Remembering History: Night of the Long Knives (30 June 1934)

On 30 June 1934 Hitler purged his own party of members he feared would become his enemies. Why did this happen? Let’s dive in and find out.

The National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische deutsche Arbeiterpartei Or NSDAP) was formed in the early 1920’s by Adolf Hitler hoping to draw people away from Marxist groups that were attracting many followers. The NSDAP (later to be called simply Nazi) fused elements of Socialism with nationalism creating something similar to what Benito Mussolini did in Italy with Fascism. Both Fascists and Nazis believed in a strong central state, a single party and a strong leader, and that citizens serve the national will in all that they do. They both reject democracy as weak, disdain for civil liberties, and capitalism that seeks profit over that of the state. The agree with Communists and Socialists about the political structure of the state but disagree over nationalism, worker’s rights, and its private ownership. Fascists and Nazis both believe in nationalism as a cornerstone of their ideology, unlike Communists and Socialists who believe they have to be torn down.

Hitler’s party targeted those who felt betrayed by the stinging defeat of World War I. It meant the end of both the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. Austria would be reduced down to its present size of what Austria is today and no longer a major power in the world. On top of that, the hated Versailles Treaty of 1919 levied huge reparations on Germany and stripped her of land and its overseas territories. His party absorbed other parties, some more extreme, as well. Antisemitism would also be a major draw for this party. Many in Germany believed, or were convinced, that Jews had conspired to bring down what happened. Jews owned banks, newspaper and other key businesses were profiteers and grifters who betrayed the German people. It would become a major feature of the party in the years to come.

Inspired by Mussolini’s Black Shirts, Hitler created his own paramilitary called Sturmabteilung (Storm Troops) or SA or simply called Brown Shirts to be used to threaten and intimidate enemies of the party and Germany. It was composed in the early days with war veterans and those that had been members of the Free Corps (Freikorps) which had been formed to counter left wing groups. In 1923 under the leadership of General Erich Ludendorff there was the famous Beer Hall Putsch to seize control of the Bavarian State. It failed and Hitler was imprisoned. While in jail, he composed his seminal book that told the world what his beliefs were and what the Nazi Party would do. Mein Kampf would, when published, become popular reading. It still is today in many parts of the world influenced by elements of fascism and antisemitism.

1932 Berlin
SA-Propagandamarsch in Spandau
Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-P049500 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons

The Nazi Party would continue to grow through the 1920’s and as economic conditions got worse, found many willing to hear about rebuilding Germany and tossing out the current ruling elites that had made a mess of things. Mussolini made the same type of appeal much earlier and was swept into power after his march on Rome where the king appointed him prime minister even though there had not been a vote to put his party into full power. The Nazi Party, though it used the SA to bully and intimidate, used the ballot box to gain seats in the Reichstag. By 1928, it had gained lots of members but only held 12 seats. Its support came primarily from those who had served in the war, the disillusioned, and many who felt Germany was on the wrong path. Despite its name of being a worker’s party, most industrial workers were not drawn to Nazis. Hitler was not worried about this as he was building a national movement that would draw people into counter those who feared Communism and Socialism. Nazis used posters, slogans, parades, and other things to convey their message to the masses, which was we are to hear to fix Germany and toss out the weak Weimar government.

By the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, both the Nazis and Communists were popular. Both sought to fix the problems but in strikingly different ways. The SA got more active and soon fights were breaking out in the streets, assassinations were occurring. All of this convinced many that a strong central figure was needed to end the chaos, which was what Hitler sought to achieve. The antisemitic leanings were downplayed in general elections but anyone who attended their meetings knew that hatred of Jews was deeply ingrained in its leadership. In the July 1932 elections they got 37% of the vote and 230 seats in the Reichstag. It was a great victory for Hitler, but the November elections saw their fortunes had dissipated. The Nazi Party lost seats (down to 196) while the Communists gained. The other conservative and moderate political parties did well but no one had a clear majority to govern leaving it without a government for a time. President Hindenburg had defeated Hitler who had run for the same position.

The reasons that the Nazis lost votes has been debated, but by this time the Germany economy seemed better, and the Weimar government looked better as a result. This stung the Nazi leadership because the last thing they wanted was Weimar to stay in power. Hitler and those that supported him worked hard to negotiate with the other conservative parties to gain their support. They appealed to the old military aristocracy, the industrialists, and other leaders they needed to get support from. They played up the fear that the Communists would gain power. Most of the other conservative parties were wary of Hitler and his Nazis but ultimately decided to join with him to create a majority so that government could be formed.

And on 30 January 1933, President Hindenburg appointed Hitler as chancellor. Hindenburg and the others who had allied with him though they could control him. That would prove to be a disastrous miscalculation on their part. Hitler moved quickly to solidify the power of the Nazi party. While technically a coalition government, they quickly began suppressing and abridging press freedoms and individual liberties. All those who opposed the Nazis now had the SA, now part of the government, being given police powers. Jews would be dismissed from government posts. Hitler convinced Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag, a clever move so that when elections would be held only his party would be seated. They quickly worked to suppress all other parties except the ones that had supported them.

By 1934 the Nazi’s had swept away the old order and through elections (which in many cases were fraudulent) got all the seats they needed to fill the Reichstag. Things looked good but there were some problems. Internal corruption was an issue but so was the issue of continued violence the SA was doing. The SA, like the Black Shirts, served a vital role but also tended to be more purist about their doctrines than most in the party were. The SA had swelled in size to 4.5 million making it a very large paramilitary organization. As revolutionaries know, the greatest threat is not from outsiders but from those inside who build powerful groups internally that might topple ?you. Stalin had purged most of the early revolutionaries because they wanted more radical ideas and threatened his power. Mussolini had issues. Now Hitler was facing it as well.

The German army also was worried. There was a fully armed paramilitary organization that ran parallel to it. That would inevitably cause friction, especially in times of war when you needed clear operational structures. The SS, by contrast, was both a bodyguard for Hitler and oversaw the administration of specific areas designated to them by Hitler. They did not act as a paramilitary organization. Also, the public began to complain as well. That seems odd in a dictatorship they would care about public opinion, but the Nazis knew if they lost support of the populace, it would be an even bigger issue to contend with. The violence of the SA was getting loud feedback from the local Nazi leaders. In short, it had to be curtailed. Some saw its leader Ernst Rohm as the German equivalent of the Roman Sejanus who had become very powerful under Emperor Tiberius and threatened his reign. Both Himmler and Goering played on this fear when trying to convince Hitler that its leader, Ernst Röhm, was planning a coup.

Photo of Ernst Roehm, probably taken in Munich (München), Germany (Weimar Republic) on 1 April, 1924 National Archives and Records Administration (NAID) 162122137 Public Domain

And so, on the night of 30 June 1934, called the Night of the Long Knives came about. Rohm and all the leaders of the SA were arrested and ultimately executed (often brutally). Nazis took advantage of this event to also to eliminate other political opponents including former chancellor Kurt von Schleicher.

Aftermath

The SA was downsized and a new leader, Viktor Lutze, was appointed as Stabschef (the equivalent of chief of staff) to the SA. The SA would continue to be used to go after those opposing Hitler and later the Jews. The SA was used in Kristallnacht in November 1938 to destroy over 7,500 glass storefronts on Jewish shops and businesses along with ransacking Jewish homes. The also helped destroy nearly all the Jewish synagogues (the only ones that were spared were ones next to important buildings-they could be ransacked but not burned). The SA also carried out mass beatings of Jews and arrested many who were taken to concentration camps. They became overshadowed by the SS that now handled policing and security. By

1939 it had lost significance in the Nazi Party. It was converted into a training school for the armed forces. Once war began, it lost its members to the Wehrmacht (German armed forces). It continued to exist though and when the SS and the Foreign Office had major issues, he appointed SA members to diplomatic posts to counter the SS. When Lutze died in a car accident in 1943, the new leader tried to smooth out the tensions between the SS and the SA. The SA would formally cease to exist when the war ended in 1945.

Sources

Mullen, M. (2021, June 28). Hitler purges members of his own Nazi party in Night of the Long Knives. HISTORY. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/night-of-the-long-knives

The Night of Long Knives – The Holocaust Explained: Designed for schools. (1933, June 22). https://www.theholocaustexplained.org/the-nazi-rise-to-power/how-did-the-nazi-gain-power/night-of-long-knives/

The SA. (n.d.). https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/the-sa

 

Suggested Reading

Allen, W. S. (1984). The Nazi seizure of power: The Experience of a Single German Town, 1922-1945. Franklin Watts.

Engelmann, B. (1986). In Hitler’s Germany: Daily Life in the Third Reich. Pantheon.

Shirer, W. L. (2011). The rise and fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. Simon and Schuster.

Titanic News Channel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand Leads To World War I (28 June 1914)

How did the assassination of an Austrian archduke end up starting World War I? Let’s find out.

Map of Europe 1914 (in French)
Varmin, 2010 (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1914 Europe was divided into several major players: Great Britain, France, Germany, and Austria-Hungary. Russia, the largest country of all because of its sheer territory, was not considered a major player. It was a country that had a small industrial base but was mostly agrarian based society. Its defeat in a recent war with Japan showed how it was quite behind the Europeans in terms of building up a powerful military to protect its interests. Britain and Germany (with France often supporting, but not always the British) often clashed over colonies and related interests.

The Austrian-Hungarian Empire was the second largest country in Europe after Russia and a multinational state with many different peoples under it. It was also a major industrial power and with its access to the Adriatic, a naval power as well. It was a dual monarchy-Austria Empire and Kingdom of Hungary-and coequal in power. Both states conducted joint foreign relations, defense, and financial policies but left the administration under their individual states. Because it was a polyglot empire, it had a lot of different languages. The major ones were German, Hungarian and Croatian. Because of its industrial capacity, Austria-Hungary was a major exporter of electric home and industrial appliances making it third after the United States and Germany.

The first page of the edition of the Domenica del Corriere, an Italian paper, with a drawing by Achille Beltrame depicting Gavrilo Princip killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo. (Cropped)
12 July 1914, Achille Beltrame
Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

Unrest though within Austria-Hungary had become an issue with various groups wanting independence or territory for their peoples. And on this particular day, the Archduke Ferdinand was visiting the Imperial armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This area had been annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908, which angered Serbian nationalists who believed it should be part of Serbia. His visit hatched a plot to assassinate the archduke. 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip shot the royal couple at point-blank range while they were in their official procession. Princip was part of a group that was well armed, trained, and assisted by the Serbian government. Serbia though had a major supporter in Russia. This meant any reaction to Serbian support of the assassination team would draw in Russia, so Austria asked Germany to back them should conflict break out. Germany warned to do it quickly while sympathy for Ferdinand was still high. Austria debated its action, and this took time and was not until mid-July they delivered an ultimatum to Serbia.

Russia though had already decided to intervene while Serbia was preparing its reply. However, the Russian military knew it was not yet ready for a general war. Yet they saw the hand of Germany in the ultimatum and were determined to show support for Serbia. Once the Serbians knew that Russia was mobilizing, that made it easier for Serbia to defy Austria-Hungary. Germany became nervous about the possibility of Russian troops amassing on its border. Russia was allied with France, and Germans had figured on fighting France first rather than Russia. They thought Russia would take longer to get its forces ready. France, for its part, now realizing war with Germany and Austria-Hungary was a real possibility, began mobilizing as well.

Britain, which an informal alliance with France and Russia, was not committed to war with Germany. At that point, they were still on friendly terms and wanted to remain neutral. Germany made some promises to further that neutrality. However, the German plans to invade France would involve it invading Belgium, a neutral state. This upset many in British leadership and it was decided on moral terms they had to enter the conflict.

By the end of July, the assassination of an archduke had become barely remembered as the belligerents all lined up. Germany and Austria Hungary (central powers) vs Britain, France, and Russia. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 July. On 1 August, Germany declared war on Belgium, France, and Russia. On 4 August, Britain declared war on Germany and on 6 August, Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia. The “Guns of August” had arrived, and war would be on until 1918.

The peace that had existed, fragile at best of times, was shattered.

Sources:

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2024, June 18). Austria-Hungary | History, Definition, Map, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Austria-Hungary

Sullivan, M. (2024c, June 25). Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand assassinated. HISTORY. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/archduke-ferdinand-assassinated

July Crisis 1914 | International Encyclopedia of the First World War (WW1). (n.d.). https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/july_crisis_1914

Suggested Reading

Gilbert, M. (2004). The First World War, second edition: A Complete History. Macmillan.

Keegan, J. (1999). The First World War. Knopf.

Tuchman, B. W. (2004). The Guns of August. Presidio Press.

Tuchman, B. W. (1996). The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914; Barbara W. Tuchman’s Great War Series. Random House Trade Paperbacks.

Documentaries & Movies

World War I. (2018, December 11). CBS Mod.

Titanic News Channel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Titanic Exhibit Closed Due To Flooding

Titanic Exhibit Closed
Screenshot of Volo Museum Website 27 June 2024
Mark Taylor, Titanic News Channel

The Volo Museum in Illinois, which has a Titanic exhibit, experienced a flood recently that shut down that exhibit. According to news reports, it happened last weekend and was captured on security footage. It was the first time the building has had a flood, but recent storms may have been the cause. The exhibit itself is quite popular displaying Titanic related items and displays a unique car: a 1912 Renault Type CB Coupé de Ville. Only two were made and one was aboard Titanic being brought to America by William Carter. James Cameron built a replica from the original plans to use in his movie.

At first, they thought simply cleaning up the wet floor was all that needed to be done. However, the moisture from the water was getting into all the brass on the cars in the room, so they need extra time to clean it up. The exhibit is scheduled to reopen this Saturday. As of yet, they have yet to locate exactly how the water entered the exhibit since none of the pipes burst. Since the museum has had alleged paranormal activity, some are speculating perhaps that was the cause. However, while the museum publicly has no explanation, a more ordinary explanation will likely be found (like small holes in the floor that allowed the water to come or similar).

Sources

Chicago, F. 3. (2024, June 25). Suburban Titanic exhibit shuts down after “unexplainable” flooding: “Resembled scenes from the Titanic movie.” FOX 32 Chicago. https://www.fox32chicago.com/news/volo-titanic-exhibit-shuts-down-unexplainable-flooding

Lutz, B. (2024, June 25). WGN-TV. WGN-TV. https://wgntv.com/news/lake-county/illinois-titanic-exhibit-under-water-from-mystery-flood/

Peek, J. (2023, February 10). Titanic went down 107 years ago today, taking a French luxury car with it. Hagerty Media. https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/titanic-sinks-with-1912-renault-aboard/

Tuesday Titanic News

Titanic Pigeon Forge logo. (n.d.).
Credit: TitanicPigeonForge.com

John Joslyn had an interesting career before he became fascinated with Titanic and founding the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge. He started out in Hollywood putting out two-minute entertainment clips that television stations would buy and use in their newscasts. It became widely syndicated. Then he decided to produce opening Al Capone’s safe live on air. That was where they had Geraldo Rivera breathlessly reporting every minute of the event. Except it was empty except for the dust. Then he discovered Titanic, and it changed his life forever.

“They came up said ‘John, take a look at this.’ I got down in that port hole and all of a sudden comes the bow of the ship. I’m seeing the lower part and looking up, and you can’t see the top of the ship,” Joslyn said, describing how hard it was to see in the dim light. That was the moment that changed the trajectory of his career in a major way. Joslyn said seeing the ship itself sparked an interest he couldn’t shake. In the early 2000s, he set out on a business adventure, working with a new partner: his wife, Mary Kellogg. Their first location was in Branson, Missouri.

Morgan-Rumsey, C. (2024, June 14). ‘It was thrilling’ | Titanic Museum founder remembers trip to shipwreck that sparked idea for Pigeon. . . https://www.wvlt.tv. https://www.wvlt.tv/2024/06/14/it-was-thrilling-titanic-museum-founder-remembers-trip-shipwreck-that-sparked-idea-pigeon-forge-attraction/

=

Titan (submersible)
Becky Kagan Schott, OceanGate

The Independent looked back recently at the demise of Titan and its reverberations in the world. Up until its demise, it was seen mostly in favorable light. Those who had gone down previously were impressed. What few knew was that behind the scenes there were those who thought Rush Stockton cut corners. Employees who questioned what they thought were questionable decisions were fired. Stockton himself was very confident of the submersible and likely would not have piloted it himself if he thought otherwise. In the wake of the tragedy, OceanGate has for the most part shut down.  But hope of deep diving tourism remain though many may not want to sign up for it now.

Flynn, S. (2024, June 17). One year ago OceanGate’s Titan sub imploded, taking 5 lives with it. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/titan-submersible-implosion-oceangate-titanic-b2564167.html

=

Lynnewood Hall in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania was built to be like an American Versailles in 1897 by Peter AB Widener. He made a fortune in the butcher and transportation industries. The 34-acre estate was built for his two sons and their families. Alas his son George and his grandson Harry both died on Titanic though Eleanor, George’s wife, survived. It was a devastating loss for the family and Peter would die in 1915. His son Joseph inherited the estate and his family lived there until 1934. After that it went through several different owners until it was acquired by the First Korean Church of New York. They put it up for sale in 2014.

Then people started entering the property calling themselves “Urban Explorers” and filming what they found. What they found could no longer be akin to the famous Versailles but one could still how grand it once was. Pictures show mostly empty rooms that still display some of its prior majesty. Other areas, like the pool area and staircases, show neglect and ruin. Since it was used as a seminary, some areas were used for studying and eating. A former ballroom was turned into a chapel and looked well preserved when photographed in 2019.

The church itself ran into legal issues. The local board would not grant a waiver allowing him to operate a church in a residential neighborhood which resulted in a lawsuit that this violated the constitution. The church would end up losing its tax-exempt status later and the property was put up for sale. It sat empty and buyers were turned away until finally he agreed to sell it to the Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation for $9 million. Now the foundation is working to remodel, restore, and then likely rent it out for charity and education uses down the road. This once grand building will likely be open for public tours as well to generate revenue. So, in the end the building built by a millionaire for his family, some lost when Titanic sank, will have a new lease on life.

Lloyd, A. (2024, June 17). See inside a $300 million Gilded Age mansion built for heirs who died on the Titanic that sat abandoned for years. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/lynnewood-hall-photos-gilded-age-mansion-with-tragic-titanic-ties-2024-6

Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation. (2023, July 1). OUR PLAN | Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation, Inc. Lynnewood Hall Preservation Foundation, Inc. https://lynnewoodhallpreservation.org/our-plan/

Southeast, A. (2023, September 30). Lynnewood Hall. Abandoned Southeast. https://abandonedsoutheast.com/2021/08/09/lynnewood-hall/

=

Suggested Reading

Brewster, H. (2013). Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic’s First-Class Passengers and Their World. National Geographic Books.

Marshall, L. (2019). Sinking of the Titanic: The Greatest Disaster At Sea – Special Edition with Additional Photographs. Independently Published.

Rossignol, K. (2012). Titanic 1912: The Original News Reporting of the Sinking of the Titanic. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.

Wilson, A. (2012). Shadow of the Titanic: The Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survived. Simon and Schuster.

Titanic News Channel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Remembering History: Napoleon Invades Russia (24 June 1812)

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812
Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825)
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia on 24 June 1812 in retaliation for Czar Alexander I not accepting Bonaparte’s Continental System. Napoleon assembled the largest fighting force up to that time called the Grande Armee. With over 500,000 soldiers and staff, it marched into Russia seeking a quick victory. It was not to be. The Russian Army under General Mikhail Kutuzov was in retreat refusing a full-scale engagement against the powerful French. As Russia troops retreated, they burned everything leaving nothing for the French to find.

 

IV corps of the Grande Armeé in the invasion of Russia (1812)
Albrecht Adam (1786 – 1862)
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

By September, Napoleon had engaged the Russians at Battle of Borodino. The battle was indecisive but resulted in large losses on both sides. On 14 September he arrived in Moscow to find it empty as the people had evacuated. The Russian Army too had left leaving the city to Napoleon. With winter approaching, Napoleon decided to rest and use it for his winter quarters. Russian partisans though set fires in the city the next day resulting in the quarters he had selected destroyed. He waited for a month hoping for a surrender which never came. Now with winter closing in, Napoleon decided to leave. The retreat though was more difficult than they could have imagined.

Fire of Moscow (1812)
Viktor Mazurovsky (1859–1944)
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

An early winter set in making it harder on his troops and food was rationed. The Russians, it seems, had not fully retreated, and began attacking the troops in the rear. Cossacks with very sharp lances attacked ruthlessly. They made it to the Berezina River in November but found Russians waiting for them. Using makeshift bridges, Napoleon and his troops started crossing but the Russians attacked. Napoleon burned the bridges stranding over 10,000 on the other side to be captured or killed by the Russians. Napoleon, in a hurry to return to Paris, would eventually leave his troops behind. The remaining force would eventually return home but fewer than a 100,000 made it back home. The loss of over 400,000 was staggering and called into question his leadership of the French Empire.

Napoleon’s withdrawal from Russia by Adolph Northen (1828-1876)
Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Aftermath

The disastrous invasion of Russia has long been studied by historians and military strategists. His basic idea of invading was sound, but he underestimated how long it would take and the will of the Russians to make him pay dearly for every inch he gained. Napoleon thought it would be a quick victory, but it turned into a long painful retreat with an early winter, few food supplies, and his army being attacked by Russians. If you read accounts of those who survived, it is truly horrific the conditions they had to retreat under. Dead animals used for fuel; bodies stacked in windows for insulation. If you recall Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back scene where Han Solo rips open his now dead ride so they can crawl inside it for warmth, this happened for real here.

His defeat in Russia strengthened his enemies. Austria, Britain, Prussia, and Sweden would now ally with Russia against Napoleon. British forces under Wellington were slowly but steadily pushing the French out of Spain. While Napoleon would have some victories, two defeats hurt his reign enormously. The Battle of Vittoria in Spain on 21 June 1813 would end French domination of Spain. His brother Joseph that he had put on the throne, was forced to flee for his life. Sadly, the royal crown worn by Spanish kings was lost in the melee of the retreat and never to be found again. And in October 1813, he suffered a crushing defeat in the Battle of Leipzig. Paris would fall the following March forcing him into exile. He would briefly return in 1815 but be defeated again in the Battle of Waterloo

Invading Russia has not proven successful for any conquering general. You might get initial successes, as Hitler did, but it seems to always turn around against the invader. Hitler, like Napoleon, thought the campaign would be quick. Instead after their initial victories, Operation Barbarossa ran into real problems. General Franz Halder realized he had sorely underestimated how many divisions the Russians could field. And because of the long distances involved, it became very hard for Germans to hold their lines. Moscow was in at sight at one point, but they never got there due to the long expanse of territory, supply issues, and underestimating the strength of Russia. Like Napoleon, the German forces were stalled. Halder believed without a powerful lightning strike, there was little chance for success. Owing to policy and strategy differences with Hitler, he was dismissed. The damage was done and the losses substantial. The Russians would push eventually the Germans out of their country and follow them all the way back to Berlin.

Sources:

Sullivan, M. (2024b, June 20). Napoleon’s Grande Armée invades Russia. HISTORY. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/napoleons-grande-armee-invades-russia

Greenspan, J., & Greenspan, J. (2023, August 11). Why Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was the beginning of the end. HISTORY. https://www.history.com/news/napoleons-disastrous-invasion-of-russia

Knighton, A. (2017, July 15). 6 reasons why Napoleon invaded Russia. Warhistoryonline. https://www.warhistoryonline.com/napoleon/6-reasons-napoleon-invaded-russia.html

Suggested Reading

Allen, W. S. (1984). The Nazi seizure of power: The Experience of a Single German Town, 1922-1945. Franklin Watts.

De Segur, P. (2008). Defeat: Napoleon’s Russian Campaign. New York Review of Books.

Foord, E. (2022). Napoleon’s Russian campaign of 1812. Independently published.

Engelmann, B. (1986). In Hitler’s Germany: Daily Life in the Third Reich. Pantheon.

Gilbert, Martin. The Second World War: A Complete History. Macmillan, 2004.

Lieven, D. (2011). Russia against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace. National Geographic Books.

Titanic News Channel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Titan Update: Investigation Ongoing Says Coast Guard

Titan (submersible)
Becky Kagan Schott, OceanGate

It has been over a year since the Titan submersible tragically sank in the North Atlantic. However, the expected report on the particulars as to how it happened is not completed according to the Associated Press. Jason Neubauer, who is the chair of the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation into the disaster, states the report is taking longer than expected. He notes that it is complex and ongoing. This is not as unusual as it sounds. Often investigations can take longer because of the many factors that have to be weighed and examined to determine what exactly went wrong. This happens often in airline disasters when the cause is complicated, and more than one factor is involved. “We are working closely with our domestic and international partners to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the incident,” said Neubauer.

Parallel to this story is how dives to the Titanic are being done or planned. RMS Titanic, Inc will have an upcoming dive to Titanic. No actual salvage is being planned (there was some opposition from the U.S. government on that) so it will be to collect more data on the wreck and everything around it. There have been reports of others wanting to jump back into commercial dives to Titanic. OceanGate at this time is not planning any return to Titanic for the foreseeable future. The AP reports that the company declined any comment when asked about it. A former advisor to the company, David Concannon, claims that its former president (Stockton Rush) has been vilified along with those associated with the expedition. He made an interesting statement though that many who were on the support ship Polar Prince have yet to be interviewed by the Coast Guard. That seems odd considering it is usually the case you want to get as many witness statements as you can about how things were going on.

One of the things that came out of the tragedy according to a separate AP story on this, was that none those tasked with responding to this emergency had the equipment needed to dive down to Titanic. Richard Garriott, who is president of the Explorer’s Club, knew all the people involved and was deeply saddened by the loss.

Garriott believes even if the Titan hadn’t imploded, the correct rescue equipment didn’t get to the site fast enough. The tragedy caught everyone from the Coast Guard to the ships on site off guard, underscoring the importance of developing detailed search and rescue plans ahead of any expedition, he said. His organization has since created a task force to help others do just that.

Katy Croff Bell, a veteran deep-sea explorer notes that the tragedy brings home the importance of following industry standards and rigorous testing. So, while the tragedy looms large over anyone thinking about such Herculean dives, the technology to do it safely is there. And as reports have indicated, there are those out there who plan to resume commercial dives to Titanic. Bell heads up a group focused on making such investigations less expensive and accessible. It will be a while before those operations are up and running, so time will tell how many will invest hard money to do this kind of operation.

Sources

Osborne, M. (2024, June 14). Titan submersible implosion: Investigation into accident taking longer than planned, Coast Guard says. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/US/titan-submersible-implosion-investigation-accident-taking-longer-planned/story?id=111132353

Whittle, P., & Ramer, H. (2024, June 17). A year after Titan submersible implosion, deep-sea explorers vow to pursue ocean’s mysteries | AP News. AP News. https://apnews.com/article/titan-implosion-submersible-titanic-05903e98b0155b9d69249b86d3df6c89

Suggested Reading

Behe, George. Fate Deals a Hand: The Slippery Fortunes of Titanic’s Professional Gamblers. History Press, 2023.

Fitch, Tad, et al. On a Sea of Glass: The Life and Loss of the RMS Titanic. 2015.

Lynch, Donald. Titanic: An Illustrated History. Hyperion, 1995.

Titanic News Channel  is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Remembering History: France Surrenders to Germany (21 June 1940)

Hitler (hand on side) and German high-ranked nazis and officers staring at WWI French marshall Maréchal Foch’s memorial statue before entering the railway carriage in order to start the negotiations for the 1940 armistice at Rethondes in the Compiègne forest, France. The armistice will only be signed the next day (June 22), Hitler being absent, by General Keitel on the German side and by General Huntziger on the French side. Screenshot taken from the 1943 United States Army propaganda film Divide and Conquer (Why We Fight #3) directed by Frank Capra and partially based on news archives, animations, restaged scenes and captured propaganda material from both sides.
Public Domain

On 21 June 1940 near Compiegne and in the same railway car Germany surrendered in 1918, France officially surrendered to Nazi Germany. For Adolf Hitler and his fellow Nazi leaders, this erased the shame of 1918 and the imposition of the Versailles Treaty. Hitler sat in the same chair that Marshal Ferdinand Foch had sat in 1918 to accept the German surrender in World War I.

France at the outset of the war was considered to have the best professional army in continental Europe. Aside from trained soldiers, they had tanks and heavy artillery. And, of course, the famous Maginot Line. This was a series of fortifications near the German border meant to deter an invasion force. The hills and woods of the Ardennes were considered impenetrable in the north but there was a caveat as General Philippe Petain noted. You had to destroy the invasion force before it exited that area. France and Germany had officially been at war since 3 Sep 1939 when France, allied with England, offered support to the Polish government.

French forces briefly entered the Saar on 7 September but withdrew after meeting a very thin line of German defense on the undermanned Siegfried line. With most of its forces concentrated in Poland at the time, Germany did not have the capacity to stand up to France’s 98 divisions and tanks that were being c0mmitted. However French hesitation and wanting to avoid total war had them withdraw forces starting on 17 September and done a month later. It began a time called the Phony War where both Germany and France were armed and ready, but nothing was happening. Hitler had hoped he could make peace with England and France but that was not to be.

On 10 May 1940, Germany attacked France. German armored units made a push through the Ardennes, and then through the Somme valley to surround the allied units in Belgium. British, Belgian and French forces were pushed to the sea. British forces were evacuated at Dunkirk, which is an exciting tale of its own. During the six-week campaign Germany conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands. German troops marched unopposed into Paris on 14 June. By 18 June with the collapse of both the French government (which had fled) and the military, negotiations began between French and German military officers.

German Troops in Paris, 14 June 1940
Photo: Heinz Fremde (1907-1987)
German Federal Archives:Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-126-0350-26A / Fremke, Heinz / CC-BY-SA 3.0

At the meeting on 21 June, Hitler read the preamble and like Marshal Foch left to leave Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht to handle the details. There were several objectives that the Germans wanted and got. They wanted French North Africa and the French Navy out of the war. Also, they wanted to deny the British use of French territories since they could not possibly defend them. Occupied France was 3/5ths of the country which included the key ports on the French Channel and Atlantic and to the Spanish border. The Free Zone was administered by a newly formed French government in Vichy with Marshal Petain as its president.

Vichy France, as it became known, was authoritarian and reversed the policies of previous administrations. The media became tightly controlled, anti-Semitism was propagated, and labor unions put under strict controls. Vichy France kept French territories and the navy under French rather than German control. With the German army elsewhere, unoccupied France was generally free from military control. However due to its neutrality forbidden to assist nations at war with Germany. Despite it being unoccupied, Vichy had to conform to German policies including identifying foreign nationals, deporting stateless persons, and of course assisting Germans in locating and ultimately deporting French Jews to murdered in the death camps.

Map of Vichy France
Rostislav Botev

The treaty was formally concluded on 22 June 1940 and went into effect on 25 June 1940. A separate treaty between France and Italy was signed as well. Italy initially only wanted a small portion of France (about 832 square miles with the largest town being Menton). In November 1942, after Germany seized a large portion of Vichy, Italy got control over Toulon and the eastern part of Provence up to the Rhone river. Corsica and Nice were also to become Italian occupied but that did not occur. During the period of Italian occupation, Jews were relatively safe as Italian authorities declined German requests to turn over Jews to them. Once Italy deposed Mussolini and later signed an armistice with the Allies in 1943, Germans quickly moved in and rounded up all Jews they could locate. Over 3,000 would be deported.

Aftermath

Three days after the signing of the treaty, the armistice site was destroyed on Hitler’s orders. The railway car was sent to Germany as a trophy of war. A monument depicting the French victory over the Germans was destroyed. The only thing left standing was the large statue of Marshal Foch. Hitler ordered it left there to stare out over a wasteland. The railway carriage would later be destroyed by the SS in 1945. An exact copy of the original railway car was made. French manufacturer Wagons-Lits donated a car from the same series to the Armistice Museum (in Compiegne) in 1950. Identical and was part of Foch’s private train during the 1918 signing. Remains of the original car were dug up using German POW’s. The railway car is parked beside the display of those remains.

The fall of France to Germany in 1940 demonstrated that the leaders in many European capitols had misjudged Hitler. Hitler understood early on neither the British or French would go to war over Czechoslovakia nor Austria as they wanted to avoid a general war. In this way, he understood them better than they did knowing that while many would oppose what he would do, in the end they would cave in and agree to terms. In both Britain and France, the desire to avoid total war at any cost was quite strong. The policy of appeasement flowed from this. That is why both the British and French, despite having signed peace treaties with Czechoslovakia, would betray and then force them to give into German demands. And why France, when it had the upper hand to go into Germany to stop it when it was invading Poland, made a quick march in and then left Germany. With most of the German army to the east, they could have really put Hitler into a bind.

Hitler, for his part, did misjudge their reactions to invading Poland. He assumed they would denounce it but do nothing more. Things had changed in Britain with Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement now judged a failure resulting in Churchill being brought into the government. Churchill had warned for years about Hitler. France had been a supporter of appeasement as well but wanted more British support before fully committing to war. There was also an arrogance which assumed that the British and French were better militarily than the Germans. To some degree, that is true since Germany was defeated in World War I and prior to that had been checked by the European powers. Both Britain and France, which had excellent intelligence gathering abilities, were not streamlined so a lot of important information about Germany’s intentions didn’t get up to the top right away. And France thought Germany would be deterred by the Maginot Line, which turned out not to be the case. They would use the Belgium invasion as a decoy to swing into France.

Some argue that Germany was simply lucky, but I disagree. Hitler played both the British and French knowing they would give in to avoid total war. He knew that the political left in France would never allow them to strike Germany without Britain committing to it as well. Britain was also unprepared for war having not enough planes, ships, or infantry to take them on directly. They were trying to get second-hand equipment from the United States, which so far was staying out of the conflict. And Hitler knew the British would try operations to keep Germany from controlling sea access and control resources (which was true by the way). And by the end of 1940, Hitler had achieved what the Kaiser failed to do in World War. He had conquered nearly all of Europe: Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and swallowed up the small principalities in-between. Only Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden were untouched but neutral. And fascist Italy was on their side as well, unlike the last war. He also had made peace with Stalin, so he did not have to worry about the Soviet Union.

The lesson, aside from the military ones, is that when a leader of another nation says that without reservation he will invade and take your country, you should take it seriously. And prepare for it. Because if you don’t, you might very well live just long enough to see his troops marching down your capitol’s streets as they celebrate their victory.

Sources

Byron, H. (2024, January 20). The French Riviera under Italian Rule during WW2 — HANNAH BYRON. HANNAH BYRON. https://www.hannahbyron.com/blog/the-french-riviera-under-italian-rule-during-ww2

Hart, B. L. (2024, June 17). Battle of France | History, summary, maps, & Combatants. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-France-World-War-II/The-fall-of-France-June-5-25-1940

Hughes, T. A., & Royde-Smith, J. G. (2024, June 17). World War II | Facts, summary, history, dates, combatants, & Causes. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/World-War-II/Italys-entry-into-the-war-and-the-French-Armistice

Sullivan, M. (2024, June 13). France signals intention to surrender to the Nazis. HISTORY. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/france-to-surrender

Videos

Smithsonian Channel. (2017, June 15). The moment France surrendered to German soldiers [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLrZi5udyIc

British Pathé. (2014, April 13). French Surrender to Hitler (1940) [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADUcjRc5p3k

Suggested Reading

Bloch, M. (1999). Strange defeat: A Statement Of Evidence Written In 1940. W. W. Norton & Company.

Churchill, W. (1948). Their finest hour. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Keegan, J. (2005). The Second World War. Penguin Books.

Lord, W. (2017). The Miracle of Dunkirk: The True Story of Operation Dynamo. Open Road Media.

Shirer, W. L. (2022). The collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry Into the Fall of France in 1940. Rosetta Books

Historical Movies or Television

Wouk, H. (2018, December). Winds of War [Special Collector’s Edition]. Paramount. This excellent six-part miniseries is based on the Herman Wouk novel of the same name. And he wrote the script for this, so it hues close to the book (but does compress or eliminate some characters or situations). Through the Henry family, we get to see the scope of the looming war approaching and their involvement in it. The acting is superb, though the actress Ali MacGraw is miscast as Natalie Jastrow. Aside from that, this is a riveting depiction of the events leading up to World War II. It is one of the best miniseries ever made, and it shows with the high production quality and attention to detail.

Titanic News Channel  is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Welcome to Summer/Summer Solstice

With the Summer Solstice today, summer officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere. Below the equator, the seasons are reversed, and it is the Winter Solstice. The June Solstice takes place between June 20-22. To determine the exact time of the Summer Solstice in your area, go to timeanddate.com.

This illustration shows how daylight falls on Earth at the seasonal points.
Image: NASA

Summer is the warmest of all the seasons with daylight hours the longest. The Summer Solstice has the longest day of sunlight. Prior to the solstice, daybreak gets earlier, and sunsets much later. While it gets warm and dry in North America (except for thunderstorms and hurricanes) and Europe, other areas particularly in Asia see tremendous amounts of rain called monsoons. Summer is usually time off for students in schools and universities. Also, many take time off from work to celebrate vacation with their family and friends. A lot of sporting events and outdoor concerts take place during this time as well. In areas of the far north, the sun never truly sets during this period (and in wintertime the sun never really rises either).

Summer field in Belgium (Hamois). The blue flower is cornflower and the red one a corn poppy.
Image credit: Luc Viatour (via Wikimedia Commons)

The Summer Solstice (or the local beginning of summer depending on custom and tradition) is celebrated in different ways. Some light bonfires, houses are decorated with festive banners, and special foods are eaten. Some go to Stonehenge and watch the sunrise of the first rays of summer. In Sweden, it is tradition to have the first strawberries of the season and the first full moon after the solstice is called the Strawberry moon. In some places, Midsummer’s Day is celebrated on 24 June preceded by Midsummer’s Eve. Since summer means then end of long and dark winters in some places of Europe, lighting torches and bonfires became a way to note it, sometimes in town squares or mountainsides.

Sources

Summer Solstice 2024: When is the first day of summer? (2024, June 17). Almanac.com. https://www.almanac.com/content/first-day-summer-summer-solstice

June Solstice: the Longest (and Shortest) Day. (n.d.). https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/june-solstice.html

Wikipedia contributors. (2024, June 3). Summer. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer

Today is Juneteenth (US)

Juneteenth Emancipation Day Celebration, June 19, 1900, Texas.
Original source: The Portal to Texas History Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in Confederate states. Most African Americans would not learn of this act until after the areas they lived in were liberated by Union troops. On 19 June 1865, Union troops entered Galveston, Texas (Texas was a Confederate state during the war) and learned that they were freed. Celebrations began with prayers, feasts, and dance. The following year it would take place throughout Texas on the same date becoming an annual tradition  and holiday in 1980. The celebration would spread to other states and sometimes recognized as a state holiday as well. As a result of its importance to African Americans and to the United States as well, the U.S. Congress made it a national holiday in 2021 with President Biden signing the resolution of Congress, It formally began as a holiday on Monday, 20 June 2022. Per federal law, since June 19th fell on a Sunday this year, it was celebrated the following Monday as a national holiday. The formal name of the holiday is Juneteenth National Independence Day.

Lyrics to Battle Cry of Freedom

Yes, we’ll rally round the flag, boys, we’ll rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom,
We will rally from the hillside, we’ll gather from the plain,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star;
While we rally round the flag, boys, rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

We are springing to the call with a million freemen more,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
And we’ll fill our vacant ranks of our brothers gone before,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star;
While we rally round the flag, boys, rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

We will welcome to our numbers the loyal, true, and brave,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
And although he may be poor, he shall never be a slave,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star;
While we rally round the flag, boys, rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

So we’re springing to the call from the East and from the West,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
And we’ll hurl the rebel crew from the land we love best,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star;
While we rally round the flag, boys, rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

Composed and lyrics by George Frederick Root in 1862.

Sources

Nix, E., & Nix, E. (2024, June 11). What is Juneteenth? HISTORY. https://www.history.com/news/what-is-juneteenth

Juneteenth. (2024, June 14). National Archives. https://www.archives.gov/news/topics/juneteenth

Titanic, historic ship, and general history news.