german history ww2


February 22nd 1943: White Rose group executed

On this day in 1943, three members of the peaceful resistance movement in Nazi Germany, the White Rose, were executed. The White Rose, comprising students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor, began in June 1942. The group secretly distributed leaflets protesting against the regime of Adolf Hitler and the war being waged in Europe, highlighting the repressive nature of the Nazi police state and drawing attention to the mistreatment of Jews. The group took precautions to avoid capture by keeping the White Rose group very small. However, on 18th February 1943, the siblings Sophie and Hans Scholl were discovered distributing leaflets by a university janitor, who informed the Gestapo. Hans and Sophie were arrested and immediately admitted guilt, hoping to avoid being coerced into implicating their fellow members of the White Rose, but after further interrogation were forced to give up the names. Four days later, the Scholls and Christoph Probst - some of the founding members of the group - were put on trial and found guilty of treason; they were sentenced to death. That same day, February 22nd, the three were executed by beheading at Stadelheim Prison. After their executions, the remaining members were arrested and killed, thus ending the White Rose resistance movement. The White Rose, alongside other groups like the Edelweiss Pirates, are an important example of Germans speaking out against Hitler’s regime, and their deaths are yet another in the litany of Nazi crimes.

“We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!”

Königsberger Klopse

Königsberger Klopse, aka Soßklopse, are a Prussian specialty of meatballs in a white cream sauce with capers. They’re named for the Prussian city of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) and are a highlight of East Prussian cuisine. In the former DDR/East Germany, the dish was called Kochklopse to avoid any reference to its namesake city, which in the aftermath of WW2 had been annexed by the Soviet Union. The German inhabitants were expelled, and the city was repopulated with Russians and renamed after Mikhail Kalinin, a close ally of Joseph Stalin. Königsberger Klopse were jokingly referred to as Revanchistenklopse. Traditionally, they’re made from finely minced veal, though less expensive beef or pork is often substituted, like in this recipe. Serve with boiled potatoes or rice and lemon. 

250 g Hackfleisch vom Schwein - 250 g Tatar - 1 Brötchen - 2 Eier - 1 Schalotte - 1/2 EL Sardellenpaste - 1/2 TL Majoran - 40 g Butter - 40 g Mehl - 1/2 Liter Rinderbrühe - 3-5 EL Kapern - 100 ml Wein, weiß - 1/2 Zitrone, den Saft - Salz und Pfeffer - 1 TL Zucker - 2 Eigelb - 1/8 Liter saure Sahne

Hack, eingeweichtes, ausgedrücktes Brötchen, Eier und geriebene Zwiebel vermischen. Mit Sardellenpaste, Salz, Pfeffer und Majoran abschmecken. Aus der Masse Klopse formen. Rinderbrühe zum Kochen bringen, und die Klopse darin in etwa 15 Min gar ziehen, aber nicht mehr kochen lassen, sonst zerfallen sie! Wenn sie oben schwimmen sind sie gar. Man kann nun die Klopse aus der Brühe nehmen und die Brühe absieben, um sie für die Soße zu verwenden. Für die Soße Butter oder Margarine erhitzen, und das Mehl darin andünsten. Nach und nach unter Rühren die Fleischbrühe hinzufügen. Die Soße aufkochen und ein paar Minuten kochen lassen; anschließend mit Wein, Zitronensaft, Zucker, Pfeffer und Salz abschmecken. Die Kapern nun ebenfalls zufügen. Eigelb und Sahne verrühren und unter die Soße mischen. Nun nicht mehr kochen lassen und Klopse in die Soße geben. Die Menge ergibt ca. 12 Klopse.


February 2nd 1943: Battle of Stalingrad ends

On this day in 19423 during the Second World War, German troops surrendered to the Soviet Red Army in Stalingrad, thus ending five months of fighting. The battle began in August 1942 during the Nazi invasion of Russia - codenamed Operation Barbarossa - and Adolf Hitler ordered an attack on the major city of Stalingrad. Stalingrad became a major playing field of the war, as Soviet leader Stalin was determined to save the city which bore his name. Under the leadership of General Paulus, German bombing destroyed much of the city and troops captured areas through hand-to-hand urban warfare. In November, Marshal Zhukov assembled six Russian armies to surround Stalingrad and trap the Germans in the city, barring provisions and troops from reaching them. Many German soldiers died of starvation and frostbite following the onset of the harsh Russian winter, with temperatures down to -30°C, but Hitler insisted they fight until the last man. After five months, the Russian Red Army claimed victory when the remaining German troops surrendered in February 1943. 91,000 Germans were taken prisoner, including twenty-two generals; this was all that remained of the 330,000 strong German force who arrived at Stalingrad. The Battle of Stalingrad is among the bloodiest battles of the Second World War, causing nearly two million casualties. The disaster depleted the German army’s supply of men and equipment, allowing the Allies to gain the advantage, which enabled them to invade Germany and win the war.

“The God of war has gone over to the other side”
- Adolf Hitler upon hearing of the German surrender at Stalingrad


January 27th 1945: Liberation of Auschwitz

On this day in 1945, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland was liberated by the Soviet Red Army. One of the most notorious camps of Nazi Germany, Jews and others persecuted by the Nazi regime were sent to Auschwitz from 1940 onwards. During its years in operation, over one million people died in Auschwitz, either from murder in the gas chambers or due to starvation and disease. As the war drew to a close and the Nazis steadily lost ground to the Allied forces, they began evacuating the camps and destroying evidence of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed there. The leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, ordered the evacuation of the remaining prisoners at the camp as the Soviet Red Army closed in on the area. Nearly 60,000 prisoners from Auschwitz were forced on a march toward Wodzisław Śląski (Loslau) where they would be sent to other camps; some 20,000 ended up in the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany. However, thousands died during the evacuation on the grueling marches, leading to them being called ‘death marches’. 7,500 weak and sick prisoners remained in Auschwitz, and they were liberated by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Soviet Red Army on January 27th 1945. Auschwitz remains one of the most powerful symbols of the Holocaust and the horrific crimes committed by the Nazi regime against Jews and numerous other groups.

Recommended Reading: The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century - Hardcover – 2010, by Peter Watson.

“The German Genius is a virtuoso cultural history of German ideas and influence, from 1750 to the present day, by acclaimed historian Peter Watson (Making of the Modern Mind, Ideas). From Bach, Goethe, and Schopenhauer to Nietzsche, Freud, and Einstein, from the arts and humanities to science and philosophy, The German Genius is a lively and accessible review of over 250 years of German intellectual history. In the process, it explains the devastating effects of World War II, which transformed a vibrant and brilliantly artistic culture into a vehicle of warfare and destruction, and it shows how the German culture advanced in the war’s aftermath.” - Amazon USA review

From Publishers Weekly: “Starred Review. We are shamefully ignorant of German culture, asserts veteran British historian Watson (The Modern Mind) in this engrossing, vast chronicle of ideas, humanists, scientists, and artists: Bach, Goethe, Hegel, Gauss, and many more. Stirred by the French Revolution, German nationalism exploded. The same era in Germany produced the modern university—in which professors are expected to discover, not just teach, knowledge, and students learn to reason, not just memorize—and new forms of scholarship. There followed a cultural renaissance as important as Italy’s earlier one. Science flourished, stimulated by new university-based laboratories. Modern medicine started as German medicine (bacteriology began with Robert Koch). From Bach to Schoenberg, music became overwhelmingly German. Kant, Marx, Hegel, Nietzsche, and others dominated Western intellectual life. An ominous byproduct, though, was a growing, pugnacious sense of national superiority. This led to trouble, but until Hitler wrecked everything after 1933, Germans won more Nobel prizes than Britain and America combined. English now dominates the arts and sciences, but Watson writes an absorbing account of a time not so long ago when German ruled.”