The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: Germany

Cognitive dissonance in Nazi Germany

by fpman

In the last few days I have not had the time to cover a new subject in depth. I’m back now. But first here’s some light posting to see if I’m still able to push the Publish button.

And with that, if you ever wondered: here is the story of the man who refused to do the Nazi salute on a famous 1936 photo you surely have already seen on social media at some point.

Here’s the crucial part:

“(August) Landmesser joined the Nazi Party in 1931. Little did he know that his heart would soon ruin any progress that his superficial political affiliation might have made. In 1934, Landmesser met Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman, and the two fell deeply in love.”

It seems probable indeed that Landmesser may have joined the Nazi Party like many other people at the time, without a real commitment to their ideology. Once he met the love of his life, he was bound to have to think over a thing or two. Predictably,

“Their engagement a year later got him expelled from the party.”

So one more year later he was there, pictured, not enthusiastic at all about the celebratory launch of a German naval vessel, even though it was attended by Adolf Hitler.

It is usually personal reasons such as Landmesser’s that may cause people the strongest dissonance with only superficially considered political ideas. And a weak engagement with ideology may be thus easily broken up by an engagement of different sorts. Especially when the representatives of the former (the ideology) tell you that the latter (your love) is not approved. Likely this determined Landmesser’s path.

Where he and his wife went on from here is why the above link is worth following. It’s not the story of an action hero and his lady. It’s mostly a sad story of ordinary people — but it’s also uplifting in a way, given how their daughters, Ingrid and Irene carried on their parents’ legacy, in their own peculiar way.

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The Stuart-Houstons, from Long Island

by fpman

This is a fascinating story and does not require much commentary.

The Stuart-Houstons of Long Island were Bridget Dowling Hitler and Patrick William Hitler, originally. Patrick was Bridget’s son, from Adolf Hitler’s brother, Alois Hitler, Jr. Bridget was Irish and met Alois in Dublin. They went on to live together for some time in London, before they separated. In 1939, Bridget took Patrick over to the US, to escape unwanted attention given the Hitler connection. And she changed her name.

Patrick himself outlined the reasons for the decision in these terms:

“The British are an insular people and while they are kind and courteous, it is my impression, rightly or wrongly, that they could not in the long term feel overly cordial or sympathetic towards an individual bearing the name I do.”

Eloquently put. Patrick didn’t make a secret out of his origins and went on a lecture tour around the country telling people of how wicked his uncle really was (he did meet Adolf Hitler on a visit to Germany once). In the wake of his lobby efforts against Germany he even joined the U.S. Navy’s Medical Corps.

Bridget_and_Patrick“To hell with Hitler,” a message to brother-in-law/uncle, from Bridget and Patrick (source)

Like I said, some story…

The Cousinhood of Humanity

by fpman

So apparently it is very popular these days to be looking for one’s distant cousins, and a pioneer of this is popular author A. J. Jacobs.

In this case, by “cousin” one does not mean people whom one would really think of as relatives in the sense of being closely related.

In its more distant sense, A.J. Jacobs is “cousins” with Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Bloomberg and others, among 75 million cousins of his that he managed to identify so far. In fact, they may be “n-degree cousins x times removed” – where n may be a fairly large number and x may be zero or larger, to be scientifically accurate.

This is possible given how there really were not that many ancestors in previous generations to provide every living person today with their very own neat blood lineage. Instead, we all carry mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosomes from a rather narrow group and thus share in our DNA heritage. Our most recent common ancestors (who are descendents of earlier common ancestors of course) can thus be found through both matrilineal and patrilinial descent. “Mitochondrial Eve” and “Y-chromosomal Adam,” respectively. Given the science of this, Eve might have lived a mere 2,000 years ago (if we assume enough blending of teh peoplez since the beginning of comprehensive globalization) whereas Adam roamed the wilderness about 60,000 to 90,000 years ago.

From the point of view of politics, it may seem interesting to reflect on how Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dutch far right politician Geert Wilders and Islamic State caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or, say, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange may be distantly related. Not only with each other but with each and every one of those listed.

Having said that, one remembers how British King George V, German Kaiser Wilhelm II and Russian Tsar Nicholas II were actually cousins and yet it still didn’t work out all that well between them.

They were related through George V who was first cousins with both (as cross cousins, i.e. as the offspring of opposite-sex children of shared grandparents).

Wilhelm and Nicholas were thus not first cousins (sharing grandparents) but were only third cousins in fact, sharing great-great-grandparents in the Romanov family (though at the same time Nicholas was also second cousin once removed from Wilhelm’s point of view, through their shared ancestors in the Hohenzollern family).

The image below, via the Brookings Institute, is worth having a look to develop an understanding of these nuances.

Cousins_WWI_Wilhelm_Nicholas_George

Given such a prominent instance of intra-family feduing as World War One it is hard to argue with A. J. Jacobs’ pessimistic assessment when he says:

“I don’t think KKK members will be singing Kumbaya with African Americans.”

And unlike Jacobs, we do not even expect, as a result of his considerable efforts at finding cousins, a significant decrease in what he refers to as the “elitism” of those proud of their descent. People who were simple-minded enough to think that being born into a family or where and when they were born constituted a merit of theirs can’t, shan’t, and won’t change their minds about this.

The Cousinhood of Humanity will likely remain a utopian idea – beyond being scientific fact of course.

Propaganda, from dawn till Tusk

by fpman

In the context of some serious political campaign struggles in Poland in 2005 it came to be revealed, upon much dirtier allegations, that Donald Tusk, who was then leader of the Polish opposition, did have a bit of a skeleton in the closet problem. His grandfather briefly served in the ranks of the German Wehrmacht during WWII. Even this much could have hurt Tusk, given how Germany treated Poland during the world war. But a deeper look into the matter uncovered that his grandfather was forcibly recruited by the Germans in mid-1944 after serving as a (forced) railway laborer first. Mitigating circumstances, surely.

Tusk says he only learned of all this after he came under attack related to this from political forces to the right of him on the political spectrum in Poland (the camp behind the Kaczyński brothers’ Law and Justice party). This is how he spoke of this:

“I have nothing to regret, it’s my family’s biography. As a historian and as a man, I prefer to know the painful truth over a pleasant lie.”

Tusk went on to become Polish Prime Minister (2007-2014) and eventually President of the European Council – he will only take office in December, but his selection was announced at an August 30 European Council meeting.

On various, by all appearances Russia-friendly, English-language sites (see here [niver85.tumblr.com, September 2] and here [tigr.net, September 5]) that effectively function in this context as echo chambers for a propaganda machinery, there very quickly appeared a different version of Tusk’s past, however, accompanied by what was claimed to be photo proof of that version being the truth (with no references as to where the information regarding this was coming from).

According to the “creative” version, Tusk’s grandfather was even happy to serve in, well, not simply the Wehrmacht but the SS rather… To back up the allegation, even a photo was provided showing a young man in the driver’s seat of a car full of SS officers – and the young man appears remarkably similar to Donald Tusk. The similarity cannot be denied, that is for sure.

One Russian-language source spreading the SS narrative is this livejournal user who is referencing a 2005 report by Novye Izvestia that, as part of legitimate reporting of political developments in Poland, cited allegations of grandpa Józef’s SS past that came from Polish sources at the time and which were eventually discredited – though the livejournal post in question is from September 6 and thus cannot have constituted the basis for the above quoted English-language pieces on the subject. Seemingly independently from this, one chain of sources that can be followed backwards is this string of pages, from here [Zarya Novorossii/Dawn of Novorossiya, September 5] to here [Ridus.ru, September 3]. The text in this case is the one that appeared at tigr.net in English, cited above. And finally, independently of these, there is a post here, from 2011 [oper.ru] that already uses the photo purportedly showing Józef Tusk.

As it often happens, even some fringe media in Central-Eastern Europe who are otherwise interested mostly in the chance of breaking through to masses of random readers with a sudden scoop off somewhere, anywhere, transmitted the story. So did the proudly “politically incorrect” Czech news portal Stalo se, at the URL http://www.stalo-se.cz/?=21028 (no longer taking you to their original article), on September 4.

Here are the manipulative pairs of photos disseminated through the above mentioned echo chambers.

The one from Stalo Se:

ManipulativePairingOfPhotos_TuskAndAnSDmember

The one from this Tumblr page:

ManipulativePairingOfPhotos_TuskAndAnSDmember2

And where this gets really interesting is if you, seeing the SD insignia on the uniform of the officer sitting in the back, go to Wikipedia’s page on the World War Two German Sichereitsdienst (SD). There it is that you find the original of the WWII photo used against Donald Tusk and his grandfather. Here’s a screenshot of the Wikipedia image as it appears there once you click on it:

Tusk_WikiSDimage

The caption says: “Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-380-0069-37, Polen, Verhaftung von Juden, SD-Männer.” It is also added that “This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)” and “Created: September 1939.” Nowhere does it mention who these people are.

So how does one stumble upon a photo like that, showing a man, apparently from 1939, who would accidentally – and rather perfectly from the point of view of propaganda needs – resemble Donald Tusk himself so much? This is a great mystery from the magical world of Eastern Europe where devoted propagandists operating in the shadows often invest a significant number of working hours in such projects.

The one source to which I was able to eventually trace back the association-by-allegation of the above photo, showing unnamed individuals, and Donald Tusk’s grandfather is… a bunch of unknown individuals in the town of Wrocław who handed out flyers to people there some time in May 2010. Their flyer had the above photo on it, and the question of whether the person in the driver’s seat is Józef Tusk. The same flyer was also spreading conspiracy theories related to the Smolensk crash of April 2010, targeting Poland’s current president (since August 2010), Bronisław Komorowski. Komorowski is from Tusk’s party – Platforma Obywatelska or Civic Platform – and any propaganda targeting him as well as Tusk at the same time must have been spread by the political rivals of Civic Platform. Which most likely implies circles close to the Law and Justice Party that lost its leader, President Lech Kaczyński, a month earlier – in the Smolensk crash.

Ironic, isn’t it? Some Russian sources are now spreading a lie that was once spread by some of the most anti-Russian political forces in Poland.

Checkpoint Tunisia: A shooting and a diplomatic gaffe

by fpman

September 11, 2014

News of a major diplomatic gaffe, via Tunisie Numerique

When Mongi Hamdi, who happens to be Minister of Foreign Affairs in Tunisia’s current caretaker government under acting Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, showed up in Frankfurt on September 11, there was no one to give him an official reception on the part of Germany, statedly because Tunisia’s Consul General in Bonn, a certain Hichem Marzouki, failed to notify his German counterparts of the minister’s arrival… Hence no airport facilitation for the MFA that is typically available for foreign dignitaries in most countries, even for those only transiting (see, for a faraway example, Australia’s current policy here). Concluding he had to do things all by himself, Minister Hamdi therefore presented himself to German border police who then promptly took the necessary measures and made sure he was comfortable.

Or so the story goes.

Hichem Marzouki is a convenient target of ridicule: his appointment as Consul General was widely criticized back in 2012 as a form of patronage on the part of Tunisia’s current (interim) President, Moncef Marzouki, given that Hichem  his brother  had no prior diplomatic experience.

Having said that, it seems highly unlikely that Tunisia would leave it to a Consul General to notify his host country of a transit by his minister of foreign affairs. So why would a theory like this emerge?

Two weeks earlier – A shooting…

A checkpoint shooting by Tunisian interior ministry troops in the city of Kasserine resulted in the death of two students, named as Ahlem D. (21) and her cousin Ons (18), on August 24. Their car, driven by Sondes D., Ahlem’s sister, on the way back from a wedding, was shot at at a road block after it allegedly failed to stop at warning signals.

This is where dots suddenly seem to connect. Ahlem D. was a German-Tunisian double citizen. And her father is a car mechanic in… Bonn, Germany.

So President Marzouki eventually found time, on September 2, to receive Ahlem’s father and a group of relatives. He listened to the family make the case that the troops made a grave mistake when they opened fire on that tragic day and that the car was not in fact accelerating so much that this would have warranted shooting at it. Reportedly, President Marzouki burst into tears over what he had heard.

How could the family have found access to, and so much understanding from, the president? Was this facilitated by the president’s brother perhaps? The link through Bonn seems to suggest there may be a connection like this…

And is what happened to Minister Mongi Hamdi in Frankfurt possibly related to this? Could the above story about Hichem Marzouki’s gaffe be a tendentiously spun piece of partisan news reporting, in the context of the struggles of the upcoming legislative and presidential elections? Now that the registration of presidential candidates has begun, on September 8? Did the president’s reaction to the shooting incident, embarrassing as it was for some in the caretaker government, work as the trigger for this? Am I going to pose more intriguing questions like these? Or is it time to move towards a synthesis? Yes?

A synthesis!

Judging by the reactions in the comments over here, President Marzouki is strongly hated by some who now refer to him and his brother Hichem as “a dynasty of dogs” and almost rejoice upon being confronted with news of the above kind about a Marzouki’s inexcusable gaffe or what is presumed to be that.

Still… Even a much more moderate commenter (going by the name of Mizaa Noun), who otherwise takes issue with the theory that the Consul General himself failed to notify German authorities and was exclusively responsible for the lack of reception for Minister Hamdi in Frankfurt, concludes that in Tunisia:

“Il semble que les clans familiaux ont été toujours partie organique du pouvoir. Autrement dit la corruption est le pilier principal du pouvoir quel qu’il soit. Il n’y a pas un seul ministre, député, ambassadeur ou autres qui n’a pas en priorité en tête de placer ses frères et sœurs aux postes de « confiance » et aussi les plus lucratifs.

In a nutshell: this commenter says that corruption is a part of the system in Tunisia, whatever is the system of the day. And it’s not an isolated case when people in power are found to have put relatives into positions of “confidence” that also happen to pay well.