White Supremacy. Eugenics and Indiana

Indiana State Prison, Jeffersonville, 1912

Those Socialists were wrong

Poverty is not a social condition. People do not become criminals as a product of social and economic conditions.

They are born that way.  People are poor an criminal because they are genetically inferior.

This ideology ,social Darwinism, was adopted by America’s wealthy at the turn of the 20th century as befitting those who believed they were more fit, indeed had a right to rule.

The idea was that people were born to be poor or criminal, etc. They were “bad seeds”, and thus the problem of poverty was not really a social problem, it was a problem of bloodline, to be fixed by selective breeding programs, forced sterilization, and the maintenance of “racial purity”. Racial purity was the idea that races “should not mix” out of the fear that if whites and blacks mixed the “inferior” black bloodline would “corrupt” the white bloodline, leading to more crime, poverty, and ignorance.

By the 1890s Indiana’s prisons were routinely castrating prisoners to cure them of “chronic” masturbation and prevent them from breeding more criminals.

In 1902 Dr. Harry Clay Sharp, of the Indiana State Reformatory stated:

“We make choice of the best rams for our sheep… and keep the best dogs… how careful then should we be in begetting of children!”  Sharp also advocated that every state institution should render every male sterile who passes its portals, whether it be an almshouse, insane asylum, institute for the feeble minded, reformatory, or prison.”

Alexander Sanger, in a book about his grandmother Margaret Sander noted “Sharp’s zeal for his job led him on a crusade to legalize what he was doing and to expand the class of those to whom he could legally do it.

In a 1902 paper, Sharp wrote: “I therefore suggest that you endeavor to secure such legislation as will make it mandatory that this operation be performed on all convicted degenerates. It renders them powerless to reproduce their kind, and it is an undoubted fact that the progeny of degenerates becomes a charge upon the state.”

In 1907, Indiana became the first in the world and the first of thirty states to legalize compulsory sterilization of “confirmed criminals, idiots, rapists, and imbeciles” if procreation was deemed “inadvisable” by a committee and there was “no probability of improvement of the mental condition of the inmate.”  Bans on inter-racial marriage and marriage for those of “unsound or feeble mind” or males who had been in “pauper’s home” during the previous five years soon followed.

My father suffered from epilepsy.

The general attitude of people at the time was (a) its hereditary – or worse – contagious ; (b) it was associated with “feeble mindedness” and violence and (c) many thought those with epilepsy needed to be institutionalized.   Our family always feared the state health department.

Eugenics was all the rage in America. Many states would not permit those with epilepsy to marry. Missouri was the last to repeal this law in 1980!. Blood banks wouldn’t take your blood until 1987. Employers would fire you after the first seizure on the job. General practitioner physicians had little to offer you and patients were afraid they would be reported to the health department

In 1902 David Starr Jordan, a former President of Stanford University, who published “Blood of a Nation – A study in the Decay of Races by the survival of the Unfit”  noted

The pauper is the victim of heredity, but neither Nature nor Society recognizes that as an excuse for his existence.”

Dr. J. N. Hurty, who was State Health Officer of Indiana and also became the President of the American Public Health Association, stated that,

“Men and women are what they are largely because of the stock from which they sprang.”

In 1907 Indiana became the first place in the world to legalize forced sterilization of the poor, prisoners, and mentally ill. Washington, Connecticut, California, Virginia, Nevada, Iowa, New Jersey, and New York all followed suit. In fact, New Jersey’s eugenics bills were signed into law by then Governor, soon to be President, Woodrow Wilson.

The first practical steps to apply the theories of eugenics were taken in the United States. A National Heredity Commission was established by Theodore Roosevelt and charged to investigate the genetic heritage of the country and to “encourage the increase of families of good blood and discourage the vicious elements in the cross-bred American civilization”.

Charles Davenport, a leader of the “movement” and directly involved in the sterilization of 60,000 “unfit” Americans established the Eugenics Record Office, funded by the Carnegie Institute.

Eugenics Conference Logo

“Eugenics is the self direction of human evolution”

American scientists began working with European scientists, especially in Germany.  In 1911 a meeting of the First International Congress on Eugenics was held in London, including attendees from America, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Norway. Winston Churchill, Alexander Graham Bell, and other well known individuals were in attendance.   The Second and Third conferences were held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  Invitations were sent around the world by the State Department.

In 1912 the Rockefeller Foundation  funded eugenics programs, endorsed by John Rockefeller Jr. himself.  By 1914 eugenics had been adopted in America as a valid field of study and was even taught in high schools.

In the American eugenics program one can find the seeds of fascism as well as Himmler’s Lebensborn program.  The Nazis admired the way we solved our “Indian question.”

In 1916 D. W. Griffith’s film “Birth of a Nation” was released and although controversial, became the biggest grossing silent film ever made.

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President Woodrow Wilson’s “History of the American People” was quoted in the film to describe how Northerners and blacks were using deception and abuse of power to “put the white South under the heal of the black South.”

Birth of a Nation describes Lincoln as having undermined state’s rights  creating an all powerful federal government in the process.  It depicted Northern blacks and freed slaves as villains bent on destroying white civilization through abuse of their new-found power after the Civil War.  The major villain of the film is a mulatto, a man of “mixed white and black race”.

Near the climax of the film, the white folk unite to save a town from “Negro anarchy”.   Yankees and rebels unite again in the “common defense of their Aryan birthright.”

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By the 1920s racism is brewing full boil in America and by 1924 the power of the Klan is on full display. In 1924 the Klan had over 4.5 million members in a much smaller US population.  Approximately 20% of adult white males in the South were members of the KKK at this time.

Still, the Klan’s strongest state was Indiana.   In 1924 Klansman Edward Jackson was elected Governor of Indiana. As previously noted, Indiana was also one of the places where the eugenics movement was strongest as well.

During its peak the Klan was seen by a large portion of the American population as a respectable organization that stood for order and preservation of “traditional values”.

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400,000 Klansmen march on Washington – 1925

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Klan activity in Marysville, Washington urging that Catholic schools be made illegal.

The Klan, while opposing blacks, Jews, Catholics and immigration also opposed Marxism, homosexuality, atheism, and liberalism in general and supported “one language, one allegiance, one flag” which eerily reverberated a decade later – “Ein Reich!  Ein Volk!  Ein Fuehrer!

What’s new?

In fact Klan / white supremacist ideology and Nazi ideology are virtually identical with the one primarily targeting blacks while the Nazis primarily targeted Jews.  Our current problems with extremist right wing politics is nothing new.

It is as American as apple pie

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On My Military Service – From 2016

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Toritto in Eritrea  – 1965

I never thought much about my military service after it was over.

My young wife and I were glad I was out, discharged after four years in the army on November 17, 1967.  We disposed of all of my uniforms save for my field jacket which still hangs in my closet (and still fits!) and the letters we wrote to eachother which she wrapped in ribbon and placed lovingly in my duffel bag.  It is still in my garage.

On Thanksgiving 1967 I sat with my bride and family celebrating the holiday while hundreds died on a hillside in Dak To; a hill of no strategic importance which was immediately given up after it was captured in heavy fighting.

It was a time when many were not proud of their service.  Vietnam would rage for years and over 52,000 would die there.  I had come to the conclusion that the war was a mistake which brought that ominous feeling inside that young men were dying for a lost cause.  Tet would put a stamp on it.

My brother served in the war zone.   I did not.  No one ever shot at me.  I had no war stories.  I was not one to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion.  No one joined those groups at the time.  I didn’t feel like a “veteran”; I never saw combat.

Besides back then just about every poorer young man served.  It didn’t seem like anything special to me.  My family had fought in every war since World War I.  I wasn’t doing anything special.  A stint in the military was part of growing up.

Why did I enlist?  Well I was a high school graduate working in a bank for over four years and not making enough money to live on my own.  I was 21 and was still largely supported by my father, He had an 8th grade education and was getting to that point in his life when he couldn’t do unskilled construction work anymore.  I needed to lessen his burden.

I had a girl at the time and we knew we were going to marry eventually.  She had just turned 18 so there was no hurry.  I went into the army 3 days before President Kennedy was murdered.  By Christmas she and I decided not to wait.  She married Private Toritto.

Six months later I went to the horn of Africa and we were separated for 18 months.  Thus the letters now in the garage.

When I enlisted I looked upon my service as a job and was pretty determined to be a good soldier.  I was going to do my duty for God and Country.

After I returned from deployment in Africa I was sent to Texas to get ready for Vietnam.  I never went.

A month after my arrival in Texas mom died at age 43; my father was ill and my brother was already in the war zone.  My father bitched and I was reassigned close to home.

My job for the remainder of my time was  arranging notifications to next of kin of army soldiers from New York State killed in Vietnam.  Getting the bodies shipped home. Arranging funerals. completing paper work.  Presenting medals.  It was soul deadening duty.

When it was over I threw away everything but the letters and the field jacket and never spoke of my service.  It was over and I was a lucky one.  One of my friends from Africa died in Vietnam and is on the wall.

My daughters were in their late teens when they found out – “YOU were a soldier daddy?”  Shock and awe.

By the time they were teenagers the draft had long been repealed.  They didn’t know any boys going into the army; didn’t have any girlfriends whose steadies were leaving; didn’t have any cousins in service.  The military was for other people; the military was for those who volunteered.  All of their friends were going to college and planning careers.

It seemed strange at first when commenters on this blog would thank me for my service.  I never thought I deserved thanks.  I joined up because I needed to support myself and end my reliance on my family which was on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder.  Why thank me for that?  Tens of thousands still join up for the same reason.

I have three military decorations; 3 medals I am authorized to wear and never do.   Nothing special mind you; nothing for gallantry – but looking back I have acquired a quiet pride in my service over the years.  I did as I was ordered, I went where I was sent.  I lived for 18 months without my new bride and we gave the nation four years of our lives.  She suffered too.  I did my best to be a good soldier and did nothing of which I am or my country should be  ashamed.

I was there to comfort families who made the ultimate sacrifice; to carry out their wishes. And for them I moved heaven and earth. It is they who deserve the thanks of a grateful nation.

Not me.  I always viewed my service as the price of citizenship.

How sad that just a week ago I watched some “veterans” storming the capital ready to overthrow democratic government because their side lost supporting a cowardly President who got 4 deferments and finally showed up with a doctor’s note that said he had “bone spurs.”

Just another con.

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The obverse view of the medal shows the American bald eagle, perched on a sword and palm. Above this, in a semicircle, is the inscription National Defense.

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Not All Who Serve Are Heroes

Ike only needed his stars

How many of you have heard any speech by our leaders recently concerning the military or in front of the military. Usually nothing important is said outside of the usual pap.

Shout outs to the various services: (Got some Marines in the house today!! “Hooyah!!”)

Thank you for you service.  All men and women in uniform are heroes.   The nation was grateful for your nonstop deployments and for the unique losses and burdens placed on you through the past 2 decades of open-ended war.

Obama said in 2015 that the “9/11 generation of heroes” represented the very best in the country, and that its members constituted a military that was not only superior to all current adversaries but no less than “the finest fighting force in the history of the world.”

This is the way we have become accustomed to discussing the military; over blown, limitless praise absent any hint of criticism or skepticism we apply to other American institutions funded by taxpayer monies.

The reverent but disengaged attitude toward the military has become the American norm. It was not always so. Ike may have commanded the finest fighting force in the world on D-Day but he did not describe it that way. He warned his troops, “Your task will not be an easy one,” because “your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped, and battle-hardened.”

So many Americans served during World War II and the Cold War that, while we respected the military, we were all well aware of it’s shortcomings.

While we have been at war for the past 20 years or so  years the vast majority of the nation has not. Some 3 million have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, many more than once. That’s about 0.75% of the population. During WWII some ten percent of the population was under arms.

The way the disengaged gaze with admiration on the military shows up in the popular culture. Once we had Ernie Pyle, the G. I. Joe wisecracking characters Willie and Joe. We had Phil Silvers, the Sergeant Bilko schemer. We had M.A.S.H.

Today everyone “supports” the troops but few know anything about them. We no longer have a comfortable closeness with our military. In many ways they are not us. We don’t poke fun at their foibles anymore.

While confidence in almost every American institution has sharply declined, not so with the military. Confidence in our armed forces rose dramatically after 9/11 and remains high. This lack of connection with war and the military among the vast majority of people allows us to blithely enter conflicts with nary a thought as to what might go wrong. After all, we are the most powerful military nation the world has ever seen. We can’t lose.

We haven’t won since World War II, save for the brief First Gulf War, pushing Saddam out of Kuwait. Korea was a draw. We did not achieve our objectives in Vietnam. The Middle East is in turmoil. It remains to be seen whether or not the Taliban returns to power in Afghanistan.   ISIS is still trying to remake the borders in the Sunni heartland.

There is little accountability for modern wars; we have put the Iraq war behind us. We have spent trillions on equipping our forces only to see our military fail in it’s mission. We have not succeeded in achieving any of our overall strategic goals in Iraq.

“Their many other tactical victories, from overthrowing Saddam Hussein to allying with Sunni tribal leaders to mounting a “surge” (you remember the surge) in Iraq, demonstrated great bravery and skill. But they brought no lasting stability to, nor advance of U.S. interests in, that part of the world. When ISIS troops overran much of Iraq 3 years ago, the forces that laid down their weapons and fled before them were members of the same Iraqi national army that U.S. advisers had so expensively yet ineffectively trained for more than five years.”

The perception that we cannot be defeated leads us deeper and deeper into unwinnable conflicts and the separation of the military and war from the people keeps us from learning anything from our defeats.

William S. Lind is a military historian who in the 1990s helped develop the concept of “Fourth Generation War,” or struggles against the insurgents, terrorists, or other “nonstate” groups that refuse to form ranks and fight like conventional armies. He wrote recently:

“The most curious thing about our four defeats in Fourth Generation War—Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan—is the utter silence in the American officer corps. Defeat in Vietnam bred a generation of military reformers Today, the landscape is barren. Not a military voice is heard calling for thoughtful, substantive change. Just more money, please.”

Once upon a time we relieved incompetent combat Generals – during the last decade hundreds of Generals were deployed. Not one was removed for combat ineffectiveness.

The public, at a distance, does not demand accountability while the career military has skillfully distanced itself from it’s failures.

“And yet however much Americans “support” and “respect” their troops, they are not involved with them, and that disengagement inevitably leads to dangerous decisions the public barely notices. “My concern is this growing disconnect between the American people and our military,” said retired Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George W. Bush and Barack Obama (and whose mid-career academic stint was at Harvard Business School). The military is “professional and capable,” he said, “but I would sacrifice some of that excellence and readiness to make sure that we stay close to the American people. Fewer and fewer people know anyone in the military. It’s become just too easy to go to war.”

Amen.

We must now re-learn a lesson –  not all of our military are heroic.  Wearing the uniform does not confer sainthood.  It’s time for Americans to end their ritualistic fawning over veterans. When former members of the U.S. armed forces visit the White House to promote military coups, they prove that veterans do not automatically, uncritically warrant our praise.

In one of the more contentious political seasons in American history, few malefactors have exceeded the duplicity of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has called on President Trump to suspend the Constitution and declare martial law so military leaders can oversee a redo of the 2020 election. Never mind that Flynn, who pled guilty to misleading the FBI, once swore an oath to uphold that very Constitution.

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney has echoed Flynn’s sedition entreaties. The Vietnam War veteran also petitioned for martial law in the aftermath of a free and fair election, but then went further still, imploring Trump to cancel the Electoral College, suspend habeas corpus and arrest Democrats for treason.

Nor have senior military leaders and veterans accorded themselves well in foreign policy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a 1986 West Point graduate, slow-rolled acknowledging Joe Biden as president-elect and publicly quipped he would help usher a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” The policies Pompeo have supported — one source recently described him as a “global arsonist” — hardly have advanced our national interests overseas.

And none of us should discount that some American veterans have acted immorally in our recent wars, a point of vital concern for our society, if not for our president. Texas Republican chair Allen West — who recently called for secession — received a military reprimand for threatening to shoot an Iraqi detainee, while Eddie Gallagher, Clint Lorance and Robert Bales, among others, either have been accused or convicted of killing civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do these men deserve our admiration simply because they wore a uniform?

Without question, these examples are not, thankfully, representative of the larger whole. The vast majority of Americans serving in the armed forces do so in a way that make their families and local communities proud,  But instances of impropriety should not be dismissed because we are required, by some unwritten rule, to mechanically thank veterans for their service. Wearing a uniform should not shield the wearer from scrutiny, criticism or disciplinary action.

Think Fort Hood.

Despite our claims of American exceptionalism, our society remains imperfect. We should not be surprised that military service members might be imperfect as well.

We need to come to a reckoning with our military, lest it become dangerous to our republic at a time when our fundamental values and norms have been threatened by an imperial presidency and its supporters.  It is obvious that a number of our military and veterans participated in or supported the insurrection and the overthrow of democratic government.

Our adulation makes it more difficult to hold the institution accountable, to forge, under civilian control, more appropriate military policies.

 

 

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On The Words of Patrick Henry

🙂

Courtesy of Marie who knows her daddy needs a good laugh every day.

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Fascism and America’s Ruling Elite – A Re-Post

Grand Cross of the Order of the German Eagle

Awarded to Henry Ford by Adolph Hitler – 1938

So it’s the 1930s and Hitler and Mussolini, not to mention Franco have established nazism / fascism in Europe. Hitler has already opened the first concentration camp at Dachau and Mussolini has crushed any organized political opposition in Italy.

So where are America’s elite industrial barons?

Exactly where you think; getting cozy with the fascists in order to make money. After all Hitler and Mussolini were anti-communist and that was all our gilded elites needed to know.

William E, Dodd, the US Ambassador to Germany, gave important insight into German and American economic alliances. He wrote of the situation in general that:

“A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. I have had plenty of opportunity in my post in Berlin to witness how close some of our American ruling families are to the Nazi regime. Certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy. They extended aid to help Fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are helping to keep it there.”
– William E. Dodd, U.S. Ambassador to Germany, 1937

Some of the primary and more famous Americans with fascist sympathies included William Randolph Hearst, Joseph E. Kennedy (President Kennedy’s father), Charles Lindbergh, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Mellon (head of Alcoa, and Secretary of the Treasury), Dupont, General Motors, Ford, ITT, Prescott Bush (grandfather of Dubya), National City Bank (now Citibank), Coca cola, Standard Oil,  and General Electric.

All in all, American investment in Germany grew by 50% between 1929 – 1940 while declining in the rest of Europe.

In 1940 Graeme K. Howard, head of General Motors overseas operations, published America and the New World Order, in which he advised that America give full cooperation to the Nazi regime. In his book he blames FDR for causing the war in Europe and goes on to say that the fascists should be supported as the better alternative to the spread of Communism.

Hearst’s newspapers published a constant stream of red-baiting and anti-Soviet articles while praising Hitler and portraying him as an able bourgeois German burgher who had no intention of going to war but was preoccupied with internal problems.  No mention of the camps in his articles.

In 1937 Fortune Magazine, a Hearst publication, stated that:

“The good journalist must recognize in Fascism certain ancient virtues of the race, whether or not they happen to be momentarily fashionable in his own country. Among these are Discipline, Duty, Courage, Glory, Sacrifice.”

In a 1938 article published In Hearst’s Better Homes and Gardens, Hitler is portrayed as a humble, personable man of taste.

“There is nothing pretentious about the Fuhrer’s little estate.  It is one that any merchant of Munich or Nuremburg might possess in these lovely hills.”

The concentration camps were already in full swing.

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Hitler (back to camera, Goering (left) and Field Marshall von Blomberg

After the Wehrmacht invasion of the Soviet Union Hearst’s papers attacked FDR’s Lend/Lease policy:

“Is our free country piling up deficits, bleeding its citizens white with confiscatory taxation, rushing headlong into national bankruptcy, shoveling out our wealth abroad, and shipping our war materials to alien nations to bolster up Bolshevism in Russia to spread it over all of Europe, including Britain, and to breed it and broadcast it in our own America?”

Henry Ford’s antisemitic newspaper, “The Dearborn Independnt.” published a series of articles entitled  “The International Jew” which were later turned into pamphlets circulated world-wide, especially in Germany.

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Ford and the other writers of Dearborn Publishing promoted the view of superiority built on race with Jews and other minorities as racially and culturally inferior. According to this view the ideas of socialism, liberalism and Marxism were plots used by inferior races to promote equality and thereby elevate themselves to the level of the superior Anglo-Saxon Protestants.   Can’t have that now, can we?

Henry Ford was by no means the only one to put such ideas in writing, but his publications were popular and served to spread the ideology.   In fact he was very popular among the Nazis and received The Grand Cross of the Order of the German Eagle from Hitler for his birthday in 1938.  Nice.

Henry Ford is presented with the Grand Cross of the Order of the German Eagle – 1938

Tom Watson of IBM invested heavily in Germany and supplied them with American made punch card counting computer machines which were used for the German census, locating and tracking the whereabouts of every “undesirable” in Germany. The machines were not only used by the government but in the concentration camps to keep track of the thousands of prisoners.

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IBM’s punch-card system for census and categorization of citizens was a critical element in the Nazi system for racial and genetic analysis of the population.  The Nazi program was based on the American eugenics programs, but taken to a higher level.   Everyone in Germany filled out a highly detailed census card, including a “family tree” in duplicate.  The census card was officially stamped and a portion given back to the person who had filled it out.  These were “your papers” which everyone had to have.  No papers and you go to a camp.  Meanwhile IBM’s technology was checking and crosschecking, performing analysis on family trees.  Virtually every jew or gypsy in Germany was identified,  located and processed for ghettoization and eventual deportation thanks to IBM.

Watson visited Germany frequently as it was IBM’s biggest foreign market and he was quite aware of what was going on.  After the conquest of Poland, IBM’s German subsidiary was given the license to operate in Poland by IBM’s head office in America. which was necessary in order to move punch card operations to Warsaw in order to find every Polish jew.  IBM cooperated with Nazi Germany right up until America’s entry into the war.  Multi-nationalism at its finest.

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Charles Lindbergh while claiming he was an America Firster spent plenty of time hob nobbing with Nazi officials, was regularly praised in the Nazi press and had no qualms over having his picture taken with high ranking Nazis officials.  While he spoke neutrality out of one side of his mouth it was very obvious to anyone where his sympathies lay.  Even the Nazis knew.

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Charles Lindbergh at a Nazi party in Berlin -1935

There was plenty of sympathy for fascism among the American ruling class – but hey after all those fascists were anti-red .   Nothing else mattered.  Anti red.  Anti Bolshevik.  Anti liberal.  Anti socialist.  Anti-pinko.  Anti-FDR.  Anti immigrant.

Why are you not surprised?

P.S. – It is so easy to envision Bannon and Flynn hobnobbing with Goering and Goebbels at a party in Berlin and for our President to be basking at a state dinner hosted by Adolph Hitler followed by a few days at Berchtesgaden.  Any member of Trump’s new Cabinet would feel right at home.

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Remembering One Girl From Minsk – October 26, 1941

An annual Re-Post.  We cannot remember them all; but each year we can remember one.

The Minsk Ghetto – 1941

“For God’s sake child! Flee Minsk before it’s too late!” the wounded Red Army Major she tended urged her.

“Be still!” Anya said. “I’m taking your picture.” .

Minsk was her city. She was born here, a Jewish girl whose real name was Mariya (Mascha) Borisovna Bruskina; she went to high school here and dreamed of being an actress, before the Germans came. “I cannot leave. We will stay and fight and wait for the army to return. We must all do what we can.”

She was an avid Communist, a member of Young Pioneers and a student member of Komonsol, the All Union Leninist Young Communist League.

On June 22, 1941 the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union, and in six days they were in Minsk. The girl now called Anya lost her dream at 17 years old.

Within days of the arrival of the Germans the knock had come at the door. “Raus Jews! You are moving!” She and her parents along with 100,000 Minsk Jews were marched to a ghetto and walled inside.

Her mother spoke quietly with her those first few evenings. “You must leave! Find a way out of here and disappear into the Aryan side of Minsk. Dye your hair lighter and apply some make-up…you must escape this place! They will kill us all. We are old; you are young and pretty and can pass as an ordinary Russian girl…”

Anya didn’t want to leave but took her mother’s advice and found a way to the outside, lightened her hair to a safe, Teutonic dark blond, bought some forged identity papers and took her new Russian name. She was no longer Mariya (Mascha) Borisovna Bruskina; she was now the Russian girl Anya.

Anya immediately joined the resistance. She was asked to volunteer at the Polytechnic Institute Hospital (which had been set up for wounded Red Army prisoners)  as a nurse and, being young and pretty, she was able to come and go without much attention other than the leers of German guards. She smiled on cue as if she spoke no German and did not have to worry about engaging in any extensive conversations.  She was glad she didn’t understand all the comments passed back and forth when she walked by.

In the hospital Anya found that some 15 wounded Red Army prisoners were being held. She spoke with her comrades in the resistance and a plan was hatched to free the Russian soldiers so they could join the resistance.  In order to make an escape they would need civilian clothes, money and identity papers.

Anya volunteered to smuggle in clothes and money as well as a camera to take pictures of the individual soldiers in order to forge I.D.s.   Over a period of weeks, she carried everything that was necessary and during the night shifts was able to take the required pictures.

The escape went perfectly. Within hours the Germans were hunting for the prisoners.

It didn’t take long to find them. Within two days they were all rounded up and shot…..except for one  who lived a bit longer when he betrayed those who had helped free him.  In the end, the Germans shot him as well; a traitor twice-over, in their minds.

Anya was arrested by Lithuanian collaborators and turned over to the Gestapo along with Kiril Trus (a World War I veteran) and a 16 year old boy named Volodia Shcherbatsevich.  They were brutally beaten and tortured for information but none talked.

Anya knew she was going to die (she had quipped to her fellow prisoners that at least “I don’t have to worry about dying of starvation.”). She was very worried about her parents in the ghetto instead and passed a message to the resistance asking if they would deliver a letter to her mother.

She wrote:

“I am tormented by the thought that I have caused you great worry. Don’t worry. Nothing bad has happened to me. I swear to you that you will have no further unpleasantness because of me. If you can, please send me my dress, my green blouse, and white socks. I want to be dressed decently when I leave here.”

Before being executed, Anya, along with Kyril and 16 year old Volodia, were paraded through the streets of Minsk by Lithuanian Nazi collaborators.

“Before noon, I saw the armed German and Lithuanian soldiers appear on the street. From over the bridge they escorted three people with their arms tied behind their backs. In the middle there was a girl with a sign-board on her chest. They were led up to the yeast factory gate. I noticed how calmly these people walked. The girl did not look around.”

Anya, who was Mariya once again, wore a placard around her neck in both German and Russian – “We are partisans and have shot at German troops” – though she had not.

She and her fellow comrades were hanged one at a time in public on Sunday, October 26, 1941 in front of the yeast brewery and distillery plant Minsk Kristall. She was the first to die.  There was no gallows to drop her and end her suffering quickly.  She was simply stood on a stool, the rope around her neck, hands bound behind her, but not her feet.

The Germans stood her up facing the audience.   They wanted all those watching to see her die.  She turned around.  The Germans faced her forward.  She turned around again.  She would not face forward.

Pyotr Pavlovich Borisenko witnessed the execution:

“When they put her on the stool, the girl turned her face toward the fence. The executioners wanted her to stand with her face to the crowd, but she turned away and that was that. No matter how much they pushed her and tried to turn her, she remained standing with her back to the crowd. Only then did they kick away the stool from under her.”

The Germans let the bodies hang for three full days before allowing them to be cut down. Volodia’s mother was hanged as well from the crossbar of the gates outside of the Minsk Academy of Science.

While ritually washing her body before burial, the hair dye washed  away revealing the dark haired girl beneath.

Anya’s mother lost her sanity and died in the Holocaust. Her father escaped the ghetto, joined the Red Army and survived the war – but he died a lonely and broken man, unable to honor his daughter.

Although the pictures of her death, taken by the Lithuanians, were well publicized after the war, Soviet and later Belarus officials claimed not to know the identity of the pretty young girl. On a memorial plaque at the MinskKristall where they died she was listed as “unknown girl”.

It was always suspected that the authorities knew full well who she was; they knew the names of the two men.

But Mariya Borisovna Bruskina was a Jew – and the authorities may have had difficulty in admitting that a Jewish girl was a resistance hero. Maybe it was just bureaucratic incompetence.

Finally, on July 1, 2009 the Municipality of Minsk replaced the memorial plaque, removing “unknown girl” and inserting her name “M. B. Bruskina”.

The Russian inscription now reads “Here on October 26, 1941 the Fascists executed the Soviet patriots K. I. Truss, Vi. I  Sherbateyvich and M. B.  Bruskina.”

Her father did not live to see it.

Do you have a teen-age daughter?  Does she have dreams?

Look at her picture and see her in your dreams.

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July 4, 2020 – A Re-Post

Blotting out the light and sun
a shroud descends upon the land
 a covering of night and fog obscuring
unseen death, waiting to lend a helping hand.

Hearing the sound of labored breathing
from somewhere in the night and fog;
on River Styx the sound of oars
departing for those distant shores.

Mixed in the sounds of
“I can’t breathe!” and gunshots;
Might you spare another coin
to pay a busy ferryman?

Now chanting voices and marching feet
crashing sounds of  idols fallen
clinking glasses and liquor flows
for young immortals in their great conceit.

while with fireworks and speeches
we are told to have no fears
no mention of the scythe and Reaper
the dead, the dying, the hunger, the tears

Speaking only of the idols,
deaf to snickers; irrelevance,
a minion of the scythe and Reaper
exposing our great impotence.

We have reached that point
now fearfully, underneath a blackened sky
where two roads diverge in a yellow wood
and we must choose  one to travel by.

“Choose wisely”

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Meme of the Week

Courtesy of Marie who couldn’t help herself

🙂

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The White Rose – A Tale for our Time

Originally posted in February 2010 – and most relevant today

Core Members of the White Rose – Munich 1942 – (l to r) Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst.  Arrested by the Gestapo and guillotined  on February 22, 1943.

The notorious Nazi Judge Roland Freisler was practically spitting venom.

“You are a traitor!!”

Sophie quietly replied “Well someone had to be first. What we wrote and said is believed by many others. They just don’t dare to express themselves as we did.”

Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans and good friend Christoph Probst were on trial for their lives in Freisler’s “Peoples Court”. It was February 22, 1943 in Munich, Germany.

Freisler was enraged. “We are at war!! Did you not hear Reich’s Minister Goebbel’s call for total war!! Sophie and the others had been arrested by the S.S. the same day as the speech.

“Everyone in this room knows that your war is lost! None of you is brave enough to say it!”

Sophie was 22 years old; her brother Hans about 3 years older. The three on trial constituted the core members of the anti-Nazi “Society of the White Rose” and were co-authors of six anti-Nazi political resistance leaflets. The leaflets were produced on a manual printing press and distributed surreptitiously, first at the University of Munich where they were students and eventually as far away as Vienna.

Sophie and her friends grew up as the Nazi’s were coming to power; by the time she was an adult they had a strangle hold on the nation. There was only one acceptable world view – the Nazi view.

Sophie was raised a Lutheran and was devoutly religious. It was mandatory to join the Bund Deutsche Madel, the League of German Girls and for her brother Hans to join the Hitler Youth. Both had to perform six months “national service” in order to have any chance of attending university.  Sophie did hers at a metal plant.

Sophie Scholl

Sophie Scholl

It was the time during her national service that made Sophie think long and  hard about the current political situation.  She began practicing passive resistance.

When her long time boy friend Fritz Hartnagel was conscripted into the army and sent to the Eastern front, Sophie gave him two volumes of the sermons of John Cardinal Newman, an indication of how important religion was in her life. The White Rose was founded by Sophie and her anti-Nazi friends after they obtained and read a copy of a stern anti-Nazi sermon given from the pulpit by Cardinal Clemens August Graf von Galen, the Roman Catholic bishop of Munich, a member of one of the most prominent noble families in Germany.

Meanwhile, Sophie’s boyfriend Fritz was writing home to her about the atrocities on the Eastern front.  Fritz was assigned to General von Paulus Sixth Army.

Sophie was horrified by his reports of the cold blooded murder of captured Russian soldiers and Jews in every town entered by the Wehrmacht. Her correspondence with Fritz delved deeply into Cardinal Newman’s “theology of conscience” and how an individual must act under a dictatorship.

The leaflets of the White Rose urged the German people to resist.  Obviously having anything to do with these leaflets meant almost certain death.

Monument on the floor of the University – stone leaflets

From the very first leaflet –

Isn’t it true that every honest German is ashamed of his government these days? Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes—crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure—reach the light of day?”

The core members and half a dozen others left the leaflets around the campus of the university, mailed them anonymously around Munich, carried them by hand as far away as Berlin and Vienna, left them in public places where they would be found by passersby. Meanwhile part of the group, lead by Willi Graf began a graffiti campaign around Munich, spending his nights painting “Freedom!” and “Down with Hitler!” on public buildings.  Willi had been forced to “volunteer” and spend his summer in Poland – he was becoming a doctor – and he saw with his own eyes the Warsaw and Lodz ghettos.  He came home and told the others.

This small group of German youth, who grew up under the dictatorship had rejected fascism and militarism and supported a belief in a federated Europe of tolerance, justice and peace – the Europe that hopefully would come.

From the second leaflet –

“Since the conquest of Poland three hundred thousand Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way. The German people slumber on in their dull, stupid sleep and encourage these fascist criminals. Each man wants to be exonerated of a guilt of this kind, each one continues on his way with the most placid, the calmest conscience. But he cannot be exonerated; he is guilty”

The Gestapo was in a frenzy to track down whoever it was printing and distributing the leaflets as they had caused a sensation. No one in Germany had read anything like this in years.

The fifth leaflet was composed by Hans Scholl and warned that Hitler was leading Germany into the abyss; with the gathering might of the Allies, defeat was now certain. The reader was urged to “Support the resistance movement!” in the struggle for ”Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of criminal dictator-states”. These were the principles that would form “the foundations of the new Europe”.

The Scholls were distributing the seventh leaflet of the “White Rose” at the university when they were spotted by a janitor and turned in to the Gestapo. Evidence on their persons implicated Christoph Probst, a married member ofWhite Rose and father of three small kids.

Within days of their arrest the three were brought to trial in Freisler’s  Nazi court.   Sophie remained firm and very brave at trial.  She attempted to take all of the blame trying to save her brother and friends. To no avail.

Immediately after trial, Hans and Sophie had one last meeting with their parents.  The parents were in agony, especially her father who had raised his children as tolerant lovers of peace.  The guards then allowed Hans, Sophie and Christoph a few moments together before Sophie was led to her death, followed by Christoph and finally Hans.  She kissed them goodbye.

“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

One observer described Sophie;  “She walked to her death without flinching a hair”. The three were guillotined.

At his execution Hans said “Let freedom live!” as the blade fell.

Christoph Probst asked for a priest and was baptized a Catholic before he died.

The White Rose had the last word. Their final leaflet was smuggled to the Allies by Helmut James Graf von Moltke thru Scandinavia to London. Millions of copies entitled “The Manifesto of the Students of Munich” were dropped all over Germany.  Von Moltke was the great grandnephew of Von Moltke the Elder, the victorious German commander of the Franco-Prussian and Austro-Prussian Wars, He was a founding member of the Kreisau Circle Resistance Group and he too was executed by the Gestapo on January 23, 1945.

Willi Graf, the graffiti artist was captured by the S.S., “interrogated” for six months and then guillotined. He told them nothing.

The members of the White Rose, especially Sophie, became icons of the new Germany representing selfless opposition to tyranny. They are memorialized and remembered with public monuments, squares and streets named after them across Germany and at their old school.

Black granite memorial to the White Rose in the Hofgarten in Munich next to the Bavarian State Chancellery.

The playwright Lillian Garrett-Groag stated in Newsday on 22 February 1993, that “It is possibly the most spectacular moment of resistance that I can think of in the 20th century.  The fact that five little kids, in the mouth of the wolf, where it really counted, had the tremendous courage to do what they did, is spectacular to me.”

In 2003 Germans were invited to participate in “Our Best” – a nationwide competition to list the ten most important Germans of all time. Sophie and Hans came in 4th – ahead of Goethe, Bach, Guttenburg, Bismarck and Albert Einstein.  If the votes of young people alone had been counted the brother and sister would have come in first.

Readers of the German magazine for women, Brigitte, named Sophie Scholl the greatest woman of the 20th century.

The Scholle parents had six children, one of whom died in infancy.  Sophie and Hans were executed.  Sophie’s brother Werner was killed during the war in June 1944.  Sophie’s sister Inge would write the story and remained an active participant in the peace movement until her passing in 1998.

Sophie’s boyfriend Fritz Hartnagel was one of the lucky Germans evacuated from Stalingrad but he didn’t return to Germany until after Sophie was already dead.

Years later he would marry Sophie’s younger sister Elizabeth.

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http://aworldtowin.net/reviews/SophieScholl.html

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Putsch

The Peace Monument – Grief crying on the shoulder of the personification of History

Yesterday was the saddest day in my country in my 78 + years.  Yesterday I saw the President of the United States of America calls his storm troopers to Washington, incite them to violence in a morning rally  speech and direct them to the capitol in an effort to disrupt the counting of Electoral College votes in Congress, disrupting the process to formalize Joe Biden as the next President.

His storm troopers were in town based on a lie  –  that Donald Trump really won the election and that was “stolen” from him.  As I write this piece he is till spouting that lie.

Now after all we have seen since November one can only assume that either Donald Trump is mentally ill (many in mental health believe that) or he is a Mussolini wannabee.  After all the election wasn’t even close.  Trump lost the popular vote by 7+ million votes and four states he carried in 2016.  Because of accusations of “fraud” recounts were held numerous times in every close state election.  Over 60 law suits were filed and dismissed by judges, many of whom were appointed by Trump himself.  The Supreme Court blew him and Giuliani off twice, not withstanding the Justices he appointed.

No evidence of any significance was ever presented.  Mostly it was innuendo and hearsay.

So did Trump REALLY  believe he had bee robbed or did he know the truth and just continued lying to his followers?  Either way of course he is unfit.  Yesterday he continued the lie in his morning pep rally as he sent the Maga mob on to the capital.  He had threatened the Vice President  and the Georgia Secretary of State to “find me 18,000 votes!”

And so yesterday we witnessed the American version of the March on Rome.  It was a Putsch pure and simple.  Unfortunately this mad man / fascist (your choice) has 14 more days in office.  There is already talk in his Cabinet of removing him under the 25th Amendment but I’m not sure Congress can do anything in 14 days.  Besides the amendment has never been exercised.

Who knows what he will do in two weeks?

So how did we get from where we were under Obama to the ransacking of the Capitol yesterday?  Methinks Donald Trump had a lot of help along the way, primarily from lackey Republicans who ignored every abuse of power and every abusive tweet.

You know how it was – you got to go along in order the get along – especially with Trump.

I personally think Trump should be removed but I’m not sure that is very likely with less than 2 weeks left until inauguration.  A quick impeachment and conviction would bar Trump from ever  running again, which could solve a lot of Republican problems.

While the President is primarily the guilty party, GOP Senate and House representatives who have supported the lies should not escape blame.  Hours after the sacking of the capitol, Republican Senators and House members were voting to  approve the ludicrous motions to reject the electoral count of swing states.  The storming of capitol gave them no second thoughts about their actions.  The continued to support the lie and the attempted fascist coup.

There is much hand wringing today among Republicans  over the President’s actions but little about their own until the Majority Leader had to escorted to safety from the mob breaking down the doors.  Those who never spoke a word against the President and continued to peddle the lie that the election was “stolen” bear much of the blame and should be called out publicly.

And what of Fox News?  Facebook?  Twitter?  All of them had a part in the growth and expansion of a monstrous lie.  Their failure should be enough to bring about regulation from the new Congress.

That Donald Trump won the electio was not simply another point of view.  It was a lie and a the participants in propagating the lie knew it.

On March 18, 2016 I put up a post entitled Pick A Color in which I discussed the potential violence of Trump supporters.  The attack on democracy had already begun.

Pick a Color | toritto (wordpress.com)

We have revived the beer halls.

 

 

 

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