Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Railroad Ecology

September 15, 2022

George Stephenson invented the first workable steam engine locomotive in 1814, and he designed the first working rail system in 1820. The British government approved the construction of this first track used for hauling coal. The first rails were made of wood, but they wouldn’t hold locomotives filled with heavy loads of coal. The type of iron available then was also not strong enough to hold all that weight, so Stephenson invented an improved type of iron that could. Americans bought this technology and constructed our first working railway track in 1828. It was the Baltimore-Ohio Railroad and was 8 miles long. Tavern keepers opposed the construction of railways because they feared losing business when railway tracks were constructed far from their establishments, and religious nuts who thought railroads were sinful also fought against their construction, but the free market eventually won. Today, there are over 800,000 miles of railway tracks around the world.

George Stephenson invented the first workable locomotive steam engine in 1814. He also invented the iron used on railway tracks.

The many miles of railway tracks across the world have a big impact on the environment. They increase mortality of large animals, and they serve as migratory barriers for smaller animals, especially amphibians. Herbicides used to suppress vegetation influence the types of species that can live near railway embankments. Grassland corridors on railway embankments cut through forest facilitate the spread of invasive plant species. The impact is so extensive that railroad ecology has become a subset within the science of ecology. Railroad ecology has been more studied in Europe than the United States, but more and more scientists here are starting to pay attention to it.

A study in southern Poland looked at the influence of railway embankments on bird populations. This study counted 1644 individuals of 67 species. They found railway embankments hosted a greater diversity of species, but total number of birds was about the same as found in agricultural fields. They counted 923 individuals of 58 species found on railway embankments. The 3 most abundant in order were starlings, skylarks, and white-throated sparrows. 17 species were only found on railroad embankments, while 9 species were only found in agricultural fields. Railway transects had higher diversity, but birds were most abundant where railway embankments passed over wetlands, wet meadows, slopes, and bushy areas.

A scientific study found skylarks were the 2nd most common species of bird found on railroad embankments in southern Poland.

A study in Alberta Canada looked at wildlife mortality caused by train collisions with large mammals. This study determined 646 large mammals were killed by trains along 1 major track between 1995-2018. Species killed by trains here included grizzly and black bears, white tail and mule deer, bighorn sheep, moose, wolf, coyote, and Canadian lynx. 50 bears, 27 large carnivores, and 560 ungulates were killed. Areas with increased train speed and near water resulted in greater casualties. Trains coming around bends also caught large mammals by surprise.

This moose was rescued, but many large mammals are killed by trains every year.

References:

Cassady, Colleen, V. Whittingham, A. Forshner, A. Gangadhare, and D. Lietze

“Railway Mortality for several Mammal Species Increases with Train Speed, Proximity to Water, and Truck Curvature”

Scientific Reports 20776 2020

Kajzer-Bonk, J. et. al.

“The Effect of Railways on Bird Diversity in Farmland”

Environmental Science and Pollution Research 26 2019

Natural History in Yiddish

September 8, 2022

My late Grandfather on my father’s side spoke 7 languages, and his second wife spoke 8. They lived in Europe where countries that have different official languages border each other. I know 1 language because I live in the U.S. and never needed to learn a different one, though I long wish I was fluent in more than just English. I took a year of Spanish and a year of French in high school, but I’ve forgotten most of what I learned and never did master either enough to speak or understand them fluently. I suffer from a neurological condition that puts me at high risk for developing dementia. To delay the onset, I decided to keep my mind active by learning a new language. I chose Yiddish. My dad used to pepper his language with Yiddish words, and I think this experience gives me a head start. Moreover, my last name is Yiddish. Gelbart is Yiddish for yellow beard. Centuries ago, one of my ancestors must have been a blonde.

Yiddish is older than modern English and modern German. Modern English originated between 1400 AD-1500 AD, and modern German began between 1500AD-1600 AD, but Yiddish originated about 1000 AD. Yiddish literally means Jewish, and it was the language most often spoken by Jews of Central Europe until World War II. When Judea (now Israel) was a colony of the Roman Empire, Jews periodically rebelled. To suppress rebellion and dissent, Romans took a majority of the Jewish population into slavery and removed them from Judea, spreading them throughout the Roman Empire where they could no longer muster an organized resistance. Eventually, Jews in what today are Italy and France became free merchants and artisans. Germanic kings invited them to live in the Rhine River valley to improve their economies. Jews were likely speaking a combination of archaic Italian and French along with Hebrew and the related language of Aramaic. Soon, they picked up the medieval German languages spoken in the Rhine River valley. Whenever economic times deteriorated, Jews became the scapegoats, and the nobility would put the blame on them, and they would often be expelled. But Slavic kings located in what today are Poland and Russia would invite them to their kingdoms to help improve their economies. The Yiddish language picked up Slavic words as well. Yiddish is a mix of all these languages but is primarily medieval German with about 15% Hebrew. Jews still spoke Hebrew in synagogues and schools, but Yiddish was a street language used in their daily lives. Hebrew was considered a holy language. Before World War II there were 11 million Yiddish speakers in the world, but today there are just 600,000, mostly Hasidic Jews living in New York City and Israel. Israel chose Hebrew over Yiddish as its official language.

When the Romans conquered Judea and later suppressed rebellions, they enslaved much of the population and transported the Jewish slaves throughout the Roman Empire. Many Jews that were settled in Italy and France eventually migrated to kingdoms where Germanic languages were spoken. Yiddish–a complex mix of Hebrew, Romance languages, Slavic languages, and medieval German–originated there.

I’ve encountered difficulties learning Yiddish. Yiddish uses the Hebrew alphabet. I took some Hebrew classes 50 years ago, but to be honest most of the Hebrew alphabet letters look alike to me. I decided learning the Hebrew alphabet was too challenging for me, so I am learning Yiddish transliterated into the English alphabet. I think Yiddish is probably no harder to learn than English for people who didn’t grow up speaking it. However, there are some quirks. For example the article “the” has 4 different versions in Yiddish depending upon the gender of the noun it precedes, and there is no rhyme or reason for whether a noun is masculine, feminine, or neutral. Masculine nouns are preceded by der, feminine nouns by di, and neutral nouns by dos. To know which is which requires rote memorization of every single noun and its preceding “the.” Masculine nouns that are the objects of a sentence or in a prepositional phrase are preceded by a 4th version of “the”–dem. Feminine nouns in prepositional phrases become masculine and are preceded by der instead of di. Neutral nouns in prepositional phrases are preceded by dem. Prepositions and “the” articles commonly become contractions–an additional challenge. Another complexity are plural words. In English plural words are simply followed by an s, though some words require the middle vowels to be changed, as in geese instead of gooses. In Yiddish plural words can end in en, s, er (with a middle vowel change), im, and es. Money and time have no plural versions but remain singular.

Today, I combined my natural history studies with my Yiddish studies and learned about 50 natural history words in Yiddish. Some words are remarkably similar or exactly the same in both languages, but others are quite different. I got these from google translate, so if they are wrong blame that.

natural history-natural geshikhte

tiger-tiger

lion-leyb

cat-kats

wolf-vulf

dog-hunt (Interesting. Dogs were used for hunting, so hunt?)

bear-bir

cow-ku

buffalo-buflox (Ox?)

horse-ferd

sheep-shep

elephant-helfin

camel-kemi

hare-hoz (My father called rabbits, “hazels.”)

rabbit-kinigi (Similar to the archaic word for rabbit in English–coney)

squirrel-veverke

wild boar-vilde khazer (Khazer is a big insult in Yiddish because pigs are not kosher.)

deer-hirgch or dir

animal-khaye or behamye (Similar to beast?)

mouse–moyte

rat-shtshur

bird-foygi

dove-tayb

eagle-odler

hawk-fulk

owl-sove

snake-shlang (Similar to shlong, slang for a penis)

frog-zobe

dinosaur-daynasar

ground sloth-erd slotsch (Earth similar to erd)

catfish-som

carbon dating-tshod dayting

sedimentary rock-sedementari shteyn

spider-shpin (As in spin a web)

ant-muraske

cockroach-taraken

open pine savannah-efenen sosne savannah

oak woodland-demb vudland

beech and birch forest-bitsch aun berne veld

prairie-preri

dry scrubland-trukn skrublem

sea shore-im brig

grassy hill-granike berg

ecology-ekologi

copulation-kapayaleyshen

sperm-zeyre

erection-ireksten

remove your bra and panties-aropnemen dayn biusthalter aun heyzelke (Another word for bra is stanik.)

Reference:

Blech, Benjamin

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Learning Yiddish

Alpha Books 2000

The First Nazi Criminal Extradited from the U.S. to Germany was a Friendly Housewife

July 20, 2022

I was speaking quietly to my friend in the school cafeteria at Washington Elementary in Niles, Ohio 53 years ago when Mrs. Yuhasz snuck up behind me, yanked me up by the back of my shirt, and nailed me on the butt with a club perforated with holes that reduced wind resistance. I was so startled; I literally pissed my pants. The elementary school shared the same building with the junior high, and Mrs. Yuhasz, the junior high counselor, demanded absolute silence because school kids chattering during lunch might interfere with junior high students concentrating on their scholarly studies. Mrs. Yuhasz often slammed her club on a table, transforming the chatter into sudden silence. On other occasions she’d shock the students into silence by beating 1 of us as an example.

5 years after the butt-beating, I had an appointment to see Mrs. Yuhasz while she was performing her official duties as a middle school counselor. She said she was “glad we got along now” as if we ever had had any interaction since she’d clubbed my rear. She remembered that incident, and this suggests to me that Nazi war criminals remembered every act of violence they ever perpetrated on their victims. Mrs. Yuhasz could be nice. I’m sure she baked cookies for kids visiting her house. But I remember her as a brutal woman, and I was reminded of her while reading a history of Nazi war criminals.

Much to my surprise, the first Nazi war criminal extradited from the U.S. to Germany was a woman, and this extradition didn’t occur until 1973. Her name was Hermine Braunsteiner-Ryan. During World War II she was a factory worker when her landlord suggested she sign up to be a SS prison guard. She worked at the Ravensbruck Prison, a concentration camp for women in northern Germany where an estimated 90,000 people died. Then she transferred to the Madjanek Camp in Poland, a slave textile factory with 7 gas chambers and 2 gallows. An estimated 78,000 people died here. Hermine wore hob-nailed boots and carried a whip. She kicked and/or whipped 80 starving women to death. In addition she threw 103 children onto crowded trains headed for gas chambers. She picked the kids up by their hair when she threw them on the trains. After the war the U.S. Army arrested her, and she spent a mere 3 years in an Austrian prison.

Hermine Braunsteiner-Ryan was the first Nazi war criminal extradited from the U.S. back to Germany. She kicked and whipped 80 women to death and threw (literally) over 100 children on trains bound for gas chambers.

Simon Wiesenthal, the famous Nazi hunter, never heard of Hermine until he was eating in a restaurant while on vacation in Israel during 1964. 3 women who served time at Majdanak told him about Hermine, and he went to work locating her. After her release from prison, she worked as a waitress and met an American construction worker vacationing in Austria. They fell in love and got married. They moved to Canada, then New York City. Wiesenthal assigned a New York Times reporter, Joseph Lelyveld, the task of tracking down her exact address. He found her and conducted an interview. He described her as a big boned blonde wearing pink and white shorts and a white blouse. She was in the process of painting the interior of her house during the interview. He informed her Wiesenthal was looking to bring her to justice. She said she’d already served time, but when the reporter told her that was for crimes committed at Ravensbruck and not Madjanak, she burst into tears and lamented that her life was over. Still, her husband supported her and claimed she “wouldn’t hurt a fly.” He crowdfunded her legal defense, and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service kept bungling the case. Hermine had lied on her immigration application about serving time in prison–grounds for immediate deportation. Nevertheless, it took 9 years before she was finally extradited to Germany. She stood trial with 14 other Nazi war criminals. The trial took 2 years, and she was sentenced to life in prison but was released 3 years before her death due to poor health. She had a leg amputated because of diabetes complications. How ironic. I wonder, if this was the leg, she used to kick women to death. Hermine died in 1999.

Of the estimated 10,000 Nazi war criminals who escaped to the U.S., only 128 faced legal proceedings, and of these just 67 were extradited. 28 of these criminals died while awaiting trial. It is shocking that just a fraction of 1% ever faced justice. The Red Cross and the Vatican actively helped Nazi war criminals escape to Argentina. I have no respect for either institution. Most Nazi war criminals have died of old age by now, but many likely served as teachers and school administrators who beat baby boomers with aerodynamically designed clubs when we were in school.

Reference:

Pick, Hella

Simon Wiesenthal: A Life in Search of Justice

Phoenix Paperbacks 1996

A Survey of Indian Massacres on U.S. Territory

July 12, 2022

The woke generation believes Europeans were always the bad guys, and American Indians were completely innocent in their historical conflicts. Many of the woke unfairly compare the U.S. government with Nazi Germany’s actions during the holocaust. This politically correct consensus is naive and untrue. The U.S. government never had a “final solution” policy to completely eradicate Indians. The conflict between Europeans and Indians was a war over land, and the Indians were the losers. Perhaps that is why they evoke sympathy, but there were genocides and atrocities committed by both sides. Some argue Indians were justified when killing innocent Europeans because they were defending their land. I reject this apologist reasoning. I also challenge anybody to show me a legal deed with a claim the Indians owned all of the Americas. Killing innocent people is never justifiable.

I surveyed a Wikipedia entry about Indian massacres, focusing on just those that occurred on U.S. territory. I wondered what the statistical breakdown would look like. The Wikipedia list of Indian massacres is not complete, and historians have discovered additional incidents, but the data I used was what was easily available to me.

Results:

From 1539-1700 there were 25 Indian massacres of white people and 21 white massacres of Indians. Between 1700-1800 there were 31 Indian massacres of white people and 16 white massacres of Indians. Between 1800-1911 there were 34 Indian massacres of white people and 79 white massacres of Indians. Between the time of initial European colonization and final defeat of the Indians there were a total of 90 Indian massacres of white people and 116 white massacres of Indians. Historians know of 13 Indian on Indian massacres during this time period, but undoubtedly there were many more. Most Indians never recorded their history.

Artist’s depiction of the Jamestown colony massacre. 1 scholar believes this was an act of genocide according to modern United Nations rules. Indians were not always innocent victims as many of the woke crowd on twitter believe.
I don’t believe the U.S. federal government had an official policy of wiping out Indians, but there were regional genocides, especially in California and Utah. Scholars debate whether a genocide against Indians occurred in California. In my opinion it definitely was a genocide. Local greedy businessmen wanted Indians off the land, so they could profit from the natural resources, and they saw them as nothing but potential slaves.

Hernando de Soto initiated the violence between Europeans and Indians in the south when he executed 200 Indians for not telling him where non-existent gold was. This is known as the Napitua Massacre. A few years later Indians avenged this massacre and wiped out most of De Soto’s party. However, in the north, the warlike Powhatan Indians drew first blood against the English when they murdered 50 starving colonists in 1609. During 1622 Powhatan Indians entered the Jamestown settlement in Virginia under the guise of offering to sell them food. They picked up farm implements and killed 347 innocent men, women, and children. Then, they blockaded the settlement all winter, causing the starvation deaths of 500 additional people. The English got their revenge the following year when they invited the Indians to a celebration and served them poisoned wine. 250 Indians died. In 1644 the Powhatan killed over 400 settlers. The Powhatan’s chiefs’ goal was to completely wipe out Europeans in America, and scholars do think this would be considered genocide by modern U.N. standards. While the U.S. Army was busy preserving the Union during the Civil War, Indians attacked settlers in Minnesota and killed over 800 people–another example of genocide when white people were the victims.

European treatment of Indians out West, particularly on formerly Spanish-held land, was brutal. Mormons in Utah were really bad. Brigham Young did order the partial extermination of Indians for stealing cattle, and he used them to attack non-Mormon settlers. The Indians were stealing cattle because Europeans eliminated their main food supply–bison. Another regional genocide occurred in California, though I don’t blame the U.S. government. In 1850 the California state government passed the Orwellian sounding The California Act for the Government and Protection of Indians. This law was an excuse to enslave Indians. Local greedy businessmen including farmers, ranchers, miners, and slave-traders killed 10,000 Indians in less than 2 decades. The U.S. government turned a blind eye to this genocide, but I think the effort to preserve the Union was sucking all the oxygen out of the room, and the government was unable to focus on anything else. Scholars debate over whether this was a genocide because 90% of the Indians died due to diseases for which they had little resistance and not direct violence. In my opinion it was a genocide. There were so many massacres of innocent people, disparagingly called “diggers” because they dug for edible roots, that it had to be a deliberate extermination campaign. The Emancipation Proclamation caused the California Indian Act to be repealed in 1863, but by then it was too late. The last white massacre of Indians occurred at Wounded Knee in South Dakota when 190 Indians were murdered.

There is no excuse for the federal government’s neglect of Indians since they’ve been put on reservations.

Reference:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indian_massacres_in_North_America

Refrigeration is Wonderful Technology

March 15, 2022

I bought a Kenmore refrigerator 18 years ago, and it is still working, but I decided to take pre-emptive action and replace it before it breaks down. It often shakes when it quits cycling, and I’m afraid it will cease functioning when the weather warms. Online sources suggest replacing refrigerators after 15 years, and I’ve been putting this off for a while. I’ve noticed house temperature makes a difference in how much the refrigerator labors. During the cooler months when our house is 67 degrees F, the refrigerator doesn’t cycle much, but during summer when the house is 77 degrees F, it seems to constantly cycle. I chose an energy efficient LG refrigerator to replace the Kenmore. It costs $830 to have it delivered from Lowes including hauling off the old one. 18 years ago, my Kenmore was priced at $800, showing inflation is minimal for refrigerators.

Refrigeration is an amazing invention, but I can track down no single person who invented electrical refrigeration. Instead, it seems to have been a collective advance in technology, and the concept was understood well before the widespread availability of electricity. As early as 1740 William Cullen, a Scottish scientist, demonstrated the principle of mechanical refrigeration, but he never made a usable refrigerator. Jacob Perkins invented a working refrigerator in 1838, but it failed commercially because nobody had electricity. John Gorrie invented an ice machine in 1842 to cool patients with yellow fever, but it was never used commercially to cool food. Breweries and meat-packing plants started using refrigeration in 1870 just when electrical power became more widely available. Albert Marshall patented the first mechanical refrigerator for home use in 1899, and this was followed by many other patented refrigerators at the turn of the century. At first refrigerators had to compete with iceboxes. Workers would cut big slabs of lake ice during winter and store the slabs in warehouses where they were insulated with sawdust. The ice was distributed to homes in urban areas. The ice slab was placed in the top of the icebox. The cool air sank and melting water would also cool the inside of the box. The ice had to be replaced every few days, and the melt water was a mess to clean up. Mechanical refrigerators began to replace iceboxes during the 1920s after William Durant introduced the Frigidaire model in 1918, and General Electric introduced their model in 1927. Nevertheless, many still referred to their refrigerators as iceboxes until well into the 1960s.

Before mechanical refrigerators people used iceboxes. Big slabs of ice were stored in massive warehouses where they were insulated with sawdust.
Old-fashioned icebox. Cool air sinks and melted water from the ice also cooled the inside of the box.
Early patented mechanical refrigerator.

The process of mechanical refrigeration is based on the principle of evaporation. When a gas cools it condenses to form a liquid. The evaporation of this liquid removes heat. Refrigerators have coils that hold refrigerant gases. Gas is forced into the coils inside the refrigerator where it cools to a liquid which removes heat from inside the refrigerator. The removed heat from this cooled liquid is turned into a gas that takes the heat into the coils outside the refrigerator. It is a self-contained system that cycles over and over.

Diagram from Science ABC showing the principle of mechanical refrigeration.

List of Wars Russia Lost over the Past 150 Years

March 2, 2022

I know more than the so-called “experts” who get paid the big bucks to spout their “wisdom” on news talk shows. Retired military generals and ex-Defense Department leaders told political news pundits Kiev, Ukraine would fall to the Russian Army in 24-48 hours. A few weeks ago, I was curious and spent 30 minutes researching the Ukranian and Russian militaries on Google. I learned Ukraine has a decent military. On paper Russia has far more firepower than the Ukraine, but the Russian military is notorious for having soldiers with low morale and weapon systems that often malfunction. The experts’ claim that Kiev would fall fast made no sense to me. Furthermore, these experts questioned whether Ukrainians would have the will to fight. I wondered why they assumed Russians would have the will to fight. 7 days into this war, it seems as if my 30 minutes of research makes me smarter than the wrinkled-up generals who talk to Wolf Blitzer on CNN. CNN should fire them and hire me.

Russia’s military is performing terribly. It appears as if their generals don’t know what they are doing, their soldiers don’t even know why they are there, and their equipment stinks. Russian missiles often miss their targets, then don’t even explode. Troops ran out of gas and food after just 2 days. Their tactics are disastrous. They are feeding troops piecemeal into Kiev, and they are getting slaughtered. Much of their army is stuck in a traffic jam on 1 highway, and the element of surprise has been lost. Russia hasn’t even yet achieved air superiority over the tiny Ukranian Air Force, a phase that should have taken 2 hours. I don’t think Russia will ever take Kiev, but if they do, they will face an insurgency they will never be able to quell. Putin is a stupid bully who made a stupid blunder that may eventually bring down his regime. I’m puzzled why the world community and military experts thought the Russian military was invincible. Russia has a long history of losing wars.

Russia fought the Ottoman Empire, England, France, and Sardinia during the Crimean War from 1853-1856. Russia lost 500,000 men and was forced to give up Romania, Moldavia, and Serbia. The Crimean Peninsula was demilitarized, and Russian warships were banned from the Black Sea. It was a disastrous loss.

500,000 Russian soldiers were killed during the Crimean War of the mid-19th century. Russia lost this war.

Japan humiliated Russia during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. Japanese soldiers drove the Russian Army out of Manchuria. During the Battle of Tsushima the Japanese Navy sank 4 Russian battleships, 7 cruisers, and 3 destroyers; and they captured 3 battleships and 3 destroyers. Japanese losses were minimal–3 damaged battleships and 3 little patrol torpedo boats sunk. Teddy Roosevelt brokered a peace deal where Russia simply agreed to give up Manchuria.

The Japanese sunk most of the Russian Navy during the Battle of Tsushima during 1905, leading to another Russian military disaster.

Though Russia was on the allied side with England and France (the U.S. entered about the time Russia dropped out), Russia still managed to lose WWI to Germany. The Battle of Tannenberg was the main reason why Russia lost that war. Retreating Russian army groups ran right into fortified German trenches. Russia lost tens of thousands of men killed (the exact number is unknown) and 92,000 were captured. This disastrous loss sparked the Russian Revolution, and Russia sued for peace with Germany.

Russian armies retreated and ran into German fortified trenches during WWI. Over 30,000 men were killed and 92,000 were captured. Russia sued for peace.

After the Russian Revolution, Russia tried to spread communism by force to neighboring countries including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. All of these military efforts failed by 1921. Russia was more successful following WWII.

Russia spent 10 years fighting a war in Afghanistan from 1979-1989. The primitive Mujahadeen defeated them. Russia also failed to subdue the tiny province of Chechnya from 1994-1996 and were forced to withdraw. They returned in 1999, but it took them 10 years to defeat the Chechen insurgency. The Ukraine is much larger, and the people are fighting for freedom and democracy. Ukraine did fight a guerilla war against the Soviet Union from 1944-1953. The Soviet Union was much stronger then, and people were war weary. I see no way for Russia to win this time, and in this war there are clear cut good guys and bad guys. Putin is a brutal dictator who poisons his political rivals. Zelensky is a democratically elected Jewish comedian who refuses to flee for his own personal safety. It’s a modern-day David vs Goliath story. I am rooting for freedom and that means the Ukrainian Army needs to kill as many Russian soldiers as possible. Twitter temporarily locked my account for tweeting this wish, but I can express this opinion on my blog. Winning a war means killing.

Adolf Hitler Never Won a Legitimate Election

August 20, 2021

I always yell at the television when some ill-informed political pundit falsely claims Adolf Hitler was democratically elected. Bernie Sanders made this claim a few years ago, and a Washington Post fact-checker gave him 4 Pinocchios–their highest falsehood rating. Last week, Bill Maher again repeated this myth on his show, Real Time, and a guest agreed with him. Maher has regurgitated this lie numerous times in the past, but there is no way for an average shmuck like me to contact him and set him straight. Maybe someone can bring this article to his attention, but I doubt it.

Adolf Hitler ran for President of Germany during 1932 and lost to Von Hindenburg twice. He lost the first election by over 19% points and the second by almost 17% points. The results were not close. However, Hitler did take advantage of the democratic process to gain power, so perhaps the Washington Post’s 4 Pinocchio rating given to Bernie Sanders was too harsh. I’d give him 1 Pinocchio or the mostly false rating used by Politifact fact-checkers.

Results of the 1932 German Presidential Election and the Run-off. Von Hindenburg beat Hitler twice. From wikipedia.
Von Hindenburg was the only person in Germany who could have stopped Adolf Hitler. Instead, he appointed him chancellor to form a coalition government. He could have formed a coalition government with the Christian Democrats, but he hated the more liberal party. In contradiction to the tone of this photo, Hitler thought Hindenburg was a doddering old fool and Hindenburg called Hitler a damned corporal, and he made fun of his Austrian accent.
The Nazis burned down the Reichstag (the German Congress building) and blamed it on the communists. Von Hindenburg approved of the Enabling Act which gave Hitler dictatorial powers based on this crisis manufactured by the Nazis. Photo from the Smithsonian magazine.

During the 1928 German parliamentary elections the Nazis garnered just 2.6% of the vote. Then the Great Depression began, the economy collapsed, and the Nazi Party won 37% of the seats for the Reichstag during the July 1932 parliamentary election. This was more than any other party but not enough for a majority. Von Hindenburg was forced to broker negotiations for a coalition government. Von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor–the most important cabinet position. He also appointed 2 other Nazis (Goring and Frick) to other positions, while the 8 other cabinet positions went to members of other political parties. Von Hindenburg did not have to do this. He could have formed a ruling coalition between the the moderate Christian Democrats, his own Centre Party, and a number of minor parties that could have pushed them over the top in the Reichstag. But Von Hindenburg hated the Christian Democrats. His own Centre Party was right wing and supported by the Conservative Catholic Church, and they despised the more liberal Christian Democrats. The former Chancellor, Von Pappen, still had influence with Von Hindenburg, and he persuaded him to appoint Hitler as Chancellor. Hitler had promised to make Von Pappen Vice-Chancellor in exchange for convincing Von Hindenburg to appoint him. Moreover, 22 leaders of German industry lobbied Von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler because they feared the communists, and they felt Hitler was the best leader who could prevent the spread of Bolshevist revolution. Von Hindenburg, himself an extreme right winger, actually agreed with all of Hitler’s positions, except for his persecution of the Jews. One can understand why Von Hindenburg appointed Hitler, but he wasn’t forced into it.

Another parliamentary election was called in November of 1932 and the Nazis lost 35 seats but still held more than any other party. Here again, Von Hindenburg could have sacked Hitler and replaced the coalition government, but he did not. During February 1933 the Nazis set fire to the Reichstag building and blamed it on the communists. They did such a good job of hiding the real arsonists that historians couldn’t prove the Nazis were behind the Reichstag fire until as recently as 2013. Hitler used this crisis to influence the Reichstag to pass the Enabling Act, a law that suspended civil liberties and gave him more power than anyone other than Von Hindenburg who Hitler knew was dying of cancer. The law was not passed democratically. Members of the Reichstag who were Christian Democrats or Communists were arrested and prevented from voting against it. During his time as Chancellor Hitler gained control of the police and the military. After Von Hindenburg died during August of 1934 Hitler combined the office of the President with that of the Chancellor and called it the Fuhrer meaning supreme leader. He appointed himself Fuhrer. That does not sound like a democratic election to me.

After Hitler made himself dictator, there were elections but they were all rigged to make it look like the Nazis won in a landslide every time. Hitler ruled Germany for 11 years before killing himself in a bunker when he couldn’t deny that he had led Germany to its destruction.

Reference:

Shirer, William

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

MJF Books 1961

Wilderness Rebounded Following the Black Death

August 24, 2020

The recent ill-advised lockdown that failed to stop the spread of the coronavirus reduced human activity for several months, and the wildlife noticed.  Deer and coyote, normally more active at night, began roaming big city streets in broad day light.  It doesn’t take long for wilderness to rebound when the presence of humans is diminished or eliminated.  The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is now 1 of the greatest nature reserves in the world, thanks to radiation fallout which makes the area an unpopular place for people to reside.  Past epidemics have led to the rebound of wilderness.  Europeans introduced many infectious diseases to the Americas, resulting in an 80% reduction in Indian populations.  Many Europeans then mistakenly believed the Americas had always been a sparsely populated segment of the world.  They collectively forgot their own past history with the bubonic plague.

The bubonic plague is believed to have originated in the Gobi Desert, possibly in the gerbil population.  Fleas spread the dangerous bacteria (Yersinia pestis) to the Mongolian raiders descended from Ghengis Khan who then carried it to Europe during hostile invasions and through free trade.  During 1347 a merchant ship with an 100% infection rate arrived in Venice, Italy and soon the plague spread throughout Europe in fleas carried by rats.  People slept on straw mats, crowded together in unsanitary condition, and bubonic plague outbreaks exploded.  In addition to being flea-borne the bacteria could be transmitted through the air between people in close contact with each other. The plague is an horrible disease, killing people in 3-4 days, and the victims die in agony–their lymph glands literally burst with toxic bacterial waste and white blood cells.  The victims turn black, hence the name “Black Death.”  50% of the population died.  Not enough agricultural workers remained alive to harvest the crops, and combined with bad weather from the onset of The Little Ice Age, famine soon followed the plague.  Wild animals and wilderness soon took over much of rural Europe.

Fast and lethal, the Black Death spread more than a mile per day

Bubonic plague, originating in Asia, decimated European populations for 2 centuries and wilderness areas rebounded.

Aspen Glow. A Limited Edition Fine Art Print from Peter Lik. – LIK ...

Birch and aspen trees quickly sprouted in abandoned fields that were soon replaced by oak forests with trees that eventually grew 150 feet tall.

Białowieża

Huge oak trees like this grew on abandoned agricultural land following the Black Death.

Grass growing in abandoned grain fields fed herds of wild cattle and horses recently freed from their dead human masters, and these escapees interbred with their wild cousins.  Bison expanded their range.  Soon birch and aspen forests sprouted in the fields, and moose invaded the new natural areas to feed on the saplings.  Brown bears enjoyed the fruits of long neglected orchards.  Eventually, oak trees shaded out the birch forests, and they grew to enormous size–the acorns feeding wild boars and roe deer.  Lynx and wolves reclaimed land they’d lost in the previous centuries.

The Significance of Aurochs | borderslynn

The aurochs, the ancestor of modern cows, along with cattle that went feral roamed the European countryside in the years following the Black Death.  The Black Death likely delayed the extinction of the aurochs by centuries.  They didn’t become extinct until 1527.

The Odd Couple!! (Wild Red Deer Stag & Horse) | Horses, Animals ...

Red deer and horse populations increased when human populations decreased.

King Jagiello escaped an outbreak of the plague in 1426 when he retreated to an hunting manor in the Bialowitza woods.  No roads or bridges penetrated this vast wilderness.  Royalty protected this wilderness for centuries, and today it is just a partial remnant of the post Black Death rebound of nature.

Author Mimi Matthews

Wolf packs took over when humans disappeared from large areas of Europe.

Don’t Go

July 27, 2020

My father was born in Buczacz (pronounced Buchach), Poland where soccer was the most popular sport.  The town soccer teams were split along ethnic lines, and they often played against each other.  The Poles were supposed to be the best, the Ukrainians 2nd, and the Jews the worst.  In reality the opposite was true.  Though the referees would cheat excessively for the Polish soccer team, the Jewish soccer team would invariably defeat them anyway.  After beating the Poles, the Jewish fans and players fled the stadium because if the Poles cornered any Jew following their humiliation, they would beat them senseless or possibly even murder a trapped Jew.

Hitler broke his treaty with the Soviet Union in June of 1941, and Germany invaded Soviet-occupied Poland where Buczacz was located.  As soon as the Germans took control of the town, the Gestapo issued an order for all Jewish male heads of households in Buczacz to report to the town soccer field. My Grandfather Isadore vacillated over whether he should go or not.  His first wife, my Grandmother Regina, urged him not to go.  Years later, she often recounted how she told him “don’t go, don’t go.” My grandfather didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot with the German authorities, but on the other hand he did not trust them.  In the end he decided not to go.  That night, they heard the sound of a machine gun coming from the direction of the soccer field.  My father, then 11 years old, knew immediately what had happened–the Germans had murdered all the Jewish men gullible enough to follow German orders.  His parents assured him that his fears were baseless, but a Jewish track athlete had managed to run away and escape, and he came to their house that night and confirmed my father’s fearful assumption.

Simply ordering Jews to report to their execution was a common tactic Germans used to liquidate a town or city of its Jews.  The executions were called Actions.  With most of the male leadership gone, Germans found it easier to intimidate the remaining population, moving them to ghettos or shipping them off to labor camps.  Jews who managed to escape these mass shooting were often attacked by gangs of Poles or Ukrainians during their escape. The natives killed Jews for their money, jewels, or houses.  They were quick to take advantage of a Jew’s misfortune.

10,000 Jews lived in Buczacz before World War II, making up about half the population.  7,000 were killed directly in town and most of the rest were shipped off to concentration camps.  There were a total of 3 Actions or mass shootings; but Germans, Poles, and Ukrainians murdered many Jews in individual incidents.  From a 2nd story window my father’s family witnessed a German officer shoot a teenaged girl in the head.  Her blood flowed in the snow.  The German ceremonially put gloves on before the shooting and removed them after.  Germans began rounding up Jews to send to concentration camps, and my father’s family hid in the septic tank when the Germans knocked on the door and shouted, “Jew, come out.”  My grandfather knew this was not a tenable situation–eventually the Germans would enter the house and conduct a thorough search and drag them out because their Polish neighbors would tell them Jews were inside. So he went to the countryside and found an Ukrainian farmer who agreed to hide his family in an hayloft in exchange for gold.  My grandfather gave the man some gold and promised more after the war was over.  My father and his brother hid in an hay wagon on the way to the farm and were later joined by their parents.  Still later, my Uncle Haskell stayed with them after his wife and children were taken to a concentration camp while he was at work.  The 5 of them stayed in the hayloft for 2 years, and they suffered from cold, hunger, and thirst.  The farmer gave them each 1 piece of bread a day and the water from boiling potatoes, and on Christmas he gave them butter.  During summer the farmer provided all the dandelions, cucumbers, and cherries they could eat.  The relationship was not harmonious, however.  Whenever the Germans won a major battle the farmer threatened to kick them out.  The Russians liberated Buczacz in 1944, and my father’s family was able to leave the hayloft.   My father’s family were among the 100 Jews in Buczacz who survived…~1% of the Jewish population.

Buchach - Navigator Ukraine

Buchach, Ukraine where my dad was born and grew up.  It was part of Poland when he lived here.

My Grandfather Isadore Gelbart with his 2nd wife, Ilsa.  He lost his parents, 5 brothers and sisters, and many uncles, aunts, and cousins during the Holocaust; but he saved his 1st wife, sons, and brother-in-law. Photo circa 1976. Isadore owned a shoe store until WWII.  He became a lawyer after the war at age 60.  His father was a beekeeper who made mead and sold it to bars.

My Grandmother Regina grew up in nearby Nadworna before she married Isadore. 2,000 Jews lived in Nadvorna and they suffered the same fate as the Buczacz Jews.  Shortly after occupying Nadvorna, the Germans were looking for a convenient location to mass execute as many Jews as they could.  The Ukrainians pointed out a trench used to store ammunition during World War I.  Unlike the first Action in Buczacz, most of the victims in this mass execution were women and children, killed while their husbands and fathers were at work.  Over 1000 children were shot here.  Pious Jews in Nadworna were especially persecuted.  Rabbi’s beards were set on fire, and some had their eyes poked out while being taunted about how their God was not protecting them.  Some Germans justified the executions with bizarre mental gymnastics.  Shaje Shmerier, one of the very few Nadvorna survivors, relates how on a cold winter’s day he was using an iron bar to break the ice on top of a well when a German soldier came up to him and said, “we only killed the communist Jews.  The good Jews are safe.”  Schaje thought of telling him children are not communists and don’t even know what communism is but didn’t want to stand and argue with the German.  He avoided them and had been using that particular well (which was off the busiest route) in the hopes of not running into any Germans.

Ukraine - Ukraine Poland, Nadvirna Nadwirna Nadvorna Nadworna ...

Nadvorna, Ukraine.  When my late grandmother grew up here, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then after WWI it was Poland.  It was a popular resort town during the early 20th century.  Most of the 2,000 Jews who lived here were killed during the Holocaust.

A very brief history of Galicia since 1500 when the Jews arrived.

Location Galicia in Europe.svg

The province of Galicia is half in Poland and half in the Ukraine.  It was all part of Poland when my father lived there.

Polish noblemen owned huge estates in Galicia during the feudal ages.  They started inviting Jewish merchants onto their estates because they wanted to improve their local economies.  Jews, persecuted elsewhere, were glad to live on these estates, and they started arriving in Galicia about 1500.  Eventually, prosperous towns like Buczacz and Nadworna started popping up on these estates. Jews became part of the newly emerging middle class artisans and merchants who stabilized the economy.  Cossacks, descendants of Ghengis Khan’s hordes, and Turks repeatedly attacked Galicia and occasionally laid ruin to some towns, murdering and terrorizing the Jewish population along the way.  But the towns were always rebuilt.  By the early 18th century the Austro-Hungarian Empire drove the Turks away, and it controlled the province until World War I. (My grandfather served as a cavalry officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the war.) Poland gained independence after World War I, and Galicia became part of Poland.  After World War II the Soviet Union swallowed up the province.  The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the Ukraine declared its independence.  Galicia is now split between Poland and the Ukraine.

Reference:

Nadworna

Numerous authors

Landmanshaft of Nadworna in Israel and America 1975

Operation Sea Lion

October 12, 2019

Germany could have won World War II and were closer to winning than most people realize.  If instead of invading Russia during the summer of 1941, Hitler had followed the advice of his admirals and diverted more resources to North Africa, the German army would have easily swept aside the British and captured all the oil in the Middle East.  Then, he could have ordered the invasion of southern Russia and captured all of their oil supplies, and it would have been game over for the allies because the Germans would have controlled most of the available worldwide oil.  Another scenario that could have led to German victory was a successful invasion of Great Britain following the surrender of France.  Germany’s plan for this invasion was code named Operation Sea Lion.  If Germany defeated Great Britain, the allies would not have been able to supply the Soviet Union with war materials, and Germany could have gone on to conquer Russia.

Initial German plan; subsequently much changed

The German plan to invade England in 1940.  The Germans were unable to achieve complete air superiority, so Hitler canceled the operation.

By August 1940 the Germans seemed invincible.  Germany crushed the French army and the British Expeditionary Force in 2 months and had 300,000 British troops trapped at Dunkirk along the northern coast of France.  An incredible effort using hundreds of civilian boats rescued these troops and brought them back to England (as depicted in a recent motion picture).  However, the British were forced to leave all their heavy equipment and ammunition behind.  They were a naked army without tanks or artillery.  The British were so desperate for arms the U.S. gave them 300,000 surplus WWI rifles.  At this point of the war the British army was no match for the German Wehrmacht.  3 obstacles stood in the German’s way: the English Channel, the British navy, and the Royal Air Force.  The Germans knew it was critical to destroy the Royal Air Force as an effective fighting force before they could bring their troops across the English Channel on barges.  Otherwise, British bombers and warships would sink the barges and kill thousands of German troops before they even landed in England.  If on the other hand, the German Luftwaffe had complete air superiority, they could sink British ships attempting to interdict the barges.  Operation Sea Lion included a plan to create an alley for the barges using mines and submarines that would also stop British war ships from interfering with the landings.

Germany was winning the air war against England also known as the Battle of Britain.  Herman Goering, Chief of the Luftwaffe, ordered massed bomber formations protected by fighter escorts to attack British airfields.  Though they shot down more German fighters than they lost, England had fewer planes and could not afford the loss in attrition.  England was soon losing more planes and pilots than they could replace.  One day, Churchill, the prime minister of England, ordered a bombing raid on Berlin.  This so infuriated Hitler that he ordered a change in strategy.  Instead of continuing the winning strategy of attacking British air bases, Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to bomb civilian targets.  With the aid of newfangled radar and coastal spotters British fighter pilots were able to down lots of German bombers without losing as many planes as they had during the previous phase of the battle.  Meanwhile, British bombers sank many German barges that were moving into position to ferry German troops across the English Channel.  Hitler kept delaying Operation Sea Lion until he finally canceled it during October 1940.  The Germans were just too afraid of losing too many troops in the English Channel.

Military strategists have long wondered what would’ve happened, if Operation Sea Lion had been launched.  Most simulated war games have England winning the campaign.  In the simulations Germans were able to land the 1st echelon of troops but 2nd and 3rd waves were stopped by the British navy, leaving German troops stranded.  However, some simulated war games do have Germany winning the campaign.  In any case it would have been a brutal battle.  Churchill writes they would have used poison gas and were prepared to fight a prolonged guerilla war.  The Germans had a list of prominent British intellectuals and Jews they were planning on arresting immediately.

Hitler didn’t hate the British because he saw them as fellow Aryans.  He just wanted them to surrender and let him conquer the Slavs in Russia who he considered a subhuman slave race.  Perhaps this is why he was so eager to turn his attention to Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the Soviet Union) the following summer.

Reference:

Churchill, Winston

Memoirs of the Second World War

Houghton Mifflin 1959