Monthly Archives: December 2010

A Christmas gift.

I keep this blog anonymous because it is not about me but is about the books and  I don’t want to create a target for attacks for people who don’t like what the books have to say and don’t have the wit to contend with their argument or the courage to argue with their authors.

That having been said I am going to fudge a little bit to tell you about a wonderful Christmas gift. I love baseball. My dad managed a minor league team in upstate New York in the late 20’s and I wish I had learned half of what he tried to teach me about the game. Two of my sons played at school or in little league and there is nothing I enjoy more than time any of the three of them get to spend with me at the ballpark – even though our Astros are perennnial losers – and now I have grandchildren to infect with the love of the great American pastime.

For Christmas this year my middle son gave me a copy of Babe Ruth’s, “How to Play Baseball”, published by the Cosmopolitan Book Corporation of New York in 1931. Its an old used copy in pretty good shape – my favorite kind of book – and when it was new, according to the inscription on the front end page, it was given to its first owner as a Christmas gift. A wonderful symmetry.

It isn’t one of those I was the greatest ever books. It isn’t one of those I drank myself blind and still hit the ball a country mile books. It seems to be one of those if you pay attention to these fundamentals you will improve sort of books like Harvey Penick wrote for golfers – a lot of wisdom in a few pages.

I was jokingly told that it was given in case our team fired the current manager and called on me – a possibility only slightly less likely than my being elevated to the papacy. But what I know is that it was given with love and affection and I hope that all of the books you received for Christmas had as much of the Spirit of the Season in them.

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What happens when central governments and world powers attempt to interrupt tribal accomodations?

Kosovo : a short history Noel Malcolm  Kosovo (Serbia) , History  New York : New York University Press, 1998 Hardcover. xxxvi, 492 p. : maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [435]-473) and index.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.VG/VG

Kosovo: A Short History provides the reader with the most comprehensive narrative history of Kosovo in the English language. Malcolm examines the different religious and ethnic inhabitants of Kosovo, a land of vast cultural upheaval where the empires of Rome, Charlemagne, the Ottomans, and the Austro-Hungarians overlapped. Clarifying the various myths that have clouded the modern understanding of Kosovo’s past, Malcolm brings to light the true causes of the country’s destruction. This expanded edition of Bosnia includes a new epilogue by the author examining the failed Vance-Owen peace plan, the tenuous resolution of the Dayton Accords, and the efforts of the United Nations to keep the uneasy peace.

What went wrong in the country where Christians and Muslims mingled and tolerated each other for over five centuries? It was a land with a vibrant political and cultural history, unlike any other in Europe, where great powers and religions-the empires of Rome, Charlemagne, the Ottomans; the faiths of Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism, and Islam overlapped and combined. In this first English-language history of Kosovo, Noel Malcolm provides a narrative chronicle of the country from its beginnings to its tragic end. Clarifying the various myths that have clouded the modern understanding of Kosovo’s past, Malcolm brings to light the true causes of the country’s destruction: the political strategy of the Serbian leadership, the conflict between the city and the countryside, the fatal inaction and miscalculations of Western politicians. Putting the war into perspective, this volume celebrates the complex history of a country whose past, as well as its future, has been all but erased. At last, here is the guide for the general reader seeking a comprehensive and accessible account of the war in the former Yugoslavia.

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There are NO spontaneous political demonstrations and the more violent the demonstration the less spontaneous it is!

Kristallnacht: The Nazi Night of Terror Anthony  Read and David Fisher  Germany Jews Pogroms by  Schutzstaffel & Nationalsozialistische Deutsche  Arbeiter-Partei Sturmabteilung, 1933-1945  New York :  Times Books, c 1989 Hardcover. 1st American ed.  Originally published in Great Britain by Michael Joseph,  Ltd., London, in 1989 x, 294 p., [16] p. of plates :  ill. ; 25 cm.   Includes bibliographical references (p.  257-280) and index.  Clean, tight and strong binding with  clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or  marginalia in text. VG/VG

Kristallnacht — literally, “Night of Crystal,” is often  referred to as the “Night of Broken Glass.” The name  refers to the wave of violent anti-Jewish pogroms  which  took place on November 9 and 10, 1938 throughout  Germany, annexed Austria, and in areas of the  Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia recently occupied by  German troops. Instigated primarily by Nazi Party  officials and members of the SA (Sturmabteilungen:  literally Assault Detachments, but commonly known as  Storm Troopers) and Hitler Youth, Kristallnacht owes its  name to the shards of shattered glass that lined German  streets in the wake of the pogrom – broken glass from the  windows of synagogues, homes, and Jewish-owned  businesses plundered and destroyed during the violence.

In its aftermath, German officials announced that  Kristallnacht had erupted as a spontaneous outburst of  public sentiment in response to the assassination of  Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official stationed in  Paris. Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old Polish Jew, had  shot the diplomat on November 7, 1938. A few days  earlier, German authorities had expelled thousands of  Jews of Polish citizenship living in Germany from the  Reich; Grynszpan had received news that his parents,  residents in Germany since 1911, were among them.

Initially denied entry into their native Poland,  Grynszpan’s parents and the other expelled Polish Jews  found themselves stranded in a refugee camp near the  town of Zbaszyn in the border region between Poland and  Germany. Already living illegally in Paris himself, a  desperate Grynszpan apparently sought revenge for his  family’s precarious circumstances by appearing at the  German embassy and shooting the diplomatic official  assigned to assist him.

Vom Rath died on November 9, 1938, two days after the  shooting. The day happened to coincide with the  anniversary of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, an important  date in the National Socialist calendar. The Nazi Party  leadership, assembled in Munich for the commemoration,  chose to use the occasion as a pretext to launch a night  of antisemitic excesses. Propaganda minister Joseph  Goebbels, a chief instigator of the pogrom, intimated to  the convened Nazi ‘Old Guard’ that ‘World Jewry’ had  conspired to commit the assassination and announced  that, “the Führer has decided that … demonstrations  should not be prepared or organized by the Party, but  insofar as they erupt spontaneously, they are not to be  hampered.”

Goebbels’ words appear to have been taken as a command  for unleashing the pogrom. After his speech, the  assembled regional Party leaders issued instructions to  their local offices. Violence began to erupt in various  parts of the Reich throughout the late evening and early  morning hours of November 9-10. At 1:20 a.m. on November  10, Reinhard Heydrich, in his capacity as head of the  Security Police (Sicherheitspolizei) sent an urgent  telegram to headquarters and stations of the State  Police and to SA leaders in their various districts,  which contained directives regarding the riots. SA and  Hitler Youth units throughout Germany and its annexed  territories engaged in the destruction of Jewish-owned  homes and businesses; members of many units wore  civilian clothes to support the fiction that the  disturbances were expressions of ‘outraged public  reaction.’

Despite the outward appearance of spontaneous violence,  and the local cast which the pogrom took on in various  regions throughout the Reich, the central orders  Heydrich relayed gave specific instructions: the  “spontaneous” rioters were to take no measures  endangering non-Jewish German life or property; they  were not to subject foreigners (even Jewish foreigners)  to violence; and they were to remove all synagogue  archives prior to vandalizing synagogues and other  properties of the Jewish communities, and to transfer  that archival material to the Security Service  (Sicherheitsdienst, or SD). The orders also indicated  that police officials should arrest as many Jews as  local jails could hold, preferably young, healthy men.

The rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany,  Austria, and the Sudetenland. Many synagogues burned  throughout the night, in full view of the public and of  local firefighters, who had received orders to intervene  only to prevent flames from spreading to nearby  buildings. SA and Hitler Youth members across the  country shattered the shop windows of an estimated 7,500  Jewish-owned commercial establishments, and looted their  wares. Jewish cemeteries became a particular object of  desecration in many regions.

The pogrom proved especially destructive in Berlin and  Vienna, home to the two largest Jewish communities in  the German Reich. Mobs of SA men roamed the streets,  attacking Jews in their houses and forcing Jews they  encountered to perform acts of public humiliation.  Although murder did not figure in the central  directives, Kristallnacht claimed the lives of at least  91 Jews between 9 and 10 November. Police records of the  period document a high number of rapes and of suicides  in the aftermath of the violence.

As the pogrom spread, units of the SS and Gestapo  (Secret State Police), following Heydrich’s  instructions, arrested up to 30,000 Jewish males, and  transferred most of them from local prisons to Dachau,  Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, and other concentration  camps. Significantly, Kristallnacht marks the first  instance in which the Nazi regime incarcerated Jews on a  massive scale simply on the basis of their ethnicity.  Hundreds died in the camps as a result of the brutal  treatment they endured; most obtained release over the  next three months on the condition that they begin the  process of emigration from Germany. Indeed, the effects  of Kristallnacht would serve as a spur to the emigration  of Jews from Germany in the months to come.

In the immediate aftermath of the pogrom, many German  leaders, like Hermann Göring, criticized the extensive  material losses produced by the antisemitic riots,  pointing out that if nothing were done to intervene,  German insurance companies-not Jewish-owned  businesses-would have to carry the costs of the damages.  Nevertheless, Göring and other top Party leaders decided  to use the opportunity to introduce measures to  eliminate Jews and perceived Jewish influence from the  German economic sphere. The German government made an  immediate pronouncement that “the Jews” themselves were  to blame for the pogrom and imposed a punitive fine of  one billion Reichsmark (some 400 million U.S. dollars at  1938 rates) on the German Jewish community. The Reich  government confiscated all insurance payouts to Jews  whose businesses and homes were looted or destroyed,  leaving the Jewish owners personally responsible for the  cost of all repairs.

In the weeks that followed, the German government  promulgated dozens of laws and decrees designed to  deprive Jews of their property and of their means of  livelihood. Many of these laws enforced “Aryanization”  policy-the transfer of Jewish-owned enterprises and  property to “Aryan” ownership, usually for a fraction of  their true value. Ensuing legislation barred Jews,  already ineligible for employment in the public sector,  from practicing most professions in the private sector,  and made further strides in removing Jews from public  life. German education officials expelled Jewish  children still attending German schools. German Jews  lost their right to hold a driver’s license or own an  automobile; legislation fixed restrictions on access to  public transport. Jews could no longer gain admittance  to “German” theaters, movie cinemas, or concert halls.

The events of Kristallnacht represented one of the most  important turning points in National Socialist  antisemitic policy. Historians have noted that after the  pogrom, anti-Jewish policy was concentrated more and  more concretely into the hands of the SS. Moreover, the  passivity with which most German civilians responded to  the violence signaled to the Nazi regime that the German  public was prepared for more radical measures. The Nazi  regime expanded and radicalized measures aimed at  removing Jews entirely from German economic and social  life in the forthcoming years, moving eventually towards  policies of forced emigration, and finally towards the  realization of a Germany “free of Jews” (judenrein) by  deportation of the Jewish population “to the East.”

Thus, Kristallnacht figures as an essential turning  point in Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews, which  culminated in the attempt to annihilate the European  Jews.

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Why paternalism leads to socialism to fascism to totalitarianism.

Three new deals : reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939 Wolfgang Schivelbusch ; translated by Jefferson Chase New York : Metropolitan Books, 2006 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 242 p. : ill. ; 22 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [193]-229) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Today Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal is regarded as the democratic ideal, the positive American response to an economic crisis that propelled Germany and Italy toward Fascism. Yet in the 1930s, shocking as it may seem, these regimes were hardly considered antithetical. Now, Wolfgang Schivelbusch investigates the shared elements of these three “new deals” to offer a striking explanation for the popularity of Europe’s totalitarian systems.

Returning to the Depression, Schivelbusch traces the emergence of a new type of state: bolstered by mass propaganda, led by a charismatic figure, and projecting stability and power. He uncovers stunning similarities among the three regimes: the symbolic importance of gigantic public works programs like the TVA dams and the German autobahn, which not only put people back to work but embodied the state’s authority; the seductive persuasiveness of Roosevelt’s fireside chats and Mussolini’s radio talks; the vogue for monumental architecture stamped on Washington, as on Berlin; and the omnipresent banners enlisting citizens as loyal followers of the state.

Far from equating Roosevelt, Hitler, and Mussolini or minimizing their acute differences, Schivelbusch proposes that the populist and paternalist qualities common to their states hold the key to the puzzling allegiance once granted to Europe’s most tyrannical regimes.

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An engaging social history that reveals the critical role Pullman porters played in black American civil rights.

Rising from the rails : Pullman porters and the making  of the Black middle class Larry Tye  Pullman  porters , United States , History  New York : Henry  Holt, 2004 Hardcover. 1st. ed., later printing. xvii,  314 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical  references and index.  Clean, tight  and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No  highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

When George Pullman began recruiting Southern blacks as  porters in his luxurious new sleeping cars, the former  slaves suffering under Jim Crow laws found his offer of  a steady job and worldly experience irresistible. They  quickly signed up to serve as maid, waiter, concierge,  nanny, and occasionally doctor and undertaker to cars  full of white passengers, making the Pullman Company the  largest employer of African American men in the country  by the 1920s.

In the world of the Pullman sleeping car, where whites  and blacks lived in close proximity, porters developed a  unique culture marked by idiosyncratic language,  railroad lore, and shared experience. They called  difficult passengers “Mister Charlie” exchanged stories  about Daddy Jim, the legendary first Pullman porter and  learned to distinguish generous tippers such as Humphrey  Bogart from skinflints like Babe Ruth. At the same time,  they played important social, political, and economic  roles, carrying jazz and blues to outlying areas,  forming America’s first black trade union, and acting as  forerunners of the modern black middle class by virtue  of their social position and income.

Drawing on extensive interviews with dozens of porters  and their descendants, Larry Tye reconstructs the  complicated world of the Pullman porter, and provides a  lively and enlightening look at this important social  phenomenon.

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