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Today in History: September 1, 1939 – Germany Invades Poland

On September 1, 1939, despite having already taken over Austria, despite having been handed land in the Sudetenland (by British PM Chamberlain), Hitler – having decided that simply wasn’t enough – had his troops invade Poland.

Now, England and France had already promised Poland that if Germany attacked them that it would mean war. However, even after the inevitable attack on Poland took place, the two countries were wary of getting themselves into another war.

However, they couldn’t continue to sit back and do nothing while Hitler (*ahem* and Mussolini and Stalin) invaded country after country. 

Stay tuned to WWII History to see how Britain and France handled the situation with Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini.

[Below: German troops marching through Warsaw]

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Note: A full article is on it’s way about Germany’s invasion of Poland. But before that comes, we have more ground to cover. Before Poland, Hitler invaded other countries. Then, there was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Hitler is setting things up for another world war – and for world domination. Watch the story unfold here, at USA e-vote WWII History.

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Today in History: August 25, 1914

To go along with yesterday’s burning of the Capitol in 1814, 100 years later, on August 25, 1914, during WWI, Germans burnt the Belgian town of Louvain to the ground. Over the course of five days, the German army burnt and looted Louvain and, in the process, executed hundreds of its citizens.

On August 23rd, a similar massacre occurred in Dinant, Belgium. Here, Germans soldiers murdered some 674 civilians. But then, a Belgian army attacked the 1st German Army in Dinant (commanded, you’ll remember, by Gen. von Kluck). This pushed the Germans back towards Louvain.

Louvain became the symbol of German brutality. Belgium had been neutral in the initial onset of the war. That is, until German troops marched through on their way to occupy France.

[Below: Picturesque Louvain before Germans set fire to the entire town.]

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But, oh, the Germans did not just march. No, they “looted and destroyed much of the countryside and villages in their path, killing significant numbers of civilians, including women and children” (Source). The Germans, however, claimed that what they were doing was justified because of the civilian resistance. 

Louvain, Belgium fell to the Germans on August 19, 1914, “as part of the German strategy to overrun Belgium” (Source). At first, the occupation seemed to be successful. But then, on the 25th, the Belgians attacked, advancing towards Antwerp. Initially, they were successful.

Two different stories emerge here. The Germans claimed that Belgian civilians fired on the Germans (perhaps sending a signal to the Allied troops). The Belgians, however, claimed that, in the darkness, the Germans accidentally fired on themselves. Whichever version of the story is true, the Germans used it as an excuse to set an example (sound familiar?). Louvain would be punished.

Louvain would spend the next five days burning. “It’s library of ancient manuscripts was burnt and destroyed, as was Louvain’s university (along with many other public buildings). The church of St. Pierre was similarly badly damanged by fire” (Source).

New York Tribune reporter, Richard Harding Davis, was an observer of the tragedy. On August 30th, from London, he wrote a harrowing description of the brutality. “For two hours on Thursday night I was in what for six hundred years has been the city of Louvain. The Germans were burning it, and to hide their work kept us locked in railway carriages,” he wrote (Source). As his report, and others, spread across newspapers and the incident was confirmed, citizens around the world were struck with horror at the crime. The Germans had proved themselves to be true barbarians.

[Below: A destroyed Louvain]

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