Sister Maria Restituta Kafka and Sister Élise Rivet-Defiant WWII Heroes

Sr Maria Restituta Kafka:

Born on 1 May 1894 [at Hussowitz bei Bruenn in the Austria-Hungary Empire, today] Brno-Husovice, in modern day Czech Republic, of humble background, Helene Kafka grew up in the Austrian capital where she worked in the Lainz hospital with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. In 1914 she entered the convent and received the name Maria Restituta. From 1919 until 1942 she served in the hospital in Moedling, Vienna, where she became a surgical nurse and an anaesthetist, esteemed for her professional competence, beloved for her sensitivity and respected for her energetic character, so much that she soon earned the nickname ‘Sister Resoluta’.

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After Germany annexed Austria, the religious worked for justice and the dignity of every human being. Faced with the anti-religious suppression of the Nazis, she responded by reaffirming religious freedom and by refusing to remove the crucifixes in the hospital. She also countered Hitler’s swastika with the Cross of Christ. She also spread ‘A soldier’s song’ that spoke of democracy, peace, and a free Austria. Spied on by two ladies, she was denounced by a doctor close to the SS, who for some time sought an opportunity to distance her from the hospital

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A Viennese cannot keep her mouth shut, she said. When a new hospital wing was constructed, Kafka kept to traditional Catholic practice and hung a crucifix in every room.

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The Nazi authorities demanded that the crosses be taken down, threatening her dismissal, but she refused.The crucifixes were not removed, nor was Kafka, since the Franciscan community said that they could not replace her.

Kafka continued in her vocal criticism of the Nazi government and several years later was denounced by a doctor who strongly supported the regime. On Ash Wednesday 1942 (18 February of that year), while coming out of the operating theater, Kafka was arrested by the Gestapo and accused, not only of hanging the crucifixes, but also of having dictated a poem mocking Hitler.On 29 October 1942 she was sentenced to death by the guillotine by the Volksgerichtshof for “favouring the enemy and conspiracy to commit high treason”. The authorities offered to release her if she would leave the convent, but she refused.

When a request for clemency reached the desk of Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery.

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He replied that her execution would provide “effective intimidation” for others who might want to resist the Nazis.Kafka spent the rest of her days in prison, where she was noted for caring for other prisoners. During this period, she wrote in a letter from the prison:

It does not matter how far we are separated from everything, no matter what is taken from us: the faith that we carry in our hearts is something no one can take from us. In this way we build an altar in our own hearts.

Kafa was sent to the guillotine on 30 March 1943.She was 48 years old.

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On 21 June 1998, on the occasion of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Vienna, Kafka was beatified by him. She was the first female martyr of Vienna.

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Kafka, the only Religious Sister to be formally condemned to death under the Nazi regime, was commemorated in Rome on the evening of 4 March 2013, in the Basilica of San Bartolomeo all’Isola on Tiber Island, with a liturgy of the word at which Cardinal Christoph Schönborn presided.

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During the service, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity gave to basilica a small cross which Kakfa had worn on the belt of her religious habit. The relic was placed in the chapel there which remembers the martyrs of Nationalist Socialism

Élise Rivet (January 19, 1890, Draria, Algeria – March 30, 1945, Ravensbrück concentration camp, Germany) was a Roman Catholic and World War II heroine

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The daughter of a French naval officer, she joined the convent of the medical sisters of “Notre Dame de Compassion” in Lyon. In 1933 she became “Mère Marie Élisabeth de l’Eucharistie”, the convent’s Mother Superior. After the fall of the French Third Republic to Nazi Germany in World War II, she began hiding refugees from the Gestapo[citation needed] and eventually used her convent to store weapons and ammunition for the Mouvements Unis de Résistance (MUR).

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On March 24, 1944 she and her assistant were arrested by the Gestapo and taken to the prison at Fort Montluc in Lyon.

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From there she was taken to Romainville before being shipped to Ravensbrück concentration camp near Berlin, Germany. There, stripped of her religious garments, she was forced into hard labor. With the end of the War in sight, the Germans began a massive amount of killings by gas chamber, including Mother Élise, on March 30, 1945, only weeks before the war ended. Rivet volunteered to go to the gas chamber  in place of a mother only weeks before Germany surrendered unconditionally.[She was 55 years old.

In 1961, the government of France honored her with her portrait on a postage stamp and a street bearing her name in Brignais (Lyon) was inaugurated on December 2, 1979.

 

In 1997, she was posthumously awarded the Médaille des Justes and in 1999 the “Salle Élise Rivet” was named for her at the Institut des Sciences de l’Homme in Lyon.

 

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If that is so, then I suppose I’m a murderer.

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On March 29, 1945, some 60 Jewish slave labourers were shot in Deutsch Schützen, Austria, a town in what is now the Austrian province of Burgenland. One of the suspected murderers is former SS Junior Squad Leader Adolf Storms.

Though Storms’ identity was known in 1946 – he was listed in the German telephone book – Austrian authorities never apprehended him. Adolf Storms died in 2010 shortly before the trial against him was opened.

Adolf Storms was born in 1919. During World War II, he was a sergeant of the 5th SS Division “Wiking”, a division of the Waffen SS, which had participated in the war of aggression against the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1944. The division’s fallback led it from Hungary to the Czech Republic and finally to Austria.

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Storms, who was 90 years old, was on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of most-wanted Nazi suspects.He was accused of the massacre of at least 57 Jewish forced labourers in Austria at the end of World War II.

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Prosecutors in Germany were investigating the accusations against him and preparing a trial.The prosecutor in the city of Dortmund, Andreas Brendel, said investigators had recently been checking if Storms was fit for trial.

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Mr Brendel said he had had strong evidence against Storms.

The former SS officer and unidentified accomplices forced the labourers to hand over their valuables and kneel by a grave before shooting them.

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Storms was also accused of having shot another man on the day after the massacre.He was alleged to have shot the man because he was too weak to take part in a forced march.

Several former members of the Hitler Youth, who had helped the SS guards during the march, gave witness statements against Storms.

The accused worked as a railway station manager for decades until a student at the University of Vienna found his name in documents alleging his involvement in war crimes.

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The student and his professor, Walter Manoschek, tracked him down and Manoschek then visited Storms several times. The professor conducted about 12 hours of interviews in which Storms repeatedly said that he does not remember the killings.He said it was war and I was a young lad. When he was told that the massacre did happen, his reply was “Well if that is so I suppose I am a murderer”

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Heinrich Himmler’s suicide-at the end he was nothing but a coward

 

LandscapeIn 1945 disillusioned Himmler believed victory had slipped from Germany’s grasp and secretly attempted to start peace negotiations with Eisenhower in a bid to escape a war crimes trial. But Eisenhower refused to have anything to do with Himmler. A furious Hitler declared Himmler a traitor, stripped him of his powers and expelled him from the Nazi Party.

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Rejected by his former comrades and hunted by the Allies, Himmler attempted to go into hiding. He disguised himself by shaving off his mustache, wearing an eye patch over his left eye and carrying false identity papers under the name of Sergeant Heinrich Hitzinger. With a small band of companions, he headed south on 11 May to Friedrichskoog, without a final destination in mind. They continued on to Neuhaus, where the group split up. On 21 May, Himmler and two aides were stopped and detained at a checkpoint set up by former Soviet prisoners of war. Over the following two days, he was moved around to several camps and was brought to the British 31st Civilian Interrogation Camp near Lüneburg, on 23 May.

The duty officer, Captain Thomas Selvester, began a routine interrogation. Himmler admitted who he was, and Selvester had the prisoner searched. Himmler was taken to the headquarters of the Second British Army in Lüneburg, where doctor Wells conducted a medical exam on him. When the doctor saw a dark object in a gap in Himmler’s lower jaw, he ordered him to come closer to the light and tried to remove the glass capsule. Suddenly Himmler bit on the cyanide capsule and at the doctor’s fingers. Himmler fell to the ground and someone shouted “The bastard beats us!”.

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The smell of prussic acid spread through the room. “We immediately upended the old bastard and got his mouth into the bowl of water which was there to wash the poison out”, noted Major Whittaker in his diary. “There were terrible groans and grunts coming from the swine”. Himmler’s tongue was secured in an attempt to prevent him from swallowing the poison.

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Doctor Wells tried resuscitation but it was in vain. He was dead within 15 minutes. At least one death mask of Himmler was taken. On 25 May an autopsy was conducted, the teeth configuration compared, and the brain and part of his skeleton removed. Shortly afterward, Himmler’s body was buried in an unmarked grave near Lüneburg. The grave’s location remains unknown.

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Japanese Human Target practice

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The Japanese treatment of prisoners of war in World War II was barbaric. The men shown in the above picture are part of the Sikh Regiment of the British Indian Army. All of them are sitting in the traditional cross-legged prayer position. They’re probably reciting their final prayers as this picture was being taken. It’s very morbid if you think about it. The vast majority of Indian soldiers captured when Singapore fell belonged to Sikh community. These photographs were found among Japanese records when British troops retook Singapore.

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If you examine carefully the second picture you’ll note a marker hanging over the heart of each prisoner and the stakes in front bear of the rifle. Each target position is marked with a number, indicating that the solider in position one is going to shoot the prisoner on position one, and so on.

The positions where the targets are located is generally called “the butts”. This is a target practice, not a straightforward military execution by firing squad. A firing squad usually has a half-dozen or more shooters per condemned, to guarantee a pretty instant death. In this case, shooters are assigned one per victim. Moreover in a military execution, victims don’t get bayoneted at the end. If any are still alive, the officer in charge should administer a coup de grace with a pistol.Japanese troops using prisoners of war for target practice, 1942 3

The most severe treatment was directed at the Chinese who were killed in large numbers by a variety of brutal means. The killings were conducted in many ways including shooting, burying alive, bayoneting, beheading, medical experimentation, and other methods.a2e13e6832e9f98f827d8bd31755940b

 

Germanwings Flight 9525-Andreas Lubitz’s homicidal suicide flight.

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It’s hard to believe this happened  today 2 years ago. I know the title is slightly contradictory but I think it’s the most appropriate way to describe the tragedy.

On March 24 2015 Germanwings flight 9525 took off from Barcelona airport headed for Dusseldorf in Germany. But the Airbus A320 never made it to its final destination.

Shortly after the plane reached its assigned cruising altitude, it suddenly began a rapid descent.

Moments later the doomed passenger jet crashed into the French Alps northwest of Nice, killing all 144 passengers and six crew members on board.

An investigation into the devastating event concluded that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz caused the crash in an apparent murder-suicide. The then 27-year-old had a history of depression and suicidal tendencies, even declared “unfit for work” by a doctor. _81925461_81925460

Friends and neighbours described him as a “quiet” but “fun” character, who enjoyed his job.

In response to the incident and the circumstances of Lubitz’s involvement, aviation authorities in some countries implemented new regulations that require the presence of two authorized personnel in the cockpit at all times. Three days after the incident, the European Aviation Safety Agency issued a temporary recommendation for airlines to ensure that at least two crew members—including at least one pilot—were in the cockpit during the entire duration of the flight. Several airlines announced that they had already adopted similar policies voluntarily.

Germanwings Flight 9525 took off from Runway 07R at Barcelona–El Prat Airport on 24 March 2015 at 10:01 a.m. CET  and was due to arrive at Düsseldorf Airport by 11:39 CET.The flight’s scheduled departure time was 9:35 CET.According to the French national civil aviation inquiries bureau, the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA), the pilots confirmed instructions from French air traffic control at 10:30 CET. At 10:31 CET, after crossing the French coast near Toulon, the aircraft left its assigned cruising altitude of 38,000 feet (12,000 m) and without approval began to descend rapidly. The air traffic controller declared the aircraft in distress after its descent and loss of radio contact.

The descent time from 38,000 feet was about ten minutes; radar observed an average descent rate of approximately 3,400 feet per minute or 58 feet per second (18 m/s). Altitude_Chart_for_Flight_4U9525_register_D-AIPX.svg

Attempts by French air traffic control to contact the flight on the assigned radio frequency were not answered. A French military Mirage jet was scrambled from the Orange-Caritat Air Base to intercept the aircraft. 1024px-Mirage_2000C_in-flight_2_(cropped)

According to the BEA, radar contact was lost at 10:40 CET; at the time, the aircraft had descended to 6,175 feet (1,882 m).The aircraft crashed in the remote commune of Prads-Haute-Bléone, 100 kilometres (62 mi) north-west of Nice.

The co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings jet barricaded himself in the cockpit and “intentionally” sent the plane full speed into a mountain in the French Alps, ignoring the pilot’s frantic pounding on the door and the screams of terror from passengers, a prosecutor stated.

Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz’s “intention was to destroy this plane,” Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said, laying out the horrifying conclusions reached by French aviation investigators after listening to the last minutes of Flight 9525.

He had battled with vision problems and insomnia for several months, it said, caused by a psychiatric disorder rather than anything physical.

He was taking medication for both psychiatric issues and insomnia, and had been given doctor’s notes excusing him from work. But he never showed them to the airline.

“On the day of the accident, the pilot was still suffering from a psychiatric disorder, which was possibly a psychotic depressive episode and was taking psychotropic medication,” the report found.

“This made him unfit to fly.”

But the report found he had hidden the evidence, and neither the airline nor his colleagues could have known about his circumstances.Those who knew Lubitz have described him as an affable young man, who gave no indications he was harbouring any harmful intent.

A German criminal investigation into the crash concluded in January that Lubitz bore sole responsibility for crashing the jet.228128

 

Guenther Lubitz, the killer’s father, rejected the findings as “false”, arguing that they were not thorough enough.

He and his wife placed a loving tribute to their son in a local newspaper to mark the first anniversary of the crash, angering families of the victims, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports.

 

 

Stalag Luft III murders- The real aftermath of the Great Escape

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Most of us will have seen the classic WWII movie ‘the Great escape’ usually around every Christmas period or Easter time it will be shown multiple times on a great number of channels.

It is one of my favourite wartime movies although it does take quite a number of artistic liberties in relation to some of the real events.

The Stalag Luft III murders were war crimes perpetrated by members of the Gestapo following the “Great Escape” of Allied prisoners of war from the German Air Force prison camp known as Stalag Luft III on March 25, 1944. Of a total of 76 successful escapees, 73 were recaptured, mostly within days of the breakout, of whom 50 were executed on the personal orders of Adolf Hitler. These summary executions were conducted within a short period of recapture.

Fifty of the Allied airmen who tunnelled out of Stalag Luft III were executed in chilling scenes like this. article-2285629-18565A31000005DC-948_634x400

Outrage at the killings was felt immediately, both in the prison camp, among comrades of the escaped prisoners, and in the United Kingdom, where the Foreign Minister Anthony Eden rose in the House of Commons to announce in June 1944 that those guilty of what the British government suspected was a war crime would be “brought to exemplary justice.”Sir_Anthony-Eden_number_10_Official

After Nazi Germany’s capitulation in May 1945, the Police branch of the Royal Air Force, with whom the 50 airmen had been serving, launched a special investigation into the killings, having branded the shootings a war crime despite official German reports that the airmen had been shot while attempting to escape from captivity following recapture. An extensive investigation headed by Wing Commander Wilfred Bowes RAF and Squadron Leader Frank McKenna of the Special Investigation Branch into the events following the recapture of the 73 airmen was launched, which was unique for being the only major war crime to be investigated by a single branch of any nation’s military.

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The day after the mass escape from Stalag Luft III,Hitler’s rage was all-consuming. He summoned SS chief Heinrich Himmler and Reichsmarschall Göring and ordered that all 76 fugitives be executed upon recapture.

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Word of such an atrocity, Göring explained, might result in fierce Allied reprisals. Himmler agreed, prompting Hitler to order that ‘more than half the escapees’ be shot. Random numbers were suggested until Himmler proposed that 50 be executed. Hitler ordered his SS chief to put the plan in motion.

The Kriminalpolizei (the criminal-investigations department of the Reich police) issued a Grossfahndung, a national hue and cry, ordering the military, the Gestapo, the SS, the Home Guard and Hitler Youth to put every effort into hunting the escapees down. Nearly 100,000 men needed to defend the Reich were redirected to the manhunt.

By Wednesday, March 29, five days after the breakout, 35 escapees languished behind bars in the cramped cells of the jail at Görlitz, not far south of Sagan.

Those who remained on the run hoped to make destinations in Czechoslovakia, Spain, Denmark and Sweden. Luck, however, worked against them.

They were seized at checkpoints, betrayed by informants or simply thwarted by freezing temperatures. Before long, all but three of the fugitives were back in captivity.

 Two weeks after the escape, the whereabouts of the escapees remained a mystery to the prisoners inside the camp. Just six men had thus far been returned to Stalag Luft III and marched directly into the cooler, the solitary-confinement block.

But on April 6, Group Captain Herbert Massey, the senior British officer in the camp, was to learn the fate of so many of his men.

The camp commandant, Colonel Braune, informed him that 41 had been killed while resisting arrest or attempting to escape after being captured; not one had been merely wounded. Braune was unable to look Massey in the eye as he told him the lies.

On April 15, a list identifying the victims appeared on the camp’s noticeboard. The list now contained not 41 names, but 47. Two days later, a representative of the Swiss Protecting Power visited Stalag Luft III on a routine inspection and was given a copy of the list.

Among the dead were 25 Britons, six Canadians, three Australians, two New Zealanders, three South Africans, four Poles, two Norwegians, one Frenchman and a Greek.

The Swiss government then reported the killings to the British government, including three additional victims, bringing the total number of those murdered to 50. Churchill was incensed, and even amid the final push for victory made finding the killers a priority.

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The 3 Successful escapees

  • Per Bergsland, Norwegian pilot of No. 332 Squadron RAF
  • Jens Müller, Norwegian pilot of No. 331 Squadron RAF
  • Bram van der Stok, Dutch pilot of No. 41 Squadron RAF

    A detachment of the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Air Force Police headed by Wing Commander Wilfred Bowes was given the assignment of tracking down the killers of the 50 officers. The investigation started seventeen months after the alleged crimes had been committed, making it a cold case. Worse, according to an account of the investigation, the perpetrators “belonged to a body, the Secret State Police or Gestapo, which held and exercised every facility to provide its members with false identities and forged identification papers immediately they were ordered to go on the run at the moment of national surrender.”

    The small detachment of investigators, numbering five officers and fourteen NCOs, remained active for three years, and identified seventy-two men, guilty of either murder or conspiracy to murder, of whom 69 were accounted for. Of these, 21 were eventually tried and executed (some of these were for other than the Stalag Luft III murders); 17 were tried and imprisoned; 11 had committed suicide; 7 were untraced, though of these 4 were presumed dead; 6 had been killed during the war; 5 were arrested but charges had not been laid; 1 was arrested but not charged so he could be used as a material witness; three were charged but either acquitted or had the sentence quashed on review, and one remained in refuge in East Germany.[1]:261

    Despite attempts to cover up the murders during the war, the investigators were aided by such things as Germany’s meticulous book-keeping, such as at various crematoria, as well as willing eye-witness accounts and many confessions among the Gestapo members themselves, who cited that they were only following orders.

    SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe, who is believed to have selected the airmen to be shot, was later executed for his involvement in the July 20 plot to kill Hitler.Bundesarchiv_Bild_101III-Alber-096-34,_Arthur_Nebe

    American Colonel Telford Taylor was the U.S. prosecutor in the High Command case at the Nuremberg Trials. The indictment in this case called for the General Staff of the Army and the High Command of the German Armed Forces to be considered criminal organizations; the witnesses were several of the surviving German Field Marshals and their staff officers.One of the crimes charged was of the murder of the 50. Luftwaffe Colonel Bernd von Brauchitsch, who served on the staff of Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, was interrogated by Captain Horace Hahn about the murders.Horace_Hahn_senior_class_photo_1933

    The first trial specifically dealing with the Stalag Luft III murders began on 1 July 1947, against 18 defendants. The trial was held before No. 1 War Crimes Court at the Curio Haus in Hamburg. The accused all pleaded Not Guilty article-2285629-1858A3D4000005DC-294_634x480

    The verdicts and sentences were handed down after a full fifty days on September 3 of that year. Max Wielen was found guilty of conspiracy and sentenced to life imprisonment. The others were found not guilty of the first two charges, but guilty of the individual charges of murder. Breithaupt received life imprisonment, Denkmann and Struve ten years imprisonment each, and Boschert eventually received life imprisonment. The other 13 condemned prisoners were hanged  at Hamelin Jail in February 1948 by British executioner Albert Pierrepoint.Albert-Pierrepoint

     

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Marlene Dietrich kisses a soldier returning home from war, 1945

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Dietrich was noted for her humanitarian efforts during the war, housing German and French exiles, providing financial support and even advocating their US citizenship. For her work on improving morale on the front lines during the war, she received several honors from the United States.

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This photo shows Marlene Dietrich passionately kissing an American soldier as he arrives home from World War II. It seems that the guy on the left holding her up is enjoying the view. It was first published in Life Magazine with the caption: “While soldiers hold her up by her famous legs, Marlene Dietrich is kissed by a home-coming GI”.

Actress Marlene Dietrich kisses a soldier returning home from war, 1945

The ship was the Monticello, a converted cruise liner. Her original name was SS Conte Grande and was built in 1927 in Trieste, Italy. During World War II, she was acquired by the United States and was used as an American troopship—renamed USS Monticello (AP-61) in 1942.1928-conte

At the time the photo was taken it was transporting parts of the 2nd infantry division home.The 2nd division soldiers had entered the war in Normandy on D-Day. They fought across Europe into Czechoslovakia. They arrived in New York (when this photo was taken) on July 20, 1945. The war was not over for them. They were on their way to Camp Swift in Texas for training. They were supposed to be a part of the invasion of Japan.

Marlene Dietrich has a curious story. She was a German actress and singer. Her cinematography life started in Germany and later in Hollywood where she became very famous.

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Dietrich was known to have strong political convictions and the mind to speak them. In interviews, Dietrich stated that she had been approached by representatives of the Nazi Party to return to Germany but had turned them down flat. Dietrich, a staunch anti-Nazi, became an American citizen in 1939. In December 1941, the U.S. entered World War II, and Dietrich became one of the first celebrities to raise war bonds. She toured the US from January 1942 to September 1943 (appearing before 250,000 troops on the Pacific Coast leg of her tour alone) and was reported to have sold more war bonds than any other star. At the end of the war she was awarded the highest American civil medal: The Medal of Freedom.

Evil enjoying itself in Auschwitz.

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I don’t know what is more disturbing , the pictures of the victims of Auschwitz or the pictures of those working there and were clearly enjoying themselves,nearly thinking it was some sort of holiday camp.

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The  following photos were taken between May and December 1944, and they show the officers and guards of the Auschwitz relaxing and enjoying themselves — as countless people were being murdered and cremated at the nearby death camp. In some of the photos, SS officers can be seen singing.in another a man can be seen decorating a Christmas tree in what could only be described as a holiday in hell.

The photo’s belonged to Karl Höcker, the adjutant to the final camp commandant at Auschwitz, Richard Baer. Höcker took the pictures as personal keepsakes.

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Helferinnen(female helpers), in wool skirts and cotton blouses, listen to the accordion and eat blueberries, which Karl Hoecker had served to them.

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The women with Hoecker “were typists, telegraph clerks, and secretaries in Auschwitz, and were called Helferinnen, which means ‘helpers,’Their racial purity had been established—should an officer be looking for a girlfriend or a wife, the Helferinnen were intended to be a resource.

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Camp commandant Richard Baer, notorious concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele (The Angel of the Death), and the commandant of the Birkenau camp, Josef Kramer.

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This photograph, taken at Auschwitz, shows “nearly a hundred officers arrayed like a glee club up the side of a hill. The accordion player stands across the road,All the men are singing except those in the very front, who perhaps felt too important for it.” The group includes Richard Baer; Rudolf Hoess, who had supervised the building of Auschwitz and had been its first commandant; and Josef Mengele.

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Christmas 1944: Karl Höcker lights the candles of a Christmas tree.

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The Solahütte retreat was used to provide a relaxing atmosphere for SS officers working at the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz

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SS officers relax together with women and a baby on a deck at Solahütte.

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The escape of Hugo de Groot aka Hugo Grotius.

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Hugo de Groot (AKA Hugo Grotius) born in Delft on 10 April 1583 (the year before William of Orange was murdered). He was the intellectual prodigy of his age, and one of the ornaments of the University of Leyden. Early in life he became associated with Olden Barneveld, and when the struggle between Arminius and Goniarus broke out, he sided with the former, and exerted all his influence on the side of toleration.

Having, only in a less degree than Barneveld, excited against himself the prejudice and hatred of Maurice of Nassau, he was seized, and, at the age of 36, condemned to perpetual imprisonment in the Castle of Lovenstein, near Gorcum.1024px-Slot_loevestein_1619
His escape is one of the most amusing stories in Dutch history. He was not denied books, and at fixed seasons these were changed by sending a large chest to and from. As the months passed, and the strictest search never discovered anything in the chest but books and linen, the guards grew careless. The ingenuity of his wife, who had been allowed to share his imprisonment, turned this slackness to account. She persuaded him on one occasion to occupy the place of the books.

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When the two soldiers whose duty it was to carry out the chest came, they said it was so heavy that “there must be an Arminian in it.” With admirable tact, Madame Grotius replied, “There are indeed Arminian books in it.” Ultimately, after various narrow escapes, he crossed the frontier and reached Antwerp, when he went on to Paris, where his wife joined him. He was never allowed to return to the Netherlands.

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He gave himself up to a great literary work which had been long in his mind, the De jure belli et pads, a treatise which at once gave him enduring fame, but which, like Paradise Lost and The Pilgrims Progress, did very little towards enriching the author. His other noted book was a work on the evidences of Christianity, published in 1627, and entitled De veritate religionis Christiana. He died an exile in 1645. And now the town of his birth honours his memory by giving him not only a tomb in the New Church, but also by placing his statue upon the most conspicuous site within her boundaries, in the very centre of that market-place where so much of tragic and historic interest has passed.

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In the Town Hall hangs a portrait of Grotius by Michiel Janszoon van Mierevelt, the first in time of the great Dutch portrait painters. Delft is also associated with other famous painters, such as Van der Meer, whose picture of his native town is one of the treasures of the Hague Gallery ; Pieter de Hooch, one of the best painters of interiors; Paulus Potter, the great animal painter; and others.

Atom Bombed Madonna- A WWII Miracle

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When the atom bomb “Fat Boy” devastated on the 9th of August 1945, one of the buildings reduced to rubble was the city’s Urakami cathedral — then among the largest churches in Asia.

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The blinding nuclear flash that would claim more than 70,000 lives in the city also, in an instant, blew out the stained glass windows of the church, toppled its walls, burnt its altar and melted its iron bell.

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But, in what local Christian followers have likened to a miracle, the head of a wooden Virgin Mary statue survived amid the collapsed columns and scorched debris of the Romanesque church flattened on August 9, 1945.

The appearance of the war-ravaged religious icon is haunting. The Madonna’s eyes have become scorched, black hollows, the right cheek is charred, and a crack runs like a streaking tear down her face.

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The remains of the statue of the Virgin Mary have found a new home inside a rebuilt church, also called St Mary’s, built on the same site, only 500 metres from the bomb’s ground zero.

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