It’s apalling to think that things like this can still happen: that the combination of religious hysteria and medical mis-diagnosis can still have such dire effects, but even today, the series of events that led to the death of Anneliese Michel could still happen in most Western democracies.
When Anneliese Michel was 16, she had her first epileptic attack. Afterwards, she developed depression, and, as the years went by, began hearing voices, and became suicidal and intolerant of religious objects. It was this last that convinced the self-appointed experts in exorcism that her symptoms were actually those of possession. After a time, even Anneliese agreed with the diagnosis, and petitioned to be exoricsed.
Her death, after months of useless ritual, came from malnutrition and dehydration, and led to a huge public outcry. Her parents and the two priests who had performed the exorcisms were all charged with negligent homicide, and all were convicted of manslaughter. The priests claimed the exorcism as a success, saying that all six of the demons who allegedly possessed Anneliese Michel (including Nero, Adolf Hitler, Judas Iscariot and less famous demons) were banished before her death. In the wake of the case, the Catholic Church tightened both the criteria and the oversight of exorcisms, having belatedly realised that the medieval era was over.
It’s often overlooked, what the enormity of his crimes afterwards, but Hitler came to power more or less legally, elected Chancellor of Germany in an election not that much more corrupt than any seen in modern democracies. But his accession to the highest position in Germany was not enough for him.
There were enemies to be purged and pogrommed, lebensraum to be reclaimed, treaties to be ignored or violated, and, of course, the most devastating war in human history to start, and fortunately for us all, to lose. But while his run lasted, he had a better claim to the title of emperor of Europe than any man since the fall of Rome, won in just as bloody a fashion as any Roman Caesar.
The German advance into Belgium in the spring of 1940 was swift and decisive. Belgium was militarily unprepared for war – as late as November 7, 1939, the Belgian government had called for an end to hostilities – and even if its military had been prepared, it was massively outgunned by the Nazi war machine. The invasion of Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg began on May 10, 1940.
By May 17, the Belgian capital of Brussels had fallen to the German advance, and deciding that the Allied cause was lost, King Leopold III surrendered to the Germans against the advice of his government on May 28, 1940. He would spend the rest of the war as a prisoner of the Nazis, while the majority of his government went into exile (primarily in Britain) and continued to lead Free Belgian Forces in the fight. Belgium was eventually liberated in 1944, although it was not until the end of the German Ardennes Offensive in 1945 that fighting on Belgian soil concluded.
Hitler was the 55th person to join the German Worker’s Party – the same party that later re-named itself the National Socialist Party. In less than two years, he rose to a position of such popularity and influence that he was more or less able to blackmail his way into being appointed its leader.
On July 11, 1921, he resigned from the party. Fearing that this would cause a split in the party from which it could not recover, the leadership panicked. Hitler then announced he would only return to the party if made leader (or “Fuhrer”). After some umming and erring, the party gave in to his demand, and on July 29, he was introduced as the party’s Fuhrer for the first time. He would remain Fuhrer for the next 24 years, including his years spent in prison during the Twenties (although a deputy took over some responsibilities in this time).
The big German push on Stalingrad and points east was originally intended to begin earlier, but finally got underway on June 28, 1942. Ironically, the push towards Stalingrad was primarily a flanking maneuver, intended to provide cover for the main objective of Case Blue (the official name for the offensive), which was the oil fields of the Baku region (in what is now the Republic of Azerbaijan).
The offensive initially proceeded well for the Germans, but unexpectedly strong resistance at Stalingrad (combined with tactical withdrawals by the Soviet Army which allowed in to resupply and find better defensive positions) led to the drive on Baku stalling as Stalingrad consumed the attention and resources of Case Blue’s commanders. In the end, Stalingrad would be the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war, lasting nearly six months altogether, and the site of the first major German defeat on the Eastern front.
Combined with the near simultaneous defeat of the German North African army at El Alamein, the German forces had precious few victories and were steadily pushed back on all fronts.
At the outbreak of World War Two in 1939, Holland had declared itself neutral, just as it had done during World War One. This time, it didn’t work – Nazi Germany invaded Holland on May 10, 1940. The battle was one-sided.
The German forces outmassed the Dutch in every particular – they had more than six times as many aircraft, more than twice as many soldiers, and 759 tanks to Holland’s 1 (yes, one) tank. The decisive incident was the fall of Rotterdam, the last major city still free, on May 14, after a sustained bombing campaign by the Luftwaffe. The Dutch surrendered on the following day, although elements of the Dutch military continued to fight in the Zeeland region (with French assistance) for another 12 days, and the Dutch Queen, Wilhelmina, along with her family and government, escaped to England, where they would become symbols of Dutch resistance for the rest of the war. Holland would remain under Nazi rule until May 5, 1945 (only three days before Germany’s final surrender).
Adolf Hitler was already Chancellor of Germany at the time this election was held, and he took full advantage of his powers (and willingness to ignore the legal restrictions on them) in order to ensure that the Nazi Party won. Various Nazi Party organisations “monitored” the election, and it is widely believed that the election was at least partially stolen.
In the event, the Nazi Party did not win an absolute majority, but was forced to maintain its coalition with the German National People’s Party in order to form a government. On March 24th, Hitler would use their numbers to pass the Enabling Act, giving him dictatorial powers in Germany – and in several other nations, after September 1939.