5 Of The Most 'Wuh?' Facts History Class Never Covered
History is deliberately constructed. That's the reason you know George Washington's name, but not the names of any of his slaves. Historians and bureaucrats select certain facts and stories to teach students at the expense of others. That's in service of both necessity and various agendas. And this process is far from scientific. As a result, hilarious and bizarre stories often get left out, even though they should be taught in every school, if only to wake kids up. Like how ...
Woodrow Wilson Turned The White House Into A Sheep Farm
Woodrow Wilson, pleased that World War I contained his initials, really wanted to join the fight. The rest of America said, "No Woody, that's a stupid reason to join," but eventually Germany tried to convince Mexico to attack America and then sunk some American ships. It was, understandably, on.
But war requires a ton of support and material from the home front. And back then, you couldn't just slap a Support the Troops bumper sticker on your F150 and call it a day. People actually had to donate money and supplies, ration their food, and generally live a much more austere life for the duration of the war. So to set a good example, Wilson turned the White House into a farm.
He had 48 sheep grazing on the White House lawn for passerby to marvel at. Wilson knew the idyllic image would be powerful. He wanted people to see him doing his part for the war effort. The idea was that the sheep would eat the lawn, thus cutting the cost of trimming it, and he could shear them to raise money for the Red Cross.
The problem was that cars in D.C. scared the sheep sick -- literally. According to reports at the time, the sheep kept getting the "dips," which was probably as gross as it sounds. Wilson didn't want a bunch of sick sheep on display, so he moved them to the back lawn, which they promptly destroyed. He then moved them back to the front lawn, but had to frantically build the fence he should've had in the first place.
Related: 5 'Huh?' White House Facts History Class Never Mentioned
The Jews Who Supported Hitler
We're going to go out on a limb here and call the Third Reich an antisemitic organization. Hating Jews was what the Nazis did best. And yet somehow there were not only Jews who supported Hitler, but also some who rose high in the ranks of Nazi leadership.
Jewish support for Hitler and the Nazi party dates back to the earliest days of the movement. The most prominent group was the Association of German National Jews. They believed they could convince the Nazis that they were Germans first and Jews second, and they even agreed with the Nazi persecution of Ostjuden (Russian Jews). Contemporaries joked that at Nazi rallies, the group would shout "Down with us!" Their leader was Max Nauman, who supported the Nazis right up until he was sent to a concentration camp in 1935.
The Nazis never courted any Jewish groups as a cover to "prove" they weren't antisemitic. They never touted anyone as their Jewish friend to deny accusations. Hitler said things like "With satanic joy in his face, the black-haired Jewish youth lurks in wait for the unsuspecting girl whom he defiles with his blood." And yet the Association of German Jews somehow still thought that hey, maybe this guy isn't so bad after all.
Even Hitler's personal chauffeur, SS officer Emil Maurice, was Jewish according to the Nazi racial laws. He had to be declared an "honorary Aryan" to stay a Nazi. But none rose higher than Erhard Milch, a field marshal in the Luftwaffe. He had a Jewish father, which the Nazis lied about, claiming he was instead the product of incest. You know it's bad when "No no, he's just inbred!" is the preferred explanation.
Related: 25 Events You Learned In History Class (Didn't Happen)
Werewolves Were Tried Alongside Witches, Because Of Tomatoes
Baseball is to America as hunting witches was to Europe. Well, and also to America -- Salem and all -- but the point is that people used to really enjoy killing women. European witch trials resulted in the executions of thousands of women, but witches weren't the only magical creatures on trial. Thousands of men and women were also executed for being werewolves in the 15th and 16th centuries. Authorities at the time believed that the two went together like peanut butter and chocolate, and that the same goop witches used to make brooms fly also had the power to turn people into werewolves. Witches liked werewolves because they enjoyed visiting Hell and eating the "left sides of children" (hey, even a monster can be a connoisseur).
Weirdly, the main ingredients in the witches' ointment bore some resemblance to tomatoes. There was widespread skepticism about New World crops in Europe, and people simply did not trust tomatoes. Are they a fruit? Are they a vegetable? Are they safe to eat? Does consuming them seal an unholy pact with Beelzebub? People had a lot of questions, and they thought they'd found the answer to the last one in the medical knowledge of ancient Greece.
See, an ancient physician named Galen first described a mystery plant whose name was hard to translate, but probably meant "wolf-something." His drawing resembled a tomato plant, and by 1561, Europeans decided the tomato was this wolf plant. Even after Italians and Spaniards started incorporating tomatoes into their diet, the French and English remained firmly in the "tomatoes are Satanic" camp for a stupidly long time.
"White Slaves" Played An Important Role In The Abolition Movement
If the American South took gold at the racist Olympics, then the North won silver. Before and even during the Civil War, abolitionists found it difficult to get many northerners to really care about the plight of slaves. Many in the North were racist themselves, and they were also selfish. Emancipating 4 million people meant white workers would have a whole new labor force to compete with. Abolitionists were at a loss on how to capture the North's attention, until they stumbled on to the phenomenon of "white" slaves. If abolitionists could show Northerners that slavery extended to people who looked white, then maybe they could garner their support.
American slavery was unique both because of its racial characteristics and the fact that it was hereditary. For African Americans and their descendants, slavery was a condition of their existence, because only black people could be slaves. Race, however, is an arbitrary concept, and nothing highlighted that more than the American notion that having any black ancestors made one black. There were people considered black slaves if they were as little as 1/64 "black." This meant that in racially mixed areas such as New Orleans, there were plenty of slaves who looked very white.
Abolitionists started highlighting "white" slaves in popular magazines. An 1864 issue of Harper's prominently featured a picture of white children recently freed from New Orleans.
Related: The 17 Most Hilarious True Stories Left Out Of History Class
The Muslim Divisions Of The SS
Fascists today hate Muslims almost as much as they love Tucker Carlson, so it's easy to think that kind of racism started with Hitler. But Hitler and the Nazis actually had a very strange relationship with Islam. Hitler personally hated Christianity -- a religion he described as "Jewish filth" -- and described Islam as a "religion of men." He even wrote that Germany had historically developed the "wrong religion." It was his belief that if Germany had been Muslim rather than Christian, it would be a stronger, better country rather than the weak, and quoting Hitler here, "flabby" country he saw. Muslims, in Hitler's view, were not only strong, but also potential allies in his fight against the ... Allies.
Arabs and Muslims were exempt from Nazi racial laws for the duration of the Third Reich. When the Nazis conquered Muslim regions, they devoted considerable resources to rebuilding mosques and Madrasas, as well as training soldiers on the correct behavior when interacting with Muslims. Yes, the Nazis had cultural sensitivity courses.
The entire time, Hitler hoped to spark an Islamic jihad against the British and Russians (just like in WWI), uniting their forces in antisemitism. There were even entire divisions of Muslim SS. The Nazi high command once tried to use Islamic scripture to paint Hitler as a prophetic figure after the war in North Africa started to turn. In 1943, Himmler asked Nazi security forces to find passages that they could apply to Hitler. The security office replied that no such passages existed, but they might be able to portray Hitler as a Jesus figure who comes back at the end of the world to fight Dajjal (basically the Muslim version of the Antichrist). They then printed 1 million leaflets that read:
O Arabs, do you see that the time of the Dajjal has come? Do you recognize him, the fat, curly-haired Jew who deceives and rules the whole world and who steals the land of the Arabs? ... O Arabs, do you know the servant of God? He has already appeared in the world and already turned his lance against the Dajjal and his allies ... He will kill the Dajjal, as it is written, destroy his places and cast his allies into hell.
Amazingly, Muslims didn't buy this. The whole "holy warrior rising up for a mythical battle" thing didn't really click with the toothbrush mustache.
For more, check out How One Escaped Slave Changed The American Civil War Forever:
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