More little known WWII facts

While the Hiroshima atomic bomb was being built in New Mexico all applicants for menial jobs at the plant did not get a job if they could read. This was because the US authorities didn’t want staff reading secret papers.

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When the former commander of the Nazi extermination camp Treblinka, Kurt Franz, was arrested in 1959, a search of his home yielded a scrapbook with horrific photos of the massacre titled “Beautiful Years.”

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Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

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The Polish poet Stanislaw Jerzy Lec was a journalist working in Poland when the Nazis invaded. He tried to flee to Romania but was caught and wound up at the Ternopil concentration camp, where he was led into the woods, given a shovel, and forced to dig his final resting place.

The guards who had taken Lec became bored and hungry. One of them was forced to stand with the prisoner while the rest left to get supper. Lec waited until the right moment and killed his captor with a blow to the neck. He later captured the moment with the following poem:

He who had dug his own grave
looks attentively
at the gravedigger’s work,
but not pedantically:
for this one
digs a grave
not for himself

Donning the dead man’s SS uniform, Lec made his way to Warsaw, where he met members of the Polish resistance. There, he put his literary skills to use publishing underground newspapers. He was also fluent in German and wrote leaflets for the resistance. He ended the war as a major in the Polish army and fought in battles pushing back against the Nazis

During World War II Marmite was prescribed as a cure for tropical diseases like burning feet and Beriberi.

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Mistel Flying Bomb

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Developed in 1942 by the German Sailplane Association, the Mistel was a concept for an unmanned aircraft packed with explosives, guided to its target by a pilot in a fighter aircraft attached above it. The idea itself was demonstrated in 1943, but it was not until 1944, when the tide of war had truly turned against Nazi Germany, that the idea was put into practice.

More than 100 Ju-88 bombers were stripped of their hardware and converted into gigantic flying bombs packed with 1,800 kilograms (4,000 lb) of explosives, with struts added to attach the guiding aircraft on top of the Ju-88. The Mistel was an extremely slow composite aircraft; it flew at just 240 kilometers per hour (150 mph), making it an easy target for Allied aircraft if it was spotted. The Mistel was also an inaccurate weapon. Many missed their targets, despite their guiding pilots claiming otherwise.

Below are 2 diary entries from a Russian Citizen and an SS officer.

Lena Mukhina, Leningrad ResidentJanuary 3, 1942.

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“We are dying like flies here because of the hunger, but yesterday Stalin gave another dinner in Moscow in honor of the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden. This is outrageous. They fill their bellies there, while we don’t even get a piece of bread. They play host at all sorts of brilliant receptions, while we live like cavemen, like blind moles.”

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­To say that the Russian people had it rough during World War II would be a monumental understatement. Depending on the source, it’s estimated that between 7–20 million Russian civilians died as a direct result of the conflict. In Leningrad alone, as many as 750,000 civilians starved to death as the Germans placed the city under siege for over two years, from September 1941 to January 1944. The above diary entry was written by 17-year-old resident Lena Mukhina just a few months into the siege.
As the blockade wore on, residents were reduced to eating rats, cats, earth, and glue. There were widespread reports of cannibalism. At the time the entry above was written, Lena was living with her aunt, who tragically died from hunger a month later. Lena managed to survive by concealing the death from the authorities, allowing her to continue using her aunt’s food card. In later entries, she begins to plot an escape to Moscow. Her diary ends suddenly on May 25, 1942, when she made a dangerous journey to safety across Lake Ladoga. Lena died in 1991, a few short months before the Soviet Union finally collapsed.

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Felix Landau, SS Officer ,July 12, 1941.

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“At 6:00 in the morning I was suddenly awoken from a deep sleep. Report for an execution. Fine, so I’ll just play executioner and then gravedigger, why not. Isn’t it strange, you love battle and then have to shoot defenseless people. Twenty-three had to be shot, amongst them the two above-mentioned women. They are unbelievable. They even refused to accept a glass of water from us.

I was detailed as marksman and had to shoot any runaways. We drove one kilometer along the road out of town and then turned right into a wood. There were only six of us at that point and we had to find a suitable spot to shoot and bury them. After a few minutes we found a place. The death candidates assembled with shovels to dig their own graves. Two of them were weeping.

The others certainly have incredible courage. What on earth is running through their minds during these moments? I think that each of them harbors a small hope that somehow he won’t be shot. The death candidates are organized into three shifts as there are not many shovels.

Strange, I am completely unmoved. No pity, nothing. That’s the way it is and then it’s all over. My heart beats just a little faster when involuntarily I recall the feelings and thoughts I had when I was in a similar situation”

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The London Cage torture
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Housing the London Cage, Kensington Palace Gardens in London witnessed its fair share of war crimes during the Second World War. The Cage was essentially a set of cells and rooms used to hold and interrogate captured members of the Schutzstaffel and Gestapo. Everything from starvation and sleep deprivation to brutal beatings was practiced within its walls. to extract information and, in some cases, confessions.

Though undeniably a war crime, no participants were ever prosecuted. The British government, for the most part, turned a blind eye to the abuse – despite multiple complaints from various parties – arguing that it was justifiable given the situation.

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Blanche Osborn Bross

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This WWII era photograph was used to show Americans that women were doing their part to fight the war – even when they really weren’t. The four women pictured here, in front of the famous “Pistol Packin’ Mamma” aircraft, were part of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots program – better known as the WASPs. One of the four – the farthest on the right – is Blanche Osborn Bross.

The WASPs were a very exclusive club. Over 25,000 women applied for the program, and only 2,000 were selected of which barely 1,000 graduated and became pilots. Though they did not see wartime action, some of them did die in airplane accidents. After the war, Blanche Osborn Bross continued to fly, and later served with the Red Cross in China. She died at the age of 92.

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BMW

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During World War II, the BMW workforce was made up of slave laborers provided by the Nazis. Some sources put the figures as high as 50,000. Hold on to your driving gloves, however, because this gets much worse. BMW was then owned by Günther Quandt, and he and his son Herbert were very buddy-buddy with Hitler and his regime. BMW’s factories exclusively produced aircraft and motorcycle parts for the Nazi war effort. In fact, many inmates were put to work on the Luftwaffe engines, namely the BMW 132.

The Quandts also benefited greatly from the eradication of Jews and their livelihoods—they were handed multiple businesses seized from enslaved Jews. In 2001, following an internal report commissioned by BMW themselves, the company’s profits from the war were revealed. After the report was published, Gabriele Quandt told German’s Die Zeit newspaper that it was true that many laborers died working for the company.

During the second world war over 56,000 carrier pigeons were sent into action with some of them actually receiving medals of bravery.

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Returning A Fallen Enemy’s Personal Effects To His Fiance

0314Unlike so many of his peers, Erwin Rommel—one of Germany’s greatest tacticians—served his country with professionalism and humanity. His men in the Afrikakorps did as well.

In 1946, one of his engineers wrote a poignant letter to the fiance of a British pilot revealing how her beloved died an honorable death by their hands during a 1941 battle. The engineer, Gernot Knopp, wrote to Dorothy Bird of how her fiance William Ross came under heavy anti-aircraft fire during a raid on his fuel ship in eastern Libya. Although Ross died in the mission, the Germans admired his courage and buried him with full military honors, with Rommel himself in attendance. Knopp sent her not only the letter but also Ross’s personal effects and a photo that showed the pilot’s final resting place.

Although Bird already knew about Ross’s death, details from her fiance’s final moments relieved her greatly.

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The Miracle Babies Of Kaufering Concentration Camp

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We associate concentration camps with so much death and suffering that it’s nearly impossible to imagine anything good coming from them. Yet against all odds, seven babies born inside a camp survived their ordeal healthy and unharmed.

Their mothers were Jewish women of Hungarian origin locked up in an auxiliary camp in Kaufering. They took great pains to hide their pregnancies from the Nazi eyes to avoid being killed or transferred to the more infamous camp at Dachau. The other prisoners helped the mothers by hiding the babies and taking care of them whenever the mothers had to work. One Jewish woman who oversaw the camp for the Nazis even bore a severe beating after she brought a stove to the mothers’ quarters to help them survive the winter.

For the US soldiers who later liberated the camp, it was an uplifting sight to see the live and healthy mothers and their babies among the dead and emaciated prisoners.

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