nuremberg courthouse - MoDoGN - shutterstock

This Day in History – November 20 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight

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NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY… NOVEMBER 20

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1866 – First convention of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).

It took place in Indianapolis and was also called an encampment. The GAR became a fraternal organization for veterans of the Civil War. Many black ex-soldiers joined it and the GAR became one of the first integrated organizations in America. It advocated for veterans benefits, helped create Memorial Day as a national holiday, and fought for the voting rights of black veterans. The GAR’s power reached its zenith during the late 19th century and their endorsement helped elect five presidents. Unfortunately the organization did not pursue equal benefits for black veterans, so they never did receive the same recompense their white compatriots did.

Later the VFW and the American Legion followed the pattern of the GAR by establishing local posts throughout the nation. The GAR remained in existence until 1956 when it was dissolved after its last member died. Albert Woolson was somewhere between 106 and 109 years old, exact age uncertain, when he died in Duluth, Minnesota on August 2nd, 1956. His father had died of wounds suffered at Shiloh, and Woolson was around fourteen when he joined C Company, 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment as a drummer boy. He was the last documented living person to have served in the Civil War. There were two Rebel soldiers who maybe lived longer but their claims were never substantiated.

I was a twelve-year-old boy when Woolson died. I remember being so amazed that someone who had been in the Civil War and myself could both be alive at the same time. It still kind of amazes me.

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1938 – First anti-Semitic remarks on U.S. radio.

Father Coughlin, on his radio broadcast, attacked Jewish bankers, blaming them for the world’s economic woes. After Kristallnacht, when German Nazis went on a rampage targeting the Jewish population, he defended the violence, rationalizing it was justified.

From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:  “He explained to his listeners on November 20, 1938 that the ‘communistic government of Russia,’ ‘the Lenins and Trotskys…atheistic Jews and Gentiles’ had murdered more than 20 million Christians and had stolen ’40 billion [dollars]…of Christian property.’”

In 1926, Father Coughlin, a Catholic priest, began teaching catechism classes to children on the radio, expanded to religious services, and eventually added political commentary to his radio broadcasts. He gained a large audience and a reputation for being the spokesperson for the common man. He initially supported Roosevelt and the New Deal, and FDR, while distrusting Coughlin, used him to get elected. When Coughlin didn’t receive a post in FDR’s administration, he turned against the New Deal, labeling it communistic.

Coughlin’s influence was huge; at one point he was receiving 80,000 pieces of a mail a week, and a special post office had to be built just for him. At first he was neither “left” nor “right” supporting issues from both parties. As the 30s wore on he became anti-Semitic and supportive of fascist leaders. He was an isolationist, blamed Jews for the war in Europe, and helped organize the Christian Front, a militia dedicated to protect the U.S from Jews and communists. His downfall came on December 7th, 1941. After Pearl Harbor and America’s declaration of war, Americans rallied to the cause. Coughlin vehemently protested U.S entry into the war, saying Jews were behind it. Public sentiment turned against him, the government no longer allowed the postal service to deliver his magazine, and the Catholic Church banned him from making radio broadcasts. Coughlin’s influence waned although he continued administering to his parish in Detroit until his retirement in 1966.

Throughout history there has always been plenty of rabble willing to follow the rouser.

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1945 – Nuremberg Trials.

Held from November 20, 1945, to October 1, 1946, over 20 prominent leaders of the Third Reich were put on trial. One of the charges against them, creating new precedent, was crimes against humanity, for the genocide the Nazis practiced. Twenty-one of the twenty-four were found guilty and ten were sentenced to death by hanging, the rest receiving prison sentences ranging from ten years to life.

If Father Coughlin would still have had his radio show, I wonder what he would have said about the Nuremberg Trials.  

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Birthdays:

1327 – Bassui Tokusho.

Japanese Zen master. His mission in life was to revitalize the practice of Zen, which he believed had become too dogmatic. Once he became a monk he did not follow the usual practices and would not wear a robe. He said he had no need for such trappings. His desire in life was to attain enlightenment for the benefit of others. One of his quotes: “The essence of your mind is not born, so it will never die. It is not an existence, which is perishable. It is not an emptiness, which is a mere void. It has neither color nor form. It enjoys no pleasures and suffers no pains.”

For whatever reason I find that reassuring.

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1884 – Norman Thomas.

Presbyterian minister, pacifist, and leader of the Socialist Party in America. Thomas was an early supporter of birth control, racial integration, environmental protection, unions, and was one of the few who spoke out against FDR’s internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. He even criticized the ACLU, accusing them of “dereliction of duty” for not challenging FDR’s order. Thomas ran for president six times but never had much of an impact.

Some of his statements: “We are socialists because we believe we need to have a concept that the great purpose of life is to manage our extraordinary scientific and technological achievements and our resources for the common good. It’s not easy and it cannot be the byproduct of a game where everybody seeks the maximum profit for himself, either men or nations in that role.”

He said that in 1961 in a debate with Barry Goldwater. I doubt that Goldwater’s response was near so lofty.

Thomas also said, “There’s a great deal of reward not according to deed, not according to need, but according to breed – the choice of your grandfather is very important. And according to the successful greed, which operates not in terms of great contributions to men, but in terms of manipulations of one sort of another.”

Based on those statements alone I would probably have voted for him, except he last ran when I was five-years-old.

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1908 – Alistair Cooke.

Journalist and film critic. Cooke was best known for being the host of Masterpiece Theater on PBS for twenty-two years. He also did a radio broadcast series entitled “Letters From America.” As a former Brit and naturalized American, he “wrote” to England what life in America was like. The series lasted fifty-eight years, ending in 2004, shortly before his death.

A two-minute presentation once a week, that’s a schedule I could handle. But I’m sure more went into it than that.

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ABOUT GARY JENNEKE

At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at gary@newswhistle.com.

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CREDITS

The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers.

Sources:

OnThisDay.com 

CivilWarCenter.OleMiss.edu 

Wikipedia.org 

Encyclopedia.USHMM.org

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We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image – Nuremberg Courthouse (photo) – MoDoGN / Shutterstock.com – “The courthouse in Nuremberg, where the Nuremberg trials took place, The Nuremberg trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the Allied forces after WWII.”

* Nuremberg Trials (video) – Court TV & RobertHJacksonCenter / YouTube.com

* Alistair Cook (video) – BBC & John Starr / YouTube.com

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 5

* December 11

* December 16

December 18 

* December 22

December 28

January 3

* January 4

January 7

January 11

* January 14

* January 15

January 19

January 22

January 24

January 29

February 1

February 3

February 5

February 9

* February 10

* February 14

February 15

February 20

February 21

February 25

February 28

March 2

March 6

March 9

March 12

March 14

March 17

March 19

March 21

March 23

March 27

March 29

April 2

April 3

April 6

April 11

* April 13

April 18

April 22

April 23

April 28

April 29

May 2

May 3

May 6

May 9

May 10

May 13

May 17

* May 24

May 26

May 29

June 1

June 3

June 8

June 10

June 13

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 24

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

* July 9

July 13

July 15

July 19

July 23

July 25

July 30

July 31

* August 3

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 16

August 17

August 21

August 24

August 25

* August 28

August 31

September 2

September 5

September 6

September 8

September 11

September 12

September 15

September 16 

September 17

September 21

September 23

September 24

September 25

September 28

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 7

October 10

October 12

October 14

* October 16

October 18

October 24

October 25

October 27

October 28

October 30

November 3

* November 4

November 5

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 13

November 14

November 16

* November 17

* November 19

November 23

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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