Womankind, Would You Mind Stepping In?

1340722-bigthumbnailThe Last Chance?

Will the city of Mosul be the site of the beginning of another Doomsday?  Or will it be remembered as the place that brought people to their senses, to break through old animosities, to prevent the worst carnage since World War II?

A public announcement has been made of the intent to crush the ISIS occupation of the city of Mosul which holds within its population of close to two million citizens an Islamic state force of approximately 8,000 soldiers. It is to be encircled and attacked by Iraq and allied forces, ten times stronger than those of ISIS, in a month or two.

The city Mosul

The city Mosul

The timetable for the attack has a multi-purpose. It takes a period of time to train forces, acquire new equipment, build an arsenal of drones, of night vision devices, and to perfect the paraphernalia required for the disarmament of booby traps. It takes time to amass a force which, if deployed, will not fail.

The timetable also allows for a conference between the two major Arab tribes, the Sunni and the Shia Muslims, to consider an end to their differences, and perhaps to invite Sufis to add some spiritual motivation to end the carnage of jihadism.

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And finally, the timetable provides an opportunity to align the effort with International Women’s Day on March 8, 2015, a symbolic joining with the fight of womanhood against male dominance.

The first observance of Women’s Day was held in New York in 1909. It was organized in remembrance of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union strike in 1908.

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However, the most impressive demonstration of a cry for women’s equal rights was enacted on March 8, 1917 when female workers went on strike at the Putilov Steel Works in the Russian Capital, then called Petrograd, for ‘Bread and Peace’. They marched to nearby factories, gathering over 50,000 workers to join the strike. Within days, they were joined by soldiers and virtually every industrial enterprise in Petrograd was forced to shut down. It ultimately instigated the abdication of the then ruling Tsar, allowing the start of the October Revolution which brought about the second October Revolution which then brought the Bolshevik party into power under Vladimir Lenin, who became sole leader of the Soviet Union in 1922.

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Today, such women are needed again to stop the carnage in the Ukraine against the Russian invasion. And they are needed to mobilize Arab women to stop the persistent barbaric killings in the name of Allah.

And let us not forget that we in the West have not fulfilled our democratic duties; we allow the barbaric rape of women in our institutions of learning and have yet to live up to the promise of equal rights without gender discrimination.

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We cannot fail to prevent ISIS from gaining the power to start a third World War. But, we must also pay the price for rebuilding the homes and feeding the millions of refugees left homeless and hungry due to the wars in the Middle East and Africa.

Islam has to have its Reformation as we Christians had to have ours. We pray differently in different congregations, but we have the same God. We pray to Him for guidance because we are all his children and we still have to learn to get along with each other.

I have no answers. I do not know if God will take a hand in our fate. I just pray that the collective hope of people will shift destiny with its spiritual energy.

Let women become the leaders in our struggle for peace! They are our last chance!

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Annual Marathon Hollywood Show

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The Oscar Awards, February 22, 2015

 

The Oscar Awards – it is the movie industry’s annual spectacle which drags on until past midnight, and for the attending artists and officials, with post-ceremony parties, into the wee hours of the morning.

It is impossible for me to give an objective account of the entire gala; I can only offer my impressions and observations of those moments that held special meaning for me. As of now, I have not even seen any of the movies nominated or honoured with an Oscar for the year 2014. I have not been to a movie theater since my wife’s death in 2013, but I will start to look for some of the nominated films.

Last night, I was deeply moved by the acceptance speech of the award winner for best supporting actress, Patricia Arquette, and her compassioned appeal for gender equality and equal pay for equal work in the motion picture industry, as well as in any labour and management jobs. For me, this was the most important message, for I have a calling to dedicate the rest of my life to work for the advancement of womanhood in all cultures that still treat women as second-class citizens. I fully reject a particular female journalist’s criticism of Patricia’s acceptance speech as nit-picking, except for her admission that “the gender wage gap certainly exists, with working women making, on average, 77 cents for every dollar a man makes“.

Did you notice the elegant display of classical ball-gowns worn by the women at this year’s awards ceremony? It is a significant change in attitude towards women, to be admired and honoured in contrast to the sexist display of revealing attires in previous Oscar shows. The most significant appearance in this regard was Lady Gaga’s, who delivered a delightful rendition of a song from The Sound of Music which, 50 years ago was a hit, sung by Julie Andrews portraying Maria von Trapp in the hills of Salzburg. This was another high point of last night’s telecast for me for Salzburg is where I grew up as a youngster, living in the same suburb at the von Trapp family, and later, after the war, when I moved to Canada and visited the Trapp family in Stowe, Vermont, Maria Augusta Baroness von Trapp agreed to be the godmother of my son Thomas, born in 1959.

One final event that impressed me was the acceptance speech of the director, Iñárritu. With a bunch of coworkers behind him, he rattled off the names of all the people he had to thank for their collaboration and participation, then suddenly, one man came from behind him and whispered into his ear. The man must have reminded Iñárritu of somebody he’d forgotten. “Oh, yeah!” The director then added how thankful he had to be for the essential support of his wife. Which he did with a truly loving smile.

In my mind, the 87th Academy Awards ceremony brought humanity a vital step forward towards the elevation of womanhood, subtly, hardly noticeably, but significantly!

Erin, Please Help

Erin Burnett, CNN News

Erin Burnett, CNN News

The Americans are not getting the message. The ISIS rebels are murderers, trying to tear the world apart, as jihadists to fulfill Mohammed’s call to fight infidels. There is a split message in the Islam religion, as there was in Christianity centuries ago – a fight against non-believers as a mission sanctioned by Allah.

We are all from the same ancestry of an Abrahamic religion. We recognize the same God in the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each has fought for the truth, and each, at times, has slaughtered non-believers. But we have overcome, with tolerance and an acceptance of diversity, the same source of moral law. We are not at war with Islam! Why then do we identify it as ‘Islamic terrorism’?

We allow ISIS to use the Internet, to post the cruelest pictures of execution, waving their flag on top of military vehicles and tanks, intimidating the rest of the world, while recruiting immature minds. Everybody knows by now that aerial bombing will not defeat ISIS, but training the local population to become fighting forces is worth nothing if there is not the will instilled into them to defend their people, including women and children.

And there is the most obviously missing part – to build a counteractive Internet program for Western women of all colours and religions, training and educating them specifically to use their acting talents and sweet voices, to become knowledgeable in broadcasting, like the incredibly dedicated CNN anchorwoman, Erin Burnett. The message of peace must be delivered in a concerted mission by women – teachers, theologians, politicians, broadcasters, mothers – in a mobilized, relentless Internet barrage of messages, propagating the rights and denouncing the wrongs of humanity.
It is within the power of womanhood to defeat the recruitment methods of ISIS and to stop their drive of the world towards an Apocalypse Now.

My Equestrian Roots

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Prussian Royal Hussars 1903

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King Ludwig II

Most of my ancestors were equestrians; they were cavalry officers in royal regiments.  My grandfather, Alfred Ludwig (1864–1951), was a riding teacher with the Prussian Royal Hussars.

Among his pupils were King Ludwig II of Bavaria and several Prussian princes, and it was no surprise that his two sons would also be engaged with horses.  His oldest son, Wolfgang (Wolf) Ludwig Richard Alfred Carl Johan, Dr.Juris. Freiherr von Kapp-herr, born November 2, 1889 in Munich, was my father.

After completing his classical high school education, my father volunteered as an officer cadet for military service in August 1917, joining the Royal Bavarian Chevau-légers regiment in Nuremberg.  He was assigned to a combat mission in the spring of 1918 on the Russian front in Romania with the Bavarian cavalry division, advancing through Bessarabia and the Ukraine, defeating the Bolshevik army at Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula.

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He was promoted to lieutenant and decorated with the Iron Cross.  In the last phase of the war, the regiment made the return journey on horseback with continued skirmishes against revolting partisans.  While holding their stand, the regiment allowed straggling German troops to retreat into their homeland.  My father returned to Nuremberg with his regiment in the spring of 1919.  The dismissal of the oldest Bavarian cavalry regiment came without delay.

My father then went to Munich to study agricultural management at the technical institute, then law at the universities in Munich and Erlangen.  He married in 1922, graduated in 1923 with a doctorate in law, and became a business manager and director of a fish processing company in Salzburg.  Persistent calling from his military comrades persuaded him to return to Bavaria with his family.  There, he re-entered military service as a second lieutenant and commander of an infantry company in 1935.  One of the perks of this position was the acquisition of a horse to lead his company in parades and to enter into equestrian events during the entirety of his military career, which finally ended in 1945 with the end of the second World War.

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Years later, I flew from Canada to visit my father in Salzburg, in time to be at his bedside when he slipped into a coma in the arms of his second wife, Ida.  He died on August 7, 1970.  I had to leave before his funeral, but was told that it was royally attended by the citizens of Salzburg, and that the entire province’s police force marched in a parade in his honour – on horseback.

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The 70th Anniverary of the Bombing of Dresden

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Dresden before two world wars

 

February 13th marks the 70th anniversary of Dresden. My ancestral home. In one night I lost seventeen relatives.

By February 1945 there was already widespread acceptance in Germany that the war was lost and a quick capitulation would end the carnage.  Dresden had been the home of my father’s ancestors and many of my relatives were still living there.  I, myself, was born and raised in Austria and had rarely visited Dresden before its bombing.  In 1944, I was there at the Luftwaffe Luftkriegschule to become a fighter pilot.  Today, I may say, ‘fortunately’ the war had come to its end before I could make it into combat.

Dresden was then a beautiful city, which seemed to have been bypassed by the war.  Its citizens had no fear and had made no preparations for possible air raids.  A rumour had it that Churchill’s grandmother used to live in Dresden and that he might still have some property there.  There was no military installation apart from the flying school on the outskirts, in Klotsche.  The population had already been swollen by refugees from the East who had fled the advancing Russian army.  The excessive Allied bombing on February 13, 1945, came as a total surprise.

The air raid was one of the most effective ever to be executed, causing maximum damage over a mere two days.  The first wave of bombs blew houses, roofs and service installations to bits.  Electricity and water supplies stopped functioning.  The second wave came as a carpet of fire bombs.  I remember from a blitz in Berlin in 1942 the sound of the phosphorous sticks, like a handclap when they hit the ground, followed by the hissing of a relentless stream of flames.  A third round of explosive bombs came down to spread the flaming material all around.  Smoke and dust engulfed the whole city.

By the end of the second night, thousands of people were dead, men, women, and children, residents of the city as well as refugees fleeing from the Russian army, burnt or blasted or suffocated by the firestorm that sucked the oxygen from their lungs.  The target wasn’t a munitions factory or a submarine base.  It was a virtually defenceless medieval city renowned for its art and the beauty of its architecture.

My uncle conducted a survey count of our relatives.  Seventeen had perished in the Dresden inferno, mostly elderly ladies.  They were either caught in an explosion, burned to death, or asphyxiated from the smoke.  The official mortality count, which will never be accurate, is estimated to be 35,000 people.  This number is just behind Hamburg’s, the most devastatingly bombed German city in the war, where 40,000 people were lost over several air raids.

The veteran airmen do not need to feel dishonoured by the result of their accomplished mission.  They did not know what had happened down on the ground.  They only saw the flash of impact, received confirmation that they were on target, then got the hell out of there, back to the safety of their base.  They were responsible for their aircraft, the safety of their men on board, and to be sure that they avoided unnecessary risks.  That was their job.

The question is, what motivated the order for such a mission as at the time it would not contribute to the outcome or shortening of the war.  One thing is certain, however, Hitler’s bombings of British cities and the relentless terrorising of London, with V-1 unmanned bombers and V-2 rockets, motivated revenge.  One person was responsible for the order to bomb Dresden that late in the war with such crushing waves of carpet bombings.  That person was Sir Arthur Travers Harris (1892-1984), the British commander-in-chief of the Royal Air Force (RAF) from 1942 to 1945 and in charge of Bomber Command.  He had been aptly nicknamed ‘Bomber Harris’.

Distinguished historians defined the goal of Bomber Command as follows:

 

The destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilized life throughout Germany.  It should be emphasized that the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives; the creation of refugee problems on an unprecedented scale; and the breakdown of morale… are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy.

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The bombing of Dresden and other German cities in 1945, shocking as it is today when ‘collateral damages’ are considered war crimes, did not stir the numbed minds of an already defeated German population.  Due to this demonstration of superior power by the enemy forces, there was no expectation or even possibility for Germany to rise in rebellion against its Nazi leaders.  Even if Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (1907-1944) had succeeded in his attempt on July 20, 1944, the assassination of Hitler could not have resulted in a sufficient assembly of men to wrestle the power from the remaining Nazi leadership.  Even in the last hours of the war there was still a glimmer of hope, propagated by powerful radio speeches delivered by Joseph Goebbels, shouting at the German public words to the effect of, “Just wait, we are within weeks of obtaining a weapon that will ensure our ultimate victory!  Once in service, our enemies will beg on their knees to stop the carnage we will be in a position to inflict upon them and will be ready to accept peace on German terms!”

Indeed, the true heroes were the courageous Norwegian resistance fighters, sacrificing some of their own people by sinking a barge loaded with barrels of heavy water.  The Royal Navy, too, alerted by the British intelligence service, sank two ships carrying barrels of heavy water from Norway to Germany.  These actions alone prevented the outcome of the war as predicted by Goebbels.  The Germans had perfected the technique of constructing the atomic bomb.  They had also constructed the delivery system, the V-2 rocket.  But the missing ingredient was heavy water to trigger the fission and the only source of it at that time was a Norwegian fertilizer plant  If those sailors had failed, the first atomic bombs would not have been detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but over London and Moscow.

A few months later, holed up in a bunker in Berlin with Hitler and Eva Braun, Goebbels not only killed himself, but also his wife and small children.  His diabolical mind could not fathom that his enemies might be less cruel than he and his henchmen had been.

I am not an eye witness, nor have I suffered from the war bombings in Germany.  I can only relate what I experienced and stories told to me of what happened at ground level.

In 1940, I was living with my mother, who had moved the household to Berlin.  I had just come back from a boarding school in south Germany where air raids had not yet started to happen.  My older brother was still living at home and we shared a bedroom.  One night I was startled awake by the wail of sirens, sounding a warning of approaching enemy aircrafts.  Before I could ask my brother what was happening, he got up, closed the window, and told me to go back to sleep.  He was used to false alarms.  But these would soon change into actual air raids by British bombers.

In 1942, one of the neighbourhood apartment blocks was hit and set aflame.  I joined the rescue team to form a chain, delivering buckets of water up to the roof five stories above. At the age of 17, this experience was rather exciting and did not affect my desire to become a pilot like my older brother.

I was lucky to have escaped the full effects of the war, but the suffering and death around me did not go unnoticed or unfelt.

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