Monthly Archives: November 2011

Dead Sea Scroll Mystery Possibly Solved

Written by Owen Jarus for , November 22, 2011:

The Dead Sea Scrolls may have been written, at least in part, by a sectarian group called the Essenes, according to nearly 200 textiles discovered in caves at Qumran, in the West Bank, where the religious texts had been stored.

Scholars are divided about who authored the Dead Sea Scrolls and how the texts got to Qumran, and so the new finding could help clear up this long-standing mystery.

The research reveals that all the textiles were made of linen, rather than wool, which was the preferred textile used in ancient Israel. Also they lack decoration,  some actually being bleached white, even though fabrics from the period often have vivid colours. Altogether, researchers say these finds suggest that the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect, “penned” some of the scrolls.

Not everyone agrees with this interpretation. An archaeologist who has excavated at Qumran told LiveScience that the linen could have come from people fleeing the Roman army after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and that they are in fact responsible for putting the scrolls into caves.

Iconic scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of nearly 900 texts, the first batch of which were discovered by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947. They date from before A.D. 70, and some may go back to as early as the third century B.C. The scrolls contain a wide variety of writings including early copies of the Hebrew Bible, along with hymns, calendars and psalms, among other works. [Gallery of Dead Sea Scrolls]

Nearly 200 textiles were found in the same caves, along with a few examples from Qumran, the archaeological site close to the caves where the scrolls were hidden.

Orit Shamir, curator of organic materials at the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Naama Sukenik, a graduate student at Bar-Ilan University, compared the white-linen textiles found in the11 caves to examples found elsewhere in ancient Israel, publishing their results in the most recent issue of the journal Dead Sea Discoveries.

A breakthrough in studying these remains was made in 2007 when a team of archaeologists was able to ascertain that colorful wool textiles found at a site to the south of Qumran, known as the Christmas Cave, were not related to the inhabitants of the site. This meant that Shamir and Sukenik were able to focus on the 200 textiles found in the Dead Sea Scroll caves and at Qumran itself, knowing that these are the only surviving textiles related to the scrolls.

They discovered that every single one of these textiles was made of linen, even though wool was the most popular fabric at the time in Israel. They also found that most of the textiles would have originally been used as clothing, later being cut apart and re-used for other purposes such as bandages and for packing the scrolls into jars. [Photos of Dead Sea textiles]

Some of the textiles were bleached white and most of them lacked decoration, even though decoration is commonly seen in textiles from other sites in ancient Israel.

According to the researchers the finds suggest that the residents of Qumran dressed simply.

“They wanted to be different than the Roman world,” Shamir told LiveScience in a telephone interview. “They were very humble, they didn’t want to wear colorful textiles, they wanted to use very simple textiles.”

The owners of the clothing likely were not poor, as only one of the textiles had a patch on it.”This is very, very, important,” Shamir said. “Patching is connected with [the] economic situation of the site.”

Shamir pointed out that textiles found at sites where people were under stress, such as at the Cave of Letters, which was used in a revolt against the Romans, were often patched. On the other hand “if the site is in a very good economic situation, if it is a very rich site, the textiles will not be patched,” she said. With Qumran, “I think [economically] they were in the middle, but I’m sure they were not poor.”

Robert Cargill, a professor at the University of Iowa, has written extensively about Qumran and has developed a virtual model of it. He said that archaeological evidence from the site, including coins and glassware, also suggests the inhabitants were not poor.

“Far from being poor monastics, I think there was wealth at Qumran, at least some form of wealth,” Cargill said, arguing that trade was important at the site. “I think they made their own pottery and sold some of it, I think they bred animals and sold them, I think they made honey and sold it.”

Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Scholars are divided about who authored the Dead Sea Scrolls and how the texts got to Qumran. Some argue that the scrolls were written at the site itself while others say they were written in Jerusalem or elsewhere in Israel.

Qumran itself was first excavated by Roland de Vaux in the 1950s. He came to the conclusion that the site was inhabited by a religious sect called the Essenes who wrote the scrolls and stored them in caves. Among the finds he made were water pools, which he believed were used for ritual bathing, and multiple inkwells found in a room that became known as the “scriptorium.” Based on his excavations, scholars have estimated the population of the site at as high as 200.

More recent archaeological work, conducted by Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg of the Israel Antiquities Authority, suggests that the site could not have supported more than a few dozen people and had nothing to do with the scrolls themselves. They believe that the scrolls were deposited in the caves by refugees fleeing the Roman army after Jerusalem was conquered in A.D. 70.

Magen and Peleg found that the site came into existence around 100 B.C. as a military outpost used by the Hasmoneans, a Jewish kingdom that flourished in the area. After the Romans took over Judaea in 63 B.C. the site was abandoned and eventually was taken over by civilians who used it for pottery production. They found that the pools de Vaux discovered include a fine layer of potters’ clay.

There are other ideas as well. Cargill argues that while Qumran started out as a fort it was later occupied by a sectarian group whose members were deeply concerned with ritual purity. “Whether or not they are the Essenes, that’s a different question,” he said. This group, much smaller than earlier estimates of 200 people, would have written some of the scrolls, while collecting others, he argues.

Other groups, not part of the Qumran community, may also have been putting scrolls into the caves, Cargill said.

Can clothing solve the mystery?

The new clothing research may help to identify the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Shamir told LiveScience that it is unlikely the scrolls were deposited in the caves by Roman refugees. If that were the case, the more-popular textile in ancient Israel, wool, would have been found in the caves along with other garments.

“If people run away from Jerusalem they would take all sorts of textiles with them, not only linen textiles,” she said. “The people who ran away to the Cave of Letters, they took wool textiles with them.”

Peleg, the archaeologist who co-led the recent archaeological work at Qumran, told LiveScience he disagrees with that assessment. He said he stands by the idea that there is no connection between Qumran and the scrolls stored in the caves.

“We must remember that almost all the textiles were found in the caves andnot at the site. The main question is the connection between the site and the scrolls,” Peleg wrote in an email. “I can find alternative explanations for the fact that scrolls were found with linen.”

For instance, linen could have been chosen as scroll wrapping for religious reasons or perhaps priests were responsible for storing the scrolls and they wore linen clothing. “The clothes of the priests were made from linen,” Peleg wrote.

In their paper, Shamir and Sukenik say that the clothing found in the Dead Sea Scroll caves is similar to historical descriptions of the clothing of the Essenes, suggesting that they in fact lived at Qumran. They point to an ancient Jewish writer, Flavius Josephus, who wrote that the Essenes “make a point of keeping a dry skin and always being dressed in white.” (However, Josephus never said anything about the clothing being made of linen, Peleg points out.)

Josephusalso wrote that the Essenes were very frugal when it came to clothing and shared goods with each other.

“In their dress and deportment they resemble children under rigorous discipline. They do not change their garments or shoes until they are torn to shreds or worn threadbare with age. There is no buying or selling among themselves, but each gives what he has to any in need and receives from him in exchange something useful to himself …”

(Translation from “Jewish Life and Thought Among Greeks and Romans: Primary Readings,” Louis Feldman and Meyer Reinhold, 1996.)

In their paper, Shamir and Sukenikalso point to another ancient writer, Philo of Alexandria, who wrote that the Essenes wore a common style of simple dress.

“And not only is their table in common but their clothes also. For in winter they have a stock of stout coats ready and in summer cheap vests, so that he who wishes may easily take any garment he likes, since what one has is held to belong to all and conversely what all have one has.”

(Translation from the “Selected Writing of Philo of Alexandria,” edited by Hans Lewy, 1965.)

Cargill said that the clothing is further evidence that there was a Jewish sectarian group living at Qumran.

“You do have evidence of a group that raised its own animals, pressed its own date honey, that appears to have worn distinctive clothes and made its own pottery, and followed its own calendar, at least a calendar different from the temple priesthood,” he said. “Those are all signs of a sectarian group.”

He also noted the presence of mikveh (ritual baths) at the site and the fact that the residents could make pottery that was ritually pure.

This group appears to have wanted to separate itself from the priests based at the temple in Jerusalem. “There is a congruency within many of the sectarian documents that appears to be consistent with a sectarian group that has separated itself from the temple priesthood in Jerusalem,” Cargill said.

According to Cargill’s theory, the people of Qumran would have written some of the scrolls, while collecting others. “Obviously they didn’t write all of the scrolls,” Cargill said. Dating indicates some of the scrolls were written before Qumran even existed. One unusual scroll, made of copper, may have been deposited after Qumran was abandoned in A.D. 70.

Cargill says it’s possible that some of the scrolls may have been put in caves from people outside the community. If that’s true, some of the textiles could also be from people outside of Qumran.

“[If] not all of the Dead Sea Scrolls are the responsibility of sectarians at Qumran then it would follow that not all of the textiles that are discovered in the caves are [the] product of a sect at Qumran,” Cargill said.

Were there women at Qumran?

The new research may alsoshed light on who created the textiles.

The textiles are of high quality and, based on the archaeological finds at Qumran itself, where there is little evidence of spindle whorls or loom weights, the team thinks it’s unlikely they would have been made at the site.

“This is very, very important, because this is connected to gender,” Shamir said, “spinning is connected with women.”

She explained that the textiles were likely created at another site in Israel, with women playing a key role in their production. This suggests that there were few women living at Qumran itself. “Weaving is connected with men and women, but spinning was only a production of women, [and] we don’t find this item at Qumran.”


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French Rail, European Companies Pressured on Compensation for Nazi Survivors

Story by Pete Kasperowicz for The Hill. November 16, 2011:

Members of the House on Wednesday put new pressure on European companies to compensate relatives of Holocaust victims who were denied insurance payments, and whose family members were transported on French trains to concentration camps where they were killed.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a Wednesday hearing on two bills aimed at forcing these companies to compensate survivors.

“It pains me to say that survivors of one of the greatest atrocities of the twentieth century continue to feel the pain of the Nazis’ brutality and oppression,” Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said in her prepared statement. “These lingering injustices stem from those who sought to profit from the abuse of innocent victims and that took advantage of circumstance to enrich themselves while others suffered.”

One bill, the Holocaust Rail Justice Act, would give U.S. district courts jurisdiction to hear civil cases against Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français (SNCF), France’s state-owned rail company, for the company’s role in transporting more than 75,000 Jews to concentration camps in the early 1940s.SNCF has claimed sovereign immunity from U.S.-based suits, but the bill, H.R. 1193, would prevent sovereign immunity from being raised as a defense in U.S. cases.

The company has only recently apologized for its actions in World War II, and some have openly argued that this is an attempt to win rail contracts in the U.S.

“Its officials claim that they were forced to do the things they did,” Ros-Lehtinen said of the company. “And yet, SNCF has not contributed to post-war reparations to victims of the brutality of the Nazis. And when Holocaust survivors in the United States brought a class action suit against SNCF, the rail company hid again, this time, behind the foreign sovereign immunity, claiming that SCNF is an instrument of the French government and should not be held liable.”

H.R. 890, the Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act, would allow Holocaust survivors to use state laws to seek compensation from European-based insurance companies operating in those states in cases where they might have unfulfilled insurance claims. Ros-Lehtinen explained that in pre-war Europe, some sought to protect their financial futures by buying policies insuring them from the Nazis, but said survivors had little luck in validating their claims years later.

“They were turned away for lacking proper documentation, and barred from accessing the companies’ records,” she said. “The insurance companies refused to honor policies without documentation that they alone possessed, and refused to disclose to claimants.”

Ros-Lehtinen also added that an international commission established to examine these claims has so far proved ineffective.

A spokesman for Ros-Lehtinen said there were no immediate plans to mark up these bills. However, bipartisan support was evident in today’s hearing; ranking member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) spoke in favor of the insurance bill, and said finding some way to help get victims compensation outweighs the opposition from Europe.

“I am well aware of challenges to this bill, including opposition from some mainstream Jewish groups and our European partners,” he said. “But unless provided evidence that this bill would hurt more than help, these legitimate concerns are outweighed by the very real and immediate need to help survivors.”

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Texas Receives Poor Marks on K-12 History Education

From The Huffington Post, November 11, 2011:

A recent report says Texas K-12 standards in history are inadequate, ineffective and “fail to meet the state’s college readiness standards,” and the report’s authors are pointing the finger at Gov. Rick Perry’s State Board of Education.

In the report, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Social Studies Faculty Collaborative say that Texas’ K-12 system is “founded upon an inadequate set of standards.” Keith Erekson, the author and history professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, analyzes in the report the entire process of Texas’ history standards — from board approval to the curriculum itself.

The report notes that the Fordham Institute gave the state’s history standards a grade of “D,” calling it a “politicized distortion of history,” that is “both unwieldy and troubling” while “offering misrepresentations at every turn.”

These misrepresentations, Erekson writes, include excluding Native Americans from the standards curriculum until recently and citing states’ rights as a cause of the Civil War when Texas did not cite it in their historical “Declaration of Causes.”

The Texas State Board of Education last May adopted its most recent social studies and history curriculum that revises its teachings of the rationale for the separation of church and state, among hundreds of other topics. The curriculum underwent a contentious monthslong revision process, and will be used in Texas for the next 10 years.

Erekson’s report comes after a separate report by the Southern Poverty Law Center in September called education about the civil rights movement in the U.S. “dismal.” Just 2 percent of the 12,000 12th graders who took the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress U.S. History Exam were able to correctly identify two basic points about the historic Brown v. Board of Education case to earn a score of “complete.”

The NAEP also released a report in June that showed dismal history test scores in what U.S. Secretary of Education called an impending “slow-motion train wreck”: just 9 percent of 4th graders could identify a photograph of Abraham Lincoln and state two reasons for his importance.

“People tend to think that history is only memorizing facts,” Linda Salvucci, vice chair of the National Council for History Education, told HuffPost. “More importantly, it’s a way of thinking and organizing the world.”

Texas’ failures, as well as the poor national performance, contribute to a low level of college readiness among the state’s high school students, to the extent that Erekson’s report says college readiness was almost completely ignored in Texas’ revised history standards, “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills” — presenting history as a series of factual memorization and one-sided analysis.

“These examples are not meant to say that the TEKS do not contain any bright spots,” Erekson writes. “The examples are meant to illustrate a widespread pattern of neglect of college readiness skills. No student will succeed in college or the workplace if he confuses writings with speeches, conducts a one-sided analysis, or simply spits back a string of memorized information. No Texas parent would desire this for her child and no profit-minded Texas business leader would hire a graduate who had attained only these abysmal standards.”

The report also notes that In 2006, when the College Readiness Standards were created, 40 percent of Texas college students weren’t prepared. Last year, 48 percent of those entering community college and 14 percent of incoming college freshmen needed remedial courses in at least one subject, and the gap is only widening.

To remedy the standards and curriculum, Erekson offers a series of recommendations, including analytical thinking through making connections, evaluating historical arguments, engaging in modern debates and drawing global comparisons, pointing to and utilizing primary sources as well as even directly challenging the TEKS by pointing out their controversies and omissions.

National figures released in August echo the Texas readiness report: just 25 percent of ACT test-takers met college preparedness standards for English, math, reading and science, whereas nearly one-third didn’t meet any of those standards. And now, parents and students are looking to new and alternative ways of college remediation.

New York’s High School Progress Reports released last month revealed that just a quarter of students graduating from New York City high schools this year were prepared for college coursework, and fewer than half of all students enrolled in college four years after entering high school.

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The Six Inch Knife of Jack the Ripper

From The Telegraph, November 3, 2011:  Here’s the latest news on Jack the Ripper

It was found among possessions belonging to Welsh surgeon Sir John Williams, a chief suspect in the Victorian murders.

Sir John, known to his family at the time of the killings as “Uncle Jack” was the surgeon to Queen Victoria who lived in London at the time of the slayings.

He fled the capital after the murders and later founded the National Library for Wales in Aberystwyth.

One of his distant relatives has now unearthed the old black-handled surgeon’s knife, which he used for operations, and believes it could be the murder weapon.

Tony Williams, 49, Sir John’s great-great-great-great nephew, has now published a book, which features the startling image of the knife, to expose his relative’s guilt.

He found the blade among a stash of possessions left by the Welshman, including three glass slides which contains smears of a uterus.

Mr Williams said: ”Why would he leave this behind? I am convinced that this is the knife used by Sir John Williams to murder those women.

”It is widely know that the person who carried out the killings would have had significant medical knowledge.

”Sir John Williams was an accomplished surgeon and routinely performed abortions on women. He held surgeries all over London at the time of the murders.”

He added: ”Dr Thomas Bond, a pathologist who examined the body of Mary Kelly, said the ripper had used the same six inch knife in all the murders.

”He said it would have been at least six inches long, very sharp, pointed at the top and about an inch in width – a surgeon’s knife.

”This is the knife that fits the description that I’ve held in my hand back in the National Library of Wales.”

Sir John Williams, born November 1840, was a Welsh surgeon and physician who attended to Queen Victoria.

He was raised to the baronetcy by her for his work in 1894.

The medic had a surgery in London’s Harley Street the time of the murders – which saw five prostitutes butchered in the streets of Whitechapel in the city’s East End.

Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly were killed by the ripper between August and November 1888.

They had been expertly sliced open and some had been disembowelled. Two had their uterus’s missing.

Many suspects have been put forward for the gruesome killings – but it wasn’t until this century that Sir John Williams was named.

Tony Williams began researching his relative a decade ago – stumbling across an archive of his old possessions in the National Library of Wales.

The surgeon helped found the institution when he moved from London to Wales after the killings.

He become its first president back in 1907, before he died in October 1926 – leaving a sum of money, books and a number possessions to the library.

Mr Williams claims the possessions – including his old diary, the knife and some glass slides – proves his ”Uncle Jack” had the medical expertise and motive for the murders.

He said: ”I looked through the possessions that he left and found the knife along with three glass slides.

”The smears on the glass slides have been tested and are confirmed as being matter from the uterus.

”I know Sir John was obsessed by the fact that his wife, Mary Hughes, could not have children. I think that was his motive.”

He added: ”I think he was a Jekyll and Hyde-type character who may have been driven to commit murder because his wife could not have children. He was also known to be working on a cure for his wife’s problem.”

A number of other key pieces of evidence also point towards ”Uncle Jack”, including testimony from a witness who saw a victim on the night she died.

George Hutchinson observed Mary Kelly with a man matching the description of Sir John Williams – wearing a long dark coat with a red stone.

The surgeon’s colleague Herbert Spencer wrote about the doctor and the way he used to dress – claiming he always wore a dark silk tie held by a pin set with a red stone.

In 1885, three years before the murders, Sir John Williams also claimed he performed an abortion on Mary Ann Nicholls in the infirmary of the Whitechapel workhouse.

The details were unearthed by Tony Williams in his medical notebook. He also found that many pages of Sir John’s diary in 1888 were missing.

He said: ”There is compelling evidence in my view that Sir John Williams was Jack the Ripper. When I began to look into this I found a terrible truth – that I was related to this serial killer.

”The knife, his possessions and all the evidence points to it. A lot of members of our family don’t really speak about it – I think they are a bit upset.

”But in my mind the case has been solved – it was Sir John Williams.”

Father-of-three Tony Williams, an author who lives in Swansea with wife Catherine, 49, has now released book, “Uncle Jack – A Victorian Mystery”.

The publication includes the picture of the knife and the details of his relative’s guilt.

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French Archaeologists Uncover German WWI Graves

Story from The Pathfinder, November 9, 2011:

Archaeologists in northern France have unearthed the bodies of 21 German soldiers from World War One in an elaborate underground shelter that was destroyed in a French attack in March 1918, and hasn’t been opened since.

Individual war casualties are still frequently found during construction work on the former Western front battlefields of France and Belgium, but the discovery of so many soldiers in one location is rare.

The tomb, poignant and grisly, sheds light on the lives of the soldiers who died in explosions from heavy shells that penetrated the tunnel.

“It’s a bit like Pompeii,” Michaël Landolt, the French archaeologist leading the dig, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “Everything collapsed in seconds and is just the way it was at the time. This is an extraordinary find.”

The men were from the 6th Company of the “Reserve Infanterie Regiment 94.” Their bodies had been left in the dugout because retrieving them was deemed too dangerous. A total of 34 men in the shelter were killed in the attack. Troops managed to haul out 13 of the dead at the time.

The roof of the “Killian Shelter,” a tunnel 125 meters (410 feet) long near the small town of Carspach in the Alsace region, was discovered by chance in October 2010 during excavation work for a nearby road building project. The regional French archaeological authority, PAIR, began a thorough dig last month and expects to complete its work by mid-November.

Pipes, Wallets and a Rosary

The tunnel, six meters underground and 1.80 meters high, was built with German thoroughness, equipped with heating, telephone connections, electricity, beds and a pipe to pump out water. It had 16 exits and was big enough to hold up to 500 men in an emergency.

The archaeologists have uncovered the sides, floors and stairways, all made from heavy timber. The intended permanence of the structure shows how static the fighting was for most of the war, in which both sides built vast trench systems that stretched 440 miles from the Swiss border to the North Sea.

Boots, helmets and weapons, a wine bottle and a mustard jar have been found along with personal items including dog tags, wallets, pipes, cigarette cases, spectacles and pocket books. A rosary was also found, with a French bullet threaded in among the prayer beads, evidently fashioned as a souvenir.

“The items will be taken to a laboratory, cleaned and examined,” said Landolt. It is unclear whether the booklets found are diaries or identity papers.

The skeleton of a goat was also discovered. It may have been held as a source of fresh milk.

Scant Interest From German Public

In Britain, the discovery of such a mass grave would be front-page news. Journalists would track down the descendants of the dead soldiers and tell the stories of the Tommies who made the ultimate sacrifice in the horrific conflict that shaped the 20th century.

That was what happened in 2009, when mass graves containing 250 Australian and British soldiers were unearthed near the village of Fromelles, close to the city of Lille. A program was launched to identify the remains through DNA matching, and 110 have been identified by name after over 2,000 relatives responded to calls for DNA samples.

In Germany, it’s a very different story. The find has only made the inside pages of a handful of newspapers. In the nation’s memory, the war is eclipsed by World War II, the Holocaust and the collective guilt that weighs on Germany to this day. Both conflicts have imbued Germany with a deep streak of pacifism.

“Britain, France and Belgium still refer to it as the Great War, but our memory of it is totally buried by World War II with the Holocaust, the expulsion from the east, the Allied bombardment,” Fritz Kirchmeier, spokesman for the German War Graves Commission, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “World War I plays only a minor role in the German national memory.”

The Commission is holding out little hope that it will be able to track down the families of the dead.

“We haven’t reached anyone yet and it will be very hard, as you can imagine, given the time that has lapsed,” said Kirchmeier. “It’s a difficult business that involves contacting local registry offices.”

It would not appear to be an insurmountable problem, though, if the public interest was there. The names and dates and places of birth of all the 21 soldiers are known. Their dog tags have been found. The soldiers include Musketeer Martin Heidrich from Schönfeld, aged 20, Private Harry Bierkamp, born Jan. 18, 1896 in Hamburg, and Lieutenant August Hütten from Aachen, aged 37.

A memorial stone bearing their names stands in the nearby German war cemetery of Illfurth. The Commission will rebury the bodies in the cemetery unless it manages to contact descendants and they decide to have the remains repatriated to Germany.

Mustard Gas and Heavy Shells

Jürgen Ehret, a German who is assisting the French authorities in the Killian dig, has researched the history of the front line in this region of Alsace, which was quiet compared with the battlefronts further north, whose names evoke the mechanized slaughter that marked the war — Verdun, the Somme, Artois and Ypres. An estimated 15 million people were killed and 20 million wounded in what was described as “the war to end all wars.”

“The French attacked the shelter with aerial mines with delayed-action fuses that penetrated the ground and blasted in the side wall of the shelter in two points,” said Ehret.

The French bombardment lasted six hours and the special mines, fired up almost vertical in a high arc, proved too much for the supposedly bomb-proof Killian dugout. The French attack followed a three-hour German artillery barrage with shells containing mustard gas.

The remains of around 10 to 20 German soldiers from the war are usually found in France and Belgium each year, said Kirchmeier.

For Commonwealth soldiers, the average is 35, which isn’t surprising given that more than 165,000 of them are still unaccounted for on the Western Front.

“The Fromelles operation was a good example of the level of public interest, which was extraordinary,” Peter Francis, spokesman for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. The identification process couldn’t have been as effective as it was without that public engagement, he added.

Interest in the World War I has always been strong in Britain and has intensified with the deaths of the last veterans in recent years, and with the emergence of the Internet, which has made it easer to trace the location of the graves of fallen ancestors. A further boost is likely to come in the run-up to the centenary of the outbreak in 2014.

It remains to be seen whether that anniversary will fan interest in Germany as well, said Kirchmeier. By that time, the Killian shelter will have vanished again, under a road. But the men who died in it, forgotten or not, will at least have found a worthy resting place.

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Fake Paris Built to Fool German Military During WWI

From Yahoo News, November 11, 2011:

During World War I, the French created a dummy version of Paris to the city’s immediate north. The plan was to fool German planes into thinking the Potemkin city was the real thing, thus leaving the  City of Lights untouched by bombs.

London’s Daily Telegraph explains that the fake city wasn’t just a bunch of cardboard cutouts. Far from it. There were “electric lights, replica buildings, and even a copy of the Gare du Nord—the station from which high-speed trains now travel to and from London.”

The painters went so far as to use paint to create “the impression of dirty glass roofs of factories.” Fake trains and railroad tracks were lit up as well. There was a phony Champs-Elysées.

It stands to reason that in the early 20th century, the plan could have worked. “Radar was in its infancy in 1918, and the long-range Gotha heavy bombers being used by the German Imperial Air Force were similarly primitive,” the Telegraph notes. “Their crew would hold bombs by the fins and then drop them on any target they could see during quick sorties over major cities like Paris and London.”

Fortunately, the plan was never put to the test. The war ended before the fake city was finished. Both the real Paris and the fake one escaped significant damage.The fake version has long since disappeared, though photos of it remain.

The renewed interest in the unusual tactic is thanks in large part to Armistice Day, also known as Veterans Day. On November 11, 1918, the Allied Forces and Germany declared the end of “the war to end all wars.”

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Restored WWI Memorial Reopened in D.C.

Story from The Washington Post, November 11, 2011:

The World War I D.C. War Memorial, which one official said had become a “lonely orphan” on the Washington Mall, is open again after a restoration project.

The columned, 47-foot-tall domed structure just west of the World War II Memorial, was reopened Thursday, The Washington Post reported.

Officials apparently wanted the memorial open in time for Veterans Day (Friday).

The D.C. Memorial honors the 20,000 Washington residents who served in World War I, including 499 who died in the war.

The $3.6 million restoration was ordered after the memorial fell under extreme disrepair, officials said. Its marble cracked and became discolored and its landscape was overgrown with shrubs and trees.

“For too many years it was a lonely orphan on this part of the Mall,” Edwin L. Fountain, vice president of the World War I Memorial Foundation, told an audience at a reopening ceremony. “It was a forgotten memorial to a forgotten war.”

During its restoration, the memorial’s stone was cleaned and damage fixed. The landscape was cleaned up and fieldstone walkways were restored.

“Look at the landscape and how open it feels, how shiny and bright it looks,” said Caroline L. Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall, which made money for the restoration available.

“It’s absolutely wonderful,” said National Mall and Memorial Parks Superintendent Bob Vogel.

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