Einstein, who was Jewish, was undertaking a visiting professorship at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena when Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor on 30 January 1933. With the Nazis expanding their power in Germany, Einstein chose not to go home when he returned to Europe in March. When his ship docked at the Belgian port of Antwerp on 28 March he renounced his German citizenship by handing in his passport at the German Consulate.
While the Nazis seized Einstein’s cottage and converted it to a Hitler Youth camp, the government barred Jews from teaching at universities and the German Student Union burned his books. With a bounty on his head, Einstein stayed in Belgium for a few months before moving to Britain where he was guarded by his friend, naval officer Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson.
While a refugee in Britain, Einstein lobbied foreign governments and universities to find employment for former German Jewish scientists. Many places were found around Europe, with over 1,000 German Jewish scientists being placed in Turkish universities alone, but Einstein himself was refused British citizenship and instead accepted an offer from the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey. He departed England on 17 October 1933.
Although Einstein initially intended to only stay in the United States for a short time, in 1935 he chose to seek American citizenship, which he gained in 1940. By this time he had warned President Roosevelt about the danger of Hitler developing nuclear weapons, and encouraged the United States to begin its own research.
Boris III became Tsar of Bulgaria at the end of the First World War, just four days after his father, Ferdinand I, signed the Armistice of Thessalonica with the Allied Powers. In order to save the monarchy he handed power to his eldest son, who had gained great respect from both Bulgarian and German troops during the First World War.
The new Tsar found himself leading a country that faced enormous economic and political problems as a result of the war and the subsequent Treaty of Neuilly that was signed in November 1919. Bulgaria was forced to hand territory to both Greece and the newly-formed Yugoslavia, resulting in approximately 300,000 Bulgarians finding themselves in new countries. The army was also reduced and the country was forced to pay reparations.
The first decade of Boris’ reign saw tensions between the monarchy and the powerful forces of the Agrarian Union and the Communist Party. By the end of 1935 he had begun to secure his hold on power and establish the ‘King’s Government’ in which he personally dominated the political system.
The outbreak of the Second World War was followed a year later by Bulgaria allying itself with the Axis powers in an attempt to win back territories lost at the end of the First World War. However, Boris refused to lend unconditional military support to Germany and infuriated Hitler with his refusal to declare war on the USSR. In early 1943 Boris angered Hitler again by refusing to deport Bulgarian Jews. He insisted that they should stay in Bulgaria where they were needed for labouring tasks, and saved approximately 50,000 people. Boris died of apparent heart failure later that year, on 28 August.
On September 12th 1919, Adolf Hitler officially joined the German Workers’ Party (DAP). At the time no membership cards were issued but, when they made available in January 1920, Hitler was given membership number 55 although he later claimed in Mein Kampf to have been the seventh. Hitler was actually the seventh executive member of the Party’s central committee. His membership card actually identified him as number 555 since the party began its numbering at 500 in order to make it appear to have more members than it really did.
At the time Hitler was working as an army intelligence officer who had been tasked with infiltrating the German Workers’ Party. However, he was attracted to the angry rhetoric of the founder – Anton Drexler – and during a party meeting in the first floor restaurant of the Sterneckerbräu beer hall in Munich on the 12th September put forward a passionate argument denouncing the views of another speaker. In Mein Kampf Hitler describes Drexler as being impressed by his oratorical skills, which resulted in him being invited to join the party.
Despite members of the army not being permitted to have membership of a political party, Hitler was given special permission to join the DAP. However, before long his role in the party began to eclipse his role in the military and he was discharged from the army on the 31st March 1920 after which he began working full-time for the renamed National Socialist German Workers Party.
The Sterneckerbräu building still exists in Munich, although the beer hall has gone and it is now used for residential and commercial purposes.
The Nazi German Luftwaffe launched the first of 57 consecutive days and nights of bombing raids on London in what became known as the Blitz.
The Luftwaffe had been attacking British targets in the Battle of Britain since June 1940. This was an attempt to achieve air superiority over the RAF to enable a land invasion by the Nazis or force the British government to sue for peace.
Having failed to defeat the RAF in the Battle of Britain, Hitler and Göring instead ordered a policy designed to crush civilian morale. The first raid of the Blitz took place on 7 September in which over 337 tons of bombs were dropped on London, and 448 civilians were killed. The earlier decision by Hugh Dowding, Air Officer Commanding Fighter Command, to focus on day fighter defences meant that Britain was woefully unprepared for German bomber attacks at night when they became the official policy on 7 October.
The Luftwaffe used technology known as beam navigation to locate their target, in which the crews had to detect converging radio signals from two or more ground stations. Britain countered this by transmitting false navigation signals that were designed to send the incoming crews off course. They also created a number of dummy targets such as diversionary airfields and industrial targets that used lighting effects to simulate factories and transport.
By the end of the Blitz on 11 May 1941, approximately 41,000 tons of bombs had been dropped by the Luftwaffe and more than 40,000 civilians had been killed. Yet, despite the psychological pressures of the situation in which class divisions and anti-Semitism often surfaced, British society continued to function, morale remained high and British industrial production actually rose.
On the 2nd August 1934, the 86 year old German Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg died of lung cancer and Adolf Hitler became both the Führer and Reich Chancellor of the German People. It effectively merged the offices of both the President and Chancellor into one role, and therefore completed what the Nazis referred to as Gleichschaltung (or “Co-ordination”) by establishing Hitler as both Germany’s head of state and head of government.
Interfering with the post of President was illegal under the terms of the 1933 Enabling Act, and although Hitler merging the two positions removed any political checks and balances of his personal domination of Germany, a plebiscite held 17 days later on the 19th August saw an enormous 90% of people approving of the change.
Hitler’s assumption of the role of Führer also allowed the Nazi Party to more actively pursue its promotion of the ideology of Führerprinzip. This stated that Hitler possessed absolute control over the German government. Supported by a propaganda machine that relentlessly pushed the slogan Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer – which translates as “One People, One Empire, One Leader” – the Führerprinzip also confirmed the Nazi Party’s complete control over every element of German society. This ranged from local government to factories and even to the management and control schools, although in terms of government it sometimes meant that officials were reluctant to make decisions without Hitler’s personal input or approval. It was also used by Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg Trials to argue that they were not guilty since they were only following orders.
The Vichy government was established in France after the National Assembly approved a new French Constitutional Law that granted full powers to Marshal Pétain.
France declared war against Germany on 3 September, two days after the Nazi invasion of Poland. Despite being at war, however, the two countries only experienced minor skirmishes in early September.
This period of little military action, which became known as the Phoney War, was followed 8 months later by a full-scale German invasion of France that began on 10 May. The French were overwhelmed by the Nazi war machine, and were soon forced to decide whether to continue to fight while the government relocated to North Africa, or remain in France and seek an armistice.
Eventually the Cabinet agreed to seek an armistice, which was signed on 22 June in Compiègne Forest. This had been the location for the November 1918 armistice that Germany had signed to end the Great War, and was specifically chosen by Hitler as a form of revenge. The railway carriage in which the 1918 ceasefire had been agreed was even brought from a museum to host the discussions.
The French decision to sign an armistice led to the resignation of Prime Minister Paul Reynaud, who was replaced by First World War hero Marshal Philippe Pétain. Two-fifths of France had been designated ‘unoccupied’ under the terms of the armistice, and its administrative centre lay in the city of Vichy. However, the government nominally ruled the German-occupied areas as well.
The French State officially collaborated with Nazi Germany from 30 October, when Pétain announced the policy in a radio broadcast. The new Provisional Government of the French Republic was established on 3 June 1944 following the Allied liberation.
On the afternoon of 26th April 1937, the Basque town of Guernica experienced what is seen by many as the first large-scale modern air raid against a civilian population.
By the Spring of 1937, Guernica was just 30km away from the front line fighting of the Spanish Civil War, and lay within the focal area for the Nationalist army’s advance on the city of Bilbao. The town was also a Republican communication centre, and was the location of a weapons factory. Documents released in the 1970s show that the attack was part of a larger Nationalist strategy in the north, in which roads and bridges would be destroyed in order to upset Republican troop movements.
However, as historian César Vidal Manzanares notes, the level of destruction was disproportionate to the town’s strategic value. At first, five waves of bombers attacked Guernica over a period of 90 minutes. Further waves came in the early evening, along with a number of fighter planes that strafed the roads leading out of the devastated town, increasing the civilian death toll as people tried to escape the burning ruins.
The number of civilian casualties from the attack has never been fully determined. However, figures in excess of a thousand that were cited until the 1980s are now known to have been exaggerated. Historians now accept that between 170 and 300 civilians were killed in the bombing, although it’s likely that many more died from their injuries.
The Nazi Party founded a paramilitary organisation that became the Schutzstaffel, better known as the SS.
The organisation was established on the orders of Adolf Hitler to act as his personal bodyguard. He had been released from prison the previous December, having been found guilty of treason following the failed Munich Putsch, and was keen to ensure onhis safety when attending party functions and events.
The SS was technically a division of the longer-established SA, but the group’s loyalty to Hitler meant that over time it grew to be the dominant organisation. This came about under the leadership of Heinrich Himmler, who was appointed Reichsfuhrer-SS in January 1929. He transformed the SS from a small bodyguard of less than 300 members into a private army containing over 50,000 men by the time Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.
Membership of the SS was reserved for those men who would loyally and unquestioningly serve Hitler and the Nazi Party, and who met the SS’s strict racial policy. Through racial selection of both SS members and their spouses, the Nazis hoped to create an ‘elite’ community of people with an ‘Aryan-Nordic bloodline’.
The Night of the Long Knives in June 1934 removed any remaining authority the SA once had over the SS. A month later Hitler formally separated the two organisations, meaning that the SS became answerable to him alone. As the organisation grew even further under the Nazi dictatorship, separate SS subdivisions were established within a sprawling bureaucracy.
By the end of the Second World War the SS had responsibilities that stretched from policing and the collection of intelligence to running Nazi concentration and death camps.
On the 1st April 1924, Adolf Hitler was found guilty of treason for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch and sentenced to five years in jail. His comfortable Festungshaft (which translates as fortress confinement) in Landsberg Prison lasted for only eight months before he was released for good behaviour. His detention provided him with the opportunity to write Mein Kampf, his blueprint for power, and to rethink the tactics he would use to take that power in Germany.
The Beer Hall Putsch, also known as the Munich Putsch, had begun on the 8th November 1923 when Hitler led an attempted coup against the Weimar Government by trying to seize power in the Bavarian city of Munich. Despite a successful first evening, however, the coup was quickly stalled the following day after the police and army engaged the relatively small Nazi Party in open street fighting.
Hitler hid in a friend’s house, and his arrest for treason two days later could have been the end of his political career. However, he chose to defend himself during his public trial which acted as a propaganda platform. Hitler openly admitted trying to overthrow the government but claimed that he was not guilty of treason since, in his words, “There is no such thing as high treason against the traitors of 1918.”
The trial secured Hitler enormous media attention, and catapulted him and the Nazi Party to national prominence. Despite being imprisoned and banned from public speaking, Hitler was able to rebuild the Nazi Party following his release along less revolutionary lines that eventually saw him appointed Chancellor in January 1933.
On the 7th March 1936, the German Army under control of Adolf Hitler violated international agreements by remilitarising the Rhineland. Although Germany had retained political control over the area following the Treaty of Versailles, it had been banned from stationing armed forces there. France reacted with horror, but they didn’t take any action.
The Rhineland area of Germany, which lay on the border with France, had been banned under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles from containing armed forces within a 50km-wide strip. This had later been confirmed by Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann in the Locarno Treaties of 1925. However, by 1936 Hitler had come to power and had begun to break the terms of Versailles by increasing the number of German weapons beyond the agreed limits and reintroducing conscription.
The Western powers had failed to respond to these moves with anything more than diplomatic grumbling, so Hitler felt emboldened to further test the limits of the Versailles settlement. After France and Russia signed the 1935 Franco-Soviet Pact, Hitler chose to send three battalions, or approximately 22,000 German troops, into the Rhineland on the morning of the Saturday 7th March in what he claimed was a defensive move against ‘encirclement’. His own generals were expecting retaliation from France, and Hitler had even ordered an immediate withdrawal if the French army made a move. But it didn’t – France refused to act without the support of Britain, which had been severely weakened by the impact of the Great Depression, distracted by the unfolding Abyssinia Crisis, and sympathised – to an extent – with the German desire to defend its own border.