Posts tagged history
Posts tagged history
“Historians are to nationalism what poppy-growers in Pakistan are to heroin-addicts: we supply the essential raw material for the market.”
― Eric J. Hobsbawm, June 9, 1917 – October 1, 2012
We are sad to report that Eric Hobsbawm, the noted British historian, died earlier today at a hospital in London. He was 95 and had been suffering from pneumonia. He was a longtime Pantheon author who wrote more than 30 books, including The Age of Extremes.
In her room inside the czar’s apartments, Pat Nixon, jet-lagged at 4:30 a.m., lay awake and looked toward a crack in the velvet curtains. The White Nights wouldn’t really come for another month, and Moscow wasn’t Leningrad, but the glow outside had nothing to do with dawn. It was the same strange silvery light that had persisted all night and been shining even when the state dinner ended at ten- thirty. The sky reminded her, oddly enough, of the ones she used to walk beneath in the Bronx on rainy autumn twilights back in the early thirties, looking south toward Manhattan. She’d leave the X- ray machine she’d tended all day and, with her coat pulled tight and never more than a dollar in her pocket, head down Johnson Avenue in search of dinner, often just a slice of apple pie and coffee. She could no longer remember the names of the nuns she’d lived with atop the TB hospital, but could still recall what she would think while walking on nights that looked like this one: Maybe I won’t try to get back to California; maybe I’ll seek my life right here.
She wondered whether Mrs. Khrushchev, now a widow, still lived in the dacha she and Dick had lunched at back in ’59. There was probably no more chance of her having been allowed to keep it than there had been of her being at the dinner tonight. When Pat had raised that second possibility with Kissinger, he’d pompously informed her that it was out of the question, and that she should be grateful for the political progress signified by Nikita Khrushchev’s having been merely retired instead of shot.
- from Watergate: A Novel by Thomas Mallon
“This year, we celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month, and we’re also commemorating an important anniversary. One hundred-fifty years ago, General Ulysses Grant issued an order – known as General Orders Number 11 – that would have expelled Jews, ‘as a class,’ from what was then known as the military Department of the Tennessee. It was wrong. Even if it was 1862, even if official acts of anti-Semitism were all too common around the world, it was wrong and indicative of an ugly strain of thought.
But what happened next could have only taken place in America. Groups of American Jews protested General Grant’s decision. A Jewish merchant from Kentucky traveled here, to the White House, and met with President Lincoln in person. After their meeting, President Lincoln revoked the order - one more reason why we like President Lincoln.
And to General Grant’s credit, he recognized that he had made a serious mistake. So later in his life, he apologized for this order, and as President, he went out of his way to appoint Jews to public office and to condemn the persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe.
Like so many groups, Jews have had to fight for their piece of the American dream. But this country holds a special promise: that if we stand up for the traditions we believe in and the values we share, then our wrongs can be made right, our union can be made more perfect, and our world can be repaired.”
- President Barack Obama, commemorating Jewish American Heritage Month on 5/30/12. Watch the full speech here, and read more about General Orders Number 11 in When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan D. Sarna, out now from Schocken Books.
On December 17, 1862, just weeks before Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, General Grant issued what remains the most notorious anti-Jewish order by a government official in American history - General Order No. 11. His attempt to eliminate black marketeers by targeting for expulsion all Jews “as a class” unleashed a firestorm of controversy that made newspaper headlines and terrified and enraged the approximately 150,000 Jews then living in the United States, who feared the importation of European antisemitism onto American soil.
Although the order was quickly rescinded by a horrified Abraham Lincoln, the scandal came back to haunt Grant when he ran for president in 1868. Never before had Jews become an issue in a presidential contest, and never before had they been confronted so publicly with the question of how to balance their “American” and “Jewish” interests.
In When General Grant Expelled the Jews, award-winning historian Jonathan D. Sarna gives us the first complete account of this little-known episode—including Grant’s subsequent apology, his groundbreaking appointment of Jews to prominent positions in his administration, and his unprecedented visit to the land of Israel. Sarna sheds new light on one of our most enigmatic presidents, on the Jews of his day, and on the ongoing debate between group loyalty and national loyalty that continues to roil American political and social discourse.
The above cartoon shows General Grant shedding “crocodile tears” over the persecution of Jews in Russia. The quote is from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, act 2, scene 3. It was originally published in the satirical journal Puck. Image courtesy the Library of Congress.
The finished copies of Watergate have arrived! That can only mean one thing - the publication date is almost here. (2/21, to be exact.)
About the book: For all the monumental documentation that Watergate generated—uncountable volumes of committee records, court transcripts, and memoirs—it falls at last to a novelist to perform the work of inference (and invention) that allows us to solve some of the scandal’s greatest mysteries (who did erase those eighteen-and-a-half minutes of tape?) and to see this gaudy American catastrophe in its human entirety.
You already know the Rockefellers and the Astors, but have you heard of the Gallias? This eminent Viennese family is chronicled in Good Living Street: Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900 by Tim Bonyhady.
I find much to admire in their attitude but there was also a price to pay for all that silence about the disorienting experience of modern war. As they grew old, and faced their deaths, most of what had happened in the decades since their war seemed to recede, fade, lose shape and colour — and the hard kernels of dastardly memory grounded in those intense weeks and months in Europe, 1943, 1944, 1945, was all that remained, and were spilled out to me, the inquisitive writer/nephew, not in rehearsed anecdotage but in pellucid shards of raw memory; bits of memory like chunks of hot shrapnel, disconnected to any moral or meaning, scorching and dangerous.