Tag Archives: World War II

Wearing Lipstick to War or why it’s National Doughnut Day

baked goods,bites,desserts,donuts,food,treats

Today is National Doughnut Day.  For those who fret over obesity in America this may seem distasteful.  I can sympathize–our family recently adopted a rule that junk food is ok if you make it from scratch at home, but we’re increasingly moving away from highly-processed tasty things to real-food really tasty things.  That’s just how we roll the doughnut hole.

(In case you are interested, here’s Alton Brown’s doughnut recipe from his 2004 episode of Good Eats, “Circle of Life”:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/yeast-doughnuts-recipe/index.html)

But, National Doughnut Day is not really about eating fatty, doughy, calorie-laden tastiness.  Did you know that?  It is actually a bizarre addition to our Memorial Day celebrations.  I’m not kidding.  It is a creation of the Salvation Army in recognition of the front-line coffee and doughnut services provided by some Red Cross women during World War I and again in World War II.  It began in 1938.  No, seriously.

It’s about the history, not the calories!

Doughnut and coffee duty was an important morale duty for certain Red Cross women stationed amongst the homesick American troops in England during World War II.  They were carefully selected for the duty based on the right look, slang, and cocktail..er..coffee and doughnut conversation (you know, baseball, apple pie, Bob Hope, swing music, and so forth).  They were assigned in trios to the Clubmobile that visited the troops.  Clubmobilers were proud of their duty and the GIs lapped them up with coffee and doughnuts, obviously.

Get the full story about these select women from the National Archives-published magazine, The Prologue, here: Wearing Lipstick to War.  It’s fascinating stuff (good old fashioned American stereotypes and sexism, etc.)!  Actually, it is pretty interesting that it follows on the heals of Memorial Day, no?

In the meantime, have a wonderful Homer Simps–d’oh!–I mean a wonderful National Doughnut Day!  And, remember it’s about the history, not the calories!

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War memorials and mock congress Close Up

The Lincoln Memorial heading up the end of the National Mall with America's war memorials.

Tuesday was a busy day!  We started out the morning with an exploration of Capitol Hill (so students would know their way around for Hill Day).  We took a group picture in front of the Capitol before workshops 1-6 headed to a seminar with a speaker from AIPAC–the strongest Israel lobby in the U.S.  (He shared the importance of Israel as an ally, but did not mention the P-word, until a student asked point-blank about Israel’s relations with Palestine.)

A group of students meets to discuss the presentations made by the war memorials. The World War II Memorial is in the distance at the end of the empty reflecting pool.

Then, after lunch, we hit up the War memorials to discuss the theory of just war and the representation of American wars on the Mall.  Students debated the timing of our entry into World War II and reviewed just war theory in the cases of the Korean and Vietnam Wars.  (At the Vietnam, one student got a rubbing of his family member’s name who died in that conflict.)

Students explore the iconic and controversial Vietnam War Memorial. Students explore with questions about the artwork and the concepts of just war in their heads.

Then we returned to the hotel for dinner and a student-run mock Congress in further preparation for their Hill Day. Students took on the roles of chairpersons, lobbyists and reps in the House. While the group on the whole is rather conservative, there was a lot of good debate on current issues and bills under consideration, today.

Students are grouped in their mock committee meetings discussing the issues, pros and cons of bills that relevant in today's congressional debates.

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A Tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen

Tuskegee Airman on a "Buy War Bonds" WWII poster, autographed by Dr. Cyril O. Byron and Bill Peterson.

Thursday night (2/17/11), I attended a Tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen sponsored by the Community College of Baltimore County’s Aviation Club, Black Student Union and History Club.  It was a thrill!  Guests Dr. Cyril O. Byron, an original Tuskegee Airman (part of the ground crew) and Bill Peterson (a heritage Tuskegee Airman–his father was an original and he was the paperboy from 1945-46, later joining three years after integration) shared some of the experiences of serving in the military during the era of segregation.

During World War II, many black military units were minimized.  There were exceptions, such as the 761st Tank Battalion that served 183 consecutive days following General Patton.  The Navy had the Golden 13.  Black nurses served, but could not treat white combatants.  The Marines did not commission a black officer until November 10, 1945.  And, the colonel in command of the Tuskegee Airmen was a graduate of West Point, Col. Theo Davis, Jr., where he spent his four years in isolation, no one speaking to him.

Those who attended the tribute heard about popular contemporary fears that Army Air Corps-trained pilots from the Tuskegee program might seek work as commercial pilots after the war.  Everywhere the squadron went they were unwelcome.  At one point during the evening, a brief clip was shown that featured three Tuskegee original pilots.  Capt. Luther H. Smith, inspired at a young age by Charles Lindberg’s daring trans-Atlantic flight, was shot down on a mission, but told friends and colleagues that he was treated better as a POW than he was in America or in the military.  Lt. Col. Lee Buddy Archer, the Ace of the Red Tails, explained how as a boy in Saratoga Springs a pilot who was selling airplane rides for $5 refused his father and added to his determination to fly.  Col. Charles McGee, an original Tuskegee pilot flew in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, logging the most combat hours (as far as they knew) of any combat pilot.

Dr. Cyril O. Byron, now ninety years old, was a sophomore at Morgan State College when Uncle Sam invited him to join the Army, in 1942.  After time spent in New York, he was transferred down to Tuskegee, AL and assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron.  He described Tuskegee as being as unfriendly to the colored units, as they were known, as one might guess.  They could not go into town.  If they wanted to watch a movie, they needed to make arrangements in advance at the base, go down to the cinema in one truck, wait while one man bought all the tickets and then file in through the side door and up to the balcony.  And, all this while wearing the uniform of the United States Army!  Dr. Byron said he actively chose to think positively adhering to his father’s words, “Don’t resent what you can’t prevent.”

The squadron would eventually be sent overseas, but would bounce around from unit to unit–all of the first few being British units–until they were assigned to an American base in Salerno, Italy.  Italian children would ask for candy then circle around the airmen.  At the time, they thought it was just a ploy to get more candy out of them, but then someone spoke to the children and learned that they had been told that black men had tails.  Italians  familiar with American culture would ask the airmen why they fought for freedoms that they did not have in America.  It was hard to answer such queries.

As an escort squadron, recognized by the red paint on the tails of their P-51 Mustangs–thus their nickname, “Red Tails“–they became one of the most requested units by bomber squadrons who had no idea that the pilots were black.  They were in such high demand, in fact, that one of the leaders named his aircraft, “By Request”.  A couple of years ago, Dr. Byron said a white man approached him to thank him for the success rate of the Red Tails, because his father had always insisted that had it not been for them he would not have survived the war.  Nonetheless, back on American soil, even German POWs had more access on American bases than the successful Tuskegee Airmen because of the color of their skin.  It would take 62 years for the United States to finally award medals of recognition to the airmen.

Following the war, Dr. Byron would finish his degree and then proceed to NYU for his Masters and further to Temple for his Ed.D.  Peterson would join up three years after the armed forces were integrated and through the military complete his education.

The presentation concluded with a final thank you from a CCBC aviation student, Doug, who had been a part of the Tuskegee Youth and Aviation Program at College Park, MD–CCBC awarded a $500 donation to the same program in gratitude for Mr. Peterson and Dr. Byron’s presentations and time Thursday evening.  Doug expressed his thanks briefly, not only for the direct involvement he had in their program, but also for the legacy that they had handed down to him from the days of segregation.

The evening’s events concluded with the movie, The Tuskegee Airmen.  It was a special evening and the parties involved at CCBC did a terrific job in bringing it all together!

Bill Peterson (standing, left, in red) and Dr. Cyril O. Byron (seated, right) sign autographs with Doug assisting (standing, right, in red).

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Korea–a really brief look at how we got here

Korea has always been stuck between a rock and a hard place, also known as China and Japan.  If it was not under the thumb of its neighbors in modern times, it was under the influence of imperialist European nations.  We might as well begin at the conclusion of World War II, when Korea had been forcibly liberated from Japan–a period of brutal treatment that has not been forgotten (as is evident from the Japanese textbook scandal a few years back which riled China, North Korea and South Korea with its glossed over account of Japan’s war crimes committed against the occupied people of these two countries).  Not unlike World War II Germany, Korea was divided by the Soviets and the Americans in the Allied attempt to defeat the Japanese.  The Soviets established the Korean Workers’ Party and installed their man, Red Army-trained Kim Il-Sung, founding the People’s Republic of Korea in 1948, accompanied by Soviet withdrawal.  When the South declared its independence the Korean War began with North Korea’s invasion.  Thus, it was one of the few hot spots during the Cold War.

Kim Il-Sung, the "Eternal Leader", with his son, Kim Jong-il, the "Dear Leader".

When folks refer to the Korean War as the forgotten war they are in part referring to the preference to look at the Second World War and Vietnam, while neglecting this brief but brutal conflict.  Over two million people died between 1950-1953.  Only twenty thousand fewer Americans died in that span than died in seventeen years of the Vietnam War.  In the end, with the involvement of U.S.-led coalition forces, the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union, two Koreas were forged in brutal warfare, separating families and isolating the people of North Korea.

A Map of the Korean Peninsula (1993, CIA)

Roughly along the 38th Parallel is a no-man’s land, legendary for its absurdly large collection of land mines, which is guarded around the clock by North Koreans on the north wall and South Koreans and Americans on the south wall.  American forces have remained in South Korea since the Armistice that ended the Korean conflict.  (They have mostly been welcomed, but more recently their presence is controversial to a younger generation, especially given a level of inappropriate behavior by some soldiers.)  Whereas South Korea has achieved some economic stability, the North has been in a dire situation for decades with extremely poor health, short life expectancy and widespread hunger and starvation.  Conditions for aid have often been dependent on a more humane government, but it has sacrificed its people for weapons and a desire to establish a nuclear armament.

The physical darkness of North Korea and metaphor for the internal conditions.

Throughout the last decade and a half, the West and North Korea’s neighbors have been concerned about its attempt to negotiate for nuclear energy to solve some its internal problems.  The potential to turn energy into arsenal has always been a concern, though many agree that clean and abundant energy would be an asset to a nation that is significantly behind in medicine, food production, manufacturing, everything but military arsenals.  The so-called Six Party talks, named after the six countries at the table: North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, have been orchestrated on numerous occasions to discuss the nuclear situation.  In the last decade North Korea even agreed to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA of the United Nations to conduct investigations and inspections intended to insure that all nuclear-interests were peaceful, but ultimately failed to make good on such promises.  Traditionally, China has insisted on protecting the North, and as with a small sibling, scolding and cajoling them into cooperation, but many question China’s influence, particularly in light of its recent economic changes.  Current events, including two attacks, may sorely test China’s right to keep little brother from straying into international conflict.

Kim Jong-il's family

In 1994, Kim Il-Sung died after amassing a substantial military regime, bolstered by Soviet and Chinese aircraft, artillery and guns, and was replaced by Kim Jong-il.  It is believed that the next succession is under way from Kim Jong-il to his youngest son Kim Jong-un, but given its closed society it is difficult to say for sure what it is intended.  If Kim Jong-il is about to end his career as North Korea’s supreme leader, it is worth remembering the brief thaw in North-South relations which many Koreans, separated since the conflict in the early 50s, were reunited.  It came during a brief period of hope that has since evaporated.  In contrast to this touching scene, we may also recall the presentation of his father as Eternal Leader ten years after his death and the fact that the country resembles nothing so much as a giant concentration camp.

The Kims. Kim Il-Sung holds the sickle of the USSR to emphasize his background.

In the last few months, North Korea has become increasingly provocative.  The most recent missile attack on Seoul has certainly ignited the South and led many to question whether war can be avoided–an unpleasant thought under the “best” circumstances but more disturbing now, given the confirmation of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities on par with Iran.  It becomes more difficult to predict what the next course of action will be and whether a non-violent solution is possible.

North Korea ups the ante...

This has been every bit as brief as advertised and as such is likely to be vulnerable to the inaccuracies or misguiding points that are often the product of brevity.  For this reason I wanted to provide some fast but more thorough resources recommended for further investigation.

For a quick analysis on economics, history and current political situation, such as it is known, the first place to start is the CIA World Factbook for North Korea: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kn.html and for South Korea: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ks.html.  I would also suggest the US State Department to see what it is providing and saying about current events.

For a summary on Korean history in an easy to access package, try the BBC’s website: http://search.bbc.co.uk/search?go=toolbar&uri=/history/worldwars/coldwar/korea_hickey_01.shtml&q=korea.  From that page you can link to country profiles on both North and South as well as recent headlines and news.  While you are there you may want to make use of the timeline: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1132268.stm and the summary of the Korean War http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/coldwar/korea_hickey_01.shtml–it is succinct, but more in depth than what I provided.  There are better and more academic sources out there, not least because they are written by political scientists, economists and historians, but they are not so brief.

The Economist also provides a brief commentary on the current situation and what should be done: http://www.economist.com/node/17577117?fsrc=scn/tw/te/mc/solvekorea

For a report on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities visit Foreign Policyhttp://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/11/23/hecker_north_korea_now_has_same_nuclear_defense_as_iran

Foreign Affairs also provides analysis on North Korea’s political situation in general with two articles from August 2010: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66581/sung-yoon-lee/the-pyongyang-playbook and October 2010: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66870/by-jennifer-lind/the-once-and-future-kim.  Note: both of these articles predate the most recent round of hostilities and the most escalating to date.

Finally, I recommend The Week, with its broad summary coverage of what the media is reporting and how it is commenting: http://theweek.com/article/briefing_blog/141/conflict-in-the-koreas–Bonus!: the site includes cartoon commentary!

Raising the next generation of Kims.

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Soccer and World History?

 

Ancient Athenian playing a soccer-like game. (National Museum of Archaeology, Athens, Greece)

 

In preparation for my sports history class next semester at the Community College of Baltimore County, I have been preparing a unit on soccer–the game the world plays . . . even if the U.S. does not.  It is also the sport over which the most ink has been spent.  Because of its penetration into the societies that really play it, it is something that has garnered the attention of political scientists, economists and sociologists, but not so much by historians.

 

The Ball is Round, A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt

 

It is with that in mind that I have started to develop the reading list, both my preparatory list and my students’, and have started reading David Goldblatt’s 974-page tome, The Ball is Round, A global history of Soccer.  Goldblatt’s argument is simply that soccer must be part of modern historical writing, “Whether the historians like it or not, football [soccer] cannot be taken out of the history of the modern world and the history of the modern world is unevenly, erratically but indisputably etched into the history of football,” (xvii, Goldblatt).  I have argued that sports and other hobbies and interests open windows onto exquisite views of our human past, but I cannot think of a single modern history that has included soccer.  In my mind, sports potentially provides a spark of interest for people who may not know why they should care about history.  Goldblatt argues that it should be considered not as a gimmick to get attention, but as a genuine contributor to history.  I have thought its value is the connection to the culture.  Goldblatt agrees, but thinks it is still more than that, contributing to the culture’s history.

 

A recent tribute to Kurt Landauer, club president of FC Bayern Munchen until the Nazi regime forced the club to expel its Jewish members--the only club not to do so voluntarily before such laws.

 

I wonder if Goldblatt is to be taken seriously.  Certainly, his latter point about history etching itself on the sport has to be accurate, but on considering whether it is the case that soccer can be included versus must be included . . . I am not yet sure.  I will say this: the Cold War should not be covered without a look at the international competitions as a way to demonstrate the apparent success of two conflicting ways of life–regardless of how accurate that presentation actually was.

 

The Miracle on Ice: The US is victorious over the USSR at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games in New York--incredible win considering the state of the nation and the Cold War

 

Come to think of it,  is it is not easy to think of the Nazi regime’s insistence on the physical prowess of the mythical Aryan race without thinking about the Olympics preceding World War II.  For that matter, I can seldom think of baseball without thinking of Cuban refugees and a certain Venezuelan dictator’s failed attempt to make the Big Leagues (poor Hugo Chavez).  Perhaps Goldblatt really has it right and I have undersold my own attempt to bridge sports and history.  Maybe we as historians do ourselves and our scholarship a real injustice by ignoring sports in the final analysis of [modern] world history.

 

A stamp for the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany--an affair that violated virtually all of the idealistic purposes of the Olympic Games, but also frustrated Hitler with the success of American Jesse Owens.

 

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Gateway drug to the Nazi Holocaust–the Nuremburg Laws

 

First page of the Nuremburg Laws signed by Adolf Hitler

 

As promised on Monday, this post is a follow up to my visit to the National Archives where the Nuremburg Laws of 1935 Nazi Germany are now on display.  (To see the remarkable story behind this exhibition check out the previous post.)  There are three laws that make up the Nuremburg Laws, but the one that is most important to the subsequent history is the final law seeking to establish the purity of German blood.  What follows, are two points of view regarding the context under which these laws come about.  One view, that of author and scholar Robert Gellately, focuses on a political origin, while the other view, that of scholar Henry Friedlander, focuses on the authority of the cultural elite.  These points of view are not mutually exclusive, simply different in both their emphasis and the end goal of their publications (Gellately writing about “the era of social catastrophes,” and Friedlander writing about “euthanasia to the final solution”).

The political environment.

 

"Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, The age of social catastrophe" by Robert Gellately

 

Following the conclusion of the First World War, on November 9, 1918, the Kaiser abdicated and Chancellor Prince Max of Baden resigned, leaving the returning soldiers, young Adolf Hitler among them, feeling betrayed.  In this vacuum an active socialist political movement stepped up: by noon Philipp Sheidemann of the Majority Socialists Party declared the formation of a “German Repubic,” followed within hours by Karl Liebknecht, of the more radical Independent Social Democratic Party, proclaiming a “Free Socialist Republic of Germany.”  These events would feed into the military’s myth that the “homefront let down the battlefront” during World War I and will become an “article of faith,” to Hitler, still recovering from a gas attack at the end of the war, and millions of other Germans.  The nickname, “November criminals,” will come to represent everything they hate: Marxists, Jews, Bolsheviks.  (83)

Bavaria’s monarchy in Munich was replaced by a radical Council Republic, despite its traditional and religious demeanor.  Hitler and many others tied the Jews with Communism and Bolsheviks because of prominent Russian and German Socialist and Communist leaders who were Jewish, though not necessarily religious.  They “become synonymous with Bolshevism and entangled with anti-Semitism.”  (84)  Although some of the leading left politicians would preferred Germany to follow the way of Russia–as Lenin deeply desired–the people of Germany were not overwhelmingly sympathetic:

Germany was a land of property owners, where millions had investments in stocks, bonds, and savings.  The country also had a pension and welfare system that helped integrate state and society.  Most workers were opposed to Communism, and even radical left-wingers were not anxious to emulate the Bolsheviks.  (84)

The concern, nonetheless, remained relevant as the majority of Russians had also not desired the Revolution Lenin orchestrated.  Lenin wanted to penetrate the west through Germany and Austria and sent emissaries who worked with the newly founded German Communist Party from 1918-1919, discussed the use of terror and attempted a coup. (85-87)  The presence of the Socialists caused a great deal of instability and violence; the new Bavarian government would ultimately have to lay siege to Munich to wrest it from a Leninite.  But, by this time, the socialists parties in Germany, Austria and Hungry were waning.  (89)  Yet, the damage was done and the stage had been set for Hitler.  Most Germans firmly associated the Jews with the Bolsheviks and, thus, with destabilization and international threat.  Anti-Semitic organizations achieved membership in the hundreds of thousands during this post-war period.  (91)

German economists will later blame the failing economy on international Jewry, labeling it a cancer besetting the economy, “Breaking the ‘slavery of interest’ became code for ending the economic power of the Jews.”  (91-2)  Hitler finally finds his calling in life, politics, and helps to further the interests of the German Workers’ Party, an organization well to the right of the soviets, interested in moderate government regulation on capitalism.  He makes his mark quickly, shrewdly competing with the socialists for workers in the ranks of the party by changing the name to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party and, in 1920, establishing the swastika on the white circle on the red background as the flag.  The red was meant to symbolize the “social idea” (and steal the attractive color from the soviets), the white nationalism and the swastika the “mission and struggle of Aryan man.”  (95-6)

After setbacks and then a sweeping rise to power, Hitler was elected Chancellor, with jobs and the economy being important campaign issues.  He initially says little pubically about the Jews, although the party boycotts and physically intimidates them, (315), but he does start his camp-system, some 160 such sites established by 1933, for torture and imprisonment (302).  Criminals, such as sex offenders, and communists are targeted–with German socialist support!  In the press, the camps are described as anti-Communist institutions to ease them into the culture, playing off the genuine fears of Communist disintegration of laws and order.  (303)

While the boycott of Jewish businesses fails to catch on, anti-Semitic policies were argued for in support of transferring Jewish professional success to Germans.  (317)  From the time of the boycott, “individual actions” were taken steadily against Jews–euphemism for violence and damage of property–without instigation from Berlin, acted entirely on local initiatives, though never without controversy.  But, despite this uneasiness with unsanctioned, but nevertheless unpunished, violence, the tenor was against the Jews and by 1935 Hitler believed he had the popular support he needed to start passing legal restrictions based on race.  And so, the Nuremburg Laws were passed forbidding the mixing of Jewish blood with German or German-related blood: banning marriages, sex and even the employ of a German woman under the age of 45 in a Jewish household.   Gellately reports on, “[a] Gestapo report for Berlin [that] said Jews were now shut out of the ‘community of the people.'”  (319)

The authority of the cultural elite.

 

"The Origins of Nazi Genocide, From euthanasia to the final solution" by Henry Friedlander

 

Origins of Nazi genocide are in the misappropriated biological theory of Darwin as applied to society:

Nazi genocide did not take place in a vacuum.  Genocide was only the most radical method of excluding groups of human beings from the German national community.  The policy of exclusion followed and drew upon more than fifty years of scientific opposition to the equality of man.  (1)

The would-be science of eugenics was advanced by German and other western scholars that “merged [eugenics] with the racist doctrine of ultra-nationalists to form a political ideology based on race.”  Scientists created constructs and scales on human intelligence, turning “popular prejudices” into scientific and academic theory, such as sexism based on brain size.  Nazi academics and doctors looked back and drew from a long tradition of academic authorities, as they so chose.  (1)

With his rise to the chancellorship, Hitler and his cadre of scientists began with sterilization, in 1933 and serving “as the model for all eugenic legislation” throughout Nazi control.  It forced sterilization on individuals with any of a variety of mental and physical disabilities.  The later Marriage Health Law, passed in the same year as the Nuremberg Laws,

mandated screening the entire population to prevent marriages of persons considered carriers of hereditary degeneracy, particularly those covered by the sterilization law.  (23)

As race hygiene had always linked disability to criminal activity, criminal traits believed to be hereditary were also targeted in 1933, often with the sympathy of law-abiding citizens.  (23)  A book compiling all the Nazi laws written against Jews fills a four-hundred-page tome.  While the first is written in 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service,

the centerpiece of the anti-Jewish legislation was enacted in September 1935 as the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, together known as the Nuremberg racial laws.  (24)

This same law will be extended to include “other racially alien blood,” especially “Negroes and Gypsies.”  And, Jews will be eliminated from eligibility, though they are not originally, from German citizenship because German blood is a prerequisite.  (25)  Not only that, Jewish patients would be banned from hospital care under the same pretense.  (268)

Conclusion.

The Nuremberg Laws will be on display at the National Archives for most of October, positioned opposite the Magna Carta and after the arc of the Hall of the Charters of Freedom.  I recommend the trip if it is possible.  The documents are profound not because of the words on the pages, nor even the signatures that passed them into law, but because they represented the next step, the one that set the legal course for the Holocaust.

For more information about the documents and how they came to be at the National Archives, or to see what they said exactly, refer to the previous post which has many useful links.

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