February 25

1831 Battle of Grochow: The Polish army halts the Russian advance into their country:

The largest battle of the November Uprising and biggest friction in Europe since the battle of Waterloo. It was fought between the armies of Poland and Russia on February 25 in the woods near Grochaw, at the eastern outskirts of Warsaw . . . In the early morning of February 25, after both units taking part in the Battle of Biaaka were on the verge of breaking after a night-long city fight, the Poles threw in the reserve 1st Infantry Division under General Jan Krukowiecki. The Russians started a retreat and the Poles started a pursuit, but the Polish advance was halted after an hour. The sound of the nearby battle made Field Marshal Dybich change his plans and order an assault on Polish positions.

1836 Weaponry: Inventor Samuel Colt patents his revolver. (AP)

1888 Birth: John Foster Dulles--in Washington, DC:

After passing the New York State Bar Exam, Dulles was able to get a job at the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell,  . . . eventually became a partner, with much of his output having a pronounced international bent. During his time at S&C, he also served as counsel to the U.S. delegation at the Versailles Peace Conference and on the reparations commission following World War I.

Having formed a political association with New York Governor Thomas L. Dewey, Dulles worked for the Dewey presidential campaigns of 1944 and 1948 as the chief foreign policy adviser. He was influential in the formation of the United Nations during that time, and served as acting chairman of the American delegation to the U.N. General Assembly in 1948.

After Dwight D. Eisenhower won the White House in 1952, Dulles was named secretary of state, while his younger brother Allen Dulles was appointed head of the CIA. Seeking to expand alliances beyond those of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, John Foster Dulles was subsequently involved in the formation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, the Central Treaty Organization and the Austrian State Treaty.

Often working relatively autonomously, Dulles positioned himself in direct opposition to the Soviet Union. He routinely agitated against communism, and as such this stance was acted out via clandestine global maneuvering and severe foreign policy language. Though an extensive traveler with a long network of contacts, Dulles could be a polarizing figure with would-be allies, as exemplified by his alienation of France during the European Defense Community negotiations.

Dulles left the presidential cabinet in April 1959 due to failing health after a three-year battle with cancer. He died on May 24, 1959, in the city of his birth. [For further information, click here.]

1890: Various:

Birth: Vyacheslav Molotov:

Vlacheslav Mikhaylovich Skryabin, foreign minister for the Soviet Union who took the revolutionary name Molotov, is born in Kurkaka, Russia.

Molotov was an enthusiastic advocate of Marxist revolution in Russia from its earliest days. He was an organizer of the Bolshevik Party in 1906 and suffered arrest in 1909 and 1915 under the czarist government for his subversive political activities. In 1921, after the coup d'etat that brought Vladimir Lenin to power and overthrew the old czarist regime, he became secretary of the revolutionary government's Central Committee. After Lenin's death in 1924, Molotov supported Joseph Stalin as Lenin's successor; when Stalin did assume power, Molotov was rewarded with full membership in the Soviet Politburo, the executive policy-making body.

In 1930, he was made chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, a position roughly the equivalent of prime minister. On the eve of World War II, Molotov was also made Soviet commissar of foreign affairs—that is, the foreign minister for the USSR. It was in this position that he negotiated the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Nonaggression Pact (August 1939) with Nazi Germany, in which the antifascist Soviet Union and anti-Marxist Germany agreed to respect each other's spheres of influence (an agreement that angered and stunned the world, and that only lasted a short time).

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Molotov became a member of the State Defense Committee, a war cabinet post, and negotiated alliances with the United States and Great Britain, arguing for a "second front" that would draw the Germans westward and away from the USSR. He won a reputation as a hard and relentless advocate for Soviet interests (nicknamed "Stone Ass" by Roosevelt), and did little to hide his contempt for the Western democracies—even as he desperately needed and relied upon them.

After the war, Molotov left the foreign ministry, but took it up once again upon the accession of Nikita Krushchev to power. Disagreements with Krushchev led to his dismissal from that post, and "anti-party"—really anti-Krushchev—involvement led to his being deposed from all government posts and denounced as a "henchman" of Stalin. He was then relegated to various low-profile jobs, including ambassador to Outer Mongolia. He retired from public life in 1962 and died in 1986. Though he held many notable posts in the Soviet government, many remember him for another reason—during the war, Molotov advocated the use of throwing bottles filled with flammable liquid and stuffed with a lit rag at the enemy, and the famous "Molotov cocktail" was born. (History.com)

Birth: Dame Myra Hess DBE:

She was born in London as Julia Myra Hess, but was best-known by her middle name. At the age of five she began to study the piano and two years later entered the Guildhall School of Music, where she graduated as winner of the gold medal. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music under Tobias Matthay. Her debut came in 1907 when she played Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 with Sir Thomas Beecham conducting. She went on to tour through Britain, the Netherlands and France. Upon her American debut (New York, 24 January 1922) she became a prime favourite in the United States, not only as a soloist, but also as a fine ensemble player. She also has a surprising link to jazz, having given lessons in the '20s to Ivy Brubeck, mother of Dave Brubeck.

Hess garnered greater fame during World War II when, with all concert halls blacked out at night to avoid being targets of German bombers, she organized what would turn out to be some 1700 lunchtime concerts spanning a period of six years. The concerts were held at the National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square; Hess herself played in 150 of them. For this contribution to maintaining the morale of the populace of London, King George VI awarded her with the Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in 1941; having previously been created a CBE in 1936.

1895 Birth: Rudolf von Eschwege: German fighter ace in World War I:

1896 Countdown to Infamy: The USS Boston joins the Asiatic Squadron at Yokohama, Japan. She will remain in the Orient "protecting American interests" for the next four years. [See: Countdown to Infamy: Timeline to Pearl Harbor.]

1915 World War I: Turkey: The outer Turkish forts are silenced and Allied vessels enter the Dardanelles.

1916 World War I: German troops capture Fort Douaumont (Verdun): On February 25, 1916, German troops seize Fort Douaumont, the most formidable of the forts guarding the walled city of Verdun, France, four days after launching their initial attack. The Battle of Verdun will become the longest and bloodiest conflict of World War I, lasting 10 months and resulting in over 700,000 total casualties. [For further details, Click here.]

1917 World War I: Russia: General Khabalov issues a police proclamation forbidding all assemblies in the streets of Petrograd and warning that his troops have been ordered to use their weapons to maintain order. Only hours later, 300 people are killed near Nicholas Station. (THP)

1918 World War I: Count Hertling's speech to the Reichstag—in response to Woodrow Wilson's speech to the US Congress:

Adopting this method, I readily admit that President Wilson's message of February 11th represents, perhaps, a small step toward a mutual rapprochement. I therefore pass over the preliminary and excessively long declarations in order to address myself immediately to the four principles which, in President Wilson's opinion, must be applied in a mutual exchange of views. The first clause says that each part of the final settlement must be based upon the essential justice of that particular case and upon such adjustments as are most likely to bring a peace that will be permanent. Who would contradict this? The phrase, coined by the great father of the Church, Augustine, 1,500 years ago‑-"Justitia fundamentum regnorum"‑-is still valid today. Certain it is that only peace based in all its parts on the principles of justice has a prospect of endurance. The second clause expresses the desire that peoples and provinces shall not be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were mere chattels and pawns in a game, even the great game, now forever discredited, of the balance of power.

1920 Voelkishness: Philipp Stauff continues operation of the List Society at its new headquarters in Berlin. From his home at Moltkestrasse 46a in Berlin-Lichterfelde, Stauff publishes new editions of Guido von List's Ario-Germanic researches until 1922. (THP)

1926 Poland demands a permanent seat on the League of Nations council.

1932 Weimar: Adolf Hitler, who was born in Austria, is appointed to the Brunswick Office of Agriculture and Land Survey as the attaché for the Brunswick Legation in Berlin. He is supposed to be responsible for representing the economic interests of the province, but it is in reality a scam to make Hitler a German citizen. (Maser)

1933: Various:

USS Ranger: First ship of the United States Navy constructed as an aircraft carrier is launched. [For further information, click here]

Palestine: British High Commissioner rejects Arab demands that would make the sale of Arab lands to Jews illegal.

1934 Nazi Germany: The German Association of Jewish War Veterans declares loyalty to Germany in honor of the 12,000 Jews who died fighting for Germany in World War I.

1938 Lord Halifax (Edward F.L. Wood) replaces Anthony Eden as British Foreign Secretary:

In 1936 Halifax visited Nazi Germany for the first time. Halifax's friend, Henry (Chips) Channon, reported: "He told me he liked all the Nazi leaders, even Goebbels, and he was much impressed, interested, and amused by the visit. He thinks the regime absolutely fantastic." In November, 1937, Neville Chamberlain, who had replaced Stanley Baldwin as prime minister, sent Lord Halifax to meet Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, and Hermann Goering in Germany. In his diary, Lord Halifax records how he told Hitler:

"Although there was much in the Nazi system that profoundly offended British opinion, I was not blind to what he (Hitler) had done for Germany, and to the achievement from his point of view of keeping Communism out of his country." This was a reference to the fact that Hitler had banned the Communist Party (KPD) in Germany and placed its leaders in Concentration Camps. Whereas Lord Halifax supported Chamberlain's appeasement policy, the foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, was highly critical of this way of dealing with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. On 25th February, 1938 Eden resigned over this issue and Lord Halifax became the new foreign secretary.

1939 World War II: Air-raid precautions: On this day, the first Anderson air-raid shelter is built in Islington, North London‑-the first of 2.5 million of them:

These shelters were half buried in the ground with earth heaped on top to protect them from bomb blasts. They were made from six corrugated iron sheets bolted together at the top, with steel plates at either end.

1941 World War II: Press Reaction to Hitler's Feb 24 Speech:

The Times, London: His address, both in form and substance, differed little from past utterances . . . delivered at the top of his voice . . . . Hitler's claim that 215,000 tons of shipping had been sunk during the forty-eight hours preceding his speech was only another of the fantasies which are so frequently voiced in German communiques. It was learned in London . . . that there was no truth whatsoever in the claim.

The New York Times: It was considered significant, however, that he did not mention the Balkans or an invasion of Britain; that he made no promise to end the war this year and that he refrained from attacking the United States for its aid to Britain . . . . Hitler's utterances contained nothing truly programmatic. He merely repeated what he had announced on January 30, namely, that this war would gather momentum in the Spring.

1943 World War II: US troops retake the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia‑-where they had been defeated five days before:

For the Americans studied Kasserine Pass even more intently than the Germans. They changed leadership where in was needed, and gave junior officers the authority to make on-the-spot decisions. Major General Lloyd Fredendall, commanding II Corps, was replaced by the more aggressive General George Patton. The M3 tank was quickly replaced with the M4 Sherman, which mounted the same 75mm gun in a traversable turret. While it was never the equal of the German tanks, it was easier to maintain and traveled much further between refits. Most importantly Kasserine Pass taught the Americans the doctrine of massed firepower.

1944 World War II: War in the Pacific: US forces destroy 135 Japanese planes in the Marianas and Guam.

1945 Various:

Allied Fliers: From an order by Gauleiter and National Defense Commissioner of Westfalen-Sud, Albert Hoffman:

Fighter-bomber pilots who are shot down are in principle not to be protected against the fury of the people. I expect from all police officers that they will refuse to lend their protection to these gangster types. Authorities acting in contradiction to the popular sentiment will have to account to me. All police and gendarmerie officials are to be informed immediately of this, my attitude.

World War II: Joseph Goebbels takes on the role of prophet, imagining the world two generations after German victory. [Note Goebbels' use of the term 'iron curtain.‑-List-owner]

The three enemy war leaders, American sources report, have agreed at the Yalta Conference to Roosevelt's proposal for an occupation program that will destroy and exterminate the German people up until the year 2000. One must grant the somewhat grandiose nature of the proposal. It reminds one of the skyscrapers in New York that soar high into the sky, and whose upper stories sway in the wind.

What will the world look like in the year 2000? Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt have determined it, at least insofar as the German people are concerned. One may however doubt if they and we will act in the predicted manner. No one can predict the distant future, but there are some facts and possibilities that are clear over the coming fifty years. For example, none of the three enemy statesmen who developed this brilliant plan will still be alive, England will have at most 20 million inhabitants, our children's children will have had children, and that the events of this war will have sunk into myth.

One can also predict with a high degree of certainty that Europe will be a united continent in the year 2000. One will fly from Berlin to Paris for breakfast in fifteen minutes, and our most modern weapons will be seen as antiques, and much more. Germany, however, will still be under military occupation according to the plans of the Yalta Conference, and the English and Americans will be training its people in democracy. How empty the brains of these three charlatans must be‑-at least in the case of two of them!

The third, Stalin, follows much more far-reaching goals than his two comrades. He certainly does not plan to announce them publicly, but he and his 200 million slaves will fight bitterly and toughly for them. He sees the world differently than do those plutocratic brains. He sees a future in which the entire world is subjected to the dictatorship of the Moscow Internationale, which means the Kremlin. His dream may seem fantastic and absurd, but if we Germans do not stop him, it will undoubtedly become reality. That will happen as follows: If the German people lay down their weapons, the Soviets, according to the agreement between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, would occupy all of East and Southeast Europe along with the greater part of the Reich. An iron curtain would fall over this enormous territory controlled by the Soviet Union. [For the full text, Click here.]

World War II: Joseph Stalin signs a decree creating special 'trophy battalions.' These specialized units soon begin establishing working relations with every Soviet Army Group in occupied Poland and Germany. Their mission is to remove all and any industrial equipment, materials and personnel deemed useful to the Red Army from both countries. By September 1945 there will be 48 trophy brigades, 23 of which will be deployed in Germany, seven in Poland and six in Czechoslovakia. (Menaul)

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: The Prosecution and the Defense battle over applications for Witnesses and Documents:

Dr Horn: As the next witness, I ask the Tribunal to call General Koestring, former military attache at Moscow, and at present in prison in Nuremberg. In this case I am willing to forego the personal appearance of the witness if the submission of affidavit will be permitted.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: My Lord, we object to this witness and so Dr. Horn can develop it as far as he desires.

The President: You object to him?

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: We object.

The President: Go on.

Dr Horn: I wish nevertheless, to ask the Tribunal to call the witness in this case. Originally, there was a possibility, as I was told, that the witness might be called by the Prosecution. Since this has not taken place, I ask that this witness be approved because he took part in the German-Russian negotiations from August to September 1939 at Moscow and, until the beginning of hostilities against the Soviet Union, remained at that post. The witness, therefore, can tell us about the attitude of authoritative German circles and personalities toward the German-Russian pact. For these reasons I ask the Tribunal to call the witness.

General Rudenko: As it has already been stated by Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, the Prosecution objects to the summoning of this witness. I merely wish to define the position of the Prosecution in this case. The fact that the witness participated or was present at the August-September 1939 negotiations is scarcely of interest to the Tribunal. The Tribunal primarily proceeds from the fact of the existence of this agreement and its treacherous violation by Germany. Consequently, the summoning of this witness to describe these negotiations would merely delay the course of the Trial. [For the full text of today's proceedings, Click here.]

1948 Cold War: Communists take power in Czechoslovakia:

Under pressure from the Czechoslovakian Communist Party, President Eduard Benes allows a communist-dominated government to be organized. Although the Soviet Union did not physically intervene (as it would in 1968), Western observers decried the virtually bloodless communist coup as an example of Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe.

The political scene in Czechoslovakia following World War II was complex, to say the least. Eduard Benes was head of the London-based Czech government-in-exile during the war, and returned to his native land in 1945 to take control of a new national government following the Soviet withdrawal in July of that year. National elections in 1946 resulted in significant representation for leftist and communist parties in the new constituent assembly. Benes formed a coalition with these parties in his administration.

Although Czechoslovakia was not formally within the Soviet orbit, American officials were concerned with the Soviet communist influence in the nation. They were particularly upset when Benes' government strongly opposed any plans for the political rehabilitation and possible rearmament of Germany (the U.S. was beginning to view a rearmed Germany as a good line of defense against Soviet incursions into western Europe). In response, the United States terminated a large loan to Czechoslovakia. Moderate and conservative parties in Czechoslovakia were outraged, and declared that the U.S. action was driving their nation into the clutches of the communists. Indeed, the communists made huge electoral gains in the nation, particularly as the national economy spiraled out of control.

When moderate elements in the Czech government raised the possibility of the nation's participation in the U.S. Marshall Plan (a massive economic recovery program designed to help war torn European countries rebuild), the communists organized strikes and protests, and began clamping down on opposition parties. Benes tried desperately to hold his nation together, but by February 1948 the communists had forced the other coalition parties out of the government. On February 25, Benes gave in to communist demands and handed his cabinet over to the party. Rigged elections were held in May to validate the communist victory. Benes then resigned and his former foreign minister Jan Masaryk died under very suspicious circumstances. Czechoslovakia became a single-party state.

The response from the West was quick but hardly decisive. Both the United and Great Britain denounced the communist seizure of power in Czechoslovakia, but neither took any direct action. Perhaps having put too much faith in Czechoslovakia's democratic traditions, or possibly fearful of a Soviet reaction, neither nation offered anything beyond verbal support to the Benes government. The Communist Party, with support and aid from the Soviet Union, dominated Czechoslovakian politics until the so-called "Velvet Revolution" of 1989 brought a non-communist government to power. (History.com)

1949 Spandau Prison: From Spandau: The Secret Diaries, by Albert Speer:

It is raining today. When eleven o'clock comes, time for the daily walk, Hess begins to groan. When we others go out, he remains lying on his cot. Stokes orders him: "Number Seven! Go for a walk!" Curious, we linger in the corridor and listen to a protracted discussion. "Seven, you'll be put in the punishment cell. You must go out!" Shrugging, Hess gets up and without demurring goes into the punishment cell, which is furnished with a chair and table. (Speer II) [See: Was Rudolf Hess 'Crazy'?]

1956 De-Stalinization:

Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev sensationally denounces Stalin's excesses to the 20th Communist Party Conference in the USSR:

We have to consider seriously and analyze correctly this matter in order that we may preclude any possibility of a repetition in any form whatever of what took place during the life of Stalin, who absolutely did not tolerate collegiality in leadership and in work, and who practiced brutal violence, not only toward everything which opposed him, but also toward that which seemed, to his capricious and despotic character, contrary to his concepts. Stalin acted not through persuasion, explanation and patient cooperation with people, but by imposing his concepts and demanding absolute submission to his opinion.

Whoever opposed these concepts or tried to prove his [own] viewpoint and the correctness of his [own] position was doomed to removal from the leadership collective and to subsequent moral and physical annihilation. This was especially true during the period following the 17th Party Congress, when many prominent Party leaders and rank-and-file Party workers, honest and dedicated to the cause of Communism, fell victim to Stalin's despotism.

Edited by Levi Bookin (Copy editor)

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