Sunday, April 29, 2007

Taking a break for the wedding and honeymoon

Just wanted to let everyone know that this blog will not be updated on a regular basis until Monday, May 14 when I get back from getting married and my honeymoon. I will try to post a couple of times over the the next two weeks about our travels in the Outer Banks and Charleston.

Take care.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Book Review:William Foster, The English Factories in India, 1661-1669 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923).

The English Factories in India is published by Oxford’s Clarendon Press as a summation of the archival sources of the East India Company’s (EIC) factories in India beginning in 1618. The volumes that were edited before the advent of Sir William Foster are a collection of documents that print verbatim the original archival sources and lack an introductory essay to the material. Sir Foster’s work began with the year 1655 where he skillfully interweaves excerpts from the documents into his narrative in such a way that the account comes across more as a story, than that of dry bureaucratic documents. The volumes that are examined for the purpose of this précis are the years 1661 to 1669, which were pivotal years for the further development and growth of the EIC in India. During these years the English were able to obtain Bombay from the Portuguese as part of the marriage treaty between Charles II of England and Catharine of Braganza on 23 June 1661.

Each of the volumes deals with the individual factories at Surat, Bombay, the Malabar coast, Madras, Bengal, the Coromandel coast and others. Foster begins the 1661-1664 volume with the first English expedition to Bombay in order to carry out the transfer or Bombay from Portuguese to English hands in accord with the marriage treaty between these two nations. However, it was not until 1665 when the actual transfer of the city took place. Charles II instructed his representatives in the region in 1661 to allow the indigenous population of Bombay “to enjoy the exercise of their own religion without the least interruption or discountenance.”[1] However, the Portuguese in India “were very lukewarm in their patriotism, and were disposed to question the right of the Lisbon authorities to make over any part of their territory without their consent.”[2] The members of the expedition also criticized the “tyranny of the Jesuites” against the Hindu population, when the Hindu orphans were prohibited from being raised by members of their own family and instead “brought up in the Jesuites colledges, never suffering them to returne againe to their relations; which is a bondage very grievous to them.”[3]

Foster then turns his attention to the taking over of Bombay from the Crown to the EIC, the death of the great Sir George Oxenden, who served as the first governor in Bombay and the successes under Gerald’s Aungier’s tenure of Bombay. Besides looking at the political establishment in Bombay, the author also draws upon economics, culture and rivalries that existed within the company and the indigenous population. Finally, he concludes his examination with a review of the events at the factory on the Malabar coast.
Overall, this is an excellent synthesis of archival sources from the forty-eight factories that the EIC had in India over the course of the company’s history. Foster gives scholars an excellent starting point on what the actual records reveal, so that when the historian goes to the India Public Record Office in London, they will be able to better utilize their time in the archives more resourcefully. These editions of the records would also serve as an excellent way to introduce undergraduate majors to primary sources in the classroom, when such sources from the earlier eras are often lacking on the internet.
[1] Pg 128.
[2] 131.
[3] 144.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The art of procrastination

I have come to the conclusion that I have mastered the art of procrastination. It has taken me nearly twenty years to master this fine art. I have surfed the net, played with the dogs, exercised, went shopping and even cleaned the house in order to put off writing papers. Take this morning for example, I woke up at 6:30am when Andy got up for work. I turned on the morning news, checked my email, read the Toledo Blade online and got breakfast. After eating, I calculated discussion grades and read a couple of blogs. Now, I am writing on my blog and trying to decide to if I should shower, work on a paper and then go for a walk or shower and go for a walk.

I only have three papers to finish my work for the semester. Two of them I have started and need to finish. The third one is a ten page review on War and Peace that I have not started yet. Once I finish my papers, I have tons of exciting wedding stuff to do such as assemble centerpieces. I guess I should stop contemplating what I am going to do and just do it. However, Rachael Ray just came on and I am addicted to her show. Which should I chose: television or writing papers? That is the question of the day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Message to the Media: Leave the Hokies Alone

Now that classes are back in session after the tragic events at Virgina Tech, I would like to beg the media to please leave the campus and let the students deal with what has happened as a community. They are heading back to classes and need the time away from the glare of the media in order to focus on their studies and allow time for the grieving process.

It would also be nice if the media resisted giving anymore attention to the killer of this murderous rampage. By airing his video time and time again, the media is giving him the attention that he so craved. It would be better for the media to focus on the lives of the victims and not the killer.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Hokies, their families and friends. Peace.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Jewish Physicians in the Holocaust: Warsaw Ghetto & Auschwitz-Birkeneau

“The Holocaust is more than a Jewish tragedy. It is the human disaster of unprecedented proportion in the modern world” according to historian Rita Steinhardt Botwinick.[1] This human disaster that no one could have imagined ever happening resulted in the death of over six million Jews and other people. Although the Nazis tried to eliminate entire groups of people, many were able to survive through sheer will and determination. Numerous historians in the historiography of the Holocaust have discussed these stories of survival against all odds. One such group of survivors was the inmate doctors in the camps. This group of people had to not only survive themselves, but to help other survive the rampant abuse and disease that swept through the death camps and ghettoes.

These doctors “did everything in their power to help their fellow-prisoners and save them from death.”[2] However, little of the historiography has focused on the prisoner physicians that survived the extermination camps. It is important to examine these accounts in order to explain how inmate doctors tried to the save the lives of their fellow inmates and also tried to alleviate the suffering of those who were sent to sent off to cruel and inhumane deaths by the SS. Despite the horrible conditions in which the doctors lived, the three doctors, who will be examined, were able to save the lives of some of their patients through means of deception and mutual assistance. “Historians have begun to express interest in the phenomenon of social interaction and group cohesion during the Holocaust, posing questions whose answers provide us with a key to the missing dimension” according to historian Judith Taylor Baumel in her work entitled, Double Jepoardy: Gender and the Holocaust.[3] She argued that:

As historical research regarding these phenomena progressed, social
interaction began to be viewed as a source of strength, which permitted
adaptation and individual survival. In this context, historians categorized
socialization as an additional expression of the daily struggle to maintain
human dignity within a system based upon dehumanization of the

These women doctors formed pacts of mutual assistance in order to survive and the majority of members of the social group usually had the following in common: “similar schooling, family ties, and common general geographical origin.”[5] They worked in conjunction with their staff to not only save their own lives, but that of others as well, no matter what means they employed in order to carry this out. Robert Jay Lifton explains it best as to what physician inmates had to contend with:
For prisoner doctors to remain healers was profoundly heroic and equally
paradoxical: heroic in their combating the overwhelming Auschwitz
current of murder; paradoxical in having to depend upon those who had
abandoned healing for killing-the Nazi doctors. And before prisoner
doctors could be healers in Auschwitz, they had to succeed in the very
difficult task of surviving, mentally as well as physically.[6]

Before we delve into the survivor accounts it is necessary to provide some background information of who these women were.

The three Jewish physicians examined are: Adina Blady Szwajgier, Lucie Adelsberger and Gisella Perl. Adina Blady Szwajgier was born in 1917 and began working on her medical degree at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Warsaw in 1933. She married her husband Stefan shortly before the German invasion of Poland so that she would have Polish citizenship in order to get her medical license since her father was in Palestine. Szwajgier’s classes were terminated at the university as credited in September 1939.[7] After the invasion of Warsaw, she moved to Lvov in the Soviet zone of occupation to live with her husband and to enroll at Jan Kazimierz University in hopes of finishing her course work. She learned she was to be deported to a Soviet gulag by a neighbor so she returned to Warsaw in late December 1939 where she was immediately sent to the ghetto in Warsaw. Upon her arrival, Szwajgier applied and was accepted for a position at Warsaw Children’s Hospital branch within the Warsaw ghetto as a junior physician in the internal diseases ward.[8] Once the ghetto was to be liquidated in January 1943, Szwajgier was sent to live on the Aryan side to act as a courier for the ZOB for the remainder of the war.[9]

Lucie Adelsberger was born in 1895 and worked for twenty years as a doctor in Berlin with a specialty in immunology and allergies.[10] She was deported from Berlin to Auschwitz-Birkenau on May 17, 1943. Adelsberger was first assigned to the sick ward of the Gypsy camp until July 1944 and later assigned to the children housed in the women’s camp at Birkeneau where one of her many duties was to care for Dr. Joseph Mengele’s twins.[11] She was sent to Ravensbruck in January 1945 and was liberated from the camp by the Allies on May 2, 1945.[12]

Gisella Perl was a gynecologist from Maramaros Sziget, Hungary and arrived at Auschwitz-Birkeneau during the middle of 1944 after the Nazis had succeeded in taking over Hungary. She was separated from her husband and son at Auschwitz-Birkeneau and she never saw them again. In January of 1945 she was sent to a labor camp near Hamburg and then to Bergen-Belsen. The British liberated her on April 15, 1945.[13] The first accounts of Adelsberger and Perl are similar because they were both camp doctors at Auschwitz-Birkeneau while Szwajgier’s experience was different due to the fact that she was in the ghetto and was able to escape.

Adelsberger and Perl arrived at Auschwitz-Birkeneau via cattle cars on the train. Adelsberger was placed on a medical wagon among the cattle cars where she was confined for thirty-six hours of the trip. The conditions on the medical wagon were intolerable for everyone on the trains. According to Adelsberger:
The air in the tightly sealed boxcar, which hadn’t been opened since the
departure, is suffocating and pestilential, the ventilation through the
meager air holes so inadequate as to be unnoticeable. The pails of
excrement are filled to overflowing and down their sides and with every
jolt of the train they spill over and splash on the people nearby who can’t
get out of the way because of the crush. The perimeter of the car is a
barricade of baby carriages for we have many infants in our group. They
scream in their dirty diapers and refuse to be comforted because there’s
nothing to clean them with and nothing to drink. The milk their parents
brought along has soured in the bottle and our small supply of water gave
out a long time ago. Even the sick plead in vain for a drop to quench
their thirst.[14]

Once the inmates had arrived at the camp, selections were made as to who would live or die. Those who were over the age of sixteen and in good health were sent right: which meant they might have a chance to survive the death camps. Those who were sent left tended to be the old, children, the sick, and young mothers. Upon Gisella Perl’s arrival, Dr. Mengele ordered all “Jewish physicians [to] step out of the lines” in order to establish a hospital.[15] After the final selections were made, the women were moved to the “disinfection” area but chaos broke out because they thought that they were going to be killed. Screaming ensued and an SS man asked for a doctor, so Perl stepped forward, and he stood her up on a table, ordering her to “Tell these animals to keep quiet or I’ll have them all shot!”[16] Perl told the group:
Listen to me…Do not be afraid! This is only a disinfection center, nothing
will happen to you here. Afterwards we’ll be put to work, we’ll all remain
together, friends, sisters in our common fate. I am your doctor…I’ll stay
with you, always, to take care of you, to protect you…Please, calm down…[17]

Perl’s words calmed the crowd and the disinfection was carried out.
Those who were selected for life were then sent to the “disinfection” area. Disinfection was where the inmates were stripped of their clothing, heads shaved, and disinfected with so-called delousing agent. Adelsberger stated that this experience felt like “our past was cut off, erased, only our name reminded us of it, but that, too, was to disappear along with everything else connected with it” when their identities as a person were destroyed and became an inmate of Auschwitz-Birkenau.[18] Following the disinfection process, three of the women physicians, including Adelsberger were selected to provide medical care to the Gypsy camps at Birkenau. They were given cleaner uniforms and learned from the women helpers in the infirmary “about conditions in the camp…about our duties as physicians, about the food, [and] about the camp doctor.”[19] The camp doctor arrived and advised them “about the diseases rampant in the Gypsy camp, outlined our daily duties, and generously promised us the necessary instruments and pertinent technical literature.”[20] However, the promised necessary medical instruments and literature never appeared.

A typical inmate doctor’s duty in the so-called infirmary began at four in the morning the next day. The hospital barracks was just like all of the other barracks in the camp, meaning that “it was nothing more than an unconverted former horse stable [with] no windows and …scant light” according to Adelsberger.[21] The barracks was extremely cold in the winter with just a stove to heat the entire building. The beds consisted of “three-tiered wooden bunks with boards that didn’t fit and constantly shifted around in every direction.”[22] The focal point of every activity was the stove:[23]
people climbed over it with their dirty belongings whenever they wanted
to get from one side of the block to the other. Injections were given and
abcesses lanced; in unguarded moments the Gypsy aides practiced the
foxtrot or belly dance there, accompanied by the newest hit. We ate there,
“cooked” there, washed there with the little water we had-contaminated,
filthy brown water that stained everything yellow because of its iron

In addition to the horrible conditions in which the hospital barracks were in, “there was little treatment, often none at all, and here the diseases of the camp were assembled without precaution” argued historian Terrence Des Pres.[25]
The doctors at Auschwitz-Birkeneau began and ended each day with roll call, which could take several hours, regardless of the weather. An accurate count of those under their care had to be constantly kept, because if there were ever a discrepancy in the count, the doctors were beaten as punishment.[26] Due to this, the doctors had very little time left for treating their patients. “Medications were scarce-two camphor ampoules and one bottle of [heart stimulant] were to last approximately one week [along with] bolus” which was a white powder that was given to inmates for diarrhea and “sprinkled over inflammations of the skin.”[27] The busiest time for camp physicians was after dinner according to Perl.

There were bleeding heads to bandage, broken ribs to be taped, scratches
to be cleaned, burn wounds to be soothed. I worked and worked, knowing
only too well that it was hopeless, because tomorrow everything would begin
again, even the patients would probably be the same.[28]

There were ways of getting the needed medicines and supplies for the camp hospitals. One way to get needed medicines into the camp hospital was to smuggle it in from Canada. Canada as the prisoners called it was where all the possessions of people coming in on the trains were stored prior to being shipped to the Reich. Prisoners who worked in Canada and the factories “performed daily acts of sabotage and theft” in order to get the needed medicines in order to save as many lives as possible.[29] Drugs and medical supplies were also smuggled into the camps through contact with the resistance movement in Poland.[30]

Another factor that prisoner doctors had to contend with was abuse by the SS towards the prisoners. This abuse often led to serious injury and infection, especially if their whips tore bare skin, which was prone to infection. These injuries and infections had to be operated on by the doctors with little, if any medical equipment. Surgeries “were initially carried out …using a modest set of downright primitive instruments: a few surreptitiously acquired scalpels, pincers and clamps.[31] Perl describes how she performed surgery on “a young woman’s breast, cut open by whipping and subsequently infected. I had no instruments whatsoever, except a knife which I had to sharpen on a stone” and there was no anesthetic to be found.[32]

One infection which happened to nearly every inmate were skin infections. Perl came up with an interesting approach to treating the skin infections due to the lack of “drugs, medicines, salves, bandages and medical instruments.”[33] Her idea was “that margarine was the best medicine against all kinds of skin diseases.”[34] Some of the inmates believed her, while others were skeptical. However, “by some miracle, psychological rather than physiological, the sores healed, no new eruptions occurred and the value of margarine soared to an unbelievable light” on the black market.[35]

Doctors also resorted to deception in trying to save people from being sent to their deaths in the crematories. Lifton argues that “prisoner doctors used their connections with SS doctors to attempt every possible ploy to save people from selections.”[36]Conditions were misdiagnosed in order to save people. Examples of diseases were “sore throats, flu, and even pneumonia were permissible diseases which did not condemn the victim to immediate execution.”[37] Diseases such as malaria, skin diseases, and typhoid were all reasons for people to be sent to their deaths.[38] “Another tactic was called submerging: the prisoners singled out for extermination would be hidden, sometimes for months, in the tuberculosis and typhus wards, which were places of relative safety” due to the fact that the SS were afraid to come into contact with them.[39] Irena Strzelecka argues that:
The staff did all that they could to shelter seriously ill and exhausted
prisoners from the selections in the hospital-for instance, they placed
them in the top tier of bunks so that they would be less visible to SS
physicians. Some of the worst cases were temporarily discharged from the
hospitals when a selection was anticipated.[40]

Besides the few medications, the only thing the doctors had “…was to comfort and encourage” their patients.[41] However, this “didn’t make them any better: they still died like flies” according to Adelsberger.[42] Food was the second aspect that often consumed the lives of every inmate. An inmate’s daily rations consisted of the following: “…one pint of camp soup and half of a pound of bread with less than an ounce of margarine or sausage; at other times the daily regimen consisted of a quarter loaf of white bread and a pint of watery porridge.”[43]

In order to “forget the hunger and the horror of the inferno for a few hours,” the doctors discussed “various medical topics, about the body’s ability to ward off infections and the digestive processes during starvation.”[44] The doctors talked about the lives they had before the Nazis existed and what they would do if they survived the death camps. An example of this was when Perl talked her work, family “the things we used to do, the books we used to read, the music we listened to…”[45] Those conversations:
acted like a stimulant. They reminded us that although the odds were
all against us, it was still our duty to fight. We had no longer homes
to defend. All we had was our dignity, which was our home, our
pride, our only possession-and the moral strength to defend it with.[46]

The women doctors formed tight emotional bonds with their fellow doctors and inmates. These “family” groups “formed a small oasis in the swamp of misery and crime which was Auschwitz.”[47] These family groups “were the result of cooperative efforts that originated in the barracks” according to Nechama Tec’s Resilience and Courage Women, Men, and the Holocaust.[48]

The Nazis decreed “in some camps, women who were pregnant when they entered or who were accompanied by young children faced an automatic death sentence” according to Ringelheim in her article “The Split Between Gender and the Holocaust.”[49] Ringelheim continues: “For this reason, many secret abortions were performed by inmates themselves (or by Jewish doctors in the camps) in order to give female inmates an increased chance of survival.”[50] In regards to pregnant women in the camp, Adelsberger argued, “Medical ethics prescribe that if, during labor, the mother and child are in danger, priority must be given to saving the life of the mother…The child had to die so that life of the mother might be saved.”[51] Perl performed the abortions during the “dark nights, when everyone else was sleeping.”[52] She began with the:
Nine-month pregnancies, I accelerated the birth by rupture of membranes,
and usually within one or two days spontaneous birth took place without
further intervention. Or I produced dilatation with my fingers, inverted the
embryo and thus brought it to life. In the dark, always hurried, in the midst
of filth and dirt. After the child has been delivered, I quickly bandaged the
mother’s abdomen and sent her back to work.[53]

She then delivered women in their fifth through eighth month of pregnancy. Once the infants were born, the doctors would save up “all the poison we could find in the camp” and at times the infants “simply slept off otherwise lethal doses of poison, sometimes without any apparent damage.”[54] When the poison failed to work, the doctors would have to strangle the child and bury the “body under a mountain of corpses waiting to be cremated” as Perl had to do with an infant boy.[55]

Szwajgier’s experiences as a doctor in the Warsaw ghetto were slightly different than that of Adelsberger and Perl at Auschwitz-Birkeneau. However, the lack of supplies and deceiving the Nazis are clearly evident in her experiences in the ghetto. Szwajgier states that at the beginning of her experience at the Warsaw Children’s Hospital that:
There was happiness. But later, I delved into it all much deeper
and happiness was replaced by helplessness and only this thought
remained to the end: that we had our duty as human beings and that
we were there to help. That is why this medicine was “superhuman”
and why, although it is all like one great wound, it is the most beautiful
thing of all.[56]

Once the closing of the ghetto was near, the hospital had “…more and more flea-ridden, lice-infested, fungus-diseased children. More children emaciated from hunger with the eyes of adults; more and more tuberculosis.”[57] However, the first massive round of death didn’t occur until a few weeks later when the infants from the Foundlings Hospital were brought in.
The babies, emaciated with hunger, died of a “glutenal infection” which struck
them down one by one. No treatment or medication helped; nor did any special
nourishment or dressings of the trophic skin changes. They all died quickly,
practically without crying.”[58]

Soon afterwards, medical supplies and even food became scarce. This is clearly evident when Szwajgier discussed the death of Ariel, a young boy who died of TB: “But this time we no longer had to account for it. We already knew that there less and less we could do to save lives; that instead we were becoming, more and more, bestowers of quiet death.”[59]

A typical day at the hospital began with rounds of the various rooms, “rooms which were still white but of a whiteness which had become the pallor of death.”[60] As she entered each room, Adina observed:
…the distended, deformed bodies, at the expressionless faces, and with the
same horror, we read the ages of those ageless creatures: four, five, six, some-
times ten or tweleve. Cavernous eyes stared back at us, eyes so terribly serious
and so sad that they seemed to be expressing all the sorrows of two thousand
years of Diaspora. Hands lay montionless on the coverlets, children’s tiny
hands with bitten fingernails, tanned or pale, those same hands which only
a few months back a mother had lovingly kissed and caressed. Children’s
hands, always lively and joyful, now powerless and subdued.[61]

After rounds, Adina and her colleagues would decide which of the typhus patients would be “discharged or transferred from ‘suspected’ to ‘certain’ and the records of the typhoid ward were, after all, under German supervision.”[62] They sent the children home “so that they could die of hunger at home or come back, swollen, for the mercy of a quiet death” as there was never enough beds for all of the sick children.[63] Each working day became longer and more difficult. Shortages of food were rampant and the older children in the hospital “threw themselves at the soup pot, overturned it as they pushed the nurse away, then lapped up the spilt soup from the floor, tearing bitts of rotten swede away from each other.”[64]

Within in a few months, the hospital was relocated to an old school within the ghetto. “So there, in those enormous wards, on wooden bunks, on paper mattresses with no sheets, lay children covered with the same paper mattresses” according to Adina.[65] Buckets were used “…because there weren’t any bedpans or chamber pots and those children were suffering from the bloody diarrhoea of starvation” which “were overflowing and slopping all over the floor-and there was a terrible stench of blood, pus, and feces.”[66] Despite the desperate conditions in which the hospital was in, the staff “tried to save them with those scraps of food, medicines and injections and some of them got better” according to Adina.[67]

When the SS began clearing out the ghetto, some of the hospital staff decided to administer lethal doses of morphine to the patients so that they would not suffer from a horrible death at the hand of the Nazis. Adina along with her colleague, Dr. Margolis took a spoon and two large containers of morphine to the infants ward. Adina said:
And just as, during these two years of real work in the hospital, I had bent
down over the little beds, so now I poured this last medicine into those
tiny mouths. Only Dr. Margolis was with me. And downstairs, there was
screaming because the Szaulis and the Germans were already there, taking
the sick from the wards to the cattle trucks. After that we went in to the
older children and told them that this medicine was going to make their
pain disappear. They believed us and drank the required amount from the
glass. And then I told them to undress, get into bed and sleep. So they
lay down and after a few minutes-I don’t know how many-but the next
time I went into that room, they were asleep. And then I don’t know what
happened after that.[68]

After the children had been removed from the ghetto, Adina turned her attention to working in the adult hospital during the time of the uprising in the ghetto. She cut dead tissue away “with ordinary scissors and no anaesthetic” and amputations were done “on the bed without a table, even without gloves-we’d simply wash our hands.”[69] Once January of 1943 arrived, Adina was sent to live on the Aryan side to act as a courier for the ZOB for the remainder of the war.[70]

Living conditions in the camps and the ghettoes “produced sickness and epidemics including dysentery, typhus, and skin diseases of all kinds.”[71] Adelsberger, Perl and Szwajgier had to contend with the illnesses and epidemics in not only in caring for fellow inmates, but themselves as well. “Prisoner doctors had to [constantly contend] with… the Auschwitz medical reversal of healing and killing” according to Lifton.[72] These women were able to survive in part because of their profession, but also to save the lives of others by working together with their fellow colleagues and deceiving the SS. There are still many prisoner doctor survival accounts that are waiting to be unearthed. Further research is needed on this topic in order to have a better understanding of what doctors in the camps and ghettoes had to face. It is the hope that future historians will delve into this topic of which the surface of has barely been scratched.



Primary Sources

Lucie Adelsberger, Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Story (Boston: Northeastern University Press., 1995).

Gisella Perl, I was a doctor in Auschwitz, (New York: International Universities Press, 1948).

Adina Blady Szwajgier, I remember nothing more: the Warsaw Children’s Hospital and the Jewish Resistance translated from the Polish by Tasja Darowska and Danusia Stok (New York: Pantheon Books., 1988).

Secondary Sources

Elizabeth R. Baer & Myrna Goldberg, Ed., Experience and Expression Women, The Nazis and the Holocaust (Detroit: Wayne State University Press., 2003).

Yehuda Bauer, A History of the Holocaust (New York: Franklin Watts, 1982).

Judith Taylor Baumel, Double Jepoardy Gender and the Holocaust (London: Valentine Mitchell., 1998).

Rita Steinhardt Botwinick, A History of the Holocaust From Ideology to Annihilation Third Edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004).

Lucy S. Dawidovicz, The War against the Jews 1933-1945 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1975).

Saul Friedlander, Nazi Germany and the Jews (New York: Harper Perennial, 1997).

Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust A History of Jews of Europe during the Second World War (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston., 1985.

Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews third edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003).

Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1986).

Terrence Des Pres, The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976).

Michael Nevins, The Jewish Doctor A Narrative History (London: Jason Aronson Inc., 1984).

Irene Strzelecka, et al, Auschwitz 1940-1945 Central Issues in the History of the Camp Volume II (Auschwitz-Birkeneau State Museum, 2000).

Nechama Tec, Resilience and Courage Women, Men and the Holocaust (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003).

[1] Rita Steinhardt Botwinick, A History of the Holocaust From Ideology to Annihilation Third Edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004), xx.
[2] Irena Strzelecka, et al, Auschwitz 1940-1945 Central Issues in the History of the Camp Volume II (Auschwitz-Birkeneau State Museum, 2000), 296.
[3] Judith Taylor Baumel, Double Jeopardy: Gender and the Holocaust (London: Valentine Mitchell, 1998), 67-68.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., 73.
[6] Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1986), 214.
[7] Adina Blady Szwajgier, I remember nothing more: the Warsaw Children’s Hospital and the Jewish Resistance translated from the Polish by Tasja Darowska and Danusia Stok (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988), ix.
[8] Szwajgier, xi, 14, 19-20.
[9] Ibid., 73.
[10] Lucie Adelsberger, Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Story (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1995), xiv.
[11] Ibid., xvii.
[12] Ibid., 129.
[13] Gisella Perl, I was a doctor in Auschwitz, (New York: International Universities Press, 1948),13 & 129.
[14] Adelsberger., 22.
[15] Perl., 16.

[16] Perl, 29.
[17] Perl, 29.
[18] Adelsberger., 30.
[19] Adelsberger., 31-32.
[20] Adelsberger, 32.
[21] Adelsberger., 35-36.
[22] Ibid., 36.
[23] Ibid., 36-37.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Terrence Des Pres, The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), 93-94.
[26] Adelsberger., 39.
[27] Adelsberger., 39-40.
[28] Perl., 41.
[29] Des Pres., 107.
[30] Strzelecka., 298.
[31] Ibid., 319.
[32] Perl, 62.
[33] Perl, 69-70.
[34] Ibid., 69-70.
[35] Ibid., 70.
[36] Lifton., 222.
[37] Perl., 72.
[38] Ibid., 72.
[39] Des Pres, 120.
[40] Strzelecka, 321.
[41] Adelsberger., 40.
[42] Ibid.
[43] Ibid., 44.
[44] Ibid., 67.
[45] Perl 59
[46] Ibid., 60.
[47] Ibid., 91.
[48] Nechama Tec, Resilience and Courage (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 175.
[49] Elizabeth R. Baer & Myrna Goldenberg, Ed., Experience and Expression Women, The Nazis and the Holocaust, “The Split Between Gender and the Holocaust” by Ringleheim, (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2003), 48.
[50] Ibid.
[51] Adelsberger, 101.
[52] Perl, 81.
[53] Ibid., 81-82.
[54] Adelsberger., 101.
[55] Perl 83-84.
[56] Szwajgier., 22.
[57] Ibid., 28.
[58] Ibid., 29.
[59] Ibid., 30.
[60] Ibid., 31.
[61] Ibid., 31
[62] Ibid., 34.
[63] Ibid., 34
[64] Ibid., 39.
[65] Ibid., 42.
[66] Ibid., 42
[67] Ibid., 42
[68] Ibid., 56-57.
[69] Ibid., 62.
[70] Ibid., 73. After the war she worked as a pediatrician at the Warsaw Children’s Hospital.
[71] Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews Third Edition (New haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 976.
[72] Lifton, 216.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Honoring those who came before us: a brief look at the history of the American Irish

Honoring those who came before us: a brief look at the history of the American Irish
When most people think of Saint Patrick’s Day, they think of green beer, goofy hats, and drunken debauchery. For the majority of the American Irish, it is a day to honor the saint who brought Christianity to Ireland, and most importantly, a day to honor not only their own heritage, but that of their ancestors as well. The majority of Americans today can trace their ancestry back to an Irish ancestor who made the decision to leave everything they knew behind, for a chance at a better life in America. In the United States today, one in four Americans can trace their ancestry back to the shores of the Emerald Isle.

The Irish first arrived in America prior to the Revolutionary War. These early immigrants came to America mainly as indentured servants. They left their homeland due to the lack of opportunity, British oppression, and religious persecution, which was rampant throughout Ireland in order to make a better life for themselves. However, massive immigration to America did not occur until the 1840s, with the onset of An Gorta Mor, also known as the Great Starvation.[1] Between the years of 1845 and 1921, over four million Irish immigrated to the United States, bringing their Catholic faith and Celtic culture with them.

Once the Irish arrived in America, they had to face the Native American Party’s (Know Nothings) bigotry against them. The Know Nothing movement was a response to increasing number of immigrants coming into America to flee hunger, disease, and death in Ireland. They feared that increasing numbers of Irish immigrants would harm America economically and felt Catholicism threatened their Protestant nation. Of these three, “anti-Catholicism was the core of nativism from the 1830s through the 1850s.”[2] Many well-known individuals such as Reverend Lyman Beecher and Samuel F.B. Morse “believed in an international conspiracy, engineered by European despots, mainly the Hapsburgs, to use Catholicism as a wedge to destroy American liberal democracy.”[3] After nativists burned down an Ursuline convent in Massachusetts in 1834, “a wave of shootings, hangings, and burnings” were carried out against the Irish immigrants.[4] In order to understand this bigotry and hatred of the Irish, it is necessary to see what was being said about them. A journal entry from a wealthy Protestant, George Templeton Strong, states that the Irish are “brutal, base cruel, cowards and as insolent as base; they came from a land populated by creatures that crawl and eat dirt and poison every community they infest.”[5]

The Irish were able to persevere over nativist attacks and start a new life in America. Irish immigrants settled throughout the United States in both urban and rural areas. They worked in a variety of jobs, mainly in the unskilled work such as street cleaners, ditch diggers, longshoremen, day laborers, domestic service, and the needle trade. As the Irish learned jobs skills, they were able to climb up the social ladder by working as carpenters, iron workers, and many entered politics. It was the Irish, along with African Americans and the Chinese that built the base for urban industrial America.

The Irish were able to make it in America for a variety of reasons. The expanding economy provided the Irish with almost an unlimited number of jobs. Second, their ability to use the English language aided in job mobility. Third, Irish political machines helped in many areas such as patronage and social welfare. Fourth, the Irish had a strong family support system which facilitated them in working together to make a better life for the family. Finally, they were glad to be free of British oppression and would do anything to remain free.

The American Irish have played a vital role in shaping our history and culture. Nineteen Presidents of the United States have claimed Irish heritage. One-third to one-half of the American troops during the Revolutionary War and 9 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were American Irish. Irish Americans explored our frontiers, built many of this nation's bridges, canals, and railroads, and their proud record of public service helped to fortify the United States. President John F. Kennedy commented on the success of the American Irish shortly after his election as President of the United States, “to think my grandfather came here from Ireland with nothing more than the pack upon his back.”[6]

[1] Also known as the more commonly used Famine, but I disagree with the word famine as that would indicate that there were no available food sources in Ireland and that all agricultural crops had failed. However, the only crop that failed was the potato, which 90% of the Irish relied on as their main source of food. According to noted Irish studies scholar the An Gorta Mor was “a time period when Irish peasants starved in the midst of plenty. Wheat, oats, barley, butter, eggs, beef, and pork were exported from Ireland in large quantities during the so-called “famine” in Seamus Metress & Richard A. Rajner, The Great Starvation: An Irish Holocaust (available in Carlson Library, University of Toledo), xviii. An Gorta Mor is an Irish phrase that is used extensively throughout the field of Irish Studies and in the Republic of Ireland.
[2] Lawrence J. McCaffrey, The Irish Catholic Diaspora in America (USA: The Catholic University of America Press, 1997), 99.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid., 100.
[5] Kevin Kenny, The American Irish: A History (Great Britain: Pearson Education Limited, 2000), 117-118.
[6] Tim Pat Coogan, Wherever Green is Worn: The Story of the Irish Diaspora (London: Random House, 2000), 367-368.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Book Review on Henry Kamen's "The Spanish Inquisition"

Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997).

Henry Kamen is currently a Professor of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) in Barcelona. He has written numerous publications including Philip of Spain and The Spanish Inquisition.[1] The Spanish Inquisition has been published in at least three editions, each with a slightly different perspective that contributed greatly to the historiography on the Spanish Inquisition. The third edition was written for the general reader and provides an “updated synthesis of what we know about the most notorious tribunal of the western world.”[2] Kamen’s original argument “was that the Inquisition was a weapon of social welfare used mainly to obliterate the conversos--converted Jews—as a distinct class capable of offering social and economic competition to ‘Old Christians.”[3]
Kamen divides his work into fourteen chapters. The first chapter explains how there was toleration for the three different faiths in Spain prior to the era of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Society in general, tolerated non-Christians “and the policy of burning practiced elsewhere in Europe was little known in Spain.”[4] However, the success of the Reconquista changed all of that. The second chapter examines the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. Kamen argues that this “solved no problems and only aggravated an old one.”[5] The problem was the converted Jewish community which did not have much in common with the rest of Spanish society. The Inquisition was formally set up on September 27, 1480 at Medina del Campo “in accordance with the papal bull” that was issued to the Dominicans to take care of this so-called problem.[6] Jews who had converted before the expulsion were primarily the targets of the Inquisition. Many were executed who were deemed to be offensive towards God. Later on the Inquisition turned its attentions towards Spanish Christians who committed deviant sexual acts and witchcraft.
By the latter half of the seventeenth century only private auto de fes were being used by the Inquisition. Kamen argued that “there is no need to attribute this to the growth of tolerance [as] the simple reason was that heretics had been purged out of existence, so depriving the tribunal of combustible material for its fires.”[7] He concludes his work with an overview of the historiography of the Spanish Inquisition from the time of Prescott to current scholars in the field. Kamen concludes that “the inquisition, by its very nature, had been opposed to a tolerant society.”[8] Intolerance had existed in Spain prior to the Inquisition. It “created no new problems and merely intensified old ones.”[9]
Kamen used an extensive array of archival and secondary sources. His analysis of how intolerance has been rampant throughout Spanish history showed us the Inquisition was nothing new in history. It was just another way that governments sought to eliminate the undesirables in their communities. Today, hate and intolerance are still prevalent throughout the world and nations continue to have their own government sponsored attacks against minorities in their society. The Spanish Inquisition is just another page in the history of hate and intolerance that has existed since time began.
[2] xii
[3] Thomas F. Glick, “The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision by Henry Kamen” The American Historical Review, Vol. 104, No. 5. (Dec., 1999), 1773.
[4] Kamen, 7.
[5] 28
[6] 45
[7] 213
[8] 319
[9] Ibid.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virgina Tech Shooting

It is a sad day in this country when a gunman can walk into classrooms and dormitories and go on a shooting rampage. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victims who lost their lives and for those who were wounded.

I don't know why this happened. We may never know why. These acts of violence never make sense. This can happen anywhere at anytime.

More thoughts to come later on this tragic event.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Book Review: The Russian Empire and Its Rivals

Dominic Lieven, Empire: The Russian Empire and Its Rivals, New Haven, Conn.: Yale University, 2000

Dominic Lieven is a Professor of Russian Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He received his degree in history from Cambridge University in 1973 and has taught at both Tokyo University and Harvard as a visiting professor. His recent publications such as Russia and the Origins of the First World War (1983), Russia are Rulers under the Old Regime (1989) and his most recent work, Empire. The Russian Empire and Its Rivals (2000) focus on comparative history on both imperial and post-imperial Russia.[1] Lieven’s purpose in writing Empire. The Russian Empire and Its Rivals was to “put the history of Russia within its international context. The demands of international power politics and of membership of the European and then global system of great powers were of overwhelming importance in Russian history.”[2] Lieven’s thesis is that:

the autocratic and despotic state, with its formidable capacity to
mobilize resources despite ruling a poor society in a very difficult
geographical environment, was the essential element in Russia’s
emergence as a great European power. But the power was bought
at very high cost.[3]

Lieven “introduces [readers to] the concept of empire and explain[s] the international context in which the Russian state had to survive.”[4] He also examined the concept of empire evolved over time. He explains that there are two main schools of thought on what exactly an empire constitutes of during the twentieth century. The first school consists of historians such as Michael Doyle and believes that an empire is the following:

…takes its basis in the modern European maritime empires. It therefore
defines empire as the relationship between metropolitan core and colonial
periphery, usually viewed in terms of economic exploitation and cultural
aggression, and always in terms of political domination.[5]

The second school consists of historians Samuel Eisenstadt and Maurice Duverger “whose interests lie mainly in the great military and absolutist land empires, often linked to universalist religions, which existed from antiquity into the twentieth century.”[6]

He then introduces readers to the various concepts of an empire. He discusses how “the rise and fall of the Russian and Soviet empires was determined to a great extent by geopolitics, by the nature of the European (and later global) system of states, and by the strengths and weaknesses of Russia’s rivals.”[7] After defining what an empire is and its concepts, Lieven turns his attention to case studies on four empires: British, Ottoman, Austrian, and Russia. He outlines how “in the nineteenth century Britain was the world’s leading industrial power.”[8] Lieven described the Ottoman Empire as “becoming a backward periphery of Europe” and Austria as “a hybrid, in some respects modern and capitalist, in other a military, dynastic, land empire based on very traditional principles.”[9] The next four chapters are devoted to the Russian empire.

The first of which focuses on the regions, peoples and geopolitics of the Russian empire. He also explains “the significance of Russia’s peripheral position in Europe and the global economy” and various types of empires that bordered Russia.[10] Chapter seven explores the origins of how Russia became a national state and the influence of the political leadership by the Tsars “influenced the whole subsequent nature and development of the Russian Empire.”[11]The rise and fall of Tsarist Russia is analyzed in chapter eight while the ninth chapter compares Soviet Russia to Tsarist, British, Austrian and Ottoman empires, “the aim being to show both the imperial quality of the Soviet regime and its peculiarities when compared to other empires.”[12] The final chapter examines the collapse of the four empires previously mentioned during the twentieth century.

Lieven’s monograph is an excellent work on the concept of what an empire is and how it evolves over time. His analysis of how power comes in a variety of forms: military, political, economic, ideological, demography and geography provide readers various examples of how each of these contributes to the building and destruction of an empire, namely Russia. Lieven’s extensive notes and bibliography make available to readers an excellent and stimulating array of further investigation into the Russian and other empires that have existed throughout history. This work is highly recommended for readings in both undergraduate and graduate courses.

[2] Dominic Lieven, viii.
[3] Ibid., 418.
[4] Ibid., xiv.
[5] Ibid., 25.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., xv.
[8] Ibid., xvi.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid., xvii.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Rant about "When are you going to have children?" question

Many people over the past year have asked me when we are going to have children. It is getting to the point that it really irritates me. I am going to explain why having children will not be that easy for Andy and me. I have two health conditions that will make conceiving a child and staying pregnant very complicated. The health conditions or rather diseases that I have are Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Compound Heterozygous Mthfr A1298 mutations and Factor VIII clotting factors (blood clotting issues).

I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2003. It is an endocrinal disorder that is linked to Insulin Resistance (pre-diabetic). The Insulin Resistance causes my ovaries to produce testosterone instead of estrogen which leads to lack of ovulation, excessive hair growth, acne, depression, excessive weight gain, diabetes, and many other symptoms which vary from woman to woman, hence the syndrome definition part of the disease. I have a combination of the symptoms. If I can't ovulate on my own, I will have to use fertility drugs which then put my body at risk for ovarian cancer (which there is already an increased risk of due to having PCOS) and our health insurance will not cover so its very expensive.

My clotting factors will make it difficult to carry a pregnancy to full-term once I have conceived. In order to maintain a pregnancy, I will have to give myself injections of heparin in the stomach so that I reduce the risk of miscarriage. The heparin should be covered by insurance. However, even with the heparin there is no guarantee that I will be able to get pregnant. It it happens, it happens. I just wish people would stop asking me because the added pressure to reproduce does not help me. I want a family more than anything, but that may or may not happen due to the above factors.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Collins & Lenin: Comparing two revolutionary leaders:

There have been numerous revolutionaries that can be found in the annals of history. Two revolutionaries particularly stand out from the twentieth century: Michael Collins and Vladimir Lenin. These two revolutionaries inspired future revolutionaries such as Mao Zedong, and Yitzhak Shamir. Michael Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader who obtained freedom for twenty-six of Ireland’s thirty-two counties from British tyranny. Vladimir Lenin was a Russian revolutionary, who founded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Although from different backgrounds, political ideologies, and goals, Michael Collins and Vladimir Lenin employed somewhat similar political tactics in how they handled rivals, revolutionary structures, and leadership qualities. They were also very lucky in the fate department; in other words, they were able to attain much against the incredible odds that were against them.

The first comparative aspect of both Collins and Lenin that will be discussed is how they handled political rivals. Both Collins and Lenin had to handle splits within their own revolutionary groups. Collin’s group split over the treaty while Lenin’s group split over who should lead the revolution. Both men displayed impatience with their groups over the split. An example of this for Lenin comes from historians George Katkov and Harold Shukman whom argued that “ after 1903 Lenin’s impatience with the opinions of others and the vehemence of his expression led him into a succession of quarrels, temporary agreements, and violent outbreaks with close collaborators.”[1] For Collins, his impatience with the anti-treaty members and their threat of a civil war can be clearly seen in this ultimatum, “it should be made quite clear that the Provisional Government are determined to stand by the Treaty”, in other words Collins was going to stand by the treaty, regardless of the threat of a civil war in Ireland. [2]

The second comparative aspect of Collins and Lenin is revolutionary structures. Both Collins and Lenin limited the membership in their respective revolutionary organizations. Michael Collins organized the IRB and the IRA on the basis of cells, where only cell leaders would know who the members were.[3] Lenin’s political movement was “to consist of a small, highly compact, disciplined band of professional revolutionaries acting the name of the Russian workers but maintaining maximum security against the inroads either of the police or of the initiative of the workers.”[4]

The final comparative aspect of Collins and Lenin is leadership qualities. Both of the men had brilliant minds for revolutionary activity. They both shared incredible problem-solving skills in working with complex problems.[5] Another quality they shared was kindness toward others, especially the sick and the elderly. During his short time in the Kremlin, Lenin would give away his extra shares of food to children and those who were in hospitals.[6] Collins often called on the families of his men to comfort the mothers and children of his men who had been injured in fighting the British during the war.[7]

Overall, these two men made important contributions to their countries and the world at large. Some of which, were both positive and negative. Although they came from different backgrounds and fought against different oppressors, they were able to free their countries from the tyrannical rule of the British and the Romanov Tsars. Their actions are still debated in their countries, and continue to engage the world in conversation and debate.

[1] Katkov & Shukman, Lenin’s Path to Power, 33.
[2] Michael Hopkinson, Green Against Green: The Irish Civil War, 99.
[3] Coogan, Ireland in the Twentieth Century, 63.
[4] Katkov & Shukman, 30.
[5] Ulick O’Connor, Michael Collins: The Troubles, 137 & Nikolai Valentinov, 36.
[6] Ulam, 416.
[7] Coogan, Micahel Collins, 139.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Vladimir Lenin and the Promise of Communism

Vladimir Lenin was born as Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov on April 22, 1870 in Simbirsk, Russia to Ilya and Maria Ulyanov. He was second son of six children, all of whom seemed to have had a happy childhood. Lenin stated, “we lived in easy circumstances…we did not know hunger or cold; we were surrounded by all sorts of cultural opportunities and stimuli, books, music, and diversions.”[1] Lenin was also an excellent student who achieved high marks in all of his classes, especially in Latin, history, geography, and literature.[2] This was in part to his “fine memory and the intense and for a child exceptional, attention with which he listened to the explanations of his teachers.”[3] Between the years of 1870 and 1881 there was little conversation “concerning political and social topics” were discussed in front of Lenin as a child.

However, two events in Lenin’s life would spark a change in Lenin and what he studied: the deaths of his father Ilya, and his brother Alexander during the mid-1880s. His brother’s death seemed to hit Lenin the hardest. Alexander was a university student in the Russian capital of Saint Petersburg when he became involved in a plot to assassinate Tsar Alexander III. He was tried and executed for his role in the assassination plot in 1887. According to historian Nikolai Valentinov, it was the death of his brother which was “the key to understanding how Lenin became a revolutionary.”[4] The entire Ulyanov family began to hate Russia’s autocratic government with a passion. They held the Tsar responsible for the execution of Alexander. That summer the family left Simbirsk for Kazan in 1887 where Lenin was to become a student at the local university that fall.

During that summer, Lenin took to reading the works of various Russian revolutionaries that influenced his brother, especially the work of Chernyshevski’s What Is to Be Done?[5] While at the University of Kazan, Lenin became involved in a student demonstration and was expelled from the university. He was also barred from attending other universities in Russia as well. Eventually, Saint Petersburg University allowed him to take his final examinations in law as an external student. After passing his exams, Lenin gained employment as a lawyer’s assistant in Samara and later moved to St. Petersburg in 1893.

Lenin’s arrival in St. Petersburg put him in direct contact with the various revolutionary circles in the Russian capital. He also “…became permanently occupied with reading Russian revolutionary literature of all kinds including [Karl Marx].”[6] By 1894 Lenin had given up his job as a lawyer’s assistant and “devoted himself wholly to publicising his views in Marxist journals and to acquiring a reputation as one of the most forceful debaters in that milieu.”[7] He also visited émigré leaders in exile such as George Plekhanov and Paul Axelrod in Switzerland in order to acquire their support for a new venture in publishing called Iskra, which they gave fulheartedly. Lenin’s involvement in revolutionary circles drew the attention of the police, especially his friendship with Julius Martov. The two were arrested in December of 1895 and sent to Siberia for three years as punishment.[8]

During his exile in Siberia, Lenin married Nadezhda Krupskaya, a socialist activist in July 1898. Lenin kept busy during his exile in Siberia. He worked on a manuscript which was to be a “Marxist interpretation of the economic situation in Russia.”[9] He also translated The Theory and Practice of Trade Unionism by Sidney and Beatrice Webb.[10] His exile ended in 1900, which allowed Lenin to travel the European continent and to work on his newspaper, Iskra under various aliases. After traveling the European continent, Lenin returned to Russia to sow the seeds of his revolution. He became active in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party and unveiled his revolutionary system in a pamphlet entitled, What is to be done?[11] Lenin believed "that autonomous working-class action could never transcend the
barrier of ‘trade-union’ consciousness, that the workers were not
capable by themselves of thinking politically, that their world-
view was circumscribed by the categories of capitalist relation-
ships."[12] However, not everyone in the Social Democrat party agreed with Lenin’s revolutionary strategy. A split occurred in the party into Mensheviks and Bolsheviks during the Second Congress. The Mensheviks believed that political power should be concentrated in the hands of the workers while the Bolsheviks under Lenin’s leadership believed that power should be concentrated in the hands of a revolutionary vanguard. “A campaign of violent self-justification” against the Mensheviks was launched by Lenin and consumed him throughout 1904.[13] Following the split, Lenin had to rebuild his organization. He had to set up another newspaper since Iskra was controlled by the Mensheviks in order “to vie with his opponents for the attention and allegiance of the party workers in Russia.”[14] Lenin’s “major advantage over the [Mensheviks was that] his whole approach was based on offensive strategy.”[15]

However, Lenin had to leave Russia for Finland in 1907 due to security concerns, so he had to continue his offensive abroad. He continued to travel the continent, participating in many socialist meetings such as the Prague Party Conference of 1912 and the Zimmerwald Conference of 1915. Many of the socialist groups in Europe supported their countries when World War I began in 1914, much to Lenin’s dismay. Lenin viewed the war “as fertile soil for revolution.”[16] The war went badly for Russia and the Tsar, Nicholas II was overthrown in February/March 1917. However, the Provisional Government kept Russia in the war, which did not have the majority of support among the Russian people. This fact left the door wide open for Lenin to come back to Russia.

The German government wanted Russia out of the war, so they made contact with Lenin in Switzerland. Lenin agreed to return to Russia and was placed on a sealed train along with his fellow Bolshevik supporters. He arrived in Petrograd in 1917 and became the leader of the Bolshevik movement with his publication of the April Theses, which called for all out opposition to the Provisional Government. But this move on Lenin’s part left many Bolsheviks cold. Finally, Lenin’s moment arrived in October 1917 when the Bolsheviks took power from the Provisional Government.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks promised, “bread, peace, land” for the people of Russia. Lenin’s first order of business was to get Russia out of the war. The Bolsheviks began negotiating with Germany at Brest-Litovsk on December 9, 1917. The Germans laid down the conditions for the treaty, but Russia did not want to lose any territory. However, Lenin faced a difficult choice: agree to German demands or face fighting with Germany again. Lenin knew that the Russian army could not take much more, so he decided that there should be peace at any cost. Lenin’s colleagues wanted to withdraw from the negotiations, but Lenin argued that:
One does not joke with war. If you want a revolutionary war, you
must stop demobilization. Otherwise you sign whatever peace is
thrust in front of you.[17]
The Treaty of Brest-Litvosk was signed in March of 1918. The final terms were harsh; Russia had lost its most of its western territory, the most fertile soil and populous area of Russia.

After the treaty was signed, elections were held in Russia to elect a permanent government. The election was held, but the Constituent Assembly was only allowed to meet once, before being shut down by the Bolsheviks. They organized a new assembly, the Congress of Soviets and gave themselves ninety percent of the seats. Lenin ordered that all opposition groups to be shut down and members of those parties were either jailed or shot. This did not sit well with many Russian people.

One Russian citizen, Fanya Kaplan shot Lenin twice; once in the shoulder and once in the lung on August 30, 1918. Lenin recovered from his wounds, but his health was never the same again. The Bolsheviks, now renamed the Communists instituted the “Red Terror” in order to eliminate these so-called enemies of the state. Thousands were either executed or put into prison camps. During this time, a civil war was rampant throughout Russia.

The civil war began in 1918 with two groups fighting one another: the Reds and the Whites. The Reds wanted to maintain the Communist government in power while the Whites wanted to overthrow it. Foreign powers such as Britain, France, Japan, and the United States intervened with troops on the side of the Whites. Lenin was quietly confident about war itself. He knew “the weaknesses, [both] material and psychological of the enemies of Communism.”[18] However, the Red Army under the command of Leon Trotsky was able to defeat them and end the war by 1920.

Lenin also had dreams of spreading the revolution across the world after defeating the Whites in the civil war. He waged a war with Poland, but Communism was not spread throughout Europe however. The Russian people were weary of war and their country was in ruins. Following the Kronstadt uprising of sailors in 1921, Lenin knew he had to shift his focus from world revolution to getting Russia back on its feet. He implemented the New Economic Policy (NEP) in order to rebuild Russia’s infrastructure. But he would not live to see the fruits of his labor.

Vladimir Lenin had been in poor health since the attempt on his life back in 1918. After a series to strokes, Lenin died on January 21, 1924. But the question was, who was to succeed Lenin? A struggle for power ensured and Joseph Stalin was the victor and the new leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.


Michael Collins, The Path to Freedom (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1996).

Tim Pat Coogan, Michael Collins, (London: Arrow Books, 1990).

Gabriel Doherty & Dermot Keogh, Ed., Michael Collins and the making of the Irish State, (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1998).

V.I. Lenin, Lenin’s Collected Works Volume 22,, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964).

________, The right of nations to self-determination: selected writings, (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1977).

Ulick O’Conor, Michael Collins: The Troubles, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1975).

Alexander Rabinowitch, The Bolsheviks come to power: the revolution of 1917 in Petrograd, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1976).

Leonard Schapiro & Peter Reddaway, Ed., Lenin: the man, the theorist, the leader: a reappraisal, (New York: F.A. Praeger, 1967).

Robert Service, Lenin, a political life, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985).

Harold Shukman, Lenin and the Russian Revolution, (New York: Putnam, 1967).

Rolf H. W. Theen, Lenin: genesis and development of a revolutionary, (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1973).

Adam Bruno Ulam, Lenin and the Bolsheviks: the intellectual and political history of the triumph of Communism in Russia, (London: Secker & Warburg, 1966).

N. Valentinov, The early years of Lenin, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1969).

[1] Nikolai Valentinov, The Early Years of Lenin, (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1969), 26.
[2] Ibid., 32.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid., 79.
[5] Ibid., 126.
[6] George Katkov & Harold Shukman, Lenin’s Path to Power: Bolshevism and the Destiny of Russia, (New York: American Heritage Press, 1971), 23.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid., 27.
[9] Ibid. The manuscript was entitled, The Development of Capitalism
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid., 30.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Harold Shukman, Lenin and the Russian Revolution, (Westport Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977), 90.
[14] Ibid., 91-92.
[16] Katkov & Shukman, Lenin’s Path to Power, 41.
[17] Adam Bruno Ulam, Lenin & the Bolsheviks: The Intellectual and Political History of the Triumph of Communism in Russia, (London: Secke & Warburg, 1965), 401.
[18] Ibid., 434.
[19] Katkov & Shukman, Lenin’s Path to Power, 33.
[20] Michael Hopkinson, Green Against Green: The Irish Civil War, 99.
[21] Coogan, Ireland in the Twentieth Century, 63.
[22] Katkov & Shukman, 30.
[23] Ulick O’Connor, Michael Collins: The Troubles, 137 & Nikolai Valentinov, 36.
[24] Ulam, 416.
[25] Coogan, Micahel Collins, 139.