Under Darkness

Rows of bodies of dead inmates fill the yard of Lager Nordhausen, a Gestapo concentration camp. This photo shows less than half of the bodies of the several hundred inmates who died of starvation or were shot by Gestapo men. Germany, April 12, 1945. Myers. (Army) NARA FILE #: 111-SC-203456 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1121
Rows of bodies of dead inmates fill the yard of Lager Nordhausen, a Gestapo concentration camp. This photo shows less than half of the bodies of the several hundred inmates who died of starvation or were shot by Gestapo men. Germany, April 12, 1945. Myers. (U.S. Army)

By konigludwig

They came without warning late one night in 1943 and took 7 year-old Rebekkah Dunst and her parents from their home. The next day my mother cried and cried. Her older brothers too. Rebekkah had been my mother’s best friend. My grandmother wept bitterly for the Dunst family. They had been close neighbors, good friends, kind, decent and gentle people. They had done nothing wrong. Nothing.

My mother and her brothers were warned by my grandmother not to be seen crying for the Dunst family in public. In Nazi Germany, to show empathy for Jews, foreigners, the disabled, homosexuals, or anyone else who didn’t represent the Nazi ideal of an ethnically pure and glorious Greater Germany revealed a moral weakness that was not to be tolerated nor excused. The slightest sign of nonconformity was dangerous. Germans were afraid. Everyone was afraid. Not just Jews.

My grandfather was a soldier in the German Wehrmacht. His family had lived in Germany since 1482. But that did not stop the Gestapo from ransacking my grandmother’s house, a German soldier’s home, on several occasions. My uncles were in the Hitler youth but that did not matter either.

They were looking for letters from my grandfather’s brother and sister, who had emigrated to Brazil when the Nazis first came to power in Germany. Even possessing a simple letter from someone whose loyalty to the Third Reich was suspect could be a death warrant.

And so here we are again. We have failed to learn the lessons of history. We have elected a president openly supported by Nazis and White Supremacists–a man who has refused to disavow their support–and who now finalizes plans to “relocate” millions of Hispanic immigrants and to forcibly register millions of Muslim-Americans. Suddenly, the American Right is no longer preoccupied with our constitutional guarantee of Freedom of Religion nor their abstract fears of imagined government concentration camps.

The majority of Germans didn’t vote for Hitler. But now, like then, a great nation has lost its moral compass, and the long established relations of the civilized world have been suddenly swept in a single night into an abyss of pure darkness.

Ⓒ 2016 by konigludwig

Why Is Socialist Bernie Sanders So Popular?

Berniemania! Why Is Socialist Bernie Sanders So Popular? – The New York Observer

Brooklyn-born, Vermont-fueled, Bernie Sanders promises a revolution if he’s somehow elected president next year. Does Hillary have to watch her back?

(Illustration: Josh Gosfield/New York Observer)
(Illustration: Josh Gosfield/New York Observer)

Mr. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, violates most laws of American politics. He proudly calls himself a socialist, a label vilified by Republicans and avoided by most Democrats. He is not outwardly charming; he rarely glad-hands and his speeches are often mirthless. Like a modern day Jonathan Edwards, who found Eugene V. Debs rather than Jesus Christ, he thunders about the dying middle class and oligarchies eroding democracy. Cross him, like one camera-holding man who yapped at him in Keene to take a position on the Edward Snowden affair, and earn a stern rebuke. Why wouldn’t he answer the man’s question? “Because you’re rude, and you’re shouting out things and I don’t really like that,” Mr. Sanders groused.

Despite a thorny approach to retail campaigning, Mr. Sanders’ quest for the White House is on an upswing. Last week, a Wisconsin Democratic Party straw poll showed Mr. Sanders trailing Ms. Clinton only 49 to 41 percent among delegates. On Observer.com, Brent Budowsky wrote, “There is a very real prospect that Mr. Bernie Sanders wins an outright victory in the Iowa caucus.” Donations are flooding in; he raised $1.5 million in the 24-hour period after he announced his candidacy in early May. He has since raised cash from more than 100,000 individual donors.

For a long time, Mr. Sanders’ unbridled liberalism was out of vogue. The Clintons, slashing the welfare rolls and deregulating Wall Street, ruled the booming 1990s. The Soviet Union collapsed; some socialists had lost a lodestar, though Mr. Sanders firmly insisted it was the democratic socialism of the Scandinavian countries, and not the authoritarianism of Russia, that he extolled.

A Sanders supporter in Keene underscored this point, gently chastising a reporter for asking whether an avowed socialist could win over voters nationwide.

“He’s a democratic socialist, like another celebrated Jewish socialist—Jesus,” he said.

Still, after a one-term African-American senator with a funny name rose from nowhere to whip Hillary Clinton, the Sanders faithful are suddenly asking, And why not Bernie? What seems more far-fetched: Barack Hussein Obama, around 2007, becoming leader of the Free World or a socialist Jew (a member of Congress for 24 years and former mayor, to boot) becoming president in 2016? (Never mind Mr. Obama was telegenic and three decades younger.)

Read more at The New York Observer

‘Don’t Underestimate Me’: Bernie Sanders Knows a Thing or Two About Winning

Senator Bernie Sanders (AP/ John Locher)
Senator Bernie Sanders (AP/ John Locher)

By John Nichols in The Nation

Burlington, Vermont— For the first century after the founding of the Grand Old Party in 1854, Republicans dominated the politics of the state of Vermont like no other. For more than 100 years, Vermont Republicans won every major race for every statewide office. Republican presidential candidates from John Fremont in 1856 to George H.W. Bush in 1988—with the single exception of Barry Goldwater in 1964—won the Green Mountain State. For one of Vermont’s US Senate seats, an unbroken Republican winning streak continued from before the Civil War to the beginning of the 21st century.

Only in 2006 was the Senate seat streak broken with the election of a candidate who was not a Republican.

His name was Bernie Sanders.

Of all the announced and potential contenders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, none has a longer track record of taking on tough races, beating incumbents, and upsetting the political calculus. Sanders has won 14 elections in Vermont, including ten straight races for the US House and US Senate as the most politically successful and longest serving independent member of Congress in American history.

Read more at The Nation

How the Statue of Liberty Almost Ended Up in Egypt

By Dora Hasan Mekouar in Voice of America

The Statue of Liberty looks out on the lower Manhattan skyline, January 2014. (AP)
The Statue of Liberty looks out on the lower Manhattan skyline, January 2014. (AP)

Instead of imploring the world to “give me your tired, your poor”, the Statue of Liberty’s welcoming message might well have been “as-salamu alaykum”, the Arabic greeting used by Muslims around the world.

That’s right, the world’s most recognized symbol of freedom and the American dream, was originally intended for Egypt, which ultimately rejected it for being too old fashioned.

The decision came as a disappointment to Lady Liberty’s creator, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who’d envisioned the Suez Canal as the ideal venue for his mammoth harbor structure.

The decision came as a disappointment to Lady Liberty’s creator, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who’d envisioned the Suez Canal as the ideal venue for his mammoth harbor structure.
Statue of Liberty creator Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s original design for the mouth of the Suez Canal in Egypt.

“He was inspired by the Sphinx and the pyramids and the idea you could create something massive that could almost be eternal,” said Elizabeth Mitchell, who brings Bartholdi’s quest to life in her book Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty.

Mitchell was motivated to write the book after coming across Bartholdi’s diaries at the New York City Public Library. That’s when she first realized the iconic symbol wasn’t a gift from France as many Americans believe.

“In fact, the true story is more moving because what you have is this individual artist who had a vision and he really wanted to make this happen,” Mitchell said, “and he really had to go through every machination to get this thing built.”

After his failure in Egypt, the artist shifted his attention to America, which was prospering after the end of the Civil War.

“Maybe no other country at the time would understand the excitement and importance of having this bigger-than-life, colossal symbol,” Mitchell said.

Read more at Voice of America

Mary Edwards Walker: The Only Woman to Receive the Medal of Honor

By Daniel Arkin

Dr. Mary Edwards Walker between 1911 and 1917 (Library of Congress – public domain) via NBC News

In 1916, a high-ranking U.S. military board revoked Medals of Honor from nearly 1,000 recipients, a move that sent shockwaves across the country as former service members suddenly found themselves stripped of their hard-won awards.

A former Army surgeon who had braved some of the most harrowing years of the Civil War was among the many veterans ordered to return their honors. But the physician, who was partial to wearing the glinting Medal with a top hat and bow tie, refused to part with the prize.

It was not the first time Mary Edwards Walker refused to play by the rules.

“She wore the Medal every day of her life, from the moment she received it to the day she died,” said Sharon Harris, author of “Dr. Mary Walker: An American Radical, 1832-1919” and a professor at the University of Connecticut.

Walker — the first and only woman to receive the Medal of Honor — was a tough, tenacious iconoclast who stood firm before her foes, be they Confederate soldiers or Army bureaucrats, Harris said.

An enemy of social convention

Walker had ruffled feathers from an early age, attracting jeers and insults as she walked the streets in men’s trousers and starched collared shirts, according to Harris.

“Boys chased her and threw rocks at her,” Harris said. “She once said that nobody would ever know what she had to go through just to step out the door each morning.”

And yet Walker was relentless. She pushed her way to a degree from Syracuse Medical College, the nation’s first medical school, and later set up an independent medical practice in Rome, N.Y., with a husband she later divorced after 13 years of unhappy matrimony.

She met her greatest challenge at the outbreak of the Civil War. As the republic broke on ideological fault lines, Walker descended on Washington, D.C., and demanded a spot in the Union Army. Her bid for a commission as a medical officer was rejected, but she volunteered anyway, earning a spot as an acting assistant surgeon — the first of her kind in the U.S. Army.

Read more at NBC News

Clyde Snow, a Sleuth Who Read Bones From King Tut’s to Kennedy’s, Is Dead at 86

By ROBERT D. McFADDENMAY 16, 2014

Clyde Snow in 1986. Credit David Longstreet/Associated Press

With ghoulish geniality, Clyde Snow liked to say that bones made good witnesses, never lying, never forgetting, and that a skeleton, no matter how old, could sketch the tale of a human life, revealing how it had been lived, how long it had lasted, what traumas it had endured and especially how it had ended.

He was a legendary detective of forensic anthropology, the esoteric science of extracting the secrets of the dead from skeletal remains. His subjects included President John F. Kennedy, the Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele, the “disappeared” who were exhumed from mass graves in Argentina, victims of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, and even Tutankhamen, the pharaoh who lived 3,300 years ago.

Dr. Snow in 2000 in El Salvador, where his team found the skeletons of 136 infants and children killed by army squads. Credit Victor Ruiz/Associated Press

More, Dr. Snow, who testified against Saddam Hussein and other tyrants, was the father of a modern movement that has used forensic anthropology in human rights drives against genocide, war crimes and massacres in Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda, Chile and elsewhere.

He died at 86 on Friday at a hospital in Norman, Okla., where he lived. His wife, Jerry Whistler Snow, said the cause was cancer and emphysema.

Read more at The New York Times

When Oklahoma Was Socialist

Oklahoma state flag 1911 ( public domain )
Oklahoma state flag 1911
( public domain )

I think that it would surprise most modern progressives to know that Oklahoma was once the epicenter of American socialism and the Progressive movement. Though it is one of the most conservative Republican states in the Union today, Oklahoma was once politically dominated by an agrarian Christian Socialist movement. In the early 1900s, Oklahoma socialists were among the first in the nation advocating equal rights for women and African Americans. Indeed, one of the first acts of the Oklahoma legislature was the creation of a public university for the education of women. And this was at a time when American women had not yet achieved the right to vote.

Bearing Witness To Nazis’ Life-Shattering Kristallnacht

View of a destroyed Jewish shop in Berlin on Nov. 11, 1938, after the anti-Semitic violence of Kristallnacht. The pogrom unleashed Nazi-coordinated attacks on thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses.

On a busy street in Berlin’s shabby-chic district of Kreuzberg, the gray and dirty pavement glistens with little brass cobblestones. Millions of these stones are embedded in sidewalks all over Europe. They commemorate the last address the city’s Jewish residents called home before the war.

Etched into each stone is the name of an individual, a date of deportation, the name of a concentration camp and, more often than not, a date of death.

But some stones are inscribed with the word ueberlebt, meaning “survived.” The name on one such stone is Margot Bendheim, the maiden name of Margot Friedlander. For the past three years, this stone is no longer a valid record of her most recent Berlin address — which lies across town.

“As a survivor, I feel that I do something for the people who cannot speak for themselves anymore,” says Friedlander, who just turned 92.

After 64 years of exile in New York, Friedlander made the decision to return to her native Berlin for good. City officials welcomed her with open arms, and Friedlander was promptly given back her German citizenship.

“When I received my German citizenship, I said: ‘You expect me to say thank you for it? I will not do it. Because you only give me back what you took away from me,'” she says.

Read more at NPR: National Public Radio

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters Visits Father’s Grave in Italy

Graveside: Roger Waters of Pink Floyd visits a cemetery in Cassino, Italy, as he makes an emotional journey to visit the battlefield where his father was killed along with thousands of other Allied troops

This is the touching moment Pink Floyd star Roger Waters visits a cemetery near where his soldier father died in the final months of World War II.

Eric Fletcher Waters was serving as a second lieutenant with the Royal Fusiliers as they advanced through Italy in 1944 when he was killed in action.

His newborn son Roger was aged just five months when he was killed on the battlefield near Cassino.

Earlier this year, the Pink Floyd musician made an emotional journey to visit the battlefield where his father was killed along with thousands of other Allied troops.

He was able to pinpoint the exact spot where he died and also visited a graveyard where his death is marked on a memorial.

The second lieutenant’s remains were never found.

Read more at the Daily Mail