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Holocaust Chronology of 1940

January 2

The Generalgouvernement in Poland decrees that Jews may not post obituaries.

January 6

Shivering Jews in Warsaw, Poland, are forced to burn Jewish books for fuel.

January 12

The Gestapo and SS men shoot and kill 300 inmates of a Polish insane asylum at Hordyszcze.

January 14-16

The forced march of 880 Polish prisoners of war--all Jews--results in the shooting deaths of more than 600.

January 18-24

255 Polish Jews arrested at random in Warsaw are taken to the Palmiry Forest outside the city and shot.

Jaunary 24

Jewish property in Generalgouvernement must be registered.

January 25

The Polish town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz) is chosen as the site of a new Nazi concentration camp.

January 30

The British Embassy in Bucharest pressures the Romanian government to prevent its ships from carrying Jewish refugees.

February 7

Jews in Warsaw, Poland, are prohibited from visiting the city’s public libraries.

February 8

A Jewish ghetto is established at Lódz, Poland.

February 12-13

First deportations from Pomerania (Stettin, Stralsund, Schneidemuehl) to Lublin, Poland.

February 18

Two Jewish teenage girls are abducted in Warsaw, Poland, and raped in a Jewish cemetery by two German noncommissioned officers.

February 19

The use of the Dachau, Germany, concentration camp as a training facility for the Waffen-SS concludes. Prisoners transferred to the Mauthausen, Austria, camp in September 1939 are returned, and Dachau reverts to its original use as a concentration camp.

February 21

Nazis in Warsaw, Poland, throw a Jewish woman from a moving streetcar.

March 12

All 160 Jews from the Baltic port of Schneidemühl, Poland, are transported to Lublin, Poland, in sealed freight cars, then are forced to march to small villages 20 kilometers away.

Spring 1940

The first deportations of German Gypsies begin, from western and northwestern Germany.

March 22

German Field Marshal Hermann Göring halts deportations of Jews to Lublin, Poland, after complaints from Hans Frank, governor-general of Occupied Poland, about “dumping” them.

April 1940

The Institut für deutsche Ostarbeit (Institute for German Work in the East) is founded to study Polish Jewry.

April 1

Shanghai, China, accepts thousands of Jewish refugees.

April 8-11

Soviet troops massacre 26,000 Polish officers in Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia. Many Jews are among the victims.

April 9

Germany invades Denmark and Norway. Denmark surrenders within four hours. The Danes and Norwegians attempt to prevent the Nazis from harming Jews.

April 20

Secret order by the High Command of the Armed Forces: Discharge persons of mixed blood and husbands of Jewish women.

April 22

SS official Odilo Globocnik announces a plan to increase the use of Jewish forced labor and to establish separate work camps for Jewish men and women.

April 23

Captive Jews at Stutthof, Poland, are forced to leap into open latrines; many are drowned or beaten to death.

April 27

Himmler directive to establish a concentration camp at Auschwitz.

British Foreign Office official H. F. Downie argues that the Jews are “enemies just as the Germans are, but in a more insidious way,” and that “our two sets of enemies [Nazis and Jews] are linked together by secret and evil bonds.”

April 30

Nazis sealed off the first ghetto in Lodz, Poland, locking 230,000 Jews within.

May 1940

Polish and Baltic-area Jews begin to escape to Jerusalem and across the Soviet Union to Japan, the Dutch East Indies, Australia, Canada, and the United States. In all, only a few thousand Jews from the region manage to escape.

Rudolf Höss, adjutant at the Sachsenhausen, Germany, concentration camp, is ordered to turn the former Polish army barracks at Auschwitz, Poland, into an extermination camp. He becomes kommandant of Auschwitz.

May 1

Norway surrenders to the German army.

At great risk to his life, Oster (with Canaris’s full knowledge) has been repeatedly warning the Low Countries of Hitler’s impending Western offensive. Oster gives the Dutch and Belgian military attaches the exact day and hour of the impending invasion. His warnings are ignored.

May 10

Germany invades Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

Chamberlain resigns; Churchill becomes the U.K.’s new prime minister. “I felt as if I were walking with Destiny,” he declared, “and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.” Churchill declares a policy of “absolute silence” towards the German Resistance. But the Pope secretly offers to act as intermediary for the conspirators. Conspirator Dr. Otto Mueller is sent to the Vatican to pass on messages to the British government via Bishop Anthony Bell of Chichester.

Poet and essayist T. S. Eliot writes that the Jews are the modern world’s foremost “Forces of Evil.” He claims that they have “made the modern world vile.”

May 15

Thousands of refugee Jews from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia are trapped behind German lines as Nazi forces push through Holland. The Dutch Army surrenders.

May 16

The Nazis launch the Extraordinary Pacification Operation plan to eliminate Polish intellectuals.

May 19

Arthur Seyss-Inquart is appointed Reich commissioner for the Netherlands.

May 20

Auschwitz concentration camp (Auschwitz I) begins functioning outside the Polish city of Oswiecim. Because most of Europe’s Jews live in Poland and Eastern Europe, the six concentration camps called death camps will be established there: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Belzec, Treblinka, Sobibór, and Majdanek.

May 23

Frustrated by “illegal” immigration into Palestine, British High Commissioner for Palestine Sir Harold MacMichael insists that Hungary accept the return of two Jews who had left Hungary and settled in Palestine in 1934 on tourist visas. The Hungarian government replies that there are an “excessive” number of Jews in their country and the government’s aim is “that as many as possible should be encouraged to emigrate.”

May 26-June 4

Allies evacuate 338,000 French and British troops from Dunkirk across the British channel and over to the safety of Britain.

May 27

One hundred British prisoners of war are murdered by German troops at Le Paradis, France.

May 28

Belgium capitulates.

May-December 1940

Thousands of Polish Jews are sent eastward as forced laborers to construct fortifications along the new Soviet frontier.

May 1940-March 1941

40,000 Jews are deported from Kraków, Poland.

June 4

The concentration camp at Neuengamme, Germany, is upgraded to primary-camp status.

French and British troops are evacuated from Dunkerque, France.

June 5

Battle of France begins.

June 10

German troops defeat Denmark and Norway.

Italy announces that it has entered the war, as a junior ally to Germany. Italy declares war on Britain and France.

June 14

Paris falls to the Germans. Noted novelist and German-Jewish refugee Ernst Weiss commits suicide in the city.

Transports begin arriving at Auschwitz — The first train arrives at a former military barracks in a little town called Oswiecim, located some thirty miles south-west of Kraków. This first deportation to Auschwitz carried 728 Polish political prisoners, including teachers, priests, and other non-Jewish Poles. From such a small beginning grew, in the words of German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, “quite literally the end of the world.” The number of Jews killed at the camp is unknown. Estimates range from as high as 2,500,000 — Adolf Eichmann’s guess — to a little over a million, according to a contemporary study. Rudolf Hoess, the Commandant for most of Auschwitz’s existence, agreed with Eichmann’s total, but then reduced the number to 1,135,000.

June 16

France presses for an armistice with Germany.

June 17

French head of state Marchal Petain sues for peace.

June 18

Hitler presents Mussolini with the Madagascar plan.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill vows this will be Britain’s “finest hour.”

June 21

American radio correspondent William L. Shirer broadcasts details of France’s capitulation to Germany.

June 22

French army surrenders at Rethondes in the same railway car where France has forced Germany’s surrender in 1918. Marshal Petain signs an armistice with Germany. “The battle of France is over,” Churchill told the House of Commons. “I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.”

June 26

United States Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long determines to obstruct the granting of visas to Jews seeking entry into the United States. He seeks indefinitely to “delay and effectively stop” such immigration by ordering American consuls “to put every obstacle in the way [to] postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of visas.” His goal will be realized over the next four years.

June 30

German authorities order that Lodz ghetto be sealed off, confining at least 160,000 people in the ghetto. From then on, all Jews living in Lodz had to reside in the ghetto and could not leave Germany without authorization.

German forces occupy the Channel islands, the only part of the British Isles to be occupied.

July 1940

The America First Committee is formed. It is the most significant American isolationist group, and it is also infiltrated by Nazis, who are working to prevent American intervention in Europe. Several prominent Americans speak in support of the committee. Many in Congress attack the Jews of Hollywood as attempting to involve America in opposition to Hitler.

Bloody anti-Jewish riots erupt in cities throughout Romania.

In a letter to German Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick, Bishop Theophil Wurm, head of the provincial Lutheran Church at Württemberg, Germany, objects to “euthanasia” killings at the nearby Grafaneck crippled-children’s institution.

In Holland, a collaborationist propaganda group, Nederlandse Unie (Netherlands Union), is established.

July 1

A Jewish ghetto is established at Bedzin, Poland.

July 10

Vichy government formed.

Battle of Britain begins when the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) attacks British targets. For three months, the German Luftwaffe and the British Royal Air Force (RAF) clash over the skies of Britain, with London and other cities taking an incredible pouding. In October, the RAF hands the Germans their first defeat. In lauding the RAF, Churchill remarks, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owned by so many to so few.”

July 19

U.K. turns down German peace offer for recognition of domination in western Europe.

July 20

Conspirator Fritz Dietlof von der Schulenberg’s plan to have Hitler shot in Paris during a reviewing parade fails to materialize. Hitler makes a spontaneous visit to Paris in the early morning hours of July 23.

July 21

Hitler orders preliminary preparations for an attack on Russia.

August 1940

The United States Congress passes a law to allow thousands of British children into the U.S. beyond the immigration quotas. The law is widely supported by American public opinion. Exploiting a loophole in America’s immigration law never used for Jewish refugee children, President Franklin Roosevelt calls these British children “visitors”; that is, immigrants planning some day to return to Great Britain. Congress amends the Neutrality Act to allow American ships to evacuate these children.

400 Jews sick with bleeding diarrhea at the Józefów, Poland, labor camp are executed.

August 9

Hitler orders Aufbau Ost, the buildup of military communications and transport in Poland, preparatory to a German invasion of the Soviet Union.

August 10

Anti­Jewish racist laws passed in Romania.

August 15

Adolf Eichmann proposes turning the island of Madagascar into a huge Jewish ghetto, where Jews will die out.

August 17

Germany declares “Total blockade of Britain.”

August 25

The first British air raid is launched against Berlin.

August 26

German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin commits suicide in Spain, after local authorities threaten to return him to Germany.

August 27

France’s collaborationist government, headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain, invalidates the March 21, 1939, French decree prohibiting incitement to race hatred.

September 1940

Polish underground officer Witold Pilecki penetrates the main camp at Auschwitz with the intention of organizing secret resistance groups inside the camp.

The National Legionary government of dictator Ion Antonescu assumes power in Romania.

In Belgium, a collaborationist military unit, Algemeene Schutscharen Vlaanderen (Flemish General SS), is established.

President Roosevelt trades fifty World War I-era destroyers to Churchill in exchange for the use of Naval bases in British colonies. To American generals, the deal was a disaster, as warships were in scarce supply . To Roosevelt, the deal appeared to aid Americ’s ally while not jeopardizing the President’s standing in an isolation-minded Congress. To Churchill, the deal futher entangled American and British interests. “I have no doubt,” Churchill told the House of Commons, “that Herr Hitler will not like this transfer of destroyers, and I have no doubt that he will pay the United States out, if he ever gets the chance.”

September 1

Soviet authorities order Japanese Consul Sempo Sugihara to leave Kovno, Lithuania, where he has issued 3500 exit visas to Jews.

September 5

German occupation authorities in Luxembourg introduce Nuremberg Laws. All Jewish businesses are seized and handed to “Aryans.”

Bishop Theophil Wurm, head of the provincial Lutheran Church at Württemberg, Germany, sends a second letter to German Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick expressing his objections to “euthanasia” killings.

September 7

German “Blitz” on England reaches climax.

September 11

The Jewish refugee ship Quanza stops to refuel at Norfolk, Virginia, after having been denied entry to the United States at New York and to Mexico at Vera Cruz. One passenger, a German Jew, is returned to the ship by U.S. Army guards after leaping overboard near the shore of Hampton Roads, Virginia.

In Holland, a collaborationist military unit, Nederlandsche SS (Dutch SS), is established.

September 15

Germany’s Luftwaffe suffers major losses over London, at last giving Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) the upper hand in the Battle of Britain.

September 16

The United States Congress approves the Selective Service Act of 1940, the first peacetime conscription in the nation’s history. Passed in an election year, the Act contained numerous compromises. For instance, the Act provided that not more than 900,000 men were to be trained at any one time. Also, service was limited to 12 months. Both stipulations would change in the coming years.

September 23

SS chief Heinrich Himmler authorizes a special SS Reichsbank account to hold gold (including gold extracted from teeth), silver, jewelry, and foreign currency stolen from interned Jews. The account is held by the fictitious “Max Heiliger.”

September 24

Director Veit Harlan’s antisemitic film Jud Süss premieres in Berlin.

September 27

Germany, Italy, and Japan conclude Tripartite Pact, thus forming the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis. Slovakia, Romania, and Hungary will soon join.

October 1940

6500 Jews are deported from Germany’s Palatinate, Baden, and Saar regions to internment camps at the foot of the French Pyrénées.

Jews are forced to pay for and build a wall around the Warsaw Ghetto.

Reich theoretician Alfred Rosenberg writes an article, “Jews to Madagascar,” which suggests mass deportation of Jews to the island off the African coast.

German authorities forbid Norwegian Jews to teach and participate in other professions.

October 1

Young Jewish men return from the Belzec, Poland, camp to Szczebrzeszyn, Poland, after a ransom of 20,000 zlotys is paid to Nazi captors.

October 3

Vichy (Occupied) France passes antisemitic legislation. Vichy’s anti-Jewish laws, the first Statut des Juifs, are modeled on the German Nuremberg Laws, and, like them, are widely accepted. Passed in anticipation of Nazi pressure, the laws’ primary aims are to force Jews out of public service, teaching, financial occupations, public relations, and the media.

October 4

German law gives Vichy France the power to imprison Jews even inside the Unoccupied Zone.

October 7

German troops enter Romania.

October 12

Hitler announces Operation Sea Lion (the plan to take over Britian) to be postponed indefinitely.

On this Jewish Day of Atonement, German loudspeakers in Warsaw, Poland, announce that all Jews in the city must move to the Jewish ghetto by the end of the month.

October 14

The Nazis move non-Jews out of a designated section of Warsaw, Poland, and import Jews to replace them.

October 16

Order for the establishment of the Warsaw Ghetto.

October 20

More than 7000 Jews from the Saar region of Germany are interned at the camp at Gurs, France.

October 22

Aktion Burckel”: Deportation of Jews from Alsace?Lorraine, Saarland, and Baden to Southern France, then in 1942, to Auschwitz.

Jewish businesses in occupied Netherlands must be registered.

October 23

Hitler meets Franco at the French-Spanish border to persuade him to enter the war, but fails. Beforehand, Abwehr Chief Canaris has secretly been lobbying Franco to stay neutral.

October 25

A German directive issued from Kraków, Poland, prohibits issuance of exit visas to Polish Jews.

October 28

German occupiers in Belgium pass antisemitic legislation, including registration of Jewish property.

Italy invades Greece. More than 12,000 Greek Jews help to halt the Italian offensive.

November 1940

President Roosevelt defeats Republican Wendell Wilkie in the general election and wins an unprecedented third term in office.

November 11

Fifty-five non-Jewish Polish intellectuals are murdered at Dachau.

German authorities in Poland officially declare the existence of the Warsaw Ghetto.

November 15-16

Hermetic sealing of the Warsaw Ghetto. It was the largest ghetto in both area and population. The Germans confined more than 350,000 Jews — about 30 percent of the city’s population — in about 2.4 percent of the city’s total area.

November 17

In Berlin, Lieutenant Colonel Kazys Skirpa, former Lithuanian ambassador to Germany, establishes the Lietuviu Aktyvistu Frontas (Lithuanian Activist Front), a collaborationist Fascist organization dedicated to nationalism and antisemitism.

November 19

A Christian Pole in Warsaw is killed by Germans after tossing a bundle of bread over the wall into the Jewish ghetto.

November 20-24

Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia join the Axis powers.

November 25

The ship Patria, carrying 2000 Jewish immigrants, is accidentally sunk by the radical Jewish group Hagana. About 250 Jews on board are killed.

November 26

British Secretary of State for the Colonies Lord Lloyd calls those who are working to save Jewish lives by illegally transporting them to Palestine “foul people who had to be stamped out.”

November 28

Director Fritz Hipple’s pseudo-documentary, antisemitic film Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew) premieres in Berlin.

December 1940

Oneg Shabbat” clandestine archives established.

The Vatican condemns Nazi “mercy killings” of “unfit Aryans” as “contrary to both natural and divine law.”

Inside the Warsaw Ghetto, Polish-Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum begins work on a secret diary of ghetto life.

In Holland, a collaborationist propaganda group, Verbond van Nederlandse Journalisten (Union of Dutch Journalists), is established.

December 5

British government official Sir John Schuckburgh writes that “the Jews have no sense of humor and no sense of proportion.”

December 8

In a letter described as “the most carefully drafted and re-drafted message in the entire Churchill-Roosevelt correspondence,” Prime Minister Churchill pleads for American assistance. He notes that Cash-and-Carry would eventually prove “fatal” for both Britain and American because “we may fall by the way in the time needed by the United States to complete her defensive preparations...” In a press conference, Roosevelt announces that “the best immediate defense of the United States is the success of Great Britain in defending itself.” This would lead to the policy known as Lend-Lease. Simultaneously, Roosevelt sends his most trusted emissary, Harry Hopkins, to London. Hopkins eases Churchill’s mind to a degree. “There he sat, ”Churchill wrote of Hopkins, “slim, frail, ill, but absolutely glowing with refined comprehension of the Cause [the defeat of Hitler] to the exclusion of all other purposes, loyalties, or aims.” Churchill dubbed Harry Hopkins, “Lord Root of the Matter.”

December 9

A German soldier leaps from a car in the Warsaw Ghetto and strikes a Jewish boy in the head with an iron bar, killing him.

December 12

The Salvador, a ship that set out from Varna, Bulgaria, a month ago, sinks in the Sea of Marmora; 200 Jewish refugees, including 70 children, drown. T. M. Snow, head of the British Foreign Office’s Refugee Section, notes that “there could have been no more opportune disaster from the point of view of stopping this [Jewish refugee] traffic [to Palestine].”

December 17

Drunk SS guards at the Sachsenhausen labor camp awaken Jews during a frigid night and order them to roll in the snow.

Late 1940-early 1941

The Jewish ghetto at Piotrków, Poland, is struck by an epidemic of typhus.

1940: Other imporant events

Six “euthanasia” centers are set up in Germany to murder Jews, the mentally ill, the elderly, the physically ill, and the handicapped.

Estonia is annexed by the Soviet Union.

Jewish Social Democratic politician Ernst Heilmann dies at the Buchenwald, Germany, concentration camp.

President Franklin Roosevelt puts the question of Jewish immigration into the United States into the antisemitic hands of Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long and associates in the State Department. A political ally of the president, Long opposes “excessive humanitarianism” in regards to the Jews. Tainted by a general xenophobia and a predilection for Mussolini and Italian fascism (Long was ambassador to Italy), Long seems particularly distressed at the prospect of more Jews entering the United States.

Leslie Hore-Belisha, Great Britain’s secretary of state for war, and a Jew, resigns, largely because of the anti-Jewish feelings among members of the British government. Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax and Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office Alexander Cadogan note that Hore-Belisha’s Jewishness rendered him unsuitable as minister of information, stating, “Jew control of our propaganda would be [a] major disaster.”


Sources: Holocaust Memorial Center
Zekelman Family Campus
28123 Orchard Lake Rd.
Farmington Hills, MI 48334-3738
(248) 553-2400
(248) 553-2433 FAX
(248) 553-2834 Library
[email protected]

Yad Vashem
The Holocaust Chronicle