Was the sinking of the SS Athenia the first Nazi atrocity in WW2?

World War 2 officially started on September 3,1939 .Th Nazis wasted very little time in committing their first mass murder during the war. It was only hours after the war was declared.

The S.S. Athenia, was commanded by Captain James Cook, left Glasgow for Montreal via Liverpool and Belfast. She carried 1,103 passengers, including about 500 Jewish refugees, 469 Canadians, 311 US citizens and 72 UK subjects, and 315 crew. Despite clear indications that war would break out any day, she departed Liverpool at 13:00 hrs on 2 September without recall, and on the evening of the 3rd was 60 nautical miles (110 km) south of Rockall and 200 nautical miles (370 km) northwest of Inishtrahull, Ireland, when she was sighted by the German submarine U-30 commanded by Oberleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp around 16:30.

U-30 tracked Athenia for three hours until eventually, at 19:40, when both vessels were between Rockall and Tory Island, Lemp ordered two torpedoes to be fired. One exploded on Athenia’s port side in her engine room, and she began to settle by the stern.

Chamberlain’s famous “this country is at war with Germany” broadcast was delivered shortly after 11 in the morning. The torpedo from U-30 struck the Athenia at 7:38 that evening. She was slow to go down, disappearing beneath the waves, stern first, at 11 the next morning.

At 7:38, just as the evening meal was being served, a violent explosion destroyed the engine room, plunging the dining room into darkness, sending tables and chairs skidding across the deck, and causing the ship to list to port and begin settling by the stern. The German submarine U-30 had attacked Athenia. The sinking of the S.S. Athenia, was in violation of the Hague conventions. Germany’s responsibility for the sinking was suppressed by Admiral Karl Dönitz and the Nazi propaganda.

While waiting to go to dinner, young Donald Wilcox of Dartmouth, N.S., had made his way to the very peak of the ship’s bow and was watching the waves curl away from the prow when the ship rose up several feet and then fell back down sharply. “I was almost thrown off my feet,” he remembered years later.

All the lights went out and the ship stopped dead in the water and began settling by the stern. The engine room, the galley, parts of the dining rooms and many staterooms flooded. People were separated and groped in the dark to find their way to the open decks before emergency lights came on. Crew members guided people with matches and flashlights, while James A. Goodson, 18, of Toronto, whose holiday in Europe had been cut short, swam through a flooded section of the ship to rescue struggling passengers, guiding them to what remained of the stairs.

All 26 lifeboats were launched, although there were difficulties in getting many of the women and children into them. Fortunately, distress signals were received by ships reasonably close by. Shortly after midnight, Norwegian freighter MS Knute Nelson arrived on the scene, followed by Swedish steam yacht Southern Cross, owned by the Electrolux millionaire Axel Wenner-Gren. They began taking on survivors from the lifeboats, looking after the injured and offering food and hot drinks.

As the night wore on, three Royal Navy destroyers reached the scene, HMS Electra, HMS Escort and HMS Fame. They also picked up survivors and provided food and dry clothing. In the morning, the American freighter SS City of Flint arrived and took people from Southern Cross and the destroyers before heading back across the Atlantic bound for Halifax. the navy destroyers sailed back to Scotland, sending their passengers to Glasgow. At about 11 a.m. on Monday, Athenia heeled over and sank stern first. Knute Nelson took survivors to the Irish port of Galway.

A survivor’s picture of rescued officers of the Äthenia”watching her last plunge from the Norwegian ship “Knute Nelson”

The Knute Nelson radioed to the harbour master, Captain T. Tierney, that they were making for Galway with hundreds of refugees. Captain Tierney quickly informed all the local authorities to be prepared to deal with disaster relief. A committee was formed on Monday evening, including Galway mayor Joseph F. Costello and the Catholic bishop of Galway Dr Michael Browne. The committee alerted Galway County Council, the Board of Health, the Central Hospital, local hotels and the local bus company. The mayoress, Mrs Costello, also organised a committee of 38 local women to lead the volunteers, including the Girl Guides, who would be essential in looking after the specific needs of the refugees. The Irish cabinet met in Dublin late on Monday and made £500 available to the mayor to provide food, clothing and medical care to the survivors.

Survivors ,including a baby from the Athenia being helped to safety by a soldier.

Instructions were also sent to units of the Irish Army and An Garda Síochána(Police) to cooperate with local authorities in providing care and facilities, and the local schools were to be made available to house people. Seán T. O’Kelly, acting for the minister for education, made available the Preparatory College at Taylor’s Hill, Coláiste Éinde, to be used for refugees, as well as Galway Grammar School. The Irish Red Cross also started a subscription to raise money to assist the relief effort.
Shortly before midnight on Monday a pilot boat went out to Black Head to meet the Knute Nelson and steer the ship into Galway roads to anchor. Some time in the middle of the night a tender from Galway, Cathair Na Gaillimhe, under Captain William Goggin, anchored in the roadstead to wait for the freighter. The tender carried a local priest, Fr Conway, Dr S. Ó Beirne and Dr R. Sandys, and below decks were a number of nurses. Units of the 1st Infantry (Irish-Speaking) Battalion were on board to carry the stretcher cases off the ship, and members of An Garda Síochána were standing by. While it was still dark, a launch took out to the tender several more doctors.

Of the 1,418 aboard, 98 passengers and 19 crew members were killed. Many died in the engine room and aft stairwell, where the torpedo hit.The British crews were said to be famous for putting the passengers’ lives before their own, and were expertly trained to handle such “events”; nonetheless, about 50 people died when one of the lifeboats was crushed in the propeller of Knute Nelson. No. 5A lifeboat came alongside the empty tanker and tied up, against advice, astern of No 12 lifeboat.Only 15 feet (5 m) separated the life boat from the tanker’s exposed propeller. Once No. 12 lifeboat was emptied it was cast adrift and began to sink. This fact was reported to the bridge of Knute Nelson. For some reason the ship’s engine order telegraph was then set to full ahead. 5A lifeboat’s mooring line or “warp” parted under the stress, causing the lifeboat to be pulled back into the revolving propeller.

There was a second accident at about 05:00 hrs when No. 8 lifeboat capsized in a heavy sea below the stern of the yacht Southern Cross, killing ten people. Three passengers were crushed to death while trying to transfer from lifeboats to the Royal Navy destroyers. Other deaths were due to falling overboard from Athenia and her lifeboats, or to injuries and exposure. 54 dead were Canadian and 28 were US citizens, which led to German fears that the incident would bring the US into the war. Besides the 28 US citizens who were killed, there were also a great number injured. Like
Mrs. W.B. Sage, of Salt Lake City, Utah, shown here as she was carried from the S.S. Orizaba, which docked at New York, September 27 with 150 American survivors of the Athenia disaster, many of whom, like Mrs. Sage, were injured.

The fact that the first US casualties of war were those 28 civilians, only a few hours after the start of the war, makes me wonder why the Roosevelt Administration did not declare war to Nazi Germany.

A Canadian girl, 10-year-old Margaret Hayworth, was among the casualties, and was one of the first Canadians to be killed by enemy action. Newspapers widely publicised the story, proclaiming “Ten-Year-Old Victim of Torpedo” as “Canadians Rallying Point”, and set the tone for their coverage of the rest of the war. One thousand people met the train that brought her body back to Hamilton, Ontario, and there was a public funeral attended by the mayor of Hamilton, the city council, the Lieutenant-Governor, Albert Edward Matthews, Premier Mitchell Hepburn, and the entire Ontario cabinet.

Margaret Hayworth (left)and her sister

Lemp later claimed that the fact the S.S Athenia was steering a zigzag course which seemed to be well off the normal shipping routes made him believe she was either a troopship or an armed merchant cruiser; when he realized his error he took the first steps to conceal the facts by omitting to make an entry in the submarine’s log, and swearing his crew to secrecy. Adolf Hitler decided the incident should be kept secret for political reasons, and the German newspaper Völkischer Beobachter published an article which blamed the loss of the Athenia on the British, accusing Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, of sinking the ship to turn neutral opinion against Nazi Germany. No one in Britain believed the explanation given by Nazi Germany.

As for my question in the title of the blog “Was the sinking of the SS Athenia the first Nazi atrocity in WW2?” I believe it was because they attacked and murdered men, women and children. Some of them had tried to escape the Nazi tyranny.

sources

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41503664

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/athenia-anniversary-reunion-1.5302935

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205085895

1740 Batavia massacre

The Netherlands has for most of its history quite a prosperous country. I wish I could say that all this wealth was always begotten in a fair way, but that would be a lie. The Dutch were ruthless in their quest for the things they desired.

From the arrival of the first Dutch ships in the late 16th century, to the declaration of independence in 1945, Dutch control over the Indonesian archipelago was always tenuous. Although Java was dominated by the Dutch, many areas remained independent throughout much of this time, including Aceh, Bali, Lombok and Borneo. There were numerous wars and disturbances across the archipelago as various indigenous groups resisted efforts to establish a Dutch hegemony, which weakened Dutch control and tied up its military forces. Piracy remained a problem until the mid-19th century. Finally in the early 20th century, imperial dominance was extended across what was to become the territory of modern-day Indonesia.

The first Dutch expedition set sail for the East Indies in 1595 to access spices directly from Asia. When it made a 400% profit on its return, other Dutch expeditions soon followed. Recognising the potential of the East Indies trade, the Dutch government amalgamated the competing companies into the United East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC).

The VOC was granted a charter to wage war, build fortresses, and make treaties across Asia. A capital was established in Batavia , which became the center of the VOC’s Asian trading network.

The sun that rose over Batavia,(now called Jakarta) the Dutch colonial capital on the island of Java, on October 9, 1740, revealed a city on the verge of catastrophe. Two days earlier, Chinese laborers, unemployed and unsettled by rumors that they would be deported. Allegedly led by a man called Nie Hoe Kong, they ambushed and murdered 50 Dutch colonial troops. Governor-General Adriaan Valckenier declared that any uprising would be met with deadly force.

In response, he sent 1,800 regular troops, accompanied by schutterij (militia) and eleven battalions of conscripts to stop the revolt; they established a curfew and cancelled plans for a Chinese festival Fearing that the Chinese would conspire against the colonials by candlelight, those inside the city walls were forbidden to light candles and were forced to surrender everything down to the smallest kitchen knife. This was intended to protect the colonial and indigenous population from the Chinese. Meanwhile, rumours spread among the other ethnic groups in Batavia, including slaves from Bali and Sulawesi, Bugis, and Balinese troops, that the Chinese were plotting to kill, rape, or enslave them.

These groups pre-emptively burned houses belonging to ethnic Chinese along Besar River. The Dutch followed this with an assault on Chinese settlements elsewhere in Batavia in which they burned houses and killed people. The Dutch politician and critic of colonialism W. R. van Hoëvell wrote that “pregnant and nursing women, children, and trembling old men fell on the sword. Defenseless prisoners were slaughtered like sheep”.

In the days that followed, Chinese homes were raided, their inhabitants taken outside and imprisoned or murdered on the spot. Cannons were brought to bear against the Chinese sections of the city, and soon entire blocks were aflame. Survivors, many of whom took refuge in small villages or in the forests surrounding the city, were sought and slaughtered.
This went on for nearly two weeks. By the time the violence ended,10,000 Chinese had died in and around the colonial capital. Although I ceasefire was called on November 2dn, the Dutch troops kept looting until the 28th of November 1740.

Most accounts of the massacre estimate that 10,000 Chinese were killed within Batavia’s city walls, while at least another 500 were seriously wounded. Between 600 and 700 Chinese-owned houses were raided and burned. Historian Vermeulen gives a figure of 600 survivors, while the Indonesian scholar A.R.T. Kemasang estimates that 3,000 Chinese survived.The Indonesian historian Benny G. Setiono notes that 500 prisoners and hospital patients were killed, and a total of 3,431 people survived. The massacre was followed by an “open season” against the ethnic Chinese throughout Java, causing another massacre in 1741 in Semarang, and others later in Surabaya and Gresik.

sources

https://www.persee.fr/doc/arch_0044-8613_2009_num_77_1_4127

https://artsandculture.google.com/entity/1740-batavia-massacre/m09v8qwj?hl=en

https://www.worldcat.org/title/southeast-asian-studies/oclc/681919230

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Evil recorded.

wEHRMACHT

Secret recordings made by British intelligence during World War II War have laid bare  the horrific atrocities carried out by everyday German soldiers.Not members of the SS, ‘regular’Wehrmacht soldiers.

Following is the transcript of one of those recordings, The only name related to the recording is Reimbold, his position I don’t know but that is really not relevant for the event he describes is truly shocking.

I have to warn you .some of the language is awful so I have made some alterations.

Reimbold: “In the first officers’ prison camp where I was being kept here, there was a really stupid guy from Frankfurt , a young lieutenant, a young upstart. There were eight of us sitting around a table and talking about Russia . And he said: ‘Oh, we caught this female spy who had been running around in the neighborhood. First we hit her in the tits with a stick and then we beat her rear end with a bare bayonet. Then we f*cked her, and then we threw her outside and shot at her. When she was lying there on her back, we threw grenades at her. Every time one of them landed near her body, she screamed.’ And just think, there were eight German officers sitting at that table with me, and they all broke out laughing. I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I got up and said: Gentlemen, this is too much.”

gRENADES

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Source

Der Spiegel

 

1740 Batavia massacre

Chinezenmoord_van_stolk_(2)

In September 1740, as unrest rose among the Chinese population in Batavia(nowadays Jakarta in Indonesia), spurred by government repression and declining sugar prices, Governor-General Adriaan Valckenier declared that any uprising would be met with deadly force.

Adriaan_Valckenier_(1695-1751)_by_T.J._Rheen

On 7 October, hundreds of ethnic Chinese, many of them sugar mill workers, killed 50 Dutch soldiers, leading Dutch troops to confiscate all weapons from the Chinese populace and to place the Chinese under a curfew.

Two days later, rumours of Chinese atrocities led other Batavian ethnic groups to burn Chinese houses along Besar Stream and Dutch soldiers to fire cannon at Chinese homes.

1024px-Tableau_de_la_Partie_de_Batavia,_ou_s'est_fait_proprement_le_terrible_Massacre_des_Chinois,_le_9_Octob

The violence soon spread throughout Batavia, killing more Chinese. Although Valckenier declared an amnesty on 11 October, gangs of irregulars continued to hunt and kill Chinese until 22 October, when the governor-general called more forcefully for a cessation of hostilities. Outside the city walls, clashes continued between Dutch troops and rioting sugar mill workers. After several weeks of minor skirmishes, Dutch-led troops assaulted Chinese strongholds in sugar mills throughout the area.

Troops under Lieutenant Hermanus van Suchtelen and Captain Jan van Oosten, a survivor from Tanah Abang, took station in the Chinese district: Suchtelen and his men positioned themselves at the poultry market, while van Oosten’s men held a post along the nearby canal.

800px-Chinezenmoord_Van_Stolk

 At around 5:00 p.m., the Dutch opened fire on Chinese-occupied houses with cannon, causing them to catch fire.Some Chinese died in the burning houses, while others were shot upon leaving their homes or committed suicide in desperation. Those who reached the canal near the housing district were killed by Dutch troops waiting in small boats,while other troops searched in between the rows of burning houses, killing any survivors they found.

These actions later spread throughout the city. Dutch historian Vermeulen notes that many of the perpetrators were sailors and other “irregular and bad elements” of society.During this period there was heavy looting and seizures of property.

Despite a call for peace and amnesty by the Dutch Governor-General on October 11, the violence continued all the way through October 22, when he finally forced an uneasy peace on the city. The council had posted a reward for anyone rounding up or killing a Chinese person, and the rest of the population enthusiastically pursued the rewards.

About 500 Dutch soldiers had died in the fighting. The areas outside the city were another story, and violence continued for weeks afterwards, never really stopping until a year later when the Java War broke out and lasted for another 2 years. Governor-General Adriaan Valckenier was recalled to the Netherlands and charged with atrocities pertaining to the massacre. At first cleared, Valckenier was on his way back to Batavia when he was again arrested, and spent the rest of his life (10 years!) in prison on Java awaiting conclusion of an investigation into his stewardship of the islands.

BATAVIA-and-her-Forts-1682

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The last German atrocity in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam_shooting,_May_7_1945

On 7 May 1945, three days after German capitulation, thousands of Dutch people were waiting for Canadian troops to arrive on the Dam square in Amsterdam. In the Grote Club, on the corner of the Kalverstraat and the Paleisstraat, members of the Kriegsmarine watched as the crowd below their balcony grew and people danced and cheered.

Foto-Wiel-van-der-Randen-20

The Germans then placed a machine gun on the balcony and started shooting into the crowds. The motives behind the shooting have remained unclear; the Germans were drunk and possibly angered because contrary to previous agreement Dutch police had arrested members of the German military.

Amsterdam-Dam-Square-5th-May-1945-Shooting-Second-World-War-small

The shooting finally came to an end after a member of the resistance climbed into the tower of the royal palace and started shooting onto the balcony and into the club. At that moment, a German officer together with a Resistance commander found their way into the club and convinced the men to surrender. At the brink of peace, 120 people were badly injured and 22 pronounced dead.

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In 2013, evidence was brought to light that suggested the number may have been higher: possibly 33 people died, and there were 10 more unconfirmed possible victims.

fJj1U5Z

On May 9th1945 the German soldiers were rounded up by the Canadians from the Grote Club and transported to Germany. The motive behind the shooting was never been investigated and the perpetrators were never been prosecuted.