1940 – Denmark surrenders to Germany

The Danish surrender to Germany took place only 2 hours after the invasion of Operation Weserübung began – although in fairness, the Danes were massively outnumbered and also had a direct land border with Germany. Arguably, the surrender saved many lives that would otherwise have been lost pointlessly.

But a military surrender is a long way from a capitulation, as the Danes repeatedly demonstrated in the five years (to May 1945) that they were occupied. Although the Nazis installed a collaborationist government, the Danish people as a whole were among the most dedicated and active resistance movements (notably evacuating 7800 Jews when the Nazis set out to arrest them in 1943), and scuttling their navy rather than let the Germans take it over.

Referenced in:
To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) – Mel Brooks

1944 – The D-Day landings at Normandy

Code-named Operation Neptune, the D-Day landings took place along a 50 mile stretch of Normandy beach. 156,000 Allied troops – primarily Americans and British, but also Commonwealth and Free European forces – landed across five beaches code-named Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword and Utah. It was the largest amphibious operation in history, and took the Nazi forces in Normandy almost entirely by surprise, beginning the rollback of German forces in Europe.

It was also only a part of Operation Overlord, which featured co-ordinated airborne assaults, two separate deception operations aimed to distract from it, and a range of additional actions by the French Resistance. The operation was largely successful, opening a Western front in Europe, and sealing the end of the Nazi occupation of France.

Referenced in:

The Longest Day — Iron Maiden
Say Goodbye to it All — Chris de Burgh
To Be Or Not Be (The Hitler Rap) — Mel Brooks

1933 — Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany

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.

Referenced in:
To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) — Mel Brooks

1940 – Belgium surrenders to Germany

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.

Referenced in:

To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) – Mel Brooks

1921 – Adolf Hitler becomes Führer of the Nazi Party

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).

Referenced in:

To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) – Mel Brooks

1940 – Holland surrenders to Germany

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).

Referenced in:

To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) – Mel Brooks

1945 – Adolf Hitler marries Eva Braun

Eva Braun first met Adolf Hitler in 1929, when she was only 17 years old. At the time, she was employed by Hitler’s personal photographer in Munich. Two years later, they began dating, and in 1936, she moved in to his house at the Berghof near Berchtesgaden.

The two were rarely seen publically – not until 1944 did she appear with him at a public event, and of course, the two were eventually married. The marriage ceremony – and the forty hours of wedlock that followed it – all took place in the Berlin bunker to which Hitler had retreated as the war drew to a close. Two days after the wedding, the pair committed suicide together, and a week later, Germany surrendered to the Allies.

Referenced in:

Defecate On My Face — This Is Serious Mum
To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) — Mel Brooks

1933 – The Nazi Party wins the German Federal Election

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.

Referenced in:

To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) – Mel Brooks

1939 – Poland surrenders to Germany

The combined German and Russian invasions of Poland in September 1939 were disastrous for the Polish people. The Germans invaded on September 2, and the Poles fell back before the onslaught at first. (The Germans did not actually practice blitzkrieg in Poland, but the invasion was still a swift one.) The Poles ceded some territory, and fell back to defensive positions further east…

…and then, on the 17th of September, and without any formal declaration of war, the Soviets invaded from the east. Caught between two armies, either of which by itself was numerically superior to the Polish army, there was little chance of victory. Although Britain, France and their respective allies had entered the war on the Polish side, they could not deploy in time to give any assistance to their beleagured ally. The Poles fought hard, and inflicted great casualties on the Germans and Russians, but the result was never truly in doubt.

Although some units fought on, the war in Poland largely came to an end with the fall of Warsaw on September 27, 1939, and the Polish government in exile was officially formed on the following day.

Referenced in:

To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) – Mel Brooks

1939 – Germany invades Poland

It was the opening gambit of World War Two in Europe. After trying to press its geographical claims (especially to the Danzing corridor) through political means, Hitler decided to go ahead with an invasion of Poland.

Two weeks later, in accordance with the provision of a secret agreement between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, Stalin’s forces invaded Poland from the east, and within a month, the nation was conquered entirely, and partitioned between the two invaders.

But the war wasn’t over. Poland had allies – France, Britain and Britain’s Empire all declared war on Germany on September 3. World War Two had begun in Europe.

Referenced in:

To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap) – Mel Brooks