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1940: Machinery of Hatred
 pg. 194 
Jews of the Kraków (Poland) Ghetto load coal onto a horse-drawn sled. In the background is a 14th-century synagogue, a structure that attests to the long-standing Jewish presence in the city. On the eve of World War II, 60,000 Jews lived in Kraków, approximately 25 percent of the city's total population. The terror campaigns of December 1940 destroyed Kraków's synagogues and killed many Jews.
Photo: AP/Wide World
German forces swept into the Netherlands in May 1940, quickly capturing its capital, The Hague, and its principal port of Rotterdam, which is pictured. In preparation for the assault, the Luftwaffe engaged in massive bombing on May 14, with no concern for civilian casualties. As a result, much of the city was left in ruins. Many Dutch fled the devastation, including a large percentage of Rotterdam's Jewish population.
Photo: Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
Aristides de Sousa Mendes

The efforts of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes (pictured, top right) helped 10,000 refugee Jews flee Nazi-occupied France. In his position as Portuguese consul, stationed in Bordeaux, France, Mendes signed transit visas for thousands of Jews hoping to escape through Portuguese ports.

In May 1940 Mendes defied his government's instructions to curtail the flood of refugees requesting entry into Portugal via Spain. Despite specific orders to issue no visas to Jews, Mendes, a devout Catholic, asserted that he could not "allow these people to die." Acting on humanitarian principle, he worked day and night signing documents for the unending throng of refugees crowding the offices of the consulate. When supplies of official stationery ran out, he used odd scraps of paper. Even when recalled by his government, Mendes personally escorted a small band of refugees across the Spanish border. Supplying them with makeshift, handwritten visas, he instructed them to walk behind his car through a little-used checkpoint where the guard was unable to notify his superiors.

For his disobedience, the Portuguese government dismissed Mendes from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and stripped him of all pension benefits. The head of a family of 13 children sank into deep poverty. Forgotten and heartbroken, Mendes died in 1954.
Photo: Yad Vashem Photo Archives/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive

 May 1940: Rudolf Höss, adjutant at the Sachsenhausen, Germany, concentration camp, is ordered to turn the former Polish army barracks at Auschwitz, Poland, into an extermination camp.
 May 10, 1940: German forces invade Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.
 May 10, 1940: Winston Churchill succeeds Neville Chamberlain as British prime minister.
 May 10, 1940: Poet and essayist T. S. Eliot writes that the Jews are the modern world's foremost "Forces of Evil." He claims that they have "made the modern world vile."
1940: Machinery of Hatred
 pg. 194 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.