Who is the Count of Saint Germain? Immortal alchemist or clever charlatan? His true name is a mystery. His place of birth is unknown. His time of death is unconfirmed. He is an enigma.
Count Saint Germain, sequel to The Man Who Would Not Die, now available at Amazon. Read the latest historical novels from Paul Andrews, creator of LOST IN HISTORY. Follow the adventures of the mysterious Count on his next mission to save Europe from itself.
Join the Count as he risks the intrigue of the French court at Versailles, helps a Russian Princess become Tzarina, and stokes the fires of a Revolution in Paris. Along the way he encounters Madame du Pompadour, Giacomo Casanova, Catherine the Great, and his first love, Luciana.
The Count of Saint Germainwas a true historical figure, with adventures throughout the 18th Century and across the globe. He played a behind-the-scenes role in everything from the Scottish Rebellion to the French Revolution, all while never appearing to age. He is followed by many to this day as an Ascended Master.
Read the latest historical novels by Paul Andrews, creator of the LOST IN HISTORY blog & podcast.
Many Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 & 1964, now age 59 to 77) are prone to waxing nostalgic about the decade of the 1960’s. They see it as a time when America and the western world was somehow greater. The Good Old Days – where life was simpler, safer, and filled old-fashioned family values. They seem to forget that the 1960’s was a turning point for the world. It was, in fact, filled with global wars, tragic assassinations, and political unrest. All of these led to positive, albeit painful, cultural changesfor the better. So let’s take a quick look at 6 key events/movements of the Sixties that changed our world forever.
1. The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War raged for 20 years from 1955 to 1975, yet perhaps never so violently, and with such a rapid escalation, than during the late Sixties under U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. The U.S. and its allies, including Australia and South Korea, sent in troops supporting democratic South Vietnam in its war against Communist North Vietnam, supported by Red China and the Soviet Union. Over time, the war spread into neighboring Cambodia and Laos. The U.S. sent 1.5 million troops to Vietnam and over 58,000 of them died, including over 1 million Vietnamese. The deadly Tet Offensive by North Vietnam in 1969 resulted in 1,500 U.S. killed, 3,000 South Vietnamese and an unknown number from the North.
Unlike the Iraqi Gulf Wars of the 2000’s, the Vietnam War was extremely unpopular in the U.S. and abroad. A mandatory military draft sent thousands of young men overseas to fight in the dense jungle. At home, anti-war protests erupted on university campuses and in the streets. The largest were at the University of Wisconsin and Washington D.C. in 1967, and outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Every day, news headlines reported the loosing battles being fought by the U.S. military.
The futility of the Vietnam War eventually led to the withdrawal of troops by U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1975, and the fall of the Saigon capital. Similar to the 20-year War in Afghanistan of this century, the opposing Communist forces rapidly took control of the nation, making it ultimately a decades-long failed effort.
2. The Civil Rights Movement
The Civil Rights Movement may have been born in the 1950’s, but it experienced its peak of both negative unrest and positive change in the Sixties. The Woolworths lunch counter sit-ins in North Carolina cities happened in 1960. The Freedom Riders tragic bus bombing went down in Alabama in 1961. The violent Bloody Sunday occurred at the Selma, Alabama Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, when peaceful black protesters were violently beaten by the state police. Nationwide race riots broke out throughout the entire decade, occurring in Harlem, Watts, Detroit, Cleveland, and Philadelphia, to name just a few. And it wasn’t just an American issue. In Britain, race riots in Notting Hill, London flanked the decade.
What positives came of all this unrest? For one, the non-violent March on Washington for Freedom. It culminating in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s famous I Have a Dream speech, which took place in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial. U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964, the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, leading to the start of racial desegregation and the start of fundamental integration across America. The new laws, though impactful, did not however wipe out racism and bigotry. That pair of human vices, though significantly blunted, is unfortunately still with us in the 2020’s.
3. The Hippie Counterculture
The Hippie Movement began in the mid-Sixties, primarily amongst young white men, women and teenagers in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, and Australia. The Hippies rejected higher education, corporations, wars, the military, and general middle class “squareness.” They instead embraced sexual liberation, Eastern philosophy, nature, meditation, and psychedelic drugs. The hippies created and lived in Free-Love communes in the countryside. ‘Peace’ became their mantra, ‘Make Love not War‘ their slogan, and ‘Groovy’ the new catch phrase.
The famous Summer of Love was in 1967, when hippies gathered in San Francisco to celebrate the movement. Their music was a mixture of folk, rock, and blues – propagated by the later Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead. It culminated in the famous 1969 Woodstock Music Festival on a remote farm in New York state, where a half-a-million hippies came to dance and hear Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix and The Who. And it wasn’t just America. Woodstock was topped a year later by the Isle of Wight Music Festival in 1970 with over 600,000 hippies and 50 musical acts.
The rest of society labeled them as flower children, dropouts, or druggies. Hippies joined college students in anti-Vietnam War protests, many of which led to riots and violent clashes with city police. By the 1970s, the Hippie Movement became a part of our culture as they got married, had kids, and began careers. Its legacy today is seen in everything from recycling and renewable energy, to Punk and Goth music, to organic health foods and recreational drug use. Aging hippies are now your older neighbors who occasionally kick back, light up a joint in their yard, and reminisce about the Sixties.
4. The Feminist Movement
The Feminist Movement began in the early Sixties, primarily amongst middle-class white women. Prior to that, women were expected to marry and be housewives, staying at home to raise the children born during the post-war baby boom. Careers and higher education were for men, and any work outside the home would be limited to low paying jobs. The movement began with the publication of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Frieden. It challenged the idea that a woman’s only place was in the home. In 1966, Friedan joined other women to found the National Organization for Women and be named its first president. They protested in the streets for equal pay, equal opportunity, and equal rights.
Cosmopolitan rebranded their women’s magazine in 1965 from homemaking to feminism. Editor in chief, Helen Gurley Brown, focused on modern, working, independent woman. The Feminist Movement went on to shine a light on sexual harassment in the workplace and domestic violence at home; as well as the need for access to contraception and childcare. Journalist and activist Gloria Steinem joined the movement, writing for New York magazine and later forming Msmagazine. One group of women even threatened (though they never did) to burn their bras at the 1968 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City as a sign of protest.
The legacy of the Sixties’ Feminist Movement should be clear to any woman of today who has or had a college degree, career, children, and/or home. There is still much room for growth, however, when it comes to things like equal pay and opportunities compared to men.
5. The Superpowers’ Cold War
While the world certainly has its issues today with the Russian Federation, led by President Vladimir Putin, it cannot compare with the Superpowers’ Cold War of the Sixties. Both sides built nuclear arsenals that would not only obliterate the enemy, but destroy the entire world ten times over. Families built nuclear bomb shelters in their back yards rather than swimming pools. Children practiced air-raid drills in schools by climbing under their desks. The infamous Berlin Wallwas constructed by East Germany in 1961 and would stand for 28 long years. Then there was the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when the US and USSR sat on the brink of World War III and global nuclear annihilation.
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and President John Kennedy were prepared to go to full-scale nuclear war over the presence of Soviet nuclear missiles based in Cuba, and a subsequent U.S. naval blockade of the Caribbean island. For 13 tense days, each leader had their “finger on the button,” so-to-speak, while anxious negotiations took place between the White House in Washington and the Kremlin in Moscow. In the end, Khrushchev backed down, removed the missiles from Cuba and the entire world breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Even after that scare, the Cold War continued another 37 years until the fall of the Soviet Union.
6. Fateful Assassinations
Perhaps no other decade than the Sixties saw so many pivotal assassinations. These included, but are not limited to: U.S. President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963, Malcolm X in New York City in 1965, Che Guevara in Bolivia in 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis in 1968, and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles in 1968. And that short list does not even include the Prime Ministers of South Africa, the Congo, and Japan – also killed in the Sixties. The deaths of these influential leaders forever changed the course of politics, culture and the civil rights movement. One can only imagine what our world would be like today if either Kennedy or King had survived.
But perhaps, all those deaths toughened the Baby Boomer generation. Did the ideals of JFK die with him? Certainly not – as just one example, when Apollo 11 landed men on the Moon in 1969. Did the Civil Rights movement die with MLK? Like Gandhi before him, King inspired a whole new generation of non-violent activists and his very name evokes a sense of reverence amongst minorities to this day. In our current decade, such political assassinations are thankfully rare. Yet the impact and consequences of those fateful 1960s deaths are still felt today. We continue to tackle political, cultural, economic and racial polarization.
The Sixties was really like any other decade in our modern history. It was fraught with cultural changes, political turmoil, economic upheaval, new technologies, and yes, waves of unfortunate violence. For sure, some 1960’s small rural towns, isolated from national or global issues, did have a sort of idealistic, innocence to them. But whether you are a Boomer or a Millennial, compare the Sixties to the 1990’s, 2000’s or 2010’s. You will see a repeated pattern of struggle and change, struggle and change. We managed to survive the Sixties without nuclear Armageddon and we will somehow survive the 2020s as well. It is, after all, how we overcome our struggles and evolve, that defines us as a planet – a generation – or an individual.
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Marguerite Alibert was a very resourceful Frenchwoman who lived many different lives. She had gone from poverty to prostitution to princes – not just one prince, but two, from different countries. She managed to transform herself from a prostitute, to a consort, to a defendant in the trial of her husband’s murder. In 1923, Margeurite shot her second husband three times in the back at the Savoy Hotel in London. Hotel staff stormed into the room, then rushed her bleeding husband to the hospital, where he died. Marguerite remained aloof and didn’t even try to run from the police.
Alibert was a beautiful yet hard woman who survived the gritty world of Paris poverty, only to mingle among France’s elite, turning her numerous affairs into large sums of money. She was even mistress to Britain’s Prince Edward VIII; then going on to marry an Egyptian royal. Marguerite saw sex and love not from a romantic perspective, but as a means to first survive, and later thrive. It is doubtful she was ever truly in love with any of her liaisons. In the end, Marguerite went down in history as the French prostitute who got away with murder.
Marguerite Alibert was born in 1890, into a poor Parisian family.
She was the daughter of a coachman and a housekeeper, both her parents working for the elite households of Paris. This exposure sparked a burning desire in her heart to one day rise out of poverty and become a high-class Parisian lady. She grew up with hobbies similar to a high-society ladies, like riding horses, reading books, going to the theater, and learning to read music.
She was intelligent, beautiful with light brown hair, and learned to act sophisticated by careful observation. Her future seemed bright until at the age of 15, when her four-year-old brother ran into the street, was hit by a lorry and tragically died. Marguerite’s parents blamed her as she should have been watching her sibling at the time. As punishment, she was sent to the Sisters of Mary, a Catholic boarding school.
The nuns found work for her in homes as a domestic maid. Her work life was brutal, and the nuns beat her relentlessly as punishment, constantly berating Marguerite with guilt for her frère’s untimely death. Rather than acquiesce, the headstrong Marguerite soldiered through this harsh treatment.
Despite the watchful eye of the nuns, after a year at the boarding school, Marguerite ran away and became pregnant at 16. When she was found, she said the father was the teenage son of a nobleman named Andre Mont-Clare. The two were in love, but the boy could not get permission to marry a poor pregnant French girl. She gave birth to a daughter, who she named Raymonde.
For her transgressions, she was expelled by the nuns.
Such trauma might be too much for the average person, but it permanently molded and toughened Marguerite’s personality. Cast out by both her family and the nuns, Marguerite was destitute and unable to support her daughter. The baby girl was sent by her parents to live on a farm in the French countryside. In spite of her situation, she was still determined to escape from poverty and lead a sophisticated life amongst Paris’ elite.
Luckily, Paris at the time was both a decadent and alluring city. Marguerite chose prostitution as a means for making money. She started at the bottom as a street prostitute, attracting clients by singing at local nightclubs, always leaving with the richest men in the room. She saw there was good money to be made by upper-class sex workers, known then as “courtesans.” Her beauty and charms proved attractive to her rich clientele.
Soon, she was noticed by a high-class brothel owner. Madame Denart saw that Alibert was prettier, smarter and more sophisticated than most street prostitutes, and took Marguerite under her wing. She had potential to become a high-class prostituée. Still only 16, Marguerite learned the tricks of her profession from an expert, and eventually grew into a high-class courtesan.
After receiving training on how to act like a lady, Marguerite “attended to” aristocrats from France, England, and even the United States. Denart later described young Marguerite as “the mistress of nearly all my best clients, gentleman of wealth and position. It was me that made a lady out of her.”
After selling her services to dozens of rich men, Marguerite was able to find men willing to pay her a substantial amount of money for living expenses. This allowed her to afford her own apartment and she was finally living a life in high society. As far as the outside world was concerned, she was just another society lady.
No one could tell that she was actually a French courtesan.
Now in a stable situation, Marguerite could finally be a good mother to Raymonde. Seven years had passed. At 23, she reunited with her daughter, and Raymonde left the farm to live with her mother in Paris. She wanted her to have the best education possible, so she sent her daughter to a prominent and expensive all-girls boarding school in London.
In 1907, Marguerite Alibert finally fell in love one of her liaisons, Andre Meller, a wealthy wine merchant with a stable full of horses, and at 40, more than twice her age. There however was a small problem – Andre Meller was already married. He gave her everything she desired- a luxurious apartment in Paris, the newest fashions, and vacations abroad. She even took his last name, calling herself Marguerite Meller, claiming they were married. Onlookers wondered whether Marguerite was truly in love with Meller, or rather just making money off him.
Their relationship lasted 6 years until 1913, during which time Marguerite received some two hundred thousand francs from Andre Meller, a small fortun. She had clearly perfected the art of courting and seducing rich men. However, his marriage made it impossible for them to be truly happy, and Marguerite wanted a ‘divorce.’ The ‘settlement’ provided her with a large amount of money – allowing her to keep the luxurious apartment and even employing a driver and maid.
She went back to courting rich men in Paris, enjoying all the freebies that came along with it. Marguerite was quick in looking for another benefactor, and her charms drew the highest attention. At that time, the British royal family was looking for an experienced courtesan to familiarize Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, and heir to the British throne with ‘the ways of the world.’
In 1917, Prince Edward was in France serving as a Grenadier officer in World War I.
The royal family selected Marguerite to meet with the 23-year-old Prince, because he needed a more experienced woman to instruct him in a ‘full education of sex’ before he married. Marguerite Alibert was formally introduced to Edward by his aristocratic friends. Edward was instantly infatuated with the beautiful Frenchwoman and they embarked on a passionate royal love affair.
Edward was known to have sent as many as twenty lengthy love letters to her from his post on the Western Front. They were filled with explicit things that would certainly ruin his reputation if ever made public. So the resourceful Marguerite of course held on to them … for a rainy day in the future. Their intense affair lasted for a year until Edward lost interest, turning to other women. Furious at being cast aside, Marguerite used Edward’s love letters to blackmail him, taking huge sums of money from the prince in return for her continued silence.
She was again quick to move on, and her new target was Charles Laurent, a wealthy Air Corps officer. However this time, things were different. In 1919 she married Charles, her first legal husband, taking his last name “Laurent.” The marriage was not what either wanted and ended after only six months, but not before Marguerite received a large and tidy divorce settlement.
Marguerite had finally grown rich, and was able to set herself up as an independent woman. While still only 30 years old, she kept a stable with horses, a limousine, a groom, and property on the fashionable Avenue Henri-Martin in Paris. But her lifestyle proved too extravagant and too expensive to maintain. So, in order to become more stable, she seduced a wealthy Egyptian tycoon in 1921, Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey.
While at a party in Cairo, she locked eyes with the tall, handsome young Egyptian.
After talking for a while, he asked to see her again. ‘Bey’ is an Egyptian title, like ‘Lord,’ but most people in France called him The Egyptian Prince. This piqued Marguerite’s interest, of course. After a short romance, Ali asked Marguerite to marry him and move to Cairo. Marguerite of course said “yes.” She figured that even if their marriage soured, she could earn another substantial divorce settlement.
Fahmy Bey was Muslim, and he wanted Marguerite to convert to Islam, dress modestly, and cover her face like other Egyptian women. She of course refused, and demanded a prenuptial agreement. She would convert to Islam in exchange for the ability wear western dress and divorce if needed. However, Fahmy Bey secretly ripped up the agreement the day before their wedding. She now had no proof they ever agreed to those terms, and was forced to live like a Muslim wife.
The marriage was, not surprisingly, an unhappy one. A woman as shrewd and independent as Marguerite was never going to be the submissive and obedient Islamic wife that Ali demanded. The couple fought often, occasionally in public. Marguerite grew increasingly unhappy with the way her treated her — ironically even sexually. There were rumors regarding Ali’s alleged bisexuality, and Marguerite later claimed to have been forced into “unnatural” intercourse.
Fahmy Bey then announced that he was going to take on more wives, which was allowed in Islam. She had been ignorant of Egyptian customs, and now found herself trapped in a terrible marriage without the exit of divorce. The couple argued constantly, and neighbors could tell. Some might say that karma served Marguerite some justice here, since she took advantage of men for so long.
Her new husband took additional wives, and refused to grant Marguerite a divorce.
She realized she was trapped in a Cairo cage. Increasingly resentful of her treatment, their quarrels became frequent and even violent. She began making a list of all the abuses that Fahmy committed against her. Every time her husband made her angry, Marguerite wrote it down in her journal. But her independent and intelligent nature simply would not allow her to continue living in such a trapped situation.
Things finally came to a head in July 1923. They’d only been married for over a year, when Marguerite convinced Fahmy to travel to London together so they could see an opera. On July 9, 1923, the couple attended a showing of The Merry Widow. They were staying in the Savoy Hotel, and after the opera got into yet another heated argument. Hotel employees heard gunshots at 2:30 AM. Marguerite shot her husband three times in the back at close range. Somehow, he was still alive when help arrived, though later died in the hospital.
Marguerite shot Fahmy with a Browning .32 pistol she had been keeping under her bed pillow. She made to attempt to run and was arrested by London police. With hotel witnesses, it seemed like an open and shut case. The murder was clearly premeditated. It was no mistake that she shot him outside Egypt. If she had killed her husband at home, she would have been sentenced to death. But in England, she actually had a chance.
Marguerite still had those saucy letters she saved all of those years ago from Prince Edward, and used them again. He had written things about the poor conduct of World War I, he made rude remarks about his father King George V, and there was the graphic sexual content. They’re certainly not the kind of letters the prince wanted the world to know about. The royal family did everything in its power to make sure Marguerite was not convicted of killing her husband.
Two months later, Marguerite stood trial for murder, and her situation looked bleak.
But her past resourcefulness again came to the rescue. Her lawyer presented her as the victim of “brutality and beastliness.” Before the trial, a deal was made with officials in the court. Her past life as a courtesan was not allowed to be brought up during her trial, ensuring that Prince Edward was never mentioned.
During the trial in September 1923, crowds lined up around the building to watch. Some even paid for a place to sit in the courtroom. Mostly because of Marguerite’s whispered former job as a courtesan — and her rumored connection to the British Royal Family — her trial became something of an event.
The jury was made to believe she was a high-class Frenchwoman who got married to an Egyptian prince. Her lawyer painted Ali Fahmy Bey as a vile, monstrous and racist man who abused Marguerite until she simply had no option but to shoot him. The jury, faced with a story of this pitiful woman, cruelly treated by her foreign husband, acquitted her of all charges. Marguerite walked free!
What became of Marguerite Alibert next? She spent the rest of a long life living comfortably in Paris. She played small parts in French motion pictures and continued to charm wealthy men. She called herself “Princess Marguerite,” because no one was the wiser. She was not allowed to inherit any of Fahmy Bey’s money though, because the Egyptian courts considered her a murderer.
For the rest of her life, Marguerite lived quietly in her apartment in Paris. She spent a lot of time visiting her daughter, Raymonde, and eventually her grandchildren. She managed to live comfortably for the rest of her life, until she died in 1971, at the age of 80.
After her death, her grandson was going through her papers in Paris. He was surprised that his grand-mère Marguerite had managed to quietly get married and divorced, with considerable settlements, another FIVE times, without her family ever knowing about it. Marguerite remained ever the resourceful woman to the very end.
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Most Americans go about their daily lives thinking they know their patriotic historical facts. Those details that were faithfully taught to them when they were in school. But here are FIVE curious and commonly mistaken facts about American history:
1. American Independence Day is not July 4th
During the American Revolution, independence from Britain actually occurred on July 2nd, 1776. This is when the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted to approve a Resolution of Independence, declaring the 13 Colonies free from Great Britain. The vote was passed 12 to 1, with New York delegates abstaining. After the vote in the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall), Congress then turned its attention to the actual paper Declaration of Independence, they would all sign. It had been prepared by Thomas Jefferson and the ‘Committee of Five,’ including Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.
Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence over 17 days from the 2nd floor room he’d rented in a private home in Philadelphia. July 3rd was spent with the Congress debating the language of the final declaration and deleting a quarter of Jefferson’s draft. Every member of Congress signed the document on the 4th of July. John Hancock signed first, as President of the Congress. It was a somber rather than celebratory event as each person knew they were committing treason in the eyes of the British Crown, punishable by hanging. After a day for printing, the first newspaper published the Declaration on July 6th and the first public reading took place in Philadelphia on July 8th.
2. U.S. Pledge of Allegiance started in 1942
The American Pledge of Allegiance was NOT instituted by our Founding Fathers as many assume. The text was in fact written a century later in 1892 by a socialist Baptist minister from New York state named Francis Bellamy. Bellamy believed in the equal distribution of resources, which mirrored the teachings of Jesus Christ. The magazine Youth’s Companion published it for the World Columbian Exposition, hence its first adoption by school children. A firm believer in the separation of church and state, Bellamy did not include any reference to God.
In 1902, the Daughters of the American Revolution added “to the flag” to Bellamy’s pledge. The pledge was not adopted as the official Pledge of Allegiance until 1942, in the midst of World War II with Germany and Japan. It was then that a raised arm salute to the flag was replaced with holding a hand over one’s heart. Leaders felt a raised arm was too close to the infamous Nazi’s salute to Adolf Hitler. It was not until 1954, during the Cold War, when “under God” was further added by President Dwight Eisenhower to counteract the atheist Communists of the Soviet Union and Red China. Interestingly, legal challenges to school children reciting the pledge is not a modern occurrence. It goes all the way back to the 1940s, when Jehovah Witnesses objected and filed the first lawsuits.
3. American National Anthem began in 1931
The National Anthem of the United States is of course the famous Star Spangled Banner. Most Americans know that the words were composed by (35-year-old lawyer) Francis Scott Key from a British ship anchored in Baltimore harbor during the War of 1812 with Britain. He observed the American flag flying valiantly over a Baltimore fort following a heavy British bombardment. Key was moved to write his famous poem “Defense of Fort McHenry” on the back of an envelope. The fort’s flag had only 15 stars and 15 stripes back then.
But did you know the tune was actually a 40-year-old British Men’s Social Club song “To Anacreon in Heaven,” written by Englishman John Stafford Smith? Key’s brother-in-law is the one who realized the poem matched the tune, and it was published as The Star Spangled Banner by war’s end in 1814. Bands played it for decades, but NOT as the national anthem. The tune was adopted by military bands in the 1890’s, and then famously played at the first game of the 1918 World Series Baseball tournament. America the Beautiful almost became the national anthem, were it not for the VFW, who lobbied heavily for the SSB. In 1931, then President Herbert Hoover signed the bill proclaiming The Star Spangled Banner as the U.S. National Anthem.
4. The Motto of the U.S. changed
The original motto of the United States was not “In God We Trust” that we see on every minted coin and printed bill today. That is a relatively new creation. In 1782, our Founding Fathers adopted the Great Seal of the United States containing the words, E Pluribus Unum, Latin for “Out of Many, One.” A banner with those words is clasped in the mouth of a bald eagle with its wings spread, bearing a red, white, and blue shield of 13 stars and stripes. The reverse side bears the recognizable unfinished pyramid, topped by the “Eye of Providence.” And that’s the way the motto stood for almost 200 years.
The phrase “In God We Trust” comes from the Bible’s Psalm 115 and first became popular during the U.S. Civil War amongst both Union and Confederate supporters. Fast forward to the next century and we see Republican President Teddy Roosevelt opposing its adoption in U.S. currency, citing separation of church and state. But the pubic was against him and we slowly see it minted in all U.S. coins by 1938. BUT, it still was not the official U.S. motto. That is, until the 1950’s again, when the Cold War inspired its usage on postage stamps to counter the ‘Red Threat’ of atheist Communism. It was not until 1956 that a joint resolution of Congress declared “In God We Trust” as the National Motto of the U.S.
5. U.S. Bill of Rights
The famous Bill of Rights was NOT a part of the original U.S. Constitution, but was rather an afterthought. The lacking Articles of Confederation of 1777 gave most power to the states and created a weak central government, with little decision making or enforcement authority. A Constitutional Convention took place in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall ten years later in 1787 to draft a revised U.S. “Constitution.” The Virginia Plan, written by James Madison, won out in the end. It created a split Congress (House and Senate) and separation of powers into three branches (Executive, Legislative and Judicial). Congress ratified it a year later in 1788 by 9 of 14 states.
But Madison, and the new 1st President George Washington, knew this compromise Constitution was still lacking when it came toindividual rights. So, the First U.S. Congress met in New York City’s Federal Hall in 1789 to debate Madison’s nine proposed amendments. Twelve articles were eventually approved by a contentious Constitutional Congress by the end of the summer, and 10 of them ratified by three quarters of the states in 1792. They became the first 10 Amendments, know today asThe Bill of Rights. They ensured freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly, to name a few of those rights, in just the First Amendment, not to mention the contentious Second Amendment.
So perhaps you learned something new today, or maybe, you knew them all along and just forgot. In today’s social media culture of instant fake news, false scandals, and endless conspiracy theories – from both sides – let us hope the TRUE historical facts are never twisted or forgotten.
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Lepa Radić was just a 17-year-old Yugoslavian girl when she was hanged by the Nazis for being a Partisan in 1943. This extraordinarily brave girl had joined the Yugoslav Partisans in the fight against their Nazi oppressors in World War II, and taken on the most dangerous assignments. What turn of events lead to her transformation, capture and ultimate execution?
Today’s Artificial Intelligence [AI] owes its very existence to the “Difference Engine.” This 19th century hand-cranked computer is hard to describe. One is displayed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.. Though it rarely draws crowds, never doubt that the Difference Engine was the first step the toward the high-powered ChatGPT we have today. The man who invented it, 200 years ago, was English mathematician Charles Babbage, at a time without electricity when they were still reliant on coal-fired steam power.
Babbage’s Difference Engine is a its simplest a hand-cranked mechanical computer with thousands of moving, metal parts. It prepares numerical tables using a mathematical technique known as difference. Early mathematicians had to calculate complicated tables by hand. Charles Babbage conceived of the earliest general-purpose computer. Though it was sadly never fully completed in his lifetime, a fragment built by his intrepid son, Henry, clearly demonstrates Babbage’s genius.
Babbage’s Difference Engines were the first successful automatic calculators, a fine example of precision Victorian engineering. The inventor also envisioned a mechanical device that would go beyond just calculation and actually store the data it produced. This was a concept well before it time, when the automobile had yet to be invented. What he foresaw was the modern computer, which is why Charles Babbage is fondly known as “The Father of Computing.”
Who was this amazing inventor and what exactly was a Difference Engine?
Charles Babbage was born in 1791, the son of a wealthy London banker. As a teen, Babbage taught himself algebra and mathematics. When he enrolled in Trinity College at Cambridge in 1811, he found himself far more advanced than even his instructors. There, he befriended John Herschel and George Peacock. Together they formed ‘The Analytical Society’ for promoting and reforming mathematics.
The “Analyticals” gathered in libraries and taverns to discuss how science could best support the Industrial Revolution with better tools and processes. Clearly a genius, Charles was also a charming young fellow, filled with a youthful enthusiasm and determination. Babbage’s life was typical of a Victorian gentleman-scientist. His inherited wealth luckily allowed him to explore his boundless interests in mathematics and engineering.
Babbage was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1816, just two years out of Cambridge, and became Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1828. It was a position held by Isaac Newton and, much later, Stephen Hawking. He also attempted to reform the scientific organizations of the period, while calling on government and investors to give more money and prestige to scientific endeavor.
Babbage was driven by the urge to improve the quality of 19th-century life. He endlessly sought ways to take the sweat and drudgery out of factory work. His metering devices could automatically do the mindless counting of repeated actions in a mill. He invented a time clock for punching in and out factory workers. He even designed an early device to record the direction of earthquake shocks!
Charles Babbage described his Difference Engine as an idea born of frustration.
During the summer of 1821, Babbage and John Herschel were in England editing astronomical tables used for navigation. It was a tedious, eyestrain-inducing task, and they were frustrated by all the errors they found. An exasperated Babbage sat back and exclaimed to Herschel, “I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam!” Steam power was changing every facet of everyday life, particularly industry, so why not this?
Tables of astronomical data were key to aiding navigation at sea. But because such tables were calculated by humans, they suffered from errors in both calculation and transcription. This was when Babbage became interested in calculating machinery, a passion that would consume the rest of his life. He left Cambridge, obsessed with the idea of using machines to speed up time-consuming mathematical calculations.
Babbage set to work on his “Difference Engine,” a machine that would use a complex, clockwork-type mechanism of hundreds of gears to solve polynomial equations. He soon had a small working model in 1822, and presented a paper to the Royal Astronomical Society. He ended on stage with much optimism: “I feel great confidence in the complete success of the plans I have proposed for a full-scale Difference Engine.”
He convinced the British government to fund his plan. The government saw the value in a machine that could calculate numerical tables particularly those used for navigation, finance, and engineering; thereby reducing human errorand labor. Charles Babbage soon discovered his invention would prove far more difficult to build.
Babbage based his machine on the mathematical method of finite differences. It was easier to implement by using dozens of gear wheels than one based on multiplication. Although Babbage had once dreamed of a machine powered by steam, his actual design called for a single human to turn a crank.
As building continued, parts ran smoothly enough to provided demonstrations to keep attention and funding flowing. Babbage often requested support from acquaintances in high society and was a splendid social host. The Duke of Wellington came to call, even author Charles Dickens. John Herschel often used a seafaring comparison to explain its value: “An undetected error in a navigational table is like a sunken rock at sea, upon which it is impossible to say what wrecks may have taken place.“
Then there was Augusta Ada Byron, daughter of the poet, Lord Byron. She was both brilliant and beautiful. The engine impressed a teenage Ada Byron, whose sharp mind understood the implications of the machine. As a woman in the 1800’s, Ada was not allowed to attend university, but her loving father supported her academic interests.
Ada was skilled at mathematics and one of the few who could understand and explain Babbage’s inventions to non-mathemeticians. She devoted years to helping Babbage, writing explanations of his achievements and admiring his genius with platonic devotion. In 1835, Ada married William King, the first Earl of Lovelace and became Countess of Lovelace.
Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 1 was divided into two main parts: the calculator and the printer.
As the calculator cranked out the results, the printing mechanism both printed a table, while simultaneously making a wax mold to make printing plates. It was a true marvel of engineering. Engine No. 1 contained more than 25,000 different metal parts, so Babbage needed a skilled craftsman. Joseph Clement was an award-winning English machinist whose work was highly valued for its precision.
Babbage and Clement were both brilliant, but with equally large egos, too often locked horns. Clement demanded to be paid his worth. Babbage, concerned always about costs, often checked Clement’s work. This slowly eroded their relationship. In 1832, the two managed to produce a portion of the machine one-seventh the size of the complete engine. Babbage gave demonstrations of the working model across London scientific and social circles.
Despite the successful scientific chatter, trouble was brewing for Charles Babbage.Cost overruns, political opposition, and Babbage and Clement’s clashing personalities, were causing long delays. Eventually, the relationship between Babbage and Clement reached a boiling point. After yet another loud fight over costs, Clement through up his hands in frustration and quit.
The government was more interested in reliable tables than the machine that produced it. Though a demo model was constructed, funding was put on hold in 1832. Prime Minister Robert Peel had never liked Babbage personally and had been a skeptic of the Engine itself. In1843, Parliament voted to withdraw its support. By then, the government had spent £17,500 (about US $3 million today), ten times the estimate, and waited 20 years, and still didn’t have a full-scale working machine.
A decade later, two Swedish printers, Georg Scheutz and his son, Edvard, built a difference machine in 1853. The Scheutzes followed the design concepts of Babbage. Ironically, the British government purchased that one, which they demonstrated at the World’s Fair in 1855. This machine printed tables with unprecedented accuracy. Babbage endorsed the Scheutz’s work as he was now preoccupied with an even bigger idea.
After Difference Engine No. 1, he conceived of an even better machine that could perform not just one mathematical task, but any kind of calculation. This Difference Engine No. 2 was to be his magnum opus. This Analytical Engine, intended as a general manipulator, had all the characteristics of today’s modern computers.
Part of the reason for the failure of Engine 1 was Babbage’s growing preoccupation with No. 2.
His new Analytical Engine would be even more revolutionary, yet simpler in design. This new machine would be a general-purpose computer. Inspired by the punched cards used to set up England’s industrial looms, Babbages’ Analytical Engine wouldstore numbers and results, while a separate ‘mill’ would process them arithmetically. It was basically the forerunner to the electronic computer!
Ada Lovelace championed Charles Babbage’s new work by actually writing the first computer algorithm for his unbuilt Engine. As Ada described it: “We may say that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the loom weaves flowers and leaves into cloth.” His punch card system was revolutionary as punch cards were the key to the earliest electronic computers of the 1960s and 1970’s.
For her written descriptions of how the Engine could calculate, Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, has been dubbed the first computer programmer. Unfortunately, as was the Victorian rage at the time, Ada had also become an opium addict. She died of cancer after a long battle, leaving Babbage mourning his beloved ‘Interpretress.’ In the interim, Babbage had also lost his father, wife Georgiana, and four of their eight children.
Although Lovelace’s notes were hailed by leading scientists, they did not win Babbage any additional funding. Babbage learned much from designing Engine 1. No. 2 would not only calculate polynomials, but require only one third of parts. Engine No. 2 required only 8,000 parts and had a much more elegant and efficient design. It would weigh about 5 tons and measure 11 feet long and 7 feet high. He worked for another two years on the grand machine.
Though he devoted most of his time and fortune towards his new Analytical Engine, he never succeeded in completing any of his designs. Despite his many achievements, the failure to construct his machines, and the failure of his own government to support his work, required him to use his own fortune. This left a middle-aged Babbage a very disappointed and embittered man. He completely stopped work on the Analytical Engine in 1856.
Babbage died at his home in London in 1871, at the age of 79.
After his death, Babbage’s son, Henry, continued to work on his father’s inventions, inheriting all the original components. Though Babbage’s work was continued by his son, the Analytical Engine was never successfully completed. Henry did manage to produce working partial fragments, demonstrating the feasibility of his father’s design, but never the full machine.
After his death, Babbage’s ideas passed into obscurity for decades. Over the course of the 20th century, though, his genius became clear. One of Henry’s ‘fragments’ went to Cambridge where it inspired Alan Turing, who developed the Colossus computer, used to decipher the Nazi ENIGMA coding device. Another fragment ended up at Harvard, inspiring Howard Aiken, who developed the IBM Mark 1 computer used by the U.S. in The Manhattan Project.
In 1985, a team at the London Science Museum set out to build a streamlined Difference Engine No. 2. The team created new designs adapted to modern manufacturing. Despite leaving behind detailed drawings, Babbage left few notes or explanations of how the pieces worked together. It took the modern team 17 years. The 8,000-piece finished product went on display in 2002.
Babbage’s long-term legacy is clear, leading to early computers like the ENIAC, Atlas, IBM 360, and Cray-1. These then lead to the 1980’s PC revolution, with the likes of HP, Texas Instruments, Apple, and Commodore. This then lead to the 2000’s handheld revolution with the Palm Pilot, Blackberry, and iPhone. Then came the supercomputers, first developed by universities and the military, then by the likes of Microsoft, Google, Meta (Facebook) and X (Twitter).
Now (for better or worse), in a rush to compete, these corporations each have Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities, like ChatGPT and Bard available to the general public. All this, because of Englishman Charles Babbage’s unrelenting genius and his Victorian era Difference Engines.
Belle Starr was an infamous fugitive in the American “Wild West” of the late 1800’s. She was connected with such famous outlaws as Jesse and Frank James, and was arrested several times herself. She’s been credited with a long list of crimes, but was she truly the Bandit Queen as the newspapers made her out to be? Or were the many criminal men in her life the true perpetrators and was she guilty by association? Starr was killed in 1889 at only 41 and her murderer was never brought to justice. The suspects included her associates, her husband, even own her son and daughter. What kind of tumultuous life brought Belle Starr to such an early death?
Myra Maybelle “Belle” Shirley, was born in 1848 on a large farm outside Carthage, Missouri. She was the daughter of John Shirley and his third wife, Elizabeth Hatfield. The Shirleys had become well-off raising grain, horses and hogs, and owned an inn, tavern and blacksmith shop in Carthage. Young Belle received an excellent education at the Carthage Female Academy. There, she excelled in classical languages and even became an accomplished pianist. She lived the life of a spoiled, pampered, rich girl who very much liked having an audience with all the attention centered on her.
Belle also fell in love with the outdoors, where she spent her days outside school riding the countryside with her older half-brother John ‘Bud’ Shirley. He taught her how to ride a horse and shoot both a pistol and rifle. With his help, she became a crack shot and an expert horsewoman.
Belle grew up prior to the U.S. Civil War, in the contested Missouri territory, with her family being Confederate sympathizers. Jasper County saw both Union and Confederate armies pass through during the war. Southern sympathizers like the Shirley’s often provided the Confederate army with support. Her brother Bud led a small band of Confederate guerrillas, and later became a scout with William Quantrill, the leader of the ruthless marauders known as ‘Quantrill’s Raiders.’
15-year-old Belle idolized Quantrill’s Raiders as heroes of the South.
One of her childhood friends, Cole Younger, served under Quantrill, along with a young Frank and Jesse James. But in 1863, while Bud was at the home of a Confederate sympathizer, Union troops surrounded the house. When Bud attempted to escape, he was shot and killed. The next year, Confederates burned to the ground most of Carthage, including John Shirley’s businesses. A devastated Shirley family left and moved to a farm in Scyene, Texas, just southwest of Dallas.
After the war, the James-Younger Gang became notorious outlaws – robbing banks, trains and stagecoaches. In their run from the law, they fled to Texas, where they met up again with the Shirleys, often taking refuge on the family farm. Belle became smitten by a member of the gang, the first man she ever loved. His name was Jim Reed. The romance blossomed and Belle and Jim married in 1866. She was 18.
As Jim Reed was not yet a wanted man, they moved into the Shirley household. He left the James-Younger Gang and became a saddle and bridle maker. By 1867, Belle became pregnant and the couple went to live with Reed’s mother back in Missouri. Belle gave birth to the first of two children, a daughter named Rosie Lee, whom Belle nicknamed ‘Pearl.’ Everything seemed idyllic for young Belle.
The couple then moved to Oklahoma, where Jim Reed fell back on his outlaw ways. Her husband became involved with notorious horse thief and whiskey smugglerTom Starr. Reed began spending less time at home and more time riding with Starr’s gang. Starr, who was Cherokee, sold whiskey to the Indians while rustling cattle in their territory.
When Belle became pregnant again, Reed took his wife and daughter back to his mother’s home in Missouri. A second child came along in 1781, who they named Edward. Her husband then left his family again and rejoined Starr’s gang of cattle rustlers. He killed a member of a rival gang and warrants were issued for his arrest.
Reed hid out in Choctaw territory, and Belle had apparently had enough.
She had little money to show from her husband’s exploits and was flat broke. In 1873, she left her husband and took her two children to live with her parents in Texas. After they separated, it wasn’t long before Reed’s outlaw life finally caught up with him. A former gang member, now a deputy, shot and killed Reed in a gunfight in Paris, Texas in 1874. Belle now found herself a single mother.
In 1880, a lonely Belle sought comfort and companionship again. She married Sam Starr, a tall, handsome Cherokee, son of Tom Starr, her former husband’s old partner. Sam was 23 and Belle was now 32. The couple settled on Sam’s ranch, Younger’s Bend, in Cherokee territory on the Canadian River, near Briartown, Oklahoma. The place was in the middle of ‘Indian/Outlaw Country,’ and many fugitives, often sought refuge there.
The couple formed their own gang and started a life of cattle rustling, horse stealing, and bootlegging whiskey. This time, the intelligent Belle became the brains behind the operation. She fell back on the shooting and horsemanship skills her brother had taught her back in Missouri. This was when she began to be known as The Outlaw Queen.
She reputedly carried two pistols, wore a man’s hat with feathers in the brim and solid gold earrings. She vowed never again to be hard up for money. Sam and Belle found the outlaw life very lucrative and never wanted for cash. She could now afford to take her two children back, now 12 and 9, from her mother in Texas.
The nearest settlement to Youngers Bend was Fort Smith, Arkansas. The local judge there was the famous Hanging Judge, Isaac Parker. Parker was determined to put Belle Starr and her husband behind bars. In 1882, Parker got lucky when Belle and Sam were caught red-handed as they attempted to steal horses from a neighboring ranch.
The Starrs were arrested by U.S. Marshals and taken to Fort Smith to face justice.
Their trial took place in 1883 and both were found guilty by a jury. Hanging Judge Parker, however, went easy on them, citing that it was the first conviction for both. He sentenced Belle to two consecutive six-month terms and Sam to one year in the Federal Prison in Detroit. Her two children went back to live with her parents in Texas.
After serving their time, Belle and Sam returned to Oklahoma Indian Territory. By this time, Belle’s Starr’s notoriety had only grown and Belle had become quite a celebrity. Newspapers had turned her into a western folk hero, “The Bandit Queen,” they called her. She still loved being the center of attention. Belle gladly spoke with newspaper reporters after she returned home from prison.
They immediately returned to their life of rustling and bootlegging. In 1886, Sam Starr got arrested again for horse theft. Belle hired the best lawyers in Fort Smith and paid his bail. In December, at a Christmas party, Sam was killed in a shootout with an old nemesis. Both men hit their marks and died of their wounds. Belle’s life as an outlaw queen, and the happiest marriage of her life, abruptly ended.
More bad luck followed when the Cherokee tribal council told her that her claim to Younger’s Bend ended with Sam’s death. She was now in danger of losing her home. She solved that problem by quickly marrying Jim July, a half Creek, half Cherokee, who was more than a decade younger than Belle. The Cherokee leaders told her she could keep the land as long as she remained married and stopped her outlaw ways.
Belle allegedly reformed at this point, no longer rustling and refusing to shelter criminals at Youngers Bend. Life with her new young husband, however, was particularly stormy. The marriage was also unpopular with Belle’s son Ed and daughter Pearl. Both disliked and resented the caustic Jim July.
This was the start of Belle’s problems with her two children. Pearl became pregnant by a married man she had been seeing. Belle tried to convince her daughter to visit Fort Smith for an abortion, but Pearl refused. Belle then shipped her off to her grandmother to have the baby. On her return to Youngers Bend, Pearl took up prostitution, infuriating her mother further.
While Pearl was away, young Ed was also arrested for horse theft like his father. Belle hired lawyers, but Ed was sentenced to prison. A few months later, Belle was able to win him a pardon and he returned to his mother’s ranch. But Belle had taken to whiplashing the boy as punishment, and an angry Ed soon moved out.
Then on February 3, 1889, while riding home from a neighbor, a shotgun blast hit her in the back, knocking her off her horse. As she tried to get up, another shot hit her in the neck. Belle’s horse Venus ran off towards home. When the horse and its bloodied saddle reached the cabin, Pearl knew what must have happened. She ran down the trail to where a man who heard the shots had found her.
Belle died in her Pearl’s arms; two days short of her 41st birthday.
An investigation began and several suspects came to light, including a renter she’d quarreled with named Edgar Watson. Belle had rented some of her land to Watson, a neighbor. Starr later learned he was wanted for murder in Florida. Afraid of losing her land, she cancelled the agreement, but Watson refused to leave and they argued. Watson shouted how often the law seemed to be at Belle’s ranch. She shouted back, saying the same law would be interested in knowing Watson’s whereabouts.
Then there was Belle’s estranged son Ed. The law felt he had a motive as well. Young Ed’s anger at his frequent bullwhip beatings by his mother had been smoldering since the incidents. He had expressed his rage to several people and some thought he was capable of killing Belle.
Even Pearl was a suspect. Belle had interfered with Pearl’s abortion attempt, and later with a marriage to the father of her child. This was a long-standing grudge between the two women. She had the opportunity since she was still living at Youngers Bend when Belle was killed.
Finally, her husband Jim July had also been indicted for horse theft. July intended to turn himself in at the jail in Fort Smith. Belle however had caught July fooling around with a young Cherokee girl. She told him she had no intention of paying his bail OR his lawyers, thus infuriating July as well.
When Watson’s house was searched, his shotgun was found with both barrels recently discharged, but he denied having anything to do with the murder. Watson told a deputy that Jim July had come by his house the afternoon of Belle’s death to borrow his shotgun, supposedly to kill a coyote. He said July returned the shotgun later that day with both barrels empty.
A hearing was held at Ft. Smith and Watson’s neighbors testified he was hard working, well liked, and caused no troubles. It was discovered that the rumors about Watson being wanted for murder in Florida were false. The Commissioner ordered Watson released and a deputy Marshall to continue investigating.
Deputy Hutchins interviewed Milo Hoyt, the man who found Belle shot, and learned that Jim July had offered him $100 to kill Belle. When Hoyt refused, July supposedly yelled, “Hell, I’ll kill the old hag myself and spend the money on whiskey!” Hutchins caught up with Jim July and when July reached for his gun, Hutchins fired first. Jim July later died in the Ft. Smith jail from his wounds.
After her death, Belle Starr’s legendonly grew, and she would have surely enjoyed the attention. Newspapers proclaimed her The Bandit Queen or The Female Jesse James. Dime-novel westerns were written about her exploits both true and not-so-true. Decades later, a 1941 Hollywood film was made about her early life – Belle Star, starring Gene Tierney; and a 1980 TV movie of the same name, starring Elizabeth Montgomery.
Belle was buried in the family plot at Younger’s Bend. Pearl paid for a monument over her mother’s grave. On top was carved an image of her favorite horse, Venus. On the stone Pearl left the following inscription:
Shed not for her the bitter tear, Nor give the heart to vain regret. ‘Tis but the casket that lies here, The gem that fills it, sparkles yet.
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The famous macabre writer and poet, Edgar Allan Poe, died under mysterious circumstances at the age of only 40 in Baltimore, Maryland in 1849. Watch this short Mini-Doc to find out why his death remains a mystery to this day, and 6 theories on how it might have happened.
LOST IN HISTORY – Blog, Podcast and Historical Novels – PAUL ANDREWS
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The ultimate fate of millions of immigrants arriving in New York City’s infamous Ellis Island, around the turn of the 20th century, depended on a quick 2 minute physical AND their answers to 29 pivotal questions. Watch this short Mini-Doc to find out more.
Blog, Podcast, Mini-Docs & Historical Novels – PAUL ANDREWS
Heroes are often born unexpectedly from dire circumstances. Confronted with an intolerable situation, they choose to act with humanity, rather than meekly back down, or join the angry mob. Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara, and his wife Yukiko, when confronted with the Nazi Holocaust rapidly encroaching upon Lithuania, followed their hearts in direct defiance of their government. In 1940, in the early years of World War II, they risked their livelihood to urgently issue Travel Visas to Polish and Lithuanian Jewish refugees. Though it would cost him his diplomatic career, this Holocaust Hero managed to save the lives of more than 6,000 souls, the second largest number of Jews rescued from the Nazis.
Who was this humble, unassuming hero?
Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara was born in 1900 to a middle-class family on the Japanese Island of Honshu. His mother came from a long line of samurai and he grew up as the Japanese Empire was flexing its global military power. Sugihara was raised in the strict Japanese code of ethics – love of the family and children, duty and responsibility, strength and resourcefulness, and NOT bringing shame on one’s family. He graduated school at the top of his class and his father insisted he become a doctor. But Chiune’s dream was to study literature, live abroad and experience other cultures. He attended Tokyo’s Waseda University and paid for his own college with odd jobs.
Sugihara was interested in foreign religions, philosophy, cultures and languages. He a won a scholarship from the Japanese Foreign Service to study Russian in Manchuria, China. He graduated with honors from Harbin Gakuin as an expert on the Soviet Union. He returned to Tokyo to train for his first assignment as a diplomat. It was there he met and married his wife, Yukiko Kikuchi.
He first served in Japanese-controlled Manchuria and was soon promoted to Deputy Minister of China Foreign Affairs. But Sugihara was disturbed by his government’s cruel treatment of the Chinese people and resigned his post. Because he was now fluent in Russian, Tokyo sent him to the Lithuanian capital of Kaunas in 1939 to open a one-man consulate. Though officially a diplomat, he was also ordered to provide intelligence on both Soviet and German troop movements.
During his time in Lithuania, the Sugiharas became acquainted with many local residents. This included some Jews, who shared with him their fears of the growing Nazi menace in Germany. Sugihara observed the closeness of Jewish families and it reminded him of his own family, customs and festivals.
Six months later, Hitler’s Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939.
Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany. As Nazi forces rapidly overtook Poland, a wave of desperate Jewish refugees flooded into Lithuania. They brought with them chilling tales of German atrocities against Polish Jews. Some 15,000 arrived. Caught between the Nazis and the Soviets, they were desperately seeking ways to emigrate away from Europe. Sugihara recognized the urgency of their situation and exchanged information with friends in the Polish underground. He realized that, with western Europe engulfed in war, the best Jewish avenue for escape was an eastern route through the Soviet Union.
The population of Kaunas was also one-quarter Jewish. Lithuanian Jews did not realize the extent the Nazi Holocaust was being perpetrated against Polish Jews – murders by the tens of thousands. Then in June 1940, the Soviets invaded, occupied and annexed Lithuania, making it difficult for Jews to emigrate out through the Soviet Union. Sadly, the rest of the free world, including the United States, also limited the immigration of Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe.
Against this terrible backdrop, Consul Sugihara suddenly became a key player in Jewish survival. The fate of thousands of families would depend on a glimmer of hope … and his humanity. The two Dutch colonial islands of Curacao and Guiana in the Caribbean, did not require formal entrance visas. The Dutch consul had gotten permission to stamp their passports with entrance permits. There was one problem though. The refugees would have to pass through the Soviet Union. The Soviet consul agreed – on one condition. They’d also have to obtain a transit visa from Japan, as they’d have to pass through Japan on their way to the Caribbean.
Then Sugihara’s situation in Lithuania went from bad to worse.
In July 1940, the Soviet Union ordered all foreign embassies to evacuate Kaunas immediately. Sugihara and the Dutch consul, Jan Zwartendijk, urgently requested and received a 20-day extension from Moscow. In a matter of days, Sugihara and Zwartendijk were the only foreign diplomats left in Lithuania.
On a hot summer morning in July 1940, Consul Sugihara awakened to find a crowd of desperate Jewish refugees standing outside his consulate. As his wife was packing their belongings, Sugihara agreed to briefly meet with a delegation. They had come pleading with an urgent request for help.
If Consul Sugihara would grant them Japanese transit visas, they could obtain Russian exit visas and escape to freedom through the Soviet Union. Chiune Sugihara was sympathetic and moved by their plight, but he did not have the authority to issue thousands of such visas without permission. And he doubted the Japanese Foreign Ministry would agree to this very unusual request. However, he was troubled by the refugees’ plight and agreed to telegram Tokyo.
Chiune Sugihara wired his Foreign Ministry in Tokyo three separate times asking for permission. Three times he was denied. Japan did not want to accept Jewish refugees under such circumstances:
Concerning transit visas requested previously STOP advise absolutely not to be issued any traveler not holding firm end visa with guaranteed departure ex japan STOP no exceptions STOP no further inquiries expected STOP
K Tanaka, Foreign Ministry, Tokyo
After the third rejection, and with the Jewish crowd still outside his door, he discussed the situation with his wife. Sugihara had a difficult decision to make. As a career diplomat, he was bound by the strict Japanese obedience he had been taught all his life. He was also a descendant of samurais, who helped those in need over the centuries. He knew that if he defied orders, he risked family disgrace and would probably never work as a diplomat again. This would result in serious hardship for his family.
Fifty years later, his wife Yukiko, described those days: “At first, there were maybe 300 people. They stood there from morning till night, day after day, their small children with them. They had risked their lives, their bodies exhausted, their clothes torn and their faces tired. I would see them from my window. It was so hard for me to watch … they were so miserable. We did not know what to do. We could not sleep at night. We had three young children ourselves. If my husband issues the visas contrary to the Foreign Office, he would lose his career … We were thinking and thinking what to do, and the refugees begged and begged ”Please give us visas“.
Sugihara was haunted by the words of the samurai proverb: “Even a hunter cannot kill a bird which flies to him for refuge.”
In the end, they could only follow their consciences. They would write the visas. In his response to the Tokyo cable, Sugihara admitted issuing visas to people who had not completed all required arrangements. He explained the extenuating circumstances: Japan was the only transit country available for those going to the Caribbean, and his visas were needed for departure from the Soviet Union. Once the Nazis arrived, all the Jews would be sent to concentration camps.
For 29 days in August, 1940, the Sugiharas sat for hours each day, writing and signing visas by hand. They wrote over 300 a day, normally a month’s worth. Each night, she would massage his tired and aching hands. He rarely stopped to eat but for sandwiches his wife made. Jews were standing in line day and night. He came out frequently to assure them that he was doing the best he could. Hundreds soon became thousands before finally, he was forced by Russia to close the consulate and leave Lithuania.
Within that brief span of time, he provided nearly 3,500 transit visas to Jewish refugees. Sugihara ultimately gave visas to those who lacked all the needed travel papers. He even continued issuing documents to Jews from his train window at the Kaunas station, until the moment it departed for Berlin in September, 1940.
What became of the Refugees with Sugihara visas?
They quickly got on trains to Moscow, then the trans-Siberian railroad to Vladivostok. From there, they continued by boat to Kobe, Japan, before eventually being sent to Shanghai. As many as six thousand refugees made their way to Japan in the following months. Thousands of Polish Jews with his visas survived the war in safety in China. They had escaped the Holocaust and become Sugihara Survivors. Back in Lithuania, Hitler and the Nazis invaded in June 1941, and the killing of Polish and Lithuanian Jews began.
From Kaunas, Sugihara was sent by Tokyo to a consulate in Kaliningrad and then to Bucharest for the rest of the war. In 1946, after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, Chiune Sugihara and his family returned to Japan. There the government dismissed him from foreign service for disobeying direct orders – though the official reason was downsizing of the Japanese diplomatic corps post-war.
His career as a diplomat was over. Once a rising star, Sugihara could only find work as a translator and interpreter. For the last two decades of his life, he worked as a manager for an trading company with business in Russia. This was his fate, though he had saved thousands from certain death. It took courage to defy his father and not become a doctor. It took courage to take his family, leave his Japan home and work overseas. It took even more courage to openly defy his Japanese authorities.
Today, there may be more than 40,000 Jews who owe their lives to Chiune and Yukiko Sugihara. After the war, he never spoke about his extraordinary deeds, never actually knowing if it had done any good. He spent the latter half of his life in relative obscurity. Then in 1969, Sugihara was found by a Jewish man he had helped save in Lithuania. Soon, hundreds came forward and testified about his courage that summer.
In 1985, he received Israel’s highest honor – Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem. By then an old man, he was too ill to travel to Israel. His wife and son went and received the honor on his behalf. Further, a park in Jerusalem was renamed in his honor.
Consul Chiune Sugihara died in 1986 at age 86. Yukiko Sugihara passed away at 94 in 2008. Since his death, Sugihara was further memorialized in his hometown of Yaotsu, Japan, as well as Kaunas (now Kovnos), Lithuania. In 2000, the nation of Japan officially celebrated the centenary of Chiune Sugihara’s birth. A biographical film about Sugihara, Persona Non Grata, premiered in the United States in 2015, directed by Japanese-American Cellin Gluck.
Upon receiving his award, this Holocaust Hero was asked by the press why he did it? Why did he disobey orders and risk his family’s livelihood? His answer was simple. “They were human beings and needed my help. I’m glad I found the strength to make the decision to give it to them. I may have to disobey my government, but if I don’t, I would be disobeying my God.”
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