From under the linoleum
Old newspapers show Mussolini's imperialism looked a lot like today's

I sat on the floor and picked through the tragedy of the country we now call Ethiopia laid out on the yellowing pages. It was eerily reminiscent of the current Iraq adventure.

A tale for our times
The December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov

Seventy years on, the killing of Sergei Kirov casts an eerie light on the events of 11 September 2001, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the “war on Terror” and the state-sponsored hysteria surrounding the shadowy figures of Osama bin Ladin and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Ninety-three years of bombing the Arabs
It was the Italians, hell-bent on acquiring an African empire, who got the ball rolling. In 1911 the Libyan Arab tribes opposed an Italian invasion. Their civilians were the first people in the world to be bombed from the air.

Dispossessed all over again
After spending nearly two months in the West Bank the pull towards my village was growing stronger, especially after being detained twice and threatened with deportation … an Australian Palestinian returns to her ancestral home.

The tragic inevitability of a forlorn hope
Australia slides further into the Iraq quagmire
Cabinet documents recently released under the 50-year rule show that, in 1954, Liberal (conservative) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and key figures in his Cabinet were extremely gloomy about the prospects for success in an American war against nationalists in Indochina. But eventually they went to the Vietnam War anyway.

Bombing King David
One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist

Some historians date the beginning of modern terrorism from the 1946 bombing by Zionist terrorists of the British military HQ in Jerusalem.

Don’t loiter near the exit
Military debacle and economic decline haunt the Bush regime

When I was just a young possum in the school cadet corps there was a hoary old war story that we all knew. It was almost certainly apocryphal, but it ruefully expressed a nasty historic truth about the US role in the demise of the British Empire.


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Humanising Hitler
The neo-nazi origins of an email hoax

15 February 2012

It popped into my email inbox the other day.  Maybe it popped into yours. It was one of those Powerpoints that go viral, that everybody passes on to their list. You know the sort of thing: cute dogs, outrageous wedding pics, extreme feats of engineering. But this one was different. It was introduced with these words:

A real piece of history.

These color pictures were taken by a Life Magazine photographer between 1939 and 1940 in Berlin and were lost for over 70 years because the American photographer disappeared at the beginning of the war, along with his Roliflex camera.

Shown here are the originals (used at that time in the production of magazines). The majority are 6”x 9”. They were found by a nurse in a Berlin hospital, who kept them put away during all these years.

After her death her daughter returned them to the current editors, who retain the copyrights to Life Magazine, which has not been published since the early 70s. Some of these are so vivid for being over 70 years old, and so large that you almost feel as if you're standing there. 

Ah, long lost photos, who can resist them?  I opened the doc and the title page, oddly, was in French and English:

Photos rares du 3e Reich conservées par la revue Life
History you don’t get to see often

They turned out to be early professional colour photos, mainly of Adolph Hitler and his retinue. Here was Hitler at the height of his power and popularity: with Mussolini; reviewing troops; basking in the adulation of the masses; launching the Volkswagen car; with his generals; relaxing in chintzy lounge chairs with Eva Braun. All the pomp and ceremony of “the new Germany”, the victorious, self-confident, expanding, Germany of 1939 and 1940. Germany before the disastrous May 1941 decision to invade the USSR. Germany before Stalingrad, the Final Solution, the Thousand Bomber Raids. Germany before the fall. 

And then I smelled a rodent, because I knew I’d seen some of these photos before. And I remembered that back in 2007, there had been a similar hoax with, perhaps, a similar purpose. Somebody had circulated some allegedly never-before-seen photos of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbour, which had supposedly laid undeveloped in an old Box Brownie. It was a cute yarn, but the pics turned out to have been taken by a US Navy photographer and to have been available in the archives. The hoax was a stirring call to paranoid vigilance and dumb American patriotism at a moment when the wisdom of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions was increasingly falling into question.

So I visited the Hoax Slayer website and a very different story about the Hitler photos emerged.

Far from being the work of an American Life Mag photographer, the pics were actually taken by Hugo Jaeger, Hitler’s personal photographer and a committed Nazi. In 1945, with the Allies closing in on Berlin, he hid his precious negs and went to ground. In 1965, he sold them to Life. Many have since been publish.

So why the elaborate fiction about the recent discovery, the American photographer, the Berlin nurse and her dutiful daughter?

This is just the cover story, the bait to get you to open the Powerpoint, but why would anybody want you to admire these snaps of the Third Reich at a fleeting historic moment before its downfall?

The answer I think, is this: a new racist right is rising across Europe, and even, here and there, winning political office. They are mostly admirers of Hitler, Mussolini, and the lesser fascist operators of what was once, fleetingly, a Europe-wide fascist brotherhood. Amazing as it might seem, they seek historical legitimacy by humanising Hitler.

Anvers Breivik, the Norwegan mass-murderer is the standard-bearer of Europe’s new Brownshirts, and now he’s on trial and expressing not an ounce of remorse. In fact, he’s calling on the fascist militants hiding in the cracks of European society to boldly follow his example and violently drive out the leftist, multiculturalist “traitors”. Is it just a coincidence that at this time somebody wants you to wonder at the “new”, “reborn” Germany of 1939 and 1940? I think not.