When I was researching Fritz Kuhn and the German-American Bund for Fire Answers Fire, I spent a lot of time getting lost in back issues of The New York Times from the 1930s, where the Bund and its camps and marchs and meetings would often be mentioned on the front page, but I did not expect to see them making a reappearance on page A1 in late 2015.
The article this morning entitled “In Long Island Hamlet, Home Buyers’ Rule Is a Relic of Its Nazi Past” is about a community in Yaphank on eastern Long Island — on the grounds of the old Camp Siegfried — where owners of homes do not own their lots and “The original owners of this tract of land kept a clause in its bylaws requiring the homeowners to be primarily ‘of German extraction.’ That has kept this community of 45 families almost entirely white.” In October of 2015.
While it does not appear that there are parades with brownshirts and swastikas or street signs with “Adolf Hitler Straße” in the current Yaphank settlement, it’s amazing that the Times piece does include a photo of a large current sign at the entrance to the neighborhood that reads “German American Settlement League – Private Community – Members & Guests Only.” That is the exact same organization name that was being used in 1938 when the following film about Camp Siegfried was made by British Pathé:
Last month I suggested a soundtrack for Chapter 2. Today, May 6, 2014 is the 77th anniversary of the burning of the Hindenburg over Lakehurst, New Jersey, so here’s a musical suggestion for Chapter 9 of Fire Answers Fire, “Under the Falling Sky,” the section of the novel during which that key event takes place.
This video is a live performance of Steve Reich’s Hindenburg, Act I from Three Tales:
This amateur video of a live performance in Novosibirsk jumps from the screen showing Beryl Korot’s video to the small orchestra to the Russian audience, but it may drive some of you to check out the 2003 CD/DVD version for the clean audio and video of this Hindenburg section of Three Tales as well as Acts II and III, Bikini (the atoll) and Dolly (the cloned sheep).
(Oh, and if you’re reading this on May 6, check out the Coupon tab up above for a special Hindenburg-day $0.99 coupon.)
As Helen Cobbett speaks emotionally about her grandfather surrounded by abstract paintings on the white walls of her gallery at the end of the second chapter of Fire Answers Fire, the piano coming through the high-quality speakers in the ceiling is being played by Keith Jarrett, specifically this 38-minute solo improvisation, which is called simply “October 17, 1988” on the track listing of his Paris ConcertCD:
There are few, if any, 20th-century paintings more essential than Pablo Picasso’s Guernica.
So I was glad to see on Artnet news today that there will be a major motion picture about the painting next year, 33 díasstarring Antonio Banderas as Picasso and Gwyneth Paltrow as Dora Maar. Whether the film turns out to be good or bad, it will raise the profile of the artist and his painting among some who don’t yet know this masterpiece. In the meantime, the Luftwaffe bombing of that defenseless Basque city on April 26, 1937 and Picasso’s massive canvas inspired by that outrage, which he began painting just days later, both play important roles in Fire Answers Fire (chapters 9-11), which will be publishing everywhere in just two weeks on May 1 (readers of this blog can order it at half price with this pre-publication coupon until May 5).
As background for the movie and the novel, here’s a video of Simon Schama (from the BBC Power of Art series) talking about the bombing of Guernica and the painting of Guernica in a ten-minute video:
The fourth chapter of Fire Answers Fire, ‘Raggedy and Improvisational,’ begins with an appropriate quotation I found in a 1993 New York Times interview:
Some things are not justifiable and not logical. Lots of inappropriate things and things regretted later get said and done. That is partly a self-criticism and partly an explanation. These kinds of movements are very human.
— Bernadine Dohrn
For those readers who aren’t old enough to remember this glamorous leader of the Students for Democratic Society and the Weather Underground, or who need a quick reminder about her prominent place in the popular American consciousness in the late 1960s and early 1970s, here she is being introduced (or reintroduced) by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News on October 6-8, 1970.
Here’s video of another key event inFire Answers Fire, the “Free America” German-American Bund rally attended by over 20,000 in Madison Square Garden on Washington’s Birthday in 1939. The rally plays a key role in Chapter 3, “Your True Motives.” This one-minute video also gives you a clear glimpse of Fritz Kuhn, who exists as a key fictional character in later chapters. The man who approaches Kuhn on the stage before being tackled and beaten by both the Nazi brownshirts and NYPD officers was Isidore Greenbaum, a 26-year-old hotel worker. The main organized group protesting outside Madison Square Garden was the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, but it’s only coincidental that chapter 3 begins with a quote from Trotsky himself.
“A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to be justified.” –Leon Trotsky, “Their Morals and Ours” (1938)
If you can stand reading any of the speeches delivered by Fritz Kuhn and his fellow Nazis from the stage at Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1939, they’re all available here in this pdf file. Fire Answers Fire will be available everywhere on May 1 and can currently be pre-ordered at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and at the iTunes store.
Here’s footage from May 6, 1937, an event that plays a large role in Fire Answers Fire, a novel that will be available in a wide variety of ebook outlets on May 1, 2014 and is available for preorder now.