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31 January 1945

31 January 1945


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31 January 1945

Eastern Front

1st Belorussian Front captures bridgeheads west of the Oder north and south of Kuestrin.

War at Sea

German submarine U-3520 sunk with all hands off Bulk

Diplomacy

Churchill, Eden, Stettinius and the Combined Chiefs-of-Staff meet at Malta for a pre-Yalta conference



ExecutedToday.com

On January 31, 1945, Private Edward Donald “Eddie” Slovik became a curious outlier of World War II: he was executed by firing squad by the U.S. Army for desertion. He is the only person to have been so punished for that crime since the Civil War.

Pvt Slovik was, by all accounts, quiet and helpful, by no means a coward, and more than willing to aid in the effort of World War II, traits which would have put him among a large class of that war’s veterans. Unfortunately, he was also immobilized by shelling. Equally unfortunately, he knew it, and he decided to do something about it.

Slovik and a friend, Pvt John F. Tankey, first separated from their detachment under artillery fire in late August 1944, shortly after being shipped to France. The pair hooked up with a Canadian unit and spent six weeks pitching in. Having recused themselves from the hard shelling others were experiencing on the front line, they opted to rejoin their regular U.S. unit: Slovik and Tankey sent a letter to their commanding officer explaining their absence and returned on Oct. 7.

But the front lines were not a place for Pvt Slovik.

After his assignment to the rifle unit, which would face imminent danger during shelling, Slovik asked to be placed in the rear guard, indicating he was too scared to remain in front. His request was refused. He then reportedly asked whether leaving the unit again would be considered desertion, was told it would be, and opted for the seemingly safer route of, well, deserting. One day later, Slovik was back at a U.S. camp, this time turning himself in to the camp cook. He had drafted a letter explaining his actions and indicating that he knowingly deserted, permanently recording his guilt on paper.

It’s not clear whether Pvt Slovik was acting on principles or out of an understanding of the U.S. military judicial system. He was by no means the only soldier without affinity for the conditions of war, particularly on the allied side. During the war, thousands of soldiers were tried and convicted in military courts for desertion, but up to then, all had received only time in the brig. What is clear is that Slovik was repeatedly offered opportunities to return to the line, and he equally repeatedly refused.

The case was adjudicated on Nov 11 by nine staff officers of the 28th Division, none of whom had yet been in battle. One of those judges, Benedict B. Kimmelman, wrote a stark and intriguing account of his role in the story of Pvt Slovik, capturing the scene thusly:

Five witnesses were heard. The cross-examinations were perfunctory. The defense made no closing argument. The court recessed for ten minutes, resumed, and retired almost immediately afterward. Three ballots were taken in closed court, the verdicts unanimously guilty on all counts. In open court once more, the president announced the verdict and the sentence: to be dishonorably discharged, to forfeit all pay and allowances due, and to be shot to death with musketry. The trial had begun at 10:00 A.M. it was over at 11:40 A.M.

As with all court martial cases, Slovik’s was sent to a judge advocate for review. His criminal record, including everything from destruction of property to public intoxication to embezzlement, did not endear him to the reviewer. More importantly, though, the advocate felt Slovik could be made an example:

He has directly challenged the authority of the government, and future discipline depends upon a resolute reply to this challenge. If the death penalty is ever to be imposed for desertion, it should be imposed in this case, not as a punitive measure nor as retribution, but to maintain that discipline upon which alone an army can succeed against the enemy.

Strangely, Pvt Slovik was the only person who would be exemplified this way.

Though the military tried 21,000 desertion cases and passed down 49 death sentences for desertion during the war, it carried out only Slovik’s. And in the war’s final battles, with Germany collapsing, his execution seemed like a surreal throwback. As Kimmelman notes, hundreds if not thousands of soldiers were strictly guilty of dereliction of duty and desertion in the waning days of 1944.

They’re not shooting me for deserting the United Stated Army — thousands of guys have done that. They’re shooting me for bread I stole when I was 12 years old. (Source)

Three weeks after his conviction and three weeks before the Battle of the Bulge, Slovik’s execution order was confirmed by the 28th Division’s commander, Major General Norman “Dutch” Cota. Cota was disturbed by Slovik’s forthrightness in confessing to the desertion, and, as a front line commander who had sustained severe casualty rates in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, had no sympathy for the crime.

After an appeal to the deaf ears of Dwight Eisenhower shortly before the sentence was to be carried out, Slovik was out of options. He was taken to the courtyard of an estate near the village of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines and shot by 11 Army marksmen* at 10 a.m. By 10:04, as they were reloading, he was declared dead. His body was interred at a French cemetery, and after decades of lobbying the U.S. government, his remains were returned to Michigan in 1987.

Because he was dishonorably discharged, Slovik was not entitled to a pension, and his wife, Antoinette, stopped receiving payments. Curiously, though the Army managed to communicate this to her, they omitted the bit about the execution. She found out in 1953 from William Bradford Huie.

Huie was a journalist who took immediate interest in Slovik’s story, popularizing it with his book The Execution of Private Slovik, which was released in 1954. Twenty years later, the book and title were requisitioned for a well-received TV movie starring Martin Sheen.

Perhaps more interesting than this film was its never-produced predecessor, which is entitled to a place in the history of the Hollywood Blacklist. Frank Sinatra acquired rights to The Execution of Private Slovik and in 1960 announced that he would produce it as his directorial debut — with the script of this inherently political story to be written by “Hollywood Ten” blacklistee Albert Maltz. Maltz and other blackballed writers had continued working pseudonymously during the anti-Communist blacklist, but Sinatra’s openly announcing an intent to hire and credit Maltz constituted a significant crack in the wall — even though commercial and political heat eventually forced Sinatra to abandon the project. This event has treatment in a recommended episode of the magnificent cinema-history podcast You Must Remember This.

* The firing squad included 12 marksmen, but one was given a blank. Despite their skill, the 11 remaining shooters did not manage to kill him instantaneously.


Soldiers from New York: Jewish Soldiers in The New York Times, in World War Two: The Gans Brothers – Sgt. Ralph Gans – January 31, 1945


The Second World War was characterized by near-universal military service among the warring nations, either voluntarily, or through conscription. As such, multiple members of a single family – fathers and sons sets of brothers – would find themselves wearing the uniforms of their countries, serving in combat or military support duties on land, in the air, or at sea. Sometimes, this would occur in the same geographic theater of operations sometimes, even in the same branch of service.

Sometimes, fate – or God – would cast a favorable face upon a family: All its members would return, and resume their civilian lives in the fullness of time. Or, like soldiers throughout history, they would be transformed, traumatized, or inspired (often in reinforcing or contradictory combination) by their military experiences, and embark – by decision or chance – upon new and unanticipated paths through life.

Sometimes, God – or fate – would cast an entirely difference “face” upon a family, perhaps manifesting what is known in Hebrew (most notably in the book of Isaiah) as an aspect of “hester punim”. (Perhaps perhaps.) For such a family, the course of life would unalterably, irrevocably altered…

In that sense, while my prior posts about Jewish soldiers reported upon in The New York Times have by definition covered specific individuals, in 1945, for the Gans family of the Bronx, life indeed took that different course. The Gans brothers – Ralph (Rafael bar Yaakov) and Solomon (Zalman bar Yaakov) – lost their lives in military service with four weeks of one another, and their loss was covered in the Times on April 17 of that year.

Ralph, born in 1920 and the older of the two, lost his life in England on January 31 under non-combat circumstances while serving with the Ordnance Corps. Solomon, a Second Lieutenant who had been enrolled at City College, was killed in combat while serving in I Company, 253rd Infantry Regiment, 63rd Infantry Division on January 3.

The sons of Jacobs and Mary Gans of 494 Claremont Parkway (East 171st St.) in the Bronx, their obituary appeared in the Times on April 17. They are buried adjacent to one another at Mount Lebanon Cemetery, in Glendale, N.Y. (Workmen’s Circle Society, Block WC, Section 5, Line 28): Solomon in Grave 12, and Ralph in Grave 13.

(While this post covers both brothers, information about other Jewish servicemen is limited to those soldiers who became casualties the same day as Sgt. Gans: January 31, 1945. As such, a second post will repeat the biographical information (above) about the Gans brothers, and present information about Jewish military casualties on January 3, 1945.)

Bronx Family Loses Its Only Two Sons

War Department notification of the deaths of Lieut. Solomon Gans and T/Sgt. Ralph Gans, only sons of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Gans of 495 East 171st Street, the Bronx, has been received.

Previously reported missing, Lieutenant Gans, 22 years old, was killed in action in France Jan. 3, while attached to the 253rd Infantry. He was a graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School and had completed three years at City College before entering the Army, on June 16, 1943.

Sergeant Gans, 25, died in England on Jan. 31, according to the War Department. Also a graduate of Theodore Roosevelt High School, he worked for the Noma Electric Company prior to induction. He entered the Army on Jan. 20, 1942, and was serving with an ordnance battalion at the time of his death.

This image, by S. Daino, shows the matzevot of Ralph and Solomon, at Mount Lebanon Cemetery.

Some other Jewish military casualties on Wednesday, January 31, 1945, include…

Averbakh, Leonid Borisovich (Авербах, Леонид Борисович), Junior Lieutenant [Младший Лейтенант]
U.S.S.R., Red Army, 26th Tank Corps, 25th Tank Brigade
Tank Commander
Born 1908
Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volume V – 82
[Книги Памяти еврееввоинов, павших в боях с нацизхмом в 1941-1945 гг – Том V – 82]

Benamou, Paul, Sous-Lieutenant, Legion d’Honneur, at Durenentzen, Haut-Rhin, France
France, Armée de Terre, Bataillon de Choc (Nieme)
“At Durenentzen, on 31 January 1945, was one of the first to enter the village at the head of his men. Hunted the enemy from house to house, to the edge of the church. Fell gloriously as he reached the last objective assigned to him.”
(A Durenentzen, le 31 janvier 1945 fut un des premiers à pénétrer dans le village à la téte de ses hommes. Chasse l’ennemi de maison en maison, jusqu’aux abords de l’église. Tombe glorieusement alors qu’il atteignait le derneir objectif qu’on lui avait assigné.)
Place of burial unknown
Livre d’Or et de Sang – 126-127

Beylin, Yuriy Evseevich (Бейлин, Юрий Евсеевич), Guards Sergeant [Гвардии Сержант]
U.S.S.R., Red Army, 8th Guards Army, 259th Autonomous Tank Regiment
Tank Commander (T-34)
Born 1925
Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volume IX – 69
[Книги Памяти еврееввоинов, павших в боях с нацизхмом в 1941-1945 гг – Том IX – 69]

Brachman, Max, PFC, 32904506, Purple Heart
United States Army, 9th Infantry Division, 39th Infantry Regiment
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. and Rose Brachman (parents), Freida and Min (sisters), Bronx, N.Y.
Born 8/25/11 Father died 12/26/44
Place of Burial – Cedar Park Cemetery, Paramus, N.J.
New York Times Obituary Page Memorial Section 1/31/46
American Jews in World War II – 282

Buschnoff, Frederick M., Pvt., 12221150, Purple Heart (In Belgium)
United States Army
Mr. and Mrs. Emil and Lena Buschnoff (parents), PFC Milton E. and Robert L. Buscnhoff (brothers), 473 West End Ave., New York, N.Y.
Born 1926
Place of Burial – unknown
Casualty List 3/8/45
The New York Times (Obituary Page) 2/14/45, 1/31/47
American Jews in World War II – 287

Cohen, Haskell D., Sgt., 32736088
United States Army, 84th Infantry Division, 335th Infantry Regiment
Mrs. Bessie L. Cohen (mother), 52 Hanover St., Rochester, N.Y.
Born 1926
Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Henri-Chapelle, Belgium – Plot E, Row 7, Grave 13
American Jews in World War II – 290

Falk, Mark, Pvt., 13941547
England, British Army, Pioneer Corps
Mrs. Sophie Falk (wife), Merton Park, Surrey, England Mr. and Mrs. Hersz and Rosa Falk (parents)
Born 1899
Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerpen, Belgium – V,B,18
We Will Remember Them (Volume I) – p. 267

Grinberg
, Mark Yakovlevich (Гринберг, Марк Яковлевич)
Lieutenant [Pilot (Bomber – Flight Commander) [Командир Звена] Лейтенант]
U.S.S.R., Military Air Forces – VVS, 5th Bombardment Aviation Corps, 640th Bombardment Aviation Regiment
Killed in crash (accident) of A-20G Havoc attack bomber 3 crewmen – no survivors
Born 1919
Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volume I – 408
[Книги Памяти еврееввоинов, павших в боях с нацизхмом в 1941-1945 гг – Том I – 408]

Harman, Marvin A., Pvt., 42041845, Purple Heart
United States Army, 78th Infantry Division, 311th Infantry Regiment
Mrs. Ruth C. Heimowitz (mother)
Mr. Sydney N. Craig (uncle), 5606 15th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Born 1926
Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Holland – Plot B, Row 21, Grave 14
Casualty List 3/14/45
American Jews in World War II – 341 (Incorrectly gives surname as “Harmin”)

Saperstein, Eugene, PFC, 42007276, Medical Corps, Silver Star, Purple Heart
United States Army, 104th Infantry Division, 413th Infantry Regiment, G Company
Mr. Samuel Saperstein (father), 1204 Fairmount Ave., Elizabeth, N.J.
Born Elizabeth, N.J., 9/3/24
Place of Burial – unknown
Casualty List 3/31/45
American Jews in World War II – 252

Semhoun, Michel Moise, at Guewenheim, Haut-Rhin, France
France, Armée de Terre, 6eme Régiment de Tirailleurs Marocains
Tlemcen, Algeria
Born 2/22/25
Place of burial unknown
Au Service de la France – 147

Wajc
, Jakub, 2 Lt.
Poland, Polish People’s Army, 7th Infantry Regiment
Mr. Benedikt Wajc (father)
Place of burial unknown
Jewish Military Casualties in the Polish Army in World War II (Volume I) – 72


Three of the servicemen lost this day – Co-Pilot 2 Lt. Bernard “Benny” Jacobs, Radio Operator S/Sgt. Martin Feldman, and Flight Engineer / top turret gunner S/Sgt. Harry J. Ofsa – served in the same air crew. Members of the 38th (“Sunsetter”) Bomb Group’s 405th (“Green Dragons”) Bomb Squadron (5th Air Force) their B-25J Mitchell (serial number 43-36201), piloted by 2 Lt. James J. Benjamin, was lost during an attack against three Japanese destroyers south of Taiwan.

As reported by Sgt. Walter B. Kuzla in Missing Air Crew Report 13759:

“As this aircraft was starting making its run I noticed a few bursts of ack-ack coming from the destroyer. I don’t know whether the ack-ack hit the aircraft or it hit the mast but it seemed to wing over and crash into the water and exploded. [sic] All four bombs made direct hits on the destroyer. It is believed that this destroyer sank a few minutes later.”

On March 8, Major Edward J. Maurer, Jr. supplemented the Report with the following information:

“The left engine of Lieutenant Benjamin’s airplane appeared to be burning when the plane was about two hundred yards from a destroyer and immediately afterward the plane exploded and hit hard into the water, the remaining airplanes in the flight then formed in formation and circled the area for signs of any survivors, but it was definitely ascertained that there were none.”

Biographical information about the men is presented below. Though I have no idea about the number of sorties their crew had completed before January 31, the level of the awards they received (Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and Purple Heart) suggests – due to the lack of multiple Oaf Leaf Clusters for the Air Medal denoting over 5 missions – that they were a members of a relatively new crew.

Feldman, Martin, S/Sgt., 32903672, Radio Operator, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Purple Heart
Mr. Reuben Feldman (father), 588 E. 93rd St., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Casualty List 5/10/45
American Jews in World War II – 307

Jacobs, Bernard (“Benny”), 2 Lt., 0-815149, Co-Pilot, Purple Heart
Born Somerville, Ma., 8/6/16
Mrs. Sylvia Jacobs (wife), 34 Beale Road, Waltham, Ma.
Casualty List 5/7/45
American Jews in World War II – 165

This image of Lt. Jacobs, provided by Barkas, appears at his FindAGrave profile.

______________________________

Ofsa, Harry J., S/Sgt., 39571347, Flight Engineer, Air Medal, Purple Heart
Mrs. Anita R. Ofsa (wife), Steven (son – YOB 1944), 1319 North Washburn St., Minneapolis, Mn.
Mr. and Mrs. Simon [12/6/87-4/3/39] and Beulah (Bachrach) [5/29/92-52/29/53] Ofsa (parents) Mrs. Doris Jean (Ofsa) Kohn (sister)
Born Williamson, West Viriginia, 3/15/18
American Jews in World War II – 203

From his FindAGrave profile, this image of S/Sgt. Ofsa, provided by Laurie, presumably shows him in pre-war civilian life.

S/Sgt. Ofsa’s family created a symbolic matzeva in his memory, as seen in this image, provided by Alan Bachrach. The matzeva is found at Temple Emanuel Cemetery, in Roanoke, Virginia.

______________________________

This is an excellent representative view (from pinterest) of B-25J Mitchell bombers of the 405th Bomb Squadron, immediately and distinctively indentifiable by their vivid, green “dragon head” nose markings. The aircraft in the rear, 44-30921, probably (?…) survived the war, as there is no Missing Air Crew Report for the plane, and it does not appear at Aviation Archeology’s USAF / USAAF Accident Report database.

This is a beautiful example of an original (early 1945) Australian manufactured 405th BS “Green Dragon” squadron patch (from Flying Tiger Antiques), as intended to be worn on aviator’s flying jacket. In the same way that there were many stylistic variations of the “dragon head” insignia on 405th BS Mitchell bombers, so were there stylistic variations in the squadron uniform patch, other images of which can be easily found.

______________________________

From the Missing Aircrew Report for B-25J 43-36201, the following page presents information about the plane and crew as well as the mission on which they were lost, while the next page gives the crew’s next of kin and home addresses.

______________________________

This page, also from MACR 13759, shows – as denoted by a small “x” – the location of the Mitchell’s loss. The Google map beneath covers the same area in a smaller scale, showing the location of the plane’s loss via Google’s red locator arrow.

______________________________

Silverstein, Martin, PFC, 32975882, Purple Heart
United States Army
POW at Stalag 12A (Limburg an der Lahn)
Mr. Benjamin Silverstein (father), 197 Utica Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Mrs. Helen Weiseltheir (?), 901 Carroll St., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Born 1924
Casualty List 4/19/45
American Jews in World War II – 445

Zeiler, Albert I., Pvt., 42130938, Purple Heart
United States Army
POW at Stalag 9C (Bad Sulza)
Mrs. Florence F. Zeiler (wife), 344 New Lots Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Casualty List 5/15/45 (Liberated POW)
American Jews in World War II – 477

Zelman, Paul, Cpl., 33308496
United States Army, 9th Infantry Division, 60th Infantry Regiment
POW at Stalag 12A (Limburg an der Lahn)
Mrs. Miriam Zelman (wife) Barbara Lee Zelman (daughter YOB 1948), 826 Collins Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa.
Mrs. Bessie Zelmanov (mother), 844 Sheridan Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa.
Born Russia, 3/6/18
Casualty List (Liberated POW) 6/5/45
American Jews in World War II – Not Listed

Asch, Clifford M., Trooper, D/143297
Canada, Royal Canadian Armoured Corps
Mr. Michael Asch (father), 3482 Northcliffe Ave., Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Canadian Jews in World War II – Part II: Casualties – 85

Benichou, Albert, Aspirant, Char (Chef de Section), Croix de Guerre, Medaille Militaire, at Village de Durrenentezn, Haut-Rhin, France
France, Armée de Terre, Nieme Battailon de Choc
On the night of 31 January to 1 February 1945, on the attack of the village of Durrenentezn (Haut-Rhin), he brilliantly distinguished himself by pushing his section behind the tanks, securing the capture of 82 prisoners including 2 officers. Wounded in the action refused care retained the command of his section pursuing the fight until the complete annihilation of any enemy resistance at Durrenentezn. (Dans la nuit du 31 janvier au 1er février 1945, à l’attaque du village de Durrenentezn (Haut-Rhin), s’est brillamment distingué en poussant sa section derrière les chars, réussissant la capture de 82 prisonniers dont 2 officiers. Blessé dans l’action, a refusé les soins, a conservé le commandement de sa section poursuivant la lutte jusq’à l’anéantissement complet de toute résistance ennemie à Durrenentezn.)
Wounded subsequently, on 4/13/45
Livre d’Or et de Sang – 148, 173

Aviator – Returned with crew after aircraft last seen heading to Yugoslavia

Dondes, Paul, Cpl., 11100425, Radio Operator, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal
United States Army Air Force, 15th Air Force, 454th Bomb Group, 739th Bomb Squadron
Mr. Israel Dondes (father), 153 Loomis St., Burlington Vt.
MACR 11831 Aircraft: B-24J 44-41134 Pilot: 2 Lt. Artist H. Prichard, Jr., 11 crewmen – all survived
American Jews in World War II – 576

Aviators – Reported missing, but returned to duty (circumstances unknown)

Mandel, Harold, Sgt., 42059203, Ball Turret Gunner
United States Army Air Force, 15th Air Force, 451st Bomb Group, 724th Bomb Squadron
Mrs. May Mandel (mother), 1842 Anthony Ave., Bronx, N.Y.
MAVR 11830 Aircraft: B-24L 44-49460 Pilot: 1 Lt. Lloyd O. Boots 10 crewmen – all survived
American Jews in World War II – Not listed

Stein, Leonard, Cpl., 35059185, Flight Engineer
United States Army Air Force, 15th Air Force, 460th Bomb Group, 762nd Bomb Squadron
Mr. Sam Stein (father), 791 East 105th St., Cleveland, Oh.
Born 1924
No MACR B-24H 41-28805 No other information available
Mentioned in AFHRA Microfilm Roll BO 609, Frame 871
American Jews in World War II – Not listed

Bell, Dana (Illustrated by Don Greer, Betty Stadt and Dana Bell), Air Force Colors Volume 3: Pacific and Home Front, 1942-47, Squadron / Signal Publications, Carrollton, Tx., 1997

Chiche, F., Livre d’Or et de Sang – Les Juifs au Combat: Citations 1939-1945 de Bir-Hakeim au Rhin et Danube, Edition Brith Israel, Tunis, Tunisie, 1946

Dublin, Louis I., and Kohs, Samuel C., American Jews in World War II – The Story of 550,000 Fighters for Freedom – Compiled by the Bureau of War Records of the National Jewish Welfare Board, The Dial Press, New York, N.Y., 1947

Freeman, Roger A., Camouflage and Markings – United States Army Air Force, 1937-1945, Ducimus Books Limited, London, England, 1974 (“North American B-25 Mitchell U.S.A.A.F, 1941-1945”, pp. 217-240)

Maryanovskiy, M.F., Pivovarova, N.A., Sobol, I.S. (editors), Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volume I [Surnames beginning with А (A), Б (B), В (V), Г (G), Д (D), Е (E), Ж (Zh), З (Z), И (I)], Union of Jewish War Invalids and Veterans, Moscow, Russia, 1994

Maryanovskiy, M.F., Pivovarova, N.A., Sobol, I.S. (editors), Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volume V [Surnames beginning with А (A), Б (B), В (V), Г (G), Д (D), Е (E), Ж (Zh), З (Z), И (I), К (K)], Union of Jewish War Invalids and Veterans, Moscow, Russia, 1998

Maryanovskiy, M.F., Pivovarova, N.A., Sobol, I.S. (editors), Memorial Book of Jewish Soldiers Who Died in Battles Against Nazism – 1941-1945 – Volume IX [Surnames beginning with all letters of the alphabet], Union of Jewish War Invalids and Veterans, Moscow, Russia, 2006

Meirtchak, Benjamin, Jewish Military Casualties in the Polish Armies in World War II: I – Jewish Soldiers and Officers of the Polish People’s Army Killed and Missing in Action 1943-1945, World Federation of Jewish Fighters Partisans and Camp Inmates: Association of Jewish War Veterans of the Polish Armies in Israel, Tel Aviv, Israel, 1994

Morris, Henry, Edited by Gerald Smith, We Will Remember Them – A Record of the Jews Who Died in the Armed Forces of the Crown 1939 – 1945, Brassey’s, United Kingdom, London, 1989

References – No Author Listed

Au Service de la France (Edité à l’occasion du 10ème anniversaire de l’Union des Engagés Volontaires et Anciens Combattants Juifs 1939-1945), l’Union Des Engagés Volontaires Et Anciens Combattants Juifs, Paris (?), France, 1955

Canadian Jews in World War II
– Part II: Casualties, Canadian Jewish Congress, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1948


31 January 1945 - History

It is astounding and deeply disturbing that 75 years after the end of World World Two the history of that event is being re-written before our very eyes.

That war resulted in over 50 million dead with more than half of the victims from the Soviet Union. It incorporated the worst crimes against humanity, including the systematic mass murder of millions carried out by Nazi Germany, known as the Holocaust. The victims included Jews, Slavs, Roma, Soviet prisoners-of-war and others whom the fascist Nazis deemed to be “Untermensch” (“Subhumans”).

The Soviet Red Army fought back the Nazi forces all the way from Russia through Eastern Europe, eventually defeating the Third Reich in Berlin. Nearly 90 per cent of all Wehrmacht casualties incurred during the entire war were suffered on the Eastern Front against the Red Army. That alone testifies how it was the Soviet Union among the allied nations which primarily accomplished the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Seventy-five years ago, on January 27, 1945, it was Red Army soldiers who liberated the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. It was during the Vistula-Oder Offensive which drove the Nazis out of Poland paving the way for the eventual final victorious battle in Berlin some three months later.

It is incredible that within living memory, these objective facts of history about the most cataclysmic war ever waged are being falsified or insidiously distorted.

Germany’s most-read magazine Der Spiegel, American-European journal Politico, a U.S. embassy announcement, as well as American Vice President Mike Pence, are among recent sources who have either falsified or downplayed the heroic role of the Soviet Union in liberating Auschwitz. This is part of a disconcerting trend of rewriting the history of World War Two, by which, preposterously, the Soviet Union is being equated with Nazi Germany. Such pernicious fiction must be resisted and repudiated by all conscientious historians and citizens.

Der Spiegel and the U.S. embassy in Denmark both had to issue embarrassed apologies after they separately stated that it was American forces which liberated Auschwitz. It is mind-boggling how such an error on the 75th anniversary of one of the most iconic events in history could have been made – by a leading magazine and a diplomatic corps.

More sinister was an article published in Politico on January 24 written by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki which claimed, “Far from being a liberator, the Soviet Union was a facilitator of Nazi Germany.”

The Polish politician is no exception. It has become a staple argument in recent years contended by other Polish leaders and politicians from the Baltic states who seek to revise the history of the war, blaming the Soviet Union for being an accomplice with Nazi Germany. The corruption of history is partly driven by a desire to whitewash the nefarious role played by these countries as quislings to the Third Reich who helped it carry out the Holocaust.

Vice President Pence’s speech at the Holocaust memorial event in Jerusalem on January 23 was another deplorable sleight of hand. In his address, he never once mentioned the fact of the Soviet forces blasting open the gates of Auschwitz. Pence merely said, “When soldiers opened the gates of Auschwitz…” A sentence later, he went on to mention how “American soldiers liberated Europe from tyranny.”

It is quite astonishing how brazenly false narratives about World War Two are being told, not merely by Neo-Nazi sympathizers and cranks beyond the pale, but by supposedly senior politicians and respectable media. It is perplexing how the heroic role of Soviet commanders, soldiers and people is being eroded, airbrushed and even maligned into something grotesquely opposite.

Washington’s belligerent geopolitical agenda of trying to isolate and undermine Russia is no doubt underlying the process of re-writing history in order to deprive Russia of moral authority and recast it as a malign nation. Of course the obsessive Russophobia of Polish and Baltic politicians neatly plays into this agenda.

This reprehensible revisionism is in flagrant contradiction and denial of international libraries of documented history, archives, official and personal correspondence, photographs, as well as first-hand witness accounts.

An excellent essay by Martin Sieff this week recounts how Soviet soldiers and medics tended to the remaining 7,000 wretched inmates of Auschwitz. More than a million others had been exterminated by the Nazis before they fled from the advancing Soviet forces.

The Soviet officer in command of liberating Auschwitz was Lieutenant Colonel Anatoly Shapiro. He was himself a Russian-born Jew. The Soviet soldiers spoke of their horror and heartbreak upon discovering the hellish conditions in which skeletal men, women and children were teetering on the brink of death. Bodies of dead lay everywhere among pools of frozen blood.

Another Jewish Soviet officer Colonel Elisavetsky told how Russian doctors and nurses worked without sleep or food to try to save the emaciated inmates.

As Sieff notes: “For Colonel Shapiro, the idea that he, his Red Army comrades and the medical staff who fought and died to liberate Auschwitz and who worked so hard to save its pitifully few survivors should be casually equated with the Nazis mass-killers would have been ludicrous and contemptible… The true story of the liberation of Auschwitz needs to be told and retold. It needs to be rammed down the throats of Russia-hating bigots and warmongers everywhere.”

Maintaining the historical record about World War Two – its fascist origins and its defeat – is not just a matter of national pride for Russians. Ominously, if history can be denied, falsified and distorted, then the danger of repetition returns. We must never let the heroic role of the Soviet Union be forgotten or belittled, especially by people who seem to have a penchant for fascism.


On this date in Maine history: Jan. 31

Jan. 31, 1945: A fire rips through a privately operated boarding home being used as an unlicensed nursery in Auburn, killing 16 babies and a nurse. Three women and five children escape the flames. The state had cited the operator for code violations, and although the operator had delayed making improvements, state authorities failed to [&hellip]

Jan. 31, 1945: A fire rips through a privately operated boarding home being used as an unlicensed nursery in Auburn, killing 16 babies and a nurse. Three women and five children escape the flames.

The state had cited the operator for code violations, and although the operator had delayed making improvements, state authorities failed to close the facility before the fire.

Logan Marr Courtesy photo

Jan. 31, 2001: Five-year-old Logan Marr dies of suffocation after her foster mother, Sally Anne Schofield, binds her with duct tape and straps her into a high chair in the basement of Schofield’s home in Chelsea.

Schofield, a former Maine Department of Health and Human Services caseworker, is convicted of manslaughter in 2002 in connection with the child’s death. She is released on parole in 2017.

The case, which becomes the subject of a PBS “Frontline” episode, results in an overhaul of child protection procedures in Maine. The state made placement with family members a higher priority.

The Winslow Homer studio at Prouts Neck in Scarborough. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Jan. 31, 2006: The Portland Museum of Art acquires the building and the surrounding grounds of the Winslow Homer Studio in Prouts Neck, a coastal community of summer residents that is part of Scarborough.

For the next six years, the museum works to restore the building’s appearance to the way it looked when Homer used it.

Related

Read more moments in Maine history and stories about the bicentennial

The studio, which also was the famed artist’s residence, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

Homer (1836-1910), a Boston native, lived and painted in the studio from 1884 until his death.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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31 January 1945 - History

On January 1 in Czechoslovakia, advancing to the town of Lucenec, our forces secured the settlements of Wielkie Dravce, Bolkowce, Nitra, Galsa, Terbelovce, Mikusovce (three kilometers to the south of Lucenec), Rapowce, Panitske-Dravce, Terinc, Busince, Malye Zlewce, Malye and Wielkie Straciny, Plachtince, and the railway junction of Rapowce. On December 31, our troops captured 515 German personnel in this area.

On January 2, our forces continued the liquidation of an enemy force encircled in Budapest and secured 232 blocks in the eastern part and 63 blocks in the western part of the city.

On January 3 in Czechoslovakia our forces, on their way to the town of Lucenec from east and south, liberated the settlements Ozdany, Dvojkerecstur, Dola, Pincina, Sacher, Kalonda, Wielki and Maly Dalev, Parlag, Rarosmulad, Wielki Zlewce, and the railway station of Ozdany. On January 1 and 2, our forces captured 2,320 German and Hungarian personnel in this area.

On January 4 in Budapest, our forces continued wiping the enemy out of the city and seized 277 blocks. At the same time, to the northeast of the city our forces had to repulse the attacks of a strong and persistent enemy force that tried, for all the damage it suffered, to break through to the city to reinforce the troops encircled there.

On January 5, our forces continued the liquidation of an enemy force encircled in Budapest and seized 233 blocks of the city 2,400 German and Hungarian personnel were captured during street fighting on January 4.

On January 6, our forces continued the liquidation of an enemy force encircled in Budapest and seized 173 blocks of the city 1,630 German and Hungarian personnel were captured on January 5.

On January 7 in Budapest, our forces continued wiping the enemy out of the city 116 blocks were seized.

On January 8 in Budapest, our forces went on eliminating the enemy encircled in the city. The Soviet units secured 130 blocks.

On January 9, in Budapest our forces kept on eliminating the enemy encircled in the city, and, bearing down on the enemy, secured the city&rsquos main race course that the Germans had turned into a military airfield Nepsziget, the central city park the refinery the machine-building plant renamed Gopher Schrantz, which had been producing Nazi tanks and the district of Pestszenterzsebet. Clearing of the district of Kispest was in progress. On that day our forces secured over 350 blocks in the city.

On January 10, to the northeast of the town of Komarno, our forces secured the settlements of Binya, Bart, Nowa Wjeska, Perbete, Stara Djala, Martos, and the railway stations of Nowa Wjeska, Stara Djala, Hetin, and Komarno-Tegelna (two kilometers to the northeast of the town of Komarno). On January 9, our forces had captured over 800 German personnel in this area.

The forces of the 1st Ukrainian Front, in defiance of adverse weather conditions denying any aviation support, launched a major offensive on January 12 to the west of Sandomir to break up 40 kilometers of heavy enemy defenses.

On January 14, to the south and southwest of the town of Kielce, our forces continued the offensive to secure the town of Pinczow, a major transport junction, and later secured over 200 other settlements, including major local towns of Radomice, Lisow, Kopitnica, Brzegi, Mjasowa, Motkowice, Jakubow, Mirzvin, Wroceryz, Michalow, Hury, Mlodzuwy, Kozubow, Szipow, Pelciska, Sokolina, Stary Korczin, Novy Korczin, and the railway stations of Sobkow and Mjasowa.

The forces of the 1st Ukrainian Front, continuing their sweeping offensive, secured the Polish city of Kielce on January 15. Kielce is one of the country&rsquos major administrative and economic centers.

The forces of the 1st Belarussian Front launched a major offensive on January 14 from two bridgeheads on the western bank of the Vistula River to the south of Warsaw. In defiance of adverse weather conditions denying any aviation support, but powerfully supported by artillery, the offensive was successful, and heavy and deep enemy defenses were broken up.

The forces of the Second Belorussian Front launched an offensive on January 14 from two bridgeheads on the western bank of the river of Narew to the north of Warsaw. Helped by massive artillery support, the Soviet forces successfully broke through strong and deep enemy defenses.

On January 18 the forces of the Second Belorussian Front, continuing their successful offensive, assaulted the enemy out of the city of Pszasnysz and the town and fortress of Modlin (Novo-Georgievsk), which the Germans had used as important transport junctions and defense areas, and over 1,000 other settlements, including Kruki, Grabnik, Ruzesk, Krasnoselts, Bobino-Velke, Dzelino, Humen-Szino, Krosnice, Drogiske, Strzegowo, Hlinoeczk, Maluzin, Gutarzewo, Milewo, Strachowo, Jenec, Strubiny, Zakrocim, and the railway stations of Zabele Velke, Konopki, and Wkra.

The forces of the Second Belorussian Front launched an offensive and, building on massive air and artillery support, broke though heavy and deep German defenses in East Prussia and, overcming stiff enemy resistance, moved 45 kilometers into enemy territory within the five days of fighting, widening the gap in its defenses to 60 kilometers.

On January 20, the forces of the Second Belorussian Front secured the East Prussian towns of Tilsit, Gross-Skaisgirren, Aulowenen, Zillen, and Kaukemen &mdash major transport links and heavily defended areas on the way to Konigsberg, and over 250 other settlements, including Karkeln, Raging, Skepen, Brittanin, Ruken, Jurgaitschen, Grunheide, Stablaken, Birkenfelde, Kutten, Bibelen, Blumberg, Preusendorf, and the railway stations of Pomletten, Argokingken, Werfen, Grunheide, and Baitzschen.

On January 21, the forces of the Second Belorussian Front secured the East Prussian town of Gumbinnen, an important transport junction and defense area on the way to Konigsberg, and over 200 other settlements, including Alt Lappinen, Sekenburg, Tawe, Gilge, Schenkendorf, Gross Friedrichsdorf, Gross Girratischken, Melauken, Popelken, Patimbern, Padroyen, Kubbeln, Kuttkunen, Wielken, Juknischken, Konigsfelde, Gawaiten, and Plawichken and the railway stations of Muhlenau, Melauken, and Buchhow.

On January 22, the forces of the Second Belorussian Front secured the East Prussian town of Insterburg, an important transport junction and a powerful defense area on the way to Konigsberg, and over 200 other settlements, including Nemonin, Karlsrode, Agilla, Minchenwalde, Jargillen, Augstagirren, Alt Gertlauken, Ajlaken, Kellmis Demerau, Wilkendorf, Petersdorf, Taplakken, Saalau, Wirtkallen, Georgentahl, Karteningken, Jamaitsen&hellip

The forces of the Second Belorussian Front overcame enemy resistance to cross the rivers Daime and Pregel and secure the towns of Labiau and Welau &mdash heavily defended areas on the way to Konigsberg.

On January 24, in East Prussia to the south and southwest of the town of Insterburg, our forces secured the towns of Angerburg and Widminnen and over 250 other settlements, including such important points as Ilmsdorf, Muljen, Jodlauken, Karpowen, Schlossberg, and Lindeheim.

On January 25 in East Prussia, to the west and southwest of the town of Insterburg, our forces secured over 300 settlements, including such important points as Gross Scharlak, Goldback, Starkenberg, Friedrichsdorf, Gross Plauen, Mauenfelde, Klein-Gnie, Reuschenfeld, Furstenau, and the railway stations of Eiserwagen, Bokelln, Olschewen, and Prinowen.

On January 26, the forces of the Third Belorussian Front secured the East Prussian towns of Tapiau, Allenburg, Nordenburg, and Letzen &mdash powerfully fortified defense areas protecting central regions of East Prussia, and over 250 other settlements, including such important points as Lablacken, Gross Droosden, Botenen, Brasdorf, Lowenhagen, Oderwangen, Frisching, Gross-Sobrosg, and the railway stations of Pronitten, Willkunen, and Georgenfelde.

On January 27 our forces, continuing their successful offensive on their way to Konigsberg, secured the town and railway junction of Gerdauen and over 300 other settlements, including such important points as Postnicken, Schaakswitte, Gallgarben, Powunden, Knoppelsdorf, Neuhausen (7 kilometers to the northwest of Konigsberg), Steinbek, Borchersdorf, Tomsdorf, Blankenau, Allenau, Bartchersdorf, Friedenberg, and Dietrichsdorf.

The forces of the First Baltic Front launched an offensive and secured the Lithuanian town of Klajpeda (Memel) on January 27. Klajpeda is a major seaport and defense area on the Baltic. Thus, the Soviet Lithuania was cleared of the Nazi occupiers.

On January 29, our forces secured over 100 settlements in East Prussia, including such important points as Liaptau, Mollenen, Sidlung (3 kilometers to the northwest of Konigsberg), Ludwigswalde, Altenberg (4 kilometers to the south of Konigsberg), Mansfeld, Tarau, Schrombenen, Stolzenfeld, Gross Langwalde, Langheim, Sturmhubel, Rossel, Gisewen, and the railway stations of Liaptau, Grossraum, Nesselbek, Schrombenen, and Rossel. At the same time, our forces to the northwest of the town of Allenstein repulsed strong mounted enemy attacks targeted westward.

On January 30, in East Prussia, our forces, continuing their successful offensive, secured the towns of Bischofstein and Wartenburg, and over 150 other settlements, including Muhlsen, Heutenen, Seepappen, Metgeten (5 kilometers to the west of Konigsberg), Heide, Waldburg (8 kilometers to the southwest of Konigsberg), Kobbelbude, Pakerau, Dorf Leunenburg, Falkenau, Gross Schwansfeld, Troutenau, Leginen, Kabinen, Bredinken, Gross Ramsau, Reuschagen, and Tollak. At the same time, to the northwest of Allenstein, our forces successfully repulsed mounted enemy attacks targeted west toward Elbing.

On January 31, the forces of the Second Belorussian Front successfully assaulted the towns of Heilsberg and Friedlang, major transport links and heavily defended areas in the center of East Prussia, and over 50 other settlements, including Kwanditten, Medenau, Gross Heidekrug (14 kilometers to the west of Konigsberg), Stockheim, Minten, Krekollen, and Knipstein.


Introductory note

Beginning with the year 1950, American Foreign Policy , a companion series to Foreign Relations of the United States , provides systematic coverage of the principal messages, addresses, statements, reports, and of certain of the diplomatic notes exchanged and treaties made in a given period that indicate the scope, goals, and implementation of the foreign policy of the United States. For the immediately preceding years, 1945–1949 inclusive, the present series, Foreign Relations , will provide under this heading a brief indication of certain major documents in these categories. This listing does not purport to be complete, of course, and as a rule items dealing primarily with United States relations with particular countries will be noted in the compilations for those countries. Many of the items cited below are also referred to in appropriate compilations in the various volumes for the year.

I. Major Public Statements of American Foreign Policy

The State of the Union: Annual Message of the President ( Roosevelt ) to the Congress, January 6, 1945. The portions of the address dealing with foreign affairs are printed in the Department of State Bulletin (hereinafter cited as Bulletin ), January 7, 1945, pp. 22–28. The complete text is printed as House Document 1, 79th Congress.

America’s Place in World Affairs: Address by the Under Secretary of State ( Grew ) at the New York Times Hall, New York, January 17, 1945. Bulletin , January 21, 1945, pp. 87–90.

Report on the Crimean (Yalta) Conference: Message delivered by the President ( Roosevelt ) before a joint session of the Congress, March 1, 1945. Bulletin , March 4, 1945, pp. 321–326, 361.

Statement by the Secretary of State ( Stettinius ) Upon Return From Conferences in the Crimea and at Mexico City, March 10, 1945. Bulletin , March 11, 1945, pp. 393–394.

United Nations Will Write Charter for a World Organization: Address by the Secretary of State ( Stettinius ) before the Council on Foreign Relations at New York, April 6, 1945. Ibid ., April 8, 1945, pp. 605–607.

The Economic Basis for Lasting Peace: Address by the Secretary of State ( Stettinius ), April 4, 1945. Ibid ., pp. 598–599.

Address by the President ( Truman ) before a joint session of the Congress, April 16, 1945. Address delivered on the day following the funeral of President Roosevelt . Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman , April 12 to December 81, 1945 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1961), pp. 1–6. For text of a Proclamation by President [Page VIII] Truman , and for other statements relating to the death of President Roosevelt , see Bulletin , issue of April 15, 1945.

Address by the President ( Truman ) to the United Nations Conference in San Francisco, April 25, 1945. Delivered from the White House by direct wire. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman , 1945 , pp. 20–23.

Unconditional Surrender of Germany: Radio Address by the President ( Truman ), May 8, 1945, with related statements and a Proclamation. Bulletin , May 13, 1945, pp. 885–889.

Report on the San Francisco Conference: Address by the Secretary of State ( Stettinius ), broadcast May 28, 1945. Ibid ., June 3, 1945, pp. 1007–1013.

Special Message of the President ( Truman ) to the Congress on Winning the War With Japan: Message read before the Senate and the House of Representatives on June 1, 1945. Ibid ., pp. 999–1006.

Letter from the President ( Truman ) to the Speaker of the House of Representatives on the Defense Aid Program, June 4, 1945. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman , 1945 , pp. 102–103.

Statement by Cordell Hull , Senior Adviser to the United States Delegation to the United Nations Conference. Issued to the press on June 26, 1945, at Bethesda, Maryland. Bulletin , July 1, 1945, pp. 13–14.

Address by the President ( Truman ) in San Francisco at the Closing Session of the United Nations Conference, June 26, 1945. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman , 1945 , pp. 138–144.

Address by the President ( Truman ) Before the Senate Urging Ratification of the Charter of the United Nations, July 2, 1945. Ibid ., pp. 153–155.

Statement by the President ( Truman ) Announcing the Use of the Atomic Bomb at Hiroshima, August 6, 1945. Ibid ., pp. 197–200.

Radio Report by the President ( Truman ) to the American People on the Potsdam Conference, August 9, 1945. Delivered from the White House. Ibid ., pp. 205–214.

Radio Address by the President ( Truman ) to the American People After the Signing of the Terms of Unconditional Surrender by Japan, September 1, 1945. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman , 1945 , pp. 254–257.

Special Message of the President ( Truman ) to the Congress on Atomic Energy, October 3, 1945. Ibid ., pp. 362–366.

Report on First Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers: Address by the Secretary of State ( Byrnes ), October 5, 1945. Radio broadcast from Washington. Bulletin , October 7, 1945, pp. 507–512. Statement by the Secretary of State ( Byrnes ) on the Meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers, London, October 2, 1945. Released to the press on October 3. Ibid ., p. 513.

Restatement of Foreign Policy of the United States: Address by the President ( Truman ), October 27, 1945. Delivered in Central Park, New York, in connection with the celebration of Navy Day. Bulletin , October 28, 1945, pp. 653–656.

Neighboring Nations in One World: Address by the Secretary of State ( Byrnes ), New York, October 31, 1945. Ibid ., November 4, 1945, pp. 709–711.

World Cooperation: Address by the Secretary of State ( Byrnes ), Charleston, South Carolina, November 18, 1945. Ibid ., November 18, 1945, pp. 783–786.

America’s Policy in China: Statement by the Secretary of State ( Byrnes ) on December 7, 1945, before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, answering charges made by Patrick J. Hurley , former Ambassador to China, against the Department of State and the Foreign Service. Ibid ., December 9, [Page IX] 1945, pp. 930–933. See also Mr. Byrnes ’ statement at a news conference on November 28, ibid ., December 2, 1945, pp. 882–883.

United States Policy Toward China: Statement by the President ( Truman ), released to the press by the White House on December 16, 1945. Bulletin , December 16, 1945, pp. 945–946.

Special Message of the President ( Truman ) to the Congress Recommending the Establishment of a Department of National Defense, December 19, 1945. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman , 1945 , pp. 546–560.

Statement and Directive by the President ( Truman ) on Immigration to the United States of Certain Displaced Persons and Refugees in Europe, December 22, 1945. Ibid ., pp. 572–578.

II. The Implementation of American Foreign Policy

a. the organization and activities of the department of state

A chart showing the organization of the Department as of May 1, 1945, is printed in the Bulletin , May 13, 1945, pp. 898–899.

The resignation of Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. , as Secretary of State was accepted by President Truman on June 27 for texts of a letter by the President and a statement by Mr. Stettinius on accepting appointment as Representative of the United States to the United Nations, both dated June 27, 1945, see ibid ., July 1, 1945, pp. 15–16.

Arrangements for recruitment of commissioned Foreign Service officers from among men and women of the armed forces were announced by the Department on June 29 ibid ., pp. 38–39.

James F. Byrnes , of South Carolina, was commissioned as Secretary of State on July 2 and entered upon duties July 3. For text of remarks by Mr. Byrnes on taking the oath of office at the White House, see ibid ., July 8, 1945, p. 45.

For information concerning the representation by the United States of foreign interests, as of July 28, with tables arranged according to countries represented and according to United States diplomatic and consular offices, see ibid ., July 29, 1945, pp. 144–149. For additional information, see William M. Franklin , Protection of Foreign Interests: A Study in Diplomatic and Consular Practice (Department of State publication 2693 1947).

The resignation of Joseph C. Grew as Under Secretary of State was accepted by President Truman on August 16 for texts of letters by the President, Secretary of State Byrnes , and Mr. Grew , see the Bulletin , August 19, 1945, p. 271.

Dean G. Acheson , of Connecticut, was commissioned Under Secretary of State on August 16 and entered upon duties the same day.

Patrick J. Hurley resigned as Ambassador to China on November 27.

On November 27 the White House announced that the President had appointed General of the Army George C. Marshall as his personal envoy to China with personal rank of Ambassador.

The former Secretary of State, Cordell Hull , was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on December 10. A message from Mr. Hull , read by Lithgow Osborne , American Ambassador in Norway, to the president and members of the Nobel Committee of the Storting, was issued to the press by the Department of State on December 10, 1945.

For a general discussion of the situation of the Department and the Foreign Service in the immediate postwar period, see “The Future of the Foreign Service”, a radio broadcast of December 29, Bulletin , December 30, 1945, pp. 1048–1054.

b. assignment of additional duties to the department of state

1. International Information .

By Executive Order 9608 (10 Federal Register 11223), August 31, 1945, President Truman provided for the termination of the Office of War Information and the transfer to the Department of State of its international information functions as well as the foreign information functions of the Office of Inter-American Affairs. In a statement released to the press on that date the President noted that “the nature of present-day foreign relations makes it essential for the United States to maintain informational activities abroad as an integral part of the conduct of our foreign affairs” ( Bulletin , September 2, 1945, pp. 306–307).

For statements on the role of an international information service in the conduct of foreign relations, by William Benton , Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (on October 16) and the House Appropriations Committee (on October 17), see ibid ., October 21, 1945, pp. 589–595. For text of a radio broadcast by Mr. Benton and others on “Our International Information Policy”, December 15, see ibid ., December 16, 1945, pp. 947–954, and for a statement by Mr. Benton , “Plans for International Information Service”, released to the press on December 28, see ibid ., December 30, 1945, pp. 1045–1047.

On December 31 Secretary of State Byrnes addressed to President Truman a letter describing certain proposals for an overseas information service for text, see ibid ., January 20, 1946, pp. 57–58.

2. Research and Intelligence .

President Truman wrote on September 20, 1945, to Secretary of State Byrnes that he had that day signed an Executive Order (No. 9621 10 Federal Register 12033) transferring to the Department of State the activities of the Research and Analysis Branch and the Presentation Branch of the Office of Strategic Services. The order, effective October 1, abolished the O.S.S. and transferred its remaining activities to the War Department. The President added that the transfer [Page XI] would provide the Secretary of State “with the resources which we have agreed you will need to aid in the development of our foreign policy, and will assure that pertinent experience accumulated during the war will be preserved and used in meeting the problems of the peace.” The President further stated that he particularly desired the Secretary of State “to take the lead in developing a comprehensive and coordinated foreign intelligence program for all Federal agencies concerned with that type of activity … through the creation of an interdepartmental group, heading up under the State Department, which would formulate plans for my approval.” For texts of the Executive Order and of the President’s letters of September 20 to the Secretary of State and to Major General William J. Donovan , Director of the Office of Strategic Services, see the Bulletin , September 22, 1945, pp. 449–450.

The appointment of Colonel Alfred McCormack as Special Assistant to the Secretary of State in Charge of Research and Intelligence was announced on September 27, 1945 ( ibid ., September 30, 1945, p. 499).

For additional information, see “A National Intelligence Program”, a radio broadcast of December 22, ibid ., December 23, 1945, pp. 987 ff.

3. Foreign Economic Functions, and Functions with Respect to Surplus Property in Foreign Areas .

  • “( a ) The administration of the Act of March 11, 1941, as amended, entitled ‘An Act further to promote the defense of the United States and for other purposes.’
  • “( b ) The participation of the United States in the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, as defined in Executive Order No. 9453 of July 6, 1944.
  • “( c ) Activities in liberated areas with respect to supplying the requirements of and procuring materials in such areas under paragraph 4 of the said Executive Order No. 9380.
  • “( d ) The gathering, analysis, and reporting of economic and commercial information, insofar as such functions are performed abroad.
  • “( e ) The planning of measures for the control of occupied territories.
  • “( f ) The administration of Allocation No. 42/398 of February 1, 1943 from the appropriation, ‘Emergency Fund for the President, National Defense, 1942 and 1943.’”

The remaining functions of the F.E.A. were transferred to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Agriculture.

Part II of Executive Order 9630 assigned to the Department of State additional functions as a disposal agency for all surplus property in foreign areas, excepting certain vessels.

For text of the Executive Order, see 10 Federal Register 12245, or Bulletin , September 30, 1945, pp. 491–492.

c. foreign economic policy—trade and tariffs

Documents relating to Lend-Lease operations in connection with particular countries are printed in the compilations for those countries. On the program as a whole, see:

Proposed Extension of the Lend-Lease Act: Statement by the Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations and International Conferences ( Acheson ), February 8, 1945, before the Committee on Foreign Relations of the House of Representatives. Bulletin , February 11, 1945, p. 189.

Signing of the Third Lend-Lease Act: Statement by the President ( Truman ), April 17, 1945. Ibid ., April 22, 1945, p. 773.

Current Lend-Lease Problems: Statements by the Acting Secretary of State ( Grew ), May 14, and the Secretary of State ( Stettinius ), May 15, 1945. Ibid ., May 20, 1945, pp. 940–941.

The President’s News Conference of May 23, 1945. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Harry S. Truman , 1945 , pp. 67–68.

Lend-Lease Matters: Defense-Aid Appropriation Estimate: Letter from the President ( Truman ) to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, June 4, transmitting letter of June 1 from the Director of the Bureau of the Budget to the President. Bulletin , June 10, 1945, pp. 1061–1063.

Discontinuance of Lend-Lease Operations: White House press release, August 21, 1945. Ibid ., August 26, 1945, p. 284.

Statement by the Secretary of State ( Byrnes ), August 31, 1945. Ibid ., September 2, 1945, pp. 332–333.

The President’s News Conference of August 23, 1945. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman , 1945 , pp. 234–235.

Lend-Lease and Postwar Reconstruction. Section 18 of Special Message of the President ( Truman ) to the Congress Presenting a 21-Point Program for the Reconversion Period, September 6, 1945. Ibid ., pp. 305–307.

The 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd quarterly reports of operations under the Lend-Lease Act transmitted by the President to the Congress, covering the year 1945. House documents 189, 279, 432, and 663, 79th Congress.

The Bretton Woods Proposals: International Monetary Fund and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Message of the President ( Roosevelt ) to the Congress, February 12, 1945. Bulletin , February 18, 1945, pp. 220–222.

International Monetary Fund and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development: Statement by the Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations and International Conferences ( Acheson ) before the Committee on Banking and Currency of the House of Representatives, March 7, 1945. Bulletin , March 11, 1945, pp. 409–410.

Bretton Woods: A Monetary Basis for Trade: Address by Mr. Acheson , April 16, 1945. Ibid ., April 23, 1945, pp. 738–742.

General Policy Statement of the Export-Import Bank of Washington. Released to the press September 11, 1945. Ibid ., September 23, 1945, pp. 441–446.

The Necessity for Foreign Investment: Address by Willard L. Thorp , Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, at New York, November 20, 1945. Ibid ., November 25, 1945, pp. 829–832.

On December 27 there were signed in the Department of State the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund and the Articles of Agreement of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Fred M. Vinson , Secretary of the Treasury, signed the two agreements on behalf of the United States. For a description of the ceremony and for text of a statement by Mr. Vinson , see ibid ., December 30, 1945, pp. 1058–1059.

Recommendation for Renewal of Trade Agreements Act: Message of the President ( Roosevelt ) to the Congress, March 26, 1945. Bulletin , April 1, 1945, pp. 531–533.

United States Policy Regarding Commodity Agreements: Address by the Director of the Office of International Trade Policy ( Haley ), at New York, April 5, 1945. Ibid ., April 8, 1945, pp. 638–642.

Renewal of Trade Agreements: Statements by the Secretary of State ( Stettinius ) and the Assistant Secretaries of State for Economic Affairs ( Clayton ) and for American Republic Affairs ( Rockefeller ) before the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives, April 18, 1945. Ibid ., April 22, 1945, pp. 748–759. Testimony of Charles P. Taft , Director of the Office of Transport and Communications Policy, May 12, 1945. Ibid ., May 13, 1945, pp. 905–910.

Private Barriers to International Trade: Statement by the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs ( Clayton ) before a joint session of the Senate special committee investigating petroleum resources and the subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee on S. 11, 79th Congress, May 17, 1945. Ibid ., May 20, 1945, pp. 933–938.

Statements by the Acting Secretary of State ( Grew ) on May 26 and June 20 concerning the approval of the trade-agreements bill by the House of Representatives and the Senate. Ibid ., May 27, 1945, p. 955, and June 24, 1945, p. 1149.

Renewal of Trade Agreements Act: Statement by the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs ( Clayton ) before the Finance Committee of the Senate, May 30, 1945. Ibid ., June 3, 1945, pp. 1024 ff.

Relaxation of Export Controls: Statement released to the press by the Foreign Economic Administration, September 10, 1945. Ibid ., September 16, 1945, pp. 397–400.

The Future of International Economic Relations: Address by Clair Wilcox , Director of the Office of International Trade Policy, at Milwaukee Wisconsin, November 22, 1945. Ibid ., November 25, 1945, pp. 833–836.

Formulation and Implementation of Foreign Oil Policies: Assignment of Petroleum Officers on a Global Basis. Letters exchanged between the Petroleum Administrator for War ( Ickes ) and the Secretary of State ( Byrnes ) letters dated September 10 and November 21, respectively. Ibid ., December 2, 1945, pp. 894–895.

d. foreign war relief activities

Letter from the President ( Truman ) to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Transmitting Reports on Foreign War Relief Activities, July 17, 1945. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman 1945 , pp. 173–174. The reports of the American Red Cross and the War Refugee Board and the report on status of appropriations and allocations are printed in House Document 262, 79th Congress.

The Repatriation Program: Statement by the Acting Secretary of State ( Grew ), August 5, 1945. Bulletin , August 5, 1945, pp. 162–164.

Letter from the President ( Truman ) to the Commanding General, United States Forces, European Theater ( Eisenhower ), Transmitting Report of Earl G. Harrison on Displaced Persons in Europe, Especially in Germany and Austria, August 31, 1945. Ibid ., September 30, 1945, pp. 455–463. Reply by General Eisenhower , October 8, 1945. Ibid ., October 21, 1945, pp. 607–609.

Statement by the President ( Truman ) on the European Relief and Rehabilitation Program, September 17, 1945. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman , 1945 , pp. 321–324.

Special Message of the President ( Truman ) to the Congress on United States Participation in the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, November 13, 1945. Ibid ., pp. 464–467.

Statement by the President ( Truman ) on the Problem of Jewish Refugees in Europe, November 13, 1945. Ibid ., pp. 467–469.

Letter from the President ( Truman ) to the British Prime Minister ( Attlee ) Concerning the Need for Resettlement of Jewish Refugees in Palestine, November 13, 1945. Ibid ., pp. 469–470.

Immigration to the United States of Certain Displaced Persons and Refugees in Europe: Statement by the President ( Truman ), with attached Directive by the President. Released to the press by the White House on December 22. Bulletin , December 23, 1945, pp. 981–984.

e. report on atrocities and war crimes

Report from Justice Robert H. Jackson , Chief of Counsel for the United States in the Prosecution of Axis War Criminals, to the President ( Truman ). Released to the press by the White House on June 7, 1945. Bulletin , June 10, 1945, pp. 1071–1078. For additional information, see Report of Robert H. Jackson , United States Representative to the International Conference on Military Trials, London, 1945 (Department of State publication 3080 1949).

f. report on the status of countries in relation to the war

Status of Countries in Relation to the War, August 12, 1945. Compiled by Katherine Elizabeth Crane , Division of Research and Publication. Bulletin , August 12, 1945, pp. 230–241. Lists countries at war signatories of the Declaration by United Nations, January 1, 1942, and adherents to the Declaration signatories to the Charter of the United Nations and countries in a state of armistice relations and in a state of surrender.


The Double V Campaign (1942-1945)

The Double V campaign was a slogan championed by The Pittsburgh Courier, then the largest black newspaper in the United States, that promoted efforts toward democracy for civilian defense workers and for African Americans in the military.

The Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, founded in 1907, had long used its voice to champion the rights of African Americans. When World War II began on September 1, 1939, the newspaper immediately made a connection between the United States’ treatment of African Americans and Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews. President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote the newspaper’s editor, Robert Vann, requesting that the paper tone down its rhetoric concerning racial discrimination. The newspaper complied for a while, but on January 31, 1942, just weeks after the U.S. declared war on Japan and Germany after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Courier published a letter from twenty-six-year-old James G. Thompson, a defense worker in Wichita, Kansas. Like most black war workers at the time, Thompson could not work on the factory floor of the aircraft manufacturing company where he was employed. He was confined to working in the factory cafeteria.

Thompson’s letter, “Should I Sacrifice to live ‘Half American?” challenged the lofty rhetoric of American war aims, contrasting them to the actual treatment of one tenth of its population, the African Americans. At the end of his letter, Thompson reminded his readers that the “V for Victory” sign was being displayed prominently across the U.S. and among its allies, calling for victory over tyranny, slavery, and aggression as represented by the aims of the Axis Powers: Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Thompson called for a “double VV for victory” sign, with the first V standing for victory of enemies from without and the second V for victory over enemies within, meaning those in the United States who limited the freedoms of African Americans.

The Courier picked up the theme and on February 7, published on its front page a “Double V” insignia, announcing the “Democracy at Home-Abroad” slogan to test its popularity with their readers. The initial response was overwhelming. The Courier ran a survey on October 24, 1942 to measure the impact of the campaign and 88 percent of its readers responded in support. Black soldiers and sailors in particular embraced the idea, and some even carved the Double V on their chests.

While clearly the “Double V” Campaign was a hugely successful marketing effort for the Courier, it was much more than that. African Americans from almost every background embraced the idea that with the sacrifices of over one million black men and women in various branches of the military during World War II and six million more working in defense plants, they would not allow Jim Crow to remain unchallenged either during or after the war. Many historians see the Double V campaign as the opening salvo in the Civil Rights Movement and continued protests for racial justice.


31 January 1945 - History

Pvt. Eddie Slovik was a draftee. Originally classified 4-F because of a prison record (grand theft auto), he was reclassified 1-A when draft standards were lowered to meet growing personnel needs. In January 1944, he was trained to be a rifleman, which was not to his liking, as he hated guns.

In August of the same year, Slovik was shipped to France to fight with the 28th Infantry Division, which had already suffered massive casualties in France and Germany. Slovik was a replacement, a class of soldier not particular respected by officers. As he and a companion were on the way to the front lines, they became lost in the chaos of battle and stumbled upon a Canadian unit that took them in.


Slovik stayed on with the Canadians until October 5, when they turned him and his buddy over to the American military police. They were reunited with the 28th Division, which had been moved to Elsenborn, Belgium. No charges were brought, as replacements getting lost early on in their tours of duty were not unusual. But exactly one day after Slovik returned to his unit, he claimed he was "too scared and too nervous" to be a rifleman, and threatened to run away if forced into combat. His confession was ignored-and Slovik took off. One day later he returned and signed a confession of desertion, claiming he would run away again if forced to fight, and submitted it to an officer of the 28th. The officer advised Slovik to take the confession back, as the consequences were serious. Slovik refused and was confined to the stockade.

The 28th Division had many cases of soldiers wounding themselves or deserting in the hopes of a prison sentence that might protect them from the perils of combat. A legal officer of the 28th offered Slovik a deal: dive into combat immediately and avoid the court-martial. Slovik refused. He was tried on November 11 for desertion and was convicted in less than two hours. The nine-officer court-martial panel passed a unanimous sentence of execution, "to be shot to death with musketry."


Slovik's appeal failed. It was held that he "directly challenged the authority" of the United States and that "future discipline depends upon a resolute reply to this challenge." Slovik had to pay for his recalcitrant attitude, and the military made an example of him. One last appeal was made-to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander-but the timing was bad for mercy. The Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes forest was resulting in literally thousands of American casualties, not to mention the second largest surrender of an U.S. Army unit during the war. Eisenhower upheld the death sentence.

Slovik was shot and killed by a 12-man firing squad in eastern France. None of the rifleman even flinched, firmly believing Slovik had gotten what he deserved.


What Happened After the Liberation of Auschwitz

It was January 1945, and fires burned at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Not at the crematoria where, at the height of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp’s operations, an average of 6,000 Jews were gassed and cremated each day—those had been blown up at the command of SS officers preparing the camps’ evacuation. This time, the Nazis had set ablaze their prisoners’ looted possessions. The fires raged for days.

Once, the sprawling 40-camp complex now known as Auschwitz was characterized by grim record-keeping and brutal order. With chilling efficiency, the architects of the Holocaust orchestrated processes of deportation, detention, experimentation, enslavement and murder. Between 1940 and 1945, approximately 1.1 million Jews, Poles, Roma people, Soviet POWs and others were killed at the Auschwitz camps. Now, as Soviet troops marched westward through occupied Poland, the SS sought to dismantle their killing machine.

The Red Army’s arrival meant liberation, the camps’ end. But what came after the murders finally stopped?

In the final days of the camp, the commanding SS officers “evacuated” 56,000 prisoners, most of them Jews. Leaving Auschwitz, however, did not mean the end of their ordeal. Instead, the SS ordered their charges into columns and marched them into the miserable winter. At first, the prisoners went on foot, monitored by officers who shot those who fell behind or tried to stay behind. Malnourished and inadequately clothed, the marchers were subject to random massacre. Eventually, they were shipped back toward Germany in open train cars. Up to 15,000 of the former camp inhabitants died on the death march.

“[The Nazis] wanted to continue to use those tens of thousands of prisoners for forced labor,” says Steven Luckert, senior program curator at the Levine Family Institute for Holocaust Education at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and former chief curator of the museum’s permanent collection. “Those prisoners got dispersed over all of the remaining camps.”

Back at Auschwitz, where by some estimates 9,000 prisoners remained, only a few SS guards maintained their watch. Most of the prisoners were too sick to move. “There was no food, no water, no medical care,” says Luckert. “The staff had all gone. [The prisoners] were just left behind to die.”

Among the last acts of the SS were to set fire to huge piles of camp documents, a last-ditch effort to hide the evidence. “They understood the enormity of the crimes they committed,” Luckert says.

A surreal quiet fell on Auschwitz in late January, a period filled with confusion and suffering. Then, Soviet scouts stumbled into Auschwitz-Birkenau. The liberators had not intended to go toward the camp though Soviet premier Joseph Stalin had heard about its existence in intelligence communications and conversations with other Allied leaders, Red Army commanders had no idea it existed. “It had no military or economic value from a military viewpoint,” retired Soviet general Vasily Petrenko, who in 1945 was a colonel who helped liberate the camp, told the AP years later.

The Soviets had liberated Majdanek, a Nazi concentration and extermination camp, in July 1944. There, they found a working camp that had been only partially destroyed during its hasty evacuation. It was the first Allied concentration camp liberation, and in the months to follow, the Allies would encounter many more camps as they squeezed the German army from the West and the East.

As Soviet scouts, then troops, arrived at the Auschwitz complex, bewildered prisoners greeted them with tears and embraces. Anna Polshchikova, a Russian prisoner, later recalled the gruff confusion of the first soldiers. “‘And what are you doing here?’ they inquired in an unfriendly manner. We were baffled and did not know what to say. We looked wretched and pathetic, so they relented and asked again, in a kinder tone. ‘And what is over there?’ they said, pointing northwards. ‘Also a concentration camp.’ ‘And beyond that?’ ‘Also a camp.’ ‘And beyond the camp?’ ‘Over there in, the forest, are the crematoria, and beyond the crematoria, we don’t know.’”

Child survivors of Auschwitz show a Soviet photographer their tattooed arms in February 1945. (Galerie Bilderwelt / Getty Images)

The first Soviet troops to arrive moved on toward other targets, but the Red Army soon took over the camps, establishing field hospitals on site. Polish Red Cross workers—volunteer doctors, nurses and paramedics who just months earlier had participated in the Warsaw Uprising—assisted in the recovery too. “The situation was desperate,” recalled Józef Bellert, the physician who organized the group. “We could barely administer the most urgent medical aid.”

As they got to work, they saw body parts strewn around ad hoc cremation pits used after the SS demolished Auschwitz-Birkenau’s crematoria human excrement and ashes were everywhere. Survivors suffered from malnutrition, bedsores, frostbite, gangrene, typhus, tuberculosis and other ailments. And though the SS had attempted to destroy all evidence of mass murder, they had left massive storerooms filled with shoes, dishes, suitcases, and human hair. “It was chaos,” says Jonathan Huener, a Holocaust historian at the University of Vermont.

Once established, the Red Cross staff and local volunteers responded as best they could to the survivors’ needs, navigating a cacophony of different languages. They diagnosed patients, gave them identification documents and clothing, and sent over 7,000 letters to help the patients locate family and friends around the world. “Some of the sick did not realize that they were now free people,” recalled Tadeusz Kusiński, a Red Cross orderly. At least 500 of the 4,500 patients died, many from refeeding syndrome or a lack of sanitary facilities.

Those who could leave trickled out on their own or in small groups. “There were fears that the Germans would return, which for us would only mean death,” said Otto Klein, a Jewish adolescent who had survived medical experiments by infamous Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele along with his twin brother, Ferenc. Together with a group of 36 people, most of them twins, the Kleins headed toward Kraków, and eventually out of Poland, on foot. Not everyone chose to go: Others stayed in the camp to help former prisoners, including about 90 former prisoners who gave vital assistance to the Soviet and Red Cross hospitals.

Auschwitz had been liberated, but the war still plodded on, shaping the massive camp complex. The camp was still a prison, this time for thousands of German POWs the Soviets forced to do labor that echoed that of the original Auschwitz prisoners. Along with some Polish people imprisoned for declaring ethnic German status during the war, the German POWs maintained the site, tore apart barracks and dismantled the nearby IG Farben synthetic rubber plant where tens of thousands of prisoners had been forced to work as slave laborers.

“Some of the barracks were simply dismantled by members of the local population who needed wood,” Huener says. Though the historian in him laments the deconstruction of so much of the camp, he says it was also “understandable in a period of tremendous deprivation and need.”

Over the months that followed the camps’ liberation, many former prisoners returned seeking family members and friends. And a small group of survivors came back to stay.

“The earliest stewards of the site were former prisoners,” explains Huener. In his book Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration, 1945-1979, Huener tells the story of how the site went from operational death camp to memorial. Most of the cadre of men were Polish political prisoners, and none of them had experience with museums or historic preservation. But even during their imprisonments, they had decided Auschwitz should be preserved.

“We did not know if we would survive, but one did speak of a memorial site,” wrote Kazimierz Smoleń, an Auschwitz survivor who later became the memorial site’s director. “One just did not know what form it would take.”

The Auschwitz II gate, as seen in 1959 (Bundesarchiv, Bild / Wilson / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Smoleń returned to Auschwitz after the war, drawn back to the camp by his desire to tell the world about the horrors committed there. He later described his return—and his 35-year tenure as the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum’s director—as “some type of sacrifice an obligation for having survived.”

For Smolén and others determined to preserve Auschwitz, the site was both a massive graveyard and essential evidence of Nazi war crimes. But for others, it was a place to continue the plunder. Despite a protective guard, which included former prisoners, looters stole artifacts and searched through ash pits for gold tooth fillings and other valuables. “Gleaners, or as they were called at the time, ‘diggers,’ searched through the ashes of all the Nazi extermination camps in Poland [. ] for many years after the war, looking for pieces of jewelry and dental gold overlooked by the Nazis,” write historians Jan Tomasz Gross and Irena Grudzinska Gross.

Huener says that there is no comprehensive answer to the question of how many of those early museum workers were Jews, or why they came back to Auschwitz. “Poland was inhospitable to Jews after the war, yet there were tens of thousands who did return to Poland, and tens of thousands who remained.” They did so despite a resurgence of anti-Semitism and violent incidents like the Kielce pogrom, in which 42 Jews were killed by massacred by townspeople who blamed Jews for a local kidnapping. Other Jews who survived Auschwitz fled Poland after being liberated, living in displaced persons camps, scattering into a worldwide diaspora, or emigrating to British Palestine.

The museum staff lived in former SS offices and did everything from groundskeeping to rudimentary preservation work to exhibit design. They staved off looters, acted as impromptu tour guides to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who streamed toward the camp, and tried their best to preserve everything that remained of the camp.

Despite the lack of modern preservation technology and questions about how best to present evidence of years of mass murder, the former prisoners who fought to preserve Auschwitz succeeded. The most notorious of the over 40,000 sites of systematic Nazi atrocities would be passed on to future generations. Other sites would fare differently, depending on the extent of their destruction by the Nazis and the deterioration of time.

When visitors in the 1940s and 󈧶s walked beneath Auschwitz I’s iconic “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign and into the camp, they were faced with buildings that looked much as they did during the Holocaust. The museum’s directive was to offer historical proof of the Germans’ crime—a mostly silent endeavor that left visitors in tears or simply speechless.

The exhibitions have changed over the years, but Auschwitz still inspires speechlessness. Last year, 2.3 million people visited the memorial, where 340 guides offer tours in 20 different languages. Now, Auschwitz has a state-of-the-art preservation laboratory, an extensive archive, and conducts education and outreach around the world. The end of Auschwitz was the beginning of a monumental task of preservation and commemoration that continues to this day.

But for Luckert, it’s important not to let the end overshadow the beginning. “Sometimes instead of focusing on the end, we need to look at how it got there,” he says. “What was it that led Nazi Germany to create such a symbol of inhumanity, a place of infamy? In a matter of a few short years, it transformed a sleepy Silesian town into the greatest site of mass killing the world has ever known.”

Seventy-five years after the Holocaust, he fears, it would be all too easy to get on the road to Auschwitz again.


Watch the video: 31 January 20212 (May 2022).