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World Association of International Studies

Post Decline of the University Press
Created by John Eipper on 07/24/12 3:39 PM

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Decline of the University Press (Richard Hancock, USA, 07/24/12 3:39 pm)

I recently received an e-mail from the son of a former colleague, asking for help in finding a publisher for his father's book that had been accepted by the University of Missouri Press but was nullified by the sudden closure of that press. As luck would have it, I read an article by Walter Russell Mead of the American Interest Online of July 19 on this same subject.

Mr. Mead stated that the University of Missouri Press closure was due to the loss of its $400,000 annual subsidy. This followed the closure of some six other presses that have been shut down during the last three years. He added, "This is a symptom rather than a cause of academic woes. Parts of the University press system work like vanity presses, where the driving force in the system is the author's need to be published rather than the reader's need to know." This is a reflection of the universities' income problems during the current budget crunch.

Mr. Mead concludes by saying that the US University system features the tenure system based on "publish or perish." He thinks that it is time to "rethink the relationship of scholarship to teaching," where the public or perish doctrine doesn't make sense for many institutions. The upper ten institutions that have billions in endowments can perhaps continue in their same channels (Harvard, Yale, Texas University, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, U of Mich., Columbia, Northwestern and Texas A. & M), but other less-fortunate institutions must make adjustments.

In my own experience, I was never under the "publish or perish" obligation. My wife and I have collaborated in the publishing of many books and articles because we like to do this work and were lucky. I continue to get great self-satisfaction out of writing, in contrast to many of my tenured colleagues who literally wore themselves out seeking to get their works published. When they retired most of them never wrote another word for publication.

I discovered a symptom of this problem recently at the University of Oklahoma. One of the retirement perquisites at OU is that retired employees all have access to the library. Just last week, I discovered that former employees must now pay $50/year for this privilege. I simply ordered the book that I was seeking from Amazon for only $15 for a used hardback copy which was in pristine condition.

Nancy gave me a Nook for Christmas. I discovered a book at Sam's which interested me (a guide to Indian Tribes of Oklahoma) which had a rock-bottom price of $22 for a hardback copy. I was tempted to buy it, but thought that this might be a good use for Nook, so I down-loaded the book for $10. This illustrates one of the problems that presses now face. I might add that I now receive the Wall Street Journal on line for $150/year less than the paper subscription. I had some difficulty adjusting to the on-line version but now like it better than the paper version, not to mention the number of trees saved thereby.

JE comments: The U of Missouri Press has published a good number of books in Latin American studies over the years, and its passing will be missed. To close down such a venerable institution (in the land of Pulitzer!) to save $400,000 is very sad, but I suspect that "where Missouri goes, so goes the nation," or something like that.

(I just checked, and found that U Missouri has a $46,000,000 athletic budget.  Draw your own conclusion.)

Richard Hancock has put his finger on a trend that will only get more pronounced: the decline of the University Press. Admittedly, the e-reader, print-on-demand and particularly the Internet are tailor-made for getting scholarship out in the world.  It's just that tenure and promotion committees, who keep putting an ever-tighter squeeze on academics, are the last to recognize this.

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  • Decline of the University Press (David Fleischer, Brazil 07/25/12 5:06 AM)
    My daughter Soraya liked this Missouri Press story (see Richard Hancock's post of 24 July), so she found the original article:


    Soraya adds that the comments are very interesting--and quite "diverse." She teaches Anthropology at the University of Brasília.

    JE comments: My thanks to Soraya Fleischer for tracking down the link.  Soraya  is correct: the reader comments are "diverse," but also thoughtful and informed. The University Press crisis is a microcosm of the sea change that we're seeing in higher education, the role of media, technology, economics and a host of other factors.

    Speaking of the thoughtful and informed, I have 3-4 additional responses to Richard Hancock's post, which I will be publishing throughout the day. It's no surprise that the "UP Crisis" would be of interest to WAISdom. Note that WAIS (World Affairs Report) itself used to be a hard-copy UP publication, before the visionary (and thrifty!) Ronald Hilton transitioned us to on-line before it was fashionable to do so.

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  • Decline of the University Press (Paul Levine, Denmark 07/25/12 5:29 AM)

    In response to Richard Hancock (24 July), Walter Russell Mead is, of course correct about the issue of "publish or perish," and its
    relation to the demise of some university presses:
    "This is a symptom rather than a cause of academic woes. Parts of the University press system work like vanity presses, where the driving force in the system is the author's need to be published rather than the reader's need to know."

    JE is also right in pointing out the disparity between funding
    of athletics and academics. This is a scandal among other
    scandals relating to American higher education, including its
    outrageous cost. In his book American Studies, Louis Menand has an insightful essay on James B. Conant, which I recommend highly.

    JE comments: We haven't subjected the "publish or perish" phenomenon to WAISly analysis in a long time. Are we seeing any changes to this long-held maxim, in light of technological shifts? Full disclaimer: I was "perished" out of an academic job in 1999, with the justification that I hadn't published a second book. Alas, I still haven't published my second book (I'm married to WAIS), although my collected "JE comments" since '06 would make a very large, if very strange, volume...

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  • Decline of the University Press (Gilbert Doctorow, Belgium 07/25/12 6:08 AM)
    I pick up on Richard Hancock's mention in passing (24 July) that university presses may be vanity presses. Another way of putting it is that they facilitate tenure tracks that are decided elsewhere and on other grounds.

    To my knowledge the average print run of an academic press book is something like 400. The price per volume is set at levels way above what a student or the average reading public will pay. It is implicit that the only purchasers will be other university libraries, which are obliged to purchase the works of fellow university presses. If you don't go to my funeral, I won't go to yours.

    In all of this, the broad profession, not to mention the general reading public, is irrelevant. No light need be cast by scholarship which no one reads.

    Under those circumstances the allocation of megabucks to sports, which the public can enjoy, and the denial of funds to university presses makes good sense.

    JE comments: Gilbert Doctorow brings up the uncomfortable (for academics) point that sports provide a larger public benefit than obscure publications. Most of the world would agree, but is this an articulation of Bread and circus? Or just circus?

    A word on the UP press/vanity press debate:  many UP presses require some sort of author subsidy, but they also have a rigorous review process, which vanity presses usually don't.  To be sure, there are vanity presses (Peter Lang comes to mind) that market themselves as University Presses without the university.

    More "UP in Crisis" postings are flowing in. Richard Hancock has touched on a hot-button issue for our eclectic, lovable group of writers and scholars.

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    • Print Runs of UP Books (Henry Levin, USA 07/25/12 1:23 PM)
      Of my 22 books, I have been published by the MIT Press, Stanford University Press, Temple University Press, University of California Press, Harvard Education Press, and Brookings Institution (part of Association of University Presses) for books.

      I have also had chapters in books published by Oxford University Press, Teachers College Press, John Hopkins Press, and others.

      Based upon the royalty notices, my book sales have varied from a low of 1,200 to something above 7,000, with a tendency towards the lower number rather than the upper one.

      I suspect that the main effect of getting published by a university press is that the book is more likely to be reviewed by academic journals in one's field.

      JE comments: Henry Levin's University Press book sales are higher than those of the "average" scholarly author, but Henry is a recognized authority in his field. The norm is probably closer to the figure Gilbert Doctorow reports:  400, or even less.

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      • on Self-Publishing (Randy Black, USA 07/27/12 4:41 AM)
        The publish-or-perish discussion amongst us (see Henry Levin, Gilbert Doctorow, and Paul Preston, among others, on 23-25 July) is tremendously interesting to me as one who has authored and published one measly book, Tales from Siberia © 2007, and has an as yet unpublished second novel in editing and rewrite last I heard. The second actually has a "real" publisher, but that's another story.

        Having received what is probably a normal number of rejections from large and small agents and publishers throughout 2006-2007, even one from my Alma Mater Texas Tech Press, I chose the self-published route on the basis of timing. My realization that self-publishing is a legitimate direction came after I spoke to several authors who have done well in the self-publishing route, including such best-selling authors as motivational guru Tony Robbins, Martin Cruz Smith and a couple of others.

        Additionally, in order to get my little book into various literary competitions, it had to be in print by the last day of 2007. Otherwise, it would have to wait another year and I really wanted it on the market sooner than later.

        That said, in my investigation of the self-publishing route, I discovered that many, many globally famous writers are self-published, in print and via the digital path.

        Famous self-published authors include William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, Ulysses by James Joyce and a host of other authors, including Zane Grey, Upton Sinclair, Carl Sandburg, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Thomas Paine, Alexandre Dumas, Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman. Famous writers who were rejected by publishers: Pearl Buck's The Good Earth was rejected 14 times, Alex Haley, before Roots, 200 rejections, John Grisham, A Time to Kill, was rejected by 15 publishers and 30 agents before he went the self-published route.

        While self-publishing was once labeled "vanity" publishing, with the digital publishing world now firmly established, it's no longer a matter of a label such as vanity.

        Here's what I found: Upload your manuscript, complete, edited, spell checked, and formatted in PDF to www.lulu.com , and you likely will receive one printed copy, paperback or hard cover, in two weeks or less. No set up fees, no charge for bar codes, a minimal charge for registration with all of the global wholesale distribution firms once you approve your copy, and depending on where you live, even the proper copyright registration with the Library of Congress for an additional $65. You've got to do the copyright administration yourself, but it's one of the few operations that the US government offers at a reasonable price, totally online and in fairly short order.

        The pure production cost to you for paperback is about two cents per page (two-sided), plus about $4 for a full-color, high-quality laminated paperback cover. Thus, a 200-page novel might run about $8 today, cost to you, for one copy. Order more than 25 and the price starts declining. But there is no minimum order beyond the first.

        The paperback version ships in 48 hours from Lulu's printer who is in the Carolinas. Need hard cover? Same costs for the pages, $.02 per, plus about $10 for a linen cover, with a gold foil stamped spine plus a full-color, laminated dust jacket. My little book that some of you have cost under $8 to me, plus shipping. It's 200 pages and retails in several local bookstores and online (Borders, Amazon, etc.) for about $16.50. The hardcover runs me about $14.50 per and retails for about $34. I can order one or 100. There are no surprises from http://www.lulu.com/publish/index.php?cid=en_tab_publish . The hardcover ships from Rochester, New York in about five days. Lulu has similar setups in Europe and Asia.

        If you need help with formatting, designs, and related matters, they will sell you those services. But if you're able to navigate the technical matters such as size, formatting, and headers and footers, you can do it yourself. The first one is the most difficult.

        In my heart of hearts, as much as I hate to say it, brick and mortar bookstores are on their way out, much as is Newsweek Magazine (announced July 25), Barnes & Noble, Polaroid, Kodak film, telephone handsets, fax machines, tube-type TVs and radios, CDs, DVDs, and even desktop PCs and probably internal hard drives.

        Thank God for golf.

        JE comments: The line between self-publishing and print-on-demand is becoming increasingly blurred.  Is there any economic justification for even established publishers not to use a just-in-time model?

        Randy Black gives us a list of passing technologies.  We could go on and on:  the wristwatch (nobody under 25 wears one), stand-alone digital cameras and GPS devices, and e-mail (nobody under 25 uses e-mail, unless it's to communicate with old folks like Prof. Eipper). 

        I cringe to think of WAIS moving to a "Twitter" model, but we do have to work on making our interface more friendly for hand-held devices.  That's a discussion for another day.

        And Randy:  best of luck with your novel.  Care to give us a sneak peak?

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        • on Self-Publishing (John Recchiuti, USA 07/27/12 7:47 AM)
          Very much enjoyed reading Randy Black's contribution on publishing (27 July). Add to his list of self-published authors (or at least authors who found initial difficulty in finding a readership) Thoreau's difficulties in finding readers for his A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. As one source sums it:

          "A Week was not well received by the public, however, and only two hundred copies of it sold in the first few years after its publication. Thoreau financed the volume himself. When publisher James Munroe returned the unsold copies to him in 1853, Thoreau wrote in a journal entry for October 28, 1853, 'I have now a library of nearly 900 volumes, over 700 of which I wrote myself.'"

          JE comments: Let's not forget J K Rowling, whose initial Harry Potter book received a dozen or so rejections.

          The truth is, it's easier to get your written word "out there" than ever before.  As for making a living by writing--that's a bird of a different feather.

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        • Strunk and White (Robert Whealey, USA 07/28/12 11:30 AM)
          As a Freshman at Bates College in 1948, I had to buy a style book. It was published by Harcourt and Brace, but I forgot the author, and when I left Bates I sold the book which was a mistake. In 1961 I began teaching history at the University of Maine. A colleague three years my senior took it upon himself to show me the famous self-published authors William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style (many reprints).

          My Maine colleague told me that if you ever expect to publish your dissertation, you should read E.B. White every day after you do your few hours of revision. John Eipper knows I still have trouble with "loose" and "lose," because over the years I did misplaced my copy of Strunk and White. Thanks to Randy Black (27 July) for the reminder.

          JE comments: We board our flight soon; I'll bid adieu to WAISdom today with Robert Whealey's happy thoughts of Strunk and White. In grad school I once read nearly the whole book in one sitting. I must have had a paper to write and was suffering from writer's block.

          Rely on Strunk and White:  you'll never lose (or loose).

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          • Strunk and White (Edward Jajko, USA 07/29/12 4:28 AM)
            It is not quite correct to use the phrase "the famous self-published authors William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style (many reprints)." (See Robert Whealey, 28 July.) They are indeed famous, were authors, and the book has been reprinted many times. But Strunk and White's The Elements of Style was not self-published.

            In 1919, William Strunk, a professor at Cornell University, did privately publish a guide to good writing for use in his classes and within the university. In 1935, Strunk and another professor revised the book and had it published, under a different title. Strunk died in 1946. Then in 1957, E.B. White, a writer for the New Yorker and former student of Strunk, remembered the writing guide and wrote an article about it in the magazine.

            Macmillan Publishers then asked White to do a revision of Strunk's (and the other professor's) text, and in 1959 Strunk and White's Elements of Style was published. "Strunk and White" was never self-published. It was only the brief guide, written in 1918, that was privately published, by Wm. Strunk, Jr.

            JE comments: It's important to set the record straight.  Let's be thankful that White revived this important text, not only because it's useful, but also because "Strunk and White" is much more sonorous than simply "Strunk."  ("Get out your Strunk" has a strange ring to it!)

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        • on Self-Publishing and the Pulitzer Prize (David Pike, France 07/30/12 5:21 AM)
          I agree entirely with Randy Black (27 July), that there is nothing demeaning about self-publishing. Our own founder Ronald Hilton resorted to self-publishing in producing his superb account of his life in Spain in the 1930s. It would have been a great loss to history if he had not done so. WAIS offers the same facility to all its members, and I certainly plan to take advantage of the facility for an article or two, at the end of life, with John's permission.

          The main advantage in finding a publisher is to enjoy the help of the publisher's editors, but a sea-change is visible. I am surely not the only WAIS author to find himself ever more remote from physical contact with the publisher in question. When I started out, decades ago, my publishers Presses Universitaires de France and Clarendon Press Oxford would invite me to a "celebratory lunch." Out of this came the sense of working in an editorial team, with its constant challenges over fact and expression. Now, I never meet anyone! I go from one to the next without remembering their names. With Macmillan, I was corresponding with my editor in India who had no background whatever in my work. He did his job perfectly, but anonymously, and it was I as author who insisted on breaking down the barrier between us and getting him to open up about his own PhD and how he moved to Macmillan. Like others at WAIS, I would have to go back several houses to find a publisher with whom I had a real human contact.

          In the same posting Randy describes his own book Tales from Siberia as "measly." I hope his readers do not share his opinion. The book, after all, found a publisher, and Randy had the advantage that goes to published authors of receiving a dust-jacket bearing various endorsements. I should like to ask other WAIS authors if they have ever been embarrassed by their publisher's blurb. I remember having to ask one publisher to tone it down for me, because a passage in the blurb was on the verge of false! But a particular dust-jacket claim has always intrigued me. The prospective book-buyer who is in two minds about a purchase reads the endorsements carefully, and especially when the author of the book is nominated for a literary prize, such as Booker or Pulitzer. I certainly was influenced by the announcement on Randy's dust jacket that the book was "Nominated for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize-General Non-Fiction." It is undoubtedly a good selling point, but how does one go about receiving a nomination? And does it mean anything unless the publisher allows the author to disclose who the nominator is? I suspect that the publisher intruded at this point by asking Randy not to name the nominator. In that case, does the publisher have the right to deny the author's right to name his own nominator? So I need Randy's help. I would like to nominate Paul Preston's greatest work, El holocausto español, already out in Spain but coming out this year in US/UK, for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in General Non-Fiction.

          JE comments: I second David Pike's endorsement on Paul Preston's The Spanish Holocaust. It's an extraordinary work of history.

          And yes, David Pike points out a much-underutilized WAIS resource. We have the ability to publish monographs or entire books at our "publications" link. For example, Prof. Hilton's memoirs, From Monarchy to Civil War, can be accessed here:


          Soon to appear is a fascinating monograph from our colleague Marga Jann on her experiences in Korea, Cyprus, Uganda and Sri Lanka. I apologize to Marga for the delays in getting it published, but I'll work to upload the article in the next few days.

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        • What Does the US Government Do Well? (Paul Pitlick, USA 08/09/12 12:25 PM)
          I went backpacking with our son in Yosemite last week, and just before we left, there were a couple of posts I wanted to respond to, but ran out of time. On July 28, Rodolfo Neirotti discussed cross-Atlantic cultural differences--that Americans could have more in common with citizens of other countries, than we have dividing us. I don't consider myself all that cultured, but I do feel that I have much more in common with most people I've met from abroad than I share with the usual American Fox-News devotee--these are people whose ideas I simply don't understand.

          The second post was on July 27 by Randy Black. Randy commented about a publishing service which is "one of the few operations that the US government offers at a reasonable price." Without looking too far, one can find many more than a "few" services which the US government does well, often at a reasonable price. For example, in preparation for our backpacking trip, I had logged onto the US Geological Survey website (http://store.usgs.gov/b2c_usgs/b2c/start/(xcm=r3standardpitrex_prd)/.do ). I was able to download the three maps of the area we'd cover--for free. They came as jpeg files, which I was able to consolidate into a single map and have printed on a giant printer (36" wide) at Kinko's for $2.50. We drove to Yosemite on federal and state highways--no tolls, and good-quality roads. Also, when my wife and I had visited Volcano National Park in Hawaii last spring, on admission we paid $10 for a Senior lifetime pass for any National Park. On the recent backpacking trip, admission to Yosemite was free for both my son and me with this pass. The Wilderness permit was $15 for the whole trip (4 days), which allowed us to camp virtually anywhere in the back-country. In the more-populated places, camping in campgrounds was $5/day for my son, $2.50/day for me. The rangers we talked to were friendly and helpful.

          In the back-country, we didn't see very many people, but on the more popular trails, there were a lot of people speaking French, German, Dutch, etc. Of the 4 million annual visitors to Yosemite, about 25% are from Europe. I talked to a few of them. I asked how they knew about Yosemite--I was told that "Everyone in Europe knows about Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion National Parks." Tours are arranged to these places, but most of the visitors found their way their on their own. They come for "nature" and "the scenery." The National Park system is a great resource.

          So I'd argue that government does more than a "few" things well. However, it isn't perfect--HIPAA and the TSA spring to mind.

          JE comments: Amen on the TSA. I'm still feeling beaten up by our Miami customs and security check. It pains me to say it, but the Colombian officials were far more polite--and Colombia has had a civil war raging more or less since 1949.  Also, yesterday I witnessed a Miami customs agent verbally manhandle a foreign visitor who knew no English--lots of barking, grunting and pointing. Finally, he said, "go over to that [very long] line; I can't help you."

          To be fair, TSA and customs are different agencies--I think. But this subtle distinction is lost on our visitors. Why doesn't the US do a better job of making our visitors feel more welcome? Is there a sense that only intimidation will keep our country "safe"? These visitors come here to spend money, after all. There must have been hundreds of people just from Brazil in the Miami airport yesterday, and all of them are here to do a lot of shopping and theme-parking.

          But Amen, too, on the US National Parks. Certainly a treasure for all humanity, and affordable, too. I'm glad Paul Pitlick had a wonderful trek in the wilderness.

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          • TSA/Customs Anecdotes (David Fleischer, Brazil 08/09/12 5:11 PM)
            Regarding JE's "experience" going through immigration/customs in Miami (see Paul Pitlick's post of 9 August):

            My wife and daughter came through US immigration at JFK en route from Brazil in November 2007 to attend the memorial services for my mother, who had died in late October. Like me, our daughter has American citizenship, but although my wife had a green card between 1964 and 1973, she lost it when she stayed in Brazil for over two years. When we travel to the US, I would usually take my wife with me through the US citizens line because this was faster than the lines for non-citizens--and always we had no problems and were received courteously by the immigration agents.

            However, this time we were treated very "roughly" by the woman immigration agent who was very aggressive about my wife being together with us in the US Citizen line. Our daughter then made a move to take our passports back so we could all three then go through the non-citizen line--but the woman slapped her hand down on the documents saying "You can't do that." Then she surprised us by putting her hand on the gun she carried in a belt holster. We then became silent while she finished processing us. We should have called her supervisor but were so shocked that we did not think of this.

            Anyway, this was the only time that we ran into such treatment by a US immigration agent in 48 years of entries into the US. In late May 2012 I traveled to San Francisco to attend the LASA meeting, and flew Delta's direct non-stop flight from Brasilia to Atlanta. Two days before, they had just inaugurated a new international arrivals building at the Atlanta Airport (I think that they now have a new international arrivals building in Miami now too). Anyway, the US Citizen line took me nearly one hour to get through. A couple of my Brazilian friends had been sent into the non-US Citizen line, but then they appeared in my line. I asked, "What happened?" They replied, "Our line was so long that the immigration agents told us (and many others) to get into the other line."

            In early April 1971, my wife and I were returning from an 18-month period in Belo Horizonte during my field research for my dissertation at the University of Florida. At the Miami airport, we went through separate immigration lines and I told her "I will meet you down in customs; I will retrieve our bags while you finish immigration--so we can catch the flight to Gainesville." I recovered our bags, but then saw her banging on the window up on the immigration level.

            I went back up there and the examining agent told us that although she had a green card, that she had neglected to get a stamp from the American consulate in Brazil before she completed 12 months out of the US. We knew that she would lose her Green Card status if she stayed out longer that 24 months, but the 12-month limit we were unaware of.

            The agent was very nice and looked up this case in the US code and found a line that read, "At the discretion of the examining agent a waiver may be granted--for US$15.00." I said "She's worth much more that, where do I pay?" After he had stamped her passport we were leaving when he said to her, "I just saw that you got your green card in September 1964, so you have almost completed your seven years to become a US citizen--but now, you will have to start counting your seven years all over again." To which she replied--"I never want to become a citizen of your God damned country." Oh well.

            In September 1980, we went to SUNY-Albany, where she did her MA in Library Science & Information Studies and I on a post-doctoral grant. In August 1981 she had renewed her student visa and we went to a conference at Stanford University--and decided to spend one week vacation in Mexico. We returned through Los Angeles to catch our overnight flight to JFK. The immigration woman had already stamped our passports and was about to return them to us when she remembered, saying to my wife "You did not get a stamp on your passport at the US Consulate in Mexico City." Apparently, when you have a US student visa and visit Canada or Mexico, you need to do this before you re-enter the US. I just grabbed the passports from her hand and said "Thank you very much, but you already stamped our passports"--and we went straight to customs. Oh well--again.

            I am sure that our WAISer colleagues have similar stories about going through immigration/customs at US ports of entry as well as in other nations around the world.

            JE comments: I predict we'll hear a good number of TSAICH (TSA Immigration/Customs Harassment) stories in the coming days. Cameron Sawyer, however, has been impressed with the TSA's general efficiency. Cameron's post is first in the queue for tomorrow AM.

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          • TSA/Customs Anecdotes (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 08/10/12 4:17 AM)
            Complaints about TSA? What exactly? (See Paul Pitlick, 9 August.) I am an extremely frequent flyer, with more than a million miles just on Aeroflot (not counting BA, Delta, and others I use). I marvel from time to time about how extraordinarily well organized the security checks are in airports virtually everywhere these days. I don't know how thorough they are, but they certainly cause no trouble to anyone that I know of (if there are contrary stories, I would like to hear them).

            The extremely high level of organization of security checks (at Heathrow, Sheremetyevo, or JFK, it typically takes about 3 minutes these days) is in sad contrast to the way passport control is organized. Passport control at Sheremetyevo in Moscow used to take the cake, with kilometer-long lines and utter chaos because the lines weren't organized, and the process was slow, tremendous frustration after, say, 14-hour flights from Los Angeles. But passport control at Sheremetyevo has been reorganized and is now really no problem at all. You don't even have to fill out a landing card anymore--it's done automatically based on the chip in your passport. I rarely spend more than 10 minutes anymore in passport control at Sheremetyevo.

            Heathrow forms a very poor contrast--the lines are better organized than Sheremetyevo of yore, but the rest is a shocking shambles--three passport inspector booths open when fifteen 747's from Shanghai have landed simultaneously with several thousand Chinese (an event which could be predicted from the flight schedules, duh!), and incredibly rude and aggressive passport inspectors. I have waited for three hours there. It is incredible that they can't figure out elementary organizational issues.

            JE comments: One wonders if Heathrow's passport control has improved a bit for the Olympics. Probably not, although this should have been a priority.  Has anyone flown into London in the last few weeks?

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          • TSA/Customs Anecdotes (John Heelan, UK 08/10/12 4:29 AM)
            As a foreign frequent flyer to the US, I found that Miami was usually the worst point of entry with its long queues and surly immigration staff. (Although I suspect that London Heathrow is vying for that title!)   A cautionary tale for US travelers to Saudi Arabia, where the immigration queues are long are long and the waits excruciating while everyone's luggage is minutely examined for liquor, porn and any literature that might besmirch the multitudinous Royal Family. A two-hour wait in the heat after a long inbound flight was not unusual.

            On one such trip, there was a party of large Americans in front of me complaining loudly and bitterly at the wait. One more bold (or foolhardy) than the rest stormed to the front of the queue and demanded immediate attention to himself and his party. He got it! Every time the US party got to the front of the queue they were sent Sisyphus-like to the back again. Visiting the airport a few hours later on some errand, I noticed the US party was still there!

            Two things I learned traveling around the world: don't upset anybody who is serving you food or drink and never, ever upset immigration or customs when entering or trying to leave a foreign country!

            JE comments: In security checks and customs queues the world 'round, there is no such thing as human rights.

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            • A Customs Anecdote: Leaving Russia (Randy Black, USA 08/10/12 7:08 PM)

              As a sometimes travel writer for various print and online travel publications, I've enjoyed our discussion on the pros and cons of passing through the various border control stations of the world's airports. (See John Heelan, Cameron Sawyer, Paul Pitlick, among others, Aug. 8-10.)

              While I've not experienced as many troublesome entry points as others, one incident will always stick with me.

              This particular memory involved not getting into a country but getting out of one.

              In late 1993, having spent the year in Russia as an ESL teacher at a Siberian university, I retreated home to Dallas, just in time for Christmas. Within a month, I proposed to Olga via phone calls and the Internet. After about ten calls and two dozen emails via third parties, since she did not have a phone or a PC, she eventually, and somewhat reluctantly agreed. I set about planning my trip to Russia to retrieve her.

              The plan was to meet in Moscow and to help her navigate the US Embassy visa application interview process and to fly to our new home in Dallas. I arranged my visitor's visa to go get her, or so I thought. She began the process of getting out, which included an interview with the local police in Omsk. Yes, you had to get official permission to leave Russia in 1994 for any reason. The process in those days involved a month or more of paperwork at the local level. It could be longer, an acquaintance in Omsk warned. That same acquaintance managed to shorten the process to ten days, thanks to a well-placed bottle of champagne, a box of chocolates and a bouquet of roses. The Omsk police officer coincidentally was a woman.

              On the trip to Russia from Houston, I met two country-and-western musicians who were going to Russia on a "romance" tour, ostensibly to meet potential Russian brides. Over more than a few drinks on the nearly daylong Air France flight from Houston via Paris to Moscow, we became pals over our common denominator: Russian girls and marriage.

              In those days, a visitor's visa into Russia was more or less a two-part form, one to enter Russia, one to leave. Apparently, on my way into Russia, the Russian entry officer detached the wrong part of the form. I say apparently, because I never really figured out where the mistake occurred.

              During the four days it took us to get Olga her US visa, she and I had time to meet up with the two Texas musicians and show them the sites of Moscow when they were not busy with the various romance introduction parties. We (mostly Olga) even helped them file a police report when their hotel room was robbed. Amazingly, within half a day, the police captured the chamber maid who had stolen their wallets and camera, and were able to return nearly everything in good order!

              With her visitor visa in hand, Olga and I took a very early pre-dawn and below-zero taxi ride to Sheremetyevo Airport for the Air France return flight to Houston. In Houston, we would get on a local flight to Dallas and live happily ever after. Or so I thought.

              Olga was ahead of me in line, and was allowed to pass through the two examination points without incident. She exited through a secured glass door into the boarding area. I stepped forward. The Russian official looked at my boarding pass, passport and my "exit" visa, looked up at me, looked down at the visa, picked up the boarding pass, tore it in half, handed it back to me and said, "Next."

              Stunned, I tried to process what had happened, asked what was wrong and was ignored. He motioned me aside and started processing the next traveler. I was frozen.

              Searching the huge, crowded room, I spotted the Station Master for Delta about 50 feet away at the Delta check-in counter. I knew the fellow from a local Irish sports bar on Novy Arbatskaya via my trips into the capital the previous year. "Jim," I yelled, "Something's horribly wrong. They won't let me leave Russia and won't tell me why."

              Jim Zerbe, a prince of a fellow if there ever was one, had lived in Moscow since being reassigned there from Atlanta the previous summer when we'd met. His Russian was worse than mine. He called his assistant Vladimir over and asked him to find out what was going on. The young man questioned the very busy exit officer and explained then that my "exit" visa was an "entry" visa. He said that I could not leave "without the proper documents." The suggestion was made that I go to the Russian Embassy later that day and straighten out the mess and take the flight the following day.

              "Jim, I'm taking my fiancée to Dallas today. She's already in the boarding area, she's never traveled out of Russia, speaks almost no English and will never figure out how to change planes in Paris, clear customs in Houston, find the flight to Dallas and so on. I've got to go today. There must be something we can do."

              "Randy, you're not even flying Delta today, why should I help you?" He had a slight smirk on his face, but his eyes said he was just torturing me in jest.

              "Vladimir, get on your radio and see if you can find out if there's anyone in the airport who can help Mr. Black with his visa problem."

              Vladimir walked a few feet away to discuss the issues with others on the radio. I could see Olga standing on the other side of the glass door with a look of bewilderment on her eyes. I could hear the first of several boarding calls for the flight to Paris.

              At that moment, I saw my two Texas pals clearing the exit process, yelled that I was in trouble and asked if they could help Olga get as far as Houston if I could not get out of Russia that day. I yelled that I'd catch up with them the next day if I could not get my mess straightened out. Of course, they were happy to help and promised to take care of her, shouted their Houston phone number that I scribbled on the palm of my hand and off their went through the glass door. At least Olga had help from the two friendly Texans, I thought.

              After what seemed like hours, but was really about four minutes, Oleg reported to Jim that he'd spoken with a Russian official who was in the airport on official business (at 8 a.m. on a Sunday!). That person was miraculously carrying his official stamp and some visa forms. If I would give Vladimir my passport and US$110, Vladimir would find the embassy official in the bowels of the huge airport and would return with my new visa in about 15 minutes. I looked at my watch, across the room at Olga and her new best friends and scrambled with my money belt. My money fell out on the floor as I grabbed at twenties and tens. Off Vladimir went. The clock ticked.

              After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only 13 minutes, Vladimir returned with my new visa and passport. Jim convinced the officer to allow me to the front of the line and off I ran to the boarding area.

              The Air France lady said that the plane had already pushed back and that we'd have to wait for another day. My new visa was for that day and that day alone, and it'd been used to get to the boarding area. An Air France fellow approached and told us that the plane was sitting on the tarmac and had not left "yet." He said, "Follow me, quickly." We ran down the hall, down the stairs, out on the tarmac and were put on a golf cart. The plane was about 50 yards from the terminal, just sitting there idling. I could see that the forward cabin door was open and that they two Texans were standing in it. "Come on Randy, hurry up," they yelled as we scrambled up the stairway.

              At the top of the stairs, the stewardess said politely in French, "take any seat, we must depart."

              My Texas pals said, "When we saw that you were not on board, we said to the stewardess, "You're not closing this door and we're not leaving without our Texas buddy and his fiancée. Now go find him." Apparently, the fellow with the golf cart had been summoned and had arranged to get the portable stairs set up while the plane waited. The plane had to push back to make way for another incoming flight.

              The plane departed but the stewardess said politely that there would be problems with connections for anyone traveling beyond Paris over the PA system. Everyone, it seemed, turned to look at us.

              During the flight, I noted that the cockpit door was open. It was 1994; less security. I asked the stewardess if I might go forward that have a word with the captain--and offer my thanks for delaying his departure. She escorted me to the flight deck. I thanked the pilot for holding the plane and apologized if anyone missed connections in Paris.

              "Monsieur Black, it iz not a problem," he began. "I will just push on the accelerator a bit. We will fly faster to Paris. All will be okay."

              And here we are, 19 years later.

              JE comments:  What a touching, romantic tale, with something of a Dr. Zhivago flair to it (no doubt due to the cold).  Glad everything worked out, Randy and Olga!

              But shouldn't it be Monsieur Noire?

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              • A Customs Anecdote: Russia (Istvan Simon, USA 08/11/12 5:56 AM)
                About three years ago, I went to Russia, in a hastily arranged trip. I got a visa through an organization that gets such visas for a fee very rapidly. So I filled out a form, and made a crucial mistake when doing so. The mistake was entering the day of entry in Russia as the beginning of the validity of my visa, and the day I was planning to leave as the end point. In retrospect, this was stupid, and there was no need for the dates of entry to coincide with my arrival. I should have entered a date a week earlier say, and the end date say 2 months after leaving.

                Unfortunately for me, I made the above described mistake, for the entry date of my visa was a day after I actually arrived in Russia. This had major consequences, as shall be seen shortly. It was a trivial mistake, one that should have caused me no trouble at all, in any normal country. But Russia is not a normal country. When the smiling officer that examined my passport noticed the mistake, he asked me if I was aware of it. I said, no. He smiled, and asked me to please wait, and that he would send me to see the Consul. I did not know who the Consul was, but waited patiently. An armed officer accompanied me to see the Consul. The Consul was a dour-looking Russian. He looked at my papers, and said that my visa was invalid, but he would see to it, that I got a new one, which would have all the dots on all the i's.

                He first asked me to request a visa on a piece of paper, apologizing for my mistake, and requesting the Russian authorities to correct the grievous error. For a fee, of course. I promptly wrote the requested document, after which the armed officer took me to an ATM-looking machine, where I paid a $70 fine, plus the fee for the new visa. I cheerfully paid these requested amounts.

                The armed (and young and attractive female) officer then took me back to the Consul, with the proper receipts, so he could see that I had been properly punished. The Consul took out a stamp, and stamped my original visa cancelled. Then he took out another stamp, and issued me a new visa in which the day of entry was corrected. Unfortunately for me, this process just described, took three hours.

                The three hours would have major consequences. I had a limousine waiting for me that would take me to the other airport in Moscow, where I had purchased an Aeroflot return ticket to Chelyabinsk, which was my destination. The ticket had cost me $250.

                The limousine had cost me another $70. The poor limousine driver had been dutifully waiting for me. But I did not show, because was playing games with the Consul under armed guard.

                Three hours later, I show up, and of course, I see no limousine driver. Seeing my predicament, a taxi driver kindly offered me his cell phone to make the local call. I accepted, and called the limousine service. They told me that they would send the driver back. I gave the phone back to the kind taxi driver. He said to me, that will be $20. I said to him, my dear you are out of your mind if you think that I am going to give you $20 for making a local call on your cell phone. He laughed, and this part of our business had been properly settled in my favor.

                The limousine driver showed up. He put my suitcases in the trunk, and started driving me to the other airport. I realized, of course, that because of my little game with the Consul, I would not arrive on time for my flight. So I asked for help. The limousine driver spoke no English, and my Russian at the time was severely limited. It would be much better a week later.

                I called our WAIS colleague Cameron Sawyer. His very kind secretary answered. Cameron was out of the office, but she would help me. After I explained my predicament, she checked flights to Chelyabinsk. The next flight to Chelyabinsk would depart at midnight, from the airport I had just left by limousine. Furthermore this was another airline, not Aeroflot, so I would have to purchase a one-way ticket to Chelyabinsk. I said OK, and she made all the arrangements. She also instructed my limousine driver in Russian to make a u-turn, and take me right back to where he had picked me up. He did so, and a half hour later I arrived there. It was now approximately four hours after I first had arrived there. But that was still many hours before my midnight flight to Chelyabinsk.

                I waited for my flight, and in the meantime I bought a cheap cell phone, and prepaid service on it. I made several calls to Chelyabinsk, to let the party that would wait for me there know, that I would arrive 3 am the next day, instead.

                I waited for my midnight flight bored out of my mind. But all good things must come to an end, and eventually I embarked. Next to me sat a physicist. He had been to Berkeley, and we soon had a wonderful conversation going. Next to him sat a lady, who turned out to be the physicist's boss. Eventually, she joined the conversation. She explained to me that though the USA was an interesting country, our model was not good for Russia. She further explained to me what was wrong with the United States. I asked her if she had ever been to the USA. She said no, but she knew enough about us anyway. She then explained to me that she had seen on Russian TV a documentary in which it was explained that 9/11 was the job of George W. Bush, who had ordered the World Trade Center destroyed, for what reason she did not explain. I told her, that she was absolutely out of her tiny little mind (not quite so impolitely), and that anyone that had lived let us say a month in the USA, would know that what she was saying was absolute nonsense. The embarrassed physicist sitting between us, who had been to Berkeley, knew of course, that I was right, but could not say a thing, because the imbecilic woman advancing the conspiracy theory was his boss.

                All good things, as I already said, must come to an end, and we arrived in Chelyabinsk. The poor woman whom I was to meet in Chelyabinsk was sleepily waiting for me and she took me to my hotel, where we parted, and I finally had a chance to sleep in comfort myself.

                I spent a wonderful week in Chelyabinsk. It is the city where the famous T-34 tanks were made during Second World War. Chelyabinsk is a mostly ugly Soviet-era city. But I loved it anyway, not for its architectural beauty, which did not exist, but for the playful beauty of its inhabitants. They have a street in Chelyabinsk which most symbolizes this beautiful spirit. It has funny statues with which people can pose for pictures. And artists perform. One of these nameless artists was singing the hauntingly beautiful song written by Consuelo Velasquez in 1940, when she had been 15 years old, and herself had never yet been kissed. The song is "Bésame, bésame mucho."  It proves that one can love at fifteen and write a marvelous deep song about it--surely this is popular music at its best. I recommend this song to all WAISers, especially those that can understand the marvelous lyrics in Spanish. For those that do not speak Spanish, translate the lyrics first, and then listen...

                I will write a future post with the rest of this Russian story... Call this Part I. Part II is forthcoming.

                JE comments: Look forward to it. I'm still confused why there would be a problem with a visa that begins on the day of one's arrival. Am I too much of an idealist? A positivist?

                "Bésame mucho" is one of my father-in-law's favorite songs, so it must have been a big hit in Poland as well as Russia.  Did Istvan Simon hear it as a child in Hungary?  The song never got much air time in the US.

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                • Besame Mucho (Miles Seeley, USA 08/11/12 8:57 PM)

                  Oh John E, you are much too young. "Bésame Mucho" was a huge hit in the
                  1940s and many bands and singers covered it. I remember saying that to
                  my date one night, and she smiled and said "Sí." I did and she did and
                  it was the beginning of a fine relationship.

                  JE comments:  Miles Seeley is referring to my totally mistaken claim (see Istvan Simon, 11 August) that "Bésame mucho" didn't get much air time in the US.  It's just that I never heard the song until I spent time in South America, Spain, and elsewhere in Europe.  Istvan also wrote to correct my error, pointing out that one "Bésame mucho" clip on YouTube has received over five million hits.

                  Sorry about that--but I'm very happy the song brought results for Miles!

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              • A Customs Anecdote: Russia (Anthony D`Amato, USA 08/11/12 6:18 AM)
                Randy Black's interesting account (10 August) of the difficulties of getting out of Russia in 1993 and taking his Russian bride to Dallas reminded me of another American who married a Russian woman in 1961 and then had to accompany her out of the Soviet Union to their new home in Dallas. Surely it would have been much harder to exit at the height of the Cold War than it was for Randy Black when the Cold War was over.

                But instead it was much easier, as long as you pressed all the right buttons.

                Lee Harvey Oswald was an Army engineer trained in sophisticated radio communications and cleared to read confidential information. He got into the USSR in 1958 rather easily on a student visa. He went to the American Embassy in Moscow, where he gave up his passport and renounced his American citizenship. By defecting he could live anywhere in the USSR and stay there indefinitely. Oswald settled in Minsk and worked in an electronics factory. The Soviet government gave him a subsidized, fully furnished studio apartment plus a supplement to his factory pay.


                Oswald settled in Minsk, met Marina, 19, who was living there, married her in 1961, and they had a child in 1962. Tiring of Russia, they decided to live in Dallas. Did the fact that Oswald had renounced his US citizenship cause him any difficulty in exiting the USSR? Not at all; he and his Russian wife and Russian child applied at the friendly US Embassy in Moscow for documents enabling Marina to immigrate to the US. In addition to the documents, Oswald said he would repatriate himself. The Embassy returned his passport to him, and in addition gave him a repatriation loan. Getting through customs on exiting the USSR and again on entering the USA was a snap.

                No, it's not a Cold War fairy tale. (The fairy tale was to come later under the title "The Lone Assassin.")

                JE comments: Surely the Oswald-Black similarities end with the marrying a Russian part, although both were in Dallas on that infamous day in November, 1963.  Here's a classic Randy Black post.  Make sure to click on the photo link at the end:


                Marina Oswald Porter still lives in Dallas.  I wonder if Randy Black has ever met her.

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                • Oswald in Minsk; Marina Oswald Porter (Randy Black, USA 08/12/12 3:48 AM)

                  Many thanks for Anthony D'Amato's comments and post (11 August) about Lee Harvey Oswald. Anthony brought up the matter of Oswald and his marriage to Marina Prusakova in Minsk.

                  I've always been reasonably certain that Oswald's meeting with Marina Prusakova at a trade union dance in Minsk in 1961 was not by chance.

                  What are the chances that at the height of the Cold War, an American defector, a 21-year-old former US Marine, speaking poor Russian, who was assigned a job and apartment in Minsk, would somehow find his way to a public dance hall, meet a pretty, 19-year-old woman and be married within six weeks without some type of Soviet intervention?

                  It seems to me that Miss Prusakova was likely an arranged-by-the-KGB meeting. With bright blue eyes, Marina was a rather pretty young woman who was living with her uncle who just happened to be working in a Soviet Ministry at the time of the dance. Marina worked at a local pharmacy.

                  What are the chances? Perhaps I have been reading too many Martin Cruz Smith novels (Gorky Park, Red Square, Stalin's Ghost, Havana Bay).

                  After Oswald's death at the hands of Jack Ruby in Dallas, Marina Oswald later married a fellow (Jess Porter) who was a plumber in a Dallas suburb. They later divorced.

                  John Eipper asked if I met Marina. I can't say we were introduced in the classic sense, but I did run into her by accident years ago in a Dallas suburb. She was a clerk in a surplus store that I stumbled into looking for camping gear in the 1980s. I recognized her and had a very quiet conversation for only a few moments. I did not interject any of my background or ask impertinent questions, preferring to let her enjoy her privacy.

                  The last I heard, Marina, 72ish, still lives in the area, is reclusive and a grandmother several times over.

                  As I've said in past WAIS posts, despite half a century of studies and evidence, conspiracy theories continue to abound as to who shot whom and why on November 22, 1963.

                  Although it's been decades, the facts remain that Oswald had the weapons (Carcano 6.5mm rifle, S&W .38 revolver) that had previously been used during his attempted assassination of retired Army General Edwin A. Walker in Dallas that same year and were used to murder Dallas Police officer J.D. Tippitt on the day of the JFK assassination. He had the skills, the motivation and the opportunity.

                  Plus, several witnesses, including two of my close friends, saw Oswald's rifle poking out of the window of the Texas School Book Depository and heard the shots. One of my pals later got the only "non-paid-for" interviews with Marina Oswald. He is Hugh Aynesworth. Hugh, in my opinion, knows more of the players, events and more of the facts about the assassination than any single living American to this day. He's in his late 80s these days and we visit several times a year. Many other witnesses put Oswald in the book depository where his rifle was found and traced back to him.

                  A 1964 photo of Hugh Aynesworth with Marina Oswald and child is at the end of this post.

                  I realize that there are a few among us who doubt the established facts, but then again, there are those elsewhere who still believe that the USA never landed men on the moon, that George Bush was complicit in the 9/11 attacks, or that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

                  One very minor nitpick: Anthony D'Amato stated, "the Soviet government gave [Oswald] a subsidized, fully furnished studio apartment." As if such a matter is the lap of luxury and privilege.

                  First, the Oswald apartment in Minsk was a one-room affair on the top floor of a 4-story building in the center of the city. In the Minsk of the 1960s, a huge percentage of the population likely lived in one-room one-family apartments, with a bath/toilet and kitchen shared with other families living in the adjoining rooms. It was and is called communal living. Some families had their own toilet/bath and kitchens but millions shared.

                  Such apartments were part of nearly all employment packages in the 100 percent state-owned industries of the USSR. Because Oswald was assigned a job with a local, state-owned electronics factory, the apartment came with the job. Thus to say that he was "given" an apartment implies special treatment. Certainly, the American defector could not have gained the job as a lathe operator without State intervention, but the apartment came with the job.

                  Such as arrangement was sort of an indentured servitude matter that insured a predictable supply of labor. If you quit your job, you lost your apartment. There were few other options in the larger cities.

                  Thus, even in the early to mid-90s, when I lived in Omsk and Moscow and when the bankrupt State stopped paying millions of Russians their salaries for months and even years, everyone still went to work daily, fearing loss of living spaces if they did not show up for their shifts.

                  If Oswald was fortunate, he might have enjoyed a private toilet/bath and a small kitchen with gas stove. Even then, his apartment was considered a 1-room affair. Kitchens and baths are not counted as "rooms." His apartment was at Kommunisticheskaya Ul #4, across the Svisloch River from Yanka Kupala Park and west of Victory Square (Ploshchad Pobedy). Granted, Oswald's apartment was in the center of Minsk, a highly desired location, but the KGB building was a block away and thus it was easier to monitor Oswald.

                  Fully furnished, in Oswald's Minsk days, likely meant one medium sized room, perhaps 10x14 feet, with a divan that folded out into a modest double for sleeping at night, perhaps a tall, narrow bookcase (stienka, buffiyat or servant) for storing of dishes, icons, books and knick-knacks. There would have been no phone.

                  It is likely that a small table and a couple of chairs completed the eating arrangement. If there was carpet, it was hung on the wall as decoration, to maintain the warmth of the room during winter, and to deaden the sound of the noise coming from the adjoining apartments.

                  Oswald, 19, was "sent" to Minsk by the KGB to work as a lathe operator in an electronic factory. He did not take part in the decision. After his marriage and the birth of their child, Oswald wrote in his diary, "I am starting to reconsider my desire about staying. The work is drab, the money I get has nowhere to be spent. No nightclubs or bowling alleys, no places of recreation except the trade union dances. I have had enough." By 1962, the couple journeyed to Moscow where Lee told the US Embassy that he'd made a mistake and wanted to return to the US. The Embassy loaned the couple $500 that was used to move back the states and which they repaid while living in Dallas.


                  Hugh Aynesworth, Marina Oswald and child, 1964

                  JE comments:  Minsk was heavily damaged in WWII, and I would imagine that housing in the early 1960s was still in very short supply.  That Oswald was assigned a "studio" (OK, room) all to himself may have been somewhat of a privilege.

                  Do we know how Oswald ended up in Minsk and not some other Soviet city?

                  A strange thought:  if Minsk had had a bowling alley in 1961-'62, might LHO have remained in the USSR and not changed history?

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                  • Post Unpublished - please check back later

                  • Did Oswald Assassinate Kennedy? (Anthony D`Amato, USA 08/13/12 4:52 AM)
                    People who believe that their lives are controlled by secret plots hatched in dark places, or who believe that pictures of the astronauts' landing on the moon were faked in a Hollywood studio, were called "authoritarian personalities" by Adorno and his colleagues fifty years ago. More recently the "conspiracy theorists" have taken center stage, questioning whether Oswald shot President Kennedy or whether Arab terrorists had anything to do with the attacks of 9/11.

                    I'm sure there have been many successful conspiracies throughout history, but I can't name any for the simple reason that they were successful.

                    Suppose I think that Oswald did not kill Kennedy. Should I stay away from this subject because people will call me a conspiracy theorist? I decided, some time ago, to take the proffered pieces of evidence and see if they hold up against rational inquiry. Randy Black's kind post of 12 August, after telling us about life in Minsk, goes on to make some evidentiary assertions about the Oswald matter. Here is his first assertion, containing several allegations of evidence:

                    "The facts remain that Oswald had the weapons (Carcano 6.5mm rifle, S&W .38 revolver) that had previously been used during his attempted assassination of retired Army General Edwin A. Walker in Dallas that same year and were used to murder Dallas Police officer J.D. Tippitt on the day of the JFK assassination. He had the skills, the motivation and the opportunity."

                    Let's take these assertions one at a time.

                    (1) Oswald's weapons used in an attempt to assassinate Walker. (I don't know whether this is true or not. But it doesn't follow that the person who missed Walker must be the same person who killed Kennedy.)

                    (2) Oswald's weapons used to murder officer J.D. Tippitt. (The autopsy showed that the four bullets that were in Tippitt's body did not come from Oswald's weapons. There is no evidence that Oswald killed Tippitt.)

                    (3) Oswald had the skills. (He was a below-average marksman in the army.)

                    (4) Oswald had the motivation. (No evidence of this at all.)

                    (5) Oswald had the opportunity. (The room on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, where some people said they saw a gun poking out of the window, was far from an ideal shooting spot. There was a tree in the line of sight; the tree was leafy and full, whereas later experiments with marksmen occurred later in winter when the tree had no leaves. This fact about the leafy tree is hardly ever mentioned. It is true that CBS had a program that referred to a marksman who was able to hit a moving target with three shots in rapid succession from a Manlicher-Carcano 6.5 mm. rifle. The program didn't say whether the tree was leafy or denuded. But here's the main point: the first of the three shots had to occur exactly when Kennedy was visible coming out of the line of sight of the tree, according to a triangulation of the Zapruder film evidence. Now a marksman who expected the moving target to show itself just outside of the tree knew just when to pull the trigger for the first shot. Oswald, on the other hand, assuming he was the shooter, would have had to take an extra second to get adjusted to his target because he didn't know exactly when it would become visible.)

                    Additionally, we should be skeptical of a TV program that features a marksman who duplicated Oswald's alleged shooting. We were not told how many times the marksman made the attempt--perhaps he did it 20 times and on one of them got it right. Yet according to the Zapruder film, Oswald would have had to peel off three accurate shots on one attempt, the first one coming instantaneously with the emergence of the motorcade past the tree. There are of course other pieces of negative evidence. Oswald could only have gotten off three shots, but four bullets were found, including the one on the hospital gurney next to the President's body. Then there's the evidence of my student who attended the Clay Shaw trial in New Orleans where he said the Zapruder film was shown--for the first time in its entirety--many times during the trial. It was as clear as could be, he told me, that the bullet that ripped off a piece of the President's skull, came from in front of the motorcade. It was impossible, he said, for the bullet to have come from behind and above the President. The piece of skull flew backward in the motorcade; the bullet had to have come from the front.

                    Recall that Oswald was arrested while he was watching a movie in the Texas Theatre. It's an uncontroverted piece of evidence, but we can ask how it happened. When the shooting occurred, there were thousands of people in Dealey Plaza; they all scampered in every direction. There was chaos. Many people ran toward the grassy knoll where they had heard shots; others ran in the opposite direction, not wanting to get shot themselves. There was mass exodus from the buildings at the edge of the plaza, including Oswald's building. Oswald apparently took his time in leaving the building, because some witnesses saw him there on the second floor. In any event, Oswald was a least prepossessing character; no one would pay any special attention to him. He walked home, then decided to go to a movie. Nothing he did would have been out of place with crowds of people exiting or entering the plaza and the surrounding buildings. Thus from the police point of view we have a classic Ellery Queen novel: interview each one of the thousands of people in the plaza. It might take a couple of years, but surely one or more of them were the assassins.

                    The Dallas police, who were shown to be bumbling and fumbling in the days following the assassination, must have been superstars to have singled out a person in a movie theatre.

                    Oswald himself, just before being shot by Jack Ruby, shouted out "I'm a patsy." It's the best theory of the assassination, and explains that the police were tipped off to arrest Oswald. But as I said above, I don't need affirmative evidence if I can show that all the key alleged pieces of evidence do not stand up to rational scrutiny.

                    JE comments: Anthony D'Amato's keen legal mind has raised a shadow or two of doubt.  Just one question for now: how did the police find Oswald in the theater?

                    "Patsy"--there's a word we don't hear much any more.  Kind of like "23 Skidoo" or "Red China."

                    Guess what?  In just over a year the JFK assassination will turn 50.  Yikes.

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                    • Did Oswald Assassinate Kennedy? Adorno and Conspiracy Theories (Alain de Benoist, France 08/14/12 6:13 AM)
                      I always read Anthony D'Amato's posts with interest. However, with due respect, I am often surprised by some of his rather abrupt claims. For instance, Anthony wrote this on 13 August:

                      "People who believe that their lives are controlled by secret plots hatched in dark places, or who believe that pictures of the astronauts landing on the moon were faked in a Hollywood studio, were called ‘authoritarian personalities' by Adorno and his colleagues fifty years ago."

                      To the best of my knowledge, what Theodor W. Adorno and his colleagues (E. Frenkel-Brunswik, D.J. Levinson, R.N. Sanford) wrote around 1950 on that topic had nothing to do with conspiracy theorists. Moreover, they did not write about "authoritarian personalities," but about the widely criticized concept of "authoritarian personality" (which they characterized by a strict superego controlling a weak ego, leading to conventionalism, an excessive submission to authority, etc.).

                      Also, Anthony wrote on 11 August: "In short, I say: heredity and ancestry count for nothing."

                      Thousands of scientific and empirical studies have repeatedly shown that heredity and ancestry count for something. That "heredity and ancestry count for nothing" was the belief of the Soviet scientist Trofim D. Lyssenko (1898-1976), whose "Mitchurinian" views held in the Stalin era brought Russian biology to catastrophe.

                      Finally, Anthony wrote on 30 July: "Puppet Vichy was more vicious toward French Jews than Hitler was toward German Jews."

                      Many bad things were surely done by "Puppet Vichy." How is it however that the proportion of French Jewish victims of the Holocaust was, fortunately, the lowest of all the other Wehrmacht-occupied European countries (26% in France, 75% in Netherlands)?

                      JE comments: What was the survival rate of Italy's Jewish population?

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                      • Vichy France and the Holocaust (Istvan Simon, USA 08/14/12 1:36 PM)
                        Alain de Benoist (14 August) pointed out that three quarters of French Jews survived the Vichy regime. Alain is right as far as French Jews are concerned, but nonetheless he is wrong when he says that the percentage of French Jews that were murdered was the lowest of all the Wehrmacht-occupied European countries (26% in France, 75% in The Netherlands).

                        That honor belongs not to France but to Denmark. Less than one percent of Jewish Danes were murdered.


                        JE comments: And the worst, as we know, was in all-suffering Poland: Ninety percent of the 3.3 million prewar Jewish population was murdered.

                        How did so many of the Danish Jews survive? Was it the proximity of neutral Sweden, or their overall small numbers to begin with (only 8000)? Did the non-Jewish Danes protect them in large numbers?

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                        • Vichy France and the Holocaust (Gilbert Davis, USA 08/15/12 8:06 AM)
                          Both Istvan Simon and Anthony D'Amato (14 August) got it right in their respective responses to Alain de Benoist's assertion: "Many bad things were surely done by 'Puppet Vichy.' How is it however that the proportion of French Jewish victims of the Holocaust was, fortunately, the lowest of all the other Wehrmacht-occupied European countries (26% in France, 75% in Netherlands)?"

                          But let me add that Bulgaria, Italy, Luxembourg, Denmark and even Finland had lower percentages of their Jewish citizens die in the death camps than did France. Their statistics range down from 22-0%. The main reason for this was the unwillingness of their respective governments to cooperate with their Nazi occupiers or overlords.

                          By contrast, the French police were the main arm in the roundups that sent both French and refugee Jews (from Germany and elsewhere) to the infamous Drancy and Vélodrome d'Hiver, way stations to the death camps in the East. With the Vichy government's first defining Jews essentially by race and then later liquidating Jewish property (enacted into law, March 20, 1941), the stage was set for what the Danes, Finns, Bulgarians, and to a lesser extent Italians, would not tolerate.

                          Let me also add my urging that members have a look at Richard H. Weisberg's Vichy La Justice et les Juifs, which is available in English as Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France (NYU Press, 1996). Though the book focuses on the French legal profession's failure (downright unwillingness) to raise its collective voice in protest against the anti-Jewish laws adopted by the Vichy government, along the way Weisberg gives an excellent picture of how tolerant, even cooperative, the French were in standing by as these outrages turned ever more murderous.

                          JE comments:  I'm under the weather today, so I got a late start with WAISing.  My apologies for the delays.

                          Next up, a word from David Gress on Denmark in the Holocaust.

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                        • Denmark and the Holocaust (David Gress, Denmark 08/15/12 8:14 AM)
                          Istvan Simon's post of 14 August is my cue to come in as a half-Dane and historian, and hello again to all you other such brilliant WAISers, whose deeds and experience so far surpass my own.

                          Why so many Danish Jews survived--only about 80 out of 8,000 perished--is simply explained. The Germans allowed it.

                          In August of 1943, a wave of strikes broke out across much of Denmark, thoroughly disturbing Danish food and mechanical production for Germany. The Reich Plenipotentiary for Denmark--der Bevollmächtichge des Deutschen Reiches in Dänemark--Dr. Werner Best, realized that to ensure further reliable deliveries of food and mechanical parts he would need to keep the Danes in line.

                          Dr. Best was, by the way, the Nazi party's leading legal mind. He had written a dissertation in 1931 as one of the cleverest jurists in Germany.

                          On August 29, 1943, the Danish government resigned over German claims that the Danes institute the death penalty for saboteurs. Until that day, the German occupation authorities had no direct jurisdiction in Denmark.

                          In September, the order came down from Berlin to corral the Danish Jews for transport. Best knew that if he executed that order, given the rebellious spirit of the August demonstrations, he would risk further disruption of Danish deliveries of food and supplies. Danes would not allow their Jewish compatriots to be dragged away without objecting, and dramatically.

                          Best therefore chose the easiest way out. He leaked the plan for arresting all Danish Jews to the naval attaché at the German embassy in Copenhagen, Friedrich von Duckwitz, who duly leaked it to the Danish Resistance. And so, on Rosh Hashanah in 1943 by the Christian calendar, when the uniformed German soldiers were told where to find the Jews, they were mostly all gone, and because Best had ordered the naval patrols in the Sound between Denmark and Sweden to be very sleepy, 7,900 plus of Danish Jews escaped. The few who were arrested were taken to Theresienstadt, where 77 died.

                          So one can say that the reason Best did not execute the order from Berlin was that he was frightened of a Danish popular reaction. We can also say that Best had an easy out: that the Danish Jews could be sailed to neutral Sweden across less than four miles of water. Get rid of them, get rid of being bothered by Berlin. Everyone's happy.

                          Let me add that I thoroughly agree with Alain's comment about the Vichy government's attitude to Jews. It was, in the main, honorable, and I think in general that the government of Marshal Pétain has been grossly misunderstood by many who think that victory gives them the right to tramp on the defeated. Marshal Pétain was a great man.

                          JE comments: I did not know this about Dr. Best; most interesting. I wonder how the Jewish refugees were received in Sweden. But David Gress's last paragraph will be extremely controversial. Pétain, despite a victory at Verdun which saved France in 1916-'17, later became synonymous with treason throughout the world. Pétain was spared the gallows only because of his advanced age.

                          Last month we re-evaluated Chamberlain; is it now Pétain's turn? A great man?  Makes me cringe.

                          Istvan Simon (next in the queue) attributes the high survival rate of the Danish Jews to one man, King Christian X (the 10th).  

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                        • Denmark and the Holocaust (Istvan Simon, USA 08/15/12 8:43 AM)
                          JE asked on 14 August why the Danish Jews survived the Holocaust. It was due to King Christian X (the 10th), who resisted the Nazis' order to marginalize and separate Jews from the rest of Danish society. When the Nazis ordered Jews to wear a yellow star, Christian X went on his daily horseback ride wearing a yellow star. This gesture galvanized Danish society. Jews were systematically smuggled to Sweden, saved one by one, family by family by the magnificent Danes. An example where one man, the King, made a huge difference in the lives of thousands.

                          JE comments: King Christian's contribution to the Jewish Danes' high survival rate is no doubt significant, but the yellow star story is apparently apocryphal. (See Wikipedia on Christian X of Denmark.) According to the Wiki-account, this story was popularized by Leon Uris in his 1958 novelized account of the founding of Israel, Exodus.  Among other things, the Germans never imposed the yellow star marking on Denmark.

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                          • Christian X, Denmark, and the Holocaust (Holger Terp, Denmark 08/16/12 6:04 AM)

                            In response to Istvan Simon (15 August), there are, according to the best of my knowledge, no contemporary sources to confirm the story of King Christian X and the Jewish Star. The king was pleased with businessmen, and there certainly would have been some Jews among them. The story of the king and yellow star is a myth.

                            I have documented the rescue of the Danish Jews in English here:


                            Thus the resistance work was partly non-violent civil disobedience during the war and partly violent, or as the Danish historians describe it, active and passive resistance. This is clearly exemplified by the medical profession.

                            On October 3, 1943, the bishops' protest on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church / Folkekirken, against the persecutions of the Jews in Denmark, was read as a pastoral letter at worship services. The escape to Sweden of the 5600 Danish Jews, half-Jews and relatives of Jews around and after October 1943 was only possible because the medical profession and students on a mass scale helped the Jews to escape.

                            The doctors used hospitals to hide the Jews and their cars for transportation. Also the Danish chapters of WRI and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom were active in the rescue of the Jews.

                            Between 60 and 200 small Jewish children up to the age of seven were separated from their parents and hidden in Danish families. This case is currently under investigation by historians at the Danish Jewish Museum.

                            However, not all the Jews were saved. Four hundred eighty-one Danish Jews ended up in the concentration camp Theresienstadt.

                            After the escape of the Jews many of the doctors and students became active in the militant resistance movement.

                            In 1963 the Danish-American entertainer Victor Borge and the New York attorney Richard Netter founded Thanks to Scandinavia to commemorate the courage and decency of people who rescued Jews during WWII.

                            Members of the Other Germany, like Hilltgunt Zassenhaus (born 1916), tried to help Danish and Norwegian prisoners in Germany during World War II. Her American autobiography was published in Danish in 1974.

                            The émigré professor Walther A. Berendsohn, the son of a Jew, escaped to Sweden in a small boat together with two German deserters from Luxemburg and a Danish saboteur. On October 22, 1942, the German soldier Alfred Andersch deserted in Germany and sailed to Denmark.

                            Sources: Stræde, Therkel: October 1943: The Rescue of the Danish Jews from Annihilation, 1993.

                            See also the introduction to: Steffensen, Steffen: På flugt fra nazismen: Tysksprogede emigranter i Danmark efter 1933. 1987.

                            Translated into German:

                            Exil in Dänemark. Deutschsprachige Wissenschaftler, Künstler und Schriftsteller im dänischen Exil nach 1933. Hrsg. v. Willy Dähnhardt u. Birgit S. Nielsen. (Deutsche Redaktion: Dieter Lohmeier), Heide 1993.

                            JE comments:  Many thanks to Holger Terp for this valuable addition to our conversation, especially for mentioning probably the greatest Jewish Dane to escape the Holocaust:  Victor Borge (born Borge Rosenbaum).

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                            • Denmark and the Holocaust (Paul Levine, Denmark 08/17/12 3:24 AM)

                              The 1943 rescue of Danish Jews was certainly one of the few points of light
                              in the dark history of the Holocaust. What is remarkable is the spontaneous
                              nature of the rescue mission and the number of people involved in making it
                              happen. But there are still aspects of the rescue that are shrouded in mystery.
                              For instance, why did it succeed? To what extent did the German authorities,
                              and their leader Werner Best, participate in the action? At the time, few Danes
                              who participated in the action would have anticipated the German response.
                              Despite the questions, it is hard to see their actions as anything but heroic.

                              In 1993, on the fiftieth anniversary of the rescue, my old friend Henry Kamm
                              visited us in Copenhagen to write about the historic event for the NY Times.
                              Here is his account which may help readers to comprehend the complexities.
                              I am happy to say that many of my Copenhagen friends are still here
                              because of the actions of ordinary Danes in 1943.


                              Danes Commemorate Rescue of Jews From Nazis

                              By Henry Kamm

                              Published: September 28, 1993

                              In October, Danes will observe the 50th anniversary of an operation that ultimately saved nearly all of the country's Jews from death at the hands of the Nazis. But this time the public is hearing a fuller account of the rescue, which made Denmark a striking exception among the countries occupied by Germany in World War II.

                              While the German occupation forces were preparing to deport more than 7,000 Jews to death camps beginning at 10 PM on Oct. 1, 1943, Danes shepherded all but a few hundred to the east coast of the island of Zealand, where they boarded small boats that ferried them to neutral Sweden in hundreds of crossings over a period of a few days.

                              Historians specializing in the occupation years have recently brought forth evidence showing that not only was Denmark's broad defense of its Jews an exception, but so were the actions of the German authorities here, including Gen. Werner Best of the SS, Hitler's chief representative in Denmark.

                              Danish historians and scholars from Israel and Germany have compiled documentary material that makes clear that the escape took place virtually under the eyes of the general and other high-ranking German military, police and civilian officials, who took no major steps to block the operation. The documentary evidence has been corroborated by many of the rescuers and Jews themselves.

                              "Many saw without seeing," said Esben Kjeldbaek, the curator of Fight for Freedom 1940-1945, a Resistance museum in Copenhagen that has organized an exhibition to commemorate the anniversary of the rescue.

                              "I don't think it could have happened without the connivance of the Germans," said Ulf Ekman, 76, a writer and publisher who fled in 1943 with his wife, Ruth, who was Jewish, and left their 2-year-old son in his parents' care. "The Germans had an observation post just north of from where our boat left. They could see the boats go back and forth."

                              The rescue operation was so successful that no Danish Jews were sent to death camps, although about 50 died from hunger, neglect and natural causes in the Nazi concentration camp at Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia, which served as a way station for routing deportees to death camps.

                              The new evidence compiled by researchers poses an interesting question: Why did General Best, a key organizer of the deportation of France's Jews and a former deputy of Reinhard Heydrich, the notorious SS general in charge of the Nazis' "final solution" until his assassination in Prague in 1942, spare the vast majority of Danish Jews?

                              Historians of the Holocaust offer no simple answer, but many point to the limited options faced by General Best.

                              "He knew the Danish police will not arrest Jews," said Raul Hilberg, the leading American historian of the Holocaust. Interviewed by telephone from his home in Burlington, Vermont, Mr. Hilberg emphasized that the latest research fully supported the Danes' reputation for stoutly defending Jews during the Nazi occupation, which lasted from April 1940 to May 1945.

                              One reason that General Best probably hesitated to persecute Danish Jews with the same ruthlessness he had shown in other countries, the historian said, was a conviction that Danes would not accept such actions with the passivity that prevailed elsewhere in Western Europe. The occupation authorities were faced with the prospect of a drawn-out hunt that would only harden the resolve of the Danish Resistance.

                              For that reason alone, General Best may have tolerated the escapes, Mr. Hilberg said. "But we're not going to figure out the full truth," he added.

                              The new focus on the vacillation of the Nazi occupiers is not intended to diminish the singular status accorded to the Danes for their rescue effort, which made the survival rate of Denmark's Jews the highest of any country occupied by German forces.

                              A Couple's Escape

                              Interviewed in September in their home in Copenhagen, Ulf and Ruth Ekman recalled being led by daylight through a town near the shore with about 50 others who had assembled in winter coats in warm weather. Many of the women wore all of their jewelry.

                              "This could never have a good end, I thought," Mr. Ekman said.

                              Herbert Pundik, 66, the editor of the newspaper Politiken, escaped from Copenhagen--nearly all Jews lived in the capital--with his parents. "There is only one train line to the coast," he said. "The trains were loaded with Jews." But not one instance was recorded, he said, in which German officials tried to check the identity of a Jewish passenger.

                              Prof. Ebba Lund, a virologist and immunologist who played a role in rescuing at least 500 Jews as a 20-year-old student and Resistance member, said a feeling bordering on invincibility had sprung up among the rescuers.

                              They felt so sure of success, she said, that they "smuggled" Resistance members and defecting German soldiers into the boats.

                              In the exhibition in Copenhagen, no effort is made to provide a single explanation for the ease of the escape. Exhibits of photographs are accompanied by long, carefully worded texts summarizing the main events and the interpretations of scholars.

                              One enigma is a decision by General Best and Adolf Eichmann, the SS officer in charge of transporting Jews across Europe to their deaths, to make an exception for the 481 Danish Jews who were arrested and sent to Theresienstadt.

                              The Danes were not sent on to the liquidation camps, and they were allowed to receive food parcels from the Danish Red Cross. A scientist in Copenhagen devised a nutritional pill to include in the packages.

                              "Best is a very, very difficult problem," said Prof. Hans Kirchhoff of Copenhagen University, a leading scholar in the history of the occupation. Many SS records were destroyed by the Nazis, and any action running counter to direct orders by Hitler, who specifically approved plans for the deportation of the Danish Jews in September 1943, was not noted in writing.

                              Professor Kirchhoff's explanation, which is similar in many respects to those of his colleagues, is that General Best saw his main mission as assuring Denmark's stability so it could continue to produce the food that was meeting one-tenth of the German Reich's needs.

                              He is also thought to have shared with other SS leaders a view that Nordic peoples would hold a favored position after the war. This is believed to have made him wary of ruling Denmark with an iron fist.

                              Invasion and Martial Law

                              When German troops invaded in April 1940, Denmark offered almost no resistance, and unlike other occupied countries it was allowed to keep its Government. Two elections were held under the occupation in which the small Nazi party was badly defeated. When German officials raised the issue of depriving Jews of their rights, the Government replied that Denmark would never cooperate by adopting or enforcing anti-Semitic measures.

                              By 1943, Germany's war fortunes were declining and Danish protests took more active forms. Strikes and sabotage dominated the summer; repression increased, with the authorities executing a Resistance fighter for the first time, and martial law was proclaimed on Aug. 29.

                              The Government resigned after the proclamation, and the parties refused to form another. The authorities back in Berlin accused General Best of losing control.

                              General Best proposed the deportation in a telegram to Berlin on Sept. 8 and was informed of Hitler's approval on Sept. 16. On Sept. 28, he received the final order to proceed.

                              But the same day, General Best told Georg F. Duckwitz, a German maritime attache who had friends in Denmark's leading party, the Social Democrats, of the decision. Professor Kirchhoff said the consensus among historians was that General Best intended for Mr. Duckwitz to inform his friends so that they could thwart the roundup.

                              Mr. Duckwitz immediately tipped off Hans Hedtoft, a Social Democrat who served as a postwar Prime Minister, who in turn warned C. B. Henriques, head of the Jewish Community, the organization overseeing Jewish interests in Denmark. The next day, the word was passed on to the congregation at Copenhagen's synagogue. Jews hid in friends' houses, in churches and in hospitals, and the rescue operation was immediately organized.

                              Reported That Jews Were Gone

                              On Oct. 4, General Best felt free to report to Berlin that Denmark had been "de-Jewed," without specifying the unexpected way that had been accomplished. By then the bulk of the Jews had been taken to Sweden.

                              General Best was arrested when the city was liberated by British troops in 1945 and was condemned to death by a Danish court in 1948. His sentence was reduced to 5 years, then increased to 12 years in a ruling by Denmark's Supreme Court.

                              He was freed in August 1951 and expelled to Germany, where he was held several times on charges of war crimes committed in Europe but always escaped trial on grounds of ill health. This did not prevent him from practicing successfully as a lawyer, and he died in 1989 at the age of 86.

                              Mr. Duckwitz, the attache who alerted Danes to the deportation order, died in 1973 after having served as West Germany's Ambassador to Denmark and having been honored by Israel for his part in the rescue of the Jews.

                              Why did it take a half century to give the public a full account of a story that has been told in the same way for 50 years?

                              "It's a myth that people don't want to smash," Mr. Pundik, the editor, said of the hazards of the rescue operation. "And don't forget, the Jews were truly frightened, and the Danes were truly heroic."

                              JE comments:  An extraordinary story, which adds a great deal of detail to the account provided by David Gress on 15 August.  My thanks to Paul Levine for sharing Mr. Kamm's article.

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                              • Czechoslovakia and the Holocaust; a Family Story (Istvan Simon, USA 08/18/12 5:49 AM)
                                My thanks to Paul Levine (17 August) for sharing this deeply moving magnificent example of the Danes' heroism and humanity. Few people in Europe can say that they acted with the same determination and courage as the Danes had. But there is another country that deserves the same honors that the Danes should be accorded. That country is Czechoslovakia, the same country raped by Hitler and sold down the tubes by Chamberlain at Munich.

                                This is a personal story that I share with WAIS of the heroism of the Czechs and Slovaks under Nazi occupation.

                                My father was arrested in Budapest and deported to Oranienburg (latitude 52° 45' 0" North, longitude 13° 14' 0" East) to work as a slave laborer in the nearby Heinkel aircraft factory.



                                The Jews that were rounded up with my father were put in cattle cars, and transported by train to Germany. The conditions on the trains were appalling and inhuman. There were too many people crammed into the cattle cars, and they were given no water or food or sanitary facilities during the long journey.

                                My father's train to Germany went through Czechoslovakia. He told me that the Czechs were lining the overpasses under which the trains with its unfortunate victims would pass, and throw water and food and shouted encouragements to the wretched human cargo that they contained.

                                No Jew will ever forget the heroism of the magnificent Danes. No Jew should ever forget the heroism of the Czechs and Slovaks either.

                                JE comments: I don't think Istvan Simon will mind me sharing that both his father and mother were the sole Holocaust survivors from their respective families. Istvan came along shortly after the War.

                                Thank you for sharing these personal stories, Istvan. If it's not prying too much, I'd be very interested in hearing what daily life was like for the slave laborers at the Heinkel factory.

                                I'm bound by family loyalty to repeat that Poland, which suffered more than any nation during WWII, is being unfairly overlooked as less than heroic. For example, how about this Q:  What is the only city to rise up twice against the German occupiers? 

                                Even if only 70,000 Polish Jews were "saved," as Gilbert Davis claims, it still is nearly ten times the total for Denmark, which experienced a far more benign occupation in any case. I'm going to talk this over with the Poland expert in my house, and share some specific stories with WAISworld.

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                                • Hungary and the Holocaust (Anthony D`Amato, USA 08/19/12 6:49 AM)
                                  Recent posts on WAIS have discussed Holocaust issues as relating to countries such as Poland, Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, and France. Hungary has not been discussed. This is perhaps due to the fact that Hungary has never paid a single pengo to Holocaust survivors or next of kin--nothing newsworthy about Hungary.

                                  Yet Hungary--Greater Hungary to be exact--was the scene of the most extensive Holocaust atrocity. Six hundred thousand Jews were transported by cattle car to Auschwitz and to slave-labor camps in the spring and summer of 1944. The rate was 100 persons per cattle car; along the way, those who died from the extreme heat of day and the extreme cold of night were tossed out naked along the tracks, their clothes divided among the women and babies.

                                  By March 1944 it was clear to most high-ranking Germans that the war was lost. But Eichmann wanted to ensure that Hitler's war aim--to rid Europe of Jews and Slavs--would not be abandoned. With his bevy of goons, Eichmann journeyed to Hungary. They needed homes. But by then the Nazis were extremely efficient in rounding up and transporting Jews. The first thing they did was to look in the Hungarian phone books for lawyers with Jewish names. These lawyers were likely to live in good houses. The lawyers were duly arrested, along with their families, and constituted the first shipment to Auschwitz. The Nazis moved into the lawyers' homes. (It's clever they didn't round up doctors; no one misses a bunch of lawyers.)

                                  Next they dealt with Jewish leaders. The leaders became complicitous in identifying and rounding up Jews, all in return for a great prize: they were excused from having to wear the gold star. (But they wound up in Auschwitz anyway.)

                                  The Jews' bank accounts were frozen; they were advised to use safety deposit boxes for their valuables. They were moved from their homes to poorer homes where they were packed in. Then on to even poorer homes, where they awaited their turn to walk to the train station. A few years ago one of my clients had the safety deposit box key his parents had smuggled out with him before they were picked up by the police for a ride in a cattle car. He went to the bank. The bank officials treated him with courtesy, they led him to the safe deposit box room, and his key was used to open the box. It was empty. The attendant said he had no idea when or how the contents were removed from the box.

                                  Until three years ago no one sued the Hungarian banks or the Hungarian railways for Holocaust reparations. My plan to sue them was turned down by the biggest law firms in the United States, and many middle-sized firms. I finally teamed up with the Pavich Law Group, a very small firm in Chicago. I wrote the Complaints for class actions in both cases; they were filed in court; the defendants were served; they argued (sometimes with briefs and appendices of 200 page length) that the cases should be thrown out; we prevailed; the cases went up on appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; oral argument was heard; and we're waiting for the three-judge panel's disposition. The panel may be waiting for the Supreme Court's disposition of the Kiobel case which is somewhat related to our cases.

                                  Kiobel is a big one. Many amicus briefs have been submitted to the Supreme Court, one written by my former student and me, another by our small law firm. I've alerted JE that come October the Kiobel case might furnish an interesting topic for discussion on WAIS.

                                  JE comments: Absolutely. For those unfamiliar with Kiobel and Alien Torts, here's the background:


                                  In short, Kiobel will decide the validity of suing in US courts for injustices committed entirely in a different country. The Supreme Court judgment will have an impact on Holocaust reparations suits. I hope Anthony D'Amato will keep us updated on any new developments.

                                  Returning to Hungary, Istvan Simon has sent a very moving note on his family's experience there during the Holocaust.  (Fortunately, several of Istvan's relatives survived the war, not just his parents, as I mistakenly wrote on 18 August.)  Istvan is next in the queue.

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                                  • Holocaust Reductionism? (David Pike, France 08/22/12 4:17 AM)
                                    I move in the world among Holocaust reductionists. They do not deny the Holocaust, they simply diminish it, "bringing it into perspective," they would say, and latching on to anything that can discredit the accounts of the survivors. Any false claim is a windfall to them.

                                    Anthony D'Amato wrote (19 August): "Those [prisoners] who died from the extreme heat of day and the extreme cold of night were tossed out naked along the [railroad] tracks." Now, in dispatching prisoners, the SS took care to avoid the use of open freight cars. The only way to get out of a closed freight car (other than through the bolted door) was through the small vasistas (the term used in French for the ventilator, and I think used internationally) which was covered by barbed wire. I have never heard of bodies thrown out of a freight car. (I do know one man who punched his way through the vasistas, got his body out, and is still alive, the ex-mayor of a small French town.)

                                    Anthony adds: "The Nazis didn't round up doctors." But they did. Prisoner-doctors were sought after. University professors of medicine served in camps as doctors of the SS; others in the prisoners' Revier, where they tended the stronger among the sick, allowing these prisoners to return to work. There was nothing in Nazi Germany that was not programmed.

                                    PS and unconnected: We have discussed how most sports in the world were exported from England. I am curious about the origin of football. Italians tell me that the name of London's Pall Mall derives from the Roman palus malus, which was a ball of stuff the Romans kicked around. Pall Mall served as Britain's main stadium.

                                    JE comments: I'm quite certain Anthony D'Amato intended nothing "reductionist" in his Holocaust posting of 19 August. The point of Anthony's comment was precisely to single out Hungary as one nation never held accountable (through reparations) for the horrors committed there.

                                    On David Pike's second topic, is there a Roman antecedent for the modern sport of football/soccer? Pall Mall in the US, of course, connotes the extra-long, old-school filterless cigarette, which regales the user with copious amounts of tar and nicotine.

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                                    • Ancient Rome, Soccer and Pall Mall (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 08/22/12 2:32 PM)
                                      David Pike wrote on 22 August:

                                      "We have discussed how most sports in the world were exported from England. I am curious about the origin of football. Italians tell me that the name of London's Pall Mall derives from the Roman palus malus, which was a ball of stuff the Romans kicked around. Pall Mall served as Britain's main stadium."

                                      Very interesting, but it doesn't sound right to me. "Palus," in Latin, is a stake or a pale (and cognate to the latter word); "Malus" is an apple tree, if I'm not mistaken. I have never heard of "palus malus" and could find no references to it (neither of which, of course, proves that there is no such thing, so I would be glad to be corrected if someone has more information than I was able to dig up). It is not listed in any of the lists of Roman ball games which I was able to find.

                                      Pall mall was a game played in London not by the Romans, but by the English--popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the street in Westminster apparently got its name during this period, not in ancient times. The game pall mall was derived from an Italian game called pallamaglio, and was basically what we know today as croquet. It was played not with a ball of stuff kicked around, but with a wooden ball struck by mallets (see: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pallamaglio ). "Maglio" is Italian for "mallet" (and cognate to that word), and comes from Latin "malleus" (http://www.etimo.it/?term=maglio ). "Palla" is Italian for "ball," and the word is apparently not of Latin origin ("Benecke assegna una radice germanica [cfr Balla]; altri congiunge alla stessa radice del gr ballein, pallein . . ." http://www.etimo.it/?term=palla ). It is important also to note that Pall Mall is not in the City of London, but in the City of Westminster, miles away from the borders of Roman Londinium, which was more or less coextensive with the modern City. Little is known about Londinium, as the city was apparently abandoned for some centuries after the Romans left in 410. As far as I know, the only Roman amphitheater ever found or even heard of anywhere near London is the one under the Guildhall in the City, and nothing Roman at all has been found in Westminster apart from a Roman road running along the Thames.

                                      Furthermore, I don't believe that the Romans played ball games in their circuses or amphitheaters. They did apparently have a kind of football/soccer type game, harpastum, but it was a mob sport, not a spectator sport in the modern sense. It was played in fields, not in circuses or amphitheaters, as was football/soccer until quite recently. Ball games played in stadiums specially arranged for spectators is a very recent invention--I don't think we find it before the 19th century. To imagine the Romans playing ball games in front of seated spectators is, I'm afraid, an anachronism.

                                      So I'm guessing that David's Italian friends were either pulling his leg about the origin of the name of Pall Mall, or were being fanciful--supposing that pallamaglio possibly had Roman origins, and that the Romans perhaps introduced that game to Britain, and then, riding this wave of fancy, inventing the rest of the details. "Palus malus" sounds like a made-up word to me, but I would be glad to be corrected if that is not the case.

                                      JE comments.  These are the kinds of discussions that make WAIS interesting!  But let's not forget the ancient Mexicans, who played a ball game in purpose-built stadia from around 1400 BCE.

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                                    • Holocaust Reductionism? A Clarification (David Pike, France 08/23/12 4:16 AM)
                                      In his comments to my post of 22 August, JE misread my point. I wasn't calling Anthony D'Amato a reductionist! I was saying that the information he gave plays into the hands of the reductionists, because the information is not true. Of course, Anthony could adduce something I've never heard of (I'm constantly being taught!), but I wanted to clear up any possible misunderstanding.

                                      JE comments: My apologies to David and Anthony for the confusion.  For another view on Hungary during the Holocaust, stay tuned for George Krajcsik.

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                                      • Holocaust Reductionism? A Clarification (Anthony D`Amato, USA 08/24/12 5:06 AM)
                                        David Pike (23 August) does not call me a reductionist; he just calls me a dispenser of untrue information. Apparently he raced through my post so quickly looking for errors that he missed what I said:

                                        (1) Naked bodies were tossed out of cattle cars when they came to a stop during the day. The Hungarian officials running the railroads didn't want there to be too many naked bodies when the trains arrived at Auschwitz.

                                        (2) The Nazis didn't round up doctors on their first embarkation in Budapest, as the context of my post makes clear; I never said that Jewish doctors weren't eventually rounded up.

                                        David also says he learned nothing new from my post. Does that mean he reads the emails among members of our Chicago legal team suing the Hungarian banks and railway? I can't see how else he would have known about some of the litigation details I was free to disclose here. I suggest to David that he might try to be more cautious in impugning his own credibility in this Forum.

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                                        • Holocaust Reductionism? Response to Anthony D'Amato (David Pike, France 08/25/12 4:57 AM)
                                          In replying to my post of 23 August, Anthony D'Amato (24 August) has changed his own wording.

                                          His original post (19 Aug.) ran: "Those [prisoners] who died from the extreme heat of day and the extreme cold of night were tossed out naked along the tracks."

                                          His new wording today runs: "Naked bodies were tossed out of cattle cars when they came to a stop during the day."

                                          This applies to SS convoys in general, not just in Hungary. My essential point was that the SS did not toss bodies out on to the tracks because the bodies would be found, and the entire Endlösung was designed to leave no relic in its wake.

                                          I confined myself to that single point and to the matter of the doctors, which again was not a point confined to doctors in Hungary.

                                          Nor did I say that I "learnt nothing" from Anthony's post. I read all his post, and learnt a lot! I haven't examined the case of the Chicago team and the Hungarian banks, but I have taken part in France in the prosecution of the SNCF and attended the trial, as well as publishing the German account of how well the SNCF was running in France even after D-Day.

                                          As to whether I have impugned my own credibility, as Anthony suggests, I will have to leave it to the readers of my seven books on the Holocaust.

                                          JE comments: David Pike's posting is the 28,000th to enter the WAIS archives--and I am happy this honor has come to David, Prof. Hilton's countryman, collaborator and friend going back 50 + years. Who, I wonder, will be the 30,000th? At the rate we post, this milestone should occur sometime next spring.

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                                    • Hungary and the Holocaust; Miklos Horthy (George Krajcsik, USA 08/23/12 4:35 AM)
                                      I wish to add to JE's comments that Hungary was never held accountable through reparations for the atrocities committed there during WWII against its Jewish citizens. (See David Pike's post of 22 August.) Miklos Horthy, Hungary's regent (1920-1944), writes in his book Ein Leben für Ungarn, that Hungary was a refuge to Jews from all over Europe before and even during WWII, to almost up to the German occupation in March 1944 when the Arrow-Cross Party, an anti-Semitic Nazi party, with the help of occupying German forces, took over.

                                      Fascist and Nazi factions were part of the Hungarian parliament during Horthy's reign, but Horthy strongly opposed any of their anti-Semitic attempts until October 15, 1944, when he resigned. The Hungarian people, in large measure, helped Jews escape persecution. On a personal note, my parents hid my aunt and and her mother, who were both Jews, for over a year in a small secret partition in the attic in Budapest, József Kőrút 63, very much like in The Diary of Anne Frank. I was six years old at that time and was told that auntie and her mom had left for Baden, Austria, their birthplace (which of course was not true). Helping Jews escape persecution was common.

                                      J.F. Montgomery, the American ambassador to Hungary, notes in his book The Unwilling Satellite that Hungary was in a peculiar position during WWII. It's possible a country can be on the "right" and the "wrong" side in a war simultaneously. Hungary, fighting against the Soviet Union, supported Hitler (wrong side) and at the same time--now having a clear view of the Soviet Union's imperialistic aims, of keeping Eastern Europe in colonial dependency for over 40 years--fighting the Soviets, Hungary was on the right side. When the Soviet Union joined WWII (after having taken part of Finland and the Baltic States) and then with Germany partitioned Poland, the wish of Europeans, according to Montgomery, was to "achieve peace without victors and vanquished." That didn't happen!

                                      These and perhaps a whole lot of other considerations saved Hungary from paying reparations for the Holocaust.

                                      JE comments: My thanks to George Krajcsik for sharing this story of his parents' courage. I should clarify, however, that I was paraphrasing Anthony D'Amato's words of 19 August when I wrote that Hungary was never held accountable for Holocaust crimes. See Anthony's original post:


                                      During the course of the summer we've scrutinized a number of WWII-era political leaders.  Might it be time to re-examine Horthy?  He was a conservative, staunchly anti-communist, who largely protected Hungary's Jewish population through 1944.  Yet the Kamianets-Podilskyi massacre of 1941 occurred under Horthy's watch, and is considered the first large-scale slaughter of Jews during the entire war.  The Jewish deportees were not, apparently, Hungarian citizens:


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                                      • Rise of Anti-Semitism in Hungary? (Henry Levin, USA 08/23/12 11:04 AM)
                                        In response to George Krajcsik (23 August) what do WAIS members know about and how do they interpret the present rise in anti-Semitism in Hungary?

                                        JE comments: Good question. I especially hope that our Hungarian-born colleagues, George Krajcsik and Istvan Simon, will comment.

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                                        • Rise of Anti-Semitism in Hungary? (John Heelan, UK 08/24/12 5:14 AM)

                                          Henry Levin (23 August) might be interested in ""Anti-Semitism in Hungary," published by the Jewish Centre for Public Affairs (http://jcpa.org/article/anti-semitism-in-hungary/ ), based in Jerusalem and also known as the "Jewish Centre for Community Studies" of Baltimore.

                                          JE comments:  The report mentions the far-right, anti-Semitic and anti-Roma party Jobbik, which received 17% of the vote in the 2010 national elections.  What do WAISers know about this party?

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                                • The Holocaust: A Family Story (Continued) (Istvan Simon, USA 08/19/12 8:55 AM)
                                  It is not true, as JE wrote on 18 August, that my parents were the only Holocaust survivors in our family. My older brother, who was 2 years old when the war ended, survived unharmed. My Aunt Liliana, who helped keeping him alive by giving up most of her food rations to feed my brother, also survived. Another aunt, Elizabeth, came back from Auschwitz and survived, though both would be dead by the time I was 6 years old. Aunt Liliana committed suicide. Aunt Elizabeth died of ovarian cancer, possibly caused by medical experiments performed on her at Auschwitz. Another aunt, Lujza, survived with her husband and two children. A third child was murdered by the Nazis. Another aunt, Irene, survived unharmed, for she had been smart and immigrated to America in the 1920s. This on my father's side.

                                  On my mother's side, my uncle George survived largely unharmed. He was taken to Hungarian labor camps, but did not suffer as much as my father at the hands of the Germans.

                                  My father never talked about how life was at the Heinkel factory. So I could not describe the experience to JE. My father almost never talked about the Holocaust, or what happened to him personally. Bits and pieces sometimes told by my mother, is all I ever heard, and it is what the stories that I retell here are based on.

                                  I'd say that our family is fairly typical of what happened to Jewish families in Hungary. But some families were hit much harder. One of these that I knew about was a dear relative, Maca (pronounced Matza), who had been a professional-level pianist before the war. She often came to our home, and I always loved her. She was always kind to me, and always brought some delicious food for me. She listened to me play the violin, and sometimes would play something on our piano. Her whole world collapsed by the cruelty of the Nazis. Her two handsome teenagers were both murdered, and her husband too. She alone survived. But could not cope with the tragedy of her life. She could not continue what would have been a brilliant career in music. She carried the pictures of her two boys everywhere, and wrote poignant comments to "them," and her husband too. The last I saw her, I told her, Maca, I will bring you to live with us in Brazil, as we were leaving Hungary shortly. It is the last I saw her. Unable to handle the pain of her existence, she killed herself sometime after.

                                  I am not sure what exact relationship I had to Maca.

                                  The tragedy of the Holocaust is brought to life in my opinion by these kind of personal stories. Otherwise it is too abstract, and the enormity of it will be lost.

                                  JE comments: Sorry for the error, but I am very happy to have been mistaken about the fate of Istvan's family.  At the same time, Istvan's story underscores the sad fact that the post-Holocaust trauma was too much for many survivors to bear.

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                            • Christian X, Denmark, and the Holocaust (Anthony D`Amato, USA 08/17/12 4:00 AM)
                              Denmark is my spiritually adopted country.

                              In Italy there was no nearby country to send Jews to. So the Italians hid them in their homes, harbored them, and fed them for the duration of the war. Ilana Rovner, a good friend, was one of those who spent the war years in an Italian basement. She is now a Judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

                              JE comments: I'd welcome a note from Roy Domenico on the role of non-Jewish Italians in harboring their Jewish compatriots during the Holocaust. It's a story that's been told before, but I bet Roy could add some interesting details.

                              Remember that some 300,000 Polish Jews survived the war. As a percentage of the prewar Jewish population it's a very depressing number, but in absolute terms it far surpasses Denmark and Italy combined.  There were many very brave Christian Poles who risked their lives to help their Jewish countrymen and women.

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                              • Italy and the Holocaust (Roy Domenico, USA 08/18/12 4:13 AM)
                                In response to JE's request of 17 August, a huge amount of scholarship has been devoted to Italy and the Holocaust, and it remains a very difficult subject. However, I personally am always moved upon discovering stories of astonishing bravery and compassion from that period. How could anyone not be?

                                Briefly, Mussolini began a campaign of persecution in 1938. Despite a few anti-Semites in the Fascist movement (most notably, the one-time Party secretary Roberto Farinacci, who acted as a sort of alter ego to the Duce and who, by the way, had a Jewish secretary), Mussolini's decrees had few if any ideological roots--Jews were overrepresented in the Party until the campaign--and the decrees were clearly done to please Hitler. As one colleague put it, the Duce would sell his mother for fifty cents. The campaign has been described as one of harassment--and it was loaded with hypocrisy and graft. One of my professors was in Naples in 1939 and was in a crowd preparing to board a liner to return to the US when all the hubbub stopped for a few minutes as a band struck up patriotic songs and a motorcade pulled up for VIP treatment. Apparently it was the son of the former (Jewish) Prime Minister Sydney Sonnino, who was being kicked out of Italy. The Neapolitan Fascists, however, turned it into a big sendoff with full honors in order to send a not very warm signal to Rome. Regarding the War, volumes of material detail the efforts of Italian soldiers to save Jews from Italy's Nazi allies in Greece and occupied France.

                                Of course, on September 8, 1943 everything fell apart. Italy collapsed and the German occupation began--with Mussolini as puppet ruler. Then the roundups and deportations began. Still, the numbers show just how many Jews were sheltered and saved all across Italy. One illustration is Delasem. The Fascists had allowed the creation of the Jewish Delasem organization to assist the large number of refugees in Italy. In September 1943 the organization was abolished on paper but kept alive by underground Jews working closely with Catholic priests and monks--and it stayed in business until 1947.

                                Finally, a personal note. I met the Israeli diplomat and scholar Sergio Minerbi a few years ago at a conference, and he saw that I was working on the Catholic mayor of Florence, Giorgio La Pira, and he told me about his meeting with him. Minerbi was a native Roman (he moved to Israel after the war). During the Nazi occupation of the city (September 1943-June 1944), the teenaged Minerbi was sheltered by the Marists at the Leo the Great Institute in the capital. I believe the head of the school, don Alessandro di Pietro, received the "Righteous Gentile" honor. At one point, I'm not sure if it was at the school or at a brief period of hiding in Tuscany, the brothers accepted a group of Jewish teenagers--including Minerbi--and were allocating each of the bedrooms (cells). As they went down the row, the group stopped at one door, opened it and found La Pira who was also sheltered there--the Nazis were after him, too. "Pardon me, Professore," said the brother, "I forgot you were in here. We'll go to the next room." La Pira wouldn't hear of it--insisting that his room be given to the children while he would go outside and sleep in his car for the duration of his stay. La Pira died in 1977 and the Church has since beatified him.

                                JE comments: I'm grateful to Roy Domenico for these fascinating anecdotes. There must be countless other stories of heroism from wartime Italy.

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                              • Poland and the Holocaust; Jan T. Gross's *Neighbors* (Paul Levine, Denmark 08/18/12 4:34 AM)

                                I am glad to hear that Denmark is Anthony D'Amato's spiritually adopted country (17 August).

                                JE is certainly correct about the number of Polish Jews who survived.
                                But for a particularly vivid view of Poland's renowned anti-Semitism, I recommend
                                Jan T. Gross's remarkable book, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community
                                in Jedwabne, Poland
                                (Princeton UP, 2001). Gross recounts in detail the horrifying story
                                of how on a summer day in 1941, half of this Polish town murdered the other half--some
                                1600 Jewish men, women and children. He quotes an armed Polish soldier who said,
                                "it's a scandal that a Pole does not have the civil courage to hit a defenseless person."

                                Of course, the Poles were not alone. Gross cites a common saying among Jewish DPs:
                                "Germans would never forgive the Jews for what they had done to them."

                                JE comments:  Polish anti-Semitism, as well as the complicity of many Poles in the Holocaust, will forever be a controversial topic within Poland.  Poles today resent that they have been unduly singled out by historians such as Gross, and held in contrast against the record of other occupied nations (especially France).  Remember Pres. Obama's "Polish Death Camps" gaffe from earlier this summer. 

                                The German occupation of Poland was far harsher than in France, Italy, and Denmark, and everyone was forced into a grim struggle for survival.  Such a Hobbesian environment, while not justifying the atrocities described by Gross, nonetheless makes the individual acts of Polish heroism even more significant.

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                              • Poland and the Holocaust (Gilbert Davis, USA 08/18/12 5:27 AM)
                                I am sorry to have to add to JE's "depression" (see his comments to Anthony D'Amato's post of August 17), but of the Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust (somewhat less than 300,000), only about 70,000 were in Poland, survivors of the death camps or members of the Polish army. The largest contingent came from the Soviet Union, survivors of the 300,000 who fled east when Germany attacked Soviet-occupied Poland, in June 1941. So the actual percentage of those "rescued" is much lower than the 10%, which is often the figure given.

                                Indeed, "many brave Christians...risked their lives to help their Jewish countrymen and women"--as they did in every country where Jews were under siege--but the reason it was so easy for the Nazis to carry out their "final solution" in countries like Poland was the tradition of hate that ran long and deep. Both the pre-WWII Polish government and the Catholic Church stoked the fires of anti-Semitism, resulting in frequent pogroms throughout the country. This, sadly, was a return to the long tradition of the life of Jews in Poland during their ca. 800 years there. And as if all that were not enough, on July 4, 1946 (!), the pogrom in Kielce was just one obscene reminder of this long tradition. On that day the Jewish community center was attacked by a mob of townsfolk, which included members of the local government forces of the People's Republic of Poland, who were responding to yet another in the long history of blood libels. The violence led to the killing of about 40 Jews. Was it any wonder the Nazis built their death camps almost exclusively on Polish land?

                                And for Anthony D'Amato, who has adopted Denmark as his spiritual country (Aug 17), don't give up entirely on your fellow Italians. Though the Nazis and their over-zealous Italian fascists allies were murderous to helpless Jews wherever they could find them, in the north, along the French border, local villagers displayed heroic bravery and compassion as they hid stateless Jews who escaped the Nazi roundups in southeastern France. These villagers were fearless and tireless in their efforts to feed and shelter refugees from Vienna, Berlin and other exotic places. Also, during the time the Italian army was in charge of that sector of France, they were famously generous and protective of these stateless Jews. It was only after the Nazis took over that life became dangerous and the refugees fled north and east into Italy. Knowing of Anthony D'Amato's wide reading, I hope he will forgive my presumption if I recommend a book he has already read, but just in case, I suggest Susan Zuccotti's Holocaust Odysseys: The Jews of Saint-Martin-Vésubie and Their Flight through France and Italy (Yale, 2007). Her other books on Italy and the Holocaust are also worth reading. There he may find himself a bit more "spiritually" Italian.

                                JE comments:  See my comments to Paul Levine's post from earlier today (18 August).  I am not convinced by the argument that the Germans built so many death camps in Poland because of an inherent (Christian) Polish anti-Semitism.  It was due to where the Jewish population centers were--as well as the Nazi attitude that saw all Poles as Untermenschen.

                                Recall, as well, that some Polish cities (Bialystok, which we visited in July, comes to mind) were majority Jewish in 1939.  The Jewish population of Lublin was almost 50%.  To speak of "Polish anti-Semitism" reinforces the notion that only a Christian can be a true Pole, rather analogous to the old portrayal of Spain's "Reconquest" period as a struggle between Spaniards and Muslims/Moors.

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                                • Poland and the Holocaust (Cont.) (Gilbert Davis, USA 08/22/12 4:39 AM)
                                  This is what may be the final post on the topic re: Poland and the Holocaust, etc., because there seems too little interest in all this, though I still want to say something about the apologetics Alain de Benoist engaged in with his response about saving 75% of the French Jews.

                                  I had hoped someone else--especially someone with wider knowledge of modern Polish history than I have--would join in on this stalled discussion of the role of the Polish government and Catholic Church in the destruction of their Jewish population, but so far no takers. So, let me add a few more details, especially as they respond to John Eipper's doubts, "To speak of ‘Polish anti-Semitism' reinforces the notion that only a Christian can be a true Pole, rather analogous to the old portrayal of Spain's 'Reconquest' period as a struggle between Spaniards and Muslims/Moors" (18 August). Setting aside his arguments by analogy, the first part of JE's observation is exactly what the interwar Polish government contended and put into practice through a variety of discriminatory, anti-Jewish laws.

                                  Formed in 1919, the Republic of Poland, in signed treaties with the Allied powers, promised 1) to guarantee the civil and political equality of its minorities, 2) to protect these citizens' rights, and to guarantee all its minorities the right to their own educational, religious, charitable, and social institutions. But these guarantees were only half-heartedly implemented, and by 1934 completely renounced. During its twenty years of independence, for example, Polish universities and professional schools introduced a numerus clausus system for Jews, and increasing government economic control led to discriminatory regulations and restrictive practices that succeeded in impoverishing an already marginalized Jewish community. This wave of anti-Semitic legislation, brutal pogroms (which had been going on throughout Poland since the end of WWI), and the government's policy of "evacuating" the Jews from Poland, made Jewish life precarious at best; and if that were not enough in 1938, Polish citizenship was withdrawn from Jewish residents abroad.

                                  As for the role of the Catholic Church, its leaders were hardly more generous, the most outspoken ones downright dangerous in reinforcing a long tradition of active anti-Semitism. This history is a sad and depressing one that is better told and summarized in at least these two places:



                                  As for the placement of the death camps on Polish soil I would agree with JE that the Nazis had little regard for the Poles and had plans for them, making them little better than slaves; but the Nazis also did not want unnecessary disruption to their plans from uncooperative locals. As the discussion of the Danish heroic actions in saving their Jewish citizens (as well as in different ways with the Finns and Bulgarians), the Nazis wanted as little disruption as possible and when they came upon serious resistance they backed off, or in the case of Denmark appeared to turn a blind eye. That's why death camps were placed where they were, and at great expense to the already strained Nazi transport system. How much simpler it would have been to turn Mauthausen (Austria) into a death camp to handle those 210,000 murdered Austrians and Germans, not to mention the 450,000 Hungarians close at hand. Or perhaps it could have been Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, or Dachau (Germany). But fears of the reactions from the surrounding communities made these choices unsafe and potentially disruptive.

                                  Of the two death camps off Polish soil, Risiera di San Sabba (Trieste), run exclusively by Germans on Italian soil, the crematoria was quickly shut down after ca. 3000 Jews were murdered. Jasenovac (Yugoslavia) was used by Croatians to murder Serbs (latest estimates 50,000), though Roma (ca. 16,000), and Jews (ca. 13,000) also perished there.

                                  All this is a reminder to us that a governments, its churches and society cannot isolate, stigmatize, and promote hate of a people without serious consequences. And when the truth is known and the damage assessed it is too late to cry foul at being held responsible for those actions.

                                  As a postscript, let me add that today in Poland among young people and serious academics there is a wonderful thing going on: Departments of Jewish Studies have sprung up all over the place to meet the students' interests in studying the Jewish communities that once flourished among them. Graduate degrees are being awarded, and students are learning Yiddish and Hebrew to be able to read the texts left behind; synagogues are being restored or rebuilt and turned into town libraries or museums of the lives of this community. Much more is being done, all of it an amazing story, inspiring indeed.

                                  JE comments: One also sees many US, Canadian and Israeli Jewish tourists in today's Poland--there were a couple of busloads of them staying in our Bialystok hotel in July. Also, the Yeshiva in Lublin, once Europe's largest, is being renovated as a Jewish cultural center.

                                  Did the interwar Polish government have anti-Semitic elements? Undoubtedly. But I am uncomfortable with any suggestion that the Holocaust had an element of Polish complicity. The matter boils down to this: would there have been any death camps had Germany not invaded in September 1939? And did the German occupiers of Poland ever care for the wishes or sympathies of the Polish people?  Moreover, how could the Polish government have had a role in the destruction of its Jewish population, if after 1939 there was no Polish government (except in exile)?

                                  Finally, perhaps no single individual tried harder to stop the Holocaust than the (Christian) Pole, Jan Karski:


                                  The above article is very informative.  I've just learned, for example, that Poland was the only occupied nation where death sentences were imposed on the entire families of citizens found assisting Jews.  Still, over 6000 Poles have been named Righteous Among the Nations.

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                                  • Poland and the Holocaust (Edward Jajko, USA 08/27/12 1:39 AM)
                                    A comment or two on the recent postings about how various countries of Europe participated in the Holocaust, and especially about Poland.

                                    Pre-war, post-war, during the war, whenever and wherever, anti-Semitism was, is, and always will be wrong and reprehensible. It is inexcusable. But so is the statement of Gilbert Davis (Aug. 18) that "the reason it was so easy for the Nazis to carry out their "final solution" in countries like Poland was the tradition of hate that ran long and deep ... Was it any wonder the Nazis built their death camps almost exclusively on Polish land?"

                                    As JE pointed out, in response to Paul Levine (also Aug. 18), "The German occupation of Poland was far harsher than in France, Italy, and Denmark..." Poland was the country invaded first by the Germans, in massive ground attacks and wave after wave of aerial bombardment. The German war machine was able to operate with near impunity while Poland's supposed allies in Western Europe, who had treaty obligations to come to Poland's defense, did nothing. Two weeks into the war with Germany, Poland was invaded from the East by Hitler's new friend, Stalin, intent on a land grab and on avenging the Polish-Soviet War of 1920.

                                    (At least Poland was able to acquit itself well in its short defensive war against Germany. The Germans, when they got to march back home singing "Ade, Polen," took back with them some 18,000 dead.)

                                    The point was made in one of the postings about how Jews were saved in some other European countries--I'm not going to bother searching for the reference--and that this happened because of the assistance, tacit or otherwise, of the local governments that remained in power. Well, in Poland, the legally constituted government had to flee into exile, first to France, then to the UK, so as to maintain a semblance of Polish sovereignty. In the meantime, the victorious Germans wiped the country off the map--again--with all of Poland that had been taken by the Germans under military occupation and authority. All authority over Polish lands, those that the Soviets had not stolen, was in German hands. Walk around Warsaw even today and you will see plaques on the walls marking places where X number of civilians were murdered by the "Hitlerowcy," Hitlerites.

                                    JE noted on Aug. 14, in response to Istvan Simon, that "ninety percent of the 3.3 million prewar Jewish population [of Poland] was murdered." There is no excuse or explanation for any act of murder, whether because of anti-Semitism or otherwise. But may I dwell a moment on this statistic? Three million Polish Jews were murdered--by the Germans. I repeat: Three million Polish Jews were murdered by the Germans. Where is the true anti-Semitism? Which nation, which people, can be accused of anti-Semitism? The massacre at Jedwabne, other similar events pale in comparison with the basic fact that three million Polish Jews were murdered--by the Germans.

                                    Recall please also that death in the German extermination camps was not reserved exclusively for the Jews. Gypsies, homosexuals, minorities, and others died in the various camps. And more than two million Polish Catholics and other Christians--"ethnic Poles"--died in the camps. One out of four Catholic priests, one out of four scientists, one out of five schoolteachers--all died in a systematic campaign to kill off particular elements of society. This does not include the million or more Poles who died as a result of the Soviet occupation. In six years of war, a modern, 20th century nation lost some 20% of its population--a figure reminiscent of the medieval Black Death--thanks to the Germans and Russians, the Nazis and Soviets.

                                    JE made a point in a response to a posting that the extermination camps were in Poland because that was where the largest population of Jews existed, indeed then the largest population of Jews in the world. The territory was also designated to be cleared of all subhuman elements--not just Jews but all other Poles as well--for the new Lebensraum. All of us vermin had to be cleared out to make way for the master race.

                                    Why was this community so large? Could it have been that in the 800-odd years of its existence, ever since Jews were invited into Poland to escape persecution in German lands, their numbers flourished and grew?

                                    I followed much of the discussion about the Holocaust and how it was handled in various European countries. I didn't read everything, because one can only take so much. But I noticed an interesting and, to me, frankly disturbing shift in meanings. In a couple of the postings, various countries--Denmark, Finland, etc.--were mentioned as were the comparatively low numbers of Jews deported from those countries. The reasons were given as citizens who helped the Jews, assistance groups, non-compliant local governments. Then on Aug. 14, Anthony D'Amato wrote, thanking Alain de Benoist for reading and correcting his postings. His paragraph 3 shows the semantic shift:

                                    "3. Alain quotes my statement, 'Puppet Vichy was more vicious toward French Jews than Hitler was toward German Jews.' Alain corrects me by saying that the proportion of French Jews who became victims of the Holocaust was lower than in other occupied countries. He could have strengthened his own case against me by mentioning Poland, where the extinction rate was close to 100%..."

                                    This is apples and oranges, comparing two entirely different situations. Not comparative levels of anti-Semitism, but totally different regimes, with completely different circumstances.

                                    As indeed is the case with Denmark, Finland, and the other countries that have been discussed, with the exception of Hungary. Poland, as noted above, was divided by Germany and Russia. The lands under German rule were not in the hands of Polish civilian government but under German military rule. Poland has historically been the victim of its geography. If there is anyone who doesn't believe in unfortunate geography, look at a map of France and Belgium and read all the names that are so familiar from WWI and WWII. Why are they familiar? They were on or in the way of invading forces. So has been Poland, stuck between Germany and Russia.

                                    Nevertheless, as JE reminded us in a recent posting, what city in Europe rose twice against the Germans? First, there was the ill-fated Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. This month, we commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, one of the great battles of WWII, and sadly, the forgotten battle, when a couple of hundred thousand Polish volunteers tied down a German army and held it tied down for four months. The fighters waited in vain for help from London and from the Soviet force that sat across the Wisla river, in Praga, waiting for the Germans to eliminate the non-Communists. If any WAISers have visited Warsaw and have wondered why the city looks like it does, it is because, in addition to the damage inflicted in the 1939 attack and during the next several years, the Germans were so angered by the 1944 uprising that, after its defeat, they deliberately and systematically burned and dynamited much of the remainder of the city, saving only those areas in which their own forces were billeted.

                                    I recall that much was made in early postings in the WWII thread (previously entered under USSR/Russia) about the work of Bletchley Park, the role of the RAF in the Battle of Britain, and even Gen. De Gaulle. I am happy to mention that the German Enigma code was first cracked by Polish mathematicians, who took their results by immensely difficult routes to the UK. Likewise, the Polish airmen of the RAF 303 Squadron and others made a significant and perhaps essential contribution to the Battle of Britain. And, with all respect to Gen. De Gaulle, it should be remembered that free Polish forces formed one of the largest elements of the Allied armies. Some sources say the Poles were the fourth largest force, others the fifth, others the sixth or seventh. They notably fought at Monte Cassino and elsewhere in Europe and in the Middle East. But, thanks to their country's being sold out by the Yalta agreement, no Polish forces marched in the grand parade of representatives of supposedly all fighting forces that was held in London in 1946.

                                    To get back to the original subject: there is a strange anti-Polonism that I find hard to understand. Of course, I am a Roman Catholic Polish American, not a Jew. But I have studied and learned Hebrew and managed a major Judaica collection in a world-class Ivy League university. I trained Jews who worked for me in cataloging and other aspects of librarianship, while I in turn learned much from them. I even taught one Jewish assistant, fluent in Hebrew, the rudiments of Yiddish. I have dealt with Judaica faculty in two major universities and with Jewish book dealers in the US, Israel, and other countries, as well as numerous scholars in Jewish, Biblical, and Religious studies, and with major donors to a Judaica program. I participated in mounting a months-long exhibition of Judaic materials in the library I worked in, that included materials ranging over four thousand years of history, important manuscripts, and the rich holdings of historical materials that my library had collected from its founding in colonial times. Yet I note that that Ivy League university for which I worked in the 1970s and early 80s also had had a "numerus clausus," and that the admission of Jews was restricted until relatively recent years.

                                    I find Gilbert Davis's and Paul Levine's feelings difficult to accept. We are, of course, on opposite sides of ethnic, religious, and historic fences. I'm not going to convince them and this posting will probably just add fuel to the flames. It is curious, however, that the State of Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany are moderately good friends. The BRD paid reparations to Israel over many years and to a certain extent the slate was wiped clean. (The DDR always claimed to be the "good" and real Germany, and never admitted any guilt or responsibility, and always avoided payment of any reparations--which, in any event, would likely have been worthless.) But animus towards Poland and Poles remains. Yitzhak Shamir, former prime minister of Israel who died recently, infamously said 20 or more years ago that Poles take in anti-Semitism with their mother's milk. But I have to repeat here what I said above: Three million Polish Jews were murdered--by the Germans. To me, and I dare say to most Poles, that is the most important fact. It is not an excuse for anything that Poles did; it is not by way of an attempt to explain anything away. It is simple, bald fact. Three million Polish Jews were murdered by the Germans. Some two million other Poles were murdered by the Germans.

                                    Gilbert Davis, writing on Aug. 18, advised that Anthony D'Amato, who professed Denmark as his spiritual country, not give up on Italy. He mentions instances of Italians harboring and protecting Jewish refugees. I mentioned above the German military march "Ade, Polen." I have a copy of that march on one of three or four CDs of authentic German military music from WWII that I bought a few years ago in Rome, in an extraordinarily well-stocked and very busy Fascist book store. There were two floors of books on Fascism and fascists and on modern history, politics, and economics. There was also a display of CDs--a shelf of Italian fascisti albums and various rather vicious looking German ones, some of which I bought. I have been able to listen to only a couple of songs, but it's too horrible to hear those actual soldiers of the day singing. (One or two of the songs, including "Ade, Polen," were used by the Hoover Institution for an archival display on the war.) Fascism is legal and alive and well in Italy. So much for Italy and spirituality.

                                    JE comments: A most eloquent and thorough response from Edward Jajko. Poland is still maligned for WWII and the Holocaust, despite its bravery and sacrifice. No nation suffered more during the conflict, and its suffering continued for another 40 + years afterwards. In some very tangible ways, as Ed points out, it continues still.

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                                    • Poland and the Holocaust (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 08/27/12 11:27 AM)
                                      Everything which Ed Jajko writes (27 August) agrees with what I know about Poland in WWII. I don't know what factual basis there is to the idea that Poles were particularly anti-Semitic--I have read nothing anywhere to support this idea. Just to name one data point contrary to this idea--the Polish Pope John Paul II, bringing to the papacy his own experiences in wartime Poland, did more towards building a relationship of trust and amity between Catholics and Jews than any other Christian in the history of Christianity. Besides that, Poland, despite the viciously harsh occupation by the Nazis, quite unlike the Nazi occupation of Denmark, maintained an entire organization to save Jews, the Zegota, which according to the Holocaust Research Project, was the only government-financed organization in Europe set up to save Jews (see: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/revolt/zegota.html).

                                      The underground Polish Home Army imposed the death penalty on Poles who blackmailed or betrayed Jews to the Nazis (ibid). And of all of the Europeans honored as Righteous Among the Gentiles by Israel, the greatest number are Poles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Righteous_among_the_Nations). This record is all the more remarkable considering the incredible suffering the Poles themselves were enduring under Nazi occupation, something quite unlike what was experienced by the Danes, the French, or the Dutch. In my opinion, the rescue of the Danish Jews during a lax occupation under the eyes of Nazi soldiers who did nothing to stop it, with the tacit approval of the Nazi commandant, is simply not comparable, to the heroism under incredible conditions and risk of certain death displayed by so many Poles in rescuing Jews from the Nazis (which of course takes nothing away from how wonderful it is, that the Danish Jews were all rescued).

                                      And no country suffered in the war like Poland, caught literally between the two main combatants, Germany and the Soviet Union, and subject to the most vicious ravages of the Nazis and Soviets alike, who raped, pillaged, and slaughtered Polish civilians who were entirely helpless due to the early collapse of the Polish government, ravaging the entire haunted Polish land, eventually resulting in the extermination of 16% or more of the population of Poland, more than any other country in WWII. Despite this, the Poles managed to put a quarter of a million soldiers in the field against the Nazis and fight from beginning to end of the conflict. The Poles definitely did not "make the Final Solution easier" in any way, and like Ed, I found Gilbert Davis's comment to be quite inaccurate.

                                      JE comments: I cannot be impartial when it comes to Poland, but I am grateful to Ed Jajko and Cameron Sawyer for their thoughts of today.  I wonder how instrumental Jan Gross's book Neighbors has been in informing the rise in anti-Polish sentiment vis a vis the Holocaust?

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                                      • Poland and Anti-Semitism (Henry Levin, USA 08/28/12 6:15 AM)
                                        I think that JE's conclusion and the descriptions by Ed Jajko and Cameron Sawyer (27 August) are well-meaning, but incomplete. Forty years ago my wife told me about her education in Colegios de Monjas (Catholic Nuns' Schools) in Spain. She had been taught in every school and grade that the Jews were Christ-killers and took the blood of Catholic children for their rituals (the blood libel). One child who had heard that Jesus was a Jew asked about this and was punished severely and as an object lesson for telling a vicious lie.

                                        I had a bunch of Polish neighbors and colleagues at that time, who all went to Catholic schools in Poland in the 1950s. They all reported the same pattern of school teachings. If Jews were mentioned, it was always that they were evil and treacherous and murdered our Lord.

                                        I am sure that there were many heroic and decent Poles as JE, Ed Jajko, and Cameron Sawyer maintain. But, I think that you will find that the overall climate about Jews was toxic and largely based upon religious teachings (my understanding is that all Polish schools taught religion on the basis of these official views of the Church regarding Jews). When Jews returned from the concentration camps to their Polish villages, they were attacked. There are a number of sources on these issues that should be referred to before you conclude with such a sunny summary of behavior and tolerance.

                                        The Jews were historically treated as outsiders in Poland, and I have checked many sources on the web. Read, in particular, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz by Princeton professor Jan Gross.

                                        JE comments:  Aldona just told me that during her public school education in the 1970s and '80s, there was no religious component whatsoever.  It may have been different in the '50s.  The Socialist school system tended to be one of neglect or denial when it came to Poland's Jewish past.  Aldona only learned years later about her city's (Lublin) vibrant Jewish culture prior to the war.

                                        We've mentioned Prof. Gross's writings a couple of times on WAIS, and I wondered how much he's contributed to the common belief that Poland was and is particularly anti-Semitic.  Wikipedia reports that Ghetto Uprising commander Marek Edelman and Michael Schudrich, Poland's Chief Rabbi, have questioned Gross's interpretations.  Edelman, who passed away in 2009, is considered one of the most heroic Poles of modern times.

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                                        • Catholic Education and Anti-Semitism (John Heelan, UK 08/31/12 7:15 AM)
                                          Henry Levin wrote on 28 August: "The overall climate about Jews was toxic and largely based upon religious teachings (my understanding is that all Polish schools taught religion on the basis of these official views of the Church regarding Jews)."

                                          Not so in the UK. As a cradle Catholic, my preschool was in a convent, my primary school was linked to the local Catholic Church, as was my secondary school in which the teaching staff were mainly priests and we had our own chapel at which we attended services each week. The headmaster was a canon of Westminster Cathedral. I do not recall the "blood libel" or "Jews killed Christ" being taught at any time in those 10 years or so, nor in the subsequent 20 years of being a regular churchgoer. So either the "official views regarding Jews" did not exist by then or they did not permeate the UK.

                                          JE comments: I'm reluctant to reveal the age of individual WAISers, but I'm quite sure John Heelan's early schooling was prior to Vatican II.  It would appear that Catholic education was markedly different in the UK and Spain during this time.  During my semester in Granada in 1985, I heard the "Christ killer" trope hurled at Jewish friends more than once.  The accusers, however, were from the older demographic.

                                          I find it strange that we've been focusing on Polish anti-Semitism, when there's Spain.  Perhaps the latter case is too historically remote.  Or too obvious... (?)

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                                          • Catholic Education and Anti-Semitism (Paul Pitlick, USA 08/31/12 1:15 PM)

                                            I grew up in Southern California, and went to Catholic schools up to and including a graduate degree, both in California and the Midwest. My experience mirrors John Heelan's (31 August), but I'd go a little further. Jews were rarely mentioned, neither positively or negatively. The Romans killed Christ, and Catholics were the chosen people--and there wasn't any need for the Jews in either discussion!

                                            JE comments:  The Protestant version always blames the Romans, too:  "He suffered under Pontius Pilate..."


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                                            • Catholic Education, Anti-Semitism, and a (Fictional?) Christ (Anthony D`Amato, USA 09/01/12 7:18 AM)
                                              "The Jews killed Christ" is the worst calumny in the history of the world.

                                              So why don't scholars in general, and/or Jewish scholars in particular, disseminate recent scholarship supporting the thesis that Jesus Christ was a fictional character and not a real person who walked the Earth?


                                              Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries (2001)

                                              Robert M. Price, The Christ-Myth Theory and its Problems (2011)

                                              John W. Loftus, The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (2010)

                                              Also: Google "Was Christ a real person." The first item that comes up, "Did Jesus Christ Really Live" has an essay and an extensive bibliography under the headings "Bookstore" and "Library."  There are many other entries on both sides of this issue.

                                              JE comments: This is a controversy that goes to the heart of Western civilization--the Christian and Muslim religions, for starters. Isn't it commonly accepted and cross-referenced that Christ is a historical figure, whether or not one believes in His divinity?

                                              I'm scheduled to sit in on a Bible in History class at Adrian College next week.  I'll float this question to my colleague, Dr. Scott Elliott, who's spent his career studying the historical Christ.

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                                      • Poland and the Holocaust (Paul Levine, Denmark 08/28/12 4:55 PM)
                                        I was moved by Edward Jajko's passionate defense of Poland and the Holocaust (27 August).

                                        But I was puzzled when Cameron Sawyer added later that day: "I don't know what factual basis there is to the idea that Poles were particularly anti-Semitic--I have read nothing anywhere to support this idea." Let me just quote from one authoritative source, Lucy Davidowicz's The War Against the Jews: 1933-1953 (1975):

                                        "The republic of Poland had come into being in 1919, after its representatives has signed a treaty with the Allied powers, promising to guarantee the civil and political equality of its minorities, to safeguard their rights as citizens, and in addition, to extend to all minorities the right to establish their own educational, religious, charitable, and social institutions. From the start these guarantees were never fully implemented, and in 1934 they were completely renounced. Pogroms marked the inauguration of Poland's independence and were a recurring phenomenon in the twenty years of independent Poland. Universities and professional schools introduced a numerus clausus system for Jews. The government's growing control of economic life was accompanied by discriminatory regulations and restrictive practices the succeeded in impoverishing the Jewish community. The rise of Nazism in Germany and, following Marshal Pilsudski's death in 1935, Poland's accelerating fascist course brought near-disaster to the Jewish community. A torrent of anti-Semitic legislation, brutal pogroms, and an official government policy of 'evacuating' the Jews from Poland overwhelmed them. In 1938 laws were enacted withdrawing Polish citizenship from Jews resident abroad."

                                        That was Poland then. I'm sure Poland now is another country.

                                        In the 1980s I lectured at Polish universities several times and encountered only traditional Polish courtesy and hospitality.

                                        But even then Polish colleagues told me tales of recurrent anti-Semitism during the Communist regime.

                                        JE comments:  It would be instructive to compare the treatment of the Polish Jewish population prior to independence--in Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary--with the situation of the 1930s.  (I mean the Jewish population in the region comprising today's Poland.)  I'm pretty sure that those under Russian control pre-1919 fared the worst.  Although the 1930s paled in comparison to the '40s, these were times of egregious anti-Semitism throughout much of the world.

                                        Perhaps this is too personal a topic for me, but I'd like to renew Edward Jajko's eloquent appeal of 27 August, to stop singling out Poland for Holocaust crimes.  Poland was victimized more than any nation during the war, and few others were as heroic.

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                                      • John XXIII and Catholic-Jewish Relations (Gilbert Davis, USA 08/31/12 1:26 AM)
                                        I would like to respond to Cameron Sawyer's August 27 post, wherein he writes, "I don't know what factual basis there is to the idea that Poles were particularly anti-Semitic--I have read nothing anywhere to support this idea." I suggest he have a look at either (or both) of the articles I included in my August 22 post, or better yet make a bibliographical search of the literature. That will turn up more than enough books and articles to convince any fair-minded reader.

                                        As for Pope John Paul II's considerable efforts to build a "relationship of trust and amity between Catholics and Jews," I certainly agree. But the real credit for changing the Church's teachings about Jews goes to Pope John XXIII, who called for the Second Vatican Council in January 1959, a short three months after his election. Sadly, he didn't live to see the work done, but his influence was alive in the Council's adoption of Nostra Aetate, which finally absolved Jews, living both in the time of Christ and today, of responsibility for the death of Christ. As the document says: "True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today." Would that Church officials had been as passionate and determined in carrying out this teaching as John XXIII was in ending this long-held, dangerous slander. As his heroic work saving European Jews during WWII clearly indicates, this reform held great importance to him.

                                        JE comments:  John XXIII's papacy lasted slightly less than five years, but he was ill from September 1962 through his death in June 1963.  He was probably the most energetic modernizer of the RC Church in modern times.  I won't go into matters of doctrine, but one can assume the Church would look different today if John had lived another five or ten years.

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                                    • Poland and Anti-Semitism (Gilbert Davis, USA 08/29/12 2:33 AM)
                                      In response to Edward Jajko (27 August), the confusion in this discussion of the fate of Polish Jews has been fueled by something other than what characterizes the usual, thoughtful WAIS postings. Perhaps we are being driven by that old political maxim, "Where you come out on a subject depends on where you went in." But to be accused of being a Polish hater because I summarized the Polish government's legal behavior toward Jews between 1919-39 and also supplied two articles summarizing the church's actions and inactions regarding the growing anti-Semitism during these years, surprises and disappoints me. But in the end I have not changed my speculations, drawn from these facts and sources, supplemented by a whole lot of reading ranging from Raul Hilberg to Timothy Snyder.

                                      Let me begin by saying how much I admire Edward Jajko for his many achievements as a librarian, mentor and scholar of Judaica. But yet I find nothing in his response--nor in Cameron Sawyer's later post, of which I will have more to say at another time, after I have finally cut the grass--has changed my mind. The central point of my August 18 and 22 posts was that the contrast between Poland (one could add Hungary, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, etc.) and those other countries that either rescued their Jews or simply would not comply with Nazi demands to give them up, is that the people and governments of these countries were not poisoned by years of publicly accepted anti-Semitism, be it from the church or officialdom.

                                      Now, I have been very careful to recognize that individuals and even clandestine groups risked everything to save friends, neighbors, and downright strangers. These people are the real heroes in this sordid chapter of human degradation; but no amount of individual heroism can offset what was being done in plain view. The government was indifferent to the many, many pogroms that went on throughout the interwar years; loss of Jewish lives and property was freely tolerated. Add to this a church that not only knew what was going on before 1939, but either kept silent, thereby forfeiting its moral authority, or worse yet added its voice to the rampant anti-Semitism.. In the face of all this, what were ordinary citizens to think about these unholy, outcast people in their midst? All that was required was the agent to do the bloody deed.

                                      So that readers will not miss my main point, let me remind them that only the scale of such potential disasters has changed in the West. In Israel today we are seeing the makings of a mini version of this in the unholy behavior of nine Israeli teenagers who attempted to lynch an Arab youth in Jerusalem earlier this month. Where did these young people get the idea that such behavior was acceptable, if not from the pronouncements of too many Israeli leaders, not only in the Knesset but in religious life as well? One could also add to these outrages the many unprovoked attacks settlers have launched against their Arab neighbors. Though these examples are on a minor scale, compared to the actions we are discussing (though hardly minor to the young man who was lynched), they show the same symptoms of learned behavior. Now the Israeli government will be launching a large-scale education program to overcome all the damage done by some of its leaders in the court of public opinion.

                                      JE comments: One question that forever sticks in my mind concerns the concentration camp Majdanek, which is just outside the center of Aldona's native city, Lublin. It is clear to me that the residents of Lublin knew what was happening in the camp. Of course, given the horrors of the Nazi occupation of their city, they were powerless to do anything about it.

                                      May I raise a hypothetical?  Let us suppose that Poland's government of the 1930s had been every bit as philo-Semitic as it had been seven or eight centuries earlier.  Given the harsh German occupation of WWII, would this have made any difference in terms of lives saved? 

                                      Next in this thread is a note from Istvan Simon.

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                                    • Poland and the Holocaust (Istvan Simon, USA 08/29/12 2:52 AM)
                                      I am honored to be Ed Jajko's friend. I have great admiration for his deep knowledge of Semitic languages, and his magnificent character as a human being.

                                      On the subject of the Holocaust and Poland (see Ed's post of 27 August), I think that there is both good and bad to say. Perhaps more good than bad. I start out with the good:

                                      The first Polish name I want to honor here is that of Karol Wojtyla, better known as Pope John Paul II. I quote from Wikipedia:

                                      As a boy, Wojtyła was athletic, often playing football as goalkeeper. During his childhood, Wojtyła had contact with Wadowice's large Jewish community. School football games were often organised between teams of Jews and Catholics, and Wojtyła often played on the Jewish side. "I remember that at least a third of my classmates at elementary school in Wadowice were Jews. At elementary school there were fewer. With some I was on very friendly terms. And what struck me about some of them was their Polish patriotism." Wojtyła's first, and possibly only, love affair was with a Jewish girl, Ginka Beer, who was described as "slender," "a superb actress," and "having stupendous dark eyes and jet black hair."

                                      There is no doubt in my mind that Karol Wojtyla was a great man, and that on the subject of the Holocaust his heart was on the side of the righteous, and grieving and sympathetic for the Jews that were being massacred by the Nazis.

                                      The second Polish name I want to honor here is that of Jan Karski, the Messenger from Poland.


                                      Karski's services for the Jews were honored by Israel. A man of extraordinary dignity and great intelligence, Karski was smuggled in and out of a death camp, so he could relate to the Allies what he had seen. As a messenger for the Polish resistance to the Allied authorities, he tried his best to make the Allies aware of the industrialized murder that was being perpetrated by the Nazis at the death camps. He met Anthony Eden, President Roosevelt, Felix Frankfurter, a pompous Jewish lawyer advising President Roosevelt, and many other authorities. His testimony in the documentary "Messenger from Poland" is perhaps the most touching I have ever seen on the subject of the Holocaust.

                                      When he told Felix Frankfurter that Jews were being systematically murdered in the death camps, Frankfurter told him: "Mr. Karski, I am unable to believe you." Karski, indignant, replied, "Are you calling me a liar?" To which Frankfurter replied: "I did not say you are a liar, just that I am unable to believe you."

                                      Perhaps we should not be too harsh on Frankfurter, for the truth of the death camps was so horrible that it defied credibility. Nonetheless, Frankfurter comes off as an ass, for the character of Karski should have been obvious to him from his demeanor alone, and there were independent reports about the Holocaust to which he should have been privy as a member of Roosevelt's government.

                                      When he met President Roosevelt, the President said to him: "Mr. Karski, we shall prevail in this war."

                                      When he met some other authority, I forget who it was, he asked Karski: "Mr. Karski, isn't it interesting that Jews have been persecuted for thousands of years? Why do you suppose that is?"

                                      The documentary "Messenger from Poland" is a terrible indictment of the Allies for apparent indifference to the fate of the Jews. It should be required viewing of everyone with an interest in these matters.

                                      The third Polish name I would like to honor here was the subject of a beautiful movie called The Pianist. It tells the moving story of survival of a Jewish pianist,


                                      ... in war-time Poland. Szpilman survived thanks to the help of Catholics who had known him prior to the Nazi invasion. They hid him in safe houses, fed him, (not always--at one point the man that was supposed to deliver his food stole the money instead). But nonetheless, Szpilman survived.

                                      The full horror of the cruelty and debasement of human beings that took place during the war and the Holocaust, is brought home in the movie, and in Szpillman's book, when an SS officer finds Szpilman, asks him to play the piano, and then gives him shelter, clothes, and food in the final days of the war in Poland. As the Russians liberate Poland from the Nazis, the SS officer that helped Szpilman survives, falls into Russian hands and becomes a prisoner of war. Though Szpilman tries his best to exonerate him, he never returns to his family. The officer dies at the hands of the Russians.

                                      Now for the bad. One of my best friends is a Polish Jew who grew up in Brazil like I did. He was born in Tashkent, during the war, where his parents had fled from Poland to escape persecution. Most Polish Jews I knew complained bitterly of the anti-Semitism they encountered in Poland. There is some proof of this, in spite of the many righteous Poles that acted honorably, like the names I mentioned above. Ed Jajko himself mentioned an event in his post that is partial testimony of this anti-Semitism that did exist in Poland.

                                      Poland resisted the Nazis' initial brutal invasion and valiantly fought the invading Nazis. The Germans suffered 18,000 dead, as Ed Jajko already pointed out. But the valiant resistance of the brave Poles was smashed by the Nazis in the first example of Blitzkrieg that the world had ever seen in only a few days of brutal relentless combat. The technologically superior and ruthless Nazi force prevailed over the Poles with inferior resources except in their bravery and heart.

                                      Poland was brutally subjugated and the Jews were herded into the terrible inhumane conditions of the Warsaw ghetto. Almost as soon as the Jews were imprisoned there, the Jewish resistance and the Polish resistance established valuable channels of communication. Weapons were smuggled into the ghetto by children and others. They were then hidden and the uprising that were to come organized. All of this is of course part of the good in this account. Then the Warsaw ghetto uprising happened. From April 19, 1943, to May 16 1943, an extraordinarily unequal fight took place. On one side the Jewish resistance with little more than its wits and courage but desperately determined to give the Nazis what they deserved. On the other side a well-equipped army whose deathly equipment was only matched by its ruthless hatred of the brave souls fighting it with their nails and teeth.

                                      Wikipedia gives the German casualties at 16 dead and 85 wounded--but these are German figures and I wonder if they can be believed. For the Jews, about 13,000 killed and about 57,000 deported, again German estimates. Frankly, I don't believe the low German death casualties. They must be off by at least a factor of 20. Just my feeling of what must have happened when people ready to die fight evil with the determination of lions.

                                      Now for the bad about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Polish resistance did everything it could to help the Jewish resistance. But the general population of Warsaw was coolly indifferent to the Jews that were being massacred in the uprising. No doubt they hated the Nazis, but because of anti-Semitism in Poland they were relatively passive during the month of ferocious combat in the Ghetto.

                                      JE comments: The very few survivors of the Ghetto Uprising (such as one of my heroes, Marek Edelman) were hidden by members of the Resistance on the "Gentile" side of Warsaw.

                                      To Istvan Simon's list of heroes, I would also like to add Janusz Korczak, physician, children's book author and founder of a Warsaw orphanage. "Pan Doktor" was offered his freedom in 1942, but he chose instead to accompany his beloved orphans to their deaths in Treblinka:


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                                • Poland and the Holocaust; Jason Francisco (John Recchiuti, USA 08/22/12 5:21 AM)
                                  With regard to the WAIS thread on Poland and the Holocaust: Jason Francisco, a student of mine in 1985, now professor of photography at Emory University, has been engaged in a Holocaust and memory project for three years. Here is some of his work. It may be worth simply scrolling down the page to examine his photographs in quick order and then returning, where you find interest, to his text:









                                  JE comments:  When I visited John Recchiuti in Alliance, OH ten days ago, he introduced me to Jason Francisco's haunting photographs of Poland.  I'm grateful that John has now shared Jason's work with WAISdom.  The written comments are every bit as moving as the images.

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                          • Denmark and the Holocaust (Alain de Benoist, France 08/17/12 3:39 AM)
                            Istvan Simon (15 August) related the nice story about the Danish King Christian X which would explain why most of the Danish Jews survived the Holocaust: "When the Nazis ordered Jews to wear a yellow star, Christian X went on his daily horseback ride wearing a yellow star. This gesture galvanized Danish Society."

                            This story is today universally recognized as an invention. It is just a myth, to use Holger Terp's words (16 August): "The story of the king and yellow star is a myth." Moreover, "the Germans never imposed the yellow star marking on Denmark" (John Eipper, 15 August). In France, the Germans did not require the infamous yellow star marking in the Southern zone, prior to its invasion in November 1942.

                            The story about the King and the star was certainly popularized by Leon Uris in his famous novel Exodus. But it was invented before, namely in the offices of the National Denmark America Association, where a handful of Danish nationals has opened a propaganda unit called "Friends of Danish Freedom and Democracy," which published a bulletin called The Danish Listening Post. This group hired Edward L. Bernays, "the father of Public Relation and Spin," as a consultant (see Bernays' autobiography, Biography of an Idea. Memoirs of Public Relations Counsel, Simon & Schuster, 1965). Whether Bernays was himself the inventor of the story about the Danish King is not known.

                            The reasons why 99% of the Denmark Jewish population fortunately survived the Holocaust are certainly numerous: mass-scale support from the population, help from the Resistance, absence of anti-Semitism in Denmark, etc. The particular conditions of the German occupation of the country have also to be considered. When Denmark was occupied by the Wehrmacht on 9 April 1940, King Christian X chose to remain in power, unlike most heads of State under Nazi German occupation, along with the Danish Parliament (which resigned on 29 September 1943). It is known that Nazi Germany wanted to make occupied Denmark appear like a "model protectorate."

                            The personal role played by the Reich Plenipotentiary (Reichsbevollmächtigter) Werner Best also has to be considered. A senior General SS and Security Police leader, who was previously posted in Paris, Best, born in 1903, was the top German civil authority in Denmark from November 1942 to May 1945. He was a very strange character who seems to have belonged to some "oppositional" faction inside the SS. When Hitler ordered Danish Jews to be arrested and deported on October 1943, he showed for whatever reason some reluctance to obey the orders. According to the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team, "there is evidence that in Denmark Best sought to sabotage Himmler's orders concerning the implementation of the ‘Final Solution.' Only 477 out of more than 7,000 Danish Jews were finally rounded up by the Nazis who were forbidden by Best to break into Jewish apartments. Pre-warned, the majority of Danish Jews were able, with help, to escape to Sweden and safely."

                            According to the Danish Jewish Museum (Dansk Jødisk Museum), "Werner Best, the supreme commander in Denmark, was personally deeply involved in ensuring that the Danish Jews were warned before the roundup was carried out on October 1, 1943 [...] The available German police force was not put into action against the flight of the Jews after the roundup on October 1. Persecution of the fleeing Jews and coast patrolling was only assigned to a small group of Gestapo men."

                            Werner Best was sentenced to death by a Danish court in 1948, but his sentence was reduced to 12 years in prison, in part due to his ambiguous role in the roundup of Jews, and he was granted a clemency release in August 1951.

                            An interesting and very long (700 pages) biography of Werner Best was published some years ago by Ulrich Herbert: Best. Biographische Studien über Radikalismus, Weltanschauung und Vernunft, 1903-1989, Dietz, Bonn, 1996. There is also a French translation.

                            The book written by Richard H. Weisberg, Vichy Law and the Holocaust in France (NYU Press, New York, 1996), quoted by Gilbert Davis (15 August), is much more interesting for jurists than for historians. The author is himself a professor of constitutional law at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York, and has been deeply involved in the "Law and Literature movement." The French edition of his book (Vichy, la justice et les Juifs, Editions des Archives contemporaines, 1998) is not a simple translation: some parts of the content have been substantially changed, there are 8 chapters instead of 10, etc.

                            JE comments: Most interesting. The proximity of neutral Sweden should also be stressed as a factor which enabled so many Jewish Danes to survive.

                            Werner Best is certainly one of the more enigmatic Nazi figures--somewhat Schindler-like, although I cannot imagine a sympathetic film on an SS officer ever coming out of Hollywood.

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                            • Denmark and the Holocaust; Response from Prof. Leo Goldberger (John Eipper, USA 08/29/12 2:01 AM)
                              Leo Goldberger, Professor Emeritus of New York University and editor of The Rescue of the Danish Jews: Moral Courage Under Stress, NYU Press, 1987, sent me this response to Alain de Benoist's post of 17 August. I am pleased to share Prof. Goldberger's comment with WAIS:

                              The Danish government resigned on August 29, 1943, not in September.

                              The idea that Dr. Werner Best belonged to an "oppositional faction within the SS" needs some sort of source evidence--as does the notion that he was somehow "Schindler-like." To the best of my knowledge, Best was a committed and very ambitious opportunistic Nazi who did not refrain from the double-play, pleasing both his bosses in Berlin while also trying to secure the cooperation of the Danes--after all the Germans needed the Danes for food and other important supplies.

                              What is missing in Alain de Benoist's account of Denmark during the occupation years is the role of Ferdinand Duckwitz, the German Naval official and a close confidant of Best's, who strongly objected to Best's impulsive telegram to Hitler on September 8, 1943, which initiated the plans for the round-up of the Danish Jews--and which he subsequently attempted to undo with the help of Duckwitz.

                              And while I agree that the proximity of Sweden played a major role in the success of the rescue, I might also add that the inter-service rivalry (as between the SS and the Wehrmacht) also played a significant role, as did the rage of many Danes at the inhumanity shown by the Germans in picking on their Danish-Jewish friends and neighbors---who, after all, had done absolutely nothing against the Germans. In the absence of King, government, and Danish police enforcing the edict against opposition to the Germans, they simply expressed their individual protest and rage against the German occupiers by helping their neighbors, whether Jew or not.

                              JE comments: Leo Goldberger grew up in Denmark and escaped as a youth in October 1943. Prof. Goldberger's Wikipedia biography gives additional information on his fascinating life and research in psychology:


                              One small clarification:  I was the one, not Alain de Benoist, who drew the parallel between Werner Best and Oskar Schindler.  It's perhaps inevitable that any Nazi who saved some Jewish lives will be compared to OS.

                              Finally, I just noted that August 29 (1943), the day the Danish government resigned, was 69 years ago today.  Quite uncanny.

                              Great to hear from Leo Goldberger.

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                              • Resignation of Danish Government, August 1943 (Holger Terp, Denmark 08/29/12 12:45 PM)

                                Leo Goldberger (29 August) wrote that the Danish government resigned on August 29, 1943.

                                This is not correct, legally or historically. All sources say that the coalition government submitted its resignation to the King ... and ceased to work.

                                The Department Chiefs Regime / Departementchefsstyret continued the Danish state's functions until Liberation.

                                The resignation application from the coalition government was never acted upon by the King, with the result among other things, that the ministers' salaries were paid up to and including the Liberation.

                                JE comments:  Is Holger saying that the government resigned, but the King never allowed them to? 

                                What would be the best English translation of Departementchefsstyret?  (I think) I've found several options on the Internet, such as "High-Ranking Civil Servants' Regime."

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                                • Resignation of Danish Government, August 1943 (Continued) (Holger Terp, Denmark 08/30/12 6:55 AM)
                                  Following up on my comments of 29 August, the resignation of the government is one of the many still unexplored mysteries of the German occupation of Denmark.

                                  Under normal circumstances--and according to the the Constitution--the Danish king should automatically accept a government's resignation, and call general elections. The Constitution Art. 15 states that the government must either resign or call an election if a majority in parliament says it lacks confidence in the Prime Minister. During or after the 1920 Easter crisis, King Christian X dismissed the Zahle government. Subsequently, the King promised to respect parliamentarianism as customary law and not to be active in policy. Denmark since 1901 has been formulated as negative parliamentarianism, meaning a government shall resign when there is a majority in parliament against it.

                                  The government's resignation application of 1943 was never debated in parliament and elections were not called for in August-September 1943. The general election on March 23, 1943 was the only election during the occupation.

                                  What actually happened at Amalienborg in the days after 29 August 1943 is still a mystery.

                                  JE comments: How independent was the Danish parliament during occupation? I know very little about this topic, but I sense it was given a good deal of governing power, perhaps more than any other nation under German control. Is this an accurate interpretation?

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                                • on Departementchefsstyret; Comment from Leo Goldberger (John Eipper, USA 08/31/12 2:01 AM)

                                  Leo Goldberger (Prof. Emeritus, NYU) sent this note in response to Holger Terp's post of 29 August:

                                  Needless to say, I could readily have provided a detailed historical account of the political, constitutional and legal contexts within which the break between the German occupiers and the Danish government took place on August 29th 1943, but it would require a much more systematic exposition than I was prepared to do in a brief posting. But whether or not the "break" is to be characterized as a resignation is essentially the sort of polemical nitpicking that, in my view at least, is of little import in a brief and essentially a more general discussion. To simply dismiss my claim as "not correct" is pretty high-handed.

                                  JE asked me in a personal note to explain the Danish "Departmentchefsstyret," brought up in Holger's post.

                                  They were the permanent non-political (i.e. civil service) department heads of the various ministries, who since August 29th had looked after the day-to-day business of government as an interim measure after their politically appointed ministers had resigned en masse. In the course of September an arrangement emerged, with the approval of the Danish political parties and the acquiescence of the Germans , whereby these permanent department heads, 26 in all, were authorized to serve as the de-facto government. While each department head was responsible for his own department, they held frequent joint meetings to discuss such issues and problems as they arose, and the director of the foreign ministry, Nils Svenningsen, conducted all the negotiations with the Germans though Dr. Werner Best, so as to keep the Germans as remote from the Danish administration as possible. This state of affairs continued until the end of the war.

                                  I hope this clarifies what is meant by Departmentchefsstyret.

                                  JE comments:  Once again, my thanks to Leo Goldberger for contributing to our conversation.  The Departmentchefsstyret seems to have been the ultimate government-by-technocrats system.  Were all 26 of the "chefs" prosecuted, or at least discredited, after the war, or did any of them manage to continue at their posts?

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                                  • Leo Goldberger on the Danish Departmentchefsstyret after WWII (John Eipper, USA 09/01/12 8:24 AM)
                                    On 31 August, I asked: "The Departmentchefsstyret seems to have been the ultimate government-by-technocrats system. Were all 26 of the 'chefs' prosecuted, or at least discredited, after the war, or did any of them manage to continue at their posts?"

                                    Leo Goldberger responds:

                                    I doubt whether any of the department heads were "prosecuted" after the war. Remember their effort in keeping a semblance of a Danish government going after August 29, 1943 had been sanctioned by the representatives of the Danish political parties. Even the Danish resistance movement and its political leadership, which was in principle opposed to the "policy of negotiation," reluctantly approved as well. (In the absence of a willingness by either the departing government or the King--who was under self-imposed house arrest after Aug. 29--to form a new government, the alternative was far worse than a technocratic but Danish one:  namely, a total German take-over!) Thus, at the end of the war, all that happened was that Nils Svennigsen (1894-1985)--a diplomat and the most significant of the technocrats--was in some sense temporarily "demoted" by the immediate post-war government as head of the foreign office and assigned to the lesser post as ambassador to Sweden (1945-1950). He was reinstated as the head of the foreign office by 1951 and served for some 10 years in the next, the H.C. Hansen, government. Later (1961-64), he served in London as the Danish ambassador. Also note that these department heads were all civil service employees and could not readily be fired without serious cause.

                                    JE comments:  Svennigsen is a fascinating example of political resilience and longevity.  Once again, my thanks to Leo Goldberger for joining us in this conversation.

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                                    • Leo Goldberger on the Rescue of the Danish Jews (John Eipper, USA 09/02/12 6:49 AM)
                                      Leo Goldberger (Professor Emeritus, NYU) has sent this followup to our discussion of the 1943 rescue of Denmark's Jewish population:

                                      Having now had a chance to read some of the earlier WAIS postings related to the rescue of the Danish Jews, of which I was one, I want to make a few additional comments to the ones I already made this past week. I trust this will not overburden the topic too much [not at all--JE].

                                      First (re: Holger Terp's post of 16 August), let me point out that the number of Jews saved was slightly over 7000, not 5600 as Holger would have it. I have no idea what his possible source might have been.

                                      Secondly, Holger's assertion that it was the help from the medical profession that was most instrumental in our rescue is a bit of an overstatement. There were actually hundreds, if not a few thousand, volunteers who came to our aid in various ways, providing hiding places and contacts with fishermen, drawn from every sector of life--teachers, professors, students, journalists, policemen, pastors, businessmen and of course, also many physicians and nurses who were in a strategic position to hide several hundred in their hospitals and use ambulances (and famously even a mock funeral procession!) to transport us to fishing villages along the coastline. On that score, I was indeed pleased to see Holger's mention of the brave members of the Women's League for Peace and Freedom, one of whom (Fanny Arnskov by name) in fact helped my own family in our desperate hour of need--as I have detailed in my personal account elsewhere.

                                      Thirdly, in response to Paul Levine's cogent comments and resurrection of Henry Kamm's New York Times informative article on the occasion of the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of our escape in 1993, I would suggest that the reasons for the successful exodus is less of a mystery than he seems to think. With the flock of younger Danish historians with access to both Danish and German archival material, it now seems pretty clear that the main reason for the success--in addition to the spontaneous and courageous help we received from friends, neighbors and total strangers and the broadcast by Swedish radio, already on October 2 (the night of the intended roundup) assuring a welcome to its shores--was that unbeknownst to all of us (Jews, "rescuers," and the paid fishermen alike), the Germans essentially had closed their eyes to our escape. There was hardly any pursuit of Jews after the first night, and those caught helping Jews were not really given much of a punishment, barely a slap on the wrist. Once Dr. Best's goons--his SS men assisted by Danish Nazis who showed them the way to our homes--had caught some 480 Jews and sent them off to Theresienstadt, he was satisfied to wire Berlin declaring Denmark "Judenrein." Clearly, Best's priority was to ensure the maintenance of a peaceful and workable relationship with the Danes, while also furthering his ambition to trump General v. Hanneken, his rival, for German leadership in Denmark, an aim which he not only accomplished, but which in the end also played a role in lessening his prison sentence.

                                      Finally, I wanted to share a reference to a recent book, entitled Nothing To Speak Of by Sofie Lene Bak, a historian and researcher employed by the Danish Jewish Museum. It documents the wartime experiences of the Danish Jews, including new data on the 200 children who were left behind by their parents as they fled to Sweden. It also details the experiences of what life as a refugee was like for the Danish Jews in Sweden. Published by Tusculanum Press (www.mtp.dk). In the USA it is available through the University of Chicago Press. It is a very informative, touching and richly illustrated book.

                                      JE comments: When Leo Goldberger has the chance to do so, I'd like to know more about his experience in Sweden during the period immediately following the rescue.  Wikipedia says that he emigrated to Canada soon afterwards.

                                      Did the heroic Raoul Wallenberg have anything to do with Sweden's willingness to take the refugees, or was he already in Budapest by late '43?

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                                      • Rescue of the Danish Jews; Denmark vs. Norway in WWII (Istvan Simon, USA 09/03/12 5:21 AM)
                                        I am very pleased to read Leo Goldberger's recent contributions to WAIS. Professor Goldberger's specialty is a subject dear to not only my heart, but probably also of every Jewish heart. The Danes are a magnificent example of generosity, courage under stress, and humanity.

                                        Let me be also be the first to pose a question to Professor Goldberger. Danes and Norwegians are very close ethnically, and their languages are also quite similar. What then in your opinion explains the difference in behavior of the Danes and the Norwegians during World War II ?

                                        According to


                                        the percentage of Jews murdered by the Nazis in Norway was about 45%, whereas all sources seem to agree that in Denmark it was less than 1%.

                                        I attributed this difference to the leadership of Christian X, the Danish King, as well as of course the magnificent generous character and valor of ordinary Danes. But I assume that the generous character and valor of ordinary Norwegians is probably pretty similar to their Danish brothers and sisters. Werner Best may not have been as harsh as Norway's highest Nazi authority, yet the Danes spontaneously offered the most courageous support to save their Jews, and the Nazi collaborators in Denmark must have been a tiny minority, while in contrast, Norway had Quisling.

                                        JE comments: A very interesting question. Norway, with its long coastline exposed to the North Sea, was far more vulnerable to Allied naval attack than Denmark--this may have had something to do with the Nazis' heavier hand in Norway. Or perhaps it was Norway's heavy water--essential for German nuclear research.  One presumes that had the Germans really wanted to, they could have found a Quisling equivalent for Denmark.

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                                      • More on the Rescue of the Danish Jews (Holger Terp, Denmark 09/03/12 6:02 AM)
                                        In response to Leo Goldberger (2 September), I was using a somewhat simplified description of the rescue of the Danish Jews; sorry.

                                        I actually have two sets of German figures on the number of Jews in Denmark 1933-1943.

                                        Translated from the Danish:

                                        1) "I cannot help but refer to the Wannsee Protocol, which was endorsed by a group of the Third Reich's most powerful men during a conference in a villa on the Wannsee outside Berlin on 20 January 1942. The purpose and outcome of the conference was the development and adoption of the said Protocol, the contents of which initiated the start of the genocide of the European Jews. The protocol determines the number of European Jews to be 11 million, including 3.5 million in Russia. According to the statement, there were 5600 Jews in Denmark and 1300 in Norway."

                                        Sofie Lene Bak: Not Something to Talk About--Danish Jews' War Experiences 1943. 1945 Edition. Danish Jewish Museum.

                                        Ikke noget at tale om--Danske jøders krigsoplevelser 1943.  1945 Udg. af Dansk Jødisk Museum.


                                        This is the source I used in the WAIS post:

                                        "Conference Protocol p. 6

                                        1. The following took part in the conference on the final solution of the Jewish question, held on 20 January, 1942, in Berlin, Am Grossen Wannsee No. 56/58:


                                        2) Denmark 5924."

                                        Census data 1920-1930, referenced from: Ruppin, A.: Sociology of the Jews. Berlin: 1930-31. In: Olsen, Albert: Anti-Semitism and Racial Dogma in Modern German Politics, 1933, p 25-27.


                                        In Danish: Folketællinger 1920-1930 refereret fra: Ruppin, A.: Sociologie der Juden. Berlin: 1930-31. I: Olsen, Albert: Antisemitisme og Racedogme i moderne tysk Politik, 1933 s. 25-27.


                                        The historians and the sources do not match.

                                        Displacement of people in the Nordic and Baltic countries in the 1940s: "In the early 1930s the first German refugees started arriving in Nordic countries. But many were turned away and shamefully refused asylum. By the beginning of the 1940s there were about 5,900 German refugees, many of them Jews, in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. During World War II as many as 70,000 children were evacuated from Finland to Sweden for safety, and some 44,000 Norwegians and 18,000 Danes received refuge in Sweden."


                                        The Fate of the Jews of Denmark

                                        "The figures are eloquent, only 284 Jews were arrested on the night of 1 October, of whom 50 were released and only 202 embarked in the Wartheland. They were mostly people who were too old to hide from the police. Casual arrests in the next few days brought the number to 477, but more than 6,000 full Jews and 1,376 half-Jews were smuggled into Sweden in fishing boats between 26 September and 12 October 1943."


                                        See also: Danish Resistance during the Holocaust.  [Guest Publication] Hans Holmskov Schlüter. Copenhagen.


                                        From the Holocaust Encyclopedia:

                                        "Over a period of about a month, some 7,200 Jews and 700 of their non-Jewish relatives traveled to safety in Sweden, which accepted the Danish refugees. Boat transports did not stop once the Jewish refugees were safely in Sweden: some continued to bring members of the underground resistance movement to Sweden or smuggle Swedish intelligence agents into Denmark."


                                        "The day after Dr. Best asked Berlin to send a ship to Copenhagen, to accommodate at least 5000 Jews from the Greater Copenhagen area. Jews from Funen and Jutland could be transported by train. Furthermore, he stated that according to the available material there were 1,673 Jewish families in the metropolitan area, in the rest of the country around 33 families and 1,208 persons were emigrants from Germany. In addition approximately 110 Jewish families who no longer belonged to the Jewish Religious Community."

                                        ["Dagen efter anmodede dr. Best Berlin om at sende et skib til København, der kunne rumme mindst 5000 jøder fra det storkøbenhavnske område. Jøderne fra Fyn og Jylland kunne borttransporteres med tog. Desuden oplyste han, at der ifølge det foreliggende materiale befandt sig 1.673 jødiske familier i Storkøbenhavn, i det øvrige land ca. 33 familier, samt 1.208 personer, der var udvandret fra Tyskland. Dertil kom ca. 110 jødiske familier, der ikke længere tilhørte det jødiske troessamfund."]

                                        Source: Aktionen mod de danske jøder oktober 1943. Rasmus Kreth og Michael Mogensen, Gyldendal, 1995.

                                        JE comments:  I'm somewhat confused, but the sources do seem to disagree on the number of Jewish Danes rescued.  Might the discrepancy have to do with the distinction (see above) between "full" and "half-" Jews?  What is really important, in my view, is that "only" a few hundred of Denmark's Jewish citizens suffered the horrors of deportation to the camps.
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                                        • More on the Rescue of the Danish Jews, from Leo Goldberger (John Eipper, USA 09/04/12 6:31 AM)

                                          Leo Goldberger has sent this reply to the 3 September posts of Holger Terp and Istvan Simon:

                                          I trust everyone is enjoying this Labor day weekend.

                                          Let me quickly straighten out the mixed bag of numbers sent in by Holger:

                                          1. John Eipper was quite correct in the assumption of the heterogeneity of the Jews included as "Danish Jews" in the various citations. Below I cite the most authoritative sociological breakdown of the Jews living in Denmark in April 1940, as reported by Julius Margolinsky (the long-time official Jewish Community librarian and archivist):

                                          Old-establish Jewish families               1,431 persons

                                          20th-Century immigrants                    3,112

                                          Half-Jews                                            1,301

                                          Refugees (i.e. "stateless")                  1,376

                                          Total:                                                  7,220

                                          As all of these persons were (or at least assumed they were) at risk in the Nazi round-up and practically all Holocaust historians, including the most recent Danish one, Sofie Lene Bak, have treated the sub-groupings as a total unit, 7,220. Similarly with the Wannsee Conference estimate of Norway's Jews as only 1,300; in fact, there were a total of 2,100 Norwegian Jews. (As I recall, the policy of the fate awaiting the so-called "mischlings" had not yet been settled at Wannesee. It was still considered ambiguous in the case of Denmark's Jews and may, in part, be the reason for the discrepancy in the numbers.)

                                          2. On the interesting question (posed by Istvan Simon on 3 September) of why the difference between Norway's loss of almost half its Jews vs. the successful rescue of the Jews in Denmark, it is important to keep in mind that Norway declared war on Germany--a fact that many in Denmark had wished their King and government would also have done--instead of their immediate (humiliating) capitulation and a "policy of negotiation" that some Danish patriots viewed as close to "collaboration." (From my own perspective, I am convinced that it was this very "policy of negotiation" that allowed us, Danish Jews, to live without the imposition of the by the Nuremberg Laws, at least until until August 1943--unlike the situation in Norway with its gradual persecution of its Jews.)

                                          The Norwegian King (Haakon VII), unlike his older brother, the Danish King Christian X, steadfastly refused to capitulate and acted quickly to relocate the royal family and government cabinet to the northern parts of Norway, called for the mobilization of Norwegian troops, and vehemently rejected the German's demand that the Norwegian fascist Vidkun Quisling, leader of the tiny political "Unity" party, be appointed prime mister. In any case, the Germans, disillusioned with Quisling's inability to from a functioning and cooperating government (similar to the Danish one), installed the tough Reichskommissar Josef Terboven instead--who, later, as a sort of consolation prize, granted Quisling the token tile of "prime minister and president." After the war, Quisling was of course tried for treason, among other charges against him, and executed on 24 October, 1945.

                                          While the Norwegian King and his governmental entourage fled to England on June 7, 1940 on the British-dispatched HMS Devonshire, and with Norway surrendering a few days later, they continued their governing in exile. From London they continued throughout the war to serve as a vital rallying voice for the significant resistance movement and inspired many Norwegians to join the Allied forces abroad and to save as many as some 1000 Jews at home, by hiding them or getting them over the mountains into neutral Sweden.

                                          No, rather that cast blame on King Haakon for the loss of so many Jewish lives in Norway (some 772 were deported to Auschwitz in 1942 and only 34 survived), the blame must be squarely directed at Quisling and his more than cooperative Norwegian police force who did the bidding of and acted as willing henchmen for Terboven, jointly with the Gestapo and SS troops. This fact must itself be viewed in the context of a long history of Norwegian wariness toward Jews, if not also outright prejudice/discrimination. It was not until 1852 that the Norwegian constitution finally changed to permit Jews from living in Norway, without special Royal dispensation. And the story has not yet ended...increasingly there are reports of a growing anti-Semitic atmosphere in present-day Norway, sometimes in the guise of ant-Israel attitudes, but also, more troubling, a fairly direct linking of anti-Jewish with anti-Muslim sentiments--despite their significant differences in their manifest cultural integration.

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                      • Conspiracy Theories (Anthony D`Amato, USA 08/14/12 1:46 PM)
                        My thanks to Alain de Benoist (14 August), not only for reading my posts, but for correcting them.

                        1. I had written that Adorno et al. called people with certain specified beliefs "authoritarian personalities." I made a mistake. Alain corrects me by saying that I should have said "authoritarian personality."

                        2. Alain quotes me as saying "heredity and ancestry count for nothing." He says I should have been aware of what "thousands of scientific and empirical studies have repeatedly shown," namely that "heredity and ancestry count for something." Alain misread me as making an empirical statement. On his misreading, I stand corrected. However, it should have been clear that the entire point of my post was to say that normatively a person's heredity or ancestry should neither be used for or against him or her. Every infant should have the same legal and moral rights, entitlements, privileges, and duties as every other infant.

                        3. Alain quotes my statement, "Puppet Vichy was more vicious toward French Jews than Hitler was toward German Jews." Alain corrects me by saying that the proportion of French Jews who became victims of the Holocaust was lower than in other occupied countries. He could have strengthened his own case against me by mentioning Poland, where the extinction rate was close to 100%. However, I used the word "vicious" and not "efficient" or some other term Alain may have had in mind. Alain might wish to read Vichy La Justice et les Juifs by Weisberg.

                        4. Alain has not had an opportunity to criticize my posts on the Olympics, mainly because I haven't posted anything on that subject. But in hopes that I will soon be corrected by Alain, I'll simply make the claim, here and now, that the United States originated four Olympic sports rather than just three. This fourth one is a candidate for acceptance in the Olympics, but any year now it should be officially accepted. I refer to the sport of drive-by shooting.

                        JE comments: Hmm...Colombians in the 1980s became very skillful at drive-bys, as well. Perhaps there should be both automotive and motorcycle-based events.

                        Joking (I hope!) aside, Alain de Benoist rarely talks sports. It was Paul Pitlick who pointed out that only three Olympic sports were US inventions, and one of them (triathlon) is quite new, and simply a combination of existing sports (running, swimming and bicycling).

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                    • JFK Assassination and Conspiracy Theories (Tor Guimaraes, USA 08/14/12 1:18 PM)
                      Whichever group of American traitors participated in the murder of JFK, an elected president of the USA, surely must also have tried to camouflage their action by creating massive confusion. As stated by Randy Black (8 August), much confusion has been created with outlandish conspiracy theories and other crazy nonsense. Obviously, the desired result is distraction from any serious analysis of the situation and no discovery of the truth. Thus, everyone should beware of the usual attempts at deception and other mind tricks.

                      Randy already the widespread belief that the KGB must have benefited from Oswald's defection by stating, "I've always been reasonably certain that Oswald's meeting with Marina Prusakova at a trade union dance in Minsk in 1961 was not by chance. What are the chances that at the height of the Cold War, an American defector, a 21-year-old former US Marine, speaking poor Russian, who was assigned a job and apartment in Minsk, would somehow find his way to a public dance hall, meet a pretty, 19-year-old woman and be married within six weeks without some type of Soviet intervention?"

                      It is also true that the evidence conveyed by Anthony D'Amato (11 and 13 August) and other known specific facts, indicate Oswald also got very special treatment by agencies of the US government after he "betrayed" his country by defecting. Only after the assassination they turned on him with a massive campaign to paint him as a communist  JFK-hater. It seems as if originally he was prepared and sent to the USSR by members of the US government to undermine the effort by President Eisenhower to make peace with Khrushchev. If so, subsequently he could easily have been brought back to the US by the same people in preparation for future assignments, such as working with the Cuban exile paramilitary groups. The black ops officer featured on the JFK movie by Oliver Stone said that Oswald may have provided the info for shooting down the U2 plane which derailed the scheduled peace summit between the two leaders. Perhaps Randy Black or someone else can check if this officer existed in real life during the time of the JFK assassination. At the time he was unexpectedly ordered to escort a group of VIPs to the South Pole, and he also provided specific information about an irregular order dismissing the US military unit responsible for backing up security during the president's visit to Dallas. Are these statements true? If so, president Eisenhower was more than justified in explicitly warning the American people about the "unwarranted influence of the industrial-military complex." If so, this group just helped the enemy shoot down a US spy plane and derailed the US/USSR peace summit; then it participated in the murder of a US president, and the first coup d'état in US history. God, please let it not be so.

                      Anthony must be right in thinking that Oswald was a decoy in the JFK assassination, there must have been a very large conspiracy of US government agencies turning a blind eye and a few agents more directly involved either by dereliction of duty or active facilitation. Obviously the Dallas police department and other local authorities were directly involved, judging by the unusually unprofessional behavior and incredible feigned incompetency. Even the Warren Commission participated in the cover up with some members obviously hateful about being fired by JFK. Last, the circumstantial evidence of a powerful conspiracy is truly overwhelming: many critical witnesses met untimely deaths as soon as they were identified; handling of the remains and the forensics of JFK's body were very blatantly manipulated and covered in secrecy by local and federal government agents then under president Johnson, who immediately reversed JFK's less militaristic policies toward the USSR and Vietnam; and subsequent US government investigations of the assassination contradicted the discredited Warren Commission and concluded that Oswald probably did not act alone. As Randy would say, what are the chances?

                      JE comments:  The specter of JFK conspiracy rises again. I don't buy any of it, because it's been 50 years, and by now at least one of the conspirators would have wanted to enter history, perhaps on his/her deathbed, by spilling the beans. And no doubt make a lot of money, too.

                      To respond to Randy Black's questions about Oswald meeting Marina at a Minsk dance hall:  Isn't this what young people do? An American in Minsk c. 1961 would have been a rarity, and no doubt would have attracted the attention of many young ladies. And Soviet citizens at that time often married more or less on a whim, or to get an apartment. What I find stranger is the ease with which Oswald could "unrenounce" his US citizenship and return to this country, with a government loan to boot.

                      I bet the government doesn't extend "hardship loans" to stranded Americans like they used to.

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                      • JFK Assassination and Conspiracy Theories (Anthony D`Amato, USA 08/15/12 4:59 PM)
                        In his comments to Tor Guimaraes's post of 14 August, JE wrote:

                        "The specter of JFK conspiracy rises again. I don't buy any of it, because it's been 50 years, and by now at least one of the conspirators would have wanted to enter history, perhaps on his/her deathbed, by spilling the beans. And no doubt make a lot of money, too."

                        This comment raises an issue that I haven't seen discussed anywhere: how much time must pass before we can close the books on any conspiracy theory? I'd like to see responses to this question.

                        Yet I believe John is right that 50 years is enough time for one of the conspirators to talk. But what follows from that observation? I think the rather startling proposition follows that one or more of the conspirators have talked. I conclude that the solution to the conspiracy is "out there" ready to be read. Google lists 10,000,000 replies to various ways of framing the "Who assassinated John Kennedy?" question. If anyone has enough patience to go through all these replies, that person will probably have found one or more authentic answers to the question.

                        How many "crank" solutions to the conspiracy has John read? Probably many. But how does he know that they are all the works of cranks? It's easy to say that any solution that doesn't fit mainstream received knowledge is a crank solution. But that, of course, simply begs the question.

                        JE comments: I'll concede one point: conspiracy theories have no statute of limitations! They are still circulating about the assassination of Julius Caesar--but in that case, the conspirators are long dead. In the JFK murder, I think we would have heard a convincing, and provable, alternate narrative by now, as the conspirators pass into eternity.

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                        • JFK Assassination and Conspiracy Theories (Roy Domenico, USA 08/16/12 4:50 AM)
                          Regarding the JFK conspiracy theory, I agree with JE and probably most people, who don't buy it. I always think of something my father told me about conspiracies. He was a professional jockey from 1949 until 1961 and would invariably get the question, "are the races fixed?" He answered that, while it's common for a trainer and owner to tell the jockey to go easy or to hold back for a certain race; that's an individual thing for myriad reasons--the horse is tired or ill or the desire to better the odds for a later race. But to "fix" a race with say, eight horses, requires the compliance of 8 jocks, 8 trainers and 8 owners--and it's not going to happen--somebody's going to talk.

                          He remembered one time--in St Louis--when somebody tried it. All concerned met at a roadhouse outside of town to "discuss" it. The next morning at 8 o'clock my father was called into the front office and was asked "what have you heard about a fix this afternoon?" That was as close as he ever came to a fix. How many people were involved in a "conspiratorial" JFK assassination? The Politburo? The New Orleans mafia? The CIA? Castro's boys? Somebody would spill the beans.

                          JE comments:  Indeed, all conspiracies come to light sooner or later--except, of course, the really, really good ones.

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                        • JFK Assassination and Conspiracy Theories (Robert Whealey, USA 08/16/12 5:52 AM)
                          To solve the Kennedy puzzle requires historical research and years of work. Amateurs raise hypotheses inflated to "theories" by journalists who are usually in a hurry to resolve the case. Caesar's assassination is not a theory. He was murdered by fellow Senators including Brutus. Hitler had Himmler executed without a trial, Chancellor Schleicher, Greg or Strasser and Ernest Roehm. Stalin murdered Trotsky, Zinoviev, Bukharin and more than 150 top Communist Party members.

                          The statement, "50 years is enough time for one of the conspirators to talk," of Anthony D'Amato, based on amateur logic, is denied by dozens of historians. Mafia hitmen seldom confess because of a bad conscience.

                          Those who think the international mafia were involved argue in the Kennedy assassination case that American mafia agents hired a Corsican to fly to US and back in a week or two, so no paper trail could ever exist in Dallas. It is still only a plausible hypothesis, because there has been no trial in America proving the mafia role.

                          JE comments: To clarify, I was the one who suggested that after 50 years, one of the JFK conspirators would have talked. (Anthony D'Amato, I'm pretty sure, believes otherwise.) To further clarify, I don't think a conspirator would have come forward from a guilty conscience, but rather out of self-interest.

                          What does Robert Whealey mean that Hitler had Himmler executed?  Himmler committed suicide in British custody--unless one believes the conspiracy theory that he was murdered by the British.

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                          • Himmler; Jack Ruby (David Pike, France 08/17/12 10:51 AM)
                            A quick two-in-one:

                            Is there a momentary lapse in the attention given by certain WAISers to the posts they send? A haste to post? WAIS suffers from such lapses. The posts go out, they can't be recalled. Bob Whealey, a specialist in Nazi Germany, writes (Aug. 16): "Hitler had Himmler executed without a trial."

                            JE mentioned (Aug. 16) the absence of Jack Ruby from our discussions of Oswald. I remember driving to Stanford to open the office on the day that Ruby killed Oswald and heard the following on my car radio: "Oswald has been shot. The man who did it deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor." What he deserved was the Stalin Prize.

                            JE comments: Robert Whealey wrote to clarify the Himmler error: It should have read, "Hitler had Himmler execute without trial [other people]..." It's uncanny how significantly a little "d" can change the meaning.

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                      • JFK Assassination and Conspiracy Theories (Tor Guimaraes, USA 08/15/12 5:07 PM)
                        A question for JE: Based on your comment to my 14 August post, "The specter of JFK conspiracy rises again. I don't buy any of it, because it's been 50 years, and by now at least one of the conspirators would have wanted to enter history, perhaps on his/her deathbed, by spilling the beans," should I assume you believe the Warren Commission report?

                        JE comments: OK, Tor, you got me. Never read the Warren Commission report. But do I believe the orthodox version of the JFK assassination? Yes.

                        Who in WAISdom has read the Warren report?  It runs 888 pages.  That's the length of the Brothers Karamazov--which I have read.

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                        • JFK Assassination and Warren Report (Istvan Simon, USA 08/16/12 5:33 AM)
                          Tor Guimaraes (15 August) asked JE if he believed in the Warren Commission report. JE answered that though he has not personally read the Warren Commission's report, he thinks that its version of the events is true. I am with JE, I also have not read the Warren Commission report in detail, but I read a lot about comments on the Warren Commission's work, and like JE, I believe that it is largely true, meaning that there may be details that the Warren Commission missed but nonetheless except for such possible missing details, I believe that the report is true.

                          JE comments: Keep in mind that the Warren Report came out in September 1964, less than a year after the assassination. It would only be natural for the Commission to miss some details. To put this in perspective, it took nearly three years for the 9-11 Commission to issue its report.

                          I wonder who in WAISworld has read the Report in its entirety. Anthony D'Amato seems to have done so, and I assume Randy Black, the only WAISer in Dallas that infamous day, did too.

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                        • JFK Assassination and (Possible) Conspiracy Theories (Tor Guimaraes, USA 08/18/12 6:47 AM)
                          John Eipper commented on my 15 August post: "OK, Tor, you got me. Never read the Warren Commission report. But ... I believe the orthodox version of the JFK assassination because it's been 50 years, and by now at least one of the conspirators would have wanted to enter history, perhaps on his/her deathbed, by spilling the beans."

                          Fair enough, but I am not interested in "getting" you; just a little more interested in getting to the truth. Is John not terribly intrigued by the implications of a conspiracy to kill an American president by the military/industrial complex explicitly identified by President (and great general) Eisenhower?

                          Is John not curious that circumstances clearly suggest that there must have been a very large conspiracy of US government agencies turning a blind eye and a few agents more directly involved either by dereliction of duty or active facilitation? Obviously the Dallas Police Department and other local authorities were directly involved, judging by the unusually unprofessional behavior and incredible feigned incompetency. The circumstantial evidence of a powerful conspiracy is truly overwhelming. How can anyone turn a blind eye at the many critical witnesses who met untimely deaths as soon as they were identified; at the handling of the remains and the forensics of JFK's body which were very blatantly manipulated and covered in secrecy by local and federal government agents then under president Johnson, who immediately reversed JFK's less militaristic policies toward the USSR and Vietnam; and at the subsequent US government investigations of the assassination which contradicted the discredited Warren Commission and concluded that Oswald probably did not act alone.

                          John likes to "believe the orthodox version of the JFK assassination"; but is a lawsuit by the New Orleans district attorney not official enough to be included as part of orthodoxy in this case? How can anyone ignore the words of Anthony D'Amato (16 August): "The only two people I met who spoke the truth were my student who saw the Clay Shaw trial, and Professor Blakely at Notre Dame, who headed the Congressional investigation into the Assassination."

                          Last, what really kills me is the general apathy about an event with the most profound implications. Where is the outrage, the indignation, the drive to get to the truth about this event strategically more important to America than 9/11? This is not a drive-by shooting. It is a case where a group of American traitors participated in the murder of an elected president of the USA. And this group have so far successfully camouflaged their action by creating massive confusion among mostly apathetic people.

                          JE comments: Tor Guimaraes raises a question worth reflecting upon: when does one's general disbelief in conspiracy theories lead to apathy and complacency? Not an easy distinction to draw.

                          I am still largely satisfied with the orthodox narrative of the JFK assassination, but I hope this doesn't make Tor think I'm incurious. Curiosity is the lifeblood of WAIS!

                          One final question for the Floor: which event was strategically more significant: the JFK assassination or 9-11? I'm inclined to disagree with Tor and say the latter, which directly lead to two wars and a redefined Middle East, contributed to the economic meltdown of 2008, radically changed everyone's experience at airports, and set the stage for the 21st century to become a "clash of civilizations."

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                          • JFK Assassination and the Military-Industrial Complex (Nigel Jones, UK 08/18/12 10:29 AM)
                            Tor Guimaraes's post of 18 August, though raising perfectly reasonable points about lacunae in the official version of the Kennedy assassination and the possibly deliberate bungling of the investigation that followed (and though I think Oswald was involved, I am not entirely persuaded that he acted alone), gives a curious view of JFK's Presidency when he writes: "Johnson..immediately reversed JFK's less militaristic policies towards the USSR and Vietnam."

                            This is the exact opposite of the truth. I have just been reading on holiday Jeff Shesol's fascinating study of the feud between Bobby Kennedy and LBJ, Mutual Contempt, and it reinforced the picture given in Robert Dallek's incomparable biography of LBJ: viz. that the Kennedys, far from the peacenik liberals painted by their apologists, were uber-Hawks and Cold Warriors.

                            --It was Kennedy not Johnson who invaded Cuba in the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

                            --Kennedy not Johnson began the commitment of US troops to Vietnam.

                            --Kennedy, not Johnson--admittedly with the help of Khruschev--brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation over Cuba in October 1962.

                            --Kennedy, not Johnson, defied the USSR in his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.

                            --Kennedy, not Johnson, connived at the murder of South Vietnamese President Diem and his brother just before his own assassination.

                            Johnson--who had scant interest in foreign affairs--merely inherited JFK's aggressively militarist policies instead of disowning them.

                            If the military-industrial complex really did kill Kennedy, they got the wrong man.

                            JE comments:  JFK was no dove, and I am convinced that we would have become equally mired in Vietnam (perhaps more so) if he had remained President through '64 or '68.  As an aside, let us not forget Prof. Hilton's role of nearly spilling the beans on Bay of Pigs before it happened. I believe most WAISers are familiar with the story.

                            A warm welcome home to Nigel Jones, who is just back from his holiday in...Cornwall? I would be grateful for a photo or two to share with WAISdom.  And by the by, I am home in Michigan (finally!), for the duration of the summer.  I return to work at Adrian College next week.

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                          • JFK Assassination and the Deaths of Witnesses (Randy Black, USA 08/19/12 4:25 AM)
                            In his 18 August post, Tor Guimaraes made the statement regarding the JFK assassination, "How can anyone turn a blind eye at the many critical witnesses who met untimely deaths as soon as they were identified?"

                            I've read and studied many conspiracy theories on these matters for decades. I've had the opportunity to meet with or to work with quite a few of the players, including Clay Shaw at his home in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Drank his Scotch too, and I don't drink Scotch, but that's another story. I have to add that Tommy Lee Jones was a dead ringer for Shaw in the Oliver Stone flick and the portrayal of his home, his servant and even the gilded mirrors were nearly exactly as I saw them in the 1970s.

                            Most of the theories about "deaths of critical witnesses as soon as they were identified" are seriously flawed or just plain fabricated by those who wrote many of the hundreds of books on the JFK matters.

                            I welcome Tor's identification of the so-called witnesses' names, his theory about the connections to the JFK murder and the sources from which he's collected the names. Several of my sources are listed at the end of this post. Others are first hand, anecdotal from my personal experiences in later years with the individuals I met along the way who had experienced those events on the day of the assassination.

                            I'll do my best herein to provide the facts surrounding those deaths, rather than the rumors of such causes of death. Much of the conspiracy nonsense comes from Penn Jones, Jr., former editor of the Midlothian Mirror, a tiny-in-those-days weekly south of Dallas. Jones authored a couple of books including Pardon My Grief. Another conspiracy theorist who wrote about the "mysterious deaths" is Jim Marrs.

                            Just to get the ball rolling, one of several death-under-mysterious-conditions myths from Penn Jones, Jr. has reporter Bill Hunter, from the Long Beach, California paper being shot by a Dallas Police officer in the Dallas Police station a few days after the assassination on the night of November 24, 1963, shortly after he and another reporter had visited and examined Ruby's apartment.

                            Unfortunately for the conspiracy theorists, Hunter was not shot in Dallas two days after the assassination. He was shot by accident in San Diego the following year at 2 AM on April 23, 1964 by one of two San Diego detectives in the police station press room who were playing a "fast draw" game. (Is it fair to speculate that those who believe that hundreds of Dallasites, Feds, CIA types, military-industrial players, communists, Mafia and even the steward on Air Force One were involved would now include two cops 2,000 miles west in San Diego?)

                            Both San Diego detectives were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served three-year probated sentences. (Former) detective Creighton Wiggins, Jr. wrote in his resignation letter, "...for I have lost a wonderful friend in Bill Hunter... he was truly the policeman's friend."

                            Another myth: Dallas Times Herald reporter Jim Koethe (pronounced Koty) was connected to the assassination via his work as a reporter. He, along with Hunter, had been at Ruby's apartment, according to the conspiracy buffs, before the Dallas Police had arrived.

                            That theory is simply untrue.

                            The Dallas Police searched Ruby's apartment, with a search warrant signed by a judge, hours earlier. Penn Jones, Jr. was wrong. Further, the conspiracy theorists connected that newspaper work with Koethe's death five months later on Sept. 21, 1994 to the JFK murder. Jones called it death by karate chop as soon as he got out of his shower. Again, Jones was wrong.

                            The police report said that Koethe's body was found wrapped in a blanket, his apartment ransacked, signs of a violent struggle, two rifles, a pistol and his wristwatch missing and his car stolen. The coroner said that the cause of death was manual strangulation.

                            Several months later, an ex-con, Larry Reno, was linked to the killing after being arrested on unrelated matters. Police found one of Koethe's guns with Reno at the arrest and he had no alibi for the day of Koethe's death.

                            Source: Bill Sloan, a great reporter, writer, and a close friend of mine in the 1970s when I worked at the same paper. Sloan wrote Breaking the Silence.

                            Soon thereafter, Koethe's relatives urged the authorities to drop the investigation due to homosexual undertones, according to Sloan, which the family did not want made public. With the evidence circumstantial, the grand jury did not indict Reno. The following year, Reno was arrested and tried and convicted for the robbery and attempted murder of a Dallas hotel clerk.

                            Among many sources: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/death11.htm



                            JE comments:  Frankly, both those deaths sound suspicious to me.

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                            • JFK Assassination and Jack Ruby (Alain de Benoist, France 08/20/12 5:22 AM)
                              Randy Black has clearly done a lot of research on the JFK assassination.

                              I would like to know his explanation, or his feeling, about the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Rubinstein (Ruby). Considering Ruby's personality, a "patriotic" gesture is not very plausible.

                              My own feeling is that this murder could be a key for the whole story.

                              JE comments: Ruby survived in prison only until January 1967. It is possible that Ruby already knew of his terminal cancer at the time he killed Oswald. But are there any unorthodox theories surrounding his death?

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                    • JFK Assassination (Randy Black, USA 08/15/12 4:40 PM)
                      In his 13 August rebuttal to my post about Lee Harvey Oswald, Anthony D'Amato added his arguments to the JFK assassination lore when he attempted to demonstrate that a conspiracy may have existed on Nov. 22, 1963 and that no evidence tied Oswald to the Tippitt murder in Oak Cliff an hour later.

                      Anthony stated, "The autopsy showed that the four bullets that were in (Dallas Police Officer) Tippit's body did not come from Oswald's weapons. There is no evidence that Oswald killed Tippitt." See my note * below for "the evidence."

                      Anthony is mistaken. No autopsy determined factually what gun, to the exclusion of others, fired the bullets that killed Tippitt, least of all an autopsy. Later ballistic tests made such determination(s).

                      What Anthony does not say is that the Oswald S&W .38 was never excluded as the weapon that fired the bullets into police officer J.D. Tippitt.

                      There is ample evidence that Oswald had the opportunity (he was at the murder scene with a gun according to witnesses), the skills with his S&W .38 revolver (hard to miss your target when you are standing over the wounded officer and pulling the trigger), and the motivation to kill Tippitt (to avoid capture).

                      *There were 12 witnesses to the Tippit murder, either within 10 feet of the murder scene, a bit further away on their porches, or its aftermath.

                      By the evening of November 22, five of them (Helen Markham, Barbara Davis, Virginia Davis, Ted Callaway, Sam Guinyard) had identified Lee Harvey Oswald in police lineups as the man they saw. A sixth (William Scoggins) did so the next day. Three others (Harold Russell, Pat Patterson, Warren Reynolds) subsequently identified Oswald from a photograph. Two witnesses (Domingo Benavides, William Smith) testified that Oswald resembled the man they had seen. One witness (L.J. Lewis) felt he was too distant from the gunman to make a positive identification. Warren Commission Hearings, CE 1968.

                      Domingo Benavides saw Tippit standing by the left door of his parked police car, and a man standing on the right side of the car. He then heard shots and saw Tippit fall to the ground. Benavides stopped his pickup truck on the opposite side of the street from Tippit's car. He observed the shooter fleeing the scene and removing spent cartridge cases from his gun as he left. Benavides waited in his truck until the gunman disappeared before assisting Tippit. He then reported the shooting to police headquarters, using the radio in Tippit's car.

                      Helen Markham witnessed the shooting and then saw a man with a gun in his hand leave the scene. Markham identified Lee Harvey Oswald as Tippit's killer in a police lineup she viewed that evening. Barbara Davis and her sister-in-law Virginia Davis heard the shots and saw a man crossing their lawn, shaking his revolver, as if he were emptying it of cartridge cases. Later, the women found two cartridge cases near the crime scene and handed the cases over to police. That evening, Barbara Davis and Virginia Davis were taken to a lineup and both Davises picked out Oswald as the man whom they had seen.

                      Taxicab driver William Scoggins testified that he saw Tippit's police car pull up alongside a man on the sidewalk, as he his sat in his taxicab nearby. Scoggins heard three or four shots and then saw Tippit fall to the ground. As Scoggins crouched behind his cab, the man passed within twelve feet of him, pistol in hand, muttering what sounded to him like, "poor dumb cop" or "poor damn cop." The next day, Scoggins viewed a police lineup and identified Oswald as the man whom he had seen with the pistol.

                      Within a few minutes of the JFK/Connolly shooting, the rifle was been located. Police asked other workers in the building who worked on that floor, and who was missing, and developed a description of that person. The description that was broadcast by police dispatcher Murray Jackson: "white male, 30, slender build, 5 foot 10, 165 pounds."

                      Patrolling that area of Oak Cliff as ordered, Tippitt saw a pedestrian walking along 10th street who roughly matched the description.

                      Tippit pulled his patrol car over and asked the pedestrian to step up to his car. Oswald walked over to the police car and answered a few questions through the passenger side window. Officer Tippit got out of his patrol car and immediately was shot three times across the hood of the patrol car. Then, Oswald walked to the body and shot one more round into the officer's head. Of the first three shots, one was deflected by a brass button on Tippit's jacket and lodged just under the officer's skin. Source: page 166 of the Warren Commission Report.

                      To borrow from the writings of Dale Myers, (at the time of the initial examination) ballistic expert Joseph D. Nicol, did find "sufficient individual characteristics" on one of the four bullets to conclude that it had been fired in Oswald's revolver to the exclusion of all other weapons. However, none of the other eight ballistic experts who have examined the bullets agree. Consequently, the majority of ballistic experts have been unable to positively state that the bullets that killed Tippit were fired from Oswald's revolver to the exclusion of all other weapons. Conversely, and this is extremely important, Oswald's revolver could not be eliminated from those weapons responsible for the officer's death.

                      All of the ballistic experts noted several similarities: The revolver and slugs both had the same class characteristics--five lands and five grooves, with a right twist. The bullets all had similar microscopic scratches found on test bullets fired in Oswald's pistol. The bullets all bore signs of gas erosion. The erosion is the result of the bullets having been fired through a barrel slightly larger than the diameter of the slug. This was the case in Oswald's revolver, although the same result might be obtained by firing the bullets through the barrel of a gun that had become oversized due to wear and deterioration.

                      Further in his post, Anthony added, "Recall that Oswald was arrested while he was watching a movie in the Texas Theatre. It's an uncontroverted piece of evidence, but we can ask how it happened. ... Oswald apparently took his time in leaving the building, because some witnesses saw him there on the second floor (of the book depository). In any event, Oswald... walked home, then decided to go to a movie ... The Dallas police, who were shown to be bumbling and fumbling in the days following the assassination, must have been superstars to have singled out a person in a movie theatre ... "Oswald could only have gotten off three shots, but four bullets were found, including the one on the hospital gurney next to the President's body."

                      Note: I might be mistaken but I do believe that there were only three bullets recovered from the JFK shooting at Parkland.

                      While the House Select Committee theorized 16 years later that a second assassin "probably" fired from the grassy knoll, they determined that the grassy knoll gunman missed and that Oswald fired the only shots that killed JFK.

                      Personally, I've always considered somewhat credible the possibility that a second gunman might have been there, but even after nearly half a century, none has surfaced. And although in 1979 the House Select Committee used an alleged recording of an "open police motorcycle microphone" (the Dictabelt record) as acoustical evidence of a second shooter, the cop who was on that exact motorcycle stated that it was not a recording from his bike.

                      He testified that immediately after the president was shot, he activated his siren and sped away at high speed. There was no siren or revving noises recorded. In the early ‘80s, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Forensic Society of Britain both disputed the Select Committee's acoustic study as "seriously flawed."

                      Facts: On the day of the assassination, when asked what he was carrying as he arrived at work in the Texas School Book Depository, Oswald replied, "curtain rods." Whatever it was, it was wrapped in brown wrapping paper, was long and tied up with twine.

                      More facts: Oswald owned the murder weapon that was found at the scene of the crime. It had been fired. Later ballistics tests matched the Oswald gun with bullets taken from Governor Connolly's wounds. Also of note, Oswald had practiced at a local outdoor gun range in West Dallas from time to time. The range owner said that Oswald "zeroed" in the scope there. I've practiced there too for that matter. The range is still there.

                      Witnesses whom I've spoken with, who I worked with professionally, and who were in Dealey Plaza saw Oswald's rifle poking out of the window when he fired.

                      Witnesses in the book depository stated that from their view one floor above the sniper's window, they saw the rifle sticking out of the window below them.

                      In the attached picture, taken by AP photographer "Ike" Altgens, snapped between Oswald's second and third shot, the Secret Service is not looking toward the grassy knoll but either at Kennedy's car, where both men are reacting to their wounds, or back toward the book depository. While the photo I've attached is a small file, a larger, higher resolution copy is within the photos at http://kennedy-photos.blogspot.com/ The photo of me, age 17, trying to shake JFK's hand at Love Field, is also within this collection.

                      School Book Depository employee and witness Harold Norman on the floor below Oswald heard the shots and shell casings hitting the floor above him as Oswald fired, ejected the rounds and fired three times. See photos of witnesses here: http://kennedy-photos.blogspot.com/ The building in those days was a large, un-insulated warehouse on the upper floors. There were mostly no sheetrock ceilings other than the reinforced floor above you. Been there often over the years before it was turned into a courts building and museum.

                      The rifle had Oswald's palm print on it. Others saw him carrying a "package" into the building that day. He had previously been photographed by his wife among other witnesses with the gun that he'd purchased using an alias. He was carrying that false ID card the day he was captured in the Texas Theater.

                      The established facts demonstrate that Oswald left the book depository, hopped on a bus for a few blocks but the bus was going in the wrong direction, got off and flagged down a cab by the Greyhound station to his rooming house a couple of miles from the book depository, changed clothes, loaded his S&W .38 and took off on foot (witness statements). Within minutes, he murdered officer Tippit. Attempting to evade discovery after killing Tippit, he discarded his jacket in the parking lot behind a nearby Texaco station.

                      Witness testimony from the Texas Theater stated that Oswald "ducked" into the theater to avoid the police who had been called to the nearby murder of J.D. Tippitt.

                      Having been alerted to the shootings on his portable radio, shoe store manager Johnny Brewer noted the suspicious acting Oswald as the assassin ducked in and of doorways along Jefferson. By then, the description had been broadcast on radio and TV. He followed Oswald for several blocks from a distance.

                      The theater cashier noted that police cars, with their sirens screaming, were roaring down Jefferson. The theater sits along W. Jefferson, which in those days was a one lane in each direction street running east and west (more or less).

                      The cashier testified that she standing outside of the box office watching all of the police cars screaming by when Oswald entered without stopping to buy a ticket. Brewer alerted the box office cashier that Oswald had sneaked into the theater and went into the theater to make sure he didn't duck out the backdoor.

                      Shortly, a patrol car stopped at the theater, the cashier and the ticket taker led them into the theater where the lights were turned up on the few (20) patrons in the 900-seat theater.

                      Oswald was easily pointed out, was told to stand up and a fight broke out. Oswald drew his .38 and pulled the trigger. One policeman managed to jam the skin between his thumb and index finger between the hammer and the firing pin, thus stopping it from firing (witness testimony). Alerted to the calls on the police radio, several news reporters had raced to the scene and were present when Oswald was captured. One was Hugh Aynesworth, who also had seen the rifle poking out of the window earlier that afternoon. A few hours later, Oswald was charged with thee Tippit murder.


                      That Oswald would later plead that he was a patsy is not big surprise. How many arrests have you witnessed where the perp suddenly blurted out to the media that he was the killer?

                      Sidebar on Oswald's attempted murder of General E. A. Walker six months earlier, using the same weapon that he used to shoot President Kennedy and Governor Connolly: The Walker evidence was well documented by photos of Oswald, taken by his wife, negatives recovered, her sworn testimony, Oswald's friends Marina's testimony along with Oswald's surveillance notebooks, bullet fragments linked to Oswald's Carcano 6.5mm rifle.

                      Oswald, an admitted Marxist, attempted to murder Walker for his for right-wing political views and actions.

                      From Wikipedia: Oswald attempted to kill retired US Major General Edwin Walker, an outspoken anti-communist, segregationist, and member of the John Birch Society. In 1961, Walker had been relieved of his command of the 24th Division of the US Army in West Germany for distributing right-wing literature to his troops. Walker's later actions in opposition to racial integration at the University of Mississippi led to his arrest on insurrection, seditious conspiracy, and other charges. He was temporarily held in a mental institution on orders from President Kennedy's brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, but a grand jury refused to indict him. Oswald's wife Marina told the Warren Commission that Oswald considered Walker the leader of a "fascist organization."

                      Before trying to murder Gen. Walker, Oswald also left Marina with instructions as to how to handle matters in the event that he was taken alive and arrested regarding the Walker assassination.

                      Among many sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_John_F._Kennedy

                      JE comments:  Anthony D'Amato has sent an additional note on JFK and conspiracy theories.  Stay tuned.
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                      • JFK Assassination (John Heelan, UK 08/16/12 4:59 AM)
                        In his detailed post of 15 August, Randy Black lists much evidence (see below) that implies (maybe confirms) that Oswald was JFK's assassin. However, the terminology used relating to Oswald's weapon, while probably being factual in each case, does not actually prove that it was Oswald's finger on the trigger. It is likely that had the case gone to court, a defense lawyer would claim that the evidence was circumstantial, however the combination of points together with the need to punish somebody (anybody) for JFK's murder would probably have convinced the jury. Yet a trace of doubt must surely still exist?

                        (As to whether Oswald was a patsy, it is also worth reading the fictional account in Stephen King's novel 22.11.63, that appears to have been well researched.)

                        (evidence from Randy Black's report):

                        * Oswald owned the murder weapon that was found at the scene of the crime.

                        * It had been fired.

                        * Later ballistics tests matched the Oswald gun with bullets taken from Governor Connolly's wounds.

                        * Oswald had practiced at a local outdoor gun range in West Dallas from time to time.

                        * The range owner said that Oswald "zeroed" in the scope there.

                        * Witnesses saw Oswald's (?) rifle poking out of the window when he fired.

                        * Witnesses in the book depository stated that from their view one floor above the sniper's window, they saw the (a?) rifle sticking out of the window below them.

                        * School Book Depository employee and witness Harold Norman on the floor below Oswald (?) heard the shots and shell casings hitting the floor above him

                        * The rifle had Oswald's palm print on it.

                        * Others saw him carrying a "package" into the building that day.

                        * He had previously been photographed by his wife among other witnesses with the gun that he'd purchased using an alias.

                        JE comments:  Didn't Oswald purchase the Carcano rifle via mail order?  

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                      • JFK Assassination (Anthony D`Amato, USA 08/16/12 5:17 AM)
                        Randy Black's very long post of 15 August, written obviously with texts at hand to copy details, overwhelms my posts from memory only (except for looking up a name or two).

                        So I will look only at Randy's text, and not try to rebut it by quoting texts you haven't quoted or seen.

                        First, as to Officer Tippitt. Why would Tippitt try to arrest a guy walking down a street? Oswald wasn't carrying any brown bag stuffed with guns, although if he were the killer he surely would have removed the guns from the Texas School Depository building. By listing so many "witnesses" to the murder of Tippitt (where did they all come from? Was the lonely street crowded?), we lose sight of the fact that there was no reason in the world for Tippitt to approach or arrest Oswald, any more than approach and arrest any of the thousands of people going home from Dealey Plaza.

                        One also has to factor in something about "eyewitnesses." When people hear something, they try to visualize it and then often convince themselves that they have seen it. Now, people along a motorcade are trying to see President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline; they are not all looking up at the Texas School Depository Building. But if they were looking up, how many would see a "gun" poking out of a window? Only those who can fool themselves into thinking they saw it and who crave attention and publicity. When people heard that a sniper killed Kennedy, they "saw" Oswald carrying a a wrapped object that seemed to have in it curtain rods. (Get it? Rods. Old name for guns. Transference. Projection. Denial.)

                        Randy says that I didn't say that autopsy tests excluded Oswald's S&W .38 as the murder weapon. But I did say that. That's precisely what the autopsy showed. The bullets in Tippitt's body were not bullets fired from Oswald's gun. (I think throughout that Randy is reading false and biased accounts. Of course, there's hardly anyone speaking the truth out there. The only two people I met who spoke the truth were my student who saw the Clay Shaw trial, and Professor Blakely at Notre Dame, who headed the Congressional investigation into the Assassination.)

                        Randy gets his ballistic information from the Warren Report. That report is full of half-truths. The autopsy I'm talking about did occur and it excluded Oswald's gun, but it either occurred after the Warren Report was sent to the printer or was intentionally excluded from the report.

                        (Side Note to JE: You're better off re-reading The Brothers Karamazov than reading the Warren Report. Dostoevsky has pertinent things to say about psychology.)

                        How many people did the Warren Commission's law students (there were a number of them) interview who did not identify Oswald or did not point to the Book Depository as the source of the shots? Well, these people are useless if you're looking only for corroborating witnesses. But Helen Markham? A different story. She saw the shooting, she picked Oswald out of a lineup. Yes, one of those Dallas police lineups where policemen's noises and facial expressions indicate the person who should be identified by the witness. (Randy, have you ever been arrested? Do you have any idea of what the police do to someone who's arrested?)

                        Randy looks at the police dispatcher's report in the same way, by quoting it but never explaining how it got there. Do you really believe that the police had identified Oswald (who by then was walking home) as a suspect in the killing? There were hundreds of suspects, hundreds of eyewitnesses. If the dispatcher's call led Tippitt to spot Oswald, that would explain the attempted arrest, but only by inserting a different obstacle: how was Oswald fingered?

                        General Walker: Why did Oswald miss? It was a far easier shot than the shots that killed Kennedy.

                        Maybe next year, the 50th anniversary of the shooting, a non-lying book will come out that might solve a lot of these intriguing evidentiary puzzles.

                        JE comments: One individual who hasn't come up yet in our discussion: Jack Ruby, who was convicted of Oswald's murder on 14 March 1964.  That's a very important date for my mother and me...

                        Don't "rods," other than Aaron's, more commonly refer to fishing gear?

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            • A Customs Anecdote: Pakistan (Tor Guimaraes, USA 08/10/12 7:29 PM)
              Just to participate in sharing a few anecdotes, first let me wholeheartedly agree with John Heelan (10 August) on "don't upset anybody who is serving you food or drink and never, ever upset immigration or customs when entering or trying to leave a foreign country!" I have been extremely lucky over the years, and can't think of any time when any government officials treated me poorly arriving or leaving any country. Quite to the contrary, I deserved to get my behind kicked on a few occasions, and escaped by the grace of God.

              One such time on a flight from Tokyo we landed in Detroit [Yeah Detroit!--JE]. Very long and exhausting flight, everyone stood up ASAP and started grabbing their carryons to deplane, only to be told the INS had not released the flight for deplaning, because they were too busy, and it would take about 20 minutes to reduce traffic. Everyone just sat back down grumbling. After 20 minutes, the stewardess issued the exactly same message. The temperature in the cabin was markedly higher, and I was getting a little sick. After 20 minutes, the same message. I just grabbed my briefcase and took off with the stewardess shouting over my explanation and apologies. Before I reached the gate, a very impressive air marshal very calmly asked me one question, "Are you an American citizen?" With my positive answer, he let me go only to get to the INS stations which were completely empty. No officers and no passengers. I could not believe my eyes and still have no idea why.

              Another case was a short flight from New Delhi to Karachi after a failed attempt to get an entry visa at the Pakistani consulate in New Delhi. My dubious trump card was a conference brochure showing the president of Pakistan as the keynote speaker and me as a speaker. Counting on the power of authority in a dictatorship, I showed the Pakistan Airlines officials the brochure, and said I was invited by the president to speak and believed they would not want to contradict the invitation. It worked with the airline for boarding and with the military officers in Karachi airport (it felt more like a military base) who promptly issued a temporary entry visa for free. Later at the conference, the Pakistani officials were extremely charming: in those days I was doing a lot of traveling to foreign countries and always collected local music, clothing (mostly t-shirts and hats), currency, etc., to bring home to my children. At the conference, after a casual conversation with a government official regarding my urgent need for souvenirs, they escorted me to the Kasbah for shopping, and when I got back to my hotel room there were a few cassette tapes and other souvenirs with a friendly note from the official.

              JE comments:  It's not what you know, it's who you know...

              Now for a serious follow-up:  what's the deal with the official Pakistani statement of support for the Assad regime?  Are we on the cusp of a significant rift between the US and the Pakistani governments?  My impression:  Pakistan is no friend of the US...although Pakistani officials might reply that the US is no friend of Pakistan.  We do give them a lot of money, though.

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          • TSA/Customs Anecdotes (Randy Black, USA 08/10/12 5:08 AM)
            Regarding JE's comments to Paul Pitlick's post of 9 August, TSA only deals with getting on planes and ships. Customs only deals with entry into the USA. To my knowledge...

            I, for the most part, avoid Customs and Immigration Enforcement (coming into the USA) by being a member of the Trusted Traveler program. No exam, no forms to fill out, no luggage searches, just put your passport and ID card under a scanner at the Kiosk and move on.

            JE comments: Each time I pass through US passport-control purgatory, I swear I'll look into the Trusted Traveler program. But then I think, heck, I'm not going abroad again anytime soon. (For me, probably not before spring.)

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    • Scholarship vs. Athletics: Bread and Circus Mentality? (Paul Levine, Denmark 07/26/12 5:13 AM)

      Colleges may provide sports circuses for the masses. But is that part of their
      raison d'etre? I think not. What does it say about American higher education
      when football and basketball coaches make five times more than college presidents
      or the most distinguished academics? This is just a business venture.

      It should be pointed out that most European universities get along nicely without
      such programs. Interestingly enough, some Chinese universities are following
      the American model. When I taught at Shantou (a second-rate but rich public
      university funded by Asia's richest man, Li Ka Shing), I was shocked to learn
      that the school had an intramural basketball team with "students" on athletic
      scholarships. (Though few ended up in my English language classes, I flunked
      them whenever I could.) Evidently, a semi-professional basketball team
      (no matter how inept) added to the prestige of the university.

      JE comments:  The US obsession with college sports will never be understood in Europe. (American exceptionalism yet again?)  Paul Levine brings up an interesting development I was unaware of:  Chinese universities are beginning to embrace the US model of big-time athletics.

      I'm ambivalent on college athletics.  How many times do my students miss class because of games?  Yet at my small Division III school, sports are invaluable for recruiting students and building school "spirit."  In short, it gives us a marketing advantage over both community colleges and larger state universities, where only the elite athletes can join the teams. 

      When I meet a student for the first time, I like to pose the question:  "Why did you come to Adrian?"  Most of the time, I hear an answer like this:  "to play hockey/lacrosse/softball..."  I'd say that 2/3 of our students are on one team or another.  Circus gets them in the door; it's my job to make them see the importance of actual learning, too.

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      • Scholarship vs. Athletics: Bread and Circus Mentality? (John Recchiuti, USA 07/26/12 9:03 AM)
        In response to Paul Levine's and John Eipper's posts of 26 July on college sports:

        I agree both with Paul Levine's and John Eipper's contrasting views on college sports. During the six years I taught at Columbia University, and during my time as visiting professor at the University of Michigan in 2009, I much enjoyed the studious students, those who read the hundred and more pages each week of Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Politics, Smith's Wealth of Nations, or others among the history or literature texts I assigned. They were, for the most part, top students, engaging and engaged. But, as John Eipper does, I now teach at a small school in Ohio where athletics is a principal concern of many students. I do my best to work with them, and, overall, I think they benefit from their college experience.

        I'm most of the way through Andrew Delbanco's College: What it was, is, and should be, and I agree with much of what Delbanco has to say. He teaches in the same great books core curriculum at Columbia in which I taught. (I just finished Jan de Vries's The Industrious Revolution, and am about a third of the way through Tony Judt's Postwar. But I digress...)

        In accord (I believe) with Paul Levine's point, I am struck by the fact that a dear friend's son who recently recorded perfect scores on SAT and Achievement Tests will almost certainly not be admitted to some of the nation's best schools, and instead various less-proven talents who are able to throw (American) footballs will be admitted. Such an American system of higher education is daft.

        At the same time, of course, universities are businesses in the US. They buy coaching talent, and with that talent win games with a variety of balls (lacrosse, football, baseball, basketball, etc.). US colleges and universities turn those wins into revenue streams from their alumni--often large contributions are tendered by alums following winning seasons. (My cousin, who teaches at the University of Adelaide in Australia, has sought for years to develop a culture of alumni giving to his university, without much success. Here in the US we have developed different traditions.)

        JE comments: John Recchiuti and I have almost identical experiences. John in his last paragraph identifies another example of American exceptionalism: charitable giving to universities. (Is this a practice in the UK as well?  Canada?  I really don't know.) What's more, it is not unusual for employees of US colleges and universities to make donations to their own institutions.  It's called "participation."  I do this at Adrian every two weeks, giving the College back a small amount of its own money. (Yes, there is a tax incentive.)

        Does such a thing ever happen in other countries? Alain de Benoist (next in queue) would consider these practices very strange.

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        • Scholarship vs. Athletics (Henry Levin, USA 07/27/12 5:12 AM)
          Big-time athletics in universities has its problems. It distorts priorities. It takes marginal students and fails to educate them, in many cases, as they become expendable fodder for promoting the athletic reputation of the university. And, there are more failures.

          Having said that, I believe that my most meaningful high school and university experiences were my long-distance running. This activity gave me the self-discipline that I have benefited from all of my life. I graduated cum laude by applying the lessons of reflection, persistence, and self-discipline to my academic pursuits. Although I never made the Olympics, my times in my final year of college ranked me in 6th place nationally in 1960, an Olympic year. It was time to shift into the course of life's trajectory, but what I learned both in schoolwork and in athletics provided me with opportunities to develop in ways that I probably would have lacked in the absence of intercollegiate athletics. I should also add that I had no college debts because my scholarship paid both tuition and living expenses.

          JE comments: I've also noted the discipline my students acquire from athletic pursuits. And at my small college, there's an added benefit: if a student begins to slack, a quick call to Coach sets things straight. Immediately.

          How about a WAIS quiz on this opening day of the Olympics?  Had Henry Levin participated in the 1960 Games, where would that have been? This factoid can be found in 5 seconds on the Internet, but no cheating allowed.

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          • 1960 Olympics Were Held In... (Michael Sullivan, USA 07/27/12 9:13 AM)
            JE asked on 27 July:

            "Had Henry Levin participated in the 1960 Olympics, where would that have been?"

            Rome! I was flying with the RAF as an exchange pilot then and remember Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) winning the Gold Medal for boxing in his weight division. It was a great fight and he won it in the third and last round by badly beating the Polish European champion and the past 1956 Olympic Gold Medal winner.

            He claims he later threw the Gold Medal into the Ohio River because he was refused service because he was black. He was given a replacement Gold Medal at the Atlanta Olympic games...

            JE comments:  Correct!  It comes as no surprise that General Michael Sullivan, Commander of the WAIS Gaming Division, would be the "firstest with the mostest" in response to this morning's question.  A couple of WAISers guessed London, but that was in '48, and... right now.

            I wonder how many scuba divers have scoured the waters of Louisville for Ali's Gold Medal.  Think of what it would bring on eBay.


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            • 1960 Olympics (Michael Delong, Qatar 07/27/12 10:41 AM)
              Like Mike Sullivan, I attended the 1960 Rome games. I watched the 200-meter track final (won by an Italian) and watched the US play two of their basketball games...arguably the greatest US team of all time. I was a sophomore at the US High School in Naples, Italy at the time.

              JE comments: You name it: WAISers were there!

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            • 1960 Olympics (Miles Seeley, USA 07/27/12 11:35 AM)

              In 1960 I was in Morocco, and I thought, "We are so close to Rome. I
              know some people going there and maybe I could arrange things..."

              But no, my son was a month old and we couldn't take him or leave him.

              JE comments:  Sorry it didn't happen, Miles, but I'm sure WAISers have some great first-hand Olympic memories.  Share them now!  This is an excellent day for an Olympic-size conversation.

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          • 1960 Olympics (Henry Levin, USA 07/27/12 11:26 AM)
            I remember the year well. The song "Arrivederci Roma" was the song that all us Olympic aspirants were constantly exposed to, sung by Mario Lanza or Nat King Cole. The song still haunts me and makes me wistful for what did not happen in my life.

            JE comments: Almost making the Olympics is something to be proud of!

            Now for some nostalgia. Here's Mario's version of this beautiful song:


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          • Scholarship vs. Athletics (Vincent Littrell, USA 07/28/12 12:01 AM)
            If I may add my two cents in this thread:

            I received my BA in History from a small liberal arts institution, Pacific University of Oregon in 1990. At that time Pacific University was a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school (it is now in the NCAA Div III). Had it not been for the sport of wrestling, I wouldn't have gone to college (at least right after high school). I was an Alaska high school state wrestling champion. The Pacific University wrestling coach (National Wrestling Hall of Fame Coach Mike Clock) saw me wrestle in my state finals match and recruited me. Not many college wrestling coaches recruited in Alaska at that time. Mike Clock was one of them, and a number of Alaskan wrestlers became NAIA Wrestling All-Americans under his outstanding tutelage. I well remember the sense of excitement I had when a college wrestling coach called my home to talk to me after my state championship. Coach Clock ended up being one of the most important mentors I've had, along with my outstanding high school wrestling coaches.

            Alas, I didn't end up being a college wrestling All-American, though I sure learned much and was a good wrestler overall. I wrestled all 4 years I was at Pacific University, and view my experience at that university as a student-athlete as some of the most important years of my life in terms of overall maturation. Without doubt the sport put me on the path to getting my degree. Also, years of wrestling from junior high school through to post-college wrestling in the military taught me a physical endurance that has held me in good stead in my professional life. I will confess that my focus on wrestling and my general immaturity as it related to disciplined concentration on classes that weren't interesting to me, serve as reasons for my first couple of years at Pacific U being less than stellar in terms of my grade point average. I used to not understand as an 18/19 year-old why I had to take all those elective courses out of my range of personal interest. It wasn't until my last two years as an undergraduate student-athlete that my academic performance improved significantly (also the upper division history classes fascinated me, and I liked my professors), and I became a strong student after getting into graduate school at Louisiana State University (LSU), initially on a probationary status.

            There is no doubt that even at the small college level, to succeed athletically at the national level requires determination and dedication. We had a 2-time NAIA national wrestling champion on my team who would have also competed at a high level at the NCAA Div I level. This kid was a wrestling beast. He trained constantly. Quite frankly even at our small college level, at that time Pacific University had a reputation as a college wrestling power, and we took pride in competing against NCAA Div I teams and at times beating them in head-to-head competition. Strong NCAA Div I wrestling programs did schedule little Pacific University every year to compete against (until the early 2000s that is, when Pacific's wrestling program deteriorated to it now being one of the weakest wrestling programs at a 4-year institution).

            We Pacific wrestlers worked hard. Alas, I suspect such intensity towards wrestling on the part of my self and a number of my teammates resulted in less than stellar academic performance, as we weren't balancing properly. I think I started off with 15 or so freshman wrestling teammates, and there were only three of us from that original group who graduated after 4 years. Others may have graduated later, but I remember thinking how unfortunate it was that so many of my teammates in my freshman year group weren't getting their degrees. I don't think their failures to get their degrees can solely be attributed to the wrestling, however.

            There is value in being part of a successful athletic program at a university. Many aspects of one's personal development are improved by being part of a rigorous and disciplined athletic program. I was lucky to be part of successful and highly intense high school and college wrestling programs, and wouldn't take those experiences back despite the fact that my grades weren't what they might have been.* I still received my BA degree and I rectified my grade problem once I got into graduate school at LSU.

            I'm aware that Pacific University nor LSU are likely on many WAISers' list of elite academic institutions. But I think my professional life has been pretty good, and I've had some fascinating experiences that I would not have been exposed had I not attended those worthy institutions. And, despite my lack of elite academic pedigree, I've developed some expertise in areas that have made me useful at some fairly senior levels of policy-making in international affairs. I've no complaint with the academic path that has led me to where I am now. I started off a student-athlete and am better off for it.

            *My senior year in high school (1986), I was part of an Alaska state championship wrestling team that had 6 state finalists and 4 state champions out of 13 total weight classes. We dominated our state wrestling tournament. If memory serves, we came within one point of tying a national record for team points at a state tournament. Also, during the 1970s and 1980s Pacific University wrestling had a run of 16 consecutive Northwest Conference team championships. I'm proud of the wrestling pedigree I come from.

            JE comments:  Vincent Littrell is a shining example of the scholar-athlete ideal, which is still common today in Division III competition.

            Regarding the Pacific U program, I bet a lot of wrestlers made the "Mike will clean your Clock" joke about their coach...

            (To "clean one's clock" is to beat somebody up; this may not be a familiar expression for some non-Anglosphere WAISers.)

            Another college wrestling veteran is our colleague Gene Franklin. Gene's post is next.

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          • Scholarship vs. Athletics (Gene F Franklin, USA 07/28/12 12:27 AM)
            I believe athletics plays an important role in colleges here. I was on the wrestling team at Georgia Tech and also the outstanding senior. As a suggestion, I think that the NCAA should require football programs to give, for example, 5 academic scholarships for each athletic scholarship.

            JE comments: Agreed. Gene Franklin is another embodiment of the student-athlete ideal. I'm impressed by the number of outstanding college athletes we have in WAISworld. (The "scholar" part I take for granted--it is WAIS we're talking about, after all.)

            We're off to the airport right now.  The next WAIS postings will come from Miami, where we have a layover of several hours before our flight to Cali, Colombia.

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            • Athletic Scholarships: A Letter to the U of Colorado (Henry Levin, USA 07/29/12 4:42 AM)
              In the spirit of Gene Franklin's "quota" suggestion regarding scholarships for non-football sports (28 July), I once wrote to the President of the University of Colorado after watching an excellent football performance of that school on national television. I had seen their great running back, Eric Bieniemy, in action. In that year at least 60 percent of the football players on the Colorado team were African-American, but only about 4 percent of the student body, as I recall. I also found that fewer than half of the African-American scholarship athletes at the University were graduating. (At the time I was on the Research Committee of the NCAA, so I had detailed access to the data.)

              The university was getting considerable income and attention for its football success. I suggested to the President that he restrict the total athletic scholarships given to "under-represented" minorities to the number of academic or financial-need scholarships for minorities with conferral of equal financial benefits. I also asked him to set out incentives for the athletic department to bring the graduation rate of scholarship athletes to that of the overall student body, and to publish annual progress reports. I identified myself only as an admirer of his university and did not reveal my affiliations. That was about 20 years ago. I am still waiting for his response.

              JE comments:  The US mail can be slow, but not that slow...

              Perhaps, when he has time, Henry Levin could discuss Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), and the Supreme Court's February 2012 decision to revisit affirmative action in college admissions.  Is it likely the 2003 case (involving my Alma Mater, U of Michigan) will be overturned?

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        • Scholarship vs. Athletics: Bread and Circus Mentality? (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 07/30/12 8:17 PM)

          I think that John Recchiuti (26 July) has put his finger on it--American universities are funded in a fundamentally different way from European ones, and a varying but usually large part of their funding comes from alumni. Alumni support their alma mater, it seems to me, not nearly so much for the sake of educating future generations as out of feeling of tribal loyalty. And college sports are the ultimate tribal ritual, with ritual warfare, ancient rivalries, tribal loyalty, heroes, and all of the other sociological aspects of primitive societies. Supporting the institution financially is just one other aspect of this complex of sociological phenomena. We can find similar cases going back in history; why just look at the chariot races in Byzantium and the actual civil wars fought between the rival clubs.

          I have no doubt that it seems utterly bizarre to Europeans, but to me it seems a reasonable program for a university. Sports bind the members of the university community together, giving a great boost to the sense of belonging which being an alumnus brings. That sense of belonging gives lifelong satisfaction to the alumni, and a stream of alumni donations to the institution. A successful sports program raises the prestige of the university and increases interest among potential applicants.

          Do sports programs dilute the intellectual seriousness of the university as an institution? Yes, probably. More so if the sports program is allowed to get out of its place and run roughshod over other aspects of university life, with players ceasing to be real students and becoming actual professionals, and with universities engaging in "arms races," spending vast sums on professional talent. But this is a problem shared with other amateur sports, such as the Olympics. To prevent this, rules are needed, well designed and rigidly enforced.

          The very best institutions will probably never need this tribal ritualism to mobilize their alumni. A Harvard or Stanford diploma is, perhaps not a ticket to automatic employment at a high salary, but certainly means lifelong membership in a certain highly elite club. But for average universities, the tribal ritualism is a key tool in creating the community which will support and sustain the institution.

          JE comments:  I'd still like to hear from non-US WAISers about the tradition of alumni supporting their institutions financially.  Does such a thing exist at all?  If not, it seems to me there's an opportunity out there.  Get those phone banks up and running!

          And yes, ahem...don't forget your tribal loyalty to WAIS!  Donations are always cheerfully accepted.  There's a yellow "donate" button on our homepage.

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          • Civil Wars Between Rival Clubs? (Alan Levine, USA 07/31/12 6:17 AM)
            In his post of 30 July, Cameron Sawyer refers to "the chariot races in Byzantium and the actual civil wars fought between the rival clubs." Cameron, to what are you referring in "civil wars fought between the rival clubs"? In Byzantium? The French Revolution? What?

            JE comments: Good question. In a sense, pre-modern warfare had a "rival club" aspect to it, as one monarch would hire an army to make war against another monarch's hired army. In pre-Hispanic Mexico, the Aztecs/Mexicas fought the Tlaxcaltecans in ritual warfare. However gruesome, the "spirit" of the contest was not much different from regularly scheduled football games.

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            • Civil Wars Between Rival Clubs? Two Book Recommendations (Anthony D`Amato, USA 07/31/12 4:51 PM)
              The analogy Alan Levine and John Eipper draw between actual wars and heavy sports (31 July) is a theme out of the Maya civilization, as you can see from the title of two recent books In the Courts of the Sun and The Sacrifice Game. For historical novels there may not be anything quite like these. An Amazon reviewer says, "Wow! In the Courts of the Sun is perfect in so many ways, especially in vividly recreating the look, feel and smell of an ancient culture. The research must have been exhaustive; not only into the culture but history, art, religion, science, architecture and religion."

              Another Amazon review: "The book is one of the most intellectually and emotionally demanding books I've read in years. It is not for the faint of heart or shallow of mind." And a third: "a master storyteller with a dazzling knowledge of his subject...Even the images of his imagined city, Ix, and the hieroglyphs illustrating the text are in his own hand. Vastly intelligent, imaginative, and downright obsessive."

              On the second book an Amazon reviewer says: "Lady Koh, ultimate Sacrifice Game player of the age and big time politician to boot, 2 Jeweled Skull, leader of the Harpy clan in Ix, second most powerful man there, adoptive father to Jed/Chacal, currently in the contest of his life with 9 Fanged Hummingbird, the Ocelot clan supremo of Ix, Hun Xoc, son of 2JS, lead ball player of the Harpies team and Jed's main adviser/friend, 1 Gila, right hand man of Lady Koh and war leader of her followers are back, while of course quite a few new Mayan characters appear. As excerpted above, there is one unforgettable game of hipball for the fate of Ix and by extension, our heroes and life as we know it..."

              I had no intention of mentioning these books until just now when I saw Alan Levine's and John Eipper's posts. Pride alone would not have sufficed, their author being my son Brian D'Amato.

              JE comments: These are historical novels right up my alley. I wonder if Brian D'Amato was inspired in any way by Gary Jennings's masterpiece (Aztec) of a generation ago?

              I shall add them to my reading list.

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            • Civil Wars Between Rival Clubs? Byzantium (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 07/31/12 5:47 PM)
              Ah, Alan Levine (31 July) has not read about the Nika Revolt! It is one of the key chapters in Byzantine history. Tens of thousands killed and Justinian almost overthrown as a result of a war between the Blues and the Greens, who were chariot racing factions who make today's football hooligans look rather tame. Justinian was a Blue and nearly lost his head. A good place to start is (as is so often the case) Wikipedia:


              For a great popular history of Byzantium, try John Julius Norwich's A Short History of Byzantium (or better, the three-volume History of Byzantium, which is what I read).* This is stuff that anyone interested in history needs to know. Byzantium was the very culmination of the ancient world--can't understand medieval Europe without it.

              The Circus Maximum where it all happened is still there, untouched, unexcavated, unrestored, just there, with grass growing in it, in Istanbul, one of the most exciting places on the planet for anyone who loves history. Nika!

              *And once you've read that, you won't be able to resist Norwich's History of Venice, which is a related topic since Venice was a colony of Byzantium, with an interlocking history.

              JE comments: We so often give short shrift to the history of Byzantium.  It's a shame--is it too Byzantine for most history buffs?  I presume Russian historians pay more attention to Byzantium than in W Europe and the US, as it was the source of Russia's writing and religion.

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      • Scholarship vs. Athletics: Bread and Circus Mentality? (Alain de Benoist, France 07/26/12 9:27 AM)
        Commenting Paul Levine's post of 26 July, John Eipper wrote: "The US obsession with college sports will never be understood in Europe. American exceptionalism yet again?"

        Yes, of course. At least in France, no College or University would have the strange idea of being the sponsor of a sports team or to have an athletic/football/basketball, etc. budget. Students are supposed to go to University to learn something and acquire some knowledge, not to play sports.

        Nor do we have those ridiculous pom-pom girls, cheer leaders, etc. who are supposed to add a "feminine" touch to men's sport competitions!

        JE comments: Ah, Alain, but there are male cheerleaders, too! It's also important to keep in mind the Title IX program in the US, which since 1972 has required universities to spend equal amounts on women's and men's sports.

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        • World's Most Famous Cheerleader? (David Duggan, USA 07/26/12 6:16 PM)
          In response to Alain de Benoist (26 July), George W. Bush was a Yale cheerleader. He probably didn't have a pom-pom, but likely used a megaphone.

          JE comments: Think about it: Cheerleading is excellent training for the US Presidency. You have to project your voice, look good, and feign optimism even when the game is lost.

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          • Scholarship vs. Athletics (Anthony D`Amato, USA 07/27/12 5:22 AM)
            I assume that everyone on WAIS who is in academia is a tenured professor. We can handle athletes in our classes as we see fit. We put a lot of thought into the matter. But because we are tenured, we seem to have overlooked the greatest evil that academic sports spawns upon this mortal coil.

            Back in my first year of teaching at Wellesley, there was in my class a senior student who was outstanding. She and I wrote a paper together that was published in a journal that was half-academic and half-popular press. After she graduated, I was pleasantly surprised that she had landed a coveted teaching job at a major California university. She would be up for tenure in six years, during which time she was to write a dissertation and obtain her PhD.

            Some time later--I forgot when--I received a handwritten anguished letter from her. She had given a failing mid-term grade to a student. The Department Chair spoke to her. A top member of the Administration visited her. Didn't she know that the student was a highly recruited athlete? It was unthinkable to fail him. His final grade would count, not his midterm failing grade. But in the month or so after he received his midterm grade while she was being interviewed by members of the administration, his work did not improve; it got worse. In her letter she told me that it was very clear to her that she would never get tenure, and maybe lose her job in a year or two, she flunked the student. What should she do?

            Her ideals were high, but the university was doing its best to shatter them. I believe that anyone who corrupts the young deserves the innermost circle in hell. Socrates was convicted of corrupting the young, but that was the perversion that proves the point. He had taught his students to think for themselves, with the result that many of them resisted joining the army. My Wellesley student was being taught by the university administration not to think for herself. They were engaged in corrupting her. If she acquiesced, she would join the ranks of bitterly disillusioned professors.

            My suggestion to her was to give the student his final grade. Assuming that he flunked, she could tell the administration that if they wanted to change his grade, she would look the other way. But after I sent her that suggestion, I realized that the school administrators would be taking too big a risk by changing his grade. If the facts came out, it might mean suspension of their entire athletic program. No, they had to stand by the pretense that their teams were all made up of athlete-scholars with bona fide passing grades from their teachers.

            I did not hear from her after that. Nor did I want to. I trust that she did whatever she had to do.

            JE comments: I've heard similar stories from colleagues at different universities, some of them very prestigious. One involved a baseball player who went on to a successful career in the Major Leagues.  It's no surprise that I'm not comfortable with publishing the details, though.

            For the record, I have never been pressured from On High to change a grade for any student.

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            • Scholarship vs. Athletics (Alan Levine, USA 07/27/12 2:44 PM)
              I find the high stakes world of American college athletics puzzling. In fact, just the other day my wife and I drove past the huge University of Michigan football stadium in Ann Arbor, and I commented to her how bizarre I thought it was to build such an impressive structure to be used only about a half-dozen times per year.

              Despite my many years in American universities, I have only once gone to a collegiate sporting event: a women's basketball game when as an undergraduate I had a crush on one of the players. But my BA is from the University of Chicago, a school that tore down what was at the time the largest football stadium in the Midwest to build a library. These are proper priorities.

              I will add that no university or sporting official has ever asked, let alone pressured, me to change a grade. My current school, American University, to be sure is no athletic powerhouse, but it takes the education of athletes very seriously. Special requests are made by the athletic department for a midterm grade estimate of all student-athletes classes, and those who are not doing sufficiently well are given a good talking to by someone to get their performance up. The priorities are fitting and proper, and as a result our student athletes have a GPA somewhere around 3.4.

              JE comments: Alan Levine and I missed each other in Ann Arbor by about three days--unfortunate timing. I hope we'll have the chance to meet in Michigan next summer (as we did last year).

              I'll match my knowledge of football trivia with no man (or woman), but I do know that the U of Chicago was one of the founding schools of the Big Ten league. The Wikipedia write-up of "Chicago Maroons football" is exceptionally thin. Perhaps Alan can tell us why Chicago abolished its football program in 1939.

              (Chicago does have a team presently, and competes in Division III football--the lowest competition level of college sports, with other schools of the "Egghead Eight."  Google them and see.)

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              • U Chicago Football and The Bomb (Alan Levine, USA 07/28/12 10:14 AM)
                To answer JE's question of 27 July, the University of Chicago's decision to eliminate football needs to be understood in the context of its gridiron accomplishments.

                Highlights of U Chicago football include:

                --Its first coach, Amos Alonzo Stagg, credited with inventing "the backfield shift, the end-around, man-in-motion, fake punt, quick-kick, double reverse, Statue of Liberty play, as well as padded goal post, and numbers on uniforms";

                --Seven conference champions and one national champion;

                --Seven players in the College Football Hall of Fame, including Jay Berwanger, the first winner of the Heisman Trophy, and Bob Maxwell, after whom the Maxwell Prize is named;

                --Two of the main intellectual inspirations of Knute Rockne (see article below);

                --And for the many WAISers with Stanford connections: after the program's termination, Chicago's second and final coach, Clark Shaughnessy, "was hired to turn around a struggling program at Stanford. It was there that he would become known as the father of the modern T-Formation. In his first year there, Stanford went 10 - 0, including a win over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl. Clark Shaughnessy won coach of the year honors, and his modernized version of the T-Formation would go on to be the dominant offense in football."

                Given this success, why was the University of Chicago's football program closed? Because the university president, the esteemed Robert Hutchins, deemed brains more important than brawn, thought it absurd that sports players be deemed heroes, and he hated the corruption brought about by the money in big time athletics. (If only there had been a Robert Hutchins at Penn State!)

                One final note: after the University of Chicago's football program was terminated but before the stadium was torn down to build a library, the bowels of the stadium were used by Enrico Fermi and others involved in the Manhattan Project to create the first man-made, controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction. This caused Robert Oppenheimer later to quip: "I wish Chicago had never given up football."

                The above quotations and other fascinating information on the important but forgotten legacy of University of Chicago football can be found at:


                Despite this football legacy, I repeat what I said in my previous post: these are proper priorities.

                JE comments:  Fascinating.  I knew that U Chicago's football legacy was huge, but not this huge.  One thing we can say for sure:  if Pres. Hutchins did the same thing today, alumni rage would drive him from office.

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                • College Sports and Family Lore (David Duggan, USA 07/30/12 7:31 AM)
                  I was not going to weigh in on this topic, believing I couldn't add anything about the importance of athletics or its lack that has not been said before. But Alan Levine's post of 28 July prompts this observation: the importance of college athletics to family lore, which after all is what binds families.

                  My great uncle was on the U of Chicago basketball team that won the Big Ten championship in 1924. The lore is that he was an all-American which I could not verify; nevertheless a plaque at the U of C's new athletic center bears his name as a member of that team--I showed it to my sister and her son when he was swimming for NYU in the Nerdy-Nine's conference championship several years ago. My uncle later became a prominent Chicago, then New York lawyer, protecting Col. Robert McCormick's interests when the Colonel took control of the NY Daily News in the 1940s.

                  My father was a small college (Beloit) football player who gave my son his letter sweater. And I was a gymnast in a minor program at a small college (I guess the family is descending the ladder of athletic achievement). But what Midwestern lad doesn't thrill to the memory of Grantland Rice's "Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death..." about Notre Dame's team of the 1920s. What professional team, sport or player has provoked such poetry?

                  As the sports editor of my college's daily newspaper, I lived and breathed sports: the alumni publication even picked up some of my accounts. It is safe to say that sports and the draft kept me in college during the turbulent 60s. But that was then: I couldn't earn a living putting on a jockstrap; I was never that good. And in light of the revelations about Penn State (I wonder what took them so long: Joe Paterno has lived by his own set of rules since he dared Dartmouth to play a post-season football game in 1970 after Dartmouth won the trophy given to the best Eastern college football team, and his team had gone 7-3 with losses to Colorado, Wisconsin and Syracuse), it is safe to say that the balance is out of whack. Perhaps there is hope in the younger generation. My son, who had gone to three state high school golf tournaments, chose not to play college golf. He just graduated from the U of C business school, not too far from the old stadium under which they split the atom.

                  JE comments:  Am I going out on an unpopular limb to say that the late Joe Paterno has been unfairly maligned?  The affair Sandusky basically killed him, after all.

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          • Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 (1968) (David Duggan, USA 07/29/12 6:32 AM)
            To follow up on my post of 26 July, Yale teams were pretty good when George W. Bush was there, with quarterback Brian Dowling (the BD in the Doonesbury comic), and running back Calvin Hill (father of NBA player Grant and NFL Rookie-of-the-Year for the Dallas Cowboys).

            As a '68 grad, GWB would have missed The Game (1968) when Harvard beat Yale 29-29. And the megaphone was a good trainer for GWB's post 9-11 bullhorn message at the fallen Twin Towers.

            JE asked me off-Forum if the 29-29 Harvard "victory" was a typo. No. Harvard scored 16 points in the last 42 seconds to tie at 29. The Crimson headline out later that afternoon read: Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.

            A great documentary, featuring a good slug of each team (though not BD, but including Harvard quarterback Frank Champi and Tommy Lee Jones, an offensive guard for Harvard) came out a couple of years ago.

            JE comments: I had never heard of this great Harvard "victory," but it reminds me of "Dewey defeats Truman" in 1948.

            I wonder if Al Gore (Tommy Lee Jones's Harvard roommate) attended that game. (Randy Black might say no, Gore was busy inventing the Internet, but I'm going to beat Randy to the punch.  I suspect, as long as we're on the subject, that most Americans think Al Gore invented Gore-Tex as well.)

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        • Scholarship vs. Athletics in France and US (Istvan Simon, USA 07/28/12 11:04 AM)
          I am afraid that Alain de Benoist (26 July) has no understanding of American Universities. Stanford is certainly as good a university as any in the world. Yet it has a football team, and a very good one. If Alain would be just a tad more humble, he might learn that there are important things that one learns in competitive sports. Valuable things. There are things to learn from the non-ridiculous but rather quaint cheerleaders.

          It is amazing that someone that writes frequently about how racist it is to not accept another culture, does not realize that he is deriding ours.

          JE comments:  I'll try to find a middle ground here.  What I've found interesting in our "scholarship vs. athletics" discussion is that US WAISers have stressed the discipline and opportunity afforded by college athletics, mens sana in corpore sano, despite the corrupting effects of money.  European WAISers find the whole colleges-in-the-sports-business model bizarre, rather like a gas station that provides health care.  (Give me a hand here--perhaps other WAISers can think of a better analogy.)

          The French and the Americans have made deriding each other into a bi-national sport (!), but we've learned a lot over the years about American exceptionalism and the French views we think are quaint.  Or strange.

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          • Scholarship vs. Athletics: Europe and America (Randy Black, USA 07/29/12 5:02 AM)
            The entire athletics v. academics discussion is one we've discussed since my earliest WAIS years in the late 1990s. I recall Ronald Hilton's position clearly. He objected to athletic scholarships. Me? I've seen the abuse of the athletic scholarship process and I've seen the benefits.

            That said, there are many deserving, highly intelligent, talented and hard-working student-athletes who might not have made it to college without financial support in the form of a sports scholarship. Ditto band scholarships, cheerleading and other "non-essential" academic paths.

            In my college days of the mid-1960s, my financial support came from a variety of sources. Believe me, my parents, grandparents and I looked around every corner and behind every tree. While my high school grades were not high enough for an automatic entry into Oklahoma U, it was my College Boards and ACT grades that tipped the scale and got me in.

            My parents provided perhaps one-fourth of my support. I received perhaps another fourth of the monies from scholarships through the National Honor Society and via another from a major newspaper, ironically because I had won national photo competitions during my high school senior year and in my freshman year at OU. The last income, albeit tiny, came from a partial golf scholarship. The three scholarships were always dependent upon my grades being maintained at benchmark levels. My other keep-my-grades-up motivation was the military draft in effect, thanks to Lyndon Johnson's escapades in Southeast Asia.

            The last fourth came from a variety of jobs, including pizza delivery, sports and photo gear salesman at Sears-Roebuck, babysitting, selling my blood once or twice a month at the local blood banks, photographer for the school paper at $2 per published photo, editor of the alumni magazine, party photographer at frat parties and other entrepreneurial projects, one of which almost got me expelled from the university. But that's another story.

            My senior year was mostly financed by loans from the Knights Templars Educational Foundation, co-signed by my grandfather who was a Mason for more than 50 years at his death a few years later. It took me five years to repay those two loans. I still have the letter from the Foundation's treasurer thanking me for the final payment on the loan balance on the fifth anniversary of my college graduation. I paid $35 per month for five years. Yep, my total college expenses at Texas Tech for 1969 amounted to about $1,500. The difference was the low interest on the two loans.

            Thus, while athletics played an important role, college didn't depend on it completely. On the other hand, I cannot imagine that other sources of funding might have filled the gaps had I not played golf, first at Oklahoma and later at Texas Tech.

            As someone said, "It takes a village." Bless the hearts of the Templars for funding college scholarships for students.

            JE comments: Another example of American "exceptionalism" has been the need for college students to assume back-breaking debt. Yet from what I've heard about developments in the UK and other nations, this trend is becoming more universal.

            Randy, when you get the chance, tell us about the "entrepreneurial project" that nearly got you expelled--unless it's something not suitable for WAIS, which strives to remain wholesome and family-oriented.  (!)

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            • Scholarship vs. Athletics (Gene F Franklin, USA 07/30/12 5:08 AM)
              Randy Black (29 July) tells an interesting story of problems funding college in the past, and evidently the problem has only gotten worse. My two brothers and I served in the military during WWII, and we graduated from college (NC State, Auburn, and Georgia Tech) thanks to the GI Bill.

              I'd like to read a discussion of the often-made proposal for a mandatory National Service of at least one year for all citizens at age 18. Service could be in any of several approved institutions that might range from Teach America to CCC, to the US Marines. In exchange, individuals would get two years' worth of full tuition plus a modest living allowance to the state university of their residence, for each year of service up to four years of college. (I got $65/month in 1947, plus $500/year toward tuition. It was no doubt a coincidence that Ga Tech had tuition of $500/year for non-residents! I was from North Carolina.)

              Related to this, a question for WAIS: what are the requirements, if any, for national service and what are the associated benefits in other countries?

              JE comments: I'm ambivalent on mandatory national service. The biggest benefit would be to engage our young people politically. As just one example, a non-volunteer military would make our government think harder before it commits troops abroad.

              Regarding the tuition assistance, Gene Franklin's stipulation would finance education at state universities only; this would be devastating to many private institutions, such as my own.  And in our age of national insolvency, how would we pay for such a program?  The costs would be astronomical.

              However, I agree with Gene that this proposal merits further discussion.

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              • Mandatory National Service? (Charles Ridley, USA 07/30/12 8:39 PM)
                In response to Gene Franklin (30 July), I am, in part, of two minds about the concept of national service. My local draft board had the policy not calling young men up as long as they were in school. Therefore, my classmates and friends who went on to school after college were never drafted. As I was not able to continue schooling, I would have been drafted if I had not outwitted the draft board by enlisting in the army and into a branch that held out the possibility of attending the Army Language School.

                Perhaps a similar policy could be adopted for national service for all young people, with exceptions for college graduates going on to medical and dental school. Perhaps even such individuals would be subject to national service in hospitals serving the poor and disadvantaged after completing their residencies. PhDs in the sciences could perhaps serve in appropriate government agencies before going on to their professorates.

                My thoughts here are a bit on the rough side. At the least, I'd like to throw out these ideas for general discussion.

                JE comments: If mandatory national service were to be adopted, I would especially single out medical and dental students for service in inner cities and poor remote areas. This is the standard practice in many countries--Mexico comes to mind, but that's just a case I'm familiar with.  I'll have to ask what the situation is in Colombia.

                Great to hear from you, by the way, Charles.  It's been several weeks.

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              • Mandatory National Service? (John Heelan, UK 07/31/12 5:39 AM)
                The UK's National Service liability for young men between 17 and 21 ended in 1960. Those working in coal mining, farming and the Merchant Navy were exempt from the liability, and it was postponed for those undertaking tertiary education until they graduated.

                The RAF was home for my National Service. Like most young men, I was resigned to having to sacrifice two years of my life and be subject to military discipline, something that makes most teenagers shy away. Basic training took place in one of the worst UK winters that made the North Midlands even more bleak than normal--camping expeditions were discontinued after some recruits suffered exposure. Luckily for me, the previous year my employer had sent me on a long "wilderness/sailing" course run by the Outward Bound organisation in the mountains of North Wales. That course was far tougher and demanding than the basic training conditions, so my basic training was relatively easy.

                After basic and trade training, I was assigned to HQ Fighter Command, not for any special attribute other than I was a reasonable sportsman--basketball and swimming at that time. (Most of the other people on my training flight were aboard an aircraft en route to Cyprus, a trouble spot at the time. The aircraft crashed on take-off, several were injured but, thankfully, no fatalities. I avoided the incident by luck.)

                At my station, which accumulated all the better sports people in the Command, there were three Olympic swimmers, an Olympic pole-vaulter, the station soccer team comprised professional players who turned out for their London clubs at weekends, and it was the home of RAF indoor athletics. My "oppo" (close friend) was a tennis pro who played Wimbledon and many overseas tournaments during his two years. So as a sportsman I was able to avoid much boring, repetitive work in my "trade" by claiming to have to go "training," a practice better known as "skiving" in UK slang.

                How do I look back on my National Service experience? At the time, I resented wasting two years of my life being barked at for a wage pittance by people with more stripes than IQ, learned how to avoid bureaucratic decisions, realised that "who you know" was as important as "what you know," and became independent. In other words, National Service made me grow up. Would I recommend it as a rite of passage for young men? Yes.

                JE comments: But let's spread the joy around! Any future mandatory national service, in the UK as well as the US, would have to involve young women, too.

                "Skiving"--is that the same thing as "slacking" or "shirking" in the US?  Whatever you call it, it's a venerable tradition, as old as military discipline itself.

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                • An RAF Memory (Michael Sullivan, USA 07/31/12 4:41 PM)

                  After reading John Heelan's post of 31 July, I was wondering if we may have served together in 1960-1961, though not in the same location. I was in Fighter Command, 11th Fighter Group, 23 Sdn. based at RAF Coltishall.

                  His relating of his sports experiences in the RAF reminds me of how much the Brits do like sporting events. At Coltishall we had a Field Day, where all the squadrons competed against each other in athletic events and contests. After the competition ended, prizes were presented to the winner of each event. Group Captain Bird-Wilson, a Battle of Britain ace, had his wife presented the prizes. The Adjutant would read off the event and the winner's name and Mrs. Bird-Wilson would give the prize to that person while shaking their hand.

                  When the Adjutant announced the "Cricket ball throw for distance" and the winner, "Lieutenant Sullivan of the US Marines," Mrs. Bird-Wilson, who was a very lovely and gracious lady, looked up and said, "What's a bloody American doing winning the cricket ball throw?" She laughed and gave me a hug plus a very nice Sheffield bread knife that I still have today.

                  Great times, great memories!

                  JE comments: We Americans can chuck a ball as far as anyone, as Michael Sullivan proved!  It's just a good thing we don't have to actually play cricket. (See our recent posts on the incomprehensibility of cricket for people outside the Commonwealth.)

                  In any case, congratulations to Michael for his cricket triumph.

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              • Mandatory National Service? (Richard Hancock, USA 08/04/12 5:49 PM)
                In regards to Gene F. Franklin's post of 30 July: I recall during the time that I was running the University of Oklahoma's hacienda in Colima, Mexico, we had a call from the state and local police force in Colima for assistance in police work. At the time we had Major Kermit Raborn working with Continuing Education to provide police programs in Oklahoma. I asked Kermit to come with me to Colima in response to this request. He spent a week with me, and we visited various police operations.

                In Mexico the lieutenant governor of the state is in charge of the state police. We visited with my good friend Lt. Governor Mario de la Madrid, and he spoke of police problems.

                He said that the greatest problem in Colima was with middle-aged men who couldn't get over the post-revolutionary period, when many men carried pistols and were inclined to use them in arguments and fights (this was in the 1970s, a time before the war on drugs).

                Kermit asked about police problems with the youth. In a thoughtful manner, Mario said, "No, we really don't have problems with our youth." He went on explaining that all young men must attend weekend drills in their respective home towns that are managed by a member of the Mexican Army (this is their version of universal military service). This Army person may be an enlisted man in a village but, in a larger center, he would be an officer. He said that if some youth was on his way to becoming a delinquent, the city administrators would require this youth to meet with the officer. If the young man became obstreperous with the military officer, the officer would probably ask him, "How would you like to spend the next three years as a private in the Army?" Mario said that this question almost always convinced the young man to shape up.

                While we were in Colima, we also visited the state penitentiary. Kermit was impressed. The warden was a young man in his late 20s who couldn't walk ten steps without some inmate asking him about something. Kermit said that you would not see this in McAlester (the Oklahoma State Pen), and added that this demonstrated that the warden had good communication with the inmates. We also were accompanied on the tour by a lovely young female social worker. Kermit said you would certainly not see such a thing in McAlester. He said any young woman that dared to walk through the prison yard would be constantly exposed to sexual propositions and other insulting comments. (In comparing the Colima prison to McAlester, we should realize that the former had only about 300 prisoners, while the latter had thousands.)

                We passed by the rooms that were used by prisoners for overnight marital visits. Kermit was intrigued with this. He said that most prisoners were of an age where their sexual drive was at its highest. He thought that the allowance for marital visits might be quite productive. These marital visits may involve girlfriends as well as wives. He added that any young man entering an American prison is immediately forced into a homosexual liaison with an older prisoner who would refer to him as his special "whore," and made it known that no other prisoner would have access to his "whore."

                Mexican prisons are very much more humane than are our prisons. Most county or city prisons do not have feeding services. It is expected that the wife, mother or girlfriend will provide this service. Once when walking through the city square of Ahualuco de Mercado in 1950 (while working with the Foot and Mouth,"Aftosa" Commision), my Mexican co-partner, José, greeted a man effusively. I saw that the man was accompanied by a prison guard. When I asked José about this, he said, "He is a nice man who I knew in Ameca (nearby town). He got into a quarrel and killed a man. They are trying him here because he couldn't get a fair trial in Ameca." Mexican jails treat their prisoners according to their status. They allowed this man from Ameca to sit out in the park for several hours each day so that he could view the passers-by and converse with acquaintances. This was routine and, as far as I know, no one questioned this. In our more puritan (perhaps a synonym for "stupid") system, you can imagine the uproar if a "murderer" was treated in such a humane fashion. Mexicans accept the idea that because a man committed a crime, he does not thereby become immediately sub-human.

                Of course, this is carried to extremes sometimes, as in the case of the drug lord, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, "El Chapo," who escaped from a maximum security prison in 2001. He had money, so he had an apartment in the prison with an anteroom with TV, etc. When he stood up a reporter who had a date to visit with him, the following day when they did meet, he explained that he had a martial-visit date with his sweetheart which took precedence over any other commitment. The US and Mexico together offer a reward of $5 million for information leading to his capture. (See the Wall Street Journal of June 13-14, 2009, in a three-page article on drug wars in Mexico by David Luhnow and José Córdova.) The article states that most of the drug lords are from a wild section of the Sierra Madre Occidental, where the states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Durango meet. The AAA map of Mexico has a sign on the road that goes from Parral, Chihuahua, to Culiacán, that states not recommended for travel. I have flown over this area in a helicopter when I was working for the governor of Chihuahua (2001-2003). The Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie called it the "wildest country on the North American continent." I certainly agree with that. I apologize for getting off the subject of mandatory national service and getting into a discussion of prisons and the war on drugs. I guess this is what is called "stream of consciousness" writing, à la James Joyce.

                JE comments:  No apology needed, Richard!  I am writing these lines from Medellín, home town of history's most notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar.  Escobar once "turned himself in" to the police, with the stipulation that he could build and staff his own prison.  The resulting country club-cum-prison in the mountains overlooking Medellín was known as "La Catedral."  It now lies in ruins, as fortune-seekers tore down the walls and dug up the grounds in search of hidden treasures.

                I would not question Richard Hancock's claim that Mexican prisons were once more humane that American ones.  But now?  Due to Mexico's all-out war on drugs, the prisons must certainly be full of a lot of very scary characters.

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            • A College Business Venture... (Randy Black, USA 07/31/12 6:42 AM)
              In my post of 28 July, my final comment referred to an entrepreneurial matter that almost got me expelled from Texas Tech U. John Eipper asked me to reveal my story. As best as I can recall, here goes:

              As editor of the alumni magazine in 1969, I earned $30 per month. I wrote nearly all of the stories, took most of the photos, laid out the publication and even learned how to run the presses at the Tech Press. The pay for this job was critical to the financial balancing act that I danced from month to month.

              In the spring, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce launched a "community spirit-raising" campaign entitled "Lucky me, I live in Lubbock." I saw the bumper stickers and thought, "You've got to be kidding."

              You must know that Lubbock in the 1960s was a shotgun shack type of hell, featuring red dust storms that penetrated closed windows and filled bathtubs and kitchen sinks with fine red dust. The place was normally hot, windy, dusty and dry for all but the few winter months. During winter, it was just cold and windy.

              I found a partial carton of blank bumper sticker stock in a dumpster on the loading dock waiting to go to the local dump. I hatched an idea to print a very limited edition run of bumper stickers. With a slight rewrite of the "Lucky me, I live in Lubbock" theme, I figured to make a hundred dollars or more.

              "Lucky me, I'm leaving Lubbock" would be sold to graduating seniors.

              Late one weekend after the alumni magazine was "put to bed," and everyone else had gone home, I conducted my press run.

              On Tuesday, I stood in front of the Student Union selling them hand over fist for half a buck apiece. I sold out in two days without missing one class. Very quickly, the head of the Tech Press started getting calls from displeased Chamber of Commerce types.

              The trail led straight to me of course. I was called on the carpet by the dean of student publications. I was admonished and threatened with expulsion.

              "How much did you net from your adventure, Mr. Black?"

              "$125, Mr. Dean." No kidding, his name was Mr. Dean and he was dean of student publications.

              I was tempted to address him as Dean Dean but discretion being the better part of valor, I opted not to.

              He directed me to offer him my leftovers and to make a significant donation to the alumni fund "or else." Because the job as editor of the alumni magazine was so important to me and he was my boss, I made no waves and eventually graduated.

              More recently, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce ran a new community spirit campaign. This time, the bumper stickers read, "Legendary Lubbock." I'm still trying to get my arms around that one.

              Note: Lubbock is the former home of Buddy Holly, Mac Davis, Bob Wills, Waylon Jennings, and Tanya Tucker. Ironic Sidebar: Mac Davis's biggest hit was "Lubbock Texas in My Rear View Mirror (1980)." Links to the tune at the end of this walk down memory lane.



              JE comments: I was in Lubbock only once, at a Texas Tech conference in 1995. The January wind was fierce. Many would say that I live in a city that's tough to love (Detroit), so I should feel a special kinship to Lubbock.  I must go back for another visit.

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              • Lubbock, Texas and Herbert Rutledge Southworth (Paul Preston, UK 08/01/12 3:17 AM)
                Lubbock--not just the home of the late, great, eternally lamented Buddy Holly (see Randy Black, 31 July), but also of Herbert Rutledge Southworth, the greatest ever American historian of the Spanish Civil War. He was also the adversary of Ronald Hilton's friend, Burnett Bolloten. Burnett, by the way, was Welsh. I think David Pike will join me in expressing regret that they should be enemies rather than friends.

                JE comments: Southworth, according to Wikipedia, was born in Oklahoma, but he graduated (like Randy Black) from Texas Tech U.

                Prof. Hilton wrote an interesting 1999 post on the Southworth-Bolloten relationship:


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                • Herbert Rutledge Southworth (Nigel Jones, UK 08/02/12 7:32 AM)
                  I would suggest that the true holder of the title "Greatest ever American historian of the Spanish Civil War" should be awarded not, as Paul Preston suggests on 1 August, to the late Communist propagandist and Stalinist stooge Herbert Southworth, but to WAIS's own Stanley G. Payne, who really has added substantially to our knowledge of the conflict, and exploded rather than reinforced the myths about the Spanish Republic that Southworth and his ilk perpetrated.

                  Incidentally, Paul says that the admirable Burnett Bolloten was Welsh, whereas Ronald Hilton in his fascinating 1999 WAIS piece on him stated that he came from LIverpool and was Jewish--indeed, that he was buried by a Rabbi. As the possessor of the commonest Welsh name myself, I can say that Bolloten is certainly not a common name in Cymru!

                  JE comments: I have a lot of favorite historians among WAISers. Stanley Payne, a steadfast supporter of WAIS for many years, is certainly one of them.

                  Wikipedia says only that Bolloten was born in Wales, to a Liverpool jeweler.  I'll give the link below, because the article mentions two illustrious WAISers, Paul Preston and Stanley Payne.


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                  • Herbert Rutledge Southworth (Paul Preston, UK 08/03/12 5:51 AM)
                    I do not wish to get into a mud-slinging match with Nigel Jones (2 August). However, I would like to ask him which books he has read by Herbert Southworth and what he regards as Stalinist about his remarkable work on Guernica and indeed his other books. I would welcome a very specific answer.

                    The reason that I said that Burnett Bolloten was Welsh was because he told me that this was the case himself. The person in WAIS who was closest to him, I think, was David Pike. Perhaps David can adjudicate. I would also be interested to know what David thinks of Nigel'd extremely hostile remarks about Dr Southworth. Having edited posthumous versions of two of his books, my own view is pretty clear.

                    JE comments: I hope David Pike can join this conversation. Nigel Jones has left for a holiday in Cornwall, and may not be connected to the Internet for the next couple of weeks.

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                    • Bolloten-Southworth Feud (David Pike, France 08/31/12 8:43 AM)
                      John Eipper asked on 3 August (see Paul Preston's post of that date) for my opinion on the sorry feud between Burnett Bolloten and Herbert Southworth.

                      The question came up during the 1996 Stanford Conference on War Crimes and War Criminals, which I co-organized with Ronald Hilton. I was asked to speak at an informal gathering on how I pulled off the feat of being a close friend of both. Ever since 1963 I considered both of them my mentors. Burnett at Stanford introduced me to the reality of Soviet Communism in Spain, and Herbert to the reality of Franco's Spain that I had barely understood when I lived in Córdoba. Each had his target. My target was both, without prejudice, and in rotation.

                      The feud between Burnett and Herbert began with Herbert's first book, in which he wrote that Burnett must be dead because Burnett's conclusion to his own first book didn't match the rest of the book. The feud was virtually one-sided. Burnett never went out of his way to attack Herbert, or responded at all to my knowledge except in self-defense. I once told Herbert that if he ever met Burnett he'd take to him at once. Herbert replied that he had nothing against Bolloten; it was his ideas he opposed. That was odd, because the two never met.

                      Sometime in the 1970s someone told me that I wouldn't be able to maintain this juggling trick much longer. But it was never a juggling trick. I admired them equally, for the passion of their argument and the precision of their attack. Each was exposing tyranny. What brought the balancing act to an end was the introduction that I wrote in Jours de gloire, jours de honte (1984), directing it personally at Pierre Vilar, the French Catalanist and open Stalinist who was Herbert's own mentor. It then became a choice for Herbert. I don't think he and his wife Suzanne ever wanted to end our friendship. I think it was the pressure of Vilar (in that short period of the early 1980s that seemed like Cold War II) that brought it to a close. Burnett never had to fear losing me (and nor did Herbert), but there was a very sad time when Burnett was approaching death and in a paranoid state he feared losing his friends. I remember telegramming him on his deathbed, at the urging of Ronald Hilton, to assure him that nothing had changed.

                      JE comments: I will never forget the vintage WAIS posts on Bolloten and Southworth, including an interesting discussion in November 1999, when I was a WAIS newbie. See this obituary on the occasion of Southworth's death, by our colleague Paul Preston (22 November 1999):


                      RH responded with a note on Bolloten (26 November 1999)--I find it especially interesting that Bolloten at one point sold encyclopedias door-to-door, just to support his scholarly endeavors:


                      I couldn't agree more with David Pike:  had Bolloten and Southworth actually met, they would have become friends.  Both belonged to the ever-shrinking sect of the "Independent Scholar."  Unless you're privately wealthy, it's never a cushy life.

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                      • Bolloten-Southworth Feud (Henry Levin, USA 09/01/12 4:07 AM)
                        David Pike (31 August) tells a very sad tale. I never met Southworth, but had dinner and discussions with Bolloten and enjoyed a demonstration of his ballroom dancing with his wife, sometime in the 1980s. He was a gentleman through and through. I never heard him cast a disparaging comment on anyone. He stuck to what he considered to be his evidence.

                        My mother-in-law's family was Spanish monarchist; my father-in-law was an anarchist. Both suffered for it. Both were thrown in jail, and my father-in-law only got out by joining the División Azul and taking a bullet, starvation, physical abuse and frostbite while providing cannon fodder for the Nazi blitzkrieg that bogged down on the Eastern Front. Franco or Stalin were both monsters to be detested. It is sad that there can be such antagonism in any contest to prove that one subhuman monster is more evil than another detestable human.

                        JE comments: "It is sad that there can be such antagonism in any contest to prove that one subhuman monster is more evil than another detestable human." Very, very wise words.

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                        • Bolloten-Southworth Feud (Robert Whealey, USA 09/01/12 12:16 PM)
                          I never have had the privilege of meeting Henry Levin (1 September). I spoke to Bolloten on the telephone, about 1971, in which he congratulated me for writing an essay for Raymond Carr's edited book. I met Southworth and his wife five or six times.

                          Southworth's criticism of Bolloten was primarily academic, not personal. I respected the scholarship of both older men.  Southworth called Franco a liar, not a monster. Southworth was some kind of socialist. He thought Bolloten's sympathy for Spanish anarchists 1933-37 led his post-war research into excessive anti-Stalinist directions. Southworth's hero was Juan Negrín.

                          Bolloten wrote three editions of his classic book on the Spanish Civil War. The anti-revolutionary tone on Spain increased over the years. I have written a long review of Southworth's work, which I hope JE will publish.

                          JE comments: Be glad to.

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                    • Southworth Again (David Pike, France 09/03/12 7:54 AM)
                      Paul Preston invited Nigel Jones (3 August) to let WAISers know which books he had read by Southworth, and what he regards as Stalinist about works such as his Gernika! Gernika! Paul added that he would "welcome a very specific answer." I too have a stake in this argument. I have a collection of Nigel's posts to WAIS on the Spanish Civil War, and I have often wondered what Nigel has read outside the approved canon.

                      I also have a collection of WAIS's unanswered challenges, and one day I will present them all.

                      JE comments: I am reminded that I haven't yet read Southworth's El mito de la cruzada de Franco (original English edition from 1964), which Paul Preston kindly gave me during our visit to the Cañada Blanch Centre last year.

                      Regarding unanswered WAIS challenges, I look forward to posting David Pike's list.

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                      • Southworth Again (Nigel Jones, UK 09/04/12 5:08 AM)
                        I am delighted to know that David Pike (3 September) is such a keen student of my WAIS posts, but as I am not an actual student of his, I don't feel compelled to submit a reading list. Such a list would be both tediously long to compile and it would be demeaning for me to do so.

                        Suffice it to say that I have read sufficiently of Southworth to know that he is not an impartial historian, but a committed and embittered proponent of the tired old Republican/Stalinist view of the Spanish Civil War, which he demonstrated in his controversies with two men whom I regard as far better historians than he: viz, B. Bolloten and Lord Hugh Thomas. Southworth, in my view, is much more akin to a propagandist than a real historian. (Which is ironic, since several of his books demolish Francoist propaganda without appearing to notice that he is propagandising himself.)

                        I happen to believe that as the generation of "historians" such as Southworth who remember the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime with bitterness pass from the scene, and with the draining of raw emotion, we will come to a more nuanced and hopefully more objective and balanced view of the war and its aftermath than Southworth's propaganda.

                        I have not devoted my life to Spanish studies and have never claimed to be a Hispanic specialist: my interest in the SCW is based on my own family connections, dating back to my childhood stays in Spain when Franco was still very much alive: my mother died in Granada and is buried nearby.

                        David wonders whether I have ever read outside the "approved canon." That just depends on what he means by "approved canon." I like to think that I read widely and with an open mind--unlike, say, Herbert Southworth.

                        JE comments: I too often forget that Southworth was a "Red Stater"--born in Oklahoma and educated in Texas. Not sure if this is relevant to our discussion, but it strikes me as a curious personal detail.  (Of course, in Southworth's time, both OK and TX were strongholds of the Democratic party.)

                        When Nigel Jones has the chance, I'd love to hear some reflections/recollections on his childhood stays (Holidays?) in Spain. This will be of particular interest to our colleague Sasha Pack, who has published a book on the history of tourism in the Franco years (Tourism and Dictatorship, 2006).

                        Sasha--when you have the chance, drop us a line.  We miss you.

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                        • Southworth Again (Paul Preston, UK 09/04/12 1:17 PM)

                          WAIS has recently had some debate on the justification of ad hominem attacks on members or non-members. Such was the intensity of Nigel Jones's attack on Herbert Southworth (on 2 August, he referred to him as "the late Communist propagandist and Stalinist stooge"), that I asked if he would provide specific chapter and verse from Herbert's books to back up his original assertions.

                          In response, he says non-specifically on 4 September, "I have read sufficiently of Southworth to know that he is not an impartial historian, but a committed and embittered proponent of the tired old Republican/Stalinist view of the Spanish Civil War." That doesn't tell me much. I would venture to suggest that the last adjective that would be used to describe Herbert by WAISers who knew him well, David Pike, Ángel Viñas and Robert Whealey, is "embittered." If I could choose one word to describe him, it would probably be "jolly." And there was nothing tired about any of his work. As a forensic scholar, among historians of the Spanish Civil War, he remains in a class of his own.

                          Herbert's masterpiece was his book on Guernica. Having written on the subject myself and indeed on the life of Herbert, I must confess to never having come across a Stalinist interpretation of the German-Italo bombing of the Basque town.

                          So, I wonder if I might again urge Nigel to provide specific examples from within Herbert's writings of what he calls his Stalinism?

                          JE comments:  Yes, WAISers:  "Stalinist" is not a label to be bandied about lightly.

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      • Scholarship vs. Athletics (Richard Hancock, USA 07/26/12 10:32 AM)

        I was never a participant in college sports, because I was partially disabled by an attack of hepatitis which caused me to be hospitalized in Japan in 1946. It was 20 years before I completely recovered from that malady, so I was not able to participate in sports during my undergraduate years. Having said that, I think there are more positive attributes to high-school and college athletics than there are negatives.

        My son Jim was on the Norman High School wrestling team and received a full scholarship at Colorado School of Mines. Not only was this was a huge contribution to our bank account, but it also had many positive benefits for Jim. For one thing, the members of the wrestling team were under a system of strictest discipline compared to that afforded to the other students of both Norman High and the School of Mines.

        I traveled often to the Norman wrestling contests and can testify that the coach, a former college wrestler and a Lt. Col. in the National Guard, exercised admirable discipline in this program, a commodity that was extremely scarce in other Norman High programs. There was no doubt as to who was in control of the wrestling program. Nearly all of the wrestlers had to "pull weight" to allow them to get into their most advantageous weight classes. Jim normally weighed 180 lbs. but pulled down to the weight of 165. I became concerned about this and contacted our family doctor about this matter. He said, "There are many worse things than weight control that a young high-school male can get into, so don't worry." He added, "Now if you decided to lose 15 lbs. in a 10-day period day period, I would be concerned." Sports kept Jim focused throughout his educational career. Moreover, they don't give away engineering degrees at the Colorado School of Mines.

        Some faculty people think that Oklahoma University football is out of control, although they are careful not to express these feelings publicly. It is true that Coach Bob Stoops receives a salary five times as high as that of President Boren. Stoops runs a very successful business. He has filled our 85,000 capacity stadium for all of the 13 years of his stewardship here. There is a waiting list of 8,000 queued up for season tickets.

        OU normally has six home games, and there is a local saying that Christmas comes to Norman seven times a year. On game days, all hotels are full and running over as are restaurants and other facilities. The local airport hosts 300 private planes on game weekends.

        Football nets a profit of some $30 million annually. Local companies pay $1,500 dollars a seat for their suites. There are plenty of companies that would throw their business to the company that offers their executives or owners seats in these suites. Football funds subsidize the entire array of other sports including those mandated by Title IX, requiring that women's sports be given the same opportunities as those for men. I think that OU is extremely fortunate in having such success in football. I feel for those other institutions that have to subsidize their football programs.

        Having given the above endorsement to OU football, I recognize that the Penn State problem is a warning to all of us not to totally lose our common-sense perspectives on football. It cannot supersede basic morality. In this, as in all human concerns, we must try to follow "the golden mean."

        JE comments: My thanks to Richard Hancock for this interesting commentary. Big-time college sports, especially men's football and basketball, are a machine to print money. This is answer enough to those who may question why a coach earns more than a president.

        Penn State University's football program has received the most severe sanctioning I've ever seen, including reduced athletic scholarships, exclusion from bowl games and expunging 112 wins from the late Joe Paterno's record. This is going to hit PSU very, very hard in the pocketbook, and will eviscerate its football program for at least a decade.

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      • Scholarship vs. Athletics (Robert Whealey, USA 07/26/12 11:15 AM)
        I send a greeting to fellow Ohioan John Recchiuti (26 July). I taught history at University of Michigan as a Teaching Assistant in 1958, full-time at University of Maine for three years, 37 years at Ohio University, and one summer at the U of Delaware.

        I hold the American record for being hostile to college-quasi professional football. I saw my last football game at the U of Michigan in September 1952 (age 22). Michigan beat Indiana 6 to 0. After that I sold my free tickets to the scalpers. I welcome the National Conference of College Athletics' crack down on Penn State. Lord Acton: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely."

        JE comments: As horrifying as the Penn State scandal was, note that it had nothing to do with money. Power, yes, but on a very individual level. The upshot: Sandusky's crimes have not forced us to re-think the economics of big-time college sports.

        I cannot match Robert Whealey's record, but my last U of Michigan football game was in 1986. I don't remember the score, but Michigan threw a beating on Illinois, as things should be. I often contemplate a return to my Alma Mater for a game, but I've never made the effort to do so. The crowds, parking--all these things are unpalatable for a Saturday afternoon.

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      • Scholarship vs. Athletics: Stanford 1947-51 (Miles Seeley, USA 07/26/12 3:02 PM)

        I was at Stanford from 1947 to 1951. My freshman year the football
        team lost all 9 games it played, and we students presented the coach
        with a plaque saying that we appreciated him, win or lose. It was a
        nice touch.

        One of my two roommates that year was a promising quarterback who was
        a very nice guy, self-deprecating and a very hard worker. He knew he
        had to study much harder than most just to stay eligible to play.

        The minor sports and the intramural sports all were supported by the
        money the football and basketball teams brought in, which by today's
        standards was paltry.

        Of course it is ridiculous to have athletics be more important than
        academics, and abuses are now common. Reminds me of the old expression
        "Power corrupts..." etc.

        I was always involved in athletics and I appreciate what they did for
        my body and general health. Title IX brought some money for women's
        programs too, and I think that has been beneficial.

        In short, I am another of those conflicted, but more generally I think
        sport and exercise are good things.

        JE comments:  The scholar-athlete model was still thriving in the 1940s and '50s.  To be sure, professional sports salaries were very low then, too.

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      • Scholarship vs. Athletics (Paul Pitlick, USA 07/26/12 5:57 PM)
        Like Richard Hancock (25 July), I think college sports are a mixed bag, not all bad. Here are a few thoughts about college athletics, and their extensions--the associated "ridiculous pom-pom girls" (in Alain de Benoist's words), bands, etc.

        For those WAISers have don't have a Stanford connections, the "Dollies" are a group of 5 young women (and at the risk of venturing into a politically correct minefield here), who are usually quite attractive, wear scanty dresses and dance when the band plays. They are most visible during football games, but they also perform at both men's and women's basketball and volleyball games. The daughter of one of our friends was a Dollie about 5 years ago. She graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering, got her MS the next year, and now works in an educational startup, while continuing to dance in her own dance group. One of her co-Dollies is getting her PhD in Chem Engineering at Berkeley, another is in medical school, another is getting her PhD in Psychology. I forget what the 5th one is doing, but it was comparable.

        Another friend graduated from Stanford, went to law school, and is now very highly placed in the Stanford administration. About 20 years ago, he had back surgery. When he met the Neurosurgeon, he looked familiar, and they finally realized that they had played in the Stanford band together. Did the band experience help them get where they are? Obviously it didn't hurt them, and they had some fun along the way.

        JE comments: Stanford is a strict gatekeeper. I suspect even the star athletes are held to demanding standards. Before you become a Dollie, first you have to get past Stanford admissions!

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  • Demise of U of Missouri Press (Randy Black, USA 07/25/12 12:22 PM)
    Richard Hancock's 24 July post pointed out a financial facts of life about unprofitable university press operations within the various universities of the world. Richard wrote that he received an email from the son of a former colleague that passed along the news of the "sudden closure" of the University of Missouri Press. As I get into this matter, it's important to note that the U of Missouri Press has not/will not cease publishing; it will simply reorganize and downsize about 15 percent, if what I've read in the various media holds true.

    While such news from Missouri will surely generate a lot of discussion within WAIS, I note that upon reading up on this matter, the closing is neither "sudden" or necessarily a fact.

    Sidebar: It is believed that the only three profitable university presses include the U of Chicago, Cambridge and Oxford.

    According to the school and a number of media, The U of Missouri Press remains in business and will honor the existing contracts with writers through the end of the spring semester of 2013.

    Thereafter, it will "reorganize," according to Speer Morgan, editor of the literary magazine The Missouri Review (per New York Times, July 17, 2012).

    Moreover, the Missouri Press (MP) will continue to publish up to 25 titles annually in hard copy, down a bit from its current 30 per year history for the foreseeable future.

    In addition to the 25 hardcover, the MP will also continue to publish in digital format, according to Provost Brian Foster, Columbia campus. According to U of Missouri President Timothy Wolfe, these matters are about developing a business model that will allow the MP to more effectively publish scholarly works.

    (RB comments): A huge part of the problem seems to be "the system." Case in point: Joshua Miller, a sales rep in Chicago (works on commission) for university publishers and Ned Stuckey-French of Florida State University published a 1,500-word Press Release on the MP controversy. Fifteen hundred words...in a press release.

    Is any among WAIS foolish enough to think that any media outlet anywhere ran such a lengthy bit of rubbish?

    From my real life experience at a major media outlet, I can attest that no one will/would read Mr. Miller's diatribe past the headline and the first paragraph, if they got that far, and that's a big if. Fifteen hundred words amounts to six pages of blah-blah-blah, or more, double-spaced, which is the media standard formatting. Finally, 450 words is considered a pretty long press release. 200 is enough for just about any press release short of the discovery of a cure for a major disease.

    Case in point: The Dallas Morning News receives hundreds of press releases daily from all over the world on three fax machines. Every six months they change the phone number for those machines and don't tell anybody. Within days, the press releases just keep coming. College interns sort, file and circulate the matters 24-hours a day, to the various departments (city desk, business, sports, food, travel, legal, literary, editorial, local, regional, suburban, medical, political, national, cultures, and all the rest of the departments).

    Bottom line: The University of Missouri Press remains in business and will do so in the foreseeable future. The only real difference is likely a political shakeup in the way that the MP conducts its ongoing publishing business.

    If anyone does not believe that digital publishing is not the way of the future, I ask you to tell me how many among you still have a record player or a cassette player and have it plugged and workable in right now?

    Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/us/university-of-missouri-press-closing-incites-anger.html?pagewanted=all


    JE comments: The official website of the U Missouri Press says that it "is being phased out of its current operations," although a linked press release (sorry, Randy!) from 16 July announces the "launching of a reimagined University of Missouri Press that will use innovative techniques for scholarly communication."

    "Reimagined": I think they mean on-demand and e-publishing...or maybe, just books that can make money.

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  • Decline of the University Press (Paul Preston, UK 07/25/12 12:36 PM)
    I too was interested by this thread. I was particularly struck by the remark, reported by Richard Hancock (24 July), about university presses doing "vanity publishing." I have no reason to suppose that that is or has been the case in the UK, although the possible contradiction between "the author's need to be published and the reader's need to know" poses interesting questions.

    The principal presses here, Oxford UP and Cambridge UP, function on a highly commercial basis and subsidise their academic publications from their dictionaries and reference books. The lesser ones, Manchester, Edinburgh, Leicester and Liverpool, to name but a few of those which don't have lucrative reference publications, seem to have drifted off the radar. If this is true, and not just my ignorance, it will be for financial reasons since libraries can afford to buy fewer books and university press ones tend to be very expensive and often on obscure subjects.

    The commercial priorities of Oxford UP and Cambridge UP mean that they will not publish doctoral theses, no matter how good, except very occasionally if the theses in question come from their own university. Since this badly hit my own field of twentieth-century Spanish history, I decided some years ago to do something about it. I created and edit the Cañada Blanch Series which has collaborated with various publishers, most recently Sussex Academic Press (not a UP). The series has managed to publish some terrific doctoral theses which otherwise would not have seen the light of day, and also some important books that the university presses had spurned. Included among these latter are WAISer David Pike's magnificent study of French public opinion and the Spanish Civil War (France Divided); the biography of Juan Negrín by the leading American historian Gabriel Jackson, and, relative to our recent Churchill-Fest, a book on the great man's relations with Franco by Richard Wigg (Churchill and Spain: The survival of the Franco regime, 1940-1945).

    Should anyone be interested, I can supply a full list of the thirty-odd titles that have been published.

    JE comments:  It was one year ago this week (28 July 2011) that Paul Preston and his colleagues welcomed Aldona and me to the Cañada Blanch Centre at the London School of Economics, and I saw first-hand shelves of the Centre's publications.  Paul even sent me on my way with a number of very interesting books.  Hispanists the world 'round owe Paul a huge debt, not only for his own scholarship, but for the important studies he has midwifed over the years.

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