Bok: “Kristallnatten” — när pöbeln släpps loss

15 01 2011
"Kristallnatten"  - framsida

"Kristallnatten" - framsida

Natten mellan den 9 och 10 november 1938 inträffade “kristallnatten” i det nazistiska Tyskland. Under ett fåtal timmar plundrades och brändes synagogor och andra judiska bönehus i hela tyska riket. Detta blev en inledning till en ny fas i den tyska antisemitiska kampanjen, en fas som kom att  utmynna i Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, och andra dödsläger. Öyvind Foss skriver om vad som hände under 1938 i sin bok “Kristallnatten“.

—*—

Bakgrund

Det nazistiska Tyskland hade sedan 1933 kontinuerligt skärpt lagar och regleringar för den judiska delen av sin befolkning. Tyska medborgare kunde nästa månadsvis se hur nya regelverk infördes, och hur det drabbade den judiska befolkningen, och hur det successivt byggde upp ett gap mellan “ariska” och “judiska” medborgare. “Lika inför lagen” gällde inte längre. En äkt-tysk skulle även bidra till segregationen, genom att rapportera fall där judar tog för stor plats, och där tyskar var alltför toleranta mot judar. På så sätt gjorde stora delar av befolkningen delaktiga i och  medskyldiga i det som skedde.

Nürnberglagarna från 1935 blev en tydlig brytpunkt, genom att principiella segregationslagar infördes. Judar fråntogs sitt medborgarskap, vilket alltså medförde att de förlorade det rättsliga skydd som medborgarskap medför.

1938

Den 7 november 1938 klev Herschel Grynszpan in på tyska ambassaden i Paris. Grynszpan, jude av tysk härkomst, hade blivit upprörd av att hans släkt, som stannat kvar i Tyskland, hade blivit utvisade till Polen den 26 oktober 1938. Desperat,  och utan möjligheter att hjälpa sin familj, begav sig Grynszpan till den tyska ambassaden, och med den pistol han förde med sig avlossade han ett antal skott mot ambassadrådet Ernst vom Rath. von Rath skadades svårt. Grynszpan greps av fransk polis.

Den 9 november dog von Rath. Detta lyftes omedelbart fram av tyska myndigheter. Goebbels höll uppeldande tal, med udden explicit riktat mot judarna.

Via informella kommunikationskanaler informerades polis och SA att de inte skulle ingripa mot kravaller, utan snarare vara behjälpliga. Som en storm över Tyskland startades samma kväll kravaller (egentligen pogromer) som omedelbart riktades mot allt som verkade vara knutet till judar.  Att det skedde så synkroniserat över hela Tyskland tyder på att det i själva verket var centralt organiserat. Idén kan ha blivit improviserad, med von Raths död som tändande gnista. Men genomförandet hade inte skett så samtidigt, om det inte varit centralt dirigerat.

Synagogor var tydliga mål för upploppen. Andra officiella judiska byggnader likaså. Dessutom all affärsverksamhet som ägdes av judar.  Synagogor plundrades och brändes. Judiska affärer slogs sönder och plundrades. Judar som råkade vara i närheten angreps fysiskt. Etthundra  judar dödades. 30 000 judiska män greps och fördes till koncentrationsläger.

Benämning “kristallnatten” hänsyftar på att man denna natt kunde se trottoarer i tyska städer beströdda av glassplitter — där gatljusen återspeglades som i kristaller.

I många fall gav upploppen ett skydd för utlopp av mer personlig aggression. Plundring var inte bara att förstöra för judar, utan även för plundrarna att berika sig själva, att få utlopp för upplevda oförrätter, och att skaffa sig makt och status i det lokala sammanhanget.

Efterspelet

Det internationella reaktionen var blandad. Vissa diplomatiska protester hördes, dock inte från alla omgivande länder. Dels fanns där  halvfascistiska länder som låg lågt, eftersom de kan ha sett sådana här händelser om användbara instrument i sin egen inrikespolitik. Andra länder ville inte stöta sig diplomatiskt med ett kraftfullt växande Tyskland. Att Storbritannien och Frankrike uttryckte ganska tydliga avståndstagande åsikter är inte att förvåna, eftersom de hade behov av att markera diplomatisk distans.

Den utländska pressen gav blandade reaktioner. Högerpressen kunde uttrycka förståelse för det som skett, och betrakta det som en intern tysk angelägenhet, och man köpte i viss utsträckning att detta var ett folks häftiga reaktion på att en av dess diplomater mördats i sin tjänst. Dessutom kunde en underliggande antisemitism lysa igenom i vissa pressorgan.

Andra tidningar rapporterade på ett mer upprört sätt om vad som skett. Det fanns på plats i Tyskland många pressrepresentanter för utländsk press. Många av dessa kunde personligt observera vad som skedde, och rapportera om detta. Å ena sidan fanns det en förvåning att något sådant kan ske i ett klassikt europeiskt kulturland, med tänkare som Goethe, Schiller och Kant. Å andra sidan kunde det ändå ses som ett resultat i  extrapoleringen av inrikespolitiken – det nazistiska Tyskland.

Det officiella Tyskland försökte naturligtvis rättfärdiga det som skett genom att skylla på judarna själva. Det var judarna som provocerat fram detta. Man kunde beklaga att det skett så omfattande förstörelse av egendom, men samtidigt berömde sig regeringen för att kraftfullt tagit greppet på upploppet så att det inte gick över styr. Men man beklagade inte offren, vilket var en tydlig signal till den egna befolkningen — “arier” såväl som judar” — att det som skett var i linje med en gällande politisk målsättning. Om detta var början, hur skulle det då kunna sluta?

Inrikespolitiskt kan denna natt ses som starten för ett mer fysiskt förtryck av judarna i Tyskland. Om förtrycket tidigare till största delen varit institutionaliserat genom tillämpning av lagar, så öppnades nu slussarna för mer pöbelliknande aktioner mot judarna.

Boken

Öyvind Foss bok är koncentrerad — på 120 sidor berättas förspelet, natten, och efterspelet. Vissa delar av texten är utförligt berättade, ibland med utförliga citat ur samtida arkivmaterial. Hör har boken sitt största värde. Vi får alltså förstahandsinblick i den tyska statsmaktens tänkanden och avsikter, uttryckt i deras egna ord. Visserligen innebär det att man måste lära sig läsa dessa texter på ett dåtida manér, men det är inga större svårigheter.

I kapitel 7 (“Regeringskonferensen den 12 november 1938”) citeras diskussionsprotokollet från ett möte med tyska regeringsmedlemmar. Ämnet för diskussionen var vilka åtgärder som man nu borde tänka på att införa, för att ytterligare avskilja judarna från det tyska samhället. Några extrakt ger en kuslig aha-upplevelse:

Goebbels: … Jag anser det också nödvändigt att det skapas bestämmelser som förbjuder judarna att besöka tyska teatrar, biografer och cirkusar.  … Man kunde överväga att ställa en eller annan biograf till förfogande för judarna här i Berlin, där de kan titta på judiska filmer.  … Det är till exempel fortfarande möjligt att en jude och en tysk kan hamna i samma sovvagn. Det måste komma bestämmelser från trafikministeriet om inrättning av egna kupéer för judar, som endast kan användas om alla tyskar har fått plats.

Goebbels: Jag vill inte uttrycka det så, men reglerna måste vara tydliga. Det måste också komma bestämmelser om att det är förbjudet för judar att besöka tyska badinrättningar, badstränder och rekreationsplatser. Även badstranden  i Wannsee. Vi behöver bestämmelser som förbjuder judar att besöka tyska rekreationsplatser.

Goebbels: Jag ser en mycket stor fara. Jag anser att det [är] nödvändigt att man ställer bestämda områden till förfogande för judarna — inte de bästa — och säger: På dessa markerade bänkar kan ju judarna sitta. Det kan stå: “Endast för judar!”  … Ett sista exempel. Det är faktiskt fortfarande en realitet att judiska barn går i tyska skolor. En omöjlig situation. Jag anser det för uteslutet att min pojke skulle sitta bredvid en jude i ett tyskt gymnasium och få undervisning i tysk historia.

(sid 69-71)

Här bör man känna ett obehag. Det är ju trivialt att byta några ord här och där,  och då få den här argumentationen att stämma överens med sydafrikansk apartheid, där mellan åren 1948 och 1994 just sådana typer av lagar separerade den vita minoriteten från den svarta majoriteten. Vad gäller apartheid blev omvärlden faktiskt mer bekymrad om läget efter Sharpevillemassakern 1959, men fram till dess betraktade utlandet apartheid som en intern sydafrikansk angelägenhet.

Men kanske mer motbjudande är att precis sådant här faktisk implementerats på amerikansk botten, i sydstaterna, där den typ av segregation som Goebbels här målar upp som en möjlighet, den segregationen var lagligt stadsfäst i sydstaterna mellan åren 1876 och 1965. Förfasar vi oss över att tyskarna kunde ens tänka sig sådan segregering på 1930-talet? Hur kunde vi då betrakta den amerikanska segregationen med överseende under hela dess existens? Var det för att USA blev en dröm om ett ideal, en dröm om framtiden, och att vi därför blundade för den amerikanska laggrundade segregationen? Eller är det så  enkelt som att vinnaren bestämmer spelreglerna. Nazityskland förlorade, så därför kan vi fördöma allt de gjorde. USA var en vinnare, och därför finns där inget att fördöma.

En svaghet med boken — vilket kan vara relaterat till dess begränsade sidantal — är att de återgivna enskilda levnadsödena inte får liv. Eftersom det hände så mycket under en enda natt, så finns det många människor som har historier att berätta, som offer eller som förövare. Men ingen sådan historia får liv. Ofta reduceras en upplevelse till en enda mening, följd av nästa enskilda upplevelse uttryckt med en mening. Och så vidare. Det är många sådana enskildheter som nämns, men ingen ges ett sammanhang så att man förstår hur det egentligen upplevdes, vilka stämningar som rådde. Det hade varit bättre att reducera antalet nämnda människoöden till ett litet antal, och låta dessas berättelse få mer av kött och blod.

Öyvind Foss

Öyvind Foss

Författaren

Øyvind Foss (født 2. juni 1934 i Kristiansand) er en norsk/tysk teolog (professor em.) og forfatter. Han er utdannet teolog ved Det teologiske fakultet ved Universitetet i Oslo  1961/62 og Det diakonivitenskapelige institutt ved Heidelberg Universität (1983/84); var frilansjournalist (særlig Dagbladet) og kandidatstipendiat i Berlin 1963-1968, og ble ordinert til prest i Oslo og Drammen i 1969-77. … Etter søknad permittert i 1992/93 og 1999/2000 for å være forskningsprofessor (DAAD) ved Det diakonivitenskapelige institutt ved Ruprecht-Karls-Universität i Heidelberg.

(Från norska wikipedia: Øyvind Foss)

Sammanfattning

Boken är ganska kort, ca 120 sidor, men det räcker för att ge en överblick över vad som ledde fram till Kristallnatten, vad som hände då, och det omedelbara efterspelet. Detta hände för 70 år sedan, 80 mil söder om Stockholm (motsvarar avståndet Stockholm – Luleå). Det var inte så länge sedan, och inte så långt bort. Boken “Kristallnatten” ger en bra påminnelse om vad som skedde, och kanske en lärdom för framtiden.

Data

Öyvind Foss: “Kristallnatten” (Optimal Förlag, Stockholm, Sweden; 2010) 135 sid; SBN 10: 9172411953; ISBN 13: 9789172411951 (book at openlibrary.org)

This page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2011/01/15/bok-kristallnatten-nar-pobeln-slapps-loss/
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Book: “Dien Bien Phu 1954” — the tragic effects of misjudgements

31 12 2010

In May 1954, the first Indochina war ended with the surrender of the French military garrison at Dien Bien Phu. This was a decisive blow to France as a colonial power. From here and onwards, there was a continuous retreat from the French colonies  (even though the Algerian French thought they could turn history around).

Stone: "Dien Bien Phu" -- front

Stone: "Dien Bien Phu" -- front

But how could it go so wrong? What happened there in the mountains of Vietnam? What could have happened? This book gives some answers, but more or less constrains itself to the military perspective of the events leading up to the defeat in May 1954.

It is always good to be reminded about what happened way back in history. It can even now, nearly 60 years later, give us some hints to why plans have floundered as they have in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Background

The French colonial empire was created during the 19th century. Africa and Asia were the targets of colonial expansion. And the south-east corner of the Asian mainland was regarded as an important building block in the great French Empire. What is now the countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were then dominated by the French, and Vietnam was seen as the jewel of that crown.

In 1941, the Japanese invaded South-East Asia, and quickly took control of the territory. When the Japanese capitulation occurred in 1945, the French regained control of their old colonies.

Soon it became obvious that to everybody — the people of Indochina as well as other of people in other colonized parts of the world — the French would not leave Indochina. A nationalistically based liberation movement was now organized, originally populated by persons that had experience from fighting the Japanese.

After failed attempts to negotiate about some kind of  independence of the different regions of Indochina, the liberation front started armed uprisings. The French fought back, but could not really pursue a successful campaign against the Viet Minh, as the liberation army was called. The French could very well dominate in the urban regions, but the countryside was increasingly abandoned by the French.

Finally the French high command decided that a show-down was needed. By concentrating their forces in a special type of environment, they could attract the main parts of the Viet Minh forces, and decisively defeat them once an for all. And that special place was Dien Bien Phu.

The battle of Dien Bien Phu

The area selected was close to the Laotian border, in a broad valley surrounded by higher mountains. The idea was to force the Viet Minh to attack on the floor of the valley, and that is where the superior technical strike potential of the French would make the difference.

The main assumptions were that (1) the artillery of the French would be stronger that the enemy’s; (2) that French air power would be unstoppable, and could strike lethal blows on the Viet Minh; (3) that the French air transport forces would be able to deliver all necessary resources by air from Hanoi or the coast; (4) that the Viet Minh would not be able to establish themselves in the mountains above the valley, as French artillery would keep them down; and (5) that it would be impossible for the Viet Minh to provide artillery fire from the upper mountains.

The French at the floor of the valley, and Viet Minh on the mountains in the background

The French at the floor of the valley, and Viet Minh on the mountains in the background

As it happened, all these assumptions were invalid. The French seriously underestimated the size and energy of the Viet Minh forces, and they also overestimated the possibility of a high-tech armed force to be supplied through air during battle.

What happened was that the Viet Minh laboriously carried artillery pieces up the mountains, dug them in and camouflaged them, and was ultimately able to offer heavy bombardment of the French on the bottom of the valley, from the mountains above. The French were in a sense sitting ducks. Nowhere to run, and not strong enough to attack up the mountain sides.

In parallel, there were infantry attacks on the perimeter of the French fortifications. French outposts far away from the French HQ were overrun. The French were step by step forced to retreat into an area that was week by week becoming smaller.

The end

Finally the French high command understood that this was a losing battle. Not even French air power could be deployed with any success.

Now there happened one of those strange political episodes that we seldom hear about. The French military command proposed that the French government approach the Americans, and ask for their help. Two main options were identified. The first was about the Americans providing massive conventional military resources to get the French out of their troubles. This could be by dispatching large infantry divisions to the Dien Bien Phu area,  providing massive air strike support there, or similar measures. The second idea was that the Americans would drop nuclear bombs on the Viet Minh forces!

That the military situation for the French was desperate is obvious, as the French requests for  American assistance ranged from massive conventional support to support by preposterous means.

Informal contacts with the Americans clarified that the Americans did not want to get involved by taking over the fighting in Vietnam. A main reason was that they were fully occupied in Korea at the time (the Korean war!) and did not want to take on military actions in yet another area of Asia. Also, they were unwilling to be too much associated with the French colonial power. They foresaw that the French would have to leave, and it would be better if the next regime in Vietnam would be willing to have a positive attitude towards the US.

We should probably be grateful that nuclear bomb technology was, at this point in time, not in the hands of the French forces. Their first nuclear test was not performed until 1960.

As it became clear that no military support would come, the French had only three options. Firstly they could simply surrender , with the rationale that the military situation was hopeless. Secondly, they could stay and fight until the end, which would not be very far into the future. Or, thirdly, they could break out of the encirclement, and retire across the Laotian border to safety.

The third alternative was attempted, but it did not succeed. A handful of persons managed to sneak away into the jungle and pass the border into safety on the Laotian side. But the main parts of the troops that attempted this escape were decisively beaten and forced to retire to their old fortifications.

This left only option and and two. And surrender was not contemplated. The French honour required that one fight until definitely beaten in the field. So the military order was: “Fight until the end.”

At 17.30 on May 7, 1954, Viet Minh has conquered the French HQ bunker

At 17.30 on May 7, 1954, Viet Minh has conquered the French HQ bunker

And the end came on May 7, when the Viet Minh forces finally occupied the French HQ in Dien Bien Phu. At that point, the French could  capitulate according to honorable military traditions. 11,000 French military personnel were taken into captivity on that day. Of these, 3,000 would ultimately return to France. The majority of the rest succumbed to the hardship of imprisonment.

Consequences

On the political level, the fall of Dien Bien Phu was a key event that caused the Geneva Accords in 1954, an agreement by which France would leave Indochina. Not only was this the political starting point of the now emerging countries of Indochina. It was also a significant signal to other colonialised countries. Firstly, the independence movements in French North Africa got fuelled by the defeat of the French by native forces. Secondly, this also put pressure on the British in some of their colonies to initiate a process whereby national independence could be achieved.

Conclusions about the book

This book is rather short, but it is well organised as a description of the military adventure of Dien Bien Phu. Its objective is to describe this as a military plan and the way it was executed. So there is quite a lot of discussion of whether this or that was a good military decision.

What is not so strong in this book is the role of  this episode in a global political landscape. What was the political history of the French in Indochina? What were they hoping to achieve by retaining the these as traditional colonies? What political options were contemplated? How did national “home politics” influence the government’s decisions about Indochina? Questions like these are not answered in this book.

Anyway, taking its constraints into account, it is an easily readable and informative book about an episode in history, where a Western power engages in fighting an enemy that is difficult to detect in the landscape. As we currently see some such military adventures going on in our days, it can be wise to see what happened when formally superior forces were defeated by a “barefoot army”.

Data

David Stone: “Dien Bien Phu” (Brassey’s, London, 2004) 128 pgs; ISBN-10: 1857533720; (book at openlibrary.org)

This page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/book-dien-bien-phu-1954-the-tragic-effects-of-misjudgements/




Bok: “Statlig rasforskning” — vardagen på rasbiologiska institutet

23 12 2010
"Statlig rasforskning"

"Statlig rasforskning"

Det svenska rasbiologiska institutet hade sin beryktade storhetstid från 1922 till 1933. Under de åren var Herman Lundborg — med rollen institutschef — oftast mer av en agitator än en vetenskapsman, och de budskap han marknadsförde hade genklang i delar av det makthavande Sverige. Det mesta som skrivits om institutet har fokuserat på politiska dimensioner och på kultur- och idéhistoriska trender. Denna lilla bok — Gunnar Broberg: “Statlig Rasforskning” — kastar ett intressant komplementärt ljus på institutet och Herman Lundborg, nämligen den administrativa bilden av institutets dagliga verksamhet. Det som här berättas förstärker bilden av att institutet/Lundborg måhända hördes starkt i den publika och icke-publika debatten, men att det inte blev så mycket bestående effekter av dess verksamhet.

—*—

Det som Broberg  redovisar i denna bok baseras på studier i Rasbiologiska institutets arkiv, såsom det bevarats i Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek. I arkivet blandas stort med smått, men inte förvånansvärt är den  övervägande delen av materialet en avspegling av den rutinmässiga vardagen. Och det är just detta som Broberg bearbetar. Dvs, hur kan vi idag beskriva den dagliga rutinen på institutet? Hur administrerades verksamheten? Hur leddes den? Vilka motgångar upplevde institutet? Och vilka framgångar?

Den historia som serveras i boken ger en bild av att Rasbiologiska institutet under hela sin existens levde med vad som upplevdes  som alltför snåla anslag. Och det var nog inte bara en upplevd känsla — det var nog mycket begränsade anslag jämfört med dels vad som externt förväntades att  institutet skulle göra, dels vilka ambitioner Lundborg hade med sitt institut.

Det var en ständig jakt på anslag, en ständig jakt på privata sponsorer och mecenater, med oftast väldigt magert utfall. Trots att kostnaderna ökar över åren — inflationen gör kostnaderna numerärt större — så ökade inte anslagen, vilket i praktiken medförde att anslagen de facto kontinuerligt minskade.

Det fanns i den relativt lilla personalstaben även personkonflikter, som antingen gav upphov till eruptioner och att folk flyttade någon annanstans, eller att agg doldes under en till synes lugn yta. Personalpolitiken fungerade aldrig, bl.a. därför att Herman Lundborg inte kunde hantera sin personal på ett smidigt sätt.

I många avseenden kan de som i dessa dagar arbetar inom akademiska institutioner känna igen sig. “Det är ju så det är för oss, nu. Vi jagar ständigt efter forskningsanslag, och de flesta förslag vi lämnar in resulterar inte i några anslag. Så var inte situationen för det  Rasbiologiska institutet likvärdigt med den situation som är så vanlig för många i dagens forskningsvärld?”

Jo, det kan så vara. Trots alla motgångar och en ekonomi som ständigt framtvingade kompromisser i lagda planer och uttryckta ambitioner, trots detta producerades ett antal doktorsavhandlingar av personal som var verksamma vid institutet. Men även här kan man nog se en analogi till dagens doktorandsituation. Det är oerhört mycket icke avlönat arbete som ligger bakom avhandlingen. Så det var väl därför som personal kunde disputera baserat på arbete utfört vid Rasbiologiska institutet under de kärva åren på 1930-talet.

Dessutom var de teman som bearbetades i avhandlingarna inte direkt i linje med Lundborgs mer extrema vision om vetenskapligt underbyggs rashygien. Personligt erkännande för en doktorsavhandling betyder inte ett erkännande av institutet som en framstående aktör.

Det är därför jag påstår att Rasbiologiska institutet drev och deltog i många propagandaaktiviteter, och skapade under 1920-talet ett visst intresse för rasfrågan och för institutet, men att det inte orsakade så speciellt stora effekter inom det vetenskapliga eller samhället i stort.

Kanske man kan karaktärisera Lundborg och institutet med frasen “tomma tunnor skramlar mest”.

Gunnar Broberg

Gunnar Broberg

Författaren

Född 1942, FD idé- och lärdomshistoria 1976, visiting professor Berkeley 1978, Fellow Wissenschaftskolleg 1987-88, prof i idé- och lärdomshistoria i Lund sedan 1990, fellow SCASSS 1998, dekan hist fil 1998-2002, preses Vetenskapssocieteten i Lund, ordf Kungl. Vetenskapssamfundet Lund, ledamot Statens kulturråd sex år mm.

Forskningsintressen: Linnaeus, Cultural history, History of concepts, Man’s relation to animals.

(från Lunds universitets webbplats)

Sammanfattning

Brobergs “Statlig rasforskning” är en intressant skrift, som ger oss en mer mångdimensionell bild av institutets och dess verksamhet. Han diskuterar inte institutet ur ett idéhistorisk eller kulturhistoriskt perspektiv, inte heller institutets roll i den politiska sfären. Sådana frågor har bearbetats tidigare (se t.ex.  Lennart Lundmark: “Allt som kan mätas är inte vetenskap”, studentuppsatser om rasbiologiska institutet). Nej, här får vi lära oss något om verksamhetens dagliga rutiner, dess förändringar, och olika personers roll i att hålla institutet och dess verksamhet vid liv. Det är väl så nära institutets vardagsliv vi kan komma, så här 80 år efter institutets höjdpunkt. Och den information som vi får här hjälper till att placera institutet på rätt sätt i i rummet av samhällsaktörer.

Ett bra sätt att sammanfatta vad boken handlar om ges av följande citat ur boken själv:

I rätt stor detalj har vi skildrat Statens institut för rasbiologi från de första åren på 1920-talet till dess det uppgår i Uppsala universitet som institutionen för medicinsk genetik 1958. Från början hade det stora förhoppningar knutet till sig, men en bit in på 1930-talet hotade fiasko. Skälet var en tungrodd administration och en otymplig chef. Institutet låg fel politiskt innan vändningen kom vid 1930-talets mitt. Vi har följt verksamheten under dess tre chefer: Herman Lundborg, Gunnar Dahlberg och Jan Arvid Böök. Men institutionshistoria är inte bara ett antal biografier med vidhängande anekdoter. Tycker någon att betoningen legat alltför mycket på chefsnivå har ändå andra namn också beretts plats, liksom den dagliga verksamheten. Framför allt har de första tio-femton åren inventerats, och det av det enkla skälet att källmaterialet är rikare för den perioden. Institutets historia har framför allt setts inifrån, medan samhällsutvecklingen i stort bara skymtat. Detaljrikedom är inte detsamma som fullständighet, men en avsikt med den här studien är i alla fall att så gott det går bevisa vad som egentligen hände. Med hjälp av en sådan faktabetonad historia kan man sedan gå vidare mot en djupare analys.

(sid 82)

Noter

Tack till Gunnar Broberg som var vänlig nog att överlämna ett exemplar av denna bok till mig.

Data

Gunnar Broberg: “Statlig rasforskning – En historik över rasbiologiska institutet” (Idé och lärdomshistoria, Lunds universitet in Lund, Sweden, Andra upplagan, 2002) 108 sid, ISSN: 1102-4313 (book at openlibrary.org).

This page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/bok-statlig-rasforskning-vardagen-pa-rasbiologiska-institutet/




Book: “Hiroshima – The World’s Bomb” — the atomic bomb and everbody’s concern

5 12 2010

This is yet another book about the nuclear bomb, its origin and the evolution of its use in war and in politics. It has no revolutionary revelations to offer, but it succeeds as a good overview of a number of themes about the motivations and policies related to the development of the bomb and its later use as a tool in the cold war.

"Hiroshima - The World's Bomb" -- -front

"Hiroshima - The World's Bomb" -- -front

—*—

The general history of the famous Bomb and the Manhattan Project that created it, that history is fairly well-known. So why write yet another book on this topic? In this case, the author Andrew J. Rotter tries to broaden the perspective, arguing that we should not understand the Bomb as just a particular phenomenon that emerged within Project Manhattan, but that the Bomb is something that concerns all of the world. Hence the subtitle of the book — “The World’s Bomb“. Does Rotter deliver on his implicit promises? Yes, he does, but there are certain perspectives relevant to his aim that he surprisingly does not cover.

The Bomb

When we talk about the Bomb (with a capital B) we most often mean the first nuclear  bomb that was exploded with intent to kill and destroy … the Hiroshima atomic bomb. A few days later, yet another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, but that bomb, and its victims, have never received the kind of attention that was accorded to the Hiroshima bomb and the Hiroshiman victims. As is often said: winner takes all.

Since then, an enormous amounts of nuclear bombs have been produced, but they have so far only been used as threats, not used as weapons in some conflict. During the Cold War, the terror balance between the east and the west rested very much on the possibility of mutual annihilation using nuclear bombs. During that era, a significant part of the world was worried about the risk for a nuclear war. When the cold war ended, there was some relief, but nuclear powered explosive devices became a fresh cause for alarm: some smaller countries got the bomb (e.g., North Korea), or there was serious suspicions that they had embarked on a project to develop a bomb (e.g., Iran). And then there were these terrorist organisations that might get the idea to acquire a nuclear device of some sort.

Therefore, it may be reasonable to talk about it as “the world’s bomb”.

The Book

Rotter lays out the groundwork for his story by describing two other weapon technologies that in a sense brings moral issues to the front. The first is the use of gas in battle, which was heavily used in World War I. Sophisticated gases are treacherous, as they do not create a clear signal that something is going to happen (no smell), and that there may be no safe protection from it (gases can get in everywhere). Morally speaking, should gas be allowed as a weapon?

The second weapon technology is airborne bombing. It is difficult to distinguish military personnel from civilians when you are flying at a high altitude, so bombing from planes tends to be indiscriminate. There has in modern times been an understanding (and, to a certain extent, agreed upon through some international conventions) that civilians should not be harmed by military actions. Morally speaking, should we allow a weapon that makes it practically impossible to avoid harming civilians?

As Rotter argues, gas was only seriously used in WWI, but later never really deployed. Notable exceptions are: in some colonial military actions between the wars; during WWII, the US produced and transported mustard gas to Europe to be used in case the Germans started to use such weapons;  By the Japanese during WWII; during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s; etc. Use of gas as a weapon was regulated trough international agreement in the Geneva Protocol of 1929, to some extent based on moral judgements, even though purely military reasons were the main underlying rationale.

But Rotter also reminds us that air bombing has become an ever more used method in various kinds of war and war-like situations. So there we cast moral judgements aside.

And this brings in one dimension in Rotter’s story about nuclear bombs: did the persons engaged in developing nuclear bombs think about ethical and moral issues regarding the effects  this development was aiming at?

The book describes how scientists started to think about the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction that could release an enormous amount of energy. Scientists from several countries were familiar with the idea, and there was some international collaborations on related issues in the science of nuclear physics. The military got interested and involved, but initially in a hesitating way. Then the Manhattan project was started as a strategic US effort, enrolling scientists that originated from many different countries. The bomb was developed, and then the bombings Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened.

The moral issue

Rotter presents the science of  physics as the common knowledge base upon which physics scientists created the applied science and technology that resulted in the bomb. One idealistic view of science is that science (and scientists) only has solidarity towards science itself and to the international community of scientists — “The Republic of Science”. According to that thinking, scientists should not engage in something that is of advantage to one country and disadvantage to another country. The progress of science itself — progress of pure science — is the collective effect of all international scientists.  Real scientific progress critically depends on knowledge to be open, so scientists can build upon the results of other scientists. As Newton famously said: “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

Rotter gives a line of argument that most scientists adhered to the general idea of a “Republic of Science”, but the situation they were in (WWII, and possible risk that Germany could develop a nuclear fission bomb, which would place a unique weapon in the hands of the Nazi regime) made it morally permissible — perhaps even morally obligatory — to engage in a crash program to develop a bomb.

Some scientists were never fully convinced that such a  weapon should be deployed. Other scientists thought that it should be used as an explicit threat to the enemy. Yet others thought that when it was finally available in a usable form, then this super weapon was no longer critically needed. And finally some thought that it should definitely be used, even if only as a demonstration of its cataclysmic effects.

The political rationale for dropping the bombs.

Ultimately it was a presidential decision that was the cause of the droppings of the bombs. There has been some debate about whether it was necessary to drop the bombs (and get the devastating effects on generations of Japanese subjected to nuclear fall-out). There are many lines of reasoning. One of the most convincing, practically speaking, is that this would save American soldiers from having to invade the Japanese mainland, which could entail a terrible cost in casualties. Another politically more subtle argument was that dropping these bombs  should make the war end before the Soviet Union could invade core Japanese land, and thereby claim that the Soviet Union should be party of the peace-making process for Japan. USA wanted to have complete command and control of the Japanese surrender and terms and conditions for post-war Japan. The bomb would hopefully terminate the war so early that the Soviet union would be out of the picture.

Another motivation was to make a strong impression on the Soviet Union, so that they would be more willing to negotiate about post war international relations. As an effect of the strong Soviet performance in the last years of WWII, they regarded themselves as strong enough to dictate conditions to the other allied partners, at least in the context of eastern and central Europe. An American Bomb would make Stalin behave with some restraint in the negotiations.

Rotter also brings up another kind of argument, that is surprising, but also revealing about certain aspects of a democratic society. A reason that the White House understands is that if the bomb was not dropped (on Japan), the White House would have some potentially difficult explaining to do about the huge hidden funds used to finance the Manhattan Project. A Congressional investigation had come upon the funds that was used, and started to ask questions about the highly secret use of these funds. Not having anything concrete to show as the result of the huge amount of money spent could be devastating for the president. So better have some results to point to, and then a destroyed Japanese town would be a strong argument that would silence the political opponents.

Nuclear explosions

Even though only two atom bombs were used in actual warfare (the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs), more that 2000 nuclear bombs have been exploded by 8 countries — officially as testing of nuclear bombs.

A pedagogical visualisation of the time line of all these test explosions has been created by Isao Hashimoto. Watching it is both interesting and a bit scary. One can perhaps feel some comfort in the fact that we are not in these days seeing such intensive testing as was happening in the 1960s and 1970s. But we have seen that some countries have acquired nuclear explosive technology during the recent decades, so in a sense there are more heads of states that could make a decision to deploy a nuclear bomb against what is perceived as an enemy.

What is missing?

To present the story about “The World’s Bomb”, and not mention the popular anti-bomb movements, that is strange. One of the much publicized popular movements of the 1950s was the demonstrations, agitations, and debating about the danger of a “nuclear autumn”, which engaged a lot of citizens in Europe.  An example is the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (1957 – ), where for instance Bertrand Russell was a widely known spokesperson for the anti-nuclear movement. This grass-root  movement, and others like it, are not mentioned by Rotter.

Rotter does mention the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (1945 – ), but does not emphasize the role of the Bulletin (and of the group of scientists behind it) as a voice expressing the perils of uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons. A core aim of the Bulletin was educational — to explicate the relationship between scientific and technical advances in the area and the politics concerning nuclear armaments.

The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (1957 – ) is another effort that tried to raise public awareness about the arms race in general and nuclear weapons in particular.

So, in the context of the Bomb being a global concern, Rotter’s way of describing the grass-root efforts highlighting a fear of possible nuclear catastrophic scenarios, this is surprisingly more or less ignored.

Andrew J. Rotter

Andrew J. Rotter

The Author

Andrew J. Rotter is (2008) Charles A. Dana Professor of History at Colgate University. He specializes in US diplomatic history, recent US history, and the Vietnam War, and has written extensively on US-Asian relations during the twentieth century, including the books The Path to Vietnam and Comrades at Odds: India and the United States.

(from publisher’s  author presentation)

More info at Rotter’s professional home page (at  Colgate University)

Conclusion

Despite the way the author overlooks the public opinion concerning perils of nuclear weapons, the book is clear and thought-provoking. And well worth reading in these days where nuclear threats may originate in unexpected parts of the world.

Data

Andrew J. Rotter: “Hiroshima – The World’s Bomb” (Oxford University Press, 2008), 357 pages; ISBN 10:     0192804375; ISBN 13: 9780192804372 (book at openlibrary.org)

This page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/book-hiroshima-the-worlds-bomb-the-atomic-bomb-and-everbodys-concern/




Book: “Fleeing Hitler – France 1940” — why people run away in war

3 12 2010

In June 1940, when the German armed forces were approaching Paris, the Parisians began to move out of the city, towards the south, where they believed they would be safe from the war. This exodus lasted for some people a few days or weeks, for others a few months, and some would never return to the city where they had lived. In Hanna Diamond’s book, we are told what this exodus meant for the persons involved, what their thoughts and feelings were, and about the military-political background.

"Fleeing Hitler" -- front

"Fleeing Hitler" -- front

—*—

The second world war (WWII) started in September 1939, when Germany and the Soviet Union attacked Poland. Britain and France declared war some days later, and these two countries were then at war with Germany. But on the western front, everything was quiet. It was called the “phoney war”, as no shots were fired, and everybody just waited. In May 1940, the German army advanced into Holland, Belgium and the Netherlands, and a real war had arrived in Western Europe.

The German forced advanced rapidly — the “Blitzkrieg” — and suddenly the people of Paris started to become worried. The French and British forces could not stop the Germans, and irresistibly the Germans moved toward the west — the Channel coast — and towards the south — threatening Paris.

The inhabitants of Paris had for some weeks seen refugees passing by, refugees from Holland and Belgium, fleeing towards the south. The Parisians were worried about what would happen. Then a few day into June 1940, the inhabitants started to flee toward the south. They made a hasty leave, and mostly had to resort to their own ideas about how to flee. Some made it by train, but an enormous number of persons started to leave by road, using cars, or bikes or on foot.

On June 22, armistice was made between Germany and the Vichy regime of France, and hostilities came to an end. The two weeks of fleeing came to an end, but for the refugees, the ordeal was not over. Some — the ones who were late to leave — managed to get back to Paris quickly. Others were stranded in the Unoccupied zone of France, and it took weeks or months to get back. And still other never returned. Either because they knew that returning to the Occupied part of France would place them in danger from persecution (Jews, refugees originally from Germany and other Central-European countries, foreigners that were just visiting France) or they decided that they had nothing to return to and preferred to stay in the south of France.

"Fleeing Hitler": Leaving Paris by train

"Fleeing Hitler": Leaving Paris by train

The stories of the refugees have not been much explored. Diamond here gives us a good representation of what was on the minds of the refugees; before the exodus, during the exodus, and after. The sources used are written texts, like books published later and contemporary and later newspaper articles.

Main insights

The first insight gained is that the chaotic nature of this exodus was, to a large extent, the effect of lack of organised evacuation plans. There are several reasons for this lack, the main ones are

  • no need for detailed plans — “our impregnable wall, the Maginot line, will stop the Germans, and they will never even see Paris at a distance”.
  • no need for detailed plans, as even if the Germans entered the north of France, they would be stopped outside the gates of Paris — “we will stop them just like in WWI” (the battle of the Marne)
  • planning for this eventuality sends the wrong message to the enemy — “we might not be able to defend Paris”.
  • planning for this eventuality sends the wrong message to our citizens — “is our glorious Army incapable of defending the heart of France?”

The practical effect was that the citizens of Paris did not get a clear message about who should evacuate, and when. Certain categories were addressed specifically, like children, but for the grown-ups no clear directives were available. And the officials at the municipal, city and regional level did not provide any enlightening information.

"Fleeing Hitler": Leaving Paris by roads

"Fleeing Hitler": Leaving Paris by roads

This is why the evacuation was largely seen as an anarchic endeavour.  People had to fend for themselves.

There was also the conflict — sometimes potential and sometimes real — of interference between the streams of refugees clogging the roads, and the army  that needed to relocate in order to create some kind of meaningful opposition to the Germans. Sharing the same roads did cause logistical problems for all.

When the tide slowed to a stop, at the armistice, people could often be put up in local families or in hastily organized refugee centres. Some monetary contributions were handed out to the refugees, that they could use to acquire foods and other stuff necessary for life.

Some time after the armistice, repatriation started. Not all could be returned home. But many Parisians did return, and thanks to Paris being declared an “open city” before the Germans had come close to the suburbs, there had been no damage to the city in itself. So people could try to restore the kind of life they had had before evacuation. But life was not as good as before. Now they were exposed to food rationing, and not all workplaces could re-hire personnel.

Some numbers

In the beginning of  July 1940, official estimates said that there were eight million refugees in France — 6.2 million internal French refugees; 1.8 million Belgians; 150,000 from Holland and Luxembourg.  Of the 6+ million French, Parisians were about two million, and 800,000 were from Alsace-Lorraine

Blame

When people experience troubled times, they do not want to take on any responsibility for that. There must be somebody else that is the cause of these troubles. This is also what was noticed among the refugees.

Leon Werth was struck by the number of people he came across who needed to find someone to blame. ‘They shouted and cried expressions along the lines of “We have been sold out! We have been betrayed!” This popular accusation, that I have heard several times on the road, seemed to suffice in itself. I was never able to get a reply to the question “By whom?”‘ Those passing by in their expensive cars were assumed to be Jews. ‘The Jews sold us out!’ people cried. As refugees struggled, their anti-semitism grew. Such feelings laid the way for people to  be sympathetic to Vichy’s later anti-Jewish statutes.

(Diamond, p 78)

That anti-Semitism could be noticed should not surprise us. In Germany anti-Semitism had been legally sanctioned for more than five years. In France there was a tradition of animosity towards the French Jews — cf. the Dreyfus affair. Having a lot of persons feeling desperate and on the run from their home, this provided an environment where latent anti-Semitism could become open anti-Semitism.

Did you notice the exodus?

Many persons have actually seen a glimpse of the exodus, or should we say a glimpse of a recreation of the evacuation of Paris. At the end of the well-known movie Casablanca (1942, directed by Michael Curtis; starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid), we hear:

"Casablanca"

"Casablanca"

Bogart/Rick: If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

Bergman/Ilsa:  But what about us?

Bogart/Rick:  We’ll always have Paris.

Then we remember an earlier flashback scene, when these two have met in Paris and fallen in love. The Germans are approaching Paris. Bogart and Bergman were to escape together. Bogart waited vainly for Bergman at the railway station. Those scenes are from a timing point of view located at the peak of the exodus, when people were desperately trying to get out of the city, and succeeded, failed, or lost each other.

Even though the power of the movie Casablanca rests on what happens in the city of Casablanca, it can be enlightening to realize that the exodus from Paris was the setting for a critical part of the history preceding the main action in Morocco.

Peoples’ thoughts about Pétain

Maréchal Pétain was at the critical point in time entrusted with the governing of France. He, the hero of WWI, was now quickly taking steps to terminate hostilities between the French and the Germans. A cease-fire was agreed, and the French-German armistice was signed in Compiègne. Despite the fact that Pétain now was Head of State of a defeated France, he tried to recreate a national feeling of nationalism and “back to the roots” — in effect trying to eradicate modernism and return to a mindset of nationalism coupled with a devotion of the French soil.

In my family there is tremendous fervour for Marshal Pétain and I share these sentiments. His past, his prestige, and his age are all guarantees of his courage and the rectitude of his behaviour at the head of the French state which, without being aware of it, has just been substituted for the Republic- ‘Pétain’, my mother says,’is a father for France’ and this is just how he appears to us.

(Diamond, p 190)

Perhaps it was because the modern France had been defeated, and there were no other persons of the same stature as Pétain, that the Marshal had a surprisingly large and devoted following among the French.

Jean Monnet appears

In the history of the European Union, Jean Monnet has a special position as the originator of the idea of a European Union. He architected the first “trial version” of it,  in the form of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).

Monnet is also mentioned here, as a strong supporter for the proposed Anglo-French Union of 1940 — an initiative that would prevent France from renouncing their promises to keep fighting alongside Britain. This union proposal was raised in the midst of the period that we are talking about here, but this proposal was quickly dropped, and France did ask for a separate armistice agreement with Germany.

But still, it is an intriguing thought that this Anglo-French union acted as a seed that would later grow up to be the ECSC, and a couple of decades later would result in the European Union.

Hanna Diamond

Hanna Diamond

The author

Hanna Diamond is Senior Lecturer in French History at the University of Bath. She lived and taught in Paris for many years and has spent her career researching the lives of the French people during the twentieth century.

(from publisher author presentation)

Conclusion

This was an interesting book, mainly because its topic has not been treated to this extent before. The reader gets a fair amount of political background, and of the main military actions taken. But the emphasis is on the people concerned — either as direct refugees themselves, or as French citizens in the south of France, citizens that did their best to host the refugees from Paris.

For obvious reasons, the main sources have been existing documentation in text, either printed or as manuscripts in the national archives. We would have preferred that this story had been treated forty years earlier, when lots of people were still alive, and had vivid memories of those weeks and months in 1940. Presumably we would have gotten a more diversified tapestry of experiences and opinions. Nevertheless, we have to acknowledge the the picture painted in this book seems like a solid account of those events and of the mindset of those times.

What is the relevance of this book? On the one hand it is another component in the story-telling of what happened during WWII, and in that respect a component with clear added value.

But we can also read this kind of book as a background when we try to understand what we see happening in our times. Even in Europe we have during the last thirty years seen refugees fleeing from their homes, and sometimes never to return. The kinds of thoughts that were in the minds of the Parisians in 1940 should to some extent correspond to thoughts in the heads of people fleeing from Srebrenica. There are lessons to learn from history, and we had better make good use of that kind of history, if we are to take some kind of control of our future.

Data

Hanna Diamond: “Fleeing Hitler — France 1940” (Oxford University Press, 2008) 255 pages, ISBN 13: 9780199532599 (book at openlibrary.org)

This page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/book-fleeing-hitler-france-1940-why-people-run-away-in-war/

Srebrenica





Book: “Jack the Ripper”/Francis Thompson — yet another wild guess

29 11 2010

In the autumn of 1888, London was terrified when a series of bestial murders of prostitutes occurred. The murderer — infamously known as “Jack the Ripper” — was never caught, and his identity was never established. For some reason the Ripper phenomenon is still alive, more than one hundred years after that autumn of terror. And there is a special genre of books about the Ripper, where typically a book suggests that some specific individual was the Ripper.  This short book (or, rather, booklet) proposes yet another person as the culprit.

The Ripper murders

During August to November 1888, five women were murdered in the Whitechapel area in London East End. This slum district was populated by the poor, the unemployed, prostitutes, vagrants, criminals, and all sort of people that established society did not want to hear of. A strong tale of life in this part of London is provided by Jack London’s “People of the Abyss” (1903).

The five women were prostitutes — or “unfortunates”, as they were euphemistically called. They were all murdered during the night, and all but one were murdered outside, in streets or backyards. Throats were slashed, they were disembowelled, internal organs removed, etc. And all this happened without anyone noticing that a crime was being committed. And even though some of these victims were discovered just a few minutes after the crime was committed, the murderer was never seen.

At the time, some locals were suspected, like the “Leather Apron” (a Jewish shoemaker named John Pizer), but none could be bound to the crimes.  From a police investigation point of view, the Ripper case remained unsolved (what is now often called “cold case”).

In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a resurge of interest in the Ripper case, and a steady stream of books were published, typically promoting some so far not suspected person as being the true identity of the Ripper. This ranged from insanity cases (James Kelly) to nobility (Royal Prince Albert Victor, grandson of Queen Victoria).

The new suspect

This short book by Richard Patterson proposes another suspect — the poet Francis Thompson (1859 – 1907).

Why suspect Thompson? It seems that there is nothing but the most far-fetched circumstantial evidence. He lived in London at that time. He may have stayed for certain periods in the East End. He was an opium addict, so may have behaved strangely under the influence of that drug. He had some medical training (the knife cuts done by the Ripper could imply that this person possessed some knowledge about human anatomy), but never practices as a physician. Some of his poems contain lines that, with some effort, can be said to express some aggressive attitude towards women.

Taking a step back, that kind of argumentation is really worth nothing at all. One can look at it from the point of view of the three crime components: means, motive, and opportunity. As to means (ability to commit murder), Thompson probably had no more ability than most men-in-the-street. As he never practised the medical profession, it is most likely that he was not skilled with the knife.

As to motive (reason to commit murder), there is nothing that indicates a real reason for Thompson to perform one or more murders.

And as to opportunity, we must realise that London East End was crowded with people, and many of them could possibly be said to have had the opportunity to perform each murder.

Unfortunately, the socio-cultural space of Ripperologists exhibits many of the characteristics of conspiracy theorists. Firstly, that official statements should be doubted as they are probably just false and intended to be misleading. Hence the crime may have been solved by the City police, but it was kept secret for some reason.

Secondly, unless something can be proved to be impossible as an explanation, it is a likely explanation, and may even be proposed as the only explanation.

A sceptics way of looking at Patterson’s book “Jack the Ripper” is very much based on that last perspective, where in effect, the book is saying “as Thompson is not proved to be innocent of these Ripper murders, he is probably guilty”.

Conclusion

A not very rewarding book. The description of the facts of the murders is inadequate, and sometimes misleading. The life and times of Francis Thompson is not systematically described, so we do not get any coherent picture of him as a person. And the connections between Thompson and the Ripper murders is weak, to say the least. Not worth the effort to read it. Read  Donald Rumbelow’s “The complete Jack the Ripper“, to get the known facts, rather than more or less fantastic speculations.

Data

Richard A. Patterson : “Jack the Ripper” (Self-published, Victoria, Australia, 2002), 49 pgs (book at openlibrary.org)

This page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/book-jack-the-ripperfrancis-thompson-yet-another-wild-guess/




Tidskrift: Kulturens Värld 2010/3 – glimtar

27 11 2010

Modernt och gammalt … tyngdpunkt mot andlighet …  och mot det längre bort liggande utlandet. Kanske kan kallas kuriosa, men det är ju en hårfin skillnad mellan det rena kuriosakabinettet och det som har kulturhistoriskt intresse/värde.

Kulturens Värld 2010 #3 -- framsida

Kulturens Värld 2010 #3 -- framsida

Detta nummer tar oss på en resa över Laos, Stockholm, Etiopien,  Jalta, Norge, Japan, Tanzania. Det finns ingen uttrycklig röd tråd, men det ska man inte vänta sig i den här typen av tidskrift. Här samsas udda företeelser — i tid och rum — som ett slags anarkistiskt utrop om världen. Titta och förvånas. Förstå och förundras. Associera och ställ frågor.

Illustrationen på framsidan kan vara förledande. Det ger ett intryck av att vara ett exempel på en staty från en tid för länge sedan förbi, byggd med tillgänglig sten som material. Men i själva verket är det ett exempel på ett omfattande byggande i armerad betong för mindre än femtio år sedan. Ledaren för en religiöst anstruken sekt fick medlemmarna att konstruera ett otal sådana kvasireligiösa symboler — vissa i kolossalformat — i en park utanför Vientiane, Laos. Ett slags Disneyland i Laos?

Ett par av de övriga artiklarna kommenteras nedan.

“Änglabygget” – etiopiska klippkyrkor

Klippstaden Petra

Klippstaden Petra

På vissa platser i världen och under vissa epoker har man skapat byggnader genom att  hugga ut dessa ur själva berget. Mest känd för oss är nog klippstaden Petra i Jordanien, skapad under perioden 200 BC till 100 AD. Men det finns andra lika imponerande skapelser, som t.ex. klipptemplet Varaha i Indien.

I detta nummer  av Kulturens Värld uppmärksammas ett afrikansk exempel — klipptemplen i Lalibela i norra Etiopien.

De flesta andra uthuggna byggnader i världen har huggits ut ur en vertikal bergvägg, så att byggnaden i viss bemärkelse står på marken. Men klippkyrkorna i Lalibela har skapats genom att hugga ut dem ovanifrån, så de står som i snäva kratrar.

Klippkyrkorna i Lalibela

Klippkyrkorna i Lalibela

De skapades under 1100 och 1200-talen, under en framstående period i den etiopiska medeltiden — under Zagwe-dynastin. Det är totalt fjorton kyrkor som skapades, och de flesta är fortfarande i gott skick. De skapades som kristna kyrkor, och fastän de kanske borde betraktas som rena historiska, världsarvsförklarade artefakter, så är de fortfarande platser för kristen religionsutövning.

Rent estetiskt ska de ses som tecken på hur högt etiopisk byggnadskonst kunde nå för nästan 1000 år sedan.

Det finns likartade uthuggna klippkyrkor på andra platser i det gamla etiopiska kulturområdet, men Lalibela är den internationellt mest kända förekomsten.

“Japanskt världsarv fyller 1300 år”  – klassiska japanska tempel

Nara är en historisk stad inte långt från Kyoto. Det var ett viktigt centrum i Japan under 700-talet, och då skapades en stor uppsättning tempel och andra religiösa uttrycksformer. Vid slutet av det århundradet flyttade maktcentrum bort från Nara, vilket medförde att staden kom i bakvatten och inte genomgick den typ av modernisering som centralorter typiskt utsätts för.

En vy i Nara

En vy i Nara

Här finns ett antal välbevarade buddistiska tempel, som Todaiji, Saidaiji och Gangoji, kejsarpalatset Heijo, och reliktplatsen Kasuga-taisha.

Ett imponerande verk är Buddhastatyn i Todaiji, en 16 meter hög staty gjuten av 500 ton brons, som finns i det “stora Buddha-huset”, som säga vara världens största byggnad gjord av trä.

För en japan kan här finnas mycket att ta del av, medan utlänningar nog bara ser en exotisk yta som är bara “sååå typiskt japansk”.

Dessutom …

… drottning Kristinas triumfbåge från 1650; stämningar i dagens Jalta; Hamsun och Nordlands Fylke; målarna i Dar es Salaam; mm.

Data

Kulturens Värld” nr 3 2010 (Ordens Musik AB, 2010)  66 sid, ISSN 0282-5902

This page: https://whenthenightcomesfallingfromthesky.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/tidskrift-kulturens-varld-20103-glimtar/