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Topic: History (Read 3317 times)
August 04, 2008, 08:16:49 AM »
This thread is for items of interest we run across about moments in history. For example, I have never really understood WW1. On this day in 1914 the British declared war on Germany, and the NY Times today has its article from then. For me, it helps give a sense of what people then thought they were up to. Here it is:
England Declares War on Germany
British Ship Sunk
French Ships Defeat German, Belgium Attacked
17,000,000 Men Engaged in Great War of Eight Nations
Great English and German Navies About to Grapple
Rival Warships Off This Port as Lusitania Sails
State of War Exists, Says Britain, as Kaiser Rejects Ultimatum
MUST DEFEND BELGIUM
King George Issues Call to Arms and Thanks the Colonies for Their Support
ENVOY LEAVES BERLIN
British Foreign Office Makes Final Announcement One Hour Before Time Limit
VOTE $525,000,000 Fund
England Takes All Foreign Warships Building in Her Ports -- Two From Turkey
JAPAN TO AID ENGLAND
To Smash the Kiel Canal Probably English Fleet's First Attempt Against Germany
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
Kaiser Hurls Two Armies Into Belgium After Declaring War: Liege Attack Repulsed: German Guns Are Reported to be Bombarding Both That City and Namur: Belgians Rush to Arms: Parliament Acclaims King's Appeal and Votes $40,000,000 for National Defense: French Border Clashes: Stronger German Forces Crossing the Border Near Marsla-Tour and Moineville: Russians Attack Memel: Seacoast Town of Germany Defeats Attempts of Enemy to Capture It
Over 17,000,000 Fighting Men of Eight Nations Now Engaged in the Colossal European War
Cunarder Slips Out; Will Pick Up British Cruisers as Escorts:
German Warships Near: Liner to Head for Newfoundland, Where Other English Ships Will Meet Her: French Cruisers Outside: Wireless Code Messages From Telefunken Station at Sayville Aid German Cruisers: To Be Sent to Washington: The Dresden Reported Off Cape Cod in an Attempt to Cut French Cable: Our Destroyers Put Out: Liner Olympic Sails in Under Convoy of Cruiser Essex -- German Warships Outclassed
German Fleet Sinks a British Mine Layer: Scoutship Pathfinder Is Chased by the Kaiser's Warships But Makes Its Escape
Two German Warships Taken, Another Sunk: French Fleet in the Mediterranean Reported to Have Won a Victory
Conspiracy Scare on the Vaterland:
Talk of Plot to Blow Her Up Brings Launches With Searchlights, and 50 Policemen
British Declaration of War With Germany, Following Rejection of Her Demand
England Calls All Unmarried Men From 18 to 30 to Serve King and Country in This Hour of Need
London, Wednesday, Aug. 5-- War is on between England and Germany. An ultimatum to the German Government that the neutrality of Belgium must be respected was rejected by the Kaiser's Government and the British Foreign Office announced last night that a state of war existed.
The time limit for Germany's reply was set at midnight, but the Foreign Office announced that as Germany had given his passports to the British envoy at an earlier hour, the state of war existed from 11 o'clock.
King George has issued his proclamation mobilizing the army and has sent a message to the colonies thanking them for their hearty support in the hour of national emergency.
The Government has assumed control of all the railways and the Admirality has taken over all the foreign warships now building in English ports. The House of Commons has voted a fund of $525,000,000 for the emergency.
England Cool in Great Crisis
England is facing this, the greatest crisis in her history, with calmness and courage. Sir Edward Grey's exposition has made it clear that the war is none of her seeking, and that she goes into it because her honor and her self-preservation alike compel her to do so. There is neither any sign of panic nor flame of war fever. All parties and all classes present a united front. The few exceptions are not worthy of mention. The protests that the Labor members of Parliament and a few Liberals have made in the House of Commons do not represent the prevalent feeling either in the ranks of labor or among the avowed pacifists. The peace-at-any price advocates are submerged beneath the huge majority who would have welcomed peace with honor but prefer war to dishonor.
Liberal newspapers like The Westminster Gazette, The Daily Chronicle, and even The Daily News accept the situation as inevitable.
"Here we stand, and we can do no other. The Germans will recognize that famous phrase," says The Westminster Gazette, "and understand that it expresses the feelings of the vast majority of the British people."
The demeanor of the crowds last evening and this morning began to betray growing excitement . A procession of a thousand young men marched along by Whitehall and up the Strand, cheering. It was headed by a squad carrying the Union Jack of England and the tricolor of France. As it passed Trafalgar Square there was some booing, but the cheering outweighed it. Fleet Street last evening was jammed by crowds watching the bulletins. Occasionally they sang "The Marseillaise" and "God Save the King."
Soon after the announcement of Germany's declaration of war against Belgium was displayed on the bulletin board- the crowds, evidently believing no greater news was likely to come, quietly dispersed, and by 11 o'clock Fleet Street was as quiet as usual.
Would Smash Kiel Canal
Premier Asquith's statement in the House of Commons yesterday that the German Government had been asked to give satisfactory assurances on the question of Belgium's neutrality by midnight was generally regarded as meaning that England was prepared to strike at once if the reply was unfavorable.
The German fleet is concentrated for the defense of the Kiel Canal. Its destruction will be the first object of the British fleet. Germany's compliance with the British ultimatum was not expected. Germany, according to a statement emanating from her London embassy, would have consented to refrain from using Belgian ports and would have confined her violation of neutrality to the inland districts if Great Britain would agree to hold aloof. It is obvious that a compact on such lines would have been useless to Great Britain. Belgian neutrality is strategically important in two ways -- by sea to Great Britain and Germany and by land to Germany and France. If England abandoned it in its land aspect, nobody, not even the Belgians, would have been willing to defend it when it was threatened in its sea aspect.
It seemed unlikely from the start that Germany would desist, because it was a matter affecting the military plans of her General Staff. The whole German theory of war is to make plans years ahead and have everything down to the last railway siding ready for their execution, and to carry them out without deviation. It is probable that the present plan was made as long ago as when Anglo-German hostility was an axiom, and there was no question in German minds of so shaping their strategy as to keep Great Britain neutral.
German Ships in Peril
As was anticipated, Germany's first naval effort was to deal a heavy blow to the Russians in the Baltic, but as yet there is insufficient evidence that it succeeded or that the Russian fleet was rendered powerless. Germany's most urgent need, according to experts, is to assemble all her available naval forces on the west, principally in the North Sea, but, these experts say, the Germans are not likely to seek battle, hoping the strength of their adversaries may be reduced by the action of mines and torpedoes.
Two German cruisers seem to be in peril. The battle cruiser Goeben, on the way from the Mediterranean, is reported to have passed Gibraltar, steaming westward. She will not venture through the English Channel, and must travel homeward via the west coast of Ireland and north of Scotland. An attempt certainly will be made to intercept her, and the need of carrying assistance to her may bring about a fleet action. The German cruiser Brealau is reported to have shelled Bona before proceeding westward toward Gibraltar. Her position seems perilous in the extreme.
Control of Railway Lines
The Governmet took over the railways to complete the co-ordination of the railway facilities, in view of the military and naval requirements and the needs of the civil communities. The staff of each railway remains as before. Supreme control is vested in a committee composed of the General Managers of the chief railways.
The Acting Chairman is H. A. Walker, manager of the London & Southwestern, who is well known among American railway men. The committee was formed some days ago. The Great Eastern is not represented, possibly because its General Manager, H.W. Thornton, is an American.
News Flashed to Navy
When the announcement of the state of war was made by the Foreign Office, and the quietness of the Summer night was suddenly broken by the raucus cries of the news venders, the streets were practically empty. The ordinary troops of theatregoers were conspicuous for their absence. Midnight was considered the fateful hour when orders would be flashed by wireless to the British Navy to begin operations.
Reports which had spread during the evening that German warships had sunk a British mine finder and chased the destroyer Pathfinder, were taken as another instance of Germany's method of taking an unfair advantage and acting before war actually was declared.
Sir John Jellicoe, who has been long regarded as predestined to head the fleet in case of war, has taken supreme command, with Rear Admiral Madden as Chief of Staff. Sir John Jellicoe, who is familiarly known as "J. J.," is a typical, keen-faced officer, distinguished for his personal courage as well as for scientific gunnery. He has the German decoration of the Red Eagle. Lord Kitchener is taking the Administrative part of the work of the War Office, where Lord Haldane is assisting Mr. Asquith.
The only panicky note which struck the English press hard came from The Evening News, which came out in a poster headed "Treachery" and stating that Lord Haldane's German sympathies made his apointment to the War Office a matter of suspicion to France. The New York Times correspondent saw Lord Haldane at Whitehall yesterday afternoon walking toward Westminster. When accosted he said there was nothing he could say.
Lord Haldane did yeoman service when at the War Office, and a Liberal paper says the worst news Germany could receive is that he has returned to the department.
England's war with Germany is likely to be purely a naval conflict for the time being. Germany will keep her fleet sheltered at Wilhemshaven and trust to her submarines and torpedo boats to reduce the strength of the British investing fleet. The reported sinking of a mine-layer probably is due to this. The feature of the Anglo-German war will be the strewing of the North Sea with floating mines.
Asquith's Impressive Speech
The first chapter of the critical events of the day was unfolded when Premier Asquith read his statement in the House of Commons. The Premier read in a firm and measured voice, and his hand shook as he held the typewritten copy. His words were listened to in a silence that was almost uncanny, so tense and overwrought was the crowded House.
After he had read the telegrams exchanged between London and Berlin and London and Brussels, Mr. Asquith's announcement of the ultimatum to Germany demanding an answer by midnight was greeted with prolonged applause. There was a strange note of solemnity in the deep cheers that rolled up from all sides like thunder waves beating on a rockbound shore. Plainly enough the telegrams had eaten deep into the feelings of the audiences, revealing Germany's disregard of the law of nations in browbeating Belgium.
Until yesterday afternoon a strong minority of the Liberal Party was in favor of British neutrality. Sir Edward Grey's speech reduced the minority to small proportions. Today's events almost extinguished it.
Even the Labor members, despite their sworn devotion to neutrality, were unfavorably impressed by this sample of German methods. A Scotch Radical member, who hates war, said: "Germany leaves us no alternative but to fight. We are standing for public law; she is trampling upon it.
"It is another struggle in the incessant conflict between right and force, wherein the rival champions in the last generation were Gladstone and Bismarck. Mr. Gladstone, who was a most peaceful statesman, said he would spend every shilling of the British exchequer and employ every soldier in the British Army in the defense of the independence of Belgium."
The Iron Curtain
Reply #1 on:
October 29, 2009, 10:40:01 AM »
Miep Gies/Ann Frank
Reply #2 on:
January 30, 2010, 12:22:24 PM »
Miep Gies, who helped hide Anne Frank, dies at 100
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Miep Gies, the office secretary who defied the Nazi occupiers to hide Anne Frank and her family for two years and saved the teenager's diary, has died, the Anne Frank Museum said Tuesday. She was 100.
Gies' Web site reported that she died Monday after a brief illness. The report was confirmed by museum spokeswoman Maatje Mostar, but she gave no details. The British Broadcasting Corp. said she died in a nursing home after suffering a fall last month.
Gies was the last of the few non-Jews who supplied food, books and good cheer to the secret annex behind the canal warehouse where Anne, her parents, sister and four other Jews hid for 25 months during World War II.
After the apartment was raided by the German police, Gies gathered up Anne's scattered notebooks and papers and locked them in a drawer for her return after the war. The diary, which Anne Frank was given on her 13th birthday, chronicles her life in hiding from June 12, 1942 until August 1, 1944.
Gies refused to read the papers, saying even a teenager's privacy was sacred. Later, she said if she had read them she would have had to burn them because they incriminated the "helpers."
Anne Frank died of typhus at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945, just two weeks before the camp was liberated. Gies gave the diary to Anne's father Otto, the only survivor, who published it in 1947.
After the diary was published, Gies tirelessly promoted causes of tolerance. She brushed aside the accolades for helping hide the Frank family as more than she deserved -- as if, she said, she had tried to save all the Jews of occupied Holland.
"This is very unfair. So many others have done the same or even far more dangerous work," she wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press days before her 100th birthday last February.
"The Diary of Anne Frank" was the first popular book about the Holocaust, and has been read by millions of children and adults around the world in some 65 languages.
For her courage, Gies was bestowed with the "Righteous Gentile" title by the Israeli Holocaust museum Yad Vashem. She has also been honored by the German Government, Dutch monarchy and educational institutions.
Nevertheless, Gies resisted being made a character study of heroism for the young.
"I don't want to be considered a hero," she said in a 1997 online chat with schoolchildren.
"Imagine young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary."
Born Hermine Santrouschitz on Feb. 15, 1909 in Vienna, Gies moved to Amsterdam in 1922 to escape food shortages in Austria. She lived with a host family who gave her the nickname Miep.
In 1933, Gies took a job as an office assistant in the spice business of Otto Frank. After refusing to join a Nazi organization in 1941, she avoided deportation to Austria by marrying her Dutch boyfriend, Jan Gies.
As the Nazis ramped up their arrests and deportations of Dutch Jews, Otto Frank asked Gies in July 1942 to help hide his family in the annex above the company's canal-side warehouse on Prinsengracht 263 and to bring them food and supplies.
"I answered, 'Yes, of course.' It seemed perfectly natural to me. I could help these people. They were powerless, they didn't know where to turn," she said years later.
Jan and Miep Gies worked with four other employees in the firm to sustain the Franks and four other Jews sharing the annex. Jan secured extra food ration cards from the underground resistance. Miep cycled around the city, alternating grocers to ward off suspicions from this highly dangerous activity.
In her e-mail to the AP last February, Gies remembered her husband, who died in 1993, as one of Holland's unsung war heroes. "He was a resistance man who said nothing but did a lot. During the war he refused to say anything about his work, only that he might not come back one night. People like him existed in thousands but were never heard," she wrote.
Touched by Anne's precocious intelligence and loneliness, Miep also brought Anne books and newspapers while remembering everybody's birthdays and special days with gifts.
"It seems as if we are never far from Miep's thoughts," Anne wrote.
In her own book, "Anne Frank Remembered," Gies recalled being in the office when the German police, acting on a tip that historians have failed to trace, raided the hide-out in August 1944.
A policeman opened the door to the main office and pointed a revolver at the three employees, telling them to sit quietly. "Bep, we've had it," Gies whispered to Bep Voskuijl.
After the arrests, she went to the police station to offer a bribe for the Franks' release, but it was too late. On Aug. 8, they were sent to Westerbork, a concentration camp in eastern Holland from where they were later packed into cattle cars and deported to Auschwitz. A few months later, Anne and her sister Margot were transported to Bergen-Belsen.
Two of the helpers, Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman, were sent to labor camps, but survived the war.
Around 140,000 Jews lived in the Netherlands before the 1940-45 Nazi occupation. Of those, 107,000 were deported to Germany and only 5,200 survived. Some 24,000 Jews went into hiding, of which 8,000 were hunted down or turned in.
After the war, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam and lived with the Gies family until he remarried in 1952. Miep worked for him as he compiled the diary, then devoted herself to talking about the diary and answering piles of letters with questions from around the world.
After Otto Frank's death in 1980, Gies continued to campaign against Holocaust-deniers and to refute allegations that the diary was a forgery.
She suffered a stroke in 1997 which slightly affected her speech, but she remained generally in good health as she approached her 100th birthday.
Her son Paul Gies said last year she was still receiving "a sizable amount of mail" which she handled with the help of a family friend. She spent her days at the apartment where she lived since 2000 reading two daily newspapers and following television news and talk shows.
Her husband died in 1993. She is survived by her son and three grandchildren.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
WW2: Occupied France
Reply #3 on:
December 12, 2010, 10:14:20 AM »
By MODRIS EKSTEINS
We are now more than 65 years away from the end of World War II, but that global conflict and its precursor, the so-called Great War of 1914-18, continue to fascinate and torment us, even as the veterans who fought in them retreat to another realm. What is striking about the current spate of books and movies about these conflicts is that for many in the West, they no longer seem to represent the unequivocal victory of good over evil, right over wrong, liberty over tyranny. A plethora of historical reassessments of the aerial campaigns against German and Japanese cities question not only the moral but also the political validity of the carpet-bombing of civilians. In his recent film, "Inglourious Basterds," Quentin Tarantino turned all tables when he had Jews behaving like Nazis, and in the massive HBO mini-series "The Pacific" a Marine's reference to "yellow monkeys" reverberates through the entire series.
All wars, but these two in particular, with their mass effort and mass death—the first great democratic wars of history—are now freighted with the toxic irony that came to pervade the 20th century and continues to afflict us still. If today we question traditional narratives, no longer trust our leaders and have lost all faith in grand ideas, the gnarled roots of such skepticism lead back through the World Wars of the last century.
In "And the Show Went On," Alan Riding, former Paris bureau chief of the New York Times, tracks a period of particular moral murkiness. He focuses on French writers and artists—the whole lot might, in an act of leveling, be called artistes—and their response to the German invasion of France in 1940. Mr. Riding is less interested, though, in the broader historical implications of his theme than in the human stories that emerge when the imagination is confronted by a violent reality.
For the French the defeat in 1940, and the next four years of German occupation, remain the most sensitive and sensational of all historical topics. Before his execution in February 1945, the openly collaborationist yet highly talented writer Robert Brasillach remarked: "Whatever their outlook, during these years the French have all more or less been to bed with Germany." But, as recently as May 2008, French president Nicolas Sarkozy continued to claim the high ground: "The true France," he asserted, "never collaborated." A nation that has always cherished its intellectuals, that rightly prides itself on its cultivation of the arts, is still tortured by the notion that the thoughtful, sensitive and most intelligent "Marianne" ever slept with the arrogant and brutal "Fritz." Mr. Riding shows that she did, and with considerable relish at that. As the vivacious actress Arletty put it so unforgettably in pondering her predicament during the occupation: "My heart is French but my ass is international."
And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris
By Alan Riding
Knopf, 400 pages, $28.95
.For most of us, Mr. Riding's conclusion is hardly news, certainly not the headline stuff it was in the early 1970s when the historian Robert O. Paxton of Columbia University exploded the myth of a broad French opposition to the occupying Germans—and a broad refusal to collaborate. Until Mr. Paxton's research was published, the French had lived under the comfortable illusion that the true France, as President Sarkozy would have it, had been intrepid members of the Resistance, supporters of Charles de Gaulle and the Free French and anti-German through and through. The can of worms that Mr. Paxton opened has been spoiling the air at the elegant Deux Magots café on the Boulevard Saint-Germain ever since.
RoBut what constituted collaboration or resistance? Any attempt to define those terms conjures up all the fundamental problems of our modern and postmodern world, a world not of fixity but of fluidity. Where do we put the philosopher-playwright Jean-Paul Sartre, who continued to publish during the occupation and later reinvented himself as a great résistant? Or the remarkable novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline, an avowed anti-Semite who nevertheless insisted that he hated the Germans just as much? Or that artistic provocateur, Jean Cocteau, who was at the very center of social life in occupied Paris but later felt abused by the accusation that he had collaborated, claiming ingenuously that "People are always thrusting me into scandals." Notoriety or flattery often seemed more appealing to this group than truth. And what about those world-renowned entertainers Édith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and Sacha Guitry, who clearly needed the bright lights as much for psychological as economic reasons? Piaf's subsequent signature song "Non, je ne regrette rien" ("No, I regret nothing") reverberated with double meaning. Where, too, should we slot a pan-European like Alfred Fabre-Luce, whose dream was a united Europe and who saw in German conquest, faute de mieux, a step toward that dream?
Mr. Riding is very good at pointing to the complexities and ambiguities of the situation. He retraces much of the ground that Frederic Spotts covered in 2008 in "The Shameful Peace," but the two authors, while both expatriate residents of France, take opposed positions. Mr. Spotts has nothing but scorn for those who compromised between 1940 and 1944, whatever the reason. Mr. Riding, by contrast, finds the behavior of most French thinkers, painters and performers all too human. Many vacillated. Many were concerned merely with survival. Many who joined the Resistance later had been quick to cooperate earlier. The entertainment industry hardly skipped a beat. More plays and movies were produced in those four years than in any comparable four-year period in the French past. The Germans were delighted; such frenetic activity was exactly what they wanted, and they probably exercised less control in France than in any other territory they occupied.
.The divide in France on the painful subject of the German occupation during World War II is in part generational and in part political. Because of the difficulty of defining collaboration and resistance, the two sides have found little common ground. Robert O. Paxton initiated the French debate with his landmark "Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-44" (1972). Among more recent books, the British historian Julian Jackson's "The Fall of France" (2003) and "France: The Dark Years, 1940-44" (2001) are exceptional for their industry and integrity.
Irène Némirovsky's enormously successful novel "Suite Française" (first published in English in 2006) gives one a poignant sense of the ambiguities inherent in the situation after June 1940: "Their conversation," she wrote of her characters, "was pessimistic, almost despairing, but their voices light-hearted."
Because it is so troubling, very little of the remarkable work of Ernst Jünger, who accompanied the German occupiers of Paris, has been trans lated into English. The French, however, have always been fascinated by him—his diary for the years of occupation is available en français—and upon his death in February 1998, at age 102, Le Monde titled its obituary "Le Siècle de Jünger," identifying the 20th century with him.
Jean Galtier-Boissière may have kept the most readable French diary during those dark years. Alas, this too has not been translated into English. A brilliant editor, he had founded the satirical monthly Le Crapouillot during the Great War. In its issue of January 1931, devoted to Berlin, the journal announced that, by comparison with the German capital, Paris was tame and chaste—countering the impression that both Alan Riding and Frederic Spotts wish to leave.
On the aesthetics of Nazism, the most intriguing recent contribution is Roger Griffin's "Modernism and Fascism" (2007), which takes the analysis of Nazism far beyond Frederic Spotts's more narrowly focused study "Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics" (2002). Albert Speer's memoir, "Inside the Third Reich" (1970), remains invaluable, as do the various translated volumes of Joseph Goebbels's diaries. Goebbels was of course the Nazi "minister of enlightenment." The sculptor Arno Breker, whose massive show at the Orangerie in Paris in 1942 attracted much attention, is the subject of a fascinating section in Jonathan Petropoulos's "The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany " (2000).
Film has probably been a more suitable medium for delving into the anguish and complexity of the Nazi occupation than the written word. Alain Resnais's "Night and Fog" (1955), Marcel Ophüls's "The Sorrow and the Pity" (1969), Louis Malle's "Lacombe, Lucien" (1974) and Joseph Losey's "Monsieur Klein" (1976) are a few of the outstanding cinematic contributions.
.Contradiction would be the offspring of fear and confusion. The writers Ramon Fernandez and Marguerite Duras—the one a convinced collaborationist, the other a member of the Resistance—were neighbors on the Rue Saint-Benoît. While sharing the same cleaning woman, they would intentionally ignore each other's social gatherings, be they of noisy fascists or furtive résistants. In comparable fashion, the writers Pierre Drieu La Rochelle and André Malraux, while political foes, remained personal friends. After a visit to Germany in 1935, Drieu had embraced Nazism, whereas Malraux supported the anti-fascist Popular Front in France. These differences notwithstanding, Drieu would become godfather to one of Malraux's children, and Malraux would seek to protect Drieu after the liberation in 1944.
Unlike Mr. Spotts, Mr. Riding refuses to judge. Instead he cites Anthony Eden, Britain's wartime foreign secretary: "If one hasn't been through the horrors of an occupation by a foreign power, you have no right to pronounce upon what a country does which has been through all that." The logical extension of Mr. Riding's carefully constructed and sympathetic account would be a similar retelling of the other stories of Europe, without the usual polemical and self-righteous tone. In Eastern Europe, where the only choice was between two totalitarian options, communist or fascist, the dilemma was even more horrific than in France. It was easiest not to think about it and just play according to the rules in force that day.
For some the most fascinating chapter in Mr. Riding's evocative book will be the one on Florence Gould, whose tale highlights the moral conundrums of the time. Born in San Francisco of French parents in 1895, she married the enormously wealthy Frank Jay Gould, heir to a railroad fortune and owner of a consortium of hotels and casinos on the Riviera. The Goulds remained in France during the war: he in the south, she principally in Paris, where she ran a vibrant and sumptuous "literary" salon, visited by all sides in the conflict.
In a city where shortages were the norm, her gatherings never lacked for Dom Pérignon or petits fours. Ernst Jünger, the brilliant German soldier and writer, was one of her closest companions (though Mr. Riding rejects the widespread assumption that they were lovers). Florence—even the name evoked angels of mercy and an identity beyond borders—represents, some might say, the more modern Marianne, so feminine, so attractive, yet so cosmopolitan. "I may not know much about literature," she said, "but I know a lot about writers." While Mr. Spotts dismisses her as little more than a spoiled and vulgar tramp, Mr. Riding imbues her with considerable charm. Her long career as hostess and patron, both during and again after the war, lends credence to the latter judgment.
Engrossed in the immediacy of his story, Mr. Riding rarely pans to the wider view. If he had done so, he might have noted that at the heart of the 20th-century tragedy, pumping the blood of Modernism as a broadly based cultural mode and mood, was not Paris or France; it was Berlin and Germany. Many of the impulses for creative destruction—industrial, technological, scientific and intellectual—emanated from this heartland of the European continent. But at the same time the violence that the French were inclined to blame exclusively on the alien intruder, le Boche, had a powerful resonance within.
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Roger-Viollet / The Image Works
Maurice Chevalier on a visit arranged by occupation authorities to French prisoners of war in Germany in the winter of 1941-42.
.If Friedrich Nietzsche postulated, with some reason, that he was dynamite, Louis Aragon, the French poet and novelist, gave this abstraction a more practical dimension when he said that he could imagine nothing more beautiful than the "splendid and chaotic heap" produced by a cathedral and some dynamite. In the Second Surrealist Manifesto, in 1929, André Breton stated: "The simplest Surrealist act consists in going down into the street, guns in hand, and shooting at random, for as long as possible, into the crowd." This violent motif, this rage against tradition, deeply embedded in French painterly and literary imaginings, predated 1914, let alone 1940. The whole aim of artistic and literary modernism since the tail end of the 19th century had been to break down boundaries, definitions, laws and categories. Artists and intellectuals—the advance guard—were at war with the status quo before the military started fighting in either war.
Correspondingly, the appeal of Hitler and the Third Reich to some of the French and indeed European intelligentsia was based on this anger, resentment and craving for change. But the appeal was fortified by the importance Nazism assigned to the arts. On his only visit to Paris, on June 23, 1940, Hitler asked to see the Garnier opera house before any other building and admitted, according to the sculptor Arno Breker who accompanied him, that he wanted to be "surrounded by artists." With this emphasis on artists and aesthetic considerations, what Nazism did was to accelerate a process whereby politics would be turned into spectacle, an art form for the masses, and art in turn would become inseparable from politics. As reluctant as we may be to admit it, Hitler helped usher in our world.
—Mr. Eksteins is professor emeritus of history at the University of Toronto. His forthcoming book, "Solar Dance," deals with the posthumous success of Vincent van Gogh.
Crimea war photos circa 1856-8.
Reply #4 on:
June 25, 2011, 10:26:23 PM »
Reply #5 on:
June 10, 2012, 10:24:48 AM »
This is my review of a new exhibition about Churchill at the Morgan. Great man.
Successes in Rhetoric: Language in the Life of Churchill
‘Churchill: The Power of Words,’ at the Morgan Library
By EDWARD ROTHSTEIN
Published: June 8, 2012
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Courtesy of the Churchill Family
Churchill: The Power of Words The exhibition, at the Morgan Library & Museum, includes a portrait of him from about 1895.
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Courtesy of the Churchill Archives Center
A cable to Churchill after D-Day.
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A 1941 portrait of Winston Churchill.
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Churchill Archives Center
A New York doctor's 1932 approval of Churchill's medicating with a "naturally indefinite" amount of alcohol "at meal times."
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Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge
An 1890 letter from Churchill to his mother.
The orotund proclamations will be unavoidable at the new exhibition “Churchill: The Power of Words,” at the Morgan Library & Museum, because at the center of the gallery is a semi-enclosed theater. And from it, however muted, will emerge recordings of Winston Churchill’s voice, speaking to Parliament, to British radio listeners and to American audiences, breaking on the ear like waves, rising and falling with every breath, sometimes suspended unexpectedly in midair, other times rushing forward with renewed vigor.
If you enter that small theater to hear excerpts from eight of his landmark speeches more clearly, you will also see the words on screen, laid out in poetic scansion (“The whole fury and might of the enemy/must very soon be turned on us”), just as Churchill wrote them, to match the rhythms of his voice.
But ignore the sound, if you can, and leave it for last. For it is best first to be reminded just how important those speeches by a British prime minister really were, and what difference they made.
This isn’t a history exhibition, so you won’t be able to take their full measure; you won’t fully grasp how washed up Churchill’s political career was in the mid-1930s; how few in England were prepared to recognize what was taking place in Germany; how few were also prepared to think the unthinkable about war, scarcely 20 years after the continent was so stained in blood; and how visionary Churchill was, in knowing what would happen and in understanding what price would be paid.
So you won’t really be able to understand that there was a period — between Germany’s beginning to bomb England in 1940 (killing more than 40,000) and the United States’ entrance to the war at the end of 1941 — when England might well have fallen or made generous accommodation to German demands, had Churchill not been a master of words and ideas, rallying his “great island nation” as prime minister with promises of blood, toil, tears and sweat.
But you will see enough to get a sense of what his wartime leadership meant. And what the rest of this fine exhibition accomplishes is to show how Churchill’s words can seem the expression of a life force, mixing mercurial passions and extraordinary discipline, passionate devotion and exuberant self-promotion, extravagant indulgence and ruthless analysis. The show, which opened on Friday, helps put a life in perspective that even during the years after the Sept. 11 attacks has been energetically celebrated as an ideal and just as energetically derided by critics for its intemperate character.
More than 60 documents and artifacts have been gathered by Allen Packwood, the director of the Churchill Archives Center at the University of Cambridge, England, for this exhibition, also drawing on the holdings of Churchill’s house at Chartwell, Kent. There are few opportunities to see these documents on public display, even in England, though many have been digitized as part of the museum at the Churchill Center and Museum in London.
There are letters from Winston’s difficult childhood, when his wealthy American mother and neglectful, titled father sent him to boarding school at 8. (An early letter home from 1883 or ’84 is scrawled with a child’s “X’s” — kisses rarely returned by any but his beloved nanny.) And there is a report card in which the child, not yet 10, is described as “a constant trouble to everybody.”
But we see the adventurer and historian begin to evolve, courting danger in battle and then writing its history. (“I am more ambitious for a reputation for personal courage,” he wrote his mother in 1897, “than of anything else in the world.”) There are drafts of speeches that are mapped out like poetry, a sample of Churchill’s amateur landscape painting, his Nobel Prize in Literature from 1953 “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory.” (The onetime Prime Minister Arthur Balfour described Churchill’s three-volume history of World War I as a “brilliant autobiography disguised as a history of the universe.”)
Perhaps the most remarkable document here is a New York doctor’s prescription from Jan. 26, 1932. Churchill had been on a lecture tour when he was hit by a car at Fifth Avenue and 76th Street and needed medical assistance.
“This is to certify,” the doctor writes — this in the midst of Prohibition — “that the postaccident convalescence of the Hon. Winston S. Churchill necessitates the use of alcoholic spirits especially at meal times.” The quantity, the doctor continues, is “naturally indefinite,” but the “minimum requirements would be 250 cubic centimeters,” or just over 8 ounces.
That “naturally indefinite” quantity would become one of Churchill’s trademarks, along with his cigars and the rhythms of his voice, which was heavily used in his political career. He was a candidate in 21 parliamentary contests between 1899 and 1955, losing 5 of them. But all of this — even the elaborate touch screens showing every document in the exhibition, along with other documents and transcriptions of handwriting — would inspire purely specialized interest had it not been for Churchill’s speeches and writings from the mid-1930s into the 1950s.
This was a rhetorical achievement, almost a musical one, in which Churchill’s innate optimism provided a kind of elevating promise even as he was trying to map out the scope of cataclysm. It was also a strategic achievement, for in his speeches we can see him demonstrating that there were choices to be made. And it was a political achievement because before the United States was involved in World War II, America had to be addressed as well, made to understand the stakes.
Churchill shaped a notion of the “English-speaking peoples” that proved fundamental because he understood that the English literary and political traditions had defined the very character of liberal democracy that was coming under threat. Churchill’s speeches declared an allegiance of language and of ideology. They also helped shape that allegiance, celebrating a particular heritage and its possibilities, while emphasizing its vulnerabilities and the need for its defense.
The achievement is a little like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, defining the stakes of the Civil War while reshaping the America’s conception of itself. There are a few comparisons between Churchill and Lincoln in these documents, which seem thoroughly appropriate. (President Roosevelt framed some lines by Lincoln as a 70th-birthday gift for Churchill in 1944.)
Churchill was attentive to the long line of historical ideas. And his ability to conjure that tradition for support is another reason individual setbacks were less crucial for him. Something larger was at stake. It wasn’t just a matter of opposition; it was a matter of what was being championed, even if the British Empire was in its twilight and the United States was beginning to bear the standard.
This was a reason Churchill urged the United States to claim European territory in the late days of the war, to prevent Stalin from gaining too much control. It was Churchill, in the wake of the war, who saw what was on the horizon. “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,” he said in his famous 1946 speech in Fulton, Mo., “an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” There would be no respite for the war-weary.
All this is latent in this marvelously compact and suggestive show. It also demonstrates why attempts to displace Churchill from a central position in recent history are misguided. Flaws and failings are plentiful in individual lives, as in cultures and civilizations, but there are more important things deserving recognition: traditions that run deep and wide, that justly inspire advocacy and allegiance and that might even lead, as Churchill promises, to “broad, sunlit uplands.”
A version of this review appeared in print on June 9, 2012, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Successes In Rhetoric: Language In the Life Of Churchill.
Reply #6 on:
June 10, 2012, 01:58:36 PM »
Good stuff, Guro.
Here is the link to the National Churchill Museum, in case you are interested.
first jewish champion boxer
Reply #7 on:
September 08, 2012, 01:24:37 PM »
I read he made boxing popular in Ireland:
Reply #8 on:
November 27, 2013, 07:37:47 PM »
This looks like a pretty cool show:
Reply #9 on:
November 27, 2013, 10:09:39 PM »
Certainly a different take on the birth of the Tea Party!
Ready for the call of duty - even at 70 years old
Reply #10 on:
February 12, 2014, 07:28:17 PM »
The civilian hero of Gettysburg - John L. Burns - born 1794. Fought in 1812 first. Switched his musket for a more "modern" carbine:
Earl Warren’s extra-judicial assignment
Reply #11 on:
February 20, 2014, 02:52:16 PM »
From the article:
When Lyndon B. Johnson initially asked Earl Warren to chair the commission to investigate John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Chief Justice respectfully declined. His reasons: “First, it is not in the constitutional separation of powers to have a member of the Supreme Court serve on a presidential commission; second, it would distract a Justice from the work of the Court, which had a heavy docket; and, third, it was impossible to see what litigation such a commission might spawn, with resulting disqualification of the Justice from sitting on the case.” Concerned that the wild conspiracy stories circulating around the world might lead to nuclear war, Johnson insisted. He said it was Warren’s patriotic duty “in this hour of trouble.”
On the first day the Commission met, Warren, who was a close friend of Kennedy’s, told his staff: “I enter into it with great feeling of both inadequacy and humility because the very thought of reviewing these details day by day is really sickening to me.” Despite such misgivings, Warren dutifully set up the Commission in offices diagonally across the street from the Supreme Court – on the fourth floor of the Veterans of Foreign Wars building — so that he could carry on his full Court duties during the grueling ten-month investigation.
During its third meeting, on December 15, 1963, the Commission discussed the problem of how to deal with the press. Although as governor of California he had embraced the Fourth Estate, Warren had grown used to keeping reporters at arm’s length since he had become head of the judiciary a decade before. Warren emphatically told the other members present at that meeting that he would refuse to speak to TV reporters: “I never have [appeared on television] and I don’t propose to do it here…. I am going to treat this as much in a judicial way as I possibly can, and that in the first place is not to talk.” He also declined to hire a press specialist, which Commission staffer Howard P. Willens says in retrospect “was probably a mistake.” Instead, Commission members issued a short press release after every meeting and mostly dodged the cameras and microphones that besieged them.
Reply #12 on:
March 16, 2014, 08:59:30 AM »
An 1848 Matthew Brady photo of Dolly Madison 1768-1849. James died in 1836 a decade too soon to be a subject for photography. I think Zach Taylor may have been first President who was photographed.
One thing I notice is how small their upper body frames seem to be in those days. Of course she was 80 here but even photos of younger people seem to reveal this:
Rape of German women as Russians moved in through Blood Battle Fire and Death
Reply #13 on:
March 19, 2014, 08:38:49 PM »
Raped all women 8 to 80. Then became more discriminant. With torches searching at night while frenzied with vodka looking for the prettiest.. In gangs in packs. After much vodka. Vodka the Wermackt did not destroy in hopes the Russians would be stuporous to fight. Instead the fire water guzzling made them fight even harder with no stops with great desire and rage sexual appetite. Rape the girls ifn front of mothers fathers sons daughters husbands they when they would then often shoot afterwards. Some women would offer herself to a single Russian hoping he would protect her from to protect her from gangs. When the women would begin starving the "rape" would morph into more like prostitution to "pay for food, or cigarettes.
Thinking they could save themselves old women would throw the younger girls to the "wolves" thinking they would be spared. Any Russian women were in the area and watched events unfold just laughed. German "whores" must have deserved it.
Maybe ten percent killed themselves out of shame. When German soldiers came home they were shamed and left. Women who did survive were to suffer this the rest of their lives. They wouldn't speak of it. The shame. The pain that is relived when one remembers and recounts. Watching loved ones being violated. Watching the few loved ones who bravely tried to fight back get shot dead.
The criminals many would not care one iota. Some would boast. Some would get smashed drunk and go on hunts in wolve packs pulling prey right off the streets in front of crowds. Pull them from their hiding places in the ruble, in the alley way , in the lofts. After all, Russians who suffered even worse deserved revenge on what was done to them and their people. To desecrate your enemy is to enjoy the spoils of war.
We all have mothers. Most have sisters, aunts, daughters, women we admire, our teachers, our caretakers, our nurses, children of our friends wives our friends, other mothers. The horror . The horror .
It should never happen again. But we all know it will. Civilization is only one step away from coming apart at the seems and it is again every man and woman for themselves.
*****Various waves and situations of rapes in Germany at end of WW2:
Suppressed History, Buried Crimes »
German Woman Breaks Silence about Red Army Rapes
March 10, 2010 by Ironlight
An 80-year-old German woman has broken an old taboo of silence over the rapes she endured at the hands of Soviet soldiers in the second world war with a searing book about the crimes of the Red Army as it marched towards Berlin.
By Allan Hall in Berlin
Published: 2:05PM GMT 28 Feb 2010
“Why Did I Have To Be A Girl” by Gabriele Koepp is the first book published about the rapes under a victim’s real name. Mrs Koepp was one of an estimated two million German girls and women raped by Soviet soldiers, encouraged by their leader Josef Stalin to regard the crime as a spoil of war after Hitler’s invasion had left 26 million Russians dead.
“Frau. Komm,” was a phrase that women dreaded hearing from Red Army soldiers. In the weeks after the city fell the rape epidemic was so bad that even the Catholic church countenanced abortion for some victims.
Even today, Mrs Koepp has trouble sleeping. “I was hardly more than a child. Writing this has not been easy, but I had no choice: who else would do it?”
Mrs Koepp told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine at the weekend that it was on the evening of January 25 1945, when she was 15, that her mother told her to pack quickly as she had to flee.
They lived in Schneidemuehl, in the former German region of Pomerania which is now a Polish town called Pila. She and her sister left the next day aboard a cattle train that was supposed to head towards Berlin. But it went in a different direction and the engine was soon blown up by Russian artillery. “The freight car door was locked,” she said. “I managed to climb up and crawl out of a high window. My sister was left behind: I have never seen her again.”
Her ordeal of multiple rape in a nearby village went on for two weeks until she was taken in at a farm and hid from the Soviets.
She was reunited with her mother 15 months later in Hamburg but says her mother was cold to her when she tried to talk of her pain and shame. British historian Antony Beevor chronicled the mass rapes in his 2002 book about the Soviet onslaught on Germany. Mrs Koepp’s book will be translated into English at the end of the summer.
AT THE MERCY OF MONSTERS
Tuesday March 2,2010
By Paul Callan
GABRIELE Koepp was just 15 with blue eyes and blonde hair woven into plaits – a pretty schoolgirl whose face shone with innocence. But on the morning of January 26, 1945, she crouched trembling with terror under a table in a farmhouse.
Outside she could hear the Russian soldiers, their voices slurred with drink, shouting for women. “Frau komm, frau komm,” (“come here woman, come here woman”) they bellowed in heavily Russian-accented German. It was a cry that thousands of women would learn to dread.
Suddenly some of the soldiers stumbled into the kitchen and a handful of old women refugees, fearful they would be attacked, dragged Gabriele out, thrusting her towards the Russians. She was immediately raped by every soldier. It was not the first time. The day before she had been caught by two Russians, hurled to the ground and violated.
So it went on for two weeks until she was taken to another farm and hidden from the sex-crazed soldiers. Now aged 80 Gabriele still remembers those terrible days and in particular how she was betrayed by the old women. “I despised those women, I still do,” she said. “I have no tears but I feel hatred rising up inside me.”
It is a boiling hatred that has lasted 65 years since the Allies, including fierce Soviet forces, smashed their way across Europe… But as they advanced the Russians unleashed an orgy of sickening self-gratification as soldiers of the Red Army embarked on a lengthy campaign of rape, looting, murder and depravity.
Now Gabriele Koepp has written a book of searing honesty called Why Did I Have To Be A Girl, about the rapes carried out by the Red Army as it advanced towards Berlin. The book is unprecedented, being the first time a German woman has broken the lengthy taboo by writing about being one of the estimated two million victims of rampaging Soviet soldiers.
What sickened many at the time was that the soldiers were actively encouraged to rape German women by Russian dictator Josef Stalin. When one of his commanders protested Stalin exploded: “Can’t you understand it if a soldier, who has crossed thousands of kilometres through blood and fire and death, has fun with some woman or takes a trifle?” To Stalin German women were merely the “spoils of war”.
Gabriele was such a “spoil” for those 14 days when she was relentlessly and repeatedly raped by Russian soldiers, so much so that she cannot even to this day, say the very word. “My life has been some 29,200 days,” she said. “But really it was destroyed in those 14 days of the … I cannot say the word. I was innocent when it happened.
“There is a debate going on in Germany at the moment about the so-called expellees from land that once belonged to Germany, the loss of the homeland, etc, but that is [comparatively] nothing to me. I live with what happened to me all the time. There are days I cannot eat because of it, even now all these years later.
“Writing of what happened hasn’t made anything easier for me but I had to do it. Who else would?” Gabriele studiously avoids detail and writes in the book of “the place of the terror”, the “gates of hell” and calls the rapists “brutes and scoundrels”. She avoids the word “rape” and adds with some fear in her eyes: “I cannot even say that word.”
The book is a searing scrutiny of the agony that to this very day the Russian establishment continues to deny. Gabriele was one of an estimated two million German girls and women, some as young as six and as old as 80, who were raped by Soviet soldiers… Their justification was that Hitler’s invasion of Russia had left 26 million dead and revenge would be sweet. Much of the rape and murder by the Russians took place as they approached Berlin.
Berliners had prayed that the Western Allies would reach their city before the Russians, but General Eisenhower, the overall commander- in-chief, had decided the Russians should reach Berlin first on account of their own huge losses.
But as early as 1944 terrible reports were seeping through to Berlin from the moment the thrusting Red Army entered East Prussia and Silesia.
By the time the Soviet troops entered Berlin there was terror on the streets. The rapes usually started in the evenings after the soldiers had drunk large amounts of vodka. That familiar cry of “frau komm” soon echoed around the rubble-strewn streets.
Any woman found, whatever her age, was savagely thrown to the ground and brutally attacked. Filthy drunken soldiers hunted in packs, some women were raped by as many as 20 men.
One of the worst mistakes of the defeated German authorities had been their failure to destroy Berlin’s considerable stocks of alcohol as the Red Army drew nearer. Erroneously, they thought a drunken enemy could not fight. But the Russians fought even harder, as well as having their desires inflamed.
Nor did the Soviet women soldiers do anything to stop their male comrades. One Berlin woman was being raped in succession by three men when three others arrived, one of them a woman. When the German woman appealed to her to intervene she merely laughed out loud. There were tragic attempts to resist the soldiers. A 13-year-old boy started flailing at a soldier who was raping his mother in front of him. When the Russian finished he turned to the boy and shot him…
AS night closed in the screams of women being attacked could be heard all over the city. It is estimated that up to 10,000 of the women who were raped died, mostly from suicide. Some could never talk about it and for the young such as Gabriele, it would prove a lifelong horror.
For many men returning home learning that their wives had been raped was traumatic… Many marriages broke up…
Eventually communist leaders became deeply embarrassed by the reports of Soviet behaviour and made complaints to the Kremlin which admitted nothing and even claimed it was all Western propaganda designed to “damage the high reputation of the Red Army”.
The Red Army war memorial in Berlin is dominated by a huge figure of a Russian soldier. There is an expression of heroic triumph on his sculptured face. In one hand he holds a child, while the other wields a sword that smashes a swastika.
But to German women of the wartime generation, including Gabriele Koepp, there is another name for that memorial: “The tomb of the unknown rapist.”
History Of “The Victors” Which You Will Never Hear
They raped every German female from eight to 80′
Antony Beevor, author of the acclaimed new book about the fall of Berlin, on a massive war crime committed by the victorious Red Army.
Wednesday May 1, 2002
“Red Army soldiers don’t believe in ‘individual liaisons’ with German women,” wrote the playwright Zakhar Agranenko in his diary when serving as an officer of marine infantry in East Prussia. “Nine, ten, twelve men at a time – they rape the women on a collective basis.”
The Soviet armies advancing into East Prussia in January 1945, in huge, long columns, were an extraordinary mixture of modern and medieval: tank troops in padded black helmets, Cossack cavalrymen on shaggy mounts with loot strapped to the saddle, lend-lease Studebakers and Dodges towing light field guns, and then a second echelon in horse-drawn carts. The variety of character among the soldiers was almost as great as that of their military equipment. There were freebooters who drank and raped quite shamelessly, and there were idealistic, austere communists and members of the intelligentsia appalled by such behaviour.
Beria and Stalin, back in Moscow, knew perfectly well what was going on from a number of detailed reports. One stated that “many Germans declare that all German women in East Prussia who stayed behind were raped by Red Army soldiers”. Numerous examples of gang rape were given – “girls under 18 and old women included”.
Marshal Rokossovsky issued order No 006 in an attempt to direct “the feelings of hatred at fighting the enemy on the battlefield.” It appears to have had little effect. There were also a few arbitrary attempts to exert authority. The commander of one rifle division is said to have “personally shot a lieutenant who was lining up a group of his men before a German woman spreadeagled on the ground”. But either officers were involved themselves, or the lack of discipline made it too dangerous to restore order over drunken soldiers armed with submachine guns.
Calls to avenge the Motherland, violated by the Wehrmacht’s invasion, had given the idea that any cruelty would be allowed. Even many young women soldiers and medical staff in the Red Army did not appear to disapprove. “Our soldiers’ behaviour towards Germans, particularly German women, is absolutely correct!” said a 21-year-old from Agranenko’s reconnaissance detachment. A number seemed to find it amusing. Several German women recorded how Soviet servicewomen watched and laughed when they were raped. But some women were deeply shaken by what they witnessed in Germany. Natalya Gesse, a close friend of the scientist Andrei Sakharov, had observed the Red Army in action in 1945 as a Soviet war correspondent. “The Russian soldiers were raping every German female from eight to eighty,” she recounted later. “It was an army of rapists.”
Drink of every variety, including dangerous chemicals seized from laboratories and workshops, was a major factor in the violence. It seems as if Soviet soldiers needed alcoholic courage to attack a woman. But then, all too often, they drank too much and, unable to complete the act, used the bottle instead with appalling effect. A number of victims were mutilated obscenely.
The subject of the Red Army’s mass rapes in Germany has been so repressed in Russia that even today veterans refuse to acknowledge what really happened. The handful prepared to speak openly, however, are totally unrepentant. “They all lifted their skirts for us and lay on the bed,” said the leader of one tank company. He even went on to boast that “two million of our children were born” in Germany.
The capacity of Soviet officers to convince themselves that most of the victims were either happy with their fate, or at least accepted that it was their turn to suffer after the Wehrmacht had invaded Russia, is striking. “Our fellows were so sex-starved,” a Soviet major told a British journalist at the time, “that they often raped old women of sixty, seventy or even eighty – much to these grandmothers’ surprise, if not downright delight.”
One can only scratch at the surface of the psychological contradictions. When gang-raped women in Königsberg begged their attackers afterwards to put them out of their misery, the Red Army men appear to have felt insulted. “Russian soldiers do not shoot women,” they replied. “Only German soldiers do that.” The Red Army had managed to convince itself that because it had assumed the moral mission to liberate [what is your definition of liberation?!] Europe from fascism it could behave entirely as it liked, both personally and politically.
Domination and humiliation permeated most soldiers’ treatment of women in East Prussia. The victims not only bore the brunt of revenge for Wehrmacht crimes, they also represented an atavistic target as old as war itself. Rape is the act of a conqueror, the feminist historian Susan Brownmiller observed, aimed at the “bodies of the defeated enemy’s women” to emphasise his victory. Yet after the initial fury of January 1945 dissipated, the sadism became less marked. By the time the Red Army reached Berlin three months later, its soldiers tended to regard German women more as a casual right of conquest. The sense of domination certainly continued, but this was perhaps partly an indirect product of the humiliations which they themselves had suffered at the hands of their commanders and the Soviet authorities as a whole.
A number of other forces or influences were at work. Sexual freedom had been a subject for lively debate within Communist party circles during the 1920s, but during the following decade, Stalin ensured that Soviet society depicted itself as virtually asexual. This had nothing to do with genuine puritanism: it was because love and sex did not fit in with dogma designed to “deindividualise” the individual. Human urges and emotions had to be suppressed. Freud’s work was banned, divorce and adultery were matters for strong party disapproval. Criminal sanctions against homosexuality were reintroduced. The new doctrine extended even to the complete suppression of sex education. In graphic art, the clothed outline of a woman’s breasts was regarded as dangerously erotic. They had to be disguised under boiler suits. The regime clearly wanted any form of desire to be converted into love for the party and above all for Comrade Stalin.
Most ill-educated Red Army soldiers suffered from sexual ignorance and utterly unenlightened attitudes towards women. So the Soviet state’s attempts to suppress the libido of its people created what one Russian writer described as a sort of “barracks eroticism” which was far more primitive and violent than “the most sordid foreign pornography”. All this was combined with the dehumanising influence of modern propaganda and the atavistic, warring impulses of men marked by fear and suffering.
The novelist Vasily Grossman, a war correspondent attached to the invading Red Army, soon discovered that rape victims were not just Germans. Polish women also suffered. So did young Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian women who had been sent back to Germany by the Wehrmacht for labour. “Liberated Soviet girls quite often complain that our soldiers rape them,” he noted. “One girl said to me in tears: ‘He was an old man, older than my father’.”
The rape of Soviet women and girls seriously undermines Russian attempts to justify Red Army behaviour on the grounds of revenge for German brutality in the Soviet Union. On March 29, 1945 the central committee of the Komsomol (the youth organisation of the Soviet Union) informed Stalin’s associate Malenkov of a report from the 1st Ukrainian Front. “On the night of 24 February,” General Tsygankov recorded in the first of many examples, “a group of 35 provisional lieutenants on a course and their battalion commander entered the women’s dormitory in the village of Grutenberg and raped them.”
In Berlin, many women were simply not prepared for the shock of Russian revenge, despite the warnings they had heard from Goebbels. Many reassured themselves that, although the danger must be great out in the countryside, mass rapes could hardly take place in the city in front of everybody.
In Dahlem, Soviet officers visited Sister Kunigunde, the mother superior of Haus Dahlem, a maternity clinic and orphanage. The officers and their men behaved impeccably. In fact, the officers even warned Sister Kunigunde about the second-line troops following on behind. Their prediction proved entirely accurate. Nuns, young girls, old women, pregnant women and mothers who had just given birth were all raped without pity.
Yet within a couple of days, a pattern emerged of soldiers flashing torches in the faces of women huddled in the bunkers to choose their victims. This process of selection, as opposed to the indiscriminate violence shown earlier, indicates a definite change. By this stage Soviet soldiers started to treat German women more as sexual spoils of war than as substitutes for the Wehrmacht on which to vent their rage.
Rape has often been defined by writers on the subject as an act of violence which has little to do with sex. But that is a definition from the victim’s perspective. To understand the crime, one needs to see things from the perpetrator’s point of view, especially in the later stages when unaggravated rape had succeeded the extreme onslaught of January and February.
Many women found themselves forced to “concede” to one soldier in the hope that he would protect them from others. Magda Wieland, a 24-year-old actress, was dragged from a cupboard in her apartment just off the Kurfürstendamm. A very young soldier from central Asia hauled her out. He was so excited at the prospect of a beautiful young blonde that he ejaculated prematurely. By sign language, she offered herself to him as a girlfriend if he would protect her from other Russian soldiers, but he went off to boast to his comrades and another soldier raped her. Ellen Goetz, a Jewish friend of Magda’s, was also raped. When other Germans tried to explain to the Russians that she was Jewish and had been persecuted, they received the retort: “Frau ist Frau” (or, “a woman is a woman”).
Women soon learned to disappear during the “hunting hours” of the evening. Young daughters were hidden in storage lofts for days on end. Mothers emerged into the street to fetch water only in the early morning when Soviet soldiers were sleeping off the alcohol from the night before. Sometimes the greatest danger came from one mother giving away the hiding place of other girls in a desperate bid to save her own daughter. Older Berliners still remember the screams every night. It was impossible not to hear them because all the windows had been blown in.
Estimates of rape victims from the city’s two main hospitals ranged from 95,000 to 130,000. One doctor deduced that out of approximately 100,000 women raped in the city, some 10,000 died as a result, mostly from suicide. The death rate was thought to have been much higher among the 1.4 million estimated victims in East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia. Altogether at least two million German women are thought to have been raped, and a substantial minority, if not a majority, appear to have suffered multiple rape.
If anyone attempted to defend a woman against a Soviet attacker it was either a father trying to defend a daughter or a young son trying to protect his mother. “The 13-year old Dieter Sahl,” neighbours wrote in a letter shortly after the event, “threw himself with flailing fists at a Russian who was raping his mother in front of him. He did not succeed in anything except getting himself shot.”
After the second stage of women offering themselves to one soldier to save themselves from others, came the post-battle need to survive starvation. Susan Brownmiller noted “the murky line that divides wartime rape from wartime prostitution”. Soon after the surrender in Berlin, Ursula von Kardorff found all sorts of women prostituting themselves for food or the alternative currency of cigarettes. Helke Sander, a German film-maker who researched the subject in great detail, wrote of “the grey area of direct force, blackmail, calculation and real affection”.
The fourth stage was a strange form of cohabitation in which Red Army officers settled in with German “occupation wives”. The Soviet authorities were appalled and enraged when a number of Red Army officers, intent on staying with their German lovers, deserted when it was time to return to the Motherland.
Even if the feminist definition of rape purely as an act of violence proves to be simplistic, there is no justification for male complacency. If anything, the events of 1945 reveal how thin the veneer of civilisation can be when there is little fear of retribution. It also suggests a much darker side to male sexuality than we might care to admit
Last Edit: March 19, 2014, 08:49:36 PM by ccp
Lawrence of Arabia
Reply #14 on:
March 24, 2014, 06:46:49 PM »
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