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Chronology of Events

This timeline is intended as a guide to the study of this era and a context for the work of Nicholas Winton. (References to Winton are in bold face below.)

Nicholas Winton is born in London — his paternal grandparents and his parents were of German Jewish decent. Winton's parents and he and his siblings (one brother and one sister) converted to Christianity.
August 1914 — November 1918
First World War (WWI)
Czechoslovakia is established after the fall of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire following the First World War. The country is made up of two groups of Slav people, the Czechs, the Slovaks, and the Moravians.
The Treaty of Versailles, which declares Germany responsible for World War I and its consequences, is signed. The treaty deals harshly with a defeated Germany, and includes territorial, military, financial, and general territorial provisions, including the demilitarization and 15-year occupation of the Rhineland (area between France and Germany), limitations on German armed forces and reparations of £6,600 million.
Adolf Hitler becomes leader of National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazis).
The Beer Hall Putsch (Hitler's attempt to overthrow regional government in Munich) is unsuccessful, and Hitler is imprisoned for nine months.
Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler's book, is published.
1931 — 1939
Nicholas Winton works for international banking company in London.
Japan attacks China. The Nazi party gains majority in the German Reichstag and Hitler is named Chancellor. The Reichstag building burns in a "mysterious" fire and all other political parties are abolished. Hitler denounces the Treaty of Versailles. There are public book burnings in Germany. Anti-Jewish laws are passed in Germany, such as: no Kosher butchering, no Jewish civil servants, no Jewish lawyers, and quotas for Jews in universities.
Any Germans holding non-Nazi political meetings are subject to arrest and imprisonment in concentration camps. (The first camp is Oranienburg, outside of Berlin.) Dachau is built as a concentration-work camp. (Specific death camps are not yet built, but the elderly and those who were very young, disabled, or sick have difficulty surviving the harsh conditions of the camps.)
Although Winton's family originally thought the German people were too intelligent to trust Hitler, they become more and more afraid of Hitler's growing power.
Von Hindenburg, president of the German Weimer Republic, dies. The Nazi-controlled Reichstag combines the offices of president and chancellor. Hitler becomes both, taking the title of Füehrer. In June, on the "Night of the Long Knives," leaders of the S.A. (Stormtroopers), including S.A. head Ernst Röhm, and other political opponents of Hitler, are arrested and executed. Seventy-seven men are reportedly executed on charges of treason, though historians tend to think the number is higher. Hitler then receives an oath of allegiance from all those who serve in the army.
The Nuremberg Laws are passed in Germany, and Jews are declared non-citizens; civil rights are abolished, Jews cannot employ non-Jews, marriage or sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews is prohibited, and licenses for Jewish doctors, dentists and lawyers are revoked. Hitler violates the Treaty of Versailles by creating the Luftwaffe (the German Air Forces), and introducing conscription in order to build a large German army.
In Germany, Nicholas Winton realizes that his family would be considered Jewish and treated as such. The Wintons begin taking in relatives who leave Germany to escape Hitler.
Italy invades Ethiopia. The Spanish Civil War begins. German re-militarizes the Rhineland and Hitler re-arms Germany. During the Olympic Games in Berlin, Hitler refuses to place the gold medal around African-American Jesse Owens' neck.
1936 — 1938
On business trips to Germany, Winton watches in horror as the Nazi party gains power and builds a propaganda machine. He witnesses the arrest and beating of Jews, and other ruthless behavior of Nazis.
Hitler aids Franco's efforts in Spain by "lending" him the use of the German Air Force to bomb Loyalist strongholds such as Guernica. The Japanese seize Peking (now Beijing). Franklin Roosevelt gives his "Quarantine Speech," which calls for the separation of the United States from an "epidemic of world lawlessness." The Buchenwald concentration camp is built near Weimar, Germany.
March 13, 1938
Germany "annexes" Austria. Nearly a million cheering Austrians line the streets of Vienna to welcome Hitler.
September 1938
The Munich Conference is attended by the heads of state of Great Britain (Neville Chamberlain), France (Edouard Daladier), Italy (Benito Mussolini) and Hitler. Britain and France agree to Germany's annexing the Sudeten Region of Czechoslovakia in order to "buy peace in our time."
October 1938
Approximately 17,000 "stateless" Jews are deported from Germany to Poland.
November 1938
Kristallnacht, the "night of the broken glass," occurs when Josef Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda, orders "spontaneous" demonstrations against Jews all over Germany. The order comes in response to the death of a German soldier in Paris, killed by a young Jewish student after hearing his parents had been deported. Thirty thousand Jews are placed in concentration camps for what was termed "protective custody." Nearly 200 synagogues are destroyed. Jewish cemeteries are desecrated. Jewish businesses and homes are smashed. The United States withdraws its Ambassador to Germany in protest. Bank accounts of Jews are frozen. Jewish children are forbidden to attend public schools, and Jews are given limited number of hours a week to buy food.
British immigration laws allow more Jewish children to immigrate - no other country takes these measures. The "Refugee Children's Movement", a subsidiary group of "Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief", is formed. This group began "Operation Kindertransport" in order to get children from Germany and Austria out of danger.
December 1938
Parks, theaters, and museums are closed to Jews, and radios and telephones are confiscated.
Nicholas Winton, 29 years old and planning a ski trip to Switzerland, is asked by his friend Martin Blake to come instead to Prague and witness the plight of Jews in Czechoslovakia. Winton travels to Prague and observes the work of the "British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia." He focuses his attention on refugee children from the Sudetenland, and also on the resident Czech Jewish children.
Winton returns to London with hundreds of pictures and details about children whose parents hope to save them from the German advances. Winton invents an organization, calling it the "Children's Section" of the existing "British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia," and uses his own address as that of this new agency. Winton returns to his bank job by day, but, in the evenings, writes to the press and to every organization he can think of for help. He asks for money to bring refugee children, mostly Jewish, from Czechoslovakia to England. This £50 guarantee (approximately $3,000 today) per child was for transport from England to Czechoslovakia (for each child's eventual return trip home), and looks for foster parents to take in these children. He prints cards with faces of the children and information about them so that adopting parents could choose a child to foster. Winton uses his invented agency to persuade the Home Office to let the children come to England.
March 1939
Germany invades and occupies the remainder of Czechoslovakia. The Spanish Civil War ends with Franco in power.
On March 14, 1939, the first group of Winton's children arrives in London. On the next day, March 15, 1939, Hitler invades Czechoslovakia and parents begin to line up at the British Committee for Refugee Children in Prague in an effort to get their children to safety.
August 1939
The Soviets and the Germans sign a secret non-aggression pact (called a pact of "mutual cynicism"). Poland and England sign the Mutual Assistance Treaty. The British Fleet mobilizes and civilian evacuations begin in London.
March — September 1939:
Winton arranges for 669 children to be rescued from Czechoslovakia, now under German occupation. Eight transports (one airplane and seven trains) of children arrive in England. A ninth transport is scheduled to leave Prague on September 1, 1939, but Germany invades Poland and the train in Prague never leaves the station. None of the 250 children on board survive the Holocaust.
Once the war starts and no more children can be rescued, Winton joins the R.A.F. (Royal Air Force) to help defend his country.
September 1, 1939
Germany invades Poland. France and Great Britain declare war on Germany. The U.S. proclaims neutrality but will sell arms to non-aggressors on a "cash and carry" basis.
October — November 1939
Nazis begin euthanasia on the sick and disabled in Germany, and an assassination attempt on Hitler fails.
February 1940:
The Gestapo begins to take Jews into "protective custody" and deports them to concentration (work) camps.
April 1940
The Nazis begin to expand Auschwitz, a concentration and POW camp. Germany invades Norway and Denmark.
May — June 1940
Germany invades France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland. Norway, Belgium, Holland, France, Luxembourg and Yugoslavia surrender to Germany. Italy enters the war on the side of the Axis powers and invades Greece.
July 1940
The Battle of Britain begins. There are massive German air raids known as Blitzkrieg (known in Britain as "the Blitz"), that continue throughout the war.
September 1940
The United States begins military draft (conscription). The Tripartite (Axis) Pact is signed by Germany, Italy and Japan.
November 1940
The Warsaw ghetto is sealed by a brick wall.
March 1941
The U.S. Congress approves the Lend-Lease Act, which gives the president power to sell, transfer, lend or lease war materials to nations whose defense is considered vital to the defense of the U.S. in World War II.
April 1941
Germany invades Greece and Yugoslavia.
June 1941
Germany declares war on the Soviet Union.
July 1941
Hermann Goering orders Reinhard Heydrich to organize "The Final Solution" (the death of European Jews).
September 1941
All German Jews are required to wear the yellow Star of David.
October 1941
Mobile killing units begin murdering Eastern European Jews.
December 7, 1941
The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. The United States declares war on Japan. Germany declares war on the United States.
January 1942
The Wanssee Conference of German Leaders from manufacturing, railroads and the military is held to detail plans for carrying out "The Final Solution."
June 1942
Six death camps (like Treblinka) are built in Poland. Concentration camps are converted to death camps.
April 1943
Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto revolt and are annihilated by the Germans one month later.
August — October 1943
Prisoners at the Treblinka, Bialystock and Sobibor death camps revolt. Most are killed.
June 6, 1944    D Day
Allied Forces invade Europe.
April 21, 1945
Soviet troops reach Berlin.
April 30, 1945
Hitler commits suicide.
May 7, 1945
The unconditional surrender of all German forces occurs.
May 8, 1945    VE Day
Victory in Europe.
August 7, 1945
The U.S. drops an atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
August 9, 1945
A second atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.
August 14, 1945    VJ Day
Japanese surrender, Victory over Japan.
October 1946
A few Nazi war criminals are convicted at the Nuremberg Trials. The vast majority remains unpunished to this day.