How Curious George nearly didn’t make it.

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I don’t think there is anyone on the planet who hasn’t heard of Curious George, you may not have read the books or watched the cartoons or movies, but you will recognize the iconic Chimpanzee when you see him.

Although it is an iconic children’s book character and has a strong brand recognition, it could have easily been a different story, His origin tells a story of luck but indirectly also a tale of a false sense of security.

Curious George was written by H.A Rey and his wife Margret.

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Hans Augusto Reyersbach was born in September 1898 in Hamburg , Germany,near the world-famous Hagenbeck Zoo, which gave him a lifelong love for animals and drawing.  His wife Margret was born on May  16 1906 also in Hamburg, her father Felix Waldstein had been a member of the Reichstag. the German parliament from 1871 to 1918. Hans and Margret both Jewish. The two first met in Hamburg at the 16th birthday party of Margret’s sister. They met again in Brazil, where Hans had a job as a bathtubs salesman Margret had moved to Brazil to escape the rise of Nazism in Germany. On August 16, 1935 they got married and went to Paris on their honeymoon, they fell in love with the place and decided to stay there.

Although Hitler had come to power in Germany it is apparent that the Rey’s felt safe in their new home, as most of the Parisians and the rest of France felt. Although the French were anxious of the developments in Germany, they did not envisage any danger to come from their eastern neighbour.

While in Paris, Hans’s animal drawings were noticed by a French publisher, who commissioned Hans  to write a children’s book. The book was to be” Rafi. and the Nine Monkeys” or “Rafi et les neuf singes” in French. It was published in 1939.

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One of the characters in the book was George, although he was called Fifi in the French version. Hans Rey thought that George deserved a book of his own.

But alas, war broke out.

On June 10, 1940, German troops were a few days away from Paris. People were trying to flee by  every way possible, cars,bicycles or whatever they could find. The Rey’s had left it a bit late but they managed to get 2 bikes.In fact Ray built the bikes himself, he had bought enough spare parts for 2 bicycles.

They left Paris only a few hours before it fell. Among the few possessions they were able to bring was the illustrated manuscript of Curious George.

Their journey  took them to Bayonne, France.On June 20, 1940.They crossed the Spanish border, where they purchased train tickets to Lisbon. Because they still had Brazilian passport  they returned to Brazil, they journeyed on from Brazil to New York.

The couple soon went to Houghton Mifflin publishers , they bought the manuscript for $1,000 and an additional three stories. The only demand  was that they change the name of Fifi to George.

The rest is history.

So next time you read a Curious George story yourself or to your children or other youngsters, remember that George nearly didn’t make it.

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The Battle of Berne

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This is one of those forgotten battles you don’t hear about in history classes. It was a battle between Hungary and Brazil. But as you can guess from the picture above it wasn’t a battle during any war but fought on a football pitch during the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland.

The score was 43-3 well in free kicks and red cards that was, 3 red cards and 43 free kicks.

The FIFA World Cup quarter-final tie that Hungary and Brazil contested at the Wankdorf Stadium in Berne, Switzerland, on 27 June 1954 did become that battle.

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Hungary could not avail of their star player ,Puskas, due to injury, but it only took them a few minutes to show they were well able to perform without him.Hungary took the lead in the third minute, with Nándor Hidegkuti scoring. Four minutes later, Sándor Kocsis made it 2–0 to Hungary. Brazil scored via a penalty by  Djalma Santos making it 2-1 at half time.

The Hungarians restored their two-goal advantage on the hour mark when Mihaly Lantos gave Castilho no chance from the spot after Pinheiro handled inside the box. Five minutes later and Brazil were back in the game, right winger Julinho capping a fine solo move with a cross-shot into the back of the net.making it 3-2.Up to that point the match had been feisty and a bit rough but entertaining. The problems began when Nilton Santos and Josef Bozsik came to blows and were sent off.

 

The match then turned into a series of increasingly violent fouls and cynical tactics.With 11 minutes remaining Humberto committed a shocking foul on Gyula Lorant and received his marching orders from English referee Arthur Ellis.

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Hungary scored a fourth goal via Sándor Kocsis to make the final score 4–2 to Hungary. The last 11 minutes of the game were little more than a war zone or a battleground  between the two teams.

The match ended in utter chaos as players, team and tournament officials, photographers and bystanders became embroiled in a fight that began on the pitch and rumbled on in the dressing rooms and even outside the stadium.

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Mengele’s volatility

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I had really wanted to do a blog on Menegele’s experiments on children and especially on twins, but I can’t. I am physically not able to do it. I started some research but I had to stop, the eyes of the children haunt me.

Something that is even more disturbing, and this is a point I made before, Mengele looked like a ‘normal’ human being, a charming man even. The picture above is off him with family and friends taken sometime in the 1970’s in South America, He doesn’t look like an evil man, he looks like a friendly grandfather.

The fact is Evil often doesn’t have an evil face which makes it more disturbing.

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For all of his methodical work habits, Mengele could be impulsive. During one selection — between work and death — on the arrival platform, a middle-aged woman who had been selected for work refused to be separated from her 14-year-old daughter, who had been assigned death.

A guard who tried to pry them apart got a nasty scratch on the face and had to fall back. Mengele stepped in to resolve the matter by shooting both the girl and her mother, and then he cut short the selection and sent everybody to the gas chamber.

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On another occasion, the Birkenau doctors argued over whether a boy they had all grown fond of had tuberculosis. Mengele left the room and came back an hour or two later, apologizing for the argument and admitting he had been wrong. During his absence, he had shot the boy and dissected him for signs of the disease, which he hadn’t found.

In 1944, Mengele’s zest and enthusiasm for his work earned him a management position at the camp. In this capacity, he was responsible for public health measures at the camp in addition to his own research at Birkenau. Again, his impulsive streak surfaced when he made decisions for the tens of thousands of inmates.

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.When Typhus broke out among the women’s barracks, for example, Mengele solved the problem in his characteristic way: he ordered one block of 600 women gassed and their barracks fumigated, then he moved the next block of women over and fumigated their barracks. This was repeated for each women’s block until the last one was clean and ready for a new shipment of workers. He did it again a few months later during a scarlet fever outbreak.

Mengele was never caught and didn’t stand trial.

In 1959, Mengele allegedly traveled to Paraguay to treat the former Secretary to the Fuhrer, Martin Bormann, who had been sentenced to death in absentia at Nuremberg and who was now dying of stomach cancer.

One day in 1979, the 68-year-old Dr. Josef Mengele went out for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean. He suffered a sudden stroke in the water and drowned. After his death, friends and family gradually admitted that they had known all along where he had been hiding, and that they had sheltered him from justice all his life.

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Gustav Wagner-Sadistic Murderer

It is just unfathomable how many of the most evil and vile war criminals escaped justice. It is something the German government and other European and American governments should be deeply,deeply ashamed off because they escaped under their watch.

Gustav Franz Wagner (18 July 1911 – 3 October 1980) was am Austrian member of the SS with the rank of Staff sergeant (Oberscharführer). Wagner was a deputy commander of the Sobibór extermination camp in German-occupied Poland, where more than 200,000 Jews were gassed during Operation Reinhard. Due to his brutality, he was known as “The Beast” and “Wolf

Born in Vienna, Wagner joined the Nazi Party in 1931 as member number 443,217. After being arrested for proscribed National Socialist agitation, he fled to Germany, where he joined the SA and later the SS in the late 1930s.

In May 1940, Wagner was part of the Action T4 euthanasia program at Hartheim with administrative functions .

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/04/08/forgotten-history-the-t-4-holocaust-victimsthe-killing-of-the-disabled/

Due to his experience in T4, Wagner was assigned to help establish the Sobibór extermination camp in March 1942.

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Once the gassing installations were completed, Wagner became deputy commandant of the camp under Commandant Franz Stangl. His official title was quartermaster-sergeant of the camp.

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Wagner was in charge of selecting which prisoners from the newly arrived transports would be used as slave laborers in and outside the camp, and which would be sent to their deaths in the gas chambers. When Wagner was on vacation or attending to duties elsewhere, Karl Frenzel assumed his role within the camp.

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Together with Frenzel he selected the prisoners who had to work in or outside the camp from the incoming transports. Although absent during the uprising, he did help dismantle the camp, among other things by executing the Arbeitsjuden from Treblinka who tore down the barracks.

 

More than any other officer at Sobibór, Wagner was responsible for the daily interactions with prisoners. Wagner supervised the routine and daily life at Sobibór, and he was one of the most brutal SS officers. Survivors of the camp described him as a cold-blooded sadist.Wagner was known to beat and thrash camp inmates on a regular basis, and to kill Jews without reason or restraint. Inmate Moshe Bahir described him:

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“He was a handsome man, tall and blond — a pure Aryan. In civilian life he was, no doubt, a well-mannered man; at Sobibor he was a wild beast. His lust to kill knew no bounds… He would snatch babies from their mothers’ arms and tear them to pieces in his hands. I saw him beat two men to death with a rifle, because they did not carry out his instructions properly, since they did not understand German. I remember that one night a group of youths aged fifteen or sixteen arrived in the camp. The head of this group was one Abraham. After a long and arduous work day, this young man collapsed on his pallet and fell asleep. Suddenly Wagner came into our barrack, and Abraham did not hear him call to stand up at once before him. Furious, he pulled Abraham naked off his bed and began to beat him all over his body. When Wagner grew weary of the blows, he took out his revolver and killed him on the spot. This atrocious spectacle was carried out before all of us, including Abraham’s younger brother.”

Inmate Eda Lichtman wrote that on the Jewish fast day of Yom Kippur, downloadWagner appeared at roll call, selected some prisoners, gave them bread and forced them to eat it. As the prisoners ate the bread, Wagner laughed loudly, enjoying his joke because he knew that these Jews were pious.

One of the Sobibór prisoners improvised a song which ironically described camp life (original text with English translation):

  • Wie lustig ist da unser Leben
  • Man tut uns zu essen geben
  • Wie lustig ist im grünen Wald
  • Wo ich mir aufhalt
  • How fun is our life there,
  • They give us food to eat that’s fair,
  • What fun it is in the green wood,
  • Where I am stood.

Wagner enjoyed this song and he forced the prisoners to sing it frequently.

After two Jews escaped from Sobibór in the spring of 1943, Wagner was put in charge of a squad of soldiers from the Wehrmacht, who laid minefields around the camp so as to prevent further escapes. However, these efforts did not prevent another escape, which took form in the Sobibór revolt. Wagner was not present at the camp on the day of the Sobibór revolt (14 October 1943). The inmates knew of Wagner’s absence and believed that it would improve their chances of success.

Heinrich Himmler considered Wagner to be “one of the most deserving men of Operation Reinhard”

After Sobibór, Wagner was transferred to Italy, where he participated in the deportation of Jews

Gustav Wagner was sentenced to death in absentia, but escaped with Franz Stangl to Brazil. Clergy at the Collegio Teutonico di Santa Maria dell’Anima in Rome assisted Wagner in his flight from justice.

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Wagner was admitted as a permanent resident on 12 April 1950 and on 4 December 1950 a Brazilian passport was issued in the name of “Günther Mendel”, his new identity. He lived in Brazil undisturbed until he was exposed by Simon Wiesenthal and arrested on 30 May 1978.

It was only because Franz Stangl had mentioned ,that Wagner lived in Brazil, during an interview with Gitta Sereny for a study of him published as Into that Darkness.

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Stangl died of heart failure nineteen hours after the conclusion of that interview, in Düsseldorf prison on 28 June 1971.

Simon Wiesenthal investigated the whereabouts of Wagner after that interview.

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The trail went dead for years but it was only when an article appeared in a Brazilian Newspaper which was also picked up by the New York times, the article was about Nazi’s in Sao Paulo ,Brazil celebrating Hitler’s Birthday.

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The invite to the  secret celebration in was coded.It was out of pure luck that the reporters had found the location of the party.

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Because they had become hungry and thirsty they stopped at a hotel.When they arrived reporter/photographer,Cynthia Brito noticed Nazi porcelain in a display unit in the lobby. They then looked around in the  and noticed the. party going on in a function room at the back of the hotel.She then secretly took pictures of the guests.

None of the pictures showed Wagner but Wiesenthal asked Cynthia Brito, if she could publish a picture of one of the men and say that this was Gustav Wagner,SS Officer and War Criminal, he sent her Wagner’s SS rank number.Just to lure Wagner out of hiding.

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Brito agreed and published the picture. A day after publishing the ‘mock’ Wagner was killed and afraid that he would be indicted for the murder the real Wagner reported to the police.

Wagner was arrested after Wiesenthal contacted the police.Also a Sobibor survivot who also lived in Brazil gave evidence to Wagner’s crimes.

Extradition requests from Israel, Austria and Poland were rejected by Brazil’s Attorney General. On 22 June 1979 the Brazilian Supreme Court also rejected a West German extradition request.

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Wagner, in a 1979 BBC interview, showed no remorse for his activities in running the camp, remarking:

I had no feelings. … It just became another job. In the evening we never discussed our work, but just drank and played cards.

In October 1980, Wagner was found with a knife in his chest in São Paulo. According to his attorney, Wagner committed suicide. His date of death was determined to be 3 October 1980. However it is widely believed that is more likely he was killed rather then suicide.