Thursday, February 23, 2017

Echos und Echoes



My restaurant godmother, Momie Hilde Kalmus of Fernand fame was a Berliner.  Her dad had a day resort outside the city when she was young. Hilde moved to town as a teen and worked in all the great hotels of the time, Fier Jahre Zeit, the Adlon, etc.  This was before the war….and then all through the war.  She was the first woman to progress that high in hotel kitchens…a toughie 
At the end of the war, she was taking care of a whole group of women in a bombed out basement, foraging all day for scraps of food and fuel.  When the Russians came she went up on the roof with her two year old….if they found her she was going to toss Gerhardt and jump after him.  All the women in the cellar were raped and some were killed.  The Russkies didn’t make it to the roof.
For decades I would stop in to say hi after work…first at Fernand’s (now Corkscrew) and then at her house on Laurel, after she retired.  Momie drank gin and flat lemon-lime soda from giant bottles….no ice.  I would drink the schnapps her husband had made in his secret still, and we would watch TV and chat.
After a couple of pops, Momie would get comfortable and would forget that I am not from Berlin and lapse into full on Berlinisch.  I have enough kitchen German to follow and we would both drift off into a kind of time machine…..Berlin before and during the war.
Momie is gone now….I keep her memory and memories alive by reading about the time period.  Police procedurals, spyish novels, etc.  Phillip Kerr, David Downing, John Lawton, Luke McCallin, etc.  If you are fans of Michael Connelly or Robert Crais or John Sanford I just gave you another 25 books for your list.
There is a lot of hysterical noise about Trump and fascism and Hitler and all that.  There is something to it in the sense that Trump has unleashed resentment, hatred, anti-semitism and homophobia in his low information voters. His intolerance of dissent or criticism, etc.
This is something that really scares me.  In 1933, Hitler became Chancellor and head of a coalition government of Nazis, Commies and Social Democrats. They each had about a third of the seats.  Less than a month later the Reichstag (parliament) was torched by an arsonist, a Dutch kid named Marinus Van der Lubbe.  He was caught and beheaded in the guillotine less than a year later.
Hitler blamed the fire on the Communists and used the excuse to get emergency temporary powers, suspending habeas corpus, freedom of speech, press freedom, the right of public assembly and free association and the secrecy of the mail and telephones.  Thousands of Communists were arrested, including all of their legislators.  Hitler now had a majority in the legislature and passed yet another law enabling him to govern simply by decree.
The Arizona law allows police to arrest anyone, including the organizers of any peaceful demonstration, if there is any property damage or injuries.  They can also seize the assets of anyone in attendance, whether they are guilty of vandalism or assault.
Not everyone believed that Van Lubbe was a Communist. It was too perfect a scenario for Hitler, and the speed and organization of coup was highly suspicious.  Momie Hilde never believed a word of it….she was sure the kid was just a stooge for the Nazis.
So here is a modern scenario in Phoenix: a Mothers Against Drunk Driving rally attended by some legislators….mostly Democrats, of course.  A couple of skinheads start a fight and throw a rock through a window.  Everyone that could be rounded up at the rally would be subject to arrest…..and the confiscation of all their assets by the police without a trial.
The fact that these guys even THINK of something like this is what scares me.  The mere publishing of an executive order about immigration instantly put our entire Latino population on the defensive, legal or not.  Across the country anyone with slightly sketchy papers, or anyone who works with, hangs with or godforbid lives with someone with sketchy papers is subject to arrest and deportation.  People are staying home from work, from shopping, from school…..and certainly from protesting or marching.  The Arizona law puts everyone in that exact same boat.  Shut up or be crushed. 
I find it ironic also that Hitler had 32% of the votes when he started….right around Donald’s “highly approve” rate.  Think it can’t happen again?  Better get busy.

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