Hitlers European Holocaust Helpers

There is a good article in The Spiegel about the help the German Nazi’s got from all over Europe.

I noticed that the Croats and Slovaks came in for criticism:

Germany’s troops didn’t have the whole of continental Europe under the gun to the same extent. Outside the Third Reich and the occupied territories the Germans needed the help of foreign governments in their monstrous murder project — in the west as well as the south and southeast of Europe. Their support was strongest among the Slovaks and Croats whom Hitler had given their own states. The Croatian Ustasha fascists set up their own concentration camps where Jews were killed “through typhoid, hunger, shooting, torture, drowning, stabbing and hammer blows to the head,” says historian Hilberg. The majority of Croatian Jews were killed by Croats.

What this article does not mention, and what most people do not know, is that according to the United States Holocaust Museum, “The Croat authorities murdered between 330,000 and 390,000 ethnic Serb residents of Croatia and Bosnia during the period of Ustaša rule; more than 30,000 Croatian Jews were killed either in Croatia or at Auschwitz-Birkenau.”

Anyone trying to understand what happened to Yugoslavia needs to know this. 

The Dark Continent: Hitler’s European Holocaust Helpers – SPIEGEL ONLINE

How did I miss this? JG Ballard dead at 78

“J.G. Ballard, who expanded and defied the genre of science fiction, is dead at the age of 78… NYT
James Fallows
Peter Stothard
New Yorker
Toby Litt
Michael Moorcock
Martin Amis
John Crace
London Times
more links
… His last short story.”

[Via Arts and Letters Daily]

Grand strategy summarised

From Chet Richards » Motherhood — the Key to Success

“At its simplest, the concept of motherhood-and-mismatches (M&M) is grand strategy at work. Recall that in Boyd’s scheme — yours may differ, of course — the purpose of grand strategy is to pump up our morale, degrade that of our opponents, attract the uncommitted to our cause, and end the conflict on favorable terms without sowing the seeds for future (unfavorable) conflict. A tall order, but if you lose at the grand strategic level — your alliances unravel, your own people lose heart, and opponents seem emboldened, even if losing on the battlefield — your chances of pulling out a victory are slim.”

Israelis to sue NATO over 1999 Air strikes

Now this could be interesting:

B92 – News – Politics – Israelis to sue NATO for 1999 air strikes

TEL AVIV — The Israeli Almagor Terrorist Victims’ Association is about to file a lawsuit against NATO officials who gave the green light for the bombing of Serbia in 1999.

The association elected to take the move in response to the decision by Judge Fernando Andreu of the Spanish Audencia Nacional (National Court) to launch an investigation into Israel’s bombing of Gaza in 2002, when one Hamas leader was killed and 14 people were wounded.

In the suit, Almagor cites the names of a number of high-profile Spaniards, including EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, who was NATO secretary general from 1995 to 1999, as well as the names of certain officials from other European countries and the United States.

Almagor Director Meir Indor told the media in Israel that the lawsuit would be completed shortly.

He confirmed that the Serbian case might open a Pandora’s Box, which could make certain individuals think twice before deciding to accept any lawsuits that the Palestinians filed against Israel.

“We see this as a case highlighting the double standards of Europeans who are accusing Israel of war crimes, while at the same time, those very same countries, as part of NATO, committed crimes that were a lot worse,“ Indor said.

He stressed that every European NATO member-state would be mentioned and that the suit would be filed in every country that decided to file similar actions against Israel for war crimes recently committed either in the aforesaid case, or, more recently, during the Israeli offensive in Gaza at the turn of the year.

OK, so the Israelis are not acting out of love for Serbia, but it is a great opportunity to highlight the injustice of the bombing and the rank hypocrisy of Europeans when it comes to Israel.

Supermarkets for the poor

[Thanks to Balkan File for the heads up on this]

Serbian trade unions have opened a series of “supermarkets for the poor” called SOS Markets. They offer cut-priced goods to the poor and unemployed.

Over the last few years Belgrade’s farmers markets – the original supermarkets for the poor – have changed in character and, more importantly, in price.

I have heared from multiple sources that the supermarkets flooded the markets with subsidized food to drive out the traditional peasant sellers, and now the markets are only slightly cheaper than the supermarkets.

When I walk around Maxi, with its rows of overpriced imported goods, I wonder how ordinary people afford the goods on offer.

For example, who is actually buying things like Rio Mare Insalatissime? They are tiny 150g tins filled mostly with vegetables and some Tuna, sold for a whopping 350 dinars (£3.50 or $5) per tin?

People go hungry here. One sees people eating from the bins. If these SOS Supermarkets are able to bring food to the hungry, then more power to them. The question is, why is it that food prices in Serbia rising so fast?

Read onBBC NEWS | Europe | Serbian supermarkets come to aid of poor

Insect swarms make riversides and Ada a misery

Pest control contractors spray insecticide at the Serbia Open

I decided to kick off my Summer cycling regime today, thinking that the perfect weather signalled an auspicious start to the season.

My instinct for good omens clearly needs work.

Firstly the compressor at Marconi bike shop was broken, and there was long queue for the hand pump, so I had to endure soft tires for the start of my cycle.

Not 50m later, I hit the hordes trying to get into the Serbian Open, which is being held down at 25th May.

The cycle track is now the queuing area, with the rest of the traffic – pedestrian, bladders and cyclists – being squeezed at some points to a 1.5 meter wide path next to the river. This did not stop an enterprising ice cream seller to set up his fridge at this very spot, effectively blocking the path and allowing only one person at a time to pass in either direction.

After getting free of the mobs, I was able to get up some speed, but I started to notice…the bugs.

During late the summer the mosquito and midges situation down at the rivers and Ada can get pretty bad. Prolonged heatwaves lead to more stagnant water and the insecticides sprayed in spring start wear off.

But I have never seen such massive infestation as that I witnessed today. At Ada, it was like a scene from The Swarm. People were waving their jackets and jumpers in the air in an effort to keep the midges and mosquitoes away from their exposed faces, nostrils and mouths.

My white cycling shirt was blackened by the impact of hundreds of bugs. I had to keep my sunglasses on in the near gloom of twilight to protect my eyes from the blighters. And despite my best efforts, I swallowed at least three flying creatures.

Apparently the government insect spraying team needs several days without rain for the spraying to be effective. They have not had a break so far this year. This combined with very low water levels of the Sava and Danube are leading to freakishly high numbers of mosquitoes and midges.

If you are taking a riverside walk, or heading to Ada, then make sure you cover up, wear insect repellent and use a Swine flu mask to prevent yourself aspirating some of these little swines.

In addition to the nastiness of the bugs, someone has removed section of the tiled surface of the cycling/walking path (see below), leaving dozens of lethal potholes. Thanks to cycling with my sunglasses on after the sun had gone down (to protect against bugs), I nearly killed myself by hitting of of these potholes, not once, but twice. Be very careful on that track until those holes have been patched.

Someone has removed hundreds of tiles on the Sava bank, leaving these pothole like bald patches which are deadly for cyclists.

Someone has removed hundreds of tiles on the Sava bank, leaving these pothole like bald patches which are deadly for cyclists.

The two cultures of Twitter

[This post is in honour of the the 50th Anniversary of the publication of C.P. Snow’s Rede Lecture, “The Two Cultures“. Thanks to the internet, and new forms of communication and collaboration like Twitter, a “Third Culture” did emerge ( between scientists and  engineers from different disciplines) and that culture is thriving, even if it is not quite what Snow had in mind. ]

Luddite friends sometimes ask me what the hell I am doing on Twitter. Based on what they have read or sometime seen, they denounce it as a distracting, wasteful time sink and sap of productivity.   They think that Twitter is merely the domain of narcissists broadcasting  trivialities to fellow narcissists (who in turn ignore them as they furious broadcast their own rubbish).

This view of Twitter is based on a half-truth. There is a tide of triviality and bunk, but it stems from the most degraded use of Twitter at one extreme of the Twitter continuum. By denouncing Twitter as nothing but a narcissistic echo chamber one misses the magic of it:  the fascinating conversations and relationships forged at the other end of  the Twitter continuum.

I usually explain that there are two Twitter cultures that represent the two ends of the Twitter continuum: One is Phatic, the other Referential.

Phatic Twitter

Phatic communication expresses or creates an atmosphere of shared feelings, goodwill, or sociability rather than to impart information or ideas.

Reports that “I am going for a coffee”  or  “Getting ready to relax!” have no informational value. Reading such tweets one might wonder if the tweeter is is a rampant narcissists or they are a deluded bore. They are neither. They are doing the digital equivalent of waving at their neighbours. They are signalling: “I am here, don’t forget me, I am like you, lets keep the lines of communication open”.

Much of what takes place on Twitter is purely phatic.

Referential Twitter

On the other end of continuum lies Referential twittering. Here we have people issuing succinct  information bursts:  Pithy, dense with meaning and insight,  often linking to superb content elsewhere. Here emphasis is on pointing things out – ideas, content, connections, links etc.

In many ways the Referential Twitter has much in common with bees’ dances and other emergent hivemind type behaviours. It servers a form of distributed cognition. It is a potentially extremely useful way of coordinating high value, high signal communications between individuals.

I have witnessed Twitter foster some fascinating near realtime conversations and social learning. And it has somehow brought the lofty closer, by that I mean that I can and have tracked (and occasionally conversed) with people I consider intellectual idols, people I thought were remote and inaccessible but who have be messaged with a mere mention of their @name.

It is getting harder for me to talk about Twitter now, realizing as I do that there are these two Twitters, joined like a Siamese twins. One  is a subnormal mutant whining  for attention and clamouring for entertainment. The other is genius whispering the secrets of the universe in 140 character koans.