Helmut Kohl and the German re-unification

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On this day of his passing it is good to look back at his biggest legacy, although he was not solely responsible for it, he did play a major and decisive part in it.

There were two, very moving developments that led to the reunification of Germany: the democratization of the east, especially made possible by Mikhail Gorbachev, and the courage of thousands of people who fought for their freedom. At the end of 1989 these events came together and ended up a new state – the Federal Republic as we know it today.

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8 August 1989130 people flee from the German Democratic Republic, the GDR, to the Permanent Representation of the Federal Republic in East Berlin.

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They are a few of the many thousands who want to leave their home country via Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

4 September 1989 This date is considered to be the start of the so-called Monday demonstrations. Around 1000 people gather in Leipzig and demand more rights and freedom. On the following Mondays there are ever more people who defy the brutal excesses of the security forces.

11 September 1989 Hungary opens its borders to Austria. Within only three days 15,000 people flee.

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At the end of September the Soviet and East German government gave 6,000 refugees staying in the German Embassy in Prague permission to leave East Germany.

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7 October 1989 The Government of the GDR decrees celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the founding of the state. As a reaction to this, people in many cities demonstrate against the regime of the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschland, the SED, [Socialist Unity Party of Germany]

9 October 1989 Over 70,000 people march through Leipzig city centre and call for non-violent demonstrations for freedom of opinion and political reforms. One week later they are followed by 120,000 from the whole GDR

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18 October 1989 Erich Honecker resigns as Secretary-General of the SED and head of state.

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3 November 1989 The GDR endorses to leave the country directly via the border to Czechoslovakia. Two days later around 15,000 GDR citizens have arrived in the Federal Republic via this route.

8 November 1989 The SED gives up its power in the politburo and resigns.

9 November 1989 The symbol of the separation of the two German states, the Berlin Wall, falls to the jubilation of people from east and west.

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18 March 1990 In the spring free elections are held in the still extant GDR for the first time ever. The people elect a new Chamber of the People, the main aim of which was to prepare for accession to the Federal Republic.

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5 May 1990 The Two-plus-Four talks start, in which the victorious powers of the Second World War and the Foreign Ministers of the two German states discuss removal of the rights of the Allies in Germany.

18 May 1990 The FRG and GDR sign the Treaty on the Creation of an Economic, Currency and Social Union.

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1 July 1990 The GDR adopts large parts of the economic and legal order of the Federal Republic. The deutschmark becomes the sole means of payment.

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23 August 1990 Before the end of the negotiations on a Unification Treaty between the two German states, the Chamber of the People decides on accession of the GDR to the Federal Republic for 3 October 1990.

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12 September 1990 The Foreign Ministers of the United States of America, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and France sign the Two-plus-Four Treaty and thus grant Germany full sovereignty.

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3 October 1990 In the night of 2/3 October 1990 the official celebrations for German Unity Day are held. Fireworks light up the sky, bells accompany the joy of the people.

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2 December 1990 The Germans elect a pan-German parliament. It is the first free election since 1933.

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Vostok 6

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Vostok 6 (Russian: Восток-6, Orient 6 or East 6) was the first human spaceflight to carry a woman, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, into space.

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The spacecraft was launched on June 16, 1963. While Vostok 5 had been delayed by technical problems, Vostok 6’s launch proceeded perfectly with no difficulties at all.

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Data collected during the mission was to allow better understanding of the female body’s reaction to spaceflight. Like other cosmonauts on Vostok missions, she maintained a flight log, took photographs, and manually oriented the spacecraft. Her photographs of the horizon from space were later used to identify aerosol layers within the atmosphere. The mission, a joint flight with Vostok 5, was originally conceived as being a joint mission with two Vostoks each carrying a female cosmonaut, but this changed as the Vostok program experienced cutbacks as a precursor to the retooling of the program into the Voskhod program. Vostok 6 was the last flight of a Vostok 3KA spacecraft.

The Soviet state television network broadcast live video of Tereshkova from a television camera inside the capsule, and she conversed with Premier Nikita Khrushchev over the radio.

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Communications with ground controllers about her overall health were described in postflight reports as “evasive”, and later official accounts of the mission had somewhat condescending remarks about Tereshkova’s overall in-flight performance.

 In Tereshkova’s account of the mission in her postflight debriefing, she mentioned having assorted body pains and difficulty with her helmet headset (also reported by Bykovsky on Vostok 5). She vomited while attempting to eat, although she attributed this to the taste of the food rather than her physical condition.[4]

An official history of the Soviet manned space program published in 1973 described Tereshkova’s physical condition and in-flight performance as “udovletvoritelnoe” (adequate) rather than “otlichno” (good or outstanding).

It was revealed in 2004 that an error in the control program made the spaceship ascend from orbit instead of descending. Tereshkova noticed the fault on the first day of the flight and reported it to spaceship designer Sergey Korolev.

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The team on Earth provided Tereshkova with new data to enter into the descent program which corrected the problem.By request of Korolev, Tereshkova kept the problem secret for dozens of years. “I kept silent, but Evgeny Vasilievich decided to make it public. So, I can easily talk about it now.”

The Vostok 6 landing site coordinates are 53.209375°N 80.80395°E, which is 200 km West of Barnaul, Region of Altai in the Russian Federation and 7 km south of Baevo, and 650 km North East of Karagandy, Kazakhstan.

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At the site, in a small park at the roadside, is a gleaming silver statue of Tereshkova soaring upward, with arms outstretched, at the top of a curved column. The statue is wearing a spacesuit without a helmet.

The capsule is now on display at the RKK Energia Museum in Korolyov (near Moscow).

This was the final Vostok flight.

The standoff at Checkpoint Charlie

The standoff at Checkpoint Charlie Soviet tanks facing American tanks, 1961 (1)

Checkpoint Charlie  was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War (1947–1991).

East German leader Walter Ulbricht agitated and maneuvered to get the Soviet Union’s permission to construct the Berlin Wall in 1961 to stop Eastern Bloc emigration and defection westward through the Soviet border system, preventing escape across the city sector border from communist East Berlin into West Berlin.

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Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of East and West. Soviet and American tanks briefly faced each other at the location during the Berlin Crisis of 1961.

In October 1961, border disputes led to a standoff and for 16 hours the world was at the brink of war while Soviet and American tanks faced each other just 300 feet (100 meters) apart. On August 1961 Washington and its British and French allies had failed to prevent the Soviets building the Berlin Wall. On October 27, after several days of escalating U.S. rebuffs to East German attempts to get American officials to show identification documents before entering East Berlin (thus indirectly acknowledging East German sovereignty, rather than Soviet occupation authority) ten U.S. M-48 tanks took up position at Checkpoint Charlie.

The standoff at Checkpoint Charlie Soviet tanks facing American tanks, 1961 (3)

By now, American officials were deeply alarmed by the potential consequences. General Clay of the American troops was reminded by Washington that Berlin was not so “vital” an interest to be worth risking a conflict with Moscow. President Kennedy approved the opening of a back channel with the Kremlin in order to defuse what had blown up. As a result, the Soviets pulled back one of their T55s from the eastern side of the border at Friedrichstrasse and minutes later an American M48 also left the scene. Soon the rest of the Soviet tanks withdrew, followed shortly by reciprocal withdrawal of the U.S. tanks.

Khrushchev had been equally uninterested in risking a battle over Berlin. In return for Kennedy’s assurance that the west had no designs on East Berlin, the Soviet leader tacitly recognized that allied officials and military personnel would have unimpeded access to the East German capital.

The standoff at Checkpoint Charlie Soviet tanks facing American tanks, 1961 (4)

The standoff at Checkpoint Charlie Soviet tanks facing American tanks, 1961 (5)

The Berlin crisis arose from what one may term “objective factors” – the fact that West Berlin was an anomalous Western enclave well to the east of the Iron Curtain, precipitating a clash of concrete interests of the Soviet Union and the West. The confrontations of armed tanks facing off at Checkpoint Charlie is, however, an excellent illustration of how “subjective factors” such as differing perceptions and beliefs of the two sides also contributed to tension – and could even have precipitated war.

The standoff ended peacefully on October 28 following a U.S.-Soviet understanding to withdraw tanks. Discussions between U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and KGB spy Georgi Bolshakov played a vital role in realizing this tacit agreement.

 

Although the wall was opened in November 1989 and the checkpoint booth removed on June 22, 1990,the checkpoint remained an official crossing for foreigners and diplomats until German reunification during October 1990 when the guard house was removed; it is now on display in the open-air museum of the Allied Museum in Berlin-Zehlendorf.

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Mathias Rust, the young German pilot who flew illegally to Moscow, 1987.

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Mathias Rust (born 1 June 1968) is a German aviator known for his illegal landing near Red Square in Moscow on 28 May 1987. An amateur pilot, he flew from Helsinki, Finland to Moscow, being tracked several times by Soviet air defense and interceptors. The Soviet fighters never received permission to shoot him down, and several times he was mistaken for a friendly aircraft. He landed on Vasilevsky Descent next to Red Square near the Kremlin in the capital of the Soviet Union.

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It all began in May of 1987. Mathias Rust was fed up with the Cold War tension between the United States and the Soviet Union so he planned to create an “imaginary bridge” to the East. He left Uetersen in his rented Reims Cessna F172P D-ECJB, which was modified by removing some of the seats and replacing them with auxiliary fuel tanks. He spent the next two weeks traveling across Northern Europe, visiting the Faroe islands, spending a week in Iceland, and then visiting Bergen on his way back. He was later quoted as saying that he had the idea of attempting to reach Moscow even before the departure, and he saw the trip to Iceland (where he visited Hofdi House, the site of unsuccessful talks between the United States and the Soviet Union in October 1986) as a way to test his piloting skills.

In the morning of 28 May 1987, Rust refueled at Helsinki-Malmi Airport. He told air traffic control that he was going to Stockholm, and took off at 12:21 p.m. However, immediately after his final communication with traffic control he turned his plane to the east. Air controllers tried to contact him as he was moving around the busy Helsinki–Moscow route, but Rust turned off all communications equipment aboard.

Rust crossed the Baltic coastline over Estonia and turned towards Moscow. At 14:29 he appeared on Soviet Air Defense (PVO) radar; the “object” that did not answer the call sign of “friend or foe”; it was assigned a number 8255. Three missile battalions were set in alertness, but there was no order to defeat the object. Two interceptors were sent to investigate and at 14:48 near the city of Gdov one of the pilots observed a white sport plane and asked for permission to engage, but was denied.

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Air defense re-established contact with Rust’s plane several times but confusion followed all of these events. Luckily for Rust that day the local air regiment near Pskov was on maneuvers and, due to inexperienced pilots’ tendency to forget correct IFF designator settings (foe or friendly settings), local control officers assigned all traffic in the area friendly status, including Rust. Near Torzhok there was a similar situation, as increased air traffic was created by a rescue effort for an air crash the previous day. Rust, flying a slow propeller-driven aircraft, was confused with one of the helicopters taking part in the rescue.

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Around 7:00 p.m. Rust appeared above downtown Moscow. He had initially intended to land in the Kremlin, but changed his mind: he reasoned that landing inside, hidden by the Kremlin walls, would have allowed the KGB to simply arrest him and deny the incident. Therefore, he changed his landing spot to Red Square. Heavy pedestrian traffic did not allow him to land there either, so after circling about the square one more time, he was able to land on a bridge by St. Basil’s Cathedral. After taxiing past the cathedral he stopped about 100 metres (330 ft) from the square, where he was greeted by curious passersby and was asked for autographs. When asked where he was from, he replied “Germany” making the bystanders think he was from East Germany; but when he said West Germany, they were surprised.

Rust was arrested two hours later. He was charged with several violations, the most serious being that he had illegally entered Soviet airspace. Rust argued that he was merely trying to promote world peace. He carried with him copies of a plan he had developed for a worldwide democracy, which he referred to as “Iagonia”. Rust’s trial began in Moscow on 2 September 1987. He was sentenced to four years in a general-regime labor camp for hooliganism, for disregard of aviation laws, and for breaching the Soviet border.

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Two months later, Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to sign a treaty to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe, and the Supreme Soviet ordered Rust to be released in August 1988 as a goodwill gesture to the West. After his release, Rust enjoyed a short period of fame before he retreated from the public eye and became involved with several utopian and religious groups.

William E. Odom, former director of the U.S. National Security Agency and author of The Collapse of the Soviet Military, says that Rust’s flight irreparably damaged the reputation of the Soviet military.

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This enabled Gorbachev to remove many of the strongest opponents to his reforms. Minister of Defense Sergei Sokolov and the head of the Soviet Air Defence Forces Alexander Koldunov were dismissed along with hundreds of other officers. This was the biggest turnover in the Soviet military since Stalin’s purges 50 years earlier.

Rust’s rented Reims Cessna F172P (serial # F17202087[8]), registered D-ECJB, was sold to Japan where it was exhibited for several years. In 2008 it was returned to Germany and was placed in the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin.

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Ida Siekmann & Günter Litfin-The first two victims of the Berlin Wall.

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There were numerous deaths at the Berlin Wall, which stood as a barrier between West Berlin and East Germany from 13 August 1961 until 9 November 1989. Before the rise of the Berlin Wall in 1961, 3.5 million East Germans circumvented Eastern Bloc emigration restrictions, many by crossing over the border from East Berlin into West Berlin, from where they could then travel to West Germany and other Western European countries. Between 1961 and 1989, the Wall prevented almost all such emigration.

Ida Siekmann (23 August 1902 – 22 August 1961) was the first person to die at the Berlin Wall, only 9 days after the beginning of its construction.

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Ida Siekmann was born in Gorken near Marienwerder (West Prussia) (now Górki, Kwidzyn County, Poland). She had moved to Berlin where she worked as a nurse, and lived at Bernauer Straße 48 in the center of Berlin.

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As of August 1961, she was already a widow; it is not known when she was actually widowed.

After World War II, Berlin was divided in four Allied sectors. While the street and the sidewalk of the Bernauer Straße lay in the French sector of West Berlin,

Berlin, Bernauer Straße, Grenze

the frontage of the buildings on the southern side lay in the Soviet sector of East Berlin. Until 13 August 1961, the day the Berlin Wall was built, Siekmann crossed the sector’s border just by leaving her house.Her sister’s apartment was also in the French sector of West Berlin.

Immediately after the border between East and West Berlin was closed on 13 August 1961, numerous families and individuals from 50 Bernauer Straße addresses fled to the West. On 18 August 1961, Walter Ulbricht ordered the East German border troops to brick up the entrances and windows on the ground floor of the houses on the southern side of the street.

Berlin, Mauerbau, am Brandenburger Tor

Members of the Combat Groups of the Working Class and police controlled every person who tried to enter the houses and the residents were subject to rigid controls, even in the hallways.

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Many residents of such tenements still fled to West Berlin: residents of the upper floors were often rescued by jumping-sheets of the West Berlin fire department. On 21 August, the entrance and windows of Bernauer Straße 48 were barred. In the early morning of 22 August, Siekmann, living on the fourth floor (by North American standards, third floor/dritter Stock/Obergeschoss by German standards), threw eiderdowns and some possessions down onto the street and jumped out of the window of her apartment before the firefighters were able to open the jumping-sheet.She fell on the pavement and was severely injured. Siekmann died shortly after on her way to the Lazarus Hospital, thus becoming the first casualty at the Berlin Wall.

Günter Litfin (19 January 1937 – 24 August 1961) was the second victim at the Berlin Wall, and the first to succumb to gunshots.

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A tailor from the borough of Weißensee, like his father, he was a member of the illegal local branch of the West German Christian Democrats. Litfin was already working in the West, near the Zoological Garden, and had already found a flat in the western part of the city. Even on 12 August, one day before the first barbed wire fences were built, he had driven to Charlottenburg with his brother, to furnish his new flat. His intention to escape East Germany was abruptly halted the next morning, as road blocks had already been built. Therefore, around 4pm on 24 August, he undertook the escape attempt that would prove fatal to him.

Starting from Humboldthafen, a small harbour in the River Spree, his plan was to swim through a small canal branching off from the river westwards. However, upon crossing the railway bridge that constituted the border, he was discovered by officers of the transportation police, and was ordered to swim back. He lifted his hands from the water and was then fired upon and mortally wounded.

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In memory of Günter Litfin as well as all other victims of the Wall, a memorial was installed in 1992. Additionally, a street in his home district of Weißensee was named after him. One of the crosses at the White Crosses memorial site next to the Reichstag building is devoted to him.

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Chernobyl Disaster

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The Chernobyl disaster, also referred to as the Chernobyl accident, was a catastrophic nuclear accident. It occurred on 26 April 1986 in the No.4 light water graphite moderated reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat, in what was then part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union (USSR).

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During a late night safety test which simulated power-failure and in which safety systems were deliberately turned off, a combination of inherent reactor design flaws, together with the reactor operators arranging the core in a manner contrary to the checklist for the test, eventually resulted in uncontrolled reaction conditions that flashed water into steam generating a destructive steam explosion and a subsequent open-air graphite “fire”. This “fire” produced considerable updrafts for about 9 days, that lofted plumes of fission products into the atmosphere, with the estimated radioactive inventory that was released during this very hot “fire” phase, approximately equal in magnitude to the airborne fission products released in the initial destructive explosion.Practically all of this radioactive material would then go on to fall-out/precipitate onto much of the surface of the western USSR and Europe.

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Radioactive steam plumes continued to be generated days after the initial explosion, as evidenced here on 3 May 1986 due to decay heat

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The aftermath

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Children undergoing cancer treatment against the effects of radiation from the accident

Minsk, Belarus, Ocober 1995. The explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26 1986 was the worst nuclear accident in history. Children undergoing cancer treatment against the effects of radiation from the accident.

Minsk, Belarus, Ocober 1995. The explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26 1986 was the worst nuclear accident in history. Children undergoing cancer treatment against the effects of radiation from the accident.

A funeral for a child named Andrea, a victim of the Chernobyl disaster

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Kirk Douglas-More than just an Actor

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On the sad news of his death, it is a good time to look back at the life of one of my all time favourite actors. But rather then looking at all the marvelous movies he did I’ll be looking at one change he made that changed the lives for many in Hollywood,at the risk of ending his own career.

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Douglas was born 9 December 1916,Issur Danielovitch in Amsterdam, New York, the son of Bryna “Bertha” (née Sanglel; 1884–1958) and Herschel “Harry” Danielovitch (c. 1884–1950). His parents were Jewish immigrants from Chavusy, Mogilev Region, in the Russian Empire (present-day Belarus), and the family spoke Yiddish at home.

His father’s brother, who emigrated earlier, used the surname Demsky, which Douglas’ family adopted in the United States. Douglas grew up as Izzy Demsky and legally changed his name to Kirk Douglas before entering the United States Navy during World War II.

Douglas first wanted to be an actor after he recited the poem The Red Robin of Spring while in kindergarten and received applause.He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1941, shortly after the United States entered World War II, where he served as a communications officer in anti-submarine warfare. He was medically discharged for war injuries in 1944.

After the war, Douglas returned to New York City and found work in radio, theater and commercials. In his radio work, he acted in a number of network soap operas, and sees those experiences as being especially valuable, as skill in using one’s voice is important for aspiring actors, and regrets that the same avenues are no longer open to them. His stage break occurred when he took over the role played by Richard Widmark in Kiss and Tell  which then led to other offers.

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Douglas had planned to remain a stage actor, until his friend, Lauren Bacall, helped him get his first film role by recommending him to director Hal Wallis, who was looking for a new male talent. Wallis’s film, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), with Barbara Stanwyck, became Douglas’s debut screen appearance.

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He played a young, insecure man, stung with jealousy, whose life was dominated by a ruthless older woman, and he hid his feelings with alcohol. It would be the last time that Douglas portrayed a weakling in a film role.

In 1955 Douglas launched his own production company, Bryna Productions, the company behind two pivotal film roles in his career. The first was as French army officer Col. Dax in director Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant anti-war epic Paths of Glory (1957).

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The Hollywood Black list

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In October 1947, 10 members of the Hollywood film industry publicly denounced the tactics employed by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), an investigative committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, during its probe of alleged communist influence in the American motion picture business.

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The committee’s anti-Communist investigations are often associated with those of Joseph McCarthy who, as a U.S. Senator, had no direct involvement with this House committee.McCarthy was the Chairman of the Government Operations Committee and its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate, not the House.

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These prominent screenwriters and directors, who became known as the Hollywood Ten, received jail sentences and were banned from working for the major Hollywood studios.

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Their defiant stands also placed them at center stage in a national debate over the controversial anti-communist crackdown that swept through the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Besides the Hollywood Ten, other members of the film industry with alleged communist ties were later banned from working for the big movie studios. The Hollywood blacklist came to an end in the 1960s.

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The Hollywood Ten in November 1947 waiting to be fingerprinted in the U.S. Marshal’s office after being cited for contempt of Congress. Front row (from left): Herbert Biberman, attorneys Martin Popper and Robert W. Kenny, Albert Maltz, Lester Cole. Middle row: Dalton Trumbo, John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Samuel Ornitz. Back row: Ring Lardner Jr., Edward Dmytryk, Adrian Scott.

Kirk Douglas was instrumental in getting this black list lifted.Douglas reunited with Kubrick for yet another epic, the magnificent Spartacus (1960).

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The film also marked a key turning point in the life of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted during the McCarthy “Red Scare” hysteria in the 1950s.

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At Douglas’ insistence Trumbo was given on-screen credit for his contributions, which began the dissolution of the infamous blacklisting policies begun almost a decade previously that had destroyed so many careers and lives.

About that event, Douglas said, “I’ve made over 85 pictures, but the thing I’m most proud of is breaking the blacklist.”At the time, his career was at risk, with Hollywood people claiming Douglas would never get work again. “I was scared to death, but I insisted on doing it,”

On a side note I have to mention one movie which is forgotten by most and did not receive good reviews by critics or at the box office.I think it’s still one of best comedies I have ever seen, what makes it even funnier is that none of the actors are comedic actors.It had different titles ,in the US it was called “the Villain” and in the UK and Australia it was known as “Cactus Jack”

 

Along Kirk Douglas, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a character called Handsome Stranger.

 

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Captain John Morrison Birch

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One could argue that World War 2 actually never ended. Sure ,when Japan surrendered on the 15th of August in theory the war ended. Bur only 2 days after Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta proclaim the independence of Indonesia,

 

 

igniting the Indonesian National Revolution against the Dutch Empire, also involving the Australians and the British.

Then 8 days later, on August 25 1945, Captain John Morrison Birch is murdered by Chinese Communist soldiers in Xuzhou, Jiangsu, China. Which by some is seen as the first casualty of the Cold War.

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John Morrison Birch (May 28, 1918 – August 25, 1945) was an American Baptist minister, missionary, and United States Army captain who was a U.S. military intelligence officer in China during World War II. Birch was killed in a confrontation with Chinese Communist soldiers a few days after the war ended. He was posthumously awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal.

Birch grew up in a devout Southern Baptist home in rural Georgia, and while attending Mercer University in Macon he decided to become a missionary in China. After graduating at the head of his class at Mercer, he enrolled in the Bible Baptist Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, where he finished a two-year curriculum in a single year. In the summer of 1940 he sailed for China.

Arriving in Shanghai, Birch promptly commenced intensive study of Mandarin Chinese and displayed such extraordinary aptitude for the language that he was fluent within a couple of months. He spent the following two years traveling about China, preaching, passing out tracts and Bibles, and developing an affection for the Chinese people and a broad network of friends and contacts that would serve him well in what was to follow.

During this time period, the rest of the world was being turned on its ear. Europe had descended into the chaos of another great war, and Japan’s seemingly unstoppable military had driven the British from Singapore, destroyed much of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, and routed General MacArthur from the Philippines. While John Birch, as an ordained minister, was exempt from the draft, he was deeply patriotic and wished to help defeat the Japanese, whose troops were rapidly expanding into China. Early in 1942, John Birch applied to the American Military Mission at Chungking, requesting to enlist as a chaplain. Shortly thereafter, an unexpected event completely altered his life.

 

On an evening in April 1942, Birch was eating in a restaurant in a riverside village in Chekiang province, when he was approached by a man who asked discreetly if he was an American. Birch was then led to a boat in which were concealed several American pilots. He was astonished to learn that the leader of the group was none other than the famous aviator Colonel James H. Doolittle, and that they had parachuted into China after bombing Tokyo. Lacking the fuel to return to base, they and the other crews who had participated in the raid had flown their planes as far inland over China as they could and then bailed out, hoping not to fall behind enemy lines.

Birch helped to lead Colonel Doolittle and his men to safety,after which he received his first military assignment: Find out as much as possible about the whereabouts of the crews of the 15 other planes from Doolittle’s raid, and ensure that they were rescued. Birch immediately set to work via his network of contacts, and was eventually able to locate or account for most of the missing men. A few had been captured or killed by the Japanese, while one plane had strayed far off course and landed in Siberia. However, most of the men were returned safely to their outfits.

 

Returning to Chungking to report to the American Military Mission, Birch served for a short time as an assistant chaplain, and as interpreter for Colonel Doolittle. However, Birch truly came into his own as a soldier when he began to work as an intelligence officer for General Claire Chennault, who commanded the famous “Flying Tigers” of the 14th Air Force. In this capacity Birch traveled about the Chinese countryside incognito, his small, wiry stature and mastery of the Chinese language enabling him to blend in with the local populace as he slipped back and forth across Japanese lines. Birch succeeded in setting up coastal spotting stations, manned by Chinese friends, to furnish advance warning of Japanese ship and aircraft movements. He located Japanese airfields, munitions dumps, and other strategic targets, and became proficient at calling in American air strikes and then escaping before the Japanese even suspected the presence of infiltrators. His network of contacts and friends developed into a full-fledged intelligence network, which became the “eyes and ears of the 14th Air Force.Often performing dangerous field assignments, during which he would brazenly hold Sunday church services for Chinese Christians.

As the conflict wore on, Birch was promoted to Captain and received numerous commendations, such as the Legion of Merit on July 17 1944.

 

He was greatly respected by all who knew him for his upright ways. He never smoked, drank, or cursed, and he repeatedly turned down offers for a furlough to return to the U.S. to visit his family, always stating that he could not accept a furlough knowing that there was always another man with a wife and children who needed one more than he.

Captain Birch never did make it home. On August 25, 1945, ten days after the war ended, he was murdered by a band of Chinese communists as he was traveling with a small group of American and Chinese military officers. He and a Chinese officer were taken by force from the group and shot by communist soldiers. The Chinese officer miraculously survived and gave a full account of the deliberate, cold-blood-ed execution. An autopsy of Birch’s body filled in the details: Captain Birch was shot in the leg, then, with his hands tied behind him, in the back of the head execution-style. Finally, his face was savagely slashed with knives, presumably in an attempt to conceal his identity.

Most shocking of all, however, was the fact that the circumstances of Captain John Birch’s death were deliberately covered up by the U.S. government. The reason for the cover-up did not become evident until some years later. On September 5, 1950, California Senator William Knowland announced on the floor of the Senate that the murder of John Birch had been deliberately covered up by communist sympathizers to conceal the true nature of Mao Tse-tung’s “agrarian reformers” who were trying to oust Chiang Kai-shek’s government.

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U.S. Senator William F. Knowland attempted unsuccessfully to obtain posthumous awards for Birch which included the Distinguished Service Cross, but these were not approved on the grounds that the United States was not at war with the Communist Chinese in 1945. Birch received the following military awards:

 

As well as:Medal of the Armed Forces (Republic of China) and China War Memorial Medal.

Birch is known today mainly by the society that bears his name although Jimmy Doolittle, who met Birch after Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo, said in his autobiography that he was sure that Birch “would not have approved”.

Birch’s name is on the bronze plaque of a World War II monument at the top of Coleman Hill Park overlooking downtown Macon, along with the names of other Macon men who lost their lives while serving in the military. He has a plaque on the sanctuary of the First Southern Methodist Church of Macon, which was built on land given by his family, purchased with the money he sent home monthly. A building at the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, was named “The John Birch Hall” by Pastor J. Frank Norris. A small street in Townsend, Massachusetts, “John Birch Memorial Drive”, is also named after him.

The War Weary Farmer”

The following was written by Captain John Birch in April 1945, four months before his death.

I should like to find the existence of what my father called “Plain living and high thinking.”

I want some fields and hills, woodlands and streams I can call my own. I want to spend my strength in making fields green, and the cattle fat, so that I may give sustenance to my loved ones, and aid to those neighbors who suffer misfortune; I do not want a life of monotonous paper-shuffling or of trafficking with money-mad traders.

I only want enough of science to enable fruitful husbandry of the land with simple tools, a time for leisure, and the guarding of my family’s health. I do not care to be absorbed in the endless examining of force and space and matter, which I believe can only slowly lead to God.

I do not want a hectic hurrying from place to place on whizzing machines or busy streets. I do not want an elbowing through crowds of impatient strangers who have time neither to think their own thoughts nor to know real friendship. I want to live slowly, to relax with my family before a glowing fireplace, to welcome the visits of my neighbors, to worship God, to enjoy a book, to lie on a shaded grassy bank and watch the clouds sail across the blue.

I want to love a wife who prefers rural peace to urban excitement, one who would rather climb a hilltop to watch a sunset with me than to take a taxi to any Broadway play. I want a woman who is not afraid of bearing children, and who is able to rear them with a love for home and the soil, and the fear of God.

I want of government only protection against the violence and injustices of evil or selfish men.

I want to reach the sunset of life sound in body and mind, flanked by strong sons and grandsons, enjoying the friendship and respect of neighbors, surrounded by fertile fields and sleek cattle, and retaining my boyhood faith in Him who promised a life to come.

Where can I find this world? Would its anachronism doom it to ridicule or loneliness? Is there yet a place for such simple ways in my own America or must I seek a vale in Turkestan where peaceful flocks still graze the quiet hills?

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Deutschland 83

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One of my favourite TV shows and I was delighted to find out there will be a second season called Deutschland 86, because it is set 3 years later.

I only lived literally a walking distance from Germany in 1983 and in fact most of my life. Growing up as a kid I didn’t really think anything of it but in hindsight it was kinda bizarre.

Little did I know then, that we were really not that far away from the ‘battlegrounds’ of the cold war, even though the fact there were plenty of staff of the AFCENT (Allied Forces Central Europe Netherlands) in town and surrounding cities. One of the former coal mines was actually used as part of their HQ.

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And surely the AWACS planes (a Boeing 707 type plane with a radar dish on top of it) should have been a give away.

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Oblivious I just went about my business without a care in the world. Naively I felt quite safe where I lived, because often I had seen American Marines marching between Geleen and Heerlen(two municipalities in the south of the Netherlands), chanting stuff like “I like working for Uncle Sam” In fact I thought it was cool, and in a way it was I suppose.

Not realizing those very soldiers were there to assist the Dutch army in case of a potetntial WW3 breaking out.

The Germans though were a funny bunch particularly when it came to their music. From the 50’s to the early 80’s there music was really Schlagers, it can only be described as German folk music I suppose, I would call it crap but it is still very popular with some people who I don’t want to offend.

At the start of the 80’s though a new direction of German music emerged, it was called ‘die Neue Deutsche Welle, New German wave and it brought a few great bands and songs to the front. Bands like Nena,Trio,Bap and indeed Peter Schilling whose song Major Tom is used as the theme for Deutschland 83

 

One of my favorites of the NDW is a Cologne band called BAP , the song is about the Kristal Nacht (in english known as the night of broken glass) from a dark period in German history. The band sings in the local Cologne dialect which is very similar to the Limburg dialect. I will leave it with that. I hope you enjoy this little peace of history. Enjoy the song.