December 7, 2018




Gestapo-NKVD Conferences:  From December 6 to 7, 1939 the Gestapo and Soviet NKVD held conferences in Krakow, located in the General Gouvernment in central Poland (Nazi-German administrative center). The second round of conferences were held from December 8 to 9, 1939 in  Zakopane, a resort town in the Tatra Mountains of southern Poland.  Top officials from the Gestapo and NKVD met to discuss mutual cooperation the tactics to use for dealing with Polish resistance and the exchange of prisoners of war. There were seven Gestapo-NKVD Conferences; the first was held on September 27, 1939 in Brzesc, and the last in March 1940 in Krakow. The German-Soviet alliance was established with the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on August  23, 1939. On September 1, Nazi  Germany invaded Poland on three fronts, and on September 17, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east.


Nazi German Commander of Chelmno Death Camp.  On December 7, 1941, Herbert Lange became the first commandant of the Chelmno, a Nazi German Death Camp. He organized this camp by orders of Himmler and Greiser. According to some sources, it was Lange who selected Chelmno as the location. The Death Camp was situated about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from the Polish city of Lodz, which the Nazi Germans renamed Litzmannstadt.  It operated from December 8, 1941, coinciding with Operation Reinhard during the most deadly phase of the Holocaust, and again from June 23, 1944 to January 18, 1945.  Up to 340,000 men, women, and children were gassed at Chelmno. On January 17, 1945 Russian troops captured the town of Chełmno but by then, the Nazi Germans had destroyed evidence of the camp's existence, leaving no prisoners behind.

Pearl Harbor Attack:  On December 7, 1941, without any formal declaration of war, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service launched a suprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. Twenty-one American ships were attacked and either lost or damaged during the attack. Of the 402 American aircraft stationed in Hawaii, 188 were destroyed and 159 damaged, 155 of them on the ground. Hardly any aircraft were ready to defend the base except for eight Army Air Forces pilots. They succeeded in getting airborne during the attack and each of them were credited with downing at least one Japanese aircraft during the attack: 1st Lt. Lewis M. Sanders, 2nd Lt. Philip M. Rasmussen, 2nd Lt. Kenneth M. Taylor, 2nd Lt. George S. Welch, 2nd Lt. Harry W. Brown, and 2nd Lt. Gordon H. Sterling Jr. Sterling was shot down by Lt. Fujita over Kaneohe Bay and is listed as Body Not Recovered (not Missing In Action). Lt. John L. Dains was killed by friendly fire returning from a victory over Kaawa. Of 33 PBYs in Hawaii, 24 were destroyed, and six others damaged beyond repair. (The three on patrol returned undamaged.) Friendly fire brought down some U.S. planes on top of that, including five from an inbound flight from Enterprise. Japanese attacks on barracks killed additional personnel.  American casualties were 2,335 killed,  and 1,143 wounded. The next day the United States and Great Britain declared war on Japan, and the US entered WWII.


Treaty between West Germany and Poland:  On December 7, 1970, the Treaty of Warsaw was signed by Chancellor Willy Brandt of West Germany and Prime Minister Jozef Cyrankiewicz of the People's Republic of Poland. (It was ratified by the German Bundestag on May 17,1972.)  West Germany and Poland agreed to the stipulations of the Warsaw Treaty,  that is, the acceptance of the existing border between Germany and Poland - the Oder-Neisse line, which was imposed on Germany by the Allied powers after the end of World War Two at the Potsdam Conference.  The subject had been a very sensitive topic since 1945, as Poland was concerned that a German government might attempt to reclaim some of the former eastern territories.  Willy Brandt was vehemently criticised by the conservative CDU/CSU opposition, who preceived his policy as a betrayal of German national interests, but were consoled with the belief that the Treaty was not a final arbiter.  According to Article IV of the Warsaw Treaty, it stated that previous treaties, such as the Potsdam Agreement, were not superseded by this latest agreement. Therefore the provisions of this treaty could be changed by a final peace treaty between Germany and the Allies of World War II—as provided for in the Potsdam Agreement.

Warschauer Kniefall:  On December 7, 1970 German Chancellor Willy Brandt visited the monument to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  After Brandt laid a wreath at the monument, he surprised everyone present when he knelt before the monument, and remained silent (for about half a minute).  During the Nazi German occupation, Willy Brandt had actively resisted the early Nazi regime, and had been in exile most of the time. Brandt's visit to Poland at the time was for the signing of the Treaty of Warsaw between West Germany and the People's Republic of Poland, guaranteeing German acceptance of the new borders of Poland. The treaty was one of the Brandt-initiated policy steps (the 'Ostpolitik') to ease tensions between West and East during the Cold War.  At the time positive reactions may have been limited, but his demonstration of  humility was an important step in bridging the gaps World War II had left between Germany and Eastern Europe. Brandt's act was remarkable and thought to be one of the reasons he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971.

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