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Friday, 26 June 2009 11:04
of the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe (1939-1945)

30 January 1933
Adolph Hitler, leader of the National Socialist Party, in other words the Nazi party (Nazi being the first two syllables of the party name), is elected Chancellor of Germany, thus starting a new page in the history of Europe. Horrifyingly totalitarian, Nazism usurps the place of democracy in the heart of Europe and anti-Semitism is established as the legitimate ideology of the new state.
21 March 1933
One of the first decisions that Hitler and the new government make is that concentration camps should be set up in Germany where dissenters can be interned. The first camp opens that same month. It is the Dachau camp that soon evolves into a symbol for all concentration camps where political prisoners are held.
7 April 1933
Anti-Jewish measures begin in Germany and Jews are gradually excluded from the society they had been an essential part of for centuries.
10 May 1933
Tens of thousands of books are burnt in Germany. The persecution of ideas and expression begins. Means and methods forgotten since the days of the Inquisition undergo a revival.
15 September 1935
The Nuremberg Race Laws for the ‘protection of German honour’ come into effect. German Jews lose their right to German citizenship. This automatically deprives them of all their civil rights.
9-13 November 1938
The first organised pogrom (persecution through acts of violence) takes place against Jews in a number of cities in Germany and Austria. Though the Nazis refer to ‘spontaneous acts of anger on the part of the people’, the well-timed outbursts happening simultaneously in a number of cities could only be the product of co-ordinated effort. Synagogues are plundered and 91 Jews murdered. The Nazis call it “Krystalnacht” (The Night of the Crystals) because of the large number of windows broken in Jewish owned shops, which are then ransacked. In addition to violence against Jews, this night also marks the introduction of terminology designed to mask a crime that is later to be called the Final Solution.
January 1939
The opening of the women’s concentration camp at Ravensbruck, where women of forty different nationalities were held.
1 September 1939
Germany invades Poland. England and France declare war on Germany on 3rd September. World War II (1939-1945), the bloodiest, most savage war of all time, is under way. Fascist Italy and Japan soon side with Germany, while the USA and the Soviet Union join the Allies at a slightly later date.   
12 October 1939
The Germans round up Jews in the first countries they occupy and deport them. The first Jews are deported from Czechoslovakia and Austria and taken to concentration camps in Poland. Though it still lacks a name and official sanction, the Final Solution has already begun.
Spring 1940
The Auschwitz camp is built on occupied Polish territory. The first group of prisoners, Polish political prisoners, are to be moved there in June 1940. The name of this camp later becomes synonymous with the annihilation of European Jews.
May – June 1940
Germany occupies Belgium, the Netherlands and France. The French collaborationistgovernment is set up at Vichy under Field Marshal Pétain in July. In the months that follow, the Pétain government takes action against Jews, for which it is condemned after the war.
28 October 1940
Italy declares war on Greece and invades over the Albanian border. Greek armed forces put up a brave defence and manage to hold them at bay until April 1941.
5 December 1940
Major Mordehai Frizis of Halkida is among the first high-ranking officers to fall on the Albanian front.
April 1941
German forces attack Greece over the Bulgarian border and occupy the whole country within a matter of weeks. Crete is the last part of the country to surrender, and even then only does so after fighting a historic battle in May 1941. The country is divided into three zones of occupation; the German zone, the Italian zone and the Bulgarian zone.
9 April 1941
The Germans enter Thessaloniki. Property belonging to individual Jewish people and the Jewish community is confiscated and looted. The “Rosenberg Kommando” systematically plunders the Jewish Community archives and library.
27 April 1941
The Germans enter Athens. Greece surrenders. The first collaborationist government is formed under Prime Minister General G Tsolakoglou.
22 June 1941
Germany and Italy declare war on the Soviet Union; a particularly significant event as it puts this leading communist country on the side of the western powers from this point on. Special Nazi units are soon to murder 1,300,000 Jews in the Soviet Union.
19 September 1941
All Jews in Germany are obliged to have the yellow Star of David sewn onto their lapels.
October 1941
The large scale deportation of German Jews to Poland begins.
December 1941
Soviet prisoners of war are put to death with Zyklon B gas in the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau in a trial run of the method to be employed in the annihilation of millions of Jews.
7 December 1941
The Japanese bomb the American fleet in Pearl Harbour in the Pacific. Italy and Germany declare war on the USA. The conflict is no longer confined to Europe but takes on global proportions, becoming a world war.
8 December 1941
Chelmno extermination camp opens and the first Jews and gypsies are gassed to death in huge locked vans. Shortly after this large gas chambers are built so that far greater numbers can be put to death at the same time.
20 January 1942
At a meeting led by General Reinhard Heydrich in the region of Wannsee Lake (near Berlin) top Nazi officials decide to exterminate the Jews of Europe and devise a way to put their plan into action. The minutes of the meeting include a list of European countries and the number of Jews to be exterminated in each. Greece is listed as having 69,600 Jews. The decision to commit genocide is made there and then and foresees the extermination of 11,000,000 Jewish people. The list of countries includes some, like Turkey and the UK, that are not occupied and lie beyond the bounds of continental Europe.
27 March 1942
The first train laden with deportee Jews leaves France.
11 July 1942
All male Jews in Thessaloniki are made to congregate in Eleftherias [Liberty] Square supposedly to be registered. They are made to stand in the sun for hours on end and do humiliating ‘physical exercises’. Many are taken for forced labour on road construction, the construction of defences and maintenance work on the Thessaloniki to Athens railway line. They are set free in October when the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki pays a huge sum in ransom.
16-17 July 1942
A total of 12,884 French Jews are arrested and held in the Winter Velodrome in Paris. It is the greatest mass arrest ever. The date is later chosen as Remembrance Day for Jewish people in France.
16 December 1942
Hitler gives the order for Gypsies to be deported to Auschwitz with their families.
December 1942
The old Jewish Cemetery of Thessaloniki is destroyed. Material from the cemetery is used in building work. Jewish owned shops and businesses are seized.
February 1943
Hitler’s forces are defeated at Stalingrad; pointing to how the war will end. 
February 1943
The anti-Semitist Nuremburg Race Laws come into effect in Thessaloniki. The Jews of the city are made to congregate in the two ghetto areas designated by the Germans and to wear the yellow Star of David; their ‘badge’. They are prohibited from making telephone calls and using public transport. They are also banned from plying a trade. Alois Brunner and Dieter Wisliceny arrive and preparations for the deportation of Jews begin. Kurt Waldheim, later to become President of Austria and then General Secretary of the United Nations, serves in Thessaloniki as an officer of the Wehrmacht. Plans are laid for the deportation of Jews in the Bulgarian Occupied Zone.
1 March 1943
The Jews of Thessaloniki are compelled to make detailed statements of all personal and business assets.
4 March 1943
All Jews in the Bulgarian Occupied Zone, which includes the Jewish Communities of Alexandroupolis, Kommoniti, Kavalla, Serres and Drama, are arrested and taken to the Bulgarian port of Lom in the Danube. From there they are put onto cargo boats to be taken to Treblinka concentration camp. Some of the boats sink, taking their human cargo to the bottom of the river. Of the 4,200 Jewish people in the zone, a mere 200 survive. Their property is plundered.
14 March - 2 August 1943
Around 56,000 Jewish people from Thessaloniki are deported in 19 train loads; destination, camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only about 1,950 of them are ever to return.
18 & 22 March 1943
Constantinos Logothetopoulos, Prime Minister of occupied Greece, sends a letter to the Reich’s representative in Athens, Gunther von Altenburg, asking that the deportation of Greek Jews be suspended.
23 & 24 March 1943
Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens and the Entire Land of Greece sends a petition to Prime Minister Constantinos Logothetopoulos and the Reich’s representative in Athens, Gunther von Altenburg, with the same plea. Prominent figures of Greek society add their signatures to the petition. 
5 May 1943
The Jewish people of Didimotiho, Nea Orestiada and Soufli are deported.
29 May 1943
Collaborators with the German authorities in Thessaloniki found the Organisation for the Management of Jewish Property under Law 205 ‘Concerning the management of confiscated and abandoned Jewish property by the occupying powers’. This organisation evolves into the means through which the property of deportees is conveyed ‘legally’ to Christian refugees from the Bulgarian Occupied Zone, collaborationists and sympathisers, while still maintaining a semblance of legality in putting the property into the hands of what the decree in question calls ‘conscientious heads of families’.
8 September 1943
Italy capitulates. In the days that follow Germany launches a series of well-planned, lightning operations and take over the formerly Italian occupied zone where many Greek Jews had fled for safety. The Germans disarm most of the Italians and the systematic persecution and deportation of Jewish people starts in this zone too. 
21 September 1943
In occupied Athens, now part of the German Occupied Zone, Archrabbi Elias Barzilai is summoned by the Gestapo and told to draw up a list of the members of the Jewish Community for them. He is given two days’ grace to draw up the list but is smuggled away to the mountains by the Resistance Organization of EAM. About 200 people follow the order and present themselves to the occupying power. The rest go into hiding. 
20 January 1944
Law 1180 ‘Concerning the management of confiscated Jewish property’ is publicised, effectively extending law N.205/1943 to cover the whole country. The Organisation for the Management of Jewish Property changes its name to the Central Service for the Management of Jewish Property.
23, 24 & 25 March 1944
The Jews of Athens, Halkida, Kastoria, Ioannina, Arta, Preveza, Larissa, Trikala and Volos are arrested.
2 April 1944
Jews of Athens, being held in Haidari army barracks since their arrest, are put on a train destined for Auschwitz. As the train makes its way north more goods wagons are added. They are laden with Jewish people from Halkida, Kastoria, Ioannina, Larissa and Volos.
20 May 1944
The Jews of Chania - Crete are arrested.
May 1944
Half a million Hungarian Jews are deported to Auschwitz.
7 June 1944
The Jews of Crete are deported on board the SS Tanais bound for Piraeus. On 9th June 1944 the ship is torpedoed by a British submarine and destroyed. Its entire human cargo is lost.
9 June 1944
The Jews of Corfu are arrested and deported to Auschwitz. The German plan for Zakynthos is thwarted by the subterfuge of Mayor Loukas Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos. The Jews of the island are smuggled off and not a single one is taken.
11 & 14 June 1944
The Jewish people of Corfu are deported.
23 & 25 July 1944
The Jews of Rhodes and Kos are arrested and taken to Haidari camp. At the end of August they are sent to Auschwitz together with a small number arrested in Athens.
7 October 1944
Revolt at Auschwitz camp by 135 Greek Jews working in the Sonderkommando unit where they are made to cremate the bodies of those put to death in the gas chambers. With the help of French and Hungarian Jews they blow up a crematorium. Attacked by SS forces backed by five aeroplanes, the 135 rebels hold out for about an hour. The revolt only ends when the last one is dead.
October 1944
Greece is liberated from the Nazi occupying forces. Battles for liberation tear though the country and celebrations take place in the newly-liberated cities (Athens 12 October 1944) with emotions running high.
27 January 1945
The Soviet Union’s Red Army liberates Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and finds 7,000 emaciated wretches still alive. One million, one hundred thousand people met their death at this camp. Nine hundred and sixty thousand of them were Jews from all over Europe. Sixty thousand were from Greece. The 27th January, the day Auschwitz was liberated, has been declared International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 
11 April 1945
The Americans liberate Buchenwald camp.
15 April 1945
Bergen-Belsen isliberated by the British.
29 April 1945
Dachau is liberated by the Americans.
30 April 1945
German radio announces the death of Hitler. No mention is made of suicide.
1 May 1945
The Soviet Army takes Berlin.
8 May 1945
The date of Germany’s unconditional surrender. The end of World War II.
[Edited by Odette Varon-Vassard & Alexios Menexiades]

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