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world war I

  • University Student Groups in Nazi Germany


    Nazi student groups played a key role in aligning German universities with Nazi ideology and in solidifying Nazi power.


    Tags: students youth
    University Student Groups in Nazi Germany
  • Swastika flag rises over Versailles and Paris


    The German western campaign into the Low Countries and France shattered Allied lines. Within six weeks, Britain evacuated its forces from the Continent and France requested an armistice with Germany. Paris, the French capital, fell to the Germans on June 14, 1940. In this footage, triumphant German forces raise the swastika flag over Versailles and over the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Versailles, the traditional residence of French kings, was deeply symbolic for the Germans: it was the site of both the declaration of the German Empire in 1871 and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. The Treaty of Versailles had imposed humiliating peace terms on Germany after its defeat in World War I. Germany would occupy Paris for the next four years, until 1944.

    Swastika flag rises over Versailles and Paris
  • Nazi Party Platform
  • "Degenerate" Art


    Nazi leaders sought to control Germany not only politically, but also culturally. The regime restricted the type of art that could be produced, displayed, and sold. In 1937, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels made plans to show the public the forms of art that the regime deemed unacceptable. He organized the confiscation and exhibition of so-called “degenerate” art.

    "Degenerate" Art
  • Helene Melanie Lebel

    ID Card

    The elder of two daughters born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Helene was raised as a Catholic in Vienna. Her father died in action during World War I when Helene was just 5 years old, and her mother remarried when Helene was 15. Known affectionately as Helly, Helene loved to swim and go to the opera. After finishing her secondary education she entered law school.

    1933-39: At 19 Helene first showed signs of mental illness. Her condition worsened during 1934, and by 1935 she had to give up her law studies and her job as a legal secretary. After losing her trusted fox terrier, Lydi, she suffered a major breakdown. She was diagnosed as schizophrenic, and was placed in Vienna's Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital. Two years later, in March 1938, the Germans annexed Austria to Germany.

    1940: Helene was confined in Steinhof and was not allowed home even though her condition had improved. Her parents were led to believe that she would soon be released. Instead, Helene's mother was informed in August that Helene had been transferred to a hospital in Niedernhart, just across the border in Bavaria. In fact, Helene was transferred to a converted prison in Brandenburg, Germany, where she was undressed, subjected to a physical examination, and then led into a shower room.

    Helene was one of 9,772 persons gassed that year in the Brandenburg "Euthanasia" center. She was officially listed as dying in her room of "acute schizophrenic excitement."

    Helene Melanie Lebel
  • Gregor Wohlfahrt

    ID Card

    Gregor was born in a village in the part of Austria known as Carinthia. During World War I, he served in the Austro-Hungarian army and was wounded. Raised a Catholic, Gregor and his wife became Jehovah's Witnesses during the late 1920s. Gregor supported his wife and six children by working as a farmer and quarryman.

    1933-39: The Austrian government banned Jehovah's Witness missionary work in 1936. Gregor was accused of peddling without a license and briefly jailed. When Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Gregor led his congregation in a boycott of the plebiscite ratifying Austria's union with Germany. Because of Gregor's anti-Nazi stand, the mayor of his town had Gregor arrested on September 1, 1939. Gregor was sent to Berlin to be tried by a military court for opposing military service. He was sentenced to death. On December 7, 1939, Gregor was executed by guillotine in Berlin's Ploetzensee Prison.

    1940-45: During the war, Gregor's entire family was arrested for refusing to cooperate with the Nazis. Two of Gregor's sons were killed: one son was beheaded in the Ploetzensee Prison, where Gregor had been beheaded in 1939; another son was shot. Gregor's oldest son, Franz, refused to participate in military training, would not salute the Nazi flag, and was sentenced to five years of hard labor in a camp in Germany.

    In addition to Gregor and two of his sons, other members of Gregor's Jehovah's Witness congregation were persecuted by the Nazis.

    Gregor Wohlfahrt
  • Remy Dumoncel

    ID Card

    Remy was born in a small French town to Catholic parents. In 1913, after studying law at the University of Paris, he joined the Tallandier publishing house in Paris. During World War I he served in the French army and was wounded five times. He returned to work at Tallandier after the war, and in 1919 he married Germaine Tallandier, the daughter of the owner. They had five children whom they raised as devout Catholics.

    1933-39: In 1935 Remy became the mayor of Avon, a small town about 35 miles southeast of Paris. Remy was proud of his town, which was famous for its royal palace and nearby forest of Fontainebleau. A strongly patriotic Frenchman, he distrusted Germany after Hitler came to power there in 1933.

    1940-44: In June 1940 the Germans defeated France and occupied Avon on the 16th. Remy resolved to remain mayor and became active in a resistance group called "Velite Thermopyles." He gave financial support to Jewish and other writers whose works could no longer be published. He sheltered some Alsatian Jews in Dordogne, where he owned a home. Using his office as mayor to protect Jews and other fugitives, he provided them with false papers, and helped them flee south to the unoccupied part of France, or to safe houses.

    On May 4, 1944, Remy was arrested in Avon by the Gestapo upon returning from a business trip to Paris. He died in the Neuengamme concentration camp on March 15, 1945.

    Remy Dumoncel
  • Ernest G. Heppner

    ID Card

    Ernest was one of three children born to a Jewish family in the commercial city of Breslau, which had one of the largest Jewish communities in Germany. His father, a World War I veteran, owned a factory that made matzah, the unleavened bread used during the Jewish holiday of Passover. Ernest was 12 when Hitler took power in 1933.

    1933-39: Ernest often got in trouble at school because people called him names. "Christ-killer" and "your father kills Christian babies for Passover" were common taunts. Many thought the Nazis were a passing political fad but by 1935 their laws were menacing. Signs appeared declaring, "Jews are forbidden." In 1938, after his synagogue was burned (during Kristallnacht), his family realized they had to flee Germany. Since his family could only get two tickets, Ernest and his mother boarded a ship for Asia, leaving their family behind.

    1940-44: Ernest ended up in Japanese-controlled Shanghai, the only place refugees could land without a visa. There, as a volunteer driving a truck for the British army's Shanghai Volunteer Force, he got meals and was better off than many other refugees. After Pearl Harbor, in December 1941, conditions among the city's refugees worsened--American relief funds, the refugees' lifeline, could not reach Shanghai. In 1943, under pressure from Germany, the Japanese set up a ghetto.

    Ernest spent two years in the Shanghai ghetto before the city was liberated in 1945. After the war, he worked for the U.S. Air Force in Nanking, China, for several years, and later immigrated to the United States.

    Ernest G. Heppner
  • Iosif Rivkin

    ID Card

    Iosif was born to a Jewish family in the Belorussian capital of Minsk. He fought with the Tsarist troops in World War I and was taken prisoner by the Germans. When he returned to Minsk after the war, he began working in a state-owned factory building furniture, an occupation in which a number of his relatives also made a living.

    1933-39: By the early 1930s, Iosif was married and had three daughters, Hacia, Dora and Berta. The family lived on Novomesnitskaya Street in central Minsk, near the Svisloch River. Throughout the 1930s, the girls attended Soviet state schools and were involved with the Soviet youth organization the Young Pioneers. By the late 1930s Minsk was filled with Polish refugees fleeing the German invasion.

    1940-43: On June 27, 1941, the invading Germans reached Minsk. The Rivkins' home was bombed the next day, and they were forced into the street. They slept by the river with numerous other refugees, until German guards threatened to shoot them all. German posters in Minsk declared that the Nazis had come to liberate the Soviet Union from Communism and the Jews. In August the Germans set up a ghetto, where Iosif was put to work as a carpenter. When the ghetto was liquidated in October 1943, Iosif and his family were deported.

    Iosif's daughter, Berta, escaped from the ghetto before it was liquidated. Iosif and the rest of his family were never heard from again.

    Tags: Minsk ghettos
    Iosif Rivkin
  • Hilda Kusserow

    ID Card

    Hilda was born in a territory ruled by Germany until 1919. A teacher and a painter, she married Franz Kusserow and moved to western Germany before World War I. There, she gave birth to 11 children and became a Jehovah's Witness. After 1931 the Kusserow home in the small town of Bad Lippspringe was the headquarters of a Jehovah's Witness congregation.

    1933-39: The Nazis repeatedly searched Hilda's home because her family remained openly steadfast in their devotion to Jehovah. Hilda continued doing missionary work even though it was banned. In 1936 she was arrested and imprisoned for six weeks. When she was released she continued hosting Bible study meetings in her home, even after her husband was imprisoned. In 1939 the police took away her three youngest children to be "reeducated" in foster homes.

    1940-44: Two of Hilda's sons were executed for refusing induction into the German army. Her husband returned home on August 16, 1940. Because they kept hosting Bible studies, Hilda and her husband were arrested along with their daughters Hildegard and Magdalena in April 1941. Hilda served a two-year term. When released she was told that she could go home if she signed a statement renouncing her faith. Hilda refused and was deported to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp, where she was reunited with two of her daughters who'd already been there a year.

    During a forced march from Ravensbrueck, Hilda and her two daughters were liberated by the Soviets in April 1945. When the war ended, they returned to Bad Lippspringe.

    Hilda Kusserow

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