On this day: Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses

The 24th of April, 1933 is considered to be the day Nazi Germany began their persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as it is the date the Bible Student headquarters in Magdeburg were seized by police. This came only a few months after Adolf Hitler came to power.

If Jehovah’s Witnesses were willing to renounce their religion they were promised freedom from persecution. Below is a Nazi renouncement document.

If Jehovah's Witnesses were willing to renounce their religion they were promised freedom from persecution. Nazi renouncement document.

From 1935 onwards, many people who kept their religion were sent to concentration camps.

The persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses continues today, with Russia outlawing the religion only days ago.

On this day: International Unemployment Day

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International Unemployment Day was an event that took place at the time of the Great Depression, occurring on the 6th of March, 1930. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world, including in the United States, Germany, England, France, Spain and Austria marched to protest mass unemployment.

In New York City and Detroit the protests turned violent, with baton-wielding police attacking crowds of tens of thousands.

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New York’s The Communist newspaper gave the incorrect date for the event.

Germany, the non-Soviet country with the largest Communist Party, also saw their protests turn violent, while in Austria demonstrators clashed with Fascist youth in the streets of Vienna.

On this day: the premiere of Metropolis

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Iconic futuristic German film Metropolis premiered on the 10th of January, 1927.

Filmed in 1925 but set in the year 2026, the film is set in a city with ruling elites and poor workers living beneath them.

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The film’s New Tower of Babel. X

Containing ground-breaking special effects, the film’s initial budget was 1.5 million reichsmarks, but increased to 5.1 million. Stories of the director forcing long working hours in difficult conditions on the actors (including 500 children) emerged from the set.

Metropolis regularly makes film critics’ lists of history’s greatest movies.

Nazism in the United States

American Nazis stand in front of a banner of George Washington at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1939. It is believed 22 000 people attended the event.

Prior to Pearl Harbor there was some support for Hitler in the United States, and even movies imported from Britain had anti-Nazi scenes edited out of them before their US release. Germany and Italy, both fascist countries at the time, made strong attempts to set up their own political branches with German and Italian Americans.

Of course, this changed totally when America was drawn into the Second World War halfway through, and anti-German propaganda movies became all the rage.

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On this day: the birth of “Axis Sally”

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American woman Mildred Gillars, nicknamed “Axis Sally” for the prominent role she played broadcasting Nazi propaganda during World War Two, was born on the 29th of November, 1900.

Born in Maine, but moving to Ohio as a child, Gillars moved to Germany to study in 1934, and then later obtained work as an English teacher in Berlin.

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As a young actress in America in the 1920s. X

By 1940, she was working as an announcer for Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft: German State Radio.

Along with an Italian-American woman by the name of Rita Zucca, who performed the same work for Mussolini in Fascist Italy, she was dubbed “Axis Sally” for her anti-American propaganda that was broadcast to US troops once her home country joined the war.

Gillars’ broadcasts told stories of wives and sweethearts at home who cheated with other men while the troops were away, and spread defeatist propaganda to try and destroy American morale.

At the end of the war “Wanted” posters for Gillars were put up around Berlin. Once she was found and arrested in 1946 she was returned to the United States, where she was put on trial for treason.

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The New York Times announces that Mildred Gillars is to stand trial for treason. X

She was eventually convicted of treason for a broadcast titled Vision Of Invasion, and spent twelve years in prison before being released on parole.

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The FBI escorts Gillars to her trial in 1949. X

Gillars went on to live in a convent and work as a schoolteacher, before dying of cancer in 1988.

Her fellow “Sally”, Rita Zucca, spent nine months in an Italian prison, and – having given up her American citizenship – was barred from the United States.

On this day: Prisoners of War

This image, taken on the 25th of November, 1918, shows German prisoners of war working in the marble quarries of Marquise, Pas-de-Calais, France.

From the Imperial War Museum

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