Posts Tagged With: Europe

AUSCHWITZ, 70 YEARS LATER

Even after 70 years, pronunciation of the word still evokes feelings of terror, alarm, and revulsion among civilized societies. Even after 70 years, the full scope of the horror and atrocities committed there has not been totally documented. Last week, January 27th to be exact, marked the 70th anniversary since the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated by Russian troops. There was a major ceremony that day at the camp, with dignitaries from nations around the world in attendance. Camp survivors numbering about 300 now were also there, with some giving testimony as to the nature of their hellish experiences. A decade ago there were 1500 survivors in attendance at the 60th anniversary ceremony, but slowly their numbers continue to dwindle. The youngest of the remaining survivors is now in their late 70s. The buildings and gas chambers are empty now in the dreary cold; but to their credit, about 1.5 million tourists are visiting the Auschwitz every year to experience first hand, the epicenter of the human capacity to perform total, undiluted evil. An evil that could not have been perpetrated by Hitler and his Nazi thugs alone, without the willing accomplices of tens of thousands of civilian bureaucrats that organized and shipped all the logistics to that camp, including the poison gas that killed so many. As if they were manufacturing and shipping clothing to a department store. The banality of evil, as some have called it.

Auschwitz is located in northern Poland and was part of a network concentration and extermination camps built by the Nazis starting in September 1941, that included nearby Birkenau. The camps were built in response to Hitler’s “final solution” regarding European Jews, which was their total annihilation. A system of of railway tracks brought trains filled with supplies into the camps on a daily basis. The Holocaust murdered 6 million European Jews, 1.1 million of whom were killed at Auschwitz. Thanks, in large part, to the efforts of tens of thousands of faceless bureaucrats that came into play. Another 100 thousand people, mostly political opponents of the Nazi regime, or Gypsies, were also slaughtered there. Auschwitz was staffed by about 7000 Nazi goons, but only a small handful of higher ranking officers were ever brought to justice. The rest of the murderers lived out their lives un scathed by the Allied justice system. One officer, Rudolf Hoss, the commandant of Auschwitz, was captured by the British in March 1946, brought to trial, and hung for his crimes in 1947. Mass murder, torture and starvation were not the only crimes committed at Auschwitz. Nazi criminals such as Dr. Josef Mengele performed gruesome medical experiments on on prisoners which usually resulted in their agonizing deaths. As I’ve written before, Mengele escaped the Allies dragnet, and made his way to South America after the war, ending up in Brazil. He supposedly drowned while swimming off the coast off Brazil in 1979.

Life at Auschwitz usually began at 3 in the morning when all prisoners had to come out into the yard for attendance. Even the ones that died during the night. After shivering for 4 hours in the freezing cold, Nazi troops would arrive at 7 AM to take roll call. All prisoners had to be accounted for, even the dead ones. If any were found missing, troops were promptly sent out to search for them. Almost all potential escapees were eventually hunted down and immediately shot to death. Those prisoners that weren’t dispatched to the gas chambers were given grueling work to perform all day, with little or no food. Starvation in the concentration camps was endemic. When supreme allied commander Dwight Eisenhower and his forces entered Auschwitz a few days after the Russians, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The Nazis had fled and left behind a few thousand prisoners that were like walking skeletons. Piles of corpses lay everywhere. Eisenhower stated that it was like descending into the pits of Hell, and that it made him ashamed of his German heritage.

With the destruction of the Third Reich in 1945, the anti-semitism that had prevailed in Europe for 2000 years, and that gave rise to the Nazi empire, was supposedly laid to rest. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi thugs could not have achieved their spectacular successes in evil domination and mass murder, if hatred and persecution of Jews had not been ingrained into the fabric of the European psyche for the past 2 millennia. Along with the many pogroms against Jews during that period. So it seemed that Jew-hating in Europe during the decades after WWII was finally discredited and became a thing in the past. But in actuality,it was just laying low, waiting for the opportune time to rise again. Now after 7 decades, it’s re-gaining its sea legs. The new rise of anti-semitism in Europe, is, in reality, just a return to the norm. The past persecution and pogroms against Jews were always the norm until the shame of the Holocaust created a temporary anomaly where-in anti-semitism became socially unacceptable. The hiatus is over, however.

The killings of 4 Jews at a kosher food store in France a few weeks ago only gained prominence because it was done in conjunction with the murders at Charlie Hebdo. But the previous murders of a Rabbi and 3 school children in Toulouse garnered virtually no world-wide attention. Nor do terror attacks against Jews that have now become common in many other European nations. There are movements all across Europe (and most prominently, with our supposed allies) to boycott Israeli products, or even to expel in-country Jewish populations. It has now become respectable again in Europe to despise Jews. No more hiding in the shadows. European anti-semitism is not a Jewish problem, however. It’s a European problem, a stain on the human condition, a continent-wide disease that Europe is congenitally unable to rid itself from. And the size of this tumor continues to grow.

Hatred for any group based on their religion, skin color, ethnicity or for any other reason always occurs when the group in question is a minority. It’s the bully’s mentality at play. Among school children, the bully and his gang can always beat up a defenseless kid to compensate for their feelings of self-loathing. Among adults, the bully mentality transforms into hatred and discrimination for some minority group that similarly is in no position to take on the much larger majority. Another insidious aspect of the human condition.

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A BOTTOMLESS PIT

In May 1974 a group of Palestinian terrorists entered Israel from Lebanon, and made their way to the Israeli town of Ma’alot. Over a period of days they murdered several Israelis and then entered an Israeli public school. Heavily armed with grenades and bombs as well as guns, they took 115 hostages, mainly school children, and demanded that a bunch of Palestinian terrorists sitting in Israeli jails be released. Israel refused to accede to their demands and the hostage crises dragged on for 2 days. Finally an elite squad of Israeli troops burst into the school and killed the Palestinians; but not before the terrorists had murdered 25 hostages, 22 of which were school children. Proving once again that the capacity for evil in the human condition is a bottomless pit.

I was reminded of this event when a couple of weeks ago, Taliban terrorists burst into a Pakistani school and slaughtered 150 people, a 132 of which were also school children. The concept behind this act, according to the Taliban mindset, was to have the parents grieve and suffer miserably for the rest of their lives, due to the loss of their most precious loved ones. Here it was a case of Muslims killing other Muslims because of ideological differences. The Taliban are fanatical Islamic terrorists, and those that don’t share their lunatic religious beliefs are fair game for slaughter. It’s the type of religious fanaticism that has given the world the recently formed ISIS terrorists who now control large swaths of Iraq and Syria, and are on the march to expand their empire. They love to feature beheadings of civilians they consider apostates, all in the name of being faithful to Allah. How many people over the centuries and millennia have lost their lives in the name of religion, by those who believe they’re invoking God’s will here on Earth.

So here we are on Christmas Eve when the world is overflowing with bright lights and gifts and all sorts of merriment and festivities, to say nothing of goodwill toward man. At least that’s the way it’s portrayed in most of the Christian world where Christianity is heralded as a religion of peace and love. And today, that religion that was begun by a  young Jewish Rabbi and his impoverished disciples over 2000 years ago does, for the most part, preach peace and love. But it wasn’t always so. One only has to go back to the Spanish Inquisition a few centuries ago when mostly Jews, but some Muslims also, were tortured or burned at the stake, in the name of Jesus, in order to save their souls. After all, isn’t that what God would have wanted.

Actually, Europe has a rich history of Christian hatred toward Jews going back  almost two millennia since the Roman Empire destroyed the state of Israel and dispersed its Hebrew residents into mainly various European countries. Almost from the beginning of the rise of Christianity in Europe, Jews were called “Christ-killers” and subjected to intense hatred and discrimination throughout the continent. Never mind that Jesus himself was a Jew, and had always preached a philosophy of peace. “Love thy neighbor as thyself” I believe is one of his more famous proclamations. All this was obviously ignored, as a series of pogroms against Jews throughout most of Europe was begun and continued through the centuries. Pogroms were where people got up in the morning and decided it would be great sport to set upon the town’s Jewish population, either killing or robbing them, or sending them into exile. It was rare to find a European that wasn’t anti-semitic, and persecution of Jews was the name of the game.

The end result of all this anti-semitism throughout the ages was finally the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich in Nazi Germany and the ensuing Holocaust. Hitler, and his band of Nazi thugs, could not have thrived as well as they did had not Europe experienced a rich heritage of hatred toward Jews. The Holocaust could not have been as successful as it was, i.e. the murder of 6 million innocent people, had not hundreds of thousands of Germans, as well as people in the conquered countries, participated so willingly in the logistics of shipping millions of people to death camps, and manufacturing the chemicals necessary to cause their deaths. Indeed, Hitler’s intense hatred of Jews was itself a product of the anti-semiticism and persecution of Jews that Europe had experienced since the rise of Christianity. Virtually all Europeans had been brainwashed into believing that anti-semitism was really a good thing.Talk about the bottomless pit of evil in the human condition.

With the destruction of the Nazi empire in 1945, Europeans were supposedly being cured of of their anti-semitic beliefs. After all, they had experienced, first hand, the death and destruction those instincts had caused. But Jew-hating amongst Europeans never really went away; it just became more covert. It was no longer fashionable for Europeans to express out loud how much they despised Jews. But those that were able to overhear conversations among young like-minded Germans or other those in other countries, recognized that the affliction of anti-semitism was still thriving in the European blood-stream. In recent years, anti-semitism has moved from the shadows into the open once again in Europe, especially since the disparate number of deaths that occurred in the latest shootout between Israel and Gaza. Several European countries have now called for boycotts of all Israeli products as well as other harmful sanctions. Mass protests against Israel in most European countries have become routine.

For anti-semitisim, or any hatred toward any religious or ethnic group to thrive, two things have to occur. The first is that the group you’re venting your hatred for has to be a small minority, and thus, incapable of defending itself in the long run against the larger, more powerful majority. The second thing is that the hater must despise some aspect of him or herself, and thus seeks to deflect that self-hatred by seeking vengeance against a relatively defenseless minority. Thus, the bottomless pit of evil begins with self-loathing.

In any event, it’s Christmas Eve, so by all means go out and have your Christmas dinners, drink to excess, exchange gifts and party on. For some people, however, this won’t be possible. People that are lying in hospitals, too sick to get out of bed. People that will die tonight. And people that are unfortunate enough to live in those parts of the world overrun by by religious fanaticism and terrorism. The very bottomless pit of evil.

 

 

 

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BATTLING THE PLAGUE

Man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man throughout the thousands of years of recorded history is, of course, legendary. Tens, if not hundreds of millions of people have been butchered by evil tyrants and bloodthirsty despots. But there has also been hundreds of millions of deaths, to say nothing of untold misery, that has occurred during these same thousands of years that cannot be blamed on mankind’s nefariousness. These deaths are on God’s watch; and they’re due to nothing more than infectious diseases that God has somehow has decided to inflict on the human race. (Also on animals, to a somewhat lesser extent.) They are known as plagues, and while some have been brought under control or wiped out altogether, others are still alive and vigorously plowing a path of destruction through segments of today’s population.

So let’s start with an all-time favorite on the disease hit-parade that goes back to biblical times. Namely leprosy. Leprosy is a bacterial infection, discussed at length in both the old and new testaments, that causes alarming human disfigurement. In it’s worst form, leprosy causes hideous and mainly facial sores along with lumps and bumps and skin lesions. It also produces muscle weakness and numbness in the hands, arms, feet and legs because of nerve damage. In ancient times, no one, of course, knew what caused leprosy; but everyone who was not infected knew they didn’t want any association with those considered to be lepers. So leper colonies were often established where those that were infected could be shipped off to spend their remaining days with other fellow lepers. A leper colony often resembled a collection of the zombies that are portrayed on the TV show, “The Walking Dead.” Except if you were part of the aristocracy. Then you were permitted to wear a facial mask that hid the terrible disfigurement that had become your face, and stay at home in one of your castles. Even then, the top one percent had their own special privileges. Certain kings throughout Europe were known to be lepers, but were allowed to reign, as long as their face was covered by a pleasant-looking, smiling mask.

Leprosy exists to this very day, usually occurring in warm or tropical climates, but is easily curable by antibiotics. About 100 cases a year are recorded in the United States, usually in the South or in Hawaii. Keep in mind, however, that antibiotics have only been around since the end of World War II, or less than 70 years. So all the millions that were infected with this hideous, disfiguring disease prior the the advent of antibiotics, had nothing to look forward to except being herded off to leper colonies for an early death.

The next charmer that would make everyone’s top ten list on the disease hit parade, has to be the bubonic plague, or the black death as it was often known by. This is another bacterial infection, usually spread by rats or mice living in a city’s water or sewage system. Fleas can also transmit this disease to humans. Once people are infected, they can spread the disease quite rapidly to everyone they come in contact with. This disease causes high fevers, a painful swelling of the lymph glands, and red spots on the skin that usually turn black. Hence, the black death. The first recorded deaths from the bubonic plague were in China in the 1330s, A.D. But since China had extensive trading businesses with most European countries, it didn’t take long for the disease to spread throughout Europe. It spread with ferocious speed, quickly claiming thousands of victims. The Italian writer, Boccaccio, said its victims often, “ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise.” While the disease was usually dormant during the winter, it rose with fury each Spring, as fleas became active again. Over a 5 year period, an estimated 25 million people, or about one-third of Europe’s population at the time, had succumbed to the bubonic plague. It didn’t start to peter out until about 1600, A.D. Today, the black death still exists in small numbers, but is also curable by treatments of antibiotics.

Another all-time favorite has to be tuberculosis  or TB. It usually attacks the lungs and results in convulsive coughing spasms. It’s caused by inhaling the air that has been expelled  by one who is infected. Curiously, not everyone who possesses the TB microbe actually experiences tuberculosis. If one’s immune system is strong enough, one can avoid coming down with the disease. The TB bacteria can live in your body without ever making you sick. But if one’s immune system is compromised, the disease will likely take hold. And then it’s a very nasty business that can only be cured with a high-potentcy antibiotic regimen that can last for months. Millions through the ages have died from TB and it’s still highly active in our present day society. Of course, there are many other infectious killer diseases that I could mention such as small pox, which has largely been eradicated at this time, to influenza, which killed millions during World War I, but is controllable today through vaccinations.

Which brings us to the infectious disease du jour, the Ebola virus. Unlike bacteria, which science has been able to destroy with the invention of antibiotics, there is no comprehensive remedy for a viral infection. Such as the common cold. Thus, a highly infectious virus such as Ebola, can ravage through large populations, killing its victims at will, with no way of stopping it except for quarantine. The trouble is that viruses are so tiny compared to bacteria, that medical science has not been able to come up with effective remedies. Already several thousand people in Africa have died from the latest outbreak of Ebola, and it has now spread minimally to this country. Sadly, most African countries already suffer from mind-numbing poverty, and have neither the sanitation or quarantine means to contain a nasty killer like Ebola. Yes, countries around the world, including the U.S., have pitched in to attempt to quarantine this killer microbe, and will probably, eventually succeed, but not before a few thousand more people will likely die.

As I said at the outset, tyrants throughout the ages have killed hundreds of million of people. That one is on man. But killer diseases that have killed more millions, that one is on God.

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HUMANS BEHAVING BADLY

Around the time that Jesus walked the Earth, the Roman Empire was in the process of reaching its zenith in power and control. Having conquered almost all of Europe and North Africa, virtually everyone outside of Asia found themselves under Roman domination. Or under the most advanced and enlightened civilization that ever existed on this planet, if one viewed it from a Roman perspective. But many people chaffed under this Roman rule and started to fight back. They were known as the Huns, the Vandals the Goths and other assorted barbarians. These groups knew that the Roman army was far too powerful to challenge head on, so instead they resorted to acts of barbarism, such as attacking villages at the fringes of Roman occupation; and murdering every occupant while burning these villages to the ground. Over a period of centuries, these attacks began to erode Rome’s military strength, and the barbarians started making steady headway as it just became too costly for Rome to continually defend the territories it had previously conquered. Finally, as we all know, the barbarians broke through the gates of Rome, and destroyed the entire Roman Empire. Europe was then plunged into what is known as the dark ages, as all the societal and technological advances that Rome had accomplished were washed away into a sea of ignorance and barbarism. Europe languished in  this black sea of primitivism, until finally the Reformation which started in the 16th or 17th century, began to take hold, and civilization began to advance back to the point of where the Roman Empire had left it.

Today we have a new set of barbarians chipping away at the gates of the American Empire (if you will);  only now we call them terrorists. But the goals and methods of today’s terrorists are remarkably similar to those of the barbarians that destroyed Rome. This came to light in a story that was mind- numbingly under reported by the media until very recently, but is deeply troubling in its implications. Back in April 2013, an attack was made by unknown individuals, on an electrical substation in San Jose, CA. In the dark of night, these individuals cut the fiber-optic transmission lines in the ground that transmitted the substation’s electrical output. They then set themselves up in sniper positions and began firing at the substation equipment with military grade rifles. The firing went on for nearly 20 minutes, and destroyed virtually all of the electrical equipment. More than 100 shots were fired. Then these individuals slipped away in the blackness, undetected. In all, the entire episode took 52 minutes, during which the police, or any other law enforcement officials were completely absent.

This event is so disturbing, on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, the attackers were not some college kids out for a midnight prank. The FBI agrees that these people were highly trained in military operations and sabotage. Speaking of the FBI, their investigation into this matter has turned up zero results, thus far. No clues, nothing. The assault destroyed 17 transformers which took nearly a month to repair and replace. Electric Co. officials battled to keep the lights on by rerouting power from nearby substations. But the most disturbing aspect is what if this was just a trial run.

It’s no secret that America’s achilles heel is its electrical grid. A similar coordinated and simultaneous attack  on a relatively small number of electric substations across the country could bring the U.S. to its knees within minutes. The barbarians wouldn’t have to wait for centuries. Without electricity, all business and commercial activity would come to a screeching halt. All planes would be grounded. Try getting cash out of your local ATM when the power is cut off. California law makers and power officials flat out consider this sniper attack on the San Jose substation to be an act of terrorism. It doesn’t have to be Al-Qaida; local, homegrown terrorists will do just as well. The Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has stated that “it was the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the U.S. power grid that has ever occurred.” He further said that the lack of fingerprints on the shell casings left at the scene, indicated how well prepared the snipers had been.

Almost as disturbing as the incident itself, was the lack of coverage by the media. There was no reporting whatsoever, until the Wall Street Journal broke this story last week, 9 months after the fact. Nothing from Fox News for example. They were still too busy bashing and demonizing ObamaCare to allot time for coverage of an act of domestic terrorism. Nothing from the New York Times or Washington Post. Now the major media outlets have finally woken up to just how huge a story it is, and have begun giving it extensive exposure.

Speaking of ObamaCare, I had a discussion recently with a friend who considered it a disaster, and in his mind, a primary reason that I should become a Republican. I was going to tell him that the GOP’s agenda of tax breaks for the rich, trickle-down economics, and slashing government assistance to the poor, sick and elderly was not exactly my cup of tea. Nor was the GOP’s social agenda of anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-immigration, and anti-gun control. Instead, though, I decided to be more flippant. I told him that the image etched into my brain from the 2008 campaign, of Sarah Palin shooting defenseless animals from a helicopter with a high powered rifle, and calling it sport, was still more than my body could cope with. Another example of humans behaving badly. Anyway our conversation sort of petered with that remark.

Anyway if the unpopularity of ObamaCare does cause the Democrats to lose control of both the House and Senate this year, as my friend predicted, think of all the fun that will ensue. You will have governmental gridlock, dysfunction, polarization, and ineffectiveness on steroids.

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