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The Holocaust and Genocide

What is the Holocaust?

Photo about deportation of Jews from Lublin in 1942.

"The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its allies and collaborators. The Nazis came to power in Germany in January 1933. They believed that the Germans belonged to a race that was "superior" to all others. They claimed that the Jews belonged to a race that was "inferior" and a threat to the so-called German racial community."



By 1945, the Germans and their allies and collaborators killed nearly two out of every three European Jews as part of the "Final Solution." The "Final Solution" was the Nazi policy to murder the Jews of Europe. During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also persecuted other groups because of their perceived racial and biological inferiority. These included Roma ("Gypsies"), people with disabilities, some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others), Soviet prisoners of war, and blacks. German authorities persecuted other groups on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds. Among them were Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and homosexuals.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC



Holocaust Timeline

The following details a list of key chronological events of the Holocaust, spanning from 1933 to 1945. 

  • January 30: Adolf Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany
  • March 22: Dachau concentration camp opens
  • April 1: Boycott of Jewish shops and businesses
  • April 7: Laws for Re-establishment of the Civil Service barred Jews from holding civil service, university, and state positions
  • May 10: Public burnings of books written by Jews, political dissidents, and others not approved by the state
  • July 14: Law stripping East European Jewish immigrants of German citizenship


  • 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). Pressured by German army commanders, whose support Hitler needed to become President of Germany upon Hindenburg’s impending death, Hitler used the SS to murder SA Chief of Staff Ernst Röhm and his top commanders.
  • 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 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. Hitler now becomes the absolute dictator of Germany; there are no further legal or constitutional limits to his authority.
  • 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.

1935Holocaust Timeline the Rise of Nazism

  • September 15: “Nuremberg Laws”: Anti-Jewish racial laws enacted; Jews no longer considered German citizens; Jews could not marry Aryans, nor could they fly the German flag
  • November 15: Germany defines a “Jew”: Anyone with three Jewish grandparents; someone with two Jewish grandparents who identifies as a Jew


  • March 3: Jewish doctors barred from practicing medicine in German institutions
  • July: Sachsenhausen concentration camp opens


  • July 15: Buchenwald concentration camp opens


  • March 13: Anschluss (incorporation of Austria): All anti-Semitic decrees immediately applied in Austria
  • April 26: Mandatory registration of all property held by Jews inside the Reich
  • August 1: Adolf Eichmann establishes the Office of Jewish Emigration in Vienna to increase the pace of forced emigration
  • September 30: Munich Conference: Great Britain and France agree to 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 program in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland; 200 synagogues destroyed; 7,500 Jewish shops looted; 30,000 male Jews sent to concentration camps (Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen)
  • November 12: Decree forcing all Jews to transfer retail businesses to Aryan hands
  • November 15: All Jewish pupils expelled from German schools
  • December 12: One billion mark fine levied against German Jews for the destruction of property during Kristallnacht

Jude Star


  • March 15: Germans occupy Czechoslovakia
  • September 1: Beginning of World War II: Germany invades Poland
  • October 28: First Polish ghetto established in Piotrkow
  • November 23: Jews in German-occupied Poland forced to wear an arm band or yellow star


  • April 9: Germans occupy Denmark and southern Norway
  • May 7: Establishment of Lodz Ghetto
  • Lodz GhettoMay 10: Germany invades the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemberg, and France
  • May 20: Concentration camp established at Auschwitz
  • November 16: Establishment of Warsaw Ghetto


  • January 21-26: Anti-Jewish riots in Romania, hundreds of Jews murdered
  • April 6: Germany attacks Yugoslavia and Greece, occupation follows
  • June 22: Germany invades the Soviet Union
  • September 28-29: 34,000 Jews massacred by Einsatzgruppen at Babi Yar outside Kiev
  • October: Establishment of Auschwitz II (Birkenau)
  • December 8: Chelmno death camp begins operations


  • Turning Point

    January 20: Wannsee Conference in Berlin: Plan is developed for “Final Solution”

  • March 17: Gassing of Jews begins in Belzec
  • May: Gassing of Jews begins Sobibor
  • June: Jewish partisan units established in the forests of Byelorussia and the Baltic states
  • 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
  • Winter: Deportation of Jews from Germany, Greece and Norway to killing centers; Jewish partisan movement organized in forests near Lublin


  • March: Liquidation of Krakow ghetto
  • April 19: Warsaw Ghetto revolt begins
  • Summer: Armed resistance by Jews in Bedzin, Bialystok, Czestochowa, Lvov, and Tarnow ghettos
  • Fall: Liquidation of large ghettos in Minsk, Vilna, and Riga
  • October 14: Uprising in Sobibor
  • October-November: Rescue of the Danish Jewry


  • March 19: Germany occupies Hungary
  • May 15: Nazis begin deporting Hungarian Jews
  • July 24: Russians liberate Majdanek
  • October 7: Revolt by inmates at Auschwitz; one crematorium blown up
  • November: Last Jews deported from Terezin to Auschwitz

Death March1945

  • January 17: Evacuation of Auschwitz; beginning of death marches
  • January 27: Beginning of death march for inmates of Stutthof
  • April 6-10: Death march of inmates of Buchenwald
  • April 15: Liberation of Bergen Belsen by British Army
  • April: Liberation of Nordhausen, Ohrdruf, Gunskirchen, Ebensee and Dachau by American Army
  • May 5: Liberation of Mauthausen and Gusen by American Army

The Path to Nazi Genocide provides general background information on the Holocaust. This 38-minute film examines the Nazis’ rise and consolidation of power in Germany. Using rare footage, the film explores their ideology, propaganda, and persecution of Jews and other victims. It also outlines the path by which the Nazis and their collaborators led a state to war and to the murder of millions of people. By providing a concise overview of the Holocaust and those involved, this resource is intended to provoke reflection and discussion about the role of ordinary people, institutions, and nations between 1918 and 1945. 

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC.