‘Kiev government kills Ukrainian pensioners, children’


A man mourns the dead along a road near Horlivka in Ukraine, photo: EPA

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Civilians killed in eastern Ukraine

Tuesday 29 Jul 2014, 13:11 (Update: 29-07-14, 13:30)

The pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say that today 22 civilians were killed by shelling. According to the rebels in Lugansk a retirement home and other houses were shot at. Five people were killed in this. Russian television showed images of bodies in wheelchairs, covered with blankets.

This video shows shocking images of the destroyed Lugansk home for elderly people.

In Horlivka, besieged by the Ukrainian army, there are 17 dead, according to the mayor, including three children.

Civilian dead

Human rights groups say that both sides in the conflict are using unguided missiles, causing more and more victims within the civilian population. Yesterday, they say, in Lugansk and Donetsk eight people were killed. Because of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, the Dutch [flight MH17 disaster] research team is unable to reach the disaster site.

According to figures from the United Nations, between mid-April and July 26, 1129 people have been killed in Ukraine.

As if these many Ukrainian deaths are not already horrible enough, there is also the MH17 disaster, killing hundreds of people from many nationalities. This disaster should be investigated thoroughly, instead of politicians and corporate media abusing it for militarist propaganda.

An example about Dutch media abusing grief about the Malaysia Airlines disaster.

Hans De Borst, whose daughter Elsemiek was one of the victims, wrote (translated):

Thank you very much, Mr. Putin, separatist leaders, or the Ukrainian government for the murder of my dear and only child, Elsemiek de Borst.

So, in this quote, at least three parties are potentially guilty of the MH17 disaster.

However, when Dutch RTL commercial TV mentioned this, their headline was (translated):

‘Putin, thanks for murdering my only child’

So, the at least three potential sets of guilty people in Mr de Borst’s comment had miraculously been reduced to one person. That is ‘better’ if, being a Big Media corporation, you want to make people war-minded.

In corporate media abuse of the M17 horror for war propaganda in Germany, contrary to Dutch RTL, not one person is blamed. The whole Russian people (pro- or anti-Putin, view A, view B, view C, or view D on Ukraine) is accused by corporate journalist Jan Fleischhauer. Bringing back unpleasant memories of war propaganda during Hitler’s 1941-1945 war on the Soviet Union.

Sweeping sanctions have been imposed by the European Union and the United States on Russia for its alleged involvement in eastern Ukraine. And yet so far very few concerns have been expressed about the conduct of Kiev’s military campaign despite mounting civilian casualties and the widespread destruction of infrastructure: here.

THE Communist Party of Ukraine called today for the release of Volnovakha district committee secretary Sergei Filindash. They said that Mr Filindash had been kidnapped by armed masked men as soon as the forces of Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation” had taken back control of the town from rebels. The communists noted that Mr Filindash’s name had appeared in a report which then acting president Oleksandr Turchynov sent to the minister of justice on May 19 demanding that he ban the Communist Party. But the report only mentioned that Mr Filindash had led a protest by 40 unarmed people: here.

German neo-nazi terrorism trial continues


This video says about itself:

Neo-Nazi murder trial begins in Germany

6 May 2013

Members of an alleged neo-Nazi cell in Germany have gone on trial for the murder of 10 people, mostly immigrants. The main defendant is 38-year-old Beate Zschaepe. She is accused of helping establish the National Socialist Underground. The group is allegedly responsible for a decade-long string of racially motivated murders and bombings, as well as at least 15 armed bank raids. Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull reports from Munich.

By Dietmar Henning in Germany:

German neo-Nazi trial: Why is Zschäpe silent?

28 July 2014

The judge in the trial of members of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) last week rejected a request by the main defendant, Beate Zschäpe, to dismiss her public defenders.

On July 16, Zschäpe told a police officer in the Munich Higher Regional Court that she had lost confidence in her three lawyers. She confirmed this with a nod when asked by the court’s presiding judge, Manfred Götzl.

Since the three, Wolfgang Heer, Wolfgang Stahl and Anja Sturm, are court-appointed public defenders, Zschäpe cannot fire them herself. That decision rests with the court.

Judge Götzl called on Zschäpe to give a written explanation of the circumstances pertaining to the loss of confidence, which Zschäpe then did with the help of a fourth lawyer. Last week, the judge denied her request and ordered the trial to continue.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that Zschäpe had especially criticised the fact her attorneys had not directed all the questions to witnesses that appeared to her to be important. “Her discontent had apparently been aroused by the questioning of the witness Tino Brandt the previous week,” the newspaper wrote.

As an undercover agent of the Thüringia state Office for Protection of the Constitution (the state Secret Service), Brandt established the Thüringia Homeland Security (THS), using money provided by the authorities. The THS was the precursor to the far-right NSU, which went on to kill nine people in racist-motivated crimes. It also killed a female police officer and carried out bomb attacks on immigrants.

The Leipziger Volkszeitung reported on Brandt’s testimony under the headline, “NSU Trio Received Money from the Secret Service.”

Brandt testified that as a result of a phone call from someone in the far-right milieu, he found out that the NSU trio of Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt had gone to ground. He began to raise money for the three, initially among neo-Nazi regulars in bars and at a concert. However, the donations dried up, and Brandt turned to the authorities. He said “the state of Saxony had donated—six, seven times.”

The Leipziger Volkszeitung made clear that Brandt was referring to payments given him by the Secret Service that were meant for the NSU. The newspaper reported that the presiding judge asked whether the money was expressly meant to be passed on to the trio, and Brandt replied, “As far as I can recall, it was directly meant to be handed on.”

The undercover agent testified that he could not remember clearly the exact amount that was disbursed or the identity of the contact person to whom he passed on the funds. However, he had earlier boasted that he had received some 200,000 German marks from the Secret Service and used it to build up right-wing organisations.

The trial has been ongoing for 130 days, but the main accused, Zschäpe, has refused to testify, on advice from her lawyers exercising her right to silence. It is significant that her petition to sack her lawyers was made directly after the questioning of Brandt.

It is quite possible that Zschäpe either would like to testify or wants her attorneys to press more aggressively on the question of Secret Service collaboration with the NSU and the far-right milieu more generally. On this issue, she likely would have much to say.

It is now a matter of record that the far-right element, including the THS and the NSU, would not have been able to develop in the way that it did without the support of various branches of the secret services. The findings of three judges of the Supreme Court more than 11 years ago, which led to the termination of proceedings to ban the neo-Nazi German National Party (NPD), apply no less to the THS, NSU and the entire far-right milieu. The three judges found that the influence of state bodies on the NPD was so great that that its actions had to be “spoken of as an affair of state.”

It is now well known that the federal and state organs of the Secret Service (BfV and LvF), the Military Counter-Intelligence Service (MAD), and the Berlin State Criminal Police (LKA) had infiltrated at least 24 people into the immediate periphery of the NSU.

In April 2006, when the 21-year-old Halit Yozgat was shot in an Internet café in Kassel, Andreas Temme was present, the leader of Hesse state’s Secret Service undercover operations. A few hours earlier, he had met with one of his undercover agents, who was in the city and in contact with Thüringia.

Temme himself is no stranger to far-right views. In his home town, he was called “Little Adolf.” In searches of his house, passages from Hitler’s Mein Kampf were found.

The two NSU members Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt were known to the police and the secret services since the mid-1990s. In 1995, the Military Counter-Intelligence Service spoke to Mundlos to win him as an employee and informer.

In November 1997, the Thüringia state Secret Service observed Mundlos and Böhnhardt purchasing possible bomb components. Two months later, the police searched a garage rented by Zschäpe and found a functioning bomb workshop. Böhnhardt was present and was able to drive away in his car unhindered.

Subsequently, the three terrorists allegedly went to ground. The same year, the Gera state prosecutor allowed telephone recordings that Böhnhardt had made in the four weeks following the search of the bomb-making garage to be erased.

The leader of the far-right music label “Blood & Honour” in Saxony, Jan Werner, was, as early as 1998, in close contact with the three fugitives. Carsten Szczepanski, an undercover agent of the Brandenburg state Secret Service, code-named “Piato,” was active in the NPD and had been sentenced for the murder of an asylum seeker. He reported that Werner had personal contact with Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe. Werner had the job of “supplying the three fugitives with weapons,” he said.

Werner, in turn, was in telephone contact with a mobile phone registered to the Saxony state Interior Ministry, according to the Thüringia investigation report. On August 25, 1998, about seven months after the trio had gone to ground, Werner sent his contact person in the Interior Ministry a text message asking, “Hallo, what’s happening with the bums?” He inquired whether the Secret Service had procured weapons for him.

In the underground, the three fugitive terrorists were helped by the neo-Nazis André Eminger and Holger Gerlach, who are presently in the dock alongside Zschäpe, as well as the former NPD functionary Ralf Wohlleben and Carsten S.

It is on record that countless clues pointing to the whereabouts of the three terrorists were never followed up.

It is unclear to what extent other Secret Service operatives and undercover agents were in contact with the NSU terrorists between 1998 and 2011. Important undercover agents were prevented from giving evidence, and many files were withheld, redacted or shredded.

On November 4, 2011, when Mundlos and Böhnhardt supposedly committed suicide, Zschäpe disappeared for four days. On November 8, she presented herself to the Jena police. Just two hours later, the leader of the “procurement” section in the department for right-wing extremism at the federal Secret Service, Lothar Lingen, began looking through the files. (The term “procurement” refers to the gathering of information—i.e., the recruitment of undercover operatives in the far right.)

The very next day, Lingen ordered the destruction of the first file. As of July 4, 2012, the federal Secret Service alone had destroyed a total of 310 files containing thousands of documents.

It is impossible to draw a line separating the actions of the right-wing radicals and neo-Nazis, on the one hand, and the role of the state on the other.

This in no way diminishes the crimes of Böhnhardt and Mundlos, who most probably committed the murders. Zschäpe is also culpable. But there is truth in what the father of Mundlos said in court, when he asserted that without the Secret Service and its informers, his son would not have “slid into the right-wing scene.”

The role and responsibility of the state and its intelligence agencies in the crimes of the NSU are clearly not to be addressed in the Munich proceedings. “No state secrets can be made known that would undermine government activities,” Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, deputy leader of the Secret Service from 1996 and later a state secretary at the Interior Ministry, told a parliamentary committee of inquiry in 2012. Fritsche has since been promoted to Secret Service adviser in the Chancellery.

Of what state secrets was he speaking? Which fascists worked and continue to work for the Secret Service? Possibly Beate Zschäpe?

In November 2011, the Leipziger Volkszeitung wrote that Zschäpe had worked for the Secret Service in Thüringia. The indication had come from the Thüringia state Criminal Police. She had supposedly obtained information for the authorities about the right-wing scene—i.e., she worked as an undercover informant.

For this reason, she was protected by the Thüringia state Secret Service. During this time, Zschäpe had used five different aliases.

The Thüringia state Secret Service, which had generously financed Tino Brandt, disputed this presentation. It claimed that although there had been contact with Zschäpe, and her recruitment as an informant had been considered, this had not been done because of her instability and drug use. (In April of this year, a witness before the Munich court who knew Zschäpe since 1992, and who had had an affair with her for a short time, testified that alcohol and drugs had been “a red rag” for the defendant).

The fact is that in several interrogations in the summer of 1996, Zschäpe had already passed on information to the authorities about the right-wing milieu. “I want to work with the police,” she told officials in Jena on August 5, 1996. Jena was where she turned herself in 15 years later.

It is also a fact that on November 4, 2011, just one-and-a-half hours after she had blown up the flat she shared with her two accomplices, Zschäpe received a call from a mobile phone belonging to the Saxony state Interior Ministry. The ministry evidently had her number on speed dial.

If Zschäpe was an undercover informant, she cannot break her silence without putting herself in mortal danger. She would not be the first person to die under mysterious circumstances since the beginning of the trial.

See also 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.