CHRONOLOGY OF KEY EVENTS
January 30 Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.
February 20 Nazi fund raising meeting of more than twenty German bankers and industrialists, including the heads of the Krupp steelworks and the chemical giant I.G. Farben, with Hitler and Hermann Göring; one of the participants, Eduard Schulte, concludes that the Nazis will lead Germany to disaster.
March 4 Franklin Delano Roosevelt becomes President of the United States in the midst of the Great Depression.
March 13 Anschluss: Germany annexes Austria.
September 28-29 Munich Conference where Britain and France agree to Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland, which includes 30% of Czechoslovakia’s territory and nearly one-third its population.
November 9-10 Kristallnacht: thousands of Jewish shops and synagogues are destroyed or damaged (and ninety-one Jews killed in the first twenty-four hours) in a national anti-Semitic rampage.
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March 15 Germany occupies the rest of Czechoslovakia in violation of the Munich Agreement.
May 23 House of Commons approves British White Paper restricting future Jewish immigration to Palestine to 75,000 over the next five years.
September 1 Germany invades Poland.
September 3 Britain and France declare war on Germany.
May 10 Germany invades Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium and France.
June 22 France surrenders to Germany.
September 7 German begins massive bombing campaign on London.
October 12 Germans decree establishment of a Jewish ghetto in Warsaw.
January 30 In a speech at the Sportpalast in Berlin, Hitler recalls an earlier prediction: “If the rest of the world should be plunged into general war through Jewry, the whole of Jewry will have played out its role in Europe.” He goes on to state that “They can still laugh today about it, just as they laughed at all my prophecies. The coming months and years will demonstrate that here, too, I have seen things correctly.”
June 22 Germany invades the Soviet Union.
Summer Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler tells Rudolph Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, that “The Führer has ordered that the Jewish question be solved once and for all and that we, the SS, are to implement that order. I have therefore earmarked Auschwitz for this purpose.”
September First gassing experiments at Auschwitz.
December 7 The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, killing 2400 Americans in a matter of minutes and heavily damaging the Pacific fleet.
January 20 Nazis officials hold the Wannsee Conference to discuss implementation of the plan to murder the Jews of Europe by transporting them to extermination centers in the east.
July 17-18 Himmler makes an inspection tour of Auschwitz. He tells Höss that “Eichmann’s program will continue to be carried out and will be intensified month by month. You must see to it that swift progress is made with the building of Birkenau. The gypsies are to be destroyed. The Jews who are unfit for work are to be destroyed with the same ruthlessness.”
July 29 Eduard Schulte takes a train from Breslau, Germany to Zurich, Switzerland to warn Swiss contacts of the Nazi extermination plan and urge them to convey his information to the United States government.
August 1 Schulte’s information is passed to Gerhart Riegner, the World Jewish Congress representative in Switzerland.
August 8 After conferring with Schulte’s contacts, Gerhart Riegner informs the U.S. consulate in Geneva about a Nazi plan to murder the Jews of Europe and asks the consulate to convey the information to both the U.S. government and American Jews.
August 11 U.S. legation in Bern cables the information received from Gerhart Riegner tothe State Department.
August 24 U.S. consulate in Geneva advises Riegner of instructions, received from that career diplomats in the State Department, that his information will not be given to American Jews because of “the fantastic nature of the allegation and the impossibility of our being of any assistance if such action were taken.”
August 28 After receiving Gerhart Reigner’s report regarding the Nazi plan to annihilate European Jews through a different channel, a British politician cables the information to American Rabbi Stephen Wise, who then asks Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles to investigate.
November 24 Undersecretary of State Welles, after receiving a report from the U.S. legation in Bern, which had undertaken an investigation at Welles’s request, summons Wise to his office and shows him cables from the legation: “I regret to tell you, Dr. Wise, that these confirm and justify your deepest fears.”
December 8 Jewish leaders meet with President Roosevelt and hand him a summary of the Nazi extermination plan. Roosevelt promises to issue a statement.
December 17 The Allies issue a statement condemning “in the strongest possible terms this bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination.”
January 21 State Department receives cable 482 from U.S. legation in Bern containing a report from Gerhart Riegner that “6000 [Jews] are killed daily [at a single location in Poland].”
February 9 State Department provides the report in cable 482 to Rabbi Stephen Wise with the disclaimer that “The Department of State cannot assume any official responsibility for the information contained in these reports.”
February 10 State Department sends cable 354 to the legation in Switzerland: “Your 482, January 21. In the future we would suggest that you do not accept reports submitted to you to be transmitted to private persons in the United States.”
February 13 The New York Times reports that Romania is willing to help move 70,000 Jews from Transnistria, in the Nazi-conquered Ukraine, where disease and starvation are rife, to a safe haven chosen by the Allies but demands $50 per Jew.
March 1 An estimated 75,000 people show up at a “Stop Hitler Now” rally in Madison Square Garden; only 20,000 can get in.
March 9 The Committee for a Jewish Army presents a pageant at Madison Square Garden, viewed by 40,000 in back-to-back performances, called “We Will Never Die,” in memory of the murdered Jews of Europe.
April 19 British and U.S. officials open a 12-day conference in Bermuda to discuss the possibility of rescuing European Jewish refugees.
First day of Warsaw ghetto uprising.
April 20 State Department receives message from Gerhart Riegner outlining plan to rescue Romanian and French Jews, which will require establishing blocked bank accounts in Switzerland.
May 4 Ad in the The New York Times taken out by Jewish activists assails the Bermuda Conference as “a mockery and a cruel jest.”
May 16 Nazis crush the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
July 15 State Department and Treasury Department officials meet to discuss the issuance of a license to Gerhart Riegner to establish the blocked bank accounts in Switzerland.
July 16 Treasury Department lawyers give their approval to the rescue plan and issuance of the license.
July 22 At a meeting with Rabbi Stephen Wise, FDR approves the Riegner rescue plan and telephones Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr: “Henry, this is a very fair proposal which Stephen makes about ransoming Jews.”
July 28 Jan Karski, a courier for the Polish underground, meets with FDR, and describes the annihilation of the Jews of Poland.
September 28 The State Department forwarded the Treasury Department’s authorization to the U.S. legation in Switzerland but gives the legation no instruction to issue the license.
October 6 The U.S. legation in Bern does not issue the license but instead requests specific instructions from the State Department and advises that the license had been discussed with the British, who oppose it.
400 Orthodox rabbis gather outside the White House to present a petition to FDR calling for a rescue agency, but FDR declines to meet them.
November 9 Identical resolutions are introduced into the House and Senate calling on FDR to create a rescue agency.
November 23 Four Treasury lawyers meet with Morgenthau to complain about State Department delay in issuing the license to Riegner.
November 26 Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long falsely testifies at a House hearing on the rescue resolution that 580,000 refugees have been admitted to the United States in the past decade.
December 18 A Treasury Department lawyer, Josiah DuBois Jr., secretly obtains cables 482 and 354 from a friend at the State Department. When the cables are shown to Morgenthau, another Treasury lawyer, John Pehle, comments: “You have got the full flavor of what they have done.”
December 23 The Treasury lawyers give Morgenthau a report, “For Secretary Morgenthau’s Information Only.” After describing the State Department’s conduct, the report states: “We leave it for your judgment whether this action made such officials the accomplices of Hitler in this program and whether or not these officials are not war criminals in every sense of the term.”
January 13 Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. receives anotherreport prepared by his staff: “Report To The Secretary On The Acquiescence Of This Government In The Murder Of The Jews,” which accuses the State Department of “willful attempts to prevent action” to rescue Jews.
January 16 At a White House meeting with FDR on a Sunday, Morgenthau brings a thirdreport, “Personal Report To The President,” which suggests that “plain Anti-Semitism” could be motivating the acts of State Department officials. Morgenthau and an aide describe the State Department’s conduct, including cables 482 and 354, to FDR, who agrees that a separate rescue agency should be established.
January 22 The White House announces the creation of the War Refugee Board.