January 1941

Mar

20

1941

Gneisenau and Scharnhorst sighted

The battle cruiser "Scharnhorst" pictured before the war.

The German battle cruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst were reported as having been sighted by an aircraft from H.M.S. Ark Royal during the evening of the 20th in a position 600 miles W.N.W. from Cape Einisterre, steering to the northward. Subsequent shadowing by aircraft was prevented by low visibility.

Jan

31

1941

Italian prisoners bombed by Germans

A Heinkel III bomber in flight, they began operating over North Afrika in early 1941.

Relays of men spent hours in the bitterly cold surf dragging the Italians to safety; others assisted them into slings and those on the escarpment hauled them to the crest. The wounded had to be brought ashore on Carley floats, so the last stages of their journey were extremely hazardous, but groups of volunteers brought them through the breakers and had everyone ashore by first light.

Jan

30

1941

Hitler’s ‘New World Order’

Adolf Hitler making a speech later in 1941

I do not want to miss pointing out what I pointed out on 3rd of September [1940] in the German Reichstag, that if Jewry were to plunge the world into war, the role of Jewry would be finished in Europe. They may laugh about it today, as they laughed before about my prophecies. The coming months and years will prove that I prophesied rightly in this case too.

Jan

29

1941

Churchill ‘We need to import more’

The cold bleak Battle of the Atlantic was also a battle of tonnages and other statistics, which were closely monitored by the Royal Navy and at the highest levels of Government. Britain's ability to keep fighting was at stake.

It is reckoned that the minimum food import required to maintain efficiency is about 16 million tons, 70 per cent, of the 23 million tons imported before the war. This involves cutting animal feeding-stuffs by about 4 million tons, which will reduce our stock of meat on the hoof, the safest kind of stock in case of air attacks. It will, of course, also reduce our supplies of bacon, eggs and dairy produce, already greatly depleted by the collapse of the Continent, but every effort is being made to maintain the children’s milk supply which depends upon imported oil cake.

Jan

28

1941

Heinrich Himmler visits Norway

Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, in Norway, January 1941.

He was fascinated by the ‘racial purity’ of the Nordic people. Norwegians were therefore prime candidates for the expansion of the Waffen SS, the fighting arm of the SS, at this stage very small in numbers proportionately to the German army. The first group of 200 Norwegian volunteers to be accepted into the SS were recruited during this visit.

Jan

26

1941

Many Americans ready for war

Harry Hopkins on his way to visit Britain, January 1941. He became even more sure of the need for support for Britain, he was highly influential in developing the Lend Lease policy which enable Britain to keep fighting.

The important element in the situation was the boldness of the President, who would lead opinion and not follow it, who was convinced that if England lost, America, too, would be encircled and beaten. He would use his powers if necessary; he would not scruple to interpret existing laws for the furtherance of his aim; he would make people gape with surprise, as the British Foreign Office must have gaped when it saw the terms of the Lease and Lend Bill.

Jan

23

1941

Even more prisoners at Tobruk

The oil installations in Tobruk harbour continue to burn following its capture on the 22nd. In the foreground are captured Italian tanks in use by the Australians and distinctively marked as such.

More than 20,000 of them were soon herded into a fenced enclosure measuring about 800 yards by 400 yards which the Italians had erected near the junction of the El Adem and Bardia roads to house their own prisoners. Here during more than six weeks never fewer than 7,000 and sometimes over 20,000 prisoners were crowded like sheep in a dusty pen. Many of the men lacked blankets, and the nights were bitterly cold. To give them adequate medical care was far beyond the resources of their captors.

Jan

22

1941

Tobruk is captured

The old Italian Cruiser San Giorgio had been used as a flak ship in Tobruk harbour. She had been damaged by RAF bombers but her guns continued to defend against the tank attack, before she was finally scuttled on the 22nd.

The dead were still lying out, and the wounded were everywhere. It was no time for mincing words. ‘You have landmines laid in and around the town,’ the Australian said. ‘I will take reprisals for the life of every one of my men lost on those mines.’ Quickly the Italians led Australian sappers to the mines and they were torn up. Booby traps were revealed, storage dumps opened, some two hundred guns handed over.

Jan

21

1941

The attack on Tobruk

Infantry from the 6th Australian Division move forward during the assault on Tobruk

When we were only yards away we could see the men in their dark green uniforms with their coats open, sweating as they tried to hump their guns round and train them on us. We simply went straight towards them, firing; we would have gone straight over them if we hadn’t knocked their guns out. Then we drove the loaders and odds and ends into the dugout. And the next thing I saw was a white flag emerging.

Jan

20

1941

Himmler visits Dachau

Heinrich Himmler visits Dachau concentration camp on the 20th January 1941.

On the 20th January Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the SS and principal architect of the Holocaust, visited Dachau concentration camp with the Dutch fascist Mussert. Himmler was organising the expansion of his system of camps in preparation for the Nazi move East. Himmler was a frequent visitor the various camps around his empire. One of the reasons for the lack of paper trail evidence of orders for the Holocaust is that he so often passed on his encouragement in person.