As we all know, Adolph Hitler was a liar and a murderer. He really never made a move that wasn’t calculated and devious. On September 1, 1939, German forces under the control of Adolf Hitler bombarded Poland on land and from the air. The invasion was more than just a taking of territory. Hitler knew that he might need that area later, and so he did. Hitler had been murdering people that didn’t fit into his mold of “life that had value” and that included Jews, the mentally or physically handicapped, and later gypsies and other ethnicities. Basically, he wanted to eliminate anyone that wasn’t Aryan. Aryan is a word relating to a hypothetical ethnic type illustrated by or descended from early speakers of Indo-European languages. To Hitler it meant white, with blond hair and blue eyes. Oddly, while Hitler had blue eyes, his hair was brown. Somehow that “problem” with his definition of Aryan didn’t concern Hitler. I guess he was happy to be a “special Aryan.” In reality, there are different kinds of Aryans. They can be found with blond, red, brown, white, or black hair, so that wasn’t really an issue either. Hitler considered himself Aryan because he was a native German-speaker, and he knew the definition of “Aryan” as it was used in those days. I don’t think it was ever about Aryan, per se, but rather about getting rid of any group that he decided that he didn’t like.
Hitler’s main purpose for the invasion of Poland was to regain lost territory and ultimately rule their eastern neighbor. Mostly, however, Hitler wanted the world to know exactly how he planned to wage war. This would become the “blitzkrieg” strategy. The Blitzkrieg was a term used to describe “a method of offensive warfare designed to strike a swift, focused blow at an enemy using mobile, maneuverable forces, including armored tanks and air support. Such an attack ideally leads to a quick victory, limiting the loss of soldiers and artillery. After the German forces had plowed their way through, devastating a swath of territory, infantry moved in, picking off any remaining resistance.”
Hitler was methodical. He established a base of operations within the target country. Then, he immediately began setting up “security” forces to take out anyone who disagreed with his Nazi ideology, whether racial, religious, or political. He set up concentration camps for slave laborers and the extermination of uncooperative civilians. It didn’t take long for the target nation, in this case Poland to become a conquered nation under German rule. Just one day after the German invasion of Poland, Hitler was busy setting up SS “Death’s Head” regiments to terrorize the people. He was preparing for his planned terror.
The Polish army tried to fight back, but they made several severe strategic miscalculations in those early days. Even with an army of 1 million soldiers, the lack of the necessary equipment was a severe detriment to the Polish forces as they attempted to take the Germans head-on, when maybe they should have fallen back to defensive positions. I think the natural way to face an enemy, is head-on. We try to “show no fear” when attacked, but in the end, this thinking, while admirable was probably behind the times, at least in battle, and the brave Polish soldiers were no match for the overwhelming and modern-mechanized German forces. To make matters worse, any hope the Polish soldiers might have had of a Soviet counter-response was lost with the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Nonaggression Pact…”a non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that partitioned Eastern Europe between them. The pact was signed in Moscow on 23 August 1939 by German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and was officially known as the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Unofficially, it has also been referred to as the Hitler–Stalin Pact, Nazi–Soviet Pact or Nazi–Soviet Alliance.” Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Great Britain responded with bombing raids over Germany three days later.
There are many unique towns in this world, but I think very few of them could rival the town of Suloszowa, in Poland. The town was nicknamed “Little Tuscany” because of its unusual layout. Suloszowa is located in southern Poland, 29 kilometers northwest of Krakó. The one thing that makes Suloszowa so strange is the fact that the town has one street in it…an almost 6-mile-long street, on which the only turns are into someone’s property. Any stores in the town are located on that one street as well. The main street of Suloszowa is called Olkuska. It is such a strange thing to have only one street in town, and by the way, it also forms Route 773, which crosses the town from end to end.
Think about the neighbors you have. Are their yards messy? Do they play their music too loud? Are their vehicles too loud? Now imagine that your “neighbors” are everyone in town. Imagine the local motorcycle “speed freak” who is always screaming down your little block-long street. Now imagine that the local “speed freak” had almost 6 miles to get through the block…lots of time to pick up speed. If your neighborhood was one in which the irritations never end, a street like Olkuska could be a nightmare, but the people of Suloszowa seem to get along!! All the 5,819 (as of 2017) people in town live in harmony with each other as they share the single road that stretches through the town. How’s that for strange?
The town of Suloszowa is what is known as “a linier settlement, which is a (normally small to medium-sized) settlement or group of buildings that is formed in a long line. Many of these settlements are formed along a transport route, such as a road, river, or canal. Others form due to physical restrictions, such as coastlines, mountains, hills or valleys. Linear settlements may have no obvious center.” On both sides of the Olkuska Street, or the only street in the town of Suloszowa, people have built houses adjacent to one another. They all have rectangular gardens or fields that stretch far away from the main road of the town. The view from the air is…stunning, and a photo of it recently went viral on social media. With that, the people of the town decided to share their experiences of living in the single-street town. One said, “I wouldn’t trade this place for anything else. It has its own charm and atmosphere. As the saying goes, there’s something about it.” I think that all the people share the same sentiment.
As for Suloszowa, the route predated the settlement. Then when the settlement grew, no other roads were added. I’m sure that when people purchased the land behind their homes, it made the idea of additional streets even more difficult, and since the people all got along so well, the town was just left it as it was. Adding additional streets soon became a non-issue, and new purchases were just added to the ends of the street. The people added, “The whole place looks the same: there is a house and then a strip of field, hence the beauty of the photos. One has grain, the other has rapeseed, and the third has something else. The colors look beautiful from above.” I must agree…the aerial photo is beautiful.
There were amazing pilots on both sides of World War I. One fighter pilot who really stood out as a superstar was Baron von Richthofen, known to the world as the Red Baron. The Red Baron was born on May 2, 1892, into a family of Prussian nobles. Growing up in the Silesia region of what is now Poland, he lived the kind of life you would expect of a nobleman. He passed the time playing sports, riding horses, and hunting wild game, a passion that would follow him for the rest of his life. As was common and on the wishes of his father, Richthofen was enrolled in military school at age 11. Many people felt that military school would provide the best discipline and training, especially if one were going to be an officer. Shortly before his 18th birthday, he was commissioned as an officer in a German cavalry unit.
Richthofen transferred to the Air Service in 1915, and in 1916 he became one of the first members of fighter squadron Jagdstaffel 2. He was a natural and quickly distinguished himself as a fighter pilot. Then, in 1917 became the leader of Jasta 11. He would go on to lead the larger fighter wing Jagdgeschwader I, which was also known as “The Flying Circus” or “Richthofen’s Circus” mostly because of the bright colors of its aircraft, but maybe because of the way the unit was transferred from one area of Allied air activity to another. When units were moved, it was like a travelling circus. They moved and often set up in tents on improvised airfields.
Between September 1916 and April 1918, he shot down 80 enemy aircraft. That was more than any other pilot during World War I. The Red Baron once wrote, “I never get into an aircraft for fun. I aim first for the head of the pilot, or rather at the head of the observer, if there is one.” He was well known for his crimson-painted Albatros biplanes and Fokker triplanes, and the “Red Baron” by 1918, Richthofen was regarded as a national hero in Germany, and strangely, Richthofen was even respected by his enemies, which is very rare indeed.
Loyal to the end, Richthofen received a fatal wound while flying over Morlancourt Ridge near the Somme River, just after 11:00am on April 21, 1918. He had been pursuing, a Sopwith Camel piloted by Canadian novice Wilfrid Reid “Wop” May of the Number 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force. May had just fired on the Red Baron’s cousin, Lieutenant Wolfram von Richthofen. When he saw his cousin being attacked, the Red Baron flew rescue him. He fired on May’s plane, causing him to pull away, then he chased May across the Somme. The Baron was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by May’s school friend and flight commander, Canadian Captain Arthur “Roy” Brown. Brown had to dive steeply at very high speed to intervene, and then had to climb steeply to avoid hitting the ground. Richthofen turned to avoid this attack, and then resumed his pursuit of May.
During this final stage in his pursuit of May, Richthofen was hit by a single .303 bullet through the chest, severely damaging his heart and lungs. He would have bled out in less than a minute. Now pilotless, the plane stalled and went into a steep dive. It hit the ground in a field on a hill near the Bray-Corbie Road, just north of the village of Vaux-sur-Somme. This was in a sector defended by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). The plane bounced heavily when it hit the ground, and the undercarriage collapsed. The fuel tank was smashed before the aircraft skidded to a stop. Several witnesses, including Gunner George Ridgway, reached the crashed plane and found Richthofen already dead, and his face slammed into the butts of his machine guns, breaking his nose, fracturing his jaw and creating contusions on his face.
Number 3 Squadron AFC’s commanding officer Major David Blake, who was responsible for Richthofen’s body, regarded the Red Baron with great respect. It was Blake who was responsible for organizing the funeral, and he decided on a full military funeral. Richthofen’s body was buried in the cemetery at the village of Bertangles, near Amiens, on April 22, 1918. Six of Number 3 Squadron’s officers served as pallbearers, and a guard of honor from the squadron’s other ranks fired a salute. Allied squadrons stationed nearby presented memorial wreaths, one of which was inscribed with the words, “To Our Gallant and Worthy Foe.” It was an extremely respectful way to care for the body of the enemy, and for that, I have much respect for the Number 3 Squadron. Even though this man was the enemy, they knew he was just doing his job, as they would do theirs. It wasn’t personal, it was just war. In 1975 the body was moved to a Richthofen family grave plot at the Südfriedhof in Wiesbaden.
Until August 18, 1941, Adolf Hitler had been systematically murdering the mentally ill and developmentally disabled people in Germany, but word was getting out, and the “good” people of Germany were understandably outraged by such an evil practice. The people began protesting, and in an effort to avoid rioting, Hitler announced on this day in 1941, that the practice would cease. I’m sure the people were glad, and they most likely thought they had won this battle, but as we all know, Adolf Hitler is a man who lies…in fact it was all lies!!
The killing began in 1939, when head of Hitler’s Euthanasia Department, Dr Viktor Brack oversaw the creation of the T.4 program. At first, the program began systematically killing of children deemed “mentally defective.” Children were transported from all over Germany to a Special Psychiatric Youth Department, after being told that the children were going to be treated there, but they were killed instead. Parents were told that their children had become ill, and simply died. Later, because of Hitler’s hatred mainly for Jewish people, certain criteria were established for non-Jewish children. Even if they “qualified” to be killed because of their mental issues, they had to be “certified” mentally ill, schizophrenic, or incapable of working for one reason or another before they could be killed. Jewish children already in mental hospitals, whatever the reason or whatever the prognosis, were automatically to be subject to the program and killed. The victims were either injected with lethal substances or were led to “showers” where the children sat as gas flooded the room through water pipes. Later the program was expanded to include adults.
As this practice continued, the people started getting angry, and before long protests began mounting within Germany, especially by doctors and pastors. A few of these people even had the courage to write Hitler directly and describe the T.4 program as “barbaric” but others circulated their opinions more discreetly. Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and the man who would direct the systematic extermination of European Jewry, had only one regret: that the SS had not been put in charge of the whole affair. “We know how to deal with it correctly, without causing useless uproar among the people.”
In 1941, when Bishop Count Clemens von Galen denounced the euthanasia program from his pulpit, Hitler decided that he did not need such publicity. He ordered the program suspended but didn’t tell the German people that the suspension was only to be in Germany. Still, even though it was suspended in Germany, 50,000 people had already fallen victim to the hideous program. Then came the “other shoe dropping” as the practice was picked up in earnest in occupied Poland. Hitler was a liar, and he was evil. He assumed that the people of the world were stupid, and he could hide his horrific practice from them. Stopping the practice in the name of humane practices…not!! Lies!! All of it!!
Krzywy Domek in Polish for “crooked house” and while the description is correct, it maybe should mean “a house to feel drunk in.” Krzywy Domek an unusually shaped building in Sopot, Poland, and when I say unusually shaped, I’m not kidding. This building looks like it melted or something. It could almost look like a house in a drug-induced stupor, but in reality it is considered a really fun place to go. It looks like a picture taken from a child’s fictional book. It is about 43,000 square feet in size and is part of the Rezydent shopping center. The building was designed by Szotynscy and Zaleski, who were inspired by the fairytale illustrations and drawings of Jan Marcin Szancer and Per Dahlberg. Krzywy Domek can be entered from either Monte Cassino or Morska Streets. Krzywy Domek was built in 2004. Since it was built, Krzywy Domek has had visitors all over the world. They have all come to have a look at this architectural wonder designed by the Polish architects. Szotynscy and Zaleski were said to be charmed by fairy tales’ illustrations.
The strange design has many experts puzzled as to why, even given the architects interest in fairy tales. With its surreal details, this strange edifice is a puzzle to experts. It is said that this 43,000 square foot creation can be put up only by an artist, but maybe there is another reason for this strange creation. The Village of Joy portal published the list of the 50 strangest buildings of the world. The Krzywy Domek was awarded first place due to its unique, unusual, full of magic architecture inspired by the drawings of Jan Szancer. The Krzywy Domek defeated such world-wide buildings as the Torre Galatea Figueres in Spain, the public library in Kansas City in the USA, and the famous Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.
The building really is crooked, as its name suggests. It is full of strange and magical details: blue-enameled shingles on the roofs, colorful stained glass doors and windows, and stone elevation decors which seem an illusion to the eyes. It is also worth looking at night with its even more exclusive and captivating form. While some people call it the “mind-melting” crooked house, others suggest that it looks like it went through warping software. It has also been known to almost induce vertigo. The strange building is home to a radio station, shopping centers, and centers for relaxation purposes. Strangely, the interior is really not crooked-looking, except for the stairs which are a bit slanted. The Crooked House or Krzywy Domek is also home to the “Wall of Fame” on which participants of Poland’s cultural events add their name…an idea that thrills its visitors. It’s a bit of a spin off of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Personally, I think their “Wall of Fame” might be more interesting, although, it could be because of the Crooked House itself.
I read an article recently, that I can’t get out of my head. “A Study Finds 66% Of US Millennials Can’t Identify What Auschwitz Is” talks about the movement to remove certain elements from world history. The picture of Auschwitz is as foreign to kids these days as the idea of “The Final Solution” was prior to Hitler’s reign of terror in Germany and parts of Europe which led to the Holocaust. The thing that shocks me most is that when they were asked, after a tour of Auschwitz, which is located in Poland, why they didn’t tear these horrible buildings down, they responded, “Oh no!! We leave them up so that we will never forget what happened here, and never allow it to happen again.” Wise words, and words that more people would do well to remember today.
During the past year, we have seen unrest, protests, riots, and the “cancel culture” that has become almost the norm of our time. The schools don’t teach parts of history anymore, in an act of Historical Negationism or denialism. This is not about revising history based on new information that would correct history. Usually, the purpose of historical negation is to achieve a national, political aim, by transferring war-guilt, demonizing an enemy, providing an illusion of victory, or preserving a friendship. Sometimes the purpose of a revised history is to sell more books or to attract attention with a newspaper headline. The historian James M. McPherson said that negationists would want revisionist history understood as, “a consciously-falsified or distorted interpretation of the past to serve partisan or ideological purposes in the present” All of that sounds an awful lot like what we have going on today.
Couple Historical Negationism with “taking offence” or “political correctness” and you have a recipe for disaster. In many of the riots of recent days, the rioters have torn down our historical statues. To me, it doesn’t matter if they think the statue portrays someone they find offensive, or not. That person is a pert of history, good, bad, or ugly. A hero of the South, might not be a hero of the North, but to those in the South he or she might have been. Was a war hero from Germany any less a war hero to his countrymen, simply because he was forced to fight on the side of the Nazis? I don’t think so. In fact many of the German soldiers had no idea of what was happening in their own country. I’m not standing up for the rightness, nor against the wrongness of the people portrayed in the statues, but rather against the destruction of property. The buildings destroyed in the riots, the statues destroyed by the mobs, the looting that took place, all deemed “okay” because these places had insurance…does not make these vicious acts acceptable, or their perpetrators blameless. It’s time that we teach our children about patriotism, respect, fairness, and decency. If we don’t, we are going to find ourselves in the middle of a country that is destroyed by violence and hate. Wake up America!!
When Hitler began his systematic genocide of the Jewish people during World War II, many of the previously free people found themselves suddenly jailed. They had no weapons with which to fight for their freedom, but they knew that they were going to have to make a decision to either fight for their lives, or lose their lives. Some were too old or too young to fight, and some were women, and many men didn’t think these women could handle the fight at hand, but at some point they would have to fight or die. Hitler was relentless, and the Jewish people were fighting for their lives.
When Hitler set his plan in motion, he made it impossible for them to do business. Overnight, all Jewish businesses were blackballed. That was how it started anyway. The Jewish people were no longer allowed to do business with non-Jews. That action meant that the income that these successful Jewish people had, was instantly taken from them…symbolically. Later, It would be taken in every way. Their shops were looted, their property confiscated, and their homes given to others. As the Jewish people were banished to the ghettos, they had just moments to pack a small bag with the things they could carry, or more importantly the things they couldn’t do without…clothing, any food items, and keepsakes. It wasn’t much. There wasn’t room for much.
The ghettos were complete pits of filth, disease, and humanity. People were piled into cramped quarters, forced to share living quarters with people they didn’t know. Of course, the tight quarters was not the worst thing about the ghettos. The people had no rights. If a Nazi soldier raped, beat, or shot a Jewish person, there was no punishment, because they were no longer considered human, and therefore had no rights. Although it was considered an abomination to sleep with a Jewish person, rape was actually considered just another form of punishment. The Nazis didn’t care. A death meant one less Jew to have to house.
The Warsaw ghetto in Poland occupied an area of less than two square miles but soon held almost 500,000 Jews in the deplorable conditions common to ghettos. Disease and starvation killed thousands every month, and when death did not come fast enough, the Jews were transferred to the next level of their torture. Beginning in July 1942, 6,000 Jews per day were transferred to the Treblinka concentration camp. They went by way of cattle cars, packed so tightly that it was standing room only. In fact, if a prisoner died along the way, their body remained standing…held up by the people so tightly packed in around them.
As word got back to the ghettos that the death rate of those being transferred to the camps, either on the trains, or in the gas chambers when they reached their final destination, the Jewish people knew that something was going to have to be done. They would have to fight for their lives. Of course, the resistance was already working. There were those who saw the writing on the wall from the start. When word came down that the Warsaw ghetto was going to be closed and the Jews deported to the camps, it was time.
On January 18, 1943, as Nazi forces were attempting to clear out the Warsaw ghetto they were met by gunfire from Jewish resistance fighters. Although the Nazis assured the remaining Jews that their relatives and friends were being sent to work camps, they no longer believed the Nazi lies. An underground resistance group had been established in the ghetto, called the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB). Limited arms had been acquired at great cost, and it didn’t matter, because this was a fight to the death. As the Nazis entered, the ZOB unit ambushed them, killing a number of German soldiers. The fighting lasted for several days.
On January 18, 1943, when the Nazis entered the ghetto to transport a group of Jewish prisoners, a ZOB unit ambushed them. Fighting lasted for several days, and a number of Germans soldiers were killed before they withdrew. On April 19th, Heinrich Himmler announced that the ghetto was to be emptied of its residents in honor of Hitler’s birthday the next day. I guess Himmler thought murdering all those people would make a great birthday gift for Hitler. That day, more than 1,000 SS soldiers entered the confines of the ghetto, armed with tanks and heavy artillery. Of the 60,000 Jews remaining in the ghetto hid in secret bunkers, more than 1,000 of the ZOB resistance members took up arms and fought back with gunfire and homemade bombs. Again the soldiers withdrew, despite only suffering moderate casualties. Then on April 24th, the Germans and launched an all-out attack against the Warsaw Jews.
The German soldiers stormed through the ghetto, blowing up buildings everywhere. They slaughtered thousands of innocent people. The ZOB took to the sewers to continue the fight. It was cover, but how awful. Then, on May 8th their command bunker fell to the Germans and their resistant leaders committed suicide. I’m sure they thought they had failed their people. By May 16th, the ghetto was firmly under Nazi control, and the last Warsaw Jews were deported to Treblinka. Some 300 German soldiers were killed, and thousands of Warsaw Jews were massacred during the Warsaw Uprising, but that wasn’t the end of the death. Virtually all those who survived the Uprising to reach Treblinka were dead by the end of the war.
Most people, men anyway, think that it is only women who are fashion conscious to a fault. While many women are very fashion conscious, so are many men, and the fashions that some of the men wore can be just as dangerous. When fashion consists of the wearing of articles of clothing or accessories that have the ability to cause death or injury, we are in danger of sacrificing too much in the name of fashion.
Some fashions do no harm, but looking back on them, we can see just how silly they looked. Nevertheless, powdered wigs were in fashion for men in several different centuries. Long hair was considered a show of status, for both men and women over the years. In ancient Greece, long male hair was a symbol of wealth and power, while a shaven head was appropriate for a slave. The problem occurred when the person, usually the men, but women too, had thinning hair. If their social status depended on that hair, they would need a way to fix the problem when it did not exist. The powdered wig helped with that, and some men wore their wigs in very elaborate styles. In the 1760s, aristocratic British men donned large wigs with a small hat or feather at the top. The young men who took up this fashion trend reportedly brought it back from their “Grand Tour” across Continental Europe in which they intended to “deepen cultural knowledge.” The style is, in fact, named after the Italian pasta dish…macaroni, signifying sophistication and worldliness. It is here that we get the song many of us have wondered about called, “Yankee Doodle,” the lyrics of which pointed out that the feather on top was supposedly called macaroni.
The shoes of the men have taken some strange turns as well. Known as the Poulaine, this super long shoe reigned supreme with men across Europe in the late 14th century. The shoes, called Crakow were named after Krákow, Poland because they were introduced to England by the Polish nobles. Once the shoes were seen at court, they became all the rage…even though the shoes were six to twenty four inches long. I’m sure you are thinking to yourself, “Who would be crazy enough to wear these?” Well, I’ll tell you that current styles (or maybe just a year or so in the past) saw women, and men too, wearing shoes that had an extra long pointed toe, so it isn’t just an oddity of 14th century Britain. The shoes were a quick indicator of social status…the longer the shoe, the higher the wearer’s station. Some of these shoes were so long that chains were sometimes strung from the toe of the Crakow to the knee to allow the wearer to walk. Other times the toes were stuffed with material for the same reason, making the toes stiff. The strange shoes were considered ridiculous, vain, and dangerous by many conservatives and church leaders, who called them “devil’s fingers.”
In the 19th century, men began wearing detachable collars, that were heavily starched until they were quite stiff. While the collars didn’t look all that odd, they could be deadly. Because they were so heavily starched, taken to the extreme of the collar being nearly unbendable, and because they were attached with a singular or pair of studs, the collar could slowly asphyxiate a man, if he fell asleep or passed out while drinking. It had a similar effect to a cord being wrapped tightly around the poor man’s neck. Another dangerous aspect of the collar was its pointed corners. A Saint Louis man, wearing one of these collars, tripped in the street and the pointed corners of the collar jabbed into this throat, “making two ugly gashes.” If the gash happened to be in the vicinity of the Jugular vein, death could come quite quickly. These collars were so lethal, in fact, that they were known as “the father killer.” I can only imagine how many women and children pleaded with their husbands or fathers not to wear the collar, which maybe should have been called the choker.
I can understand the need of people to have a certain fashion sense, as I am also one who likes to look up to date and to have a good fashion sense too, but people really need to also consider their own safety when it comes to style. It pays to listen to others who might know something about this certain idea of fashion, that could not only benefit you, but possibly save your life.
Marie Sklodowska was born in an era when women seldom got a very long education, if they got one at all. Born on November 7, 1867 in Warsaw (modern-day Poland). Sklodowska was the youngest of five children, following siblings Zosia, Józef, Bronya and Hela. Their parents were both teachers. Her father, Wladyslaw, was a math and physics instructor. When she was only 10, Sklodowska lost her mother, Bronislawa, to tuberculosis. Sklodowska, being a woman, probably should have grown up to be a wide and mother, dependent on her husband for everything…not that that is a horrible thing, because it isn’t, but it was not all she wanted. She had a good mind for Physics and Chemistry…both subjects were almost unheard of for women in those days.
As a child, Sklodowska took after her father. She was bright and curious, and she excelled at school. Still, despite being a top student in her secondary school, she could not attend the men’s-only University of Warsaw. She instead continued her education in Warsaw’s “floating university,” a set of underground, informal classes held in secret. Both Marie and her sister, Bronya dreamed of going abroad to earn an official degree, but they lacked the financial resources to pay for more schooling. Sklodowska would not give up her dream. She worked out a deal with her sister, “She would work to support Bronya while she was in school, and Bronya would return the favor after she completed her studies.”
Sklodowska worked as a tutor and a governess for the next five years. She didn’t want to get behind, so she used her spare time to study…reading about physics, chemistry and math. Then in 1891, Sklodowska finally made her way to Paris and enrolled at the Sorbonne. She threw herself into her studies, but this dedication had a personal cost: with little money, Sklodowska survived on buttered bread and tea. Sometimes, her health suffered because of her poor diet. Nevertheless, Sklodowska completed her master’s degree in physics in 1893 and earned another degree in mathematics the following year.
You might be wondering exactly who Marie Sklodowska was, and why she was important. It might help to know that on July 26, 1895, Marie got married to French physicist, Pierre Curie. They were introduced by a colleague of Marie’s after she graduated from Sorbonne University. Marie had received a commission to perform a study on different types of steel and their magnetic properties and needed a lab for her work. As most people already know, she did her work at a great cost to her own health, but what most people probably don’t know, is that the radiation levels Curie was exposed to were so powerful that her notebooks must now be kept in lead-lined boxes, and it’s not just Curie’s manuscripts that are too dangerous to touch, either. If you visit the Pierre and Marie Curie collection at the Bibliotheque Nationale in France, many of her personal possessions…from her furniture to her cookbooks…require protective clothing to be safely handled. You’ll also have to sign a liability waiver, just in case.
In those days, things like radiation and it’s dangers were not known. Marie Curie was basically walking around with bottles of polonium and radium, both highly radioactive compounds, in her pockets all the time. She even kept capsules full of the dangerous chemicals on her shelf. “One of our joys was to go into our workroom at night; we then perceived on all sides the feebly luminous silhouettes of the bottles of capsules containing our products,” Marie, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist wrote in her autobiography. “It was really a lovely sight and one always new to us. The glowing tubes looked like faint, fairy lights.” In case you didn’t know, Marie Curie discovered radioactivity. Also, along with her husband, Pierre, they discovered the radioactive elements, Polonium and Radium, while working with the mineral, Pitchblende…a form of the mineral Uraninite occurring in brown or black masses and containing radium. She also championed the development of X-rays, following her husband’s death in a street accident in Paris on 19 April 1906.
The fact that the notebook and related paraphernalia are still radioactive a century later is not as well known. The most common isotope of radium, the deadly chemical Curie carried in her pockets, has a half-life of 1,601 years. That said, people will not be able to go digging through the Curie’s library any time in this century, either. It is also known now, but wasn’t then, that the chemicals would end Curie’s life at a fairly early age. Curie died on July 4, 1934, of aplastic anemia, believed to be caused by prolonged exposure to radiation. She was 58 years old.
Every time I learn anything about Adolf Hitler, I am stunned that so much evil could exist in one man. World War II technically started when Adolf Hitler invaded Poland. Hitler told his men that “it did not matter who was right or wrong, that in fighting a war, coming out triumphant is the only thing that counted.” He urged his men to have no sympathy for their opponent. On September 1, 1939, Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland, by ordering the attack of defenseless civilians. In this way, they put the citizens in a state of shock. The sky was dark and there were dead bodies everywhere. Once Germany invaded Poland, it opened a door to allow the Soviets to also invade Poland. Of course, this was not exactly what either country wanted.
Before the end of the month, on September 29, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union agree to divide control of occupied Poland roughly along the Bug River, with the Germans taking everything west, and the Soviets taking everything east. The people of Poland were given away like slaves. In addition, as a follow-up to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which was also known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact, a non-aggression treaty was created between the two huge military powers of Germany and the USSR. The German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop met with his Soviet counterpart, VM Molotov, to sign the German-Soviet Boundary and Friendship Treaty. Of course, the “friendship” did not extend to the Polish people.
As in normal in any contract, there was “fine print” in this agreement too. The fine print of the original non-aggression pact had promised the Soviets a slice of eastern Poland. It was to be a small part, simply a matter of agreeing where to draw the lines. Joseph Stalin, Soviet premier and dictator, personally drew the line that partitioned Poland. He originally wanted it drawn at the River Vistula, just west of Warsaw. In the end, he agreed to pull it back east of the capital and Lublin, giving Germany control of most of Poland’s most heavily populated and industrialized regions. In exchange, Stalin wanted Lvov, and its rich oil wells, and Lithuania, which sits atop East Prussia. Germany was fine with that, because now they had 22 million Poles, “slaves of the Greater German Empire,” at its disposal…and Russia had a western buffer zone.
On this same day, the Soviet Union also signed a Treaty of Mutual Assistance with the Baltic nation of Estonia, giving Stalin the right to occupy Estonian naval and air bases. What was thought to be a buffer zone, seems more like a land grab to me. A similar treaty would later be signed with Latvia. These nations really didn’t seem to realize what they were getting into. Eventually, Soviet tanks rolled across these borders, in the name of “mutual assistance,” placing the Baltic States under the rule of the USSR for decades to come. These so called treaties were once again merely the realization of more fine print from the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, giving Stalin more border states as buffer zones, and protecting Russian territory where the Bolshevik ideology had not been enthusiastically embraced from intrusion by its western neighbor, namely its non-aggression partner Germany. The highly vulnerable Baltic nations had no say in any of these arrangements. They were merely annexed…by force in a huge Soviet land grab.