A Chronology of the Holocaust: 1945, Late April Through July
A time line of events related to the last year of the Holocaust
- Grades: 6–8, 9–12
April 28: Benito Mussolini is executed by Italian partisans.
April 28–29: The U.S. 4th Infantry Division liberates a subcamp of Dachau.
April 29: Dachau concentration camp is liberated by the U.S. 20th Armored Division and the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions.
April 29–30: The Bolzano-Gries transit and concentration camp in northern Italy is liberated and then transferred to the International Red Cross.
- Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, whom he married the night before, commit suicide in their Berlin bunker. Admiral Karl Donitz succeeds Hitler.
- Ravensbruck concentration camp is liberated by Soviet army units.
- Judge Samuel Rosenman, Counsel to the President of the United States, presents his report on the economic needs in Europe. In the report he addresses the plight of European Jews, helping to provide the groundwork for the Harrison Report [see August 3 and September 29 entries].
- The first of 96 British medical students from London arrive in Bergen-Belsen to help with relief work.
- A fourth truck convoy of about 300 French prisoners, mostly women, arrives in Switzerland from Mauthausen. About ten had died during the trip.
Also in April: Since the previous September, the French have arrested 126,000 people suspected of collaborating with the Germans. Of this total 55 percent were freed and 45 percent were passed to the courts for trial.
May 1: The British evacuate 7,000 sick inmates from Bergen-Belsen.
- President Truman issues Executive Order 9547 to appoint Justice Robert H. Jackson of the U.S. Supreme Court as Chief Counsel for the United States to the UNWCC and as Chief Prosecutor to the projected international war crimes trial. He is authorized to represent the United States during negotiations to create such a tribunal.
- The German garrison in Berlin surrenders to the Soviet army.
- German forces surrender in Italy.
- The Croatian concentration camp Jasenovac is liberated by units of the 21st Division of the Yugoslavian Army of National Liberation.
- A poll conducted by the American Institute of Public Opinion asks Americans if reports that the Germans have killed many people in concentration and prison camps are true or false; 84 percent reply that they believe the stories to be true.
May 2–3: Subcamps of Dachau concentration camp are liberated by the U.S. 14th Armored Division.
- The Psychological Warfare Section of SHAEF issues a 13-volume report on atrocities committed in France during the occupation.
- Representative Clare Boothe Luce (R-Conn.) addresses the House of Representatives about conditions in Buchenwald she witnessed during her inspection visit of the concentration camp on April 21.
- Commandant Ziereis hands his command of the Mauthausen concentration camp to the Police Commander of Vienna.
- Theresienstadt is turned over to the International Red Cross.
- In the early afternoon, British planes attack three ships holding concentration-camp prisoners in the Bay of Lubeck. The prisoners had come from Neuengamme and its subcamps, but also from Dora-Millelbau and Stutthof. The Cap Arcona and the Theilbek sank in the bay; the Athen, docked in Neustadt, escaped total destruction. Most of the prisoners on the Cap Arcona and Theilbek perish — burned or drowned on the ships, succumbed in the cold water, or shot by the SS — while many on the Athen survive. About 7,300 prisoners die, and some 3,100 are saved.
- Wohebelin, a subcamp of Neuengamme, is liberated by the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division and 8th Infantry Division.
May 3–4: The U.S. 99th Infantry Division liberates a subcamp of Dachau concentration camp.
- British troops liberate Neuengamme concentration camp.
- During the evacuation of Loibl-Pass, a subcamp of Mauthausen, the prisoners are freed by Yugoslav partisans who attack the Germans guarding the marching prisoner column.
May 4–5: Ebensee, a subcamp of Mauthausen, is liberated by the U.S. 80th Infantry Division.
- A message from General Eisenhower is broadcast in a number of languages to displaced persons in Europe. It directs them to "wait for orders" from Allied military authorities in an attempt to forestall the movement of masses of displaced persons that would interfere with Allied military operations and adversely affect law and order in areas already occupied by the Allies.
- Gusen 1, a subcamp of Mauthausen, is liberated by the U.S. 11th Armored Division.
- The International Red Cross reports more than 30,000 prisoners in Theresienstadt; no less than 12,000 of them are prisoners transferred from Dachau, Buchenwald, and Bergen-Belsen in the previous month.
May 5–6: Gunskirchen, a subcamp of Mauthausen, is liberated by the U.S. 71st Infantry Division, including African-American troops of the 761st Tank Battalion.
May 6: Mauthausen concentration camp is liberated by the U.S. 11th Armored Division.
- General Alfred Jodl signs Germany's unconditional surrender at Reims, France.
- The Soviet Extraordinary State Commission issues its report on Auschwitz, concluding that millions of people were killed in the camp.
- The U.S. 9th Armored Division and 1st Infantry Division liberate Falkenau a.d. Eger, a subcamp of Flossenburg.
- V-E Day.
- SHAEF's Displaced Persons Executive sends an order to all military units stating, in part, that the care of displaced persons is a principal Allied objective.
- The first Soviet Army tanks reach Theresienstadt en route to Prague.
May 10: Soviet troops liberate Stutthof concentration camp.
May 14: President Truman sends to General Eisenhower the eighth revision of Joint Chiefs of Staff order JCS 1067 that is to serve as the basic policy tool of U.S. occupation in Germany. JCS 1067 ordered the dissolution of the Nazi party; control of the press, education, and communications; the demilitarization of Germany; the decentralization of the German government; and the payment of reparations. In its final form it excluded the total dismantling of German industry sought by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr.
May 18: Having visited the sites of Nazi concentration camps, Joseph Pulitzer, publisher and editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, addresses the Missouri Legislature.
May 19: Influential film critic, playwright, and screenwriter James Agee, writing in The Nation, attacks the release to the American public of details of Nazi atrocities, claiming that "such propaganda" — even if true — is designed to make Americans equate all Germans with the few who perpetrated the crimes.
May 20: Joseph Pulitzer publishes an illustrated, 125-page pamphlet, "A Report to the American People," in which he describes evidence of the atrocities he witnessed at Buchenwald and Dachau. In it he expresses his dismay that there are still Americans who say "this talk of atrocities is all propaganda."
May 21: In order to prevent the spread of typhus epidemics, British soldiers burn all the barracks in the former concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. The site will be transformed into a DP camp.
May 23: Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS, commits suicide after his capture by British forces.
May 27: In Munich, Jewish survivors celebrate liberation with a concert at Saint Ottilien convent.
May 29: Thirty-three days after U.S. troops liberated the town of Kaufbeuren, one child is killed in the local state hospital, thus becoming the last victim of the Nazi euthanasia killing program.
May 30: After negotiations lasting over a month, the British cabinet reverses itself and approves a U.S. draft proposal for a trial of the Nazi leadership. This follows French General de Gaulle's agreement to a trial the previous month. The United States and the Soviet Union had long supported such trial.
Also in May: General Eisenhower, as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, issues Proclamation No. 1, stating that all persons in occupied territory (Germany) must obey all orders of the Allied military government.
- A delegation of the Jewish Brigade starts arriving at DP camps. This is the first group from Palestine to establish contact with Jewish survivors.
- The first volume of "Surviving Remnant" (She'erit Ha-peletah), listing the names and locations of Jewish survivors, is published by Rabbi Abraham Klausner.
- The forced repatriation of about 20,000 Russian Cossacks who had fought with the Wehrmacht begins in the Drau Valley region of Austria, an act based on an Allied agreement to repatriate all pre-1939 Soviet nationals without exception. By June 7, approximately 35,000 Cossacks and their families are turned over to the Soviets.
- The first AJJDC staff to organize educational and welfare activities in the DP camps in Europe.
- Zionist pioneers in Germany establish "Kibbutz Buchenwald," an agricultural training facility for survivors. The first group of trainees leaves Buchenwald for Palestine in August.
June 6: SHAEF complains that Allied field commanders have ignored previous instructions to equate the status of displaced persons with that of the persecuted people. It also orders that all DP children are to be transferred from Germany immediately, and that any person holding a card showing release from a concentration camp is entitled to admittance to a displaced persons camp.
June 7: Justice Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States in the Prosecution of Axis War Criminals, submits his report to President Truman.
June 8: Five hundred twenty orphaned Jewish children from Buchenwald enter France to become charges of the French government.
June 19: The U.S. War Department grants General Eisenhower limited authority to try war criminals.
- The first congress of Zionists is held in Bavaria, in the American zone of occupation. The bylaws of the newly created Union of Jewish Survivors in the American Zone of Bavaria are adopted. The Union's main task is to represent the interests of displaced persons. The bylaws call for cooperation with the World Zionist Organization.
- An unofficial delegation of five soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the Jewish Brigade, headed by Aharon Hoter-Yishai and Rabbi Y. Lifschitz, enters the U.S. zone of occupied Germany. Their ostensible mission is to locate surviving members of their own families. They travel to Dachau, St. Ottilien, Landsberg, and Feldaling in southern Germany and Salzburg and Traunstein in western Austria. They organize the transportation of Jewish displaced persons from Germany and Austria to Italy and provide food, money, and transport via BET ALIYA centers in Italy for emigration to Palestine.
June 21: The U.S. government authorizes UNRRA to continue to work with displaced persons in the U.S. occupation zone of Germany under the auspices of the UNRRA-SHAEF Agreement of November 1944. The British follow suit on June 28.
June 22: Prompted by reports of poor conditions in DP camps, President Truman agrees that Earl G. Harrison, dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, head a commission to investigate the plight of displaced persons in Germany, with particular attention to be given to the situation of Jewish displaced persons.
June 26: Representatives from 51 nations sign the United Nations Charter in San Francisco.
June 27: The Soviet government agrees to allow 300,000 Polish Jews currently living in the Soviet Central Asian republics to emigrate to Palestine, provided that Arab states are in agreement. This was the result of negotiations among the "Big Three" at the Yalta Conference.
June 30: The exhibition "Lest We Forget" opens at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Also in June
- A Soviet judicial commission investigates crimes committed at Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
- The first conference of liberated Jews in the British zone of occupied Germany takes place at Bergen-Belsen.
- The AJJDC announces that it has distributed goods and relief parcels valued at $3,000,000 in Poland during the previous year.
- The Central Committee of Liberated Jews for the U.S. zone of occupied Germany and Austria, one of the earliest Jewish DP organizations, is created during a meeting of survivors at the DP camp in Feldaling.
July 2: U.S. officers enter the Kaufbeuren state hospital to discover "a wholesale extermination plant," one part of the Nazi euthanasia killing program that had continued to operate even after Germany's unconditional surrender.
July 4: It is announced in Berlin that Gemma LaGuardia Gluck, sister of the mayor of New York, has been found safe with her daughter and grandson. After their transfer from Ravensbruck to Kaiserdamm prison in Berlin in April, they had been liberated by Soviet troops. Since then they had been living with a German family in the city.
July 5: The Central Committee of Liberated Jews in Bavaria is officially established in Munich.
July 15: As part of the official quota of Jewish immigrants allowed under the British mandate in Palestine, 1,164 Jewish refugees from Britain, France, and Italy arrive in Haifa. The group includes 500 children formerly being held in concentration camps.
- The press is invited to the Grand Hotel in Bad Mondorf, Luxembourg, where the major defendants destined for the International Military Tribunal are being held.
- United States Forces, European Theater (hereafter USFET) sets up Military Government Tribunals for war crimes trials.
July 17–August 2
The "Big Three" — President Truman, Marshal Stalin, and Prime Minister Churchill (who is succeeded by newly elected Prime Minister Clement Attlee on July 28) — meet at Potsdam, near Berlin.
July 20: The World Jewish Congress, meeting in London, appeals to the "Big Three" at the Potsdam Conference to remedy the poor conditions under which Jewish displaced persons are being held in Germany.
July 23: The trial of Marshal Petain before the French High Court of Justice begins.
July 25: A conference of 94 Jewish DP delegates representing 40,000 Jewish survivors in the American and British zones of Germany and Austria meets as St. Ottilien, Munich, under the sponsorship of members of the Jewish Brigade. The next day, the conference meets in the beer hall where Hitler had staged the 1923 putsch; there they read a proclamation demanding that all liberated Jews be allowed to emigrate to Palestine.
Courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. For a complete time line of the events of the Holocaust, visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.