Germany, history, videos, YouTube

A fascinating video I saw by total chance yesterday…

Today has gotten off to an extremely annoying start. In my travel blog last weekend, I wrote about how I was trying to book our vacation for next week. USAA immediately declined my credit card, which led to my having to call them. Likewise, PenFed allowed me to make two hotel bookings, but then blocked my card when I tried to make a third booking. I will be calling them later today, which doesn’t make me happy, because USAA blocked my debit card this morning when I tried to use it to buy sweaters.

USAA used to send text messages to my phone whenever there were questionable purchases made. Now, they don’t do that, because they don’t want to pay for international texts. So they just decline and restrict the card, causing me to have to call them. It wastes time and costs me money, plus it’s just a huge inconvenience. The real kicker is, an hour after I called USAA, I got an automated phone call from USAA to confirm the charges weren’t fraudulent. Of course, they didn’t go through, and now I am not wanting to use the card because I don’t want to cause another block.

Anyway… none of that has anything to do with today’s post. I just needed to get it out of my system. Today’s post is actually about something much more incredible and life changing.

Yesterday, I was watching a brief YouTube video about a Holocaust survivor. It was a very short video, and I was in the middle of something when it ended, so I didn’t immediately turn off the autoplay. I’m glad I didn’t turn it off, for that is how I became acquainted with Eva Clarke and her amazing story of how she was born in a concentration camp the day before Adolf Hitler committed suicide, and just two days after the Germans ran out of gas in the gas chambers at Mauthausen.

This video is about an hour long, but it is SO worth the time. It was taped at the University of California San Diego in 2018.

Eva Clarke is half Czech, half German. Her parents were both Jewish. Her father had moved to Prague to escape the Nazis. He thought that was far enough away from Germany to escape persecution during the Hitler era. It wasn’t, and unfortunately, he was a Holocaust victim. However, he did meet Eva’s mother, Anka, there, and they married, before they were sent to live in a ghetto and were later sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

Eva’s mother, Anka, was an incredible woman with a tremendous will to survive, as well as great pride for who she was. Against incredible odds, and with many strokes of good luck, she managed to survive the Holocaust and lived to the ripe old age of 95. That fact, in and of itself, is astonishing… but Eva is also a tremendous speaker and storyteller. She is very engaging. I wish I could have had teachers like her. Maybe I would have ended up better prepared for life.

I showed this video to Bill last night. Just as I had when I watched it the first time, I ended up in tears because I was so moved by how Eva and her mom managed to survive and thrive, even though Hitler had wanted to destroy them and anyone else he hated. Also, Eva mentions that the American Army were their saviors, as they were the ones to liberate Mauthausen. Since Bill is an Army veteran, it does my heart good to hear good things about the Army… and reminders of a time when U.S. Soldiers and other servicemembers were truly thought of as heroes.

Bill also got a bit teary listening to Eva’s story. He hadn’t meant to learn more about the Holocaust last night, but he did tell me that he didn’t regret hearing Eva talk about how she came to be. Nine days after Eva’s birth, World War II ended. And now, she is a lovely, elegant, eloquent speaker, who is telling the world about why we can’t ever let someone like Hitler come back into power.

This is why I am so vociferous about Donald Trump and his ilk. While I realize that Trump hasn’t started a genocide, some of his ideas and techniques are very much like Hitler’s. He emboldens people to be divisive and racist, and he craves money, fame, and power. I worry that he will influence otherwise good people to turn a blind eye to the atrocities of racism and we could, one day, have another genocide as horrifying as the Holocaust is. And this is not to say that genocide on a smaller scale isn’t already happening. It is.

Anyway, if you have time and are interested, I highly recommend watching the above video. And if you find any other videos by Eva Clarke, I would recommend those, too. I will probably watch another video by Eva… maybe it would calm me down a bit and remind me that my problems are truly first world problems. At least for now.

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history, lessons learned, musings, politics

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it…” George Santayana

Last night, as Bill and I were enjoying the cool evening sundown in our backyard, I suddenly remembered what I had wanted to write about yesterday. Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of connections between people, events, and other things I’ve run into, like books, videos, and music. A few days ago, we had a memorial for a guy I knew in the Peace Corps. My former colleague and I served in Armenia, which has been in the news in recent years as the people there try to get the Armenian Genocide recognized by the international community. I am now living in Germany, where people have been trying to make amends for the Holocaust, which took place during World War II.

The other day, I was watching YouTube videos and happened to see one about The Holocaust. It was very well done and informative. I’ve read a lot of books about people who survived The Holocaust, and I’ve watched many videos about the experiences of people during that time. But, for some reason, this particular video made me think more about what happened than the others had. Or maybe this idea popped up because I have been talking to people I knew in Armenia, and Armenia is more on my mind than usual. It occurred to me that I’ve lived in Armenia, where people are descended from victims of genocide. And now I live in Germany, where I am surrounded by people whose ancestors had a part in committing genocide. It definitely offers a unique perspective. Or, at least I think it does.

Before I lived in Armenia, I had never heard of the Armenian Genocide. In fact, I barely knew anything about Armenia. The only reason I’d even heard of it was because my fourth grade teacher was of Armenian descent and told us a little bit about his heritage. At that time, Armenia was part of the Soviet Union, so as a nine year old, I never thought I would ever get to visit there, let alone live there. My teacher did not speak about the Genocide. He told us about how Armenians were Christians and that most people’s last names end in “ian”. He said Armenians were very proud of being Christians, hence the “ian” at the end of their names. Now I know that’s factually incorrect, but it sounded good to me when I was nine.

I also remember my Armenian fourth grade teacher played Jesus Christ: Superstar for us. I didn’t hear that music again until I moved to Armenia in 1995, where it was everywhere. People in Armenia LOVED Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical. I even bought a bootleg cassette of the album and quickly became familiar with it. Andrew Lloyd Webber was very popular in the 80s and 90s, anyway, so I don’t know if Armenians always loved that show or it just became popular during their sudden independence in the 90s. Bill and I finally saw a production of it in Washington, DC in 2004.

I remember resisting this music when I was nine, but I ended up loving it when I was in Armenia.

The Armenian Genocide, which occurred from 1915-1917, resulted in the mass murder of over one million ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turks. The murders were achieved through death marches into the Syrian desert and mass executions. Many Armenian women and children were forced to convert to Islam. When I was in Armenia, I worked in a school in Yerevan that was named after a famous Genocide victim and poet, Ruben Sevak. I see that it’s now an elementary school, but when I was teaching there, there were students of all ages, and I taught kids who ranged in age from 7 to 16 years old. During my first months at that school, Ruben Sevak’s daughter, Shamiram, who was then in her 80s and lived in France, came to Yerevan. She attended a party thrown for her at my school. I tried to keep up with all the toasts and got very, very drunk. That was probably the drunkest I’ve ever been in my life!

While searching for Ruben Sevak’s daughter’s name, I found this fascinating blog post about Sevak and his family. I learned that Ruben Sevak (Sevak translates to “black eyes”) was actually a pseudonym. His real name was Roupen Chilingirian, and he was born in a city called Silivri, located about 37 miles from the city now known as Istanbul, but then called Constantinople. His family was wealthy, and Ruben was well educated. He became a physician, having studied in exclusive schools, including medical school at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. He met his wife in Switzerland, Helene (Jannie) Apell. Big surprise– she was from a German military family! Their respective families objected to their romantic affair, but Ruben and “Jannie” finally got married in Lausanne, and later had a religious ceremony at the Armenian Church of Paris. The young couple had a son named Levon in 1912, and then their daughter, Shamiram, was born in 1914.

Ruben Sevak became politically active, joining the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. He was a prolific writer, and his works were published in literary journals and newspapers. He wrote a book of poetry in 1909. It was titled The Red Book, and the works within it recalled the Adana massacre— an event in which Armenian Christians were killed by Ottoman Muslims. He planned to write more poetry and political works in more books. He would never get the chance to fulfill that dream. Clearly, Sevak’s writings were threatening to the Ottoman Turks. He was one of the million people killed during the Armenian Genocide, having been conscripted in 1914 and serving as a military doctor in Turkey. In June 1915, Sevak was arrested, and though his wife and her parents tried valiantly to save his life, even involving the German government, their efforts would be in vain. Ruben Sevak was murdered on August 26, 1915.

If you’d like to know more about Ruben Sevak, I highly recommend following this link to the blog post I mentioned earlier. I wish I had known this story when I worked in the school named for Ruben Sevak. It actually blows my mind that I was once in the same room with one of Ruben Sevak’s direct descendants. I’m sure she’s gone now, but how amazing is it that she visited the school where I worked in 1995? What are the odds that I, an American from a small town in Virginia, would one day work in a country that was once part of a larger country that was pretty much off limits to Americans until 1991? And then I would attend a party held in honor of the daughter of a famous poet and doctor who was murdered in the Armenian Genocide? Fate is an incredible thing.

Playing For Time… a movie about the Holocaust that I saw on TV in the 80s.

I had heard of the Holocaust when I was growing up, but to be honest, I think it was because I had seen a made for television movie calling Playing For Time. That film aired in 1980, and my parents let me watch it, even though I was 8 years old. I remember the movie starred Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Alexander. It was about young Jewish women in a death camp who were musicians tasked with playing music for arriving prisoners and entertaining Nazi bigwigs. I’m not sure I totally understood the film as I watched it. I do remember thinking it was interesting and I never forgot it, but the horror of what it was about didn’t dawn on me until years later. And I honestly don’t remember learning about what actually went on during World War II when I was in school. Of course, that was many years ago. Maybe I’m mistaken. But it seems like there was so much that had to be covered during those years that we didn’t spend a long time talking about one specific incident in history. U.S. schools, at least in the 80s, covered world history in ninth or tenth grade, U.S. history in eleventh grade, and Government in twelfth grade. Prior to that, we had civics in eighth grade and social studies in seventh grade and below. I’m not even sure if learning about the Holocaust was considered age appropriate in those days.

Fascinating video, if you can take the subject matter.

So there I was a few days ago, watching the above video about the Holocaust, which had popped up randomly in my YouTube queue. I listened as the narrators described the conditions the Holocaust victims encountered as they arrived at Auschwitz. I tried to imagine the terror and extreme horror of it on some level. I thought to myself that I probably wouldn’t have survived, if I had been among the unfortunate people who went to Auschwitz or the other death camps. Hearing about it and seeing the footage is one thing, but actually living through that– watching friends and loved ones being marched off to be executed, freezing in filthy, inadequate clothes and shoes, starving while being worked to death, getting deathly ill or badly hurt and being forced to keep working… being treated as worse than the lowest form of life. It’s just so hard to reconcile that reality with what I’ve seen in Germany, having now spent about nine years of my life in this country. It amazes me that such decent people can be reduced to treating other human beings the way Holocaust victims were treated. I can’t imagine sinking so low… and yet so many ordinary people did.

It suddenly dawned on me that I have now lived in a country whose citizens were systematically exterminated by Ottoman Turks. And I have also lived in a country whose citizens systematically exterminated Jewish people, as well as political prisoners, Gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and anyone else Hitler didn’t like. I read that Adolf Hitler was actually inspired by the Armenian Genocide when he came up with his “Final Solution”.

This is a screenshot of the text on the last link… Hitler’s justification of the Holocaust, inspired by the murder of Armenians in the Genocide.

Then I thought of our present day situation. I read that Donald Trump is being encouraged to run for president again. He “handily won” a straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference. I have mentioned before that I see some similarities between Trump and Hitler. No, he’s not yet having people rounded up and sent to concentration camps to be murdered, although some people have compared the situation at the southern border of the United States to the Holocaust. I’m not sure I would go that far, as many of the people in that situation weren’t necessarily rounded up from their homes and forced to march to detention centers. And I don’t think there’s really anything that quite compares to the absolute sickness and sheer awfulness of the Holocaust. At least not yet.

Hmmm…
Worth a view.

The similarities I do see between Trump and Hitler have to do with the way both men worked a crowd, as well as some of the historical events in Germany that led to Hitler’s rise to power, and the actual things that both men say– which are things that most narcissistic types say. The narrator in the above video describes how Germans were caught up in fear, poverty, and bigotry. The public were frustrated and looking for scapegoats on which to blame Germany’s depressed economy. Hitler exploited people’s fears, humiliation, anger, and ignorance to get common citizens to accept him as the only person who could make Germany great again. Elections were suppressed, and soon Hitler became a tyrant who murdered millions of innocent people. If you listen to Trump’s speeches and compare them to Hitler’s speeches, you hear a lot of the same kind of stuff. No, they aren’t exactly alike, and they never will be. But I do see similarities that disturb me, and I am not the only one.

Another quotable idea.

I have watched from afar as people in my country have become more and more radicalized and unreasonable. I have seen a lot violence and heard a lot of disturbing rhetoric. I believe a lot of Americans think of Trump as their savior. They ignore the many disturbing signs of his extreme narcissism, as well as the obvious efforts of Republicans to suppress votes from people who won’t vote for them. People are very polarized and some have forgotten their basic sense of decency and compassion. I actually worry less that Trump will be re-elected than someone younger, smarter, more charismatic, healthier, and crueler might be waiting in the wings, ready to take over when Trump inevitably meets his end. I have noticed a lot of vocal Republicans who are rallying disenfranchised and ignorant people to support them in their quest to reclaim power.

“You don’t know me, but I’m your brother…”

Maybe I shouldn’t be writing blog posts like this one. Maybe I will end up being rounded up and killed. I’m sure the people who perished in the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust had no clue that one day, they would face the horrors they faced. But I can’t help but think of Spaniard George Santayana’s quote, “Those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.” So I hope and pray that enough of my fellow Americans open their eyes and demand decency and compassion in our leadership.

If you’re supporting a politician who is beloved by the KKK or Neo-Nazi groups, you may want to re-evaluate your choices. Do you really want to be lumped in a group of people who are driven to hate and kill others? Isn’t it better if we come together in peace and moderation? Is money and power really worth more than other people’s lives? Think about it… and all of the exceptional people who have died because of extremism and the desire for power, money, racism, and religion.

Look familiar?
Trump refused to condemn the KKK. He claims to know nothing about white supremacists, and yet they all love and endorse him.
Holy shit. This man was a protestor. Trump is all about silencing the critics.
And yet, they still love Trump, despite his “condemnation” of their groups! Why is that?

So ends today’s blog sermon… Gotta take Arran and Noyzi for a walk before the rain starts again.

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book reviews

Repost: my review of Children of the Flames

Here’s one more reposted book review. This one was originally written for Epinions.com in 2010 and reposted on my old blog January 24, 2015. It appears here as/is.

On January 27, 2015, it will have been 70 years since Russians liberated the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz.  This morning, I read a fascinating news article about an 80 year old Slovakian Jewish woman who was at Auschwitz when the Russians came.  It was Marta Wise’s 10th birthday when she was caught by Nazis and sent away, first to the Sered labor camp in Slovakia and then, a few weeks later, to Auschwitz, where she and her sister, Eva were imprisoned and were subjected to the cruel medical experiments carried out by Dr. Josef Mengele. 

In the last days of Auschwitz, there was a lot of chaos.  Able bodied prisoners were forced to march westward in an attempt to escape the Russians.  Because Eva was sick, Marta stayed behind with her.  The Nazis tried to kill Marta and some other prisoners by locking them in an enclosure and setting fire around it… but European weather is fickle.  A sudden rainstorm put out the fire and Eva and Marta were rescued. 

Their survival was against all odds.  The sisters were able to go back to Bratislava, where they reunited with their parents and all but one sister, Judith, who died at Auschwitz.  Marta moved to Australia and went on to marry and have children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. 

In honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am reposting my review of Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz

The story of Dr. Josef Mengele and his gruesome twins experiments May 8, 2010 (Updated May 8, 2010) 

Pros:  Fascinating book. Well-written and insightful. Photos.

Cons:  May depress some readers.

The Bottom Line: This book is a valuable reminder of where humankind has been and where we don’t want to return.

Last night, I finished reading Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz. This book, published in 1991, was co-written by Lucette Matalon Lagnado and Sheila Cohn Dekel. Lagnado is writer who has had a special interest in Dr. Josef Mengele and his twins experiments at Auschwitz. Sheila Cohn Dekel is also a writer and an educator, as well as the widow of Alex Dekel, one of Mengele’s victims. 

A brief overview 

Dr. Josef Mengele was a high ranking Nazi physician. He literally had a deadly charm to go with his handsome face. Although Dr. Mengele had been an undistinguished student at his Gymnasium in Gunzburg, Bavaria, he eventually managed to study at the University of Munich, where he earned a Ph.D. in anthropology. Mengele happened to be in Munich as the ideas of eugenics, racial purity, and ethnic cleansing were becoming popular in German society. 

Graduating from university with highest honors, he went on to Frankfurt University, where he earned a medical degree and later joined the military. In 1941, he got his first taste of combat and was an excellent soldier. The following year, he was in another battle on the Russian front when he made his first selection. Because there wasn’t enough time or supplies to help every wounded man, Mengele had to decide which of the wounded would be treated and which would be left to die. This task was reportedly very gruesome for Mengele and he hated to do it… but he was evidently very good at it. 

Mengele’s skill at picking and choosing would be used again when he went to work at Auschwitz. It was often Mengele who met the trains carrying hungry, exhausted, and often very sick Jews when they arrived at Auschwitz. With a white gloved hand, he would casually pick candidates for the gas chambers, directing the new prisoners to go left or right. 

Mengele’s studies in genetics and anthropology made him fascinated by so-called “freaks of nature”. And so, when those trains came to Auschwitz, he directed his fellow Nazi soldiers to help him find quirky subjects for his research. He looked for dwarves, giants, and Jews who didn’t look like Jews. But he was most interested in twins. Mengele believed that twins held the answers to the genetic secrets he had a burning desire to explore. Mengele’s position as a high ranking SS physician at Auschwitz gave him the freedom to explore those secrets by undertaking any experiments his heart desired. 

Mengele’s children: a protected class 

Dr. Mengele sought twins every time new Jewish prisoners arrived at Auschwitz. Most of the prisoners who arrived were under the impression that they were there to work. So when soldiers called for twins, some parents of twins and adult twins were reluctant to come forward. But as it turned out, the people who ended up in Mengele’s experiements were often better treated than other inmates were. They were fed better, allowed to keep their hair, and had better quarters. They were also safe from the gas chambers. The catch was that they had to be Mengele’s specimens for his often gruesome experiments and exploratory surgeries. Those that didn’t survive the experiments or surgeries were autopsied by an assistant, who would send their body parts and organs to Berlin. 

Supposedly, Mengele was comparatively gentle with the twins, particularly with the small children. He kept them in fairly good health and had a fairly gentle touch when he drew blood (on a daily basis). Sometimes, if he had a very young set of twins, he’d let their mother come with them. Mengele would often pick a pet who would be especially well treated. It’s said that he was affectionate with the children, giving them candy and chocolate and sometimes even playing with them. Some of them called him Uncle Mengele. But he would also casually dispose of them when he grew tired of them and none were spared his horrifying experiments.  

This book’s layout 

The authors of Children of the Flames chose to recount the story of Mengele and the twins in an interesting way. They got the stories from surviving twins who were the subjects of Mengele’s research and flip-flopped between the twins’ experiences and Mengele’s life story. Among the twins interviewed were a pair of male/female twins. The male half had been chosen to be the “twins father” because he had served in the Czechoslovakian army. He looked after all of the male twins. His sister was almost murdered, but was saved before she was sent to the gas chambers. The female twins in Mengele’s research did not have a “twins mother”. 

The authors include a lot of commentary from the “twins father”, as well as several other sets of the several thousand twins that Mengele used in his research. Of course, of all of those twins, only a few hundred survived the war. The authors also include photos as well as an afterword that updates readers on the twins.

One thing to know about this account is that it’s not entirely about the concentration camps. The authors don’t go into great detail about the experiments and they don’t dwell much on the concentration camp experience. Instead, they approach the story by describing how it was for the twins before and after the war as they interweave Mengele’s story.

My thoughts 

I found Children of the Flames fascinating. Josef Mengele was a horrible person, but he’s extremely interesting to read about. From this account, he comes across as deceptively charming and kindly, yet underneath that gentle exterior was a monster who killed and tortured people as if they were toys. As someone who has studied the social sciences, I find Mengele an extraordinary subject. He really is an example of a sociopath. The authors follow him from Germany to several countries in South America. They also offer information about his two wives, his son Rolf, and his nephew and former stepson, Karl Heinz.

I also enjoyed the interviews from the twins, most of whom were incredibly resilient. Their stories from before and after their experiences at Auschwitz are recounted, giving readers some perspective as to what it was like during their recoveries. Anyone who thinks the Jews had it so much better after they were liberated may be in for a shock. The twins describe very hard times, particularly for those who went to Eastern Europe or Israel rather than America or Canada. 

Overall 

Children of the Flames is excellent reading for anyone who is interested in learning more about Nazi Germany and concentration camps. The authors did an outstanding job of describing who Josef Mengele was as they put a face on his victims. They provide valuable insight as to what it was like for Jews after they were liberated. Even when they weren’t prisoners, they were still victims, haunted by nightmares, poor health, and crushing poverty. This should be required reading for anyone who is a student of European history.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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condescending twatbags, politicians, politics, psychology, Trump

If you have to start a rebuttal with insults…

You’ve already lost the argument, as far as I’m concerned.

A couple of days ago, when riots were happening in Washington, D.C., a friend of mine named Chris posted this comment on Facebook.

From what I am seeing, President Trump has incited a riot where protestors have now breached and are inside the Capitol building. This is NOT the America I spent my life defending.

Chris is someone I knew in college. He’s spent most of his adult life as an Army officer. He’s offline friends with one of Bill’s former colleagues from the early days of his Army career. Although Bill hasn’t met my college friend himself, my college friend later friended Bill, because they have the Army and Bill’s former colleague in common, as well as some mutual friends. That old concept, Six Degrees of Separation, works especially well in the military.

Anyway, given my college friend’s military career, he has a lot of Facebook friends and they run the gamut in terms of their politics. Naturally, a lot of the military folks who are friends with Chris are politically conservative. Based on his public thread, which at this writing has over 300 comments, many of my college friend’s contacts are mostly Trump supporting Republicans.

After awhile, someone brought up the fact that Trump’s leadership style is an awful lot like Adolf Hitler’s. Personally, I agree with the similarities. But whenever Hitler comes into the conversation about Trump, many people vehemently deny the comparisons. They think it’s awful to even go there. I guess I can understand why comparing Trump to Hitler makes people squeamish. People don’t want to think they fell for electing a monster, and it’s true that Trump hasn’t committed atrocities on the same level that Hitler did. But I think if people stopped to think about it for a minute– cleared their minds of the obvious distaste most people have for Hitler and looked at the issue critically– they might see why some of us can see how Hitler and Trump have used the same playbook. And even if they still disagree with the comparison, they might have more respect for the opinions of others who do see things in that way.

Interesting thoughts from 2016.

So how is it that some people see comparisons to Hitler and others don’t? I’ve found that conservatives who don’t see the parallels tend to focus on nitty gritty details. For instance, one Trump supporter I’ve talked to about this brought up that Trump (supposedly) isn’t anti-semitic. Others say that comparing Trump to Hitler is hyperbole that is insulting to Jewish people. They all bring up the fact that Trump hasn’t murdered six million people (yet), and comparing Trump to Hitler diminishes Hitler’s evil deeds. They’re looking at specific policies and the actual things that were done during the Holocaust. They don’t consider how the German people got to the point of ignoring the barbaric treatment of Jews and others who were deemed “undesirable”, such as communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gypsies, and homosexuals, to name a few. Trump hasn’t yet managed what Hitler did. It would be difficult for him to do that in today’s world. But he motivates disenfranchised people in a way common to Hitler’s, and he has some very similar behaviors and mindsets to Hitler’s.

Americans are lazy about studying history, much to our detriment. This is pretty cringeworthy.

What these folks can’t seem to understand is that most people comparing Trump to Hitler have never said that Trump is *just like* Hitler, or that he believes in everything Hitler championed. What they’re saying is that he has a similar leadership style. Trump, like Hitler, was a mediocre person before he rose to power. Yes, Trump was wealthy and famous even before he became president, but most of his “accomplishments” came on the backs of other people. He’s definitely not a scholar, and if not for the family business, he probably never would have been regarded as a particularly brilliant businessperson. Trump made his money by screwing over and bullying other people. He is a taker. And although the role of POTUS is the ultimate government position, Trump never had an interest in government service. He had no experience as a politician and never would have been able to get a security clearance. What he is interested in is fame, power, self-gratification, and wealth, not being a leader. And those interests are what make him like Hitler, who was a similarly damaged, mentally ill person who was drunk on power.

I actually had a copy of this issue of Mad Magazine, myself… it’s rather telling, isn’t it?

Like Hitler, Donald Trump’s “gifts” are his charisma and ability to rile up people. Like all malignant narcissists, he knows what to say to motivate people. He knows how to get people energized and fool them into thinking that he’s working for them. But if you look beyond the surface, you can see there’s very little substance to what he says. And when it comes down to it, he really doesn’t care about anyone but himself and his obsession for power and money. He’s no different than a televangelist who talks people into sending him their grocery money on the promise that they’ll somehow be blessed by the Almighty. Trump ALWAYS blames other people when things go wrong, and he energizes other people, perhaps those who feel disenfranchised by virtue signaling liberals whom they think live in ivory towers, to think as he does. Of course, Trump wouldn’t deign to spend any time with most of the people who champion him. He looks down on the poor.

Hitler, likewise, was very good at riling people up and convincing ordinary Germans that his plan was what they needed to get out of their impoverished conditions. He convinced people to blame the Jews and, little by little, desensitized them to the cruelties and atrocities levied against Jewish people. Germans are, on the whole, very law abiding people, so he passed laws that enabled his campaign of hatred to go on unabated. He enlisted other people– power hungry, ambitious, cruel people– to join him in his campaign against Jews and others he deemed unacceptable or undesirable.

In 2018, Donald Trump refers to certain countries as “shitholes”… and he pushes an agenda about making American “great” again, when for so many people, it was never “great”. He clearly disdains certain people, just like Hitler did, and minimizes atrocities committed against people who aren’t like him. Not unlike Hitler.

Take a look at Trump’s policies and you might see that he similarly dehumanizes people. In his case, it’s the “illegals”. And while the practice of “caging” people didn’t start with Trump, it definitely ramped up on his watch, especially as he insisted on going forward with his idea to build as massive wall to keep out “bad hombres”. Listen to what he says about other people. He views women as objects and values them only on their beauty. But even women he thinks of as “beautiful” are still just objects intended for his entertainment and enjoyment. They are less than human in his eyes. You only have to read some of his comments over the years to see that.

When people compare Trump to Hitler, it’s not because he’s been on a campaign of mass murder. It’s his behavior and his effect on his followers that they’re addressing. It’s Trump’s ability to motivate people to go to Washington, D.C. and attempt to derail democracy that makes him like Hitler. Sadly, a lot of people never think about this and won’t consider it. They only focus on what Hitler managed to do versus what Trump has done.

They hate the media, but they get their bullshit from the media.

Unfortunately, a lot of Americans are easily impressed, particularly by those who make a lot of money. They are blinded by fame and wealth, and equate that to success. Many Americans are big believers in the “prosperity gospel”. They assume that a person’s power, thanks to wealth and fame, are a sign that they are favored by God. Most of them don’t think too hard about how someone would come into that much money, power, and fame. Sadly, a lot of people want to be in the orbit of fabulously rich and famous people. It doesn’t occur to them that a lot of really wealthy, famous people are shallow and selfish. Those qualities are often how they made their money and became powerful. They don’t care about others.

So anyway, a couple hundred comments into the contentious thread my friend Chris posted, another college friend joined the discussion. This friend is a woman I knew in school. She’s very bright and articulate, and she has a degree in history. Longwood University, particularly when we were students, has a very strong history department. Most of the people I know who got degrees in history at Longwood are very intelligent.

My friend brought up the Hitler connection, and she was immediately taken to task by one of Chris’s military buddies. This guy, name of Russ, is an author and a military officer. Sadly, based on his comments to my old friend from college, he’s not much of a gentleman. As the two sparred in Chris’s thread, I noticed that he started most of his comments with sarcasm, insults, and blatant rudeness. Meanwhile, my college friend, who like me, is an Air Force brat, responded to his comments with dignity and basic respect.

I was impressed by my friend’s comments. She’s definitely more patient than I am. I was tempted to jump into the fray myself, but I decided that I don’t like arguing with jerks, especially when I don’t know them and when it’s on social media. To me, it’s mostly a pointless exercise. Still, I was very proud of my friend for standing up to Russ and his obvious disrespect toward smart women. And then it occurred to me that Russ is not unlike a lot of people in the military– usually men– who look down on others. I have been on the receiving end of a lot of shit from people in the military community simply for daring to call my blog The Overeducated Housewife. These folks are usually the type who universally refer to military wives (and it’s always the wives, not the husbands) as “dependas”. A “dependa”, for those who don’t know, is a fat, lazy, parasitical woman who marries a military guy simply to drain his paycheck at AAFES and access Tricare benefits.

But even worse to the people who use the slur, dependa (which is short for dependapotamus), are smart women who feel emboldened to challenge them. Most of the men who act like Russ are the type of guys who can’t stand smart, outspoken, articulate women. And so, instead of treating them like equals, they do their best to try to diminish them with sarcasm, insults, and discounting. Here are a few of Russ’s comments:

He starts with this, after a third person called Trump a “Nazi” (which for the record, I don’t agree with– I don’t think Trump is a Nazi, but I do think many of his behaviors are like Hitler’s)…

Jesus, can we knock off the Nazi nonsense? Have you EVER stopped to think that such language is one of the reasons we’re so polarized? When someone invades the rest of Europe or kills 6 million people in systemic genocide, then maybe the Nazi comparison will be valid. Until then, it’s just a lazy way to tell everyone how much you hate those on the other side.

Then, a few comments later, Russ writes this:

no, it’s not like Hitler’s rise to power. Geez, when did our schools stop teaching actual history and start giving you whatever validates your personal political viewpoint? Hitler used a runaway inflationary crappy economy and hatred of Jews to rise to power and then systemically kill millions of people. Your over the top hyperbole isn’t helping; in fact, it’s part of what is inciting all of this.

You can sort feel his derisive mood in his words. He’s not responding to other posters with respect. He’s being insulting and rude and not even trying to see where the comparisons are coming from. And again, he’s focused on the “nitty gritty” of what fueled Hitler, not the behaviors themselves.

So my friend informed Russ about her background and wrote an explanation of why people compare Trump to Hitler. Below is what she wrote. The only thing potentially insulting to Russ is when she asks him not to question her education when he doesn’t even know her.

As someone who has a degree in history I feel that I have an accurate grasp on historical events and what leads to major historical events to parallel. Don’t question my education when you have no idea who I am or what I know.

Trump inflates the hatred of immigrants. There are camps with inhumane conditions that these immigrants are kept.

He uses the fallacy of America first to incite his followers to do his bidding. He can get a whole room of people to chant whatever party line he wants them to say. The nationalism he has evoked from people is blind to any thought other than America.

Having driven around this America during the pandemic I have seen many pockets of his followers and they are usually the very poor and the very rich. He preys on the insecurities of those who are scraping by and he protects his billionaire friends.

His actions are from a third world coup playbook. He does not have absolute power, there is a thing called checks and balances. He thinks he can tell congress what he wants and it will happen. He thinks he can determine how he wants the supreme court to make decisions. They all said, thank you, next and now he is pouting in the White House, on a twitter time out while people are still protesting in front of the Capitol building for a man who would easily thrust them in front of himself.

Your reluctance to see the parallels are because you just don’t want to be compared to an extreme government that exterminated 6 million souls and disenfranchised millions more. I can understand that, it hurts to have your belief system examined so thoroughly and compared to what has been declared monstrous.

Trumps actions are text book fascist, his hero is the leader of a dictatorship, how can you rationalize accepting this man as your leader?

He lost the election and now you are being asked to get over it like the democrats were told to in 2016.

This was a great opportunity for Russ to enter into a respectful and perhaps illuminating discussion about why some people are reminded of Hitler when they look at Trump. Even if my friend had failed to convince him, he might learn something from the exchange. Instead, he immediately insults and tries to bully her:

ooh, you have a pretty certificate? Well that just settles everything then, doesn’t it?

No, Trump is not inflaming hatred of immigrants. He does say we have a border that should be enforced, and I notice you left the word ILLEGAL out of your diatribe. BTW, remind me again when the cages went into service and who was President at that time…I kinda thought the American President was elected to look after America. Maybe I misunderstand the job.

If you’ve only seen very poor or very rich supporters, you need to get out more. I live among them, and they’re pretty much middle class. Or do you need to categorize them to justify your own opposition?

Which dictatorial actions has he taken? Has he arrested journalists and had their families followed? Oh, wait, that was Barack Obama…Hitler being appointed to the Chancellorship was a move aimed at appeasing his supporters by Hindenburg, so as to try and bring them into the governmental coalition. Hitler never won the Presidency on his own and only assumed it upon the death of Hindenburg. Moreover, he set about rounding up Jews inside Germany who were German citizens, and then he executed them. You conflating with Trump saying mean things is pretty comical.

BTW, remind me when democrats “got over” the election of 2016.

After I read this, I decided to take a look at Russ’s Facebook page. He evidently has a wife and daughters. I bet he speaks like this to them, too. I know the type. This is the same treatment I used to get from my father and my uncle, and other men in the family with military experience who have the erroneous idea that being rude and insulting is motivating. He probably treats the women in his family like trash. And this is a very typical attitude displayed by a lot of men in the military who can’t stand to be addressed by women.

So my friend continued with another comment, which I thought was pretty civilized.

Yes, I have a pretty piece of paper that states I put in the time to research my given field. It is where I met Chris, someone I greatly admire. I didn’t say it to brag, but to let you know I had the ability to read books, such as yours, to come up with my own educated opinion on matters.

And Russ comes up with this beaut…

so you continue your assertions based on your certificate and not on facts? I notice you failed to refute a SINGLE thing presented, instead relying on your degree to hopefully quell others into silence. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to dismiss you.

At this point, I’m pretty sure that Russ is just an asshole. But my friend addressed him again, I think quite respectfully, given Russ’s arrogant and dismissive tone toward her.

no, I don’t need to refute your position or points. This is not a debate. I am not required to defeat your ill informed assertions with a counterpoint to each point you make. My reference to my degree was presenting qualification to my argument like anyone would to demonstrate a mastery in a subject or skill. It wasn’t meant to put anyone down who does not have said “pretty paper” and I acknowledge there are many here more educated than me, some might even consider themselves overeducated.

At the end of the day, Congress ratified the electoral vote and Joe Biden will be the next President baring any actions taking place in Congress this week regarding Donald Trumps role in inciting violence.

It is easy for you, a male, to dismiss me because I don’t immediately defer to your superior opinion because, as a female, I must be stupid and not really understand how all of this works. Your bully tactics will not work on me.

As the daughter of a retired Air Force Colonel, I lived in a divided Germany and in school we were taught many things regarding international affairs, to include the responsibility of the people who fueled the ego of Hitler and how easy it was for him to rise to power.

We are in a poor economic situation. Trump is saying things that resonate in many hearts of like-minded people. Senators and congress-people of his own party support him at the cost of their own careers.

Four years go by fast. Instead of insurrection and sedition, why not form powerful election reform groups to ensure the next election is not “fraudulent.” Oh wait, if the presidential election was fraudulent, maybe the rest of the election was fraudulent and Mitch really isn’t the duly elected Senator from Kentucky? Shocker that the only election that is in question is the presidential election when every state had all offices on the same ballot. No one else on the ballot who lost are protesting like an angry dictator that there was voter fraud. They accepted the loss and said, get ’em next time.

And Russ couldn’t let it go, so he responded thusly:

I see, instead of taking on the points you quite obviously got wrong about rises to power, now it’s all about what is dangling between my legs. Why that’s not sexist at all!

I treated you the same way I treat everyone else. Stop acting all butt hurt b/c you got called out on your hyperbolic nonsense. It’s not about anyone bowing down to superiority – it’s about you being so full of rage and anger that it has tainted your judgment about how you pose historical context.

I went back, and golly gosh gee if I could find anywhere where I said Biden would not be the next President. Wouldn’t that simple fact, which everyone acknowledges, kinda undercut your Hitler assertion? Last I checked, Hitler was pretty unlikely to allow himself to be removed from power. But I get that you are wedded to overblown rhetoric that you somehow can’t see contributes to all the anger in our society today.

I see that you want to make this about the election in general instead of your Nazi reference bullshit. Biden won – shouldn’t that be enough for you to let go of this anger? Or are you intent on proving that it’s not Trump per se you dislike, but the Right in general, and Trump is merely a stand-in for that hatred?

He’s not even trying to understand where my friend is coming from. His attitude toward her was belligerent and insulting from the get go. But my friend stays on the high road and writes this:

If you felt any hatred from me toward Trump or the right I am quite surprised. He is not important enough to me to hate.

If there’s anything I hate, it’s when people try to tell me how I feel or what I think. Kudos to my friend for her even-handed response to a guy who did just that. But he couldn’t let it go. He had to lob one more missive.

your words tell a different story.

Nope, Russ. I don’t see it. But my friend offered these last thoughts, again, very classily stated.

I guess as an author you would know? Hate is something that is a visceral reaction. I don’t hate him any more than I hate you. I feel sorry for this country in being hoodwinked by the biggest con man to ever hold office and that is saying a lot because we have had quite a few in our history.

I can call someone a narcissist without hating them. I can describe behaviors as being childish without hating them. I can hold my ground on how I feel without being hateful toward you or anyone else who feels the same.

The feeling I feel is pity. I am unsure you understand why I feel pity without thinking that I am being condescending. This division is not the America I have been brought up to believe in so strongly. It is devolving into an us vs. them and I refuse to play into that role. So while you try to bait me with insults to get me to spew hate, it is not going to happen. I have many conservative friends who both support and don’t support Trump and I don’t treat them any different than any other friends. I will respectfully debate them when they want to debate and I will back off when it becomes uncivil.

What people don’t understand is the language of politics and how it is founded in civility. You explore the concept of hate in your book Schism as well as a fictionalized (which at the moment feels more non fiction given current political events) break of political parties where people are pitted against each other. You have some great reviews and I agree with one reviewer that this genre of literature (modern civil war) will be forthcoming more due to the political and civil unrest in the country. At some point, when courts, lawmakers, and other officials are saying there was no corruption, no fraud, when are the disenfranchised Trump supporters going to believe that? What do people have to do to make this be a settled matter?

I do hope my friend doesn’t mind that I posted about this… but this discussion is on a public thread and I was legitimately impressed by her intelligent and respectful responses to an apparently misogynistic bully (because I truly doubt he would have responded to a man in the way he responded to my friend). I already had a bee in my bonnet this morning on account of a couple of people insulting me on Gary Johnson’s Facebook page. One person called me “a special kind of stupid” and “selfish” because I wrote that the one good thing Trump has done is motivate people who ordinarily don’t vote to go to the polls and vote him out of office. I am delighted that Joe Biden won, simply because he’s a much more decent person than Trump is. But apparently, voting against Trump makes me “stupid” and “selfish” (looks like she deleted her comment after I called her out). Behold:

Granted, maybe I shouldn’t have called the guy an “idiot”, but I hadn’t had my coffee. We all make mistakes.

Anyway… it’s been a long four years and a long couple of days. Even if Trump isn’t entirely to blame for what happened in Washington, DC on Wednesday, he certainly had a hand in its fruition. The whole world is watching this, and Trump has not responded like a real leader should and would. It’s time for him to leave power before even more people get hurt or killed by his terrible policies. Maybe, with a leader who actually cares about others and sees them as more than just objects or weapons, America might be able to repair some of the damage. But I think we could all start by not immediately resorting to verbal abuse and insults, discounting other people’s opinions, and diminishing their accomplishments. That alone, would help make America much better… although we still have a long way to go before we’re “great”.

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healthcare, history, politics, tragedies

No… this era is not like the Holocaust… yet, anyway.

Someone in the Duggar Family News group posted about Dawn Wooten’s complaints about Irwin County Detention Center, the ICE facility in Georgia where precautions against COVID-19 are being ignored and women are supposedly being forced into having hysterectomies. I wrote about that situation myself yesterday.

Many people in the Duggar group were in disbelief about Wooten’s claims. Quite a few dismissed them outright as “bullshit”. They couldn’t conceive of something so horrible happening in the United States, particularly in this day and age. Apparently, they had never heard of the shameful eugenics programs that were quietly administered in the United States for decades, as recently as in the late 20th century. As I mentioned yesterday, my home state of Virginia had such a program until as late as 1979. In fact, as of 1924, Virginia even had a law on the books that served as a model for other states’ eugenics programs.

The Virginia Sterilization Act of 1924 was upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional. From 1924 until 1979, 7325 people were forcibly sterilized for being “mentally deficient” or “mentally ill”. Approximately 22 percent of the people who were sterilized were Black. Many people were sterilized for having chronic illnesses such as epilepsy, for being impoverished, or for being “feeble-minded”, “an idiot”, “an imbecile” or “afflicted with hereditary forms of insanity that are recurrent”. Although involuntary sterilization does occur today, it is now supposed to be done strictly for non-eugenic purposes on people who are “unable to give informed consent, in need of contraception, unable to use any other form of contraception, and permanently unable to raise a child”.

In 2001, the Virginia General Assembly passed a joint resolution apologizing for the misuse of “a respectable, ‘scientific’ veneer to cover activities of those who held blatantly racist views.” But it wasn’t until 2015 that Virginia agreed to financially compensate people who were sterilized under the Act. Given that the sterilization program ended in 1979, a lot of the people who might have been compensated are long gone. Although other states had similar programs allowing for sterilization of certain people without their consent, Virginia’s program ran longer than other states’ programs did.

Even though Virginia and other states did have laws on the books that allowed for sterilizing certain people, it’s clearly not something that people talk about much today. I don’t remember where I first heard about eugenics, but I don’t think it was in school. I probably learned about it in college, when I took courses in Women’s Literature and African American Literature.

Or it might have been through my own study of the Holocaust, which started when we lived in Germany the first time. I started reading a lot of books by Holocaust survivors, marveling at that time in history and how horrible it was… and how many of the places affected I had already been to visit. Since moving back to Germany in 2014, I’ve been to even more of them. It’s also likely that I ran across a magazine or news article about the history of eugenics.

All I know is that we didn’t talk about this in a classroom I was ever in, even though I did learn about concepts such as the “one drop rule“, which held that anyone with a drop of Black blood would be considered Black. Naturally, it would be very difficult to quantify such a thing. Practically speaking, it meant that anyone with known African ancestry was considered Black, in spite of how he or she appeared.

In any case, as I was reading the comments in the Duggar Family News group, it became pretty obvious to me that a lot of Americans simply never learned about this shameful chapter of the past. So when they saw the news articles about a doctor in Georgia forcibly sterilizing female detainees in an ICE facility in Georgia, they immediately assumed it was bullshit. The idea of that sounded outrageous to them, even though it went on in the United States for many years and, at that time, it was deemed completely legal.

Ever since Trump became president, there have been a lot of comments about how much he is like Adolf Hitler. Even here in Germany, where people have an acute sensitivity to all things Nazi related, people have said Trump reminds them of Hitler. I figure if anyone should know about that, it would be Germans. To their credit, most Germans are extremely remorseful and ashamed of their past. They are determined to learn from history and not repeat it.

Reading and hearing about doctors in Georgia who are removing the reproductive parts of detainees sounds very much like something that could (and did) go on during the Holocaust. However… as horrifying as that news was yesterday and as frighteningly “Nazi-ish” as forced hysterectomies are, I can’t quite say that we’ve quite reached the horrors of the Holocaust. I know some people believe we have, but I can’t bring myself to do that yet. Personally, I think that to definitively compare today’s situation to what happened in Europe in the 1940s is disrespectful to those who were directly affected by the Holocaust. I think the Holocaust was much worse than Trump’s America is, at least at this point in time. We’re not yet talking about actual genocide, like Hitler and his cronies were carrying out in the 1940s. I have not heard about mass murders of millions of people yet, only that people are being rounded up and put in detention centers– which is certainly horrible enough, but does not equate to murder.

However… if things don’t change soon, I fear that we could absolutely find ourselves repeating history, and I can see why many people think Trump’s era is similar to the Holocaust era. If people continue to get away with doing horrible things like sterilizing women in ICE detention facilities, there could be a slippery slope into normalizing increasingly horrific practices such as rounding up people, putting them on packed trains, shipping them to prison camps, and sending them straight to the gas chambers or working them until they die of disease or exhaustion without a second thought or a moment of remorse. But I don’t think we’re there yet, or at least I fervently HOPE we aren’t. So that’s why I say that what was reported yesterday, if it’s true, brings us closer to Nazi territory.

As inhumane and terrible as what is going on is right now, in my opinion, it doesn’t quite compare to the horrors of what happened to Jews, homosexuals, communists, rabble rousers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or any of the other groups Hitler hated. And thanks to the advances in technology, it’s a lot harder for people to be completely blinded to what’s going on around them. In the 1940s, there was no constant stream of news like we have today. There was no way to communicate quickly and efficiently like we can today. It was a lot easier to build secret camps and prisons and talk decent people in turning a blind eye than it is today.

But then… an awful lot of people I love and have historically respected are supportive of Trump and his despicable policies and inhumane attitudes toward people who aren’t like him (which thankfully, is just about everyone). The people who support him simply haven’t realized that he doesn’t care about them. They think he’s just a normal person with a big mouth, and he’s not.

I would like to hope that if there is, in fact, an OB-GYN in Georgia who is performing unnecessary hysterectomies on migrant women who come to him for medical help, he’s acting alone. I would hope he hasn’t been officially recruited to do these surgeries as a way to stop certain “undesirables” from breeding. I would hope that it’s his own twisted idea, and that he’s not only stopped from practicing medicine, but is prosecuted and locked up. Sadly, I don’t think I’d be surprised if I heard of other doctors doing similarly barbaric things to helpless and desperate migrants who need medical care. Some of them probably think they’re doing good for the country by stopping “illegals”. They have crossed the line that makes them forget that these are human beings they’re dealing with, not pests that need to be exterminated or “fixed”. They have forgotten that they took a sacred oath to do no harm.

For those who haven’t yet seen it, here is a link to the complaint that was submitted to the Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security. I truly hope this claim is thoroughly investigated and people are brought to justice. Edited to add: This article from NBC news identifies the doctor in question. Below is an excerpt:

The doctor, who three lawyers identified as Dr. Mahendra Amin, practicing in Douglas, Georgia, has continued to see women from the Irwin County Detention Center for the past several years despite complaints from his patients.

Amin was the subject of a Justice Department investigation in 2015 for making false claims to Medicaid and Medicare. As a result, he and other doctors involved paid $525,000 in a civil settlement, according to the Justice Department.

Other women who have been to see Dr. Amin say he is “rough”, and a couple of them left his office with bruising.

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