Russia, the new nazi Germany?


This video is called Hitler’s Holocaust 2 of 6 The Decision.

By Owen Jones in daily The Guardian in Britain:

David Cameron and the cynicism of comparing Putin to Hitler

Vladimir Putin is responsible for some awful human rights abuses in Ukraine, but Cameron drawing parallels to Hitler is a cheap, politically motivated shot

Wednesday 3 September 2014 11.35 BST

Oh, here we go. The west’s escalating showdown with Vladimir Putin has led to Adolf Hitler being invoked. According to David Cameron, the west risks “repeating the mistakes made in Munich in ‘38”, making it clear the role he sees the Russian leader as assuming. Putin was able to flatten Chechnya at the beginning of the century without such inflammatory comparisons – Tony Blair even cheered him on – but it was only a matter of time before western leaders began flinging Nazi comparisons around in the Ukraine crisis.

The west comparing its latest enemy number to the German Fuhrer has been a standard tactic for decades. When Egypt’s General Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal in 1956, Britain’s prime minister, Anthony Eden, compared him to Hitler, while Labour’s Hugh Gaitskell opted for a comparison with Benito Mussolini. Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic was the Hitler of the late 1990s, and the US dabbled with describing former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in these terms too. On the eve of the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein was repeatedly compared to Hitler, with Donald Rumsfeld even casting George W Bush in the role of Winston Churchill. The media abounded with such parallels in the build-up to the Iraq disaster, with one Telegraph article headlined “Appeasement won’t stop Saddam any more than Hitler” and even suggesting Iraq could bomb Southampton. On either sides of his rapprochement with the west, Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi faced the Hitler treatment, too.

In and of themselves, these comparisons are self-evidently ludicrous. Hitler was a racist totalitarian dictator who presided over the world’s only attempt at industrialised genocides of entire peoples, killing tens of millions in the process. It is possible to regard foreign leaders as deeply unpleasant and abusive of basic human rights without believing they are Hitler. There is plenty of space between “democracy that respects human rights” and “genocidal totalitarian regime with ambitions to conquer much of the world”. Cameron’s comparison will undoubtedly fuel anti-western sentiment among the Russian population: after all, the Soviet Union was absolutely instrumental in the defeat of Nazism, suffering well over 20 million fatalities. In the case of Russia, comparisons to Hitler could hardly be more insulting.

But the propaganda purpose is clear. Hitler is the most despised leader in history; everybody rational agrees that intervening was the right thing to do in that case. Those who demanded his appeasement are utterly discredited by history, and therefore it is highly effective to regard opponents of current western wars as the same dangerously naive, inadvertent friends of tyrants that can only be defeated. It is obvious in hindsight that the appeasers were wrong; their inheritors will one day be seen in just the same way after they have inflicted similar damage, or so the narrative goes.

There is no doubting the pernicious role of Putin. Pro-Russian rebels in the so-called Dontesk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic have been found to be arbitrarily detaining civilians and subjecting them to torture and other terrible mistreatment. Terrible human rights abuses have been committed by such rebels.

But let’s not pretend Ukraine’s government are champions of human rights either. According to Human Rights Watch, they have been using “indiscriminate rockets in populated areas” in violation of international humanitarian law. There have been unlawful, indiscriminate attacks by both government and rebels in Luhansk, and Ukraine’s government has shelled civilians in Dontesk, too. Amnesty International has similarly damned pro-Kiev vigilantes in eastern Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians have fled for the Russian border.

War between the west and Russia is clearly unthinkable, and only a negotiated settlement involving all parties in Ukraine can provide lasting peace. The ceasefire announced by Ukraine and Russia is promising, and needs to be supported to ensure that it lasts. Let’s resist the Hitler comparisons, which intend simply to shut down any reasoned discussion, to demonise all those who are not hawks, and to ratchet up tension. Soon enough, though, western leaders will settle on a new enemy number one, and the Hitler comparisons will begin all over again.

Also from The Guardian today:

Far from keeping the peace, Nato is a threat to it

It was the prospect of Ukraine being drawn into the western military alliance that triggered conflict in the first place

Anne Frank Foundation on Wilders’ cooperation with Dutch nazis


Paul Peters' vandalism at Oosterhout Jewish cemetery

Translated from Radio 1 in the Netherlands (where there is an audio file as well) today:

Wilders does not know what company he keeps’

Willem Wagenaar, researcher of the extreme right at the Anne Frank Foundation is amazed about the call of Geert Wilders to support the [officially] anti-ISIS [in practice, anti-immigrant] demonstration in The Hague. …

The anti-ISIS demonstration, announced in the Schilderswijk in The Hague, is organized by Pro Patria, a pseudonym of Identitary Resistance. The leader of the movement, Paul Peters, has been convicted in the past for vandalizing and defacing a Jewish cemetery. … “The extreme right not only hates Muslims, but also Jews. These people should not be Wilders’ friends.”

Geert Wilders joins Dutch Hitler fans in anti-immigrant march


This 1942 video is about Heinrich Himmler, leader of the German nazi SS, visiting the headquarters of the Dutch nazi party NSB.

The Dutch extreme right organisation Pro Patria marched on 10 August 2014 to the Schilderswijk, a neighbourhood in The Hague where many immigrants live. The aim of that march was to provoke fights.

On 20 September, they intend to march there again.

According to the Facebook page of the Dutch Nederlandse Volksunie (NVU) nazis, the boss of Pro Patria is Paul Peters. Peters used to be an NVU member. However, then he vandalized a Jewish cemetery in Oosterhout, smashing some tombstones and daubing swastikas and nazi slogans like Juden raus (Jews out) and Wir sind zuruck (We [nazis] are back) on others.

Paul Peters' vandalism at Oosterhout Jewish cemetery

The NVU thought these crimes were bad publicity, and expelled Peters. However, that conflict now seems to be over, as the NVU participated in the Pro Patria march and praised it. They say they will be at the 20 September march as well.

NVU member Johnboy Willemse on the left of the banner at the 10 August march

Geert Wilders, of the Dutch xenophobic party PVV, unlike the NVU, did not participate in the 10 August march. However, he has announced he does want to participate on 20 September.

When Wilders started the PVV, he claimed he did not want to cooperate with anti-Semitic parties, like Vlaams Belang in Belgium and Le Pen’s National Front in France. However, this year he did start to cooperate with these parties. Now, not even cooperation with Dutch open nazis (who had already shown up with nazi flags and Hitler salutes at a PVV rally) seems to be a problem for Wilders any more.

Paul Peters’ screen name on the Stormfront nazi Internet forum is ‘Dux Bellorum’, leader of wars.

The official aim of Peters’ Pro Patria marches is opposition to the ISIS terrorists in Iraq. The Nederlandse Volksunie advocates all out NATO war in Iraq with ISIS as a pretext. However, most neonazis in the Netherlands are too stupid to know where Iraq is. The Pro Patria marches are pretexts for beating up bystanders whose complexion the violent extreme Right does not like.

See also here. And here.

Opera about Holocaust in New York City


This video from the USA is called Houston Grand Opera’s “The Passenger“.

The Passenger [Photo ©Stephanie Berger/Lincoln Center Festival]

By Fred Mazelis in the USA:

The Passenger depicts the Holocaust and its aftermath in opera form

25 July 2014

Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s 1968 opera The Passenger recently had its New York premiere as part of the annual Lincoln Center Festival. The performances showed that this challenging work, dealing with the Holocaust and its aftermath, deserves a permanent place in the operatic repertoire.

Weinberg, born in Warsaw in 1919, narrowly escaped the Nazi invasion of Poland, arriving in the Soviet Union before his 20th birthday. His parents and younger sister were sent to the Lodz Ghetto and later perished in a concentration camp. Weinberg, who lived the remaining 56 years of his life in the USSR, was a prolific composer of symphonies, string quartets, operas and film music. Among his film scores was that for the award-winning The Cranes Are Flying.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg

(Interestingly, one of Weinberg’s cousins, following the Russian Revolution, was the secretary of the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Baku Soviet commune and was executed by counterrevolutionary forces in September 1918 along with the other 26 Baku commissars.)

In eight scenes over two acts, The Passenger tells the story of a prosperous German couple in the early 1960s, Liese and Walter, who have embarked on an ocean voyage to Brazil, where the husband, a West German diplomat, is to take up a new post.

The Passenger [Photo ©Stephanie Berger/Lincoln Center Festival]

In the midst of what should be a time of satisfaction and happy anticipation, however, Liese observes a mysterious passenger onboard, and becomes convinced that this is in fact Marta, who as a young Polish woman was an inmate of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Liese was an Auschwitz guard, something she has tried to leave behind and suppress psychologically, and has never even spoken about to her husband.

The opera, with a libretto by Alexander Medvedev and music by Weinberg, then compellingly develops the theme of the Holocaust and its aftermath. The action takes place on two levels, both in its staging and in its time frame. The upper level is the ship itself, including Liese and Walter’s private cabin. Stairs lead to a lower level, the concentration camp barracks and the railroad tracks leading to the camp. The scenes alternate, forcefully depicting the memories that increasingly haunt Liese as the story progresses.

We are soon introduced to Marta as a young concentration camp inmate. Her fellow prisoners include Tadeusz, Marta’s beloved, whom she finds after a separation of two years. Liese is the only character that appears on both levels of the opera, with the events of nearly 20 years earlier clearly seared into her memory. In her role as a camp guard, she threatens and taunts the prisoners, and in particular tries to take advantage of Marta and Tadeusz’s relationship for her own purposes.

The work explores the issue of the aftermath of the Holocaust, for both victims and perpetrators. The Passenger is set in the early 1960s, in the midst of the postwar economic boom in Germany, and also in the shadow of the Eichmann trial in Israel, which brought the issue of the Holocaust and its architects before a new generation of Germans as well as to a global audience. A generation of young people in Germany, as elsewhere, were radicalized by the war in Vietnam in particular as the 1960s unfolded and attempted to come to terms as well with their own traumatic national history. This was the period that saw the publication of some of the best-known novels of German writers such as Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll, as well as the first films of Rainer Maria Fassbinder, Volker Schlöndorff and others.

The Passenger [Photo ©Stephanie Berger/Lincoln Center Festival]

The historical issues are deliberately not spelled out in The Passenger. The story is presented without even settling the issue of whether the mysterious woman is in fact Marta, or perhaps only the vivid reflection of Liese’s guilty conscience.

The opera also does not portray Liese as a kind of stand-in for Germany as a whole, a symbol of collective guilt. It does, however, show the impossibility of ignoring the past. It raises the inevitable issues of the causes of the descent into barbarism. The portrayal of both the younger and middle-aged Liese suggests the self-satisfied layer of the middle class that finds itself, under definite social and political conditions, capable of the most monstrous crimes.

The opera is based on a novel by a Polish concentration camp survivor, Zofia Posmysz. Posmysz, alive and well at the age of 90, has been involved in the belated production of the opera, and appeared at the New York premiere.

Arrested as a young girl because of an association with an anti-Nazi group, Posmysz spent three years as a prisoner. Some years later, as a journalist on assignment in Paris, she thought she saw someone who had been a guard at Auschwitz. This episode led first to a radio play, which was later turned into a novel, in which the relationship is reversed, with a conscience-stricken former guard believing she has glimpsed a former inmate.

The novel became enormously popular in Poland. This was a time of political ferment following the working class protests in Poznan in 1956. The book was turned into a film— Passenger (1963)—by the talented young Polish director Andrzej Munk (Man on the Tracks, 1956), completed by colleagues after Munk’s untimely death in an auto accident in 1961. Somewhat later, Weinberg’s close friend and colleague Dmitri Shostakovich urged him to consider a project based on the novel.

Weinberg’s music is impressive, as we have had occasion to note in the past. It reflects his lifelong association with Shostakovich, whom he first met in 1943, when he was only 23 years old and Shostakovich himself was 13 years older. Highly dissonant at times, the score remains tonal and emotionally involving. The composer is especially effective in combining and alternating several styles while still adhering to a distinctive musical language.

The influence of Shostakovich is clear, but the music is not derivative. Weinberg depicts the growing apprehension and panic of Liese, the concern of her husband for his career prospects, and above all the suffering and heroism of the prisoners. The music is at times anguished, jazz-influenced in its depiction of some of the shipboard activities, and briefly but strongly lyrical in the reunion of Marta and Tadeusz.

If there is one major weakness, it is in the vocal writing itself. In an opera, this is of course an issue that can’t be overlooked. There were times, especially in the opera’s first act, when an emphasis on orchestral writing, and an imbalance between the orchestra and performers, tended to detract from the dramatic action. The second act was more affecting, especially the exchanges between Marta, Tadeusz and Liese.

Both Marta and Tadeusz resist Liese’s attempts to enlist their cooperation, even though it will mean their deaths. A high point of this act, and the climax of the entire opera, comes when Tadeusz, a violinist, is commanded to play the camp commandant’s favorite waltz, and instead defiantly performs the famous Bach Chaconne from the Second Partita for Violin, before being led off to his death.

Weinberg’s orchestration is masterful. Strings and winds are joined by powerful writing for the brass section, and above all, a percussion section that includes almost every imaginable instrument, including timpani, triangle, tambourine, whip, cymbals, bass drum, tam-tam, marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, bells and glockenspiel.

The Houston Grand Opera production was also striking. Director David Pountney was responsible for the English translation of the libretto. The opera, originally presented in Austria in 2010, was staged in Houston last winter, and it is the Houston production, including the orchestra under Patrick Summers, that was brought to New York for three performances. The opera was first presented in Moscow in concert version in 2006, nearly 40 years after it was written.

The New York performances took place in the historic Park Avenue Armory, in a building dating to 1880 and for decades the headquarters of the 7th New York Militia Regiment, which had fought in the Civil War. The huge vaulted space of the Drill Hall, at the center of this building, is a music venue unlike any other in New York. The size of the space made some amplification of the voices necessary, a rare occurrence in the opera world. In this case it was carried off in so understated and effective a fashion that some listeners would not even have been aware of it. Although the opera was sung in English, the use of supertitles was also effective, as was the unusual placement of the orchestra, to the side of the two-tiered set.

The singers were uniformly excellent, particularly soprano Melody Moore as Marta. Tadeusz was sung by Morgan Smith, Katya by Kelly Kaduce, Liese by mezzo soprano Michelle Breedt and Walter by tenor Joseph Kaiser.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg is one of the “lost composers” of the twentieth century. Strictly speaking, he is not of the generation that came of age musically between the imperialist world wars, or whose career was interrupted by the rise of fascism during those decades, including some promising composers who perished in the Holocaust. Although Weinberg was younger and had a full musical career, the environment in which he worked was shaped by the tragedies of this era.

In connection with the belated appearance of The Passenger, little has been said about why it languished in obscurity for decades. Shostakovich was enormously taken by the work, but for reasons that were not spelled out, it was not staged, although many other works of Weinberg were regularly performed in the Soviet Union.

The Stalinist regime, which still used a heavy hand in cultural matters in this period, may have decided that an opera that focused on concentration camps and dealt with Polish victims did not mesh with its own continuous efforts to build up nationalist feelings. The authorities decreed that emphasis had always to be placed on the Russian and Soviet toll in the war, which of course was massive, to the exclusion of others. It was for this reason that Shostakovich encountered such official opposition to his 13th Symphony, subtitled “Babi Yar,” dedicated to the Jewish victims of Nazi extermination at this site in Kiev.

Weinberg’s life was shaped in no small part by horrific Nazi barbarism on the one hand, and the Stalinist degeneration of the Russian Revolution on the other. While he and many others found refuge in the Soviet Union, they also confronted the regime of the counterrevolutionary bureaucracy, which used anti-Semitism for its own purposes.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the USA


This video is called Footage of Saudi military convoy entering Bahrain.

From the Belfast Telegraph in Ireland:

All religions are suffering in the Middle East mess

By Eamonn McCann – 23 July 2014

In March 2011, Saudi Arabian tanks rolled into Bahrain to put down a pro-democracy movement demanding fair elections, freedom of speech and an end to imprisonment without trial.

The Saudis made short work of unarmed demonstrators gathered at the Pearl Roundabout in the centre of the capital, Manama. An unknown number was killed. Hundreds of injured were ferried to hospitals. Reporters described heavily-armed masked men controlling the entrances and dragging away people arriving by car or ambulance.

Twenty doctors were arrested for “felonies”, including treating the injured, and “treasonous activities”, including giving interviews criticising the crackdown. In September 2012, nine doctors were sentenced by a military tribunal to terms of up to five years.

More than 1,000 workers were sacked and many jailed for trying to form trade unions.

Protests were mounted outside Saudi and Bahraini embassies in many capital cities. A delegation from the International Federation of Journalists tried to hand in a petition to the Bahrain embassy in Brussels protesting against the imprisonment of Bahraini journalists, only to have the door literally slammed in their faces.

A rally at Marble Arch in London marking the second anniversary of the Manama massacre was addressed by exiled members of the Bahraini opposition and spokespersons for the Stop the War Coalition and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. There was no representation from those who have been choking social media, complaining that opponents of the ethnic cleansing and slaughter of Palestinians do not apply the same standards to Muslim countries which deny democracy as are applied to Israel.

Most of the repressive Muslim-majority States – the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Egyptians, etc – are in the pro-Western, pro-Israeli camp.

‘Pro-Israeli’ is an ambiguous word here. These repressive governments may often have policies compatible with those of the government of Israel (and the USA, and other NATO countries).

Meanwhile, they are often ‘anti-Israel': not in the sense of legitimately criticizing Israeli government actions, but in promoting anti-Semitism: hatred of all Jews, not only in Israel but all over the world, pro-Israeli government, anti-Israeli government or undecided.

When a Dutch journalist arrived at his hotel room in the ‘moderate’ ‘pro-western’ Kingdom of Jordan, he found next to his bed on the nightstand a copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This is an infamous nineteenth century anti-Semitic forgery, not against the government of Israel which did not exist, not against Zionism, but against all Jews. Among its promoters were the government of Czarist Russia, United States cars millionaire Henry Ford, and nazi Germany.

In pro-Western Saudi Arabia, the royal government promotes the Protocols.

So did another pro-Western monarch, the late Shah of Iran. During his reign, an Iranian translation of the Protocols was published. In an interview, the Shah expressed his belief in a ‘Jewish conspiracy’.

Throughout the Bahrain events, neither the US nor any of its allies did anything more than mumble. The reason is plain: Bahrain is an oil-rich state, it houses the headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet which patrols the Gulf on 24-hour alert for any indication of challenge to US client states, and is an increasingly important hub for global finance.

In November 1990, President George HW Bush and his wife, Barbara, travelled to Saudi Arabia with a clutch of Congressional leaders to celebrate Thanksgiving with the 400,000 US troops then stationed in the country. When the Saudi authorities learned that the president intended to say grace before the Thanksgiving dinner, they told him there’d be none of that Christian nonsense here.

Bahrain punishes pro-democracy group for meeting with US representatives: here.

Anti-Semitic violence in Belfast condemned


This video is called Belfast Synagogue.

From the Sinn Fein site in Ireland:

Kelly condemns synagogue attacks

21 July, 2014 – by Gerry Kelly

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly has condemned outright an attack on a synagogue in north Belfast.

Speaking after windows at the synagogue on Somerton Road were smashed at the weekend, the North Belfast MLA said:

“I condemn outright this attack on the synagogue on Somerton Road.

“There can be no place for attacks on any place of worship, regardless of the religion or denomination.

“The local Jewish community makes a valuable contribution to our society and there is no justification for hate crimes.

“If anyone has any information on these attacks then they should contact the PSNI.”