February 4

1871 Birth: Friedrich Ebert: First Reichspraesident of the Weimar Republic.

1895 Birth: Hanns Rauter: German SS, Lieutenant General, SS police chief in Netherlands:

In defence of his actions in Holland he (Arthur Seyss-Inquart) stated that he did not control the orders that came from Berlin. Nor could he do anything about acts ordered by the Reich and committed by the Army or the SS over which he had no control. Hanns Rauter, the SS chief in Holland, had been placed nominally under Seyss-Inquart's command in the administration of Holland. Seyss-Inquart had not appointed him however and he did not control him; Rauter reported directly to Himmler. Seyss-Inquart had been given the honorary title of General in the SS on becoming the Reich governor of Austria but this meant little as Rauter was in fact Seyss-Inquart' superior in the SS.

1897 Birth: Ludwig Erhard: Second Bundeskanzler of Germany; Chancellor of West Germany from 1963 until 1966. He joined the German forces during World War I 1916 as an artilleryman, fought in Romania and was seriously injured near Ypres in 1918. Due to his injuries, Erhard did not have to join the German military forces during World War II. Instead, he worked on concepts for a postwar peace; however, such studies were forbidden by the Nazis, who had declared total war. As a result, Erhard lost his job in 1942 but continued to work on the subject privately. In 1944 he wrote War Finances and Debt Consolidation (orig: Kriegsfinanzierung und Schuldenkonsolidierung). In this study he assumed that Germany had already lost the war. He sent his thoughts to Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, a central figure in the German resistance against the Nazi government, who recommended Erhard to his comrades.

1902 Various:

Birth: Charles Lindbergh: 'Lucky Lindy', in Detroit, Michigan, pro-Nazi US isolationist, pioneer aviator; the first to fly solo across the Atlantic.

Birth: Hartley Shawcross: British lawyer and politician and the lead British prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes tribunal.

At Nuremberg, he worked alongside American Robert H. Jackson, a US Supreme Court justice, and jurists from France and Russia. In his opening address, Mr. Shawcross set a somber tone that emphasized the individual responsibility of the accused. 'There comes a point,' he said, 'when a man must refuse to answer to his leader if he is also to answer to his conscience.' Movie-star dapper, Mr. Shawcross was once seen as a potential choice for Labor prime minister. But his legal eloquence occasionally yielded to public gaffes, including impolitic statements about newspapermen and British housewives. He also became increasingly disenchanted with his party's nationalization policies. Many Liberals nicknamed him 'Sir Shortly Floorcross' because of his apparent conservative sympathies during the Cold War. He preferred to call himself a right-wing socialist . . . . 

1906 Birth: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Anti-Nazi, German theologist, and twin sister Sabine born in Breslau, Germany; the sixth child of Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer; his father a prominent professor of psychiatry and neurology; his mother one of the few women of her generation to obtain a university degree. Protestant pastor who will become a leading member of the German Resistance and one of the few churchmen in Germany willing to pay the ultimate price for his Christian convictions. As a member of the Confessional Church he will assert that Christianity is incompatible with National Socialism and its racial doctrines. During a visit to Sweden in May 1942, Bonhoeffer will take with him peace proposals from the German conspirators led by General Hans Oster, Chief of Staff of the Abwehr, and General Ludwig Beck, but they will be rejected by the British Foreign Office. After being arrested by the Gestapo in April 1943, he will be sent to concentration camps at Buchenwald, and then Flossenberg, where he will be executed together with Admiral Canaris and General Oster on April 9, 1945.

1907 Birth: Otto Ohlendorf: Highly educated lawyer, economist, and head of Amt III (Security Service) of the Reich Main Security Office. As Commander of Einsatzgruppe D he will be responsible for organizing the mass murders of more than 90,000 people in the southern Ukraine (1941-42). Sentenced to death at Nuremberg in 1948, he will serve three years imprisonment before being hanged with three other Einsatzgruppen commanders, in Landsberg prison on June 8, 1951. Ohlendorf:

On the one hand, the aim was that the individual leaders and men should be able to carry out the executions in a military manner acting on orders and should not have to make a decision of their own; it was, to all intents and purposes, an order which they were to carry out. On the other hand, it was known to me that through the emotional excitement of the executions ill treatment could not be avoided, since the victims discovered too soon that they were to be executed and could not therefore endure prolonged nervous strain. And it seemed intolerable to me that individual leaders and men should in consequence be forced to kill a large number of people on their own decision.

1913 Rudolf Haeusler: Nineteen-year-old shop assistant, originally from Aspang in Lower Austria, takes up residence at the Mannerheim, a charitable shelter-home for single men. Twenty-three-year-old Adolf Hitler has been a resident of the home since February 9, 1910. Since they both enjoy painting, the two become fast friends and refer to each other as "Rudi" and "Adi". [For further details, Click here.]

1915 World War I: Germany declares war zone around British Isles:

A full two years before Germany's aggressive naval policy would draw the United States into the war against them, Kaiser Wilhelm announces an important step in the development of that policy, proclaiming the North Sea a war zone, in which all merchant ships, including those from neutral countries, were liable to be sunk without warning. [For further details, Click here.]

1926 Austria: Chancellor Ignaz Seipel declares that he wants Austria to join with Germany in a political union. (THP)

1932 Manchuria: Japanese troops attack and occupy Harbin, Manchuria. [See: Countdown to Infamy: Timeline to Pearl Harbor.]

1934 Greece: Police prevent a pogrom against the Jews of Salonika. (THP)

1936 Death: Wilhelm Gustloff: Swiss Nazi Party leader is assassinated by David Frankfurter, a Jew. (THP)

1938 Various:

Nazi Germany: Reshuffle: Hitler announces he is personally taking over command of the German armed forces. Fritsch is forced to resign and Constantin von Neurath is replaced by Joachim von Ribbentrop as Foreign Minister. Hitler assumes complete control of the Wehrmacht and announces a complete reorganization of the armed forces supreme command (OKW). Sixteen high-ranking generals are dismissed and 44 others are transferred to other posts. Hitler successfully eliminates the most important dissidents in the Wehrmacht and replaces them with men he feels he can either trust or manipulate. General Walter von Brauchitsch is appointed Commander-in-Chief of the army (OKH). General Wilhelm Keitel is appointed Commander-in-Chief of the OKW. (THP) [See: Was Adolf Hitler a 'Great' Military Leader.]

Austria: Nazis vandalize numerous Jewish businesses in the suburbs of Vienna. (THP)

1941 World War II: Various:

The United Service Organization (USO) is founded to provide support worldwide for United States service people and their families.

North Africa: A British tank division occupies Maus, Libya.

Netherlands: Premier De Geer flies to Berlin.

1942 World War II: Various:

Slave Labor: A meeting takes place at the Ministry of the Occupied Eastern Territories where the 'scrapping by labor' of the Eastern peoples is openly discussed. Professors Fischer and B. K. Schultz are among those present. (THP)

War in the Pacific: The US 7th Infantry Division captures Kwajalein:

On Kwajalein Island, 845 Americans were wounded in action. When possible, the wounded were evacuated to the rear and then transported to hospital ships offshore and in the lagoon. Soldiers took the greatest number of casualties on the second and third days after the invasion‑‑244 and 255 wounded, respectively‑‑as they encountered stiff resistance in bunkers and heavily defended buildings.

1945 Yalta Conference: Feb 4-11 After a few days of unofficial get-togethers, Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill meet officially at Yalta in the Crimea. US Secretary of State, Edward R. Stettinius Jr., leads the American delegation and is accompanied by Averell Harriman. Harriman will later recall:

I felt that his (FDR's) late election campaign took a lot out of him. He didn't get up early in the morning after that. He seemed to tire when conversations wore on too long. I used to say that Roosevelt had a Dutch jaw—and when that Dutch jaw was set you couldn't move him. At Yalta, I believe, he didn't have the strength to be quite as stubborn as he liked to be. I suppose that if FDR had been in better health, he might have held out longer and got his way on a number of detailed points. But I can't believe that it would have made a great difference on, say, the Polish question. At the time of Yalta, the Red Army was in full control of the country and no amount of careful drafting could have changed that. If Stalin was determined to have his way, he was bound to bend or break the agreements, even if they had been sewn up more tightly.

From This I Remember by Eleanor Roosevelt:

Franklin had high hopes that at this conference he could make real progress in strengthening the personal relationship between himself and Marshal Stalin . . . . He knew that negotiation invariably involved some give and take, but he was a good bargainer and a good poker player, and he loved the game of negotiation. I am sure that even at the Yalta conference, the necessity of matching his wits against other people's stimulated him and kept him alert and interested, no matter how weary he may at times have been.

At Stalin's insistence, FDR opens the first plenary session, complimenting Stalin on his hospitality and stating hopefully that 'We understand each other much better now' that they can 'frankly and freely' speak their minds face to face. At an evening dinner, the conversation leads to a discussion of the rights of the smaller, occupied nations. When Stalin opines that the idea that little Albania, for instance, should be given an equal voice with the great powers is ridiculous, Churchill takes issue with him, saying: "The eagle should permit the small birds to sing and care not wherefore they sang." FDR does not comment. (Harriman) Note: Churchill is paraphrasing Shakespeare:

Is the sun dimm'd, that gnats do fly in it?
The eagle suffers little birds to sing,
And is not careful what they mean thereby,
Knowing that with the shadow of his wings
He can at pleasure stint their melody

From Memoirs: The Reckoning by Anthony Eden:

Roosevelt was, above all else, a consummate politician. Few men could see more clearly their immediate objective, or show greater artistry in obtaining it. As a price of these gifts, his long-range vision was not quite so sure. The President shared a widespread American suspicion of the British Empire as it had once been and, despite his knowledge of world affairs, he was always anxious to make it plain to Stalin that the United States was not 'ganging up' with Britain against Russia.

The outcome of this was some confusion in Anglo-American relations which profited the Soviets. Roosevelt did not confine his dislike of colonialism to the British Empire alone, for it was a principle with him, not the less cherished for its possible advantages. He hoped that former colonial territories, once free of their masters, would become politically and economically dependent upon the United States, and had no fear that other powers might fill that role.

Winston Churchill's strength lay in his vigorous sense of purpose and his courage, which carried him undismayed over obstacles daunting to lesser men. He was also generous and impulsive, but this could be a handicap at the conference table. Churchill liked to talk, he did not like to listen, and he found it difficult to wait for, and seldom let pass, his turn to speak. The spoils in the diplomatic game do not necessarily go to the man most eager to debate... The President, mistakenly as I believe, moved out of step with us, influenced by his conviction that he could get better results with Stalin direct than could the three countries negotiating together.

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: Day 50.

Continuation of M. Edgar Faure's Presentation of the case regarding Germanization and persecution. Testimony and cross-examination of M. Van der Essen, a professor of history in the Faculty of Letters at the University of Louv.

M. Van der Essen:

It will be remembered that in 1914 this library [Library of Louvain], which was certainly one of the best university libraries in Europe, containing many early printed books, manuscripts and books of the 16th and 17th centuries, was systematically destroyed by means of incendiary material by the German soldiers of the 9th Reserve Corps, commanded by General Von Ston. This time, in 1940, the same thing happened again. This library was systematically destroyed by the German Army; and in order that you may understand, I must first say that the fire began, according to all the witnesses, during the night from the 16th to the 17th of May 1940 at about 1:30 in the morning. It was on the 17th at dawn that the English Army made the necessary withdrawal maneuver to leave the Q. W. line of defense. On the other hand, it is absolutely certain that the first German troops entered on the morning of the 17th, only about 8 o'clock. This interval between the departure of the British troops, on the one hand, and the arrival of the Germans on the other, enabled the latter to make it appear as if the library had been systematically destroyed by the British troops. I must here categorically give the lie to such a version. The library of the University of Louvain was systematically destroyed by German gunfire.

Two batteries were posted, one in the village of Corbek, and the other in the village of Lovengule. These two batteries on each side systematically directed their fire on the library and on nothing but the library. The best proof of this is that all the shells fell on the library; only one house near the library received a chance hit. The tower was hit 11 times, 4 times by the battery which fired from Lovengule, and 7 times by the battery which fired from Corbek.

At the moment when the Lovengule battery was about to begin firing the officer who commanded it asked an inhabitant of the village to accompany him into the field; when they arrived at a place from where they could see the tower of the library, the officer asked, "Is that the tower of the university Library?" The reply was "Yes." The officer insisted, "Are you sure?" "Yes," replied the peasant, "I see it every day, as you see it now."

Five minutes later the shelling began, and immediately a column of smoke arose quite near the tower. So there can be no doubt that this bombardment was systematic and aimed only at the library. On the other hand, it is also certain that a squadron of 43 airplanes flew over the library and dropped bombs on the monument. [For the full text of today's proceedings, Click here.]

1947 Spandau Prison: From Spandau: The Secret Diaries, by Albert Speer:

Recently, Funk has started a friendly talk with me every few days, but my own ineptness at small talk hampers things. Another obstacle is Funk's tendency to wallow in self-pity. But sometimes he gives even his laments an ironic twist. He also likes to mourn the loss of his onetime corpulence and recollect vanished sybaritic pleasures. (Speer II)

1958 Wunderwaffen: Werner von Braun, Hitler's former chief rocket scientist now working for the US, meets President Eisenhower for the first time, at a White House dinner, to celebrate the successful launching of Explorer I. Von Braun, who attends in a rented tux, is dismayed when he discovers that the rental includes only a black tie. From his hotel room, he calls Eisenhower's press secretary, James Hagerty, and explains his problem. Hagerty assures him that a white tie will be found for him, and von Braun does indeed find the tie waiting for him, when he arrives at the White House. However, Eisenhower arrives late at the dinner, explaining that he could not find his white tie at the last moment, and apologizing that he was forced to wear a black one. [See: Wunderwaffen: Hitler's Deception and the History of Rocketry.]

2000 Austria: A coalition government that included Joerg Haider's far-right Freedom Party comes to power, triggering European Union sanctions. (AP)

2003 Balkans: Yugoslavia is dissolved and replaced with a loose union of its remaining two republics, Serbia and Montenegro.

Edited by Levi Bookin (Copy editor)

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