March 8th 1911: International Women’s Day launched
On this day in 1911, International Women’s Day was launched in Copenhagen by Clara Zetkin. Zetkin, a German socialist activist, led the Women’s Office of the Social Democratic Party. The official commemoration of the day began in an attempt to draw attention to the struggle for female suffrage and women’s rights. Activists organised demonstrations and protests for March 8th in order to have more far-reaching impact. Initially only celebrated in Europe, it soon became a global phenomenon, spreading to Russia, Australia and the United States. Ever since 1996, the UN has established official themes for International Day; this year’s theme is 'Inspiring Change'.
November 20th 1945: Nuremberg Trials begin
On this day in 1945, the Nuremberg Trials against 23 Nazi war criminals started at the Palace of Justice at Nuremberg. The trials were held by the victorious Allied forces of World War Two. This set of trials lasted until October 1st 1946 and dealt with the surviving major war criminals such as Reichsmarschall and Commander of the Luftwaffe Hermann Göring, Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess and Minister of Armaments Albert Speer. 12 were sentenced to death, 7 imprisoned (3 for life), and 3 acquitted. Some, such as Göring, committed suicide before their execution, following people such as Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels who committed suicide at the end of the war.
"Opening the first trial in history against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating that civilisation cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated”
- The opening words of Chief Prosecutor, US Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson’s, indictment
August 3rd 1936: Jesse Owens wins 100 metre dash
On this day in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics, American athlete Jesse Owens won the 100 metre dash. He defeated world record holder Ralph Metcalfe. Owens won four gold medals, which made him the most successful athlete in the 1936 Games. Germany’s Nazi Chancellor Adolf Hitler had intended to use the Games to showcase Aryan supremacy, thus the success of African-American Owens was particularly poignant. His success made him famous, but back home in America segregation was still in place. After a ticker-tape parade for him in New York, he had to ride a separate elevator to reach a reception in his honour.
"A lifetime of training for just ten seconds”
- Jesse Owens
First time I’d ‘submitted’ something, sorry if I have done it wrong (let me know if I have). I’ve done a brief write up on Operation Valkyrie, thought you might like to use it.
June 14th 1940: Paris falls to the Nazis
On this day in 1940 during World War Two, German soldiers marched into Paris without resistance, and began the occupation of the city. France had fallen quickly partially due to its ill-preparedness for war, and the formidable Nazi blitzkrieg attack. Troops took over the city and hung swastikas on public buildings and monuments. Many Parisians fled, and those who remained faced four brutal years of occupation. Many reported on other people’s opposition to the Nazis, and the dissidents faced torture by the Gestapo and SS. Parisian Jews were also persecuted and sent to concentration camps. Paris was eventually liberated in 1944 following the Allied invasion of Normandy.
June 4th 1942: Heydrich dies
On this day in 1942, the Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich died aged 38. Heydrich was SS General and chief of the Gestapo and Kripo. He chaired the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 which aimed to find a ‘final solution to the Jewish problem’, making him a chief architect of the Holocaust. Heydrich was also Deputy Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia (the modern Czech Republic). It was in this capacity that he was attacked in Prague on May 27th 1942 by British trained Czech and Slovak soldiers. He died from the injuries he sustained in the assassination attempt on June 4th. The assassins were wrongly linked to the villages of Lidice and Ležáky and their inhabitants were executed or sent to concentration camps.
May 7th 1974: Willy Brandt resigns
On this day in 1974 Willy Brandt resigned as Chancellor of Germany. Brandt was a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and became chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1969. As chancellor Brandt pursued a ‘new policy towards the east’ (Ostpolitik) and aimed for reconciliation between West Germany and the Soviet bloc, especially East Germany. He resigned after it was revealed that one of his closest aides, Günter Guillaume, was an agent of the East German secret police (the Stasi).
May 5th 1818: Marx born
On this day in 1818 the Prussian philosopher Karl Marx was born. He is often considered the father of communism for his 1848 work with Friedrich Engels ‘The Communist Manifesto’. His beliefs were that human society is based around class struggle, and capitalism allows the bourgeoisie to exploit the workers (proletariat). He predicted that capitalism would eventually crumble and be replaced with socialism then communism. Marx died in London in 1883 aged 64.
February 2nd 1943: Battle of Stalingrad ends
On this day in 1943, German troops surrendered to the Soviet Red Army in Stalingrad, thus ending the 5 months of fighting. The Battle of Stalingrad is among the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare, with nearly 2 million casualties. The Germans had attempted to invade Russia and capture Stalingrad, but the Russians fought back and cut off and surrounded the German army. The Russian winter soon set in, with sub-zero temperatures weakening the German forces. Eventually, the remaining army surrendered, and 91,000 were taken prisoner (including 22 generals). The German failure at Stalingrad was a key turning point in the Second World War, as the army never recovered from their defeat.
August 17th 1987: Rudolf Hess dies
On this day in 1987 Adolf Hitler’s former deputy in the Nazi Party, Rudolf Hess, died in Spandau Prison, Berlin. He famously fled Hitler’s Germany during World War Two and flew to Scotland to negotiate peace. He was tried for his role in Nazi crimes against humanity at Nuremberg and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was imprisoned at Spandau until his death aged 93. Hess killed himself via asphyxiation by electrical cord, however some claim he was killed.
21st July 1944.
Once their fellow conspirator, General Fromm ordered their execution, trying to have save himself from association.
“In the name of Führer a court martial convened by me has pronounced sentence: Colonel von Mertz, General Olbricht, the Colonel whose name I will not mention, and Lieutenant von Haeften are condemned to death”.
Stauffenberg spoke out and took sole responsibility for the entire operation, saying that the other men had simply acted out his orders.
(Pictured; Colonel Stauffenberg)
This however would not save them.
Ludwig Beck, a highly respected former General was granted the option of suicide.
His first attempt only severely injured him, and by order of General Fromm he was shot in the back of the neck by a staff officer.
The remaining men were escorted out into a courtyard where a firing squad awaited them. One by one the men were led in front of a heap of sandy earth excavated during construction work in the courtyard and vehicle lights illuminated them.
The first to be shot was General Olbricht.
(Pictured; General Olbricht)
Next was Colonel Stauffenberg, who shouted “Long live holy Germany.” But as the squad positioned their guns Haeften broke away and stood in front his Colonel and was shot dead.
(pictured; Lieutenant von Haeften)
Colonel Stauffenberg was then shot dead, followed by Colonel Mertz.
It was 12:30am.
General Fromm did not escape from prosecution for his involvement and his obvious cover up, he was arrested and later sentenced to death.
June 15th 1888: Wilhelm becomes Kaiser
On this day in 1888 Crown Prince Wilhelm became Kaiser Wilhelm II upon the death of his predecessor Frederick III. He dismissed Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and took more control of policy, and proved an ineffective war leader during World War One. Wilhelm was the last Emperor of the German Empire and reigned until 9th November 1918 when he abdicated following growing disaffection with his leadership. After Wilhelm, the German monarchy was abolished and Friedrich Ebert became the first President of Germany. Wilhelm died in 1941 aged 82.
June 12th 1942: Anne Frank receives her diary
On this day in 1942, Anne Frank received a diary for her 13th birthday. She had seen the book, bound with red and white checkered cloth, a few days before and her father gave it to her for her birthday. Frank, a Jewish German national, lived in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Her family went into hiding in 1942 to escape the persecution of the Jewish population, and Frank documented her experiences. Her group was eventually betrayed after two years in hiding and Frank died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp from typhus in March 1945. Her father survived, and upon his return to Amsterdam found his daughter’s diary, which documented her life from 14th June 1942 to 1st August 1944, and had it translated and published.
Anne Frank would have turned 84 today
May 10th 1941: Hess parachutes into Scotland
On this day in 1941 during the Second World War, Adolf Hitler’s deputy in the Nazi Party Rudolf Hess fled Germany and parachuted into Scotland in an attempt to negotiate peace with the United Kingdom. On 10th May he took off in a plane from Augsburg and in the evening he arrived over the UK and parachuted down near the Scottish village of Eaglesham. He told authorities he had an important message and was handed to the army who took him as a prisoner of war. Winston Churchill sent Hess to the Tower of London, making him its last inmate. After the war he was tried at the Nuremberg Trials and sentenced to life imprisonment, which he served at Spandau Prison in Berlin. Despite calls for his release Hess died in prison in 1987, supposedly due to suicide by hanging, but many claim others helped in his death.
May 6th 1937: Hindenburg disaster
On this day in 1937, a German passenger airship called the Hindenburg caught fire near Lakehurst, New Jersey, killing 36. The ship was attempting to dock at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station but caught fire and was quickly destroyed. The cause of the fire is still unknown. Miraculously, 62 survived the blaze. The disaster was widely broadcast and the commentary of reporter Herbert Morrison highlighted the magnitude of the catastrophe and signalled the end of the era of the passenger airship. (watch footage here)
“Oh, the humanity!”
- Morrison reporting the disaster