Saturday, February 23, 2013

North Korea's secretive 'first family'

North Korea's secretive 'first family'

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il died at the age of 69 in December 2011, and Pyongyang named his son Kim Jong-un as successor. Explore the family tree to find out about the country's enigmatic and powerful first family.

1. Kim Jong Il - Kim Jong-il was one of the world's most secretive leaders. Tales from dissidents and past aides created an image of an irrational, power-hungry man who allowed his people to starve while he enjoyed dancing girls and cognac.

But a different picture was painted by Sung Hae-rim, the sister of one of Kim Jong-il's former partners in her memoir, The Wisteria House.

She describes a devoted father and a sensitive, charismatic individual, although she admits even those closest to him were fearful of him.

North Korean media depicted him as a national hero, whose birth to the country's founder, Kim il-sung, was marked by a double rainbow and a bright star.

He appeared frail in recent public appearances after he reportedly suffered a stroke in August 2008.

2. Kim Kyung Hee - The 64-year-old is Kim Jong-il's sister and the wife of the second most powerful figure in North Korea, Chang Song-taek.

The siblings are reported to be very close. Kim Jong-il has said in the past that "everyone should be as loyal as Kim Kyung-hee", and he demands that his sister be treated with deference, according to defectors' testimony.

She has held a wide range of important Workers' Party positions including being a member of the all-powerful Central Committee.

Her promotion to four-star general makes Kim Kyung-hee the first North Korean woman ever to achieve such status. Her name was listed ahead of Kim Jong-un's, state media reported.

Analysts say Kim Kyung-hee is possibly being positioned to oversee the transfer of office from her brother to her young nephew, and may act as a guardian during his rise to power.

There has been speculation in the past that a power struggle may ensue after Kim Jong-il's death, with some analysts arguing that his sister may try to seize the reins.

3. Chang Song-Taek - Kim Jong-il's brother-in-law was thought to be one of his closest confidants. Last year he was elevated to North Korea's powerful National Defence Commission - the country's highest military body and the heart of power.

High-profile defectors have described him as "the number-two man in North Korea". Commentators say he may have taken on de facto leadership during Kim Jong-il's ill health.

The 64-year-old is considered to be one of the architects of the succession, and Kim Jong-un will need his support to ensure the loyalty of the party and the military.

4. Kim Jong-Nam, 39, is Kim Jong-il's eldest son.

Sung Hae-rang, the sister of Kim Jong-nam's deceased mother Sung Hae-rim, has written in her memoir that Kim Jong-il was extremely fond of Kim Jong-nam and was pained to be away from him. Like his half-brothers, Kim Jong-nam studied at an international school in Switzerland.

His chances of succession appeared to be ruined when, in 2001, Japanese officials caught him trying to sneak into Japan using a false passport. He told officials that he was planning to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

Some analysts argued that he may have been forgiven by his father, as there is precedent for the regime reinstating disgraced figures after a period of atonement. Confucian tradition also favours the oldest son.

But in a rare interview while on a trip to China last year, Kim Jong-nam said he had "no interest" in succeeding his father.

5.Kim Sul-song, 36, is Kim Jong-il's daughter born to his first wife, Kim Young-sook.

Reports say she has worked in the country's propaganda department, with responsibility for literary affairs.

One South Korean report said she had also served as her father's secretary

6. Kim Jong-chul, 29, studied at an international school in Switzerland. He works in the WKP propaganda department.

His mother, Ko Yong-hui, is said to have been the North Korean leader's favourite consort.

However, Kenji Fujimoto, the pseudonym of a Japanese sushi chef who spent 13 years cooking for Kim Jong-il, has written that the leader considered his second son "no good because he is like a little girl".

7. Kim Jong-un, the second son of Kim Jong-il and his late wife Ko Yong-hui, has been anointed "the great successor" by Pyongyang.

Like his older brothers, he is thought to have been educated abroad.

A Japanese sushi chef who worked for Kim Jong-il for 13 years up to 2001 said that he "resembled his father in every way, including his physical frame".

Speculation that he was being groomed to succeed his father had been rife for years.

But Kim Jong-un is an inexperienced, untested young man who has no political legitimacy other than his birth. He is inheriting a nation with nuclear weapons and a raft of difficult problems: almost no real economy, widespread hunger and tense relations with South Korea and the US.

8. Ri Sol-ju was introduced as Kim Jong-un's wife in state media reports about the opening of an amusement park in July 2012.

Reports simply said he attended the event with his wife, "Comrade Ri Sol-ju".

Little more is known about Ri Sol-Ju, although there has been much speculation about her background since pictures first emerged of Kim Jong-un with an unidentified woman. There is a North Korean singer of the same name, but she is not now thought to be the same person.

State media did not mention when the couple got married.

9. Kim Han-sol

The grandson of Kim Jong-il and nephew of leader Kim Jong-un has said he wants to "make things better" for the people of his country.

Kim Han-sol, 17, spoke of his dreams of reunification of the two Koreas in an television interview in Bosnia, where he is studying. Kim Han-sol said he had never met his grandfather or uncle.

He described an isolated childhood spent mostly in Macau and China, after his birth in Pyongyang in 1995. In the future, he said he pictured himself going to university and then "volunteering somewhere".

The Korean War armistice

The Korean War armistice

The 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, with neither side able to claim outright victory.

More than 50 years on, the truce is still all that technically prevents North Korea and the US - along with its ally South Korea - resuming the war, as no peace treaty has ever been signed.

Both sides regularly accuse the other of violating the agreement, but the accusations have become more frequent as tensions rise over North Korea's nuclear programme.

When the armistice was signed on 27 July 1953, talks had already dragged on for two years, ensnared in testy issues such as the exchange of prisoners of war and the location of a demarcation line.

Military commanders from China and North Korea signed the agreement on one side, with the US-led United Nations Command signing on behalf of the international community. South Korea was not a signatory.

The armistice was only ever intended as a temporary measure.

The document, signed by US Lieutenant General William K Harrison and his counterpart from the North's army, General Nam Il, said it was aimed at a ceasefire "until a final peaceful settlement is achieved".

However, that settlement never came, and a conference in Geneva in 1954 which was designed to thrash out a formal peace accord ended without agreement.

The armistice is still the only safeguard for peace on the Korean peninsula.

The agreement provided for:

A suspension of open hostilities

A fixed demarcation line with a four kilometre (2.4 mile) buffer zone
the so-called demilitarisation zone

A mechanism for the transfer of prisoners of war

Both sides pledged not to "execute any hostile act within, from, or against the demilitarised zone", or enter areas under control of the other.

The agreement also called for the establishment of the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) and other agencies to ensure the truce held.

The MAC, which comprises members from both sides, still meets regularly in the truce village of Panmunjom.

Despite the relative peace since the war ended, tensions remain high between the two Koreas, and their border remains the most heavily militarised frontier in the world.

Friday, February 22, 2013

White Rose: The Germans who tried to topple Hitler By Lucy Burns BBC World Service

White Rose: The Germans who tried to topple Hitler
By Lucy Burns BBC World Service

In 1943, World War II was at its height - but in Munich, the centre of Nazi power, a group of students had started a campaign of passive resistance.

Liselotte Furst-Ramdohr, already a widow at the age of 29 following her husband's death on the Russian front, was introduced to the White Rose group by her friend, Alexander Schmorell.

"I can still see Alex today as he told me about it," says Furst-Ramdohr, now a spry 99-year-old. "He never said the word 'resistance', he just said that the war was dreadful, with the battles and so many people dying, and that Hitler was a megalomaniac, and so they had to do something."

Schmorell and his friends Christoph Probst and Hans Scholl had started writing leaflets encouraging Germans to join them in resisting the Nazi regime.

With the help of a small group of collaborators, they distributed the leaflets to addresses selected at random from the phone book.

Furst-Ramdohr says the group couldn't understand how the German people had been so easily led into supporting the Nazi Party and its ideology.

"They must have been able to tell how bad things were, it was ridiculous," she says.

The White Rose delivered the leaflets by hand to addresses in the Munich area, and sent them to other cities through trusted couriers.

Furst-Ramdohr never delivered the leaflets herself but hid them in a broom cupboard in her flat.

She also helped Schmorell make stencils in her flat saying "Down with Hitler", and on the nights of 8 and 15 February, the White Rose graffitied the slogan on walls across Munich.

Furst-Ramdohr remembers the activists - who were risking their lives for their beliefs - as young and naive.

One of the best-known members of the group today is Hans Scholl's younger sister Sophie, later the subject of an Oscar-nominated film, Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. Furst-Ramdohr remembers that Sophie was so scared that she used to sleep in her brother's bed.

"Hans was very afraid too, but they wanted to keep going for Germany - they loved their country," she says.

On 18 February, Hans and Sophie Scholl set off on their most daring expedition yet. They planned to distribute copies of their sixth - and as it would turn out, final - leaflet at the University of Munich, where students would find them as they came out of lectures.

The siblings left piles of the leaflets around the central stairwell. But as they reached the top of the stairs, Sophie still had a number of leaflets left over - so she threw them over the balcony, to float down to the students below.

She was seen by a caretaker, who called the Gestapo. Hans Scholl had a draft for another leaflet in his pocket, which he attempted to swallow, but the Gestapo were too quick.

The Scholl siblings were arrested and tried in front of an emergency session of the People's Court. They were found guilty and executed by guillotine, along with their friend and collaborator Christoph Probst, on 22 February 1943.

Hans Scholl's last words before he was executed were: "Long live freedom!"

The rest of the White Rose group was thrown into panic. Alexander Schmorell went straight to Lilo Forst-Ramdohr's flat, where she helped him find new clothes and a fake passport. Schmorell attempted to flee to Switzerland but was forced to turn back by heavy snow.

Returning to Munich, he was captured after a former girlfriend recognised him entering an air raid shelter during a bombing raid. He was arrested, and later executed.

Lilo Furst-Ramdohr was herself arrested on 2 March. "Two Gestapo men came to the flat and they turned everything upside down," she says.

"They went through my letters, and then one of them said 'I'm afraid you'll have to come with us'.

"They took me to the Gestapo prison in the Wittelsbach Palais on the tram - they stood behind my seat so I couldn't escape."

Furst-Ramdohr spent a month in Gestapo custody. She was regularly interrogated about her role in the White Rose, but eventually released without charge - a stroke of luck she puts down to her status as a war widow, and to the likelihood that the Gestapo was hoping she would lead them to other co-conspirators. After her release she was followed by the secret police for some time.

She then fled Munich for Aschersleben, near Leipzig, where she married again and opened a puppet theatre.

The final White Rose leaflet was smuggled out of Germany and intercepted by Allied forces, with the result that, in the autumn of 1943, millions of copies were dropped over Germany by Allied aircraft.

Since the end of the war, the members of the White Rose have become celebrated figures, as German society has searched for positive role models from the Nazi period.

But Furst-Ramdohr doesn't like it. "At the time, they'd have had us all executed," she says of the majority of her compatriots.

She now lives alone in a small town outside Munich, where she continued to give dancing lessons up to the age of 86.

Her friend Alexander Schmorell was made a saint by the Russian Orthodox church in 2012.

"He would have laughed out loud if he'd known," says Furst-Ramdohr. "He wasn't a saint - he was just a normal person."

Lucy Burns interviewed Liselotte Furst-Ramdohr for the BBC World Service programme Witness. Listen via BBC iPlayer or browse the Witness podcast archive.

The Scholls were tried at the People's Court of Law, now Munich's district court

The Sixth Leaflet
'Fight against the Party!'

The sixth leaflet produced by the White Rose was smuggled out of the country and scattered over Germany by Allied planes.

The day of reckoning has come, the reckoning of German youth with the most repellent tyranny our nation has ever seen...

For us there is only one slogan: Fight against the Party! Get out of the party hierarchy, which wants to keep us silent!

The German name will be dishonoured forever if German youth does not rise up, to revenge and atone at once, to destroy their tormentors and build up a new spiritual Europe. Students! The German nation looks to us!

Translation: Lucy Burns

What was the White Rose?

Hans and Sophie Scholl, members of the White Rose resistance group

Resistance group formed in 1942 by group of Munich University students and their professor

Horrified by Nazism, they wrote and distributed leaflets urging Germans to oppose Hitler's regime

Also painted anti-Nazi slogans on buildings around Munich

Produced six leaflets before their arrest

Growing up a foreigner during Mao's Cultural Revolution

Growing up a foreigner during Mao's Cultural Revolution

Paul Crook - back - was in school when the revolution began

Paul Crook with fellow workers at farm implements factory

Paul Crook's Communist parents met in China in 1940 and brought up their three sons in Beijing. In the 1960s, Paul was caught up in the Cultural Revolution, a chaotic attempt to root out elements seen as hostile to Communist rule.

"We were encouraged to write posters criticising our teachers and the school leaders for anything seen as being 'Revisionist'.

My classmates and I would get big sheets of paper, poster size, and write all sorts of things and put them up in the classrooms and hallways.

If sometimes the teachers were not very nice to you, then this would be a chance to get back at them.

At the beginning there wasn't really much violence in my school, on the whole it was civilised, supposedly fighting against wrong ideas, but no doubt very demeaning, even horrific for many teachers.

I do remember one of the more unruly students picked on an art teacher who was said to come from quite a bourgeois background.

He was one of the best teachers, I really liked him.

We were in a room with him and one of the other students had a baseball bat and was about to hit him and one of my friends said, 'Hey you can't do this'.

On that particular occasion we avoided any violence.

But elsewhere, there was much violence, as the Cultural Revolution went on.

'Bourgeois authorities'

Mobilised by Chairman Mao, millions of young people became Red Guards.

Red Guard high school students read from Mao's Little Red Book

They hounded anyone who they thought was sabotaging the Communist Revolution, many of them highly placed members of the Communist Party.

If you were noticed, a celebrity of any sort, you were fair game.

Academics, Party officials and others who were seen as being 'bourgeois authorities' were dragged off to meetings to be 'struggled against' in front of large crowds.

Many people were locked up - sometimes even killed or driven to suicide.

There was huge upheaval at the university where my parents, David and Isabel, worked.

At that time school students from the cities were regularly sent to work in the countryside during harvest season, and upon graduation many were sent to settle in the country, to share the life of the farmers.

In those days everyone in the countryside was a member of a 'People's Commune', working together, and sharing the proceeds.

In the autumn of 1967, I joined a bunch of foreign kids and went to a commune just outside Beijing, where we harvested sweet potatoes and pears.

It was a very happy time, but then when I came home three weeks later my brothers said, 'You'll never guess what has happened, they've arrested a spy at the university among the foreigners, can you guess who it is?'

I thought of a few relatively dodgy characters. But it turned out to be my father.


It was a bit of a joke because we thought, he believes in all this, supports the revolution, how could he be a spy?

We thought my father would be released within a few days, in a few weeks.

We had all been educated to think that things were getting better all the time, but sometimes there would be mistakes.

One of the slogans at that time was: 'You should trust the Masses, and trust the Party!'

As I recall, I don't think I seriously thought that my father would ever not be released and I did not think he would be abused physically, so we just went on living.

We were constantly going to different government departments to find out where he was locked up, so we could deliver reading material to him or food that he liked.

My mother was repeatedly summoned for questioning and eventually she too disappeared.

By then the university was run by a Revolutionary Committee supervised by the Workers' Propaganda Team, and by army representatives sent to take control of universities by Mao.

But my brothers and I continued to receive our parents' wages, and we were getting older, and were pretty well able to look after ourselves.

After I left school, I worked in a farm implements factory, and later an automobile repair plant.

We were anxious about what had happened to our parents, but we weren't eaten up by anger or worry, as we were brought up to believe that if you were innocent then this would be proved in due course.

Meanwhile my parents' friends gave us care and encouragement, and the official position towards young people whose parents were in trouble was that they could still be educated 'to take the right path'.

'The right path'

For a long time we thought it would just be a few months and we kept hearing things, rumours about the latest political twists and turns, and we thought - hoped - our parents would be coming out quite soon.

In the end my mother was freed after just over three years of lock-up on the university campus.

My father was released from prison after five years, much of it spent in solitary confinement.

He and my mother were later exonerated of any wrongdoing, and received an official apology.

My parents were never physically abused in all the time they were locked up, but it was a trying time, to say the least.

They were sustained by their belief that all this upheaval was part of an attempt to create a better society.

Although the time of my parents' incarceration was a period of turmoil in China, and we were concerned for our parents, it also was a time of independence for me and my brothers.

We had opportunities to travel around the country, and there was plenty of time for teenage fun, going out hiking in the hills, and parties and dancing in the Friendship Hotel, where foreign residents in Beijing lived a somewhat sheltered life.

Inevitably, what happened then shaped the way I saw the world.

Like many of my friends I grew to be rather sceptical, to be critical of what people's stated intentions were, and what their grand visions entailed.

My father said when he was locked up, he did think it was a mistake and wondered how he could clear his name.

When he came out he found that many of his Chinese colleagues had gone through very similar experiences.

And he was reconciled to the fact that the leadership was making an earnest effort to get rid of these abuses.

He had lost five years of his life in prison but he didn't see why he should change his ideals.

He and my mother continued to work at the university for many years before retiring, teaching and writing about what was going on in China.

My father also worked on a Chinese-English dictionary, which is still in use today.

That is what they wanted to do, to give meaning to their life.

My father died in China, while my mother still lives there, leading an active life."

Paul Crook left China and came to the UK, where he worked at the BBC World Service for nearly 30 years. He told his story to the BBC World Service history programme, Witness.

On 16 May 1966, Chairman Mao launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
The 10-year political and ideological campaign was aimed at reviving revolutionary spirit, produced massive social, economic and political upheaval
Millions of radical youths came to be known around the world as the Red Guards
Millions of young Chinese were packed off to the countryside to learn from the peasants
Hundreds of thousands of people were persecuted
By the end of 1968, the revolution had brought China to the brink of civil war - Mao ordered the Red Guard to be disbanded

Rare Chinese Cultural Revolution photos on display By Alastair Lawson BBC News

The staff of the Heilongjiang Daily accuse an official of 'following the capitalist line'. His dunce cap announces his 'crimes'. (© Li Zhensheng. Courtesy Contact Press Images)

A collection of rare photographs from China's Cultural Revolution is on display in London for the first time since they were hidden for safekeeping nearly 45 years ago.

Li Zhensheng's work has been described as a "unique treasure trove of information" during one of the most turbulent periods of 20th Century history, a 10-year campaign of violence and chaos launched by Mao Zedong's feared Red Guards to enforce communism by removing capitalist, traditional and cultural elements from society.

Millions of people were persecuted in a wide range of abuses carried out across the country, including public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture and seizure of property.

Because Li Zhensheng worked for a newspaper in the north-eastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang, he was able to take state-approved images of the revolution in his capacity as a working reporter. His job at the Heilongjiang Daily also left him in the unusual position of being able to record its violence and brutality.


"My work meant that I could take photographs of people being persecuted without being harassed," Mr Li told the BBC after the exhibition opened last month.

But in such a tinder box atmosphere, he fully realised that the sensitive nature of his images meant that it was only a question of time before he too would face possible recriminations.

So Mr Li took the precaution of hiding the negatives away under the floorboards of his flat.

When he was eventually accused of counter-revolutionary activities in 1968, his flat was ransacked by the authorities but the negatives themselves remained undiscovered.

If they had been found, Mr Li would have been severely punished and they would almost certainly have been destroyed.

"It was kind of risky," he says with more than a degree of modesty about a collection of photos that experts say is unequalled in size - there are about 30,000 images in his portfolio - and breadth of subject matter.

All the images were taken at a time when being a photographer in China was a dangerous profession.

Because they were in many cases perceived as intellectuals and publicly denounced, many photographers were not prepared to put their lives and their careers on the line by taking pictures that may have upset the authorities.

But it was a risk that Mr Li was prepared to take.

Although much of his extensive archive was first released in a book in 2003, the display at London's Barbican is the first time that his original prints and negatives have been presented to the public - and the first time they have been displayed as panoramics.

"When I took these photos I was not sure how useful they would be. I never dreamed of having them shown like this in the West," Mr Li said.

"I studied cinematography as a student, and my teacher told me that photographers should record everything they see - good and bad - which is what I did. So I took photos of mass rallies and public humiliations not realising that in future they would prove to be so useful."

Robert Pledge of Contact Press Images was closely involved in producing and editing Li Zhensheng's book and helped to curate his photos at the Everything was Moving exhibition - which also includes political and social works by other international photographers during the 1960s and 1970s.

Mr Pledge discovered Mr Li and his portfolio while travelling in China in 1988 to attend a photography event at China's Museum of National History in Beijing.

Each photo was kept by the photographer in small brown paper envelopes, bound together with rubber bands in groups according to chronology, location, type of film or other criteria.

Each envelope in turn contained a single negative inside a glassine pouch. Some had not been removed since he first cut them from their original negative strips and hid them away nearly 45 years earlier.

On each envelope he wrote detailed captions in delicate Chinese calligraphy. Communes and counties, people's names, official titles and specific events were all carefully noted.

"Li shows surreal events to be all too real. Through his lens, these people and occurrences from so far away are made at once personal and universal," said Mr Pledge.

"While some pictures are mundane depictions of everyday life, some are spellbinding.

"There are photos from one of the eight mass rallies staged by Mao in 1966, for example, and photos of a disgraced official having his hair shaved off by a 14-year-old girl as part of his public humiliation."

Mr Pledge says that the photos are also artistically remarkable because of Mr Li's cinematic training.

"Li is one of the few photographers I know whose work is cinematic yet not contrived - their imagery alone is extraordinary."

At present there is no chance of the photos going on display in China, Mr Pledge says.

"The authorities there want to look forward rather than backwards. They regard these photos as dirty laundry from the past not for public consumption. The concern in China today is about expanding the economy rather than embarrassing events of the past."

Li Zhensheng, Several hundred thousand Red Guards attend a "Learning and Applying Mao Zedong Thought" rally in Red Guard Square (formerly People's Stadium), Harbin, Heilongjiang province, 13 September 1966 (© Li Zhensheng. Courtesy Contact Press Images)

Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s is open until 13 January 2013 at Barbican Art Gallery, London.


Originally launched by Mao to rid the Communist Party of his rivals, it ended up destroying much of China's social fabric.

At its start, Mao and his supporters mobilised thousands of young, radical Red Guards who were ordered to destroy the "four olds" in Chinese culture - old customs, habits, culture and thinking.

Colleges were shut so students could concentrate on "revolution", and as the fervour of the movement spread, they began to attack almost anything and anybody that stood for authority.

Schools and temples were destroyed, their teachers and parents vilified and, in thousands of cases, beaten to death, publicly humiliated or driven to suicide.

While this was going on, Mao and his supporters - including his former film-star wife Jiang Qing - purged the party of thousands of officials.

The Cultural Revolution officially lasted until 1976. Although the fervour of the first two years was not maintained, some areas of the country became almost ungovernable. In the cities, only the army prevented a complete breakdown of law and order.

Following Mao's death in 1976, his wife and three other radicals were officially blamed for launching and orchestrating the Cultural Revolution.

China Cultural Revolution murder trial sparks debate

China Cultural Revolution murder trial sparks debate

The trial in China of an elderly man accused of murder during the Cultural Revolution has sparked online debate.

The man, reportedly in his 80s and surnamed Qiu, is accused of killing a doctor he believed was a spy.

The Cultural Revolution, launched by Mao Zedong in 1966, was an era of violence against intellectuals and other alleged bourgeois elements.

Some have questioned why one man is on trial so belatedly when so few officials have been brought to account.

Prosecutors say that in 1967 Mr Qiu, from Zhejiang province, strangled the doctor with a rope.

Charges were filed against him in the 1980s and he was arrested last year, Global Times reported.

Mao's 10-year Cultural Revolution was intended to produce massive social, economic and political upheaval to overthrow the old order.

Ordinary citizens - particularly the young - were encouraged to challenge the privileged, resulting in the persecution of hundreds of thousands of people who were considered intellectuals or otherwise enemies of the state.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Shanghai says the topic of what went on during the Cultural Revolution remains highly sensitive in China and public discussion of it is limited, but that the trial has caused fierce debate online.

One user said on the Weibo micro-blogging site described the case as a farce, saying: "Do they really think this reflects the rule of law?"

The South China Morning Post quoted one internet user as asking: "What about those big names who started the Cultural Revolution? "How come they never took any responsibility?"

However some internet users was a step in the right direction.

"This is good, at least it sends out the message that those who did evil will pay back one day," wrote one user.

The state-run China Youth Daily published an outspoken editorial comparing the excesses of the period to the Nazi atrocities in Europe.

"The most shocking thing about the Cultural Revolution was the assault on human dignity. Insults, abuse, maltreatment and homicide were common. The social order was in chaos," it said.

It suggested that unless the period was finally allowed to be openly reviewed there was a danger of the chaos and violence returning, warning that many people harbour nostalgic views of it.

Zhuang Chen Zhuang Chen BBC Chinese

Many Chinese today want the party to face up to the wrongs of the Cultural Revolution era. It is not as taboo a subject as the Tiananmen Square protests. The party's wrongdoings during the Cultural Revolution are discussed openly in the state media, but without discrediting or undermining the party's legitimacy.

Chinese children are not taught in detail about events from that period, which makes it difficult for the younger generation to understand the country's traumatic past.

Mr Qiu's trial has sparked vigorous public debate. Some say it's more important to hold those at the top responsible, rather than make one individual a scapegoat for the party's wrongs.

Nearly 40 years since the Cultural Revolution ended, China is still haunted by events from that period. As recently as last year, Premier Wen Jiabao said the country risked another "historical tragedy" like the Cultural Revolution unless it pushed political reforms.
Bruce Lee obtained legendary status as a martial artist in part because of a 1965 fight in Oakland, Calif., against Chinese kung fu master Wong Jack Man. It was the last fight of Lee's career.

For nearly 50 years, there has been much speculation and heated debate about what occurred inside of that gym, as very few people witnessed it. But the upshot of the bout is that it helped to develop Lee's views on Jeet Kune Do, which is the forerunner of today's mixed martial arts.

On Tuesday, reported that a movie about the fight that will be called "Birth of the Dragon" will be produced by QED International and Groundswell Productions.

Jack Man is reclusive and rarely does interviews and has rarely spoken of that fight. London said producers will approach him after finishing the screenplay. He said he hasn't reached out to Lee's family, either.

Lee's daughter, Shannon, who runs the Bruce Lee Foundation, said that the fight was significant in her father's life because of the impact it had upon him.

"It was a pivotal moment in his life because he was very disappointed after the fight," Shannon Lee said. "Happy that he won, obviously, and happy he won the right to teach whoever he saw fit is what the challenge was over, the fact that he was teaching non-Chinese people the art of kung fu.

"He was very upset and my Mom said he was sitting outside and had his head in his hands. He told her that he felt the fight had gone on a lot longer than he thought it should and he felt tired and winded from having to run to chase [Jack Man]. He felt his training had let him down. ... He thought it should have been over a lot faster, and it was really from that that he started to change his whole thinking on martial arts."

Wong Jack Man

Wong Jack Man (born c.1940[1] in Hong Kong[2]) is a Chinese martial artist and martial arts teacher, best known for a martial arts duel with Bruce Lee in Oakland in 1964.

Wong taught classes in T'ai chi ch'uan, Xingyiquan and Northern Shaolin at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. He retired in 2005 after teaching for 45 years. His classes continued under his student Rick Wing.[3]
The fight with Bruce Lee

Accounts of Wong's fight with Lee are controversial, as it was unrecorded and held in private.

According to Linda Lee Cadwell, Bruce Lee's wife, Lee's teaching of Chinese martial arts to Caucasians made him unpopular with Chinese martial artists in San Francisco. Wong contested the notion that Lee was fighting for the right to teach Caucasians as not all of his students were Chinese. Wong stated that he requested a public fight with Lee after Lee had issued an open challenge during a demonstration at a Chinatown theater in which he claimed to be able to defeat any martial artist in San Francisco. Wong stated it was after a mutual acquaintance delivered a note from Lee inviting him to fight that he showed up at Lee's school to challenge him. Martial artist David Chin reportedly wrote the original challenge, while Wong asked Chin to let him sign it.

According to author Norman Borine, Wong tried to delay the match and asked for restrictions on techniques such as hitting the face, kicking the groin, and eye jabs, and that the two fought no holds barred after Lee turned down the request.

The details of the fight vary depending on the account. Individuals known to have witnessed the match included Cadwell, James Lee (an associate of Bruce Lee, no relation) and William Chen, a teacher of T'ai chi ch'uan. According to Bruce, Linda, and James Lee, the fight lasted 3 minutes with a decisive victory for Bruce.

Lee gave a description, without naming Wong explicitly, in an interview with Black Belt.

"I'd gotten into a fight in San Francisco with a Kung-Fu cat, and after a brief encounter the son-of-a-bitch started to run. I chased him and, like a fool, kept punching him behind his head and back. Soon my fists began to swell from hitting his hard head. Right then I realized Wing Chun was not too practical and began to alter my way of fighting."

Cadwell recounted the scene in her book Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew:

"The two came out, bowed formally and then began to fight. Wong adopted a classic stance whereas Bruce, who at the time was still using his Wing Chun style, produced a series of straight punches. "Within a minute, Wong's men were trying to stop the fight as Bruce began to warm to his task. James Lee warned them to let the fight continue. A minute later, with Bruce continuing the attack in earnest, Wong began to backpedal as fast as he could. For an instant, indeed, the scrap threatened to degenerate into a farce as Wong actually turned and ran. But Bruce pounced on him like a springing leopard and brought him to the floor where he began pounding him into a state of demoralization. "Is that enough?" shouted Bruce, "That's enough!" pleaded his adversary. Bruce demanded a second reply to his question to make sure that he understood this was the end of the fight."[12]

This is in contrast to Wong and William Chen's account of the fight as they state the fight lasted an unusually long 20–25 minutes. Allegedly, Wong was unsatisfied with Lee's account of the match and published his own version in the Chinese Pacific Weekly, a Chinese language newspaper in San Francisco.

The article, which was featured on the front page, included a detailed description of the fight from Wong's perspective and concluded with an invitation to Bruce Lee for a public match if Lee found his version to be unacceptable. Lee never made a public response to the article. Wong later expressed regret over fighting Lee, attributing it to arrogance, both on the part of Lee and himself

Friday, February 15, 2013

Students' rooms: 1890s v 2010s By Vanessa Barford

A trove of 19th Century photographs (recreated above) of students at Royal Holloway University gives a rare insight into Victorian accommodation. Students have always used their rooms to express their personality, but how has it changed over the past 100 years?

A horseshoe, crocodile skin, and the skeleton of a medieval nun.

It's not the typical stuff you'd expect to find in a student room.

And yet a collection of 56 photographs from Royal Holloway's archive shows that is exactly what some of the women that went to the university between 1896 and 1898 put on their floor or pinned to their walls. The halls in Egham, Surrey, are still used as student accommodation.

Some things look familiar in the 1890s shots. There are plenty of that perennial student favourite, pictures.

There are books and plants. And flowers. Lots of flowers, actually.

But other items of dorm decor are from a different era.

Fancy fans, pretty parasols and wicker chairs, for example, are a far cry from some of the poster-plastered, traveller souvenir filled, iPad-littered rooms of the 21st Century.

What remains constant is the pleasure students have always taken in decorating their rooms when they arrive at university, says Dr Jane Hamlett, a lecturer in modern British history at the university's department of history.

"In the 19th Century, students had two rooms each - a rather nice sitting room and study, and a bedroom - and they tended to put lots of things in them to reflect their status, interests or personality.

"Students had five o'clock tea in their rooms every day, because socialising and entertaining was important to upper middle-class families, so it was an important space for them," she says.

Hamlett says Victorian universities were quite regimented, with ordered days, set activities and formal meal times, to make it like a middle-class home and reassure parents.

The young women arriving at Royal Holloway in the 1890s were pioneers. It was unusual, even shocking, for women to go to university, so the female-only halls of residence offered them a particular kind of freedom.

"There was a worry that if women had too much education they would become unfeminine, and unfit for being wives and mothers, so it's surprising women didn't seem to feel they had to portray themselves as feminine.

Crocodile skins were one of the more surprising findings

Victorian students had the luxury of a study and a bedroom

One of the Holloway rooms even contained a crocodile skin - a classic symbol of manhood in the Victorian period," she says.

Some racy items were on show.

"There were also lots of classical statues of the young male body when Victorians were very silent about sexual matters - but because it was in an educational and cultural context, it probably made it acceptable to look at it that way," says Hamlett.

But many items - such as portraits of family members and allegiances to former schools and sporting interests - are more conventional.

Pictures have been a student staple for more than 100 years

Fashion also played its part. There were potential nods to the Aesthetic Movement, led by Oscar Wilde, with fans and parasols pinned to the walls and Japanese screens.

And Hamlett says there was one picture of a kitten that reoccurred a few times in the 56 photos.

Pictures, or more particularly posters, have arguably taken up more space on student walls than anything else for years.

There was a time when cult movie classics such as Easy Rider, Reservoir Dogs or Trainspotting, or music icons such as Bob Marley or Jim Morrison, featured at practically every university.

Aphra Bruce-Jones, a 21-year-old history student at the Royal Holloway, who lives in the halls, says there is still a profusion of posters on student walls, with peers opting for iconic portraits of Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe.
Aphra Bruce-Jones uses postcards, bunting and lights to personalise her space

"Other popular posters are the Keep Calm and Carry On ones, or spoofs of them. Or posters to do with alcohol - there's one showing how to make different cocktails," she says.

Standard rooms in halls are nicely furnished, but "blank, with a bed, wardrobe, and drab neutral coloured curtains and carpets", according to Aphra, so decorating them is important to give them character.

"I've got pin boards filled with photos and postcards I've picked up from museums or churches. I've made some floral bunting, which hangs over my mirror, and fairy lights," she says.

Adam Williams, 21, a third year music student at the university, agrees putting a personal stamp on rooms is important to students.

dam Williams says music and photography play an important role in his room

"When I first came to university, I put things in my room that reminded me of school, and things from home.

"Now I'm back in halls for my third year, it's more about who I am. I'm a drummer, so I've got drum kit and instruments, and I gig with various bands, so there are gig posters on the wall. I'm also into photography so there are about 10 cameras and some of my photos," he says.

Friends have done different things, like use LED lighting, or displayed their art work, he says.

"People want to feel comfortable in their room, it's where we relax. We are given a blank space and people like to make the most of that," he says.

Hamlett says student rooms are a rite of passage and reflect an important time in young people's lives.

"For more than 100 years, student rooms have been used to show self-awareness, an attachment to family and school.

"But also a new sense of identity," she says.

In another recreation of an 1890s photo, students have no need to communicate verbally today

Louvre museum returns Nazi-looted artwork

Seven paintings taken from their Jewish owners in the 1930s are being returned to their surviving relatives as part of an ongoing French effort to give back looted, stolen or appropriated art.

Portrait of Bartolomeo Ferracina by Pietro Longhi and The Temptation of St Anthony by Sebastiano Ricci are among the four paintings held by the Louvre

The Miracle of Saint Eloi by Gaetano Gandolfi and Saint Francis of Paola by Francesco Fontebasso The Miracle of Saint Eloi by Gaetano Gandolfi and Saint Francis of Paola by Francesco Fontebasso are among the four paintings held by the Louvre

The works include four paintings that currently hang in the Louvre in Paris.

Six of the pieces were owned by Richard Neumann, an Austrian Jew who sold off his collection at a fraction of its value in order to leave France.

The seventh was stolen in Prague from Josef Wiener, a Jewish banker.

All seven were destined for display in an art gallery that Adolf Hitler wanted to build in Linz, the Austrian city in which he grew up.

The gallery was to have been filled with artworks looted across Europe by the Nazis from museums and private collections, many of them Jewish.

The claims of the families involved were validated by the French government in 2012 after years spent researching the works' provenance.

The six works from the Neumann collection are to be restored to his grandson Tom Selldorff, now 82 and a resident of the US.

Hitler's Austrian 'culture capital' .

Hitler's Austrian 'culture capital' at the Castle Museum show some of the detailed designs commissioned by Hitler: A series of grandiose buildings, including a monumental theatre, an opera house and an Adolf Hitler Hotel, all surrounded by huge boulevards and a parade ground.

Few of these extravagant plans were realised, but the fantasy stayed with Hitler right up to his final days in the Berlin bunker in 1945.

Photographs in the exhibition show Hitler poring over intricate models of the city.

The Austrian city of Linz is tackling its Nazi past as it prepares to become Europe's capital of culture in 2009, the BBC's Bethany Bell reports.

Adolf Hitler had ambitious plans for Linz, the city where he grew up.

He wanted to make the town on the Danube into one of the five Fuhrer cities of the Third Reich, along with Berlin, Hamburg, Nuremberg and Munich.

Linz is now examining this page of its past in an exhibition called the Fuhrer's Capital of Culture.

Martin Heller, the artistic director of Linz 2009, says there was an obligation to tackle the city's Nazi history.

"We want to reflect back and show how cultural and political ambitions went together in the Nazi time," he says.

"Talking about culture always means talking about politics."

'Treading fine line'

During the Nazi era, Linz was transformed from a small town into an industrial city, but Hitler's ambitions for his hometown went far beyond that.
On display are plans and diagrams, but the organisers - who are concerned not to encourage nostalgia for the Nazi regime - have not recreated the models, which are believed to have been burnt in 1945.

However, there are some items that are not often on display, including some Nazi propaganda material and portraits of Hitler.

The director of the Upper Austrian State Museums, Peter Assmann, acknowledges the exhibit treads a fine line, but he rejects charges of glorifying Hitler's memory.

"I don't see any glorification of Hitler in the exhibition. Hitler is fact, so we just face this fact and we face it with many arguments, with a lot of information about that time."

"People walk through the exhibition and they get impulses for discussion," Mr Assmann says.

'Missed chance'

The high point of Hitler's Linz was to be a huge art museum to rival galleries like the Louvre or the Uffizi.

t was to be filled with artworks looted across Europe by the Nazis from museums and private collections, many of them Jewish.

Historian Tina Walzer is concerned that the exhibition has not tackled this subject in enough detail.

"The Nazis looted art from all over Europe, from France, from the Netherlands, from Poland, from Italy, from Austria, from Hungary, gathering this huge mass of very valuable paintings, but you don't see any of this in the exhibition and I think that is a pity."

"This is a missed chance," Ms Walzer says.

While the first part of the exhibition focuses on Hitler's cultural and political planning for Linz, the second part looks at the impact of National Socialism on art, music and literature in the region.

It explores the cult of Anton Bruckner and shows costumes from productions of operas by Richard Wagner and operettas by Franz Lehar - favourites with Hitler.

For some local visitors, confronting the past can be unsettling.

"I am upset by the delusional madness of these plans. It would have been a catastrophe. The culture that is encouraged now is free - the culture back then was dictatorship," says Heinz, after visiting the exhibition with his wife.

Ingrid, who was a child in Linz during the Third Reich, says the exhibition reflects her own memories of the period.

"I found the exhibition to be very informative and correct. It objectively shows the period as it was back then, because up to now many inaccuracies have been put about."

The organisers say they want to spark debate, but more than 60 years on, Hitler's legacy is still a very difficult and sensitive topic.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Remembering the Cuban Missile Crisis - 50 Years On

Cuban Missile Crisis: 50 years ago, the world held its breath for two weeks

WASHINGTON — The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Oct. 15 2012, 12:18 AM EDT
Last updated Monday, Oct. 15 2012, 12:40 AM EDT

For 13 agonizing days a half century ago, nuclear Armageddon was only minutes away. American warships and Soviet submarines with nuclear-tipped torpedoes played out a tense high-seas standoff.

American spy planes had spotted Soviet missiles – capable of being tipped with nuclear warheads and only a few minutes flight time from incinerating U.S. cities – being deployed in Cuba.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who had rashly ordered the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of the Communist-controlled Caribbean island a year earlier – made a dramatic televised address: putting the United States on a war footing, announcing a blockade of Cuba and threatening to sink any Soviet ship that crossed a 500-mile “quarantine” line. Hawks in Congress and close to the president called for immediate air strikes.

As the days of excruciating tension played out in October, 1962, the world lurched closer and closer to nuclear war. Another high-flying U.S. spy plane was shot down over Cuba. Both President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev publicly bluffed and threatened; both feared the war would start by accident; both fought off hawks inside their own inner circles; both ultimately backed down.

Never before, or since, has the spectre of thousands of mushroom clouds rising cratered cities and spewing deadly plumes of radioactivity sufficient to send man back to the stone age – or perhaps extinction – been so terrifyingly close. Fifty years on, the Cuban Missile Crisis – a hot showdown in the Cold War era when Canadian schoolchildren learned “duck and cover” as air-raid sirens wailed, seems ancient history. But new, sometimes startling, aspects of the crisis that challenge long-held, and only half-true, versions of the superpower standoff have emerged from historians in Canada and elsewhere.

And there are still lessons to be learned.

UN Secretary-General U Thant : The forgotten player in the crisis

Mostly forgotten, the United Nations untested Secretary-General U Thant played a pivotal role in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Half a century later, with the UN regarded almost with contempt by many, including Canada’s outspoken Foreign Minister John Baird, the key role of diplomacy in averting nuclear doomsday has emerged from dusty archives, perhaps as a lesson worth remembering.

“In the historical record, U Thant has largely been written out of the crisis,” says Walter Dorn, who heads the Security and International Affairs department at Canadian Forces College, in Toronto. The Kennedy camp preferred to portray their man as a gutsy Cold Warrior, not a President so unnerved by the hawks in his own camp that he sought mediation by the UN.

Yet at one critical juncture, American diplomats woke U Thant at midnight and begged him to deliver a face-saving solution to the Russians. And long before the term “shuttle” diplomacy was in vogue, the obscure Burmese diplomat who became Secretary-General almost by accident following the death of Dag Hammarskjöld in a Congo plane crash, was defining it.

“Hardly anybody know about what U Thant did … but at one point there were separate teams on the 38th floor of the UN building – a U.S. team and a Soviet team – and U Thant was literally shuttling between the two rooms,” Mr. Dorn said in an interview.

In his paper, just published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Mr. Dorn contrasts the bombastic swaggering in the early American versions of the crisis, with the reality of quiet diplomacy. “The popular understanding is that a U.S. show of military force compelled the Russians to back down, or as Secretary of State Dean Rusk euphemistically put it: ‘We went eyeball to eyeball [with the Russians], and… the other fellow just blinked,’” writes Mr. Dorn, adding: “Rusk’s verbal bravado conceals how the Cuban Missile Crisis, much more than a mere contest of wills, was also a mediated settlement.”

U Thant went to Havana, brought back the body of the downed American pilot, calmed Fidel Castro and – months later – after it was all over, was quietly thanked by both Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev.

There’s even a minor Canadian postscript among the tales untold. While Canadian military historians (like their American counterparts) tend to portray the crisis as a military showdown and focus on efforts of Canadian warships in hunting Soviet submarines in the North Atlantic, there was also a little-known UN aspect to Canada’s involvement.

Near the end of the crisis, Ottawa offered to paint white some of Canada’s Voodoo fighter-bombers, put UN markings on them and provide them to verify that the Soviets had made good on their promise to pull missiles from Cuba. That mission was turned down.

Risks of brinksmanship

Miscalculation, the grave risks of brinks-manship and the unpredictable behaviour of leaders under stress all remain real and present dangers even as the Cuban Missile Crisis – the closest the Cold War ever came to erupting into a full-blown nuclear conflagration that would have turned both the United States and the Soviet Union into wastelands – fades into history.

“It’s not the Cold War anymore, so people don’t go to bed at night fearing they will be incinerated,” says David Welch, the CIGI Chair of Global Security at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo. But the dangers remain, even as the grim calculus of mutually assured destruction in a world dominated by two superpowers armed with thousands of nuclear-tipped missiles, has been eclipsed.

“There’s still lots of nuclear weapons around and people need to be reminded that we could still have a catastrophe,” said Prof. Welch, a leading expert on the Cuban Missile Crisis and critical leadership issues in moments of confrontation.

While no pair of superpowers are ranged in a nuclear standoff, there are plenty of asymmetrical but no less fraught confrontations, he said in an interview: unpredictable, and now nuclear-armed, North Korea; the looming confrontation between nuclear-armed Israel and Iran over the latter’s murky and controversial nuclear program; the long-standing, and nuclear, India-Pakistan standoff. Even seemingly minor confrontations, like the current one between China-Japan jockeying over tiny islets, can spiral out of control, he said.

It isn’t the nature of the arsenals that poses the gravest risk but rather the dangers of miscalculation and of events spiralling out of control, Prof. Welch said.

As the full truth has slowly emerged about the October, 1962, crisis, the reality is that it wasn’t cold-eyed brinksmanship that averted war, nor a secret deal in which Soviet missiles would be moved from Cuba while American ones would be taken out of Turkey. Luck and fear played major roles over a chaotic – and dangerous – few weeks.

“It was an incredibly messy, dangerous, interaction” Prof. Welch said. “Some of the time [the leaders] didn’t know what their own folks were doing.” Both Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev, he added, were “scared to death of their own militarys.” War could have started almost by accident as local commanders overreacted, he said.

In a multipolar, unstable 21st-century world, where even non-state actors wield powerful, if unconventional, weapons like fuel-laden jetliners turned into martyr-guided missiles, the most enduring Cuban-crisis lesson may be the overriding need to defuse confrontation.

Fidel Castro: The most dangerous man in the world

Fidel Castro, the fiery, headstrong Communist revolutionary who had ousted the Americans from Cuba and was transforming the Caribbean island into his personal vision of a modern socialist paradise, was – for a few weeks in October, 1962 – the most dangerous man in the world.

“Kennedy thought he had Castro and the Cubans under control, but he didn’t. And Khrushchev thought he had Castro, under control, but, as he would learn to his horror, he didn’t. Cuba was the intervening variable, the ‘X-factor,’ the outlier, the loose cannon that nearly exploded in the faces of the superpowers in October 1962.”

That except from The Armageddon Letters, a dramatic account of the interplay between three powerful leaders, all of whom failed to understand each other, provides a sometimes chilling, new look at the Cuban Missile Crisis

At one point, Mr. Castro, convinced that the confrontation will inevitably end in a massive nuclear confrontation, pressed his Soviet patron to act, actually pushing for a nuclear first-strike.

Written by James Blight and Janet Lang, both at the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo, the account is based on the exchanges of letters and cables among the three leaders, and presents the psychological imperatives that drove them in the midst of the crisis.

The book is part of an ambitious, multimedia effort to reassess the crisis.

“Given his belief in the inevitability of a U.S. invasion, Castro’s focus on Armageddon is not a nightmare, but a kind of dream. After centuries of irrelevance, Cuba. will matter fundamentally to the fate of the human race,” the authors write.

That sort of megalomania seems more dangerous than the nuclear weapons. Mr. Castro emerges as a nightmare, for both the U.S. and Soviet leaders.

For Mr. Kennedy, dogged by the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion the previous year, looking weak in the face of Communist expansion represents the gravest danger to his presidency. As for the Soviet premier, The Armageddon Letters reveals his darkest moments come when he realizes his Cuban client is out of control.

Mr. Blight and Ms. Lang write: “This is not a normal situation, with both superpowers poised on the brink of nuclear war. [Khrushchev] becomes convinced at that moment that the situation in Cuba is slipping out of control – out of his control and out of Kennedy’s control. If today a Soviet general violated standing orders and shot down an unarmed U.S. spy plane, then perhaps tomorrow the same general, or another general, might violate standing orders and launch a strategic missile at the United States, thus initiating Armageddon.”

The Cuban Missile Crisis Timeline: “The 13 Days”

The 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis, also known as the October Crisis, spanned from Monday, Oct. 16 until Sunday, Oct. 28. It began when photos take via a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, piloted by Richard Heyser, reveals several SS-4 nuclear missiles in Cuba.

Tuesday, October 16: After learning of the missiles during breakfast, President Kennedy convenes his Executive Committee (EX-COMM) to consider America's options.

Wednesday, October 17: Amid scheduled campaign trips to Connecticut and the Midwest, President Kennedy meets with and advises Soviet Foreign Minister, Andrie Gromyko, that America will not tolerate Soviet missiles in Cuba. Gromyko denies the presence of any Soviet weaponry on the island.

Thursday, October 18: After an evening meeting, President Kennedy spends about four minutes recording his personal recollections of discussions that day. He states that throughout EX-COMM’s discussions, most argued for an air strike against Cuba, but says opinions tended to move away from that after discussion of a blockade was brought up.

Friday, October 19: Unwillingly, Kennedy departs Washington for scheduled campaign speeches in the Midwest and West Coast.

Saturday, October 20: Under the public excuse of an "upper respiratory infection," President Kennedy returns to Washington from Chicago after being told by Robert Kennedy of the discovery of additional Soviet missiles in Cuba. Throughout EX-COMM's discussions, they strongly argue for an air strike and invasion of Cuba.

Sunday, October 21: After learning that an air strike against the missile sites could result in 10,000 – 20,000 casualties, and that another U-2 flight discovered bombers and cruise missile sites along Cuba's northern shores, President Kennedy decides on a naval blockade of Cuba. When confronted with questions regarding rumours of offensive weapons in Cuba, Kennedy asks the press not to report the story until after he addresses the American public.

Monday, October 22: Despite being urged by Senate leaders to call for air strikes, President Kennedy addresses the American public and announces his decision to implement a naval blockade only. U.S. military alert is set at DEFCON 3 and Castro mobilizes all of Cuba's military forces. Kennedy sends a letter to Khrushchev.

Tuesday, October 23: By the end of the day, all naval vessels are in place, forming a 500 mile circle around Cuba. Stunning reconnaissance photos reveal that Soviet missiles are poised for launch.

Wednesday, October 24: Soviet ships reach the blockade line, but receive radio orders from Moscow to hold their positions. United States and Soviet warships are literally just a few hundred yards apart, each pointing their weapons at one another. American military forces are instructed to set DEFCON 2 - the highest ever in U.S. history.

Thursday, October 25: U.S. representative Adlai Stevenson confronts the Soviets at a United Nations conference, but the Soviet representative refuses to answer.

Friday, October 26: EX-COMM receives a letter from Khrushchev stating that the Soviets would remove their missiles if President Kennedy publicly guarantees the U.S. will not invade Cuba.

Saturday, October 27: A new letter from Khrushchev arrives, proposing a public trade of Soviet missiles in Cuba for U.S. missile in Turkey. An American U-2 is shot down over Cuba killing the pilot, Major Rudolf Anderson. U-2 accidentally strays into Soviet airspace near Alaska nearly being intercepted by Soviet fighters. Kennedy writes Khrushchev a letter stating that he will make a statement that the U.S. will not invade Cuba if Khrushchev removes the missiles from Cuba.

Sunday, October 28: In a speech aired on Radio Moscow, Khrushchev announces the dismantling of Soviet missiles in Cuba. The crisis is over.

Near the end of the crisis, Ottawa offered to paint white some of Canada’s Voodoo fighter-bombers, put UN markings on them and provide them to verify that the Soviets had made good on their promise to pull missiles from Cuba. That mission was turned down.

Unsung Hero for the Cuban Missile Crisis - U Thant

Untold Story of an Unsung Hero

Originally published in The Ottawa Citizen under the headline “HE SAVED THE WORLD: Kennedy went ‘eyeball to eyeball’ with the Soviets, but the man in between them, U Thant, deserves much of the credit for averting nuclear war” (22 October 2007, p.A12). A detailed study was published in the journal Diplomatic History (pdf available here).

The last week of October 1962 witnessed the world’s closest brush with nuclear holocaust, the Cuban Missile Crisis. On 22 October 1962, President John Kennedy shocked the world by exposing publicly the clandestine placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba and imposing a US naval “quarantine” around Cuba directed at all Soviet bloc ships. With the superpowers on a collision course, war seemed imminent. Cities tested their air raid sirens; school children practiced their bomb drills. Thankfully, one side backed down. After the crisis, US Secretary of State Dean Rusk euphemistically characterized it: “We went eyeball to eyeball with the Russians, and the other guy blinked,” referring to Khrushchev’s decision to withdraw his missiles.

But this favourable result was not merely due to US military threats or even the Soviet leader’s common sense. There is another story hidden behind the nuclear showdown that transcends the contest of wills and that remains relevant today. A quiet unassuming UN Secretary-General, U Thant, actively mediated and helped resolve this nuclear confrontation. At the request of much of the UN member states he was able to push the leaders to step back from the brink to give diplomacy a change. His contribution was left unexplored for decades. US historians glossed over Thant’s part in the drama, depicting the conflict as a unilateral US victory achieved by Kennedy’s resolve and a strong military show of force, in which the US was willing to risk nuclear war. But both State Department documents and transcripts of tapes that Kennedy kept of his “crisis cabinet” meetings, as well as newly-unearthed UN archival documents, show that Thant’s mediation was vital in helping Kennedy and Khrushchev resolve their impasse. Indeed, Kennedy recognized the contribution but did not elaborate on it, simply saying: “U Thant has put the world deeply in his debt.”

Shortly after the blockade took effect October 24, when a naval conflict and an escalation to general war seemed likely, Thant took his first initiative. He successfully appealed to Kennedy and Khrushchev to allow time to resolve the crisis peacefully. This breathing space proved critical in allowing both leaders to face down their hardliners. Khrushchev turned back many of his ships, but kept others steaming to Cuba so as not to appear to back down entirely. Thant’s initiative then prompted Kennedy to ask Thant to follow up with a more detailed appeal to Khrushchev to keep his ships away “for a limited time” so an agreement could be worked out.

Thant sent this second appeal as his own proposal so it would not appear as an American initiative. Coming as a request for moderation from the UN Secretary-General rather than as a demand from his adversary, Khrushchev readily accepted the proposal and used it to save face while keeping his remaining ships away. US Ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson later described Thant’s action to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “At a critical moment – when the nuclear powers seemed set on a collision course – the Secretary-General’s intervention led to the diversion of the Soviet ships headed for Cuba and interception by our Navy. This was the indispensable first step in the peaceful resolution of the Cuban crisis.” Thant’s went on to assist the parties deal with the two main issues of the conflict, namely the missiles in Cuba and Cuba’s security concerns.

In these tense negotiations Thant again played an important role. As Kennedy feared the short-range missiles in Cuba were about to become operational, he was under enormous pressure to attack Cuba. The most peaceful solution he could foresee involved a freeze on all missile activity and prolonged negotiations. Members of his advisory council, the Executive Committee, pushed for military solutions, including a first-strike against Cuba. But Thant proposed a faster and more reasonable solution. He suggested that the Russians dismantle their missiles in exchange for an American guarantee that the United States would not invade Cuba. Thant advocated this solution publicly in televised Security Council debates, then privately to ambassador Stevenson. He even phoned Secretary Rusk to push the idea. Two days later this became the basis for the superpower agreement, accompanied by a secret commitment made though Attorney-General Robert Kennedy to remove US missiles from Turkey.

During the hottest phase of the crisis, after a US U-2 spy plane was shot down, Thant’s initiatives exerted a powerful pacifying influence, especially on John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Dean Rusk. All three argued with their colleagues in favour of restraint rather than escalatory actions against Cuba. The President, in particular, cited Thant’s efforts as the basis for a hoped-for peaceful settlement, requiring some US restraint.

When agreement was finally reached and Castro threatened to upset it, Thant shuttled to Cuba at the end of October and convinced Castro to tone down his rhetoric. In support of Thant’s mission, Kennedy lifted the U.S. blockade and aerial overflights for two days.

Though Castro refused a UN supervisory force, which Kennedy and Khrushchev had agreed upon, Thant helped find a way to verify the missile removal. He facilitated high-level Soviet and American negotiations at the UN to work out a plan so that the returning missiles on Soviet ships could be viewed by US planes and ships.

Kennedy’s resolve played a role in this conflict, no doubt, but he also understood the need to give his opponent an honorable way out and how to use an internationally prominent and skilled mediator to do so. Kennedy made large concessions, including the withdrawal of US missiles from Turkey, and exercised enormous restraint, even to the point of refusing to give orders to attack the gunners that shot down the U-2 plane.

For the United Nations, the Cuban missile crisis turned out to be one of its finest moments, thanks to the skill of U Thant, however unsung has been his role afterwards. It was the week that a UN Secretary-General helped the superpowers to pull back from nuclear annihilation. As America considers its options with regard to a nuclearizing Iran and other dangerous confrontations, it would do well to consider and recognize the helpful role that the UN and its Secretary-General can and did play forty-five years ago.

Walter Dorn is a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada and Chair of the Canadian Pugwash Group. Robert Pauk is a research associate and a former Canadian military officer and UN peacekeeper.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Review - Gust Stresemann: Weimar's Greatest Statesman

Jonathan Wright. Gustav Stresemann: Weimar's Greatest Statesman. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. xvii + 569 pp. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-821949-1.

Reviewed by Frances Brown (History Department, Brescia University)
Published on H-German (July, 2003)

When German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann died on October 3, 1929, The New York Times reported the news on the first page with headlines describing him as a "strong advocate of Peace" and one who worked "to eradicate Bitterness of the War."[1] Despite such praise, over a period of time Stresemann underwent a historical scrutiny which presented him in a far less favorable light. He was seen as an unreconstructed nationalist whose peaceful overtures were insincere, a man who bided his time until Germany would be strong enough to challenge the Western powers. Jonathan Wright's book belongs to the first school of thought. Wright, a Tutorial Fellow at Christ Church and a University Lecturer in Politics at the University of Oxford, has produced a thorough, well researched study of the man he sees as "Weimar's Greatest Statesman."

Gustav Stresemann was born in 1878 to a lower middle class family. He was moderately successful at school, enrolling at the University of Berlin and developing liberal views. From 1901 to 1914 he pursued career interests in business and politics through membership in the National Liberal party. He saw no conflict between liberalism and nationalism. Elected to the Reichstag for the first time in 1907, Stresemann displayed the energy, organizational skills and speaking ability of a successful politician. During World War I he energetically advocated an expansionist foreign policy and domestic reform. In his view, Britain was the great enemy, determined to rob Germany of its proper role in the world. Stresemann believed that Belgium would have to be secured in the interests of advancing German sea power. He also eyed the Baltic provinces of Russia and staunchly supported unrestricted submarine warfare. In the concluding days of the war, Stresemann painfully and reluctantly began to realize a German victory was unlikely. His own National Liberal party was falling apart. Along with many other Germans, he rejected the dictated Treaty of Versailles as not morally binding.

The years from 1919 to 1923 were traumatic for Germany and, in Wright's view, pivotal in the development of Stresemann's outlook from "wartime annexationist to the European statesman of 1925-29" (p. 111). The shock of defeat was coupled with the fear of Bolshevism and revolution. The allies demanded reparations, setting the sum in January 1921 at 226 billion gold marks to be paid over a period of 42 years. To enforce reparations payments, in January 1923, France occupied the Ruhr thus denying economically vital coal fields to the rest of Germany. Germans responded by simply refusing to work for the French authority. Rampant inflation followed this policy of passive resistance and the mark became worthless. By the time of the Ruhr crisis, Stresemann had formed his own German People's party, the DVP, a collection of members of the old National Liberal party and propertied business interests.

During these four years Stresemann came to embrace the republic. Possessing a strong monarchist tendency, he nonetheless came to see the republic, with its promise of parliamentary democracy, as the only alternative to civil war, revolution, dictatorship and chaos. Wright insists this defense of the republic was authentic, while Stresemann's detractors see it as an accommodation to the latest political trend. By 1923 Stresemann also developed his skills at maneuvering among the welter of political parties that marked the Weimar Republic: the Centre Party, German Democratic Party (DDP), German National People's Party (DNVP), German Social Democratic Party (SPD), and German Communist Party (KPD). His own DVP contained liberal and conservative elements, making party unity a formidable challenge.

As a result of political negotiations, Stresemann, at the age of 45, became Chancellor in August 1923 as well as foreign minister. Although his term as chancellor lasted only three months, he continued as foreign minister until his death. Becoming chancellor in the midst of the Ruhr crisis, he feared the collapse of the German economy and concluded that passive resistance should end. This was a decision that, in Wright's judgment, was a courageous act of statesmanship. Under British and American pressure, France ended the occupation of the Ruhr and Germany agreed to accept international obligations. The Dawes Committee restructured Germany's reparations schedule.

Stresemann's immediate concern in 1923-24 was to prevent the break up of Germany, fearing French determination to remain indefinitely in the Ruhr and in the Rhineland. Beyond that, he wanted a revision of the peace treaty, especially in the East, a goal toward which he worked until his death. Acutely aware of German weakness in armaments, he insisted that peaceful revision was the only option for Germany. At the Locarno Conference in October 1925 he met with his counterparts, French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand and British Foreign Secretary Austen Chamberlain, to create the hopeful, peaceful spirit of Locarno. Wright sees this pact as setting the stage for European detente for the rest of the decade. As a result of Locarno, the post-war settlement in the West was accepted and guaranteed. Stresemann also guided Germany into membership in the League of Nations, although significantly, Germany refused to guarantee frontiers in the East.

In addition to negotiating with foreign leaders, Stresemann had to persuade German political leaders to accept his policies. Wright quite properly and effectively draws attention to Stresemann's part in domestic politics accepting the judgment that he became the "master of the parliamentary game," a person "who maintained the precarious balance of the political system" (p. 6). Wright provides extensive details of the bewildering twists and turns of coalition politics. Stresemann served for five years as Foreign Minister under a succession of governments as coalitions dissolved and parties realigned themselves. After Locarno, for example, the DNVP withdrew its support for the government leading to the cabinet's resignation in December 1925. A month later a new government was in place drawing support from the DVP, the Centre, the DDP and the Bavarian People's Party (BVP).

In support of the argument that Stresemann developed from a wartime nationalist to a European statesman, Wright lists his achievements: he brought Germany back from the depths of the Ruhr crisis. Germany accepted the Dawes Plan, Locarno, and membership in the League of Nations. Negotiations were undertaken for new trade treaties and for early foreign evacuation of the Rhineland. In 1926 Stresemann and Briand received the Nobel Peace Prize. And, in the last two to three years of his life, he moved, in Wright's view, toward a broader and genuine conviction that war would be a disaster for Europe. All of this was achieved against a contentious, fragmented domestic political background.

Despite Wright's strong defense, however, troubling questions remain. Though Stresemann worked well with West European leaders at Locarno, he had little regard for the eastern Europeans. He viewed the Polish state as unstable and refused to accept the settlement on the eastern front. Germany hoped to regain Danzig, the northern half of the corridor which cut off East Prussia and Upper Silesia. Stresemann vigorously opposed a permanent seat for Poland in the League of Nations Council. In violation of the Treaty of Versailles, he permitted cooperation between the German and Soviet armies in the training of pilots, tanks and gas warfare. Even to his contemporaries, Stresemann seemed contradictory. Konrad Adenauer of the Centre Party saw his policies as having a "vacillating and see-saw character" (p. 366). The Foreign Minister was eager to protect the rights of Germans in other countries. There was a secret program of subsidies for Germans in Danzig and in the corridor. Propaganda harped on the problems of Germans in Poland. In 1926, just months after Locarno, he supported a loan for assisting German settlers to return to Tanganyika lest Britain try to unite it with its own East African possessions.

These factors argue against elevating Stresemann to the first ranks of European statesmen. They also suggest more continuity between foreign policy trends in the 1920s and 30s than his supporters might wish to acknowledge. And they raise the question of how committed he was to a peaceful revision of Versailles. Time and again he referred to the lack of German armaments as requiring a peaceful approach. What would his policies have been like between 1923-26 if Germany not had this weakness?

This is a thoroughly researched book. Wright has used archives in Berlin (Auswartiges Amt), London and Paris. He has consulted numerous German sources, including the works of Stresemann, has spoken with Stresemann's son and has accessed the family papers. Nonetheless, very little of Stresemann's private life intrudes. Approximately 80 percent of the book covers the last eleven years of his life. Wright's interest is in Stresemann as the political leader and the foreign minister, and the book is tightly and clearly focused on this interest. Maps, photographs and a glossary enhance the work. Still, novices with little knowledge of German history and politics, will find the book difficult to follow. Scholars will find it the most thorough, up-to-date political study of Stresemann available in English.


[1]. The New York Times (October 3, 1929), p. 1.

Copyright (c) 2003 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For other uses contact the Reviews editorial staff:

Nobel Peace Prize 1926 - Aristide Briand, Gustav Stresemann

Gustav Stresemann

Gustav Stresemann (May 10, 1878-October 3, 1929) was the son of a prosperous owner of a restaurant and tavern. In his early years he helped in the family business and, since he was a lonely boy, assiduously pursued his studies. After attending the Andreas Real Gymnasium in Berlin, Stresemann studied literature, philosophy, and political economy at Berlin and Leipzig. During these student days, he discovered that he had powers of leadership as well as a capacity for literary attainment. He wrote critical essays on the Utopia of Thomas More and the lyrics of D.F. Strauss, historical pieces on Bismarck (and later, on Napoleon), and acted as spokesman for his student association. His dissertation for his doctorate, an economic investigation of the bottled beer trade in Berlin, was both practical and theoretical, assessing the pressures of big business capitalism on the independent middle class of Berlin.

Stresemann entered the real world of commerce in 1901 at the age of twenty-two as a clerk in the Association of German Chocolate Manufacturers in Dresden. A year later he took over the business management of the local branch of the Manufacturers Alliance, an association of entrepreneurs. With his organizing talent and his persuasiveness, he increased the number of members in the alliance from 180 in 1902 to 1,000 in 1904 and to approximately 5,000 in 1912. Although he represented capital, Stresemann nonetheless supported the idea, novel at the time, that management should accept labor's right to organize and should recognize its representatives as official negotiators of collective bargaining demands.

Always convinced of the relationship between economics and politics, however, Stresemann sought elective office. In 1906 he was elected to a seat on the town council of Dresden, which he held until 1912; in 1907 he won election to the Reichstag. In 1917 he was elected leader of the National Liberal Party.

While in Dresden, Stresemann married Käthe Kleefeld; they had two sons. One of Stresemann's biographers remarks that his devotion to his wife was «the axis on which his whole life turned [so that he was free to fling] his entire intellect and energy, his almost superhuman powers of concentration, into his one concern, politics»1.

Stresemann passionately supported Germanic policy both before and during World War I. He believed in force, in authority, in discipline. He argued as early as 1907 for the creation of a strong navy, seeing in it the instrument by which to extend and protect German overseas trade; in 1916, he supported unrestricted submarine warfare; he helped to defeat the government of Bethmann-Hollweg which he thought too temperate; he opposed the Treaty of Versailles.

Dismayed, however, to discover Germany's true military position in the fall of 1918, Stresemann found his ideas of the world changing. Disillusioned with an imperial government that believed in force yet did not possess adequate force, and indeed realizing that the policy of force and conquest in itself is ultimately ruinous, he began to see the world as a jigsaw of political and commercial interrelationships, each nation an individual piece in the puzzle and each fitting into another.

A month after the armistice of November 11, 1918, Stresemann formed the German People's Party, was elected to the national assembly which gathered at Weimar in 1919 to frame a new constitution, was elected to the new Reichstag in 1920 and spent the next three years in opposition. From August 13 to November 23, 1923, Stresemann was chancellor of a coalition government. In his short-lived ministry he dealt firmly with insurrection in Saxony, restored order in Bavaria after Hitler's Putsch failed, ended the passive resistance of Germans in the Ruhr to the French occupying forces, and began the work of stabilizing Germany's currency.

In 1924 Stresemann's successor chose him as his secretary of foreign affairs, an office he was to fill with such distinction under four governments that he was called the greatest master of German foreign policy since Bismarck. He enjoyed immediate success with the acceptance of the Dawes Plan, which restructured reparations on the basis of Germany's ability to pay. With his note of February 9, 1925, he took the initiative in arriving at a rapprochement with the Western Allies, especially with France, in guaranteeing the maintenance of the boundaries established at Versailles. After careful preparation for a conference, Gustav Stresemann, Aristide Briand, and Austen Chamberlain, along with representatives of the other four nations involved, met at Locarno, Switzerland, to draw up mutual security pacts. The three were a study in contrasts: Chamberlain, tall, elegant, monocled, schoolmasterish, cool; Briand, slightly stooped, hair disheveled, moustached, informal, amused; Stresemann, stiffly erect, bald head reflecting the light, cautiously formal. But they shared a common goal: to provide general security so that political and economic stability could be achieved2.

After initialing the Locarno Pact on October 16, Stresemann hurried home to insure its acceptance by the government. In a speech broadcast to the nation on November 3, 1925, he appealed for support, saying: «Locarno may be interpreted as signifying that the States of Europe at last realize that they cannot go on making war upon each other without being involved in common ruin.»3

As another part of his peace offensive, Stresemann signed a rapprochement with Russia, called the Treaty of Berlin, in April of 1926. And, following an unsuccessful trip to Geneva in March, he finally saw on September 8, 1926, the unanimous acceptance of Germany's admission into the League of Nations.

Despite his health, which declined rapidly after the Christmas of 1927, and against medical advice, Stresemann retained his position as German foreign minister. In 1929 at The Hague, he accepted the Young Plan which named June 30, 1930, as the final date for the evacuation of the Ruhr.

Stresemann did not live to see that evacuation. The victim of a stroke, he died in Berlin in October of 1929.

Aristide Briand

Aristide Briand (March 28, 1862-March 7, 1932), while at the height of his influence within the League of Nations, attended a dinner in Geneva where the guests were given menu cards on which was printed a cartoon depicting the statesmen of the world smashing a statue of Mars while Briand, alone, talked to the god of war trying to convince him to commit suicide1. The cartoon caught not only Briand's main objective in public life - the elimination of war in international relations - but also his method: his penchant for personal diplomacy, his renowned persuasiveness, and his habit of attacking the heart of a problem rather than its symbols or symptoms.

Born in Brittany, Briand was endowed with a heritage containing something of the peasant, something of the aristocrat, and a good deal of the Breton. His father, a prosperous innkeeper, sent him to school in Saint-Nazaire and then to the Nantes Lycée. There he was warmly befriended by Jules Verne, then rising to fame as a novelist and inventor. In A Long Vacation, a novel for youngsters, Verne describes a thirteen-year-old boy named «» Briant, he says, was audacious, quick at repartee, a good chap, somewhat untidy, « intelligent but so unwilling to waste good time studying that he was usually in the last quarter of his form. Occasionally he would spurt into a period of concentrated work, and then his quick understanding and remarkable memory helped him outstrip the rest.»2. Throughout his life Briand read little but listened intently, never prepared a speech but was, by common acknowledgment, the leading French orator of his generation; he understood everything, so it was said, but knew nothing.

Although Briand studied law and established a practice, he preferred the profession of journalism to that of law. He wrote for Le Peuple, La Lanterne, La Petite République, and collaborated with Jean Jaurès in founding L'Humanité, a socialist paper. A supporter of the labor-union movement, Briand emerged as a leader in the French Socialist Party after a speech at a congress of workingmen at Nantes in 1894. He found his true calling in politics, however, when, at the age of forty, he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1902. In the next thirty years he was premier of France and a cabinet minister innumerable times3.

He achieved recognition almost immediately as the moving force of the commission that prepared the law separating church and state. He guided the legislation through the Chamber and in 1906 was appointed to administer the law itself as minister of public instruction and worship in Sarrien's cabinet. He was retained in this post when Clemenceau formed a government later in that year, was given the justice portfolio in Clemenceau's next government, and in 1909 became premier for the first time.

Briand tended to be a political loner. In 1906 when he joined Sarrien's «» government, he was expelled from the Socialist Party. As premier he broke the railway workers' strike in 1910 by the novel expedient of mobilizing the railway workers who were still subject to military service. Since he never formed a political party, he survived because of his power of imagination, his mastery of procedure, his talent in oratory, and his understanding of people, especially of the common man.

Briand, the enemy of war, was forced by the irony of events to lead his nation during World War I for eighteen critical months from October, 1915, to March, 1917. He devised and, despite opposition from the French general staff, resolutely supported a plan, ultimately a successful military venture, to strike Turkey, Bulgaria, and Austria through Greece; he strengthened the French high command; he helped to obtain a new ally in Italy.

Briand was not a member of the Clemenceau government which conducted the negotiations for France at Versailles after the war. When he resumed as premier in January of 1921, retaining for himself the portfolio for foreign affairs, he tried to obtain a settlement of the reparations issue; represented France at the Washington Arms Conference; and negotiated a security pact with Lloyd George at Cannes in 1922, resigning when he failed to obtain its ratification.

Recalled to the foreign ministry by Painlevé in 1925, Briand now entered upon five and a half years of highly successful diplomacy. The first success was at Locarno. Briand seized upon Stresemann's offer of a pact of mutual guarantee and nonaggression, showed Austen Chamberlain how this proposal would fit into his concept of regional, collective security pacts, and during the conference itself, established the atmosphere of informal amiability that eventually brought understanding. On October 16, 1925, Briand, as foreign minister, initialled and on December 1, as premier, signed the Locarno Pact, which included various treaties and guarantees: four arbitration treaties between Germany on the one hand and France, Belgium, Poland, and Czechoslovakia on the other; two treaties between France on the one hand and Poland and Czechoslovakia on the other; Germany's western boundaries were guaranteed, the Rhineland was to be demilitarized, war was renounced except in extraordinary circumstances, and Germany was to join the League of Nations. Locarno embodied the Briand spirit - the humanization of politics.

With Locarno as a model, Briand sought to extend the arbitration concept to the United States, proposing in 1927 that France and the United States join in renouncing war as « instrument of national policy» Frank B. Kellogg countered with the suggestion of a multilateral rather than a bilateral treaty, and on August 27, 1928, at the Quai d'Orsay, fifteen nations signed the Pact of Paris, or Kellogg-Briand Pact, for the renunciation of war. In the next year Kellogg joined Briand in the ranks of Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

The last major proposal Briand offered to the world was his sweeping concept of a European Union outlined in a memorandum to twenty-six nations in May, 1930. In September the proposal was presented to the League of Nations, but when Briand was not reappointed to the foreign ministry after Premier Laval's resignation in January, 1932, the proposal languished.

On May 13, 1931, Briand lost his bid for the presidency of France, but with his vital resiliency and equable temperament, he did not lose a day at his office in Quai d'Orsay.

Briand occupied the French foreign office longer than any diplomat since Talleyrand. A moral force in post-World War I politics, he sought to substitute trust for suspicion, law for international disorder, mankind's betterment for human destruction. Yet he tempered his ideals with a Gallic sense of reality; he would, for example, hedge an idealistic conception with precautions in case it should fail.

Briand died quite unexpectedly on March 7, 1932; he was buried at Cocherel, his country retreat.

1. Antonina Vallentin-Luchaire, Stresemann, p. 24.

2. For a few more details on the Locarno Pact, see the biography of Austen Chamberlain.

3. «The Treaty of Locarno», in Stresemann's Essays and Speeches on Various Subjects, p. 238.

4. Noted by Emil Ludwig in «Briand», Political Quarterly, 3 (1932) 393.

5. Jules Verne, A Long Vacation, translated by Olga Marx (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1967), p. 28.

6. See Jules-Bois (Selected Bibliography) for his list of offices held by Briand from 1906 to 1929, with details of dates and names of premiers involved.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1926-1950, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.