WW2 Competitions

|   3 January 2011

December Competition result

Many congratulations to Louise Morgan of Perthsire in Scotland who was the first person randomly selected from all those subscribers to WW2History.com who correctly answered last month’s competition. A signed, paperback copy of Ian Kershaw’s ‘Fateful Decisions’ together with a DVD of ‘WW2 Behind Closed Doors’ will shortly be winging their way to her.

The question we posed was: ‘Hitler held a number of meetings with European leaders in 1940. After one such meeting in October 1940, Hitler remarked that he would ‘prefer to have three or four teeth taken out’ than go through the experience again. Which European leader caused this reaction in Hitler?

The answer, as Louise and many others correctly identified, was General Franco, the dictator of Spain.

This month’s question is, I think, a difficult one – but the prize is certainly worth the effort, a signed, paperback copy of Antony Beevor’s epic ‘D Day – the battle for Normandy’.

And a Happy New Year to you all!

WW2 Competitions

|   1 December 2010

November Competition result

The memorial to the battle of Stalingrad, overlooking the city.

Congratulations to Hannah Scott of County Durham who wins the November WW2History.com competition. She was the first person picked at random from the list of WW2History.com subscribers who gave the correct answer to the question: who commanded the Soviet 62nd Army at the battle of Stalingrad?

The correct answer was Vasily Chuikov. And a signed copy of Antony Beevor’s ‘Stalingrad’ as well as a DVD of the documentary ‘Stalingrad’ is on its way to our lucky winner.

Chuikov was an extraordinary military commander. He didn’t just lead his troops at Stalingrad with a determination and ruthlessness that staggers the imagination, he also – as I learnt first hand from a former officer under his command – treated his own immediate subordinates with considerable brutality. When, for example, an officer reported bad news, Chuikov was quite capable of beating him up with his fists or with a stick. It was a tough life in the 62nd… But then, I guess it had to be if they were to hold Stalingrad.

WW2 Competitions

|   1 November 2010

October Competition Result

Congratulations to Mr Atkinson of Northumberland, Mr Fenton of Argyll and Mr Steury of Virginia, USA, who were the first three subscribers selected at random from all of those who got the right answer to October’s WW2History.com’s members competition. A signed, hardback copy of Martin Davidson’s ‘The Perfect Nazi’ is on its way to you.

They correctly answered ‘Reinhard Heydrich’ to the question: ‘Who commanded the SD? This infamous Nazi, who was also a key figure in the development of the ‘Final Solution’, was eventually killed by agents sent by the British to Prague in the spring of 1942.’

I’ve always thought Heydrich one of the most interesting and sinister of all the Nazis. Many of the people I met who dealt with him personally were still affected by the experience, remembering him as both highly intelligent and supremely cold-hearted (Hitler called him the man with the ‘Iron Heart’).

The Nazi action to exterminate the Polish Jews was known as ‘Operation Reinhard’ in his ‘honour’. Something which, at one level, tells you all you need to know about this man’s legacy to the world.

WW2 Competitions

|   1 October 2010

Ethics of bombing – and the September competition result.

Where is this?

Congratulations to Ray Mitchell of Suffolk, Paul Oliver of Norfolk and Alistair Hollington of Essex who were the first three people drawn at random from subscribers to WW2History.com who correctly identified the city in which this photo was taken as – Coventry. A signed hardback copy of Juliet Gardiner’s brilliant ‘The Blitz’ is on its way to each of you.

Coventry, in the Midlands of Britain, was subjected to a horrendous bombing raid by the Germans in November 1940. The ruins of the cathedral (on the left of the photo) have been kept as a permanent memorial to the destruction and suffering.

But, of course, it was Germany that went on, by the end of the war, to endure far more intense bombing than Britain did. Many in Britain believed (then and today) that, as the bible says, the Germans had ’sown the wind’ and so it was right that they should subsequently ‘reap the whirlwind’.

Was it? Was it right to bomb the ancient city of Dresden in 1945 and kill 35,000 people in one night? Was it right to create the world’s first firestorm at Hamburg? Or target the medieval city of Wurzburg in part because its old wooden buildings were ‘burnable’?

Read the rest of this entry

WW2 Competitions

|   1 September 2010

COMPETITION RESULT – AUGUST

This was the question posed to subscribers in the August WW2History.com competition:

‘Which leading figure in the Soviet Union, someone who facilitated Stalin’s desire to commit countless atrocities in WW2 – like the Katyn massacre and the deportation of whole nations such as the Crimean Tatars and the Kalmyks – was also a football fanatic? In fact, this man was so obsessed with his beloved Dynamo Moscow that he had one of the leading stars of their rivals, Spartak Moscow, transported to the Gulag.’

The answer was Lavrenti Beria, head of the notorious NKVD, the Soviet secret police. Beria had three intense interests in life – torture, rape and football. When he was a young secret policeman in his native Georgia he played for the local football team and was remembered as a ‘crude, dirty left half’.

Congratulations to the three winners this month: Mr Brennan of Chesterfield, Mr Robillard of the USA and Mr Jackson of Brighton. A signed copy of Catrine Clay’s terrific book on Bert Trautman, the Manchester City goalkeeper and former member of the Hitler Youth, is on its way to you.

A new competition is now available to subscribers in the Members’ Zone of the site. The prize this month, for each of the 3 lucky winners drawn at random from correct entries, is a signed copy of Juliet Gardiner’s ‘The Blitz’ – the book which is also the WW2History.com book of the month for September.

WW2 Competitions

|   2 August 2010

Competition result – July

What is the name of this monastery, the site of a famous WW2 battle?

That was the question subscribers were asked in July. And it proved a good deal easier than the question we posed the previous month, since lots of people gave the correct answer – Monte Cassino. The three lucky winners, drawn at random from the list of people who gave the right answer are: Mr Stewart of County Tyrone, Mr Rassell of Colchester and Mr Givens of West Boldon. Each will shortly receive a signed, hardback copy of ‘World War Two: Behind Closed Doors’ together with a DVD of the accompanying six part television documentary series.

In the foreground of the picture is the Polish graveyard at Monte Cassino. It’s an intensely moving place to visit, not only because so many Polish soldiers died to capture Monte Cassino, but because a large number of these Poles came from an area of Poland that Churchill had agreed would become Soviet territory at the end of the war (and is part of Belarus and Ukraine today).

I remember that just after this photo was taken a group of Poles arrived to hold a memorial service in the cemetery. It was a very emotional affair and many tears were shed.

After it was over I saw a couple of younger Poles looking in a puzzled way at the gravestones. When I asked them what it was that troubled them, one said, pointing to the place of birth of the dead soldier which was written on the gravestone: ‘Many of these Poles don’t appear to have been born in Poland.’

This, of course, was because they had been born in territory that had been Polish before WW2, but was no longer Polish in 1945 – and this young Pole did not know the history. It was a powerful reminder of how boundaries and memories can change. And of how small countries can be at the mercy of superpowers…

PS There is now a new competition in the Members’ Zone. This one is harder, I think, and requires you to know which hideous henchman of Stalin’s was also obsessed with  football.

WW2 Competitions

|   1 July 2010

Who WAS this man?

This month’s competition proved much harder than I thought it would. But congratulations to Mr Pichardie who correctly identified this US Marine General as Lemeul Shepherd Junior. A signed copy of Michael Burleigh’s ‘Moral Combat’ is on its way to you.

Shepherd had one of the toughest wars of any battlefield General and deserves to be much better known. He was a Marine commander during the brutal and unforgiving ‘island hopping’ campaign in the Pacific. These were deadly offensives – as viewers of Sky’s ‘The Pacific’ will know. Shepherd commanded units on Guadalcanal, Guam and then, as a two star Brigadier General leading the 6th Marine Division, on Okinawa. The photo above captures a pensive Brigadier General Shepherd on Okinawa.

I’ve interviewed both American and Japanese veterans who fought on Okinawa and their stories tell of a hell on earth. One US Marine revealed that not only did his unit habitually refuse to take Japanese prisoners – shooting any who tried to surrender – but that they were taught to believe that the Japanese were an ‘inhuman race’. And battle fatigue as they fought this ‘inhuman’ enemy was so intense that he recalled that he had spent one night hallucinating that he was fighting the Japanese only to discover in the morning that ‘there were no Japanese there’.

As for soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army, they were ordered to conduct a defence of the island of Okinawa that they knew would almost certainly lead to their deaths. Instead of trying to prevent the Americans from landing on the island, they retreated island into carefully prepared defensive shelters. Here they planned to show their bravery by giving up their lives for their Emperor. You can listen to one Japanese soldier who fought on Okinawa, Hajime Kondo, in the Testimony section of the site. He talks revealingly of the reasons why he thought he ought to kill himself on Okinawa – and why he survived.

In the  video on the site about ‘island hopping‘ you can also here Kondo reveal that the last word he heard spoken by American soldiers before they died was often ‘Mother.’ Kondo thought that curious, since the last word that Japanese soldiers uttered when they died could also be ‘Mother’. (This was something confirmed to me by a Kamikaze pilot – who was cheated of death off Okinawa only because his plane was shot down as he neared his target. He said that the Kamikaze pilots had discussed amongst themselves what their last word should be, spoken as they smashed themselves into a million pieces against the deck of an Allied warship; and everyone said that they would say the word ‘mother’. But he had a problem, his mother had died when he was young, and so he felt he could not say ‘mother’ as he killed himself, so he decided to say the name of a Geisha he loved instead.)

The war on the eastern front in the Soviet Union was truly horrendous, but there was a special, intense kind of nastiness to the war in the Pacific. And that was the war in which history placed Lemeul Shepherd Junior.

WW2 Competitions

|   4 June 2010

Man in the photo

Yes, Frederick (see his comment below) is absolutely right. The man on the right of Hitler is Arno Breker, Hitler’s favourite sculptor, who accompanied Speer and the Fuehrer on their lightening, three hour early morning tour of Paris, 70 years ago this month.

Hitler wanted these ‘artists’ to accompany him so that they could see the glories of Paris, and thus be sure to construct bigger glories back in the German capital in response. And Hitler’s words to Speer that same evening (which Speer recorded in his autobiography ‘Inside the Third Reich’) give a chilling insight into the mentality of the German leader. ‘In the past I often considered whether we would not have to destroy Paris,’ said Hitler, ‘but when we are finished in Berlin, Paris will only be a shadow. So why should we destroy it?’

As Speer said, the idea that Hitler had considered destroying Paris merely because he didn’t want the French capital to overshadow Berlin reveals that he was most certainly a ‘ruthless and mankind-hating nihilist’.

A realisation that didn’t stop Speer serving him subsequently as armaments minister though, did it?

WW2 Competitions

|   1 June 2010

Competition Result – May

Here is the result of the May WW2History.com members’ competition. The question was – who is the Nazi on the left of this picture, accompanying Adolf Hitler on his victorious tour of France 70 years ago this month?

I thought it was a tough question since the Nazi concerned doesn’t actually quite look his normal self in this photo. But it wasn’t a tough question at all for the subscribers to WW2History.com since the majority of people who entered the competition got the answer right. It’s Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect and later armaments minister.

The three lucky winners, selected at random, who each receive a signed copy of Ian Kershaw’s brilliant ‘Hitler: Nemesis,’ are: Mr Flaherty of Preston, Mr Jackson of Brighton and Mr Pichardie of France. Congratulations, gentlemen! Your prize should arrive in the next few days.

Incidentally, I wonder how many people know who is on the right of the picture? Now, surely, that will stump almost everyone. In fact, I’ll come clear here, I wasn’t absolutely certain who it was until I asked Sir Ian Kershaw himself to confirm the answer. There’s no prize for knowing the answer to this extra question (because there is a new and different competition already in the Members’ Zone for June) but I’ll give the answer later this week.