Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota

The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota - A database of relevant books and articles that can be searched by author or subject related to the study of the holocaust and contemporary genocide and teaching about the subject.

You are going to have to use a library or find a bookstore to get most of these books. However, the bibliographies are well arranged by subject and are a good starting point for research in this area.

A few subject bibliographies include Pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany, Books on Holocaust for Young Readers, Nazism and the Churches, and Women and the Holocaust.

Friday, October 21, 2005

History of Syria

History of Syria. This is a short history of the Middle Eastern nation of Syria. It covers ancient times to the present with an emphasis on the 20th Century.

Syria has been in the news a lot lately. Do you believe Syria's interior minister Ghazi Kenaan committted suicide last week? Or could it be that he was murdered so that he could then be blamed for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri? I am not normally a big conspiracy believer but this suicide just does not sound right...

From the site:

Archaeologists have demonstrated that Syria was the center of one of the most ancient civilizations on earth. Around the excavated city of Ebla in northern Syria, discovered in 1975, a great Semitic empire spread from the Red Sea north to Turkey and east to Mesopotamia from 2500 to 2400 B.C. The city of Ebla alone during that time had a population estimated at 260,000. Scholars believe the language of Ebla to be the oldest Semitic language.

Syria was occupied successively by Canaanites, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Arameans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Nabataeans, Byzantines, and, in part, Crusaders before finally coming under the control of the Ottoman Turks. Syria is significant in the history of Christianity; Paul was converted on the road to Damascus and established the first organized Christian Church at Antioch in ancient Syria, from which he left on many of his missionary journeys.

Damascus, settled about 2500 B.C., is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It came under Muslim rule in A.D. 636. Immediately thereafter, the city's power and prestige reached its peak, and it became the capital of the Omayyad Empire, which extended from Spain to India from A.D. 661 to A.D. 750, when the Abbasid caliphate was established at Baghdad, Iraq.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

Kingdom of Heaven. I finally saw this movie the other day on DVD. I liked it. It was a well done film with many good battle sequences.

I was a bit put off by the politically correct feel of the movie. This film shows the fall of the Crusader state of Jerusalem. Despite this, the whole theme is of all religions being equal and how no one except a few evil Christians wanted the war. I doubt this was the prevailing feeling at the time the actual war happened. And I am certain there were some Muslims who eyed Jerusalem and wanted to reclaim the city and needed only an excuse to attack the weakened Kingdom of Jerusalem.

I did like this quote given by Balian to the Christian defenders of Jerusalem before the fall of the city. He said, "It has fallen to us, to defend Jerusalem, and we have made our preparations as well as they can be made. None of us took this city from Muslims. No Muslim of the great army now coming against us was born when this city was lost. We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended."

We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended.

And therein lies the key to much of the conflicts in world history, isn't it? The genocides and ethnic cleansings of history are often people fighting over offenses committed by the dead against those who are also dead. This leads to new injustice and a continuance of the violence and hatred.

We can see it in the world today. All the trouble in the Balkans was started by men fighting over grievances that originated centuries ago. How far does the injustice go back in Palestine on both sides of the conflict? How about Rwanda? How about those demanding slave reparations in the USA for those who were never slaves from those who never owned them?

Wouldn't it be nice if people would judge people based on the actions they have taken rather than the actions of their ancestors? What is important is not our DNA or our religion but each of us our own individual character. We are not responsible for the actions of the dead in times before we were alive and we are not owed anything because of injustices taken against the dead before we were born.

OK, that is the end of the sermon. I wish for a world that probably will never be. Except in the Kingdom of Heaven...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Nazi Blitzkrieg: Poland, 1939

Nazi Blitzkrieg: Poland, 1939 - A Polish officer's account of the battles and personal losses during the invasion by Hitler and Stalin.

This is from "A Katyn and World War Two Diary." Katyn was the scene of a Soviet war crime where 4,000 to 5,000 Polish army officers were slaughtered.

From the site:

On September 1, 1939, Leon Gladun was mobilized as an officer cadet to defend his beloved Poland against the Nazi blitzkrieg. A horticultural student at Stefan Batory University, my father would only have time to grab a few photos from his home in Krzemieniec, before racing to the front, leaving behind his mother and grandmother. Leon would never graduate nor would he see his home again, and it would be twenty years before he'd be reunited with his mother. Most of his classmates and friends would perish during the war.

One of my father's surviving possessionsis a diary of the years he spent in uniform: from his first battles against the blitzkrieg in 1939, to V-E Day in Italy, when the Germans finally surrendered. Leon would train and fight in Poland, the USSR, the Middle East and Italy. Even after the war, he escorted Axis POW's from Italy back to their homes because he had no country--Poland had been sacrificed to Stalinism.

The diary also chronicles his life as one of the thousands of Polish officers who were captured and imprisoned by the Soviet Union. Leon unwittingly records the last days of his comrades who would be murdered in one of the greatest and most controversial war crimes of the Second World War: Katyn.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

History of Sudan

History of Sudan. This is brief history of the troubled African nation of Sudan. In recent years, it is best known for a civil war and the continued practice of slavery.

Wikipedia notes, "The Republic of the Sudan, or Republic of Sudan (in recent years the definite article has increasingly been dropped in common usage) is the largest country by area in Africa, situated in Northeast Africa. The capital is Khartoum. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, Kenya and Uganda to the southeast, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west, and Libya to the northwest."

From the site:

Sudan was a collection of small, independent kingdoms and principalities from the beginning of the Christian era until 1820-21, when Egypt conquered and unified the northern portion of the country. Historically, the pestilential swamps of the Suud discouraged expansion into the deeper south of the country. Although Egypt claimed all of the present Sudan during most of the 19th century, it was unable to establish effective control over southern Sudan, which remained an area of fragmented tribes subject to frequent attacks by slave raiders.

In 1881, a religious leader named Muhammad ibn Abdalla proclaimed himself the Mahdi, or the “expected one,” and began a religious crusade to unify the tribes in western and central Sudan. His followers took on the name “Ansars” (the followers), which they continue to use today; they are associated with the single largest political grouping, the Umma Party, led by the descendant of the Mahdi, Sadiq al-Mahdi. Taking advantage of conditions resulting from Ottoman-Egyptian exploitation and maladministration, the Mahdi led a nationalist revolt culminating in the fall of Khartoum in 1885. The Mahdi died shortly thereafter, but his state survived until overwhelmed by an Ango-Egyptian force under Lord Kitchener in 1898. Sudan was proclaimed a condominium in 1899 under British-Egyptian administration. While maintaining the appearance of joint administration, the British Empire formulated policies and supplied most of the top administrators.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Otho by Plutarch

Otho by Plutarch. This offers a biography of Otho as written by the Roman historian Plutarch. Otho was a Roman Emperor who served briefly during the Civil War of 69 AD when four different men held the throne. The dynasty of Augustus fell when Nero died and armies from all over the Roman Empire converged on Rome.

I have also admired Otho. Despite his flaws, which Plutarch highlights, he had a noble end. When his forces lost the Battle of Bedriacum, he killed himself rather than continue the war. He had the means to continue but choose to end his own life in hopes that his death would end the fighting. It did not do this but several millennia later I can still admire the way he choose to handle the situation.

From the site:

The new emperor went early in the morning to the capitol, and sacrificed; and, having commanded Marius Celsus to be brought, he saluted him, and with obliging language desired him rather to forget his accusation than remember his acquittal; to which Celsus answered neither meanly nor ungratefully, that his very crime ought to recommend his integrity, since his guilt had been his fidelity to Galba, from whom he had never received any personal obligations. Upon which they were both of them admired by those that were present, and applauded by the soldiers.

In the senate, Otho said much in a gentle and popular strain. He was to have been consul for part of that year himself, but he gave the office to Virginius Rufus, and displaced none that had been named for the consulship by either Nero or Galba. Those that were remarkable for their age and dignity he promoted to the priesthoods; and restored the remains of their fortunes, that had not yet been sold, to all those senators that were banished by Nero, and recalled by Galba. So that the nobility and chief of the people, who were at first apprenhensive that no human creature, but some supernatural, or penal vindictive power had seized the empire, began now to flatter themselves with hopes of a government that smiled upon them thus early.

Besides, nothing gratified or gained the whole Roman people more than his justice in relation to Tigellinus. It was not seen how he was in fact already suffering punishment, not only by the very terror of retribution which he saw the whole city requiring as a just debt, but with several incurable diseases also; not to mention those unhallowed frightful excesses among impure and prostitute women, to which, at the very close of life, his lewd nature clung, and in them gasped out, as it were, its last; these, in the opinion of all reasonable men, being themselves the extremest punishment, and equal to many deaths. But it was felt like a grievance by people in general that he continued yet to see the light of day, who had been the occasion of the loss of it to so many persons, and such persons, as had died by his means. Wherefore Otho ordered him to be sent for, just as he was contriving his escape of means of some vessels that lay ready for him on the coast near where he lived, in the neighbourhood of Sinuessa. At first he endeavoured to corrupt the messenger, by a large sum of money, to favour his design; but when he found this was to no purpose, he made him as considerable a present as if he had really connived at it, only entreating him to stay till he had shaved; and so took that opportunity, and with his razor despatched himself.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

sumir-history

sumir-history. This is a thoughtful history blog by Sumir Sharma. The author has left several comments here in the past and has quoted me several times at his blog. The note on the top of the blog relates, "Postings Relating to Methodology in History, Historiography and Philosophy of History."

What I like most about this blog is that Sumir takes the time to write substantial posts. I know that on this blog I tend to be on the terse side but I appreciate history people who take them time to comment extensively on a topic.

Keep up the good work Sumir!