The other day, while in the Black Hills, I was spending time in one of my favorite pastimes…people watching. Keystone, South Dakota is an interesting mix of people, and somehow everyone gets along and mingles with ease. There is no animosity in Keystone. Everyone is in a relaxed, party mood and even when they are waiting in line to order food, and the line is really long, and things are taking some time, nobody gets upset. They are kind to each other and they are patient. I watched people from all walks of life. There were bikers standing next to what appeared to me to be a doctor and his family, and there were smiles all around. People helped those who needed help, opened doors for each other; and by the way, color made no difference. In the year following a year of riots, unrest, racism, and rudeness, this was Heaven.
Of course, we were in South Dakota…a Republican state that did not close down for Covid. I’m not going to get too deeply into politics here, but it is impossible not to notice the difference in the states. I was in Keystone when President Trump was at Rushmore, and there were protests, but no real violence, no riots, and no vandalism. People were just different there…more polite, more civil, more caring. Even in the midst of a protest, when people were calling out their own views, there was no violence. That means something. It means that people can disagree without being hateful. It also means that certain things were not going to be tolerated, and those who would act out should know they would be arrested. Of course, the police were everywhere, and having a police presence is crucial to keeping order. I am aware that there are good cops and bad cops, but in Keystone, it seemed that the police officers were good and caring, because they wanted the honor that went with being good cops.
There are also good people and bad people, and there are those who are paid to be evil. And those are the worst kind of all. People talk about the naivete of the rural people of our country, but I think they are some of the best people there are. Those good old fashioned values, caring about your neighbors, helping others, and not looking at the color of someone’s skin, those are the kind of people I see in rural America. I wouldn’t want to live in a big city, because I think you lose a lot of that loving, caring lifestyle. That is what we need to work toward getting back in this country…a more caring lifestyle.
Some nations really can’t be trusted with weapons of mass destruction. They are eager to start a war, and they don’t have the moral scruples necessary to care about the loss of life involved. When nuclear weapons began to be produced, nations like the Soviet Union, China, Germany, Iran, Iraq, and various others, simply couldn’t be trusted with these weapons, but it was difficult to stop them from developing them, just like it is today. Therefore, nations have had to develop ways to restrict the usage of these weapons.
On July 21, 1955, President Dwight D Eisenhower presented his “Open Skies” plan at the 1955 Geneva summit meeting with Prime Minister Anthony Eden of Great Britain, Premier Edgar Faure of France, and Premier Nikolai Bulganin of the Soviet Union…acting for Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, in Geneva in July 1955, to present the plan. The plan was never accepted, but it laid the foundation for President Ronald Reagan’s “Trust, But Verify” policy in relation to arms agreements with the Soviet Union. The planned agenda for the summit included discussions on the future of Germany and arms control, but as it became clear that no agreement could be reached on the issue of possible German reunification or the precise configuration of an arms control agreement, considering what had happened in Germany after World War I, Eisenhower dramatically unveiled what came to be known as his “Open Skies” proposal. The proposal called for the United States and the Soviet Union to exchange maps indicating the exact location of every military installation in their respective nations. The purpose of the maps was to allow each nation to conduct aerial surveillance of the installations in order to assure that the other nations were in compliance with any arms control agreements that might be reached. While it sounded like a good idea, it had little chance of acceptance. The French and British expressed interest in the idea, but the Soviets rejected any plan that would leave their nation subject to surveillance by a Western power. Khrushchev declared that Eisenhower’s “Open Skies” was nothing more than an “espionage plot.”
The truth is that “Open Skies” was definitely not an “espionage plot,” but then we all knew that. Eisenhower was later quoted as saying that he knew “the Soviets would never accept the plan, but thought that their rejection of the idea would make the Russians look like they were the major impediment to an arms control agreement.” The problem the Soviets had was that US surveillance planes would quickly find out that the Soviet Union was far behind the United States in terms of its military capabilities. The United States soon found that out anyway, because just a few months after the Soviet rejection of “Open Skies,” the Eisenhower administration approved the use of high-altitude spy planes (the famous U-2s) for spying on the Soviet Union. Thirty years later, President Reagan would use much the same rhetoric in his arms control dealings with the Soviet Union. Arms control, he declared, could only be effective if compliance with such agreements could be verified. “Trust, but verify” became Reagan’s standard phrase, and the truth is they were both right. If these rogue nations can’t be held accountable, they will continue to develop weapons of mass destruction, even while they are in a supposed agreement not to.
As many of us know, from history, there was a time in United States history when alcohol was illegal. Some will debate if it should still be today, but it is not. Prohibition, as it was called, ran from 1920 to 1933. Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. The Prohibitionists were led by pietistic Protestants. The idea was to heal what they saw as an ill society beset by alcohol-related problems such as alcoholism, family violence and saloon-based political corruption. There are many alcohol related issues that really do fall into these categories, but you can’t make people stop something that they are intent on doing. Drugs are the same, but we have to draw the line somewhere, or we will have a “zombieistic” society.
As Prohibition progressed, many communities introduced alcohol bans and enforcement of these new prohibition laws became a topic of debate. Prohibition supporters were called “Drys.” The “Drys” presented prohibition as a battle for public morals and health. The progressives, along with the Democratic and Republican parties picked up on the movement, and it gained a national grassroots base through the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. After 1900, it was coordinated by the Anti-Saloon League. There were those who opposed Prohibition, including the beer industry, who mobilized “Wet” supporters from the wealthy Catholic and German Lutheran communities, but the influence of these groups receded from 1917 following the entry of the United States into the First World War against Germany.
By a succession of state legislatures, the alcohol industry was curtailed, and finally ended nationwide under the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920. The Eighteenth Amendment passed “with a 68 percent supermajority in the House of Representatives and 76 percent support in the Senate,” as well as ratification by 46 out of the 48 states we had at the time. That enabled legislation, known as the Volstead Act, which set down the rules for enforcing the federal ban and defined the types of alcoholic beverages that were prohibited. Unlike most people think, not all alcohol was banned. For example, religious use of wine was permitted. Private ownership and consumption of alcohol were not made illegal under federal law, but local laws were stricter in many areas, with some states banning possession outright.
With prohibition came the criminal element associated with a refusal to comply. Criminal gangs gained control of the beer and liquor supply in many cities. By the late 1920s, a new opposition to Prohibition emerged nationwide. Critics attacked the policy saying it was actually causing more crime, lowering local revenues, and imposing “rural” Protestant religious values on “urban” America. In another bizarre twist of Prohibition in the United States, the United States government literally decided that if people would not comply with the new law, they would make the penalty much stiffer. When the people continued to consume alcohol despite its being banned, law officials got frustrated and decided to try a different kind of deterrent…death. They literally ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States. These were products regularly stolen by bootleggers to use is making moonshine. By the end of Prohibition in 1933, the federal poisoning program is estimated to have killed at least 10,000 people.
Prohibition ended with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment on December 5, 1933, though prohibition continued in some states. To date, this is the only time in American history in which a constitutional amendment was passed for the purpose of repealing another. Looking back on Prohibition, you will find researchers who say that alcohol consumption declined substantially due to Prohibition. They will also say that rates of liver cirrhosis, alcoholic psychosis, and infant mortality declined as well. Prohibition’s effect on rates of crime and violence is rather another story, because of the criminal element that made and sold alcohol in spite of the law. Nevertheless, Prohibition lost supporters every year it was in action, and lowered government tax revenues at a critical time before and during the Great Depression. I guys it all comes down to money in the end.
Historians, who have studied the lives of Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, agree that while the two men were friends, they also had a long history as “frenemies.” It is fairly common with politicians, because each one has definite ideas about how things should be run. So, the two rivals always had a volatile relationship.
Their friendship began in the early days of the nation, despite their vastly different political views. Adams was a strong believer in a strong central government, and Jefferson championed states’ rights. I would imagine that there was a measure of frustration for Adams, as he watched his administration being dismantled in the early years of the Jefferson administration. Nevertheless, as a Conservative, I have to agree with the Thomas Jefferson way of government.
Adams preceded Jefferson as president friend 1797 to 1800. During the Adams presidency, it became very apparent that the two men were very different, and their political views were just as different. The hot-tempered Adams was a firm believer in a strong centralized government, while the genteel Jefferson believed federal government should take a more hands-off approach and defer to individual states’ rights. They clashed loudly and often. As Adams’ vice president, Jefferson was horrified by what he considered to be Adams’ abuse of the presidential power…particularly his passage of the restrictive Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Jefferson abandoned Adams and Washington for his estate at Monticello. There, he plotted how to bring his Republican faction back into power in the presidential election of 1800. After an exceptionally bitter campaign, in which both parties engaged in slanderous attacks on each other in print, Jefferson emerged victorious. It appeared the former friends would be eternal enemies. The former revolutionaries went on to resume their friendship over 14 years of correspondence during their golden years.
On July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of The Declaration of Independence, these “frenemies” died on the same day and within five hours of each other. Jefferson and Adams were the last surviving members of the original American revolutionaries who had stood up to the British empire and forged a new political system in the former colonies. When Adams died at the age of 90, his last words, as the country celebrated Independence Day were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” Adams was wrong. Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 83.
This year, mostly because of the year of the Covid-19 lockdowns, Americans are so ready to get out there. Whether we choose to wear a mask or not, we are done with staying home, small groups, missed holidays, and mostly…Covid-19!! Bob and I were blessed in that we were able to travel to the Black Hills for the Independence Day holiday last year, but many states didn’t allow it. Now…suddenly, many states are open. Of course, there are those who want us to keep things to small groups, or better yet, just stay home and don’t celebrate at all. Our answer to that, “No!! We are done with giving up our freedom!!” This nation, “One Nation Under God,” was founded on the principles of “liberty and justice for all” and “let freedom ring.” Our soldiers died to make sure that we continued to have that freedom. And we are not giving it up now!!
The Covid-19 lockdowns were never designed to make us healthier, but rather to take our freedoms, and we aren’t going to take it anymore. They still want us to stay home, but everyone I know of has opted to go out and celebrate or have people in to celebrate. We all agree that our forefathers never intended for the people of this nation to give up their rights to “kowtow” to the government!! Especially when the disease has a 97% survival rate!! And believe me when I say that no one is saying that it didn’t kill people, but that many of the people in lockdown would not have become sick, much less died. The Lockdown did nothing but hurt our economy, and rob us if our freedom.
This year is a “new year” for this nation. We are ready to take back our country and our freedom. We know who stole it, and we know who didn’t. We are excited about getting back out there and celebrating our nation’s birthday again!! This is a great nation, and we will not allow it to be stolen from us. We are ready to fight for our freedom again, and we refuse to be pushed back.
From the brave men and women who fought for the freedom of this nation in the Revolutionary War, to the brave men and women who will fight for it again, I honor you!! You are the epitome of greatness!! You don’t give up. This is our nation and this is our Independence Day!! I pray that each of you has a wonderful holiday with family and friends. Let’s get out there and be independent again!! God bless you all and God bless America!!
Hans Island is a desolate little rock of an island locate near Greenland in the center of what is known as the Kennedy Channel of Nares Strait. This is the strait that separates Ellesmere Island from northern Greenland and connects Baffin Bay with the Lincoln Sea. The island is barren and uninhabited, measuring 0.5 square mile, 4,230 feet long and 3,934 feet wide. Hans Island is the smallest of three islands in Kennedy Channel off the Washington Land coast; the others are Franklin Island and Crozier Island. The strait at this point is 22 miles wide, placing the island within the territorial waters of both Canada and Greenland (Denmark). Technically, a line in the middle of the strait goes through the island.
Most people would look at this island and say, “Ok, it is technically half Canadian and half Greenland (Denmark), but seriously, who cares?” It is a piece of rock that has no value, so there it is and nobody cares. The problem is that…oddly, both sides care…a great deal. You might be wondering why, at this point. Well, you would not be alone. I am wondering why too. For some reason, Canada and Denmark have been…well, playfully fighting over the control of this little piece of ground. Every so often, when officials from each country visit, they leave a bottle of their country’s liquor as a…power move. It really makes no sense. The island has no reserves of oil or natural gas, or anything else that would make it valuable, and yet it is the subject of an ongoing territorial dispute between Denmark and Canada over who owns this little rock…and it’s such an odd dispute at that. It will barely increase the respective countries’ land mass and yet they continue to “fight” over it.
Unlike many other territory conflicts, this one is fought in a markedly peaceful way. The potential serious diplomatic implications aside, the Canadians and Danes take turns placing their flags on the island. This curious practice that has been going on since the 1980s. But it gets even odder. The island was first disputed in 1933, but largely forgotten during World War II. The unusual dispute began again in earnest in 1984 when, during a visit to the island, the Danish Minister for Greenland planted the national flag and left a message saying “Welcome to the Danish island” (“Velkommen til den danske ø” in Danish) along with (it is said) a bottle of brandy. Ever since then, when the flag on the island is periodically changed between the Danish and Canadian flag, the bottle is also replaced. The Canadians leave a bottle of Canadian Club and the Danes a bottle of schnapps.
While the conflict is “lighthearted,” it is really a serious conflict, and remains unresolved today. At one point, it looked like they might have a solution. On May 4, 2008, an international group of scientists from Australia, Canada, Denmark, and the UK installed an automated weather station on Hans Island. To me that makes the most sense. Just share the island or let it be considered international. That isn’t exactly what happened, however. There were a number of people who think that there might be some minerals on Hans Island, making it a possible valuable island after all…and renewing the conflict. Oh boy, here we go again.
The conflict is as of today still unresolved, but there are suggestions on how to move forward. Arctic experts from Canada and Denmark propose making Hans Island into a condominium, a solution that has proven to resolve other conflicts in the past. I wasn’t sure what that was, but basically it is an agreement to share the island. It sometimes works temporarily, but usually doesn’t work long term. Most nations, Canada and Denmark included don’t like the idea of giving up their sovereignty. Time will tell, I guess, but if you ask me, the whole thing is…well, it’s just comical.
What would you do if your life had been ripped apart by a group of people who really knew nothing about you or your people, but hated you and them anyway. That was the position in which Joseph Harmatz found himself. Born in Rokiškis, Lithuania into a prosperous family, Harmatz and his family were transferred to the Vilnius Ghetto on January 23, 1925, after the occupation of Lithuania by Nazi Germany. It was the worst time in his life. His youngest brother and all of his grandparents were killed and his older brother died during a military action. His despondent father committed suicide. Harmatz was left alone with his mother at the age of 16. He couldn’t stand the way things were, so he left the ghetto through the sewers and joined a band of guerrillas fighting the Nazis. Harmatz managed to survive the Holocaust, and after the war, he became part of Nakam (Hebrew for Revenge) also known as the Avengers. The Nakam was a group of 50 former underground fighters led by Abba Kovner. Their goal was to avenge the deaths of the six million Jewish victims of Nazi extermination efforts in the Holocaust. The true goal according to Harmatz was to facilitate the death of as many Germans as possible, with the group planning “to kill six million Germans, one for every Jew slaughtered by the Germans,” acknowledging that the effort “was revenge, quite simply. Were we not entitled to our revenge, too?”
Their main target was Stalag XIII-D, a prisoner-of-war camp built on what had been the Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg. Interned in the camp were 12,000 members of the SS (Schutzstaffel or Protection Squads). These prisoners were involved in running concentration camps and other aspects of the Final Solution…Nazi Germany’s horrific policy of deliberate and systematic genocide across German-occupied Europe. In April 1946, a member of the Nakam got a job as a baker, and he had a plan. He baked arsenic into 3,000 loaves of bread that were to be fed to the prisoners. Nearly 2,000 prisoners became ill and were thought to be seriously ill. American authorities thought that the arsenic had got onto the crust of the bread by accident, having been used as an insecticide in the wheat fields. During the investigation, United States Army investigators found enough arsenic to have killed 60,000 people and Nakam claimed they had killed several hundred victims, but declassified documents obtained by Associated Press in 2016 stated there were no casualties.
According to Harmatz’s son, his father had no regret for his attempts to kill the German prisoners. He said he was only “sorry that it didn’t work.” Harmatz wrote a book in 1998, called “From the Wings” in which he stated that the poisoning plot had the approval of Chaim Weizmann, though David Ben-Gurion and Zalman Shazar were both against the plan. An earlier attempt to poison the water in a number of German cities failed after Kovner was arrested by British forces on a ship on which the poison had been hidden, and had been thrown overboard to prevent its capture. The group was so filled with hatred that they wanted all Germans killed, even if they had nothing to do with the Holocaust. Looking back, after much soul searching, Harmatz was thankful that the plot to poison the water supplies in German cities had failed, saying that it “would have harmed efforts to create an incipient State of Israel and would have led to charges of moral equivalence between actions of Germans and Jews. Another effort to kill Nazi war criminals on trial at Nuremberg failed when the group was unable to find any US Army guards willing to participate.”
Harmatz emigrated to Israel in 1950, and worked to aid Jews resettling from countries around the world. He headed World ORT, a Jewish non-profit organization that promotes education and training in communities around the world, from 1960 to 1994. A long-time resident of Tel Aviv, Harmatz died at at his home on September 22, 2016. He was 91 years old, and was survived by two sons.
When the British Colonies, also known as the Thirteen Colonies or the early United States, were founded in the 1600s, the colonies were left to govern themselves for the most part. The land was really an expansion of power for Britain. Nevertheless, there were wars that took place in the new land and with them the costs of war, and because the colonies were owned by the British government, the cost of war fell on them. The cost of victory in the 1754 to 1763 French and Indian War and the 1756 to 1763 Seven Years’ War left the British government deeply in debt. The wars were fought in the colonies, but were equipped and populated with the British forces stationed there, at the cost of millions of British funds. The British government decided to impose The Stamp Act and Townshend Acts to pay for the wars, which provoked colonial opposition and unrest, leading to the 1770 Boston Massacre and 1773 Boston Tea Party. Then, came the Intolerable Acts, meant to punish the Massachusetts colonists for their defiance in the Tea Party protest in reaction to changes in taxation by the British Government, in spring 1774 upon Massachusetts. It was enough. These acts took away self-governance and rights that Massachusetts had enjoyed since its founding, and triggered outrage and indignation in the Thirteen Colonies, and twelve colonies sent delegates to the First Continental Congress, from September 5, 1774 to October 26, 1774. Their goal was to draft a petition to the King and organize a boycott of British goods. It was these acts…the acts that took away self-governance and other rights that triggered outrage and indignation in the Thirteen Colonies. We have often heard it called “taxation without representation” and it would never be tolerated. This nation had tasted freedom, and would never go back. These acts were key developments in the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War in April 1775.
The Revolutionary War was not going to be a short war. It would rage from April 19, 1775 to September 3, 1783…eight long years. For seven years after the United States Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress at its meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1776, the war still raged on. I don’t suppose any nation would want to simply lay down its control, but the reality is that Britain had lost its control many years before, and it was time to cut their losses and go home.
It was on June 11, 1776, that the Continental Congress made the decision and selected Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert R. Livingston of New York to draft our Declaration of Independence. That moment truly sealed the fate of the Britain ownership of this nation. The words they penned would be taught in schools, put on documents, t-shirts, decals, and many other forms of media. Because John Adams knew of Thomas Jefferson’s prowess with a pen, he urged him to author the first draft of the document, which was then carefully revised by Adams and Franklin before being given to Congress for review on June 28. I don’t know how many have ever read the entire Declaration of Independence, but I have chosen to place it in its unedited entirety, because I think we need to know why our founding fathers fought so hard for our independence. The 4th of July is not about picnics and fireworks, it is about freedom, and we must never forget that…nor the five men who wrote it and the entire congress who signed it.
The Declaration of Independence
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Not everyone was surprised at the coming murders of the Jews during the Holocaust. People hoped that the rumors were wrong, and that maybe they war would end before things got that bad, but most knew that if something wasn’t done, things were going to get ugly at some point. In the end, the non-Jews were forced to make a decision…take a stand, or stand by and watch millions of people die.
A Danish ambulance driver in Copenhagen, Denmark huddled over a local phone book, circling Jewish names. He had heard that all of Denmark’s Jews were going to be deported, and he knew this was his “moment of truth.” He knew he had to warn every one of these people, before it was too late. He wasn’t alone. Hundreds of everyday Danes sprang into action in late September 1943. They all had one collective goal in mind…to help their Jewish friends and neighbors escape the horrors they knew were coming.
The plan was amazing. Hundreds of people helped Jewish people sneak out of Copenhagen and other towns. They quickly headed toward Danish shores and into the crowded holds of tiny fishing boats. Denmark was about to pull off a spectacular feat…the rescue of the vast majority of its Jewish population. Within a few hours of learning that the Nazis intended to wipe out Denmark’s Jews, nearly all of the Danish Jews had gone into hiding. Within a few days, most of them had escaped Denmark to neutral Sweden. In the end, over 90% of the Danish Jews were snatched out of the hands of Adolf Hitler and his goons, and it was all thanks to ordinary Danes, most of whom refused to accept credit for their ations. I call it a miracle, and the participants…angels!!
The German forces invaded Denmark in April 1940. The Danish government, rather than suffer an inevitable defeat by fighting back, didn’t resist the Nazi hoard. Instead, the Danish government negotiated with the Germans to insulate Denmark from the occupation. In the negotiations, the Nazis promised to be lenient with the country, respecting its rule and neutrality…like they would ever keep that promise. By 1943, tensions had reached a breaking point. Workers began to sabotage the war effort and the Danish resistance ramped up their efforts to fight the Nazis. In response, the Nazis told the Danish government to institute a harsh curfew, forbid public assemblies, and punish saboteurs with death. The Danish government refused, so the Nazis dissolved the government and established martial law.
The Nazis had always been a forbidding presence in Denmark, but now they began really making their presence known. Like everywhere else, the Danish Jews were to be their first targets. The Holocaust was spreading across occupied Europe, and without the protection of the Danish government, which had done its best to shield Jews from the Nazis after realizing that the Nazi promises were worthless, Denmark’s Jewish population was in danger. In late September 1943, the Nazis got word from Berlin that it was time to rid Denmark of its Jews. As was typical for the Nazis, they planned the raid to coincide with a significant Jewish holiday…in this case, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Marcus Melchior, a rabbi, got word of the coming raid, and in Copenhagen’s main synagogue, he interrupted services. Melchior said, “We have no time now to continue prayers. We have news that this coming Friday night, the night between the first and second of October, the Gestapo will come and arrest all Danish Jews.” Melchior told the congregation that the Nazis had the names and addresses of every Jew in Denmark, and urged them to flee or hide.
Denmark’s panicked Jewish population sprang into action, but against all odds, so did its Gentiles. Hundreds of people spontaneously began to tell Jews about the upcoming action and help them go into hiding. It was, in the words of historian Leni Yahil, “a living wall raised by the Danish people in the course of one night.” It was amazing, and it can only be classified as a miracle. The Gentile people of Denmark were taking their lives into their own hands too, but they did not care, nor did they consider the cost. All they saw was the horrific injustice of the Nazi plan, and they could not abide by it.
No pre-existing plan had been put in place by the Danish people, but the Jewish people needed their help and nearby Sweden offered an obvious haven to those who were about to be deported. Sweden was still neutral and unoccupied by the Nazis, and they were a fierce ally. It was also close. Some areas of Denmark were just over three miles away from the Swedish coast. Once across, the Jews could apply for asylum there. The Danish culture has long been seafaring, in fact since Viking times. That said, there were plenty of fishing boats and other vessels to spirit Jews toward Sweden. But Danish fishermen were worried about losing their livelihoods and being punished by the Nazis if they were caught. So, rather than put their countrymen in peril, the resistance groups that swiftly formed to help the Jews managed to negotiate standard fees for Jewish passengers, then recruit volunteers to raise the money for passage. That way the fishermen got paid for their risk. The average price of passage to Sweden cost up to a third of a worker’s annual salary.
As often happens, there were fishermen who took advantage of the situation, but more who refused pay, acting without regard to personal gain. Boats were used for some 7,000 Danish Jews who fled to safety in neighboring Sweden. Passage was a terrifying ordeal. Jews gathered in fishing towns, hid on small boats, usually 10 to 15 at a time, giving their children sleeping pills and sedatives to keep them from crying, and struggled to maintain control during the hour-long crossing. Some boats, like the Gerda III, were boarded by Gestapo patrols. Gas came from strange sources. Careful rationing by groups like the “Elsinore Sewing Club,” a resistance unit, helped a few hundred Jews make the crossing.
There were failures sadly. In Gilleleje, a small fishing town, hundreds of refugees were being cared for by locals, when the Gestapo arrived. A collaborator had betrayed a group of Jews hiding in the town church’s attic. Eighty Jews were arrested. Others never got word of the upcoming deportations or were too old or incapacitated to seek help. In the end, about 500 Danish Jews were deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto. Of the 500 who were deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto, only 51 did not survive the Holocaust. Still, it was the most successful action of its kind during the Holocaust. Some 7,200 Danish Jews were ferried to Sweden.
The rescue was not without German help either. God can reach people even in such a corrupt government. Werner Best, the German who had been placed in charge of Denmark, apparently tipped off some Jews to the upcoming action and subtly undermined the Nazis’ attempts to stop the Danes from helping Danish Jews. Another helpful factor was that Denmark was one of the only places in Europe that had successfully integrated its Jewish population. Although there was anti-Semitism in Denmark before and after the Holocaust, the Nazis’ war on Jews was largely viewed as a war against Denmark itself.
When Hitler’s reign of terror began, and the Jewish people soon realized that his goal was to wipe them from the face of the Earth, there was a mad scramble to get out of Germany and any other nation that was under Hitler’s control. Some people stayed, thinking that the war would be over soon, and many of those died. Others saw the writing on the wall, and started making plans to escape before it was too late.
On May 27, 1939, a ship carrying 937 Jewish refugees was for the most part, turned away from Havana, Cuba, after admitting roughly 28 people onboard that had valid visas or travel documents. In my opinion, that was probably a blessing for those turned away, because as we all know, Cuba is not really they place that many people want to live. Nevertheless, it was a huge disappointment to the 909 Jewish refugees still on board. For seven days, the ship’s captain, Gustav Schröder, attempted to negotiate with Cuban officials, but they refused to comply. He then appealed to the United State and Canada for entry, and was also denied.
The SS Saint Louis had set sail on May 13, 1939 from Hamburg, Germany to Havana, Cuba. Six months earlier, 91 people were killed and Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues were destroyed in what became known as the Kristallnacht massacre. It was becoming increasing clear that the Nazis were accelerating their efforts to exterminate Jews by arresting them and placing them in concentration camps. World War II and the formal implementation of The Final Solution were just months from beginning. Before they set sail, the refugees had applied for US visas, and planned to stay in Cuba until they could enter the United States legally. The Cuban government was not pleased with the planned stay in Cuba…even if it was temporary. Their impending arrival was greeted with hostility in Cuba before they even set sail. On May 8, there was a massive anti-Semitic demonstration in Havana. Right-wing newspapers claimed that the incoming immigrants were Communists.
The ship sailed closer to Florida, hoping to disembark there, but it was not permitted to dock. Some passengers attempted to cable President Franklin D Roosevelt asking for refuge, but he never responded. A State Department telegram stated that the asylum-seekers must “await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States.” As a last resort, the Saint Louis continued north to Canada, but it was rejected there, too. “No country could open its doors wide enough to take in the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who want to leave Europe: the line must be drawn somewhere,” Frederick Blair, Canada’s director of immigration, said at the time.
After exhaustive appeals failed, the refugees were faced with no other options, the ship returned to Europe. On June 17, the SS Saint Louis docked in Antwerp, Belgium. By the time they arrived, several Jewish organizations had secured entry visas for the refugees in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Great Britain. The majority of the refugees who had traveled on the ship survived the Holocaust, but 254 died as the Nazis swept through Europe during Hitler’s horrible reign.