1. Arthur Allen's book, The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl, tells the story of two scientists—one Christian and one Jewish—who battled typhus and sabotaged the Nazis during WWII. 
Transmitted by body lice, typhus killed untold numbers of soldiers and civilians during the war. Today’s interview explores the labor-intensive process of making the vaccine and the way the lab sabotaged the Nazis by weakening their vaccines and sneaking doses into Jewish ghettos. 
Allen explains how the Nazis used lice imagery after they invaded Poland: 

"The Nazis … always described the Jews as "vermin" and sometimes used the word "lice." …And this was an ideology that was belittling and obviously also associating Jews with sort of filth and contamination, parasitism — all of these things that you metaphorically can link lice to.
[The Nazis] made it very concrete after they took over the first Polish cities, that there were signs that went up all over Warsaw, for example … that would have a picture of a bearded Jew with a louse that said, “Lice, Jews, typhus,” to make that association in the minds [of] Poles — the idea of keeping them from protecting Jews, [of] seeing Jews as part of this invasive, parasitic, dangerous force that they had to avoid and exterminate.”


German anti-Jewish propaganda: “Jews, lice, typhus.” Poster printed in Warsaw in 1941 and distributed throughout the GG. Courtesy of ŻIH. View in High-Res

    Arthur Allen's book, The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl, tells the story of two scientists—one Christian and one Jewish—who battled typhus and sabotaged the Nazis during WWII. 

    Transmitted by body lice, typhus killed untold numbers of soldiers and civilians during the war. Today’s interview explores the labor-intensive process of making the vaccine and the way the lab sabotaged the Nazis by weakening their vaccines and sneaking doses into Jewish ghettos. 

    Allen explains how the Nazis used lice imagery after they invaded Poland: 

    "The Nazis … always described the Jews as "vermin" and sometimes used the word "lice." …And this was an ideology that was belittling and obviously also associating Jews with sort of filth and contamination, parasitism — all of these things that you metaphorically can link lice to.

    [The Nazis] made it very concrete after they took over the first Polish cities, that there were signs that went up all over Warsaw, for example … that would have a picture of a bearded Jew with a louse that said, “Lice, Jews, typhus,” to make that association in the minds [of] Poles — the idea of keeping them from protecting Jews, [of] seeing Jews as part of this invasive, parasitic, dangerous force that they had to avoid and exterminate.”

    German anti-Jewish propaganda: “Jews, lice, typhus.” Poster printed in Warsaw in 1941 and distributed throughout the GG. Courtesy of ŻIH.

  2. typhus

    jewish history

    WWII

    science

    history

    holocaust

    aruthur allen

    fresh air

    terry gross

  1. We asked New Yorker staff writer Dexter Filkins to talk with us about ISIS, how it compares to Al-Qaeda, the power it now has in Iraq and Syria, and how it’s war is beginning to destabilize neighboring countries. 
Here Filkins gives some context about the divisions in the Middle East:

"The modern Middle East was formed really, all but on the back of an envelope after World War I. You had the Ottoman Empire, ruled out of Istanbul, which governed most of the Middle East, collapsed after World War I and the British and the French basically just took out the pen and started drawing the borders and those are the borders we have today and they don’t represent much of anything other than the whims of the colonial powers at the time. They’re not aligned with tribal identities or religious or sectarian or ethnic groups or mountains or rivers or anything. I mean, look at Iraq. It’s a bunch of straight lines drawn with a ruler."


Photo by Lynsey Addario/NYT View in High-Res

    We asked New Yorker staff writer Dexter Filkins to talk with us about ISIS, how it compares to Al-Qaeda, the power it now has in Iraq and Syria, and how it’s war is beginning to destabilize neighboring countries. 

    Here Filkins gives some context about the divisions in the Middle East:

    "The modern Middle East was formed really, all but on the back of an envelope after World War I. You had the Ottoman Empire, ruled out of Istanbul, which governed most of the Middle East, collapsed after World War I and the British and the French basically just took out the pen and started drawing the borders and those are the borders we have today and they don’t represent much of anything other than the whims of the colonial powers at the time. They’re not aligned with tribal identities or religious or sectarian or ethnic groups or mountains or rivers or anything. I mean, look at Iraq. It’s a bunch of straight lines drawn with a ruler."

    Photo by Lynsey Addario/NYT

  2. iraq

    ISIS

    dexter filkins

    middle east

    history

    interview

    fresh air

  1. This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a movement to open the polls to blacks in Mississippi and end the state’s white supremacy. 
Freedom Summer was organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which recruited 700 college students—mostly white students from the North—to come down to Mississippi to help African Americans register to vote. 
A new documentary called Freedom Summer airs on PBS tomorrow. The film’s director Stanley Nelson, and longtime journalist and one of Freedom Summer’s organizers Charles Cobb joined Fresh Air to discuss the movement. Cobb explains how SNCC trained the students for their entry into the violent South: 

Charles Cobb: We could show people how best to try and protect yourself from actual physical [harm] – what to do if you’re attacked by a mob, how to cover your body, how to protect somebody who you’re with without engaging in fistfights or whipping out a pistol… We could show people how to do that. We had some experience in that because we all came out of the sit-in movement and were used to being surrounded by mobs of hostile whites.

    This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a movement to open the polls to blacks in Mississippi and end the state’s white supremacy. 

    Freedom Summer was organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which recruited 700 college students—mostly white students from the North—to come down to Mississippi to help African Americans register to vote. 

    A new documentary called Freedom Summer airs on PBS tomorrow. The film’s director Stanley Nelson, and longtime journalist and one of Freedom Summer’s organizers Charles Cobb joined Fresh Air to discuss the movement. Cobb explains how SNCC trained the students for their entry into the violent South: 

    Charles Cobb: We could show people how best to try and protect yourself from actual physical [harm] – what to do if you’re attacked by a mob, how to cover your body, how to protect somebody who you’re with without engaging in fistfights or whipping out a pistol… We could show people how to do that. We had some experience in that because we all came out of the sit-in movement and were used to being surrounded by mobs of hostile whites.

  2. civil rights

    documentary

    PBS

    freedom summer

    voting

    racism

    mississippi

    history

  1. One of the most intriguing figures of 20th-century warfare is T.E. Lawrence, the British army officer who immersed himself in the culture of the Arabian Peninsula’s Bedouin tribes and played a key role in the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks during World War I. He became a well-known and romanticized figure in post-war England, and was immortalized in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.
Scott Anderson spent four years researching Lawrence and three other young men who were involved in the momentous events of the Middle East during and after the war. (Those other men include an American, a German and a Jew living in Palestine.) What Anderson discovered about Lawrence is different from, but every bit as interesting as, the popular image of the man. 

Anderson on Lawrence’s affinity for understanding Arab culture:

"He spent three or four years as an archaeologist in northern Syria. He was one of those people … that goes to a foreign place and just seem[s] to have an instant recognition and affinity for a foreign culture, and Lawrence certainly had that with the Arabs.


"… He really studied the whole idea of the way society worked, the clan structure and the tribal structure. When he got to Arabia, those same structures and the lines of what land belonged to which tribe were even more ferocious … and Lawrence really understood this in a way that virtually no other British officer in the area understood it."


Photo: T.E. Lawrence outside his tent with staff; Marist Special Collections B&W glass plate 1262.36 via ClioHistory View in High-Res

    One of the most intriguing figures of 20th-century warfare is T.E. Lawrence, the British army officer who immersed himself in the culture of the Arabian Peninsula’s Bedouin tribes and played a key role in the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks during World War I. He became a well-known and romanticized figure in post-war England, and was immortalized in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.

    Scott Anderson spent four years researching Lawrence and three other young men who were involved in the momentous events of the Middle East during and after the war. (Those other men include an American, a German and a Jew living in Palestine.) What Anderson discovered about Lawrence is different from, but every bit as interesting as, the popular image of the man. 

    Anderson on Lawrence’s affinity for understanding Arab culture:

    "He spent three or four years as an archaeologist in northern Syria. He was one of those people … that goes to a foreign place and just seem[s] to have an instant recognition and affinity for a foreign culture, and Lawrence certainly had that with the Arabs.

    "… He really studied the whole idea of the way society worked, the clan structure and the tribal structure. When he got to Arabia, those same structures and the lines of what land belonged to which tribe were even more ferocious … and Lawrence really understood this in a way that virtually no other British officer in the area understood it."

    Photo: T.E. Lawrence outside his tent with staff; Marist Special Collections B&W glass plate 1262.36 via ClioHistory

  2. T.E. Lawrence

    lawrence of arabia

    scott anderson

    arab revolt

    history

  1. Brothers Dave and Phil Alvin (of The Blasters) join Fresh Air to play songs from their Big Bill Broonzy tribute album. In this short video they play Broonzy’s guitar, an artifact of Chicago Blues history. 

  2. big bill broonzy

    blues

    chicago

    music

    history

    dave and phil alvin

  1. Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. During World War II a handful of Hollywood’s most celebrated directors and filmmakers enlisted and risked their lives—not to fight, but to film combat. Mark Harris wrote a book about these filmmakers and the unprecedented relationship between the military and Hollywood in his book Five Came Back. Here’s what Harris said about filming D-Day: 

George Stevens (for the Army) and John Ford (for the Navy) were really the ones that came up with a concerted plan. … It involved hundreds of cameras, hundreds of cameramen, dozens of cameras fixed to the front of landing vessels.
What is ironic is that most of the footage that was shot at D-Day was destroyed. Many of the stationary cameras didn’t function. The cameramen miraculously almost all survived, but a lot of their footage didn’t. So there was no way to create a clear narrative, chronological structure of what happened at D-Day out of the footage. What there was was an extraordinary amount of raw footage that was then collected from every camera, and every cameraman, that hadn’t malfunctioned. It was all sort of packed up, sent to England and edited, apparently, into several hours of continuous footage that was shown to the War Department back in the United States.
Most of the most shocking footage, the most realistic footage, the best footage, if you will, from D-Day was much too raw and frightening and upsetting to be shown to home front audiences. So while movie theaters across the country advertised for 10 days with signs outside that said, “Ten Days Until First Footage Of D-Day” … the actual footage that made its way to theaters was a very carefully manicured selection of stuff that was acceptable to show …
Most of the D-Day footage was not shown until much, much later. And really, you’d have to go forward to the movie Saving Private Ryan, the first part of which is a recreation of D-Day that is in part inspired by that never-seen footage.


Photo: U.S. infantrymen wade from their landing craft toward Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (Credit:U.S. Coast Guard/National Archives, Washington, D.C. via Britannica  View in High-Res

    Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. During World War II a handful of Hollywood’s most celebrated directors and filmmakers enlisted and risked their lives—not to fight, but to film combat. Mark Harris wrote a book about these filmmakers and the unprecedented relationship between the military and Hollywood in his book Five Came Back. Here’s what Harris said about filming D-Day: 

    George Stevens (for the Army) and John Ford (for the Navy) were really the ones that came up with a concerted plan. … It involved hundreds of cameras, hundreds of cameramen, dozens of cameras fixed to the front of landing vessels.

    What is ironic is that most of the footage that was shot at D-Day was destroyed. Many of the stationary cameras didn’t function. The cameramen miraculously almost all survived, but a lot of their footage didn’t. So there was no way to create a clear narrative, chronological structure of what happened at D-Day out of the footage. What there was was an extraordinary amount of raw footage that was then collected from every camera, and every cameraman, that hadn’t malfunctioned. It was all sort of packed up, sent to England and edited, apparently, into several hours of continuous footage that was shown to the War Department back in the United States.

    Most of the most shocking footage, the most realistic footage, the best footage, if you will, from D-Day was much too raw and frightening and upsetting to be shown to home front audiences. So while movie theaters across the country advertised for 10 days with signs outside that said, “Ten Days Until First Footage Of D-Day” … the actual footage that made its way to theaters was a very carefully manicured selection of stuff that was acceptable to show …

    Most of the D-Day footage was not shown until much, much later. And really, you’d have to go forward to the movie Saving Private Ryan, the first part of which is a recreation of D-Day that is in part inspired by that never-seen footage.

    Photo: U.S. infantrymen wade from their landing craft toward Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (Credit:U.S. Coast Guard/National Archives, Washington, D.C. via Britannica 

  2. d-day

    world war II

    mark harris

    film

    hollywood

    history

  1. Fresh Air’s book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews Hotel Florida: Truth, Love and Death in the Spanish Civil War by Amanda Vaill, a romantic biography with “enduring mystique:” 

Amanda Vaill isn’t after anything as quixotic as trying to “set the record straight” on the Spanish Civil War; instead, she delves deeply into the lives of three couples whose chronicling of the war shaped public perception. Some of her subjects — like Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn and war photographer Robert Capa — are famous; others, like photographer Gerda Taro and Spanish journalist Arturo Barea, should be better known. Their paths crossed in Spain and all six spent time in the Hotel Florida, “a ten-story marble-clad jewel box” in Madrid, where journalists, diplomats, prostitutes, pilots and spies drank together and dived for cover as bombs whistled over the city at night. Ultimately, what Vaill seems to be mulling over in this book is the age-old question of what war does to people: whether it brings out altruism or naked self-interest. Spoiler alert: In Vaill’s account Hemingway fails the sniff test.
View in High-Res

    Fresh Air’s book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews Hotel Florida: Truth, Love and Death in the Spanish Civil War by Amanda Vaill, a romantic biography with “enduring mystique:” 

    Amanda Vaill isn’t after anything as quixotic as trying to “set the record straight” on the Spanish Civil War; instead, she delves deeply into the lives of three couples whose chronicling of the war shaped public perception. Some of her subjects — like Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn and war photographer Robert Capa — are famous; others, like photographer Gerda Taro and Spanish journalist Arturo Barea, should be better known. Their paths crossed in Spain and all six spent time in the Hotel Florida, “a ten-story marble-clad jewel box” in Madrid, where journalists, diplomats, prostitutes, pilots and spies drank together and dived for cover as bombs whistled over the city at night. Ultimately, what Vaill seems to be mulling over in this book is the age-old question of what war does to people: whether it brings out altruism or naked self-interest. Spoiler alert: In Vaill’s account Hemingway fails the sniff test.

  2. madrid

    history

    biography

    book review

    maureen corrigan

  1. In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 28th), we wanted to share a part of our interview with Mark Harris. He’s the author of Five Came Back, a book about five Hollywood filmmakers and their pivotal role in documenting World War II. 
Director George Stevens filmed at the concentration camp Dachau. Faced with the horrific sight of skeletal bodies, crematoria, and immense suffering, Harris says, “he was no longer interested in making a documentary, what he was doing and what he knew he was doing from the first hour that he was there was gathering evidence.” Harris explains how later this footage was used: 

"The footage that he shot proved to be extraordinarily important in the Nuremberg Trials, where it was compiled into two evidentiary movies, one of which was specifically designed to show Nazi atrocities and the other of which was designed to prove that this had been a long-term plan on the part of the Nazis — essentially to prove intent …
The defendants were forced to sit there and watch them, and many people feel that they were essentially turning points in the trial … not in that these guys were ever going to be found innocent, but in bringing home just how horrible what they had done was. Famously, a couple of German lawyers for the defendants said that after seeing the footage that Stevens had compiled, they couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with their own clients.”


Photo: Gate at Dachau  View in High-Res

    In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 28th), we wanted to share a part of our interview with Mark Harris. He’s the author of Five Came Back, a book about five Hollywood filmmakers and their pivotal role in documenting World War II. 

    Director George Stevens filmed at the concentration camp Dachau. Faced with the horrific sight of skeletal bodies, crematoria, and immense suffering, Harris says, “he was no longer interested in making a documentary, what he was doing and what he knew he was doing from the first hour that he was there was gathering evidence.” Harris explains how later this footage was used: 

    "The footage that he shot proved to be extraordinarily important in the Nuremberg Trials, where it was compiled into two evidentiary movies, one of which was specifically designed to show Nazi atrocities and the other of which was designed to prove that this had been a long-term plan on the part of the Nazis — essentially to prove intent …

    The defendants were forced to sit there and watch them, and many people feel that they were essentially turning points in the trial … not in that these guys were ever going to be found innocent, but in bringing home just how horrible what they had done was. Famously, a couple of German lawyers for the defendants said that after seeing the footage that Stevens had compiled, they couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with their own clients.”

    Photo: Gate at Dachau 

  2. holocaust

    concentration camp

    world war II

    holocast remembrance day

    jews

    history

    genocide

  1. Religious Studies professor Bart Ehrman, author of How Jesus Became God, takes on questions surrounding the resurrection: 

Was Jesus put in a tomb and three days later that tomb was found empty? Well, that’s a historical question. And to answer it, it doesn’t require any set of religious beliefs; you can simply look at the sources and draw some historical conclusions. …
Before I wrote this book and did the research on it, I was convinced as many people are, that Jesus was given a decent burial and on the third day the women went to the tomb, found it empty, and that started the belief in the resurrection.
Apart from the fact that I don’t think Jesus was given a decent burial — that he was probably thrown into a common grave of some kind — apart from that, I was struck in doing my research by the fact that the New Testament never indicates that people came to believe in the resurrection because of the empty tomb. This was a striking find because it’s just commonly said that that’s what led to the resurrection belief.
But if you think about it for a second, it makes sense that the empty tomb wouldn’t make anybody believe. If you put somebody in a tomb and three days later you go back and the body’s not in the tomb, your first thought isn’t, “Oh, he’s been exalted to heaven and made the son of God.” Your first thought is, “Somebody stole the body.” Or “Somebody moved the body.” Or, “Hey, I’m at the wrong tomb.” You don’t think he’s been exalted to heaven. In the New Testament it’s striking that in the gospels the empty tomb leads to confusion but it doesn’t lead to belief. What leads to belief is that some of the followers of Jesus have visions of him afterwards.


Michelangelo, The Resurrection (1532), Royal Collection, London View in High-Res

    Religious Studies professor Bart Ehrman, author of How Jesus Became God, takes on questions surrounding the resurrection: 

    Was Jesus put in a tomb and three days later that tomb was found empty? Well, that’s a historical question. And to answer it, it doesn’t require any set of religious beliefs; you can simply look at the sources and draw some historical conclusions. …

    Before I wrote this book and did the research on it, I was convinced as many people are, that Jesus was given a decent burial and on the third day the women went to the tomb, found it empty, and that started the belief in the resurrection.

    Apart from the fact that I don’t think Jesus was given a decent burial — that he was probably thrown into a common grave of some kind — apart from that, I was struck in doing my research by the fact that the New Testament never indicates that people came to believe in the resurrection because of the empty tomb. This was a striking find because it’s just commonly said that that’s what led to the resurrection belief.

    But if you think about it for a second, it makes sense that the empty tomb wouldn’t make anybody believe. If you put somebody in a tomb and three days later you go back and the body’s not in the tomb, your first thought isn’t, “Oh, he’s been exalted to heaven and made the son of God.” Your first thought is, “Somebody stole the body.” Or “Somebody moved the body.” Or, “Hey, I’m at the wrong tomb.” You don’t think he’s been exalted to heaven. In the New Testament it’s striking that in the gospels the empty tomb leads to confusion but it doesn’t lead to belief. What leads to belief is that some of the followers of Jesus have visions of him afterwards.

    Michelangelo, The Resurrection (1532), Royal Collection, London

  2. jesus

    christianity

    resurrection

    history

    bart ehrman

    religion

  1. Picture this. You’re a young girl, living in a remote town in Connecticut in 1825. You’ve taken refuge in a neighbor’s house and, as night falls, you peek out a widow to see your friends and family members assembling outdoors around two crude paintings: One is of a young white woman (you); the other painting is of a man, a Native American.

    As church bells begin to toll, some of the townspeople carry forward fake bodies meant to represent you and the man in the painting; someone else ignites a barrel of tar and the effigies begin burning — an image of looming eternal damnation. You get the message: Stick with your own kind or else.

    This fantastical tableau sounds like something out of an Early American version of The Hunger Games, but it really took place.

    — Maureen Corrigan reviews The Heathen School by historian John Demos, a narrative that “explore[s] how racial categories and attitudes have changed over time in America.”

  2. race

    racism

    history

    nonfiction

    john demos

    native americans

    maureen corrigan

    review

  1. Mark Harris spoke to Fresh Air on Monday about how five major Hollywood filmmakers chronicled World War II. The footage was intended to document combat for the War Department, as well as show American audiences what was happening overseas. In the interview, Harris explains how the footage of D-Day came to be:


[Directors] George Stevens (for the Army) and John Ford (for the Navy) were really the ones that came up with a concerted plan. … It involved hundreds of cameras, hundreds of cameramen, dozens of cameras fixed to the front of landing vessels.
What is ironic is that most of the footage that was shot at D-Day was destroyed. Many of the stationary cameras didn’t function. The cameramen miraculously almost all survived, but a lot of their footage didn’t. So there was no way to create a clear narrative, chronological structure of what happened at D-Day out of the footage. What there was was an extraordinary amount of raw footage that was then collected from every camera, and every cameraman, that hadn’t malfunctioned. It was all sort of packed up, sent to England and edited, apparently, into several hours of continuous footage that was shown to the War Department back in the United States.
Most of the most shocking footage, the most realistic footage, the best footage, if you will, from D-Day was much too raw and frightening and upsetting to be shown to home front audiences. So while movie theaters across the country advertised for 10 days with signs outside that said, “Ten Days Until First Footage Of D-Day” … the actual footage that made its way to theaters was a very carefully manicured selection of stuff that was acceptable to show …
Most of the D-Day footage was not shown until much, much later. And really, you’d have to go forward to the movie Saving Private Ryan, the first part of which is a recreation of D-Day that is in part inspired by that never-seen footage.



photo of soldiers approaching Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day via wikimedia commons View in High-Res

    Mark Harris spoke to Fresh Air on Monday about how five major Hollywood filmmakers chronicled World War II. The footage was intended to document combat for the War Department, as well as show American audiences what was happening overseas. In the interview, Harris explains how the footage of D-Day came to be:

    [Directors] George Stevens (for the Army) and John Ford (for the Navy) were really the ones that came up with a concerted plan. … It involved hundreds of cameras, hundreds of cameramen, dozens of cameras fixed to the front of landing vessels.

    What is ironic is that most of the footage that was shot at D-Day was destroyed. Many of the stationary cameras didn’t function. The cameramen miraculously almost all survived, but a lot of their footage didn’t. So there was no way to create a clear narrative, chronological structure of what happened at D-Day out of the footage. What there was was an extraordinary amount of raw footage that was then collected from every camera, and every cameraman, that hadn’t malfunctioned. It was all sort of packed up, sent to England and edited, apparently, into several hours of continuous footage that was shown to the War Department back in the United States.

    Most of the most shocking footage, the most realistic footage, the best footage, if you will, from D-Day was much too raw and frightening and upsetting to be shown to home front audiences. So while movie theaters across the country advertised for 10 days with signs outside that said, “Ten Days Until First Footage Of D-Day” … the actual footage that made its way to theaters was a very carefully manicured selection of stuff that was acceptable to show …

    Most of the D-Day footage was not shown until much, much later. And really, you’d have to go forward to the movie Saving Private Ryan, the first part of which is a recreation of D-Day that is in part inspired by that never-seen footage.

    photo of soldiers approaching Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day via wikimedia commons

  2. d-day

    war

    world war II

    hollywood

    history

    fresh air

    interview

    mark harris

  1. During World War II some of Hollywood's biggest filmmakers enlisted not to fight, but to film combat. These short documentaries (commissioned by the War Department) were intended to show Americans what was at stake and stir up patriotic feelings.
Today author Mark Harristells us about this groundbreaking footage by John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler and Frank Capra.
George Stevens’ chronicles of the liberation at the concentration camp Dachau was used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials:

"What [Director George] Stevens filmed at Dachau was so painful that he didn’t talk about it for decades afterwards. But what we think of now as some of the images of Holocaust atrocity that are burned into our collective consciousness — that’s what Stevens saw: bodies in boxcars; starving, dying, skeletal people; bodies covered in snow; body parts; crematoria.
The worst things that we know of what the Nazis did in the death camps and the concentration camps were news to Stevens and his men, and of course to America when he discovered them. Imagine walking into Dachau not knowing what a death camp was and seeing what he saw. So he did the only thing that he could do, which was to record it. At that point, he was no longer interested in making a documentary, what he was doing and what he knew he was doing from the first hour that he was there was gathering evidence.”


Harris’ book is called Five Came Back: A Story Of Hollywood And The Second World War

An entrance gate with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Brings Freedom”) at Dachau concentration camp. photo via History cred Ted Horowitz/Corbis View in High-Res

    During World War II some of Hollywood's biggest filmmakers enlisted not to fight, but to film combat. These short documentaries (commissioned by the War Department) were intended to show Americans what was at stake and stir up patriotic feelings.

    Today author Mark Harristells us about this groundbreaking footage by John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler and Frank Capra.

    George Stevens’ chronicles of the liberation at the concentration camp Dachau was used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials:

    "What [Director George] Stevens filmed at Dachau was so painful that he didn’t talk about it for decades afterwards. But what we think of now as some of the images of Holocaust atrocity that are burned into our collective consciousness — that’s what Stevens saw: bodies in boxcars; starving, dying, skeletal people; bodies covered in snow; body parts; crematoria.

    The worst things that we know of what the Nazis did in the death camps and the concentration camps were news to Stevens and his men, and of course to America when he discovered them. Imagine walking into Dachau not knowing what a death camp was and seeing what he saw. So he did the only thing that he could do, which was to record it. At that point, he was no longer interested in making a documentary, what he was doing and what he knew he was doing from the first hour that he was there was gathering evidence.”

    Harris’ book is called Five Came Back: A Story Of Hollywood And The Second World War

    An entrance gate with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Brings Freedom”) at Dachau concentration camp. photo via History cred Ted Horowitz/Corbis

  2. history

    world war II

    hollywood

    film history

    concentration camp

    george stevens

    dachau

    mark harris

    interview

    fresh air

  1. During the early stages of World War I the German government unleashed an aggressive campaign of sabotage and spying on U.S. soil.  Today we explore this “secret war” and the little-known stories behind the “first terrorist cell in America” with author Howard Blum. He explains the early attempts at sabotage:

"The logic of the German spy masters — and this was a very narrow logic, and I don’t think they understood the American mind — [was that] if they could keep America occupied, if America had to worry about what was happening at home — to its own munitions factories, to its own even subways and bridges — if America had to fear what was happening along the home front, then they wouldn’t have … the volition to want to go off and fight in a war across an ocean."


photo of the Black Tom explosion in 1916 via Smithsonian/wikimedia commons

    During the early stages of World War I the German government unleashed an aggressive campaign of sabotage and spying on U.S. soil.  Today we explore this “secret war” and the little-known stories behind the “first terrorist cell in America” with author Howard Blum. He explains the early attempts at sabotage:

    "The logic of the German spy masters — and this was a very narrow logic, and I don’t think they understood the American mind — [was that] if they could keep America occupied, if America had to worry about what was happening at home — to its own munitions factories, to its own even subways and bridges — if America had to fear what was happening along the home front, then they wouldn’t have … the volition to want to go off and fight in a war across an ocean."

    photo of the Black Tom explosion in 1916 via Smithsonian/wikimedia commons

  2. fresh air

    interview

    world war I

    germany

    spies

    war

    terrorism

    howard blum

    black tom explosion

    1917

    history

  1. Today historian David Kertzer talks to us about his new book The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe. In the interview he explains why the Catholic Church was interested in allying with dictator Benito Mussolini in the 1920’s and 30’s: 

The popes had seen the Italian government as enemies, basically. They had rejected the notion of the separation of church and state, they had lost their privileged position in society, and they had always called that system illegitimate. Pius XI at least began to see the possibility that Mussolini might be the person sent by God — the man of providence — as he would later refer to him … who would reverse all of that, who would end the separation of church and state, restore many of the prerogatives of the church and at the same time, as the Pope was very worried about the rising socialist movement … saw Mussolini as the man who was the best bet, perhaps, to prevent a socialist takeover of Italy.


photo of St. Peter’s Basilica via flickr 

    Today historian David Kertzer talks to us about his new book The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe. In the interview he explains why the Catholic Church was interested in allying with dictator Benito Mussolini in the 1920’s and 30’s: 

    The popes had seen the Italian government as enemies, basically. They had rejected the notion of the separation of church and state, they had lost their privileged position in society, and they had always called that system illegitimate. Pius XI at least began to see the possibility that Mussolini might be the person sent by God — the man of providence — as he would later refer to him … who would reverse all of that, who would end the separation of church and state, restore many of the prerogatives of the church and at the same time, as the Pope was very worried about the rising socialist movement … saw Mussolini as the man who was the best bet, perhaps, to prevent a socialist takeover of Italy.

    photo of St. Peter’s Basilica via flickr 

  2. fresh air

    interview

    mussolini

    pope

    catholic church

    italy

    history

    david kertzer

    brown university

  1. [Franklin D. Roosevelt] had to persuade people to feel comfortable in his presence…. [The therapists and he] began to work on his gait, to work on the way he would walk with the canes and crutches and assistance he would use. So his walk, although slow, began to look more and more natural. And he would seat himself, and he would throw up his head, he would begin to talk — he was always talking, actually — to put people at ease. And this whole physical routine that he developed of putting people at ease was enormously effective, and it made people forget that he was disabled.

    — Historian James Tobin speaks to Fresh Air about how FDR turned his polio disability into a political advantage

  2. fresh air

    FDR

    franklin d. roosevelt

    polio

    disability

    history

    president

    james tobin