March 23

1839 OK enters national vernacular: On this day in 1839, the initials "O.K." are first published in The Boston Morning Post. Meant as an abbreviation for "oll correct," a popular slang misspelling of "all correct" at the time, OK steadily made its way into the everyday speech of Americans. [For further information, click here]

1858 Birth: Ludwig Quidde: German pacifist who is mainly remembered today for his acerbic criticism of German Emperor Wilhelm II. Quidde's long career spanned four different eras of German history: that of Bismarck (up to 1890); the Hohenzollern Empire under Wilhelm II (1888 - 1918); the Weimar Republic (1918-1933); and, finally, Nazi Germany. In 1927, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

A humiliated and torn German nation condemned to economic misery would be a constant danger to world peace, just as a protected German nation whose inalienable rights and subsistence are safeguarded would be a strong pillar of such world peace. May those who are in power today think beyond this day and consider the future of mankind. Their responsibility is enormous. Today, an altogether new order can be created for the benefit of all peoples. Short-sighted misuse of that power can ruin everything.

1868 Birth: Dietrich Eckart: Antisemitic poet, writer and journalist; one of Hitler's earliest intellectual mentors:

Eckart joined Rudolf von Sebottendorff's right-wing Thule Society in 1913 and became politically active; in 1915, he also wrote the nationalist play Heinrich der Hohenstaufe (Heinrich of the High Baptism), in which he postulated a claim to world leadership for the German people. Later on, between 1918 and 1920, Eckart was the editor of the antisemitic periodical Auf gut Deutsch, which he published with the help of Alfred Rosenberg and Gottfried Feder. A fierce critic of the newly-formed Weimar Republic, he vehemently opposed the Treaty of Versailles, which he viewed as treason.

1881 Birth: Hermann Staudinger: German chemist. He won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1953, for his discoveries in the field of macromolecular chemistry. From 1926 onwards, he was a Lecturer at the University of Freiburg. In 1934, philosopher Martin Heidegger learnt that Staudinger had applied for Swiss citizenship during World War I, he denounced him to the regional minister of Education as a hidden pacifist. Staudinger was invited to resign, but he refused and the issue was dismissed because of fears of international outrage. He developed what is now know as the Staudinger reaction.

1893 Klara Hitler again gives birth to a son, Edmund, her fifth child. [For further details, Click here.]

1912 Birth: Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun: in Wirsitz, Germany, rocket pioneer. [See: Wunderwaffen: Hitler's Deception and the History of Rocketry.]

1916 World War I: 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: Austrian Emperor Charles I makes a peace proposal to French President Poincaré.

1918 World War I: Big Bertha: A huge, long-range German cannon, named after the wife of the director of the Krupp works, begins a sporadic bombardment of Paris from a position 65 miles away. This remarkable weapon seriously damages Parisian morale and eventually inflicts 876 casualties.

1919 Various:

Russia: Politburo and Central Committee is formed in Moscow.

1919 Italy: Mussolini founds the Fascist party:

Benito Mussolini, an Italian World War I veteran and publisher of Socialist newspapers, breaks with the Italian Socialists and establishes the nationalist Fasci di Combattimento, named after the Italian peasant revolutionaries, or "Fighting Bands," from the 19th century. Commonly known as the Fascist Party, Mussolini's new right-wing organization advocated Italian nationalism, had black shirts for uniforms, and launched a program of terrorism and intimidation against its leftist opponents.

In October 1922, Mussolini led the Fascists on a march on Rome, and King Emmanuel III, who had little faith in Italy's parliamentary government, asked Mussolini to form a new government. Initially, Mussolini, who was appointed prime minister at the head of a three-member Fascist cabinet, cooperated with the Italian parliament, but aided by his brutal police organization he soon became the effective dictator of Italy. In 1924, a Socialist backlash was suppressed, and in January 1925 a Fascist state was officially proclaimed, with Mussolini as Il Duce, or "The Leader."

Mussolini appealed to Italy's former Western allies for new treaties, but his brutal 1935 invasion of Ethiopia ended all hope of alliance with the Western democracies. In 1936, Mussolini joined Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in his support of Francisco Franco's Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War, prompting the signing of a treaty of cooperation in foreign policy between Italy and Nazi Germany in 1937. Although Adolf Hitler's Nazi revolution was modeled after the rise of Mussolini and the Italian Fascist Party, Fascist Italy and Il Duce proved overwhelmingly the weaker partner in the Berlin-Rome Axis during World War II.

In July 1943, the failure of the Italian war effort and the imminent invasion of the Italian mainland by the Allies led to a rebellion within the Fascist Party. Two days after the fall of Palermo on July 24, the Fascist Grand Council rejected the policy dictated by Hitler through Mussolini, and on July 25 Il Duce was arrested. Fascist Marshal Pietro Badoglio took over the reins of the Italian government, and in September Italy surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. Eight days later, German commandos freed Mussolini from his prison in the Abruzzi Mountains, and he was later made the puppet leader of German-controlled northern Italy. With the collapse of Nazi Germany in April 1945, Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans and on April 29 was executed by firing squad with his mistress, Clara Petacci, after a brief court-martial. Their bodies, brought to Milan, were hanged by the feet in a public square for all the world to see. (

1920 League of Nations: Great Britain denounces the United States because of its delay in joining the League.

1933 Various:

Boycott: Hermann Goering opens the first session of the new Reichstag and raises the problem of the anti-Nazi boycott. In the evening session, Monsignor Kaas announces that the Catholic Center Party, despite some certain misgivings, will vote for the Enabling Act. [See: How Did Adolf Hitler Consolidate his Power?]

Hitler gives a speech in the Reichstag:

Simultaneously with this political purification of our public life, the Government of the Reich will undertake a thorough moral purging of the body corporate of the nation. The entire educational system, the theater, the cinema, literature, the Press, and the wireless - all these will be used as means to this end and valued accordingly. They must all serve for the maintenance of the eternal values present in the essential character of our people. Art will always remain the expression and the reflection of the longings and the realities of an era. The neutral international attitude of aloofness is rapidly disappearing. Heroism is coming forward passionately and will in future shape and lead political destiny. It is the task of art to be the expression of this determining spirit of the age. Blood and race will once more become the source of artistic intuition.

Church & Reich: With Catholic Center Party support, the Enabling Act is passed by the Reichstag (which adjourns sine die) transferring the power of legislation from the Reichstag to the cabinet. The Enabling Act gives Hitler the power to pass his own laws, independent of the President or anyone else; making Adolf Hitler more powerful than any Kaiser in German History, and setting the stage for the tragedy to come. (THP)

Church and Reich: From a pastoral letter from the Bishop of Cologne:

The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal (Karl Joseph) Schulte, announces to the Archdiocese of Cologne a declaration of the Bishops' Conference at Fulda, which states:

The bishops of the diocese of Germany, in their dutiful solicitude to keep the Catholic faith pure and to protect the inviolable aims and rights of the Catholic Church, have adopted, for weighty reasons during the last years, an attitude of opposition toward the National Socialist movement, through prohibitions and warnings, which were to remain in effect as long and as far as those reasons remained valid. It should now be recognized that there are public and solemn declarations issued by the highest representative of the Reich Government-who at the same time is the authoritarian leader of that movement-which acknowledge the inviolability of the teachings of the Catholic faith and the unswerving mission and rights of the Church and which expressly guarantee the full validity of the legal pacts concluded between the several German Lander and the Church. Without lifting the condemnation, implied in our previous measures, of certain religious and ethical errors, the Episcopate now believes it can be confident that those general prohibitions and warnings prescribed need no longer be regarded as necessary.

Spain outlaws Fascist propaganda.

1934 Holocaust: The NSDAP orders local Nazi leaders to stop all independent actions that might lead to anti-Semitic violence. Germany announces the Law Regarding Expulsion from the Reich.

In retrospect, legislation turned out to be the least important phase of National Socialism's attack upon German and European Jewry. Yet, in these early years it was the only approach officially approved by the party leadership. Hitler and his trouble shooters, Rudolf Hess and Hermann Goering, expended considerable energy and ultimately the blood of the SA in suppressing or attempting to suppress a wealth of unofficial policies stemming from various quarters of the Nazi movement. For the time being he was unwilling to go beyond the reaches of the law, even though he himself defined what those reaches were. [For further details, Click here.]

1938< Holocaust: Léon Blum's government in France announces a plan to permit legalized residence for Jewish refugees who agree to become farmers.

1939 Various: Baltic Area: Germany annexes Memel, and Hitler demands access to the Polish Corridor, the narrow strip of land that, since the Treaty of Versailles, has separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany. Nazi harassment forces thousands of Jews to flee fromMemel to Lithuania. The Polish government rejects Germany's proposals for Danzig.

Germany and Romania: An economic agreement gives Hitler access to Romanian oil.

Wunderwaffen: Adolf Hitler meets with Walter Robert Dornberger and his team at the Versuchstelle Kummersdorf West, near Berlin, to be briefed on developments in rocketry.

From Wernher von Braun, The Man Who Sold the Moon by Dennis Piszkiewicz:

March 23, 1939, should have been a very big day for Wernher von Braun. It was his twenty-seventh birthday, and it was also the day he would first meet Nazi Germany's Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler. Hitler had been persuaded to be personally briefed on the German Army's rocket development program. The briefing, however, would not take place at the elaborate development base at Peenemuende, but at the old Kummersdorf West facility, just seventeen miles south of the Fuehrer's Reich Chancellery at the center of Berlin. Walter Dornberger, as the Army officer in charge of developing liquid-fueled rockets, led a tour of the facility. He showed Hitler and his entourage the static firing of a 650-pound-thrust rocket motor, and a 2,200 pound-thrust engine. They then met Wernher von Braun, who gave the Fuehrer a lecture on the systems and operations of their rockets, using a cutaway A-3 as a model. This was followed by a static demonstration of an A-5, which had its skin and fins removed to show its systems in operation. Dornberger concluded the briefing by telling Hitler about the A-4, the advanced weapon that had yet to be built.

After discussing the Army's Aggregate series of rockets over lunch, Hitler commented, "Es war doch gewaltig!" which translated as, "Well, it was grand!" or, in colloquial English, "That was swell!"

Walter Dornberger took Hitler's comment as faint praise for the Army's rockets, but he may have been optimistic. Hitler may have been commenting on the quality of his lunch of mixed vegetables and mineral water.

Dornberger later expressed his surprise that Hitler did not seem impressed by the ear-shattering demonstrations of rocket motors, the complex rocket mechanisms, or the plans for the future. Hitler's skepticism was, of course, justified. Dornberger and von Braun had spent tens of millions of marks, yet they had not successfully fired a rocket for over four years, not since the launching of the A-2's in December 1934.

1940 India: An All-India-Muslim League calls for a Muslim homeland.

1941 Holocaust: Himmler presents Hitler with a memorandum entitled: "Some thoughts about the treatment of foreign peoples in the eastern territories." Himmler writes: "I hope to see the very concept of Jewry completely obliterated." (THP) [See: What Was the Nature of Hitler's Anti-Semitism?]

1942 Various:

Holocaust: Alfred Rosenberg—minister of the Occupied Eastern Territories—writes about the possible employment of staff for his projected Reich Center for Research on the East: "I have thought of Geheimrat Eugen Fischer, a person who represents biological research and is a leading member of the KWG."

Eugen Fischer (1874-1967) was a German professor of medicine, anthropology and eugenics. He was one of those responsible for the Nazi German pseudoscientific theories of racial hygiene that sent an estimated half a million Gypsies to their death in the Porajmos and led to the compulsory sterilization of hundreds of thousands of other individuals, deemed racially defective, such as the Rhineland Bastards, the mentally ill, and the mentally retarded. Born in Karlsruhe, Germany, Fischer joined the Nazi party soon after it was established. A book, Human Hereditary Teaching and Racial Hygiene, co-written by him and Erwin Baur and Fritz Lenz, served as the "scientific" basis for Nazism's attitude toward other races.

Wunderwaffen: Wernher von Braun's team launches its first successful test of an A-4 rocket. (Piszkiewicz, Burrows, Braun)

World War II: Andaman Islands: The Japanese occupy the Anadaman Islands in the Indian Ocean.

1943 Various:

World War II: North Africa: The Germans counter attack US lines in Tunisia, halting Patton's advance near El Guettar. [See: What Was The Mediterranean Strategy, And Could it Have Enabled Hitler to Win the War?]

Gypsies: Dr. Ritter reports to the DFG:

Registration of Gypsies and part-Gypsies has been completed roughly as planned in the Old Reich (prewar Germany) and in the Ostmark (prewar Austria) despite all the difficulties engendered by the war . . . . The number of cases clarified from the race-biological point of view is 21,498 at the present time. (THP)

Holocaust: SS-statistician Dr. Korherr sends the report, which Himmler had requested, on the final solution of the Jewish question to his secretary. The report states that, up to 1 January 1943, 2.4 million Jews had been "evacuated to the East", that is to say, "had received special treatment" (i.e. deportation to extermination camps). (THP) [See: Was the Holocaust Detrimental to Hitler's War Effort?]

1944 World War II: Various:

Stalin to Churchill:

I have lately received two messages from you on the Polish question . . . . I was struck by the fact that both your messages and particularly Kerr's statement bristle with threats against the Soviet Union. I should like to call your attention to this circumstance because threats as a method are not only out of place in relations between Allies, but also harmful, for they may lead to opposite results. The Soviet Union's efforts to uphold and implement the Curzon Line are referred to in one of your messages as a policy of force. This implies that you are now trying to describe the Curzon Line as unlawful and the struggle for it as unjust. I totally disagree with you. I must point out that at Tehran you, the President and myself were agreed that the Curzon Line was lawful . . . . 

Does this mean that you no longer recognize what we agreed on in Tehran and are ready to violate the Tehran agreement? I have no doubt that had you persevered in your Tehran stand the conflict with the Polish emigre Government could have been settled . . . . 

You say in your message of March 7 that the problem of the Polish-Soviet frontier will have to be put off till the armistice conference is convened. I think there is a misunderstanding here. The Soviet Union is not waging nor does it intend to wage war against Poland. It has no conflict with the Polish people and considers itself an ally of Poland and the Polish people. That is why it is shedding its blood to free Poland from German oppression. It would be strange, therefore, to speak of an armistice between the USSR and Poland. But the Soviet Union is in conflict with the Polish emigre Government, which does not represent the interests of the Polish people or express their aspirations . . . you tell me of your intention to make a statement in the House of Commons to the effect that all territorial questions must await the armistice or peace conferences of the victorious Powers and that in the meantime you cannot recognize any forcible transferences of territory. As I see it you make the Soviet Union appear as being hostile to Poland, and virtually deny the liberation nature of the war waged by the Soviet Union against German aggression. That is tantamount to attributing to the Soviet Union something which is nonexistent, and, thereby, discrediting it. I have no doubt that the people of the Soviet Union and world public opinion will evaluate your statement as a gratuitous insult to the Soviet Union. In your message you express the hope that the breakdown over the Polish question will not affect our cooperation in other spheres. As far as I am concerned, I have been, and still am, for cooperation. But I fear that the method of intimidation and defamation, if continued, will not benefit our cooperation. [See: Did Adolf Hitler Cause the Cold War?]

Italy: Italian partisans operating in Rome threw a bomb at an SS unit, killing 33 soldiers.

1945 World War II: Various:

Churchill visits Montgomery's headquarter in Straelen.

Churchill to Stalin:

I am with Field-Marshal Montgomery at his HQ. He has just ordered the launching of the main battle to force the Rhine on a broad front with Wesel at the center. The operation will be supported by two thousand guns and by the landing of an air-borne corps. It is hoped to pass the river tonight and tomorrow to establish bridgeheads. Once the river has been crossed a very large reserve of armor is ready to exploit the assault.

Rhine crossing: The British 7th Black Watch crosses the Rhine. [See: The Last Days of the Third Reich.]

War in the Pacific: During the largest operation in the Pacific war,1,500 US Navy ships bomb Okinawa.

Guderian meets again with Himmler—and again urges him to take matters into his own hands and sue for peace. He tells him:

The war can no longer be won. The only problem now is finding the quickest way of putting an end to the senseless slaughter and bombing. Apart from Ribbentrop, you are the only man with contacts in foreign countries. Since the Foreign Minister is reluctant to open negotiations, you must go with me to Hitler and urge him to arrange an armistice. [See: Why Did Hitler Insist on No Surrender?]

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: Defense Applications for Supplementary Materials for Defendants Constantin von Neurath, Hjalmar Schacht, Hans Frank, Fritz Sauckel, Franz von Papen, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Julius Streicher, Alfred Rosenberg, and Arthur Seyss-Inquart.

Dr Thoma (representing Rosenberg): I have asked here to be permitted only a few historic writings, these on the question as to why the Jewish problem has existed in Germany, I believe even from the 8th century, and why persecutions of the Jews recur persistently in Germany. I want thereby to establish that in this connection we are concerned with some tragic fact which we do not rationally understand. By producing evidence both from Jewish and from Christian theological literature, I want to prove that we are not concerned with the fact that the German people were misled into exterminating the Jews, and that the influence of the National Socialist Party was such as to bring the German people to such hate for the Jews, but that we are rather here facing irrational conditions and that this is recognized both in Jewish and Christian literature. I wish also to establish that an [in]tellectual dispute between Jewry and the German race has existed on a purely intellectual level, and in fact in a purely intellectual way, because actually Moritz Goldstein said in 1911‑-I mention only one example‑-that the Jews in Germany administer the intellectual wealth of Germany. Thus here it is a matter of depicting the problem in Germany, the role of Judaism in the cultural history of Germany, and why such a drastic contrast between Judaism and the German race exists here in Germany. I intend to quote only literature in this connection, but I believe that my statements in the closing speech will not be sufficiently credible to the Court if I have not also quoted scientific, recognized scientific, writings. That is all with which I am concerned. [For the full text of today's proceedings, Click here.]

1983 Cold War: Reagan calls for new antimissile technology: In an address to the nation, President Ronald Reagan proposes that the United States embark on a program to develop antimissile technology that would make the country nearly impervious to attack by nuclear missiles. Reagan's speech marked the beginning of what came to be known as the controversial Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). [For further information, click here]

Edited by Levi Bookin (Copy editor)

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