I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at October – December 1939 in this post.
A Timeline of WWII, Fall 1939
In October of 1939 in Germany, Adolf Hitler ordered widespread “mercy killings” by gassings of the sick and disabled. Code named “Aktion T4,” an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 Germans were murdered under this action during the next two years. It was a euthanasia program with the goal to eliminate “life unworthy of life.” The first focus was on newborn babies and very young children.
The Reich Health Ministry required midwives and doctors to fill out a questionnaire and register children up to the age of three who were deemed to be mentally retarded or physically deformed. Three medical experts reviewed the questionnaires, and without examining the children or any of their other medical records, decided whether each child would be allowed to live.
All three experts had to agree for a child to be transferred to the “Children’s Specialty Department” where those deemed mentally retarded or physically deformed would be euthanized by injection or allowed to gradually starve to death. If the decision was not unanimous, the child would be observed until a unanimous decision could be reached.
The program soon expanded to include older disabled children and adults. A decree directly from Hitler, back dated to September 1, increased
the authority of certain physicians to be designated by name in such manner that persons who, according to human judgment, are incurable can, upon a most careful diagnosis of their condition of sickness, be accorded a mercy death.
The euthanasia program was expanded further with the questionnaires used in mental institutions, hospitals, and other institutions for the chronically ill. Patients suffering from a host of diseases and conditions, and those who had been housed in institutions continuously for five or more years, or were judged criminally insane fell under the program’s guidelines. Also those who were not German citizens or were not of German or related blood, including Jews, Negroes, and Gypsies were included.
Eventually the program was headed by SS man Christian Wirth and six killing centers were established, including a well known psychiatric clinic at Hadamar and a former prison at Brandenburg, where the first Nazi experimental gassings took place. These served as training centers for the SS, and the technical knowledge and experience was used to create the extermination camps at Auschwitz, Treblinka and other concentration camps in Hitler’s goal to wipe out the entire Jewish population of Europe.
October 5, 1939
In September, more than 500,000 Polish troops fought the Nazis. Most were taken prisoner, but 100,000 died fighting or fled Poland. On this date, the remainder of the Polish army surrendered to Nazi Germany.
October 6, 1939
Hitler declared victory over Poland and accused Poland of initiating hostilities.
Hitler called for peace with Britain and France and insisted he had no ambitions towards them or Belgium, Holland, and several others.
Hitler issued a proclamation on the isolation of Jews.
October 9, 1939
Hitler issued orders for the creation of an invasion plan of France and the Low Countries, after calling for peace only three days earlier.
The German battleship Deutschland captured the American cargo ship City of Flint, which was carrying farming supplies to England.
October 12, 1939
The Nazis began the consolidation of Jews in Germany’s occupied territory. Jews were evacuated from Vienna. Austrian and Czechoslovakian Jews were sent to Poland.
October 14, 1939
A German U-boat (submarine) torpedoed and sank Britain’s HMS Royal Oak battleship while it was anchored in Scapa Flow (a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland), killing 883.
October 21, 1939
The United States budgeted $6,000 for atomic experiments.
October 26, 1939
Hans Frank was appointed Nazi Gauleiter (Governor General) of Poland.
A forced labor decree was issued for all Polish Jews from age fourteen to sixty.
October 28, 1939
An amendment to the US Neutrality Act allowing the sale of arms to besieged allies passed the US Senate.
November 1, 1939
Western Poland officially became part of the German Reich. (Date alternately reported as October 19, 1939).
November 3, 1939
Eastern Poland officially became part of the Soviet Union.
November 4, 1939
The amendment to the US Neutrality Act, passed by the US Senate on October 28, cleared the US House of Representatives and was signed by President Roosevelt. It required that arms were not transported by American ships.
Jews in Warsaw were all moved into a ghetto.
November 8, 1939
In a Munich beer hall, at the annual meeting of the veterans of the 1923 Nazi Putsch, a concealed bomb exploded, killing nine. It was an assassination attempt against Hitler, but he had left the beer hall twenty minutes earlier.
November 23, 1939
All Jews over age ten living in Nazi-occupied Poland were ordered to wear yellow stars symbolizing the Star of David.
November 28, 1939
The Australian government agreed to send troops to Europe.
November 30, 1939
The Soviet Union invaded Finland, initiating the “Winter War.”
Adolf Eichmann took over Section IV B4 of the Gestapo, dealing solely with Jewish affairs and evacuations. (See link below to Eichmann biography).
December 14, 1939
The League of Nations expelled the Soviet Union following its aggression against Finland.
December 17, 1939
The British Royal Navy engaged the German warship Graf Spee off the coast of Uruguay. After a particularly long battle, the captain of the damaged Graf Spee scuttled her near Montevideo.
December 18, 1939
Canada sent more than 7,000 troops to Britain to assist the Allies and the first of them arrived in Britain on this date.
December 24, 1939
Pope Pius XII made a Christmas appeal for peace.
This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:
The History Place:
The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.
The History Place Biography of Adolf Eichmann
Most recent post from the series:
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019