April 14th 1759: Handel dies
On this day in 1759, the German composer George Frederic Handel died aged 74. Famous for his Baroque pieces, Handel was born in Germany in 1685 but moved to Britain later in life. He gained a reputation there for his Italian operas, and some of his works were performed for Queen Anne and her successors on the British throne. Handel enjoyed royal patronage, and his music is regularly played at royal coronations even to this day. However he is perhaps best known for his biblical choral masterpiece: Messiah. Handel died in 1759, and was honoured with a state funeral and burial in Westminster Abbey. Alongside his grave is a monument, sculpted by Louis Francois Roubiliac, which was unveiled in 1762 and features a statue of Handel which supposedly has the exact likeness of his death mask.
March 19th 1945: Hitler’s ‘Nero Decree’
On this day in 1945, Chancellor of Germany Adolf Hitler issued his ‘Demolitions on Reich Territory Decree’. This action came towards the end of World War Two as the Allied forces led by the Soviet Union, United States and United Kingdom, made further advances into Germany. One of the last actions of his dictatorship, this decree called for the destruction of German infrastructure in order to impede the Allied advance; Hitler intended for the enemy to find only ‘scorched earth’. Due to Hitler’s readiness to sacrifice Germany in order to put up obstacles for the Allies, this action was compared to the infamous Roman Emperor Nero who supposedly orchestrated the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. Some have suggested Hitler intended for the German population to be destroyed as punishment for losing the war, and to ensure there would be no Germany after National Socialism. The decree was, luckily for Germany, not implemented by his disillusioned subordinates. Hitler was unable to enforce it, as he was soon confined to his bunker and killed himself just 42 days after issuing the Nero Decree. It represents Hitler’s last desperate actions, and his willingness to destroy the Germany he supposedly loved.
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.
March 23rd 1933: Enabling Act passed
On this day in 1933 the German Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which essentially made Adolf Hitler dictator of Germany. The law gave Chancellor Hitler legal powers to establish his dictatorship as it gave the Cabinet the power to enact laws independently of the legislature (the Reichstag). Its formal name was ‘Law to Remedy the Distress of People and Reich’. Hitler had been appointed Chancellor on January 30th and just before the scheduled election, the Reichstag fire occurred. The Nazis used the incident to suggest a Communist revolution was imminent and passed the Reichstag Fire Decree which suspended civil liberties and habeas corpus. The Nazis failed to gain an absolute majority in the Reichstag and so Hitler drafted the Enabling Act to secure his position. The Nazis pressured and threatened representatives of the Reichstag to pass the bill, positioning SA men and Nazi swastikas in and around the building. With the bill’s passing, Hitler’s dictatorship was assured, and thus began a brutal regime which would last until 1945.
"The authority of the Führer has now been wholly established. Votes are no longer taken. The Führer decides. All this is going much faster than we had dared to hope"
- Joseph Goebbels after the passage of the act
March 14th 1943: Kraków Ghetto is ‘liquidated’
On this day in 1943 the last Jews in the Kraków Ghetto were killed or sent to concentration camps. Kraków was one of the five major Jewish ghettos created by Nazi Germany during the German occupation of Poland during World War Two. The ghettoes were centres of terrible persecution and privation. Life in the ghetto was unimaginably difficult; 15,000 Jews were forced into an area which previously held only 3,000 people. From May 1942 onward, the Nazis had been deporting Jews from the ghetto to concentration camps, where they would most likely perish. On this day, the final ‘liquidation’ of Kraków was completed, under the leadership of SS commander Amon Göth. 8,000 Jews were deemed able to work and were taken to Plaszow labour camp. 2,000 more were considered unable to work and were thus killed in the streets or taken to Auschwitz for extermination.
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