Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Archive for April, 2014

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An early hair perming machine dating from 1923 .

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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.

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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)

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The Great train wreck of July 9, 1918 at the Dutchman’s Grade near White Bridge Road in Nashville, Tennessee; 101 people died.

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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.

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Finnish Defense Forces on horses in Winter – Continuation War; ca. 1942

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Hitler rehearsing his speeches in front of a mirror; ca.1925.

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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.”

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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.

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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″


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Young boy takes a ride in a turkey wagon, ca. 1910.

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A dog fitted with a gas mask employed by the US Sanitary Corps during World War I to locate wounded soldiers.

It must have been tough for this guy to sniff out people with that heavy duty gas mask and all

It must have been tough for this guy to sniff out people with that heavy duty gas mask and all.