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1944 to 1945 - The world to which the United Nations was born.
On the 21st of August 1944, representatives from the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and China met at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C. The objective was to establish an organization to replace the League of Nations. This new body was to be called ‘the United Nations’. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American President came up with the name in 1942, while his Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, drafted the United Nations Charter in 1943.
On the 26th of June 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed by 50 nations in San Francisco.
From the initial meetings at Dumbarton Oaks to the San Francisco Conference, the United Nations Charter was 10 months in the making. It was hoped that this organization would prevent further world wars by encouraging the development of positive relations among countries.
World War Two atrocities continued to occur during these 10 months of peace negotiations. The following outlines a small number -
- On the 21st of August 1944, the day the Dumbarton Oaks Conference began, there was a Nazi raid on a Jewish children’s home in Saint-Mandé, Paris, France. 19 children and teachers were arrested and transported to a concentration camp.
- A 13 day massacre began on the 29th of September, in Marzabotto, Italy and the surrounding areas. Nearly 2000 people were killed by the Nazis as revenge for their support of the local resistance movement.
- On the 2nd of October, an uprising in Warsaw to reclaim Poland’s capital was crushed by the Nazis. Two months of struggle resulted in the death of 250,000 people.
- On the 8th of November, 25,000 Hungarian Jews were handed over to the Nazis to be used as forced labour in Austria. Since there was a shortage of trains, they had to walk. Thousands died.
- The Swedish Diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, was arrested in Budapest, Hungary on the 19th of January 1945. He was Sweden’s Special Envoy to Budapest. From July to December 1944, he had been issuing Swedish passports to Jews and sheltering them in buildings around the city, designated as Swedish territory. He saved thousands of lives. To this day, no one knows what happened to him.
- On the 8th of March, 53 people in Amsterdam were executed by the Nazis.
- Twenty minutes of bombing by the British Royal Air Force killed 5000 people and destroyed 90% of Würzburg, Germany, on the 16th of March. A medieval town with no military significance, much of its history was gone.
- In Gardelegan, Germany, 1100 concentration camp prisoners were trapped in a barn and burned to death on the 13th of April. Boys still in their teens were among the German soldiers who committed this massacre.
- On the 1st of May, 1000 people in Demmin, Germany, committed suicide. This was seen as a better alternative to dying at the hands of the approaching Soviet Army.
The United Nations was created against this backdrop of devastation. On the 26th of June 1945, 50 countries signed the United Nations Charter. These nations were agreeing to work together for international peace and the protection of human rights.
On the 6th of August, a little over a month after the UN Charter was signed, Hiroshima’s starving population were the receivers of the first atomic bomb in history. Dropped by a 30 year old American Colonel, the uranium based bomb exploded above a hospital, killing tens of thousands.
In September, a group of students from Indiana walked out of their high school in protest over racial integration.
And so it was, the world in which the United Nations was born into and charged to fix.