The French Who Never Learned German

    President Donald Trump today:

    Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two - How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not! @realDonaldTrump

    Where the French never learned German. Oradour-sur-Glane

    Oradour-sur-Glane is unique in Europe: a fully preserved, ruined village that was the site of the worst Nazi massacre of civilians carried out on French soil. Six hundred and 42 people, including 247 children, were shot or burnt alive on 10 June 1944 in an unexplained act of barbarity......Unlike other Nazi village massacre sites, such as Lidice in the Czech Republic, which were razed or rebuilt and marked by monuments or fields of roses, the charred remains of Oradour-sur-Glane are the only ones to have been left untouched and still standing after Charles de Gaulle ordered they should forever bear witness. link

    From UK Guardian page on the 1973 production The World at War:

    Raymond J. Murphy, a 20-year-old American B-17 navigator shot down over Avord, France in late April 1944, witnessed the aftermath of the massacre. After being hidden by the French Resistance, Murphy was flown to England on 6 August, and in debriefing filled in a questionnaire on 7 August and made several drafts of a formal report.[4] The version finally submitted on 15 August has a handwritten addendum:

        About 3 weeks ago, I saw a town within 4 hours bicycle ride up [sic] the Gerbeau farm [of Resistance leader Camille Gerbeau] where some 500 men, women, and children had been murdered by the Germans. I saw one baby who had been crucified. Original document, National Archives

    Murphy's report was made public in 2011 after a Freedom of Information Act request by his grandson, an attorney in the United States Department of Justice National Security Division. link


    Two comments , one historical , one personal.

    With a preface that I've enjoyed working in Germany and had German friends.  I reject the idea that there is such a thing as a "national character".  Am well acquainted with the "white rose" internal opposition to Hitler. 


    from reading about Aug 1914 for which I can't provide the source.

    In 14 the Belgians resisted (probably to a greater extent than in 40.) Shortly after the initial occupation of border areas a German soldier was killed by resisting Belgian civilians i.e. not in a fire fight by armed combatants.

    The German commander of area, claiming he was  basing his actions on Clausewitz, decided he should  "make an example" of the town. Rounded up the remaining civilians  between one and two hundred. All ages and sexes. Lined them up in some central area divided  in two lines on either side of that space. And waited for some hours.Mothers trying to keep their children quiet.  Late in the day  the german soldiers filed into the space between those two lines, facing out against  the  lines of civilians they faced on either side.,On a signal  shot and killed them.

    The commander printed an account of this and had it distributed throughout the area under his control.


    An anecdote I  told here before.

    Serving  in Germany in the  early 50s.  Exactly when the US  switched from occupier to ally. On arrival  was told I was  required to be in uniform off base  and six months later  ordered not to be in uniform off base.  Whatever.

    Made a German friend. During that initial period my Battery Comander was displeased, later, No Commenet.

    Eric was very  pro US. As a 15 year old conscript in 1945  lucky to have  been captured by the Canadians and 8 years later recalled enthusiastically   how well he was  fed.

    I was working my way through the Dostoyevsky I hadn't time for in college and he was doing the same  at  University. We drank a lot of Riesling and talked about the Possessed.

    I was sent for  a course,. , Of all places at Dachau.  Why not, I suppose?Empty barracks available.

    I took advantage of the opportunity to visit the  pretty simple exhibit . On a cold day ,I had it to myself-the Army neither encouraged  nor discouraged visiting.  It was  convincing. Partly because I could read German.Partly because no language was required to see the photos of emaciated prisoners being marched to farm work past the office workers carrying their attache cases to the Munich train  or the wives  shopping  at the bakery.

     Everyone knew.


    Returned to ordinary duties  and on a  warm  March day  Eric and I drove to Wiesbaden.  Coffee and desert  at a  Club  watching the children of the sky- rocketing  Germany economy returning tennis serves.

    On the way back Eric was surprisingly quiet. Finally  

     " So you've been to Dachau". 


    "I suppose you believed what they told you there".

    "Eric, no one told me anything. But I can read."


    "But you don't know what they were like."


    Silence. I dropped him at the University for the last time.

    I worked with an old female bartender when I was 16, and she popped out with line like that - "you don't know what they were like".

    To be only partly fair, any encounter by a majority instilled ethnic group with minorities tends to have the same reaction, especially since the minorities often have less money, are less cultured, frequently noisier than the elites would be, drink in the downscale pubs, of course don't follow the same habits to a T, etc. My sister-in-law was renting to a Vietnamese tenant who replaced the kitchen cupboard doors with chicken wire so he could raise chickens. Multiply by a thousand & figure where you get. It's just a culture clash, a different world, room for adjustment, but not always easy. Me, I'm always jaywalking wherever I go - disturbs the proper folk in the more upright uptight countries. Still, there are hard limits, or should be.

    Yeah, it's the chicken bones , and keeping  coal in the bath tub. Never mind  that Shiksa wanting  convert to  marry Jared,

    In Bad Homburg 8 years after the  final days of the Final Solution it meant Jews.

    2m Jews from East Europe passed thru Hamburg from 1880 to 1914.

    I suspect this detail of undocumented refugees/immigrants helped to create part of the hysteria just like today, whether with fleeing Syrians or Mexicans long our border (and the last 30 years). Undoubtedly the Newbies from the east were less mannered in European customs than their genteel German-assimilated brethren. This is not to excuse - it's to understand mechanics. What the bartender was talking about was undoubtedly the Poles and other immigrants, but also is obvious that there was plenty of propaganda about the *too* assimilated business-owning Jews causing the world's problems. 

    If people can be so scared by caravan in 2018 (real in Europe, hyped in Central America), imagine the turmoil post-WWI as the Habsburg, Lithuanian, Russian and Ottoman Empires dissolved.

    The hate starts with the immigrants, and, as in the Holocaust, it then moves to the assimilated members of the minority.

    Ettore Ovazza - Jewish Italian fascist, marched on Rome with Mussolini, father a WW1 frontline decorated Italian veteran. Ettore attacked Italian Zionist Jews as traitors to Italy. Leadership level Fascist,  known to El Duce, eventually cut loose from the Party.  Shot by the SS, along with his family, 1943.

    Matilda Olkin - assimilated and highly educated Lithuanian student and poet, murdered with her family during Nazi occupation by Lithuanian Nazis. Article at link has some of her poems, and how Lithuanians from her town remember her, and have memorialized her life,  and her family.

    Flavius, thanks for the interesting personal history.

    With a racist demagogue in the White House, an increase in hate crimes, with white racists marching in the streets, and Wisconsin high schoolers posing for Nazi salute photos, it is important to "never forget' the depths or degradation of not only national, but human, values to which a nation can sink.

    As President Macron just noted this week, history shows a government should never forsake the principles upon which the nation was founded, in the guise of "nationalism".

    On "denial". Eisenhower, April 15, 1945, original document (at Eisenhower Presidential Library):



    15 April 1945

    Dear General:

    ....On a recent tour of the forward areas in First and Third Armies, I stopped momentarily at the salt mines to take a look at the German treasure. There is a lot of it. But the most interesting - although horrible - sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to "propaganda." .....

    Bad people do bad things. We know that. We can't stop them from wanting to.

    So do good ones. Can we stop them?

    Maybe I could have influenced  Eric but I was too shocked to consider that. But  we do have  to consider that. How do we influence not Trump,he's too far gone, but the barber who agrees with him.

    I keep coming back to the  hope, that  we can lead some of the people- my relatives for example -who  voted for the loud mouth -to  believe that among those 4000  foot sore people in a caravan south of Mexico City there's some number north of 3000 who would pick them up if they stumbled crossing 42nd Street. Or whose highest hope is that this 2 year old she 's   shielding could just  eat a meal every day. And learn to read.

    My office had a poster of a basket ball net and a slogan saying "you  miss every shot you don't try". Seems right to me.




    In basketball as long as you control the ball, the other team's not scoring, and unless you're Mr 3-pointer Steven wassisname, setting up a closer shot greatly improves your percentage. Tossing up air balls seldom helped anyone.

    Flavius, white team, 3 pointer ok, IF his teammate prepares to control a rebound. 

    White Men maybe can't jump, but they know Twister. Approach with caution.

    In the 2008 campaign Obama was handed a basketball by a court.I think it might have been on a visit to the troops during primaries. I was brought up on hockey ,later skiing. But as he watched the screen my heart was in my mouth.

    In the net! 

    And we were lucky as a nation. There was no reason in Dec 2008 that by the date he left office unemployment was lower than on inaugeration day ( his not old yellow ). 

    I completely the (understandable) frustration that he should spent more energy on punishing bankers. If that was a Misses and children depression. Maybe,But 2008 was a barn burner. 


    I was thinking Steph Curry, but looks like Klay Thompson is the new gun in town.

    Right, like he's such a big support for Brexiteers.

    Trump: always just transactional b.s., no real ideology, only suckers believe that he has any, he just picks up what he thinks is going to work for today's narrative without understanding any of it. Unfortunately, others who know better riff off of him. Like Stephen Miller or Bolsonaro.

    Which reminds me: good thought-provoking twitter thread on that whole "getting one over the other guy" thing sometimes mislabeled as populism

    P.S. On the sicko personality thing, there is this today by the ghostwriter of "Art of the Deal", retweeted by never Trumper Rick Wilson.

    Edit to add another/LATimes on same meme

    for when NCD needs a break from this stuff: 47-second video, actually can be a catchy tune

    Hilarious, but.... where are the marching whiny Trump babies?

    An alternative comparison: 

    What Happens When a Bad-Tempered, Distractible Doofus Runs an Empire?

    by Miranda Carter @, June 6

    One of the few things that Kaiser Wilhelm II, who ruled Germany from 1888 to 1918, had a talent for was causing outrage. A particular specialty was insulting other monarchs. He called the diminutive King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy “the dwarf” in front of the king’s own entourage. He called Prince (later Tsar) Ferdinand, of Bulgaria, “Fernando naso,” on account of his beaky nose, and spread rumors that he was a hermaphrodite. Since Wilhelm was notably indiscreet, people always knew what he was saying behind their backs. Ferdinand had his revenge. After a visit to Germany, in 1909, during which the Kaiser slapped him on the bottom in public and then refused to apologize, Ferdinand awarded a valuable arms contract that had been promised to the Germans to a French company instead.

    Not that this deterred the Kaiser. One of the many things that Wilhelm was convinced he was brilliant at, despite all evidence to the contrary, was “personal diplomacy,” fixing foreign policy through one-on-one meetings with other European monarchs and statesmen. In fact [....]

    Latest Comments