The Holocaust: Living the Unimaginable


Decree of the Reich President

February 28, 1933

The German parliament passed the Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of Nation (Volk) and State, formed the basis for the incarceration of potential opponents of the Nazis without benefit of trial or judicial proceeding.

Dachau Opens

March 20, 1933

Dachau open, Germany, for political opponents of the regime.

Enabling Act

March 23, 1933

The German parliament passed the Enabling Act, which empowered Hitler to establish a dictatorship in Germany.

Law on the Revocation of Naturalization

July 14, 1933

The Nazi government enacted the Law on the Revocation of Naturalization, which deprived foreign and stateless Jews as well as Roma (Gypsies) of German citizenship.

Law for the Prevention of Offspring

July 14, 1933

The Nazi government enacted the Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases, which mandated the forced sterilization of certain physically or mentally impaired individuals.

Paragraphs 175 and 175a

June 28, 1935

The German Ministry of Justice revised Paragraphs 175 and 175a of the criminal code to criminalize all homosexual acts between men. The revision provided the police broader means for prosecuting homosexual men.

Nuremberg Laws

September 15, 1939

Nuremberg Laws Enacted

Killing of Incurables

October 1939

Hitler initialed an order to kill those Germans whom the Nazis deemed “incurable” and hence “unworthy of life.” Health care professionals sent tens of thousands of institutionalized mentally and physically disabled people to central “euthanasia” killing centers where they killed them by lethal injection or in gas chambers.

Jewish Stars

November 23, 1939

German authorities required that, by December 1, 1939, all Jews residing in the General Government wear white badges with a blue Star of David.


May 20, 1940

SS authorities established the Auschwitz concentration camp (Auschwitz I) outside the Polish city of Oswiecim.

First Major Ghetto

June 30, 1940

German authorities ordered the first major Jewish ghetto, in Lodz, to be sealed off, confining at least 160,000 people in the ghetto. Henceforth, all Jews living in Lodz had to reside in the ghetto and could not leave without German authorization.

Ghetto Sealed

November 15, 1940

German authorities ordered the Warsaw ghetto in the General Government sealed off. It was the largest ghetto in both area and population. The Germans confined more than 350,000 Jews—about 30 percent of the city’s population—in about 2.4 percent of the city’s total area.

Operation Barbossa

June 22, 1941

Germany and its Axis forces invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. German mobile killing squads called Einsatzgruppen were assigned to identify, concentrate, and kill Jews behind the front lines. By the spring of 1943, the Einsatzgruppen had killed more than a million Jews and an undetermined number of partisans, Roma (Gypsies), and officials of the Soviet state and the Soviet Communist party.

First Auschwitz Gassings

September 3, 1941

At the Auschwitz concentration camp, SS functionaries performed their first gassing experiments using Zyklon B. The victims were Soviet prisoners of war and non-Jewish Polish inmates.

Public Jewish Star

September 15, 1941

The Nazi government decreed that Jews over the age of six who resided in Germany had to wear a yellow Star of David on their outer clothing in public at all times.

Execution at Babi Yar

September 29, 1941 - September 30, 1941

German SS, police, and military units shot an estimated 33,000 persons, mostly Jews, at Babi Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of Kiev (in Ukraine). In the following months, German units shot thousands of Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and Soviet prisoners of war at Babi Yar.

Construction Begins

October 1941

Construction of the killing centers Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka begin.

Second Camp at Austwich

November 26, 1941

SS authorities established a second camp at Auschwitz, called Auschwitz-Birkenau and Auschwitz II. The camp was originally designated for the incarceration of large numbers of Soviet prisoners of war but later was used as a killing center.

Gassing at Chelmno

December 8, 1941

Gassing operations began at Chelmno, one of six Nazi killing centers. Situated in the Polish territory annexed by Germany, Chelmno closed in March 1943 and resumed its killing operations during two months in the early summer of 1944. SS and German civilian officials killed at least 152,000 Jews and an undetermined number of Roma (Gypsies) and Poles at Chelmno using special mobile gas vans.

Deportation from Lodz

January 16, 1942

German authorities began the deportation of Jews from the Lodz ghetto to Chelmno.

Final Solution

January 20, 1942

Senior Nazi officials met at a villa in the outskirts of Berlin at the Wannsee Conference to discuss and coordinate implementation of the “Final Solution.”

Deportations of Jews from France

March 27, 1942

German authorities began systematic deportations of Jews from France. By the end of August 1944, the Germans had deported more than 75,000 Jews from France to camps in the East, above all, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center in occupied Poland, where most of them perished.

Gassing at Sobidor

May 1942

After trial gassings in April, an SS special detachment began gassing operations at the Sobibor killing center in early May. By November 1943, the special detachment had killed approximately 250,000 Jews at Sobibor.

Selection for Auschwitz

May 4, 1942

SS officials performed the first selection of victims for gassing at the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center. Weak, sick, and “unfit” prisoners were selected and housed in an isolation ward prior to being killed in the gas chambers. Between May 1940 and January 1945, more than one million people were killed or died at the Auschwitz camp complex. Close to 865,000 were never registered and most likely were selected for gassing immediately upon arrival. Nine out of ten of those who died at the Auschwitz complex were Jewish.

Deportation of Warsaw Ghetto

July 22, 1942

Between July 22 and September 12, German SS and police authorities, assisted by auxiliaries, deported approximately 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to killing centers and concentration camps. Of that number, about 265,000 Jews were sent to the Treblinka killing center where they were murdered.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

April 19, 1943 - May 16, 1943

In what is called the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Jewish fighters resisted the German attempt to liquidate the ghetto.

Treblinka Revolt

August 2, 1943

Jewish prisoners revolted at the Treblinka killing center.

Operation Harvest Festival

November 3, 1943

Operation Harvest Festival. The purpose was to liquidate several labor camps in the Lublin area. German SS and police units killed at least 42,000 Jews at Majdanek, Trawniki, and Poniatowa.

Deportation of Jews from Hungary

May 15, 1944 - July 9, 1944

Hungarian gendarmerie (rural police units), under the guidance of German SS officials, deported nearly 430,000 Jews from Hungary. Most were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where SS staff immediately killed about half of them in gas chambers.

Demolition of Auschwitz

November 25, 1944

The SS began to demolish the gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Liberation of Auschwitz

January 27, 1945

Soviet troops liberated about 8,000 prisoners left behind at the Auschwitz camp complex.

Liberation of Buchenwald

April 11, 1945

U.S. troops liberated more than 20,000 prisoners at Buchenwald.

Germany Surrenders to Russia

May 2, 1945

German units in Berlin surrendered to Soviet forces.

IMT Trials

November 20, 1945 - October 1, 1946

IMT made up of Americans, British, French, and Soviet judges began a trail of 21 major Nazi leaders at Nuremberg, Germany.

Unrestricted Immigration to Tel Aviv

May 14, 1948

David Ben-Gurion, leader of the Jews of Palestine, announced the establishment of the State of Israel in Tel Aviv and declared that Jewish immigration into the new state would be unrestricted. Between 1948 and 1951, almost 700,000 Jews immigrated to Israel, including more than two-thirds the Jewish DPs in Europe.