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WWII Timeline – 1946

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at 1946 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, 1946

March 5, 1946

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered his Sinews of Peace/Iron Curtain Speech at Missouri’s Westminster College. This speech may be regarded as the most important Churchill delivered as Leader of the Opposition (1945-1951). His passage on the iron curtain had incalculable impact upon public opinion in the United States and in Western Europe. Russian historians date the beginning of the Cold War from this speech. A link to the entire speech is in the Sources section below and includes Churchill’s full reference to the iron curtain starting with,

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent…

March 11, 1946

The British arrested former Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolf Höss, who was posing as a gardener or farm worker in Gottrupel, Germany.

March 20, 1946

The imprisonment of Japanese in American internment camps, which began on February 19, 1942, ended with the closing of the camps.

April 15, 1946

Rudolf Höss testified at the Nuremberg trials. Later he was tried in Warsaw, Poland and found guilty. While in prison, he wrote his memoirs about Auschwitz and claimed,

History will mark me as the greatest mass murderer of all time.

April 28, 1946

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East indicted Japanese War Minister Tojo Hideki as a war criminal and charged him with fifty-five counts.

May 16, 1946

The two month trial of the U.S. Military Tribunal for War Crimes for seventy-four former SS men, including Jochen (aka Joachim) Peiper and SS General Sepp Dietrich, concerning the Malmedy Massacre of December 17, 1944, began.

See more about the Malmedy Massacre of December 17, 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge in my Fall 1944 Timeline post and subsequent information regarding January 1945 in my Winter 1945 Timeline post.

The trial was held in a courthouse at Dachau. The defense team raised allegations of mistreatment including physical abuse by the U.S. Army and cited the use of mock trials in obtaining SS confessions as improper. The defense also complained that the court’s legal expert, a Jew, constantly ruled in favor of the prosecution.

The trial included testimony by a survivor of the massacre who was able to point out the SS man that actually fired the first shot.

July 11, 1946

In the Malmedy Massacre trial, the Judges returned a verdict after two and a half hours of deliberation. All of the SS were found guilty as charged. Forty-three, including Jochen Peiper, were sentenced to death, and twenty-two, including Sepp Dietrich, were sentenced to life imprisonment. The others received long prison terms in Landsberg Prison, the same prison where Hitler had served time following the failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923.

Controversy continued, however, as various U.S. Army Boards conducted critical reviews of the trial process and methods used during pretrial interrogations. As a result, most of the death sentences were commuted and over half of the life sentences were reduced.

October 16, 1946

Hermann Göring commited suicide two hours before the scheduled execution of the first group of major Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. Hans Frank and the others were hanged and the bodies taken to Dachau and burned in the final use of the crematories there.  Their ashes were scattered into a river.

During his imprisonment, Hans Frank stated,

A thousand years will pass and the guilt of Germany will not be erased.

December 9, 1946

Twenty-three former SS doctors and scientists went on trial before the U.S. Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Sixteen were found guilty, and seven were hanged.

December 31, 1946

Harry Truman issued Presidential Proclamation 2714 declaring an official end to World War II, officially declaring the cessation of all hostilities. Even though the actual combat of the war ended May 8, 1945 in Europe and September 2, 1945 in the Pacific, the state of war was not lifted off of Japan and Germany in order to give a reason for the necessity of occupation troops in those countries.

Once the War Crimes Trials ended, the hostilities were seen as over. The signing of Proclamation 2714 is the reason why the U.S. recognizes its World War II veterans as anyone who has served between the dates of December 7, 1941, and December 31, 1946.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Winston Churchill’s Sinews of Peace-Iron Curtain Speech

Rudolf Höss – Wikipedia

Höss Testimony at the Nuremberg Trials

Subsequent Nuremberg trials

Doctors and Scientists Trial

Jochen (aka Joachim) Peiper

Most recent post from the series:

Fall 1945

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020