Good spadefoot toad news

This video is about a young common spadefoot toad; Poland, spring 2014.

Dutch Vroege Vogels radio reports about European common spadefoot toads.

This species was in danger of becoming extinct in the Netherlands. To prevent that, there was captive breeding in Nijmegen city. In 2012, hundreds of youngsters, bred in Nijmegen, were freed around Nuland village in Noord-Brabant province.

Spadefoot toads are doing well in the garden of Ignas van Bebber in Nuland. This week, he counted seventeen calling males and eleven spawn strings.

Auschwitz SS nazi on trial

This video says about itself:

The Liberation of Auschwitz (includes 1945 original Red Army footage)

23 January 2015

Warning – This historical documentary contains some explicit scenes that are of a violent nature and may be disturbing to some viewers!

This film contains footage taken by Soviet cameramen after the liberation of the Auschwitz camp in January 27, 1945.

Among other things, it depicts the camp area immediately after entry by the First Ukrainian Front of the Red Army.

Documentary pictures are interspersed with an interview with Alexander Vorontzov, the cameraman who accompanied the Red Army soldiers and did most of the filming. The whole is accompanied by commentary describing, among others, the selection and extermination process, medical experiments and everyday life in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The film was previously released in 1985, for the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. The commentary accompanying the current edition of the film reflects the latest findings by researchers studying the KL Auschwitz.

The Auschwitz Camp is a world symbol of the Holocaust, genocide and terror. Never before in the history of mankind were so many people murdered in a planned and industrial manner in such a small area.

In the years 1940-1945, German Nazis brought here over a million Jews, nearly 150 thousand Poles, 23 thousand Roma, 15 thousand Soviet prisoners of war and over ten thousand prisoners from other nations.

A vast majority of them perished in the camp.

This film is dedicated to their memory.

Runtime: 52 minutes, Production year: 1985, Director: Irmgard von zur Muehlen.

By Elisabeth Zimmermann in Germany:

Trial of former SS soldier begins in Germany

22 April 2015

The trial of 93-year-old former SS sergeant Oskar Gröning began yesterday at the fourth criminal grand chamber of the Luneburg district court. He is charged with assisting murder in 300,000 cases. From September 1942 to October 1944, Gröning was an SS guard and administrator at Auschwitz concentration camp in occupied Poland.

More than 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army on January 27, 1945, it is certain to be one of the last trials of living perpetrators of the indescribably hideous crimes committed by the Nazis at this and other concentration camps.

The name of the Nazis’ Auschwitz concentration camp has come to symbolise the worst crimes and horrors of the twentieth century, and is a byword for the barbarism of capitalism in its most extreme form. More than 1.1 million people were brutally killed there. Hundreds of thousands were exterminated in the gas chambers immediately after their arrival, while others died from hunger, physical exhaustion or hideous experiments by sadistic doctors like Josef Mengele, nicknamed the angel of death by the prisoners.

Some 90 percent of those killed in the camp were Jews. In addition, 150,000 non-Jewish Poles, including political prisoners, 23,000 Sinti and Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, other national minorities, as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals were murdered.

In addition to Gröning, two other former SS soldiers currently face thousands of charges of assisted murder. An investigation by the state prosecutor in Schwerin is underway into 94-year-old Hubert Z from Mecklenburg Pomerania, and another against 94-year-old Reinhold Z from North Rhine-Westphalia led by the Dortmund state prosecutor.

The SS soldiers currently being charged allegedly were not directly involved in the murders, but through their service in Auschwitz, they contributed to the functioning of the Nazi murder machine. Gröning himself described his role at Auschwitz as a “cog in the wheel.”

Oskar Gröning volunteered for the Waffen SS at aged 21 as a committed National Socialist, and was ordered by the SS business and administration head office on September 25, 1942, to be sent to administer the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Since he had previously worked in a savings bank, he was placed in the administration of prisoners’ money. His task was to stand guard as the victims were delivered to the camp in cattle wagons, and collect their possessions and valuables. The stolen money obtained during this process was then sent by him to the SS headquarters in Berlin.

The list of charges from the state prosecutor in Hannover, responsible for pursuing Nazi crimes in Lower Saxony, limits itself to the so-called Hungarian action of May 16 to July 11, 1944. In this two-month time frame, the SS deported some 425,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz. Around 300,000 were sent directly to their deaths in gas chambers on their arrival.

Within this period, 137 trainloads arrived at the Nazis’ death factory. Gröning’s task was to collect the belongings left by those sent to the gas chamber from the train platform and camp entrance. “In so doing, the traces of the mass murder would be eliminated for subsequent prisoners,” states the 85-page charge sheet. His activities had supported the Nazis’ systematic mass murder.

The trial has met with great interest abroad and more than 60 survivors from Hungary, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Israel wish to testify to the court as joint plaintiffs. Accordingly, the trial was moved from the Luneburg court to a larger building.

As with other trials on the subject of crimes during the Nazi period, the question is raised: Why has the trial taken so long?

The answer is largely that within the German political and judiciary systems, many former Nazis were utilised by the state and their careers continued unhindered after the war. A systematic legal investigation into the crimes of the National Socialists was consistently blocked.

Of the many thousands of Nazi criminals, relatively few were brought before the courts. Since the end of the war, the German judiciary has investigated 100,000 cases, but only 6,500 were convicted. They received relatively mild sentences considering the horrendous nature of their crimes. Generally, the perpetrators took the defence that they were just following orders, which the courts recognised as legitimate.

Of the 6,500 SS personnel who carried out their murderous work in Auschwitz and survived the war, only 29 were convicted in the Federal Republic, according to a report in Der Spiegel. In the GDR (East Germany) the figure was 20.

The Frankfurt state prosecutor had already investigated Gröning in 19y7, but broke off proceedings in 1985. Lawyer Thomas Walther, who is now representing around 30 joint plaintiffs, victims of the Nazi regime and their relatives, commented on this to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “They did not abandon the case, but buried it. In the 1970s and 1980s there were still ‘thousands of Grönings,’ so the investigators decided it was preferable to leave it alone.”

In Deutsche Welle, Walther explained, “in the Federal Republic, thousands of men and women would have to have been charged if current criteria had applied in the past.” But this was not desired, so the Nazi collaborators were not to be pursued. Oskar Gröning was never punished for his service in the death factory.

In 2011, the Munich district court sentenced the now-dead SS guard in Sobibor concentration camp John Demjanjuk to five years’ imprisonment for assisting in the murder of 28,000 Jews. Since then, there is no need to prove that a person being charged was directly involved in the murders. This is one of the reasons why trials are being conducted now against those SS soldiers who are still living.

In contrast to many previous defendants in these cases, Oskar Gröning has expressed his readiness to testify before the court on the events in Auschwitz. He had already spoken in interviews openly about his experiences and actions in Auschwitz, and written them down for his friends and family.

When an acquaintance sent him a book about “the Auschwitz lies,” he sent it back with a note saying that everything reported about Auschwitz was true: selections, gassing, burning—1.5 million Jews had been murdered in Auschwitz, and he had experienced it. Nonetheless, he did not feel guilty about the murders because he had not been directly active in the gas chambers.

The course of the current trial will reveal how much it contributes to the uncovering of one of the greatest crimes of the twentieth century. The survivors and relatives of the victims taking part in the trial as joint plaintiffs are hoping for something, even if only very, very delayed justice.

Poland integrates far-right paramilitary groups into the army

This 6 March 2015 Ukraine Today video is called Poland Military Training: Polish parliament members to be offered military training.

By Markus Salzmann:

Poland integrates paramilitary groups into the army

31 March 2015

The Polish government has integrated paramilitary groups into the army, strengthening right-wing forces within the police and army while intensifying the confrontation with Russia in the process.

On March 21, volunteer militias, citizens’ defence groups, paramilitary associations and schools with so-called defence training classes in the Warsaw region came together to form an association at a conference with over 800 participants.

Poland’s National Security Adviser Stanislaw Koziej explained that the paramilitary militia would work closely with the army. This isn’t about creating an army outside of the army, he stated. The integration of civil defence organisations was an important step in increasing the country’s security.

It remains unclear which tasks these paramilitary groups will take on and where they will be deployed. Military exercises with the reserves and the utilisation of military training grounds were discussed at the Warsaw conference.

According to estimates, there are approximately 120 groups in Poland composed of some 45,000 members carrying out military exercises, shooting practice or tactical training. Almost all are closely aligned with right-wing political parties and groups. Their actions are not only directed against the alleged external threat of Russia, but also domestically against minorities, left-wing forces and homosexuals.

The extreme right-wing Ruch Narodovy, which has close ties to Hungary’s Jobbik party and other right-wing parties in Europe, controls its own paramilitary group. Many groups maintain links to the fascist militias in Ukraine, which are fighting alongside the Ukrainian army against separatists in the east of the country, having played a major role in the Maidan movement.

The association is to be led by General Boguslaw Pacek, who was responsible for improving military training in Ukraine as part of the NATO programme. Pacek spoke of the collaboration between the groups and the defence ministry reaching a “new quality.”

Pacek was also adviser to defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak, who personally attended the conference. In the lead-up to the conference, Siemoniak declared that these organisations would potentially need to be utilized more. He referred to the positive experiences in providing rescue services or disaster protection, in which volunteers had successfully partnered with professionals. The government was considering paying a wage to 2,500 volunteers. These would then serve as the backbone of the volunteer organisations at the local level and be mobilised in the event of war.

In tandem with the creation of the paramilitary association, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz changed the law on involvement in military exercises. While previously only active soldiers and reserves could be called up for duty, now any Pole can be called up in principle. In addition, the government is pushing to reintroduce military service, which was abolished in 2010.

The New York Times wrote on the collaboration between the government and the volunteer groups: “The defence ministry has been trying to entice the groups to join an alliance with the government, offering equipment, uniforms, training and even money in exchange for a clearer idea of who they are—and a chance to assemble a new generation of energized recruits.”

According to Pacek, beyond the roughly 120 paramilitary groups in Poland, there are approximately 1,500 so-called uniform classes in Polish schools in which pupils are taught military techniques. There could be possible joint exercises between these civilian volunteers and the reserves. Already in 2014, the Polish government decided to increase the size of the reserves.

The provoked conflict with Russia is not only being used in Poland to push forward with a military build-up and give right-wing militias a semi-official status. This is also a prominent development in the Baltic states, which together with Poland, have taken the lead in the conflict with Russia.

In Latvia, on March 16, veterans of the German SS held their annual parade under the protection of a massive police escort. Around 1,500 people marched through Riga, according to police estimates, including several parliamentarians. They celebrated the 140,000 Latvians who fought in the Second World War in the uniforms of the SS against the Red Army, and committed unspeakable atrocities, as independence fighters.

In Lithuania, President Dalia Grybauskaite ordered the distribution of a government pamphlet to every household providing advice on what to do in the event of a Russian attack. In this way, a climate of fear is being created, enabling the government to implement planned cuts and increase the military budget.

A component of the growing militarism directed against Russia is the almost 1,800-kilometre-long trip of a US military convoy through Eastern Europe. Two weeks ago, a group of American tanks set off from Estonia to drive through Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and the Czech Republic. Two further groups started in Lithuania and Poland. On April 1, all three groups will meet at the Rose barracks in Vilseck, Germany. The convoy is part of a massive rearmament of the US and NATO in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski recently called for a reorientation of NATO’s strategic concept. The Western allies confronted a movement by Russia “away from straightforward cooperation towards one-sided confrontation with the Western world”, he said. The conclusion to be drawn by Poland was that its defence capabilities had to be increased.

Last week, American Patriot missiles were sent to Warsaw from Germany. As part of the “Atlantic Resolve” operation, which is supposed to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank, around 100 US soldiers and 30 vehicles have been stationed there.

Polish minister tries to ban Nobel winner’s ‘pornographic’ play. Piotr Gliński’s move seen by civil liberties groups as a sign country is poised for a return to draconian state censorship: here.

Poland will pay CIA torture victims

This video says about itself:

Poland admits to hosting CIA black site prisons on its soil after U.S. Senate torture report

10 December 2014

Poland has finally admitted it DID host an American black site prison after years of denying it just after a scathing report on CIA torture shed light on just how brutal the polices were. It’s the first acknowledgement by a foreign country of hosting such a site. A former Polish president says NATO was in a state of war at the time, and there was no question over allowing allies to use its territory.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Two win payout for CIA prison ordeal

Thursday 19th February 2015

POLAND’S Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said yesterday that his government would pay €230,000 (£170,000) in compensation to two men who were held in a secret CIA prison in the country.

The payout was ordered by the European Court of Human Rights, which rejected a Polish appeal against its original ruling.

The court ruled last July that Poland violated the rights of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah by allowing the CIA to imprison them and by failing to stop “the torture and inhuman or degrading treatment” they suffered.

It was the first judgement by any court on the “extraordinary renditions” programme under which the US abducted individuals from across the world and held them without trial in secret locations.

Mr Nashiri and Mr Zubaydah are still held in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp and Mr Schetyna queried whether the compensation could be paid to them directly.

On Tuesday, the Guardian revealed the existence of a secret interrogation facility operated by the Chicago Police Department, in what the newspaper called “the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site”: here.

Rat poison kills birds, partial ban

This video is about a kestrel nest on a balcony in Poland.

Translated from Vroege Vogels radio in the Netherlands today:

Vermin fighters may no longer use mouse and rat poison anymore in the open air from early this year on. That was decided by the board for the authorization of plant protection products and biocides (Ctgb). The main reason for the partial ban of these rodenticides is that many mice and rats have become immune to the poison. It is also to reduce the risk of other animals being exposed to the substances.

Research by ecotoxicologist Nico van den Brink of Alterra research institute in Wageningen shows that a large part of our raptors get rat poison in their food. The chance of barn owls and kestrels dying from this is plausible.

Rodenticides are not completely prohibited. Inside buildings they may still be used. Also, the Ctgb offers the possibility to obtain an authorization under strict conditions for outdoor use.

Conservationists are working to find treatments for six avian plagues that can cause mass casualties: here.

Holocaust commemoration in Auschwitz

This video says about itself:

Behind the Scenes of Auschwitz Instagram video

27 January 2015

Steven Spielberg on ‎Auschwitz 70th Anniversary: “During this time of remembrance, efforts like these are vital to raising awareness of the Holocaust among young people and the importance of fighting prejudice and intolerance wherever it occurs.

As part of our partnership with the Shoah Foundation to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we made a video for Instagram about our visit to the camp.

Although the video is only 15 seconds long, it was meticulously crafted and edited. Using only an iPhone, our team captured striking images of the camp, recreating frame by frame some of the historic photos of Auschwitz that have become part of the public imagination.

”The video tells the story of one of the camp’s survivors, Roman Kent. It begins with a picture of Kent in his youth, and goes on to show the camp through “his eyes.” It ends with images of him now, 70 years later.

By Ben Chacko:

They lost their lives – we must honour them

Wednesday 28th January 2015

Holocaust survivors pay tribute to airbrushed out Soviet liberators 70 years after the Red Army freed Auschwitz

THREE hundred Auschwitz survivors returned to the nazis’ largest death camp yesterday to mark 70 years since its liberation by the Red Army.

Politicians from around the world marked Holocaust Memorial Day in memory of the six million Jews who were slaughtered by the nazi regime alongside Roma, gay and disabled people, Polish and Soviet prisoners of war and others.

But campaigners warned that fascism was once again on the rise in Europe — increasingly backed by the same Western states who sent representatives to Auschwitz yesterday.

French President Francois Hollande made an emotional plea for Jews to regard France as their homeland — but said nothing of his Prime Minister Manuel Valls’s public call for all French Roma to be deported.

And Britain was represented at the ceremony by Eric Pickles, who was condemned by the High Court this month for illegally discriminating against Roma and travellers.

Camp survivors expressed dismay at Poland’s decision not to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin when it was the Soviet Union that freed them seven decades ago.

Eighty-one-year-old Paula Lebovics remembered being a starving 11-year-old who was hugged and rocked by a Russian soldier “with tears in his eyes” as Soviet troops uncovered the horrific complex, where over a million Jews were gassed to death.

“Putin should be here,” she said. “They were our liberators.”

Fellow survivor Eva Mozes Kor agreed, saying that she had no sympathy with Mr Putin’s politics but “from a moral and historical perspective he should be here.”

Munich resident Natan Grossmann, another Auschwitz survivor, said: “They put their lives on the line to free us. They lost their lives and we should honour them.”

The failure to invite the Russian leader follows a concerted effort to rewrite the history of the second world war and as the European Union backs fascist militias in Ukraine.

Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna sparked outrage when he claimed “the Ukrainians” liberated the camp in a bid to minimise Russia’s role.

Ukraine’s current government has armed and deployed openly neonazi units like the Azov battalion, which claims to be on a “crusade of the white races” against “semite-led subhumanity,” in an attempt to crush the anti-fascist resistance forces in the country’s east. …

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk — who has previously referred to Russians as “subhuman” — claimed in Germany earlier this month that Russia had “invaded Ukraine and Germany” in the second world war, while the far-right parties of the Euromaidan movement openly revere nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, whose Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists murdered thousands of Jews and Poles during the Holocaust. …

A spokesman for anti-racist group Hope Not Hate told the Star: “Seventy years on from the liberation of Auschwitz and the horrendous images of the dead and dying in the camps seem hard to erase.

“Our recent report State of Hate revealed that organised far-right groups in the UK are having a hard time of things at the moment, suffering splits, defections and losing electoral support to Ukip.

“That said, the conditions have been fertile for populist and racist parties for some time, so it is wise we remain vigilant to that threat.”

On Tuesday, a public ceremony was held at Auschwitz to mark the 70th anniversary of the concentration camp’s liberation by elements of the Soviet Union’s Red Army on January 27, 1945. The very name of this Nazi death camp in southern Poland is synonymous with the greatest crimes and horrors of the 20th century, a byword for capitalist barbarism in its most extreme form: here.

Britain: David Cameron paid tribute yesterday to Soviet troops and civilians who helped defeat the nazis after a Tory MP called for their sacrifice to be remembered by Britain. David Tredinnick recalled at Prime Minister’s questions how the British army freed 60,000 inmates from the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. But, almost 70 years to the day since the Red Army liberated the Auschwitz death camp, the Bosworth MP added that Mr Cameron should recognise their effort: here.

The rape and sexual abuse of Jewish women during the Holocaust have been long overlooked. But when researchers probed, stories began to emerge as if they were old photographic film waiting for the right chemicals: here.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by Soviet troops, German President Joachim Gauck made a commemorative speech on Tuesday in parliament. The sermonizing tone of the former East German clergyman was difficult to bear. But even worse was the cynicism with which Gauck used the Holocaust memorial day to legitimise the reemergence of German militarism: here.

John Pilger: New threats of war and fascism: here.

Sobibor nazi gas chambers discovered, archaeologist interviewed

This September 2014 video is called Archaeologists Uncover Buried Gas Chambers At Sobibor Death Camp.

Translated from Leiden University in the Netherlands:

Digging for the gas chambers of Sobibor

Leiden archaeologist Ivar Schute recently discovered the foundations of the gas chambers of Sobibor extermination camp. “The Holocaust is almost incomprehensible. This work makes it tangible.” What use were his archaeology studies for this?

What is the reason for this excavation at Sobibor?

“There will be a new museum and a symbolic path to the place where the camp once was. For a long time one could hardly see anything there: after the great prisoners’ escape in 1943 the Germans broke down the camp and planted trees to cover the tracks of their crimes. The site is an international project of Israel, Poland, the Netherlands and Slovakia. These are the countries where most of the victims came from. In World War II, nearly 35,000 Dutch people were transported from Westerbork to Sobibor. After Auschwitz this is the largest Dutch mass grave.”

How did you got involved?

“I was asked because I have experience with excavations at the Westerbork camp, Treblinka and Bergen-Belsen. With three other archaeologists, I am reconstructing the path that the people walked at that time after arrival. From the train station to the gas chambers.”

How did you discover the fundamentals of the gas chambers?

“We used drawings of refugee survivors and we have dug carefully. Without machines, because there are so many human remains. The graves should be disturbed as little as possible, the field work is supervised by a rabbi. Bit by bit we could reconstruct the camp because extermination camps often had the same format. First we localized the barber barracks and the so-called Himmelfahrtstrasse, the road to the place where they were gassed. Then you know it must be the gas chambers at the end thereof. After removing the asphalt we found the foundations of the chambers.”

Who: Ivar Schute (1966)

Study: Archaeology (1984 – 1992, worked already during study) …

Favourite place in Leiden: “I live in the Witte Rozenstraat. At number 57 is the house where the physicist Paul Ehrenfest lived and where Albert Einstein often came to visit.

Paul Ehrenfest was from an Austrian Jewish family. His Witte Rozenstraat 57 home was designed by his wife, Tatyana Alexeyevna Afanasyeva. She was a mathematician. Born in Ukraine (then part of the Russian empire), she became a member of the Bolshevik tendency of the Russian Social Democratic Party; later of the Communist Party.

Around the corner is ‘t Kasteeltje, the villa at the Jan van Goyenkade 44. There lived a former classmate of Einstein whom he visited when he was in Leiden. Intriguing places, but I’ve never been in there.”

What does this work do emotionally with you?

“It’s a very intense experience. During the excavation, I can focus well on the work, but of course it does not leave me unmoved. I dug there for two months and returned to the Netherlands, the images in my head. It gets a niche by talking a lot about it. The Holocaust is almost beyond comprehension, but this work makes it tangible. We found many human remains and personal belongings such as glasses and crockery that mainly came from Dutch Jews. They lived up to the last under the assumption that they were going to a labour camp and had brought precious belongings. A very painful discovery.”

How did you get involved in war archeology?

“As a little boy I already wanted to be an archaeologist, I was always looking for shards. I graduated about prehistoric times, but because of stories by my grandparents I am also interested in World War II. Until a decade ago, archaeologists spent very little attention on this period. Because it is relatively recent and because there are so many sources. I and another archaeologist tried hard to really get attention for it. Excavations can provide new information indeed. About many camps it is not known what they looked like and therefore it is not known what is the location of the gas chambers and the mass graves. That you only can only identify in an archaeological way.”

Which skills gained during your study come in handy for this work?

“I had a very good field training and already as a student I could lead major excavations. We learned to be very critical and careful: you can only do an excavation well once. Thanks to my former teacher Martin Verbruggen, an expert in physical geography, I know how important it is to look at a spot from the whole landscape development in that area. Then you will understand better how an area became as it is now. That way of archeology is not obvious. Many archaeologists do not look beyond the limit of the hole.”

What is the best advice you ever received?

“When I graduated professor Louwe Kooijmans said to me: “You have to get more contacts in society.” He meant that I was still too restless for science. I went to work for the archaeological research bureau RAAP where I still work for. Through this work, I got in touch with all kinds of people, from farmer to developer, with diverse interests. That way I learned to make trade-offs, but also to improvise and to work on solutions. It was good advice by Kooijmans!”

(December 18, 2014 – LvP)