The Footprint of Mussolini - TL

The Footprint of Mussolini - Opening Chapter
  • Hey all, never made a TL before, hope this goes over decently enough. Obviously, don't consider any of the statements in the extracts here to neccessarily be similar to my actual political beliefs. Also forgive me by moving quickly through WW2 since I want to focus much more on the Cold War and the effects on the Middle East.

    Hope you have some interest in reading:

    The Footprint of Mussolini

    The New Roman Empire – by David Lassinger

    14th July 1932

    It was a day that would determine the lives of millions. Because of what happened that day, millions would live who would otherwise have died, and millions would die who would otherwise have lived. It would determine Italy’s trajectory for the whole rest of the century, and with it the whole of the Middle East, Africa and the Eastern Bloc.

    Mussolini had concluded another one of his fiery speeches to the faithful in Milan. He had never considered himself too concerned with the Jewish question and didn’t think much of it. He was vaguely aware of a certain Austrian attempting to become the President of Germany who was had quite pronounced opinions to say the least. However, at the time, he took little emotional interest. For the moment, he was more interested in his relations with the newly formed Vatican state and his moves in the Balkans and Africa.

    Once the speech concluded, he was escorted around the back of the stage. On all sides were the Blackshirts, specifically the more aesthetic ones to give a positive impression of the Fascist movement at large – not that anyone was in the mood to fight back against a Totalitarian Dictatorship unless their backs were totally to the wall. For the moment, at least, the Fascists were quite popular with the population. That was, of course, with the exception of Roberto Giovana. He was a 22-year-old Communist who had managed to procure a firearm. By sheer luck, he was able to weave through the security and get close enough to his target.

    By the time he got close enough, he made a dash and leaped in front of Mussolini. The dictator would recall ‘I was as certain of the inevitability of my death as I certain I am here right now.’ Giovana fired the pistol … but the bullet never reached the dictator.

    A Blackshirt had flung himself in front of his leader, his Duce. The bullet struck him in the chest – as would the second. Giovana would never fire a third, as he was wrestled to the ground and dragged off. He was killed in transit to prison. Officially, he was resisting arrest, although documentation has shown since that he was beaten to death while already incapacitated.

    Mussolini was awestruck by the proceedings, ignoring the commotion around Giovana and kneeling beside the Blackshirt. “You’ve saved me. What is your name?” Mussolini asked.

    “I-Isaac Carpi,” said the Blackshirt as his skin paled and his voice quivered.

    “Someone get a doctor!” called out a voice at the back.

    “Someone get a Priest!” called a more sardonic voice closer to the front.

    At that, Isaac seemed to laugh and regain strength for a moment. “Sorry, but no Priest – I’m a Jew. Duce? Are you safe?”

    “I’m safe,” said Mussolini, standing especially erect and mighty to make up for the shock to his system just moments ago.

    “Then we are safe,” said Carpi, as he dropped his head a final time.

    For the rest of his days, Mussolini would always note that ‘we’. Though he was a Jew, he put his life on the line for the Leader of Italy, and of course, Mussolini was Italy - at least in his own mind. That Jew had died so Italy could live. It left an indelible impression on the Dictator’s mind that would never leave.

    Carpi would be praised as a model Italian citizen and Fascist for the rest of the Fascist era, even getting a biography made of him in 1958. But that wasn’t the main influence Carpi left behind. Not since Gavrilo Princip, perhaps, has one simple man changed the fate of so many millions.

    Extract from Mussolini’s speech to the Knesset in Jerusalem, 1949

    “I knew at that moment that the Jews of Italy had the same love of their country as the Italians had of their own. I decided at that moment that I would never forget what that Jew had done for me – and to let it follow me for the rest of my life. Destiny had determined that I would never side with Hitler. The Jews and Italians would never bow to Nazism, just as they would never bow to Communism!”

    Total: Fascist Terror in Italy by Sven Dietrich

    The notion of Mussolini as the proud, eternal resistor to Nazism that both Italian and occasionally Israeli media like to promote is at total odds with reality, even if we were to ignore the nature of his invasions of Abyssinia and Albania before the War. Mussolini was not the ‘benevolent dictator’ some characterise him to be – he was a ruthless, self-described Totalitarian who did nothing to stop the break-up of the Stessa Accord, allowed Hitler’s annexation of Austria and allowed himself to be so angered by the West’s refusal to let him eat Abyssinia whole that he decided to go neutral during the War.

    His policy of total neutrality with respect to the Dual Pact [1] in the first years of the War should never be forgotten. If he had joined the Allies right at the start, we wouldn’t be talking about all the Jews he saved, because there would be no dead Jews because there wouldn’t have been a Second World War. What did he do instead? He used the conflagration in Europe to begin his own wars of conquest, beginning with the plump prey of Yugoslavia.

    The Making of Fascist Bloc by Jodie Rutkins

    When France fell, the old ‘Little Entente’ alliance had by now totally fallen apart. Yugoslavia was completely at the mercy of the surrounding powers, all of whom had irredentist claims against the peaceful Kingdom.

    Italy had long desired the regions of Yugoslavia they felt they had been cheated out of since Versailles, specifically Dalmatia, Fiume and others. Added to their recent conquest of Albania, the Italians looked upon the meat of Yugoslavia with an almost insane lust. Indeed, the Kingdom had plenty of divisions that could easily be exploited – and were. But first, Mussolini looked for allies to share the burden.

    Satisfied that his choice to stay out of the War was working out, and convinced Britain wouldn’t complain, let alone resist his plans in the Balkans, he began enlisting allies. To the east, he courted Hungary, still sore after the brutal Treaty of Trianon, which had ripped off territory with no respect to the wishes of the inhabitants. Hungary woke up with half their population. The territory of Vojvodina was high on the list of territories the beleaguered state wanted ack under control. Just south was Bulgaria, likewise burned after siding with the Central Powers in World War One. Looking for easy victory, Tsar Boris the Third likewise decided to listen to the Italian offers of land for cheap.

    Next, Mussolini had to create a Causus Belli. In late July, as the Battle of Britain raged, Mussolini began financing anti-Serb riots in major Croatian cities, demanding Croatian independence. These were led by the Ustache political organisation, a notoriously violent ultranationalist organisation under Ante Pavelić. Naturally, Yugoslavia had little choice but to put down the insurrections in Zagreb, which resulted in full-scale riots across the region. Croatian nationalist sympathies were inflamed as Mussolini easily exploited the ethnic divisions within Yugoslavia to his advantage.

    After demanding Yugoslavian forces comply with ‘the national desires of the Croatian people’ on September 10th, the Yugoslavs turned down the offer. Three days later, Belgrade was bombed. Just like Spain, the bombing was indiscriminate, brutal and effective. The same day, forces under Rodolfo Graziani, the committed Fascist, began pouring into Slovenia, as the Regina Marina began shelling the Yugoslav fleet up and down the Adriatic. Italo Balbo would likewise command his own army in Albania, moving into Kosovo.

    However, after the initial shock, the Yugoslavians managed to find their feet somewhat, managing to hold Graziani just outside of Ljubljana and recapturing Dubrovnik after having it fall to Ustache insurgency. Hopes of salvation were finished, however, when Hungary and Bulgaria began their invasion on October 1st. Within days of Bulgaria’s entrance into the War, which would become known as the Third Balkan War, their forces met Balbo’s in Priština. The next day, Macedonia’s representatives within that part of the Federation announced their independent surrender. From there, all hope was lost. The lines broke in Slovenia, and on October 23rd, Italian tanks were met with cheers through the center of Zagreb, with Pavelić declaring the formation of an independent Croatia.

    The Yugoslavian government offered a peace deal, giving independence to all the outer countries but leaving Serbia (as well as Kosovo) as part of a core Yugoslavia. The terms were rejected in Rome, Budapest and Sofia, demanding unconditional surrender. To this, Yugoslavia could only vainly resist.

    The Battle of Belgrade would be fought from November 4th to November 20th, with the Hungarians and Italians attacking from both sides. Croatian Ustache volunteers did half of the work for the Italians, who were, as one Hungarian witness described, “like unleashing those who would torment the Devil in Hell.” War crimes committed by the Ustache were so common that Italian commanders stopped trying to reign them in, deducing that it was like, as Balbo put it, “trying to catch a plane by running.” By the time the fighting was over, Belgrade was in ruins, and by now the situation was impossible. The government signed its surrender on November 23rd, leaving the Royal Family exiled and the spoils divided.

    Hungary received Vojvodina while Bulgaria received Macedonia and Bulgarian speaking regions in the Serbian territories. Italy swallowed Slovenia, Istria and large parts of Dalmatia, also incorporating Montenegro and Kosovo into her Albanian conquest. This left a Croatian state which incorporated Bosnia under he ruthless rule of Pavelić, who began a ruthless crusade of expulsions of the Serb residents, reaching half a million. This created a broken, crippled Serbia swamped by refugees and left for dead.

    It was cruel, it was brutal and it was the beginning of the Fascist Bloc.

    [1] - The name the Axis get ITTL as Mussolini never makes his famous declaration.
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    The Third Player
  • Hey all, I'm really pleasantly surprised with the feedback I got. I didn't expect this to get as much attention as it did (and to be honest, my history has got a little rusty in recent years, so I was scared about exposing that side of myself). However, on with the show:

    The Third Player

    Interview of Italo Balbo for the BBC’s ‘World At War’ (1973)

    Interviewer: Why did Italy not side with Germany during Operation Barbarossa?

    Balbo: Because we were never on good terms with the Germans, even though we hated Communism. Not to mention our disagreement over the Jews. We had Jewish Blackshirts, Jewish soldiers and many others. We had no interest in going to war in a land so far away, especially since it meant a war with Britain.

    Interviewer: Did the Germans ask you to join?

    Balbo: Of course, and every time we refused. They also asked Croatia and Bulgaria, who turned it down as well. Hungary accepted, since they shared a border with the Communists and were more concerned about it than we were. The Hungarians joined the Romanians, Finns and the Slovaks into the conflict on the German side. It speaks to the wisdom of Mussolini to ask what became of them. We had more pressing matters to deal with.

    Interviewer: How was a tiny country like Greece a greater threat than your ideological nemesis of the Soviet Union?

    Balbo: (*Pause*) No matter what we did, we spared it from the fate of Communism.

    The Making of Fascist Bloc by Jodie Rutkins

    In 1942, Germany continued her march at Stalingrad while Japan stretched itself in the Pacific – the Dual Pact felt ascendant. Britain and America began the difficult discussion of where to put the pressure on Hitler, after the near effortless seizing of Corsica at the end of the Spring, bringing about the collapse of the Vichy government and full German occupation of France. By contrast, Mussolini had developed a new plan, taking all the time he desired.

    After his embarrassment in the Corfu affair, Mussolini was adamant of avenging himself against Greece and getting the whole of the Mediterranean on his side. To that end, he called up old allies. Croatia was out of the way of the fighting and Hungary was not only in the same boat but an active participant in Operation Barbarossa, so not exactly available. Bulgaria could be relied on; Tsar Boris had become a national hero for re-establishing national pride in what had once been called the ‘Prussia of the Balkans’. But Mussolini had one more trick up his sleeve. He called up Turkey, tempting them with the prospect of major gains in land and prestige. The democratic government of Turkey refused. The Turkish military and Turkish nationalists within the government were outraged that weakling politicians were holding back Turkey from re-entering the global titans. In August of 1942, Turkey’s government was replaced by an ‘interim’ military government, which would last a long time indeed. They would soon get the boost they wanted, starting the Fourth (and to date final) Balkan War.

    After faking an incident at a border crossing (based off the Nazi technique in Poland) Mussolini sent the troops in through Albania on September 12th 1942. Britain was furious but was obviously in no position to respond, as Mussolini had correctly calculated - America had no interest in such a conflict. After getting multiple reality checks during their invasion of Yugoslavia, Italy had reformed their army, much as Stalin had done since his Finnish excursion in 1940. “It terrifies me to imagine what would have befallen us if it wasn’t for Yugoslavia,” cautioned Balbo as he attempted his assault through the mountainous region. Despite all the lessons, the Greeks remained superior fighters man-for-man. Balbo's troops slogged through the Epirus until Bulgaria launched an invasion through her Macedonian conquest and Turkey sent her navy into the Aegean Sea, shelling anything that moved. Beset on all sides, the Greeks retreated further and further back. By November, the air raids on Athens were near daily and Larissa had fallen. Not wanting Athens to be pulverised like Belgrade, Metaxas’s subordinates turned on him. He was arrested and exiled while the officers tendered an unconditional surrender. Metaxas and the King would seek asylum in Britain.

    Once again, the Fascist powers (with Turkey the newest addition) took turns devouring their recent conquest. Epirus and the Ionian Islands came to Italy’s possession, erasing Mussolini’s embarrassment over Corfu. Turkey annexed Thrace, the Aegean Islands and Crete. Though Bulgaria lost its former sea access route to the Mediterranean in Thrace, it more than gained in taking the remainder of Macedonia in Greece, leaving Greece much reduced in size. Once again, a shattered country was left to rot.

    But by then, Mussolini had already done what would begin to make him a hero to millions.

    The Shoah – Abraham Dershowitz

    Jews around the world know the sort of person Mussolini was. Of course he was a bad person, of course he was a dictator, but it’s equally as obvious that hundreds of thousands of Jews today owe their life to him.

    In February 1942, just after the Wannsee Conference – though it was likely unknown to Mussolini at the time – Count Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister, would deliver Berlin an offer from the Italian State. In return for crucial raw minerals that Italy could procure as a neutral and send northward, Mussolini asked if he could get 250,000 Jews on the condition they be settled in Libya. He was trying to improve the infrastructure of the colony and wanted more settlers than what he had. Not just any Jews either, but the most educated and economically viable. In particular, Mussolini was interested in the German and Austrian Jews, feeling they had no other national loyalty owing to the nature of their current ruler.

    The offer was discussed amongst the German leadership – Goering was quite in favour and Bormann was quite opposed. Ultimately, Ciano’s assurance that the Jews would be sent to Libya and thus off of the European Continent was enough to convince Hitler of the plan. As he told his staff, “As long as they are stranded in a lifeless desert under a Latin heel, we don’t have to worry about their conniving influence.”

    The German leadership agreed, limiting their selections of Jews to non-Polish or Soviet Jews (who made up the vast majority of European Jewry). This was explained as ‘logistics’ to the Italians (although in reality it was because Hitler had considered them lower than any form of life imaginable, on top of having the temerity to live in his Lebensraum). This would mean those chosen would disproportionally represent the professions (be it doctors and engineers) or those who were rich enough to buy their own and their family’s way out (the businessmen and aristocrats). They were disproportionally Sephardic, secular and right wing. Avowed Communists or any other persons considered too politically opposed to Fascism would be left behind to die. The immediate families were almost always brought along - otherwise they would rarely depart. These demographics would have a profound effect on the future Israeli state, and indeed Libya itself.

    By the end of 1942, the process was over. Roughly a quarter of a million Jews were camped in Libya in makeshift tents. About one hundred and fifty thousand came from Germany and Austria, with France coming up with roughly another fifty thousand. They were hungry, they were tired, but they were grateful. Even then, they had a vague idea about what was going on under Nazi rule.

    Memoirs of a Young Girl (1988), by Anne Frank

    The moment we crossed the Italian border on the train, when we were finally free of the Nazis, the whole carriage with one movement tore off their yellow stars as if they were leeches sucking them dry. Songs from every language filled the air: Yiddish, Hebrew, Ladino, German, Dutch, French and so on. Margaret tried to sing in Italian to impress the guard on the train but he took no notice. We thought he treated us so kindly. In reality, he was quite indifferent to us, but it was such a change from our daily lives in Amsterdam. The fear Gentiles had if you approached them, as if they would be suspected of being sympathizers by the Gestapo. The hatred the Germans had if you dared catch a glimpse of them. That total indifference of that Italian looked to us as pure and wholesome as the love a mother would give her child by comparison.

    Father’s business credentials may have impressed the Italians enough to get us out, but business was the last thing he thought about. He talked to us about the future, and how we would come back one day from Libya. I wish I could say I was as wholesome and loving, but I was just thinking how hot Tripoli would be. It sounds silly, almost disrespectful to say such a thing, knowing how lucky I was. But that younger me, that younger Anne, I feel like I still understand her, even when she could be spoiled and childish. So many years have gone by, but the little Anne Frank lives on within me.

    Mussolini: The Twentieth Century Man by Joseph Manderlay

    The formal creation of the Roman Alliance (or the Fascist Bloc as it became more popularly known) was motivated by many factors.

    1. The desire for neutrality – which speaks to Hitler’s insanity given what happened not too soon after. The war was still a tossup by the start of 1943, or at least there was a good chance for a negotiated peace. Italy had already absorbed plenty of territory and was too scared to make a go for the French and British territories it desired, feeling that the risk was far too high. At the same time, a war with Germany would be devastating and was not desired either. The fellow nations of the bloc had received many invitations to join the war from both sides and wanted a collective insurance. If they were all tied up inside a collective security unit, it would become much more effective deterrent to pestering by foreign powers.

    2. Italy wanted to establish itself as a new power in Europe. To do that, it wanted to have its own zone of influence. The Mediterranean proved an easy choice, especially as the Adriatic had become an Italian lake. If it could be seen as influencing the trajectory of multiple nations, it would make Italy more widely considered a serious power. Likewise, many nations within the Roman Alliance wanted to be part of a bloc without the diplomatic nightmares of keeping up appearances if they were to be openly friendly with democratic countries.

    3. On a purely economic basis, Italy wanted a trade bloc to expand their export market. The remaining nations, some war-torn and battered, would gladly accept the sort of economic aid the Italians could bring.

    American newsreel report on the formation of the Roman Alliance, March 29th 1943

    “Today in Rome, a new international political organisation was formed, uniting the Mediterranean powers under one roof. With a name like ‘The Roman Alliance’, only one man could come up with a name as boastful as that and have the resources to have a stab at it. Benito Mussolini, leader of Italy, flanked by the leaders of Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Bulgaria and Turkey met together and declared their common neutrality in the European conflict, a neutrality to be guaranteed with the strength of the others. Not looking at all dissimilar to the ancient Roman glory of the past, the powers agreed to expand trade, pledged military alliances and technological exchange. Mussolini states that the Roman Alliance will lead the planet into the twenty-first century. They were bold words, but that is only to be expected of the Italian.”

    The Second World War – Christopher Armlong

    Stalin’s demands for a second front were intense, but there was no easy way about it. Corsica had fallen quickly, but it had no lasting effect. Norway was floated as an option but this was stranded in the middle of nowhere and wasn’t considered a decent way to exert any influence on German war efforts. Talks to put troops in Russia were flatly rejected, especially after the victory at Stalingrad. Efforts to recruit the Fascist bloc were likewise unsuccessful.

    Roosevelt and Churchill were at loggerheads about it. Churchill demanded time before going through France, while Roosevelt insisted the only option was to ‘get it over with’ and charge straight into the line of fire in France. Ultimately, Rommel’s victories against the Soviets shortly after Stalingrad - which halted the Russian advance - had convinced Churchill of the urgent need for action, regardless of the result.

    “For what I am about to do,” he told his wife, “I will go down in history. This and this alone. If I succeed, I will be second only to Saint George himself. If I fail, I will be second only to Hitler himself.”

    The die was cast. That summer in 1943, the Western Allies were landing at Normandy.
    “… And I’m not sure about the Universe.”
  • Hey guys, I'm sorry if the pace is a little long but I've really caught the writing bug and have a lot of ideas. I probably won't write this much in future, but I'm determined to write to the conclusion I had in mind. I jus hope I can continue to entertain you.

    I read every post and suggestion and intend to address as many as I can in the work itself.

    “… And I’m not sure about the Universe.”

    The Second World War – Christopher Armlong

    Everything was against the Allies going into Operation Overlord, and Churchill knew it. The Luftwaffe remained a serious threat, the Battle of the Atlantic had barely been won, the American divisions were green as grass (as were significant numbers of British divisions), getting a decent landing time was hard enough and there were some forty German divisions posted across France. The odds were formidable – but it was too late to turn back.

    On June 18th 1943, a cacophony of explosions broke the dawn over the coasts of France. American, Canadian and British troops landed and were immediately flung into the fight of their lives. At every beach, the Germans were ready, and at every beach it was as if the attackers were not. There were barely enough transports to go around and the full scale of the Atlantic Wall had not been expected by Allied commanders. Upon hearing news of the carnage on the shore, British General Bernard Montgomery would reportedly say, “Well, looks as if the War is going to end early, just not the way we intended.” Casualties were enormous on both sides, with the ground and air full of so much combat that one British soldier would recall, “It was like everyone on the planet had fallen on the beach and was trying to kill the other.”

    However, much to Hitler’s fury, the beachheads had refused to be destroyed. Though the Germans flung their weight behind it, the little beachheads refused to give. This was the environment where General Patton became such a legendary figure, as he was roundly seen as having salvaged the operation from the brink of defeat through his aggressive assaults against the German advances. His pertinacity led to the Americans holding the line. It was only at the end of the month when all the beachheads had been connected and still Western leaders knew they were going nowhere soon. Their lofty expectations of capturing Caen in the first few days now seemed totally laughable. [1]

    The Allies crept along the French coast, paying heavily for every bloody mile. At the rate they were going, they wouldn’t even be in Paris by the end of next year, let alone Berlin. The mood was grim in Allied capitals, despite the press’s declarations of the strength and bravery of the armed forces. They knew that unless something changed, they were going to be in a meatgrinder for a long time.

    Fortunately for them, Hitler had exceeded their wildest expectations.

    The Shoah by Abraham Dershowitz

    Miklós Horthy was no friend of the Jews. The Hungarian Dictator had passed multiple Anti-Semitic laws in the model of the Nazis, including forbidding Jews from the professions and intermarriage. Despite this, he was reluctant to hand over his some 800,000 strong Jewish population to the Nazis. He knew what would become of them if he gave them to the SS. Hitler had blamed Jewish subversion for the defeatist attitude permeating Hungary since the failure at Stalingrad and demanded Horthy take action to punish his population. Horthy seemed to be shaken in his resolve by the Allied landings at Normandy and the Soviet victory at Kursk. He reportedly told his staff, “Hitler’s not worth jumping into Hell for.” He wanted to get the pressure off him from Hitler, but also wanted to endear himself to the Allies to give Hungary lighter terms for the expected armistice. Then he saw something that inspired him.

    In Denmark that October, an order had been given to deport the Jewish people to camps in Central Europe, where they would be slaughtered. Instead, by some miracle, the word got out ahead of time and almost the entirety of the Danish Jewish population was able to flee to Sweden and survive the War. The incident received scant mention in Germany days after the event and seemed to pass relatively unnoticed.

    Horthy began thinking he could do something similar. He could endear himself to the West by sparing his Jewish citizens while selling it as an ‘expulsion’ to Germany. There was only one place to go though – Italy. Mussolini had fallen even lower in Hitler’s estimations recently as ‘a greater friend of the Jews than Roosevelt himself’. This was due to Mussolini’s purchase of so many Jews the previous year and the well-known story of Mussolini’s salvation at the hands of a Jew, which Hitler now suspected was proof Mussolini was part of the Jewish conspiracy. “Perhaps there is a third wing of the Jewish chimera – Capitalism, Communism and Fascism,” Hitler mused to Von Ribbentrop.

    Horthy’s plan was simple: dump the 800,000 Hungarian Jews on Italy’s doorstep, Mussolini would probably accept and Hitler would stop pestering him on his treatment of Jews while doing little to anger the West. It seemed simple enough.

    On November 12th, Horthy met with the senior officials of his government to discuss the idea. One staffer would recall, “It was the first meeting I could remember where we left feeling like we’d actually done something. All the others felt like we were only containing damage. We actually felt great after the meeting, as if things were going in the right direction. The only thing we discussed that could stop the plan was Mussolini turning it down because, obviously, 800,000 was a lot of people. We said we’d call up the Zionists and Red Cross and they’d take care of it. We were convinced the Zionists could pay for all of European Jewry if it wanted, so that wasn’t a concern. Not once in the whole meeting did anyone seriously wonder if Hitler would have a problem with it. We assumed that since Hitler hated Jews so much, he’d be glad to see them gone, especially since he’d already agreed to send Jews to Libya before, and especially because he’d already let the Danish Jews off without a problem. The idea that he would get angry over the plan was so insane, Horthy actually said ‘I just hope this pleases Mister Hitler’, and the whole room burst into laughter. The idea that it wouldn’t was so insane no one could conceive of it. But of course, there were a lot of things people couldn’t conceive about that man.”

    Day (1990) by Elie Wiesel

    When we were all called out to the streets of Budapest on the morning of November 20th, many were terrified. We thought that this was it. That they had finally decided to send us where we all feared to go: north. To certain death and destruction. Many people, including my own mother, cried as we went to the street and lined up. Still, I noticed there were no Germans and the police didn’t seem to be particularly aggressive as they would have been if they were ready for a fight. The whole Ghetto seemed to stop breathing when the policeman stood up on a makeshift platform and delivered his address.

    “Jewish citizens, today you will be transported to the train station and then up to the Italian border.”

    I felt the intense distance between ‘station’ and ‘Italian’. The sweeping movement from hopelessness to relief had nearly knocked me off my feet. I was saved. We were saved. Mussolini had come to save us again! He had already been a savior to us, and now he was going to save even more! I knew many Jews had attempted to make a break for the Fascist bloc and got out of Nazi reach but to think we were all going there?

    “At the end of the week at midnight of November 28th, your Hungarian citizenship will officially be terminated. You will receive no protection from the Hungarian state from thereon and will be considered illegal alliens – you must have completed your immigration by that date. The trains will transport you to the Italian border. What you do from there is your own concern. That is all.”

    I don’t think Jews have ever been as happy to be told they were being expelled from the land they had grown up in all their lives. But in the face of an evil as bottomless as Nazism, a fate as horrendous as Auschwitz, anything was life by comparison. My family and I packed our belongings as quickly as possible and headed to the train. By the end of the next day, we were right on the border with Italy, as were tens of thousands more, who were on every truck and train they could find.

    Unconquerable: The Story of the Jews of Hungary, by Mel Goldberg

    On November 21st, Horthy received a telephone call from Berlin. As one staffer recalled, “when he heard who it was from, Horthy smiled and put the receiver to his ear. Hitler proceeded to scream so loudly his mere voice nearly decapitated Horthy.” Horthy was baffled and began to angrily reply that he had done nothing wrong and everything right – the Jews were gone, or going. What more was left? Why did Hitler want this group he thought were parasites inside the country, supposedly sabotaging the war effort? Especially given that the Exodus of the Danish Jews had gone without comment?

    The game, Horthy failed to realise, had changed. Putting aside that there was a difference between the 6000 Jews of Denmark and the 800,000 Jews of Hungary, Hitler was convinced that the Fascist Bloc had been set up as a deliberately antagonistic force, as it had kept Croatia and Bulgaria out of the war and supporting his efforts in Russia. He was convinced that the Fascist Bloc was sending Jews to Libya and have them organize their own separate state. This was due to the surprising success Jewish refugees in Libya had in setting up their own state of affairs – irrigation, roads and medical facilities had suddenly built up Tripoli and Benghazi quicker than anyone was expecting. Hitler was convinced he’d been had – that far from being ‘under a Latin heel’ as he put it, that Italy had been taken over by Jews and that they had set up a base camp in Libya. From there, the Jews could organize and fight him. For that reason, he had redoubled his conviction that the Holocaust should continue and immensely regretted that he had ever let a single Jew go in 1942. Sweden was a non-player and isolated in the Baltic, but Libya? With free access to the Allied Powers and having virtually taken over the society? He was never going to allow the Jews to have that luxury, let alone allow Libya to nearly quadruple its size of Jews.

    Hitler angrily ordered Horthy to rescind the order. Horthy, by now infuriated by Hitler’s obstinacy, refused outright, assuming Wehrmacht commanders would never allow the invasion of an ally over their not being Anti-Semitic enough. In the end, he was only half-right - the SS would gladly do it.

    On November 25th, the SS invaded Hungary under the ludicrous pretext of a Communist conspiracy within the government. Hungarian soldiers were so baffled most didn’t put up a fight. The next day, Budapest was occupied. Horthy was arrested quietly executed under Hitler’s instructions, as well as half of this cabinet – German media reported Communists had killed him. The Arrow Cross Party, the Hungarian equivalent of the Nazis, was instituted as the ruling body of Hungary under Ferenc Szálasi, a ruthless Hitler worshipper. He assured Hitler that his Hungarian state would fully cooperate with any and every wish against ‘Judaism in all its wicked forms’.

    As a result of his inability to be clearly defined in terms of his support of Hitler, Horthy is a controversial figure in Hungary to this day, with some regarding him as a hero for saving his Jewish community, while also being condemned for his prior persecutions. Others believe his final act to be one of repentance for past misdeeds. He supposedly told one of his German captors before he died that he wished “the Jews ruled Hungary forever rather than let your buffoon of a leader rule it for one second.”

    Adolf Eichmann had been entrusted with rounding up the remaining Jews of Hungary. He didn’t even find a thousand Jews left across the whole country.

    Mussolini: The Twentieth Century Man by Joseph Manderlay

    Mussolini was woken in the morning of November 21st to news that hundreds of thousands of Jews had descended on the narrow Hungarian border. He was baffled as to what was going on, but as the situation became clear to him he was torn. Though he was sympathetic to Jews for obvious reasons, the estimated 800,000 Jews was not a number he could easily absorb. Nor were these the handpicked special cases as before – these were old and young, smart and stupid, Left and Right. And they were all clogged on the Italian border in the Slovenian region, a place still recovering from their annexation into Italy. This was going to be a tough decision.

    Graziani, especially as word got out of Hitler’s fury over Horthy’s decision, advised Mussolini to reject the stragglers, as it would risk war with Germany, while not doing anything would risk no harm to the Italian state. Balbo supported letting the Jews in if they would be sent to the colonies, suggesting that they could find enough Zionist organisations to foot the bill. Ciano was sympathetic to Balbo but was well aware that no one could easily pay for these 800,000 Jews, whatever the case. Ciano would, however, laugh off Graziani’s warnings of conflict. “Perhaps he’ll declare war on the Pope for good measure!” he laughed.

    As the Counsel continued discussing, a new piece of intelligence entered the room. It appeared that thousands of Jews along the border fence had begun chanting one phrase in broken Italian: “Duce! Duce! Save us!”

    Interview of Italo Balbo for the BBC’s ‘World At War’ (1973)

    Balbo: “When we heard that, we all slowly turned and looked at him. Mussolini seemed to look into space and his eyes went wide. He later told me that when he heard the staffer, he had actually heard voice of Isaac Carpi, who had saved him. He stood up and told us to contact every Zionist organisation they could to demand they pay their part, and to get the ships necessary to transport the Jews to Libya, or East Africa if need be.”

    Interviewer: “What did you think when you heard that decision?”

    Balbo: “I felt proud that he was our Duce.”

    Interviewer: “Did you expect the German response?”

    Balbo: (*Smiling*) The Germans didn’t expect it, how should we have?

    Unconquerable: The Story of the Jews of Hungary, by Mel Goldberg

    “They aren’t here,” reported Adolf Eichmann to Berlin on November 28th, “but we know where they are.” His troops had turned the Ghetto upside down but it was a ghost town; the Jews had not only escaped, but they had been granted access to Italy through Slovenia. They were currently in makeshift camps in the Slovenian heartlands, and the first Navy ships were heading to Trieste to carry the Jews off to the Italian colonies and hopefully develop the land for their Italian rulers. This was unacceptable to Hitler.

    On November 29th, Hitler sent an angry telegram to Rome. It stated that the Italian government, in defiance of non-aggression treaties, had helped the Reich’s enemies and provided supplies and comfort. Mussolini was so baffled by the letter he at first thought their had been a mistranslation – they were broken civilians thankful to be alive. When the Italian government replied that no such aid to enemies of the Nazi regime had been done, the Germans quickly responded. If the Italian government did not begin the process of returning it’s Jewish refugees to the German authorities of Hungary ‘under the auspices of SS-Obersturmbannführer Eichmann”, the German government will consider the Italian government to have declared a state of war.”

    Even though such a thing had happened in Hungary, Mussolini did not believe Hitler would do something so insane. Hungary was a small, easily conquerable country with half of its troops still in Russia. Hitler knew that if he attacked Italy, he would be declaring war on Spain, Bulgaria and Croatia, and those were just the nations he and his allies bordered. How was he going to hold France (as he was doing quite successfully, all things considered) if he was suddenly going to open a gigantic front on the Pyranees? What about the Ploesti oil that would be easily attained by Bulgarian assault? And for what? So he could kill Jews? No one believed Hitler could be that stupid. What they had forgotten was, as the famous Jew Albert Einstein had said, “Only two things are infinite: the Universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the Universe.” Perhaps ‘stupidity’ isn’t the right word – perhaps it’s ‘evil’.

    On December 2nd 1943, with the German army already occupied on two fronts and slowly losing both, Hitler decided to open a third when he attacked Italy. The Luftwaffe even avoided targeting Italian military depots; they simply aimed to bomb the refugee camps around Slovenia with the Hungarian Jews still in them. No one could believe what had happened. Not the leadership in Rome, Madrid, Ankara, Sofia, Moscow, London, Washington or even Berlin for the most part. Not the citizens of Italy, Germany, Russia, Britain or America. Only one group of people knew Hitler would do this – the Jews themselves. But while others were scared or angry, they weren’t.

    This time, they weren’t running: they were fighting.

    [1] – Imagine Anzio writ large
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    "All we've ever done is survive!"
  • “All we’ve ever done is survive!”

    The Making of Fascist Bloc by Jodie Rutkins

    No language has words to express the shock that greeted the Fascist Bloc at the news that there were SS divisions pouring over the border into Italy and that they were now in a state of war with not only Germany, but Romania too. On a darker note, it certainly put the many Italian volunteers in Russia off their balance. Some five thousand Italians were serving on the Russian front when the news came through. They were arrested before they ever got news of the invasion and interned in concentration camps. Barely half would survive the war, in perhaps one of the more vivid illustrations of the sudden nature of the latest stage of the war.

    In Bulgaria, Tsar Boris was in surprisingly good spirits by contrast. He would tell his cabinet, “God won’t deny a single want of the Bulgarian nation, it seems.” He was referring to Dobruja, the Romanian territory located along the Black Sea. If he could secure that, he would landlock Romania, and fulfill some of the longest standing desires of Bulgarian nationalism. But he first ordered the Ploesti oil fields to be targeted, which would cripple the Pact’s war effort.

    In Spain, Franco was quite astonished to arise on the morning of December 2nd to find he was in the middle of another war, especially against a former ally. He soon steadied himself and gave a radio address that evening from Madrid declaring that, “Those who would attack the nation of our Church deserve no forgiveness. This Christmas, Lourdes shall breathe in Christian air again.” The speech did a lot to assuage terror in Spain at the prospect of another war. Salazar in Portugal, would go down a similar road, only re-emphasizing the Anglo-Portugese friendship on top of it. Interestingly, a few despondent Communists still resisting Franco would join the Spanish military, just to be part of ‘at least one Anti-Fascist Crusade that was going to win,” one recalled.

    In Croatia, Pavelić was still busy rooting out anything Orthodox or remotely Serbian and was left thunderstruck when the Nazis had dragged him into the War against them, all for a race he had little love for. However, given how close he was to the action, he readied the troops, especially as the first bombs fell on Zagreb on December 3rd. It appeared that he and Croatia were entering another war much sooner than he anticipated.

    Turkey was so distant from the carnage that the news was registered mostly with confusion rather than fear. Most were convinced that the War would be long over before Turkey could send even a division, and ultimately they weren’t far off the truth.

    In Italy, the mood was unique, given that the attack had befallen them and them alone. Mussolini had been stupefied by the news of war and further stupefied when he realised that his army in Slovenia had gone virtually unmolested. Even Lubiana escaped terror bombing. Still, the invading German troops, who were mostly from the SS were easily able to puncture the Italian border against Hungary. Minor assaults were launched across the length of Austria, but these were simply diversionary techniques given how impassable the Alps were.

    Operation Visigoth (named after the German Barbarians who successfully challenged Rome) was the codename for the invasion of Italy. The main assault was launched over the Hungarian border towards Lubiana. The plan from there was to reach Trieste and cut the Fascist Bloc in two. Troops would then be sent into the northern Italian heartlands, where the vast majority of Italian industry was located. Once Italy’s industry was taken, it was assumed Italy would sue for peace, after which the remaining members of the Roman Alliance would likely sue for peace as well – after they had agreed to turn in any Jews they were sheltering. General Walter Model would lead the operation, despite his being a more defensive-suited commander. This was due to Model’s sympathy with Nazi policy, which had never been more fully on display. Behind him was Adolf Eichmann, tasked with ‘treating’ the Jews after the Italians had been beaten back. Hitler told Eichmann in no uncertain terms that Auschwitz was now off the table. The Jews were to be killed whenever he found them, wherever he found them, shot on sight.

    Eichmann made little complaint.

    Four’s Company: The Great Power relations in World War Two, by Steven Benford

    Mussolini knew he was not popular in the West, especially after his opportunistic wars of expansion in Yugoslavia and Greece. Upon news of their latest ally, Roosevelt cut a decidedly mixed reaction. He was at once relieved that there was a new opportunity, but also embarrassed that he had to share the same side as that, “Mediteranean Peacock.” Stalin by contrast was quite concerned, correctly predicting the changes this would push on post-war Europe. He looked at the map: he was a long way from Romania, but Bulgaria was right there. He realised that the Fascist Bloc could set up their puppets right on the border. It filled him with alarm. Soviet propaganda refused to give support to Italy, merely using it to launch into mockery of ‘German insanity’. Churchill, despite his anger over Mussolini’s conquests, was much more relieved, still burned by Roosevelt after being pushed into the Normandy campaign, which he regarded as a mistake. He felt Roosevelt was too soft on Stalin, and was relieved that he would ‘have someone in the foxhole against Stalin at the next conference’, as he told Anthony Eden.

    However, Mussolini’s awkward transition to a champion of Democracy was to be severely eased by events in Slovenia. The Nazis had won the hearts of the Slovenian people, angry at Italy for their attempt to remove their culture. The Italians had changed the name of every city, suppressed teaching of the Slovenian language and forced everyone to adhere to Italian customs over the native ones. The population was lucky not to be considered Sub-human by the Nazis, and so the Slovenians were promised their own state in the event of German victory. This gave a false confidence to German commanders that Italy would crumble in days, which was brutally halted during the battle of Lubiana on December 10th.

    The Germans had incorrectly assumed that the Italian army was as primitive and poor as it was against Yugoslavia, and that decent Nordic equipment and men would overrun them like mincemeat, especially with a hostile population. Instead, a brutal battle was held, lasting ten days. The Luftwaffe found itself in a totally unexpected fight for its life by waves of P.108 and G.55 planes made from the Piaggio and Fiat manufacturing plants, needing sheer numbers it had a hard time sparing. It was expected to fall in a day and lasted a week due to dogged Blackshirt and Italian resistance. Few Jews fought in the battle, and were instead pressed against the Adriatic in Trieste, which was overwhelmed on all sides by refugees. The lack of Jews and the extreme nature of the fighting brought German anger to a boiling point.

    With the help of Slovenian collaborators, members of the Fascist Party, Blackshirts, prominent Italians and a handful of Jews were rounded up into the city centre and executed under Eichmann’s orders. The Slovenian collaborators took the message to mean ‘Italians out!’ An orgy of violence would destroy Lubiana for the rest of the year, with the Italian population ethnically cleansed from the city as the first stage of a ‘pure, Slovenian homeland’.

    The event would devastate sympathy for Slovenian nationalism in the long-term, but even in the short term it did much to endear the Italians to the Western public. However, the generational defining event for both Italy and the Jewish people was still to come.

    Unconquerable: The Story of the Jews of Hungary, by Mel Goldberg

    With the fall of Lubiana, and news of the subsequent slaughter, the Chief Rabbi of Rome Israel Zolli and representatives of the Hungarian Jews arrived in Rome to meet Mussolini on December 22nd. These representatives included Antal Szerb, one of the most respected writers in Hungary, Miklós Vig, a stage legend and Gold medal Olympian János Garay [1]. Mussolini expected pleading to send more troops into the region to help save the Jewish escapees, who were now crowded around Trieste, tired and hungry. He even began the meeting by telling him that extra troops were currently unavailable. He was shocked by the reply: they didn’t want troops, but they wanted guns. The Jewish escapees demanded guns so they could hold Trieste and repulse the Nazis out of Italy. They furthermore requested that the ships currently in the Adriatic, from the battleships down to the fishermen evacuate the Jewish women and children only. Jewish men would stay and fight. They would rather the Littorio ships save their children rather than give support to the fighters. In other words, ‘our own Dunkirk’. This line in particular impressed Mussolini, as he was sure Britain was finished in the war three years ago and was amazed at the ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ that existed during the Battle of Britain.

    Israel Zolli then told Mussolini that that very day, December 22nd, was the beginning of Hanukah, the Jewish holiday commemorating the Jewish fighters who held out against a mighty empire they would ultimately outlive. Mussolini, a man who believed in the power of destiny despite his atheism, saw it as a sign, and agreed to send out the evacuation call while dropping in supplies to the beleaugured city of Trieste, which was overwhelmed with Jewish refugees, and Italian ones too for that matter.

    Day (1990) by Elie Wiesel

    My mother and sister were now drifting away from us. It seemed that all the boats were at that point. All along the shore, the boats were full of children, barely younger than me. Some were gigantic crusiers, some were tiny little fishing boats. The harbor couldn’t have been more full but there was no end to the number of us who stood on the shores. I was barely fifteen but I knew there were twelve year olds who were staying behind as well. My father stood beside me and held me. We could already hear the guns starting to fire in the distance. We knew we were going into that soon, and there was no guarantee either of us were going to make it out alive. If I was being perfectly honest, the same was true of my mother and sister. All along the water’s edge were boys just like me, still kids, knowing this may be the last time that they saw their mother’s before they died.

    One child just to my right couldn’t take it anymore. He must have been thirteen or fourteen, and having had his Bar Mitzvah he had to stay and fight, or there wouldn’t be any of us left. He knelt, weeping as his mother slowly moved into the distance on one of the little fishing boats, she herself broken with grief. Then the boy stood up, and with a voice so loud it seemed to silence the whole city, he screamed, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

    Soon I called out the same thing to my mother and sister. Then my father. Then the man beside me, then the plucky woman who wanted to fight with her brothers, then the old man by the lamppost, then the whole line, the whole street, the whole harbor, the whole city.

    At that point, we knew we’d survive - as a people. But that wasn’t enough for us anymore. All we’ve ever done is survive! It was so routine, it was almost boring. Of course we would pull through, we always had and we always would. But there was one thing more we were going to do now: fight back. The Nazis said we’d cower and shake at their sight. But it wasn’t what the Nazis said about us that matter. The only thing that mattered was what we said about us. If we said we were going to fight them to the death, then by all the strength within us, we would. David was still a boy when he slayed Goliath, and so I would slay those who would have killed my family, my country, my whole world. As the day broke over the horizon, I could feel the presence of God within, telling me that I would enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but not to be afraid … for he was with me.

    [1] All of whom perished in the Holocaust
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    Hayom Kadosh
  • The timeline is brilliant, any vignettes from the levant or north Africa would be cool.

    There'll be one from Libya in the next update. Let's just say Mussolini quite soon shall be thankful for the Jewish influx in more ways than the soothing of his conscience.

    On with the show:

    Hayom Kadosh

    BBC News report, 1980

    “Israeli Prime Minister, Anne Frank, made her first state visit to Italy today. She landed in Venice before arriving in Trieste, the scene of the historic World War Two battle between the forces of Nazi Germany and a force consisting mostly of Jewish refugees escaping the Holocaust. She laid a wreath, alongside King Umberto II of Italy, in memory of those who died during the battle. Frank, who escaped the Holocaust along with her family as a result of Mussolini’s immigration program in 1942, stated that ‘Trieste would live forever, as the city where the state of Israel was truly founded”.

    Address by Joseph Goebbels on German Radio, December 22nd

    “The enemy by now does not even conceal himself! Who was he this whole time? The Hebrew! The usurer, the rootless Capitalist who broke the economy of Germany and the world in 1929! The bloodthirsty Bolshevik who does all that he can to overthrow the Civilisation of Europe! The enemy is there in Trieste, in all its root wickedness! At last, cornered by the soldiers of the Aryan race, they run and cower like rats in the filth of the ruins! No longer can they hide behind their foolish British, or Mongroloid American or negroid Italian or unthinking Slavic footsoldiers to do their bidding! Now they’ll see what fighting and hardship is! The same fighting they forsook in 1918 when they betrayed the German nation! The last time they will have seen a fight like this will be the time of Titus, and the result shall be the same!”

    ‘This Day is Sacred’ by the London Times, December 25th 1943

    While once, the news of Christmas was enough to bring the sound of guns to a halt all across France in the midst of the Great War, no one would dare think such foolish thoughts about the chances of that happening here in Trieste.

    Despite having received no almost no training, with almost no support the Jews of Hungary, in one week, have turned Trieste into a fortress. By some estimates, there are some 500,000 Jews still left inside the city, with the children and many women by now mostly evacuated. Every street has its own patrol setting up plans and traps. They have no uniforms but it’s easy to tell who is Jewish – they’re dressed like they’ve been dragged through the mud but have faces so intensely devoted to their work that they could lose an arm and not notice it until someone pointed it out. I saw boys who were barely half my height set up machine gun turrets in the ruins of this once great city of Trieste. This Renaissance town has been pulverised by indiscriminate bombing – it would be as unthinkable as bombing Dresden. [1]

    The Jewish fighters have also had a galvanizing effect on local Italians. The Italian residents, initially dismayed at the massive numbers of foreign refugees in their city, were impressed by the commitment and attention to detail the Jewish fighters displayed. Italian citizens have by now formed their own groups, with one telling me they were, “sick of the Jews embarrassing us by defending our city better than we were”. Others have been terrified that their city would fall into the hands of the ‘Slovenian barbarians’ after news of the anti-Italian pogroms occurring in the city of Lubiana. Regardless, everyone is united in common cause. Those who do not have guns have knives, and those who do not have knives have everything else imaginable. Ships come into the harbor loaded with guns and leave loaded with children. By now, the Jews have mostly forsaken the evacuation route and insist that the locals take the ships and get out. However, they have so inspired the local residents that few want to leave.

    The fighters do not move in groups or as individuals – they move like a single collective organism. Everyone seems to know where everyone else is at any one time. There is no fear, even when one of their number falls, because the Jews have determined it is far better to die like this, the road to Valhalla, than die a dreary death strung up against a wall and riddled with machine gun fire that surely awaits anyone foolish enough to surrender. I have yet to hear reports of a single accepted surrender on either side. In terms of the ferocity and hatred on display, it outmatches any battle I have ever seen. The Luftwaffe only occasionally attacks now, and the Italian planes have surprised even the locals in their performance. But don’t let that mislead you – this is overwhelmingly a Jewish operation, as the Italian army is mainly ensuring a breakout towards the centre of Italy is rendered impossible. That the fearsome Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler division cannot take this city is likely beyond the comprehension of Nazi ideology. After having so long regarded the Jews as rats, they’ve discovered that they are lions. Every Jew fights not as if their life depends on it, but that their family’s life depends on it.

    I saw one boy, probably about fourteen, leaning against a wall as he reloaded his rifle. I heard him muttering something, as it turned out in Hebrew, the ancient language of the Israelites. When I asked him what he said, he cheerily replied to me, ‘Hayom Kadosh … Hayom kadosh l'Adonai eloheichem.’ ‘It means ‘this day is sacred. This day is sacred says the Lord God’. It’s in the Torah, in Hebrew. It’s talking about the Sabbath. Today is Christmas to you Christians, but to us, it’s Saturday, the Sabbath. ‘Al titabloo v'al tivku’. It means, ‘do not mourn and do not weep’. [2] We can’t really rest,” he laughed, “but we can refuse to weep!”

    And at that moment, I saw one of the most unique expressions I had ever witnessed. It was childish innocence with the wisdom and experience of adults. It was something resolute, monumental and human. It was proof that there were some things that all the bombs in Germany could never crush.

    German retreat from France almost complete, Washington Post December 26th 1943

    Today, Spanish leader General Franco made good on his promise to attend Christmas mass in the Catholic pilgrimage destination of Lourdes. He attended with leading members of the French Resistance and numerous Catholic clergy from the region. This follows the near total collapse of German presence in the occupied nation since the sudden, shock news of Germany’s invasion of Italy. Franco would go on to state that Bordeaux would be liberated by the start of the new year, which would have been unthinkable months ago, given the bitter stalemate that reigned over the battlefields of France. However, given what has happened it may very well be achievable.

    Now, even the American and British forces, still mostly boxed inside northern France have reported unprecedented advances due to German forces being divided yet further to prop up the Italian front. Hopes are arising that perhaps even Paris will fall soon. Prime Minister Churchill has re-iterated his belief that the War in Europe would be over by the end of 1944 and that belief certainly seems more plausible than it was before. It appears that the Germans are consolidating their defence by putting as many troops between the Allies and Berlin as possible. Fearing encirclement, they have abandoned their positions close to the Pyrenees. Isolated reports suggest the same thing may be happening in the French Alps, though this remains unconfirmed.

    Winston Churchill’s Address to the House of Commons, December 28th 1943

    “In all the history of warfare, no people have shown more bravery, more courage and more intensity of human spirit and strength than have the Jewish people right now in Trieste. As the Satanic forces of Nazism attempt to extinguish the light of human civilization, those who are holding the line are the most persecuted, mistreated people in the history of the world. Those Jews do not fight like heroes. Heroes fight like those Jews. And even should they perish under the evil of Hitler, like their heroic ancestors at Masada, they will live on forever in the souls of all who yearn for liberty in this world. We extend our well-wishes to the Jewish and Italian people, to the Italian government and to all those in the fight against the forces of darkness, for the light has never been closer.”

    Unconquerable: The Story of the Jews of Hungary, by Mel Goldberg

    Despite heroic resistance, the Jews were slowly pushed back inside Trieste, but not after making the Germans pay for every bloody step. As Model would report to Hitler, “We have to fight for every brick”. Eichmann was increasingly frustrated that almost no Jews, apart from those who were incapacitated or unconscious were being captured. The Jews were dying on their feet, not at the German’s feet, as had been the plan. The Germans expected the Jews to be fighting for every spot on the evacuation boats by the time they arrived. By now, almost no ships were arriving, and hundreds of thousands of Jewish men (and a fair few women and male children) would rather take a hundred bullets than abandon their community. Jewish neighbors who had spent decades living in tranquility now had their own specific streets to defend. Wily Great War veterans led boys who until just years ago had debated whether Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck was funnier. Jewish aristocrats and Jewish Communists laughed and shared cigarettes together between breaks in the fighting. Habitual shoplifters and the police who frequently arrested them now fought on the side of all that was good and right together. Women who had been scared of a bug just a few years before would grab sniper rifles and fire from behind the rubble, because the love of their children was stronger than any fear they had. Taxi drivers drove ambulances up and down the shattered streets. Prostitutes and Rabbis tended to the wounded together. [3] Never in the history of warfare had there been a situation like it. A whole society, from its rich to its poor, from all political and religious segments, was united as brothers. The simple truth was inescapable: we were Jews, and if we didn’t work together, all the Jews will die.

    One nurse would recall, “I saw a man awake from his morphine. He demanded to know what had happened to him. He’d been hit by a mortar, and had lost his leg. He saw his missing leg, looked at his arms and said, “Thank God. I still have my arms, so I can still fight – what’s the quickest way to the front?” Israelis to this day talk about ‘The Trieste Spirit’ when there are rocket attacks from Mesopotamia, though the threat was far more total back in 1943/1944.

    By January 4th, the Jews had been pushed into a narrow corridor barely ten miles from the sea. If air raids were possible, the Jews would have been in serious trouble. They were exhausted before the fight even started, and were fighting an elite SS division on top of it. These were horrendous circumstances by any stretch of the imagination and the Germans were getting angrier and angrier. Hitler finally snapped and ordered an all out assault on Trieste, casualties be damned – the Jews had to be massacred, no ifs or buts.

    But on the day of final assault, January 6th, something didn’t go according to plan.

    Interview of Italo Balbo for the BBC’s ‘World At War’ (1973)

    Interviewer: “How do you explain the success of your attack on the German forces that January?”

    Balbo: “The German flanks were ludicrously exposed. You could send a brigade and it would probably smash right through. A whole Italian army? They didn’t stand a chance. The flank was so exposed because they kept throwing away men trying to take Trieste. It was ludicrous. Combined with letting the Croatians do what they wanted, it was doubly ludicrous.

    Interviewer: “What do you think would have happened if it wasn’t for the defence of Trieste?”

    Balbo: “The war would have gone on until 1945.”

    The Second World War – Christopher Armlong

    As if they hadn’t learned their lesson from Stalingrad, both the Italian armies in the West under Balbo and the Croatian armies in the east quickly and decisively overwhelmed the German forces (more accurately Slovenian recruits) on the flanks. The reason was the single-minded focus on killing the Jewish population inside Trieste – an act of insanity that would come to define Nazism as an ideology. The Italian airforce proceeded to pulverize the German rear, in conjunction with British and American planes who Mussolini had gladly accepted onto his soil, wanting to get on their good side. The Nazi advance inside Trieste was stopped almost as soon as it began. With a lightning quick action, the SS Adolf Hitler division was trapped inside Trieste, some 30,000 troops.

    Despite this they continued to charge the Jewish holdouts with suicidal conviction. It was as if they thought time was running out, and that they absolutely had to kill the Jews or something terrible would happen. Thankfully, their attacks were repulsed and it made the infiltration of the Italians and Croatians into the city even easier. By January 15th, Trieste was declared secure. By the help of the Jewish population, the city had withstood Nazism. Only 10,000 Germans would surrender, overwhelmingly to the Croatians.

    Some fifty thousand of the Hungarian Jews had died since Horthy’s expulsion order. Some from bombings, shelling, bullets – but none would ever die in a gas chamber. They died as free, proud people, defending their families and nation. More importantly, some three quarters of a million had survived.

    Trieste was not too important a battle in the course of World War Two – the outcome had long since been decided. Its significance would mostly be felt after the War.

    [1] On one happy note, the war will be over before the bombing of Dresden.

    [2] -

    My inspiration for this segment.

    [3] All of which would be shown in the Hollywood Classic ‘Exodus’ (1954) starring Kirk Douglas, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Edward G. Robinson, Peter Lorre, Otto Premiger, Ernest Borgnine, Lauren Bacall and Frank Sinatra. It would be the product of the newfound comradery between Italian and Jewish communities.
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    Intermission- The Birth of Neo-Realist cinema
  • Hello to all, with the approval and the review of Sorairo I will post this Italian cultural (movie focused) update:

    A Musket and A Book: Italian culture under Mussolini, by Andrew Landers

    In the early 1940s, the Italian movie industry saw a period of growth, bolstered by state investments focused mostly over the construction of the Roman studios of Cinecittà, which with its 400,000 square meters was and still is today the largest studio in Europe. Cinecittà, while being built to be a major hub for the national movie industry was also part of a general project of architectural development across Rome, the most successful achievement being the 1942 Universal Exposition quarter, more known as EUR. The peculiarity of this exposition, which would be visited by almost 28 million of people (which due to the war would be regarded as a success), and with prominent features being the great “Mussolini Arch” and the “Palace of the Italian Civilization”, was to be planned as a permanent living and administrative quarter, and core of a more modern urban area at the doors of Rome, as it happened after the War.

    Returning to Cinecittà, the studios effectively revitalized the production of Italian cinema and helped to increase their overall quality. The complex even started to get interest from foreign movie producers, attracted by the appeal of the site. However it faced cold indifference from the Italian government, which at the time intentioned to use Cinecittà exclusively for Italian movies. In fact, despite Mussolini growing distant to Nazi Germany and slowly beginning rapprochement with the Western Allies, he was still unwilling to abandon autarchic principles. This meant prominent Italianization towards whatever was foreign, because it was easy to insert Party propaganda

    To lead this effort, more than the Partito Nazionale Fascista (PNF) was needed, as it had its own events to deal with. Those were organized by the extravagantly creative secretary Achille Starace, in a way which stimulated the irony of the Italians to no end, to the point both Mussolini and Ciano grew annoyed and removed the man, toning down such activities. Film was left to the ministry of popular culture (Ministero della Cultura Popolare, more well known as Minculpop), at the time lead by one of Ciano’s scions, Alessandro Pavolini, when the Duce reshuffled his cabinet to reduce the presence of the pro-German faction. The Minculpop was in charge of every asset of Italian culture, controlling it in order to prevent strays from the official Fascist guidelines, and the control of the movie industry was one of its top priorities. This was in part due to the will of Mussolini, notoriously attracted by the potential of mass media and in part because the Minculpop was the owner of the Istituto Luce, the company which organized all the cinejournals in Italy.

    Interestingly enough, the Minculpop, being so omnipresent towards whatever was identified as cultural, had its authority slipping towards the EIAR, which was the monopolistic radio editor of the country. The EIAR in fact was owned by the Ministry of the Postal Service and Communications, which while obviously adhering to the lines of the Minculpop, remained protective of its service. The autonomy of the EIAR towards the Minculpop started to become more prominent when the company started its early experimental television transmissions to a very selected and small audience in 1939, limiting the influence of the ministry over the programmation. Despite the War slowing those experimentations, EIAR would steadily improve and develop its television service and, after the reorganization law of 1944 which changed its name to (Radio Audizioni Italiane), would start its official television programming in 1946.

    Returning to the Italian movie industry of the 1940’s, the slow thaw towards the West allowed a renewal of imported movies from Britain, France and the US, albeit the Minculpop severely restricted this import, by approving or refusing certain movies, cutting scenes from others, and generally imposing a dominant Italianized translation, especially over the naming of the characters but also over certain foreign elements to Italian culture, sometimes even imposing revised scenes. Such nationalistic setting would start partly to change when in 1942, during the Exposition, after a long negotiation with the American producer Selznik, was finally released Gone with the Wind (Via col Vento) in Italy, despite the various doubts of the Minculpop. Giving the peculiar subject of the movie, the ministry only limited to change some names in the Italian version, the most noticeable being the main female protagonist Scarlett O'Hara becoming “Rossella” O'Hara, and without particular cuts (the only censured scene being the one where Scarlett/Rossella would shot to the renegade Yankee soldier, with Melania removing her nightgown to clean the pool of blood left by the dead man – the scene would be restored decades later in the first televisive rehearsal of the movie); released with an unusual more costly ticket to the Italian theaters it became the most viewed movie in Italy for 1942, even Mussolini arriving to admit privately to have seen a masterpiece: more than being displeased by this American cultural success, the Duce revealed to Ciano he was more determined to promote the creation of an Italian answer able to stand on par with it. Gone with the Wind received even a special award at the Movie festival of Venice of that year.

    Aside from Gone with the Wind, for the rest of 1942 and for 1943, the Minculpop still refused to accept all American or British movies while imposed censorships or modified them heavily during the translation and revision phase. Also, in a single occasion the entire Italian government arrived to protest vehemently and called to the scandal: it was over Pinocchio of Walt Disney. Encouraged by the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Disney decided to make his second animation movie based on the tale of Carlo Collodi, but instead of writing a plot adherent to the original story, the pool of writers appointed created a story going far off the original. Naturally, when the Minculpop examinated the movie, there were plenty of reasons to immediately ban it without appeal. Articles started to appear in Italian newspapers against Disney and the movie, criticizing the story in every detail: the setting being a Swiss or Austrian alpine village, Pinocchio dressed like a Tyrolese boy, the turquoise fairy becoming a blonde woman with wings and indecent trasparent clothes, how Pinocchio came to life, Mangiafuoco becoming a full villain, the role of Jimminy Cricket, and so on. The attacks were surely nasty, and arrived in America, with the Italian ambassador complaining to several journals, especially about Disney refusing to even consider to contact Italian experts of Pinocchio’s tale, creating a total different story from Collodi’s one, damaging the image of the book and the legacy of the author. Disney defended himself claiming the right to adopt free artistic freedom, and in the end it all came on Disney being sued in an American tribunal by Collodi’s nephew, Paolo Lorenzini, supported by the Italian embassy, with both sides agreeing to the end over a compromise asked by the same producer (Disney feared the jury would have acknowledged Lorenzini’s claim over the unasked production rights to him over the movie and pay therefore a relevant sum, in a moment the company wasn’t in good waters because the war stunted the potential profits of Pinocchio). Disney would agree on public excuses towards the Lorenzini family and the Italian people, put a revised overture specifically stating the movie was “freely inspired by the book of Carlo Collodi”, paying yearly royalties to Paolo Lorenzini, but could release the movie in Europe whenever would be accepted. When Pinocchio, slightly revised, would be redistributed in Europe after the war, it would get more success and allow the Company to float again financially, but Italy denied distribution for decades still and managed to impose this decision to its allies as well. However Disney was able to distribute his next movies, Dumbo, Bambi and Fantasia in the Roman Alliance countries without excessive issues, and at the time of Cinderella the past attrition with the Italian Government was finally at their back.

    At the end of 1943, however, the Minculpop’s ideological orientations received a shakeup. The Hungarian Jewish Exodus arrived in Slovenia, then the SS invaded Slovenia with the aid of the locals. In the urgent meetings of the Great Council, despite the united determination to get back at the Slovenians, the policy of extreme Italianization fell under review. The Minculpop got several critics over the handling of such policy, and this caused the political downfall of Pavolini from the ministry. While Mussolini didn’t arrive to openly criticize the work of the Minculpop, forced Italianization suddenly wasn’t perceived as a top priority, and certainly even lower after the siege of Trieste. A more moderate wing started to emerge in the ministry, which looked with more favour to Balbo and his more open aptitude towards Anglo-American culture rather than Ciano (Pavolini was one of his supporters he managed to settle in a moment the cabinet and prominent positions in the party were mostly suggested by the son-in-law of the Duce; to the point the government of the time was ironically called by some Italians to be “the Ciano government”). Restrictions towards Hollywood movies progressively became less severe, translations more faithful to the original versions, and now the Minculpop was less hostile to the idea to open Cinecittà to foreign producers.

    The political shift in the Minculpop, especially in time of war, modified the needs of the ministry towards the Italian private movie companies. Naturally, war-themed and patriotic movies along with historical ones where Italians would always win became a top priority; but the Minculpop’s would now be less restrictive towards comedies, dramas, love stories and generally towards subjects considered distracting – as long as they kept within certain limits, of course. This would gradually allow to a rising generation of Italian movie directors and writers to be more experimental in their work, without worrying much of extreme reactions from the Minculpop – forms of “avant-gardism” were much more tolerated in Fascist society, if looking towards new modern and innovative ideas. The same Mussolini, charmed by futurist ideas in his youth, would have been supportive of the direction the Italian movie industry would soon take, if nothing else because he began noticing the people's fond response to it.

    Perhaps one of the most important films of the era was Roberto Rossellini’s “Trieste città aperta”, made in 1945 in the same city which at that date was still mostly in ruins, considered as a perfect stage for the narrative of the same story. The movie took place at the end of 1943, when Trieste started was besieged by the SS and the Hungarian Jews prepared their defenses. An Italian veteran officer of the Balkan wars remained in the city to organize a group of Italian partisans, avoiding capture from a SS patrol by seeking refuge with a typograph, who was planning to marry his lover, a widow with a child. The Catholic priest who should have celebrated the wedding helped to hide Jewish partisans and was their courier, avoiding the SS inspections. However after a new raid the officer managed to escape while the typograph was captured, and while loaded on a truck, his fiance ran towards him only to be gunned down by the Germans in front of her child and the priest. Barely escaping, the typograph and the officer sought refuge with the widow’s sister, who was a dancer who performed for the invaders, along with her roommate who was a former lover of the officer. Consumed by hatred, the woman would denounce the officer to the SS in exchange of a pouch of drug, leading to the capture of the officer and the priest while they were meeting. The priest would be shot while the officer died under torture refusing to surrender information for the SS. The movie would end with the typograph and the widow’s son joining the Jewish resistance to continue the fight for their city.

    The movie would receive great success in Italy and outside of it, for the story but also for the way it was filmed “in the place”. 'Trieste Città Aperta' would mark the start of the period known as “neorealism” in the Italian movie industry.
  • This was a big one. I hope it isn't too much. If it ever gets to the point I'm getting long-winded or boring please tell me so I can fix it.


    Memoirs of a Young Girl (1988), by Anne Frank

    I’d volunteered to help the newcomers, but there was just too many of them. There were as many Jews coming in as were already in Libya – it wasn’t easy to try and provide for us, let alone the next set of arrivals. These ones were different though, almost all women and young children. When our group of Jews arrived in Libya, many of us kissed the ground, happy to be alive and out of Hitler’s grasp. The Hungarians that came did anything but. They were so worried about their fathers, sons and brothers who had stayed behind to fight at Trieste that they couldn’t be happy for any reason. I remember one twelve-year-old girl who was crying because she had always fought with her older brother and realised that she might never see him again to say she loved him. Many children were totally unescorted, without anyone else from their family coming along to Libya. It was no time for singing ‘Hatikvah’ or makeshift Bar Mitzvahs, as had been the way of us initial Libyan arrivals. Now, we were just as concerned with the fate of the Jews of Trieste as the very families themselves.


    The news of the victory at Trieste was the greatest victory in the history of Judaism, outmatching anything found in the Torah. In terms of numbers, odds and the purity of goodness and evil, nothing in the Biblical campaign to reach the Promised Land even comes close. Gentiles looked at us differently from then on; we looked at ourselves differently from then on. We had been used to seeing ourselves as victims, whose destiny was out of their hands. It was as if we were cursed.

    After Trieste though, a new spirit rose through the Jewish people all across the world. From Brooklyn to Golders Green to Tel Aviv, Jews around the world knew that we were stronger than we ever thought. We had beaten back one of the strongest divisions in the whole of Germany, after the Germans started a war against one of the strongest countries on earth just to kill. All of a sudden, the ancient dream of forming our own state on the lands of our ancestors didn’t seem so impossible after all. Actually, it looked pretty tame.

    It was a special time, with every tent and house full of song and celebration. The Italians even joined in, seeing as they had helped us after all. I remember the songs going long into the night, total strangers kissing and embracing, the alcohol drank by the crate. My parents were in such a good mood that they even let me have some. I started drinking and soon started laughing. But soon later, I walked outside and started crying. No, I wasn’t sad or afraid, I was just a little embarrassed because I was so happy. Because for the first time in my life, I was so happy to have been born a Jew.


    Ben-Gurion was standing right in the centre of the camp on a podium. There was no safety-glass or anything of the sort back then because no one was going to hurt let alone challenge a man we respected so much. We’d all learned more about Zionism in the years since the war started, but here was the man who represented the Jews of Palestine. He spoke in Hebrew, but not all of us were good enough at it, including me.

    We all had little camp segments with their own translators piping over the sound system – it was a miracle we’d set something like that up in a place as godforsaken as we were near the desert. The Yiddish had the biggest, but there were plenty for the German speakers, French speakers and so on. I stuck to my relatively tiny Dutch section, slightly embarrassed to be speaking what seemed so unimportant a language compared to everyone else.

    He said that Trieste would be remembered ‘until the sands of time gave out’, and that he had been given permission by the Italian government to form a new fighting force under the command of the British army (which still ran Palestine at the time). It would, however, be ran by Jews for the interest of Jews. When he let out a call for how many of us would respond to ‘the call of Zion’, nearly a quarter of a million people let out their voices so loud I wondered if Hitler heard it in Berlin. I joined in the call too, even though the offer only stood open to men at the time, as per instruction by the British. I remember being quite annoyed when I found out, as if I couldn’t help my family or people unless I grabbed a rifle and started smashing Germany with my own two hands. At the same time, I remember being so deeply infatuated by Ben-Gurion that right then and there I knew he was my leader – it was no wonder which party I wound up joining in Israel.

    So I stayed in Libya for the rest of the war, which now had a lot more women in it than men since everyone was desperate to fight alongside ‘the warriors of Trieste’. Yet there were plenty of Trieste warriors right beside me – women who risked it all and learned to tell the tale. It was a good time. What were once endless rows of makeshift and damp tents in the middle of a desert had become rows of one Kibbutz after another. The Italians were astonished at how we’d been able to irrigate and cultivate so much land they assumed was absolutely worthless. We thought it was the least we could do, given what they had done for us. While the Jews didn’t stay in Libya for long, not that there aren’t plenty of us there now, we made it possible for so many Italians to go there by building the infrastructure needed for them to support so many people. That isn’t to mention, of course, the engineers who Mussolini saved in 1942 who discovered how much oil there was located in Libya the very next year. Having been Prime Minister, I can assure you that it’s somewhat comforting to know your country is sitting on some oil.

    When I returned to Libya in 1980, I remember seeing some of the old sites and buildings. But it was the old faces I most cherished. Guards who had been kind to us, locals who had settled us in, even some of the holdout Jews who decided that Libya would be their home for good. In some ways, no matter the hardships we faced in the desert, they were some of the best days of my life. And besides, Moses had to wander the desert for forty years and he still never got there, right? We barely needed four!

    Unconquerable: The Story of the Jews of Hungary, by Mel Goldberg

    The Jews of Hungary were in no shape to keep marching after they survived one of the most talked about battles in human history. The death rate was atrocious – the wounded rate was even higher, but their spirits were unquenchable. One Italian officer reported, “The spirit of the Jews is indescribable. Men laugh and say they’ve only realised they haven’t slept in three days. Others walk on broken legs while others casually give their food to locals after not having eaten for a week. There is no force between Heaven or Hell that can scare these people.” The only thing that could convince them to not advance further was the request to evacuate the younger children (those under 16 who had stayed) and remaining women. Thus, the Jews didn’t immediately advance from their positions, though they were assured they would see combat again.

    News of such military prowess had not just impressed the Italian observers, but the whole world. American, British and Roman Alliance reporters interviewed every fighter they could to paint the incredible picture (the Soviets did not send anyone, but the news got around easily enough and excited the Jewish population). As George Orwell observed, “the Battle of Trieste will be a rallying cry for the oppressed for centuries to come. That the most hated, abused people on the Earth could one day decide that they could stand up and not only fight, but win shall send a shiver of excitement down the spines of the world’s underclass.”

    More immediately, Jewish soldiers in the Allies suddenly started demanding to be moved to this new Jewish brigade. Reasons ranged from ‘they need all the help they can get’, ‘they need a rest’ to ‘God really rubbed a lot of luck onto those guys’. The largest contingent, naturally, was in the Jewish mandate in Palestine (the community known as the Yishuv), which had been demanding to fight the Nazis one on one, not just the Arab allies Germany casually supported. They were doubly infuriated that Jews could not flee to the Mandate during the Holocaust. By now, the necessity of reaching out to the Jewish Agency, led by David Ben-Gurion, as well as Mussolini was unavoidable. After back-channel chat, on January 17th, Churchill announced that he and Ben-Gurion would meet with Mussolini and Salazar in Lisbon at the end of the month to flesh out what would become of the nascent Hungarian Jewish forces. Ben-Gurion would quickly arrive in Tripoli to a hero’s reception to illustrate his bargaining-hand to the Italian and British leaders – his word meant something to the Libyan Jews, and he wasn’t going to give them a bad deal.

    Of course, there would be another arrival at the Lisbon Conference.

    Four’s Company: The Great Power relations in World War Two, by Steven Benford

    On January 31st, Churchill arrived in Lisbon. Roosevelt hadn’t been told until Churchill had publicly announced it. This helps illustrate how the pair’s working relationship had fallen since D-Day, which Churchill would always regard as a mistake and suspected Stalin’s influence over Roosevelt. Some historians suspect Churchill saw flashbacks of Gallipoli in the slaughter British troops faced on the Normandy beaches.

    At Churchill’s side was Anthony Eden and, coming in from the far East, Orde Wingate. He had been ordered to Lisbon specifically for the mission he was about to be entrusted with. Wingate had served in the Palestinian Mandate. As a committed Christian, he felt a religious mission to support the Jewish people and aided the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary group, in their asymmetric warfare. Wingate was ‘an eccentric’ if you liked him and ‘stark raving mad’ if you didn’t. While the British had grown increasingly weary of his antics (which included drinking water from a flower vase in a Cairo hotel and getting dysentery) he had won the hearts of the Zionists back in Palestine with his cooperation and conviction. His ‘Chindit’ program had debatable results when used in the Burma Front, but he was mainly used to help bridge the divide between the British and Jewish leaders. Many Jews wanted to serve under the Italians, seeing them as their saviors. Wingate was considered to be the only British general well liked enough by Jews to have them on their side. With this plan, Churchill landed in Lisbon, meeting Salazar and Mussolini the next day on February 1st.

    Mussolini had prepared for an avalanche of criticism over Greece and Serbia, for which he had prepared a long list of reasons to justify himself. Instead, both he and Ciano were shocked by what was coming out of the mouths of the British representatives: Stalin had to be stopped and FDR wasn’t going to do it. The War would be over soon, and they needed to ensure Communism was contained. For that reason, the Roman Alliance had to take over Romania and Hungary before the Soviets did. While Churchill re-iterated that the British government would not recognise any of the Roman Alliance’s territorial gains from Yugoslavia and Greece, he seemed ambivalent about Italy stationing troops in Romania and Hungary ‘assuming free elections have been held’. The next conference of Allied leaders would be at held in April in Kiev, which had recently been liberated. Churchill asked Mussolini for support in standing up to Stalin ‘because I don’t always get it’. From here on, Churchill and Mussolini began a complicated balancing act, making sure neither got ensnared in the other’s net whilst hoping they could work together to outwit the common Soviet foe. Neither trusted the other, but they both knew one thing for sure: the other hated Stalin as much as they did.

    On the matter of the Jewish forces, Mussolini was somewhat relieved to have the pressure taken off him in finding supplies. Between Ben-Gurion and Wingate, the two had proposed a new understanding: The Haganah would become ‘The Anglo-Jewish Army’, a surprisingly accurate title given the numbers of Hungarian Jews that existed. It would be led by Wingate but the mid-ranking roles would be staffed primarily with Haganah regulars like Zvi Brenner and Moshe Dayan. It would have to reform, losing its women, boy and elderly fighters to the safe shores of Libya. However, the influx of Jewish recruits from Libya (unless they were considered too economically important), Italian Jews who had lived there all their lives and indeed Palestinian Jews who were raring to have a piece of the Nazis more than made up the numbers. After a month of rest, the Jewish army would be on the march again, back to Budapest.

    After other minor agreements, such as the use of the newest Regia Marina ships to help the British in the Pacific against Japan, everyone left the meeting in a good mood. “I’d forgotten what a decent meeting felt like,” laughed Churchill as he boarded the plane. He would report to the nation about plans for the Anglo-Jewish army to wild acclaim.

    Mussolini would quietly return to Rome. As soon as he arrived in his office, the phone began to ring.

    Total: Fascist Terror in Italy by Sven Dietrich

    Mussolini had received a message from Graziani. Whilst Balbo and the Haganah had been performing PR in Trieste, the bulk of the Italian forces were actually pushing the invaders back into Ljubljana. The city was mostly, but not entirely surrounded, and mostly occupied by Slovenian Pro-Nazi forces, rather than German soldiers. German soldiers were already pulling back to the Alps to stake out a suitable defence, leaving the Slovenian collaborators to fight for themselves.

    Ljubljana’s population had numbered some one hundred thousand, though the prior battle had already reduced the population count. With total air superiority, a numerically superior force and one that was well supplied with Western aid, there is no doubt the Italian army alone could have easily taken control of the city. But that wasn’t the intention of the Fascists – they wanted to make an example of anyone who defied Italian rule or occupation.

    Graziani informed Mussolini that all preparation was complete. Mussolini then told his general, “Good, I want you to settle the question of who runs Slovenia … permanently.”

    On February 6th, Italian bombers departed from their airfields and began to congregate in mass over Ljubljana’s historic city centre was the main target of the bombing, pulverizing centuries old art and architecture. After hours of plane bombing, the artillery began to obliterate the residential areas. The targets, by the on-the-record account of soldiers at the time, had absolutely nothing to do with German or even Slovenian military targets.

    Mussolini had decided that after having done what they did in Ljubljana just weeks ago, launching a pogrom against the Italian population, the whole city deserved collective punishment. Soldiers were instructed to ‘avenge the rape of our people’ by ‘tearing this viper’s nest to the ground and start from zero’. He wanted not to destroy Ljubljana, but to remove it from the map entirely, replacing it with ‘Lubiana’ a pure, Italian town.

    By February 8th,the Blackshirts were sent in. Mussolini had stated that he only wanted Blackshirts to perform the operation, convinced they were the only ones with enough resolve finish the job. The Blackshirts encountered little resistance, as the city had been pulverised with the Germans retreating and Slovenians fleeing. Satchel charges were set to the few remaining buildings still standing in the city centre. Rape was especially common by the Blackshirts, as was summary executions of almost anyone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    On February 9th, Graziani wrote to Mussolini that, ‘Ljubljana is dead, long live Lubiana’. They had done what Hitler had only dreamed of doing in St. Petersburg or Moscow: they had succeeded in destroying the great city of a people and starting it from the ground up. While Warsaw was lucky enough to be rebuilt painstakingly according to detail, Ljubljana received no such relief. It was given an entirely different geographic layout with Italian citizens and exclusively Italian street-signs. If you came to Ljubljana in the 1950s, you would never have imagined it was anything other than a quiet Italian town. However, it was built upon the grave of the Slovenian people. The only things that were rebuilt as before were the Catholic churches, after the Pope complained.

    With the loss of their capital, spirit and a significant proportion of their population, the Slovenian people were shattered. Post-war restrictions on Slovenian culture, which made the ones prior to entry into World War 2 seem lenient, were brutal. Teachers would be imprisoned for speaking a word of Slovenian to their students, even if the students didn’t understand what they were saying in Italian and needed clarification. Conditions were so unforgiving in their occupied homeland that many wound up running away to the Italian colonies for a more hands-off existence. By 1958, what was once Slovenia was by now majority Italian, with the colonial diaspora too fragmented to keep their culture alive to any significant degree. At the same time, you would never see a sign in Slovenian in any store, lest the Blackshirts come and smash the place up for being ‘Nazi sympathizers’.

    Under every definition of the word, the Fascists committed genocide against the Slovenian people. And it was ignored by every nation on Earth.

    Interview of Italo Balbo for the BBC’s ‘World At War’ (1973)

    Interviewer: “It’s estimated that some twenty thousand civilians died in the destruction of Lubiana. That corresponds to roughly one fifth of the city. It’s also estimated that by the end of the bombing, some 90% of buildings had been destroyed. Most of the rest would be destroyed after the fighting. What do you have to say to that?”

    Balbo: “Well, firstly I had nothing to do with it. That was all Graziani.”

    Interviewer: “And Mussolini.”

    Balbo: “Graziani was the one who decided where the bombing would take place. The Duce had no ability to determine where the bombs fell. Graziani, again, made some mistakes but you have to understand what he did in context of the War. The city had been occupied by the Nazis – if there was a way of reducing the amount of our troops who would perish -”

    Interviewer: “With all due respect Mister Balbo, that doesn’t explain why the Blackshirts proceeded to set satchel charges on any standing structure left in the city. It also doesn’t explain why the air force didn’t pursue the retreating Germans but continued bombing the city centre.”

    Balbo: (*More angrily*) “The citizens knew the risk when they decided to stay in an active warzone. There were plenty of warnings.”

    Interviewer: “Mister Balbo, there were no such warnings. For example, the American nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Kokura produced many pamphlets demanding the citizens flee. No such preparation was made with the residents of Lubiana.”

    Balbo: “The warning was how we had dealt with insurgencies across the colonies. We had taught the Ethiopians a lesson when they tried to assassinate Graziani and failed. Now, the Slovenians had massacred every Italian they could find in the city. Did they really expect us to hand out flowers and talk about forgiveness? We responded in the only way we knew how.”

    Interviewer: “Some have called it ‘genocide’.”

    Balbo: “I don’t care what someone calls it. From that day forth, Slovenian terrorism was defeated. There is no major Slovenian terrorist network, be it in Slovenia, the Libyan diaspora, or even the colonial diaspora. All around the world, we see these conflicts with terrorists trying to take on great powers: in France with Corsica and their Algerian holdouts, in Britain with Northern Ireland and Kurdistan with their Arab towns and regions. There is no terrorist movement in Italy proper, including Libya – and we’re proud of it.”

    Interviewer: “There is, wouldn’t you say, in East Africa?”

    Balbo: “I was careful with my words. Italy proper.”
    Last edited:
    Intermission - Philipp of Hesse
  • New side update, as usual approved and revised by Sorairo:

    Philipp of Hesse-Nassau - by Giorgio Bianchi

    “… As diplomatic relations between Germany and Italy progressively deteriorated in 1943, the position of Philipp of Hesse-Nassau, governor of said province, and his wife Mafalda of Savoia, started to become untenable in the eyes of the Nazi government. Philipp was the inspiration for Prince Philip’s name and was a great-grandson of Queen Victoria of England. Despite being a supporter of Nazism since 1930, and acting as agent in the Italian court and as a direct intermediate between Hitler and Mussolini, even enlisting for the SS early on, he started to be suspected by the same Fuhrer of being a double agent for Italy, ‘corrupted’ by his wife. It didn’t help him the fact of being the nephew of Wilhelm II, something that Hitler really despised: he was aware that his rise to the chancellorship was allowed by Hindenburg, who was a supporter of the monarchic restoration, Despite actions to prevent this possibility, the Fuhrer was still suspicious of the German nobility.

    Things for the German nobles started to become direr in 1943, when a decree limited their actions in the administration and the military, in an obvious attempt to keep them ostracized or worse prevent their staging a coup. Despite Wilhelm II having died in 1941, the Hohenzollern were still here, the son of Kaiser Wilhelm taking the leadership of the family. As his relationship with Hitler became very cold, still he decided to keep his distance from the murmurs of dissent towards the Fuhrer, some starting to look at him as a possible alternative to save Germany from what was starting to become a disaster.

    Of course, German spies kept a constant vigilance on Wilhelm. But Hitler started to grow more obsessed towards Philip of Hesse. In his mind he started to think, the more he associated Mussolini and Fascism with the international Jewish Conspiracy, that the Duce wanted to install Jew friendly monarchies across Europe, including Germany. After all, didn’t the Tsar of Bulgaria married a Savoia? Or the King of Italy trying to put nephews on the vacant thrones of Hungary and above all Spain, and apparently Franco weighed the option too, or so he heard? Worse, Mussolini being agreeable to allowing Otto of Hapsburg to become King of Hungary, or worse still Emperor of Austria again? And those puny Alpine mountaineers didn’t put a horse of Troy with Philip and Mafalda in Germany?

    Philip and Mafalda started to become aware of the growing hostility of Hitler towards them, between invitations to official ceremonies sudden stopping, increased limitation of their roles and movements, and so on. In the spring of 1943, fearing for their life and their children’s, the couple started to discuss their flight to Italy, in a way to not cause scandal or suspicion. Luckily for Mafalda, the occasion for her and their children to flee Germany happened in the late summer, when she accepted an invitation from her sister Giovanna of Bulgaria to visit her. It happened that Boris III was recovering from an illness (which many, especially post war, believed to be an attempt of assassination from German agents in order to favour a change of government sufficient for Bulgaria to join sides with the Reich) and the Queen gladly accepted the assistance of Mafalda, who brought her child to visit their cousins and spend a warm summer in Bulgaria.

    Philipp and Mafalda planned that she would move in late September to Italy from Bulgaria to visit her parents and spend the rest of the year there, with Philip joining them for the Christmas celebrations and eventually return in Germany at the start of 1944. But in truth both were determined to remain in Italy, Philip would have resigned from his roles and practically live in exile on the peninsula, out of Hitler’s reach.

    But while Mafalda and her children soon reached Rome and Vittorio Emanuele III in private pressed Mussolini to resist Hitler in case the German would summon his daughter and son-in-law to return to Germany, things in that cold Fall of 1943 caused the whole plan to fail. When Germany declared war on Italy, Philipp tried to escape and reach Switzerland, only to be caught and arrested almost immediately. Labelled as a traitor by Nazi propaganda, he was sent in the camp of Flossenburg. In the time he was prisoner, he wrote a diary in the hope to be reached by Mafalda and their sons, and later published by them. Philip wrote of his conditions, of the abuses done by his guards, of the hope to see his family soon or later.

    Unfortunately for him, at the start of January the enraged Hitler – due to the defeat of Trieste and the failure of Operation Visigoth - ordered his death. Brought in Berlin to face a kangaroo trial, he was condemned to death for treason and being a member of the international Jew conspiracy. Witnesses stated he faced the trial with courage and determination, probably resigned to his fate, replying without fear or anger towards his persecutors. He died on the morning of 23th January 1944. His body was burned and the ashes dispersed. When news of his death reached Italy, messages of sympathy arrived all across the Kingdom in direction of the widow and House Savoia. King George VI in England expressed her own condolences as well the various royal houses in exile in England. Mussolini remembered Philipp as a good person and a new martyr of the folly of Hitler; soon after returning from the Lisbon Conference, he joined the funeral ceremony organized in the Lateran in his honour. Pius XII would attend the mass in person.

    While Italy swore vengeance, German propaganda celebrated the death of a traitor. But behind the curtain, the German nobility was outraged and fearful towards Hitler. They couldn’t, nor wouldn’t, forget.”
  • Armageddon

    The Second World War – Christopher Armlong

    With the aid of token Turkish reinforcement, Bulgaria seized the Ploesti oil fields more or less in one piece on January 20th. Hitler had ordered them razed but most survived the conflict. Though Bulgaria wouldn’t know it at the time, this would prove invaluable by the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Fascist Bloc’s conflict against the Soviet Union. The fall of Ploesti was ultimately the trigger for the January Coup just two days later in the besieged Bucharest. King Michael I of Romania, incensed by Antonescu’s dragging his country into an unholy alliance with Nazi Germany, staged a coup and arrested the Romanian Dictator, declaring on radio that Romania would align itself with the Allies. This was quite surprising given that Michael was considered a mere figurehead, but his actions were nonetheless carried out. The War had been effortless for Bulgaria, but the already suffering Romanian people were astonished and outraged to be drawn into a war with their fresh, concentrated neighbor to the south. Some Romanian troops were known to have marched to a warzone, and without stopping simply kept walking to the Bulgarian lines to surrender without skipping a beat. The Germans attempted to control the situation but were quickly outflanked, retreating into Transylvania. Northern Romania, including Bessarabia was still occupied by the Germans, but by the middle of February, combined Bulgarian and Romanian assaults had cleared out the region, leaving the entire country occupied by Roman Alliance forces. Days later, angry Soviet troops would line up against the border of Romania, on what had once been Soviet territory.

    It was no surprise that Michael had specifically called in the Alliance troops to preserve Romania from Communism, which would mean the death of the Monarchy. For that reason, Michael is seen as having saved Romania not just from Nazism, but Communism as well. The popularity of the Romanian Monarchy remains notably high, even today, as Michael would reign as King of Romania until his death in 2017 [1]. For almost all Romanians, he was the only King they ever had. His death was commemorated around the world for his preservation of Romanian independence amidst the struggles of the Cold War, which certainly wasn’t an easy task, all things considered.

    Of course, tough measures had to be accepted. The entirety of Dobruja was surrendered to Bulgaria, although Michael was guaranteed a return of Hungarian land given to Horthy to bribe him into Operation Barbarossa, as well as assurances that Bessarabia would remain in his hands. When news of this hit Moscow, Stalin was not happy.

    Four’s Company: The Great Power relations in World War Two, by Steven Benford

    While the tumult of the Kiev Conference was legendary for its geopolitical results (from America to the final division of Europe) the seeds were sown at the news Bessarabia was occupied by Bulgarian troops (with Mussolini’s support). While the world cheered the liberation of Paris that February, there was no mood for celebration in any of the Allied capitals. Stalin, recalled one staffer, “looked like someone had slapped his mother right in front of him” at news that the Bulgarians had taken over the area. Roosevelt likewise was incensed, angrily (though privately) demanding that Mussolini reign in Tsar Boris and tell him not only to pull his troops out of Bessarabia, but forsake any idea of annexing all of Dobruja, which would mean the Soviets would directly border Roman Alliance Bulgaria. FDR angrily demanded Churchill back him up. Churchill, pointedly, did not. Churchill would address the House of Commons and state that any such territorial and influence sphere discussions would only be held at the next Allied Conference. Of course, Churchill was thrilled at the news Romania was in neither Russian nor German hands, stating, “My only regret is that they didn’t get the Ukraine”.

    When Stalin refused to allow Mussolini permission to land in the Soviet Union for the Kiev Conference, Churchill threatened to pull out of the Conference as well. Not wanting the public embarrassment of such open disagreement among Allied leaders, FDR convinced Stalin to relent and go ahead with the Conference. In the meantime, Stalin began to lash out where he could. Upon reaching Finland in March, Stalin refused any offers of armistice and demanded unconditional surrender. After an invading force (far stronger and more experienced than the rabble in 1940) had taken Helsinki on March 19th, Finland unconditionally surrendered. While initially, according to unearthed documents, Stalin was somewhat indifferent to the Finns, by March, he had already decided the new policy he would undertake. At the same time, he pushed on desperately ahead in Europe, eager to cement Soviet control where he could.

    The liberation of Romania set up the apocalyptic clash at Kiev. The liberation of Hungary only added fuel to the fire.

    Extract from Orde Wingate’s ‘Armaggedon’ Speech in Trieste, February 24th 1944

    “The Germans called you ‘inferior’! The Germans called you ‘weak’! Were you ‘inferior’ when you erected mighty Kingdoms while Germany was nothing but a rabble of barbarians? Were you weak when you survived, for five thousand years, pogrom after pogrom, injustice after injustice, slaughter after slaughter? Were you weak, when Dreyfuss stood strong in the face of injustice and endured the worst imprisonment? Were you weak when you came halfway across the world, to a harsh desert, just to fulfill an ancient dream? Were you weak when you stood here in Trieste and flung back the most elite force of the so-called ‘Master-race’?

    “You are not inferior! You are not weak! You are the Chosen People! God chose you for a reason! Because he knows you’re tougher than every Tyrant who ever tries to destroy you! Pharaoh tried to destroy you! Egypt was destroyed! Titus destroyed to hurt you! The Roman Empire was destroyed! And now Hitler tries to destroy you! But he shall be the last! The Jewish people have told the whole world that they will never be abused again! They will never allow another pogrom again! They will never allow another Ghetto again! You will stand tall, here, at the Battle of Armageddon and do battle for the Lord! After this accursed wandering through the wilderness is over, the Promised Land once more awaits!”

    Unconquerable: The Story of the Jews of Hungary, by Mel Goldberg

    Wingate was not particularly experienced in war in the flat plains of Europe, but what he did have was the unrivalled enthusiasm of his troops. Wingate was almost worshipped by members of the Jewish community for his resolute devotion to the Zionist movement. After his infamous ‘Armaggedon Speech’, Anthony Eden tried to convince Churchill to dump Wingate to preserve British credibility. Churchill replied, “I would rather have Hungary than credibility.” Churchill ordered Wingate in no uncertain terms that he was to ‘save Hungary from Bolshevism’ and occupy it before Stalin could get a grasp on it. Wingate, whose Christianity led him to despise the Communists, was more than willing to meet the task.

    By the end of February, supported by both the Italian and British air force as well as Croatian troops on the southern flank, the Anglo-Jewish army began its march inside Hungary, marching straight to Budapest. Given its size, it was extremely difficult to supply, but Wingate fired his troops with so much inspiration that it kept them going. Wingate’s own love of what he would conservatively call ‘testing one’s physical limits’ (which involved walking naked through the jungles of Burma) would leave the troops feeling that they too could overcome any hardships on the way.

    The Germans, by contrast, were roundly despised by the Hungarian population and exhausted. The chaos that resulted from Horthy’s expulsion order and the subsequent persecutions to rat out the few remaining Jews, not to mention the murder of half of the Hungarian government, had left a bitter taste in the mouths of Hungarians. Many saw the Jews as legitimate Hungarian citizens, and saw the potential conflict between Hungarian Jewish and German forces to be one where they would root for their fellow countrymen, even if they were Jewish.

    The German troops, some SS and some Wehrmacht, were doubly hated but were on edge, particularly given that Italy was already invading the main portion of Germany. By March 10th, Graz fell to Mussolini, the first major German city (albeit in Austria) to fall to the Allied forces. Many Germans wondered what they were doing defending Hungary when their homeland was under siege. Furthermore, though no one dared admit it, they were scared of the Jews. They were scared because the Jews had defeated them at Trieste, despite Goebbels’s attempts to call it a ‘strategic withdrawl’. They were certain that they were going to be trapped between Jewish and Russian soldiers in Hungary – certain death. Many wanted simply to retreat and surrender to the Italians, or better yet the Anglo-Americans. At the risk of getting totally cut off, German troops had already forsaken Transylvania to Bulgarian and Romanian forces, leaving the bulk of Hungary at the mercy of the Anglo-Jewish forces.

    On February 29th, the invasion of Hungary fully began, overwhelming the SS defenders on the border not just with quantity, but qualitative superiority. Many of the leaders of the Jewish forces had served in Palestine and knew how to fight, while most SS leaders expected to be fighting what consisted of a mishmash of pretentious partisans. On the same day, the Croatians advanced too, taking Pecs in two days. Wehrmact troops broke rank in the thousands and ran to the Croatian lines to surrender before the Jews could get their hands on them. Jews marched along the same railroad lines that had guided them to the border to save themselves, only now they were coming back to save their country itself. On March 10th, they were greeted by the news that Romanian and Bulgarian troops had invaded the Great Hungarian Plain, and were sealing off the border to the Soviets as best they could.

    By March 20th, the advance parties of Jewish soldiers faced the first line of defence in Budapest. Szálasi had promised Hitler that his country would, “be Jewry’s graveyard”, but it wasn’t to be. Faced with overwhelming numbers of Jews and the might of the RAF and Regia Aeronautica, not to mention Croatian, Bulgarian and Romanian assistance stretching the lines thin, Budapest had no chance. This was confirmed doubly so when the Hungarian Resistance launched an uprising in the city on March 26th. On April 13th, days before the Kiev Conference, General Wingate messaged Churchill to state that ‘Hungary has survived Nazism and will never know Communism’. The meaning was obvious: Budapest had fallen and Hungary was safe.

    The performance of the Jewish army impressed the Allied commanders, notably General Patton, who characteristically described the force as, “the toughest sons of bitches God ever blessed.” He would give the highest praise to Wingate, describing him as “almost as crazy as me”. While some feared Jewish forces would run rampant and commit wholesale acts of slaughter in vengeance, the force was surprisingly disciplined. Indeed, Jewish forces captured Szálasi while he attempted to escape with retreating Germans; he wasn’t shot, but safely escorted into custody. The Hungarian Dictator would be tried for war crimes the following year and hanged. With Hungary’s leadership now completely lost, Mussolini and Churchill had their own ideas of what to do when they landed in Kiev.

    It just so happened that the day the Conference began, Germany itself would be plunged into chaos. Or more accurately, more chaos than it was already in.

    “We Weren’t All Like Him”: The German Resistance, by Peter Kahn

    Losing a war was one thing. Losing a war on two fronts was another. Losing a three front war, completely surrounding yourself with hostile powers, losing almost all imports, all your oil supply, getting bombed day and night, the front disintegrating in every direction, respected members of society getting persecuted and the imminent dread of the utter destruction of your nation for no other reason than rabid conspiracy theory mongering over Jews was a third still.

    The invasion of Italy mortified the Wehrmacht. The most optimistic dreamed that they could bleed the Allies out in France, get a separate peace and then get a solid conclusion to the Russia situation. To then pointlessly go to war with the most powerful neutral bloc on Earth, who would expand the battlefield to immeasurable size when the Wehrmacht was stretched thin as it already was infuriated High Command. Some historians wonder that if it wasn’t for Operation Visigoth primarily being an SS operation, that Operation Valkyrie wouldn’t have been declared on the spot.

    What is known for sure was that the invasion of Italy was so monumentally stupid that even those who had long since surrendered their will to the Führerprinzip had changed their minds. The most notable was Erwin Rommel. Having been stationed in Russia, he had fought as much over the inclusion of the Einsatzruppen behind the lines as he did with the Soviets in front back in 1941. Rommel was so disgusted that he demanded re-assignment, no matter where. Despite the press initially trumpeting his victories across Russia, he was unceremoniously kicked to monitor the Atlantic Wall in December that year. Historians believe that his leadership managed to revitalize and fortify the Atlantic Wall into one that made the Allies bleed in Normandy. When the Soviets broke out after Stalingrad, he was called back to save Germany from catastrophe, which he did, routing the Soviets in early 1943 and getting the War back on track. He had initially been approached by members of the German Resistance but had pushed them away, explaining that he still had to be loyal to his leader. This seemed to be a constant feeling … until December that year. The invasion of Italy was so shocking to Rommel in its stupidity that he infamously told his wife, “Hitler will declare war on Santa Claus next!” Finally, he had to give himself an out: Hitler was ‘already dead’ inside his brain, and that he was released from his oath.

    Rommel’s inclusion was enough to convince multiple hold-outs, including: Wilhelm Canaris, Günther Von Kluge, Gerd Von Rundstedt and Erich Von Manstein. The combination of the Italian invasion, attacks on the German nobility with connections to the Savoia family and the fear of Soviet invasion of Berlin would finally galvanize the plotters to action. That Rommel, who was still the most exalted general in Germany despite the Nazi attempt to downplay his significance (which is ironic considering what the West did after the war), could have finally decided enough was enough was a game-changing decision. They wanted to get in, surrender to the West and leave with Germany in one piece.

    The plan was as follows: on April 15th, there would be a meeting in the Bunker to discuss strategies. The Soviets had already advanced so far after the chaotic retreats that had characterised the Germans from Italy’s arrival into the war that the Wolf’s Lair was considered too risky. Rommel would lead from the front and ‘miss the meeting’. Indeed, all those in on the conspiracy would ‘miss it’. Meanwhile, Claus Von Stauffenberg, the head of the reserve army, would leave a bomb behind and detonate it. This should have killed everyone there. Then Stauffenberg would call in the reserves to arrest the leading Nazi officials and Rommel would become the interim leader of the government. With that, Rommel would sue for peace and save Germany from total annihilation.

    It was a plan. And the only thing plans have in common is that they never go perfectly. April 15th 1944 may go down in history as one of the most important days in human history.

    [1] Yes, he really lived that long
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    The Day That Shook The World
  • The Day That Shook the World

    Interview of Anthony Eden for the BBC’s ‘World At War’ (1973)

    Interviewer: “What was the Kiev Conference like?”

    Eden: (*Laughs*) “It was a fiercer battle than when the Soviets fought against the Nazis when they liberated it a few months before. Of course, we knew that coming in. Our intention was the absolute minimization of the Soviet occupations following the War, and indeed Fascist.”

    Interviewer: “Did you really attempt to restrain Fascist occupation?”

    Eden: “I feel we did quite well, all things considered.”

    Four’s Company: The Great Power Relations in World War Two, by Steven Benford

    On the morning of April 15th 1944, Mussolini, Churchill, FDR and Stalin stood in front of the photographers, in that order. By this point, Mussolini and Stalin had still not said a word to each other, despite the Italian having already been in Kiev for two days. In fairness, nowadays, Churchill was speaking more to Mussolini than to FDR. FDR, by contrast, had been speaking more and more to Stalin, who was growing more and more angry with the course of the war. Roosevelt was infuriated that he was trying to keep Stalin happy (who, after all, had contributed the most by far to the war effort) while Churchill had been raising Hell by encroaching on the Soviet sphere of influence in conjunction with the ‘Mediteranean Peacock’. FDR rarely even referred to Mussolini by name at this point, calling him ‘the Peacock’ whenever he could. It is hard to believe that this wasn’t the nadir of Euro-American relations, even during the War, but this was bad nonetheless.

    The conference started as fiery and brutal as feared. Stalin refused to start the meeting without Mussolini saying he would pull out of Bessarabia. Mussolini responded that Italy had no troops in the region and that if he wanted to, he could invite Tsar Boris or King Michael. Stalin angrily replied that Boris was Mussolini’s puppet. The Italian said that there were no puppets in the Fascist Bloc, as the entire point of the Bloc was to retain the national integrity of the member states. An argument ensued over the Fascist Bloc’s subjugation of Slovenia, Serbia and Greece, compared to the subjugation of the Baltic States. Churchill stayed quiet while FDR desperately tried to keep order. This was how the first three hours of the Conference proceeded.

    After a short lunch, the four met again. Churchill began by commending the two dictators for ‘clearing the air’ and stated that they now knew the main points of contention, namely Hungary and Romania. As it was clear the Fascist Bloc and the Soviets did not want to share a border, a solution had to be found, especially in respect to Dobruja, which quickly became the unsquarable peg of the Conference. In addition, Finland had become an issue to deal with. This wasn’t to mention the Post-War division of Germany, the fates of German War Criminals, the Pacific War, and a host of other issues great and small.

    “When it became clear that the situation we faced may have been overwhelming,” remembered Churchill, “the news came in that made the situation far beyond what the term ‘overwhelming’ could encompass.” That was when the news came in that something serious had happened in Berlin.

    “We Weren’t All Like Him”: The German Resistance, by Peter Kahn

    On April 15th, Stauffenberg had made his move. He had loaded his briefcase with timed explosives and had primed them before his descent into the Bunker. The Bunker had recently been transformed into Hitler’s living quarters day and night owing to the collapse on every front following the idiotic invasion of Italy. The Wolf’s Lair had been abandoned to the Soviets, who were already moving into Poland, with Warsaw not too far away. Stauffenberg planned to visit the meeting that afternoon with the German High Command – the plotters were absent from the meeting, meaning Rommel, Rundstedt, Manstein etc. However, many notables of the Nazi regime were not present for various reasons, including Goebbels, Himmler and so on.

    The meeting began at 13:00 as planned according to those who left the Bunker following the explosion. The topics discussed were about how to maintain the front. Hitler was insisting more troops be moved to fight the Jews, which his generals pleaded to reconsider. The last confirmed words Adolf Hitler were reported by Traudl Junge before she was called away on other business: “I would rather have a world with no Germans and no Jews than one with a hundred million Germans and a single Hebrew”.

    At 13:20, an explosion shook the bunker ... the only problem was that the bomb was supposed to detonated at 13:30. Faulty wiring in one of the two bombs had ensured that both went off when the first did. Stauffenberg was supposed to leave the Bunker, confirm the blast and start Operation Valkyrie. Unfortunately, Stauffenberg would never live to know his achievement. He died in the Bunker, having just left the meeting room itself based on the location of his corpse.

    Many notable people died in the bunker. Among them were Admiral Karl Doenitz, General Alfred Jodl, Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, Luftwaffe leader Hermann Goering and, of course, Adolf Hitler.

    Interview of Erwin Rommel for the BBC’s ‘World At War’ (1973)

    Interviewer: “Where were you on April 15th 1944?”

    Rommel: “At my Command Post, in France. I’d been moved around several times. I didn’t want to serve in the Russian Front a second longer than I had to, given what the Einsatzruppen were doing. I wanted to go back to fight the Americans and British in France. It probably saved my life – I’d already sent my family to Sweden.”

    Interviewer: “When did you first suspect that something had gone wrong with the operation?”

    Rommel: “I was supposed to receive a phone call from my comrades telling me about how the operation had began. At that point, the army would seize the key points of the cities and take control. Then I would come in and convince the German people that the SS had been behind it, say I was interim Fuhrer, clean up the remaining Nazis and give a conditional surrender to the West – we’d clean up the Russian situation first and then get a good deal there. The whole point was that we’d catch the Nazi regime before they could act. So it was quite a surprise when my second-in-command came in and told me that the troops were saying there was an assassination attempt on the Fuhrer in Berlin.”

    Interviewer: “What was your reaction?”

    Rommel: “That we were all dead.”

    The Second World War – Christopher Armlong

    Heinz Guderian had been critical of Hitler. He considered him an idiot and worse, especially after the Italy campaign began. But at the same time, he was loyal. More loyal than any form of reason could conceive. More importantly, he was stationed just outside Berlin, along with his Panzer divisions. These would crush the dreams of the Valkyrie Conspirators for an easy end to the war.

    The death of Stauffenberg during the operation had left everyone in the dark. Crazed calls, one after another flew out of Berlin in all directions to everyone. No one was sure who was in charge, as all three of the German military branches had lost their leadership, not to mention Hitler, though no one knew for sure he was dead yet. Most importantly, in the absence of Stauffenberg’s call before the storm, the other players managed to make their moves before the conspirators.

    Guderian received a call from Himmler, whose SS network had created what almost amounted to a state within a state. Himmler had received word of what happened long before Rommel would, though he did not quite understand what had happened. Himmler had gambled by telling Guderian that Hitler was incapacitated. Guderian had indeed received wild stories coming from all sides around Berlin of Hitler having been attacked. When asked what to do, Himmler demanded Guderian stop anarchy from descending on Berlin until everyone knew what was going on by flattening any attempt anyone, including German soldiers, attempting to take over. Having seen the anarchy for himself, he finally took action and ordered his troops to march on Berlin.

    Soon after, the Valkyrie conspirators finally pieced together what had happened and realised Stauffenberg had been killed though the bomb had indeed gone off, and far sooner than expected. Valkyrie was put into effect, though Rommel would not be informed of what was going on in the confusion. The revamped Valkyrie that the conspirators had created explicitly dealt with the SS being the ones who had killed Hitler. Indeed, they would certainly find an SS prepared for a fight, though not because they had tried to kill Hitler, but because Himmler had already alerted the SS to seize the crucial functions of state. All throughout Germany, the SS and Reserve Army clashed, both convinced the others had attempted a coup.

    However, where it counted most in Berlin, Guderian’s arrival had already squashed any attempt by the Valkyrie plotters to seize the city. And that wasn’t all for the plotters. Once the news had begun to be confirmed among senior members of government that Hitler was dead, the shock quickly made way to desperation, as no one knew who was in charge, who had power, who was fighting who, who killed Hitler, why, or what was going to happen next. The only person in the madness who kept a calm, calculating posture was Heinrich Himmler, who was able to deduce that members the Army had done the deed, based on the fact they would have had access to the Bunker. Himmler contacted Goebbels, who was still devastated but soon fired up with the urge to avenge Hitler, and put him in front of a radio to explain the situation. That evening, Goebbels announced that Adolf Hitler had been killed by senior figures of the army, and that the SS would be entrusted to occupy the main cities of Germany. The new Fuhrer of Germany would be Heinrich Himmler, as he was the only one left in the Nazi Government with the manpower and respect to back it up. The problem was that Valkyrie had assumed that the SS had been the ones attempting the coup, and most of the commanders executing the operation believed that Goebbels and Himmler were just parts of the plot. Furthering the complication, the conspirators had actually managed to successfully take over multiple cities, most notably Hamburg, in no small part due to the historic Leftism of the city which led the population to actively assist the Reserve Army against the SS. The city quickly became the HQ of the plotters. Other cities included Prague and Vienna, had also successfully kicked out the SS. However, these were drops in the bucket compared to the vast scale of Germany.

    Rather than ending the War, Operation Valkyrie seemed to have started another one. All throughout the night of April 15th, up and down Germany, the SS fought members of the reserve army with the front line troops baffled and anxious. No one knew who was behind Hitler’s death, but one thing was for sure: the War was going to keep going.
    Liberation and Damnation
  • Okay, just fixed it :)

    Thank you sincerely.

    Also, apologies for lateness everyone but because of work (I actually write a blog about personal development so it takes up home time as well) I got a little behind. But here's the latest update regardless:

    Liberation and Damnation

    The Second World War – Christopher Armlong

    The first reactions to the Valkyrie uprising among the Allied leaders were broad confusion. It brought the whole conference to a halt as the leaders tried to confirm what had happened. Eventually, at the confirmation Hitler was dead, an eerie silence filled the room. No one was sure whether to celebrate, or curse that Hitler had escaped their justice (though Stalin would always suspect Hitler had faked his death, especially in his increasingly unstable latter years). The powers agreed to adjourn the meeting.

    The next day, the first offers from the “Provisional German Government” as the Valkyrie plotters described themselves, gave their offer of conditional surrender (Rommel having still kept his silence on his involvement as he was only supposed to waltz in at the end). It consisted of 1938 borders with Danzig and Memel included, that the German state would be undivided and administer its own war criminal trials, with the German army itself reduced to 1919 levels. The Valkyrie plotters actually thought that this was going to be remotely acceptable to the Allies. Indeed, it had the complete opposite effect. Churchill and Roosevelt were disgusted that ‘the damned fools haven’t learned a thing’, as the former said. At last, the Conference was united: Unconditional Surrender to every party of the Allies, period. None of them were ever going to allow Germany to come out of WW2 with more territory than when Nazism began. “We cannot reward Nazism, even if we’re rewarding Anti-Nazis,” as Roosevelt memorably stated.

    One good effect of the offer was that it finally united the four attendees. It actually made them feel they were in the same fight after all, and greatly aided the Conference’s final conclusions. Ultimately, after another week, the major issues were all ironed out:

    1) When it came to Romania and Hungary, it was agreed the two countries would be neutralized. No countries could station troops there, nor could they join any military or political alliance. They would both be democratic nations, free from foreign pressure. They could not stop troop movements of either the Soviet Union or Fascist Blocs assuming they stuck to designated train routes. Owing to the political instability and lack of a credible Hungarian governing structure, having been obliterated in the German invasion, Mussolini suggested and got a referendum on the Monarchy in Hungary. In order to get this, it was agreed Finland would get a referendum on joining the Soviet Union, as its own SSR. The territorial acquisitions of the Fascist Bloc and Soviet Union since 1935 were mutually (and quietly) recognised while guarantees were put in place that they desired no further territory. Dobruja would be de-militarized although it would indeed be given to Bulgaria. In order to get this, Turkey would agree to partially demilitarizing its own Soviet border. Bessarabia would return to the Soviets as well.

    2) When it came to the locations of occupation, Germany would be divided into multiple sectors. Firstly, in return for Soviet annexation of Eastern Poland, Poland would seize much of Eastern Germany. Of what was left, Germany would be occupied by the French, American and British forces in the West of the country in their own sectors while the Soviets would run the East. Italy would be given an independent Austria to occupy. In Berlin, the Italians would get a slice of the Western sector, but the Soviets still ran the eastern half in its entirety.

    3) When it came down to the zones of influence of nations, the Soviets would occupy Slovakia while the Anglo-Americans would occupy the Czech portion of Czechoslovakia, though they would remain one state (or that was the intention). Poland would also be occupied by the Soviets, as would be East Germany and Finland. Stalin guaranteed free elections, regardless. However, this did not mean that Allied forces couldn’t attack German forces if they weren’t in their designated zones while the war still raged; only that they had to pull out when the fighting was done.

    4) Nazi War Criminals would be put on International Tribunals to determine guilt and prove their guilt to the world. However, Churchill craftily managed to convince everyone to have the political and military figures trialed separately, which would have huge repercussions after the war, especially in the case of Rommel.

    5) The Soviet Union would join the Pacific War in early 1945, though the precise territorial gains would be determined at a later date.

    Every one of these decisions would have colossal impact on the world to come. Some for good, some for evil. One effect was that the race for Berlin had begun. Ironically, Western leaders had no intention of letting their troops be the ones to seize the city. They were perfectly happy to let the Soviets bleed to get there. Then something strange happened – the Western advance was suddenly advancing far quicker than anyone had imagined. Wehrmacht troops surrendered in droves while they continued to fight the Soviet troops tooth and nail. Initially, it was due to the total collapse in morale among German troops as well as command confusion, leading many Germans to throw their hands in the air and give in to the relative safety of the Anglo-Americans (a luxury they most certainly didn’t have with the Soviets, or to a lesser extent Jewish and Italian forces).

    Almost by accident, the Race to Berlin began. Roosevelt was not happy – General Patton was very happy.

    We're Still Here!: The Story of Poland by Agata Tarski

    Many of the Polish resistance were terrified at the thought of bringing ahead the impending liberation of Warsaw – Witold Pilecki, having seen the inside of Auschwitz, was no longer afraid of anything. Many in the Polish resistance, especially the Communists, wanted to wait until the Red Army was right on the doorstep and only then revolt. However, Pilecki was loyal to the Polish government in exile, and knew the Polish resistance was at risk of being subverted into a Stalinist state. He was in communication with the British, who told him to expect Stalin to come barreling into the centre of Poland soon in a desperate dash to Berlin. Though it was hardly ideal, the Warsaw Resistance decided that on May 10th, the city would free itself. Pilecki would hide his rank and fight anonymously with his comrades. [1]

    On May 10th, the city erupted into a frenzy of shooting and bombing. The Germans, already baffled as to what was going on in this war, were too divided to properly function. The SS fought to the last while the Wehrmacht was highly individual. Some fought, some surrendered, and many ran. Ironically, the opposite was true against the Soviets. Against the Soviets, no German was stupid enough to surrender or run, because he felt that this was as much certain death as anything else. So while chaos reigned in the command structure against the Western nations, there was no such confusion against the Russians, hence that front being the sole location of decent German performance after the Valkyrie attack, as well as an almost total absence of SS/Wehrmacht conflict. All this ensured that within two days, Warsaw had been declared secure.

    Upon news that Warsaw had been taken, Stalin had a rather strange reaction, according to eyewitnesses. One staffer recalled, “he looked like the perfect halfway between anxiousness and anger.” Many suspect that Stalin was angry the Polish resistance liberated Warsaw itself, thus shutting out the Communist government Stalin hadn’t yet established, which would lead to the events that shook the world a few years later. Stalin’s troops were roughly a week away from Warsaw, and he ordered the offensive to keep going to ‘provide support for our allies’. Another staffer recalled, “If it was between killing everyone in the world and getting Berlin, he wouldn’t have thought twice about it”.

    On May 20th, Soviet troops came through Warsaw to polite but relatively unenthusiastic reception. From every window, the Polish flag hung draped. In fact, the route had been specifically chosen by the Poles to have the maximum numbers of Polish flags visible. Sometimes, Soviet soldiers passed whole houses painted white and red. They didn’t see a single Soviet flag – in fact, such flags had specifically been forbidden from being waved by Polish Resistance leaders, who wanted to send a message. The meaning was obvious: “Thank you for the help, but this is our country”. To this day, that Poland was the only nation who liberated their capital from Nazism by themselves is a source of immense pride to the Polish people.

    Unconquerable: The Story of the Jews of Hungary, by Mel Goldberg

    One important, though often overlooked agreement in the Kiev Conference was the clause that allowed troops of any Allied nation to cross into any region as long as it was occupied by German troops, whether to fight like the SS or perhaps surrender immediately like many of the Wehrmacht. This allowed Wingate to begin perhaps his most memorable operation of the war. While Trieste may have defined the Jewish resistance to Hitler itself, the Anglo-Jewish Army itself was soon to have its most memorable assignment.

    Wingate contacted Churchill and asked to keep going north from Budapest, into Slovakia and beyond. Wingate tried to convince Churchill of the wisdom of funneling the Soviets into a narrower corridor to delay their advance into Germany. Churchill saw right through it. “I know what you’re asking,” he told Wingate. “While I’m still not entirely convinced of the military wisdom, I want to know it for myself – if the reports are really true. If they are, history will curse me if I don’t go. And who better to go?”

    On May 10th, Operation Cyrus began. While the Soviets continued to desperately run to the West to reach Berlin before it fell to the other Allied powers or, God forbid, the Anti-Nazi members of the Wehrmacht, the Anglo-Jewish armies moved from Hungary into Slovakia. They knew they were only staying for a moment – they were cutting right across the country like a scythe. The Wehrmacht ran when the Anglo-Jewish forces came, fearing reprisal for all the cruelties unleashed on Jews during the War and before. Wingate didn’t chase them. The SS fought them, but Wingate and his men fought back with better supplies, morale and purpose. Onward they went – they all knew where.

    On June 2nd, the first reconnaissance troops of the Jewish forces could make out Auschwitz.

    [1] – True story.
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    "It's All True."
  • “It’s All True”

    Day (1990) by Elie Wiesel

    It was a little island. The SS had been trapped in the camp since the Wehrmacht surrounded them on all sides. The army guys were smart too – they broke and ran the moment we got close and gave us a clear way right up to the gates. They knew we would walk on broken glass with our legs broken and still march without hesitation right up to the camp. I also guess they didn’t want to be anywhere near the camp when we discovered what was there. From what we were told later, it appears the SS in the camp debated what to do. Some of them wanted a fight to the death, some of them wanted to hold the prisoners hostage, but they chose a third; pretending nothing was wrong and letting us in. Zvi [1] ordered me to open up the gates, so I took the bolt-cutters and walked in to that place. The place I was going to be sent. Where my father would be sent. Where my mother would be sent. Where my sister would be sent. Where everyone in my family and everyone I loved and everyone I knew was going to be sent.

    Hundreds. Thousands. Tens of thousands. Hundreds of Thousands. All with that awful Yellow Star. They were alive, but so many seemed disappointed they hadn’t died – knowing what it was like to see all you’ve ever loved taken away from you. This was the bottom. This was man sunk to its most degraded, broken form. I saw people crawling to me with so little flesh you could see the white of their bones. Faces that looked more like skulls with eyes in them. Some people were too exhausted even to move. Others had their eyes so far sunk into their skulls that I thought they were dead. Some were dead. Some were bleeding. Some lay lifeless on the barbed wire of the fence, as if trying to run to us in a fit of blind madness and having been shot in another pointless death.

    Even now, I cannot begin to describe to you what it was like. It was like walking into the lowest level of Dante’s Inferno, only a Hell that fell on the innocent. Some Jews wept in joy when they saw us, some were so traumatised by the experience that they simply screamed in the corners of the bloody, dirty barracks where they were caged like the lowest of animals, some pleaded with us in a hundred different languages, none of which I knew, for things I knew not.

    This is where they wanted to put me. The Nazis wanted to put me in this place. They wanted to turn me into one of these poor creatures just before they killed me, and kill me they would. My death wasn’t enough for them. They wanted to make me suffer. They wanted to hurt me inside and out. They wanted to rob me of my family, rob me of the people I loved and tear my soul to pieces, and only then would they kill me. Just because I was Jewish.

    My head began to get cloudy as I led the men onwards through the Gates of Death.


    We met the camp commandant Rudolf Höss. I remember being quiet, sullen when I met him – I was too shocked and appalled by what I saw to keep a clear mind. That suited him fine, since he was hardly speaking himself. I think I was the only one of us who didn’t look like I wanted to kill him on the spot – I was just too stunned to do anything. Zvi asked him who he was, his rank and what was going on here. Höss tried to explain that the deaths had been due to cholera and starvation owing to a lack of supplies, hastened by the betrayal of elements of the Wehrmacht. He tried to assure us that the Jews had been treated most delicately – that arbitrary cruelty was not permitted. I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know how I hadn’t already killed him.

    Then, as we walked along, we came across a pile of shoes. We looked at the size of the pile – thousands. We knew there had been other piles as well. Thousands of shoes were right there. Then I looked at the size of the shoes themselves. Most of them were smaller than my hand. I could see the fury build up on the men’s faces, as they seemed like rabid dogs on the end of a leash desperate for any reason to lash out. Zvi picked one shoe up and looked back to Höss. He looked quite pale now. Zvi asked Höss a pretty simple question: “May I ask, Commandant, are these the shoes of Jewish children?”

    He didn’t answer, so Zvi asked another question:

    “May I ask, Commandant, why I haven’t seen any children at the camp since we arrived?”

    This was my last memory of Höss. Indeed, it was my last memory before what happened. All I remember is that when I woke up, I was lying on the ground of that God-forsaken place. I wondered how much time had gone by, so I looked at my watch. When I went to look, I could see my hands were bright red from blood.

    Unconquerable: The Story of the Jews of Hungary, by Mel Goldberg

    Wingate arrived in Auschwitz the next day, but roughly three hundred SS men who worked at Auschwitz had been killed by the Jewish Army after already having surrendered – many others were beaten to within an inch of their lives. Often, the prisoners themselves got to deliver the killing blows as a bloody reprisal. A few officers attempted to put on prison clothes and blend in with the inmates – this was certain death if they were captured. Höss’s body was never recovered, as he had been beaten, bound and thrown alive into one of the crematoriums, with Brenner having done the lion’s share of the work. Joseph Mengele, who had been called ‘The Angel of Death’ by inmates for his cruel activities of medical experiments on everyone down to children, was found drowned in an ice-bath he had used to see how long humans could survive in freezing cold temperature. Most other guards who had been particularly vicious were beaten to death, shot or hanged. The only method of killing not accounted for was the gas chamber. Perhaps it was considered blasphemous to kill the Nazis where so many of their friends and family had died, and they didn’t want to sully their memories. The subsequent Auschwitz Trials of 1946 were quite barren owing to the worst offenders having already been killed and Eichmann having already been sentenced at Nuremburg.

    The killings at Auschwitz of Nazi Loyalists has been the subject of much moral controversy, even in Israel. The very name has been debated, with some countries illegalizing the description of the event as ‘The Auschwitz Massacre’ (which is seen as disingenuous to the actual slaughter at the camp), for the more neutral ‘Auschwitz reprisals’ and so forth. The ethical questions of the reprisals have been explored in films, plays and novels ever since. Zvi Brenner’s subsequent trial would be a media extravaganza, with Wingate publicly coming to his defence with Churchill keeping silent, though telling Eden, “I probably would have done the same”. Mussolini would intervene and say that sentencing Brenner over the Auschwitz Reprisals would be “a final slap in the face to the victims of the Holocaust”. This would become one of the origins of the Right-Left divide in Israel, with publicity surrounding the trial turning Menachem Begin into a national superstar for his defence of Brenner and praise of ‘Italian sense over British fear’. But this remained in the future.

    “It’s all true,” was Wingate’s infamous three-word report back to London upon his investigation of Auschwitz. Churchill still couldn’t believe it, and asked among his staff if Wingate’s Zionist tendencies had clouded his judgment. But follow-up reports, and the quick dissemination of pictures of everything (the crematoriums, gas chambers, etc.) soon changed Churchill’s mind. Within days, a BBC crew had arrived and recorded the scenes of more than 100,000 [2] broken, starving inmates on the verge of death. The undeniable, unbelievable scenes of the greatest act of inhumanity in human history would be blasted around the world that summer from Rome to San Francisco.

    “There is no slander or libel we can invent more terrible than that which the Nazis have already done,” Churchill would tell the House of Commons upon reporting Wingate’s findings. Roosevelt would decry to the press, “It is impossible to conceive an ideology more vile than the one we’re fighting against”. Mussolini would condemn, “The ancient Teutonic Barbarity that is opposed to Civilization in all forms”.

    Stalin said nothing.

    The Death Spiral: Stalin 1941-1953 by Alexi Ivanovitch

    While Stalin had always suspected the Western Allies of having been deceiving him, the inclusion of Italy was gasoline to the fire. Once Mussolini and Churchill started coordinating much more frequently and obviously attempting to stall Soviet advances into Europe for no other reason than to ensure Communism would never thrive there, Stalin’s paranoia began to go beyond its old boundaries. And of course, one of the primary victims would be the Jewish population, whom Stalin was increasingly seeing as more loyal to the Anglo-Jewish forces and their Italian saviors rather than their own country.

    Staffers report that Stalin had a strange reaction to Auschwitz in the Politburo meeting soon later. He asked Molotov whether it was really possible that all the reports could have been true, and could have simply been a ploy by the British to increase their support among the Jewish populations by ‘liberating them’ from such a place. Stalin further mused that the plan was to take the “spotlight of anguish” off the Russian people, and plant it on the Jews to justify the ill-treatment the Soviets received at the Kiev Conference. Likely wishing not to be on the wrong end of a Purge, most nodded in assent that the possibility existed. After the meeting, Stalin pulled Khrushchev aside and asked him whether Zionism could be an Imperialist plot to colonize the Middle East. Khrushchev assured Stalin that with the Imperialists anything was possible. In his infamous reply, Stalin said, “Then we should ensure it becomes impossible, wouldn’t you agree?”

    While news of Auschwitz would bring an outpouring of support for Jewish communities worldwide, the only place life demonstrably worsened was in the Soviet Union. Zionist newspapers and organisations were suddenly under much greater watch – a handful were outright banned. At the time, it was largely unnoticed, but it would lead into the events that would define the late forties and early fifties, not just in the Soviet Union, but the world at large.

    Extract from the Trial of Erich Von Manstein in Berlin, May 19th 1944

    Roland Freisler: “And why did you decide to betray the German Reich?”

    Manstein: “Sir, I betrayed the Reich the moment I obeyed a command uttered by Adolf Hitler.”


    Manstein: “Sir, I would tread carefully, as pretty soon you yourself shall be on trial, as shall the rest of the Nazi usurpers.”


    Manstein: “I was thinking just the same thing, sir.”

    The Second World War – Christopher Armlong

    Roughly a month into the Valkyrie Uprising by the middle of May 1944, the dreams of the plotters had been almost entirely shut down. Berlin was securely under SS control, as was pretty much every major city with the exception of Hamburg within Germany, which was now besieged by Wehrmacht Loyalists and SS troops. Despite Post-War attempts by the West German government to make the civil strife ripping through Germany in 1944 a simple tale of ‘the brave Wehrmacht against the evil SS’, more Wehrmacht troops actually sided with the Himmler Government over Beck’s Hamburg Government, at least for the first month. Indeed, a significant portion of the defenders of Hamburg were traditional Socialists and Communists who now finally had a chance to rise up and fight the regime they hated so much. Some of the Valkyrie plotters, like Von Manstein and Von Kluge had already been given Kangaroo Trials and were executed, Manstein under particularly brutal circumstances for his flippant address of Judge Roland Freisler. The Field Marshall would be slowly decapitated with a knife, as per Himmler’s orders.

    Elsewhere, the Italians had taken most of Austria, marching into Vienna without a fight, as the Valkyrie fighters had seized the city (thus preserving an inordinate amount of the city’s traditional architecture). Italy was already in the process of restoring the old Austro-Fascist state of the 1930s, only this time with much more Italian steel backing it up. The next stage was to continue on into the south of Germany, to Munch and so forth.

    On the Western Front, the Siegfried Line failed to live up to its reputation in German propaganda as an impenetrable wall and American troops under Patton had streamed past it. British troops under Montgomery had almost totally liberated Belgium and were in the process of freeing the Netherlands. This had seemed almost a total impossibility just months ago, but the total collapse of order in the German lines had led to more surrenders that the Allies knew what to do with. Added to that, a gigantic internal exodus of Germans had begun, with German civilians fleeing to the West to escape oncoming Soviet forces, who had still failed to seize a German city by that point but this was soon to change.

    Rommel was like most Germans, he knew the War as a whole was lost, but was terrified of what Soviet invasion would mean for the Reich. With Valkyrie having failed to relieve the situation, he would make a second decision even more difficult than the one to join the plotters. However, it was likely the one that would save his reputation after the War.

    Interview of Erwin Rommel for the BBC’s ‘World At War’ (1973)

    Interviewer: “Why did you decide to surrender your forces to the West?”

    Rommel: “Because I knew the War was lost, I knew the Plot had failed and I knew I didn’t want Russian troops in Berlin. I wasn’t a fool. I knew that our organisation’s initial demands to the West were not going to be accepted but I thought at least they’d get in power and we could find some better solution, certainly a better one than the Nazis would conceive. Then the Plot failed and we didn't even get that. I knew that the next few years were going to be very tough on Germany. But I also knew we had to do what would increase the long-term potential for our country. I decided that the only way we were going to come out of this war as a proud nation was to separate the perception of our brave, noble army and the Nazis. We had already made a start with the assassination of Hitler but I knew we needed something more than that. I decided the only thing that could do it was if we fought alongside the West. Not to mention, by now, the SS was starting to get suspicious of me. I hadn’t declared for either side in the Civil War, merely saying that I was too busy defending Germany at the Front to concern myself with the political situation at home. That excuse was starting to get thin. Manstein’s death was what finally convinced me to go through with it.”

    Interviewer: “So what did you do?”

    Rommel: “On May 22nd, I ordered my forces all along the Western Front to ceasefire. I then sent a message to the Americans telling them that not only was I willing to surrender, but that I wished to create a German army group loyal to the Hamburg government to depose the Nazi regime.”

    Interviewer: “What was the reaction?”

    Rommel: “It was quite a surprise to them, as I’m sure it was to everyone, myself included. I’d developed quite a reputation in Britain and America owing to our various reversals across France, as well as my own story from the Russian Front. They got back to me at the end of the day after what I gathered later was some frantic back and forth, saying that this would not absolve me from trials for war crimes, that I would remain under military arrest for the whole duration of the service and that I would be under Allied command as more of an advisory.”

    Interviewer: “And you were fine with this?”

    Rommel: “I thought these were fair prices to pay if it could separate the German army from the horror of the Nazis. Of course, after I learned what was going on in Auschwitz, I lost any lingering regret of the decision I had.”

    Interviewer: “How was your meeting with Allied Commanders for the surrender?”

    Rommel: (*Smiles*) "Then General Patton was there. We went through the formalities, my surrendering as well as what consisted of most of the Western Front. When we were done, much to the shock of the other Allied leaders, he smiled and walked up to me."

    Interviewer: “What did he do?”

    Rommel: “He told me he read my book. That and some other words I’m afraid I can’t repeat.”

    [1] – Zvi Brenner, Hagannah Commander

    [2] – No Death marches since the place is surrounded by hostile Wehrmacht forces. Thus, the place is utterly crowded. It makes the OTL scenes of Bergen-Belson's liberation look like nothing.

    [3] – This is actually how Freisler trials went
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    Intermission- De Gaulle
  • Here with another side post, about the French perspective of the war, as usual revised and approved by Sorairo:

    The Struggle of a Leader: Charles De Gaulle and Free France, by Xavier Montruil

    In early 1944, Charles de Gaulle, despite his bravado and proclamations of the imminent liberation of France and so on, was a frustrated man in private. In almost four years, all he did to liberate his country and above all reassert French prestige faced constant obstacles. France would be free soon, but the debacle of the defeat of 1940 still hurt, contributing in his failing to be one of the major leaders of the alliance against Germany. And, what was worse, Mussolini and Italy took the role destined for him and France.

    To his defence, De Gaulle had constantly played a hard game with the British and the Italians since the armistice of Compiegne and his establishment as head of government of the French government in exile supported by London. In fact, while Italy still affirmed neutrality in the War, Mussolini and Ciano started to discuss how to exploit the fall of France and its divided government, knowing both Churchill and Hitler were interested to get the Italians on their sides.

    Mussolini and Ciano already decided to not recognize either side until the end of the war; nonetheless they decided to stage preliminary talks with both the Vichy government and De Gaulle. Naturally in the first weeks after Compiegne the odds were all in favour of Petain because the overseas French colonies all declared for him; while De Gaulle had only the divisions evacuated in Britain (and not free to use them as he wished at the start, with Churchill needing all the available manpower to face a potential German invasion), some ship in British harbours and a handful of collaborators.

    However there were issues between Vichy and Rome. It was soon clear since the start that the Italians didn’t have the possibility to discuss certain border territories (Nice, Savoy, Corsica, Tunisia and Dijibuti) due to impending German veto. Hitler wasn’t going to let Mussolini snatch any French territory unless Italy would intervene on German side, and this allowed Petain and his ministers to feel more reassured towards both Germans and Italians at the time. To the Allies, those claims were mostly considered a provocation from Mussolini as reply from the initial intransigence over Abyssinia. These would mask the intention from the Duce to start a different negotiation about the true Italian aims, essentially over Yugoslavia and Greece. However the French at the time weren’t interested in sacrificing the Yugoslavians to appease the Italians nor to renounce their “Little Entente” network, working as defensive measure against the same Italy but also as way to spread French influence in the Balkans.

    But in the early summer of 1940, neither Petain nor De Gaulle had the capacity and the interest to defend Yugoslavia or hold in any way the Little Entente. It wasn’t too difficult to obtain from Vichy or London the acceptance of nothing more than rhetorical condemnation of the Italian War in the Balkans. If Italy was simply willing to respect all the borders between them and the French, then the better for both governments. However difficulties started to come when the Italians tried to discuss a regulation of commerce and other movements with Petain, something the old General wasn’t hostile at all. This faced German distrust however, as Hitler wanted Italian trade to be prioritized towards Germany for its war effort rather than displacing eventual supplies and resources towards a French puppet. He insisted such trade restrictions should have been extended to French Africa as well. Also there were many Frenchmen taking refuge in Italy, a large contingent being Jews, as Petain casually implemented multiple anti-Semitic laws to please Hitler. Considering France had a long history of anti-Semitic persecutions, it was easy for the Vichy government to adopt them. The active persecution towards the Jews of France with their deportation to the camps started after the collapse of the regime lasting for almost a year and an half – thankfully, a large part were rescued by Mussolini’s 1942 agreement with the Reich. The disproportionately educated and wealthy French Jews (compared to other European nations) managed to have more than 50,000 of their number saved. While De Gaulle condemned the actions of the Vichy regime towards the persecutions following the War, promising strong action and at laws “to eradicate anti-Semitism forever from French soil”, the French relations with Israel would have been pretty icy in the first years, especially owing to France’s support towards Syria and Lebanon in the mere attempt to rebuild its influence in the Middle East. For obvious reasons, these attempts were halted following the Arabian Wars.

    Returning to the early summer of 1940, the fate of the French fleet, mostly located on Toulon, became the major point of debate between the Italians and the Vichy regime, and another between the Italians and the Germans. Like Churchill, Mussolini didn’t want that navy to fall under German control, and pressed for its neutrality. Over this issue the Duce wasn’t going to budge and in the end Hitler was forced reluctantly to cave, accepting the proposal of compromise of Admiral Françoise Darlan to move the fleet in Algeria and in Senegal, docking at Mers El Kebir and Dakar and staying idle for the end of the war. Mussolini was satisfied, and apparently Churchill was too, but their was no time for any party to take advantage of the situation, as Hitler established a German mission in Corsica – in short establishing military outposts and a garrison.

    That was surely a slap to the face of Mussolini, who wouldn’t let this slide so easily, starting with freezing further talks with Petain and increasing contacts through the Italian embassy in London with De Gaulle and its “Free France” movement. Certain advisors convinced Ciano and Mussolini that the French General would eventually attempt through British support to regain the French colonies and establish a government in exile there. It was a situation very appealing for Mussolini, believing that the war in Europe would end in a stall with the rise of two French states, France proper under Petain’s control and a French overseas state in exile ruled by De Gaulle, both being weak enough and therefore more easy to become prey of Italian interests.

    Before departing towards Africa, during 1940 De Gaulle had at least a couple of encounters with Italian agents, with the British government looking away. The French General wasn’t too elated to receive Italian support, because it was clear it was to Rome’s advantage, yet the Italians conceded De Gaulle couldn’t compromise over something he didn’t control as of yet. However, certain written and vocal arrangements in case of a potential success of Free France (both Italian and French authorities after the war kept their discretion over such encounters) were apparently arranged. According to certain voices, De Gaulle was willing to concede full independence to Tunisia after the war and allow major Italian investments, also discussing the status of Dijibuti, not excluding the possibility to sell it to Italy.

    Regardless, De Gaulle planned a “French Africa first” strategy and staged initial contacts with local colonial officers, but Churchill hampered those initial efforts, as he didn’t trust the Vichy neutrality of the French Fleet, deciding in the end to destroy it. Through Operation Catapult, the 3rd July of 1940 the Royal Navy obliterated the French ships at Mers El Kebir, followed by a similar attack at Dakar. While the British eradicated a potential threat, De Gaulle was flabbergasted, because the attack at the time irked the various French colonial administrations and the metropolitan French population, enforcing the support to the Vichy regime. But also Mussolini protested vehemently against the British assault, though in the end not being totally displeased – whatever would be the fate of France after the war, now the Regia Marina was the largest fleet in the Mediterranean. If else, Mers El Kebir caused sensation in the Italian admiralty, due to the role played by the single air carrier in sinking the French navy through the RAF bombers departed from the deck of that ship, giving new arguments from Balbo to let the Italian navy finally build its carriers as well, while contesting the “Italy as natural carrier in the Mediterranean” principle when the best use of a carrier wasn’t air coverage but mobility. Mussolini effectively wavered on this point and only after Pearl Harbour, which was a Mers El Kebir amplified, agreed with Balbo of the necessity to build Italian carriers as well. Naturally, given the long delay and therefore inexperience of Italy over carrier engineering, it was necessary to start to the basics – in Liguria, two kinda old cruise liners ships would face conversion into escort carriers. The Aquila and the Sparviero were started towards the end of 1941 and the start of 1942, the first one completed just in time in late 1943 to be sent in the Upper Adriatic sea to face its baptism in assisting the air support over the battle of Trieste. Interestingly enough, the Aquila was equipped with German scrapped components bought in 1942 in one of the last major Italian-German commercial deals.

    Returning over the aftermath of Mers El Kebir, De Gaulle’s initial attempts to gain the support of French Africa ended into failure, added by a rebuked attempt to land in Dakar; those failures started to sour the general’s opinion towards Churchill and the British, while the same Churchill started to look with some suspicion to De Gaulle feeling he could get a stronger connection with the Italians. But then in the September of 1940, the Vichy Government caved over the Japanese demands to let them occupy French Tonkin and practically consider French Indochina as a protectorate of the Rising Sun. This, along with a subservient approach of Petain to the Germans, allowed the initial defection of French Equatorial Africa in favour of De Gaulle, followed soon by the French Caribbeans, Guyana and Australasian archipelagos.

    Having finally an open angle to operate, De Gaulle established the Free France government in Brazzaville and started the liberation of French Africa. This forced Petain to send Darlan to Algeria and organize the resistance, starting what in certain French books is called the Colonial Civil War. It would take another year and a half for the Free French to enter Algiers, while Darlan was assassinated when trying to escape in Libya.

    The liberation of Algeria allowed the Anglo-Americans, landed in the Maghreb around the same time, to prepare the invasion of Corsica, favoured by Italian silent assent. The fall of Corsica was the death sentence of the Vichy regime, dissolved after the direct German occupation of South France. This brought Mussolini, distressed over Hitler’s decision, to recognize the Free French government as “ Allied co-belligerant” and the legitimate administration of the French overseas territories. While Berlin wasn’t happy with this decision, Hitler still had to restrain his tongue to “keep Italy in line” as he put it. London and Washington weren’t too happy as well. It could have be seen as an ulterior attempt of Mussolini to approach the Allies in a moment their fortunes were finally surging; at worst, they suspected a growing alignment of De Gaulle towards the Italians.

    De Gaulle knew of those voices and tried to contest them, but without evident success as he was left out from the various encounters between Roosevelt and Churchill, or between them and Stalin along 1942 and 1943. Besides he faced growing hostility from the British when he tried to promote a plan to land in France and certainly did not make the Free French happy. But then Stalin started to press for the opening of a Western Front; Roosevelt wanted to end the war in Europe soon as possible; in the end Churchill agreed to allow the invasion of Northern France for the Summer of 1943, to the delight of De Gaulle. The landing in Normandy was a struggled success… but then the Allied forces were obliged to start a war of attrition which slowed considerably from what the French General believed to be a triumphal advance to Paris, and instead ravaged the Northern French countryside with Rommel. However, to his consolation the French metropolitan resistance fought with valour as it started their open war guerrilla encouraged also by the proclaims of De Gaulle.

    Still, the morale was low, and to stunt the French effort in the liberation of the motherland came the word towards the late fall of 1943 that Hitler ordered the destruction of Paris should the Allies get too close… then, to break this bloody stalemate, the events in Hungary which led to the German invasion of Italy changed De Gaulle’s perspective of the war again. For better or worse, the Spanish troops flooded Aquitaine, and De Gaulle was forced to hear and approve of Franco’s pilgrimage in Lourdes with French partisans cheering him. All while the Italians crossed the Alps and swept all the way to the Rhone, from Marseille to Lyon. And it didn’t reassure him the official declarations of the Roman Alliance that “not an inch of French soil will be annexed”. The General knew that Mussolini and Franco would search retribution in other forms and ways, and Churchill at least would eventually be willing to concede. Franco in fact was already planning for starters to discuss the Spanish perpetual rule over the Rif and Mussolini was reconsidering again to discuss the post war status of Tunisia.

    The Kiev conference was a blow for De Gaulle, ignored to the advantage of Mussolini. His grim mood those days however improved when he heard of the quarrels during the conference, which gave him a new opportunity. Despite the sudden news of the death of Hitler and Germany plunging into civil war favoured a positive conclusion of the conference and a general convergence over the most contested points, De Gaulle found an opening for himself between the growing divisions between Americans and British, the progressive British-Italian warming, and the Soviet displeasure. In the days after the Kiev Conference, he suggested asserting a proper relationship with the Americans, in name of the “historical friendship between France and America” (implied against British pretensions) and finding a potential convergence in not allowing the Italians and their allies to not extend further their influence after the war (considering also that the Roman Alliance was covering the entire French southern flank).

    Roosevelt wasn’t too sympathetic towards De Gaulle. While not denying his commitment to democracy he believed in the General there was a certain aptitude which reminded him of Mussolini. But he conceded that France needed to be treated on par with Britain and Italy, and through his intermission suggested that a French delegation would be present on the successive conferences. Churchill wasn’t elated but caved over such request; Stalin was favourable, because while De Gaulle wasn’t certainly a friend of Communism, he wasn’t like Roosevelt hostile to a Soviet expansion in Central Europe, at expense of the Germans and working eventually to restrain Italy. Mussolini wasn’t hostile either, because he conceded that soon or later a discussion with the French would be inevitable and De Gaulle would be their leader and diplomat. In truth, at least from what was reported from Italian side, the Duce admired the struggle of De Gaulle and his capacities and wasn’t hostile to work with him after the war on a more equal level. At the same time, it is reported that De Gaulle wasn’t totally hostile to Mussolini, but he had a certain sentiment amongst Frenchmen who saw the Italians as “lesser cousins”; as France was the reason Italy became a united country and for this should be eternally grateful. Added to a sense of enduring pretended superiority towards the Italians, Post-War relations would go through a difficult stabilization period.

    Despite having already seized Paris earlier that year, with Patton giving reluctant assent for a joint American-French squad to enter the city, De Gaulle still felt conflicted. Even though Paris was saved from ruin owing to the suddenness of the city having been taken after the total collapse of the Wehrmacht following the war with the Fascist Bloc, De Gaulle knew there were tough days ahead for his country. Perhaps, if he knew the struggles that were about to swallow his current allies in the years to come (on both sides of the Atlantic) he would have felt better.
    The Jester Takes the Crown
  • The Jester takes the Crown

    The Second World War – Christopher Armlong

    News of Rommel’s defection hit Germany like a thunderbolt. That their hero, the man who had so gallantly saved them repeatedly in Russia, who had taken over France without a sweat and had given the Allies bloody nose after bloody nose in Normandy had switched sides was incomprehensible. The initial reaction of the Himmler government was to deny it, which was quickly disproven by pictures of Rommel and Patton shaking hands. From there, Goebbels was given his toughest assignment to date – making the Germans hate Rommel.

    Goebbels accused Rommel of “succumbing to ego”, “spitting on the graves of his dead soldiers” and “wishing the rape of every German women to the Jew and Russian savages”. It left little to the imagination, but it had little effect. Most Germans had little hatred of the Americans, British or Italians. They were, however, terrified of the Jewish and Soviet soldiers in the East. For that reason, Churchill would forbid the Jewish Army advancing any closer to Germany than liberating Prague, which it did by mid-July. [1] For that reason, Rommel’s defection was seen in a much more forgiving light.

    Rommel would have little front-line command, but his very presence was a game-changer. He had formed a new army, mostly consisting of soldiers who fought on the side of the Valkyrie Coup in the ‘Free German Army’, which quickly grew to about 20,000 men once resolved Anti-Nazis joined in. The ranks continued to grow daily – some Nazis even joining to ‘get this over before Stalin makes a corpse of our country’ said one. By Summer, almost three quarters of Wehrmacht troops would surrender to the Allies without a fight. The only trouble the Allies faced were the SS and Wehrmacht loyalists, the latter being particularly troublesome in that some would feign surrender and launch surprise attacks.

    Nevertheless, by mid-July, Patton had crossed the Rhine. The bridges had been preserved by Wehrmacht troops who had defected owing to Rommel’s own defection. The Soviets continue to struggle against the Germans in Poland, but Patton had his eyes on the prize, not that it was easy to convince the President to keep going.

    The Madhouse: Germany After Hitler, Before the Occupation, by Ronald Hines

    Perhaps the greatest indicator of the mental state of Berlin in 1944 was the faux Trial of Rommel. It consisted of a framed picture of the Field Marshall on a chair in front of Reich Judge Roland Freisler. Freisler berated the inanimate object as if it was Rommel himself and sentenced Rommel to death. A squad of SS members proceeded to grab the picture and smash it on the ground. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this event was the relative indifference the people of Berlin felt given the insanity surrounding them.

    Himmler, who had already begun the pointless task of trying to destroy evidence of the Final Solution, decided that the Wehrmacht was simply too dangerous to the health of the state and began a round of Stalin-based purges, even those who weren’t in the army at the time. Walter Von Brauchitsch found himself dragged from his house in the night and shot against the wall despite being in enforced retirement simply due to his historic disagreements with Hitler. Von Rundstedt luckily got word and defected to the West before anything could happen while Kesselring surrendered to the Italians and Von Kluge was safely in Hamburg. Georg Von Küchler and Fedor Von Bock were not so lucky and were both discreetly executed before being replaced by SS hacks. Only Model and Von Leeb were truly prized, as their historic enthusiasm for the Nazi Party line, especially when it came to Jews, was their salvation. Even still Von Leeb was given a fake execution to scare him into compliance. As Goebbels said ‘The ‘Von’ is our enemy’. This ignored the rather obvious fact that Rommel was not a ‘Von’. Himmler ordered his men to prepare a defence of the Reich from the ‘Satanic Babylon of Nations’ as Goebbels called it on the radio.

    Everyone was conscripted down to pre-teens and men who were alive when Prussia wasn’t just a province. Street executions of ‘deserters’, ‘race-traitors’, ‘Judaists’ and a host of other charges were as daily a part of life in Berlin as going to the store for bread. It is estimated that there was, on average, a public execution in Berlin every day for the Summer, owing to Himmler’s belief that this would ‘put steel in our bellies’. Needless to say, supplies were getting scarce, though anyone who attempted to leave Berlin, had to have a very good reason unless they wanted to be put up against a wall. This was Total War, and the bombing runs from American, British and by now even Italian planes were increasing. Some cities declared for the Hamburg Government after Rommel’s defection for no other reason than to spare them from bombing runs. With the Jewish Army marching through Czechoslovakia, Dresden was terrified at the prospect of being in the crossfire. The army executed the SS officials and Nazi leaders in the town and declared that Dresden was an open city. Himmler ordered Dresden to be “blasted to rubble” but only after Berlin was upheld against ‘the Cowboy and the Traitor’, by which he meant Patton and Rommel. This would ultimately mean the salvation of ‘Germany’s Venice’, as it was known.

    Patton raced through Germany as quick as his supplies could take him. “He’s learned well from me,” joked Rommel, as Patton cut a swathe right through the heart of Germany, with only one target: the one target that would cause so much grief for everyone.

    The Dark Decade: America in the 40s by Wendy Walters

    The fight over Rommel’s involvement in the Allies was to have at least one major casualty. Roosevelt and Churchill would furiously argue, with the former believing that Rommel was just an opportunist looking to escape the collapse of the Reich while Churchill seemed willing to give him a shot. The impasse was only broken when Patton demanded Rommel be brought onto the Allied side. Faced with the overwhelmingly popular Patton threatening to resign if Rommel would be kept in a camp for the whole rest of the War, Roosevelt finally relented.

    Roosevelt had a troubled few years. His collapse in his relationship with Churchill had affected him and he could feel a layer of coldness between them. The introduction of Mussolini into the Allied fold had made him bitter and resentful, especially when Churchill was seen as getting close to him. After the exhausting Kiev Conference and subsequent fights with Churchill, Roosevelt would grow more and more withdrawn. Historians generally believe that the collapse in his personal relationships and much heightened stress would be the ultimate contributors to his death.

    After discovering what was being done in Auschwitz, he issued a press release on June 6th detailing his disgust. After discussing the matters with his generals on June 7th, he called the meeting short and said he was feeling sick due to all the suffering he was now privy too, thus going to bed. However, on the morning of June 8th, staff noticed that he hadn’t arisen. When doctors investigated, they had concluded he had died of a gigantic cerebral hemorrhage in his sleep. That morning, Vice-President Henry Wallace was whisked to the White House and given the Oath. Though he didn’t want it to be like this, there was no other way around it. He was now the 33rd President of the United States of America. It would be the beginning of some of the most troubled years in America since the Civil War.

    [1] And of course, that the feared the fury of having discovered Auschwitz could lead to reprisals on the civilian population
    O Fortuna
  • O Fortuna

    First Radio Address of President Henry Wallace, June 8th 1944

    “Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a great American. He was a great man. And he was a great friend. With all his strength, he fought this terrible war against the slave world, that it may become free. We know what we’re fighting against – we’re fighting against the monsters whose trail of carnage we have seen from the fires of Pearl Harbour to the abominations of Auschwitz. We will confront this evil on all sides, at home and abroad, until evil is just a memory itself. And then not even ‘fear’ would have to be feared.”

    The Dark Decade: America in the 40s by Wendy Walters

    As the news of Roosevelt’s death travelled the world, the Allied and Pact leaders took stock of the new leader of the Land of the Free. Among the Nazis, a new round of ludicrous delusion swept over, that Wallace’s more open embrace of the Soviets and Communism would trigger a conflict with Britain and Italy. This was obviously not going to happen but the Nazi government had rarely had a decent grasp of reality to begin with. The Beck government in Hamburg was disappointed, as Wallace seemed even less likely to grant a peace that left Russia in the cold. Churchill and Mussolini, however, were both stunned. Churchill was by now even more convinced of the unreliability of America to stand up to Stalin during the Allied conferences, and Mussolini redoubled his efforts to minimize Soviet influence in Europe for the same reason.

    But some of the most visceral anti-Wallace feeling came not just within his own country, but his own party. The Southern-wing of the Democrats were mortified that an open Civil Rights supporter had ascended to the Presidency. Wallace’s uncomfortably naïve views of the Soviet Union were also strong contributors to the utter distaste he was held in by large elements of the party. As James Eastland said to his associates, “If it was Wallace and Himmler on a Mississippi ballot, it would be a close run thing.” Harry Byrd of Virginia, seen as the spiritual leader of the conservative wing of the Democrats, had put up token resistance to Roosevelt to pressure his race policies by challenging him for the ballot at the 1944 convention. However, it couldn’t be merely ‘token’ anymore. With barely a month to go, he began sounding the alarms across the party that Wallace would be electoral poison south of the Mason-Dixon line and above. Many Democrat Party officials agreed with Byrd, even among the anti-segregationists, who saw Wallace as too naïve for the role. The idea was to get enough votes for Byrd that the convention would have to be decided in a cigar-filled room with the top echelons of the Democrat Party ruthlessly deciding on a unity candidate for the northern and southern wings.

    Wallace himself, however, was quite popular with the American populace, as strange as it sounds now. He was coming off the back of the death of a popular President, was seen as on the side of the working man and people still blamed the Republicans and Wall Street for the Depression. At the same time, internal polls in the Democrat ranks showed that the convention was looking to be a bloodbath of disunity. It was only due to Operation Ragnarok that this all changed.

    The Madhouse: Germany After Hitler, Before the Occupation, by Ronald Hines

    Hitler, owing to his experiences with gas in WW1, would not use it during WW2. Unfortunately, Himmler would have no such objections. He had actually ordered Speer to manufacture far more Sarin and other forms of deadly chemical weapons to combat the invading forces. Speer, knowing that it would only be used on Germany as the ability for delivery had been totally diminished, not to mention the inevitable chemical retaliation, pretended to Himmler that he was carrying out the command. However, he was delaying with all the strength he could. Unfortunately for Speer, the Gestapo soon discovered his deception. Himmler considered a public execution but didn’t want to raise Allied concerns. For that reason, Albert Speer was bundled into the back of a car on June 10th 1944 and was never heard from again. With Speer’s near certain death, Himmler purged Speer’s offices, replacing them with SS loyalists. Operation Ragnarok would go as planned.

    The speed of the American advance into the heart of Germany, even with Rommel’s defection, was astonishing to the world press. Patton seemed to be destined to reach Berlin without a hitch. Unfortunately, this was only half legitimate. Himmler had deliberately been holding his forces back for his final ace up the sleeve: Operation Ragnarok. The plan was to let the Americans and British rush into Germany, outreach their supply lines and be left at the mercy of the SS and Wehrmacht Loyalists. With that, a final attack would be launched with chemical weapons. This would supposedly obliterate the main element of the Anglo-American forces, as well as obliterating the last remnants of the Valkyrie government in Hamburg. It was expected (there were, as can be seens, a lot of addendums that came with this plan) that this would cause the Anglo-Americans to sue for peace. Then, Italy, being Latin cowards, would realise that they could not stand up to the Nordic might of German steel and would organize a mutual treaty with the rest of the Fascist Bloc to leave Germany alone. Thus freed of the ‘Slavic burdens’ of Romania and Hungary, the Germans would easily overcome the Soviet invasion and once more march on Moscow. It was the plan of a madman – unfortunately for Germany, he was the most powerful man there. Unfortunately still, Himmler was now ready to unleash his other hidden card – the Vengeance Weapon, as it became known in the West. It was a missile that could send explosive cargo – it wasn’t good at aiming but it packed a now chemical punch. A sequel rocket was planned (the ‘V2’) but Germany was so resource-starved by the end that none ever flew in anger. After the occupation, the technology would be divided among the Western powers, Fascist Bloc and (to Wallace’s eternal shame) the Soviet Union.

    Flushed with confidence, it made the initial sting all that worse. On July 15th, a storm of hell and fire came forth from behind the Nazi lines. Vengeance missiles shot into the sky with their deadly cargos with the few Me-262 jet fighters in support. It was an all or nothing gamble, so the Nazis went all in. Ironically, the first missiles fell not on the Allies, but on Hamburg. Hamburg was coated in an appalling blast of Sarin and other chemical agents while the lines around the besieged city were likewise shelled with similar poison. Though many had masks, masks did no good against the nerve agent. Tens of thousands died in excruciating agony – needless to say there was no concern taken for the civilian population. Himmler would later say that in deciding to say in the city they had announced their allegiance to a traitorous government and the only punishment for such an action was death. It is believed that some 100,000 people died in Hamburg over the next few days, as the overwhelmed, shattered defenders were ruthlessly attacked by the SS. Beck and Von Rundstedt were never found, though most believe they died in the initial attack. The Beck government had been obliterated, which would serve to lionize it in German history. Though only a small element of the German population sided with the Valkyrie plotters for the first month, and even then it’s being debatable how large that contingent was after Rommel’s defection, the Beck government has gone down as a popular uprising of German society, which it never was.

    The next stage were the front lines themselves. The British forces in the north were hit just as they made their way into Germany, with the SS intending to force the Allies back to Amsterdam. Likewise, the aim with the attack on the American forces was to trap them on the right side of the Rhine just as their forces passed over in bulk. As Patton and Rommel were both already over, the aim would then be to capture the former and execute the latter. Indeed, the first chemical weapon attacks on the Americans came just outside Frankfurt. Patton was in visual range of the first attack and narrowly escaped death. Rommel quickly realised what was going on and alerted Allied High Command that the Nazis had unleashed a chemical weapons attack. Sources disagree on whether the delayed reaction of Allied Leadership to understand what was going on was motivated by distrust of Rommel or simply the result of the total shock that the Nazis still had anything like the offensive capability they were witnessing. The American and Free German forces were sent into disarray and retreated close to Mainz with Himmler intending to have Mainz be the location of the destruction of Allied forces.

    Incredibly, the Nazis may have actually fared even better on the day if not for one act of jaw dropping stupidity almost on the level of their invasion of Italy. Hundreds of Vengeance missiles were deliberately kept in reserve and fired on … Prague. The city was the primary location of the Jewish Army, though senior leadership was entirely away at the time. This was especially astonishing, as the Jewish Army had been camped in Prague for days without moving or even intending to move. It was nowhere close to the serious dangers threatening the German Reich, which included Italians in Munich and the Soviet titan devouring all in its path in Poland, neither of which received chemical weapon attacks. As Himmler would later confess, it was for no other reason than his conviction that the Jews represented the ‘ultimate enemy’. Owing to the poor aim and targeting, only an estimated two thousand members of the Jewish Army would die from the Vengeance Weapon and loaded agents, which had been almost entirely used up. A further fifteen thousand Czechs were estimated to have been killed. With Speer dead, the production capabilities that existed beforehand slowly melted away and few more were produced in any case.

    Himmler was ecstatic at the victories he had gained: obliterating the Beck Government, sending the Americans on their heels, Rommel trapped and a few more dead Jews. Of course, he would soon be faced with a fate more brutal than any he could dish out on the Aliies.

    Henry Wallace’s speech to the DNC, July 19th 1944

    “Ladies and gentlemen, a second Day of Infamy has occurred in our lifetimes. The Nazi Party have proven that there is yet a further depth they could reach. They have unleashed the most murderous, appalling weapons ever invented on our boys and their own people. Added to the relentless invasions of peaceful, neighbouring countries for nothing more than greed … added to the despotic terror they imposed upon hundreds of millions … added to the slaughter of the Jews that we have discovered, whose dimensions are still now too incalculable to even begin to understand … added to all this, comes yet another indictment. Heinrich Himmler, perhaps an even greater evil than Hitler himself, has proven the blackness of his heart and ideology. We will fight his ilk with every fibre of our strength, until Nazi slavery is abolished forever! Let it be known that we did not start this war, but by all the might God gives us in this fight, we will end it!”

    The Red and the Dead: How the Wallace Presidency Changed America by Ben Rushmore

    Southern Democrats to a tee stood up and cheered Wallace’s battle cry against Nazism. If this doesn’t indicate the level of success the speech achieved, nothing else will. In the words of prominent Southern Democrat Richard Russel Jr., “The one time he didn’t screw everything up was the one time he had too.” There was no mention of Civil Rights or the future relationship America would have with the Soviet Union. In fact, he had intended to do a speech where both would be mentioned but the chemical weapons attack pushed them off the agenda to one of straight defiance and threats to the Nazis and Japan. Wallace won the support of eighty percent of the delegates – which, though hardly being impressive for an incumbent President, was more than enough for his nomination as President from the Democrat Party, with Southerner and noted Anti-Communist Harry Truman as Vice-President to attempt to unify the Party divide.

    Indeed, Wallace meant what he said when he said they would fight back. On July 24th, the Americans and British launched a joint bomber retaliation attack on SS strongholds in Germany. The SS forces outside Mainz that were readying for a final showdown never got there – they were carpet bombed with chemical weapons on all sides and quickly broke ranks. Berlin itself received a terrifyingly large amount, made all the worse with the total medical supply breakdown. Anywhere that looked like storage facilities were relentlessly attacked with American, British and Italian planes. The British even considered an Anthrax attack under Operation Vegetarian, but it was concluded that by the time it would have an effect the British army would probably be the primary victims owing to their advance. It is estimated that some 70,000 German civlilians died in the initial chemical weapon retaliation attacks and a similar number of SS soldiers (owing to their coming out of concealment to attack the Allies). Many more would die in the months to come as these weapons became more commonly used. By means of this not only was Mainz successfully held but, Frankfurt was taken by the end of the month and the Americans blasted right through the heart of the Reich after initial setbacks. Patton was unenthusiastic about using “weapons that forgot the soldiers” and didn’t authorize its use himself. Mussolini and Stalin would order the use of chemical weapons in response, the former using it with far more liberality on civilian centers in Bavaria while the latter hoped it would lead to a swifter advance to beat the Americans to Berlin. Wallace was sympathetic to the Soviet wish to invade Berlin themselves, but he was so angry over Himmler’s attack that he resolved to sort Himmler out himself. For one of the few times of the war, Patton and Wallace saw eye-to-eye, though Rommel’s inclusion still disgusted Wallace and he only kept up proceedings due to the press fanfare that greeted Rommel’s arrival. If Roosevelt had died earlier, it is questionable whether Rommel’s ascension would have been approved.

    While the Soviets had still entered no German land but East Prussia, the British were knocking at the doors of Bremen, the Italians had besieged Munich and the Americans were miles from Erfurt. Stalin’s already frayed mental state, rather than cooled by the arrival of Wallace actually worsened. Now he believed that he had the ability to challenge the European powers at will without worrying of American pressure – this would show up at the end of the War and certainly in the years following, the consequences of which ultimately being devastating for tens of millions.
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    Fascist Methods
  • Fascist Methods

    Mussolini: The Twentieth Century Man by Joseph Manderlay

    With Munich surrounded and getting pounded by chemical weapon attacks by the Regia Aeronautica, the Italian army advanced ahead and decided to leave the city to wither in the vine. On August 1st, Italian forces came face to face with Dachau, which would be by far the most prominent concentration camp discovered by the Fascist Bloc. Similar camps were discovered by the Soviets, Americans, British and of course the Jewish Army. What distinguished the discoveries was what the Italians did next. When the German Commander came to see the Italians, he saw that they weren’t Italian troops – they were Blackshirts … and they definitely had Semitic features.

    The Italians roughly knew what to expect walking into Dachau, as Auschwitz’s horrors had been replayed across the world. The Pope’s open condemnation of the Nazi regime as a result led Himmler to gleefully execute his plan of ridding Germany of Catholic influence by imprisoning and executing a significant number of German Priests. Any who were suspected of aiding the Beck government, and many who weren’t but were still seen as great guinea pigs, were shot out of hand. Himmler, being obsessed with German Paganism and Occultism, saw Christianity as an un-German hindrance that had to be opposed. The last few months of his reign would be characterized by mass confiscation of Church property in Berlin, which did little but sever the Nazis from everyone yet further. Needless to say, the Italians looked upon the Nazis as abominations. As Mussolini declared in a speech to his faithful shortly after Auschwitz’s discovery, “They would have put Capri there to be murdered”. While Balbo continued overseeing the siege of Munich (his own use of chemical weapons being highly criticized since), Graziani was on the move north. Mussolini had ordered blood for blood, and though Graziani himself would always be suspicious of Jews, he was more loyal to his leader than anything else. Especially for the occasion, Mussolini recruited every Jewish Blackshirt he could find (whose numbers had swollen since Capri’s death since it was seen as a ticket to respect in a still Anti-Semitic world) and put nearly three thousand of them (though many had been willing recruits from the Jewish refugee groups who wanted to state their loyalty to the regime) on the road to Dachau.

    The Blackshirts, though they had seen the newsreels of Auschwitz, would record that they were still mortified by what they saw at the camp. Half-dead people shuddering and convulsing, train carriages full of skeletal corpses to the ceiling and the brain matter of crushed skull on the ground. Some Blackshirts, some who had even participated in the Rape of Lubiana, threw up and wept at the sight of such unrepentant evil. This was of no matter, of course, as the plan had always been the same. SS-Untersturmfurhrer Heinrich Wicker met the Blackshirts at the gate and was quickly ordered to gather every SS guard at the camp. After doing so, roughly three hundred men had been presented, stripped of their weapons and gathered in the coal processing facility while Jewish inmates stared in awe and bewilderment at these healthy, helpful people – reacting all the more with joy when they realised they were Jews. The SS members didn’t know what to expect when suddenly, they were ordered to stand up and rushed to the wall. They hurriedly did what they were told … only for the Blackshirts to open fire and spray the wall with machine gun fire. Those who were unlucky enough to survive were left to the tender mercies of the inmates, who finished them off so brutally that the SS men would surely have wished to die by the bullet. As if terrified by the prospect of the Dachau Blackshirts coming to them, Munich surrendered to the Italians on August 2nd.

    As news of the Dachau Reprisals swept the world, Mussolini had achieved his purposes. Firstly, he had totally detached the notion that Fascism and Nazism were inherently sympathetic to one another. Fascism and Nazism had been seen (and would continue to be seen in the Communist world) as if not identical then extremely close on the political spectrum. However, Nazism had come to be seen more like Islamic Fundamentalism – an evil without a clear space on the spectrum, while Fascism dominated the Far-Right. Many in the Democratic world would praise ‘Fascist methods’ being used on the Nazis (and would continue to justify them against Communist insurrection.). Secondly, he had further cemented his leadership of the Jewish people. Many Jews were outraged with Britain for putting Zvi Brenner on trial for his reprisals at Auschwitz – Mussolini’s defence of the Dachau reprisals as “not just morally acceptable but morally neccessary” would serve to increase Jewish sympathy to Mussolini’s Italy over Britain, which would become a serious question of early Israeli diplomacy. As an added bonus, Kurt Schuschnigg was discovered in Dachau. Mussolini was thrilled – he now had a solid basis for his ideas of an Austrian state in the Post-War world. This would give him more than enough to talk about later that month in Vienna.

    The Making of the Fascist Bloc by Jodie Rutkins

    August 10th 1944 in Vienna would be one of the most important dates in the history of the war. It was there that the leaders of the Fascist Bloc would meet and plan their strategies for opposing Communism in the years to come. Indeed, the meeting ended up being about substantially more than that. In attendance were Mussolini, Salazar, Franco, Pavelić, Bulgarian Prince Kiril (acting regent after the death of Tsar Boris III, whose death would bring the country to a standstill) and representatives of the Turkish Junta. However, this was only the official greetings list. In fact, recent evidence now proves there were other diplomats at the meeting, which would mean serious effects on the wider world – there were representatives of both Southern Rhodesia and South Africa. Many had investigated Libya and were astonished by the large Jewish presence as well as the development of the cities. What was once arid desert now had a kibbutz in every direction. Jewish engineers and scientists were hard at work trying to extract oil from the desert and astonishing progress was already being made. Perhaps most incredible was how Italian even the Jewish settlements were. It seemed that, recalled Ian Smith while strolling around Tripoli on leave, “there were as many pizzerias as there were synagogues”.

    Firstly, the plans for what to do in the face of the Soviet menace hung in the air. As the members of the council agreed that the Wallace Presidency meant Europe would be left to fend for itself, they began to draw up plans for how to oppose the Soviets. Mussolini announced his intention of restarting the Austrian army under Schuschnigg, but this would still be little in the face of the onslaught expected. Mussolini was also convinced Hungary and Romania would fight against the Soviets, but knew again that this was little. The unanimous conclusion of the meeting was that the Roman Alliance had to remain on friendly terms with Britain and France, not to mention the minor European nations to the north. Further military plans were laid out, explaining how they fight together against the Soviets with or without help.

    But the next topic would be the more important one. It began when Salazar, with the support of the Southern Rhodesian and South African representatives, enquired about the Jewish population of Libya. Salazar was curious about the effect of a large non-Italian but still European presence in the colony. Mussolini enthusiastically reported that the Jews had massively built up Libya, which meant that it would be easier for Italians to move in. As Israel was expected to come to fruition in the meantime, the Jews would move there and leave their development behind. They couldn’t take buildings with them, after all. Mussolini thus affirmed and endorsed the idea to the representatives. In his own words, “Build it up to bring them in”. Mussolini had no intention of having Libya be a Jewish state forever, but he felt that in allowing so many Jews in to build up the country, he had created the conditions to attract Italians by the millions.

    Until then, Southern Rhodesian and South African governments actually had a very restricted immigration policy, including to whites. They only wanted a very specific type of white immigration – upper class British. It was extremely hard to immigrate to Rhodesia especially, which required stupefying deposits and a general suspicion that bringing in too many continental Europeans would damage the minority government by diluting the British character of Rhodesia. But the experience of Libya had changed everything. Now a belief arose that if they brought in enough continental Europeans in the short term, they could attract millions more of the British they actually sought. As Southern Rhodesia was expanding at an unprecedented rate at the time, it wasn’t like there was much competition for jobs – they were everywhere. Coupled with the poor post-war economy in Britain and a massive advertising campaign in British newspapers, the Rhodesians had begun their great immigration push. Coupled with the post-War Baby Boom, and the upsurge of European refugees in the conflicts following World War 2, the white population of Rhodesia would begin to soar, though remaining a minority. With the justification of ‘Keep Rhodesia White’, the government did its best to weaken opposition to the immigration movements. It would be a game-changer in 1948. South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts, likewise impressed with Libya, began his own push after the war - paving the way for the misery that would follow.

    Salazar, for his part, began his own campaign to increase his colonial grip over Angola and Mozambique especially. Some historians suggest he wanted to present himself as the second most powerful force in the Roman Alliance and wanted to increase his prestige by holding a vast colonial empire to rival the Italians. Given the overwhelming poverty Portugal faced, with reports that nearly half of the Portuguese population was illiterate, it wasn’t hard to convince people that there were greener pastures. Salazar began a mass movement to take his poor rural population and move them to the heartlands of Angola. This would be to start an agrarian revolution there to modernize the colony. In order to pay for this, however, he enlisted outside help – specifically the Catholic Church. In return for the Church’s help in establishing healthcare, education and other settlements in Angola and Mozambique, the colonies would become borderline Catholic theocracies – only Catholics could immigrate there, for example. No churches bar Catholic churches could be built and all education services were left to the Priests. Of all the settler countries, Portugal's colonies would maintain a unique culture (and general tolerance to Catholic natives) that distinguished it from the cruelties of South Africa and Italy.

    The Madhouse: Germany After Hitler, Before the Occupation, by Ronald Hines

    Operation Ragnarok would be the last major Nazi offensive of the War. Once the genie was out of the bottle with respect to chemical weapons, the Germans found themselves hopelessly outgunned on that front. While the Western allies (with Rommel’s pleading) did much to reduce the civilian casualty count, there were only so many who could be spared. By the end, the most retarding force on the American military was not the SS attacks but the waves upon waves of civilians and soldiers fleeing and surrendering wherever they went. SS soldiers, however, were lucky if they surrendered – many were shot out of hand by other Germans to prove their loyalty to Rommel’s Free German Army. There were even cases where SS members shot Wehrmacht soldiers, switched clothes and pretended to be Valkyrie loyalists having done service for the Allies. It is unknown as to what the average character was who fought for the Free German Army, with the Soviets especially alleging the force were overwhelmingly war criminals looking for a post-war amnesty. However, what is known is that by the time the Battle of Berlin began the Ragnarok backlash and hope that a strong showing of the Free German army could produce more lenient peace talks led to the Free German Army totaling nearly half a million soldiers under Rommel. This only increased when the British liberated Hamburg in September. Tales of how the SS treated the local population, their own people, once the lines broke sounded more like something the Soviets would have done, or so the Germans thought. With the Jewish Army itself now moving into Germany – with Churchill having no choice but to get the troops moving after the attack – and moving northward, people wanted the War over with sooner rather than later.

    In order to simplify the situation, and as a further testament to the mental state Himmler had created for himself and others in Berlin, Himmler ordered on August 15th that the Wehrmacht and SS were to merge. This was hard to pull off practically with resource and command starvation, but oftentimes merely taking a paintbrush and putting ‘SS’ on the helmet was enough to show one’s loyalty. Tragicomic situations would be encountered, such as one Wehrmacht company running out of paint before the last few helmets could have their letters painted on, and SS commanders coming in and shooting those unlucky few for ‘mutiny’. Wehrmacht generals would often find themselves reduced to the lower tiers of the officer corp with SS hacks young enough to be their grandchildren in some cases being put in charge.

    As the Americans and Free Germans approached, the defence of Berlin was prepared for in earnest. The women were conscripted in building defenses, boys in some cases as young as eight were given weapons and told to fight and leaving the city without a permit was an immediate death sentence. Likewise, members of the Free German army would be shot on sight as mutineers – no mercy. In the meantime, Himmler had prepared one final act of vengeance against the Allies, even as both himself and – with strong prodding – Goebbels prepared their escape from the city while they shot anyone else who tried to do just that. By the end of September, the Americans and Free German Army were at the gates of Berlin. [1]

    [1] - Appropriate Music (with some details changed):

    Thank you to whoever namedropped Sabaton earlier in the thread - I doubt I would have disovered them if not for you.
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  • Hey all, thus ends the war in Europe. The next post will deal with the war in Asia up until now. Then it'll get into the Potsdam Conference, elections in Europe and the progress of the Asian war.

    There will probably be a much slower schedule over April, at least until roughly the 20th because I have seminars and tests all throughout the first two thirds of the month. Then I should be back to roughly old pace.


    ‘To Hell and Back’ by Audie Murphy

    “I’d fought all over France and Germany, but I’ll never forget Berlin as long as I live. That place was different – and not in a good way. We were walking into this bombed out, gassed wasteland. We wore our masks for most of the time – even then, the thought of that Sarin was one of the few things that made us afraid. We’d walk down the street and see our guys and theirs lying dead in the middle of the road because they got caught without a mask. I saw one guy dead with his hand just out of reach of one. This had stopped being a war long ago – this was Hell. I don’t think I saw one building that looked close to livable as we fought inside. The Nazis did everything we could imagine. They would use children as shields, send children with rifles to try and fight us – God knows what you’re supposed to do in a situation like that – and booby-trapped half the entrances of wherever you needed to go. I got pretty depressed after a while – I couldn’t believe these guys were still fighting after all that happened. I couldn’t believe they could fight for something so evil. We saw Auschwitz and Belsen and Buchenwald and all the rest – did they really support that? Did they believe it? If they did, I wondered if they worshipped the Devil, or maybe the Devil worshipped them.

    But at the same time, I saw the guys in the FGA [1]. We fought with resignation - they fought with anger. All our ‘I’m gonna be the one who shoots Himmler’ talk didn’t fire us up as much anymore after everything in the last few months. But those guys? They fought the SS as if to say, ‘Look! Look at what you’ve done to my country!” To be honest, call my cynical, but I don’t think it was the anger of Auschwitz or anything like that. I think it was the anger that they knew they’d lost the War – and now their country was going to have to go through the whole sorry mess again, like in 1919. I talked to a few that could speak English – nice guys usually. But some of what they said was pretty chilling.

    I remember talking to one as we were taking a break underground where we were basically safe from the gas. He could speak English so we all got along swell. We talked about how weird it was that we were fighting not too far back and now we were on the same side. We laughed at how crazy it all was. He said how lucky we were that the Nazis were in charge because if it weren’t for them, “We’d be marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, Trafalgar Square and Red Square by now”. Then he got up, wished us well and went back to fighting. I just thought to myself, ‘Are these the guys we’re going to put into power in Germany?'

    The best summary of what Berlin was like was when we heard our guys were about to take the Reichstag. We were excited for the first time in weeks. We wanted to climb up on top of one of the buildings, look over the miasma of gas, rubble and smoke that enveloped Berlin and see the Stars and Stripes flying bravely. We were told on the afternoon of October 25th that it was going to happen – the last guys in the Reichstag were about to fall. We were miles away but we still had a line of sight. We got the binoculars for the occasion. We waited in anticipation – then we heard a bang. In war, you learn soon enough how far away a shell is by hearing it. After a while, you don’t care anymore, because you know if you hear it, you’re still alive – it’s the one you don’t hear that gets you. One of our guys on the binoculars said he actually saw the Reichstag shake – plenty of rubble was falling off it too. We looked down – and when we saw the gas stream out of the dome, we realised to our horror what had happened. We didn’t put all the pieces together until later, but Himmler or Goebbels or some other one of those sons of bitches had loaded the Reichstag with all the Sarin and gas they could their hands on. When it looked like we were about to take it, they let if off. Their own guys were there. I don’t know if they knew about it or not, but given how suicidal those SS guys were, I wouldn’t put it past them. It was their final act of vengeance. They’d stuffed so much of it in and around the Reichstag that 1000 of our guys died in that one release – God knows how many Germans they killed.

    And that’s where you got your picture. We were going to raise Old Glory on the top of the Reichstag. Instead, you got the picture of the Reichstag bursting with gas out of every crack and hole. It goes to show you how war has different plans from what you have in mind.

    The Madhouse: Germany After Hitler, Before the Occupation, by Ronald Hines

    The Battle of Berlin was every bit as terrible as American commanders feared, with Eisenhower darkly calling it ‘Churchill’s revenge’ owing to Churchill’s fears of getting involved in a major operation too soon, only this time there were no British troops. The pictures that came out of Berlin looked like nightmares – with gas-masked squads walking through the mists of a chemical wasteland over rubble and corpses. The Reichstag Trap was only the most notorious example, where the building was deliberately stocked with masses of chemical agents that killed almost everyone close to the Reichstag when it went off. It was supposed to be a symbolic victory against the Allies, organized by Himmler, as if to suggest that the Nazis would fight on. Von Leeb had been given the thankless task of being left to defend the city while Himmler and Goebbels went, and did as best he could to hang on. It was a scene of such unrepentant brutality that the Americans suffered nearly 100,000 casualties – the Free German Army suffered some 75,000, which is impressive given its smaller size. It’s estimated that some 120,000 defenders were killed with more than twice the number wounded by the end.

    Elsewhere, the Italians had cleared all territory south of the Danube and the Anglo-Jewish Army had seized Dresden, which had declared itself an open city – with fears that the latter would begin a persecution campaign against Germans proven unfounded. Thus, Dresden would be the picturesque frontier of the Cold War, compared to Berlin’s austere militarism. These would be the last conflicts of both parties in Europe in the War. The Soviets, meanwhile, were in a fight to take the German city of Stettin – this would be as far as they would ever advance against Germany. Stalin’s dream of raising a sole Red Flag from a battered Reichstag would prove in vain. Despite all the chaos around them, the SS and Wehrmacht elements held together in the face of the Russians just long enough to save their capital from Soviet bombardment.

    The question was beginning to drive Allied High Command up the wall – where were Goebbels and Himmler? German radio had announced nothing except that the two were ‘safe and fully committed to reversing the current peril’. There were fears that the Nazis would never surrender. Thankfully for mankind, Germany especially, the pair would not escape justice forever.

    The Second World War – Christopher Armlong

    In such a desperate state, one would have thought that Himmler and Goebbels were planning on going undercover for life. Perhaps going undercover and hiding in an obscure corner of the world until the day they died. Remarkably, that’s not what they intended at all. Himmler and Goebbels intended to catch a submarine stationed on the Baltic, escape the Allied Naval blockade from Scandanavia, loop around Russia and end up in friendly Japan, where they would ‘rally the forces’ from abroad. Himmler assured Goebbels that the Japanese system of honor would ensure they would never succumb to treasonous mutiny, and the Americans would be forced to cut terms, especially given the new strategy Japanese leaders had decided on.

    The pair left Berlin in mid-October, just before the pincers sealed shut. Magda Goebbels had originally intended to commit suicide (along with murdering her children) but Himmler convinced her that a suitable deal could be reached if they waited it out in Japan – the family would survive the war, though with varying fates. Himmler assured her that it would be no time whatsoever until the ‘Unholy Alliance of Bourgeois Capitalsm, Judeo-Bolshevism and Negroid Fascism’ would rip each other apart. Then, there would be an opening for National Socialism to come again in glory in Germany. Right until the noose, Himmler invented a new reality for himself that psychologists have debated for decades. Was he suffering from a brain tumour? Stress? The debate goes on.

    Himmler, Goebbels dressed and blended in with a column of SS soldiers and took a truck, disguised in gas masks. Any sort of conspicuous presence would instantly earn them the unfriendly glare of the RAF, American Air Force, and even the Regia Aeronautica. A submarine was waiting at Kiel to take them away. After staying low-key for a time, they proceeded back on their way, totally cut off from the outside world (or more so than before). On the final movement towards Kiel on October 26th just outside Boksee, the truck was struck by artillery fire and flipped on its side. Himmler broke several ribs and Goebbels received a serious concussion. They were pulled out of the truck by their SS helpers … only to find themselves surrounded on all sides by British soldiers angrily pointing sub-machine guns at them. Himmler and Goebbels had planned to kill themselves if caught, but they were thoroughly searched and stripped of their cyanide capsules while in their incapacitated state. The British had made Herculean progress in the final days of the War, and had already taken Kiel by the time Goebbels and Himmler had met with their unfortunate accident. While the Americans contented themselves with being the liberators of Berlin, the British announced triumphantly to the world that they had captured the terrible duo on October 27th.

    Other leading Nazis would soon be caught. The Americans in Berlin captured Roland Freisler on the same day Himmler and Goebbels fell into Allied hands. Martin Bormann had already been captured after trying and failing to bribe the Italians to let him take a passage to Argentina. Perhaps most notably, Adolf Eichmann had been captured by the Jewish Army in the Sudetenland after trying to pass himself off as a Free German Army soldier – despite obvious reasons for vengeance, the Jewish Army handed Eichmann over to higher authorities. Robert Muller, head of the Gestapo was captured when a vengeful Wehrmacht soldier, whose brother had been suspected of being a Valkyrie supporter and executed by the Gestapo, betrayed Muller when their truck was stopped by American soldiers. Others captured included Alfred Rosenberg, Joachim Von Ribbentrop and the only military leader at the Nuremburg Trials, Ritter Von Leeb. [2]

    Himmler had entrusted Von Leeb to be in charge of administration of the Reich ‘until further orders’. Himmler and Goebbels would be temporarily going off the grid to reach Kiel – from there, they would send out the final commands to hold out. However, with Himmler and Goebbels both in Allied custody, the chain of command had been broken. This left Von Leeb the most powerful man in the Third Reich – a position he never expected to say the least. At long last freed from his Führerprinzip principles, he began the outreach for unconditional surrender. On October 29th, the guns fell silent and Von Leeb opened communications, announcing that he was both the head of the Reich government and interested in ending the War. Sufficient time was given for British Field Marshall Montgomery, Soviet General Chuikov, French General De Gaulle, Italian Marshall Balbo and even Moshe Dayan of the Jewish Army to arrive in a relatively clean area of Berlin to join Patton and Rommel in accepting Von Leeb’s surrender. On November 1st 1944, V-E Day was declared over Europe – one half of the Pact had been defeated. It only cost tens of millions of lives, including almost five million Jews in the Holocaust. [3]

    Interview of Italo Balbo for the BBC’s ‘World At War’ (1973)

    Interviewer: “Can you describe what it was like to be in that room when the surrender took place?”

    Balbo: “I almost felt pity for Von Leeb. Despite all that he did, I almost felt pity seeing his sole figure come up to the table with all of us on one side. Patton sat in the centre with Montgomery and Rommel at his sides. I was next to Montgomery and Dayan was next to me. De Gaulle was to the side of Rommel and Chuikov was on the side of De Gaulle. I remember that the Soviets were outraged over it, that they weren’t at the centre of the table and looked like a minor power. But in reality, we did it for the sensibilities of everyone there. We couldn’t put him beside Patton because Patton hated the Russians, we couldn’t put him beside Rommel because Chuikov thought Rommel was a War Criminal, he couldn’t sit beside me because I was of course a terrible ‘Fascist’, he couldn’t sit beside Dayan because Dayan was outraged with the Soviets clamping down on Zionism and we couldn’t put him beside Montgomery either.”

    Interviewer: “Was this out of resentment for British friendliness towards Italy?”

    Balbo: “No, no one could stand Montgomery. Myself and Patton took one for the team.”

    The Red and the Dead: How the Wallace Presidency Changed America by Ben Rushmore

    The 1944 Presidential Elections would be sealed up by V-E Day. While it was always unlikely Dewey would triumph, the defeat of Nazism made it a certainty. Wallace won the election with 57% of the vote and kept comfortable majorities in both Houses of Congress for the Democrat Party. Despite many Americans wishing that the following four years never happened, Dewey would remain adamant that his decision to not release the papers detailing Wallace’s religious eccentricities, arguing that the risk of an undermined President in the midst of the Big One was worse than even the upheaval of the Wallace Presidency. With the nightmarish visions of Berlin finished, Americans celebrated the news of victory, more determined than ever to finish the job with Japan.

    Similar scenes of joy repeated themselves over Europe. In Britain especially, the thought that their own soldiers had captured the ringleaders of the Nazi movement had brought an upsurge in pride. The streets swelled with revelers and celebrations up and down the country. The streets of London were near impassable from people in the midst of ecstacy. Churchill briefly considered calling an election but decided to delay, giving a radio address to the nation saying, “The most evil creatures mankind has ever seen, and perhaps will ever see, are now locked in British army cells, and will receive all the justice they so cruelly denied the European Continent”. He reiterated Britain’s commitment to finish the Japanese Empire’s own monstrous government.

    In Rome, the celebrations were just as large (not hurt by Fascist organisations intimidating anyone who was suspected of being subversive) but the tone was different. The mood was that Italy had now confirmed itself as one of the greatest countries on the planet, struggling with Britain for the title of the third greatest country on Earth (they considered themselves far beyond the occupied and war-torn France). Mussolini would deliver an address to the faithful in Rome announcing, “Today, we have done what not even Caesar could do – we went to Germany and we obliterated their barbarian armies!” To the average Italian, the war was the birth of a superpower – for so long an ignored, abused and forgotten country. They weren’t to be pushed around any more.

    To the Russian, things were very different. Celebrations were muted and even actively discouraged. V-E Day would not be celebrated in the USSR under Stalin. He was furious with the situation – angrily screaming at Khrushchev “Tens of millions of our countrymen died only for us to barely move from where we started”. Of course, this was partially due to the national mourning that had swept over the Soviet Union, in memory of Zhukov. Though it was reported at the time that Zhukov died due to a rogue artillery strike from the Nazis, by the late forties, people knew the truth.

    The Death Spiral: Stalin 1941-1953 by Alexi Ivanovitch

    On October 29th, word was going around at Zhukov’s HQ that Von Leeb was interested in surrendering. As Zhukov was farther west than any Russian commander, he was confused why he had received no official communication from Moscow. He was further confused when word started to travel around that Chuikov would represent the Soviets in Berlin. He began an angry tirade about being passed over – of course, that would have been much more preferable over what happened.

    On the evening of October 29th, word finally came through from Moscow … through two political commissars. They ordered Zhukov to come along with them, alone, in their car. According to one of the Commissars, who defected to the West years later, Stalin had grown certain that Zhukov had deliberately held back the attack on Germany to allow the Americans time to take over Germany before Stalin could anywhere close to Berlin. Why Zhukov would try to help the West by have them absorb the causalities needed to take a city like Berlin is anyone’s guess. Nevertheless, wild conspiracies involving the Italians, British and “Zionists” had led Stalin on a wild mental goose chase. More likely, fears over Zhukov gaining military credit from his defence of Moscow led Stalin to fear a growth of Bonapartism in the Red Army.

    Zhukov went along with the Commissars, having now resigned himself to what was going to happen according to witnesses – Zhukov even going as far as to tell his subordinates that they didn’t see the Commissars arrive. He was taken to a secluded location the woods miles from the front and told that evidence had proven he was a British agent in charge of sabotaging the Soviet war effort. He was given two options: take a painless cyanide pill and allow the Soviet press to report he had valiantly died in the fighting at Stettin with his family and subordinates kept safe, or be publicly dragged through a show trial and have his family and subordinates tortured to reveal the further extent of ‘the spy-ring’. Zhukov pondered for a few seconds before sighing. “Dying's probably easier than taking orders from that son of a bitch, so just give me the fucking thing,” he said, grabbing the cyanide capsule. “When Stalin comes after you, you’re not going to get any nice capsule,” were Zhukov’s last words as he bit the cyanide and died instantly. The first political commissar would die in the Second Great Purge in 1949. The second would defect to the West and relate the story, before being killed by Soviet agents in 1952.

    [1] – Free German Army

    [2] – Full list of those at the Nuremburg Trials ITTL in alphabetical order: Bormann, Eichmann, Frank, Frick, Freisler, Funk, Goebbels, Hess, Himmler, Kaltenbrunner, Ley, Muller, Rosenberg, Sauckel, Schacht, Seyss-Inquart, Streicher, Von Leeb, Von Neurath, Von Papen, Von Ribbentrop, Von Shirach.

    [3] – Mussolini’s friendly policies, an earlier ending of the war, smaller range of German occupation and a wider range of escape destinations lead to an extra million Jews surviving the War. They are disproportionately Hungarian and German, wealthy, Sephardic, right-wing and educated.

    I would like to re-iterate my thanks to everyone who has read and helped with this Timeline. It's been a great adventure and hopefully will continue to be one.
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    Intermission -The Tramp
  • New side chapter revised and this time expanded by Sorairo especially in the last paragraphs, enjoy!

    At the Service of the Nation: American Cinema and Politics in the 1940s by George Balmer

    The 1940s would become a turning point for the American film industry, which would see her private domain becoming worldwide due to WW2, which disrupted the European movie production. save for the Italian one. despite the ideologic barriers of fascism, Italy was commencing a period of rejuvenation and experimentation which would flourish in the 1950s, with Rome and Cinecittà starting to rival with Los Angeles and the Studios of Hollywood.

    The decade would be open with what would be considered the most controversial movie of its time: the Great Dictator by Charlie Chaplin (1940). Chaplin made the movie against any form of intolerance (in particular against the Jews), war and form of dictatorship, in particular Hitler’s, with a final eulogy to peace and hope. However, despite initial success in the US, he would face growing criticism from various European groups and inside his home country as the war progressed.

    The major controversy would focus over the segment where the dictator Hynkel would meet the leader of his neighbor country, Napoloni, to discuss the fate of Osterreich; which was a not subtle jibe about Mussolini in general and his support towards the Austrian Anschluss specificly. Naturally, in 1940 the movie was rejected by Italian authorities, and articles were written in the country to shame Chaplin – albeit remaining into the Italian clout. Still, it is said that in private Mussolini asked to see the movie and was amused by his caricature and the movie in general.

    However, in 1943/4 things changed, as Italy and the US were suddenly allied against the Germans. The news of the battle of Trieste came over the Atlantic soon after. Even if four years passed since the distribution of the movie, a new wave of criticism started to surge between the Italian immigrants and the Jew communities towards the movie and Chaplin – the former feeling that putting Germans and Italians on the same level was at this point unacceptable, the second feeling disgusted that a man who had saved so many Jews was put on the same level as the ultimate Jew-hater, the dimensions of his crime still only being revealed layer by layer. New York in particular was the centre of this criticism, which targeted Chaplin in truth as part of a growing criticism towards Roosevelt, appearing too anti-Italian and pro-Soviet.

    The Italian consulate likely contributed to expand this criticism, also through a diffusion of articles criticizing Chaplin in a more refined way. This was for aside for the portrait of Mussolini, “the wrong assumption about the events leading to the Anchsluss” as Italy was forced to cave about it due to the missed support of Britain and France, and even more the indifference of America, hence calling Chaplin hypocrite. This was a veiled way to call Roosevelt hypocrite.

    There were however calls towards Chaplin about a compromise if he accepted to make a cut version without the presence of Napoloni, with the Italian consulate even opening to the possibility the revised movie being projected in Italy… but Chaplin refused bluntly, stating: “A Tyrant is not less of one because he saves as many as he kills.” This stance would receive the praise and the approval of Roosevelt, especially as his opinion of Mussolini worsened after the Kiev conference, and was willing to scoff away such criticism, believing it to be irrelevant. But in private, the New York Democrats started to wonder if they would have to worry for the loss of support in the Empire State – especially from wealthy Jewish and Italian donors; after all if in 1942 the Republicans won the gubernatorial race and if the voices the ruling governor Dewey would cling his party’s nomination would turn true, there were chances if the state would flip red in that November could lose the local senatorial seat as well, at the time held by Robert F. Wagner, which despite being a strong supporter of Roosevelt, was a German born emigrate.

    Initially, Wagner and the bulk of the New York Democrats weren’t worried… but then Roosevelt died. Wallace became president a month before the Democratic convention and the Nazi chemical attacks on American troops happened. Even if Wallace managed to cling the nomination, the political temperature in the Empire State started to rise, with Republican senatorial candidate Thomas J. Curran receiving growing financial support from Italian and above all Jewish supporters, allowing him to expand his electoral campaign considerably, and so Dewey for his campaign as well. With a troublesome President and his German roots resurfacing, Wagner and the New York Democrats were practically on the defensive with only Black voters being consistently loyal, but even then concerned by Wallace’s abilities.

    At this point, at least in New York, the Democratic defence over Chaplin started to falter. The Republicans saw an opening to attack him for having "Communist sympathies" in denigrating Mussolini through his movie, and therefore involving the Wallace administration as well for protecting him. Perhaps it worked, as the Democrats hung onto control throughout the Empire State, at least that year, but the damage on Chaplin’s reputation was heard around the world. Such attacks were so nasty and controversial that even after the war several European countries hesitated to allow the projection of the movie, not only in the Roman Alliance. Israel debated harshly whether to allow a screening or not, before finally deciding to go ahead. Early screenings of the film were firebombed by the Lehi who saw the film as a British attempt to undermine Italy and Israel’s ‘Holy Brotherhood’.

    Chaplin would leave the U.S. in 1946, saying that it had become unliveable due to the Second Red Scare. Ultimately, as news of what was going on in Stalinist Russia became apparent, Chaplin grew disillusioned with his former ambivalence to Communism, releasing his final film, ‘The Other Great Dictator’ in 1953, just months after Stalin’s death. It was the inverse of The Great Dictator, as it dealt with Stalin over Hitler, only Chaplin didn’t play Stalin owing to the obvious propaganda victory it would give his enemies. He would reprise his role as the Barber from The Great Dictator, overjoyed at the liberation of his homeland from Hynkel, only to have the same exact misery befall his country. The film ends on a much bleaker note, with the Barber escaping to Israel, wondering if man is doomed to hate and kill forever. The film would relieve most of the bad will Chaplin accumulated, though he would never return to the United States for any purpose but to accept an honorary Academy Award. He died on Christmas Day 1977.
  • Hey all, here's the current situation with respect to the Pacific:


    The Still Sun: The British Empire after WW2 by Cecil Moore

    The Italian entry into the War made little immediate difference to British fortunes in the Pacific. Indeed, the initial consequence was the loss of Italy’s concession in Tientsin. Military aid was initially low, though grain was shipped to help relieve a famine that had begun in Bengal and it provided much needed relief for British resources in the region [1]. It did provide a much-needed boost in morale for the British in the fighting in Burma – the fading ‘Singapore Spirit’ being rejuvenated [2]. By early 1944, the first offensives back into Burma began, with Meiktila being taken that summer.

    Over time, a more practical form of aid would arrive. Mussolini had little opportunity to use his navy in the war and was tempted to test out his latest developments, not the least of which was the Aquila, Italy’s first Aircraft Carrier. The Littorio battleships were likewise ready to be used. Though initially used mostly in the Indian Ocean to support the British, necessity forced them to back up the Americans in the far off waters of the Pacific, their first major mission being to support the American navy at the Battle of the Philippine Sea that April. It even managed to score a crippling blow on the Taihō, Japan’s premier Aircraft Carrier, which allowed American submarines to finish her off. The Italian navy distinguished themselves admirably, much to the surprise of American naval commanders. Mussolini, never one to miss a chance, lauded his genius in ‘discovering’ the power of the Aircraft Carrier (which was Balbo’s idea).

    Ultimately, the losses of Japan were crippling by mid-1944. The military leaders knew that Germany was soon to fall, but there had been one event that quite interested them. The initial advance of Operation Ragnarok had astonished them, even though it was quickly beaten back by chemical retaliation. The militarists were inspired. They were sure the only reason the Germans had failed was their internal dissent and lateness in using them. If the Japanese used chemical weapons, they would use them before the Americans ever reached Honshū. The thought was beautiful – imagining the slaughter of American soldiers in the millions as they fought for every street under chemical bombardment. There was no way the Americans could endure – they would have to make peace. And thus, Japan embarked on yet another disastrous path.

    Silent and Deadly: A History of Chemical Weapons by Stephen Prince

    Unit 731 had mostly been quiet during the war, working primarily on undercover human experimentation with all the cruelty their infamy would indicate. They had already experimented on three thousand unwilling volunteers by September 1944, but their most infamous days remained ahead of them. On August 1st, General Shirō Ishii met the Cabinet in Tokyo, and was asked about his program. After affirming their effectiveness in both the lab and the field, he was told that Japan needed a final ace up the sleeve to pull them through the ‘present discomfort’ as Tojo called it. To that end, the strategy was approved – one that would make Pearl Harbour look good in retrospective. They would deploy chemical weapons on every island the Americans tried to invade. They would bleed them out and thus get a great peace deal, or that was the plan anyway.

    While a suggested attack on the American mainland was proposed, it was rejected because it would likely stir up the American public. What the militarists wanted was a campaign to make any invasion of Japan so costly that the Americans would be forced to come to terms. For that reason, the first use of chemical weapons occurred during the invasion of the Philippines that September. Though it was simply mustard gas and hardly of the more developed, terrifying nature of later weapons, American leaders knew that the Pacific War had entered a dark phase. With the use of gas, casualties began to rise exponentially on both sides. Perhaps the best summary of the reaction of American leaders was found in Admiral Nimitz when he told his subordinates, “We’ve entered a level of Hell I didn’t even think could exist”.

    But Unit 731 would not simply be content with mere mustard gas. They had something special planned. On October 26th, the same day that Himmler and Goebbels fell into Allied hands, the US Marines landed in Iwo Jima, to what seemed to be initially promising results. The sight of small, smashed canisters along the landing zone was ignored. However, by October 30th, strange events started to occur behind the lines. Soldiers started to vomit uncontrollably, showed up in the hospital with appalling lymph node swelling and collapsed. When the doctors investigated what had happened, they gave the answer – the bubonic plague. There was only one way this Medieval disease had somehow come back from the dead – the Japanese had prepared a cruel arrival party for the Americans. It should be noted that Japanese civilians – even many Japanese soldiers - were just as clueless to the disease as the American soldiers and died just as pointlessly.

    The news hit the Western Press on November 2nd, one day after V.E. Day, and was a quick, sobering reminder of the reality of the conflict. ‘Plague Craze’ swept the yellow press of America, Australia and Canada as people saw evidence of a Japanese chemical weapon attack on their homeland from all sides. None of it was true, but hysteria had reached such a peak that it would leave a permanent mark on the healthcare question of the United States in particular. As expected, enthusiasm (though not support) for the War faded.

    At the subsequent Tokyo Tribunals, Ishii stated that both his reaction and his superior’s reaction to the news of American casualties in such numbers was joyous, as they expected any American invasion to be too costly for Wallace. They were right, though not in the way they had intended. One wonders whether they would have just signed the surrender right there if they knew what was soon to come.

    The Rise, Fall and Rise of Japan by Mariya Takeuchi

    After the liberation of Berlin, American military leaders were stung hard by the experience. Bradley described it as ‘trying to claw yourself out of the dirt while buried alive’. The number of casualties, on top of the horrifying pictures coming out of Berlin of gas-clouded streets patrolled by gas-mask wearing GIs had dampened enthusiasm at home. While V.E. Day rejuvenated the public, it certainly didn’t put joy into High Command – when the news that the bubonic plague had been used on GIs, morale fell even lower. They still had another enemy to deal with, one that certainly wasn’t going to stop using their accursed chemical weapon inventory. The pre-chemical weapon calculations of how many people would die in the invasion of Japan were already astronomical – indeed, the American military in all its subsequent wars still uses the Purple Hearts made for the invasion of Japan. The notion of having to fight for every street in such a gigantic country, with tens of millions ready to fight to the death, old women and children using spears, not a friendly face to be found, now with the added nightmares of gas and plagues was terrifying.

    On November 20th, as the bloody battle of Iwo Jima went on, a strategy meeting was held at the White House. Wallace, Bradley, Eisenhower, Patton and others discussed how Japan could be brought to heel. When Wallace was informed of the human cost of the Japanese invasion, from both the American and Japanese perspective, he said there had to be a better way. No man wanted a repeat of the nightmare Americans had seen in Berlin. Ultimately, it was agreed that after taking several more islands to enable the American Air Force to get close to the Japanese mainland, the plan would simply be to blockade and bomb Japan into submission with various weapons, chemical included. The final ace they had, the Manhattan Project, would be used as soon as possible, with more resources allocated to the already nearly completed program as a Hail Mary attempt to save GIs from the utter bloodbath that awaited a full invasion. Owing to a senior member of the American government having gone there for Honeymoon, Kyoto was lucky enough to find itself off the list of targets. Now, with the chemical weapon Pandora opened by none other than the Japanese military themselves, Kyoto was finally put on the target list again. It would exclusively be for chemical weapons, so as to preserve the architecture of the city.

    By the time Iwo Jima was declared secure, just before Christmas, nearly 10,000 Americans had died. The already terrible relationship between Japanese soldiers and Americans got worse still – it was exceedingly rare to hear a call for surrender from the Japanese side met with anything other than more rifle-shots. Many feared the Japanese had deliberately infected themselves and didn’t want them anywhere near. The poison gas had poisoned hearts as much as bodies. With American leaders already preparing themselves for the slaughter expected at Okinawa, Wallace went to Potsdam with the firm determination to make Japan lose as quickly as possible, with as little casualties as possible. Of course, there was only one man he knew that had the resources to stick a new, firm blow to the Japanese. Wallace hoped that a decisive Soviet advance into Asia would be enough of a blow to the militarists that they would see sense and surrender. It would lead to ‘Potsdam’ being just as infamous a word as ‘Munich’ in the common vocabulary of the Western world.

    [1] – The Japanese never advanced as far into Burma as they did, and further resources and aid being available helps alleviate the Bengal Famine significantly.

    [2] – Singapore holds out until June due to a tougher slog for the Japanese owing to the British not having to waste resources in the Mediterranean. Their dogged determination to fight to the end impresses the locals so much so they were called the ‘Lions of Lion City (Singapore)’, and the Japanese treatment of the ethnic Chinese in the city led to a much more pro-British line being developed.
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  • New side chapter, with usual revisions and additions from Sorairo.

    A Daring Game of Thrones: Otto of Hapsburg-Lorraine by Johann Wenzer

    … Otto of Hapsburg-Lorraine was different from the traditional Hapsburg “monarch”. It was not due to his pride of being member and leader of such a noble dynasty (entitled to the Imperial Throne of Austria and Royal chair of Hungary). Neither was it his loyalty towards Austria, despite the exile of his family, which many blamed for the rise of Nazism. But his difference was in his political and ideological beliefs, as Otto developed democratic sentiments, encouraged by his university life in Belgium – something a Hapsburg ruler never truly possessed before him. For this, he brought his dynasty into modern times; naturally such beliefs would be squared in the perspective of a constitutional, parliamentary monarchy, something that the Austrian-Hungarian Empire failed to fully build.

    Supported by his formidable mother, Zita of Borbone-Parma, Otto tried simultaneously to complete his studies and regain the thrones of Austria or Hungary, maybe starting a process of rebuilding of the Empire. But in the 1920s and 1930s he faced several obstacles. He knew there was a certain public support both in Austria and Hungary: plus de jure the monarchy wasn’t abolished in Budapest, and whatever his true feelings towards the Hapsburg were, Horthy saw Otto as the eventual legitimate ruler. Also, despite his democratic feelings, in the end the Hapsburg’s end game was the recovery of some level of throne, so if he had to cooperate with the autocratic leaders of the Danubian countries, whether Dolfuss or Schuschnigg or Horthy, he wouldn’t discharge such option.

    The Austrians were generally more conflicted over a return of Otto as their legitimate ruler than the Hungarians were (which was pretty ironic given the long history of conflicts between the House of Hapsburg and the Hungarians), especially the ones still lingering over the dreams of a Gross Deutschland which Hitler soon would achieve with the Anschluss. The flight of his family to Austria over fears of a civil war (and eventually ending like the Romanov) in 1919 didn’t help either, as it alienated many supporters. Vienna wasn’t friendly to him, but he had still favour from the Church and the countryside, as from moderates and anti-German conservatives.

    However, France and Britain opposed Otto’s early attempts to return in Austria or reclaim the Hungarian throne, wanting to keep Versailles enforced to give a signal to Germany. It wasn’t due to some prolonged hate towards the Hapsburg or the Danubian countries. Interestingly for Otto, Mussolini’s Italy was more favourable to his claims and more or less willing to remove whatever veto existed. The Duce’s reasons to allow a partial (at least) Hapsburg restoration were many: to prevent unification between Austria and Germany, to support Horthy’s plans, and favouring a further reconciliation and alliance in an anti-Yugoslavian key. Not that Mussolini supported Austro-Hungarian resurgence, and given his relations with Dolfuss and Schuschnigg preferred Austria to stay a Republic. But he was aware of the strong patriotic waves a monarchy in the Danubian countries could have projected, strong enough to counter Hitler’s plans on the region. But in the end, he went along with the British and the French, essentially to not break the Stresa Front, which held even after the Abyssinian war and Chamberlain’s appeasement strategy, which brought the Anschluss, and later to the Munich conference.

    Otto was conflicted about Mussolini. Certainly he appreciated the Duce’s opposition to Hitler and his support over a Hapsburg restoration. Yet he didn’t want to associate with him however in the 30s, in part to not becoming a pawn in the hands of the Italian dictator, in part his pride in refusing to accept by principle any Italian help. As Italy was a major factor over the collapse of the old Hapsburg Kingdom due to their joining the Entente, he also feared a restoration favoured by the Italians would not have been well received from the local population.

    So Otto decided to wait for better times. Then the War came, and Otto and the entire Hapsburg family barely escaped out of Belgium, and then crossing the Atlantic seeking refuge in the US rather than Britain. But the family was soon in financial distress, as the Nazi seized all their accounts and properties in Europe. Thankfully, Otto didn’t lost all the connections he built in the past twenty years, and saw the chance to regain his leadership in case Germany would fall. Contacts with the British were made; Otto’s brothers volunteered in the British army; a correspondence with Roosevelt started.

    But Otto started negotiations with the Hungarians and even the Italians, feeling the possibility to return in Hungary as France fell, Britain and Germany were busy so nobody in principle could contest him being finally crowned as king of Hungary. Horthy, especially after the victory against Yugoslavia was initially supportive. Mussolini and Ciano (who would entertain the bulk of the successive negotiations with Otto) were favourable because a Hapsburg Hungary would have prevented such country to ally with Germany and it would remain in Rome’s pocket. However the talks proceeded too slow due to the distance and certain opposition from British and even Hungarian elements; so when Hitler started to build his anti Soviet crusade, Horthy went for it and the negotiations collapsed. Hitler would never have allowed Otto’s return under any circumstance. However, Otto had a stable contact with the Italians now.

    After this new failure, Otto directed again his attention towards the British and after Pearl Harbour, with the Americans, without evident progress. Then the end of 1943 brought him a new chance, with Germany declaring war on Italy following the SS invasion of Hungary. Realizing that the Germans couldn’t be able to win a two front war at that point, even more so a three front war, and that the Italians and their allies could eventually be able to free Austria and even Hungary before the Western Allies and the Soviets, he resumed his contacts with the Italians.

    In Rome, Mussolini and Ciano started to weigh the utility of supporting Otto’s claims for good. With the help of the Hungarian Jews the SS attack was stopped at Trieste, and soon the Italian Army would be fully mobilized and could go on a full offensive, Austria and Hungary being their nearest targets. Therefore they would be able to forge the post war asset of the two Danubian countries (until being partially disabused of such projects after the Kiev conference with Hungarian independence being assured). However, such a golden occasion faced challenges and issues, and if they were going to support Otto they wanted reassurances.

    The Italians asked Otto to come in Rome for talks and, after obtaining through the British an approval (in a moment where Churchill was progressively aligning with Mussolini and distancing from Roosevelt in containing Communism and punishing Germany), he arrived in Italy at the end of January of 1944, accompanied by his mother, with an Italian granted passport (Zita was after all Italian born and through her, Otto was half or technically a quarter Italian as well). Vittorio Emanuele III offered his Roman countryside villa for their accommodations and Otto and Zita in the next days had meetings with the government (mostly with Ciano), the Royal family and the Roman Church, with Pius XII. The Pope was the firm believer of a “restoration, which would clean Austria and Hungary from the horrors of the War and safeguard them from Communist threat”. Otto would join the funeral of Philip of Hesse.

    In the first discussions, Otto intended to claim the Austrian Imperial throne as the primary goal, and therefore leading a provisional post war government. Mussolini while not being hostile officially to the claim, had other projects at least over who should control such government. In fact the Italians knew for sure Kurt von Schuschnigg was still alive in Germany and in captivity. Unless the SS got his hands on him, the Duce wanted to free him and restore him as rightful chancellor of Austria as before the Anschluss. A temporary occupation of Austria by Italian troops was also expected, and foreseeing economical concessions as well – albeit not considering territorial annexation - the Italians put it clear that any decision about the constitutional asset of Austria post war were not up for discussion.

    Hungary was a total different thing. Otto acknowledged that even with the German invasion, the country would return to the pre war borders – not that he could do anything to prevent this. But Mussolini and Ciano, while expecting the Roman Alliance to free the country, had a worse problem than Austria to create a friendly provisional government from the moment the SS liquidated almost the entirety of the Horthy administration. But again, Hungary was still a kingdom and eventually the de jure ruler could step in. And for the Italians, Otto would be the most logical choice.

    Otto was conflicted. The throne of Austria was barred still, but Hungary was this time within his grasp and while to proceed with it, Mussolini needed at least the Allied recognition, it was still a start. So, arrangements were made, for him to start working in cooperation with the only ‘legitimate’ Hungarian army available – the Hungarian Jew brigades - to eventually come together in Budapest and try to endear support among the people. Thankfully, this wasn’t as hard as some feared. Most Jews met Otto with cheers, seeing the cosmopolitan Hapsburg Empire as vastly preferable to the nightmare of aggressively nationalist states that had engulfed Central Europe after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Regular Hungarians also respected him, many looking nostalgically on the days before World War One.

    As usual, a new obstacle appeared on the path of Otto to his throne: the Civil War in Germany between Wehrmacht and SS, which forced the participants of the Kiev Conference to find common ground over the contested clash between the Roman Alliance (in short Italian) and Soviet spheres of influence in Europe. While obtaining a diplomatic neutralization of Hungary, the constitutional status (monarchy or republic) would be decided through plebiscite. While the former decision was decisively favourable to Otto, the latter wasn’t, as while he was sure to be the only legitimate ruler and choice of Hungary, he still had to work for it.

    But Otto was unaware of other plots over the crown of Hungary – this time from House Savoia. Vittorio Emanuele III was euphoric of the incoming Italian victory, as being the King who ruled his country through two World Wars and being on the winning side on both; this time, with Italy not risking the humiliation of a mutilated victory. Despite his complicated relations with Mussolini, in 1944 he was in very good terms with him, and the Duce felt the same. Sure, Mussolini would be deeper inside still more republican than monarchic; but he regarded monarchies at least decent enough in the prevention of Communism in other European states.. After all, in his opinion, if Otto was the Emperor of Austria or King of Hungary, neither the Anschluss nor the invasion of Hungary would have been happened. At the start of 1944 he genuinely believed Otto was the best choice for the Danubian countries.

    However Vittorio Emanuele III had other projects. He felt he didn’t have long to live and he yearned for a final achievement to cement his legacy is to make the Savoia the premier European dynasty, by installing parents on vacant or newly created thrones. He did achieve an important result in making his nephew Aimone of Savoia-Aosta King of Croatia, with the name of Tomislav II. It was the price Pavelic paid to Mussolini for Croatia’s freedom and the annexation of Bosnia. This emboldened the king, who plotted to make Aimone’s older brother, Amedeo, the current viceroy of the Africa Orientale Italiana, ruler of a most prestigious government. In this project was supported by his son, Umberto, who apparently wanted Amedeo out of Italy for jealousy issues, the viceroy being much popular than him and above all being suspected to be too near to his wife Maria José. Naturally Vittorio Emanuele looked mostly to Spain – Amedeo’s great father was king for three scarce years and failed miserably, but the nephew was considered much more adept to become King. But Mussolini wasn’t interested in forcing the hand of Franco over this, both in truth preferring Juan Carlos of Bourbon, who was in Rome at the time.

    Undeterred, Vittorio Emanuele looked to Hungary, especially once the general agreements on the fate of the country were clear enough. As it wasn’t decided who would be the eventual king, the Savoiard ruler believed he could eventually push the candidature of Amedeo or at least Umberto. However they both knew a vague agreement between Otto and Mussolini was proceeding and both thought how to evade it. Queen Elena suggested an alternative plan: discuss with Zita of Borbone-Parma a marriage proposal, with Otto marrying. After the war and after proper waiting, her daughter Mafalda, now dignified widow and mother, would begin working with Mussolini to give Otto the Austrian throne, while Amedeo in the meanwhile would proceed to become King of Hungary.

    Naturally there were flaws in the idea, such as the unwillingness of Mafalda to marry again, at least not soon and not with an arranged marriage; or Zita’s willingness to favour this plan. Sure a wife like Mafalda would be the best match available for Otto on dynastic terms, despite her being widow and mother; and she knew between Austria and Hungary her son would prefer the former. In case the Hungarian crown would be lost, then the Austrian throne would be his last chance. It was a proposal that would bar a crown for the Hapsburg dynasty forever and she couldn’t take this decision, at least not until talking with Otto again. When she relayed the offer, Otto decided to think it over. He gave himself three days to come up with a decision. In subsequent interviews, he would state that he was quite closing the deal in his mind.

    Then came the rather blunt, foreign notification that settled the question for everyone on the evening of the second day. In a correspondence shortly following Roosevelt’s death, Wallace told Mussolini that he would not accept another member of the House of Savoia on the Hungarian Throne, as he would consider it a violation of Italy’s commitment not to interfere in the internal affairs of Hungary agreed at Kiev. Mussolini resented being told what to do, but was content with his options. He was still allowed Otto’s ascension and could still gain something out of the deal. With this short-lived threat to his claim defeated, Otto began a speaking campaign up and down Hungary to rally support for the monarchy in the referendum. The referendum was agreed to take place on January 7th 1945, and would determine the future of the Magyar nation. MI6 money poured into the Monarchist side of the divide and Soviet money into the Republicans. Jewish organisations likewise supported Otto, seeing him as a way to preserve the memory of their successes in Hungary, rather than see them falling into the increasingly Anti-Semitic hands of Stalin.

    While millions of Hungarians pondered the merits of placing a Hapsburg back in even ceremonial power, few realised that serious discussions were underway in other European states about their own monarchies. […]