with the capital in Krakow. Anti-Jewish measures, including ghettoization, are being implemented. There were five major Jewish ghettos in Poland, namely Warsaw, Łódź, Kraków, Lwów, and Lublin. The Jews are confined to the ghettos and destined to starvation diseases, and eventual deportations to death and labor camps.
- April - May 1940 German armies invaded Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. Anti-Jewish measures and actions vary from country to country. Eventually, from 1942 on, the deportations of Jews from western Europe to the death camps in Poland began.
- 22 June 1941 Invasion of the Soviet Union, or Operation Barbarossa, begins. The Soviet Army depleted by the Stalin’s purges and taken by surprise, rapidly retreat suffering great casualties, millions of Soviet soldiers are taken as prisoners of war by the German Army. Einsatzgruppen, special action units composed of German police and security forces, follow the avant-garde of the army. They carry out mass killing of the Jewish population on the occupied Soviet territories (Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bessarabia, and western part of the Russian Federation). Instead of ghettoization, the German killing squads and the army perpetrated mass killing of Jewish population in the wake of invasion.
- 29 - 30 September 1941 Babi Yar Massacre. On these dates, at the outskirts of Kiev, the German police battalions (part of the Einsatzgruppe C) and Ukrainian auxiliary police killed 33,800 Jewish men, women, and children. It was an extraordinary massacre even on a Nazi scale. The action at Babi Yar came as the Nazi retaliation to the Soviet NKVD (security police) subversive activities in the first days of German presence in Kiev. The decision was taken by the high SS and police commanders in Ukraine. The Germans claimed that the Jews were part of this conspiracy.
- 20 January 1942 Wansee Conference, the meeting of the highest SS, Security, and Economic authorities of Nazi Germany to discuss "The Final Solution to the Jewish Question" in Europe, a euphemistic term for the total extermination of the European Jewry. A plan was developed to establish and convert several concentration camps into the institutions of mass murder and slave labor spurring the systematic, industrialized annihilation of the Jewish population in the German occupied and controlled territories.
- June 1942 Operation (Aktion) Reinhard. Named after Reinhard Heydrich soon after he was mortally wounded by a Czech patriot in Prague on 27 May, 1942. The Operation entails the so-called "resettlement" of the Jews in the General Gouvernement, specifically in the Lublin area with the clandestine construction of the death camps, namely Belzec (in fact, ordered to be constructed in October 1941), and the three additional death factories, namely Sobibór, Chelmno, and Treblinka. SS and Police Leader Odilo Globocnik were in charge of Operation Reinhard. The latter claims the life of 1.5 million Jews and non-Jews from eastern and western Europe.
- 1942 Six death camps, namely Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Sobibór, Treblinka, Chelmno, and Majdanek are in full operation.
- 1942 - 1944 The death tolls for the camps are as follows: Treblinka, (750,000 Jews); Belzec, (550,000 Jews); Sobibór, (200,000 Jews); Chelmno, (150,000 Jews) and Lublin (also called Majdanek, 50,000 Jews). Auschwitz continued to operate through the summer of 1944; its final death total was about 1 million Jews and 1 million non-Jews.
- July 1942 Mass deportation from Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka and other death camps began. From July-September 1942 to the Spring of 1943, over 300,000 were deported to death camps from the Warsaw ghetto.
- April 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It began on 19 April, 1943 when 90% of the ghetto population had been annihilated and 56,000 Jews still remained in the ghetto. With insignificant help of the Polish resistance, the Jewish underground, consisting of 800 -1000 young men and women, rose against the superior Nazi forces. The latter were soon reinforced by the special SS forces and the auxiliary Ukrainian and Lithuanian troops. The Uprising lasted until 16 May, 1943, demonstrating to the whole world unparalleled patterns of Jewish courage, selfsacrifice and heroism. In the effect, the Ghetto was completely ruined, 5,000 – 6,000 Jews were killed during the Nazi assault and the survivors were deported to concentration and death camps.
- 1941 - 1944 Auschwitz-Birkenau or Auschwitz II. The camp operated from June 1940 to January 1945. The first inmates were Jews, Soviet POWs, and Polish political prisoners. Most of the 1.6 million people murdered at the Auschwitz camps were gassed at Birkenau, the Jewish death toll amounted at 1.3 million. In May 1944, hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
- April - May 1944 After German military marched into Hungary, the Hungarian authorities, guided by the Nazis, concentrated around 500,000 Jews from Hungary proper and the Hungarian-annexed territories of Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia in the ghettos and transit centers. Soon after, they were deported, mainly to Auschwitz-Birkenau, to the concentration camps, and on the Austrian border to build fortification lines.
- 27 January 1945 Red Army liberated the Auschwitz camps. Approximately 7,600 inmates remained in the camps by the time of liberation
- Spring 1945 The Allied forces liberate Nazi concentration camps in Germany and Austria. Horrendous evidences of the Nazi atrocities are revealed to the world
- 7 May 1945 German Armed Forces High Command signs unconditional surrender. The Second World War in Europe is over. Nazi Germany lost the war against the Allied Nations but persisted in completion the war against European Jewry.