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Following the money to stop genocide

I found this article very interesting! John Prendergast and Brad Brooks-Rubin published an op-ed in Foreign Affairs, "How Anti-Money Laundering Measures Could Counter Genocide." They consider how de-incentivizing crime could cause a drop in atrocities.

Read it here:

From the article: "what is missing from [traditional policy responses] is a tool that actually alters the cost-benefit analysis of those committing atrocities....When Salva Kiir in South Sudan or Joseph Kabila in Congo steal from their people, they store their assets in U.S. dollars that flow through the U.S. financial system to do so." Prendergast and Brooks-Rubin explain that pressuring these assets is possible because "the anti-money laundering tools already exist and are being used very effectively in counterterrorism, nuclear proliferation, and organized crime."

Drugs and Death in Nazi Germany

Terrifying and intriguing article in the NYTimes, reviewing Norman Ohler's new book Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany:

From the review:

“Blitzed” begins with Germany’s success in the 19th century as the world’s pre-eminent inventors, manufacturers and exporters of drugs, ranging from the benign (aspirin) to the infamous (heroin). One of those drugs was meth, which was initially marketed over the counter to the German public as an all-purpose upper that beat back everything from depression to hay fever.

Red, white and blue tubes of pills, sold under the trade name Pervitin, caught the attention of a doctor at the Academy of Military Medicine in Berlin, who would oversee the logistics of ferrying millions of pills to troops. Hopped-up soldiers would sprint tirelessly through the Ardennes at the onset of war, an adrenalized performance that left Winston Churchill “dumbfounded,” as he wrote in his memoirs. A German general would later gloat that his men had stayed awake for 17 straight days.

“I think that’s an exaggeration,” Mr. Ohler said, “but meth was crucial to that campaign.”

Where do we fit?

"Are Jews White?" - The Atlantic takes on the question of what a post-election America with people like Stephen Bannon in high offices will look like for the Jewish community.

From the article:

These are rough sketches of two camps, concentrated at the margins of U.S. political culture. On the extreme right, Jews are seen as impure—a faux-white race that has tainted America. And on the extreme left, Jews are seen as part of a white-majority establishment that seeks to dominate people of color. Taken together, these attacks raise an interesting question: Are Jews white?

“Jewish identity in American is inherently paradoxical and contradictory,” said Eric Goldstein, an associate professor of history at Emory University. “What you have is a group that was historically considered, and considered itself, an outsider group, a persecuted minority. In the space of two generations, they’ve become one of the most successful, integrated groups in American society—by many accounts, part of the establishment. And there’s a lot of dissonance between those two positions.” 

Read the full discussion here:

Gustav Mahler in Vienna

Rereading this well-written and illuminating article about Gustav Mahler and antisemitism in Vienna. This is a theme I explore in my project, and that appears in my own family's history. My grandmother converted to Christianity, and my family of "half-Jews" was among many who were "German first and Jewish second," in my godmother's words. It is clear, however, that no amount of assimilation could counteract the virulent antisemitism that grew more and more toxic from the turn of the century through the second world war... 

Read the whole article here:


The case of Gustav Mahler has always held great interest for those seeking to delineate the troubled relationships between Jews and the anti-Semitic cultures—particularly Germanic cultures—within which they have lived and worked; this interest has, if anything, become more intense in recent years. The turn of the century in Vienna—Mahler’s Vienna—was especially fraught, marked by the precipitous decline of Austrian liberalism and the emergence of many Jews to cultural prominence against an anti-Semitic background that was becoming increasingly virulent.

. . . 

Events conspired to make Mahler's position as a cultural intruder particularly poignant. In 1897, he returned to Austria from Hamburg in what should have been triumph, ready to assume the most prestigious musical positions then available, as director of the Vienna State Opera and conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic. But there was a price he had to pay: to “qualify” for such lofty positions in Imperial Vienna, Mahler had to be willing officially to renounce his Jewish heritage and become Catholic—which he did readily, without apparent qualms. In other circumstances, this might have meant little more than a kind of all-too-familiar political compromise, except that in that same year, Mahler’s act of renunciation was rendered more significant by two events. In Vienna itself . . .Karl Lueger, head of the Christian Socialist Party, became mayor after having allied himself with the anti-Semitic faction headed by Georg von Schönerer. To place that event in historical context, we may note that Lueger and Schönerer would serve for a time as Hitler’s role models . . .  a powerful demonstration of how politically potent an outspoken anti-Semitism could be. . . 

Affinity Konar - Mischling

My husband went to a reading and met Affinity Konar, the author of a new book entitled "Mischling," about twins in Auschwitz. 

From an interview in Omnivoracious with Ms. Konar:

This book was written less by me, than it was by my questions. I wanted to know how people could be shown the ultimate evil in the world and still find a way to live within it. I wanted to know what it meant to love someone so much that it informed your own survival, and also, how much the loss of that person could ruin you and spell out your own end. I wanted to relearn the meanings of words: family, love, beauty, remembrance, horror. I wanted to know if I could use language in a way that might recognize pain while transforming it, and if such language could be borne in the mouths of characters that could pay tribute to real people. Those who were murdered. Those who survived. Those who survived, and will eventually be lost to us, leaving us with the responsibility of remembering a story that some would prefer to deny or forget.