An aerial view of trenches of the Western Front during World War I. Hill of Combres, St. Mihiel Sector, north of Hattonchatel and Vigneulles; Ca 1919.
An aerial view of the Hellish moonscape of the Western Front during World War I. Hill of Combres, St. Mihiel Sector, north of Hattonchatel and Vigneulles. Note the criss-cross patterns of multiple generations of trenches, and the thousands of craters left by mortars, artillery, and the detonation of underground mines. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
The Great train wreck of July 9, 1918 at the Dutchman’s Grade near White Bridge Road in Nashville, Tennessee; 101 people died.
The Great Train Wreck of 1918 occurred on July 9, 1918, in Nashville, Tennessee. Two passenger trains, operated by the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway (“NC&StL”), collided head-on, killing 101 people and injuring an additional 171. It is considered the deadliest rail accident in United States history.
Were there plans in place of how to deal with Hitler had he been captured alive?
Plans over what to do with Nazi leadership were debated between the Allied leadership and shifted throughout the course of the war. I don’t believe its truly possible to definitively state that any single course of action would have been planned and followed through had Hitler been taken alive. While the Moscow Declaration of 1943 did state that punishment for crimes with no specific geographic locale would be handled jointly by the Allied powers, this could be open to interpretation. As the Red Army reached Berlin significantly before the other Allied powers, if Hitler we’re alive he would have surely been under Soviet custody. Whether Stalin would claim that the extreme Soviet losses in the course of the war gave a specific geographic locale for (many of) Hitler’s crimes and thus allowed themselves to take charge in meting out punishment is a highly likely possibility, it cannot be positively concluded.
As for what the specific punishment would have been, as I previously mentioned the thoughts of the Allied leadership on the matter of general post-victory punishment shifted as the war progressed and concluded. There was disagreement over how to punish Nazis generally upon the war’s conclusion at the Tehran Conference in 1943. The intent of Stalin (who would have had custody of Hitler) at the conference can be seen in his suggestion to simply summarily execute roughly 50,000 German officers. A simple summary execution (whether under official Red Army auspices or more akin to the fate of Muammar Gaddafi), is certainly one likely possibility. Although the other Allied leaders were somewhat less bloodthirsty than Stalin in their thinking regarding the punishment of Nazi leadership, immediately executing Hitler and definitely ending the war in Europe is a likely scenario.
On the note of trials, it is highly unlikely that Hitler would have been prosecuted by the German people. The judiciary of Germany was comprised just about exclusively of Nazi party members. The only Germans who could even theoretically prosecute Hitler somewhat reliably would have been those with communist leanings, which simply puts the ball into Stalin’s court regardless. Were a trial to be held under strictly Soviet custody, there is absolutely no doubt that the event would be a show trial in Moscow leading to inevitable execution. If Stalin were instead to abide by the previous arrangement for joint decision making on the punishment of Nazi leadership, Hitler would have been tried jointly by the Allies at Nuremburg or potentially separately at a unique trial for himself alone. It should be noted that, essentially, all roads lead to execution. Any plans for the Denazification of Germany would have been seriously hampered by Hitler still being alive. The risk of Hitler returning, being freed, or acting as a living figurehead for a potential resurgence of Nazism would simply be too great. The only real questions are the exact method leading up to execution, and the extent of involvement from Truman and Churchill in it.
[The Post-war plans for the Nazi leadership in general differed between the Allied leadership. Given that Hitler was not captured alive, it cannot be definitively said that the potential road map for Allied leadership jointly dealing with Nazi leadership would have even been followed in Hitler’s case. The only thing for certain is the conclusion: inevitable execution.]
“People shelter and sleep on the platform and on the train tracks, in Aldwych Underground Station, London, after sirens sounded to warn of German bombing raids, on October 8, 1940.”
October 8th would have been at the height of the Blitz, which is considered to have started just over a month prior, so this is day 31 of nightly raids on London. A total of 71 raids on the city would happen over the 8 month period considered to be “The Blitz”, with about 20,000 killed in the city – about half of the total 40,000 civilians killed in the UK during the period.
Although Germany had shown no inherent compulsion against bombing civilian population centers, not only in their bombing of Warsaw the year prior, and Rotterdam earlier in the year, but also with the Condor Legion in Spain in the 1930s, it is thought that the beginning of the bombing of London started by accident when a flight of He 111s dropped their load over the city by accident on August 24th, having limited visibility in the night and screwed up navigation. The RAF returned the favor over Berlin the next night, leading Hitler and Goering to retaliate against London. Although the bombings of London began that August, it wasn’t until September 7th, when the first of 57 consecutive night raids on London commenced, that “the Blitz” is considered to have started.
The beginning of the Blitz coincided with the Battle of Britain, and the shift by the Luftwaffe from the bombing of military installations to population centers is considered by some to be an important factor in the RAF’s triumph over the Germans in the fall of ’40.
P.T. Barnum and General Tom Thumb; ca. 1850.
Just for those who thought this picture seemed a little off and possibly some of Barnum’s, shall we say, “showmanship”, Tom Thumb is indeed a child in this photo… a 10 year-old child. He stopped growing at about 6 months old and didn’t start growing again until he was in his late teens when he “shot up” (by which I mean never stopped growing for the next 25 years) from about 2’5″ to 3’3″
A dog fitted with a gas mask employed by the US Sanitary Corps during World War I to locate wounded soldiers.
Otto Lilienthal, pioneer of aviation, died in 1896 of injuries sustained when his glider stalled and he was unable to regain control; falling from about 15 m (50 ft) – fractured his neck.
Nansen’s ship ‘Fram’, held in ice; March 1894.
More information about the expedition:
The idea for the expedition had arisen after items from the American vessel Jeannette, which had sunk off the north coast of Siberia in 1881, were discovered three years later off the south-west coast of Greenland. The wreckage had obviously been carried across the polar ocean, perhaps across the pole itself. Based on this and other debris recovered from the Greenland coast, the meteorologist Henrik Mohn developed a theory of transpolar drift, which led Nansen to believe that a specially designed ship could be frozen in the pack ice and follow the same track as the Jeannette wreckage, thus reaching the vicinity of the pole.
Nansen supervised the construction of a vessel with a rounded hull and other features designed to withstand prolonged pressure from ice. The ship was rarely threatened during her long imprisonment, and emerged unscathed after three years. The scientific observations carried out during this period contributed significantly to the new discipline of oceanography, which subsequently became the main focus of Nansen’s scientific work. Fram’s drift and Nansen’s sledge journey proved conclusively that there were no significant land masses between the Eurasian continents and the North Pole, and confirmed the general character of the north polar region as a deep, ice-covered sea. Although Nansen retired from exploration after this expedition, the methods of travel and survival he developed with Johansen influenced all the polar expeditions, north and south, which followed in the subsequent three decades.
Wernher von Braun standing next to the F-1 engines on the Apollo Saturn V rocket.
One of the few people in history that I both despise and admire.
He accepted membership into the SS, lied about how long he was a member of the Nazi party, built the rockets which were used on civilian targets using slave labor to do so. He then switched allegiance after the tide turned and Germany surrendered and was pivotal in getting man to the moon.
From personal accounts of people involved in the V2 program at the time, he was so obsessed with building the rockets that he didn’t care about how it was accomplished. That sounds sociopathic and is a very dangerous trait in someone as brilliant as he was.
How did The Red Army conduct itself in Germany exactly?
Mass rapes, summary executions, torture, mutilation. Looting and pillaging. The officer corps largely turned a blind eye to it (or actively participated). Those who did speak out were often silenced, and official reports ignored or fudged. Soviet propaganda had been painting Germans as beasts and urging its soldiers on to gorge themselves in violence against the enemy for months, perhaps without thinking through the inevitable consequences. Revenge was a particularly ubiquitous theme throughout the propaganda posters:
“Open fire on murderers of our wives and children!”
“Revenge for the people’s misery!”
Soldiers were encouraged from on high to personally commit acts of revenge for every crime they had witnessed (or heard about) from the Germans. Command wanted to instill hatred into the conscript army as a primary motivator. And it worked; the Red Army was practically frothing at the mouth by the time it entered East Prussia. It succeeded to the point where command had to start backpedaling and trying (with varying degrees of success) to rein in the troops, as the regular atrocities were starting to seriously impact discipline.
Some quotes from historians on how bad things were at the start.
•Max Hastings, Armageddon: The Battle for Germany:
[Five days after the capture of Nemmersdorf], hardly one civilian inhabitant survived. Women had been nailed to barn doors and farm carts, or been crushed by tanks after being raped. Their children had been killed. Forty French prisoners of war working on on local farms had been shot, likewise avowed German communists. The Red Army’s behavior reflected not casual brutality, but systematic sadism rivaling that of the Nazis.
•Richard Overy, Russia’s War:
“In the first villages they occupied in October 1944 the soldiers slaughtered the population, raping and torturing the women, old and young. Refugees were shelled and bombed and crushed beneath the tracks of advancing tanks.”
Things got worse from there.
Officially, rape was a capital crime if a soldier was caught at it. In practice, it was ignored. Men and women who tried to save their children or families from being gang-raped in front of them were killed or mutilated, and then the children were shot or, in the worst cases, left crucified against a wall or door when the troops moved on. When Stalin was informed of the behavior of the soldiers he shrugged, saying:
“Imagine a man who has fought over thousands of kilometres of his own devastated land, across the dead bodies of his comrades and dearest ones? What is so awful in his having fun with a woman, after such horrors? The Red Army is not ideal, nor can it be. The important thing is that it fights Germans.”
The Soviets had ample cause for revanchism. Over the past few years they had lost, at a low estimate, twenty million people. Twenty million. Those who had fought and lived had survived against a foe who would offer them no quarter, who were reported to have committed atrocities against mass numbers of civilians. And these reports were starting to be borne out as the first of the death camps were being liberated. It seemed to the Red Army that the propaganda was almost downplaying what the Nazis were. The Germans were, in their eyes, monsters – civilians and soldiers alike.
What’s more, they were monsters who did not seem to have had any need to invade Russia in the first place. Houses in the German heartlands were filled with foods and goods that the Communist peasant soldier had never seen even before the outbreak of war, let alone what they had been living on for the past few years. I read a fairly amusing anecdote a while back about a unit who stumbled across a cache of a mysteriously oily white substance. The commander guesses that it might be lubricant for farm machinery. After two days, a private works up the nerve to try eating some of it, praying silently that it’s not poison (or just poisoned). When he wakes up the next day, he goes to the commander and says “I think I’ve heard about this stuff – it’s called ‘margarine’.” Whereupon the whole unit feasts on pancakes. My point is that it would be one thing if the Germans were desperate and looking for “Russian riches”. But these people were, comparatively speaking, living in the lap of luxury before they began slaughtering everyone to the east of them. When the Red Army discovered the truth of this for themselves, it just added more fuel to the fires of envy and rage.
The German forces also inadvertently made it worse for the civilian population by leaving behind large untouched caches of hard liquor. The thought was that a drunk soldier is a soldier easily killed. Unfortunately, an angry drunk soldier is all the more likely to join in the gang rape of the wives and daughters of the men who had invaded and killed their own families.
The Russians were also constantly exhorted to be on the look out for partisans, irregular troops who might attack the supply lines once the front moved past them. Which made for a handy excuse when looking to kill whoever they wanted to. And it was an excuse they often fell back upon, especially after the first of the death camps were liberated and it became clear just what had been going on even in the German homeland.
I don’t want to downplay the fact that everything the Soviets did to Germany had already been done ten-fold by Germans in Russia. And the people “returning the favor” were not the same troops who had started the war. Those were, by and large, already dead. By the time the Red Army arrived in Germany, a sizable portion of it was made up of violent prisoners released as an emergency measure, or prisoners of war who had felt brutality at the hands of the Germans themselves, or foreigners “recruited” at gunpoint with no reason to reflect well upon their unit and with resentment against both sides. But, regardless of any excuses or mitigating circumstances, it was still a horrific sequence of events.
Watching the construction of the Berlin Wall, West Berlin; ca. 1962.
The Berlin Wall is so much more interesting than most people can imagine. Just the way it went up, the changes it went through its all totally surreal.
The “wall” literally went up overnight on a weekend. People went to bed in one city and woke up in either East or West Berlin. It was later beefed up and filled in, but the “state border” was closed to travel on the night of 12/13 August, 1961. Tales of people who were trapped on the wrong side of the wall are some of the most heartbreaking I’ve come across. Peter Wyden’s book “Wall” and Anna Funder’s book “Stasiland” interview people who were in that situation and do a pretty good job of expressing how horrifying it was and why people risked their lives to get back across to the West.
The Berlin Wall entirely surrounded West Berlin, so no you couldn’t “simply go around it”.The wall started being built in late 1961, but throughout the years it went through many changes. Wikipedia states there were four main versions of the wall: 1. Wire fence (1961) 2. Improved wire fence (1962–1965) 3. Concrete wall (1965–1975) 4. Grenzmauer 75 (Border Wall 75) (1975–1989)
(There is an intact part of the Wall on Bernauerstrasse with a large open air museum. They go through it all step by step explaining everything: people jumping out of windows, windows being bricked up, then people tunneling under, children stuck on one side, trip wires attached to machine guns, dogs patrolling on wires….its just so crazy.)
After the liberation on Aug 26, 1944, Parisian women with their children run for cover as remaining German snipers open fire from the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral.
This striking photo, taken on Aug. 26, 1944, during the liberation of Paris and held in the National Archives’ collection of Signal Corps Photographs of American Military Activity, shows Parisians running for cover on the Place de la Concorde as snipers fired on the city’s ongoing celebration. The image shows civilians caught in the crossfire, transitioning quickly from party to self-preservation mode.
While the Germans had officially surrendered the city to Allied forces the day before and citizens were out in the streets in force, pockets of French collaborators and German soldiers remained. French Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who paraded through the streets to the Champs-Élysées on the same day this picture was taken, took fire from snipers several times. Later in the day, de Gaulle famously came under sniper ﬁre inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
Catherine the Great’s Erotic Furniture; ca. 1930’s.
The story goes:
During the second world war in one of the palaces of Tsarskoye Selo, a group of Soviet soldiers found a room decorated in a frank erotic style. According to witnesses , one of the walls was entirely hung with wooden phalluses of various shapes, a range of chairs, desks, and screens all decorated with pornographic images supplementing the whole appearance. Soldiers didn’t loot anything or destroy anything there, on the contrary, they made a dozen of documentary photos.
Most of the pictures were lost in the fire of war, but some of Hermitage personnel also confirm the existence of the parlor, noting that Catherine the Great even made a boudoir for Platon Zubov, but it’s unlikely that it could reached the 20th century. It is also known that the collection of erotic art belonged to the Romanov family was cataloged in 1930’s . The evidences indicate that the objects were only shown to a selection of visitors. But the catalog was lost. Like the whole entire collection, it was allegedly destroyed in 1950. However this small selection of photographs still exist.
A photo of a group of “Biorobots” in special dress taken just before they went out to the roof of the 4th Chernobyl reactor; ca. 1986.
Of the original 600,000 Liquidators, there are around 200,000 survivors with around 90,000 suffering from major long-term health problems – according to one group.
Ethnomusicologist Frances Densmore recording the Blackfoot chief, “Mountain Chief”; February 9th, 1916.
Part of a series of pictures depicting Frances Densmore at the Smithsonian Institution in 1916 during a recording session with Blackfoot chief Mountain Chief for the Bureau of American Ethnology.
One of the worst storms of the Dust Bowl, ‘Black Sunday’ was said to have stripped the Earth of ~600,000,000 pounds of fertile Prairie topsoil; April 14, 1935.
And this is what lead to the Soil Conservation Act.
“People caught in their own yards grope for the doorstep. Cars come to a standstill, for no light in the world can penetrate that swirling murk…. The nightmare is deepest during the storms. But on the occasional bright day and the usual gray day we cannot shake from it. We live with the dust, eat it, sleep with it, watch it strip us of possessions and the hope of possessions” – Avis D. Carlson, The New Republic
Here’s a map of where the storms took place:
Soil ended up as far away as Washington, D.C.