October 16, 2018




Jadwiga was crowned King of Poland, despite being a woman:  Jadwiga  was the first female monarch of the Kingdom of Poland, and reigned from October 16, 1384 until her death on July 17, 1399. She was the youngest daughter of Louis the Great, King of Hungary and Poland, and his wife Elizabeth of Bosnia. Jadwiga was a member of the Capetian House of Anjou, but she had closer links among the Polish Piasts. The turmoil that erupted after the death of Louis the Great subsided upon the arrival of King Jadwiga to Poland.   According to Jan Dlugosz, a 15-th century Polish historian, King Jadwiga was greeted "with a display of affection" by a  large crowd of clerics, noblemen and burghers. Nobody protested when Archbishop Bodzanta crowned her.  Historians propose that the Polish lords prevented her eventual spouse from acquiring the same title without their consent.   Jadwiga would not be a queen consort, but rather a king, reflective of being queen regnant.  Though she was just a child at her coronation, she grew into wisdom and became a skilled and gracious ruler.  Jadwiga was the greatest ruler in Poland's history and accomplished much during her young life.  Her marriage to Władysław-Jogaila enabled the union of Poland and Lithuania.  She succeeded in preserving peace with the Teutonic Order, which gave Poland the means with which to make preparations for a decisive war against the Knights.  She was involved with many cultural and charitable activities,  established new hospitals, schools and churches, and restored older ones.  Jadwiga was instrumental in promoting the use of the vernacular in church services so that hymns would be sung in Polish.  Even the Holy Scriptures were translated into Polish according to her orders.  Jadwiga was very religious and attended Mass every day.  She was venerated shortly after her death, and many miracles have been attributed to her intervention.  She was beatified on August 8, 1986  by Pope John Paul II, and canonized on August 8, 1986.


Franciszek Charwat, a Polish consul, departed from Kaunas, Lithuania on October 16, 1939 after the Soviet-Lithuanian Treaty was concluded just days earlier. The Treaty guaranteed Lithuania of the inviolability of its sovereignty, and granted Lithuania about one fifth of the Vilnius Region, including the nation's historical capital, Vilnius. But in exchange, Lithuania "accepted" five Soviet military bases with 20,000 Soviet troops stationed throughout Lithuanian territory. To do so was an outright sacrifice of their own independence amid hostile Soviet occupation.  Charwat strongly protested this treaty, but to no avail.  He fled to France with the Polish delegation, where he was accused of arbitrary liquidation of the branch in Kaunas.  (During the interwar period, Kaunas was designated as the temporary capital of Lithuania, whereas Vilnius was the declared capital and was under Polish control from 1920 to 1939.)

The German Luftwaffe launched its first air raid on the British Isles on October 16, 1939.  It's main target was the Royal Naval Home Fleet anchored at Scapa Flow located at the very tip of northern Scotland. Nine Junkers Ju 88s targeted the Firth of Forth, damaging three British ships, the HMS Southampton, the HMS Edinburgh and the destroyer Mohawk,  killing sixteen RAF crewman and wounding 44 others. Three Spitfires from two British squadrons, no.602 and no.603 immediately intercepted the nine Junkers, and shot down two of them, damaging a third. It was the first enemy aircraft to be shot down over the UK since 1918, and the first RAF victory in the Second World War.   The Supermarine Spitfire was developed just prior to the outbreak of World War Two, and became the legendary bastion of British air supremacy during the war. It was the finest aircraft fighter ever built and surpassed planes of the Nazi German Luftwaffe, in speed and maneuverability.  The Junkers JU88 could carry a 2,000 kg (4,410 lb) payload and travel at a speed of 514 km/h (320 mph).  The prototype for the Spitfire MK took its maiden flight on May 14, 1938,  clocking a top speed of 571 km/h  (355 mph) with a range out to  804 km (500 miles), and a service ceiling nearing 10 km ( 34,000 feet).

"Wild Resettlements" Continue: Polish citizens residing in Gdynia were ordered to leave their homes or face arrest and imprisonment in Nazi German concentration camps. Hitler had decreed on September 19, 1939, that Gdynia belonged to Germany, and renamed the Polish port, "Gotenhafen" (Port of Goths). Even before the outbreak of war, the Nazi German Party intended to implement its plan to remove the Polish population from the Pomeranian "corridor" to central and eastern Poland. During October and November of 1939, the plan was carried out by the SS Police, the Wehrmacht, and Selbstschutz branches comprised of local German nationals.  The main targets were Polish businessmen, landowners, and craftsmen, whose assets were of particular interest to the local Germans and authorities. The Nazi Germans seized possession of large apartments in which to set up their headquarters. The  mass "wild displacements" began on October 12, 1939. The Nazi Germans issued its first announcement by radio, and bulletins. Here is a translation to English:   "For safety reasons, I command the evacuation of the Polish population (of the) Orłowo district, excluding Kolibki and Mały Kac, until (sic) Thursday, October 12th 1939 at 9.00."  Over 4,000 Polish people left Gdynia Orłowo on that day, which included about one thousand children.  They all took temporary refuge in the cities in the districts of Grabówek, Chylonia, and Witomino. From there, the Nazis deported them by cattle car to the General Gouvernement  in central Poland. Many Poles perished during the journey due to lack of water, or illness. Others were shot while trying to escape. (The General Gouvernment was the administrative center of Nazi German occupation in Poland. The territory was administered like a vast penal colony. Though Polish Christians were allowed to walk freely, the Nazis regularly rounded up hundreds of Polish citizens (men, women and children) and publicly executed them by machine gun fire, or hung them from lamposts and balconies.)


Nazi Raid of Jewish Ghetto in Rome:  On October 16, 1943 the Gestapo raided the Jewish Ghetto in Rome, and arrested 1,259 Jews, comprising 363 men, 689 women and 207 children.  Of these, 1,023 were deported to the Nazi German Auschwitz death camp. Only 15 men and one woman survived. When the Nazi Germans entered Rome a month earlier, they comprised lists of the Jewish residents of the city, with the intention of later rounding them up. The Nazis demanded 50 kilograms of gold from the Jewish community, and threatened to deport them unless the ransom was paid. Roman citizens (Jews and non-Jews) converged to help in any way by turning over gold jewelry and watches, in an effort to help the Jewish community.  Tragically, the payment did not protect the Jews, but only postponed the inevitable. On this day in 1943,  thousands of Jews went into hiding in many Catholic institutions, and in the Vatican. (According to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, Pope Pius XII issued a diplomatic protest against the Nazi order to expel the Jews. His Holiness also sheltered many Jews as well as did Rabbi Zolli.)


Nuremberg Trials - Day of Hanging:  Ten of the top Nazi officials were hanged on this day. They were Hans Frank,  Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Frick,  Alfred Jodl.  Ernst Kaltenbrunner,  Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Julius Streicher.  Hermann Goring was the highest ranking Nazi official to be tried at Nuremberg, but he committed suicide two hours before the scheduled execution.  Sentences:  Martin Bormann (sentenced to Death in absentia); Karl Donitz (sentenced, but released 10 years later on a legal technicality); Hans Fritzsche (acquitted);  Walther Funk (sentenced to Life Imprisonment, but released in 1957 due to ill health);  Rudolph Hess (Life Imprisonment, he committed suicide in August 1987);  Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach (medically unfit for trial, he was paralyzed since 1941);  Robert Ley (committed suicide October 1945); Baron Konstantin von Neurath (sentenced to 15 years but released in 1954 due to ill health. He died August 1956); Franz von Papen ( Aquitted following appeal after serving only 2 years); Erich Raeder (sentenced to Life Imprisonment but released in 1955 due to ill health and died in Nov 1960);  Dr. H. Hjalmar Schacht (acquitted, allegations of a conspiracy by British financiers for his release); Baldur von Schirach (sentenced to 20 years, served full sentence); Albert Speer (sentenced to 20 years and served full sentence).


Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected Pope and took the name John Paul II. He was the first non-Italian elected to the papacy in 455 years. Church bells rang out and a wave of euphoria swept throughout Poland in celebration of this unprecedented event. (However, the election of a Polish Pope upset officials at the Kremlin, who considered it a revolt against Soviet rule, especially amidst the growing unrest among Polish trade unions.)

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