THE SALT MARCH
Researching the salt mines in Europe, I found several articles dealing with salt in India. Along the west and east coasts of India, extensive low-lying marshes are flooded by the sea during the monsoon season. When the seawater evaporates during the summer, large salt pans are created that hold thick layers of salt. Many years ago, if you lived near these salt pans, you could gather all you needed, and then sell or trade the remainder.
Then someone figured out that if everyone had free access to salt, someone else was losing an opportunity to make money. Therefore, for the past 5,000 years, India has suffered in one way or another from the objective of making money from its naturally abundant salt.
In particular, the governing of India by the British in the 1700s created a seriously onerous situation where overlords made it a law that indigenous residents would be taxed for salt, resulting in, first, the British East India Company having a monopoly on the manufacture, sales, and possession of salt, and then the British Government, itself, to use the continuing monopoly to make up to 10% of its Indian revenue. Eventually, the law made it a crime not only to make salt, but to even possess it without having bought it from the government. The annual cost to a family for salt was two-thirds the average family’s income.
The history of British salt in India is involved in the particulars, but it brought about one of the most famous non-violent acts of civil disobedience by a nation: the Salt March of 1930, led by Mahatma Gandhi. That action and subsequent actions around the production of salt would eventually add momentum to India becoming independent of Great Britain.
From 12 March to 6 April, 1930, for 24 days, Gandhi led a march from the town of Sabarmati Ashram to the town of Dandi, around 240 miles away. Beginning with 78 trusted followers and ending with many thousands, the march brought world-wide recognition of India’s oppression by the British government, and would lead to large scale acts of civil disobedience against the salt laws by millions of Indians. The Salt March culminated with Gandhi walking into a salt pan at 8:30 in the morning, gathering a lump of salty mud and boiling it in seawater, and then raising the handful of salt that he had made high above him, declaring that he had broken the law. He then implored all his followers to likewise begin making salt along the seashore.
Gandhi kept the British government fully informed of what he was going to do – before, during, and after he had done it. There were no covert actions; he wrote articles, had letters published, sent telegrams, held interviews, and met daily with reporters, all telling the same story: salt laws were unjust, it punished the Indian society at the individual level as well as the national level, it hurt the poor worst, it kept the Indian economy at the mercy of the British government, and it was a crime against the very society who should be benefiting from their natural resources.
The British reacted in royal fashion by arresting Gandhi and 60,000 others. They passed more laws, including censorship of correspondence, as well as the clamping down on newspapers reporting the incidents. They also reacted with force, the most famous incident using machine guns to slaughter 200-250 non-violent and unarmed protestors in Peshawar’s Qissa Kahani Bazaar on 23 April, 1930. One British Indian Army soldier, Chandra Singh Garhwali and some other troops from the renowned Royal Garhwal Rifles regiment refused to fire at the crowds. The entire platoon was arrested and many received heavy sentences, including life imprisonment.
Less than a month later, another non-violent action was planned as a raid on the Dharasana Salt Works in Gujarat, south of Dandi, where Gandhi’s walk had ended. It ended with British soldiers senselessly clubbing non-resisting protesters until “…in two or three minutes the ground was quilted with bodies…The police became enraged by the non-resistance…They commenced savagely kicking the seat men in the abdomen and testicles. The injure men writhed and squealed in agony, which seemed to inflame the fury of the police…The police then began dragging the sitting men by the arms or feet, sometimes for a hundred yards, and throwing them into ditches.”
The story of the brutalities appeared in 1,350 newspapers throughout the world and was read into the official record of the United States Senate.
Nothing changed. The salt laws remained and no major policy concessions were made by the British until the 1950s. However, world opinion increasingly began to recognize the legitimacy of claims by Gandhi and the Indian Political Party. It was a significant step in Britain ultimately surrendering its control of India.
Thirty years later, the significance of the Salt March was still being felt in America:
“Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously. As I read, I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. I was particularly moved by his Salt March to the Sea and his numerous fasts. The whole concept of his [truth force or love force] was profoundly significant to me. As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’m taking a vacation with my family in a week, so will not be posting blogs on the next two Sundays.
IS HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF?
USA TODAY ran an article on Friday that told of Russian President Vladmir Putin’s program of placing war-displaced Ukranian children either with Russian families or into camps for the purpose of converting them into Russian citizens.
A State Department-funded report estimates that as many as 6,000 Ukrainian children have been sent to at least 43 re-education facilities that stretch from the Black Sea coast all the way to Siberia.
Michael Scharf, a human rights lawyer who tries cases at the International Criminal Court, said the real number of Ukranian children being relocated is likely closer to 400,000 children, based on “numerous reports of Russian forces seizing children from orphanages, schools, and hospitals in areas of Ukraine under Russian occupation and transferring them to Russia where they are sent to foster families to be transformed into Russians.”
Getting a firm grip on the actual numbers is complicated because Russia has refused to permit the kind of independent centralized registration system that’s required by the international laws of armed conflict to track and protect children in war zones.
The article draws parallels between Putin’s actions and Hitler’s efforts to convert non-German children into German citizens (who could then be drafted as soldiers or workers). In October of 1939, with the invasion of Poland, Hitler created the office of the Reich Commissioner for the Strengthening of German Folkdom, with Heinrich Himmler as its head. Its aim was to help resettle the newly occupied territories with a German population. They found in Poland, however, an abundance of children who resembled the ideal Aryan German—blond hair, blue eyes, a similar length of the nose, the thickness of the lips, and an erect posture.
To reconcile this problem, the Nazis propagated the idea that these children were actually descended from German blood. Therefore, these children should be taken away from their Polish parents and repatriated to German families, that the children could be “returned to the Fatherland.” This was not only true of Polish children, but of any Aryan-looking children from Czechoslovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, or other recently German-occupied countries.
Between 1939 and 1944, approximately 200,000 Polish children were stolen by the Nazis and sent away to be “Germanized”. Using a list of 62 physical characteristics, children were identified, photographed, and analyzed, and if the children were found to be suitably Aryan, then those between two and six were sent to maternity, or Lebensborn, homes in Germany. After their adoption by a proper SS family, the children were provided false birth certificates with new German names and birthplaces. Children not found suitable were sent on to concentration camps and gas chambers.
The goal of the German parents was to erase any trace of their native heritage and reshape them as loyal Nazis. They were taught to speak German (if they spoke their mother tongue they were deprived of food or whipped with a strap), forced to wear uniforms with swastikas, sing military songs, and were taught Nazi beliefs. They were also forced to endure countless hours of drills and marches to destroy any sense of individuality.
Older Polish girls with Aryan characteristics were sent to SS maternity homes where they became “breeding material” for SS officers.
Putin’s program is less selective and he is no longer limiting the program to displaced or abandoned children. He’s even using one of the same ploys that Hitler did: Ukranian parents are being tricked into signing consent forms for their children to be sent to summer camp facilities to be “out of harm’s way”, while Himmler sent notices to parents to bring their children to the local train station at a certain time to go on a holiday to “improve their health”. The children never returned from their holiday and there are still thousands of them or their descendants who live in Germany today unaware of their true identity and heritage.
Putin’s purpose for Ukraine, however, seems to be the same as Hitler’s for Poland. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made this statement: “It…speaks to the fact that President Putin has been trying from day one to erase Ukraine’s identity, to erase its future.”
THE SALT MINES OF POLAND
MAD KING LUDWIG II - PART TWO
Being as different a king as he was, Ludwig II had few friends inside his own government. In particular, the ministers of the realm, whom he had inherited from his father, were seriously offended by his behavior and his refusal to pay attention to them. Although he had paid for his pet projects out of his own funds, by 1885, the King was 14 million marks in debt, had borrowed heavily from his family, and rather than economizing as his financial ministers advised, Ludwig continued to pursue his further opulent designs without pause; besides the four castles he had already begun, he had four more on the drawing board. He demanded that loans be sought from all of Europe’s royalty, while still remaining aloof from the matters of state. Feeling harassed and irritated by his ministers, he let it be known that he was considering replacing them all.
The ministers feared that he would actually do it, so they decided to find a way to declare the King mentally ill, which would render him unable to rule. Between January and March of 1886, when Ludwig had ruled Bavaria for twenty-one years and was only forty years of age, the conspirators assembled a “medical report” that included a litany of supposed bizarre behaviors: his pathological shyness, his avoidance of state business, his complex and expensive flights of fancy, sloppy and childish table manners, and sending servants into foreign lands on “research trips” to verify architectural details of buildings.
The report was finalized in June and signed by four psychiatrists, the main one being Dr. Bernhard von Gudden, the head of the Munich insane asylum. The report concluded that the King suffered from paranoia and was incapable of ruling. Interestingly, three of the signers had never met the King, while Gudden had met him only once, twelve years before. There was no examination.
Ludwig’s uncle, Prince Luitpold, kindly let it be known that he would take over the government if the King were to be deposed.
At four in the morning on June 10, 1886, a government commission arrived at Neuschwanstein to deliver a document of deposition to the King. Having been warned an hour earlier, Ludwig had them arrested at the gates and imprisoned until later that day. In spite of the King not being officially deposed, the government issued a news release declaring Luitpold as Prince Regent, which made him the ruler of Bavaria. King Ludwig protested with his own news release, but most of the copies were seized by the commission and the populace remained ignorant of the happenings.
On June 12, the commission succeeded in capturing the now non-king Ludwig, taking him to the Castle Berg for confinement. That evening, on a private walk around the castle’s lake with Dr. von Gudden, Ludwig and his psychiatrist both disappeared. Their bodies were found the next morning in waist-deep water. Ludwig’s death was officially ruled a suicide by drowning, despite an official autopsy indicating that no water was found in his lungs. Gudden’s body showed blows to the head and neck, with signs that he had been strangled.
Ludwig was officially succeeded by his younger brother Otto, but since Otto had been ruled insane three years before (by Dr. von Gudden), Prince Regent Luitpold continued to rule until his death in 1912, at age 91. His eldest son, also named Ludwig, took over, officially deposed Otto, and declared himself King Ludwig III of Bavaria. He would rule only until 1918, when the end of World War I declared that Germany would no longer have monarchies.
Prince Regent Luitpold, needing money to finish the castle, began charging visitors to see Castle Neuschwanstein in August of 1886. Since that time, more than 50 million people have walked through the halls, becoming one of Bavaria’s biggest tourist attractions.
MAD KING LUDWIG - PART ONE
A VISIT TO AUSCHWITZ
TREPTOWER PARK, BERLIN
THE DRESDEN FRAUENKIRCHE
A WOUND WHICH WILL NEVER HEAL
Peter Kollwitz was not of full age in August 1914 when he wished to join the German army. As such, he needed permission from his father to be a military volunteer, but his father refused. His mother, Kathe, persuaded her husband to change his mind and permission was granted. So, when Peter was killed ten days after leaving his home town of Berlin in October, there was not only grief, but also guilt.
By 1914, Kathe Kollwitz had already established herself as a great German artist through her production of prints, lithographs, etchings, and woodcuts, as well as sculptures. Having been born in 1867 Prussia to socially radical parents and an equally radical Lutheran priest for a grandfather, she was from childhood consumed by issues of social justice. When she married a doctor who worked solely among the poor in 1890s Berlin, she became deeply involved with the lives and hardships of the working-class people among whom she was living, and above all, with the role and responsibilities of women.
Peter’s death became a turning point. “There is in our lives a wound,” she wrote, “which will never heal, nor should it.” She would try to express her grief and guilt about her son through her different mediums for the rest of her life.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, many of Kathe’s posters, exhibits, displays, sculptures, and carvings were reflections of the war and its effect on people, society, and social concerns. She publicly opposed the rise of Hitler and, along with Einstein and other intellectuals and artists, encouraged voters to reject the Nazis in the 1932 election. Unsurprisingly, once they came to power, the Nazis banned her from exhibiting and forced her to resign from the Academy of Arts, where she taught.
In 1935 she produced her last cycle of prints—eight lithographs called simply Death. They portrayed individuals, including herself, in deep sorrow, grief, and despondency for the condition of their lives, transformed and diminished by war and oppression.
This was hardly welcome to the Nazi regime, as it claimed to be the rebirth of a cleansed and pure nation. She was visited by the Gestapo, who threatened her with a concentration camp; her international profile left her in relative freedom. The Second World War delivered a final blow: the death of her grandson on the Eastern Front in 1942 followed by her evacuation from Berlin the following year. She died in the last weeks of the war, in April, 1945.
In an entry in her diary dated October 22, 1937, the anniversary of Peter’s death, she wrote about a small sculpture she had been working on, a sculpture meant to be a private memorial for her son and herself together. It showed a mother, seated, holding her dead son lying between her knees, in her lap. Although the form derives from religious imagery, there is nothing Christian about this sculpture. The son is not, like Jesus, presented to the viewer for contemplation or adoration. He is not resting, as in Michelangelo’s Pieta, on her knees, but is huddled between her legs, almost totally enclosed. She does not show him to us, but attempts to shield him, although dead, from further harm. There is no hint of salvation, merely a response to slaughter.
On November 14, 1993, in the pouring rain, the President of Germany, Richard von Weizacker, came to the Neue Wache [New Guardhouse] building in Berlin to rededicate it as the National Memorial to the Victims of War and Dictatorship. It is a building with one display room with a plain slate floor and walls of stone under an oculus in the ceiling that is open to the wind, rain, and snow, as well as the sun. In the middle of the otherwise undecorated and unadorned room, was placed a larger version of the sculpture created in 1937 by Kathe Kollwitz, herself both a witness and victim.
Ruth Padel, a poet, said this about the sculpture:
“So there it stands, light versus dark. It is in the open air, the light comes down and it is surrounded by empty walls. It sums up the suffering of everybody in all wars. If this were found in a Neolithic tomb, it would still be relevant, because it is about a grown-up mourning a child. It was a kind of political genius of [Helmut Kohl, Chancellor of Germany, who chose the sculpture] to see that this would stand when other things fall away. There is no contextualizing, with any particular clothing or prop. There is just the little face of the dead child, turning up to the mother, the mother’s hand over his face but yet looking at the child, helpless. It is the embodiment of grief and loss.”
I took this picture in October of last year. I had read about this memorial, but had not expected to find the sculpture. I discovered it only three blocks from my hotel. Many of the words above come from Germany, Memories of a Nation, by Neil MacGregor.
When I was writing Teddy’s War, I developed the authenticity of the story by using a slew of books that I had already or bought along the way. My bookcase currently holds about seventy books related to World War II, most of them nonfiction. I’m not sure how many new books I bought during my writing time, but I would guess around thirty. And I’m still buying; I’m just that interested.
I found most of the books by browsing the books listed in Amazon.com. I’d type in the subject and see what came up. There was always something that seemed interesting, but it wasn’t likely that I was finding the “best” books on the subjects. I enjoy looking at Amazon Choice books, recommended books, the “readers who chose this book also looked at these books”, “books similar to what you asked for”, or other marketing devices that Amazon has on their website that give priority to the books they want me to buy.
I have discovered a better way.
A month or so ago, I was contacted by Dan Shepherd. He is the head of a small group of people who launched a new author site in the Spring. Dan asked me to provide him a blurb on Teddy’s War, and then recommend five more books that provided material associated with it. I looked at their webpage, liked it, filled out some templates that he provided, and then gave him my blurb about the book and my list of five associated books. Dan’s group edited my words a little, but basically accepted what I had written. They adjusted everything for their website’s format.
This is the result:
I created the “topic”, chose five books I had used while writing the novel that fit the topic, and then wrote less than 110 words of why the book was significant to me. I had to swear that I’d read them all and was making honest comments.
What you see in my presentation is similar to the presentations throughout the website. It provides selections of books that have been read by and then recommended by authors writing in the field. The website provides several searchable topics that can focus what the reader is looking for. That seems more interesting and infinitely more profitable than randomly browsing Amazon.
At the end of September, I’m heading to Poland and Germany for a tour. I’ll be gone for almost three weeks. It is a tour hosted by Globus and has a World War Two focus. I’m visiting these major cities: Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, Dresden, Berlin, Weimar, Nuremberg, and Munich. Along the way, I’ll see the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial, the Auschwitz/Birkenau concentration and termination camps; Oskar Schindler’s factory; Buchenwald concentration camp, the Nuremberg Trials courtroom, the Dachau Memorial Site, and Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. I’m staying an extra couple of days in Munich to research a few nearby sites that might have been seen by my dad. He was in the area during October, 1945.
I’ll take a lot of pictures so you can look forward to being inundated when I get back.
Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.