Monday, December 27, 2010

Menelik II: Solomon's Regal Heir and King of Ethiopia


African history is fascinating. There are so many peoples, tribes, former colonies, cultures, conflicts, nations.  One of the most interesting nations in Africa is Ethiopia.  According to Ethiopian history and tradition, Menelik, a son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, ruled Ethiopia c. 950 B.C.E.  CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE. Shoot forward hundreds of centuries to 1844 and a baby boy--Named Menelik II--is born.  Above is an image of Menelik II on an Ethiopian coin from 1889 E.E.(photo: Heritage Auction Galleries); below are two photos from different times during his reign.



It was at the Battle of Adwa that King Menelik II of Ethiopia defeated the Italian army.  It was the first time an African army defeated one from Europe.



Here is a brief documentary on the Battle of Adwa, when the Ethiopian army defeated Italy in 1896.  It is in Amharic with no subtitles.

Born on August 19, 1844, Menelik II was born Sahle Mariam in Ankober, a capital in the autonomous Ethiopian province of Shoa. His paternal grandfather, Sahle Sellaisie, was the first Shoan leader to become a negus (king); it was he who gave his grandson the name Menelik. It is said that Sahle Sellasie predicted that his grandson would grow to be a great man, a king who would restore Ethiopia’s empire...

CLICK HERE TO READ "Menelik II:  Solomon's Regal Heir and King of Ethiopia" by Eric Brothers



Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jewish Revenge Against Germans After the Holocaust



From 1945-47, Jews ran concentration camps filled with Germans. Between 60 and 80 thousand Germans civilians - men, women and children - perished in Poland.


The tables had now been turned. In 1945 at a sub-camp of Auschwitz called Zgoda (“Harmony”), it was now Germans who were stuffed into the barracks. The Commandant, a Jew wearing the uniform of the Polish Office of State Security (UB or 'the Office') named Solomon Morel was standing in a barrack glaring around at them.

Jewish revenge for the Holocaust

He told them: “My name is Morel. I am a Jew. My mother and father, my family,…they’re all dead, and I swore that if I got out alive, I was going to get back at you Nazis. And now you’re going to pay for what you did.”

Solomon Morel.

At a train station in Berlin in October of the same year, a political advisor to the U.S. military authorities wrote to Washington after seeing German refugees in Berlin who were forcibly expelled from Poland. Dying from exhaustion, malnutrition and illness, he wrote that, “in smelling the odor of their filthy condition, the mind reverts to Dachau and Buchenwald. Here is retribution on a large scale practiced on women and children, the poor, the infirm…”

Jews help deport Germans from new Polish lands

Those Germans may have come from Breslau, the largest city in Polish-administered Germany, where the population was 300,000. Who was in charge of Breslau then? Jews. The chief of police, the chief of the Polish Army Corps of Internal Security, the chief of the Office of State Security’s section for Germans, and even the mayor of Breslau were all Jews.

They sent their troops to German homes, where they smashed open the doors with their rifle butts and shouted, “Get out! Raus! Raus!” Pointing their machine guns at the terrified Germans, they said, “Just as the Germans did. You have seven minutes. Six minutes. Five minutes. Schnell! Schnell!” Then they were chased to the Breslau train station and shoved into cattle cars, just like the Jews were.

Jewish atrocities against Germans

Hundreds of Jews who had been on the platforms at Auschwitz and other death camps did horrible things to German civilians. After the war several Jews became commandants of former Nazi concentration camps and prisons. They became as cruel as the SS and committed horrible deeds that rivaled Hitler’s black-clad elite but on a much smaller scale. John Sack writes that “a second atrocity happened that the Jews who committed it covered up: one where Jews killed Germans…In 1945 they killed a great number of Germans…civilians, German men, women, children, babies, whose ‘crime’ was just to be German.”

Jews sign up with the UB

The chief of the Office of State Security in Silesia was a Jew, Major Josef Jurkowski. A dedicated communist, he broke out of a Polish prison in 1939 and walked to Russia. He volunteered for the Red Army and later switched to the Polish army in the Soviet Union.

Jurkowski was the administrator of 15,550 square miles of former German territory. concentration camps, cellars and prisons in Silesia had to be staffed by him. Jurkowski put Jews in charge of Intelligence, Imprisonment, and the other departments of the Office under his control. It seems like it was Stalin's plan to hire Jews who survived the Holocaust to carry out a policy of de-Nazification.

Pinek Maka, a Jew who survived Gestapo interrogation and fought with a Polish partisan group, was made Secretary of State Security for Silesia. His province was all of southwest Poland and Polish-administered Germany; his region's population was close to five million. He called himself ‘Pawel’ and he wasn’t alone; many Jews in the Office took Polish names. Some even claimed to be ‘Catholic.’

News about concentration camps starts to spread

Word started to get out. On August 16, 1945, Winston Churchill spoke in the House of Commons, “Enormous numbers [of Germans] are utterly unaccounted for. It is not impossible that tragedy on a prodigious scale is unfolding itself behind the Iron Curtain.” In the U.S. Congress, a senator spoke of “beatings, shootings, of water tortures, of arteries cut, of ‘brains splashed on the ceiling’ in the Office’s concentration camps.” Both the British and American ambassadors made official protests to the Polish government. Then the American Red Cross drove from Warsaw to Kattowitz to speak to ’Pawel’ Maka.

Three Red Cross representative wanted to inspect the Silesian camps. Maka said, "If you didn't go to Auschwitz, you won't go anywhere now....You didn't help the Jews, and I won't oblige you now."

"We'll have to report that to Warsaw."

"So do it. I don't respect the Red Cross....Go to hell!"

Jakub Berman comes to Kattowitz

Jakub Berman was a Warsaw communist Jew who fled to Russia when the Germans invaded Poland. Stalin made him the number two man in the Polish government; only President Boleslaw Bierut ranked higher. Technically the Undersecretary of State in 1945, he had no title in the UB. Nonetheless, it was Berman who was responsible for the entire Office of State Security in Poland.

After hearing from Washington, London, Moscow and finally the Red Cross, Berman drove to Kattowitz with two Jewish officials and Wladyslaw Gomulka, the Party secretary. Pawel Maka briefed them on the German situation. Gomulka explained that the Red Cross was "worried about the Germans."

"The Germans!" Maka said with anger. "Who told the Germans to come to Poland? And kill Polish people? And murder all the Jews?"

"But comrade!" Gomulka slammed his fist on the table, "We must observe the Geneva convention!"

"If you tell me, 'Let in the Red Cross,' I'll do it."

Gomulka paused. "No, I won't order you."

Berman finally spoke, "We have your word that the Germans are treated well....As for the Red Cross -- Do what seems best."

Maka never let in the Red Cross. Neither did the leaders of the other Polish provinces. And the torture, the starvation, the abuse, the disease, the murder of Germans continued for three years. Throughout Poland, there were 1,255 concentration camps in Poland for the Germans.

COPYRIGHT (C) ERIC BROTHERS 2011.

Sources:

Sack, John. An Eye for an Eye: The Untold Story of Jewish Revenge Against Germans in 1945. Basic Books, New York, 1993.

The Commandant. Transcript of story on 60 Minutes, November 24, 1993.

An Eye for an Eye Corroboration.

de Zayas, Alfred-Maurice. A Terrible Revenge: The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans, 1944-1950. St. Martin's Press, New York, 1994.

Response by the State of Israel to the application for the extradition of Salomon Morel and a report by Dr. Adam Dziurok and Prosecutor Andrzej Majcher on the subject of Salomon Morel and the history and operation of the camp at Swietochlowice-Zgoda.












Saturday, December 25, 2010

Blackface: Racism or Pop Culture?

Entertainer Al Jolson in blackface.
A blackface television performance by two white actors from 1950.

Spike Lee’s scathing satire of the television industry, Bamboozled (2000), writes Stephen Holden in the New York Times film review, “accuses African-American writers and performers…of creating work that demeans blacks through caricatures that are not far removed from ‘Amos ‘n’ Andy.’”

A poster from Spike Lee's 2000 film Bamboozled.
Lee’s film Bamboozled focuses upon a song-and-dance minstrel show on TV--starring black performers in blackface--that becomes an award-winning smash hit that “fosters a national craze for wearing blackface.” The two stars of Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show are “Manray” (Savion Glover) and “Sleep ’n’ Eat” (Tommy Davidson), who are supported by the song-and-dance ensemble the Pickanninys, who include “reincarnations” of Aunt Jemima, Sambo, Rastus and Jungle Bunny. The “jolly” minstrel band on the show is called the Alabama Porch Monkeys.
Entertainer Billy Van (left) and Van in blackface.
The New York Times writes that the concept behind “this dangerous free-for-all satire on race, television and black images in the media is demonically inspired and uncomfortably to the point.” Holden points to “one of the movie’s funniest and most disturbing scenes,” when audience members of Mantan--all of whom are wearing blackface--stand up from their seat to explain excitedly why they are “niggers.”
Highlights from Spike Lee's blackface satire, Bamboozled (2000).

A real life Mantan:The Black and White Minstrel Show in England

Bamboozled had a real-life counterpart in a British musical variety show--The Black and White Minstrel Show--that debuted on BBC television on June 14, 1958. It won the 1961 Golden Rose of Montreux award. The audience for the weekly show was between 16 and 18 million viewers. Robert Luff’s stage production of it opened at the Victoria Palace Theatre in 1969 and was documented by The Guinness Book of Records as the stage show seen by the greatest number of people.

Here's an excerpt from The Black and White Minstrel Show.

“coy white women…wooed by docile, smiling black slaves”

It was a popular show because viewers enjoyed the “meticulously choreographed dance routines and popular songs and melodies.” The combination of white dancers with black-faced singers was “believed to be visually striking,” especially when color TV debuted on the BBC in 1967. The big problem with the show was when “coy white women could be seen being wooed by docile, smiling black slaves.” The “slaves” were in reality white performers that were “blacked-up.”

Actor Robert Downey, Jr. in blackface (left) in the film Tropic Thunder and Downey out of make-up.
Minstrel Show presenting blacks as “stupid and credulous” sparks controversy
As Britain became more diverse and multi-cultural, the earlier ignored issues surrounding the show became topics of discussion. Since there were very few other representations of black people on British TV, having black characters on such a popular and widely-watched program “depicting them as being both stupid and credulous” sparked controversy.

The Campaign Against Racial Discrimination presented a petition to the BBC signed by black and white people requesting that The Black and White Minstrel Show be removed from the air. Despite the controversy, the BBC kept the show on the air until July 1, 1978, when the waning popularity of the television variety show prompted its cancellation.
Here's the 'infamous' Jackson 5 tribute from Australian TV.  Must blackface always be considered "racism" or can it also be an emulation of black culture that is positive and is a celebration?

Blackface becomes popular around the world--but is only “racist” in US

Louis Chude-Sokei writes that “we are at the cusp of a new era of classic, no-holds barred, in-your-face minstrelsy.” Blackface is being turned upside down by those who, writes Chude-Sokei, “suggest that blackface is the ultimate statement of anti-racism in that it emerges from a desire to criticize and mock racism itself.” There was a “notorious” blackface Jackson Five impersonation broadcast on Australian TV ; “the skit went viral just as blackface did the moment it appeared in nineteenth century America.” So is blackface racism--or does it stem from a fascination with black American culture and is it thus an attempt to emulate it?
Americans are the most offended by blackface in the world.  Other cultures have elements of blackface.  Must Americans dictate to the world what is "racist" and what isn't?
Singer Beyonce in blackface from a photo shoot for a French magazine.

Chude-Sokei writes about the growing popularity of blackface: “though it may be heresy to say, it is also a full-throttled attack on racial sanctimony and on the toxic notion that any one group has the last word on what is or isn’t offensive.” It’s the globalization and emergence outside the “control of American racial sensitivity”--places such as France, Australia, Turkey, Mexico, Japan, West Africa--that is marking the return of “classic” blackface.
Mexican postage stamps from 2005.

Mexicans cite American "cultural insensitivity"

An example is when in 2005 Mexico was asked to withdraw a blackface postage stamp based on a “beloved cartoon character” that Memin Penguin created in 1943. The protests came from then president Bush, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and a wide array of activist groups. In response, Mexicans and Mexican immigrants singled out the “cultural insensitivity” of Americans, who were “too quick to judge” without knowing anything of Mexico’s “motives, racial histories or profound affection for the character.”

Actor and entertainer Mantan Moreland. 

Attitude about blackface ends career of Mantan Moreland and other black performers

It was during the 1960s when blackface and minstrelsy was seen as “exclusively negative” and many black performers saw their careers end, such as Mantan Moreland--the namesake of Spike Lee’s Mantan: The The New Millennium Minstrel Show. He was offered fewer and fewer roles beginning in the 1950s when filmmakers began to reassess roles given to black actors. In the 1960s and 1970s, he got un-credited bit parts and extra roles in films and TV shows.

Seeing blackface minstrelsy as solely racist and always an assault on blacks is troubling and inflexible. Chude-Sokei writes that an audience “being offended” has become an expression of cultural and political power. Thus blackface is offensive--and anyone who differs from that is branded “racist” and all discussion ends on that note.
Entertainer Bert Williams was a black blackface performer.
Black-American show business has roots in black blackface artists

“The saddest fact of this blind hostility to blackface is that it ignores the fact that African-American show business has its roots in black blackface performers,” writes Chude-Sokei. “It is conveniently forgotten that this racist minstrel music made a black recording industry possible…It also was at the root of American pop, from Stephen Foster to Al Jolson to Bing Crosby to Shirley Temple.” He writes that without Bert Williams, there would be no Jay Z., without Steppin Fetchit, no Tyler Perry, and without Hattie McDaniel, no Oprah.

“Those who respond with such absolutism to blackface,” writes Chude-Sokei, “are desperate to control the terms of racial conversation, here and abroad. This very American tendency, whether manifest in whites or blacks, says far more about what we have become than what we ever were.”

Sources

Holden, Stephen. "Bamboozled (2000). Film Review; Trying On Blackface in a Flirtation With Fire.” The New York Times, October 6, 2000.

“The Black and White Minstrel Show.”

Chude-Sokei, Louis. “The New Era of Blackface.” Fanzine. 12.17.09.

Copyright (C) Eric Brothers 2011.  All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Stalin Allee: Socialist Realism in East Berlin

Entrance to the Stalin Allee


Apartment buildings on the Stalinallee in East Berlin.
Please click here to read the blog post,"Socialist Realism Gone Wild: Stalinist Art and Architecture in the Soviet Empire"

The Stalin Allee was designed in socialist realism style--and built between 1951-53--to give workers a luxurious home and neighborhood in Friedrichshain.
Lithograph of Block A South-West on the Stalinallee.



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Birobidzhan: Stalin's Soviet-Jewish Homeland and its Revival

Stalin pushed for a Yiddish-based Soviet-Jewish homeland, wanting Jews to become farmers and thus "productive" members of the Soviet economy and culture.
 
One of the most unusual chapters in Soviet-Jewish history involves Josef Stalin and a chunk of land in Siberia next to China.  In the early 1920s the Soviet state was attempting to deal with "nationality issues."  To that end, different nationalities in the Soviet Union were given "autonomous" regions to develop their culture--a Soviet version of that culture.  Members of the Jewish "nationality"--as Jews were called in the USSR--were one of the benefactors of this program.  PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ ENTIRE ARTICLE. It was Stalin himself who was promoting a Jewish Autonomous Region, which was eventually also called Birobidzhan, where Jews could develop their own special Soviet-Jewish culture based in the Yiddish language.
Soviet Jews did not fit Stalin's definition of a "nation." Jewish poverty, unemployment, and overpopulation, as well as wide-spread anti-Semitism and pogroms after 1917, caused concern within the Kremlin...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Jud Süß: The Notorious Anti-Semitic Nazi Propaganda Film

This infamous anti-Semitic Nazi film was popular throughout Europe when it was released in 1940. Jewish stereotypes abound in this lavish costume drama.
In the Nazi war against the Jews, propaganda was an important tool: the written and spoken word, the poster and other artwork, and the motion picture...

CLICK HERE TO READ "JUD SUESS: THE NOTORIOUS ANTI-SEMITIC NAZI PROPAGANDA FILM"




Blacks (Afro-Germans) in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust


The story of black people, or Afro-Germans, in Germany during the years of Hitler's reign (1933-1945) is complex and not well known. Hitler made his thoughts about black people in Germany abundantly clear in his book Mein Kampf (1923), when he wrote, "It is a scarcely conceivable fallacy of thought to believe that a Negro...will turn into a German because he learns German and is willing to speak the German language and perhaps even give his vote to a German political party." Between 20,000 and 25,000 blacks (or Afro-Germans) lived in Nazi Germany. Africans had come to Germany both before and after the First World War as students, artisans, entertainers, former soldiers, and low-level colonial officers.

The above video is an interview with an Afro-German who was imprisoned in Buchenwald. Unfortunately English subtitles are not available at this time.

There was never a systematic plan to exterminate them during the Nazi years; nonetheless they were subject to persecution, isolation, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality and murder. Afro-German mulatto children were marginalized in the Third Reich--isolated socially and economically--and banned from attending university. Most jobs were closed off to them due to racial discrimination.

The above is a rare documentary of black Germans who survived Nazi Germany. This video has English subtitles. It was recorded off of a TV so it is slightly distorted, but it is a fascinating document about Afro-German history.

Black French troops in the Rhineland

After World War I and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles (1919), the French occupied the Rhineland--the coal belt of Germany. Among the French troops were black French colonial soldiers. Their presence--and  propaganda about them--exacerbated anti-black sentiments in Germany. The propaganda presented black soldiers as rapists of German women and carriers of venereal and other diseases.

 Satirical anti-French medal dated 1920 that reads: "The Watch on the Rhine!! Liberty. Equality. Fraternity."

 

The "Rhineland Bastards"

There was intermarrying between the French black soldiers and German women. The children of these unions were called “Rhineland Bastards.” Adolf Hitler wrote of them in Mein Kampf. He charged that “the Jews had brought the Negroes into the Rhineland with the clear aim of ruining the hated white race by the necessarily-resulting bastardization.”

The "Rhineland Bastards" became an issue once Hitler took power. The leading publication that targeted Afro-Germans was the Neues Volk--with a circulation of 140,000--and an article in that publication of 1933 advocated the sterilization of the children of French black soldiers and German women. Another article in Neues Volk said, "...all inventions and discoveries were made by the white race. The black race has lived in the world as long as the white and has not yet invented or discovered anything."

Nazi propaganda: "The result! Racial pride disappears."

Nazi laws target black Germans

In the "Nuremberg Laws" of 1935 marriages between Aryans and non-Aryans were banned, and black Germans and their spouses lost German citizenship and any right to claim state support such as unemployment insurance. In 1936, the "Law on the Hitler Youth" decreed that all German youth may be members of the Hitler Youth with the exception of black children.

An article in Neues Volk stated, "...we know of approximately 600 bastards on the Rhine, tomorrow it will be more. Their sorrow will be multiplied through their children--a sorrow that can never be overcome. Let this be said to open the eyes of those in whose hands it lies to prevent this suffering from increasing." (emphasis by the author)

Bruce at the piano as a child.

Afro-German Musician Kwassi Bruce

Kwassi Bruce was born in Togo and had lived in Berlin since 1896, when his father was brought there along with around 100 other black German colonists to participate in the First German Colonial Exhibition. Kwassi became an excellent pianist and had his own orchestra in Berlin when Hitler came to power. He wrote a 10-page typed letter to the Colonial Dept. of the German Foreign Office in August of 1934 about the treatment of himself and other "Colored" Germans.

"Since the beginning of the national [Nazi] government," writes Bruce, "we Colored, insofar as we earned our own living as workers...have lost our positions and engagements....It has not been possible for us, even after presenting proof of our origins from the former German colonies, to get new employment..." Bruce explained that he was a naturalized German with a German passport, and that when Hitler took power he played with his orchestra in a "good Berlin wine restaurant....[and] My position was permanent."

Bruce continues, "...the owner of the business told me that...he would not be able to employ me further with my orchestra because we were Colored." So he left and tried to find work in vain. Even his participation in World War I as a volunteer for the Germans and two years as a POW "couldn't convince any employer to hire me."

"Black Germans do not exist"

Born in Berlin in 1916, James Wonja Michael was in Paris in 1937 when his passport had run out. So he went to the German consulate to renew it. The clerk was rude to him, asking him "What do you want?" He explained and the clerk said, "Your passport?! What--are you German?" James said yes and handed him the passport.
The clerk disappeared and returned 15 minutes later. He asked for his passport back. The clerk said, "No, we are going to keep your passport. You are no longer German. Black Germans do not exist."

Nazi propaganda about "Rhineland Bastards."

Sterilization of the "Rhineland Bastards"

By 1937, each of the identified mulatto children from the Rhineland--which numbered 400-- had been forcibly sterilized. A Black Holocaust survivor, Hans Hauck, was a victim of that "program." In the film, Hitler's Forgotten Victims, he explained that he was forced to undergo sterilization--with no anesthetic. After receiving his "certificate" he was "free to go" as long as he agreed to never have sex with any German women.

"Deutsche Afrika-Schau." Kwassi Bruce circled in blue.

The "Deutsche Afrika-Schau"

The Foreign Office, the Colonial Political section of the Nazi party, and the Propaganda Ministry teamed up to create a theatrical troupe to provide "colonists" with employment. This was the Deutsche Afrika-Schau (German African Show)--a blend of theater, colonial exhibition, and traveling circus that toured the Third Reich from the spring of 1936 until the summer of 1940.

Gerwin Strobl writes, "Its involuntary cast of 'colonial Negroes'...acted out supposed characteristic scenes of African life. The paying public encountered happy 'natives'...the cast encountered grim-faced officials, ever mindful of the 'racial peculiarities of the Negroes, especially their powerful urges and their tendency towards sexual excess.' " Closed down in 1940, the Afrika-Schau was a victim of Nazi racism--the "mere sight of Negroes" provoked hostility from the public and Nazi party officials alike. Thus from 1940 on, "Colored" performers were banned from German stages. Ironically, Afro-German performers worked "underground" in the films of Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda.

Afro-Germans in concentration camps and death camps

Striped of citizenship and passports, black Germans had difficulty leaving Germany. Those who could did manage to flee. Some stayed because they felt that they were Germans and shouldn't be chased out of their country. Approximately 2,000 Afro-Germans perished in the concentration camps and death camps of the Third Reich. They were thrown into cattle cars and deported to the death camps. They were given the most horrible tasks--either in the crematoria or "hospitals" where medical experiments were performed on them.

Sources:

Strobl, Gerwin. The swastika and the stage: German theatre and society, 1933-1945. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Hitler's Forgotten Holocaust Victims. Black Presence.

Chimbelu, Chiponda. "The fate of blacks in Nazi Germany." Deutsche Welle. 10.01.2010

Boateng, Osei. "Black Germans do not exist." New African. May 2001.

Blacks During the Holocaust. Holocaust Encyclopedia. US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

COPYRIGHT (C) ERIC BROTHERS 2010. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.