(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Germany

“The law of unintended consequences pushes us ceaselessly through the years, permitting no pause for perspective”*…

Caricature of Alexander Helphand. 1920

Catherine Merridale with the cautionary tale of of a Ukrainian millionaire businessman, lauded for his business acumen, who made an enormous contribution to the twentieth-century’s dark history of violence – he was instrumental in supporting Lenin’s return to Russia to foment revolution…

Who has not dreamed, this year at least, of watching Putin’s fall from power? Who has not hoped to see the day the Russians get to organise and push him out themselves? And which spy team, in thinking that, has not looked for some Russian they might sponsor for that job, some active oppositionist who has coherent plans?

If any spy is reading this, I have a message now. The whole trick has been tried before, and it did not go well. A century ago, indeed, in the midst of another deadlocked war, the German Foreign Service backed a whole string of assorted anti-Tsarist nationalists, Marxists, adventurers, and crooks. The most successful of these was Lenin (a warning in itself, of course). But the most colourful was another Bolshevik, a millionaire businessman and bon viveur called Alexander Helphand. Both mastermind and sad buffoon — well-read, unscrupulous, and vastly fat — this man helped shape his century. He died forgotten all the same, his many fortunes spent. To picture him — he deserves that — imagine Orson Welles

The remarkable tale: “Alexander Helphand — impresario of revolutionary disaster who smoothed Lenin’s return to Russia.”

* Richard Schickel

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As we tread with care, we might recall that it was on this date in 1918 that Moisei Uritsky was assassinated. A Bolshevik leader and head of the Cheka (the first in the string of Soviet secret police organizations), he was shot by a military cadet, Leonid Kannegisser (who was executed soon after).

Uritsky’s death, followed closely (on August 30) by an attempt on Lenin by Fanny Kaplan, led the Bolsheviks to begin a wave of repression and persecution known as the Red Terror.

Moisei Uritsky

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“Great necessities call out great virtues”*…

 

ksyndrome

Fatebenefratelli Hospital, Tiber Island, Rome

 

Behind the closed doors of the Fatebenefratelli hospital in Rome was a ward filled with patients being treated for K Syndrome. This new and unfamiliar disease – whose name evoked Koch Syndrome (tuberculosis) – was a strong deterrent to the occupying Nazi soldiers who carried out routine searches of the hospital for Jews, partisans and anti-fascists. Fearing infection, the Nazis did not dare enter the ward, turning their attention elsewhere.

Patients in this ward had been hospitalised and classified as suffering from K Syndrome in late 1943. On 16 October of that year, the Nazis combed the Jewish ghetto and other areas of Rome, deporting about 1,200 Jews. Only 15 survived the camps. After this, the hospital’s doctors and friars welcomed ever-increasing numbers of patients. These patients were, however, refugees. K Syndrome was an invented illness…

The remarkable story of hundreds hidden from the Nazis: “K Syndrome, the Disease that Saved.”

* Abigail Adams

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As we admire audacity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that Germany held a Presidential election.  With six million unemployed, chaos in Berlin, starvation and ruin, the threat of Marxism, and  a very uncertain future, the German people turned to Hitler by the millions.

Incumbent President Paul von Hindenburg was 84 years old and in poor health. Never enthusiastic about the presidency (or public office in general), Hindenburg had planned to stand down after his first term. But the prospect of Adolf Hitler being elected President of Germany persuaded the reluctant incumbent to seek a second term.  In the first round of voting, Hindenberg received 49.6% of the vote, just shy of the majority necessary to avoid a run-off.  Hitler polled 30%; Thälmann, the Communist candidate, 16%, and other candidates, 7%.

Hitler took to the skies, criss-crossing Germany by airplane in the run-off campaign.  He raised his total to 37% of the vote.  Although Hitler lost the presidential election of 1932, he achieved his goals when he was appointed chancellor on January 30, 1933.  Then on February 27, Hindenburg paved the way to dictatorship and war by issuing the Reichstag Fire Decree which nullified civil liberties.  Hitler succeeded Hindenburg as head of state upon Hindenberg’s death in 1934, whereafter he abolished the office entirely, and replaced it with the new position of Führer und Reichskanzler (“Leader and Reich Chancellor”), cementing his rule.

170px-Reichspräsidentenwahl_1932_-_1._Wahlgang

1932 Ballot

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 13, 2019 at 12:01 am

“To clarify, ADD data”*…

 

1939 World’s Fair– The World of Tomorrow–  under construction, on the site of a former Queens (New York City) wetland

Who dreams of files? Well, I do, to be honest. And I imagine Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Franz Kafka, and Le Corbusier did, too. It’s not only the files and cabinets themselves that enchant, but their epistemological and political promise; just think of what you can do with all that data! The dream has survived as a collective aspiration for well over a century — since we had standardized cards and papers to file, and cabinets to put them in — and is now expressed in fetishized data visualization and fantasies about “smart cities” and “urban science.” Record-keeping and filing were central to the World of Tomorrow and its urban imaginary, too…

Shannon Mattern on the way in which the 1939 World’s Fair anticipated our current obsession with urban data science and “smart” cities: “Indexing the World of Tomorrow.”

[TotH to Rebecca Onion]

* Edward Tufte

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As we dream of spires, we might spare a thought for Andreas Felix von Oefele; he died on this date in 1780. A historian and author (most notably of the 10 volume work Lebensgeschichten der gelehrtesten Männer Bayerns, “Life stories of the most learned men of Bavaria”), von Oefele was the first “Electoral Councillor, Bibliothecarius and Antiquarius”–  the first head of the Bavarian Court and State Library and Secret Archives.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Gold is the corpse of value…”*

 

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In the wake of World War I, with metals scarce, Germans faced a shortage of pocket change.  So cities, corporations, and sometimes individuals printed and used Serienschein (series notes), a form of Notgeld (emergency money).  Circulating from 1917 to 1923, in the run up to the great inflation that presaged the rise of National Socialism, the Serienschein were denominated in small amounts– one Pfennig up to one or two Marks– unlike the Notgeld issued during the great inflation, which were issued in giant denominations, up to $100 million Marks…

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And even then, required wheelbarrows for transactions…

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But the Serienschein were unlike the huge inflation bills in another way, too:  while the Weimar bills were as uniformly drab as the circumstances that spawned them, Serienschein— sourced from many different places, as they were–  were hugely various and often strikingly designed…

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These fascinating notes began to give way to their drab– but astronomically denominated– successors in 1922, when the European victors in WWI, led by England, demanded their reparations payments in full (and in gold).  Reeling still from their loss, and unable to rev their economy sufficiently quickly to cover the vig, the Germans were effectively bankrupted… and reduced to printing money.  Printing it as fast as they could.  The social toll was huge, and had a profound political effect, paving the way for the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.

One notes that once again a group of European countries, this time ironically led by Germany, is looking to a beleaguered neighbor, this time Greece, for repayment at a time when the Greeks do not have the capacity to earn their way to solvency. (One notes, too, that Spain, Portugal, Italy, and others are trailing perilously closely behind Greece…).  So as one watches right-wing nationalist movements gather strength in these debtor nations, one can only hope that the folks with hands on the tillers in Germany (and at the EMU) recall George Santayana’s admonition (in The Life of Reason): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

See more examples of Serienschein here.

*Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

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As we think again about stuffing our mattresses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that panicked sellers traded nearly 16 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange (four times the normal volume at the time), and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 12%.  Remembered as “Black Tuesday,” this was the conclusive event in the Crash of 1929, and is often cited as the start of the Great Depression.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 29, 2012 at 1:01 am

The Annals of Radical Juxtaposition: Special Journalism Edition…

From Jim Fallows’ always-illuminating Atlantic blog, “Many Mental Patients Simply Walk Out“:

I mentioned yesterday that I was “sure” it was an “accident” that the NYT juxtaposed two stories on its home page about artificial-heart devices. The first story said that former VP Cheney had gotten one; the second, that too many people were getting them.

Reader Mike Diehl says that I was correct to put the air quotes (OK, electronic quotes) where I did. He writes:

>>Had I seen that, I would not have had a doubt the pairing was intentional. I still have a copy of the New York Times from August 8, 1974 — one day before Richard Nixon resigned the presidency. On the front page at the bottom is a photo of Nixon, walking from the Executive Office Building to the White House, juxtaposed with an article headlined, “Many Mental Patients Simply Walk Out.”

Searching for this page, which I am delighted to have found and am attaching here, I note that quite a number of articles on mental health facilities were published in the paper that summer, several making the front page. Two front-page pieces I found are adjacent to articles on Nixon, but none so juicy as the one I cite above. However, on July 31, a front-page piece by Lawrence van Gelder headlined “Mental Patient Held As Church Arsonist” is sandwiched between two articles on Watergate, one headlined “President Surrenders 11 Tapes to Sirica,” the other a reproduction of the text of Impeachment Article III. Coincidence? I think not.

As a graphic designer, I’m aware the opportunities to make such a wry statement with mere page layout are rare, but the New York Times is no stranger to the practice.<<

click image above, or here, to enlarge

On a vaguely-related (and marginally-suitable-for-work) front, readers might enjoy “15 Funniest Accidentally Naughty Headlines,” e.g…

 

As we ponder the future of journalism, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that the Italian government issued the 1,000 Lire coin, the reverse side of which features a European map on which Germany (which reunited in 1990) is shown as still divided into East and West.  The coins were discontinued the following year.

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