5 March 1940

5 March 1940

5 March 1940

March 1940


Winter War

Finnish government decides to accept Russian peace terms

Great Britain

£300,000,000 war loan at 3% announced to help pay for the war

5 March 1940 - History

Watch Part Number: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | Surprising Beginnings (March 1940-September 1941)

"Surprising Beginnings" sets the stage for the series and examines the radical increase in violence against all opponents of the Nazi state during this 18-month period. In particular, the program explores the importance of the German Army's invasion of the Soviet Union during the summer of 1941 and connects this campaign to the first gassing experiments in Auschwitz, which were aimed at Russian prisoners of war, not Jews.

In the final segment, Linda Ellerbee talks with Michael Berenbaum, professor of theology at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles and author of Anatomy of the Auschwitz Nazi Death Camp (published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by Indiana University Press, 1994) and Melvin Jules Bukiet, professor of creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and author of Nothing Makes You Free: Writings by Descendants of Jewish Holocaust Survivors (W.W. Norton, 2002).

Surprising Beginnings: Episode 1

This is the site of the largest mass murder in the history of the world&mdashAuschwitz. 1.1 million people died here. More than the total British and American losses in the whole of the Second World War.

This is the story of the evolution of Auschwitz and the mentality of the perpetrators. It's a history, based in part on documents and plans only discovered since the opening of archives in Eastern Europe, and informed by interviews with people who were there, including former members of the SS.

Oskar Gröning: "And if you ask yourself if this is really necessary you say to yourself, "Yes, of course, we have been told that these are our enemies and there is a war on."

But the horrors of Auschwitz did not occur in isolation. The camp evolved alongside the Nazi plan for the conquest of Eastern Europe. A war of destruction unlike any other in modern times. One in which innocent civilians were murdered by special killing squads.

Hans Friedrich: "The order said&mdashthey are to be shot." "And for me, that was binding."

As the war developed Nazi decision makers conceived one of the most infamous policies in all history. What they called the 'Final Solution'&mdashthe extermination of the Jews. And at Auschwitz they journeyed down the long and crooked road to mass murder to create this&mdashthe building which symbolised their crime&mdasha factory of death.

Dario Gabbai&mdashJewish prisoner, Auschwitz 1944-45: "They were, the people screaming&mdashall the people, you know&mdashthey didn't know what to do, scratching the walls, crying until the gas took effect. If I close my eyes, the only thing I see is standing up&mdashwomen with children in, in their hands, there."

What follows is the surprising story of the birth of Auschwitz, and the Nazi policy of mass extermination. With Auschwitz initially built for an altogether different purpose than the gassing of the Jews. And the Nazis evolving their wider policy of killing in ways that defy the popular myth of the SS as robotic killers who simply acted under orders.

AUSCHWITZ: Inside The Nazi State

Surprising Beginnings: Episode 1

In the spring of 1940, Captain Rudolf Höss of the SS journeyed through Poland to take up the job of Commandant of a new Nazi concentration camp. Höss was travelling to the outskirts of the town of Auschwitz. In the midst of territory snatched by Hitler during his invasion of Poland the previous year. Here Höss would create this concentration camp. The very first Auschwitz, which was later known as the Stammlager or Auschwitz 1. But when Höss first arrived in April 1940 few of these buildings existed. This infamous concentration camp began life as a collection of dilapidated former Polish army barracks set around a huge horse breaking yard.

Words from "Commandant of Auschwitz" by Rudolf Höss: "The task wasn't easy. In the shortest possible time, I had to create a camp for 10,000 prisoners using the existing complex of buildings which were well constructed but were completely run down and swarming with vermin."

And this first Auschwitz was built not to hold Polish Jews who were to be confined elsewhere in ghettos, but chiefly Polish political prisoners, anyone the Nazis considered a threat to their occupation.

Rudolf Höss: "True opponents of the state had to be securely locked up. Only the SS were capable of protecting the National Socialist State from all internal danger. All other organisations lacked the necessary toughness."

The Nazi occupation of Poland was to be brutal. They wanted to make the Poles a nation of slaves and it was to help them achieve this aim that the Nazis first built places like Auschwitz, modelled on concentration camps they'd already established in Germany. Höss who had worked in concentration camps since 1934 knew that his task was to create a place that would strike terror into the Poles. But the gas chambers for which Auschwitz was to become infamous were not yet conceived.

Höss even adopted the cynical motto of Dachau concentration camp in Germany&mdashArbeit Macht Frei&mdash"Work makes you free"&mdashand emblazoned it on the new gates of Auschwitz. The Polish prisoners now arriving at the new camp were subject to appalling treatment from the SS. Over half the 23,000 Poles first sent to Auschwitz were dead within twenty months.

Jerzy Bielecki was imprisoned in Auschwitz because the Nazis suspected he was in the Polish resistance. Once there the SS sentenced him to hanging torture, a punishment favoured in other concentration camps as well, where the prisoner was made to carry his full body weight on arms pulled back into an unnatural position.

Jerzy Bielecki&mdashPolish Political Prisoner&mdashAuschwitz: "He wanted to hang me on the hook, he said stand up on your toes. Finally he hooked me and then he kicked the stool away without any warning. I just felt Jesus Mary oh my God the terrible pain. My shoulders were breaking out from the joints, both arms were breaking out from the joints. I'd been moaning and he just said shut up you dog you deserve it, you have to suffer.

Appallingly violent as life was at Auschwitz, the camp itself was not yet a major priority in the Nazi scheme of things, so much so that in those early days Höss was forced to go scrounging for basic supplies.

Rudolf Höss: "Since I could expect no help from the inspectorate of concentration camps, I had to make do as best I could and help myself. I had to drive as far as 60 miles to Zakopane and Rabka just to get some kettles. I didn't even know where I could get 100 metres of barbed wire, so I just had to pilfer the badly needed barbed wire."

After a day of pilfering Höss returned home to a house on the edge of the concentration camp. Here he lived as he thought a Nazi conqueror should and treated the prisoners as his serfs.

Józef Paczynski&mdashPolish Political Prisoner, Auschwitz: 'Every week and a half or so, a junior officer from the guard company would come and take me to his house and I would cut Höss's hair, "kein Wort". He wouldn't say a word to me and I wouldn't say a word, because I was afraid, and he despised inmates.'

Interviewer: "Weren't you ever tempted to stick the scissors in his neck?"

Józef Paczynski: "It could have happened. I had a razor in my hand I could have grabbed him and slit his throat. It could have happened. But I'm a living, thinking being. Do you know what would have happened? My whole family would have been destroyed, half of the camp would have been destroyed, and in his place someone else would have come."

While Höss lived in comfort the prisoners struggled to survive. Deprived of adequate sustenance they evolved their own code of conduct, and one of the worst crimes an inmate could commit was to take another's food.

Kazimierz Piechowski: "What was done to get rid of such people? They were liquidated. The prisoners killed them at night. They put a blanket over his face and kept it there until he stopped breathing. And no one would ask questions. In the morning the block elder would report&mdashso many dead. Fair enough."

Interviewer: "And you didn't feel anything? This was normal"

Kazimierz Piechowski: "Absolutely. It was completely normal. Except for a kind of flash&mdashsubconscious perhaps: God, and still things such as this are happening. And still things such as this. But these things couldn't be helped. In other words, "don't think about it. It's been and gone. Now think about where to go to work, to survive the following day, just to survive the following day. Watch your bread, so that no-one steals it, so that you get to eat some breakfast. Go to work and try to find a lighter job." This is what you were preoccupied with, and this was a constant vigilance. 'Be vigilant. You have to survive.'"

Presiding over the horror of prison life at Auschwitz in 1940 were Höss and around 300 members of the SS. They held comradeship evenings for themselves and their families to foster a sense of solidarity. But as Höss reveals, it was a charade.

Rudolf Höss: "Palitzsch, the roll call leader, was the most cunning and slippery creature I had ever got to know and experience during my long and diverse service in various concentration camps. He literally walked over bodies to satisfy his hunger for power. Fritzsch, the first camp officer, was short-witted yet stubborn and always quarrelsome, even though he was trying to present himself as a good comrade and also talked a lot about comradeship when he was off duty. His behaviour was, in reality, anything but comradely."

Höss' memoirs reveal him to be a hard-hearted, petty-minded man, always wanting to shift responsibility for his mistakes onto others. And in his own admission Auschwitz was, from the first, a concentration camp where great brutality was practised.

Despite this, during 1940 the camp he ran was almost a backwater in Nazi occupied Poland. All that was about to change. The crucial reason for the transformation of Auschwitz was simple&mdashits location.

The area around the camp was rich in natural resources. This part of Poland possessed a plentiful supply of fresh water, lime and most importantly of all for what was to come, coal. Within 20 miles of Auschwitz lay a network of mines with access to some of the richest coal seams in Europe.

Towards the end of 1940, these were just the resources that scientists at IG Farben, the giant German industrial conglomerate, were looking for. They'd been experimenting for years in how to make synthetic rubber and fuel, essential raw materials for the German war effort. Water, lime and coal were the most important ingredients they needed. Now they found that Auschwitz was just the right place to site their new factory in the East.

Heinrich Himmler, Commander of the SS, now visited Auschwitz for the very first time. He had heard the news that IG Farben with its huge financial resources was interested in coming to the area. Himmler was accompanied on his tour of inspection by Höss, the regional Nazi leader&mdashthe Gauleiter -, and other senior members of the SS. Himmler told them that he wanted Auschwitz tripled in capacity from 10,000 to 30,000 prisoners&mdashthe camp would be a backwater no longer, but the biggest concentration camp in the Nazi state. But as Höss witnessed, the local Nazi leader had problems with Reichsführer Himmler's plans.

"The Gauleiter raised objections and the County President tried to put a stop to the plan by pointing to the unresolved drainage issue. But the Reichsführer would have none of it."

Subtitles: Get the experts in this field and your problem resolves itself. Gentlemen, the camp will be expanded. My reasons for it are far more important than your objections.

Unsurprisingly, Himmler got his way.

A whole series of plans was drawn up over the succeeding months and years, detailing the grandeur, almost megalomania of the new Nazi vision for Auschwitz. Hidden for decades, the detailed drawings surfaced only shortly before the death of the original German architect.

The Nazi dream was that the money IG Farben were bringing to the area would fund the creation of a new town of Auschwitz, a model German settlement in the East. Ethnic Germans would now live here, with those who currently lived in the town thrown out of their homes and deported. Plans were made for a gigantic Nazi party headquarters and a host of other new buildings. And nearby, down the Sola River, the concentration camp itself was to be transformed.

Prisoners would work as slave labour at the IG Farben factory nearby, the SS would sell IG Farben raw materials and a huge new 'Kommandantur', a central administrative building, would be built. A special apartment was even to be constructed for Himmler himself. Auschwitz was to be his home away from home. Plans were drawn up for suitable furniture for the Reichsführer. From his sofa to his occasional table, from his armchair to the hangings on the wall.

Himmler's vision for the new Auschwitz was certainly grandiose. But it was the epic plans that Adolf Hitler was working on at the same time which would transform Auschwitz in ways that dwarfed anything Himmler had contemplated. Hitler intended not just to reorganise a concentration camp and a town, but to reshape entire countries. For, during the spring of 1941, Hitler worked on plans to invade the Soviet Union. This decision would in turn act as the catalyst for radical change in the function of Auschwitz.

Before the end of 1941 Hitler expected German troops to be parading through Moscow's Red Square. The Nazis hated the Soviet Union. It was the home of Communism&mdashan ideology they both feared and despised. The Nazi's believed that it ought not to be hard to defeat Stalin and his Red Army.

Hans Friedrich&mdash1st SS Infantry Brigade: "They were&mdashin civilisation terms&mdashnot as far on as the West. You just have to imagine the following: France&mdasha civilised nation with flushing toilets. Russia&mdashpredominantly toilet behind the house."

In Berlin that Spring of 1941, this view that the Soviet Union was peopled with inferior human beings, pervaded Nazi strategic thinking. Nazi economic planners worked out how the German army could be fed once the invasion was launched. And in the process they thought it legitimate to plan mass starvation. Every word spoken here is taken from Nazi memoranda and minutes of economic committees held just before the war against the Soviet Union began.

Subtitles: If we want to get anything out of Russia we need to reduce consumption. Poverty, hunger and thrift have been the lot of the Russians for centuries. Their stomachs are elastic, so let's have no misplaced pity. And let's face it: millions of people will die of starvation if we take what we need from the country. We have no other choice. The war can only be continued if the whole of the Wermacht is fed from Russia.

So even before the war started, the Nazis envisaged the extermination of large sections of the Soviet population. This was to be a war of annihilation.

In the weeks after their invasion of the Soviet Union the Germans took 3 million Soviet prisoners. Within 9 months 2 million of them were dead, many starved to death in German captivity. Any Soviet political officers, or commissars, found amongst the Red Army prisoners on the front line were to be shot.

But some who slipped through were sent to concentration camps&mdashwhich is how Auschwitz first became involved in the war in the East. On this spot in July 1941, Soviet prisoners were forced to work in gravel pits. From behind a nearby fence, a Polish inmate of Auschwitz, Jerzy Bielecki, watched what happened to them.

Jerzy Bielecki&mdashPolish political prisoner, Auschwitz: 'The Prisoner Overseers beat them mercilessly, kicked them, clubbed them they would fall to the ground, it was a macabre scene. I had never in my life seen anything like it. Neither did I later on, even though I remained in the camp for a long time after.

I saw an SS-man, a junior officer, walking around the gravel pit with a pistol in his hand&hellipIt was sadism. 'You dogs! You damned communists! You pieces of shit!' Horrible words like these. And from time to time he would direct the pistol downwards and shoot: pow&hellip pow pow."

It wasn't just the Soviet prisoners of war who were to suffer as the Nazis moved East it was the Soviet Jews as well. The Nazis, hardened anti-Semites, believed that the combination of Slavs, Jews and Communism was particularly dangerous.

Hans Friedrich: "There were connections between Jews and Bolsheviks, there was sufficient evidence for the fact that there were connections between the two."

The Nazis spouted any number of similar prejudices about the Jews. Even claiming there was an international Jewish conspiracy against them and that the Jews had somehow lost Germany the 1st World War. Their delusions knew no bounds.

Subtitles: These are the types of Eastern Jews who flooded Europe's cities after the last war. Small parasites, undermining their host countries threatening thousand-year-old cultures and bringing with them crime, corruption and chaos.

From the moment the Germans first invaded the Soviet Union, Nazi special units operating throughout the countryside and towns had shot many male Jews including Communists, civic leaders and even those just of military age. They'd also encouraged locals to rise up against the Jews as is happening here in this rare footage from the Ukraine in July 1941.

After a series of meetings between Hitler and Himmler in the summer of 1941 there was an escalation in the persecution of the Soviet Jews. New units were committed to special duties in the East, among them the 1st SS Infantry Brigade. In a typical action, they approached the town of Ostrog in the western part of the Ukraine on August 4th 1941, where over ten thousand Jews from the surrounding area had been gathered together. Among them were 11 year old Vasyl Valdeman and his family. They were now at risk. The Nazi killing squads in the East had now began to target Jewish women and children as well as men.

Vasyl Valdeman&mdashJewish resident, Ostrog: We knew something would be done to us here. When we saw people hit and driven along here with spades, even small children realised why people were carrying the spades.

One of the members of the 1st SS Infantry Brigade at the time was Hans Friedrich. He claims not to recall exactly which actions he took part in that summer, but he does admit to participating in killings like the one in Ostrog.

Hans Friedrich&mdash1st SS Infantry Brigade: "They were so utterly shocked and frightened, you could do with them what you wanted."

Vasyl Valdeman: "Kids were crying, the sick were crying, the elderly were praying to God. Not on their knees but seated or lying down. It was very tough to go through it all, hearing all this wailing and crying. Then they had everyone get up and said 'Go', and as soon as people started moving, they selected people for shooting, for execution."

The selected Ukrainian Jews were taken out to this spot and a pit was dug. In scenes which were repeated right across the areas of the Soviet Union occupied by the Nazis, men, women and children were ordered to strip and prepare to die.

Hans Friedrich: "Try to imagine there is a ditch, with people on one side, and behind them soldiers. That was us and we were shooting. And those who were hit fell down into the ditch.

Interviewer: "Could you tell me what you were thinking and feeling when you were shooting?"

Hans Friedrich: "Nothing. I only thought, 'Aim carefully' so that you hit properly. That was my thought."

Interviewer: "This was your only thought? During all that time you had no feelings for the people, the Jewish civilians that you shot?"

Hans Friedrich: "Because my hatred towards the Jews is too great. And I admit my thinking on this point is unjust, I admit this. But what I experienced from my earliest youth when I was living on a farm, what the Jews were doing to us&mdashwell that will never change. That is my unshakeable conviction."

As he grew up in the 1930's in an atmosphere of vicious anti-Semitism, Hans Friedrich came to believe that local Jewish traders had cheated him and his family.

Interviewer: "What in God's name did the people you shot have to do with those people who supposedly treated you badly at home? They simply belonged to the same group! What else? What else did they have to do with it?"

Hans Friedrich: "Nothing, but to us they were Jews!"

Vasyl Valdeman: "Though I was a small boy at that time, I understood what Nazis were. I had no idea before but afterwards I was thinking all the time&mdashwhat makes those people be so cruel, what makes them beasts?"

The killings went on into the evening. Vasyl Valdeman and his mother managed to escape and hide in a nearby village. But the SS killed his father, grandfather and two uncles.

Vasyl Valdeman: "That's how it was&mdashthe first execution&mdashthe most horrible one. It wasn't the last one. There were three more large executions after that with 2000 to 3000 people shot at every one of them. More people were executed afterwards in smaller scale ones and this is how the Jewish community of Ostrog was annihilated."

At the same time as the mass shootings of Jews in the Soviet Union, there was also an escalation in the killing of Auschwitz prisoners. For the first time inmates of Auschwitz were to be killed by gassing. But not in the way for which the camp was eventually to become notorious.

Höss received news that doctors from the so called Adult Euthanasia Programme would visit the camp. They were looking for those prisoners who could no longer work. Members of the Nazis' Adult Euthanasia Programme had up to now been targeting the mentally and physically disabled. A section of the population who had long been demonised by Nazi propaganda.

Subtitles: The German people are unaware of the true extent of all this misery. They are unaware of the depressing atmosphere in these buildings, in which thousands of gibbering idiots must be fed and nursed. They are inferior to any animal. Can we burden future generations with such an inheritance?

In 1939, Hitler had authorised a scheme by which severely disabled children could be murdered. Then once the war began, this killing was extended to disabled adults as well. The selection was straightforward. A doctor would examine a report on the patient and then if he thought they were suitable candidates for the scheme, he would mark the form with a red cross. Two other doctors separately marked identical forms and a majority vote decided the patient's fate. The doctors met neither each other, nor the patient, before reaching their verdict. Those selected to die were taken to special institutions inside Germany like this one, the Sonnenstein Clinic near Dresden.

There were six centres like this spread throughout Germany. And in them, a new method of killing had been devised using a subterfuge that would eventually be adopted at Auschwitz. The disabled were told they were going to have a shower. They were taken into a room from which hung pipes and showerheads. But the pipes were not connected to water. They led out through the walls to bottles of carbon monoxide gas. Once the room was sealed, the carbon monoxide was turned on and the patients murdered. Around 70,000 disabled people had been killed in this way by the summer of 1941.

Himmler wanted the Adult Euthanasia Scheme to be extended to concentration camps, which is why a special unit came to Auschwitz that summer.

Kazimierz Smolen&mdashPolish Political Prisoner, Auschwitz: "During an evening roll call, we were told that all the sick among us could go away for treatment. that they could leave to be cured, and that they were to sign up. Of course, it was said that they would be going for treatment. And, in the camp, some people believed it. "

So the first Auschwitz prisoners to be gassed were not killed in the camp but transported to gas chambers in Germany. And they were selected not because they were Jews but because they could no longer work.

Kazimierz Smolen: "There were 575 people and they walked like some kind of funeral procession, because some walked, others were carried on stretchers&mdasha kind of melancholy march. And the inmates standing nearby were saying farewell to their relatives and friends. All of them were worn out prisoners. There were no healthy people among them. Male nurses carried some on stretchers. It was terribly macabre. It was a procession of spectres."

Two weeks after the sick were taken from Auschwitz, Heinrich Himmler visited the Soviet Union. A visit that was to be of great significance in the development of the Nazis' Extermination Programme. The discovery in the 1990's of Himmler's appointment diary for this crucial period allows his precise movements to be tracked. He drove to the outskirts of Minsk and on the morning of Friday, August 15th 1941, he watched an execution of Jews and alleged partisans. The sight must have been similar to this execution, filmed around the same time on the sand-dunes of Liepaja in Latvia. After the shooting, SS General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski told Himmler there was a problem with the SS killers.

Subtitles: Reichsführer, these were only 100. What do you mean? Look at the eyes of the men in this commando. These men are finished for the rest of their lives. What kind of followers are we producing here? Either neurotics or brutes.

Bach-Zelewski knew that all over the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 the Nazis and their collaborators were murdering women and children at close range and in cold blood. Himmler realised he had to find a better way of killing&mdashbetter for the murderers, not their victims.

Which is why SS Lieutenant Dr. Albert Widmann of the Technical Institute of the Criminal Police travelled into Eastern Europe. Widmann and his colleagues had been involved in the experiments which had led to the use of bottled carbon monoxide to kill the disabled. But he knew that it would be expensive and difficult to send canisters of carbon monoxide all the way to the new killing locations far from Germany. So he had to find a new way forward, which is why he drove into the Soviet Union followed by a truck carrying boxes of high explosive. Widmann reported to Artur Nebe, commander of one of the killing squads, at his headquarters in the Lenin House in Minsk.

Widmann reported to Artur Nebe, commander of one of the killing squads, at his headquarters in the Lenin House in Minsk.

Subtitles: I hope you've got enough explosives with you? You ordered 250 kg, I've brought 450 kg with me. You never know. Very good.

Nazi eyewitness account of murder experiment with explosives: "The bunker had totally collapsed, there was total silence. Body parts were scattered on the ground and hanging in the trees. And the next day we collected the body parts and threw them back into the bunker. Those parts that were too high in the trees were just left there."

After this horror, Widmann and his SS colleagues tried another method of mass murder&mdashthis one suggested by what had happened to Artur Nebe of the SS earlier on in the year. Nebe had driven home drunk from a party in Berlin and passed out in his garage with the car engine still running. As a result the carbon monoxide from the exhaust gasses had nearly killed him. Learning from Nebe's experience, Widmann and his colleagues now conducted experiments in the Soviet Union, like this one.

This film is believed to show patients from a Soviet hospital being locked in a room which was connected to the exhaust pipes of a car and a lorry. The Nazis had now developed a cheaper method of killing people with carbon monoxide than that previously used in the adult euthanasia scheme.

Around the same time as these gassing experiments were being conducted in the East, the authorities at Auschwitz were innovating new ways of murder as well. Whilst Höss was away from the camp, his deputy Karl Fritzsch had a radical idea, one of the most significant in the history of Auschwitz. With the SS in the camp still relying on shooting to kill Soviet prisoners unable to work, maybe, he thought, another method of killing lay right in front of him. In Auschwitz, clothes infected with lice and other insects were disinfected with crystallised prussic acid, mass produced under the trade name Zyklon B.

Subtitles: Zyklon B is used for pest control and thus protects our national economy and its assets, in particular the health of our people.

Once released from their sealed container, Zyklon B crystals dissolved in the air to create a lethal gas.

Fritzsch chose Block 11 in Auschwitz to conduct his first experiment with Zyklon B. This was the most feared location in the camp. A prison within a prison. The place where the SS sent inmates to be punished&mdashinterrogated, tortured, even executed. In Block 11 were standing cells where prisoners would be crammed together scarcely even able to breathe and starvation cells where inmates would be locked up, deprived of food and left until they died. Everyone in Auschwitz knew of the reputation of Block 11.

Józef Paczynski &mdashPolish political prisoner, Auschwitz: "I personally was afraid of walking past Block 11. Personally, I was afraid. Although it was closed off, I was really scared to walk past there. Whether it was the avenue when I was walking there, or what&hellip I was afraid. Block 11 meant death."

On a day in late August or early September 1941, Fritzsch ordered that the basement of Block 11 be prepared for the use of Zyklon B. Doors and windows were sealed&mdashthe whole block locked down.

August Kowalczyk&mdashPolish political prisoner, Auschwitz: "Our attention was drawn&mdashmany of my colleagues saw this&mdashby SS men running around with gas masks. The windows of the bunker had been covered up with sand, and in the bunker&mdashthe cells of the bunker, in the cellar&mdashSoviet prisoners of war were assembled. And it turned out the following day that the SS&mdashactually, it was Palitzsch in particular who attracted attention because he was running around like crazy. It turned out that the gas hadn't worked properly and that many of the prisoners, the people, were still alive. So they increased the dosage, added more crystals and finished the job.

The prisoners dragged it all away on carts known as Rollwagons. They took them to the crematorium, because the crematorium was already being used, you could see smoke from the chimney&hellip So it was&hellip an open secret."

Józef Paczynski: "How does a person feel? One becomes indifferent in the midst of all that. Today it's your turn, tomorrow it will be mine."

Once Höss came back to the camp, he learnt about the experiment.

Rudolf Höss: "When I returned, Fritzsch reported to me about how he had used the gas. He used it again to kill the next transport of Russian prisoners of war."

As Höss returned home to his wife and four children in his house on the edge of the camp, he felt pleased.

Rudolf Höss: "I must admit that this gassing had a calming effect on me, I was always horrified of executions by firing squads. Now, I was relieved to think that we would be spared all these bloodbaths."

Höss was wrong. He was about to oversee an even greater bloodbath. By building a camp here on this patch of swampy ground a mile and a half away from the town of Auschwitz at a place the Poles called Brzezinka and the Germans Birkenau.


Documentary Description

Auschwitz: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution' , is a BBC six-episode documentary film series presenting the story of Auschwitz through interviews with former inmates and guards and re-enactments, first televised on BBC One on 11 January 2005. The series prominently featured the music of Gorecki Symphony No 3 , Arvo Pärt's "Spiegel im Spiegel" and Handel's Harpsichord Suite No. 4 In D Minor, HWV 437: Sarabande.

In the United States, this series first aired on PBS television stations as Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State in early 2005 and was released, under that title, in a 2-DVD box set (Region 1), by BBC Warner, on 29 March 2005.

BBC Press Releases

Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final Solution'

With a number of recent high profile Hollywood films such as Schindler's List and The Pianist and iconic books such as The Diary of Anne Frank it is easy to assume that everyone is familiar with the Holocaust and Auschwitz.

Yet a recent BBC survey suggests that almost half the adult population (45%) claim to have never even heard of Auschwitz.

Amongst women and people aged under 35 the figure is even higher at 60%.

Even among those who have heard of Auschwitz, 70% felt that they did not know a great deal about the subject.

Most of them (76%) were unaware of its roots as a concentration camp for Polish political prisoners the majority (74%) did not know that people other than Jews were killed there and only a few recognised the name of the camp commandant or knew who finally liberated the camp at the end of the war.

The BBC's research informs a definitive new series which has been made to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in January 2005.

Written and produced by Bafta Award-winning producer Laurence Rees, Auschwitz: The Nazis & the 'Final Solution' offers a unique perspective on the camp in which more than one million people were ruthlessly murdered.

"We were amazed by the results of our audience research" says series producer Laurence Rees. "It's easy to presume that the horrors of Auschwitz are engrained in the nation's collective memory but obviously this is not the case.

"We were particularly startled by the fact that less than 40% of younger people have even heard of Auschwitz.

"The research reinforced the importance of making this series and trying to ensure the atrocities that unfolded at Auschwitz are never forgotten."

The series is the result of three years of in-depth research, drawing on the close involvement of world experts on the period, including Professors Sir Ian Kershaw and David Cesarani.

It is based on nearly 100 interviews with survivors and perpetrators, many of whom are speaking in detail for the first time.

Sensitively shot drama sequences, filmed on location using German and Polish actors, bring recently discovered documents to life on screen, whilst specially commissioned computer images give a historically accurate view of Auschwitz-Birkenau at all its many stages of development.

"The name Auschwitz is quite rightly a byword for horror," says Laurence Rees. "But the problem with thinking about horror is that we naturally turn away from it.

"Our series is not only about the shocking, almost unimaginable pain of those who died, or survived, Auschwitz. It's about how the Nazis came to do what they did.

"I feel passionately that being horrified is not enough. We need to make an attempt to understand how and why such horrors happened if we are ever to be able to stop them occurring again."

The BBC will be marking Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2005) with a number of other television and radio programmes, including a live event on the day, an international musical performance in and around the museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and a documentary that traces one woman's story of survival told through her grandson's eyes.

Notes to Editors

The research findings were based on a nationally representative postal survey of 4,000 adults aged 16+ conducted by IPSOS RSL as part of their weekly Quest survey.

All respondents recruited were mailed a questionnaire to complete covering a number of topics, with quota controls imposed, within region, by age within sex and social class.

Fieldwork was conducted during February 2004.

The Killing Evolution

The Nazis did not start World War II with a plan to eliminate the Jews. This solution evolved&mdashespecially from 1939 to 1941&mdashas they tried different techniques to accomplish their goals. Particularly in Germany and Poland camp commandants experimented with various killing methodologies and consulted with one another on their successes and failures. The ability of a single camp to kill 2,000-3,000 people per hour took years to achieve. At first, though, murder was done at close range-man-to-man, woman, or child.

In 1941, SS General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski told his superior Heinrich Himmler that the Nazis had been murdering Jews, including women and children, at close range and in cold blood all summer. Bach-Zelewski was worried about this method's traumatizing effects on his men. Himmler recorded in his diary the General's concerns: "And he said to me, 'Reichsfuhrer, these men are finished for the rest of their lives. What kind of followers are we producing here- either neurotics or brutes?'"

Himmler realized he had to find new methods that would spare his troops the psychological strain of killing human beings at close range.

Carbon Monoxide

According to the memoirs of Rudolf Höss, Commandant of Auschwitz, Adolf Eichmann suggested using "showers of carbon monoxide while bathing, as was done with mental patients in some places in the Reich." Instead of leading to water, the showerheads were connected to canisters of carbon monoxide.

The birth of this method had varied sources, including one ironic twist. Artur Nebe, a Nazi-killing squad commander, had come home drunk from a party one night and passed out in his garage with his car still running. The carbon monoxide gas from the exhaust nearly killed him.

As Nebe related the incident to his SS comrades, this near-miss convinced him that gassing could be used effectively against the Jews and other Nazi enemies. Gas would be cheaper than bullets, and no Nazi would directly take a life.

The Nazis' experimented with another methodology using carbon monoxide. Deported Jews from the Lodz Ghetto were led through a basement corridor and then up a ramp to a small windowless room that turned out to be the cargo area of a large van. Once the van was full, the doors were slammed shut, and as it was driven to a nearby forest, exhaust fumes were routed into the back, asphyxiating the trapped victims.

After the van reached its destination, the bodies were buried or burned. Zofia Szalek, a German residing in the Polish town of Chelmno, describes what she witnessed: "We could hear the screams, but we couldn't see the people. They were loaded in and murdered there. It was hell. That's why we called these vans 'Hell Vans.'"

The most effective and efficient technique developed for killing at Auschwitz depended on the same pesticide that was used to kill the lice in prisoners' clothing. The disinfectant, sold under the trade name of Zyklon B, was in plentiful supply. Once exposed to properly heated air, the crystals produced lethal gas.

In the fall of 1941, the basement of cell block 11&mdashthe Auschwitz building where some of the most despicable punishments were meted out&mdashwas sealed and locked down. August Kowalczyk, a Polish political prisoner on a nearby work detail, witnessed the entire event. He reports that because they were still experimenting, Nazi judgments in error caused the murders to take place over a two-day period, instead of the expected half hour.

Massive Gas Chambers and Crematoria

By the early spring of 1943, four huge crematoria became fully operational at Auschwitz II (Birkenau). They housed eight gas chambers and forty-six ovens that could dispose of some 4,400 corpses per day. Trains would arrive at the camp and those most fit&mdashapproximately 10-30 percent of the arrivals&mdashwould be selected for a work detail. The remaining prisoners were sent to the gas chambers.

Prisoners assigned to a unit known as the Sonderkommando had to move the bodies from the gas chambers to the furnaces. Several bodies at a time were burned in a single oven. In May 1944 a serious bottle-neck occurred at Auschwitz, because the deportation and extermination of the Hungarian Jews was under way.

Numbering about 725,000, plus thousands more who were Christian converts but still counted as Jews by Nazi racial criteria, the Hungarian Jews were the largest Jewish group that remained alive in Nazi-dominated Europe. Between late April and early July 1944, more than 380,000 of them were brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where most were gassed and cremated. When the demand for corpse disposal overtaxed the camp&rsquos ovens, camp authorities, needing to speed up the process, again resorted to burning bodies on pyres, using the huge pits that had been dug behind Crematorium V.

Precise counts of how many people actually were murdered in death camps can never be made because those marched off directly from the trains usually were not registered. However, a calculation that is both conservative and reliable indicates that at least 1.1 million people were gassed to death at Auschwitz&mdash90 percent of them Jews.

Even with all of the death technology, the Germans could not cremate everyone they murdered during the Holocaust. As they retreated from the advancing Allied forces, they blew up the gas chambers and crematoria to destroy the evidence at Auschwitz. But the evidence lingered. In camps throughout Poland and Germany, tens of thousands of bodies remained stacked or spilling out into the cold winter snow.

Surprising Beginnings

March 1940 to September 1941

Auschwitz, the site of the largest mass murder in the history of the world did not start out as a death camp. In the spring of 1940, Rudolf Höss, a captain in the SS (Schutzstaffel), the elite defense organization that answered only to Hitler and advanced his plans, became Commandant of a new Nazi concentration camp at the southwestern Polish town of Oswiecim. Auschwitz, as the Germans called it, was in territory that Hitler had invaded the previous year.

Höss was directed to create a concentration camp for 10,000 prisoners, using old Polish army barracks, but as he later wrote in his memoirs, "The task wasn&rsquot easy. In the shortest possible time, I had to create a camp for 10,000 prisoners using the existing complex of buildings which were well constructed but were completely run down and swarming with vermin."

&ldquoTrue opponents of the state had to be securely locked up. Only the SS were capable of protecting the National Socialist State from all internal danger. All other organizations lacked the necessary toughness.&rdquo

&ndash Memoirs of Rudolf Höss, Commandant of Auschwitz

Auschwitz I, as the camp came to be called, was built primarily to confine and oppress Polish dissidents whom the Nazis considered to be a threat to their occupation. Polish Jews were confined elsewhere, increasingly in ghettos. Höss adopted the motto of Dachau, another concentration camp where he had previously worked: Arbeit Macht Frei ("Work Makes You Free").

&ldquoWatch your bread so that no one steals it. This is what you were preoccupied with, and this was a constant vigilance.&rdquo

&ndash Kazimierz Piechowski, Polish political prisoner, Auschwitz

The Polish prisoners were subjected to appalling treatment from the SS. More than 10,000 died within twenty months. The camp received little support from Nazi headquarters and Höss often had to scrounge for supplies.

Jerzy Bielecki was one of the first Polish prisoners at Auschwitz. The SS thought he was with the Polish resistance and sentenced him to &ldquohanging torture,&rdquo a brutal punishment where the prisoner carried his full body weight on his arms that were pulled behind his back in an unnatural position:

&ldquoHe wanted to hang me on the hook. He said, &lsquoStand up on your toes. Finally he hooked me and then he kicked the stool away without any warning. I just felt Jesus Mary, oh my God, the terrible pain. My shoulders were breaking out from the joints. Both arms were breaking out from the joints. I&rsquod been moaning and he just said, &lsquoShut up you dog. You deserve it. You have to suffer.&rsquo&rdquo

Writing in his memoirs, Rudolf Höss admits that Auschwitz was a concentration camp where cruel and brutal treatment was routine. Despite this&mdashduring the early 1940s&mdashthe facility was almost a backwater in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Auschwitz, however, was about to change. The town was situated on major railroad lines. Its surrounding area was rich in natural resources, particularly fresh water, lime, and coal. This made it an excellent location for IG Farben, the German industrial conglomerate, to build a factory that would manufacture war materials.

March 1940 to September 1941

Industrialization interested Heinrich Himmler, Commander of the SS. His dream was that IG Farben's activities would fund the creation of a model Nazi settlement where Auschwitz prisoners would work as slave laborers and the SS would profit by selling coal and gravel as well as labor to IG Farben.

Toward the end of 1940, Himmler visited Auschwitz and ordered the camp tripled in capacity from 10,000 to 30,000 prisoners. Auschwitz would be a backwater no longer, it would become the largest concentration camp in the Nazi empire. Over the succeeding months and years, a series of architectural plans were drawn up, detailing even greater expansion of the Nazi vision for Auschwitz.

While Himmler formulated his ideas for a bigger and greater Auschwitz during the spring of 1941, Adolf Hitler completed plans to invade the Soviet Union. Hitler's plans for Russia would in turn cause a radical change in the function of Auschwitz.

Because it was the home of communism, the Nazis feared and despised the Soviet Union. They also believed that Joseph Stalin's Red Army was made up of inferior human beings and would not be hard to defeat.

&ldquoThey [the Russians] were&mdashin civilisation terms&mdashnot as far on as the West. You just have to imagine the following: France&mdasha civilised nation with flushing toilets. Russia&mdashpredominantly toilet behind the house.&rdquo

Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Of the three million Soviets troops taken prisoner in the invasion, two million were dead within nine months, either shot, starved, or worked to death.

Jerzy Bielecki, a Polish political prisoner at Auschwitz, watched what happened to the Russian prisoners who were forced to work in gravel pits.

&ldquoThe prisoner overseers beat them mercilessly, kicked them, clubbed them. They would fall to the ground. It was a macabre scene. I had never in my life seen anything like it. Neither did I later on, even though I remained in the camp for a long time after. &rdquo

&ldquoI saw an SS-man, a junior officer, walking around the gravel pit with a pistol in his hand. It was sadism. &lsquoYou dogs! You damned communists! You pieces of shit!&rsquo Horrible words like these. And from time to time he would direct the pistol downwards and shoot: Pow. Pow. Pow.&rdquo (Jerzy Bielecki).

&ldquoDuring an evening roll call, we were told that all the sick among us could go away for treatment. Some people believed it.&rdquo

&ndash Kazimierz Smolen, Polish political prisoner, Auschwitz

Not only the Soviet prisoners of war suffered as the Germans moved east. Hitler did not want to keep alive any prisoners who could not work.

In the autumn of 1939, Hitler authorized a secret Euthanasia Program, which administered so-called mercy deaths first to handicapped children and later to mentally and physically disabled Germans adults. These people were taken to special institutions where they were gassed with carbon monoxide. Himmler wanted to extend this program to concentration camps, including Auschwitz, to eliminate the need to transport people who could not work. He realized that he had to find a better and more efficient way to murder people&mdashpsychologically better for the killers, not for the victims.

March 1940 to September 1941

One of Höss' deputies at Auschwitz developed an efficient method that featured crystallized prussic acid, mass produced under the trade name Zyklon B, and widely used as a pesticide. At Auschwitz it was being used to fumigate barracks and disinfect prisoners' clothes. When the crystals dissolved in air, they created a lethal gas. Block 11, the most feared location in Auschwitz, was chosen for the first Zyklon B experiments.

On a day in late August or early September 1941, the doors and windows in the cellar of Block 11 were sealed.

August Kowalczyk, a Polish political prisoner at Auschwitz, watched what happened the day Zyklon B was first used on Block 11:

&ldquoOur attention was drawn by SS men running around with gas masks. The windows of the bunker had been covered up with sand, and in the cellar Soviet prisoners of war were assembled. And it turned out the following day that the SS&mdashactually, it was [Gerhard] Palitzsch in particular who attracted attention because he was running around like crazy. It turned out that the gas hadn't worked properly and that many of the prisoners, the people, were still alive. So they increased the dosage&mdashadded more crystals&mdashand finished the job.&rdquo

Rudolf Höss later wrote that the experiment with Zyklon B had a calming effect on him: "I was always horrified of executions by firing squads. Now I was relieved to think that we would be spared all these bloodbaths."

But the bloodbaths would continue and grow even larger when a new camp was built a mile and a half from Auschwitz, at a place the Poles called Brzezinka, and the Germans Birkenau. It also became known as Auschwitz II.

From Selma to Montgomery: 5 Things You May Not Know About ɻloody Sunday'

Thousands of people in Alabama crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma into Montgomery on Sunday to recreate a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement on its 52nd anniversary.

On March 7, 1965, images of police beating and throwing tear gas at 600 marchers flashed across television screens nationwide, capturing what is now known as "Bloody Sunday."

One hundred years earlier, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution granted equal rights to all citizens, yet Jim Crow laws maintained segregation and disenfranchised black Americans.

In honor of the march's 52nd anniversary, here are five lesser-known facts about Selma.

Push for Voting Rights Sparked Selma Protests

Before the march, civil rights groups had been pushing for equal voting rights in the city since 1963. A 1961 Civil Rights Commission report revealed that less than 1 percent of the voting-age black population was registered in Montgomery County.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) began holding "Freedom Days" in the city focused on canvassing door-to-door to persuade black Americans to register to vote.

The Ku Klux Klan and local police often fought against efforts to register black voters in Selma and other states. According to The New York Times, Selma Sheriff Jim Clark once sent a photographer to take pictures of activists who participated in a 1963 "Freedom Day" and warned he would share the photos with their bosses.

In a letter written to The New York Times in February 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: "This is Selma, Alabama. There are more negroes in jail with me than there are on the voting rolls.”

A little over a month later, the march from Selma to Montgomery took place.

Jimmie Lee Jackson: The Inspiration for the March

One of the first images that comes to mind when Selma is mentioned is likely Dr. Martin Luther King marching hand in hand with dozens of civil rights advocates throughout the streets. Less well-known is Jimmie Lee Jackson — the man whose death set the demonstrations in motion.

Jackson was a 26-year-old African-American who was fatally shot on February 18, 1965, by an Alabama state trooper while he was in Marion protesting the arrest of Southern Christian Leadership Conference field secretary James Orange. Jackson was reportedly attempting to stop his grandfather and mother from being beaten when the trooper shot him in the stomach. Jackson died eight days later.

Civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Jackson's funeral. In the summer of 1965, King gave a speech in Syracuse where he mentioned Jackson's death.

"Before the victory's won, some like a Medgar Evers, like a Mrs. Viola Liuzzo, like a Rev. James Reeb, like a Jimmie Lee Jackson, may have to face physical death . (if) the physical death is a price that some must pay to free their children and their white brothers from an eternal death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive," King said during a speech in Syracuse, according to a transcript.

The state trooper who shot Jackson, then 77-year-old James Bonard Fowler, was charged with murder in 2007, 42 years later, The Associated Press reported. Fowler pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the case and was freed early from a six-month jail sentence.

The Bridge Marchers Crossed Was Named After a KKK Grand Dragon

Built in 1940, the Edmund Pettus bridge connected Selma to Montgomery. As protesters marched from one county to the other, they crossed a bridge named after Civil War Confederate general Edmund Pettus, who later became Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama.

Pettus, whose family once owned slaves, was regarded as a hero in Alabama during and after Reconstruction, according to the Smithsonian.

In 2015, there was a movement to rename the bridge, which would have required approval from the State of Alabama. A petition gathered 189,000 signatures and an Alabama Senate bill aimed at renaming the bridge to the Journey to Freedom bridge passed. The bill later died in the House, according to AL.com.

In a letter written in 2015, Reps. John Lewis and Teri Sewell defended keeping the name of the bridge, arguing that erasing the name would not erase America's history of racism.

"Renaming the Bridge will never erase its history. Instead of hiding our history behind a new name we must embrace it — the good and the bad," the letter reads.

Women Played an Important Role in Organizing the March

From Amelia Boynton Robinson to Marie Foster, black women played a key part in organizing the Selma march and were among the hundreds who were beaten by police.

Born in 1911 in Savannah, Georgia, Boynton Robinson was instrumental in persuading King to focus on civil rights efforts in Selma. She opened her Selma home to the SCLC as a place to discuss and plan the march that became known as "Bloody Sunday."

While walking on March 7, she was knocked unconscious by a state trooper. A photo of Boynton Robinson laying on the ground with a white officer above her was plastered across newspapers the next morning, according to The New York Times.

Foster, born in 1917, was also beaten by troopers during the "Bloody Sunday" march.

In a United Press International interview quoted in the Los Angeles Times, Foster said, ''It was a trooper who hit me. I lay on the pavement with my eyes closed. I didn't move. I stood my ground.''

Both women spent years pushing to register black Americans to vote — Foster founded the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma and Boyton Robinson was one of the first African-American women registered to vote in Selma.

The March Was a Catalyst for the Voting Rights Act, and Inspired Movements Elsewhere

Five months after the march to Montgomery, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The act protected African-Americans' right to vote, ostensibly granted in 1870 by the 15th Amendment.

The march in Selma also inspired other grassroots movements. Located near Montgomery and Selma, activists in rural Lowndes County formed an all-black political party called the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) one year after the march.

Hasan Kwame Jeffries, a professor of history at Ohio State University, published a book in 2010 detailing events in Lowndes County, Alabama, following the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He writes that in 1966, most African Americans in Lowndes County were still too fearful of intimidation at the ballot box.

"Their fear stemmed from the county’s long, bloody history of whites retaliating against blacks who strove to exert the freedom granted to them after the Civil War," the novel's description reads. "Amid this environment of intimidation and disempowerment, African-Americans in Lowndes County viewed the LCFO as the best vehicle for concrete change."

25 Fun Facts About the 1940s

Obviously, World War II gets a lot of the attention when talking about the 󈧬s. It even gets some here. But other stuff did happen, too. Take a look back at one of the most iconic and transformative decades in US history with these fun facts about the 1940s.

And, for all you mid-century fans and history enthusiasts, don’t miss our fun facts about the 1950s.

Some 1940s Trivia

  1. Comic book audiences met famed Marvel superhero Captain America for the first time in 1941.
  1. A gallon of gas cost an average of 11 cents at the start of the decade and 18 cents at its end in today’s terms, that equates to about $1.99 and $1.92, respectively.
  1. The cocker spaniel was the most popular dog breed of the decade take a look at the other most popular dog breeds of the mid-century years.
  1. After nearly 15 years of work, the carving of Mount Rushmore concludes in late 1941.
  1. We achieved a significant speed record in flight: Charles Yeager breaks the sound barrier on October 14, 1947 in the Bell X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 45,000 feet.
  1. The longest-running show in television history, which is still on today—Meet the Press—debuted on November 6, 1947 read about other major tv shows of the 1940s.
  1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) became the first and only US President to serve a third term at the start of the forties he also became the first and only one to serve a fourth term during the decade.
  1. The New York Yankees played in five of the decade’s 10 World Series match-ups, winning four of them.
  1. In 1943, the first kidney dialysis machine was built—out of stuff like aluminum cans and washing machine parts check out these other medical breakthroughs of the 1940s.
  1. Fifty countries signed the charter establishing the United Nations (UN) in 1945.
  1. Average life expectancy was 60 years for American men during the 󈧬s and 68 years for American women.
  1. Pin-up girls were a wild fad of the era, particularly among soldiers during the second world war here are some more fads of the 1940s.
  1. Only 55 percent of all US homes had indoor plumbing at the start of the decade.
  1. The average annual income in America in 1940 was $1,368 (about $24,500 today), and it was $2,950 in 1949 (approximately $31,100 today).
  1. Goodnight Moon—one of the most famous children’s books of all time and still widely read to little ones at bedtime today—was published in 1947 take a look at some more classic American books published in the 1940s.
  1. The National Basketball Association (NBA) was founded in 1946, though it was known for the first few years as the Basketball Association of America (BAA).
  1. The first NBA game—played on November 1, 1946—pit the New York Knickerbockers against the Toronto Huskies at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto the Knickerbockers scored the first point in league history and eked out a victory at 68 to 66 in front of a crowd of 7,090.
  1. If you say that someone “cracks you up” or really “cuts a rug,” you’re using terminology that dates back to the 󈧬s feast your peepers on all this other swell slang from the 1940s.
  1. The age of eligibility to be drafted into US military service was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1942.
  1. Also in 1942, Congress let more women join the war effort by establishing female military units like the Army’s Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WAC), the Navy’s WAVES, the Women Air Force Service Pilots, and the Coast Guard’s SPARs.
  1. Widely cited as the greatest film of all time, the Orson Welles masterpiece Citizen Kane premiered in 1941 here are some other classic movies of the 1940s.
  1. On average, a new car cost $850 in 1940 and $1,420 in 1949 that’s around $15,200 and $15,000 in today’s money terms.
  1. Chicago was well represented in NFL Super Bowl games of the decade, with the Chicago Bears playing in five of 10 (winning four of them) and the Chicago Cardinals playing in two others (winning one).
  1. Two groundbreaking innovations of the 󈧬s from military scientists include the atomic bomb and the Slinky read about more inventions of the 1940s.
  1. The US population was 132.1 million and the world populations was 2.3 billion in 1940 by the end of the decade, the US population was 152.3 million and the world population was over 2.5 billion.

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Leonard Riforgiato is a successful furniture manufacturing entrepreneur, a Miami resident, and co-owner of legacy furniture company Heywood-Wakefield.

March 5, 1933: The Infamous Gay Nightclub The Eldorado Cafe In Berlin Closes As Nazi Gay Persecution Begins – Rare Pictures

The Eldorado Cafe, aka Tanzlokale für Herrenone one of the largest gay, lesbian and transvestite clubs in Berlin is shut down nine days after a “Public Morality” directive that gay bars, clubs and cafes be closed. And so began the beginning of the end for thousands of gays, lesbians, drag queens and transvestites in pre-war Berlin.

The Eldorado Cafe in its long history featured regular performances by the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Claire Waldoff and the Weintraub Syncopators, and was widely known to be a regular venue for all genders and sexual orientations. Customers could buy ‘chips’ to exchange for dances with the regular transvestite hostesses.

“Berlin’s 400 or so bars were divided in tourist guidebooks according to a strict taxonomy of desire. Flush heterosexuals might choose the Kakadu, with Polynesian-style décor and caged parrots hanging over each table when patrons wished to leave, they could tap their glasses and the bird would squawk loudly for the check. Gay men would descend on the Karls-Lounge, where the waiters and “Line Boys” all wore neat sailor’s outfits. Lesbians liked Mali and Ingel, where guests were obliged to dance with the randy owners, or the Café Olala, where some customers liked to dress in Salvation Army outfits. Male cross-dressers went to the Silhouette, female cross-dressers to the Mikado, and everyone the entire sexual spectrum over blurred at the Eldorado, where one dancer, when quizzed by a slumming grand dame as to gender, replied in a haughty voice: “I am whatever sex you wish me to be, Madame.”

In July 1932, new Chief of Police Kurt Melcher began implementing the strict catholic policies of the new Von Papen government and announced “an extensive campaign against Berlin’s depraved nightlife”. All “amusements with dancing of a homosexual nature” were now subject to an earlier closing time of 10 pm and many bars and dance halls turned themselves into private clubs in an attempt to sidestep the new laws.

In October 1932, the gay scene was dealt an almost fatal blow when the Chief of Police ordered a ban on same-sex couples dancing in public. It was the end for The Eldorado

Within two months of the Nazi’s coming to power in January 1933, and Adolf Hitler, becoming the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party), as the chancellor of Germany. all Berlin gay bars remained open after except for about 15 of the best-known establishments, which which closed in the first months of their rule. Including the Eldorado.

Under enormous pressure and fearing for his family and livelihood, Ludwig Konjetschni closed the Eldorado and handed the premises over to the local Sturmabteilung (SA) – many of whom had worked for him and he placed his future in their hands. The SA turned the Eldorado into their new local headquarters.

Then, in June 1934, in part because of political infighting among Nazi leaders, the SA was purged, and Ernst Röhm and the other high-ranking leaders theought to be gay were all killed. It was then that Hitler came to fill power. It was only after that, a full 17 months into the Third Reich, that the deniability could no longer continue and it started to dawn German citizens that it was going to be in trouble if they continue to be openly homosexual.

In the fall of 1935, the Nazis put in place a more draconian version of anti-homosexual law Paragraph 175 into affect.. It was worded to make it possible for “almost anyone” to be arrested if the Nazis suspected they might be gay. “A criminal act included flirtation.

Convictions multiplied by a factor of ten to about 8,000 – 15,ooo per year. Furthermore, the Gestapo could transport suspected offenders to concentration camps without any legal justification at all (even if they had been acquitted or already served their sentence in jail). Thus hundreds of thousands of homosexual men, lesbians, and then transvestites in Nazi occupied countries were forced into concentration camps, where they were identified by the pink triangle.

The majority of them died there.

The Eldorado Club, , Tanzlokale für Herrenone played a central role in ‘ I Am A Camera’ – the 1955 film adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s ‘Goodbye To Berlin’.

Lahore Resolution

The Lahore Resolution (Urdu=Qarardad-e-Lahore قرارداد لاھور), commonly known as the Pakistan Resolution (Urdu=قرارداد پاکستان Qarardad-e-Pakistan) [1] was a political resolution, or statement drafted between 22nd to 24th March 1940, by the 25-member Working Committee of the All-India Muslim League, and then formally adopted by the Muslim League membership at its general session on 23 March 1940, held at Lahore. This resolution asked for greater Muslim autonomy of Muslim majority states such as Punjab Bengal Sindh, NWFP within British India. However, later on most people thought of this as a call for a separate Muslim state, Pakistan. [2] The resolution was presented at Minto Park (now renamed 'Iqbal Park'), in Lahore, by Maulvi A.K. Fazlul Huq on the instructions of the Working Committee. [3]

In fact, from the declaration made in this resolution in 1940 onwards, the goals of the Muslim League became increasingly fixed upon achieving an independent nation-state.

Today, the resolution's importance is remembered in Pakistan, by the Minar-e-Pakistan structure that stands in the Greater Iqbal Park, Lahore.

The following is the full list of the 25 original, formally designated members of the Special Working Committee of the All India Muslim League, 1940, which met between 21 and 24 March 1940, [4] and which largely drafted the Lahore Resolution. [5]

World’s Fair of 1939/1940

The 1930’s proved to be a difficult time in American history. The stock market crash of 1929 signified the end of the carefree “Roaring Twenties” and propelled the nation into the Great Depression and a decade of nationwide despair. With daunting levels of unemployment and homelessness, American progress seemed to be at a standstill. The once booming economic and social hub of New York City can be considered a microcosm of the nation’s issues. America elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt to guide the country out of these dark times, New York City followed in the nation’s footsteps by electing Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to reform the destitute conditions of the city.

Mayor Fiorello La Guardia took office on January 1, 1934 and immediately began working to undo the decades of corruption and damage done by the political group Tammany Hall.[1] La Guardia removed unqualified personnel from office and replaced them with people fit to bring the city out of the depression. Namely, La Guardia hired Robert Moses as the New York City Park Commissioner.[2] La Guardia tasked Moses with revitalizing the city parks and bettering the city’s atmosphere through urban renewal.

It was under Moses that the city decided to plan a World’s Fair to boost tourism, revenue, and overall morale in the city. Moses decided that the dumping ground located in Flushing, Queens offered the perfect opportunity for urban renewal. Transforming this dumping ground into the 1939 World’s Fair was the biggest land reclamation project undertaken in New York. Moses made sure that all the profits from the World’s Fair would be dedicated to the construction of Flushing Meadow Park after the fair closed.[3]

Site of the World’s Fair before construction.

Before construction of the fair began, the New York World’s Fair committee needed to decide on a theme for the fair. Originally, committee members thought that the fair should be dedicated to the 150 th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration, which fell on April 30 th 1939.[4] While the timing of the anniversary fit into the fair, the committee members decided that the fair should inspire Americans, and more specifically New Yorkers, to look forward towards a future of possibility instead of past progress. Thus, they decided that the theme of the fair would be “The World of Tomorrow.”

According to the committee, “The main purpose of the New York World Fair of 1939 [was] to show the tools of today with which America is preparing to build a better world of tomorrow.”[5] In light of recent tragedies like The Great War and The Great Depression, the World Fair would show progress and possibility for a better future.[6] The fair offered the idea that through technology and interdependence, a utopian society was possible in “The World of Tomorrow.” The two main aspects of the world of tomorrow were technology and interdependence. Incorporating technology into this futuristic utopia was an important task. Many Americans felt resentment and uneasiness towards technological advances because they blamed much of the job loss during the Great Depression on technological unemployment. Through the displays, the fair sought to convince the public that technology was the key to the future.[7]

Interdependence, process, and the cooperation of social groups was the other major aspect of the “World of Tomorrow.”[8] As totalitarian regimes in Europe suppressed individuality, the fair showed American diversity as a strength for the future. As stated by the committee, “we intend to present a clear idea of the mesh of interdependence and interrelations in which all men, all peoples are caught to show to individuals and communities the materials and the ideas, the things and the forces that affect their lives, their well-being to show how closely knit together are all groups and classes, states and nations.”[9] The fair showed that the “World of Tomorrow” broke down social barriers and created a more harmonious society in which people of diverse backgrounds could come together.

To present this vision of the future, the former landfill and marshy dumping grounds were transformed into an exhibition park divided into differently themed zones, such as Transportation, Communication, Business/Consumer, International Foods, Amusements, and International Government zones highlighting and showcasing diverse nations of the world.[10]

Architecturally, visitors entered into a shining city within the fair, whose centerpiece was both a sculpture and building. The Trylon and Perisphere were brilliant in their futurist simplicity striking white geometric shapes in the form of a large sphere alongside a 700 feet tall narrow triangular pyramid that reimagined ancient obelisks from centuries old civilizations into a signpost of millennia to come.

Profile series on the 1939 World’s Fair. Theme Centre of Fair. The Trylon and Perisphere.

During the day, the Trylon and the Perisphere were bright white and at night they were transformed into a rainbow of colors with pastel flood lights. The Perisphere was a white sphere, eight stories tall and two hundred feet in diameter.[11] An elevated platform, the “Helicline” led to the Perisphere entrance that was 50 ft. above the park floor and large fountain at the base of the structure.[12] While on the Helicline, fairgoers could overlook a breathtaking vista of the grounds of the park and the throngs of people bustling about. Inside the Perisphere, were revolving balconies that formed large rings suspended in space. From these balconies, the fairgoers watched a six-minute video featuring the fair’s ideal city: “Democracity” as it was called.[13]

Democracity portrayed the utopian vison of the next millennia and was made of residential neighborhoods called “Pleasantvilles”, “Millvilles” representing a mixed-use type zoning featuring a mix of residences and industry, and “The Center”, which was the business and industrial heart of Democracity. Each of these different areas was separated by fields reserved for agriculture and recreation. Highways cut through these field to link the different ‘villes’ to “the Center.”[14]

After showing the city, the video had images of different types of workers of all different ethnic groups marching in unity towards “the Center”[15] further portraying the futuristic vision of people of all different races coming together in common interest and social consciousness. In the immediate term, Democracity was also an attempt at the fairs creators to help heal the memories of the Great War and Great Depression and present a counter-statement to the growing totalitarian regimes in Russia and Germany. [16] The sad reality was “the ability of Americans of differing geographic, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds come together would contrast with ‘the present chaos in Europe’ where people of the same races with no greater diversity than we have are arrayed in a dozen hostile camps”[17]

After watching the video of Democracity, fairgoers shuffled from the Perisphere over the “bridge of wheels” to the Transportation zone which was hosted by General Motors (also referred to as GM)[18] The General Motors pavilion, “Highways and Horizons,” featured the fair’s most popular exhibit: Futurama,[19] where fairgoers often waited 30 – 60 minutes to get into the experience.[20]

In this exhibit, fairgoers were dazzled by a “moving sound-chair” that took fairgoers over an idealized utopian metropolis projected in the 1960’s. Futurama depicted a city with two-level streets separated for pedestrians and traffic. While GM’s exhibitions in the past showed technological goals for the future, Futurama was different in that it invited the fairgoers to participate “in the company’s vision of its social role and its place in the future.”[21]

Corporate exhibitors were placed in close proximity to the centerpiece Trylon and the Perisphere in order to ensure prime viewing by hundreds of thousands of fairgoers show priority amongst the fairgrounds in exchange for the substantial promotional investments sponsoring companies were pouring into their own show pieces.

Outside the fair’s business zone, foreign pavilions were separated from the rest of the fair by the Lagoon of Nations which demarked the government zone containing pavilions created by foreign nations.[22] In a piece entitled “Fine Bindings at the World’s Fair”, within a 1939 edition of the New York Times, an overview of the French pavilion and the world of fine art[23] is juxtaposed against another story on the same page about the basic doctrines behind Fascism.[24] It is as if this article was foreshadowing the impact that the fascist regimes would have on the fair and the eventual looting of Europe’s art treasures by the forces of Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini.

This New York Times article shows the pending threat of war against art, culture, and the theme of the 1939 World’s Fair.

The communication zone provided thrilling demonstrations of the latest advancements in radio telephone, and the near mystical invention of television, which broadcast President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech during the fair’s opening. The bewilderment of TV for the masses is well captured by author E. Barnou, who writes: “In order to convince skeptical visitors that the television sets were not a trick, one set was made with a transparent case so that the internal components could be seen. As part of the exhibit at the RCA pavilion, visitors could see themselves on television. There were also television demonstrations at the General Electric and Westinghouse pavilions. During this formal introduction at the fair, television sets became available for public purchase at various stores in the New York City area.”[25]

The connectivity of the future was further highlighted by the commercialization and demonstration of long distance phone calls from the American Telephone and Telegraph building.[26] For the first time, many fairgoers could instantaneously hear the voices of relatives located oceans away at a time when many parts of the world were not yet electrified.

While some note the Amusement zone had nothing about democracy or the world of tomorrow, many of the standard amusement rides of the day gave fair goers memorable thrills. Of particular note was a 250 ft. parachute jump tower sponsored by the Life Savers Company.[27] That tower still exists today in its relocated form as the symbol of Coney Island, Brooklyn, which is where many of the fair’s amusements found a permanent home after the fair.

Although the fair put the hope for future in the minds of a Depression weary populace, the shining fair was not without its detractors. Negative aspects included criticism that commercialism took control and overshadowed a theme of utopian public interdependence, social welfare, and economic equality. Some argued that the fair really just was “a magnificent monument by and to American business.[28] Earlier, Life Magazine had stated that “This demonstration is being put on almost entirely by American Big Business as a good-will effort. Now, in a time when it must prove its worth and wisdom, Business is using the Fair to show off the marvels of its industrial technology. Since technology is pretty wonderful, the Fair will be full of wonderful things.”[29]

The emphasis on technology as an integral aspect to a utopian future was important for the businesses involved in the fair. In the wake of the Great Depression, many Americans blamed loss of jobs on technological unemployment.[30] Companies felt a strategic importance to show the benefits of technology to Americans so that they would stop resenting technology as a threat to their jobs and allow companies to bring technology to the forefront of Americans. The Fair helped major companies reestablish themselves after the cumulative years of economic hardships suffered during great depression.

Although fairgoers were dazed by technological imagines of life in the future, when looking at the fair, not many people were aware if the backlash that the World’s Fair committee received from the scientific community.[31] In fact, the “World of Tomorrow” had very little scientific backing. Many scientists at the time felt that the commercialized fair and corporate exhibits limited scientific progress to gadgets, commodities, and magic, thusly devaluing sciences contributions to social progress.[32] “In the hands of the industrial corporations, science was represented in the form of commodities, gadgets, technology and magic all wrapped in the reassurance that, if given free rein, corporate wizards could conjure a future of happiness and abundance.”[33]

During the depression, many people had blamed scientists for having a lack of social responsibility by creating technological unemployment. In light of this public stigmatization, scientists felt that it was important to help science regain popularity by showing new ideas on how average people could interact with technology and play a significant role in the world of tomorrow.[34] Although the exhibits like Futurama and Democracity showed interaction between people and technology, these exhibits were created by industrial designers as corporate promotional showcase instead of actual scientists.[35] Scientists were excluded from the planning of the World’s fair. Unlike the 1933 Chicago world’s fair, the New York World’s fair did not feature or directly involve scientists in the planning of exhibits.[36]

Scientists were not the only group dissatisfied with the fair. Labor unions caused many issues during the fair. When fair coordinators reached out, labor unions were quick to take advantage of an opportunity to put their members to work after years of having little work for their ranks. Labor unions had a lot of strength in New York as it came with the support of the common worker as well as political backing.[37]

People were wary of union involvement in the fair, however, Matthew Woll the chairman of the advisory committee on Labor Relations, insisted that the unions would cooperate fully.[38] To ensure this, the committee excluded radical labor unions such as the Young Communist League from being involved in the fair.[39] To further ensure cooperation, the fair committee gave unions an “unprecedented degree of workplace benefits and rhetorical support by the fair.”[40] The significance of the rhetorical support was that Woll and the advisory committee on Labor Relations had hoped that the fair would destigmatize unions in the view of Americans. Unfortunately, the high visibility of the fair exposed a very-publicized display of lack of cooperation between organized labor and business.

Negative union presence was reported even before the fair opened. There were 27 strikes by July 7, 1939 collectively taking up three hundred days and twenty hours.[41] Foreign pavilions were allowed to hire native workers however, this made the unions unhappy. Unions caused issues with international pavilions with union workers resorted to intimidation and sabotage. This not only giving organized labor a bad name in the United States, but “fraying international relations at a period of heightened geographical tension.”[42]

High labor costs translated into construction costs much higher than expected. As a result, admission prices to the fair were higher which brought further negative publicity surrounding the event. Although the exposition was billed as “a people’s fair” surveys show that 63 percent of people who did not attend felt that they could not afford to go. “It was almost immediately apparent that high prices at the fair – for admission, for rides, for food, etc. were the single largest factor inn holding back attendance at the exposition.”[43]

For those able to pay the price of admission, many were disappointed when they discovered incomplete exhibits and other inflated prices within the venue. The economic assumptions underlying the fair proved to be out of touch and overly optimistic. 40 million people were expected, but only 15 million came.[44] A combination of poor attendance, labor unrest and active war hostilities spreading outside of the US, created an atmosphere of many state, foreign, and private exhibitors threatening to leave the fair.

Within a year, those realities took a toll as Albania, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the Soviet Union, Sweden, and Yugoslavia withdrew from the fair as war took priority over pomp and circumstance.

To deal with the deteriorating environment, the fair committee hired Harvey Gibson,

a local banker, known for his thrift business practices[45] to pilot a new theme and vision. Gibson signed new less lenient contracts with workers and reserved the right to hire and fire union workers at management discretion there is evidence to support that approach worked as labor issues decreased significantly.[46]

On May 12, 1940,[47] nearly a year after the original opening, President Roosevelt and Mayor La Guardia were again on hand in order to introduce a new theme of peace and freedom.[48] Thusly, “patriotism and militarism replaced instruction and social progress as the exposition’s dominant discourse.”[49]

The Trylon and Perisphere were no longer the symbol of the fair[50] and instead were used to promote the new symbol of “Elmer and his wife.” The new symbol represented the typical American fairgoer, in an apparent effort to reconnect with the middle class audience and drive new interest in attendance while offering an escape from the growing war.[51] Elmer and his wife were simple country folk, playing into the big county fair feeling of the 1940’s This more neighborly audience appeal set the tone as the atmosphere of country fair filled with popular enjoyment and fellowship.

The fair developed a friendlier atmosphere than it had before. Mr. Gibson implemented a new “say it with a smile” expectation for employees as he wanted fairgoers to feel welcomed.[52] The rebranding had a positive effect as The New York Times described the change as “carefree, informal atmosphere dominates scene, despite specter of the war.”[53]

Despite the leaving of the countries indicated above, Europeans as a whole expanded their expedition space. The World’s Fair ’40 committee exploited the wartime propaganda needs of other nations in order to get them to send exhibits to the fair. Sending exhibits to the World’s Fair showed resilience to war time troubles. For example, Finland committed to the 1940’s fair the day that the Russians dropped 70 bombs on Helsinki. Also, Denmark was expected to leave the fair, but decided to stay even when Germany invaded.[54]

As the fair progressed, however, so did the war. As a result, the nations in the foreign pavilions became a sobering reminder of the war abroad. The European nations used archaic, romantic, and religious imagery to show the impact of total war on their nations and mourn their losses.[55]

In attempts to make the fair more fun, despite the solemnity of the foreign pavilions, Mr. Gibson and the committee hired musicians, acrobats, and clowns to entertain fairgoers along the streets of the fair.[56] An “American Jubilee” exhibit showed American history through song and dance[57] and the Amusement Zone was given a new name: “The Great White Way.”[58] Consistent with the county fair approach, nostalgic attractions were thrust into the limelight such as the Billy Rose Aquacade an amphitheater that had shows with water ballet, high diving, clowns, fireworks, light show projected on a wall of water, Frank Buck’s “Bring ‘em Back Alive” Jungleland Village, which included a monkey island and a Seminole village, Tiny town, a miniature village inhabited by little people, Admiral Byrd’s Penguin Island, a rollercoaster called Whoosh, a replica of old New York in the 1890’s, a bob sled ride, bumper cars, a dunk tank, a penny arcade, a freak show, and a museum of natural history exhibit that simulated rocket trip to the Moon, Mars and Venus.[59] The rebranding was captured best by the following sentiment: In the Great White Way, the fair “drops its Harvard accent and lapse into pure unadulterated circus.”[60]

The rebranding was barely enough to stay ahead of the pace of the war and served as a “final fleeting moment of optimism before faith for the world of tomorrow had not yet been shattered.”[61] The fair closed its doors on October 27 th 1940 and the fair grounds were turned later turned into Flushing Meadow park.

Overall, the fair was indeed a tale of striking contrasts. The promise of utopian equality constructed with labor strife. A shining white city for “the people” that millions could not afford the cost of admission, the promise of global instantaneous connectivity international long distance telephone that would soon serve as a conduit of war news as opposed more positive connection. And the promise of technological marvels to be enjoyed by the common folk but without the backing of science at the time. Despite the lack of support from the scientific community, many of the technological visions, such as telephones, rural electrification, television, refrigeration, ubiquitous automobile use, and transatlantic flight and telephone calls became affordable commercial successes in the hands of the masses. Even spaceships became a reality.

[1] Burns, Ric, James Sanders, and Lisa Ades. New York: an illustrated history. New York: Knopf, 1999. 420.

[3] New York World’s Fair 1939 and 1940 Incorporated records, New York Public Library MS2233

[4] Duranti, M. “Utopia, Nostalgia and World War at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Contemporary History 41, no. 4 (2006): 664

[6] Duranti, M. “Utopia, Nostalgia and World War at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Contemporary History 41, no. 4 (2006): 663.

[7] Kargon, Robert H., Karen Fiss, Morris Low, and Arthur P. Molella. World’s fairs on the eve of war: science technology & modernity, 1937-1942. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015. 57.

[8] London, D. H. “Outside the World of Tomorrow: New York Labor and the Public Sphere in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Urban History 40, no. 6 (2014): 1012.

[9] Theme of world’s fair. (1936, Oct 09). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.shu.edu/docview/101639008?accountid=13793

[10] New York World’s Fair 1939 and 1940 Incorporated records, New York Public Library MS2233

[11] Duranti, M. “Utopia, Nostalgia and World War at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Contemporary History 41, no. 4 (2006): 666

[12] Hart, Jeffrey. “The last great Fair.” New Criterion 23, no. 5 (January 2005): 76. Art Full Text (H.W. Wilson).

[16] Duranti, M. “Utopia, Nostalgia and World War at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Contemporary History 41, no. 4 (2006): 668

[18] August, L. G. (1939, Jun 11). Two Weeks at the World’s Fair. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.shu.edu/docview/102840821?accountid=13793

[19] Kargon, Robert H., Karen Fiss, Morris Low, and Arthur P. Molella. World’s fairs on the eve of war: science technology & modernity, 1937-1942. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015. 75.

[20] August, L. G. (1939, Jun 11). Two Weeks at the World’s Fair. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.shu.edu/docview/102840821?accountid=13793

[21] Kargon, Robert H., Karen Fiss, Morris Low, and Arthur P. Molella. World’s fairs on the eve of war: science technology & modernity, 1937-1942. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015. 75.

[22] Duranti, M. “Utopia, Nostalgia and World War at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Contemporary History 41, no. 4 (2006): 668.

[23] E. L. (1939, Jul 16). Fine bindings at the world’s fair. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.shu.edu/docview/102839897?accountid=13793

[24] C. J. (1939, Jul 16). The basic doctrines behind fascism. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.shu.edu/docview/102920883?accountid=13793

[25] Barnouw, E. (1990). Tube of plenty: The Evolution of American Television (2nd ed.). New York : Oxford University Press

[26] August, L. G. (1939, Jun 11). Two Weeks at the World’s Fair. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.shu.edu/docview/102840821?accountid=13793

[27] Hart, Jeffrey. “The last great Fair.” New Criterion 23, no. 5 (January 2005): 76-77. Art Full Text (H.W. Wilson).

[28] London, D. H. “Outside the World of Tomorrow: New York Labor and the Public Sphere in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Urban History 40, no. 6 (2014): 1011.

[29] “The New York World’s Fair: Life Presents a Preview of a $170,000,000 Show,” Life Magazine 6, no. 11, 33–50 Warren Susman, Culture as History (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2003), 223.

[30] Kargon, Robert H., Karen Fiss, Morris Low, and Arthur P. Molella. World’s fairs on the eve of war: science technology & modernity, 1937-1942. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015. 57.

[31] “Losing the World of Tomorrow: The Battle over the Presentation of Science at the 1939 New York World’s Fair,” American Quarterly 46 (1994): 344.

[37] London, D. H. “Outside the World of Tomorrow: New York Labor and the Public Sphere in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Urban History 40, no. 6 (2014): 1013.

[45] Duranti, M. “Utopia, Nostalgia and World War at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Contemporary History 41, no. 4 (2006): 674.

[46] London, D. H. “Outside the World of Tomorrow: New York Labor and the Public Sphere in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Urban History 40, no. 6 (2014): 1022-1023.

[47] Duranti, M. “Utopia, Nostalgia and World War at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Contemporary History 41, no. 4 (2006): 674.

[49] London, D. H. “Outside the World of Tomorrow: New York Labor and the Public Sphere in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Urban History 40, no. 6 (2014): 1023.

[51] Duranti, M. “Utopia, Nostalgia and World War at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Contemporary History 41, no. 4 (2006): 663.

[53] R. B. (1940, May 12). 󈧬 Fair gets off to a lively start 191,196 on hand. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.shu.edu/docview/105347009?accountid=13793

[54] Duranti, M. “Utopia, Nostalgia and World War at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Contemporary History 41, no. 4 (2006): 682.

[56] Hart, Jeffrey. “The last great Fair.” New Criterion 23, no. 5 (January 2005): 77. Art Full Text (H.W. Wilson).

[57] Duranti, M. “Utopia, Nostalgia and World War at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Contemporary History 41, no. 4 (2006): 675.

[58] Hart, Jeffrey. “The last great Fair.” New Criterion 23, no. 5 (January 2005): 77. Art Full Text (H.W. Wilson).

[61] Duranti, M. “Utopia, Nostalgia and World War at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Contemporary History 41, no. 4 (2006): 682.

August, L. G. (1939, Jun 11). Two Weeks at the World’s Fair. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.shu.edu/docview/102840821?accountid=13793

This primary source gives a detailed outline of the events and exhibits at the fair.

Barnouw, E. (1990). Tube of plenty: The Evolution of American Television (2nd ed.). New York : Oxford University Press.

This secondary source talks about the evolution of television and mentions its origin at the World’s Fair.

Burns, Ric, James Sanders, and Lisa Ades. New York: an illustrated history. New York: Knopf, 1999.

This tertiary source details the history of New York City, but for the purposes of this paper was o nly used for background context leading up to the world’s fair.

  1. J. (1939, Jul 16). The basic doctrines behind fascism. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.shu.edu/docview/102920883?accountid=13793

This primary source is from the same New York Times edition as “Fine bindings at the world’s fair.” The two stories were actually on pages right next to each other. This article is a stark contrast to the article discussing the art at the fair. It is as if this article was foreshadowing the impact that the fascist regimes would have on the fair

Duranti, M. “Utopia, Nostalgia and World War at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Contemporary History 41, no. 4 (2006): 663-683.

This secondary source focuses on the shift in the theme of the world’s fair. Its analysis of primary sources gives great insight into how and why the theme changed.

  1. L. (1939, Jul 16). Fine bindings at the world’s fair. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.shu.edu/docview/102839897?accountid=13793

This primary source talks about the fine art work at the French and Belgium Pavilions. This shows the original goal of the fair as a celebration of progress and a revival of hope for the future.

New York World’s Fair 1939 and 1940 Incorporated records, New York Public Library MS2233

These are the records held at the New York Public Library detailing the events of the World’s Fair.

Hart, Jeffrey. “The last great Fair.” New Criterion 23, no. 5 (January 2005): 76. Art Full Text (H.W. Wilson).

This primary source is a firsthand account of the fair written and published years later. Not only does it include details about the fair at the time, but also reflects on the events following the fair.

Kargon, Robert H., Karen Fiss, Morris Low, and Arthur P. Molella. World’s fairs on the eve of war: science technology & modernity, 1937-1942. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015.

This secondary source talks about the impact of commercial business on the utopian themes of the fair.

London, D. H. “Outside the World of Tomorrow: New York Labor and the Public Sphere in the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair.” Journal of Urban History 40, no. 6 (2014): 1012.

This secondary source discusses the impact of the fair on New York City and their labor unions.

“Losing the World of Tomorrow: The Battle over the Presentation of Science at the 1939 New York World’s Fair,” American Quarterly 46 (1994): 341-373.

This secondary source talks about the clash between scientists and the commercialized technology of the fair.

  1. B. (1940, May 12). 󈧬 Fair gets off to a lively start 191,196 on hand. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.shu.edu/docview/105347009?accountid=13793

This primary source directly addresses the change in theme of the fair in the 1940’s. The fair in the 1940’s is dedicated to peace and freedom.

This primary source talks about the planning for the original theme of the Fair.

March Begins

The purpose of the march was to get 72,000 POWs from Mariveles in the southern end of the Bataan Peninsula to Camp O'Donnell in the north. The prisoners were to march 55 miles to San Fernando, then travel by train to Capas before marching the last eight miles to Camp O'Donnell.

The prisoners were separated into groups of approximately 100, assigned Japanese guards, and sent marching. It would take each group about five days to make the journey. The march would have been arduous for anyone, but the starving prisoners endured cruel treatment throughout their long journey, making the march deadly.

Eleven Times When Americans Have Marched in Protest on Washington

Even in a republic built by and for the people, national politics can feel disconnected from the concerns of American citizens. And when there are months or years between elections, there’s one method people have turned to again and again to voice their concerns: marches on Washington. The capital has played host to a fleet of family farmers on tractors in 1979, a crowd of 215,000 led by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in the 2010 Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, a brigade of 1,500 puppets championing public media (inspired by presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s comments about Big Bird and funding for public television), and the annual March for Life rally that brings together evangelicals and other groups protesting abortion.

Related Content

In anticipation of the next big march on Washington, explore ten of the largest marches on Washington. From the Ku Klux Klan to the People’s Anti-War Mobilization, Washington’s history of marches is a testament to the ever-evolving social, cultural and political milieu of America. 

Women’s Suffrage March – March 3, 1913

The official program for the Women's March, 1913. (Wikimedia Commons) The head of the suffragist parade in Washington, 1913. (Wikimedia Commons)

One day before Woodrow Wilson’s presidential inauguration, 5,000 women paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue to demand the right to vote. It was the first civil rights parade to use the capital as its stage, and it drew plenty of attention�,000 spectators watched the procession. The march was organized by suffragist Alice Paul and led by labor lawyer Inez Milholland, who rode a white horse named Gray Dawn and was dressed in a blue cape, white boots and a crown. The Washington Post called her “the most beautiful suffragist,” a title to which she responded, “I like it… I wish, however, that I had been given another one which would suggest intellectuality rather than beauty, as that is much more essential.” 

Ku Klux Klan March – August 8, 1925

The Ku Klux Klan marching in Washington, 1925. (Wikimedia Commons) The Ku Klux Klan gathering for the march on Washington, 1925. (Wikimedia Commons) In formation for the march on Washington, 1925. (Wikimedia Commons)

Spurred by hatred of European Catholics, Jewish immigrants and African-Americans and inspired by the silent film Birth of a Nation (in which Klansmen were portrayed as heroes), the Ku Klux Klan had an astounding 3 million members in the 1920s (The U.S. population at the time was just 106.5 million people.) But there were rifts between members from the North and the South, and to bridge that divide—and make their presence known—they gathered in Washington. Between 50,000 and 60,000 Klansmen participated in the event, and wore their ominous cloaks and hats, though masks were forbidden. Despite fears that the march would lead to violence, it was a largely silent, peaceable event—and plenty of newspapers’ editorial sections cheered the Klan on. A Maryland newspaper described its readers as “quivering in excited anticipation of 100,000 ghostly apparitions wafting through the streets of the national capital to stirring strains of the ‘Liberty Stable Blues.’” 

Bonus Army March – June 17, 1932

The Bonus Army encampment, waiting for their bonuses from the U.S. government. (Wikimedia Commons)

A few years after the end of World War I, Congress rewarded American veterans with certificates valued at $1,000 that wouldn’t be redeemable for their full amount for more than 20 years. But when the Great Depression led to mass unemployment and hunger, desperate vets hoped to cash in their bonuses ahead of schedule. In the early years of the Depression, a number of marches and demonstrations took place around the country: a Communist-led hunger march on Washington in December of 1931, an army of 12,000 jobless men in Pittsburgh, and a riot at Ford’s River Rouge plant in Michigan that left four dead.

Most famous of all were the “Bonus Expeditionary Forces” led by former cannery worker Walter W. Walters. Walters assembled 20,000 vets, some with their families, to wait until a veterans’ bill was passed in Congress that would allow the vets to collect their bonuses. But when it was defeated in the Senate on June 17, desperation broke through the previously peaceful crowd. Army troops led by Douglas MacArthur, then the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army, chased the veterans out, employing gas, bayonets and sabers and destroying the makeshift camps in the process. The violence of the response seemed, to many, out of proportion, and contributed to souring public opinion on President Herbert Hoover.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – August 28, 1963

Leaders of the Civil Rights march of 1963. (U.S. National Archives)

Best remembered for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, this enormous demonstration called for fighting injustice and inequalities against African-Americans. The idea for the march dated back to the 1940s, when labor organizer A. Philip Randolph proposed large-scale marches to protest segregation. Eventually the event came to be thanks to help from Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, Whitney Young of the National Urban League, Walter Reuther of United Auto Workers, Joachim Prinz of American Jewish Congress and many others. The march united an assembly of 160,000 black people and 60,000 white people, who gave a list of 󈫺 Demands”, including everything from desegregation of school districts to fair employment policies. The march and the many other forms of protest that fell under the Civil Rights Movement led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968—though the struggle for equality continues in different forms today.

Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam – October 15, 1969

Peace marchers, carrying candles, pass the White House during the hour-long procession which ended the Vietnam Moratorium Day activities in Washington at night on Oct. 15, 1969. (AP Photo)

More than a decade into the Vietnam War, with half-a-million Americans involved in the conflict, the public was increasingly desperate for an end to the bloodshed. To show united opposition to the war, Americans across the U.S. participated in street rallies, school seminars and religious services. The Peace Moratorium is believed to be the biggest demonstration in U.S. history, with 2 million people participating, and 200,000 of them marching across Washington. A month later, a follow-up rally brought 500,000 anti-war protestors to Washington, making it the largest political rally in the nation’s history. But despite the vocal outcry against the conflict, the war continued for six more years. 

Kent State/Cambodian Incursion Protest – May 9, 1970

Anti-war demonstrators raise their hands toward the White House as they protest the shootings at Kent State University and the U.S. incursion into Cambodia, on May 9, 1970. (AP Photo)

In addition to rallies at the capital, Americans across the country staged protests against the Vietnam War, especially at universities. Kent State in Ohio was one of the sites of demonstrations. When students heard President Richard Nixon announce U.S. intervention in Cambodia (which would require drafting 150,000 more soldiers), rallies turned into rioting. The National Guard was called in to prevent further unrest, and when confronted by the students the guardsmen panicked and fired about 35 rounds into the crowd of students. Four students were killed and nine seriously wounded none of them were closer than 75 feet to the troops who shot them.

The incident sparked protests across the country, with nearly 500 colleges shut down or disrupted due to rioting. Eight of the guardsmen who fired on the students were indicted by a grand jury, but the case was dismissed over lack of evidence. The Kent State shooting also spurred another anti-war protest in Washington, with 100,000 participants voicing their fears and frustrations. 

Anti-Nuclear March – May 6, 1979

Anti-nuclear rally outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Wikimedia Commons) President Jimmy Carter leaving Three Mile Island for Middletown, Pennsylvania (Wikimedia Commons)

On March 28, 1979, the U.S. experienced its most serious accident in the history of commercial nuclear power. A reactor in Middletown, Pennsylvania, at the Three Mile Island plant experienced a severe core meltdown. Although the reactor’s containment facility remained intact and held almost all the radioactive material, the accident fueled public hysteria. The EPA and Department of Health, Education and Welfare both found that the 2 million people in proximity to the reactor during the accident received a dose of radiation only about 1 millirem above the usual background radiation (for comparison, a chest x-ray is about 6 millirem).

Although the incident ultimately had negligible effects on human health and the environment, it tapped into larger fears over nuclear war and the arms race. Following the Three Mile Island meltdown, 125,000 protestors gathered in Washington on May 6, chanting slogans like “Hell no, we won’t glow” and listening to speeches by Jane Fonda, Ralph Nader and California governor Jerry Brown. 

National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights – October 14, 1979

Button from March with a Harvey Milk Quote "Rights are not won on paper: They are on by those that make their voices heard" (Wikimedia Commons) Buttons from The National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, October 14, 1979 (Wikimedia Commons)

Ten years after the Stonewall riots (a series of LGBTQ demonstrations in response to police raids in Manhattan), six years after the American Psychiatric Association took homosexuality off the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a mental illness, and 10 months after openly gay public official Harvey Milk was assassinated, 100,000 protestors marched on Washington for LGBTQ rights. To hold the event, the community had to overcome one obstacle that few other minority groups did: their members could hide their sexual orientation indefinitely, and marching would essentially mean “coming out” to the world. But as the coordinators Steve Ault and Joyce Hunter wrote in their tract on the event: “Lesbians and gay men and our supporters will march for our own dream: the dream of justice, equality and freedom for 20 million lesbians and gay men in the United States.”

A decade later, a second march involved more than𧋴,000 activists angry about the government’s lackluster response to the AIDS crisis and the 1986 Supreme Court decision to uphold sodomy laws. The movement continued to address issues faced by LGBTQ citizens, culminating with a major victory in June 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled state-level bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

People’s Anti-War Mobilization – May 3, 1981

With the Lincoln Memorial in the background, anti-war marchers cross the Memorial Bridge on their way to the Pentagon for a rally to protest U.S. military involvement in El Salvador and President Reagan's proposed cuts in domestic social programs, May 3, 1981. (AP Photo/Ira Schwarz)

The crowd that assembled to protest the Reagan Administration in 1981 was perhaps one of the most tenuous coalitions. The demonstration was co-sponsored by over 1,000 individuals and organizations across the country and they marched for everything from Palestinian autonomy to U.S. involvement in El Salvador. It seemed the march was meant in part to unify all the various groups, according to Bill Massey, spokesperson for the People’s Anti-War Mobilization: “This demonstration is a shot in the arm and will lead to greater unity among the progressive forces in this country.” Unlike the Vietnam protests that sometimes escalated to violence, these casual marchers were described as taking time to eat picnic lunches, drink beer and work on their tans. 

Million Man March - October 16, 1995

Million man march, Washington DC, 1995 (Wikimedia Commons)

Rallying to calls for “Justice or Else,” the Million Man March in 1995 was a highly publicized event with the goal of promoting African-American unity. The march was sponsored by the Nation of Islam and led by Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the organization. In the past Farrakhan had espoused anti-Semitic views, faced complaints of sexual discrimination, and was subject to internecine battles within the Nation of Islam. 

But at the 1995 rally, Farrakhan and others advised African-American men to take responsibility for themselves, their families and their communities. The march brought together hundreds of thousands of people­—but exactly how many was yet another controversy. The National Park Service initially estimated 400,000, which participants said was far too low. Boston University later estimated the crowd at around 840,000, with an error margin of plus-or-minus 20 percent. Regardless of the specific number, the march helped mobilize African-American men politically, offered voter registration and showed that fears over African-American men gathering in large numbers had more to do with racism than reality.

Protest Against the Iraq War – October 26, 2002

Demonstrators by the thousands gathered near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington Saturday, Oct. 26, 2002, as organizers marched against President Bush's policy toward Iraq. (AP Photos/Evan Vucci)

1940s Boxing

Boxing is usually seen as a sport filled with storybook characters. The feisty cornerman, the shady manager, the swindling promoter, the behind the scenes mob influence, the young champions, the working class heroes and the faded legends, and on down the line from there. The 1940s was a great encapsulation of all of those stereotypical elements in the sport. A decade most remembered as belonging to Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson was filled with other memorable fights and fighters, and many developments within and around the sport.

Where Boxing Stood in the 1940s

A.J. Liebling said of boxing at the start of the decade: “The Second World War, which began to affect American boxing when the draft came along in 1940, stopped the development of new talent. This permitted aging prewar boxers like Joe Louis and Joe Walcott to maintain their dominance longer than was to be expected under normal conditions.”

He continues, commenting on the state of the sport by the end of the decade, that, “By the late forties, when the first few postwar fighters were beginning to shine, television [became involved], and now there are no clubs to fight in.”

Indeed, World War II and the beginning of television’s involvement in the sport of boxing were two radical influences. The war not only affected the careers of certain fighters, as Liebling mentions, but also helped to make or break the fame of many others. Fighters who served in the armed forces had instant fan bases to fight in front of, while anyone perceived to have ducked their service was routinely shunned.

Television began airing fights on multiple nights of the week to fans around the country. This helped certain fighters gain more exposure, but also hurt the fighters in the lower echelons of the sport who were trying to establish themselves. The switch from the club fight to the television landscape is one of the major factors in fighter records declining from hundreds of fights over the course of a career to dozens.

The championship reigns of Joe Louis at heavyweight and Sugar Ray Robinson at welterweight helped improve the racial standing of African Americans throughout the United States, while also giving that growing community strong sources of hope, pride and accomplishment. Sporting fans of any race had to appreciate Louis and Robinson as the best of the best, and the two ruled the sport for much of the decade.

The mob’s involvement with the sport of boxing was in full force during the 1940s, controlling entire promotional outfits, sanctioning bodies, titles, arenas, television fights and more. Middleweight slugger Rocky Graziano had his license suspended in 1947 for bribery charges, while Jake LaMotta was famously shown as occasionally being under the thumb of the mob in the movie Raging Bull, where he’s depicted by Robert DeNiro. That trend would continue into and through the 1950s, as boxing continued to adapt to its new TV landscape, changing racial and cultural tones and compositions throughout the country and world, and more.

Best Fighters & Champions of the 1940s

  • Sugar Ray Robinson: Typically ranked as the best pound for pound fighter of all-time, the 1940s was the first decade of Sweetness. Robinson began his career in 1940 and won the welterweight title in 1946, but not before beginning on his multi-fight odyssey with Jake LaMotta, and dispatching of an old Henry Armstrong. He defeated Kid Gavilan twice in the decade, notched two wins over Fritzie Zivic and had a score of other notable fights and wins while losing only once in that ten year span. He started competing at middleweight as the 1950s began.
  • Joe Louis: Joe Louis made an astounding 16 defenses of his heavyweight title in the 1940s, even as he fought only once over a four year period from 1942 to 1946 due to his involvement with the war efforts, where he put on exhibitions and toured the world, along with Robinson for a time. In the 40s, Louis turned back Jersey Joe Walcott twice, Billy Conn twice and a number of others. He lost his title to Ezzard Charles in his first fight of the 1950s, a neat end of his decade of heavyweight dominance.
  • Willie Pep: Now synonymous with defensive mastery and sound, technical boxing, Willie Pep famously won a round without throwing a punch. Amassing a career record of 229 (65) – 11 – 1, Pep lost just twice in the decade. He won the featherweight world title against Chalky Wright in 1942 and defended it a number of times before eventually losing it at the hands of his power-punching nemesis, Sandy Saddler, in 1948. He won the title back from Saddler in 1949 and defended it twice more before losing it back to Saddler again in 1950. Before his first fight with Saddler, Pep’s record stood at 134-1-1.
  • Ezzard Charles: Charles, “The Cincinnati Cobra”, began boxing professionally in March of 1940, and by the second half of the decade was establishing himself as one of the best light heavyweights of all-time. Charles had a thing for three peats, beating Jimmy Bivins, Archie Moore and Joey Maxim three times in the decade, throwing in wins over Joe Walcott and many other top challengers for good measure. Of course, in the 1950s was when he would break out at heavyweight, defeating Joe Louis.
  • Sandy Saddler: Saddler’s title shot didn’t come until 1948, but by then he was a well established, power-punching dynamo, with a lengthy 5𔄂.5″ frame for the featherweight division. If Pep was slickness defined, than Saddler was punching leverage, as he scored 103 knockouts in 144 wins, against 16 losses and 2 draws.
  • Ike Williams: A fantastic lightweight champion, Williams was a rangy lightweight with great power, especially in his right hand. He fought 157 times in his career, winning 127, 61 of which came by knockout. Fought everyone from his era, usually more than once, and made 8 successful defenses of the title he took from Juan Zurita in 1945.
  • Billy Conn: Conn’s work as a light heavyweight standout began in the late 1930s, but in the 1940s he reached the highest levels of the sport. Weighing just 174 lbs, Conn challenged a 49-1 Joe Louis in 1941 and was handling the champion through 13 rounds until he was KO’d by the much larger champion. Before rematching Louis, he defeated Tony Zale, and then, well past his prime, was KO’d by Louis in the eighth round of their second meeting in 1946.
  • Jake LaMotta: Best remembered from DeNiro’s depiction in Raging Bull¸ and his epic six encounters with all-time best Sugar Ray Robinson, LaMotta had one of the best chins in boxing history, and as much grit and toughness as anyone else. He lost his saga to Robinson, but went 3-1 against Fritzie Zivic and 3-0 against George Kochan. He closed out the decade by winning the middleweight title against Marcel Cerdan in 1949, earning a TKO 10 victory when Cerdan’s corner threw in the towel.
  • Marcel Cerdan: Cerdan was killed by a plane crash at the age of 33, abruptly ending the career of the best French boxing champion of all-time. A career record of 113 (66) – 4 ended with a 10th round stoppage loss to Jake LaMotta in 1949, for which a rematch was signed but never came to fruition. Prior to that, Cerdan defeated Tony Zale in the 1948 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year. Cerdan didn’t lose a fight from 1942 until 1948, and when he did, he avenged it some six weeks later with a win.
  • Archie Moore: Archie Moore’s career, spanning pieces of four different decades, is an epic saga of boxing. Moore defeated Jimmy Bivins three times in the 40s, but lost his three attempts against Charles, sandwiched in between scores of other bouts in which he was typically successfully. Moore, the Old Mongoose, had a career record of 185 (131) – 23 – 11, and was completely adaptable in the ring, displaying amazing boxing IQ.
  • Tony Zale: The middleweight champion and veteran of the United States Navy didn’t fight for four years after losing to Billy Conn in 1942 due to the war. Previously he had made several successful title defenses, and after coming back he KO’d Rocky Graziano to take the title, before losing it back to him and taking it back once more to complete their epic, brutal trilogy. He retired in 1948 after losing to Marcel Cerdan. Zale was involved in three straight Ring Magazine Fights of the Year, from 󈧲-󈧴, for two of his bouts against Graziano, and the Cerdan bout.
  • Rocky Graziano: Depicted by Paul Newman in the 1956 movie Somebody Up There Likes Me, Graziano only held the title in the midst of his three fight trilogy with Zale, but he was a fight fan’s and working class favorite, all grit and toughness, with 52 KOs in his 67 wins. Graziano was in the 1945 Fight of the Year, also making it three straight for him, and making the Graziano-Zale tandem involved in four straight Fight of the Year battles.
  • Jersey Joe Walcott: Joe Walcott came up on the wrong side more often than not against the very best fighters of his era. After giving Joe Louis hell in 1947 and losing a Split Decision, he gave him hell once more before losing by KO in a rematch in 1948. He was 2-2 against Ezzard Charles, but the two wins came in the 1950s and at heavyweight. In the 40s, he was 2-1 against Joey Maxim and defeated Jimmy Bivins.

Biggest Fights of the 1940s

The 1940s was a period of rematches, epic sages and ongoing struggles between some of the eras key fighters. Here’s a look at the biggest multiple fight pairings in the 1940s.