Dogs and Cats Living Together Since 1968

Category: Quotable (page 1 of 10)

What did the Nazis Think of Teachers?

Reinhard Heydrich is not as famous as Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels. But that is mostly because he was attacked by British-trained Czech and Slovak operatives in May 1942 and died a week later. Many considered Heydrich to be Hitler’s understudy. He is thought to have been on the verge of taking over the German occupation of France when he was killed. In January 1942, Heydrich chaired the Wannsee Conference, the two-hour meeting at which the Nazis planned the extermination of 11 million Jews. Heydrich was Eichmann’s boss.

The Germans in 1942 faced a labor shortage. The Russian campaign was more difficult than anticipated so more men were needed to fight and more workers were needed to replace them in the factories — good compliant workers to help the war economy. Workers not thinkers.

A couple weeks after the Wannsee Conference, Heydrich said this in a speech about worker creation:

It is essential to sort out the Czech teachers because the teaching profession is a breeding ground for opposition. It must be destroyed, and all Czech secondary schools must be shut. The Czech youth must be torn away from this subversive atmosphere and educated elsewhere.

Now, I’m not saying you are a Nazi if you think the only purpose of education is to create labor bots for the corporate economy. Nor am I saying you are a Nazi if you want to destroy teachers’ unions and eviscerate teaching as a profession. But one does have to take a step back and think twice if one’s policies align with Nazi policies, doesn’t one?

[The Heydrich speech is quoted in the superb WW2 novel HHhH by Laurent Binet. Novel is not quite the right word. I’d almost call it a long essay on history and writing.]


This almost sounds like a quote from Jack Kerouac:

Of all the situations of life, that of having no pursuit is the worst . . . time hangs heavy and I scarcely know how to spin out the day. I generally lay till ten, go to breakfast and then down to the town to play billiards or pick up the news. Here I find a number of stupid beings as dull as myself — yawning and sauntering from room to room and cursing their ill stars for keeping them in such a vile hole.

But that is a British Army officer talking about his life as a prisoner of war during the American Revolution. Officers were not confined but were compelled not to escape by a sense of honor. They could not work, unlike rank and file prisoners who worked on local farms, so they spent their days bored and waiting for their release.

The quote comes from Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution by Mark Urban, a superb history that follows a British infantry regiment throughout the American Revolution. The Royal Welch Fusiliers, also known as the 23rd Regiment, took part in many of the big battles of the war from Lexington & Concord to Bunker Hill to Guilford Courthouse to Yorktown.

I also enjoyed this section, in which Urban describes my Scots-Irish ancestors, who fought against the British in South Carolina:

Charleston’s immediate hinterland, stretching about 100 miles inland, was a swampy, unhealthy terrain crossed by several major rivers. This lowland was also the most economically productive part of the province, with its large plantations. Beyond the coastal strip, there was a distinct change, a rolling landscape of sand hills, the so-called piedmont, began; and beyond that, a further 100 miles or so from the sea, were the Appalachian mountains. . . .


In many of the piedmont settlements, Britain’s most hard-bitten adversaries were Irish immigrants or those of so-called Scots-Irish descent. The latter type came from the ranks of Scottish Presbyterian settlers in Ireland who, having lived one or two generations on that island, had left for America, many after losing their livelihoods when the British raised taxes on imported linen.


[T]he Hibernian strain that had planted itself in the hills between Camden and the North Carolina border was to prove well-nigh irreconcilable. The meagre existence scraped from the sandy soil of the uplands created a tough, self-reliant patchwork of communities that greatly resented outside interference, be it from redcoats, the Charleston merchant elite, or even tithe-gathering churchmen. One office of the British Legion called these backcountry settlers “Crackers”, recoiling at both their miserable existence and their lax morals, saying they were “more savage than the Indians, and possess every one of their vices, but none of their virtues.”

Settlements of Scots who had not lived in Ireland, by contrast, were often loyalist.

Disclaimer: I also have at least one ancestor who was a Loyalist.

Overall, I took two lessons from this book.

First, as my genealogical research had begun to teach me, the southern campaigns were a much bigger part of the Revolution than is usually recognized. We hear mostly about the war in New England but we also wore down the British Army in a series of battles in the south. Not only that, but the fighting between American Whigs and Tories was incredibly brutal and included the mass killing of prisoners. It seems like this is true of all wars, as extreme incidents of brutality tend to be forgotten over time because nobody wants to remember them.

Second, the popular image of the Revolution is of tight lines of redcoats being shot to pieces by American troops hiding behind rocks and trees. And this is how the war began in Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill. But the British soon adapted and began beating us at our own game with the use of light infantry that moved more quickly and safely through the terrain. In fact, Urban argues that the lessons the British learned in the Revolution eventually led to the tactics that beat Napoleon.

In the Revolution, the British kept winning battles but American armies would melt away and then reassemble, while it was much harder for the British to find replacements for the men they lost. In a final accounting of the regiment’s manpower, Urban says that out of the approximately 1,250 men who served in the 23rd Regiment during the war, 75 were killed on the battlefield while 400 died of illness. Another 193 men deserted, many to run away with American women. Urban points out that American daughters may have actually done more damage to the British Army than American sons.

Ike in Denver

Late in his first term as President, Dwight D. Eisenhower had a heart attack. It was September 24, 1955 and it happened in Denver. The following quotes come from Ike’s Bluff by Evan Thomas, an excellent history of Ike’s Presidency focusing on his foreign policy.

President Eisenhower did not like to have his golf game interrupted. On September 23, he played a morning round at the Cherry Hills County Club outside Denver. Ann Whitman [his private secretary] recorded in her diary that she had never seen him “look or act better,” possibly because he had just spent four days fishing in the mountains or because his popularity polls stood at an astronomical 80 percent in the afterglow of the “Spirit of Geneva.”

Ike was a frequent golfer. The Presidency is such a stressful job maybe we should stop getting mad at Presidents who play “too much” golf. Ike often played the Cherry Hills course when he was in Denver.

By lunch he was in a foul mood. Three times he had been summoned from the course to take a call from Secretary of States Dulles — only there was a mix-up, and Dulles (who often spoke as often as eight times a day by phone with the president) had not been on the line. The president’s game collapsed after the 14th hole. At lunch, Ike wolfed down a hamburger slathered with Bermuda onions and headed back for nine more holes. Again he was interrupted to take a call from the secretary of state. “These onions are backing up on me,” he told his golf partner, the club pro. At dinner, he felt some indigestion and skipped his usual cocktail. Ike was staying in Denver at the home of his in-laws, the comfortable eight-room house on a tree-shaded street where Mamie Doud had grown up.

The Doud house is located in the middle of the 700 block of Lafayette Street in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver. It is of special interest to me because I grew up next door. We bought our house in 1966 and lived there for over 40 years. The Colorado State Historical society has a photo of Ike sitting in a convertible in our neighbor’s driveway with our house in the background.

Ike & Mamie visited her parents often and when they did, Ike would sit on the front porch with his Secret Service detail and chat with neighborhood kids. One of those kids, John Archibold, lived in a beautiful house on the corner of 7th & Lafayette. John gave an interview to the Eisenhower Presidential Center about chatting with Ike and talked about how Ike once gave him a free ride to the East Coast on the Presidential plane. John was heading back to college but this use of taxpayer dollars became a minor nationwide scandal. After college, John came back to Denver, bought the house from his mother, and his son Steve was a childhood buddy of mine.

Back to Ike and his indigestion next door. Ike loved reading western novels, unless a woman appeared and there was romance, at which point he moved on to the next western.

He retired early to read a western. At about 2 a.m., Mamie, sleeping in the next room, got up to go to the bathroom, and she heard her husband stirring in bed. Looking in, she thought he seemed troubled and asked if he was having a nightmare. “No dear, but thank you,” he said. He complained of pain in his upper abdomen. Accustomed to Ike’s stomach troubles, she gave him some milk of magnesia and called the president’s doctor, Howard Snyder.

At age seventy-four, Snyder was old to be the president’s person physician, and Ike’s millionaire friends fretted that he might not know the latest diagnoses and treatments. But the handsome, six feet three Snyder, whom Ann Whitman affectionately called “Old Duck,” knew his patient, including his anxious stomach and mild hypochondria, and was attentively if sternly sympathetic. Arriving at the house shortly after 2:00 a.m., Snyder checked his patient’s vital signs and decided, he later said, that the president was having a heart attack.

According to some notes that Snyder later made, the doctor engaged in a lonely bedside drama. He immediately injected Ike with morphine for the pain and drugs to stop his blood from clotting. He tried to put an oxygen mask on him, but the patient resisted. Ike began to sweat profusely. By four o’clock, his blood pressure was dropping and he seemed to be going into shock. Snyder tried to warm him with rubbing alcohol and then told Mamie to climb into bed and wrap herself around her husband to keep him from shaking. Ike finally fell asleep at about five.

At eight, Snyder told the deputy press secretary to put out the word to reporters that the president was suffering from “digestive upset.” He would later claim that he wanted to let the president rest, that he didn’t want to unduly alarm Mamie (with whom he had not shared his apprehensions of a heart attack), or the staff, and that he wanted to wait to confirm his diagnosis.

All this was almost surely a lie. As historian Clarence Lasby has convincingly shown from the documentary evidence (which Snyder did his best to cover up), Snyder misdiagnosed Eisenhower in the early morning hours. “Indigestion” was not a cover story; it’s what Snyder mistakenly believed was causing Ike’s suffering. He did not administer the anti-coagulants or try to fit the president with an oxygen mask. He probably did help him to the bathroom. Snyder did not realize the president had suffered a coronary thrombosis until Ike was given an EKG after he woke up at 1:00 p.m. Then the president was finally driven to the hospital.

When the news got out, the stock market crashed, heart specialists were flown in and Ike spent seven weeks recuperating at Denver’s Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. He had 66 visitors during this time period including Vice President Richard Nixon and while there was an attempt to keep up appearances, visits were limited to 15 minutes and Ike was not allowed to read the newspaper. He recovered and went on to win re-election and serve a second term.

In Ike’s Bluff, Evan Thomas argues that Ike’s determined leadership saved us from several potential nuclear confrontations. Ike thought nuclear weapons meant the end of war because any war could lead to total war and total war meant mutual annihilation. He began to think the enemy was war itself, not the Russians or the Chinese. His “bluff” was that he never told anyone — not a single person ever – whether or not he would use nuclear weapons. So other international actors always had to fear any escalation could lead to nuclear war, which nobody wanted. Even Khrushchev thought nuclear war was insanity. Because of Ike’s military background, international actors also knew (or suspected) he was capable of retaliation if provoked.

What if Ike had died in Denver that night due to Dr. Snyder’s improper diagnosis? Richard Nixon would have been at the helm starting in 1955 instead of 1969. Evan Thomas talks about how Vice President Nixon favored military intervention in Vietnam in 1954 to help the French as Dien Bien Phu was falling. Ike said no. How would a President Nixon would have handled the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956 or the Formosa Strait Crisis of 1958? How would that earlier President Nixon have handled the Soviet Union?

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