Posts Tagged ‘Third Reich’

Barcelona v. Berlin in 1936

September 9, 2018

When it comes to European civilization, Greece is where the  legacy originated about 2500 years ago.

Among the many enduring contributions  by which the early Greeks set Europe into cultural motion, I find two, in particular, that have demonstrated incredible longevity:

Democracy, and Olympics.

Those early Greeks were incredibly active in their sporting competitions, and also in their zeal to launch the world’s most notable experiment in governance by “the people.”

Their idea of Democracy was later amended by the Romans as a form of governance known as Republic, which was perhaps a more practical working out of the egalitarian concept, because groups of citizens could, by vote, select representatives to do the actual decision-making.

Many centuries later, the notion of democracy ascended on a fresh new wind of modern life. Most notably in the 1700’s, certain forward-thinking individuals in America and central Europe used the ancient democratic ideal as a basis for updating and improving human governance. The working out of it has been, over the last two or three centuries, somewhat messy and unsure, but the idea of government by the people for the people is still widely considered to be the best and fairest framework for doing collectively whatever it is that we humans are trying to do to improve our situation here on earth.

A lot could be said here but I’ll just toss up an example of how the idea of democracy continues to capture Euro imagination. Here’s a photo I snapped a few days ago while walking through a public square in Barcelona.

Democracia

As we can see here, democracy seems to be a readily attractive notion, worthy of public mention. However, the prospect of promoting democracy has not always been easy here in Espanya. Spain has had a rough history in which Democracy and Authoritarian governments have bloodily contested each other.

Following their rejection of a King in 1931, the Spanish people fought a civil war, 1936-39; it began in a political competition between zealous advocates of these two opposing models of governance.

But during those tumultuous years, the people of Spain were not the only nation who were grappling with such controversies. A few European borders away, the people of Germany were in a similar contest.

After the Germans suffered the defeat of World War I, they had a massive reconstruction project going on, as they were striving to re-assemble not only their physical nation and its infrastructure, but also their way of governing themselves.

During the 1920’s and ’30’s, both the Germans and the Spanish  wrestled with themselves to establish a democratic Republic. Both attempts ended in failure.

When the Nazis took over Germany in 1933, they ditched the Weimar Republic and degenerated into Third Reich bellicosity. Also in the 1930’s, the people of Spain ousted their King and declared a new Republic. But in 1936, the Franco-led Falangists attacked their own people. By 1939, they had driven the Republicans out of office.

Meanwhile, back at the crunch, there was an athletic contention going on between these two violence-torn countries–Germany and Spain. This  competition gets back to the other great contribution that I mentioned earlier from ancient Greece:

the Olympics.

At the meeting of the International Olympic Committee in 1931, Spain had proposed that the 1936 Olympics take place in Barcelona. But, by a process of democratic voting among the member nations, the IOC awarded the hosting to Berlin.

That was an ill-fated turn of events. Germany was at that time being taken over by the Nazi Third Reich. Hitler and his Nazi thugs were striving to use the Olympics as a showcase of their supposed bullshit Aryan supremacy.

Down in Republican Spain, the leftist government caught wind of what the Nazis were up to. They smelled a rat in Europe. So they launched an attempt to conduct an alternate Olympics, which they thought would express more appropriately the sporting competition of  classic  events.

BarcOlyPop

But the so-called Olimpiada Popular in Barcelona never happened. As it turned out, the Spanish people were having a war among themselves in 1936 instead of inviting the world in for some friendly sports.

Later, during and after the Second World War,  the civilized world  awakened to the disastrous truth of what Nazi Germany had been doing behind the scenes while they had been hosting their facade of pseudo-Olympic propaganda back in ’36.

Spanish Catalunya Barcelona did, however, ultimately have its day in the Olympic sun. That came 56 years later, in 1992.

A few days ago, here and now 2018, we visited that Olympic site in Barcelona where the competitive events were conducted in ’92;  quite an impressive sight it still is:

BarcOlymp

My hope is that both ancient institutions—Democracy and Olympics will survive and thrive in this century we live in now—the 21st.

 Smoke

The Inspiration of Harriet Tubman in 1937

April 21, 2016

In the novel, Smoke, which I published last year, a young American businessman, Philip Morrow, accompanies a refugee family through France in the year 1937. Across the border in Germany, the Nuremberg laws had established a set of dangerous restrictions promulgated by the Nazis to drive the Jews out of Germany, and to abscond their wealth.

In the story, the Eschen family has fled Munich in a hurry. Their hasty departure is provoked when their son/brother has been arrested and imprisoned at Dachau.

In this excerpt from chapter 14 of Smoke, we find the Eschens relieved to have crossed the French border into the province of Alsace. Gathered with some newfound French friends, they are sharing a meal and giving an account of their escape. Philip is inquiring about the conditions through which they fled from Munich to the border and then crossed into France. As Philip speaks, Hannah, the older sister makes mention of American woman whose daring enterprise is a benchmark of American history.

       “Harriet Tubman,” Hannah broke in.

       “Harriet who? What are you talking about?”

       “Tubman. Harriet Tubman,” the young woman repeated. “. . . an American Negro woman who escaped slavery about a hundred years ago. She went to the north, to the free states of America, where the practice of slavery had been outlawed. She started an organization for her people to escape the cotton plantations in the south, and go up to the free states in the north, where they could begin a new life.”

       “The Underground Railroad,” said Philip. “How did you know about that?” he asked, looking with surprised interest across and down the table at Hannah.

       “I’ve been reading the Encyclopedia Britannica,” she replied. “It just occurred to me that, in our predicament here, our family is like those slaves who had escaped before the American civil war. “The Negroes were, like us now, a stateless people. They had been sold into slavery in Africa, and shipped across the Atlantic in terrible ships, where they were forced to pick cotton for plantation owners for many generations, until Harriet Tubman escaped and set up secret itineraries for their escape.”

       “But you are not like Negro slaves. You are prosperous Jews,” objected Donald, gently.

       “Not any more, we’re not, Monsieur Satie,” Hannah answered. “This is the enormity of it—of the changes that the Third Reich has imposed. All that my father and mother have worked for—and our grandparents before them—has been robbed, a little bit at a time, from us!—including  my brother. And now the Nazis have built a slave camp, where they intend to concentrate us Jews—Heinrich is not the only one—and  force us into doing work to build up the wehrmacht, so Hitler can exact vengeance against us, and not only against us ‘prosperous’ Jews, but against you, too, you French people, and the British, who imposed the treaty of Versailles on Germany after the war.”

Such was a conversation might have taken place in Europe in 1937.

Looking forward forty-years, here’s a song I recorded in 1978 about yet newer manifestations of the Underground Railroad scenario:

Underground Railroad Rides Again

Smoke

the Narnia wardrobe

April 10, 2013

Nineteen thirty-four,

Nazis in

Nuremberg attempted to

nullify the glory of God;

nihilistic they were;

nixing the opinions of mankind, by

nineteen thirty-

nine, had made war a sacrament, until there remained

no decency left in their

nefarious reign over Deutschland. In

nineteen forty, they moved against the world, with

noxious occupations in Austria, Czechoslav, Poland.

Nobody could reverse their ruthless belligerance.  Everywhere the

National Socialists went,

no good thing was tolerated.

Never had the world seen such hateful conquest.

Next country over to the west on the

North Sea was the

Netherlands;  when the

Nazis came, some good people there hid Jews so they would

not be found,

nor arrested,

nor sent to death camps.

Near the upper regions of some refuge homes, probably

next to a wall, there might be found a wooden wardrobe, which is

not a collection of clothes, but a rather unusual piece of furniture.

Nailed or hinged to the back of it, there could be a false panel, very

narrow, on the other side of which secret accommodations might

neatly conceal

neighbors or other persons who have fled the

Nazi police, which are the beastly

nemeses of Jews and other innocent

non-aryans. We could say that beyond such a hiding place

nestled behind a wardrobe was a

neverworld of fear and imminent danger that

never should have existed. But the world is a terrible place.

 

Once upon that same awful time, a professorial fellow–

name of Lewis,

native of some quaint and curious shire,

near an Oxford

nook of England– he reported the existence of a

never

neverland. It was, he imagined, a reichish otherworldly scene,

niftily cloaked clandestinely

near the rear of some such nonesuch transportive wardrobe;

now it took innocents away, into a

netherland of frigid fright and badness to a land badly ruled, in

necromancy, and oppressed by an evil queen, a

netherworld region beyond a 1940s’ wardrobe that Lewis

named

Narnia.

Now truly, there is

no such place as Narnia, but if ever there was, I would hope the

noxious fuehrer tyrant should be

negated, and

nullified by children of the rightful King.

 

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Roosevelt’s dilemma

March 18, 2013

In the novel I am writing, Smoke, the Eschen family–Hezekin, Helene, Hannah, and Lili– have just arrived in eastern France. The year is 1937;  the Gestapo have recently arrested their son, Heinrich, and imprisoned him at Dachau.

Under a pall of Nazi-induced fear, the Eschens have decided to risk losing everything–their business and home–by leaving Munich to flee Germany, even though they do not know what Heinrich’s fate will be.

In chapter 14 of Smoke, the refugee family have been taken in by a French family who live across the Rhine border, in the province of Alsace. Now they are sitting at a well-appointed table to share a meal with some newfound friends. We enter this scene at the supper table of the Ravel family and a few of their companions. Helene is describing the Eschens’ situation with the group:

       Helene wiped the tears from her cheek. “What we seek, Madame Leblanc, is a young man, a good man in the very flower of his youth; but he is locked inside Dachau prison—our son, Heinrich. And now it is so very hard to decide what is to be done. Should we stay or go?”

       “Even if you must go. . .somewhere. . .must it be to America? Why not wait here, here in Alsace. You are close here, close enough to respond quickly, if Heinrich were to be released. If you were all the way to the United States, your help for him would be almost impossible.”

       “Our travel visas here are good only for two weeks. But we have relations in New York—they are our people, Jews like us—who are working on our behalf. They are even willing to deposit thousands of US dollars in the banks for us, and send affidavits to endorse for our immigration, so that we can obtain visas to enter the United States and start a new life there.”

      The host, M. Ravel, at the head of the table, inserted, “Peut-etre . . . your temporary visas here can be extended. We may be able to find some help for you with that. Although there is no consulate in Strasbourg, we do know some people are well-connected. Other refugees, like you, have come from Germany and have been able, with a little time, to make better arrangements, to stay in France. Now that you have gotten out, you should slow down and get your bearings, form a strategy to establish communication with Heinrich, if that is possible; there may be more resources here in Alsace that you realize. You really do need to stay close to Germany, Hezekin.” Cartier looked directly into the man’s face, then at his wife. “You do need to stay nearby until Heinrich is released, or at least until you have heard some definite news, or until this whole damned Nazi thing blows over.”

        Henri Leblanc then spoke excitedly, “The Third Reich is not going to go away! They will inflict their German hatefulness on Jews and some others as long as they can! They will not stop until they are forced to stop. Hitler and Goebbels have railed against the Jews since the beginning, even since ’33. It was their intention all along to rob you of your business and then run you out of Germany. But our leaders, Petain or—we need another Clemenceau, or Poincare, maybe that young man, DeGaulle—somebody needs to rise up and intervene la-bas. Every since Hitler waltzed into the Saar last year, with no resistance whatsoever from us, those Nazi brutes who salute and follow his every command without question have been frothing at the mouth to run the Jews out of Germany. That is what the Gestapo is assigned to do, and the Third Reich will not cease its campaign against the Jews—especially the prosperous ones such as you.”

       “But do not despair!” said Henri’s wife. “You have come to the right place. We can help you. We’ll give you sanctuary as long as we can.”

But the Eschens were not the only ones in such a situation as this. There were many others who were fleeing, and would flee, from the tribulation of being Jewish under Hitler’s Third Reich. As the terrible tide of Nazi oppression filled Germany during the next three years, and through the years of World War II, there would be many, many more who sought to leave, and find a new life in places such as Britain, the United States, South America, Africa, and Israel.

What to do with them all? This was only one of many complicated dilemmas that President Roosevelt, as well as Mr. Churchill in Britain and the leaders of the French Third Republic, faced in those tumultuous years before, and during, World War II.

It was the worst of times, even worse than today. May it never happen again to any people group on our planet.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Smokefree

February 24, 2013

In the novel that I am presently writing, the young American, Philip, has just arrived, via train, in Strasbourg, France, very near the German border. The year is 1937. A young lady, Lili, who has recently left Germany, has arranged for her father, Hezekin, to drive Philip out of Strasbourg and into the Alsace countryside of easternmost France.

In chapter 13 of Smoke, the novel, we hear Philip Marlowe and Hezekin Eschen converse, as Hezekin is driving the Renault to a farmhouse in the country:

       “Konzentrationslager,” said Hezekin.

“They are special prisons for Jews, where they are concentrated in camps to do slave labor,” said Lili.

Philip’s American mind could not fathom it. “What is so special about you Jews that—“

Hezekin raised his voice: “From ancient times, God has called us out of slavery, and we will never, never submit to it on this earth—not from Pharoah, not from the Fuehrer!”

“What slavery are you talking about now, in 1937, with you a businessman, providing for your family?” Philip retorted.

The voice lowered. “Philip, the Nazis are building slave camps now!” His voice was tense with urgency, eyes flashing with offense. “The SS has built one at Dachau, and they have taken my son, my one and only son, and they have locked him in there with barbed wire all around the camp. What do you call that?”

“I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Now you have, my friend. You are not in America now. This is the old world, the world from which your ancestors—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln—the world of tragedy, and hope, from which they sprung, the world from which their ancestors fled!”

“If this is true—“

“It is true, my friend!

Recovery as Idol

December 6, 2012

My present reading (for novel research) of William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reichhas revealed a surprising, though very disturbing truth–mainly this:

Under Hitler’s hyperactive dictatorial leadership, Germany achieved, during the mid-1930s, what appeared to be a miraculous economic recovery. By 1933 Hitler had deceived his way into being elected as Chancellor of Germany. From that year 1933, to 1937, unemployment in Germany plummeted downward–from six million unemployed to one million unemployed.

In only four years!

How did Hitler and the Nazis pull off this amazing turnaround? They put people to work building up their war economy. But it was a bellicose accomplishment that would later prove to be their tragic undoing.

Furthermore, on page 262 of the Simon & Schuster edition, Shirer includes this statistic: “The heavy industries, chief beneficiaries of rearmament, increased their (profits) from 2 percent in the boom year of 1926 to 6 1/2 percent in 1938, the last full year of peace” (before Hitler launched his mad plan to enslave Europe, ed.).

And this: “. . .most firms reinvested in their own businesses the undistributed profits, which rose from 175 million marks in 1932 to five billion marks in 1938. . .”

But then consider where that impressive recovery eventually took them–to an agonizing, ill-fated national destruction a few years later.

This history lesson, courtesy of Mr. Shirer’s prodigious research–and his first-hand witnessing of life in Nazi Germany during that pivotal time– should serve as a warning to us.

Do not make of economic recovery an idol. Much more important is the retention– among a free and inquisitive nation of people such as we are– the retention of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, for all of us. To that list I would add: the general preservation among us of a decent respect for the rights of all persons and people groups.

Do not make of economic recovery an idol. Freedom and dignity is much more valuable.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

A type of Beast

November 25, 2012

The setting for my new novel, Smoke, now being written, is London. The year is 1937. The main guy in the story,  a young American named Philip Marlowe, has met a tailor, Itmar Greeneglass, who has provided Philip with some disturbing information about what is happening across the Channel, in Nazi Germany.

Research for this writing project has directed me to William L. Shirer’s classic research opus, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Fall-Third-Reich-History/dp/1451651686

On page 213 of the Simon & Schuster edition, Mr. Shirer wrote:

“On January 26, 1934, four days before Hitler was to meet the Reichstag on the first anniversary of his accession to power, announcement was made of the signing of a ten-year nonaggression pact between Germany and Poland.”

But on September 1, 1939, Hitler’s armies invaded Poland.  So much for peace treaties with a liar.

Four days after the announcement of that peace-pact, which the furious Feuhrer  later disregarded, he addressed the German Reichstag on January 30, 1934. William Shirer writes, concerning that speech, that  Adolf Hitler:

“…could look back on a year of achievement without parallel in German history. Within twelve months he had overthrown the Weimar Republic, substituted his personal dictatorship for its democracy, destroyed all the political parties but his own, smashed the state governments and their parliaments and unified and defederalized the Reich, wiped out the labor unions, stamped out democratic associations of any kind, driven the Jews out of public and professional life, abolished freedom of speech and the press, stifled the independence of the courts and ‘co-ordinated’ under Nazi rule the political, economic, cultural and social life of an ancient and cultivated people.”

That little dictator was quite a demon to have done all that in his first year. And the fact that the political leaders of the free world failed to realize what the beast was up to– is no testimony to the validity of diplomatic processes.

As you probably know, the whole dam world would be suffering for decades to come, because of Hitler’s bloody absconding of the German government, and the world war which resulted from it.

I hope this never happens again, which is why I write about it, so that others may recognize the historical signs of such iniquity ever rising again from the muck of human depravity.

Remain vigilant, all ye lovers of freedom and decency. Be alert, like the deer that panteth for water at the brook. Never again!

Glass half-Full