August 2, 2020
Day 215 of 366
August 2nd is the 215th day of the year. It is the Day of Azerbaijani Cinema in (where else?) Azerbaijan.
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Coloring Book Day, National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, American Family Day, National Friendship Day, and National Sisters Day. The last three are typically observed on the first Sunday in August.
Historical items of note:
- In 1776, the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence took place. Wait… what? The Declaration became official when Congress voted for it on July 4th, but signatures of the delegates were not needed to make it official. The handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence that was signed by Congress is dated July 4, 1776, but some of the fifty-six delegates that signed it were not present on that date. Some were not even elected to Congress at that point. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams all wrote that the Declaration had been signed by Congress on July 4th, but signer Thomas McKean disputed that account in 1796. August 2nd is the signing date that most historians agree on.
- In 1790, the first United States Census was conducted.
- In 1820, Irish-English physicist and mountaineer John Tyndall was born. He studied diamagnetism, and made discoveries in the realms of infrared radiation and the physical properties of air, proving the connection between atmospheric CO2 and what is now known as the greenhouse effect in 1859.
- In 1870, Tower Subway opened in London, England. It is the world’s first underground tube railway.
- In 1873, the Clay Street Hill Railroad began operating the first cable car in San Francisco’s famous cable car system.
- In 1892, production manager and producer Jack L. Warner was born. He co-founded Warner Bros.
- In 1918, the first general strike in Canadian history took place in Vancouver.
- In 1924, actor Carroll O’Connor was born.
- In 1932, the positron (the antiparticle of the electron) was discovered by Carl D. Anderson.
- Also in 1932, British-Irish actor and producer Peter O’Toole was born.
- In 1939, Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard wrote a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt, urging him to begin the Manhattan Project to develop a nuclear weapon.
- Also in 1939, director, producer, and screenwriter Wes Craven was born.
- In 1943, actor Max Wright was born.
- In 1945, actor Joanna Cassidy was born.
- In 1964, actress Mary-Louise Parker was born.
- In 1967, the film version of In the Heat of the Night premiered.
- In 1970, actor, director, producer, and screenwriter Kevin Smith was born.
- In 1973, American Graffiti premiered.
- In 1976, English-Australian actor and producer Sam Worthington was born.
- In 1999, The Sixth Sense premiered.
August 2nd is a day of several Romani genocide-related observances, including Roma Holocaust Memorial Day in Europe, Genocide Remembrance Day of the Roma and Sinti in Poland, and International Remembrance Day of the Holocaust of the Roma in Ukraine.
The Romani genocide – also known as the Romani Holocaust, the Porajmos (meaning “the Devouring”), the Pharrajimos (“the Cutting up”, “the Fragmentation”, “the Destruction”), and the Samudaripen (“the Mass Killing”) – was the effort spearheaded by Nazi Germany and the Axis forces to commit ethnic cleansing and eventually genocide against Europe’s Romani people.
Under Adolf Hitler, a supplementary decree to the Nuremberg Laws was issued on November 26, 1935, that classified the Romani as “enemies of the race-based state”. This placed them in the same category as the Jews and Poles. Historians estimate that between 220,000 and 500,000 Romani were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators, eradicating between 25% to 50% of the estimated population of Roma in Europe at the time. Later research increased the estimated death toll to approximately 1.5 million out of an estimated 2 million Roma.
Another aspect of the Romani Genocide was medical experimentation, particularly by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. His experiments included placing subjects in pressure chambers, testing drugs on them, freezing them, attempting to change their eye color by injecting chemicals into children’s eyes, and various amputations and other brutal surgeries. The extent of his brutalism is lost to time since his records were destroyed. Subjects who survived Mengele’s experiments were almost always killed and dissected shortly afterward.
The German government paid reparations to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, but not to the Romani due to their status as anti-social criminals rather than victims of religious and racial persecution. West Germany finally recognized the genocide of the Roma in 1982, and since then the Porajmos has been increasingly recognized as a genocide committed simultaneously with the Shoah.
Regardless of official reparations, several acts of commemoration and memorials have spread across the European continent.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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