Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

In New Book, Grave Robbing and Other Stories of Poles’ Complicity

February 27, 2011
‘Golden Harvest’: Polish peasants with skeletal remains at Treblinka, where Gross said they dug for gold and jewels in the killing fields. Gross said the photograph was the starting point for his new book.

Gazeta Wyborcza
‘Golden Harvest’: Polish peasants with skeletal remains at Treblinka, where Gross said they dug for gold and jewels in the killing fields. Gross said the photograph was the starting point for his new book.

By Donald Snyder

Published February 23, 2011, issue of March 04, 2011.

Jan Gross is once again forcing Poland to take a new look at its past.

The Polish-American historian, whose previous books generated heated controversy and self-examination, has written a searing new indictment of Polish behavior toward Jews during World War II.

“Golden Harvest,” a new book by Gross and his former wife, Irena Grudzinska-Gross, charges that some Poles tried to profit from the Holocaust by digging for gold and jewels in the killing fields at Treblinka, the Nazi death camp where Germans murdered more than 800,000 Jews.

The book, which will be published in Poland on March 10, also accuses Poles of looting Jewish property.

“Poles accepted the fact that Jews were going to be destroyed,” Gross, a Princeton University historian, said in a telephone interview with the Forward. “The Poles participated in the murder of Jews, and this was done all over the country.”

In response, some of Poland’s right-wing media have branded Gross as anti-Polish.

“Jan Tomasz Gross has earned the deserved name of an untiring enemy of Poland and Poles. A swindler and a cheat,” Jerzy Robert Nowak wrote in the February 2 edition of Niedziela, a Roman Catholic publication distributed in churches.

“There is no place in Gross’s book for decent Poles, not an example,” complained a writer in the far-right tabloid Nasz Dziennik. “He only describes barbarians and villains. The purpose of the book is to make the American elite see Poles the way Jan Gross sees them.”

When asked about criticism of his work and about the allegations that he is anti-Polish, Gross responded gruffly: “This is all nonsense.”

Gross, who was born in Poland shortly after World War II, is no stranger to Polish readers. Born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, he fled his native country in 1968 because of an anti-Semitic campaign conducted by the Communist Party.

Gross has published two other books whose negative images of Poles provoked anger in the country of his birth.

“Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland,” published in 2001, investigated the 1941 massacre of about 1,600 Jewish villagers by their Polish neighbors. Poles were outraged when a government commission confirmed Gross’s findings.

A later book, “Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz,” published in 2006, asserted that Poles persecuted and murdered Jewish survivors.

Despite the controversy over “Golden Harvest,” Gross is not the first scholar to bring to light the Polish conduct at Treblinka. “The book is a synthesis of information uncovered by young Polish scholars,” said Michal Bilewicz, director of the University of Warsaw’s Center for Research on Prejudice. Bilewicz, who read a review copy of the book, said during a phone interview with the Forward that this information is little known outside Poland.

Gross acknowledges getting much of his material from Polish scholars who have conducted “excellent work” about Polish-Jewish relations during the war. “Much of this material has not been published in English, and it adds to our knowledge of Polish complicity in the murder of Jews,” he said.

The book also includes a photograph of Polish peasants at the edge of the gravesite at Treblinka, which previously had been published only in Gazeta Wyborcza, a leading Polish daily newspaper.

According to Bilewicz, Gross said in the book that the Polish behavior at Treblinka was criminal and abhorrent, but not inspired by anti-Semitism. “Gross says in the book that all of us are capable of committing the same crimes — if faced with the starvation the peasants experienced,” Bilewicz said.

Martyna Rusiniak-Karwat, a Warsaw University historian and author of a book on Treblinka, gave “Golden Harvest” a mixed review. “He based his book on work done by others, and used sources only selectively, including mine,” she told the Forward in a phone interview, through an interpreter.

Rusiniak-Karwat, who comes from a village about 20 miles from Treblinka, told the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita that as a child, she heard stories about Poles looking for gold that belonged to Jews murdered at Treblinka.

“When I started my research,” she said, “I found records on digging the mass graves, and that was shocking to me. I know they were searching the graves, but I didn’t have the slightest idea they went that far.” Her book “Extermination Camp Treblinka 2 in Social Memory, 1943–1989” was published in 2008.

“The peasants didn’t think of the place as a Jewish graveyard.” Rusiniak-Karwat said. “They were driven by the desire to reap a profit. They were depraved and deprived of all normal standards.”

Amid the anger Gross’s book has provoked, his inclusion of the photograph purporting to show Polish peasants searching for valuables among the dead has been especially provocative. The photograph, of which the origins are uncertain, first appeared in the January 8, 2008, edition of Gazeta Wyborcza.

Konstanty Gebert, a columnist for the newspaper, told the Forward in an e-mail: “There is a controversy about that photo and Gross acknowledges it. The photo either represents diggers, or people who were collecting human remains for future disposal.”

Rusniak-Karwat raised similar doubts. “Jan Gross used the picture as his primary evidence,” she said. “And we know little about its origin.”

Gross said he first saw the picture in Gazeta Wyborcza and learned that it had been given to a museum at Treblinka in the 1960s by an employee of a local railroad station. The photograph was the starting point for his book.

“On the surface, it appears to be a very banal photograph,” he said. “But when you realize that the crops in front of [the peasants] are not beets or potatoes but skulls and bones, that is a very freaky experience,” he observed.

Znak, the book’s Roman Catholic publisher in Krakow, acknowledged receiving many e-mails denouncing publication of the book.

Henryk Wozniakowski, president of Znak, said at a news conference in Warsaw on February 8 that the book was being published to “revise our memory and confront it with historical truth.” He said charges that the book is anti-Polish are groundless, and that profits from its sale will be donated to charity. “We don’t consider this book a business project,” he noted. The first printing will be 50,000 copies.

But the controversy over the book has also sparked internal conflict at the publishing company. Znak Director Danuta Skora said at the same news conference that she was opposed to publishing the book. According to a report in Gazeta Wyborcza, she called the book “unjust” and apologized to Poles who were hurt by its allegations.

The book hits a raw nerve because Poles believe they acted honorably during the brutal German occupation. Six million Polish citizens — half of them Jews — were killed during the war, and the Polish Underground performed courageously, including during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. And Poland has had more citizens honored as Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem than any other European country. This is part of the Polish identity.

“Poles regard themselves as innocent victims of history and find it difficult to concede they may be something else,” Gebert said.

The chief rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, gave this assessment: “There is no way to justify what happened, but the people who were going into the graves were very hungry. We have to think of what the times were then. It was starvation. Did they do this because the victims were Jewish, or did they do it because they thought they could find something to feed their families?”

An English edition of the book is scheduled for publication in August.

Contact Donald Snyder at feedback@forward.com

Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/135643/#ixzz1EyTvVMA8

FOOD FOR THOUGHT – A Holocaust Survivor’s View on Islam

June 26, 2010

A Holocaust Survivors View on Fanatic Islam >

This is one of the best explanation of the Muslim terrorist situation I have read. His references to past history are accurate and clear. Not long, easy to understand, and well worth the read. The author of this email is Dr. Emanuel Tanay, a well-known and well respected psychiatrist.

A Holocaust Survivor’s View on Islam

A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. ‘Very few people were true Nazis,’ he said, ‘but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories. ‘We are told again and again by ‘experts’ and ‘talking heads’ that Islam is the religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam. The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march… It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is > the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers. The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the ‘silent majority,’ is cowed and extraneous. Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China’s huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people. The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet. And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were ‘peace loving’? History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don’t speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun. Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late. As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts — the fanatics who threaten our way of life. Lastly, anyone who doubts that the issue is serious and just deletes this email without sending it on is contributing to the passiveness that allows the problems to expand. So, extend yourself a bit and send this on and on and on! Let us hope that thousands, world-wide, read this and think about it, and send it on – before it’s too late.

Gas Chamber – An American Idea

May 9, 2010

The Nazis’ Murder of Jews, Communists and Gypsies In Gas Chambers Was an AMERICAN Idea

Believe it or not, the Nazis’ murder of Jews, communists and gypsies using gas chambers was actually an American idea.

As the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in 2003:

the concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race didn’t originate with Hitler. The idea was created in the United States, and cultivated in California, decades before Hitler came to power. California eugenicists played an important, although little-known, role in the American eugenics movement’s campaign for ethnic cleansing.

Eugenics was the pseudoscience aimed at “improving” the human race. In its extreme, racist form, this meant wiping away all human beings deemed “unfit,” preserving only those who conformed to a Nordic stereotype. Elements of the philosophy were enshrined as national policy by forced sterilization and segregation laws, as well as marriage restrictions, enacted in 27 states. In 1909, California became the third state to adopt such laws. Ultimately, eugenics practitioners coercively sterilized some 60,000 Americans, barred the marriage of thousands, forcibly segregated thousands in “colonies,” and persecuted untold numbers in ways we are just learning. Before World War II, nearly half of coercive sterilizations were done in California, and even after the war, the state accounted for a third of all such surgeries.

California was considered an epicenter of the American eugenics movement. During the 20th century’s first decades, California’s eugenicists included potent but little-known race scientists, such as Army venereal disease specialist Dr. Paul Popenoe, citrus magnate Paul Gosney, Sacramento banker Charles Goethe, as well as members of the California state Board of Charities and Corrections and the University of California Board of Regents.

Eugenics would have been so much bizarre parlor talk had it not been for extensive financing by corporate philanthropies, specifically the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune. They were all in league with some of America’s most respected scientists from such prestigious universities as Stanford, Yale, Harvard and Princeton. These academicians espoused race theory and race science, and then faked and twisted data to serve eugenics’ racist aims.

Stanford President David Starr Jordan originated the notion of “race and blood” in his 1902 racial epistle “Blood of a Nation”, in which the university scholar declared that human qualities and conditions such as talent and poverty were passed through the blood.

In 1904, the Carnegie Institution established a laboratory complex at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island that stockpiled millions of index cards on ordinary Americans, as researchers carefully plotted the removal of families, bloodlines and whole peoples. From Cold Spring Harbor, eugenics advocates agitated in the legislatures of America, as well as the nation’s social service agencies and associations.

The Harriman railroad fortune paid local charities, such as the New York Bureau of Industries and Immigration, to seek out Jewish, Italian and other immigrants in New York and other crowded cities and subject them to deportation, confinement or forced sterilization.

The Rockefeller Foundation helped found the German eugenics program and even funded the program that Josef Mengele worked in before he went to Auschwitz.

Much of the spiritual guidance and political agitation for the American eugenics movement came from California’s quasi-autonomous eugenic societies, such as Pasadena’s Human Betterment Foundation and the California branch of the American Eugenics Society, which coordinated much of their activity with the Eugenics Research Society in Long Island. These organizations — which functioned as part of a closely-knit network — published racist eugenic newsletters and pseudoscientific journals, such as Eugenical News and Eugenics, and propagandized for the Nazis.

***

The most commonly suggested method of eugenicide in the United States was a “lethal chamber” or public, locally operated gas chambers. In 1918, Popenoe, the Army venereal disease specialist during World War I, co-wrote the widely used textbook, “Applied Eugenics”, which argued,

“From an historical point of view, the first method which presents itself is execution . . . Its value in keeping up the standard of the race should not be underestimated.”

“Applied Eugenics” also devoted a chapter to “Lethal Selection”, which operated “through the destruction of the individual by some adverse feature of the environment, such as excessive cold, or bacteria, or by bodily deficiency.”

Eugenic breeders believed American society was not ready to implement an organized lethal solution. But many mental institutions and doctors practiced improvised medical lethality and passive euthanasia on their own. One institution in Lincoln, Ill., fed its incoming patients milk from tubercular cows believing a eugenically strong individual would be immune. Thirty to 40 percent annual death rates resulted at Lincoln. Some doctors practiced passive eugenicide one newborn infant at a time. Others doctors at mental institutions engaged in lethal neglect.

***

Even the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed aspects of eugenics. In its infamous 1927 decision, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote,

“It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

This decision opened the floodgates for thousands to be coercively sterilized or otherwise persecuted as subhuman. Years later, the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials quoted Holmes’ words in their own defense.

Only after eugenics became entrenched in the United States was the campaign transplanted into Germany, in no small measure through the efforts of California eugenicists, who published booklets idealizing sterilization and circulated them to German officials and scientists.

Hitler studied American eugenics laws. He tried to legitimize his anti-Semitism by medicalizing it, and wrapping it in the more palatable pseudoscientific facade of eugenics. Hitler was able to recruit more followers among reasonable Germans by claiming that science was on his side. Hitler’s race hatred sprung from his own mind, but the intellectual outlines of the eugenics Hitler adopted in 1924 were made in America.

During the ’20s, Carnegie Institution eugenic scientists cultivated deep personal and professional relationships with Germany’s fascist eugenicists. In “Mein Kampf”, published in 1924, Hitler quoted American eugenic ideology and openly displayed a thorough knowledge of American eugenics.

“There is today one state”, wrote Hitler, “in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception (of immigration) are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but the United States.”

***

During the Reich’s early years, eugenicists across America welcomed Hitler’s plans as the logical fulfillment of their own decades of research and effort. California eugenicists republished Nazi propaganda for American consumption. They also arranged for Nazi scientific exhibits, such as an August 1934 display at the L.A. County Museum, for the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.

In 1934, as Germany’s sterilizations were accelerating beyond 5,000 per month, the California eugenics leader C. M. Goethe, upon returning from Germany, ebulliently bragged to a colleague,

“You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought . . . I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people.”

***

More than just providing the scientific roadmap, America funded Germany’s eugenic institutions.

By 1926, Rockefeller had donated some $410,000 — almost $4 million in today’s money — to hundreds of German researchers. In May 1926, Rockefeller awarded $250,000 toward creation of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Psychiatry. Among the leading psychiatrists at the German Psychiatric Institute was Ernst Rüdin, who became director and eventually an architect of Hitler’s systematic medical repression.

Another in the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute’s complex of eugenics institutions was the Institute for Brain Research. Since 1915, it had operated out of a single room. Everything changed when Rockefeller money arrived in 1929. A grant of $317,000 allowed the institute to construct a major building and take center stage in German race biology. The institute received additional grants from the Rockefeller Foundation during the next several years. Leading the institute, once again, was Hitler’s medical henchman Ernst Rüdin. Rüdin’s organization became a prime director and recipient of the murderous experimentation and research conducted on Jews, Gypsies and others.

Beginning in 1940, thousands of Germans taken from old age homes, mental institutions and other custodial facilities were systematically gassed. Between 50,000 and 100,000 were eventually killed.

Leon Whitney, executive secretary of the American Eugenics Society, declared of Nazism, “While we were pussy-footing around … the Germans were calling a spade a spade.”

A special recipient of Rockefeller funding was the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics in Berlin. For decades,

American eugenicists had craved twins to advance their research into heredity.

The Institute was now prepared to undertake such research on an unprecedented level. On May 13, 1932, the Rockefeller Foundation in New York dispatched a radiogram to its Paris office: JUNE MEETING EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS OVER THREE YEAR PERIOD TO KWG INSTITUTE ANTHROPOLOGY FOR RESEARCH ON TWINS AND EFFECTS ON LATER GENERATIONS OF SUBSTANCES TOXIC FOR GERM PLASM.

At the time of Rockefeller’s endowment, Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, a hero in American eugenics circles, functioned as a head of the Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity and Eugenics. Rockefeller funding of that institute continued both directly and through other research conduits during Verschuer’s early tenure. In 1935, Verschuer left the institute to form a rival eugenics facility in Frankfurt that was much heralded in the American eugenics press. Research on twins in the Third Reich exploded, backed by government decrees. Verschuer wrote in Der Erbarzt, a eugenics doctor’s journal he edited, that Germany’s war would yield a “total solution to the Jewish problem.”

Verschuer had a longtime assistant. His name was Josef Mengele.

***

Rockefeller executives never knew of Mengele. With few exceptions, the foundation had ceased all eugenics studies in Nazi-occupied Europe before the war erupted in 1939. But by that time the die had been cast. The talented men Rockefeller and Carnegie financed, the great institutions they helped found, and the science they helped create took on a scientific momentum of their own.

As Michel Crichton wrote in 2004:

Its supporters included Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Winston Churchill. It was approved by Supreme Court justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis, who ruled in its favor. The famous names who supported it included Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone; activist Margaret Sanger; botanist Luther Burbank; Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University; the novelist H. G. Wells; the playwright George Bernard Shaw; and hundreds of others. Nobel Prize winners gave support. Research was backed by the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations. The Cold Springs Harbor Institute was built to carry out this research, but important work was also done at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and Johns Hopkins. Legislation to address the crisis was passed in states from New York to California.

These efforts had the support of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, and the National Research Council. It was said that if Jesus were alive, he would have supported this effort.

All in all, the research, legislation and molding of public opinion surrounding the theory went on for almost half a century. Those who opposed the theory were shouted down and called reactionary, blind to reality, or just plain ignorant. But in hindsight, what is surprising is that so few people objected.

***

The plan was to identify individuals who were feeble-minded — Jews were agreed to be largely feeble-minded, but so were many foreigners, as well as blacks — and stop them from breeding by isolation in institutions or by sterilization.

***

Such views were widely shared. H.G. Wells spoke against “ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens”. Theodore Roosevelt said that “Society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind.” Luther Burbank” “Stop permitting criminals and weaklings to reproduce.” George Bernard Shaw said that only eugenics could save mankind.

***

Eugenics research was funded by the Carnegie Foundation, and later by the Rockefeller Foundation. The latter was so enthusiastic that even after the center of the eugenics effort moved to Germany, and involved the gassing of individuals from mental institutions, the Rockefeller Foundation continued to finance German researchers at a very high level. (The foundation was quiet about it, but they were still funding research in 1939, only months before the onset of World War II.)

Since the 1920s, American eugenicists had been jealous because the Germans had taken leadership of the movement away from them. The Germans were admirably progressive. They set up ordinary-looking houses where “mental defectives” were brought and interviewed one at a time, before being led into a back room, which was, in fact, a gas chamber. There, they were gassed with carbon monoxide, and their bodies disposed of in a crematorium located on the property.

Eventually, this program was expanded into a vast network of concentration camps located near railroad lines, enabling the efficient transport and of killing ten million undesirables.

After World War II, nobody was a eugenicist, and nobody had ever been a eugenicist. Biographers of the celebrated and the powerful did not dwell on the attractions of this philosophy to their subjects, and sometimes did not mention it at all. Eugenics ceased to be a subject for college classrooms, although some argue that its ideas continue to have currency in disguised form.

***

The scientific establishment in both the United States and Germany did not mount any sustained protest. Quite the contrary. In Germany scientists quickly fell into line with the program. Modern German researchers have gone back to review Nazi documents from the 1930s. They expected to find directives telling scientists what research should be done. But none were necessary. In the words of Ute Deichman, “Scientists, including those who were not members of the [Nazi] party, helped to get funding for their work through their modified behavior and direct cooperation with the state.” Deichman speaks of the “active role of scientists themselves in regard to Nazi race policy … where [research] was aimed at confirming the racial doctrine … no external pressure can be documented.” German scientists adjusted their research interests to the new policies. And those few who did not adjust disappeared.

Appendix 1, State of Fear (Avon 2004).

Note: Obviously, not all Americans bought into crazy eugenics theories.

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2010/02/nazis-murder-of-jews-communists-and.html

European Union, the Euro and Germany

April 5, 2010

By Peter Zeihan

The global system is undergoing profound change. Three powers — Germany, Iran and China — face challenges forcing them to refashion the way they interact with their regions and the world. We will explore each of these three states in detail in our next three geopolitical weeklies, highlighting how STRATFOR’s assessments of these states are evolving. We will examine Germany first.

Germany’s Place in Europe

European history has been the chronicle of other European powers struggling to constrain Germany, particularly since German unification in 1871. The problem has always been geopolitical. Germany lies on the North European Plain, with France to its west and Russia to its east. If both were to attack at the same time, Germany would collapse. German strategy in 1871, 1914 and 1939 called for pre-emptive strikes on France to prevent a two-front war. (The last two attempts failed disastrously, of course.)

As much as Germany’s strategy engendered mistrust in Germany’s neighbors, they certainly understood Germany’s needs. And so European strategy after World War II involved reshaping the regional dynamic so that Germany would never face this problem again and so would never need to be a military power again. Germany’s military policy was subordinated to NATO and its economic policy to the European Economic Community (the forerunner of today’s European Union). NATO solved Germany’s short-run problem, while the European Union was seen as solving its long-run problem. For the Europeans — including the Germans — these structures represented the best of both worlds. They harnessed German capital and economic dynamism, submerged Germany into a larger economic entity, gave the Germans what they needed economically so they didn’t have to seek it militarily, and ensured that the Germans had no reason — or ability — to strike out on their own.

This system worked particularly well after the Cold War ended. Defense threats and their associated costs were reduced. There were lingering sovereignty issues, of course, but these were not critical during the good times: Such problems easily can be dealt with or deferred while the money flows. The example of a European development that represented this money-over-sovereignty paradigm was the European Monetary Union, best represented by the European common currency, the euro.

STRATFOR has always doubted the euro would last. Having the same currency and monetary policy for rich, technocratic, capital-intensive economies like Germany as for poor, agrarian/manufacturing economies like Spain always seemed like asking for problems. Countries like Germany tend to favor high interest rates to attract investment capital. They don’t mind a strong currency, since what they produce is so high up on the value-added scale that they can compete regardless. Countries like Spain, however, need a cheap currency, since there isn’t anything particularly value-added about most of their exports. These states must find a way to be price competitive. Their ability to grow largely depends upon getting access to cheap credit they can direct to places the market might not appreciate.

STRATFOR figured that creating a single currency system would trigger high inflation in the poorer states as they gained access to capital they couldn’t qualify for on their own merits. We figured such access would generate massive debts in those states. And we figured such debts would contribute to discontent across the currency zone as the European Central Bank (ECB) catered to the needs of some economies at the expense of others.

All this and more has happened. We saw the 2008-2009 financial crisis in Central Europe as particularly instructive. Despite their shared EU membership, the Western European members were quite reluctant to bail out their eastern partners. We became even more convinced that such inconsistencies would eventually doom the currency union, and that the euro’s eventual dissolution would take the European Union with it. Now, we’re not so sure.

What if, instead of the euro being designed to further contain the Germans, the Germans crafted the euro to rewire the European Union for their own purposes?

Germany and the Current Crisis

The crux of the current crisis in Europe is that most EU states, but in particular the Club Med states of Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy (in that order), have done such a poor job of keeping their budgets under control that they are flirting with debt defaults. All have grown fat and lazy off the cheap credit the euro brought them. Instead of using that credit to trigger broad sustainable economic growth, they lived off the difference between the credit they received due to the euro and the credit they qualified for on their own merits. Social programs funded by debt exploded; after all, the cost of that debt was low as the Club Med countries coasted on the bond prices of Germany. At present, interest rates set by the ECB stand at 1 percent; in the past, on its own merits, Greece’s often rose to double digits. The resulting government debt load in Greece — which now exceeds annual Greek gross domestic product — will probably result in either a default (triggered by efforts to maintain such programs) or a social revolution (triggered by an effort to cut such programs). It is entirely possible that both will happen.

What made us look at this in a new light was an interview with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble on March 13 in which he essentially said that if Greece, or any other eurozone member, could not right their finances, they should be ejected from the eurozone. This really got our attention. It is not so much that there is no legal way to do this. (And there is not; Greece is a full EU member, and eurozone membership issues are clearly a category where any member can veto any major decision.) Instead, what jumped out at us is that someone of Schauble’s gravitas doesn’t go about casually making threats, and this is not the sort of statement made by a country that is constrained, harnessed, submerged or placated. It is not even the sort of statement made by just any EU member, but rather by the decisive member. Germany now appears prepared not just to contemplate, but to publicly contemplate, the re-engineering of Europe for its own interests. It may not do it, or it may not do it now, but it has now been said, and that will change Germany’s relationship to Europe.

A closer look at the euro’s effects indicates why Schauble felt confident enough to take such a bold stance.

Part of being within the same currency zone means being locked into the same market. One must compete with everyone else in that market for pretty much everything. This allows Slovaks to qualify for mortgage loans at the same interest rates the Dutch enjoy, but it also means that efficient Irish workers are actively competing with inefficient Spanish workers — or more to the issue of the day, that ultraefficient German workers are competing directly with ultra inefficient Greek workers.

The chart below measures the relative cost of labor per unit of economic output produced. It all too vividly highlights what happens when workers compete. (We have included U.S. data as a benchmark.) Those who are not as productive try to paper over the problem with credit. Since the euro was introduced, all of Germany’s euro partners have found themselves becoming less and less efficient relative to Germany. Germans are at the bottom of the graph, indicating that their labor costs have barely budged. Club Med dominates the top rankings, as access to cheaper credit has made them even less, not more, efficient than they already were. Back-of-the-envelope math indicates that in the past decade, Germany has gained roughly a 25 percent cost advantage over Club Med.


3-15-10-Eurozone_labor_costs_400.jpg

The implications of this are difficult to overstate. If the euro is essentially gutting the European — and again to a greater extent the Club Med — economic base, then Germany is achieving by stealth what it failed to achieve in the past thousand years of intra-European struggles. In essence, European states are borrowing money (mostly from Germany) in order to purchase imported goods (mostly from Germany) because their own workers cannot compete on price (mostly because of Germany). This is not limited to states actually within the eurozone, but also includes any state affiliated with the zone; the relative labor costs for most of the Central European states that have not even joined the euro yet have risen by even more during this same period.

It is not so much that STRATFOR now sees the euro as workable in the long run — we still don’t — it’s more that our assessment of the euro is shifting from the belief that it was a straightjacket for Germany to the belief that it is Germany’s springboard. In the first assessment, the euro would have broken as Germany was denied the right to chart its own destiny. Now, it might well break because Germany is becoming a bit too successful at charting its own destiny. And as it dawns on one European country after another that there was more to the euro than cheap credit, the ties that bind are almost certainly going to weaken.

The paradigm that created the European Union — that Germany would be harnessed and contained — is shifting. Germany now has not only found its voice, it is beginning to express, and hold to, its own national interest. A political consensus has emerged in Germany against bailing out Greece. Moreover, a political consensus has emerged in Germany that the rules of the euro zone are Germany’s to refashion. As the European Union’s anchor member, Germany has a very good point. But this was not the “union” the rest of Europe signed up for — it is the Mitteleuropa that the rest of Europe will remember well.

http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article17922.html

Henio Żytomirski. A story of one life

March 29, 2010

Henio Żytomirski.

The photograph of a little boy you can see in front of you was taken in one of the main streets of Lublin. There is nothing particular in this picture and you cannot say much about it.

Some citizens of Lublin may be able to recognize the place where the boy stands.
People pass it every day, not paying attention to it. When we look at this photograph, we cannot even specify when it was taken. Perhaps before the war? Or maybe after the war, in the 1950s or the 1960s? Thousands of similar pictures of kids are taken in the streets every day.

However, behind this seemingly casual photo there is the life story of a little Jewish boy, born in 1933 in Lublin, whose name was Henio Żytomirski. He is the kid in the picture. Six year old Henio was to start primary school on 1 September 1939. Yet, World War II broke out on that day and Henio never went to school. He died in 1942 in a gas chamber of Majdanek Nazi concentration camp.

This photograph is the last in the series of his pictures taken by his father every year. The photos have survived and they can be arranged into a small album. Turning over its pages, we can see the photographs of Henio from 1933, 1934 and so on, until the last one from 1939.

When you walk past the place where Henio was standing while his father took this photo of him, think for a moment about this little Jewish boy. We will tell you now his story.

Tomasz Pietrasiewicz
Translated by: Piotr Wojcieszuk

The photograph was taken on 5 July 1939.

The boy stands at the steps of a building. The background indicates the place where the picture was taken. The pre-war address was: 64 Krakowskie Przedmieście Street, the building of the Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego.

The boy stopped for a moment, perhaps during a walk. He was to start school on 1 September 1939. This is his story – a story of a Jewish boy from Lublin, which ended in Majdanek Nazi concentration camp in 1942.

Henio Żytomirski was born in 1933 in Lublin. He lived with his parents Szmuel and Sara Żytomirski in a house at 3 Szewska Street. A dozen or so of his photos survived from the period prior to World War II. They show the boy at various occasions: embraced by his father, with his mother in Litewski Square, with his grandfather in Krakowskie Przedmieście Street, at a birthday party, or at the farewell to his uncle Leon leaving for Palestine in 1937.

The fate of Henio during the war is not known in detail. Without doubt, after the establishment of the ghetto in Podzamcze, Henio’s family moved from 3 Szewska Street to the building at 11 Kowalska Street. From there, Henio and his father were relocated to the ghetto in Majdan Tatarski. Then they were moved to Majdanek. And it is there where Henio’s story ends.

Watch >>> Gallery of Henio’s photographs

Watch >> Gallery of the Żytomirski family’s photographs

The story of the Żytomirski family has been reconstructed with the help of their relative Neta Żytomirska – Avidar, who, having visited the „Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre, handed over the albums telling about the fate of Henio and his family.

Neta Żytomirska – Avidar lives in Israel. Her father is Leon Żytomirski, Henio’s uncle, who emigrated from Poland just before the war. Neta Avidar is a graphic artist. In 2007 she came to Lublin with the exhibition of her works whose subject matter concerns human feelings: hidden anxieties, suffering and desires, inspired by war experiences of her family.

The albums containing information about Henio Żytomirski and the fate of his family are very special documents. Through them, the story of one person becomes the symbolic fate of Jewish citizens of Lublin who perished during the war.

“Letters to Henio”

We were so deeply moved by the story of Henio that we decided to do something in order to commemorate him.

These are various actions of the educational and inspirational character. Trying to preserve the memory of Henio, we suggested the following ideas:
– writing letters to Henio;
– the last photograph (marking the space) and visiting places connected with Henio’s life;
– projects of teachers who participate every year in the action „Letters to Henio”.

A booklet about Henio has been published, containing photographs from the albums handed over by Neta Żytomirska – Avidar.

Watch >>> Gallery with the booklet about Henio

The story of Henio was also included in the exhibition „A Primer. The Life of Children in Majdanek Concentration Camp” presented in the former Nazi concentration camp Majdanek, barrack no. 53.

The story of Henio was an inspiration behind the multimedia presentation entitled “Henio Żytomirski. A Story,” which includes archive material and photos from the actions “Letters to Henio,” as well as the song “Małe dzieci po to są” (“That’s what little kids are for”) performed by Anna Maria Jopek.

The materials compiled by:
Marta Grudzińska, Monika Krzykała,
Beata Markiewicz, Piotr Sztajdel
Edited by: Joanna Zętar
Translated by: Piotr Wojcieszuk

http://www.tnn.pl/pamiej.php?kat=3385

Changing Face in Poland: Skinhead Puts on Skullcap

March 8, 2010

Adam Lach for The New York Times

Pawel in the Warsaw synagogue. A former truck driver and neo-Nazi skinhead, Pawel, 33, has since become an Orthodox Jew, covering his shaved head with a yarmulke and shedding his fascist ideology for the Torah.

By DAN BILEFSKY
February 27, 2010
New York Times

WARSAW — When Pawel looks into the mirror, he can still sometimes see a neo-Nazi skinhead staring back, the man he was before he covered his shaved head with a skullcap, traded his fascist ideology for the Torah and renounced violence and hatred in favor of God.

“I still struggle every day to discard my past ideas,” said Pawel, a 33-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jew and former truck driver, noting with little irony that he had to stop hating Jews in order to become one. “When I look at an old picture of myself as a skinhead, I feel ashamed. Every day I try and do teshuvah,” he said, using the Hebrew word for repentance. “Every minute of every day. There is a lot to make up for.”

Pawel, who also uses his Hebrew name Pinchas, asked that his last name not be used for fear that his old neo-Nazi friends could harm him or his family.

Twenty years after the fall of Communism, Pawel is perhaps the most unlikely example of the Jewish revival under way in Poland, of a moment in which Jewish leaders here say the country is finally showing solid signs of shedding the rabid anti-Semitism of the past.

Before 1939, Poland was home to more than three million Jews, more than 90 percent of whom were killed by the Nazis. Most who survived emigrated. Of the fewer than 50,000 who remained in Poland, many abandoned or hid their Judaism during decades of Communist oppression in which political pogroms against Jews persisted.

Today, though, Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland, said he considered Poland the most pro-Israel country in the European Union. He said the attitude of Pope John Paul II, a Pole, who called Jews “our elder brothers,” had finally entered the public consciousness.

Ten years after the revelation that 1,600 Jews of the town of Jedwabne were burned alive by their Polish neighbors in July 1941, he said the national myth that all Poles were victims of World War II had finally been shattered.

“Before 1989 there was a feeling that it was not safe to say, ‘I am a Jew,’ ” Rabbi Schudrich said. “But two decades later, there is a growing feeling that Jews are a missing limb in Poland. The level of anti-Semitism remains unacceptable, but the image of the murderous Pole seared in the consciousness of many Jews after the war doesn’t correspond to the Poland of 2010.”

The small Jewish revival has been under way for several years around eastern Europe. Hundreds of Poles, a majority of them raised as Catholics, are either converting to Judaism or discovering Jewish roots submerged for decades in the aftermath of World War II.

In the past five years, Warsaw’s Jewish community had grown to 600 families from 250. The cafés and bars of the old Jewish quarter in Krakow brim with young Jewish converts listening to Israeli hip hop music.

Michal Pirog, a popular Polish dancer and television star, who recently proclaimed his Jewish roots on national television, said the revelation had won him more fans than enemies.

“Poland is changing,” he said. “I am Jewish and I feel good,” he said.

Pawel’s metamorphosis from baptized Catholic skinhead to Jew began in a bleak neighborhood of concrete tower blocks in Warsaw in the 1980s, where Pawel said he and his friends reacted to the gnawing uniformity of socialism by embracing anti-Semitism. They shaved their heads, carried knives and greeted one another with the raised right arm gesture of the Nazi salute.

“Oy vey, I hate to admit it, but we would beat up local Jewish and Arab kids and homeless people,” Pawel said on a recent day from the Nozyk Synagogue here. “We sang about stupid stuff like Satan and killing people. We believed that Poland should only be for Poles.”

One day, he recalled, he and his friends skipped school and took a train to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp, near Krakow. “We made jokes that we wished the exhibition had been bigger and that the Nazis had killed even more Jews,” he said.

Even as Pawel embraced the life of a neo-Nazi, he said that he had pangs that his identity was built on a lie. His churchgoing father seemed overly fond of quoting the Old Testament. His grandfather hinted about past family secrets.

“One time when I told my grandfather that Jews were bad, he exploded and screamed at me, ‘If I ever hear you say such a thing again under my roof, you will never come back!’ ”

Pawel joined the army and married a fellow skinhead at age 18. But his sense of self changed irrevocably at the age of 22, when his wife, Paulina, suspecting that she had Jewish roots, went to a genealogical institute and discovered Pawel’s maternal grandparents on a register of Warsaw Jews, along with her own grandparents.

When Pawel confronted his parents, he said, they broke down and told him the truth: his maternal grandmother was Jewish and had survived the war by being hidden in a monastery by a group of nuns. His paternal grandfather, also a Jew, had seven brother and sisters, most of whom had perished in the Holocaust.

“I went to my parents and said, ‘What the hell’? Imagine, I was a neo-Nazi and heard this news? I couldn’t look in the mirror for weeks,” he said. “My parents were the typical offspring of Jewish survivors of the war, who decided to conceal their Jewish identity to try and protect their family.”

Shaken by his own discovery, Pawel said he spent weeks of cloistered and tortured reflection but was finally overcome by a strong desire to become Jewish, even Orthodox. He acknowledged that he was drawn to extremes. He said his transformation was arduous, akin to being reborn. He even forced himself to reread “Mein Kampf” but could not get to the end because he felt physically repulsed.

“When I asked a rabbi, ‘Why do I feel this way?’ he replied, ‘The sleeping souls of your ancestors are calling out to you.’ ”

At age 24, he was circumcised. Two years later, he decided to become an ultra-Orthodox Jew. He and his wife are raising their two children in a Jewish home.

Pawel noted that he was still singled out by the same anti-Semites who once counted him among their ranks. “When younger people see me on the street with my top hat and side curls they sometimes laugh at me,” he said. “But it is the old ladies who are the meanest. Sometimes, they use the language I used when I was a skinhead and say, ‘Get out and go back to your country’ or ‘Jew go home!’ ”

And now he is studying to become a shochet, a person charged with killing animals according to Jewish dietary laws. “I am good with knives,” he explained.

Joanna Berendt contributed reporting.