International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2019: Timeline of Events From Hitler's Rise to Power to Nuremberg Trials

international holocaust remembrance day hitler concentration camps nuremberg trials timeline
People visit Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, which commemorates the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II, in Jerusalem on January 26 2014, a day before the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

Each year, the world honors the lives lost and remembers the atrocities of the Holocaust, but despite being one of the most pivotal moments in world history, recent polls found that in the modern era, knowledge about the genocide is quite low.

A poll conducted in April by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found that 22 percent of millennials either hadn't heard of the Holocaust or weren't sure if they had. Two-thirds of American millennials that were polled also could not identify what Auschwitz was, according to The Washington Post.

Another poll conducted in seven countries in Europe had similar findings. Among the people who were surveyed, 20 percent of people, who ranged between the ages of 18 and 34, had never heard of the Holocaust.

As distance forms between the past and the present, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it's important to look back on the events that transpired to honor those who survived, remember those who were lost and learn from the mistakes of the past.

Hitler Rise to Power (1919-1933)

After World War I devastated Europe, many people were struggling economically and anti-Semitic sentiments were fueled by comments that Jewish people caused Germany to lose the war, according to Yad Vashem. Wounded in World War I as a soldier, Adolf Hitler joined the National Socialist Party in 1919 and was imprisoned in 1923 after a failed revolt in Munich, Germany.

While in jail, Hitler wrote the infamous book Mein Kampf and after being released from custody, Hitler helped the Nazi Party grow in parliament. What began as a party with three percent of the votes cast, turned into the largest faction of the House and Hitler became chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.

Less than a month after Hitler took office, Weimar Republic President Paul von Hindenburg issued the Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended constitutional protections in Germany. After Von Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler became president of Germany, which he abolished about two weeks later, making him the absolute dictator.

Concentration Camps & Jewish Restrictions (1933-1945)

Shortly after taking power, the Nazi regime, also known as the Third Reich, established concentration camps. Among those imprisoned were Jews, political opponents, people who were homosexual, Jehovah's Witnesses and people classified as "dangerous," according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).

Dachau was the first concentration camp created and over 188,000 people were incarcerated at the camp between the years of 1933 and 1945. Some of the most well-known concentration camps were Bergen-Belsen, where Anne Frank died, Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the largest, and Ravensbrück, an all-female camp where many women were used as medical "rabbits." However, the Nazi regime built over 600 camps throughout Europe to aid in the extermination of European Jews and other undesirables.

Those who weren't killed immediately after arriving at the camp, had their possessions taken from them, their heads shaved, were issued identical and often ill-fitted clothing and tattooed with a number on their forearm.

auschwitz international holocaust remembrance day
A member of an association of Auschwitz concentration camp survivors walks through the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" entrance gate after laying wreaths with other members at the execution wall at the former Auschwitz I concentration camp on January 27, 2015, in Oswiecim, Poland. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Over the course of Nazis reign, Jewish people in Europe were subjected to over 400 decrees and regulations restricting aspects of their lives. Restrictions included bans on being in public places, having certain professions and possessing more than a pre-determined sum of money. Jews over the age of six were also forced to wear yellow Stars of David on their clothing so they could be easily identified.

Many people who were Jewish were relocated from their homes to other areas of cities where they lived or entirely new countries to live in segregated housing known as ghettos. Those imprisoned in the ghettos were subjected to harsh and often times deadly living conditions. Many ghettos were later liquidated, its residents being sent to concentration camps throughout Europe.

Olympic Games Germany (1936)

On August 1, 1936, Berlin hosted the Olympic Games, which USHMM described as being a "propaganda success" for the Nazi government. Anti-Jewish signs were removed from public display and Helen Mayer, who was part Jewish, was included on Germany's Olympic team.

Eighteen black athletes, including track phenomenon Jesse Owens, represented the United States at the games, winning 14 medals.

Kristallnacht (1938)

On the night of November 9, 1938, anti-Jewish demonstrations occurred throughout Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland, which was in Czechoslovakia. For 48-hours, hundreds of synagogues were destroyed and Jewish religious artifacts were burned or desecrated, according to USHMM.

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Three onlookers at a smashed Jewish shop window in Berlin following riots of the night of 9th November. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

About 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses, homes and schools were robbed, 91 Jews were murdered and 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps. Nazis called the event Kristallnacht, which translated to "the night of broken glass," because thousands of windows were shattered. It represented a shift from anti-Semitic language and laws to violence against Jews.

European Invasion (1939-1941)

In exchange for the Sudetenland, Hitler promised multiple world leaders he wouldn't invade Europe. However, less than a year later, the Nazi regime invaded the Czechoslovakian provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, violating the agreement. Hitler later invaded other countries in Europe, identified in a timeline by Scholastic as:

  • September 1, 1939: Germany invades Poland
  • April 9, 1940: Germany invades Norway and Denmark
  • May 10, 1940: Germany invades Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France
  • June 22, 1941: Germany invades the Soviet Union

The Final Solution (1942-1945)

The "Final Solution," organized largely by Adolf Eichmann at a conference in January 1942, was the systematic mass murder of Europe's Jewish population, according to Yad Vashem. Although large numbers of Jews were killed before details of the "Final Solution," were finalized, the extermination process largely occurred through six death camps.

At death camps, very few people were selected to remain alive and help with the extermination process, which primarily included putting people into gas chambers. Men, women and children at Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka and Chelmno were almost all sent immediately to their deaths upon arrival. Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka were responsible for the deaths of about 1,700,000 Jews.

Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest concentration and extermination camp on Polish soil. A small percentage of those who arrived at Birkenau were selected for labor or to participate in Dr. Josef Mengele's medical experiments.

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Prisoners shoes are exhibited in the cell blocks of the Auschwitz I extermination camp on November 11, 2014, in Oswiecim, Poland. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Over 1,100,000 Jews, 70,000 Poles, 25,000 Sinti and Roma Gypsies and 15,000 prisoners of war were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, according to Yad Vashem.

In total, six million European Jews, about two-thirds of Jewish people living in Europe at the time, were murdered during the Holocaust. That's more than the combined number of people living in Chicago and Houston, the third and fourth most populated cities in America, according to the 2017 census.

Liberation (1944-1945)

Liberation of the concentration camps began in July 1944, when Soviet Union forces reached Lublin-Majdanek in Lublin, Poland, according to USHMM. Following the discovery of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, the Soviet Union liberated Auschwitz in January 1945, finding over 6,000 emaciated prisoners.

As the Soviet forces advanced from the East, United States forces made headway from the West, liberating Buchenwald concentration camp on April 11, 1945. Allied forces were also responsible for liberating other camps, including Dachau, Mauthausen and Bergen-Belsen.

Hitler, Nazi Leaders Kill Themselves (1945)

On April 29, 1945, Hitler married Eva Braun and banished Herman Goering and Heinrich Himmler, both Nazi party leaders, from the party for being disloyal to him, according to Yad Vashem. On April 30, 1945, Braun took a cyanide capsule and Hitler shot himself in the mouth, killing himself in his bunker in Berlin.

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German dictator Adolf Hitler with his mistress Eva Braun, whom he married on April 29, 1945, the day before they committed suicide. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and his wife killed their six children and then also themselves. Himmler also committed suicide before Germany's surrender.

German Surrender (1945)

A week after Hitler killed himself, German armed forces surrendered unconditionally in the west on May 7, 1945, and in the East two days later. V-E Day, short for Victory in Europe Day, was proclaimed on May 8, 1945, prompting celebrations in the capital cities of America, England, Russia and France.

Nuremberg Trials (1945-1946)

In 1945 and 1946, 13 trials were carried out in Nuremberg, Germany, to hold Nazi Party officials and others accountable for crimes against humanity. Three categories of crimes, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity, were defined for the trials. Prosecutors and defense attorneys were used, as in accordance with American and British law, but decisions and sentences were imposed by a tribunal. Each of the four Allied powers supplied two-judges, one main judge and one alternate.

Twenty-four individuals were in indicted in the trials and all but three of them were found guilty. Twelve were sentenced to death and the rest were given prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life.

While these are some of the events that transpired, it's far from a complete account of all that happened during Hitler's terror-filled reign. His destruction affected generations of people around the world and the subject is continuously being studied even today, 86 years after Hitler became chancellor of Germany.

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