April 26, 2018




The Gestapo was created by Hermann Göring in the German state of Prussia. The Gestapo was the Secret State Police of Nazi Germany, and German-occupied Europe during World War II. It played a key role in the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe. The Gestapo had the authority to investigate cases of treason, espionage, sabotage and criminal attacks on the Nazi Party and Germany. The basic Gestapo law passed by the government in 1936 gave the Gestapo free reign to operate without judicial review—in effect, putting it above the law. The Gestapo was specifically exempted from responsibility to administrative courts, where citizens normally could sue the state to conform to laws. As early as 1935, a Prussian administrative court had ruled that the Gestapo's actions were not subject to judicial review. The SS officer Werner Best, one-time head of legal affairs in the Gestapo summed up this policy by saying, "As long as the police carries out the will of the leadership, it is acting legally." The power of the Gestapo included the use of what was called, Schutzhaft—"protective custody", a euphemism for the power to imprison people without judicial proceedings. An absurdity of the system was that the prisoner had to sign his own Schutzhaftbefehl, an order declaring that the person had requested imprisonment—presumably out of fear of personal harm. In addition, thousands of political prisoners throughout Germany—and from 1941, throughout the occupied territories under the Night and Fog Decree, disappeared while in Gestapo custody.


The German Luftwaffe bombed the Basque town of Guernica:  At the behest of Francisco Franco's nationalist government, the Nazis conducted an aerial bombing raid of the town on April 26, 1937.  The town was being used as a communications center behind the front line, and the bombing operation opened the way to Franco's capture of Bilbao and his victory in northern Spain.  There was wide controversy about the operation because it involved the bombing of civilians by a military air force.  The number of victims is still disputed; the Basque government reported 1,654 casualties while local historians identified 126 victims, later revised to 153. A British source claimed 400 civilians died while  Soviet archives claim 800 deaths. The Times reporter, George Steer covered news about the Spanish Civil War from inside the country.  He set the tone for subsequent news reports, accusing Germany of the action. (the fact that there were three small bomb cases stamped with the German Imperial Eagle, made it clear that the official German position of neutrality in the Civil War and the signing of a Non-Intervention Pact was a sham.) Steer's report was syndicated to the New York Times and then worldwide, generating widespread shock, outrage, and fear. The Times ran the story every day for over a week.


Message to Joseph Stalin from President Franklin D. Roosevelt:    " I have received your telegram while on my Western inspection trip. I can well understand your problem but I hope in present situation you can find means to label your action as a suspension of conversation with the Polish Government in Exile rather than a complete severance of diplomatic relations.    (2) It is my view that Sikorski has not acted in any way with Hitler gang, but rather that he made a stupid mistake in taking the matter up with the International Red Cross. Also I am inclined to think that Churchill will find ways and means of getting the Polish Government in London to act with more common sense in the future.   Let me know if I can help in any way, especially in regard  to looking after any Poles you may desire to send out of Russia.   Incidentally, I have several million Poles in the United States, very many of them in the Army and Navy.  They are all bitter against the Nazis and knowledge of a complete diplomatic break between you and Sikorski would not help the situation."  signed by Roosevelt. (Editors note:  the final version sent to Stalin was edited by the removal of the word "stupid" in the second paragraph)  PS.  Polish General Sikorski insisted upon an investigation by the International Red Cross after the discovery of mass graves in Smolensk, Russia. The Germans had discovered the graves in early 1943, and declared that the Soviets were the perpetrators. Stalin denied it and eventually broke off diplomatic relations with the Polish government in London.  The mass graves concealed the bodies of upwards of 16,000 Polish officers murdered by the Soviet NKVD from April to May 1940.  It was the Katyn Massacre.


Philippe Pétain was arrested on the border between Switzerland and France. He was Marshall of the Vichy Regime which was installed by Nazi Germany after the Fall of France.  They collaborated with the Nazis. The Vichy government immediately used its new powers to order harsh measures, including the dismissal of republican civil servants, the installation of exceptional jurisdictions, the proclamation of antisemitic laws, and the imprisonment of opponents and foreign refugees. Censorship was imposed, and freedom of expression and thought were effectively abolished with the reinstatement of the crime of "felony of opinion."  At the end of World War II, Petain was tried on treason charges, and sentenced to death by a one-vote majority.  Because of his advanced age, he was instead imprisoned for life. The French Court stripped Pétain of all military ranks and honours except for the one title of Marshal of France.

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