Monday, June 22, 2015

The Auschwitz Experience

The Auschwitz Experience
A terrible darkness had descended across Europe. An entire way of life had been turned upside down by one man, Adolf Hitler, and his followers. Instead of sitting in a classroom, pondering a career, or perhaps working in a local shop, young Jewish men and women found themselves without a future – isolated and cast out. Instead of kicking a ball around in the park, making new friends, or going on a class picnic, Jewish children found themselves deprived of these simple joys – shunned and excluded.
Meanwhile, their parents agonized. They had always thought of themselves as upstanding citizens, who happened to be Jewish. They had served in the government, fought bravely in prior wars, paid taxes, obeyed the law and otherwise aspired to lead decent lives while seeking happiness for their children, just like anyone else. But now they had been labeled as enemies.
Wherever the Nazis went, they poisoned minds, corrupting the attitudes of local people who had cared little, till now, whether their next door neighbors went to the temple on Saturday instead of church on Sunday. Under relentless pressure from the Nazis, many locals became eager to cooperate, including police and government officials who issued specially marked identity cards and then compiled comprehensive lists so that by the time of the Final Solution, no village, town, city, county, state or nation had been left uncatalogued as to the precise number of Jews and their exact whereabouts.
Following this, master timetables were created by the SS to enact orderly deportations. In each place, Nazis and local police rounded up the people, street by street, marching them off to the local train depot where they were crowded into railroad boxcars normally used to transport freight or livestock, and sent off without food or proper sanitation, on a perilous week-long journey to the East.
Waiting for them along the railroad siding at Auschwitz-Birkenau were men of the SS-Totenkopf – the Death's Head battalion. Around the clock, seven days a week, the trains arrived from all over Europe. In June 1944, a train from Slovakia, carrying 18-year-old Alexander Ehrmann and his family pulled in:
"We arrived around one o'clock in the morning in an area with lights, floodlights, and stench. We saw flames, tall chimneys. We still did not want to accept that it was Auschwitz. We preferred to think we didn't know than to acknowledge, yes, we are there. The train stopped. Outside we heard all kinds of noises, stench, language, commands we didn't understand. It was in German but we didn't know what it meant. Dogs barked. The doors flung open, and we saw strange uniformed men in striped clothes. They started to yell at us in the Yiddish of Polish Jews: "Schnell! Raus! " We started to ask them, "Where are we?" They answered, "Raus, raus, raus!" Sentries and their dogs were there, and they yelled at us also. "Macht Schnell!" We got out and they told us to get in formations of five, and to leave all the luggage there. We asked one of the guys, "Tell me, tell me, where are we going?" "Dort, geht," and he pointed towards the flames. We had to move on. So we formed up, true to family tradition, two parents, the oldest sister, and the next sister and the child on my sister's hand. My mother asked her, "Let me carry him," two and a half years old. She said, "No, I'll take care of my own son." So the three sisters and my two parents were walking and the two boys in the next row with three other people. We came up to Mengele, we were standing there. He was pointing left, right. My sister was the first one, with a child, and he pointed to the right. Then my mother, who had a rupture, she had a big belly, she looked like she was pregnant, she wasn't. So I guess that made her go to that side. My father and the two sisters were pointed to his left. He asked my father, "Old man, what do you do?" He said, "Farm work." And then came the next row and the two of us were told also to go after our father and two sisters; and he stopped and he called my father back. "Put out your hand!" So my father showed him his hand and Mengele smacked him across the face and pushed him to the other side. And he continued, "Schnell!" And the sentries were there, and the dogs and we have to move, and that's the last we saw of our parents and sister and nephew."
Alexander had been allowed to live, selected by SS Doctor Josef Mengele for slave labor. His parents, sister and nephew, rejected by Mengele, were now moving with many others toward a sign saying "Baths." Taken down a flight of stairs to the underground facility, they wound up in what appeared to be a large undressing room, similar to the tiled room one might find at a public bath or swimming pool. With no time to think, they were told to undress completely and hang their clothing on the numbered hooks located along the wall, and also instructed to memorize the hook number for later, so they could retrieve their clothing after their shower. Pieces of soap were handed out to some and they were all quickly ushered into what seemed, at first glance, to be very large shower room. But as soon as everyone was crammed inside, the main door was slammed and sealed tight.
As they stood there in anxious anticipation, SS men above the chamber opened cans of the commercial pesticide Zyklon-B and poured the contents, small blue crystalline pellets, into hollow shafts made of perforated sheet metal which extended to the floor of the gas chamber. The pellets fell to the bottom of the shaft and vaporized upon contact with air, emitting blue-tinged cyanide fumes that oozed out at floor level, rising slowly. The fumes had a noticeable burnt almond-like odor. When inhaled, the bitter smelling vapors combined with red blood cells, robbing the body of life-giving oxygen, causing the people to gasp for air, followed by unconsciousness, then death through oxygen deprivation. Children were the first to die first since they were closer to the floor. As the fumes expanded upward, pandemonium erupted with everyone else climbing on top of each other, forming a tangled heap of bodies all the way to the ceiling.
Fifteen minutes later the chamber was silent. Electric vents were activated by SS men to draw out the remaining fumes. The door was then opened and special squads of Jewish slave laborers calledSonderkommandos entered to untangle the corpses, now dripping with a combination of blood, urine and feces. The bodies were washed down with hoses, pried apart with hooks and then removed one-by-one. The corpses were then placed on carts and rolled onto special lifts taking them one floor up to the crematory ovens. There, other Sonderkommandos went about the task of removing the bodies from the carts. Any teeth with gold fillings were extracted, rings pulled off fingers, women's hair shorn and collected, and all body orifices were searched for hidden valuables. The bodies were then placed in the ovens.
Cremation was the slowest part of the extermination process, taking about fifteen minutes per body. Sometimes the ovens couldn't handle the volume of corpses when too many trainloads arrived. Therefore open fire pits were used to cremate bodies. By the summer of 1944, six huge fire pits were in use to accommodate the accelerated deportation of Hungary's Jews to the gas chambers. During that time, Auschwitz-Birkenau recorded its highest-ever daily number of persons gassed and burned at just over 9,000.
When Alexander was on his way to his slave labor quarters, he passed by one of the cremation pits. "We were walking, and beyond the barbed wire fences there were piles of rubble and branches, pine tree branches and rubble burning, slowly burning. We're walking by, and the sentries kept on screaming, "Lauf, Lauf " and I heard a baby crying. The baby was crying somewhere in the distance and I couldn't stop and look. We moved, and it smelled, a horrible stench. I knew that things in the fire were moving, there were babies in the fire."
Occasionally SS men grabbed noisy babies from their mothers and threw them alive into the fire pit. Such behavior was not extraordinary at Auschwitz where SS personnel relished the opportunity to wield the power of life and death over beings they considered less than human.
Filip Müller, who spent time as a Sonderkommando working in the gas chambers, commented on mentality of the SS Sergeant who ruled over him. "We prisoners and [SS-Unterscharführer] Stark were worlds apart. For us he seemed to have no human feelings whatever. We only knew him as one who gave his commands brusquely, insulted, abused and threatened us continually, goaded us to work, and beat us mercilessly. To his superiors he was diligent and subservient. I often wondered how it was possible for this young man, scarcely older than myself, to be so cruel, so brutal, harboring so unfathomable a hatred of the Jews. I doubted whether he had actually ever come into close contact with Jews before he came to Auschwitz. He was no doubt a victim of that Nazi propaganda which put the blame for any misfortune, including the war, on the Jews. How was it possible, I often asked myself, for a young man of average intelligence and normal personality to carry out the unspeakable atrocities demanded of him in the belief that thereby he was doing his patriotic duty, without ever realizing that he was being used as a tool by perverted political dictators?"
Slave laborers such as Filip and Alexander existed from moment to moment, clinging to life, knowing they could be killed by an SS man for any reason at any time, and would never know why. Dressed in blue-striped uniforms, with an ID number tattooed on their left forearm, they resided with fellow laborers in crammed wooden barracks on starvation rations, while working twelve hours per day. The average life span under such conditions was about three months.
The sprawling Auschwitz complex included 30 labor camps with 100,000 inmates supporting entire industries. German companies, in cooperation with the SS, were eager to take advantage of the ready labor supply in an arrangement that became mutually profitable. This included world renowned companies such as I.G. Farben chemical works, and Krupp armaments.
SS doctors such as Mengele also exploited inmates as a ready supply of subjects for human medical experiments. Of particular interest to Dr. Mengele were twin children, and he set aside some 1500 pairs for rogue genetic research that killed nearly all of them.
One extraordinary aspect of the journey to Auschwitz was that the Nazis often charged Jews deported from Western Europe train fare as third class passengers under the guise that they were being "resettled in the East." The SS sometimes made new arrivals sign picture postcards showing the fictional location "Waldensee," mailed to relatives back home with the printed greeting: "We are doing very well here. We have work and we are well treated. We await your arrival."
A terrible darkness had descended across Europe, and in its shadow the light of joy, hope, and human potential was diminished. But by mid-1944, a million-and-a-half Allied soldiers were assembled in southern England, ready to invade Europe and open up a new front against Hitler's empire of death. All that remained was for General Eisenhower to choose the invasion date.     

 Jump to:  1938  1939  1940  1941  1942  1943  1944  1945
January 30, 1933 - Adolf Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany a nation with a Jewish population of 566,000.
February 22, 1933 - 40,000 SA and SS men are sworn in as auxiliary police.
February 27, 1933 - Nazis burn Reichstag building to create crisis atmosphere.
February 28, 1933 - Emergency powers granted to Hitler as a result of the Reichstag fire.
March 22, 1933 - Nazis open Dachau concentration camp near Munich, to be followed by Buchenwaldnear Weimar in central Germany, Sachsenhausen near Berlin in northern Germany, and Ravensbrück for women.
March 24, 1933 - German Parliament passes Enabling Act giving Hitler dictatorial powers.
April 11, 1933 Nazis issue a Decree defining a non-Aryan as "anyone descended from non-Aryan, especially Jewish, parents or grandparents. One parent or grandparent classifies the descendant as non-Aryan...especially if one parent or grandparent was of the Jewish faith."
April 26, 1933 - The Gestapo is born, created by Hermann Göring in the German state of Prussia.
July 14, 1933 - Nazi Party is declared the only legal party in Germany; Also, Nazis pass Law to strip Jewish immigrants from Poland of their German citizenship.
In July - Nazis pass law allowing for forced sterilization of those found by a Hereditary Health Court to have genetic defects.
In September - Nazis establish Reich Chamber of Culture, then exclude Jews from the Arts.
September 29, 1933 - Nazis prohibit Jews from owning land.
October 4, 1933 - Jews are prohibited from being newspaper editors.
November 24, 1933 - Nazis pass a Law against Habitual and Dangerous Criminals, which allows beggars, the homeless, alcoholics and the unemployed to be sent to concentration camps.
January 24, 1934 - Jews are banned from the German Labor Front.
May 17, 1934 - Jews not allowed national health insurance.
June 30, 1934 - The Night of Long Knives occurs as Hitler, Göring and Himmler conduct a purge of the SA (storm trooper) leadership.
July 20, 1934 - The SS (Schutzstaffel) is made an independent organization from the SA.
July 22, 1934 - Jews are prohibited from getting legal qualifications.
August 2, 1934 - German President von Hindenburg dies. Hitler becomes Führer.
August 19, 1934 Hitler receives a 90 percent 'Yes' vote from German voters approving his new powers.
May 21, 1935 - Nazis ban Jews from serving in the military.
June 26, 1935 - Nazis pass law allowing forced abortions on women to prevent them from passing on hereditary diseases.
August 6, 1935 - Nazis force Jewish performers/artists to join Jewish Cultural Unions.
February 10, 1936 - The German Gestapo is placed above the law.
In March - SS Deathshead division is established to guard concentration camps.
March 7, 1936 - Nazis occupy the Rhineland.
June 17, 1936 - Heinrich Himmler is appointed chief of the German Police.
August 1, 1936 - Olympic games begin in Berlin. Hitler and top Nazis seek to gain legitimacy through favorable public opinion from foreign visitors and thus temporarily refrain from actions against Jews.
In August - Nazis set up an Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortions (by healthy women).
In January - Jews are banned from many professional occupations including teaching Germans, and from being accountants or dentists. They are also denied tax reductions and child allowances.
March 12/13, 1938 - Nazi troops enter Austria, which has a population of 200,000 Jews, mainly living in Vienna. Hitler announces Anschluss (union) with Austria.
In March After the Anschluss, the SS is placed in charge of Jewish affairs in Austria with Adolf Eichmann establishing an Office for Jewish Emigration in Vienna. Himmler then establishes Mauthausenconcentration camp near Linz.
April 22, 1938 - Nazis prohibit Aryan 'front-ownership' of Jewish businesses.
April 26, 1938 - Nazis order Jews to register wealth and property.
June 14, 1938 - Nazis order Jewish-owned businesses to register.
In July - At Evian, France, the U.S. convenes a League of Nations conference with delegates from 32 countries to consider helping Jews fleeing Hitler, but results in inaction as no country will accept them.
July 6, 1938 - Nazis prohibited Jews from trading and providing a variety of specified commercial services.
July 23, 1938 - Nazis order Jews over age 15 to apply for identity cards from the police, to be shown on demand to any police officer.
July 25, 1938 - Jewish doctors prohibited by law from practicing medicine.
August 11, 1938 - Nazis destroy the synagogue in Nuremberg.
August 17, 1938 - Nazis require Jewish women to add Sarah and men to add Israel to their names on all legal documents including passports.
September 27, 1938 - Jews are prohibited from all legal practices.
October 5, 1938 - Law requires Jewish passports to be stamped with a large red "J."
October 15, 1938 - Nazi troops occupy the Sudetenland.
October 28, 1938 - Nazis arrest 17,000 Jews of Polish nationality living in Germany, then expel them back to Poland which refuses them entry, leaving them in 'No-Man's Land' near the Polish border for several months.
November 7, 1938 - Ernst vom Rath, third secretary in the German Embassy in Paris, is shot and mortally wounded by Herschel Grynszpan, the 17-year-old son of one of the deported Polish Jews. Rath dies on November 9, precipitating Kristallnacht.
November 12, 1938 - Nazis fine Jews one billion marks for damages related to Kristallnacht.
November 15, 1938 - Jewish pupils are expelled from all non-Jewish German schools.
December 3, 1938 - Law for compulsory Aryanization of all Jewish businesses.
December 14, 1938 - Hermann Göring takes charge of resolving the "Jewish Question."
January 24, 1939 - SS leader Reinhard Heydrich is ordered by Göring to speed up the emigration of Jews.
February 21, 1939 - Nazis force Jews to hand over all gold and silver items.
March 15/16 - Nazi troops seize Czechoslovakia (Jewish pop. 350,000).
April 19, 1939 - Slovakia passes its own version of the Nuremberg Laws.
April 30, 1939 - Jews lose rights as tenants and are relocated into Jewish houses.
In May - The St. Louis, a ship crowded with 930 Jewish refugees, is turned away by Cuba, the United States and other countries and returns to Europe.
July 4, 1939 - German Jews denied the right to hold government jobs.
July 21, 1939 - Adolf Eichmann is appointed director of the Prague Office of Jewish Emigration.
September 1, 1939 - Nazis invade Poland (Jewish pop. 3.35 million, the largest in Europe). Beginning of SS activity in Poland.
September 1, 1939 - Jews in Germany are forbidden to be outdoors after 8 p.m. in winter and 9 p.m. in summer.
September 3, 1939 - Great Britain and France declare war on Germany.
September 4, 1939 - Warsaw is cut off by the German Army.
September 17, 1939 - Soviet troops invade eastern Poland.
September 21, 1939 - Heydrich issues instructions to SS Einsatzgruppen (special action squads) in Poland regarding treatment of Jews, stating they are to be gathered into ghettos near railroads for the future "final goal." He also orders a census and the establishment of Jewish administrative councils within the ghettos to implement Nazi policies and decrees.
September 23, 1939 - German Jews are forbidden to own wireless (radio) sets.
September 27, 1939 - Warsaw surrenders; Heydrich becomes leader of RSHA.
September 29, 1939 - Nazis and Soviets divide up Poland. Over two million Jews reside in Nazi controlled areas, leaving 1.3 million in the Soviet area.
In September - Quote from Nazi newspaper, Der Stürmer, published by Julius Streicher - "The Jewish people ought to be exterminated root and branch. Then the plague of pests would have disappeared in Poland at one stroke."
October 6, 1939 - Proclamation by Hitler on the isolation of Jews.
October 12, 1939 - Evacuation of Jews from Vienna.
October 12, 1939 - Hans Frank appointed Nazi Gauleiter (governor) of Poland.
October 26, 1939 - Forced labor decree issued for Polish Jews aged 14 to 60.
November 23, 1939 - Yellow stars required to be worn by Polish Jews over age 10.
In December - Adolf Eichmann takes over section IV B4 of the Gestapo dealing solely with Jewish affairs and evacuations.
January 25, 1940 - Nazis choose the town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz) in Poland near Krakow as the site of a new concentration camp.
In January - Quote from Nazi newspaper, Der Stürmer, published by Julius Streicher - "The time is near when a machine will go into motion which is going to prepare a grave for the world's criminal - Judah - from which there will be no resurrection."
February 12, 1940 - First deportation of German Jews into occupied Poland.
April 9, 1940 - Nazis invade Denmark (Jewish pop. 8,000) and Norway (Jewish pop. 2,000).
April 30, 1940 - The Lodz Ghetto in occupied Poland is sealed off from the outside world with 230,000 Jews locked inside.
May 1, 1940 - Rudolf Höss is chosen to be kommandant of Auschwitz.
May 10, 1940 - Nazis invade France (Jewish pop. 350,000), Belgium (Jewish pop. 65,000), Holland (Jewish pop. 140,000), and Luxembourg (Jewish pop. 3,500).
June 14, 1940 - Paris is occupied by the Nazis.
June 22, 1940 - France signs an armistice with Hitler.
In July - Eichmann's Madagascar Plan is presented, proposing to deport all European Jews to the island of Madagascar, off the coast of east Africa.
July 17, 1940 - The first anti-Jewish measures are taken in Vichy France.
August 8, 1940 - Romania introduces anti-Jewish measures restricting education and employment, then later begins "Romanianization" of Jewish businesses.
September 27, 1940 - Tripartite (Axis) Pact signed by Germany, Italy and Japan.
October 3, 1940 - Vichy France passes its own version of the Nuremberg Laws.
October 7, 1940 - Nazis invade Romania (Jewish pop. 34,000).
October 22, 1940 - Deportation of 29,000 German Jews from Baden, the Saar, and Alsace-Lorraine into Vichy France.
In November - Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia become Nazi Allies.
November 15, 1940 - The Warsaw Ghetto, containing over 400,000 Jews, is sealed off.
In 1941 - Hans Frank, Gauleiter of Poland, states, "I ask nothing of the Jews except that they should disappear."
In January - Quote from Nazi newspaper, Der Stürmer, published by Julius Streicher - "Now judgment has begun and it will reach its conclusion only when knowledge of the Jews has been erased from the earth."
In January - A pogrom in Romania results in over 2,000 Jews killed.
February 22, 1941 - 430 Jewish hostages are deported from Amsterdam after a Dutch Nazi is killed by Jews.
In March - Hitler's Commissar Order authorizes execution of anyone suspected of being a Communist official in territories about to be seized from Soviet Russia.
March 1, 1941 - Himmler makes his first visit to Auschwitz, during which he orders Kommandant Höss to begin massive expansion, including a new compound to be built at nearby Birkenau that can hold 100,000 prisoners.
March 2, 1941 - Nazis occupy Bulgaria (Jewish pop. 50,000).
March 7, 1941 - German Jews ordered into forced labor.
March 26, 1941 - The German Army High Command gives approval to RSHA and Heydrich on the tasks of SS murder squads (Einsatzgruppen) in occupied Poland.
March 29, 1941 - A 'Commissariat' for Jewish Affairs is set up in Vichy France.
April 6, 1941 - Nazis invade Yugoslavia (Jewish pop. 75,000) and Greece (Jewish pop. 77,000).
May 14, 1941 - 3,600 Jews arrested in Paris.
May 16, 1941 - French Marshal Petain issues a radio broadcast approving collaboration with Hitler.
June 22, 1941 - Nazis invade Russia (Jewish pop. 3 million).
June 29/30 - Romanian troops conduct a pogrom against Jews in the town of Jassy, killing 10,000.
Summer - Himmler summons Auschwitz Kommandant Höss to Berlin and tells him, "The Führer has ordered the Final Solution of the Jewish question. We, the SS, have to carry out this order...I have therefore chosen Auschwitz for this purpose."
In July - As the German Army advances, SS Einsatzgruppen follow along and conduct mass murder of Jews in seized lands.
In July - Ghettos established at Kovno, Minsk, Vitebsk and Zhitomer. Also in July, the government of Vichy France seizes Jewish owned property.
July 17, 1941 - Nazi racial 'philosopher' Alfred Rosenberg is appointed Reich Minister for the Eastern Occupied Territories to administer territories seized from the Soviet Union.
July 21, 1941 - In occupied Poland near Lublin, Majdanek concentration camp becomes operational.
July 25/26 - 3,800 Jews killed during a pogrom by Lithuanians in Kovno.
In August - Jews in Romania forced into Transnistria. By December, 70,000 perish.
In August - Ghettos established at Bialystok and Lvov.
August 26, 1941 - The Hungarian Army rounds up 18,000 Jews at Kamenets-Podolsk.
September 3, 1941 - The first test use of Zyklon-B gas at Auschwitz.
September 6, 1941 - The Vilna Ghetto is established containing 40,000 Jews.
September 19, 1941 - Nazis take Kiev.
September 27/28 - 23,000 Jews killed at Kamenets-Podolsk, in the Ukraine.
In October - 35,000 Jews from Odessa shot.
October 2, 1941 - Beginning of the German Army drive on Moscow.
October 23, 1941 - Nazis forbid emigration of Jews from the Reich.
In November - SS Einsatzgruppe B reports a tally of 45,476 Jews killed.
November 24, 1941 - Theresienstadt Ghetto is established near Prague, Czechoslovakia. The Nazis will use it as a model ghetto for propaganda purposes.
November 30, 1941 - Near Riga, a mass shooting of Latvian and German Jews.
December 7, 1941 - Japanese attack United States at Pearl Harbor. The next day the U.S. and Great Britain declare war on Japan.
December 8, 1941 - In occupied Poland, near Lodz, Chelmno extermination camp becomes operational. Jews taken there are placed in mobile gas vans and driven to a burial place while carbon monoxide from the engine exhaust is fed into the sealed rear compartment, killing them. The first gassing victims include 5,000 Gypsies who had been deported from the Reich to Lodz.
December 11, 1941 - Hitler declares war on the United States. President Roosevelt then asks Congress for a declaration of war on Germany saying, "Never before has there been a greater challenge to life, liberty and civilization." The U.S.A. then enters the war in Europe and will concentrate nearly 90 percent of its military resources to defeat Hitler.
December 12, 1941 - The ship "Struma" leaves Romania for Palestine carrying 769 Jews but is later denied permission by British authorities to allow the passengers to disembark. In February 1942, it sails back into the Black Sea where it is intercepted by a Russian submarine and sunk as an "enemy target."
December 16, 1941 - During a cabinet meeting, Hans Frank, Gauleiter of Poland, states - "Gentlemen, I must ask you to rid yourselves of all feeling of pity. We must annihilate the Jews wherever we find them and wherever it is possible in order to maintain there the structure of the Reich as a whole..."
In January - Mass killings of Jews using Zyklon-B begin at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Bunker I (the red farmhouse) in Birkenau with the bodies being buried in mass graves in a nearby meadow.
January 31, 1942 - SS Einsatzgruppe A reports a tally of 229,052 Jews killed.
In March - In occupied Poland, Belzec extermination camp becomes operational. The camp is fitted with permanent gas chambers using carbon monoxide piped in from engines placed outside the chamber, but will later substitute Zyklon-B.
March 17, 1942 - The deportation of Jews from Lublin to Belzec.
March 24, 1942 - The start of deportation of Slovak Jews to Auschwitz.
March 27, 1942 - The start of deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz.
March 28, 1942 - Fritz Sauckel named Chief of Manpower to expedite recruitment of slave labor.
March 30, 1942 - First trainloads of Jews from Paris arrive at Auschwitz.
In April - First transports of Jews arrive at Majdanek.
April 20, 1942 - German Jews are banned from using public transportation.
In May - In occupied Poland, Sobibor extermination camp becomes operational. The camp is fitted with three gas chambers using carbon monoxide piped in from engines, but will later substitute Zyklon-B.
May 18, 1942 - The New York Times reports on an inside page that Nazis have machine-gunned over 100,000 Jews in the Baltic states, 100,000 in Poland and twice as many in western Russia.
May 27, 1942 - SS leader Heydrich is mortally wounded by Czech Underground agents.
In June - Gas vans used in Riga.
June 1, 1942 - Jews in France, Holland, Belgium, Croatia, Slovakia, Romania ordered to wear yellow stars.
June 4, 1942 - Heydrich dies of his wounds.
June 5, 1942 - SS report 97,000 persons have been "processed" in mobile gas vans.
June 11, 1942 - Eichmann meets with representatives from France, Belgium and Holland to coordinate deportation plans for Jews.
June 30, 1942 - At Auschwitz, a second gas chamber, Bunker II (the white farmhouse), is made operational at Birkenau due to the number of Jews arriving.
June 30 and July 2 - The New York Times reports via the London Daily Telegraph that over 1,000,000 Jews have already been killed by Nazis.
Summer - Swiss representatives of the World Jewish Congress receive information from a German industrialist regarding the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews. They then pass the information on to London and Washington.
July 2, 1942 - Jews from Berlin sent to Theresienstadt.
July 7, 1942 - Himmler grants permission for sterilization experiments at Auschwitz.
July 14, 1942 - Beginning of deportation of Dutch Jews to Auschwitz.
July 16/17 - 12,887 Jews of Paris are rounded up and sent to Drancy Internment Camp located outside the city. A total of approximately 74,000 Jews, including 11,000 children, will eventually be transported from Drancy to Auschwitz, Majdanek and Sobibor.
July 17/18 - Himmler visits Auschwitz-Birkenau for two days, inspecting all ongoing construction and expansion, then observes the extermination process from start to finish as two trainloads of Jews arrive from Holland. Kommandant Höss is then promoted. Construction includes four large gas chamber/crematories.
July 19, 1942 - Himmler orders Operation Reinhard, mass deportations of Jews in Poland to extermination camps.
July 22, 1942 - Beginning of deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto to the new extermination camp, Treblinka. Also, beginning of the deportation of Belgian Jews to Auschwitz.
July 23, 1942 - Treblinka extermination camp opened in occupied Poland, east of Warsaw. The camp is fitted with two buildings containing 10 gas chambers, each holding 200 persons. Carbon monoxide gas is piped in from engines placed outside the chamber, but Zyklon-B will later be substituted. Bodies are burned in open pits.
In August - The start of deportations of Croatian Jews to Auschwitz.
August 23, 1942 - Beginning of German Army attack on Stalingrad in Russia.
August 26-28 - 7,000 Jews arrested in unoccupied France.
September 9, 1942 - Open pit burning of bodies begins at Auschwitz in place of burial. The decision is made to dig up and burn those already buried, 107,000 corpses, to prevent fouling of ground water.
September 18, 1942 - Reduction of food rations for Jews in Germany.
September 26, 1942 - SS begins cashing in possessions and valuables of Jews from Auschwitz and Majdanek. German banknotes are sent to the Reichs Bank. Foreign currency, gold, jewels and other valuables are sent to SS Headquarters of the Economic Administration. Watches, clocks and pens are distributed to troops at the front. Clothing is distributed to German families. By February 1943, over 800 boxcars of confiscated goods will have left Auschwitz.
October 5, 1942 - Himmler orders all Jews in concentration camps in Germany to be sent to Auschwitz and Majdanek.
October 22, 1942 - SS put down a revolt at Sachsenhausen by a group of Jews about to be sent to Auschwitz.
October 25, 1942 - Deportations of Jews from Norway to Auschwitz begin.
October 28, 1942 - The first transport from Theresienstadt arrives at Auschwitz.
In November - The mass killing of 170,000 Jews in the area of Bialystok.
December 10, 1942 - The first transport of Jews from Germany arrives at Auschwitz.
In December - Exterminations at Belzec cease after an estimated 600,000 Jews have been murdered. The camp is then dismantled, plowed over and planted.
December 17, 1942 - British Foreign Secretary Eden tells the British House of Commons the Nazis are "now carrying into effect Hitler's oft repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people of Europe." The U.S. declares those crimes will be avenged.
December 28, 1942 - Sterilization experiments on women at Birkenau begin.
Map of Concentration/Death Camps
In 1943 - The number of Jews killed by SS Einsatzgruppen passes one million. Nazis then use special unitsof slave laborers to dig up and burn the bodies to remove all traces.
January 18, 1943 - First resistance by Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.
January 29, 1943 - Nazis order all Gypsies arrested and sent to extermination camps.
January 30, 1943 - Ernst Kaltenbrunner succeeds Heydrich as head of RSHA.
In February - The Romanian government proposes to the Allies the transfer of 70,000 Jews to Palestine, but receives no response from Britain or the U.S.
In February - Greek Jews are ordered into ghettos.
February 2, 1943 - Germans surrender to Russian troops at Stalingrad in the first big defeat of Hitler's armies.
February 27, 1943 - Jews working in Berlin armaments industry are sent to Auschwitz.
In March - The start of deportations of Jews from Greece to Auschwitz, lasting until August, totaling 49,900 persons.
March 1, 1943 - In New York, American Jews hold a mass rally at Madison Square Garden to pressure the U.S. government into helping the Jews of Europe.
March 17, 1943 - Bulgaria states opposition to deportation of its Jews.
March 22, 1943 - Newly built gas chamber/crematory IV opens at Auschwitz.
March 31, 1943 - Newly built gas chamber/crematory II opens at Auschwitz.
April 4, 1943 - Newly built gas chamber/crematory V opens at Auschwitz.
April 9, 1943 - Exterminations at Chelmno cease. The camp will be reactivated in the spring of 1944 to liquidate ghettos. In all, Chelmno will total 300,000 deaths.
April 19-30 - The Bermuda Conference occurs as representatives from the United States and Britain discuss the problem of refugees from Nazi-occupied countries, but results in inaction concerning the plight of the Jews.
In May - SS Dr. Josef Mengele arrives at Auschwitz.
May 13, 1943 - German and Italian troops in North Africa surrender to Allies.
May 19, 1943 - Nazis declare Berlin to be Judenfrei (cleansed of Jews).
June 11, 1943 - Himmler orders liquidation of all Jewish ghettos in occupied Poland.
June 25, 1943 - Newly built gas chamber/crematory III opens at Auschwitz. With its completion, the four new crematories at Auschwitz have a daily capacity of 4,756 bodies.
July 9/10 - Allied troops land in Sicily.
August 2, 1943 - Two hundred Jews escape from Treblinka extermination camp during a revolt. Nazis then hunt them down one by one.
August 16, 1943 - The Bialystok Ghetto is liquidated.
In August - Exterminations cease at Treblinka, after an estimated 870,000 deaths.
In September - The Vilna and Minsk Ghettos are liquidated.
September 11, 1943 - Germans occupy Rome, after occupying northern and central Italy, containing in all about 35,000 Jews.
September 11, 1943 - Beginning of Jewish family transports from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz.
In October - The Danish Underground helps transport 7,220 Danish Jews to safety in Sweden by sea.
October 14, 1943 - Massive escape from Sobibor as Jews and Soviet POWs break out, with 300 making it safely into nearby woods. Of those 300, fifty will survive. Exterminations then cease at Sobibor, after over 250,000 deaths. All traces of the death camp are then removed and trees are planted.
October 16, 1943 - Jews in Rome rounded up, with over 1,000 sent to Auschwitz.
In November - The Riga Ghetto is liquidated.
In November - The U.S. Congress holds hearings regarding the U.S. State Department's inaction regarding European Jews, despite mounting reports of mass extermination.
November 3, 1943 - Nazis carry out Operation Harvest Festival in occupied Poland, killing 42,000 Jews.
November 4, 1943 - Quote from Nazi newspaper, Der Stürmer, published by Julius Streicher - "It is actually true that the Jews have, so to speak, disappeared from Europe and that the Jewish 'Reservoir of the East' from which the Jewish pestilence has for centuries beset the peoples of Europe has ceased to exist. But the Führer of the German people at the beginning of the war prophesied what has now come to pass."
November 11, 1943 - Auschwitz Kommandant Höss is promoted to chief inspector of concentration camps. The new kommandant, Liebehenschel, then divides up the vast Auschwitz complex of over 30 sub-camps into three main sections.
December 2, 1943 - The first transport of Jews from Vienna arrives at Auschwitz.
December 16, 1943 - The chief surgeon at Auschwitz reports that 106 castration operations have been performed.
January 3, 1944 - Russian troops reach former Polish border.
January 24, 1944 - In response to political pressure to help Jews under Nazi control, President Roosevelt creates the War Refugee Board.
January 25, 1944 - Diary entry by Hans Frank, Gauleiter of Poland, concerning the fate of 2.5 million Jews originally under his jurisdiction - "At the present time we still have in the General Government perhaps 100,000 Jews."
In February - Eichmann visits Auschwitz.
March 19, 1944 - Nazis occupy Hungary (Jewish pop. 725,000). Eichmann arrives with Gestapo "Special Section Commandos."
March 24, 1944 - President Roosevelt issues a statement condemning German and Japanese ongoing "crimes against humanity."
April 5, 1944 - A Jewish inmate, Siegfried Lederer, escapes from Auschwitz-Birkenau and makes it safely to Czechoslovakia. He then warns the Elders of the Council at Theresienstadt about Auschwitz.
April 7, 1944 - Two Jewish inmates escape from Auschwitz-Birkenau and make it safely to Czechoslovakia. One of them, Rudolf Vrba, submits a report to the Papal Nuncio in Slovakia which is forwarded to the Vatican, received there in mid June.
April 14, 1944 - First transports of Jews from Athens to Auschwitz, totaling 5,200 persons.
In May - Himmler's agents secretly propose to the Western Allies to trade Jews for trucks, other commodities or money.
May 8, 1944 - Rudolf Höss returns to Auschwitz, ordered by Himmler to oversee the extermination of Hungarian Jews.
May 15, 1944 - Beginning of the deportation of Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz.
May 16, 1944 - Jews from Hungary arrive at Auschwitz. Eichmann arrives to personally oversee and speed up the extermination process. By May 24, an estimated 100,000 have been gassed. Between May 16 and May 31, the SS report collecting 88 pounds of gold and white metal from the teeth of those gassed. By the end of June, 381,661 persons - half of the Jews in Hungary - arrive at Auschwitz.
In June - A Red Cross delegation visits Theresienstadt after the Nazis have carefully prepared the camp and the Jewish inmates, resulting in a favorable report.
June 6, 1944 - D-Day: Allied landings in Normandy on the coast of northern France.
June 12, 1944 - Rosenberg orders Hay Action, the kidnapping of 40,000 Polish children aged ten to fourteen for slave labor in the Reich.
Summer - Auschwitz-Birkenau records its highest-ever daily number of persons gassed and burned at just over 9,000. Six huge pits are used to burn bodies, as the number exceeds the capacity of the crematories.
In July - Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg arrives in Budapest, Hungary, and proceeds to save nearly 33,000 Jews by issuing diplomatic papers and establishing 'safe houses.'
July 24, 1944 - Russian troops liberate the first concentration camp, at Majdanek where over 360,000 had been murdered.
August 4, 1944 - Anne Frank and family are arrested by the Gestapo in Amsterdam, then sent to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister Margot are later sent to Bergen-Belsen where Anne dies of typhus on March 15, 1945.
August 6, 1944 - Lodz, the last Jewish ghetto in Poland, is liquidated with 60,000 Jews sent to Auschwitz.
October 7, 1944 - A revolt by Sonderkommando (Jewish slave laborers) at Auschwitz-Birkenau results in complete destruction of Crematory IV.
October 15, 1944 - Nazis seize control of the Hungarian puppet government, then resume deporting Jews, which had temporarily ceased due to international political pressure to stop Jewish persecutions.
October 17, 1944 - Eichmann arrives in Hungary.
October 28, 1944 - The last transport of Jews to be gassed, 2,000 from Theresienstadt, arrives at Auschwitz.
October 30, 1944 - Last use of the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
November 8, 1944 - Nazis force 25,000 Jews to walk over 100 miles in rain and snow from Budapest to the Austrian border, followed by a second forced march of 50,000 persons, ending at Mauthausen.
November 25, 1944 - Himmler orders destruction of the crematories at Auschwitz.
Late 1944 - Oskar Schindler saves 1200 Jews by moving them from Plaszow labor camp to his hometown of Brunnlitz.
In 1945 - As Allied troops advance, the Nazis conduct death marches of concentration camp inmates away from outlying areas.
January 6, 1945 - Russians liberate Budapest, freeing over 80,000 Jews.
January 14, 1945 - Invasion of eastern Germany by Russian troops.
January 17, 1945 - Liberation of Warsaw by the Russians.
January 18, 1945 - Nazis evacuate 66,000 from Auschwitz.
January 27, 1945 - Russian troops liberate Auschwitz. By this time, an estimated 2,000,000 persons, including 1,500,000 Jews, have been murdered there.
April 4, 1945 - Ohrdruf camp is liberated, later visited by General Eisenhower.
April 10, 1945 - Allies liberate Buchenwald.
April 15, 1945 - Approximately 40,000 prisoners freed at Bergen-Belsen by the British, who report "both inside and outside the huts was a carpet of dead bodies, human excreta, rags and filth."
April 23, 1945 - Berlin is reached by Russian troops.
April 30, 1945 - Americans free 33,000 inmates from concentration camps.
May 2, 1945 - Theresienstadt taken over by the Red Cross.
May 5, 1945 - Mauthausen liberated.
May 7, 1945 - Unconditional German surrender signed by General Alfred Jodl at Reims.
May 9, 1945 - Hermann Göring captured by members of U.S. 7th Army.
May 23, 1945 - SS-Reichsführer Himmler commits suicide while in British custody.
March 11, 1946 - Former Auschwitz Kommandant Höss, posing as a farm worker, is arrested by the British. He testifies at Nuremberg, then is later tried in Warsaw, found guilty and hanged at Auschwitz, April 16, 1947, near Crematory I. "History will mark me as the greatest mass murderer of all time," Höss writes while in prison, along with his memoirs about Auschwitz.
October 16, 1946 - Göring commits suicide two hours before the scheduled execution of the first group of major Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. During his imprisonment, a (now repentant) Hans Frank states, "A thousand years will pass and the guilt of Germany will not be erased." Frank and the others are hanged and the bodies are brought to Dachau and burned (the final use of the crematories there) with the ashes then scattered into a river.
December 9, 1946 - 23 former SS doctors and scientists go on trial before a U.S. Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Sixteen are found guilty, with 7 hanged.
September 15, 1947 - Twenty one former SS-Einsatz leaders go on trial before a U.S. Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. Fourteen are sentenced to death, with only 4 (the group commanders) actually being executed - the other death sentences having been commuted.
May 11, 1960 - Adolf Eichmann is captured in Argentina by the Israeli secret service.
April 11 - August 14 - Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem for crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Found guilty and hanged at Ramleh on May 31, 1962. A fellow Nazi reported Eichmann once said "he would leap laughing into the grave because the feeling that he had five million people on his conscience would be for him a source of extraordinary satisfaction."

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