Showing posts from August, 2021

Eighty years ago, the German invaders head for the symbolic prize of Leningrad

  It was unclear whether the German armies were going to push on to Moscow. No decision had been firmly taken and there was a vigorous debate as to whether German armies should concentrate on the symbolic conquest of the Soviet capital or to concentrate on more tangible objectives such as the oil fields in the south. The partisans of a symbolic move against an iconic Soviet city did, though, hold sway in the North. With Hitler’s enthusiastic backing it was decided to make an all-out attempt to take Leningrad, cradle of the communist revolution and the monument to its most revered leader. The city of Novgorod was captured which all but set the seal on the encirclement of Leningrad. The scene was set for one of the great set-piece engagements of the eastern front. Anglo-Soviet cooperation bore immediate practical fruit. Neutral Iran occupied a strategic location between the British dominated Middle East and the Soviet Union. German business interests had long been well-established ther

Eighty years ago the desert war finds its soundtrack

  The Germans continued their seemingly unstoppable advance into the Soviet Union.  The important naval base of Nikolaev on the Black Sea fell without a battle. The dockyard installations were mainly destroyed but large stocks of material were captured some partly completed warships escaped to ports on the eastern, Georgian seaboard of the Black Sea, but facilities for completeing them and maintaining other ships were limited and primitive. The Germans were to enjoy the advantage at sea for some months to come. Britain and the US pledged full economic assistance to the Soviet Union, which was treated as a full ally in the struggle against Nazi Germany. President Roosevelt convinced himself that the Soviet regime  was essentially benign and deserving of every support possible. Stalin graciously accepted what the western allies offered him unconditionally. A three-power conference in Moscow to decide on ways and means was agreed on. The German troops in North Africa rather depended on So

Eighty years, Roosevelt and Churchill hold their first summit meeting

  The true reason for President Roosevelt’s mysterious “holiday” was revealed. He was holding a summit meeting with Winston Churchill. They had met once before during the First World War but Churchill had been a senior national politician and Roosevelt very junior in the administration; Churchill had long   forgotten the encounter. They had corresponded extensively since Churchill’s accession to power but this would be the moment for them to establish a working relationship. The venue was carefully chosen:   Placentia Bay was in Newfoundland and thus British territory but the US was building an airbase there as part of the destroyers for bases deal of the previous year. Churchill arrived on the battleship HMS Prince of Wales which had been involved in the hunt for Bismarck a few weeks before. In practical terms the meeting was a disappointment for the British. Roosevelt did not promise to enter the war as Churchill hoped he would. The joint statement of goals the leaders signed –

Eighty year ago a rare German domestic critic of the regime survives and forces the Nazi programme of euthanasia undergound

  An aristocratic German Catholic bishop, Clemens von Galen, delivered a third   sermon, decrying Nazi tyranny. The first two had attacked the Nazis in general terms for their brutality and oppression, but this one pointed clearly to a specific atrocity. Galen spoke of the mentally ill people who had been removed from their homes, with their families later being informed that they had died. He accused the German state of murder. This referred to the T4 euthanasia programme under which people – predominantly German citizens – deemed unfit to live were murdered. It was precursor to the Holocaust. The sermon was widely circulated as an unofficial pamphlet. The propaganda minister Goebbels resisted calls to have Galen punished for fear of alienating Germany’s Catholics. Murder of the disabled continued albeit far more circumspectly than before. President Roosevelt took two further steps towards bringing the US into the war. The Lease Lend programme of sending arms supplies practically