Posts Tagged ‘Nazi Germany’

Strangers in a strange land grapple with their lust for death in Fritz Leiber’s strangely poignant post-apocalyptic novella ‘The Night of the Long Knives’

January 16, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 16, 2019

If you’d asked me just yesterday to recite everything I knew about Fritz Leiber, I’d only have been able to tell you that he was one of the old grand masters of science fiction. This is correct, but only in a limited technical sense. While the Chicago native was the fifth person to be named a grand master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in 1981, his biggest impact on speculative fiction was actually in fantasy, by way of his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories.

As it happens, I was browsing my local library’s collection of science-fiction electronic books earlier this month when one of Leiber’s titles caught my eye. I initially thought that this 1960 novella was known to me as an old science-fiction movie. Here again, I was mostly wrong; the movie of that title, released in 2005, is a 45-minute documentary concerning the deadly 1934 purge of opposition figures that then-chancellor Adolf Hitler ordered to strengthen his control over the Nazi party and German society at large.

Long story short: I started reading Leiber’s tale on the strength of (somewhat mistaken) name recognition and a short blurb about the contents of the book. As it turns out, The Night of the Long Knives is an engrossing story about drifters in a hellish wasteland who are drawn together by happenstance.

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‘Woman in Gold’ movingly portrays the quixotic quest by a World War II refugee and her attorney to correct a Nazi injustice

April 21, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 21, 2015

The new feature film Woman in Gold poignantly tells the true story of a World War II refugee and her lawyer who sue to recover a famous portrait of her aunt decades after it was confiscated by Nazis.

The woman at the heart of the story is Maria Altmann, the daughter of a prominent Austrian Jewish family. Simon Curtis and Alexi Kaye Campbell — it’s the second full-length movie feature directing credit for Curtis, following My Week with Marilyn and numerous TV movies, and the first writing credit of any kind for Campbell — intertwine scenes from Altmann’s earlier life in Vienna with those of Altmann and her attorney, new father Randy Schoenberg.

The titular woman in gold is Adele Bloch-Bauer, whom famed artist Gustav Klimt painted in 1907 in what became an iconic work. As we learn, even this apt and seemingly innocuous title has political implications. (Klimt, incidentally, also painted a second portrait of Adele as well as additional works for the Bloch-Bauers.) The legal battle begins in 1998 when, after the death of Maria’s older sister, Luise, the younger woman finds letters from the late 1940s that her sibling had exchanged with an Austrian lawyer in a futile attempt to recover stolen family property.

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Turing’s tests: ‘The Imitation Game’ is a superior but tragic biopic about a brilliant but lonely intellectual

December 31, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 31, 2014

What makes life worth living? Why should society — why should anyone — value a man’s existence and accomplishments?

Those are some of the questions Norwegian director Morten Tyldum poses with his new feature, The Imitation Game, which examines the life and work of pioneering British computer scientist Alan Turing.

The movie has three interwoven narratives. The shortest, but arguably the most heart-wrenching, shows a roughly 15-year-old Turing at boarding school in the 1920s. Turing, played with touching vulnerability by Alex Lawther, is bullied mercilessly by his classmates — all but one, Christopher Morcom (Jack Bannon), who shows appreciation for Turing’s quirky personality as well as his impressive intellect.

The grown-up Turing whom we see throughout the rest of the movie is less vulnerable — at least superficially. Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s ongoing 21st-century update of the character and Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness) portrays the main character as he first strives to crack Nazi German cryptography in World War II and then, in the early 1950s, tries to deflect the inquiries of an overenthusiastic Manchester detective who suspects Turing of spying for the Soviet Union. (To avoid spoilers, I’ll confine most of my commentary to the movie’s World War II narrative.)

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A bloody birthright: Why I support Israel’s right to exist

July 29, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 29, 2014

The reasons why I support Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish homeland are rooted in the mortal perils that Jews have faced over the millennia. However, the heart of the matter is and will always be the bloody history of the 20th century.

No serious discussion of the subject can overlook the impetus for Israel’s establishment in 1948. That was only a few years after the end of World War II, which went hand in hand with the widespread realization that Adolf Hitler had conducted a massive, horrifying campaign to exterminate Jews and other so-called undesirables.

The Nazi Germany genocide — Raphael Lemkin coined that word in 1944 to describe what we today call the Holocaust — racked up a staggering death toll. The numbers vary from account to account, but according to one tally published by The Telegraph, between five million and six million Jews were killed.

Jews were hardly the Nazis’ only victims; four million Soviet, Polish and Yugoslav civilians died in the German camps, along with three million Soviet prisoners of war, 70,000 individuals with mental and physical disabilities, more than 200,000 Roma and an “unknown number of political prisoners, resistance fighters, homosexuals and deportees.”

Entire Jewish neighborhoods were wiped off the map; Nazis and locals appropriated their property. (There are a few brief but poignant nods to this in The Monuments Men, and this morbid history forms the dark heart of the brilliant Polish movie Ida — although Germans were only indirectly responsible for the killings and theft in the latter film.)

Poland’s Jewish community was hardest-hit, dropping from more than three million in 1933 to about 45,000 in 1950, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (Here, as elsewhere in Europe, most of the reduction was caused by the Nazi slaughter, although some was due to postwar migration.)

The devastation elsewhere in Europe was comparable: Germany’s Jewish population fell from 565,000 to 37,000 over the same time period; Czechoslovakia’s, from 357,000 to 17,000; Austria’s, from 250,000 to 18,000; Greece’s, from 100,000 to 7,000. And this is only part of the grim census of genocide.

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One Wondrous Sentence: The Nazi gun control falsehood

January 16, 2013

This one wondrous sentence, quoting Brown University history professor, Third Reich expert and former Israeli combat soldier and officer Omer Bartov, tears down a prominent fallacious conservative argument against gun safety laws and regulations.

He continued: “Their assertion that they need these guns to protect themselves from the government — as supposedly the Jews would have done against the Hitler regime — means not only that they are innocent of any knowledge and understanding of the past, but also that they are consciously or not imbued with the type of fascist or Bolshevik thinking that they can turn against a democratically elected government, indeed turn their guns on it, just because they don’t like its policies, its ideology, or the color, race and origin of its leaders.”

Source: Alex Seitz-Wald, “The Hitler gun control lie,” Salon, Jan. 11, 2013.

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