January 12

1893 Birth: Hermann Goering:

Goering had, among his patrician ancestors, the Swiss-German Eberlin/Eberle family of high bourgeoisie, originally Jewish financiers who converted to Christianity in the 15th century, and had numerous progeny in German speaking countries. Among them was a major political and social thinker and Swiss scholar of art and culture, Jacob Burckhardt (1818-97). Burckhardt rejected German claims of cultural and intellectual superiority, and was an opponent of nationalism and militarism. Ironicaly, Burckhardt predicted a cataclysmic 20th century, in which violent demagogues, whom he called 'terrible simplifiers,' would play central roles. [For further details, Click here.]

1893 Birth: Alfred Rosenberg: Muddle-headed Baltic emigrant, who will become a German citizen in 1922, the Nazi party's semiofficial philosopher:

'Philosophical thought' was only a courtesy title for the jumble of prejudice, irrationality and half-understood plagiarized ideas which stuffed Rosenberg's brain. He believed he approached the question of race scientifically: in fact, he had too many preconceived ideas for any of the objective assessment of evidence required by science, and scientists had provided him with no data to back his theories. He also boasted that he provided a historical perspective for his views; but he merely picked at historical events like a myopic jackdaw, then crammed the bits and pieces, with a vain attempt at a fit, into the rickety pile he called an ideology. [For further details, Click here.]

1912 Volkishness: Hermann Pohl writes a manifesto for the "loyal lodges" of the Germanenorden, which stresses his desire for a fervent, rather than numerous, following, which would usher in an "Aryan-Germanic religious revival" stressing obedience and devotion to the cause of a pan-German "Armanist Empire" (Armanenreich) and the rebirth of a racially pure German nation, in which the "parasitic and revolutionary mob-races" (Jews, anarchist crossbreeds and gypsies) would be deported. (THP)

1919 Post-World War I: Leaders of the Big Four nations meet for the first time in Paris:

The day after British Prime Minister David Lloyd George's arrival in Paris, he meets with representatives from the other Big Four nations—Prime Ministers Georges Clemenceau of France and Vittorio Orlando of Italy and President Woodrow Wilson of the United States—at the French Foreign Ministry on the Quai d'Orsay, for the first of what will be more than 100 meetings.

Victors of the Great War, the leaders of these four nations were determined to control the agenda of the conference that would decide its peace terms. There was no precedent for such a momentous peace conference; even the Congress of Vienna of 1815, which had preserved order in Europe for almost a century before collapsing in 1914, had been far smaller and less complicated than the gathering at Versailles.

As soon as Wilson arrived in Europe in mid-December (in the first-ever official visit to the continent by a U.S. president), Clemenceau and Lloyd George convinced him of the need for the Allies to establish their own position on the peace terms before beginning the general conference and sitting down with the enemy. In a break with traditional diplomacy, Germany was not invited to this preliminary round of talks. This made Wilson nervous, as he feared—understandably, as it turned out—that the Allies would end up setting the majority of the terms of the peace before the general conference even began, an eventuality that would surely frustrate and anger the Germans and would damage the ideal of a peace without victory that Wilson considered vital to a secure future.

The meetings that began January 12 also failed to include representatives from the smaller allies or any neutral countries, though at the wishes of Britain, Japan later joined the group, which became known as the Supreme Council. The Council met daily, sometimes two or three times a day, knowing that the eyes of the world were on them. Even after the general conference began on January 18—a day chosen to rankle the Germans, as it was the anniversary of the coronation of Kaiser Wilhelm I as ruler of a new, united Germany in 1871—the smaller group continued to meet separately to hash out the crucial questions of the peace settlement. (History.com)

1922 Weimar: Adolf Hitler is sentenced to three months imprisonment for a physical attack on opponent Otto Ballerstedt (See Sep 14)

1934 Holocaust: The Gestapo permits the Zionist Federation of Germany to hold a Palestine exhibition in Berlin.

1937 Various:

The first US patent for a submarine cable plow is issued: It was designed to feed a cable at the same time that it would dig a trench in the ocean bed. The device could be used at depths up to a half mile. The first transatlantic cable of high-speed permalloy was buried on 14 Jun 1938. The inventors were Chester S. Lawton of Ridgewood, N.J. and Capt. Melville H. Bloomer of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. They assigned the patent to the Western Union Telegraph Co. (No. 2,607,717)

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem testifies before the Peel Commission in Palestine.

1940 'Euthanasia': The killing of mental patients by means of carbon monoxide gas is tried out in the jail at Brandenburg.

By September 1941, more than 70,000 German mental patients will have been "euthanized" in hospitals at Grafeneck, Brandenburg, Bernburg, Hartheim, Sonnenstein, and Hadamar, using carbon monoxide provided by the I.G. Farben corporation. [For further details, Click here.]

1941 World War II: Joseph Goebbels verbally attacks Winston Churchill:

There is no point to debating Mr. Churchill about English ship losses or the damage caused by German air attacks. He follows the time-honored British policy of admitting only that which is impossible to deny, then cutting it in half, while at the same time doubling or tripling the enemy's losses. This balances the accounts. The astonishing thing is that Mr. Churchill, a genuine John Bull, holds to his lies, and in fact repeats them until he himself believes them. That is an old English trick. [For the full text of this spurious propaganda speech, Click here.]

1942 Roosevelt (re)creates the National War Labor Board:

On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt reinstates Woodrow Wilson's National War Labor Board (NWLB) in an attempt to forestall labor-management conflict during World War II.

Engaged in a two-front war, the United States was supplying not only its own military but those of the other Allies as well. Roosevelt wanted to prevent potential labor union strikes, which would slow industrial production and impede the war effort. The nation's urgent and massive conversion to a war economy had catapulted the United States out of the Great Depression, but the dramatic increase in employment also threatened to put labor unions and industrial leaders at odds over working conditions and wages.

The evolution of the NWLB illustrated the complexity of developing labor policy in the rapidly changing early-war years. It was formed in 1940 as the National Defense Advisory Board; later it became the Labor Division of the Office of the Production of Management (OPM), which morphed into the National Defense Mediation Board (NDMB) until 1942 when Roosevelt renamed the unit the National War Labor Board. The NWLB was made up of political, business and labor leaders and was tasked with providing labor-policy recommendations. Although the NWLB was established to mediate between parties involved in industrial disputes, Roosevelt also gave the board power to intercede and impose settlements in order to preempt any pause in production. The following October, Roosevelt issued the Order Providing for the Stabilization of the National Economy, which expanded the NWLB's control over wages and prices by stipulating that any adjustment of wages had to be cleared through it.

The Truman administration discontinued the National War Labor Board in 1946, giving labor-arbitration duties back to the National Labor Relations Board. (History.com)

1943 World War II: Various:

Soviet forces penetrate the siege of Leningrad:

On this day, Soviet troops create a breach in the German siege of Leningrad, which had lasted for a year and a half. The Soviet forces punched a hole in the siege, which ruptured the German encirclement and allowed for more supplies to come in along Lake Ladoga.

Upon invading the Soviet Union in June 1941, German troops made a beeline for Leningrad, the second-largest city in the USSR. In August, German forces, approaching from the west and south, surrounded the city and rendered the Leningrad-Moscow railway useless. A German offensive attempted to occupy the city but failed; in light of this, Hitler decided to impose a siege, allowing nothing to enter or leave the former capital of Old Russia. Hitler intended to wait the Soviets out, then raze the city to the ground and hand the territory over to Germany's Finnish allies, who were advancing on the city from the north. (Finland would stop short of Leningrad, though, happy with regaining territory lost to the USSR in 1939.)

The siege began officially on September 8, 1941. The people of Leningrad began building antitank fortifications and succeeded in creating a stable defense of the city, but they were also cut off from all access to vital resources in the Soviet interior. In 1942, 650,000 Leningrad citizens died from starvation, disease, exposure, and injuries suffered from the siege and the continual German bombardment with artillery. Barges offered occasional relief in the summer and ice-borne sleds were able to do the same in the winter. A million sick, elderly, or especially young residents of Leningrad were slowly and stealthily evacuated, leaving about 2 million people to ration available food and use all open ground to plant vegetables.

A Soviet counteroffensive pushed the Germans westward on January 27, 1944, bringing the siege to an end. It had lasted for 872 days. (History.com)

Victory Sausages: The Office of Price Administration in Britain announces that standard frankfurters/hot dogs/wieners will be replaced by Victory Sausages, made of meat and soybean meal. Although people grumbled at the food available in war-time, it was apparently healthier than what the working class usually ate.

1944 From a speech by Hans Frank before German political leaders at Krakow: "Once the war is won, then, for all I care, mincemeat can be made of the Poles and the Ukrainians and all the others who run around here; it doesn't matter what happens."

1945 World War II: Various:

War against Japan: The US Navy destroys 41 Japanese ships in the Battle of South China Sea.

The Soviets begin a major offensive all along the front from the Baltic to the Carpathians. German troops fight fiercely although outnumbered by at least four to five to one.

Battle of the Bulge: German forces in Belgium retreat. [See: The Last Days of the Third Reich.]

From Field Marshal Hermann Goering's post-war testimony before the IMT:

When, after 12 January 1945, the Russian offensive pushed forward to the Oder and at the same time the Ardennes offensive had not penetrated, it was then that I was forced to realize that defeat would probably set in slowly. Up to that time I had always hoped that, on the one side, the position at the Vistula toward the East and, on the other side, the position at the West Wall towards the West, could be held until the flow of the new mass produced weapons should bring about a slackening of the Anglo-American air war . . . .

I knew that enemy propaganda emphasized that under no circumstances would there be negotiations with Hitler. That Hitler did not want to negotiate under any circumstances, I also knew, but not in this connection. Hitler wanted to negotiate if there were some prospect of results; but he was absolutely opposed to hopeless and futile negotiations. Because of the declaration of the enemy in the West after the landing in Africa, as far as I remember, that under no circumstances would they negotiate with Germany but would force on her unconditional surrender, Germany's resistance was stiffened to the utmost and measures had to be taken accordingly. If I have no chance of concluding a war through negotiations, then it is useless to negotiate, and I must strain every nerve to bring about a change by a call to arms  . . . . As long as Hitler was the Fuehrer of the German people, he alone decided whether the war was to go on. As long as my enemy threatens me and demands absolutely unconditional surrender, I fight to my last breath. [See: Why Did Hitler Insist on No Surrender?]

1948 Werner von Braun, Hitler's former lead rocket scientist who is now working for the United States missle program, completes the manuscript for a work of non-fiction, The Mars Project (Das Marsprojekt), a technical specification for a manned expedition to Mars. It is the first "technically comprehensive design" for such an expedition, and has been regarded as "the most influential book on planning human missions to Mars." However, it will be rejected by well over a dozen publishers before finally seeing print in 1953. From the introduction:

The study will deal with a flotilla of ten space vessels manned by not less than 70 men. Each ship of the flotilla will be assembled in a two-hour orbital path around the earth, to which three-stage ferry rockets will deliver all the necessary components such as propellants, structures, and personnel. Once the vessels are assembled, fueled, and "in all respects ready for space," they will leave this "orbit of departure" and begin a voyage which will take them out of earth's field of gravity and set them into an elliptical orbit around the sun.

At the maximum solar distance of this ellipse which is tangent to the Martian orbit, the ten vessels will be attracted by the gravitational field of Mars, and their rocket motors will decelerate them and swing them into a lunar orbit around Mars. [See: Wunderwaffen: Hitler's Deception and the History of Rocketry.]

1950 Soviet Union: Death penalty reintroduced for treason, espionage, and sabotage.

1954 Cold War: Dulles announces policy of "massive retaliation":

In a speech at a Council on Foreign Relations dinner in his honor, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announces that the United States will protect its allies through the "deterrent of massive retaliatory power." The policy announcement was further evidence of the Eisenhower administration's decision to rely heavily on the nation's nuclear arsenal as the primary means of defense against communist aggression.

Dulles began his speech by examining communist strategy that, he concluded, had as its goal the "bankruptcy" of the United States through overextension of its military power. Both strategically and economically, the secretary explained, it was unwise to "permanently commit U.S. land forces to Asia," to "support permanently other countries," or to "become permanently committed to military expenditures so vast that they lead to 'practical bankruptcy.'" Instead, he believed a new policy of "getting maximum protection at a bearable cost" should be developed. Although Dulles did not directly refer to nuclear weapons, it was clear that the new policy he was describing would depend upon the "massive retaliatory power" of such weapons to respond to future communist acts of war.

The speech was a reflection of two of the main tenets of foreign policy under Eisenhower and Dulles. First was the belief, particularly on the part of Dulles, that America's foreign policy toward the communist threat had been timidly reactive during the preceding Democratic administration of President Harry S. Truman. Dulles consistently reiterated the need for a more proactive and vigorous approach to rolling back the communist sphere of influence. Second was President Eisenhower's belief that military and foreign assistance spending had to be controlled. Eisenhower was a fiscal conservative and believed that the U.S. economy and society could not long take the strain of overwhelming defense budgets. A stronger reliance on nuclear weapons as the backbone of America's defense answered both concerns—atomic weapons were far more effective in terms of threatening potential adversaries, and they were also, in the long run, much less expensive than the costs associated with a large standing army. (History.com)

1990 Various:

Romania: Communist Party outlawed in the first East European state and Warsaw Pact member to do so.

USSR: Breakup begins as the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania prepare for secession.

2005 UK: Prince Harry apologizes after a newspaper publishes a photograph of him wearing a Nazi uniform at a fancy-dress party.

Edited by Levi Bookin (Copy editor)

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