Monthly Archives: October 2010

Music, Sports, Games, Food — The things people like . . .

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There are several popular things that I really enjoy: music, food, sports, games.

These also happen to be things that most students really enjoy.  And, they are things that are often particularly unique to the cultures that create or adopt them.  Looking at any one of these features opens a window into another culture and, thus, into what makes it strange or familiar.  Later this winter I would like to run I a week devoted to each of these fine and wonderful contributions to society.  For now, however, I would like to make a case for making greater use of these cultural institutions in teaching.

Feasting!

Arguably something we don’t do enough these days, feasting has had an important function in pretty much every culture.  It is also something that can be duplicated with a certain amount of ease.  A feast is a fantastic way to bring together students, families and the greater school community at large.  What’s more, it is also applicable for virtually any unit in your social studies and history classes.

It doesn’t have to be an exhibition on the glamor of exotic or foreign culinary delights, though.  Sometimes what is most powerful is the sense of deprivation.  Thanksgiving on the western frontier is a very different experience from Thanksgiving in Boston.  The food culture of a region depends on resources, climate, environment and access.  Within that culture there are often variations that exist based on wealth.  All of these are teaching points and all of these are often accessible in primary sources.  Food traditions also often represent points of fusion and connection with other cultures and regions, making a certain emphasis on food a great way to experience cultural change through contact.

Sporting!

Spectator and participatory sporting activities have a long history in our human story.  On the one hand, this is something that is easily recognizable and offers a familiar face to a foreign culture.  On the other hand, the purpose these served for ancient cultures is often rather alien.  Most students would be able to grasp the technical similarities that exist between the ball game of Central America with soccer, but most students will not immediately take hold of the idea that losers will be sacrificed on an altar and have their hearts removed.  By starting with the ball game, you lead to other avenues, such as religion, ritual and beliefs.

Even with more recent sports, social issues, such as eminent domain and segregation, are put into a particularly accessible format for students.  Certain international realities are also made plain when looking at international competitions such as World Cup and the Olympics.  ESPN’s 30 for 30 film series is based to an extant on this notion.

Gaming!

There are a combination of factors that contribute to the relevance of games.  Chess, backgammon, cards, dice . . these are games with a lot of history and there is the opportunity to put a student in the same shoes as a child, soldier, king from centuries beforehand and tell him this is the same way they past their time.

Some games are ones of strategy and others are of chance.  Strategy itself has a history as chess enthusiasts will tell you.  But, apart from that, there is also the appearance of games that are adapted to new cultures, such as with chess and its introduction of feudal symbols into the game.  This can quite frankly be brought into the present when you consider modern video games and their increasing ability to create online communities around the games.

Singing!

Music is often difficult to reproduce the further back you go and yet musical historians have made hypothetical reproductions of ancient music and instruments.  The study of particular pieces and styles of music is extremely telling about a culture.  Monks chanting the daily antiphon to each other morning, day and night speaks of the round the clock prayer that accompanied monastic life.  Listening to the Blues speaks of the economic hardship in Jim Crow America.  The triumphant tonal qualities of western national anthems speaks to the nationalistic fervor of the 19th century.  The melding and blending of musical qualities in today’s modern music speaks to increasing contact and interaction through the internet, travel and trade.

Music is also something that can be [re-]produced by students who may be more in their element with singing and their instruments than with history–a point that is valid for all of the above categories as well, though maybe music and sports most.

Below is Stile Antico performing a 16th century piece.  The piece is in Latin, religious and written to be sung by many voices.

Below is Benny More; largely considered to be one of the greatest Cuban singers, he fronted Cuba’s leading big band and was known to be gifted at both the fast rhythms and the slower ones.

Finally, Dylan.  Well, ok, not Dylan–it’s a Dylan cover, because that’s what people do with Dylan songs.  This is gratuitous, perhaps, but as such I need provide little introduction.  In this case, I will only say that the cover is by Ani DiFranco, who is someone akin to Dylan in a post-sixties way.

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Come visit Saratoga Springs, NY!!

In memory of Patricia “Patty” Mary Elizabeth Joyce Reeves, a member of the Wilton Historical Society. (September 21, 1932 – October 12, 2010)

I was recently in Saratoga Springs for a funeral and thought it would be fitting to talk about the city in today’s post in memory of “Grandma Pat.”  Grandma Pat (technically my grandmother-in-law) was one of the first people to comment on my posts and was herself a history buff, so this is, I believe, an appropriate tribute.

Many folks know about the revolutionary era battle for Saratoga Springs–it is well documented, so I am not going to spend time on it in this post.  Instead, I am going to break this post into three parts based on 1) the Canfield Casino in Congress Park–now the sight of the Saratoga Springs History Museum, 2) a travel article reprinted from the New England Magazine, in 1905, “Saratoga Springs,” and 3)  the narrative history found in The Saratoga Reader, Writing about an American village, 1749-1900.

Saratoga Springs History Museum, Canfield Casino in Congress Park

 

Canfield Casino in Congress Park, Saratoga Springs, NY

 

The Saratoga Springs History Museum is in Congress Park, housed inside the old Canfield Casino.  Originally one of the main attractions to the city, along with the horses and the springs, the casino does double duty for the city, today, as the main hall is rented out for occasions such as weddings.  In its heyday it was a popular site for the high-rollers from New York city who regularly dropped six figures like it was pocket change, according to the docents.  Today, visitors can pay $5 to see the exhibits, which include a small sampling of pre-Columbian archaeological finds and a wide smattering of other artifacts from the colonial era through to the early mid-1900s.  On the second floor there are really three exhibits.  The first is a collection of women’s fashion over the last two hundred years, “Two Hundred Years of Fashion Exhibit.”  (Full disclosure: I brushed through that section pretty quickly… but if you are into fashion and textile history it’s probably pretty cool.)  The second exhibit is the only one focusing on the building’s past specifically, the “High Rollers: The High Stakes Gambling Room,” which includes an original bar from that age (interesting side note: women weren’t allowed to gamble and so were provided a reading room).  Finally, there is an exhibit focusing on the small town’s extensive history of fires: “Historic Fires in Saratoga Springs Exhibit.”  The third floor, featuring “The Walworth Mansion–six rooms from the 1880s,” covers a rather wide array of American social history, running from the Civil War through to the Spanish American War, through the eyes of one family with ties to Kentucky, Washington DC and, obviously, Saratoga Springs.

 

High Rollers: The High Stakes Gambling Room at the Saratoga Springs History Museum

 

As a casino, Canfield was a successful casino in the resort area of Saratoga Springs.  It ran, successfully hosting JP Morgan, the Vanderbilts and Whitneys and their like, until 1907, when reformers successfully banned gambling in the city.  At this point, the docent explained, the gambling moved out to the lake, having been taken over by the criminal element that ran it in speakeasies.  The town had always attracted, as one Saratogan described it, a frivolous interest.

 

Parlor of the Walworth family mansion from the 1880s, Saratoga Springs History Museum

 

The Walworth mansion exhibit is a curious one.  As visitors walk into the doorway of the rooms an audio narrative comes on telling the family story the perspectives of different individuals in the family.  As far as that goes, I think it is a great way to introduce young people to history and the different perspectives that come down to us, though they are a little long and are rehashing the same general story–this may tax a young person’s patience.  The family deals with Civil War loyalties, domestic abuse, religious conversion in a Presbyterian corner of the world , women’s suffrage and the ill effects of the Spanish-American War.  The exhibit is supposedly based on seven rooms from the old mansion that was torn down almost one hundred years after these rooms were lived in–they are billed as coming from the 1880s–but, sadly the exhibit does not describe the methods of preservation and research to explain or make the case for how authentic this reconstruction actually is.  Nor, do they explain how they came to create the personal narratives recorded by actors–what sources they used, how they chose the individuals featured, etc.  Actually, this would in general be my complaint about the museum: not enough literature and explanation.

Apparently some odd things have happened up there on the third floor and the Ghost Hunters, from the SciFy channel, visited a while back.  The Casino was featured on episode 18 of season 6.  The episode includes another haunted site, so if you want to watch the portion relevant to Saratoga Springs, you’ll want to wade half way through it.  (This has apparently increased the number of visits to the museum.)  In the introduction to the feature, they explain some of the history of the building . . . as for ghosts?  I am not qualified to comment on anything in that area, but I did not notice anything on my visit!  (The episode is available in 5 parts on YouTube.)

“Saratoga Springs” by Louis McHenry Howe, New England Magazine, 1905

It was to Saratoga in those long-forgotten, prehistoric springtimes, when the Hudson tore apart its ice fetters and thrust them down into the sea, that the bravest and the feeblest alike of the haughty Iroquois tribe, abandoning their winter tepees, made their way over trails so firmly trodden down that the visitor to-day may trace them, sometimes for miles through the forests surrounding Saratoga.

It is by means of this introduction that Howe launches into the history surrounding the popular vacation and resort area.  Notice too, that it is published while the casino is still open for business.  The publication, The New England Magazine, was published in Boston as a continuation from the Bay State Magazine and appears to have run from 1886 to 1917 (although, I have not verified that).  My copy is a reprint of an original found in the collection of Minnie Clark Bolster and sold at the Saratoga Springs History Museum.  The article is a travel feature and tells us itself why the reader should be interested in Saratoga Springs:

What, it may well be asked, has been the magnet that has drawn man to this spot since earliest time?  The proud Iroquois, treading with light moccasin the forest trail, would have answered: “Game! for so many stately bucks and sleek-sided does, fierce wolves and fiercer panthers, never elsewhere did Indian see.”

“Society,” would have been the reply of the famous beauty, Betty Holcomb, travelling to the Spa by easy stage coach, from far Virginia, crowds assembling at each post station to catch a glimpse of her lovely face.

“The finest racing in the world,” would answer the gentlemen sportsman of to-day, learning luxuriously back in his private car as it tears across the miles that lie between Wall Street and the Saratoga Race Track.  All of these answers would have been right so far as they went, but the root of the matter would not be there, for the last analysis of Saratoga’s greatness will show that the foundations of her fame lie in her wonderful mineral springs.

The description of the town in this extended essay is one true to its time that describes what New England and New York society valued and of what popular knowledge consisted.  A geological explanation follows to explain the existence of the “wonderful mineral springs.”  Still, the majority of the essay is centered around the horse races, clearly the primary feature in the town’s popularity according to Howe.  There is surprisingly little about the Revolutionary War battle that took place there and shares its name with the small city.

As a primary source, this is valuable in the access it provides to the lifestyles of the wealthy.  While there is a great deal of discussion involving the local tribes, much of it inaccurate or misconstrued and virtually all of it romantic, there is no mention of the lives of anybody outside the wealthy class.  This is probably suggestive of the magazine’s readership, but that could be misleading.  Certainly, the accompanying photographs in the article focus on the estates and diversions of the wealthy–the publication does not provide credits for these photographs, so I take them to have come from the article, but it is possible that they have been provided for the modern reprint from Saratoga Springs archives.

The Saratoga Reader, Writing about an American village, 1749-1900 by Field Horne

This is an interesting collection of personal narrative descriptions of the history of Saratoga Springs.  It is in some respects a charming and pleasant read, in others a potentially useful collection for the high school and undergraduate researcher.  For a more serious researcher it supplies a useful trail to open inquiries into Saratoga, colonial, revolutionary, Civil War, New York and New England life.  The editor, Field Horne, admits to selectively excerpting and compiling this collection with a bias towards personal narrative accounts (as opposed to travel guide descriptions, for example) and sources that highlight American life in this part of the country.  Based on this, I would suggest that correspondence with the author could very well provide a rather extensive, larger collection that did not make the cut, but may prove useful for various historical inquiries.  It provides a bibliography, index and glossary that are well done and very helpful.  The way the book is laid out it is rather like a film of Saratoga’s history, with each scene a brief snapshot from one individual’s perspective.

What a historian or instructor will not find in this collection are sources in dialogue with each other, or even really multiple perspectives on similar subjects (with the exception of the springs themselves).  Each source is in isolation.  So, to return to my movie metaphor above, imagine a film where each scene is in isolation and the individual’s perspective is only accounted for in his/her particular scene–even if the individual may be relevant in the next scene, the audience is now cut off from that perspective.  The secondary source material providing some biographical information for each of the authors is also without citations.

While obviously each individual whose works contributed to this collection was literate, there is still a fairly wide swatch of American society represented even if not the widest economic representation.  The author was particular in his transcription of these sources , so their written accounts are not polished by the author and their voices are their own.  Many links to American life in general are drawn through his selections, in particular the local connections to greater American questions and politics, whether this is the written material from international observers moving through the area after the French and Indian War, young abolitionists or business men writing in their journals about presidential debates.  This is largely the story of American leisure, primarily that of the wealthy who would make their sojourns either with intent to Saratoga Springs or as side trips from the larger cities in the region.

* * *

This is the sort of place I really enjoy visiting.  It is a place that has made the conscious decision to preserve its past and incorporate that past into its modern city-life.  Also, it is pedestrian friendly which allows for leisurely exploration of its local businesses and history.  In the fall, it was shockingly beautiful with all of its trees cycling through their autumn attire and we were lucky to be strolling through the city during gorgeous weather.  For history buffs and folks interested in historic preservation it is a great place to visit.  I look forward to returning under happier circumstances.

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What I am reading . . .

Unfortunately, I will be attending a funeral this weekend and unable to post a regular blog entry, so here is something to tide you over:

I am constantly picking up new things to read–hate not having something really interesting or entertaining at my fingertips so, while the list is large, I also hope it is interesting!

WHAT I AM READING . . .

In history:

  • The American Historical Review, Vol. 115, No. 3, June 2010 (So, I am a little behind . . . ): “A contiuall and dayly Table for Gentlemen of fashion”: Humanism, Food, and Authority at Jamestown, 1607-1609 and “If You Eat Their Food . . . “: Diets and Bodies in Early Colonial Spanish America” (will feature these in a future blog–Food Week, coming soon!)
  • The First Fossil Hunters, Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times by Adrienne Mayor–fascinating stuff, was originally turned onto it by a History Channel special with the author, focused on this project.

For instruction:

  • Reading History, A practical guide to improving history by Janet Allen with Christine Landaker–just got this back after I had loaned it out, starts from the premise (backed up by studies) that one improves reading and literacy not through reading classes but through material such as social studies which forces readers to grapple with material.

For blogging and writing in general:

  • Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing, by Don George– got to keep the pencil sharp!
  • Will Write for Food, by Dianne Jacob — definitely plan on using this when I do my Food Week this winter here on the blog!!
  • Sin and Syntax, How to craft wickedly effective prose, by Constance Hale — useful entertaining, my writing should no doubt improve!

Magazines:

  • Preservation Magazine — published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
  • Smithsonian Magazine

For fun:

  • Snoop, What your stuff says about you, by Sam Gosling, PhD — he is a psychologist and I think there is actually a lot here that historians good borrow!
  • Lord Peter, by Dorothy Sayers — compilation of all of Sayers short stories featuring the debonair detective Lord Peter Wimsey!
  • Getting to that time of the year when I like to reread Harry Potter, too!

Finally, I always find great articles to share online, so follow my Twitter, ETFranz, for more reading material (but, not many personal status updates!).

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Facing the challenges of the high school pastime of dehumanizing your peers

 

AP photograph of suicide victim Eric Mohat, 17 years of age.

 

“1 Ohio school, 4 bullied teens dead by own hand”

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101008/ap_on_re_us/us_bullying_one_town

The photo above goes with the Yahoo! news link below it.  They are further evidence that somewhere in our society we’ve messed up.  As a historian, my brain creates unsettling parallels.  As a human being, my heart hurts.  I see several problems.  In the above story, the particulars of one school’s recent tragedies is laid out, but no apparent progress seems forthcoming.  In the last two years, Mentor High School in Ohio has seen four suicides and currently has two independent law suits laid against it for its neglected responsibility in two of the deaths.  The most recent young lady, Sladjana Vidovic, 16, was an immigrant from Croatia.  Before her two students, friends, ended their lives within three weeks of each other; Eric Mohat, 17, whether he was gay or not, was mocked as though he was, and his friend, Meredith Rezak, 16, a well-liked athlete had recently confided in friends that she thought was gay.  Jennifer Eyring, 16, was “developmentally delayed and had a hearing problem.”  All were harassed, sometimes physically.  All came to the same conclusion that they just couldn’t go forward.  As much as the students responsible for tormenting these victims are guilty, an even greater responsibility lies with the people in their lives who should be mentors.  Teens make mistakes–horrible ones, sometimes–adults, parents, teachers, coaches have the responsibility to correct these mistakes.

 

AP photograph of Mentor High School--less than excellent.

 

Why do teens lash out at other teens?  Whole books have been written on the subject and I am not an expert in that field.  I do, however, worry that our society reinforces the wrong things, poisonous things, that do more harm than we may wish to acknowledge.  In this post, I want to cover some ideas I have about what we can be doing (and what challenges our ability to do it).  To do this, I want to cover some things I have mentioned in the past–Sam Wineburg’s belief that history can humanize us, and the creation of the “other” or the use of dehumanizing language to undermine our obligations to each other–and a new program I read about a few years ago founded by Erin Gruwell–the Freedom Writers Foundation.

The History-Humanizes-Us Argument

One of my first concerns is the unrealized potential in many history classrooms across the country.  Sam Wineburg has pointed out the inherent value in teaching history as a subject by teaching historical method.  Question:  What do the historians we admire most all share in common?  Answer:  A deep knowledge and understanding of past peoples and experiences.  Even if that knowledge is not entirely correct, the act of engaging someone distant, foreign and strange and getting to know there culture is an important task–something every education should provide and very difficult to achieve.  Most of the history curriculum at schools and even to extant and colleges and universities emphasizes a survey format that is really about packing one’s head full of trivia, but not really learning about another culture and people that different, even strange.  Amidst that difference and strangeness there is similarity, too, but even if there is not it is irrelevant!  It is especially beside the point in this country where we are, in our founding, flawed though it might have been in its acceptance of slavery, committed to a society that lives in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, not fear.

To realize history’s humanizing qualities fully, to draw on history’s ability to, in the words of Carl Degler, “expand our conception and understanding of what it means to be human,” we need to encounter the distant past—a past less distant from us in time than in its modes of thought and social organization.  It is this past, one that initially leaves us befuddled or, worse, just plain bored, that we need most if we are to achieve the understanding that each of us is more than the handful of labels ascribed to us at birth.  The sustained encounter with this less-familiar past teaches us the limitations of our brief sojourn on the planet and allows us to take membership in the entire human race.  Paradoxically, the relevance of the past may lie precisely in what strikes us as its initial irrelevance.  ~Sam Wineburg

I think a focus on this skill-building, methodology-based approach could really help open the eyes of young people–even if it only plants a seed that take a few years to blossom.  The best teachers find ways to do this even with obstacles such as survey courses, testing-directed teaching and unimaginative adminstrations.  They challenge students to try to step out of their boxes and see things from different perspectives.  Developmentally, this is a challenge for teens, but it is good to push them to the edge of their abilities–sometimes you push and they go beyond the point they thought was their limit.

The Freedom Writers Argument

 

"The Freedom Writers' Diary" by the students of Erin Gruwell

 

Erin Gruwell was a student-teacher when she was assigned a high school freshman English class of students everyone expected to fail.  Maybe they would have if a student had not passed a caricature of another student emphasizing racial features in a crude way.  Gruwell snapped.  She did not hesitate to compare the act to the Nazi caricatures of Jews and other undesirables.  Her English class started down a path of personal journal writing inspired by Anne Frank’s and investigated the way society’s turn on their own.  She took them on field trips and arranged to have speakers that would speak on the issue–most of what she did initially she paid out of her own pocket, because she cold not get funding.  Realistically, most teachers probably cannot do all the things she did, but she has set up a program to help educators do the most important part: in teaching her students to read and write she taught them about the historical atrocities born out of racial or religious prejudice.  It was extremely poignant in this inner city school in Los Angeles with many mixed influences on the youth, few of them positive.  Her students learned self-confidence not because she praised them but because she challenged them and they succeeded.  She cared enough to challenge them and they took that and built a strong and positive community, helping each other deal with troubled home-lives, difficult economic situations and their own demons.  In the end, a class of students that was never suppose to make it out of the ninth grade and was regarded as a criminal element graduated, a group of young people unafraid of others’ differences.

The cases in the article above are not from a “ghetto” school, they are from a suburbanite public school.  The very safety and comfort is sometimes the biggest challenge for students who do not really understand questions of hunger, suffering or danger.  When I worked at the Close Up Foundation with students from every demographic, the kids who were the most difficult to reach about citizen-involvement were often some of the ones from comfortable suburban schools.  I do not mean to say that all suburban schools or high school students are like this!!  Nor am I saying that we should deprive our children of comfort, but I am saying that we should be aware that it is often difficult for a teenager to grasp troubles that are foreign to them, or for that matter to accept people who are different from them.  It is why we–all of us!–are there to educate and, again, plant seeds that will eventually bring forth fruit: healthy, compassionate citizens.

The Society-is-letting-itself-down Argument

 

Brennan's "Semantics of Oppression"

 

But in the meanwhile, we have to acknowledge our failure as a society.  The students in the article above who were bullied to death represent the same demographics that the law fails to protect, today: the disabled, immigrants and gays.  These are our society’s failings:  The disabled, so often labeled as burdens to their caregivers and to themselves as having low-quality lives, are frequently aborted or euthanized, legally.  The range of  disabilities that are targeted is expansive.  Immigrants are being targeted by private citizens and increasingly by governments, currently more at the state level than the federal level.  Finally, the persistence of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Domestic Marriage Act, not to mention the various state same-sex marriage bans, continues to establish a second class status for gay citizens and their families.  What do these issues all have in common?  They are not all in the same party platform!  But, they all reinforce the notion, established by the government–so, in other words, our society, us!–that certain groups of people should be treated differently–not just differently, but beneath the rest of society.  In a society founded on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, we cannot expect to be successful and rely on future generations if we continue to tell our children, “there is something wrong with these people and they need to be treated differently.”  Is it any wonder that our children, in this society, follow this pattern?

 

AP Photograph of Sladjana Vidovic's (remembered in the framed picture) grieving family.

 

HOPE:

Suicide hotlines:

http://suicidehotlines.com/

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/?gclid=CKnKjvqfzKQCFUNM5Qod1Wf8iw

For gay teens:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/It-Gets-Better-Project/158071744210603

http://www.glaad.org/

http://community.pflag.org/Page.aspx?pid=194&srcid=-2

http://ellen.warnerbros.com/2010/10/donate_to_the_anti-bullying_organizations_ellen_supports_1005.php

For disabilities rights and protection of disabled or elderly:

http://www.dredf.org/?gclid=COWzjqKgzKQCFc9L5QodIlf7iw

http://www.ada.gov/

http://www.dredf.org/?gclid=COWzjqKgzKQCFc9L5QodIlf7iw

http://www.nrlc.org/medethics/index.html

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Gateway drug to the Nazi Holocaust–the Nuremburg Laws

 

First page of the Nuremburg Laws signed by Adolf Hitler

 

As promised on Monday, this post is a follow up to my visit to the National Archives where the Nuremburg Laws of 1935 Nazi Germany are now on display.  (To see the remarkable story behind this exhibition check out the previous post.)  There are three laws that make up the Nuremburg Laws, but the one that is most important to the subsequent history is the final law seeking to establish the purity of German blood.  What follows, are two points of view regarding the context under which these laws come about.  One view, that of author and scholar Robert Gellately, focuses on a political origin, while the other view, that of scholar Henry Friedlander, focuses on the authority of the cultural elite.  These points of view are not mutually exclusive, simply different in both their emphasis and the end goal of their publications (Gellately writing about “the era of social catastrophes,” and Friedlander writing about “euthanasia to the final solution”).

The political environment.

 

"Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, The age of social catastrophe" by Robert Gellately

 

Following the conclusion of the First World War, on November 9, 1918, the Kaiser abdicated and Chancellor Prince Max of Baden resigned, leaving the returning soldiers, young Adolf Hitler among them, feeling betrayed.  In this vacuum an active socialist political movement stepped up: by noon Philipp Sheidemann of the Majority Socialists Party declared the formation of a “German Repubic,” followed within hours by Karl Liebknecht, of the more radical Independent Social Democratic Party, proclaiming a “Free Socialist Republic of Germany.”  These events would feed into the military’s myth that the “homefront let down the battlefront” during World War I and will become an “article of faith,” to Hitler, still recovering from a gas attack at the end of the war, and millions of other Germans.  The nickname, “November criminals,” will come to represent everything they hate: Marxists, Jews, Bolsheviks.  (83)

Bavaria’s monarchy in Munich was replaced by a radical Council Republic, despite its traditional and religious demeanor.  Hitler and many others tied the Jews with Communism and Bolsheviks because of prominent Russian and German Socialist and Communist leaders who were Jewish, though not necessarily religious.  They “become synonymous with Bolshevism and entangled with anti-Semitism.”  (84)  Although some of the leading left politicians would preferred Germany to follow the way of Russia–as Lenin deeply desired–the people of Germany were not overwhelmingly sympathetic:

Germany was a land of property owners, where millions had investments in stocks, bonds, and savings.  The country also had a pension and welfare system that helped integrate state and society.  Most workers were opposed to Communism, and even radical left-wingers were not anxious to emulate the Bolsheviks.  (84)

The concern, nonetheless, remained relevant as the majority of Russians had also not desired the Revolution Lenin orchestrated.  Lenin wanted to penetrate the west through Germany and Austria and sent emissaries who worked with the newly founded German Communist Party from 1918-1919, discussed the use of terror and attempted a coup. (85-87)  The presence of the Socialists caused a great deal of instability and violence; the new Bavarian government would ultimately have to lay siege to Munich to wrest it from a Leninite.  But, by this time, the socialists parties in Germany, Austria and Hungry were waning.  (89)  Yet, the damage was done and the stage had been set for Hitler.  Most Germans firmly associated the Jews with the Bolsheviks and, thus, with destabilization and international threat.  Anti-Semitic organizations achieved membership in the hundreds of thousands during this post-war period.  (91)

German economists will later blame the failing economy on international Jewry, labeling it a cancer besetting the economy, “Breaking the ‘slavery of interest’ became code for ending the economic power of the Jews.”  (91-2)  Hitler finally finds his calling in life, politics, and helps to further the interests of the German Workers’ Party, an organization well to the right of the soviets, interested in moderate government regulation on capitalism.  He makes his mark quickly, shrewdly competing with the socialists for workers in the ranks of the party by changing the name to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party and, in 1920, establishing the swastika on the white circle on the red background as the flag.  The red was meant to symbolize the “social idea” (and steal the attractive color from the soviets), the white nationalism and the swastika the “mission and struggle of Aryan man.”  (95-6)

After setbacks and then a sweeping rise to power, Hitler was elected Chancellor, with jobs and the economy being important campaign issues.  He initially says little pubically about the Jews, although the party boycotts and physically intimidates them, (315), but he does start his camp-system, some 160 such sites established by 1933, for torture and imprisonment (302).  Criminals, such as sex offenders, and communists are targeted–with German socialist support!  In the press, the camps are described as anti-Communist institutions to ease them into the culture, playing off the genuine fears of Communist disintegration of laws and order.  (303)

While the boycott of Jewish businesses fails to catch on, anti-Semitic policies were argued for in support of transferring Jewish professional success to Germans.  (317)  From the time of the boycott, “individual actions” were taken steadily against Jews–euphemism for violence and damage of property–without instigation from Berlin, acted entirely on local initiatives, though never without controversy.  But, despite this uneasiness with unsanctioned, but nevertheless unpunished, violence, the tenor was against the Jews and by 1935 Hitler believed he had the popular support he needed to start passing legal restrictions based on race.  And so, the Nuremburg Laws were passed forbidding the mixing of Jewish blood with German or German-related blood: banning marriages, sex and even the employ of a German woman under the age of 45 in a Jewish household.   Gellately reports on, “[a] Gestapo report for Berlin [that] said Jews were now shut out of the ‘community of the people.'”  (319)

The authority of the cultural elite.

 

"The Origins of Nazi Genocide, From euthanasia to the final solution" by Henry Friedlander

 

Origins of Nazi genocide are in the misappropriated biological theory of Darwin as applied to society:

Nazi genocide did not take place in a vacuum.  Genocide was only the most radical method of excluding groups of human beings from the German national community.  The policy of exclusion followed and drew upon more than fifty years of scientific opposition to the equality of man.  (1)

The would-be science of eugenics was advanced by German and other western scholars that “merged [eugenics] with the racist doctrine of ultra-nationalists to form a political ideology based on race.”  Scientists created constructs and scales on human intelligence, turning “popular prejudices” into scientific and academic theory, such as sexism based on brain size.  Nazi academics and doctors looked back and drew from a long tradition of academic authorities, as they so chose.  (1)

With his rise to the chancellorship, Hitler and his cadre of scientists began with sterilization, in 1933 and serving “as the model for all eugenic legislation” throughout Nazi control.  It forced sterilization on individuals with any of a variety of mental and physical disabilities.  The later Marriage Health Law, passed in the same year as the Nuremberg Laws,

mandated screening the entire population to prevent marriages of persons considered carriers of hereditary degeneracy, particularly those covered by the sterilization law.  (23)

As race hygiene had always linked disability to criminal activity, criminal traits believed to be hereditary were also targeted in 1933, often with the sympathy of law-abiding citizens.  (23)  A book compiling all the Nazi laws written against Jews fills a four-hundred-page tome.  While the first is written in 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service,

the centerpiece of the anti-Jewish legislation was enacted in September 1935 as the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, together known as the Nuremberg racial laws.  (24)

This same law will be extended to include “other racially alien blood,” especially “Negroes and Gypsies.”  And, Jews will be eliminated from eligibility, though they are not originally, from German citizenship because German blood is a prerequisite.  (25)  Not only that, Jewish patients would be banned from hospital care under the same pretense.  (268)

Conclusion.

The Nuremberg Laws will be on display at the National Archives for most of October, positioned opposite the Magna Carta and after the arc of the Hall of the Charters of Freedom.  I recommend the trip if it is possible.  The documents are profound not because of the words on the pages, nor even the signatures that passed them into law, but because they represented the next step, the one that set the legal course for the Holocaust.

For more information about the documents and how they came to be at the National Archives, or to see what they said exactly, refer to the previous post which has many useful links.

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Teaser … Nuremberg Laws come to the National Archives, DC

In the above video, you see how the Nuremburg Laws, signed in 1935 by Adolf Hitler, come to be on display at the National Archives, from October 6-18. I am running this as a tease for my upcoming blog post which will follow my visit to the National Archives to see this exhibit on opening day.

These laws were an important step to the eventual horror of the Holocaust. As Patton had the originals, facsimiles were used during the actual Nuremburg War Crime Trials, but they were the opening volley ushering in the evidence of Nazi horrors: medical experimentation, work camps and death camps.

Third page of the Nuremburg Laws signed by Adolf Hitler

Today the laws are referred to as the Nuremburg Laws, but in pre-war Germany the above section was entitled, “Gesetz zum Schutze der deutschen Blutes und der deutschen Ehre” or, in English, “law for the safeguard of German blood and honor.”  In the above excerpt, Jews are forbidden from marrying citizens of German or German-related blood (and, any out-of-state marriages will be regarded as void in Germany),  from having sexual intercourse with the same, from employing German women under the age of 45 years in the household and from raising the Reich- and national flag.  Jews are protected by the state, however, should they wish to display Jewish colors.  These laws are the gateway drug for the Nazi Holocaust.

If you click on this sentence, you can read the rest of the law in a .PDF of an English translation (it is provided by the National Archives, but the site does not explain how old this translation is or why it was drawn up).

The National Archives has a couple of other related events running at the same time the laws are displayed.  A description follows, here:

FILM:  Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today
Wednesday, October 6, at 7 PM, William G. McGowan Theater

The Charles Guggenheim Center for the Documentary Film welcomes producer Sandra Schulberg, who will introduce the first complete 35mm picture and sound restoration of the U.S. Government’s 1948 film about the first Nuremberg trial—the International Military Tribunal. Nuremberg: Its Lesson For Today shows how the four allied prosecution teams—from the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union—built their case against the top Nazi leaders. The original film was written and directed by Stuart Schulberg, and edited by Joseph Zigman, under Pare Lorentz, chief of Film/Theatre/Music at the U.S. War Department. It was completed by Schulberg in 1948, under Eric Pommer, chief of the Motion Picture Branch of U.S. Military Government in Berlin. Please note—viewer discretion is advised.(78 minutes)

BOOK TALK AND SIGNING:  The Monuments Men
Wednesday, October 20, at 7 PM, William G. McGowan Theater

Beyond the familiar history lessons of World War II is an untold story of a Nazi plot to seize the world’s greatest cultural treasures—a plot thwarted by one tiny band of soldiers, detailed in The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. The National Archives Experience, in partnership with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, welcomes author Robert Edsel, who will discuss a story that remains relevant as irreplaceable historical artifacts are still missing, and restoration, search, and discovery continue. A book signing will follow the program, and the book is available at a discount from the Archives Shop (202-357-5271) before and during the event.

The typical format is somewhat reversed this week as the shorter blog post is running today, while the lengthier, more in depth post will run at the end of the week.  So, check back to see a lengthier discussion and commentary on this law.  Follow me on Twitter, ETFranz, for updates about the visit to the National Archives and this exhibit!

For more information about the exhibit, please, visit the National Archives website: http://www.archives.gov/ (currently the first entry under “News and Events”).

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