April 12, 2018




U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had a stroke, collapsed and died while sitting for a portrait painting by Elizabeth Shoumatoff.( The painting is known as the Unfinished portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt). In a majority of polls, historians and political scientists have ranked Roosevelt as the second or third greatest president.  He won a record four presidential elections, making him the first and only President to serve more than two terms. He led the US government during most of the Great Depression, implemented his New Deal in response to the worst economic crisis in US history and became one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. Following the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which he called "a date which will live in infamy", Roosevelt obtained a declaration of war on Japan the next day, and a few days later, on Germany and Italy. Despite his many achievements, there had been considerable criticism during his presidency regarding his "court-packing plan", ie US Judicial Reform Bill. He was also criticized for being a "warmonger", for being a "Fascist" and for being too friendly to Joseph Stalin.  In his comment about Stalin and the Yalta Conference, President Roosevelt made this comment, "I think that if I give him (Stalin) everything that I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work for a world of democracy and peace."  No one can deny that such naivety was dangerous, and indeed the aftermath of the Yalta Conference confirmed it.

Harry S. Truman was inaugurated President in the Cabinet Room of the White House and took office, upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He assumed the presidency during the last months of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War.  He approved the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Marshall Plan to rebuild the economy of Western Europe, the establishment of the Truman Doctrine, establishing NATO against Soviet and Chinese communism, for intervening in the Korean War and he supported a newly independent Israel.

German submarines U-486 were sunk by torpedoes from a British submarine, HMS Tapir;  and U-1024 was captured by British frigates HMS Loch Glendhu and HMS Loch More at 53°39′N 05°03′W, but sank the following day while being towed. There were 37 survivors, and 9 died.

The Berlin Philharmonic gave its final performance of the Nazi era, with various members of the military and political elite in attendance. As the concert concluded with the finale of Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung, members of the Hitler Youth distributed baskets of cyanide capsules among the audience. During the final weeks of the Third Reich and the war in Europe, many civilians, government officials and military personnel throughout Nazi Germany committed suicide. Aside from high-ranking Nazi officials like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Philipp Bouhler and Martin Bormann, many others chose  Selbstmord (German: Self-murder) rather than accept the defeat of Germany. Studies have shown that the suicides were influenced through Nazi propaganda (reaction to the suicide of Adolf Hitler), the tenets of the Nazi Party, and the anticipated reprisals following the Allied occupation of Nazi Germany. For example in April 1945, at least 1,000 people killed themselves and others within 72 hours as the Red Army neared the East German town of Demmin.

Westerbork Concentration camp was liberated by the Canadian 2nd Infantry Division (the first soldiers to reach the camp were the 8th Reconnaissance Regiment, followed by troops of the South Saskatchewan Regiment.) Westerbork was a transit camp from July 1942 to September 1944. The Nazi Germans sent weekly cargo trains of Jewish prisoners to the extermination camps in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibór, Bergen-Belsen, and Theresienstadt. By 1945 over 107,000 Jews had passed through Westerbork on a total of 93 outgoing trains,  to the death camps. Only 5,200 of them survived.

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