TIME remembrance

Why Holocaust Remembrance Day Is Today

Ghetto Uprising
Keystone—Getty Images 1943: Fire breaks out during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The date marks the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The calendar year is full of dates that could be chosen for Holocaust Remembrance Day. Some, like January 27, the day of the liberation of Auschwitz, are recognized internationally. And, as Allied forces moved through Europe liberating Nazi death camps throughout early 1945, those dates continue to amass. So why is this Thursday, April 16, marked as Holocaust Remembrance Day in the United States and elsewhere?

As the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum explains, the date corresponds with the 27th of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar, which in 1943 — on April 19 in the Western calendar — marked the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Though the date may appear to move around from year to year, it’s always on that anniversary.

The once-vibrant Jewish community of Warsaw was forced into a ghetto on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur in 1940, stuffed into an area scarcely bigger than a square mile, deprived and diminished and finally deported, as TIME’s Lance Morrow explained in a review of a 2002 book of eyewitness accounts of the infamous ghetto. As the population of the ghetto dwindled, some who remained began to organize for combat. On April 19, 1943, as the Jewish holiday of Passover approached, Nazi forces entered the ghetto with the intention of sending all of its remaining residents to camps — only to encounter the uprising. The Jews of Warsaw managed to fight back for weeks.

It would take years before the Nazi forces were finally suppressed in Warsaw and elsewhere, but the uprising was nearly immediately a touchstone for remembrance. By 1948, on the fifth anniversary, TIME reported on one such memorial:

Last week, on the fifth anniversary of the ghetto uprising, 12,000 Jews assembled on the spot where the first shots were fired. There they dedicated a monument to the heroes of the ghetto and to the 3,500,000 other Jews killed in Poland.

Delegations of Jews from 20 nations, including the U.S., laid wreaths and banners against the monument—a wall built of broken bricks from the ghetto‘s rubble piles. Mounted in a front niche was a bronze plaque showing armed men & women straining toward freedom.

These were moving symbols to the Jews of Warsaw. But what they liked best, perhaps, was the shining granite that sheathed the monument’s wall: it was some of the Swedish granite that Adolf Hitler had ordered for his monument in Berlin.

Read the full 1948 account, here in the TIME Vault: Shining Granite

Read next: Attacks Against Jews Spiked in 2014, Israeli Researchers Say

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME movies

Russia Bans Hollywood Thriller For Depicting It as a Nation of ‘Defective Sub-Humans’

In this image released by Lionsgate, Tom Hardy appears in a scene from the film, "Child 44."
Larry Horricks—AP In this image released by Lionsgate, Tom Hardy appears in a scene from the film, "Child 44."

Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman fail to impress officials in Moscow

The Russian Ministry of Culture canceled the local premiere of the Child 44 on Wednesday, saying the movie portrayed Russia as “a sort of Mordor, populated by physically and morally defective sub-humans.”

Produced by Lionsgate, Child 44 stars Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman and depicts a Soviet officer (Hardy) as he investigates a series of gruesome child murders in 1953, according to the Associated Press.

The distribution company, Central Partnership, supported the decision and in a statement accused the film of misrepresenting facts that “took place before, during and after the Second World War” and of making a false “portrayal of Soviet people living at that time.”

The decision raised concerns that film distributors will begin to self-censor to avoid having a movie premiere cancelled.

“It’s clear that now, if [a film] is about history, it has to correspond to some system of coordinates,” film distributor Alexander Rodnyansky told Russian media translated by the Wall Street Journal. “Now the self-censorship will begin: Many people will start being afraid to buy and distribute films here.”

Child 44 will be released in the United States on April 17.

TIME World War II

Anne Frank Died 1 Month Earlier Than Previously Thought, Museum Says

This is an undated photo of Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who, with her family, hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam, Netherlands, during World War II.
Anonymous—AP This is an undated photo of Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who, with her family, hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam, Netherlands, during World War II.

The new date lays to rest the idea that Frank could have been rescued if she had lived just a little longer

(THE HAGUE, Netherlands) — Teenage Jewish diarist Anne Frank likely died of typhus in a Nazi concentration camp about a month earlier than previously thought, the Amsterdam museum that honors her memory said Tuesday on the 70th anniversary of the officially recognized date of her death.

Anne likely died, aged 15, at Bergen-Belsen camp in February 1945, said Erika Prins, a researcher at the Anne Frank House museum.

Frank’s diary about hiding from the Nazis in the occupied Netherlands during World War II was published after the war. It became an international best-seller and made her an enduring symbol of Holocaust victims.

The new date of her death changes little about the tragic lives of Anne and her sister Margot, who went into hiding with their family in an Amsterdam canal house but were eventually betrayed, sent to Nazi concentration camps and died in the Holocaust along with millions of other Jews.

“It was horrible. It was terrible. And it still is,” Prins said.

But she said the new date lays to rest the idea that the sisters could have been rescued if they had lived just a little longer.

“When you say they died at the end of March, it gives you a feeling that they died just before liberation. So maybe if they’d lived two more weeks …,” Prins said, her voice trailing off. “Well, that’s not true anymore.”

Allied forces liberated the Nazis’ Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945.

The earlier March 31 date of Anne’s death was set by Dutch authorities after the war, based on accounts suggesting she and her sister died sometime in March. At the time, Dutch officials did not have the resources to establish an exact date.

The new research studied existing eyewitness accounts, documents and archives, including at least one new interview. Witness accounts said Anne and her sister already showed signs of typhus in early February. Researchers cited Dutch health authorities as saying most typhus deaths happen around 12 days after the first symptoms.

“In view of this, the date of their death is more likely to be sometime in February. The exact date is unknown,” the researchers said.

In the words of one witness, Rachel van Amerongen, who knew the Frank sisters and was cited by researchers, “one day they simply weren’t there anymore.”

TIME Argentina

Secret Nazi Hideout Believed Found in Argentina

Researchers found German coins and a porcelain plate dating back to World War II

Archeologists have discovered ruins in a remote jungle region of Argentina that are believed to be Nazi hideouts intended to act as safe havens if Germany lost World War II.

Inside three run-down buildings in the Teyú Cuaré park, near the border with Paraguay, researchers found five German coins minted during the Nazi regime and a porcelain plate marked “Made in Germany,” the Clarín newspaper reports.

“Apparently, halfway through World War II, the Nazis had a secret project of building shelters for top leaders in the event of defeat — inaccessible sites, in the middle of deserts, in the mountains, on a cliff or in the middle of the jungle like this,” team leader Daniel Schávelzon told Clarín.

In fact, the hideouts would prove unnecessary because after the war then Argentine President Juan Perón allowed thousands of Nazis, and other European fascists, to resettle in the South American nation. Most notorious among them was arguably Adolf Eichmann, a leading architect of the Holocaust, who in 1960 was found in Argentina by an Israeli intelligence group. He was abducted and eventually executed in Israel for his crimes.


Read next: How a Speech Helped Hitler Take Power

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME World War II

When the Tuskegee Airmen Got Their Wings

On the anniversary of their activation in 1941, a look back at the 99th Pursuit Squadron

When members of the 99th Pursuit Squadron got their wings in March 1942, the honor was more than just recognition of the training they’d undergone to serve as pilots in the U.S. military. As LIFE wrote that month, “Upon their performance and promise hang the hopes of additional thousands of aspiring Negro fliers throughout the land.”

The Tuskegee Airmen, first activated for training at Chanute Field, Illinois, on March 19, 1941, served as the first black pilots in the U.S. military. Their admission came only after decades of pressure from civil rights and labor leaders advocating for equal opportunity in the military. Though it represented progress, the military into which these pilots flew was still segregated, and would remain so until 1948.

LIFE photographed the first class of lieutenants, including leader Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., a West Point graduate whose father had been the Army’s first black general officer. In total, 992 pilots would be trained in Tuskegee, about one third of whom would be deployed overseas. Eighty-four would lose their lives, including 68 in action, with another 32 captured as prisoners of war.

The emotion that courses through Gabriel Benzur’s photographs is pride. And LIFE’s readers overwhelmingly applauded the photo essay as crucial to “building up confidence, morale and patriotism” and “an incentive to all races and creeds to unify their efforts for victory.”

An attorney from Detroit, William C. Smith, wrote the editors to express what it meant to see the airmen in the magazine. “In spite of the often unhappy treatment we have received, both in and out of government, we know that this is our America, we want to do our share.”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME conflict

Behind the World War II Fire Bombing Attack of Tokyo

Fleet Planes Headed To Tokyo
Interim Archives/Getty Images Carrier-based fighter planes Tokyo-bound over Japan during World War II, 1940s.

The bombing campaign started 70 years ago, on Mar. 9, 1945

When the United States launched a bombing operation over Japan on Mar. 9, 1945, firebombing was hardly a new tactic. But the scope of the damage was unprecedented: as TIME framed it the following week, the fire in Tokyo destroyed “approximately 9,700 acres, or 15 square miles,” versus a single square mile that was destroyed by a Luftwaffe attack on London in 1940.

“This fire left nothing but twisted, tumbled-down rubble in its path,” Major General Curtis E. LeMay reported, according to TIME.

What changed?

For one thing, the firepower available to U.S. pilots was on another level. The hard-fought and ongoing battle for Iwo Jima proved worthwhile, affording the American pilots an airfield within striking distance of the enemy capital, and planes also flew in from Saipan, Tinian and Guam. The hundreds of aircraft each carried several tons of incendiaries for a combined total of about 700,000 bombs. Though Japan did have anti-aircraft defense, it was aimed thousands of feet higher than the low-flying bombers flew.

Secondly, that firepower came in a new format: the M-69. The new bomb—a pipe full of gasoline jelly enhanced by a secret ingredient that had been developed by the oil company Esso; this jelly is now better known as napalm—created fire that was hotter and harder to put out than fires created by other common incendiary materials. “Dropped in loose clusters of 14, or ‘amiable’ clusters of 38, the finless oil-bombs are exploded by a time fuse four or five seconds after landing. Thereupon M-69s become miniature flamethrowers that hurl cheesecloth socks full of furiously flaming goo for 100 yards,” TIME reported shortly after the attack. “Anything these socks hit is enveloped by clinging, fiery pancakes, each spreading to more than a yard in diameter. Individually, these can be extinguished as easily as a magnesium bomb. But a single oil-bomb cluster produces so many fiery pancakes that the problem for fire fighters, like that of a mother whose child has got loose in the jam pot, is where to begin.”

Thirdly, areas of Tokyo—and other Japanese cities that were also targets—were particularly liable to burn. Though some buildings had been reinforced with concrete after recent earthquakes, many were pre-modern constructions of flammable materials. That meant a building didn’t have to be struck to burn: a firestorm spread throughout the city,

And finally, conditions that day were favorable to the bombers, with good visibility and wind.

The fatalities from the bombing raid were, as Kirk Spitzer explained for TIME.com in 2012, on par with those caused by the atomic bombings that would come a few months later, even though historical memory of the former has faded significantly more.

TIME movies

Watch Sir Ian McKellen Put a New Twist on an Old Favorite in Mr. Holmes Trailer

Benedict Cumberbatch watch out, there is a new Sherlock in town

Sherlock Holmes will get a silver-screen twist when Sir Ian McKellen plays an elderly version of Britain’s most famous detective this coming summer.

Mr. Holmes, based on the novel A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, follows a retired Sherlock as he tries overcome his failing memory to crack an unsolved mystery.

The trailer opens in the British countryside just after World War II and suggests the older Sherlock will rely not on Dr. Watson, but a young boy named Roger, played by Milo Parker, as his trusty sidekick.

The film is by Bill Condon, who recently shot the final two Twilight installments.

McKellen is a venerable Oscar-nominated English actor who has recently played Magneto in the X-Men movies and Gandalf in The Hobbit trilogy.

TIME World War II

Microsoft Co-Founder Discovers Spooky Remains of a Japanese Battleship

Paul Allen found the Musashi

Long-lost wreckage said to belong to a World War II Japanese battleship has been discovered by none other than Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The philanthropist and Microsoft alumnus posted images on Twitter that appear to show the Musashi, once one of the two largest warships in the world. Allen said the ship was found 1 km deep by an unmanned submersible launched from his superyacht, the MY Octopus. The find near the Philippines was the culmination of an eight-year search.

“Since my youth, I have been fascinated with World War II history, inspired by my father’s service in the U.S. Army,” Allen said in a statement.

Allen showed the bow of the ship with a distinctive chrysanthemum, the flower of Japan’s royal family, and a massive anchor. The ship was one of two Yamato-class battleships constructed by the Japanese Imperial Navy, the largest class of warship built at the time, CNN reports.

The Musashi was sunk by the U.S. Navy in October 1944 with the loss of more than 1,000 crew.

Allen, who has a net worth estimated at $17.5 billion, is the owner of several U.S. sports teams including the Seattle Seahawks. He founded Microsoft alongside Bill Gates in 1975 and resigned from the Microsoft Board in 2000.

TIME conflict

Who Started the Reichstag Fire?

World War Two
FPG / Getty Images Firemen surveying the ruins following the Reichstag fire in Germany, 1933.

On Feb. 27, 1933, the building was destroyed — and no matter who did it, the Nazis got what they wanted

It’s a semi-mystery that’s over eight decades long: who set fire to the Reichstag, the German parliament, on Feb. 27, 1933?

As described in the Mar. 6, 1933, issue of TIME, the arson came amid “a campaign of unparalleled violence and bitterness” by then-Chancellor Adolf Hitler, in advance of an approaching German election, and it turned a building that was “as famous through Germany as is the dome of the Capitol in Washington among U. S. citizens” into “a glowing hodge-podge of incandescent girders.”

Marinus van der Lubbe, an unemployed Dutch bricklayer linked to the Communist party, was tried and executed for the crime the following year, but even then TIME questioned whether the Nazis who held him responsible were also the ones who had paid him to set the fire, “promising to save his neck by a Presidential reprieve and to reward him handsomely for hiding their identity and taking the whole blame in court.”

In 1981, a West Berlin court declared that the trial had been “a miscarriage of justice,” though they stopped short of saying that he had been innocent. In 2001, evidence emerged that the conspiracy theory had been right along, with historians announcing that the Nazis had been the ones responsible for the fire, though even then others disagreed — and, as recently as 2014, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum noted that “the origins of the fire are still unclear.”

But, while van der Lubbe’s life still hung in the balance, reporting on the aftermath of the fire made clear that, whoever set the spark, the aftermath had already been determined by Nazi powers, in their own favor. Here’s how TIME summed it up just a week after the original report on the fire:

Before German Democracy could thus be downed this week, the Hitler Cabinet had to launch last week a juggernaut of super-suppressive measures & decrees for which they needed an excuse. What excuse could be better than the colossal act of arson which had just sent a $1,500,000 fire roaring through the Reichstag Building […] gutting completely the brown oak Reichstag Chamber and ruining its great dome of gilded copper and glass.

The Reichstag fire was set by Communists, police promptly charged. Over a nationwide radio hookup the Minister of Interior for Prussia, blustering Nazi Captain Hermann Wilhelm Göring, cried: “The Reichstag fire was to have been the signal for the outbreak of civil war! … The Communists had in readiness ‘terror squads’ of 200 each … These were to commit their dastardly acts disguised as units of our own Nazi Storm Troops and the Stahlhelm … The women and children of high Government officials were to have been kidnapped as hostages and used in the civil war as ‘living shields’!…

“The Communists had organized to poison food … and burn down granaries throughout the Reich … They planned to use every kind of weapon—even hot water, knives and forks and boiling oil!…

“From all these horrors we have saved the Fatherland! We want to state clearly that the measures taken are not a mere defense against Communism. Ours is a fight to the finish until Communism has been absolutely uprooted in Germany!”

The “juggernaut” of new decrees included increasing the weaponry provided to Nazi troops (despite violation of the Treaty of Versailles) and the transfer of the majority of state powers from President Paul von Hindenburg to Hitler and his cabinet. Rights ensured by the German constitution were suspended, and a gag rule was placed on foreign journalists within the country, with severe punishments for violation. The German government was moved from Berlin to Potsdam. Within the month, TIME reported that nearly all of the country’s leading Communists and Socialists were in jail. By April, Nazis were using the threat of another fire to ensure the passage of the Enabling Act, which solidified Hitler’s place as dictatorial leader for years to come.

Whether Nazi involvement in the Reichstag fire was direct or indirect or, improbably, nonexistent, the result was the same.

TIME People

How a Speech Helped Hitler Take Power

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) pronouncing a
Albert Harlingue—Roger Viollet/Getty Images Adolf Hitler giving speech at the terrace of Royal Castle of the Lustgarten of Berlin, during his election campaign, circa 1920

The Nazi Party platform was announced on Feb. 24, 1920

It was exactly 95 years ago — on Feb. 24, 1920 — that Adolf Hitler delivered the Nazi Party Platform to a large crowd in Munich, an event that is often regarded as the foundation of Naziism.

The German Workers’ Party (later the Nazi party) already existed before that date, though it was on that day that its exact goals were laid bare: the platform, set forth in 25 points, did not shy away from the central idea of strengthening German citizenship by excluding and controlling Jewish people and others deemed non-German. Still, those ideas weren’t new for the party. So what changed in 1920, and how did that help lead to Hitler’s ultimate rise to Nazi power?

His record of speech-making was what brought the audience to that hall in Munich in 1920. And, as Stefan Kanfer explained in TIME’s 1989 examination of the origins of World War II, Hitler’s power was closely linked to his abilities as an orator:

After the war, Hitler joined a new and violently anti-Semitic group, the forerunner of the National Socialist German WorkersParty — Nazi for short. There, for the first time since adolescence, he found a home and friends. Within a year, he became the chief Nazi propagandist. Judaism, he told his audiences, had produced the profiteers and Bolsheviks responsible for the defeat of the fatherland and the strangulation of the economy. Jews were bacilli infecting the arts, the press, the government. Pogroms would be insufficient. ”The final aim must unquestionably be the irrevocable Entfernung [removal] of the Jews.”

Early on, Hitler had a central insight: ”All epoch-making revolutionary events have been produced not by the written but by the spoken word.” He concentrated on an inflammatory speaking style flashing with dramatic gestures and catch phrases: ”Germany, awake!”

Read the full story, here in the TIME Vault: Architect of Evil

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