One Book, One Chicago Fall 2012
Timeline: WWII Germany
April 20, 1889: Adolf Hitler is born in Braunau am Inn, Austria to Alois and Klara Hitler.*
*We apologize that an incorrect date was given in the print version of this resource guide.
August 1914: Hitler volunteers for the German Army. By 1918 he is promoted to lance corporal; he also is awarded the Iron Cross and several citations for bravery.
June 28, 1919: The Treaty of Versailles is signed. Negotiated between Austria-Hungary and the Allies of the First World War, the treaty largely dismantles Weimar Germany and redraws the European map. Germany is not allowed to participate in these negotiations, thus fostering grievances and weaknesses that would later form causes of World War II.
September 12, 1919: Hitler is ordered to investigate the small right wing German Worker’s Party (DAP). After participating in several discussions and some reflection, Hitler joins the party as its 55th member and is appointed its chief recruiter.
July 1921: Hitler becomes the leader of DAP and changes the name of the party to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). The anti-communist message of the party and its opposition to the Treaty of Versailles are designed to have a wide appeal to the average German.
July 18, 1925: The first volume of Mein Kampf is published by Eher Press, followed by the second volume on December 11, 1926. Written during his imprisonment after the failed Beer Hall Putsch (coup), on November 9, 1923, the book is intended by Hitler to “clarify the goals of our movement” and lay ground work for further development of the cause. Mein Kampf is later published as one volume.
December 1926: Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend, or HJ) is first constituted as such. HJ is based on the Jungstrum (Young Storm), which Hitler founded in Munich as an organization to recruit future members of the Sturmabteilung (SA), a paramilitary wing of the party. After 1933 the HJ program encompasses Jungvolk (boys ages 10-14), Jungmadel (girls ages 10-14), the League of German Girls (BDM) and the original HJ (boys ages 15-18).
January – March 1933: In the early 1930s the Nazi party becomes the second largest political party in Germany, and at this time Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany. When elections are held in March, the Nazi party wins the majority. With this majority and the support of the Catholic Center Party, a special constitutional law signed on March 23, 1933—the Enabling Act—allows Hitler to be independent of the presidential power.
March 1933: Dachau is established near Munich, the first of the concentration camps for political prisoners.
March 13, 1933: The Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda is established.
April 1, 1933: A boycott directed solely at Jewish businesses, department stores, lawyers and doctors begins at 10:00 a.m. This is the first directed action taken against Jews after the National Socialists seize power.
May 10, 1933: On this evening in university cities across Germany, “degenerate” Jewish books are set on fire. The most notable book burning takes place in Berlin, where more than 40,000 people attend to hear Joseph Goebbels speak. After the seizure of power, measures to censor and ban politically opposing books are taken. Political police confiscate 500 tons of Marxist literature by May 30, 1933.
Late 1933: By the end of 1933 Germany is transformed to a totalitarian state. There is a single political party, the NSDAP, under which labor unions, professional organizations, education, agriculture, religion and military service are all organized. For example, any German citizen who wishes to professionally write, play music, paint or act has to apply for membership in the Reich Culture Chamber by September 22, 1933. Conditions of acceptance in the newly formed regulatory organization are outlined in the Aryan Paragraph, a series of laws that forbids Jews from participating in certain aspects of public life in Germany.
June 30, 1934: Known as the Night of the Long Knives (Roehmpurge), hundreds of Hitler’s political enemies are executed. Most are leaders within the SA, notably former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher, Gregor Strasser and Ernst Röhm, whom Hitler felt had gained too much power.
August 2, 1934: President Paul von Hindenburgh dies. Hitler proclaims himself Fürher and Chancellor; the armed forces swear personal allegiance to the new head of state.
March 1935: Hitler mandates compulsory military service.
May 26, 1935: Air Defense Law is enacted. Germans now have a service requirement including blackout, firefighting, first aid, clearing of debris and securing air raid shelters.
September 15, 1935: Nuremburg Laws are passed at the NSDAP Reich Party Congress. Reich Citizenship Law creates a new German citizenship that applies to “Aryans” only and defines who is considered a Jew. The Blood Protection Law prohibits marriage and sexual intercourse between a Jew and a “German-blooded” citizen.
September 15, 1935: The Nazi party flag, which according to Mein Kampf Hitler had designed in the mid-1920s, becomes the national flag of Germany. The colors used in the design are the same of Imperial Germany and the swastika symbolizes the Aryan victory over Jews.
Summer 1936: Through concessions of the Nuremburg Laws, such as postponing anti-Jewish campaigns and permitting a few Jewish athletes to compete, a boycott of the Berlin Olympic Games is averted. German reportage of African American Jesse Owens’ world record-setting wins is positive, despite contradicting Hitler’s views on white northern Europeans being superior at athletics.
December 1936: “State Youth Day” is instituted, excusing Jungvolk and Jungmadel members from public school on Saturdays in order to enroll in the HJ organizations.
January 15, 1937: The Adolf Hitler Schools are established as the first step in creating an NSDAP school system. These elite boarding schools teach and train German youth to be future party leaders.
July 6, 1938: The Law to Change Trade Regulations is enacted. This effectively excludes Jews from the economy as they are now prohibited from practicing a number of trades. Eventually professions such as physicians and lawyers are included, thus forcing the closure of most Jewish businesses.
November 9-10, 1938: Kristallnacht—the “Night of Broken Glass”—is an official and intentional retaliation against German Jews for the attack on Nazi party leader Ernst vom Rath at the German Embassy in Paris by a Jew. Nazi political leaders give the signal for members of local offices, the Schutzstaffel (SS, or defense and protection squads), SA and Hitler Youth to destroy Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues.
March 25, 1939: The Youth Service Ordinance is passed, and the HJ becomes mandatory. Starting in 1940, 10-year-olds are obligated to join either the Jungvolk or Jungmadel.
August 27, 1939: The first ration cards are distributed.
September 1, 1939: Germany invades Poland.
November 23, 1939: The Jewish star is to be worn on the left side on the chest by all Jews in German-occupied Poland and by September 19, 1941 by all Jews over the age of 6 within the German Reich. Made of yellow fabric with black borders, the patch consists of two equilateral triangles placed one on top of another with the inscription “Jude” (Jew).
February 2, 1940: Construction of Auschwitz begins.
May 16-17, 1940: British air war begins deployment of bombers over the Ruhr region of Germany.
July 21, 1940: At the Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres, or OKH) conference, Hitler announces that Germany must prepare to invade Russia.
November 1940: British bombings now include Essen, Munich, Hamburg and Cologne.
April 13, 1941: USSR and Japan sign a five-year neutrality agreement. This will allow Stalin to reassign troops from Siberia to meet the German invasion in the east.
May 1941: Hamburg and Cologne are attacked by the British Royal Air Force (RAF); 2,690 sorties are flown, 2,840 tons of bombs are dropped.
June 2, 1941: Operation Barbarossa—the German attack on the Soviet Union—begins.
October 13, 1941: The RAF bombs Nuremburg.
August 1941: The Butt Report, created to verify the accuracy of RAF bombings, concludes that approximately only one-third of the RAF aircraft claiming to reach a target indeed succeeded in doing so.
January 20, 1942: The Wannsee Conference is held in Berlin, where the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” is established. The SS is tasked with transporting all Jews to the extermination camps.
February 14, 1942: An area bombing directive is issued to the RAF Bomber Command. Attacks “should now be focused on the morale of the enemy civil population and in particular of the industrial workers.” Targets are shifted from factories themselves to the residential areas where the factory workers live.
March 8-9, 1942: A “Gee” navigational aid for bombing—developed by the British and used by the RAF, the Royal Navy and later the U.S. Air Force—is first utilized by Allied forces on the city of Essen, and then Cologne soon after. On March 28, it is used on Lubeck, a medieval town with clustered timber-framed homes that burn quickly. This raid is considered unusually successful and causes Hitler to order reprisals.
May 30, 1942: The RAF bombs Cologne, using every available plane and training unit. More than 1,046 bombers are part of this enormous effort, and 45,000 people are left homeless in Cologne.
September – November 1942: The Soviet perimeter around Stalingrad shrinks to 30 miles on September 12, 1942, and the longest and fiercest fighting in Stalingrad begins on October 4. On October 14, Hitler focuses all efforts on the Eastern Front and taking Stalingrad. In return, on November 19, Soviet forces begin their winter offensive, resulting in the overextension of German forces throughout southern USSR.
December 1942: The RAF bombs targets in Munich.
January 1943: During a luncheon conference, referring to German soldiers’ duty to sacrifice themselves for the Nazi cause, Hitler remarks, “The duty of the men at Stalingrad is to be dead.” U-boat manufacturing sites, including the city of Essen, are targeted by Allied bombers.
January 1, 1943: A decree further mobilizing German civilian men and women is issued by Director-General of Labor Fritz Sauckel.
February 2, 1943: The last German soldier in Stalingrad surrenders. The United States Army Air Force joins with the RAF in bombing Nazi Germany.
July 24 – August 2, 1943: Hamburg is bombed with the most effective air raid of the European campaign, resulting in 50,000 civilian deaths. The July 27 attack uses incendiary weapons for the first time.
October 1943: Allied bomber command drops 13,000 tons of bombs on Munich, Kassel and Frankfurt, utilizing “window” strategy, which confuses air raid detection devices.
September 25, 1944: All remaining males, ages 16-60, are called to join the Nazi army.
April 29, 1945: Dachau is liberated.
April 30, 1945: Hitler commits suicide.
July – August 1945: Leaders from the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union and the United States come together in Potsdam, Germany for talks regarding the occupation and reconstruction of Germany. With the Potsdam Agreement, territorial borders are established, and a course for demilitarization, reparations and the prosecution of war criminals is determined.
Chicago Public Library thanks Facing History and Ourselves staff for their valuable suggestions on dates and facts included in this timeline.
- Australia Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.
- “Holocaust Encyclopedia.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- World Book for Adults.
- Young, Peter, editor. The World Almanac of World War II: The Complete and Comprehensive Documentary of World War II.
- Zentner, Christian and Friedemann Bedurftig, editors. The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. English translation edited by Amy Hackett.