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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This Week in History

Hello All,

Since this week in particular has so many crucial events to take place in such a short time, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about 'This Week in History' instead of just one day in history.

Clara Petacci
This week essentially marks the end of World War II for the European Theater. Years of turmoil, strife, and heartache came to a dramatic end, beginning with today, April 28.

Benito Mussolini
On April 28, 1945, while attempting to flee his country into a neutral one, Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, were caught and executed while crossing the border into Switzerland. Benito knew being captured by the Allied countries would certainly mean trial and execution, so his alternative was to attempt escape.

While approaching the Swiss border, Mussolini and Petacci realized guards were waiting for them just beyond the border. To disguise themselves, Mussolini obtained a Luftwaffe coat and helmet, thinking he would sneak past with the rest of the Germans filing through. However, his plan failed and they were discovered by partisans and shot on site. The partisans transported their bodies back to Italy, where they were publicly displayed for revilement by all.

Hitler and Eva
The following day, April 29, 1945, Adolf Hitler married his girlfriend, Eva Braun. Eva was an assistant to Hitler's photographer and spent much of her time with Hitler, gallivanting around the countryside.

"Never Again" depicted in five different languages, Dachau Memorial.
Simultaneously, on this day, American troops liberated Dachau, the first established concentration camp in Germany. All of the German troops stationed there were killed within 60 minutes. The horrifying scene the American troops witnessed fueled their rage against the Germans; no prisoners were taken. 33,000 people survived Dauchau, including 2,539 Jewish prisoners; however, at least 160,000 souls passed through the main camp and another 90,000 around the surrounding camps throughout Germany. Thousands upon thousands of prisoners died of malnutrition and mistreatment alone, another innumerable amount of souls were taken to the gas chambers. A memorial was established in Dauchau on September 11, 1956.
Russian soldier amidst the rubble of the Furher's bunker.
The very next day, April 30, Hitler and Eva committed suicide by cyanide capsules, then pistol, in a swanky air-raid shelter located fifty-five feet below the chancellery. Hitler fortified his beloved bunker for the last stand Germany would make in the war, including eighteen rooms with water and electric. When it was certain the Russian Army were just days away from taking the bunker, Hitler was urged by his officers to seek refuge in the Bavarian Alps,  at one of his many homes. However, Hitler chose suicide instead; most likely expecting the very worst if taken by the Allies. Testing the efficiency of the poison on his own dog, Blondi, Hitler and Eva swallowed the pills and then shot themselves 'for good measure'. As ordered, the Fuhrer and his wife were cremated and buried in the chancellor gardens. It was not until 1956 that Hitler was officially pronounced dead.

By the end of the week, on May 2, nearly one million German troops conceded to unconditional surrender to the Allies in Italy, while Berlin fell to the Soviets, with the Russians taking over 134,000 German soldiers prisoners.
German soldiers surrendering to the Allies, Italy 1945.

Even though 'this week in history' is not a particularly cheery one, we can all agree if it were not for these events the war may have lasted a bit longer, which would have most certainly resulted in more loss of life for both sides.

Take Care,

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On This Day: Battle of Berlin

Hello All,

Tanks rolling through Berlin
It has been a few weeks since we have explored some World War II history, so today, let's dive right back in, shall we?

As you may know, 2015 marks the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II. Specifically, 70 years ago on this day, April 21, Soviet Forces finally breached the German High command defense during the invasion of Berlin.

This month in 1945, was the point of no return for the Germans. The Americans and British were closing in on the west, while the Soviets on the east were barreling over top of the Germans in their capital city of Berlin. By this point in the fighting, the Allied forces had all but destroyed the German regular army and all whom were left to defend their country were Hitler Youth teenagers, SS foreign volunteers, and Waffen-SS divisions. Outfitted with barely anything at all, strategically located in the city streets, these remaining Germans fought hard to ward off the Soviet Army. Needless to say, they could not defend their city properly and the Russians were able to easily roll their way into the heart of Germany.

Furher Bunker destroyed
The Battle of Berlin was the last major offensive in the European theater. For the most part, both sides knew this operation would be the last, no matter the outcome. Fighting was brutal and by April 21, the battle had been raging for over a month. A few days after breaching the heart of the city, close hand to hand combat raged through the streets. The battle continued until the end of the month. Many lost their lives during the battle, but the outcome was worth the sacrifice for the Allies. The Soviet's lost a total of over 81,000 for the entire operation, while the Germans have estimated a total between 92,000 and 100,000 killed. The exact number of civilians killed is unknown, but estimates have reached up to 125,000 during the operation. A major portion of the surviving civilians were now homeless and starving.

Until next time,

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Home-School Event: April 24, 2015

Calling All Home-Schooled Students!

Want to experience World War II history through interactive stations and living history? Would you like to participate in activities geared towards you and all your friends? Then join us for the National D-Day Memorial Home-School Event on Friday, April 24, 2015, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM. All age groups are welcome and fees are $4.00 per person. Children under 6 are free. Space is LIMITED, please register by April 15, tomorrow, at the very latest.

For more information or to register, please contact the National D-Day Memorial's Education Department at (540) 586-3329, ext. 114.

Hope to see you all there!

Take Care,

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Prelude to Invasion: National D-Day Memorial Event

Hello All,

I hope you all had a relaxing and beautiful Easter Weekend! Spring is finally upon us; the weather is steadily getting warmer, the vegetation is blooming, warm days are here to stay! Activity is buzzing around the Memorial now that we have moved into the spring season.

If you are in the mood for an education-packed weekend, than I suggest you make a special trip to the National D-Day Memorial on April 18, 2015, 10 AM-5 PM, for our Prelude to Invasion Event! The event is for children young and old but family and guardians are more than welcome to join in the fun!

Special Announcement from our Education Director:
 “The event is designed to showcase the preparations for the Normandy landings. Omar Bradley and a Polish Living History unit will be on display; WWII veterans will be in the education tent, and several authors will be onsite throughout the day. Several stations will be set up on the site that focuses on several aspects on WWII.”

Scouts are encouraged to attend this event and will receive a discounted admission rate, at $4.00 per scout, as well as the chance to earn a special patch. Pre-registration of Scouts is required by April 10. Family members who wish to join their scouts will be charged regular admission upon arrival.

Some notable attractions include,
·         Book signings throughout the day by…
o   Bob Vandeline, Respect: Forgotten Heroes and Korea
o   Zoe Myers, We Two: A Story of War and Love
o   Thomas Carter, Beachhead Normandy: An LCT’s Odyssey
o   Franz Beisser, A time and Place and Red Solstice
·         Jeff Bush will be in attendance with our WWII Veterans
·         Interactive Living History Stations for a firsthand look at military life during the 1940s, and
·         Dave’s Dogs will be available for lunch.

For more information or to pre-register, contact the Memorial’s Education Department at (540) 586-3329, ext. 114.

This event is generously sponsored by American National and Pro Tech Fabrications, Inc.

Hope to see you all there.

Take Care,