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    1932 to 1942

  • 31 July 1932

    Parliamentary elections

    In Germany, the National Socialist party win 37.4 % of the vote in parliamentary elections. With 230 seats, this makes them the largest party in the Reichstag

  • 30 January 1933

    Hitler appointed Chancellor

    President Hindenburg appoints Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany

  • 28 February 1933

    Reichstag Fire Decree

    This emergency legislation suspends civil liberties, enabling "the cabinet to take any necessary measures to protect public safety" (Evans, 2006, p. 11)

  • 20 March 1933

    Dachau opens

    About 10 miles northwest of Münich, Dachau concentration camp is opened. Around 4,800 prisoners are held here in the first year. It is a training centre for SS guards and its methods are to be the model for all other camps

    In November 1938, more than 10,000 Jewish men are interned here: between January 1938 and August 1939, just over 400 prisoners die (Wachsmann 2015, p. 169)

    Dachau was not established as a 'death camp', but it is estimated that throughout its operation between 1933 and 1945, tens of thousands of prisoners died here by execution or from starvation and maltreatment

  • 01 April 1933

    Anti-Jewish boycott

    Germans are instructed to 'protect themselves' against Jews by boycotting Jewish stores, businesses, and professionals. Members of the SA ('Storm Troopers') stand guard outside many Jewish-owned shops and offices, often brandishing anti-Jewish propaganda

  • 07 April 1933

    The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service

    The first of over 400 pieces of anti-Jewish legislation is passed in Germany: the "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service." Jewish and "politically unreliable" civil servants and employees are excluded from state service (Source: USHMM). 'Civil servants' includes teachers, university professors, and judges; soon afterwards the law is extended to encompass lawyers, doctors, accountants, and musicians

  • 12 December 1933

    Report on Jews in Germany

    The Council for German Jewry reports that Jewish "incomes were decreasing and consequently the tax payable to the Communities had to be raised, and whereas in the pre-Hitler days the tax on members of the Jewish Community was approximately 11% of the amount of their Income tax, in 1933 it had risen to between 20 and 30%. In some Jewish Communities the Jewish taxes were considerably higher than this"

    It is forewarned, "we also have to bear in mind that a wave of antisemitism, or an acute economic position, might arise in other countries ... it would be impossible for the Allocations Committee to commit itself to a large scale liability in respect of one country. ... the Germans should shoulder as much of the burden as possible"  (Minutes, 12 December 1933)

  • 30 June 1934

    Night of the Long Knives

    Hitler orders the murder of Ernst Röhm (SA Chief of Staff ) and other commanders. The SS also kills other high-ranking critics of the Nazi regime, including ex-Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher. The Reichstag declares the killings to be a legal response to a threat to overthrow the government (USHMM)

  • 01 May 1935

    Jehovah's Witness organisations are banned

    Those refusing to comply are incarcerated; some are executed (mainly for refusing to serve in the armed forces). By 1945 around 1,400 have died in concentration camps

  • 28 June 1935

    Paragraphs 175 and 175a

    These two paragraphs of the German criminal code are revised - effectively banning homosexuality and leading to the imprisonment of around 50,000 men. Some are released if they 'agree' to be castrated. By the end of the war, up to 15,000 men have been interned in concentration camps for the 'crime' of homosexuality

  • 15 September 1935

    Nuremberg 'Race Laws' enacted

    These encompass the Law for the Protection of German Blood, and the German Honour and Reich Citizenship Law

    A “Jew” is no longer someone with particular religious beliefs but someone who has three or four Jewish grandparents. Many Germans who do not identify with Judaism are subject to legal persecution. Even when Jewish grandparents have converted, their grandchildren are now Jews by law

  • 12 July 1936

    Sachsenhausen opens

    Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg is established as the main concentration camp for the Berlin area

    Nominally, 'political' prisoners and criminals are incarcerated here, with 1,600 imprisoned by the end of the first year. In reality, this includes Jews, Sinti, Roma, homosexual men, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others - including Pastor Martin Niemöller

    Around 6,000 Jewish men are imprisoned here in November 1938: in November and December alone, 58 men die (Wachsmann 2015, p. 184)

  • 15 July 1937

    Buchenwald concentration camp opens

    The camp initially houses 'political' prisoners. In November 1938, almost 10,000 Jewish men are incarcerated here. Around 250 of these men die in November alone (Buchenwald Memorial Foundation)

  • 07 February 1938

    Geneva Conference

    To consider a statute for governments to deal with refugees from Germany. Professor Norman Bentwich to represent the Council for German Jewry, the German Jewish Aid Committee and the Joint Foreign Committee (Minutes, Central Council for Jewish Refugees, 24 January 1938)

  • 11 March 1938

    The Anschluß

    German troops invade Austria, which becomes part of the German Reich

    Anti-Jewish violence starts immediately throughout the 'Greater German Reich' area. The whole region undergoes the horror of the events of November 1938 and the subsequent incarceration of Jewish men

  • 31 May 1938

    Report on Nazi policy in Austria

    The situation of Jews in Vienna is reported to be "desperate". Almost all leaders of the Jewish community are under house arrest or in prison

    All Jewish institutions have been closed down, except the soup kitchens (at which 10,000 people are being fed, expected to rise to 12,000 over the next few weeks); these have been funded by small amounts of money via the Council for German Jewry

    It is reported that no emigration is being permitted, and no further relief efforts are being allowed in 

    Despite this, Norman Bentwich reports that Nazi policy in Austria is "to force Jews to leave the country, and the confiscation of their property and businesses was a means to this end" 

    The Council for German Jewry increases training provision for young Jewish people, sending as many as possible to North and South America and to Palestine

  • 06 July 1938

    The Evian conference

    Over a period of nine days, country after country expresses sympathy for the plight of German Jews, but only the Dominican Republic agrees to accept additional refugees. There is little criticism of German anti-Jewish policy and no willingness to accept more refugees; indeed, the conference sparks further border closures (Caestecker and Moore, 2010, p. 34)

  • 17 August 1938

    The alteration of personal names

    By 1 January 1939, Jewish men and women must add to their own names Israel or Sara, respectively, if their own names are not deemed 'Jewish enough'. All German Jews must now carry identity cards to indicate their heritage. In autumn 1938, all Jewish passports are stamped with a letter “J”

  • 12 September 1938

    YMCA assistance

    The YMCA offers agricultural training for Jewish boys from Austria, involving the "equipment of a hostel for 20 boys, each of whom would stay for a period of 12 weeks, where they would be given an elementary preparation for the kind of life they would have to lead"

    After 12 months of training, the YMCA was confident it would be able to place the boys in work in Britain or abroad

    The intention was to take 100 trainees per year, at a cost per head of £24, to include the provision of clothes, boots, food and accommodation (Council for German Jewry, Minutes, 12 September 1938)

    Throughout the 1930s, dozens of industrial and agricultural training schemes are supported by many charitable bodies, to equip Jewish youngsters with the means to emigrate. English language lessons are highly valued for the same reason

  • 29 September 1938

    The Münich agreement

    The Reich government threatens European war unless the Sudetenland (part of then-Czechoslovakia), containing an ethnic German majority, is given to Germany. Czechoslovakia is given no say in the matter, and the agreement is signed by Germany, Italy, Britain, and France

    The Sudetenland area is handed over in exchange for a promise of peace

  • 24 October 1938

    A refugee camp in England?

    With the increasing pressure of numbers as the situation worsens for Jews across 'Greater Germany', the budget of the Council for German Jewry is coming under strain. By October, the sums going to the German Jewish Aid Committee have already exhausted the year's allocation of funds

    Mr Otto Schiff suggests "tentatively that it might be possible to establish a camp in which German and Austrian refugees could be housed and where they might do work of national service" (Minutes, Council for German Jewry, 24 October 1938)

    A report is also presented at this meeting on the situation of Jews in Czechoslovakia, which is "absolutely desperate. Approximately 20,000 Jews from the Sudetenland had gone to Prague, where they were not able legally to use their own money, even for the purchase of food, without permission from the National Bank of Czechoslovakia"

  • 09 November 1938

    November 1938

    Kristallnacht - now known as the November Terror, or November Pogrom. Around 30,000 Jewish men are rounded up and incarcerated - mostly in Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. Over the coming weeks, around 2,500 die or are killed; police records document a high number of rapes and suicides over subsequent days and weeks; over 7,500 Jewish businesses are destroyed or badly damaged, and Jewish homes, schools, and hospitals are ransacked. Approximately 1200 synagogues are desecrated, and around 270 are destroyed by fire; Jewish cemeteries are also the focus for attack and many are badly damaged

  • 15 November 1938

    Kindertransport discussions

    In Britain, the CBF, Chief Rabbi Neville Laski, Lionel de Rothschild, and Dr Chaim Weizmann meet with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in the House of Commons to ask for help in rescuing German Jewish children under the age of 17

  • 01 December 1938

    The extinction of Jews in Germany

    The Council for German Jewry - Minutes of meeting of the Executive Council, 1 December 1938:

    "[W]ithin a very short space of time, the German government would take such steps as would lead to the practical extinction of Jews in Germany"

    It is decided to get as many Jews as possible out of Germany immediately. The Council realise this will require the establishment of temporary refugee camps. An urgent conference is requested of the British government, and the YMCA is asked to extend its agricultural training scheme

  • 02 December 1938

    The first Kindertransport arrives in Britain

    A commitment by the government to admit children depends entirely upon the financial guarantees of aid communities. Around 10,000 unaccompanied children arrive (80% of them Jewish) between now and the outbreak of war

    The scheme is funded and administered by Anglo-Jewish communities as well as by some other groups, including British Quakers

    Decisions about which children should come to Britain are mainly taken in the country of origin, and priority is given to middle-class children, who are perceived to be likely to adapt quickly (using school reports, social background, and appearance). Blonde girls tend to be favoured because potential foster parents and guarantors are more inclined to select them from photographs. These factors are at odds with the largest group of applicants - teenage boys - who are subject to high levels of anti-semitic violence and imprisonment (Caestecker and Moore, 2010, pp. 171-184)

  • 12 December 1938

    Finance for a refugee camp in Britain

    This report states that there is an immediate need for a "transmigration camp" for German Jews: "They realise that it was impossible to deal with 500,000 people at once, but arrangements could perhaps be made for the emigration of, say, 30,000 men and women to such a camp, there to await opportunities for emigration and settlement elsewhere"

    In Berlin, "the Reichsvertretung had received an order from the German government to unite all committees and organisations in Germany under one head, the Reichsvertretung, so that this was the only body for communication between the Jews in Germany and the government ... if emigration were not accelerated by their own means, the government would take the matter in hand" (Minutes, Council for German Jewry, 12 December 1938)

    The Chair reports that the British government is not prepared to establish or support a refugee camp in Britain

  • 29 December 1938

    Refugee transit camps

    The Council for German Jewry reports that the establishment of refugee camps in Britain is the most urgent matter to be addressed, "as people could only be got, and kept, out of concentration camps in Germany if the authorities were satisfied that an effort to arrange for their emigration was being made. ... the Home Office were rather uneasy regarding the suggestion ... as they feared that a pool of refugees might be formed in England"

    Preliminary investigations are agreed upon. Decisions about who would be selected for the camps were to be made by the Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland

    Meanwhile, fundraising efforts continue (Minutes, Council for German Jewry, 29 December 1938)

  • 03 January 1939

    Kitchener camp - a Home Office meeting

    The day after this meeting Norman Bentwich receives a letter to say that refugees with a prospect of 'migration [elsewhere] within a reasonable period' can transit to England to Kitchener camp. No government funding is to be provided, nor help with management. Crucially, no rights of citizenship pertain, and the camp inmates will generally not be allowed to work. They are expected to move to another country within 12 months (Ungerson, 2014, p. 21)

  • 05 January 1939

    Kitchener camp - priorities

    Priority is to be given to people who can be emigrated from Britain within two years. The Reichsvertretung in Berlin and the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde in Vienna are to take decisions and submit names to the Home Office

    Kitchener camp at Richborough will use "a system of double bunks", to accommodate 5,000 people

    Capital expenses are put at £10,000, with a rent of £100 per year to the landlords. The arrangement may be terminated by either side with 6 months' notice, except in case of national emergency when the camp might have to be vacated immediately

    The Home Office grants 100 visas for men to prepare the camp. The Jewish Lads Brigade offer to manage Kitchener, and this offer is accepted

    Extensive facilities are planned, including agricultural and language training

    "Inmates" will not be confined, but temporary permits will be required so that "unsuitable cases" can be sent back

    It is assumed that £100,000 per year will be required to maintain 5,000 people

  • 20 January 1939

    Kitchener camp opens

    Kitchener camp is ready to start receiving refugees ...

  • 25 January 1939

    Kitchener technicians

    Good progress: the first 100 people are reported to be arriving to prepare the camp in the next two weeks. These "qualified technicians" will enable the camp to start receiving 300 people a week within a fortnight

    It is decided that the current buildings will not house over 3,500 people. Boys age 16 to 18 from the Children's Committee are also being considered for housing here

    Difficulties are noted in gaining visas for onward migratation to the USA; the Home Office insists that guarantees for onward emigration are "watertight" (Council for German Jewry, Minutes, 25 January 1939)

  • 30 January 1939

    The Reichstag speech

    Reich Chancellor Hitler announces that European war will mean the end of world Jewry

  • 06 February 1939

    Berlin ORT transfer delays

    Transfer of the Berlin ORT school from Berlin to Leeds has been mooted

    The matter is deferred, pending financial matters that need to be arranged among Berlin, the British government, and British funding bodies (Minutes, Council for German Jewry, 6 February 1939)

    The following month, the decision is again deferred, pending further investigation (Council for German Jewry, Minutes, 14 March 1939)

    At the end of March (Minutes, 27 march 1939), the decision is again shelved due to funding provision disagreements

    On 1st May, an agreement is reached on the funding (Minutes).

    At this stage, no boys or staff have been transported out of Germany

  • 01 May 1939

    Women to be housed in Kitchener?

    A report is circulated concerning whether a number of  women and children should be allowed to live in the camp: the matter is "receiving consideration" (Council for German Jewry, Minutes, 1 May 1939)

  • 13 May 1939

    The St Louis sets sail

    Over 900 passengers - most of them Jews - are bound for Cuba initially, and then the USA. Most passengers have applied for US visas

    On 8 May, around 40,000 people take part in an antisemitic demonstration in Havana: the Cuban president invalidates all recently issued landing certificates

    On 2 June the St Louis is ordered out of Cuban waters and sets sail for Miami. Sailing close to Florida, some passengers cable President Roosevelt asking for refuge: he does not respond

    The ship is forced to return to Europe

    Jewish organizations (particularly the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) negotiate with four European governments to secure entry visas: Britain takes 288; the Netherlands 181; Belgium 214; and France 224

    Those who make it into Britain survive the war (except one, who is killed during an air raid). Of the other 620 passengers, 87 emigrate before the German invasion of Western Europe, but 532 are trapped by the invasion

    Of these, just over half - 278 - survive the Holocaust (USHMM)

  • 29 August 1939

    An ORT transport leaves Germany

    The first and only transport of ORT boys (age 14 to 17) leaves Berlin for Kitchener camp in Britain. The boys are divided by name, alphabetically; the boys with names in first half of the alphabet leave Germany by overcrowded train amidst scenes of chaos.

    They arrive in Britain as Germany invades Poland; the boys with names in the second half of the alphabet are stranded as war breaks out

    It is believed that none of the ORT boys left behind in Berlin survived the Holocaust: in 1943 the remaining 100 or so students and staff are deported to Auschwitz - from the last remaining Jewish school in Germany

  • 01 September 1939

    Germany invades Poland

    The troops of the Third Reich invade Poland, triggering the start of the Second World War

  • 03 September 1939

    Britain and France declare war on Germany

    Having guaranteed to defend Poland's borders, France and Britain declare war on Germany

  • 26 September 1939

    Refugee 'alien' status

    In Britain, the refugees are sorted into three categories: the first are interned; the second treated as 'enemy aliens', must register with police, and current restrictions on movement continue; the third are categorised as 'friendly aliens'

    Classes 2 and 3 are allowed to work through a Labour Exchange "when there were no English subjects able to take jobs for which there were openings"

    Those in Class 2 and Class 3 have "Refugees from Nazi Oppression" stamped in their passports (Minutes, Council for German Jewry, 26 September 1939)

  • 10 October 1939

    Kitchener men to join the British army?

    The Council for German Jewry estimates there are around 65,000 refugees in Britain at this point, including 10,000 children and 15,000 women under Domestic Work visas. Around 9-10,000 of the latter are out of work

    As a means to address the resulting 'anxiety and heavy expense' caused by these numbers, it is suggested that the Kitchener men might be employed by the government in either in the Auxiliary Pioneer battalions, as specialists and technicians in the army, or in general service in the army

    There is deemed to be "a certain amount of good material" for army purposes among the men (Minutes, 10 October 1939)

  • 17 October 1939

    The Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps

    The Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps is to make use of the refugees from Germany and elsewhere who want to fight the Third Reich

    The risks are high: if caught, they will be tortured and shot as traitors, but thousands apply to join up

    The Corps emblem depicts a pickaxe, shovel and a gun - although it was the two former items that most of the men are required to use for some time to come

    The Council for German Jewry (now the Central Council for Jewish Refugees) notes that refugee tradesmen are being enlisted as soon as possible. Between 2,000 and 3,000 of the refugees would be enlisted from 15th November 1939. All men between the ages of 20 and 45 are eligible for service

    Only refugees in category C are allowed to enlist in the army or take up employment

  • 14 November 1939

    Kitchener volunteer numbers

    According to the Pioneer Corps archivist, 887 Kitchener men enlisted in the British Army around this time. Of the remainder, 300 are boys or young men under the age of 20 who are not eligible; around 750 have prospects of emigration to the USA and other countries in the next 6 months; around 100 are unfit medically; another 60 are doctors and dentists, who are dealt with separately. Around 200 do not volunteer - some on religious grounds; around 500 have wives and families in Germany and are concerned that if they enlist their families will be put at further risk

    This month, the first 85 men are enlisted and are being trained in Kitchener camp. It is expected that another 750 will be enlisted by year's end

    Colonel Lord Reading is Military Commander at Kitchener camp (Central Council for Jewish Refugees, Minutes, 14 November 1939)

  • 09 April 1940

    Further invasions

    Germany invades Norway and Denmark

    A month later, on 10 May, Germany invades France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands

    10 July 1940: the Battle of Britain starts

  • 06 April 1941

    German invasions continue to gather pace

    Germany invades Greece and Yugoslavia

    Two months later, German troops invade the Soviet Union. In September, the Babi Yar massacre takes place: over two days, 34,000 Jews - mostly women, children, and the elderly, who have been unable to leave - are murdered in a ravine northwest of Kiev. Over the coming months, thousands more Jews are killed at Babi Yar, alongside Roma, Communists, and Soviet POWs. As well as being the site of one of the largest mass murders at a single location during WWII, USHMM cites an estimate of 100,000 people murdered at Babi Yar.

    The effect of these mass killings on German troops spurs the search for a method of mass killing that can be carried out at a distance. By December 1941, mass killing by gas was being trialled at Chelmno.

    At this stage the 'Final Solution' - "the deliberate, planned mass murder of Europe’s Jews" (USHMM) - was very much underway.

    For most Kitchener refugees, as for millions of European Jews, from 1941 onwards, their family members who had not managed to find a safe country were now being murdered in the Shoah.