November 25

1795 Stanisław August Poniatowski, last King of Poland, is forced to abdicate after the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by Austria, Prussia, and Russia. [For further information, click here]

1900 Birth: Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess: in Baden-Baden. He will serve at age 15 in the German army at the Turkish front during World War I. Hoess will meet Himmler at General Ludendorff's apartment in Munich in 1921-22, join the Nazi party in 1922, and will serve a prison sentence from 1923 to 1928 for a political murder. He will join the SS in 1933 and be promoted in 1942 to SS lieutenant colonel. Hoess will be proud of his work at Auschwitz and, at his trial in Poland, boast of his efficiency. He will be sentenced to death and hanged in 1947 outside his former home at Auschwitz. From the Nuremberg Testimony of Rudolf Hoess: "I commanded Auschwitz until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease making a total dead of about 3,000,000. This figure represents about 70 or 80 percent of all persons sent to Auschwitz as prisoners, the remainder having been selected and used for slave labor."

1914 World War I: Various:

Gefreiter Adolf Hitler fights in the trenches in Flanders as a Dispatch Runner with Regimental HQ, 16 Bavarian Infantry Regiment. (Maser)

Eastern Front: German Field Marshal Fredrich von Hindenburg calls off the Lodz offensive 40 miles from Warsaw, Poland. The Russians have lost 90,000 to the Germans' 35,000 in two weeks of fighting.

War at Sea: The battleship HMS Bulwark is blown to pieces off the coast of Sheerness, with the loss of 800 lives:

I was at breakfast when I heard an explosion, and I went on deck. My first impression was that the report was produced by the firing of a salute by one of the ships, but the noise was quite exceptional. When I got on deck I soon saw that something awful had happened. The water and sky were obscured by dense volumes of smoke. We were at once ordered to the scene of the disaster to render what assistance we could. At first we could see nothing, but when the smoke cleared a bit we were horrified to find the battleship Bulwark had gone. She seemed to have entirely vanished from sight, but a little later we detected a portion of the huge vessel showing about 4ft above water. We kept a vigilant look-out for the unfortunate crew, but only saw two men.

1915 Ku Klux Klan: The almost dormant Klan is revived in Atlanta, Georgia, by Colonel William J. Simmons:

As the nucleus of his revived Klan, Simmons organized a group of 34 men. This included many of the Knights of Mary Phagan, in addition to two elderly men who had been members of the original Klan. Fifteen of them went to Stone Mountain with Simmons to burn a second cross and inaugurate the new Klan. Simmons' later account of the founding included a dramatic account of "a temperature far below freezing," although weather records showed that the temperature had never fallen below 45 degrees that night on Stone Mountain. The actual date of the founding is also in dispute, as some sources cite "Thanksgiving Day 1915." Simmons declared himself the Grand Wizard of the new Klan.

1917 Various:

World War I: German troops invade Portuguese East Africa in an attempt to escape superior British forces to the north and resupply from captured Portuguese materiel. [For further information, click here]

Russian Revolution: A Constituent Assembly is elected in Russia. Few of his opponents appreciate Lenin's political boldness, audacity, and commitment to shaping a Communist Russia.

1918 World War I: German commander in East Africa surrenders:

On this day in 1918, a full two weeks after an armistice ended World War I in Europe, Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck of Germany finally surrenders his forces in German East Africa.

A master of guerrilla warfare known for his brave and honorable conduct, Lettow-Vorbeck emerged from the First World War as the only undefeated military commander on either side of the conflict. From the beginning, the colonel knew the British navy's dominance of the seas meant that few reinforcements would be sent from his homeland and, as a result, that the German war effort in its African colonies would have to be carried out on his own initiative.

In classic Prussian fashion, Lettow-Vorbeck organized his African soldiers—called askaris—into independent field companies and trained them in the skills of bush fighting. With successful raids against the British colonies of Kenya and Rhodesia, the confidence of Lettow-Vorbeck's troops only continued to rise. Meanwhile, on the British side, consistently confused command and lack of cooperation between army and navy forces—as well as a decision not to divert any resources from the Western Front for the campaign in Africa—contributed to a string of failed amphibious expeditions along the coast of East Africa, from Uganda to the Zambezi River.

With a force that never exceeded 14,000--including 3,000 German and 11,000 askari troops--Lettow-Vorbeck managed to consistently defeat Allied forces (mostly British and South African) of 10 times that number. In November 1918, when World War I ended, Lettow-Vorbeck was alive and well, with 3,000 soldiers at his command. He chose to surrender at Mbaala, Zambia, on November 25, 1918, returning to Germany, where he was greeted as a national hero.

Immediately following the war, Lettow-Vorbeck joined the Freikorps, the military police force, helping to squelch the radical socialist Spartacist uprising in early 1919. The following year, however, he was forced to resign from the army after supporting the failed right-wing Kapp Putsch against the Weimar government. After publishing his memoirs, called My Reminiscences of East Africa, he returned to public life, serving as a deputy in the German Reichstag from May 1929 until July 1930. During the subsequent years, Lettow-Vorbeck unsuccessfully attempted to establish a conservative opposition to Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party. By the end of World War II, the former hero was living in poverty. In a testament to his greatness, a group of former South African and British officers led by his former nemesis, the South African leader Jan Smuts, arranged for a small pension to be paid him until his death, on March 9, 1964. (

1921 Hirohito becomes regent of Japan.

1928 Romania: Communist demonstrations break out in Bucharest.

1933 The League to Combat Antisemitism opens its fourth annual congress in Paris.

1935 Greece: King George II, restored to his throne by a referendum, returns to Greece after 12 years of exile.

1936 Various:

Zionism: Chaim Weizmann testifies before the Peel Commission in Palestine.

Countdown to Infamy: Japan and Germany agree to collaborate, in opposition to the spread of Communism, by this day signing the Anti-Comintern Pact:

Agreement Guarding Against the Communistic International: The Imperial Government of Japan and the Government of Germany, In cognizance of the fact that the object of the Communistic International (the so-called Komintern) is the disintegration of, and the commission of violence against, existing States by the exercise of all means at its command, Believing that the toleration of interference by the Communistic International in the internal affairs of nations not only endangers their internal peace and social welfare, but threatens the general peace of the world, Desiring to co-operate for defense against communistic disintegration, have agreed as follows.
Article I: The High Contracting States agree that they will mutually keep each other informed concerning the activities of the Communistic International, will confer upon the necessary measure of defense, and will carry out such measures in close co-operation.
Article II: The High Contracting States will jointly invite third States whose internal peace is menaced by the disintegrating work of the Communistic International, to adopt defensive measures in the spirit of the present Agreement or to participate in the present Agreement.
Article III: The Japanese and German texts are each valid as the original text of this Agreement. The Agreement shall come into force on the day of its signature and shall remain in force for the term of five years. The High Contracting States will, in a reasonable time before the expiration of the said term, come to an understanding upon the further manner of their co-operation.

Note: Mussolini will join in November 1937, extending the Axis from Rome to Tokyo.

Genocide: Gypsies: Dr. Ritter, a psychologist and psychiatrist, begins his work on Gypsies in the Section for Research on Race-hygiene and Population Biology in the Reich Department of Health in Berlin, funded by the DFG.

1939 World War II: Germany reports four British ships sunk in the North Sea, but London denies the claim.

1940 War in the Air: Both the de Havilland Mosquito and the Martin B-26 Marauder, two of the most successful military aircraft in World War II, have their first flights. [For further information, click here]

1941 World War II: Various:

A "war warning" is sent to commanders in the Pacific:

On this day in 1941, Adm. Harold R. Stark, U.S. chief of naval operations, tells Adm. Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, that both President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull think a Japanese surprise attack is a distinct possibility.

"We are likely to be attacked next Monday, for the Japs are notorious for attacking without warning," Roosevelt had informed his Cabinet. "We must all prepare for trouble, possibly soon," he telegraphed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Kimmel's command was specifically at the mid-Pacific base at Oahu, which comprised, in part, Pearl Harbor. At the time he received the "warning" from Stark, he was negotiating with Army Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short, commander of all U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor, about sending U.S. warships out from Pearl Harbor in order to reinforce Wake and Midway Islands, which, along with the Philippines, were possible Japanese targets. But the Army had no antiaircraft artillery to spare.

War worries had struck because of an intercepted Japanese diplomatic message, which gave November 25 as a deadline of sorts. If Japanese diplomacy had failed to convince the Americans to revoke the economic sanctions against Japan, "things will automatically begin to happen," the message related. Those "things" were becoming obvious, in the form of Japanese troop movements off Formosa (Taiwan) apparently toward Malaya. In fact, they were headed for Pearl Harbor, as was the Japanese First Air Fleet.

Despite the fact that so many in positions of command anticipated a Japanese attack, especially given the failure of diplomacy (Japan refused U.S. demands to withdraw from both the Axis pact and occupied territories in China and Indochina), no one expected Hawaii as the target. (

War at Sea: The British battleship HMS Barham is sunk by a German U-boat off Sollum, killing 848:

Kapitaenleutnant Von Tiesenhausen, commanding the U 331 off the border of Egypt and Libya in the eastern Mediterranean, spotted a procession of three British battleships flanked by eight destroyers. Displaying consummate nerve, Tiesenhausen eased his boat at periscope depth (less than 75 feet) between two destroyers and, from 1,200 yards, fired four torpedoes at the middle battleship in the line. He had no idea which ship it was that he had sunk, by fate or luck. Only months later would he learn it was the Barham. He was so busy trying to escape and save his crew, he only heard the explosion.

Church and Reich: The Bishops of Cologne and Paderborn recommend that "non-Aryan" or "half-Aryan" priests and nuns volunteer to accompany the German deportees in order to hold services and provide religious instruction for the children.

Holocaust: The German government issues regulations concerning confiscation of the property of Jews who are deported.

1942 Holocaust: Norway: 531 Jewish women and children are seized in Norway and deported from Oslo to Auschwitz. Of the 740 Jews deported from Norway, only 12 will survive the war. However, as many as 930 Norwegian Jews escape into Sweden.

1943 World War II From a Bormann circular:

Individual Gau administrations often refer in reports to a too indulgent treatment of prisoners of war on the part of the guard personnel. In many places, according to these reports, the guarding authorities have even developed into protectors and caretakers of the prisoners of war. I informed the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces of these reports, with the comment that the productive German working population absolutely cannot understand it if, in a time when the German people is fighting for existence or nonexistence, prisoners of war-hence our enemies-are leading a better life than the German working man and that it is an urgent duty of every German who has to do with prisoners of war, to bring about a complete utilization of their manpower. The chief of prisoner-of-war affairs in the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces has now given the unequivocal order, attached hereto in copy form, to the commanders of prisoners of war in the military districts. I request that this order be brought orally to the attention of all Party office holders in the appropriate manner. In case that in the future, complaints about unsuitable treatment of prisoners of war still come to light, they are to be immediately communicated to the commanders of the prisoners of war with a reference to the attached order.

1944 World War II: Various:

Churchill to Stalin:

Your message of November 20. I am glad de Gaulle is coming to see you, and I hope you will talk over the whole field together. There has been some talk in the Press about a Western bloc. I have not yet considered this. I trust first of all to our Treaty of Alliance and close collaboration with the United States to form the mainstays of a World Organization to ensure and compel peace upon the tortured world. It is only after and subordinate to any such world structure that European arrangements for better comradeship should be set on foot, and in these matters we shall have no secrets from you, being well assured that you will keep us equally informed of what you feel and need. 2 The battle in the West is severe and the mud frightful. The main collision is on the Aix-la-Chapelle-Cologne. This is by no means decided in our favor yet, though Eisenhower still has substantial reserves to throw in. To the northwest Montgomery's armies are facing north, holding back the Germans on the line of the Dutch Maas. The river permits us an economy of force on this front. To the east we are making slow and steady progress and keeping the enemy in continual battle . . . . In a week or ten days it should be possible to estimate whether the German armies will be beaten decisively west of the Rhine. If they are we can go on in spite of the weather. Otherwise there may be some lull during the severity of the winter, after which one more major onslaught should break the organized German resistance in the West. 4. Do you think it is going to be a hard winter, and will this suit your strategy? We all greatly liked your last speech. Please do not fail to let me know privately if anything troublesome occurs, so that we can smooth it away and keep closing the grip on Nazidom at its most intense degree.

Churchill to de Gaulle:

If you think well, please give the following message from me to Lattre: I send all my congratulations on the brilliant exploits of your young army. It must be wonderful to be a Frenchman twenty years old with good weapons in his hands and France to avenge and save."

1947 Cold War: London Council of Foreign Ministers meeting begins: Meeting in what a newspaper report called "an atmosphere of utter gloom," representatives from the United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union come together to discuss the fate of postwar Europe. The focus of the meeting was on the future of Germany. The atmosphere never appreciably brightened, and the meeting dissolved in acrimony and recriminations in December. The issue of what would become of Germany, which had been divided into sections occupied by forces from the four nations since the end of the war in 1945, was the key to understanding the failure of the meeting. The American delegation, headed by Secretary of State George C. Marshall, insisted on Western Germany's participation in the European Recovery Program (ERP). This was the so-called Marshall Plan through which the United States pumped billions into the war-torn nations of western Europe in an effort to revive their sagging economies and establish a bulwark against the advance of communism in Europe. The Soviets, led by Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, responded by proposing an early reunification of Germany with no participation by that nation in the ERP. They also demanded heavy reparations from Germany. Marshall, French foreign minister Georges Bidault, and British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin opposed any plan that sought to economically cripple Western Germany or draw it away from western Europe, since Germany's economic recovery was seen as essential to the recovery of all of western Europe. Since neither side was willing to compromise these positions in any essential form, the talks were doomed to collapse, which is just what happened. A newspaper account of the last minutes of the meeting was telling. Foreign Secretary Bevin asked the group, "Any suggestion as to the time or place of the next meeting?" This query was met with "dead silence." In fact, despite the gloomy predictions for the meeting, it went as well as U.S. policy makers could have hoped. They staved off Russian attempts to push forward with German reunification and steadfastly supported Western Germany's participation in the ERP. They had also decided prior to the meeting that should the talks fail, it should be made to appear that the Soviets were at fault. This they accomplished. (

McCarthyism: Executives from movie studios agree to blacklist ten screenwriters and directors who were jailed for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee. [For further information, click here]

1970 Mishima commits ritual suicide:

World-renowned Japanese writer Yukio Mishima commits suicide after failing to win public support for his often extreme political beliefs.

Born in 1925, Mishima was obsessed with what he saw as the spiritual barrenness of modern life. He preferred prewar Japan, with its austere patriotism and traditional values, to the materialistic, westernized nation that arose after 1945. In this spirit, he founded the "Shield Society," a controversial private army made up of about 100 students that was to defend the emperor in the event of a leftist uprising. [For further details, Click here.]

Edited by Levi Bookin (Copy editor)

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