A Final Word on the Final Solution

This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman by Tadeusz Borowski is a graphic but extremely informative account of what went on inside one of the Holocaust’s most well-known death camps, Auschwitz. Borowski, who spent time in the abominable place himself, uses a first-person narrative to capture the horror of life (what little there was) in a death factory. The book does not mince words. It actually opens with the story of a Nazi SS man nonchalantly flinging a naked Jewish girl into a flaming pit, right after he declares that she is startlingly beautiful. The book’s narrator focuses mainly on surviving, but upon rare occasion he does admit that the steady flow of Jews to the gas chambers and ovens both astonishes and sickens him. He describes the road to the gas chambers as never untraveled, but always occupied by a steady stream of people – most of them utterly oblivious to their final destination. And it is no wonder: at that time, Auschwitz was executing over 1,000 people a day.

Material on the Holocaust is not, however, entirely devoid of a bright side. The film Schindler’s List, produced by Steven Spielberg, recounts the amazing story of Oskar Schindler and his amazing efforts to save as many Jews as possible. The film begins in color but quickly fades to black and white, symbolic of the Holocaust’s bleak time period. Schindler, a shrewd businessman, acquires an abandoned enamelware factory from a bankruptcy auction and returns it to working condition, quickly filling it with cheap, Jewish laborers. After witnessing a 1943 raid on a Krakow ghetto, however, his feelings toward the extermination of the Jews changes from disinterested annoyance to moral outrage. Though himself a member of the Nazi party, Schindler uses his abundant financial resources and societal influence to help the victims of the Holocaust rather than harm them. His factory quickly becomes a safe haven for the persecuted. No worker is beaten, tortured, or killed by guards. Workers are even allowed to observe the Jewish Sabbath. (Spielberg) None of this tolerance toward Jews would have been allowed by the Richt, of course, had Oskar Schindler not been so well-loved by his peers. For example, he was arrested for kissing a Jewish girl who brought him a gift on his birthday but his friends (fellow members of the Nazi party) actually plead for his release. By the time the war ended, Schindler had managed to save the lives of 1,200 Jews, and in his opinion, that was far less than enough. Even though he was completely destitute due to the lack of productivity in his factory and the massive amount of money he used for bribery, Schindler undoubtedly died with a quiet conscious. (Spielberg)

In “Escape from Belzec: Saved by a Pair of Heels,” Hanna Cohen escapes death at the hands of her captors more times than most would even think possible. Her first escape takes place after the liquidation of the neighborhood in which she lived. She asks an old German (clearly not a Nazi SS man) to help her, and though he cannot, he gives her a hug and tells her that he believes that she will “survive the war.” In the confusion before boarding the boxcars, he hands her one of her shoes that has fallen off. It is that shoe that Hanna Cohen uses to beat the grate out of the boxcar window. She then wiggles out of the small opening despite the fact that the train is moving and the other captives are positive that she will fall to her death. Miraculously, she survives, and then takes to the countryside where she encounters a Polish farmer. Cohen, being a Jew, does not find it easy to trust a Pole, but she has little choice in the matter. He asks her for what destination her train was bound, and when she tells him Belzec he calls her escape a miracle, as Belzec was a death camp. Cohen would escape certain death twice more before finally being liberated and allowed to return to her hometown of Lublin. Her home, of course, was merely rubble. Her father had died in a concentration camp and her brother had been shot to death on the street by an SS man. Hanna Cohen married and gave birth to one child, a daughter, before dying of old age in 1943. After many years Hanna finally told her daughter of a few of her tribulations and miracles during the Holocaust, and it is through the preservation efforts of Julia Cohen that her mother’s experiences survive today. (Cohen)

Lastly, the outstanding survivor story of Henry Greenbaum exemplifies the possibility of life after so many brushes with death. Though Greenbaum’s story begins when he was young, he was not blind to what was happening. Though not Jewish, Greenbaum grew up playing with Jewish children and even went to a Jewish grammar school. He was only 11 years old when Germany invaded Poland on September first of 1939. He and his family were herded into a ghetto where they only survived because Greenbaum’s father’s skills as a tailor were considered valuable to the Nazi SS men. The Greenbaum family was, however, in no way privy to special treatment just because they were not Jewish; they still had to kowtow to the Nazis in many ways, such as getting off of the sidewalk when officers passed by. Greenbaum and his eight siblings went to work in the factories and for two years avoided being killed. In 1942, he found himself in a labor camp, where he stayed for another two years. Conditions, of course, were deplorable. He slept on bunk with no mattress when he slept at all. He survived typhoid and had lice but was never given any access to soap. In the labor camp, the name of the game was staying as healthy as possible so that the killing unit would not select him to join the mounds of corpses rotting in the deep trenches surrounding the camp. Another year later, he was transported again, this time to a satellite camp of Auschwitz. A number was tattooed on his skin and his was finally allowed to shower. Still considered an able bodied worker, he was given to the owner of a German factory – free labor. It was one day, while bagging the clothes of people who had been murdered, that he heard artillery outside. The Russians had come to overthrow Germany. After a two-month death march during which he and nearly a hundred others were only given straw to eat, they encountered a tank and the SS men guarding them fled in to the woods. The American who then popped out of the tank was described by Greenbaum to be “as beautiful as an angel as he told us we were free.” Greenbaum later moved to America, putting his experiences behind him in favor of starting a better life. (Greenbaum)

The Holocaust was a tragedy that cannot, or certainly should not, be denied or forgotten by the world. Holocaust deniers do, shockingly, exist. In fact, it is a topic that is not even broached in German schools. With an attitude like that, no lesson can ever be learned, and it seems that those six million dead find no justice even in their grave.

Who doesn’t love a tall blond?

Tall Blonds

 

Specific purpose: Today you will learn everything you ever wanted to know and more about the Camelopardalis Reticulata, also known as the giraffe.

 

Introduction

  1. Thesis statement: Throughout history people have wondered if God sneezed whilst building a camel or if He actually meant to create a creature as majestically awkward as the giraffe.

    A. In ancient times, the Greek actually thought that giraffes were the product of a romantic tryst between a camel and a leopard, hence its species name: Camelopardalis.

Body

  1. Giraffes may seem incredibly disproportionate, but they are actually designed perfectly for their lifestyle

A. You are not likely to go on safari and see a giraffe grazing alongside the zebras and water buffalo; giraffes use their height to pick leaves right off the trees

1. They utilize their extraordinarily long tongues to strip away leaves one branch at a time

B. Their long legs make them a next-to-impossible dinner feature, even for Africa’s top carnivores

C. The only time the giraffe is truly vulnerable is when it is lying down or drinking, which doesn’t happen often

  1. Just a few stats on the giraffe

    A. It could be argued that no member of the animal kingdom sports a more unique and impressive physique than the giraffe

    B. Adult giraffes can easily be anywhere from fifteen to twenty feet tall; females are shorter than males, but even a short giraffe is not really very short

    C. At an average of five feet, the giraffe has the longest tail of any mammal

    D. Their tongues are purple in pigmentation and are usually around eighteen inches long

  2. What’s in a neck?

    A. Something that may surprise you is that their necks contain just seven vertebrae, the same amount found in your neck and mine

    B. Male giraffes fight using their necks, be it a battle for food sources or for ladies

    1. The fights, however, never grow too violent; they end when one male gets bored and walks away.

  3. Baby giraffes

    A.

Conclusion

  1. Are giraffes endangered?

    A. In 1999 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimated the giraffe population at upwards of 140,000.

    B. It has declined by about 60,000 in the last ten years due to a mixture of poaching, increased human population, and the degradation of habitat

  2. Giraffes are not likely to disappear any time soon

    A. Giraffes are hardy animals; in the wild they can live as long as twenty-five years and in captivity, even longer

    B. Breeding programs in zoos all over the world are well enough established that the giraffe will be around for a long time to come

A deadly deliverance.

The mountains of Appalachia have always been a source of mystery and enchantment for those who have taken the time to get to know them. They are the alleged haunt of many a distinguished ghost as well as the breeding grounds for some of the best American urban legends whose validity you will ever question. Appalachia harbors centuries of history, many modern-day hillbillies, and billions of tons of coal. So far removed is this ethereal part of the Lower Forty-Eight that it is widely assumed by the outside world that it is acceptable to marry your cousin in places like Kentucky and West Virginia. Indeed, so much myth shrouds these magnificent mountains that it can be a little tough to tell what is truth and what is rotten, media-based generalization. One particularly intriguing Appalachian custom you have probably doubted, however, is no fabrication. Somewhere on the far side of those haloed, blue mountains are a handful of people who have been both admired and ridiculed since as far back as 1901. They are “normal folks” like you and me; hardworking men who settle down with good girls who turn in to good wives who bear and raise any number of rambunctious children. Members of this unique group are notoriously approachable, passionate, and gregarious – especially when discussing religion. The only thing that might distinguish them from your favorite next door neighbors – yes, the only thing that might rouse in you even the slightest shade of dislike – are their snakes.

Some shake their heads dismissively at these “nut-jobs” who so rigidly tread the perilous path they believe God has set aside for them. Some people are genuinely repulsed, shaking their fingers and crying out “blasphemy!” to the highest courts in the land. Others still are merely curios. What does it feel like? How is it done? It is not unheard of, however, for even the most innocent of observers to be caught up in and swept away by the spiritual fervor of those who take up serpents in the name of Jesus Christ. Renowned Southern journalist Dennis Covington was one such nonbeliever. He showed up at a tiny church in Birmingham, AL, to gather information for a piece he was writing on Glenn Summerford. (Summerford was a snake handling preacher who, in 1991, attempted to kill his wife by forcing her hand in to a box of rattlesnakes. Darlene survived but Glenn was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 99 years in prison for attempted murder, though some say he only tried to kill her out of self-defense when she attacked him because “she was going back on God”.) After just a couple services with the handlers, Covington found he could not deny the pull that the church had on him. Once the members of the congregation established that he was not there to ridicule them for their beliefs, they gradually accepted him in to their confidences. So began a journey that consumed five years of Covington’s life (documented in his nonfiction novel “Salvation On Sand Mountain”) as he tried to decipher whether he did or did not believe in “signs following”.

You might be wondering at this point just what it is that possesses an otherwise orthodox Christian to add rattlesnakes to a Sunday morning church service. This uniquely Southern phenomenon was believed to have been born in the early 20th century when a Church of God preacher named George Went Hensley was driven from his own parish for taking part in religious snake handling. He later started his own ministry, keeping the name “Church of God” but tacking “with Signs Following” on to the end. Hensley soon had a brand new group of followers, all because they chose to take this scripture literally: “And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (Mark 16:17-18) Were those verses meant to be taken so deeply to heart? Should Signs Followers “test God” by handling deadly snakes that could, and sometimes do, take their lives? Though any and every member of a snake handling church knows the risk involved with what they are doing, many people believe the practice should be banned completely. Legislation to outlaw the possession of snakes for religious purposes (in such cases they are indeed classified as “deadly weapons”) has been passed in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. The only state still free of any restrictions on handlers is West Virginia. Handlers in other states, however, are rarely bothered.

It is difficult to prosecute a group of people who purposefully put themselves in harm’s way. It might seem irrational and grotesque to you, but for Signs Followers, handling is an acceptable, even necessary, manifestation of their relationship with God. It is a path they choose to travel, even when they can clearly see the man at the front of their church is holding his Bible in a hand that has three missing fingers due to snake bites. The injuries and the deaths and the bad press do not phase them. They are in search of the truth; their eyes are fixed heavenward, and they believe with every bit of themselves that Mark 16:17-18 was meant to be taken literally.

The Pope of Pop: A Look at Andy Warhol

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Andy Warhol – born Andrew Warhola, on August 6th of 1928 – was a famous American printer maker, painter, and film maker. It was his unique style that inspired the pop art movement. He was born into a family of Slovakian immigrants. Warhol had two older brothers (neither showed any artistic tendency, but the son of Pavlov – Warhol’s eldest brother – did go on to become a successful illustrator of children’s books). After a sickly childhood in Pittsburgh, PA, Warhol moved to New York City in1949 to better pursue his trade. He had studied art in Pittsburgh at what is now called the Carnegie Mellon University, then began a career in magazine illustration and advertising after moving to NYC.

 

Through the years, Andy dabbled in every artistic medium from record producer to author. However, undoubtedly created the most impact via his paintings. Like his colorful, somewhat obscure-looking artwork, Warhol himself was definitely an eccentric human being. In photographs he is almost always wearing a pair of gaudy, overly-round glasses. His hair appears eternally windblown, and he wears a perpetual smirk on his face. Unsurprisingly, he was also famous for the company he kept; Bohemian street people, celebrities, and weird but distinguished intellectuals.

 

Warhol worked with many different designs but was best known for his pop art – an experimental art form that several artists were independently adopting (among them, Roy Lichtenstein) at the time. Known as the “Pope of Pop”, Andy Warhol turned to this new style, where popular subjects became part of the artist’s palette. His early paintings show images taken from cartoons and advertisements, hand-painted with paint drips. Those drips emulated the style of successful abstract expressionists like Willem de Kooning.

 

The title of the Warhol painting I’ve chosen to be my inspiration is very simply “Flowers”, the underlying theme of which is said to be life and death. Despite its extremely basic subject matter – a cluster of brightly-colored hibiscus flowers against a backdrop of dark grass – “Flowers” was actually a fairly controversial painting for Warhol. It earned him critical acclaim as well as a lawsuit, after a lady named Patricia Caulfield claimed the painting was a replication of one of her photographs. The matter was settled with money, but after the incident Warhol was more careful to use pictures he had taken himself when looking for subjects to paint.

Heaven Come Down

Thesis statement: Snake-handling is an obscure but real spiritual medium in a few churches found throughout the eastern and southeastern United States. Though the practice is frightening to those who do not understand it and sometimes deadly to those who do, it is a personal choice (under religious freedom) and it should not be made illegal.

 

  1. The act of “taking up serpents” during Christian fellowship was believed to have emerged as early as 1909.

    A) The first man to ever handle a living snake because he felt that a higher power wanted him to was probably George Went Hensley, a Church of God minister from southeastern Tennessee. It was said after much fasting and praying that the Holy Spirit led Hensley out in to the woods and told him to take up a Timber Rattler. Hensley handled the snake as directed by what he believed to be the voice of God, and no harm was done to him.

    B) After his experience in the woods, Hensley began to spread what he believed to be a new-found gospel, a literal interpretation of Mark chapter 16, verses17-18: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover…”

  2. How much do you really know about snake handlers? The practice is unfamiliar to the majority of us, and seeing someone preach the word of God and then turn around and pick up a serpent undoubtedly seems like a sinister paradox.

    A) Snake-handling churches are widely Pentecostal in their belief system, even though the alleged “founder” of the movement was from the Church of God.

    B) The events at these churches do not just consist of only snake-handling. Services usually include preaching, spirited singing, praying, and speaking in tongues. They may last for two or three hours. The parishioners also follow Christian tenets of baptism by water and by the Holy Spirit, healing, cleanliness in daily living, and the washing of feet.

    C) People attending services at these churches, even official members, are not required to handle snakes. In fact, picking up a serpent would be strongly discouraged unless the person doing it was completely sure they were “anointed” by the Holy Spirit. (If they are not “anointed”, their faith would be more likely to fail and thusly, get them bitten.)