Pleistocene Fossils and Nazi Soldiers Buried in Latvia

About 30 years ago I took a business class at Augusta College that revealed 1 of my most disappointing shortcomings.  The professor separated us into groups of 7, and we were assigned topics for discussion everyday.  After several weeks of discussions the professor told us to rank group members in order of most to least influential.  I ranked myself 3rd and felt it was a fair assessment.  But I ranked 6th in the overall average of everybody’s rankings.  Much to my astonishment, I was ranked well behind a guy (that I ranked last) who often showed up to class tripping on acid and had not spoken 1 word during the entire assignment.  It was then when I first realized I had no influence, and I felt so depressed I almost cried.  It explained why I had such a hard time getting women to go on dates with me.  It explained why ridiculous jerks who continuously misused and abused women could get any dates they desired, while I was lucky to get a condescending rejection, if the woman even acknowledged my attention at all.

Now that I am older, I’ve learned to accept the reality that I have little influence or charisma.  I am “low key” as 1 of my former supervisors reported in a complimentary job evaluation.  I even take solace in the knowledge that some of the most influential people in history are considered monsters.  I’ve recently been re-reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer–the best history book I’ve ever read. The details of how Hitler completely took over a country amaze me.   Adolf Hitler was clinically insane.  A psychiatrist diagnosed him with manic-depressive psychosis, now known as bipolar disorder.  (The Nazis eventually killed the doctor and made it look like a suicide.)  Yet, he was easily the most influential man of the 20th century.  He drastically changed the course of history after becoming the dictator of Germany with the legal power of life and death over every citizen there and in all the territories conquered under his rule.  He even replaced the customary salutation of “hello” and “goodbye” with “Heil Hitler.”  He is responsible for the deaths and misery of millions of people.  So if anybody ever criticizes me for having no influence or lacking charisma, I can always tell them, “well, you know who DID have a lot of influence?…Adolf Hitler.”

Image result for Adolf Hitler giving a speech

I’m a nice guy, but I have no influence.  Hitler…not a nice guy…was the single most influential man to live during the 20th century.  I used to feel sad about my lack of charisma, but when I think about this, I don’t feel as bad.

My late father survived the holocaust in Buzcazc, Poland.   One day, the Nazis ordered all the adult Jewish men to the town soccer stadium.  My grandfather decided not to obey that order, although he considered it.  That night, my father’s family heard shots from the direction of the soccer field and a few minutes later, an athletic man who ran and escaped, told them the Germans lined up and shot all the Jewish men in attendance.  Shortly after this incident, my grandfather paid a Ukrainian farmer to hide his family in an hayloft.  There, 6 people lived on a very low calorie diet for 2 years before they were liberated by the Russian army.  However, all of my father’s grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins were killed in concentration camps or shot upon initial confrontation.  My father always liked to watch WWII movies because they depicted the killing of Nazis.  Until his death, he never tired of watching “killing Nazis”–his term for his favorite war movies.  My dad would have enjoyed a movie about the Russian military campaign in Latvia during 1944 that occurred to the north of where he was liberated, but Hollywood has yet to depict this battle.  The Russians trapped 350,000 German soldiers here.  They killed 100,000 and captured the rest.  All of the bodies were buried near where they were killed, and the blue clay soil helps preserve the Nazi skeletons and artifacts that litter the subsurface of the Latvian countryside.

Image result for Latvia map

Location of Latvia.  The Russian army trapped 350,000 German soldiers here.  100,000 were killed and buried on the battlefields.  In many rural areas live humans are outnumbered by buried German corpses.

Rural Latvia is an economically depressed region and most of the people who lived there moved to the city or to other European countries.  So in many places, Nazi corpses outnumber live people.  The old poor alcoholics who remain often dig up Nazi graves and sell the artifacts for cash.  German army dog tags sell for $60.  SS dog tags sell for several hundred dollars.  An helmet can fetch $90.  The market for Nazi artifacts is strong and can be lucrative.  According to Bloomberg Businessweek,  “Herman Goering’s sweat-stained uniform” sold for $126,000.  An orthodox Jew bought Josef Mengele’s diary for $245,000.

The same properties in Latvian soil that have preserved Nazi skeletons also saved paleoecological evidence dating to the Pleistocene.  Stratigraphic cores reveal evidence of past fluctuations in climate alternating between temperate, cold, and full glacial.  Pollen analysis shows a forest of elm, basswood, and hazelnut predominated during warm interglacials.  Immediately before and after glacial maximums the environment consisted of grassy steppe with pockets of birch, alder, spruce, and pine.  Glaciers have entirely covered Latvia during the glacial maximums of the numerous Ice Ages that occurred over the past 2-3 million years.  Over 40 specimens of mammoths have been excavated in Latvia (impressive for such a small little studied area), and caribou remains are common as well.  A Latvian can dig in their backyard and find Nazi skeletons, and if they keep digging deeper, they might find the remains of a mammoth too.

References:

Rogers, Thomas

“The Bodies”

Bloomberg Businessweek   September 4, 2016

Zeles, Vital; Maris Nartiss, and Tomas Satir

“Pleistocene Glaciation in Latvia”

In   Quaternary Glaciation–Extent and Chronology: a closer look

Edited by J. Ehles, P.L. Gillard and P.D. Hughes

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5 Responses to “Pleistocene Fossils and Nazi Soldiers Buried in Latvia”

  1. tarnegolita Says:

    Oh. My. Good. God. Maybe you’re not a charismatic bipolar despot, but you sure know how to write an arresting blog post!! As an “adopted” Israeli, I salute you. And I tell you this: the quiet nice guy gets the girl. In the end. Especially if he writes like this. X

  2. Liz Marshall (@lizardmarsh) Says:

    Sad and engrossing to tie these things together. Thank you for such a personal and educational post.

  3. newtreeguy Says:

    Wow, just wow. Thank you for writing this. Hopefully nothing like this ever happens again on Planet Earth

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