On this day in history:
45 BC – – – New Year’s Day is celebrated on January 1 for the first time as the Julian calendar takes effect. Soon after becoming Roman dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the traditional Roman calendar was in dire need of reform. Introduced around the seventh century B.C., the Roman calendar attempted to follow the lunar cycle but frequently fell out of phase with the seasons and had to be corrected. In addition, the pontifices, the Roman body charged with overseeing the calendar, often abused its authority by adding days to extend political terms or interfere with elections. In designing his new calendar, Caesar enlisted the aid of Sosigenes, an Alexandrian astronomer, who advised him to do away with the lunar cycle entirely and follow the solar year, as did the Egyptians. The year was calculated to be 365 and 1/4 days, and Caesar added 67 days to 45 B.C., making 46 B.C. begin on January 1, rather than in March. He also decreed that every four years a day be added to February, thus theoretically keeping his calendar from falling out of step. Shortly before his assassination in 44 B.C., he changed the name of the month Quintillia to Julius (July) after himself. Later, the month of Sextilis was renamed Augustus (August) after his successor. Celebration of New Year’s Day in January fell out of practice during the Middle Ages, and even those who strictly adhered to the Julian calendar did not observe the New Year exactly on January 1. The reason for the latter was that Caesar and Sosigenes failed to calculate the correct value for the solar year as 365.242199 days, not 365.25 days. Thus, an 11-minute-a-year error added seven days by the year 1000, and 10 days by the mid-15th century. The Roman church became aware of this problem, and in the 1570s Pope Gregory XIII commissioned Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius to come up with a new calendar. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar was implemented, omitting 10 days for that year and establishing the new rule that only one of every four centennial years should be a leap year. Since then, people around the world have gathered en masse on January 1 to celebrate the precise arrival of the New Year.
More on this “new year” thing – – – During the Middle Ages under the influence of the Catholic Church, many countries in western Europe moved the start of the year to one of several important Christian festivals – December 25 (the Nativity of Jesus), March 1, March 25 (the Annunciation), or even Easter. The Byzantine Empire began its numbered year on September 1. In England, January 1 was celebrated as the New Year festival, but from the 12th century to 1752 the year in England began on March 25 (Lady Day). So, for example, the Parliamentary record notes the execution of Charles I as occurring on January 30, 1648, (as the year did not end until March 24), although modern histories adjust the start of the year to January 1 and record the execution as occurring in 1649. Most western European countries changed the start of the year to January 1 before they adopted the Gregorian calendar. For example, Scotland changed the start of the Scottish New Year to January 1 in 1600. England, Ireland and the British colonies changed the start of the year to January 1 in 1752. Later that year in September, the Gregorian calendar was introduced throughout Britain and the British colonies. These two reforms were implemented by the Calendar (New Style) Act of 1750.January 1 became the official start of the year as follows:
- 1362 – Grand Duchy of Lithuania
- 1544 – Holy Roman Empire (Germany)
- 1588 – Spain, Portugal
- 1559 – Prussia, Sweden
- 1564 – France
- 1576 – Southern Netherlands
- 1579 – Duchy of Lorraine
- 1583 – Northern Netherlands
- 1600 – Scotland
- 1700 – Russia
- 1750 – Tuscany
- 1752 – Great Britain (excluding Scotland) and its colonies
- 1797 – Republic of Venice
- 1804 – Serbia
- 1918 – Ottoman Empire
- 1941 — Thailand
1 AD – – – – Circumcision of Jesus Christ – “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus…” (Luke 2:21)
193 – – – – – The Roman Senate chooses Pertinax against his will to succeed Commodus as Roman emperor.
417 – – – – – Emperor Honorius forces Galla Placidia into marriage to Constantius, his famous general. Aelia Galla Placidia, the daughter of the Roman emperor Theodosius I, was regent to Valentinian III and a major force in Roman politics for most of her life. She was queen escort to Ataulf, king of the Visigoths from 414 until his death in 415, and briefly empress consort to Constantius.
1068 – – – – Romanos IV Diogenes marries Eudokia Makrembolitissa and is crowned Byzantine Emperor. Romanus IV was a member of the Byzantine mitiary atistocracy who, after his marriage to Eudokia Makrembolitissa became emperor and reigned from 1068 to 1071. During his reign he was determined to halt the decline of the Byzantine military and to stop Turkish incursions into the Byzantine Empire, but in 1071 he was captured and his army routed at the Battle of Manzikert. While still captive he was overthrown in a palace coup, and when released he was quickly defeated and detained by members of the Doukas family. In 1072, he was blinded and sent to a monastery, where he died of his wounds.
1438 – – – – Albert II of Habsburg is crowned King of Hungary. Albert was born in Vienna the son of Albert IV, Duke of Austria, and Joanna Sophia of Bavaria. He succeeded to the Duchy of Austria at the age of seven on his father’s death in 1404. His uncle Duke William of Inner Austria, then head of the rivaling Leopoldinian line, served as regent for his nephew, followed by his brothers Leopold IV and Ernest the Iron in 1406. The quarrels between the brothers and their continued attempts to gain control over the Albertinian territories led to civil war-like conditions. Nevertheless, Albert, having received a good education, undertook the government of Austria proper on the occasion of Leopold’s death in 1411 and succeeded, with the aid of his advisers, in ridding the duchy of the evils which had arisen during his minority. In 1422 Albert married Elisabeth of Luxemburg, the daughter and heiress of the King Sigismund of Hungary (later also Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia), and his second wife, the Slovenian noblewoman Barbara of Cellie. Besides Hungary, Albert’s marriage brought him claims to several Slavic kingdoms and principalities as well. Albert assisted his father-in-law Sigismund in his campaigns against the Hussites, involving the Austrian duchy in the Hussite Wars. In return Sigismund designated him as his successor and granted him the title of a Margrave of Moravia in 1423. The Austrian lands were devastated several times and Albert also participated in the 1431 Battle of Domazlice where the Imperial troops suffered an embarrassing defeat. When Sigismund died in 1437, Albert was crowned king of Hungary on 1 January 1438, and just as his predecessor did, he moved his court to the Hungarian Kingdom from where he later oversaw his other domains. Although crowned king of Bohemia six months after ascending to the Hungarian throne, he was unable to obtain possession of the country. He was engaged in warfare with the Bohemians and their Polish allies, when on 18 March 1438, he was chosen “King of the Romans” ” at Frankfurt, an honor which he does not appear to have sought. He was never crowned as Holy Roman Emperor. Afterward engaged in defending Hungary against the attacks of the Turks, he died on October 27, 1439 at Neszmely. Albert had been an energetic and warlike prince, whose short reign as a triple king gave great promise of usefulness for the Holy Roman Empire. Until its final dissolution in 1806 the House of Habsburg remained the ruling dynasty. It might also be noted that though the Jews in the Austrian duchy had been subject to local persecutions during the 13th and 14th century, their position remained relatively safe. However, during the confusion after the death of Duke Albert IV in 1404 their situation worsened sharply, culminating in the blaze of the Vienna synagogue on November 5, 1406, followed by riots and lootings. And when Albert V came of age in 1411 and interfered in the Hussite Wars, he repeatedly established new taxes imposed on the Jewish community to finance his campaigns. On the other hand, after the Hussites had devastated the duchy, the Austrian Jews were accused of collaboration and arms trade in favor of the enemies. The accusations of a host desecration at Krems in 1420 gave Albert pretext for the destruction of the Jewish community. According to the 1463 Chronica Austriae by chronicler Thomas Ebendorfer the duke on May 23, 1420, at the behest of the Church, ordered the imprisonment and forcible conversion of the Jews. Those who had not converted or escaped were sent off in boats down the Danube, while wealthy Jews remained under arrest, several of them tortured and stripped of their property. The forced baptism of Jewish children was stopped on intervention by Pope Martin V. On March 12, 1421 Albert sentenced the remaining Jews to death. 92 men and 120 women were burned at the stake south of the Vienna city walls on March 12, 1421. The Jews were placed under an “eternal ban” and their synagogue was demolished.
1515 – – – – 20-year-old Francis, Duke of Brittany, succeeds to the French throne following the death of his father-in-law, Louis XII.
1600 – – – – As noted above Scotland recognizes January 1 as the start of the new year (Instead of March 25)
1772 – – – – The first traveler’s cheques, which can be used in 90 European cities, is issued by the London Credit Exchange Company.
1776 – – – – American Revolution – Norfolk, Virginia is burned by combined Royal Navy and Continental Army action.
1801 – – – – The legislative union of Kingdom of Great Britain and Kingdom of Ireland is completed, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is proclaimed.
1804 – – – – French rule ends in Haiti. Haiti becomes the first black republic and second independent country in North America after the U.S,
1808 – – – – The United States bans the importation of slaves.
1847 – – – – The world’s first “Mercy” hospital is founded in Pittsburgh, United States, by a group of Sisters of Mercy from Ireland. The name will go on to grace over 30 major hospital around the world.
1863 – – – – The Emancipation Proclamation takes effect in the Confederate territory.
1877 – – – – Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom is proclaimed Empress of India.
1885 – – – – Twenty-five nations adopt Sandford Fleming’s proposal for standard time (and also, times zones).
1892 – – – – Ellis Island begins processing immigrants into the United States.
1898 – – – – New York, New York annexes land from surrounding counties, creating the City of Greater New York. The four initial boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx, are joined on January 25 by Staten Island to create the modern city of five boroughs.
1899 – – – – Spanish rule ends in Cuba.
1912 – – – – The Republic of China is established. The Republic of China controlled the Chinese mainland from 1912, when it was established by Xinhai Revolution, which overthrew Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty if China, until 1949, when its government fled to Taipei, Taiwan, due to the failure in the Chinese Civil War.
1928 – – – – Boris Bazhanov defects through Iran. He is the only assistant of Joseph Stalin’s secretariat to have defected from the Eastern Bloc.
1934 – – – – (a) Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay becomes a United States Federal prison. (b) A “Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring” comes into effect in Nazi Germany. There are certainly more uplifting topics than Nazi eugenics to discuss as the new year begins but there are genuine reasons to know the background and to keep one’s eyes wide open as some elements are finding their way back into public discussion. Just stop and think about some of the lines found in the speeches and statements of some of our contemporary “progressives.” Indeed, many of these statements a mirror images of American progressives of the early 20th century, statements that vanished for decades after the Nazis shocked the world with their implementation of that scary, Godless line of thought. But, beware, it is returning. OK, let’s look at Nazi eugenics – “National Socialist racial hygiene” – were the Nazi’s racially based social policies that placed the biological improvement of the Aryan race or Germanic “master race” through eugenics at the center of Nazi ideology. In Germany, eugenics were mostly known under the synonymous term racial hygiene. However, following World War II, both terms effectively vanished and were replaced by human genetics. Eugenics research in Germany before and during the Nazi period was similar to that in the United States (particularly California), by which it had been partly inspired. However, its prominence rose sharply under Adolf Hitler’s leadership when wealthy Nazi supporters started heavily investing in it. The programs were subsequently shaped to complement Nazi racial policies. Those humans targeted for destruction under Nazi eugenics policies were largely living in private and state-operated institutions, identified as “life unworthy of life”, including prisoners, “degenerates.” dissidents, people with congenital cognitive and physical disabilities (including people who were “feebleminded”, epileptic, schizophrenic, manic-depressive, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, deaf, blind), homosexual, idle, insane, and the weak, for elimination from the chain of heredity. More than 400,000 people were sterilized against their will, while more than 70,000 were killed under Action T4, a euthanasia program. In June 1935, Hitler and his cabinet made a list of seven new decrees, number 5 was to speed up the investigations of sterilization. Edwin Black wrote that after the eugenics movement was well established in the United States, it was spread to Germany. California eugenicists began producing literature promoting eugenics and sterilization and sending it overseas to German scientists and medical professionals. By 1933, California had subjected more people to forceful sterilization than all other U.S. states combined. The forced sterilization program engineered by the Nazis was partly inspired by California’s. In 1927, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology (KWIA), an organization which concentrated on physical and social anthropology as well as human genetics, was founded in Berlin with significant financial support from the American philanthropic group, the Rockefeller Foundation. German professor of medicine, anthropology and eugenics Eugen Fischer was the director of this organization, a man whose work helped provide the scientific basis for the Nazis’ eugenics policies. The Rockefeller Foundation even funded some of the research conducted by Joseph Mengele before he went to Auschwitz. Upon returning from Germany in 1934, where more than 5,000 people per month were being forcibly sterilized, the California eugenics leader C. M. Goethe bragged to a colleague: “You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought… I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people.” Princeton-educated American eugenics researcher Harry H. Laughlin often bragged that his Model Eugenic Sterilization laws had been implemented in the 1935 Nuremberg racial hygiene laws. In 1936, Laughlin was invited to an award ceremony at Heidelberg University in Germany (scheduled on the anniversary of Hitler’s 1934 purge of Jews from the Heidelberg faculty), to receive an honorary doctorate for his work on the “science of racial cleansing”. Due to financial limitations, Laughlin was unable to attend the ceremony and had to pick it up from the Rockefeller Institute. Afterwards, he proudly shared the award with his colleagues, remarking that he felt that it symbolized the “common understanding of German and American scientists of the nature of eugenics.” Hitler read about racial hygiene during his imprisonment in Landsberg Prison. Hitler believed the nation had become weak, corrupted by dygenics, the infusion of degenerate elements into its bloodstream. The racialism and idea of competition, termed social Darwinism in 1944, were discussed by European scientists and also in the Vienna press during the 1920s. Where Hitler picked up the ideas is uncertain. The theory of evolution had been generally accepted in Germany at the time, but this sort of extremism was rare. Hitler endorsed what he perceived to be an early eugenics treatment of deformed children. Propaganda for Nazi Germany’s T-4 Euthanasia Program: “This person suffering from hereditary defects costs the community 60,000 Reichsmark during his lifetime. Fellow German, that is your money, too.” This from the Office of Racial Policy. So, back to the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring – – it allowed the compulsory sterilization of any citizen who according to the opinion of a “Genetic Health Court” suffered from a list of alleged genetic disorders and required physicians to register every case of hereditary illness known to them, except in women over 45 years of age. Physicians could be fined for failing to comply. In 1934, the first year of the Law’s operation, nearly 4,000 persons appealed against the decisions of sterilization authorities. A total of 3,559 of the appeals failed. By the end of the Nazi regime, over 200 Hereditary Health Courts (Erbgesundheitsgerichte) were created, and under their rulings over 400,000 persons were sterilized against their will. The Hadamar Clinic was a mental hospital in the German town of Hadamar used by the Nazi-controlled German government as the site of Action T4. The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics was founded in 1927. Hatheim Euthanasia Center was also part of the euthanasia program where the Nazis killed individuals they deemed disabled. The first method used involved transporting patients by buses in which the engine exhaust gases were passed into the interior of the buses, and so killed the passengers. Gas chambers were developed later and used pure carbon monoxide gas to kill the patients. In its early years, and during the Nazi era, the Clinic was strongly associated with theories of eugenics and racial hygiene advocated by its leading theorists. The sterilization of so-called Rhineland Bastards was undertaken. There is so much but I do add that after the Nazis passed the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, it became compulsory for both marriage partners to be tested for hereditary diseases in order to preserve the perceived racial purity of the Aryan race. Everyone was encouraged to evaluate carefully his or her prospective marriage partner eugenically during courtship. Extreme – yes, radical – yes. But just because those things are true, do not ignore some of today’s so-called “progressives” and the ideas some are espousing although maybe not emphasizing. There are some very prominent people making troubling statements echoing the discredited eugenicists of old.
1942 – – – – The Declaration by United Nations is signed by 26 nations.
1943 – – – – Jerry McEwen was born – – – it took him awhile but he developed a beautiful golf swing.
1945 – – – – World War II – The German Luftwaffe launches Operation Bodenplatte, a massive, but failed attempt to knock out Allies air power in northern Europe is a single blow.
1958 – – – – European Economic Community is established.
1959 – – – – Cuban Revolution – Fulgencio Batista, dictator of Cuba, is overthrown by Fidel Castro’s forces.
1971 – – – – Cigarette advertisements are banned from American television.
1979 – – – – Formal diplomatic relations are established between China and the United States.
1993 – – – – Dissolution of Czechoslovakia – Czechoslovakia is divided into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic
1994 – – – – The North American Free Trade Agreement comes into effect.
1995 – – – – The World Trade Organization comes into being..
2011 – – – – A bomb explodes as Coptic Christians in Alexandria, Egypt, leave a new year service, killing 23.
Composed by Robert A. McConnell
Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer and not necessarily those of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.