Einstein’s Science and Religion

The reading “Science and Religion” consists of two articles written by Albert Einstein. They both argue science and religion are interdependent.  Einstein wrote that science could not exist without the questioning of one’s surroundings and pushing the boundaries of knowledge and fact, which are fundamental principles accompanying any religion. Likewise, religion could not exist without knowledge and fact, as knowledge lays the groundwork for ethics and rules.

Throughout the reading, Einstein made a couple of references to the Church. At the end of the second article segment, Einstein wrote why he believes a priest must become a teacher in order to get his message across. As Einstein was Jewish, I found it very interesting how he offered examples from the Catholic religion instead of Judaism. I thought of a reason this might be. My thought is that Einstein was a self-loathing Jew. He experienced the rise of Nazi Germany first hand, and was fortunately saved and allowed to immigrate to America because of his scientific work. He won the Nobel Prize in 1921, and moved to American in 1933. The Nazis burned his books and put out a hit on him in spite of all of his accomplishments. From the reading, it is obvious that Einstein believed that religion is important to incorporate into society and into one’s life, but is it possible he hated his own religion? Was he hiding his Judaism to be taken more seriously, as anti-Semetism was running rampant at this time? Or was he just appealing to the public and the majority?

The Triumph of the Will

The Triumph of the Will, directed by Leni Riefenstahl in 1935, is a Nazi propaganda film chronicling the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg. Riefenstahl shows hundreds of thousands of children and adults saluting and cheering as they see Hitler. The film shows small portions of many Nazi leaders speeches at the Congress. It is very apparent the film is attempting to depict that Germany has once again risen to be a great power, all thanks to the glorious leader Adolf Hitler.

There are many things I found intriguing about this film, however a scene that caught my attention was at the very beginning. As Hitler is being driven down the street in a motorcade, the cars slow down so that a mother and daughter can shake Hitler’s hand and give him flowers. It is obvious that these people were specifically selected for this event, due to the fact that there were so many people lining the streets watching the motorcade and none were able to approach except for this duo. I began to think why they were selected and what is the significance of this? Well, for one it depicts the perfect Nazi-German mother-daughter role. The woman’s husband is not with them, and I would assume he is either in the army fighting the war or fulfilling his Nazi duties elsewhere. The mother steps up to raise her child on her own, and in a sense Hitler fills the now empty father role for the child. He is the male figure the daughter now looks up to, which is depicted through the young childs’ salute.  This act is met with loud cheers from the crowd. I believe they were selected based on their appearance. The daughter is a perfect example of an Aryan. Although it was hard to see her eyes, it is obvious she has light skin and blonde hair.

Although this scene depicted the role a Nazi party woman should have- taking care of her children and praising Hitler- there is a serious contradiction to that party thought regarding the film. Leni Riefenstahl, the director, is a woman. My question is, why would Hitler chose her to produce and direct his propaganda film? Doesn’t that go against his traditional party beliefs regarding women?


Review Articles

The review article “Gulag Historiography: An Introduction”, written by Wilson T. Bell, a former visiting professor at Dickinson College, attempts to explain what an actual Gulag is. Although the term was originally used as an acronym for Stalin’s labor camps, it currently is used to describe various forms of labor camps all over the world along with having numerous definitions. The second review article, written by Steven Maddox and has no title, compares two books: Preserving Petersburg: History, Memory, Nostalgia–a compilation of essays edited by Helena Goscilo and Stephen M. Norris– and From Ruins to Reconstruction: Urban Identity in Soviet Sevastopol after World War II, written by Dickinson College professor, Karl D. Qualls. This review article reviewed the two books on how they “discuss issues of urban identity, historic preservation, and persistence of local memories and cultures in St. Petersburg and Sevastopol” (Maddox 241).

Although both articles are review articles, they are very different types. Bell’s article reviewed the history of the word “gulag”, which called for the use of many different sources. About half of each page consisted of footnotes. It wasn’t focused on specific works, but rather the topic as a whole.

Maddox’s article goes into great depth on each of the books, while comparing and contrasting the two books. Maddox’s positive review had me intrigued and interested in reading the books he was reviewing. At the end of the review, I found it interesting how Maddox’s questions for the authors truly demonstrated how closely related the two books are to each other, and how there are avenues for greater exploration on the topics.

Overall, I found both reviews extremely well written and interesting. Although they were both different types of reviews, the common theme between the two is that they both easily explain their concepts and ideas to the reader.

Is it more effective to cover a topic using many different sources, or to focus the topic with just a few?

The Demise of Purity

Bread and Wine by Ignazio Silone is a historical novel that follows the journey of Pietro Spina, a young communist revolutionary. Pietro Spina returns to Italy from exile and is being hunted by police, so he takes on the identity of Don Paolo Spada, a priest, to avoid capture. It is clear that this novel’s goal is to denounce fascism and praise communism, while portraying a sympathy for peasants and landowners.

Cristina, Don Paolo’s love interest, is the character that intrigued me the most. In this novel it was obvious to me that Cristina was the symbol of purity. She was the glue that held her family together; she put off her dreams of becoming a nun to take care of her family and their home. In chapter 9, Don Paolo goes to Cristina’s house to meet her family and father, Don Pasquale. There, Cristina, Don Pasquale, and Don Paolo talk about Cristina’s youth. Don Pasquale tells Don Paolo that when Cristina was a baby he left her in the pram, and a wolf came. However, the wolf didn’t eat Cristina, which is strange because she would have been easy prey (98). Contrasting with Cristina’s experience in childhood, at the very end of the novel, Cristina dashes to the mountain to look for Don Paolo, who she now knows to be Pietro Spina. Through the snow she desperately calls out for him, looking for Pietro. Dishearteningly, when she calls out for Pietro, only the howl of wolves is returned.  She knows that they are coming to kill her. She makes a cross and sinks to her knees knowing her death is imminent (270). To me, this contrast symbolized that in a world such as Facist Italy, purity cannot survive. Eventually, the “wolf” will “eat you”, no matter how long you have escaped it before.

Is this symbol an over-dramatization of a socialst’s view of a fascist government?

The Madness from Within

The Madness from Within is an interesting documentary that examines the causes, events, and consequences of the Irish Civil War through interviews and archival footage. On June 28th 1922, after the Irish War of Independence and the establishment of the Irish Free State, the Irish Civil War began. Conflict arose between two opposing groups of Irish nationalists, the Free State and the Irish Republican Army (IRA), over the Anglo-Irish treaty. The Free State triumphed over the Irish Republicans, thanks to the money, weapons, and support from the British. It was a short yet bloody war and the ramifications are still very much present in Ireland.

The part I found most interesting about the documentary is the unrest Ireland is currently experiencing because of the Civil War. Today, the IRA has a modern sect formed by the direct descendants of the original IRA. They are not afraid to use arms if necessary. This shows how there is still an immense amount of conflict within Ireland, and they are not a united country.

One of the main reasons the IRA may never be satisfied is because of their disdain for negotiation. Their mistrust comes from the original negotiation with Britain in 1921. Due to the IRA’s unwillingness to negotiate, I do not think the political unrest will ever die down in Ireland. They will continue to have power struggles and acts of violence until the IRA is willing to sit down, listen, and negotiate with others. Although it is impossible for everyone to get what they want, there could be a way to compromise.

As time goes on, will the younger generations care less about the past and be able to move forward from a century of conflict?


A Futurist and a Surrealist

The “Futurist Manifesto,” written by F. T. Marinetti, and the “Surrealist Manifesto” written by Andre Brenton, are both interesting writings that contain radical ideas for the early 20th century. The Futuristic Manifesto focuses more on the rejection of the past, or in other words Futurism. It promotes sexism, war, and destruction of museums. The Surrealist manifesto focuses on revolution slightly more than the Futurist Manifesto does, but in a less violent way. It is written that they are “determined” on creating a revolution, yet refrains from mentioning violence in wars.

Two things about the Futurist Manifesto really intrigued me. Out of curiosity and to better understand the history surrounding this manifesto, I looked up the date it was published. I found out it was published at 1904, which I found interesting in regards to the manifesto’s discussion about violence and revolution. This manifesto was written before the Russian revolution and World War I, and at this point in time the world had not truly experienced the kind of war and revolution this writing was describing. This made me think, did this manifesto have any influence on the Russian Revolution? And second, why would Marinetti want to glorify war in the first place?

The main thing about the Surrealism manifesto that fascinated me was Article 2. Here it is written that Surrealism is not a means of expression but a freeing of the mind. Previous to reading this manifesto, I had always thought of Surrealism in the sense that it was an art style. To me, art has always been a way of expressing ones’ self, while concurrently freeing ones’ mind. I took my original view of Surrealism and applied it to the reading. I still think that one is expressing themselves while also freeing their minds, because free thoughts lead to great ideas. So to me, Article 2 was slightly contradictory. However, I could just be interpreting Breton’s ideas incorrectly.

Overall, I found both these manifestos very interesting in the ways they express their desire  and capability of revolution.

Children of Russia


This photo depicts a Soviet child sleeping under a communist flag. The rough translation of the caption of this photo is “Grow, heroes! You will save the Soviet Army.” This pro-Natalist propoganda was distributed in Russia after World War II. The population of Russia had significantly declined after the war, and Russia wanted to increase their population. Although this piece of propaganda did not come about until after the Interwar Period, it connects to the thoughts of the Soviet Union during the Interwar Period.

In the reading Revolution and the Family by Wendy Goldman, there is a focus on the children, women, and the Pro-Natalist movement in the Soviet Union during the Interwar Period. The government was very concerned with the decreasing birthrates and lack of potential productive members of society. In order to attempt to increase the Soviet population, the Soviet Central Executive Committee and Sovnarkom outlawed abortion. To deter illegal abortions, there were heavy fines and prison sentences implemented.

In addition to deterring abortion, they also offered incentives to those willing to increase the population. The government would give stipends to new mothers, monetary bonuses for women with many children, and longer maternity leaves for those in the work force. In order to grow the Soviet Union, the government needed to grow their population, just as the propaganda picture above suggests.

Although the time period may change, the need for large, productive populations remains static.



A Countries’ True Agenda

The introduction and first chapter of The Lost Children by Tara Zahra and the first chapter of Cultivating the Masses by David Hoffman both explore the concept of the welfare state. Although these works focus on different groups, Zarah focusing on children and Hoffman focusing on the population as a whole, both authors have come to the same conclusion; a country’s welfare programs are implemented to benefit the country as whole, not necessarily for an individual’s gain.

From the start of reading The Lost Children Zahra writes that programs were implemented to increase the productivity of the country. Mrs. Roch, and American social worker, was assigned to Ruth-Karin Dadowic’s case. Roch described Ruth-Karin as “well built for her age with a strong and firm handshake.” Ruth-Karin was chosen to participate in the Displaced Persons Act, and from this description it is implied she is chosen because of her health and capabilities. She is more likely to be a contributing member of society, and thus increase the productivity of the country. Another example of the true goals of social welfare programs is exemplified through the Spanish Civil War refugees. The social welfare programs only saved children to secure their political, social, and religious loyalties and to transform them into the republican or nationalist militants of the future (Zahar, 16). This was also true of the campaign to rehabilitate Europe’s lost children; it was merely for the future of Europe’s well being (Zahar, 23). In the St. Goin colony, J. M. Alvarez would use his position as director to instill Republican and nationalist values in the wards he was in charge of educating and looking after (Zahar, 26). All of this was to benefit the country, not the individual.

Hoffman’s writing in Cultivating the Masses is directly related to these examples from Zahar’s text. Hoffman wrote that a country was concerned with social welfare to increase productivity of the country. By implementing social welfare programs, it increased the standard of living of the citizens, increasing the productivity of the country (Hoffman, 18-20).

From Hoffman and Zarah, the reader learns that the citizen is merely a pawn for the country. Although it may appear that social welfare is implemented because the country cares about the individual, it is simply not true. A country is merely concerned with it’s well being as a whole, and the benefits trickle down to the individual.

Critical Summary of Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent

Dark Continent by Mark Mazower is a historical text which covers the interwar period of Europe in a unique way. The first four chapters each focus on a different aspect of interwar Europe: the decline of democracy, nationalism and the effects it has on minority groups, health and social welfare as a means of control over populations, and the economies of nations. Mazower’s geopolitical coverage of Europe is large; he touches upon other countries in Europe that are usually neglected. Mazower’s interpretation of these historical events is also unique. He ties his interpretation into his themes of decline, fall, and social struggles in Europe to his thesis that Communism, Nazism, and democracy are more related than the reader may have originally thought. Through these views of the forms of governments and the main social struggle of the era, Mazower helps the reader gain a greater understanding of interwar Europe.

Starting with the first chapter and continuing through the next three, Mazower repeatedly points out the primary social struggle present throughout all countries and political parties: the strained relationship between the individual and the population as a whole. This is especially apparent in chapter three, when Mazower expands on the welfare state and social welfare. The welfare was not for the good of the individual; it was for the good of the country as a whole (89). This was constant throughout all countries in Europe. Another historian, Hoffman, reaffirms this idea in his historical writing, Cultivating the Masses. Hoffman, like Mazower, writes about a country’s concern for its productivity level, as it is directly correlated to the creation of social welfare for its people.

In Mazower’ interpretation of history, he views Communism as a favorable political solution. He touches upon the positives of Communism, explaining the basic goals of tackling corruption and social injustice. This interpretation sheds a positive light on Communism, which the reader may not have expected. He believes that the Soviet Union dealt with the issue of minorities and nationalism the best out of all of the governments. The Soviet Union was able to win over the minorities in the country by offering them involvement in the government (50). This united the country in a way in which no other country in Europe was able to do.

Mazower also examines the growth of Nazism in Europe, especially Germany. Nazism grew from citizens’ hatred of communism. This is apparent from many SS members’ own testimonies, including Hitler’s bodyguard, Rochus Misch. Like many members of the Nazi Party, he stated that he joined the SS because it was a “counterweight to the threat of the left,” and that it was for anti-communist goals. Yet Nazism was a form of imperialism that fits into history better than many believe it should (74). It did have a focus on social welfare; however that focus was then manipulated to benefit a minority of Germans, the Aryan race.

The most discussed form of government, which failed quite often, was democracy. In interwar Europe, there was not a universally agreed upon definition of democracy (5). This directly lead to the development of “democratic governments” which were no more than totalitarian or militant, non-parliamentary regimes. This can be seen in post-World War I Germany when a Constitutional provision, Article 48, was created in order to suspend the Constitution under specific conditions. This article was inevitably abused by then-Chancellor, Hitler, and although he was democratically elected, it is obvious that this abuse was not one of good faith and democratic idealism (33). From democracy, Nazism was born.  On the other hand, in other countries’ democracies, there was great distrust of the executive branch of government (19). Mazower does a good job of linking, comparing, and contrasting each individual European country’s form of democracy with the others.

From Mazower’s descriptions alone, the reader can see that these three forms of governments had similar goals. These three governments grew from and were related to each other; one cannot exist without the others. Each was constantly evolving, rising and falling with the changing climate of worldwide political trends. This leads to a greater understanding of the political structure, and conflict, in interwar Europe.

Overall, Mazower’s Dark Continent is a great text for an undergraduate history course. It intelligently follows the rise and fall of vastly different political ideologies in Europe, while also following the social struggles stemming from each. It does so without confusing the reader with irrelevant details, employing the use of brevity through text. It goes without saying that Mazower provides the reader with an extensive overview of the interwar period and successfully supports his thesis.

The Last Witness

Friday, September 6th, 2013; the second day of the Jewish new year called Rosh Hashannah. Today marks a day of new beginnings, and an end to the past. Today, Hitler’s bodyguard Rochus Misch, the last surviving witness of Hitler’s suicide, has died. I am Jewish, and my Grandpa Larry’s whole family was brutally murdered in Auchwitz during the “Final Solution.” For me, Mr. Misch’s passing brings a mixture of feelings. Of course I do not rejoice in the death of a human being; if I did so I am no better than Hitler himself. At the same time, I cannot help but feel a sense of closure for my family members that I never got to meet.

Now, Rochus Misch claims that he had no idea that 6 million Jews were being slaughtered  or worked to their deaths. To me, that is a completely absurd concept. There is no way that he being Hitler’s bodyguard never overheard a conversation or had any idea of what was really going on in Germany. He said that he was constantly by Hitler’s side; eating with him, living with him, protecting him. Misch obviously knew what Hitler’s agenda was, and the fact that Misch was never held accountable for any actions whatsoever dumbfounds me. He was never tried for crimes against humanity, even though in my opinion him simply protecting Hitler should be a crime in itself. Instead, Misch spent nine years in a prisoner of war camp in the Soviet Union (Rising).

All of my personal feelings aside, Rochus Misch’s life directly relates to Mark Mazower’s historical writing Dark Continent. In Chapter 1 of Dark Continent, Mazower speaks of Communism and Facism in the 1930s. When Misch was 20 years old, he said he joined the SS  because he saw it as a “counterweight to the threat of the left.” This exact point was made in Mazower’s writings. Misch was so anti-communism that he joined a Fascist group. Speaking about his decision to join the SS, Misch said “It (joining the SS) was anti-communist, against Stalin — to protect Europe.” He noted that thousands of other Western Europeans served in the Waffen SS. “I signed up in the war against Bolshevism, not for Adolf Hitler.”

Shanah Tovah ooh Metukah. Have a happy and sweet new year. The last witness to Hitler’s suicide is now gone. Never forget.

Bibliography: RISING, DAVID. “Hitler Bodyguard Rochus Misch Dies at 96.” Ap.org. Associated Press, 6 Sept. 2013. Web. 06 Sept. 2013.