Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Posts tagged “Second World War

Unpacking Mona Lisa after the end of World War II; ca.1945

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In 3 days, 200 people packed 3600+ pieces of art, sculpture, and other valuables and transported them into the Loire Valley, where they were kept until the end of the war. (Source)

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Kazimiera Mika, a 10 year-old Polish girl, crying over her older sister’s body. (She was killed during a German air raid while working in a field outside Warsaw, Poland); September, 1939.

Every time you hear: “USA, USA!” (or whatever your countries name is), think of this…

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The glory of war is a hard stance to take in the face of these types of photos.

Photographer Julien Bryan described the scene:

“As we drove by a small field at the edge of town we were just a few minutes too late to witness a tragic event, the most incredible of all. Seven women had been digging potatoes in a field. There was no flour in their district, and they were desperate for food. Suddenly two German planes appeared from nowhere and dropped two bombs only two hundred yards away on a small home. Two women in the house were killed. The potato diggers dropped flat upon the ground, hoping to be unnoticed. After the bombers had gone, the women returned to their work. They had to have food.

But the Nazi fliers were not satisfied with their work. In a few minutes they came back and swooped down to within two hundred feet of the ground, this time raking the field with machine-gun fire. Two of the seven women were killed. The other five escaped somehow.

While I was photographing the bodies, a little ten-year old girl came running up and stood transfixed by one of the dead. The woman was her older sister. The child had never before seen death and couldn’t understand why her sister would not speak to her… The child looked at us in bewilderment. I threw my arm about her and held her tightly, trying to comfort her. She cried. So did I and the two Polish officers who were with me…”

In September 1959 Julien Bryan wrote more about it in Look magazine:

In the offices of the Express, that child, Kazimiera Mika, now 30, and I were reunited. I asked her if she remembered anything of that tragic day in the potato field. “I should,” she replied quietly. “It was the day I lost my sister, the day I first saw death, and the first time I met a foreigner – you.” Today, Kazimiera is married to a Warsaw streetcar motorman. They have a 12-year-old girl and a boy, 9, and the family lives in a 1 1/2-room apartment, typical of the overcrowded conditions of war-racked Poland. She is a charwoman at a medical school (she told me her biggest regret is that her education ended when the war began), and all of the $75 earned each month by her husband and herself goes for food. Kazimiera and her husband, like most Poles, supplement their income with odd jobs, and are sometimes forced to sell a piece of furniture for extra money. But they celebrated my visit to their home with that rare treat, a dinner with meat.

This is but one case of attacking civilians in war – this hits us so hard because we know the story and can relate to it emotionally.

Now think of the millions of people killed over the years in millions of acts just like this one – and just how horrific a person is to think bombing of civilians is an acceptable practice.

The glory of war is a hard stance to take in the face of these types of photos.

The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori.


The Five Known X-ray Photographs of Hitler’s head, circa 1944

They were taken during a dental check-up.

They were taken during a dental check-up.

From my reading, he had habit of not brushing his teeth properly. As result, he had gum issue, cavities, and bad breath. (It doesn’t surprise me, I mean he was a basically a bum for a period of time in the 1920’s and kind of kept some of those traits even after he came to power.)

The x-ray plates are currently housed at the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Here’s more information on the images. Page 99 of the PDF document.


The Kroll Opera House in Berlin on April 28, 1939. Hitler makes keynote address answering Roosevelt’s appeal to avoid war.

I play a little game, a variant of “where’s Waldo”, with pictures like this.
The challenge is to try and figure out everyone in the photo who will be dead or in jail by 1946. It’s quite gratifying.

Hitler’s speech that day was a response to a letter sent by Roosevelt to get Hitler’s assurances that it would not attack other countries. You can read it here.

Roosevelt asked for Hitler to give assurances that he would not invade a number of specific countries, mostly British possessions and European neighbors, most of which became involved in the war anyway. Hitler’s view of peace seemed to be between the major powers, and that Germany should be entitled to expand into Poland and Czechoslovakia if it wanted to. He was telling Britain, France, the US and Russia to stay out of Germany’s area so that he could continue his ambitions. This is not at all what those other countries, especially Poland wanted.

In my understanding this letter came at a time when the world had already geared up for war. Although it hadn’t been declared yet, all the major powers were building up their stockpiles and constructing more and more weapons, like bombers. Even the US, which wouldn’t join the war for another 2 years was already preparing for it.

There were a few warning signs that that just got ignored. One that I think should not be forgotten is that most Western countries did not raise their immigration quotas and allow more Jewish refugees to enter their countries until late in the war. Anti-semitism and fear over immigration in general led to refugees being rejected until public opinion turned around 1944. Even though their was ample evidence of violence and discrimination, the US and Britain still refused to increase their quotas. It saddens me to think about the lives that could have been spared by a bit of bureaucratic empathy.

It is possibly the greatest tragedy of human history that the Second World War happened with so much warning, yet nothing was done to truly stop it.

(Here’s some of the speech, with subtitles.)