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WWII Timeline – Winter 1939

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at January – March 1939 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Winter 1939

By January 1, 1939

In January 1933, around 522,000 Jews lived in Germany. After the Nazis took power and implemented their antisemitic ideology and policies, Jews fled the nation. Almost sixty percent emigrated during the first six years of the Nazi dictatorship. In 1939, around 234,000 Jews remained in Germany.

January 5, 1939

Hitler pressured Poland to return the port of Gdansk (Danzig in German) to Germany.

January 12, 1939

American President Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined his $552 million dollar defense plan in a speech before Congress.

January 24, 1939

Hermann Göring ordered SS leader Reinhard Heydrich to speed up the emigration of Jews and established the National Central Office for Jewish Emigration.

Reinhard Heydrich was second to Heinrich Himmler in the Nazi SS and he was credited as the principle planner of the Final Solution. His Nazi nickname was The Blond Beast and others called him Hangman Heydrich. He was described as a “cold, calculating manipulator,” being without human compassion, and was known for his insatiable greed for power.

But rumors surfaced about possible Jewish ancestry on Heydrich’s father’s side of his family. His grandmother’s second marriage, after the birth of Heydrich’s father, was to a man with a Jewish sounding name. Heydrich’s enemies within the Nazi Party spread the rumor, of which both Hitler and Himmler became aware.

Himmler considered ousting Heydrich from the SS. But Hitler had a long private meeting with Heydrich and afterward described Heydrich as

a highly gifted but also very dangerous man, whose gifts the movement had to retain…extremely useful; for he would eternally be grateful to us that we had kept him and not expelled him and would obey blindly.

January 26, 1939

Nationalist troops seized Barcelona, Spain.

January 30, 1939

Adolf Hitler appeared before the Nazi Reichstag (Parliament) on the sixth anniversary of his coming to power. In a speech commemorating the event, he made a public threat against the Jews.

In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet, and have usually been ridiculed for it. During the time of my struggle for power it was in the first instance only the Jewish race that received my prophecies with laughter when I said that I would one day take over the leadership of the State, and with it that of the whole nation, and that I would then among other things settle the Jewish problem. Their laughter was uproarious, but I think that for some time now they have been laughing on the other side of their face. Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!

February 9, 1939

Senator Robert Wagner of New York and Representative Edith Rogers of Massachusetts introduced the Wagner-Rogers bill. It was designed to allow the entry of 20,000 refugee children under the age of fifteen from the Greater German Reich into the United States over a two year period. The bill died in committee in the summer of 1939.

February 21, 1939

In the Decree concerning the Surrender of Precious Metals and Stones in Jewish Ownership, the Nazis forced Jews to hand over all gold and silver items, diamonds, and other valuables to the state without compensation.

February 27, 1939

France and Great Britain recognized the Franco government of Spain.

March 14–15, 1939
The Slovaks declared their independence and formed the Slovak Republic. German troops occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia (Bohemia and Moravia) in violation of the Munich agreement, forming a Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. At the time the Jewish population of Czechoslovakia was 350,000.

March 17, 1939

President Roosevelt emphasized the importance of amending the U.S. Neutrality Act. He lobbied Congress to have the cash-and-carry provision regarding arms trade renewed. He was denied his request and the provision lapsed.  The mandatory arms embargo outlined in the act remained in place. Roosevelt prevailed later in the year, and on November 4, the Neutrality Act of 1939 was passed, which allowed for arms trade with belligerent nations (Great Britain and France) on a cash-and-carry basis.

March 22, 1939

Germany coerced Lithuania to return the Memel District to Germany.

March 25, 1939

When Poland would not subordinate their country to Germany, Hitler directed his generals to develop plans for war.

March 28, 1939

General Francisco Franco captured Madrid, which gave the Nationalists a victory and ended the Spanish Civil War. Franco later pledged support to Hitler and Mussolini, but refused to enter WWII. He maintained token neutrality throughout the war. Francisco Franco went on to lead Spain until his death in 1975.

March 29, 1939

In response to Hitler’s January 5 pressure on Poland to return the port of Gdansk (Danzig in German) to Germany, Warsaw announced that the Polish army would retaliate against any attempt to take it.

March 31, 1939
France and Great Britain stepped up to help Poland and guaranteed the integrity of the borders of the Polish state.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

Antisemitic Legislation 1933 – 1939

Anti-Jewish Legislation in Prewar Germany

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Wikipedia – History of the Jews in Germany

Reinhard Heydrich – The History Place

Hitler’s January 30, 1939 Reichstag Speech – The History Place

Wikipedia – Neutrality Acts of the 1930’s

Most recent post from the series:

Fall 1938

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019


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