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History's Happenings for September 30

'Peace For Our Time' — Munich Appeasement

Many believe that one of the greatest mistakes of World War II was committed on September 30, 1938.

On that day British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain arrived at an agreement with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler to partition Czechoslovakia, returning the western portion, or Sudetenland, to the German Reich. Czech President Eduard Beneš had nothing to say about it.

Hitler had been rattling his sabers over the Sudetenland for months, posturing that the three million native Sudeten Germans were suffering mistreatment at the hands of the Czech majority. Meanwhile, Nazi operatives within the disputed area were doing their best to rustle up nationalism among the German populace.

Chamberlain felt that this act of appeasement toward the German Chancellor would bring lasting peace. The Prime Minister was received back in England as a hero, and even told the waiting crowd that "... this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time."

Winston Churchill, then out of office, saw it differently when he said "We have sustained a total, unmitigated defeat..." He was shouted down by an outpouring of indignation.

In fact the October absorption of the Sudetenland was just another stepping stone for Herr Hitler. Using the same tactics of disruption and accusation, he invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia proper the following spring.

On the whole, the appeasement of Munich made the war inevitable. It convinced Hitler that he was dealing with nations which had no stomach for war; it destroyed France's diplomatic and military credibility, since she had refused to rise to the defense of her Czech ally; and it turned over to Germany, virtually without a fight, all of Czechoslovakia's formidable western defenses and about 70% of her heavy industrial capacity.

Eleven months after Munich, Hitler gambled with what he had gained by launching World War II. But for the entry of the United States some two years later, he may well have come out on top.

Death Of Saint Jerome

Saint Jerome is best known for having created a Latin translation of the Holy Bible that became the standard of the Catholic Church for over fifteen hundred years.

Born in Stridon, Dalmatia (modern Croatia) in about 340 AD, of wealthy Christian parents, Jerome became a scholar of Latin, Greek and Hebrew. After a period of asceticism and scriptural study, he was ordained as a priest in 379. As a secretary to Pope Damasus I in the 380's, Jerome made influential friends, including a Roman matron named Paula (later Saint Paula) who, with her daughter, followed him to the Holy Land and financed the founding of three convents and a monastery there. Assuming the governorship of the monastery, Jerome was free to pursue his literary interests and to debate with such contemporary luminaries as Saint Augustine.

Jerome's most acclaimed work, of the many that still exist, was his translation of the Holy Scriptures into Latin, which came to be known as the Vulgate Bible (for vulgatus, common). The Vulgate, which sought to correct the many errors that had crept into the variety of individual translations of Jerome's time, became the standard of the Catholic Church until revised by Pope Paul VI in 1977.

The traditional date of Saint Jerome's death in 430 AD, and his Feast day, is September 30.

Congress Flees Capital

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Babe Ruth Hits Record 60th Home Run

On September 30, 1927, slugger George Herman "Babe" Ruth of the New York Yankees hit his record-setting 60th home run for the season, out of a total of 154 games played.

The record stood until 1961, when fellow Yankee Roger Maris hit 61 (in 162 games).

Nazis Found Guilty At Nuremberg

Constituted under the London Agreement signed the previous August by the victorious Allies, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Germany, handed down indictments against 24 key officials of the fallen Third Reich on October 18, 1945. The Agreement provided for a court under the jurisdiction of one judge and one alternate from each of the signatory nations, the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

The defendants were charged under three general headings: Crimes against peace (i.e.. waging aggressive war), war crimes (e.g. violations of the Hague Conventions providing for the treatment of prisoners and inhabitants of occupied areas), and crimes against humanity (large scale atrocities). Also charged were a variety of Nazi organizations, including the SS, Gestapo and General Staff.

The trial began on November 20 for twenty-one of the accused, and much of the ensuing evidence came from the Nazis' own carefully meticulous records, captured during the swift Allied advance. Testimony from slave workers, concentration camp victims and others, as well as captured films, made public for the first time the true horrors of the war.

The defense pointed out that the London Agreement sought to outlaw aggressive war ex post facto, and that most of the defendants had been acting under orders. The defeat of these motions created new rules for future behavior in time of war.

At least two of the defendants -- Luftwaffe Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring and Armaments Minister Albert Speer -- attempted to accept some blame for their actions and those of their country, while still denying full knowledge of the atrocities.

On September 30, 1946, verdicts were received acquitting three of the defendants, and finding the other nineteen guilty of various counts. Twelve were sentenced to death, including Göring, Foreign Minister Joaquim von Ribbentrop, Gestapo chief Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Gauleiter and Jew-baiter Julius Streicher and Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, head of the General Staff. The others, including former Nazi Party chief Rudolf Hess, Speer, and Grand Admirals Erich Raeder and Karl Dönitz were given lengthy prison terms. The condemned were hanged on October 16, Göring managing to poison himself hours before his appointment with the gallows.

Some of the darkest characters of the Nazi regime never made it to Nuremberg. Adolf Hitler shot himself in his bunker as the Russians tightened the noose on Berlin at the end of April, 1945; SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler managed to swallow poison after his capture by the Allies. Nazi party chief and Hitler right-hand-man Martin Bormann disappeared into the Berlin war zone after his boss' death and was presumed killed in the fighting. Reinhard Heydrich, head of the SS security department (SD) and prime mover behind the atrocities, was assassinated in Prague in 1942. His young assistant, Adolf Eichmann, escaped to Argentina and was captured, tried and executed by the Israelis in 1962.

The charges brought by the Court in Nuremberg attract some concern today as they did from the defense in 1946: Were they, in fact, simply a case of the victors reshaping the law to suit their goal of punishing the vanquished? The premise is not without foundation, mainly as regards some of those sentenced to prison terms.

But few disagree that, given the scale of the atrocities in World War II, the main perpetrators deserved to pay with their lives. That they received any trial at all, rather than a hasty field execution, marks the difference between western democracy and Nazism.

Berlin Airlift Ends

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Navy Launches First Nuke Sub

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