Tag Archives: nazi germany

this day in the yesteryear: Operation Barbarossa: Nazi Germany Invades the Soviet Union (1941)


Operation Barbarossa: Nazi Germany Invades the Soviet Union (1941)

The largest military operation of World War II, Operation Barbarossa was the codename for Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Named for 12th-century crusader and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, the Axis operation included more than 4.5 million troops over a 1,800-mile (2,900-km) front. Though the Red Army suffered heavy losses, Operation Barbarossa failed and marked a turning point in the war that many believe sealed the Nazis’ fate. How many were killed during the operation? More… Discuss

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this day in the yesteryear: Victory Day (1945)


Victory Day (1945)

Still celebrated in most of the Soviet successor states, Victory Day marks Nazi Germany‘s capitulation to the USSR in WWII. Signed on the evening of May 8, 1945—May 9 in Moscow’s time zone—the surrender followed Germany’s initial capitulation to the Allies. When the first surrender document was being signed, only one Soviet representative was present, and he had no instructions from Moscow nor any means of immediate contact with Soviet leaders. Was he punished or lauded for deciding to sign it? More… Discuss

today’s holiday: Dutch Liberation Day


Dutch Liberation Day

Liberation Day, or National Day, in the Netherlands celebrates May 5, 1945, the day on which the Nazi forces were driven out of Holland by the Allies. Although the Dutch had succeeded in remaining neutral during World War I, the country was invaded by the Nazis in May 1940 and rapidly overrun. The liberation of Holland in 1945 was an important step toward the subsequent defeat of the Nazis. Many Dutch cities hold special concerts on this day. Special commemorations are held in Amsterdam and around the country on May 5 each year, as well as on May 4, Remembrance Day. More… Discuss

today’s birthday: Kaspar Hauser (1812)


Kaspar Hauser (1812)

In 1828, a teenage boy appeared in Nuremberg, Germany, carrying a letter that stated he had been placed in the care of the anonymous author as an infant. This caretaker claimed to have taught the boy reading, writing, and religion but never let him leave the house. The boy barely spoke but confirmed that he had been kept in a dark prison hole. In the following years, he sustained several mysterious injuries, and he was fatally stabbed in 1833. Who is thought to have been behind his death? More… Discuss

this day in the yesteryear: Hitler Commits Suicide (1945)


Hitler Commits Suicide (1945)

In the final days of World War II, as the Red Army of the Soviet Union was closing in on his underground bunker in Berlin, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler committed suicide by shooting himself while simultaneously biting into a cyanide capsule. Hitler’s body and that of Eva Braun—his mistress whom he had wed the day before—were then placed in a bomb crater, doused with gasoline, and set on fire by German officials. How did Soviet soldiers identify Hitler’s remains? More… Discuss

today’s birthday: Hugo Junkers (1859)


Hugo Junkers (1859)

Junkers was a pioneering German engineer who held many patents for his original developments in the fields of gas engine and aircraft design. He had innovative ideas about metal airplanes and flying wings, and he put them to the test—somewhat ironically, as he was purportedly a pacifist—developing warplanes for World War I. In the lead-up to World War II, the Nazis stripped Junkers of control of his company and sentenced him to house arrest. He died soon after. What was the “Sheetmetal Donkey”? More… Discuss

picture of the day: Adolf Hitler Becomes Chancellor



Adolf Hitler Becomes Chancellor

German President Paul von Hindenburg (right) made Adolf Hitler chancellor on January 30, 1933. After World War I, Germany fell into disarray and looked for a leader to strengthen it again. Hitler had emerged after joining the Nazi Party in 1919 and taking it over in 1921. In 1932 Hitler ran against von Hindenburg and lost–but not by a wide margin. The Nazis won 230 seats in the German parliament and continued to gain influence, stifling democracy and communism by force and by making laws against them. After Hindenburg’s death in 1934, Hitler proclaimed himself Der Führer of the Third Reich and continued as Germany’s leader through World War II.

Image: Collier’s Magazine

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today’s picture: The Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact



The Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact

German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop (far left) and Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav M. Molotov (far right) signed a pact on August 23, 1939, in which Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia agreed not to support any third party that might attack the other. Because Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin (second from right) had publicly condemned each other’s ideologies, the agreement came as a surprise to both Soviet and Nazi sympathizers. The pact was signed more for strategic reasons than peaceful ones, however. Specifications made public years later revealed that the leaders had divided Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres, allotting each side territory between the two. Just days after the signing, Germany invaded Poland, and by the end of September, both powers had claimed sections of Poland. World War II and Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union were just around the corner.

Image: National Archives

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this day in the yesteryear: Scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon (1942)


Scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon (1942)

When Nazi Germany occupied northern and western France in 1940, the coastal city of Toulon fell under Vichy jurisdiction in the so-called unoccupied zone in the south. The center of French naval power since the 19th century, Toulon housed much of the French fleet. When, in 1942, Germany finally occupied all of France and Toulon’s capture appeared imminent, the French scuttled much of the fleet rather than allow the vessels to fall into German hands. What was the German mission in Toulon called? More… Discuss

this day in the yesteryear: Nuremberg Trials Begin (1945)


Nuremberg Trials Begin (1945)

The Nuremberg Trials, which took place in Germany between 1945 and 1949, were a series of trials prosecuting Nazi officials for their participation in World War II and the Holocaust. The first and most famous of these trials, the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, involved 24 of the most important leaders of Nazi Germany, 12 of whom were sentenced to death for crimes against humanity and other offenses. How were the death sentences carried out? More… Discuss

today’s birthday: Adam von Trott zu Solz (1909)


Adam von Trott zu Solz (1909)

Von Trott was a German lawyer and diplomat who opposed the Nazi regime and used his position to travel to the UK and US seeking support for the resistance. In order to better monitor Nazi activities and party information, von Trott joined the Nazi party. At the same time, he served as a foreign policy advisor to the Kreisau Circle, a clandestine group of intellectuals that worked to disrupt the Nazi regime. Von Trott was hanged in 1944 after being arrested for attempting to do what? More… Discuss

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY: JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP (1893)


Joachim von Ribbentrop (1893)

Ribbentrop was Nazi Germany’s foreign minister from 1938 until 1945, during which time he helped negotiate the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of 1939, which set the stage for Germany‘s attack on Poland that touched off World War II. He, like so many other Nazi officials, was an active participant in the “Final Solution” and various other atrocities and was one of the few who paid with his life at Nuremberg, where he was tried, convicted, and hanged for his war crimes. What were his last words? More…Discuss

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TODAY’S BIRTHDAY: ZARAH LEANDER (1907)


Zarah Leander (1907)

Leander was a Swedish actress and singer. As a contracted performer with Germany‘s principal film studio, Leander made a number of successful films that contributed to the Third Reich‘s propaganda. Though Leander did not take part in official Nazi party functions, her association with Nazism caused her to be shunned in Sweden after the war. She resumed acting but never regained the popularity she had enjoyed before. Why did Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels dub her an “Enemy of Germany”? More… Discuss

 

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THIS DAY IN THE YESTERYEAR: AUSCHWITZ IS LIBERATED (1945)


Auschwitz Is Liberated (1945)

During the implementation of Nazi Germany’s Final Solution, between 1.1 million and 1.5 million people, more than 90% of them Jews, were tortured, starved, and murdered at Auschwitz in southern Poland. The Third Reich’s largest death camp network, it consisted of three main camps and dozens of satellite camps. Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, a day that is now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. How had the Nazis tried to cover up their crimes there? More… Discuss

 

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ATONALITY


Atonality

Musical compositions that do not use an established musical key are said to be atonal. Atonality is a radical alternative to the diatonic system—the natural major or minor scales that form the basis of the key system in Western music. After World War I, an atonal system of composing emerged using 12 tones. By World War II, however, “atonality” had become a pejorative term to condemn music perceived as lacking structure and coherence. In Nazi Germany, atonal music was also criticized as what? More…

 

This Day in the Yesteryear: Pierre Laval Is Executed for Treason (1945)


Pierre Laval Is Executed for Treason (1945)

In 1942, Laval, a French politician who had advocated collaboration with Nazi Germany, came to power. His government drafted laborers for German factories, cooperated in the deportation of Jews to death camps, and instituted a rule of terror. After France was liberated by the Allies, Laval fled. He was eventually captured and returned to France, where he was convicted of treason and executed. How was Laval’s attempt to escape execution thwarted by his jailers? More… Discuss


Laval and Pétain in Frank Capra documentary

film Divide and Conquer (1943)

Although Pierre-Henri Teitgen, the minister of justice in de Gaulle’s cabinet, personally appealed to Laval’s lawyers to have him attend the hearings, he declined to do so. Teitgen freely confirmed the conduct of Mongibeaux and Mornet, professing he was unable to do anything to curb them. The trial continued without the accused, ending with Laval being sentenced to death. His lawyers were turned down when they requested a re-trial.[44]

The execution was fixed for the morning of 15 October. Laval attempted to cheat the firing squad by taking poison from a phial which had been stitched inside the lining of his jacket since the war years. He did not intend, he explained in a suicide note, that French soldiers should become accomplices in a “judicial crime”. The poison, however, was so old that it was ineffective, and repeated stomach-pumpingsrevived Laval.[45]

Laval requested his lawyers to witness his execution. He was shot shouting “Vive la France!”. The whole prison shouted, “Murderers!” and “Long live Laval!”[46] He “died bravely”, de Gaulle remarked in his memoirs.[47] Laval’s widow declared: “It is not the French way to try a man without letting him speak”, she told an English newspaper, “That’s the way he always fought against – the German way.”[48]

The High Court, which functioned until 1949, judged 108 cases, pronouncing eight death penalties, including one on Pétain but asking that it not be carried out because of his age. Only three of the death penalties were executed: Pierre Laval, Fernand de Brinon, Vichy’s Ambassador in Paris to the German authorities, and Joseph Darnand, head of the Milice.[49]