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Rotten History - January 21

On This Day in Rotten History...

In 1793 – (224 years ago) – King Louis XVI of France was led to a carriage and escorted by more than a thousand horsemen and armed citizens to the Place de la Revolution in Paris, where a huge crowd awaited him, along with a ragtag group of executioners. His failure to address his country’s economic crisis had sparked a revolution, and the new National Assembly had found him guilty of treason and stripped him of his crown and title. Upon reaching the scaffold, the ex-king loudly proclaimed his innocence to the crowd, and then was seized and shoved into the guillotine. Moments later, the heavy blade came down and separated his head from his body. One of the executioners, a young man of about eighteen, grabbed the severed head and held it high for the crowd to see. After a long moment of silence, a few people shouted: “Vive la Republique!” Others in the vast crowd picked up the phrase until it became a repetitive chant, growing louder and louder for more than ten minutes. Nine months later, Marie Antoinette, the ex-king’s wife, was beheaded in much the same way.

In 1941 – (76 years ago) – in Bucharest, Romania, a rebellion against the head of state, General Ion Antonescu, by Legionnaires of the Iron Guard, a right-wing Orthodox Christian paramilitary group, boiled over into an anti-Semitic pogrom. For the next two days, mobs of local people rampaged through the city’s predominantly Jewish neighborhoods, ransacking and burning down synagogues, businesses, and homes. Thousands of people from all walks of life were dragged into the streets, beaten, and tortured. Some were also slaughtered and mutilated, and still others were taken out of town and shot. By the time the bedlam died down, some 125 victims of the pogrom were dead.

In 1968 – (49 years ago) – near the US Air Force Base at Thule, Greenland, an American B-52 bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs experienced a cabin fire in flight. The whole crew was forced to bail out, one crew member being killed in the process. The burning airplane crashed onto the ice in nearby North Star Bay, not far from an indigenous Inuit settlement. The fiery crash ignited conventional detonators on the H-bombs, which in turn ruptured the bomb canisters and spread plutonium and other radioactive debris for miles. The subsequent cleanup operation by US and Danish personnel failed to locate an important missing piece of one bomb, and high levels of radioactive plutonium remained, contaminating the ancient Inuit hunting grounds. To this day, bizarrely deformed seals and musk oxen are common in the area, and the dangerous pollution remains a touchy issue in diplomatic relations between the United States, Greenland, and Denmark.

Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi

Rotten History


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