April 8, 2018




Nazi Book Burning:  On April 8, 1933, the nationwide "Action Against the Un-German Spirit" was proclaimed by the German Student Union (DSt)  propaganda office. They distributed press releases to publicize the book burning rally as a literary "cleansing by fire" and invited prominent Nazi figures to speak at the rallies.  The DSt also published the "Twelve Theses" of the Nazi Party, which they equated with the ninety-five theses published by Martin Luther in 1520. (Luther was a central figure in the Protestant Reformation, whose views ran counter to that of the Catholic Church, and ultimately was excommunicated. He subsequently burned the papal bull in protest.)  There is no comparison with the Nazis,  because Luther's action was based on a symbolic protest, whereas the Nazis willfully destroyed public property, and threatened fundamental personal freedom of speech. The Nazis chose the Wartburg Festival, on its 300th anniversary of Luther's burning of the bull, to conduct their heinous acts. The German students burned tens of thousands of books from a list they compiled covering 4,000 titles.  The DSt Twelve Theses, called for the purification of the German language and culture in response to what they perceived as a world- wide Jewish smear campaign against Germany, and the Nazi affirmation of traditional values.


Nazi Germany banned the film The Rise of Catherine the Great because its star and director were Jewish. On April 8, 1934, the Nazi SA units made sure that the film was banned in Germany. The 1934 film is a British historical version of the play The Czarina by Lajos Bíró and Melchior Lengyel, about the rise to power of Catherine the Great. It was directed by Paul Czinner, and stars Elisabeth Bergner as Catherine, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., as Grand Duke Peter, Dorothy Hale as Countess Olga, and Flora Robson as Empress Elizabeth. The film recounts the events that led to the rise of Catherine the Great, Empress of all the Russias. The scene opens with the arrival in 1744 of Princess Sophie Auguste Frederika – whose name would be changed to ‘Catherine’ – from her father’s court of Anhalt-Zerbst (in modern Germany) to the court of the Empress Elizabeth. "Little Catherine" is to marry the Grand Duke Peter, nephew and heir presumptive of the unmarried and childless Empress Elizabeth.


Stanisław Mackiewicz was released from Bereza Kartuska Prison. He was imprisoned for having criticized the ruling elite, and was jailed for 17 days.  Bereza Kartuska camp was created on June 17, 1934 by the order of President Ignacy Mościcki,  to detain people who were viewed by the Polish state as a "threat to security, peace and social order" ( without formal charges or trial for three months, hence the possibility of prolonging the detention indefinitely). Originally, the detainees were only political opponents of the Sanacja regime, most notably communists, members of far-right parties, and Ukrainian and Belarusian nationalists, but as of October 1937, "notorious" and financial criminals were also sent to the camp. Detainees were supposed to perform penal labour, and at least 13 people died during their stay. It has been described as a concentration camp.


The Polish submarine ORP Orzel, under British command, torpedoed and sunk the German troop transport MS Rio de Janeiro in the Skagerrak .  At 11.15 am, just hours before the German attack on Norway would began, a submarine surfaced and was sighted off Lillesand. The Germans thought it was a German submarine, but it turned out to be the Polish submarine ORP Orzeł, serving under British command.  Orzel had the number 85 A written on the tower (signifying that it was German-built).  Orzel signalled for Rio de Janeiro to stop, and the order was followed. Then Captain Grudzinski, of the Polish Navy, ordered the Rio de Janeiro to surrender or it would be sunk. When there was no response, Orzel torpedoed the ship. As the Rio took in water and began to sink, the crew and soldiers on board jumped overboard. At 12:40 Orzel submerged and torpedoed the ship a second time.  When the torpedo hit the ammunition depot, it caused an enormous explosion.  The few German survivors told the Allied authorities that the ship was headed for Bergen.  There were horses on board, and the dead (and survivors were wearing German military uniforms, indicated that a German invasion was  imminent.


The Pohl Trial was the fourth of 12 trials of the United States Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (not to be confused with the Nuremberg Trials). It was also called the "Subsequent Nuremberg Trials". The trial was held from April 8 to November 3, 1947 during which 18 SS Nazi German officers were tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The main charge was their active participation in carrying out the "Final Solution", the systematic extermination of the Jews. The accused were employed by the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office, ie, the "WVHA" which ran the concentration and extermination camps in German-occupied territories. The WVHA also handled the recruitment of the SS and Waffen, and the SS-Totenkopfverbande.   Four of the accused, including Oswald Pohl, were sentenced to death by hanging. Three were acquitted. The others received sentences between 10 years and life imprisonment. However, eight months later the judges received additional material presented by the defence and the court agreed to reconvene. After several weeks of re-examination the tribunal confirmed most of the sentences, made slight reductions in some of the other sentences, and changed the death sentence of Georg Lorner into life imprisonment. 

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