History Book

NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book.

Today, a Nazi death-camp revolt during World War II.

Plus, the 25th anniversary of the Great Mississippi River flood.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: But first: the death of an American colonist who laid the foundation for democracy and religious freedom.

Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today with July 30th, 1718. The founder of the Pennsylvania Colony, William Penn, dies of complications from a stroke.

Penn was born into a wealthy and influential English family in 16-44. His father—an admiral and lord. At age 22, William Penn converted to Quakerism, causing a rift with his father, portrayed here in the 1942 film: The Courageous Mr. Penn.

AUDIO: How can all men be brothers? But father, it says in the Bible…pah! You’re just an argumentative, obstinate fool! If you want to associate with your crazy mob, you’ll have to leave my house, I shall disinherit you and have nothing more to do with you!

Penn traveled across England and Europe with Quaker founder George Fox, preaching a theology of faith and worship without ritual or clergy. He faced arrest many times but refused to recant. Before his father’s death, the two reconciled and Penn inherited a great fortune.

In 1680, King Charles the Second granted Penn a land holding in America as payment for a large debt owed to his father. Two years later, Penn arrived in the colony.  

In 1682, Penn drafted a charter for the Pennsylvania settlement, guaranteeing free and fair trial by jury, freedom from unjust imprisonment, and freedom of religion:

AUDIO: I do for me and mine declare and establish for the first fundamental of my province, that every person that doth and shall reside therein shall have and enjoy the free profession of his or her faith and exercise worship towards God in such a way and manner as every such person shall, in conscience, believe most acceptable to God.

The democratic principles he set forth in the Pennsylvania Frame of Government served as an inspiration for the United States Constitution.

AUDIO: Music, Jewish song

Next, August 2nd, 1943, 75 years ago this week. Jewish prisoners stage a revolt at Treblinka, one of six Nazi extermination camps in Poland.

Inspired by the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the prisoners seize weapons, attack guards, and set fire to some buildings. In the confusion, about 300 inmates attempt to escape through the camp’s barbed-wire fences.


Samuel Willenberg was one of the prisoners who survived the revolt. In 2013, he told his story during a 70th anniversary commemoration of the event at the camp’s memorial gate.


He says, “We ran straight into the forest. The whole mutiny took 20 minutes, maybe half-an-hour.” Guards in the watchtowers immediately gun down many escapees, though 100 prisoners manage to evade the ensuing manhunt.

Exterminations continued at Treblinka until October, 1943. Upon closing the camp, the Germans destroyed it and burned as much evidence of their crimes as possible. It’s estimated the Nazis murdered more than 800,000 people at Treblinka during its 18-months in operation.

And finally, August 1st, 1993, 25 years ago.

NEWSCAST: Our top story tonight at 10, a call is out tonight for more sandbaggers in South St. Louis…

After a wet winter and spring, heavy rains throughout the summer of 1993 create widespread flooding across the Mississippi River region. News helicopter coverage courtesy of KSDK.

NEWS HELICOPTER COVERAGE: There’s an actual breach in the levee at the farm house as water is just flowing through it at a tremendous rate…

A scene played out from Minnesota to Missouri: Hundreds of levees failing along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Water covers nine states and 400,000 square miles—in some locations the inundation lasted nearly 200 days.

AUDIO: Many residents say the worst is yet to come when the water recedes and the cleanup begins…

On August 1, 1993, the Mississippi River crests at 49.6 feet in St. Louis, nearly 20 feet above flood stage: almost a foot higher than the great flood of 1844. The flood killed more than 30 people and cost nearly $15 billion dollars in damage.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book. I’m Paul Butler.

(Photo/Missouri Water Science Center)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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