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Tag: Nazi

The unmasking of the overrated Martin Selmayr

Friday, 29 December, 2017 0 Comments

This is deft and devastating: “The Selmayrs are by origin Bavarians, who have always seen themselves as European rather than Germans — except during the Third Reich.” That pause there is masterful and it’s the work of Daniel Johnson in the current issue of Standpoint magazine.

Martin Selmayr is the latest scion of this ancient family to make news and he bears the capital title of “HEAD OF CABINET” in what the Brussels bubble calls “President Juncker’s team“. The admiration of the young bureaucrat ends at the English Channel, however. Selmayr has few friends in London as he is “blamed for a series of malicious leaks during the Brexit negotiations, ranging from unflattering remarks about Theresa May’s appearance to preparatiosn for the fall of her government,” notes Daniel Johnson, who sees him as a combination of “gatekeeper, enforcer and eminence grise in a manner reminiscent of the Merovingian emperors of the Dark Ages, who were ruled by the mayors of the palace.”

For Johnson, much of what makes the junior Selmayr what he has is and what he has become can be found in the ‘journey’ of Josef Selmayr, a truly opportunistic, amoral piece of work. Snippet:

“Martin’s grandfather Josef was a professional soldier during the Weimar Republic and later rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Wehrmacht. He was imprisoned for war crimes in the Balkans, but only briefly. Josef Selmayr’s experience made him useful in the Cold War and led to his rehabilitation: first as a member of the shadowy Gehlen Organisation, a CIA-funded group of former Nazi intelligence officers, then from 1955 to 1964 as the first director of MAD, the German Military Counterintelligence Service, with the rank of Brigadier. His career paralleled that of Kurt Waldheim, whose role in war crimes in the Balkans did not prevent him later becoming UN Secretary General and Austrian President.”

Daniel Johnson points out that the Selmayrs are a family of public servants in an long-standing German tradition of an elite offering its skills for the development of an idealised sate. “Fatally, they conflated the Nazi state with the rule of law.” To make amends for this blot on the copybook, as it were, Martin Selmayr “has always seen Europe as a source of redemption from Hitler’s toxic legacy.”

For these people, Britain was, and Brexit now is, the nemesis. It threatens their vision of Utopia and no amount of Utopian Europe, with its killing fields, bloodlands and mass barbarism, can deter them. The Project must be completed.

Martin Selmayr


Munich by Robert Harris

Sunday, 12 March, 2017 0 Comments

Munich’s Oktoberfest, the world’s biggest beer festival, will run from 16 September to 3 October this year and some six million visitors are expected to take part in the annual swilling. It’s a global event and the organizers are constantly seeking ways to broaden the appeal. Their latest innovation is the Oktoberfest 7s, an international rugby tournament. Sevens is a variant of rugby union in which teams of seven players play seven-minute halves, instead of the usual 15 players playing 40-minute halves. The Oktoberfest 7s hopes to emulate the success of the Hong Kong Sevens tournament, which has evangelized the game in Asia and now features teams from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Munich While all the scrimmaging and drinking are taking place in the Bavarian capital, Robert Harris will debut his new novel, titled simply Munich. According to the blurb, “Munich is a spy thriller about treason and conscience, loyalty and betrayal, filled with real-life characters and actual events.”

The book is set over four days during the infamous Munich Conference of September 1938, which ended with the signing of an agreement by the major powers of Europe that permitted Nazi Germany’s annexation of portions of Czechoslovakia. Anticipating this act of appeasement, Winston Churchill remarked, “England has been offered a choice between war and shame. She has chosen shame, and will get war.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Between beer and betrayal, Munich shoulders an enormous weight of culture and history with impressive dignity. The past and the present intersect on most streets and one is commemorated as the other is celebrated. Robert Harris has chosen his subject and his timing well.


Human cruelty and evil

Friday, 5 August, 2016 0 Comments

Yesterday’s post here about artificial and emotional intelligence referenced Simon Baron-Cohen’s book, Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty. The book appeared under a different title in the United States: The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Human Cruelty. The use of the “e as in evil” added to its impact in the bookstores, no doubt, as the combination of “Evil” and “Cruelty” beats “Empathy” and “Cruelty” when it comes to visceral reactions.

Evil The cruel person, says Professor Baron-Cohen, treats someone as if they are an object — ignoring their thoughts and feelings. This is one of the worst things a person can do to another human being. A person suspends empathy when thinking only about his or her own mind (single-mindedness) because empathy is the ability to “identify what someone else is thinking or feeling and respond to that with appropriate emotion,” writes Baron-Cohen. This “empathy erosion” arises from emotions such as resentment or hatred and those who entirely lack empathy are borderline personalities: psychopaths and narcissists.

Compared to the cruel person, an empathic person does not merely ask someone how they are feeling, rather he or she avoids hurting their feelings, considers how to make them feel good and evaluates the impact of his or her words and actions on others. The empathic person listens to what is said, notes how it is said and responds in a decent way. In this way, empathy is a human and a saintly quality.

In the final chapter, “Reflections on Human Cruelty,” Baron-Cohen deliberates on the risks of indifference to cruelty and terrorism. Hannah Arendt’s famous “banality of evil” characterization of Adolf Eichmann is assessed in light of the criticism expressed by the late David Cesarini that she observed only the beginning of the war criminal’s trial. Had she stayed longer, she would have seen how the Nazi displayed extraordinary creativity in planning mass murder. As regards terrorists, their unempathic acts are not necessarily the result of lack of empathy claims Baron-Cohen. “The belief and/or the actual political context may drive the behavior,” he says. This may be so, but as the 9/11 terrorists flew their planes into the Twin Towers, few would deny that their switched-off empathy had led them down a path of cruelty to acts of incomprehensible evil.

Cruelty and evil are facts of life. We should not shy away from naming and shaming them or those persons who engage in human cruelty and evil.

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago


Primo Levi remembers the horror of Auschwitz

Tuesday, 27 January, 2015 0 Comments

Primo Levi described his return to Italy from the Auschwitz concentration camp in La tregua (The Truce). The Truce In this Paris Review interview, Levi reminisces about one of the book’s characters: “You remember Mordo Nahum? I had mixed feelings toward him. I admired him as a man fit for every situation. But of course he was very cruel to me. He despised me because I was not able to manage. I had no shoes. He told me, Remember, when there is war, the first thing is shoes, and second is eating. Because if you have shoes, then you can run and steal. But you must have shoes. Yes, I told him, well you are right, but there is not war any more. And he told me, Guerra es siempre. There is always war.”

Today, as the world commemorates the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we should strive to understand the revulsion that Primo Levi felt towards those who took part in the Nazi extermination campaign and also towards those who could have but did not speak out against it. In memory of the murdered millions, here’s an excerpt from The Truce:

“There is no rationality in the Nazi hatred: it is hate that is not in us, it is outside of man. We cannot understand it, but we must understand from where it springs, and we must be on our guard. If understanding is impossible, knowing is imperative, because what happened could happen again. Consciences can be seduced and obscured again — even our consciences. For this reason, it is everyone duty to reflect on what happened. Everybody must know, or remember, that when Hitler and Mussolini spoke in public, they were believed, applauded, admired, adored like gods. They were ‘charismatic leaders’; they possessed a secret power of seduction that did not proceed from the soundness of things they said but from the suggestive way in which they said them, from their eloquence, from their histrionic art, perhaps instinctive, perhaps patiently learned and practised. The ideas they proclaimed were not always the same and were, in general, aberrant or silly or cruel. And yet they were acclaimed with hosannas and followed to the death by millions of the faithful.”


The Tyrant Games

Sunday, 9 February, 2014 0 Comments

The Olympic Games have a long and ignominious history as a glossy brochure for evil regimes, from the Nazi Games in Berlin in 1936 to the Communist Games in Moscow in 1980. Now, we have the Putin Winter Games in Sochi, an enormously expensive show that’s an ideal metaphor for the current Russian regime: corrupt, […]

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The disgusting quenelle of the repulsive Nicolas Anelka

Monday, 30 December, 2013 0 Comments

Anti-Semitism is a hallmark of savagery, and one cannot expect anything from savages except further savagery. That’s the context in which the quenelle gesture used by West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka during Saturday’s Premiership match with West Ham United has to be viewed. Anelka is a friend of the racist comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala whose provocative downward version of the Nazi salute has won him a huge following in France.

“Anti-Semitism is the sign of profound mental and social failure — and a harbinger of more failures and errors to come,” notes Walter Russell Mead in The American Interest. The essay is titled “Jon Stewart, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the Zionist Takeover of Egypt.” Snippet:

“Rabid anti-Semitism coupled with an addiction to implausible conspiracy theories is a very strong predictor of national doom; Nazi Germany isn’t the only country to have followed these dark stars to the graveyard of history. Many liberal minded Americans (though loathing both anti-Semitism and chowderheaded conspiracy thinking themselves) don’t like to look this truth in the eye. It leads to some very uncomfortable reflections about the potential for democracy in many countries beyond Egypt, and casts a dark shadow over the prospects for the development of a stable and prosperous Palestinian state. It suggests that there are narrow limits on what we can expect from diplomacy with Iran.”

There is no place in football for the poison that Anelka is spreading. Boot him out!


The Hildebrandts: Gollum and Banksy

Monday, 18 November, 2013 0 Comments

In the legendarium of J. R. R. Tolkien, the figure of Gollum is one of the most memorable and frightening. Down through the centuries of his miserable existence, Gollum has come to love and loathe the Ring, just as he loves and despises himself. But the Ring, which Gollum calls “my precious”, brings him no joy because he’s torn between lust for it and a desire to be free of it. This is the tragedy of the hoarder.

There’s something of the Gollum in Cornelius Gurlitt, who stashed 1,280 paintings and drawings — masterworks believed to be worth more than $1 billion — in his Munich apartment. Speaking to Der Spiegel magazine last week, Gurlitt said he had not watched television since 1963 and had never gone online, but did talk to his pictures. He kept some of his favourites in a small suitcase that he would unpack each evening to admire and for more than half-century his only true friends were a huge collection of prized images created by Picasso, Chagall, Gauguin and a multitude of other modern masters. He inherited the works from his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, a Third Reich-era art dealer, partly Jewish, and one of just four people authorized by the Nazis to trade so-called degenerate art during their reign.

Soon after the end of the Second World War, Hildebrand Gurlitt was questioned by members of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives unit of the United States military, the group of historians, curators and soldiers entrusted with safeguarding Europe’s cultural heritage. In his statements to investigators, he emphasized his anti-Nazi sentiments and claimed that he had never handled stolen art, and that the works in his possession were mostly “the personal property of my family or myself.” The Monuments Men concluded that he was not a key player in the art trade and later returned to him paintings, drawings and other fine art objects. After his death in 1956, his son Cornelius inherited the family treasures and kept them, and most of the art world, in the dark for another five decades. His precious.

Unlike his Gollum-like son, Hildebrand Gurlitt was a worldly figure, a true opportunist and a totally amoral individual. His assistant, Karl Heinz Hering, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that his boss knew how to satisfy those post-war customers with large wallets, zero taste and a longing for a little Heimat on their walls. “Well-off hunters used to come to the gallery, but most of the paintings on offer were by French artists, who were inspired mainly by the atmospheric aspects of landscapes. No hunting animals or familiar fauna, in other words. But Gurlitt was clever and he didn’t want to see the disciples of art going home empty handed so he’d find someone who could insert an imposing stag in a grove or a copse.”

This sounds a bit like Banksy, who bought a kitsch painting for $50 in New York last month and added a Nazi officer enjoying the bucolic Bavarianish landscape. It would be Hitler’s idea of perfect art, so Bansky titled it “The Banality of the Banality of Evil”. It was sold for $615,000 with the money going to the homeless charity Housing Works. Unlike Banksy, however, Cornelius Gurlitt isn’t giving anything away.

Banksy


A meshugener in the Haus der Kunst

Sunday, 14 April, 2013 0 Comments

When the Nazis decided to erect a monument, one that would glorify the concept of art as propaganda and venerate their Aryan supremacist ideology, they chose Munich, the “Capital of the Movement”, as the location. The Haus der Kunst (House of Art) “) at Prinzregentenstrasse 1 opened on 18 July 1937 with the Große Deutsche […]

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A headhunter speaks

Tuesday, 9 October, 2012

“When I nominate someone for a top job in business, height is one of my most important criteria. Height instils respect, trust and authority. Tall people are visible, they can’t hide, they are masters, all nastiness air-blasted away, they have to stand up and be counted. Short people move around in the sediment, they have […]

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Noam Chomsky: Not a gadfly or a lunatic, but an actual monster

Tuesday, 21 August, 2012

Benjamin Kerstein, author of Diary of an Anti-Chomskyite, believes that the leftist ideologue Noam Chomsky is more than a mere crank and crackpot. He’s a monster. Kerstein makes his case using the example of the German thinker Martin Heidegger: “Now, there is no doubt that Heidegger was a brilliant philosopher, and most of his philosophy […]

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The depraved architects of death

Wednesday, 25 July, 2012

Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War by the French architectural historian and architect Jean-Louis Cohen establishes “one big, awful, inescapable truth”, writes Martin Filler in the New York Review of Books. According to Filler: “the full potential of twentieth-century architecture, engineering, and design was realized not in the social-welfare and […]

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