Christopher Simpson’s prequel to the Holocaust will shake you up

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Open Road Integrated Media has re-issued Christopher Simpson’s The Splendid Blonde Beast. the story how big law and big finance set up the conditions leading to the Holocaust. This book is a prequel to Simpson’s pathbreaking book Blowback which explains how Nazi war criminals popped up all over South America, Canada and the United States.

images-4Simpson, professor of journalism at American University, is not a neutral reporter. He is an advocate. By exposing the relationships between American banks and investment houses, Wall Street law firms, American industrialists and their German counterparts, he makes his case.

Simpson leaves me with three lessons:

  • The five million non-Jews who died in the Holocaust were forced laborers from the occupied lands and prisoners of war. With full cooperation from the SS and the Nazi killing machine, these workers were employed in German factories. They were worked and starved to death and died from disease. They lived in private concentration camps run by their employers.
  • Nazi Germany lasted as long as it did because of forced labor.   Though German men were in the military, and despite heavy bombing by the Allies, German factory production remained high and grew during World War II. Forced labor kept Germany going.
  • During the 1960’s, Radio Moscow denounced the “West German revenge seekers.” Radio Moscow was revealing what most Americans did not know. The rise of post- war Germany was due in part to restoration of its business and industrial leadership.   Quickly after the surrender of Germany, the U.S. State Department and intelligence elites (think John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s secretary of state, and his brother Allen Dulles, head of the Central Intelligence Agency under Eisenhower and Kennedy) pumped up German industry, brought Nazi-era business leaders back to power, and suspended de-Nazification and prosecution of war criminals. They jump started West Germany as an anti-Soviet bulwark.

The Beautiful Blond Beast will shake you up.

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The Road to Camelot: Overcoming the religious issue.

May 29 will be the 100th birthday of President John F. Kennedy. Our 35th President is remembered today for his personal style (drop dead handsome) and his inspiration to the nation (“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”).

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However, his biggest achievement was breaking through the wall of religious prejudice. Never before and never since, has a Roman Catholic been elected President.

Thomas Oliphant (Boston Globe national correspondent) and Curtis Wilkie (journalism professor at the University of Mississippi and former Boston Globe national reporter) have written an enjoyable account of JFK’s five year quest for the Presidency.

The Road to Camelot (Simon and Schuster) covers JFK’s bid for the 1956 Vice Presidential nomination, the 1960 primaries and convention, the campaign against Richard Nixon, and the effort to build the Black vote. The book is rich in political lore–campaign strategy, power struggles within the party, the experts, the journalists, the bosses and the activists

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Thomas Oliphant

Most significant in the 1960 election was the religious issue. In less tolerant times, Kennedy had to defeat the perception that conservative Protestants would never vote for a Catholic. To reassure Protestants, JFK emphasized his commitment to separation of church and state. Meanwhile, he worked to boost the urban Catholic vote.

 

curtis-wilkie-1708144Curtis Wilkie

On election day, JFK won the popular vote by 112,000 votes. He won the electoral vote by 303 to 219. After examining polls taken in 1960, reviewing press reports, and comparing statistics from previous elections, Oliphant and Wilkie conclude that anti-Catholic bias probably reduced JFK’s popular vote. However, strong Catholic support helped him win several battleground states and raised his electoral vote. As we learned in 2016, the electoral vote counts.

Happy 100th birthday, JFK.

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Klaus Barbie: A Cold War chiller. A scandal which must not be forgotten.

Open Road Integrated Media has reissued a Cold War chiller, “Klaus Barbie” by Tom Bower. First issued in 1984, the book tells the story of Gestapo commander Klaus Barbie, who lead the bloody repression of Lyon, France during the World War II. Bower is a vivid writer. He gives just enough detail to explain history and tell a thrilling story, without overpowering the reader with information.

34221469.jpgMost disturbing is Barbie’s life after World War II. Recruited by American intelligence services , Barbie spent his immediate postwar years gathering information on Communist and Soviet elements in the American occupation zone of Germany. Meanwhile, Barbie was near the top of France’s most wanted list of war criminals. After he became too hot to handle and too difficult to hide, the American intelligence services arranged for him to travel to South America via a “rat line” run by a Croatian priest stationed in Rome. In South America, he joined some of the most notorious Nazis to survive World War II. Barbie settled in Bolivia where he entered business and enjoyed protection from the government.

The heroes of the book are Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, the French Nazi-hunters, who located Barbie and pressured France and Germany to seek extradition of Barbie from Bolivia. In 1987, Barbie was convicted by a French court. Barbie, known as “The Butcher of Lyon, died in prison in 1991 at the age of 77.

The recruitment of ex-Nazis by American intelligence is a scandal which must not be forgotten.

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All The Rivers: Lust, sweat and a stern political warning

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Israeli novelist Dorit Rabinyan has written a steamy novel about life in Manhattan a year after 911. Separate from the sweat and from under the blankets emerges a stern political warning.

All The Rivers (Random House, translated by Jessica Cohen) is the story of two lovers in their late twenties. Liat is a graduate student living in Manhattan. Hilmi is an artist living in Brooklyn. They are both 28 years old. She is from Israel. He is from the West Bank. Their families lives 40 miles apart. Forbidden love. Forbidden politics. The book has been banned from the Israeli school system.

Liat is in lust, but she knows that the affair will go nowhere. She is scheduled to return to Israel in May 2003. Her family will never accept Hilmi. Liat describes the disparaging views some Israelis hold of Arabs. She speaks a couple of times a week by telephone to her parents and sister. She conceals Hilmi from them. Hilmi resents being a nonperson to her family.

Rabinyan details the Manhattan scene, the food lives and social experiences of the upscale late-20’s set. She gives optimistic snapshots of life in Tel Aviv and the West Bank.

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Rabinyan has a sobering message. As I see it, she is saying that the “Two State Solution” (separate and independent Jewish and Palestinian states, existing side by side) cannot work. The two peoples are too interconnected. Both peoples love the same land. Arabs displaced in the 1948 war, are still attached to their ancestral houses and towns. Arabs and Jews have the same historic sites. Arabs want to visit the beaches on the Mediterranean. Israel needs Arab labor and Arabs need jobs.

Rabinyan never states it, but she implies that a single secular democratic state is the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Point of No Return. An ever timely war novel by Martha Gellhorn.

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In Pete Hamill’s novel, Tabloid City, a young newspaper reporter enters the bathroom of his love interest, herself an aspiring journalist turned bartender.

The reporter stares “at a framed browning photograph of a blonde woman.  Eyes that miss nothing.  From the thirties, maybe?  Her grandmother, may be?”

The reporter returns to his love interest.

Reporter:  “The woman in the bathroom, who is she?”

Love interest:  “My hero.  Martha Gellhorn.  She’s in the bathroom so I’ll see her every morning.  And night.”

Reporter:  “She was married to Hemingway, right?”

Love interest:  “–Wrong.  He was married to Martha Gellhorn.  As a journalist, Hemingway wouldn’t make a pimple on her . . . .”

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Open Road Integrated Media has reissued Martha Gellhorn’s 1948 novel, Point of No Return. It is the story of a unit of American troops in Luxembourg and Belgium, from the time of the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944) to the surrender of Germany (May 1945).

Gellhorn (1908-1998) was a skilled war correspondent.  She engages the reader in the mud of the forests, the boredom and the hopes of the troops, the carnage of battle, and finally the horrors of the Dachau concentration camp.

Central to the story is the developing relationship between Lieutenant Colonel John Dawson Smithers, product of small town Georgia, and his driver, Jacob Levy, a secular Jew from St. Louis (Gellhorn’s hometown).

Levy, who looks like a Hollywood star, does not present as Jewish, but everyone knows that he is.  As the book proceeds, Levy begins to understand his Jewishness.  Meanwhile, Smithers learns to put aside his anti-Semitic attitudes, bond with Levy, and finally sticks up for him when Levy experiences major injuries and even more serious legal difficulties.

Gellhorn was a superb journalist.  If you want to know what World War II was really about, read this book.

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Blind Ambition: The best book on Watergate

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Open Road Integrated Media has re-issued the best book on Watergate,
Blind Ambition by John Dean.

Dean was the smartest of the Nixon gang. As counsel to the President, he coordinated the cover up, investigated the burglary, protected the President, set up the fall guys and arranged the payment of hush money.

As the flood gates of the scandal were about to burst, Dean was the first to defect to the prosecutors, tell all, and wind up with a jail sentence of only four months.

Conspirators who committed lesser crimes than Dean, did far more time.

Unknown.jpeg John Dean, then

Dean’s memoire is self-serving, but the book’s value is the flesh and blood portrayals of the principals—Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Ziegler, Magruder, Mitchell, Chapin, Kalmbach.   Thanks to Dean, the reader can visualize the principals and imagine being in their presence.

Of particular entertainment is Dean’s lifestyle. Prep school graduate, playboy, big spender, and enormous drinker. One could envy Dean, but for his public disgrace and time served.

After being released from jail, Dean sprung back. Unable to practice law, he entered investment banking. At age 60, he began writing books. His interviews and book lectures appear on You Tube.   Now 78, the Dean of the You Tube interviews is unrepentant. He jokes about his role in Watergate.

Unknown-1.jpeg John Dean, now

Whatever one’s personal assessment of Dean, Blind Ambition is a valuable resource for Watergate fans.

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Same Family, Different Colors: A pathbreaking study in colorism

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Professor Lori Tharps (loritharps.com) has produced a pathbreaking study on colorism—the favored treatment of a light skinned member of a race, ethnic group or nationality. Colorism occurs in the United States, Latin America, Europe, India and East Asia. Based on her personal experience (each of her three children has a different skin tone) and interviews with Black, Latino and Asian people in the United States, Tharps explains the concerns parents have about favoring one child over a sibling or siblings, and equipping a darker skinned child to encounter a color conscious society.

Having light skin is not always an advantage. Tharps discusses the importance of tribal affiliation among members of all races. Accordingly, many light skinned people feel isolated within their own race, ethnic group, or nationality.imgres

Lori Tharps

With pride, Tharps celebrates nascent world-wide efforts to address colorism.

Though the topic is serious, Same Family, Different Colors is a pleasure to read. Tharps tells stories from her own life and warmly recounts experiences of the people she interviews. By the time the book is finished, the reader considers Tharps a friend.

Tharps teaches journalism at Temple University. She must be an exemplary teacher, as her own writing is clear, concise and fast moving.

Same Family, Different Colors (Beacon Press) is highly recommended as an introduction to the challenge of colorism.