Why the Axis Powers Were Called the Axis Powers

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini declared an axis between Berlin and Rome, coining a term that would be used by both sides in WWII. By Jason Daley In 1936, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini gave a speech in Milan celebrating a new treaty of friendship with Germany and a political realignment of Italy. “This Berlin-Rome protocol is[…]

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact: Soviets and Nazis, 1939-1941

The Nazi invasion of Russia ended the Pact and shifted the Soviet Union from the Axis Powers to the Allied Powers. Introduction The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, named after Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially entitled the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet[…]

Operation Gunnerside: The Norwegian Assault That Deprived Nazis of the First Atomic Bomb

A stealthy group of skiing commandos took out a crucial Nazi facility and stopped Hitler from getting the atomic bomb. Introduction After handing them their suicide capsules, Norwegian Royal Army Colonel Leif Tronstad informed his soldiers, “I cannot tell you why this mission is so important, but if you succeed, it will live in Norway’s[…]

Nazis and the Genocide of Europe’s Roma

Up to 500,000 Roma and Sinti were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. Introduction The murder of around 500,000 of Europe’s Roma and Sinti by the Nazis and their collaborators during the second world war is a little-known aspect of the atrocities committed during this period. In the immediate postwar period, war crimes against[…]

How Neville Chamberlin Misread Hitler and Allowed the Third Reich to Threaten the World Order

Chamberlain tried appeasement by endorsing a diplomatic initiative floated by fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to resolve the crisis. By Jeff Roquen When Adolf Hitler unleashed the might of the German armed forces against Poland on 1 September 1939, shock waves of horror and trepidation ran through the cities of Europe. After years of methodically capitulating[…]

Vital Hasson: The Jew Who Worked for the Nazis Hunting Down Refugees

Vital Hasson was born into the Jewish community of Salonica, Greece. After World War II, he was executed for helping the Nazis destroy that community. By Dr. Sarah Abrevaya SteinProfessor of HistoryMaurice Amado Chair in Sephardic StudiesSady and Ludwig Kahn Director, Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish StudiesUniversity of California, Los Angeles I learned a[…]

Barbarous Hun: The Sinking of the Lusitania and the Rise of Propaganda

It severely affected public opinion in favor of war and further energized a war-weary public in England. On May 7, 1915, the British passenger ship Lusitania was hit by repeated torpedo attacks emanating from a German u-boat off the coast of Ireland. Of the 1,960 passengers and crew on board, only 767  survived. 128 of the deceased were[…]

The Pact between Hitler and Stalin That Paved the Way for World War II

With the stroke of a pen 75 years ago, two men changed the world and sealed the fate of millions. Those two men were the foreign minister of Nazi Germany, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and his Soviet counterpart, Vyacheslav Molotov. On August 23, 1939, they signed a non-aggression pact, promising not to interfere in case the other[…]

Reichskommissariat Ukraine: The Nazi Occupation in 1941

Before the German invasion, Ukraine was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union. Introduction During World War II, Reichskommissariat Ukraine (abbreviated as RKU) was the civilian occupation regime (Reichskommissariat) of much of Nazi German-occupied Ukraine (which included adjacent areas of modern-day Belarus and pre-war Second Polish Republic). Between September 1941 and August 1944, the Reichskommissariat[…]

A History of Europe after the Fall of the Berlin Wall

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union accelerated the push for deeper European integration. By Jeanne Park Introduction The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 laid the groundwork for new institutions, new states, and, in some cases, new conflicts. In the three decades since the end of Germany’s[…]

How Hitler Went from Fringe Politician to Dictator

He went from fringe political to chancellor of Germany within a few years and from chancellor to dictator in a matter of months. From Fringe Politician to Chancellor For most of the 1920s, Hitler was a fringe-party rabble-rouser. In 1923, as the leader of the tiny Nazi party, he incited a violent attempt to overthrow the government and got[…]

Kristallnacht 80 Years On: Some Reading about the Most Notorious State-Sponsored Pogrom

Eight decades on, the thought of the state encouraging people to attack groups of citizens is hard to believe. Here are some books that might help. Introduction On the evening of November 9 1938 a Nazi pogrom raged across German and Austrian cities. Nazis branded the atrocity with a poetic term: Kristallnacht or “Crystal Night”.[…]

The Mass Destruction of Jewish Homes during ‘Kristallnacht’

Most histories highlight the shattered storefronts and synagogues set aflame. But it was the systematic ransacking of Jewish homes that extracted the greatest toll. By Dr. Wolf GrunerShapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of HistoryFounding Director, USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide ResearchDornsife College of Letters, Arts and SciencesUniversity of Southern California Introduction[…]

Betrayal in Berlin: Soviet Disinformation and the Berlin Crisis in 1958

On November 10, 1958, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev fired the opening salvo of what would become known as the Berlin Crisis. Fears that Russian intelligence is actively working to undermine Western democracy—in the United States, Europe and around the globe—are running high. Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III documented multiple systemic interferences[…]

The Nazi Census and a Quiet Hero

René Carmille, director of the National Statistical Service (SNS), stepped in to control and process Nazi census data on Jews. In 1940, Germany invaded and captured France. Step-by-step, the  Nazi occupiers began implementing a new state. There, as in other countries, the Nazis established a census to identify and locate Jews. Once identified, the Nazi occupiers planned to arrest French Jewsand[…]

Visigoths: Ancient Germanic Tribes of Western Europe

After Alaric I, the Visigoths migrated to Spain where they established themselves and assimilated with the Romans. Introduction The Visigoths were the western tribe of the Goths (a Germanic people) who settled west of the Black Sea sometime in the 3rd century CE. According to the scholar Herwig Wolfram, the Roman writer Cassiodorus (c. 485-585 CE) coined the term Visigothi to[…]

The Rabbi, the Telegram, and the Holocaust

Seventy-seven years ago, a telegram bearing a horrifying and unforgettable message reached America’s foremost Jewish leader. It revealed the first comprehensive details about the systematic mass murder that would come to be known as the Holocaust. The author of the fateful message was Gerhart Riegner, a 30 year-old attorney serving as the Geneva representative of the World Jewish[…]

Devil’s Bargain: The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact 80 Years Later

On August 23rd, 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union stunned the world by announcing a nonaggression pact. By David Carlin Joseph Stalin cracks a smile. The dictator’s cold eyes even appear to twinkle. Next to him, the Nazi foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, beams with smug satisfaction. That night, Stalin will toast Hitler’s health.[…]

The Trial of Hannah Arendt: The Dangerous Act of Thinking in the Nazi Era

She caused a furor when she coined “the banality of evil” to describe mindless acts of Nazi horror. By Kathleen B. JonesWriter, Editor, Publisher “There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is a dangerous activity.” Hannah Arendt Fifty years ago, on October 28, 1964, a televised conversation between the German-Jewish political theorist, Hannah Arendt, and the well-known[…]

“The Last I Write to You”: The Courage of Youth Resisters in World War 2 France

About 3000 resisters, many under the age of 25, were tried in German military courts in France and executed. World War II in Europe was the cause of innumerable atrocities against civilians: for instance, the Shoah, Allied and Axis carpet bombing, the destruction of Warsaw, and the cruelties of enforced starvation. Another example is less[…]

How Janet Flanner’s “High-Class Gossip” about Paris and Europe Changed America

The journalist’s witty Paris Letters for the New Yorker helped establish Americans’ feelings of superiority over Europe. By Matthew Wills Janet Flanner, part of that famous group of ex-pats in Paris that included Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, was a significant journalist in her own right, though she once described herself as “a high-class gossip[…]

Between “Bildung” and “Wissenschaft”: The 19th-Century German Ideal of Scientific Education

Without a doubt, the most influential concept in German university history is that of the “unity of teaching and research”. Abstract Prior to the 19th century, poetry, rhetoric, historiography and moral philosophy were considered particularly valuable to humane education, as they transmitted knowledge of beauty, goodness and truth. These so-called “fine sciences” (“schöne Wissenschaften”) were[…]

“It Can’t Happen Here”: Americans and the Holocaust

Widely held beliefs in eugenic “science” and pervasive fear of foreigners led the US Congress to pass quota laws that had severely restricted immigration to the United States since 1924. Introduction On his first day in office in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the American people, “The only thing we have to fear is[…]

When Germany Called Its Soldiers Hysterical

After WWI, German psychiatrists diagnosed traumatized soldiers as having “hysteria,” othering the men to somewhat disastrous effect. For many soldiers who returned from World War I, the terror of combat never abated. Though the statistics are still fuzzy, at least one historian estimates that upwards of twenty percent of all soldiers suffered from shell shock, the early twentieth-century[…]

Depicting the Devil: How Propaganda Posters Portrayed Nazi Ideology

The poster became a cheap transmitter of these various messages and combined visual arts with psychological methods to incessantly repeat Nazi ideologies to the German public. In 1925, a bellicose Adolf Hitler understood that he needed the power of mass persuasion to push his political ideology on the German people. Citing propaganda as an essential component of statecraft[…]

Weimar, Founding City of the Bauhaus

The renowned German school of art and design now has its own museum in the town where it was founded a century ago. Introduction The Getty Research Institute exhibitions Bauhaus Beginnings (June 11–October 13, 2019) and Bauhaus: Building the New Artist (online from June 11) explore the founding years of the German Bauhaus, presenting rarely seen artworks, notes, and[…]

The Confessional Issue and Religious Networking in Post-Westphalian Europe

The often overlapping religious and diplomatic networks acted in concert to advance, for example, Protestant concerns. By Dr. Linda S. FreyProfessor of HistoryUniversity of Montana By Dr. Marsha L. FreyProfessor of HistoryKansas State University Geoffrey Parker, a noted historian of the Thirty Years’ War, argued that one of the great achievements of that conflict was[…]

Grim Relics: Excavating Long-Buried Stories from the Nazi Era

In a discussion with Reinhard Bernbeck, he delves into the origins and ethics of conducting archaeological investigations of the Nazi period. By Christopher DeCou the end of the Cold War, high school students from the German city of Witten visited the Dachau concentration camp to learn about the Holocaust. Walking among the still buildings, they[…]