I’ve been looking through newspaper files, focusing on events on the front page, to see what my great uncle was seeing and reading while living in Seattle in 1940. The war was on, but America was not yet directly involved in the hostilities.
At Trinity College in Dublin
“Being fascinated by history, I read as much as I can. It just reminds me of the late 20s, the 30s … reading about how these things could have happened at that time. It’s a scary time.”
So is Trump Hitler? Is that what you are claiming, Mr. Scorsese? It’s so unoriginal, that it’s actually boring.
Referring to the rise of global terrorism, Scorsese says that the Iraq invasion “had created thousands and thousands of Travis Bickles.”
This reference to Bickles is much more interesting to me. But. maddeningly, Scorsese does not make it clear what he means.
Bickles, portrayed by Robert De Niro, is the depressed loner who is the focus of his 1976 film Taxi Driver, which I consider vastly overrated. Bickles is drawn to violence in his disgust against the decadence and sleaze around him.
“They say they have nothing to lose.”
Just what is Scorsese getting at?
I just learned that the town in Germany where my great-great grandparents married in 1880 did indeed have a synagogue, which was destroyed in 1938 during Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass, when the Nazis encouraged people to target the Jews after the assassination of the German ambassador in Paris. I am hoping to learn some of the names of these people, the Jews of Bütow.
But outing these hate crimes as liberal, leftist hoaxes doesn’t fit the narrative. The Southern Poverty Law Center makes millions off of this stuff.
In eighth grade I learned how to properly draw a swastika. One day Mr. Howard, who taught history and coached football, gave us a surprise pop quiz.
“Take out a piece of paper. I want everyone to draw a swastika. Don’t overthink it. Just draw a swastika.”
So I did. No problem. Easy A.
Except I got it wrong. I drew it backwards, like this, 卍. The Nazi swastika, however, looks like this, 卐. Once everyone was done, Mr. Howard took a piece of chalk and drew a large one on the blackboard. And, so I learned something that day.
It reminds me of another time when the journalism advisor at college had us write Volkswagen. I wrote it Volkswagon. But it ends in a -en, not -on.
Anyway, I have not tracked it down, but I did find some great material: some quotes of Mr. Wiesenthal. So here are what I consider his best pithy notes of wisdom.
The first is on the nature of mass murder.
“What connects two thousand years of genocide? Too much power in too few hands.”
The second is about two men, giants in the history of the 20th century.
“There is no denying that Hitler and Stalin are alive today… they are waiting for us to forget, because this is what makes possible the resurrection of these two monsters.”
The third selection I found very probing, insightful. It is about Nazi Germany, though could also be applied to Soviet Russia, and other less infamous nation-states.
“We know that we are not collectively guilty, so how can we accuse any other nation, no matter what some of its people have done, of being collectively guilty?”
Lastly, Wiesenthal gives some advice on listening. I can understand not wanting to talk about life during the time of Hitler and Himmler, when so few stood up and shouted “Stop!”
“The new generation has to hear what the older generation refuses to tell it.”
I don’t know of any Nazis in the family, but I have run into many relatives refusing to talk about this or that. Of course, it only gets my curiosity revved up.
I’ll keep looking for that gem from or about Wallenberg.
After seeing him in a photograph on Twitter, I decided to learn more about the man. His name was August Landmesser, and he refused to give Hitler the infamous Nazi salute as the Führer passed one summer day in 1936. The incident was caught on film for posterity. Now more than ever, we need such men.
In 2011, remnants of the Jewish cemetery were discovered, which was destroyed during Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, in 1938.
To honor and commemorate the Jewish residents, a monument is being planned. An obelisk, to be completed by November 2013, will stand at the former site of the Bytów synagogue.
A plaque will read: ‘Pamięci Społeczności Żydowskiej Ziemi Bytowskiej, Bytów 8-9.11.2013 r. (In memory of the Jewish community in Bytów, Bytów 8-9.11.2013).
The monument will be unveiled on November 8th, which marks the 75th anniversary of torching down of the synagogue. The plaque will bear the Star of David and inscriptions in Polish, English and German. The idea has been discussed in Bytów for a few years. However, the discovery of matzevos on Wery Street set the plans in motion. One year ago, a committee for commemorating the Jewish community, headed by Prof. Cezary Obracht-Prondzyński, was set up. Over the past year, committee members were looking for materials, documents and other traces of Bytów Jews and their culture.
A man who served as the executioner of 62 individuals has changed his mind. He now thinks the death penalty is wrong. Jerry Givens was Virginia’s chief executioner for 17 years.
“From the 62 lives I took, I learned a lot,” Givens said.
I have always had a problem with the state, formally and officially, killing people. Of course, there are many who deserve it. Killers, rapists, psychopaths.
My hangup is the government, acting on my behalf, on our behalf. It brings to mind the arguments of the founders and mob rule, what so many innocents witnessed during the days of the French Revolution and the Committee of Public Safety.1 Then, there’s also the example of the Nazis, who made death by the state a national pastime.
Stalin. Hitler. Pol Pot. So many people murdered by the evil men who took power and governed ruthlessly. I don’t want to see this ever happen in America.
1. Note how many government entities, on all levels, use the phrase public safety. Some even use “Committee for Public Safety,” apparently oblivious to the negative historical context.