Sunday, August 12, 2012

World War II: Aftermath Facts

The cost of World War II is uncalculable in human or financial terms. estimates indicate that about 55 million people died in Europe during the World War II; of these, about 8 millions were German. Death was not for soldiers  – civilians died in their millions too, and came from many different  directions through these cruel years. In the opening stages of the war, as the German armies invaded Poland, Adolf Hitler wasted little time in organizing the killing of large numbers of non-combatants.
He wanted to minimize the potential for trouble making amongst the Polish people, and so he tasked Himmler with eliminating the political and cultural elite. Since the job was effectively wholesale murder, it was given to the SS rather then a regular army. Several units of 400 to 600 men were assembled – these were not fighting forces, but death squads. Called Einsatzgruppen, their role was to go in after the invading armies had passed  and arrest and murder certain categories of civilians. These included government officials, aristocrats, priests, and business people.

Jews in Lodz train station

Friday, July 27, 2012

How many prisoners were freed by the storming of the Bastille?

Actually, only seven. In France, 14th July, Bastille Day, is a national holiday and a glorious national symbol, equivalent to 4th July in the United States of America. From the rousing paintings of the scene, you might think hundreds of proud revolutionaries flooded into streets waving tricolours. In fact, only just over half a dozen people were being held at the time of the siege.The Bastille was stormed on 14th July 1789. Shortly afterwards ghoulish engravings of prisoners languishing in chains next to skeletons went on sale in the streets of Paris, forming the popular impression of the conditions there ever since.

Storming of Bastille fortress 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Robert Curthose invasion of England in 1101

Robert, Duke of Normandy, nicknamed Curthose for the shortness of his legs and hence his leggings, was the oldest, nicest and least effective of William the Conqueror’s three sons. Brave, generous, good-natured and trusting, he was easily outmatched in statecraft, ruthlessness and cunning by his younger brothers – William Rufus and Henry.
Their father had no confidence in Robert as a ruler and arranged for Rufus to succeed him on the throne of England. Then, when Rufus died in 1100, Henry was on the scene. He seized the royal treasury instantly and had himself crowned within three days.

Robert was on his way back from crusade. Insisting that the crown was rightfully his, he won support from prominent figures in Normandy and England, including Ranulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham and a favourite of Rufus. Henry had incarcerated the bishop in the Tower of London, but in February 1101 he got his guards drunk, shinned down a rope and got away to Normandy. Duke Robert gathered an army, with which he crossed the Channel to Portsmouth in July. Henry meanwhile had expected him at Pevensey where he had assembled his English troops, whom he personally instructed in the art of resisting Norman cavalry.
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