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Use with the handout "Introduction to the Holocaust", used in Section B of the lesson on Racial Discrimination.

Directions for teacher:

· Cut the timeline into strips as indicated by the dotted lines.

· Divide students into groups and give each group one strip. directions for the activity are provided on the handout "Introduction to Apartheid" and "Introduction to the Holocaust."

Selection 1


The Roman Emperor Constantine sent a decree to the magistrate of Cologne (a German city) granting Jews permission to be appointed to the papal court. This is the oldest document that confirms Jews had settled in Germanic provinces.


Under the rule of Charlemagne, King of the Franks, Jews enjoyed the same economic rights as Christians. Moreover, any attempt to prevent Jews from practicing their religion was prohibited.


Hundreds of Jews in Germany were killed, burned, and drowned as a result of the Crusades.


The plague decimated over a third of Europe's population. Jews were suspected of poisoning the wells out of religious hatred. Thousands of Jews were killed and those that lived were driven out of their communities. By the end of 1350, nearly all German communities were destroyed. Once the plague was over, many Jews returned to begin anew.

Selection 2


On January 30, 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor.

The Nazi regime passed civil laws that barred Jews from holding public office or positions in civil service. They were also forbidden to be employed by press and radio.

The Nazis encouraged boycotts of Jewish-owned shops and businesses and began book burnings of writings by Jews, pacificists, communists, and others not approved by the Reich.

German men and youth pose beneath an anti-Jewish banner that reads, "Help liberate Germany from Jewish capital. Don't buy at Jewish stores." .

Photo credit: Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

Jews were not allowed to have national health insurance.

Hitler elevated himself to the position of Führer, or absolute leader, of the German nation following President Hindenburg's death. Ninety percent of German voters approved of Hitler’s new powers.

Selection 3


Photo credit: USHMM Photo Archives

Photo: Adolf Hitler opening the 1935 Party Day of freedom in the historic Nuremberg town hall.

Hitler announced the Nuremberg Laws that stripped Jews of their civil rights as German citizens and separated them from Germans legally, socially, and politically. Jews were defined as a separate race under "The Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor." This law forbade marriages or sexual relations between Jews and Germans.

More than 120 laws, decrees, and ordinances were enacted after the Nuremburg Laws and before the outbreak of World War II, further eroding the rights of German Jews. Many thousands of Germans who had not previously considered themselves Jews found themselves defined as "non-Aryans" which included anyone who had at least one parent or grandparent of the Jewish faith. People who had converted to Christianity were still considered Jews if they had Jewish grandparents. Thus the Germans used race, not religious beliefs or practices, to define the Jewish people.

Nazis banned Jews from serving in the military.


Jews were denied the right to vote.

Selection 4

Open antisemitism became increasingly accepted, climaxing in the "Night of Broken Glass" (Kristallnacht) on November 9, 1938, when nearly 1,000 synagogues were set on fire and 76 were destroyed. More than 7,000 Jewish businesses and homes were looted, about one hundred Jews were killed and as many as 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Within days, the Nazis forced the Jews to transfer their businesses to Aryan hands and expelled all Jewish pupils from public schools. The Nazis further persecuted the Jews by forcing them to pay for the damages of Kristallnacht.

During Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, a synagogue burns in Siegen, Germany. November 10, 1938.

Photo credit: The Pictorial History of the Holocaust, Yitzhak Arad, Ed., Macmillan Publishing Co., NY, 1990, p. 58, courtesy of Shamash: The Jewish Internet Consortium.

Nazis prohibited Jews from trading and providing a variety of commercial services.

Nazis ordered Jews over age 15 to apply for identity cards from the police, to be shown on demand to any police officer.

Jews were prohibited from practicing medicine and law.

Jewish passports were required to be stamped with a large red "J."

The U.S. convened a League of Nations conference in France with delegates from 32 countries to consider helping Jews fleeing Hitler but no country would accept them.

Selection 5

On November 14, 1939, the President of Lódz decreed that all Jews must wear arm bands or badges with a Jewish star.

Photo credit: Meczenstwo Walka, Zaglada Zydów Polsce 1939-1945. Poland. No. 43.

On September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, officially starting World War II. In less than four weeks, Poland collapsed. Germany's military conquest put it in a position to establish the New Order, a plan to abuse and eliminate so-called undesirables, notably Jews and Slavs.

Nazis forced Jews to hand over all gold and silver items.

Jews lost rights as tenants and were relocated into Jewish houses.

Jews were denied the right to practice dentistry.

Jews were forbidden to be outdoors after 8 p.m. in winter and 9 p.m. in summer.


The Lodz Ghetto in occupied Poland was sealed off from the outside world with 230,000 Jews locked inside.

The Warsaw Ghetto, containing over 400,000 Jews, was sealed off.

Photo: In 1940, this brick wall was built sealing the Warsaw ghetto off from the rest of the city. Approximately 138,000 Jews were herded into this ghetto while 113,000 Poles were evacuated from this section of the city. 

Photo credit: Meczenstwo Walka, Zaglada Zydów Polsce 1939-1945. Poland. No. 74.

Selection 6

Jewish women and children who have already surrendered their belongings form a small group as others in the background are ordered to discard their outer clothing and their possessions prior to execution. Photograph was taken October 16, 1941 in Lubny, the Ukraine.

Photo credit: Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives
In the beginning of the systematic mass murder of Jews, Nazis used mobile killing squads called Einsatzgruppen. The Einsatzgruppen consisted of four units of between 500 and 900 men each which followed the invading German troops into the Soviet Union. By the time Himmler ordered a halt to the shooting in the fall of 1942, they had murdered approximately 1,500,000 Jews.

In September 1941, the Nazis began using gassing vans--trucks loaded with groups of people who were locked in and asphyxiated by carbon monoxide. These vans were used until the completion of the first death camp, Chelmno, which began operations in late 1941.

Six death or extermination camps were constructed in Poland. These so-called death factories were Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibór, Lublin (also called Majdanek), and Chelmno. The primary purpose of these camps was the methodical killing of millions of innocent people. The first, Chelmno, began operating in late 1941. The others began their operations in 1942.

Camps were an essential part of the Nazis' systematic oppression and mass murder of Jews, political adversaries, and others considered socially and racially undesirable. There were concentration camps, forced labor camps, extermination or death camps, transit camps, and prisoner-of-war camps. The living conditions of all camps were brutal.

Nazis forbid emigration of Jews from the Reich.

German Jews were forced to wear a "yellow star."

View of the kitchen barracks, the electrified fence, and the gate at the main camp of Auschwitz (Auschwitz I). In the foreground is the sign "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work makes one free).

Photo credit: Glowna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

Selection 7


In January 1942, SS official Reinhard Heydrich held a meeting of Nazi government officials to present the Final Solution. At this meeting, known as the Wannsee Conference, the Nazi officials agreed to SS plans for the transport and destruction of all 11 million Jews of Europe. The Nazis would use the latest in twentieth century technology, cost efficient engineering and mass production techniques for the sole purpose of killing off the following racial groups: Jews, Russian prisoners of war, and Gypsies (Sinti-Roma). British Foreign Secretary Eden tells the British House of Commons the Nazis are "now carrying into effect Hitler's oft repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people of Europe."
German Jews are banned from using public transportation.

Starting early in 1942, the Jewish genocide went into full operation.

The Berlin resistance group engaged in open political actions. Betweeb July 1942 and September 1943, twenty-two members of this group were caught and murdered.


All Jews who were still remaining and performing forced labour were arrested and deported to Auschwitz where they faced certain death. Those who could, tried to go into hiding. One of the groups that remained active up until the end providing Jews a place to hide, documents and food was Chug Chaluzi (Pioneer Circle). It is estimated that only one-third of those in hiding survived. Most were denouced or discovered and them deported to a concentration camp. (Learn more about resistance from testimonies collected by the British Library.)

The total figure for the Jewish genocide, including shootings and the camps, was between 5.2 and 5.8 million, roughly half of Europe's Jewish population, the highest percentage of loss of any people in the war.

PHOTO SOURCE: A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust. College of Education, University of South Florida © 2001.


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