World War II Horrors Relived Through Twitter

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 19, 2011

The Soviet Union invaded tiny neighbor Finland last week. Finnish soldiers fled in terror. Most had never seen a tank. Villagers burned their homes to deny shelter for the invaders. They packed their belongings onto reindeer to escape. With few defenses or guns, intrepid Finnish soldiers fashioned something they called “Molotov cocktails” to hurl at the tanks.
Last week? Last week, 1939.
I have finally found something good on Twitter. Something fascinating. Every day for the next six years, “RealTimeWWII” will post the daily happenings of World War II. So far, the postings have been kept me on edge as the hounds of war are unleashed. Many of the Tweets are items never mentioned in history books about the difficulties of life for those in Europe during the year when Hitler turned Europe into a cauldron.
Here are some of the recent postings:
• The Olympic Games, scheduled for Helsinki next year (1940), have been cancelled because of the invasion. Finns joke about the Russians: “There are so many, and our country is so small, where shall we find room to bury them all?”
• Halloween trick-or-treating was mostly abandoned in London because of a black-out making it dangerous to be on the streets.
• In Krakow, Jews have been herded into a quarter, ordered to wear an armband with a blue Star of David. Germans married to Jews are ordered to divorce within a year.
• France still feels safe with its fortress Maginot Line protecting it from German invasion.
• Across the Pacific, Japan has captured the Chinese city of Nanning.
• Because of the blackouts, ponies roaming free in the New Forest of England have been painted like zebras with florescent paint so motorists won’t hit them in the dark.
• German mines planted at sea wash up on the coast of Yorkshire, some exploding.
• Smoked mutton is sold in England as replacement bacon.
• An assassination attempt — a bomb planted to kill Hitler — explodes 10 minutes after he finishes a speech, missing its target.
• Playing fields at the elite Eton school, where British royal children attend, were plowed and turned into gardens to raise crops for the war.
• Britain has seen a huge boom in weddings, 100,000 more than the previous year as couples marry ahead of the draft.
• German police say they will shoot any protesters in Prague. Boy scouts overnight paste up posters of the Polish anthem. Germans arrest nine and plan to shoot them.
• In London, children have been sent out of the city to protect them from expected bombings.
• The Nobel Prize committee declines to present a peace prize this year …