“The Twilight of the Gods” (February 16, 1945)
by William (Bill) Crawford (1913-1982)
20 x 22 in., ink and crayon on heavy paper
Crawford worked as a sports cartoonist and for the Washington Daily Newsand the Washington Postfrom 1936-38. He joined the Newark Newsas an editorial cartoonist and his cartoons were distributed to more than 700 daily newspapers by the Newspaper Enterprise Association. He was an active member of the National Cartoonists Society, serving as its president and vice-president. In 1956, 1957, 1958, and 1963 he was awarded “Best Editorial Cartoon” by the National Cartoonist Society, and in 1973 he received their Silver T-Square Award. Crawford retired in 1977.
The bombing raids on the German city of Dresden started on February 13, 1945. Many thousands of civilian lives would be lost in the firestorm created by the Allied bombers.
In four raids between February 13-15, 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city. An estimated 25,000 people were killed, although larger casualty figures have been claimed. Three more USAAF air raids followed in March and April.
This was the beginning of the end of Hitler’s vision of a master race.
Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, “Everything we admire on this earth today—science and art, technology and inventions—is only the creative product of a few peoples and originally perhaps one race [the “Aryans”]. On them depends the existence of this whole culture. If they perish, the beauty of this earth will sink into the grave with them.”
Laws were enacted quite early, start in July 1933, to permit the government to sterilize anyone who suffered from so-called “hereditary” illnesses such as “feeble-mindedness,” schizophrenia, manic-depressive illness, genetic epilepsy, Huntington’s chorea, genetic blindness, deafness, and some forms of alcoholism.
The idea was not a new one. Sterilization laws existed in several other countries at the time, including the United States. Between 1907 and 1930, 29 US states passed compulsory sterilization laws, and about 11,000 women were sterilized. Many states also had laws that banned marriages between white people and people of color—including African Americans, Native Americans, and Asians. Both sets of laws were prompted by a desire to eliminate “strains that are a burden to the nation or to themselves, and to raise the standard of humanity by the suppression of the progeny of the defective classes.” The Nazis took that goal much further than Americans ever did.
Lebensborn, which means “source of life”, was a program created by Himmler, Hitler’s right-hand man. It was designed to boost the German population by encouraging citizens, especially SS members, to have more children. SS officers came under pressure to have four children, inside or outside marriage. Ten maternity homes were set up across Germany where 8-12,000 Lebensborn Kinder were born. Some stayed with their mothers, but many were adopted by families of SS officers. About 60% were born to unmarried mothers, the rest to wives of SS men. As the Third Reich expanded, Lebensborn homes were set up across Europe. In Norway some 10,000 babies were born, most fathered by SS officers to Norwegian mothers. There were also cases of children with “Aryan” characteristics being kidnapped from their homes in occupied territories.