May 31

1857 Birth: Pope Pius XI:

To be critical of fascism in Italy in the 30s was not necessarily to be liberal or a lover of democracy. And to be antisemitic was not to be unchristian. The Pope told Mussolini that the church had long seen the need to "rein in the children of Israel" and to take "protective measures against their evil-doing". The Vatican and the fascist regime had many differences, but this they had in common. . .  . .

John Cornwell's fine book, Hitler's Pope, on Pius XII (who succeeded Pius XI in 1939) exposed the Vatican's culpable passivity in the face of the wartime persecution of Italian Jews. But Kertzer describes something more fundamental than a church leader's strategic decision to protect his own flock rather than to speak up in defence of others. His argument, presented not as polemic but as gripping storytelling, is that much of fascist ideology was inspired by Catholic tradition--the authoritarianism, the intolerance of opposition and the profound suspicion of the Jews.

Pius XI--formerly Achille Ratti, librarian, mountain-climber and admirer of Mark Twain--was elected Pope in February 1922, eight months before Mussolini bullied his way to the Italian premiership. For 17 years the two men held sway over their separate spheres in Rome. In all that time they met only once, but they communicated ceaselessly by means of ambassadors and nuncios, through the press (each had his tame organ) and via less publicly accountable go-betweens. . .  .

The accession of Mussolini, known in his youth as mangiaprete--priest-eater--didn't bode well for the papacy. The fascist squads had been beating up clerics and terrorising Catholic youth clubs. But Mussolini saw that he could use the church to legitimise his power, so he set about wooing the clergy. He had his wife and children baptised. He gave money for the restoration of churches. After two generations of secularism, there were once again to be crucifixes in Italy's courts and classrooms. Warily, slowly, the Pope became persuaded that with Mussolini's help Italy might become, once more, a "confessional state".

Only gradually did it become clear how much the church might lose in the process. Pius fretted over inadequately dressed women--backless ballgowns and the skimpy outfits of female gymnasts were particularly worrisome. Mussolini played along, solemnly declaring that, in future, girls' gym lessons would be designed only to make them fit mothers of fascist sons. He was accommodating in aiding the Pope's war on heresy--banning Protestant books and journals on demand. But Mussolini was creating a heresy of his own. Schoolchildren were required to pray to him: "I humbly offer my life to you, o Duce." In January 1938, he summoned more than 2,000 priests, including 60 bishops, to participate in a celebration of his agricultural policy. Neither the Pope nor his secretary of state were happy, but they feared offending the dictator. And so the priests marched in procession through Rome. They laid wreaths, not at a Christian shrine, but on a monument to fascist heroes. They saluted Mussolini as he stood on his balcony and attended a ceremony where they were required to cheer his entrance, to pray for blessings upon him and roar out "O Duce! Duce! Duce!" That the fascists (beginning with their precursor, Gabriele d'Annunzio) had appropriated ecclesiastical rituals and liturgies could perhaps be taken as a compliment to the church, but to recruit its priests for the worship of a secular ruler was to humiliate God's vicar on earth. Mussolini was cock-a-hoop. It was easy to manipulate the church, he told his new allies in Nazi Germany. With a few tax concessions, and free railway tickets for the clergy, he boasted, he had got the Vatican so snugly in his pocket it had even declared his genocidal invasion of Abyssinia "a holy war".

When it comes to the "Jewish question", Kertzer demonstrates that the Pope's failure to protest effectively against the fascist racial laws arose not simply from weakness, but because antisemitism pervaded his church. Mussolini scored a painful hit when he assured Pius that he would do nothing to Italy's Jews that had not already been done under papal rule. Roberto Farinacci, most brutal of the fascist leaders, came close to the truth when he announced: "It is impossible for the Catholic fascist to renounce that antisemitic conscience which the church had formed through the millennia." And Catholic antisemitism was thriving. Among Pius's most valued advisers were several who--as Kertzer amply demonstrates--saw themselves as battling against a diabolical alliance of communists, Protestants, freemasons and Jews. . .  .

And we meet the motley crew familiar from histories of fascism: the doltish Starace, Mussolini's "bulldog"; Ciano, plump and boyish and, in the opinion of the American ambassador, devoid of "standards morally or politically"; and Clara Petacci, the girl with whom Mussolini spent hours of every day on the beach. Some of this is familiar territory, but what is new, and riveting, is how fascists and churchmen alike were forced into intellectual contortions as they struggled to justify the new laws. "Racism" was good. "Exaggerated racism" was bad. "Antisemitism" was good, as long as it was Italian. "German antisemitism" was another thing entirely.

Eventually Pius XI drew back from this casuistry. Kertzer describes the old pope on his deathbed, praying for just a few more days so that he could deliver a speech with the message that "all the nations, all the races" (Jews included) could be united by faith. He dies. Cardinal Pacelli--suave, emollient and devious, where Pius XI was a table-thumper who had no qualms about blurting out uncomfortable truths--clears his desk, suppresses his notes and persuades the Vatican's printer, who has the speech's text ready for distribution, to destroy it so that "not a comma" remains. Eighteen days later Pacelli becomes Pope Pius XII. [For further information, click here.]

1859 Westminster: Big Ben goes into operation:

The famous tower clock known as Big Ben, located at the top of the 320-foot-high St. Stephen's Tower, rings out over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, for the first time on this day in 1859. . . . . 

Even after an incendiary bomb destroyed the chamber of the House of Commons during the Second World War, St. Stephen's Tower survived, and Big Ben continued to function. Its famously accurate timekeeping is regulated by a stack of coins placed on the clock's huge pendulum, ensuring a steady movement of the clock hands at all times. At night, all four of the clock's faces, each one 23 feet across, are illuminated. A light above Big Ben is also lit to let the public know when Parliament is in session. [For further details, Click here]

1892 Birth: Gregor Strasser: Hitler's rival:

Gregor Strasser was born at Geisenfeld on 31t May, 1892. He joined the German Army and during the First World War won the IC for bravery.

Strasser was a member of the Freikorps before joining the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). He took part in the Beer Hall Putsch and after its failure was briefly imprisoned.

After his release he moved to North Germany where he quickly became one of the most important figures in Sturm Abteilung (SA). He developed a large following and became leader of the revolutionary wing of the NSDAP.

Strasser was a committed socialist who, like Ernst Roehm, opposed Hitler's policy of trying to win the support of the country's major industrialists. His outspoken views caused a deep rift with Hitler and other leaders of the party.

In December 1932, Paul von Hindenburg invited Kurt von Schleicher to become chancellor and invited Strasser to be his deputy. Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering challenged the move claiming it was an attempt to create a split in the NSDAP. In order to maintain party unity Strasser resigned all party positions and found work in a large chemical firm.

On 30th June 1934 Strasser was arrested by the Gestapo as part of the Night of the Long Knives operation. He was taken to Gestapo Headquarters where he was shot in the back of the head.

1902 Boer War ends:

In Pretoria, representatives of Great Britain and the Boer states sign the Treaty of Vereeniging, officially ending the three-and-a-half-year South African Boer War.
[For further details, Click here]

1915 World War I: Various:

Mesopotamia: Townshend overwhelms a Turkish outpost near Qurna in an amphibious assault, and begins to move inland.

List Regiment:

Hitler and his fellow dispatch runners

Balthaser Brandmayer, after recovering from injuries during the May 9 attack, returns to the 16th RIR. Brandmayer recounts first encountering Gefreiter Hitler, a dispatch runner, in a shelter:

He had [just] come back fatigued after a delivery. I looked at him for the first time in my life. We stood eye to eye facing one another . . . . He was like a skeleton, his face pale and colorless. Two piercingly dark eyes, which struck me especially, stared out of deep sockets. His prominent mustache was unkempt. Forehead and facial expression suggested high intelligence. I can still see him today as he stood before me then, loosening his belt buckle. Along with Mund Max, Adolf Hitler became my inseparable comrade.

Brandmayer delivers his own first dispatch this day, along a "path [that] offered little protection from artillery fire and one was not even covered against machine-gun activity . . . . [Hitler was] in a corner with his head buried in a newspaper, sipping from time to time from a field kettle filled with hot tea . . . . Sleep overcame us and took us softly into its arms. [For further details, Click here.]

1916 World War I: Various:

Despatch Number 3: by Sir Douglas Haig, British Commander-in-Chief:

In spite of a season of unusual severity, a winter campaign has been conducted to a successful issue under most trying and arduous conditions. Activity on our battle-front has been maintained almost without a break from the conclusion of last year's offensive to the commencement of the present operations. The successful accomplishment of this part of our general plan has already enabled us to realise no inconsiderable instalment of the fruits of the Somme Battle, and has gone far to open the road to their full achievement.

Battle of Jutland:

Just before four o'clock on the afternoon of May 31, 1916, a British naval force commanded by Vice Admiral David Beatty confronts a squadron of German ships, led by Admiral Franz von Hipper, some 75 miles off the Danish coast. The two squadrons opened fire on each other simultaneously, beginning the opening phase of the greatest naval battle of World War I . . . . [For further details, Click here]

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

1917 World War I: List Regiment: Gefreiter Adolf Hitler's 16th RIR redeploy east of Douai for a period of rest which will extend until June 24. [For further details, Click here.]

1918 World War I: List Regiment: (May 30-June 2): Originally held in reserve, Gefreiter Adolf Hitler's 16th RIR join German forces overrunning the Marne near Chateau-Thierry. The Germans advance 32 miles in three days and come within 50 miles of Paris. The List Regiment loses 59 men on the first day of fighting alone. [For further details, Click here.]

1924 Outer Mongolia:

The Soviet Union signs an agreement with the Peking government, referring to Outer Mongolia as an "integral part of the Republic of China", whose "sovereignty" therein the Soviet Union promises to respect.

1928 Weimar: General elections in Germany result in gains for the Socialist party and losses for the Nationalists and Monarchists.

1929 Ford signs agreement with Soviet Union:

After two years of exploratory visits and friendly negotiations, Ford Motor Company signs a landmark agreement to produce cars in the Soviet Union on this day in 1929 . . . . 

Ford's assistance in establishing motor vehicle production facilities in the USSR would greatly impact the course of world events, as the ability to produce these vehicles helped the Soviets defeat Germany on the Eastern Front during World War II. In 1944, according to Brinkley, Stalin wrote to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, calling Henry Ford "one of the world's greatest industrialists" and expressing the hope that "may God preserve him."

[For further details, Click here. Stalin was presumably asking himself to bless Ford.—Ed.]

1932 Weimar: Franz von Papen becomes Chancellor and declares his exit from the Catholic Center Party:

German President Paul von Hindenburg appoints von Papen the thirteenth Chancellor of the Weimar Republic, to replace Heinrich Brüning, the leader of Papen's own party. Papen has practically no support in the Reichstag except from the DNVP (Conservative German National People's Party). Note: He will carry on the duties of Reich Chancellor until his successor takes office on December 2, 1932.

1934 Various:

Holocaust: All those racially classified as Jews are dismissed from the German army. (THP)

Colditz Castle is closed as a concentration camp:

From 1933 to 1934, the castle was used as a "protective custody" camp to imprison approximately 600 opponents of the Nazis.

From 1939 to 1945 Colditz Castle became a prisoner of war camp for Allied officers from Great Britain and the Commonwealth, France, Belgium, Holland and Poland. The official name of the camp was "OFLAG IV C" and it was claimed to be escape-proof. However, prisoners succeeded in making their escape on over 30 occasions, despite the rocky crags on which the castle stands, the barbed-wire fences, the numerous guards and the searchlights. Every nation had its own escaping officer and one of them, the British officer Pat Reid, later wrote the bestseller The Colditz Story, which also saw huge success as a film. The prisoners were generally treated according to the terms of the Geneva Convention. When not busy planning their next escape attempts, the prisoners largely spent their days engaged in sports, playing music, reading, rehearsing and performing in plays, and learning foreign languages.

The castle and the town were liberated by American forces on 16th April 1945. During the following months the castle was used as an internment camp for the families of former landowners whose possessions had been confiscated by the Socialists.

1937 Various:

Spanish Civil War: Almeira: The German fleet shells the Spanish city, in retaliation for the attack on the Deutschland.

USSR and Germany: On his arrival in America, Walter Krivitsky, Stalin's chief of Military Intelligence, reveals to the US State Department the full details of Stalin's purges. Krivitsky claims Stalin is determined to forge a pact with Hitler and has turned against the old Bolsheviks and officers of the Red Army because they are opposed to any alliance with Hitler. "Stalin, in the name of antifascism, destroyed the antifascists," Kivitsky says. (THP)

[See: Worst Dictator of Modern Times: Hitler or Stalin?]

1939 Various:

Holocaust: Hungary: Hundreds of commercial licenses held by Jews are canceled after the Hungarian Ministry of Commerce applies strict numerus clausus to Jewish businesses. (THP)

German Ambassador Schulenburg to State Secretary Weizsäcker in the German Foreign Office:

My Dear Herr von Weizsacker:

May I thank you very much for your kind and very interesting letter of the 27th of last month. It is obvious that Japan would not like to see even the smallest agreement between us and the Soviet Union. The less our pressure becomes upon the western boundary of Russia, the stronger the might of the Soviet Union will make itself felt in Eastern Asia.

The Italians really ought to welcome a German-Russian arrangement; they themselves have always avoided clashing with Moscow, and the Reich could take a stronger stand toward France if Poland were kept in check by the Soviet Union, thus relieving our eastern boundary. If the Italians nevertheless are "pretty reserved," the reason may be that they are not pleased to see the importance of the Reich within the Axis increase through an improvement in German-Soviet relations and the resulting automatic increase in our power.

It appears to me that they have gained the impression in Berlin that Herr Molotov had rejected a German-Soviet arrangement during the discussion with me. I have read through my telegram once again and compared it with my letter to you and my memorandum. I cannot discover what has given rise to this opinion in Berlin. In reality, the fact is that Herr Molotov almost invited political discussions. Our proposal of conducting only economic negotiations appeared insufficient to him. Of course, there was and is the danger that the Soviet Government will utilize German proposals for pressure on the English and French. Herr Molotov in his speech at once utilized tactically our offer to begin economic negotiations. Caution on our part was and is therefore necessary, but it appears clear to me that no door has been shut and that the way is open for further negotiations.

We have heard and read with the very greatest interest of your conversation with Herr Astakhov. Incidentally, several days after having mailed my last letter to you I had occasion to talk again with Herr Potemkin about Soviet-German relations. I told him that I had racked my brains as to what positive steps could be taken to realize the suggestions of Herr Molotov. There were no points of friction, no controversial issues, between Germany and the Soviet Union. We had no border incidents to eliminate and no dispute to settle. We were asking nothing from the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union nothing from us, apparently. I asked Herr Potemkin, with whom -in private- I can talk much more freely, whether he could now tell me anything about the ideas of Herr Molotov. Herr Potemkin answered this in the negative; unfortunately, he could not add anything to the statements of Herr Molotov, who had spoken for the Soviet Government. I am curious whether your conversation with Astakhov will help the matter. Herr von Tippelskirch in my opinion was justified in calling attention to the fact that, through our nonaggression treaties with the Baltic countries, Russia has received from us, free of charge, increased security and thereby a German political down payment.

I would like to call attention to the fact that Herr Molotov mentioned in his speech three conditions, which must be met under any circumstances in order to achieve the English-French-Soviet alliance. In none of the three points is it stated that the demands of the Soviet Union refer exclusively to Europe. The Far East is not named, to be sure, but it is not excluded, either. As far as I know, however, Great Britain wants to assume new obligations only in Europe. From this a new controversy may result, if the guarantee of the Baltic countries is achieved. The Soviet Russians are full of distrust toward us, but they do not much trust the democratic powers, either. Distrust is aroused very easily here and, once aroused, can be removed only with great difficulty. It is significant that Molotov, in speaking of relations with England, did not mention the invitations which the British Government has extended to Mikoyan and recently to Voroshilov, too, following the visit of Mr. Hudson in Moscow.

I learn from a generally reliable source that Herr Potemkin was sent to Ankara in such a hurry in order to prevent Turkey from signing with the English. Herr Potemkin prevented the signature of the treaty, but not the "declaration." The Soviet Government is reported not to be opposed in principle to an English-Turkish agreement, but is said to consider it important that Turkey should not dash ahead, but should act at the same time and in the same manner as the Soviet Union.

The most recent border incidents on the Mongolian-Manchurian frontier seem to have been quite serious. According to Japanese reports, the "Mongols" on May 28 employed one hundred airplanes, forty-two of which the Japanese claim to have shot down. They claim that seventeen airplanes had been shot down previously. I believe that the Soviets are responsible for these serious incidents. They represent aid to China; they are to prevent the Japanese from withdrawing their very strong troop contingents from Manchuria to China.

With most cordial regards and Heil Hitler,

I remain, my dear Herr von Weizsacker,

Yours most respectfully, Schulenburg.

1940 Various:

USA: President Roosevelt introduces a "billion-dollar defense program" to boost US military strength.

World War II: Oswald Mosley arrested:

When Oswald Mosley was eventually arrested for detention in May 1940, he was found to own a number of firearms - three handguns, two rifles, two shotguns and two duelling pistols. But he did have a firearms certificate.

He was held in Brixton prison. In one letter to his wife Diana (opened by the authorities) he asks that she "tear up any writing or speech which could possibly be construed as extolling any foreign system".

Lady Mosley was described by one MI5 informant as "far cleverer and more dangerous than her husband and will stick at nothing to achieve her ambitions". She is said to have been the "principle channel of communication between Mosley and Hitler" before the war.

Her sister, Unity Mitford, was even closer to Hitler and in a file on her, it is said that she is "more Nazi than the Nazis". [For further details, Click here]

1941 World War II: Various:

Crete: German victory:

On this day in 1941, the last of the Allies evacuate after 11 days of battling a successful German parachute invasion of the island of Crete. Crete is now Axis-occupied territory.

On the morning of May 20, some 3,000 members of Germany's Division landed on Crete, which was patrolled and protected by more than 28,000 Allied troops and an almost equal number of Greek soldiers. The German invasion, although anticipated, was not taken seriously; the real fear was of an attack from the sea. Those initial 3,000 parachutists were reinforced—to the tune of an additional 19,000 men, arriving by parachute drop, glider, and troop carrier.

The Allies remained optimistic; many of the German soldiers who dropped from the sky died or were injured on impact. The rest were undersupplied and inexperienced. But by the May 26, British General Bernard Freyberg, commander of the defense of Crete, already reported that their position was hopeless. Evacuation of Allied troops began on the 28th. By the night of the 31st, the last of the Allies that would make it out had left the seaport of Sphakia; 5,000 men would be left behind in the hands of the Germans. The total loss of Allied land soldiers in the Cretan engagements was 1,742; a further 2,265 sailors were lost at sea. Three cruisers and six destroyers had been sunk. The Germans suffered a loss of about 4,000 men.

Strangely, Hitler, despite the victory, considered his "losses" too great to pursue further gains in the Mediterranean and finally drive Great Britain out of the area. (

[See: What Was The Mediterranean Strategy, And Could it Have Enabled Hitler to Win the War?]

Iraq: The United Kingdom completed its re-occupation of Iraq, returning 'Abd al-Ilah to power as regent for Faisal II. [For further information, click here.]

1942 World War II: Various:

War against Japan: Imperial Japanese Navy midget submarines begin a series of attacks on Sydney, Australia.

Blitz: Coventry, England, is bombed by the Luftwaffe.

[See: Why Did Hitler Lose The Battle of Britain?]

1944 World War II: Churchill to FDR:

There have recently been disquieting signs of a possible divergence of policy between ourselves and the Russians in regard to the Balkan countries, and in particular towards Greece. We therefore suggested to the Soviet Ambassador here that we should agree between ourselves as a practical matter that the Soviet Government would take the lead in Rumanian affairs, while we would take the lead in Greek affairs, each government giving the other help in the respective countries.

Such an arrangement would be a natural development of the existing military situation, since Rumania falls within the sphere of the Russian armies and Greece with the Allied command under General Wilson in the Mediterranean

2. The Soviet Ambassador here told Eden on May 18 that the Soviet government agreed with this suggestion, but before giving any final assurance in the matter they would like to know whether we had consulted the United States government and whether the latter had also agreed to this arrangement

3. I hope you may feel able to give this proposal your blessing. We do not of course wish to carve up the Balkans into spheres of influence.

1945 Various:

Death: Odilo Globocnik:

He was born in Trieste and trained as engineer; SS major general in Poland in 1942; established the extermination camps of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka and Majdanek as chief of Operation Reinhard (1942-1943); established the San Sabba concentration camp and killing center in Trieste as Higher SS and Police Leader for the Adriatic Coast (1943-1945). Arrested by Allied troops in Austria, commits suicide this day. [For further details, Click here]

China: General Chiang Kai-shek resigns as premier and is succeeded by Dr T.V. Soong. Chiang Kai-shek still remains as president.

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 143, Fritz Sauckel undergoes very tough cross-examination indeed, some of the deftest of the trial:

The Tribunal (Mr. Biddle): Now, I take it when you used the word "shanghai," which you referred to and explained, that simply means private recruiting with force. That is all it means, is it not? (There was no response from the defendant) That is all it means, is it not? Private recruiting with force?

Sauckel: No . . .

The Tribunal (Mr. Biddle): Now, wait a minute. Can you shanghai a man without using force? You do not mean that you shanghaied them by persuasion? Did you?

Sauckel: Yes, for I wanted to recruit these French associations in just this voluntary, friendly way, over a glass of beer or wine in a cafe, and not in the official offices. I don't mean shanghai in the bad sense as I recall its being used from my sailor days. This was a rather drastic expression, but not a concrete representation of the actual procedure. Never, Your Honor, in France or anywhere else, did I order men to be shanghaied, but rather . . .

The Tribunal (Mr. Biddle): Oh, I know you did not order it. That was not my question. You mean that "shanghai" just meant that you had a friendly glass of wine with a workman and then he joined up? Was that what you meant?

Sauckel: I understood it in that way. [For Sauckel's full testimony, Click here.]

From Justice at Nuremberg by Robert E. Conot:

Sauckel's attorney, Robert Servatius, had applied for some thirty witnesses and affidavits, but received almost no response, for everyone summoned was afraid of being prosecuted later. 'I may have to consider withdrawing my motion altogether because I have to admit that the amount of material reaching me is very small,' Servatius chagrinedly told the court. Those witnesses for Sauckel that were brought to Nuremberg through the medium of the tribunal's secretariat more often than not turned out to be the subject of erroneous identification. 'Yesterday the witness Hildebrandt arrived, but it was again the wrong Hildebrandt,' Servatius complained. 'This is the third witness who has appeared here in this comedy of errors. It was the wrong one for Mende, the wrong for Stothfang, and the wrong one for Hildebrandt.'

The bald-headed Sauckel provided, with his Hitler mustache, an unpleasant reminder of the Nazi era. He had difficulty uttering his thoughts coherently, and, as unlikely as it might seem, was even less comprehensible than Ribbentrop or Rosenberg. Time and again Servatius, who had studied in London and Moscow and spoke English, French, and Russian warned him: 'The interpreters cannot translate your long sentences properly. You must make short sentences and divide your phrases, otherwise no one can understand you and your defense will suffer a great deal . . .  . Herr Sauckel, you must formulate your sentences differently, the interpreters cannot translate them. You must not insert one sentence into another.' Servatius's exhortations were, to a large extent, futile. Sauckel's intertwined verbiage was compounded by his apparent evasiveness; seldom did he provide a direct answer. In his proletarian heart, Sauckel had wished that all workers, foreign as well as German, should be treated humanely; and [Albert] Speer had spoken in his favor at Dustbin: 'I must emphasis that Sauckel always did his best to secure decent treatment and food for the foreign workers in Germany. He worked on this with all his energy.' But in his Nazi soul Sauckel had subordinated his humanitarian instincts to the ruthless exploitation of men, women, and children.

Sauckel's defense calls Max Timm of the Reich Labor Ministry to the stand:

Dr Servatius: What was the impression you had of your new superior when Sauckel took over the office?

Timm: When Sauckel assumed office, I had the impression of a very energetic, hard-working man, who was inclined to get excited at times, even angry no doubt, and who demanded much of his co-workers, but also made great demands on himself.

Dr Servatius: How was he in carrying out his measures?

Timm: When he assumed office there was a good deal of confusion in the field of labor allocation. Everybody had something to do with labor allocation.

Dr Servatius: Was that the reason why that office was created?

Timm: The previous chiefs had not had enough force to push their program through against the opposition of various offices; and Sauckel was the strong man, and particularly the strong political figure, who was to put things in order. [For Timm's full testimony, Click here.]

Charles Malcolmson, a member of the American delegation, dies of a heart attack. Funeral services are held at the Church of the Resurrection in Nuremberg. Among the pallbearers are journalists Richard L. Stokes and Walter Cronkite. (Maser)

1960 Death: Walther Funk:

Walther Funk, the son of a businessman, was born in Trakehnen, Germany, on 18th August, 1890. After studying economics at university he became a financial journalist. Funk joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in 1931. He became an adviser to Adolf Hitler and encouraged him to move away from the radical anti-capitalist views of Gregor Strasser and Ernst Roehm.

After the Night of the Long Knives Funk's influence grew and in 1937 he was appointed by Hitler as Minister of Economics. Two years later he succeeded Hjalmar Schacht as President of the Reichsbank. During the Second World War Funk collaborated with Heinrich Himmler in depositing money looted from the Jewish community.

At the end of the war Funk was captured by Allied troops. Found guilty of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial he was sentenced to life imprisonment. In May 1957, Funk was released from prison because of ill-health and died in Dusseldorf on 31st May, 1960. [For further details, Click here.]

1962 Death: Adolf Eichmann—hanged in Jerusalem:

Near Tel Aviv, Israel, Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi SS officer who organized Adolf Hitler's "final solution of the Jewish question," was executed for his crimes against humanity.

Eichmann was born in Solingen, Germany, in 1906. In November 1932, he joined the Nazi's elite SS (Schutzstaffel) organization, whose members came to have broad responsibilities in Nazi Germany, including policing, intelligence, and the enforcement of Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic policies. Eichmann steadily rose in the SS hierarchy, and with the German annexation of Austria in 1938 he was sent to Vienna with the mission of ridding the city of Jews. He set up an efficient Jewish deportment center and in 1939 was sent to Prague on a similar mission. That year, Eichmann was appointed to the Jewish section of the SS central security office in Berlin.

In January 1942, Eichmann met with top Nazi officials at the Wansee Conference near Berlin for the purpose of planning a "final solution of the Jewish question," as Nazi leader Hermann Goering put it. The Nazis decided to exterminate Europe's Jewish population. Eichmann was appointed to coordinate the identification, assembly, and transportation of millions of Jews from occupied Europe to the Nazi death camps, where Jews were gassed or worked to death. He carried this duty out with horrifying efficiency, and between three to four million Jews perished in the extermination camps before the end of World War II. Close to two million were executed elsewhere.

Following the war, Eichmann was captured by U.S. troops, but he escaped a prison camp in 1946 before having to face the Nuremberg International War Crimes Tribunal. Eichmann traveled under an assumed identity between Europe and the Middle East, and in 1950 he arrived in Argentina, which maintained lax immigration policies and was a safe haven for many Nazi war criminals. In 1957, a German prosecutor secretly informed Israel that Eichmann was living in Argentina. Agents from Israel's intelligence service, the Mossad, were deployed to Argentina, and in early 1960 they finally located Eichmann; he was living in the San Fernando section of Buenos Aires under the name of Ricardo Klement.

In May 1960, Argentina was celebrating the 150th anniversary of its revolution against Spain, and many tourists were traveling to Argentina from abroad to attend the festivities. The Mossad used the opportunity to smuggle more agents into the country. Israel, knowing that Argentina might never extradite Eichmann for trial, had decided to abduct him and take him to Israel illegally. On May 11, Mossad operatives descended on Garibaldi Street in San Fernando and snatched Eichmann away as he was walking from the bus to his home. His family called local hospitals but not the police, and Argentina knew nothing of the operation. On May 20, a drugged Eichmann was flown out of Argentina disguised as an Israeli airline worker who had suffered head trauma in an accident. Three days later, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced that Eichmann was in Israeli custody.

Argentina demanded Eichmann's return, but Israel argued that his status as an international war criminal gave them the right to proceed with a trial. On April 11, 1961, Eichmann's trial began in Jerusalem. It was the first televised trial in history. Eichmann faced 15 charges, including crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, and war crimes. He claimed he was just following orders, but the judges disagreed, finding him guilty on all counts on December 15 and sentencing him to die. On May 31, 1962, he was hanged near Tel Aviv. His body was cremated and his ashes thrown into the sea. (

1988 Three U.S. presidents close chapters on the Cold War:

On this day in history, three U.S. presidents in three different years take significant steps toward ending the Cold War.

Beginning on May 28, 1988, President Ronald Reagan met Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev for a four-day summit in Russia. Upon his election in 1980, Reagan had abandoned Nixon, Ford and Carter's attempts to diffuse political tensions between the two superpowers and instead instigated an enormous build-up of arms and rhetoric against the Soviet Union. The Soviets could not keep up with the U.S.'s massive defense spending and this, along with Gorbachev's policy of granting increasing freedom to Soviet citizens (glasnost), helped to erode hard-line communism within Russia. In a remarkable and symbolic address to a group of Moscow University students on May 31, Reagan stood in front of an enormous bust of Lenin and spoke openly about freedom, technology, creativity and his desire to see the Berlin Wall torn down. He told the students your generation is living in one of the most exciting, hopeful times in Soviet historywhen the first breath of freedom stirs the air and the heart beats to the accelerated rhythm of hope, when the accumulated spiritual energies of a long silence yearn to break free.

Two years to the day after Reagan's 1988 visit, and just about a year after the 1989 demolition of the Berlin Wall, Reagan's successor George H. W. Bush met with Gorbachev in the United States to discuss the reunification of East and West Germany. Bush and Gorbachev outlined a plan that would unite the separate communist and democratic spheres into one nation not seen since World War II. In 1991, after an aborted communist coup against Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin became president and the Soviet Union was officially declared over, dismantled and re-named Russia. Most of the former Soviet satellite territories were granted their independence. Russia then initiated tentative steps toward a capitalist economic system.

On this day in 1994, President Bill Clinton pledged continued cooperation with Russia in a New World Order, declaring that the U.S. would no longer point nuclear missiles at Russia, ending the antagonism and fear of mutually assured destruction that characterized the half-century-long Cold War between the two superpowers. (

Edited by Levi Bookin (Copy editor)

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