Collective Memories of Death Camps and Complicity in Nazi-Occupied Poland

Ron Berger — The Polish government recently passed a law making it illegal in Poland to accuse the nation of complicity in the crimes committed by Nazi Germany in Polish territory during World War II, and from using the term “Polish death camps” to describe the concentration camps that were established and operated by the Nazis. The legislation, signed into law by president Andrzej Duda … Continue reading Collective Memories of Death Camps and Complicity in Nazi-Occupied Poland

God: A Human History, by Reza Aslan

DeWitt Clinton — Every year—for years, decades, and perhaps centuries—scholars, theologians, and lay leaders have been defining, then redefining, then re-envisioning the constantly evolving paradox of God. Of course, if one is a fundamental believer, there is only one God, The God. Nothing else matters. But if you are interested in the world, and what the world thinks of God, or gods, or out-of-date gods, … Continue reading God: A Human History, by Reza Aslan

Daniel Ellsberg’s Doomsday Papers

Bob Bates — Daniel Ellsberg is universally known as the “man behind the Pentagon Papers.” However, with the publication of his new book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Ellsberg’s legacy of inestimable importance in the course of history takes a quantum leap. Ellsberg, with a degree in economics from Harvard College, also studied at Cambridge University and did post-graduate work at … Continue reading Daniel Ellsberg’s Doomsday Papers

Baseball and the World Series: Context and Contests

Bob Bates — Two months after the first “World’s Series,” Wilbur and Orville Wright made their first flight at Kitty Hawk. Baseball’s only rivals for popularity among Americans were horse racing and boxing. Teddy Roosevelt was president. Silent films were all the rage. In nine years the unsinkable Titanic would plunge to the depths of the Atlantic. U.S. entry into The “War to End All … Continue reading Baseball and the World Series: Context and Contests

German Nazism and the Complicity of Ordinary People

Ron Berger — Donald Trump’s remarks in the aftermath of the recent turmoil in Charlottesville, Virginia and the murder of Heather Heyer brought forth widespread condemnation from people across the political spectrum. As a student of the Holocaust, I was particularly struck by his comment about the “fine people” who choose to align themselves with white supremacists, Ku Klux Klansman, and neo-Nazis. I have studied … Continue reading German Nazism and the Complicity of Ordinary People

Understanding Ukraine: The Historical Context of Contemporary Events

Jeff Berger — Ukraine is largely an unknown country to most Americans, one that they never travel to. Most Americans couldn’t even place Ukraine on a map or identify the countries that border it. And yet, Ukraine is suddenly at the center of the political conflict between the United States and Russia. The United States first began applying sanctions against Russia in 2014, but few … Continue reading Understanding Ukraine: The Historical Context of Contemporary Events

Innocence Lost: From Babes to Bloodshed

Bob Bates — In his book Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil (2013), Paul Bloom, psychology professor at Yale University, reports on the work he has conducted with his team of experimental researchers that addresses fundamental issues regarding the bases of morality in humans: good vs bad, right vs wrong, fair vs unfair. What makes their psychosocial studies unique is that their subjects are children, ranging from infants … Continue reading Innocence Lost: From Babes to Bloodshed

Crime and Due Process: Two Scenes Connected in the Dylann Roof Case

Dave Gillespie — On June 17, 2015 Dylann Roof murdered nine African American parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. More than a year later, on December 15, 2016 he was found guilty on 33 charges associated with the murders. And, in January 2017, Dylann Roof was sentenced to death. The true story of Dylann Roof will now always be … Continue reading Crime and Due Process: Two Scenes Connected in the Dylann Roof Case

Uncle Ho: A Man of Peace

Jeff Berger — On November 11, 1944, a U.S. reconnaissance plane piloted by Lieutenant Rudolph Shaw encountered engine trouble while flying over the rough mountainous terrain along the Sino-Vietnamese frontier. When Shaw landed his parachute, members of a local Viet Minh unit were the first to reach him. For the next several days they escorted him over mountains and jungle trails toward Pac Bo, walking … Continue reading Uncle Ho: A Man of Peace

Inequality of Disclosure: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Tony Platt — In 2010, Rebecca Skloot was a little known science journalist on the faculty at the University of Memphis when her first book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, an investigation into the ethics of medical research, was published. It became an instant crossover hit: translated into twenty-five languages, persistently near the top of The New York Times bestseller nonfiction list, receiving the … Continue reading Inequality of Disclosure: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Remembering the Iran-Contra Scandal

Ron Berger — Amidst the evolving scandal involving the Trump administration’s dubious ties to Russia, which is currently under investigation by Senate and House subcommittees and independent counsel Robert Mueller, comparisons have been made to Watergate. Often forgotten or glossed over in our historical memory of presidential scandals, however, is the cluster of government crimes that took place during the administration of President Ronald Reagan … Continue reading Remembering the Iran-Contra Scandal

Watergate: The Benchmark Political Scandal

Ron Berger — We are currently in the midst of a political scandal that has the potential to rival the infamous Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. A political consensus has emerged, based on available information from U.S. intelligence agencies, that Russia hacked email files of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign with the intent of damaging Clinton’s candidacy. Suspicions about something … Continue reading Watergate: The Benchmark Political Scandal

In Hamilton’s Wake

Ron Berger — The critically acclaimed Hamilton: An American Musical, which opened off-Broadway in February 2015 and on-Broadway in August 2015, has been heralded as a cultural phenomenon that has rekindled interest in this important “founding father” of the United States. Based on the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, the musical has garnered numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The musical’s creator, … Continue reading In Hamilton’s Wake

U.S. Immigration Policy and the Jewish Refugee Crisis of the 1930s

Ron Berger — George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The mere act of remembering, however, does not guarantee that the lessons of history will be learned. Thus, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day of January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump engaged in two actions that remind us of Santayana’s warning. One was his call for remembering “the … Continue reading U.S. Immigration Policy and the Jewish Refugee Crisis of the 1930s

Witnessing the End of a Family Farm: Twenty-Five Ways to Say Goodbye

Richard Quinney — I am a witness to the ending of a family farm in Wisconsin. This is the farm that was started in 1868 by my great-grandparents and farmed by the generations that followed. My brother and I inherited the farm and tried to keep its 160 acres as a working farm, even as we moved to other places and pursued other ways of … Continue reading Witnessing the End of a Family Farm: Twenty-Five Ways to Say Goodbye

David’s Secret Demons

Jeff Berger — Recently I read Baruch Halpern’s biography about King David of ancient Israel/Judah called David’s Secret Demons:  Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King (2001). It was a difficult book to read, as are most books about the Old Testament, but I recommend it to anyone who is interested in biblical history. One reason why it’s so difficult to read these books is because of the … Continue reading David’s Secret Demons

Christianity and Nazi Germany: The Question of Apostasy

Ron Berger — Evangelical Christians were a significant part of the political coalition that won the presidency for Donald Trump, with more than 80 percent of this constituency voting for him. Although Trump’s own commitment to religious values is questionable, Mike Pence, the incoming vice president, gave Trump needed credibility with Evangelical voters. According to Jeff Sharlet, author of two books on Christian fundamentalism, Pence … Continue reading Christianity and Nazi Germany: The Question of Apostasy

The Others: They Almost Always Get There First

Dave Gillespie — Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, her nomination is undeniably a milestone in history. Clinton is the first woman ever to win the presidential nomination of a major party.  But it’s been 144 years since the first female took the honor of a presidential nomination. That was in 1872. Her name was Victoria Woodhull. The Equal Rights Party chose her. Feminist scholar … Continue reading The Others: They Almost Always Get There First

When Our Worlds Cried: California’s Genocide

Tony Platt — Too many academic historians are reluctant to accept that the catastrophic experiences of California Indians during the 19th century meet United Nations legal standards of genocide: “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” Benjamin Madley, an Assistant Professor of History at UCLA, responds to this challenge as a prosecutor might, building … Continue reading When Our Worlds Cried: California’s Genocide