History People Are Talking About: Archives 2-28-03 to 4-10-03
John O'Sullivan, editor in chief of United Press International, reviewing Nial Ferguson's new book on the British Empire; in the Wall Street Journal (April 10, 2003):
If a Martian historian with Methuselah's life span devoted himself to observing from afar the broad patterns of human activity over the past millennium, he would see an explosion of energy in the British Isles from the 16th century onward. In particular, between the early 1600s and the 1950s more than 20 million people emigrated from Britain and settled in other lands. The British also developed dense patterns of trade with such faraway areas as India and Africa. Only a few of them emigrated to those countries, yet they reshaped them in line with their own practices.
From the standpoint of Mars, 1776 hardly registers. Eighty percent of British emigrants ended up in America, before and after independence. "Manifest Destiny" looks like a local instance of the emigration that was fueling Britain's imperialism. In any case, the same liberal principles -- free trade, the rule of law, representative institutions -- shaped both the U.S. and Britain's possessions.
Altogether this Anglo-American network of emigration, trade and rule amounted to the first global order. What might puzzle our Martian was why this order broke down in 1914 -- and why, when it reappeared in 1989, its center had moved from London to Washington.
Or has it? Niall Ferguson believes so. The neologism he coins to describe the British Empire is "Anglobalization." He concludes "Empire" (Basic Books, 392 pages, $35), his brilliant survey of its rise and fall, with an appeal to the U.S. to overcome its anti-imperialism and accept the responsibilities that the end of the Cold War has thrust upon it. So he must rescue British imperialism from the obloquy that descended upon it in the age of de-colonization.
Mr. Ferguson's main defense is an economic one. He notes that the British Empire, by establishing a world order based on free trade and free capital movement, assisted the development of poorer countries and raised living standards in its far-flung colonies. Imperial rule also spread institutions and practices favorable to good government, such as secure private property, personal liberty and impartial law. These often took root. Seymour Martin Lipset points to a marked correlation between being a former British colony and enjoying liberal democratic government today. ...
[W]hen the balance sheet is added up, one wonders why someone as sympathetic to imperialism as Mr. Ferguson scorns Curzon's judgment that "the British empire is under Providence the greatest instrument for good that the world has ever seen." Given the record of other human institutions, Curzon had a point.
It is a point that Americans are reluctant to grasp even when the empire is their own "informal" one -- and even when U.S. troops intervene to remove threats to international stability, as in Afghanistan and Iraq. The more forthright Mr. Ferguson believes that the U.S. should sustain networks of trade, aid, investment and defense that will mimic the British world order. Rogue states will be curbed, failed nations healed and brushfire wars smothered -- by aid and investment where possible, by arms where necessary.
It will, of course, be an imperialism that dare not speak its name. Some of the imperialists in progressive NGOs will even believe that they are anti-imperialist. And the logos under which they operate will be derived from the United Nations or the IMF rather than from the U.S. itself. But the underlying networks of cooperation that sustain this shy imperialism are likely to link the U.S. with such "Anglosphere" nations as Britain and Australia and perhaps, in due course, India and South Africa, which share the liberal world outlook.
Eric Alterman, writing on his blog (April 8, 2003):
Heres a post from H-DDiplo from the historian David Kaiser outlining the reasons why Vietnam, the United States and the world would all be better places had Lyndon Johnson had the good sense to take Richard Russells advice and stay the heck outta that quicksand quagmire.
He makes an important point to remember with regard to Iraq and the rest of the imperial wars Bush and company have planned for us: intentions are not deeds; comparing what is with what youd like it to be is almost always a pointless and ultimately counter-productive exercise when it comes to the use of war as an instrument of policy, rather than a matter of self-defense.
I would agree that what the United States wanted for South Vietnam was better than what South Vietnam eventually got. However, 'wants' and 'wishes' do not necessarily pay off for anybody. I find it dubious to compare the present state of Vietnam to what would have happened had the United States 'triumphed' in the absence of any proof that the United States could have done so. What we are comparing, I thought, are two alternatives, one of which occurred (we fought and lost), and one of which certainly might have occurred (we didnt fight, and lose.) Im going to suggest some best case scenarios for the latter option.
1. A coalition government led by Buddhists and General Khanh, formed early in 1965, might have survived. (Doubtful, I agree, but possible.)
2. The neutral governments in Cambodia and Laos would have survived. (Extremely possible, in my opinion, especially with respect to Cambodia, where Sihanouk was politically strong.)
3. Ho Chi Minh would immediately have sought a relationship with the US (Almost certain: the falling out with Mao was, I believe very likely.)
4. In any case, without American intervention, the North Vietnamese Army would never have become the massively armed conventional force that it did, with Soviet help.
5. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Vietnamese lives would have been saved.
6. American prestige in the Third World would have been much higher.
7. With the United States not distracted, there would have been no Six Day War, with all its consequences. (Anyone who doubts that is referred to Judith Klinghoffers excellent book on the subject.)
8. The Democratic Party would have remained the majority party. (In my view, a good thing.)
9. The student revolt at home would not have become nearly so destructive.
Now if someone looks at this list, I think, roughly, that it proceeds from the merely speculative (1) to the almost certainly true. And since so many people are still so willing to speculate freely on the benefits of American victory (and to blame liberals for the American defeat, as I heard William Kristol do the other day), it seems only fair to assess, realistically, the benefits of American non-intervention.
Linda Comins, writing in the Wheeling News Register (April 2, 2003):
A prominent Jewish scholar and author believes the biggest threat posed by those who deny the Holocaust is a future danger - when few Holocaust survivors remain to speak the truth.
Deborah Lipstadt, an Emory University professor, spoke at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Wheeling Tuesday night about researching the Holocaust denial movement and defending her written conclusions in a British courtroom.
After a six-and-a-half-year legal fight and a three-month trial in London, Lipstadt won a libel case brought by an author whom she had labeled as a Holocaust denier.
She visited Wheeling as part of the Holocaust Remembrance Series of West Liberty State College's Hughes Lecture Series. The West Virginia Humanities Council provided financial support for the program.
"Denial is a form of anti-Semitism. Many of the deniers are also virulent racists," she charged.
When deniers claim that the Holocaust is a myth,"it is not a clear and present danger; it is a clear and future danger," she commented.
"The ability of people to deny it becomes stronger as there are fewer people around to give first-hand accounts."
Offering a composite portrait, she said Holocaust deniers are anti-Semites and"many are racists; many are supporters of national socialism (Nazism)." She said the Holocaust stands out"because it was state-sponsored terrorism. It was state-sponsored genocide in which virtually every aspect of government was involved."
Christine Stansell, professor of history at Princeton, writing in the New Republic (March 24, 2003):
Not so long ago, the history of New York in the nineteenth century was the province of sensationalizing journalists. For years, professional historians did little to supplant old potboilers such as Herbert Asbury's Gangs of New York, weirdly exhumed this year by Martin Scorsese. Graduate students were warned away. New York was too big, too weird, too complicated (and too Jewish? ) to fit into approved models of the urban "case" provided by the tidier cities of Boston and Philadelphia, where WASP elites dominated and it was possible to imagine the Irish as the sole placeholders for ethnicity. Few wanted to muck about in New York's polyglot mix. There were important exceptions, such as Moses Rischin and Irving Howe, but their dense and delectable books about the Lower East Side elicited more public interest than academic respect.
It was not until the late 1970s, in fact, that students looking for dissertation topics ventured into the New York City archives with any frequency. The books that they eventually wrote--some of them monographs, others crossovers for general readers--broke through the disinterest of the earlier generations of scholars. New York was undoubtedly atypical, they frankly acknowledged. But it was the great American exception, more properly compared to Paris or London than to Boston or Philadelphia. And this was all the more reason to study it.
In American history as it is taught today, three decades of scholarship, culminating in Edwin Burrows and Michael Wallace's grand synthesis in Gotham, have pushed New York to center stage. Aside from Scorsese's historically preposterous film, which turns the ragtag Victorian gangs into warriors out of a biblical epic of the 1950s, sensationalism has given way to nuanced historical work that takes on the city's peculiar combinations of hauteur and hustling, snobbery and democracy, preening and poverty. The interpretations are rich, and the research is ambitious and near archaeological in the delicacy and the assiduity given to excavating the sources. There are marvelous books on the 1800s--books about artists and intellectuals; writers and actors; politicians, criminals, and prostitutes; the Jews, the Irish, and the Chinese; workers and women. There are studies of real estate, museums, crowds, high society, vaudeville, the opera.
Except for a few monographs, though, there is almost nothing on African Americans. African Americanists have looked elsewhere: the tininess of the free black community in the antebellum period--16,358 people at its peak in 1840, about 5 percent of the population, shrinking to 1 percent in 1860--made it seem like an ancillary phenomenon, both to the city and to the system in which millions of black Americans lived in bondage. So the historians' narrative of black New York has only begun full throttle with the Great Migration from the South, when thousands of black people packed into Harlem. From this vantage point in time, New York seems a haven for African American freedom, however compromised it was by Northern racism. The city was far from emancipated, but it still wasn't Dixie.
Still, it turns out that New York in 1800 was a slave city no less than Charleston. The largest slave city outside the South, its ties to the slave system and the Southern states remained strong in the nineteenth century. Even after emancipation, "the shadow of slavery" lay long across New York's African American residents. In finance and trade, its mercantile and financial elites were heavily dependent on Southern cotton; and Manhattan merchants, bankers, and retailers made sure that the city was a hospitable place to visiting planters, their commercial agents, and their slave catchers.
This made New York the most dangerous place in the North for fugitive slaves, since someone from home might recognize them on the streets. Slave catchers not only apprehended runaways; they aggressively kidnapped free people, trumping up evidence that they were fugitives. Fights, melees, and scuffles between slave catchers and their victims often broke out on the streets. Unlike Boston, where anti-slavery sentiment made it hard for slave catchers to operate, the police and the courts in New York helped them. Merchants cautioned that any other attitude toward the representatives of Southern "property" interests would "embarrass trade."
Edward Rothstein, writing in the NYT (March 29, 2003):
In the public imagination, the heroic image has long been the dominant one. Churchill himself joked that he would ensure his place in history by writing that history himself as he did in the six volumes of "The Second World War," which helped win him the Nobel Prize in literature in 1953. The stentorian prose of William Manchester's first two volumes of his Churchill biography ("The Last Lion") reinforced that stature for the lay reader. And the eight volumes of the "authorized" biography by Martin Gilbert testified to its subject's monumental importance.
But beginning in the 1960's, Churchillian scholarship also began to focus on Churchill's military and political mistakes. The historian Robert Rhodes James subtitled his 1970 book about Churchill "A Study in Failure." (Mr. Lukacs considers it one of the best written about Churchill.) Mr. James argued that Churchill's warnings about Germany may have fallen on deaf ears partly because Churchill was so widely distrusted after a long career of party-switching, posturing and political misjudgments. In fact, as he was fulminating against Germany, Churchill was also opposing constitutional changes in the government of India and said it was "nauseating" to see a "fakir" like Gandhi being met on equal terms. Historians attacked Churchill from the political left for such imperial sentiments as well as for his admiration of political personalities like Mussolini (whom Churchill called a "really great man" in 1935 before he changed his mind).
Historians also attacked Churchill from the right. John Charmley's 1993 book, "Churchill: The End of Glory," argued that Churchill was wrong even when most triumphant. Mr. Charmley suggested that an agreement might well have been reached with Hitler in the 1930's, thus preventing war, but that instead Churchill's war strategy doomed the empire to dissolution and put Britain in America's pocket.
At the same time, Churchill's own histories including his multi-volume accounts of the first and second world wars, his epic "History of the English-speaking Peoples" and his study of his ancestor Lord Marlborough came to seem academically quaint. J. H. Plumb criticized them for philistinism and their author for showing no mastery of Marx and Freud.
In this critical context, some essays in a new book by the British historian David Cannadine, "In Churchill's Shadow" (Oxford), even provide a bit of reprieve, for while Mr. Cannadine says that Churchill was often "a bombastic and histrionic vulgarian, out of touch, out of tune and out of temper," he also believes that Churchill brought to British life "a breadth of vision, a poetry of expression and a splendor of utterances" unlikely to be heard again a political poet of sorts, comforting, in Mr. Cannadine's view, a "nation in decline."
Churchill poses a challenge because there is no simple way of accounting both for the scope of his achievements and for the range of his failures. Roy Jenkins's large-scale 2001 biography of Churchill (Farrar Straus & Giroux) sometimes risks reducing Churchill to a mere politician, but Mr. Jenkins himself a veteran of the Parliament and the Cabinet is still seduced into awe. The military historian John Keegan recounts in his recent brief biography of Churchill (published by Viking) that as a young man in the 1950's, Mr. Keegan, like many of his generation, found Churchill to be simply irrelevant an aging conservative leader, a relic of a passing imperial age. But recordings of Churchill's speeches changed his mind.
Stephen Kotkin, Princeton historian, writing in the New Republic (March 22, 2003)
Hitler started the Cold War. Let us remember, he decisively won World War II. By 1941, through conquests, annexations, and alliances, Nazi Germany controlled all of Europe from the English Channel to the Soviet border. The defiant British, an irritant, posed no threat, and the compliant Soviets were obediently fulfilling a nonaggression pact and a trade pact with their Nazi comrades. But Hitler unilaterally broke his deal with Stalin and invaded the one country that had the power to defeat the Nazi land army, calling forth an epochal defensive war that unexpectedly implanted the Soviets in Berlin. The crusade that Hitler thrust upon the Soviets afforded them the transcendent purpose and the geopolitical aggrandizement that Communist ideology professed but that had largely eluded the Soviets outside their factory towns. The war integrated the huge village population into the revolution, extended state borders in all directions, and brought a bonus European buffer empire. The Vozhd, as Stalin liked to be called, never had a greater partner than the Fuhrer, not even Lenin.
And Stalin, in turn, conjured up today's Pax Americana. Flush with victory in the great war, not only did he stubbornly refuse to accept change, or to bring his devastated domestic order even minimally in line with the more powerful liberal ascendancy being imposed on defeated Germany and Japan, but he also force-cloned Soviet regimes in the windfall lands that Hitler's racist megalomania had perversely bestowed. In the years after the war, Stalin appears to have expected a capitalist crisis still greater than the Great Depression, as well as divisions among the capitalist powers even deeper than those of the interwar period. Mistake! He and his heirs came smack up against the capitalist world's greatest economic boom, while his ideologically inflected opportunism in Eastern Europe, and then in Korea, united the highly fractious Western powers and decisively mobilized the internationally circumspect United States for a sustained global campaign. Stalin is long dead and the Cold War won (except, of course, on the Korean peninsula). But the world that the Soviet menace induced, with a huge initial hand from the Nazis (and a lesser one from the Japanese), lives on: an American superpower engaged and deployed across the entire planet, not to mention outer space.
Dred Scott Wasn't the Only Slave to Sue for His Freedom (posted 3-26-03)Stephanie Simon, writing in the LA Times (March 18, 2003):
The creamy linen pages are creased and torn, smudged with grease or sweat. The ink has faded to sepia. A squashed fly is smeared on the edge of one sheet.
Through these tattered documents, the unheard voices of America's slaves call out for justice.
Tempe complains in 1818 that her master has failed "to supply her with clothing necessary for comfort and decency." Ralph, in 1830, expresses "fear that James and Coleman Duncan will take me by force from this place and sell me." Daniel, in 1835, states simply that he is "entitled to his freedom."
Winny speaks, and Celeste, and Milly, Arch and Anson and Matilda, Charlotte and Julia, Jerry, Rachel. These were men and women who had no last names, who could not read or write, who were bought and sold like livestock. Yet, in a remarkable display of courage and desperation, they and hundreds of others sued for their freedom in the white man's court.
Their stories, their voices, are emerging now as Missouri state archivists sort through 4 million court documents that had been stashed away in metal cabinets, untouched since the Civil War.
Among heaps of musty affidavits about contract disputes and unpaid debts, the archivists have uncovered 283 "freedom suits" filed in St. Louis from 1806 to 1865.
Decades before Dred Scott became the most famous slave to sue for freedom, the imposing, domed courthouse here echoed with the defiant voices of Tempe, of Ralph, of so many others who refused to accept their bondage. They dictated their petitions to lawyers or clerks and signed them with faltering Xs in black ink. "He has frequently abused and beaten her, particularly yesterday." "Unlawfully an assault he did make in and upon her."
Before this cache of documents was discovered, historians had no idea how many slaves had put their faith, and their fates, in the courts. They thought Dred Scott was an anomaly. Now, they are uncovering evidence of an underground grapevine that passed word about the freedom suits from slave to slave, emboldening men and women and even teenage children to sue.
Was the Truman Administration Correct in Believing that Stalin Was Behind the North Korean Invasion of the South? (posted 3-25-03)Leo Lovelace, a professor at the University of Southern California, commenting on H-Diplo about the Truman administration's belief that North Korea decided to invade the South in 1950 at the behest of Joseph Stalin (March 25, 2003):
The most authoritative source on this matter now, on the basis of declassified documents from the Soviet archives, is now at the National Security Archives, and may be found at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/CWIHP/BULLETINS/b3a2.htm.
These documents show Kim Il Sung's attack plan was deliberate in its attempt to gain control of a unified Korea, and that Stalin supported it. According to Kathryin Weathersby, of the National Security Archive, this proves the revisionist thesis is incorrect.
The revisionist thesis proves to be correct, however, to the extent that, contrary to the Truman's administration absolute assumption--pivotal for the consolidation of the Cold War mindset and strategic framework--the Soviet declassified materials show the plan was not a Stalin's initiative, but Kim's own design.
Was Palestine Filled with Arabs Before the Founding of Israel? (posted 3-24-03)Harry Mandelbaum, writing in Think-Israel (March 2003):
Unknown to most of the world population, the origin of the"Palestinian" Arabs' claim to the Holy Land spans a period of a meager 30 years - a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands of years of the region's rich history.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were practically no Arabs in the Holy Land. By contrast, the Jews, despite 2000 years of persecution and forced conversions by various conquerors, have always been the majority population there. When General Allenby, the commander of the British military forces, conquered Palestine in 1917/1918, only about 5000 Arabs resided there. Other Muslims in the area either came from Turkey under the Ottoman Empire, or were the descendents of Jews and Christians who were forcefully converted to Islam by the Muslim conquerors. None of these other Muslims were of Arab origin.
The local inhabitants did not call themselves"Palestinians". The concept of a"Palestinian" to describe the local residents had not yet been invented; neither was there ever in history a"Palestinian Arab" nation. None of today's Arabs have any ancestral relationship to the original Biblical Philistines who are now extinct. Even Arab historians have admitted Palestine never existed.
In 1937, the Arab leader Auni Bey Abdul Hadi told the Peel Commission:"There is no such country as Palestine. Palestine is a term the Zionists invented. Palestine is alien to us."
In 1946, Princeton's Arab professor of Middle East history, Philip Hitti, told the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry:"It's common knowledge, there is no such thing as Palestine in history."
In March 1977, Zahir Muhsein, an executive member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), said in an interview to the Dutch newspaper Trouw:"The 'Palestinian people' does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel."
Mark Twain - Samuel Clemens, the famous author of"Huckleberry Finn" and"Tom Sawyer", took a tour of the Holy Land in 1867. This is how he described that land:"A desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given over wholly to weeds. A silent, mournful expanse. We never saw a human being on the whole route. There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country."
In 1874, Reverend Samuel Manning wrote:"But where were the inhabitants? This fertile plain, which might support an immense population, is almost a solitude.... Day by day we were to learn afresh the lesson now forced upon us, that the denunciations of ancient prophecy have been fulfilled to the very letter -- `the land is left void and desolate and without inhabitants.'"
Here is a report that the Palestinian Royal Commission, created by the British, made. It quotes an account of the conditions on the coastal plain along the Mediterranean Sea in 1913:"The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track, suitable for transport by camels or carts. No orange groves, orchards or vineyards were to be seen until one reached the [Jewish] Yabna village. Houses were mud. Schools did not exist. The western part toward the sea was almost a desert. The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many villages were deserted by their inhabitants."
NEW STUDY: GEOGRAPHY'S IMPORTANT IN SCHOOL (posted 3-21-03)Chester Finn, writing in Gadfly (March 20, 2003):
We learn from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, from surveys by the National Geographic Society, and from a hundred other sources that American students’ knowledge of history and geography is lamentably thin, that their understanding of their nation’s past is weak, and that their comprehension of the world outside U.S. borders is skimpy indeed. Yet there has never been a time when such knowledge mattered more. Geography plays a crucial role in shaping history and the study of history provides an important context for students learning geography. Yet K-12 teachers rarely take advantage of the complementary nature of these two subjects by teaching both in one integrated curriculum. A new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation shows how the study of U.S. history can be enriched by blending geography into the curriculum. The centerpiece of the report is an innovative curricular framework for studying the American past, a course in which each historical period is supplemented and enriched by the introduction of relevant geography. See www.edexcellence.net to download a copy of the report or to order a hard copy.
The Best of Both Worlds, Blending History and Geography in the K-12 Curriculum, by Richard G. Boehm, David Warren Saxe and David J. Rutherford, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, February 2003, http://www.edexcellence.net/library/GeoHistfinal.pdf
LAMAR ALEXANDER'S HISTORY INITIATIVE (posted 3-21-03)Chester Finn, writing in Gadfly (March 20, 2003):
Rarely does a newly introduced bill deserve comment before it’s even gotten to the stage of hearings, but you should know about this one. Senator Lamar Alexander--former U.S. Secretary of Education, Governor of Tennessee, president of that state’s flagship university, and chairman of the National Governors Association--used the occasion of his “debut” speech on the Senate floor to introduce S. 504, The American History and Civics Education Act of 2003. As he put it, this bill joins “two urgent concerns that will determine our country’s future…: the education of our children and the principles that unite us as Americans.” It authorizes the National Endowment for the Humanities to create a dozen “Presidential Academies for Teachers of American History and Civics” and a like number of “Congressional Academies for Students of American History and Civics.” (It also provides for a new “National Alliance of Teachers of American History and Civics.) Authorized at $25 million, the measure is seen by Alexander and his co-sponsors as a pilot to demonstrate the value and effectiveness of residential summer programs for K-12 teachers specializing in history and/or civics, and for high school students who are accomplished and interested in those subjects. About 300 teachers would attend each 2-week program (i.e. about 3600 per annum) as would a similar number of students (their programs would last a month). Universities and education research organizations would run these projects. If enacted, these would be substantial--as well as highly symbolic--sources of encouragement to K-12 and higher education to pay closer heed to what Alexander terms “better teaching and more learning of the key events, persons and ideas that shape the institutions and democratic heritage of the United States.”
ULTRAORTHODOX JEWS ARE SPLIT OVER THE WAY TO WRITE HISTORY (posted 3-21-03)Steven Aftergood, writing in the newsletter for Secrecy News (March 20, 2003):
A new book by ultra-orthodox Rabbi Nathan Kamenetsky, entitled The Making of a Godol [Great Man] has been banned by other ultra-orthodox rabbis, who have burned copies of the book and defamed its author for his respectful but unvarnished description of leading figures in the early 20th century orthodox Jewish world. See this account in the March 14 Forward:
This is more than just a tiresome sectarian squabble. It is part of a fascinating confrontation with history that has wracked orthodox Jewry in recent years, raising profound questions about "the uses and disadvantages of history for life."
In ultra-orthodox circles, history is not a matter of books and conferences. It is an existential challenge that can keep you up at night, and drive you to extremes. The unfolding conflict has divided the community between those who insist that history must be contained within the boundaries of hagiography so as to edify its readers and those, like R. Kamenaetsky, who contend that "truth is the seal of God."
Central features of the dispute were sensitively described by Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter in "Facing the Truths of History," Torah U-Madda Journal, published by Yeshiva University, Volume 8, 1998-1999, pp. 200-276.
Orthodox Jewish historiography can be a hoot. Analysis of one early twentieth century orthodox "history" volume revealed that its author had lifted the fictional plot and characters of an 1898 short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, entitled "The Jew's Breastplate," and incorporated them in his purportedly non-fictional text. An astonishing account of this imaginative excursion is presented in "The Adventure of the Maharal of Prague in London" by Prof. Shnayer Z. Leiman, Tradition, published by the Rabbinical Council of America, vol. 36, no. 1, spring 2002, pp. 26-58.
BULGARIA CELEBRATES SAVING OF THE JEWS (posted 3-18-03)Matthew Brunwasser, writing in the South China Morning Post (March 18, 2003):
Sixty years have passed since Bulgaria saved its Jews from deportation to extermination camps in Poland in World War II. Despite the extraordinary success of Bulgarians of all social groups in saving the entire Jewish population, and a strong sense of national pride in the country's long history without anti-Semitism, this is Bulgaria's first celebration of the saving of the Jews.
The anniversary includes a "Lesson in Dignity" taught in every school across the country, the first time schools in Bulgaria have taught about the Holocaust.
High-profile celebrations in the national theatre, parliament and Sofia synagogue are helping to keep the events at the top of the national news. A new postage stamp commemorates the 60th anniversary and an unorthodox ceremony at a monastery featured a rabbi and a priest conducting religious rites at the graves of top Bulgarian clergy during World War II. Before last week, most Bulgarians knew little about the widespread protests which stopped the planned deportation of 50,000 Jews. Before 1989, the story could not be told because it credited the enemies of the communist regime: the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Tsar Boris III and the average Bulgarian on the street who loudly voiced opposition to his government's policy, while communist partisans did little to help.
Since then, the emotional debate over who should receive credit, fuelled by the unsettled political scores left over from communism, prevented any national commemoration.
The passage of 60 years since the cattle trains, waiting in Plovdiv and Kyustendil, were scheduled to depart with the first 8,500 Jews now coincides with the regeneration of Bulgaria's democratic institutions. The country has chosen to value the lesson offered by the moral actions of a broad range of individuals and institutions, over political vindication.
"So many people expressed the will to save the Jews, against the official policy of the government," says Albena Taneva, a professor at Sofia University and Holocaust educator and researcher who is helping organise the national observation.
"It is very important for people to understand, no matter how authoritarian the circumstances, or how severe the political situation, there is always a personal choice."
GERMANS AS VICTIMS IN WW2 (posted 3-18-03)Richard Bernstein, writing in the NYT (March 15, 2003):
For the last few months in fact, television has been showing endless documentaries and discussions of the air war waged by Britain and the United States against Germany in World War II. While this is not exactly a new subject in Germany, there are at least two ways in which the discussion is different from the past.
First, the emphasis in today's articles and discussions is on what Jörg Friedrich, author of a best-selling book on the Allied bombing campaign, calls "Leideform," the form of suffering inflicted on the German civilian population.
In other words, a taboo, by which Germans have remained guiltily silent, at least in public, about their experience of the horrors of war, has been suddenly and rather mysteriously broken.
Second, the new awareness of the Allied bombings and the devastation they wrought has become an important element in German opposition to the expected American war on Iraq. What people like Ms. Lang and Ms. John, both antiwar activists in Dresden, have been saying is something like this: We have direct knowledge of the gruesome effects of war and we don't want anybody else to experience what we have experienced.
In Germany, where all consideration of World War II bears a special weight, this new national attention to German suffering has generated plenty of commentary of its own. Much of it focuses on the wildly successful book by Mr. Friedrich, which is titled "Der Brand," or "The Fire," a work that describes in stark, unrelenting and very literary detail what happened in city after city as the Allies dropped 80 million incendiary bombs on Germany.
"Der Brand" is about mass deaths by fire and suffocation, the fearsome technology of incendiary bombing and the obliteration of architectural and cultural monuments. But it describes as well the effects on the spirit, what Mr. Friedrich in a recent interview in Berlin called "the slow destruction of psychic endurance, the living day and night in fear of death."
It is not that Mr. Friedrich is the first to write on this. There have long been books and photographic collections on many of the cities destroyed in the bombing, including an authoritative one on Dresden by Götz Bergander, a 76-year-old survivor of the firebombing. Five years ago, the novelist W. G. Sebald, who has since died, aroused considerable emotion here with a book, "On the Natural History of Destruction," whose main point was that German wartime suffering had been strangely absent from postwar German literature.
But the reaction to Mr. Friedrich's book is something special, more visceral and widespread, and it brings questions to mind: Is there a danger that the Germans will conflate their suffering with the vastly greater and more unforgivable suffering they inflicted on millions of others, including both the genocidal slaughter of the Jews and the bombing raids on London, Coventry, Warsaw and Rotterdam?
Have the Germans attached themselves to Mr. Friedrich's book and, similarly, have they used Mr. Friedrich's book to fuel their rejection of war with Iraq because it gives them a rare and intoxicating taste of the moral high ground?
REVOLUTIONARY WAR SERMONS DISCOVERED (posted 3-18-03)Daniel J. Wakin, writing in the NYT (March 17, 2003):
The country is at war. New York City is threatened. A pastor exhorts young men to fight for liberty, be brave and prepare for the day of death."Let a spirit of patriotism fire your breath," he says in a voice reaching out from 1776.
In a remarkable discovery, members of the First Presbyterian Church in Greenwich Village stumbled upon two previously unknown sermons from the Revolutionary War, tucked between pages of an old ledger found during a cleanup of the church basement.
Apparently written by the Rev. John Rodgers, the church's pastor from 1765 to 1811 and a staunch pro-colonist and prominent clergy member in New York, they give a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a city about to be plunged into the violence of the war. And their words have an uncanny resonance in 2003.
Kenneth T. Jackson, president of the New-York Historical Society, called the discovery of the sermons"an important find." In a strongly Loyalist city, he said, these words were treasonous, so speaking them and saving the texts were acts of bravery.
"This is revolutionary language, publicly stated from a public place," Mr. Jackson said."It's what makes history exciting."
Written in a tiny, perfectly ruled hand, in ink faded to brown, the first sermon is dated Jan. 14, 1776, and is mainly a discourse on the nature of fear of the Lord. But on the last page, Rodgers takes flight on the subject of fighting for freedom. He addresses those preparing to volunteer for the Colonial side.
"Many have already dressed themselves in military array and taken the field, choosing rather to risk their lives in the cause of liberty, than to resign their privilege and live in slavery," he writes.
In death, he goes on,"your memory will be dear to survivors, and you will be translated to the world where there never will be the scourge of war, nor the sad spectacle of garments soaked in blood."
DID HITLER HAVE AN ADVANCED CASE OF SYPHILIS? (posted 3-14-03)Mark Henderson, writing in the Times (London) (March 12, 2003):
HITLER may have been dying of syphilis when he committed suicide in his Berlin bunker, according to a new book that could explain his mental decline in the final months of the Second World War.
New analysis of the records kept by Hitler's doctors has revealed that he suffered from many of the most characteristic symptoms of tertiary syphilis, and that he was treated regularly with drugs that were commonly prescribed for the sexually transmitted disease.
The controversial diagnosis, which would cast new light on the dictator's behaviour, from his sexual frigidity to his paranoiac rages, is advanced in Pox: Genius, Madness and the Mysteries of Syphilis, by Deborah Hayden, an American historian. Although it may never be possible to prove that Hitler was syphilitic, the balance of evidence suggests the disease as the most likely explanation for the wide range of health problems that afflicted him, particularly in his last years.
"If Hitler's life is looked at through the selective lens of a possible diagnosis of syphilis, one clue leads to another and then another until a pattern of progressive disease emerges," said Ms Hayden, a former lecturer on the history of the disease at the University of California at San Francisco. "Syphilis must be considered in our understanding of Hitler's career, his motivations, the events of World War Two, and even the Holocaust."
The theory that Hitler had syphilis has been advanced before, most notably by the Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, but has generally been rejected for lack of proof.
Ms Hayden has amassed an unprecedented wealth of circumstantial evidence, although she accepts that the diagnosis will never be irrefutable.
"This is not definitive proof, but I think there is a preponderance of circumstantial evidence," she said. "It certainly might have affected his mind, and if he knew or thought he had it, and didn't have long to live, it may have accelerated the war effort."
SHOULD WE ASSOCIATE OHIO OR NORTH CAROLINA WITH THE BIRTH OF THE AIRPLANE? (posted 3-12-03)Patrik Jonsson, writing in the Christian Science Monitor:
On the 100th year of flight, both states [Ohio and North Carolina] are vying to claim the Wright Brothers' legacy as their own.
The Kill Devil Hills at Mile Post 8 on the Outer Banks is a flier's paradise: Here, hawks, ducks, and pipers swoop in dogfights along the surf-sprayed dunes. For Orville and Wilbur Wright, the spot was ideal for testing their flyer. The brothers from Dayton, Ohio, selected the hill because of its privacy - and promise of Southern hospitality from the postmaster. But it was perfect in other ways that are still evident: The hill has been carved out by the wind over centuries, making a perfect sloped runway into the ocean breeze.
But the choice of location unwittingly sparked a quarrel over the genesis of manned flight: Was this barrier island near the town of Kitty Hawk merely a stepping-off point for an idea hatched in Ohio - or part of the very inspiration of flight?
For its part, North Carolina boldy stated its claim a few years ago with license plates that boasted "First in Flight." It was followed by Ohio's "Birthplace of Aviation" claim a few years later. And in the late 1990s, North Carolina again moved first to put the flyer on its state quarter, taking a lot of oomph out of Ohio's "Pioneers of Flight" motto.
But in the 100th year of flight both states have put rivalry aside, realizing the skies could not have been cleaved without the benefits of both locales.
"In Dayton, they proved that powered flight was practical; at Kitty Hawk, they proved that it was possible," says Bob Petersen, a park ranger at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.
The same force that sparked the quarrel is at play now: Tourism. But instead of fighting for millions of tourism dollars from centennial parties, the two states have traded representatives on their centennial commissions, staggered celebration dates, and even listed rival events on their websites. Part of the reason for this return to comity is that the sheer number of celebrations worldwide this year threatened to obscure both locales.
"What we've been hearing is there's this big rivalry between North Carolina and Ohio," says North Carolinian Tom Parramore, author of "First to Fly." "But there's been no attempts to step on the toes of the other. They're 'The Birthplace of Aviation.' We're 'First in Flight.' "
ARGENTINA COVERS UP ITS NAZI PAST (posted 3-12-03)Larry Rohter, writing in the NYT (March 9, 2003):
Under fire because of a new book that documents for the first time how Juan Peron clandestinely maneuvered to bring Nazi and other war criminals to Argentina after World War II, the Peronist government here is resisting calls to release long-secret official records about the collaboration.
According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center here, both the Foreign Relations Ministry and the Interior Ministries have failed to respond to letters, sent to them shortly after the book was published here late last year, asking that the records be made public.
In addition, seven members of Congress have now called for an investigation into how crucial immigration records were apparently destroyed six years ago in defiance of existing laws.
The book that ignited the controversy, published in the United States as "The Real Odessa: Smuggling the Nazis to Peron's Argentina" (Granta Books: 2002), has become a best seller here. Its author, Uki Goni, is an Argentine journalist who had to do much of his research in European archives after encountering closed doors here.
"This is an issue of credibility and transparency," Mr. Goni said in an interview.
But he also said he recognized the political explosiveness of the documents since they demonstrated "just how closely linked Argentina and the Third Reich were and prove the existence of a secret postwar organization that involved Peron and provided a safe haven to Nazis."
According to records Mr. Goni has uncovered here and abroad, Peron's government, which was in power from 1946 to 1955, shepherded nearly 300 war criminals into the country.
Besides such notorious figures as Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele and Klaus Barbie, dozens of French, Belgian, Italian, Croatian and Slovak fascists, many of them Nazi collaborators sought in their home nations, were also admitted, some under aliases, others under their real names.
The documents indicate that the covert network was run directly from the presidential palace here by Rodolfo Freude, a German-Argentine who was one of Peron's closest advisers. At the same time, Mr. Freude was both running Peron's propaganda apparatus and serving as director of the newly founded state intelligence service.
During his research in Europe, Mr. Goni also discovered a confidential Foreign Ministry circular from 1938 whose effect was to close Argentina to Jewish refugees seeking to flee Germany.
It ordered Argentine embassies to turn down visa requests from all applicants who "have abandoned their country as undesirables or expulsees, regardless of the motive of their expulsion."
NEW EVIDENCE ABOUT JAPAN'S ATOMIC BOMB PROJECT IN 1945(posted 3-11-03)Kenji Hall, writing in the Advertiser (March 8, 2003):
For nearly six decades, historians have been unable to solve one of the mysteries of Japan's World War II A-bomb project: How close were Japanese scientists to building the bomb before the US air raid stopped them?
All official records were believed to have been burned in the closing days of the war, forcing historians to piece together an answer from less reliable clues.
However, long-lost wartime documents are setting the record straight.
The 23 pages of Imperial Army papers returned to Japan in April offer convincing evidence that Japanese scientists were years away from completing their 20-kiloton A-bomb which would have had more force than the US's 15 kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima but less than the 22-kiloton one that hit Nagasaki.
Historians say not only had Japan's scientists underestimated how much of the rare isotope uranium-235 they would need for the bomb, they misunderstood the mechanics of an atomic explosion.
"The documents are one-of-a-kind. We can finally prove that even if Japan had built a bomb, it would not have been powerful at all," said Masakatsu Yamazaki, a professor of science history at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who analysed the papers.
"And it might have taken them another decade to complete one."
OPPOSITION TO A LINCOLN STATUE IN RICHMOND (posted 3-11-03)Frank James, writing in the Chicago Tribune (March 7, 2003):
Forget everything you learned about President Abraham Lincoln. He was really a blood-thirsty despot guilty of killing innocent civilians and destroying the South.
At least that's what a few vocal Southerners say. And that's why -- 138 years after the end of the Civil War -- they are feverishly opposed to a bronze statue of Lincoln and his son Tad being placed at a national park in Richmond this spring, a stance that brings to mind novelist William Faulkner's maxim:"The past is never dead. It's not even past."
The war of words has become so heated that some of the sculpture's foes have used rhetoric that many other Americans might find extreme. For example, a few have likened a Lincoln monument in Richmond to a statue of Adolf Hitler in Israel or an Osama bin Laden likeness at the site of the World Trade Center.
Statue bashers also have fired off accusations, like so many Civil War minie balls, that those behind the planned monument actually have unseemly financial motives and have violated state law in their efforts to raise money for the statue.
Those supporting the new monument, which is to be dedicated on April 5, estimate it will cost $250,000 to $275,000....
The sculpture, by New York artist David Frech, is meant to commemorate the visit to the Confederate capital by Lincoln, accompanied by his son, on April 4, 1865, shortly before Lincoln's assassination and mere days after Richmond's capture by Union troops.
The statue depicts a pensive, melancholy Lincoln seated on a bench with his right arm around Tad's shoulder. Lincoln experts assume the planned statue will be the first public art to honor the 16th president in the 11 states that made up the Confederacy.
Late last month, the Richmond City Council passed a resolution supporting the Lincoln statue as a"historic symbol of unity and reconciliation" and agreed to contribute up to $45,000 toward the granite pad and wall that will surround the statue....
The trip was extremely risky because angry Confederates were everywhere. ``When you consider that he was walking around with his 12-year-old son in a captured capital still engulfed in flames, I mean, it's probably the most courageous thing that happened in the Civil War,'' said Edward Smith, director of American University's American studies department.
"Anybody who wanted to kill him could have killed him. And he knew that," said Smith, who avidly supports a Lincoln statue in Richmond and argues that the North has shown its desire to reconcile with the South in numerous ways. For instance, the Navy named a Polaris submarine for Lee, he said.
SLAVERY WAS THE CAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAR (posted 3-10-03)David Parker, associate professor of history at Kennesaw State University, responding to a column by Carole E. Scott that appeared a few days earlier; in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (March 6, 2003):
Carole E. Scott wrote that Northerners did not seem strongly committed to ending slavery. From this, she concluded that"preserving slavery may not have been the most important reason for the Southern states fighting for their independence."
The North might have wavered on slavery, but the South did not. If we want to know why the Southern states seceded and were willing to fight for their independence, all we have to do is listen to their own words.
Georgia voted to withdraw from the Union on Jan. 19, 1861. Ten days later, it justified that action in a document called Declaration of the Causes of Secession. Prominent among those causes: the victory of"abolitionists and their allies in the Northern States" who were guided by the principles of"prohibition of slavery in the Territories, hostility to it everywhere, [and] the equality of the black and white races."
Other Southern states defended secession in similar terms. South Carolina, the first state to secede (a few weeks after Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected president), wrote of the"increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding states to the institution of slavery."
Mississippi said,"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery." After the Republican victory in 1860,"there was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union."
Texas explained its decision to secede by noting that Republicans"demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the Confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these states."
Georgian Alexander Stephens, in a speech in Savannah on March 21, 1861, a month after having been elected vice president of the Confederacy, spoke of"our new government":"Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery --- subordination to the superior race --- is his natural and normal condition."
"It was slavery and nothing but slavery that made Georgia secede," wrote Cartersville's Rebecca Felton, the first woman in the U.S. Senate, in her memoirs."If there had been no slaves, there would have been no war. It tires me to read about the alleged causes, other than the ownership of slave property."
Scott argued that the Union fought to force the South back into the Union, not to end slavery. But that begs the question. Why did the South try to leave in the first place? Slavery.
The South never wavered in its commitment to slavery, and that, more than any other issue --- more than all other issues put together --- brought on the war.
HOW INDIAN NATIONALISTS ARE REWRITING HISTORY (posted 3-7-03)John Lancaster, writing in the Washington Post (February 27, 2003):
A little more than half a century ago, Vinayak Savarkar was on trial for his life, accused of conspiring with seven other men in the assassination of Mohandas K. Gandhi on Jan. 30, 1948.
The court acquitted Savarkar, citing insufficient evidence, but there was never much doubt about where his sympathies lay: A hard-line Hindu nationalist who wrote admiringly of Nazi Germany, he made no secret of his antipathy toward India's Muslim population or toward Gandhi, whose embrace of religious tolerance and diversity he saw as a threat to India's cultural purity.
Moreover, Savarkar was personally acquainted with Nathuram Godse, Gandhi's assassin and one of Savarkar's most devoted followers. Some historians still believe that Godse would not have committed the murder without a green light from Savarkar, who died in 1966.
But yesterday's suspect is today's hero. In a ceremony this afternoon, India's Hindu-nationalist government unveiled a portrait of Savarkar to hang opposite Gandhi's in the central hall of Parliament, describing him as a neglected and misunderstood patriot who deserves his place in the pantheon of India's great leaders.
The ceremony reflected the degree to which hard-line Hindu nationalism has moved into the mainstream of Indian politics, drowning out debate on other topics, such as development, and alarming those who see the movement as a threat to the secular, pluralistic nature of Indian democracy.
"All the political stigma has been cleared today," Savarkar's nephew, Vikram Savarkar, said after the ceremony, which was organized by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and presided over by President Abdul Kalam."He had been kept away from history books. Now his name will be everywhere."
That prospect is deeply disturbing to guardians of India's secular democratic traditions, among them leaders of the opposition Congress party, which boycotted the ceremony. Historians and civil-society groups joined the Congress party in denouncing the government's decision. Besides resurrecting questions about Savarkar's role in the Gandhi assassination, they cast doubt on his patriotism, citing evidence that he had collaborated with India's British colonial overlords and endorsed partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan at independence in 1947 -- an outcome still widely seen here as an avoidable tragedy.
"He has been a figure of shame all his life, and now his portrait will go here in Parliament?" said Vishwa Nath Mathur, 90, who was imprisoned by the British during the colonial era and appeared at a news conference Tuesday organized by opponents of the portrait-hanging."Savarkar was essentially from the beginning a very weak character."
Spokesmen for the BJP and its parent organization, the National Volunteer Corps -- known as the RSS, the initials of its name in Hindi -- accused the Congress party leader, Sonia Gandhi, and other critics of distorting Savarkar's record for political purposes. On the charge that Savarkar was involved in Gandhi's assassination, they said the court acquittal speaks for itself. On the charge that he was unpatriotic, they released a 1980 letter from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi -- Sonia Gandhi's mother-in-law, but no relation to Mohandas Gandhi -- in which she praised Savarkar as a"remarkable son of India" who deserved to be celebrated for his"daring defiance of the British government."
PARK SERVICE GRAPPLES WITH SLAVERY AS A CAUSE OF THE CIVIL WAR (posted 3-7-03)Carole E. Scott, writing in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution (March 4, 2003):
The National Park Service was recently induced to add at its Civil War battlefield sites information about the role slavery played in causing the South to leave the Union and go to war with the North.
Is it going to follow a balanced policy and describe many Northerners' willingness to let slavery continue to exist in the South?
Although he did not approve of slavery, President Lincoln considered blacks inferior to whites. Whites and blacks, he believed, could not coexist in equality. His pre-war solution to this problem was to return them to Africa.
In his first inaugural address, Lincoln assured the nation that he neither wished to nor had the power to abolish slavery.
Furthermore, in 1861 the U.S. Congress passed a never-ratified Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that Lincoln supported that read as follows: "No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any state, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said state."
In an 1862 letter to New York newspaper editor Horace Greeley, Lincoln wrote: "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union."
Lincoln revoked Union Gen. John C. Fremont's 1861 emancipation of Missouri's slaves, and Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves because it applied only to that part of the Confederacy still under Confederate control. Slave states still in the Union were exempted, as was Washington.
Many historians believe that he hoped that this proclamation would prevent the slavery-hating English from entering the war on the side of the South. He may also have hoped that it would lead to a slave insurrection in the South like the one that had taken place in Haiti, where, despite the fact that its white men were not off fighting a war, many whites were slaughtered.
According to some foreign observers, Lincoln's motivation for preserving the Union was financial. English writer Charles Dickens said, "The Northern onslaught upon slavery was no more than a piece of specious humbug designed to conceal its desire for economic control of the Southern states."
Just as eliminating slavery may not have been the North's prime motivation, the fact that late in the war, Confederate soldiers successfully petitioned their Congress and president to allow the enlistment in the army of slaves who would be promised their freedom suggests that preserving slavery may not have been the most important reason for the Southern states fighting for their independence.
STALINISM REMAINS ALIVE (posted 3-6-03)Johann Hari, writing in the Independent (London) (March 5, 2003):
[W]e do not take Stalin's crimes seriously in this country. While Le Monde publishes a pull-out supplement and the anniversary features on the front pages of most Eastern European papers, here there is a distracted silence save for a BBC documentary. Or, to give another, trivial but revealing example: Gordon Brown's former spin doctor, Charlie Whelan, used to keep the collected writings of Stalin prominently on his bookshelf,"for a laugh". Obviously Whelan is far from being a Stalinist; but can you imagine if, say, Amanda Platell, William Hague's spin-doctor, had kept Mein Kampf prominently on display in her office? Some readers will find the comparison with Hitler offensive. In fact, Stalin was worse. Alexander Yakovlev, an expert on Stalin's crimes, estimates that his victims totalled more than 30 million. To give some idea of the scale of this: Stalin's body count is the equivalent to an army of 1.5 million Fred Wests, or 10,000 11 Septembers. Yes, Stalin helped to defeat Nazism, but so would any Russian leader who had been attacked by the Reich.
One anecdote will have to suffice to give some sense of Stalin's contempt for human life. His wife Nadezhda began in the early 1930s to teach courses in textile production in an attempt to escape the misery of life in the Kremlin. She and her students carried out assignments in the Russian countryside, where she witnessed the degeneration of the peasantry because of Stalin's policy of forced seizures. According to the historian Robert Conquest, 3.5 million people starved to death, and cannibalism became rife. Nadezhda's students were so shocked that they insisted on reporting back to the great leader Stalin. They did, and Stalin had them all arrested for"sedition". Nadezhda killed herself not long afterwards.
I don't raise this only in order to provide a diverting history lesson. I raise it because Stalinism lives. Nazism is now a movement confined to the outer fringes of politics, yet Stalinists still control several countries and rule over a greater population than Tony Blair. Even after 50 years, the malign ideology of"Uncle Joe" has yet to join him in the grave.
FIRST, REMEMBER THE SLAVES WERE HUMAN BEINGS (posted 3-3-03)Robin Rupli, writing in VOA News (February 28, 2003):
A new book on African-American history has just been published that presents slavery from a new perspective. Jubilee: The Emergence of African-American Culture is a series of essays and photographs that presents the story of a people not as victims, but as survivors of a cruel and oppressive institution and, who in spite of all that, emerged to become an integral part of American history and its culture.
The institution of legal slavery in the United States spanning the 16th to mid-18th centuries is a blight on this nation's history that most people would just as soon forget, both the descendents of slave owners and African-Americans whose ancestors were enslaved themselves. But in the new book, Jubilee, author Howard Dodson says it is time to re-examine the period of slavery beginning with the term itself.
"They were human beings caught in a bad situation trying how to figure out how to make it better," he explains."That's the simplest way of thinking about this. That's been one of the problems with so much of the previous work and the previous scholarship is that people would begin the conversation by defining them as slaves, rather than defining them as human beings in a state of enslavement."
"And if they are human beings in a state of enslavement, then they are certainly perfectly capable of assessing their situation," he adds," of developing images and notions about their ideals for themselves, for their families, for the world, and acting on those ideals to bring them into reality."
RIDDLE OF IRAQ'S BATTERIES (posted 3-3-03)Arran Frood, writing in the BBC (February 27, 2003):
In any war, there is a chance that priceless treasures will be lost forever, articles such as the"ancient battery" that resides defenceless in the museum of Baghdad.
For this object suggests that the region, whose civilizations gave us writing and the wheel, may also have invented electric cells - two thousand years before such devices were well known.
It was in 1938, while working in Khujut Rabu, just outside Baghdad in modern day Iraq, that German archaeologist Wilhelm Konig unearthed a five-inch-long (13 cm) clay jar containing a copper cylinder that encased an iron rod.
The vessel showed signs of corrosion, and early tests revealed that an acidic agent, such as vinegar or wine had been present.
In the early 1900s, many European archaeologists were excavating ancient Mesopotamian sites, looking for evidence of Biblical tales like the Tree of Knowledge and Noah's flood.
Konig did not waste his time finding alternative explanations for his discovery. To him, it had to have been a battery.
Though this was hard to explain, and did not sit comfortably with the religious ideology of the time, he published his conclusions. But soon the world was at war, and his discovery was forgotten.
More than 60 years after their discovery, the batteries of Baghdad - as there are perhaps a dozen of them - are shrouded in myth.
"The batteries have always attracted interest as curios," says Dr Paul Craddock, a metallurgy expert of the ancient Near East from the British Museum.
"They are a one-off. As far as we know, nobody else has found anything like these. They are odd things; they are one of life's enigmas." ...
Perhaps it is too early to say the battery has been convincingly demonstrated to be part of a magical ritual. Further examination, including accurate dating, of the batteries' components are needed to really answer this mystery.
No one knows if such an idol or statue that could have hidden the batteries really exists, but perhaps the opportunity to look is not too far away - if the items survive the looming war in the Middle East.
"These objects belong to the successors of the people who made them," says Dr Craddock."Let's hope the world manages to resolve its present problems so people can go and see them."
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: DID HE MISSTATE FDR'S POLICY TOWARD THE JEWS? (posted 2-28-03)James Cheeks, writing in an HNN post:
In the interview Michael Beschloss talks about his new book, Mr. Beschloss says that Roosevelt failed to speak out in public on Nazi treatment of the Jews for almost 2 years after 1942, and failed to threaten the Nazis with punishment for their crimes. In this view, repeated at book promotion ceremonies, Mr. Beschloss is less than straightforward with the full historical record, failing to mention the fact and the effects of the Allies Declaration in December 1942 condemning Nazi atrocities against Jews and vowing retribution.
This omission or distortion is continued into the book itself. The Conquerors text says this, and no more, about the Declaration: On December 17, 1942, at the initiative of the British, the Allies issued a declaration against exposure and starvation and mass executions imposed by the Nazis on many hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
Mr. Beschloss has selected his quotes to give the impression that general Nazi frightfulness, rather than specific treatment of Jews, is being condemned. The Declarations title, which Mr. Beschloss nowhere mentions, is German Policy of Extermination of the Jewish Race. The Declaration contains these statements: Hitler's oft-repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe ... From all the occupied countries, Jews are being transported in conditions of appalling horror and brutality . In Poland, which has been made the principal Nazi slaughterhouse, the Ghettoes established by the German invaders are being systematically emptied of all Jews . The able-bodied are worked to death in labor camps.
This is the context in which the Declarations denunciations of exposure and starvation and mass executions are set. It took much ingenuity on Mr. Beschlosss part to refer to and quote from this Declaration and still manage to conceal that it spoke specifically and exclusively about treatment of Jews.
The Declaration is also mentioned in his notes, without its title or any more of its contents. Though the Declaration, an act of the Governments of the United States of America and its allies, is part of the United States official records (7 Dept of State Bulletin 1009 is one source), Mr. Beschlosss notes refer the reader only to other authors.
In his book The Holocaust in History, Michael R. Marris says that the December 1942 declaration denouncing the murder of Jews could not have been more clear. (Meridian edition, p. 163) By December 1942 the news about the mass slaughter had been broadcast all over the world and featured in all major newspapers outside Nazi-occupied Europe. (Marris, p. 163, quoting Walter Lacquers Terrible Secret)
Mr. Beschloss also said in the interview and elsewhere that Roosevelts failure to speak out forfeited the opportunity to threaten the Nazis with punishment for their crimes. His mode of reporting the December 17 Declaration keeps his readers and listeners from learning that the Declaration says: The above-mentioned Governments, including the government headed by FDR, reaffirm their solemn resolution to ensure that those responsible for these crimes shall not escape retribution.
Might Mr. Beschloss think that the U.S. government positions in the Declaration were not FDRs positions? If so, hes at odds with Joseph Persico, who says that in December 1942 FDR finally and publicly condemned the Nazi extermination of the Jews and declared Americas policythose perpetrating mass murder would be dealt with as criminals when the fighting ended. (Roosevelts Secret War, p. 220)
Some while before The Conquerors came out Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. said that Roosevelt has been given a bad rap on Holocaust issues. In The Conquerors, the rap goes on, at some cost to the historical record.
Andro Linklater, author of Measuring America, in the NYT (April 29, 2003):
With this week's bicentennial of the treaty's signing in Paris, it is useful to see it through the eyes of the actual negotiators. To them it was a real estate deal vast in extent, but fundamentally a commercial matter of fixing the price of a property. Exactly half the credit for the businesslike approach of the two sides should go to the compelling attractions of a French society hostess named Adélaïde de Flahaut.
Her role began in 1785 when the New York diplomat and businessman Gouverneur Morris went to France to negotiate tobacco deals for an (unrelated) associate, Robert Morris. Flahaut, whose pet name was Adèle, took Morris as her lover, a pleasure he shared with the bishop of Autun, otherwise known as Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.
Paris gossip speculated salaciously on the curious coincidence of Talleyrand's having a clubfoot while Morris stumped around on a wooden leg. But none of the three cared. "My friend's countenance," Morris wrote of Adèle, "glows with satisfaction in looking at [Talleyrand] and myself as we sit together agreeing in sentiment & supporting the opinions of each other."
A decade later the Jacobin Terror forced Talleyrand to flee France, and as a refugee in the United States he naturally sought out Gouverneur Morris, who found him employment with Robert Morris's real estate company. In the years since independence, a frenzy of land speculation had overtaken the young republic; governments, state and federal, sold huge swaths of territory to finance their operations.
Breathtaking deals were struck. In the infamous Yazoo land fraud, 40 million acres were sold by a bribed Georgia legislature to a consortium that included a United States Supreme Court justice, several members of Congress and the governor of the Tennessee Territory. Speculators like Robert Morris (who, naturally, also had a stake in the Yazoo deal) could buy and sell millions of acres a year.
Talleyrand, dispatched to Maine by Robert Morris to spy out new lands for purchase, surveyed the grandeur of the landscape with thoughts that were unmistakably those of a speculator. "There were forests as old as the world itself," he wrote, "large natural meadows, strange and delicate flowers in the face of these immense solitudes we gave vent to our imagination. Our minds built cities, villages and hamlets."
When fortune carried him back to France and elevated him to the post of foreign secretary under Napoleon, this commercial experience became sharply relevant. By 1803 Napoleon wanted to raise money for war with Britain, and Jefferson was prepared to pay for control of France's territory around the mouth of the Mississippi in order to guarantee free use of the river.
The American minister in Paris, Robert Livingston, had already approached the French about such a limited purchase. (Livingston, who owned some 130,000 acres in upstate New York, was himself very familiar with the American real estate market.) But a critical shift occurred on April 11, 1803, when he went to meet Talleyrand in his offices in the Rue du Bac.
Writing James Madison that evening, Livingston reported that Talleyrand had suddenly asked whether "we wished to have the whole of Louisiana." Surprised and playing for time, Livingston at first denied any interest, but Talleyrand persisted, "What would you give for the whole?" Livingston came back with an opening bid of about $3.75 million, which Talleyrand dismissed as too low. But both men knew the game being played.