Yom Hashoah

by Eszter Hargittai on April 18, 2004

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day so I wanted to take a few moments to remember. Although numerous members of my family were killed during World War II, my father survived and a few years ago decided to write his story. He did this in a fairly unconventional way. Each chapter in his book begins with a snippet from a Nobel Laureate’s life (with whom he had conducted conversations). Later in the chapter he then relates this biographical story to something in his own life. Reading the book takes us on a journey through the lesser-known moments of many famous scientists’ lives and the details of one Hungarian Jew’s life affected by the events of over 60 years ago.

Here I share with you some snippets from my father’s book. I start with a section told by my uncle about his experiences when he was 11 in a concentration camp. Then I quote the section about my father’s visit in 2002 to the camp he had been in and how poor the remembrance is there.

Excerpts from “Our Lives: Encounters of a Scientist” by István Hargittai, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 2004

[this quote in the book is from my uncle who was 11 at the time — EH]

The first day after our arrival [in the camp] the people got their work assignments. Mother was directed to be helper to a roofing master who turned out to be a humane Viennese man. He often shared his sandwich with Mother who pretended to eat it and brought it back for us. Children younger than 10 years old stayed behind in the camp during the day. Children above the age of 15 were considered adults and went to work with the rest. Children between 10 and 15 years old formed a special labor unit. I was in this unit, which had about 20 children. We were taken to bombed-out buildings, immediately following the bombing. We had to reach places that adults could not have reached. We had to bring out cadavers and wounded people and all the valuables. If we found just limbs or other body parts we had to bring them out as well. It was a cruel and frightening job and dangerous too.

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The fog of war

by Chris Bertram on April 18, 2004

Just a quick plug. I’m just back from watching Errol Morris’s “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0001L3LUE/junius-20 . For those who don’t know about it, the film is a long (and cold) confessional interview with McNamara interspersed with documentary footage from WW2, from his time with Ford and from the period when he was Secretary of Defense (including the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam war). The film is structured around a series of “lessons” which focus on the fallibility of leaders. There are some chilling moments, such as when McNamara contemplates the incinteration of hundreds of thousands of human beings in the firebombing of Tokyo and leaves open the question of whether he and Curtis LeMay committed war crimes. There’s a good page on an event at Berkeley with McNamara and Morris “here”:http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2004/02/05_fogofwar.shtml . Get to see it if you can.

Academic blogging and literary studies

by John Holbo on April 18, 2004

For the longest time I’ve been meaning to post something grand and insightful on the timely meta-theme of academic blogging. Since Brian and John got the ball rolling below, this will have to do.

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For the record

by John Q on April 18, 2004

Ahmed Chalabi, being interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission,, and urging that Australian troops remain in Iraq, had this to say (emphasis added).

I think that we wasted a year now. The security plan for Iraq that was put forward by the Coalition has collapsed. We must face this fact and we must involve Iraqis right away in the training and the recruitment of the police. I believe that a year to 18 months of hard work on the right track will be sufficient to train an important and significant security force.

Obviously, this assessment suited Chalabi’s argument on the day, but it’s closer to the truth than anything anyone else associated with the Administration has been willing to say.

So last millennium

by John Q on April 18, 2004

Following up on Brian’s post, I looked at this much-linked piece by Camille Paglia, and was struck by its dated references to television and the 60s[1]. She goes on to talk about computers, but apparently sees the computer as nothing more than a turbocharged TV set. This impelled me to dig out a piece I wrote nearly ten years ago, making the point that far from privileging visual media, the computer, and particularly the Internet are contributing to a new golden age of text. Blogs weren’t thought of when I wrote this piece, but the argument anticipates them, I think.

fn1. Oddly enough, although the main argument is a restatement of positions that were familiar 50 years ago, the piece is full of references to the young, as though the current generation of young adults has been, in some way, more saturated in TV than were the baby booomers.

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