British newspapers were fairly sympathetic to Adolf Hitler when he took power in 1933. Harold Harmsworth (Lord Rothermere) the owner of the The Daily Mail and Evening News, was a supporter of the Nazi government and James Pool, the author of Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power (1979), has claimed that he helped to fund the Nazi Party.
On 30th January 1933, Rothermere produced a series of articles supporting the new regime. In his publications he criticized "the old women of both sexes" who filled British newspapers with rabid reports of Nazi "excesses." Instead, the newspaper claimed, Hitler had saved Germany from "Israelites of international attachments" and the "minor misdeeds of individual Nazis will be submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany."
William Maxwell Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook), the owner of Daily Express and the Evening Standard , was also friendly towards Hitler and throughout the 1930s promoted appeasement and praised Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Agreement.
Geoffrey Dawson, the editor of The Times was another supporter of the Nazi regime. He was a member of the right-wing pro-Hitler group, the Anglo-German Fellowship. It has been claimed by Stanley Morison, the author of The History of The Times (1952) that Dawson had censored the critical reports of the Berlin correspondent of the newspaper, Norman Ebbutt. Another correspondent in the city, William Shirer commented: “The trouble for Ebbutt was that his newspaper, the most esteemed in England, would not publish much of what he reported. The Times in those days was doing its best to appease Hitler and to induce the British government to do likewise. The unpleasant truths that Ebbutt telephones nightly to London from Berlin were often kept out of the great newspaper”.
The main critic of Hitler in British newspapers was the cartoonist, David Low. An outspoken socialist, Low's cartoons, were so popular with the general public, that Lord Beaverbrook, employed him to work at the Evening Standard. Although Beaverbrook was a strong supporter of the Conservative Party, he promised Low that he would have complete freedom to express his own radical political views. Low produced four cartoons a week and these were syndicated to 170 journals worldwide.
Low's cartoons criticizing Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini resulted in his work being banned in Germany and Italy. After the war it was revealed that in 1937 the German government asked the British government to have "discussions with the notorious Low" in an effort to "bring influence to bear on him" to stop his cartoons attacking appeasement.
David Low was attacked by the conservative press as a "war-monger" because of his hostility towards Neville Chamberlain and his policy of appeasement. However, after the outbreak of the Second World War the British government urged its artists to mount a campaign against Adolf Hitler and his Nazi government.
I urge all British young men and women to study closely the progress of the Nazi regime in Germany. They must not be misled by the misrepresentations of its opponents. The most spiteful distracters of the Nazis are to be found in precisely the same sections of the British public and press as are most vehement in their praises of the Soviet regime in Russia.
They have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call "Nazi atrocities" which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for himself, consists merely of a few isolated acts of violence such as are inevitable among a nation half as big again as ours, but which have been generalized, multiplied and exaggerated to give the impression that Nazi rule is a bloodthirsty tyranny.
The German nation, moreover, was rapidly falling under the control of its alien elements. In the last days of the pre-Hitler regime there were twenty times as many Jewish Government officials in Germany as had existed before the war. Israelites of international attachments were insinuating themselves into key positions in the German administrative machine. Three German Ministers only had direct relations with the Press, but in each case the official responsible for conveying news and interpreting policy to the public was a Jew.
The spectacle of Mussolini so masterfully beating up his Liberal and Socialist opponents was one that could not fail to evoke admiration in some Anglo-Saxon breasts. A British Fascist Party grew up overnight; and the Daily Mail, then Britain's biggest popular newspaper, approved it. With the zest I added the first Lord Rothermere, its proprietor, to my cast of cartoon characters. He made up well in a black shirt helping to stoke the fires of class hatred. Lord Rothermere was much incensed and complained bitterly. "Dog doesn't eat dog. It isn't done," said one of his Fleet Street men, as though he were giving me a moral adage instead of a thieves' wisecrack.
When German troops reoccupied the Rhineland demilitarized zone, Hitler justified the breach of the Versailles and Locarno Treaties by asserting that both were already dead. He had, he said, a peace-plan of his own to take their place - a 25-year Western non-aggression pact. When Eden, to the anxious interest of Van Zeeland (Belgium), Flandin (France), Litvinov (Russia), Titulescu (Rumania) and others, asked for the precise meaning of vague and ambiguous details, Hitler evaded reply.
Both the rearming of Germany and the reoccupation of the Rhineland caught Western statesmanship off balance between the French policy of "resistance to Germany and persuasion to Italy" and the British policy of "resistance to Italy and persuasion to Germany". The German General Staff had been unable to make war, but Hitler gambled on there being no resistance from the French without British support. When he was proved right, and leaders of both democracies still refused to accept the risk, his generals were impressed by his "intuition".
Interviewed in Manhattan, British Cartoonist David Low advised U. S. cartoonists to "scrap this Uncle Sam and John Bull business. Your Uncle Sam is no more representative of the American people than my boot or my foot." More advice from the London Evening Standard's piercing satirist: "When you hold a man up as a public menace you lend him dignity. You don't destroy him at all.
"I saw an American cartoon, for instance, which was opposed to Mussolini and Hitler. The cartoonist drew them as huge, huge figures. Now Mussolini is a short man, and his large jaw is largely due to a fold of fat that is carefully touched out in photographs. Hitler is not an impressive figure. He has a turned up nose, good eyes, an absurd little mouth and a slightly receding chin. All the opportunities in these two men for very destructive caricature."
In the Australian-born David Low, Britain possessed one of the world's finest political cartoonists. His left-wing sympathies turned him violently against the Fascist dictators... When Hitler and Mussolini achieved power, Low quickly realized that to satirize them as tyrants with blood dripping from their fingers, far from embarrassing them, only gratified their vanity. What piqued them, he says, was to be depicted as clowns.
Cartoons and leading articles often flatly contradicted one another, scandalizing the worthy souls who saw it as a serious defect in Lord Beaverbrook that he be not one-eyed.... But the truth was that his attitude to my personal charter of freedom remained impeccable, and the misgivings I had had on joining his paper long had been forgotten. Often he disagreed with me profoundly and did not fail to say so. Cartoons of Hitler tripping up to glory on stairs formed by the spineless backs of democratic statesmen; and Hitler demanding with menaces to know what the same democratic statesmen would give him not to kick their pants for twenty-five years, hardly fitted the Beaverbrook line, but went into the paper without a word, except after publication...
But even after he visited Germany, where he succeeded in getting the Daily Express ban lifted but was told frankly that so long as he kept me as cartoonist the Evening Standard would be banned, there were no recriminations but instead a worried solicitude for my own safety. Fresh from Dr. Gobbels, and hearing of my occasional trips to Europe, Beaverbrook was full of dire warnings that to show my nose in Germany would be asking for an "accident."
When Lord Halifax visited Germany officially in 1937, he was told that the Führer was deeply offended by Low's cartoons of him, and that the paper in which they appeared, the Evening Standard, was banned in Germany.... On Halifax's return to London, he summoned Low and told him that his cartoons were impairing the prime minister's policy of appeasement.
Eight days after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, while the world was still thunderstruck at the accord of two regimes which had been so inimical to each other, the German Blitzkrieg tore through Poland from the West to meet Russian troops oncoming from the East. The pact had arranged for a partition of Poland. Officially, past recriminations between the new associates were forgotten in present admiration of mutual interests.
The German Army invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. Unable to resist the German Blitzkrieg (lightning war), the Poles were also faced with a separate invasion by the Soviet Union on 17 September. The occupation of Poland was soon complete and Hitler and Stalin divided the country between them. In David Low's famous cartoon, the two unlikely allies congratulate each other over the body of Poland.
Questions for Students
Question 1: Read the introduction and sources 2 and 3. Did all British newspapers oppose Adolf Hitler in the 1930s? How did David Low upset Lord Rothermere?
Question 2: Explain the meaning of source 1. It will help you to read David Low's own comments on the cartoon in source 4.
Question 3: In source 6 David Low explains the meaning of source 5. Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary, is the man at the bottom of the drawing. How would he have defended his decision not to take action against the "rearming of Germany and the reoccupation of the Rhineland".
Question 4: Study source 7 and 8. Describe Low's methods of dealing with Hitler and Mussolini.
Question 5: Use the information in sources 12 and 13 to explain the meaning of source 10.
Question 6: Explain the meaning of source 14.
Question 7: Compare the treatment of Joseph Stalin in sources 10, 14 and 15.
Question 8: David Low was disliked by both the German and British governments before the outbreak of the Second World War. Use the information in this unit to explain this statement.
A commentary on these questions can be found here.
Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet (16 November 1896 – 3 December 1980) was a British politician who rose to fame in the 1920s as a Member of Parliament and later in the 1930s, having become disillusioned with mainstream politics, became the leader of the British Union of Fascists (BUF).   Mosley had not been knighted, but he was the sixth baronet, with a title that had been in his family for more than a century at his father's death on 21 September 1928. 
After military service during the First World War, Mosley was one of the youngest members of parliament, representing Harrow from 1918 to 1924, first as a Conservative, then an independent, before joining the Labour Party. At the 1924 general election he stood in Birmingham Ladywood against future Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, coming within 100 votes of beating him.
Mosley returned to Parliament as Labour MP for Smethwick at a by-election in 1926 and served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the Labour Government of 1929–31. He was considered a potential Labour Prime Minister but resigned because of discord with the Government's unemployment policies. He chose not to defend his Smethwick constituency at the 1931 general election, instead unsuccessfully standing in Stoke-on-Trent. Mosley's New Party became the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in 1932.
Mosley was imprisoned in May 1940, and the BUF was banned. He was released in 1943 and, politically disgraced by his association with fascism, moved abroad in 1951, spending most of the remainder of his life in Paris. He stood for Parliament during the postwar era but received very little support.
Coburg at the center of Europe:
Coburg, though a small town in Germany, is the centerpiece of monarchies in Europe.
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was the royal house of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria of Britain. Coburg was so close to Queen Victoria’s heart that she visited it 13 times in her lifetime.
Many European royal weddings happened in Coburg castle. After the death of King Albert’s brother, and his son, the throne of Coburg needed a replacement. Queen Victoria sent her younger son Prince Leopold’s son Charles Edward to take over the position as the Duke of Coburg.
Charles Edward lost his father at a very young age. His mother and sister were supportive of his new venture. At the age of 13, Charles Edward became the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
There was a massive difference between Britain’s lifestyle and Germany’s lifestyles, for which he struggled initially. Kaiser, the king of Prussia, was the cousin of Queen Victoria and took care of Charles Edward’s education. Charles Edward was enrolled in a German military school and was married to Princess Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein of the German royal family.
British soldier allegedly spares the life of an injured Adolf Hitler
On September 28, 1918, in an incident that would go down in the lore of World War I history𠅊lthough the details of the event are still unclear—Private Henry Tandey, a British soldier serving near the French village of Marcoing, reportedly encounters a wounded German soldier and declines to shoot him, sparing the life of 29-year-old Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler.
Tandey, a native of Warwickshire, took part in the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914 and the Battle of the Somme in 1916, where he was wounded in the leg. After being discharged from the hospital, he was transferred to the 9th Battalion in France and was wounded again during the Third Battle of Ypres at Passchendaele in the summer of 1917. From July to October 1918, Tandey served with the 5th Duke of Wellington Regiment it was during this time that he took part in the successful British capture of Marcoing, for which he earned a Victoria Cross for 𠇌onspicuous bravery.”
As Tandey later told sources, during the final moments of that battle, as the German troops were in retreat, a wounded German soldier entered Tandey’s line of fire. “I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,” Tandey remembered, “so I let him go.” The German soldier nodded in thanks, and disappeared.
Though sources do not exist to prove the exact whereabouts of Adolf Hitler on that day in 1918, an intriguing link emerged to suggest that he was in fact the soldier Tandey spared. A photograph that appeared in London newspapers of Tandey carrying a wounded soldier at Ypres in 1914 was later portrayed on canvas in a painting by the Italian artist Fortunino Matania glorifying the Allied war effort. As the story goes, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain traveled to Germany in 1938 to engage Hitler in a last-ditch effort to avoid another war in Europe, he was taken by the führer to his new country retreat in Bavaria. There, Hitler showed Chamberlain his copy of the Matania painting, commenting, “That’s the man who nearly shot me.”
The authenticity of the Tandey-Hitler encounter remains in dispute, though evidence does suggest that Hitler had a reproduction of the Matania painting as early as 1937𠅊 strange acquisition for a man who had been furious and devastated by the German defeat at Allied hands in the Great War. Twice decorated as a soldier, Hitler was temporarily blinded by a mustard gas attack in Belgium in October 1918 and was in a military hospital in Pacewalk, Germany, when he received news of the German surrender. The experiences of battle𠅏irst glory and ultimately disillusion and despondence—would color the rest of Hitler’s life and career, as he admitted in 1941, after leading his country into another devastating conflict: “When I returned from the War, I brought back home with me my experiences at the front out of them I built my National Socialist community.”
1939 Newspaper Headlines
The world in 1939 didn’t feel like the most safe place. Germany’s invasion of Poland marked the beginning of WWII, commencing the 6 year war that would devastate and destroy the lives of millions of people. 1939 headlines includes the declaration of war on Germany by the allied forces, the United States announcing its neutrality in the war, and Adolf Hitler’s narrow escape of an assassination attempt in Munich.
1939 was a fascinating year in history, filled with events that would forever change the course of history. Read about how the war began step by step, with reports covering the beginning of it all. The best way to understand our world today is to gain an insight into the past and the people and events, good and bad, that have shaped society and the world today. A 1939 newspaper can give perspective on all of these things.
Also, take a look at a full breakdown of the year 1939 in our 1939 timeline.
January 1, 1939
The Hewlett-Packard Company is founded and becomes the largest technology company in the world.
January 5, 1939
Amelia Earhart is officially declared dead after her 1937 disappearance.
February 6, 1939
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain officially declares that any German attack on France will also be considered an attack on Great Britain.
March 2, 1939
Pope Pius XII (Cardinal Pacelli) succeeds Pope Pius XI as the 260th Pope.
April 1, 1939
The Spanish Civil War comes to an end when the last of the Republican forces surrender.
April 14, 1939
John Steinbeck’s classic novel “The Grapes of Wrath” is published for the first time.
April 30, 1939
The 1939 New York World’s Fair opens.
May 1, 1939
Batman makes his first appearance in Detective Comics #27.
June 17, 1939
Murderer Eugen Weidmann is decapitated by the guillotine in the last public guillotining to take place in France.
June 24, 1939
The government of Siam changes its name to Thailand, which means ‘Free Land’.
August 2, 1939
Albert Einstein writes to President Franklin D. Roosevelt about developing the atomic bomb using uranium. This leads to the creation of the Manhattan Project.
August 15, 1939
MGM’s classic musical film The Wizard of Oz, based on L. Frank Baum’s famous novel, and starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, premieres at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
September 1, 1939
Nazi Germany invades Poland, thus beginning the Second World War in Europe.
September 3, 1939
The United Kingdom, France, New Zealand and Australia declare war on Germany.
September 5, 1939
The United States declares its neutrality in the war.
November 8, 1939
Adolf Hitler narrowly escapes an assassination attempt in Munich by Georg Elser, while celebrating the sixteenth anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch.
November 16, 1939
Al Capone is released from Alcatraz prison.
December 15, 1939
The film Gone with the Wind premieres at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Mitchell and is the longest American film made up to this time (almost four hours long).
December 27, 1939
The 1939 Erzincan earthquake kills 30,000 people in Eastern Anatolia, Turkey. The earthquake features seven powerful tremors and one of these tremors is measured at 8.2 on the Richter scale of magnitude.
Turn the page to:
January 1: The Hewlett-Packard partnership was formed in Palo Alto, California by Bill Hewlett and David Packard.
January 4: The German political-military leader, Hermann Goering, appoints Reinhard Heydrich as head of Jewish Emigration.
January 6: A Jewish woman, Lise Meitner from Vienna publishes her discovery known as the “atom splitting” during her exile in Sweden.
January 13: Five men break loose from the US federal prison on Alcatraz Island and attempt an escape.
January 16: The daily newspaper comic strip Superman debuts by the author, Jerry Siegel, illustrated by Joe Shuster.
January 16: Convicted murderer, Hamilton Howard Fish, also known as “Albert Fish”, “The Boogey Man” and “The Gray Man” is executed.
January 17: The Reich issue an order forbidding anyone of Jewish nationality to practice as chemists, veterinarians and dentists, one of the major 1939 events of the month.
January 20: Adolf Hitler, German politician and leader of the Nazi Party proclaims his intention to exterminate all European Jews to parliament.
January 25: Enrico Fermi takes part in the first ever nuclear fission experiment (splitting of a uranium atom) alongside John R. Dunning and Herbert L. Anderson.
January 30: Adolf Hitler threatens Jews whilst addressing parliament, claiming if “international Jewish financiers” lead the world into another war, it will cause “annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”
The first Anderson Bomb Shelter is built in Islington, London
February 2: The Belgian Spaak government led by Paul-Henri Spaak, falls.
February 6: The Spanish government flees to France. Francisco Franco is now the Spanish general ruling Spain.
February 14: The German battleship “Bismarck”, named after Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, is launched in Hamburg.
February 16: At 26, the Jewish political and cabaret writer, Jura Soyfer, dies at Buchenwald concentration camp.
February 20: Founded in 1936 to promote Nazism in America, the German American Bund hold a rally in New York, drawing 20,000 supporters.
February 22: The Netherlands formally recognises the Franco regime in Spain, led by General Francisco Franco.
February 24: The anti-Communist pact is signed by Hungary, with Germany, Italy and Japan.
February 25: The first Anderson bomb shelter is erected in an Islington garden in Britain.
February 27: In the Leser v. Garnett case, the US Supreme Court upholds the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that guarantees women the right to vote.
February 27: Britain and France recognise the Franco regime as Spain’s government, one of the pivotal 1939 events to arise in this month.
Mahatma Gandhi during his Mumbai fast
March 2: Howard Carter, the lead archaeologist on the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922 dies.
March 3: Pacifist and Spiritual Leader, Mahatma Gandhi, begins a fast in Mumbai, Bombay, in protest against the autocratic rule in India.
March 14: The Republic of Czechoslovakia is dissolved by Nazi Germany.
March 15: Bohemia and Moravia are occupied by German military and become a German protectorate. Slovakia and Ruthenice become independent, encouraged by Germany.
March 16: Germany occupies the rest of the Czech. Hitler delivers the famous words: “Czechoslovakia has ceased to exist”.
March 16: The Republic of Karpato-Ukraine is annexed by Hungary.
March 20: 7,000 Jews flee German-occupied Memel Lithuania in fear of Hitler’s rule.
March 21: Germany demands Gdansk (Danzig) from Poland.
March 28: Poland formally rejects Hitler’s demand that Danzig is ceded to Germany.
March 31: Britain and France agree to support Poland in the event of German invasion.
Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin share a smile
April 1: Following the end of the Spanish civil war, the United States recognizes the Franco government in Spain.
April 3: “Fall Weiss” is issued by Adolf Hitler to the Army High Command to prepare for an attack on Poland and to be implemented on September 1st.
April 6: Great Britain and Poland sign a military pact.
April 8: Under the Fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, Italy seizes the country of Albania.
April 10: Hendrikus Colijn’s Dutch Government opens Westerbork Transit Camp for German Jews.
April 11: Hungary leaves the League of Nations in accord with German opinion.
April 16: General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, requests a British, French and Russian anti-Nazi pact.
April 19: In the event of war, Great Britain announces it will defend Denmark, Netherlands, and Switzerland.
April 17: USSR’s Joseph Stalin signs the British-France-Russian anti-German pact.
April 28: Adolf Hitler claims the German-Polish non-attack treaty is still in effect.
May 4: Kiichiro Hiranuma, the Japanese Prime Minister, declares Japan will support Germany and Italy in the event of an attack, but not immediately.
May 7: The “Rome-Berlin Axis” is announced between Germany and Italy, a military alliance under the so-called “Pact of Steel”.
May 11: Outer Mongolia at Nomonhan (Khalkin Gol) is attacked by the Japanese army.
May 13: The SS St Louis departs in Hamburg with over 937 passengers. The passengers include over 900 Jewish refugees.
May 17: Finland, Sweden and Norway reject Germany’s non-aggression pact offers.
May 19: British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, signs the British-Russian anti-Nazi pact.
May 22: Joachim von Ribbentrop and Galeazzo Ciano, the foreign ministers of Germany and Italy, sign the “Pact of Steel” committing Germany and Italy to a military alliance.
May 23: Adolf Hitler proclaims he wants to move into Poland.
May 27: DC Comics publishes its second edition of the superhero comic, Batman.
May 27: The SS St Louis sails into Havana Bay, Cuba, with 937 Jewish passengers fleeing the Nazis but they are turned away and refused refuge.
June 1: The HMS Thetis, a British submarine, sinks in Liverpool Bay, claiming 99 lives.
June 1: Gerd von Rundstedt, the retired German Colonel-General returns to service as the commander of the Army Group South.
June 3: Winston Churchill in Collier’s magazine proclaims “Unless some change of heart or change of regime takes place in Germany she will deem it in her interest to make war, and this is more likely to happen in the present year than later on.”
June 4: The SS St. Louis is denied permission to land in Florida and is turned away. The ship holds 937 fleeing Jews from the Nazis.
June 7: George VI and Elizabeth become the first king and queen of Britain to visit the United States of America.
June 11: King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth taste their first ever hot dogs at Franklin D. Roosevelt’s party.
June 17: Eugen Weidmann, the convicted murderer is guillotined in Versailles and becomes the last man publicly executed in France.
June 21: Lou Gehrig, baseball legend is forced to retire due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
June 24: Siam declares a new name for its country, “Thailand” which translates as “Free Land”.
June 29: The French and Turkish authorities orchestrate a referendum annexing Hatay, including the city of Antakya (Antioch).
July 3: Ernst Heinkel, a German aircraft designer, manufacturer and Wehrwirtschaftsführer demonstrates an 800-kph rocket plane to Hitler.
July 4: Lou Gehrig is the first Major League Baseball player to have his number retired. He makes his “luckiest man” speech.
July 6: Nazi Germans close down the last Jewish enterprises and businesses.
July 9: 6000 Indians meet to launch the Passive Resistance Campaign against apartheid and racial policy in South Africa.
July 10: Pius XI’s ban on Catholic participation in the racist right-wing Action Français is reversed by Pope Pius XII.
July 13: Musical legend, Frank Sinatra, records his first song with the Harry James Band, titled “From the Bottom of my Heart”.
July 18: Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania starts helping people with transit visas across the Soviet Union to Japan.
July 23: Gandhi, the Indian activist, writes a letter to Adolf Hitler urging him to prevent a war which may reduce humanity to the savage state.
July 28: Fighting finally ceases across the border between the Soviet Union and Manchuria between Soviet and Japanese forces.
July 26: The London Times reports the discovery of a buried ship and other artefacts at Sutton Hoo.
August 2: Albert Einstein corresponds with President Franklin Roosevelt about using Uranium to develop the Atomic bomb.
August 8: The 7th Venice Film Festival is boycotted by the U.S. due to Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italian regime.
August 15: The Wizard of Oz, directed by Victor Fleming and King Vidor, premieres at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Hollywood.
August 22: The Dutch border guards take position for German invasion pending Hitler’s order.
August 24: Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics sign a 10-year non-aggression pact.
August 23: The Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact is agreed by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to secretly divide Poland between themselves.
August 28: Clare Hollingworth, a journalist, observes large numbers of troops and hundreds of tanks aligned along the Polish border, ready to attack.
August 30: Isoroku Yamamoto, is appointed the supreme commander of the Japanese fleet and is the acting Marshal Admiral of the Navy.
August 30: Poland begins mobilisation to defend itself, intercepting a possible attack from Germany.
August 31: Nazis dress as Poles to “provoke” war and stage a “Polish” assault on a radio station in Gleiwitz as an excuse for Germany to invade Poland.
September 1: Germany invades Poland using Blitzkrieg, or “lightning war” by attacking the free City of Danzig. Adolf Hitler also initiates the T4 Euthanasia Program, ordering the extermination of the mentally ill.
September 3: Great Britain declares war on Germany. France shortly follows, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa & Canada.
September 4: German troops move into the free city of Danzig. The Nazi ghetto, Mir in occupied Poland, is exterminated. “Bloody Monday” is in full force a day later in Czestochowa, Poland. Approximately 150 Jews were shot dead by the Germans.
September 4: The Netherlands and Belgium declare neutrality amidst the growing conflict whilst the RAF raid German warships based in the Heligoland Bight.
September 6: Jan Smuts, leader of the new South African government, declares war on Germany after a vote on the previous day by the South African parliament rejecting a motion to remain neutral in the war.
September 6: Egypt also breaks ties with Germany. The French government begins rounding up German citizens. The first German air attack on Britain begins.
September 17: The British aircraft carrier, Courageous, is sunk by the German U-29. 519 die.
September 21: One of the head Nazi leaders, Reinhard Heydrich, meets in Berlin to discuss the final solution of Jews.
September 27: After 19 days of resistance and German Luftwaffe strikes with (fire)bombs, Warsaw surrenders to the Germans.
September 30: Britain first evacuates citizens in anticipation of war.
Winston Churchill delivers a speech
October 1: Amidst the outbreak of war on Britain, Winston Churchill makes his famous speech calling Russia a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.
October 6: In one of the most important 1939 events of the month, Adolf Hitler denies claims he intends to go to war against Britain and France. He announces his plans to solve the “Jewish problem” and the last Polish army is defeated.
October 11: Theoretical Physicist, Albert Einstein, informs FDR of the possibilities of an atomic bomb.
October 14: Commanded by Kapitan Gunther Prien, the German U-47 sinks British battleship HMS Royal Oak. 833 are killed.
October 19: Throughout Nazi-occupied areas, the Nazi politician, Hermann Goering, plunders through art treasures. The right-wing opponent, Ulrich von Hassell declares Germany’s good name is being disgraced.
October 24: In one of the defining 1939 events in Adolf Hitler’s regime, Nazis require Jews to wear the Star of David to be recognised and segregated.
October 26: Adolf Hitler forces Polish Jews into obligatory work service, an act of slave labour.
October 28: One of the most crucial things that happened in 1939, Anti-German demonstrations and strikes take place in Czechoslovakia. A Spitfire shoots down a German Heinkel-111.
October 30: Germany and the USSR agree on partitioning Poland and Adolf Hitler begins deporting Jews.
October 30: With Winston Churchill, Charles Forbes and Dudley Pound aboard, the English battleship “Nelson” is attacked by a German U boat but the attack fails.
November 4: In the U.S, Congress amends the Neutrality Act allowing “cash and carry” arms sales to aid Britain and France.
November 6: 184 professors are arrested in Krakow and deported under “Sonderaktion Krakau”, the Nazi operation against academics.
November 8: Of the most important 1939 events this month, a failed assassination attempt is made on Adolf Hitler’s life in Burgerbraukeller, Munich.
November 12: In Lodz, Poland, Jews are ordered to wear the yellow star of David by the Nazis.
November 15: In Czechoslovakia, Anti-German demonstrations break out. Nazis begin their mass murder of Warsaw Jews.
November 16: 120 miles southeast of Rockall, the Sliedrecht is stopped and documents examined. The tanker is subsequently torpedoed by a German U-boat.
November 24: The Gestapo in Czechoslovakia execute 120 students accused of anti-Nazi plotting.
November 26: Soviets charge Finland with an artillery attack. The Foreign Minister V.M. Molotov accuses Finnish troops of firing at the Russians.
November 28: Pending the accusations against Finland two days earlier, the Soviet Government scraps the Russian-Finnish non-aggression pact.
November 30: The Russo-Finnish war begins. Stalin attacks Finland with 540,000 men, 2000 guns and 2486 tanks. Helsinki is bombed.
December 1: Leading Nazi and Reichsführer of the SS, Heinrich Himmler begins deportation of Polish Jews.
December 13: The Battle of River Plate commences three British cruisers, the “Exeter”, “Ajax”, and “Achilles” fight against German pocket battleship “Graf Spee”.
December 14: After the 105-day Russo-Finnish war, the League of Nations expels the Soviet Union for attacking Finland.
December 16: In the U.S., immediate congressional action on equal rights is urged by the National Women’s Party, founded by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns.
December 17: In the Battle of River Plate near Montevideo, Uruguay, the German pocket battleship “Graf Spee” is trapped by the British.
December 18: German battleship “Graf Spee” is scuttled by its crew members believing resistance is hopeless, trapped by the British cruisers.
December 19: Finnish positions near Summa are thwarted by Russian air and ground attack just a day after the Finnish army recaptures Agläjärvi.
December 20: German captain of the “Graf Spee”, Hans Langsdorff, commits suicide.
December 21: Adolf Hitler names Adolf Eichmann, a high-ranking Nazi SS Officer as the leader of “Referat IV B”, responsible for evictions and Jewish immigration.
December 22: A chain of cataclysmic 1939 events occurs: a train wreck at Magdeburg, Germany kills 125 a Finnish counter offensive at Petsamo is actioned and 99 die in a train wreck at Friedrichshafen, Germany.
The future dictator of the Soviet Union exhibited a contradictory mix of behaviour traits, being both studious at school and wildly rebellious as a youth. His penchant for mischief would sometimes involve extreme stunts, such as igniting explosive cartridges in a shop. Stalin’s early upbringing in an environment with a bullying, alcoholic father, may have contributed to his propensity to bullying and ruthlessness. But his experiences of poverty, witnessing its effects on his mother and being aware of the plight of the working class at the expense of an elite ruling system shaped his radicalism.
As a teenager, Stalin and other fellow students were taken by their teachers to watch the public hanging of several peasant bandits. The incident had a profound effect on the young revolutionary who sympathised with the condemned prisoners. At the Tiflis Seminary where the teenage Stalin was training to be a priest the institute’s Russian nationalistic and anti-semitic ideology may have influenced his negative view of Jews. Bizarrely for a young socialist, passionate about the arts, poetry (he had works published) and a genuine desire to help the impoverished, he managed to become one of the most feared and murderous dictators in the world with thwarted plans to commit genocide of Russian Jews in 1953.
Henry Tandey spared wounded Adolf Hitler's life in First World War - and changed the world forever
Standing in his wrecked home, Henry Tandey watched his city burn and heard the screams of hundreds of men, women and children after an attack by 515 German bombers in wave after sickening wave.
The brave air raid warden had spent the previous 10 hours fighting his way into blazing houses, rescuing victims and pulling out bodies as the Luftwaffe tried to destroy the Coventry factories powering Britain’s war effort.
But nothing Henry did that night could ease his sickening sense of guilt.
He could have stopped this. Saved the 560-plus lives lost that night, all the horror wreaked by the Nazis and the 60million lives lost in the Second World War.
He could have changed the course of history. If only.
Two years earlier Henry Tandey, 49, had discovered that HE was the man who let Adolf Hitler live.
In the dying moments of the First World War 22 years earlier, he had pointed his rifle at a wounded German soldier trying to flee a French battlefield. Their eyes met and Henry lowered his gun. The German nodded in thanks then disappeared.
In that moment of compassion for a fellow human being, Henry, then 27, let 29-year-old Corporal Adolf Hitler walk free.
Free to become the most reviled dictator and mass murderer of all time.
“I didn’t like to shoot at a wounded man,” he said in 1940. “But if I’d only known who he would turn out to be. I’d give 10 years now to have five minutes of clairvoyance then.”
It was the biggest “what if?” in history and, until his death in 1977 at the age of 86, Henry had to live with the stigma of being “The Man Who Didn’t Shoot Hitler”.
In fact, he was a hero – the most highly decorated British private soldier of the First World War, holder of the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Medal, five mentions in dispatches and three wound stripes.
Now a new book by author and historian David Johnson has set out to make sure Henry is remembered for his astonishing gallantry.
David, who lives in Warwickshire close to Henry’s old home, spent years of research to get to the truth.
He said: “Britain’s most decorated private soldier sparing the life of Adolf Hitler makes a great story. It’s accepted by some but disputed by many others.
"The truth may never be absolutely known. But for Henry Tandey to be known more for his alleged compassion towards Hitler than for his undoubted bravery seemed to me to do him a disservice.”
The book has won praise from the former head of the Army, General Lord Dannatt, who served in the same regiment as Henry, the Green Howards.
He said: “Henry Tandey will always be remembered as the most decorated private soldier of the First World War who, with one squeeze of the trigger, might have prevented the Second World War. Dr Johnson has managed to winnow fact from fiction and produce the definitive life history of this remarkable British soldier – an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.”
For 20 years Henry had no idea he had missed the chance to kill Hitler. But in 1938 he received a shocking phone call from Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who had just returned from a fruitless meeting with Hitler to try to talk him out of war.
Chamberlain had been invited to Hitler’s hilltop retreat in Bavaria and shown a reproduction of a famous painting called The Menin Crossroads.
Revealed: the fascist past of the Daily Mirror
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It is one of the choicest pieces of journalistic dinner party general knowledge that the filthy right-wing Daily Mail was officially a fascist newspaper in the 1930s. The paper was burned on the streets after running the headline "Hurrah for the Blackshirts" and backing Oswald Mosley's plan to make himself Britain's equivalent of Adolf Hitler. No surprise then, so the conversational gambit goes, that the Mail is still beating up on asylum seekers today.
What is less well known is that the Mail's former stablemate the Daily Mirror was just as pro-fascist. On Monday, 22 January, 1934 the Mirror ran the headline "Give the Blackshirts a helping hand". The paper went one further than the Mail, urging readers to join Mosley's British Union of Fascists, and giving the address to which to send membership applications.
"As a purely British organisation, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics," the Mirror told readers, complaining that "timid alarmists" had "been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps".
This was nonsense, the Mirror said, the result of ignorance of the reality of "Blackshirt government" in Hitler's Germany: "The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power."
The paper added that anyone who had visited Germany or Mussolini's Italy "would find that the mood of the vast majority of their inhabitants was not cowed submission but confident enthusiasm."
The Mirror's Sunday sister paper, then known as The Pictorial, followed up with a Hello!-style picture essay showing uniformed blackshirt paramilitaries playing table tennis and enjoying a sing-song around the piano while off duty inside the Black House, Mosley's barracks-cum-dungeon on London's King's Road.
The Mirror and the Pictorial also planned a photographic beauty contest aimed at finding Britain's prettiest woman fascist - though Mosley personally objected to this, saying the paper was trivialising his movement.
The author of the Mirror's "helping hand" article was Harold Harmsworth, the first Lord Rothermere, great grandfather of the current Daily Mail proprietor. Rothermere had inherited both papers from his older brother Lord Northcliffe, but had slowly sold off shares in the Mirror, enabling him to invest in the more profitable Mail. Surprisingly, perhaps, when the Mirror piece was published, he no longer owned the paper. But he still held considerable sway over the paper's board of directors, which he had appointed, including editorial director Harry Guy "Bart" Bartholomew - the man credited with creating the modern tabloid Mirror - and Rothermere's nephew Cecil King, who was to run the paper in its glory years of the 1950s and 1960s.
The change of ownership did not at first change the paper's pro-fascist editorial stance. And when the change came it had more to do with money than ideology. Rothermere's right-wing propaganda had badly hit the paper's sales. Bartholomew and King's solution was to re-launch the paper as a New York-style tabloid aimed at a working-class audience.
"Our best hope," King later wrote in his memoirs, "was to appeal to young, working-class men and women. If this was the aim, the politics had to be made to match. In the depression of the thirties, there was no future in preaching right-wing politics to young people who were in the lowest income bracket."
When the political shift in the Mirror came it was cautious. The paper backed the Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin in the 1935 election, and then gradually adopted an anti-appeasement policy. But politics was far less important in the re-launched, tabloid Mirror. The paper cut its politics coverage by half and vastly increased its sport reporting, shock-horror pictures, lurid crime tales, cartoons, human-interest material and pin-up pictures.
King and Bartholomew's American-style tabloid formula - put into action with enormous panache by legendary Welsh tabloid feature-writer Hugh Cudlipp - doubled the circulation to 1.5 million by 1939.
During the war - in true tabloid style - the Mirror became super-patriotic, and won for itself the reputation of being "the soldiers' paper". Much of the paper's radical reputation rested on its demagogic attacks on the "Colonel Blimp" Conservative politicians and upper-class army officers who made such a mess of the war effort in its early stages.
But the idea of the 1930s Mirror as a great champion of the anti-Nazi cause is largely mythical. And there is no indication that Cecil King ever changed his politics. King remained an admirer of Oswald Mosley, announcing in his memoirs that Mosley had been "the outstanding politician of his generation" and that his only mistake was to have "chosen the wrong side during the war".
After the war, Cecil King came to run the Mirror with as much autocratic power as any proprietor. But wisely, he left the contents of the paper to Cudlipp, the man with the common touch. Despite the paper's reputation for supporting all things socially radical in the 1950s and 1960s, its editorial support for Labour was lukewarm.
King still felt the Harmsworth-Rothermere blood coursing through his veins and loathed Labour's post-war leaders Attlee ("a complete drip") and Gaitskell ("a vain man without substance or principle"). He warmed at first to Harold Wilson, mainly because Wilson had promised to take the UK into the European Common Market.
By the 1960s the theme of a "united Europe" standing between what the Mosleyites saw as a Mongolian-Asiatic Russia and a Jewish-Negro America had become an obsession with the exiled Mosley and also with King. Dumbfounded hacks at the Mirror were required to write article after article setting out the plan for "Nation Europa", which were then foisted on a mostly baffled Mirror readership.
In 1968, after Wilson dragged his feet on Europe, and at the height of a run on the pound, King commandeered the front page of the Mirror to demand Wilson's removal from office. At the same time, amid talk of a military coup, King held a meeting with Mosley at his mansion outside Paris, sounding him out as a possible member of a "government of national unity".
Peter Stephens, the Mirror's Paris correspondent sent a report back to Cudlipp in London (now contained in Cudlipp's private archive at Cardiff University) reporting that King had said that Mosley was still "an extremely brilliant man" who could "still make a useful contribution" to the running of the country. Stephens, astonished, had asked: "You are surely not thinking of including him in your replacement government?" King had replied: "Why not? People have forgotten about his past."
In the event - after some further meetings with military officers and an audience with the potential figurehead Lord Mountbatten - King's plan for the establishment of a Mirror-led military dictatorship fizzled out and was written off as an act of insanity.
King's role in the 1968 "coup that never was" is still controversial. But the fact remains that for much of the Mirror's admittedly brilliant 100-year reign as the self-proclaimed "Newspaper of the Century", it had a dark side which many now prefer discreetly to forget.
Chris Horrie is author of 'Tabloid Nation: From the birth of the Mirror to the death of the tabloid newspaper' Andre Deutsch, £17.99
- Bergen-Belsen /beagen belzen/ : Nazi concentration camp in northwestern Germany. Erected in 1943. Thousands of Jews, political prisoners, and POWs were killed there. Liberated by British troops in April 1945, although many of the remaining prisoners died of typhus after liberation.
B'richa: The organized and illegal mass movement of Jews throughout Europe following World War II.
British White Paper of 1939: British policy of restricting immigration of Jews to Palestine.
DP: Displaced Person. The upheavals of war left millions of soldiers and civilians far from home. Millions of DPs had been eastern European slave laborers for the Nazis. The tens of thousands of Jewish survivors of Nazi camps either could not or did not want to return to their former homes in Germany or eastern Europe, and many lived in special DP camps while awaiting migration to America or Palestine.
Displaced Persons Act of 1948: Law passed by U.S. Congress limiting the number of Jewish displaced persons who could emigrate to the United States. The law contained antisemitic elements, eventually eliminated in 1950.
Eichmann, Adolph (1906 - 1962): SS Lieutenant Colonel and head of the Gestapo department dealing with Jewish affairs.
Einsatzgruppen /ainzatsgroopen/ : Mobile units of the Security Police and SS Security Service that followed the German armies to Poland in 1939 and to the Soviet Union in June, 1941. Their charge was to kill all Jews as well as communist functionaries, the handicapped, institutionalized psychiatric patients, Gypsies, and others considered undesirable by the nazi state. They were supported by units of the uniformed German Order Police and often used auxiliaries (Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian volunteers). The victims were executed by mass shootings and buried in unmarked mass graves later, the bodies were dug up and burned to cover evidence of what had occurred.
Genocide: The deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, cultural, or religious group.
Gestapo /geshtahpoh/ : Acronym for Geheime Staatspolizei /gehaime shtahtspolitsai/ , meaning Secret State Police. Prior to the outbreak of war, the Gestapo used brutal methods to investigate and suppress resistance to Nazi rule within Germany. After 1939, the Gestapo expanded its operations into Nazi-occupied Europe.
Gypsies: A collective term for Romani and Sinti. A nomadic people believed to have come originally from northwest India. They became divided into five main groups still extant today. By the sixteenth century, they had spread to every country of Europe. Alternately welcomed and persecuted since the fifteenth century, they were considered enemies of the state by the Nazis and persecuted relentlessly. Approximately 500,000 Gypsies are believed to have perished in the gas chambers.
Holocaust: Derived from the Greek holokauston which meant a sacrifice totally burned by fire. Today, the term refers to the systematic planned extermination of about six million European Jews and millions of others by the Nazis between 1933-1945.
Homophobia: Fear of homosexuals.
International Military Tribunal: The United States, Great Britain, France, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics charted this court to prosecute Nazi war criminals.
The Nazi (National Socialist German Workers') Party: The Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei /natsional sotsialistishe doiche abaita patai/ or NSDAP was founded in Germany on January 5, 1919. It was characterized by a centralist and authoritarian structure. Its platform was based on militaristic, racial, antisemitic and nationalistic policies. Nazi Party membership and political power grew dramatically in the 1930s, partly based on political propaganda, mass rallies and demonstrations.
Nuremberg Trials: Trials of twenty-two major Nazi figures in Nuremberg, Germany in 1945 and 1946 before the International Military Tribunal.
Nuremberg Laws: The Nuremberg Laws were announced by Hitler at the Nuremberg Party conference, defining 'Jew' and systematizing and regulating discrimination and persecution. The "Reich Citizenship Law" deprived all Jews of their civil rights, and the "Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor" made marriages and extra-marital sexual relationships between Jews and Germans punishable by imprisonment.
SA (Sturmabteilung /shtoormabtailung/ or Storm Troopers) : Also known as "Brown Shirts," they were the Nazi party's main instrument for undermining democracy and facilitating Adolf Hitler's rise to power. The SA was the predominant terrorizing arm of the Nazi party from 1923 until "The Night of the Long Knives" in 1934. They continued to exist throughout the Third Reich, but were of lesser political significance after 1934.
Scapegoat: Person or group of people blamed for crimes committed by others.
SD (Sicherheitsdienst /zikherhaitsdeenst/ or Security Service) : The SS security and intelligence service established in 1931 under Reinhard Heydrich.
Wiesenthal, Simon(1908- ): Famed Holocaust survivor who has dedicated his life since the war to gathering evidence for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.
Zionism: Political and cultural movement calling for the return of the Jewish people to their Biblical home.
Zyklon B: (Hydrogen cyanide) Pesticide used in some of the gas chambers at the death camps.
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Discussion Questions/Research Topics
- Identify examples current human rights violations. Research and discuss.