Benjamin Ferencz was 27 when the Einsatzgruppen trial began in 1947. There were 22 defendants, all men, all members of the German SS. “One of the counsel has characterized this trial as the biggest murder trial in history,” the military tribunal wrote. “In this case, the defendants are not … charged with sitting in an office hundreds and thousands of miles away from the slaughter.… These men were in the field actively superintending, controlling, directing, and taking an active part in the bloody harvest.” Put simply, the Einsatzgruppen were exterminators: Their squads traveled to towns throughout Eastern Europe, rounding up Jews and shooting them with mechanized efficiency. Some mass graves were filled with hundreds of bodies; others, thousands.
Otto Ohlendorf, Paul Blobel, and almost two dozen others led these divisions of Hitler’s army; after the war, they were indicted for crimes against humanity. Benjamin Ferencz was 27, and he was the chief prosecutor responsible for convicting 22 men on trial for murdering 1 million men, women, and children.
In the nearly 70 years since he took part in the trials at Nuremberg, Ferencz has lived a remarkable life.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
It turns out that bacon fat is good for more than sprucing up bitter greens—it’s also pretty good for making bombs. And during World War II, handing over cooking fat to the government was doing your patriotic duty.
The American Fat Salvage Committee was created to urge housewives to save all the excess fat rendered from cooking and donate it to the army to produce explosives. As explained to Minnie Mouse and Pluto in one wartime video, fats are used to make glycerin, and glycerin is used to make things blow up.
Read more. [Image: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration]
We can actually blame Nazis for another death from World War II.
A driver of a bulldozer was killed in the western German town of Euskirchen on Friday when a yet-to-be-identified World War II bomb exploded during construction work. Eight others were injured in the explosion, two of them seriously.
Nearly 70 years after the war ended, bombs are still being discovered in Germany, some of which have threatened the lives of the people who unwillingly discover them. In November, 20,000 people were evacuated from the western German city of Dortmund when authorities discovered a 4,000-pound Allied bomb. It was defused before anyone was injured. Two years earlier, 45,000 people were evacuated from Koblenz, a major city along the Rhine River, because of an equally large bomb. If it had gone off, it would have wiped out the center of the city.
Read more. [Image: Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay]
Sixty-eight years ago today, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing approximately 110,000 Japanese citizens and thrusting the world into a nuclear age.
The American public didn’t know how to respond to this unprecedented military move. Should they just be glad that the war was over, and conclude that the ends justified the means? Or should they be skeptical, and question whether this final assault was really absolutely necessary?
In December 1946, just over a year after Hiroshima, The Atlantic published Dr. Karl Compton’s article, “If the Atomic Bomb Had Not been Used.” Compton argues that if the United States had not implemented the Manhattan Project, hundreds of thousands more lives - both American and Japanese - would have been lost.
Read more. [Image: AP]
The [588th Night Bomber Regiment of the Soviet Air Forces] was the most highly decorated female unit in that force, flying 30,000 missions over the course of four years — and dropping, in total, 23,000 tons of bombs on invading German armies. Its members, who ranged in age from 17 to 26, flew primarily at night, making do with planes that were — per their plywood-and-canvas construction — generally reserved for training and crop-dusting. They often operated in stealth mode, idling their engines as they neared their targets and gliding to the bomb release point. As a result, their planes made little more than soft “whooshing” noises as they flew by.
Those noises reminded the Germans, apparently, of the sound of a witch’s broomstick. So the Nazis began calling the female fighter pilots Nachthexen: “night witches.” They were loathed. And they were feared. Any German pilot who downed a “witch” was automatically awarded an Iron Cross.
The picture is a rare glimpse of the bomb’s immediate aftermath, showing the distinct two-tiered cloud as it was seen from Kaitaichi, part of present-day Kaita, six miles east of Hiroshima’s center. […]
The person who took this photo would have been among the first to look out there and realize that this wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill bomb. It wasn’t the air raid that the citizens of Hiroshima had been anticipating for months. This was the beginning of a new world.
Read more. [Image: Honkawa Elementary School]
"It is a bit like painting with history," Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse says of her project "Ghosts of History."
She got the idea a few years ago when she found some old negatives at a flea market in Amsterdam, where she lives. “I was very curious about these mysterious photos and wanted to find out who took them and where. So I started to walk around Amsterdam and made photos in the same spot where the old photos were made and combined them on the computer.”
See more. [Images: Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse, Unknown, Tom Timmermans]
Antoni Dobrowolski, a former Polish teacher arrested by the Gestapo in 1942 for teaching underground lessons to students, died on Sunday at the age of 108, according to a Polish official speaking with the Associated Press. He was the oldest known survivor of Germany’s largest death camp.
He was probably too busy as a U.S. Army captain to bother finding anything to rhyme with “malaria,” but the good Theodor Geisel did take the time to personify the Anopheles mosquito as a vixen named Ann out to tempt unwary soldiers into an undignified death. In his typical whimsical style, adjusted to a slightly older audience, he warned young G.I.s to keep their pants (and the rest of their clothes) on: “If you go running around as a strip teaser, you haven’t got a chance.”
See more. [Images: USDA]
The blog Retronaut has unearthed a booklet, created by RCA in the 1940s, intended to inform male bosses about the best ways to supervise their new employees as World War II brought females into factories, often for the first time. […]
What’s remarkable about this is that none of the qualities highlighted or advice dispelled in the booklet is actually specific to women. “Tell them what they’re supposed to do” and “tell them when they’ve done good work” and “make sure they know where the bathroom is” are not nuggets of wisdom that are in any way particular to women. They’re just, you know, what any boss should probably be doing for any employee.
Read more. [Images: National Archives]