It all started with a question, one my parents had been unable to answer for 70 years. What happened to the French doctor they had taken in during the Russian siege of Budapest? He was an escaped prisoner of war. They were just trying to hang on. Together, they hid in a cellar, beneath the feet of German soldiers who had made the home their headquarters.San Francisco Journalist John Temple follows the threads of World War II into the present.
Hitler's World by Timothy Snyder [New York Review of Books]
In Hitler’s world, the law of the jungle was the only law. People were to suppress any inclination to be merciful and were to be as rapacious as they could. Hitler thus broke with the traditions of political thought that presented human beings as distinct from nature in their capacity to imagine and create new forms of association. Beginning from that assumption, political thinkers tried to describe not only the possible but the most just forms of society. For Hitler, however, nature was the singular, brutal, and overwhelming truth, and the whole history of attempting to think otherwise was an illusion. Carl Schmitt, a leading Nazi legal theorist, explained that politics arose not from history or concepts but from our sense of enmity. Our racial enemies were chosen by nature, and our task was to struggle and kill and die.
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart recounts his father's graduation from Auschwitz survivor to American equal. (SLNYtimes)
Remember Me? Between 1933 and 1945, millions of children were displaced as a result of persecution by the Nazis and their collaborators. After World War II, relief agencies photographed some of the children who survived to help find their families. Now, more than 65 years later, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is working to discover what became of these young survivors. Will you help us find them? Lots of moving stories. [more inside]
802 Prisoners attempted escape from Auschwitz. 144 were successful. Kazimierz Piechowski, a Polish boy scout, was one of them. Today, at age 91, he tells his story. [more inside]
“I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up … I finally wanted to speak the truth.”
Last year, the unofficial Dean of the White House Press Corps, Helen Thomas, spoke about the State of Israel on camera. (Previously) Her replies: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," and that the Jews "can go home" to "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else," sparked media outrage, prompted her to issue an apology and retire. After months of being out of the the public spotlight, she has now given her first long-form interview, which will appear in the April issue of Playboy Magazine. In it, she explains what she meant, tells us how she would like to be remembered and expands upon her positions regarding Israel, Jewish political influence, Presidents Bush and Obama, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Do you, or an older relative of yours, recognize any of these children? More than 70 children separated from their families during WWII, now all elderly men and women, are using the Internet to try to find some answers about their pasts, their families, and sometimes even their own names. They are soliciting help and suggestions in the comments sections on each story. [more inside]
Upon the Nazi invasion of Poland, pediatrician Eugeniusz Łazowski and his friend Stanisław Matulewicz fabricated a fake typhus epidemic to save Polish Jews from the Nazis. Knowing that typhus-infected Jews would be summarily executed, non-Jews were injected with the harmless Proteus OX19, which would generate false positives for typhus. [more inside]
Rudolf Vrba-RIP --he escaped from Auschwitz with another guy, Wetzler, in April 1944 and got to Slovakia and Hungary, telling the world of the atrocities in the Auschwitz Protocol. Some Hungarian community leaders, however (Hungary was the only country that hadn't had its Jewish population deported yet), were busy making deals with Eichmann for safe passage away. In any case, the result was that about 1,700 Hungarian Jewish leaders, with their families and friends, ended up in Switzerland, while almost half a million unsuspecting Hungarian Jews ended up dead in Auschwitz. Vrba's report first alerted the world (including the Vatican, Red Cross, and US and British authorities) to exactly what was going on, and helped prosecute some who were tried later. ...Knowing perfectly well that it was the secrecy surrounding their actions that allowed the Nazis to herd unsuspecting Jews and transport them like sheep to slaughter, Vrba and Wetzler — as soon as they got in touch with Jewish community representatives in their native Slovakia — compiled a detailed report. They wrote about Auschwitz and what awaited Hungarian Jews once they arrived: immediate death by gassing.
"Expertise is a very good thing, but it is not the same thing as sound judgment regarding strategy and policy. George W. Bush has more insight, because of his knowledge of human beings and his sense of history, about the motive force, the craving for freedom and participation in self-rule, than do many of the language experts and history experts and culture experts." -- From a fascinating profile of Douglas Feith, undersecretary of Defense, and one of the main architects of the war in Iraq. From the New Yorker.
How bad was the bombing of Dresden? It seems there is a veritable industry dedicated to debunking the various and sundry historical accounts different groups hold sacred. I was raised by pacifists and was made very familiar with the stories of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Dresden, in particular. According to this man's new book, the firebombing of Dresden wasn't quite as bad as it has been made out to be. In fact, much of the evidence for the numbers of dead come from an historian who has since been discredited as a holocaust denier. Others would argue that a war crime is a war crime is a war crime. In the end, do the specific numbers really matter? How less evil is 25,000 dead than 135,000?
Some perspective on human tragedy.