Tag Archives: Nazism

April 11th

On this day in 1945 and 1961 two events began. The link between them was the Holocaust. April 11th 1945 saw US troops liberating Buchenwald and April 11th 1961 was the first day of the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel.

Eichmann on trial behind bullet-proof glass.

We’ll start with Eichmann, as he was the transporter administrator in charge of the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Years later at his trial, Eichmann would claim, as others  had before him, that he was only following orders. He acknowledged that he had been the indirect cause of millions of deaths, but …”I never did anything, great or small, without obtaining in advance express instructions from Adolf Hitler or any of my superiors.” When he was presented with the evidence that in 1945 he had said “I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction.” He admitted saying it, but explained that he had only been talking about enemies of the Reich. Given that the only deaths that were directly on his conscience were those of Jews and others who were transported over Europe to concentration and extermination camps, it’s pretty clear that his definitions of “enemies of the Reich” was pretty broad and that far from just following orders, he obviously took great pleasure in following those orders. There is more proof of this at the end of the war.  He had been in Hungary since 1944, sending the Jewish population to death camps, but in early 1945, when it was becoming clear that the tide had turned against Germany, Himmler sent orders to stop the extermination and to destroy all records of the Final Solution. The man who only followed orders, did not follow this one. He felt that Himmler was being weak and carried on sending as many Jews to their death as he could, in direct defiance of orders.

Hannah Arendt reported on the trial for The New Yorker and described Eichmann as the living embodiment of “the banality of evil”. This was because his character showed no real signs of antisemitism, neither was he noticeably psychologically damaged. He was a man who had been ambitious and wanted to do well in his career. The fact that doing well-meant facilitating the murder of millions was just one of those things. Of course Eichmann was antisemitic, everything pointed to this, not least 1950s recordings that were recently released by the German Federal Archive, where Eichmann boasted that he was no ordinary follower of rules, that he had helped formulate the rules, he was part of the process and an idealist. His banality was an easy mask to put on when his own life was on the line.

The mask was superfluous. He was executed in 1962.

Buchenwald was a concentration camp and not an extermination camp. Nevertheless it saw plenty of death and murder in its history.

Everyone gets what he deserves

Its gates bore the slogan Jedem Das Seine, which more or less means “Everyone gets what he deserves”. For the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, political opponents and western Allied POWs, death or as close to death as possible was what they deserved.

Despite the lack of “death facilities” of the roughly 260,000 inmates over its period of use in WWII, about 60,000 died. Many were killed by the policy of Vernichtung durch Arbeit  – extermination through labour – there were over 8,000 shootings, 1,100 hangings and 13,500 who died as a result of evacuation transports. There were also medical experiments. “Vaccines” against typhus killed 154. They also experimented with lethal doses of poisons, which generally killed anyone tested. There were mass murders of Soviet POWs and day-to-day sadism on a level that most of us, thankfully, cannot imagine.

Among the liberators of 1945 was the broadcaster Ed Murrow. His radio report of what they encountered was broadcast on 15th April by CBS and brought the holocaust to the homes of millions of Americans. I’ll leave this journey into the dark side of humanity with an extract from Murrow’s broadcast. He says it far better than I ever could:

“I asked to see one of the barracks. It happened to be occupied by Czechoslovaks. When I entered, men crowded around, tried to lift me to their shoulders. They were too weak. Many of them could not get out of bed. I was told that this building had once stabled 80 horses. There were 1,200 men in it, five to a bunk. The stink was beyond all description.

They called the doctor. We inspected his records. There were only names in the little black book, nothing more. Nothing about who these men were, what they had done, or hoped. Behind the names of those who had died, there was a cross. I counted them. They totalled 242. 242 out of 1,200, in one month.

As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others, they must have been over 60, were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it.”

More joint birthdays with a vague connection today. The people in question are Oleg Cassini and Ethel Kennedy. I don’t think I’m the only one to make the immediate connection, but I also know that many of you will be all “who?” and “what now?”, so I’ll put

Oleg dancing with his most famous client, Jackie in 1954

you out of your misery quick smart. Oleg Cassini was a designer who started out as a sketcher for Jean Patou, then worked under Edith Head in Hollywood before being hired as a costume designer in his own right. He married Gene Tierney, who would only wear her husband’s designs on-screen and so he began to really make a name for himself. And this connects him to Ethel Kennedy, how? Well, in the early 1960s, his designs caught the eye of a certain Jacqueline Kennedy and from then on he was a huge big ole cheese in the fashion world.

Ethel, is of course the wife and widow of Robert Kennedy. She was married to him for 18 years and had 11 children. ELEVEN! Sweet mother of god, there’s being a serious Catholic and then there’s being pregnant for most of your fertile life like a great big brood mare! Despite being pregnant nearly all the time, she and Bobby did find time to entertain and their home guested the great, the good, the beautifully ordinary and all those in between. She has not remarried, remains active in a supportive role in politics and probably has about ten million grandchildren by now.

Cassini died in 2006 at the grand old age of 92. He died wealthy and left a fuck of a mess behind him, including a secret wife, people fighting over his money and lawsuits bouncing around like

Ethel with Bobby and some of her eleventy million children. Cheerful bunch.

mental little bombs as everyone in his family started fighting for a cut of his money.

That’s unlikely to happen to Ethel, given that she’s proper posh, even if the Kennedy family are a bit of a rum lot at times, they are American royalty. She’ll have sorted out the will years ago.

So! Happy birthday, Oleg, you really hit pay dirt with Jackie and fair fucks to you, you did design some gorgeous frocks and stuff. And happy birthday Ethel. I’m glad your womb got a break at last and, well I know you must be some feisty old broad, but I’m awfully glad I never followed your example.

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March 5th

On this day in 1933 there was an election in Germany which was won by … have you guessed yet? Yes, that’s right. The election was brought to you by the letters S and S and the ordinal number 3rd. The Nazi party won. So much for democracy, well sort of. Here’s how those bastards did it.

 

Adolf's hopes of a career as a catalogue model never came to fruition

Firstly, despite winning a majority, they only had 43.9% of the vote and 288 seats out of 647. They had to form a coalition which they did with the German National People’s Party (DNVP) who were pretty unpleasant and racist but far less cuntish than the National Socialist Party. The coalition had 340 seats and a clear parliamentary majority, but not big enough for Hitler to do exactly as we wished. We’ll come back to that when we delve more into the winning of this election.

 

The election took place a few days after the Reichstag had been burned down by those pesky communists. Allegedly. Of course the Communist party (KPD) had the square root of sweet F.A. to do with this grievous act of arson; most historians agree that the Nazis did it and then pointed the finger at the KPD and had their leaders arrested. When Germany went to the polls the KPD were a little less popular than they had been and their vote went down by 19% (from 100 to 81 seats). The main opposition to the Nazis was the Social Democrat Party (SPD) whose share of the vote did not alter by much; they lost one seat. So, despite winning, despite increasing its percentage of the vote and number of seats, Adolf was not a happy man. The SPD were still there, the KPD hadn’t been completely destroyed and he hadn’t cracked the 50% barrier which he was sure had been possible. The long and the short of it is this, even at the height of their popularity, the Nazis weren’t as popular as all that.

But 43.9% is a pretty good vote, you might say and I’d agree. But is it as good when you consider that the SS and SA were monitoring the vote in Prussia. We could probably replace “monitoring” with either fiddling or intimidating or both. The KPD leadership was locked up and its membership were being threatened. But they weren’t the only ones. While the SS were being a little more gentle with the SPD, the leadership were worried enough that they’d legged it to Prague. We  have fiddling, we have intimidation, we have arson and still poor old Adolf couldn’t quite get more than nearly 44% of the vote. What a useless fucker he was.

However, this election, with all the legitimacy of (the pretence of) democracy surrounding it had nothing whatsoever to do with democracy. Hitler planned to use it to pass the Enabling Act (this would allow him to pass laws without going through the Reichstag), but he needed a two-thirds majority to do this and as we can see he didn’t have it even with his dirty little coalition. What was a  homicidal wannabe dictator to do! First things first, a little more intimidation. His biggest rivals in the Reichstag were the SPD, who were never going to vote for the Enabling Act, so he set the SA and SS to the task of making it incredibly difficult for them to take their  seats. Once that was achieved, he needed to get persuasive and he did. He managed to convince the Centre Party (74 seats) to vote with the coalition and before the end of the month Hitler was the de facto dictator of Germany, the KPD and the SPD were outlawed and Germany had become a totalitarian state in little more than the blink of an eye.

I bring you this because there are people out there who like to point to the democratic legitimacy of Hitler “back in the day”, either because they want to be fair or because they’re some swivel-eyed maniac who thinks that David Irving is an actual historian and all that Holocaust stuff was made up. In future as well as telling them to fuck the fuck off, you’ll also be able to stab them with facts. No need to thank me, it’s all part of the service!

 

Today is the birthday of a trio of musical mavens. The first of these was born in 1957-ah and even at the grand old age of 54-ah, he’s still plying his trade-ah. He’s  foul-mouthed fucking fucker who was once quite a pretty boy-ah, but these days he more closely resembles a shrivelled walnut with a face painted on it or Alex Higgins just before he died. I’m talking, of course, about Mark E. Smith-ah of The Fall, a band that has been performing – although with an ever-changing line-up – for about 35 years. Their success has

Mark-ah is known for his clean-living ways and adherence to a good dental hygiene regime

always been outside of the mainstream, but cult or not, they are loved with a deep and abiding devotion by those who are their fans. I am not one of that number, but even I have to hand it to Smith. For a loud-mouthed, chippy fucking bastard with all the charm of urine soaked mattress, he has stuck it to the world for the best part of four decades and shows no sign of stopping soon. Nice work, you strange little man.

 

On to the other two who were born within minutes of each other in 1962, they both resemble strangely assembled albino-esque reworkings of Buddy Holly and they also both resemble each other to an astonishing degree. This may be because the boys from Auchtermucthy  are twins Craig and Charlie Reid, aka The Proclaimers. They formed their band in 1983 and found success in 1986 when they were invited

Charlie and Craig have always worn slightly different glasses to assist those who can't tell them apart

to tour with The Housemartins as a support act. It’s hard to pin a genre on them, but as they started out in punk, it’s probably fair to say that they’re a mash-up of punk, folk and football stand anthemic. They’ve had a degree of mainstream success but never been full-on pop stars. This is probably down to their music which sits outside of pop whilst saying a very polite hello to it and their looks. Personally I find them pleasant enough to look at, by they’re not the sort to moisten the gussets of hormonal teenagers or inspire young boys to live fast and die young. But they’re solid Scottish lads with solid left-wing credentials and a fine line in rousing tunes that have even the most terribly, terribly posh of the English persuasion bawling out “If you go will you send back a letter from America” in the closet approximation to Scottish dialect they can find.

 

Happy birthday, Craig and Charlie. You’re a great bunch of lads!

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