On the 12th June 1942, Anne Frank received a diary as a thirteenth birthday present from her father. Barely three weeks later, Anne and her family went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Her diary, which chronicled her experiences over the next two years, was published posthumously after the war under the title The Diary of a Young Girl and became one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated books.
The Frank family originated in Frankfurt, Germany, but moved away after the Nazi party won local elections in 1933. Anne’s father, Otto, was a businessman who chose to move the family to Amsterdam after receiving an offer to start a company there. However, when the German army invaded the Netherlands in 1940 the family found themselves trapped in a country subjected to anti-Semitic laws.
When, in July 1942, Anne’s older sister Margot was ordered by the Nazi authorities to go to a labour camp, their father instead arranged for the family to go into hiding in a so-called ‘Secret Annexe’ above his office building. It was here that Anne wrote her diary, which she addressed as Kitty. Over three volumes she recorded the relationships between the Frank family, the Van Pels family, and her father’s friend Fritz Pfeffer with whom they shared their confined hiding place.
An anonymous tip-off led to the discovery and arrest of the eight inhabitants on the 4th August 1944. They were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp a month later. Anne died of typhus in early 1945 after being transferred to Bergen-Belsen. She was fifteen years old.
Josef Mengele, the Nazi ‘Angel Of Death’, was transferred to begin work at Auschwitz concentration camp.
Menegele had been a member of a right-wing paramilitary group that was absorbed into the Nazi SA in 1934. In 1937 he formally joined the Nazi Party and, the following year, began serving in the SS. By the start of 1943 Mengele had proved himself as both an effective medical officer in the field and a dedicated member of the Race and Resettlement Office.
Having developed an interest in the study of twins as part of his earlier genetics research, Mengele applied for a transfer to the concentration camp service. He was posted to Auschwitz-Birkenau on 24 May 1943 where he initially served as the chief physician in the Romani family camp.
As he moved up the ranks numerous sources record his delight in taking part in the “selections” that determined which prisoners were to be killed in the gas chambers and which were to be spared, as these often provided him with new subjects.
Mengele’s experiments involved such gruesome actions as injecting live subjects with chemicals, purposefully infecting people with diseases and, in one well-evidenced case, sewing two twins together in an attempt to create conjoined twins. Mengele was consequently responsible for the deaths of numerous victims thanks to his sadistic and barbaric actions.
Mengele was evacuated from Auschwitz in January 1945 and gradually moved West, escaping capture by the USSR. He was eventually taken as a prisoner of war by the Americans in June but, due a combination of factors, was later able to obtain false papers and flee to South America where he died, having evaded capture for war crimes, in 1979.
On the 11th April 1961, the trial of Nazi SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann began in Israel. Eichmann was known as the architect of the Final Solution, the man who coordinated the transportation of Jews from across Europe to Death Camps in the East.
At the end of the Second World War, Eichmann had fled Europe in an attempt to escape being tried for war crimes. Eventually arriving in Argentina with his family, he lived for a number of years under the assumed name Ricardo Klement. However, as one of the world’s most wanted Nazi war criminals, the Israeli secret police – the Mossad – spent years tirelessly searching for him. After being given the tip-off that he may be in Buenos Aires, they eventually captured him and forcibly took him to Jerusalem for trial.
With Eichmann sitting inside a purpose-built bullet-proof glass booth, the trial lasted 16 weeks and exposed for the first time the extent of the atrocities that occurred in the Holocaust. Eichmann’s main line of defense was that he was not personally involved with the killings, and was just following orders. However, on the 15th December 1961, the three judges hearing the case unanimously found him guilty of the 15 charges against him and sentenced him to death. Eichmann was executed by hanging six months later, his body cremated, and his ashes scattered at sea.
On the 20th January 1942, a number of senior Nazis met at the Wannsee Conference where they discussed what was referred to as the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich called the meeting, in which he outlined the deportation of European Jews to extermination camps in Poland where they would be systematically murdered.
Six months earlier, on the 31st July 1941, Hermann Goering had ordered Heydrich as his second-in-command to submit plans “for the implementation of the projected final solution of the Jewish question”. Heydrich was a trusted member of the Nazi elite, and had been referred to by Hitler as “the man with the iron heart”. He had already helped to organise Kristallnacht, established Jewish ghettos in Nazi-controlled territories, and command the Einsatzgruppen that were responsible for millions of Jewish deaths prior to his planning of the Final Solution.
Heydrich originally planned for the Wannsee Conference to take place on 9th December 1941, but it was postponed due to the USSR’s counter-offensive in the Battle of Moscow and the entry of the USA into the war. Fifteen representatives from a variety of government ministries attended the delayed meeting on the 20th January instead.
By this time hundreds of thousands of Jews had already been killed in the east, and the planning and construction of extermination camps had already begun. The meeting was, therefore, more to ensure coordination between the various government agencies in implementing the deportations.
Minutes from the meeting survive as what is known as the Wannsee Protocol, although the language was edited so that mass extermination was never explicitly recorded.
Einstein, who was Jewish, was undertaking a visiting professorship at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena when Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor on 30 January 1933. With the Nazis expanding their power in Germany, Einstein chose not to go home when he returned to Europe in March. When his ship docked at the Belgian port of Antwerp on 28 March he renounced his German citizenship by handing in his passport at the German Consulate.
While the Nazis seized Einstein’s cottage and converted it to a Hitler Youth camp, the government barred Jews from teaching at universities and the German Student Union burned his books. With a bounty on his head, Einstein stayed in Belgium for a few months before moving to Britain where he was guarded by his friend, naval officer Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson.
While a refugee in Britain, Einstein lobbied foreign governments and universities to find employment for former German Jewish scientists. Many places were found around Europe, with over 1,000 German Jewish scientists being placed in Turkish universities alone, but Einstein himself was refused British citizenship and instead accepted an offer from the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey. He departed England on 17 October 1933.
Although Einstein initially intended to only stay in the United States for a short time, in 1935 he chose to seek American citizenship, which he gained in 1940. By this time he had warned President Roosevelt about the danger of Hitler developing nuclear weapons, and encouraged the United States to begin its own research.
Boris III became Tsar of Bulgaria at the end of the First World War, just four days after his father, Ferdinand I, signed the Armistice of Thessalonica with the Allied Powers. In order to save the monarchy he handed power to his eldest son, who had gained great respect from both Bulgarian and German troops during the First World War.
The new Tsar found himself leading a country that faced enormous economic and political problems as a result of the war and the subsequent Treaty of Neuilly that was signed in November 1919. Bulgaria was forced to hand territory to both Greece and the newly-formed Yugoslavia, resulting in approximately 300,000 Bulgarians finding themselves in new countries. The army was also reduced and the country was forced to pay reparations.
The first decade of Boris’ reign saw tensions between the monarchy and the powerful forces of the Agrarian Union and the Communist Party. By the end of 1935 he had begun to secure his hold on power and establish the ‘King’s Government’ in which he personally dominated the political system.
The outbreak of the Second World War was followed a year later by Bulgaria allying itself with the Axis powers in an attempt to win back territories lost at the end of the First World War. However, Boris refused to lend unconditional military support to Germany and infuriated Hitler with his refusal to declare war on the USSR. In early 1943 Boris angered Hitler again by refusing to deport Bulgarian Jews. He insisted that they should stay in Bulgaria where they were needed for labouring tasks, and saved approximately 50,000 people. Boris died of apparent heart failure later that year, on 28 August.
On the 27th January 1945, Soviet soldiers from the 322nd Rifle Division liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp near the Polish city of Oświęcim. They met some resistance from the remaining Nazi troops in the city, but by 3pm had captured the Main Camp and Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
By the end of 1944, the Soviet Union was making significant gains against the Nazis on the Eastern Front. As a result SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered the end of gassings across the Reich, and the systematic destruction of written records. Approximately 65,000 prisoners were evacuated deeper into the Reich between August 1944 and January 1945 but tens of thousands of prisoners still remained in Auschwitz. Therefore, on the 17th January, at least another 58,000 inmates were sent on a death march under armed guard; of those who departed around 20,000 made it to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany.
More than 7,000 prisoners were left behind in the camp because they were deemed too weak or sick to complete the march. Meanwhile, the Nazis continued to destroy evidence of the crimes committed in the camps by blowing up or burning many remaining buildings including the crematoria. Remaining SS troops were ordered to kill the remaining inmates, murdering over 600 of them before the Soviet forces arrived. However, due to the quick progress of the Red Army some buildings – as well as thousands of inmates – survived.
After the liberation, hospital facilities were established at the camp to provide medical treatment for the survivors. On the 2nd July 1947, the Polish parliament passed an act that turned the camp in to a museum.