Genocide (New Zealand) #1

So, what you probably didn’t realize was that genocide is nothing new. All right, you’re probably smart enough to realize that; I take it back. What is new about genocide is the massive scale that modern times allow.

Anyway, what you probably also didn’t know is that genocide is not a uniquely Western thing. Yes, the Westerners have definitely been the most famous and proficient in it, but allow me to take you to a small corner of the world where genocide once took place: New Zealand.

You’re probably scratching your head right now, I know. New Zealand’s the one famed for not wiping out the native population. But this isn’t a story of modern New Zealand, or colonial New Zealand; this is before the Westerners came.

There’s this place called the Chatham Islands, just off of New Zealand. A long time ago (hundreds of years, in fact), a group of people (who may have been Maori themselves) left the main New Zealand Islands, and settled on these islands. They also intermarried with the people already living there. They became the Moriori.

Now, these people were fairly unique: they lived by a law of peace, called Nunuku’s Law. And, since they were fairly cut off from other groups, this worked out well for a while. Whaling and fishing ships used this area for their livelihoods, and mostly ignored the Moriori (and their rules about not hunting in breeding areas).

Come 1835, however, the law of peace was about to be put to the test.

Maori from New Zealand, who had been pushed South, decided to invade and take the Chatham Islands for themselves.

When the invasion happened, the Moriori didn’t fight back. They stayed pacifistic, and despite outnumbering the invaders two to one, were quickly killed and enslaved.

They came very close to becoming extinct altogether, until the New Zealand government intervened 28 years later (see, by then the colony had been established). Nowadays, there are no ‘full-blooded’ Moriori, but there is still a Moriori culture and presence. They are recognized as the indigenous people of the Chatham Islands.


WWII (Poland & Nazi Germany) #4

As you’ve probably noticed, the Nazi beliefs were incredibly brutal and outright evil.  There’s a reason the swastika is outlawed in Germany (barring historical reasons). There’s a reason the Nazi is always the bad guy in movies.

And here’s the fact that’s probably been drilled into your head since the first mention of WWII in your history classes: The Nazis hated the Jews.

Here’s the thing; the Nazis hated a lot of people, based mainly on race. The disabled, African-Germans, the Roma, homosexual men, and Slavs, in particular, Poles. Basically, anyone besides ‘Aryans’ and the Japanese (allies and all).

If you were to compare on a scale of 1-10, one being least desirable and ten being most, Jews would get 0 and Poles would get a 1 in the Nazi mindset.

Poland was Hell on earth during WWII; the Germans put in charge of them were instructed to shoot on sight if a Pole was caught helping a Jew, and Poles were considered second-class citizens, if even that.

But see, what the big difference was between the treatment of the Jews and the Poles was that the Jews were meant to be eliminated immediately, as soon as possible. The Poles, however, were meant to be eventually eliminated, used up as slave labor gradually and then have their lands taken over by Aryans. They attempted to eliminate Polish culture entirely.

And to get rid of the Poles, they were used up in several ways: kidnapping of ‘racially superior’ children; slave labor in Germany and Poland; killings, especially of soldiers, priests, teachers, officials and anyone deemed ‘intelligentsia‘.

Essentially, it was a really bad time to be a Pole.

In spite of this, the Poles number among the largest group of Righteous Among the Nations.

Despite it all, the Poles emerged from World War II with a passion for their country and a will to survive. There’s a reason that Poland is referred to as the Phoenix country; it’s always risen from the ashes, alive again.

WWI (Australia, Turkey, and New Zealand) #1

So if there’s any historical event involving Australia and New Zealand that you’ve heard of, it’s probably Gallipoli. If you haven’t, then you’re missing a key piece of Australian and New Zealander history.

Before WWI, Australia had seen pretty much no major battles (happens when you’re off at the far away corner of a map). New Zealand had the occasional battle during the 19th century, but it was nothing like WWI. There’s a good reason for that; WWI was like nothing the world had ever seen.

Anyway, so when WWI came around, Britain was in need of troops. Conveniently, they had a number of colonies that they could put to use. There were Indian troops pulled in, Canadians, Irish, folks from every corner of Britain, and of course, Australia and New Zealand, among others.

Thing was, of course, none of the Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) troops were prepared for warfare. So they had to hop on ships and go over to Egypt to train.

Meantime, there’s a problem that Britain and its allies have encountered, and its name is the Ottoman Empire (aka Turkey and its holdings). The Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of Germany and the Austria-Hungarian Empire (a number of empires were still around at this point) plus their allies.

Attacks towards Germany weren’t doing so hot. Britain and its allies reached the conclusion that attacking Germany’s allies (who were weaker, generally speaking) was a good way to get to Germany and cause a lot of problems for it.

So the plan to take the Gallipoli (which is in Turkey) peninsula was born. The Anzacs were to land at Gallipoli, and the British-French troops at another point.

Course, this plan had several flaws in the actual doing of it.

For one thing, the landing was missed. It was done at night, which caused some confusion.

More importantly, there were Turkish troops who were ready and willing to fight back.

The landing became mass chaos, with men fighting just to get to the shore. Many of the men in charge were shot, which led to another problem: the spots they were going to reach originally were not reasonable goals anymore. So, the few remaining in charge chose a different line to hold.

Unfortunately, this couldn’t be communicated to many troops, who valiantly tried to push out to the old points, and were lost.

So you’ve got a smaller amount of men than was planned on, holding a tenuous line against an enemy in the dark.

But hold it they did. Despite large losses and general confusion, the Anzacs took the beach. Several days after the bloodbath was over, there was a sort of truce between the two sides: they could leave their posts without fear of getting shot in order to bury the dead.

The Anzacs held Gallipoli for almost a year before the higher-ups decide to pull out.

While the Gallipoli campaign was mostly a bust, it’s a point of pride for Australians and New Zealanders; it’s the first time both countries truly stepped onto the world stage, and it is sort of the marking point of when they became countries of their own. The Anzacs were unbelievably brave, and this is why the campaign is looked at as a good legacy in both countries’ histories.

Resources: link, link

WWII (Romania) #3

So you probably don’t know much about Romania’s involvement in World War II.  Never fear, you’re about to know some of it!

Romania started out in the war as a neutral country; 1939, Britain and France were promising that they would protect Romania’s independence (same thing they promised Poland, by the way). As you might have guessed, when France fell and Britain retreated off of the continent, that left Romania in a pretty sticky situation.

On one side, the Soviet Union loomed, eager for more land, like a kid making grabby hands at someone else’s food. On the other, they had Nazi Allies, particularly Hungary. Just to note, Hungary and Romania have historically liked each other about as much as the average cat loves a bath.

The King of Romania tried to hold on to neutrality by giving up chunks of land to the countries around them (some to the Soviet Union, some to Bulgaria, some to Hungary), but that made him really unpopular. So a general overthrew him, and the Iron Guard took over.

You know how Italy was fascist during WWII? Well, now Romania was too. And the Iron Guard was merciless, particularly towards Jews.

So the guy in charge of Romania decided they had to choose a side, and they went with Nazi Germany, which made life even more horrible for the Jews in the country.

Funny thing about Nazi Germany: they tended to invade their allies. About 50,000 troops showed up in Romania, and now Romania was the breadbasket for the Nazi empire.

Another funny thing about Nazi Germany: they didn’t feel like paying for the food, oil, and other products, so they simply didn’t. Inflation soared in Romania, and conditions became fairly miserable.

And before you ask, yes, they did have concentration camps. On a sobering note, Romania has the second highest death toll for Jews among Nazi Germany and its allies: more than 200,000. Most of the Jews in Romania escaped death, however.

The relationship between Germany and Romania was cut off by the Soviet Union, which German and Romanian troops had both been fighting on the Eastern Front. Romania was invaded and Germany lost its supply of food and materials.

Colonialism (New Zealand) #3

Or, hey, you could call this an Age of Discovery topic, to be honest. This is before New Zealand became a colony.

So you’ve heard of the Bay of Murderers, yeah? Okay, so if you’re not a New Zealander, you probably haven’t. It’s called the Golden Bay now, and it’s actually a rather lovely spot in New Zealand.

But what caused it to deserve such a name?

Well, cool thing is, this story is the first recorded instance of European contact with the Maori, the native people of New Zealand. Specifically, the Dutch, who discovered Australia (if you don’t count, well, all the people who were already living there) and sailed on a little farther to find New Zealand.

This guy called Abel Tasman (for whom Tasmania was named) was in charge of exploring. When they stopped in the bay with a couple of ships, Maori showed up in their canoes.

It seemed like a peaceful enough meeting, and the sailors tried to communicate that they wanted to trade. No trading that day, however, only seeing each other and not understanding a single word. Abel was pretty confident about their meeting, as he wrote in his log; the Dutch believed they had made a good impression.

However, we can only guess that they did not, because not too long after, several men in a row boat going between the ships were attacked by Maori in much faster canoes. As you can probably guess, a couple of them died.

The Dutch were utterly horrified, and the place was named Murderers’ Bay.

A more in detail account can be found in the book Come On Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All.

Colonialism (Australia) #2

For a group of colonies with a huge convict population, Australia was really not that rebellious.

It’s sort of like when a kid is punished a lot and therefore never acts out; life as a convict in Australia was hard. In many places, the convicts were worked to death. Living conditions were horrible, though there was hope to be released and assigned to work for wages.

So, you’re probably wondering why convicts were even being sent to Australia. It was on the other side of the world, considered empty space by the colonial powers of the time (despite a number of people already living there). Sounds like a cruel and unusual punishment to be exiled to the other end of the world, with deadly creatures and no hope of ‘civilization’ like back home, doesn’t it?

However, while being cruel was pretty much normal for the British penal system, that wasn’t the main reason that they decided to start shipping people off to Australia.

Zip back to around the end of the 1700s; Britain is in its Industrial Revolution. People have come in from the countryside in hopes of a better life in the city, working in factories. The problem is, there are a lot of them, far more than there are jobs.

This means, since there’s no wage control of any kind, that the wages plummet to whatever the most desperate people are willing to be paid. And the most desperate people tend to be the Irish immigrants, shipped over from poverty in Ireland.

With a huge population and not enough ways for them to support themselves, crime becomes rampant, especially thieving. You might remember Fagin, the Artful Dodger, and the rest of the boys in Oliver Twist? Thieves are everywhere.

Soon enough, Britain’s prisons are overflowing (and btw, they are horrible, horrible places to be). What to do with all these people?

Tons of undesirables, and a vast, empty set of colonies. Britain’s ruler’s had a light bulb moment (or rather, an oil lamp moment).

Just so you understand, the upper class’s attitude towards the poor at this time was outright callous. They thought they were dirty, bad, and just overall to blame for their own problems. They were seen as human, but lesser – far lesser.

So bing bang boom, repeat offenders start getting shipped off to Australia.

Not only that, but the Irish are getting shipped out in large numbers. Why? Because they’re rebellious.

This leads to the first major rebellion in Australia.

1798, there’s a big rebellion in Ireland. It’s squashed, and the rebels are sent to Australia (except the ones who are executed).

Naturally, the Irish are not happy to be there (no one really is). So, about five years later, several of the rebels from Ireland have planned a rebellion.

In New South Wales, near Castle Hill, the Castle Hill Rebellion begins. There are plans for well over a thousand convicts to be involved; about 200-300 end up kicking it off. They escape from the farm they’re stuck on, and get a bunch of arms and supplies for their rebellion. They swell out over the colony, collecting more convicts (whether or not the other convicts want to be part of it) and getting a huge chunk of the weapons in the colony.

The goal? Get ships and get back to Ireland.

It doesn’t go so well. While it causes quite the scare (a lot of hated officials flee the colony on boat), there are several problems: they are short on numbers, less than a third of the planned number, and they lose their element of surprise.

Colonial troops had caught up with them, and the leaders are tricked into parley and then captured. It’s only a short battle between the troops and the convicts, most of whom run for their lives, not exactly trained to deal with professional soldiers. 15 convicts are shot dead.

Most of the convicts involved are given amnesty, but it is the first major hiccup in the colonization of Australia. And another one is on its heels.

WWII (Poland & Germany, + Free City of Danzig) #2

“First to Fight.”

That phrase from a British propaganda poster sums up a lot about Poland’s WWII history. Well, at least the beginning.

Cool thing about the Polish, especially at this time in history: really super patriotic. You can hardly blame  them, though, because Poland wasn’t even a country until the end of WWI; it was a bunch of lands that had been split up by the countries around it (Prussia, Austria, and Russia) about 1795 like chocolate pudding pie at a family gathering. For centuries, all that kept the Polish heritage alive was zealous Poles who resisted being Russified or Germanized by their rulers.

Anyway, after WWI, the Poles had to fight a lot just to keep their borders, and they did so well they even expanded them.

Come 1939, tensions had been brewing between Nazi Germany and Poland for some time.

Back up a second;  you all probably know that Germany attacked Poland, and that is was for a totally fake reason. But what was the reason?

There was this place called the Free City of Danzig (which was independent, btw), now called Gdańsk today. Now, Danzig was super important to Poland, because according to WWI treaties and stuff, Danzig was where Poland got a harbor. This was because President Wilson had promised Poland, along with its freedom and independence, free access to the sea.

Now, the thing about Danzig was that the population was mostly German, with some Poles also living there. The Nazi party had its influences there, and soon they were in charge.

Nazi Germany was soon pushing for Danzig to rejoin Germany, and the Germans in Danzig were like ‘yeah man, totally.’

But Poland was like ‘Hell no!’ except a bit more diplomatically than that. Access to the sea meant access to countries outside the countries that surrounded Poland. So, super important, especially in that time because using planes to transport goods just wasn’t a thing in Poland.

However, Danzig was not the main focus of Hitler’s; while it may have been a focus for the Poles, Hitler’s aims were far beyond that. Quote from Hitler: It is not Danzig that is at stake. For us it is a matter of expanding our Lebensraum in the east. 

(We’re cool on what lebensraum means, right? Lebensraum = land for German people to live in and be super exclusive)

This is where the Gleiwitz Attack comes in. The Germans needed a good reason to go to war with Poland, so a bunch of Nazis pretending to be Poles took over a German radio station. Quite literally, the morning after Nazi Germany attacked Poland on the 1st of September. They attacked Danzig first, and ended up annexing it.

And that is when WWII started.

More to come.