Oct-1 (Part 2): Europe’s Day of Turmoil and Reckoning
From Franco seizing power in Spain, Helmut Kohl taking over in Germany to the siege of Dubrovnik and the judgment at Nuremberg, this has been a day of great consequence in Europe.
Franco Declared Nationalist Ruler
Shortly after staging a partially successful coup that started the Spanish Civil War, General Francisco Franco was declared Generalísimo of the National army and head of state. Leaving half a million dead, the war was eventually won by Franco in 1939. Franco rules Spain as a dictator until his death in 1975. Franco restored the monarchy before his death, which made King Juan Carlos I his successor, who led the Spanish transition to democracy. After a referendum, a new constitution was adopted, which effectively created a democratic regime in Spain.
Judgment at Nuremberg
On this day, the International Military Tribunal made up of the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union, rendered its judgment on 24 German charged with (i) participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace; (ii) Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace; and (iii) war crimes. Nineteen were convicted and twelve sentenced to death.
Kohl Becomes Chancellor
For the first and only time in German history, a German Chancellor was forced out of office on a vote of no-confidence, as the German parliament voted out Social Democratic Chancellor Helmut Schmidt after over 8 years in office and selected the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union, Helmut Kohl to succeed him. Kohl would remain as Chancellor until 1998 – the longest of any German chancellor since Otto von Bismarck, and far and away the longest of any democratically elected chancellor. He oversaw the end of the Cold War, and is widely regarded as the main architect of the German reunification. Together with French president François Mitterrand, he is also considered the architect of the Maastricht Treaty, which established the European Union. Kohl was described as “the greatest European leader of the second half of the 20th century” by U.S. Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Siege of Dubrovnik
The Siege of Dubrovnik was a military engagement fought between the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and Croatian forces defending the city of Dubrovnik and its surroundings during the Croatian War of Independence. The JNA started its advance on 1 October 1991 and by late October had captured virtually all of the territory between the Pelješac and Prevlaka peninsulas on the coast of the Adriatic Sea—except for Dubrovnik itself. The JNA attacks and bombardment of Dubrovnik, including the Old Town—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—culminated on 6 December 1991. The bombardment provoked strong international condemnation of the JNA and became a public relations disaster for Serbia and Montenegro, contributing to their diplomatic and economic isolation and the international recognition of the independence of Croatia.
The siege and a naval blockade by the Yugoslav Navy caused the deaths of between 82 and 88 Croatian civilians and 194 Croatian military personnel. The JNA suffered 165 fatalities. By the end of 1992, when the entire region was recaptured by the HV inOperation Tiger and the Battle of Konavle, 417 HV troops had been killed. The offensive displaced 15,000 refugees—mainly from Konavle—who fled to Dubrovnik. Approximately 16,000 refugees were evacuated from Dubrovnik by sea and the city was resupplied by blockade-evading runabouts and a convoy of civilian vessels. 11,425 buildings suffered a degree of damage and numerous homes, businesses, and public buildings were looted or torched by the JNA.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicted two Yugoslav officers for their involvement in the siege and handed a third over to Serbia for prosecution.