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Not Your Father’s World History Part 14:
“Roosevelt took it as a joke but Churchill knew better.”

4 February 2006

Yalta Conference
Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin at Yalta

Curious Article No. 23:

In view of the Führer’s contempt toward minorities and anyone judged physically imperfect, it’s interesting to note that his point man Dr. Joseph Göbbels had a right leg two inches shorter than the other and a club foot that required a metal brace. Further, when pragmatic needs arose his bureaucrats could declare anyone they chose to be “Aryan” and issue an official document (Deutschblütigkeitserklärung) to that effect. Thus over 100,000 men who were at least part Jewish served at one time or another in the Wehrmacht. Many did so with distinction, even as their kin were being dragooned on the home front. Bryan Rigg in his book Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers cites among others Field Marshal Erhard Milch, Admiral Bernhard Rogge, Luftwaffe General Helmut Wilberg, General Johannes Zukertort, Colonel Walter H. Holländer, and of the battleship Bismarck First Staff Officer Paul Ascher.

The Nazi leadership, especially Heinrich Himmler, indulged in various pseudosciences to bolster their demented anthropological theories or to eke out a military advantage. Among them was a belief in an inverted or hollow earth, which they called Hohlweltlehre. An American cult leader named Cyrus Teed had preached during the mid 1800s that we’re actually living on the inner surface of a hollow sphere and that the sun is a ball suspended exactly in the center, half light and half dark to provide day and night. By the 1920s this codswallop had become very fashionable in Germany, and with Nazi blessings a certain Karl Neupert authored the book Geokosmos elaborating on it. Persistent claims have Hermann Göring sponsoring a mission in April of 1942 to Rügen Island in the western Baltic which attempted to spy on the British fleet by aiming telescopic cameras upward along a chord of this hollow sphere. After several days of seeing nothing but ordinary sky they called it off. Neupert, it’s said, later died in a concentration camp.

“Ivan the Terrible would execute someone and then spend a long time repenting and praying,” complained Joseph Stalin. “God got in his way in this matter. He ought to have been more decisive!” Obviously nobody, neither human nor divine, got in Stalin’s way. According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, whose estimates square with many others, the man liquidated 20 to 25 million of his own people. This included 7 million Ukrainian farmers and their family members who starved from forced collectivization (troops confiscated all their produce, for export, then blocked the roads so they couldn’t escape to find other food), 12 million victims of his purges worked to death in Gulag labor camps, and about a million others executed during and following World War II. He made no secret of this latter butchery and casually asked Winston Churchill at Yalta whether or not he had ever shot any of his subordinates. The ever sanguine Roosevelt took that as a joke but Churchill knew better and never again spoke to the diminutive dictator.

Stalin’s narcissism, vengefulness, and paranoia knew no bounds and no one was safe at any hour of the day or night. Even his oldest and dearest cronies lived in constant fear and would scramble to anticipate his wishes so as not to displease or annoy him. One of Stalin’s favorite tricks was to ply people with alcohol to the point at which they might say something immoderate, which could then easily develop into an arrest leading to torture, the Gulag, or a bullet. Or he might chillingly observe, “You’ve been avoiding eye contact with me lately. What’s wrong?” Like Hitler he also hounded his Esperanto speakers, whom he characterized as plotters and spies, forcing them to register and eventually, in 1938, rounding them all up to either be shipped to labor camps or shot.

When Stalin himself bought it on March 5, 1953 many began to breathe again, though millions more who had worshipped him thought their world would surely end. Four days earlier he had retired after the usual carousing marathon with his closest circle at the time, secret police chief Lavrenty Beria, Nikita Khrushchev, Nikolai Bulganin, and Georgi Malenkov. But he didn’t show at his usual waking time. Half a day passed before anyone dared to disturb him, at which point a bodyguard found him comatose from an apparent stroke. Beria later crowed to Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov that he had poisoned him. Whether or not this was true, at the very least his associates, rightly fearing for their own skins, denied the depraved Georgian medical care for many hours. When doctors finally straggled in they helpfully applied leeches behind his ears.

Pope Alexander II
Pope Alexander II
Humanzee Owner
Again like Hitler, Stalin pursued his own dubious sciences. His championing of quack agronomist Trofim Lysenko is well known, but perhaps his weirdest move was to pony up $300,000 and order artificial insemination pioneer Ilya Ivanov to produce a human/chimpanzee hybrid: “I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food he eats.” Ivanov had previously studied a zeedonk (zebra plus donkey), a zubron (European bison plus domestic cow), an antelope/cow, a mouse/guinea pig, and other novel blendings. Between 1926 and 1930 he made several attempts to conceive a humanzee which all failed, though it should be noted that many of his setbacks were circumstantial and sociopolitical (I’ll say) rather than biological.

Stories of such paradigm-jarring creatures have circulated since at least as far back as Pope Alexander II in the eleventh century, but so far proof is elusive. Belgian cryptozoölogist Bernard Heuvelmans co-authored a book in 1974 that contained an account from a Russian Gulag escapee, a doctor, claiming a slave race of human/gorilla hybrids had been produced. They were supposedly furry and strong but sterile and made indefatigable salt miners. And in 1987 Florence University dean of anthropology Brunetto Chiarelli said that a secret experiment did conceive a viable humanzee zygote (in vitro, one hopes) but, for ethical reasons, after a number of routine cell divisions the mass was destroyed.

Like most Communist crusaders Mao Zedong preached austerity, self-sacrifice, and egalitarianism while privately enjoying a sumptuous lifestyle. During the legendary Long March of 1934-35 porters carried him on a litter, along with his fortune and voluminous belongings, and he spent his nights dry and toasty in private homes. Communists celebrate the journey as a great victory for the Red Army in which it narrowly averted annihilation by Chiang Kai-shek, but in reality Chiang looked the other way at a critical moment and let them through. The reason was that Stalin was holding his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, and had agreed to repatriate him in exchange for Chiang Senior’s cooperation.

Next: Atomic Age
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Text © Peter Blinn 2006

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