Friday, April 27, 2007

Snatched from the Holocaust

The BBC has this touching story about a six year old girl whose life was saved from the Holocaust by a neighbor. The story is Snatched from the Holocaust and it was written by Barbara Govan.

The story begins, "Aged just six, Suzanne Rappoport saw both her parents arrested and taken away from her to be sent to Nazi concentration camps. She was rescued by a neighbour and is one of many Jewish children who were hidden from the Nazis and survived the war."

Suzanne and her parents lived in Paris in 1942. One day, the police came for them. She spoke of the experience, "They broke down the bedroom door and took us next door to the living room. I was told to shut up crying because I was giving one of the two men a headache - French policemen dressed all in black. My parents were told to pack a small case with provisions - my father turned to me and said very quickly 'Remember I love you'. At that moment our neighbour and good friend Madame Yvonne Collomb came into the apartment and said: 'What's my child doing here?' She took me by the hand and led me to her apartment where she hid me under the dining table."

Suzanne was sent into a network that was hiding Jewish children in the French countryside. The following years were not pleasant for her and she even suffered some abuse. She forgot her name until Yvonne Collomb (the kind neighbor who saved her in the first place) showed up after the war to reunite her with her extended family.

Both of Suzanne's parent died in the camps. Her mother was gassed upon arrival at Auschwitz and she almost certainly would have died there too had her neighbor not intervened. Madame Collomb was named Righteous Among Nations by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, the highest award given to those who helped save the lives of Jews during the war.

This is not an isolated incident. Others worked to save children during the Holocaust. More recently, there are accounts of people who risked all to save children in Cambodia and Rwanda. Still, I found this an inspiring story and I am grateful for the Madame Collomb's of the world and the children they saved who can later tell the stories.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

History of Latvia

History of Latvia. This short article is a history of the Baltic nation of Latvia which for many years suffered under Soviet occupation.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Officially Republic of Latvia , Latvian Latvija , or Latvijas Republika country of northeastern Europe, one of the Baltic states. It lies along the shores of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga and borders Estonia in the north, Russia in the east, and Lithuania in the south. The capital and chief city is Riga."

From the site:

Since 9,000 BC ancient peoples of unknown origin had inhabited Latvia, but by 3,000 BC the ancestors of the Finns had settled the region. A millennium later, pre-Baltic tribes had arrived and within time evolved into the Baltic Couranian, Latgallian, Selonian, and Semigallian groups. These tribes eventually formed local governments independently from the Finno-Ugric Livian tribe until the 13th century when they were conquered by the Germans, who renamed the territory Livonia.

German sailors shipwrecked on the Daugava River in 1054 had inhabited the area, which led to increasing German influence. Founded by the Germanic Bishop Alberth of Livonia in 1201, Riga joined the Hanseatic League in 1285 and shared important cultural and economic ties to the rest of Europe. However, the new German nobility enserfed the peasantry and accorded non-Germanic peoples only limited trading and property rights.

Subsequent wars and treaties ensured Livonia's partition and colonization for centuries. The Commonwealth's successes during the Livonian Wars (1558-83) united the Latvian-populated duchies of Pardaugava, Kurzeme, and Zemgale, but the Polish-Swedish War (1600-29) granted Sweden acquisition of Riga and the Duchy of Pardaugava, minus Latgale, leaving Latvia again split ethnically. In turn, victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War (1700-21) gave Russia control over the Latvian territories. From 1804 onward, a series of local decrees gradually weakened the grip of German nobility over peasant society, and in 1849 a law granted a legal basis for the creation of peasant-owned farms.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I do not often cover popular culture here but popular culture is an important part of history. The popular culture of past ages is today the subject of serious academic study by historians. As such, I think so will our popular culture in the centuries and millenniums to come.

I came of age in the 80s. As such, I found to be a great site on 80s popular culture. The site features digitally enhanced 80s commercials, theme songs, public service announcements, cartoon and sitcom intros, station IDs, and movie trailers. I lost myself for hours playing around here.

Go and take a look. If you are in your 30s too, you may recognize many of these clips. They brought back memories for me. It was amazing how many of the commercials I could remember and even recall the catch phrases from! Just think if a site like this can preserve content for future generations. What a treasure trove it may become.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Pretentious Dissertation Title Mini-Quiz

The Pretentious Dissertation Title Mini-Quiz by MagnaMaxima
Your Field
Your Dissertation's Pretentious TitleThe Peasant Economy:
Your Dissertation's Pretentious SubtitleAeschylus and the Contestation of Authority

Monday, April 23, 2007

Teachers Drop the Holocaust to Avoid Offending Muslims

Although News of the Weird is not the best place to find out about the state of history education, I was still alarmed to read this from the current edition:

"According to a report commissioned by Britain's Department of Education and Skills, some history teachers have dropped references to the Holocaust (and the 11th-century Crusades) out of fear that the regular history curriculum might confuse or anger Muslim students who have been taught differently in local mosques (according to an April story in London's Daily Mail)."

Unfortunately, it is true! This seems wrong on so many levels. If students are being taught incorrect or incomplete historical facts about events such as the Crusades and the Holocaust at their local mosques, then it is imperative that they learn the correct facts in school. If they get angry or confused, so be it. A good teacher can use this to help the students learn even better.

Chris McGovern, history education adviser to the former Tory government, said in the Daily Mail article, "History is not a vehicle for promoting political correctness. Children must have access to knowledge of these controversial subjects, whether palatable or unpalatable."

All students, even the Islamic ones, need to learn about the Holocaust. That stuff people say about "never again" means nothing if we refuse to teach about the Holocaust in the first place. I really hope some people are holding fire to the feet of those English teachers of history who have lost their courage to teach history for fear of offending someone.