On this day 13 December WWII

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BATTLE OF THE BULGE BEGINS:
December 16, 1944

With the Anglo-Americans closing in on Germany from the west and the Soviets approaching from the east, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler orders a massive attack against the western Allies by three German armies.

The German counterattack out of the densely wooded Ardennes region of Belgium took the Allies entirely by surprise, and the experienced German troops wrought havoc on the American line, creating a triangular "bulge" 60 miles deep and 50 miles wide along the Allied front. Conditions of fog and mist prevented the unleashing of Allied air superiority, and for several days Hitler's desperate gamble seemed to be paying off. However, unlike the French in 1940, the embattled Americans kept up a fierce resistance even after their lines of communication had been broken, buying time for a three-point counteroffensive led by British General Bernard Montgomery and Americans generals Omar Bradley and George Patton.

Fighting was particularly fierce at the town of Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne Division and part of the 10th Armored Division were encircled by German forces within the bulge. On December 22, the German commander besieging the town demanded that the Americans surrender or face annihilation. U.S. Major General Anthony McAuliffe prepared a typed reply that read simply:

To the German Commander:

Nuts!

From the American Commander

The Americans who delivered the message explained to the perplexed Germans that the one-word reply was translatable as "Go to hell!" Heavy fighting continued at Bastogne, but the 101st held on.

On December 23, the skies finally cleared over the battle areas, and the Allied air forces inflicted heavy damage on German tanks and transport, which were jammed solidly along the main roads. On December 26, Bastogne was relieved by elements of General Patton's 3rd Army. A major Allied counteroffensive began at the end of December, and by January 21 the Germans had been pushed back to their original line.

Germany's last major offensive of the war had cost them 120,000 men, 1,600 planes, and 700 tanks. The Allies suffered some 80,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action, with all but 5,000 of these casualties being American. It was the heaviest single battle toll in U.S. history.

1942 Goebbels complains of Italians' treatment of Jews


On this day, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels records in his journal his contempt for the Italians' treatment of Jews in Italian-occupied territories. "The Italians are extremely lax in their treatment of Jews. They protect Italian Jews both in Tunis and in occupied France and won't permit their being drafted for work or compelled to wear the Star of David."

Joseph Goebbels had made the persecution, and ultimately the extermination, of Jews a personal priority from the earliest days of the war, often recording in his diary such statements as: "They are no longer people but beasts." "Their destruction will go hand in hand with the destruction of our enemies." "[T]he Jews ... are now being evacuated eastward. The procedure is pretty barbaric and is not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews." It was on his recommendation that all Jews in occupied Paris be forced to wear a yellow star on the left side of their coats or jackets in order to identify and humiliate them.

His vituperative anti-Semitism, which included blaming the war itself on the Jews in a screed published in the German magazine Das Reich, could not be contained within the boundaries of Germany. He expected the same of his allies. But, truth be told, in the earliest days of fascism, Mussolini had denied any truth to the idea of a "pure" race and had counted Jews among his close colleagues-and was even a Zionist!

But with Italy's failing fortunes militarily, Mussolini needed to stress the Italians' "superiority" in some sense, and so began to mimic many of the racial and anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazis. Nevertheless, Mussolini never had the stomach-or the conviction-for the extremes of Goebbels, Goering, and Hitler. And certainly the majority of the Italian people never subscribed to the growing anti-Semitic rhetoric of the regime. In fact, the Italians refused to deport Jews from Italy-or from Italian-occupied Croatia or France-to Auschwitz.

The majority of Italians' courage to reject the worst of fascist ideology--its anti-Semitism--remains one bright spot in Italy's otherwise appalling World War II record.
 

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