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World War II/Holocaust
Between 1933-44, the Nazi regime of Germany oppressed and captured millions of Jews from Germany, Poland, Austria, and some surrounding countries. At the beginning of the Nazi regime in 1933, the Nazi party forbade Jews any rights in the state, including the right to be German citizens. Each year, Jewish citizens of Germany and its neighboring countries found more and more of their rights diminishing. By 1935, they were completely segregated from society and were even denied the right to enter most areas.
In 1938, the Gestapo began to round up Jews for deportation and capture. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed in the process. Those who survived capture were placed into camps: concentration camps, forced labor camps, death camps, transit camps, and prisoner-of-war camps.
Concentration camps were used as holding tanks for Jews in mass numbers. Dachau, the first concentration camp, opened near Munich in 1933. The homeless, alcoholic and unemployed were the first to experience life in the concentration camps in 1933. In 1938, the German government began to order the first massive round of deportation of Jews to concentration camps, which existed not only in Germany, but in Poland, Austria and the smaller countries annexed to Germany. Concentration camp victims often died of starvation or disease, as little food and no medical help was available.
Having begun the separation of Jews from German society, Hitler declared the eventual extermination of the Jewish race in 1940. Aktion Reinhard, an operation designed to exterminate the Jews inside Poland, began in 1942. For the complete obliteration of the Jews, the Nazis used the extermination camps, or death camps as they are often called.
Living conditions in all of the camps was horrific, but death camps were especially inhumane, since they were designed specifically for mass extermination. Six death camps existed: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibór, Lublin (also called Majdanek), and Chelmno. The first, Chelmno, opened in 1941. The others initiated operations in 1942. All of the death camps were located in Poland. At Auschwitz, by far the worst of the death camps, Jews were not only gassed in massive numbers, they were also the subjects of sterilization experiments. In October 1942, Hitler ordered all German concentration camp prisoners to be moved to Auschwitz. Prisoners in Poland's concentration camps were simply shot and killed.
The number of people gassed at each of the death camps individually was in the hundreds of thousands. While 5 of the camps stopped operating by 1943, Auschwitz continued until 1944--with a death toll of about 1 million Jews and 1 million non-Jews. While gassings had ended, prisoners remained at Auschwitz. Soviet troops finally liberated Auschwitz in 1945. After Auschwitz ceased operation and the Nuremberg war crime trials had begun in 1944, Heinrich Himmler ordered the destruction of the Auschwitz crematorium in an attempt to hide evidence of the death camps' existence. However, he was captured in 1945 but committed suicide before he could be sentenced, and Hitler himself committed suicide on April 30, 1945.
The Grahams' Involvement
During their visit to Auschwitz, Poland, Billy and Ruth Graham lay a wreath of red and white carnations at the Wall of Death, where some 20,000 prisoners had been shot to death. In his autobiography, Billy Graham describes his emotions as he kneels by the wall, choked by so much emotion he could barely speak. His visit there inscribed for him the importance of Christians to work for peace.
The communist-democratic war over Korea took root during World War II, when the United States, Great Britain and China decided to make Korea independent of Japanese rule. President Roosevelt suggested a trusteeship that would place the US, Soviet Union, Great Britain and China in governance over Korea until the country could elect its own leader. While Roosevelt hoped that a joint trusteeship between the US and Soviets would encourage peace between the two countries, relations began to diminish as the Soviets began to claim more of its neighbors as territories.
After the Japanese surrender on August 14, 1945, the US feared that the Soviet Union would claim Korea as its territory. In response, the War Department and the State Department proposed to divide Korea in half, with the Soviets occupying North Korea and the Americans in the south. This proposal established the division that still exists today. In December 1945, the US, Soviet Union and Great Britain created the Joint Soviet-American Commission at the Moscow Conference, seeking to initiate a temporary democratic government for Korea; however, the Soviets rejected the plan. The US then sought assistance from the United Nations in 1947.
The next year the UN General Assembly proposed the election of a Korean national assembly. South Koreans participated in the election in May. By July Korea had a new constitution ratified by the new National Assembly, and the new Republic of Korea had Dr. Syngman Rhee as its new president. North Koreans could not participate in the election. They held a separate election in 1948, creating the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, with Kim II Sung as its president.
Once Korea was established as a democratic nation, the US withdrew its defense. In addition, the success of the atomic bomb had drawn the US government's attention away from its ground forces. Aware of these weaknesses, Kim II Sung proposed a strike against South Korea to bring it under his control. On June 25, 1950, his army penetrated the border to South Korea.
As President Truman called US armed forces to defend South Korea in response to North Korea's attack, the UN Security Council passed a resolution to cease hostilities and withdraw North Korean forces back to the 38th parallel, the boundary between North and South Korea. In July the UN passed a second resolution requesting the US to quell the North Korean takeover. Under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, the US and 20 other countries drove the offensive back north and reclaimed Seoul.
In November 1950 Mao Tse-tung of China committed the Chinese Communist army to battle the UN forces. Now grossly outnumbered and unprepared for the harsh Korean winter, the UN forces withdrew but reestablished the northern boundary by spring. Eager to end what appeared an interminable and bloody struggle, the Soviet UN delegate requested negotiations for peace in June 1951. Although a cease-fire was instituted in 1953, relations between North and South Korea were still tense, as were North Korea's relations with the US. During the war, thousands of Christians were killed and thousands more escaped to South Korea. In 1992, former President Richard Nixon called the Korean border the most dangerous place on earth.
The Grahams' Involvement
North Korea was significant to the Grahams for a couple of reasons. First, Ruth Bell Graham attended high school in Pyongyang in 1933, nearly 20 years before the Communist takeover of North Korea. Second, Reverend Graham had a special interest in speaking there, primarily to attempt to bring some reconciliation between North and South Koreans, many of whom were families split apart by the hostilities between sides. After several attempts to discretely plan a trip there, including an unsuccessful attempt by Pope John Paul II to arrange a visit, Billy enlisted the help of Dr. Stephen Linton, a scholar at Columbia University's Center for Korean Research. Dr. Linton arranged for him to meet North Korean's ambassador, Ho Jung, and Billy and Ned Graham later had a special and unprecedented meeting with President Kim II Sung, founder of North Korea and the US's primary adversary during the war. Billy's visit there may have paved the way for former President Jimmy Carter's 1994 meeting with President Kim, who by that time was eager to mend relations with his former enemies. In addition, Billy's visit preceded President Kim's invitation of the leaders of the Protestant and Catholic associations to his annual New Year reception, the first time he had ever recognized those associations at all.
John F. Kennedy's Assassination
President John F. Kennedy began making plans to visit Texas in November 1963 nearly a year before the trip. Not only did he see it as an opportunity to mend a rift within the Democratic Party, but he also had made few visits to the state since his 1960 election. In June 1963 in El Paso, Texas, President Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Texas Governor John B. Connally, Jr. decided that the President would visit Texas in late November 1963. Originally scheduled as a one-day visit, the tour through the state was extended to two days by September. After the trip was extended, Governor Connally agreed to a motorcade through downtown Dallas so that as many people as possible could see the President.
The motorcade, scheduled for 45 minutes, was routed from the airport at Love Field to the luncheon site at the Trade Mart, a total distance of 10 miles. From the airport, the motorcade would travel on Main Street to the Stemmons Freeway to reach the Trade Mart. The route was typical for Presidential visits; in fact, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had made the same trip in 1936.
Before the President's trip, the White House staff had several concerns about going to Texas. First, the state was predominantly anti-Democrat, and Vice President Johnson had faced demonstrations during the 1960 campaign. Second, demonstrators jeered US Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson in October, and newspapers had publicized the President's visit in September, receiving both criticism and optimism at the date. Furthermore, some circulars and newspaper ads condemning the President appeared in early November. Ironically, President Kennedy seemed to predict his own fate, as he commented his wife and a White House staff member on November 22, just before he left for Dallas, that "if anybody really wanted to shoot the President of the United States, it would not be a difficult job. All one had to do was get into a high building someday with a telescopic rifle, and there was nothing anybody could do to defend against such an attempt."
Dallas police motorcycles led the motorcade, with the lead car and the Presidential limousine following. Because the weather was sunny, one of Kennedy's Secret Service Agents suggested that the convertible top on the Presidential limousine be left down. President and Mrs. Kennedy sat in the back seat, with Governor and Mrs. Connally directly in front of them, in seats that were between the front and back seats. Following the Presidential limousine were more motorcycle escorts, the Presidential follow-up car, the Vice Presidential car and its follow-up car.
When the President's car arrived in Dallas, throngs of people rushed to meet it. In fact, the crowd was so thick that Special Agents had to leave the follow-up car several times to keep people from deterring the President's car. From Main Street, the motorcade turned onto Houston Street and proceeded to Elm Street to reach the Stemmons Freeway. At 12:30 PM, about 40 minutes after the motorcade started, President Kennedy was shot in the neck. As the President grabbed his neck and teetered forward, Governor Connally turned around to look at him and was shot in the back. A second shot through the back of President Kennedy's head gave him the fatal wound. He was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he died after attempts at treatment failed.
The Grahams' Involvement
Earlier in November 1963, Billy Graham said he had an unusual sense of foreboding about the trip and tried earnestly to contact the President to implore him not to go. His feelings were later justified, as two weeks after Billy's ill feelings about the trip, he received word that the President had been shot. During the funeral, Billy sat among the Kennedys' friends, recalling that, like everyone else, he wondered why this tragedy happened.
The Vietnam War has gained notoriety as a long and costly war for the US, with numerous losses and ultimate defeat. In 1954, Communist armies in northern Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh crossed into southern Vietnam, which France had governed as their territory for 100 years. As French troops found themselves overpowered by the larger Communist army, France requested a peace treaty, giving birth to the Geneva Peace Accords. Because of tensions between Communist nations and the United States, a French ally, the Communists agreed to stay in North Vietnam, leaving South Vietnam to a Western power.
The Geneva Accords stipulated that Vietnam would hold national elections in 1956, uniting the country. To prevent the Communists from taking the entire country, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower recommended the formation of a government, created through agreements that formed the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). This government, supported by the United States, became the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, or South Vietnam, and its resulting election introduced Ngo Dinh Diem as its first president. Thus, the US assumed the position of overseer that France had previously held.
Diem, an autocrat himself, immediately made enemies. As he tried to quell his opponents by imprisoning them, even non-Communists opposed him. After several unsuccessful attempts to seize Diem's government, Communists in South Vietnam joined North Vietnam in raising arms against the government. By December 1960 the Communist Party formed the National Liberation Front (NLF), attracting many non-Communists who wished to overthrow Diem's government as well. The US called this group "Vietcong," short for Vietnamese Communist.
President John F. Kennedy, concerned that Communist forces would overtake the democratic government, sent a team to Vietnam to assess conditions. Although the resulting report called for a large-scale assault, the United State increased military support by sending arms and Green Berets, but not troops. As Diem's support continued to decrease, his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu decided to seize Buddhist pagodas in South Vietnam that he reported harbored Communists, an act to which the monks responded by setting themselves on fire. Pictures of this caused such an outrage that the Kennedy administration immediately withdrew their support of Diem and allowed a coup by his own generals, who eventually succeeded in capturing and executing both Diem and his brother in November 1963. That same month, President Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullet.
As President Lyndon Johnson assumed the Presidency, US aggressions in Vietnam increased. After attacks on a US destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving the President the power to "take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression." After attempting some limited attacks that failed, Johnson called for full-scale bombing campaigns.
After President Richard Nixon entered office, he promised to end the war quickly by employing a policy called "Vietnamization," begun during Lyndon Johnson's last month, a process that recalled American troops to the United States and substituted South Vietnamese soldiers. As the war continued and American public support continued to wane, in January 1972 Nixon proposed a peace plan with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, or North Vietnam. However, all attempts at peace failed. After anti-war sentiment reached a peak in the US, President Richard Nixon began withdrawing US soldiers from Vietnam--soldiers who received a cold greeting from the American public after returning from an impossible war.
The Grahams' Involvement
When Billy visited Vietnam in 1966 and 1968 to preach to the troops, reporters questioned him about his support of President Johnson's policy. Billy's answer: "My only desire is to minister to our troops by my prayers and spiritual help wherever I can." He and Ruth vocalized their continued support upon the soldiers' return.
Civil Rights Movement
Although African Americans had made several attempts after the Emancipation Act to improve their status, they had no real victory until 1954, when the Supreme Court listened to the case of a young girl who had to travel 25 miles to an African-American school, even though a whites-only school sat two miles from where she lived. The Court overturned the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling that instituted the "separate but equal" standard.
The next year an African American seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to give her seat on a bus to a white man and was arrested. Several ministers--including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., met the next day and arranged a boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama bus system, costing the bus company 65% of its income. After Dr. King spent time in jail and a huge fine, the Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation violated the Constitution.
Little Rock, Arkansas was the next town to experience the impetus of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1957, Little Rock Central High School was desegregated. At the order of Arkansas governor Faubus, National Guardsmen prevented the small group of African American students from entering the school. After a court injunction allowed the students to enter the building and prevented the governor from taking action against it, 1,000 townspeople rushed to the school to remove the students. On September 25, President Eisenhower ordered 1,000 paratroopers and 10,000 National Guardsmen to assure that the students be allowed to remain in school.
The Civil Rights Movement began to spread across the nation--and across racial lines--in 1960, when an African American college student returned to a Woolworth's lunch counter with three friends for several days after he was refused service the first day. When the New York Times publicized the protest, students in every state, both black and white, joined in similar protests.
The next two years brought more violent episodes to the Civil Rights story. Nonviolent protests in 1961 against segregation at bus terminals often met with police armed with rifles. The first African American student at the University of Mississippi, escorted by Federal Marshals, encountered a violent mob. Before the National Guard could arrive to stop the rioting, two students were killed.
In 1963 two famous marches pinnacled the Civil Rights Movement--the protest march in Birmingham, attended by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Ralph Abernethy and Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, and the March on Washington, organized by two Civil Rights activists and attended by two hundred thousand people. Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolpf were both active in organizing events to improve both race relations and the quality of life for African Americans. Furthermore, Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech was immortalized on this day.
President Lyndon Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, giving African Americans the right to vote, but after a great cost. Earlier that same year, Dr. King planned to lead a march on Sunday, March 7, from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest the killing of a demonstrator in Marion, Alabama. When Governor George C. Wallace disallowed the march, Dr. King spoke to President Johnson and delayed the march until the next day. However, when protesters began the march on Sunday anyway, they were met by a line of state troopers, who warned them to turn around and then immediately attacked them. When the troopers followed the marchers to a black housing project, they beat residents of the project who had not attended the march. Because of "Bloody Sunday" as the event was nationally branded, President Johnson addressed Congress about the importance of civil rights. On March 25, Dr. King successfully led the march from Selma to Montgomery.
The Grahams' Involvement
In 1953-a year before schools were legally desegregated-Billy Graham quietly took a stand on racial division by tearing down the ropes that separated the Whites from the African-Americans. Early in the 1960s he conversed with Dr. King about standing against racial division. "He urged me to keep on doing what I was doing," Billy writes in his autobiography, "preaching the Gospel to integrated audiences and supporting his goals by example-and not to join him in the streets."
The Watergate scandal, which plagued President Richard Nixon's administration from 1972 until Nixon's resignation in 1974, still haunts the nation and the office of the Presidency to this day. The Watergate story begins in June 1972, one year after the New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers revealing the Defense Department's involvement in the Vietnam War. On June 17, 1972, five men found themselves at gunpoint in a sixth floor office of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel. After three plain-clothes officers discovered the men, still wearing surgical gloves and carrying devices to transmit conversations, they arrested them. One of them, Edward Martin, also known as James W. McCord, was a former CIA agent as well as security chief to the Nixon committee and security consultant for the Republican National Committee.
Another of the five men, Bernard Barker, was questioned again the next month for depositing a $25,000 check, originally meant for President Nixon's re-election campaign, in his personal bank account. In September, several sources reported a secret fund to gather information about the Democrats, controlled by US Attorney General John Mitchell, who later became Nixon's campaign manager. Mitchell and several others on Nixon's campaign staff denied both the allegations and the existence of the fund.
However, the next month brought more allegations against Nixon's campaign committee and more evidence of tampering with the Democrats' files, as FBI agents reported finding more campaign money designed to finance investigations and discrediting of Democratic candidates. In a landslide victory over Democratic opponent George McGovern that was quite different from the close election of 1968, Nixon regained the Presidency in November.
President Nixon's second term began with more news about the Watergate scandal as his former aides G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord were convicted of conspiracy and burglary. Nixon gave a statement in May accepting responsibility for his staff in the Watergate incident after four of his aides resigned and he fired White House counsel, John Dean. However, when Senate Watergate hearings began later that month, the tables began to turn.
In June, John Dean reported to Senate investigators that President Nixon had been present to at least 35 conversations about the Watergate cover-up and that he knew of bribes for conspirators, although he had no documentation to back up his allegations. In a dramatic discovery in July that President Nixon tape-recorded all of his conversations and meetings--tapes that he refused to release, the investigation committee and Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox saw their opportunity to prove the President's innocence or guilt in the Watergate affair. However, President Nixon furthered speculation about his involvement when he dismissed Cox and turned his function as special prosecutor over to the Justice Department. President Nixon then agreed to release some of the tapes.
Despite President Nixon's protest of his innocence over the Watergate affair, an 18-minute gap in one of the subpoenaed tapes drew further suspicion. Transcripts of the tapes proving his involvement spurred an immediate order from the Supreme Court for him to turn over all of the tapes. In July 1974, for only the second time in history, the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach a President. The next month, under the definite threat of impeachment, President Nixon resigned his office, becoming the first President to resign.
The Grahams' Connection
President Nixon was one of several presidents to enjoy Billy's friendship and rely on his counsel; however, after the story behind Watergate hit the headlines, Nixon refused to see Billy for the rest of his presidency. Although Billy knew no more about the scandal than did the rest of the public, he was saddened by Nixon's response to him and about the general infection the cover-up caused to spread through the Nixon administration.
From 1987 to 1990, a string of revealed frauds, mismanagement of funds and infidelities tainted the mission of evangelists with television ministries, known as televangelists. The first known scandal was Jim and Tammy Bakker's Praise The Lord (PTL) ministry. In 1986 the ministry's income was $129 million and included a 2300-acre religious theme park, a hotel, a shopping mall in North Carolina called Heritage USA, and its own TV station on 1200 channels. After paying church secretary Jessica Hahn about $265,000 in blackmail money over an affair in 1980, Jim Bakker resigned in 1987.
After his resignation, Bakker asked Jerry Falwell to take over PTL. When Falwell began examinng the accounts, he discovered that the Bakkers were taking large amounts of money from the ministry fund, including hundreds of thousands of dollars for salaries for himself and his wife, insurance, property and other fees. After the Inland Revenue Service investigated the accounts, they discovered that the couple had diverted $4.8 million for personal use. Part of that sum came from $1,000 partnerships securing three days per year of free lodging at Heritage USA, a promise that he was unable to keep for about 1500 people a month because of overbooking the hotel. Jim Bakker was indicted for fraud in 1988 and sentenced to 45 years in prison and fined $500,000.
The same year that Bakker's legal troubles began, Moral Majority minister Jimmy Swaggart confessed to a "sin," which later was said to involve his use of prostitutes. Two years later he was discovered in a car with a prostitute and a pile of pornographic messages.
Oral Roberts, leader of Oral Roberts Evangelical Association, Oral Roberts University and the City of Faith in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a large medical center dedicated to the practice of faith-healing, also saw his ministry collapse in 1988. After closing his medical center after a lawsuit and debts drained the Association's budget, Roberts concentrated on the University. In 1987 he offered scholarships for a four-year missionary program for which he had raised $8 million in 1986 by telling viewers that "God would take him home" if the money were not raised. However, in 1988 he discontinued the program, demanding that the students repay the money at 18 percent interest.
Jerry Falwell, who inherited PTL ministries after Bakker's arrest, drove the organization to its bankruptcy and in 1989 dissolved the Moral Majority, a ministry that he had founded, as well. His remaining projects consisted of the Thomas Rock Baptist Church, where he was senior pastor, and Liberty University, which he had instituted as well. After funding expansions at the university with loans, using the university's funds to give away bonds on "The Old-Time Gospel Hour," and offering numerous scholarships, Falwell steered the university into a $110 million debt by 1990, after which he saw a significant decrease in contributions.
The Grahams' Connection
As his fellow evangelists seemed to take their turns facing justified criticism, Billy Graham maintained his own integrity and the sincerity of his message. Far from publicly condemning his peers, Billy spoke of them with concern, and even visited Jim Bakker in prison. When his Crusades would generate more offerings than he had anticipated, both Billy and Ruth gave their share to needy organizations. As for his own efforts to integrate television into his ministry, Billy hosted a half-hour weekly program in 1951 but discontinued it a few years later because of the immense commitment of time it required. Afterwards he telecast his Crusades but never again tried a weekly program.
Oklahoma City Bombing
The Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City began on April 19, 1995 with the usual activity of people arriving to work and dropping their children off at day care center. By 9 AM, hundreds of employees and children had arrived at the building. About two or three minutes later, a Ryder truck filled with two and a half tons of common farm fertilizer and fuel oil detonated the fiercest explosion the US had known to that day. As the black smoke cleared and the fire died, witnesses could see that the entire front side of the building was gone, exposing the inside of the nine-story building.
About 169 men, women and children died under the rubble from the collapsed structure. Several hundred more sustained serious injuries.
As citizens and the government considered the possibility of an overseas terrorist and memorial services were conducted, evidence began to point to a US citizen. Timothy McVeigh, who had been cited for driving without a license plate about an hour and a half after the explosion, was identified two days later by witnesses who saw him walking away from the building just seconds before it exploded. McVeigh and his long-time Army comrade, Terry Nichols, were both charged with the bombing.
In an address to mourners after the bombing, President William Clinton said, "Let us teach our children that the God of comfort is also the God of righteousness. Those who trouble their own house will inherit the wind. Justice will prevail."
Prosecutors linked the bombing to the 1993 government raid on the Branch Davidians, a religious group that had established a large compound in Mount Carmel, Texas and were believed to be storing weapons. After the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms stood at odds with the Branch Davidians for 51 days, the FBI raided the compound, causing a fire that burned the buildings to the ground and killed more than 80 men, women and children inside. The Oklahoma City bombing occurred on the second anniversary of that event.
Six months after the tragedy, both McVeigh and Nichols both went to trial on the same charges. After deliberating for almost 72 hours, the jury found Nichols guilty of conspiracy and manslaughter but innocent of murder. Because the jury could not agree on a sentence, US District Judge Richard Matsch imposed a life sentence. McVeigh, on the contrary, was charged with murder and received the death sentence. He was executed by lethal injection June 11, 2001.
The Grahams' Involvement
After the bombing, Oklahoma's Governor Frank Keating and his wife, Cathy invited Billy Graham to participate in a special memorial service for the victims of the disaster. A few weeks before that, Texas Governor George W. Bush's wife, Laura, had taken Cathy Keating to the crusade in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Reverend Graham addressed the crowd during the service, although he states that it was one of the most difficult things he had ever done. A little more than six years later, Reverend Graham would address a crowd after another horrifying and devastating disaster--the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.