Pride comes before the Fall !



When I read a news paper or see the TV news nowadays, I get the feeling, we live at the the edge of something big.  We live at the edge of a political and historical cataclysm. Whether we go over the edge will depend on cool heads and people who’s thinking is not dictated by pride.


And it is our (false) PRIDE, I believe,  that lead us to it. It happened that they were discussing “pride” last night on our ABC in the series “Jennifer Byrne Presents“. We all think our country is the best, our system is the best, our God is the best and our weapons (read penises) are the best.  The implications here are “male pride” and women and children have to suffer for it.

No wonder we have come to the juncture that is our contemporary world. A hospital, in Gaza, is shelled or a passenger plane (MH 17) is shot down with no regard to the lives of people and a possible later historical outcome. One hundred years ago a series of shots rang out at Sarajevo that changed the world for ever. It was pure Serbian pride that lead that young man to his deadly deed. And it was pure Austrian pride that  made Franz Ferdinand parade in that city.


The re-emergence of hurt German pride after WW I  lead to WW II.


Whoever shot down MH 17 did it out of pride. We can do it, they thought and to hell with everybody else. We in the West like pointing at Russia and Putin (do you notice that the letters “Ras” are missing in front of Putin?) and claim  they are to blame. I think Putin is smarter than this. While not running away from conflict  with the West, he nevertheless is not looking for it. I’m  sure, when he heard of the downing of MH 17 he was storming in a big rage through the Kremlin. He himself is full of pride and that leads him into strife because he does not think what is good for all, but what looks good for him. And right now he is thinking how he could use the situation to his advantage.


We  in the West are not smart enough to consider a way out for people whose false pride  lead them into trouble . We could learn something from a lion tamer who always gives a dangerous animal a way out: jump on another seat or take another position.


The USA is full of pride ( cynics would say “shit”) and it is dangerous when a former world power is on a slippery dip to mediocrity.  In a country where they say, the second place getter is the first loser, you must have nightmares that someone, somewhere is overtaking you. I feel sorry for President Obama, who must be asking himself, why he ever nominated to be a candidate for President of the United States. Well, seeing him at the convention I must say, it was sheer pride.


And  then there is Israel. In 1948 it became the homeland for the displaced Jews from the war ravaged Europe. The inoffensive Jews of the diaspora became the aggressive Israelis who had no compassion for their Palestinian  fellow citizens who had taken them in in friendship and good will.


Seventy years ago there was an uprising in Warsaw. Polish pride lead the resistance movement onto a suicide mission. They did not know the Russians wanted  them destroyed  and the Germans were just the right people to do it.  A year earlier Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto staged an uprising on their own against the Nazis. It was not so much pride as pure desperation.

When I look at today’s news I’m reminded of those two uprisings and the behaviour of the occupiers. Gaza is being destroyed, as was Warsaw – street by street , house by house. You would think the Jews among the Israelis have learned something in the diaspora. They only repeat the mistakes of others. Of course, if you declare someone your enemy, your pride tells you,  you must give them no quarter.


No quarter is given in the Ukraine either. Did you have a closer look at those separatists?  They bristle with pride as they fondle their automatic weapons as teenagers would play with their erect members.  The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is  full of false pride himself, promising  that we , the Australians, will recover the bodies and  the evidence and will bring the perpetrators to justice.  I can tell him right now, that won’t happen. He will have to swallow his pride and tell the people of Australia he can not accomplish the mission. If he tries a military solution he must be prepared to see his elite soldiers coming home in body bags, if at all. Russia has been the grave yard for many.

Here in Australia, with no neighbours we have to deal with, chest thumping is a well understood pastime, especially during the Commonwealth Games.  We are the greatest, but don’t get the idea coming here to live among us. Aussie pride is a great confidence builder, but in the wider world out there, we would have to learn to swallow our pride.


Mankind, as a whole, has not learnt much since biblical times and that is why “Pride” is still one of the deadly sins.

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20 July, 1944

Seventy years ago it was a beautiful summer’s day. I was  in a small town in Upper-Silesia. The town was called  Friedland (Land of Peace). It is now  called Korfantów.


Being there, it really felt like peace in a time of war.  I lived in a boys home and was safe and out of harm  from the daily air raids Berliners had to suffer at this time.  At least we had the luxury of sleeping  through the nights. Later  in the year of 1944 we often saw the American bomber formations on their way to Katowice and  the industrial area of Silesia. It is quiet a sight seeing hundreds of planes flying  in formation and trailing  their  exhaust contrails.


On 20 July, a Thursday, it felt like Sunday because we were on school vacation. The people in charge of the home decided we could go to the woods and collect blueberries. We thought so too, but did not know what lay ahead of us. Straight after breakfast we were on our way. The last big building we saw on our way out of town was the Catholic Church.

An old postcard of the church (Google image)

An old postcard of the church (Google image)


It turned out a long walk in the direction of Tillowitz (today Tulowice). I had no watch nor did anybody tell us how long and far we had to walk. To the right and left of the road were endless fields covered with ripening grain, wheat or oats. I saw lots of reddish poppies and blue cornflowers. They looked so enticing and seemed to call me, but I also knew about the  Roggenmuhme (a female ‘field spirit’ who will punish anybody who entered the field to damage it), who, we were told, will take naughty children away, never to be seen again.


At the beginning of the walk I felt excited and took in the sights and sounds.  Larks flew up from the fields and stopped in mid-air and sang their beautiful songs.  The telegraph wires, swinging from pole to pole and connecting people talking to each other,  where humming their eternal melody.


As the sun climbed higher into the sky it became hotter.  With all my stopping and  looking I fell behind  the others. They seemed to me so far ahead that I was afraid they would forget all about me and surely the Roggenmuhme would get me. Fear gave me extra energy and I started running and  was able to catch up with them.


We must have been walking, what seemed to me more than two hours, before we reached a wooded area. The forest gave us shade from the merciless sun. I have no idea how hot it really was, but the forecast for today in 2014 is for 30°C.  It could have been similar.

Finally we veered off into the bush for a rest. After a while the female carers sent us off to look for blueberries.  And there were plenty. There were also cranberries but these were not wanted.  The cranberries went straight into our mouths. I was nine years old and after a long walk I could have eaten a horse.

Each one of us had a little container in which we collected the blueberries.  Once full, we took it to the women, who were sitting on the grass and chatting away, and emptied them into  larger containers which they later carried in their rucksack.

I collected the berries into my old sandwich satchel and every time I emptied it, I received a tablespoon of icing sugar as reward.  I loved that very much and the icing sugar disappeared into my mouth without any delay.

I can’t remember whether we had any other food,  but I would say, the ladies brought sandwiches along for all of us. This went on for a long while and we were running to and fro to empty our little containers for the sweet reward. I have forgotten how much icing sugar I ate that day. Late in the afternoon came the signal that we had enough blueberries and after another short rest we started the long walk back.

On the open road it was still hot. The sun still shone strongly from the cloudless sky. We all were tired by now and walked at a much slower pace.  I was always under the impression we walked back for three hours. Perhaps the women told us the time when we started the walk back home and I know  it was eight o’clock in the evening when we finally arrived at the home.


The Head Sister of the home was already waiting and looking out for us and when we arrived tired and worn out she told us, “Someone tried to kill our beloved Führer.”


We heard the message, but we could not comprehend it. How was that possible? How could anybody do such a thing. But the Führer was alive,  that was important and what was even more important was that we got our supper. We were starving and while we were chewing our sandwiches, we were discussing the big news.

I doubt many nine year old today would be interested in news of a political nature,  but we were. A big war was going on at several fronts in Europe. My father was in Italy that is all I knew at the time. He was actually shot at every day by American fighter planes driving a motor lorry with supplies to the front.

From that day on the news would become grimmer by the day and five months later the war would come to the “Land of Peace” and we took a dangerous train ride back to Berlin.

Perhaps it was the last long, hot summer’s day of my childhood and I ate a huge amount of icing sugar that day. A day when a brave man, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg ,  tried to rid the world of a dangerous dictator. He said:


“It is time that something is being done. The one, however, who dares to do so, has to be aware, that he could go into German history as a traitor. But if he omits this deed, he would be a traitor to his own conscience.”



A Ship of Desperate People

In 1933 the German cruise liner Veracruz was heading for Mexico. On board were Jewish passengers who wanted to escape persecution in  Nazi Germany. Mexico did not take the refugees and no other country either. The USA refused   them entry too.

The ship had to return to Germany and the Jewish passengers later ended up in a concentration camp. How many survived, I have no idea. I don’t think any of them.


The incident lead to the establishment of  The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (CRSR) in 1951 was made into an acclaimed film in 1965 .


The gist of the matter is, that countries who signed the convention must give a refugee protection from prosecution. A person, that has a well founded fear of prosecution can not be send back to the country where the prosecution took place. Australia is such a signature country.

Up to last year Australia has taken refugees in and .granted them protection. Not any more. The new Liberal (what a Orwellian misnomer) Government. Has a policy called “Stop the Boats” nominal to avoid drownings on the sea and to secure our borders.

The policy was developed to secure the votes in the Western Suburbs of Sydney where a sizeable proportion of the voters is anti-immigration, especially anti-Muslim. The “avoidance of death at sea” argument is dishonest at the least.

I’m not a journalist, nor am I a lawyer but the legal situation is being much better explained in an article of the Sydney Morning Herald by the eminent law Professor Jane McAdam.


Now, out there, somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean, in a sheer act of piracy,  the Australian Government has instructed our navy to stop a boat with 153 refugees from Sri Lanka and they are preparing to hand them over to the  Sri Lanka  Navy.


A group of lawyers acting on behalf of the refugees, among them women and children, went to the High Court of Australia to stop the Government from just doing that. Last week they handed over a boat with 41 refugees and according to Sri Lanka Police those refugees are facing now criminal prosecution for leaving the country illegally.


The High Court of Australia issued an injunction not to do anything till 4:0 pm today. The court will sit today at 2:0 pm in Melbourne to hear arguments. The nation is holding its breath.


Not so the convention busting inclined government of Australia who denies even the existence of the boat. For “operational reasons” they say.








Tank battle on the “Tempelhofer Feld” ?

Possibly Soviet Tank T 44

Possibly Soviet Tank T 44


I have become aware of the above photo through the Face Book pages of the Berlin Wartourist.

The picture was taken (April 1945) perhaps 500 meters from were I was taking shelter from the fighting during the battle of Berlin. The headquarters of the 8th Guards Army, with General Vasily Chuikov the commanding officer, was just around the corner from where the picture was taken.


At first I thought it is just another battle picture but on second thoughts I’m sure it is not. Firstly, there was no heavy fighting in my area. I never  saw a fighting German soldier in my life. Dead one? Yes, but somewhere else. We kept our heads down in the cellar. My mother went out to get some food and had to take cover because someone shot at her.


What most likely happened was, that some Russians horsed around to take some snaps. There was no reason to  take the tank onto the heap of rubble.  Any German would have been long gone. But then again there is a lot of symbolism in the picture.

The debris represents the smashed Germany, the tank is the victorious Soviet military machine threatening a symbol of Western civilisation, the Church. We must not forget that Germany was after all a Christian country.  By its behaviour you wouldn’t have known it. The Catholic Church always believed that Germany, and his Führer, could be be in the forefront against Bolshevism.  The picture is the result of such thinking.


And there is another thing. If you look, you can see a street sign in the front of the church’s roof. It says, Manfred-von-Richthofen-Straße ! This was the name of the famous Red Baron from the Great War. His name almost covered by the rubble of WW II.


There is another picture, possibly at the same corner. One of tanks is said to have hit a landmine. The same church can be seen  in the background.




The church belonged to our parish “The Church on the Field of Tempelhof”.   We could not use the church for our confirmation, because it was still damaged. In 1954 my sister married in it.  This field used to be a  marching ground for the military of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

So, this is the final symbolism, the Soviet tank is smashing the German militarism right in its heart.  I don’t think the Russian soldiers in their exuberance of victory were considering all that.

This is the same street corner now. Peace has been restored and we don’t want any more conflict,