The Schindlers of the World May 19th

On this day, May 19, 1909, Nicholas George Winton (May 19, 1909 – July 1, 2015) was born in Wertheim, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. a British humanitarian who organized the rescue of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport (German for “children transportation”). Winton found homes for the children and arranged for their safe passage to Britain. The world found out about his work over 40 years later, in 1988. The British press dubbed him the “British Schindler.”

The Schindlers of the World

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Sardari, Sugihara, Vrba, Bartali, Fry, Yolga, Wallenberg, Sousa Mendes, Sendler…

All sister and brothers of Winton:

An Italian Catholic, A Japanese Shinto, a Polish Catholic woman, a Turkish Muslim and an Iranian Muslim; an American Protestant, A Swedish Lutheran, a Portuguese Catholic, and a Slovak Jew…. 6 religions, different genders, nationalities, and races…

What do these names all have in common?

They have all been given the honorific title of Schindler… If that’s not enough, think about what that says about Oskar Schindler himself? Having your name made into a title? Like Julius Caesar’s name became the title for Roman Emperors, Schindler’s name has become the term for the Caesar’s of Peace.

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In no particular order, the other Schindlers:

The American Schindler: Vivian Fry

Varian Mackey Fry died in Reading, Connecticut. Fry (October 15, 1907 – September 13, 1967) was an American journalist. While working as a foreign correspondent for the American journal The Living Age, Fry visited Berlin in 1935, and personally witnessed Nazi abuse against Jews on more than one occasion, which turned him into an ardent anti-Nazi. He said in 1945, “I could not remain idle as long as I had any chances at all of saving even a few of its intended victims.” Following his visit to Berlin, Fry wrote about the savage treatment of Jews by Hitler’s regime in the New York Times in 1935. Fry began and ran a rescue network in Vichy France that helped approximately 2,000 to 4,000 anti-Nazi and Jewish refugees to escape Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. He is known as the “American Schindler.”

The True Italian Schindler: Gino Bartali

For years, Giovanni Palatucci was considered the Italian Schindler. Sadly, it was discovered that his claims of helping Jews were a fraud. In fact, he was covertly helping in the deportation of Jews.

Gino Bartali (July 18, 1914 – May 5, 2000), on the other hand, was a world champion cyclist. Bartali used his fame to carry messages and documents to the Italian Resistance. Bartali cycled from Florence through Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche, sometimes traveling as far afield as Rome, all the while wearing the racing jersey emblazoned with his name. Neither the Fascist police nor the German troops wanted to risk upsetting the Italian people by arresting Bartali.

Bartali earned respect for his work in helping Jews who were being persecuted by the Nazis during the time of the Italian Social Republic. It emerged in December 2010 that Bartali had hidden a Jewish family in his cellar and, according to one of the survivors, and, by doing so, had saved their lives.

The Hungarian Schindler: Rudolf Vrba

Rudolf Vrba is known for his escape from the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II and for co-writing the Vrba–Wetzler report. The Vrba–Wetzler report provided some of the most detailed information about the mass murder taking Auschwitz.  Material from the Vrba–Wetzler appeared in newspapers and radio broadcasts in the United States and Europe throughout June and into July 1944, prompting world leaders to appeal to Hungarian regent Miklós Horthy to halt the deportations. On July 7th Horthy ordered an end to the deportations, fearing he would be held responsible after the war.  While 437,000 Jews had been deported, constituting almost the entire Jewish population of the Hungarian countryside, but another 200,000 living in Budapest were saved. In many ways, these are the “Vrba Jews” as much as the German Jews saved by Oscar Schindler are known as Schindler Jews, or Schindlerjuden.

The Iranian Schindler: Abdol Hossein Sardari

Abdol Hossein Sardari عبدالحسین سرداری was born in Tehran, Iran, (c. 1914) and died in Nottingham, UK (1981). Sardari was an Iranian statesman and diplomat who saved the lives of many Jews during the Holocaust. He is known as the “Schindler of Iran.”

The Japanese Schindler: Chiune Sugihara 

Chiune Sugihara 杉原 千畝 (January 1, 1900 – 31 July 31, 1986) died in Tokyo, Japan. Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who served as Vice-Consul for the Empire of Japan in Lithuania. During World War II, he helped between 10,000 and 40,000 Jews leave the country by issuing transit visas so that they could travel to Japanese territory, risking his career and his family’s lives. The Jews who escaped were refugees from German-occupied Western Poland or Russian-occupied Eastern Poland, as well as residents of Lithuania. In 1985, Israel named him to the Righteous Among the Nations.

The Polish Schindler: Eugene Lazowski was a Polish medical doctor who saved thousands of Polish Jews during World War II by creating a fake epidemic which played on German phobias about hygiene.

After Lazowski’s friend Dr .Stanisław Matulewicz discovered that by injecting a healthy person with a vaccine of dead bacteria, that person would test positive for epidemic typhus without experiencing the symptoms, the two doctors hatched a secret plan to save about a dozen villages in the vicinity of Rozwadów and Zbydniów not only from forced labor exploitation, but also Nazi extermination. Germans were terrified of the disease because it was highly contagious. Those infected with typhus were not sent to Nazi concentration camps. Instead, when a sufficient number of people were infected, the Germans would quarantine the entire area. However, the Germans would not enter the FLECKFIEBER zone, fearing the disease would spread to them also. In this way, while Dr. Lazowski and Dr. Matulewicz did not hide Jewish families, they were able to spare 8,000 people from 12 ghettos from summary executions and inevitable deportations to concentration camps. Jews who tested positive for typhus were summarily massacred by the Nazis, so doctors injected the non-Jewish population in neighborhoods surrounding the ghettos, knowing that a possibility of widespread outbreak inside would cause Germans to abandon the area and thus spare local Jews in the process.

The Female Schindler: Irena Sendlerowa

Irena Sendlerowa (more commonly known as Irena Sendler) was a Polish nurse, humanitarian and social worker who served in the Polish Underground in German-occupied Warsaw during World War II, and was head of the children’s section of Żegota, the Polish Council to Aid Jews Irena has often been referred to as “the female Oskar Schindler” in her native Poland for her daring and ingenuity in saving the lives of more than 2,500 Jews (most of them children) in German-occupied Poland during WW II.

The Portuguese Schindler: Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches 

Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches was a Portuguese consul during World War II. As the Portuguese consul-general in the French city of Bordeaux, he defied the orders of António de Oliveira Salazar’s Estado Novo regime, issuing visas and passports to an undetermined number of refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, including Jews. For this, Sousa Mendes was punished by the Salazar regime with one year’s suspension on half-pay, but afterwards, he kept on receiving his full consul salary until his death in 1954. For his efforts to save Jewish refugees, Sousa Mendes was recognized by Israel as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, the first diplomat to be so honored, in 1966. He has also been called the “Portuguese Schindler.”

The Swedish Schindler: Raoul Wallenberg

Raoul Gustaf Wallenberg (August 4, 1912 – July 31, 1947) was a Swedish architect, businessman, diplomat, and humanitarian who save tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust from German Nazis and Hungarian Fascists during the later stages of WWII. While serving as Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest (July – December 1944), Wallenberg issued protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory. On January 17, 1945, during the Siege of Budapest by the Red Army, Wallenberg was detained on suspicion of espionage and subsequently disappeared. He was later reported to have died on July 17, 1947, while imprisoned by the KGB secret police in the Lubyanka, the KGB headquarters.

The Turkish Schindler: Namık Kemal Yolga 

Namık Kemal Yolga (1914 – 2001) was a Turkish diplomat and statesman. During World War II, Yolga was the Vice-Consul at the Turkish Embassy in Paris, France. His efforts to save the lives of Turkish Jews from the Nazi concentration camps earned him the title of “Turkish Schindler,” and he received recognition from the Turkish and Israeli governments in the late 20th century.

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The Schindler’s of the World

Proof that humanity is not just an example of the capacity to harm, we have the capacity for good as well.

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Yes, on this day, May 19, 1909, Nicholas Winton was born in Wertheim, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. a British humanitarian who organized the rescue of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport (German for “children transportation”).

On July 1, 2015, Sir Nicholas George Winton, Member of the Order of the British Empire, died at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, Berkshire, England…

Would that the world may never need the Schindler’s of the World Again.

May 14, 1948 & May 14, 2018

Why Trump was right to move the US Embassy:

Each sovereign nation-state has the right to determine its own capital. The Israeli government has declared Jerusalem to be its capital, therefore the US Embassy should be in Jerusalem.

Why Trump was wrong to move the US Embassy:

Israel’s legal authority of both West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem are questionable.

Historical Context

In 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne recognized British authority for the Mandate for Palestine. This was a result of the defeat of the Central Powers (specifically the Ottoman Empire) in World War I, and the subsequent collapse of the Ottoman Empire as a functioning nation-state. Thus, the legal jurisdiction of Israel-Palestine belonged to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a mandate under the League of Nations and international law.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations (the successor regime to the League of Nations) adopted the Plan as Resolution 181(II), which recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and an international authority for the city of Jerusalem. This UN Partition Plan for Palestine recommended a partition of Mandatory Palestine at the end of the British Mandate. The resolution also recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish States and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem. The Jewish Agency accepted the proposal with reservations, but the Arab Commission argued that partition violated the principals of national self-determination in the UN Charter which granted people the right to decide their own destiny.

Almost immediately after adoption of the Resolution by the General Assembly, a low-level civil war broke out and violence occurred by both religious groups. Adding to the complexity of the situation, post-World War II emigration of European Jews to the British Mandate for Palestine continued, which altered the population ratios in the Mandate.

On May 14, 1948, Jewish leaders in the Mandate for Palestine issued the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in defiance of the United Nation as Resolution 181(II) which set the stage for the 1948 Arab–Israeli War (or the First Arab–Israeli War) between the State of Israel and a military coalition of Arab states and forming the second stage of the 1948 Palestine war. In the war, Israeli forces soundly defeated the Arab coalition and took complete control of West Jerusalem. As a result of the war, the State of Israel controlled both the area that the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 had recommended for the proposed Jewish state as well as almost 60% of the area of Arab state proposed by the 1948 Partition Plan, including Jaffa, Galilee, and some parts of the Negev Tel Aviv–Jerusalem road. Transjordan, today known as Jordan, took control of East Jerusalem as well as what was left of the British Mandate, and the Egyptian military took control of the Gaza Strip. At that point in history, at the Jericho Conference of 1948, Egypt and Transjordan could have created a Palestinian state out of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the rump Mandate, but no state was created. However, because the Israeli control of Jerusalem was a military conquest and violation of UN Resolution 181, the US Embassy was built in Tel Aviv, not West Jerusalem.

Fast forwarding to the Six-Day War of June 1967: On June 7, 1967, Israel captured the Old City of East Jerusalem. Again, because the West Bank and East Jerusalem were a military conquest, not a diplomatic agreement, neither US President Lyndon Johnson nor did his eight successors relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

International Law

Since World War I, territorial expansion by military victory has been unrecognized by international law. Period. That’s it really. It’s as simple as that. Since World War I, territorial expansion by military victory has been unrecognized by international law. For example:

  • The German invasion of Poland, etc.? Wrong.
  • The Japanese invasion of East Asian territories? Wrong.
  • North Korea’s invasion of South Korea? Wrong.
  • Morocco’s invasion of Western Sahara? Wrong.
  • Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait? Wrong.
  • Russian conquest of Crimea? Wrong

What makes the Israeli conquest of the West Bank and East Jerusalem any different?

Nothing under international law, that’s for sure, though I have heard this argument, that Israel was attacked, Israel did not initiate the war, so that makes it different; Essentially, the argument goes that it’s the Arabs fault because they started the war. If one has siblings, then we are all aware of the goading that can go on before conflict. Regardless, however, there is no legal basis for that argument, no international legal caveat that says if you get attacked, you can conquer the world legally…and, finally, it may be worth pointing out that the belligerents in the 1967 War were the nation-states of Jordan and the Arab Republic of Egypt Syria, and not the Palestinian people.

Which only leaves this argument to justify the Israeli occupation and annexation of the West Bank: God. Well, specifically, the Torah. Yes, the Jewish holy texts record that God gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites. Unfortunately for Israel’s case before the international community, religious texts are not exactly admissible in international proceedings. After all, would the international community accept the words of Shiva or Krishna as binding legal documents? Do Israeli Jews accept the Qur’an’s legal weight? In fact, didn’t the Allied Commander for the Pacific Theater in WWII, Douglas MacArthur, didn’t MacArthur demand that the head of the Shinto faith, Emperor Hirohito, publicly change/alter/denounce the dogma of that religious tradition that the Emperor was the descendant of the Sun Goddess?

It seems that accepting Jewish scripture as an international legal document is playing favorites with world religion. The repatriation of European Jews was a decision made from guilt and cultural prejudice. The decision was made in wanton disregard for the existing Arab population in the British Mandate of Palestine, like European disregard for indigenous populations around the world. The decision is also a complete rejection for the principals of self-determination and territorial integrity spelled out in the Treaty of Versailles. International law cannot, ought not, to be henpecked.

So, am I saying that the State of Israel does not have a right to exist? Am I being anti-Semitic?

No, categorically, no. That is not what I’m saying. In the first place, there is a difference between de juro and de facto. For example, when the convention of delegates that was assembled in Philadelphia 1787 was charged with revising the Articles of Confederation, not replacing the US government; the Articles themselves states that the Articles could only be altered unanimously, but only 12 of the 13 states participated in the Constitutional Convention. So, what, we’re now going to abolish the US Government? No, of course not.

Yes, Israel came into being in 1948 in a dubious legal situation. But there is an equally important point to be made that, throughout history, Stateless People have been persecuted. Today, the Rohingya, as well as the Roma/Gypsies, the Kurds, and others, and yes, the Jewish people themselves. Kicked out of their historical homeland in 70 CE by the Roman Empire, the Jews were stateless people for almost 1900 years… and now, because of the creation of a Jewish Homeland, the Palestinian people have no homeland. I don’t know about you, but as a kid, I was taught that “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right.”

And, if that point doesn’t seem to have merit, let’s try an analogy. If the Native Americans rose up from every reservation and from all corners of the current United States, if Native Americans took up arms and waged war against the European-American population of the United States, would that be legitimate? After all, like the Jewish people, this land was Native American first. Again, there seems to be an inherent bias in how many Americans perceive the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

Zero-Sum versus Positive Sum

In addition, too many Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians view the situation as a Zero-Sum Game. In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game a situation in which each participant(s) gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participant(s). That’s not the only option. The falsity and limitation of Zero-Sum thinking is pointed out by the Nash Equilibrium, and perhaps more importantly, by Positive-Sum thinking.

One of the falsehoods in the general discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is the binary belief in Identity Politics. No, not all Israelis are opposed to the Two-State Solution; many Israelis recognize the dehumanizing conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And no, not all Palestinians are supporters of violence who deny the right of Israel to exist. Remember Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish murderer, not a Palestinian terrorist. If it seems that Palestinians are more angry and expressive of their feelings, ask yourself who was more angry and expressive in the American Civil Rights movement.

Conclusion

The United States has often neglected its potential as an arbiter for peace in the world, but not always. The American-brokered Good Friday Agreement is an example of US leadership in the world. Peace can happen when Americans recognize the right of both Palestinians and Israelis to self-determination. Peace can happen when settlements on the West Bank are not being constructed at the same time supposed negotiations occur. Peace can happen when the United States spends as much financial aid for Palestinian schools, hospitals, and police-training, as it sends in military hardware to Israel.

And, finally, peace will happen when Palestinians reject the politics of violence, and Israelis embrace the politics of humanitarianism.

The enemies of peace abound. They exist in the profit margins of the American military-industrial complex, and hidden corners of the Israeli government chambers; the enemies of peace exist in some of the madrasas and mosques of the West Bank and Gaza, just as much as they exist in the pulpits of many American Christian churches and some of the yeshivas of Israeli and America.

Yes, West Jerusalem is -and should be- the capital of Israel. But East Jerusalem should also be the capital of a Palestinian State as well. Opening one embassy, not two, was an expression of Zero Sum politics and an abdication of American leadership for peace in the world.

 

Two Nazis and a Military Analyst Walk into a Bar… (May11th)

~May 11~

On this day, May 11, 1960, four Israeli Mossad agents, with the help of Simon Wiesenthal/the Nazi Hunter, captured fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann who was living under the alias of Ricardo Klement in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

After his trial in Israel and the denial of his appeal, Eichmann was scheduled for execution. He refused a last meal, instead, Eichmann requested a bottle of wine, and he also refused the traditional black execution hood.  His last words were:

“Long live Germany.  Long live Argentina.  Long live Austria.  These are the three countries with which I have been most connected and which I will not forget.  I greet my wife, my family, and my friends.  I am ready.  We’ll meet again soon, as is the fate of all men.  I die believing in God.”

He was executed shortly after midnight on June 1, 1962; his body was cremated at a secret location, and his ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean Sea, outside of Israeli territorial waters by an Israeli Navy patrol boat…

And, I guess, that’s the end of the story, right?

Well, no, in my opinion, there’s more. How did Eichmann get to Argentina, how was he able to hide for so long, how was he found, and perhaps, most importantly, why was he not extradited, why was he kidnapped by one nation-state from inside another nation-state. Could you imagine the outcry if the Russian’s kidnapped an American in the US, and snuck him to Russia for trial?  Look at the situation in the UK, where Russians have assassinated and attempted to assassinate British residents twice in the past several years… if its outrageous for Russian operatives to work inside the UK, isn’t it somewhat outrageous that the Israeli Mossad operated within Argentina? Or are international norms only for the bad guys to follow? It seems, at times, that we have Double Standard in terms of expected international norms by state actors, and, additionally we don’t even always know what our government is doing.

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Take this other example: On this day, May 11, 1973, the charges against Daniel Ellsberg, for his involvement in releasing the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, were dismissed. Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on the Pentagon Papers, officially titled Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, had leaked/released the report to the Times. The report was a history of the United States’ political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967 and had demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress”. More specifically, the papers revealed that the U.S. had secretly enlarged the scope of its actions in the Vietnam War with the bombings of nearby Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, none of which were reported in the mainstream media.

The Pentagon Papers were announced and described on the front page of The New York Times in 1971. Ellsberg was initially charged with conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property, because of the leaks… but on May 11, 1973, the charges were dismissed after the Watergate prosecutors discovered evidence that the Nixon White House had ordered the so-called White House Plumbers to engage in unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg.

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Finally, on this day, May 11, 1987, Klaus Barbie went on trial in Lyon, France, for war crimes committed during World War II. Known as the “Butcher of Lyon,” Barbie personally tortured French prisoners of the Gestapo while stationed in Lyon. After the war, United States intelligence agencies used Barbie for their anti-Marxist efforts and also helped Barbie and others escape to South America. Later, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (the West German intelligence agency) recruited Barbie. Barbie is even rumored to have helped the CIA capture Che Guevara in 1967, as well as assisting in the Bolivian coup d’état orchestrated by Luis García Meza Tejada in 1980 [I mentioned that coup briefly on the May 5th podcast of This Day Today]. After the fall of that dictatorship, Barbie no longer had the protection of the Bolivian government. In 1983, Barbie was extradited to France, not kidnapped by French intelligence agents, and he was ultimately convicted of crimes against humanity. He died of cancer in prison on September 23, 1991.

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May 11th: An Israeli operation, quite illegal from an objective point of view, to capture a Nazi; the arrest of an American who leaked to the public the truth of what the government was hiding from the American people, and the doll-faced Nazi named Barbie, who was recruited to work for the US Government as well as West Germany, even though both agencies knew him to be a war criminal.

Certainly, politics makes strange bedfellows. Yes, the enemy of my enemy, maybe my friend, but shouldn’t we have some standards? If its ok for the US to lie to the American people, to hire known war criminals, and to look the other way as Israel violates the national sovereignty of other nation-states… then, are we any better than those we criticize in the world community? Are we really the beacon on the hill, the New Jerusalem? …Or are we just another rogue state ourselves?

~~~

And that’s what happened This Day in Today…

Remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

Of Elephants, Pornography, and Genocide

Happy birthday Mr. President! I’ll spare you my rendition of Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy, after all, you’re dead.  In fact, 46 years deceased.  Regardless, happy birthday Mr. Truman.  May 8, 1884; that’s quite a long time ago.  May 8, 1884, to December 26, 1972, now that’s quite a life.  A very distinguished life, as well.  Fighting political corruption, V-E Day (on our birthday no less!), The Marshall Plan, Truman Doctrine, creation of NATO, creation of the United Nations, the integration of the military, recognition of Israel, the Berlin Airlift, the defense of Taiwan, the defense of South Korea, firing of General MacArthur, renovation of the White House, the firing of Attorney-General McGrath, and most importantly, the response to Paul Hume’s criticism of your daughter Margaret.  A very distinguished life.  I have admired you for many years, and I am very proud that we share a birthday, but there is that thing.  You know that.  It.  The decision.  The decision before Lebron James’ “The Decision.”  The one that killed 199,000 humans immediately, thousands more hibakusha from radiation sickness and cancer, and has also infected later generations with residual effects, such as anxiety and somatization.  That decision.  The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I know you think you made the best decision.  And I’m sure it was not an easy decision.  Nor do I envy that fact that you had to make that decision.  And I get it; I’ve heard all the rationalizations: punish Japan for Pearl Harbor; “They started it first;” it saved American soldiers lives; it avoided a protracted invasion; it was a prescient warning to the Soviet Union; it prevented Japan from being divided as Korea and Germany were divided; it was a necessary evil; it had to be done, after all, what choice did we have?  How about this one: we didn’t know how destructive it would be.  Well, you know what?  We should have.  And, after August 6th’s bombing of Hiroshima, we surely ought to have known.  After the bombing of Nagasaki, we knew.  Tsutomu Yamaguchi knew.  He survived both Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and later died of stomach cancer on January 4, 2010, at the age of 93.

Ask the Korean conscripted prisoners about the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Approximately 22,000 innocent Korean prisoners died in the atomic blasts. Mr. President, I know that the 9/11 Attacks happened many years after your death, but I assure you, it was a big deal.  The attacks have seared a place in our national psyche.  In denouncing the 9/11 attacks, it is often pointed out that -even if perpetrators were trying to kill Americans- more than 12% (372) of the fatalities from the victims were foreign nationals.  Three hundred and seventy-two foreign individuals died because al-Qaeda was trying to kill Americans.  And in August 1945, more than 22,000 non-Japanese died because Americans were trying to kill Japanese civilians.

I am particularly fascinated by those two terms, Mr. President.  Let’s take the second one first: Civilians; non-combatants: women, children, the elderly, teachers, policemen, excetera, excetera.  In fact, eight of those non-combatants were European prisoners-of-war (one British national, and seven Dutch nationals).  And one American soldier, Joe Kieyoomia, was captured by the Japanese Imperial forces and only survived Hiroshima because the falling wall of his cell shielded his body from the blast.  Now, I don’t want to get too Biblical on you here, because I know you’re a good Baptist man and you know your Bible.  So you already know that, in Genesis Chapter 18, God decides to not destroy the “exceedingly grave…wicked” people of Sodom and Gomorrah to save just ten righteous people; would that you could have had the same compassion, my President?

And that is just the term, “civilian.”  Honestly, I am even more concerned about the term “Japanese” when we discuss the almost quarter of a million Japanese civilians who perished in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I know that Germany had surrendered earlier that year, but I have to ask, would you have used an atomic bomb on Germany?  Would you have utterly destroyed the great cities of Berlin, Hamburg or Munich?  After all, Munich was the seat of Hitler’s early rise to power, perhaps “they deserved it too”?  I know we fire-bombed Dresden and did incalculable damage, but would we have vaporized a German city of innocent women, children and the elderly?  I feel that we would not.  I feel there is an inherent bias in the decision to bomb Japan and not Germany.  In the 1940s, a plurality of Americans were of German ancestry and most Americans were of European descent.  Europeans are Christian Caucasians, just like the power brokers in Washington, DC, were in the 1940s.

US Civil War General Sherman said it best: “War is hell.”  War is, by definition, violent and people die.  Innocent people die.  But, when you make decisions to spare the cities, civilian populations, and art work (think Albrecht Gaiswinkler and the real life Monument Men) of one racial/ethnic/religious group of people while, at the same time, not considering the human, historical, architectural and artistic heritage of another demographic group, it should start to become uncomfortable.  It should make people squirm.  It should start to raise questions.

Perhaps we shouldn’t condemn the leaders of the past.  After all, we are all products of the context and cultural biases of our time.  (For example, recently we have debated President Woodrow Wilson’s reputation and place in our history.)  Hindsight is 20/20; ex post facto logic and all that jazz.  Sparing condemnation, however, does not mean necessarily mean exoneration or impunity.  Mr. President, you gave the authorization that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings in an instant.  And you withheld that same bloodlust when it came to bombing European cities and population centers.  You discriminated your actions, at least in part, on the unique demographics of the target populations.

A few years after your decision, the United Nations (which you helped usher into existence) created a new international law known as the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  In this statute, genocide is defined as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”  (Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2, 1948).

Mr. President, I know you don’t know me as well as I know you; but I have to tell you that, right now, there are people out there rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, and saying something akin to “Oh, Tom; there you go again: genocide, genocide, genocide.”  I know it, now you know it too.  I get it.  But I hope you get it too; that is, I hope you can connect the dots.  As a people, as humans, we now have this term “genocide.”  This term has a legal definition and, it says, genocide is defined as killing either in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.  You, Mr. President, killed hundreds of thousands of people that all belonged to a national/ethnic/racial/religious group that was distinct, not just from your own and the majority of our country, but also distinct from the other belligerents in Europe who were treated much differently.

Much later, in 1964, a WWII veteran famously said that pornography was difficult to define, but, said LTJG Stewart, “I know it when I see it.”  That Lieutenant Junior Grade officer was Potter Stewart and he went on to become an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  Mr. President, I admire much of your work, but there is that one decision that I question.  In this case, there is an elephant in the room and, as another expression would have it, your decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki has failed the Elephant Test.

Happy 132nd birthday, my birthday twin,

 

 

Cinco de Mayo

Image result for bartali gino

 

On this day, May 5, 2000, Gino Bartali died in Florence, Italy. Bartali, July 18, 1914 – May 5, 2000, was a world champion cyclist. That enough makes him famous, right? But, during WWII, Bartali used his fame as a champion cyclist to carry messages and documents to the Italian Resistance. Bartali all over northern Italy, from Florence through Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche, sometimes traveling as far as Rome, all the while wearing the racing jersey emblazoned with his name. Neither the Fascist police nor the German troops ever stopped the cultural icon for fear of upsetting the Italian people. Most of this was unknown until recently.

When Nissim died in 2000, his sons found from his diaries from WWII with the recollection of how Bartali had used his fame to help. Giorgio Nissim, a Jewish accountant from Pisa, who had also been part of the Assissi Underground worked with Bartlai. Nissim and the Catholic Oblati Friars of Lucca would forge the documents and photographs of those they were helping, then Bartali would to leave for Florence while pretending to train, ride his bicycle to the convent in which Jews were hiding, collect their photographs and ride back to Nissim. Bartali also used his visible and movements to learn about raids on safe houses and report back to the Underground.

At one point, Bartali was even brought into Villa Triste by the authorities in Florence. The Italian RSS official Mario Carità questioned Bartali and threatened his life. Bartali simply answered, “I do what I feel [in my heart].” And Bartali continued working with the Assisi Underground. In 1943, he led Jewish refugees towards the Swiss Alps himself. He cycled, pulling a wagon with a secret compartment, telling patrols it was just part of his weight training. In December 2010, it also emerged that Bartali had hidden a Jewish family in his cellar and, by doing so, had saved their lives.

In 2013, Yad Vashem awarded Gino Bartali the honor Righteous Among the Nations. Bartali never spoke of his heroic deeds but, later in life, Bartali simply told his son Andrea that “One does these things and then that’s that.”

I suppose the added irony, and my fascination with Bartali is the juxtaposition of Bartali with the story of Giovanni Palatucci, the so-called Italian Schindler. Palatucci was given credit for decades for using his position in the police department of Fiume to save hundreds of Jews in WWII. In fact, it turns out that most of that story was fabricated and, worse, it’s probably that Palatucci may have participated in the deportation of Italian Jews. 412 of the 570 Jews living in Fiume were deported to Auschwitz, a higher percentage than in any Italian city. Bartali and Palatucci, another example of the irony of history that reminds me of the Zen adage that, “Those who know, don’t say, those who don’t say, know.”

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On this day, May 5, 2002, Hugo Banzer died.  Hugo Banzer Suárez (May 10, 1926 – May 5, 2002) was a Bolivian politician, military general and twice President of Bolivia… first from 1971 to 1978 as dictator; and then again from 1997 to 2001 as constitutional President.

While scholars debate the United States and Brazilian involvement in the Banzer’s 1971 coup d’état, it is apparent that significant clandestine financial & advisory assistance was provided to Banzer by the Nixon administration.  As a result, on August 18, 1971, General Banzer, led a successful military uprising in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.  Democratically-elected President Juan José Torres was forced to take refuge in Argentina, where five years later he was kidnapped and assassinated by right-wing death squads associated with the Videla government and with the knowledge if not encouragement of Hugo Banzer.  The murder of the democratically elected president is part of a string of anti-democratic coups and assassinations supported by the US government including, but certainly not limited to, Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh (1953), Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz (1954), South Vietnamese President Ngô Đình Diệm (1963), João Belchior Marques Goulart (1964), Bolivian President Juan José Torres (1971), and Chilean President Salvador Allende (1973). In Latin America, these covert operations by US agents to eliminate leftist politicians and support right-wing dictatorships are collectively known as Operation Condor.

Human rights groups believe that during Hugo Banzer’s 1971-78 tenure (known as the Banzerato) several thousand Bolivians fled seeking asylum in other countries, more than 3,000 political opponents were arrested, at least 200 political opponents were killed, and many, many more Bolivians were tortured.  In the basement of the Ministry of the Interior or “the horror chambers” around 2,000 political prisoners were held and tortured during the 1971-1978 military rule.  Many others, as happened elsewhere in Latin America, simply disappeared. Ironically, another coup d’état, removed Hugo Banzer Suárez from dictatorship on July 21, 1978.

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Yes, today is Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. While national celebrations are beneficial for social cohesion, particularly when the celebrations recognize a military victory over a foreign power, on this Cinco de Mayo, perhaps we ought to meditate on our individual choices. May 5th, a day in history highlighting the enormous capacity that each person has to be a force for good, or evil, in our world. Are we heroes like Bartali? Paranoid authoritarians like Banzer, or do we sit on the sidelines of history like Palatucci, playing both sides in the face of evil in the world.

May the 4th Be With You

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!

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  On this day, May 4, 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued the papal bull which divided the so-called New World between Spain and Portugal along the Line of Demarcation. Yes, that Pope Alexander VI… the Pope’s whose birth name was Rodrigo Borgia, an Aragonese from Valencia, meaning he was Spanish… that whole Ferdinand and Isabella/Castile and Aragon thingy… the Pope who drew the line on the map was a national of one of the two parties… what would we call that today? Conflict of interest maybe? And that’s skipping over the absurd assumption of terra nullis, the idea that the lands did not belong to anyone because, you know, the people living there weren’t European-Christians. In 1992, the Australian Supreme Court overturned terra nullis in the landmark case Mabo v Queensland (1992); indigenous people worldwide celebrated the decision and have implored governments in the Americas, in particular, to follow suit (see what I did there?) even if it is symbolic more than practical. So this Line of Demarcation, it had a few renditions, but it is essentially the same as the late, and more famous Treaty of Tordesillas.

Here’s one more, not sure if we call it ignorance or irony… can we call it ignorant irony? Anyway, here’s one more for ya, this line essentially drew a line in the Atlantic and said Spain gets west of the line (that’s why so much of the Western Hemisphere speaks Spanish, and Portugal got East of that line, essentially eastern Brasil; I always thought Portugal got the short end of the deal (though not as short as the indigenous peoples and the non-Spanish/Portuguese nations), but later I realized that Portugal had a see-empire that included the Canaries, the Azores, the Madeira, ports along the African coast, parts of India, particularly Goa, etc., etc, and with Portugal’s naval supremacy at the time, this sea-empire was contiguous by water… Perhaps the Borgia Pope did Europe a favor by taming the Portuguese Empire, but of course, Borgia was still, by modern standards, biased and his decision restrained Portugal while at the same time ushered in the rise of Spain is a way.

Finally, for whatever positive or nefarious spin we put to the story, the Line of Demarcation was only legally significant for about 24 years…at least in Europe… there is still the legal significance of terra nullis, but let’s go back to Europe in 1493: The Spanish Catholic Pope drew a line and granted extraterritorial gains to the Catholic Joint Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile and the Catholic Kingdom of Portugal. Hmmm… I think I see a pattern here? Something about the word, “Catholic”? Man, if I were a Catholic monarch from one of the other European countries, I’d be ticked! But, I mean, the Pope said so, right?  Play interlude music for 24 years…But wait! What’s that guy doing? He’s got a hammer and nails, huh! He just nailed a list, a long list, to the doors of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg! I guess we don’t have to listen to the Pope anymore… and if the Dutch, English, and Swedes aren’t going to listen anymore, then the French Catholics aren’t going to sit idly by and respect Pope Alexander VI’s Line of Demarcation which had divided the so-called New World between Spain and Portugal, issued on this day, May 4, 1493.

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On this day, May 4, 1938, Carl von Ossietzky was born in Berlin, Nazi Germany. Von Ossietzky (October 3, 1889 – May 4, 1938) was a German. He was convicted of high treason and espionage in 1931 after publishing details of Germany’s violation of the Treaty of Versailles by rebuilding an air force, the predecessor of the Luftwaffe, and training pilots in the Soviet Union. As a result, Carl was awarded the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in exposing the clandestine German re-armament, but the German press was not allowed to mention it, and a government decree forbade German citizens from accepting future Nobel Prizes. In May 1936, Carl was transferred from a prison camp to the Westend Hospital in Berlin-Charlottenburg because of his tuberculosis, but under Gestapo surveillance. He later died in the Nordend Hospital in Berlin-Pankow, while still in police custody of tuberculosis and from the after-effects of the abuse he suffered in the concentration camps.

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Seven years later, on this day, May 4, 1945, the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg, Germany, was liberated by the British Army. The Neuengamme camp was established in 1938 near Hamburg, Germany. From 1938 to 1945, an estimated 106,000 prisoners were held at Neuengamme and at its subcamps. 14,000 perished in the main camp, 12,800 in the subcamps and 16,100 during the last weeks of the war on evacuation marches or due to Allied bombing. The verified death toll is 42,900. One of the most notable prisoners to perish in the camp was Fritz Pfeffer, a German dentist and Jewish refugee who hid with Anne Frank during the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands. In Anne’s diary, Pfeffer was given the pseudonym Albert Dussel, and is probably more famous by that pseudonym.

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Finally, on this day, May 4, 1977, Star Wars, surprisingly was NOT released. Believe it or not, it was release three weeks later on May 25, 1977.

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That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

April 29th ~ War Crimes and Reconciliation

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!

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  On this day, April 29, 1946, The International Military Tribunal for the Far East convened and indicted former Prime Minister of Japan Hideki Tojo, as well as 28 other former Japanese leaders, with war crimes. Tojo was the highest ranking Japanese national charged by the Tribunal. Supreme Allied Commander for the Pacific Theater, General Douglas MacArthur, had decided to give the Imperial Family immunity from prosecution in order to smooth the restructuring of Japan’s government. Thousands of other alleged war criminals were remanded to other countries for national criminal prosecution. Ultimately, seven defendants were later given death sentences and executed; 16 received prison sentences. A shout out to MY home state of Little Rhodey, The chief prosecutor, Joseph B.  Keenan, was from Pawtucket, RI, United States.

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Sixty-nine years later, on April 29, 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first Prime Minister of Japan to address a joint session of the US Congress and offered his “profound respect” and “eternal condolences” for US soldiers who died in World War II.  On December 27, 2016, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also became the first Prime Minister of Japan to visit Pearl Harbor and laid a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial.  Earlier, in May of 2016, US President Barack Obama similarly became the first sitting US President to visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima, Japan.  Regardless of one’s opinion of the decision to drop the bomb, it is an inescapable fact that the US use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed an estimated 220, 000 people combined…

That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!