A. PIVOTAL MOMENTS IN THE NOVEL’S HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: WORLD WAR II
- In 1933 the Nazis and Hitler were voted into power by the German nation.
- WW II began on September 1, 1939 when Adolf Hitler and his Third Reich invaded neighboring Poland without warning. England and France responded by declaring war on Germany two days later and the world divided into camps of Allied Forces and Axis Powers. More than 70 countries entered a war that engulfed over two-thirds of the world’s surface. The war lasted 6 years to 1945 and caused more than 60 million deaths.
- In the autumn of 1939, Germany rapidly overwhelmed Poland, then Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and France in 1940; and in 1941 they took over Yugoslavia and Greece. The German Army continued on to Egypt, Libya and North Africa in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. They continued in the Pacific helped by Japan, attacking China, Viet Nam and the Asian bloc. Hitler then turned on Russia, opening attack on June 22, 1941. It was in Moscow that the invasion bogged down in late 1941.
- On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and on the very next day, December 8th, the United States declared war on Japan. Britain followed and the U.S. entered the war on the side of the Ales.
- But it was in Stalingrad on the “Eastern Front” in Russia that the war started to turn in favor of the Allied nations and against the Third Reich. The Germans’ 900-day siege of marching from Odessa at the border of occupied Romania, to Stalingrad lasted from 1942-43. The Russian army outnumbered the Germans and the Germans retreated.
- The Allied victory against the Fascist leaders, Hitler and Italy’s Mussolini in the Mediterranean, opened the seas for the victory and liberation of France at Normandy in 1944. This is D-Day, June 6th, under General Eisenhower’s command.
- The war came to an end in 1945 with historical events: Mussolini was executed by Italian partisans on April 28. Hitler killed himself in a bunker in Berlin on May 1st, and on May 7, Germany surrendered unconditionally. On August 6th, the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. On August 9th, the Americans dropped their second bomb on Nagasaki. On September 2, 1945, Japan signed their surrender and the war ended.
ROMANIA DURING WORLD WAR II:
- At the start of World War II in September 1939, Romania remained neutral. However, Axis pressure from Germany lead to territorial losses for Romania: southern Dobrogea was ceded to Bulgaria and northern Transylvania to Hungary.
- The socio-political turmoil resulted in the abdication of Romania’s King Carol ll and the installment of power to the Fascist leader, General Ion Antonescu and the Fascist Iron Guard Army, allying Romania with Nazi Germany.
- In 1941 Romania entered the war against the Soviet Union on the side of the Axis powers. During the war, Romania was the most important source of oil for Germany. The Romanian Army worked with the Third Reich, participating in major battles against the Russians, allowing the German Army access through Odessa to Stalingrad on the “Eastern Front.”
- The Antonescu regime played a major role in the Holocaust. Jewish victims totaled 469,000 within the 1939 borders, including 325,000 in Bessarabia and Bukovina.
- In August 1944, Antonescu was toppled and arrested by the young King of Romania, Michael, and Romania joined the Allies.
- The Peace Treaties gave Transylvania back to Romania, but northern Bukovina and Bessarabia remained occupied by the USSR.
WHAT COUNTRIES WERE OCCUPIED BY GERMANY DURING WWII?
WHAT COUNTRIES WERE ALLIED FORCES DURING WORLD WAR II? WHO WERE THEIR LEADERS?
- United States – Franklin D. Roosevelt
- United Kingdom – Winston Churchill
- Soviet Union – Joseph Stalin
- Republic of China – Chian Kai-Shek
WHAT COUNTRIES WERE AXIS POWERS DURING WORLD WAR II? WHO WERE THEIR LEADERS?
- Germany – Adolf Hitler
- Italy – Benito Mussolini
- Japan – Hideki Tojo
ANTI SEMITIC LAWS:
- By the end of the 1920’s in Germany, most German Jews had been assimilated and were relatively prosperous. The Nazis were elected to power on January 30, 1933. During 1933 the German government enacted forty-two laws restricting the rights of German Jews to earn a living, to enjoy full citizenship and to educate themselves. The most harshest of these laws, the law “for the reconstruction of the civil service” forbade Jews to work in any branch of the civil service. During 1935, the government had enacted a further 29 anti-Jewish laws. The most diabolical were the Nuremberg Laws “for the protection of German blood and honor.” Signed personally by Hitler, these laws prohibited Jews from being citizens of the Reich and forbade marriage between “those of German or related blood” and Jews, Roma (Gypsies), blacks, or their offspring.
- Kristallnacht was the result of a 5-year planned Nazi program to destroy the Jewish population in Germany during one night. It marked the beginning of the Holocaust.
- Many Jews of Polish origin lived in Germany. On October 28,1938, 17,000 of them had been gathered without warning in the middle of the night and were deported from Germany to Poland.
- Herschel Grynszpan, a German Jew who had fled to France, received a letter from his family describing the horrible conditions they experienced in this deportation. Seeking to alleviate their situation, he appealed repeatedly over the next few days to Ernst vom Rath, secretary of the German Embassy in Paris, who apparently had no intention of being helpful. In retaliation, Grynszpan shot and killed vom Rath the next day.
- Vom Rath’s assassination served as an excuse for the Nazi government to organize a planned outbreak of violence against Jewish inhabitants in Germany. This was Kristallnacht. On one night, German soldiers throughout Germany, destroyed 1574 synagogues (constituting nearly all Germany had), desecrated Jewish cemeteries, and broke the glass windows of more than 7,000 shops and 29 department stores owned by Jews. More than 20,000 Jews were arrested and taken to concentration camps.
C. CONCENTRATION CAMPS:
Major concentration camps and extermination camps located throughout Europe:
- Austria: Mauthausen (near Linz)
- Germany: Dachau, Sachsenhausen (near Berlin), Bergen- Belsen (near Hanover), Dora-Miltenbau and Bucherwald, Flossenbürg, Dachau (near Munich) Ravensbrück (near Berlin), Neuengamme (near Hamburg)
- Poland: Auschwitz- Birkenau (near Krakow), Gross-Rosen (near Breslau), Chelmo (near Lodz), Plaszow (near Krakow), Belzec, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka, Stutthof (near Gdansk)
- France: Natzweiler (near Strasbourg)
- Czech Republic: Theresienstadt (near Prague)
- Lativa: Kaberwald (near Riga)
- Belarus: Koldichevo (near Minsk)
- Ukraine: Janowsla
- Slovakia: Sered (near Bratislava)
- Romania: Odessa (Transnistria)
- Netherlands: Westerbork
- Croatia: Jasenovac
Gustav Mahler–Symphony No. 6 in A Minor “Tragic” –1. Allegro Energico Ma Non Troppo