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This Week in World War II: 75 Years Ago

Until the outbreak of World War II there was considerable Jewish public activity in Dunilowicz, Poland, including by political parties of various orientations, as well as wide-ranging cultural and educational activity. On September 17, 1939, the Red Army entered Duniłowicze and established Soviet rule there. Private enterprises were nationalized, independent political activity was banned, and Hebrew cultural and educational institutions were closed. The Germans occupied Duniłowicze on July 3, 1941. In early 1942 the local Jews were ordered to move to a ghetto that was set up there. Between November 21 and 23, 1942 the ghetto was liquidated. The majority of its inmates were shot. Those who had hidden in bunkers were killed by hand grenades, while others were burned to death in houses in the ghetto. At that time a total of 812 (or, according to another source, 979) Jews from Duniłowicze were murdered. Duniłowicze was liberated by the Red Army in the summer of 1944. This picture is of the Friedman family in 1937, before the Germans arrived. For more information, go to this link. From Yad Vashem website.

By: Phil Kohn. Dedicated to the memory of his father, GM3 Walter Kohn, U.S. Navy Armed Guard, USNR, and all men and women who have answered the country’s call in time of need. Phil can be contacted at

The Allies take Benghazi, Libya, on November 20, 1942. The deteriorating Axis situation in North Africa forces the Germans to shift the Luftwaffe’s focus to there, allowing ships to now reach Malta without being attacked. The result: the siege of Malta is lifted after two years, five months and nine days. Northeast and southwest of Stalingrad, the attacking Soviet armies are making rapid progress in the direction of Kalach-on-the-Don, the chosen meeting point of the two pincers. The German Sixth Army and 4th Panzer Army hurriedly dispatch mobile units to bolster the unprepared and crumbling Romanian defenses west and south of the Don. Hitler relinquishes his command of Army Group A to Gen. Paul von Kleist. Vichy Prime Minister Pierre Laval once again broadcasts his support of Nazi Germany, saying that Germany will win the war, and that the alternative is to be ruled by “Jews and communists.” With a dedication ceremony at Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada, the 1,700-mile Alaska Highway between Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and Delta Junction, Alaska, (about 95 miles south of Fairbanks) is opened. The road is intended for war-materiel transport.

On November 21, the situation of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad is deteriorating rapidly, not least because Sixth Army headquarters is being relocated, leading to serious disruptions in communications with the troops inside and outside of Stalingrad. Hitler forbids the Sixth Army from retreating. In the U.S., the yellow canary known as “Tweety Bird” makes his debut in the Warner Bros. cartoon “A Tale of Two Kitties.”

In a Soviet counterattack dubbed “Operation Uranus,” the Red Army successfully surrounds the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad on November 22. In Poland, the Germans liquidate the Jewish ghetto of Duniłowicze. They herd all the Jews into a large barn, then execute 888 men, women and children.

On November 23, the Governor-General of French West Africa agrees to accept the authority of Adm. Jean Darlan, thereby bringing the strategic port of Dakar under Allied control. Off the coast of Brazil, a German U-boat sinks the British freighter SS Ben Lomond. Chinese second steward Poon Lim becomes separated from other survivors, and spends 130 days adrift on a raft until finally rescued on April 3, 1943. The Russians claim 24,000 Axis prisoners have been taken since the start of their Stalingrad counteroffensive on November 19. In Washington, President Roosevelt signs into law the act creating the U.S. Coast Guard Women’s Auxiliary, known as SPARs (from the Coast Guard’s motto, Semper Paratus, meaning “Always ready”). The organization, intended to free Coast Guardsmen from stateside duty, is headed by Capt. Dorothy Stratton.

Vichy Vice-Premier Pierre Laval on November 24 establishes the Phalange Africaine (“African Phalanx”) — a battalion of around 450 men, roughly two thirds French and one third Algerian — to fight the Allies in Africa.

The Germans on November 25 begin an airlift using 320 airplanes to supply the Sixth Army, trapped in and around Stalingrad. Near Moscow, the Red Army launches an offensive at Rzhev. Greek resistance operatives, led by agents of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), blow up a viaduct on the Athens-Salonika railway. The route had been one means of moving supplies to Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

On November 26 — Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. — the movie “Casablanca,” starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, premieres at the Hollywood Theater in New York City. In North Africa, Medjez el Bab, Tunisia, a key staging point for an assault on Tunis (less than 30 miles away), falls to the Allies after six days of intensive fighting. The Germans make the first large “deportation” of Jews from Norway. In Brisbane, Australia, where Gen. Douglas MacArthur has his headquarters, simmering tensions between American military personnel and Australian soldiers and civilians boils over into two days of vicious rioting, dubbed “The Battle of Brisbane.” When calm is finally restored, one Australian soldier is dead, and hundreds of Americans and Australians — soldiers and civilians — are injured.

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