Monday, October 31, 2005

Nazi Foundations of the DDR

Apparently East Germany made good use of its former SS officers:

Henry Leide's book, NS-Verbrecher und Staatssicherheit. Die geheime Vergangenheitspolitik der DDR, claims that high-profile convictions covered up a more cynical reality -- instead of serving sentences they were blackmailed into working for the ubiquitous Stasi, which had more operatives per member of the population than any other spy network in the communist bloc.

"The Stasi deliberately and systematically recruited Nazi criminals, sometimes those who orchestrated massacres, as informers and agents both in the east and the west," Leide said.

Josef Settnik, a Gestapo operative who was based at the infamous Auschwitz death camp, was awaiting a death sentence and had already said goodbye to his wife when he was recruited by the Stasi in 1964 as a church spy.

Another case in point is Willy Läritz who was a member of the Gestapo in the eastern city of Leipzig who took his spying skills over to the Stasi and gained a reputation for "heavy-handed" interrogation methods. He was drafted into the secret police in 1961 "to support our fight for peace and socialism," according to an entry in his Stasi file.
Läritz was considered vital because he had compromising information about other Nazi operatives who were then blackmailed into joining the Stasi as well, Leide said.

Read more.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Use and Abuse of de Tocqueville for Life

This passage, from Sudhir Hazareesingh's The Saint-Napoleon, made me laugh:
Lurking behind these ideological representations is one of the most potent legends about nineteenth-century France: the Tocquevillian myth of a prostrate/nation, overwhelmed by a strong state and incapable of sponsoring autonomous forms of civic action, let alone anything resembling a genuine "civil society." Alexis de Tocqueville's remarks about France's inordinate love of centralization and the overwhelming power of the state are legion.

This Tocquevillian image has long shaped our understanding of the French nineteenth century and in many respects continues to do so. In its political form, it portrayed a succession of strong states seeking to impose their notion of the good life upon a more or less unwilling and helpless society, assisted by a ubiquitous and powerful bureaucracy; hence, also, the ideological failure of liberalism in France."

In territorial terms, it projected a vision of an atrophied political community so comprehensively dominated by Paris as to negate any possibility of genuine local civic activity (especially at municipal levels). In its depiction of social groups, this Tocquevillian image highlighted the weakness of associationalism and the political and cultural backwardness of the rural population, saved only through the republican state's transformation of "peasants" into "Frenchmen" at the end of the nineteenth century.

Ironically, —given Tocqueville's wariness of republicanism, this image of nineteenth-century France has long been incorporated into the republican myth, according to which a querulous and fragmented society was forged into a nation by the Third Republic. These two myths, if anything, have fortified each other.

Over the past few decades, research in various aspects of French political and social history has seriously undermined this mythology. In particular, the antithesis between a particularistic "local" sphere that was largely devoid of civic activity and a "national" sphere that epitomized universal cultural and political values has been broken down by a range of scholarly works. This new research has underscored the energetic and creative nature of local civic life before 1880, whether in terms of village and communal politics; peasant politicization; municipal theory and practice; political socialization through religion; associational activity; and the reconstruction of local memory and local heritages.

In sum, nineteenth-century France now appears much less Tocquevillian than was readily (perhaps all too readily) accepted by earlier generations of social and political historians. To complete this aggiornamento, recent research has also redefined the national public sphere, demonstrating that the "centralizing" republic was much more subtle and flexible in its accommodation of peripheral social and cultural concerns than has traditionally been believed—notably on the issue of education.
Alexis de Tocqueville, the standard bearer for what is wrong with France, was not really the man that Americans think he is. A critic of the governments of Paris, he opined that democracy was the only solution to the ills of France. But he had pretenses to aristocracy, and he loathed the democratic and republican movements that would challenge both monarchy and empire. Essentially, he would empower the people but held his nose while among them.

His attitude reflected back into his writing. He wrote much about the ambitions of the July Monarchy and the Bonapartists to rationalize and centralize France, but little about opposition thereto. Indeed, both regimes had neither the reach nor the tools to transform the nation into the centralized (and centralizing) machine, as Eugen Weber noted. They could do little without collaboration, and thus the nation, "one and indivisible," was far from being achieved in the mid-nineteenth century. If the monarchy and empire did not cultivate local politics, they were nevertherless healthy. The departmental assemblies (conseils généraux) could be forums for opposition, even if they had no legislative powers. However, they could also serve as meeting grounds for state bureaucrats and local elites.

De Tocqueville's image of France, especially in comparison with America, is incomplete, dated (considering the work of centralization came later), and colored. Communalism, which he wrongly found missing in France, was a substitute for the types of corporations that contemporary Americans would despise. Moreover, his interpretation of democracy is difficult to swallow:
Tocqueville appreciated democracy, at least in its transatlantic guise, but not its politics or habits. He described it as a system where men are governed but not dominated, obey but do not respect, accept subjugation but not inferiority. (Project Muse Required)
[ETA:] It's a little like monarchy without the king.

Friday, October 28, 2005


French Medievalist Zid has found a new home. Check out Médiévizmes.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Happy Second Anniversary

To Nuno's Rua da Judairia.

"Each language only helps me tell you how grand you are"

Where are all the 19th century Europeanists? A painful question that I am not alone in pondering. The blogosphere seems rife for discussions about gender history, American history, early modern and medieval history, even print history, but modern Europe (outside of Victorian literature and the endless discussions about appeasement) seems to have fallen through the cracks. Even though I research the nineteenth century (to be precise, I feel comfortable in the period starting with the Late Enlightenment and I avoid the Third Reich like the plague) I gave up blogging about history pre-1900.

AIR at Air Pollution, a graduate student of the history of modern France and Sexuality (and to a lesser extent, Germany and Britain), does not like this state of affairs, and I agree with him. So much history has been positioned with regard to the world the nineteenth century made that it ought not be ignored. Nation, industry, empire, global commerce, other -- even if they have roots in earlier periods, the 19th century made them familiarly modern. (Something tells me that the fault lies with Americans who won't meet the graduate school requirements to become Europeanists.)

Unfortunately, the blogosphere is not a continuous cyberspace. Bloggers amalgamate around topics and other blogs. It cannot perfectly reflect what goes on in the academic world. Subsequently, the 19th century, overrepresented in our libraries, can be digitally underrepresented.

The cybervoids (if they could be called that) can also separate nations and languages. Francis Pisani has already cynically inverted his question about multilingualism in the blogosphere (about which I write here): should blogs be limited to nations? Should bloggers in France care about what Belgians, Moroccans, Senegalese, Swiss, or Quebecoises say, think, or feel? Hell, why should Americans care about the thoughts of Brits, Australians or Canadians? Perhaps there are some nations that don't care to participate in this type of forum, as appears to be the case with Germany. The blogosphere can be an undeveloped landscapes: beautiful land, but no roads to cross it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Terrorists strike Boston

I love this spoof on Fox News' revisionism.

Outward and onward

Fritz Lang seduced Weimar audiences (as well as a few contemporary film critics) with his bold vision of the future city and architecture in Metropolis (review). Tall towers reach to the sky; automobiles move high above the ground on raised highways; biplanes weaving between the buildings; the workers toil far below on the sunless surface. Lang had taken his impression of the New York cityscape to the extreme. The design elements (as well as the robot) often overpower a conventional story about labor relations as well as a much needed message about moderation and mediation.

Lang had the opportunity to see the true future city unfold before his eyes when he hid from the Nazis in Los Angeles and filmed thoughtful noires. Against the backdrop of criticism and the decline of the efficient Red Car system (links to histories and bibliographies) (immortalized by another film, Who framed Roger Rabbit?), Los Angeles broke from the pattern of American cities reaching to the sky to create, what Edward Soja has called, the postmodern city.

But here is the kicker: Los Angeles is the densest city in the United States (HT: Kevin Drum).
Los Angeles is not a particularly good example of urban sprawl. Take the part about being unplanned. The truth is that New York, Chicago and most of the older American cities had their greatest growth before there was anything resembling real public planning; the most basic American land planning tool, zoning, did not come into widespread use until the 1920s.

L.A., by contrast, was one of the country's zoning pioneers. It has had most of its growth since the 1920s, during a period when planning was already important, and particularly since World War II, when California cities have been subject to more planning than cities virtually anywhere else in the country.

Then there is the part about how the city is too dispersed. Although it is true that the Los Angeles region in its early years had widely scattered settlements, these settlements were not particularly low in density. Since World War II, moreover, the density of the Los Angeles region has climbed dramatically, while that of older cities in the North and East has plummeted. The result is that today the Los Angeles urbanized area, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, has just over 7,000 people per square mile — by a fair margin the densest in the United States.
Perhaps that should have been obvious. In the absence of high-rise appartments and office buildings (except in a few places) Angelenos settled into a pattern of narrow plots of land that limited the amount of undeveloped space. My wife calls them "postage stamps." But it also kept houses close together.

Technology, once used to drive human beings, air and power upward and light downward and inward, allowed people to move outward and away from one another, sometime isolating themselves from each other in otherwise contiguous spaces. The city retained its importance, as William J. Mitchell has written, by creating contexts for social and cultural relations -- spaces wherein signs and relationships find meaning:
Architecture no longer can (if it ever could) be understood as an autonomous medium of mass, space and light, but now serves as the constructed ground for encountering and extracting meaning from cross-connected flows of aural, textual and graphic, and digital information through global networks.
The skyscrapers that have been built outside already built up areas (as in Southeast Asia) represent prestige rather than utility. As the topography of ideas has been raised by technology, the topography of architecture has decreased.

Sprawl, as Geinter has noted, has been part of the urban tradition. Even to some degree urbanization avoided, as much as possible, increasing heights, both for health reasons and to maintain the visual character of the city (as I wrote here about Paris). The preoccupation of urban planners in Europe was to allow as much open space as possible so that light and air can get to street level, and the monumental architecture was still visible. Indeed, if there is anything tall in Berlin, it is either a shopping center in the west or a piece of technology in the east.

How funny that if it were not for the smog (as much a result of geography as the automobile), Los Angeles would have achieved these health concerns. What Los Angeles did not do, as is the cases of suburban sprawl, is drive people away from one another. A density of social relations still exists.

The stratospheric city may have been an historical phase in which the quest for prestige and utility found common ground upon which to build and the legitimacy to overcome public health concerns. It gave way to the edgeless city, driving outward rather than upward.


[ETA:] Eb has a few thoughts about the same LA Times article.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

After the Deluge

The Rheinische Bildarchiv (Rhenish Picture Archive) has a virtual exhibit of photographs of Cologne from 1900 and from 2000. A charming city I will never see.

The Right Woman

Why do conservative women succeed at obtaining high office more than liberal and social-democrat? Elisabeth Humbert-Dorfmüller suggests that for the right, a woman candidate is a bold move after a string of electoral failures; for the left, a woman represents the more radical side of the party and will less likely appeal to a broad electorate.
La raison pour laquelle le même scénario a moins de chances de se réaliser à gauche est qu'une femme à la tête d'un parti de gauche "gauchise" le parti. Il a dès lors une image plus progressiste aux yeux de l'électeur ­ et cela quelles que soient les orientations politiques de la femme en question.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Good Tongue Blogging

In Fear and Trembling (the film adaptation of Belgian writer Amélie Nothomb's autobiographical novel), the young Amélie is verbally excoriated by the vice-president for deigning to speak Japanese, piercing the inner secrecy of the Japanese firm whereat she works. Later he berates her for pretending that she could write a better report than her superiors, even though the report was on a Belgian firm that worked in her native tongue. Instead he keeps her at arms length, barking simple, demeaning commands at her in English. It is through language that her superiors say that she is where she does not belong.

Blogging resists isolation. It is a medium of mass communication outside the norms of publication and media. Yet language is a seldom surmounted obstacle. Francis Pisani at Transnet, a French media blog at Le Monde, received some lip forleaving quotes untranslated from English sources (as he does here). And with good reason: it takes time to translate something properly and accurately. A summary and an untranslate passage is much better than a translation that has lost the flavor of the original -- or worse, the translation transports the passage from a foreign context to a domestic one.

I sympathize with Francis. I agonize over the meaning of phrases, using 'secularism' in place of 'separation of Church and state' when writing about French politics of religion. Often I assume that readers can get by with a few phrases, or that a summary can carry the meaning of the article or literature I am discussing.

But Francis raises a larger issue: should blogging strive to be multilingual? There are many fine academic blogs to sample from. Zid's life in Medieval Studies gives the experience of French academia. Nuno's Rua da Judiaria is but the best example of the profusion of Lusophonic bloggers, putting a Portuguese accent back on Jewish Studies. Even fair Claire haexperimenteded with posts in Italian and drops in quotes that she admits she cannot fully translate. I read quite a few blogs written in Portuguese, a language that I can only read through French, to discover numerous items of interests, some of which link back to the English-only blogosphere.

If blogging strives to circumvent conventional barriers of communication, should it not do so with language? It's a bit arrogant to think that English-only should prevail. How funny that bloggers should wait to have information translated for them, waiting until the interpreter puts his/her spin on the topic.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Random Notes

Right now I am not satisfied with blogging. In fact, I am not sure I want to keep doing it. I am not attracting/addressing an audience interested in continental European history. I may closed down in a few weeks and concentrating on my dissertation.

The least I can do is point out some good reading, like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the World Sixty Years Later. The article examines memory in Japan as it relates to World War Two and the atomic bomb. The disappearance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from public history seems to go hand in hand with the idea that Japan's war was not aggressive imperialism, but anti-Westernization.
Takahashi explains that Hiroshima was once a popular destination for school trips, but in recent years the education ministry had been putting pressure on the teachers’ unions to discontinue peace education and to promote nationalism instead. The Hiroshima prefectural Board of Education is especially strict, he said, because the city of Hiroshima is such a hotbed of political activity. When teachers in the Hiroshima schools protested the imposition of singing the national anthem in school by lip-synching, the government sent representatives to monitor the volume at which the anthem was sung.

And it’s not just in Hiroshima. The education ministry has been promoting nationalism across Japan by starting to enforce patriotic indoctrination in the schools. In Tokyo, for example, the Metropolitan Board of Education—made up partly of elected representatives and partly of members appointed by the conservative Tokyo governor (and former novelist) Shintaro Ishihara—has the sole power to decide which texts meet national standards. The 1994 Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe, who has been writing about this issue recently, said he believes that the board does not actually read the textbooks but instead works from a handbook which quantifies the patriotism-promoting tendencies of a text according to the numbers of times it mentions certain issues, such as the island of Takeshima, which the Japanese government contends belongs to Japan, but which the Korean government believes is Korean (and calls Dokto); or the number of times the words “Japanese traditions” appear. There is also a volunteer committee, composed entirely of well-known editors and critics—all right-wing extremists—formed specifically to write and promote a nationalistic textbook. Teachers have been resisting the use of such revisionist texts, but we heard in Hiroshima about retaliations—punitive postings to locations where a long commute would be required, for example—against teachers who resisted the directives of their local boards. The curriculum now not only omits mention of Japanese aggression in Asia but gives very little attention to the atomic bombings.

While a disagree that the memory of the atomic bomb should naturally lead to pacifism and anti-proliferation, I found myself thinking about the positive role that anti-war discourses can play -- and should play -- in debates on public policy.

Anthony Gottlieb's review of Tony Judt's new book highlights the sense of possibility and fear that followed World War Two. Judt's evaluation of post-war Europe -- that it was able to crawl out of the shadow of American supremacy -- may irk some historians. He does, however, address an ongoing problem of post-war historiography: that European nations realigned themselves to the realities of the Cold War. Indeed, real history was made beneath the conflict between superpowers. Moreover, the Marshall Plan -- that paradigm of nation-(re)building -- was more important psychologically than economically.

I also want to make a quick note of Eric Hobsbawm's article on Jewish emancipation.

The White Sox, by the way, made quick work of the Angels, with or without the controversy.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Perfume of Roses

Konrad Adenauer has been a source of endless fascination for me. Equal parts spiritual, pragmatic and amenable to collaboration, he was genial and cooperative in his personal interactions but difficult to pin down in public. As lord mayor of Cologne he was aggressive, pursuing funding for expansive development and cultural projects for the city and the region.

During the years that he spent hiding from Nazi scrutiny in Maria Laach, tending to his roses, Adenauer developed a gentler side to his public persona. No longer the vigorous, ambitious young man, he was a seemingly unthreatening, grandfather-figure who was capable of leading (West) Germany from imperialism to democracy.

One question has constantly nagged me: was Adenauer’s personality a vehicle Germans used to repress the memory of the Holocaust? Did Germans bury the guilt of the Holocaust beneath the image of the gentle rose gardener?

Certainly Adenauer was responsible for the strong relationship that evolved between Germany and Israel. At a time when only Social Democrats advocated making reparations, Adenauer conducted secret negotiations with Israeli diplomats and leaders of Jewish organizations. Adenauer accepted the need for reparations (Wiedergutmachung), establishing a precedent by which ethnic groups (not just nations) could make demands for reparations for atrocities committed against them.

Adenauer saw the issue of reparations as an opportunity to moral credit for his state. As Jay Geller has written, Adenauer had complex moral and political motivations for pursuing reparations:
“Was he motivated by a sense of moral obligation, or was there an ulterior motive for his desire to reconcile with Israel? There is no doubt that Adenauer was determined to ensure the negotiations’ success. Adenauer was a deeply moral man, and this morality drove his policy decisions regarding the eastern bloc, Israel, Western Europe, and other issues. However, as Yeshayahu Jelinek has shown, Adenauer also intended to reap all possible political benefit from morally driven political acts. He considered reconciliation with Israel, and specifically making reparations for the Nazis’ crimes, a vital step in Germany’s rehabilitation.”
Rather than limiting negotiations to arguments over the nature of guilt and numbers, he kept the conversation at a high level of morality and ethics. He used his deeply-felt Catholicism to create an atmosphere of genuine interfaith dialogue. The friendship that emerged between himself and David Ben-Gurion overcame the suspicion of Jewish leaders.

Given the post-war atmosphere, it is not too much to say that Luxembourg Agreement succeeded because of the reputation Adenauer earned with Jews. To Jews in the 1950s, Adenauer was the face of German humility. Distrust pervaded German-Jewish relations, obviously because of the pain of the Holocaust. Indeed, Jewish leaders were not at first interested in pressing their demands with any German government. They wanted to extract payments via the occupational administration. Adenauer’s involvement validated the principles upon which they based their demands. A positive image arose among German scholars that turned Adenauer into a hero. Even Fritz Stern asked (as I have) whether Adenauer could have changed the fate of the Weimar Republic had he accepted the Chancellorship under Hindenburg.

Reparations were not controversial with the German public. Average Germans seemed willing to pay for the havoc caused by the Third Reich, particularly as it created a large body of displaced persons for whom the new Jewish state cared. Guilt was less easily accepted. German citizens were less concerned about paying for the cost of the Holocaust than accepting the blame for it. Consequently few politicians, with the exception of the Social Democrats, advocated reparations. Indeed, Adenauer turned more towards friends in the SPD than his own CDU during his secret negotiations with Israeli politicians and Jewish groups.

Adenauer also defined Holocaust guilt as something that belonged to the German nation, not to individuals. The deaths of millions of Jews was committed in the German name and without their opposition, but also without their participation. As early as 1946, he said:
"I think the German people and the bishops and the clergy bear a heavy guilt for what happened in the concentration camps. It is true that perhaps later there was not much that could have been done. The guilt was incurred earlier. The German people, to a large extent bishops and clergy as well, accepted the National Socialist agitation. It allowed itself to be regimented almost without resistance, even in part with enthusiasm. I think that if all the bishops had, on an agreed-upon day, spoken publicly from the pulpit against National Socialism, they could have prevented much from happening. If the bishops had gone to jail or to concentration camps because of such an action, that would have done no harm, on the contrary. But none of this happened, and therefore it is best to remain silent." (quoted by Fritz Stern in Dreams and Delusions)
Adenauer argued that Germans had been generally guilty. Unwilling to oppose Nazism, especially at its earliest stages, Germans were integrated into Nazi projects, and they lost both initiative and will to oppose the Holocaust.

The definition of Holocaust guilt may have been acceptable to the German public in the 1950s, but it doesn’t hold up to contemporary scholarship. More and more Holocaust studies have shown how Germans were actively involved in the dispossession of German Jews.

It is difficult to find any denial in Adenauer’s definition. He could not be counted among the guilty, and it is unlikely that he wanted to hide anything. Shared national guilt may have been a practical definition that allowed Adenauer to move negotiations along without inciting too much opposition. But the definition survived as the public understanding of the Holocaust – something performed by the Nazi state in the name of the German people – until the late 1960s.

Unfortunately, the question remains. Did Adenauer interpose himself between Germans and guilt as he interposed himself between Germans and Jews?

History : Germany

Here comes the sun?

Yesterday something unusual happened: after seven rainy days, the sun finally came out. It was amazing, if only for a few hours, to see the sky and the color of the leaves (still) on the trees.

The rain has been hard and persistent, and we can hear the hard rushing water of the Connecticut River, just a couple hundred yards away. The marinas up and down the river have been wrecked, turning into collection points for debris that has floated downstream, and several boats were set loose and went over the Holyoke Dam. We have, thankfully, experienced nothing as bad as people in northern New England.

Today is another cloudy, rainy day.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The New French Constitution Monthly

Some of Sarkozy's comments in Le Monde suggest a need for a radical overhaul of the French constitution, saying that even the manner of reform needs to be questioned ... is République v6.0 coming soon?
La rupture est profondément nécessaire avec les graves échecs de la politique économique et sociale des trente dernières années."

"C'est ma responsabilité d'homme politique que de proposer aux Français de sortir de la spirale des mauvais résultats dans laquelle notre pays s'est enlisé depuis près de trente ans."

"La rupture que je souhaite est donc aussi une rupture avec la méthode et le rythme des réformes." "Rompre avec ce qui ne marche pas n'a jamais voulu dire faire table rase de la société (...) La rupture que j'appelle de mes vœux passe résolument par les réformes. Nous ne romprons avec la croissance molle, la dérive des finances publiques et notre chômage endémique, qu'en mettant en œuvre rapidement les changements dont le pays a besoin."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

State of Pacification

The last form of the ‘Nation,' extermination will thus have exterminated the camp, that is, the fundamentally political principle of its limitation. Extending to the full range of the living, the transpolitical State would, as the strategies of political war feared, bring about a complete discharge where the invisible police of a generalized inquisition supercede the visible polls of a population with rights.

As the West German Chancellor recently declared, "The supreme value is no longer the Nation, it is peace." This phrase translates perfectly what lies beyond the political, the civic discharge. Peace tends to replace the Nation, the state of total peace supercedes the national State, and from this the concept of ‘security' surpasses the principle of ‘defence,' specifically linked with the geographically limited State.

Since the public will to power consists less in assuring the continued existence of a Nation by the defence or extension of its boundaries than in sustaining peace, the politically declared reality of the ‘enemy' now disappears, making way for the indeterminacy of constantly redefined threats.

We now see that, in this way of life, pacification replaces nationalism, the final citizen becoming less active than passive; the enemy of the constitution is henceforth less an 'internal enemy' of the national State than a 'threat' to the civil peace, a danger for the constitution of internal pacification.

In this sort of class struggle, in which the opposition is almost exclusively that between the 'military' and the 'civil', and where the warrior is transformed into the police, we may surmise that extermination as a superior form of the State of pacification will exterminate death, that is, the delimitation of this transpolitical life by the menacing threat of imminent disappearance, the innovation of a subject who is ‘living-dead' , no longer akin to the Spartan Helot or the Roman slave, but a kind of ‘zombie' inhabiting the limbs of a devalue public life.
From Paul Virilio, Negative Horizon

Don't celebrate too much

This year is the centennial of France's law of separation of Church and State. The 1905 law created a political culture that was hostile to almost all involvement of religion in political life. Secularism is be seen as a pillar of the republic. Some politicians have even argued that the law was a fulfillment of republicanism, a logical consequence of the Revolution (specifically the Civil Constitution of the Clergy).

The centennial could not have come at a worse time. As girls are being suspended from schools for wearing headscarves, Muslims are clinging to religion in its most traditional form as a form of resistance. Nikolas Sarkozy, perhaps the next president of the republic, has suggested that the law must be revisited to give Muslims the ability to assimilate and France the ability to assimilate them. Chirac, mindful of the tensions, has recommended that commemoration of the law be kept to a minimum.

Philosopher Guy Coq is outraged, not because he thinks that the law is perfect, but because France should use the commemoration to reconnect with secularism, to rediscover its purpose and spirit.
This situation is abnormal. It is based on a grave incomprehension of the sense of the term "‘commemoration."’ It is not at all a question of nostalgia. To commemorate is an important act in which the present re-examines its relations with the past. ... To revive memory? Certainly. But we forget that this gesture consists also of constructingng a relationship with the event ... .

The consequence is immediate. It'’s absence from memory drives those in power to an ignorance of laïcité (secularism). ....

Everyone know, except [Sarkozy], that to [amend] the 1905 law is to open a Pandora's box. It will end inevitably in an unmanageable conflict between two extremes. On the one side, those who would profit from re-raising the question of secularism, on the other, those who would make it more stringent in the sense of a battle against religions.

[This crappy translation is my own.]

Rediscovering the context of the law of separation would yield context. The republic was still reeling from the political battle over Dreyfus, the Jewish officer who was accused of passing military secrets to Berlin. The Catholic clergy, still largely monarchist, fiercely supported his court martial and the officers who manufactured the charges against him. The affaire raised questions about the role of religion in politics and the compatibility of Catholicism and republicanism.

The long view, however, show a more complex picture. Separation emerged from a juxtaposition of historical process. If secularism was a long term project, so was the assimilation of the Jews. Since Napoleon the French governments engaged with Jewish leaders and institutions, establishing consistoire as semi-governmental organization to administer to Jewish communities. Practices were reformed so that Jewish subjects could become French citizens of the Jewish faith. Under the 1905 law this process probably could not have occurred.

Moreover, the notion that the republic became secular is bunk. Catholicism remained, at least implicitly, an important part of French identity: naturalization required conversion. Even Leopold Sedar Senghor converted to gain his citizenship.

The Roman Catholic Church is not the same anti-democratic institution that it was in 1905. In fact, it has become a vehicle, albeit imperfect, of interfaith communication.

"To construct a relationship with the event", as Coq suggests, reveals a law of separation that was very much a product to its time. It was the work of a nation that had already spent decades reforming popular culture. Excavating the memory might well prove the need to modify the government's position on religion, especially if it is trying to "Gallicize" Muslims. Would France have defended a long-bearded, kippot-wearing Jew who spoke a Judeo-German dialect? Would it have trusted a traditional, non-Christian African in Dakar? The otherness of the Muslims whom France must assimilate is as strong as that of the Dreyfus or the Senghor who might have been.

History : France

More Money

Maybe Steinbrenner can still buy a series.


Last night I flipped around channels on the TV, pretending that I was not watching the Angels-Yankees game. It was too stressful, and I know from past experiences that if I watch the Angels play, they will lose (superstition, yes, but with some merit).

It's not just the back and forth between the teams, the pressure of playing against a group of superstars who might explode at any moment, that made the game tense. Mike Scioscia's managerial style turns baseball into a game of inches. Every weakness of the opposition's defense is tested; every extra base taken; every pitch scrutinized; every at-bat extended. He definitely manages in Tommy Lasorda's style, which leads to long, long games. And, they can beat the Yankees almost every series.

Tonight they open in Chicago, and considering the amount of travel they have done and the number of pitchers they have used, I don't have high hopes that the Angels can win the league championship. They will be exhausted.

I laughed throughout the series whenever the announcers had to use the obnoxious construction "the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim." They tried to balance it out by saying "the New York Yankees of the Bronx."

I hated when Disney changed the teams place-designation from California to Anaheim. I hated this new designation even more. The stadium was always so far away from where I lived in LA (about 90 minutes) that seeing them play was always prohibitive. Instead, my friends and I would drive to Chavez Ravine to see the Dodgers, whom none of us liked.

But as the series with the Yankees unfolded, I started to think, "is this not the team from LA?" An ex-Dodger is the manager. An ex-Dodger is the batting coach. The pitching is superb. The batters hack away until they find the pitch that they like. Bunts occur at unlikely moments. And runs are manufactured in the most laborious manner possible.

But more importantly, the way the Angels play the Yankees resembles how the Dodgers played the Yankees. Dodgers-Yankees (along with Giants-Yankees) was one of the most frequent post-season match-ups, and even after the team moved to the West Coast, their rivalry survived. Growing up in LA, the 1981 World Series was the classic moment of David slaying Goliath. The spirit of Brooklyn was in that team.

The Angels looked like those Dodgers, beating the Bronx Bombers not by outdoing them at their own game, but playing differently. A team with little muscle running circles around a team of high salaried muscle-headed men. They score in improbable ways (like when Sheffield and Crosby collided in the outfield off of Kennedy's fly ball) without having a lot of obvious pop in their bats.

Are the Angels the team from Los Angeles? They play like 'em.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Add Germany to the list of nations that have had a female head of government before the US.

Random Notes

Books for your virtual bookshelf: John over at History News notes that the University of California Press has put a few hundred books online for public use. Most of them are a decade old or more, but they are good. Among them is at least one classic book on German Heimat, Celia Applegate's A Nation of Provincials. Also of interest for regionalists:
The collection also has several primary sources, including this book of the travel experiences of an Alsatian Jesuit through California in the 18th century.

Speaking of religious matters in history, a special mass was celebrated in Rome this weekend for Galen. German reputed the so-called "Lion of Munster" as a hero of Catholic resistance to Nazism for his sermons criticizing euthanasia. His reputation has taken a hit in recent years because his criticism were circumscribed because he stood up mostly for Catholics; he did not defend the range of Nazi victims or the policies of the Third Reich. Faced with recent scholarship that has shown collaboration between the Catholic Church and Fascism, theologians and Church historians have rallied around Galen, saying that Galen resisted as best he could during the years of oppression of Catholics.

Can Jews criticize Israel? Judith Butler and Lawrence Summers have battled this one out for a while. Now talk show personality Denis Prager has chimed in on anti-Zionism in the university. He insists that academia has become a place in which self-hatred is being made.
Yet universities have become society's primary breeding ground for hatred of Israel. This hatred is often so intense that the college campus has become a haven for people who use anti-Zionism to mask their anti-Semitism. Moreover, anti-Zionism itself is a form of anti-Semitism, even if some Jews share it. Why? Because anti-Zionism is not simply criticism of Israel, which is as legitimate as criticism of any country. Anti-Zionism means that Israel as a Jewish state has no right to exist. And when a person argues that only one country in the world is unworthy of existence — and that happens to be the one Jewish country in the world — one is engaged in anti-Semitism, whether personally anti-Semitic or not.
Nouveau Urbanism. Geitner Simmons notes an article in the Boston Globe that reconsiders the historicity and danger of suburbia. Rather than raising alarms about urban flight and the monotonous flatness, suburbs should be embraced as an American settlement pattern. I would take issue with at least one historical example given by the article.
From ancient Rome and China to 19th-century London to Paris and Los Angeles today, society has spread out during economic good times.
When Roman aristocrats established themselves outside the city, they never abandoned the affairs of Rome and never stopped contributing to the development and beautification of the city. When Americans leave the city, the separation (with the exception of employment) is almost always permanent.

Arguing against urban regionalism, Josh of 15MB of Fame claims that cities ought not take the responsibility for transportation within their regions. Suburbs are parasites of urban institutions. Cities should not include their regions as part of their development schemes; they are better served drawing sharper distinctions between themselves and the suburbs.
In the modern city, suburbs have grown up around cities as a means to enjoy the economic or cultural benefits of the city without contributing to the tax base. Land use laws in suburbs effectively protect against city “problems” (like density, multi-family housing, crowded schools, mass transit), but the suburbs remain close enough to the urban core to provide jobs, culture, and human conviviality. ...

Great cities have always stood apart from their surroundings and endowed their citizens with gifts that set them apart from other cities.
Suburbs can dissipate the uniqueness of cities. Regionalism, in itself, does not contribute to this problem if it forces suburbs into a tighter political relationship with the city (side note: some French politicians feel that the laws of urban agglomeration aren't working to create cooperation, as they should). At least some cities can use the development of public service to increase cooperation between political entities. Los Angeles' growth in the early 20th century was clearly tied to the building of the aqueduct by William Mulholland, forcing the incorporation of both the basin and the valley into the city.

The new Carnivalesque is up at Archaeastronomy.

Finally, Pruned, a blog by a landscape architect. Alexander deals with a wide range of spatial topics. Check out this post on the bizarre Jean-Jacques Lequeu.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Gropius on the Beach

The Globalist has an article about how architects from the Bauhaus, escaping Nazism, came to Tel Aviv and created a European, modernist city.
In Tel Aviv, they found a young city without an established building style. "Nostalgic for home, they made a European city in the Levant," noted Linda Grant. ...

Their progressive principles stressed the social responsibility of the architect towards the community. This went hand in hand with the ideology of the Zionist settlement in Palestine, in which liberal and socialist intellectuals who had emigrated from Europe were dominant. ... In a way, the Bauhaus school, which wanted to establish a new society, seemed to be an almost perfect match for the radical Zionist project — which aimed at creating a modern Hebrew urban community in Tel Aviv. ...

The new Tel Aviv was comprised of buildings of a uniform height of three to four floors, sun washed, with many balconies and gardens. The modernist structures were cubist, sculptural, economical and functional in their form. It was a "garden city" of wide tree-lined boulevards. Within city blocks, small roads run toward smaller green spots, creating both a bustling urban exterior and a quiet local feeling inside.

Architects used concrete to create clean-lined, boxy buildings. Strong horizontal elements created patterns with very little ornamentation. Local adaptations included long narrow windows and balconies to filter light and give shade from the sun. Curved balconies softened the stark austere lines of the buildings.

The article also describes the decline of the Bauhaus patrimony and steps that are being taken to presenve it.

Link: Bauhaus in Israel.

History of the Event

Mona Ozouf's new book deals with the evolution of meaning of Varennes (1791). Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette reacted spontaneously when they tried to flee France -- they had no plan, no direction. Their flight and eventual capture had few immediate consequences. Over time it spurred popular resentment towards the monarchy. Varennes came to represent a break of faith between monarch and people. One year later the king had lost credibility, the monarchy was abolished, and the assembly became the unique representative of the nation.
La fuite royale constitue le type même de l’événement qui fait a posteriori l’histoire. Minimisé sur le moment, il apparaît ensuite dans toute sa dimension symbolique.

Citant Aulard, Mona Ozouf précise que si Varennes fait partie de ces rares moments révolutionnaires d’exception, c’est parce qu’il fut vécu et ressenti « dans les profondeurs de la nation ». Qui s’est vraiment soucié, au fond du Quercy ou du Gâtinais, des grandes « Journées » révolutionnaires, comme celle du 31 mai 1793, du 9 thermidor ou du 18 fructidor ? Bien que plus modeste en apparence, sans effusion de sang, Varennes a au contraire frappé tout un peuple. C’est ce qu’ont bien saisi, parmi les historiens, Louis Blanc ou Michelet. Plus visionnaire encore, Alexandre Dumas a écrit, dans La Route de Varennes, qu’en mettant « le pied sur la première marche de l’escalier de l’épicier Sauce, l’infortuné Louis XVI mettait le pied sur le premier degré de l’échafaud ».
Ran Halévi sees Ozouf's books as a return of the importance of the political (over the determinism of the cultural) to history:
Depuis la faillite des interprétations déterministes justement, on ne cesse de redécouvrir le poids du politique sur notre intelligence du passé, de mesurer le rôle du hasard dans la fabrique des grands événements, de reconnaître la part des individus dans le processus historique. Voilà pourquoi il me paraissait opportun de reconsidérer la portée des ruptures, évidentes ou méconnues, qui scandent l'histoire de France. Or, pour ce type d'interrogation, le principe des « journées » me paraît particulièrement approprié. Au fond, l'idée est de reconstituer, au fil des ouvrages et des dates, cette histoire longue autour des moments clés qui en infléchissent le cours.

ETA: Ozouf has a review on the collected correspondences of Marie Antoinette.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Meet you in Deutz

Turks were, by far, not the first guest workers that German firms recruited. In the 1950s and 1960s, laborers from Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain preceded them. The website Angekommen (The Arrivals) offers an oral history of the immigrants who came to work in German factories and mines. One side looks at the Italians who worked in the mines in the Ruhr Valley. The other part looks at the voyages of Portuguese and Spanish citizens as they were recruited and processed and home, and sent by trains to the train station in Deutz (Cologne's right bank). Armando Rodrigues de Sá, who left Canas de Senhorim, Portugal to become the 1 millionth guestworker to arrive in Germany. He was awarded a moped.

More than a fraction of the whole

Some strains of regionalism represent the soul-searching of those who, patriotic but critical, look for grounds for the nation to rebuild. Imagining the regional landscape, they find a means to discuss problems, but also to find what is virtuous about the people and their labors.

Antonio Machado wrote Landscapes of Castile (Campos De Castilla) in the years following the Spanish-American War in 1898. It is a souvenir of his search for the nation’s hope and future. After Spain’s rapid defeat and the dispossession of its colonies, many writers looked inwardly at the conditions within the country and its sluggishness of progress since the sixteenth century.

Now there is a Spaniard who wants
to live and is beginning to live
between the Spain that is dying
and another Spain that is yawning.

The vernacular landscape of Castile has, of course, its castles, collapsing among the stony mountains, but it is also dominated by either subtle variation or monotony of unremarkable features. The Duero River runs through the groves of poplars, olives and oaks. If that changes, it is because the lazy profiteers deforest the landscape of its lush trees.
The man of this country who torches pine forests
and waits for his plunder as spoils of war ...
The environmental decay corresponds to urban flight. The peasants find no profit in agriculture unless they send their sons and daughters to the cities.
Today he sees his poor sons flee their homes,
storms carry away the soil of the earth ...

On his own, the “provincial man of the casino” gambles away his legacy. He waits for revolution or change of government to improve his life but has no clue how to affect change on his own.
This man is not part of yesterday or tomorrow,
but timeless; of Hispanic stock,
he is neither the mature fruit nor the rotten,
but the vain fruit
of that Spain gone by that never was,
that today has a head turning away.
The common man, however, is hard working, but unimaginative. The modern world has left the rural untouched, and the country as a whole has taken little interest in developing its people, only waiting for the riches to come from overseas. Consequently, the people are unaware of new ideas and opportunities. They know only the routine that they can break only by leaving.
Does anyone hear the pulse of time
in these towns? No.
In these towns people battle
relentlessly with the clock,
with the monotony
that measures time as emptiness.

Ultimately, Machado’s Castile is much like Spain’s people: neglected, underdeveloped, uprooted and backward. His literary regionalism allows him focus on problems lost at the national perspective, which looks to the decline of empire rather than the degeneration of the nation.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Brief Notes

Because of the volume of comment spam I have received, I have hidden the comments to this blog. I'll reactivate them after this onlaught stops.

In the meanwhile, check out the History Carnival at Apocalyptic Historian. I enjoyed Eric Miller's fatal prognosis of Michelle Malkin's internment camps.