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Mike Schneider: Drugs, Murder, Nazi Porn & German Music

Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich

Norman Ohler

Mariner Books, 2018

HHhH

Laurent Binet

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012

If This is a Man (Survival in Auschwitz)

Primo Levi

Simon & Schuster, Touchstone, 1996

Plunder: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure

Menachem Kaiser

Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt, 2021

“Taking Sides: Der Fall Furtwängler”

István Szabó (director)

film, 2001

Recently I read an essay about porn in the New York Times. “Porn,” I realized as I read, can mean more than it used to — or less — depending on a modifying word. “Inspiration porn,” for instance, was the essay’s topic, by which the author, a blind woman, argued that the 1950s media phenomenon of Helen Keller, especially “The Miracle Worker” (play and movie), drew appeal from its “saccharine narrative” designed to make people feel uplifted and grateful.

This cardboard edition of Keller’s life, the essay explained, which omits her activism as a socialist and founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, induces us, basically, not to sweat the small stuff. Suppose, for instance, I complained about my brother getting to use the car (actually a 1948 Ford pickup) when it should have been my turn. My mother might upbraid me, and in later life — in the face of more important challenges — I’d hear her saying: “What if you really had something to complain about? What if you were deaf and blind like Helen Keller?”

To be clear, no one ever said that to me. And I’m sympathetic to the thought Why can’t “porn” just be porn? Why do we need to talk about “inspiration porn” and, in a similar vein, “lifestyle porn” (such as “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”). The answer, obviously enough, is that language evolves and one might as well try to hold back the tide like King Canute. My point is this: As I read about “inspiration porn,” I was thinking about another so-called porn: Holocaust porn, or its cousin, Nazi porn.

Probably most people aren’t familiar with this idea. It first came to me in conversation with a poet who had traveled in Europe and visited one of the concentration-camp sites. She’s Jewish and, admittedly, haunted by images of skeletal people in striped pajamas, images that lurk in the minds of many of us. It’s the feeling of being drawn, maybe almost obsessively, to books and movies about the rise of Hitler and fascism, anti-Semitism, death camps, and the conflagration of world war.

It’s the feeling, I suppose, of allowing a part of you that’s not the best part, a dark part, to be activated. That information, you might almost say to yourself, is so horrible, so awful, I don’t want to be reminded of it. I know it happened. I know about the Reichstag fire, Kristallnacht, Einsatzgruppen, Zyklon B, Himmler, Barbarossa, Stalingrad, the Hitler bunker. Do I need more detail?  If yes, why? Is the appeal something that, for my own good, I should resist? — or briefly acknowledge, as I’m doing here, and let my attention move on?

The other side of this conversation, of course, with myself or maybe, sometimes, with others is “Never forget.” History matters. Bad things that happened can (and do) happen again. Historical awareness is part of being a responsible human being. Yes. Still, there are some things you know you know and yet don’t really want to talk about with friends — or, often, that you mostly think they don’t really want to hear about from you, at least not as much as it’s on your mind.

* * * *

In broaching this topic — so-called Nazi porn — I’m talking, mostly, to people like me whose parents fought in and lived through the deprivations of WW II — “boomers”. The household I grew up in, for instance, included my father and grandfather talking, sometimes, about wartime experience in North Africa, Italy and Germany. In my father’s case, having lied about his age to enlist, he arrived in Europe in early 1945, in time to drive a Sherman tank across the Rhine and square-off against a Waffen SS unit in Bavaria.

About this particular experience, my father talked only once in my presence. Mainly what I remember is that his expression became absolutely sober and his eyes seemed to look somewhere else. “The ones in black uniforms with the death’s-head symbol,” he said, or words to that effect, “all of them athletic and strong, hardened murderers, trained to kill without feeling” — fear showed in him that moment as I noticed no other time.

One of my most prized possessions, I should add, is a thin volume that looks like a high-school yearbook, titled 20th Armored Division in World War II: Danube-Dachau-Munich-Salzburg. With black-and-white photos and passages of occasionally jaunty prose, it tracks my father’s unit from entry in Europe (at Le Havre) in February 1945 to the war’s end, when it found itself at Salzburg, Mozart’s birthplace, nestled in the Bavarian Alps.

This “yearbook” includes photos of Mad King Ludwig’s opulent castle Neuschwanstein  — toured by many GIs before they shipped home. Accompanying prose chronicles their sense of relief:

V-E Day might have been better celebrated in New York, Paducah and Fresnoe [sic], but with no more heartfelt relief than 20th soldiers did in their puptent bivouacs near Salzburg. The killing business was over. In little groups in the dew-wet grass, the men pulled on a bottle of Schnapps, thought of home and went to sleep.

In the Pacific, however, the killing business wasn’t over. After a 30-day leave and visit home to Pennsylvania, my father and his unit took trains to Camp Cooke, California (now Vandenberg Space Force Base), where they re-assembled. Had invasion of Japan been necessary, the planned Operation Olympic, scheduled for November with the 20th Armored in the first wave of assault, I likely wouldn’t be here.

Fortunately for my father and many thousands of American soldiers, Hiroshima happened on August 6 — with V-J Day following on August 15. The ironic relationship between the atomic bomb and my existence sometimes leads me to be disagreeable with pacifist sentiment about Hiroshima.

It’s sobering to ponder, although uncontroversial historically, that this` devastating new weapon — by quickening the end of the war — saved uncountable American lives. According to 1945 military projections, U.S. deaths from the invasion and ensuing land campaign might have been as high as 250,000. Not to have used this weapon, produced in unprecedented secrecy and immense cost at the frontier of knowledge, would have subjected any leader to endless historical criticism, and was essentially unthinkable.

A less appreciated “What if?” is that, by obviating the need for invasion, this horrifically destructive bomb probably saved millions of Japanese. Significantly, it ended the unrelenting B-29 firebombing of Japanese cities (led by Curtis LeMay) which, at that point, had already claimed between 240,000 and 900,000 lives. Beyond that, it defused Japanese militarist policy — code-named Operation Ketsugo — that called for every man, woman and child to be ready to die, out of duty to the emperor, when the Allies arrived.

In the crude and brutal arithmetic of war, this fight-to-the-death plan — which included decrees on how to use sharpened bamboo sticks as weapons — anticipated the loss (by Japanese as well as American estimates) of millions of Japanese. Itheld sway, nevertheless, among conflicted factions of Japanese leadership until Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (See, e.g., Wikipedia; J. Samuel Walker, 1997; McCullough, Truman, 1992.)

As for my grandfather, he graduated from Penn State in 1927 via Army ROTC and was called to active duty as a captain in December 1940, a year before Pearl Harbor. Promoted to major in May 1941, he took part in armored maneuvers in Louisiana (led by General Patton) — focused on new doctrines, honed to remarkable effectiveness by the Germans in Poland and France as “Blitzkreig.”

In June ’43, he shipped overseas to North Africa where in Algeria he served as “training officer” for a regiment of the 1st Armored Division. In November, they landed in Italy and, as part of the Fifth Army under Mark Clark, drove north against brutally effective resistance in the Apennines. There my grandfather “saw action” in bloody fighting at Cassino and, in May 1944, at the Anzio beachhead.

At Anzio, among the most desperate actions of WW II for the Allies, severe losses led to him being pressed into command of an armored battalion. At a small party on his 90th birthday, someone — probably my mother — asked what he remembered, from a life that included teaching high-school and coaching basketball, as his most rewarding experience. Leading men in combat at Anzio was his answer, being able to feel he’d shouldered that responsibility.

* * * *

In short, call it Nazi porn or not, it’s an urge rooted in my family history, almost built into my DNA, and I’ve often indulged it. Although I read unsystematically, jumping from one book to the next without much of a plan, recently, nevertheless — after a pandemic-related choice to re-read Camus’s The Plague, itself an allegory of Nazi occupation — I read four Nazi-related books in a row, each distinct in style and focus from the next.

It started with speed. Little did I know (not at all, actually) that blitzkreig, literally “lightning war,” is also — pharmaceutically speaking — “speed war.” As German writer Norman Ohler recounts in Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich, Wehrmacht marching orders for the invasion of France were to advance in a sweeping arc from the Ardennes toward the English channel, and to do it tirelessly. “I demand,” ordered General Heinz Guderian, “that you do not sleep for at least three days and nights, if that is required.”

Required it was, and German pharmaceutical chemistry made it possible. By the late ’30s, methamphetamine had become the Volksdroge (people’s drug) on sale in every pharmacy, writes Ohler, in tubes of little pills called Pervitin. Boxed chocolates spiked with meth (a brand called Hildebrand) were marketed as a pick-me-up for housewives. By 1940, Germans were using more than a million of the little white pills (each containing three-milligrams of meth) a month.

The Wehrmacht first experimented with Pervitin during the invasion of Poland. Although a few military doctors began to be concerned about side-effects, the advantages for panzer warfare were clear. “The overcoming of sleep,” stated an April 1940 Wehrmacht decree, “can in certain situations be more important than concern for any related harm.” The Temmler Company, which had in 1937 synthesized and patented methamphetamine and trademarked Pervitin, accepted a rush order for 35-million tablets.

They delivered, of course, and by early morning of May 11, 1940 thousands of German soldiers had taken Pervitin. Drivers started engines and tanks and trucks clanked on narrow forest roads through the Ardennes, where virtually no one expected them to be. Within four essentially sleepless days, exhibiting speed and endurance that astonished Churchill and French generals, the German army occupied more of France than it had in four years of WW I.

With deep dives into German archives, Ohler also details the relationship between Hitler and his “Doctor Feelgood,” Theodore Morell. Beginning in 1936 and continuing until Hitler’s death, while Nazi officials pushed the world’s first “just say no” campaign on German citizens, Morell regularly injected Hitler with cocktails of vitamins and drugs, including methamphetamine.

* * * *

Tall, blonde, athletic, an excellent fencer and accomplished violinist, Reinhard Heydrich embodied the Nazi ideal. He was, furthermore, ruthless and cruelly imaginative in planning and execution of “the Final Solution.”

As SS second-in-command, Himmler’s right-hand man, assumed by many (not including Göring) to be Hitler’s successor-in-waiting, Heydrich gathered an array of nicknames: “the Blond Beast,” “the Hangman,” and — from Hitler himself — “the Man with the Iron Heart.”

Another of his nicknames, used among SS insiders — no doubt discreetly — provides the title for French writer Laurent Binet’s HHhH, winner of the 2010 Prix Goncourt first novel award. It’s shorthand for “Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich” — i.e., “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich.”

HHhH — Binet often playfully reminds readers — is historical fiction, and his intentional blurring of boundaries between reality and myth is part of the pleasure. His anecdotes, for instance, include one about Wehrmacht troops ordered to take down Mendelssohn’s statue from a rooftop lineup of composers. On the roof, the soldiers realize they don’t know which is Mendelssohn. “The one with the big nose,” says one of them. “Yes,” they agree and proceed to pull down Wagner.

From the start, Binet aims his narrative toward its satisfying conclusion, Heydrich’s assassination, May 1942 in Prague — where he was “Reich Protector” — by two commandos, purposely a Czech and Slovak, trained in Britain and parachuted into the countryside outside Prague in late 1941. It’s a dramatic story, enlivened by the parallel narrative of Binet tracking down its details. Occurring when the momentum of events in Europe was discouraging to much of the world, Heydrich’s assassination boosted Allied morale and may be, as Binet writes, “one of the greatest acts of resistance ever.”

It inspired “Hangmen Also Die,” a 1943 film by Fritz Lang, written in part by Bertolt Brecht, both then exiles in Hollywood. Although set in occupied Prague with a plot depicting mass murder of civilians to retaliate for Heydrich — less brutally than actually happened — “Hangmen Also Die” is very loosely connected to historical reality. Still, it no doubt felt good to many at the time. The score, by frequent Brecht collaborator Hanns Eisler, won an Academy Award.

More historically-based films about the assassination include “Operation Daybreak” (1975), and a well received 2016 British-French-Czech production called “Anthropoid,” actual code name of the plan. Both were shot in Prague and frame the narrative with images of that city’s magnificent castles, spires and bridges.

* * * *

Primo Levi should be better known than he is. An Italian chemist, he specialized in insulated varnish for copper wire and worked most of his life in a Turin paint factory. He was also a great writer — of whom it’s possible to feel that writing was a sideline.

Would he have written at all if he weren’t a Holocaust survivor? There’s no way to know. Yet I doubt any book conveys a deeper sense of authenticity — with closely observed detail and awareness of the personalities around him — in recounting the experience of a Nazi death camp than Levi’s If This is a Man.

He arrived at Auschwitz in February 1944 and soon learned where he was. “The only way out is the chimney,” was a common refrain. Driven by thirst, he broke off an icicle; a guard snatched it away. When Levi asked “why?,” the reply was “Hier ist kein warum.” (There is no why here.) Other camp slang included “Morgen früh” (tomorrow morning) for “never.” 

Most striking are Levi’s accounts of camp regimen and people he encounters, mainly fellow inmates. Among them is Elias Lindzen, a five-foot Polish dwarf, prodigiously muscled, with a superhuman capacity for work and an instinct for thievery. Perhaps mad, he raves out loud continuously and always draws a crowd. Thievery is endemic and to protect possessions, such as a spoon and bowl, Levi learns, is as constantly necessary as breathing.

A young Hungarian named Kraus works too vigorously, not knowing the art of “economizing on everything, on breath, movements, even thoughts.” He’s unaware, writes Levi, and won’t learn quickly enough, that it’s better to be beaten — because blows normally don’t kill you — than exhausted. He still thinks “with the stupid honesty of a small employee” where working harder leads to higher earnings. A “good boy” like Kraus won’t survive — “it is as logical as a theorem.”

Levi spent nearly a year in Auschwitz, until the Red Army liberated it in January 1945. He survived, he believed, by luck, which included being young and healthy — so he was selected to work — along with knowing some German, and being trained as a chemist, which led to him working indoors, as part of fruitless Nazi efforts to produce synthetic rubber.

Probably his best luck was meeting an Italian mason, Lorenzo Perrone, an Auschwitz day-worker who at great risk brought him soup. Of 650 Italian Jews who arrived with Levi by train, twenty left alive.

* * * *

Scene: A well equipped campsite in Silesia, southwest Poland, grown men in camo — proudly self-aware of their outfits. “Treasure hunters” — they’re armed with metal detectors, provisioned with beer and vodka, gathered around a campfire with an American guest, a writer from Brooklyn, whom they call “Manhattan” and take to be someone he’s not.

The writer is Menachem Kaiser, who reports this party scene in Plunder: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure. Because of his surname, the treasure hunters mistakenly believe he’s the grandson of Abraham Kajzer, author of the only account by a slave-laborer for the Nazis in Silesia. In the Owl Mountains there, they built a network of underground complexes called Project Riese (German for “giant”). For Kaiser, the enormous scale and immense effort involved in constructing these tunnels inspire “heavy-hearted awe.”

Abraham’s account — the ur-text of Silesian Nazi treasure-hunting — is, in large part, why the camo-attired men stuff their spare rooms with Nazi memorabilia and believe in an apocryphal “Golden Train,” thought to be laden with treasure and sealed somewhere in the vast complexes of Riese. Hearing these stories while being feted with food and drink, Kaiser remains aware that thousands of Jewish slave laborers died underneath the campsite festivity.

The central narrative of Plunder, one of the NYT  best 100 books of 2021, involves Kaiser’s effort to reclaim property owned by his family pre-1939. Deploying a comic touch that lightens without trivializing the weight of history, he takes readers, step-by-step, on an obstacle course of discovery. Along with treasure hunters, colorful characters include an octogenarian woman known as “The Killer,” a lawyer who dresses in pink velour jumpsuits. Eventually, Kaiser has to hire another lawyer to explain The Killer’s maneuvers through the often baffling Polish legal system.

As he tours Riese and nearby concentration-camp sites, including Gross-Rosen, Kaiser learns about purported Nazi efforts to build flying saucers with anti-gravity propulsion systems and Die Glocke, a bell-shaped device to manipulate time. He realizes that a fanciful mythology of Nazism — stoked by commercialism — runs deep in Silesia, literally and metaphorically.

In a probing chapter, Kaiser pauses the eventfulness of his narrative to reflect on Nazi-related delusions in general — such as Nazi UFOs and secret bases in Antarctica. Drawing on Richard Hofstadter’s essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” he discourses on the sociology of conspiracy theories.

Acknowledging that they can be rationalized as “resistance against the dominant narrative,” he develops the idea that conspiracy theories are, more tellingly, a kind of collective psychosis diverting us from more unthinkable reality. “The only adjective,” Kaiser writes, “not defeated by World War II and the Holocaust is, I submit, ‘unimaginable.’” Even if the Nazis had an actual time machine, for instance, it wouldn’t be the most important story of World War II.

Convincingly, he explains how contemporary conspiracy theories, echoing the past, are often anti-Semitic, as evidenced by the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue calamity in October 2018. The shooter, who took eleven lives, was absorbed in them, as his social media accounts showed.

* * * *

If there’s any suitable transition from an anti-Semitic mass shooting to Beethoven, it may be the case of Wilhelm Furtwängler. Who’s that? — you may ask. Some YouTube browsing about orchestra conductors a few years ago led me to a revelation.

How could it be that a superstar of German music, conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, in a packed hall with Hitler in the front row would abstain from the Nazi salute? How could someone do that and survive?

It’s one of the 20th-century’s most high-wire intersections of art and politics. Many eminent musicians, living and dead, regard Furtwängler as the most gifted conductor of the 20th-century, if not ever. Virtuoso pianist Christoph Eschenbach, for instance, has said that Furtwängler was “capable of setting an entire ensemble of musicians on fire.”

The controversy that still swirls is, in a way, about timing: Furtwängler’s rise to musical prominence in the late 1920s and ’30s paralleled the rise of Hitler. While many German artists, Jewish and non-Jewish — among the latter Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht and Paul Klee — fled their birth country, Furtwängler stayed. There’s the rub.

Prominent Nazis, especially Goebbels, wanted to exploit his international standing for propaganda, including film and concert tours, that would yoke the tradition of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms with National Socialism. In more ways than one, Furtwängler refused to join the party.

That he wasn’t a fan of Hitler — according to biographies — is an understatement. “This hissing street pedlar,” he reportedly said in 1932, “will never get anywhere in Germany.” In 1936, nevertheless, for the first time since Hitler took power, Furtwängler conducted at the annual Wagner festival in Bayreuth. Hitler had spared no expense for an all-new staging of Lohengrin. With Furtwängler at the helm, the performance was broadcast across Europe. 

Both Hitler and Goebbels attended and met post-performance with the conductor. As recollected by Wagner’s granddaughter Friedelind, then 17, the encounter — at her pro-Nazi mother Winifred’s Bayreuth home — went beyond small talk:

I remember Hitler turning to Furtwängler and telling him that he would now have to allow himself to be used by the party for propaganda purposes, and I remember that Furtwängler refused categorically. Hitler flew into a fury and told Furtwängler that in that case there would be a concentration camp ready for him. Furtwängler quietly replied: “In that case, Herr Reichskanzler, at least I will be in very good company.” Hitler couldn’t even answer, and vanished from the room. [Roncigli, Le cas Furtwängler, 2009, quoted on Wikipedia.]

Despite Furtwängler’s antipathy to Hitler and belief that faithfulness to the music was a greater patriotism than exile, many European refugees — including prominent conductors such as Toscanini and Bruno Walter — vilified him for accepting the advantages of his status and, as far as most of the world could tell, being complicit with the Nazis. By staying he was co-opted, felt many, his world-class artistic status attached to Hitler inevitably, whether or not that was his intention.

Because of this feeling and his prominence, Furtwängler underwent a post-war “de-Nazification” by the American occupying forces. The arguments and recriminations, constituting a mini-thesis on the relation between art and politics, are dramatized in the 2001 movie “Taking Sides” — by acclaimed Hungarian filmmaker István Szabó. The international cast features Harvey Keitel (his most convincing performance, in my opinion) and Stellan Skarsgård as Furtwängler.

* * * *

Nazi porn? As obsessions go, how unhealthy can it be, really, if it leads me to online recordings of Furtwängler conducting the Berlin Philharmonic? He believed in music as a spiritual force, in Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and its words by Schiller as an essentially sacred, though emphatically secular, vision of human community.

Unfortunately the Third Reich had different ideas. It ignited the most destructive war in history, which brought with it — in Europe alone — the death of 15 to 20 million people. From this historical perspective it is inarguable that Furtwängler’s belief in a transcendent quality to art — music in particular — was naively idealistic.

Still, to the extent Germans resisted Hitler, such as the 20 July assassination plot, Furtwängler concerts are said to have been havens. Graf Kaunitz, a member of that circle, for instance, stated (Schönzeler, 1990): “In Furtwängler’s concerts we were one big family of the resistance.” Even the name of that plan, Operation Valkryrie, refers to German music, Wagner’s opera Die Walküre. 

At the same time, it can feel profoundly ironical to music lovers that the regime of a tyrant dictator — embodiment of the volcanic disruptions of world war and “the final solution” — is linked inseparably with the big glowing heart of Romanticism, 19th-century German music. This is especially true for Wagner, not incidentally an ardent anti-Semite. The first Nuremberg Party Congress, as one example, opened with passages from Die Meistersinger.

What more is there to say about this? — beyond accepting that cognitive dissonance is real. Or a Beatles song, “Let It Be.” Or a Woody Allen joke I usually misquote: “I love Wagner, such great music! The only trouble is it makes me want to invade Poland.”

After the war, my grandfather, who had a B.S. in agriculture, returned to Germany (eventually accompanied by his wife, Nona) under the auspices of U.S. post-war authority. In a rural town near Stuttgart, Vaihingen an der Enz, he helped coordinate a restart of the community — including the official “de-nazification” process — serving there five years.

My father came home in 1946 to provide for a family that became three boys. In the ’50s and ’60s I grew up with the feeling, inherent in post-war America, that “we” (the USA) were the good guys. We’d fought fascists (though I had only the vaguest idea what that meant) in an awful war — newsreel footage of which replayed on TV, especially on Walter Cronkite’s “The Twentieth Century.” We prevailed and saved “the free world.”

By the late ’60s, TV began to show Americans coming home dead and maimed from Southeast Asia. By then my father had become commander of the local V.F.W. A couple times when I was home, we talked about Vietnam. Unsurprisingly, we disagreed, but he listened more than many people did in those days.

After a few of these sessions, we sat one afternoon at the kitchen table. He smoked a pipe then, having quit cigarettes, and I can imagine him drawing on it, the bowl of tobacco brightening to a fire-like glow. “Mike,” he said, “You’re right. This war’s wrong.”

Older now by considerable years than he lived to be, I’ve learned since 2015 more about fascism at close range than my younger self could have imagined. Maybe, for lack of a better metaphor, it’s like mushrooms. They grow in the darkness. You can wake up one morning and find they have taken over your yard.

_____________

Mike Schneider is a poet and critic who lives in Pittsburgh. His newest chapbook, Elvis Night at Johnny’s, is due out March 1 from Broadstone Books.

Copyright 2022 Mike Schneider

Flight of the Valkyries (source: SoundCloud)



									

7 comments on “Mike Schneider: Drugs, Murder, Nazi Porn & German Music

  1. Daniel Burston
    February 4, 2022

    Not Jewish? I see. But yes, Timothy Snyder’s book On Tyranny is excellent. It has an honored place on my book shelf.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. James M Newsome
    February 4, 2022

    Hi Mike,
    An amazing essay, I couldn’t agree more with what you say, or how you say it. I did my sabbatical on the Nazi run “transit camp” Westerbork in Holland, where the inmates were kept in suspended animation, with concerts and musicals to keep their mind off the next destination, usually Auschwitz; I wrote of the chronicler of that place from her own experience, a Jewish woman named Etty Hillesum, who died at Auschwitz. It sometimes seems, metaphorically at least, like our country is in a sort of transit camp again,
    I read Plunder too, and recommend it to anyone who wants to know of (or how to write of) conspiracy theories in practice, family history, and historical research “on the ground”. Finally, my father served in WW2 stateside for the whole four years, but was training for the Japan invasion when the war ended. Odds are good that I wouldn’t be here either, without the two bombs. Though I feel glad that we only used two. As to Nazi porn, I have shelf of it, but about 5 years ago reached the point where I couldn’t open it anymore. Peace to you and your other readers. Stay strong

    Liked by 3 people

    • Mike Schneider
      February 5, 2022

      Thank you, James, for your note. Peace to you also.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Daniel Burston
    February 4, 2022

    Hello Mike,

    Like you, I am a Jewish boomer whose Dad served in WWII and narrowly escaped with his life. Like your Dad, he is still very reluctant to talk about his wartime experience. And like him, he eventually agreed with me about the Vietnam war. So we have a lot in common.

    My father served in the Canadian Army and helped liberate Holland. But his entire extended family (on his mothers side) perished at Treblinka. So, like you, I grew up with these stories, am prone to immersing myself in disturbing subject matter in re: the war and the Holocaust for extended periods of time. And, I confess, it often leaves me worried and dispirited.

    However, I focus more on the interwar (Weimar) period in Europe and the USA pre-Pearl Harbor, because they seem closer to the times we’re living in now, when mushrooms are popping up all over our backyards. We old timers need to read, reflect and write more about that period of history – the lead up to WWII – because of the parallels they provide to the times we’re living in. Agreed?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mike Schneider
      February 4, 2022

      Thanks, Daniel. To correct a mis-impression, I’m not Jewish, but a confirmed Lutheran, non-church going agnostic, but take it as a compliment to be mistaken. I’m central Pennsylvania Deutsch, i.e., German Protestant on all four sides as far back as I’ve been able to trace my family tree, to the 1500s on one side. Thanks for your father’s service. I agree that we’re in a period with perilous parallels to Wiemar. I’ve found On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder, Yale Historian, to be strong medicine.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      February 4, 2022

      Thanks for this, Daniel.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Daniel Burston
    February 4, 2022

    Hello Mike

    Like

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