Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Goebbels’

Happy May Day!!  It’s hard to believe we’re already beginning 2011’s fifth month.  For Today’s History Lesson, this year has been really out-of-sorts as compared to years past.  Pieces have been few and far between.  Where most months would see 15 to 20+ articles, the last 3 months have seen 10 or fewer.  A heavy workload at the office, slow progression through Madison’s biography, and maybe even a bit of burnout have all combined to create something of a writing drought.  But May is here and the big project at work is nearing completion.  I finished the year-long slog through Madison’s bio, and “refreshed” myself with a bit of fiction, so hopefully things can get back on track.

Joseph Goebbels’ tenure as Chancellor of Germany was incredibly short, easily measured in hours.  The world around him was crumbling in more than one sense.  Literally, the incredible rain of bombs, bullets, and artillery pieces were turning the heart of Berlin (and much of the rest of Germany) to dust.  Figuratively, the last vestiges of the Third Reich and its National Socialist platform were being blown to smithereens.  His boss, Adolf Hitler, was now mostly ashes outside the Chancellery, having committed suicide with his new wife.

But still, in the flickering light of May 1, 1945, Germany’s new Chancellor was able to conduct business, though there were just a couple of tasks to complete.  First, there was ordering General Krebs to take a message to Russian General Vasily Chuikov informing him that Hitler was dead and requesting a ceasefire.  That probably wouldn’t have taken too terribly long since the Russians were, at this point, just down the street.

And second, there was settling his own disposition and that of his family.  He had decided to follow Hitler’s example and commit suicide.  His wife had decided to do the same.  But their children?  The parents reasoned that, as survivors of the parents, the kids would be subject to all sorts of terrible things.  So Frau Goebbels, with help from Hitler’s doctor, injected the children with morphine as they slept and then crushed cyanide capsules in their mouths.

And then husband and wife took care of their last act.  It gets a little fuzzy here since, in the confusion of battle (and the remaining Germans attempting to escape), the true account has been lost.  But the best evidence points to Joseph Goebbels shooting himself while his wife took cyanide, duplicating the deaths of Hitler and Eva Braun.  An attempt to burn their bodies was made, but poorly executed, and they were identified within days.

But of course, the next day would see (and hear) the gunfire end at 3:00pm.  For the Allies (and the Russians in particular) however, the biggest prizes had escaped the hangman’s noose.

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How the mighty had fallen.  When Benito Mussolini came to power in 1922, he had done so on a wave of immense popularity.  Twenty years later, he was on his way out.  A string of terrible military “adventures” in Africa, a disastrous invasion of Greece, the impending loss of Sicily, and the inevitable invasion of Italy by Allied forces had seriously eroded his support base.

On July 25, 1943, King Victor Emmanuel III told the embattled dictator, “Dear Duce, the situation is beyond remedy.  At this moment, you are the most hated man in Italy.  You have not a single friend left, except for me.  I am sorry, but the solution could not be otherwise.”

Italy’s Grand Council had just passed, with the greatest of ease, a vote of no-confidence against Benito.  The people were angry, the government was angry, and now the King’s words, coming from a man standing barely five feet tall, towered over the once-powerful Italian leader.

And as he left the King’s estate, he was met by armed men and arrested.  The reign of Mussolini in Italy was over.  The annoucement was broadcast over the radio shortly before midnight, leading to an impromptu after-hours pajama party in the streets of Rome.

Almost overnight, Facism in Italy vanished.  Pietro Badoglio, who took over power, said, “Facism fell, as was fitting, like a rotten pear.”  Even Mussolini’s own newspaper replaced Il Duce’s picture (shown prominently on the front page) with one of Badoglio.

In Germany, the news was met with anger and harsh words.  For all his miserable economic failures and complete ineptitude as a military leader, Mussolini had Teutonic allies.  In his diary, Joseph Goebbels would write about the deposed dictator, “…behind his massive figure a gypsy people has gone to rot.  The only thing certain in this war is that Italy will lose it.”

And then the scheming to somehow free Mussolini began…

Recommended Reading:  The Day of Battle

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With the death of Adolf Hitler on 1945’s last day of April, the mass exodus from the massive underground bunker below the bombed out Chancellery began in earnest.  Those left with the German dictator professed their unwavering loyalty and commitment to him, but when he downed his final cocktail of cyanide (with a bullet chaser), it was as though the mice on the ship finally realized the waves were lapping the bow and the “exodus of self-preservation” began.

Some, like Joseph Goebbels, who was appointed by Hitler as the new Chancellor, chose the option of joining their now-dead leader by becoming…well…dead.  Others, like Martin Bormann, promoted to the Nazi Party’s General Secretary, chose to chance it above ground.

And then Bormann seemingly disappeared.  He exited the Chancellery with two companions, one of whom survived to say that Bormann had died.  But the lack of a body and the fact that many Nazi officials made their escapes to South America led to all kinds of speculation.

Bormann’s long-time chauffeur saw him in Berlin.  He was seen in South America years later.  He was back in Europe with a modified face.  He was a Russian spy now living in the Soviet Union.  He was piloting a UFO with Amelia Earhart.

It got to the point that serious investigations were re-opened to figure out what really happened to the man, but even those proved suspect.  Ladislas Farago, a journalist and author of some pretty solid works, wrote a book showing evidence that Martin Bormann that he had survived the war and that he was alive and well in Argentina.

And then in 1972, 27 years later, a crew of construction workers solved the mystery when they dug up Bormann’s remains…in Germany…with bits of glass in his teeth.  And the puzzle finally came together.

After leaving the Chancellery, Bormann and his companion encountered a Russian patrol early in the morning on May 2, 1945.  But rather than, as a Russian spy, running to meet his secret compatriots, he quickly bit his cyanide capsule and, seconds later, became just another dead Nazi officer laying on the ground.

Recommended Reading: The Game of the Foxes – I mentioned Farago, so here’s the book that’s on my shelf.  It’s all about German espionage in the U.S. and England.  Is it 100% accurate?…well, that’s open to a bit of debate.

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