April 15

Mice don't play music? No, what about the old Maestro?” –Groucho Marx

...Under the command of Erich von Ludendorff, the German army launched "Operation Georgette," the second phase of their first major offensive on the Western Front for more than a year, on April 9, 1918, near the River Lys in Flanders. In the first days of the attack, the Germans regained the momentum they had lost at the end of March, when the Allies halted the first phase of the attacks at Moreuil Wood and around Amiens, France. Storming ahead against the British and Portuguese divisions at the Lys (one Portuguese division was so overwhelmed it refused to go forward into the trenches after the initial bombardment), German forces advanced quickly as panic swept down the Allied lines of command. On April 15, less than a week after Georgette began, the British were forced to evacuate Passchendaele Ridge, an area that had seen heavy bloodshed the previous fall, during the Third Battle of Ypres. That battle had ended in the Allied capture of Passchendaele on November 6, 1917, but only at the cost of 310,000 British casualties, compared with 260,000 on the German side. In addition to Passchendaele, the Germans gained control of Messines Ridge, the scene of another important Allied victory in June 1917, before the Allied defenses hardened and Ludendorff shut down the Georgette operation on April 29, 1918...” April 15

...Bergen-Belsen concentration camp is liberated by British and Canadian forces, who discover the unburied corpses of 10,000 inmates. Most have died of starvation. There had been no food or water for more than five days, and evidence of cannibalism is found. Even after the liberation, an average of 500 die each day of typhus and starvation for more than a week . . . . Holocaust: Death Marches: As the Allied armies draw together, 17,000 female inmates and 40,000 men are marched westward by the Germans from Ravenbrueck and Sachsenhausen. Many hundreds die of exhaustion and hundreds more are shot by the wayside...” April 15

Today's Featured Site: Bergen-Belsen

...Tall and lantern-jawed, face pockmarked and scarred, the defendant [Kaltenbrunner] was the most ominous-looking man in the dock and had no friends there. Rebecca West wrote that he 'looked like a vicious horse.' But despite his sinister visage, Kaltenbrunner was, like his fellow Austrian Seyss-Inquart, a well-educated lawyer. Kauffmann followed the example of Dr Nelte and Keitel by confronting Kaltenbrunner with one after another of the criminal events with which the prosecution had targeted his client. Relying heavily on the limits of his responsibility as he had described them, Kaltenbrunner denied guilt for each and every event. Of some, he had never heard; in others, he had not been involved; if the document bore his typed signature, someone else had put it there without his knowledge; if the signature was handwritten, it had been forged . . . . Kaltenbrunner asserted that he had only once visited a concentration camp (Mauthausen), denied that he ever saw a gas chamber, and denied virtually everything else that Kauffmann put to him . . . . Kauffmann called as a witness Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess, who had been Commandant of Auschwitz . . . .  It is beyond understanding that Hoess was put on the witness stand not, like Ohlendorf or Bach-Zelewski, by prosecution counsel but by the defense. Considering the broad range of Kaltenbrunner's activities, there was little to be gained by attempting to prove that he had never been to Auschwitz and never personally signed a death order there. The consequences were not limited to Kaltenbrunner. The awful scale of the Nazi terror—produced by a Fuehrer to whom the defendants had pledged and given their allegiance, and by Himmler, Heydrich, Pohl, Mueller, and other leaders of the Nazi government—cast a pall of shame over the defendants and their counsel...” April 15

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz: “...In the summer of 1941 I was summoned to Berlin to Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler to receive personal orders. He told me something to the effect—I do not remember the exact words—that the Fuehrer had given the order for a final solution of the Jewish question. We, the SS, must carry out that order. If it is not carried out now then the Jews will later on destroy the German people. He had chosen Auschwitz on account of its easy access by rail and also because the extensive site offered space for measures ensuring isolation . . . . And besides, it was something already taken for granted that the Jews were to blame for everything . . . It was not just newspapers like 'Stuermer' but it was everything we ever heard. Even our military and ideological training took for granted that we had to protect Germany from the Jews . . . . We were all so trained to obey orders without even thinking that the thought of disobeying an order would never have occurred to anybody...” April 15

Today's Tweet: ClassicPics (@History_Pics) Woman hitting a skinhead with her handbag. She was reportedly a survivor of a concentration camp in WW2. Sweden, 1985

Today Is: April 15

Today's Comic: Tom Lehrer: “I know that there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!”

Today's Insult: “Next week Google will give the public the chance to buy its $1,500 Google Glass. Finally ending the stereotype that people who wear glasses are smart.” –Jimmy Fallon

Meanwhile, during the Cold War: A delegation from his native Georgia leaves Stalin's office after an hourly meeting. Stalin realizes that he cannot find his pipe and calls Dhzierhzynsky to find out if anyone from the delegation took his pipe. After 30 minutes Stalin finds the pipe under the table and calls Dhzierhzynsky to let the delegation go. Dhzierhzynsky answers Stalin's call: "I am sorry Comrade, but one half of the delegation already admitted that they took your pipe, and the other half died during questioning."

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Note: Images may or may not accurately represent the item adjacent to them. Also, please note that there is much, much, MUCH more detail available-and many, many, MANY more items as well-every day on the linked What Happened Today page. For the full story behind the events of this day, click the April 15 link. Really, April 15. Seriously, the April 15 link is the one to click. That's right, this one: April 15

Disclaimer: The selected Quotes, Jokes and Cartoons may or may not represent the views of the compiler of these daily posts. If they give you something to think about, they will have accomplished their task. Levi Bookin, Copy Editor, in particular bears no responsibility for any of them. He does, however, do a truly admirable job on the linked Daily pages, which everyone should peruse on a daily basis. It is WELL worth the small effort required. The Trick is to Click-> April 15


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April 15

From Nuremberg Diary, by G.M. Gilbert: April 15, 1946: MORNING SESSION: In the morning session, Colonel Hoess testified to the murder of 2 1/2 million Jews under his direction at Auschwitz. It was all done at Himmler's direct orders as a Fuehrerbetehl [Fiihrer's order] for the final solution of the Jewish problem. [He gave his testimony in the same matter-of-fact, apathetic manner as he had related it to me in his cell.] The Jews arrived in large train transports from all countries. Those capable of working were sent to the labor details, and the rest, including most women and all young children, were sent to the extermination chambers immediately. Children who were hidden under the dresses of their mothers to escape notice were torn from their mothers and sent to the gas chambers. Gold teeth and gold rings were extracted horn the corpses after gassing and the melted gold was sent to the Economics Ministry. The women's hair was packed in bales for commercial use.

The defendants listened to all of this in gloomy silence. Frank, in spite of the revival of remorse which he professed to me yesterday, was overheard using some of the stock Nazi defensive rationalizations in a conversation with Rosenberg, within hearing of Kaltenbrunner, during the morning recess. "They are trying to pin the murder of 2,000 Jews a day in Auschwitz on Kaltenbrunner—but what about the 30,000 people who were killed in the bombing attacks on Hamburg in a few hours?—They were also mostly women and children.—And how about the 80,000 deaths from the atomic bombing in Japan?—Is that justice too?" Rosenberg laughed. "Yes, of course—because we lost the war."]

LUNCH HOUR: At the end of the morning session after the point of the persecution of the church had been raised in the examination of a witness, Neubacher, Frank suddenly relapsed into his denunciation of the Nazi Party. Sauckel said he didn't see why the Church had to be dragged into this because the Church was not being persecuted, at least not in his district.

Frank flared up, "It certainly was! . . . In Bavaria it was definitely persecuted!—I know for a fact that the SS men threw the nuns out of the convents and took them over for billets.—I know that for a fact from my own observation in Bavaria and it was probably that way all over Germany!—And the Nazi Party is to blame for it all! They absolutely persecuted the Church!" He then glared at Rosenberg and turned away with clenched jaw. At lunch there was a depressed silence in all of the lunchrooms, and they sat for the most part in their own corners even reluctant to take advantage of my presence to start a conversation as they otherwise invariably did. Only one comment could be elicited from Goering and later from Doenitz. The comment was virtually identical and seemed to have been agreed upon by them in the dock: Hoess was not a Prussian but quite obviously a southern German; a Prussian could never bring himself to do things like that.

Frank said to me with some feeling: "That was the low point of the entire trial—to hear a man say out of his own mouth that he exterminated 2 1/2 million people in cold blood—. That is something that people will talk about for a thousand years."

I mentioned something about obedience to Fuehrerbefehl and the Fuehrerprinzip. Keitel defended himself. "But you see, I brought it out very clearly that as far as the generals were concerned, if we had known what criminal acts Hitler was planning and executing as we know now, we would have refused to go along." Rosenberg, who was due to take the stand this afternoon, commented nervously that it was a dirty trick to put Hoess on just before his case, because it naturally put him in a very difficult position to defend his philosophy.



Bergen-Belsen memorial

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