Chronology of Jewish Persecution: 1938


January 1938

The concentration camp at Dachau, Germany, is enlarged.

In Holland, a collaborationist organization, National-Socialistische Vrouwen Organisatie (National Socialist Women’s Organization), is established.

The Swedish government institutes strict immigration standards.

January 21

Minority rights abrogated by Romania; many Jews have their citizenship revoked.

February 1938

Hitler appoints Joachim von Ribbentrop foreign minister.

February 4

Hitler names himself supreme commander of the Wehrmacht. Hitler’s Cabinet meets for the final time.

Austrian Nazis prepare to take over every Jewish business in the nation.

March 1938

The Polish government threatens to revoke the citizenship of Polish Jews who are living in Germany.

March 12

The German Army enters Vienna, Austria. Austria is annexed (the Anschluss) by Germany and is immediately subject to all antisemitic laws in effect in Germany. Jewish organizations and congregations are subsequently forbidden.

March 28

Law pertaining to the legal rights of Jewish cultural (ethnic) organizations. Jewish community organizations are no longer legal entities enjoying civil rights; instead, they can only be legally created associations.

April 5

Anti-Jewish riots spread across Poland.

April 15

Jews are killed and injured during an antisemitic pogrom at Dabrowa Tarnowska, Poland.

April 21

Germany issues a decree that effectively eliminates Jews from the nation’s economy and provides for the seizure of Jewish assets.

April 23

Jews in Vienna, Austria, are rounded up on the Sabbath by Nazis and forced to eat grass at the Prater, a local amusement park. Many of the victimized Jews suffer heart attacks and a few die.

April 26

The German government demands that all Jews register with the authorities all real estate and other assets exceeding 5000 marks. This is the first step toward expropriation of Jewish property; that is, Aryanization, a process whereby the Reich government seizes Jewish property and auctions it off to gentiles.

April 29

Jews are killed and injured during an antisemitic pogrom at Vilna, Poland.

May 1938

Following the Anschluss, Austrians force Jewish men and women to scrub the streets with small brushes and with the women’s fur coats.

May 3

A concentration camp is established at Flossenbürg, Germany.

May 4

Carl von Ossietzky, an anti-Nazi German journalist and winner of the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize, dies at age 50 after five years’ captivity in concentration camps.

May 28

Jewish businesses in Frankfurt, Germany, are boycotted.

May 29

Hungary adopts its first law restricting the rights of Jews. Hungary restricts the proportion of Jews holding jobs in commerce, industry, the liberal professions, and the Hungarian government to 20 percent.

May 30

Hitler announces to his general staff that he has decided to destroy Czechoslovakia. He says it is his “unalterable decision to destroy Czechoslovakia.” Chief of Staff General Ludwig Beck vehemently opposes Hitle’s ambitions and lobbies other top brass to put up a united front against aggression.

May 31

German legislation outlaws “decadent art.”

June 4

World-famous therapist Sigmund Freud flees Austria for England.

June 9

Nazis destroy the Munich Synagogue. They burn it to the ground.

June 14

Decree requiring the registration and identification of Jewish industrial enterprises. Creation of lists of wealthy Jews at treasury offices and police districts. All Jewish businesses that have not already been registered and marked must now comply with the Reich requirement.

June 15

“Asocial­Action”: Arrest of all “previously convicted” Jews, including those prosecuted for traffic violations, and committing them to concentration camps (approx. 1,500 persons).

June 22

German heavyweight boxer Max Schmeling, a symbol of “Aryan supremacy,” is knocked out in the first round by world champion Joe Louis. Schmeling had defeated Louis in 1936.

June 25

German-Jewish doctors are allowed to treat only Jewish patients.

July 1938

Under a proposal called the Sosua Project, the Dominican Republic offers to accept 100,000 European Jewish refugees, to be settled in an area near Santo Domingo, in return for payment of millions of dollars from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). (Under the plan, only about 500 Jews will be admitted to the Dominican Republic before the country halts immigration in 1940.)

July 6-14

An international conference at Evian-les-Bains, France, is called by United States President Franklin Roosevelt to deal with the Jewish refugee problem. Roosevelt’s aims, some say, are to deflect American Jewish appeals to help the German Jews. Aside from Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, which want enormous sums of money to allow a small number of Jews to immigrate, the 32 nations attending the conference decide that they will not permit large numbers of Jews to enter their countries.

July 12

The first 50 inmates arrive at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, about 20 miles from Berlin. Following Kristallnacht, 1,800 Jews are jailed here and subsequently murdered. By September 1939, the camp held 8,000 prisoners. In April 1940, the first crematorium was built. In March 1943, a gas chamber was added. In April 1945, as the Soviet Army advanced, 33,000 prisoners began a Death March. The Soviet Army found 3,000 survivors in the camp.

July 14

Recognizing the intent of the Evian Conference nations in regard to the Jews, a Nazi newspaper headlines: “JEWS FOR SALE AT A BARGAIN PRICE--WHO WANTS THEM? NO ONE.”

July 23

Jews in Germany are ordered to apply for identity cards to be shown to police on demand.

July 25

American radio broadcaster Father Charles Coughlin calls for the establishment of an American Christian Front to combat Communists and Jews. The Christian Front, which will come to fruition, will consist of mostly working-class Irish and German Americans. The organization will adhere to the beliefs that America is a Christian nation and that Catholics should march along with Protestants in a united Christian Front against the Jews.

Decree for the cancellation of the medical certification of all Jewish physicians effective September 30. Thereafter, Jewish physicians are only allowed to function as nurses for Jewish patients.

July 30

Henry Ford, an American industrialist and a leading antisemite, accepts the Third Reich’s medal of the Grand Cross of the German Eagle. A year later, at the outset of World War II, Ford will claim that “the Jew bankers” are responsible for the war.

August 1

The Reichszentralstelle für Jüdische Auswanderung (Reich Central Bureau for Jewish Emigration) is established in Vienna, Austria, to facilitate Jewish emigration from the Reich.

August 5

Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels introduces a new radio for the German people, the German Mini-Receiver also known as the Goebbels Schnauze (Goebbels’s Snout).

August 8

The first Austrian concentration camp is established at Mauthausen.

August 10

Destruction of the Great Synagogue in Nuremberg.

August 17

Decree to carry out the law pertaining to the change of first and last names. Effective January 1, 1939, all Jews must add to their name either “Israel” (for a Jewish male) or “Sara” (for a Jewish female).

August 18

The Swiss government denies entry to Jews. However, Paul Grüninger, local police commandant of St. Gall on the Austrian frontier, disobeys his superiors and allows 3600 Jews to pass the border from August through December 1938.

August 26

In Vienna, the Central Office for Jewish Emigration (Zentralstelle für Jüdische Auswanderung) is set up under Adolf Eichmann.

August 27

Unable to enlist General Staff into resigning en masse and unable to dissuade Hitler from carving up Czechoslovakia, Beck resigns as Chief of Staff. The conspiracy to overthrow Hitler has begun with Beck as the main architect of the plot. Throughout August, co-conspirators on the General Staff have been secretly sent by Beck and Abwehr Chief Admiral Wilhelm Canaris to London to persuade the British government to back their impending coup attempt by standing up to Hitler over Czechoslovakia.

September 1938

A concentration camp is established at Neuengamme, Germany.

The Berlin Putsch, with the aim of overthrowing Hitler and tossing him into an insane asylum, is planned by generals and influential civilians, but it never comes off because of poor organization and wavering leadership.

September 3

Prime Minister Chamberlain proclaims his mission to secure peace with Hitler over the crisis in Czechoslovakia.

September 6

Pope Pius XII informally tells Belgian pilgrims that antisemitism is a movement in which Christians should not involve themselves. However, Pius says, each Christian has the right “to defend himself, to take means to protect himself against all that threatens his legitimate interest.”

September 12

Jews forbidden to attend public cultural events.

September 15

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain meets with Hitler at Berchtesgaden, Germany, to discuss the Sudeten crisis. Hitler has demanded that the Sudetenland, which was part of Austria up through the end of World War I, be ceded by Czechoslovakia to Germany.

Army Chief of Staff General Franz Halder with the full knowledge of General Walther von Brauchitsch (Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces) has a commando force assembled and on stand-by notice ready to launch the first coup attempt. Conspirators General Hans Oster and Major Wilhelm Heinz secretly agree to have Hitler killed. The conspirators await Britain’s and France’s next move.

September 21

British and French governments advise Czechoslovakia to accept Hitler’s terms.

September 22-23

Neville Chamberlain again meets with Hitler, this time in Godesberg, Germany.

September 26

Hitler promises that the Sudetenland will be his last territorial demand in Europe.

September 27

Decree for the cancellation of the license to practice for all Jewish lawyers, effective November 30. Thereafter, Jewish lawyers can only practice in special instances as “Jewish Consultants for Jews.”

September 28

Hitler threatens to march into Czechoslovakia without further delay. Halder anxiously expects Britain’s ultimatum to Hitler which will allow him to launch the coup. Major Heinz and 50 commandos are secretly cloistered in safehouses throughout Berlin waiting for orders to storm the Chancellory.

September 29-30

The Munich Conference is attended by French Premier Edouard Daladier, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, and Hitler. Climaxing the Allies’ appeasement policy, France and Great Britain permit Germany to illegally annex the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. Most of Europe breathes a sigh of relief because war is averted. Daladier, observing the huge crowds awaiting him at the Orly airport near Paris, fears that they will tear him apart for betraying France’s Czech ally. After he lands, he is relieved when his people throw roses at him.

The Czech representatives to the conference, who had been forced to wait helplessly in the corridor outside the conference hall, break down into sobs after hearing the news of the Allied concessions to Germany. Also at the conference, Chamberlain signs a Friendship Treaty with Germany without informing his French ally. Arriving home, he triumphantly holds this scrap of paper up to the crowd that surrounds his airplane and promises “peace in our time.”

First coup attempt falls apart with Chamberlain’s decision to negotiate away the Sudentenland.

October 1938

The Polish government revokes passports of all Jews who have lived outside of Poland for more than five years, rendering them stateless.

Civiltá Cattolica, the foremost Jesuit journal, which is published in Rome and controlled by the Vatican, calls Judaism sinister and accuses Jews of trying to control the world through money and secularism. The journal says that the devil is the Jews’ master; Judaism is evil and “a standing menace to the world.”

October 1-10

The German Wehrmacht occupies the Czech Sudetenland under stipulations of the Munich Pact.

October 5

Following a request by Heinrich Rothmund, head of the Swiss federal police, the German government recalls all Jewish passports and marks them with a large, colored “J.” This is to prevent German Jews from passing as Christians and smuggling themselves into Switzerland.

October 8

The Slovak Peoples’ Party establishes Hlinkova Garda (Hlinka Guard), an antisemitic militia that will collaborate with the Germans.

October 28

Germany expels Jews with Polish citizenship to the Polish border. Poles refuse to admit them; Germans refuse to allow them back into Germany. Seventeen thousand are stranded in the frontier town of Zbaszyn, Poland.

November 1938

Father Bernhard Lichtenberg, a Roman Catholic priest in Berlin, condemns the German assault on Jews. One of the few German Catholics to denounce the immoral behavior of the government, Father Lichtenberg sermonizes: “Outside the synagogue is burning, and that also is a house of God.”

American Joint Distribution Committee aids Jewish refugees in Zbasyn, Poland.

November 2

Germany anounces the “Vienna Award” in which Germany cedes large parts of Czechoslovakia to Hungary and Italy. Sections of Slovakia as well as the Transcarpathian Ukraine are annexed by Hungary. Hitler has now directly violated the Munich Pact.

November 7

A distraught young Jew named Herschel Grynszpan, whose family has just been deported to Zbaszyn, enters the German Embassy in Paris and mortally wounds Third Secretary of Legation Ernst vom Rath. Academics often cite this as the beginning of the Holocaust. The Nazis will exploit this event by instigating a long-planned terror campaign against all Jews in Germany and Austria.

November 9

Hitler authorizes Hermann Göring to deal with all Jewish political issues.

November 9-10

Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) occurs across Germany and Austria. Ninety-one Jews are killed; others are beaten. Thirty thousand male Jews are sent to concentration camps (Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen), though most will be released in a few weeks. 267 synagogues are desecrated and destroyed (almost all of the synagogues of Germany and Austria). SS Security Service chief Reinhard Heydrich instructs security agencies to burn the synagogues unless German lives or property are endangered. Jewish businesses are looted and destroyed, including 7500 shops.

Hitler mentions to Hermann Göring that he would like to see all German Jews forcibly resettled on the island of Madagascar. Opportunistically chosen by the Nazi leadership, the date of the pogrom is of great symbolic importance. It coincides with two important national holidays, the Nazi Blood Witness Day of November 9 and Martin Luther’s birthday of November 10. Blood Witness Day commemorates the Nazi “martyrs” who died for their cause. Martin Luther advocated the destruction of Jewish homes and synagogues as well as the impoverishment, forced labor, exile, and death of Jews.

November 10

100,000 people in Nuremberg, Germany, attend a rally celebrating Kristallnacht.

November 11

Jews are killed and injured during an antisemitic pogrom at Bratislava, Slovakia.

November 12

Hermann Göring leads a discussion of German officials that results in a one-billion-mark ($400-million) fine against the German-Jewish community to pay for Kristallnacht. Göring calls this extortion an “expiation payment.” Seizing the money German insurance companies were paying the Jews for their damages, the Nazis require the Jews to pay for the repair of their own properties damaged in Kristallnacht.

The Nazis decide on a decree to remove all Jews from the German economy, society, and culture. Reinhard Heydrich suggests that every Jew be forced to wear a badge. Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels suggests that Jews be kept from using public parks. Hermann Göring mentions that Hitler told him on the phone on November 9 that if war breaks out, Germany “will first of all make sure of settling accounts with the Jews. [Hitler] is going to ask the other nations: ‘Why do you keep talking about the Jews? Take them!’” In the Nazi Party’s principal newspaper, Goebbels writes: “We want only one thing, that the world loves the Jews enough to rid us of them all.”

Decree for the “atonement payments” by German Jews in the amount of one billion marks; decree for the elimination of German Jews from involvement in the economy; decree for the reconstruction of the facades of all Jewish shops (Jews have to pay for all damage caused during Kristallnacht); Jews prohibited from attending movies, concerts, and other cultural performances.

Speaking at a meeting with the South African minister of economics and defense, Hitler remarks that Europe’s Jews will be killed in the event of war.

November 15

All Jewish children are expelled from German schools. From now on, they may only attend Jewish schools.

In the wake of the bloody pogroms of Kristallnacht, United States President Franklin Roosevelt withdraws his ambassador from Germany.

November 18

Hitler recalls Hans Heinrich Dieckhoff, German ambassador to the United States, after President Franklin Roosevelt recalled the U.S. ambassador to Germany.

The American Virgin Islands Assembly offers the islands as a haven for Jewish refugees. The American government does not explore this possibility.

November 20

Using Nazi documents, American radio commentator Father Charles Coughlin contends that Jews are responsible for Russian communism and for Germany’s problems. All of Coughlin’s radio programs are approved by his archdiocese as not contradicting Catholic faith or morals. Some Catholics protest Coughlin’s broadcasts, including Chicago’s Cardinal George Mundelein, but most of the American Church is silent.

November 21

The British House of Commons objects to German persecution of minorities.

November 24

British Conservative Party leader Winston Churchill decides that Palestine cannot be considered a primary refuge for Jews.

November 25

The SS transfers 500 male concentration camp prisoners to the village of Ravensbrück, north of Berlin, Germany. The prisoners begin the construction of the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Ravensbrück will serve as the main camp for women prisoners in Germany.

November 28

Police decree pertaining to the appearance of Jews in public: Restrictions in the freedom of movement and travel, etc.

December 1938

Reichsbank president Hjalmar Schacht travels to London to propose to George Rublee, of the Intergovernmental Committee for Political Refugees, an extortionate scheme: German Jews could emigrate if they put up cash assets that would be transferred to the Reich upon emigration. This Schacht-Rublee plan will be abandoned in January 1939, when Schacht will be dismissed by Hitler after Schacht objects to the high cost of Germany’s rearmament.

The British Cabinet allows 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children into Britain in an action called the Kindertransport. (Britain, however, refuses to allow 21,000 more Jewish children into Palestine.) The rescued children come from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia with the help of British, Jewish, and Quaker welfare organizations. Because of the Holocaust, most of the children will never see their parents again, and many of the Jewish children will be converted to Christianity.

Organization for illegal immigration established in Palestine.

December 3

Confiscation of Jewish drivers’ licenses. Creation of a “Ban Against Jews” in Berlin; decree pertaining to the forced disposal (Aryanization) of Jewish industrial enterprises and businesses; directives concerning the ousting of Jews from German economic life.

December 6

Germany and France sign a nonaggression pact.

December 14

Hermann Goring takes charge of resolving the “Jewish question.”

December 18

Thousands of Father Charles Coughlin’s followers take to the streets of New York City, chanting, “Send Jews back where they came from in leaky boats!” and “Wait until Hitler comes over here!” Many Christian policemen are sympathetic to the Coughlinites. The protests will last until April 1939. They are opposed by other Catholic organizations and by leftists and liberals.

December 24

Several members of the American Catholic hierarchy and leading Protestants sign a Christmas resolution expressing “horror and shame” in response to the Kristallnacht pogrom.

1938: Other imporant events

Of Germany’s 500,000 Jews in 1933, about 200,000 emigrate by the end of 1938.

The first issue of Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt (Jewish Newsletter), a Nazi-controlled publication, keeps German citizens abreast of Nazi regulations regarding Jews.

Ludwig Schemann, a leading German advocate of racism, dies.

In Romania, a Fascist and antisemitic government, established in December 1937 and headed by Octavian Goga, falls early in 1938.

Right-wing Catholic priest Jozef Tiso becomes prime minister of Slovakia and establishes ties to Nazi Germany.

Adolf Hitler tells Minister of Justice Hans Frank that he has come to fulfill the curse imposed by the Jews themselves in the New Testament: “His [Jesus’s] blood be upon us and upon our children.” Hitler, born and raised as a Roman Catholic, observes that had Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, been fully aware of the Jewish threat, he would not have criticized Catholicism; instead, he would have put all of his energy into attacking the Jews.


Sources: Various books and chronologies related to World War II and the Holocaust Memorial Center
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U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
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