Category Archives: Loose thoughts and musings

The Banality of the Trump Administration: Reflecting on the Fall of the Berlin Wall, 30 Years Later

 

 

 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Thirty years ago the Berlin Wall came down. It was something that I never saw coming until the popular uprisings against the Warsaw Pact allies of the Soviet Union began in the fall of 1989. Just three years before we had made the trip via the Helmstedt corridor Autobahn to Berlin in November 1986. We made two trips into East Berlin while there, traveling through Checkpoint Charlie.

On January 19th 1989, East Germany’s leader, Erich Honecker proclaimed:

“The Wall will be standing in 50 and even in 100 years” 

He could not have been more wrong, just like most of us who served on the west side of the inter-German border during the Cold War. But despite the fall of the Wall, there are still many things that divide the old East from the West. Berlin itself is much more like the West, cosmopolitan, liberal, and open. Drive through other parts of the former East and it is still like a different country. Walls in people’s minds are often harder to breach than physical walls.

i was reminded of that when I saw a video of Trump’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Monica Crowley standing next to a preserved portion of the Wall last week saying that “Walls are good.” She obviously didn’t care about the enslaved populations that the Berlin Wall was supposed to keep in the county or the hundreds if not thousands who did trying to escape, killed by the East German Volkspolizei or the STASI after being tortured. For an American official to be standing at such a site praising its merits is incomprehensible to me and show the depth of the Trump Administration’s moral depravity. But then, the President would have probably loved Honecker, like he does Putin, Kim Jun Un and Rodrigo Duterte.


Last year we got to go back to Berlin and most of our time was spent in the former East. It was a far different experience. I think that Berlin is now one of my favorite cities in the world. The change is remarkable. It’s such a different world, and I look forward to going back again.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under germany, Loose thoughts and musings, Political Commentary, Travel

Conflicted War Criminals: They do not Deserve Monuments

 

Colonel General Erich Hoepner 
Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Monuments to soldiers who served their country faithfully and honorably are not a bad thing. At the same time one has to look at the context of their service and if they serve in the high command or in other government postings their service needs to be carefully examined to see if the deserve to be memorialized.

In the United States we have frequently memorialized men whose actions as military and political leaders, while commendable in some aspects leaves much to be desired in terms of long standing memorials.

A couple of years ago I had a friend whose family survived the Holocaust ask me where removing memorials to men like Robert E. Lee ends. I replied that it was all about context and the totality of life. We mythologize Robert E. Lee in a manner that his crimes and his flaws are intentionally hidden, though they are many. Since then I have written about Lee, and his crimes against the slaves that his family owned, and his meaningless sacrifice of thousands of Confederate Solders and the destruction of much of the South because he did not have the personal courage to tell Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Congress that the war lost in late 1863 or early 1864. He was the most respected man in the Confederacy and his words word have created an uproar that the Confederacy could not have survived. Instead he is remembered for the myth of his nobility with statues throughout the South and even the former Union States.

I then talked about German General Erich Hoepner who though he had been a part of plots to overthrow Hitler before the war and took part in the plot to overthrow Hitler in 1944 and was executed after a sham trial. The pictures and films of Hoepner being shamed and degraded by the Nazi Chief inquisitor, Judge Roland Freisler, give an impression that General Hoepner was a victim of the Nazi regime.

To some extent Hoepner was a victim of the regime, but while in command of Panzer Group Four during the invasion of the Soviet Union his actions place him in the pantheon of Nazi War Criminals. He fully cooperated with some the most criminal aspects of the Nazi regimes actions. He was a willing accomplice to crimes that stagger the imagination.

In his initial message to his troops Hoepner stated:

The war against Russia is an important chapter in the German nation’s struggle for existence. It is the old battle of the Germanic against the Slavic people, of the defence of European culture against Muscovite-Asiatic inundation and of the repulse of Jewish Bolshevism. The objective of this battle must be the demolition of present-day Russia and must therefore be conducted with unprecedented severity. Every military action must be guided in planning and execution by an iron resolution to exterminate the enemy remorselessly and totally. In particular, no adherents of the contemporary Russian Bolshevik system are to be spared.

Hoepner issued a number of other orders directing how Jews should be treated and the commander of Einsatzgruppe A, SS Brigadier General Walter Stahlecker whose units killed nearly 250,000 Jews between July and December 1941 praised the cooperation of the Wehrmacht and in particular of Hoepner with his execution squads. Stahlecker described the cooperation of the Wehrmacht with his men as “generally very good”, and “in certain cases, as for example, with Panzer Group 4 under the command of General Hoepner, extremely close, one might say even warm.” The fact is that the Einsatzgruppen could not have ran up such massive numbers of deaths without the cooperation of the German Army leaders in Russia.

That leaves us with the question of how does one remember such a military leader? Hoepner demonstrated bravery as a young officer in the First World War, and was prepared to help overthrow Hitler before the war and lost his life in the attempt to kill Hitler on July 20th 1944. But he enabled and participated in war crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination.

In 1956 a Berlin school was named after Hoepner for his role in the anti-Hitler plot, but in 2008, after his actions in relationship to the Nazi war crimes became public, the school was renamed. Because he perished in the attempt on Hitler’s life, Hoepner was included in the myth of the noble Wehrmacht. But that was a myth, the Wehrmacht was so complicit in the Nazi crimes that it cannot be exculpated from them. It’s leaders for the most part agreed with Nazi racial policies and had no hesitation in cooperating with the SS. Yes, there were exceptions, but they were and forever will remain exceptions, the myth be damned.

So in relation to the American controversy regarding monuments to Confederate leaders, or for that matter to leaders who planned, conducted, or supported our own genocide of Native Americans, the unlawful subjection and conquest of Mexico, the exploitation of territories and peoples gained following the Spanish-American War, those who conducted medical experiments not much different than the Nazi doctors on minorities and the handicapped, and so many other examples which would take too long to list for the purpose of this article: what are we to do?

As I have written before, this is a matter of context and honesty. Honestly I think this is something that we need to address, just as the Germans have since the end of the Second World War. We have to be brutally honest in our assessment of the men and women who we chose to memorialize. If we aren’t we simply bless their crimes and allow their veneration to inspire new generations of racial motivated criminals.

That is where we have to go if we have the moral courage to do so. However, I don’t think that will happen in the next few years, or even in my lifetime, but I can hope and I can act in my own way to bring attention to to them, and hopefully do what I can to keep people of our present time from heading down the same evil path.

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil war, ethics, faith, History, holocaust, leadership, Loose thoughts and musings, Military, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary, racism, war crimes, White nationalism, world war two in europe

Back Home and Watching the President Crack Up

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

We arrived back home this afternoon and did our unpacking as well as began to work on laundry. We are exhausted but our Papillon babies are happy to see us. It is nice to be home in our own bed. As I mentioned before we really enjoyed our trip to Germany and brief excursion into France. We are so grateful for our German and American friends who we were able to see as well as our neighbors and friends who took care of the puppies and helped us out at home while we were gone.

However much we love being home we have arrived in time to see President Trump melting down in press conferences and publicly asking yet another foreign power to assist him in undermining our domestic legal, Constitutional, and political affairs, which even Fox News legal commentators are saying is illegal and are impeachable offenses. But in spite of that the President is frankly melting down before our eyes, and his most loyal advisors, allies, and followers are digging him and themselves seeping into an abyss of their own making.

Now if this was happening at a time where multinational political and economic systems, and alliances is being tested and the threat of economic recession or depression and major wars threaten it would be so bad. After all, the institutions created after the Second World War stabilized the world, brought down colonial systems, and brought relief and prosperity to peoples whose nations were devastated during the era of the First World War, the Great Depression, and the Fascist and Communist dictatorships which helped bring about the Second World War. All of those international systems are under stress and country after country with democratic traditions are falling prey to leaders who though legally elected are dismantling their nations and becoming dictators. Sadly, many of those leaders are much like the American President.

I am very much worried as the President behaves like a loon, acts criminally and openly admits it, becomes increasingly mentally unstable, while making threats against his political opponents in both the Democratic Party and the GOP.

Truthfully, I am worried about mental health of the President, for his sake, as well as that of the United States and the world. In my nearly sixty years of life and 38 years in the military have I even seen a President lose it like this.

We live in dangerous times, and the President and his enablers are not helping, in fact they are further destabilizing the world by behaving as they do. However, I am tired and need to pass out with Izzy at my head.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, mental health, Political Commentary

A Last Night in Germany: Thoughts on Returning Home

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tonight is our last night in Germany with our friends and it was rather restful. We took the S-Bahn train to Karlsruhe for a bit of shopping for Judy and stopped in an Italian coffee and ice cream shop for lunch. Judy has now developed a taste for Cappuccino, which I like as well. Much of the time we had no internet or LTE connection which wasn’t a bad thing because we spent time with each other.

A word of warning for others who visit areas of Germany that are not in major cities, LTE and 5G Service can be sporadic at best. This can be extremely frustrating at times. Thankfully our friends near Karlsruhe have a WiFi connection in our name connected to their internet service.

After our visit to Karlsruhe we went back to our friends house and while Judy rested, I went for a ten kilometer walk punctuated by a visit to a local pilstube, or bar where I had a couple of beers and spoke to the bartender and regulars. Of course I was the on foreigner there, which is par for the course in many small towns. Until I identified myself as an American, without speaking English, and explained that my wife’s family was from the area, I was able to pass myself off as a German.

Tonight we will have dinner with out friends, and I will do as much packing as I can before going to bed. It has been nice being with our friends; they have three of the same kind of dogs that we have and all are sweet. It is nice to have a sweet dog on your lap when you are away from home.

We will drive to Munich in the morning, drop off our rental car and then check in for our flight. Depending on the time I might get another post off before the flight or when we get back to the United States.

Before bed I have been reading a book that I purchased at Dachau, entitled That Was Dachau 1933-1945 by the Czech historian and former Dachau inmate, Stanislav Zamecnik, published by the International Committee Of Dachau. I am getting close to the halfway point in it but it is well worth the read if you can can get a copy. I will be writing more about Dachau in the future going into far more detail about the policies, laws, and atrocities committed than I am mentioning now. However, it is now late, and after a wonderful time with our friends it is time to go to bed.

Until sometime tomorrow, Central European or Eastern Standard Time I wish you all the best.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under history, holocaust, life, Loose thoughts and musings, Travel

A Day in Hessen: Friends, Fulda, and Train Rides

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

We spent most of the day going back and forth on a regional train from our friends house to the City of Fulda where we visited the magnificent Cathedral, spent time with each other and pretty much stayed disconnected from the world, except for me checking the German Bundesliga soccer scores.

I will write more about some of the history Of the places we have been another time.

We left the house after breakfast and got to Fulda about 12:30. we walked through the town, had lunch, continued to walk and to see the old baroque inner city. I had not been there since 1996 and Judy had never been there. It was a wonderful time with our friends. We left about 5:30 and as the sun set over the beautiful countryside I saw a rainbow from my train window and was able to get a picture of it. We got home about 8:00 and had a light dinner with some wine and spent time with our friends talking about the events of the day and watching the news, while I also caught up on my daily comic strips and skimming the news from home. 

Tomorrow we will have breakfast, pack and begin our journey to see our friends in Karlsruhe, while stopping in places where Judy’s mothers family emigrated from first to Russia then to the United States. They are one the way to our friends house.

It will be another day of mostly being disconnected from from the problems of the world, not that there is anything wrong with that.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve

 

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Filed under life, Loose thoughts and musings, Travel

A Day to Disconnect: Friends, Family History, and a Walk up a Mountain and Through the Forest

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I kind of disconnected from most American media today to spend time with our German friends in the countryside of Hessen; to visit the county seat, Weilburg, that my wife’s father’s family left in the 1700s to go to the Volga region of Russia at the invitation of Catherine the Great before coming to the United States after the failed 1905 revolution as the Russian Government had continually reneged on its promises to the German settlers, who had been basically sold a bill of good by unscrupulous agents acting in the name of the Russian government.

I pride myself on being informed and trying the best I can to write about life, history, faith, religion and politics, with a keen eye. But there are times for one’s sanity that we have to take a break. The world and its problems will more than likely be here tomorrow, and to paraphrase Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we were not here at the beginning of creation, we won’t be here when it ends, we live in the uncomfortable middle.

With that in mind is important to take a break once in a while.

Following breakfast and our visit to Weilburg we had lunch with our friend Gottfried before visiting a Kloster just down the road. We got home about 2:30 PM or so and after a while I decided to make my annual pilgrimage up the highest mountain in the area and visit to old Jewish Cemetery which has been preserved with care by the town following the Holocaust. There is a memorial on the city hall to the Jews of the town who were sent East, at least one survived and she was invited to dedicate the memorial on the city hall in 1991. The gravestones at the cemetery date to the 1800s and early 1900s.

I ended up doing a power walk up, down, and around the mountain before ending up back at our friends after a two hour walk of just over eight miles, for a day long total of about ten and a half miles.

Then we went out with Gottfried’s wife Hannelore to an Italian Restaurant, and upon our return Gottfried to me to to meet some of his friends in the next town over. On our return we talked and watched TV together before heading up to bed, where I am writing this. Tomorrow will be a full day. We will take a two hour train ride to Fulda, visit there for a few hours then return home. That should be an interesting trip. I have been to Fulda a number of times, Judy never has. It was a key city in Cold War planning, and the old city and Cathedral are magnificent. My first trip there was a tour of the old inter-German Border between West and East Germany in 1984. I made a couple of other trips related to our potential mission to fight the Soviets if they attacked, and then after the Wall fell I visited the old city and Cathedral in late 1996. The fact that we are taking the train and not having to drive is very nice, since we will be driving Sunday to see friends near Karlsruhe on the Rhein River.

It is interesting that although I have kept myself apprised of the latest events in the United States I have disconnected enough to keep my sanity, even when occasionally checking my Twitter feed and Facebook page. The walk up the mountain and through the forest was good for me, it was not only a good workout but put me in touch with nature and history. John Muir said, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.” 

That happened to me today.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, History, life, Loose thoughts and musings, spirituality

Munich Update

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yesterday was our first full day in Munich. We got up relatively early, had breakfast and went to the opening parade and tapping of the Bier at the Oktoberfest. Following that we did some shopping and since Judy had walked and stood three to four times as long as at any time since her first knee replacement surgery we took her back to the hotel.

I then went down to the hotel bar to watch the second half of the Bayern München game against Koln, Bayern won 4-0. Then I went to the Lidl grocery and picked up a few things before going back to the hotel and picking Judy up for dinner at our favorite local Bavarian restaurant, Zum Brunstein, which is always like a visit to home away from home. After a wonderful dinner we went for a nightcap at the hotel bar.

When we went back to our room I thought I was going to watch a German crime drama and post a blog, but jet lag hit and we crashed. We slept late, I had a light breakfast of fruit and coffee, Judy is resting while I make pilgrimage to Dachau and the Concentration Camp Memorial.

I am writing on my iPhone while riding the S-Bahn to Dachau.

When I finish this trip and return to the hotel, our plans are to go back to Theresienwiesn where the Fest is held for beer and a wonderful Bavarian Rotisserie Chicken dinner, before heading back to the hotel. Tomorrow we’ll probably do some shopping and I might make a trip to the Dachau labor sub-camp memorial or the Sophie Scholl museum. I do plan on making those trips, but we are pacing ourselves.

So until the next time, from Munich,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, Loose thoughts and musings, travel