INTRODUCTION by David Notowitz for Voices of the Shoah,

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Voices of the Shoah
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TEXT TRANSCRIPTS of all audio on set
BIOGRAPHIES of all speakers
TIMELINE of the Holocaust
GLOSSARY of Holocaust related terms


Once I was strolling through the Inner City, I suddenly encountered an apparition in a black caftan and black hair locks. Is this a Jew? was my first thought. Is this a German? I bought the first anti-Semitic pamphlets of my life. . . . Wherever I went, I began to see Jews, and the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity. . . . Among them was a great movement; this was the Zionists. It looked, to be sure, as though only a part of the Jews approved this viewpoint but the so-called liberal Jews did not reject Zionists as non-Jews. . . . Intrinsically, they remained unalterably of one piece. —Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

January 30 – Paul von Hindenburg, the President of Germany, names Adolf Hitler Chancellor.
February 2 – The Jewish Central Association of Germany releases this statement: “We are convinced that no one will dare violate our constitutional rights. Every adverse attempt will find us at our post ready for resolute defense . . . Stand by calmly.”
February 27 & 28 – Nazis burn the Reichstag building, which houses the German parliament—leading to the granting of special emergency authority to Hitler.
March – The first concentration camp, Dachau, is set up near Munich.
April 1 – Nazis implement a carefully planned boycott of Jewish-owned businesses.
May 10 – Books with ideas considered “dangerous to Nazi beliefs” are burned in Germany. Authors whose works are targeted include Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Helen Keller, Jack London, Thomas Mann, and H.G. Wells.
The spirit of the German people can again express itself. These flames not only illuminate the final end of an old era, but they also light up the new. —Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Josef Goebbels
July – Forced sterilization is made a legal method to use against those found to have genetic defects.
July 14 – The Nazi Party becomes the only officially recognized political party in Germany.
July to September – Jews who immigrated to Germany from Eastern Europe have their German citizenship revoked. Also, Jews can no longer own land or be the editors of newspapers.
November – A law is passed allowing for the homeless, alcoholics, and those without jobs to be sent to concentration camps.

August 2 – Hitler takes the title of Führer after the German President, Paul von Hindenburg, dies.
August 19 – In a nationwide vote, 90 percent of the German people approve Hitler as Führer, granting him wide-ranging power over the German government and the military.

May – Jews are banned from serving in the German armed forces.
June – Nazis allow forced abortions on women who might pass hereditary diseases to their fetuses.
September 15 – “Nuremberg Laws” enacted against Jews. Among other things, these laws strip native German Jews of their German citizenship and forbid Jews from marrying Aryans.

March 3 – Jewish doctors are banned from practicing medicine in Germany.
July – Opening of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin.
Summer – Olympic games begin in Berlin, Germany. Because the Nazis desire good publicity from foreign press and visitors, they temporarily hold off the further initiation of actions against Jews. Discriminatory signs against Jews are removed until the event is over.

July – Buchenwald concentration camp commences operation in central Germany.

March 12 – Nazi troops enter Austria and on the following day announce a union (Anschluss) with Austria.
March – The SS gains control over Jewish affairs in Austria after the Anschluss. All German anti-Semitic laws are applied to Jews in Austria.
April – Jews are required to report all assets.
July 6 – U.S. convenes a League of Nations conference in Evian, France. Delegates from 32 countries look at the problem of Jewish refugees, but no action results because no country, aside from the small nation of the Dominican Republic, will allow the emigration of large numbers of Jews.
August 3 – Italy enacts extensive anti-Semitic laws.
August 10 – The Nuremberg synagogue is razed by Nazis.
November 9-10 – On Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” there is widespread anti-Jewish destruction: over 7,000 Jewish businesses are looted and more than 150 synagogues are destroyed with hundreds of others badly damaged. Between 26,000 to 35,000 Jews are sent to the Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. Almost 100 Jews are murdered during Kristallnacht.
December 2 – First Kindertransport of refugee children arrives in Great Britain from Germany.

January 30 – The Führer tells the German parliament that, if war erupts, it will mean “the extermination of the Jews of Europe.”
March 15 & 16 – German troops seize Czechoslovakia.
June – After being turned away by Cuba and the United States, the ship St. Louis, crowded with 930 Jews escaping the Nazis, is forced to return to Europe. The refugees were eventually granted asylum in England, France, and Belgium, but only the 288 Jews who went to England were spared deportation to Nazi camps.
September 1 – Nazis invade Poland; World War II begins.
September 3 – England and France declare war against Nazi Germany.
September 17 – The Soviet Army marches into Poland.
September – SS Einsatzgruppen gather Jews in Poland into ghettos.
September 29 – Nazis and Soviets split Poland.
October – Nazis kill sick and disabled Germans on a regular basis, calling their actions “euthanasia.”
October – First Polish ghetto established in Piotrkow, Trybunalski, a town in south-central Poland.

February – The Lodz ghetto established in Western Poland.
February 12 – German Jews begin to be deported into Poland.
April 9 – Nazis march into and conquer Denmark and Norway.
April 30 – The Lodz ghetto, containing 230,000 Jews, is sealed.
May 10 – Nazis invade France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
May 20 – Auschwitz concentration camp established in southwest Poland.
June 22 – France surrenders to Nazi Germany.
September 27 – Agreement of cooperation signed by the Axis Powers governments of Germany, Italy, and Japan.

– Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, visits Auschwitz and orders the camp’s commander, Rudolf Höss, to expand the site to hold an additional 100,000 prisoners.
March, April, and June – Nazis occupy Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece, and invade the Soviet Union.
July – Nazis establish new ghettos in Kovno, Minsk, Vitebsk, and Zhitomir.
July 25 & 26 – 3,800 Jews killed during a pogrom in Kovno, Lithuania.
July 31 – Herrmann Göring, a high Nazi official and associate of Hitler, orders Einsatzgruppen Chief Reinhard Heydrich to begin preparations for the “Final Solution.”
Summer – Himmler tells Höss, “The Führer has ordered the ‘final solution of the Jewish question.’ . . . I have therefore chosen the Auschwitz camp for this purpose.”
August 27 & 28 – In Kamenets-Podolsk, Ukraine, as many as 23,600 Jews are murdered.
September – Zyklon B gas is first tested in Auschwitz.
September 6 – Vilna ghetto opens.
September 29 & 30 – In Babi Yar ravine, near Kiev, 34,000 Jews are murdered.
October – In the Ukrainian city of Odessa, 47,000 Jews are murdered.
October – Construction begins on Auschwitz II, also called Birkenau, Auschwitz’s death camp annex.
October – First group of prisoners arrive at Majdanek, a camp near Lublin, Poland. Originally a labor camp for Poles and a POW camp for Russians, within a year Majdanek will become a killing center for Jews.
November 8 – Lvov ghetto is established in south- eastern Poland.
December 7 – Japanese attack United States at Pearl Harbor. The next day the U.S. and Britain declare war on Japan. Two months later U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs an order that results in the internment of the West Coast’s Japanese-American population.
December 8 – Chelmno death camp begins operations in western Poland.
December 11 – Roosevelt declares war on Germany and Italy: “Never before has there been a greater challenge to life, liberty, and civilization.”

January – Nazis now using Zyklon B at Auschwitz-Birkenau to perform mass murder of Jews.
January 20 – Wannsee Conference in Berlin attended by senior Nazis outlines plan to murder the Jews of Europe.
March – Belzec death camp becomes operational in Poland. Approximately 600,000 Jews are murdered there by the end of 1942.
March – Approximately 25 percent of the Jews who will die in the Shoah have been murdered.
March – The Vatican learns of the Nazis’ mass murder of Jews but fails to condemn the Nazis’ actions or to urge Church officials to help the victims.
March 30 – Trains arrive at Auschwitz with the first trainloads of Parisian Jews.
May – Sobibor death camp in central Poland opens with three gas chambers; some 250,000 Jews murdered by October of the following year.
Late May – early June – Construction begins on the Treblinka death camp, about 50 miles from Warsaw.
June 30 – Second gas chamber opened at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
July 7 – Heinrich Himmler authorizes sterilization experiments at Auschwitz.
July 22 – Deportations begin from the Warsaw ghetto. By September more than 250,000 Jews will have been sent to Treblinka.
September – SS begins selling valuables taken from Jews of Auschwitz and Majdanek. Hundreds of boxcars of stolen possessions leave Auschwitz within five months.
November – Approximately 110,000 Jews are gathered in Bialystok, then sent to Treblinka and Auschwitz, the majority of whom are gassed to death.
December – Belzec death camp is closed, with some 600,000 Jews murdered. The camp is dismantled and the land planted over.
December 16 – Himmler orders about 20,000 Gypsies, approximately two-thirds of Germany’s Gypsy population, to be arrested and sent to Auschwitz.
Winter – SS forces put down a revolt at Sachsenhausen.

January 18 – First armed resistance by Jews in the Warsaw ghetto.
February – Romania asks to transfer 70,000 Jews to Palestine, but neither Great Britain nor the U.S. responds. Approximately 287,000 Romanian Jews will be murdered by the end of World War II.
February – Nearly 80 percent of the Jews who will die in the Shoah have been murdered.
March – Under Nazi occupation Greece begins the process of deporting 50,000 Jews to Auschwitz.
March 1 – American Jews pressure the U.S. to help European Jews with a mass public rally at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
March 17 – Bulgaria publicly opposes the deportation of Jews through its borders.
April 19-30 – U.S. and Great Britain meet to discuss refugees from Nazi-occupied countries. As no agreements can be made, no help is offered.
April 19 – As the Nazis attempt to liquidate 70,000 inhabitants of the Warsaw ghetto, they clash with the Jewish underground in a dramatic battle called the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which lasts until May 16.
May 13 – In Tunisia, North Africa, Italian and German troops surrender to Allied forces.
June 19 – Nazi Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels declares Berlin “cleansed of Jews.”
June 25 – Gas chamber III opens at Auschwitz. The four newest crematories at Auschwitz have the capacity to incinerate as many as 4,700 bodies per day.
Summer – Jewish armed revolt in the Bedzin, Bialystok, Czestochowa, Lvov, and Tarnow ghettos.
August 2 – Rebellion at Treblinka destroys most of the camp. Only 70 of the 750 prisoners involved escape to freedom. The rest are either killed immediately after or are forced to dismantle the remains of the camp, after which they too were killed.
October – The Vatican does not condemn–or try to stop–the deportation of Italian Jews to the Nazi camps.
October 14 – Revolt in Sobibor. Three hundred prisoners escape to nearby woods; 50 survive. The death camp is closed and plowed over and trees are planted to hide all evidence of the crimes committed there.
November – The U.S. Congress holds hearings regarding the nation’s inaction with regard to European Jews, despite myriad reports of mass annihilation.
November 3 – In Poland, Nazis kill approximately 42,000 Jews during a special aktion.
December 16 – Auschwitz surgeon reports that 106 castrations have been performed.

January 24 – After extensive political pressure, Roosevelt creates War Refugee Board to help rescue the victims of Nazi persecution.
Spring – Nazis occupy Hungary.
April 5 – Siegfried Lederer escapes from Auschwitz-Birkenau and warns Judenrat at Theresienstadt about the mass murder of the Jewish people.
April 7 – Two other Jewish inmates escape from Auschwitz-Birkenau and make it to Czechoslovakia. A report based on the escapees’ descriptions of the camp and estimates of the numbers killed there is sent to European Jewish leaders and relief organizations; few believe the accuracy of the report’s contents and no substantive action is taken to rescue the Jews.
May 16 – Hungarian Jews arrive in Auschwitz. About 100,000 are murdered there within the first week; 88 pounds of gold and white metal from the teeth of those gassed are collected by the Nazis in the first two weeks.
June – A Red Cross delegation visits the ghetto and concentration camp at Theresienstadt and issues a favorable report.
June 6 – “D Day”: the Allies land in Normandy.
July – Raoul Wallenberg arrives in Budapest, Hungary, where he saves tens of thousands of Jews by using his powers as a Swedish diplomat to issue documents. By the time Wallenberg comes to Budapest, Nazis have already transported more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews to camps.
July 20 – German Army officers fail in their attempt to kill the Führer.
July 24 – Soviet Army liberates Majdanek.
August 4 – Anne Frank and her family are taken from their hiding place, a few rooms above her father’s office in Amsterdam, where they have spent 25 months in hiding, and are sent to Auschwitz. Anne, who is later sent to Bergen-Belsen, dies of typhus there in March 1945.
August 7 – Lodz, the last remaining Jewish ghetto in Poland, is liquidated; approximately 75,000 Jews are sent to Auschwitz.
October – German industrialist Oskar Schindler saves more than 1,000 Jews from the camps when he has them transferred from Gross-Rosen and Auschwitz to work at his new factory in the Sudetenland.
October 7 – Jewish slave laborers revolt at Auschwitz-Birkenau. They completely destroy one crematorium.
October 30 – SS stops operation of Auschwitz gas chambers.
November 8 – Approximately 40,000 Jews are forced on a death march from Budapest to Austria.
November 25 – Himmler orders the remaining Auschwitz crematoriums to be destroyed.

January – May – Nazis force concentration camp prisoners on death marches as the Allies push into the outer edges of German-controlled regions of Europe.
January 6 – Soviet Army frees Budapest.
January 14 – Soviet Army invades eastern Germany.
January 17 – Soviet Army liberates Warsaw.
January 18 – Nazis evacuate Auschwitz and send prisoners on a death march.
January 25 – Stutthof inmates are sent on death march.
January 27 – Soviet Army liberates Auschwitz.
April 6 – Beginning of death march for Buchenwald inmates.
April 11 – The U.S. Army enters Buchenwald and finds that most of the guards have fled, leaving the prisoners on their own.
April 15 – Bergen-Belsen is liberated by British forces.
April 23 – Soviet troops are the first of the Allies to reach Berlin.
April 29 – Dachau is liberated by the U.S. Army.
April 30 – Hitler commits suicide.
May 8 – Victory in Europe (V-E Day); unconditional German surrender.
May 9 – Hermann Göring is captured by members of U.S. 7th Army.
May 23 – Heinrich Himmler commits suicide.
Spring – Approximately 100,000 Jewish survivors liberated from the Nazi camps are considered displaced persons without homes to which to return; some 150,000 other European Jews fleeing anti-Semitism also become war refugees. These people call themselves the Sh’erit ha-Pletah, a Hebrew term from the Bible meaning the “surviving remnant.”
July 4 – 150 Jewish survivors who returned to their hometown of Kielce in southeast Poland are attacked in an anti-Jewish pogrom; 42 Jews are killed, and 50 others are wounded.
July – The Bricha (Hebrew for “escape”) organization begins helping European Jews—including many who, fearing for their lives, refuse to return to their former homes—illegally emigrate to British-controlled Palestine, ultimately transporting more than 100,000 Jewish refugees.
August 13 – In an effort to stop Jewish emigration to Palestine, British forces begin deporting Jews bound for Palestine to detention camps in Cyprus.
November 20 – Nuremberg International Military Tribunal opens.

October 16 – Following their trials for crimes committed against humanity, Nazi war criminals are hanged at Nuremberg. In the final use of the crematoriums at Dachau, the bodies are burned there, and the ashes scattered into a river.

April 16 – Former Auschwitz Commander Rudolf Höss is hanged at Auschwitz.
July – Carrying more than 4,500 Jewish refugee passengers hoping to emigrate to Palestine, the ship Exodus 1947 leaves southern France but is soon captured by the British military and forced to return to Europe. In protest, the passengers launch a hunger strike that draws international attention to the plight of the Jewish DPs. The passengers are subsequently evacuated from the ship against their will by British soldiers. Most remain in DP camps until 1948.

The United Nations reestablishes a Jewish homeland in British-controlled Palestine, which becomes the state of Israel in 1948. Surviving Jews from Europe join Jews living in Palestine.

Nearly 700,000 Jews have emigrated to Israel, including more than 135,000 Jewish DPs.

As a result of the easing of immigration laws, more than 80,000 Jewish DPs have emigrated to the United States.

Yad Vashem is established in Jersualem by the Israeli government to memorialize the six million Jews killed during the Shoah. Yad Vashem also pays tribute to the “Righteous Among the Nations.”
The last Jewish DP camp in Germany closes.

May 11 – In Argentina, Israeli secret service agents capture Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi official who played a leading role in the implementation of the “Final Solution.”

April 11 to August 14 – Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem, charged with war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, and crimes against humanity. After being found guilty, he is hanged on May 31, 1962.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, named in honor of the Holocaust survivor who dedicated his life after the war to tracking down Nazi war criminals, opens in Los Angeles.

Auschwitz and Buchenwald survivor Elie Wiesel wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his work promoting human rights around the world.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opens in Washington, D.C.

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