In 1492 Italian seaman Christopher Columbus discovered America, ushering in a new age of exploration but also initiating the genocide of Native Americans in the New World. In 1942 Italian physicist Enrico Fermi conducted the first sustained nuclear fission reaction at an atomic pile at the University of Chicago, which led to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Two physicists, Arthur Compton and James Conant, exchanged messages after the fission experiment.
Compton: “Jim, you’ll be interested to know that the Italian navigator has just landed in the new world. The earth was not as large as he had estimated, and he arrived at the new world sooner than he had expected.”
Conant: “Is that so? Were the natives friendly?”
Compton: “Everyone landed safe and happy.”
In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
It was a bad year to be a Jew.
While Spain may have been good for Columbus in financing his explorations, the monarchy was bad to the Jews. Spanish Jews once formed a large and prosperous community, but they faced growing anti-Semitism in the 14th century, evidenced by restrictions on where and how Jews could live and conduct business, and massacres and forced conversion. The antipathy reached a peak in 1492 when on March 31 the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella issued the Edict of Expulsion, which ordered all Jews to leave the kingdom by the last day of July. At least 200,000 fled the country.
This 1492 “Final Solution” was taken to a deadlier level in the decision to implement the “Final Solution” or Die Endlosung, which was made at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin on January 20, 1942. Heinrich Himmler was the chief architect for the extermination of the Jews.