On 19 November 1863 President Abraham Lincoln delivered what would be the most memorable speech given by a president in U.S. history. He was attending the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery (now called Gettysburg National Cemetery) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Four and a half months prior the Battle of Gettysburg had taken place resulting in a major victory for the Union armies. The casualties to both sides were considerable. It also had the highest number of Confederate and Union generals who died in battle as well.
Edward Everett, the best orator of the time, delivered a two hour speech preceding Lincoln’s. When Lincoln spoke, it was only for a few minutes. His speech was only 271 words long after the long speech of Everett’s, so it could have been easily forgotten. People attending gave different accounts of how it was received. Some said a dignified silence, others polite applause. Edward Everett thought it was well done and said so to Lincoln in a letter. Once the text got out to the general public, Democrat leaning newspapers derided it while Republican ones praised. The Times of London thought it a ludicrous speech.
Yet this speech would become famous. It would become oft quoted and praised by many as time went on. Far from being ludicrous, as the Times of London thought it was, it became a standard for other orators to try and emulate. And his eloquent words: “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, shall not perish from the earth,” are still stirring to this day.
The Gettysburg Address
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
19 November 1863
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln. www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm.
“Gettysburg Address | Text and Context.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 12 Nov. 2023, www.britannica.com/event/Gettysburg-Address.
“President Lincoln Delivers Gettysburg Address.” HISTORY, 10 Mar. 2010, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/lincoln-delivers-gettysburg-address.
When the Suez Canal officially opened to ships on 17 November 1869, it changed forever how important cargo and passengers would reach Asia. Up until it opened, ships went down the African coast to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa (where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet), to enter Asia. It was certainly a shorter trek than going overland (which used to be the case until the Ottoman Empire closed them off forcing Europeans to find alternative routes to get spices from Asia) but still took a while especially when you had to rely on wind and current to get you there. The Suez Canal cut the travel time substantially and only ships that could not fit into the canal would have to take the longer route.
The genesis of the Suez Canal began in 1854 when Ferdinand de Lesseps (former French consul to Cairo), negotiated a treaty with the Ottoman governor of Egypt to build a canal 1oo miles across the Suez isthmus. Plans were drawn up by an international team of engineers and c0nstruction began in 1859. The Suez Canal Company (formed 1856) was given the right to operate the canal for 99 years. Initial work was done by hand, making it slow until dredgers and steam shovels arrived from Europe. Both labor disputes and a cholera epidemic slowed construction causing a four-year delay in getting it completed. When it opened in 1869, it was only 25 feet deep, 75 feet wide at the bottom, and 200-300 feet wide on the surface. This resulted in less than 500 ships using it the first year. Major improvements would be made in 1876 that allowed for nearly all the ships of the day (and today as well) to pass through it. The Suez Canal became one of the most heavily trafficked shipping lanes in the world.
The British decided to get control of the Suez Canal. In 1875, Great Britain bought the stock of the new Ottoman governor making them the largest shareholder in the Suez Canal Company. When they invaded and took control of Egypt in 1882, they took control of the Suez Canal as well. Later under the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, the Egyptian government (now nearly independent of England), Britain retained rights to protect the canal. In July 1956 Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal. This resulted in the Suez Crisis of 1956 in which Israel invaded Egypt and British and French troops arrived to occupy the Canal Zone. In 1957, both Britain and France withdrew under international pressure and in March 1957, the canal was once again open to commercial traffic. It would shut again in 1967 during the Six Day War. Tensions between Egypt and Israel would make the Suez Canal a front line between both parties. In 1975 Anwar Sadat would reopen the canal as a gesture of peace and negotiate a peace treaty with Israel. Today the canal plays a vital role in shipping cargo from Asia to Europe and North America. Its strategic importance is recognized by all powers in the region occasionally causing scuffles or even attacks by belligerents wanting to disrupt oil and cargo shipments.
Smith, Charles Gordon, and William B. Fisher. “Suez Canal | History, Map, Importance, Length, Depth, and Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 6 Nov. 2023, www.britannica.com/topic/Suez-Canal.
Phoenix International Holdings, under the direction of the U.S. Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV), have recovered the remaining debris of the Titan submersible from the North Atlantic seafloor near the RMS Titanic shipwreck. All work performed by SUPSALV and Phoenix was conducted on behalf of the US Coast Guard’s Marine Investigation Board as part of their investigation into the loss of Titan. Authorities from the U.S., Canada and France are currently combing through evidence recovered from the Titan submersible that suffered a catastrophic implosion en route to the wreckage of the Titanic in June.
A pocket watch, frozen in time when the Titanic went underwater, sold for £97,000 (about $118,700) on Saturday, in an auction held by the British firm Henry Aldridge and Son Ltd. That’s nearly 40 times the value of the ticket that Sinai Kantor, a Russian Jew on his way to New York City, spent for his ticket on the “unsinkable” ship.
In that vein, a few years ago, Brian and Cody’s fascination peaked when they heard the story of the U.S. Senate hearings that happened in the wake of the Titanic disaster in 1912. This inquiry helped give the public an accurate account of the infamous night the ship went down, and it called into question just who was accountable for the tragedy. “Our main thing was to try and figure out why we never heard of this,” said Brian. “There was this big Senate investigation and there was no accountability or anything. And through our research, we realized, that is the story.”
Maryland fried chicken – essentially, pan-fried chicken with a cream gravy – didn’t always need the French accent to appeal to the upper class. In the early 19th Century, fried chicken was squarely a special-occasion dish, frequently cooked by enslaved African American women for wealthy Maryland households.
An evening dinner menu for first-class passengers onboard the RMS Titanic has sold for £84,000 (US $104,584) at auction. The sale on Saturday was run by Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, Wiltshire. Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: “The menu is a remarkable survivor from the most famous ocean liner of all time.” The menu bears an embossed White Star Line flag and would have originally shown gilt lettering depicting the initials OSNC (Ocean Steamship Navigation Company) alongside the lettering “RMS Titanic”.
A pocket watch, frozen in time when the Titanic went underwater, is set to sell at auction Saturday, with an expected sales price of nearly $100,000. That’s nearly 30 times the value of the ticket that Sinai Kantor, a Russian Jew on his way to New York City, spent for his ticket on the “unsinkable” ship. Numbers on the Swiss-made, silver-on-brass watch are written in Hebrew numerals and its hands are nearly all deteriorated, due to saltwater exposure — but dried water marks indicate that time stopped at 2:25 a.m., about five minutes after the Titanic sank. Its back features an embossed, solemn, muscular Moses holding the Ten Commandments on a background of date palms.
The never-before-seen menu shows the likes of millionaires JJ Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and the ‘Unsinkable’ Molly Brown indulged in oysters, Squab a la Godard, Spring Lamb, Tournedo of Beef a la Victoria, mallard duck and Apricots Bourdaloue. Only a handful of Titanic menus are known to exist today – but those are for the night of the tragedy when passengers had them in their jacket or coat pockets.https://youtu.be/7hYBesohRK0?si=cXh5hoNfMf02I1DJ
[Editor’s note-When this was originally posted the short bio was not included along with an additional photo.]
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.
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.
Here is the SS Arthur Anderson coming into Duluth during the first snow of the season. It is quite something to see and, as comments indicate, a taste of winter to come. The Anderson did not come in on November 10 this year (the anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald) so this will have to do. I have appended the one from 2020 so you can see it here.
INTERESTING FACTS ON ARTHUR ANDERSON
SS Arthur M. Anderson was launched February 16, 1952, making her one of the oldest Laker type ships currently serving on the Great Lakes. Lakers are bulk carrier vessels designed to carry large amounts of ore, grain, coal from the areas where they are mined or grown and transport them to the industrial areas for production. Laker ships (called boats) are designed for Great Lake use only and do not operate beyond it. The shipping season usually lasts from around late March till late December or Mid-January depending on the ice.
She is named for Arthur Marvin Anderson, who a was director of U.S. Steel and served on its finance committee. He was also vice-chairman of J.P. Morgan & Co. at the time.
Over the years the Anderson has undergone several refits including adding a new 120-foot (37 m) midsection that allowed here to increase her tonnage to 26,000 tons. A self-loading boom was added to aid in loading and unloading. A softer midsection prohibits her from loading as much cargo as others. She is one of three Great Lakes Fleet (the operator) steamships with this limitation.
On 10 November 1975 the Anderson was in close proximity with the Edmund Fitzgerald and the last to speak with its captain before it sank and reported its disappearance After docking, the U.S. Coast Guard asked its captain, Jesse “Bernie” Cooper, to go back out to search for the missing ship. Captain Cooper was hesitant knowing the ferocity of the storm but went out anyway. Captain Cooper believed the Fitzgerald had grazed the bottom at some point allowing her to take on water that led to its demise later.
In February 2015 the Anderson was stuck and stranded in ice in Lake Erie near Conneaut Harbor, Ohio. She was freed by the Canadian Coast Guard after five days on 21 February 2015. An American Coast Guard ship, sent to escort the Anderson to Detroit became stranded in the thick ice as well.
The Anderson was put on long-term layup at the end of the 2016 shipping season. She was transferred in April 2019 to the Fraser Shipyards for where she was refitted and returned to service on 25 July 2019.
Veterans Day is a day set aside to thank and honor military personnel who have served in peace and war. The day originally began as Armistice Day to celebrate the end of World War I. It was first officially celebrated on 11 November 1919 and was originally the celebrate veterans who served in that war. In 1954 after many Americans served in both World War II and Korea, veterans organizations petitioned the name be changed from Armistice to Veterans Day to celebrate all who served in the military. Congress approved this change on 1 June 1954 and has been known as Veterans Day since then.
In 1968 as a result of the Uniform Holiday Bill, Veterans Day was shifted to the third Monday in October. Since this law allowed more three day weekends for federal workers (and states that followed the federal holiday calendar) and would allow more people to travel and spend money, this was thought good. The writers of the law never bothered to check and see if people wanted Veterans Day on the third Monday in October. And they were surprised when many states refused to honor the new date and stuck with November 11 for Veterans Day.
The reason is not hard to understand. This patriotic holiday had been celebrated since 1919 and many generations had grown up with with it. In 1975 President Gerald Ford signed into law specifying that Veterans Day would always be celebrated on November 11 no matter what day of the week it falls on. Currently most federal holidays, if they fall on a non-working day (Saturday or Sunday), the nearest working day is the holiday. Meaning if it falls on a Saturday, Friday is a federal holiday. If the holiday falls on a Sunday, the official holiday is Monday. And if it falls into the middle of the week, Monday is when the holiday is observed. Thanksgiving and Fourth of July are two other holidays where they are observed on a specific day every year.
The day is marked with important ceremonies such as the national ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. It starts at precisely 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is followed by a parade of colors by veterans’ organizations and then speeches and remarks from important dignitaries. Almost always the sitting president will attend though on occasion the Vice President will act in his place should he not be in attendance.
Veterans Day is to honor those who have chosen to serve our country, past or present. We honor and thank them for their service and remember as well that some gave all as well. They give up a lot so that we are protected. And this day is a big Thank You to all of them.
The SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior on 10 Nov 1975 taking with her a crew of 29. The ship was launched in 1958 and was owned by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company. As a freighter, the ship primarily carried taconite iron ore to iron works in various Great Lake ports. The ship set records for hauling ore during its career.
On 9 Nov 1975, the Fitzgerald under the command of Captain Ernest McSorley, embarked on her final voyage of the season fron Superior, Wisconsin to a steel mill near Detroit, Michigan. She met up with another freighter, SS Arthur Anderson, while enroute. The next day a severe winter storm hit with near hurricane force winds and waves that reached 35 feet in height. Sometime around or after 7:11 p.m., the Fitzgerald sank in Canadian waters approximately 17 miles from Whitefish Bay near the cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. While McSorley had reported difficulty earlier, his last message was “We are holding our own.”
The cause of the sinking has stirred debate and controversy with competing theories and books on the issue. The various theories are:
(1) Inaccurate weather forecasting. The National Weather Service forecast had said the storm would pass south of Lake Superior but instead it tracked across the eastern part, exactly where the Edmund Fitzgerald and Arthur Anderson were. So they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
(2) Inaccurate navigational charts. The Canadian charts in use came from 1916 and 1919 surveys and did not include more updated information that Six Fathom Shoal was about 1 mile further east than shown.
(3) No Watertight Bulkheads
The ship did not have watertight bulkheads and more like barges rather than freighters. So a serious puncture could sink a vessel like Fitzgerald while ships that had such bulkheads, even if seriously damaged, had a better chance of survival.
(4 )Lack of Sounding and Other Safety Instruments Fitzgerald lacked the ability to monitor water depth using a fathometer( a device that uses echo sounding to determine water depth). The only way the Fitz could do soundings was using a hand line and counting the knots to measure water depth. Nor was there any way to monitor if water was in the hold or not (some was always present reports suggest)unless it got high enough to be noticed by the crew. However on that night, the severity of the storm made it difficult to access the hatches from the spar deck. And if the hold was full of bulk cargo, it was virtually impossible to pump out the water.
(5 )Increased Cargo Loads Meant Ship Was Sitting Lower In Water
The load line had been changed in 1969, 1971, and 1973 with U.S. Coast Guard approval. This resulted in Fitzgerald’s deck being only 11.5 feet above the water when she faced massive 35 foot waves on that day. She was carrying 4,0000 more tons than what she was designed to carry. Which meant the buoyancy of the ship was an issue who fully loaded resulting in reports the ship was sluggish, slower, and reduced recovery time.
The US National Transportation and Safety Board believes that prior groundings caused undetected damage that led to major structural failure during the storm. Since most Great Lakes vessels were only inspected in drydock once every five years, such damage would not have been easily detected otherwise. Concerns have also been raised that Captain McSorley did not keep up with routine maintenance. Photographic evidence indicates the hull was patched in places and the failure of the U.S. Coast Guard to take corrective action is also an issue considering that various things were not properly maintained.
Captain McSorley rarely pulled his ship into a safer harbor to ride out a storm. Nor did he heed a warning from the U.S. Coast Guard issued at 3:35 p.m. to seek safe anchorage. Possible pressure from ship owners to deliver cargo on time is considered a factor for some captains like McSorley to ride out storms rather seek safe anchorages. The U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board concluded that complacency is a major factor in what happened to Fitzgerald and generally a problem for Great Lakes shipping. Critics point out the Coast Guard failed in its own tasks of properly requiring those repairs and lacked the means to rescue ships in distress on the Great Lakes.
The wreck was found on 14 Nov 1975 using technology to find sunken submarines. The U.S. Navy dived to the wreck in 1976 using an unmanned submersible. The wreck was found to be in two pieces with taconite pellets in the debris field. Jacques Cousteau dived to it in 1980 and speculated it had broken up on the surface. A three day survey dive in 1989 organized by the Michigan Sea Grant Program was done to record the wreck for use in museum educational programs. It drew no conclusions as to the cause of the sinking. Canadian explorer Joseph MacInnis led six publicly funded dives over three days in 1994 to take pictures. Also that year sport diver Fred Shannon and his Deepquest Ltd did a serious of dives and took more than 42 hours of underwater video. Shannon discovered when studying the navigational charts that the international boundary had changed three times. GPS coordinates showed the wreck was actually in Canadian waters because of an error in the boundary line shown on official lake charts. MacInnis went back to the wreck in 1995 to salvage the bell and it was financed by the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians. A replica bell and a beer can were put on Fitzgerald. Scuba divers Terrence Tysall and Mike Zee used trimix gas to dive to the wreck and set records for deepest scuba dive on Great Lakes. They were the only divers to get to the wreck without a submersible.
The wreck is now restricted under the Ontario Heritage Act and has been further amended that a license is required for dives, submersibles, side scan sonar surveys and even using underwater cameras in the designated protected area. And they added a steep fine of 1 million Canadian dollars for violating the act.
Fitzgerald was valued at $24 million. Two widows filed suit seeking $1.5 million from the owners and operators of the ship. The owners filed suit to reduce to limit their liability. However the claims never went to trial as the company paid compensation to the surviving families who signed confidentiality agreements. It is believed the owners and operator wanted to avoid a court case where McSorley was found negligent as well as the operator and owner. Changes to Great Lakes shipping did occur such as requiring fathometers in ships above a certain tonnage, survival suits, locating systems for ships (LORAN originally now GPS), emergency beacons, better wave predictions, and annual inspections of ships in the fall to inspect hatch and vent closures.
Annual memorials take place though the one made famous by Gordon Lightfoot, the Mariners Church in Detroit, now honors all who perished on the Great Lakes.
On November 9-10 1938, a violent wave of anti-Jewish pograms broke out in Germany, Austria and Sudetanland. Called Kristallnacht (means literally Night of Crystal but commonly called Night of Broken Glass) violent mobs destroyed synagogues, looted Jewish owned businesses, homes and schools, and arrested 30,000 Jewish men who were sent to concentration camps. Police and fire were ordered to stand down and only act to prevent damage to German buildings. Nearly all the Jewish synagogues were torched, except those close to historical sites or buildings.
Thanks to the presence of foreign reporters in Germany at the time, this event became known to the world changing perceptions about the Nazi regime.
Nazi officials depicted the event as a genuine response of the people to the assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris by Herschel Grynszpan on 7 Nov 1938. Grynszpan, a 17-year old boy, was distraught over his family’s deportation from Germany to Poland. Vom Rath’s death two days later coincided with the anniversary of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. The Nazi Party leadership assembled in Munich used the occasion to push for demonstrations against the Jews arguing that “World Jewry” had conspired to commit the assassination. However, Hitler ordered that the demonstrations should not look they were prepared or organized by the Nazis’. They had to look spontaneous. Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels was the chief instigator following Hitler’s orders in his speech to the assembled party officials.
The regional Nazi party leaders issued instructions to their local offices about how to proceed. Reinhard Heydrich, as head of the Security Police, sent instructions to headquarters and stations of the State Police and SA leaders about the upcoming riots. The SA, Hitler Youth and others were ordered to wear civilian clothes so it would like genuine public reaction. Heydrich ordered the rioters to not endanger non-Jewish German life or property. The rioters were also ordered to remove all synagogue archives prior to vandalizing and destroying them. Police were ordered to arrest as many young Jewish men their jails would hold.
Violence began to erupt in the late evening of 9 November and in the early morning hours of 10 November. The two largest Jewish communities, Berlin and Vienna, would see massive destruction. Mobs of SA and Hitler Youth shattered store windows. They attacked Jews in their homes and looted. They publicly humiliated Jews in the streets. Many Jews were killed as well though numbers vary but likely in the hundreds. Jewish cemeteries were desecrated. Those who were arrested by the SS and Gestapo ended up in Buchenwald, Dachau and Sachsenhausen and other camps as well. Many would die in the camps and many who were released had promised to leave Germany. Kristallnacht would spur Jews to emigrate from Germany.
German leaders blamed Jews for the riots and fined the Jewish community one billion Reich Marks. To pay the fine, Germany seized property and insurance money. This left Jewish owners personally responsible for repair costs. Kristallnacht accelerated more laws and decrees to deprive Jews of the property and their ability to make a living. The Aryanization of businesses required many Jewish owned businesses and property to be transferred to non-Jews. Usually they got paid a fraction of the true value of the business or property. By this time, Jews could not be government workers or in any aspect of the public sector. Now many professions in the private sector were unavailable as well (doctors, lawyers, accountants etc.). Jews were no longer allowed to have a driver’s license, expelled from any German school they were still attending, be admitted to German theaters (movies and stage) or concert halls.
Kristallnacht was covered by newspapers in the United State and elsewhere. It was front page news in the United States in large banner headlines and perhaps the largest story of Jewish persecution to be reported during the Nazi years. Despite attempts by German censors to prevent images from getting to newspapers in the United States, pictures got out and got printed in the 28 November 1938 issue of Life magazine. A telling heading published on the front page of the Los Angeles Examiner says it all:
Nazis Warn World Jews Will Be Wiped Out Unless Evacuated By Democracies (23 Nov 1938)
President Roosevelt denounced the attack on Jews at a press conference on 15 November 1938 and recalled the US ambassador to Germany (the US was the only one to do this) and not replaced till 1945. A chargé d’affaires would handle diplomatic relations with Germany until war was declared in 1941. The US and other countries had restrictive immigration quotas in place at the time. However, 12,000 German Jews already in the United States were allowed to stay and not be sent back to Germany. Attempts to allow refuge for children under 14 were introduced in Congress but despite widespread support did not get voted into law.
Kristallnacht is rightly seen as the turning point in Nazi policy and world-wide opinion of the regime. The Nazi’s began concentrating their pogroms into the hands of the SS and more restrictive policies on the Jews. They radicalized and expanded the measures to remove Jews from the economic and social life of Germany. It would lead to policies of forced emigration and deportations to the East and the goal of Judenrein-a Germany free of Jews.
The end of World War I had left Germany in dire economic straits. The allies demanded reparations through the Versailles Treaty resulting in staggering inflation as Germany tried to pay. By 1923 the German mark was valued at four billion marks per dollar causing many who disliked the new democratic government to join the nationalist Nazi Party. Others were drawn the Nazi’s as well for their strong anti-communist views and their vocal dislike of Jews.
Adolf Hitler planned a coup in Bavaria that he hoped would spread and bring down the central government. On 8 November 1923, Hermann Goering surrounded the Munich beer hall where Bavarian officials were meeting with local business leaders. Hitler, with the aid of Nazi stormtroopers, charged into the hall with Hitler firing off a gun proclaiming the revolution has begun. The Bavarian officials decided to reluctantly support Hitler. However, the following day they would rescind that support and ordered troops to surround the Nazi forces that had taken control of the War Ministry building. Hitler decided to lead a March to the center of Munich. He had 3,000 marchers with him to 100 or more policemen blocking them. Shots were fired and 16 Nazis and 3 policemen were killed. Goering was wounded the groin and Hitler had a dislocated shoulder and managed to escape.
The Beer Hall Putsch collapsed, and Hitler was arrested. He was charged with treason and sentenced to 5 years in jail. During his time in the Landsberg fortress, he wrote his autobiography Mein Kampf. Political pressure on the Bavarian government got his sentence commutated and he ended up serving only nine months in jail. The Nazi movement would continue to grow in strength in the 1920’s gaining more support against the Weimar government, Communism and Jews. The Beer Hall Putsch would be remembered by the Nazi Party. Although they lost, they used it for propaganda purposes and celebrated the heroes of that day.
On 6 November 1917*, the Bolshevik Party led by Vladimir Lenin (real name Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov) launched a coup d’ Etat against the Russian provisional government. With their allies, the Bolsheviks occupied key government buildings in Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg) and formed a new government within two days with Lenin heading the new state. Bolshevik Russia, later to be formally called Union of Soviet Socialist States, was the first Marxist state in history.
Russia had allied with Britain and France in fighting Germany and the Central Powers in World War I. The war had gone very badly for Russia. They had sustained massive casualties and the economy had been devastated by the war effort. Food and other necessities had become scarce leading to unrest. Troops had been demoralized by defeats and ineffective military leadership. With riots breaking out and unrest spreading, trust in Tsar Nicholas II had evaporated even among the ruling class. He was forced to abdicate on 15 March 1917 (called the February Revolution since it took place in February under the Julian calendar). A Provisional Government was put in place which shared power with councils of soldiers and workers committees. However, the new government choose to keep Russia in the war setting the state for the next phase.
Russia in the 19th and early 2oth centuries tried to portray itself as emulating Europe with its art, science, and music. However, this culture represented a small fraction of Russian society at the time. Three quarters of the population were agrarian and lived in a whole different world that had little or no contact with Western civilization. They were not all farmers, but land was important to each of the communities. They were tied to the Russian Orthodox Church and to the monarchy. Nor did they believe they were oppressed. They were not fertile ground for revolution as the they wanted to be like their wealthy neighbors.
Industrialization began late in Russia in the 1890’s. This helped form the social democracy movements that would arise the address this issue. Russia was moving fast and would soon acquire capitalism. Violence had failed to topple the regime (it actually made people turn against them) so the movements focused on peaceful and focusing on industrial workers. The goal was to first get rid of the aristocracy and create a weak government. Then the second goal was to overthrow this government and implement a socialist regime. The movement split into two factions: the Mensheviks who believed this could be achieved without violence and the Bolsheviks (Lenin’s group) who believed in revolution. The two factions would never reconcile.
Lenin was born in 1870 to a conservative family. His father was devout Orthodox and a school inspector. The high rank of his father qualified both him and his offspring for membership in hereditary nobility (this was not uncommon in old Russia). Many children during this time felt guilt over their status and became radical in college. Lenin’s brother Alexander was executed in 1887 for his involvement to assassinate Tsar Alexander III. Lenin’s sister got into trouble as well and went to prison. As the brother of an executed terrorist, Lenin was expelled from the University of Kazan. His anger and hatred at the regime that had executed his brother and imprisoned his sisters would drive him to want to bring it down.
He was able to attend school again in 1890 and obtained a law degree. Moving to Petrograd, he associated himself with revolutionary Marxist circles. He worked to organize Marxist groups and enlist workers. But in December 1895, he and other leaders were arrested and jailed. And then he was exiled to Siberia for three years. After that between 1900-1917, he would spend most of his time abroad working further develop his revolutionary ideals and fight those internally who opposed his goals.
One hurdle that Lenin had to overcome was standard Marxist doctrine that mandated stages in which the final revolution would take place. Russia was barely an industrial state compared to the West. Marx argued that you needed a “bourgeois” stage in order for the revolution to occur. Lenin argued this was unnecessary and that Russia was already in the throes of capitalism. This change would encourage revolutions much later in countries that had little or no industrial sector. He also formed alliances with groups he would not normally align with to bring about the revolution in Russia.
With the outbreak of World War I, Lenin opposed citing it as an imperialistic war. The abdication of Tsar Nicholas II opened the opportunity to take Russia out of the war. Germany allowed Lenin and his lieutenants passage through Germany in a sealed railway car from Switzerland to Sweden. The thinking was by allowing antiwar Socialists to Russia would help undermine the Russian war effort. Lenin immediately called for the overthrow of the Provisional Government and was called a German agent. He had to flee to Finland but the call for “peace, land, and bread” was very popular. And it resulted in the Bolsheviks getting more support and a majority in the Petrograd council (called soviet). He returned secretly to Petrograd on 6 November led the coup that overthrew the Provisional Government.
Lenin would the supreme leader of the first Marxist state in the world. Russia, despite objections from Britain and France, made peace with Germany. The new state would nationalize all industry and seized all land (the peasants had everything seized, including farming tools, and had to get permission from the commissar to do anything on their former farms). Civil war erupted in 1918 against Tsarist forces that ended in 1920 with their defeat. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was proclaimed in 1922. The USSR did promote revolution activity in India and Afghanistan but were thwarted by British agents. Russia suffered a devastating famine from 1921-22 due to the Russian Revolution and Civil War. Russia had to accept help from European and American relief efforts to help alleviate the severe conditions the famine caused. When Lenin died in 1925, Stalin became leader and would remain so until 1953. The Communist regime did not fulfill the Marxian hope of government withering away to allow people the fullest possible freedom. Instead it became an oppressive totalitarian society complete with massive internal police to monitor its citizens. During Stalin’s tenure, the infamous purges and show trials took place. It was no joke to wonder if you might be picked up and never return home at the end of the day.
*Russia was still using the Julian calendar at this time, so it took place on October 25, 1917 in Russia. That is why it is also called the October Revolution.