Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge (CMMC), 3rd Wednesday in June, 2022

This week’s CMMC is: Pick a topic from Cee’s photo.

Possible topics frame within a photo, window, square, silhouette, restaurant, bushes, trees, table chair, green, red, brown, parked, vehicles, looking through, etc. What else can you come up with?

Have fun this week.

Topics self picked up on: trees, green, red

She took this picture at the end of May. She was on a walk with Old Map Man. We met at Trafalgar Square and walked to the foot of the Jubilee Bridge on the Victoria Embankment.

Self loves these embankments. Her love of London grew with her awareness of them: Southbank because of the Millenium Bridge, anchored at one end by the Tate Modern and at the other by a narrow funnel to St. Paul’s.

Recently, she’s become more aware of the Victoria Embankment: more staid than Southbank, but so historic! Samuel Pepys’s house is on the Victoria Embankment.

Self wondered aloud how old these embankments were. Old Map Man said, mid-19th century. Wow! All this time, she thought they were constructions of modern London.

Later, it began to POUR, so the walk had to end rather abruptly.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge # 199: Mechanical/Industrial Past

Railroads opened up the American west. They were built by cheap labor, imported from China.

For this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, hosted by Journeys with Johnbo, self is sharing photos of a memorial to these laborers, at the train station in San Luis Obispo, a small town on California’s central coast. The memorial is by artist Elizabeth MacQueen.

Self knows San Luis Obispo, as son attended Cal Poly there. Last summer, when California opened up again after over a year of lockdown, she drove there to see if it had changed. It hadn’t.

Six-Word Saturday: Visiting the Titanic Museum in Belfast

Posting this for Travel with Intent’s Six-Word Saturday challenge.

It was rainy and cold in Belfast today, but — what an experience it was to visit the Titanic Museum on the same dock where the 11-story-high cruise ship was built. Self has visited the Seacity Museum in Southampton, which told the moving story of the large number of Southampton employees who sank with the ship (most of the Titanic staff were from that southern English city). But Belfast was where the Titanic was built, and the shipbuilding process is meticulously described, as is the history of Harlan & Wolff, the company that produced, in total, 1401 great ships (The Titanic was number 403; according to our tour guide, the builders knew their shipbuilding process was sound. The fault did not lie with them or their engineers. In fact, the man who designed her went down with the ship, as did eight of his engineers. In contrast, the man who owned the cruise line cravenly jumped into one of the 20 lifeboats — imagine, only 20 lifeboats for 2800 people! — ahead of the women and children, and survived). What a fascinating story.

The Titanic launched in April 1912. The museum opened in April 2012 (making this month the museum’s 10-year anniversary)

The Eastern Front

Self is still on Essay # 2 of WWCTUTW. The senselessness of war is brought home by passages like the one below:

Before winter came, they shipped him off to the eastern front. The soldiers he came across shared rumours of horrible massacres of civilians, lootings, rapes and deportations. Whole towns decimated in the course of a single night. Cities with no strategic value that vanished from the map as though they had never existed. The atrocities committed obeyed no martial logic.

WWCTUTW, p. 52

This sounds a lot like what is happening in Mariupol. We have come full circle from World War I. Russia and Ukraine have fought themselves into a stalemate.

Whoever Putin’s generals are, they must be pretty stupid. They keep putting themselves in harm’s way and getting killed.

Stay tuned.

Guess That’s One Way to Do It

Germany’s World War I siege of Namur, in Belgium, is described in Essay # 2 of When We Cease to Understand the World:

The Germans’ advance was impeded by a mist that rose up without warning, so thick it it turned midday to night. Both sides were shrouded in darkness and unable to attack for fear of shooting their own men.

When We Cease to Understand the World, pp. 50 – 51

“What is it about this strange, chaotic climate of this country that it so doggedly resists our knowledge and control?” the German scientist Karl Schwarzschild, who had been placed in charge of an artillery unit, wrote to his wife.

His superior chose to withdraw the troops to a safe distance and engaged in massive, indiscriminate bombings, firing without care for wasted munitions or civilian casualties, using 42-centimetre ordnance shot from a gigantic howitzer the troops nicknamed “Big Bertha,” until the citadel, which had stood fast from the time of the Roman Empire, was nothing more than a mountain of rubble.

WWCTUTW, p. 51

Shattered: Essay # 1, Benjamin Labatut’s When We Cease To Understand the World

Self finds that so many of the books she’s read this year have a bearing. For instance, the book she started the year with: My Heart, a translation from the Bosnian by Semezdin Mehmehdinovic. The author is one of those displaced immigrants who cannot feel at home, not here in America, even though he has raised a son who is so very American in his nonchalance.

And All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, by Rebecca Donner, about Donner’s great great-aunt Mildred Harnack, who was part of a plot against Hitler and was executed in 1942.

Essay # 1 in her current read, Benjamin Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World, is about Fritz Haber, the brilliant Jewish chemist who directed the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry and is credited with the invention of Zyklon.

Labatut:

  • Haber had converted to Christianity at twenty-five years old. He identified so closely with his country and its customs that his sons knew nothing of their ancestry until he told them they would have to flee Germany. Haber escaped after them and sought asylum in England, but his British colleagues scorned him, aware of his instrumental role in chemical warfare. He had to leave the island not after arriving. Thenceforth, he would travel from country to country in the hope of reaching Palestine, his chest gripped with pain, his arteries incapable of delivering sufficient blood to his heart. He died in Basle in 1934, clutching the canister of nitroglycerine he needed to dilate his coronary vessels, not knowing that, years later, the Nazis would use in their gas chambers the pesticide he had helped create to murder his half-sister, his brother-in-law, his nephews and countless other Jews who died hunkered down, muscles cramping, skin covered with red and green spots, bleeding from their ears, spitting foam from their mouths, the young ones crushing the children and the elderly as they attempted to scale the heap of naked bodies and breathe a few more minutes, a few more seconds, because Zyklon B tended to pool on the floor after being dropped through hatches in the roof.

The Gas (Sarin, Mustard and Chlorine)

The North Americans had enormous reserves ready for deployment, and the British had experimented with anthrax on a remote Scottish island, massacring flocks of sheep and goats.

* * * *

The first gas attack in history overwhelmed the French troops entrenched near the small town of Ypres, in Belgium. When they awoke on the morning of Thursday, April 22, 1915, the soldiers saw an enormous greenish cloud creeping towards them across no-man’s land. Twice as high as a man and as dense as winter fog, it stretched from one end of the horizon to the other, as far as the eye could see. The leaves withered on the trees as it passed, birds fell dead from the sky; it tinged the pastureland a sickly metallic colour . . . Six thousand canisters of chlorine gas” were released that morning at Ypres.

When We Cease to Understand the World, pp. 24 – 25

How Blondi Met Her End Along With Her Master

TRIGGER WARNING: ANIMAL CRUELTY because Führer was a tool; and also CYANIDE PILLS

Goring, Goebbels, Bormann and Himmler used these capsules to commit suicide, but many of the Nazi leaders chose to shoot themselves in the head at the same moment they bit down, afraid that they had been sabotaged, that the capsules were deliberately adulterated to provoke not the painless, instant death they desired but the slow agony they deserved. Hitler became so convinced that his dosage had been tampered with that he chose to test its effectiveness on his beloved Blondi, a German shepherd that had accompanied him to the Führerbunker, where she slept at the foot of his bed, enjoying privileges of all kinds. The Führer preferred killing his pet to letting her fall into the hands of Russian troops who had already surrounded Berlin and were inching closer to his subterranean refuge by the minute, but he was too cowardly to do it himself; he asked his personal doctor to break one of the capsules into the animal’s mouth. The dog — who had just given birth to four puppies — died instantly when the miniscule cyanide molecule, formed by one atom of nitrogen, one of carbon and one of potassium, entered her bloodstream and cut off her breath.

When We Cease to Understand the World, p. 13

This is a fascinating book.

Stay tuned.

Aftermath

  • Former Nazi officials ensured that they received unreduced pension claims from their work for the regime. Even members of the SS received the appropriate credit from the pensions agency in spite of their membership in what was deemed to be a criminal organization. — p.307
  • For decades there was no widespread engagement with the murder of millions; that only began with the Auschwitz trials that lasted from 1963 until 1968. — p. 324

Alfred Doblin, author of Berlin Alexanderplatz

Doblin had fled Germany during the war. Now, at 68, he was asked by the French to start a literary magazine to revive “a democratic intellectual life.” The name he chose for the magazine was The Golden Gate. On its front was “a stylised version of the eponymous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.” This magazine, to Doblin’s dismay, was received with little enthusiasm by Doblin’s former writing colleagues. They regarded themselves as victims and Doblin as an outsider, even though he had become a literary star after the publication of Berlin Alexanderplatz.

In 1947, Doblin was invited to deliver a lecture at Berlin’s Charlottenburg Palace. When he arrived, wearing “a smart French uniform,” he was greeted with a freezing silence “and he soon left.”

Hardly a single audience member knew that Doblin’s 25-year-old son, Wolfgang, whom Doblin and his wife had had to leave in France when they fled to America, had killed himself in just such a French uniform. Cut off from his French military unit, Wolfgang Doblin, a prodigiously gifted mathematician, had shot himself in a barn near the village of Housseras in the Vosges, shortly before German troops could take him prisoner.

Aftermath: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945 – 1955, p. 255

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