History Podcasts

1 May 1945

1 May 1945



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1 May 1945

May

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Eastern Front

Goebbels commits suicide in Berlin

War at Sea

German submarines U-612, U-929, U-1308 scuttled at Warnemunde

Pacific

Australian troops land on Tarakan Island

Burma

British airborne troops are landed south of Rangoon



Historical Events on May 1

    Bishop Bernold flees St Pieterskerk for Utrecht, Netherlands Wars of Scottish Independence end: Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton - the Kingdom of England recognises the Kingdom of Scotland as an independent state. Ekiho exorcised the Zen temple and its surroundings of an old badger

Event of Interest

1486 Christopher Columbus proposes his plan to search for a western route to India in an audience with Spanish monarch, Isabella I. Full support is granted 3 years later, in 1489

Event of Interest

1523 Danish King Christian III arrives in Veere

    Turkish troops occupy Hungary Council of Trente resumes Jacob van Neck's merchant fleet departs for Java, modern day Indonesia Portuguese & Spanish expedition recaptures Salvador (Bahia)

Event of Interest

1625 Prince Frederick Henry appointed viceroy of Holland

    Louis XIV & his court inaugurate Paris Observatory Battle at Rultusk: Swedish army beats Russians Boston Newsletter publishes 1st newspaper advertisement Acts of Union comes into force, uniting England and Scotland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain

Event of Interest

1753 Publication of Species Plantarum by Carolus Linnaeus, and the formal start date of plant taxonomy adopted by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature

    France and Austria sign alliance Austria and France divide Prussia British fleet occupies Guadeloupe, West Indies, capturing it from France Adam Weishaupt founds secret society of Illuminati RB Sheridan's "School for Scandal" premieres in London American Revolution: The Battle of Crooked Billet begins in Hatboro, Pennsylvania.

Music Premiere

1786 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera "Marriage of Figaro" premieres in Vienna with Mozart himself directing

Victory in Battle

1795 Kamehameha, King of Hawaiʻi defeats Kalanikupule and conquors island of Oʻahu at Battle of Nuʻuanu (approx. date)

Penny Black

1840 "Penny Black", the world's first adhesive postage stamp issued by Great Britain

Presidential Convention

1844 Whig convention nominates Henry Clay as presidential candidate

Event of Interest

1852 Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm publish the first part of their German Dictionary (fully completed 1961)

    Argentina adopts its constitution Amsterdam begins transferring drinking water out of the dunes William Walker, conqueror of Nicaragua, surrenders to US Navy Lee orders Confederate troops under T J Jackson to Harper's Ferry Major General Benjamin Butler's Union forces occupy New Orleans (US Civil War) Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled first opens its doors in New York City, oldest orthopaedic hospital in the United States Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, 29,000 injured or died Battle of Port Gibson, Mississippi Confederate "National Flag" replaces "Stars & Bars" Confederate congress passes resolution to kill black soldiers -8] Battle at Alexandria, Louisiana (Red River Campaign) Atlanta campaign, Georgia begins American Equal Rights Association forms Howard University chartered

Event of Interest

1891 Legendary pitcher Cy Young wins first game played at Cleveland's League Park Cleveland Spiders 12, Cincinnati Redlegs 3

    US Quarantine Station opens on Angel Island, San Francisco Bay World Columbian Exposition opens in Chicago

Event of Interest

1896 Seven days after parliament was dissolved, Charles Tupper is sworn in as the 6th Prime Minister of Canada

Event of Interest

1898 US Admiral George Dewey commands "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley" as US rout Spanish fleet at Manila

    Premature blast collapses mine tunnel killing 200 at Scofield, Utah Chicago White Sox outfielder Herm McFarland hits first grand slam in American League history in 19-9 win at home against Detroit Tigers commit 12 errors Pan-American Exposition opens in Buffalo

Event of Interest

1903 King Edward VII of Great Britain visits Paris, where he is feted in a first step toward improving Anglo-French relations, culminating in the signing of the Entente Cordiale on 8 April, 1904

    Philadelphia Athletics pitcher John Lush no-hits the Brooklyn Superbas, 6-0 Belgium government of De Trooz forms Indian Mine Laws passes (concessions from Neth-Indies) World's most intense shower (2.47" in 3 minutes) at Portobelo, Panama Netherlands begins unity with Belgium Beverly Hills Hotel opens Longacre Theater opens at 220 W 48th St NYC China's 1st president Yuan Shikai wins dictatorial qualification British liner Lusitania leaves NY for Liverpool German submarine torpedoes US tanker Gulflight Mount Kelud (Indonesia) erupts, boiling crater lake which broke through crater wall killing 5,000 people in 104 small villages

Event of Interest

1919 "L'Ordine Nuovo" Italian socialist weekly newspaper established in Turin by Antonio Gramsci, Angelo Tasca and Palmiro Togliatti

Event of Interest

1919 British naval officer David Beatty is promoted to Admiral of the Fleet

Baseball Record

1920 Legendary slugger Babe Ruth records his first HR for the New York Yankees in 6-0 win over his former club, the Boston Red Sox


The Williamsburg, Mass. B-24 Bomber Crash – May 1, 1945

On the morning of May 1, 1945, a flight of U. S. Army B-24 Liberator aircraft left Westover Field Air Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for a combat formation training flight. Briefing for the flight had been held at 3:00 a.m. during which the pilots had been told that there would be a low cloud overcast covering the area, but that it was expected to clear. However, after the flight was airborne for nearly two hours, instead of improving, weather conditions had continued to deteriorate, and the overcast gradually extended lower and lower to the ground.

Shortly before 8:30 a.m., one aircraft, a B-24J, (Ser. No. 42-50995), began to drop down through the overcast, which by now extended nearly to the ground. The crew however, was unaware of this. The pilots watched the altimeter closely. It was reading 1,500 feet when they suddenly broke through the mist and found themselves at tree-top level over the town of Williamsburg, Massachusetts. The pilots attempted to climb and gave the engines full throttle but it wasn’t enough. The plane barely missed a private home before it began clipping tree-tops for a third of a mile and then crashed into a wooded area of second-growth trees off Briar Hill Road. The B-24 plowed several hundred feet though the woods knocking down trees and smashing through stone walls, breaking apart in the process. Although its fuel tanks held high-octane aviation fuel, there was no fire which saved the lives of crew members trapped in the wreckage.

Two of the crew were killed instantly in the crash, a third died two days later. The other seven suffered various injuries, but survived. Only the co-pilot was able to extricate himself form the wreckage.

Among the first to reach the scene were some local residents including Doctor Ruth V. Hemenway, and a group of wood cutters who had been working nearby. Fire and rescue crews from Williamsburg, Northampton, and Westover Field, as well as state and local police, also arrived to help. It reportedly took rescuers more than an hour to free those trapped in the wreckage. The injured were transported Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.

Those who lost their lives were identified as:

(Nose Gunner) Corporal Kenneth Virgil Powell, age 19, of Urbana, Ohio.

(Gunner) Corporal Donald R. McKenzie, of Spokane, Washington. Cpl. McKenzie was survived by his wife and daughter.

(Gunner) Corporal Joseph Skwara, of Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Cpl. Skwara survived the initial crash, but later succumbed to his injuries.

The following images of the crash scene are from the U.S. Air Force investigation report.

Click on images to enlarge.

Air Force photo from crash report.

Air Force photo from crash report.

Air Force photo from crash report.

Air Force photo from crash report.

Army Air Forces Report Of Major Accident, #45-5-1-5

Research Paper, “Burgy Plane Crash, Briar Hill, 1945”, by Ralmon Jon Black, Williamsburg Historical Society, 2012. Includes articles from the Springfield Union News, and Daily Hampshire Gazette, and other information about the accident.

Daily Hampshire Gazette, “Third Member Of Crew In Bomber Dies From Injuries”, May 3, 1945

Daily Hampshire Gazette, “Fire Chief Is Commended By Colonel Henry”, May 8, 1945

Book, “History Of The Williamsburg Fire Department”, by Mary S. Bisbee, Roger A. Bisbee, Peter B. Banister, c. 1998

Obituary for Cpl. Donald McKenzie, Spokane Daily Chronicle, May 5, 1945, page 6.


Today in World War II History—May 1, 1940 & 1945

80 Years Ago—May 1, 1940: In Norway, German troops from Oslo and Bergen link, and the British evacuate Åndalsnes.

British pass union trade agreement allowing women to work in munitions factories.

B-17G Fortress “Liquid-8-Or” of 569th Bomb Squadron dropping cases of “10 in 1” rations into Holland during Operation Chowhound aimed at breaking the famine in western Holland, May 1 or 3 1945 (public domain via WW2 Database)

75 Years Ago—May 1, 1945: Australian forces land at Tarakan off the coast of Borneo.

Leadership of Germany passes to Adm. Karl Dönitz after Hitler’s suicide the day before.

US Eighth Air Force flies first “Chow Hound” mission, dropping food and supplies to Dutch civilians.

Mexican Air Force arrives in Manila with P-47 fighters to fly for the Allies the “Aztec Eagles” will fly 795 sorties and lose 7 pilots.


Historical Image of Napoleon

From The New International, Vol. XI No. 4, May 1945, pp.𧅳�.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

(The following is the first of two articles by James T. Farrell, one of America’s leading novelists and literary critics, on the historical significance of Napoleon, as a product of the French Revolution during its Thermidorean reaction. The articles are really one essay which will appear in a book now in progress evaluating Tolstoy’s epic work, War and Peace. [Copyright, 1945 – James T. Farrell] – Ed.)

Napoleon has frequently been characterized as “the child of the revolution.” And in War and Peace, Tolstoy remarks: “The sum of men’s individual wills produced both the revolution and Napoleon and only the sum of these wills endured them and then destroyed them.” This sentence embodies one of the major ideas of Tolstoy’s theory of history. On the basis of it, an analysis could be expanded in order to demonstrate how Tolstoy posed the problem of history in his time, and how he failed clearly to meet the conditions which would have permitted an answer more satisfactory than the one he did provide. However, we have dealt with this in another part of this book. Because of the relationship of Tolstoy’s ideas of history to the ideas of the great French Revolution, and more directly, because of the role which Napoleon plays in this novel, it is appropriate here to focus some attention on the revolution, and on Napoleon as its “child.”

“The Revolution had been accomplished in the minds of men long before it was translated into fact,” wrote Mathiez in The French Revolution. This is correct. However, it does not follow from this that first men willed the Revolution and that then, by a combination or addition of their wills, they caused it to happen precisely as they had willed it. Behind the triumph of the ideas of the Revolution – i.e., those of individualism – there were historical needs. The ideas of the Revolution, the actions of unknown sans-culottes on the streets of Paris and of angry and rebellious peasants of the countryside who seized land, burned houses and murdered nobles – all these were in response to human historical needs. Feudal absolutism had become a shell, an empty shell. Intellectually and economically, the French middle class was ready to become master of France. As a class, it was confident, intelligent, determined. The triumph of the ideas of the Revolution prior to the effective change of property relationships carried out in the Revolution signified the ideological defeat of the ideas of feudalism and medievalism. These new ideas had been spreading and gaining in the world for centuries, most emphatically since the Renaissance. Long before 1789 the English had accomplished their bourgeois democratic revolution. The Americans, influenced by the French and the English, had achieved their colonial revolution prior to 1789: they had written their constitution, begun their career of nationhood, and their example was, in turn, a powerful influence in France. The intellectual and historical preparation of the Great French Revolution was thorough, complete.

Ideologically, then, the triumph of the ideas of the Revolution signified the rout of medieval ideology. The medieval idea of the world was that it was the stage on which was played out the drama of the eternal salvation or damnation of the souls of all men and women: this emphasizes an other-wordly ideal. To it, bourgeois ideology opposed an idea of the world as the arena in which man, armed with reason, creates his own free society: its ideal was this-wordly. The medieval idea of society was that of a static, “functional” organism established in the terms of set conceptions of duties, status, prerogatives, and rights, all of which were assumable derivations from God’s natural law. As such, it was a society conceived in terms of the fatherhood of God. The Church was the supervening authority between God and man: Church and State were associated in authority and privilege. And derivable from this conception was that of the divine right of kings. Bourgeois ideology opposed all of these conceptions. To the medieval idea of natural law, it opposed its own idea of natural law based on the nature of man. To the divine right of kings, it counterposed the natural rights of man. To, the idea of a society based on the fatherhood of God, it countered with that of a society established by a social contract. To the Divine Will, it affirmed the Will of Man. The static idea of medieval society was ideologically battered with the idea of progress. Instead of man saving his soul in the next world, bourgeois ideology offered to man the prospect of making his own history in this one. Instead of the authority and will of God then, it emphasized human reason, that “telescope of the intellect” which Pierre Bezuhov, at one point in his career, tried to use as the means of discovering the good life. The triumph of the ideas of the Revolution in the minds of men meant the acceptance of these new ideas.

All revolutions in history are explosive efforts to achieve economic emancipation. These are, to repeat, preconditioned on material and human needs. The great human tides in history which move toward economic emancipation by revolutionary means are tides made up of real human beings, not of abstracted economic men. These movements are dramatic moments in the long and bloody effort of mankind to achieve real individuality. In all real, i.e., progressive, revolutions, man takes a step forwards toward the end of becoming the human individual. The ideas in the heads of men express these hopes, these aims. But these ideas at the same time seem to exist as if in their own right. So it was in the case of the triumph of the ideas of the French Revolution prior to 1789. Further, it is to be remembered that in the realm of ideology, revolutions begin on the theological, the moral, the political plane. Ideologically, the bourgeois democratic revolutions began theologically and morally. From theology, the emphasis shifted to the moral, and then to the political plane. The authority generally appealed to in the English Revolution was theological: formally, the source of this authority was The Bible. In the American Colonial Revolution, and in the French Revolution, the appeal was to reason and human self-interest. The process of the triumph of the ideas of the Revolution in the minds of men was one which involved the secularization of ideas. And this demanded a complete revaluation of human values. These new ideas became weapons of the mind, used as later the guns and the pikes were used in Paris. It was an intellectually well armed French middle class which was prepared to take power in the year 1789. Kautsky, in Ethics and the Materialist Conception of History, wrote:

“The fight of the democratic and rising class against the governing power, independent of the bourgeoisie and subject to the feudal aristocracy with their court nobility and their state church, commenced in England more than a century before France, at a time when only a few had got over the Christian thought. If in France the fight against the state church became a fight between Christianity and atheistic materialism, in England it became only a struggle between special democratic sects and the state-church organized sect.”

The French middle class, ready for the Revolution, was materialistic. The writings of its ideologues had grown into a mounting and pitiless series of attacks which increasingly emphasized this materialism. [1]

“Thus,” as Mathiez wrote, “criticism was working under-ground which long preceded and prepared for the explosion. The opportunity had only to arise, and all this accumulated and stifled rage would lend force to the attacks . stirred up and directed by a host of malcontents.”

The last days of the Bourbon regime were ones marked by a financial and economic impasse. Feudal absolutism served as an excuse for every form of abuse. A doomed class, with its apparatus, sought to hold onto every privilege which it could no longer really exercise or defend. And at the same time France was a land of flourishing prosperity. The Revolution was preceded by successive crises. Also, waves of popular emotions, peasant rebellions, sacking of factories, cries for bread, shouts of “Vive la liberté” troop mutinies, all this and more dramatically announced the coming Revolution. Arthur Young and other foreigners in France had predicted it. In France there was the most intense ferment. Lawyers, priests, publicists of every kind wrote pamphlets attacking the social system. The idea of a new freedom in the minds of men was alive, active, dynamic. Thus we see that this sum of individual wills, of which Tolstoy spoke, was being not only added up, but added up on a new sheet of paper. In other words, new wills were being forged.

The ideological preparation of the Revolution planted newer, fresher, fuller ideals of freedom in hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of human wills. In his formal theory of history, Tolstoy placed the consciousness of free will in the minds of men. In France, prior to 1789, there grew in that consciousness – the will to be free. Formally, this was expressed in the idea of the nation, the idea of the will of the nation. But all of these ideas were differently interpreted by different individuals and, more importantly, by different social classes! The bourgeoisie and its idealogues controlled the pen. There was no proletariat in the modern sense: there were craftsmen, artisans, the lower middle class and what most historians call the urban “rabble” and there was the peasantry. But at the head of this movement was the French bourgeoisie. Mathiez, in The French Revolution, also comments:

“The class which was about to take the lead in the Revolution was fully conscious of its strength and its rights. It is not true that it allowed itself to be led astray by an empty ideology: it had a thorough knowledge of realities and possessed the means of adapting its interests to their exigencies.”
 

The King, the Bourgeoisie and the People

Thomas Jefferson was in France during the first days of the French Revolution. On July 19, 1789, he wrote to John Jay, giving an account of some of the first revolutionary events. Prior to July 14th, the excitement in Paris had been intense, feverish: the tense atmosphere which immediately precedes the first elemental eruption of social revolution. The States General was meeting at Versailles. The Parisians, armed with stones, had frightened one hundred German cavalry and two hundred Swiss. The cavalry had retired in fear to Versailles, lest they be massacred. The people armed themselves with what weapons they could get, and they were roaming the streets. And “. the States pressed on the King to send away the troops, to permit the bourgeoisie of Paris to arm for the preservation of order in the city.” A committee of magistrates and electors of the city was formed to take the function of government. The King refused these propositions. The “mob,” joined by soldiers, broke into the St. Lazare prison, released prisoners, got some arms, took a great quantity of corn. “The committee determined to raise forty-eight thousand bourgeois, or rather to restrain their numbers to forty-eight thousand.” The governor of the Invalides told the representatives of this committee that he could not give out arms without orders from above. But the people took arms.

Such is part of the story of the prelude to Bastille Day, as Jefferson described it. And then, in the same letter, Jefferson penned an illuminating account of the return of Louis XVI from Versailles to Paris after the storming of the Bastille. His picture can be divided into two parts.

“. the procession . the King’s carriage was in the centre, on each side of it the States General, in two ranks afoot, and at their head the Marquis de La Fayette, as Commander in Chief, on horseback, and Bourgeois guards before and behind.”

The Bourgeois Revolution marched in procession with pomp, the King in a gilded carriage, but controlled and protected by the representatives of the leading class of the Revolution. The parliamentarians trampled on foot on either side of the King they were legislators, the representatives of the people, but not men of formal pomp and power. And this procession was protected by the Praetorian Guard (Kropotkin and other historians have quite properly described the Bourgeois National Guard as such) which marched arms in hand. And lest we forget, there was a commander in chief on horse: in fact, we can say that the Marquis de La Fayette here revealed himself in his true historic role, that of the transitional man on horseback of the Bourgeois Revolution.

And now, let us look at Part Two of this picture:

“About sixty thousand citizens of all forms and colors, armed with the muskets of the Bastile and Invalides, as far as they would go, the rest with pistols, swords, pikes, pruning hooks, scythes, etc., lined all the streets through which the procession passed, and, with the crowds of people in the streets, doors and windows, saluted them everywhere with cries of ‘vive la nation’ but not a single ‘vive le roy’ was heard.”

Remembering what Tolstoy said of wills in history, we can here observe that the separate wills had not been properly combined: the process of historical addition had not as yet been made thoroughly. For the two parts of our pictures show us two separate combinations of wills. The picture is uncomposed.

“When a revolution,” Kropotkin said in The Great French Revolution, “has once begun, each event in it not merely sums up the events hitherto accomplished it also contains the chief elements of what is to come so that the contemporaries of the French Revolution, if only they could have freed themselves from momentary impressions, and separated the essential from the accidental, might have been able, on the morrow of July 14, to foresee whither events as a whole were thenceforth trending.”

Kropotkin’s observation was made in reference to the consequence of July 14 at Versailles: it relates directly to the scene we have just described.

Let us return to this picture and some salient points of is background. Here is what Kropotkin wrote in his history:

“On the 14th, in proportion as royalty lost its menacing character, it was the people who in a corresponding degree, inspired terror in the . Third Estate . The King had only to present himself before the Assembly, recognize the authority of the delegates, and promise them inviolability, for the whole of the representatives to burst into applause and transports of joy. They even ran out to form a guard of honor round him in the streets, and made the streets of Versailles resound with cries of ‘Vive le roi.’ And this at the very moment when the people were being massacred in Paris in the name of the same King . The middle class revolutionaries, of whom very many belonged to the Freemasons, made an ‘arch of steel’ with their swords for the King on his arrival at the Hotel de Ville.”

Let us now note what Jefferson wrote of the King’s arrival at the Hotel de Ville.

“The King stopped at the Hotel de Ville. There Monsieur Bailly presented and put into his hat the popular cockade, and addressed him. The King being unprepared and unable to answer, Bailly went to him, gathered from him some scraps of sentences, and made out an answer, which he delivered to the audience as from the King.”

Superficial observation would have suggested that at this moment the French Revolution had been achieved. Jefferson, who was very close to La Fayette, thought so. It was his interpretation that with this scene, the Revolution had been tranquilized and that the future would then be a mere matter of the countryside catching up with Paris in order that there be orderly progress and freedom in France. And the bourgeois hoped that tranquility had been gained. But these wills had not really been composed. This picture has not, as yet, been really put together. There were still those thousands in the streets, the armed masses which composed the most revolutionary class of the eighteenth century and who had entered the arena of politics. And there were thousands and thousands more of them in town and country. Concerning them, Mathiez commented:

“The workmen and peasants were capable of a brief movement of revolt when the yoke became too heavy, but could not see their way toward changing the social order. They were only just beginning to learn to read.”

They were – the masses of town and country – the beasts of burden of this society. But thousands of them, these beasts of burden from the villages, from the hovels, from such sections as the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, had gotten weapons and had glimpsed something of the light which is cast by the ideas of human freedom.

To repeat, they were grabbing muskets, pistols, knives, pruning hooks, scythes, everything they could and, arms in hands, they were combining their wills as they “. saw in the growing anarchy a chance to revenge themselves upon the social order . ” Mathiez here further added that: “The rising was directed not only against the feudal system, but against monopolies of commodities, taxes, bad judges, all those who exploited the people and lived upon its work.” Mirabeau had thundered at Versailles that the States General represented the people. But this body was no sooner starting to assert authority than the people also took into their own hands the task of representing themselves. Scarcely having learned to read, they had clearly grasped the meaning of some of the ideas in the air. When the procession had passed them from Versailles, they cried out: “Vive la nation!” They had become part of the nation in fact they had entered history. But they were not, as yet, properly composed into that picture which Jefferson painted for us.
 

The Bourgeoisie Coaches the Monarchy

To continue, it is significant to note that at the Hotel de Ville, Louis XVI did not know what to say. A not unsympathetic biographer of Louis XVI, Saul K. Padover (The Life and Death of Louis XVI), says of him: “In a crisis he showed himself as helpless as a paralytic.” [2] Padover remarks on how a streamer inside the throne room at the Hotel de Ville expressed the new situation. It was worded: “Louis XVI, Father of the French and King of a Free People.” Louis XVI was without assurance. When the fires of revolution were lit in France, he could only stutter and mumble: he was unable to perceive, in fact, the difference between a street riot and a revolution. Just prior to this scene, when Bailly had met the procession at the gates of Paris, Bailly had told him: “The people . have reconquered their King.” Further, contrast Louis XVI and Bailly. He had just previously sworn that “nothing in the world would induce him to deliver his welcoming speech [to Louis XVI] in any position other than an upright one” (Padover). Bailly, the bourgeois mayor, hero of the hour along with La Fayette, revealed his full presence of mind. He told the King what to say and, then, he said it for the King to the people. Clearly, we can here see a summing up of the Revolution in the sense in which Kropotkin spoke.

Here, likewise, is the implied prediction of events to come. Bailly’s actions, words, gestures reveal a consciousness of power. Surrounding the Hotel de Ville is the instrument of that power, the Bourgeois Guard, composed of Paris bankers and others. And checked by the “arch of steel” is the people. Also present is that popular man on horseback, the Marquis de La Fayette. He understood what was happening, Bailly under-stood. The people understood less, but they knew what they no longer wanted, and they stood watching, armed. But Louis XVI knew nothing. The significance of these events was not clear in his head. He woke up one morning in the year 1789, an absolutist monarch he went to bed that same evening, a bourgeois king. [3]
 

History as the Greatest of Artists

The bourgeois program seemed, at this moment, to have been attained. Bailly, telling the King what to say, symbolized that program: the bourgeois wanted the reins of power in its hands: It seems that this had been gained. For Jefferson writes further of this scene: “On their return, the popular cries were ‘vive le roy et la nation.’ He [Louis] was conducted by a Garde Bourgeoise to his palace at Versailles, and thus concluded such an amende honorable as no sovereign ever made, and no people ever received. Letters written with his own hand to the Marquis de La Fayette removed the scruples of his position. Tranquility is now restored to the capital.”

Studying this picture, it seems as if history were the greatest of all artists. Here, in this scene, there is revealed an art as seemingly miraculous as that of Tolstoy in War and Peace, But it is a real historical scene. And in it, the gestures, the words, the roles are so correct, so proper. There is perfection of characterization. History comes before our eyes, yes, with pregnant artistry. Let us further note this “artistry,” The red cockade is put onto the hat of the King in the name of the nation. The man who does this is the leader of the bourgeoisie. Consider the symbol. There is no crown. And its color is the red of revolution. The class leading the revolution asserts itself: it bestows the revolutionary symbol on the monarch. The symbol attracts the people. And what of Louis XVI? There he stands, merely a bewildered spectator. How perfect his role, how proper that he has nothing to say, how artistically adequate that his best is a stutter! And, to the contrary, how quick, how ready is Bailly to speak in his name. And yet all of this would not have been possible, would not have been necessary but for those armed thousands out there in the street, standing determined and ready behind that bourgeois “arch of steel,” From that day forth the masses of humanity became revealed as a force that always must be reckoned with.

This scene embodies and predicts the course of the Revolution. But here there is not space for any detailed account of that course. In addition, I believe that I can assume a sufficient familiarity with it on the part of my readers. Suffice it to say that the French bourgeoisie triumphed in the Revolution it gained its economic emancipation, became the master of France and, in fact, almost became the master of Europe. The American Colonial Revolution made possible the conditions which permitted the capitalist exploitation of a whole continent under one unified government: the French Revolution created the conditions which almost made possible, with Napoleon, the same accomplishment. Of this, we will comment later. Here, let it be stressed that in this scene we can see the program of the Revolution. That of the people was to create the nation, that is, to create themselves as rulers and free men. But they were not then capable of performing this task. The program of the bourgeoisie was to create a constitutional monarchy based on the English model, and to rule through this form. The program is here presented to us in picture, spectacle, in word, gesture, movement. But it has not been, at this date, really composed. The scene is only temporarily tranquilized. Before the tranquility is attained, before this picture is really composed, there will be war, terror, misery. Before the bourgeoisie can really attain its revolutionary aims it must first be pushed by these masses, and then it must tranquilize them.

With this in mind, let us skip from July 1789 to December 2nd, 1804. Many of the actors of that pregnantly predictive scene of 1789 are no more. Many of those armed thousands of that year have died as heroes and revolutionaries, martyrs on the streets of Paris and on the field at Valmy, or else they have died on foreign battle fields. Most of the leaders, too, whom these armed thousands erected on their shoulders, are gone. Some are temporarily forgotten. The very memory of some is still hated, and excoriated. Some of the living who were active spirits of that day are hunted by police, controlled by the ex-Jacobin and regicide, Fouché. The Marquis de La Fayette, that transitional man on horseback, sulks in exile: his fate was to be born too soon and too well. With new actors, that picture is composed. The pieces are fitted together. The wills are “combined.” The proper composition, in formal fact, occurs on the afternoon and evening of December 2nd, 1804. France was tremendously prosperous. Her armies, forged from the Revolution, had inspired fear in all the feudal courts of Europe. The party of Order had triumphed and it had found the man who sealed this triumph, Napoleon Bonaparte. It had even partially restored the land of the aristocrats and it had reactivated the church, using it as an agency or instrument of government. The French bourgeoisie was, in passing, more lavish with its distribution of the immaterial goods of life than it was with the material goods. It reserved most of the latter for itself. It, however, was generous in its distribution of these immaterial goods, and wished to reserve merely the privileges of atheism for itself. It had gained control of all of the instruments which affected and influenced the will of the nation: thus, it had managed to equate that will with its own interests and aims. In 1789 and again in periods until Thermidor, the men and women of Paris had expressed the will of the nation, not only in words, but in the streets with arms in hand: that will had been listened to, heeded. Now, even private correspondence was opened. The police agents of Fouché were ubiquitous. Celebrations of Bastille Day, great national festivals in honor of the nation, these were no longer wanted. No more was the red cockade worn. The Party of Order was now ready to permit the final act in the achievement of its political forms.
 

Napoleon, Self-Crowned Emperor

Napoleon Bonaparte called the Pope of Rome to Paris so that His Holiness might place on Napoleon’s head the crown of Charlemagne. He waited for the arrival of the Pope with impatience. On the 25th of November, 1804, he wrote to Cardinal Fesch:

“It is absolutely necessary for the Pope to accelerate his journey . the 2nd of December is my last possible date. If the Pope is not here by then, the coronation will take place, and the consecration will be deferred.”

The Pope came. Napoleon rode out to Fontainebleau to meet him, dressed in a hunting costume, surrounded by dogs and huntsmen. The Pope got out of his carriage, crossed the road and entered the carriage of Napoleon. Once installed in Paris, the Pope sometimes appeared alone on the balcony of the Tuileries, sometimes with Napoleon. When the latter was present, applause was always loudest. Meneval, the young man who succeeded Bourrienne as Bonaparte’s secretary, tells us of those days in his Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte. When the Pope dined with Bonaparte, “Napoleon kept constantly giving him his hand.” On December 2nd, the Pope went first to the grand cathedral of Notre Dame. He was, says, Meneval, “accompanied by a large retinue of priests and prelates, in magnificent robes, preceded by his cross-bearer, who was mounted on a richly caparisoned donkey. This monk, who wore on his head a broad-brimmed hat of a rounded form, carried a large gilt cross in his hands.” Yes, how different this was from the spectacles of the early Revolution, for instance, from the festival in honor of the Supreme Being. And let us note:

“It was three hours later that the Emperor followed the Pope . driving in a stage carriage glittering with plate glass and gilding, and laden with pages, who hung on the door, and before and behind. The pomp of the procession was in harmony with the grandeur of the occasion.”

Many re-touches had been necessary before the picture of 1789 was, hereby, properly and finally composed. Now, the populace gazes awed, bewildered, amazed, seeing a spectacle that was novel. The medievalism which it set out to destroy in 1789 was restored, but only formally. The spectacle was grand, but empty. And watching it, what different populace! No more do we see the nation with arms in hands. For now, the man on horseback and the man in the carriage had become one. His rule is secured.

And then, the solemn moment arrives inside of the Cathedral. The Pope of Rome holds the crown of Charlemagne in his hands. And the man who is to be crowned reaches out, takes the crown, places it on his own head. Bonaparte makes himself Napoleon I. “The Pope was reduced to the role of a mere spectator,” commented Meneval. Next, Josephine knelt before her husband, and he placed a smaller crown upon her head. Tarlé, the Russian historian, speaks of this scene in his excellent biography, Bonaparte:

“This gesture of placing the crown . upon his head with his own hands had a symbolic significance. He did not desire that undue importance should be attached to the Papal ‘blessing.’ The victorious soldier, born of the French Revolution, could not bring himself to accept the crown from anyone’s hands but his own . ”

This remark far from exhausts the symbolic significance of the scene. Napoleon was a new kind of Emperor – a bourgeois Emperor. The triumphant bourgeoisie – the class which had achieved its revolution, which knew what it wanted, the new master of society – it needed no Pope to bless its own authority. It merely needed a Pope as a spectator, as an appendage: it needed a Pope to console, to impress, to awe the sons and daughters of those men and women who had lined the streets in July 1789 and who had stormed the Tuileries in August 1792.

The snatching of the crown out of the hands of the legendary successor of Saint Peter had a still further significance. The richest, the most powerful bourgeoisie of Europe, with its goods selling all over the continent, its armies knowing what it means to march in the capitals of the old world as conquerors, its art galleries and homes filled with the loot of Europe – what need had it to be given anything? It could take: it had taken. The man who represented this victory, this power, who represented a confident hope for the future – what need had he, either, to be given anything? He, too, could take.

And in Notre Dame – the very cathedral no longer belonged to the Pope and his hierarchy, but to the French state – Napoleon, self-crowned Emperor of bourgeois France, said: “I swear that I will govern with the sole purpose of securing the interests, the happiness and the glory of the French people.”

According to Tarlé, there is a legendary story which tells us that, in the midst of all this pomp and glory,

“Napoleon asked an old soldier of Republican convictions how he liked the celebration and received the startling answer: ‘Excellently, Your Majesty. But it is a pity that there are lacking today 300,000 persons willing to lay down their heads to make similar ceremonies impossible.’”

Those willing to give their heads had sacrificed them: these heads had secured the Revolution. This new combination of wills – to revert to Tolstoy’s language – could only come after these heads had fallen. The wills of the bourgeoisie of 1789 had envisaged one state of affairs: that of the masses of the people another. In essence, the wills of the bourgeoisie had been attained, practically, and then, formally. And with this composition of the picture, the new and self-crowned Prince of Glory established himself: the era of la gloire gave formal and public recognition to itself.

Notes

1. “None of the great noblemen who applauded the audacity and impertinences of the philosophes took into consideration that the religious idea was the cornerstone of the existing order. Once free criticism was turned loose, how could it be expected to confine itself to mocking at superstition? . It spread doubt and satire everywhere. Yet the privileged orders did not seem to understand.” – The French Revolution, by Albert Mathiez, New York 1928, page 13.

2. In other portions of this book, some of Tolstoy’s characterizations of aristocrats are analyzed. It is noted how Count Rostov, of War and Peace, for instance, can only mutter and mumble when faced with a personal crisis, and how his characteristic gestures in such moments is that of waving: “his arms in despair.” Similarly, it is noted how Czar Alexander I, fleeing after the rout of Austerlitz, is overwhelmed because of the difficulty of leaping, on horseback, across a ditch, and how he is impelled to tears. The incapacity of feudal princes and nobles to meet crises in the modern period is quite observable in history and in literature. Trotsky, in passing, offers some brilliant observations on this in his comparison of Louis XVI and the last Romanov in The History of the Russian Revolution.

3. Concerning this “tranquility,” Kropotkin observed: “. the mass of the people preserved an attitude of reserve and mistrust, . King of the middle classes as much as they liked, but not a King of the people.” And Nicker, following this scene, said to the National Assembly: “Today, gentlemen, it is in your hands that the salvation of the state lies.”


'They raped every German female from eight to 80'

"Red Army soldiers don't believe in 'individual liaisons' with German women," wrote the playwright Zakhar Agranenko in his diary when serving as an officer of marine infantry in East Prussia. "Nine, ten, twelve men at a time - they rape them on a collective basis."

The Soviet armies advancing into East Prussia in January 1945, in huge, long columns, were an extraordinary mixture of modern and medieval: tank troops in padded black helmets, Cossack cavalrymen on shaggy mounts with loot strapped to the saddle, lend-lease Studebakers and Dodges towing light field guns, and then a second echelon in horse-drawn carts. The variety of character among the soldiers was almost as great as that of their military equipment. There were freebooters who drank and raped quite shamelessly, and there were idealistic, austere communists and members of the intelligentsia appalled by such behaviour.

Beria and Stalin, back in Moscow, knew perfectly well what was going on from a number of detailed reports. One stated that "many Germans declare that all German women in East Prussia who stayed behind were raped by Red Army soldiers". Numerous examples of gang rape were given - "girls under 18 and old women included".

Marshal Rokossovsky issued order No 006 in an attempt to direct "the feelings of hatred at fighting the enemy on the battlefield." It appears to have had little effect. There were also a few arbitrary attempts to exert authority. The commander of one rifle division is said to have "personally shot a lieutenant who was lining up a group of his men before a German woman spreadeagled on the ground". But either officers were involved themselves, or the lack of discipline made it too dangerous to restore order over drunken soldiers armed with submachine guns.

Calls to avenge the Motherland, violated by the Wehrmacht's invasion, had given the idea that almost any cruelty would be allowed. Even many young women soldiers and medical staff in the Red Army did not appear to disapprove. "Our soldiers' behaviour towards Germans, particularly German women, is absolutely correct!" said a 21-year-old from Agranenko's reconnaissance detachment. A number seemed to find it amusing. Several German women recorded how Soviet servicewomen watched and laughed when they were raped. But some women were deeply shaken by what they witnessed in Germany. Natalya Gesse, a close friend of the scientist Andrei Sakharov, had observed the Red Army in action in 1945 as a Soviet war correspondent. "The Russian soldiers were raping every German female from eight to eighty," she recounted later. "It was an army of rapists."

Drink of every variety, including dangerous chemicals seized from laboratories and workshops, was a major factor in the violence. It seems as if Soviet soldiers needed alcoholic courage to attack a woman. But then, all too often, they drank too much and, unable to complete the act, used the bottle instead with appalling effect. A number of victims were mutilated obscenely.

The subject of the Red Army's mass rapes in Germany has been so repressed in Russia that even today veterans refuse to acknowledge what really happened. The handful prepared to speak openly, however, are totally unrepentant. "They all lifted their skirts for us and lay on the bed," said the leader of one tank company. He even went on to boast that "two million of our children were born" in Germany.

The capacity of Soviet officers to convince themselves that most of the victims were either happy with their fate, or at least accepted that it was their turn to suffer after what the Wehrmacht had done in Russia, is striking. "Our fellows were so sex-starved," a Soviet major told a British journalist at the time, "that they often raped old women of sixty, seventy or even eighty - much to these grandmothers' surprise, if not downright delight."

One can only scratch at the surface of the psychological contradictions. When gang-raped women in Königsberg begged their attackers afterwards to put them out of their misery, the Red Army men appear to have felt insulted. "Russian soldiers do not shoot women," they replied. "Only German soldiers do that." The Red Army had managed to convince itself that because it had assumed the moral mission to liberate Europe from fascism it could behave entirely as it liked, both personally and politically.

Domination and humiliation permeated most soldiers' treatment of women in East Prussia. The victims not only bore the brunt of revenge for Wehrmacht crimes, they also represented an atavistic target as old as war itself. Rape is the act of a conqueror, the feminist historian Susan Brownmiller observed, aimed at the "bodies of the defeated enemy's women" to emphasise his victory. Yet after the initial fury of January 1945 dissipated, the sadism became less marked. By the time the Red Army reached Berlin three months later, its soldiers tended to regard German women more as a casual right of conquest. The sense of domination certainly continued, but this was perhaps partly an indirect product of the humiliations which they themselves had suffered at the hands of their commanders and the Soviet authorities as a whole.

A number of other forces or influences were at work. Sexual freedom had been a subject for lively debate within Communist party circles during the 1920s, but during the following decade, Stalin ensured that Soviet society depicted itself as virtually asexual. This had nothing to do with genuine puritanism: it was because love and sex did not fit in with dogma designed to "deindividualise" the individual. Human urges and emotions had to be suppressed. Freud's work was banned, divorce and adultery were matters for strong party disapproval. Criminal sanctions against homosexuality were reintroduced. The new doctrine extended even to the complete suppression of sex education. In graphic art, the clothed outline of a woman's breasts was regarded as dangerously erotic. They had to be disguised under boiler suits. The regime clearly wanted any form of desire to be converted into love for the party and above all for Comrade Stalin.

Most ill-educated Red Army soldiers suffered from sexual ignorance and utterly unenlightened attitudes towards women. So the Soviet state's attempts to suppress the libido of its people created what one Russian writer described as a sort of "barracks eroticism" which was far more primitive and violent than "the most sordid foreign pornography". All this was combined with the dehumanising influence of modern propaganda and the atavistic, warring impulses of men marked by fear and suffering.

The novelist Vasily Grossman, a war correspondent attached to the invading Red Army, soon discovered that rape victims were not just Germans. Polish women also suffered. So did young Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian women who had been sent back to Germany by the Wehrmacht for slave labour. "Liberated Soviet girls quite often complain that our soldiers rape them," he noted. "One girl said to me in tears: 'He was an old man, older than my father'."

The rape of Soviet women and girls seriously undermines Russian attempts to justify Red Army behaviour on the grounds of revenge for German brutality in the Soviet Union. On March 29 1945 the central committee of the Komsomol (the youth organisation of the Soviet Union) informed Stalin's associate Malenkov of a report from the 1st Ukrainian Front. "On the night of 24 February," General Tsygankov recorded in the first of many examples, "a group of 35 provisional lieutenants on a course and their battalion commander entered the women's dormitory in the village of Grutenberg and raped them."

In Berlin, many women were simply not prepared for the shock of Russian revenge, however much horror propaganda they had heard from Goebbels. Many reassured themselves that, although the danger must be great out in the countryside, mass rapes could hardly take place in the city in front of everybody.

In Dahlem, Soviet officers visited Sister Kunigunde, the mother superior of Haus Dahlem, a maternity clinic and orphanage. The officers and their men behaved impeccably. In fact, the officers even warned Sister Kunigunde about the second-line troops following on behind. Their prediction proved entirely accurate. Nuns, young girls, old women, pregnant women and mothers who had just given birth were all raped without pity.

Yet within a couple of days, a pattern emerged of soldiers flashing torches in the faces of women huddled in the bunkers to choose their victims. This process of selection, as opposed to the indiscriminate violence shown earlier, indicates a definite change. By this stage Soviet soldiers started to treat German women more as sexual spoils of war than as substitutes for the Wehrmacht on which to vent their rage.

Rape has often been defined by writers on the subject as an act of violence which has little to do with sex. But that is a definition from the victim's perspective. To understand the crime, one needs to see things from the perpetrator's point of view, especially in the later stages when unaggravated rape had succeeded the extreme onslaught of January and February.

Many women found themselves forced to "concede" to one soldier in the hope that he would protect them from others. Magda Wieland, a 24-year-old actress, was dragged from a cupboard in her apartment just off the Kurfürstendamm. A very young soldier from central Asia hauled her out. He was so excited at the prospect of a beautiful young blonde that he ejaculated prematurely. By sign language, she offered herself to him as a girlfriend if he would protect her from other Russian soldiers, but he went off to boast to his comrades and another soldier raped her. Ellen Goetz, a Jewish friend of Magda's, was also raped. When other Germans tried to explain to the Russians that she was Jewish and had been persecuted, they received the retort: "Frau ist Frau."

Women soon learned to disappear during the "hunting hours" of the evening. Young daughters were hidden in storage lofts for days on end. Mothers emerged into the street to fetch water only in the early morning when Soviet soldiers were sleeping off the alcohol from the night before. Sometimes the greatest danger came from one mother giving away the hiding place of other girls in a desperate bid to save her own daughter. Older Berliners still remember the screams every night. It was impossible not to hear them because all the windows had been blown in.

Estimates of rape victims from the city's two main hospitals ranged from 95,000 to 130,000. One doctor deduced that out of approximately 100,000 women raped in the city, some 10,000 died as a result, mostly from suicide. The death rate was thought to have been much higher among the 1.4 million estimated victims in East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia. Altogether at least two million German women are thought to have been raped, and a substantial minority, if not a majority, appear to have suffered multiple rape.

If anyone attempted to defend a woman against a Soviet attacker it was either a father trying to defend a daughter or a young son trying to protect his mother. "The 13-year old Dieter Sahl," neighbours wrote in a letter shortly after the event, "threw himself with flailing fists at a Russian who was raping his mother in front of him. He did not succeed in anything except getting himself shot."

After the second stage of women offering themselves to one soldier to save themselves from others, came the post-battle need to survive starvation. Susan Brownmiller noted "the murky line that divides wartime rape from wartime prostitution". Soon after the surrender in Berlin, Ursula von Kardorff found all sorts of women prostituting themselves for food or the alternative currency of cigarettes. Helke Sander, a German film-maker who researched the subject in great detail, wrote of "the grey area of direct force, blackmail, calculation and real affection".

The fourth stage was a strange form of cohabitation in which Red Army officers settled in with German "occupation wives". The Soviet authorities were appalled and enraged when a number of Red Army officers, intent on staying with their German lovers, deserted when it was time to return to the Motherland.

Even if the feminist definition of rape purely as an act of violence proves to be simplistic, there is no justification for male complacency. If anything, the events of 1945 reveal how thin the veneer of civilisation can be when there is little fear of retribution. It also suggests a much darker side to male sexuality than we might care to admit.


1945-2000

'May Day assumed enlarged importance during periods of turbulence, such as during the miners' strike.' Photograph: Keith Pattison

In the postwar period, May Day was generally tolerated and in some cases even recognised as a public holiday. In the UK, 1 May was made a bank holiday by the Labour government in 1978. In some cases, this was part of a process in which organised labour was co-opted, resulting in the holiday becoming an observed ritual and little more. But it continued to inspire astonishing upheavals – May Day protests played a significant role in the Portuguese revolution of 1974, as well as in the uprisings against apartheid in the 1980s. And even in less dramatic circumstances, it assumed greater importance during periods of turbulence, such as during the miners' strike.


Editorial: past tense

The war in Europe has ended, but just how or when may well puzzle the historians. The German Government surrendered unconditionally at 2 41 am. (French time) on the morning of Monday, May 7, when General Jodl signed the Act of Military Surrender at Rheims. This Act laid down that all operations would cease at 11 1 pm. (Central European time) on the evening of Tuesday, May 8, although, as Mr Churchill said in his broadcast, “in the interests of saving lives the ceasefire began yesterday (May 7) to be sounded all along the front.” But Mr Churchill also said that “hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight to-night, Tuesday, May 8”… or, to be strictly accurate, on the morning of Wednesday, May 9.

This difference of an hour can, of course, be explained by the difference between Central European time and British time, but it does not alter the curious fact that “officially” the war ended for Germany at 11 pm on Tuesday, May 8, and for us at one minute after midnight on the morning of Wednesday, May 9. If this were all, the matter would be simple enough. It has, however, been further complicated by the Russian insistence on a second ceremony in Berlin. The reason for this is plain. There was nothing wrong with the surrender at Rheims, but the Russians felt that it would impress their defeat more strongly on the German people if the ceremony took place in Berlin, their capital, and if the document were signed by Field Marshal Keitel himself, the Chief of the German High Command and the best known of the Nazi generals. There was also the fact that, surrender or not, the Germans were still resisting the Red Army in Czechoslovakia.

But it was one thing to agree on a second surrender and another to keep the first a secret. The Associated Press has been blamed (a little unjustly) because its correspondent at Supreme Allied Headquarters revealed the news to Britain and America. The correspondent may have been at fault, but it is clear that even if he had not sent the message the news would still have got out.
Continue reading.


Demmin mass suicide-1 May 1945

On May 1, 1945, hundreds of people committed mass suicide in the town of Demmin, in the Province of Pomerania(now in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), Germany. The suicides occurred during a mass panic that was provoked by atrocities committed by soldiers of the Soviet Red Army, who had sacked the town the day before. Although death toll estimates vary, it is acknowledged to be the largest mass suicide ever recorded in Germany. The suicide was part of a mass suicide wave among the population of Nazi Germany.

Nazi officials, the police, the Wehrmacht and a number of citizens had left the town before the arrival of the Red Army, while thousands of refugees from the East had also taken refuge in Demmin. Three Soviet negotiators were shot prior to the Soviet advance into Demmin and Hitler Youth, amongst others, fired on Soviet soldiers once inside the town. The retreating Wehrmacht had blown up the bridges over the Peene and Tollense rivers, which enclosed the town to the north, west and south, thus blocking the Red Army’s advance and trapping the remaining civilians. The Soviet units looted and burned down the town, and committed rapes and executions.

Numerous inhabitants and refugees then committed suicide, with many families committing suicide together. Methods of suicides included drowning in the rivers, hanging, wrist-cutting, and use of firearms. Most bodies were buried in mass graves, and after the war, discussion of the mass suicide was tabooed by the East German Communist government.

Demmin was a stronghold of the nationalistic organisations DNVP and the Stahlhelm in the Weimar Republic.

Before 1933 there were boycotts of Jewish businesses, which drove away most of the Jews and the synagogue was sold in June 1938 to a furniture company, which is why it survived as a building today. In the riots of November 1938 thousands gathered in the square in anti-Semitic demonstration. In the last national elections to the Reichstag on 5 March 1933 the National Socialist Party won 53.7 percent of votes in Demmin.

During the last weeks of World War II, tens of thousands of Germans committed suicide, especially in territories occupied by the Red Army.The German historian Udo Grashhoff and the German author Kurt Bauer write that the suicides occurred in two stages: in a first wave before the Red Army’s arrival, in part due to a “fear of the Russians” spread by Nazi propaganda, and – as in Demmin – in a second wave after the Red Army’s arrival, triggered by executions, looting and mass rapes committed by Soviet soldiers.

In 1945, Demmin had between 15,000 and 16,000 inhabitants. Thousands of refugees from the East were also in town, roughly doubling its population.In late April, when the Eastern Front drew closer (Battle of Berlin), women, children and elderly men were forced to dig a 5 kilometres (3.1 mi)-long anti-tank ditch east of the town. [6] On April 28, the German flight from the town began: the Nazi party functionaries left on confiscated fire engines, the hospital was evacuated, all the police departed, and a number of civilians fled.

Demmin was reached by spearheads of the Soviet 65th Army and the 1st Guards Tank Corps at noon on April 30, 1945.

At the tower of the church, a white banner was hoisted.According to an eyewitness, three Soviet negotiators, one of them a German officer, approached the anti-tank ditch and promised to spare Demmin’s civilian population from “harassment” and looting in the case of a surrender without fight. The eyewitness was then 19 years old, serving as a German soldier, and laid in the anti-tank ditch.According to him, three shots were fired at the negotiators, who sank to the ground.The remaining Wehrmacht units,belonging to Army Group Weichsel, and some Waffen-SS,retreated through Demmin, and roughly about half an hour after the incident,blew up all bridges leading out of town behind them.By that time, Soviet units were already advancing through Demmin.

The destruction of the bridges prevented the Soviet from advancing westward toward Rostock, which they had planned to reach the same day.It also prevented the flight of the civilian population, who were trapped by the rivers surrounding the town.According to eyewitnesses, some “fanatics,” primarily Hitler Youth,shot at the Soviet soldiers,despite several white flags being hoisted on Demmin’s buildings.

Memorably, a Nazi loyalist schoolteacher, having slain his wife and children, launched a grenade from a panzerfaust on Soviet soldiers, before finally hanging himself.

One of the remaining witnesses to the largest mass suicide in German history has revealed how women killed themselves and their children, shortly before the Nazis admitted defeat in the Second World War.

Manfred Schuster was only 10 years-old when he witnessed women tying children to their bodies with rope or clothes lines, and jumping into a river in a town north of Berlin as Soviet forces entered the town.

Schuster, now in his eighties, described how he had traveled with his friend into town to see if they could find anything that was edible in the stores. They found a heavy bag of sugar and as they attempted to carry it home, they heard “bloodcurdling” screams coming from the nearby river.

He remembered seeing around 50 women with up to four children jumping into the river Peene in the small town of Demmin

Speaking to the Times, Schuster, said: “I shall never forget the cries of ‘mum, mum’.”

“The most horrible part was when a couple of children broke free and made it back to the bank, from where they looked on helplessly, screaming back at the water where their mothers and siblings had drowned, ” he said. “In absolute horror we dropped our bag of sugar, which exploded in a cloud of white dust, and we ran home as fast as we could.”

The Soviet soldiers in turn were allowed to loot the town for a period of three days. They committed mass rapes of local women,according to eyewitnesses, “regardless of age”, and shot German men who spoke up against this practice.

Furthermore, large areas of the town were set on fire, with nearly all of the center burning down completely. 80% of the town was destroyed within three days. Reportedly, Soviet soldiers had brushed the houses’ walls with gasoline before setting them on fire, and stood guard three days to prevent extinguishing.Many of the soldiers committing the mass rapes, executions, and pillaging were reportedly drunk.Already on April 30, when the atrocities started in the evening, Soviet soldiers had looted both Demmin’s cereal distilleries and several alcohol stores.

These events, along with the fear of atrocities stirred up by the Nazi propaganda before, caused a mass panic among the population.Many families committed suicide together, locals as well as refugees. The suicides were either carried out with guns, razor blades or poison, others hanged or drowned themselves in the Peene and Tollense rivers.Several mothers killed their children before killing themselves, or walked into one of the rivers with a rock in a backpack and their babies in their arms. Some families committed suicide by walking into the rivers, tied together. A local forester first shot three young children, then their mothers, then his wife and then himself, surviving as a blind man.In another recorded case, a daughter cut the wrists of her parents.

Not in every case were the suicides successful.Some mothers who had drowned their children were unable to drown themselves thereafter.In other cases, the dose of poison used was lethal for the children, but not for their mothers.There were also cases where children survived the drowning. After a failed suicide, some committed suicide by another method. For example, a mother and her repeatedly raped daughter, who had repeatedly failed to drown themselves in the Peene river, committed suicide by hanging themselves in an attic. Another mother who before had poisoned and buried three of her four children tried to hang herself on an oak three times, but the rope was cut each time by Soviet soldiers.There are further records of Soviet soldiers preventing suicides by retrieving people from the river and nursing cut wrists.In another case, a grandfather forcibly took away a razor blade from a mother who was about to kill her children and herself after being raped by Soviet soldiers and hearing of the death of her husband.After Soviet soldiers had raped a girl’s cousin to death and shot her uncle, her mother cut her wrist and the wrists of her brother and her own, likewise all other women of the family committed suicide, of whom the aunt was able to also save a grandmother of the said girl. One family survived because the 15-year-old son managed to persuade the raped mother to abort the suicide on their way down to the Tollense river.

Demmin’s current chronicler, then 14 years old, recalls:

“My mother was also raped. And then, together with us and with neighbors, she hurried towards the Tollense river, resolutely prepared to jump into it. […] My siblings […] realized only much later that I had held her back, that I had pulled her out of what may be called a state of trance, to prevent her from jumping into the water. There were people. There was screaming. The people were prepared to die. Children were told: ‘Do you want to live on? The town is burning. These and those are dead already. No, we do not want to live any more.’ And so, people went mostly into the rivers. […] That made even the Russians feel creepy. There are examples where Russians, too, tried to pull people out or hinder them. But these hundreds of people, they were unable to withhold. And the population here was extremely panicked.”

Gisela Zimmer writes that many of the dead were buried in mass graveson the Bartholomäi graveyard.Some were buried in orderly graves on the initiative of relatives.Others were not buried, as their bodies were not retrieved from the rivers.More than 900 bodies were buried in the mass graves.500 of them were recorded on sheets of a warehouse accountant’s book converted into a death register. Weeks after the mass suicide, bodies still floated in the rivers.Clothes and other belongings of the drowned formed a border along the rivers’ banks,up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) wide.

Focus magazine (1995) quoted Norbert Buske as saying,

“We will have to assume more than 1,000 deaths.”According to Goeschel (2009), with reference to Buske (1995), “Some 700 to 1,000 people are said to have committed suicide directly after the arrival of the Red Army”Grashoff (2006), using the same reference, stated that “estimates of the number of suicides range from 700 to 1,200.”Der Spiegel (2005) put the death toll at “more than 1,000.”The NDR (German TV)stated that “nearly a thousand women and children committed suicide.” Bauer (2008) wrote that “some thousand people committed suicide, mostly by drowning.”According to psychologist Bscheid (2009) and jurist and sociologist Volkersen (2005), it was the largest recorded mass suicide in Germany. Both mentioned 900 suicides.Rostock historian Fred Mrotzek estimated that the death toll was 1,200 to 2,500 people

Under the Communist East German government, the mass suicide became a taboo subject.The mass graves’ site was not cared for deliberately, overgrew, and was at times tilled with sugar beets. The only visible hint of the mass grave was a solitary monument, soon overgrown, too, with the engraved date �”.

In contrast, a 20 metres (66 ft) obelisk was erected in Demmin’s burned down center to commemorate Soviet soldiers who had died in the area. The local museum listed 𔄚,300 deaths due to warfare and famine” for the years of 1945 and 1946.As late as 1989, the chronicle of the district’s Communist party blamed the destruction of the town on Werwolf and Hitler Youth activities.The atrocities were blamed on Germans disguised as Soviets by a document found in the local Soviet military administration in Neubrandenburg. As Der Spiegel puts it:

“Arbitrary executions, the rapes, the torching of towns – the atrocities of the Red Army were a taboo in the GDR, the mass suicides as well. Those who had witnessed it all or even survived a failed suicide – children, elderly, raped women – were ashamed and kept quiet. Somehow, life had to go on in the system of the liberators. Today, many do not want to remember, for too long they had struggled to find a balance between what they had suffered and what they had learned.” [25]

Only a few East German documents mentioned the events. The first post-war district official (Landrat) of Demmin, who was confirmed in this position by the Soviet authorities on May 15, 1945, briefly mentioned the events in an internal “activity report” of November 21, speaking of more than 700 suicide victims.Dieter Krüger, eyewitness of the events, son of a raped mother and survivor of a failed family suicide, started recording the mass suicide when working for the local museum in the 1980s, but his works were confiscated.Historian Erla Vensky managed to “smuggle” a line about a “panic, in the course of which 700 people committed suicide” into the “History of the local workers’ movement”.

After the collapse of the East German government, some of the eyewitnesses, including Demmin’s current chronicler, “broke the silence” and made their account of the mass suicide public.A new memorial was dedicated at the site of the mass graves. A dedicated issue of a journal published by the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was released in 1995. Since, accounts of the event were published by German media. In 2008, the mass suicide was thematized in a novel.

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Overview

The widespread prosperity of the 1920s ended abruptly with the stock market crash in October 1929 and the great economic depression that followed. The depression threatened people's jobs, savings, and even their homes and farms. At the depths of the depression, over one-quarter of the American workforce was out of work. For many Americans, these were hard times.

The New Deal, as the first two terms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency were called, became a time of hope and optimism. Although the economic depression continued throughout the New Deal era, the darkest hours of despair seemed to have passed. In part, this was the result of FDR himself. In his first inaugural address, FDR asserted his "firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror." As FDR provided leadership, most Americans placed great confidence in him.

The economic troubles of the 1930s were worldwide in scope and effect. Economic instability led to political instability in many parts of the world. Political chaos, in turn, gave rise to dictatorial regimes such as Adolf Hitler's in Germany and the military's in Japan. (Totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union and Italy predated the depression.) These regimes pushed the world ever-closer to war in the 1930s. When world war finally broke out in both Europe and Asia, the United States tried to avoid being drawn into the conflict. But so powerful and influential a nation as the United States could scarcely avoid involvement for long.


1 May 1945 - History

When Japan surrendered to the Allies at the close of World War II, it brought along several other related incidences one which was not related, and was not seen to come, was the division of Korea in to North Korea (the democrat people’s republic of Korea) and South Korea (the republic of Korea). As the war was coming to an end, both the United States as well as the Soviet had come to an agreement that they were going to accept Japan’s surrender in Korea.

This would leave the USSR occupying Korea north of the 38th parallel line, and the United States would occupy the country south of the 38th parallel line. This was the agreement made, and it was to remain in effect until the country could come to terms and agree upon some kind of unified form of government, to occupy the entire country.

Change in Terms

These were the agreements made by the United States and Soviet Union. However, in 1947, the Cold War that had emerged between the U.S. and the Soviet, as well as the political differences by Korean citizens in both the north and the south, in addition to other issues and occupation forces, all led to the breakdown in communications and agreements which had taken place prior. In August of 1948, a pro U.S. government was laid out in Seoul, and a pro Soviet Union government was established in Pyongyang.

The 38th Parallel Divide

The fact that both the United States and the Soviet representatives claimed that they were the legitimate representative form of government for the Korean people as a whole. This created tension along the 38th parallel, which was the line that divided the Northern and the Southern borders (controlled respectively by the United States and the Soviet Union).

On June 25, 1950, North Korea (backed by the Soviet USSR), made an attempt to unify the border by forceful attacks. On the other side, the United States with United Nations assistance, led a coalition of several countries which came to aid South Korea. On the other end, the Soviet Union backed the North Korea forces, by offering aid as far as weapons and finances were concerned, and the People’s Republic of China also aided the North by providing them with thousands of troops to fight alongside the North Korean military forces throughout the duration of the war.

July 1953

This marked the end of the Korean War. Basically, things ended up the way they had started, and thousands of lives were taken, only to get the nation back to the place it was before the war erupted. In addition to the lives lost, there was plenty of physical destruction that took place to towns, businesses, homes, and other facilities, along the border of the 38th parallel, causing quite a bit of financial burden to all parties that were involved in the ordeal.

North Korea and South Korea remained equally divided along the 38th parallel, and no real changes or major modifications were made to the territories or what portion of control each side had of the country. The sides were blockaded by the ceasefire line, (the Demilitarized Zone – or DMZ), which to this day, is the dividing line between North Korea and South Korean borders.

Societal Differences

Since the division of Korea in 1953, both North and South Korea have become to radically different nations, although both stem from the same background and culture. North and South Korea have extremely different political views and government bodies in control, and economic and financial conditions on either side are also quite different for both sides. The differences that stem between the countries today have little to do with what happened pre 1945 during the war, and are more so based on the influences by the United States and the Soviet Union, which were in charge of operations for several years on the North and South borders. North Korea is influenced by the Soviet Union and their style of governant, culture, and politics, and also follows certain government based concepts and ideas from China. South Korea on the other hand, has been greatly influenced by the United States, and in some parts Japan’s government, following a democratic society, and one that gives the people more of a voice than the central government style in North Korea.

Imposition of Split

The division of Korea into North Korea and South Korea was forced upon the people by external forces, government, and powers that the Korean people had no say in. Although the former Korea is still divided and both North and South have a number of political issues and differences, the people of Korea believe that one day North and South Korea will have to reunite.

Early in the 1970s, mid 1980s, and early 1990s, the nations seemed to be coming to some kind of agreement, and reuniting of the nation, but with each attempt at reunifying the country, either side was unwilling to make certain compromises, and make certain changes, which they did not find the opposite government form was the right choice for the people as a whole.

In 2000, the first time a summit meeting ever took place, leaders of North and South Korea sat down, in an effort to discuss what agreements could be reached, and what would be in the best interest of all the citizens, military, and the nation as a whole in Korea. Although this led the people to believe there were possibilities of reunification, since the summit there has been very little communication, and even less agreement and unification effort, by the governments in North Korea and South Korea.

Although the division of Korea stems back several years, today it is possibly the most divided nation. With extreme differences in politics, government, and rights for its citizens, North Korea and South Korea have quite a few differences and vary greatly in the way that the people are governed.


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