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World War II History for March 12

March 12, 2009 Steve Terjeson 1 Comment

Today in WWII History

World War II History for March 12

Audio Clip: Below you will find President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first Fireside Chat from 1933 “On the Bank Crisis.” Included is a link to the full text and a video clip.

12 Mar 1933 – President Paul von Hindenburg dropped the flag of the German Republic and ordered that the swastika and empire banner be flown side by side.

12 Mar 1933 – Outside Berlin, the first concentration camp opened at Oranienburg.

12 Mar 1933 – FDR gives first fireside chat “On the Bank Crisis.”


Full text of the On the Bank Crisis speech from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.
Video clip of Roosevelt speech at History.com.

On this day in 1933, eight days after his inauguration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gives his first national radio address or “fireside chat,” broadcast directly from the White House.

Roosevelt began that first address simply: “I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking.” He went on to explain his recent decision to close the nation’s banks in order to stop a surge in mass withdrawals by panicked investors worried about possible bank failures. The banks would be reopening the next day, Roosevelt said, and he thanked the public for their “fortitude and good temper” during the “banking holiday.”

At the time, the U.S. was at the lowest point of the Great Depression, with between 25 and 33 percent of the work force unemployed. The nation was worried, and Roosevelt’s address was designed to ease fears and to inspire confidence in his leadership.

Roosevelt went on to deliver 30 more of these broadcasts between March 1933 and June 1944. They reached an astonishing number of American households, 90 percent of which owned a radio at the time.

Journalist Robert Trout coined the phrase “fireside chat” to describe Roosevelt’s radio addresses, invoking an image of the president sitting by a fire in a living room, speaking earnestly to the American people about his hopes and dreams for the nation. In fact, Roosevelt took great care to make sure each address was accessible and understandable to ordinary Americans, regardless of their level of education. He used simple vocabulary and relied on folksy anecdotes or analogies to explain the often complex issues facing the country.

Over the course of his historic 12-year presidency, Roosevelt used the chats to build popular support for his groundbreaking New Deal policies, in the face of stiff opposition from big business and other groups. After World War II began, he used them to explain his administration’s wartime policies to the American people. The success of Roosevelt’s chats was evident not only in his three re-elections, but also in the millions of letters that flooded the White House. Farmers, business owners, men, women, rich, poor–most of them expressed the feeling that the president had entered their home and spoken directly to them. In an era when presidents had previously communicated with their citizens almost exclusively through spokespeople and journalists, it was an unprecedented step.[2]

12 Mar 1938 – The “Anschluss” took place as German troops entered Austria.

The German term Anschluss, meaning “unification” or “political union,” is most frequently used in reference to the Nazis’ 1938 annexation of Austria into Greater Germany. When the Nazis entered Austria to enforce the Anschluss, they encountered no military opposition and quickly took control of the newly created German province. The US, USSR, and UK signed a declaration proclaiming the Anschluss null and void in 1943.

Union with Germany had been a dream of Austrian Social Democrats since 1919. The rise of Adolf Hitler and his authoritarian rule made such a proposition less attractive, though, which was an ironic twist, since a union between the two nations was also a dream of Hitler’s, a native Austrian. Despite the fact that Hitler did not have the full approval of Austrian Social Democrats, the rise of a pro-Nazi right-wing party within Austria in the mid-1930s paved the way for Hitler to make his move. In 1938, Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg, bullied by Hitler during a meeting at Hitler’s retreat home in Berchtesgaden, agreed to a greater Nazi presence within Austria. He appointed a Nazi minister of police and announced an amnesty for all Nazi prisoners. Schuschnigg hoped that agreeing to Hitler’s demands would prevent a German invasion. But Hitler insisted on greater German influence on the internal affairs of Austria-even placing German army troops within Austria–and Schuschnigg repudiated the agreement signed at Berchtesgaden, demanding a plebiscite on the question. Through the machinations of Hitler and his devotees within Austria, the plebiscite was canceled, and Schuschnigg resigned.

The Austrian president, Wilhelm Miklas, refused to appoint a pro-Nazi chancellor in Schuschnigg’s stead. German foreign minister Hermann Goering then faked a crisis by engineering a “plea” for German assistance from inside the Austrian government (really from a German agent). On March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria. Hitler announced his Anschluss, and a plebiscite was finally held on April 10. Whether the plebiscite was rigged or the resulting vote simply a testament to Austrian terror at Hitler’s determination, the Fuhrer garnered a whopping 99.7 percent approval for the union of Germany and Austria.

Austria was now a nameless entity absorbed by Germany. It was not long before the Nazis soon began their typical ruthless policy of persecuting political dissidents and, of course, all Jewish citizens.[1]

12 Mar 1940 – During World War II, Finland and the Soviet Union concluded an armistice.

[1]”Hitler announces an Anschluss with Austria,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=6740 (accessed Mar 12, 2009).
[2]”FDR gives first fireside chat,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=4829 (accessed Mar 12, 2009).

#1933#1938#1940#Anschluss#Concentration Camp#FDR#Finland#Fireside#Fireside Chat#Hindenburg#Roosevelt#Soviet Union

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