Tag Archives: leonard nimoy

“You Must Have Faith…” RIP Leonard Nimoy

Today we lost a great human being and wonderfully actor who playing the Vulcan “Mr Spock” in Star Trek help to teach us to be better human beings. As I mentioned earlier I am on the way to Gettysburg and I found out as my iPhone lit up with news alerts. Thankfully I am not driving. 

Those who follow my writings know just how much Star Trek in all its forms means to me, it is one of the constants in my life, which along with baseball and history has helped make me who I am today. 

One of the key players in that show, who I have always had a certain fondness for was Mr Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy played a character who could have been a one dimensional caricature with a depth, sensitivity, and complex subtlety that enriched us who watched him. 

Of course Nimoy was much more than Spock, he was a tremendously gifted actor and his career even without Star Trek would have been considered quite successful. But it was his portrayal of Spock in the original series, the films that flowed from that series and his reprise of the role in Star Trek the Next Generation and Star Trek: Into Darkness which made him an icon of film and television, and made me look for something higher, better and more noble in life. I’m sure others who grew up with him would agree with me in that. 

I was thinking about the many things that Nimoy said, as Mr Spock as well as out of character which were so rich. One of the most fascinating is in the movie Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country where Captain Spock startles a young Vulcan Lieutenant when discussing a possible peace treaty with the Klingon Empire. 

Spock: History is replete with turning points, Lieutenant. You must have faith.” 

Valeris: Faith?

Spock: That the universe will unfold as it should

Valeris: But is that logical? Surely we must….

Spock: Logic, logic and, logic….Logic is the beginning of wisdom, Valeris, not the end…

I am a terribly logical person, I doubt at least as much and often more than I have faith. Sometimes I have a hard time getting around my logical side to believe, to have faith. Thus the exchange is something that resonates with me. 

Nimoy, as Nimoy had a profound wit, as well as wisdom. Nimoy tweeted his last tweet on February 23rd it is quite profound.

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP” 

For those who don’t get the last bit of that LLAP is the line that Spock and Nimoy are both most remembered for, live long and prosper. 

It is a fitting benediction. I shall miss him. 

Live long, and prosper.

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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Filed under faith, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, star trek

Auschwitz at 70: Never Again

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Seventy years ago on January 27th 1945 the Soviet Red Army liberated the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, the centerpiece of the Nazi Death Camp machine. Though it did not end the Nazi genocide against the Jews it was only a matter of time before the horror would end.

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Auschwitz 

It is a day that we should never forget. The horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime, all in the name of “race purity” and the extermination of the Jews and others deemed by the Nazis to be “sub-human” or untermenschen is something that is hard for most to imagine.

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I am a Christian, gentile and historian. I have lived in Germany, read, speak and write German and have many friends in that country, including members of the German military, retired and active duty.  My study and association with Holocaust survivors goes back to my college days at California State University Northridge when as an undergraduate history major I spent much of my time studying Germany from the first unification and the Kaiser Reich, the First World War, Versailles, Weimar and the Hitler Regime. My professor, Dr. Helmut Heussler, whose family left Germany in the late 1920s, served in the U.S. Army in World War II and was an interrogator at Nuremberg. I took a number of classes from Dr. Heussler, including Hitler’s Germany and the Holocaust. In the latter I had the chance to meet Holocaust survivor Mel Mermelstein, who was later played by Leonard Nimoy in the TV movie Never Forget. 

Since then I have continued to study, read and even visit the sites of former concentration camps including Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. One day, God willing I will get to Auschwitz.

The Nazis had begun their persecution of the Jews shortly after Hitler took power in 1933. Later in the year the Enabling Act gave Hitler and his henchmen the legal means to begin their persecution of the Jews and others. These were followed by the Nuremberg Laws and other laws that targeted the Jews. Persecution increased throughout the 1930s, and sadly most countries refused to accommodate increased Jewish immigration.

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Kristallnacht

Nazi persecution became more pronounced during Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, when on 9-10 November 1938, a series of orchestrated attacks on Jewish businesses, Synagogues, institutions and individuals. On that night close to 200 synagogues, 7000 Jewish businesses and 29 major department stores were destroyed or damaged. Over 30,000 Jews, mostly en were arrested and sent to concentration camps, 91 people were killed outright, and several thousand died in the aftermath.

The order to executed the Kristallnacht progrom from SS Gruppenfuhrer Heydrich is chilling in its bureaucratic attention to detail:

TO ALL REGIONAL AND SUB-REGIONAL GESTAPO OFFICES 1:20AM, November 8, 1938

SUBJECT: MEASURES AGAINST THE JEWS THIS NIGHT

That only such measures were to be taken that would not endanger German lives or property  Businesses and residences of Jews may be damaged but not looted. Particular care is to be paid in business sections and surrounding streets. Non-Jewish businesses are to be protected from damage under all circumstances. Police are to seize all archives from synagogues and offices of community organizations, this refers to material of historical significance. Archives are to be handed over to the SS. As soon as possible, officials are to arrest as many Jews especially wealthy ones – in all districts as can be accommodated in existing cells. For the time being, only healthy male Jews of not too advanced age are to be arrested.

Reinhard Heydrich, SS Gruppenführer

The Jews were made to bear the costs of the assault on them and their institutions. Hermann Goering, in charge of the German economic program was not in favor, though he and his contacts in the German banking industry, major corporations and businesses took full advantage of the situation to “Aryanize” Jewish businesses, stripping Jews of businesses that had been in their families for generations.

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Goering

After the war began the persecution became worse and in July 1941, not long after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler ordered that the the “Endlosung” or Final Solution of the “Jewish problem” begin. Georing entrusted the task to SS Gruppenfuhrer  Reinhard Heydrich. His order read:

Berlin, July 31st 1941

To: Gruppenfuhrer Heydrich

Supplementing the task assigned to you by the decree of January 24th 1939, to solver the Jewish problem by means of evacuation and emigration in the best possible way by according to present conditions, I hereby charge you to carry out preparations as regards organizational, financial, and material matters for a total solution (Gesamtlosung) of the Jewish question in all the territories of Europe under German occupation.

Where the competency of other organizations touches on this matter, the organizations are to collaborate.

I charge you further to submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for the carrying out the desired final solution (Endlosung) of the Jewish question.”

Goering

When Goering wrote Heydrich, the head of the Reichssiecherhiethauptampt (RSHA) in July 1941 it seemed that Nazi victory in Europe was all but assured. Goering’s words were businesslike. Early measures to rid Germany and the annexed Austria ha been reasonably successful of their Jews through emigration and evacuation. However with the occupation of most of Europe following the Nazi military success and the looming occupation and subjugation of the Soviet Union the process of giving the Jews a chance to emigrate to lands outside Nazi control had come to an end. In fact the Nazis occupied the countries that may Jews had found refuge. The Nazi leadership decided that its race war against the Jews needed to forge ahead.

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Rudolph Höss and his Officers 

Within weeks SS commanders at various concentration camps were devising means to exterminate Jews more efficiently. It was a matter of pride and efficiency for them. As Rudolph Höss the Commandant of Auschwitz said at Nuremberg “the camp commandant at Treblinka told me that he had liquidated 80,000 in the course of one half year. He was principally concerned with liquidating all the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. He used monoxide gas, and I did not think that his methods were very efficient. So when I set up the extermination building at Auschwitz, I used Zyclon B….” Hoess estimated that some 2.5 million people were exterminated at Auschwitz at rates as high as 10,000 a day.

In the Soviet Union four Einsatzgruppen followed each of the German Army Groups and systematically began to massacre the Jews of every city and village which German soldiers captured. Over a million and a half Soviet Jews were killed by the Einsatzgruppen, Ordungspolizei battalions, Army Security Divisions and locally recruited units.

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Heydrich

Less than six months after he received the directive from Goering, on January 20th 1942 Heydrich summoned representatives from various Reich agencies were called for what turned out to be a brief, two hour meeting which decided the fate of the Jews. The meeting was held at an estate located in the suburbs of Berlin, called Wansee. Organized by Heydrich’s deputy Adolph Eichmann, involved Heydrich, Eichmann and 13 mid level representatives from various economic, governmental, justice and police entities.

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Adolf Eichamnn

At the conference Heydrich established his authority through Goering’s directive to overcome the bureaucratic and personal attempts of various attendees to take control of the Final Solution process. Despite objections from some attendees who favored sterilization and the use of Jews in the war armaments industries, Heydrich made it clear that the Final Solution would be a campaign of extermination. He was quite clear:

“Approximately 11 million Jews will be involved…in large single sex labor columns, Jews fit to work will work their way eastward constructing roads. Doubtless the large majority will be eliminated through natural causes. Any final remnant that survives will doubtlessly consist of the most resistant elements. They will have to be dealt with appropriately, because otherwise by natural selection, they would form the germ cell of a new Jewish revival.”

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Himmler and Staff visiting a Camp

Himmler talked to the SS Leaders responsible for the mass killings:

“I also want to mention a very difficult subject before you here, completely openly. It should be discussed among us, and yet, nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public…I am talking about the “Jewish evacuation” the extermination of the Jewish people.”

It is One of the things that is easily said. “The Jewish people is being exterminated,” every Party member will tell you, “perfectly clear, it’s part of our plans, we’re eliminating the Jews, exterminating them, ha!, a small matter.”

But then along they all come, all the decent upright Germans and each has his decent Jew. They all say: the others are all swine, but here is a first class Jew. And none of them has seen it, has endured it. Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, or when there are 500 or 1000. And to have seen this through, and –with the exception of human weaknesses– to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned….”

Whether the words are those of Goering, Heydrich, Höss or Himmler, there is a certain businesslike banality to them. But these men, and many others like them orchestrated a campaign of genocide and race hatred unmatched in history. Yes, there have been other genocides, the Turks killing the Armenians during the First World War and the Hutu and Tutsi slaughter in Rwanda but neither they or the politically motivated campaigns of mass slaughter conducted by the Soviets, the Chinese Communists and the Khamer Rouge killing fields can match the systematized extermination campaign waged by the Nazis against the Jews.

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Einsatzgruppen in Action

The truly terrifying thing about the Nazi perpetrators of the Holocaust to me is that most of the men at Wansee, men that commanded the Concentration camps and the Einsatzgruppen were very ordinary men who simply believed that they were doing their jobs. Very few could be described as psychopathic killers by nature. They were lawyers, doctors, career police officials, businessmen, and bureaucrats who carried out an extermination campaign that killed by their own numbers between 5.5 and 6 million Jews, not to mention others deemed to be subhuman including the handicapped, the mentally ill, homosexuals, and other non-Jewish minorities like the Gypsies not to mention the wide variety of those considered political enemies. But it was the Jews that bore the most tragic fate.

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Fun Times for Auschwitz Staff

Auschwitz began as a work camp, notoriously harsh in its treatment of its prisoners but a work camp, picked because of its proximity to rail lines and isolation. By the summer of 1941 it was the largest camp in the Concentration Camp system. Within months the process of turning Auschwitz into a factory of mass murder began, quite accidentally when members of the camp staff discovered that a chemical used for the delousing of barracks known as Zyklon-B also worked on large animals, and therefore people.  It was tested on Russian and Polish POWs in September 1941.

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Zyklon-B

As the Nazi desire for efficient extermination grew and early death factories showed their limitations and the “experiments” at Auschwitz resulted in it being selected as a death camp. The camp was expanded and its first gas chamber, the former camp morgue began its operations in February 1942. Other more massive chambers were built, chambers that could hold up to 2000 victims per cycle. By the time the operation was shut down in the weeks leading up to the camp’s liberation Rudolf Höss the Commandant of Auschwitz estimated that 2.5 million people, mostly Jews were exterminated in it. Höss boasted d that his camp could exterminate 10,000 people in a 24 hour period. Other estimates are lower, but still in the millions.

The transcript of Höss’s affidavit at Nuremberg is chilling if nothing else for its unemotional businesslike tenor.

RUDOLF FRANZ FERDINAND HÖSS, being first duly sworn, depose and say as follows:

“I am forty­six years old, and have been a member of the NSDAPI since 1922; a member of the SS since 1934; a member of the Waffen­SS since 1939. I was a member from 1 December 1934 of the SS Guard Unit, the so­called Deathshead Formation (Totenkopf Verband).

I have been constantly associated with the administration of concentration camps since 1934, serving at Dachau until 1938; then as Adjutant in Sachsenhausen from 1938 – 5/1/1940, when I was appointed Kommandant of Auschwitz. I commanded Auschwitz until 12/1/1943 and estimate that at least 2.5 million victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease making a total dead of about 3 million. This figure represents about 70-80% of all persons sent to Auschwitz as prisoners, the remainder having been selected and used for slave labor in the concentration camp industries; included among the executed and burned were approximately 20,000 Russian prisoners of war (previously screened out of prisoner-of-war cages by the Gestapo) who were delivered at Auschwitz in Wehrmacht transports operated by regular Wehrmacht officers and men. The remainder of the total number of victims included about 100,000 German Jews, and great numbers of citizens, mostly Jewish, from Holland, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countries. We executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.

until 12/1/1943 and know by reason of my continued duties in the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps, WVHA, that these mass executions continued as stated above. All mass executions by gassing took place under the direct order, supervision, and responsibility of RSHA. I received all orders for carrying out these mass executions directly from RSHA.

The ‘Final Solution’ of the Jewish question meant the complete extermination of all Jews in Europe. I was ordered to establish extermination facilities at Auschwitz in 6/1941. At that time, there were already in the General Government three other extermination camps: Belzek, Treblinka and Wolzek. These camps were under the Einsatzkommando of the Security Police and SD. I visited Treblinka to find out how they carried out their exterminations. The camp commandant at Treblinka told me that he had liquidated 80,000 in the course of one-half year. He was principally concerned with liquidating all the Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. He used monoxide gas, and I did not think that his methods were very efficient. So when I set up the extermination building at Auschwitz, I used Zyklon B, which was a crystallized prussic acid which we dropped into the death chamber from a small opening. It took from 3-15 minutes to kill the people in the death chamber, depending upon climatic conditions. We knew when the people were dead because their screaming stopped. We usually waited about one-half hour before we opened the doors and removed the bodies. After the bodies were removed our special Kommandos took off the rings and extracted the gold from the teeth of the corpses.

Another improvement we made over Treblinka was that we built our gas chamber to accommodate 2000 people at one time whereas at Treblinka their 10 gas chambers only accommodated 200 people each. The way we selected our victims was as follows: We had two SS doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the incoming transports of prisoners. The prisoners would be marched by one of the doctors who would make spot decisions as they walked by. Those who were fit for work were sent into the camp. Others were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of tender years were invariably exterminated since by reason of their youth they were unable to work. Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process. Of course, frequently they realized our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties due to that fact. Very frequently women would hide their children under the clothes, but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated. We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy but of course the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz.

We received from time to time special prisoners from the local Gestapo office. The SS doctors killed such prisoners by injections of benzine. Doctors had orders to write ordinary death certificates and could put down any reason at all for the cause of death.

From time to time we conducted medical experiments on women inmates, including sterilization and experiments relating to cancer. Most of the people who died under these experiments had been already condemned to death by the Gestapo.

I understand English as it is written above. The above statements are true; this declaration is made by me voluntarily and without compulsion; after reading over the statement I have signed and executed the same at Nuremberg, Germany, on the 4/5/1946. – Rudolf Höss.”

Survivors of Auschwitz

Liberation, the Children

Höss, and other functionaries such Adolf Eichmann, who coordinated the massive effort to exterminate the Jews of Europe following the Wansee Conference of January 20th 1942 approached their jobs dispassionately. This was a common attitude among the civil service, military and police officials that oversaw the Holocaust. They simply did their jobs and followed the law.

Hannah Arendt wrote of Eichmann:

“The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.”

This was what made the Holocaust committed against the Jews of Europe by Nazi Germany a phenomenon different than other genocides. Many of the perpetrators were not driven by centuries old hate as in the Balkans, tribal blood lust as occurred in Rwanda, or the products of Soviet Communism or Communist Chines Maoist regimes.

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Einsatzgruppen 

It was the racial ideology of the Nazis which deemed the Jews and other non-Aryans to be sub-human. That ideology undergirded the German treatment of the Jews, and the conduct of the war, especially in the East. But the execution of the plan required the bureaucratic, administrative, technical and legal skills brought to the table by ordinary men. Men who sought promotion, advancement and economic security for their families. Individually many would have never killed, but in their positions they ran the rail network, the factories, the banking and finance industries and supported the war effort, most not thinking much about the evil that they abetted or if they did finding a way, be it social, scientific, religious, patriotic, legal or simply in the name of efficiency.

That is what makes the evil committed by them so terrifying. It is the product of “normal” people in an advanced Western nation. Make no bones about it, their actions were evil. They aided and abetted the genocide of the Jews, the disabled, other “sub-human” races, particularly Slavs, as well as those that they deemed less than suitable.

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Ordinary Men of Reserve Police Battalion 101

I think that the most chilling thing about the Holocaust was that the greatest atrocities were committed by ordinary men, sometimes well educated, decent family men. These were men who simply executed orders and often went home at night. Hannah Arendt wrote that “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.” She was right, there was an ordinariness to the evil perpetrated by the Nazis.

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It is important that we do not forget the Holocaust. It is also important to recognize that the instruments of that horror were on the whole “ordinary” men who as they saw it were simply doing their job. It is something that everyone needs to remember.

Primo Levi wrote:

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.” 

That is the real problem with atrocities committed by human beings.

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In the classic film Judgment at Nuremberg Spencer Tracy reads the verdict at the end of the Judges Trial. His words are timeless:

“Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and the death of millions by the Government of which he was a part. Janning’s record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial: If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts, if all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake, or any other natural catastrophe.

But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary – even able and extraordinary – men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat through the trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen. There are those in our own country too who today speak of the “protection of country” – of ‘survival’. A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient – to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is ‘survival as what’? A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”

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Never Again: Bergen Belsen then and now

So many of the perpetrators saw nothing wrong in what they were doing. They believed that their victims were less than human and like so many people even today, they had no empathy. Gustave Gilbert, an American Army Psychologist at the major War Criminal Trials at Nuremberg said it so well: “Evil is the absence of empathy.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, nazi germany, world war two in europe

Star Trek: Into Darkness

I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness yesterday and as I mentioned in my last article about the subject last week I did promise that I would do a review of it when I saw it. So I saw the movie and to sum up my experience in the words of Spock it was “fascinating.”

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Now the “Prime Directive” of writing a movie review of a recently released film is not to give away spoilers and I will not violate the Prime Directive.

I saw the film in its 3D format in a nice theater. I have come to enjoy the 3D experience as the technology continues to improve. Director JJ Abrams has put together one of the best Star Trek films of all time. I have been watching the Star Trek franchise since the very beginning of the original series when I was a kid and continued watching TOS in the early days of syndication before the first film Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in December 1979 when I was a sophomore in college.

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Needless to say I am a big fan of the franchise as a whole and having seen every movie, every episode of TOS, TNG, DS9, most of Voyager I have to consider that I am a Trekkie, Trekker or whatever label that you want to give me. The only series that I have not seen except for a few episodes was Enterprise because I was deployed or traveling on various other military duties around the world through much of its run. The times I was home it was hard to find because the local television stations didn’t carry it.

When I was a teen ager I read most of the TOS novels that came out in paperback and when TNG came out I read quite a few of those as well. Each one kind of expanded my Trek experience, and at one time I think I had most if not all of the TOS and TNG Technical Manuals.

My preferences in the Star Trek franchise have been the TOS, TNG and DS9 series, the last of which I am currently watching in order. I watched every TNG episode in order between the end of the 2012 World Series and Opening Day 2013 before beginning DS9 which I am now into Season 5. I figure that I will get Voyager when I finish DS9. I missed a lot of Voyager episodes due to deployment or working nights in civilian hospitals.

As far as the previous movies they have been a hit or miss affair for me. Of the Original Series films I was not a big fan either of Star Trek the Motion Picture or Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was okay for me but the three films that I can watch almost any day of the week are Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to which the new film has some interesting connections, as well as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. However my favorite of these has to be The Wrath of Khan and the TOS episode that is sprung from Space Seed. As for the films associated with Star Trek the Next Generation I found First Contact and Nemesis to be the best, but overall found the television series much better than the films.

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All that being said I have said almost nothing about the new film as of yet. I loved the first film in the reboot of the series, Star Trek which came out in 2009. I liked the casting, the story line which broke the old time line and paradigm which allowed the new series to take on a life of its own even which keeping connection to other parts of the series. Because to this the possibilities that Abrams and his team have opened up are very “Roddenberry” and the new film has the feel of what I think Gene Roddenberry might have imagined for the future of the series.

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The fact is that Roddenberry was not afraid to break the molds of his own creation. He killed Spock, destroyed the Enterprise and took the story with a different cast to a different century. As the creator of the series he was not afraid to take risks and to take the series to places that many fans could not have imagined. I can only imagine that after 10 feature films involving two separate series and 703 television episodes in one timeline spanning 5 separate series that Roddenberry would approve of the new life that Abrams and his team have give to the series.

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I found that the cast is really beginning to gel as the crew of the Enterprise. Even though they are different actors each has captured the spirit of characters of the Original Series. Chris Pine as Captain Kirk is younger but believable as Kirk. We see the defiant and independent nature of Kirk in his performance. Zachary Quinto as Spock is as close to perfect as to how I imagine Spock could be in the new timeline. The appearances of Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime and his interactions with Quinto’s Spock are priceless. My favorites in the other characters brought over from the Original Series are Bones McCoy played by Karl Urban and Scotty played by Simon Pegg. Sulu played by John Cho, Uhura played by Zoe Saldana and Chekov played by Anton Yelchin are all good in their parts but because the characters are only seen briefly in each of the films they are harder to get to know, unlike the cast members of either TOS or TNG who were known to fans through their respective series before they appeared in any of the films.

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As far as the villain of the film, initially known as John Harrison played by Benedict Cumberbatch is as good of villain as you can get in Star Trek, but then he too is reprised from the TOS series, better known as…. No won’t say it, it would violate the Prime Directive, even though you can look it up somewhere else like the the Internet Movie Data Base at www.imdb.com Because of what Abrams does with this part of the story line a whole new set of possibilities remains open regarding this villain in future episodes and Cumberbatch was an excellent villain that I would not mind seeing again should they decide to reprise his role.

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The story line is excellent, especially in light of 12 years of war following the terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001. I think one think that transcends the terrific action and special effects of the movie is how it is possible for those defending the ideal of freedom to cross the line into tyranny when they believe freedom might be threatened. It really is a fascinating metaphor that is important, because the darkness referred to in the title is not really the outside threats to freedom, but the threat harbored in each of us when we give in to the temptation to not ask the hard questions about the morality of our own actions that we take in the defense of our freedoms.

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Abrams dedicates the film to the post 9-11 veterans and that is something that I appreciate because he backs that up by working with the charity The Mission Continues. Abrams had 6 veterans form the honor guard folding the flag at the somber memorial service scene at the end of the movie, something that most of us who have served over the past 12 years have seen or participated in too many. For me that was especially touching.

Anyway, I don’t think that any fan of Star Trek can go wrong in seeing this film and it may help bring new fans into the fold by sending them back to watch the series that helped begin everything in the Star Trek universe.

Live Long and Prosper,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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In Memoriam: Professor Helmut Haeussler the Most influential Teacher in my Life

I received an e-mail from the History Department of California State University at Northridge this week that a memorial service is to be held for Professor Helmut Haeussler. Dr. Haeussler was my primary professor in the department during my undergraduate years at the school as well as one year of graduate work before I was commissioned as an Army Second Lieutenant and reported for active duty in 1983.

I studied under Dr. Haeussler for three years taking courses such as German History, World War II and the Holocaust followed by an extensive number of independent study courses where I concentrated on Germany from the end of the First World War until the fall of the Third Reich. In this my primary focus was the Weimar Republic and the relationship of the German Army to the Government and the various political parties.

Dr. Haeussler was unique. He was born in Germany in 1922 during the turmoil of the early Weimar Republic and his family immigrated to the United States in the early 1930s. He was attending the University of Wisconsin when the Second World War broke out and served as an intelligence analyst and interpreter with the 82nd Airborne Division and as an interrogator at the Nuremburg trials. After leaving the Army he continued his education eventually graduating with a Ph.D. from in History from the University of Wisconsin.  He joined the faculty at Northridge in 1963 and he retired in 2005, having taught many courses in German History, Modern European History, World War II, the Holocaust, Anti-Semitism, and Military History.  He also taught at California Lutheran College on occasion. He was a tremendous teacher and for our class on the Holocaust he had a survivor of Auschwitz named Mel Mermelstein who challenged Holocuast deniers in court and won. Mermelstein’s fight was dramatized in the television movie called Never Forget in which he was played by Leonard Nimoy.  Dr. Haeussler, a Lutheran from Germany and veteran of the United States Army was a man who did not want the crimes of the Nazis to be forgotten and the dangers of a divided society which has lost its sense of identity.

He wrote a book on the life of General Wilhelm Groener who was a key figure in the formation and preservation of the Weimar Republic from forces on the Left and Right in its fragile early years. Along with the Majority Socialist President Friedrich Ebert and Defense Minister Gustav Noske he forged an alliance between the very conservative Army Officer Corps and the Socialist Government which endured until Ebert’s untimely death in 1925.

Dr. Haeussler spent many hours with me recommending research resources and writers, looking over my work and challenging my conclusions at many points. I still have all of the books from his classes as well as books that he recommended. When I went on to a second Masters Degree, this one in Military History and the work that I did under him paid dividends in those studies. I appreciate what Dr. Haeussler taught me and how he pushed me to constantly pursue learning. Readers of this site can find much of his influence in my writings on Weimar and the Nazi era and application for the present day, especially as our society becomes increasingly divided and the government as ineffective and the Weimar Government after the death of Ebert.

Dr. Haeussler’s passing is also a watershed. He was the last faculty member at Northridge who had served in the Second World War. This is yet another reminder to us of the members of that generation who are passing away at an ever increasing rate.

The information on the memorial is below. I am simply pasting it from the e-mail that I received.

The History Department will hold a reception on Sunday, March 27, at 2 P.M. in the Whitsett Room, Sierra Hall 451.  Emeritus Professor Michael Meyer, a long-time friend and colleague, will bring his violin and play German songs that Helmut would have liked. Faculty, friends, and former students of Professor Haeussler are cordially invited to attend and share their memories. Refreshments will be served.  Please call the History Department, 818-677-3566, so that we may plan accordingly. Parking will be available in the lots west of Sierra Hall.  Visitors must stop at the parking kiosk on Prairie Street, just east of Darby, to obtain a permit.

I wish that I could attend the memorial and spend time with those that worked alongside him and fellow students. I was privileged to have a professor who has continued to influence my learning almost 30 years after my last class with him. I wish that every student would have such a teacher at some point in their life.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under History, remembering friends, world war two in europe

Star Trek, God and Me 1966 to 2009

star-trek tos castThe Original Series Crew

I grew up with Star Trek.  I remember as a kid when the original series was still on NBC and when it went into syndication I tried to watch it whenever it was on, or whenever I could get control of the television.  There was something that captured my imagination, a glimpse of a positive future, possibility and adventure.  Since I have always been seeking new frontiers, note my career in the military, Star Trek, the Original Series was an inspiration.  Kirk, Spock, Scottie, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and Nurse Chapel became part of my life.  When not watching it I was reading Star Trek novels, something that I countinued with the Next Generation. I was fascinated by the Klingons and Romulans, the though of other planets with other intelligent beings was something that did not frighten me, or casue me to question my Christian faith.  Since I have always believed in a very big God, the fact that God did not have to be limited to just dealing with humans seemed, as Spock would put it “logical.”

No I know that some people could be offended by this, or could give me some flak for what I just said.  But I see no reason why God couldn’t be working in all of the gazillion galaxies, solar systems, planets and maybe even parallel or alternate universes.  Why not?  What if there was a planet where there was no fall and the inhabitants didn’t screw it up?  I think it would be cool.  My God is big, in fact the Bible and the Christian tradition is pretty clear that God is like really super duper powerful and capable of handling a whole lot of stuff all at once.  In fact we like to call God omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and a bunch of other om’s.  Likewise, we believe that God is a creative God.  So why would we look out and see this vast universe and say: “Nope Clem, just us out here.”  So since I am backed up by the testimony of Scripture and Tradition about some of the attributes of God I think it is safe to say that God indeed could well be working elsewhere in the universe.  If I believe that God is who Scripture state him to be, then I have to at least give some thought to this possibility.  Can I positively say this is the case? No, but I can infer it from what the faith teaches me about God and by what science has revealed to us over the past couple of hundred years.  None  of this takes anything away from God working his plan of redemption through Christ with humanity.

star-trek uss enterpriseUSS Enterprise NCC 1701

Anyway that rabbit chased back into the woods, I continue.  I followed the Star Trek movies, with The Wrath of Khan and the Voyage Home being my favorites.  Not long after I learned to drive in high school a friend and I went to a Halloween party.  I had made me a Mr. Scott uniform and my friend was dressed as an alien.  After the party we headed home. We had just gotten on I-5 and I looked at him and said  “set course 010 Warp 8” and being young and dumb took my 1966 Buick LeSabre 400 with a twin barrel carburetor up to about 90 MPH.  I noticed a pair of headlights coming up behind me.  I slowed down for the Benjamin Holt Drive exit and exited the freeway where a stoplight was red.  Beside me pulled a CHP cruiser.  The trooper looked at us, me with my Star Trek uniform and my friend in his alien suit, laughed and waved.  I watched my speedometer like a hawk the rest of the way home and prayed that the trooper would not turn around to get me.  Later in Germany I was driving my first German “beater” a 1976 faded powder blue Ford Escort, to my base on a Saturday with Judy.  Ahead of us a Mercedes crept along.  Since we were on a two lane state highway going through the hills of the Saarland along the bank of the Nahe River there was no way to get around this guy.  I have never been patient when people clog the road by driving well below the posted speed limit, which in this case was 100 KM or 62 MPH.  My little car known as the “Blue Max” had its emergency flasher located on the center of the dashboard. It was a red button about an in round.  I looked at Judy and said “fire phasers.”  I reached down pushed the button of and on and in front of us the strangest thing happened.  There was a boom, a flash and the guy’s muffler and tail pipe dropped off.  I avoided the debris and he coasted to a halt alongside the road.  Judy and I both looked at each other with looks of shock and disbelief.  Yet it had happened.  I have tried this again on every other car that I have owned with no effect.  I guess phasers are not standard on this side of the Atlantic.

tng_crew_season3The Bext Generation Crew

When Star Trek, the Next Generation, or TNG came out in 1987 I was a young Army Captain getting ready to go to seminary the following year.   I fell in love with TNG and its cast.  In fact during my clinical pastoral education residency my supervisor was able to use analogies from the TNG characters, Lieutenant Worf and Lieutenant Commander Data to help me gain insights into what was going on in me.  I had a lot of affinity for both of these characters as someone who wrestled with where I fit and where was home.  Something I shared with these characters.  Likewise there were a couple of episodes dealing with Captain Picard entitled “Family” and “Tapestry” which actually woke me up to a couple of things in my life.  I think I can say that the Deity Herself used them to help me through that time when I was still sorting through my life, vocation and issues of home and heart. I thought that the character development in TNG was great and I still will watch TNG whenever I come across it or want to pull out one of my DVDs.  I liked the darkness of Deep Space Nine and the fact that baseball was a part of it.  I did not take as well to Voyager or Enterprise as my life was getting really busy with military deployments and operations.  As was the case I ended up collecting the entire TNG series on DVD.  I also have a jacket similar to the TNG jacket in Science/Medical Blue with the communicator badge and Lieutenant Commander colar insignia. I also have a very rare Starfleet Chaplain pin with a white Greek Cross on it.  This came out of one of the old TOS Technical Manuals dealing with rank and branches of Starfleet.

niners_pennantDeep Space Nine “Niners” Pennant

When I first saw the hints of the new movie a couple of years ago I wondered about it.  I wondered how they could pull of the feel of the original series. I heard friends rave about it and every review I read was sweet.  So since there were no ball games in the local area, though the Tides continued their winning was with a 13-2 victory in Columbus against the Clippers, we decided to go to dinner and a movie.  We headed over to Gordon Biersch and had a nice dinner with great beer and went to the theater a couple of blocks away.  The movie was great.  The cast, most of whom I had seen very little of in other roles, had the feel of the old cast.  Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Qunito (Spock), Karl Urban (McCoy) and Simon Pegg (Scotty) had great chemistry.  The supporting cast worked well too.  I was simply blown away as they pulled this off and managed to do a “prequel” which worked.  As a side note, my undergraduate campus, California State University at Northridge served as Starfleet Academy.   All in all it was a very satisfying experience and the crowd applauded loudly as the final credits came up, preceded by Leonard Nimoy  doing a voice over as the Enterprise went by saying; “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.”  This was followed by the theme music of the original series as the credits rolled out.  That was special.

So I guess I am a Trekkie, or Trekker, depending on which Star Trek sect I belong, but nonetheless, Star Trek has been, and will reamin part of my life.  Thanks Gene Roddenberry, and all who over the years have brought the Star Trek universe to us.

Live long, and prosper my friends.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, Religion, star trek