The Holocaust (1933–1945)
“Holocaust” is the term describing the Nazi annihilation of about 6 million Jews (two thirds of the pre-World War II European Jewish population), including 4,500,000 from Russia, Poland, and the Baltic; 750,000 from Hungary and Romania; 290,000 from Germany and Austria; 105,000 from The Netherlands; 90,000 from France; 54,000 from Greece.
The Holocaust was unique in its being genocide—the systematic destruction of a people solely because of religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, or sexual preference—on an unmatched scale. Along with the Jews, another 9 to 10 million people—Gypsies, Slavs (Poles, Ukrainians, and Belarussians), homosexuals, and the disabled—were exterminated.
- Hitler named German Chancellor (Jan.). Dachau, first concentration camp, established (March). Boycotts against Jews begin (April).
- Anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws passed by Reichstag; Jews lose citizenship and civil rights (Sept.).
- Buchenwald concentration camp opens (July).
- Extension of anti-Semitic laws to Austria after annexation (March). Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass)—anti-Semitic riots and destruction of Jewish institutions in Germany and Austria (Nov. 9). 26,000 Jews sent to concentration camps; Jewish children expelled from schools (Nov. 9–10). Expropriation of Jewish property and businesses (Dec.).
- As war continues, Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) follow German army into conquered lands, rounding up and massacring Jews and other “undesirables.”
- Goering instructs Heydrich to carry out the “final solution to the Jewish question” (July 31). Deportation of German Jews begins; massacres of Jews in Odessa and Kiev (Nov.); and in Riga and Vilna (Dec.).
- Mass killings using Zyklon-B begin at Auschwitz-Birkenau (Jan.). Nazi leaders attend Wannsee Conference to coordinate the “final solution” (Jan. 20). 100,000 Jews from Warsaw Ghetto deported to Treblinka death camp (July).
- Warsaw Ghetto uprisings (Jan. and April); Ghetto exterminated (May).
- 476,000 Hungarian Jews sent to Auschwitz (May–June). D-day (June 6). Soviet Army liberates Maidanek death camp (July). Nazis try to hide evidence of death camps (Nov.).
- As Allies advance, Nazis force concentration camp inmates on death marches. Americans liberate Buchenwald and British liberate Bergen-Belsen camps (April). Nuremberg War Crimes Trial (Nov. 1945–Oct. 1946).