In medieval times, why were casus belli considered almost necessary in a time where war was commonplace?

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Internal support and support from allies are good reasons why medieval rulers sought to justify conflict before poking enemies with sharp objects. The Middle Ages weren’t known for large standing armies (or standing armies, period, outside of anomalies like the Ottomans) that did as they were told. Rulers depended on vassals and their retinues to come together for a campaign and not all lords were keen on fighting, especially for a cause they didn’t believe in. It wasn’t terribly uncommon for vassals to halfheartedly muster their soldiers and meet their lord at a battlefield only to do nothing or, worse, throw in their lot with the other side.

So, then as now, public relations is important. If you can’t convince the people you’re asking to risk their lives and money for you why they should do so, you’re either going to get a lukewarm response, none at all, or a knife in your back (metaphorically or literally).


As I understand it the idea stemmed from Roman tradition intended to justify the act in the eyes if the gods because if the gods were against you it could only end badly. Later it was necessary to justify it to other nobles and the church because there is such a fine line between taking what is yours and killing your neighbor and stealing his property


It’s because Feudal Kings rarely had standing armies so they had to rely on the complex and interwoven blanket of vassals who would supply them with troops. If those vassals didn’t think the King’s cause was in the right (or they had other loyalties beyond to their liege) then they could just not turn up, or worse, do something to sabotage their liege. Don’t think of a feudal army as one being; think of it as an alliance where pissing off a noble might lose you their forces.

On top of that, a casus belli turns the war from being one of conquest to one of *reconquest*, which is just the King asserting his right to the territory his ancestors held. Nobles tend to put a lot of stock in that nation, whereas invading and taking land without rime or reason suggests that the King doesn’t really hold much stock in ancestral claims, which is not a particularly nice thought for his vassals.

Going a level higher, it’s also used to justify the war in the eyes of the Church and the King’s peers in other nations. If the cause is not seen as just or is a blatant land grab then the King could risk his enemies gaining more allies. Not pissing off the Church was also of great importance because the Church was the ultimate interpreter of God’s Will on Earth. If God wasn’t on your side then it would suggest He was on the enemy’s side, which would be enough to give any pious man pause, which a lot of the common soldiery were.


An important reason missing here was the Pope and the Church: Christians weren’t supposed to make war on each other for no reason, and doing so could get one excommunicated. That had real force back then.


>but why was there a need for such a formal thing in a time where international politics seemed limited to wars and marriage-gotten alliances?

On this point international politics also had a huge impact on trade.

IE can our merchants trade with this country or not? If this country is at war with that one how will that impact our ability to trade with one or the other of them?

Even in the dark ages kingdoms didn’t just sit there as completely isolated entities.


When 2 civilizations met for the first time, how did they communicate?

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What the French did when they first came to the Saint-Lawrence valley, they would try and communicate with gestures for the first contact. Then, they brought back Amerindians with them in Europe for a few years so they could learn French, meet the King and act as translators and facilitators when they would go back to “Kanada” a few years later. Once the colonization had started, young French fur trappers/explorers were sent to live with Hurons or Algonquians so they would learn that particular nation’s language, and come back to Québec and act as a intermediary.


Food please

Wood please

Stone please

Gold please


You might not even need to look deep into history for this one. I saw a youtube video of first contact with an uncontacted tribe. The tribe had mostly stoneage technology meaning bows, spears, that kind of stuff. The most difficult thing for the explorers was meeting them for the first time and showing them that they aren’t a threat. The tribe never saw a white man before so they were kind of shocked, but eventually they built up trust and a few of the tribe members followed the explorers to their camp. They showed them some stuff they took with them on the trip and eventually the tribe took them to their village. This was all mostly done with hand gestures and just instinctively guessing what they are trying to say. Eventually they came back to the explores’ camp this time they even took their children. The tribe was then shown stuff like matches and pots for cooking, they were later given some to keep. Eventually they got to a point where they just sat down and the explorers would point at objects and the tribe leader would say it in their launguage, the explorer would then repeat to make sure he understood correctly and if he said it wrong they would correct him, he then wrote down the words. The tribesmen also told them their names and by the time they were done they had a vague understanding of the launguage and could speak it a bit. If the tribe was more advanced it would have been even easier.

Now imagine that two similarly advanced civilizations meet and their first meeting goes peacefully. This would propably be about how it would go if there was no prior contact.


>Was this a slow and long learning process of the others language?

Mostly this. It would take only a few days to learn basic words necessary for trading food, for example, but years before anyone would speak the others’ language properly. Its easy to underestimate just how much can be communicated without knowing a single word of someone’s language, however


It was rare that their was zero contact, even if indirectly between the two civilizations. Trade was widespread I’m the ancient world. Traders were often used as translators. That or recently conquered tribes.

Remember Rome was at least aware of the Chinese. And the Chinese were somewhat aware of the Romans.

Absolutely some some groups might have had no way to communicate, but that would have been rare.

The new world is one time when it would have been a guarantee that their was no ability to communicate. But the thing is, if you are completely immersed in a language, basic communication comes in days. Things like food, water, me, you etc.

Advanced communication would occur in months or a few years for most people.

Lastly, grunts and pointing is pretty effective. As is a barrage of musket fire, rape and pillage.


When Queen Elizabeth I imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots, what reason did she have?

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Elizabeth initially put Mary under house arrest in 1568 because Mary was suspected of having been involved with the assassination of her second husband, Darnley, in 1567.

We still don’t know if she actually was or not, but it looked bad for her because she married Bothwell, the man who was suspected of having been the main conspirator behind the assassination shortly after, though it’s possible the marriage was not exactly consensual on her part.

Darnley was not a popular man in either England or Scotland (because he was a Catholic and also, had an annoying, arrogant personality) but the suspicion that Mary was involved with his death was why she was forced to abdicate in favor of her son with her half-brother as regent.

Still, it’s important to remember that Mary was kept under house arrest in England for around twenty years before being executed, even though movies like to severely compress the timeline.


Well technically, Elizabeth had legal grounds to imprison Mary from the start. Mary had spent several years claiming the English throne was rightfully hers before she visited England, putting the English coat of arms on her royal insignia and other symbolic yet inflammatory stuff. This means she was essentially a pretender to the throne, who Elizabeth could’ve imprisoned and executed as soon as she was in England. However, Elizabeth didn’t really want to openly go down that route, since it could encourage people to look carefully into Elizabeth’s own claim, which wasn’t very strong in the first place. Killing Mary could also open a potentially dangerous debate about whether or not it was okay to kill monarchs.

So to side step all this, originally, Mary was placed under guard for her own protection. Since she fled to England in danger from her own people, Elizabeth said she wanted Mary placed in protective custody while the matter was cleared up. Over time, the protective custody gradually transitioned into imprisonment as the inquiry into Darnley’s murder revealed a lot of damaging evidence.

However, the inquiry eventually just sort of fizzled out without declaring Mary guilty or innocent. Elizabeth purposefully did this because she didn’t really want the troubles that came with executing or releasing Mary. While Mary was in this legal limbo though, she kept choosing to get involved in plots to depose Elizabeth. This then gave Elizabeth a reason to imprison her regardless of whether or not Mary killed her husband or was a pretender to the English throne. Probably, imprisonment in some random backwoods castle is what Elizabeth wanted for Mary. But eventually, after too many times getting caught trying to murder Elizabeth, Mary had to be executed or Elizabeth would look weak.


More nuance to what others already said:

Mary arrived in England in 1568 looking for sanctuary from her cousin Elizabeth. Mary had been implicated in the murder of her husband, Henry Stewart Lord Darnley (fairly or unfairly, we don’t know for sure but Mary’s actions before and after the murder were very suspicious; it’s clear that she and her councilors wanted him gone).

Darnley was an English-born Catholic with claims to the English throne and Mary and Darnley had an infant son, James. Elizabeth and her councilors had actually somewhat arranged the marriage but Mary and Darnley’s strong Catholic claims to the throne were a growing threat to Elizabeth in England, especially as she was getting older and didn’t have an heir of her body (she turned 35 in 1568, not past childbearing but getting there). Catholic leaders in Europe were sending secret operatives to England with the intention of stirring political and religious dissent and (ideally, in their minds) replacing protestant Elizabeth with a Catholic ruler, thereby returning the country to the Catholic Church. Elizabeth’s government was starting to limit Catholics’ freedom due to the growing political threat – something Elizabeth had been loathe to do having experienced religious persecution in her sister’s reign.

After her husband’s murder, Mary either ran away with or was kidnapped by the guy who was most credibly accused of killing Darnley, Lord Bothwell. They married, but with his boorish, overbearing personality he was reviled by the ruling elite in Scotland. The Scottish lords were tired of Mary and wanted her gone. There was a lot of ugliness (to gloss over a bunch of stuff) and finally Mary abdicated and was imprisoned. She escaped and rode for England to seek sanctuary and an army (from Elizabeth) to help her regain the Scottish throne.

But Elizabeth and her councilors knew they didn’t have the whole story about the Darnley murder and didn’t want to get involved in something so morally fraught by supporting Mary’s claim. And, not inconsequentially, Mary had the best Catholic claim to the English throne and had claimed England as her birthright in the past. Also, there was the growing internal threat to Elizabeth’s throne from English Catholics and Elizabeth’s lack of a son. Many in England would have liked to return to the old religion AND get a male heir and a younger queen (with proven fertility) in the bargain. Win win win. So Mary turning up penniless in England was a big problem for the government.

It doesn’t appear that Elizabeth intended to lock Mary up for such a long time when Mary first arrived, but they really didn’t know what to do with her. Elizabeth made an overt show of treating Mary badly to keep her distance from a suspected husband-murderer (sending her rags instead of the noblewoman’s clothes Mary had asked for), but also wrote Mary letters trying to establish a relationship. During her imprisonment, Mary started colluding with Catholic dissidents and Elizabeth’s spy network knew it.

Elizabeth’s government wasn’t prepared to 1) march an army to a now-Protestant Scotland to re-take Mary’s crown, 2) release Mary to the continent where she could raise an invasion against Scotland and potentially (the bigger prize) England, or 3) let her live a free life in England as a guest of her cousin Elizabeth. The only safe choice was to keep her in custody.

As Mary’s imprisonment dragged on, the less and less likely it was that England would destabilize Scotland’s Protestant government (and potentially England’s) by setting her free. James made noises about the injustices to his mother, but he was raised strongly Protestant, he and his guardians *really* didn’t want her back in Scotland. So Mary plotted to try to get her freedom by overthrowing Elizabeth (imagine if she had succeeded!) and finally the English government found her too big of a threat and executed her. Elizabeth, famously, made a big show of being against the execution, and probably was personally, but she knew the political calculus as well as anyone and Mary was an unmitigateable threat. Mary and Elizabeth never met.

Of course, Mary’s execution was one of the impetuses for the attempted invasion of England by the Catholic Spanish Armada . . . but that’s a story for another evening.


Elizabeth I’s father started the Church of England partially to divorce his current wife and marry Elizabeth’s mother. The Catholic Church considered Elizabeth illegitimate and Mary was close in line, which made her a threat when Mary Queen of Scots showed up in England. I don’t know that Elizabeth necessarily had a legal reason that allowed her to do it.

I’m not entirely sure if it’s ever been proven whether Mary Queen of Scots was really plotting against Elizabeth I or not. I would say it’s definitely possible but I can’t currently find any sources to confirm it either way.

As to not killing her for a long time, I believe Elizabeth I may have felt a woman who was a queen in her own right executing another woman who was a queen in her own right would have set a bad precedent. Executing another monarch sets a bad precedent when you yourself are a monarch, especially when many people wanted Elizabeth’s throne and could use the excuse of her illegitimacy.


Many people believed that Mary had more of a claim to the throne than Elizabeth, being a “more” legitimate heir and catholic. The country was pretty divided at the time, as Henry VIII just introduced the Church of England during his reign to legally remarry multiple times and people were politically divided being protestantism and Catholicism. The Protestant claim to the throne was weak after Henry VIII because his only son was sickly and died young and named one successor, Lady Jane Grey, who was thrown out of power very fast by the Catholic daughter of Henry VIII Queen Mary I, aka Bloody Mary. She persecuted Protestants in England during her brief reign and tried to re-establish Catholicism. Elizabeth I was the only heir after Mary I’s death, leading to a Protestant country again. Elizabeth wanted a Protestant country, and Mary Queen of Scots was a Catholic threat and a hope to her catholic people of a Catholic ruled country once again

Mary Queen of Scots has a tragic life. She was forced to abdicate her rights to her Scottish throne to her young son after being accused of plotting to murder her second husband, who was trying to take over her throne. Its unclear if she was in on the plot to kill her second husband, but third husband was accused of murdering the second. Not a good look for Mary. This pissed of the Scots and she gave up her throne willingly and was sent to live in exile for pretty much the rest of her life. She escaped imprisonment in Scotland to England, where Elizabeth I took care of her but she was pretty much her prisoner too. This is where and when she was accused of plotting to overthrow Elizabeth, and was excuted by Elizabeth order because after Elizabeth was protecting Mary, Mary did her dirty. But this was Mary’s only was to freedom, and to gain her born right as queen again on the English throne.

These women were similar ages, both queens and also family. They exchanged letters throughout their lives but never met. They had so much in common, but they just could not have a friendship because being royalty used to be a blood bath.

Edit: made booboo with all the husbands


In LOTR, Gondor gets invaded and requests aid from Rohan. They communicate their request by lighting bonfires across the lands and mountains, with the “message” eventually reaching Rohan. Was this system of communication ever used in history?

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The Byzantine Empire had a rather robust system spanning some 450-600 miles with various branches off that main line. Estimated that a message could travel from one end to the other in an hour.


Yes, all over the place in many time periods with different technology.

It’s just a simple way to communicate over long distances, smoke, fire, flare, etc.

It’s one of the communication methods that have been universally discovered by everyone. Even the isolated American natives in north and South America used their own techniques


🎵 Let’s get down to business 🎵 and make unoriginal comments 🎶

I just removed 23 repetitions of the same lame-ass tired “joke” *Mulan* lyric. Stop it. If you want to go shitpost, there are plenty of subs out there for that. We’re not one. Knock it off or I’ll pull the whole thread.


As with most things Tolkien, such as the riddles and the Shire, they are actually based on Anglo-Saxon history. The Anglo-Saxons apparently had a system of beacon fires that they used to protect the coast from invaders such as Vikings.


Warning beacons were lit warning of the arrival of the Spanish Armada.


In LOTR novels Gondor sent a messenger with a red arrow to signify their dire need of aid from Rohan.


An Ancient Egyptian Physician Cited As the ‘First Woman Doctor’ Likely Never Existed

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A very misleading title. So there was a mix up with names and a female physician lived not in 2700BC but 2400BC. Assuming there were no other recorded female physicians in the interim the first female physician’s name is now something different, but for what ever symbolic significance having an old Egyptian female physician has, such a person did exist. Just 300 years later.


What is the need of the ‘first woman doctor’? Women might have treated the sick from prehistoric times.


So, you’re saying Ancient Egypt’s medical field may not have been *merit*ocratic enough yet?


According to this article, the whole Merit Ptah thing came from a 1937 book written by a feminist called Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead who was trying to promote the role of women in medicine. She somehow mixed up two Ancient Egyptian women that have nothing to do with each other. One was an actual Old Kingdom doctor named Peseshet that lived in 2400 BCE and the other was the wife of the vizier Ramose named… Merit Ptah who lived in 1350 BCE.

According to Kate, her Merit Ptah was alive around 2730 BCE and we know of her because she is mentioned in the tomb of her son, who was buried in the Valley of the Kings. The problem is (and the article even states this) the Valley of the Kings wasn’t used until over 1000+ years later…

However, Peseshet’s son was buried in the Valley of the Kings. This implies she mixed up elements of Peseshet’s story with the name ‘Merit Ptah’, but it doesn’t explain where she got that 2730 BCE date from and it doesn’t explain why she didn’t know about when the Valley of the Kings was used.

I don’t think she accidentally mixed anything. She created false history on purpose.


“Merit Ptah was everywhere” Anyone else every heard the name? No? Thought so.


In Tulsa, an investigation finds possible evidence of mass graves from 1921 race massacre

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Hi everyone, And welcome to /r/history

We just wanted to mention due to all the history deniers trying to decry this moment of history as “fake news” via anonymous reports that it’s not. It is a thing which happened.

The reason we mention this is, we’d like to remind you all that **you can help keep history denial from spreading.** When you see someone breaking **Rule 3: No historical negationism or denialism**, please use the **report button.**

Thank you.


I’m from the Tulsa area, and this is definitely a part of our history that is quite painful, especially knowing that the black community in Tulsa was forever changed by the events. There has been a recent push to increase education and understanding about this in local schools, because for a long time it was shoved under the rug and not discussed.


I had never heard of the Tulsa massacre of 1921 until I saw it on watchmen, and I thought it was part of the show. It seems this part of American history was just left out of my history classes in Tennessee. This is why we need know about our American history so this never happens again, and my schools omitted it from the texts.


Fun fact: I live in Tulsa and recently found out that one of our very popular music venues (The Old Brady Theater) was a place where they kept the bodies until they could be buried. That place has always had an eerie “i wouldn’t want to be here after hours alone” vibe and now i know why.

And yeah, bands still play there, it’s a pretty popular place. So many people don’t even know…


Recently read about this, it was truly a horrendous act. They murdered hundreds of men, women, and children all because a black kid supposedly stepped on a white lady’s foot. Officials at the time locked down the town in order to cover up the crime. Several survivors who witnesess the attacks were also rounded and disappeared. All in all, this was a monumental attrocity.


I’m Lucas Richert, an expert in the history of pharmaceuticals, the historical director for the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy at UW-Madison, and the author of “Break On Through.” AMA!

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Hey Lucas! Thanks for the AMA. What do you think about so-called “tardive dysphoria”, or treatment resistant depression being created by long term exposure to antidepressant therapy? I’ve read a few papers on this, but I haven’t heard an expert opinion in years. The last opinion I heard was essentially “gosh I hope that’s not a thing, but maybe?” which is… not exactly encouraging.

And for those folks on anti-depressants, please don’t take this question as a reason to hop off of them. Talk to your doctor. They can and have helped millions of folks in the world!


Hi Lucas

Are pharmaceutical companies as evil as the media headlines make them out to be?

What are some realities of the industry that are often overlooked in media critiques of pharmaceuticals? What can be improved?

Thank you


What can you explain about the move to close mental institutions in the US? It seems like now there is a need for them, because most serious patients are just shipped around hospitals or end up in jail instead of long-term care. Though I understand the institutions were problematic, it seems to me they were better than the non-system we have now. Is there anyone pushing to reopen them?


Hello, I have been on antipsychotis and mood stablizers since I was 13 years old, now 18 years later I am now classified med resistant and have many physical medical problems some caused by long term use of those medications.
My question is how many studies if any talk about the long term affects of heavy doses of these medications when given to teens and women?
I also wonder how you feel about the practice of advertising medications like latuda and vraylar to the general public?


How rapidly has the use of pharmaceuticals increased on a per capita basis since 1997, when the FDA allowed widespread use of television advertising to sell drugs? How does the prevalence of pharmaceutical drug use differ in countries that do not allow advertising? Finally, do you think per capita use will ever decrease in the US?


How many non-German (Austrian) officers were in Habsburg (Imperial Austrian/Austro-Hungarian) armies and how hard would be for example to Croat, Czech, Pole etc… to advance and acquire high rank?

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All the best Habsburg generals were “foreigners”, Prince Eugene of Savoy, Radetzky, Tilly, Montecuccoli, Spinola, von Wallenstein…

Thing with Habsburg monarchy through centuries that they formed very loyal multi-national officer corps that was loyal directly to the dynasty and the Emperor, not the state, something that for example Yugoslavia never managed to do.

As soon war started in Yugoslavia Croatian, Slovene, Bosnian high ranking generals immediately deserted and choose to fight for their own countries, but high ranking Austrian generals of non-German descent remained fiercely loyal to the crown all the way until bitter end.

Above mentioned Boroevic was one of the last loyal Habsburg generals and at the end of war when empire started collapsing and everyone started to abandon sinking ship, even Austria itself proclaiming republic, Boroevic sent letter to Emperor Karl offering him to move to Vienna with last his loyal troops and to crush republic and keep monarchy in power, he was refused.


It was possible, yes, me being from Croatia and interested about history i know about several Croatian/Yugoslav officers.

For example when Austro-Hungarian army invaded Bosnia 1878 commander of occupation army was Croatian general Filipovic, there were several military governors during ww1 of occupied lands that were Croats,

Last commander of Austro-Hungarian navy was Admiral Maximilian Njegovan, Croat.

Commander of Austro-Hungarian airforce in ww1 was General Milan Uzelac, a Serb.

General Cvjetanin, adjutant of Emperor Franz Josef I, a Serb.

As you already said, Field Marshal Boroevic, commander of Italian front, from Croatia.

I believe commander of main naval base in Pola (Pula) was Pole.

Just several examples i know.


It’s important to remember that Austria-Hungary was not a nationality based country. On paper a persons ethnicity was irrevelant, but obviously degree of favoritism and discrimination existed.


As long as you were loyal and spoke the necessary language (either German or Hungarian) fluently enough, you would stand a good chance of getting promoted according to your talent and experience. Noble vs. non-noble descent was probably more important than your ethnicity, at least in the earlier centuries (not so much in WWI).

The Habsburg empire was so diverse that it could not possibly work as a German nationalist structure. After 1914, the wartime closeness with imperial Germany was very detrimental to the willingness of other, smaller constituent nationalities to support continuous existence of the empire.


On the Austrian half of the military, you could definitely become an officer. I don’t know how difficult it would be, but the k.u.k. Armee encouraged diverse ethnicities in their high command to communicate with the troops.

But the Hungarian side, the Honvéd, used all state organs as tools for Magyarization, including the army. Hungarian was the all-purpose language in the army, so I would imagine if someone form a minority background wanted to become an officer, he would have a much better chance on the Austrian side.


I’ve been researching Nazi mass suicides out of morbid fascination. A few questions

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This topic has devolved. If any wish to start a new topic with specific questions, please feel free to do so.


Christian Goeschel has an interesting book you might want to check out. It’s titled “Suicide in Nazi Germany.”

From the book’s final chapter, Downfall, which will be the most useful chapter of you’re looking to learn more:

When hearing the news of Hitler’s death, some Nazis reportedly committed suicide immediately, thereby following their leader into death. Goebbels, Hitler’s official successor as Reich Chancellor, had his children poisoned before requesting a SS guard to shoot his wife and himself. In a letter on 28 April 1945 to his stepson Harald Quandt, Goebbels claimed that his death would set a heroic precedent for a new Germany which would ‘survive this war, but only if it has precedents at hand on which it can lean itself’.19 Suicide figures among the party and SS top echelons were staggering. Eight out of 41 party regional leaders who held office between 1926 and 1945 and 7 out of 47 higher SS and police leaders committed suicide, followed by an unknown number of lower Nazi officials. For these Nazis, life was impossible after the Third Reich’s downfall. Fear of Allied retribution and the notion of self-sacrifice may well have motivated these suicides. In the Army’s top echelons, suicide was also widespread, perhaps because of the Army’s complicity with Nazi crimes. According to a 1950 statistic, 53 out of 554 army generals, 14 out of 98 Luftwaffe generals and 11 out of 53 admirals killed themselves.20

I’ll also put here some of the information most relevant to your focus on the propaganda:

On 19 March 1945, Hitler decreed that the German infrastructure must be destroyed so as not to hand it over to the Allies. The Nazi regime and the civil administration slowly disintegrated. Now that total victory was impossible, ‘at least defeat could be total’, as one historian perceptively noted.26 Dying a soldier’s death was more dignified than negotiating for peace. The significance of dying a violent death dated back to the initial period of the party’s struggle for power (Kampfzeit) and the experience of 1918, which had led to an idealization of the soldier’s death in Nazi discourse, such as in the Nazi cult of Horst Wessel. This corresponded with Nazi notions of a distinctly masculine way of dying. In this way, the suicides of Nazi leaders in 1945 were not understood as suicides as such, but as heroic self-sacrifices undertaken for the future of the Nazi creed.27

The author Wilhelm Pleyer penned a lengthy propaganda article, entitled ‘Risk of One’s Life’, along these lines on 28 March 1945 in the Vo ̈lkischer Beobachter. He claimed that ‘to risk one’s life does not merely mean to die, but also to really stand up for a cause…and the desire to sacrifice one’s personal existence’.28 Pleyer wanted to encourage people not to give up resisting the Allied enemies. ‘Self-sacrifice’ rather than cowardly surrendering was the way to maintain one’s ‘honour’, the same newspaper claimed on 16 April 1945.29 Likewise, in the most expensive German colour film hitherto made, Kolberg (1945), for which Goebbels had written most of the dialogue himself, the people of Kolberg, a town in Pomerania which had allegedly not surrendered to Napoleon in 1806/07, served as a heroic precedent for Germans facing an ever more hopeless military situation. Only a stoic attitude and a readiness to sacrifice oneself could thus lead to the final victory.30

In a way that strongly characterized the Nazi regime’s final months, the self-historicization of the Nazi leaders drew upon references to famous heroic deaths in history. Goebbels is said to have read out passages from Carlyle’s history of Frederick the Great to Hitler in the bunker. In these passages, Frederick the Great contemplated suicide by poisoning himself when the military situation had seemed hopeless to the Prussians in 1757 during the Seven Years War.31 In a radio speech, Goebbels claimed on 28 February 1945 that Frederick the Great had only known ‘victory or death’. In the same broadcast, circulated in most German newspapers on 1 March 1945, Goebbels alluded to the Stoic heroism of Roman leaders such as Cato of Utica. Cato had preferred to die rather than surrender his life and body to Caesar’s mercy. Anticipating his wife’s and his own suicide and the murder of his children, Goebbels declared that he ‘would not find it worthwhile to live … neither for his children nor for all those whom I loved’, but would prefer, if Germany were defeated, ‘cheerfully to throw away his life’.32 Thus, Roman political suicide and not the highly-ritualized voluntary suicides of the Japanese Allies served as a seeming precedent for Nazi leaders.

According to rumours circulating among diplomats of those few states still represented in Berlin, Goebbels had glorified suicide at a press conference on 3 March. A conservative German diplomat allegedly commented upon Goebbels’s speech dryly: ‘The Nazi leadership could long ago have set a good precedent by doing away with themselves. That would have been a blessing for Germany and the world.’33 Nazi leaders thought that suicide or rather ‘heroic self-sacrifice’ allowed them to retain a sense of honour, separating them from the bulk of a German population increasingly unwilling to continue fighting. It placed them in control of the decision of when and how to die. Hitler and other Nazi leaders did not see their suicides as acts of despair.34 Hitler thought of his decision to stay in the bunker and die by his own hand as honourable in contrast to ‘cowardly escape or even surrender’ and as a heroic precedent for German troops to keep fighting. In his political testament of 30 April 1945, he blamed the Jews for unleashing the Second World War and portrayed his imminent suicide as an act of heroic self-sacrifice.35 He insisted:
May it become, at some future time, part of the code of honour of the German officer, as it is already in our Navy, that the surrender of a district or of a town is impossible, and that the leaders here, above all, must march ahead as shining examples, faithfully fulfilling their duty unto death.36
A radio broadcast on 1 May 1945 claimed that Hitler had died in action, ‘fighting for Germany until the last gasp’.37


Japan… pretty sure there is a book about Saipan called suicide island.

Also, Okinawa.


I remember reading a book ‘Regiments of Evil’ set at the end of WW2 in Brno, where it mentioned mass suicides of German civilians, especially women. In Protectorate, the German civilians had a hard time to comprehend the loss of war and their suicide was a way to escape a brutal retribution from a local population or in case of women, rapes. Many were not sure of their future, because they were not sure what will happen to them. The expulsion was looming but to go where? Ruined Germany? To be a enslaved by Soviets? Back in 1945, many civilians did not know what will happen to them and optioned for a suicide as a way to leave the world with a dignity.


I’m not sure the government advocated suicide in as many words, but Japanese propaganda relating to US treatment of POWs was apparently so horrific that thousands of soldiers and civilians would throw themselves from cliffs rather than be captured.

it might not be what you’re looking for but there have also been mass suicides like the Jones Town massacre where instead of a government a charismatic cult leader pressed their followers to commit suicide. however it could be very easily argued that he coerced his followers into committing suicide as there were armed guards making sure his followers took the poison.


During WWII, did Germany use any foreign engineers/scientists, or incorporate foreign technology/science?

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Pretty much all armament industries in occupied countries kept producing for the German war machine. Also Germans put a lot of effort into putting captured gear back into service although it was mostly given to low priority troops like anti-partisan units or allies that couldn’t produce enough own gear like Romania.


You NEED to read the book “IBM and the Holocaust”.

The Nazis had so much outside help that it was a miracle that they didn’t win.


My friend’s dad was a brilliant physicist and a French Jew. His talent was so great that the Nazis chose to enslave him into designing armaments instead of annihilating him. He survived the war and forgave the Germans, moved to US and became a physics professor at an Ivy League university.


My math teacher told us a story how his old math teacher was from Poland and such a great mathematician that the Nazis invaded his village just to capture him. They used him to figure out how to shoot down planes with artillery.


After reviewing all your wonderful comments, I am now wondering what was it like for arms manufacturers in occupied territories to be making weapons for their ruthless occupiers, the Germans? Was there pushback? Were they making money out of this or were forced to manufacture? And if so WERE THEY PROSECUTED BY THE ALLIES AFTER THE WAR FOR SUPPLYING ARMS TO THE GERMANS?