Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Killer Countess: Baron Heinrich Thyssen's Daughter

Baron Hans Heinrich "Heini" Thyssen-Bornemisza with his fifth and final wife, Carmen, the former Miss Spain

" ... in the last days of the Second World War, Margit hosted a party for SS officers, Gestapo leaders and local collaborators during which 200 Jews were slaughtered, as entertainment. ... "
The killer countess: The dark past of Baron Heinrich Thyssen's daughter

She was born into one of Europe's most powerful dynasties. And involved in a wartime atrocity so shocking that it remains shrouded in secrecy to this day. David Litchfield investigates the dark past of Baron Heinrich Thyssen's daughter Margit

07 October 2007

When I was researching my book about his family, Baron "Heini" Thyssen-Bornemisza, self-styled "Swiss" industrialist and legendary art collector, always insisted that Margit, his vivacious older sister, was in fact shy and retiring, while his family's castle at Rechnitz had been entirely destroyed by the Russians during the war.

I first suspected he may have been lying when Josi Groh, his Hungarian lawyer, told me that far from being shy and retiring Margit had a "voracious sexual appetite" and that she had remained in residence at the Thyssens' castle throughout the war, enjoying the attention of the SS officers sent there for rest and recreation. But it was his insistence that the castle, or what remained of it, hid a terrible secret that encouraged me to visit Rechnitz.

In this quiet castle town in the foothills of the Alps, I learnt that in the last days of the Second World War, Margit hosted a party for SS officers, Gestapo leaders and local collaborators during which 200 Jews were slaughtered, as entertainment. Ever since, the Thyssens have not accepted involvement and have played down their Nazi past. '

The story begins with Heini's German father, Heinrich, heir to one of the world's largest industrial fortunes. Having profited from the First World War, but lacking an "appropriate" social position, he acquired Hungarian nationality and the dubious title of baron. To complete his reinvention as a Hungarian aristocrat, Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kaszon bought himself a castle at Rechnitz, 150km south of Vienna, on the Austro-Hungarian border. But in 1938, when it became obvious that another war was looming, the "Baron" transferred ownership of the castle to his daughter and slipped across the border to the safety of Switzerland.

From Villa Favorita on the shores of Lake Lugano, Heinrich controlled his German mines and factories throughout the war; supplying the Third Reich with coal, steel and U-boats. He also provided his close friend Hermann Goering and the Nazi secret service with international banking facilities, while in 1941 his August Thyssen Bank in Berlin contributed 400,000 Reichmarks towards the upkeep of the castle, which had by then been requisitioned by the SS.

Meanwhile Margit remained at the castle, where she was provided with a generous allowance from Thyssengas, one of her father's German companies. A Thyssengas employee and Nazi Party member, Joachim Oldenburg, was seconded to assist in managing the estate. Locals employed at Rechnitz report that the "young, dashing and virile" Oldenburg quickly accepted responsibility for accompanying Margit on hunting trips – and was soon sharing her bed.

This despite the fact that, in 1933, Margit had enhanced her social position by marrying the impoverished Count Ivan Batthyany, whose family had originally owned the town of Rechnitz and a large slice of Hungary. In a bizarre arrangement, while "the countess" shared the castle with her SS guests and her bed with Joachim Oldenburg, her estranged husband continued to enjoy his wife's money and breed horses on one of the Batthyanys' adjoining Hungarian estates.

Further complicating her domestic arrangements, Margit was also enjoying a dalliance with the sexually ambitious Franz Podezin, a Gestapo administrator and leader of the Rechnitz Nazi Party.

But SS officers were not Margit's only guests at Rechnitz. At the end of 1944, 10,000 Hungarian Jews and gypsies had joined the 100,000 forced labourers building fortifications along the Austro-Hungarian border, which were designed to stop the advancing Red Army. During the 200km westward march from Budapest they were subjected to atrocities at the hands of their guards while local inhabitants felt free to shoot at them as they passed by – thousands died.

Six hundred Jews, assigned to strengthen the Rechnitz defences, were housed in the cellars of the castle, living in appalling conditions. Many were arbitrarily beaten and shot, particularly by Podezin, while local people reported the countess derived obvious sadistic pleasure from observing these barbaric acts: "She always stood right at the front when anything like that was going on," said one witness.

By the spring of 1945, it had become obvious that it was only a matter of time before the advancing Russians would overrun the area but Margit appeared determined to remain at the castle until the last possible minute.

Finally, with the Red Army only 15km away, the countess hosted a party at the castle on the 24 March, the eve of Palm Sunday, inviting up to 40 people including leading Nazi Party, SS, Gestapo and Hitler Youth members. The party started at 9pm and lasted until dawn, with a great deal of drinking and dancing. But traditional party entertainment was not enough, and at around midnight some 200 half-starved Jews, pronounced unfit for further work, were delivered by lorry to "Kreuzstadel", a barn within walking distance of the castle. Podezin then ushered Margit and 15 of the more senior guests to a store room, gave them weapons and ammunition and invited them to "kill some Jews".

The prisoners were then forced to strip naked before being shot by drunken guests, who returned to the castle to continue to drink and dance until dawn. The following morning, they were heard bragging about the previous night's atrocity: one Stefan Beiglboeck even claiming that he had "slain" six or seven Jews with his own hands.

The bodies of the victims were buried by 15 of the prisoners saved for the purpose. The burial party were kept in the local abattoir before being shot the following evening by Oldenburg and Podezin.

Many years later, Heini admitted his family's industrial and financial support of Hitler and the Third Reich, but he avoided providing any details concerning the Rechnitz massacre.

But within hours of arriving at Rechnitz, my research partner Caroline Schmitz and I had been quizzed by the local innkeeper as to why we were there. He introduced us to sons of the castle's wartime staff and to a retired teacher and the town's official historian, Doctor Josef Hotwagner – a charming man whose ill health does nothing to diminish his wit or his academic skills. Known locally as "the Professor", he is regarded with affection in the town, despite the occasional accusation of being a trouble maker. But Hotwagner has a better reason than most for remaining determined that the Rechnitz massacre should never be forgotten.

The people who committed the barbaric execution were the same people who, in 1941, effectively killed his father by charging him with high treason and sentencing him to 10 years' hard labour at Dachau. Hotwagner senior had been among a small group of townspeople discovered to be supporting the starving women and children left behind when their persecuted men-folk had been shot or forced into slave labour. Dachau was liberated by the Americans in 1945, but Hotwagner's father died in hospital before he was able to return to his family. Josef still displays obvious emotion when recalling the terrible story of both his father and his town.

He remembers the terrible dilemma at eight years of age of he and his mother being forced to leave his grandparents as the battle front drew closer, fleeing into the countryside to take shelter in a wine cellar.

But when the Russian attack finally took place during the night of 29 March 1945, the Red Army, facing very little opposition, soon overran the town and the surrounding vineyards. After being shot at by a drunken Russian soldier, Josef and his mother decided to return to the town, where more sober soldiers shook their hands in greeting. But the castle was already alight, and he remembered "the sky was blood red from the flames for three whole days". Although the Russians were blamed for setting it alight, Hotwagner and many of the townspeople believe it was the German forces who torched it, in compliance with Hitler's "Nero Command", or scorched earth policy.

After a brief counterattack by the SS and the loss of more than 1,000 lives, the Germans eventually admitted defeat, leaving the Russians to occupy Rechnitz and Eastern Austria for the next 10 years.

According to Hotwagner, the victorious Russians soon discovered that, 12 days earlier, a large number of Jews had been murdered, and following further investigation issued a protocol which read: "We, the undersigned have written down the following in order to bear witness of the Fascists' bestiality. On 5th April, a number of graves were excavated, where Jews were buried who had been killed in a bestial manner. In all, 21 graves were found, each one being 4m to 5m long and 1m wide. Each grave contains 10 to 12 people, victims of shots in the neck using firearms or machine ' pistols. The murdered people were very emaciated. An examination of their bodies revealed many bloodshot and blue areas on their skins. Apparently, they had been hit with sticks and rubber clubs prior to being shot. The inhabitants say that on 24 March these people had to dig their own graves and were shot immediately afterwards."

This protocol was published on 12 April 1945 in the Soviet national newspaper, The Red Star, but was subsequently dismissed as propaganda by many Austrians. During the resulting legal proceedings which took place in 1946 before the "people's court", the graves were again opened and an exact location plan was compiled and placed with the Austrian District Court in Oberwart. However, shortly afterwards this plan disappeared. It was only the first of a number of such conspiratorial occurrences.

In the years 1946 to 48, several further legal proceedings took place. But in 1946 the two main witnesses were murdered and one also had his house burnt down to destroy any incriminating evidence. Fear spread, and as a result, most of the witnesses revoked their testimonials during the main proceedings, or toned them down, or failed to appear at court. The few sentences that were awarded to those who hadn't already fled were very lenient and after a few years they were freed on appeal.

The court also uncovered evidence that suggested further murderous acts had been committed in Rechnitz. This was supported by one Paul Szomogyi, who said in his witness statement that on 26 March 1945, 400 Jews from his group of forced labourers had also been killed in a similar fashion. But due to intimidation, he failed to appear in front of the court, which claimed his testimonial could not be investigated any further.

Margit, along with Podezin and Oldenburg, also avoided prosecution, having fled Rechnitz ahead of the advancing Russians and escaped to Switzerland where, having facilitated the latter's return to Germany, Margit housed Podezin in a small apartment above a bar in Lugano, from where he continued to fulfil his role as her lover. But eventually, Podezin's presence became embarrassing and he was forced to leave. Under threat from the criminal proceedings, he demanded financial assistance from Oldenburg and Margit to enable him to escape to South Africa, threatening to "drag Oldenburg and the countess through the mud" if ignored. Funds were forthcoming and Podezin was last seen in Pretoria, while Oldenburg fled to Argentina.

It was not until 1987 that the Refugius (Rechnitz Refugee and Commemorative Initiative and Foundation) was founded and began to organise the erection of a monument to commemorate the massacre. The association also bought the land on which the Kreuzstadel stood, presenting it to the Vienna-based Israelitische Kultusgemeinde organisation. Every year a small commemorative service takes place at the site, although only one of the victims, Laszlo Blum, has ever been identified.

In the local park, a memorial to four murdered resistance fighters, including Dr Josef Hotwagner senior and the "200 Jewish forced labourers from Hungary, who were murdered on 24 March 1945", was finally unveiled – on the opposite side of the park to the monument honouring the names, and photographs, of the 177 local soldiers who lost their lives in the war, fighting for the Reich.

The atmosphere during the unveiling of the memorial to the Jews and members of the resistance was overshadowed by the knowledge that a meeting of the Rechnitz Comrade Club, whose leader was Tobias Portschy, ex-SS, Wehrmacht member and Nazi Gauleiter, was to take place on the local Geschriebenstein mountain the following day. This was not to commemorate the liberation of Austria from the Nazis, but the noble defence of the homeland by the Wehrmacht.

Tobias Portschy died of natural causes in 1996 but a disturbing number of local people still share his beliefs. As recently as 1985 the journalist who wrote a series of articles in the Austrian newspaper Oberwarter Zeitung on the murders under the headlines, "The Rechnitz Murder", "Orgy Ball" and "Dance Macabre" decided to curtail the series after his life was threatened. Meanwhile, a recording of an old woman's eye-witness report, sent to the Austrian television channel ORF by Josef Hotwagner, was permanently "mislaid".

According to local legend, the landlady of the local Gasthaus Rose and widow of Tobias Portschy believed that trying to locate the exact burial site, so that the remains of the victims could be reburied in a Jewish cemetery, was completely unnecessary. She is quoted as saying: "Don't look for the Jews' bones. Look for the gold that they buried."

She and her husband also openly expressed their hatred of gypsies, and a number of the townspeople appreciated the irony when, many years later, they accepted money for housing refugee gypsies in their hotel.

While reactions to the memory of the terrible atrocity remain mixed, there are few members of the community who forgive the Thyssens for failing to repair the castle which had, since the 13th century, been both their town's soul and the reason for its existence. Instead, the remaining building suffered the ignominy of being converted into apartments and the Thyssens' private chapel into a bar.

When the Russian occupation ended, Margit arrogantly returned to Rechnitz as a guest at the Batthyanys' newly built hunting lodge, shooting deer and wild boar in the surrounding forests. Otherwise, she occupied herself by breeding horses at the Thyssens' Erlenhof stud farm, near Bad Homburg in Germany. The original owner of Erlenhof, the Jewish paper manufacturer Moritz James Oppenheimer, was arrested by the Nazis in 1933 and forced to sign a declaration of bankruptcy prior to his death, which the authorities claimed to have been the result of his suicide. Heinrich then bought the stud from the liquidators for a fraction of its true value before leaving it to Heini. He then leased it to his sister who successfully rejected all post-war claims for restitution.

Without ever being implicated in the atrocity, Ivan and Margit died of old age in 1985 and 1989 respectively. But the Count Batthyany of Güssing, near Rechnitz, appeared to be unwilling to permit their burial in the family crypt at their Franciscan chapel, despite or because of the fact that Count Ivan's father, Count Ladislaus Batthyany, eye surgeon and benefactor, was in the process of being beatified; the third stage of the sainthood process that had started in 1944 and was finally carried out by Pope John Paul II in 2003.

What is remarkable about Margit's complicity in the Rechnitz massacre, is the fact that Germany, despite claims to the contrary, still suffers from a selective memory: only publishing carefully edited versions of the history of the Thyssens, which avoid reference to the family's anti-Semitism.

In 2003, an authorised history of the Thyssens, Fritz Thyssen – Hitler's Benefactor and Hostage was published in Germany, which quoted from a letter illustrating Fritz Thyssen's (Heinrich's brother) refusal to do business with Jewish industrialists, because of their criminal record rather than his anti-Semitic views, which are contained in the same letter. None of the previously published histories of the Thyssens, either social or industrial, in books or periodicals, have mentioned the Rechnitz story or the full extent of the family's involvement with the Third Reich.

The fact that ThyssenKrupp AG refused to grant me access to its archives during my research, and 23 prominent German publishers rejected The Thyssen Art Macabre prior to its UK publication, may not immediately signify a cover-up, but when, at the last minute the Bertelsmann-owned Spanish publisher demanded that I remove all references to the Nazis before they would publish, it was difficult not to suspect a degree of conspiracy. Having been published in the UK by Quartet, The Thyssen Art Macabre will now be published in Spain, home of the Thyssen-Bornemisza art collection, by Temas de Hoy, a Spanish-owned publisher who made no such demands. Meanwhile, German publishers still appear to ignore the book. *

'The Thyssen Art Macabre' is published by Quartet Books
Re: Georg Heinrich Thyssen, Son of Heinrich

The Son of a Baron's Windfall

Today's IPO by the technical publishing group IHS brought to light the fact that the company is controlled by Georg Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the eldest son of Baron Hans Heinrich von Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, a Swiss citizen with a Hungarian title and resident of Spain who was the heir to the Thyssen Steel and armaments fortune. If the name sounds familiar, it may be because of the world-famous Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.

In February 2002, Georg and his father settled out of court after a year long legal battle over the $2.7B Thyssen industrial empire. The feud, played out in a court in Bermuda, cost an estimated $100M in legal fees.

With IHS, Thyssen-Bornemisza owns 62% of the company that is now worth well over $1B and he was able to cash out several hundred milliion dollars. The IPO was his opportunity to gain liquidity and perhaps live the life of opulent splendor that his family is accustomed to.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Poll: Only 16% of Respondents Believe Bush on 9/11

Angus Reid
Global Monitor
Polls & Research

Americans Question Bush on 9/11 Intelligence
October 14, 2006

Abstract: - Many adults in the United States believe the current federal government has not been completely forthcoming on the issue of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to a poll by the New York Times and CBS News.

53 per cent of respondents think the Bush administration is hiding something, and 28 per cent believe it is lying.

Many adults in the United States believe the current federal government has not been completely forthcoming on the issue of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to a poll by the New York Times and CBS News. 53 per cent of respondents think the Bush administration is hiding something, and 28 per cent believe it is lying.

Only 16 per cent of respondents say the government headed by U.S. president George W. Bush is telling the truth on what it knew prior to the terrorist attacks, down five points since May 2002.

Al-Qaeda operatives hijacked and crashed four airplanes in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people. In October, after Afghanistan's Taliban regime refused to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the U.S. launched the war on terrorism.

On Aug. 6, 2001, a Presidential Daily Briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." mentioned "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York."

On May 17, 2002, Bush discussed the situation, saying, "The American people know this about me, and my national security team, and my administration: Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning, I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people."

On Sept. 11, Bush referred to the attacks, saying, "Five years after 9/11, our enemies have not succeeded in launching another attack on our soil, but they've not been idle. Al-Qaeda and those inspired by its hateful ideology have carried out terrorist attacks in more than two dozen nations. And just last month, they were foiled in a plot to blow up passenger planes headed for the United States. They remain determined to attack America and kill our citizens—and we are determined to stop them."

Polling Data

When it comes to what they knew prior to September 11th, 2001, about possible terrorist attacks against the United States, do you think members of the Bush Administration are telling the truth, are mostly telling the truth but hiding something, or are they mostly lying?


by Cyril Mychalejko
30 May 2008

A retired Colombian army general and former CIA asset was arrested Tuesday over the disappearances of 11 people.

Ivan Ramirez, formerly the Colombian Army's third in command, led an intelligence unit of soldiers in a 1985 raid that recaptured the Palace of Justice, which had been seized by leftist rebels during one of the country's most violent periods of its ongoing civil war. Prosecutors claim that his unit escorted 11 people, which included cafeteria workers and one rebel, out of the Palace as the military raided the building. These people were never heard from again.

An official from the chief prosecutor's office told the AP that soldiers from Ramirez's unit claimed that these people were tortured and killed. The former general faces at least 20 years in prison if convicted of "forced disappearance" charges.

The Washington Post reported in a 1998 article that Ramirez served as a "key CIA informant," even while he maintained close relationships with right-wing death squads involved with drug trafficking. Ramirez, who received training in Washington, "was the first head of a military intelligence organization designed by U.S. experts to fight Marxist guerrillas and [ironically] drug traffickers."

Unfortunately for Colombians, some things never change. Last year the CIA released intelligence that alleged Colombia's current Army Chief, General Mario Montoya, also has ties to right-wing paramilitaries involved with drug trafficking. Montoya was also formerly an instructor at the School of the Americas.

But the paramilitary scandal doesn't stop with the military. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's family and political allies in Congress have also been charged with conspiring with right-wing paramilitary death squads. In fact, President Uribe, President Bush's strongest ally in Latin America, is himself the target of investigation.

Meanwhile, last week President Bush, dismissing human rights concerns raised by Democrats, urged Congress to reward President Uribe, whom he called "a bold leader" and a "reformer," with a free trade agreement.

"He is a clear example of a leader who has set an agenda that is bold, and he's following through with that agenda," said Bush.

Nazis Under the Wing of Operation Condor

The ties of the CIA with former Gestapo officials and puppet governments in Latin America working to liquidate progressive movements during the 1960s-80´s have been proven.

Cuban News Agency
May 30, 2007

The forces that participated in Operation Condor —many of them former Nazi officers— were advised by US intelligence operatives.

Despite 40 years having passed since that brutal torrent of kidnappings and assassinations, many people continue to decry such incidents and continue looking for their “disappeared” relatives.

Writer Juan Gelman participated in the “Rally in Silence” this month. For the last 13 years, this has been held in the center of Montevideo, Uruguay, demanding truth and justice for what occurred during the 1973-1985 dictatorship.

Gelman, who is among those who spent years investigating that period, discovered the whereabouts of his granddaughter Macarena in 2000. After several attempts at negotiation, in 2005 he found that the family of an Uruguayan police officer had raised the child.

May 20 was selected to hold the “Rally in Silence” because on that same date in 1976, former Uruguayan legislators Zelmar Michelini and Hector Gutierrez Ruiz and left militants Rosario Berredo and William Whitelaw were kidnapped and assassinated in Buenos Aires. That case was never solved.

Through the “Rat Route,” under the orders of Adolf Hitler a number of war criminals who committed atrocities in Europe were transferred to Latin American nations.

Their lives in remote areas of Latin America with different names provided them with safety, although their moral conduct continued as assassins, and many continued to enjoy torturing and killing their victims.

During the month of May, while families of the disappeared marched through Latin American cities demanding justice for the loss of loved ones during the military dictatorships, new evidence came out to light about former Nazi criminals that found refuge thanks to the so-called Rat Route.

International news agencies report that Dr. Aribert Heim, the most wanted Nazi war criminal, is alive and is living in the Chilean or Argentinean Patagonia.

According to Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, the criminal may well be living in the Patagonia because a daughter of his lives in Puerto Montt, some 600 kilometers south of Santiago de Chile.

There is also the probability that he is living in Bariloche, Argentina – a nation that was the home to Nazi war criminals and the stage at the time of the dictatorship for the torture and massacre of young revolutionaries.

Heim, 93, killed hundreds of people in the Mauthausen Concentration Camp using direct injections of gasoline into their hearts.

This “Dr. Death” was almost arrested in 1962 in the former West Germany, but someone warned him and was able to escape.

Although his family says he has passed away, a German police operation revealed that there was a bank account in his name in Berlin with over 1 million Euros.

If his children had proven that Heim was dead, they could have withdrawn the money from the account – but they did not, so investigators suspect that he remains alive.

The demand for justice by the victims of Operation Condor in Latin America continues, as does the condemnation of those individuals linked to the CIA and the former Gestapo who participated in those crimes.

Nazi Origins of Adidas and Puma Tennis Shoes

Sneakers, Nazis, and a Family Feud
Two German brothers—and their communities—battled each other to build the Puma and Adidas empires

Review of Sneaker Wars: The Enemy Brothers Who Founded Adidas and Puma and the Family Feud that Forever Changed the Business of Sport

By Barbara Smit
Business Week
Ecco; 384pp; $26.95

The term "sibling rivalry" doesn't quite do justice to the relationship between German shoemaking brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, proprietors of the German athletic-shoe enterprise known as Dassler Brothers. During World War II, Rudolf was convinced that Adolf, better known as "Adi," contrived to have him sent to serve with German forces in Poland. After the German surrender, Rudolf retaliated by denouncing Adi to the Allies for allegedly assisting the Nazi war effort.

Bizarrely, the bickering brothers continued to share a villa, with their wives and children, in the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach until 1948, when Rudolf and employees loyal to him formed a rival shoe company called Puma. Adi renamed his outfit Adidas (ADDYY). So great was the animosity between the brothers that the whole town became embroiled. Residents declared their loyalty to either Adidas or Puma according to the shoes they wore and sometimes refused to speak to members of the other side.

The epic feud shaped not only the shoe industry but also the relationship between sports and business. Both brothers and, later, their sons, realized that getting star athletes to wear their shoes was crucial to sales. Flouting Olympic rules, they showered potential medalists with cash and swag. The Dasslers can take much of the credit, or blame, for turning the Olympics into the marketing circus it is today.

It's a great story, unevenly told in Sneaker Wars: The Enemy Brothers Who Founded Adidas and Puma and the Family Feud that Forever Changed the Business of Sport by Dutch journalist Barbara Smit. The book eventually finds its footing, but the early chapters are poorly paced and full of loose ends. Recounting Rudolf's war years, for example, Smit first seems to accept his postwar assertion that he was arrested by the Gestapo for suspected desertion in the final weeks of the war. Then later she raises the possibility that he was in fact working for the Gestapo. A better writer would have handled the contradictory evidence more gracefully.

Certainly, neither brother was a saint. Both joined the Nazi Party soon after Hitler took power, although their first allegiance seems to have been to the shoe business. (Adi worked hard to get star athlete Jesse Owens to wear his spikes at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, even though the Nazis reviled the black American.) After Adi and Rudolf split, they and their successors stopped at nothing to undermine each other. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Adidas managers contrived to get Puma shoes impounded by Mexican customs and may even have arranged for a Puma rep to be arrested and jailed.

As if the Puma-Adidas rivalry weren't enough, Rudolf and Adi couldn't even get along with their own offspring. Adi's estranged son, Horst, established a parallel company in France, using the Adidas name but offering a separate product line, competing for orders, and even spying on the Herzogenaurach faction.

Despite all the internal conflicts, Adidas and Puma rode the postwar sports boom to riches. They saw the potential of the U.S. market and signed athletes such as Joe Namath, the quarterback for the New York Jets who wore dazzling white Puma boots on the field.

The Adidas-Puma rivalry may even have fired the brothers' competitive spirit and contributed to their success. But their preoccupation with each other also seems to have left them exposed to newcomer Nike (NKE) in the 1970s. Nike's rise drove Adidas from a 60% market share in the U.S. to only 2.5% at the beginning of the '90s. The heirs of Adi and Rudolf eventually lost control of both Adidas and Puma.

Luckily for Smit, the owners and managers who followed were no less colorful. Smit's narrative improves considerably as the book proceeds, possibly because there are more living witnesses to provide the lively detail lacking in early chapters.

Smit is not one to draw business-case lessons from her tale. But a reader may come away with a new appreciation for the MBA-style professionalism at the top of Adidas and Puma today. Current Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer and Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz are both marketing professionals who have delivered stability and growth—even if they don't make such juicy copy as their companies' founders.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Report Reveals BMW’s Nazi Ties

Major shareholders of German automobile manufacturer made fortune through Nazi concentration camps

Eldad Beck

BERLIN – Over the years, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW), the German automobile manufacturer, has become a symbol of quality, prestige, and social status. As it turns out, the company has been hiding a dark secret for decades.

The Quandt family - Germany’s richest– is a major shareholder of the leading German automobile manufacturer.

It made its fortune during the Second World War through the Nazi war machine, profiting from the forced labor of thousands at concentration camps.

According to an investigative report that premiered at the Hamburg Film Festival on Sunday, the family managed to escape punishment after the war, and continued building its empire – an empire that has left its members billionaires many times over.

[Hitler connections: Baby Helga, daughter of Josef Goebbels with Mrs. Goebbels who was formerly Mrs. Magda Quandt, with her son from her first marriage]

The investigative report, which took five years in the making, reveals for the first time the close ties between members of the Quandt family and the Nazi regime’s leadership.

Günther Quandt, the empire’s founder, was the first husband of Magda Ritschel, who later married Joseph Goebbels, a German politician and one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates.

According to the report, Quandt’s first son with Magda was raised by the Goebbels, and became one of the managers of his father’s business after the war.

The report also revealed a series of incriminating documents found collecting dust in various archives throughout Germany, which prove the extent of cooperation between the Quandts and the Nazis.

Makers of the investigative report also located survivors of the camps used by the family during World War II, who testified to the horrible conditions they were forced to work under.

The family refused to cooperate with reporters who participated in the investigation.

The Quandt’s have previously denied allegations that they cooperated with the Nazis, and in fact, for years portrayed themselves as victims of the Third Reich.

When the German Forced Labour Compensation Program was established, the family made no contribution, claiming it had nothing to do with the issue.,2506,L-3455663,00.html

BMW 'built fortune on slave labour under the Nazis'
3rd October 2007

The owners of the BMW car empire built their £17 billion fortune on the back of slave labour under the Nazis, it has been claimed.

A TV documentary reveals that the Quandt family, controllers of BMW, profited from workers shipped in from concentration camps.

Unlike many German firms whose links to the Nazis have been made public, BMW has resisted investigating its wartime practices.

But the documentary - The Silence of the Quandts - claims that BMW industrialist Gunther Quandt operated a plant which used labourers from the Neugamme concentration camp.

"It was dangerous work, watched over by the SS and many workers died," said the documentary.

Labourer Takis Mylopoulos, who worked at the Afa plant, making batteries for BMW, said: "It was worse than slave labour. We were treated terribly, had to drink water from the toilets. We were also whipped."

Quandt, who had a 30 per cent stake in BMW, was held briefly post-war, but declared to be a party member who "went along" with things rather than an ardent Nazi, and so was not charged.

Benjamin Ferenz, a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, said: "If these facts had been laid before the courts, Quandt would have been accused exactly the same as Krupp and I.G. Farben."

Today, the Quandt family have a fortune estimated at £17 billion.

Many German corporations - car maker VW and media giant Bertelsmann - have investigated their working practices under the Nazis.

VW, for instance, found out that there was a "dying room" at its main plant where women slave labourers were forced to leave their newborns to expire.

While it is well known that major industrial concerns like BMW had to ingratiate themselves with the regime, BMW has never researched into its Nazi past and these facts have not been made public before.

"The Silence of the Quandts" drew a massive audience when it was screened on Sunday night without pre-publicity.

"We were surprised by the film," said a Quandt family spokesman, adding nothing more.

Buffett's Wrigley Deal puts Spotlight on Secretive Mars Family

For more on Warren Buffett, the son of a Nazi collaborator, and of Omaha child prostitution fame, see: "Duncan/Blake 'Suicides' Solved"

" ... A notoriously secretive Virginia-based firm, it is run out of an anonymous brown building near the CIA's headquarters. ... "

Little is known about the confectionery firm - less about its reclusive owners

Andrew Clark in New York
The Guardian
May 3 2008

You may think that a chocolate company with one of the world's most famous brands would have a flashy headquarters with a visitors' centre and a neon sign. Not Mars. A notoriously secretive Virginia-based firm, it is run out of an anonymous brown building near the CIA's headquarters.

Nicknamed "the Kremlin" for its opaque ways, the snacks manufacturer is wholly owned by a reclusive dynasty of billionaires who spend a good deal of time on a remote ranch in Wyoming.

This week's $22bn (£11.6bn) takeover of the chewing-gum maker Wrigley put Mars dead centre on Wall Street's radar screen - giving the firm the kind of visibility it had studiously avoided for 98 years.

"They're based in a dark, hidden building," says Jan Pottker, author of a tell-all book about the Mars family, Crisis in Candyland. "It's simply incredible - rather than being proud of their company, they don't want to be noticed."

With 129 factories and 223 offices in 66 countries, Mars employs 48,000 staff and commands annual sales of $22bn. As well as confectionery such as its eponymous bar, Twix, Snickers and Starburst, its lines include Uncle Ben's rice, Dolmio pasta sauces, Masterfoods ready meals and Whiskas catfood.

Its move for Wrigley came out of the blue - astonishingly audacious for such a relentlessly low-profile business.

"Mars is a very, very quiet company," says Mitchell Howard, a food analyst at the stockbroker Morningstar in Chicago.

He believes the deal's logic is largely driven by marketing muscle and by distribution power - the combined company will command shelf space at more corner-shop retailers, particularly in emerging markets.

"This gives them a huge distribution footprint all over the world," says Howard. "Wrigley has a lot of distribution in Asia and eastern Europe. The retail trade is a lot less consolidated in those markets, so distribution really matters."

The deal, agreed in only three weeks, was negotiated with Wrigley's bosses over sandwiches around the kitchen table of Mars's president, Paul Michaels. Mars tapped the world's richest man, Warren Buffett, for $6.5bn and secured a further $5.7bn from Goldman Sachs.

Food industry experts see it as a sign that Mars is finally opening up - possibly due to the influence of Michaels, a former Johnson & Johnson executive who is part of a first generation of non-family members to be responsible for the day-to-day business.

"They did have a leadership change about four years ago," says Howard. "They've got quite aggressive in terms of advertising and innovation; there have been more product extensions, more line extensions."

Michaels took the reins in 2004 after the retirement of Forrest Mars Jr and his brother John who, with their sister Jacqueline, still own the company. They are the grandchildren of Franklin Mars, a Minnesota-born entrepreneur who started the company by making butter-cream sweets in his kitchen.

Forbes magazine estimates that each of the three siblings has a fortune of $14bn. But they don't grace the society pages of American newspapers and grand gestures of philanthropy are not their style. The nearest they have come is making occasional donations to the Republican party.

Mars will say only that certain descendants of Frank Mars still occupy management positions and refuses to reveal how many of them sit on the board. When the second-generation boss Forrest Sr died aged 95 in 1999, Mars would not even confirm his death.


Traditionally, Mars has been deeply conservative and highly competitive. It lobbied Congress to change the end of daylight saving time to get an extra hour's evening light on Halloween - a crucial day for selling confectionery.

Its strait-laced approach has sometimes tripped it up. Mars refused to allow its M&Ms to be featured in Steven Spielberg's blockbuster ET. So the film's young hero, Elliott, used Hershey's Reese's Pieces to lure his alien friend to come out from a hiding place - prompting rocketing sales.

"You couldn't laugh at the products in any way," says Pottker. "At the time, they would never do a product placement, certainly not with an extra-terrestrial."

She says the "cult of secrecy" around the firm dates back to the second world war when Forrest Mars Sr patented a method of parboiling rice to extend its shelf life - subsequently launched as Uncle Ben's rice. US military chiefs read about the patent and tried to overturn it to supply troops.

"Forrest was absolutely appalled at what even a positive article about rice could end up with," says Pottker. "The kids took it to heart."

This insistence on privacy has been a useful device in helping the Mars family to maintain its unanimity, according to Joseph Astrachan, an expert in family enterprises at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. He says it implies betrayal if any relative dissents or talks to outsiders. "It keeps the family aligned - you don't give the people the sense that they can go elsewhere," says Astrachan. "They've been unswayed, unbowed by the so-called experts who tell them to do things differently."

A booklet signed by 13 members of the family gives a glimpse into their thinking. The pamphlet, the Five Principles of Mars, explains what makes the company "different". It lists quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom - of which the last is described in a curious way.

Private ownership, the pamphlet says, is crucial to Mars's "freedom" as it means the firm is not answerable to anybody. "Many other companies began as Mars did, but as they grew larger and required new sources of funds, they sold stocks or incurred restrictive debt to fuel their business," wrote the Mars clan. "To extend their growth, they exchanged a portion of their freedom."

Mars has shown more flexibility in recent years. In response to concerns over obesity, it has launched a range of healthier snacks for school vending machines called Generation Max. And it has developed a chocolate ingredient called CocoaVia that can help lower cholesterol levels.

The fact that Wrigley, too, is a family company may have smoothed the path to this week's deal. The Wrigley family controls 60% of the gum-maker's stock and is chaired by Bill Wrigley, great-grandson of the founder William Wrigley - a baking-powder salesman who began giving away free packets of gum to merchants in the 1890s.

In the chewing-gum company's hometown of Chicago, the Cubs' baseball stadium is called Wrigley Field and the white terracotta-clad Wrigley Building is an architectural landmark, floodlit at night on the Chicago river. The Wrigleys command a degree of public respect - a little like another legendary American business founder, Wal-Mart's Sam Walton.

"People have an affection for people like Sam Walton," says Pottker. "I don't think anybody gives a damn about Frank Mars."

The Night of Broken Glass in Rome


Gaither Stewart
From Tom Paine's Corner

(Rome) On Saturday last Fascist goon squads armed with wooden clubs carried out a “punitive expedition”, that is, an organized raid on shops of Asian immigrants in Italy’s capital. Ten or so men masked in scarves adorned with swastikas swooped down on immigrant-run grocery stores, a telephone call center, a laundry and various shops along the streets of one of Rome’s most multiethnic districts, smashing windows and the interiors of the stores. Yelling “dirty foreigner” and “bastards” the hoodlums beat up an immigrant from Bangladesh who was treated in a hospital. TV newscasts showed broken windows and glass along the sidewalks recalling similar events in the 1938 pogroms in Nazi Germany which came to be called Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) for the shattered store windows along city streets of Germany.

The Night of Broken Glass became a symbol of violence organized by the Nazi-Fascist state against Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and the other. Despite the regrets expressed this Sunday by post-Fascist political leaders, violent segments of the extreme Right today feel legitimized by the Right’s recent electoral victory which swept so-called post-Fascists into power in Italy.

The words Fascism and Fascist have again become commonplace in world languages. Let’s take a look at what those words mean in our daily lives.

Three hundred and fifty words about Fascism

Fascism is insidious.
Fascism comes about gradually.
Fascism emerges from the evil side of mankind.
Fascism as a social-political expression is hardly noticeable at first.
Fascism begins in backward social classes as a reaction to losing their role in society.
Fascism has two faces: an anti-political establishment face, in the USA the old familiar anti-Washington stance; and a reactionary face created by false consciousness.
Fascism on its way to power allies with capitalism and becomes the establishment’s mouthpiece and its police.
Fascism is the armed violent wing of capitalism.
Fascism defends private property against the threat of revolutionary expropriation.
Fascism in power exists on the backs of enemies.
Fascism in power becomes a deviate state power.
Fascism is mixed with the military hierarchy.
Fascism tries to resolve international problems with bluff and guns.
Fascism in practice is rooted in meanness and narrow-mindedness, its doors wide open to social bullies of all colors and provenance.
Fascism is an all-is-permitted state.
Fascism’s promises of impunity justify the out-flowing of pent-up hate of bullies.
Fascism in power is cloaked in a veneer of nationalism and idealism.
Fascism becomes a popular demand for totalitarianism.

Fascism is partly a class phenomenon, a movement with a specific social goal.
Fascism bursts every barrier and framework of control.
Fascism unleashes the most evil elemental forces of man.
Fascism is moral decay and decadence.
Fascism is marked by cruelty and an absence of sympathy for the misfortunate.
Fascism is an atmosphere marked by a false face of sentimentality with an enormously high rate of violence.
Fascism is distinguished by arbitrariness, destructiveness and reaction.
Fascism abolishes the concept of balances and control and fairness and compassion.
Fascism in power is uncontrollable.
Fascism in power is total and authoritarian, characterized by a centralized, autocratic state governed by a dictatorial chief.
Fascism operates for the benefit of a few.
Fascism is aggressive repression of opposition.
Fascism is nationalistic to the extreme, reducing the interests of the individual to the interests of an elite.
Fascism promotes promises of national rebirth with “cults” of unity, exceptionalism and supremacy over other nations and races.
Fascism is super-patriotism, super-nationalism, militarism, populism, anti-liberalism, elitism.
May 26, 2008 GAITHER STEWART is a Senior Special Contributing Editor and European Correspondent at Cyrano's Journal, a novelist and journalist. His stories, essays and dispatches are read widely on many leading venues. His fiction, Icy Current Compulsive Course, To Be A Stranger and Once In Berlin are published by Wind River Press. ( His recent novel, Asheville, is published by Wastelandrunes, (

'Panzer Operation': Spanish Army Weapons in the Hands of Extreme Right Gangs

(transl. from Spanish)

The Crisis and the impunity of the neonazi armed gangs at Valencia Region, Spain

Interventions telephone, custom-month follow-ups and information infiltrators led to the Civil Guard to dismantle at the end of 2005 one of the politico-criminal armed gang of ultras, largest and most dangerous of the recent history of Spanish rule. Despite the fact that most detainees reside in the Valencia Region, the armed gang reaches more points in the state. The fact that the People's Action against impunity were people in this cause has prevented the case-still under instruction-end held before the trial and that defendants will no longer dream of escape unpunished as on previous occasions.

Feature of the research team AIP.

A criminal organization calling itself Anti System Front (FAS) acted as a organized for profit: planned robberies and assaults also sells all kinds of weapons, in collusion with military assets that had no hesitation in removing weapons from the Spanish army, as launchers and handguns. FAS was captained by Juan Manuel Soria, a fur tanners sentenced to more than two years in prison for extortion and grave threats to a priest-Valencia, which was surrounded by a legion of individuals with no known occupation. The weapons were used because individuals like Pedro Cuevas, the murderer of Guillem Agulló, could profit by selling Internet on behalf of the motherland. This is the so-called “Panzer Operation”, a criminal armed gang neo-fascist who has been on the verge of sleep the sleep of the righteous, if not by outside intrusions, five months ago scarce, "People's Action against impunity" that has arrived in the case, when the 27 suspects are already rubbing their hands thinking that, again, could continue to act with impunity.

Military, businessmen and criminals were part of a armed gang to Valencia, under the banner of the Third Reich, organized actions of Nazi propaganda for recruiting new militants and distributed all types of weaponry, among other criminal activities. The danger that the Guardia Civil detected allowed to undertake an investigation that led to uncover a criminal organization that had a veritable arsenal and alleged contacts within the law enforcement authorities in the state.

"Take always an ace up its sleeve"

"Today, in everyday life, you must ensure the security and tranquillity of yours, as well as that of your trade, and local housing. Carries always an ace up its sleeve!" This phrase led websites PRODEF, protection and defense systems, and other web Streetdefense virtually the same call, both illustrated with a photo where various individuals Pat a person who is covered as it can on the floor, and under the symbol of neo-fascist Celta Cruz. The tranquillity with which this business is advertised on the Internet and various groups that make complaint leading to the Civil Guard, towards the end of 2004, to investigate, within the range of neo-Nazi websites, this curious branch dedicated in commercial arms sales. The products sold ranging from crippling esprays up brass knuckles, electric batons and knives of all sizes and measures, and everything indicates that the fabric part from the Valencia Region. For months, agents intercepted phone for those responsible for web sites or detect that, beyond arms sales, there is a perfectly structured organization and with a doubtful legal purposes. It starts well what the Guardia Civil known as Pazer Operation.

Ten years ago that Spanish police had dismantled in Valencia the most active neo-Nazi group in the Valencia Region, Radical Action, protagonist of the razzia against immigrants and leftist militants and coordinator of much of the movement skin Spanish. They had organised music concerts RAC (Rock Anticommunist) failures during 1992 and 1993, which had moved skinheads from across Europe until the capital of l'Horta. The publication in one of their fanzines a blacklist of goals, among which were teachers, squats, homosexuals or independence, resulted in the dismantling. On this occasion they also found weapons, a hierarchical structure and racist propaganda. The story appeared again ten years later, but with a significantly higher magnitude.

Everything starts at Silla city. The initial clues contributing websites detected in late 2004, and comments within the movement, too often point to the town of Silla (Horta Sud region). This population has become one of the current nerve centres of the extreme right at Valencia, to the point of having given the party Spain 2000, a councilman in the last municipal elections. Various sources indicated that certain individuals linked to neo-Nazi movements Valencians were behind websites offering all kinds of weapons and racist material. An active neo-Nazi of Silla city, with criminal records, Joaquin Saludes Prieto, together with his wife, Mary Sandra Rentero Monzó, focusing much of the first steps of the investigation.

Another neighbor who fall under the Silla initially suspected Serrador is Alejandro Ferrer, aka “skull”, board member National Spain 2000 and known by a corpulent and exaggerated because of loitering in matches with the club Valencia CF Ultra Yomus, along with Joaquin Saludes. Rueda was part of the internal structure and decision-making bodies of the neo-Nazi organization Anti-System Front. According to sources of research, with the tranquility that had acted as these activities are spread by extremist environments, as also disclosed that the infighting traspasaban fiercely walls of their premises. There was a rivalry between its members that all too often passed by word of mouth in addition to the environment, with constant disqualifications of each other's throats.

Pedro Cuevas returns to scene.

Pedro Jose Cuevas Silvestre confirmed his relationship with neo-Nazi organizations after having gone through the prison for the death of Guillem Agulló. Linking to do and the tasks performed returned to this sinister character to the world of violence and the swastika. He was one of the main charge of the chain of manufacture and sale of certain weapons. It was known within the movement further that the murderer of Agulló could get brass knuckles of various models and prices. Cuevas had become a character in environments known for his neo-Nazi murderer sad history. We knew also that he was very quiet after having passed the passage through the prison following the case Agulló -which in no way had served to rehabilitate. It had become an example of impunity, and their involvement in making and in the business of weapons strengthen this image.

Arms sales and Nazi propaganda.

Through the website, make disclosed his Nazi ideology and also linked with more pages devoted in arms sales, administered by members of the same organization. The headquarters in Tres Cruces Avenue, number 69, of Valencia, served as a center of operations, and organized proselytizing activities in which supporters of the racist ideology came regularly to be educated, and where they could acquire material and neo-Nazi attend lectures and concerts group RAC. Currently, the same local party headquarters as well as National Alliance, which militate curiously diverse involved in the case Panzer and hosting activities similar to those organized by the hare.

The first blow against the police organization was September 2005 when they arrested 22 people and searched several premises around the Valencia Region. Months later, the investigation into the Civil Guard was lengthened with the arrest of five more people, and arrived at the figure of 27 defendants, most magnitude of the case against the extreme right of Spanish rule. The locations where the operation were deployed Valencia, Sagunt, Puçol, XIV, the Pobla de Farnals, Torrent, Silla, Paterna, Fuente de la Figuera, Xirivella and Burjassot. Among the arsenal seized from there until pens pistol, brass knuckles, guns, katanas, knives, crossbows, shotguns cut and a military grenade launcher. According to the Civil Guard in the fabric of neo-Nazi websites make a clear apology for the violence with political purposes, and provide weapons to reach these objectives, a business that served to finance the organization. One point of concern is the linking of professional soldiers of the Spanish Army in this armed gang. THE TIME magazine ( could know that at least three of those arrested worked for the military or armed forces while working with this organization.

For the Civil Guard, the defendants belong to an unlawful association, and charged them crimes of possession, trafficking and stockpiling of weapons and ammunition, robbery and crimes against public health because there are among the arsenal seized anabolic intended for illegal sale to thicken muscle mass of customers.

From conspiracy to political parties.

In addition to sharing local hare-organizing desarticulada in Operation Panzer militancy part of a newly created party, Alianza Nacional, heir to the defunct Alliance for National Unity (AUN), the formation of the historic ultra Ricardo Saez de Ynestrillas. Alianza Nacional, founded in Valencia in 2006 and headed by Pedro Pablo Pena, from AUN, premiered with incomes of the latter in prison and two more militants, after a short time to try to rely bomb attacks against a coach of relatives of ETA prisoners.

"The location remains open, and continue as before, military National Alliance."

It's clear what makes Juan Manuel Soria Monfort in a forum of a neo-Nazi Web when you ask what remains of doing. Soria, who was considered a leader of the organization dismantle operation under the belly, spearheaded the project in the country AN Valencià after a few months dismantled the illegal organization. We must highlight the leading role in the controversial visit by the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, in Valencia -the only place where the Spanish state could do a talk-and that was always accompanied by Soria. The event was held at the site said it was refused permission consecutively in various hotels in Valencia, following the campaign of collective social and anti-fascists against the visit of American racist.

The employer was prosecuted one year after the Panzer Operation, accused of having extort a priest of the Royal Pla with religious images of explicit sexual content between the end of 2004 and early 2005. His accomplice in this adventure is also implicated in another case Panzer, David Montiel Pedro Garcia, aka “skull”, one of those who fought in a more fierce within the organization to achieve power. The defendants admitted the facts in the case of the priest, and accepted the sentence requested by the prosecutor and the private prosecution, which was less than two years' imprisonment for crimes-raising and threats. The Nazis had obtained the pictures and asked him 15,000 euros for not making them public.

But the character who did jump all alarms, both to do as this then in the electoral lists of AN in Xiva city, was Pedro Jose Cuevas Wild, author of the death of Guillem Agulló. Cuevas ranked number eight in the municipal candidacy headed by Soria, and his presence lifted the reaction of social and political movements Valencia, who gave a press conference complaints and asking the illegalización of this party. Another implicated in the case Panzer occupied the second place gives lists Xiva city, Ramon Luis Gomez.

Another party which is splashed in the case Panzer is headed by businessman Jose Luis Roberto, of España2000 organization, which curiously gained a councillor in the municipal elections of Silla, Andres Vicent. One of the few women detained during the operation, Maria Sandra Rentero Monzó, ranked number three in the candidacy for chair, along with other involved, Laureano Ruiz Piquer, worker Levantina Security, Roberto security private company, and number 38 of the candidacy of E2000 in Valencia in the last elections. Piquer was convicted of an offence of misconduct last December by the magistrate No. 2 Ibiza, condemning the company also alternatively Levantina General Services, linked to the multifaceted entrepreneur Jose Luis Roberto. Alejandro Rueda, the chair, also belongs to the party for Roberto, is part of the national board and, according to Andres Vicente (Spain councilman from 2000), working with young people for the "away from violence" and to "change the aesthetics ". His defense in this case lies with the firm of Roberto.

The presence of the platform of People's Action Against Impunity has long period of investigation of the case still open. So there is still no trial date, but at least we can infer that the facts are known judged by public opinion and not pass unnoticed as if it were a banda common vandals.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lindbergh's Deranged Quest for Immortality

" ... Lindbergh and Carrel's quest had all the hallmarks of Nazi-promoted eugenics. ... At the Rockefeller lab, Lindbergh and Carrel - almost like a real-life Jekyll and Hyde double act - made some extraordinary breakthroughs.. ... "

By Brendan O'Neill
BBC News
26 May 2008

Charles Lindbergh and Alexis Carrel, with their perfusion pump

Flying had a strange effect on the great aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh, leading him to team up with a French surgeon and embark on a quest for ever-lasting life... for a chosen few.

What do you know about Charles Lindbergh?

You probably know he was an American aviator. He achieved overnight world stardom when he became the first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic, solo, in 1927.

You might also know that Lindbergh was strongly opposed to American involvement in World War II - until Pearl Harbor, after which he volunteered to fly combat missions in the Pacific.

And you might know that in later life he became a prolific author, an explorer and an environmentalist.

But did you know that he was also a machine-obsessed inventor, who entered into a macabre alliance with a French-born surgeon to try to achieve immortality?

Forget aviation hero. On the side, Lindbergh was a Dr Frankenstein figure, who used his mechanical genius to explore the possibility of conquering death - but only for the select few who were considered "worthy" of living forever.

"Beating death was something he thought about his entire life", says David M Friedman, American author of the new book The Immortalists. "Even as a small child, he couldn't accept that people had to die. He would ask: 'Why do you have to die to get to heaven?'"

Machine-enabled people

Friedman's The Immortalists relates the untold story of Lindbergh's frequently bizarre efforts to cheat death by creating machines that might sustain human life.

In the 1930s, after his historic flight over the Atlantic, Lindbergh hooked up with Alexis Carrel, a brilliant surgeon born in France but who worked in a laboratory at the Rockefeller Institute in Manhattan. Carrel - who was a mystic as well as a scientist - had already won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on the transplantation of blood vessels. But his real dream was a future in which the human body would become, in Friedman's words, "a machine with constantly reparable or replaceable parts".

This is where Lindbergh entered the frame. Carrel hoped that his own scientific nous combined with Lindbergh's machine-making proficiency (Lindbergh had, after all, already helped design a plane that flew non-stop to Paris) would make his fantasy about immortal machine-enabled human beings a reality.

"Both of their needs were met in this rather strange relationship", says Friedman. "Carrel benefited from Lindbergh's mechanical genius and inventiveness, and for Lindbergh - well, Carrel became the most important person in his life, effectively steering the way he viewed the world and the people who lived in it."

At the Rockefeller lab, Lindbergh and Carrel - almost like a real-life Jekyll and Hyde double act - made some extraordinary breakthroughs. Lindbergh created something that Carrel's team had singularly failed to: a perfusion pump that could keep a human organ alive outside of the body. It was called the "Model T" pump. In later years, Lindbergh's pump was further developed by others, eventually leading to the construction of the first heart-lung machine.


"Some people, even academics and science students, are still shocked when they hear about the contribution that the aviator Lindbergh made to developing life-saving cardiac machinery," says Friedman.

As a pilot, he felt he had escaped the chains of mortality - he had had a god-like experience.

But there was a serious downside to what Friedman refers to as Lindbergh and Carrel's "daring quest" to live forever.

Carrel was a eugenicist with fascistic leanings. He believed the world was split into superior and inferior beings, and hoped that science would allow the superior - which included himself and Lindbergh, of course - to dominate and eventually weed out the inferiors.

He thought the planet was "encumbered" with people who "should be dead", including "the weak, the diseased, and the fools". Something like Lindbergh's pump was not intended to help the many, but the few.

Lindbergh himself sympathised with the Nazis.

"I wouldn't say Lindbergh was the philosophical partner of Himmler or Hitler," says Friedman. "But yes, he certainly admired the order, science and technology of Nazi Germany - and the idea of creating an ethnically pure race."

Friedman says Lindbergh considered himself a "superior being". "Let's not forget that, as a pilot, he felt he had escaped the chains of mortality. He had had a god-like experience. He flew amongst the clouds, often in a cockpit that was open to the elements. Flying was such a rare experience back then. In taking to the skies, he did something humans have dreamt of for centuries. So it is perhaps not surprising that he ended up trying to play god in a laboratory."

Ethical ever-lasting life

Even contemporary transhumanists - the name given to those who want to extend human longevity and possibly conquer death - are surprised to hear about Lindbergh's contribution to machine-assisted life.

Alexis Carrel's quest for ever-lasting life goes on, but is now more 'ethical'
"I never knew that", says Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University and President of the World Transhumanism Association.

For Bostrom and his colleagues, aware that some people think transhumanism is the same thing as eugenics, the key today is the "ethical use of technology to extend human capabilities".

"There are many ways we have used science and technology effectively to 'cheat death'", says Bostrom, "whether it's through antibiotics, organ transplantation, or even lightning rods to deflect electrical currents from the sky. You know, when they were first invented some people said it was 'playing god' to try to deal with lightning in this way."

Bostrom believes that reversing the ageing process, or at least using stem cell therapy to slow down the negative effects of ageing, should be "the next frontier" in medical science.

"But it should be for the benefit of everyone and it should be done ethically - somewhat different to what Lindbergh got up to", he argues.

Stuart Derbyshire, a leading expert in pain based at the University of Birmingham, says it is certainly "desirable to live a long and healthy life" - but from Lindbergh's experiments to today's ethical question for longevity, he says there is also a "troubling" side to the "quest to live forever".

"Any life, long or short, is only worthwhile if it is lived towards some purpose. The zealous pursuit of health and longevity can too easily become a substitute for real purpose.

"Health itself becomes a quasi-religious crusade against the old sins of the flesh - gluttony, sloth, lust - with all the attendant odious associations of physical impairment or disease with moral turpitude or a bad life." His implication is clear - while Lindbergh and Carrel's quest had all the hallmarks of Nazi-promoted eugenics, it's perhaps impossible to separate the pursuit of ever-lasting life with notions of supremacy.

The Immortalists by David M Friedman is published in the UK by JR Books on 16 June.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Who is JFK Conspiracy "Skeptic" John McAdams?

By Alex Constantine

The highly-visible (on the net) John McAdams is convinced that Oswald shot Kennedy - there is no evidence on earth or the wide universe that can dissuade him ... it must be Oswald ... only Oswald ... Oswald alone ... Oswald, Oswald, Oswald ...

JFK / The Kennedy Assassination Home Page - "Run by Peter Fokes and John McAdams is the place to go — Take a look at John McAdams' picks of the best resources on other Kennedy ... "
From Covert Action Information Bulletin (I have no date on it): "CIA-funded research, whether overt or covert, is under way in North American universities in epidemic proportions....With the financial support of the Agency, the Fund for International Social and Economic Education, headed by Harvard's assistant dean of the graduate school of arts and sciences, underwrote a series of labor- and union-related projects geared toward developing nations. CIA research monies have surfaced at Cornell's [Blakey's alma mater] School of Industrial Labor Relations, in Stanford's engineering department, at Harvard in prodigious amounts and at Michigan's Institute for Social Research."
Letter from Lisa Pease:

" ... Remember that McAdams was a representative of ICPSR - a sub-institute under the Univ. of Mich. ISR. Also - John McAdams' dean was the one running that program. McA got his Ph.D. not at the KSG, but at the
graduate school of arts and sciences.

"Ever meet William Kline, McA?

"Quoting some more:

"'As recently as 1987, Harvard University agreed to take on a $1.2 million
study in conjunction with the Agency to study probelms in intelligence
assessment and foreign policy, using the Phillippines as a model. The CIA
analysts in charge of that study was William Kline.

"'The CIA and academia have an almost fully cooperative relationship:
trading information and resources and supporting each other in the face
of hostility.

"'Very rarely do university adminstrators and professors resist working
with government agencies like the CIA, and when they do the Agency takes
great offense.

"'The Agency vehemently objects to any attempt to block its efforts to 'tap
the wisdom of academia.' If restrictions are placed on its activities, the CIA finds some way to work around them.

"Although Harvard and a few other universities have expressed some resistance to the academic arm of the Agency (Harvard is still one of the
CIA's most loyal and active academic supporters), most university
administrators have no problems with the CIA. ...

"The struggle against the Central Intelligence Agency and university
militarism in general will not be carried out by those who run our
universities. It will be carried out by the students, faculty and
community members who are not entrenched in CIA business and who do care about the truth and about acting on it."

Lisa Pease

Nazi Church Seeks Future as Bulwark against Fascism

May 27, 2008

By Dave Graham

BERLIN (Reuters) - A rundown Protestant church built to glorify Hitler's Third Reich is hoping for a new lease of life as a memorial against Nazi oppression.

The place of worship in southern Berlin is a unique example of the Protestant Church's adoption of Nazi propaganda, with furnishings rich in symbolism favoured by the dictatorship.

From the entrance hall chandelier shaped like an iron cross military medal to the wooden carving of a Wehrmacht soldier on the pulpit standing on the right-hand side of Jesus, the atmosphere is heavy with reminders of Hitler's rule.

The brown-brick church that once reverberated to the swell of Nazi anthems badly needs repairs. This week, the parish launched a bid to secure fresh investment to rescue the building completed in 1935, two years after the Fuehrer took power.

"The building shows how such a murderous ideology could infest itself in a 'normal' society," said local pastor Hans-Martin Brehm.

"I think every generation risks doing terrible things if it's not mindful of the past," he said.

Brehm estimates the building, which is no longer used for regular services, needs 3.5 million euros (2.8 million pounds).

"If nothing's done, it's going to collapse," he said.

Brehm wants the Martin Luther Memorial Church to become a place of remembrance that is used for regular cultural events, not a museum that he says would render it a "dead stone" relic.

Authorities appear sympathetic to the church's plight.

Given the building's link to the Nazi era, it is a strong candidate for public funding, said Anna Maria Odenthal at Berlin's office for the conservation of historical monuments.


The building's origins go back to the anti-Semitic Deutsche Christen (German Christian) movement which claimed to have hundreds of thousands of Protestant members by the mid-1930s.

A study by historian Manfred Gailus calculated that about a quarter of Berlin's Protestant parishes were run by pro-Nazi clergy, with many others acquiescent.

Towering over the church's chancel is a "victory arch" of tiles decorated with images that alternate from traditional Christian symbols to the blank faces of helmeted soldiers and Nazi stormtroopers from the brown-shirted Sturmabteilung SA.L.

According to locals, an image of Protestant reformer Martin Luther inset in the wall of the entrance hall was replaced by Hitler's face. Luther's likeness has since returned.

Swastikas that once adorned the church have also been removed. The Nazi symbol is banned in modern Germany.

But many other reminders of the period remain.

On a raised platform above the entrance is an organ first played at the Nuremberg Nazi party rally of 1935 -- where anti-Semitic race laws where passed.

Yet despite its purpose-built design, the church has never become a shrine to neo-Nazis, nor was it a shining example of obedience to Hitler's regime, said Brehm, 55.

"The parish rejected all the mass baptisms and uniformed parades, apart from when they were officially prescribed. They went on in the neighbouring churches," he said.

Just weeks after the infamous Jewish pogrom in November 1938 "Reichskristallnacht" (Night of Breaking Glass), the local pastor wed a Jewish woman to an "Aryan" German in the church.

"That was strictly forbidden then," said Brehm.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Peter Drucker & the Nazi Heritage of Privatization

Also see: "A Class with Drucker," by William A. Cohen ("The author was the first student to earn a doctorate in the management program under Peter Drucker at Claremont College. The year was 1979. The author started the program in 1975 with eight other people and remained friends with Drucker until he died. ... ")
September 11, 2006

Applied Economics
Evening Bachelors program at
University of San Francisco

German Resistance?

Privatization is very popular among laissez-faire types today. The recent issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives offers a different tale in which the term privatization is falsely credited to Peter Drucker. In fact, Nazis coined the term. Their intent was to skew the distribution of income toward the rich, with the objective of reducing consumption. After all, the rich have a lower marginal propensity to consume.

The term seems to have been first introduced into academic social science by Maxine Yaple Sweezy, wife of the distinguished Marxist economist, Paul Sweezy.

Bel, Germa`. 2006. "The Coining of 'Privatization' and Germany’s National Socialist Party." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20: 3 (Summer): pp. 187-94.

187-8: “The standard story on the coining of “privatization” reports that in 1969 Peter Drucker used the term “reprivatization” in the sense that economists understand it today. In The Age of Discontinuity (1969, p. 229), Drucker makes a negative appraisal on the managerial capabilities of the public sector: “Government is a poor manager …. It has no choice but to be `bureaucratic.’” Drucker’s (p. 233) analysis of how government works leads him to what he takes as “the main lesson of the last fifty years: the government is not a doer.” Thus, Drucker (p. 234) proposed adopting a “systematic policy of using the other, the nongovernmental institutions of the society of organizations, for the actual `doing,’ i.e., for performance, operations, execution. Such a policy might be called `reprivatization.’” Drucker referred to “reprivatization” because he proposed giving back to the private sector executive responsibilities that had been private before the public sector took them over through nationalization and municipalization starting in the last decades of the nineteenth century.”

189-90: “In the late 1930s and the early 1940s, a number of works were devoted to the analysis of economic policy in Germany under the rule of the National Socialist Party. One major work was Maxine Yaple Sweezy’s (1941) The Structure of the Nazi Economy. Sweezy stated that industrialists supported Hitler’s accession to power and his economic policies: “In return for business assistance, the Nazis hastened to give evidence of their good will by restoring to private capitalism a number of monopolies held or controlled by the state” (p. 27). This policy implied a large-scale program by which “the government transferred ownership to private hands” (p. 28). One of the main objectives for this policy was to stimulate the propensity to save, since a war economy required low levels of private consumption. High levels of savings were thought to depend on inequality of income, which would be increased by inequality of wealth. This, according to Sweezy (p. 28), “was thus secured by `reprivatization’ …. The practical significance of the transference of government enterprises into private hands was thus that the capitalist class continued to serve as a vessel for the accumulation of income. Profit-making and the return of property to private hands, moreover, have assisted the consolidation of Nazi party power.” Sweezy (p. 30) again uses the concept when giving concrete examples of transference of government ownership to private hands: “The United Steel Trust is an outstanding example of `reprivatization.’” This may be the first use of the term “reprivatization” in the academic literature in English, at least within the domain of the social sciences.”

192-3: “The primary modern argument against privatization is that it only enriches and entrenches business and political elites, without benefiting consumers or taxpayers. The discussion here suggests a rich historical irony: these modern arguments against privatization are strikingly similar to the arguments made in favor of privatization in Germany in the 1930s. As Sweezy (1941) and Merlin (1943) explicitly point out, German privatization of the 1930s was intended to benefit the wealthiest sectors and enhance the economic position and political support of the elite. Of course, this historical connection does not prove that privatization is always a sound or an unsound policy, only that the effects of privatization may depend considerably on the political, social and economic contexts. German privatization in the 1930s differed from the privatization of Volkswagen in the 1950s, and both of these situations differ from, say, the British privatizations of the 1980s, the Russian privatizations of the 1990s, or the privatizations across Latin America over the last two decades.”

German Doctor 'Who Sent 900 Children to Nazi Camp' Honoured

By Harry de Quetteville

A German doctor who allegedly sent 900 children to a Nazi death camp has been given a top medical award. Dr Hans-Joachim Sewering, 92, a former SS member, was honoured for “services to the nation’s health system”. The doctor has always denied sending children to Eglfing-Haar, a facility south of Munich where it’s alleged physically and mentally handicapped children were killed.

Despite the allegations, Dr Sewering enjoyed a brilliant career and is a former head of Germany’s doctors’ association. The Nazis are known to have coerced doctors into reporting disabled patients during “Action T-4”. Many alleged Nazi war criminals have either died or disappeared with out a trace, but Dr Sewering still lives openly in Dachau, north of Munich, near the site of the concentration camp of the same name.

While established Nazi hunters at the Simon Wiesenthal centre have launched 'Operation Last Chance' in an attempt to track down any remaining fugitives before they die, Dr Sewering has been the target of a long, lone campaign led from the US by a fellow doctor.

Dr Michael Franzblau has spent tens of thousands of pounds of his own money to bankroll an effort to see Sewering prosecuted.

“I would like the German medical profession to recognize that they have a stain on their honour by his continued presence,” he has said in speeches in the US.

Dr Franzblau, who claims he is motivated by a moral imperative as “a physician, an American and a Jew” even took out a full page advertisement in the New York Times costing more than £30,000 asking: “Why is the German state of Bavaria harbouring an accused war criminal?"

Story from Telegraph News:
Nazi doctor wins medical award
Calgary Herald
May 25, 2008

A German medical association has awarded a medal to a 92-year-old doctor who was a member of the SS and suspected of carrying out Hitler's euthanasia policies, according to the magazine Der Spiegel.

Dr. Hans-Joachim Sewering was honoured for having "performed unequalled services in the cause of freedom of the practice and the independence of the medical profession, and to the nation's health system," the German Federation of Internal Medicine said in a statement.

Since 1978, Der Spiegel has published documents claiming that Sewering, while a doctor at a tuberculosis clinic near Munich, sent a 14-year-old girl to die at a euthanasia centre carrying out secret Nazi policies to murder members of society especially weak of body or mind.

The U.S. Anti-Defamation League claims Sewering sent a total of 900 children to their death at a euthanasia centre. Sewering has admitted to membership in the SS, an elite Nazi formation, but has always denied being responsible for euthansia.

Der Spiegel said in its report, released in advance of the news magazine's Monday edition, that the medical association had declined any commentary on Sewering's Nazi past.

© The Calgary Herald 2008
Dr.Sewering’s Career

Following his conviction by a De-Nazification Court in 1946, Dr. Sewering began what would prove to be a long career as a chest physician in Dachau, one that has been financially lucrative and professionally successful. Many honors have been bestowed upon him by his colleagues, by universities, and by the State. Dr. Sewering resigned under pressure from the World Medical Association in late January, 1993, claiming that a "world Jewish conspiracy" had brought him down.

Dr. Sewering, in press releases following his forced resignation, denied any knowledge of the atrocities that took place between 1942 and 1945 at Schönbrunn Sanitorium. He even attempted to shift the blame to the Franciscan nuns who had cared for the children throughout the dark period of 1933 to 1945. Dr. Sewering's statements so outraged the nuns that they broke a 50 year period of silence to refute Dr. Sewering and, in their own press release, indicated that over 900 children had been taken away from them to be murdered as part of the T-4 and "Wild Euthanasia" programs conducted by physicians in every part of the Third Reich. The nuns stated that everyone at Schönbrunn, including the children themselves, knew that transfer to Eglfing-Haar “Healing Center” was a ticket to death.

Because of his prominence, Dr. Sewering has been featured in the media often. Beginning in the 1960s, allegations of his Nazi past began to surface in the press. In the 1970s, a prominent German periodical, "Der Spiegel," published an article that detailed, for the first time, Dr. Sewering's Nazi past and his participation in the killing program of the early 1940s. Dr. Sewering's role as a Senator in the Bavarian Parliament has been of inestimable value to him during these years in which his past and present professional life have come under scrutiny. Until 1994, being a Senator granted him immunity from criminal prosecution. On the contrary, there have been many tributes to him and they continue. He recently was honored on his 80th birthday by the Bavarian Medical Association. The German Medical Association honored him in May 1993 by making him a life member of the Board of Trustees. Subsequently, the German Medical Association voted at its annual meeting to close the books forever on Dr. Sewering's misdeeds.

Dr. Sewering continues to practice medicine in Dachau. His choice of city in which to practice is symbolic, Dachau being notorious as the site of an infamous concentration camp during World War II. To this day he denies all knowledge of the events at Eglfing-Haar in the 1940s and receives the protection of the Bavarian Minister of Justice and the State Prosecutor in Munich who refuse to conduct an authentic criminal inquiry into his past, one that would lead to an indictment for murder and a trial at which the facts of the matter would, at long last, be presented in a court of law.

Below is a short summary of Dr. Sewering's career:

1933: Joins the SS and the Nazi Party
1941: Graduates Medical School
1941-42: Military service on the Soviet Front
1942-44: Assigned to Schönbrunn Sanitarium
1944: Promoted to Senior Physician
1945-1946: Tried by a De-Nazification Court convicted of being a middle level member of the SS and the Nazi party. Fined 1500 German Marks. No knowledge of his participation in "wild euthanasia" during the period 1942 to 1945., so no charges of murder or crimes against humanity brought.
1946 to present: Private practice as a medical chest physician, Dachau, Bavaria
1955-1991: President Bavarian Medical Association
1968: Appointed honorary professor of social medicine and medical law at Technical University of Munich
1971: Treasurer, World Medical Association
1973-1978: President of the German Medical Association
1985: Honorary Doctorate from the Technical University in Munich
September 1992: President-Elect of the World Medical Association (WMA)
January 23, 1993: Resigned as President-Elect of the World Medical Association
July, 1994: Placed on the “watch List”, of the Department of Justice as a former member of a criminal organization (B1ack Shirts or the SS)
October 20th, 1996: Featured on "60 Minutes", as an alleged war criminal involved in the murder of Babette Frowiis ( He signed the transfer order from Schönbrunn Sanitarium to Eglfing-Haar to "The Killing Center" south of Munich)
September, 1996: Petition to start a criminal investigation leading to an indictment for murder filed with the Bavarian Court, denied by the Court
October 1998: House resolution 557 in 105th Session of the house of Representatives passed unanimously (423 to 0) asking the German government to investigate the charges against Dr. Sewering.
July 1999: United States Amassador to the United nations, Richard Holbrooke, agrees to personally involve himself in the effort to investigate the charges against Dr. Sewering
March, 2001: Dr. Sewering is alive, hale and hearty and practicing medicine in Dachau with his son, three days a week

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cal State U. Sacramento President is a Knight of Malta

Modesto Bee
last updated: May 24, 2008 03:31:18 AM

The Order of Malta

The Order of Malta is the common name for The Federal Association of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta. It is a lay religious order of the Catholic Church, founded in 1099. According to its Web site (, there are about 12,500 Knights and Dames of Malta worldwide. To become a member, applicants:

* Must be Catholic lay men or women in good standing with the church
* Must be at least 25 years old
* Should be regarded as leaders in their fields and in the community
Must have a record of service to the Catholic Church and hands-on volunteer service to the poor
* Must be sponsored by two members of the knighthood
* Must participate in a year of formation, which includes meetings and volunteer activities
* Must pay an initiation fee of $3,500, part of which goes toward international relief programs

The High Five

In "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," in order to save his father (Sean Connery) from a gunshot wound, the title character (Harrison Ford) must choose the correct chalice used by Jesus Christ on the eve of his crucifixion.

The task is challenging because many potential Holy Grails rest in a chamber guarded for centuries by a medieval knight.

Knights in the Middle Ages served in a variety of roles -- as military support to kings, lords and religious leaders -- and as defenders of their faith.

Usually sons of aristocrats, the future knights were sent to other families at about age 8 to be raised without a lenient parent to spoil them. In their midteens, the boys became squires, assisting other knights, before attaining knighthood in early adulthood.

Although there are no knights in shining armor sitting around King Arthur's round table today, knights remain active in the Catholic Church. The Knights of Columbus, for instance, were founded 125 years ago and exist in many parishes to help raise funds for needy individuals and families.

Less well known are the Knights of Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and the Knights of Malta, which trace their lineage back to the 11th and 12th centuries. They were established to protect people making pilgrimages to Jerusalem and to care for the sick and handicapped.

Ham Shirvani, president of California State University, Stanislaus, is a modern-day knight. He's a member of the Holy Sepulchre group and a provisional knight for the Malta fellowship. He carries no sword and rides no steed, but his mission otherwise is much unchanged from those performed centuries ago.

"Obviously, there are no military components to the order anymore. The
promotion of the faith is not by the sword," said Monsignor Jim Kidder, pastor of the Holy Trinity parish in El Dorado Hills and chaplain to the two orders in the Sacramento diocese. "The mission hasn't changed. From the beginning, it was taking care of the sick and nurturing and promoting the faith."

There aren't many knights from the two orders in the area, he added -- about 25 in the Sacramento diocese, which numbers roughly 600,000 Catholics. No one is quite sure how many exist in the Stockton diocese, which has about half that many Catholics on its rolls.

"I haven't met anyone yet from Stanislaus County," Shirvani said. "Most of the activities are in San Francisco or Palo Alto. But I've heard there are people in Stockton and Fresno. I'll be interested to meet them."

As part of his provisional training, Shirvani traveled last month to Lourdes, France, where he helped people with physical and mental ailments get to various sites for healing. Following the claims that Jesus' mother, Mary, appeared to a peasant girl and others in 1858, Lourdes has become a major place of Catholic pilgrimage and reported divine healings.

"We put the people in something like a wheelchair, but it's much larger," he said. "One person pulls on it and one pushes it. Lourdes has a bunch of hills and slopes, so it's up and down. We take them either to the grotto or the main church or a variety of religious places where Masses take place.

"It's all about spirituality and service. I was sometimes pulling, sometimes pushing. It's an incredible experience. While you are there in that holy place, you are also serving.

"I've fulfilled my mission of taking a person who couldn't afford to go to Lourdes and have that holy water and ask to be healed."

From Iran to England

Shirvani's journey to knighthood began when he was a boy. Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1950, to a Catholic family, his early education was in Catholic schools.

"There is a perception that everyone in Iran is Muslim, but that is untrue," he said. "During the Shah's reign, there were several minority groups -- Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians -- the original religion of Persians -- and Baha'is. There were several French and English Catholic schools in Tehran. You could find Muslim and Jewish students there, too. They were quality institutions."

Like knights centuries earlier, Shirvani was sent from his home at age 11. His parents sent him to a Catholic boarding school in London.
"My mother, mostly, but also my father, believed that most of your values get formed in your teens," he said. "If they sent me to England, I would be brought up with Western, particularly English, values. Basically, the Catholic faith was the major part of it. In Iran, even though you had Catholic schools, the broader environment wasn't embracing Catholic values.

"My parents debated. My mother wanted to send me to Dublin; my father was more concerned about the educational system. I went to Saint Augustine Academy in London from age 11 until
age 17.

"I truly enjoyed it. The first three months were hell, because you're in a completely new environment. Although we were taught French and English, we still had language problems. And then, of course, there were no parents (to nurture you). But after six months, I was as happy a camper as you could get. There were wonderful Irish nuns there who acted as a second mother. It was a small school and a wonderful environment. There was a lot to learn, and I gained a lot of support."

Shirvani said he's always had a strong faith. "I do believe strongly in the Lord," he said. "It's mostly spiritual within yourself. My brother is not like that, and we grew up in the same family.

"Being faithful is a very important aspect of daily life. The Lord said it beautifully: 'I am with you.' What he means is that 'I'm inside you; I'm also in infinity -- out there.' To me, the spirit connects the soul to the body, so if you are faithful, it helps you get a strength and make your contributions and be committed to your work.

"Everything is a privilege, not a right. When they give you a privilege to serve, you really have to deliver. You can't just sit back and take advantage of it. As much as possible, you have to help as many people as you can."
That attitude led to his 2007 award by the statewide CSU student organization as president of the year. It's also what led him to become a knight.

A bad rap

Shirvani is aware that knights are linked to the Crusades, which today are often viewed as a time of murder and religious intolerance, especially against Islam.

"Religion has been abused by power-hungry people," he said. "You cannot punish the religion or lose your faith because of it."

As a secular college president, Shirvani has been criticized for his religious views. In 2007, he wrote an opinion piece on spirituality and college students for The Bee and concluded, "Each of us addresses the spiritual dimension of our lives -- or lack thereof -- as we decide how to interpret and interact with the world. For the academy to ignore this component of critical thinking is to fail to serve our students as they prepare for life. To fail to do so puts at risk the state of our nation's soul."

He said he received quick negative responses from "a couple" of CSUS professors. He also was dinged by a Bee letter writer who questioned the use of the CSUS campus to host a Christian event last summer, the Greg Laurie Harvest Crusade.

"I try to separate religion from my job, because religion to me is a very personal thing," Shirvani said. "I usually try to be private about it. I do have a crucifix in my office. I think that's a personal right.

"It's a beautiful part of the Western democracy, that religion has always been part of individual life."

For him, that includes knighthood, which combines financial donations and hands-on work.

"It's a very time-demanding and personally involved organization of lay people," said Kidder. "They spend a lot of time and give a lot of themselves in terms of working with the sick and promoting the faith."

Shirvani said he enjoys the work. "One of the biggest joys above and beyond giving and helping is the joy of being with other people who believe in the same cause, engaged in conversations with them and listening to them," he said. "In most meetings, there are usually people saying, 'We need to fix this; we have a problem there.' In these groups, people are saying, 'What can we do to help?'

"(The Knights of the Holy Sepulchre) was established in 1099 to protect Jerusalem and care for the needy. Now they help older Christians living in the entire area, whether Palestine or Israel. They help the churches there and raise money for education."

As a provisional Knight of Malta -- he expects to become a full knight within the next year -- Shirvani has financial obligations as well as meetings and work.

"There are similarities, but Knights of Malta have as their major goal people who are sick or in the hospital, and the protection of the Catholic faith," Shirvani said. "Besides the gatherings during the year, I am required to do certain community service work, literally going and helping the sick and poor, trying to do whatever I can. It's extremely humbling."

When he's not running the university or spending time as a knight, Shirvani can be found with Fathmeh, his wife of nearly six years, in the home he designed -- he holds degrees in architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture, as well as a master's of science degree. He and his wife both enjoy cooking, Shirvani said.

A member of Sacred Heart parish in Turlock, he attended St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Modesto when he first moved to the area, and said he "can't wait" for the new St. Stanislaus church on Maze Boulevard to open later this year.

"Architecturally, it's really magnificent," he said.