Category Archives: History

Remembering History: Auschwitz Liberated by Soviet Army (27 Sep 1945)

Child Survivors of Auschwitz, 1945
Public Domain (via Wikimedia)

On 27 Jan 1945, Soviet Union troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. In doing so, it revealed the horrors the Germans had perpetrated there. Auschwitz was a series of camps designated I, II, and III with also smaller satellite camps. Auschwitz II at Birkenau was the place where most of the exterminations at Auschwitz were done. Using four “bath houses,” prisoners were gassed to death and cremated. Prisoners were also used for ghastly medical experiments overseen by the infamous Josef Mengele (the “angel of death”).

As the Red Army approached, the SS began a murder spree and blew up the crematoria to try to cover up the evidence. When the Red Army finally got there, they found 648 corpses and 7,000 starving camp survivors. They also found six storehouses full of men’s and women’s clothes and other items the Germans were not able to burn before they left.

News Articles

How a Catholic pastor saved hundreds of his Jewish neighbors in the Warsaw Ghetto (Catholic News Agency, 27 Jan 2021)

For More Information:

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum
Brittanica.com
History.com
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Yad Vashem

,,

Remembering History:Boston Molasses Flood (15 Jan 1919)

For most of us, the notion that molasses would flood a city causing fatalities and destruction on its face seems implausible. Yet it happened in Boston in 1919.

Molasses tank in North End of Boston. Date unknown.
Public Domain (via Wikipedia)

Industrial alcohol (used for machinery and other industrial applications) was very profitable and used for the war effort. It was made from fermented molasses so large tanks were constructed to hold it. A giant tank for it was built in 1915 along Boston’s waterfront on Commercial Street. Operated by the Purity Distribution Company (a subsidiary of United States Industrial Alcohol). The tank was immense measuring 50 feet high, 90 feet in diameter and could hold up to 2.5 million gallons. Back then, the usual standard was to use rivets (welding had not been invented yet) when connecting sections of metal together. Because of the fumes caused by fermentation and the pressure created, it posed a risk. There were leaks and occasional rumbles, but a vent was in place and open during the spring, summer, and fall. However, they were sealed during the winter since temperatures were usually very cool.

Shipments for molasses came in from ships in the harbor and transferred to the tank. Then later it would be transferred to an ethanol plant via pipeline in Cambridge. A recent delivery of molasses had nearly filled the tank. But for Purity, there was another issue. With the war over and Prohibition coming, the demand for industrial alcohol was going to be severely limited (there were still uses from industrial to baking but lower demand meant lower revenues for the company).

Boston Post,January 16, 1919, describing the Boston Molasses Disaster.
Public Domain (via wikipedia)

January 15, 1919 was an unseasonably warm day with temperatures soaring up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and higher possibly by noon that day. With the vents closed, the fumes had nowhere to go and pressure built up inside the tank. At 12:30 pm people heard sounds that sounded like machine guns firing. It was likely the rivets being popped out by the pressure inside the tank. And then the tank exploded sending the nearly 2.5 million tons of molasses into Boston. The wave was estimated to be 15-40 feet tall and about 160 feet wide. Traveling at about 35 miles per hour, it destroyed several city blocks, leveled buildings, damaged autos and killed 21 people with 150 injured. Since molasses is very thick, it made for difficult breathing if it got into your nostrils or mouths. Many died from asphyxiation or drowned. Horses were knocked down and died on the spot with so many that many compared them to being sticky fly paper.

Boston molasses explosion
Source: U.S. Library of Congress,Digital ID: (digital file from original) anrc 1496

Clean-up efforts started immediately but lasted for quite a while. Molasses went everywhere and no matter where you went in Boston, you were likely to encounter the sticky stuff in some form. It was on subway platforms, inside streetcars, pay telephones, even inside public buildings. Pedestrians tracked the molasses everywhere they went spreading further. Cleanup crews were kept busy cleaning it all up using salt water. And from many accounts, it appears the city would smell like molasses for some years to come.

Aftermath

Fingers were pointed at the company, who tried initially to claim it was sabotage. An investigation into how it was built, and approvals were done showed a lot of corners were cut in its design and construction. Lawsuits were filed and consolidated into one of the first-class action suits ever to be done. Stories of known leaks where kids filled buckets with the leaking molasses did not help the company either. Ultimately the company paid out to victim’s families around $628,000.

The disaster highlighted the need for more rigorous standards for construction, required safety tests for tanks containing liquids, and ongoing safety checks. It was determined the company ignored basic safety tests when constructing and ignored the groaning sounds when tank was filled. Also the company used thinner steel than was commonly used for tanks in that day. They also covered up the leaks by painting the tank brown. Later investigations have shown that as the molasses left the exploded tank, it cooled due to the Boston temperatures making it more viscous (meaning it thickened up) as it went through the streets. This made rescue efforts more difficult and cleanup more difficult as well.

The tank was never rebuilt and the property became a yard for the Boston Elevated Railway (later the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority). Today is the site of a city owned recreational complex called Langone Park. To the east is the large Puopolo Park which has a small plaque on its entrance commemorating the disaster.

Sources


No Sliced Bread for You!

There was a time when the U.S. government banned sliced bread during World War II

 When we go to the store and purchase bread, it comes sliced. Yet that was not the case until the 1930’s. Bread was sold as whole loaves and you sliced them at home (or you made your own bread). Some bakers believed selling pre-sliced bread would hasten it becoming stale. While buying whole loaves meant you could slice to the thickness of your choice, it became a hassle when you had to get breakfast on the table and make sandwiches for lunch. The key to making commercially sliced bread feasible though was machinery to do this and that came about in 1928.

Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

Otto Rohwedder designed a mechanical powered multi-blade slicer that his friend Frank Bench used at his Chillicothe Baking Company in Chillicothe, Missouri. It was a local hit since the bread was sliced better than done by hand. Some thought it was a fad, but other bakeries began to do the same. Soon it spread national and by the 1930’s just about all commercial bread sold came pre-sliced. It also was softer than homemade as well. The Continental Baking Company capitalized on this with their Wonder bread. It became one of the most popular brands in the country. Now everyone could reach for their bread and easily make toast and sandwiches without having to slice it. A famous phrase came out of it: “The best thing since sliced bread.”

World War II though meant everything had to be rationed for the war effort and food was as well. Flour, dairy products, sugar, and other things could only be purchased with a ration book to prevent stores from selling too much (and they had rigorous enforcement as well). Fewer coffee beans meant coffee had to be extended with things like chicory (which my mother hated). Margarine instead of butter and lesser cuts of beef became popular. And then  the Office of Price Administration (which oversaw the food rationing and other things) decided on 18 Jan 1943 to ban sliced bread. The agency explained that the bread required heavy wrapping compared to unsliced, Another likely reason was that the price of flour (like other items during this period) was starting to go up and banning sliced bread would keep the flour price low.

Steel was also rationed during this time, so availability of bread cutting machines was limited as well. This did reduce the supply of sliced bread as well during the war. If the machine broke down and could not be repaired, bakers had to revert to using whole loaves or other alternatives to sliced bread. The attempt to ban sliced bread meant with resistance. Mayor LaGuardia of New York said that bread-slicing machine should continue to be used by bakeries and delicatessens. It did not stop there as complaints rolled into newspapers from housewives, bakeries, and others. The government doubled down and warned bakeries, stores, and delicatessens to cease using they bread cutting machines arguing it was unfair to those who were manually slice their bread.

You can guess this did not go over well. With limitations on everything already in place, people were furious that sliced bread was being banned requiring everyone to slice themselves or make their own bread. Since flour was being rationed, baking bread from scratch was not practical for most. Due to the unpopularity of this rule, it was rescinded on 8 March 1943. Claude B. Wickard who had issued the rule, said the savings the order meant to occur were not as expected. And that there was sufficient wax paper to wrap the sliced bread existed. So ended a moment when sliced bread, by government edict, was banned.  Today sliced bread is still widely available through types of bread have expanded considerably since those times. Wonder Bread is still available though it was on hiatus for a while when its owner went bankrupt. It was bought by another company that brought it back and adorns store shelves again.

Who Invented Sliced Bread? (History.com)
The US Tried to Ban Sliced Bread During WWII (TheHistoryCollection.com)
Ban on Sliced Bread (TodayinHistory.com)

Prohibition Ratified (16 Jan 1919)

Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol.
Public Domain (via Wikipedia)

On 16 January 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution was formally ratified. Under the 18th Amendment, the manufacture and distribution of alcohol in the United States (outside of industrial and sacramental use) was prohibited beginning a year later on 17 January 1920. Congress passed the Volstead Act to provide teeth to the law by allowing for enforcement of this law by the federal government, specifically a special unit of the Treasury Department. President Wilson vetoed the Volstead Act but overrode by Congress.

In the 19th century, temperance movements arose to address the growing problem of families being damaged when a husband or relative became addicted to alcohol. Also it was a means of curtailing acts of public drunkenness and related problems with people gathering to drink (gambling, prostitution etc.) The movement, religiously based in many cases, gathered steam and became a political one where it campaigned the state level for abstinence laws. In December 1917 Congress passed the amendment and sent it to the states for ratification.

All but two states ratified, a few after it had met the requisite number needed to amend the Constitution. Connecticut and Rhode Island were the two that rejected the amendment. Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wisconsin all ratified after 17 Jan 1919.

Aftermath

Enforcement at national and state levels became an issue right away. Neither Canada or Mexico were dry and illegal importation was an issue. Also with Cuba 90 miles away from Florida, it would provide another avenue for rum and other alcohols to be smuggled in. Breweries switched to making non-alcoholic beverages during this time. Wineries could only produce wine for sacramental (religious use), so they too had to turn to things like grape juice or apple cider. The law was not popular in a lot of cities, resulting in the rise of illegal places (called speakeasies) where you could drink alcohol.

To meet this need, many organized crime syndicates and gangs would supply the alcohol either by owning their own breweries and/or smuggling it in from outside the country. These crime syndicates would become enormously wealthy and corrupt local governments (police, politicians, judges) in order to stay in business. Competing gangs would sometimes duke it out on the streets leaving bodies of their enemies (and sometimes the innocent as well). Chicago became particularly notorious, both for its gangs and the depth of corruption. This prompted the federal government to target the Chicago Gang run by Al Capone. While they would raid his operations (done by the famous Elliott Ness), the financial investigation would lead to a successful conviction of tax fraud.

By the end of the decade, support for Prohibition had ebbed considerably. The rise of the organized crime, the fact many flouted the laws in large and small ways, and the difficulties encountered in enforcing the law all led to is eventual demise. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, many argued the alcohol industry could provide jobs. Franklin Roosevelt added it to his campaign plank in 1932. In 1933, the U.S. Congress passed the 21st Amendment to repeal the 18th (the first such Amendment to do this) which was swiftly passed by most states. A few remained dry (under the provisions of the 21st Amendment, a state could decide to stay dry) after that but today states no longer ban its sale. There are still some counties that are dry, including the one where the Jim Beam distillery is located in Kentucky.

Sources:

 


Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.(1964) Photo:Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress digital id cph 3c26559)
Martin Luther King, Jr.(1964)
Photo:Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress digital id cph 3c26559)

 

The following stirring speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the best calls for equality in modern times. King reminds us that in seeking freedom not only for African-Americans, it is also for everyone. He wanted all people to be treated fairly, justly and not by the color of their skin but on the content of their character. He did not want it done out of bitterness or hatred but to work towards brotherhood where all would be free.  We honor and remember a man who sought freedom not by the gun but by peaceful and forceful demonstrations to remind many of the promises of this country and what God himself has taught us in Holy Scripture.

I Have A Dream
Lincoln Memorial
August 28, 1963

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends — so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi — from every mountainside.

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring — when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children — black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics — will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Sources
Martin Luther King Jr (Biography.com)
Martin Luther King Jr (History.com)
Martin Luther King Jr Online

 

Remembering History: Siege of Leningrad Broken (12 Jan 1943)

 

Anti-aircraft guns guarding the sky of Leningrad, 1 Oct 1941
RIA Novosti archive, image #5634 / David Trahtenberg / CC-BY-SA 3.0

After German troops invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, one of their top cities to take control of was Leningrad (former St. Petersburg, then Petrograd). As the second largest city in the Soviet Union (and its capital under the Tsar’s), it held significant importance. In August 1941, German troops surrounded the city so nothing could get in or out. This also cut off the Leningrad-Moscow railway. The residents built anti-tank fortifications and defended the city with the resources they had. Hitler decided to wait them out in a siege hoping to break down the will of the residents. Some limited supplies were able to get in but not enough for all its residents. Starvation, disease, and injuries mounted up. They did manage to evacuate about a million elderly and young people out of the city but that left 2 million to deal with the dire situation.

Food was rationed and any open space was used to plant food.  On 12 January 1943, Soviet troops punched a hole rupturing the German siege allowing supplies to come in one Lake Ledoga. A Soviet counteroffensive on 27 Jan 1944 brought the siege to a complete end after 872 days. The Russian army lost, captured or missing 1,017,881 and 2,418,185 wounded or sick. 642,000 civilians died during the siege and, 400,000 during evacuations.

Sources:

Soviet forces penetrate the siege of Leningrad (History.com)
Siege of Leningrad (WorldWar2facts.org)

 

 

 

 

Remembering Thomas Becket, Saint and Martyr (29 Dec 1170)

Earliest known portrayal of Thomas Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral.
circa 1200
PD-US-expired, PD-UK and other countries where authors life and set years have expired.
Source: British Library via Wikimedia Commons

On December 29 1170, Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in front of the altar by four knights in Canterbury Cathedral.

Becket had been a successful chancellor for King Henry II and had helped him consolidate his power even if went against the church. Well liked and respected, Becket served the king well earning his complete trust. When the Archbishop of Canterbury died, King Henry decided to put Becket in that spot so he could have more control of the church. Appointing him in 1162, he expected Becket to faithfully continue what Henry wanted. Except that is not what happened at all,

Becket though underwent a transformation and switched his allegiance to the church. He adopted an ascetic lifestyle and lived humbly despite being in the most powerful bishopric in England. King Henry and Becket starting clashing over many issues. Finally when the king demanded Becket sign the Constitutions of Clarendon in 1164 to extend his control over the church, Becket refused and left England and went to France. He returned in 1170 after a reconciliation had been worked out. Two bishops who had sided with Henry had been excommunicated refused to rejoin unless they supported the church over Henry. The bishops complained to Henry, who was in France at the time, who uttered words that suggested he wanted him dead. Four knights took this as an order and sailed to England.

There they murdered Becket on the altar stairs just as evening mass was starting. This shocking event caused outrage and horror. King Henry went on a 40 day fast. Pope Alexander III proclaimed him a saint two years later. King Henry II walked barefoot to his tomb as penance and was forgiven by the church. His tomb became a popular spot for pilgrims to visit until King Henry VIII destroyed it. When he was reburied in the new tomb that was subsequently destroyed, many of his bones were sent to other churches as relics. They were returned in 2016 to the cathedral in which he died in.

His feast day of December 29 is celebrated on both Anglican and Catholic calendars. He is the saint of secular clergy.

 

Sources:

Michael David Knowles(25 Dec 2022)
St. Thomas Becket
Britannica.com, Retrieved 28 Dec 2022

St.Thomas Becket
Catholic Online, Retrieved 28 Dec 2022

Archbishop Thomas Becket is murdered
History.com, Retrieved 28 Dec 2022

 

Remembering History: Prof. Carl Clauberg Began His Experiments on Female Prisoners at Auschwitz (28 Dec 1942)

Carl Clauberg 1942 at Auschwitz
Source: www.auschwitz.org.pl via Wikimedia Commons

Professor Carl Clauberg (1898-1957) after serving in World War I studied medicine and became the doctor-in-chief to the gynaecological clinic at Kiel University. In 1933 he joined the Nazi party and was a supporter of its ideology. He would also become professor for gynaecology at Koenigsberg University that same year. At Koenigsberg he did research on female fertility hormones and the use for infertility treatments. This got him recognition in 1937 and Himmler was made aware of his work. He also received the rank of SS-Gruppenführer (equivalent of a 2 -star general) in the Reserve.

In 1942 Clauberg asked Heinrich Himmler about doing research on mass sterilization of women. Himmler sent him to Auschwitz in December 1942 where he was given part of Block 10 in the camp to do his experiments. Clauberg was looking at cheap and effective ways to this. He used both Jewish and Romani (Gypsy) women who were often injected without anesthetics in their uterus. Some of the women died from the experiments and others were killed so they could do autopsies. By 1943 he reported to Himmler that he had perfected the procedure. It would require 10 people and well stocked office that could sterilize hundreds up to a 1,000 women per day.

The procedure he used required the injection of a chemical irritant that caused from the resulting inflammation, the growing of the fallopian tubes together causing obstruction. The experiments were brutal and often had complications for the women. Peritonitis and hemorrhages often resulted in high fever and sepsis. Organs failed as well resulting in death. It is believed 700 women were sterilized in these experiments.

He had to flee Auschwitz as the Russian army closed in and ended up in Ravensbruck where he continued his experiments. He was captured by the Russians, put on trial, and sentenced to 25 years in jail. He was released to Germany as part of the 1955 Adenauer-Bulganin prisoner exchange agreement. He ended up back at his old clinic but his bizarre behavior where he bragged about what he did at Auschwitz got him noticed. He was arrested in 1955 after a public outcry but died in 1957 before he stood trial.

Sources

Carl Clauberg
Auschwitz.org, Retrieved 12/28/22

Carl Clauberg
Jewish Virtual Library, Retrieved 12/28/22

Carl Clauberg
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Retrieved 12/28/22

Remembering History: Washington Crosses Delaware in Surprise Attack (Dec 25-26, 1776)

Washington Crossing The Delaware
Emanuel Leutze (1816–1868)
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)
Public Domain

By the winter of 1776, things looked bleak for the patriots fighting the British. They had suffered a string of defeats (New York and other places) that sapped the morale of many patriots. General George Washington’s leadership was being questioned by some leaders, and there was a general feeling that British were going to win unless things changed. The British by this time were of the opinion they were succeeding, though they found the Americans could put up a good fight. With winter upon them, the war paused as normally European armies did not fight during this time. Hessian troops, paid mercenaries hired by the British, were skilled professional soldiers raised nearly from birth to fight. A Hessian force was quartering in Trenton, New Jersey for the winter. General Washington decided to go on the offensive to win a battle and raise the morale of the troops who were suffering through the cold winter.

On the night of December 25, 1776, his army began moving across the Delaware River. The group led by Washington, 2,400 strong, made it to the other side but the other two divisions that made of 3,000 men did not get across at the right time. The Hessians had spent Christmas Day relaxing, eating, and drinking and did not believe the Americans were a threat. They had in fact dismissed warnings the Americans might attack. So, they were unprepared for what happened on December 26.  At 8 am, Washington attacked with two columns. By 9:30 am, the German defenses had crumbled, and the town was surrounded. While many Hessians did escape, they did capture several hundred and only lost four lives in the process. Unfortunately, since most of his troops had failed to cross, Washington was without any additional men or artillery to hold Trenton. He was forced to withdraw.

It was a minor battle that had no real strategic impact. The news of the successful attack though raised American colonialists’ spirits.  The initiative shown by Washington showed the Continental Army was capable of victory.

Sources:

History.com
MountVernon.org

,,

Remembering History: Slavery Abolished in America (18 Nov 1865) and Japan Takes Hong Kong (18 Nov 1941)

Slavery Abolished in United States with Adoption of 13th Amendment

Celebration in the House of Representatives after adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Harpers Weekly/Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain

When Georgia officially ratified the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on 6 December 1865, that made it the 27th state to ratify. In doing so, that meant the amendment had met the needed three-fourths requirement of state legislatures to needed to amend the federal constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery in the United States.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Other states would ratify after this date so as to be put on record they opposed it as well. The last three after ratification were Delaware (1901), Kentucky (1976), and Mississippi (1995). In both Kentucky and Mississippi’s cases, they had rejected the amendment in 1865. So they revoted for it in 1976 and 1995 respectively. However, Mississippi failed to notify the U.S. archivist to officially record the vote. It was officially recorded in 2012.

With its ratification, slavery was formally ended in the U.S. and in all places (overseas territories etc.) where the U.S. had jurisdiction.

Sources:

Thirteenth Amendment
Britannica.com, Retrieved 19 Dec 2022

13th Amendment
History.com, Retrieved 19 Dec 2022

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Japanese Invade Hong Kong

Japanese troops arrested foreign bankers.
Imperial Japanese soldiers arrested European bankers and detained them in a hotel.
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

On 18 Dec 1941, Japanese forces landed in Hong Kong and began a brutal assault on British forces. Prior to the invasion, Japanese forces had used bombing raids over the city hoping for capitulation. Japanese envoys unsuccessfully demanded the British Crown Colony surrender but its governor on 17 Dec 1941 declined to enter into discussions. When Japanese troops attacked and defeated a garrison of troops, they rounded up all the British soldiers and medical personnel and killed them brutally by bayonetting them to death. Seizing control of the water supplies, they turned off the water to the British and Chinese population of Hong Kong. Facing death by thirst, the British surrendered on Christmas Day.

Japan imposed martial law, which remained in place during the whole time it controlled Hong Kong. Approximately 7,000 British troops and civilians were kept in camps under appalling conditions. All functions of government were put under military control and executions of Chinese were common even for minor crimes with beheading the most common form. Banks were seized and even some bankers killed. The Japanese brought in their own banks and set up their own trading syndicates hoping to use Hong Kong as the British did to make money from overseas trade. Life was harsh under Chinese rule with food supplies for the population being limited and many dying of starvation. Medical facilities were limited, and some limited charities and social services were allowed to operate but had to rely on donations for the limited medical and charity services they could provide. Japanese language became compulsory along with Japanese textbooks in schools.

Hong Kong would remain under Japanese control until 30 August 1945 when Japan formally surrendered. General Takashi Sakai, who had been the military governor of Hong Kong since it was captured, was tried of war crimes, and executed in 1946.

Sources

Japan Invades Hong Kong
History.com, Retrieved 19 Dec 2022

Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong
Wikipedia. Retrieved 19 Dec 2022