Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Monotony, The Eternal Sameness

The Spring issue of Western Historical Quarterly has a trio of excellent articles on historical interpretations of landscapes. One of them deals with Spanish and Mexican views of the Pacific Coast and is richly illustrated.

Another article, “How to see Colorado: The Federal Writers’ Project, American Regionalism, and the “Old New Western History” by Susan Schulten, examines how Depression-era projects interpreted the western landscape in a new manner that set foundations for future regional histories.
The guides broke from the prevailing traditions of travel literature ... and substituted lean and unvarnished language to describe the western landscape, featuring not just the majestic peaks of the Rockies, but also the bitter dust of Colarado’s eastern plains. This was a self-conscious attempt by the national editors to ground American identity in a more “authentic” view of the landscape, region, and by extension, the nation.
In all the states, the national office collaborated with state officials and locals to gather information on a broad range of topics. The goals of the project -- to produce guides in a documentary style -- conflicted with the aesthetics that looked at the environment through the prisms of poetry and metaphysics.

The FWP wanted to represent Colorado more than the Rocky Mountains. The guidebooks examined all parts of the state, giving equal space to areas that were not tourist attractions. Plurality was also extended to the social realm, depicting the diverse racial and social makeup of Coloradans.

However, the native Coloradans produced the descriptive style that the FWP wanted to avoid, so the national office changed the language.
Consider the description of the areas between Paoli and Sterling, in the state’s northeast corner, written by Coloradans and submitted to the national office. ‘On either hand [of the highway] the brown prairies, interspersed with grain fields which are golden in the late summer, stretches away into illimitable, purple tinged distances. The monotony, the eternal sameness of this landscape is lightened by the intangible mystery which touches the unbounded level vistas of the west.”

The nation editors lamented the tendency of locals to write in a florid style engendered by years of exposure to romantic travel literature. In response, they stripped down the language to match the prevailing wisdom of contemporary agricultural reforms: ‘Level broad prairies, interspersed with grain fields, border both sides of the route. ... To be a successful dry farmer, one must understand the principles of water movement in the soil ... .
The article goes on to look at how the project gave a shot in the arm to the state's historical institutions.

Check out the Federal Writers Project at the Library of Congress. Also, the state keeps an extensive collection of development and works projects in Colorado.

: :

Blogger ...

... is pissing me off. I have lost three posts in the last two weeks.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Once in power ...

The culture of life trumps federalism? Perhaps I haven't been SCREAMING this enough, but the first definitions of federalism should be "opposition" and "the strategy of the minority party."


This one seems short notice:
Journal of Women's History Special Issue: Women, Material
Culture and Consumption
Deadline: 2005-04-01
The Journal of Women's History is soliciting articles for a special issue on women, material culture, and consumption, guest edited by Clare Haru Crowston. We seek manuscripts from the broadest
chronological, geographical and methodological range and from individuals ...
Announcement ID: 144880

Others CFPs:

Monday, March 28, 2005

Archeological Fandom

Pearsall has this look at fans of the Dutch soccer club Ajax, whose fans use Jewish symbols to express their loyalty (before WWII, most fans of the club were Jews). Also here.

The Transgender Bunny

It turns out that Mili, our new bunny, is not what we thought s/he was. Yes, s/he has that something different that means that s/he is a male.

The evidence started coming in over the last week. Mili reached the stage in which young rabbits become sexually aggressive and territorial. Except Mili was more aggressive and territorial than we expected. To make it short, my feet were receiving a lot of extra loving. Finally, my wife and I decided to re-examine the goods -- Mili is now a boy!

OK, we didn't need to have a matched set of bunnies, a female and a male who were bonded. But Tuivel is sick, and Mili is young and aggressive, and we will have to keep them apart.

The new discovery provoked some conversation about famous transgender figures (we thought about renaming him to reflect the shift in identity):
  • Tiresias, the blind Greek prophet twice punished for stumbling across a sacred garden
  • Hedwig, the East German Chanteuse who left something behind to find love in America
  • Victor, the cabaret singer with an unusual ability to imitate women
  • Pat, whose every facet straddles ambiguity
  • all of Rossini's heroes
  • Rainer Fassbinder, as portrayed in "A Man like Eva"
  • A Boy named Sue
  • the numerous ancient mystery cults who remade themselves in the image of their g-ds (check out the docs at the Ancient History Sourcebook)
  • Eon de Beaumont, the French girl, turned male ambassador, turned nun, turned postmortem man
  • Who did I miss?
We will stick with the name Milie, or something like it, probably referring to her/him as Milagro.

[Added:] Sharon was kind enough to mention two more names: Herculine Barbin , made famous by the French philosopher who loved turtle necks and leather bars, and James Miranda Berry, the colonial physician who had his eyes on the officer's wives. Also, check out Sharon's page on the subject.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

More Pascha

The Judgement of the World by Stefan Lochner


From The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
When I saw you in grief and in tears I knew thereby that you were unhappy and in exile, but I knew not how distant was your exile until your speech declared it. But you have not been driven so far from your home; you have wandered thence yourself: or if you would rather hold that you have been driven, you have been driven by yourself rather than by any other. No other could have done so to you. For if you recall your true native country, you know that it is not under the rule of the many-headed people, as was Athens of old, but there is one Lord, one King, who rejoices in the greater number of his subjects, not in their banishment. To be guided by his reins, to bow to his justice, is the highest liberty. Know you not that sacred and ancient law of your own state by which it is enacted that no man, who would establish a dwelling-place for himself therein, may lawfully be put forth? For there is no fear that any man should merit exile, if he be kept safe therein by its protecting walls.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Against the Bright Line

Is not drawing a distinct line between life and death the equivalent of moral relativism? David Brooks thinks so. In this commentary, in which he reads a lot into what little liberals have said on the matter, he blames the left for surrendering important decisions to the whims of uninformed individuals who make judgments based on personal tastes. First, he ignores the fact that the argument that the left made for procedure and rule of law, which puts the testimony of medical and legal professionals before the whims of the patient or the family.

If Judaism does not deploy a bright line, is it being morally relative? Here we have a problem. Judaism does not participate in the sanctity of life, at least not in the way that Christian theologians would recognize. A recent conference on the morality of stem cell research made apparent the differences in approaches of the two faiths. Even in death, the boundary is not clear. As much as there is an obligation to save life, there is also recognition that one must not obstruct the path of a death willed by G-d. Knowing what that means, like everything else in Judaism, is open to speculation and debate.

The discourses on right to life, right to personal faith, right to privacy and right to die (with dignity) seldom take into account that religion provides us with none of these things. Instead, we are obliged to stand in awe of life, free will, judgment and mercy. The pain of the cycle of life is something that cannot be abolished through legislation, administration, or adjudication.

Surrendering the decision to an absolute standard, no matter how lenient, is an abrogation of the duty to look at the individual. Knowledge of the Law must not be turned into an idol. Personally, I cannot turn my life into a decision tree. That's not really living, nor is it believing.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Sheeny Glazier of the Lower East Side

Got ten minutes? Check out Virtual Vaudeville, a website dedicated to the lost entertainment that has virtual performance of Frank Bush's The Hebrew Glazier (rife with stereotypes of Irishmen and Jews) from the turn of the century and a detailed fly-through of New York's Union Square Theater. Go check it out (you won't be disappointed)!
Butsky Vutzsky,
They're Irish and they don't know what I mean,
That's the only way I fool dose Irish loafers,
For I am a bully sheeny glass puteen.


The great thing about teaching: assigning students to read the books I like and the books that I like to read. Next week the kiddies will encounter The Germania by Tacitus, my favorite ancient work outside the Biblical canon.

It has tremendous importance for historiography in modern France and Germany. On the one hand, it introduces the notion of divisions and frontiers between the Romans, Gauls and Germans. On the other, the German nationalists used it to explain their superiority. Both sides used The Germania to make arguments about borders and national identity.

Even in his own context I enjoy Tacitus' writing. He looks at the otherness of barbarians with equal parts curiosity, appreciation, and revulsion. I am still puzzled by Tacitus evaluation of German women, whom he describes as sharing in the rewards and burdens of warfare, but who are also judged harshly by the law.
The woman must not think that she is excluded from aspirations to manly virtues or exempt from the hazards of warfare. That is why she is reminded, in the very ceremonies which bless her marriage from the outset, that she enters her husband's home to be the partner of his toils and perils, that in both peace and war she is to share his sufferings and adventures. On these terms she must live her life and bear her children.

By such means in the virtue of their women protected, and they live uncorrupted by the temptations of public show or excitement of banquets.

A guilty wife is summarily punished by her husband. ... They have no mercy for a woman who prostitutes her chastity. Neither beauty, youth, nor wealth can find her another husband.
But at the books core is a commentary on a Roman society that has abandoned the institutions upon which virtue was founded. Poor, isolated, warlike, simple -- the Germans were what the Romans had been. Because they were poor, they were without vice. Moreover, their dedication to war produced a hardy, moral people for whom power was a reflection of strength.
Silver and gold have been denied them -- whether as a sign of divine favor or divine wrath I do not know.
This last reading, I looked at The Germania from the perspective of landscape -- what I have been studying -- in order to see if the German social scientists of the 19th century found something meaningful in the text.

The landscape that Tacitus describes is unforgiving, probably to the point of not worth having. Although varied, the land is either swamp or forest. Cereals grow, but not fruit trees. The cattle, which have the same role as monetary wealth, are diminutive.
... to go to Germany with its forbidding landscape and unpleasant climate -- a country that is thankless to till and dismal to behold for anyone who has not been born there ...
However, there are features of Tacitus' Germany that I think the Heimatler would have recognized in their own. The varied landscape supported endongamy. Because farming was limited, there was little envy over large land holdings. And the harsh conditions forced them to persist.
They are less able to endure toil or fatiguing tasks and cannot bear thirst or heat, though their climate has inured them to cold spells and the poverty of their soil to hunger.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Fall of the Eagles

First David Brooks, then William F. Buckley, now Glenn Reynolds. Which Conservative is next?

[Update]: John Cole, who just took Barry Goldwater off life support.

Start the Presses!

Where did print journalism begin? It might have been in my beloved Strasbourg. According to historian Jean Pierre Kintz, Johann Carolus was printing Relation in Strasbourg at least as early as 1605.
"In 1604, he bought a complete printing shop from the widow of a famous printer," said Dr Welke. "In the summer of 1605 he switched to printing his ... newspapers, because it took him ’too much time copying by hand’". Carolus also calculated that he could earn a lot more money "by printing a higher circulation for a lower price".
Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace gives a description of the paper:
On savait déjà que Carolus, à l'origine relieur, avait acheté son imprimerie en 1604, à la mort de Tobias Jobin (1570-1604), lui-même fils de l'imprimeur Bernard Jobin. L'acte notarié indique qu'elle avait coûté à l'acheteur 3 724 florins. Les archives de Strasbourg conservent par ailleurs une lettre de Carolus. ...

Imprimée sur quatre ou six pages, remplie de brèves correspondances des grandes villes d'Europe, hebdomadaire, payante (1 florin 5 l'abonnement annuel en 1619) la Relation fut le premier journal au sens moderne du terme. La collection de 1609 (51 numéros car le n° 34 a été arraché) nous est parvenue.

Perhaps it's not surprising: Strasbourg was once the home of Johannes Gutenberg.
[Here's a good essay on the development of printed newspapers.]

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The New Book Meme

Ralph Luker, picking up on a suggestion of Derek Catsam, is spreading the new meme: what are the three books that you are ashamed to admit that you have not read?

I'm sure Ralph's office -- and life -- are like mine: surrounded by stacks of books that we can only hope to finish. He mentions some books that he will try to get to.

However, there is another category of books -- things that have been pushed to the side so long that I operate as if I have read them. And I don't even posess them! So here it is, the three books that I am ashamed to admit I might never read!

The first two are remarkable because I have read other things by Roth and Stendhal that I love. The last reveals how low I might stoop: I put Mary Barton on a list of books from which students could write a report. Any forgiveness out there?

The good news: my current reading, I am confident, will become a classic: Orhan Pamuk's Snow.

A Christian Passover

Nuno has a rewarding post about the Ancient Jewish and Roman influences on the practices and theology of Easter (the Googl-English isn't too bad on this one). An interesting question he pursues: was there any Roman precendence for transferring guilt? Probably not:
O emblemático “lavar de mãos” de Pilatos em relação a Jesus, na opinião dos historiadores, é também bastante improvável. “As realidades do poder de Roma, bem como o próprio temperamento de Pilatos, fazem com que a teoria da culpa dos judeus pela morte de Jesus seja completamente implausível em termos históricos”, escreve o padre e historiador americano Bruce Chilton no livro Rabbi Jesus – An Intimate Biography, um aprofundado trabalhos sobre o Jesus Histórico integrado nas suas raízes judaicas.

Por tudo isto, os relatos evangélicos da relutância de Pilatos em condenar Jesus são lidos pelos historiadores como uma tentativa dos cristãos primitivos de tornar a narrativa da Paixão o menos censurável possível aos olhos dos romanos, no seio dos quais se pretendiam integrar – assumindo-se ao mesmo tempo como uma ruptura com a sinagoga judaica, da qual se queriam agora afastar definitivamente.


The guy who blogs over at the GSU library noted my links on cartography, always appreciated. But he also pairs them up with some other sites that I have not yet seen. The Map Room deals with the tech and history of cartography. One interesting post deals with this map of Switzerland, locating communities on the basis of political orientation (Basel, on the French border, is well aligned with the country's political centers). La Mer: Terreur et Fascination is an project of the French national library dealing with the imagination of the sea in European culture -- a nice parallel to Alain Corbain's Lure of the Sea.

I have also found Urban Cartography, a group blog about, er, uh ... . Here's some commentary on the Lewis Mumford-written film The City, which I mentioned in passing some time back.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Random Notes

In my search for an English language translation of Burchard of Mt Sion's travels in the Holy Land, I found some interesting links related to cartography and the history of travel.

For those of you who know French, the Centre de Recherche de la Litterature des Voyages post its lectures in audio format and as well as written summaries. Civilizations and Lost Cities in Travel Literature (from the Rennaissance to Romanticism) is exciting. There is a vast range of topics, some looking at the rediscovery of antique cities, others to the imagination of Jerusalem in the colonization of Brazil. Well worth some of your free time.

This site, the remnant of a museum exhibit, has some wonderful examples of early modern maps of the Holy Land.

Brandon links to sites on early modern sermons. My favorite line comes from the Jonathan Edwards' sermons:
THERE IS NOT GOSPEL PREACHED IN HELL. Christ did not die for the damned... had no respect to that world... to those in this state... any more than to the devil. No means of grace Means of grace not accommodated to that state. No manner of provision made in any respect for their relief. No aid. Preaching of the Word don’t reach them. The prayers of saints, of godly friends, don’t reach them.

Natalie has returned to Jill Ker Conway, who was the president of Smith Collge (for those of you who still remember the valley, read here and here).
She starts off being perhaps unsurprisingly gushy about Harvard when she first arrives ... But she does eventually arrive at a more balanced view, especially when one of her housemates is denied the cherished lectureship at Harvard because she is female, despite winning the prize for the best English thesis in her year.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Traitor

Konrad Adenauer is the ghost that hangs above my dissertation. He was the foremost Rhenish politician for several decades -- one of the best examples of what a Rhenish mentality might be.

He was also and enigma. The father of democracy in Germany (although grandfather would be a better term given his age and his 1933-1945 "retirement"from public life) was not easy to know in life, less in history. He had a way of convincing people that he agreed with them, but he was really being obscure. He did not develop a political system or philosophy; he was sensitive to exigencies and sought practical solutions. And he tended to muddle the past, reinterpreting key moments in his life to meet the moment.

Adenauer could also be described as a traitor. And the Nazis did because he flirted with separatism in the early 1920s: he called for a West German Republic and met with French agents. Of course, Adenauer made enemies of the party when (in his role as the president of the upper house of the Prussian Parliament) he refused to abrogate sections of the constitution that would allow Nazis into the state administration in 1932. Twice during the Weimar Republic he was asked to serve as chancellor — to save the republic — and he refused because he would not head a coalition government.

This interpretation is harsh and excessive, but it has some truth to it. Many national founders, having once been revolutionaries, could have been described as traitors of one sort or other: to the mother country, to traditions, to decency, to order. They are redeemed because they represent the true "nation".

It's harder to make this argument for Adenauer that one nation's Judas is another's hero. He did not found a nation but broke one in two (turning the Allies' octroi of the division of Germany into domestic policy). He made rapprochement between Bonn and Berlin nearly impossible. He even founded the Federal Republic by weakening the German sovereignty. West Germany was not a better expression of what the German people wanted — it was the best they could hope for under the circumstances. Even his experiences with the Nazis can't be trumpeted too loudly: he refused them and was persecuted by them, but he was not freedom fighter.

Adenauer was not even larger than life. Although he could be lavish at times, he was the perfect picture of a Prussian civil servant: unassuming and spartan. A few biographers have commented that he had a "Protestant mentality". Contemporaries, leaders who achieved less, have more notoriety because they were more outspoken.

His modesty was still perfect for the republic rebuilt in glass: transparent, unassuming, hesitant, pragmatic. He was the father of a nation whose self-consciousness had been diminished and ambitions tamed.

There are other examples of figures who turned defeat into national institutions. Adolphe Thiers brought the republic back to France after the Franco-Prussian War. At least the republic was a institution with which the French were familiar.

Adenauer does not fit the historical role he played — the man who broke apart a nation and put a less romantic one in its place. Unfortunately the origins of the Federal Republic cannot be understood without engaging Adenauer. It was the product of a man who dared to think differently about unity and national identity and who would listen to the proposals of the enemy.


The Other Olympians

Brdgt's post about gender anxiety surrounding Soviet athletes reminds of the documentary about Gretel Bergmann, one of a number of athletes that the Nazis put forward in 1936 as examples for the IOC that they were allowing Jews to compete for the Olympics. One of Bergmann's teammates in women's track was a transvestite, probably to the knowledge of the Nazis, and was probably put there to discredit the Jewish athletes in general.

Friday, March 18, 2005

National Pastime Passing Time (and other foulness)

Reacting to the Congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball, Johno sees government interference. I disagree. The Major Leagues had ample time to act on their own -- to put fairness into their sport -- and proved unwilling. Let the regulation begin!

[BTW, if McGwire gets into the Hall of Fame, certainly there's room for Shoeless Joe.]

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The River Runs Red Over It

Pratie Place has a look at the pollution of Ohio's Cuyahoga River and the fire in 1969.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Beware the Calends of May!

Let me take away from your normal mourning over the death of Julius Caesar to remind you that I will host the next Carnivalesque, the Pagan Carnival of Early Modern History in all its forms, in the beginning of May. (The last was hosted by Natalie at Philobiblion.)

The parameters are generously defined: anything that happened in the world between 1450 and 1850 anywhere in the world. Or anything dealing with the study of the Early Modern Era. You can nominate entries (your own or others') to rhineriver [at] earthlink {dot} net.

I also have some special requests:
  • Non-Anglos in Colonial America
  • Noble Women
  • Encounters in the Portuguese and Spanish Empires
  • Proto-Industrialization
Is that a tall order? I hope not. How about one more: cartography. Here a map from Ortelius for inspiration.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Mr. "End of History" and Weber

I am surprised that I agree with Francis Fukuyama's analysis of Weber's Protestant ethic. It was not so much religion and culture that allowed capitalism to flourish, but the constellation of political and social institutions that obstructed it.
What held traditional China and Japan back, we now understand, was not culture, but stifling institutions, bad politics and misguided policies. Once these were fixed, both societies took off. Culture is only one of many factors that determine the success of a society.

However, Fukuyama's analysis falls prey to another myth regarding religion, geography and economy:

no one can deny the importance of religion and culture in determining why institutions work better in some countries than in others. The Catholic parts of Europe were slower to modernize economically than the Protestant ones, and they took longer to reconcile themselves to democracy. Thus, much of what Samuel Huntington called the ''third wave'' of democratization took place between the 1970's and 90's in places like Spain, Portugal and many countries of Latin America.

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! A thousand times NO! The map of the spread of capitalism does not travel from Protestant to Protestant country (although I would qualify the Protestantism of the Anglican Church).

After Northern England,the next destinations for capitalism were predominantly Catholic territories: Liege, Aachen and Krefeld, areas that are part of the "blue banana" that were strongly, although not predominantly, Catholic. Looking at the core of European urbanization, there is a strong presence of Catholics who live among large Protestant minorities. If we are to look at religion as a factor in development, it is this coexistence of faiths that fosters development rather than one faith over the other.

Besides, no one ever argued that the Protestant Junkers were great industrialist!

[Edited for clarity on 3/15: I was in a "celabratory" mood when I wrote this, having just turned in an application.]

Friday, March 11, 2005

More Swarms of Bombers

Too many sixty-year anniversaries. Joel at Far Outliers looks at the bombing of Tokyo and the ending moments of WWII in the Pacific.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Youth Gangs of the Third Reich

[Givin' the people what they want.]

I am surprised that there is so much interest in the Edelweiss Pirates, a youth gang that I have only written about in passing. Perhaps I will dig up some stuff in the next few days (including other groups, like the Munich Rabble). This is from Eric Johnson's Nazi Terror:
Middle-class youths, who had been heavily represented in the independent youth group movement in the Imperial Germany and the Weimar years, had most often found the conservative and patriotic ideas of the Hitler Youth congenial to their ideological tastes and had decided to disband their associations sometime in 1933 or shortly thereafter. Although the remaining independent youth groups had been made illegal after 1936 and were populated by the children of former Socialists and Communists, they did not necessarily espouse political opinions hostile to the Nazi state. Like the Krefeld group cited earlier, most either had no particular political positions at all or were conformist in their political beliefs.

Usually these groups simply wanted to have some fun and some freedom to spend time with their friends away from the regimented routine mandated by the Hitler Youth. They organized into small bands, often on a neighborhood basis, gave their groups names like Navajos, Nerother, Edelweiss Pirates, or Kittelbach Pirates, wore clothing, pins, medals, and other insignia that gave their group a common identity, and participated in group activities like hiking, bicycle touring, swimming, tenting, playing the guitar, and singing. In warm weather they usually met in the evenings, and on weekends in parks or woods. In cold weather they moved indoors to bars and restaurants. On summer vacations they often ventured further afield, touring the Alps or the Black Forest and visiting faraway cities like Berlin, Munich, or Vienna.

These groups were also attractive to many German youths as a venue for the kind of activities that teenagers in all countries like to experiment with, but that were forbidden within the confines of the Hitler Youth. On the journeys and outings they often smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, and caroused with members of the opposite sex. Even the Gestapo and the Hitler Youth recognized correctly that allowing girls to join gave these independent groups special recruitment advantages over the Hitler Youth, which kept the activities of boys and girls strictly separate.

Despite their similarities in style and activities, and despite the similarity of their names, these groups had no organizational ties beyond the local level. Resembling gangs in postwar American and European cities, rival bands from different parts of the same city often fought territorial battles against one another. They also fought frequently with Hitler Youth patrols. The Hitler Youth knew that they were often hated by the buendisch; otherwise, even they were divided over what these groups were about.

A Hitler Youth leader in Cologne in September 1936 defined a Navajo simply as "any young person who wears a colorful, checked shirt, very short pants, and boots with overturned stockings." In December 1940, a member of a Hitler Youth patrol in Essen identified Edelweiss Pirates in his city as "youths who no longer go to church." This characterization contrasts with that of a Hitler Youth leader in another city two years later: he defined the Edelweiss Pirates in almost the exact opposite terms, saying that they "are all Catholic."

Whatever they were or were not, the Nazi authorities finally took strong measures against them in the war years. A large dragnet organized by the Dusseldorf Gestapo in December 1942 broke up twenty-eight groups of Edelweiss and Kittelbach Pirates; 739 adolescents were arrested in the cities of Diisseldorf, Duisburg, Essen, Wuppertal, and Cologne. Citing their agitation as illegal youth group members, the Cologne Special Court started a large case in June 1943 against local Edelweiss Pirates who met in the Leipziger Platz in Nippes on the city's north side.

According to the specific charges against them, in the fall of 1942 they had painted provocative graffiti on the walls of local buildings and distributed flyers around the city—some of which had even been sent to different local police precinct headquarters—advertising an upcoming "week of accomplishment" to be carried out by the buendisch youth. Convinced that the case dealt with "a political and in part criminally contaminated circle," the Gestapo's painstaking investigation led to a total of thirty-eight arrests. On September 15, 1943, the Cologne Special Court convicted twelve of the arrested youths, and on April 9, 1944, an additional nine were convicted. Their sentences ranged from six months in jail to four years and three months in prison.

But this was still not the most draconian example of the punishment of Edelweiss Pirates in the war years. On November 10,1944, without the judgment of any court, the Cologne Gestapo publicly executed thirteen people in the working-class Ehrenfeld section of the city. Five of them were youths of sixteen or seventeen years of age. Three others were in their early twenties. Most were Edelweiss Pirates, though the rather amorphous group of executed people also included some fleeing eastern workers, deserting German soldiers, and a few outright criminals. The Gestapo believed that this extreme punishment was justified by the Edelweiss Pirates' traitorous and criminal acts and necessary to serve as a warning to the rest of the Cologne population not to fall out of line in the final stages of the war.

No one disputes that this was one of the most egregious examples of the Gestapo's ruthlessness. But ever since this event, scholars and the Cologne population have remained divided in their evaluations of the activities of the Ehrenfeld Edelweiss Pirates. Some consider them patriotic heroes. Others see them as traitors and common criminals. Among the many controversial acts of the Edelweiss Pirates were providing shelter for army deserters, prisoners of war, forced laborers, and concentration camp escapees; stockpiling weapons after armed raids on military depots; and carrying out partisan-style attacks on local Nazi leaders, one of which claimed the life of a Cologne Gestapo officer in the fall of 1944.

Although the example of the Edelweiss Pirates of Cologne-Ehrenfeld shows that some independent youth groups eventually became involved in resistance activity in the latter phases of the war, such activities were not typical of the buendisch youth for most of the Nazi period, and certainly not in the prewar years. With only a few modest exceptions during the war years, the underground Communist Party's overtures to enlist these youths in resistance activities ended in failure. The age gap between the generations was one reason.

Another was that most Navajos, Edelweiss Pirates, and other independent youth group members did not truly hold anti-Nazi views. They should be seen for the most part as somewhat nonconformist youths seeking adventure and romance. As the German scholar Alfons Kenkmann explains, "Youthful Edelweiss Pirates and Kittelbach Pirates in the early phases of the National Socialist regime were by no means born anti-National Socialists." Many voluntarily joined the German army and navy. Still others were drawn to the Waffen SS, finding its elitist and manly consciousness particularly to their liking.

A longing for romance and adventure and a nonconformist inclination also motivated many youths of the higher social classes in Nazi Germany. Probably the best example comes from a somewhat bizarre phenomenon known as the swing movement. Best documented for the city of Hamburg during the 1940s, with its uniquely patrician and English-influenced upper classes, swing dancing and swing clubs arose in the mid-1930s and spread rapidly to nearly every large and mid-sized German city. There was nothing political about this phenomenon. Its members were in fact emphatically apolitical. There was no organization to it whatsoever.

Indeed, it is a stretch to even call it a movement. Its teenage and young-adult adherents simply found the stodgy and sentimental Nazi "moon in June" music and Nazi restrictions on youthful comportment and social intercourse boring and tiresome, preferred the popular American swing music enjoyed by their peers across the world at the time, and adopted the casual style of American and British youth.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

G-ds of the Black-Headed People

The Cranky Professor points out this reed temple in southern Iraq. (Article in NY Times)
Sheik Fadal showed his visitors to a splendid lunch of chicken, carp, pudding and dates in a mudeef, one of the arching, temple-like reed structures of ancient design that somehow remain hushed and cool inside even at high noon. As customary, a black-turbaned cleric recited the brief opening verse of the Koran when the meal was done.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Reactionaries in Bavaria

I haven't much time to figure out the details, but it has come out in a trial of four Neo-Nazis that they had planned to bomb a Jewish center in Munich. They were members of a group called Kameradschaft Süd.

Edge of the (Civilizable) World

Clifford Ando, in discussing center-periphery relations in ancient Rome, notes that the geography of the empire was difficult to conceptualize. Although vast, the territory of the empire did not encompass the entirety of the world, which princeps since Augustus had claimed to have conquered.

Mapping the empire challenged official ideology. It was moreover problematic because the princeps claimed to have created peace in the world, when actually he had "relegat[ed] warfare to its borders."

However, a perception emerged of an empire that created a uniform area of peace and good administration, and in which the areas outside the empire were not worth conquering. The nations outside the empire lived in less accommodating environments, and the landscapes that they inhabited conditioned them for barbarism. Adminsitration and civilization could define the entire world by establishing dichotomies between the two spaces: peaceful/anarchic, civilized/barbaric.
Late in the reign of Augustus, Ovid thanked Fama for bringing him word of the victories of Germanicus: "By thy evidence I learned that recently countless races assembled to see their leader's face; and Rome, which embraces the measureless world within her vast walls, scarce had room for her guests." At a concrete level Ovid referred only to the city of Rome, whose population would witness the triumph of Germanicus; at an abstract level, Rome here stands for her "measureless" empire, whose "world" she somehow manages to fix within the circuit of a wall.

The poets Manilius and Lucan used orbis frequently with this meaning. They, however, attached the adjective "Roman" to it, in order to designate that portion of the globe occupied by the empire. But the phrase orbis Romanus did more than substitute for imperium Romanum. The latter indicated the sphere of Roman political power. Orbis Romanus did, too, by labeling that sphere the world.

From the middle of the first century prose authors began to adopt this usage. They often spoke not of "the Roman world," but of "our world." Strabo displayed a similar understanding of the function of knowledge: the purpose of geographical inquiry was, for him, the pursuit of honest and efficient government. "Scholars in our day cannot speak of anything beyond Ierne, which lies just north of Britain. It is home to complete savages who lead a miserable existence because of the cold. I therefore believe that the northern boundary of the world should be placed there." Strabo has done more than label accurate knowledge of Britain and Ireland unnecessary; he has placed them beyond the limits of the world.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Rape in the Congo

Despite the peace agreement and broad-based transition process in the D.R. Congo, which began in 2003, soldiers of the national army and armed groups continue to perpetrate sexual violence in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Orientale. In 1998, armed conflict broke out among the Congolese government, several neighboring countries and various rebel factions. Since then, combatants on all sides have subjected tens of thousands of women and girls—as well as a far smaller number of men and boys—to sexual violence.
Among the problems in warfare in Central Africa is that many of the boys who were abducted to fight in militias were offered rape and sexual violence as a means of gaining their loyalty. Now that Congo is trying (and failing) to unite them into a regular army, the soldiers continue to see sex as their right. Here is the Human Rights Watch report.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Links on Liberation of Cologne

The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger has a number of articles on the liberation, the best one dealing with the mobilization of children for civil defense (Googl-English).

Lambertin has a comprehesive archive of photographs of the destruction and daily life in the first year (the gallery starts here). Some of the famous photographs of Hermann Claasen are here.

On a slightly unrelated note, NS-Dokumentation has a presentation on the songs of the Edelweiss Pirates, a gang that formed in opposition to the conformity of the Hitler Youth. Contemporary recordings of the songs can be hear at the left (check out this one, "Es was in Shanghai (Once in Shanghai)", a tramp song by Jean Juelich).

Undiscovered Country pt. 1

Six years ago I took my first trip to Europe. I was in Cologne, sitting in the municipal archive day after day. I was elated. I was lost.

Everywhere I went I saw posters of the cathedral. Not surprising, since its easy for a large gothic building to be the center of public life. Moreover, the image of the cathedral had been used for more than a century to comment on the state of Germany.

But the posters that I saw were not simply of the cathedral. They were taken in the days and weeks that followed the liberation of Cologne in March 1945. The city was leveled. The fact that the cathedral was still standing was considered a miracle. Perhaps it was the only miracle.

Cologne suffered more aerial raids than any other German city: it was the largest and closest city to the allied bases in the west. It was also Nazism's last stand on the left bank: the army refused to pull out until the last moment, staying longer than they would in any other Rhenish city, endangering the citizens unnecessarily. The results were astounding. Cologne was almost unlivable. When Konrad Adenauer returned to the city after thirteen years of exile, he was astounded by the damage:
More than half of the houses and public buildings were totally destroyed, nearly all the others had suffered partial damage. Only 300 houses had escaped unscathed.

The damage done to the city by the destruction of the streets, tram rails, sewers, water pipes, gas pipes, electrical installations and other public utilities, was no less widespread. It is hard to realize the threat this constituted to the health of the people.

The bridges across the Rhine had been destroyed. There were mountains of rubble in the streets. Everywhere there were gigantic areas of debris from bombed and shelled buildings. With its razed churches, many of them almost a thousand years old, its bombed-out cathedral, with the ruins of once beautiful bridges sticking up out of the Rhine, and the vast expanses of derelict houses, Cologne was a ghost of a city.

People were living as best they could in the cellars of bombed houses. They did their cooking on primitive brick fire-places.

The great majority of people fled or were evacuated in the last months of the war. Now, after the end of hostilities in Germany, they came back [including those who had been deported] . Every day thousands of citizens streamed back into Cologne, on foot or whatever transport was available. I can still see those open freight cars, jammed with people who wanted to get home again, no matter what hardships were involved. Pale, tired, haggard, they carried the few belongings they still had, and usually found nothing but their destroyed homes.

The popularity of posters of the damaged Cologne might have reminded citizens of the new beginning that the liberation offered them. The Cologne I experienced had little of the German historicism or the Jugendstil architecture of other cities. The churches were restored. Otherwise it was entirely built in the postwar era. At least some of the damage was still visible: I could look across the street from one of my apartments to a building whose upper levels had not yet been demolished.

The image of the cathedral, surrounded by the rubble, was also a reminder that the past -- the mythic past of German nationalism -- was irretrievable. What was left behind was the city made by the empire; what remained was the medieval city and its faith.

Part II coming soon

The Modernist and the Boy

Last night we watched My Architect, a film about Louis Kahn made by his illegitimate son, Nathaniel. Kahn was the premier modern architect in the sixties, building abstract masses of concrete that on the surface appear unlivable and uninviting. They might represent the folly of modernism, reducing architecture to form, light, and surface texture.

In the film Kahn's son visits his father's building, hoping to find the emotion that he never received (he saw his father less than a dozen times). What he finds is that Kahn was distant to all his "families". He loved his work foremost. I found most of the film chilling for this reason -- it was a fool's search into the world of a professional man of the mid-twentieth century.

The ending was a counterpoint to this story of isolation and restraint. Nathaniel visits Dhaka, the assembly of Bangladesh, the Kahn's last project. The building appears to have no cultural references to South Asia. However, the citizens regard the building as a monumental achievement for a poor nation during a period of warfare, but also an expression of affection by Kahn for Banglandesh. I was reminded of the affection that German Jews in Nazi Germany showed more interest in German music and theater than Jewish, finding the former more comforting and the latter alien.

Biography of Louis Kahn

Designs by Kahn
Archive of Kahn's Sketches
Professional Life of Kahn


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Love among the Ruins

Yesterday I turned in my chapter, 20,000 words (excluding notes). Words so far: 31,000. If that doesn't make me cry, I estimate that I have written only a quarter of my dissertation.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the "liberation" of Cologne -- I should have a lot to say about it.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


William Rubinstein posts on the difference between academic and amateur history, the former being too focused on minutiae, the latter a number of subjects that have broad interest. At least with respect to academic historians, few historians reach beyond their narrow fields of expertise in order to look at longer trends in history.
Most non-historians, however, do not realize that microscopic analysis of this kind is built into the post-graduate education of would-be academic historians anywhere in the world. Obtaining a doctoral degree (a Ph.D.), the sine qua non for employment as a university lecturer or its equivalent, centrally entails writing a dissertation of up to 100,000 words, based on original research, demonstrating that one is a capable historian at an advanced level. Almost necessarily, a doctoral candidate writes on a very narrow topic: it is impossible to do anything more in the time at hand. In any case, one's examiners regard the mastery of a narrow field, rather than an attempt to do something more ambitious, as evidence of genuine historical ability. Historians' publications normally grow out of their original research; hence the concentration on the narrow. Of course, some academic historians write wider-ranging books, although few would ever wish to venture out of the limited areas where they regard themselves as experts.

Many historians don't go beyond their narrow fields of interest. However, I feel that all graduate students are given the opportunity to broaden their fields of interest. I am unfamiliar with the English university system, but requirements such as comps fields outside of one's main fields, foreign languages, lectures and other events supported by the department, and normal camaraderie -- even teaching assistantships -- are venues in which students can explore and compare work in other fields of history as well as other disciplines. I think that it is unfortunate that students take a narrow approach to their formation, treating requirements as a burden and eschewing the opportunity to learn more -- particularly if the only goal is to get the degree and get on with life.

Full Disclosure: My outside fields were in history of southern Africa and literature and culture of West Africa (done in French).

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The French Illness (A Secret History)

Die Welt has a quick look at the effects that syphilis has had on the cultural history of Europe, even though few named the disease that afflicted them. The thrust of the article (I only did a little work to repair the poor translation of this Googl-English) is that many artistic works are preoccupied with disease that resembles syphilis, and that the burst of creativity that may have surrounded it resemble that which surrounds AIDS.
The history of the Syphilis in Europe can be read like the medical history of a continent. It began with an enterprising gentleman portion in the Caribbean with Columbus, and like centuries later with AIDS also their rapid propagation was connected with the growth of international traffic.

Just brought to Europe, the epidemic spread quickly. As a result of the war course of the French king of Charles VIII against Naples Syphilis became the new scourge of Europe. It affected soldiers and prostitutes just like students, urban notables, wives and children.

And it affected artists again and again, working its way into their biographies and works or has been interpreted as being an influence on their work by future generations. With Casanova, Franz Schubert, Charles Baudelaire and Karen Blixen the diagnosis is certain -- with Mozart, Beethoven, Heine, Chopin, Toulouse Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, Guy de Maupassant, Edgar Allan Poe and Nietz are suspected today because of their lingering illnesses, profound suffering, and their sudden deaths. The question, whether Beethoven did not die at a lead poisoning, Mozart not at kidney failure and Poe by different causes, hardly undermines such speculations. ...

Was thrust Schuman's D minor quartet "Der Tod und das Mädchen" not also a welcome greeting of the relief of all suffering? Was Baudelaires poem "The Sick Muse" not also a reverence to the illness as MUSE? And didn't the author of the "Flowers of Evil" write the medical history of his epoch, which a "people of the demons" raged in brain and lung in its dedication poem the "hypocritical reader"?

A similar creative thrust has come as of late from AIDS, only much openly: in novels, films, musical, Popsongs the illness was deplored, sworn to. Quite art-intimately already was the man, who designated the Syphilis in the year 1530 in a Latin written training poem.

The Italian physician and Humanist Girolamo Fracastoro described therein not only those "mean ulcers", which ate the body of the victims, but charged to their spreading also the "Galles", thus Frenchmen and their "frightenful war" from 1495. Not only in the Italian vernacular the new and devastating evil was therefore called as "French mange" and "Frenchman illness", what suggests that Syphilis was regarded particularly as illness of the others. Likewise like AIDS: One saw it above all,that someone else was responsible.
Link: famous men who died from syphilis.

History turned upside down ...

... at least slightly. Natalie has Carnivalesque #4 (Early Modern Carnival) up. Go check it out.

New Season

Amazing Race 7 began last night. What can I say? I paid more attention to extracting the sections of Aristotle's Politics that I want the kiddies to read. Peru was beautiful. I would have moved the llamas, no matter how long it took. The Survivor team is annoying, as is the roommates team. The self-proclaimed Hillbillies were fun, and I am sad that they have already been eliminated. My favorites: Susan/Pat (mother/son team), Brian/Greg (can be too jock-ish, but I dig the laissez-passer vibe), and Meredith/Gretchen (retired couple -- very smart). Thankfully, this season has fewer actor/model/beauty queens and prima donna/macho types.