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.
June 7th 1954: Alan Turing dies
On this day in 1954, the British mathematician and scientist Alan Turing died. Turing is considered the father of computer science and artificial intelligence with his invention of the ‘Turing machine’ (a precursor to the modern computer). He was also a crucial part of England’s code breaking team during World War Two, developing ways to break German messages from the Enigma machine. However, in 1952 he was arrested for his homosexuality (when it was still illegal in Britain) and accepted chemical castration rather than prison. Turing suffered side effects from the treatment and two years later died from cyanide poisoning, supposedly from an apple found by his bed. Whilst some claim it was accidental, an inquest determined Turing had committed suicide due to the persecution he suffered. In 2009, following a popular online petition, Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a posthumous apology to Alan Turing.
"We’re sorry, you deserved so much better”
- Gordon Brown, 2009
February 23rd 303: Great Persecution begins
On this day in 303, the Roman Emperor Diocletian began the systematic persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. It was this day that Diocletian ordered the total destruction of the new Christian church in Nicomedia, demanding the building and its scriptures to be burned and its treasures seized. The following day Diocletian issued an ‘Edict Against the Christians’; the persecution of Christians had begun. Christians had been targeted throughout the history of the empire, but violence was at its fiercest between 303 and 313. The campaign did not end with Diocletian’s retirement in 305, as his successors continued what he had begun (though to varying degrees of intensity). The persecution saw the execution of Christians, the rescinding of their legal rights and the requirement that they embrace traditional Roman polytheistic religion. The persecution is generally considered to have ended with the 313 Edict of Milan issued by the converted Christian Emperor Constantine and Licinius.
February 19th 1942: FDR approves interning Japanese Americans
On this day in 1942, 70 years ago today, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 which allowed the military to relocate Japanese Americans to internment camps. The order allowed the military to declare certain areas ‘military areas’ which were used to intern Japanese Americans who were considered a national threat since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour which prompted the USA to join World War Two. Other groups were also interned, but it was Japanese Americans who were mostly targeted, with 120,000 being held in camps. The victims eventually received an official government apology and reparations in the 1990s. The executive order was repealed by President Gerald Ford on February 19th 1976.