Monthly Archives: December 2011

WWII Plan to Poison Japanese Crops Revealed

From Couriermail.com.au, December 7, 2011:

The documents also indicate authorities contemplated testing crop-destroying chemical weapons in central Queensland’s Proserpine.

The thinking contrasts with Australian policy today – in 1993 Canberra signed a global ban on the use and development of chemical weapons.

The World War II details emerged on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Japan’s attack of Pearl Harbour, which triggered the US to enter the conflict.

The war ended almost four years later with the US dropping atomic bombs on Japan. It was later revealed the US had contemplated a chemical bombardment on Japanese crops.

Documents declassified by the National Archives of Australia, following requests by The Courier-Mail, refer to Australia receiving information from Allies about crop destruction with chemical weapons. Documents refer to targeting “vegetable gardens” in Japanese-held islands and rice crops.

Minutes, from a September 1948 meeting of Australia’s Chemical and Biological Warfare Subcommittee, record a Lt Col N.L. Carter as saying “from a strategic point of view, crop destruction might not be a satisfactory weapon but tactically it might be worthwhile”.

The committee, in contemplating chemical-warfare research topics, also said: “The problem should be very similar to that which was considered in the latter stages of the war when it was thought that an attack on the Japanese vegetable gardens throughout the islands might well be justified.”

Chemical weapons were ultimately not used. But an attack on crops would have further squeezed Japan, which suffered hunger shortages.

The Australian committee in mid-1948 received a report from UK experts, detailing how the US by July 1945 had built up chemical stocks theoretically “sufficient to destroy one-tenth of the rice crop of Japan”.

But this would have logistically been a “formidable” operation to achieve, the report says.

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Dead Sea Study Sheds Light on Past

From DiscoveryNews, December 8, 2011:

The Dead Sea nearly disappeared about 120,000 years ago, say researchers who drilled more than 1,500 feet below one of the deepest parts of the politically contentious body of water.

The discovery looms large at a time when the Dead Sea is shrinking rapidly, Middle Eastern nations are battling over water rights, and experts hotly debate whether the salt lake could ever dry up completely in the years to come.

New data from drilled deposits are also helping piece together geological history that slices through biblical times. Further research may offer opportunities to verify whether earthquakes destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah or if drought explains why Joseph brought Israelites to Egypt to escape famine.

“We see a lot of these different stories in the Bible about fat years and lean years,” said Steven Goldstein, a geochemist at Columbia University in New York. “And we can see in the record that there were these intervals where it looks like it was a land of milk and honey, and there were intervals where there was no water, no rain and I’m sure, famine. Climate validates that there were these rhythms.”

The new research started, not as an attempt to investigate biblical events, but to understand the history of the Dead Sea, which has been drying up at dramatic rates in recent decades. As a result of both evaporation and intensive human demands for water from inflowing rivers, the surface of the lake dropped 23 meters (75 feet) from 1930 to 2000, said Emi Ito, a geochemist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

And the lake’s rate of shrinking seems to be accelerating. From 2000 to 2008, levels dropped 8 m (26 feet), with another 1.5 m (5 feet) lost in 2010 alone.

Even as the lake’s salty shores recede, though, scientists have long debated whether it could ever totally dry up. Because the water is so salty and because salt and water molecules attract each other, many modeling studies have suggested that some amount of water will always remain there.

To see if history could help settle that debate and others, an international team of researchers drilled down about 460 m (more than 1,500 feet) into sediments of the Dead Sea in Israeli territory at a spot that was just slightly shallower than the lake’s deepest point, which lay on the other side of the border in Jordan. The cores they pulled up stretched back 200,000 years.

At a level corresponding with 120,000 years ago, during a warm period between ice ages, the researchers found a layer of small round pebbles sitting on top of 45 meters (nearly 150 feet) of thick salt deposits. Those pebbles, they announced this week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, look just like the rocks that normally appear on the lake’s beaches — suggesting that one of the deepest parts of the lake was once dry.

“It seems as though the lake may have dried out or got very close to drying out without human intervention,” Ito said. “We may have to revise our thinking that the Dead Sea cannot dry out.”

That very dry period many millennia ago was much hotter than it is today, said Jiwchar Ganor, an environmental geochemist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. Humidity was lower. And there was less water flowing into the lake then there is today.

He doubts the lake actually dried up altogether then — or that it will disappear completely in the future, even as it keeps shrinking at an alarming rate.

“We can say that even without changing climate, it will continue to drop,” Ganor said. “But it will still be at a higher level than what it was in the time they found here.”

Still, there’s no way to know how modern-day human interventions will interact with future climate change to affect the Dead Sea. And if the Dead Sea could become mostly dry once, the concern is that it could happen again, raising the likelihood for wars over water and the loss of still mostly unstudied life forms that manage to thrive in such saline waters.

Meanwhile, historians and biblical scholars are watching closely to see what the next stages of research will turn up in the sediments, which reveal details of past climate and earthquakes.

Book XV of the Antiquities of the Jews, for example, describes an earthquake that destroyed Judea and killed 30,000 people. And the Book of Joshua tells of a quake that tumbled the walls of Jericho and stopped the Jordan River from flowing, allowing the Israelites to pass through.

Perhaps the Dead Sea harbors answers to these ancient mysteries.

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Lincoln’s Cottage and Images of Wartime

From wtop.com, December 13, 2011:

President Abraham Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington is opening a new exhibit featuring images of wartime in the nation’s capital during the Civil War.

The exhibit, “Seat of War,” includes historic prints from the collection held at Lincoln’s summertime retreat. It shows how the Civil War transformed Washington from a sleepy southern town to the hub of a massive war effort. Some images are rarely displayed.

The exhibit is on view through Jan. 15.

The cottage is on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home. It opened to the public for the first time in 2008 after a $15 million renovation.

Lincoln spent a quarter of his presidency living at the cottage. It was the Lincoln family’s retreat from June to November in 1862, 1863 and 1864.

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Civil War 150th Celebrations

For all of you Civil War buffs www.gettysburgcivilwar150.com/default.aspx is a must view!  Great site!

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93 year old Belgian Nurse Honored for Saving WWII GIs

Story from Army Times, December 12, 2011:

BRUSSELS — A 93-year-old Belgian nurse who saved hundreds of wounded GIs during the Battle of the Bulge has received an award for valor from the Army.

The U.S. ambassador said there was a 67-year delay in presenting the award because it was assumed that Augusta Chiwy had herself perished in the battle.

“She helped, she helped, and she helped,” Ambassador Howard Gutman said Monday as he presented the medal.

Chiwy volunteered to help in an aid station in the town of Bastogne, where wounded and dying U.S. soldiers were being treated by a single doctor during the German offensive in December 1944.

Bastogne was besieged and left without medical supplies. Gutman said Chiwy combed battlefields, often coming under enemy fire, to collect the wounded.

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German Interior Ministers Seek to Ban NPD

From BBCnews, December 9, 2011:

It follows news of the murders of 10 people, most of them ethnic Turks, allegedly by a neo-Nazi cell.

A ban on the NPD was rejected by the federal constitutional court in 2003 for legal reasons.

The interior ministers, meeting in Wiesbaden, agreed to set up a working group to put forward a new case.

The group of ministers would not themselves be responsible for making an application to the court, that is the responsibility of parliament or the federal government.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

The NPD is inhuman, anti-democratic and anti-Semitic”

Boris RheinHessen interior minister

Hessen’s interior minister, Boris Rhein, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the NPD was “inhuman, anti-democratic and anti-Semitic”. A ban would have to prepared carefully, he added.

A neo-Nazi group based in eastern Germany allegedly killed eight Turkish and one Greek immigrant between 2000 and 2006, as well as a German policewoman in 2007.

But the existence of the group only came to light last month when two of its members died in an apparent joint suicide and the third handed herself in to authorities.

NPD members attend a rally near Bretzenheim (November 20, 2011)A recent poll showed three-quarters of Germans want the NPD banned

One of the people subsequently arrested on suspicion of assisting the group is a former NPD official.

The far-right party does not have widespread support across Germany but does have representatives in the parliaments of two states in the east.

An attempt to ban the party failed in 2003 because the case had relied on evidence from paid informers within the organisation.

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Nazi Memorabilia Remain Obsessively Collective

Story by Jan Friedmann and Axel Frohn for Der Spiegel, December 7, 2011:

It turns out National Socialism is still worth something in Stamford, Connecticut. A well-preserved two-page statement written and signed by Hitler’s Armaments Minister Albert Speer at the start of the Nuremberg Trials in 1945, for example, is worth $10,000 (€7,500).

 

That price seems like a deal compared to the going price for journals kept by concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele during his exile in South America. A private collector recently purchased them at an auction for nearly $300,000 (€224,000).

Even larger bids are expected in Stamford this Thursday, when a portion of Joseph Goebbels’ estate goes up for auction. Items include letters and postcards sent and received by the Nazi propaganda minister during his younger years, as well as school report cards and poems and plays he wrote. There’s even a lock of hair from a former girlfriend, preserved inside an envelope through the decades.

These will add up to a spectacular sale in a business with a seemingly endless supply of curios: the trade in historical relics. At a time when many people are turning to material assets, this is a flourishing business, and the most sought-after objects for this sort of investment come from Germany. Nazi documents provide collectors a story unique in the course of world history, with the brand name selling power of world-famous mass murderers. A striking number of recent buyers have been wealthy Russians.

‘Nazi, Nazi, Nazi’

Alexander Autographs, the auction house in Stamford, a suburb northeast of New York City, is one of the market leaders in this booming business. Nestled in among supermarkets and junk dealers in an office building behind a courtyard, it looks as if the Third Reich has risen again here, in the form of SS cups, decorative plates bearing Hitler’s portrait and hundreds of yellowed documents.

“People want souvenirs,” says Bill Panagopulos. The owner of the auction house is 53 and divorced, a former firefighter with a quick natural wit. In the business of military and other historical objects for a quarter of a century, he says he has sold a total of 40,000 items.

A few of his current offerings: a bronze desk set, complete with inkwells and blotter, which Adolf Hitler supposedly used to sign the Munich Agreement in 1938; and an old writing desk ostensibly taken from the Berghof, Hitler’s mountain residence near Berchtesgaden, Germany. There is also a wooden plaque with an image of two ducks flying along a reedy lake shore, with an inscription identifying it as the first prize for a gentlemen’s wild fowl hunt organized by the commander’s office at the Dachau concentration camp.

Panagopulos jokes that he would “even sell Hitler’s mustache.” In reality, he specializes in documents, and is visibly proud of his first two acquisitions: the autographs of American Civil War Generals William Sherman and Joseph Johnston. The autographs hang in his office, next to some old slot machines and a bar stool patched with tape that was favored by singer Frank Sinatra for his performances.

Such bits of Americana, though, are declining, giving way to a hard new currency. “Nazi, Nazi, Nazi,” Panagopulos explains, pointing at objects all around him. He doesn’t like the things, calling them “bad karma.” To him this is no joke: His family comes from Greece, where German troops burned down his parents’ home village.

Too Pricey for Public Institutions

But Panagopulos is a businessman, an American by birth who values freedom of opinion and free enterprise. He receives a 20 percent commission from buyers, plus a variable fee from sellers. New historical films are fueling demand in the US, Panagopulos says, and World War II has become part of American pop culture.

Many historians find such transactions obscene. “Our buyers aren’t neo-Nazis,” Panagopulos counters. “They wouldn’t have the brains or the money.” Quite to the contrary, he says, it’s often wealthy Jewish people who buy items such as Mengele’s journals. Universities and museums also have the opportunity to bid.

The items come from other traders or from family members who discover the objects in the homes of the war generation when they pass away. Some of it makes its way across the Atlantic by airfreight. There’s certainly no lack of material, and there are even trade fairs for experts in Nazi memorabilia.

Public institutions generally don’t have budgets large enough to bid on these items. Achim Baumgarten, director of the division at the Federal Archive in Koblenz, Germany, that handles estate matters, laments that he only has a few tens of thousands of euros at his disposal each year. For larger purchases, he must first obtain authorization from the federal cabinet.

In other words, it’s unlikely that the documents up for auction in Stamford this week will end up making any contribution to historical research. The documents include treatises written by Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann during his time on trial in Israel, and a manuscript said to have been written from prison in 1983 by Klaus Barbie, the notorious head of the Gestapo in Lyon.

Goebbels’ Girlfriends

The auction house, as is customary in this business, won’t identify the seller profiting from these apologist babblings, only stating that the papers come from Europe. But there are a number of indications that Swiss businessman and Nazi admirer François Genoud, who died in 1996, had them in his possession.

Genoud essentially founded the trade in relics from the Third Reich, wanting both to preserve legacy of his idols and profit from it. It seems he took a liking to papers of Joseph Goebbels’ from the period biographer Peter Longerich calls the influential Nazi’s “pre-political era.”

Goebbels, who studied German literature and history and styled himself “Ulex” after a character in a novel, spent his student years in reading, writing and amorous banter. For example, he maintained relationships with both sisters of fellow student Karl Heinz Kölsch, as can be seen from their effusive correspondence. After one of his frequent visits to the town of Werl, Liesel Kölsch wrote on December 5, 1917: “My lips don’t work at all anymore, so it won’t be possible to use them on Saturday.” Her sister Agnes wrote: “My head can’t be used either.”

In the end, Goebbels made both sisters unhappy. On August 15, 1918, Agnes wrote him, “Do you know, Ulex, that I unfortunately estimated you to far too elevated, noble and mature?”

Next, he was involved with fellow student Anka Stalherm, but this relationship, too, ended in rancor. Goebbels blamed his girlfriend for a “terrible time,” and in 1921 Stalherm’s lawyer sent him angry letters, demanding the return of various gifts.

Else Janke, another girlfriend, whose mother was Jewish, expressed disappointment following a quarrel “about the race question” in 1923. “I couldn’t shake my thoughts about it and really very nearly saw in the problem an obstacle to our continued life together,” she wrote.

Owning a Piece of History

These words won’t necessarily rewrite world history. They’re small footnotes compared to the entire biography of the man who paved the way for the Holocaust with his rants against Jews. Goebbels left behind thousands of pages of documents, and the Federal Archive already holds copies of many of the letters.

 

But in the world of document collectors, that’s an insignificant point. For them, the important thing is to be among those to possess some of the original documents from the time in question, and the more closely the documents are connected to the major players and the centers of power, the better.

 

Correspondingly, the auctioneer sensed a business opportunity even in a bound accounting book that notes large sums paid for items such as “health care” or “aid, donations and support.” The book records payments to Hitler’s personal physicians Theodor Morell and Karl Brandt, and to functionaries such as Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, who received a payment of 764,000 Reichsmarks. The last entry bears a date from mid-April, 1945. The book could be an original from the Reich Chancellery, a duplicate, or even a fake, although many of the regime’s funding allocations are supported by evidence elsewhere.

Historians would surely like a chance to compare the accounting book to these other documents, but it’s unclear whether they’ll ever get a chance to see it. The auction house, which is advertising the item as “Hitler’s personal account book,” has set the starting price between $5,000 and $7,000.

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