Komar, Stefan — Concentration Death Camps

You may remember the Radio Curious interview with Bernard Offen, recorded in May 2005, and re-broadcast the end of May 2017.  In telling the story of his youth in Poland during World War II, being forced into four different concentration camps established and controlled by the Nazis, Bernard Offen characterized those camps as “Polish concentration camps.”   

Soon after the 2017 re-broadcast, I received an email from Stefan Komar, our guest in this edition of Radio Curious.  Komar pointed out that calling any German concentration camp in German occupied Poland “Polish,” or referring to a German concentration camp in occupied Poland as “in Poland”, “of Poland,” or “Poland’s,” is insensitive to the families of the millions of ethnic Poles who were killed, forced into slave labor, tortured, maimed, terrorized and starved during the brutal and inhuman German occupation of Poland in the name of “Deuthschland, Deutschland Uber Alles.”

Komar, who was born in Queens, New York, lived in Warsaw, Poland, for about 10 years beginning when he was 12 years old. Currently he’s a Captain in the New York Police Department, after serving with the NYPD for 37 years.

A few days before Stefan Komar, and I visited by phone from his home in Queens, New York, on January  28, 2018, many newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times reported a “bill passed by the lower house of Poland’s parliament”  would make it illegal to utter the phrase “Polish concentration camp” or to assign Poland culpability for Nazi crimes committed on its soil.  The Israeli government was Infuriated, as reported in Reuters, among other news outlets, and called the Polish law revisionary history. 

This is clearly a curious issue to follow.  In doing so Komar provided a link to A Platform for Polish Jewish Dialogue,” and a discussion about Polish history, including how the Nazi occupation of Poland may be characterized.  

Stefan Komar and I unfortunately did not directly discuss this new law or the Israeli reaction.  We did however put the topic in context from his point of view.  We began our visit when I asked him to discuss the characterization of these concentration camps.

The books Stefan Komar recommends are “Hollywood’s War with Poland, 1939-1945” by M.B.B. Biskupski; and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century,” by Paul Kengor.  

Click here to listen or on the media player below.

 

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Ellsberg, Daniel — The Pentagon Papers and The Post

“The Post” a movie released January 12, 2018, reveals the story of how the release of the “Pentagon Papers” created a fundamental challenge of the freedom of the press and alleged issues of national security.  Few moments in American history have held the tension of the Vietnam war, as was the case in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The national rupture caused by Nixon’s escalation of the war widened.  Young people and their parents, who saw no reason for the United States to be in Vietnam clashed with the so called “silent majority.”

Daniel Ellsberg, our guest in this 1997 archive edition of Radio Curious, copied what came to be known as the “Pentagon Papers,” in the fall of 1969, and released them in 1971.  Those top secret documents unequivocally demonstrated that four previous U.S. presidents had continued to fight and escalate the war in Vietnam, notwithstanding opinions from their many military leaders that the war could not be won.

The “Pentagon Papers” focused national attention on United States foreign policy and on our rights as individual citizens to freedom of the press.  When Daniel Ellsberg and I visited by phone in March, 1997, he began with a description of the context of the time, 1971,  when the “Pentagon Papers” became public.

The book Ellsberg recommended in 1997, when this interview was recorded, is “Our War,” by David Harris.

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Best, George — John Brown and Harper’s Ferry

Harper’s Ferry National Park is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in the easternmost corner of what is now West Virginia. This tiny national park, just over a square mile in size, is the location of the 1859 raid led by John Brown, a white abolitionist.  Outraged by the sustained existence of slavery in southern United States, Brown and his armed supporters snuck across the river at night attempting to take over of the government arsenal, arm the nearby enslaved people and foment a revolt.  Brown’s intended efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and resulted in his conviction for treason and death by hanging.  Nonetheless he foreshadowed the growing discontent of slavery that would lead to the civil war.

I joined Ranger George Best on October 12, 2017, for a tour and stories, which began at the 1848 now defunct armory amid background sounds of the rivers, railroads and other machinery  He begins with a description of the Foundry, Harper’s Ferry largest building.

The books George Best recommends are: “A Walker’s Guide to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia,” by Dave Gilbert, “The Strange Story of Harper’s Ferry” by Joseph Berry, and “Harpers Ferry Under Fire” by Dennis Fryer.  

Click here or on the media player below to listen.

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Lung, Robin– Finding Kukan: A Hidden Glimpse into Wartime China

An artifact of Chinese-American heritage in the form of a long-lost film and the Asian American woman responsible for this film’s creation is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious.

Our guest is documentary filmmaker Robin Lung, who made the film Finding Kukan. Finding Kukan tells the story of Li Ling-Ai, a Chinese-American woman who hired Rey Scott, an American photojournalist, to travel to China and capture the life of people in that war-torn country, including the massive bombing of the wartime capital. Their landmark film, Kukan, received one of the first Academy Awards for a feature documentary in 1942. Lung’s film, Finding Kukan, asks why we haven’t heard of Li Ling-Ai, and why all copies of her film Kukan seem to have disappeared.

This program was recorded on May 6, 2017, when she was in Southern California, right after Finding Kukan received the Audience Award at the 2017 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

You may listen to the full interview here.

The book which Robin Lung recommends is also a movie, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly.