Brundibár- A Holocaust Opera.

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On the 23rd of June , 1944,two delegates from the International Red Cross and one from the Danish Red Cross visited Theresienstadt  accompanied by the commandant SS First Lieutenant Karl Rahm and one of his deputies.

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During the visit the delegations were treated to an Opera by the Jewish composer Hans Krása. The children’s opera Brundibár was composed by composer Hans Krása and written by the writer Adolf Hoffmeister in 1938. for a government competition, which was  later cancelled because of  political developments.

In mid 1941 a production of the opera  was directed by Rafael Schächter, and several  of his friends,  it served as a fiftieth birthday present for the director of the orphanage at Hagibor. There had only been 2 performances of the production in Prague, both took place in secret for the Jews were banned of partaking in any cultural events.

By winter 1942 composer Krása and  the set designer František Zelenka had been transported to Theresienstadt.

By summer 1943, almost all of the children from  the original chorus and the orphanage staff had also been transported to Theresienstadt.

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This gave composer Krása the opportunity to reconstruct the full score of the opera, based on memory and the partial piano score that he had kept, the opera was adapted ait to suit the musical instruments which were available in the camp:guitar, clarinet, , flute, accordion, piano, percussion instruments, 4 violins, a double bass and a cello . A set was once again designed by František Zelenka, who had  formerly been  a stage manager at the Czech National Theatre.

In spring  time of 1944 the Theresienstadt ghetto was getting ready  for a visit from the  International Red Cross committee, whose aim it was to assess its function as a ‘model’ ghetto that was ‘given’ to the Jews, by Hitler. Brundibár was chosen as the opera that would be put on show  for the committee. It waswas moved to a large sports hall outside the ghetto, and Zelenka, was given the materials make improvements to  the set and costumes. This beautification of Brundibár had to happen overnight. The end scenes of Brundibár were then filmed on June 23  1944 for the propaganda  film Theresienstadt (better known under the title The Führer Has Given the Jews a Town).

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The plot of the opera is about two children,Aninka and Pepíček, whose mother is very ill and needs milk to get better, but there is no money.An idea  of making money occurs to them when they see the organ-grinder Brundibár earning a living in the market. But Brundibár is an evil man , and shouts down the children. During the night,  animals from one of the posters  come to the aid of  the despairing children, and the following  day they help the children to sing louder than Brundibár. The children get  the money they need , but the evil Brundibár steals their earnings . In the end the children find him and are given back what belongs to them.

All of the cast who were involved in the Theresienstadt production were put on transport  sent to Auschwitz as soon as filming was finished. Most were gassed immediately when they arrived, including the children and also the composer Krása.

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What makes all of this worse is that the whole charade was believed by the Red Cross.

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The Ghost Army- Special FX in WWII.

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I know what you are thinking “We are still a month away from Halloween and he is already starting telling ghost stories”

Well yes and no, you see the Ghost Army wasn’t an army of real ghosts however it did scare many German units, without firing one shot.

During World War II, Americans of many different backgrounds and professions were drafted into the armed forces. One unit in particular, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops of the U.S. Army, had an odd membership. This group was made up mostly of artists, architects, designers, sound engineers, and other creative types — all of whom had an IQ of at least 119. And while other units were given standard issue weapons and benefited from the employ of tanks and artillery, the 23rd was given a much different order.

The 23rd, known colloquially as the “Ghost Army,” would set up faux, inflatable battalions near German encampments (but away from the actual Allied forces) to try to throw off the enemy. These actors-as-soldiers would don different uniforms and insignias, with the hope of catching the eye of German intelligence — who, in turn, would report back (incorrect) estimates of manpower and location of Allied troops.

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Shortly after the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, two Frenchmen on bicycles managed to cross the perimeter of the United States Army’s 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and what they saw astounded them. Four American soldiers had picked up a 40-ton Sherman tank and were turning it in place. Soldier Arthur Shilstone says, “They looked at me, and they were looking for answers, and I finally said: ‘The Americans are very strong.
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Patriotic pride aside, the men of the 23rd were not equipped with super-human strength. They did, however, have inflatable tanks.

Shilstone was one of 1,100 soldiers who formed the unit, also known as the Ghost Army.

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Inspiration for the unit came from the British units who had honed the deception technique for the battle of El Alamein in late 1942, as Operation Bertram.

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The unit had its beginnings at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, and was fully formed at Pine Camp, New York (now Fort Drum), before sailing for the United Kingdom in early May 1944. In Britain they were based near Stratford upon Avon, and troops participated in Operation Fortitude, the British-designed and led D-Day deception of a landing force designated for the Pas-de-Calais.

he 3132 Signal Service Company Special handled sonic deception. The unit coalesced under the direction of Colonel Hilton Railey.

Aided by engineers from Bell Labs, a team went to Fort Knox to record sounds of armored and infantry units onto a series of sound effects records that they brought to Europe. For each deception, sounds could be “mixed” to match the scenario they wanted the enemy to believe. This program was recorded on state-of-the-art wire recorders (the predecessor to the tape recorder), and then played back with powerful amplifiers and speakers mounted on halftracks.

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The sounds they played could be heard 15 miles (24 km) away.

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Their efforts were reportedly successful. For example, the 23rd set up a fake “mulberry harbor” — an artificial military harbor used to offload cargo and troops onto beaches, such as at Normandy a few weeks after D-Day — diverting German attention away from the true landing locations. But the biggest success? The Washington Post noted that at times, the Ghost Army convinced German adversaries that they numbered as many as 30,000 troops, even convincing some units to surrender out of fear of being greatly outmatched.

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Posing as the 30th and 79th divisions, 1,100 men had to pretend to be more than 30,000.
Mixing real tanks alongside the inflatable ones, the troops appeared to be assembling a massive attack. Their fake observation planes were so convincing, American pilots tried to land in the field next to them.

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When the offensive finally made its move across the Rhine, with General Dwight Eisenhower and Prime Minister Winston Churchill watching, they were met with little German resistance. The riverbanks were left for the taking and the Ghost Army earned a commendation for its success.

Because the men had to keep their true purpose a secret, they regularly pretended to be other units. They’d mark their trucks with chalk or sew fake badges to throw off potential spies in the cities where they spent time off duty.

Set apart from other troops by their secret mission, the artists also brought an unusual perspective to war. Upon finding a bombed-out church in Trévières, several of them stopped to sketch the structure. When they stopped in Paris and Luxembourg, the men recorded everything from the beguiling women biking by to the scenic rooflines and street scenes.

Arthur Shilstone sketch of his unit digging in after their arrival in Normandy.

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A sketch by Ghost Army artist Richard Morton

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Visiting a Paris brothel was quite an eye-opener for Victor Dowd. “The ladies would come downstairs in their scanty costumes. I’m no Toulouse-Lautrec, but it was a great opportunity for me to draw. A woman named Doris sat on my table, she had a glass of wine in one hand,  a cigarette in the other, high heels and practically no clothes on. She was trying to entice me to go upstairs. I wouldn’t have had to pay anything if I gave her the drawing. But I wasn’t particularly anxious to go upstairs with Doris, and I decided to keep the drawing.”

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The U.S. Army may have used the tactic in other wars, as well, as the Ghost Army’s mission in World War II was kept classified until 1996 — and even today, many details are still kept secret.

These were just some men of the Ghost Army.

Irving McKane Nussbaum “Mickey”

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M. Sgt. Forrest Lewis joined the Army in 1942 and was originally assigned to maintain barrage balloons around the Bremerton, WA. naval shipyards.  After the defeat of the Japanese at Midway he was reassigned.  He volunteered to join the 23rd HQ Co. Special Troops at Camp Forest, TN like many of the others.  He traveled with them to England and land in France on June 23, 1944 with the bulk of the unit.  He served in Brittany, Northern France, Luxembourg and Germany as did most of the troops in the unit.  He was not an artist nor electronic technician but served with Headquarters Company within the unit.

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Sergeants James Taylor and Forrest Lewis.

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The “Diggers”

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Anthony Young

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The bizarre case of Glyndwr Michael- The WWII Hero, who never was.

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It’s amazing to think that the allies possibly won the war by a dead homeless man.

Glyndwr Michael (4 January 1909 – 24 January 1943) was a semi-literate homeless man whose body was used in Operation Mincemeat, the successful World War II deception plan that lured German forces to Greece prior to the Allied invasion of Sicily. The invasion was a success, with Allied losses numbering several thousand fewer than would have been expected had the deception failed.

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Michael was born in Aberbargoed in Wales and previously held part-time jobs as a gardener and labourer. His father Thomas, a coal miner, committed suicide when Michael was fifteen years old; his mother later died when he was thirty-one. Michael, homeless, friendless, depressed and with no money, drifted to London where he lived on the streets. He was found in an abandoned warehouse close to King’s Cross, seriously ill from ingesting rat poison that contained phosphorus. Two days later, he died at age 34 in St. Pancras Hospital.

His death may have been suicide, although an alternative theory suggested he may have simply been desperately looking for something to eat, as the particular poison he ingested was a paste smeared on bread crusts to attract rats.

After being ingested, phosphide reacts with hydrochloric acid in the stomach, generating phosphine, a highly toxic gas. Bentley Purchase, coroner of St. Pancras District, explained, “This dose was not sufficient to kill him outright, and its only effect was so to impair the functioning of the liver that he died a little time afterwards”. When Purchase obtained Glyndwr’s body, it was identified as being in suitable condition for a man who would appear to have floated ashore several days after having died at sea by hypothermia and drowning.

Before Michael, finding a usable cadaver had been difficult, as indiscreet inquiries would cause talk, and it was impossible to tell a dead man’s next of kin what the body was wanted for. The dead man’s parents had died and no known relatives were found.The body was released on the condition that the man’s real identity would never be revealed. Ewen Montagu later claimed the man died from pneumonia, and that the family had been contacted and permission obtained, but none of this was true.On 28 January 1943 Purchase contacted Montagu with the news he had located a suitable body,  that of Glyndwr Michael, a tramp who died from eating rat poison that contained phosphorus.

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On 30 April, Lt. Norman Jewell, captain of the submarine Seraph, read the 39th Psalm and Michael’s body was gently pushed into the sea where the tide would bring it ashore off Huelva on the Spanish Atlantic coast.

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Attached to Michael’s body was a briefcase containing secret documents that had been fabricated by the British intelligence service. The purpose was to make German intelligence (which was known to have operatives in Huelva) think Michael had been a courier delivering documents to a British general. The documents were crafted to deceive the Germans into thinking that the British were preparing to invade Greece and Sardinia, rather than Sicily, and they succeeded in doing so.

The body of ‘Major Martin’ was found at around 9:30 am by a local fisherman; it was taken to Huelva by Spanish soldiers, where it was handed over to a naval judge. Haselden, as Vice-Consul, was officially informed by the Spaniards; he reported back to the Admiralty that the body and briefcase had been found. A series of pre-scripted diplomatic cables were sent between Haselden and his superiors, which continued for several days. The British knew that these were being intercepted and, although they were encrypted, the Germans had broken the code; the messages played out the story that it was imperative that Haselden retrieve the briefcase because it was importan

Michael’s body  was buried as Major William Martin with full military honours. His grave lies in Huelva’s cemetery of Nuestra Señora, in the San Marco section. The headstone, reads

William Martin, born 29 March 1907, died 24 April 1943, beloved son of John Glyndwyr Martin and the late Antonia Martin of Cardiff, Wales, Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori, R.I.P.

The Latin phrase translates as “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” In 1998, however, the British Government revealed the body’s true identity. To the gravestone was added,

Glyndwr Michael; Served as Major William Martin, RM;

A plaque commemorating Glyndwr Michael is now also on the war memorial in Aberbargoed. It is headed “Y Dyn Na Fu Erioed” (translation – “The Man Who Never Was”)

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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