Monthly Archives: February 2012

Hitler’s Art Collection Uncovered

Courtney Subramanian for Time, February 27, 2012:

Czech writer and publisher Jiri Kuchar’s five-year treasure hunt finally ended when he found a long-lost collection of art formerly owned by Adolf Hitler, the AFP reports.

Kuchar, who wrote two books on the $2.7 million series of paintings, found the collection at Doksany monastery, located about 30 miles (49 km) north of Prague. The seven pieces discovered are a “part of Hitler’s collection of about 45 paintings, about 30 statues, a writing table and some gifts,” Kuchar told the AFP, “which were declared former Czechoslovakia’s war booty.”

The collection landed at the Vyssi Brod Czech monastery during World War II after Hitler ordered them to be hidden, the Telegraph reports, along with two other collections including one formerly owned by German-born Jewish banker Fritz Mannheimer. The other two collections were seized while Hitler’s works disappeared, leaving behind a lost fortune in art.

“I sent DVDs with the pictures to institutions I thought might have the works,” Kuchar said of his research, which began five years ago and included touring castles and monasteries. “The monks who got the monastery back after the war said they didn’t want the paintings.”

Kuchar has since tracked down several parts of the collection, including statues in a park of the southern château of Hluboka, but laments some pieces are still at large.

“I’ve got a feeling that many places will be reluctant to admit their favourite works of art have this unfortunate historical blemish,” he told the Telegraph.


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National Museum of Civil War and Wartime Food

Rachel Tepper for The Huffington Post, February 23, 2012:

WASHINGTON — What kind of food did people eat during the Civil War? Period food and dining don’t deserve the bad rap they often get, according to George Wunderlich, executive director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Md.

In an effort to better understand life during the Civil War, the museum has over the last few years extensively researched the foods eaten by soldiers and folks on the homefront. Diet, Wunderlich explained, is not only a colorful way to understand history, but it’s also an important indicator of the population’s health and general knowledge of nutrition.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Wunderlich dished on the museum’s research projects and gave us a peek into the culinary world around the time of the Civil War.

The Huffington Post: When you say you’re looking at what people ate during the Civil War, which people are you talking about?

George Wunderlich: When we think of the Civil War, we think of the men who were in uniform. But there were millions of Americans who weren’t in uniform, so [we want to know] what was their health like and what was their diet like.

HuffPost: Absolutely. So, what sorts of things did people eat back home?

Wunderlich: This idea that everybody in the Civil War was eating this disgustingly plain food just doesn’t play. Bread puddings of all sorts, game pies … with pheasant and turkey and duck and venison. This was not an uncommon diet. … Stuffed crabs, oyster dishes of all sorts were part of a common diet in the major cities throughout the United States. Actually, they were shipping canned oysters and lobster to the western frontier as early as the 1850s, because we have the original cans that show up in steamboat registers.

HuffPost: That’s pretty fancy. Doesn’t sound like battlefield food, though. What was dining like on the front line?

Wunderlich: We tend to think of soldiers eating salt pork and hard tack … The other thing we tend to think of is that Civil War people ate this very simple food, not terribly nutritious food, and certainly among the soldiers, that was not an uncommon occurrence. But that doesn’t mean that people didn’t understand that health and nutrition went in hand in hand.

HuffPost: Did that translate to paying attention to soldiers’ nutrition?

Wunderlich: Civil War doctors were notorious for lobbying the armies to send what were called anti-scorbutics, or those foods that would help fight scurvy. Things with vitamin C in them. Potatoes, believe or not, and especially in the peels; onions; obviously citrus fruit when it could be attained. So there was an understanding that a good healthy balanced diet, would, in fact, make a good healthy balanced person.

HuffPost: So health was something people had an awareness of?

Wunderlich: These people had a much more balanced diet than I think we like to give them credit for … The farm in the 19th century was much more a ecologically sound institution, because they grew various crops in a field rotation. They grew their own fruit, they grew their own vegetables. Basically, you were not only providing for a cash crop, but you were providing for the family for a year. Believe it or not, their diets were pretty balanced.

HuffPost: Off the field, what were the wackier things that people might eat? Have you tried them?

Wunderlich: We’ve done everything from roasted rat, which was something [eaten in] the prison camps, to more delicate foods. We find people are really fascinated by what people ate and what the recipe looked like. While I don’t recommend everyone eats squirrel — I’ve eaten it — it’s not bad. It doesn’t taste anything like chicken, by the way.

HuffPost: No? What does squirrel taste like?

Wunderlich: It’s kind of gamey. It’s a little bit like venison that’s been in a freezer too long. It’s kind of a stronger taste. It’s not like possum. Possum is just, ewww. Did that once, too. I’m not going to that again.

HuffPost: Note to self: Don’t eat possum. What sorts of people ate squirrel? And why?

Wunderlich: You’ve got to understand one thing. Squirrel was probably most commonly eaten on the frontier, and it makes perfect sense that that would be the case … It’s an easy food source, and if you’re on the frontier, an easy food source is a good thing. Squirrels are pretty much ubiquitous, they’re everywhere, they were everywhere back then. It is certainly something that people would eat and did.

HuffPost: How did people cook it?

Wunderlich: Boiling was not uncommon, but it seems like frying was more common. Browning in primarily bacon drippings or lard, which was commonly kept in the house. You’ve got to make sure that it doesn’t cook too fast. That’s the bad thing with squirrel, from what we can obtain from our research … There’s not a whole lot of squirrel to a squirrel. The pieces are fairly thin, and if you cook them through too quickly, you wind up with something incredibly tough. So, you’ve got to cook it a little bit on the slow side with a lower heat.

HuffPost: The museum has recently been posting recipes to its Facebook page, including one for fried squirrel. People have been eating it up (pun intended). Why do you think there’s such an interest?

Wunderlich: When we seek to understand what our ancestors went through, some people go out and they reenact history, they put on the uniforms, they go out and eat food of the Civil War encampments, or they go to a local historic site and they do things. But I think we miss just how connected we become with the past when we can taste it … and it gives me an insight into something that my fourth great-grandfather may have tasted. I can still taste and I can smell it and I can make it. This is a great way to get a deeper appreciation for who we are and what we are.

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WWII Ghost Army

Cindy Cantrell for The Boston Globe, February 23, 2012:

In February 2005, documentary filmmaker Rick Beyer of Lexington sat down with Martha Gavin of Beverly at a local coffee shop to learn about her uncle’s experiences in World War II.

Gavin showed him armloads of three-ring binders containing sketches and watercolors that her uncle, US Army Corporal John Jarvie of Kearny, N.J., had created during periods of downtime overseas. What most captured Beyer’s attention, however, were the circumstances of his service.

A member of the 23d Headquarters Special Troops, or so-called Ghost Army, Jarvie was among approximately 1,100 American GIs who used inflatable rubber tanks, sound effects, impersonations, scripted radio transmissions, and other trickery to mislead the Germans about the size, strength, and location of American units. Beginning shortly after D-day, the camouflage, sonic, and radio-communications experts conducted more than 20 clandestine operations through the end of the war.

A documentary about the ‘Ghost Army’
Globe North: Medford’s Jack McGlynn recalls time in ‘Ghost Army’

The handpicked soldiers included artists, set designers, engineers, and radio operators. Many achieved postwar fame, such as fashion designer Bill Blass, sculptor and minimalist painter Ellsworth Kelly, bird artist Arthur Singer, and photographer Art Kane. Others would go on to careers in illustration, design, advertising, law, and politics.

Next week, Beyer will host a two-day event in Lexington to promote his independent documentary, “Artists of Deception: The Ghost Army of World War II,’’ and an accompanying book of the same name coauthored with Elizabeth Sayles of Valley Cottage, N.Y. The event will be held at the Lexington Depot.

“Not only were these men brave enough to be operating right near the front lines with inflatable tanks, but they were creating this amazing art while they did it,’’ said Beyer, a lifelong history enthusiast and writer who has made films for the History Channel, National Geographic Channel, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

“The Army was using creativity to save lives, but the men were exercising their own creativity in this awful environment.’’

During a fund-raiser for Beyer’s project on March 2 starting at 7:30 p.m., there will be a screening of the nearly completed film with champagne, dessert, and an exhibition including wartime photographs by Waltham resident Robert Boyajian, a veteran of the 603d Camouflage Engineers. Tickets cost $75.

On March 3 from noon to 6 p.m., the Lexington Depot will showcase the soldiers’ original photographs and artwork, wartime artifacts, and documentary footage. As part of the event, reenactors from the 26th Yankee Division WWII Living History Group will greet visitors and demonstrate their equipment, and military historian Jon Gawne of Framingham will sign copies of his Ghost Army history, “Ghosts of the ETO: American Tactical Deception Units in the European Theater.’’

Beyer, who is curating the exhibition, will be on hand to discuss his seven-year journey making the documentary. Admission is $5.

“All along, I had a feeling I was doing more than making a film. I was becoming an archivist of this story,’’ Beyer said. “I was very conscious of the fact these veterans wouldn’t be around forever.’’

He noted that seven of the 20 veterans in the documentary have died since he began videotaping interviews in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and Washington, D.C. Beyer obtained war footage for the 64-minute film from the Library of Congress, and National Archives and Records Administration.

“The film is a salute to all the men involved,’’ Beyer added. “They’re articulate, spirited, amazing guys, but people aren’t aware of them. That’s one of the reasons this is so exciting for me.’’

One of the Ghost Army members is Jack McGlynn of Medford, the city’s former mayor and father of the current mayor, Michael McGlynn.

The elder McGlynn did not divulge any details of his service with the 3132d Signal Service Company until he read the information had been declassified. As a result, his wife and six children only learned of his role in the Ghost Army’s sonic deception unit four years ago.

“Those were my orders,’’ recalled McGlynn, a retired staff sergeant who will turn 90 on Sunday, “and I followed them.’’

After he completed basic training, the then-21-year-old McGlynn was given the choice of working as a cryptographer for the Pentagon, pursuing specialized Army training in college, or volunteering for a top-secret military organization specializing in sound.

“I figured if we could knock off the Nazis using sound,’’ he recalled, “I was all for that.’’

In Fort Knox, Ky., the sonic deception unit spent a week recording the sounds of soldiers working, and trucks, tanks, and half-tracks (an armored tank-vehicle hybrid) moving back and forth, up and down hills, shifting gears, and backfiring – noises that would be projected through 500-pound speakers to mimic a massive military operation.

The sonic unit shipped out of New York on May 30, 1944, to join its camouflage and radio-communications counterparts. Over the next year, the Ghost Army served on the front lines in France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg, where McGlynn yanked down two Nazi flags from a building that had been the Germans’ headquarters “because it stood for the massacre of all those wonderful people.’’

McGlynn laughs now at his youthful shock that Utah Beach in France looked so similar to the beaches of Cape Cod. He also remembers a variety of living arrangements: a cleaned-up pigpen in France; a town hall in Germany; and foxholes all over Europe providing so much insulation from the wind and cold that he likens them to “going into a hotel.’’

“The farther you went into the ground, the warmer it became,’’ recalled McGlynn, who embarked on a 50-year career in local and state government after the war.

Like McGlynn, one of Jarvie’s occasional duties was impersonating soldiers from vastly larger divisions by painting different US Army insignia on their vehicles, sewing patches onto their uniforms, and talking boisterously about invented battle plans in cafés, bars, and marketplaces believed to be under German surveillance.

Jarvie, who was a 20-year-old art student when he joined the 603d Camouflage Engineers in October 1942, drove a jeep, and became expert in badly camouflaging rubber artillery, tanks, trucks, and even airplanes so they would be visible to enemies scouting overhead. He will celebrate his 90th birthday on Tuesday.

“The only real thing was the soldiers. We joked about it, but it wasn’t fun when shells came whistling in. We lost a few guys that way,’’ said Jarvie, who attended Cooper Union Art School in New York with Singer, and befriended Blass in the Army. While Blass was known for tailoring his uniform and reading Vogue in his foxhole, he was just one of the guys in those days.

“Bill Blass wasn’t Bill Blass in the Army. He was Blass, as in ‘Blass, do this’ or ‘Blass, do that,’ ’’ said Jarvie, who eventually became art director for the in-house ad agency of Fairchild Publications, owner of Women’s Wear Daily. “They were all good guys, talented guys.’’

Jack Masey of New York was another member of the Ghost Army.

Now 87 and still working full time as president of New York-based MetaForm Design International, Masey sketched and painted from Normandy to the Rhine River as a corporal in Company B of the 603d Camouflage Engineers. The men used small watercolor sets, pencils, and fountain pens, making half-tones with their saliva.

Masey published a book of caricatures of the soldiers and officers in his unit while in Luxembourg, and his war experiences launched a lifelong career in designing exhibitions. He recruited Blass to design the uniforms for the American Pavilion’s hostesses at the Expo 67 World’s Fair.

“I hate to admit it, but I really had a good time during the war,’’ said Masey, who enlisted at age 19. “It was marvelous madness, and if we saved lives and contributed to the winning of the war, so much the better. Talking with Rick brought back some wonderful memories.’’

Masey’s artwork will be on display at the Lexington exhibition.

Beyer has raised $158,521 for the documentary from individual donations nationwide. He estimates that he needs at least $30,000 more in order to complete the film, which he hopes to do by June 30. Beyer may submit it to film festivals or offer screenings at colleges and art museums, but his ultimate goal is its broadcast on television.

“Getting it done is the first half of the battle,’’ he said. “The next half is finding a way for people to see it.’’

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Slavery Museum Files Reorganization Plan

From The Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 23, 2012:

The U.S. National Slavery Museum filed a bankruptcy reorganization plan Friday under which it expects to raise $900,000 in its first year of fundraising, starting Oct. 1.

The museum, located in Fredericksburg and headed by former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sept. 21, six years after it was scheduled to open.

The reorganization plan, among other things, would pay the city of Fredericksburg $15,000 per quarter, starting Oct. 1, toward more than $200,000 in real estate taxes owed on the museum property.

The Pei Partnership Architects is owed $3.7 million, according to the museum’s bankruptcy filing. The museum filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September and reported $7.2 million in liabilities and $7.6 million in assets.

Wilder, the nation’s first elected black governor and a former mayor of Richmond, proposed the museum chronicling the nation’s history of slavery but was unable to raise the funds to build on 38 acres in Fredericksburg.

Wilder had recruited entertainer Bill Cosby and other prominent African-Americans for the museum’s board.

The museum’s creditors include designers and construction and turf companies that were involved in the planning and site preparation for a museum that was never built. They also include people who donated artifacts that would have been displayed at the museum, such as leg and neck shackles.

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Japanese Mayor Denies Nanjing (Nanking) Massacres

Paul Armstrong for CNN, February 23, 2012:

The mayor of a Japanese city has sparked outrage after playing down a well-documented massacre of civilians in China’s former capital more than 70 years ago.
An estimated 300,000 people died when Japanese troops invaded the city of Nanjing in China’s Jiangsu province in 1937, unleashing a campaign of rape, murder and looting that became known as the Nanjing Massacre. The event was recently portrayed in a movie starring Christian Bale called “The Flowers of War.”

But earlier this week, Takashi Kawamura, the mayor of Nagoya, told a visiting delegation from Nanjing that he believed only “conventional acts of combat” took place there, not the mass murders and rapes, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported. He repeated his assertion to Japanese reporters Wednesday.

“It is true that a considerable number of people died in the course of battle. However such a thing as so-called Nanjing Massacre is unlikely to have taken place,” he said.
“I have said that without hesitation since people from Chinese Communist Party came to visit us. If they think it is not fact … they can tell us openly as they want. I am ready to hold an open debate in Nanjing to discuss it.”

Kawamura’s comments drew fierce criticism on mainstream and social media in China, while Nanjing officials announced they would be suspending ties with Nagoya. The two cities have enjoyed close links since establishing a sister-city relationship in 1978.
“The historical facts of the Nanjing Massacre have been solidly proven. The claim by Kawamura is extremely irresponsible. We hope the mayor can admit the historical facts and draw lessons from the past,” read a statement issued by Nanjing’s information office and published by Xinhua.

A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry expressed support for the decision at a news conference Wednesday.

“We have made our position clear on the Nagoya mayor’s denial of the Nanjing Massacre and already lodged a solemn representation to the Japanese side,” Hong Lei said, in quotes carried by Xinhua. He added that China was closely monitoring the situation.
As a city government, we are to follow the national government’s perception that the occurrence of Nanjing Massacre can not be denied.

Nagoya city spokesman
An editorial in the state-controlled Global Times Thursday urged China to put pressure diplomatically and economically on Kawamura to apologize or resign. “We strongly suggest China uses its diplomatic resources to issue sanctions on Kawamura and put pressure on Nagoya,” it said.

“If needed, we can also downgrade economic cooperation with Nagoya to add weight to the incident. Such actions are totally morally justifiable. Most of the reckless Japanese officials to deny history like Kawamura had paid their price.”
Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like micro-blogging service, made the incident “topic of the day,” attracting more than one million related posts at the time of writing, with many choosing to interpret Kawamura’s comments as Japan’s official attitude on the Nanjing massacre and other historical issues between the two countries.

One comment from a user known as Sunnyzhouchufei read: “I was planning a trip to Japan in March, now after the incident I’m calling it off. Many Japanese are a polite and well-educated people, but denial of [the] massacre reveals that they are really hypocrites. So this is my way of protest: I’ll travel around the world, but never set my foot in Japan!”
Another, called Linglan, said: “Apparently Japanese government is conniving with such comments, otherwise how on earth can a Mayor be so reckless? He must have spoken what’s on this militarist government’s mind. This incident is in line with the government’s long-standing attitude of denying the crime they once committed on other Asian countries. This is shameless, pathetic and hateful. China should halt all ties with Japan all together.”
Meanwhile, city officials in Nagoya attempted to repair the damage. “What our mayor said is only his personal opinion. As a city government, we are to follow the national government’s perception that the occurrence of [the] Nanjing Massacre can not be denied,” said Kazuaki Enomoto, a spokesperson for Nagoya City Government.

“We have been working on building a relationship with Nanjing City for 34 years till now. We are not doing anything about the mayor’s idea of a ‘debate.'”

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Smithsonian Breaks Ground on New African-American Museum

Article by Becky Brittain for CNN, February 22, 2012:

The Smithsonian Institution officially began construction Wednesday on a new museum dedicated to African-American culture and heritage — a complex committed to the celebration and study of one of the central components of the American story.
Construction of the Smithsonian’s 19th museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture — to be located on the National Mall — is expected to last three years. The museum is slated to open in 2015.

The nation’s first black commander in chief, President Barack Obama, delivered remarks highlighting the importance of the museum’s location.

National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“It was on this ground long ago that lives were once traded, where hundreds of thousands once marched for jobs and for freedom. It was here that the pillars of our democracy were built, often by black hands,” the president said.

“And it is on this spot — alongside the monuments to those who gave birth to this nation, and those who worked so hard to perfect it — that generations will remember the sometimes difficult, often inspirational, but always central role that African-Americans have played in the life of our country.”

The museum “will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation. A place that transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all,” according to the Smithsonian website.

“This was true bipartisan effort, echoing the museum’s message of unity. What a magnificent location, in view of powerful symbolism. It is a fitting home for this museum, invoking the indelible threads that connect African American stories to the American tapestry,” said Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian.

Former first lady Laura Bush and Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis — an icon of the civil rights era — were among the other speakers celebrating the start of the museum’s construction.

“I look forward to the day when I can amble through the exhibit, search through the archives, participate in a program, rest my tired feet in a cafe and get lost in history inside the granite wall of an idea whose time has finally come, ” Lewis predicted.
“We didn’t give up, didn’t give in. We didn’t give out. We didn’t get lost in a sea of despair. We kept the faith. We kept our eyes on the prize.”

The five-acre site, selected six years ago by the Smithsonian, is located between the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History. The museum will be the first environmentally sensitive “green” building on the Mall. It is expected to cost $500 million, half of which will be covered by federal funds.

The groundbreaking ceremony was emceed by actress Phylicia Rashad, best known for her role as Claire Huxtable in the 1980s sitcom hit “The Cosby Show.” Opera singers Denyce Graves and Thomas Hampson also performed.

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Britain’s MI5’s Penetration by WWII German Agent

Article by Richard Norton-Taylor for The Guardian, February 16, 2012:

The treachery of the first German agent to penetrate MI5, a Dutchman who hoodwinked Britain’s security and intelligence throughout the second world war, is spelt out in the files released on Friday.

Folkert van Koutrik was taken on by MI6 before the war. He was subsequently recruited by Germany’s military intelligence service, the Abwehr, which gave him the codename Walbach.

On 9 November 1939, two MI6 officers, Richard Stevens and Sigismund Best, were called to a clandestine meeting at Venlo, on the Dutch-German border. They were expecting to meet German army officers plotting to get rid of Hitler. Instead, they were seized by the Gestapo.

Van Koutrik might have come under suspicion already as Wolfgang zu Putlitz, one of MI6’s German agents in The Hague, had already fled to Britain, warning that MI6’s network in the Netherlands had been breached.

After Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, Van Koutrik left for Britain and approached MI5 for a job. So convincing was he that a British security official said: “His great success has been as an agent … he has always been very resourceful and I should say that he has always displayed perfectly genuine faithfulness.”

He later returned to work for MI6 at a refugee reception centre in the UK. He was soon out of favour with MI5 and MI6, not because he was suspected of being a double agent but because of his prickly and arrogant nature. He vehemently complained after he was made redundant. He asked if he could have a pistol to protect himself – the request was refused – and even asked to be considered for a postwar job with the British army on the Rhine.

His treachery was discovered after the war. The MI5 files reveal MI6 was reluctant to give Dutch officials evidence to try him: “It might have been impossible in law to present an agent of the British intelligence service for treachery … on Dutch soil, especially if the actions took place while Holland was still nominally neutral.”

In a memo from a senior MI6 officer named Valentine Vivian to MI5 dated February 2 1948 – more than three years after the end of the war and after Van Koutrik had been released by the Dutch authorities – reflected the depth of frustration and anger about the apparent inability to punish Van Koutrik.

Vivian described Van Koutrik’s request for a job with the British army as a “piece of brazen affrontery”. Vivian added: “It would be utterly grotesque if he were ever employed in any capacity by any British concern, governmental or private.”

Best and Stevens were imprisoned in Germany until the end of the war.

The historian Christopher Andrew says in his official history of MI5 that Van Koutrik penetrated the agency in London in May 1940, a month before it recruited the Soviet agent Anthony Blunt.

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