Timeline of Rescue in the Holocaust

August 1914-November 1918
World War I.  Millions of soldiers die.  At the conclusion of World War I, many of the royal families of Europe are deposed.  First of many European oligarchies and “undemocratic democracies” are formed.
 
November 1914
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is founded to distribute funds to aid Jews in the Middle East and elsewhere.
 
1915
The Jewish Labor Committee is founded to help Jews in the Middle East.  It soon joins the Jewish Joint.
 
October 1917
Russian Revolution, led by Vladimir Lenin.  Czar Nicholas III is swept from power.  The Russian Revolution inspires Communist movements throughout Western Europe, including Germany, Italy, France, Austria and Hungary.  In response, extreme right wing and nationalistic movements, many of a fascist nature, are created.
 
January 5, 1919
The German Workers’ Party (DAP) is founded.  It is a small, right-wing political group based on German ultra-nationalism.  Hitler joins the party on September 12.
 
1920
League of Nations is founded.
 
February 1920
The German Workers’ Party becomes the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP).  It is known as the Nazi Party.
 
The Nazi Party platform is written.  It expresses ultra right views on German nationalism and antisemitism.  It proposes to exclude Jews from German life by revoking their citizenship.
 
November 1921
Hitler becomes head of the National Socialist German Workers’ party (Nazi).
 
The Munich Post opposes Hitler and the Nazi Party in numerous articles and editorials.  The articles accuse Hitler of being a political criminal.  They characterize the Nazi Party as gangsters.  These articles appear until Hitler comes to power in 1933.  Often intimidated and threatened, these editors and journalists continue their crusade against Hitler.  They are Martin Gruber, Edmund Goldschagg, Erhard Aurer and Julius Zerfass.
 
1922
Josef Stalin becomes Secretary General of the Communist Party in Russia.
 
February 6, 1922
Cardinal Achille Ratti of Milan is elected Pope, takes the name Pius XI.  He serves until his death in 1939.
 
October 31, 1922
Italian Fascist party, under Benito Mussolini, takes control of the Italian government.
 
1922-1923
High inflation devalues the German Mark, devastating the German economy.  The Weimar government is blamed.
 
March 1923
The Schutzstaffel (SS) is formed as a part of the Nazi Party.  Originally it was designed to be Hitler’s bodyguards.  It will become the organization responsible for carrying out the murder of millions of Jews and others during World War II.
 
November 9, 1923
In the so-called beer hall putsch, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis fail in their attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government in Munich.  Hitler is arrested, convicted and imprisoned.  He serves only nine months of a five-year sentence.
 
1924
US Congress passes Immigration Restriction Act.  It severely limits immigration for Asians and Eastern Europeans.
 
1925
Hitler writes and publishes his manifesto entitled Mein Kampf (My Struggle).  In it, he outlines his antisemitic views on racial purity and social Darwinism.  By 1939, it will have 500 printings and more than six million books printed.
 
Geneva Convention of 1925 outlaws the use of poison gas in war.  It also establishes rules for humane treatment of prisoners of war, sick, wounded and dead.
 
1926
Hitler publishes second volume of Mein Kampf.
 
1927
Josef Stalin ousts Trotsky from power in the USSR and becomes the absolute dictator.  The Communist government consolidates its hold on the Russian Confederation of States.
 
1928
Hitler writes his third book, detailing his race theory.  He promotes antisemitism as a central aspect of his personal and political career.  The book is not published until 1961.
 
1929
British diplomat Frank Foley is stationed in Berlin.  After 1933, he issues thousands of destination visas to England for German Jews.  He is responsible for saving more than 10,000 Jewish refugees.
 
Germany signs Geneva Convention of 1925.
 
January 20, 1929
Heinrich Himmler is appointed head of the SS (Reichsführer SS).
 
October 1929
New York Stock Exchange fails.  Stock values dissolve overnight.  This event initiates a worldwide economic depression.  It will not end until 1939.  The depression hits Germany extremely hard.
 
September 30, 1930
The Nazi party gets 18% of the popular vote in the German Reichstag election.
 
US Immigration Law of 1917 is enforced by the Hoover administration to limit US immigration.  This action is a result of the worldwide depression.
 
1931
The Race and Resettlement Main Office (RuSHA) is established by SS chief Himmler.
 
Pope Pius XI launches Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli on a Vatican diplomatic career as a Nuncio (Vatican diplomat).  Roncalli is appointed Archbishop of Areopolis and Apostolic Visitor to Greece.  Archbishop Roncalli appointed Apostolic Delegate (nuncio) to Bulgaria.  He serves there until 1934.
 
Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organization) is founded in Palestine.  It founds the Af-Al-Pi rescue operation in 1937.
 
September 18, 1931
Japan invades Manchuria and installs puppet Manchukuo regime.
 
October 30, 1931
Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugend) is established.
 
December 9, 1931
The Munich Post publishes a major article revealing Hitler’s and the Nazi Party’s plans to eventually remove Jews from German society and enslave them.
 
1932
The Faith Movement of German Christians is established by the Nazi Party.  It fosters ultra nationalism and antisemitism.
 
American journalist Dorothy Thompson publishes major anti-Nazi book entitled I saw Hitler!
 
Youth Aliyah (Youth Immigration) is founded in Germany by Recha Freier.  It brings thousands of Jews from Nazi Europe to Palestine.
 
June 14, 1932
German law prohibiting activities of Nazi Storm Troopers is lifted.
 
July 5, 1932
Oliviera Salazar elected Premier of Portugal.  He establishes his leadership as a fascist dictatorship.
 
July 31, 1932
The Nazis win more than 37% of the vote in a Reichstag election.
 
November 8, 1932
Franklin Delano Roosevelt elected President of the US by a landslide.
 
January 30, 1933
Adolf Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany by German President Paul von Hindenburg.
 
The Nazi party becomes the ruling party in Germany.
 
There are 525,000 German Jews, including those living in the Saar District.  German law defines Jews by race.  Under German law, there are 566,000 Jews.  Jews comprise less than one percent of the German population.
 
Voluntary Aryanization of Jewish businesses begins.  Under pressure to leave Germany, many Jews turn over their businesses to Nazi administrators or sell their businesses at a greatly reduced rate.
 
1933
More than 52,000 Jews leave Germany in the first year of the Nazi government.  There are 37,000 German Jews traveling who remain abroad.
 
The French Jewish Aid Society, the Comité d’Assistance aux Réfugiés (CAR), is founded to help German Jews emigrate to safety in France.
 
Jewish organizations worldwide attempt to have the Assembly of the League of Nations adopt measures to protect the rights of minorities being persecuted in Germany.  This effort is largely unsuccessful.  Later, the League initiates the Bernheim Petition, which partially protects the rights of German minorities in Upper Silesia.
 
German labor unions are dissolved.
 
Fifty concentration camps are built throughout Germany.  They include Dachau, Oranienburg, Esterwegen and Sachsenburg (Sachsenhausen).  These brutal camps are designed to house enemies of Nazism, Socialists and Jews.  In 1933, 25,000 people are sent to these camps.
 
The Faith Movement of German Christians becomes an official state-sanctioned organization.
 
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee involves itself in refugee issues of the League of Nations. 
 
February 2, 1933
All political demonstrations are forbidden in Germany.
 
February 20, 1933
Hitler gains support of many leading German businessmen and industrialists.
 
February 27-28, 1933
The German Reichstag [Parliament] is burned down under mysterious circumstances.  As a result, a state of emergency is declared.  Hitler receives emergency powers from German President Paul von Hindenburg.  Nazi storm troopers arrest ten thousand opponents of the Nazi party.  Many of these are executed or “disappear.”
 
March 4, 1933
Franklin D. Roosevelt inaugurated as 32nd President of the United States.  Roosevelt appoints Cordell Hull as Secretary of State and Sumner Wells as Assistant Secretary of State.
 
March 5, 1933
Individual German states no longer have power.
 
Nazi party wins 288 seats in the Reichstag.
 
March 9-10, 1933
Anti-Jewish riots, organized by the Nazi Party, are carried out by the SA Storm Troopers.
 
March 21, 1933
Nazis set up special courts to prosecute anti-Nazi dissidents.
 
March 22, 1933
Dachau concentration camp opens near Munich, Germany.  Dachau is used to imprison enemies of the Nazi party.  It becomes the training camp and prototype for Nazi concentration camps under the SS.  By the end of the war, there will be more than one thousand of these camps and thousands more slave labor camps established throughout the Nazi empire.
 
March 24, 1933
Passage of the Enabling Act by the Nazi-controlled Reichstag suspends and thereby destroys all civil liberties in Germany.  It establishes a completely totalitarian system with only one leader and one political party, which controls all communication.
 
March 27, 1933
The American Jewish Congress (AJC) organizes an anti-Nazi rally in New York City.  It protests the Nazi boycott of Jewish-owned businesses in Germany.
 
Japan announces it will leave the League of Nations in response to efforts by the League to curb Japan’s expansion in China.
 
March 30, 1933
The American Committee in Religious Rights and Minorities sends a delegation to Germany to investigate the actions against Jews.  The committee consists of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish clergymen.
 
April 1933
All Jewish welfare and social institutions in Germany are united in a single organization.  It is the Zentralausschuss für Hilfe und Aufbau (ZA).
 
April 1, 1933
Nationwide boycott of Jewish shops and businesses in Germany.
 
April 4, 1933
Jews are barred from German civil service and public employment (Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service).
 
April 6, 1933
The Belgian Federation of Protestant Churches protests the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.
 
April 7, 1933
Nazi government defines non-Aryan descent.
 
April 11, 1933
Economic sanctions are implemented against Jews.
 
The Lutheran Church in Germany actively protests recently-enacted antisemitic laws.
 
April 13, 1933
The British House of Commons condemns Nazi policy against Jews.
 
April 25, 1933
A law restricting Jews from schools and universities is enforced (the Law for Preventing Overcrowding in Schools and Schools of Higher Education).
 
April 26, 1933
The establishment of the Gestapo (Secret State Police) under Nazi party rule by Hermann Göring.
 
May 10, 1933
Nazis begin public burning of books by Jewish authors and others opposed to Nazism.  Nazi government imposes censorship of newspapers and publishing houses throughout Germany.
 
May 17, 1933
The Bernheim Petition, protesting Nazi anti-Jewish legislation in German Upper Silesia, is submitted to the League of Nations headquarters in Geneva.  The petition is granted June 1, 1933.
 
May 23, 1933
Prominent Dutch church leaders protest Nazi treatment of German Jews.
 
May 26, 1933
1,200 US Protestant clergymen sign a manifesto protesting Nazi treatment of German Jews.
 
Spring 1933
King Gustav V of Sweden and other prominent Swedes warn Hitler that continued persecution of Jews would erode sympathy for Germany.
 
René de Weck is appointed Plenipotentiary Minister for Switzerland in Romania, Yugoslavia and Greece, stationed in Bucharest, Romania.  From this post, de Weck is eventually instrumental in helping to save thousands of Jews.
 
June 26, 1933
The Nazis establish the Academy for German Law.  The Academy rewrites German law to conform to Nazi ideals and policies.
 
June 27, 1933
A major rally in London protests Nazi persecution of Jews.
 
June 29, 1933
A call for a worldwide action to help German Jewry is issued and published by former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and other prominent individuals.
 
July 6, 1933
The British House of Commons issues a statement of sympathy for persecuted Jews in Nazi Germany.
 
July 14, 1933
Nazi party becomes the only legal party in Germany.  Any form of opposition becomes a criminal offense, punishable by law.
 
The Law Regarding Revocation of Naturalization and the Annulment of German Citizenship is enacted.  This law is intended to strip Eastern European Jews residing in Germany of their citizenship and rights.
 
Germany enacts Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases.  This law allows for involuntary sterilization of potential parents and for the euthanization of disabled and handicapped persons.  The Nazis label people with disabilities as “defective” and “useless eaters.”  They are declared Lebensunwertes Leben (life unworthy of life).  By 1937, 200,000 persons are involuntarily sterilized.
 
July 20, 1933
The Vatican signs Reich Concordat with Nazi Germany, which gives Hitler’s regime legitimacy.  This concordat purports to protect church rights and property; in fact, it closes Germany’s center party and withdraws the Catholic Church from German political organizations.
 
30,000 Londoners protest Nazi persecution of German Jews.
 
August 25, 1933
Ha’avarah (transfer) agreement between the German foreign office and the Jewish community in Palestine is implemented.  It allows Jews who are emigrating to Palestine to transfer their assets there.  In turn, the German foreign office receives goods or funds from Palestine.  This agreement is facilitated by sympathetic German diplomats in the Germany foreign ministry.  Eventually, more than 40,000 German Jews emigrate to Palestine under this agreement.
 
September 1933
Dr. Leo Baeck elected to a new Jewish organization called Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden (Representative Council of Jews in Germany).  This organization is established in Berlin.
 
German Jews are banned from journalism and all cultural endeavors, including art, music, literature, theater and broadcasting.
 
Himmler is appointed head of all police units in Germany except in Prussia.
 
October 1933
In response to Nazi persecution of Jews and their exodus from Germany, the League of Nations establishes the High Commission for Refugees.  US diplomat James Grover MacDonald is appointed its head.  MacDonald will become a vigorous advocate on behalf of Jewish refugees throughout the war.
 
The American Jewish Joint works with the League of Nations to try to help resolve Jewish refugee issues.
 
October 21, 1933
Germany withdraws from the League of Nations.
 
October 29, 1933
Jewish organizations meet in London to prepare to work with the League of Nations High Commissioner of Refugees.
 
November 12, 1933
In a German general election, 92% of the electoral vote is for Nazi candidates.
 
November 17, 1933
The United States recognizes the USSR and resumes trade.
 
December 1933
The Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden, which was originally founded in 1901, becomes the Emigration Section of the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland (RVE).
 
1934
Aliyah Bet begins operation to bring Jews from Europe into Palestine.  From 1934 to 1939, 17,240 Jews illegally immigrate to Palestine.
 
Angelo Roncalli appointed Apostolic Delegate (nuncio) to Turkey and Greece (1934-1944).  He establishes friendly relations with the governments and Eastern Orthodox clergy.
 
Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara resigns from position as Deputy Consul General in Manchuria in protest of the inhumane treatment of the Chinese.
 
The Dutch Catholic Church prohibits Dutch Catholics from joining the Dutch Nazi party.
 
Dachau and other Nazi concentration camps come under the administration and control of the SS.
 
Worldwide boycott of German goods is established in Geneva.
 
January 1, 1934
All Jewish holidays are removed from the official German calendar.
 
January 26, 1934
Germany and Poland sign non-aggression agreement.
 
February 17, 1934
Great Britain, France and Italy declare that Austria must remain an independent nation.
 
March 23, 1934
Law Regarding Expulsion from the Reich enacted.  This law paves the way for deporting Eastern European Jews from Germany.
 
April 1934
Peoples’ Court (Volksgericht) is established in Germany.  It is designed to suppress anti-Nazi activities.  Under this law there is no right to trial by jury or appeal.
 
June 30, 1934
Hitler orders SS leader Heinrich Himmler to organize the murder of the SA (Brownshirt) leadership.  More than 100 of Hitler’s rivals are murdered.  Among them are Ernst Röhm and former German Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher.  This action becomes known as the Night of the Long Knives.
 
July 25, 1934
Chancellor Dollfüss of Austria is assassinated by Austrian Nazis.
 
Hehalutz and the Revisionist Zionist Movement begin to organize illegal immigration of Jews from Central and Eastern Europe.
 
August 2, 1934
German President Paul von Hindenburg dies.  Hitler proclaims himself Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Reich Chancellor).  German armed forces must now swear personal allegiance to Hitler as Führer (leader).
 
August 19, 1934
Ninety-eight percent of German voters approve of the merger of the offices of President and Chancellor.
 
September 27, 1934
Great Britain, France and Italy again reaffirm their support for an independent Austria.
 
October 1, 1934
In violation of the Versailles Treaty of 1919, Germany begins the buildup of its army, navy and air force with over a half million soldiers.
 
December 1934
The US Attorney General issues ruling that Secretary of Labor can issue a visa if immigrants post a financial bond in advance.
 
December 29, 1934
Japan rejects the Washington Treaties of 1922 and 1930, which impose limits on the size of its navy operating in the Pacific.
 
1935
Holland takes in 34,000 German Jewish refugees.  15,000 become permanent residents. 
 
62,000 Jews immigrate to Palestine.
 
Violent attacks against Jews in Poland cause many Jews to emigrate to Palestine.
 
The German military Reichswehr is renamed Wehrmacht (Army).  Hitler continues to rebuild and enlarge his armies.
 
The National Coordinating Committee (predecessor to the National Refugee Service) is founded to coordinate private rescue agencies.  It is created at the instigation of the US State Department.
 
The antisemitic Union of Protestant Churches is created and controlled by the Nazi government to disseminate its ideas.
 
The SA (Sturmabteilung) is incorporated into the SS.
 
The Gestapo enacts regulations threatening to arrest and intern in a concentration camp any refugee who returns to Germany.
 
Chiune Sugihara is assigned to the European Department of the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
 
January 5, 1935
Archbishop Angelo Roncalli is transferred as Papal Nuncio to Ankara, Turkey.
 
January 7, 1935
Benito Mussolini and French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval sign agreement between Italy and France.
 
January 13, 1935
Germany retakes Saarland from France.
 
March 16, 1935
Germany reinstates conscription to the German Wehrmacht in direct violation of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles.
 
March 17, 1935
The German Confessing Church protests persecution of Jews.  It maintains its protests throughout the war.  As a result, seven hundred clergymen are arrested.  Some are sent to concentration camps.
 
May 12, 1935
Polish President Jozef Pilsudski dies.  Pilsudski has protected Jews against antisemitism in Poland.  After his death, antisemitism spreads widely throughout Poland.
 
May 21, 1935
Law in Germany forbids non-Aryans from joining German armed forces.
 
September 15, 1935
Anti-Jewish laws known as “Nuremberg Laws” are enacted in Germany.  These include the Law Respecting Reich Citizenship and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor.  Jews are no longer considered German citizens.  Soon, hundreds of additional edicts are enacted.
 
International reaction to the Nuremberg Laws is almost universally negative.
 
October 3, 1935
Italian army attacks and invades Ethiopia.
 
November 14, 1935
The First Ordinance to the Reich Citizenship Law institutes a system to categorize and define degrees of Jewishness.  It specifies that “a Jew cannot be a Reich citizen.”
 
December 20, 1935
The Church of England condemns Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany.
 
December 27, 1935
James MacDonald, High Commissioner for Refugees of the League of Nations, issues a scathing report and resigns in protest over the failure of the League to help Jews and in response to world indifference to the refugee crisis.
 
December 31, 1935
Jews removed from civil service positions in Germany.
 
1936
Italy strengthens ties with Nazi Germany.  Italian fascism turns increasingly to militant anti-Semitism.  Escalating Italian anti-Semitic press campaigns, talks of "Jewish and Zionist danger."
 
Council for German Jewry (CFGJ) is established in London, England.  It helps more than 100,000 Jews to emigrate from Germany.
 
The US State Department is ordered to revoke the Hoover Executive Order of 1930 and institute a more liberal version of the “likely to become a public charge” (LPC) clause.
 
March 7, 1936
Germans march into the Rhineland, previously demilitarized by the Versailles Treaty.  The United States, Great Britain and France denounce the invasion.
 
March 9, 1936
Jews of Przytyk, Poland, are attacked by local citizens.
 
March 17, 1936
Jews and Poles protest pogroms against Jews in Poland.
 
April 1, 1936
The Arab High Committee is formed to unite against Jewish territorial claims in or immigration to Palestine.
 
April 19, 1936
Arab Revolt (1936-1939) begins in Palestine.  This leads to substantial cuts in Jewish immigration by British authorities.
 
May 5, 1936
Ethiopia falls to Italy.
 
June 1936
Léon Blum, a Jew, is elected Premier of France.
 
June 17, 1936
Heinrich Himmler, SS Chief, appointed to head all German police.
 
June 30, 1936
Jews in Poland organize general strike to protest recent pogroms.
 
July 12, 1936
Sachsenhausen concentration camp opens.
 
July 16-18, 1936
The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.  In Spain, right wing general Francisco Franco leads a mutiny against the Spanish Republican government.  Hitler sends thousands of German troops to support Franco’s forces.  The Germans use the Spanish Civil War to test new weapons and tactics, especially the Luftwaffe (air force), which perfects the technique of dive bombing.  Hitler also perfects the Blitzkrieg (lightening war).  Mussolini sends his Italian soldiers to fight for the Republican side. The war will last until 1939 with Franco’s victory over the legal Spanish Republican Government. 
 
8,000 Jews go to Spain as volunteers in the International Brigade.  They comprise an estimated 30% of the total volunteers who fight against the Nationalist forces.
 
August 1-16, 1936
The International Olympic Games are held in Berlin.  Persecution of Jews is temporarily suspended by Hitler and the Nazis.
 
September 7, 1936
25% tax is levied on all Jewish property in Germany.
 
September 23, 1936
Sachsenhausen concentration camp is opened in Oranienberg, 15 miles northeast of Berlin.  Initially, it imprisons opponents of the Nazi regime.  More than 100,000 people will die there.
 
October 1, 1936
Criminal court judges in Berlin swear a personal oath to Adolph Hitler.
 
The Nationalist Rebellion appoints General Franco as Chief of State in its provisional government.
 
October 25, 1936
Hitler and Mussolini form Rome-Berlin Axis.  This is a formal alliance between fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.
 
November 6, 1936
The Spanish Nationalists seize Madrid and begin the Spanish Nationalist government in Valencia, Spain.
 
November 18, 1936
Germany and Italy formally recognize Franco’s Nationalist government in Spain.  Germany sends volunteer soldiers (Condor Legion) to fight on behalf of Franco’s fascist Nationalist army.
 
November 25, 1936
Germany and Japan sign Anti-Cominturn Pact against the Soviet Union. This pact attempts to thwart Soviet territorial aspirations in Europe.
 
Germany recognizes Japan’s puppet regime in Manchuria, China.
 
December 27, 1936
Great Britain and France agree to non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War.
 
1937
At the annual Nuremberg meeting of the Nazi Party, Hitler declares the Reich will last a thousand years.
 
The right-wing, antisemitic Hungarian fascist party, called the Arrow Cross, is formed.
 
Adolph Eichmann visits Palestine to explore possible Jewish immigration from Germany.
 
The chief rabbi of Milan, an old friend of the Pope from when he was the cardinal of Milan, meets with Pope Pius XI.  The rabbi asks the Pope to intervene on behalf of persecuted German Jews.
 
Paul Baerwald becomes head of the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
 
January 1, 1937
The Archbishop of Canterbury attacks antisemitism.
 
January 6, 1937
Roosevelt renews US Neutrality Act.  It specifically forbids the shipment of arms for use in the Civil War in Spain.
 
January 20, 1937
Roosevelt is inaugurated for a second term as US President.
 
January 21, 1937
The Nansen Assistance Organization is established in Oslo, Norway.  Its goal is to aid refugees and victims of Nazism to protect the rights of stateless people.
 
March 14, 1937
In Germany, Catholic nuns and priests are arrested, and Catholic schools, convents and monasteries are closed, due to their anti-Nazi activities. 
 
Pope Pius XI issues a Papal encyclical, Mit Brennender Sorge [With Burning Anxiety].  Although it does not mention Hitler or Nazism, it comes out strongly against racism, extreme nationalism and totalitarianism.  The encyclical is smuggled into Germany and read on Palm Sunday in all Catholic churches.
 
May 28, 1937
Neville Chamberlain becomes Prime Minister of Great Britain.
 
Spring 1937
Dr. Feng Shan Ho posted as First Secretary to Chinese Legation in Vienna.
 
Jun 11, 1937
Jews are forbidden to give testimony in German courts.
 
July 7, 1937
Japan invades northeast China.  Japan practices genocidal policies against the Chinese population.  Hundreds of thousands of Chinese will be brutally murdered.
 
July 15, 1937
Buchenwald concentration camp opens near Weimar, Germany.  Tens of thousands of prisoners will be murdered there.  Ten thousand Jews will be taken to Buchenwald after Kristallnacht.
 
July 19, 1937
Nazis sponsor a major exhibition called “Degenerate Art” (Entartete Kunst) in Munich.  It denigrates modern art, and works by Jewish artists.
 
August 28, 1937
Japanese forces occupy Beijing [Peking] and Tianjin, China.
 
September 7, 1937
Hitler declares the Treaty of Versailles invalid.
 
A World Conference of the Society of Friends (Quakers) condemns Nazi antisemitism.
 
November 5, 1937
The Hossback Protokol is written.  These are the minutes from the meeting where Hitler outlines his war aims against Austria and Czechoslovakia.
 
November 6, 1937
Italy joins German-Japanese Anti-Comminturn Pact.
 
November 8, 1937
Nazi-sponsored antisemitic exhibit called “The Eternal Jew” opens in Munich.
 
November 9, 1937
Japanese military forces capture and occupy Shanghai, China.  Shanghai eventually becomes a major safe haven for 18,000 Jewish refugees from Europe.
 
November 25, 1937
Germany and Japan sign a military and political treaty.
 
December 5-13, 1937
Japanese troops conquer Nanjing [Nanking], China.  250,000 Chinese are killed by the Japanese army.  It is called the Rape of Nanjing.
 
December 11, 1937
Italy resigns from the League of Nations.
 
1938
Japanese and German aggression cause Roosevelt and the US to review its position on neutrality and isolation.
 
Between 1938 and 1939, 17,000 Jews illegally enter Palestine.  Most of them are from Central Europe.
 
Between 1938 and 1941, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) helps rescue 30,000 European Jews.  Most of them are brought to the port cities of Lisbon and Milan. 
 
The National Refugee Service is created in the United States to help refugees immigrate to the United States.
 
The Jewish community initiates a worldwide boycott of German products and services to protest the treatment of German and Austrian Jews.
 
US Ambassador to Germany William E. Dodd protests the treatment of Jews and in particular the confiscation of Jewish property in Germany.  Dodd sends numerous reports regarding this to the State Department.  He recommends formal protests.
 
The Union des Sociétés Juives (USJ) is founded in France.
 
The Schweizerischer Israelitischer Gemeindebund (SIG; the Federation of Jewish Communities in Switzerland), headed by Saly Mayer, takes care of refugees coming from Germany and Austria.  Mayer negotiates with Swiss immigration officials to liberalize immigration laws and procedures.
 
US Congressman Charles A. Buckley writes FDR with a plan to resettle European Jews in the territory of Alaska.  His proposal is rejected.
 
Swiss Minister Maximilian Jaeger is sent to Budapest, Hungary.
 
By late 1938, more than 25% of Germany’s 525,000 Jews (150,000) have emigrated. 
 
Between April and December 1938, 30% of Austrian Jews (50,000 individuals) escape.
 
In 1938, there are 57,000 Italian Jews out of a total Italian population of 45,600,000.  As a result of continuing anti-Semitic policy, 5,000 Italian Jews emigrate and more than 4,000 convert to Christianity.  After emigration and conversion, the Jewish population of Italy is reduced to 35,156.
 
Bernhard Kahn, head of the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in Europe, retires.  To European Jews, he is known as “Mr. Joint.”
 
January 1938
Swedish government institutes strict immigration standards.
 
Dachau concentration camp is expanded.
 
January 1, 1938
Sweden passes a law severely limiting immigration.
 
January 21, 1938
Romania revokes laws protecting its Jewish citizens.  Some Romanian Jews lose their citizenship.
 
February 1938
Hitler removes key generals from the German Wehrmacht (Army).  These generals opposed Hitler’s war aims.
 
Joachim von Ribbentrop becomes German foreign minister.
 
February 4, 1938
Hitler declares himself Commander of the Wehrmacht.  He appoints General Wilhelm Keitel as Chief of Staff.  Joachim von Ribbentrop is appointed German Foreign Minister.
 
February 11, 1938
Hitler invites Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg to Berchtesgaden.  Hitler demands that the Austrian Nazi party be incorporated into the Austrian government.  He demands that Artur von Seyss-Inquart be made Austrian Minister of the Interior.  Schuschnigg understands that this ultimatum will inevitably lead to the end of Austrian independence.
 
February 16, 1938
Under pressure, Schuschnigg appoints Seyss-Inquart as Minister of Security.  Schuschnigg declares a general amnesty for all Austrian Nazi party members, including those who were responsible for the murder of Dollfuss.
 
February 20, 1938
British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden resigns in protest of British Prime Minister Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement of Hitler and Nazi Germany.
 
February 21-22, 1938
Winston Churchill leads a vote of censure against Chamberlain and his appeasement policy.
 
March 9, 1938
Schuschnigg calls for a popular vote on Austrian independence.  Hitler demands that the vote be postponed and demands Schuschnigg’s resignation.
 
March 12, 1938
German troops cross into Austria.
 
March 13, 1938
Anschluss (annexation of Austria).  Austria becomes a province of the German Greater Reich and is renamed Austmark.  Vienna loses its status as a capital and becomes a provincial administrative seat.  All antisemitic decrees imposed on German Jews are immediately applied in Austria.  Nearly 200,000 more Jews come under Hitler’s control.
 
As a result, the Roosevelt administration combines both the German and Austrian immigration quotas together.
 
The Israelitische Kulturgemeinde (IKG; Israeli Cultural Society) in Vienna is the main organization representing the Jewish community, both in the city and provinces.  Dr. Joseph Löwenherz becomes head of the IKG.
 
March 14, 1938
Cheering crowds greet Hitler as he parades triumphantly through Vienna.
 
March 18, 1938
SS Chief Heinrich Himmler given power to operate in Austria.  The offices of Vienna’s Jewish community and Zionist organizations are closed and their leaders jailed.  All Jewish organizations and congregations are forbidden.  One hundred ten prominent Jewish leaders are arrested and deported to Dachau.  Jews are banned from any public activity.
 
March 23, 1938
Nazi occupying forces in Austria withdraw legal recognition and tax exempt status from Jewish organizations.
 
April 1938
The Nazi government in Austria prepares a list of wealthy Jews in preparation for large scale confiscation of Jewish property and assets.
 
April 5, 1938
New anti-Jewish riots break out in Poland.
 
April 10, 1938
99.73% of Austrians vote in favor of annexation to Germany.
 
April 14, 1938
Rescue and relief groups meet at the White House “to undertake a preliminary consideration of the most effective manner in which private individuals and organizations within the United States can cooperate with the government in the work to be undertaken by the International Committee which will be created to facilitate the immigration of political refugees from Austria and Germany.”  It becomes the Presidential Advisory Committee on Political Refugees (PACPR).
 
April 28, 1938
An order calling for registration of all Jewish property is enacted in Nazi Germany.  This is a first step toward confiscation.
 
May 1938
The German Nuremberg Laws, which forcibly segregate Jews in Germany and deprive them of citizenship and the means of livelihood, are officially enforced in Austria. More than 200,000 Austrian Jews would be persecuted under these laws, according to German records.
 
2,000 Jewish leaders in Austria are arrested from a pre-prepared list and are sent to Dachau in four transports.
 
To force emigration, the families of Jews arrested and deported to concentration camps are told that proof of immediate emigration would secure their release. German Property Transfer Office actively confiscates Jewish property, businesses and bank accounts.
 
The methods used in Austria combining economic expropriation and expulsion of Jews become the model in future Nazi-conquered territories.
 
Vienna becomes the center of emigration. All foreign consulates are besieged by Jewish refugees desperate for visas. Most refuse to help.
 
Dr. Ho appointed Chinese Consul General in Vienna, reporting to the Chinese Embassy in Berlin.  Ho issues end destination Shanghai visas to Austrian Jews who are being forced to emigrate.  Visas are issued on his own authority, without permission from his government, enabling thousands of Austrian Jews to escape.  Ho is ordered to desist by the Chinese Ambassador in Berlin, but ignores the order.
 
May 3, 1938
Flossenberg concentration camp opens in Bavaria.  More than 14,000 people will be murdered there.
 
May 16, 1938
PACPR meets at the State Department and appoints James G. McDonald as Chairman and Samuel Cavert as its Secretary.
 
May 29, 1938
Anti-Jewish laws are enacted in Hungary.
 
June 9, 1938
The “June Action” (Juniaktion).  Hitler orders the destruction of the Great Synagogue of Munich, followed by the destruction of the Nuremberg and Dortmund synagogues on June 15.
 
June 15, 1938
Fifteen hundred Jews are arrested and taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany.
 
June 22, 1938
Pope Pius XI orders the drafting of an important encyclical letter denouncing racism and anti-Semitism, entitled Humani Generis Unitas [The Unity of the Human Race].  It denounces racism and specifically mentions the persecution of Jews.  It is more than 100 pages long.  Due to the death of Pius XI, it is never published.
 
July 1938
Major anti-Semitic publication in Italy declares the existence of a "pure Italian race of Aryan stock," in which Jews had never belonged.
 
July 6-15, 1938
Representatives from 34 countries meet at Evian, France, to discuss refugee policies.  All of the countries refuse to help or let in more Jewish refugees.  Australia’s response to accepting Jewish refugees states: “As we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one.”  The lack of support for Jewish refugees signals to Hitler that the world is unconcerned with Jewish refugees.
 
The US State Department declares, “No country would be expected to make any changes in its immigration legislation.”
 
As an outcome of the Evian Conference, an Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees is established to help refugees.  It is headed by Lord Winterton and George Rublee.  It is, however, highly ineffectual and fails to help Jews who are leaving Germany to take their assets with them.
 
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee attends the Evian Conference and is disappointed with the outcome.
 
Dr. Heinrich Neumann, a Viennese Jew, is released from a concentration camp and sent to the Evian Conference with a secret proposal by the Nazis.  The proposal states that the Nazis will allow Jews to leave Austria and Germany for $250 each or $1,000 per family.  The delegates were indifferent to this proposal.
 
Ira Hirschmann, an American Jew acting as a private citizen, attends the Evian conference and witnesses its futility.  He travels to Vienna and underwrites many dozens of affidavits for Jewish refugees.  After returning to the United States, he becomes Chairman of the Board of the University in Exile.
 
Dr. Heinrich Rothmund, former Chief of the Swiss Federal Police, objects to Jewish refugees coming to Switzerland: “Switzerland, which has as little use for these Jews as has Germany, will herself take measures to protect Switzerland from being swamped by the Jews with the connivance of the Viennese police.”
 
August 8, 1938
The first concentration camp in Austria, Mauthausen, opens near Linz.  Between 1938 and 1945, 200,000 persons will be imprisoned there and more than 120,000 will be murdered.
 
August 13, 1938
On his own authority, Kauko Supanen, Vice Consul for Finland in Vienna, Austria, grants provisional visas to Jewish applicants.  Fifty Jews bearing his visa arrive in Helsinki on this day.  Soon, the Finnish Foreign Ministry rebukes the Consul and orders him not to issue visas to Jews.
 
August 17, 1938
A Nazi decree forces Jews who do not have names that are recognized as Jewish to add the names “Israel” for males and “Sarah” for females as middle names.
 
August 20, 1938
Reichszentrale für Jüdische Auswanderung [Central Office of Jewish Emigration] is established by SS officer Adolph Eichmann in Austria.  This office is to force Jews to emigrate by expropriating their assets and removing all of their civil rights.  This model system is soon adopted in Germany and Czechoslovakia.
 
August - December, 1938
Police captain Paul Grüninger, in the Swiss town of St. Gallen, allows 3,600 Austrian Jewish refugees entry into Switzerland, against the policy of the Swiss government.  Many of these refugees had Chinese visas issued by Ho and other diplomats. 
 
Swiss diplomat Ernst Prodolliet, stationed in Bregenz, Austria, works with Grüninger. On his own authority, Prodolliet issues visas and accompanies Jews to the Swiss border.
 
September 1938
First anti-Semitic laws are passed in Italy.  Forbids Jews from teaching in colleges. Orders the deportation of all Jewish aliens residing in Italy who had immigrated after 1919.  A department for demography and race is established in the Italian government.  This agency establishes a racial policy against Jews in government and civil life.
 
Concentration camp Neuengamme is established near Hamburg, Germany.  More than 10,000 prisoners are sent there.  50,000 will perish.
 
Berlin Putsch fails.  This is a plan by the German general staff to arrest Hitler and have him committed to a mental institution.
 
September 1-3, 1938
The Italian government enacts a law that foreign Jews can no longer reside in Italy.  Jews who have been naturalized after January 1, 1919, lose their citizenship and are treated as foreigners.
 
September 7, 1938
Pope Pius XI condemns Catholic participation in anti-Semitic activities.  He declares, “Christians are the spiritual descendants of the patriarch Abraham; we are all spiritual Semites.”
 
September 15 and September 22, 1938
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain meets with Hitler in Germany to discuss the Sudetenland crisis.  Hitler demands Czechoslovakia return Sudeten territories to Germany.  Hitler states that this will be his last territorial demand in Europe.  Chamberlain has agreed to Hitler’s demands to annex the Sudetenland.  Chamberlain signs Friendship Treaty with Germany.  Chamberlain returns to England bearing an agreement he signed with Hitler and states that there would be “peace in our time.”
 
September 26, 1938
France partially mobilizes its army in the wake of the Sudeten Czechoslovakia crisis.
 
September 27, 1938
The League of Nations declares Japan the aggressor in China.
 
September 29-30, 1938
The Munich Conference is held.  It is attended by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, French President Daladier, Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini, and Hitler.  Great Britain, France and Italy agree to allow the Nazis to annex the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.  Czechoslovakia is not allowed to participate in the conference.
 
The General Assembly of the League of Nations merges the Nansen Office for Refugees with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.
 
October 1938
The Polish Consul in Lipsk, Germany, whose name is Feliks Chiczewski, prevents Polish Jews from being expelled from Germany by allowing them to seek refuge in the Polish consulate building and garden.
 
The Nazis expel 18,000 Jews of Polish ancestry living in Germany.  Five thousand of these are sent to a Polish border village named Zbaszyn.  The Jewish Joint helps these refugees.
 
October 2, 1938
In response to its censure, Japan withdraws from the League of Nations.
 
October 4, 1938
On the eve of the Jewish High Holiday, a pogrom is enacted against the Viennese Jewish community.  Many Jews are thrown out of their apartments and homes.
 
October 5, 1938
Following request by Swiss authorities, Germans mark all Jewish passports with a large letter “J” to restrict Jews from crossing the border into Switzerland.
 
October 6, 1938
The Czech Sudetenland is annexed and occupied by the German Army.  Soon, 200,000 Czechs are expelled or flee the territory.  Czech President Eduard Benes resigns as a result of the annexation.
 
Italy’s Grand Fascist Council passes antisemitic laws.  Jews are to be excluded from public professions.
 
Polish Ministry of the Interior issues edict requiring Polish citizens to have their passports revalidated by October 29, 1938 or they cannot return to Poland.  This affects many Polish Jewish refugees.
 
October 7, 1938
Supreme Council of the Italian Fascist Party establishes policy and principles for anti-Semitic legislation.
 
October 28-29, 1938
61,000 Polish Jews are expelled from Germany to the Polish town of Zbasyn, on the German border.
 
October 29, 1938
Nazis make a list of Jews who did not comply with the regulation to have their passports marked with a “J.”
 
November 1938
Pio Perucchi and Candido Porta, Swiss Consular Officers in Milan, Italy, issue more than 1,600 illegal and unauthorized visas to Jews who had fled Austria to Italy after the Anschluss.  Many refugees enter Switzerland.  Perucchi and Porta are demoted and transferred for their illegal and unauthorized activities.
 
William Pearl begins an illegal operation to transport Jews out of Germany and Austria.  It is called Aliah AF-AL-PI.
 
Chinese Consul in Milan, Italy, issues visas for Jews to leave Italy for China.
 
November 9-10, 1938
Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass): anti-Jewish pogrom in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland.  Thousands of Jews are beaten, hundreds killed; 200 synagogues set fire and destroyed; 7,500 Jewish shops looted; 171 Jewish homes destroyed; 30,000 German, Austrian and Sudeten Jews sent to concentration camps (Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen), 15,000 from Austria.  680 men and women commit suicide in Austria.
 
80,000 Jews are allowed to emigrate to England.  The Central British Fund, a relief agency, is very helpful.
 
The US consuls in Berlin send an extensive report about the Kristallnacht pogrom.  They recommend diplomatic action be taken against Germany.
 
President Roosevelt temporarily withdraws the US Ambassador from Germany.
 
Eventually, many Jews are released from the Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps with proof of emigration, diplomatic exit visas and promises to leave Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.  Many diplomats work to help Jews gain release from the German and Austrian camps.  Among the more notable diplomats are: Alexander Kirk and Raymond Geist of the US consulate in Berlin; Gilberto Bosques of the Mexican legation in Vichy; Dr. Feng Shan Ho of the Chinese consulate in Vienna; Frank Foley of the British legation in Berlin; and R.T. Smallbones of the British consulate in Frankfurt.
 
The American Friends’ Service Committee (AFSC), founded by the Society of Friends, or Quakers, establishes a refugee division in New York City.  Its purpose is to help German and Austrian Jewish refugees.  The AFSC works closely with the Jewish relief agencies, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Hebrew Immigration Aid and Sheltering Society (HIAS).  It will also work with the Oeuvre de Secours Aux Enfants (children’s rescue mission) in the rescue of Jews and Jewish children in Paris, Marseilles, Lisbon and Madrid.
 
November 11, 1938
The Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden (Representative Council of Jews in Germany) is closed down by the SS.
 
Werner Otto von Hentig, head of the Oriental Department of the German Foreign Ministry, tries to intervene on behalf of the Jewish community to prevent further actions against Jews.  He intercedes with Ernst von Weizsäcker, Undersecretary of State of the German Foreign Ministry.  Hentig obtains the release of Jews from concentration camps.  Von Hentig submits a report to Hitler and the German Foreign Ministry advocating the creation of a Jewish state.
 
November 12, 1938
Decree forces all Austrian and German Jews to transfer retail businesses to the government or to Aryan ownership.
 
German Jews are fined one billion Reichsmarks for damages inflicted on them during Kristallnacht.
 
November 14, 1938
Assistant Secretary of State George Messersmith suggests to Secretary of State Hull that the US recall Hugh Wilson, Ambassador to Germany, as a response to “this wholesale inhumanity.”
 
November 15, 1938
Roosevelt orders labor department to extend visitors’ visas to the US by six months.
 
November 17, 1938
The British ambassador to the United States in Washington meets with the Undersecretary of State, Sumner Wells, and offers to allow 32,500 German Jews to come to Great Britain.  Wells refuses the offer.
 
Anti-Semitic legislation in Italy is implemented.  It forbids Jewish/non-Jewish marriages, excludes Jews from serving in the armed forces, government or municipal services.  Jews are defined as having one Jewish parent.  Other restrictions include not allowing Jews to own radios, visit resort areas or publish newspapers.  Jewish businessmen are forbidden to have Aryan business partners.
 
November 18, 1938
In response to the Kristallnacht persecution of Jews, Roosevelt recalls the US Ambassador to Germany, High Wilson, back to Washington “for consultation.”
 
President Roosevelt announces visitors’ visas for approximately 15,000 refugees will be extended.  This is in response to the Kristallnacht pogroms.
 
November 21, 1938
British House of Commons strongly objects to the persecution of Jews in Germany.
 
December 1938
The Mossad for Aliyah Bet [Committee for Illegal Immigration] is established to smuggle Jews out of Europe and illegally into Palestine.  This organization was made up of Palestinian Jews.  They are successful in helping tens of thousands of Jews escape the Holocaust.
 
Mossad agents Moshe Auerbach, in Vienna, and Pino Ginsberg, in Berlin, organize the escape of thousands of Jews.  Moshe Auerbach gets 20,000 transit visas from an engineer named Karthaus to allow Jews to escape through Yugoslavia.  Karthaus also obtains Mexican visas from Consul General Gilberto Bosques.  Ginsberg is able to save hundreds of Jewish boys and girls from concentration camps with a certificate, signed by him, stating that they would leave Germany.
 
Every German, Austrian and Czech Jew must carry an identification card.
 
The Australian government announces it will admit 15,000 Jewish refugees to the country during the next three years.
 
American consul general in Berlin, Raymond Hermann Geist, warns the Assistant Secretary of State that the US should take measures to rescue Jews who will be condemned to death by the Nazis.
 
The United States Committee for the Care of European Children (USC), led by Clarence Pickett, of the American Friends’ Service Committee (Quakers), organizes a drive to save the Jewish children in Europe.
 
December 6, 1938
France and Germany sign nonaggression pact.
 
In a special conference, Japanese ministers decide Jews residing in Japanese controlled territories would not be discriminated against or molested; they could freely emigrate to these territories if they wished.  This decision officially protects Jews in the Japanese occupied zone in Shanghai.
 
December 16, 1938
US Commissioner of the Philippines Paul V. McNutt submits proposal to FDR to resettle between 2,000 and 5,000 European refugees in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
 
December 24, 1938
American Catholic and Protestant leaders sign a Christmas Resolution expressing “horror and shame” regarding the Kristallnacht persecutions of Jews.
 
1938
US Vice Consul Stephen B. Vaughan stationed in Breslau, Germany, issues more than 700 visas to German Jews who escape to the Philippines for the duration of the war.  Philippine President Emanuel Quezon agrees to grant Jews asylum in the Philippine commonwealth.
 
Pio Perucchi and Candido Porta, Swiss Consular Officers in Milan, Italy, issue more than 1,600 illegal and unauthorized visas to Jews who had fled Austria to Italy after the Anschluss.  Some of these Jewish refugees had left Austria with a Chinese visa.  The refugees then enter Switzerland.  Perucchi and Porta are demoted and transferred for their illegal and unauthorized activities.
 
Chinese Consul in Milan, Italy, issues visas for Jews to leave Italy for China.
 
18,000 German, Austrian and Polish Jews flood into Japanese-occupied Shanghai, China.  Paul Komor, a former Hungarian Jew, forms relief agency, the International Committee for Granting Relief to European Refugees (IC); helps immigrants with food, housing, clothing and funds.  He issues passports that allow many Shanghai refugees to escape China.
 
Polish Consul General Alexander Lados and Polish diplomat Dr. Julius Kuhl, stationed in Bern, Switzerland, issue Polish visas to Jewish refugees in Austria persecuted after the Nazi Anschluss.
 
1939
Between 1933 and 1939, 14,000 anti-Jewish laws are passed in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
 
78,000 Jews leave Germany.
 
100,000 Jews leave Austria by May 1939.
 
By the end of 1939, most young Jews have left Austria.  55,000 to 60,000 Jews, most of them elderly, remain.
 
650,000 children are moved from London and other major cities to rural areas in England.
 
300,000 Germans, 90% of them Jewish, apply for visas to the United States.
 
US admits only 90,000 immigrants in 1939. 
 
Laurence A. Steinhardt is appointed US Ambassador to the Soviet Union.  This is one of the most sensitive assignments in the US Department of State.  Steinhardt is one of the rare Jewish senior diplomats in the US Foreign Service.  Although Steinhardt has been involved in Zionist movements since the 1920s, he is at first unreceptive to helping Jewish refugees.
 
George Mandel-Mantello, a Romanian Jew, is appointed Honorary Consul of El Salvador in Romania, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, stationed in Geneva.  He will use this post to issue thousands of protective papers to Jews in Eastern Europe.
 
Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas appoints Gilberto Bosques Consul General in France.  He maintains consulates in Paris and Marseilles.  Bosques issues thousands of visas to Spanish Republican soldiers who are trapped in southern France.  Eventually, he issues more than 40,000 visas to these anti-Fascist fighters.  Many of them immigrate to Mexico.  Bosques also issues visas to thousands of Austrian and German Jews.  Most of these Jews use the transit visa to escape out of southern France.  1,800 of these Jews eventually immigrate to Mexico.
 
Great Britain sets up major effort to break the German enigma codes.  It is called Project Ultra.
 
Jewish groups in the US are pessimistic about the plight of German and Austrian Jews, but few of these organizations realize the extreme danger the Jews will face in the near future.  The Jewish community in the US cannot agree on a unified or effective plan to help German and Austrian Jews.
 
Moses A. Leavitt returns from Palestine to become the Secretary of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.  He appoints Joseph J. Schwartz has Assistant Secretary.  The Jewish Joint is virtually the sole representative of American Jews in Europe.  It sets up its European headquarters in Paris.
 
Between 1929 and 1939, the American Jewish Joint spends $24.4 million for Jewish rescue and relief.  JDC claims to have helped 177,500 German Jews leave greater Germany.
 
By the end of 1939, Jewish welfare organizations support 52,000 Jews in Germany, mostly elderly.
 
In the summer of 1939, the American Jewish Joint helps the 900 Jewish passengers from the ship St. Louis who are forced to return to Germany.
 
The Joint works with the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (IGCR), set up in London. It also establishes the Coordinating Foundation to provide money to help German Jews emigrate.
 
The United Jewish Appeal (UJA) is established to raise money for overseas agencies outside of Palestine.  This funds refugee rescue and relief efforts of the American Joint Distribution Committee and the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society.
 
60 anti-alien proposals are introduced into the US Congress in 1939.  These proposed laws are supported by so-called patriotic and nativist organizations.  American public opinion polls indicate that opinion against changing immigration laws to favor refugees goes from 67% in 1938 to 83% in 1939.
 
American public opinion against liberalizing immigration for refugees goes from 67% in 1938 to 83% in 1939.
 
January 1939
The Nazi Foreign Office states that “the ultimate aim of Germany’s Jewish policy [is] the immigration of all Jews living on German territory.”
 
January 1, 1939
Mandatory identification cards are required of all Jews in Germany and Austria.
 
Jews banned from working with German citizens.
 
January 10, 1939
Hitler announces to the German Reichstag [Parliament] that a world war will result in “the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”
 
January 14, 1939
Pope Pius XI urges foreign diplomats accredited to the Holy See to give as many visas as possible to victims of German and Italian racial persecution.
 
January 24, 1939
Reinhardt Heydrich is given authority by Göring to “solve the Jewish question by emigration and evacuation in the way that is most favorable under the conditions prevailing at present.”
 
Reichszentrale für Jüdische Auswanderung (Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration) in Berlin is created by Göring and Eichmann.  This is based on the Austrian model.
 
January 30, 1939
Hitler states in his speech in the Reichstag: “It is a shameful spectacle to see how the whole world is oozing sympathy for the poor, tormented Jewish people, but remains hard-hearted and obdurate when in comes to helping them.”
 
January 31, 1939
Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas promises to protect life and property for Jewish immigrants throughout Mexico.
 
February 3, 1939
The Finnish people begin a nationwide collection of funds for Jewish German refugees.
 
February 5, 1939
The President of France rebukes the racist policies of Nazi Germany.
 
February 9, 1939
The Wagner-Rogers bill is introduced into the US Congress.  It proposes to allow 10,000 refugee children under 15 years of age to be admitted to the US in 1939-1940.  The Non-sectarian Committee for German Refugee Children advocates for this legislation.  The children will be taken care of with private money and assistance.  This bill is supported by Eleanor Roosevelt, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, Frances Perkins, Francis Biddle, and former US President Herbert Hoover.  Due to complications, the bill is stalled and eventually put aside.
 
February 10, 1939
Achille Ratti, Pope Pius XI, dies in Rome at age 79.
 
March-September 1939
13,600 Viennese Jews are evicted from their apartments.
 
March 2, 1939
Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli is elected Pope Pius XII.
 
March 11, 1939
A law is passed in Hungary establishing the Hungarian Labor Service.
 
March 14, 1939
Slovakia is made into an independent country.  It is ruled by a pro-Nazi government.
 
March 15, 1939
German troops invade Czechoslovakia and occupy Prague.  Hitler incorporates Bohemia and Moravia into the Third Reich as a “Protectorate.”  Another 120,000 Jews come under Hitler’s control.  A total of 350,000 Jews are trapped in the Nazi web.
 
March 17, 1939
A census determining the degree of Jewishness is taken of Austrian Jews.  Jews who have three or four Jewish grandparents are counted as a full Jew.  With two Jewish grandparents, they are categorized as “part Jew, grade I.”  With one Jewish grandparent, “part Jew, grade II.”  This census targets Jews for future arrests and deportations.
 
March 22, 1939
Germany annexes Memel, Lithuania, and forces Lithuania to sign Treaty of Acceptance.
 
March 28-29, 1939
Spanish Republican government surrenders to General Francisco Franco in Madrid, ending the Spanish Civil War.
 
March 1939
Consul Sugihara opens a Japanese consulate in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania.  His primary mission is as a military intelligence officer observing Russian troop movements.
 
March 31, 1939
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the French President Edouard Daladier declare that Britain and France will go to war with Germany if Poland is attacked.
 
April 1939
After the Spanish Civil War ends, thousands of anti-Franco Republican soldiers flee to southern France. 
 
The US recognizes Franco’s Nationalist government.
 
First concentration camp is established in France.  It is designed to hold thousands of Spanish Republican soldiers who are fleeing into southern France.
 
April 3, 1939
German government declares Danzig, Poland, a free city.  This is part of a strategic plan for the future invasion and war with Poland.
 
April 7, 1939
Italy invades and occupies Albania.  Albanian king flees to Greece.
 
Great Britain reinstates conscription.
 
Spain joins Anti-Comminturn Pact with Germany, Italy and Japan.
 
April 8, 1939
Chinese Consul General Ho is censured by his own government and a demerit entered into his records for disobeying orders and for continuing to issue thousands of visas to Austrian Jewish refugees in Vienna.
 
April 10, 1939
A retroactive vote approves Germany’s annexation of Austria.
 
April 11, 1939
Hitler orders his generals to plan for the attack and invasion of Poland.  It is code-named “Operation White.”
 
April 15, 1939
President Roosevelt requests Hitler to respect the independence and sovereignty of 31 independent European nations.  Hitler soon mocks this request in a speech at the Reichstag.
 
April 27, 1939
England reinstitutes draft into its armed forces.
 
Hitler nullifies 1935 naval treaty with England.
 
April 28, 1939
Great Britain enacts legislation punishing crews and passengers of illegal immigrant ships to Palestine.
 
May 1939
US Consul General in Berlin Raymond Hermann Geist sends warning to the US Secretary of State that Jews are in danger.  Geist has been issuing visas to help Germany Jews escape Germany.
 
May 3, 1939
Antisemitic laws are enacted in Hungary.  Jews are forbidden in the professions of banking, teaching, law and serving in the legislature.
 
May 5, 1939
A second anti-Jewish law is enacted in Hungary.  It defines who is a Jew and severely restricts Jewish participation in the Hungarian economy.
 
May 8, 1939
Franco’s Spain withdraws from the League of Nations.
 
May 15, 1939
Ravensbrück is established as a concentration camp for women in Germany.  It is located 50 miles north of Berlin.
 
May 17, 1939
White Paper (MacDonald White Paper) of 1939: The British government restricts Jewish immigration to Palestine.  As of April, only 75,000 Jewish immigrants will be allowed to enter Palestine in the next 5 years.  It also restricts the ability of Jews to purchase and own land in Palestine.
 
May 22, 1939
Italy and Germany sign a ten-year “Pact of Steel” political and military alliance.
 
July 13, 1939
British Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald announces in the House of Commons that illegal immigrants to Palestine will be deducted from the established White Paper quotas.
 
July 26, 1939
Reichszentrale für Jüdische Auswanderung (Central Office of Jewish Emigration) is established in Prague by Adolph Eichmann.  This office is to force Jews to emigrate by expropriating their assets and removing all of their civil rights.  
 
July 30, 1939
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain writes “No doubt Jews aren’t a lovable people; I don’t care about them myself.  But that is not sufficient to explain the pogroms.”  This statement reflects many European leaders’ attitudes toward Jews and refugee problems.
 
August 2, 1939
German physicist and Nobel prize winner Albert Einstein, who has recently immigrated to the US, writes to President Roosevelt about developing an atomic bomb for the United States.
 
August 11, 1939
Eichmann demands 70,000 Jews leave Czechoslovakia within one year.  All Jewish property in Czechoslovakia is ordered registered.  Six Jewish communities are dissolved and 50 synagogues closed.
 
August 23, 1939
Germany and the Soviet Union sign the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact).  Germany and the USSR agree not to attack each other.  According to this pact, in the event of war, Hitler gives Stalin Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and eastern Poland, almost half of the country.
 
August 25, 1939
Great Britain and Poland sign an Anglo-Polish Alliance.  England agrees to defend Poland if it is attacked.
 
August 30, 1939
A French government memorandum reads: “All foreign nationals from territories belonging to the enemy must be brought together in special center.”  This memorandum is in response to the flood of German, Austrian, Czech and Spanish refugees entering France.
 
Summer 1939
Ruth Kleiger, a Mossad agent operating in Romania, is able to help 1,400 Jews escape to Palestine.
 
Fall 1939
The British cabinet allows 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia into Britain.  This is later known as the Kindertransport.  They come through the efforts of Jewish and non-Jewish relief agencies.  The Central British Fund for German Jewry is particularly helpful.  Ninety percent of these children never see their parents again.
 
The French government opens numerous concentration camps throughout France to house the influx of refugees entering the country.  Thousands of Jews and refugee Spanish Republican soldiers are interned in the camps.  Eventually, they become deportation centers to the Nazi death camps.
 
Roosevelt calls Congress into special session, urges repeal of the arms embargo mandated by the Neutrality Act of 1937.
 
September 1939
The Gestapo orders the Jewish community in Vienna to produce an alphabetical list of all residents in the city.
 
The Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland (RVE) intensifies its efforts to help Jews leave Germany.
 
September 1, 1939
Germany invades Poland.  World War II begins.  This is the first major Blitzkrieg (lightening war) of World War II.  It is devastatingly effective.  48 German divisions with 1,400 aircraft invade on three fronts.  Poland’s soldiers are outnumbered three to one by Germany’s 1.5 million men.  Poland collapses in three weeks.  2,212,000 Polish Jews come under Hitler’s control.
 
Between 5,000 and 10,000 Polish Jews in Germany are arrested and put into concentration camps.  Few survive.
 
Aktion [operation] Tannenberg is started.  Einsatzgruppen [special troops] are sent to murder Jews, Polish soldiers, political leaders and intellectuals in Poland.  According to some records, nearly 500,000 Polish Jews and other civilians are killed.
 
The British and French Armies mobilize, but do nothing to intervene in the attack on the West.  They lose an important opportunity to stop German aggression.
 
A euthanasia program to kill physically and mentally handicapped people in Germany begins.  It is called Operation T-4.  Hitler authorizes doctors to kill mentally and physically disabled persons.
 
The French government enacts anti-Jewish measures against the Jews in Paris.
 
The French government arrests German and Austrian nationals who have landed in French ports but who are bound for the western hemisphere.  Most of these are Jews fleeing the Nazis.  Most are interned in Les Milles detention camp.
 
Night curfew for Jews in Germany is enforced.
 
By the outbreak of war, nearly 70% or 185,246 Jews in Austria have emigrated.  Many go to southern France.
 
The Relief Committee for the War-Stricken Jewish Population (RELICO) is established in Geneva by the World Jewish Congress (WJC).  It is headed by Dr. Abraham Silberschein.  RELICO obtains and distributes more than 10,000 passports and visas through foreign consulates and representatives throughout Europe.
 
Two American relief agencies help Polish Jews after the German invasion.  They are the American Red Cross, headed by William MacDonald, and the Commission for Polish Relief, led by John Hartigan and Columba Murray.  These groups lead to the establishment of the Jüdishe Soziale Selbsthilfe (JSS; Jewish Self-Help), supported by the JDC.
 
September 2, 1939
Stutthof concentration camp is established in Poland.
 
The Jewish Joint announces that the Central Committee has been established in Warsaw, Poland.
 
September 3, 1939
In response to the German invasion of Poland, France, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand officially declare war on Germany.  Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain forms a wartime cabinet with Winston Churchill as the First Lord of the Admiralty.
 
September 4, 1939
All Austrian and German male refugees residing in France between the ages of 17 and 50 years are ordered to report for internment.
 
September 9, 1939
All radios are confiscated from Jews in Germany.
 
September 10, 1939
Germany occupies and controls most of Western Poland.
 
September 12, 1939
The Luftwaffe begins bombing Warsaw.
 
September 17, 1939
Soviet Army invades and occupies Poland’s eastern section.  The army enters virtually unopposed.  Hundreds of Jews trapped in the German section escape behind Soviet lines.  Eventually, between 300,000-400,000 Jewish refugees flee.  Though they are treated badly by the Soviet government, many survive the war.
 
Eventually, more than one million Jews escape from Eastern Europe into the Soviet Union.  Fifty percent of them enter the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR).  Most of these Jews survive the war.
 
Wehrmacht reaches the city of Brest-Litovsk on the Polish/Soviet border.
 
September 18, 1939
Wehrmacht occupies Lublin.  Jews are required to wear a yellow star and work in forced labor battalions.  Synagogues are destroyed and religious services banned.
 
September 19, 1939
Soviet army occupies Vilna, Lithuania.
 
The Central Jewish Committee in Warsaw takes the name Koordinatzie-Komitet (KK).  Lieb Neustadt becomes Chairman.  His Secretary is Dr. Emmanuel Ringelblum, a member of the JDC.  The KK begins supplying relief and shelter for Warsaw Jews.
 
September 21, 1939
Chiefs of Einsatzgruppen, in cooperation with German civil and military leaders, are ordered to establish Jewish ghettos in Nazi-occupied Poland.  The aim of the ghettos is to segregate Jews from Polish society.  The plan is to murder Jews slowly by starvation and disease, to kill them by shooting them on the spot, and eventually to deport them.
 
September 25, 1939
In Austria, a night curfew is enforced for Jews.
 
September 27, 1939
Warsaw surrenders after three days of intense bombardment by the Luftwaffe.
 
The Germans move large numbers of Jews away from more than 100 areas in western Poland.
 
The Reichssicherheitshauptamt [Reich Security Main Office; RSHA] is established.  This office will be one of the main instruments for the deportation and murder of millions of Jews and others throughout Europe.
 
September 28, 1939
Warsaw surrenders.  Germany and the Soviet Union partition Poland.  German forces occupy Warsaw.
 
September 29, 1939
Jews seized for forced labor throughout Poland.  Jewish schools are shut down.
 
September 1939
By September 1939, nearly 70% of the 185,246 Jews in Austria (approximately 130,000 Jews) had emigrated.
 
Between September 1939 and early 1941, 12,000 Jews escape Europe and enter Palestine illegally.
 
October 1939
US Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes submits a proposal to US President Roosevelt to allow European Jews to immigrate to the Territory of Alaska or the Virgin Islands.  Ickes is sympathetic to the plight of Jewish refugees. Roosevelt tentatively agrees to these plans, but severely limits the quota of Jews to Alaska.  These plans are never implemented.
 
Hitler extends power of doctors to kill mentally and physically disabled persons.
 
October 1, 1939
The Polish government in exile is established in Paris, France.  After the invasion and occupation of France, it moves to London, England.
 
October 3, 1939
US declares neutrality in the European war.
 
October 4-5, 1939
Poland surrenders to Germany. 
 
Hitler tours Warsaw, Poland, and views victory parade.
 
Warsaw Judenrat (Jewish Council) is established.  Adam Czerniakow, its leader, will be forced to cooperate in enforcing German policies.
 
October 7, 1939
Eichmann is ordered to prepare deportation of Jews from Vienna to the Lublin district.
 
October 10, 1939
Germany creates Generalgovernment headed by Hans Frank in German-occupied Poland.  Its headquarters are in Krakow.  The soon-to-be-established murder camps will be located in this area.
 
October 12, 1939
Germany begins deportation of Austrian and Czech Jews to Poland to the so-called Lublin Reserve.
 
October 16, 1939
The Intergovernmental Committee meets in Washington to discuss the refugee crisis.  FDR calls for a major plan to resettle Jewish refugees from Europe into a “supplemental national home.” A number of major proposals are submitted to Roosevelt.  Because of Roosevelt’s indifference and lack of attention, no plan is adopted.
 
October 20, 1939
First deportation of Austrian Jews from Vienna to Poland.  In one month, 1,672 Jews arrive in Lublin.
 
October 26, 1939
The first deportation, of 600 Czech Jews, is sent to Poland.  Soon, 10,000-20,000 Czech Jews are expelled from Moravska-Ostrava.
 
Hans Frank issues an order that forces all Jews between 14 and 60 into mandatory labor.
 
October 28, 1939
Lithuanian army enters Vilna.  Lithuanians instigate a pogrom against Jews that lasts three days.
 
October 29, 1939
Warsaw Judenrat is ordered to conduct census of Jews.
 
October 30, 1939
Himmler orders Jews to be removed from the rural areas of Western Poland.  Hundreds of Jewish communities are dispersed and destroyed forever.
 
A report critical of the treatment of Jews in concentration camps is released by the British government.
 
November 1939
US passes the Neutrality Act of 1939.  US repeals arms embargo.
 
Plot to overthrow Hitler planned by the German generals at Zossen, Germany, is never implemented.
 
November 4, 1939
Roosevelt signs bill enabling belligerent nations to purchase war material from the US on a cash and carry basis.  Due to the British Naval blockade, only Britain and France are able to purchase materials.
 
November 8, 1939
Plot to kill Hitler by using a bomb at Bürgerbraukeller in Munich.
 
November 11, 1939
Portuguese Foreign Ministry issues foreign policy statement that Jews and other refugees “expelled from countries of their nationality from whence they came” were forbidden entry into Portugal.
 
November 12, 1939
All the Jews from the newly established area of Warthegau, Poland, are to be removed.
 
Deportation of the Jews from Lodz, Poland, begins.
 
November 15, 1939
The Fideikommussirat (The Estate Commission) is established by German occupation authorities in Poland to confiscate Jewish property.
 
November 23, 1939
The Nazis order Polish Jews in the occupied area of the General Government to wear a yellow Star of David.  Jewish businesses must also be marked with a yellow star.
 
November 28, 1939
A law to establish Jewish councils, called Judenräte, in the Nazi general government in Poland, is enacted.  These councils convey German occupation orders to the Jewish community.
 
November 29, 1939
SS chief Himmler signs order to kill Jews who do not report to deportation.
 
November 30, 1939
Soviet Union invades Finland.  War lasts until March 13, 1940.
 
December 1939
By the end of 1939, approximately 1.8-1.9 million Jews live in German occupied Poland.  610,000 live in Northwest Poland.  360,000 live in the Warsaw area.  Approximately 1.3 million Jews reside in the Russian occupied area of Eastern Poland.
 
4,000 Jews are leaving Austria monthly.  A Nazi report declares there are too many Jews remaining in Vienna and in Austria.
 
FDR appoints his friend Myron C. Taylor as personal representative to the Vatican.  Roosevelt hopes to move the Vatican toward the rescue of refugees.
 
December 2, 1939
Initiation of poison gas vans to murder mental patients in Germany.
 
December 5-6, 1939
Germans seize Jewish property in Poland.  This includes homes, businesses and bank accounts.
 
December 14, 1939
Soviet Union expelled from the League of Nations following their invasion and occupation of Poland.
 
December 18, 1939
Food rations for Jews living in Germany are significantly reduced.

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