May 17

1490 Birth: Albert, Duke of Prussia:

Albert of Prussia (17 May 1490 - 20 March 1568) was the last Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, who after converting to Lutheranism, became the first monarch of the Duchy of Prussia, the secularized state that emerged from the former Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights. Albert was the first European ruler to establish Protestantism as the official state religion of his lands. He proved instrumental in the political spread of Protestantism in its early stage, ruling the Prussian lands for nearly six decades (1510 - 1568).

A member of the Brandenburg-Ansbach branch of the House of Hohenzollern, Albert's election as Grand Master had brought about hopes of a reversal of the declining fortune of the Teutonic Knights. He was a skilled political administrator and leader, and did indeed reverse the decline of the Teutonic Order. However, Albert, who was sympathetic to the demands of Martin Luther, rebelled against the Catholic church, and the Holy Roman Empire by converting the Teutonic state into a Protestant and hereditary realm, the Duchy of Prussia, for which he did homage to his uncle, the King of Poland. The arrangement was confirmed by the Treaty of Krakow in 1525. Albert pledged a personal oath to the King and in return was invested with the duchy for himself and his heirs . . . . paving the way for the rise of the House of Hohenzollern. He is therefore often seen as the father of the Prussian nation, and even as indirectly responsible for the unification of Germany. [For further information, click here.]

1868 Countdown to Infamy:

A ship transporting the first 153 Japanese migrants bound for the sugar plantations in Hawaii gets underway from Yokohama. Largely urban dwellers, displaced samurai and minor criminals, they make up the first mass emigration of Japanese overseas. They will become known as the Gannenmono, or the "first year men." (Niiya)

[See: Countdown to Infamy: Timeline to Pearl Harbor.]

1873 Birth: Henri Barbusse: author of Le Feu (Under Fire), the prize-winning, best-selling novel based on his service during World War I, is born on this day in 1873 in Asniéres, France.

1885 Birth: Gustav Hitler eldest child of Alois Hitler and Klara Poelzl:

According to old OSS files, it seems that Gustav was also the reason for the marriage of his parents, because Klara was already five months pregnant at that time. Gustav was the first of four children born to Alois and Klara that would die in infancy. He died during an outbreak of diphtheria in 1886, along with his younger sister Ida Hitler. Two more of the Hitler children would die in the ensuing years: Otto Hitler in 1887 and Edmund Hitler in 1900. Paula Hitler, the younger sister of Gustav, would be the only member of the family to survive the Second World War. [For further details, Click here.]

1915 World War I: List Regiment:

Gefreiter Adolf Hitler's 16 Reserve Infantry Regiment continues to occupy a position at Fromelles (pictured above in a drawing by Hitler), which is on a level field with water channels, willow trees and willow stalks. In the distance towards the enemy lines lies an insignificant wood with barbed wire entanglements. Under the direction of their defense-minded commander, Lieutenant General Gustav Scanzoni von Lichtenfels, the regiment works ceaselessly day and night to further fortify their position at Fromelles while fighting off repeated assaults by the enemy. [For further details, Click here.]

1916 World War I: List Regiment:

Gefreiter Adolf Hitler endures trench warfare in Flanders (Artois) with 3 Company, 16 Reserve Infantry Regiment. [For further details, Click here.]

1917 World War I: List Regiment: Gefreiter Adolf Hitler's 16 Reserve Infantry Regiment, 3 Company, participate in the Arras action, being deployed east of Vimy Ridge. [For further details, Click here.]

1918 World War I: List Regiment: Gefreiter Adolf Hitler's 16th RIR is sent is sent back behind the lines for a period of rest that will last until May 30. [For further details, Click here.]

1919 Death: Guido von List:

Viennese poet, journalist, writer, businessman and dealer of leather goods, mountaineer, hiker, dramatist, playwright, and rower, but was most notable as an occultist and voelkisch author who is seen as one of the most important figures in Germanic revivalism, Germanic mysticism, Runic Revivalism and Runosophy in the late 19th century and early 20th century . . . . author of Das Geheimnis der Runen (The Secret of the Runes), which is a detailed study of the Armanen Futharkh, his intellectual world-view (as realised in the years between 1902 and 1908), an introduction to the rest of his work and is widely regarded as the pioneering work of Runology in modern occultism.

Among his ideological followers was Lanz von Liebenfels. More controversially, some allege that, in his pagan-Theosophical synthesis, List developed the direct precursor of occult Nazism. His defenders counter that any influence was indirect and inconsequential; in Nazi Germany the strongest occult influence upon Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, was Brigadeführer Karl Maria Wiligut who believed List's Armanism to be a heresy from his own ancestral religion of Irminism and had various of List's followers interned in concentration camps. List's concept of renouncing Christianity, a Semitic religion intertwined with Judaism, and returning to the pagan religions of the ancient Europeans did nevertheless find some supporters within the Nazi party and is favoured by some advocates of Neo-Nazism and White Nationalism in their turn. Germanic paganism has, as a result, been linked to Nazism since the early twentieth century.

1933 Various:

Norway: Vidkun Quisling: and Johan Bernhard Hjort form Nasjonal Samling: the national-socialist party of Norway.

Holocaust: The Bernheim Petition is submitted to the League of Nations. Sent to the League of Nations by Franz Bernheim and the Comite des Delegations Juives (Committee of Jewish Delegations), the petition demands that the Nazis rescind their anti-Jewish legislation in Upper Silesia since it is in contravention to the German-Polish Convention of May 15, 1922. The League will agree and the German government will cancel the anti-Jewish regulations. This will remain in effect until the convention expires on July 15, 1937.

1934 Various:

Death: Colonel Bronislaw Pieracki--Polish minister of the interior: The assassination in Warsaw was ordered by the OUN, Stepan Bandera's Ukrainian Nationalist Organization. The Western Ukrainians were a minority in Poland but formed a large proportion of the population in the provinces of Galicia and Volhynia. [For an authoritative treatment of the subject, see Stepan Bandera: The Life and Afterlife of a Ukrainian Nationalist: Fascism, Genocide, and Cult by Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe.]

USA: Boycott: The German American Protective Alliance announces a counter-boycott against Jewish businesses at Madison Square Garden.

1938 Various:

Czechoslovakia: The government confiscates two Nazi-run newspapers, Die Rundschau and F.S., published by Sudeten German parties led by Konrad Henlein.

United States: Vinson Naval Act passed by Congress, providing for a two-ocean navy.

1939 Various:

Non-aggression pacts: Sweden, Norway, and Finland reject Germany's offer of non-aggression pacts, but Denmark, Estonia, and Latvia accept.

German Foreign Office Memorandum:

The Soviet Charge, Counselor of Embassy Astakhov, called on me today in order to talk to me about the legal status of the Soviet Trade Mission in Prague, established there on the basis of the Soviet-Czechoslovak Trade Agreement of 1935. The Soviet Union wants to leave the Trade Mission in Prague as a section of the Soviet Trade Mission in Berlin, and requests that it be given temporarily the same legal status that it had under the Soviet-Czechoslovak Trade Agreement. Herr Astakhov invoked the German declaration, according to which the present Czechoslovak trade agreements would continue to be applied to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia until something new had replaced them. I received this request and promised an early answer. I told him as my personal opinion that there would hardly be any objections to the Soviet request.

During the subsequent conversation Astakhov again referred in great detail to the development of German-Soviet relations, as he had already done two weeks ago. He remarked that the German press for some weeks looked entirely different. The attacks hitherto directed against the Soviet Union were missing, reports were objective; in an industrial newspaper of the Rhineland he had even seen some photographs of Soviet installations. Of course, the Soviets could not judge whether this was only a temporary break that was used for tactical reasons. However, it was hoped that a permanent state of affairs would result from it. Astakhov stated in detail that there were no conflicts in foreign policy between Germany and Soviet Russia, and that therefore there was no reason for any enmity between the two countries. It was true that in the Soviet Union there was a distinct feeling of being menaced by Germany. It would undoubtedly be possible to eliminate this feeling of being menaced and the distrust in Moscow.

During this conversation, he also again mentioned the Treaty of Rapallo. In reply to my incidental question, he commented on the Anglo-Soviet negotiations to the effect that under the present circumstances the result desired by England would hardly be achieved. To substantiate his opinion concerning the possibility of a change in German-Soviet relations, Astakhov repeatedly referred to Italy and stressed that the Duce, even after the creation of the Axis, had implied that there were no obstacles to a normal development of the political and economic relations between the Soviet Union and Italy. In my replies I was reserved and induced Astakhov, by means of incidental remarks only, to further elaborate his viewpoint.

Holocaust: German census lists 330,539 Jews in Greater Germany; 138,819 males and 191,720 females. These figures include 94,530 Jews in what was formerly Austria and 2,363 in the Sudetenland.

1940 World War II: Various:

General Halder: As the Nazi war machine sweeps easily across France, the General writes in his diary, "The Fuehrer is terribly nervous. He is frightened by his own success, is unwilling to take any risks, and is trying to hold us back." (Payne) [See: Was Adolf Hitler a 'Great' Military Leader?]

Arthur Seyss-Inquart is named by Hitler as chief executive of the Netherlands: His first order is to arrest all German refugees who had come to the Netherlands since 1933. After 10 days in a concentration camp, most are transported to Poland. (THP)

Netherlands: The old city center of the Dutch town of Middelburg is bombed by the German Luftwaffe, to force the surrender of the Dutch armies in Zeeland.

Belgium: Germany occupies the cpital, Brussels.

1941 World War II: Various:

Rudolf Hess: Last prisoner, to date, to be held in the Queen's House at the Tower of London.

Churchill to FDR:

Hess was extremely voluble . . . . The British Empire . . . would be left intact . . . . The old invitation to desert all our friends in order to save temporarily the greater part of our skin . . . . Germany had certain demands to make of Russia which would have to be satisfied, but [he] denied rumors that attack on Russia was being prepared. (Sereny)

1943 World War II: The Memphis Belle flies its 25th bombing mission:

The crew of the Memphis Belle, one of a group of American bombers based in Britain, becomes the first B-17 crew to complete 25 missions over Europe. [For further details, Click here]

1943 Operation Chastise (May 16-17): Using a specially developed bouncing bomb, Royal Air Force Squadron No. 617 (subsequently known as "the Dambusters") attack the Moehne and Eder dams in Germany's Ruhr valley. A catastrophic flooding of the Ruhr valley results. 53 of the 133 aircrew who participate in the attack are killed in action and three bail out to be made prisoners of war. This represents a casualty rate of almost 40%.

1945 World War II: War in the Pacific: Heavy fighting continues on Okinawa.

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: Grand Admiral Erich Raeder continues his testimony:

I did have difficulties because of Heydrich, whom I had removed from the Navy in 1928 or 1929 after a court of honor had sentenced him for unscrupulous treatment of a young girl. He was very resentful toward me for a long time and he tried on various occasions to denounce me to the leadership of the Party or to Bormann and even to the Fuehrer. However, I was always able to counteract these attacks so that they had no effect on my situation in general. This attitude of Heydrich communicated itself in some way to Himmler, so that here also, from time to time, I had to write a strongly worded letter; but it was precisely the strong wording of those letters which was of help in most cases. I should not like to waste any time by mentioning various instances, such as the one with the SD; however, there were no direct attacks because of my position in regard to the Church. There was only the statement made by Goebbels, which I learned of through my co-defendant, Hans Fritzsche, that I was in disfavor with the Party on account of my attitude toward the Church; but, as I have said, I was not made to feel it in a disagreeable way. [For Raeder's full testimony, Click here.]

1954 USA: Segregation: The Supreme Court unanimously outlaws racial segregation in public schools. [For further information, click here.]

1955 Wunderwaffen: From an NCS (National Security Council) Memorandum:

2. I am impressed by the psychological [effect] of, as well as by the advantages of, having the first successful [satellite launch] result from the initiative of the United States, and by the costly consequences [that would ensue] of allowing the Russian initiative to outrun ours, through an achievement that will symbolize scientific and technological advancement to peoples everywhere. The stake of prestige that is involved makes this a race that we cannot afford to lose.

3. [Basically] new questions of ionosphere jurisdiction [are involved. And the] announced Soviet program in interplanetary communications makes it certain that a vigorous propaganda will be employed, to exploit all possible derogatory implications of any American success that may be [achieved. It is therefore] highly important that the U.S. effort be initiated, under auspices that are least vulnerable to effective criticism. The extraordinary opportunities for exploitation of superstitions on the one hand, and of imputed military hazards on the other, that are inherent in a scientific "breakthrough" of such novelty, make it imperative to enlist many voices, speaking for numbers of nations, to allay the potentially boundless fears that may be stirred up, even though they are quite unwarranted.

I agree, therefore, with the suggested procedure of having our Government announce that it is ready to support the project through the U.S. National Committee of the International Geophysical Year. [For the full text of today's proceedings, Click here.]

[See: Wunderwaffen: Hitler's Deception and the History of Rocketry.]

1990 Cold War: Gorbachev meets with Lithuanian prime minister:

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meets with Lithuanian Prime Minister Kazimiera Prunskiene in an effort to settle differences arising from Lithuania's recent proclamation of independence from the Soviet Union. For Gorbachev, the meeting was a test of his skill and ability to maintain the crumbling Soviet empire.

Lithuania became part of the Soviet Union after Soviet forces seized it in 1939, and the country remained a Soviet republic for the next 50 years. In 1989, Gorbachev publicly repudiated the so-called Brezhnev doctrine. This doctrine—established in 1968 to justify the Soviet military intervention to put down anti-government protest in Czechoslovakia—allowed the Soviet Union to use force to preserve already existing communist governments in other states. Gorbachev's repudiation was obviously intended to improve relations with Russia's increasingly restless allies in eastern Europe, where anti-government and anticommunist protests were growing. In Lithuania, however, anti-Soviet nationalists took Gorbachev's statement to mean that Russia would not interfere with an independent movement in one of its own republics. On March 11, 1990, Lithuania declared itself an independent republic.

Gorbachev, however, had no intention of allowing republics to break free from the USSR. On May 17, Gorbachev met with Lithuanian Prime Minister Kazimiera Prunskiene in Moscow to discuss the situation. Despite optimistic press releases concerning their talks, it quickly became apparent that Lithuania would not back down on its claim to independence. After imposing economic sanctions and threatening military action, the Soviet Union launched a full-scale military assault against Lithuania in January 1991. The Soviet effort was in vain, however. In December 1991, 11 of the 12 Soviet Socialist Republics (including Lithuania) proclaimed their independence and established the Commonwealth of Independent States. A few weeks later, Gorbachev resigned as president and the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

The Lithuanian-Soviet conflict had a significant impact on U.S.-Soviet relations. Many in the United States were horrified by the January 1991 military Soviet intervention into Lithuania. The U.S. Congress quickly moved to end economic assistance to the Soviet Union. Some U.S. officials also believed that Russia's actions indicated that Gorbachev, despite his talk of reform, was increasingly under the control of hard-liners in the Soviet government. (

Edited by Levi Bookin (Copy editor)

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