Recently I was made aware of the existence of Friedrich Kellner. He was a man living in Nazi Germany who wrote an opposition to Mein Kampf, in secret for obvious reasons, and detailed the Nazi crimes he witnessed so that people would know about them in the future.
What Kellner did was to take extracts from the press, stick them in his book and comment on them at length from his own point of view.
Which is what the whole world does now on Twitter and on blogs. I guess Kellner was ahead of his time in more than one way.
There’s surprisingly little written about him considering how remarkable his story is. He very much put himself in the firing line.
In 1925, according to a biographical essay written by his grandson, Kellner received a copy of Adolf Hitler’s newly published Mein Kampf, along with the encouragement to “take a stand against its author.” Speaking at rallies, Kellner would hold up the copy of Hitler’s book and declare, “Gutenberg, your printing press has been violated by this evil book!” His public criticism of Nazism earned him unfriendly attention from the SA, but having lived through the trenches, he was accustomed to violence and not easily intimidated. – source
Eventually he was told he and his wife Paulina (who completely stood by him) would be sent to a concentration camp if they continued to criticize the Nazi regime. That didn’t stop Kellner though, he just continued to do it in secret. He wrote in his book,
“I could not fight the Nazis in the present, as they had the power to still my voice, so I decided to fight them in the future. I would give the coming generations a weapon against any resurgence of such evil.”
My list of Historical Figures Who Should Get Movies is incredibly long, but Kellner is very close to the top because his story has a LOT of reasonance today. And not just because he was basically a blogger.
I wish I could have met Friedrich Kellner. I think we would have gotten along.
One of my on-again off-again obsessions is Titanic history. At some point during my life I gained possession of a book called The Titanic: End of a Dream by Wynn Craig Jones. Where’d I get it? I have no idea. But it was one of the things (along with the 1997 movie) which unlocked my fascination with all things Titanic.
The thing I found most interesting about it was that it dealt with the impact the disaster had on American/British society. These were things I’d never thought much about before…this huge knock-on effect.
And one of the ripple effects of the Titanic sinking, if you’ll excuse the actually completely accidental pun, concerned women’s suffrage.
Women didn’t have the vote yet. That wouldn’t happen until 1918 for Britain and 1920 for America. And even then it wasn’t all women. To put it bluntly, it was a terrible time to be female…
…unless you were in one very specific scenario: on board an ocean liner about to sink with limited space on the lifeboats.
And this was a scenario no-one expected to suddenly have SO MUCH relevance. Shortly after the Titanic reached its last resting place, it became increasingly clear that “who gets lifeboats and why” was a question the suffragettes were gonna have to face head-on.
Obviously we in the modern day find this all a no-brainer in the realm of “Every adult gets a vote AND a lifeboat, dummies.” Not so in 1912. Suddenly, the male-run media had the perfect stick to beat those – what words would they have used given the chance? – those virtue-signalling woke vote-wanting libs with. According to End of a Dream, one Clark McAdams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch penned this jaunty taunt:
“Votes for women!” Was the cry Reaching upwards To the sky Crashing glass And flashing eye- “Votes for women!” Was the cry.
“Boats for women!” Was the cry. When the brave Were come to die. When the end Was drawing nigh “Boats for women!” Was the cry.
I would like to venture the opinion that Mr McAdams was not a very good poet.
…the men on the Titanic sacrificed themselves for the women and children. The women did not ask for the sacrifice but it was made. Those women who go about shrieking for their “rights” want something very different.
Ah, those pesky “rights.”
But as one could probably guess by looking at, well, any anti-woman movement over the past few decades, many women themselves were also thoroughly of the notion that the suffragettes should shut up and show some respect to the dead men at the bottom of the sea, even though it was the poor policies of other men rather than women that put them there. I suppose there was a smattering of “Don’t you make this tragedy political!” an utter failure of a concept since all tragedy is political.
A woman called Mrs John Martin – her actual name, as opposed to that of her husband, appears to be lost to history – of the League for the Civic Education of Women wrote that “we are willing to let men die for us, but not to vote for us.” Other women went further. The anti-suffragettes and First Lady Nellie Taft crowdfunded (one dollar each!) a statue to be erected to “male chivalry,” and it’s still around today as far as I know –
Suddenly attendence at suffragette rallies was down and equal voting rights were seemingly even further away. A suffragette named Lida Stokes Adams threw a little more fuel on the fire by suggesting that women aboard the Titanic “lost one of the greatest chances ever presented to aid the cause of suffrage when they didn’t assert themselves and prove they are as courageous as the men.”
Lida Stokes Adams probably wouldn’t have cared much that a century into the future some woman in her pyjamas was criticizing her via a magic box, (though she might have liked that I’m allowed to vote) but – jeez, Adams, victim-blaming much? Because there were many women who proved just that, take Ida Straus for the most famous example. Or Molly Brown, who helped row a lifeboat and urged the men to go back for more survivors. (Historians aren’t sure if she succeeded or not. She gets points for trying though.) But also there were undoubtably countless other women who were extremely courageous and their stories simply never got told. Because they were poor, third-class, and an afterthought.
Every so often there are arguments suggesting we should bring back the kind of chivalry found on the Titanic. Here’s one, for a start. (That’s the Atlantic, so it’s probably behind a paywall now, sorry.) But during 1912 there were of course many suffragettes who said simply, we would have preferred to stay with our husbands on the ship rather than get into a lifeboat and leave them. I do wonder how many of those statements were about honour rather than love.
But I also wonder about “women and children first.” The cutoff age for a “child” back then was much younger than it is now. It wasn’t eighteen, it was more around twelve or thirteen. Many boys of that age, despite being still children, were considered men and they were barred from the boats and died. Part of the anti-suffrage movement was all about promoting women as mothers above all. Yet they believed, apparently, that those mothers ought to be okay with having their sons ripped from them and left to die. What else could the endpoint of that rhetoric be?
Obviously, we know what happened, we know who won. I suppose the last word goes to famous suffragette Harriot Stanton Blatch, who upon being asked what women would have done had the positions been reversed, answered, “We should have laws requiring plenty of lifeboats.”
I’ve been on a bit of a Titanic kick recently. I screencapped the movie and I remembered how utterly sad and fascinating I find that story.
I know the film gets a lot of flack but the performances! God the performances are so good. Kate Winslet says so much with just her eyes, see shots 3 and 4 for example. Also Jonathan Hyde’s acting as J. Bruce Ismay is so very underrated. The scene where he escapes the ship, ahead of people who deserved it more… oh man. That’s one of my favourite parts of the movie.
Also how great is the fading transition which makes Jack and Rose into ghosts on the decaying ship?
But I think my favourite shot in Titanic is the first one in this set, of Jack and Cal and the unnamed father standing over the lifeboat. Jack and Cal never existed, but that guy – based on what he says to his daughters in that scene, he would appear to be Benjamin Hart. Who did very much exist, and died on the ship that night.
At first the people liked their new Queen-to-be, but the Royal Court was another story. A shark tank of grasping ambition, this crowd had promoted several Saxon Princesses for the match and called the Dauphine “The Austrian Woman”. She would come to be called far worse.
So there’s going to be a movie about the finding of Richard III, starring Steve Coogan. I’m curious as to how this will go, not least because it was actually a woman called Philippa Langley who lead the project, and her story is fascinating but the biggest name attached to the film is playing… her husband…?
But I thought with that news fresh in everyone’s minds I could share a few photos/details of what it was like to be in Leicester when all that was going on!
* A couple of days after the news that Richard III’s bones had been found in the car park, I went to check it out! There wasn’t much going on though. I guess because the actual bones had been taken away already?
That was in 2012. Flash forward a year and his reconstructed skull (not the real one) was in the Leicester Guildhall along with a bunch of other Richard III stuff.
It’s all been relocated to the Richard III museum now I think.
Then in 2015 there was the actual reburial ceremony…
I still have that pamphlet. At the uni it was absolutely packed, it’s lucky I was able to see anything at all. Oooh look I took a video as well!
So me/the crowds followed the coffin in the car back to the town center….
…and then I had to leave and go to work. But you get the idea!
In the days after that every business in Leicester was using Richard III to advertise their services. It was great for tourism.
Someone also put flowers on Richard’s statue. (This used to be in the park opposite my halls of residence, I think it was moved to its current spot before the reburial.)
And Richard III’s tomb now chills in Leicester Cathedral. You can drop in and see it anytime!
Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment which gave American women the right to vote, and while that’s certainly something to be celebrated, there’s a part of the suffragette movement that tends to be overlooked. I’m talking about the disenfranchisement of women of color by the movement and some of […]