Hero of the Meat Grinder

 

Try as they might, the exhausted troops of the U.S. First Army could not understand what purpose was being served by their presence in this god-forsaken forest. For almost 2 months, the men had endured horrendous conditions as they desperately fought to push the Wehrmacht out of the dense foliage – to no avail. Initially taken by surprise, the German forces had regrouped quickly, offering fierce resistance from well-entrenched defensive positions. As well as the tenacious enemy soldier, the Americans had to deal with terrain that was hardly conducive to attacking operations; narrow paths, fire breaks and undulating hills made ambushes a terrifying regularity.

It seemed obvious to the bruised and battered frontline infantry that their commanders had seriously underestimated the combat readiness of their opponents. After the breakout at Normandy, the encirclement of the Falaise Pocket, and the great swan across France in pursuit of retreating remnants, it must have appeared to even the most cautious brass that Germany’s will to fight had completely collapsed. Not a bit of it, on this evidence.

At battalion and regiment level, officers quietly confided in each other that the battle plan made no tactical or strategic sense. The dense Hürtgen Forest completely negated the immense superiority of Allied airpower and artillery, as well as making armoured thrusts essentially impossible. Why not avoid the area entirely, circumnavigating it to the south and thereby breaking out into open valley – where those military advantages could be pressed home to the maximum extent? Instead, they were forced to watch the men under their command become pinned down and suffer casualty after casualty.

On the 2nd of November began a desperate attempt to break the bloody impasse. The 28th Division attacked in three directions simultaneously, but their opponents had been expecting such an assault and had prepared formidable defences. After an advance of just 300 yards, the vanguard units of the 109th Infantry Regiment found themselves stranded in a minefield dubbed the ‘Wilde Sau‘ (Wild Sow) by the engineers who had laid it. Following 2 days of intense mortar fire, incessant artillery strikes and inexorable counter-attacks, the Americans had scarcely managed to push forward a mile. After that, the situation did not get much better.

The battered and bloody 109th passed the baton to the 4th U.S. Infantry Division’s 12th Regiment, but before these replacements were able to get their bearings they too were on the end of heavy fire. At Midday on the 10th of November, the Germans began a half-hour long artillery barrage, signalling their latest attempt to force the Allied forces from the forest. The fortunes of the opposing sides see-sawed wildly over the next 48 hours, with the strategically-vital ‘Försterhaus’ (Forestry House) changing hands several times.

Enter Friedrich Lengfeld. Commander of the 275th Infantry Division’s 2nd Company throughout the battle, it was here that he took actions that will go down in history for their humanity, compassion, and selflessness. His frontline troops reported hearing cries for help in the direction of the Wilde Sau, and it was apparent that the source was at least one wounded American. Without hesitation, Lengfeld gave the order to refrain from firing on any U.S. infantry who might attempt a rescue, in the hope that this would enable the stricken soldier to get the medical assistance he so clearly needed.

Alas, no aid was forthcoming. Nonetheless, Lengfeld refused to let the matter lie and, as the anguished calls from no man’s land continued, he assembled a rescue squad composed of his own paramedics. Apparently without a thought for his own safety, he led the ad hoc unit through their own minefield in an attempt to save the life of an enemy; a man they had been trying to kill not 12 hours earlier. As the group closed on the badly-wounded American, Lengfeld attempted to cross over to his side of the street…and set off an S-Mine.

‘Fortune favours the brave’, the famous saying goes. It did not favour Lengfeld, whose bravery was by now surely unquestionable. Though he survived the initial detonation, the shrapnel tore through his body and left him with multiple internal injuries. Despite the valiant efforts of his men, themselves nursing wounds caused by the explosion, who rushed to a field hospital as fast as they could carry him, Friedrich Lengfeld was pronounced dead on arrival.

While he now rests in Düren-Rölsdorf cemetary, in 1994 the Veterans Association of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division’s 22nd Regiment erected a monument in Lengfeld’s honour at the Hürtgen Forest war graves. Unfortunately, nothing is known about the American soldier who lay crippled and calling for help; to this day, his fate is uncertain.

The inscription on the memorial to Friedrich Lengfeld is a quote from the Gospel of St. John:
“No man hath greater love than he who layeth down his life for his enemy.”

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Wieso Antifa?

Back in January I got to see my favourite German band gig, courtesy of an Xmas present from my fiancé. A ‘Spaß-punk’ band called Wizo, they were formed the year I was born – so they’ve been around for a heckuva long time! Anyway, amongst the many awesome songs they played was my personal highlight; ‘Antifa

“Darum gemeinsam gegen rechte Pest,
jeder, wie sie oder er oder es kann.
Ob im Alltag oder im Strassenkampf,
nur zusammen sind wir Antifa!


(So together against right-wing plague,

Everyone, however she or he or it can.
Whether in everyday life or the struggle in the streets,
Only together are we Antifa!)”

Initially, back when I first heard of Antifa, I came to know them as AFA; Anti-Fascist Action. This would have been at least a decade ago…and it would never have occurred to me that this grouping, or its stance, could ever be considered in any way controversial. Indeed, if there was a criticism of it at the time – in Ireland at least – it was that being anti-fascist was less a political stance and more, well, a truism. I mean, who the fuck would seriously embrace fascism?

It wasn’t until Antifa entered the US mainstream consciousness in a big way after the debacle in Charlottesville – along with the characteristic American mangling of its pronunciation, ‘ant-EEF-ah’ – that I learnt the origins of this movement: Immediately prior to the Nazi seizure of power, the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) established Anti-Faschistische Aktion to combat the burgeoning NSDAP. In fact, this was mainly done because their prior anti-Nazi organisation, the Roter Frontkämpferbund was banned by the governing SPD (Social Democrats) in 1932.

Antifa_Her_zu_uns.svg

Of course, the Antifa of today bears little relation to the highly-centralized, organized and Party-led front that briefly existed in the early 1930’s. For one thing, AFA had an actual, literal membership – Antifa does not. Therefore, in a sense, present-day Antifa does not exist as a cohesive ‘group’ at all. It is rather a collective term for anyone and everyone actively attempting to combat the rise of the far-right, however they choose to do so; putting up stickers, joining demonstrations, writing letters, singing songs, expressing solidarity or, if pushed, utilizing violence to defend targets of fascist attack.

I was recently banned from Twitter for my whole-hearted support for Antifa, which was as unsurprising as it was bitterly disappointing. One of the ways Antifa combats right-wing extremism is to contest public spaces or areas of popular discussion, and social media is a pretty big battleground in that regard. Nonetheless, these online areas are run and owned by large multinational corporations who have little to no interest in seeing their ‘product’ become sullied by anything so prosaic as fundamental political struggle.

I’ve waffled on for long enough, so I will just leave you with this:

Violence against Nazis is not assault.
It is the ultimate defence of humanity.

“Antifa, Antifa,
Wir sind alle Antifaschisten,
Antifa, Antifa,
Für immer Antifa…
ALERTA!”


nazis aufs maul

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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La Española – Liberators of Paris, 1944

75 years ago today, the first Allied forces entered the French capital. They were elements of the 9th Company from the Régiment de marche du Tchad, part of the Free French 2nd Armoured Division – known as ‘Division LeClerc’ in honour of their commander, General Philippe LeClerc – and were veterans of the liberation of North Africa and the ongoing struggle for France. La Nueve, or ‘The Ninth’ were also veterans of the Spanish Civil War.

Alternatively nicknamed La Española, for obvious reasons, this combat-hardened group of soldiers rode into the outskirts of Paris aboard half-tracks bearing the names of battles they had fought in Spain; Guadalajara and Teruel. These men – mostly socialists, communists & anarchists – were led by Captain Raymond Dronne, a Frenchman, but his second-in-command was Spanish; Amado Granell. It would be Granell who would accept the surrender of General von Choltitz, commander of the German garrison in Paris.

As a badge of honour, the men of this unit wore the red-yellow-purple tricolour of Republican Spain on their uniforms – a unique distinction, given the fact that they were fully integrated soldiers of the Free French armed forces. They also primarily spoke Spanish within the Company, which made sense given that the vast majority of them were Iberian in origin. As soon as vehicles had been supplied, they were given evocative monikers by the troops; MadridGuernicaDon Quichotte, EbroSantander and Amiral Buiza, to name a few. Notably, the French superior officers vetoed a request by anarchist comrades to call their transport Buenaventura Durruti.

It was at 8pm on the 24th of August 1944 that La Nueve entered Paris through the Port d’Italie, and by 9:30pm they had reached the Hotel de Ville. At this point, the half-track Ebro became the first Allied unit to attack Axis forces in the French capital, opening fire at a group of German machine guns. Shortly after this, Amado Granell was received by the National Council of Resistance within City Hall – becoming the first ‘French’ officer to make contact with the Parisien resistance.

Incredibly, one of these brave soldiers is still alive; Rafael Gomez, going strong at the tender age of 99.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Words They Never Said

This page is about those quotations that circle around social media, and even news articles, opinion pieces and the like, that everyone takes as gospel truth despite the fact that they are almost certainly misattributed. Which, I suppose, makes you wonder about how true the gospels are too… Anyway, I’ll be constantly adding to this list as and when I discover more axiomatic sayings that, in actuality, were never uttered by their supposed sources.

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”
Supposedly by Sigmund Freud. He never said it or anything like it.

“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal”
Supposedly by Emma Goldman and/or Mark Twain. No evidence of either. First recorded use was in a 1976 newspaper article.

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”
Supposedly by George Orwell. No evidence. Earliest use of this phrase was in an Australian book published 1982.

“Patriotism is a virtue of the vicious”
Supposedly by Oscar Wilde. He did say that it is ‘the vice of nations’.

“Let them eat cake”
Supposedly by Marie Antoinette. Almost certainly never said it, given that the quote first appears in Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, written when she was 11 years old and four years away from marrying Louis XVI.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
Supposedly by Albert Einstein. Not only did he never say it, but it would be incredibly unlikely for any scientist to say it, given that repeatedly testing a hypothesis is literally the only way to prove it.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
Supposedly by Voltaire. He was way too clever to air an opinion so stupid.

“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world”
Supposedly by Marilyn Monroe. More or less identical to something said by Bette Midler, who is also awesome, so that’s something.

“All sex is rape”
Supposedly by Andrea Dworkin, Catherine McKinnon, and/or pretty much every feminist. Never said or written by any of them, as far as I can gather.

“We are not amused”
Supposedly by Queen Victoria. Not only is this made up, but apparently she was very often amused.

“The ends justify the means”
Supposedly by Niccolo Machievelli. Not only did he never say it, he wouldn’t have meant it literally even if he had; The Prince was SATIRE, people!

“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”
Supposedly it’s Murphy’s Law. Only it isn’t.

“A single death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic”
Supposedly by Josef Stalin. Never said it, except as a character in Command & Conquer: Red Alert.

“If you’re not liberal when you are 25, you have no heart. If you’re not conservative when you are 50, you have no head”
Supposedly by Winston Churchill. Apparently it and its variants come from the words of Francois Guizot.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts”
Supposedly by Winston Churchill too. Kinda glad he never said it, but also disappointed that it actually comes from a 1930’s Budweiser advertising campaign.

“I may be drunk, but you are ugly…and in the morning I shall be sober whereas you will still be ugly”
Supposedly by Winston Churchill. It’s a witty riposte, but he never made it.

“The best argument against democracy is a conversation with the average voter”
Supposedly by Winston Churchill again. Jesus, did that guy say anything?

“If the hill will not come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must come to the hill”
Supposedly by the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Actually based on a story by Francis Bacon.

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”
Supposedly by Edmund Burke and/or Alexis de Tocqueville. Actually by neither. Similar statements were made by Plato, John Stuart Mill and Albert Einstein.

“There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for”
Supposedly by Albert Camus. Really by an American conscientious objector explaining his refusal to fight in the second world war.

“Those who do not move do not notice their chains”
Supposedly by Rosa Luxemburg, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation even sold a mug with this quote on it! As historian Jörn Schütrumpf puts it; “She never said anything that silly!”

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”
Supposedly by Albert Einstein. Most probably based on a talk about mathematical theory given by David Hilbert in 1900.

“This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is no use whatsoever”
Supposedly by Sigmund Freud, casting shade on the Irish. No evidence he ever said it, but the misattribution seems to stem from Anthony Burgess.

“Being born in a stable does not make a man a horse”
Supposedly by Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington responding to the fact that he was born in Ireland. It was actually said by Daniel O’Connell in reference to the Duke.

“The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope”
Supposedly by Marx/Lenin/Stalin, but actually by none of them. Earliest source that matches the sentiments expressed was a 1931 profile of Maxim Litvinov written by S. Dimitrijewski.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Three On The Wagon

The show was partially funded by Aware Drinking, so you knew it was going to be pants. Anything with that much of a social message to promote would always be on the wrong side of mediocre, and anyone who says otherwise is the kind of person who has always enjoyed Comic Relief, Red Nose Day, Childline, and all the other festering piles of creative cot death.

It followed three dipsomaniacs; Al, Coe, and Holly. Al hailed from Galway, Coe was straight outta Kerry, Holly was Donegal born and bred, but all were trying to make it in the Capital…and failing dismally. What is it about the Big Smoke that seems to suck in the bright young things of everyone out West? It’s like the Emerald Isle is actually tilted Eastward on a 45 degree angle, if not more, and the only people who don’t slide down are those old enough to have developed sea legs. Or one leg longer than the other, I don’t know.

So. This week. Episode 4; ‘Gwan’. Our three protagonists meet up at a café – name, logo and menu tastefully legible in frame regardless of changing camera angles – and discuss their respective job-hunts. But, disaster! In a chain of events as shocking as it was certainly not pre-planned by essentially everyone involved in making the programme, the trio decide instead to purchase a couple of bottles of wine from the off-licence across the road and – oh, who could have foreseen this woe?! – drown their sorrows on the banks of the Royal Canal.

This episode focussed on the enabling power of fellow addicts, apparently. If you believe that, I’ll tell ya another. Preferably over a pint.

drunk karl marx

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Resolutions for 2019

  1. Duolingo once a day
  2. Write/transcribe a piece to this blog at least once per week
  3. Construct my own ‘Leftist Calendar’, with important events, births & deaths
  4. Create a list of ‘people to remember’; revolutionaries, role models, heroes
  5. Try to learn guitar
  6. Adopt a dog
  7. Keep track of famous quotes that actually were never said/written
  8. Make time to see friends
  9. Offer to help people with things
  10. Kick a football once in a while

…and, in the likely event that I don’t adhere to any of these resolutions, feel ok with that lack of fulfilment. We’re all just a speck on the universal timeline extending billions of years into the past and infinitely far into the future, so try not to take anything too seriously! In the words of Chumbawamba;

“Have your fun whilst you’re alive
You won’t get nothing when you die
Have a good time all the time
Because you won’t get nothing when you die”

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…♥

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San Oku En Jiken

50 years ago this morning, four bank employees in Japan were transporting almost 300 million yen designated as bonuses for Toshiba workers. As they passed Fuchu Prison, a police motorcycle drew alongside, signalling them to pull over. After they complied, the young uniformed officer provided dramatic news that their branch manager’s house had been blown up and that information indicated that their vehicle could also be a target. This rang true; after all, their manager had received several threatening letters in recent weeks.

Understandably panicked, the courier quartet disembarked and retreated to what they presumed was a safe distance, while the cop crawled beneath the car to inspect it for any evidence of foul play. Within apparently a few seconds, smoke began to billow forth, and suddenly the officer rolled out, yelling a warning of imminent explosion. Following his desperate gesticulations, the bank employees speedily fled to the prison walls…

…whereupon the ‘police officer’ calmly got into their car and drove away.

*****

The thief had used a simple warning flare to simulate the smoke and flames, and left 120 other pieces of evidence at the scene of the crime including the ‘police’ motorcycle – itself just a regular motorbike painted white. However, these were common, everyday items, scattered deliberately to confuse the authorities.

Despite the largest investigation in Japanese history, involving 170,000 policemen attempting to narrow down a list of suspects 110,000 names long, the perpetrator was never brought to justice. One suspect, a 19 year old son of a police officer, committed suicide mere days after the crime. A friend of his, 18 at the time of the robbery, was arrested in 1975 and could not account for the large amount of money then in his possession, but the authorities were frustrated in their attempts to find any proof that he had obtained the cash by illegal means.

Since 1988, the various statutes of limitations have elapsed, meaning that the culprit could come forward without fear of prosecution should he so wish. He has not so wished.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

 

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