At the Wannsee Conference, Nazi officials discuss the Final Solution, a plan to kill all European Jews as well as Soviet prisoners of war and Gypsies. The Final Solution would involve several ministries within the German government bureaucracy and require an extensive rail system to move victims from across Europe to a network of ghettos, subcamps, and labor camps before they are sent to extermination camps. Approximately 3.5 million Jews die in the camps. In all, some six million Jews, about half of all European Jews, and approximately five million other victims are killed by the Nazis.
Containers of Zyklon B (poison gas pellets) and a gas mask
Mass murder using Zyklon B begins at Birkenau.
March 1: Construction of the Sobibor extermination camp begins.
The United States bombs Tokyo for the first time in the war.
The Jewish Agency for Palestine in Geneva reports that the Nazis have implemented a policy of exterminating European Jews.
May-June: On May 27 Czech partisans kill Reinhard Heydrich, SS chief in Czechoslovakia. In retaliation, German troops kill all the men and some women in Lidice, Czechoslovakia, on June 10.
At the Battle of Midway, U.S. forces defeat Japan, ending its eastward movement across the Pacific.
The Slovakian government agrees to deport its Jews to Auschwitz and then pays Germany to take the deportees' dependents, too.
June 20: Kazimierz Piechowski, a Polish political prisoner at Auschwitz, organizes an escape from the camp.
July 2: SS and French police meet about police collaborating with Nazis in rounding up Jews. French authorities agree to arrest and deport foreign Jews, which they begin to do on July 16.
July 17: Himmler orders the beginning of Operation Reinhard, in which all ghettos would be liquidated and all Polish Jews within the General Government (a geographical description) would be murdered by the end of the year. He also orders the enlargement of the Birkenau camp at Auschwitz.
August 19: The Battle of Stalingrad begins as German troops attack the city. Russian defenders slow the assault and launch a counteroffensive. Russian troops encircle large groups of German soldiers. Hitler prevents German troops from retreating, preferring to supply them by air for later battle. The German air force cannot keep up with the army's supply needs, and winter takes a toll. Eventually, the Soviet troops force a German surrender.
Allied forces invade North Africa, landing in Morocco and Algeria and battling Nazi troops. The Germans and Italians retaliate by occupying Vichy France.
Himmler orders most Gypsies in Germany to be deported to Auschwitz.
The Allies release a statement condemning Nazi extermination policies.