Job of the year: Skeleton cleaner.
February 25th - On this day in 1570, Pope Pius V issued a bill, titled ‘Regnans in Excelsis’, which declared “Elizabeth, the pretended Queen of England and the servant of crime” to be excommunicate and a heretic, releasing all her subjects from any allegiance to her. Catholics who obeyed her orders were threatened with excommunication.
This followed on from Elizabeth ordering the execution of 750 Catholic rebels following a revolt to free Mary Queen of Scots, who was imprisoned in England.
February 24, 1920: The Nazi Party is founded.
The original Nazi Party was founded in 1919 as the German Workers’ Party (DAP), shortly after the end of the first World War. Initial membership was only a few dozen, and the party was one of many many parties across the political spectrum seeking to gain influence in post-World War I Germany; each group offered its own solution, and the solution offered up by Anton Drexler’s nationalist group was only one of, again, many. In late 1919, Adolf Hitler was sent to spy on a party meeting, but he was afterwards invited to become a member himself after Drexler witnessed firsthand Hitler’s raw oratory skill. Adolf Hitler, member #55, rose quickly within the ranks of the party.
On February 24, 1920, the German Workers’ Party went public and issued its “National Socialist Program” or the 25-point Programme, the political agenda upon which the DAP and the future NSDAP were based. It promoted points of both socialist and nationalist ideals, including the termination of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, equal rights for citizens, restricted immigration, freedom of religion, the nationalization of industry, no citizenship for Jews, racial purity and other points. Soon after Adolf Hitler delivered the program, the German Workers’ Party became the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) - or Nazi Party, for short. Nationalism and socialism were both popular philosophies in the unstable environment of post-World War I Germany, and the addition of both terms to the party name (despite Hitler’s hostility toward certain socialist ideals) maximized its appeal to the masses. The German Workers’ Party ran on an antisemitic agenda; its founder was an antisemite; its new chairman (Hitler) was an antisemite; and so the new National Socialist German Workers’ Party, despite its points on equal rights, was explicitly antisemtiic to the core. National socialism sought to eliminate class conflict by achieving solidarity as a nation and unity against a common enemy - “international Jewry” and “Jewish Bolshevism”.
The once tiny German Workers’ Party, under its new leader, blossomed; within a decade, it was the second-largest party in the Reichstag. In 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany and initiated his party’s complete takeover of the German government.
Pamela Mountbatten, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth stand outside Romsey Abbey, Hampshire in their bridesmaids’ dresses after attending the wedding of Captain Lord Brabourne and Patricia Mountbatten
February 22, 1943: Members of the White Rose are executed.
The White Rose (die Weiße Rose) was one of the most famous anti-Nazi resistance groups working within the borders of the Third Reich; their defiant opposition against Adolf Hitler and the atrocities and oppression of his government was and is especially remarkable when juxtaposed with the traditional image of the apathetic German citizen, oblivious to or unwilling to speak out against the crimes of their own leaders and military. The principal members of the organization were students from the University of Munich - Hans and Sophie Scholl, Alex Schmorell, Willi Graf, Lilo Berndl, Jürgen Wittenstein, Falk Harnack, Christoph Probst, Traute Lafrenz, Katharina Schueddekopf, and Marie-Luise Jahn. Several had refused to join the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls ,(membership was, at that point in the war, compulsory), and most were motivated by moral reasons; some, as medical students, had witnessed the horrors of the war on the Eastern Front, atrocities committed by Germans against civilians, and the conditions of the Jewish ghettos in Warsaw and other cities.
The White Rose’s main activity was spreading awareness through leaflets and pamphlets heavily influenced by religious texts, ancient philosophy, and traditional German writers, while avoiding detection by the Gestapo. The second of the six eventual leaflets (and a seventh draft) read:
The German people slumber on in dull, stupid sleep and encourage the fascist criminals. Each wants to be exonerated of guilt, each one continues on his way with the most placid, calm conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty, guilty, guilty!
Shortly after the total surrender of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad (and on the same day as Joseph Goebbels’ “total war” speech), a custodian at the university witnessed the Scholl siblings distributing pamphlets at the school, and the two were soon taken into custody by the Gestapo to be interrogated. Hans and Sophie Scholl, along with Christoph Probst, were tried by the People’s Court in a hasty show trial, found guilty, and executed by guillotine all on the same day - February 22,1943. More members were executed in July and October of that year, and others connected to the organization were sentenced to prison terms; however, it was the Scholls, more than any other members of the White Rose, who became symbols of selfless resistance and martyrs in postwar Germany.
We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace
‘Queen Mary Apocalypse’, London 14th century.
British Library, Royal MS 19 B XV, fol. 30v
February 21st - On this day in 1848, Karl Marx publishes 'The Communist Manifesto' , recognised today as one of the world’s most influential political manuscripts.
It contained ideas on the bourgeois, proletariat and communists and the growing importance of socialism in the nineteenth century. Its content was the inspiration of several communist states; namely the Soviet Union and Communist China.
February 19th - Today marks the 540th Birthday of Nicolaus Copernicus, famed mathematician, astronomer, and the man whose work popularised the thinking that Earth revolves around the Sun.
Copernicus published the first draft of his heliocentric theories some time before 1514. This was shared with a small group of friends under the title “Commentariolus” (“Little Commentary”). He spent the next several years improving upon this theory via observing astronomical bodies and mathematical calculations. By 1532 Copernicus had all but completed his work and had consolidated his observations in a manuscript titled De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.
Google today honours his birth with a doodle: https://www.google.co.uk/webhp?hl=en&tab=ww
Sophia Magdalena Scholl was a German student and revolutionary, active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany. She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich with her brother Hans. As a result, they were both executed by guillotine.
In a historical context, the White Rose’s legacy has significance for many commentators, both as a demonstration of exemplary spiritual courage, and as a well-documented case of social dissent in a time of violent repression, censorship, and conformist pressure.
Photograph of a student resistance movement called the White Rose, active in Germany during the Third Reich. The image shows Hans Scholl (left), Sophie Scholl (center), and Christoph Probst (right), Munich, Germany, 1942. Photograph from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.