Tag Archives: World War II

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

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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)

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 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: 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


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

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

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)

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.

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.

Aftermath

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.

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


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

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.

Sources:

This Day in History (History.com)
Joseph Goebbels (Holocaust Encyclopedia-United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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.

Sources:

Pierre Laval

Hermann Goering

 

REMEMBERING HISTORY: End Of Warsaw Uprising (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.

Aftermath

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.

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