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This timeline is limited to events associated with the steady erosion of personal and intellectual freedoms. For a more complete listing of events, see The Holocaust Project's Timebase.

Year Events

9/14: 107 National Socialist deputies are elected to the Reichstag (20% of the vote), making the Nazis Germany's second largest party. Social Democrats remain the largest party in the Reichstag, Germany's Parliament.

1931 9/12: Nazi gangs in Berlin attack Jews returning from synagogue.

1/30: Adolf Hitler appointed Chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg. The Sturm Abteilung (Nazi party private police, also known as "Brown Shirts") celebrate Hitler's accession to power with a torchlight parade through Berlin. Violence breaks out all over Germany between the Sturm Abteilung and communists.

2/1: Under pressure from Hitler, Hindenburg orders the dissolution of the Reichstag. New elections are called for March 5, 1933.

2/4: Law for the Protection of the German People: this law restricted demonstrations, freedom of speech, freedom of press, and ordered the confiscation of literature considered to be dangerous to the state.

2/5: All Communist Party buildings and printing presses are confiscated.

2/24: Nazi police raid the Communist Party headquarters in Berlin and claim to have discovered plans for a Communist uprising. Formerly private armies of the Nazi Party, the Stahlhelm (Steel Helmet), the Sturm Abteilung (SA) and SS are officially granted auxiliary police status.

2/27: Reichstag, the German Parliament building, is burned. Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch Communist, is arrested.

2/28: The Nazi party newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter accuses communists of a plot to seize power. Law for the Protection of People and the State abolishes the following rights: free speech, free press, sanctity of the home, security of mail and telephone, freedom to assemble or form organizations and the inviolability of private property. This law also cleared the way for the Nazis to put their political opponents in prison and establish concentration camps.

Sometime in March: Librarians Wolfgang Herrmann and Wilhelm Schuster publish the first attack on "un-German" literature in the professional library journals, entitled "Erklärung und Aufruf" ("Clarification and Entreaty").

3/3: Hitler (speaking in Frankfurt): "I don't have to worry about justice; my mission is only to destroy and exterminate, nothing more."

3/5: Election creates the Third Reich. The Nazi party has a majority of Parliament.

3/6: The emergency decree For the Protection of the German People restricts the opposition press and information services.

3/9: The SA sponsors anti-Jewish riots throughout Germany.

3/11: "Reich Ministry of People's Enlightenment and Propaganda" is created by law; it is to be headed by Josef Goebbels.

3/20: The first concentration camp is established at Dachau near Munich.

3/22: Berlin: The Gestapo searches Albert Einstein's apartment.

3/23: The Enabling Act ended parliamentary practice in Germany, giving Hitler's government power to enact laws without parliamentary sanction.

4/1: Hitler imposes a nationwide, one-day boycott of Jewish businesses, physicians and lawyers. Armed SA men are deployed to block the entrances to Jewish-owned shops and stores. Signs are posted in English implying that Jewish claims of persecution are false.

4/7: Two new laws are passed: The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service is which gives the state authority to dismiss all politically unwanted persons from Civil Service jobs; university and library personnel were especially hard hit. The Law concerning State Governors deprived the German states their traditional jurisdiction over cultural and educational affairs.

4/8: A memorandum to Nazi Student Organizations proposes that "culturally destructive" books from public, state and university libraries be collected and burned. --Steig (1992): 92

4/13: The Deutsche Studentenschaft (German Students' Association) begins their cultural war by posting their "Wider den undeutschen Geist" ("Against the un-German Spirit") posters all over Germany. The virulently anti-Semitic poster lists the ways they intend to "cleanse" German language and literature.

4/25: The Law for Preventing Overcrowding in German Schools and Colleges is declared, limiting "non-Aryan" admittance to institutions of higher education to 1.5 %.

4/26: The Gestapo begins it's state-sanctioned reign of terror.

5/2: All independent and Socialist trade unions in Germany are closed down and dissolved on Hitler's orders.

5/5: Cologne: University students burn books on Judaism or those written by Jewish authors.

5/6: Berlin: 80 members of Nazi student organizations and Sturm Abteiling (SA) raid the Institute for Sexual Research. In less than an hour, they gathered nearly half a ton of books, pamphlets, and teaching materials to be burned at the May 10th book-burning.

5/10: Berlin: Goebbels organizes Nazi student organizations and SA troops to ransack public libraries and the library of the Humboldt University, and burn the books at the Opernplatz. Goebbels speaks before the crowd about the harm that "un-German" literature does to society.

5/16: Librarian Wolfgang Herrmann publishes his "Principles for Sanitizing Public and Lending Libraries" in a professional librarianship journal. It contains one of the earliest lists of authors and titles targeted for removal or destruction.

5/18: Heidelberg: "Students" conduct a book-burning on the university campus, preceded by a torchlight procession through the town. By this date, burnings had also been conducted in Frankfurt, Göttingen, Cologne, Hamburg, Dortmund, Halle, Nuremberg, Würzburg, Hannover, Munich, Münster, Königsberg, Koblenz, and Salzburg.

5/22: Berlin: Nazi secret police (Gestapo) raid public and private libraries and confiscate 500 tons of Marxist materials, including works by Karl Marx, Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxembourg, as well as that of Bolshevik leaders. The confiscated books and papers were pulped and auctioned off to paper mills.

6/22: Hermann Goering issues a decree instructing all government employees to spy on each other.

7/5: The Catholic Center Party dissolves; the Nazis become the only active political party in the Reichstag.

7/7: Several German universities announce that Jewish students will not receive their degrees.

7/14: The creation of new political parties is prohibited and The Law on Plebiscites is passed. All political opposition to Nazism is now outlawed and it becomes the one and only political party in Germany. Under the Law on the Revocation of Naturalization and Deprivation of German Citizenship of Jews, German citizenship may be taken away from people designated as "undesirables."

7/20: According to The Holocaust Project, "a number of contemporary historians consider this to be the day Hitler's dictatorship of Germany actually began." Germans are required to use the Hitler salute for general greeting.

7/21: Nuremberg: Hundreds of Jewish store owners are arrested by the SA and paraded through the streets for hours.

7/25: Passage of the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring.

7/29: Professor Fischer, the new Rector of the University of Berlin says in his inaugural address: "The new leadership, having only just taken over the reins of power, is deliberately and forcefully intervening in the course of history and in the life of the nation, precisely where this intervention is most urgently, most decisively, and most immediately needed. To be sure, this need can only be perceived by those who are able to see and to think within a biological framework, but it is understood by these people to be a matter of the gravest and most weighty concern. This intervention can be characterized as a biological population policy, biological in this context signifying the safeguarding by the state of our hereditary endowment and our race, as opposed to the unharnessed processes of heredity, selection, and elimination."

9/22: Reich Chamber of Culture Law is created to control all literature, press, radio, theater, music and art. "Non-Aryans" are restricted from contributing in these areas. Josef Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda will direct these efforts.

10/4: Law regulating the function of editors of newspapers and periodicals.

10/23: Martin Buber and 51 other Jewish educators are fired from their positions at German universities.

12/18: Another Nazi decree bars Jews from the field of journalism and its associated professions.


6/5: Book reviewing by persons and organizations unaligned with the Nazi party and government is restricted. Goebbels' Chamber of Culture is to "coordinate" official literary criticism.

9/15: Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor. This law, one of the notorious Nürnberg laws, excluded all Jewish and Jewish-related authors, publishers, editors, etc. from the cultural life of Germany.

Sources: The Holocaust Project Multimedia Timebase, Dosa (1974), Elschenbroich (1984) and various New York Times articles


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