world war ii

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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.

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The British battleship HMS Barham sinking after being torpedoed by German submarine U-331 commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Diedrich Freiherr von Tiesenhausen, 25 November 1941 in the Mediterranean Sea. As the ship rolled over to port, her magazines exploded.

The anti-Semitic history of the phrase “America first”

  • Like “Make America Great Again,” the call to put “America first” may seem relatively harmless on the surface. 
  • But a closer look at the origins of the phrase reveals a dark history.
  • According to Williams College professor Susan Dunn’s CNN op-ed from April, the term got its start with the “America First Committee,” an organization founded in 1940 at Yale University by student R. Douglas Stuart Jr., future President Gerald Ford and future Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart.
  • The trio urged Congress against participating in World War II, “even if England is on the verge of defeat.” They wanted instead for the United States to appease Adolf Hitler.
  • The organization soon replicated itself across the country, garnering millions of members, according to Dunn. 
  • And as its message spread, it soon became tied up in anti-Semitism.
  • “It had to remove from its executive committee not only the notoriously anti-Semitic Henry Ford but also Avery Brundage, the former chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee who had prevented two Jewish runners from the American track team in Berlin in 1936 from running in the finals of the 4x100 relay,” Dunn wrote. 
  • But try as they could, the group’s leaders couldn’t shake the anti-Jewish sentiments plaguing the organization. Read more
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On a quiet morning 75 years ago today, Imperial Japanese forces attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. More than 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,100 more wounded. Twenty-one ships of the Pacific Fleet were sunk or damaged, including the USS Arizona. Shocked and angered by the attack, the country joined the Allied forces to fight World War II, inspired by the call of “Remember Pearl Harbor.” A moving reminder of the service and sacrifice of those who fought, the USS Arizona Memorial is jointly administered by the U.S. Navy and the National Park Service. Photos from World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument by National Park Service.

When the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga (then Aiko Yoshinaga) was a senior at Los Angeles High School.

She remembers the day the following spring that her principal took the Japanese students aside and said, “You’re not getting your diplomas because your people bombed Pearl Harbor.”

Japanese-American families on the West Coast were rounded up and sent to internment camps. Yoshinaga was worried that she would be separated from her boyfriend, so to the horror of her parents, Yoshinaga and her boyfriend eloped.

The Yoshinaga family was sent to the Santa Anita, Calif., detention center, and later to Jerome, Ark. Meanwhile, Yoshinaga and her new in-laws were sent to Manzanar, near Death Valley. Yoshinaga remembers their first day as hot and dusty, even though it was only April. The barracks where the family lived were crowded and sparsely decorated.

At 92, A Japanese-American Reflects On The Lessons Of Internment Camps

Photo: Lauren Migaki/NPR
Caption: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga was a high school senior when she entered the Manzanar internment camp. Now 92, she points to the place in Manzanar, near Death Valley in California, where she lived.

Members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first all-African-American, all-female unit to serve overseas in World War II, take part in a parade ceremony in honor of Joan d'Arc at the marketplace where she was burned at the stake. Rouen, France. May 27, 1945.

(US National Archives)

Where are all the RebelCaptain WWII AUs?

I need Jeanne Erso, whose father, a French physicist, was captured by the Nazis and forced to work on a top-secret weapons project. Unknown to his German masters, he constructed plans to subvert it from within, and sent a young Wehrmacht driver with a message about the weapon to his daughter and the old partisan leader whose band Jeanne had once been involved with. 

I need Casián Andor, Spanish saboteur and freedom-fighter, determined to destroy fascism as a member of the French Resistance, accompanied by his overly-blunt British partner, Kay, a strategist with near mechanical powers of recall and observation. 

I need Imre and Malbusse, veterans of the Great War and former priests, who join with Jeanne and Casián as part of a plan to secretly cross into the Greater German Reich and steal the weapon design, thereby revealing the single flaw built into its system.

I need forged passports, encrypted messages, forest hideouts, poisons and antidotes, pistols hidden in the folds of newspapers, meetings with informants in the dark corners of cabarets, kisses stolen just as the bombs explode. 

I need love and war and death and I need it all right now.