It’s easy to mix up historical events within the Holocaust timeline or World War II timeline. Although far from a comprehensive timeline of the Holocaust and all that happened, this list of key historical events helps show the progression of persecution to mass murder, relevant events of WWII, and the subsequent liberation of concentration camps.
Holocaust Historical Timeline
- January 30: Adolf Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany
- February 27: The German Parliament (Reichstag) Building burns down.
- March 22: Dachau concentration camp, the first of the Holocaust, opens.
- March 23: Enabling Act passes, which gave the German Cabinet—most importantly, the Chancellor—the powers to make and enforce laws without the involvement of the Reichstag or Weimar President Paul von Hindenburg.
- April 1: National Boycott of Jewish shops and businesses.
- April 7: Laws for Re-establishment of the Civil Service passes, barring Jews from holding civil service, university, and state positions.
- April 25: Law Against Overcrowding in Schools and Universities passes, which dramatically limits the number of Jewish students attending public schools.
- May 10: Public burnings of books written by Jews, political dissidents, and others not approved by the state takes place.
- July 14: Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases mandates the forced sterilization of certain individuals with physical and mental disabilities. Provided the basis for the involuntary sterilization of people/groups targeted by Nazi Germany, including Roma and Sinti and Afro-Germans.
- October 4: Editors Law forbids non-“Aryans” to work in journalism.
- June 30-July 2: In the “Röhm Affair,” also known as “Night of the Long Knives,” Hitler orders the purge of the top leadership of the Nazi Party paramilitary formation, the SA (Sturmabteilungen; Assault Detachments).
- August 2: German President von Hindenburg dies. With the support of the German armed forces, Hitler becomes President of Germany.
- August 19: Hitler abolishes the office of President and declares himself Führer (dictator) of the German Reich and People, in addition to his position as Chancellor. In this capacity as Führer, Hitler’s decisions are not bound by the laws of the state.
- November-December: SS chief Himmler consolidates control over and de facto unifies the German state political police forces into the Gestapo office in Berlin under the authority of his deputy, Reinhard Heydrich.
- December 10: SS chief Himmler creates the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps under the leadership of SS General Theodor Eicke. This move formalizes the SS takeover and centralization of the concentration camp system that had taken place in July 1934.
- March 17: Nazi Germany resumes compulsory male military service.
- April 1: Nazi Germany bans Jehovah’s Witness Organizations. The ban is due to Jehovah’s Witnesses refusal to swear allegiance to the state, as it went against their religious convictions.
- June 28: The German Ministry of Justice revises Paragraphs 175 and 175a of the German criminal code to facilitate the systematic persecution of gay men and provide police with broader means for prosecution.
- September 15: Nazi Germany enacts the Nuremberg (Race) Laws. These Anti-Jewish racial laws determine who was considered a “Jew,” and deem that Jews were no longer considered German citizens (“Reich Citizenship Law”) and that Jews cannot marry Aryans, nor can they fly the German flag (“Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor”).
- March 3: Jewish doctors barred from practicing medicine in German institutions.
- July 12: Sachsenhausen concentration camp opens.
- August 1-16: Olympics held in Berlin, Germany. They are a show of Nazi propaganda, stirring significant conflict. In Germany, many non-Aryans are excluded from participating and attending. Despite the exclusionary principles of the 1936 Games, countries around the world still agree to participate.
- July 15: Buchenwald concentration camp opens.
- November 8: Josef Goebbels, Reich propaganda minister, and Julius Streicher, editor of the antisemitic newspaper, Der Stürmer (The Attacker) open the antisemitic exhibition Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew) at the library of the German Museum in Munich, Germany.
- March 11-13: Germany annexes Austria, in what is known as the Anschluss, incorporating the country into the German Reich.
- April 26: Mandatory registration of all property held by Jews inside the Reich.
- July 6-15: Evian Conference: delegates from 32 countries and representatives meet to discuss the German-Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. Though countries are encouraged to find a long-term solution to the problem, the United States and other countries are unwilling to ease their immigration restrictions. Except for the Dominican Republic, no country is willing to accept more refugees.
- August 1: Adolf Eichmann establishes the Office of Jewish Emigration in Vienna to increase the pace of forced emigration.
- August 17: The Executive Order on the Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names (“Jewish Name Law”) requires German Jews bearing first names of “non-Jewish” origin to adopt an additional name: “Israel” for men and “Sara” for women.
- September 30: Munich Conference: Germany, Italy, Great Britain, and France sign Munich Agreement in the hopes of preventing war. The agreement permits German occupation of the Sudentenland, previously western Czechoslovakia.
- October 5: Following request by Swiss authorities, Germans mark all Jewish passports with a large letter “J” to restrict Jews from immigrating to Switzerland.
- November 9-10: Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass): Anti-Jewish pogram in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland where over 1,400 synagogues are destroyed, 7,500 Jewish shops looted, and 30,000 male Jews sent to concentration camps (Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen) in one night.
- November 12: Decree on the Elimination of the Jews from Economic Life passes, forcing all Jews to transfer retail businesses to Aryan hands.
- November 15: All Jewish pupils are expelled from German schools.
- December 2: First Kindertransport arrives in Great Britain. Kindertransport (Children’s Transport) was a series of rescue efforts (organized by Jewish communal groups in Germany and Austria) which brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to Great Britain between 1938 and 1940.
- January 30: Reichstag Speech: Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, tells the German public and the world that the outbreak of war would mean the end of European Jewry.
- February 9: Wagner-Rogers Bill is introduced to the U.S. government – never passes. Senator Robert Wagner of New York and Representative Edith Rogers of Massachusetts introduces a bill to permit the entry of 20,000 refugee children, ages 14 and under, from the Greater German Reich into the United States over the course of two years. The bill dies in committee in the summer of 1939.
- March 15: Germany occupies Czechoslovakia.
- May 13: German transatlantic liner St. Louis sets sail from Hamburg, Germany, for Havana, Cuba. On board are over 900 passengers, almost all of them Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany. They are denied entry into Cuba upon arrival and sent back to Europe (also being denied entry into the United States enroute back). Only two-thirds survive the Holocaust.
- August 23: German-Soviet Pact is signed. It allows Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to control/invade portions of eastern Europe, while pledging not to attack each other for 10 years.
- September 1: Beginning of World War II: Germany and Soviet Union invade Poland.
- October: Euthanasia Program officially begins. Hitler signs a secret authorization to protect participating physicians, medical staff, and administrators from prosecution. This authorization is backdated to September 1, 1939, to suggest that the effort was related to WWII actions.
- October 28: Nazi Germany and allies establish first Polish ghetto in Piotrkow.
- November 23: Jews in German-occupied Poland forced to wear an arm band or yellow star
- Early February: Establishment of Lodz Ghetto
- April 9: Germany invades Denmark and Norway
- May 10: Germany invades the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France
- May 20: Concentration camp is established at Auschwitz
- June 10: Italy declares war on Britain and France, entering WWII.
- June 14: The first mass transport arrives at Auschwitz I, consisting of 728 Polish political prisoners from Tarnow.
- June 15: Soviet Union invades Lithuania (other Baltic States are invaded next day)
- September 27: Axis Alliance is formed between Germany, Italy, and Japan with the signing of the Tripartite Pact
- October 12: Decree to establish Warsaw Ghetto
- October 28: Italy invades Greece.
- January: Pograms (Anti-Jewish riots) held in Romania, hundreds of Jews murdered.
- April 6: Germany invades Yugoslavia and Greece.
- June 6: Nazi Germany issues Commissar Order: Commissars were officials in the Soviet communist party assigned to military units to spread patriotic, pro-communist propaganda. They were not active soldiers. This order authorized German soldiers to execute commissars, which goes against the International Laws of War.
- June 22: Germany invades the Soviet Union (“Operation Barbarossa”).
- June 24: Germany invades Lithuania.
- August 24: Euthanasia Program “ceases” due to public attention/protest (simply goes underground).
- September 1: Jewish badges/Stars of David required to be worn by Jews in the Reich
- September 29-30: Mass shootings occur in Kyiv, Ukraine. In two days, German police and the Einsatzgruppen, along with local collaborators, murder over 30,000 Jews in a ravine called Babyn Yar (Babi Yar).
- October 15: Nazi Germany initiates plan to murder approximately two million Jews living in German-occupied Poland. Later code-named Operation Reinhard, three killing centers (Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka) were established under this plan.
- October 29: German SS and police units and Lithuanian police auxiliaries murder 9,200 residents of the Jewish ghetto in Kovno (Kaunas; Kovne), Lithuania, in Fort IX on the edge of the city.
- November 24: Theresienstadt ghetto-camp is established.
- December 7: Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
- December 8: Chelmo killing center begins operations.
- December 8: United States declares war on Japan, entering WWII officially a few days later.
- January 20: Wannsee Conference in Berlin: Plan is developed for “Final Solution”
- March 1: Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center is established.
- March 17: Mass murder operations begin at Belzec killing center.
- May: Mass murder operations begin at Sobibor killing center.
- May 27: Czech agents attempt an assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, chief of Reich Security. He dies of his wounds in early June and becomes the namesake of Operation Reinhard.
- June: Jewish partisan units establish in the forests of Byelorussia and the Baltic states
- July 23: Mass murder operations begin at Treblinka II killing center.
- Summer: Deportation of Jews to killing centers from Belgium, Croatia, France, the Netherlands, and Poland; armed resistance by Jews in ghettos of Kletzk, Kremenets, Lachva, Mir, and Tuchin.
- October: Mass murder operations begins at Majdanek killing center.
- Winter: Deportation of Jews from Germany, Greece and Norway to killing centers; Jewish partisan movement organizes in forests near Lublin.
- December 17: The Allied nations issue a declaration stating explicitly that the German authorities were engaging in mass murder of the European Jews, and that those responsible for this “bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination” would “not escape retribution.”
- February 2: German defeat at Stalingrad. The battle became a turning point, ending a string of German victories and beginning the long retreat westward.
- April 19: Warsaw Ghetto uprising begins. During this uprising, U.S. and British diplomats at the Bermuda Conference reject all new recommendations to rescue the Jews of Europe.
- Summer: Armed resistance by Jews in Bedzin, Bialystok, Czestochowa, Lvov, and Tarnow ghettos
- August 2: Uprising in Treblinka II killing center begins.
- September 8: Italy surrenders to the Allies.
- October 14: Uprising in Sobibor killing center begins.
- September-October: Danish Jews escape to Sweden with help of Danish resistance.
- November 3: Operation “Harvest Festival” (Aktion Erntefest) begins. Nervous due to recent uprisings, the SS decide to murder the remaining Jews in Majdanek.
- January 22: US president Franklin D. Roosevelt creates the War Refugee Board.
- March 19: Germany occupies Hungary
- May 15: Nazis begin deporting Hungarian Jews.
- June: Chelmo is reopened and restaffed to murder the remaining Jews in Lodz ghetto.
- June 6: D-Day occurs as U.S., British, and Canadian troops land on the beaches of Normandy.
- July 23: Soviets liberate Majdanek.
- August 9: Liquidation of the Lodz ghetto begins.
- October 7: Prisoner Revolt begins at Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center; one crematorium blown up.
- November 25: Heinrich Himmler orders the destruction of the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers and crematoria to destroy evidence of mass killings.
- January: Lodz ghetto is liberated.
- January 17: Death march begins from Auschwitz.
- January 17: SS abandon Chelmo as Soviets approach.
- January 27: Soviet Army liberates Auschwitz.
- April 4: Liberation of Ohrdruf by US Troops. This was the first Nazi camp liberated by US troops.
- April 15: Liberation of Bergen Belsen by British Army.
- April 26: Death march begins for inmates of Dachau.
- April 29: Liberation of Dachau by U.S. Troops.
- April 30: Hitler takes his own life by suicide.
- May 5: Liberation of Mauthausen and Gusen by U.S. Troops.
- May 7: Germany surrenders.
- Spring: Large numbers of Holocaust refugees are housed in Displacement Persons (DP) camps across Europe.
- September 2: World War II comes to an end after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the U.S. More than 200,000 Japanese civilians were killed due to the bombings.
- November 20: Nuremberg Trials begin.
- December 22: President Truman gives preference to Holocaust survivors for U.S. immigrant visas. However, the process of immigrating continues to be complicated and difficult in the years to come.
Hear From the Survivors
Learn the history from those who lived it. Hear firsthand accounts from survivors of the Holocaust who lived through the sobering events listed in the Holocaust timeline. The Oral Histories project offers these stories as a celebration of life and a crucial part of honoring and remembering the past.Listen to Survivors