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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!”

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The now abandoned Beelitz Heilstätten Military Hospital in Berlin, where Adolf Hitler was treated for his war wounds in WWI. This hospital is the reason Hitler survived and went on to reign terror in WWII, 21 years later.The dilapidated building is reportedly haunted by the ghosts of German soldiers who never made it out of the atrocious battle alive.

Yesterday was 75th anniversary of the first jump of ‘Cichociemni’ (15/16 Februar 1941 ) on the territory of occupied Poland, I have great respect for those brave men & women, so this is my small tribute for them. If you would like to know the meaning of the word: 'badass’, I would highly recommend to read more about this extraordinary unit, cheers!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cichociemni

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June 6th 1944: D-Day

On this day in 1944, the D-Day landings began on the beaches of Normandy as part of the Allied ‘Operation Overlord’. The largest amphibious military operation in history, the operation involved thousands of Allied troops landing in France. For those landing on the beaches of Normandy, they faced heavy fire, mines and other obstacles on the beach, but managed to push inland. In charge of the operation was future U.S. President, General Dwight Eisenhower, and leading the ground forces was British General Bernard Montgomery. The landings proved a decisive Allied victory, as they secured a foothold in France, which had been defeated by Nazi Germany in 1940. D-Day was a key moment in the Second World War, and helped turn the tide of the war in favour of the Allies. Today we remember not just the strategic victory that was D-Day, but also the ultimate sacrifice paid by thousands of soldiers on both sides of the fighting.

“You are about to embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.”
- Eisenhower’s message to the Allied Expeditionary Force

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January 17th 1945: Evacuation of Auschwitz

On this day in 1945, the evacuation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland began. The Soviet army were fast approaching, and the Nazi officials at Auschwitz had already begun the process of dismantling gas chambers and destroying documents in an attempt to hide the war crimes and crimes against humanity that had been committed there in the mass extermination of innocent civilians. The leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, ordered the evacuation of the remaining prisoners at the camp as the 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.

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May 8th 1945: VE Day

On this day in 1945, at the end of the Second World War, combat ended in Europe with the Germans accepting unconditional surrender in Rheims, France. The German surrender marked the end of Hitler’s Third Reich, following the dictator’s suicide on April 30th. Germany’s surrender was led by German President Karl Dönitz, and was signed on May 7th and ratified on May 8th. The Western world celebrated the end of the bloody conflict, with huge festivities in Trafalgar Square and outside Buckingham Palace in London, and in New York’s Time Square. British King George VI and Prime Minister Winston Churchill led the celebrations in their country, and U.S. President Harry Truman dedicated the victory to his recently deceased predecessor, remarking his only wish was that “Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day”.

“This is your hour. This is your Victory”
- Winston Churchill to crowds on VE Day

Strafbattalion, often referred to as “Hitler’s Dirty Dozen” were infantry units consisting of convicts and felons, all which were taken from German prisons and sent on dangerous operations, akin to suicide missions. One common mission of these doomed men was to walk across minefields in order to clear them. Those who refused any dangerous operation they were ordered to do were executed on the spot or taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. One such unit was the 36th Grenadier Division of the Waffen SS, whch beame known as the Dirlewanger Brigade, which was formed under the orders of Henirich Himmler. This particular unit was led by Oskar Dirlewanger, a convicted child molester. It was considered the “worst of the worst” and consisted of mostly murderers and rapists. Non-surprisingly, weaponizing these dangerous men proved deadly. They conducted mass executions on civilians; raping and torturing many of them beforehand. On one occasion, they set a pack of starving dogs upon residents of a small village. Another documented case reveals how they poisoned a group of young children with strychnine, for their own sadistic pleasure. It was said that they killed as many as 30,000 civilians before being sent to the front line, where they proved to be inexperienced in real combat fighting.

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September 15th 1935: Nuremberg laws imposed

On this day in 1935, the antisemitic Nuremberg race laws were introduced by the Nazi government in Germany. Adolf Hitler, upon becoming German Chancellor and President in 1933, set about to destroy Jewish influence in German society. Jews only comprised under one percent of the German population, but Hitler perceived them as a threat to the dominance and homogeneity of the white ‘master-race’. Discriminatory policy began as measures to boycott Jewish business, and exclude Jews from prominent jobs in politics, journalism, medicine, law, and the military. Jewish citizens were also subject to everyday harassment, violence, and exclusion from shops and public areas. The September 1935 laws, proclaimed at the annual Nazi party rally in Nuremberg, established this racist ideology as the law of the land, stripping German Jews of their citizenship (reclassifying them as subjects of the state), and imposing restrictions on Jews marrying or having sexual relations with ‘Aryans’. The laws targeted Jews as a race, rather than a religious group, as it defined a Jew not as someone who practiced the religion, but anyone who had three or more Jewish grandparents. In November, the Nuremberg laws were extended to blacks and Roma gyspies, who were also considered a threat to Hitler’s vision of white supremacy. The treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany became steadily harsher, with exclusionary laws forcing them to wear yellow stars of David, in addition to mass violence such as Kristallnacht in 1938, and imprisonment in concentration camps. In the twelve years of Hitler’s Reich, over four-hundred regulations were issued against the Jewish population, resulting in the complete social and economic subjugation of German Jews. In the early 1940s, Hitler resolved to eradicate Jewish influence entirely, initiating a genocidal programme of extermination which ultimately claimed the lives of six million Jews.

80 years ago today