Archive for October, 2010

October 29, 2010

Reenacting the Holocaust: A Polish town remembers

REP. JOHN BOEHNER IS out campaigning for Ohio Congressional candidate Rich Iott, and why shouldn’t he be? The upcoming national election may be tight, and if Boehner wants to become Speaker of the House he’s going to need all the Republican backing he can get. And yet, Iott may prove to be a tough sell, largely due to the consternation he caused when he admitted that he regularly plays the role of an SS officer in World War II reenactments, proudly posing for cameras in an SS uniform. While Iott claims a certain admiration for the Third Reich’s military prowess, he protests that he dons the uniform not out of any genocidal impulses but solely “to keep the public aware of what happened.” In a piece on Salon.com today, Joan Walsh writes: “What’s next: Re-enacting cross-burnings while denying fealty to the Ku Klux Klan, just because…

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October 27, 2010

The Hitler icon: How Mount Athos honored the Führer

THERE IS A PIOUS notion out there that organized religion, if practiced devoutly enough, can preserve human beings from immoral thoughts and actions, particularly those stemming from the seductions of supposedly secular political ideologies. The Protestants have their “mighty fortress” of Lutheran song and liturgy, the Catholics have their eternal Vatican, and the Greek Orthodox Church preserves its theological purity in the twenty monasteries of Mount Athos, “the Garden of the Virgins,” on a peninsula in northern Greece, where all females – including dogs and cats – are banished from the premises so as to protect the monks from any impure sensations.* However, even the most cursory glance at the historical record reveals that the devout are not only as likely as anyone else to fall for a totalitarian…

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October 21, 2010

Should the Poles make Jesus their king?

GO INTO ANY CORNER bar in the US and ask the patrons who is really in charge of America, you’ll likely receive a list of the usual suspects in response: the banks, the liberals, the military-industrial complex, the UN, the Trilateral Commission, the gay people, or that old standby, the Jews. Go into your local “Christian” fitness club or megachurch, however, and you may learn that Jesus is really the man in charge, hindered only in his good works by the pernicious influence of the devil (abetted by the liberals, the gay people, etc.). Strangely, though, no one ever suggests hiring the Prince of Peace directly, with people instead preferring to vote for Sarah Palin or Christine O’Donnell to do His holy work. Ask around on the streets of Warsaw and Krakow and you’ll get an even more definite response: Jesus should actually be placed in charge of Poland. In fact, they might tell you, he should be anointed king…

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October 14, 2010

At the Kremlin banquet hall, it’s the Diet of Worms redux

FOR GENERATIONS, SCHOOL CHILDREN and college students throughout the English-speaking countries have tittered over the implausibly named “Diet of Worms” of 1521, where the great reformer Martin Luther was called onto the carpet by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at a meeting of the Imperial Diet, was the assembly of the Imperial Estates. Luther barely escaped with his life, although there is no record that he was actually fed night crawlers with his black bread and cheese (the German term for the Diet of Worms is der Wormser Reichstag, which has no comical overtones). This week, though, a worm-inspired “tweet” may well cost a Russian provincial governor his job…

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October 13, 2010

New report finds Germany swinging towards the right

FOR MONTHS IN THIS SPACE I have been writing about the resurgence of anti-immigrant sentiment and “respectable” far-right parties in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. While such feelings and parties come and go and have rarely amounted to much since 1945, a new report being presented in Berlin today shows that right wing ideas are becoming increasingly acceptable in Germany and have, in fact, moved into “the center of society.” The Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s new 180-page report The Center in Crisis: Far Right Attitudes in Germany in 2010 finds that “in 2010 there was a significant increase in anti-democratic and racist…

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October 5, 2010

Right-wing Sweden Democrats walk out of anti-racist sermon

IT APPEARS AS IF the Sweden Democrats, the far-right party that recently gained twenty seats in Sweden’s 349-seat Riksdag, are not only skinheads but they are thin-skinned too.  (I have already written about the Sweden Democrats here.)  Today, Prime Minister Reinfeldt, the new parliament, the royal family, and other dignitaries met at Stockholm’s St. Nicholas Cathedral to celebrate a formal service to mark the opening the new parliament.  So far so good.  But as soon as Bishop Eva Brunne began telling the congregation of the thousands of people around the country who were demonstrating against racism, and that it is not worthy of a devout person to make distinctions on the basis of race or ethnic background, the SD group stood up and walked out of the church…

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October 4, 2010

The Berlin Wall returns – as a “serious” computer game

JUST ABOUT EVERYBODY WHO’S tried them derives pleasure from computer games or simulations of one kind or another, and of course we all need to brush up on our recent history, so why not combine the two? That’s what a computer design student in the German town of Karlsruhe thought. But the product of his labours, 1378 km, which was to be unveiled on Sunday to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of German reunification, has elicited nothing but horror and disgust from one end of the country to the other. Why? The game simulates the former inner-German border, and allows players to slip into the role of border guards and blow prospective “republic escapees,” as the communist regime used to call its refugees, to kingdom come…

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October 1, 2010

The last installment: Germany to repay WWI debt on birthday

UNITED GERMANY IS CELEBRATING its twentieth anniversary on Sunday, and the happy occasion cannot help but focus attention back on the many bizarre and dramatic events that led to unification in the first place: the peaceful revolution in East Germany in 1989, the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the founding of two German states in 1949, and the partition of the German Reich into four occupation zones at the end of the Second World War. Yes, nothing occurs in a historical vacuum, and thus it is perhaps fitting that on the same day as the country marks its anniversary it will also be paying the final installment on the reparations bill imposed on it in the Treaty of Versailles in 1919…

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