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World War II: Phases of the Holocaust and World War II


"By 1934, Germany was firmly under Nazi control. After President von Hindenburg’s death in August of that year, Adolf Hitler declared himself not only the nation’s chancellor but also its führer. The revolution was over, he told his closest associates. It was now time to consolidate power and normalize life in the “new Germany” they had created. They were determined to create a Volksgemeinschaft—a “national community” or, literally, a “people’s community.”

The term had become popular during World War I as a way of rallying support for the conflict. At that time, it simply meant that all Germans, regardless of class, religious, and social differences, would work together to achieve a national purpose—winning the war. But the Nazis interpreted its meaning differently. They used the word to advance the idea of a racially pure and harmonious national community united in its devotion to the German people, their nation, and their leader. In the words of a popular Nazi slogan, the goal was “Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Führer!” (“One People! One Empire! One Leader!”)."

Source: Facing History

The Holocaust Encyclopaedia at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has 2 versions of the timeline of The Holocaust and WWII - the key dates version can be found HERE; the more detailed version can be found HERE.

Exploring the rise of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany and the spread of Nazi control across Europe, this programme looks at how and why the Jewish people went from being distrusted and blamed for Germany’s ills, to being violently vilified through events such as Kristallnacht, to finally being rounded up for mass extermination. Intended for viewing by audiences from middle secondary and older, this background to the Holocaust will help students to contextualise one of the worst atrocities in human history.

Stages of the Holocaust

Scholar Doris Bergen describes the phases of events that led to the Holocaust.

Nuremburg Laws

"In their effort to reshape the “national community” according to their racial ideals, the Nazis enacted hundreds of laws, policies, and decrees. Nearly 1,500 of the Nazis’ laws, policies, and decrees enacted between 1933 and 1939 were designed to remove Jews from the country’s political, economic, and cultural life. Among the most significant of these were the Nuremberg Laws.  This set of laws included the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor, both announced at the Nuremberg Party Rally on September 15, 1935, and an additional decree called the First Regulation to the Reich Citizenship Law, announced on November 14, 1935. 

The Nuremberg Laws turned Jews from German citizens into “residents of Germany.” The laws transformed the lives of Jews all over Germany, including thousands of people who had not previously known that their families had Jewish heritage."

Source: Facing History

Economic discrimination

Warsaw Ghetto

Map of the Warsaw Ghetto, 1940

Street scene in Warsaw ghetto

Stall of a street vendor selling old Hebrew books. Warsaw ghetto, Poland, February 1941.

Constructing the wall around the Warsaw ghetto

Forced laborers work on the construction of a wall around the Warsaw ghetto area. The Germans announced the construction of a ghetto in October 1940 and closed the ghetto off from the rest of Warsaw in mid-November 1940.

Jewish emigration

Map of Jewish emigration from Germany 1933-1940

"Between 1933 and 1939, Jews in Germany were subjected to arrest, economic boycott, the loss of civil rights and citizenship, incarceration in concentration camps, random violence, and the state-organized Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogrom. Jews reacted to Nazi persecution in a number of ways. Forcibly segregated from German society, German Jews turned to and expanded their own institutions and social organizations. However, in the face of increasing repression and physical violence, many Jews fled Germany. More Jews might have left Germany had such countries as the United States and Great Britain been more willing to admit them."

Evian Conference cartoon 1938

Political cartoon entitled “Will the Evian conference guide him to freedom?” in The New York Times, July 3, 1938


Nazi's definition of a Jew



The Wannsee Conference

View of the Wannsee Villa

On January 20, 1942, the villa was the site of the Wannsee Conference. 

Distinction between death & concentration camps

Types of camps

This picture shows the barbed wire double fences at Auschwitz. The Auschwitz complex was a series of camps that included several different types of camps: a concentration camp, an extermination camp, and a forced labour camp.

Source: The Weiner Holocaust Library

The watchtower at Dachau

Dachau was created in 1933 and was one of the first Nazi concentration camps.

Source: The Weiner Holocaust Library

The crematorium at Majdanek Extermination Camp

Between its establishment in 1941 and its liberation in 1945, over 78,000 people were murdered at Majdanek.

Source: The Weiner Holocaust Library

Ruth Wiener

In 1943, Ruth Wiener was incarcerated in Westerbork transit camp and later Bergen-Belsen concentration camp with her mother and two sisters.

Source: The Wiener Holocaust Library

This photograph shows a group of forced labourers at work in Kraków-Płaszów camp in German-occupied Poland.

Source: The Wiener Holocaust Library

Unused prisoner of war airmail letter

Typically, inmates in prisoner of war camps were allowed to send and receive letters from their families, although this process could take several weeks or months. 

Source: The Wiener Holocaust Library


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