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Articles on this Page
- 03/03/17--11:00: _Art Deco Hotel in D...
- 03/06/17--23:00: _Turning back desper...
- 03/10/17--11:00: _Hazel Guggenheim, a...
- 03/14/17--00:00: _Secession - Austral...
- 03/17/17--12:00: _Quick and cheap wed...
- 03/21/17--00:00: _Barcelona's very sp...
- 03/24/17--12:00: _spectacular Anglo S...
- 03/28/17--00:00: _Sir Don Bradman:The...
- 03/31/17--12:00: _Mother's Ruin - gin
- 04/04/17--01:00: _ Chautauqua: adult ...
- 04/07/17--13:00: _What happened to pa...
- 04/11/17--01:00: _Stefan Zweig - defe...
- 04/14/17--13:00: _Innovative housing ...
- 04/18/17--01:00: _Mata Hari - seducti...
- 04/21/17--13:00: _Guy Fawkes and his ...
- 04/25/17--01:00: _My favourite Art De...
- 04/28/17--13:00: _Christina Stead - l...
- 05/02/17--01:00: _Maremma dogs protec...
- 05/05/17--13:00: _Did France accept d...
- 05/09/17--01:00: _Israeli trials of J...
- 05/12/17--15:00: _Mussolini's fake na...
- 05/16/17--01:00: _The British Raj in ...
- 05/19/17--13:00: _Mentoring Noel Pear...
- 05/23/17--01:00: _Corfu - was it Vene...
- 05/26/17--13:00: _Revolutionising the...
- 03/03/17--11:00: Art Deco Hotel in Devon, cocktails, gorgeous beach
- 03/06/17--23:00: Turning back desperate refugees to their probable death: 1939
- 03/10/17--11:00: Hazel Guggenheim, artist and tragic
- 03/14/17--00:00: Secession - Australia, Czechoslovakia, Canada, Norway and Scotland
- 03/17/17--12:00: Quick and cheap weddings - Gretna Green
- 03/21/17--00:00: Barcelona's very special art nouveau/art deco Hotel Fuster
- 03/24/17--12:00: spectacular Anglo Saxon warrior art treasures
- 03/31/17--12:00: Mother's Ruin - gin
- 04/04/17--01:00: Chautauqua: adult education in the USA 1874-1933
- 04/07/17--13:00: What happened to pacifists in WW1?
- 04/18/17--01:00: Mata Hari - seductive dancer in Paris or German WW1 spy?
- 04/21/17--13:00: Guy Fawkes and his 12 Catholic co-conspirators
- 04/25/17--01:00: My favourite Art Deco portraitist - Tamara Lempicka
- 04/28/17--13:00: Christina Stead - literary hero or forgotten Australian?
- 05/02/17--01:00: Maremma dogs protect fairy penguins from rampant foxes: Australia
- 05/09/17--01:00: Israeli trials of Jewish kapos from WW2 - 1950-1972
- 05/12/17--15:00: Mussolini's fake nation - the Italian Social Republic (1943-5)
- 05/16/17--01:00: The British Raj in India - in perfect control or in chaos?
- 05/19/17--13:00: Mentoring Noel Pearson - a guest post
- 05/23/17--01:00: Corfu - was it Venetian, British, Greek or something else?
- 05/26/17--13:00: Revolutionising the care of spinal injuries - Ludwig Guttmann
Bigbury-on-Sea was a small fishing village on the Devon coast. Only 250 ms offshore was a tidal island called Burgh, cut off from Bigbury by the tide twice every day. The skyline at the top of Burgh Island was dominated by the remains of the Huers hut, where fisherman kept a lookout for shoals of pilchards. The Huers hut was built on the site of a chapel dedicated to Saint Michael, as part of a small monastic community that originally inhabited the island.
The Pilchard Inn was initially a C14th hideout for pirates and criminals on the run. The most notorious one was an Elizabethan smuggler called Tom Crocker, who was ?shot outside the Pilchard Inn by a Revenue officer. The Inn, situated at the foot of the island, is still popular.
When the music hall star George Chirgwin built a fairly ordinary wooden house on Burgh Island in the 1890s, his guests were thrilled. Weekend parties must have seemed very private and romantic.
Burgh Island was sold in 1927 to filmmaker Archibald Nettlefold who built a substantial hotel in the increasingly popular Art Deco style. Golden beaches and glamorous living were clearly visible to everyone on the Devon coast.
What did Art Deco architecture look like? In the inter-war era (c1925 -1939), Art Deco architecture was an opulent style whose richness was a reaction to the forced austerity of The Great War. It may have been used for any type of building, but I tend to think of it being most apt for leisure and pleasure – hotels, cinemas, theatres, bars and cruise ships. Deco petrol stations, bus and train depots, although not glamorous, were loved for their association with modernity and mobility.
Art Deco architecture popularised a style that was elegant, functional and modern, largely white, streamlined and geometrical. It often drew on modern technology like aviation, electric lighting, radio, ocean liners and sky scrapers for inspiration. The bold use of stepped forms and sweeping curves, chevron patterns and the sunburst motif were very popular; symmetry and repetition were every where. Ribbon windows were preferred but porthole windows could add a nautical element.
Externally, Art Deco used steel framed construction, reinforced concrete and plate glass. Internally, Art Deco was characterised by use of materials like aluminium, stainless steel and inlaid timber.
So it should not surprise anyone that in the inter-war period, Burgh Island had become one of the most popular hotels in the West Country. Improvements and additions to the hotel were made during the 1930s and no facility was more popular in summer than the outside dance floor - for romance under the stars or the Palm Court deco bar.
And there was a literary connection – crime writer Agatha Christie loved Burgh, living in the Beach House which was first built as a writer’s retreat! Christie wrote two books while on the Island (And Then There Were None 1939 and the Hercule Poirot mystery Evil Under the Sun 1941). Appropriately both books were filmed for tv on Burgh Island and in the Burgh Hotel. During the annual Agatha Christie Festival, Burgh Island Hotel hosts an in-costume lunch; visitors can see the actual spots on the island that made their way into Dame Agatha's books.
Palm Court cocktail bar
with the stained glass dome
When the tide covers the sand bar, access is by the sea tractor, as seen in the photo. It is a cute method of transport, but impracticable in rough weather. When the tide is out, walking is easy.
In WW2 Burgh Island’s location on the coast meant the hotel was used by the armed forces. And was damaged by a bomb. It was only restored to its 1930s glory in 1985 and then again in 2001.
Fortunately Burgh Island is now a Grade II listed building and a fine example of Art Deco hotel architecture. The ballroom has been restored to Gaumont glamour, with a recessed ceiling and stepped angular pelmets in bronze, grey and pink. Approach the ballroom by a flight of wide steps, flanked by the original black Vitralite panels. In the Palm Court room they have installed a mosaic fountain with peacock-feather motifs, inspired by the original peacock-domed glass ceiling. The grand suites are sooo Deco in their original 1930s furniture and their refurbished decoration, you might expect the playwright Noel Coward to walk in at any moment.
The book Great White Palace by Tony Porter is subtitled “Agatha Christie and all that jazz - the magical story of Burgh Island and its hotel”. On holiday in the West Country in 1986, the Porters fell in love with Burgh Island, with its little remembered Art Deco hotel. They bought it and over a ten year period, they restored it to its former glory, a reminder of the delights of a bygone era. The book includes many of the original 1931 drawings by artist Charles Mayo.
The conference on German and Austrian Jewish refugees was held in Évian-les-Bains in July 1938. Foreign ministers from 32 countries and from relief organisations met in the southern French spa-town for discussions.
Australia was a large, under-populated country which could have accepted many more refugees at Evian, had the political will been there. It was not. Shame on Australia! Similarly in the USA. In its desire to preserve white racial supremacy and to isolate the country from foreigners, the American Congress had passed legislation (way back in 1924) that limited immigration immediately and exacerbated the refugee crisis in the 1930s. The only nations at Evian who set proper and moral quotas were the poorer nations: Argentina took 50,000, Paraguay 20,000, Chile 14,000, Bolivia 12,000 and Cuba 4,500. Only two countries, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, actually increased their quotas.
Even after the ministers left Evian, there were still some opportunities to save German refugees. The SS St Louis sailed from Hamburg in May 1939 for Havana; its 937 refugees had legal Cuban visas. But by the time the boat landed, the Cuban government had changed its approval process for refugees and refused to allow most of them to land. The boat then drifted off into Florida waters where the American authorities also forbade the ship’s docking. 908 desperate refugees were returned to Germany
I don’t know who was worse. Tiny Cuba who had provided legal visas and changed their mind at the last moment, or the wealthy America who could have held the refugees in a camp until some third country would accept them. Now Prof Barry Trachtenberg has reviewed the experience of the St. Louis crisis.
If President Roosevelt really did cruelly turn the ship away and the passengers were abandoned to their fate, the USA responded to the Nazi Holocaust with neutrality and apathy. Some even argue that the USA positively acquiesced with German plans to exterminate European Jewry.
But, wrote Trachtenberg, the travellers were German Jewish émigrés who held landing permits issued by the Cuban government. Most of them were on a visa waiting list to enter the USA and had arranged to stay in Cuba only until their documents would arrive. Thus in 1938 Cuba would serve as a desperately needed interim refuge for German Jews.
American law required the number of persons arriving from a country be fixed according to the perceived whiteness of the country’s inhabitants. Under the quota for Germany, which President Roosevelt had combined with Austria’s following the 1938 Anschluss, 27,370 visas were available. By the time of the St. Louis’ departure, the queue for visas under the German quota included 300,000+ names.
Internal Cuban government feuds prompted President Federico Laredo Brú to tighten the rules for new arrivals, requiring additional documents to land in Cuba. Although the shipping officials were notified of the change, the St. Louis left Hamburg on the optimistic assumption that the new rules did not apply to its passengers, because they already held legal visas into Cuba. But on landing in Havana two weeks later on May 27th, only 28 refugees had papers that allowed them to disembark. Captain Schroder failed to persuade the Cubans to allow the other passengers off the ship. Shame on Cuba.
The ship left the port of Havana on 2nd June 1939 while people were still pursuing alternatives for the passengers. Plans to post a $500 bond for each passenger or to allow them to disembark in Santo Domingo failed.
As the ship approached the Florida coast, a USA Coast Guard ship and plane monitored its progress. Did an American ship fire a warning shot across the bow of the St. Louis? Most experts said yes; Trachtenberg said no.
The New York Times described the anxiety of the refugees: Late this afternoon the St Louis was surrounded by boats filled with relatives and friends of those on board. Police patrolled the liner’s docks and forbade any except government officials to approach too closely or to step on the floating dock alongside the ship. The St. Louis’s passengers, many sobbing despairingly, lined the rails. One man cut his wrists and jumped overboard out of desperation.
In Canada, Prime Minister Mackenzie King felt that refugees were not a Canadian problem. No country could open its doors wide enough to take in the hundreds of thousands Jewish people who wanted to leave Europe: the line had to be drawn somewhere, he said. Shame on Canada.
Trachtenberg also noted other shipping crises. The Orinoco, St. Louis' sister ship, sailed from Cuxhaven Germany for Cuba with 200 German Jewish passengers. It was diverted once it was clear that Havana had cancelled the visas, but the British and French governments wouldn’t accept the Orinoco refugees. The French liner Flandres, with 104 refugees aboard, was prohibited from docking in Havana a few days after the St. Louis. It was also denied entry to Mexico and had to return to France. Shame on Mexico.
A British vessel, Orduña, with 120 Jewish refugees aboard, arrived in Cuba alongside the St Louis. The 72 passengers who did not have appropriate landing permits were not allowed to disembark, so the ship made more stops at ports in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Some passengers were successful in finding sanctuary in South America, and 55 passengers were eventually able to enter the USA in 1940.
In the meantime, tense debates were occurring in the American Congress over proposed legislation that would allow 20,000 German refugee children to enter the USA outside the normal quota system. But no proposals to identify homes for the passengers in North, Central, or South America was successful.
Back in Europe, Trachtenberg claimed, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee successfully found havens for 532 of the St Louis passengers still on board. The St Louis docked at Antwerp and some refugees were accepted in Britain, Netherlands, Belgium and France, not returned to Germany. Apparently they were delighted to be in a safe country, while they waited to finally settle in the USA. The remaining 254 passengers returned to Hamburg and eventually perished during the Holocaust.
Once WW2 was declared on 1st Sept 1939, other events quickly overshadowed the St Louis crisis. But Trachtenberg stresses that the St Louis was not turned back because the passengers were Jewish. Rather it was because the authorities in both Cuba and the USA had to act within a monstrous system that prioritised secure borders over saving human lives. Even the Wagner-Rogers bill, presented to save the lives of 20,000 Jewish European children, was not supported by the American Senate in 1939 and 1940. Shame on the USA.
Only recently has the plight of the St Louis featured prominently in the USA Holocaust Memorial in Washington DC.
Once again in 2017 we are facing the probability of sending refugees back to their deaths in their countries of origin. We have learned nothing from 1939.
Benjamin Guggenheim (1865–1912) was the 5th son to participate in dad's productive mining interests, especially the American Smelting and Refining Co. Benjamin married Florette Seligman (1870-1937), daughter of a famous lawyer who’d built the Flatiron Building on the prominent corner of Broadway and 5th Ave. In time three daughters were born: Benita (1895-1927), Peggy/Marguerite (1898-1979) & Barbara Hazel (1903-95). They lived in a very elegant 5th Ave house.
Benjamin went to Europe to rest, buying a lovely flat in Paris for himself. Later he returned to the USA, and in 1903 built a large mining machinery plant at Milwaukee which became the International Steam Pump Co. The company had 7 plants in the USA, one in Britain and 10,000 workers.
Guggenheim was 46 when he boarded the RMS Titanic in April 1912, en route back to the USA. With him was his French singer-mistress, valet, chauffeur and maid. Florette Guggenheim waited at the White Star shipping line in New York for news, but the men had drowned. The bulk of Benjamin’s estate was left to his two sisters, wife Florette and his three daughters.
Bejamin Guggenheim's three daughters,
in the happy days before the sinking of the Titanic.
The first daughter, Mrs Benita Mayer (b 1895) died suddenly in 1927.
The second daughter Peggy (b 1898) reached adulthood and inherited from her late father in 1919, so she quickly moved to Paris. The ex-pats there welcomed her into their bohemian community, where she married the American writer Laurence Vail and had two children.
The third daughter Hazel (b 1903) married Sigmund Kempner in 1921 and divorced the next year in Paris. Hazel then married Milton S Waldman in Paris in Jan 1923 and had two children, Terrence (b1924) and Benjamin Waldman (b1927).
The New York Times gave the following tragic story on 20th Oct 1928. “Terrence and Benjamin Waldman, 4.5 years old and 14 months old respectively, the sons of Mr and Mrs Milton S. Waldman (nee Barbara Hazel Guggenheim) of New York and Paris, were killed yesterday in a fall from the roof of the Surrey, a 16-storey apartment hotel.
Their mother, who was with them, saw her children fall to the roof of a 3-storey building next door. She made an ineffectual effort to save them and then was too horror stricken even to call for help. First notice of the accident came from the street when someone ran in to notify the telephone operator that two children had fallen.
Mrs Waldman had gone to the Surrey to visit her cousin, Mrs Cornelius Ruxton Love, who occupies a penthouse bungalow. Mrs Love, daughter of Rear Admiral Louis Josephthal, commander of the New York State Naval Militia, had gone out but had left word for Mrs Waldman to wait. So Mrs Waldman went to the roof with her children. Mrs Love was not aware of what had happened to the children until later.
Mrs Waldman required the attention of two physicians last night and was unable to tell a coherent story of what happened. Joseph Huler of Woodside Ave Queens, a painter, was probably the only witness.
Surrounding the penthouse is a landscaped plot which contains garden furniture and a porch swing. The picket fence’s gate opens to the rest of the roof and Mrs Waldman with her children had apparently gone to the parapet.
Huler said that Mrs Waldman was seated on the low parapet with her back to the street. The younger boy was in her arms. Terence, jealous of his brother's favoured spot in his mother's arms or anxious to see more of the view, was pushing and pulling, trying to climb into his mother's lap. In the scramble one of the children went over the edge. Mrs. Waldman made an effort to catch him and the other child also fell.
Mrs Waldman is living at the Hotel Plaza, having returned from Europe a week ago. Her husband, Milton Waldman, newspaper man and writer, is still in Paris. They were married in 1923 and have spent much of their time abroad.
Medical Examiner Raymond B Miles, after an examination of the bodies was satisfied that death was accidental”.
The incident sent shock waves throughout the cultivated world of the Jewish upper classes that the Guggenheims belonged to, and left Hazel permanently stigmatised and in exile. Her own description gives some insight into the itinerant, unsettled life she led.
For someone who knew a lot about Guggenheim patronage in the art world well, I Helen knew nothing aboutHazel’s art. Hazel was painting seriously! In 1930 Hazel and Hugh St Denys King-Farlow had married in Britain, and Hazel became associated with the London Group and the Euston Road School. She first exhibited her work with them during the 1930s, under her then-married name “Hazel King Farlow”. Her work from this period included still-life, townscapes and landscapes, carefully painted a la Parisian artist Utrillo. Her first solo exhibition was at the Cooling Galleries in London in April 1937. She sold/donated her works to public art galleries and municipal collections in cities like Manchester and Leeds.
The Harbour, c1937
Manchester Art Gallery
The Old Mill House, c1937
Peggy also participated in the cultural ferment in London & Paris in the inter-war era; her first commercial art venture was a gallery she opened in Paris. In 1928 Peggy moved to London and married the British writer John Holms. In 1938 Peggy opened Guggenheim Jeune, a London gallery of modern art, starring Wassily Kandinsky, Henry Moore, Constantin Brancusi, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso and Jean Miro. Peggy was beginning her personal art collection, becoming one of the art world’s most significant patrons and promoters. But did she work with, or socialise with her sister Hazel?
At the outbreak of WW2 Peggy bought Picassos, Mirós and Dalís etc. She fled to New York with her ex-husband Vail, his second wife Kay Boyle, the children from his two marriages, and her next husband the German surrealist artist Max Ernst.
Hazel and Hugh St Denys King-Farlow had married in Europe but divorced, so Hazel returned with their two children to the USA for the duration of WW2. She continued to paint, especially after marrying the artist Chick McKinley. She also continued to exhibit, including at her sister’s gallery, Art of This Century, where she took part in the 1943 Exhibition of 31 Modern Women. This was the only time Peggy exhibited her sister’s work, but at least Hazel was receiving quality art lessons from Peggy’s famous husband Max Ernst.
The tragedies continued. Pilot Chick McKinley died in a plane crash so Hazel moved to New Orleans. After the war she lost custody of her two Farlow-King children when ex husband Denys won a legal battle and took them back to the UK. She had three more brief marriages, including Archibald Butt Jr.
Note that one of Hazel’s paintings was finally exhibited at Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, in 1998. Alas for Hazel, she had died in 1995 and didn’t know of her success.
We cannot dismiss the chaotic lives by saying that some families suffer terrible luck. Rather we have to ask if there was serious mental instability in the maternal half of the family. Did the three daughters never really recover from their father’s tragic death on the Titanic? And did Hazel’s second tragedy (the death of her sons) mean that she would constantly be marrying and divorcing as a punishment for not protecting her toddlers? The Guggenheims, an America Epic by John H Davis gives a clue or two eg the competition between Peggy and Hazel to have the most affairs. And About Hazel is a more personal blog site.
Firstly I cited Jack Peacock’s argument (History Today, Sept 2016) about Western Australia’s desire to secede being undermined by Britain’s new attitude towards in Empire. Then I argued that secession debates are still going on across the world today, so the issues are much broader than the end of the mighty British Empire in the 1930s.
Secession referred to a political community withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the larger federation, to end up with full self-government. But the Australian Constitution made no provision for existing states to secede. The Act of Federation, 1st January 1901, made the union indissoluble!
Largely the Australian federation has been stable since it commenced in 1901. Western Australia’s most famous attempt to exit the federation occurred in April 1933 when, after a successful referendum, the WA government wanted to secede. So if Western Australians voted in favour of seceding from the Australian Commonwealth, why is it still part of the Australian federation today? What allowed the democratically expressed will of the people to be ignored? And what did it mean for Australia’s relationship with the British Empire?
Talk of federation originally began across Australia in 1889. And Western Australia became a self-governing state in 1890. Although there was no connection between these two events, Western Australia’s independent spirit appeared the moment it gained self-government. Not wishing to give up its newly acquired sovereignty, WA did not even attend the 1891 Constitutional Convention in Sydney (3,300 ks apart).
Perhaps Western Australia was cajoled into federating. Gold Rush settlers flocked in from the east, bringing with them pro-federal opinions. When they heard that the Western Australian government was against federation, they started their own separatist movements. Thus Western Australia had a choice: refuse to federate and potentially see its gold-rich lands break away, or federate and maintain its territorial integrity. They opted for federation on the 1/1/1901.
Yet the Australian parliament was soon hearing the first calls for secession. The Sunday Times in WA had taken an openly secessionist stance and public demonstrations were held, with rousing political rhetoric, poems and songs. And when the Western Australian electorate went to the polls in 1933, they voted 68% in favour of secession. It was not even close.
But secession never came. In Western Australia’s state elections of the same year (1933), the electorate voted to re-elect the anti-secession Labour Party and oust the pro-secessionist conservatives. It didn’t matter - in response to the referendum, the Labour Parliament still had to go ahead with a secession plan.
After secession, the flag for the new country of Westralia
would be the Union Jack with a WA black swan in the centre
The petition was presented to both Houses of Parliament in London in December 1934 and a joint committee was formed to determine whether or not the British Parliament had any right to receive the petition. This is where the West Australian secessionists had misjudged Britain’s attitude to its Empire. The 1931 Statute of Westminster declared: “Autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown...” The Dominions were on their own. Western Australia would have to negotiate with its own parliament in Canberra.
‘History will record this as the greatest and most despicable abdication of all time’, Sir Keith Watson replied. The dispirited Dominion League delegation returned to Australia and vowed to continue the struggle, but the mood in Western Australia had shifted. An economic recovery had begun. In 1935 the Dominion League introduced a bill into the Western Australian parliament calling for unilateral separation, but interest was waning. And the Sunday Times saw a change of ownership, meaning the secession movement dwindled.
It was Western Australia’s loyalty to Britain and the Empire that ended its move to independence. Had the Dominion League taken a stronger stance, perhaps issuing a unilateral declaration of independence in 1933, the outcome might well have been different. As it turned out, the secessionists’ faith in the British Empire was shattered and their movement had crumbled.
Jack Peacock suggested that Scotland’s 2014 independence vote and the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union were similar events. While Scotland resembled Quebec (1995) in voting for the status quo, others such as Norway (1905) achieved separation from Sweden. Following a potential war between the two unified nations, a Norwegian plebiscite overwhelmingly backed dissolution (99.95%). Negotiations between the two governments led to Sweden's recognition of Norway as an independent constitutional monarchy in Oct 1905.
But I would argue that it was Czechoslovakia’s proposed referendum that was most telling. In a country consisting of two nations of unequal size, their secession referendum would have had to be on a federal level only, or in each of the two regions separately. But what if one voted for secession and the other voted against it? As it happened, the Slovak Parliament unilaterally declared independence in 1992 and no referendum was held.
So the question remains: do all referenda result in the outcome that the voters voted for? And if not, what do the voters do next?
Where could the secessionists go next? A state could petition the Commonwealth parliament to hold a referendum and get every citizen in the nation to vote (a la Czechoslovakia 1993). Or the vote would only be for citizens in the state that wants to secede (a la Quebec 1995 and Montenegro 2006)? Or it could secede unilaterally. Would the Commonwealth use the military to force the seceding state to remain in the Australian federation against its will? I would hope not.
Federations allow smaller states to share the financial burden of running their territory. Secession cost Slovakian citizens who are now a great deal poorer than they were as part of Czechoslovakia. Quebec, had it seceded, would have had to pay for its own army, police, embassies, taxation systems, border control, public service and mints! For small states to break away and become fully self-supporting would hardly be worthwhile on financial grounds. WA must have realised this. Only from the moment that WA became a net contributor to the Federal Treasury in Canberra.. were the costs of staying in the Federation a hot issue.
Two years after the 2014 referendum,
thousands of Scots are still marching for independence
Glasgow, 2016, Huffington Post
My first connection with Gretna Green (pop 2,700) came, not via historical texts, but in Jane Austen’s novels. It is a village in S.W Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway, 1.5ks across the border from England.
By the mid C18th the country was facing serious social problems caused by large numbers of irregular marriages taking place. Rumours emerged about underage heiresses who had been tricked, or kidnapped and forced into marriage by unscrupulous men. So to prevent families seeing their underage offspring preyed upon, English law lords approved new laws to tightened marriage arrangements. In particular, note Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act for the Prevention of Clandestine Marriages (1754). Couples had to reach the age of 21 before they could marry without their parents' consent and their marriage had to take place in a church. The new law was rigorously enforced, and clergymen faced 14 years of transportation for breaking it.
Scottish law however was different, as was Irish law. In Scotland marriage was permitted for girls from 12, and for boys from 14. And anyone in Scotland could marry couples on the spot in a simple Marriage by Declaration ceremony, requiring only two witnesses and assurances from the couple that they were both over the age of 16 and free to marry.
With such a relaxed arrangement within reach of England, it soon led to the inevitable influx of thousands of young couples running away to marry as quickly as they could. For travellers from the south, Gretna Green was the first Scottish village they entered, following the old coaching route from London to Edinburgh.
In coaching days, there was sometimes a frantic carriage chase through England to the border, presumably to evade angry fathers of vulnerable brides. In those days a black-smith’s shop was an obvious stop, the place very where run-away weddings began. The blacksmith was the heart of any village, always at work making horseshoes, fixing carriages and farm equipment in his workshop. Honest men of toil! Being right at the heart of the heart of the village, the now famous Famous Blacksmith's Shop is at the junction of the old coaching roads.
Couple in a carriage, racing to the border ahead of her angry father
How strange that a blacksmith’s shop would also become synonymous with a hot bed of scandal and intrigue, with daughters from respectable families eloping to marry a scoundrel. The so-called Anvil Priests would perform the ceremony for a wee dram or a few guineas, depending on the couple’s status and financial standing. The hammering of the anvil soon became a key sound; grooms romantically said that like the metals he forged, the blacksmith would join couples together in the heat of the moment but bind them for eternity.
A few years later in England, Lord Brougham's Act provided the cooling-off act that stipulated a three-week residency in Scotland prior to the marriage. For the marriage to be legal, this Act applied to at least one of the marrying couple. But it seems that the new English amendment made little difference to affianced couples.
Today, pass through the narrow walls and low ceiling of the Famous Blacksmith's Shop to feel the dramatic atmosphere of this old building. The blacksmith, and his legendary anvil, become synonymous with c5,000 Gretna Green weddings each year. It was never a secret! One blacksmith wrote to the Times in 1843, stating that he had single handedly performed c3,500 marriages in the town over 25 years.
In 1940 the institution of "marriage by declaration" was outlawed in Scotland and in 1977 English couples could finally get married without parental consent at 18. There is still a small Gretna Difference in the two legal systems. Marriage is legal at 16 in Scotland, without parental consent. The marriage age in England without parental consent dropped to 18 in 1977, Lord Brougham's Act was repealed and religious weddings could happen outside a Scottish church. Civil weddings blossomed.
Although 15 days' notice is required to marry in Scotland, there is no residency requirement. Thus English couples can still get married there at relatively short notice.
Despite the legal distinctions that once made Gretna a marriage capital, it still holds a romantic appeal. "Running away to Gretna Green" is a phrase still used today. Since couples still make the trip, an entire industry has built up around Gretna Green’s history: hotels, wedding planning companies, car hire firms, photographers, gift shops and hair salons are everywhere in this small town.
The Mill Forge Hotel sees c600 weddings a year, of which 80% are English couples. The main customer base is from Manchester, Liverpool, Yorkshire and Birmingham. And they have also had wedding parties from South Africa, South America, USA and New Zealand.
Gretna Green has always traded on its difference from England, relying on cross-border trade. What might have changed, had Scotland achieved independence? The issue of Scotland’s independence probably did not arise for Gretna, a town built during WW1 to provide homes for 30,000 employees of a huge munitions factory.
The old structures along Barcelona’s Passeig de Garcia were made of wood since they were under the constant threat of demolition by government order. A military law was in force that prohibited any structure from being built outside the city within a cannon shot of its walls, a distance of 1,250 ms.
Barcelona’s aristocracy and bourgeoisie already knew Passeig de Garcia well because they strolled and amused themselves there. Before the start-up of The Cerdà Plan for the Expansion of Barcelona (1859-61), the Eixample district had pleasure gardens (including Prado Catalán, Camps Elisis, Jardí de la Nimfa, Criadero, Tívoli and Español) leading off from the road, with restaurants and theatres. Once the Cerdà Plan put an end to the old restrictions, a new age of building fever started. Now the most prominent families of Barcelona left the narrow Old Town behind them, moving their mansions to this new and more spacious and prestigious area. And the most exclusive stores progressively moved from Carrer Ferran and the Rambla to the new avenue, in the wake of their wealthy clientele.
The rediscovery of Catalan Modernisme/Art Nouveau heritage turned Passeig de Garcia, and the whole suburb of Eixample, into a favourite part of Barcelona. Originally these architectural masterpieces were not appreciated by everyone because they looked fussy and contrived. The French prime minister Georges Clemenceau (1841–1929) visited Passeig de Garcia and was offended by the excessive colours and ornamentation on the façades.
Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1850-1923) was in charge of a project that started in 1901. The Hospital de Sant Pau/Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul complex was the most relevant public building of Catalan Art Nouveau. But not all Art Nouveau was the same. Lluis Domènech i Montaner was far more restrained than his Catalan contemporary, Antonio Gaudi (1852–1926). In 1912 Gaudi’s newly finished Casa Mila was derogatorily known as La Pedera/stone quarry.
Mr Mariano Fuster i Fuster, an older, cashed-up gentleman from Mallorca’s upper class, met Ms Consuelo Fabra i Puig, the daughter of the Marquis of Alella, in Barcelona. Fuster saw Domènech’s architecture, loved it and put him in charge of a new and ambitious project – a family home at the top of the very elegant Passeig de Gracia. The new casa was to be a gift from Señor Fuster to his beloved wife, with the added (ambitious) goal of making the city of Barcelona more beautiful! Domènech was to design and built the house, under the supervision of Mrs Fuster. In fact Mariano Fuster put the house in his wife’s name.
Passeig de Gracia
Domenech worked on the building from 1908 to 1911, together with his son Pere Domenech i Roure (1881-1962) , another architect. By the time it was built, Casa Fuster was considered the most expensive house in Barcelona. Other citizens noticed that the vast facade of the house was the entirely made with high quality white marble! Other features of the building were pink columns, trilobate windows and classic floral motifs across the casa’s three facades. The building, topped with a mansard French style, was a dignified masterpiece, the symbol of the greatest period of splendour and prosperity in Barcelona. Inside, the five storeys of designer luxury included the ornate ground-floor salon, used for grand society receptions.
Domènech was influential in the Catalan Art Nouveau movement, yet Casa Fuster also had neo-Gothic elements. Its white marble undoubtedly gleamed in the sunshine of the Passeig de Gracia, but did the styles harmonise together?
In 1911 the Fuster i Fabra Family moved into their casa. But due to the fearfully expensive construction of the casa, and to the high maintenance costs, the family lived there only briefly .. until the early 20s. This might have been a financial lesson to other ambitious families.
After the family left, their huge lounge room became Café Vienes and other small businesses took over smaller spaces eg a barber shop. Eventually Cafe Vienes became the favourite place for Catalan bohemians, artists and writers to meet each other. (I have written a lot of posts about Barcelona, but they all concentrate on two things: the arts and the drinks). A dance hall known as El Danubio Azul became very popular in the 1950s, but eventually the building was showing its age.
In 1962, the ENHER electrical company bought the house with the intention of demolishing it and building a sky-scraper. The people of Barcelona were completely against it and thanks to many protests and newspaper articles, the crisis was averted. So between 1962 and 1974 ENHER had to renovate Casa Fuster, at least minimally.
In 1999, the casa was put on sale and the Hoteles Center chain bought it a year later. Casa Fuster was completely restored in 2004 and turned into a grand hotel. Since standard rooms at the hotel begin at €270 a night and suites from €369, spouse and I stayed in Barcelona’s lovely B and Bs instead. But I have examined all the public spaces in the hotel carefully.
now called the Domènech i Montaner hall
The original decorations were not destroyed, in order that the hotel could preserve some of its history. But the 75 rooms and 21 suites are now furnished in Art Deco style with warm tones and elegant materials. The hotel lobby's Art Nouveau shell of black mosaic floor and fluted pillars have been updated with post-modern flourishes, as is the lounge. The hotel’s ten salons have been adapted for seminars and business conferences. Now the sumptuous Café Vienés, which I first saw in Woody Allen's 2008 movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona, hosts a jazz performance every Thursday night. The Galaxó restaurant is splendid.
The hotel is representative of the most prosperous and splendid period of Barcelona. And it is also blessed by its neighbourhood. In easy walking distance are some of Barcelona’s main attractions eg two of Gaudi's major works, the Casa Mila apartment block and the Casa Batllo town house. Visitors can travel east from Casa Fuster, down the narrow side streets, and find the Eixample neighbourhood, filled with bars, designer shops and restaurants.
The original architect's son Pere Domènech i Roura went on to design the façade of the Olympic Stadium at Montjuïc, the Casa de la Premsa/Press Hall for the World Fair of 1929 and the Cooperatives Agrícoles at l'Espluga de Francolí and Serral. But the father was more famous. Domènech Senior’s Hospital de Sant Pau and Palau de la Musica Catalana were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
The Staffordshire Hoard was discovered in 2009 near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, Staffordshire by a local farmer and his metal detectorist mate. At the time of the hoard's deposition, the location was in the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. So now the hoard is of considerable importance in Anglo-Saxon archaeology, in both historical content and in quality.
A research and conservation programme was launched and continued for years, conducted by Barbican Research Associates on behalf of the owners and of Historic England, who fund the project. In 2010, the Art Fund led the campaign to acquire the treasure for Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent, raising £3.3m.
The archaeologists concluded that the Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found anywhere in the world. The 3,500+ items, that are nearly all warlike in character, total 5.1 kilos of gold, 1.4 kilos of silver and 3,500 cloisonné garnets.
So the Hoard almost certainly represents the spoils of C7th or C8th war, fought in the Kingdom of Mercia. But that begs the question - what were these beautiful objects doing, at a time when warfare between England’s many competing regional kingdoms was frequent?
Historians have theorised about why the hoard was deposited where it was, and whether it was Christians or pagans who left the treasure. They know only that the hoard was discovered near Watling St. One of the major thoroughfares of Roman Britain, it ran for 400k from Dover past Wroxeter, and was probably still in use when the hoard was buried.
The quality of the workmanship is very high, especially remarkable in view of the large number of individual objects, such as swords or helmets, from which the elements in the hoard came. The hoard contains mainly military items, including sword pommel caps i.e. the tip of the hilt of a sword that anchors the hilt fittings to the sword blade. Single pommel caps from this period are rare archaeological finds, and to find this many together is unprecedented.
The experts also noted the extraordinary quantity of weapon hilt fittings. These decorative items from the handles of swords and knives feature beautiful garnet inlays or animals in elaborate filigree. Some of the gold in the pieces from the original Staffordshire Hoard could be traced to Istanbul in modern-day Turkey, and the beautiful red garnets were imported from India and Eastern Europe, showing the Anglo-Saxons to be accomplished traders.
There are hundreds of pieces of silver foil in the hoard, which are thought to come from one or more helmets. A biblical inscription from an item in the hoard is written in Latin and is misspelled in two places, and reads ‘Rise up, O Lord, and may they enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face.’
The most similar archaeological finds are the artefacts from Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, discovered in 1939. A large mound was found to contain a 90’ long wooden ship complete with a central burial chamber. This chamber was once furnished with textiles and contained the dead ruler’s possessions, including magnificent gold and garnet weapon fittings and a striking panelled helmet.
One comparison between the Staffordshire Hoard and the East Anglian Sutton Hoo collection is fascinating. Sutton Hoo gold objects were made for Anglo-Saxon royals; thus they used high karat material (21-23 karats) which did not need to be subjected to any surface enrichment trick. Gold objects made for the nobility or important military figures, as in Staffordshire, were mostly made from 12-18 karat gold.
The treasure is owned by Birmingham City Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council, and cared for on their behalf by Birmingham Museums Trust and The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. Permanent displays of the Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork will still continue in Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent and at other venues in the West Midlands. And now (2016-17) there is the opportunity for the hoard to reach new audiences across the UK.
They shed light on a turbulent time in history and give an insight into the possessions of an elite warrior class. Of course the sword was more than just a weapon – it signified a warrior’s status, wealth, family and even religious beliefs.
In Nov 2012 more artefacts were found in the same Hammerwich area, following a ploughing of the field. Archaeologists working on behalf of Staffordshire County Council and English Heritage used metal detectors to find the items buried just below the surface! The extra artefacts includes a possible helmet cheek guard, a cross-shaped mount and an eagle-shaped figure.
I, Helen, a passionate collector of gold and silver art, live in the wrong country!
The research on the Hoard has shed light on the Dark Ages and brings to life the famous Saxon poem Beowulf, in which great kings with hoards of gold bestow precious gifts upon loyal heroes. Beowulf contains lines that may describe circumstances similar to the burial of the hoard: ‘One warrior stripped the other, looted Ongentheow’s iron mail-coat, his hard sword-hilt, his helmet too, and carried graith to King Hygelac; he accepted the prize, promised fairly that reward would come, and kept his word. They let the ground keep that ancestral treasure, gold under gravel, gone to earth, as useless to men now as it ever was.’
Donald Bradman (1908-2001) must have been the most famous sportsman in Australia, in any decade and in any sport. But he grew up modestly. In the early C20th, Bowral was a service town for dairying and beef cattle production. It was here that Bradman’s parents and children moved in 1911 after selling their Cootamundra farm.
The Bradmans purchased a weather-board house at 52 Shepherd St (see photo) where young Don loved country living. Despite WW1 tragedies, he led a carefree existence at school, playing with his siblings and becoming involved in sport. Apart from a later weatherboard extension at the rear of the house, Shepherd St remains essentially unchanged, true to its external 1911 façade.
The timing was perfect. Back in 1909 the Bowral Council had leased 24 acres from the Church for sport, and declared the new Glebe Park open. The concrete wicket was later replaced with turf, sightscreens were erected in 1946 and the ground was formally re-named Bradman Oval in 1947.
While the Bradmans were residing in Shepherd St, school girl Jessie Menzies (1909-1997) came to live with the family in 1921 as a weekly boarder because there was no transport to Bowral from the Menzies’ family farm. A firm friendship developed between Don and Jessie, as we’ll see.
Just around the corner in Glebe St and across the road from Glebe Park/Bradman Oval, George Bradman built a brick Californian Bungalow’ style home into which the family moved in 1924.
Don Bradman had been taught the piano by his elder sister Lilian, herself later to become a professional piano teacher. Later, the piano gave Don release from the intensity of constant cricket touring. On the long sea voyages to the UK or during extended stays at hotels, he relaxed at the piano.
During the 1925-26 season playing for the Bowral Cricket Club, Don Bradman was a short 16 year-old who was batting well. At the end of that season Bradman hit a district record score of 300 runs in the final played between Bowral & Moss Vale. Soon the State selectors were paying attention.
In Oct 1926 he had been invited to join Parramatta Club. However Parramatta failed to agree to pay Bradman’s expenses arising from his loss of income attending Sydney matches, and negotiations stopped. Sydney club St George recruited the young star, agreeing to pay his expenses. In Nov 1926 Bradman played for St George.
To attend to his Sydney grade-cricket commitments Bradman left Glebe St every Saturday to catch the 5am train to Sydney and not return to Bowral until midnight. After he was selected for the NSW state team in the 1927-28 season, the routine was exhausting. So in Sept 1928 he chose to leave Bowral permanently and moved to Sydney.
Back in Glebe St, Don’s parents George and Emily watched his brilliant career with great pride. As did all of Bowral.
Romance between Don Bradman and Jessie Menzies led to their marriage in St Paul’s Church in Sydney in 1932. On their honeymoon, the couple joined former Test cricketer/sports journalist Arthur Mailey’s cricket tour of North America and visited every city from Vancouver to New York.
“Bodyline” was first used in Australia during the England cricket tour in 1932-33. Essentially it was an English tactic used by fast bowlers to take wickets by terrifying batsmen with the ball. The quicks bowled short, rising deliveries aimed at the batsmen’s bodies and the batsmen fended the ball off defensively to a packed, close, leg-side field who snapped up any catches.
England was widely expected to easily beat Australia but Bradman’s great Test scores saw Australia win the series 2-1. The 1932-33 England Captain Douglas Jardine instructed his opening bowler Harold Larwood to bowl Bodyline regularly. Australian batsmen, especially the openers Jack Fingleton and Bill Ponsford, were struck many painful blows. Bradman spent much of his time avoiding the ball, instead of making runs. The tactic worked; Australian crowds were angry.
In the end, England won the series and blunted Bradman’s Test series average. But subsequent actions indicated England recognised its culpability. Douglas Jardine never again captained England against Australia, and Bodyline was banned. In the 1934 Australian tour to England, relations between the two teams quickly healed.
Bradman loved an offer from South Australian cricket administrator and stockbroker, Harry Hodgett, for a six-year business contract. Australia was barely out of the grip of the Great Depression and Bradman was anxious to secure his future. The Bradmans arrived in Adelaide in April 1935 where the new financial stability allowed Bradman to continue to play state cricket for South Australia.
Don Bradman captained Australia for the first time in the first Test in Brisbane in December 1936. 1937 was a busy and happy time for The Don. Harry Hodgett's business was booming and he was enjoying his career. He took up squash, winning the South Australian State Championship, and wrote his second book, My Cricketing Life, which was published in July 1938.
The outbreak of WW2 in 1939 led to the indefinite postponement of all cricket tours, and suspension of the states’ Sheffield Shield competition. In 1940 Bradman was given an officer’s rank and was posted to the Army School of Physical Training at Frankston in Victoria. He was the army’s divisional supervisor of physical training for two years, discharged because of fibrositis.
The Fifth Test of the 1948 Ashes series was held at The Oval in London between Australia and England. Australia easily won the match, and the series, and it was the last Test in the career of Donald Bradman. He was knighted in the 1949 New Year Honours.
Wisden Almanack proved that Bradman had been the greatest phenomenon in the history of cricket, indeed in the history of all ball games. So it was appropriate that in 1985, Bradman was the first inductee into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The Bradman Trail defines Bradman and links him with the social history of the day. It highlights the historic sites and cultural facilities associated with his three main homes: 1] Bradman Birthplace Museum in Cootamundra, 2] Bradman Museum of Cricket in Bowral and 3] the Bradman Collection, State Library of South Australia.
The Bradman Museum was opened in 1989 at the Bradman Oval in Bowral. And in March 1989 they built the Bradman Pavilion. Appropriately the Bradmans’ ashes were scattered in the grounds adjacent to The Bradman Museum of Cricket and on Bradman Oval, in 2001.
Readers may enjoy The Boy from Bowral, written and illustrated by Robert Ingpen (Palazzo, 2008).
Gin is a spirit which derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries. From its earliest medieval beginnings, gin has evolved from an herbal medicine to the commercial drink that the Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius (1614-72) invented. By the mid C17th, many small Dutch and Flemish distillers had popularised the re-distillation of malt spirit or wine with juniper, anise, caraway and coriander which were sold in pharmacies and used to treat such medical problems as kidney ailments and gout.
Gin was loved by English and Dutch troops who were fighting the Spanish during the Thirty Years War (1618-48). In particular they noticed its calming effects before battle. By 1663, there were c400 Dutch distillers in Amsterdam alone.
Gin only became popular on English soil when Prince William of Orange and Princess Royal Mary took the English throne in 1688. But note that the original Dutch spirit-jenever was only c30% alcohol. The gin distilled in London was very strong and often mixed with impurities eg turpentine or sulphuric acid. London gin didn’t have the “dry, botanical-based sophistication” of Amsterdam gin. London’s was more of a hellish drink.
bought when the new Great Central Railway terminus was to be built in St John’s Wood
and restored in 2014.
Photo credit: Britain Magazine
At the same time, a drop in food prices ensured that working people had a larger disposable income to spend on alcohol. This was a crisis waiting to happen.
So what went so tragically wrong? By 1721 magistrates were already decrying gin as "the principal cause of all the vice and debauchery committed among the inferior sort of people". “How surprisingly this Infection has spread within these few Years … it is scarce possible for Persons in low Life to go anywhere or to be anywhere, without being drawn in to taste, and, by Degrees, to like and approve of this pernicious Liquor." For a few pennies, London’s poor found an escape from cold, hunger and misery.
Yet alcohol consumption was high at all levels of society, as William Hogarth showed in A Midnight Modern Conversation 1733. Well dressed, bewigged gentlemen were fall-down drunk in a "coffee-house".
By 1730 c7,000 gin shops and street corner stands (plus an unknown number of illegal drinking dens) were in business in London, with millions of litres of gin distilled each year. Though many other drinks were available, it was gin that became known as Mother's Ruin and caused the greatest public concern. The British government had to act!
The Gin Act 1736 taxed retail sales at a rate of 20 shillings a gallon on spirits and required licensees to take out a £50 annual licence to sell gin, an impossibly high fee. The intended aim was to effectively prohibit the trade by making it economically unfeasible. The actual outcome was mass law-breaking and violence (particularly towards informers who were paid £5 to dob in illegal gin shops).
The illegally distilled gin which was produced following the 1736 Act was less reliable and more likely to result in poisoning. Gin was blamed for misery, rising crime, madness, prostitution, higher death rates and falling birth rates. Drunkenness of the common people was said to be universal. In an infamous case of 1734, one infamous woman collected her toddler from the workhouse, strangled him, dumped the body in a ditch and sold the child’s new set of clothes for 1s 4d to buy gin.
As consumption levels increased in Britain, an organised campaign for more effective legislation was led by Bishop Thomas Wilson; he complained that gin produced a drunken, ungovernable set of people. Prominent anti-gin campaigners included authors Henry Fielding (who blamed gin for both increased crime and increased children's ill health) and Daniel Defoe (who complained that drunken mothers were threatening to produce a fine spindle-shanked generation of children). The 1736 Act had failed and had to be repealed!
It passed more bills aimed at slowing the city's endless love for gin, despite creaming off serious taxes from the trade. The Gin Act of 1751 successfully prohibited distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants. Gin was no longer being sold in small dingy gin shops, but in smarter pubs where quality control was tighter. And another thing. When English grain became more expensive, land owners became less dependent on income from gin production. A series of poor harvests resulted in lower wages and increased food priced.
Parliament had passed five major Acts, in 1729, 1736, 1743, 1747 and 1751, designed to control the consumption of gin. But the gin crisis only ended after the 1751 Act. In the later C18th tea, coffee and beer began to rival gin.
Dr George Birkbeck of the Andersonian Institute in Glasgow gave the first lectures in 1800 to local mechanics i.e skilled workers. His subject was new technology. The lectures were so popular that a Mechanics’ Institute was launched to provide adult education for the working classes in Glasgow. And most importantly the facilities were free in an age when learning and libraries were only available to families with money.
The second facility to open was The Edinburgh School of Arts (in 1821) and soon Dr Birkbeck moved south to open the London Mechanics’ Institute (in 1823). The next couple of decades saw the foundation of hundreds of institutes spread across Britain, clearly filling a gaping hole in the education system in the years before compulsory schooling for all children. The typical mid-C19th institute offered courses of lectures (usually on a range of subjects, both vocational and academic), discussion groups and a library.
It did not take long before the rest of the British Empire became entranced with the concepts of adult education and Mechanics’ Institutes. The first in Australia opened in Hobart as early as 1827. It should not surprise us that in Hobart it was a Scottish academic, Dr James Ross from Aberdeen University, who lectured to the ambitious young men on engineering, mechanics and steam engines.
In small Australian cities, adult education was a voluntary self-help association, set up for the workers of a town, assisted by a few leading residents who had money and education. The workers had to raise, by means of small weekly fees, a fund to be expended in the instruction of the members. And the Institutes could also be funded by local industrialists who would benefit from having skilled workers. Trustees and committee members were dedicated to the improvement of their local communities. Weekly lectures in science and literature was welcomed; subjects like religion and politics were specifically excluded. Victorians took the concept of self improvement very seriously.
As previous posts have shown, the the Mechanics’ Institute concept was working well across Britain and its Empire, particularly between 1850-1914.
If I had thought about adult education in C19th USA, I would have guessed it would have been very similar to the Scottish model. Or perhaps the lyceum movement which, in Pre-Civil War America, paid important people to give speeches on religious, political and scientific topics to gatherings in small or rural towns.
At first Miller financed and organised a two-week summer training course for Sunday school teachers in all Protestant denominations. Rev Vincent was named superintendent of instruction and was responsible for overseeing the curriculum and organising faculty. It worked! At the first summer in 1874, 142 Methodist Sunday school teachers from 25 states and four countries attended the assembly.
Then 4-week sessions were staged each summer. They were utilising “the general demand for summer rest by uniting daily study with healthful recreation, and thus rendering the occasion one of pleasure and instruction combined”.
Within a few years, the scope of the Chautauqua Institution had broadened to include adult education to the general public. Along with the educational courses (including the arts and public affairs), thousands of summer residents attended concerts and social activities. The range of serious subjects grew. Hebrew and Greek were added in 1875, English literature in 1876, French and German in 1878.
In 1878, they developed a home study programme known as the Literary and Scientific Circle for those who could not attend the summer sessions. c7000 people took part in the first year of this well organised correspondence course cum book club, and more joined later.
By the late C19th, Chautauqua was nationally known as a centre for educational activities that aimed at intellectual & moral self-improvement and civic involvement. Victorian values were clearly applicable on both sides of The Pond. The programme had provided learning opportunities for those who, because of age or life situation, could never have attended institutes of higher learning.
The Chautauqua idea of adult education spread to many towns, especially in rural areas where opportunities for secondary education had been limited. The new chautauquas introduced people to the new issues of public concern, science, culture and philosophy across half the country by 1900. Especially in the Midwest where tent cities popped up every summer! By the peak of the Chautauqua Movement in 1915, some 12,000 communities had hosted a chautauqua. People flocked, whether they were watching Shakespeare or vaudeville acts.
The Chautauqua Movement brought learning, culture and finally entertainment to the small towns of America during the late 19th and into the inter-war era. Lifelong learning was seen to be one of the keys to living a happy, fulfilling life.
Yet the movement largely faded by the mid-1930s. The Depression had destroyed the ability of many rural families to even think about summer holidays. And for those families with a bit of money, perhaps the family radio and the local cinema were more appealing.
The Chautauqua Trail takes interested readers from Halifax in Nova Scotia to Boulder in Colorado.
Pre-WW1 pacifism was the belief that violence was always immoral, even in self-defence. The belief might have been grounded in religious commitment against the killing of human beings or in a secular belief that war could never replace peaceful negotiations as a means of solving disputes.
The No-Conscription Fellowship/NCF was a British pacifist organisation which was founded in London in Nov 1914, after WW1 had failed to reach an early conclusion. The activities of the NCF clarified what was faced by those who refused to take up arms: from social ostracism to imprisonment and even capital punishment.
There are three important books to read: Pacifism in Britain 1914-1945: The Defining of a Faith by Martin Ceadel (Oxford UP 1980), No More Soldiering: Conscientious Objectors of the First World War by Stephen Wade (Amberley Publishing, 2016); Conscientious Objectors of the First World War: A Determined Resistance by Ann Kramer (Pen & Sword Books Ltd 2015).
It was not until Jan 1916 that the Military Service Act was enacted in Parliament, bringing in conscription after the large-scale loss of manpower in the major Western Front campaigns. The Act created a formal site of confrontation between the military establishment and the pacifists and COs. Across Britain, young unmarried men who would not fight found themselves hauled before tribunals of elderly men, appointed to decide their fate. Then married men were also conscripted.
Martin Ceadel wrote that in Britain, the Military Service law had actually been quite liberal. In principle it exempted those of any or no religious affiliation from fighting. Some pacifists were prepared to work in war zones as long as it was in non-combat roles eg medical orderlies, stretcher-bearers, ambulance drivers, cooks or labourers. Others were prepared to do alternative, non-combatant or civilian work of national importance at home eg farming, forestry or community service like The Red Cross. A small number refused to do anything that might help the war effort.
Clearly many Britons particularly disapproved of tolerance being shown by military-service tribunals that recognised secular objections. As a result the tribunals were said to have hounded atheists and socialists, believing they were lazy, degenerate, ungrateful shirkers, seeking to benefit from the sacrifices of others. [This was not true for every one. Lady Ottoline Morrell was already sharing the Bloomsburies' Fitzroy Square gatherings where she met the regulars. She was herself a pacifist, so during WW1 she found jobs on her Oxford estate so that COs from the Bloomsbury Group could gain exemption from serving in the army. Secondly she welcomed injured soldiers to her home, to support their pacifism and to get their literature published].
There were 16,500 COs in 1916, most of whom were awarded some kind of moral acknowledgement by their tribunals. But because religious men who accepted the literal truth of the Bible wanted total exemption, they had a worse struggle. Only 985 British objectors held out against ANY type of alternative service, yet they attracted most public attention. Their prison sufferings were widely publicised.
c6,000 objectors were inducted into the army, though after a few weeks of harsh treatment they were usually handed over to the civil authorities. Despite the 34 capital punishment sentences, none carried out, most objectors compromised by undertaking non-military work of national importance under a new Home Office scheme. Did anyone see the bitter irony of handing out death sentences to men because they objected to killing men?
Stephen Wade described the traditional accounts of COs that painted them as at best cowards, and at worst traitors and collaborators. He focused on the history leading up to the introduction of the 1916 Act, and the forced conscription of civilians into the British Army. He too described the 16,000 British men who refused conscription on grounds of conscience, and believed it wrong of any government to force them to kill.
At least 500 of the objectors were imprisoned under brutal conditions, some spending long sentences locked up. Of course nothing that the authorities did broke the determined resistance of these men. Ann Kramer looked at who the men were, why they took their stand and how they were treated. To bring their voices and experiences to life, Kramer used contemporary interviews, memoirs and newspapers articles. She thus described what it was like for COs to face hostile tribunals, be forced into the army, defy army regulations, be brutalised and endure repeated terms of imprisonment.
When discussing WWI now, attention is still focused on those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice: men who fought and died in the trenches so that future generations could live in a democracy. Yet the level of scorn aimed at those who made every attempt to avoid killing continues. Was it ever deserved? Ceadel, Wade and Kramer proved that those who refused to kill were also courageous.
Many of those who had called themselves COs before 1914 continued to regard themselves as COs after, despite participating in the war effort in some way. And not surprisingly pacifism became widespread as a reaction to the WW1 massacres and to universal male conscription. My grandfather was a passionate supporter of the Russian Revolution in 1917, yet by 1930 was a total pacifist.
People Power: Fighting for Peace is an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum London until late August 2017. From conscientious objectors to peace camps and modern day marches, hear the stories of passionate people since 1914 on, and the struggles they endured for the anti-war cause.
Zweig had a warm relationship with Theodor Herzl, the clever journalist/political activist who led the World Zionist Movement. Zweig and Herzl met when the latter was still the literary editor of Neue Freie Presse, then Vienna's main newspaper. Herzl accepted some of Zweig's early essays for publication, even though Zweig believed in the unification of Europe and internationalism, and Herzl believed in Jewish nationalism and the creation of a Jewish state.
At the beginning of WWI, patriotic sentiment was widespread in the German-speaking countries, and extended to most German and Austrian Jews, including Zweig & philosopher Martin Buber. Zweig was a pacifist, so he did his national service in the Archives of the Ministry of War, and maintained his pacifist stand.
Zweig married Friderike Maria von Winternitz in 1920 and adopted her two children.
He became a prominent and prolific writer in the 1920s-30s, close to Arthur Schnitzler and Sigmund Freud. He was very popular in the Europe and Spanish speaking South America, but he was not well known in English speaking countries. True, some literary critics thought he was lightweight but others found his humanism and simplicity to be effective.
This was a time of growing national violence in Europe; Zweig was becoming very alarmed, and quite depressed. So he retreated to a safe area of writing that everyone would love: historical biographies eg Balzac (published in 1930), Freud (1931), Queen Marie-Antoinette (1932), Erasmus of Rotterdam (1934), Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles (1935) etc. He could be a great exponent of the Jewish humanist and Viennese ideals, at the same time.
But the end was in sight. In 1933, following Hitler's rise to power in Germany, Joseph Goebbels organised book burnings in Berlin and other cities. All the brilliant books written by Einstein, Marx, Kafka, Freud, Schnitzler and of course Stefan Zweig were thrown onto bonfires; cosmopolitan modernism turned to ash in minutes.
In 1934 Zweig left Austria for Britain. Yet he managed to sustain a close working relationship with German composer Richard Strauss, and provided the libretto for their opera The Silent Woman. Strauss was very brave in defying the Nazi regime by refusing to remove Zweig's name from the programme for the opera’s première in 1935 in Dresden. Naturally Goebbels walked out in high dudgeon and the opera was banned after three performances. Zweig later collaborated with Strauss a second time, providing him with the libretto for one other opera, Daphne, in 1937.
Zweig divorced Friderike Maria in 1938 and married his Viennese secretary, Lotte Altmann, in London the very next year. But 1939 was not a happy year for European Jewry. In the aftermath of the invasion of Poland, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Zweig and the other German speaking intellectuals were immediately declared enemy aliens in the UK. Irony after irony!
Because of the swift advance of Nazi troops west-wards, Zweig and his new young wife travelled briefly to Yale University in the USA to save themselves. Then in Aug 1940 they moved on to the Brasilian mountain town of Petropolis, near Rio de Janeiro.
Alas life was tragic for the couple. Firstly Zweig had for many years been depressed at the collapse of European peace and culture, even before WW1. Secondly this great writer lost his German publisher, Insel Verlag, and thus his main source of fame and income. Thirdly exile to the cultural wilderness beyond European borders was intolerable. Finally Stefan heard from reliable sources that his second home/library in Salzburg had been destroyed by the Nazis. By February 1942 he was very depressed about the growth of brutal authoritarianism, and had no hope for the future.
Stefan wrote a farewell note in Feb 1942 and both Zweigs suicided in their Brasilian home.
If Zweig had used history to remind his readers that a better, more cultured life was possible, then his suicide was the most historically significant event of them all. Just as well he had been a passionate collector of manuscripts. The British Library's Stefan Zweig Collection, donated by the family in 1986, focuses on autographed music manuscripts, including works by Bach, Haydn, Wagner, Mahler. The most precious item is Mozart's own handwritten thematic catalogue of his works. And there is an important Zweig collection at the State University of New York. The last place to visit on a literary pilgrimage is the family home in Brasil, Casa Stefan Zweig, which has since been opened as a cultural centre.
The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World by George Prochnik was well reviewed in The Telegraph by Frances Wilson in 2014.
By 1932, during the Great Depression, at least one-quarter of the American workforce was unemployed. When President Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, he needed to strengthen the economy ..and provide jobs and relief to the nation’s working families and to the unemployed. Over the next eight years, the government instituted a series of experimental programmes that aimed to restore some dignity to working families. This was the New Deal.
President Roosevelt's New Deal legislation tackled the increasingly desperate housing shortage via the formation of the Housing Division of the Public Works Administration in 1933. In Oct 1934 the National Association of Housing Officials held a conference which:
a] established housing standards,
b] devised a plan for creating projects through local agencies, and
c] criticised slum clearance policies.
Very soon a bill was presented that would give federal money to local authorities for low-income housing projects. In 1937 Congress finally approved the United States Housing Act, "to provide financial assistance to the states and political subdivisions thereof for the provision of decent, safe and sanitary dwellings for families of low income." It had taken 4 long years!!
Even though the USA was not sending soldiers off to WW2 yet, The Defence Homes Corporation-DHC was created in October 1940 to finance housing subdivisions and apartment complexes for workers in war industries. Conservatives were furious! In order to insure conservative opposition would not prevent the legislation from going ahead, DHC agreed only to construct public housing where the private home-building industry was NOT functioning. Hundreds of housing projects were completed and hundreds more were started, but hostile right wing political campaigns continued.
Gropius and his equally modernist architectural colleague (also from Bauhaus) Marcel Breuer designed Aluminium City Terrace/ACT in New Kensington Pennsylvania quickly: in 12 frantic days of work. They planned 250 apartments, grouped in 35 multi-unit row house buildings!
The documents for this project, written in July 1941, illustrated the architects' concerns for the overall health and well-being of the workers who would live at ACT. So Gropius and Breuer produced a layout in which almost every one of 35 row houses faced the sun. Large windows let the light flow into the open-plan interiors, which used low partitions to divide the internal living spaces. All this made the homes seem larger. Wooden awnings shielded the windows from the high summer sun. In addition to the beautiful green areas around the entire project, each tenant had his own private terrace opening from his own living area.
The name Aluminium City Terrace was used because of the historic Alcoa plant that had been there, employing 7,000 workers. But they did not use aluminium. Even when ACT was being built, the local aluminium was being redirected from consumer products to the burgeoning war effort. The buildings were made of brick, cedar and glass, still reflecting the very spare, very rectangular Bauhaus style developed in Germany.
As did the communal facilities. The Community House offered a large meeting room with a demonstration kitchen, a nursery for babies, and a room for arts and crafts. Then the Child Welfare Building provided additional space for community activities, a preschool and a children's clinic.
When the war ended in 1945, the federal government began planning to sell off defence housing projects quickly and cheaply. However, by July 1946, the government’s National Housing Agency (NHA) issued a plan for the "disposal of permanent war housing to mutual ownership corporations."
Aluminum City Terrace was the first defence housing project in the USA to be purchased by tenants under provisions of the Mutual Ownership Plan of 1948. This was despite more protests from a hostile Congress and from local landowners who predicted that working families would inevitably create a future slum and lower property values. In 1948, the experiment in wartime housing did indeed become a co-op. Since then, the management of the neighbourhood has been overseen by a board of directors, all residents, who meet monthly to do ensure the upkeep of the buildings and gardens, and other communal tasks.
Since then the buildings have been significantly and sensitively remodelled. In the 1960s, most of the wood siding were removed and the wooden sun screens were replaced with long, aluminium, louver-like sunscreens. While they don't look like the historic Bauhaus-style product they once represented, the buildings are still attractive. And the Terrace meets the requirement that Gropius set so long ago: that housing for working families be as well designed as anything he produced for affluent clients.
In 1995, the Historic American Engineering Record performed careful visual documentation, as required for all important historical architecture. Just as well! Most housing communities built during the war were demolished, even though they were designed by such notable architects as Louis Kahn, and even though they had achieved international fame by 1945. Aluminum City Terrace was perhaps the only one to survive and thrive.
I am not surprised other public housing projects did not survive across the USA. Conservatives believed the ACT never served as a model for post-war private housing because it did not offer the traditional single family, suburban housing that Americans wanted. Millions of working American families, on the other hand, thought ACT was a democratic, affordable and attractive version of suburban housing. As do I.
Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (1876-1917) came from Leeuwarden, born to her Dutch father Adam Zelle, a failed merchant. Her Javanese mother Antje Zelle fell ill and died when the four children were still at school. The grieving children were packed off to live with various relatives.
In the mid-1890s, Margaretha answered a newspaper ad seeking a bride for Rudolf MacLeod, a wealthy but brutal military captain based in the Dutch East Indies. The teenager sent a seductive photo of herself and despite their age difference, they married in 1894. During their volatile, alcohol-affected marriage, Margaretha had a daughter who survived and a son who did not.
By the early 1900s, Mata Hari's marriage had failed. Her husband divorced her and disappeared with their daughter, so Margaretha moved to Paris. There she became a professional dancer, teacher and translator, and when she was hungry, she became the mistress of a French diplomat.
In Edwardian Paris, Margaretha's exotic looks were perfect. She created the Temple Dance by drawing on cultural and religious symbolism that she had picked up in the Indies. She called herself a Hindu artist, draped in veils that loosely covered her body. In one exotic garden performance, Mata Hari appeared with a naked bottom on a white horse and breasts covered with beads. Completing her dramatic transformation from military wife to an Indonesian princess trained in exotic rituals and Hindu dances, she called herself Mata Hari.
Mata Hari’s dances drove the Paris salons wild, then Berlin, Vienna, Madrid and other European capitals. Reporters across Europe described her as "slender and tall with the flexible grace of a wild animal, and with blue-black hair.""She was feline, extremely feminine, majestically tragic, the thousand curves and movements of her body trembling in a thousand rhythms."
But youth doesn’t last forever. As younger dancers came to fame, Mata Hari's bookings reduced. She boosted her income by seducing government and military men; sex was purely for money. Despite the growing tension in Europe pre-WWI, her lovers included German officers.
Despite the Netherlands remaining neutral in WW1, her relentless travelling and random sexual liaisons attracted attention from British and French intelligence who carefully surveilled her.
At 40 Mata Hari fell in love with a 21-year-old Russian captain, Vladimir de Masloff, in 1916. During their courtship, Masloff was sent to the Front, where an injury left him blind in one eye. Determined to earn money to support him, Mata Hari accepted a lucrative assignment to spy for France from Georges Ladoux, an army captain who needed her “contacts” for French intelligence.
Mata Hari insisted that she planned to use her connections to seduce her way into the German high command, get secrets and hand them over to the French. So when she met a German attaché, she began tossing him bits of gossip, hoping to get some valuable information in return. Instead, she got named as a German spy in communiqués he sent to Berlin which were immediately caught by the French.
Some historians believed that the Germans suspected Mata Hari was a French spy and subsequently set her up, deliberately sending a message falsely labelling her as a German spy. Others believed that she was in fact a German double agent. In any case, the French authorities arrested Mata Hari for espionage in Paris in Feb 1917. They threw her into the filthy prison at Saint-Lazare, where no family or friends were allowed to visit.
During lengthy interrogations by the military prosecutor Captain Pierre Bouchardon, Mata Hari seemed uncertain of which events in her life actually happened and which she had made up over the years. Eventually she admitted too much: A German diplomat had once paid her 20,000 francs to gather intelligence in Paris. But she had always remained faithful to France - the money was compensation for furs and luggage that had once disappeared on a departing train while German border guards hassled her. "A courtesan, I admit it. A spy, never!" she repeated many times.
Mata Hari's trial for espionage came at a time when the Germans were advancing. Real or imagined spies were convenient scapegoats for explaining military losses, and Mata Hari's arrest was one of many.
So when Mata Hari (?accidentally) admitted that a German officer paid her for sex, the French prosecutors depicted it as espionage money. And money she claimed was a regular stipend from a Dutch baron was portrayed in court as coming from German spymasters. Sadly the Dutch baron was never called to testify before the military tribunal. Nor did they call Mata Hari's maid, who handled the baron's payments. Worst of all, she had the three most criticised character flaws - she was foreign, divorced and had sex outside marriage. "Without scruples, accustomed to make use of men, she is the type of woman who is born to be a spy," concluded Bouchardon.
The military tribunal deliberated for only 45 minutes before returning a guilty verdict. The defendant couldn’t believe it ☹. She made a direct appeal to the French president for clemency and was horrified when he too turned her down.
Mata Hari was executed by firing squad on 15th Oct 1917. Dressed in a French uniform, she had arrived at the Paris execution site with a minister and two nuns and walked quickly to the kill-site. She then turned to face the firing squad, removed her blindfold and was instantly killed.
It was an improbable end for the exotic dancer and courtesan, whose name came to stand for sexy spy who charmed war secrets from her lovers. At the time, The New York Times merely called her "a woman of great attractiveness and with a romantic history."
What do people believe now? Mystery and intrigue still surrounds Mata Hari's life and alleged double agency. Many people saw the 1931 film Mata Hari, starring Greta Garbo as the courtesan-dancer-spy and Ramon Novarro as her Russian flier-lover, called Lieutenant Alexis Rosanoff in the film. The conclusion seems to be that Mata Hari was thoughtless in her selection of sexual partners during WW1, but certainly not working as a spy for the Germans (or for anyone else). The military files used against her were filled with information gaps, exaggerations and blatant lies.
This year is the centenary of Mata Hari’s execution, so there is a renewed interest in her story: Paulo Coehlo’s new novel The Spy, Ted Brandsen’s ballet by the Royal Dutch Ballet, and an exhibition at the Fries museum. Perhaps Mata Hari's letters, edited by Lourens Oldersma offer a more human side to this woman, as a victim of domestic abuse and historical circumstances.
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason
why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.”
Guy Fawkes Night aka Bonfire Night was and is the anniversary of the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot on 5th November 1605. The plot was centred around a group of Roman Catholic revolutionaries, furious at the persecution of their co-religionists in England. After 45 years of persecution during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the plotters had hoped their struggles would end once King James I took the throne in 1603. Certainly James was a Protestant, but the Catholics knew that James had had a Catholic mother, Mary Queen of Scots. And James had himself made informal overtures to Catholic powers like Spain, Savoy and Tuscany.
In 1603, in Hampton Court, James was known to be receiving some leading Catholic gentry who brought a petition for toleration. And the treaty negotiations between Spain, England and Flanders were concluded in Aug 1604, but there was still no mention of toleration for the English Catholics.
Disenchantment quickly with King James set in. Robert Catesby and a group of his Catholic friends created a plan to kill the king, Prince of Wales and all the parliamentary ministers who had oppressed Catholics. The plotters wanted to blow up the Palace of Westminster during the state-opening of parliament when everyone would be there.
Apart from the plot leader Robert Catesby, the other members of the group were Thomas Bates, Robert and Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Christopher and John Wright, Francis Tresham, Everard Digby, Ambrose Rookwood, Robert Keyes, Hugh Owen and John Grant. Each plotter had a specific role. For example the Wright brothers travelled to Holland to recruit Guy Fawkes. And they visited the King of Spain to ask for his support in the expected revolt that would follow the killing of King James I. Thomas Percy (who had contacts at the court of King James), hired a cellar beneath the House of Lords.
Sir Everard Digby and his servants would wait at the Red Lion Inn. As soon as he learned of the plot’s success, Catesby would leave London for the Midlands where the men would mastermind the next stage of the plot - the Catholic Rising. Thomas Percy helped fund the group and secured the leases to certain properties in London. When the plotters successfully kidnapped King James' daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Percy would remain in London and capture her brother, Prince Henry.
Guy Fawkes was an explosives expert, called in by the others to set the fuse. Fawkes was a Protestant Englishman who converted to Catholicism following his father’s death. He left England to join the mercenaries fighting for the Spanish against the Protestant Dutch. By renting a house near the palace, Fawkes could smuggle 36 barrels of gunpowder under Westminster and prepared to blow it to oblivion. Modern scientists have calculated that the blast have obliterated an area 500 ms wide.
Towards the end of the planning, some of the plotters worried about killing parliamentarians who had actually supported Catholicism. But the scheme was only revealed when an anonymous letter was sent to Lord Monteagle (1575–1622) in the House of Lords, warning him not to go into Parliament. I am assuming the plotters did not want to kill Lord Monteagle since he was married into many Roman Catholic families, including being the brother-in-law of Francis Tresham, one of the plotters. In fact we need to note that ten of the plotters (except for Guy Fawkes, Sir Everard Digby and Thomas Bates) were all related to one another, either by means of blood or through marriage.
The timing of this warning to Lord Monteagle was perfect - Fawkes was caught red-handed in the cellars by the guards. After his capture he was tortured till he gave up his fellow plotters. All of them died, either shot on the run OR put on trial for high treason, convicted and then hung, drawn and quartered in Jan 1606. As Fawkes awaited his punishment on the gallows, he leapt from the platform to avoid having his testicles cut off, and broke his neck. Fawkes was only 35 when he died.
From left: Thomas Bates; Robert Wintour; Christopher Wright; John Wright; Thomas Percy; Guy Fawkes; Robert Catesby; Thomas Wintour
engraving, artist unknown, c1605
Soon Bonfire Night was celebrated by the lighting of bonfires, the burning of guys/effigies of Guy Fawkes and the explosion of fireworks. The celebration was designated in law by King James I a few months after the plot failed and remained on the statute books until 1859. Also by way of symbolic commemoration, the yeoman of the guard searches the (modern) cellars of the Houses of Parliament in time for the state-opening each November.
Only one memorial came as a shock to me. The 13-strong group of plotters included brothers John and Christopher Wright, from the village of Welwicks in Yorkshire. There is now a Coreten steel statue dedicated in 2013 to Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby, John and Christopher Wright, installed at the village entrance near the Wright brothers’ home. It is very tall (2.4m)! Since the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot is still marked in Welwicks each year by Bonfire Night, the statue was probably built as a stark reminder of the reality of a historical specific event.
I have some last questions. Since the gunpowder plot of 1605 was seen as a dangerous challenge by the Catholic Church to Protestant England, why was the focus of the plotting limited to Guy Fawkes? Why was the role of the other 12 plotters largely excluded? And what about all the other well-connected people who aided the plotters with money, supplies and advice? Did the near-catastrophe in Westminster give some insight into how Catholics were suffering, leading to less severe penal laws against the practice of Catholicism in England? Does the reigning monarch only enter Parliament once a year even today, because of some lingering fear that remains since 1605?
To analyse the 13 major plotters and four other minor participants, see The Co-Conspirators.
Maria Gorska (1898-1980) was born into a very comfortable Russian family somewhere in the Empire. After her mother and father divorced, her grandmother sent her to boarding school in Lausanne. Maria wintered with grandma on the French Riviera and summered in St Petersburg with her Aunt Stephanie and her millionaire banker husband. Two nice lifestyle standards for the teenager to aim for!
In 1914, Maria spotted a handsome man at the Opera and decided she would marry him; it turned out to be a lawyer named Taduesz Lempicki (1888–1951). Two years later they were married in fashionable St Petersburg with her banker-uncle providing the dowry. As Lempicki had no money of his own, he was delighted to marry this young lass. A year later, Taduesz was arrested by the Bolsheviks; Tamara bravely had him freed, flashing the officials with her charms and using the help of the Swedish Consul. The re-united couple fled to Paris, along with many other upper class Russians escaping the Revolution.
In Paris and now called Tamara de Lempicka, the refugee studied art with Andre Lhote, and enrolled at Academie de la Grand Chaumiere. She became a well-known portrait painter with a distinctive Art Deco manner. Quintessentially French, Deco was the part of an exotic, sexy, and glamorous Paris that epitomised Tamara's living and painting style. Unlike Picasso’s random art, Lempicka’s style would be seen as Soft Deco i.e novel, clean, elegant and exact.
Montmartre was becoming too expensive and too crowded, so most artists gradually moved south. Montparnasse had wide boulevards and great light. And there were still many small courtyards. Paris was the centre of the world for art creation and the ideal meeting place for the artists - Lempicka, Jacques Lipchitz, Tristan Tzara and Piet Mondrian were near neighbours, producing a unique and colourful style.
private collection, Switzerland
The flat and square dresses of the 1920s provided an ideal canvas to display Art Deco taste. Skirts were shortened and the female figure became formless and androgynous - the waistline dropped to the hips and did not return to its natural position until the 1930s. Nylon, satin, silk and crepe were the most popular materials used to make shaped dresses. Short tubular dresses, long cigarette holders, cloche hats, bobbed hair, plucked eyebrows, bands of diamond bracelets and long, hanging earrings were loved. Socially it was the age of the Flapper, a young woman who went to parties without a chaperone, smoked cigarettes and drove cars. Tamara Lempicka made it her own.
The female silhouette was slim, tall and elegant, inspired by Hollywood films. Girl In Green With Gloves 1929 (Musée National d'Art Moderne Paris) was probably de Lempicka's most famous painting that clearly epitomised the Deco style and modernity. The fabric and hair combined sharp lines and flowing curves.
In Portrait of Madame M 1930 (private collection), Tamara demonstrated her fashionable sense, sleek and seductive. Some curves were back and they were emphasised by the use of fabrics cut on the bias. Early on hemlines dropped to just above the ankle and remained there until WW2. Necklines were lowered; shoulders were squared. Dress waists returned to the natural waistline. Fuller skirts were accentuated a small waist and minimised the hips. Dress bodices were designed with inset pieces and yokes. Necklines were dramatic, with wide scallop-edged or ruffled collars. Skirts were also designed with great detail. Upper skirt yokes were used, designed in a v-shape. The skirt bottom often had pleats or gathers.
Hollywood and F. Scott Fitzgerald popularised sporty outfits for golf, tennis, swimming; similarly clothes and hats were designed for travelling in ships, trains or motoring in streamlined cars. With freedom of movement a priority, designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Jean Patou, Madeleine Vionnet and Gabrielle Chanel created style for the modern woman in the fashion capital of the world, Paris.
Tamara de Lempicka definitely moved in smart and intellectual social circles! In the 1920s she became closely associated with some of my all-time favourite women in the inter-war literary set, especially Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis. It probably didn’t matter to Tamara that her husband divorced her in 1931 in Paris.
Art Deco made great progress in fine arts and industrial designs, based on simple format, clean lines and vivid colours. The improvement of technology, especially in industrial products like cars, ships and trains, emphasised stylised angular forms. Tamara de Lempicka found soul mates in fashion illustrator Erte, glass artist Rene Lalique and graphic designer Cassandre.
de Lempicka had 3 fashion imperatives: simple cubist lines, as in Woman Wide Brimmed Hat 1934; clear, glowing colours; and a strong interpretation of the female form. She was the demonstrator of the female form in 1930s Art Deco clothes - sleek and seductive, abstract-ish and modern.
de Lempicka herself received acclaim for her cool Garbo-esque beauty, her parties and love affairs. Her beauty and opinionated nature also increased her celebrity. Her style only declined as conservatism started to challenge the feminist advances she had championed. The Art Deco woman, that was once an object of desire, was seen to regress toward demeaning caricatures of unbridled sexuality.
In 1934 de Lempicka married Baron Raoul Huffner (1886–1961), one of her earliest and wealthiest patrons and a recent widower. When WW2 broke out, the couple moved to Beverly Hills in America, and she became the Favourite Artist of the Hollywood Stars.
The Baron and Tamara moved to New York City in 1943, and continued painting in the old style for a while. Tamara decorated the apartment with the antiques she and the Baron had rescued from his Hungarian estate. And when the war was over, she reopened her famous Paris studio in the rue Mechain.
It took until 1966 for Musee des Arts Decoratifs to mount a commemorative exhibition in Paris, re-creating a serious interest in Art Deco. And Alain Blondel opened Galerie du Luxembourg and launched a major retrospective of Tamara de Lempicka. But it was too late in her career. In 1978 she moved to Mexico and died in 1980.
In 2009 masked gunmen stole art from a Dutch museum. Police said several robbers threatened a guard with a gun before making off with two paintings. The robbers a work by surrealist Salvador Dali. And they took La Musicienne 1929, a de Lempicka oil painting that showed a woman in a vivid blue dress playing a mandolin instrument. It had been a treasured painting.
Author Christina Stead (1902–1983) left Australia in 1928 at 26. She embarked on a successful literary career with the publication of Seven Poor Men of Sydney and The Salzburg Tales, 1934. But the inter-war period was a difficult time to be an Australian writer. Censorship was rife, publishing houses was conservative, and publishers were rarely interested in manuscripts emanating from the colonies. Stead’s first London publisher, Peter Davies, paid royalties irregularly, although he did champion her two novels in London and New York. Only Simon & Schuster and Harcourt Brace in New York were a bit more attuned to Stead’s House of All Nations and For Love Alone.
Stead became involved with the German/American writer, broker and Marxist political economist Wilhelm Blech aka William J Blake (1894–1968), with whom she travelled to Spain in 1936, just in time for the Civil War (1936-9).
Stead always blamed her father David Stead in Sydney for “deforming” her and so she wrote no letters to him after she left Australia. The Man Who Loved Children, first modestly published in 1940, was the novel that enshrined her rage and love. The novel was an autobiographical study of a family dominated by an overbearing and narcissistic father. Alas it was the only book of Stead’s that I read, and I didn’t like it!
Angus & Robertson, Australia’s main publisher, declared Stead’s cosmopolitan novels too literary and un-Australian. So the couple preferred the Eastern European publishers who translated and produced their novels in handsome editions, and paid proper royalties.
Like her heroine Teresa in For Love Alone (1944), Stead had wanted to escape the stifling parochialism of Australia. During WW2, she taught Workshop in the Novel at New York University. And after the war, she returned to London and married Bill Blake (1952).
All Australian authors who lived abroad for many years must have paid a hefty price for their cosmopolitanism and subject matter. Famous author Henry Handel Richardson NEVER returned to Australia. Mega-famous Patrick White did, but continued to be published primarily in London and New York. Stead, always scathing about the English class system, craved an Australian readership!
Overseas reviews emerged in the Australian literary pages. Literary critic Nettie Palmer started writing to Stead, passing on Rebecca West’s praise of Seven Poor Men of Sydney. The women had been delegates to the first International Congress of Writers for the Defence of Culture, a gathering of intellectuals against Fascism in 1935.
What was the chance of finding a box of letters in a Canberra basement that would shed new light on the work and life of Christina Stead? Under-read at home for much of her life, the great Australian writer created her own literary legend in letters and books. Her letters show Stead, living aboard from 1928-74, was highly regarded among influential literary circles, especially in America.
The correspondence selected for A Web of Friendship, was preserved by family members, by agents and publishers, by writerly friends and acquaintances all over the world. Her best literary friendships were always with men. She and Blake first met American poet and critic Stanley Burnshaw in New York in 1933, at the office of the communist journal New Masses. Stead’s letters reflected the reciprocity that was so crucial between literary friends — they wrote a detailed analysis of the other’s work, sent each other advance copies, and raged about the treatment they received from editors and critics. Many years later Burnshaw, then at Holt, Rinehart and Winston, ensured the reissue in 1965 of The Man Who Loved Children, and commissioned a great introduction by the critic Randall Jarrell. Burnshaw understood the difficulty of being an expatriate writer.
The Australian literary quarterlies Meanjin and Southerly, publishing occasional stories and commissioning critical articles, began building her public at home. These magazines, dependent on small amounts of support from universities and the Commonwealth Literary Fund, paid little money but often provided substantial editorial feedback.
Her correspondence was a map of an emerging Australian culture. Editors, writers and academics eg Nancy Keesing, Dymphna Cusack, Dorothy Green and Judah Watensought her out whenever they were in London and fretted about the invisibility of her great opus. Their students were encouraged to read her; they included her in anthologies of new Australian writing and nominated her for awards.
Prof of English Ronald G Geering first wrote to Stead early in 1960, acting as a go-between with Angus & Robertson to get paperback editions of her novels published in Australia. He visited her in London a few years later. His respect for her work was strong and her reliance on him grew, so eventually he became Stead’s literary trustee.
Not until after Blake died did Stead return to Australia in 1969, the recipient of a Australian National University arts fellowship. Her novels were largely out of print here, unattainable even in libraries. But she found herself an Official Personage, interviewed, photographed, feted everywhere. It was all a great strain, she said; she hated public speaking and drank too much.
During the loneliness after Bill’s death, it was Ron Geering who was left to collect the hundreds of letters she had written over decades. Stead had earlier destroyed all her drafts, most of her private papers and diaries from family and friends. Thank goodness they had kept hers. Even so, the correspondence of an American friend Harry Bloom was not found until 2007.
For years she has been known as the disappointed, insular woman of Australian literature, a novelist who plundered her friends for characters, found it impossible to enjoy normal relationships and may have repressed her own sexuality. She saw herself as unlovable, craving passion, fearing rejection. So perhaps it was surprising that the enjoyment of reading the letters left by Stead got ever stronger, covering her passionate narratives and the country’s past. The letters’ awkward Australian core, their cosmopolitan sensibility and their intelligent ferocity, drew Prof Geering and Hilary McPhee in.
The two main contenders for The Great Australian Novelist, Patrick White and Christina Stead, were almost unknown in Australia back in the day. White’s The Tree of Man did not appear until 1956 and he didn't win The Nobel Prize in Literature until 1973. Christina Stead was largely unpublished here till 1965. It was not until the 1970s that Australians embraced her nearly 20 novels and short-story collections. In 1974 she returned home to live and received the prestigious Patrick White Award for Literature. Today Stead is regarded as one of Australia's finest novelists.
Readers will enjoy A Web of Friendship: Selected Letters 1928-1973, written by Christina Stead and edited by RG Geering in 1992. Thank you to Hilary McPhee for her new introduction to the Web of Friendship, published in 2017.
The Fairy Penguin once bred all along the southern Australian coastline, and were an important food source for the indigenous population. They were also eaten by early European settlers, sealers and whalers in the early 1800s. Sadly British settlers also introduced large numbers of rats, dogs, cats and foxes many of which became wild and preyed on the little penguins, along with many other native species.
There were records of the penguins at Warrnambool’s first fully manned lighthouse station which was built in SW Victoria in 1855. But my first contact with the story started with the tv programme Coast Australia, with Scotsman Neil Oliver.
In Middle Island, off the coast of Warrnambool, red foxes had been decimating small colonies of Fairy Penguins. Normally Middle Island was cut off from the mainland for most of the year, but when the sandbar to the island became bigger during some months of the year, red foxes could walk across at leisure. When a newspaper article exposed how the endangered penguins were being killed en masse in 2004, a local chicken farmer became very alarmed.
Allan Marsh, known locally as Swampy, had already bought a maremma dog to protect his chickens from the marauding red foxes. So then he got the idea of using dogs to protect the Fairy Penguins. In 2000 there had been hundreds alive and thriving; by the 2004-5 summer, only four penguins were left on the island. Dead penguin carcasses lay everywhere, chewed up by foxes. Extinction of the island colony was imminent.
Marsh believed that his faithful maremma dog Oddball could protect the few surviving penguins. Indigenous to central Italy, particularly to Abruzzo and Tuscany, the maremma is a breed of dog that protects livestock. These self reliant dogs have a solid, muscular build, thick white coat and large heads, and have been used for centuries by Italian shepherds to bond with the sheep and guard them from wolves. The Fairy Penguins are normally found in the ocean, but they breed on land and live in burrows dug out in the sand. So the maremma dogs would be perfect because they are light-footed and would not disturb the penguins nests.
Warrnambool City Council told the chicken farmer that dogs were not allowed on Middle Island, because the dogs would be more destructive than the foxes. So Swampy had to wait until someone new started working at the council before he could take the plan any further. Then it happened! Warrnambool conducted the world's first trial using a maremma to guard the dwindling penguin population, starting in 2006.
Oddball originally went to the island for three weeks but she became homesick and swam home. Then her maremma-aunt Missy was sent out there, but she also swam home. Swampy finally managed to get the authorities to see that they needed two dogs on the island, to prevent loneliness.
Maremmas clearly showed an exceptionally strong sense of territory. They focused on guarding their territory on the island and were simply tolerating the penguins. But when a fox tried to invade the dog’s territory, there was a great deal of barking, biting and not a few fox deaths.
Warrnambool City Council and Deakin University quickly formalised the Middle Island Maremma Project. Once every two weeks during the breeding season, a group of volunteers looked for the penguins on Middle Island to count them, in front of film crews from many countries. Middle Island's current maremma guards, Eudy and Tula, live on the Island for a week at a time and are famous everywhere.
The penguins are now thriving and are back up to a population of 250. The island seems to be fox-free. These successes not only triggered international media interest, but stirred the scientific community. Scientists from Deakin University’s Warrnambool campus have presented lectures on the project at Oxford University several times. And publication in a scientific journal will make the project story available to an even wider audience.
The maremma project won the 2010 Australian Government Coastcare Award. And tourism started to increase. When not on Middle Island, the dogs live at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in Warrnambool, so tourists can meet the maremmas there. Middle Island has been closed to the public since 2006, to protect burrows, penguins, penguin chicks and eggs from human trampling. But it will be possible to join small, guided tours in the southern summer (December-April) at low tide.
And soon international media outlets wrote or filmed the island and dogs. One film crew arrived in 2014 to film scenes for a cinematic production called Oddball which was released in 2015. In the film, Shane Jacobson was the actor starring as the chicken farmer and Oddball’s grandson starred as Oddball the dog.
Red fox carrying off a dead penguin.
While using maremma sheepdogs to guard an endangered species has not been common, some breeds of livestock guarding dogs have long been appreciated by environmentalists. Those dogs made it possible for livestock to coexist with predators such as wolves and coyotes, reducing their predation by at least 75%. Now there is a Wombat Rescue organisation in New South Wales that uses a maremma to help tend and protect rescued wombats.
In The Voice of the Vanquished, Alicia Alted reported that c465,000 Republican Spaniards fled to France during the years of the Spanish Civil War, especially during the winter of 1936.
On 23rd Jan 1939, Franco's forces finally broke the Republicans’ resistance in Barcelona and the city fell. Surviving Republicans fled north across the Pyrenees; they thought that France, a fellow Republic, would receive them as heroes, or at least welcome them as idealists with shared beliefs.
Wrong! Even after the Spanish Civil War ended in April 1939, France was still not prepared to accept the Republican refugees; they wanted to force them either to return to Spain, or to emigrate on to Mexico, Chile or Dominican Republic. Only 140,000-180,000 Spaniards remained, in hideous French prison camps.
And not just on the French mainland. A fleet of small boats left for Algeria from the port of Alicante in March 1939, in the final days of the Civil War, with c3000 Spaniards on board. When the ships arrived in the Algerian port of Oran, the French authorities there initially refused to allow passengers to disembark. Many drowned and the survivors were eventually transferred to internment camps.
Why was southern France, Britain’s greatest ally, seen to be pro-German? After he retired from the army, Marshall Petain became the first French ambassador to Franco’s Spain in March 1939. Then he was re-called back to France and appointed Prime Minister in June 1940 – just as France appeared to face military collapse against Nazi Germany.
After France's trusted Maginot Line failed to hold back the Nazi onslaught, the German Blitzkrieg poured in. France surrendered to the Germans in mid 1940, and Paris was abandoned. French parliamentarians joined the mass escape to the south, ending up in the city of Vichy. France was split into two parts: a] Occupied France under direct German control and b] Vichy France, a pro-German independent territory with the elderly Marshall Petain at its head.
That same June 1940, Pétain concluded an armistice with the Germans. This was not a good time to be a left wing refugee in Vichy France.
The UK did not want to accept dirty, sick or radical Spanish war refugees, but Mexico did. Mexico was then ruled by President Lázaro Cárdenas who had a progressive agenda of agrarian reform, control of the army and universal health care. 24,000 Spanish refugees, including many children, settled in Mexico between from the Civil War until December 1942, when Germany directly occupied Vichy France. Most remained in Mexico. Other Spanish war refugees ended up in Argentina, Chile, Cuba and Dominican Republic.
As many as 100,000 of the Spanish refugees were herded down into the French internment camp of Argelès-Sur-Mer. They were treated like animals, not given any food or shelter, and 10,000 of them died in French camps. The bloated dead bodies lay where they fell.
Young and fit Spanish men remaining in the French camps were required to work for the French military authorities. Perhaps they were the lucky ones, assigned to help strengthen the Maginot Line in NE France.
When the Allied armies landed in France in 1944, they helped liberate many towns in southern France. The Spanish refugees were convinced that, after defeating Hitler and Mussolini, the Allies would turn on the dreaded Franco. So several thousand crossed back into the remote north of Spain to establish a bridgehead and wait for Allied reinforcements. None came. So their return home to Spain had lasted less than a fortnight. Worse, the returning Republicans were greeted with suspicion by their fellow countrymen, who were exhausted by war.
Camp de Rivesaltes, near Perpignan, was just 30km north of the Spanish-French border. The camp was built as an internment centre for 21,000 Spanish Republican men, women and children. Alas half of the prisoners were sent on to concentration camps, usually Mauthausen.
Later, during WW2, Camp de Rivesaltes was also used to hold Jews and gypsies. The camp's dark history continued in the 1950s-60s when it was used to detain harkis, Algerian soldiers serving in the French army during the Algerian war.
Decades later, there were many attempts to destroy evidence relating to the camp; in 1998 thousands of files relating to Rivesaltes were discovered in a skip. When local authorities and the French government announced that they would bulldoze the internment camp, relatives of former inmates were devastated. A memorial museum opened at Camp de Rivesaltes in 2007. The memorial is a windowless cement building buried underground, a poignant symbol of forced imprisonment. Inside the families of the survivors can see the photographs, videos and maps, and sit in the auditorium for discussions.
Plus there is another memorial. The relatives of Spanish Republicans who survived the internment camp of Argelès-Sur-Mer participate in a ceremony that takes place every year in late Feb.
The defeat of Fascism in 1945 allowed millions of displaced people to make their way home. Yet in 1945, hundreds of thousands of Spaniards remained in France, gradually adapting to life there. And they kept their heads down, afraid of being treated as outcasts. Unfortunately for them, Franco stayed in power until 1975!!
1. When Spaniards were the refugees, by Jaime Rubio Hancock, Sep 2015 In El Pais
4. Refugees and the Spanish Civil War by Larry Hannant, History Today, Jan 2017.
Were the French uniquely unsympathetic to the desperate asylum seekers back in 1939? Of course not. As we know from the Conference on German and Austrian Jewish refugees held in Évian-les-Bains in July 1938, only Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia and Cuba responded morally. Britain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada would not! And there is every reason for us, in 2017, to think that the current Syrian asylum seeker crisis is exactly replicating the exodus of Spaniards to France. Apparently we have learned nothing; in fact I would argue we are even more brutal to refugees now than we were in 1938 and 1939.
A kapo was a prisoner in a Nazi camp assigned to the SS guards, to supervise the forced labour. It was cheap for the SS since they didn’t have to pay the kapos. But more importantly for the SS, making an ordinary person into a kapo could turn one Jewish victim against all the other Jewish victims that he guarded.
In towns the functionaries would have been Jewish policemen or members of the Jewish Councils, not kapos.
Between 1950 and 1972 the newly formed State of Israel prosecuted 39 Holocaust survivors in the Kapo Trials.
The identification of Jewish policemen and kapos in post-Holocaust Israel was easy. Citizens travelling on the same bus or drinking coffee in the same café would recognise their tormentors from 1941 Poland or 1944 Hungary, and would scream out loudly until the offender had been firmly identified. Israel’s Knesset/Parliament, in a tiny nation that absorbed over half-a-million battered survivors, HAD to act. Potential violence against the kapos had to be channelled into the proper court system; otherwise they might have been faced with summary justice in the buses and cafés.
In August 1950 the Knesset enacted the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Law. Entirely retroactive, the law targeted only those crimes committed during the Nazi regime; the nation would conduct trials of Nazis, their associates and collaborators who committed War Crimes Against the Jewish People, or Crimes Against Humanity. The punishment for Crimes Against Humanity could be capital punishment. Between 1950 and 1961 this law was used to prosecute only 39 (35 men and 4 women) Jewish Holocaust survivors, alleged to have been Nazi collaborators. The rest of the accused Jewish kapos either escaped from Israel before being brought to trial, or were not charged because the eye witnesses’ accounts were conflicted.
Dr Porat studied the case of a kapo who had murdered a group of Jews in his camp, despite there being no SS guards in sight. The Jewish kapo was sentenced to death by the Tel Aviv district court, but this ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court. The idea of the grey zone, by which some Jews willing served the Nazis, counters our ideas of the Holocaust and thus we tend to ignore the ambiguous.
At the Sydney conference I was deeply offended by the concept of capital punishment. If a court felt it was necessary to punish a particular kapo, I would have been happy to have seen the criminal in gaol for the rest of his life, fed on bread and water. But for a Jewish judge or hangman to execute a kapo for doing what he had to do under Nazi control... that judge or hangman would have in turn been reduced to the level of the Nazis.
As it turned out, only two people were ever executed in Israel's history. In 1948 Meir Tobianski was an officer in the Israel Defence Forces who was executed as a traitor on the orders of the IDF Intelligence Branch's Director. A year after the execution, Tobianski was exonerated of all charges. (Did the parliamentarians apologise to his widow and orphans?) In 1952, capital punishment for Nazi war crimes under the Nazi Collaborators' Law was imposed on a Jewish kapo called Yechezkel Jungster, a man who was convicted of viciously beating other Jews in the camp. Thankfully the sentence was commuted to two years' imprisonment.
The second and last execution was carried out in 1962, when Holocaust planner Adolf Eichmann was hanged for genocide and crimes against humanity.
The world's lack of knowledge about the Kapo Trials comes from two causes, Porat noted. First the state archives and Yad Vashem archives prevented access to the trial documents for 70 years. Second the idea that a few Jews may have acted in horrible ways does not match the dichotomy we have of victim and perpetrator. It is still inconceivable to us that our parents and grandparents were tortured by kapos who may have gone to the same school as our parents in the late 1930s.
Yet if I was faced with my parents starving to death and my children’s diseases untreated, would I not have cooperated with the SS guards? Probably yes. Jews in Poland, Hungary and other threatened communities were desperate; to have not taken the remote chance of survival by cooperating to some extent with the Germans would have been the equivalent of writing the family’s own death certificates.
Yet British historian Paul Bogdanor has written a detailed book showing that Rudolf Kasztner was an unscrupulous Nazi collaborator in Hungary, rather than a Jewish functionary merely trying to keep his family alive. Kasztner’s Crime (Transaction 2016) clarified that by collaborating with the Nazis wholeheartedly, he wanted to avoid jeopardising, at any cost, the special privileges he received from them. So in the end he was said to play a small but specific role in the death of thousands of Hungarian Jews, by helping the Germans and their Hungarian allies buy precious time.
Would the Hungarian Jewish catastrophe have turned out differently, had Kasztner not cooperated with the Germans? Of course not. But the Kasztner Train in June 1944, which saved 1684 Jews by taking them to Switzerland instead of to Bergen Belsen death camp, was said to be more due to careful Nazi planning than to Kasztner’s heroism.
How ironic then that after the war, Kasztner moved to Israel and became a successful worker in the ruling Labour Party. After an Israeli court accused him of having collaborated with the Nazis, Kastner became a hated figure in Israel, and was assassinated in 1957 by people who knew him during WW2. The Supreme Court of Israel overturned most of the judgments against Kastner in 1958, but it was too late.
Historians will learn a great deal by reading Porat, Dan State of Suspicion: Israel Prosecutes Holocaust Survivors as Nazi Collaborators, AAJS Conference Sydney Feb 2017. And Porat, Dan Changing Legal Perceptions of 'Nazi Collaborators' in Israel 1950-1972 which is easier to find.
In July 1943, the Allies had pushed Italy out of North Africa and subsequently invaded Sicily. The war had been going so badly for Italy that a meeting of the Fascist Grand Council, with the support of King Victor Emmanuel III, overthrew and arrested Il Duce Benito Mussolini. One of those who voted against Mussolini was his son-in-law, the foreign minister Galeazzo Ciano)! The following day, Mussolini was dismissed by Victor Emmanuel III saying ‘My dear Duce, it’s no longer any good. At this moment you are the most hated man in Italy.’
The Italian Fascists took revenge against the 19 members who had voted against Mussolini: death! Even Ciano was dismissed from his post by the new anti-Fascist government of Italy after his father–in-law was taken. In Aug 1943 Ciano, Edda and their three children fled to Germany, but the Germans sent them back. Ciano was then arrested for treason, imprisoned, tried and executed.
and their children, 1930
Once the anti-Fascist Italian government had declared war on Germany, a disastrous civil war broke out between those Italians who stuck with the Central Powers (in the north including Rome) and those Italians who sided with the Allies (in the south). In March 1944 the Italian resistance exploded a bomb in Rome that killed 33 German soldiers. Retaliation was swift and brutal – for each German soldier killed, Hitler ordered the execution of ten Italian civilians. 335 civilians were immediately shot in a hideous retribution called the Ardeatine Massacre. When Mussolini met Hitler in April 1944, the Italian protests were totally ignored.
In late April 1945, Mussolini's republic came to an end on a day labelled Liberation Day. On this day a general partisan uprising, alongside the Allies during their final offensive in Italy, largely ousted the Germans from Italy. By the time of its demise, the Italian Social Republic had existed for only 19+ months. On 27th April partisans caught Mussolini, his mistress Claretta Petacci, several RSI ministers and other Italian Fascists, while they were attempting to flee to Switzerland. The next day the partisans killed Mussolini and most of the other captives, including Claretta. Vittoria Mussolini, the second son, escaped to Argentina via The Vatican Route and was welcomed by the Minister for War, Juan Peron.
The Italian Social Republic might have been a make-believe state, but in its short existence, 240,000+ Italian civilian and soldiers died. The RSI Minister of Defence surrendered the survivors on 2nd May when the German forces in Italy capitulated; this put a final end to the crisis.
Villa Feltrinelli, where Il Duce lived, is now a luxury hotel that I visited (but could only afford afternoon tea). Down the road in Salò is the Museum of Salò on the shores of Lake Garda, that only opened in 2015. Richard Bosworth reviewed the museum of Fascist history and found it very unbalanced. The Museum’s stance was that the Germans were the perpetrators of evil and the Italian Fascists were the tragic victims. And there was no reference to Fascism in practice or theory towards the peoples of the Italian Empire.
The Dutch and Portuguese had dominated European trade with the Subcontinent during the 1500s. England (then Britain from 1707 on) was a late-comer to Asia. After Vasco da Gama discovered a sea-route to Asia in 1498, the Portuguese established forts and settlements around the coast of India and SE Asia. Netherlands sent dozens of ships in the 1590s, each returning with large profits. Alas the first English voyages were disasters.
So the East India Company was formed in 1600 to undo the humiliation English merchants had felt in Asia. Queen Elizabeth I gave the Company a royal charter on England’s trade with Asia and from then on, the Company zealously protected its monopoly.
My high school British History teachers stressed how progressive Imperial Britain had been in India. Undoubtedly the Indians wanted to run their own country, uninvaded by military or corporate raiders. But the teachers could give wonderful examples about British railways systems were built, British laws legislated, economies developed, irrigation systems installed and young Indian women protected. All in all, it was a civilising mission accomplished.
Then I read India Conquered, where the author Jon Wilson suggested that far from rescuing India from chaos, the British caused it. Even on legal issues, the British didn’t manage to reform and universalise personal law, leaving a confused tangle of property legislation that impeded modern commercial relations. With nothing to replace them, periods of food-price inflation led to the deaths of millions of Indians.
Critics argued that the Company was actually protecting its own corporate power and status, not Britain’s commercial relationship. The Company’s aggressive approach created a tense relationship with Indian merchants and political leaders. Its officers hid behind the walls of forts and military garrisons whenever they could. Negotiations were short; force resolved difficult situations.
The first major clash began in 1686, when Company officials were anxious that a] the Mughal empire wasn’t letting them trade without paying taxes and b] the Mughals were collaborating with private English traders to flout the Company’s monopoly. So war was declared on the Mughal empire. A fleet of 19 ships and six army companies was sent to liberate the English. But the Company’s ships were scattered by bad navigation and they were easily defeated by the Mughal military at Bombay.
By 1710 the Mughal empire practical power had begun to fragment. But until the early-mid C18th, India’s political system was powerful enough to defend against the Company. Violent events in 1720 could have led to the British conquest of Kerala, had the East India Co. not been embroiled in bigger battles elsewhere. A fleet and a small army sailed down from Bombay to take revenge, and land was “conquered from the natives”. But the fight in Kerala was quickly abandoned. In 1721 the British ships and troops were needed to defend Bombay against the Marathas of Maharashtra state.
As noted by my history teachers, the standard view of Britain’s empire in India emphasised its control, stability, success and the rational pursuit of profit. After all this story had been recorded by the empire’s governors and generals, after they returned to Britain.
The reality was that British actions were messy and chaotic. The Persian ruler Nader Shah invaded India in 1739, overthrowing the Mughals and stripping their treasuries. The invasion provoked conflict in the capitals of India and sent bands of warlords to ransack the country side.
Company forces led by Robert Clive sailed from Madras to a battlefield north of the Company’s base at Calcutta, and defeated the army of Bengal’s nawab Siraj ud Daula in Oct 1756. Then the Battle of Plassey, in June 1757, was the most important event that led to the Company’s conquest of India. It pitted 3,000 soldiers of the British East India Co. against the 5,000-strong army of the young Nawab of Bengal and his allies. When the Company refused to back down, the nawab marched, driving the British from Calcutta. After Calcutta was retaken and Siraj signed a peace treaty granting all they demanded, the British marched to depose the Nawab! British trade and honour were protected by violence; Robert Clive, perhaps an unstable sociopath, became known as the Conqueror of India.
The British replaced Siraj on the throne with the more compliant Mir Jafar. But always paranoid about Indian actions, trust broke down again. Allies became antagonists and the British began to assert power more widely. Mir Jafar was blamed and ousted, apparently because conquest didn’t lead to quick profits. But Bengal’s wealth was rapidly draining into Britain, while its prosperous weavers and artisans were coerced like slaves by their new masters.
In April 1857, the north Indian city where the Commissioner of Meerut was stationed became the heart of the greatest-ever insurrection against Britain anywhere in the British empire. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, much of north India was ruled by leaders hostile to the Company. Atrocities happened on both sides, but the last days of the Rebellion were so brutal, Indian Delhi and Lucknow were destroyed. The British massacres of rebel sepoys and unarmed citizens were war crimes.
The days of the British Raj in India were numbered. After 1858 the Company was abolished and Queen Victoria was proclaimed India’s direct sovereign. British power was exerted through law courts and public works, railway timetables and codes of law, not just military violence. Yet imperial power was still limited and messy.
The British finally left India in 1947.
I was born in Eastern Europe and eventually moved into a UN refugee camp for people seeking visas to safe countries. Life for me was fine once we got to Australia, but I was always aware how my parents worked long, miserable hours every week to give us children a decent life. It must have succeeded because my sister became a 4-language translator in the Health Department, my brother became a mathematician and maths teacher, and I became a doctor.
Throughout those years of struggle, my parents never forgot the people who mentored them, enrolling them for citizenship ceremonies (successfully), teaching them English (with mixed success) and helping them with driving lessons. Now it was possible to mentor a new generation of young people in medical practices, preferably migrants or the children of migrants. Each year my colleagues and I decided to take one undergraduate student into our practices; there they spend one term of hard work, professional supervision and personal support. A very minor contribution to be sure, but one that brings an emotional thank-you from parents in the same heavily accented English my parents spoke.
The young legal graduate had to do his articled clerkship in a reputable, large legal firm so he chose Arnold Bloch Leibler, in a totally unfamiliar city 2000 ks away - Melbourne.
Pearson wrote “During an articled clerkship at ABL’s Collins St headquarters, I came to know the story of Australia’s Jewish community and how a people endured oppression and discrimination through history; how they rose up from the ashes of the Holocaust”.
“It was Ron Castan QC who recommended me to Leibler. Ron was one of the greatest legal advocates this country has known and I got to know him following his long crusade with Eddie Mabo to establish native title in the Murray Islands. He later worked with us on the Wik people’s claim to Cape York and was a paternal mentor to me.”
“My time at ABL was a crucial period: I learned so much interacting through the firm with the Jewish community of Melbourne, in the worlds of business, education, arts and culture. I learned how you can be victimised by discrimination but never succumb to victimhood. How you can never forget history but you must engage the future.”
“I came to understand Castan and Leibler’s mentorship in their community is a virtuous cycle through the generations. So I was inspired to start sponsoring young girls from Cape York Peninsula, enabling them to attend private boarding schools in Brisbane. The first one went on to become the first university graduate from her community. Others started their own programs”. [All the quotes come from The Australian Newspaper, 21/12/2013].
Mentoring is valuable.
I (Helen) would like to add two thoughts. Readers might like to find Noel Pearson'sQuarterly Essay 55 A Rightful Place: Race, recognition and a more complete commonwealth, published in Sept 2014. Pearson shows how the idea of race was embedded in the constitution, and the distorting effect this has had. Now there is a chance to change it. Pearson shows what constitutional recognition means, and how true equality and a renewed appreciation of an ancient culture would be possible. This is a wide-ranging, eloquent call for justice.
At the 1967 referendum on removing discrimination against Aboriginal people from the constitution, 91% of us voted yes, making it the most successful in Australia's history. Now each of Australia's major parties committed to hold a referendum to change the constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Leaders have yet to agree on the model for change, so the words of the change to the constitution remain uncertain. But the Federal Government will announce a timetable for the referendum soon. May 2017 is the 50th anniversary of Australia's landmark 1967 referendum.
The Ionian island of Corfu, off the west coast of Greece, is 56 ks long but only 18 ks wide.
Now some quick and messy history. Before the French Revolutionary Wars, the Ionian Islands had been part of the Republic of Venice. Then the 1797 treaty dissolved the Republic of Venice, and Corfu was annexed to the French Republic as the French departments of Greece. In 1798-9, the French were driven out by a joint Russo-Ottoman force. The occupying forces founded an island republic which enjoyed relative independence under Ottoman and Russian control from 1800-7; Greek was to be the primary local language.
The Ionian Islands were briefly re-occupied by the French, but very soon after, in 1809-10, the UK defeated the French fleet and captured some Greek Islands. After Napoleon, many countries were interested in the control of the prize island, Corfu island. Thanks to the aid of a Greek General, a treaty was signed in Paris in 1815 that recognised autonomous Ionian islands under exclusive British control.
Venetian buildings in Corfu Town
The first (1815-23) British high commissioner (and Governor of Malta) was Sir Thomas Maitland, a rather repressive dictator who quickly stirring strong complaints from the locals. Yet the British era (815-64) was probably the most flourishing period in the history of Corfu. Corfu established the first Greek University, the Ionian Academy, which was established by Frederick North, 5th Earl Guilford in 1824. Its 3 faculties included Medicine. The establishment of schools, which had been neglected by the Venetians, was improved and by 1850 there were 200 schools. Corfu gained its first Philharmonic Orchestra and the first School of Fine Arts.
There were extensive public works providing prisons, hospitals, marsh clearance, a widened road network and a public aqueduct water-supply system that still operates. Commerce with the neighbouring countries grew impressively.
Despite these benefits, the islanders came to resent British rule. And it all came to an end when a 1863 treaty demanded Britain renounce the Ionian islands. In March 1864, representatives of the UK, Greece, France and Russia pledged the transfer of sovereignty to Greece, under the newly installed King George I of the Hellenes. And in May 1864, by proclamation of the Lord High Commissioner, the Ionian Islands were united with Greece. The city of Corfu lost power in favour of Athens, but the rest of the island began to prosper both politically and economically.
Even then, British influence continued. Way back in 1823, a cricket match was held in Corfu between Royal Navy officers and men in the British Garrison. Thus began a lasting union of this most British of games and the Greek island of Corfu. Of the many cricket clubs drawing excited crowds on the island these days, the loveliest field is Spianada square in town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a view of the Old Fortress. Also organised by local British-ex pats, Corfu was where the first tennis clubs opened in Greece.
But the biggest attraction for British tourists now seems to be the tv series The Durrells (2016). Based on The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell and set in 1935, the Durrell family left home in Britain and settled near Corfu Town. So modern tourists want to rent a villa in the pretty NE corner, where The Durrells was filmed, or stay in the flats at the White House in nearby Kalami, where Lawrence wrote. The lovely bay of San Stefano has the tortoises that fascinated young Gerald, especially in late June. Plus pods of dolphins and sea-turtles.
The quotation inscribed at the foot of a statue of author and naturalist Gerald Durrell in these beautiful gardens was dedicated to him and his brother Lawrence. The brothers’ writing, especially ‘My Family and Other Animals’, popularised this green isle in the world’s imagination.
Corfu Town is a unique blend of histories, with a nod to all the nations that controlled it during its mixed history. On arrival in Mandracchio harbour, the Old Fort can be seen from the water. Fit visitors climb to the top of the fort and can enjoy the magnificent view over the town. Then the fit and the unfit can visit the blackened remains of St Spyridon, Corfu’s patron saint, in his church. The public buildings of the Venetian rule blend well with narrow winding streets, lovely little bars and shops, and small secluded squares.
Cultural sites are everywhere. Once home to Greece’s King George I, the elegant Saint Michael and George Palace sits on top of a hill outside Corfu Town. The Palace, also the birthplace of Britain’s Prince Philip, opens its elegant interiors to the public and hosts a museum displaying artworks, statues, historical and archaeological treasures.
The British Cemetery is near San Rocco square. Founded in 1814 by the British Protectorate it was used as a garden cemetery where the British officials, soldiers and residents were interred. After the departure of the British, the cemetery served as the graveyard for the foreign families who stayed on (and it is still being used as a cemetery for the Anglican residents of Corfu today). Note the monument to the seamen of the two Royal Navy destroyers mined by the Albanians in The Corfu Channel Incident of 1946.
Ludwig Guttmann (1899-1980) was born in Upper Silesia Germany/now Poland, into a religious Jewish family. His parents were Bernhard and Dorothea, and his sisters were Margarethe Guttmann, Alice Bamberger and Liesel Karger. He started studying medicine at the University of Breslau in 1918 and continued his studies in Würzberg and Freiburg, graduating in 1924.
Guttmann returned to Breslau and worked with Europe’s leading neurologist Prof Otfrid Foerster from 1924-8. In 1928, he was invited to start a neuro-surgical unit in Hamburg but this post only lasted a year as Foerster asked him to return to Breslau as his assistant. Guttmann remained in this job until 1933 when the Nazis forced all Jewish staff and patients to leave Aryan hospitals. Fortunately Guttmann became a neurologist in Breslau's Jewish Hospital for 6 years.
On Kristallnacht (9th November 1938), Guttmann gave orders that any male person entering the hospital was to be treated, despite the racial laws specifying that Jewish doctors could only treat Jewish patients. The next morning, he had to justify to the Gestapo the large number of admissions. In fact he saved 60 Jews from certain death by telling German officers they were too sick to be transported.
There must be a God in heaven; Guttmann was already in contact with the British Society for the Protection of Science and Learning, and was suddenly offered a position in Britain, plus visas. Ludwig left Germany in March 1939 with his wife Else and children, and went to live in Oxford. [His parents and relatives all died in Germany in 1943, except for Curt and Alice Bamberger who survived by escaping to the USA].
In 1939 Guttmann worked at the Radcliffe Infirmary and at St Hugh’s College Military Hospital for Head Injuries. But as WW2 continued, the British Government became acutely aware of the influx of paralysed servicemen. So in Sept 1943, they asked Guttmann to become Director of the new National Spinal Injury Centre at the Emergency Medical Services Hospital, Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury.
When the centre opened in Feb 1944, Guttman did not like what had been the typical care for spinal patients in Britain – flat on their backs, full body plaster casts and pain relief. As director of the UK's first specialist unit for treating spinal injuries, Guttmann believed that physical activity was the major method of therapy for injured servicemen and car accidents, helping them build up both strength and self-confidence. Thus he was the neurologist who revolutionised the treatment for, and lives of those with spinal injuries.
Of course Guttman was seen as a bit of a radical neurologist, and his many conflicts with colleagues and the hospital administration were loud. But he was an attractive doctor, and compassionate. And his relationships with his patients were heartfelt. He challenged the old-fashioned staff and insisted his patients participate in their own recovery. Central to His Big Plan, Guttmann introduced the idea of physiotherapy as a medical treatment. Physiotherapy was the way to build strength and to fight depression. He hired an army physical trainer to lift weights with patients and practise movements.
Within months, his Spinal Unit became a place of optimistic noise and activity. In a few years he had transformed the treatment of spinal patients, first in Stoke Mandeville then across Britain. The knowledge, gained in treating and preventing complications to young soldiers and traffic accident victims, forced Stoke Mandeville’s Spinal Unit to expand rapidly. Only one productive thing had come out of WW2 - Guttmann and his staff gave paralysed patients the skills and treatments to face a useful future and to be reintegrated back into normal society.
To coincide with the opening of the 1948 London Olympics, Dr Ludwig Guttmann held the first Stoke Mandeville Games on the lawns of the hospital. He presided over a wheel chair archery competition where the competitors, 16 ex-servicemen, were young people with severe spinal injuries.
Stoke Mandeville Sports Stadium, 1969
By 1960, 400 athletes from many countries* participated in the first Olympic Games For the Disabled which were held in Rome, alongside the Rome Olympics. In Toronto in 1976, two other disability groups (blind and amputee athletes) were added and a truly international sports competition took place. In the same year, the first Paralympic Winter Games took place in Sweden.
The Stoke Mandeville Stadium is the National Centre for Disability Sport in Britain. Located alongside Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the stadium was formally opened in August 1969. When Ludwig Guttmann died in 1980, it was renamed Ludwig Guttmann Sports Centre, Stoke Mandeville.