Tag Archives: World War II

Today is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day-“A Date That Will Live In Infamy”

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

On this date in 1941, Japan launched a carrier based strike on U.S. military forces based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Their strategy was to use this attack to convince the country and its leaders that war with Japan would be futile. They achieved tactical surprise as no warning of an attack had yet been received. While decryption of their codes had revealed their intent, the warning did not reach Pearl Harbor until after the attack had begun. The Japanese legation in Washington did not deliver their government’s official response to a recent diplomatic exchange until after the attack due to problems in transcribing the message. The attack began at 07:55 local time (12:55 p.m. eastern standard time). It was early afternoon when President Roosevelt was notified by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the attack. There was some doubt among some staff as to the validity of the report but President Roosevelt believed it. And subsequent reports would show it was true. Radio was soon reporting on it as well and the entire nation soon learned of the shocking event that had taken place in the faraway location.

The purpose of the attack was to seriously cripple the U.S. naval and air operations (both the Navy and Army Air Corps). The surprise was effective and sank or crippled numerous American ships. However the jewels of the fleet were the aircraft carriers and they were not there. And the Japanese had no idea where they were. After conducting the first two strikes, a third strike was considered to more completely wipe out the storage, maintenance and dry dock facilities. Captain Minoru Genda, who helped in the planning, argued for invasion to maximize American losses. Admiral Nagumo decided to retire because of deteriorating weather, the unknown location of the American carriers, the long turnaround time required for a third strike that would allow American forces to gather and counterattack, and the fact the Nagumo’s strike force was at the extreme limit of logistical support. They were low on fuel and another strike would require them to travel at reduced speeds to conserve fuel. So he headed home. Much later Admiral Yamamoto, who supported the decision at the time, would in retrospect say it was a mistake since it allowed the U.S. to come back quickly.

The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941
Image: Public Domain (National Archives and Records Administration,ARC Identifier#195617)


Most of those who died at Pearl were sailors aboard the ships that were damaged or sunk. Of the 2,008 sailors killed, 1,177 were killed when the forward magazine on the USS Arizona exploded. Eighteen ships were sunk, beached, or run aground. 188 aircraft (mostly Army Air Corps) destroyed, 159 damaged. Most of the planes were destroyed on the ground. Only eight pilots got airborne and did attack Japanese aircraft but only one was shot down. Some pilots were killed or shot down later by friendly fire. Five inbound planes from USS Enterprise were shot down. The Navy lost 24 of its PBY planes. Additional casualties came from when Japanese attacked barracks. 2,403 Americans killed and 1,178 others were wounded. Since the U.S. was not at war, they are all classified as non-combatants. The Japanese lost 55 airmen, nine submariners and one captured. They lost 29 planes in battle and 74 were damaged by antiaircraft fire.

Most Americans were enjoying a pleasant Sunday. Secretary of State Cordell Hull met with the Japanese ambassador around 2:30 p.m., just when the first reports were coming in about the attack. Popular Sunday afternoon radio shows were interrupted with the stunning news about the attack on Pearl Harbor. From coast to coast, Americans were riveted to their radios listening to the latest updates. Lines of volunteers began forming outside military recruitment centers. The isolationist sentiment was ushered to the rear while most of the nation united against the Japanese. On 8 November before a joint session of Congress, President Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Signing Declaration of War Against Japan 8 Dec 1941
National Archives and Records Administration

And a hour later Congress officially declared war on Japan. Far from causing the U.S. to cower, it brought Americans together like never before. Hitler’s decision to join with Japan on 11 Dec was somewhat of a surprise-to his German High Command! They had not planned with war with the United States so soon and now they faced a two front war with an highly industrialized power against them. Mussolini foolishly committed Italy to the war with the U.S. as well.

For Japan they had control of the Pacific until June 1942. That is when the U.S. Navy engaged the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. At the end of the battle, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk to our one (the Yorktown). It was a shocking loss to the Japanese (and one they kept secret for as long as possible). The Doolittle Raid had convinced them to take on the American Navy directly. They did and lost spectacularly. And it shifted the balance of power in the Pacific. Admiral Yamamoto had been correct in his assessment of how the war with America would go:“I shall run wild considerably for the first six months or a year, but I have utterly no confidence for the second and third years.”

Yamamoto would not survive the war. President Roosevelt ordered that he be taken care of for his part in planning the Pearl Harbor attack. Thanks to the work of U.S. Naval Intelligence that had broken Japanese codes (code named Magic), his travel plans to the South Pacific in April, 1943 were learned. Orders were given and select pilots were used to target a very important high officer but were not told who it was. On 18 April 1943, a squadron of Lockheed P-38’s were assigned to intercept and bring down his transport being escorted by Japanese zeroes. There were two Japanese transports. After a dogfight with the Zeroes and transports, the transport with Yamamoto’s plane crashed into the jungle north of Buin, Papua New Guinea. Japanese search parties found his body, thrown from the aircraft and under a tree. He had two .50 caliber bullet wounds, one in his left shoulder and the other that had exited through his right eye. The true manner of his death was hidden from the Japanese public and not revealed until long after the war had ended. He was cremated, given a state funeral, and given posthumous titles and awards. Today the place where his plane crashed is a tourist attraction.


“Pearl Harbor: Attack, Deaths and Facts.” HISTORY, 29 Oct. 2009, www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/pearl-harbor.

“Pearl Harbor Attack | Date, History, Map, Casualties, Timeline, and Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 1 Dec. 2023, www.britannica.com/event/Pearl-Harbor-attack.

“Pearl Harbor Attack, December 7, 1941 | the National WWII Museum | New Orleans.” The National WWII Museum | New Orleans, 7 Dec. 2001, www.nationalww2museum.org/war/topics/pearl-harbor-december-7-1941.

“Pearl Harbor Attack.” Naval History and Heritage Command, www.nationalww2museum.org/war/topics/pearl-harbor-december-7-1941.
Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

For more information:
Home of Heroes
Pearl Harbor Remembered
The History Place
Pearl Harbor Attack(Naval Heritage & History Command)
Battleship USS Arizona History


Remembering the Winter War of 1939

Fire at the corner of Lönnrot and Abraham Streets after the first bombing of Helsinki during the Winter War
30 Nov 1939
Source:Military Museum,Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture

On 30 November 1939, in what later be called the Winter War, the Soviet Union invaded neighboring Finland. The objectives were both strategic and territorial. Under the (secret)terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed in August, Finland was placed into their sphere of influence. Prior to the invasion, the Soviet Union wanted Finland to cede land that would provide more security for Leningrad (formerly known as St. Petersburg, changed to Petrograd during World War I, and renamed Leningrad in 1924 after Lenin’s death).

Everyone, including the Russians, believed it would be easy. The Soviet Union had more troops and aircraft. It was expected the Finns would easily surrender. It did not turn out that way at all. After the initial attack and bombing of Helsinki where 61 would die, the Finns instead showed remarkable resistance. The Finnish government used pictures of the raid showing women with dead babies and those crippled by the bombings to engender sympathy from the outside world and to generate the Finnish resistance to the Russians. The Soviet Army, dressed in summer clothing as winter started to set in, quickly realized they were facing stiff opposition. President Roosevelt extended $10 million in credit to Finland (they paid it back after the war). The League of Nations expelled the Soviet Union for its invasion.

The Soviet Union though reorganized and came with different tactics in February 1940. Finnish defenses were overcome and resistance, though still strong, was up against a better organized Soviet Army this time. In March 1940 the Moscow Peace Treaty was signed. The Soviet Union got what it initially demanded and more as well. Finland’s sovereignty was preserved but it came at a cost for the Soviet Union. Most Western governments considered the Soviet Red Army as poorly led.


Hitler and his generals viewed the Red Army as weak and that an attack on it would be successful. They would invade Russia in June 1941. Finland though would go to war with the Soviet Union. as well. There are different views as to why but generally it was to get back the land lost in the peace treaty of 1940. Unfortunately, a faction of Finnish military and political leaders decided to work closely with the German Wehrmacht for a joint attack. While never signing formally the Tripartite Pact that made them an ally of Nazi Germany, the did sign the Anti-Comintern Pact. This pact signed by Germany, Japan and other countries created an alliance against the Soviet Union.

Finland would retake the territories given to Russia but continued on. They participated in the siege of Leningrad by cutting its northern supply. The Soviet Army would eventually push them back and a ceasefire was called on 5 September 1944. The resulting agreement would require the expulsion or disarming of German troops in their territory. Under pressure from the Soviets to expel German forces, Finnish troops fired on German soldiers resulting in exchanges between the two. By November 1944 nearly all German troops had withdrawn. With the end of the war in 1945, the borders were restored to the 1940 treaty. Finland had to pay war reparations to the Soviet Union. Since they fought with Germany, they had to accept responsibility for their part in the war and acknowledge they had been a German ally.

Russo-Finnish War (Britannica.com)
Winter War (History.com)
Winter War, Continuation War & Lapland War (Wikipedia.com)

Nuremberg Trials Begin (20 November 1945)

Nuremberg Trials. Defendants in their dock, circa 1945-1946.
(in front row, from left to right): Hermann Göring, Rudolf Heß, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel
(in second row, from left to right): Karl Dönitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel)
Public Domain (Wikipedia)

In the aftermath of World War II, there was debate about how to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and especially the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels were already dead by suicide. Churchill had the simplest approach of wanting to simply execute them but it was decided that tribunal would be a better method. The tribunal would reveal to the world the extent of the crimes upon humanity the persons were responsible for.

The concept of an international tribunal was novel and had never been done before. Then again, no nation had before committed to full scale extermination of whole peoples as the Nazi’s had tried to do. An international tribunal composed of representatives from Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States was formed. Defendants faced charges that varied from war crimes to crimes against humanity. Twenty- four were indicted along with six Nazi organizations such as the Gestapo that were also determined to be criminal. One was declared medically unfit to stand trial and another committed suicide before the trial began.

Each defendant was allowed to choose their own lawyers. They all pled not guilty and either argued that the crimes they committed were declared crimes after the London Charter (meaning ex post facto) or that they were applying harsh standards as they were the victors. The trials would last under October 1946 when verdicts were handed down. Twelve were sentenced to death and others got prison terms. Hermann Goering committed suicide the night before he was to be executed.



How Did Black Friday Come to Be?

Black Friday
Petr Kratochvil

The day after Thanksgiving in the United States has been called Black Friday for quite a long time, yet its origins are somewhat confusing owing to some clever remaking of the day by the retailers.

Its historical origins had nothing to do with Thanksgiving but a financial crisis in 1869. On 23 September 1869 a crash occurred in the U.S gold markets that was likely triggered by the actions of Jim Fisk and Jay Gould who tried to buy up as much gold as they could. In doing so, it drove the price of gold sky-high allowing them to sell at a huge profit. When their actions became known, it sent the gold market crashing down but also spread to the stock market resulting in bankers and farmers losing substantial sums of money. Thus, that date on a Friday became known as Black Friday.

The link to retail appears to come from a story about making huge profits on the day after Thanksgiving. In origin story, retailers lived on or near the infamous red line. That red line means they are operating at a near loss or in fact “in the red” meaning they were not making profits. The day after Thanksgiving brought in so many shoppers that they went into the black (meaning making profits), so it became known a Black Friday. While this version is somewhat accurate in that many retailers looked forward to the start of the Christmas season to generate high revenues, it is not the origin of Black Friday either.  Shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, often considered the start of the Christmas season in the United States, does give an indicator as to what consumers are willing to spend If the economy is good. On the other hand, if the economy is not doing well people may not spend much and only buy things they need and items on sale.

There are some who believe it has ties to racism on Southern plantations in the 1800’s. According to this story, it is claimed that owners would buy slaves at a discount on the day after Thanksgiving. This has led to some in the African American community to call for the boycott of stores on Back Friday. Except there appears to be no basis for this story. So far nothing has been found to show that slave auctions of this kind took place the day after Thanksgiving in that era. Like misinterpreting the word picnic as racist (picnic comes from a French word about eating outside and has nothing to do with race), this appears to have been created to fit someone’s perspective on the origins of the day.

The modern use of the term in fact comes from the 1950’s and from the city of Philadelphia. Police called it Black Friday to describe all the chaos that ensued from shoppers racing to shop before the Army-Navy game that was held on Saturday. The bedlam was so bad that no day off was granted to police on this day to deal with the hordes of cars and people in the city. Another factor was that criminals would take advantage of the large crowds to steal wallets, purses, and of course shoplift as well. Retailers were not happy with this connotation and tried unsuccessfully to change it to “Big Friday.” This was unsuccessful, so they tried to remake the day by saying this was the day retailers needed to make a profit. This appears to have worked and the darker roots from Philadelphia have been largely forgotten.

Black Friday Shopping
Photo: Public Domain

By remaking the day using sales to drive people into stores, it became an event on its own that spawned other major retails days. Black Friday was marketed as a day to get great bargains and all the major retailers jumped aboard. People began lining up early and some retailers decided to open on Thanksgiving (usually in the evening) to take advantage of the desire to buy discounted items. Ironically it then created things that harkened back to Philadelphia. In recent years when stores opened to the throngs waiting outside, chaos ensued when people raced into the store to grab what they wanted. People got trampled, fights broke out between adults bickering over who was entitled to the product. Many stores started to regulate the number of people in their store at any given time. This has been somewhat successful but when a surge of people all stampede at the door, the best the security guards can do is jump aside or be trampled on.

While Philadelphia is rarely mentioned, the chaos outside usually hearkens back to it. Mall parking lots are jammed, streets are full of cars trying to get in or out, and even freeways near those shopping malls are impacted as well. Up in the air, helicopters fly overhead filming the chaos below. And in major cities or areas where crowds are enormous, the police are often around to manage as best they can the traffic and crime that is going on. The Internet has made a dent, but you must wait for the product to arrive, so it is off to the store! In recent years retailers had started opening on Thanksgiving so people could get in early. Some like Target have rethought that and now are closed for Thanksgiving Day. And that is a good sign. Thanksgiving is a special holiday that should be treated on its own. And Black Friday is all about the shopping.


What’s the Real History of Black Friday? (History.com)
Black Friday History and Statistics  (BlackFriday.com)
Black Friday (Wikipedia)


Goebbels Blames the Jews for World War II (16 Nov 1941)

[Editor’s note-When this was originally posted the short bio was not included along with an additional photo.]

Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda
Heinrich Hoffmann (1885-1957)
German Federal Archives via Wikimedia

On 16 November 1941, Joseph Goebbels publishes in the German magazine Das Reich that the “Jews wanted the war, and now they have it.” This was part of the Nazi propaganda scheme to shift blame for the war to Jews and thus rationalizing  the Final Solution–the elimination of Jews.  German soldiers and the SS were infused with this propaganda and anti-Communist rhetoric to carry out their task of eliminating the Jews with enthusiasm.

[T]he prophecy which the Fuhrer made…that should international finance Jewry succeed in plunging the nations into a world war once again, the result would not be the Bolshevization of the world…but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe. We are in the midst of that process…Compassion or regret are entirely out of place here.

Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945)

Joseph Goebbels joined the Nazi Party in 1924. He had obtained a PhD in German literature from the University of Heidelberg in 1920. Prior to joining the party, he had worked as a writer, journalist, and clerk. The same year he joined the Nazi Party, he became editor of the Völkische Freiheit (Folkish Freedom) where he honed his propaganda skills for the party. Goebbels became an admirer of Hitler and became unfailingly loyal to him. He was also a rabid antisemite.

He came to Hitler’s attention in 1926 due to his organizational skills, devotion to the party, and his clever propaganda. He was made a regional Gauleiter (party chief) for Greater Berlin. He built up the Nazi Party organization and ran his own newspaper (Der Angriff or The Assault in English) until 1935 where he advanced the Nazi Party goals of anticommunism, antisemitism, and promoted Hitler becoming dictator of Germany. He would be elected to the Reichstag in 1928 representing the Nazi Party in Berlin.

Goebbels was a tireless agitator as the District Leader in Berlin. He railed against the Communist and Social Democratic party members, marched with the SA (Storm Troopers) into working class neighborhoods where support for those parties was strong. Bitter street fights would result, and Goebbels would call those who were injured or killed as suffering for the party. He made sure through his paper and other media of the heroism of those who suffered. Films were made to dramatize the events and led to the creation of the Horst Wessel Song, named for one of those who were killed in 1930. The song would become the party’s anthem.

The image he crafted was one of bloodied stormtrooper (and overly muscled as well) that would appear in Nazi propaganda for years to come. They died, the party said, fighting the Marxist enemy.

Hitler would appoint him as Reich leader of propaganda for the Nazi Party in 1929 and would hold that position until his death in 1945. Hitler relied on Goebbels in the critical elections of 1932. Goebbels was the first of that era to use radio and film for mass propaganda techniques. Films of Nazi rallies, speeches, and other important events were filmed and broadcast over the radio to inspire supporters and draw new ones in. Hitler was depicted by Goebbels as energetic and using all the modern modes of transport to get around Germany. Films showed him flying all over Germany on the same day holding events.

German students publicly burn collected, “un-German” writings and books on the central boulevard “Unter den Linden” in Berlin.
10 May 1933
Photo: Pahl, Georg
German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons

After Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933, Goebbels would be instrumental in implementing the Nazi’s desire to control all aspects of German culture. Hitler established the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in March. At thirty-five years of age, he was the youngest member of the cabinet. Goebbels was tasked with decontamination of German culture, and nothing was considered outside of their control. Film, radio, and the press all fell under Goebbels control, and he used it to its fullest advantage. To make sure German’s accepted the anti-Jewish measures, Jews were cast into the worst possible light. Viewpoints unacceptable to the Nazi Party were silenced, books and publications were suppressed, and supported book burnings to cleanse the German spirit. Preaching national unity, Goebbels rallied people to support Hitler and the Nazi Party against those who had damaged Germany. And Jews were at the top of the list along with Communists, Socialists, certain religious groups, and others such as Roma. The doctrine of racial purity that party believed in excluded large swaths of people from German society.

Goebbels was the chief instigator for Kristallnacht in 1938. He convinced Hitler that the murder of the German diplomat in Paris was the perfect opportunity for a nationwide attack on Jews. And when Germany needed to invade other countries, he helped develop the Führer cult which glorified Hitler as both Germany’s war leader and savior. Mass propaganda was used to convince people that countries had to be invaded to save them from their mess created by Jews and Liberalism. Of course, during this whole time, the mass propaganda depicting the Jews and others negatively made it easier to target, imprison, and execute them. Right up until the end the near deification of Hitler and the rabid antisemitism would continue until the war ended in 1945. Goebbels was a complete supporter of the Final Solution-the Holocaust-the extermination of all Jews.

One of Goebbels last tasks in the final years was as Plenipotentiary for the War Economy which Hitler appointed him to in 1944. Goebbels had worked hard to keep morale up especially after the defeat at Stalingrad. In the new position, he was to help maximize manpower and arms production. He was not highly successful and ran into opposition with other ministers particularly Albert Speer who was in charge of armaments.

After Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945, Goebbels became the new Reich Chancellor. He refused the idea of surrender and knew full well he would be put on trial and executed. He and his wife Magda poisoned their six children and then both committed suicide on 1 May 1945. The corpses were partly burned but never buried. There were repeated burials and exhumations, and they were finally buried in Magdeburg at the SMERSH facility in 1946. The remains were exhumed again in 1970 under orders from KGB director Yuri Andropov and destroyed. They were then dumped into the Biederitz river.


“Joseph Goebbels Publishes His Screed of Hate.” HISTORY, 16 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/goebbels-publishes-his-screed-of-hate.

Joseph Goebbels. encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/joseph-goebbels-1



Remembering History: Pierre Laval Executed (15 Oct 1945) and Hermann Goering Commits Suicide (15 Oct 1946)

FRANCE – JANUARY 02: Marshal Petain And Prime Minister Pierre Laval In The Park Of The Sevigne Pavillion In Vichy In 1942. Behind Them, On The Left, Dr. Bernard Menetrel Keeps Out Of Their Conversation. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Public Doman via Wikimedia Commons

After the German invasion of France in 1940, the Vichy state was created with Henri Pétain in charge and Pierre Laval as head of state. Laval had originally begun his political life as a pacifist but during the 1930’s shifted more towards supporting Fascism. In 1935 he sought France to align with Italy rather than make a deal with the Soviet Union (he had become anti-communist by then). By 1939 he was against war with Germany and encouraged the antiwar faction to keep the government from using troops against Germany when it invaded Poland in September 1939. After the German invasion in 1940, he helped push for an armistice and got himself into the new Vichy government.

Pétain did not care much for him and dismissed him in 1940 after he found he was negotiating with Germany on his own. He had developed a friendship with Hitler and thus by 1942 had become the real ruler of Vichy while Pétain remained as a figurehead. During the time he ran the regime, he actively collaborated with Germany in carrying out their deportation of Jews and enforcing oppressive laws on French citizens. Laval had to flee to Germany when France was liberated in August 1944. He escaped to Spain when Germany was defeated in 1945, but Franco had him expelled. He tried hiding out in Austria but ultimately surrendered to American forces. He was then sent back to France to stand trial for his actions during the German occupation. The trial was quite sensational and revealed his complicity in working with the Germans. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. He tried taking his own life, but he was nursed back to health so he could be executed by firing squad on 15 October 1945. Petain, revered for his leadership in World War I, was tried and found guilty of treason. He was also to be executed but French president Charles de Gaulle changed it to life imprisonment. He was sent to the island of Yeu and died there in 1951.

Hermann Goering (15 October 1946)

Hermann Goring, 6 Jan 1943
Public Domain via Wikipedia

Hermann Goering once was not only the head of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) but at one time Hitler’s designated successor. As Reichsmarschall, he held the highest military rank and answered only to Hitler. He had other titles as well (president of the Reichstag, prime minister of Prussia, chief liquidator of sequestered estates and much more). He established concentration camps to imprison enemies and was instrumental in many anti-Jewish policies such as Kristallnacht and confiscation of Jewish money and property. Known for his flamboyant outfits that showed off his decorations and his displays of stolen artwork, his only threat was from Heinrich Himmler head of the SS.

His stature began to fall when the Luftwaffe failed to deliver in the Battle of Britain, and failing to deter Allied bombings of Germany. Other German officers had a low opinion of his military strategies leading him to become depressed and more addicted to painkillers. By the end of the war, Hitler had turned away from his old comrade and dismissed him when he learned he was negotiating with the Allies. He was captured at the end of the war and was tried in Nuremburg for various crimes against humanity.

Herman Goering body, 15 Oct 1946
Public Domain

He was convicted and sentenced to be hanged. Before that could be carried out, he took a potassium cyanide capsule and died. Speculation on how he obtained the capsule is either he had managed to hide it successfully when he was initially captured, or it had been secretly delivered to him. Cyanide capsules were found on his person when he was captured. Some speculate that US Army lieutenant Jack G. Wheelis had retrieved a capsule after Goering gave him some personal effects, but it has never been substantiated. Former US Army private Herbert Lee Stivers claimed in 1945 that it was likely hidden in a fountain pen a German woman asked him to smuggle into the prison. Goering’s body was later cremated, and ashes thrown into the Isar River.


Pierre Laval

Hermann Goering


Remembering History: Warsaw Uprising Ends (2 Oct 1944)

Warsaw, the capital of Poland, destroyed by German Nazis, January 1945.
Public Domain (Wikipedia)

On 2 October 1944 the Warsaw Uprising came to an end with the surrender of surviving Polish rebels to German forces. The uprising began two months earlier when the Red Army was approaching Warsaw. The rebels supported the Polish government-in-exile and hoped to gain control of the city before the Soviets arrived. They did not want the Russians to gain the city and establish a communist regime in Poland.

While the rebels had initial gains, they were poorly supplied. Hitler sent reinforcements and the rebels and German soldiers engaged in brutal street fights. The Red Army did take a suburb of Warsaw but proceeded no further. Stalin ordered the Red Army not to assist the rebels and denied a request to use their airbases to supply the rebels. This would be remembered down the road by the Polish people. Both Churchill and Roosevelt asked for his assistance. Churchill, without Soviet approval, had supplies dropped by the RAF, the South African Air Force, and the Polish Air Force. Stalin finally relented and gave air clearance for the U.S. Army Air Force to make supply drops. However, it was too late by the time the supplies came.

Out of arms, supplies and food, there was no choice. After 63 days, they had no choice but to surrender. In retaliation for this uprising, the remaining population of Warsaw was deported. The Polish people were always meant to be eradicated as were the Jews. Plans had been drawn up before the war to turn Poland into a German colony. Warsaw was to be Germanized. Once the remaining population was deported, German destruction of Warsaw was sped up. They had started after the earlier Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Using flamethrowers and explosives, special teams went to work destroying whole neighborhoods, historical monuments, archives, and any place of interest.

By January 1945, 85% of the buildings in Warsaw were gone. Approximately 25% was done during the Warsaw Uprising. The losses are staggering to consider:

10,455 buildings
923 historical buildings (94% of these were destroyed)
25 churches
14 libraries which includes the National Library
81 schools
64 high schools
The University of Warsaw and Warsaw University of Technology
Of course, prior to these all-Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues were seized, looted and destroyed as well.


The Soviets took the position that the rebels did not coordinate their plans with them. Of course, the chief reason they did not aid them is that they supported the democratic Polish government-in-exile in London. And Stalin was not interested in supporting them. His goal had been before the war to allow the west to fight themselves to exhaustion allowing for the Soviet Union to expand in their direction. Those that led the uprising and members of the Home Army were persecuted by the Soviets after the war. They were arrested, tried, and deported to Soviet gulags. They had a show trial, not unlike ones during the Great Purge, where confessions were introduced to show they were actually in league with the Germans!

Warsaw Uprising Monument
Source: Dhirad 2004

Fortunately, those captured by the Germans and freed by American-British forces were spared this. Stalin and his propaganda machine twisted the facts to show the failings of the Home Army and the Polish government-in-exile. All criticism of the Red Army and Soviet Union by Polish people were forbidden. All references to the Home Army were censored, all books and movies on the Warsaw Uprising were either banned or edited out the Home Army. When that did not work, they made the Home Army soldiers into heroes that were betrayed by their corrupt officers. This would remain in effect until the 1980’s with the rise of Solidarity that challenged the Soviet backed regime. It was not until 1989 that a monument was built in Poland.

In the West, stories of the heroism of the Home Army were told. They were valiant heroes fighting against the Germans. The Soviets were criticized for their non-involvement and that it helped them get rid of partisans that would have opposed them. Despite all the official censorship that existed, many Poles knew what happened and led to growing anti-Soviet sentiment that manifested into the Polish labor movement Solidarity. This peaceful movement in the 1980’s would effect change in Poland and later, as the days of the Soviet Union waned, Poland would gain back the freedom it had lost in 1939.


“Warsaw Uprising Ends.” HISTORY, 9 Feb. 2010, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/warsaw-uprising-ends

“Warsaw Uprising.” Wikipedia, Sept. 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Uprising#Capitulation

Lester P. Gideon. The Warsaw Uprising of 1944. www.gideon1.net/uprising

Chronicles of Terror www.chroniclesofterror.pl/dlibra/results?action=AdvancedSearchAction&type=-3&search_attid1=69&search_value1=Warsaw+Uprising

Remembering History: Warsaw Uprising Begins (1 Aug 1944)

Rare Agfacolor photo (invention from 1936) dated August 1944 taken in Warsaw, Poland in the Old Town Market Place during Warsaw Uprising in August 1944
Ewa Faryaszewska (1920-1944)
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

On 1 Aug 1944 Poles in Warsaw launched a major uprising against the Nazi occupation. The Soviet Army had advanced to the Vistula River on the eastern suburb of Warsaw prompting the revolt. Polish General Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski, commander of the Home Army (an underground resistance group of around 40,000). The Home Army had ties to the government-in-exile in London, which was anti-communist. The hope was to gain at least partial control of Warsaw before the Soviets arrived.

By this time, the German Army had been pushed back considerably from its gains in Russia. And their taking Warsaw seemed likely. Despite this, Adolf Hitler ordered that the uprising be suppressed at all costs. The Nazi SS directed the defense force and engaged in brutal street fighting. The Polish Home Army fought back hard despite having limited supplies and no support from the Soviet Army (which cause friction between Poland and the Soviet Union for years).

The Red Army did capture several bridgeheads across the Vistula River in preparation to take Warsaw but held back doing anything more. Only under intense pressure from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt did Stalin relent and allow Allies to drop supplies to the rebels. But it was too late as by that time, both the rebels and the citizens ran out of food, supplies, and medical supplies. The uprising came to an end on 2 October when the remaining forces surrendered. The revolt had lasted 63 days but the cost for both sides was high. An estimated three-fourths of the Home Army died along with 200,000 civilians. The Germans suffered 10,000 dead, 9,000 wounded, and 7,000 missing. In keeping with their dislike of the Polish people (they were seen as just a notch above the Jews but were slated for either slavery or death by the Nazis) the survivors were deported.

Deploying demolition squads, most of the remaining intact buildings in Warsaw would be destroyed over the next several months. All of Warsaw’s treasures were looted, burned, or destroyed. Meanwhile the Red Army sitting outside Warsaw did nothing to stop the Germans. They would not move until January 1945 when their final offensive was launched. On 17 January 1945, the ruins of Warsaw were liberated by the Soviets who faced little or no opposition. Thus, making it easy for them to establish a Communist state in Poland. After suffering from Nazi occupation, the Polish people would suffer a longer one under the Communists.



Nazi Germany Prepares For Final Solution (31 July 1941)

Portrait Reinhard Heydrich in Uniform of SS-Gruppenführers ca. 1940/1941
German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons

On 31 July 1941 Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, following instructions by Hitler, sent a letter to SS General Reinhard Heydrich directing him to “to submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired final solution of the Jewish question.” In the instruction, Goering recalled a general outline that had been drafted on 24 January 1939 that called for the emigration and deportation of Jews in the best possible way. The program to be implemented by Nazi Germany was the mass and systemic extermination of Jews in al countries under German control.

Heydrich had already started implementing the strategy by bringing back the medieval ghetto in Poland. Jews were forced to live in cramped walled areas and held as prisoners. Their property was confiscated and given to Germans or local non-Jewish people. The instructions from Goering would lead to the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942 where details on implementing this mass murder scheme would be decided upon.



Himmler Orders Medical Experiments on Auschwitz Prisoners (7 Jul 1942)

Heinrich Himmler, 1942
German Federal Archives (via Wikimedia Commons)

On 7 July 1942, Heinrich Himmler orders that experimentation on women at the Auschwitz concentration camp begin and also to investigate extending this to males. How and why did this happen? Let’s find out.

Himmler, as head of the Schutzstaffel (SS), believed in exterminating all European Jews. As head of the SS and the assistant chief of the Gestapo, he controlled all the police forces in Germany. This allowed him the power to carry out Hitler’s Final Solution and why he was the one who called for a conference that would devise how these experiments would be conducted. The conference attendees included SS General Richard Glueks (hospital chief), SS Major-General Karl Gebhardt, and Professor Karl Clauberg (a leading German gynecologist) and members of the Concentration Camp Protectorate.

Gate to Auschwitz I with its Arbeit macht frei sign (“work sets you free”), 2010
Image credit: xiquinhosilva
Flickr via Wikimedia Commons

The conference decided that medical experimentations would take place but also done in a way that the women would not know what was being done to them. The experiments would be to devise methods of sterilizing Jewish women using massive doses of radiation and uterine injections. It was also decided to examine if X rays could be used to castrate men and use it on male Jewish prisoners. Adolf Hitler agreed to this, but it was kept top secret as they were concerned many would object (it had happened before when they tried exterminating disabled and those in hospitals with severe mental conditions). This program would further the Nazi’s aims to rid the world of Jews outside of their extermination camps. They knew that in time they would get control of countries where setting up extermination camps would not be practical, so developing means to sterilize Jewish men and women (and others they didn’t like as well) would allow them to continue eliminating Jews but under the guise of using medicine to eliminate them.


Himmler decides to begin medical experiments on Auschwitz prisoners.
Original Published Date: November 16, 2009
Last Accessed on: July 7, 2023

Nazi Medical Experiments
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Last Accessed on July 7, 2023

The Holocaust: Nazi Medical Experiments