Posts Tagged ‘made’

German school teacher ‘made children sing Nazi propaganda song’

April 17th, 2015

However the teacher’s actions may not have been as controversial as they at first appeared.

Although the song is illegal in Germany, there is an exemption when it is sung for educational purposes.

Moreover, the teacher has reportedly told police she was teaching a well-known parody of the song written by the playwright Bertolt Brecht.

Horst Wessel, German Nazi activist (Alamy)

She claims she only got her pupils to hum the melody and tap their feet to the rhythm

Entitled the Kälbermarsch, or Calves’ March, the Brecht parody includes the lines “The butcher calls! The eyes tightly closed/The calf marches with quiet, steady step”.

“The Kälbermarsch cannot be understood without the Horst Wessel Song,” a spokesman for the Berlin Senate Department for Education told reporters.

Police say the case has been referred to be prosecutors, who will now decide whether to take any further action.

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How rationing in World War 2 democratised the British table – and made us all healthier

January 8th, 2015

Though to most of us food rationing seems almost an infringement of liberty, nearly everyone agrees that the sale of food needs to be regulated to protect its quality (that it contains nothing harmful, is not adulterated, is appropriately described and labelled) and quantity (that it is not short measure). In any case, our current ideas of food rationing owe more to memories of Russians queuing at food shops during the Cold War period, or of the hungry refugees looking for nourishment that we see most nights on the television news. The very idea of rationing life’s chief necessity runs counter to most people’s views about the operation of the marketplace, and there is no way in which curtailing the consumer’s choice of what he buys and eats contributes to the aesthetic enjoyment of food or to morale. Wartime rationing was one matter; peacetime restrictions on what food you could buy was quite another, as Labour found to its cost.

Rationing was instituted to deal with food shortages, but these had many complicated causes. Imports had to be reduced drastically, to save merchant shipping for purposes directly related to warfare (and was retained post-war for essential contributions to economic recovery); grazing was ploughed over to grow vegetables rather than to feed livestock. Though demand for red meat was still widespread, caviar, anchovies, parmesan and exotic fruit were not then to the taste of the majority of the population, but remained available to the travelled, educated and rich through most of the war via an ingenious points system. Driver says it created a sort of stock exchange “in such luxuries as sardines and sultanas, too scarce to be distributed in bulk as a ration-book entitlement.”

As for the admin, Driver’s hero, who made rationing succeed, was the Minister of Food, Lord Woolton, “one of the most powerful retailers in the land,” Armed with a social conscience gained from working in Liverpool before 1914, he was also the beneficiary of a scientific education. These qualifications were rare among the Tory ministers, but opened Woolton to listening to the advice of nutritionists and medical researchers. He was what we would today call media-savvy: he managed to convince housewives to cook his Woolton pie, despite its description by a Liverpool friend of his as “looking on the outside exactly like a steak and kidney pie, and on the inside just like a steak and kidney pie – without the steak and kidney”. The recipe actually relies on six ounces of “chopped spinach, or cabbage or carrots, or a good mixture of vegetables.”

Much of the nutritional know-how came from another hero, Sir Jack Drummond, “a fundamental scientist” and foodie avant la lettre, who had “a rare gift for popular exposition.” (Drummond and his second wife, Ann Wilbraham, wrote a major 1939 study of the British diet, The Englishman’s Food; they were more famous, sadly, as the victims with their daughter of a triple murder as a camping site in Provence in 1952.) With Drummond at his side, says Driver, Woolton was “Churchill’s most effective minister on the Home Front.”

The pair of them even managed to persuade Britons to buy the grey-crumbed 85 per cent extraction National Loaf, and got local authorities to establish “British Restaurants.” Frances Partridge’s diary describes a meal in one at Swindon: “Thousands of human beings were eating … an enormous all-beige meal, starting with beige soup thickened to the consistency of past, followed by beige mince full of lumps and garnished with beige beans and a few beige potatoes, thin beige apple stew…”

In 1954, of course, we neither appreciated the role of rationing-enforced nutrition in the general health of the nation, nor had any inkling of how dangerous it could be to have too much to eat.

Despite the points system, rationing also democratized food. For the first time members of all socio-economic classes were eating the same diet, even taking in about the same number of calories. The middle classes, though, were chafing under rationing. Even those women who had formerly employed them had seen their cooks recruited by factories and canteens; they now cooked themselves and they and their families were bored, demoralised, and some would say their tastes had coarsened. Elizabeth David’s Mediterranean Food inspired them and made them long to be able again to go to Europe. But when it was published in 1950, there were four years of rationing to go, and her abundant lemons, aubergines and olive oil were pure fantasy.

Though our supermarket shelves now boast ingredients unknown to Mrs David, and though we’re all foodies now, the truth is that our collective taste has managed to sink to the lowest common denominator, represented by American-origin fast food outlets such as KFC and McDonald’s. Somewhere in this tale there is a political message about the British reaction to austerity policies. Maybe we need today’s equivalents of Woolton and Drummond to read the foodie runes.

Paul Levy chairs the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery and co-authored The Official Foodie Handbook (1984)

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‘I told Idi Amin his fake VC made him look like a fool’

January 2nd, 2015

She began by typing the letters and straightening the stamps on the envelopes but soon became involved in the planning of church services, receptions, tea parties and meetings with the Royal Family for the biennial reunions. Gradually she demonstrated her administrative skills by tactfully carrying out the withdrawal of the earlier Albert and Edward Medals for gallantry and the smooth translation of their 160 holders to the George Cross, which brought the association’s membership briefly to 400.

After two years she left to remarry and become a farmer’s wife, but was never forgotten. When trouble was brewing over the Asian community in newly independent Uganda, her second husband, Major Iain Grahame, was asked by the Foreign Office to make a series of visits to Idi Amin, his former sergeant in the Uganda Rifles; on one occasion Didy went too.

When she was introduced to President Amin she showed her mettle by promptly telling him to remove the fake VC from his chest, saying it made him look a fool. The assembled company went grey. But he took it off and never wore it again. Later Amin asked Didy if she was sometimes afraid of her husband, because he was.

After some years helping her husband to start the World Pheasant Association, run bird watching safaris in East Africa and build up a bookselling business, she returned to the association’s office in Admiralty Arch as the secretary. There was much more to do, thanks to improved communications, in maintaining contact with overseas members, liaising with Buckingham Palace, departments of state, the armed forces and Commonwealth governments. But it became clear that the job required much more in the modern world.

The VC and the GC may be the most prestigious gallantry medals in the world but the recipients receive no great benefits apart from the chance to ride in the RAF aircraft which used to collect overseas members from around the world for the reunion. (Today the holders have to travel on commercial airliners.)

They come from very different cultures in a group whose ages currently range from 27 to 99. Those from the dominions can fit seamlessly into London life, first timers need to be shown what to do when they meet the Queen, encounter the Press and face crowds. For many, Didy has seemed a fairy godmother with her ravishing smile and soft, assuring voice and ability to make friends instantly. She can cope with any emergency, share a joke or offer sympathy; though officials who have worked with her note steel beneath the surface if she feels her friends – as they all are – have been insulted, ignored or forced to do things of which they disapprove. A few, who have been bruised crossing swords with her, say she is a dragon lady. Robert Fellowes, the Queen’s former private secretary, has tactfully commented: “A happy Didy. A happy Robert”.

While pacifist journalists are not so common these days, she still encounters those who come to her inadequately briefed; and politicians have been known to try to push their way into events. Three years ago when an Australian inquiry was considering the possibility of making retrospective awards for actions in the First and Second World Wars, Didy submitted a judicious paper pointing out that although the VC-GC Association played no part in the selection process she advised there was a risk of witnesses’ memories dimming with age and therefore risking the standard for the VC. In addition she had to be on the lookout for commercial encroachment, similar to when the English Rugby Union unwisely incorporated VC images logo their team shirt without any consultation.

Above all, she has memories. She remembers the time the Royal party was sweeping past 44 GCs on a state visit to Malta – until she drew attention to them with a significant glance to the Queen; and when the Australian VC, Sir Roden [sic] Cutler, rose to introduce his fellow members to her at the Royal Tournament only to find his metal leg had suddenly come loose. There was the time she received a call in the office, saying an Australian member had just died over India when the plane was carrying the party home from a reunion. Luckily Keith Payne, who won the VC in Vietnam, came up with a practical suggestion: the body was to be made upright for easier removal as rigor mortis set in, then placed in a lavatory guarded by a steward. And there was the time when she introduced New York firemen who had fought the twin towers conflagration to Harry Errington, GC. He held them enraptured describing how the Auxiliary Fire Service coped with the Blitz in 1940.

Having known her beloved charges so long she knows what drives them. “The extraordinary thing is the way the experience of cheating death gives a huge feeling of humility,” she says. “The members tend to be perfectionists, tidy, or at least well-ordered, aware of what is going on in the world and living their lives to the full whatever their age. They are happy to do whatever they are asked – until they see some injustice. And several have said to me: ‘If I had not won the award I could have ended up in prison. But it put me on the straight and narrow. One doesn’t want to let others down.’

“They have an inner quality which doesn’t need to show off or throw their weight around in any way. Seventy-five per cent of those I’ve known were the responsible child of an early widowed mother or the eldest in a large family, which meant they spent their whole childhood looking after their siblings”.

When she went back to the association in 1981 it was clear that the previous inglorious decade had sharpened the public’s appreciation of its heroes, particularly when Colonel H Jones and Sergeant Ian McKay were awarded posthumous VCs for the Falklands war. Since then a long queue of anniversaries have needed the association’s participation. VE Day, VJ Day, the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday and funeral, the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation; all could not possibly be celebrated without the presence of the association’s members.

As many of the Second World War generation aged, with newspaper stories appearing about some having to eke out their last days before dying in straitened circumstances, Didy started to visit them. On a visit to Harare in 2002 she rapped the knuckles of the British High Commission by suggesting that Captain Gerard Norton, who had won a VC in Italy in 1944, should come to a lunch at the British High Commission: he had never been invited before.

But while for long much of her activity involved funerals and memorial services, new awards stemming from the Blair wars led to significant change. Aged 18, Trooper Chris Finney earned a GC in Iraq in 2003 after rescuing a comrade from one burning vehicle and trying to rescue another while wounded himself; afterwards he faced a roar of publicity far fiercer than any before. Such younger recipients meant Didy underwent new experiences, meeting a new kind of award-holder who might have a different girl on his arm each time, and finding herself drawn into their weddings, babies and divorces while counselling them on the responsibilities of fame and career changes.

In recent years she has also played important roles in getting published a three-volume authoritative account of all VCs and GCs and the unveiling of the memorial to holders at a ceremony attended by their descendants at Westminster Abbey. She has helped to create a benevolent fund to provide for the restoration of graves, and invited widows to be involved in the charitable work of the association.

After finally handing over to an able successor a month ago, Didy claims to be resting at the moment, though she still has much to do as a board member of several different charities. But as a private individual at last she is focusing her attention now on the extraordinary small number of civilians being recognised for brave actions while the military and police service have well practised procedures making recommendations. “The system needs to be rebooted,” she says. And no doubt she will play an important part in achieving that.

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Boris Johnson: the woman who made Winston Churchill

October 12th, 2014

He would behave like a spoilt child; by the age of 14, he had already persuaded one of his schoolchums to take down his dictation while he reclined in the bath. As Churchill’s sister-in-law Lady Gwendoline “Goonie” Bertie put it, he had a tendency to “orientalism”, and was never so happy as when a servant was pulling on his socks.

He may have shown outstanding bravery when he went to the trenches, but his luxuries were astonishing. To the Front with Churchill went a private bathtub, large towels, a hot-water bottle, food boxes from Fortnum & Mason, large slabs of corned beef, Stilton cheeses, cream, ham, sardines, dried fruit, and a big steak pie, not to mention peach brandy and other liqueurs.

“You must remember,” his wife once told his doctor, “he knows nothing of the lives of ordinary people.” He never took a bus in his life, she said, and had only once been on the London Underground. He got lost, and had to be helped to find his way out.

He was also a tyrant with his staff. Churchill would not only keep them up all night while he dictated; he could get quite testy if they got things wrong. “Where were you educated?” he would shout. “Why don’t you read a book?”

What is worse than being a spoilt and irascible bully? How about the general charge that he didn’t really have real friends – only people he “used” for his own advancement? Or what about the charge of ratting on his friends – in many people’s eyes, the ultimate crime? When he made his famous escape from the Boer jail in Pretoria, there were two men who were meant to go with him, called Haldane and Brockie. The suggestion was that Churchill had welched on the agreement, and scooted off by himself.

A spoilt, bullying double-crosser: what else can we add? The final charge is that he was too self-interested, too wrapped up in himself to be properly human. Suppose you were a young woman ushered into a dinner party, and found yourself sitting next to the great man. The allegation was that he was really fascinated by only one subject, and that was himself. As Margot Asquith put it: “Winston, like all really self-centred people, ends up by boring people.” So that is the case for the prosecution, Your Honour.

Let’s now call the counsel for the defence – a role I am also happy, for the sake of argument, to play myself.

Take first the assertion that he was a bully. Yes, of course he pushed people hard, and it is certainly true that poor Alan Brooke, his military adviser, was driven more or less round the bend in the war – silently snapping pencils in an effort to control his feelings. But think of the stress that Churchill was under, co-ordinating a war that we showed no sign of winning.

Yet on the death of Violet Pearman, one of his most faithful and put-upon secretaries, he made sure that her daughter got money from his own pocket. He also sent money to the wife of his doctor, when she got into difficulties. And when a friend of his was injured in the Boer War, Churchill rolled up his sleeve and provided a skin graft himself – without anaesthetic.

Was this the action of a selfish tosser? “When you first meet Winston, you see all his faults,” said Pamela Plowden. “You spend the rest of your life discovering his virtues.”

Let us turn now to the allegations of his luxury amid the squalor of the trenches. It is true that there was a certain amount of dudgeon when he arrived at his command in January 1916. Who was this politician? grumbled the Scots Fusiliers. Churchill began by launching a savage rhetorical attack on the louse, Pulex europaeus. He then organised for unused brewery vats to be brought to Moolenacker for a collective delousing – and it worked. Respect for Churchill climbed.

He reduced punishments. He dished out his luxuries to all who visited the mess. Read With Winston Churchill at the Front, published by “Captain X” (in reality, Andrew Dewar Gibb), who saw what happened with his own eyes.

If a man left that mess “without a large cigar lighting up his mollified countenance, that was because he was a non-smoker and through no fault of Col Churchill”. He did the same with the peach and apricot brandy. Yes, there was a bath – but plenty of other people used it.

Churchill got the troops singing music-hall songs. He urged them to laugh when they could. One young officer, Jock MacDavid, later recalled that, “After a very brief period, he had accelerated the morale of officers and men to an almost unbelievable degree. It was sheer personality.”

Did Churchill really “rat” on his friends? Regarding his conduct towards Haldane and Brockie, his two would-be fellow-escapees from the Pretorian jail, it is clear from all the diaries and letters that when it came down to it, on the night, they just wimped out. Churchill went into the latrine and jumped over the wall, and then waited for them for an hour and a half in the garden, risking detection. But they never came: he can’t be blamed for that!

Let us deal lastly with the general charge of selfishness: that he wasn’t much interested in other people, that he wasn’t much fun at parties – except when bragging about himself. Of course he was self-centred and narcissistic – a fact that he readily acknowledged. But that does not mean he had no interest in others.

Read his letters to his wife, Clementine, worrying about such things as whether the baby is going to lick the paint off the Noah’s Ark animals. Think of his kindness to his mother, who had actually cheated him of his £200,000 inheritance. Note his endless generosity towards his younger brother Jack, who lived with Churchill in Downing Street during the war.

All the evidence suggests that Churchill was warm-hearted to the point of downright sentimentality. He blubs at the drop of a hat. He weeps at the news that Londoners are queuing to buy birdseed to feed their canaries during the Blitz; he weeps when he tells an ecstatic House of Commons that he has been forced by fate to blow up the French navy. He was openly emotional in a class and society that was supposed to be all about the stiff upper lip.

He had what the Greeks called megalopsychia – greatness of soul. Churchill was not a practising Christian. He never believed in the more challenging metaphysics of the New Testament. His abiding interest was in glory and prestige – both for himself and for the “British Empire”. But he had a deep sense of what it was right and fitting for him to do.

That is why I am here at this graveyard in east London. The lady before and beneath me is Churchill’s nanny. “Erected to the memory of Elizabeth Ann Everest,” says the inscription, “who died on 3rd July 1895 aged 62 years, by Winston Spencer Churchill and John Spencer Churchill.” The story of how it came to be here is in some ways an awful one, but also a physical testimonial to the fundamental goodness of Churchill’s nature.

Churchill’s mother, Jennie, was a remote and glamorous figure, swishing in panther-like in her skintight riding gear to kiss him goodnight; otherwise not much involved. It was Mrs Everest, a largish and middle-aged woman from the Medway towns, who gave Churchill the unstinting love he craved.

“My nurse was my confidante,” said Churchill. “Mrs Everest it was who looked after me and tended all my wants. It was to her I poured out my many troubles.” He called her “Woom” or “Woomany”, and we have many lovely letters from her to him: urging him to take heroin for his toothache, to watch out for the east wind, not to try to get on moving trains, to avoid the hot weather, and debt, and bad company.

On one famous occasion, neither of his parents could be bothered to come to his Speech Day at Harrow; so Mrs Everest came, and Churchill walked around town with her, arm proudly in arm, while the other boys snickered. That showed moral courage; and more was to come.

When Churchill was 17 and Jack was 11, it was decided that the nanny was no longer needed; and though there were plenty of posh English families that retained their superannuated nannies, Churchill’s mother made no provision for Mrs Everest. She was to be out on her ear.

Churchill was incensed and protested. As a compromise, work was found for her at the London home of his grandmother, the Duchess. But two years later that job, too, came to an end. Again Churchill was angry that she was being treated in this way – dismissed by a letter! He accused his mother of being “cruel and mean”.

It was no good. Mrs Everest went to live in Crouch End, and Churchill helped to support her from his own relatively meagre income. She continued to write to him, and while he was at Sandhurst she sent him some encouragement. “Be a good Gentleman, upright, honest, just, kind and altogether lovely. My sweet old darling, how I do love you, be good for my sake.”

By 1895, Mrs Everest’s health was failing, and on July 2 he received a telegram saying that her condition was “critical”. He arrived at Crouch End, to find her only concern was for him: he had got wet on the way there. “The jacket had to be taken off and thoroughly dried before she was calm again.”

He found a doctor and a nurse, and then had to rush back to Aldershot for the morning parade – returning to north London as soon as the parade was over. She sank into a stupor and died at 2.15am, with Churchill by her.

It was Churchill who organised the funeral and the wreaths and the tombstone, and indeed it was Churchill who paid for them all, out of his own exiguous resources. He was only 20.

It is hard to know exactly how much the world owes Winston Churchill’s nanny. But if anyone taught him to be good and kind and by and large truthful, it was surely her.

Once, at the age of seven, he was walking with his nanny in the grounds of Blenheim. “We saw a snake crawling about in the grass,” he wrote to his father. “I wanted to kill it but Everest would not let me.”

She it was, I reckon, who helped him to that vast and generous moral sense.

‘The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History’ (Hodder & Stoughton, £25) can be ordered for £22 plus £1.95 p&p from Telegraph Books (0844 871 1515; Boris Johnson will be taking part in a Q&A with Gaby Wood on October 23 at Imperial College London. Tickets are £40 (including a signed copy of ‘The Churchill Factor’) and are available from

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Record of largest-ever Nazi art hoard made public for first time

May 29th, 2014

And this week it has made the information from those catalogues freely available on the Internet – the first time any German art dealer has publicly released its records from the Nazi era.

Their publication is the initiative of Katrin Stoll, who took over the auction house in 2008, and has no connection to Mr Weinmüller.

“I feel very fortunate to have this difficult task,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

Names and images of artworks that were sold can be freely browsed on, the German government website for recovering looted art. The website does not list who bought the artworks, but anyone with a serious claim to legal ownership can apply for that information.

The website does list where Mr Weinmüller obtained the artworks, and the entry “seizure by the Gestapo” frequently crops up. Where some dealers traded in art sold at knock-down prices by Jewish owners fleeing the Nazis, Mr Weinmüller was dealing directly in looted art.

Despite his significance, Mr Weinmüller has remained a shadowy figure. For years no one even knew what he looked like, until a photo emerged a few months ago of a bespectacled, unobtrusive man at an auction.

He successfully lied to the “Monuments Men” about his role during the war, and hid his connections to the Nazi high command. In fact he had risen to wealth and prominence by his loyalty to the party, and counted Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary, amongst his clients.

A previously small-time dealer, he chaired a pro-Nazi trade organisation and took over the Munich arts scene as Jewish dealers were forced out.

Despite investigating him as a high priority, the “Monuments Men” were unable to prove anything against him, or prevent him from reopening his auction house. He held a further 35 auctions before his death in 1958.

After his death the Weinmüller auction house, as it was then known, was sold to Ms Stoll’s father, Rudolf Neumeister, who changed its name.

Experts say the real test of the new initiative will come when legal owners come forward to claim looted artworks. Some of the details of the buyers in the auction house’s records are sketchy, and list no more than a common surname. But others may be traceable, and artworks long given up as lost may finally be found again.

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