Friday, October 30, 2009

Fritz Darges, Adolf Hitler's Adjutant, Dies at 96

Volunteering to join the SS right out of school in 1933, Fritz Darges moved up the ranks eventually reaching First Lieutenant in 1937. As the war broke out Darges became a company commander earning himself two Iron Crosses and distinguishing himself as a skilled leader. In March of 1943 Darges became Hitler's adjutant, giving him ultimate access to all war plans and the life of Adolf Hitler.

Darges was famously dismissed as adjutant and sent to the eastern front when Hitler asked him to kill a fly and Darges joking states that it was an airborne issue and the responsibility of the Luftwaffe. Darges then took command of the 5th Panzer Regiment where he was awarded the Knight's Cross for his involvement in an engagement in January 1945. There his regiment destroyed a Soviet Tank Force and advanced toward Regis Castle, forcing the garrison there to retreat. Darges quickly found himself surrounded by Soviet reinforcements and fought off numerous attacks for three days until he was relieved by another tank regiment.

Darges died on October 25, 2009 at the age of 96 leaving behind a manuscript which was instructed to be published after his death. The manuscript is believed to shed some light on the inner works and conversations of Adolf Hitler. Many historians believe that Darges' manuscript will show that Hitler planned and executed the 'final solution' which resulted in the death of millions of Jews. It will be interesting to read through this manuscript when it is published and learn, first hand, about Hitler from the perspective of Nazi commander.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Exploring the Constitution: Part 3 - Congress

Article 1

section 4
The first part of section 4 placed the power of elections in the hands of the states. Allowing them to choose the time, place, and manner in which they handle the elections. This is something I believed is taken for granted today however placing the power of elections in the hands of the states allows for a major check and balance in possible election fraud. If the central government had the power to control the elections then the majority power in office would have the power to effect the outcome. On the other side if the minority power lost in another election they could claim election fraud even though there might not be any. This prevents any sign of possible fraud by either party or political group.

The second part of section 4 is actually superseded by the 20th Amendment and therefore not something we will dive into until then.

section 5
Here each House (Senate and House of Representatives) is given the authority to dictate their own rules of its proceedings, journals, elections, and punishments.

section 6
Aside from the same portion on Compensation from the Treasury which is actually covered in the 27th Amendment, this section covers the prevention of Congressional member from being arrested going to, while in session, and leaving their House. Many people are confused by this concept but we have to remind ourselves what branch of the government has the duty of enforcing the law? With that power in the hands of the executive branch, the President could use arrest as a form of intimidation to get his agenda passed or use it as a means to prevent certain elected representatives from voting on legislation.

This section also prevents members of either House from holding another Civil Office in the United States or being elected into the opposite House at the same time.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What is the History Behind... Sweetest Day

You always here those people, especially men, get upset about having to buy flowers, cards, or gifts for some random holiday. They usually end up saying that this holiday was "created by the card and candy companies just to sell more stuff." There are some truths to those rumors when it comes to Sweetest Day.

On October 8, 1921, in Cleveland, Ohio, people celebrated Sweestest Day for the first time. The origins of the holiday are debated by people in the area. Many attribute the holiday to a candy company employee named Herbert Birch Kingston. His idea was to give out candy and chocolate to those less fortunate in order to brighten up their day. On that first Sweetest Day it is exactly what happened. Various candy companies in the area contribute to the effort of passing out candy boxes to those less fortunate around the city. Big time Hollywood stars at the time, Ann Pennington and Theda Bara, came to Cleveland and handed out out over 12,000 boxes of candy to newsboys, orphans, and widows, they even arrived at a local Hospital to pass out boxes of chocolates there. The idea was for this day to be set aside as "The Sweetest Day in the Year."

In the following year an editorial was published in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer on October 8, 1922 with the intention of promoting the upcoming Sweetest Day on October 14th. The editorial was a single page which stated:

"Love is always the dominant motif in a successful life. Most of us have love in our hearts, but too often it remains there, never manifesting itself before those who inspire it. Perhaps the business of living in this day and age when every moment requires energy and exertion, precludes the constant exhibition of sentiment. There are those of us who have mothers and fathers back in the little home town--or here in Cleveland for that matter. Life itself would not be too much of a sacrifice in their behalf if necessary, yet how few times do we really show that we care. And remember your glorious courtship when all the world seemed in tune. Years will never dim the sacred memory of those golden days. Your wife remembers the hundreds of little attentions you showered upon her then. Little things perhaps, but maybe she sighs to herself every once in a while, and yearns--and hopes. The Sweetest Day in the year came into being because the founders recognized the eternal tendency of men and women to become so engaged in the rush and whirl of life, and to forget the finer, more appealing things. On this day, next Saturday, steal enough time from the turmoil of routine affairs, to bring a bit of good cheer to those you love. A present, perhaps, and more than that add a loving word--a smile--a kiss. This life we lead is but a segment in the eternal order of things. Too soon we find ourselves out of the running, living on memories of days gone by. Build yourself a heritage for that time. The Sweetest day is worthy of our attention. Regard it's observance as a sacred duty--and a rare opportunity. J.L.S."

In addition to the editorial a reporter for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Bill Lubinger, chronicled how the first Sweetest Day came about. His story indicated how the holiday was created by a committee known as 'The Sweetest Day in the Year Committee'. The group consisted of twelve candymakers and manufactures chaired by C.C. Hartzell. Led by Hartzell they helped organize the entire event, brought in the Hollywood stars and pushed for the holiday to continue the following year on October 14, 1922. You can see from the editorial above that Sweetest Day, within just a year, took on a different meaning. What started out as a way to brighten the lives of those less fortunate had now evolved into showing affection or sweetness to all those around you.

Attempts were actually made to spread Sweetest Day around the country. The first objective for the Committee was to take it to New York City. In October 1927, The New York Times reported that the powers that be had named a week "Sweetest Week." In 1937, the New York Times reported that the National Confectioners Association is trying to rank Sweetest Day on the same level with Mother's Day and Valentine's Day. And finally in 1940, the 'Sweetest Day in the Year Committee' passed out over 10,000 boxes of candy to local charities around the city. These attempts to spread the holiday to New York aided in making it a holiday that is celebrated by some today.

Today Sweetest Day has never been able to elevate itself to the same level as Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. It is still celebrated however by mainly people in the Great Lakes region. For the most part the majority of the country has never heard of Sweetest Day or does not recognize it as a holiday they celebrate. Based on sales of Sweetest Day cards and gifts the most popular cities which celebrate this holiday are Cleveland, Detroit, and Buffalo. Growing up in Indiana I had never heard of it until I was 26 years old and even then I thought it was a joke. Despite the lack of widespread popularity Hallmark produces nearly 150 Sweetest Day cards with many stores in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois advertising gift baskets and flower arrangements for that special someone. I would say that whether you have celebrated this holiday or never heard of it, it is a great reason to make the gesture for your sweetheart or significant other and show them how much you care.

So to my wife I want to say: Happy Sweetest Day!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ancient Roman Port Discovered

Nearly 20 miles outside the city center of Rome and only yards away from Rome's International Airport, Fiumicino, British archaeologists have made a major discovery of Ancient Rome. They unearthed what is believed to be the largest and most populous port for the city of Rome, despite earlier beliefs that the major port for Rome was Ostia. Beyond that they also discovered inside an imperial palace at the port a 2,000 seat amphitheatre which is estimated to be around the same size as the Pantheon in Rome.

The ancient port, known as Portus, has seen archaeologists working on it as far back as the 19th century however stronger emphasis has been placed on the site in recent years. The port itself supplied the people of Rome with "food, slaves, wild animals, luxury goods and building materials for hundreds of years." It seems at this point it will take quite a bit longer to discover all the details of how the port was used and its importance in Roman History. According to Professor Keay of the University of Southampton, who is one of the leads on the project, he stated "It's going to generate a lot of rethinking about how ports were used and that will change the way we think about Rome's relationship with the Mediterranean." Keay believes it is possible that Portus had greater role in the economy and socio-relations of Rome to the entire Mediterranean than they ever realized.

The real find for the archaeologists has been the amphitheatre which they discovered within an imperial palace on the grounds. It seems as if the amphitheatre was something used for private events. "'Its design, using luxurious materials and substantial colonnades, suggests it was used by a high status official, possibly even the emperor himself, and the activities that took place there were strictly private: it could have been games or gladiatorial combat, wild beast baiting or the staging of mock sea battles, but we really do not know." It is absolutely fascinating to think that a 2,000 seat arena was built strictly for the private use of the emperor and his friends. I would venture to guess that the private facility was used to entertain visiting dignitaries or important officials who were visiting Rome by way of the harbor at Portus.

For further information on the story visit the two links below:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

History in Film: Defiance

Set in Poland in World War II, Defiance depicts the exploits of the Bielski Brothers and how they saved the lives of over 1,200 Jews from the concentration camps of Hitler and the German Army. The Bielski Brothers, led by Tuvia and Zus, fled to the forests for protection from the invading Germans. While there they came across more Jews fleeing into the forest for protection with little food and no shelter. Tuvia, played by Daniel Craig, decides it is up to them to led and protect these people; helping them to provided shelter, scavenger for food, and seek out weapons. Despite disagreements with his brother Zus, the brothers helped in bringing the people together and creating a community. Many of the supplies that they received were either voluntarily or by force from nearby towns and villages. The Bielski's formed, along with many others in the region, a partisan group which were basically small military style groups that fought against the Germans. These resistance groups, like the Bielski Partisans, would not face Germany armies but rather engaged in guerrilla warfare and sabotage against the Nazis and aiding the Soviet army when needed.

The historical accuracy of the film is on par for being a Hollywood production. The Bielski brothers did exist and they did led over a thousand Jews into forming a protective community within the Naliboki Forest in the Belarussia region. However like most Hollywood movies some creative license was taken. The fact that these people were Polish was difficult to ascertain. For the majority of the movie you believe these Jewish exiles are Russian. I believe their connection to their descent, both Polish and Jewish, play a much bigger role in the story than was depicted in the movie. From accounts that I have read the Bielski partisan never actually encountered German tanks or heavy infintry which you see in a climatic scene near the end. Despite being an entertaining portion of the movie it is more than likely untrue.

Aside from Daniel Craig's inability to maintain his Eastern European accent at times he did a fantastic job at depicting the turmoil of being maintain control of the community as well as his fear for the lives of himself and the people around him. The weight of leadership shows itself on numerous occasions but Tuvia does everything he can to not show that. In addition, the idea conveyed that the Bielski Partisan was a righteous group of freedom fighters is a little skewd. Although the brothers themselves are not believed to have been involved the Bielski Partisan itself has been connected to a possible massacre of 129 women and children in the village of Naliboki. An investigation has been going over the last 8 years but nothing definitive has been released on the matter(1). Without having read either of the two major works on the Bielksi Brothers by Tec (1993) and Duffy (2004), I am unable to give a definitive analysis of the historical details of the movie. Overall I enjoyed the movie, learned something, and would recommend it to others.

Entertainment Rating - 3.5 out of 5
Historical Value - 3 out of 5


Friday, October 2, 2009

The Presidential Rankings Survey

In 2000, and again in 2009, C-SPAN put out a survey to 65 historians and other scholars ranking the Presidents of the United States from greatest to least. Some of the top historians of the day are included in the group including H.W. Brands, Richard Norton Smith, and James McPherson. The survey was broke down into ten leadership characteristics that define a President. The historians gave a score to each President in each specific category, such as Crisis Leadership, and an average of the scores for each President in that category was given. The best possible overall score a President could receive is 100 with the worst being zero, for instance James K. Polk was given a total score of 70.2 for Crisis Leadership.

In the 2009 survey the top ten Presidents were ranked in this order:
  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. George Washington
  3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  4. Theodore Roosevelt
  5. Harry S. Truman
  6. John F. Kennedy
  7. Thomas Jefferson
  8. Dwight D Eisenhower
  9. Woodrow Wilson
  10. Ronald Reagan

As Presidents go it is hard to argue the validity of these ten Presidents and how great they were in this role. I found some of the trends between the 2000 survey and the 2009 survey interesting. Nearly all the Presidents since Eisenhower have seen an increase in their overall rankings. Eisenhower, Reagan, Ford, Kennedy, and George H.W. Bush all saw small increases. Clinton seeing the most dramatic increase in his ranking going from 21st to 15th. This is not too surprising to see because as time progresses history reflects on past events and individuals more objectively. For instance one could simply look at similar polls of Presidential rankings throughout the last 50 years and would see Presidents making dramatic moves up or down the list. For instance, Eisenhower moved up the rankings from 22nd in 1962 to 8th in 2009. In addition Herbert Hoover dropped during that same time period from 19th to 34th.

Historians for the most part tend to look at all events in the past through their own personal worldview. If there is a historical event or period of time that they personally experienced then their personal views on that moment tend to cloud their objective historical analysis. Which is why that history is difficult to analyze and evaluate for at least a single generation. Currently for instance George W. Bush is ranked 36th in the 2009 survey. I firmly believe that you will see him move up in the rankings, probably not dramatically, but to some degree simply because a look at his presidency more objectively will take place over time. The best example I have for this is Richard M. Nixon. In two different 1982 surveys Nixon was ranked 34th. However in a more recent Presidential survey his ranking has increased to 27th. Nixon was not a well liked individual and President upon his resignation and for a few decades afterwards. The focal point of his administration was always upon Watergate. However after his death in 1994, Nixon's administration was looked at more objectively and his Presidential accomplishments began to show through. Without question Nixon will always be ranked near the bottom but he has seen increases more recently because we are starting to look at his Presidency more objectively.

I really found the C-SPAN survey to be interesting and informative. I look forward to seeing another come out after the Obama administration leaves office. It will be interesting to see where certain Presidents rank at that point, specifically George W. Bush and Barak Obama. Below you will find a link to the survey and I suggest you explore and see if you agree with where your favorite President ranks, especially in the various categories their are graded upon.

C-SPAN Presidential Survey:

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