“Last week, members of parliament asked five German publishers (German) whether they’re in need of government funding. No, said the five publishers in unison. But we do need you to make a law to get money from search engines like Google, or rather just Google, which has a 96% market share in Germany (German). Publishers have accused Google of making money off of their content, which they are especially sensitive to since they haven’t yet figured out how to be profitable online.” More.
Eleven years ago Sönke Neitzel, a German historian based at Glasgow University, stumbled on the sort of documentary treasure trove that other historians spend their lives dreaming about. On a rainy autumn day, during a routine research visit to the National Archives in Kew, Neitzel came across the transcript of a covertly taped conversation between captured German officers in a British PoW camp. Like Oliver Twist he asked for more and it soon became clear that his original find was just the tip of a gigantic iceberg.
Late in the Second World War, the British had systematically bugged private discussions between captive German soldiers of all ranks. (The Americans soon followed suit and recorded the conversations of their PoWs, too.) The resulting mountain of material has already yielded one fascinating book, Tapping Hitler’s Generals (2007), in which Neitzel used taped discussions, including heated arguments, between German generals held in Trent Park camp, following the capitulation of the Afrika Korps in Tunisia in 1943 and after the 1944 Normandy campaign.
These unguarded conversations proved a rich haul to the British Intelligence ‘buggers’ monitoring them. They showed, for example, the deep disillusionment among the higher ranks of the Wehrmacht with their Führer and his disastrous mismanagement of the war. They also revealed the army’s bitter and cynical hostility to the growing power of Himmler’s SS.
Now, in Soldaten, his second selection of extracts from the taped transcripts, Neitzel has printed more reflections from the generals, but also extended his trawl to the Wehrmacht’s lower ranks: commissioned officers, NCOs and ordinary private soldiers. Like Tapping Hitler’s Generals this is an equally fascinating snapshot of the psychology of Hitler’ssoldaten. In their chats, which they naively imagined to be private, the men who had occupied Europe unbutton and tell us, often in salty terms, their true opinions and experiences.
The great value of Neitzel’s work is that these conversations are not the results of interviews in which German soldiers told their captors what they wanted to hear. Nor (as, for example, in evidence given at the Nuremberg tribunal) are they statements consciously presented for public consumption. Rather, these are akin to informal messroom chatter (without the distorting addition of alcohol), by turns boastful, remorseful, rueful, but above all candid. With no idea that they were being overheard, still less that their comments would ever be published, the soldaten let down their guards. In a nutshell, the picture that emerges is, in Kipling’s phrase about armies, that of ‘a brutal and licentious soldiery’, as cruel as they were casual in inflicting horrific violence on combatants and civilians alike.
One result of their frankness is that it will never again be possible to argue, as many have, that in contrast to the despised SS, the Wehrmacht fought a ‘clean’ war, not dirtying their hands with atrocities. (One recounts with pride wearing chamois gloves in order to knock down a ‘dirty Polish swine’.) With astounding insouciance, often punctuated with laughter, they recount crimes they have either witnessed without protest or carried out, ranging from the mass gassing of Jews and gang rapes to individual killings: a Dane shot dead over a trivial quarrel on a tram; a Frenchman gunned down because the killer needed his bicycle. One or two voices feebly protest that such crimes are not the actions of ‘honourable soldiers’ but they are a distinct minority.
Astonishingly, until we recall how deeply Nazi totalitarianism had warped German minds, the most common complaint voiced about war crimes here is that there were not enough of them. Seeing German defeat approaching (although some still put their faith in the Führer or secret weapons supposedly about to come on stream), many voices lament that Germany would have won if only they had been ten times as ruthless as they were. ‘We were too soft’ is an all too common refrain.
This book is genuinely ground-breaking in letting Hitler’s soldiers speak out in their own unvarnished voices. It is not a pretty sound. Neitzel’s work on these transcripts is an important, contribution to the great debate on who knew what about the Third Reich’s agenda, both hidden and open. It is such a significant work that it is much to be regretted that Neitzel, instead of writing it alone as he did with his first volume, called in as co-author the social psychologist Harald Welzer. I feared the worst when I read that Welzer, rather than a historian, was a professor of something called ‘transformation design’ and he does not disappoint. His jargon-laden commentary, telling us what we ought to think about the transcripts rather than letting the soldaten speak for themselves and forever fitting their remarks into a Procrustean bed of psycho/social-babble, is a continually irritating and unnecessary background noise and diminishes the impact of this powerful book. Neitzel should have had the confidence to let his witnesses condemn themselves out of their own mouths.
Nigel Jones is the author of Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London (Hutchinson, 2011)
Belgian woman ends up in Zagreb after GPS failure
A 67-year-old woman from Hainaut Province in Wallonia (Belgium) left her home in Erquelinnes on 12 January to pick up a friend at the Brussels North Station, but arrived in Zagreb (Croatia) twelve hours later after using her GPS.
A 40-minute trip, turned into a 12-hour journey (1,450km) across Germany and Austria. “I was absent-minded so I kept on putting my foot down”, Sabine Moureau told the daily Het Nieuwsblad.
“I switched on the GPS and punched in the address. Then I started out. My GPS seemed a bit wonky. It sent me on several diversions and that’s where it must have gone wrong”, explained Sabine, who was reported missing to the police by her son.
“I saw tons of different signposts, first in French, later in German, but I kept on driving”. She thought that something was going wrong, but she decided to sleep a few hours by the wayside and continue her trip.
“It was only when I ended up in Zagreb that I realised I was no longer in Belgium”, she said.
“Weird? Maybe, but I was just distracted and preoccupied,” Moreau said.
Photo: Blaer Bjarkardottir (from Twitter/@BlrBjarkardttir)
What’s in a name? Quite a lot, if you live in Iceland
Blaer Bjarkardottir’s first name (it means “light breeze” in Icelandic) is not on the official list of approved names issued by the Icelandic government, causing her to be identified simply as “Stulka” – or “girl” on all her official documents.
The state’s refusal to accept the teenager’s name has led to years of frustration, as she is constantly forced to explain the story when filling out forms or dealing with the country’s bureaucratic system.
Iceland is one of several nations, including Germany and Denmark, which has rules regarding what a baby can be called.
The country’s “Personal Names Register” contains a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials say will protect children from embarrassment.
Parents can apply to a special committee for names which are not on the list. Blaer’s family did just that, but the name was rejected because it takes on a masculine article. Undeterred, Blaer filed a lawsuit against the state. The decision is expected January 25.
Blaer’s mother says she learned the name wasn’t on the register after the priest who baptized her daughter later informed her that he had mistakenly allowed it.
“I had no idea that the name wasn’t on the list, the famous list of names that you can choose from,” Bjork Eidsdottir told AP.
Eidsdottir hopes her daughter will win the lawsuit – the very first of its kind.
“So many strange names have been allowed, which makes this even more frustrating because Blaer is a perfectly Icelandic name,” she told AP. ”It seems like a basic human right to be able to name your child what you want, especially if it doesn’t harm your child in any way…and my daughter loves her name.”
However, history suggests that Blaer may have an uphill battle ahead of her. In the past, the name “Carolina” was rejected because the letter “c” is not part of Icleand’s 32-letter alphabet and “Satania” was shot down because it was deemed too close to “Satan.”
“The law is pretty straightforward so in many cases it’s clearly going to be a yes or a no,” said Agusta Thorbergsdottir, the head of the government committee which will hear the case.
But the determined teen says she’s prepared to take the case all the way to the country’s Supreme Court if the court doesn’t overturn the decision.
Given names hold extreme importance in Iceland. Surnames are based on a parent’s given name and everyone in the phone book is listed by their first name.
Below are from the collection of rare colour photos of Nazi Germany taken in 1930’s Berlin by Thomas Neumann.
A Comparative Study of Electrical Outlets
Top row: United Kingdom ; India/Pakistan/South Africa ; Israel ; Denmark
Middle row: China/Australia ; France ; Germany/South Korea ; Russia
Bottom row: Italy ; Canada/United States/Mexico ; Japan ; Switzerland/Brazil
Hamas TV Host Criticizes UNRWA for Teaching the Holocaust to Palestinian Children
Following are excerpts from a TV debate on Holocaust studies in the Gaza Strip, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on October 22, 2012.
TV host Hany Al-Mgahri: UNRWA teaches the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews to Palestinian refugees. The Zionist enemy has spread this Zionist lie to the world, claiming that under the Germany Nazi regime, millions of Zionists were killed at the hands of this government.
The Zionist enemy continues to punish Germany and the entire world to this day, on the basis of this lie. All the while, this enemy has committed many holocausts in the 63 years since the occupation of Palestine.
They can say whatever they want, but we have our beliefs and we know the truth, but UNRWA, which was formed to provide relief and work for the Palestinian refugees, teaches the Holocaust to children. This raises many questions.
BBC Poll: Israel’s global image plummets
Israel ranks among states perceived to have most negative influence on world, according to BBC poll; only Iran, Pakistan do worse, Israel’s image hits nadir in Europe
Israel is ranked third among nations perceived as having a negative influence on the world, the BBC’s annual poll shows, indicating further decline in the Jewish state’s global image.
Only Iran and Pakistan did worse than Israel in the survey.
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The poll, undertaken between December 2011 and February 2012, encompassed 24,090 respondents worldwide. Iran took the unflattering top spot, again, with 55% of respondents saying is has a negative influence on the world. Pakistan ranked second (51%), with Israel and North Korea tied for third place (50%).
Last year, 47% of poll respondents said Israel had a negative effect on the world.
According to the latest survey, only 21% of respondents view Israel’s influence as mostly positive, the same figure as last year. A favorable change in the West was only recorded in the United States, with 50% of Americans saying they view Israel in a positive light, compared to 35% who said they view the Jewish state in a negative light.
Declining support in China, India
The US figures constitute the highest approval rating for Israel by Americans since the poll’s initiation, in 2005. Two more nations with favorable attitudes towards Israel are Nigeria (54%) and Kenya (46%).
In post-revolution Egypt, 85% of respondents said they view Israel in a negative light, a 7% rise from last year. The Jewish state’s situation is particularly grim in Europe, with 74% of Spaniards viewing Israel negatively. Negative attitudes were also recorded in France (65%), Germany (69%), Britain (68%), Australia (65%) and Canada (59%).
Support for Israel also declined in China, India and Russia.
According to the survey, the most beloved states in the world are Japan, Germany, Canada, Britain and China.