Archive for the ‘News from Around the World’ Category

This 4-year-old made an unlikely friend at the grocery store

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Norah and Mr. Dan on his 82nd birthday

TARA WOOD

Tara Wood of Augusta, Georgia, was with two of her kids on a routine trip to the grocery store. It was Norah, her 4-year-old’s, birthday.

That’s when they ran across Dan Peterson, known as Mr. Dan.

“As Mr. Dan walked by, she (Norah) smiled and waved. ‘Hi old person! It’s my birthday!’” said Wood. “He stopped in his tracks, smiled, and said, ‘Well hello, little lady! How old are you today?’ They chatted for a couple of minutes, and we went our separate ways.”

But a few minutes later, Norah decided she really wanted a picture with him, so Wood tracked him down.

“I just walked away, and then I was coming up the bread aisle,” said Mr. Dan. “And I said, ‘OK this is almost my last aisle before I get out of here, and then here is this little girl again.’”

“And so they posed together, and then they hugged each other like they were long lost friends,” Wood said.

They thanked him for his time.

“He teared up and said ‘No, thank you. This has been the best day I’ve had in a long time. You’ve made me so happy, Ms. Norah,’” Wood said.

Mr. Dan described Norah on that day as a “light that just lit me up.”

Wood was so touched by the exchange that she went home and posted the photos on Facebook. Not only did she receive thousands of instant reactions, that’s also when something really special happened.

A friend of Mr. Dan’s reached out to let Wood know that his wife had just died and she hadn’t seen him this happy in a long time.

“She knew Mr. Dan and his late wife, Mary. She was the key to us getting in touch,” said Wood.

“So I got this phone call, and she (Wood) said, ‘Is this the Dan that talked to the little girl at the grocery store?’” said Mr. Dan. “I said, ‘Are you talking about Norah?’”

Wood decided they should probably pay him a visit, and Mr. Dan agreed.

“They came by the house, and sure enough, she grabbed me and hugged me like there was no tomorrow,” said Mr. Dan.

“Norah brought him a framed picture of the two of them in the grocery store, pictures she colored (he put them on his fridge!) and a bag full of pastries and Butterfingers,” said Wood.

After going over to visit him, Wood said, “Norah asks to visit Mr. Dan after school every single day.”

While they don’t go by every day, they make it a point to call him at least once a week, and they definitely went over to help him celebrate his 82nd birthday.

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-7-24-42-am.png

Norah brought Mr. Dan balloons, a gift and a giant cupcake for his birthday.

TARA WOOD

Norah also worries about Mr. Dan and doesn’t want him to be alone.

“Norah has been worried about Mr. Dan being alone. She wanted to know if we could buy him a dog because dogs make everything better,” said Wood.

While they didn’t get Mr. Dan an actual dog, Norah made sure to hand-deliver a stuffed puppy.

“Tara finally I think convinced Norah that I might not be in the place for a dog, but maybe if they gave me a stuffed dog,” said Mr. Dan. “And she had this bag and Norah took out a stuffed puppy for me.”

While her mother said Norah spends a lot of time thinking about Mr. Dan, he said it’s meant the world to him as well. Mr. Dan said that when he had run into Norah at the grocery store he had been having a really tough time.

“It was one of those days that I’m on my own little private pity party,” said Mr. Dan. “And I’m feeling sorry for myself and doubting my beliefs and it obviously changed my opinion that day and lifted my spirits to heights that I hadn’t known for a long time.”

Mr. Dan made sure to let Wood know.

“He said that he hadn’t had an uninterrupted night of sleep for the past several months,” said Wood. “Sadness and anxiety had made his mind wander at night, but since meeting Norah, he has slept soundly every single night. He said she healed him.”

norah-and-mr-dan.jpg

Norah napping with her photo of her and Mr. Dan.

Wood said she wasn’t sure why Norah chose to call out Mr. Dan — she has grandfathers but seems to think of Mr. Dan as a friend.

“I don’t know, for some reason; obviously there were other old people [at the grocery store],” said Mr. Dan. “And she saw me and I was the ‘old people’ she had to talk to.”

Wood is sure that it was simply meant to be.

“I can only assume there was some divine intervention or stars aligning or she was nudged by the universe. I know we’re all better because of it, though,” said Wood.

Wood will keep updating the world on this dynamic duo.

“Mostly, she just cares about his well-being and his heart. She wants him to be happy… I guess that’s what friends are supposed to do, huh?”

Mr. Dan summed up his new friend well.

“If I didn’t have anything else to do the rest of my life,” he said, “I have her to love.”

I, RACIST

Monday, September 26th, 2016

What follows is the text of a “sermon” that I gave as a “congregational reflection” to an all White audience at the Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ on Sunday, June 28th. The sermon was begun with a reading of The Good Samaritan story, and this wonderful quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.

Credit for this speech goes to Chaédria LaBouvier, whose “Why We Left” inspired me to speak out about racism; to Robin DiAngelo, whose “White Fragility” gave me an understanding of the topic; and to Reni Eddo-Lodge who said “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” long before I had the courage to start doing it again.


couple weeks ago, I was debating what I was going to talk about in this sermon. I told Pastor Kelly Ryan I had great reservations talking about the one topic that I think about every single day.

Then, a terrorist massacred nine innocent people in a church that I went to, in a city that I still think of as home. At that point, I knew that despite any misgivings, I needed to talk about race.

You see, I don’t talk about race with White people.


To illustrate why, I’ll tell a story:

It was probably about 15 years ago when a conversation took place between my aunt, who is White and lives in New York State, and my sister, who is Black and lives in North Carolina. This conversation can be distilled to a single sentence, said by my Black sister:

“The only difference between people in the North and people in the South is that down here, at least people are honest about being racist.”

There was a lot more to that conversation, obviously, but I suggest that it can be distilled into that one sentence because it has been, by my White aunt. Over a decade later, this sentence is still what she talks about. It has become the single most important aspect of my aunt’s relationship with my Black family. She is still hurt by the suggestion that people in New York, that she, a northerner, a liberal, a good person who has Black family members, is a racist.

This perfectly illustrates why I don’t talk about race with White people. Even — or rather, especially — my own family.


love my aunt. She’s actually my favorite aunt, and believe me,
I have a lot of awesome aunts
to choose from. But the facts
are actually quite in my sister’s favor on this one.

New York State is one of the most segregated states in the country. Buffalo, New York, where my aunt lives, is one of the 10 most segregated school systems in the country. The racial inequality of the area she inhabits is so bad that it has been the subject of reports by the Civil Rights Action Network and the NAACP.

Those, however, are facts that my aunt does not need to know. She does
not need to live with the racial segregation and oppression of her home.
As a white person with upward mobility, she has continued to improve
her situation. She moved out of the area I grew up in– she moved to an
area with better schools. She doesn’t have to experience racism, and so
it is not real to her.

Nor does it dawn on her that the very fact that she moved away from an increasingly Black neighborhood to live in a White suburb might itself be an aspect of racism. She doesn’t need to realize that “better schools” exclusively means “whiter schools.”

I don’t talk about race with White people because I have so often seen it go nowhere. When I was younger, I thought it was because all white people are racist. Recently, I’ve begun to understand that it’s more nuanced than that.


understand, you have to know
that Black people think in terms
of Black people.

We don’t see a shooting of an innocent Black child in another state as something separate from us because we know viscerally that it could be our child, our parent, or us, that is shot.

The shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston resonated with me because Walter Scott was portrayed in the media as a deadbeat and a criminal — but when you look at the facts about the actual man, he was nearly indistinguishable from my own father.

Racism affects us directly because the fact that it happened at a geographically remote location or to another Black person is only a coincidence, an accident. It could just as easily happen to us — right here, right now.

Black people think in terms of we because we live in a society where the social and political structures interact with us as Black people.

White people do not think in terms of we. White people have the privilege to interact with the social and political structures of our society as individuals. You are “you,” I am “one of them.” Whites are often not directly affected by racial oppression even in their own community, so what does not affect them locally has little chance of affecting them regionally or nationally. They have no need, nor often any real desire, to think in terms of a group. They are supported by the system, and so are mostly unaffected by it.

What they are affected by are attacks on their own character. To my aunt, the suggestion that “people in The North are racist” is an attack on her as a racist. She is unable to differentiate her participation within a racist system (upwardly mobile, not racially profiled, able to move to White suburbs, etc.) from an accusation that she, individually, is a racist. Without being able to make that differentiation, White people in general decide to vigorously defend their own personal non-racism, or point out that it doesn’t exist because they don’t see it.

The result of this is an incessantly repeating argument where a Black person says “Racism still exists. It is real,” and a white person argues “You’re wrong, I’m not racist at all. I don’t even see any racism.” My aunt’s immediate response is not “that is wrong, we should do better.” No, her response is self-protection: “That’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything. You are wrong.”

Racism is not slavery. As President Obama said, it’s not avoiding the use
of the word Nigger. Racism is not white water fountains and the back of
the bus. Martin Luther King did not end racism. Racism is a cop severing
the spine of an innocent man. It is a 12 year old child being shot for playing with a toy gun in a state where it is legal to openly carry firearms.

But racism is even more subtle than that. It’s more nuanced. Racism is
the fact that “White” means “normal” and that anything else is different. Racism is our acceptance of an all white Lord of the Rings cast because
of “historical accuracy,” ignoring the fact that this is a world with an
entirely fictionalized history.

Even when we make shit up,
we want it to be white.

And racism is the fact that we all accept that it is white. Benedict Cumberbatch playing Khan in Star Trek. Khan, who is from India.
Is there anyone Whiter than Benedict fucking Cumberbatch? What?
They needed a “less racial” cast because they already had the
Black Uhura character?

That is racism. Once you let yourself see it, it’s there all the time.

Black children learn this when their parents give them “The Talk.”
When they are sat down at the age of 5 or so and told that their best
friend’s father is not sick, and not in a bad mood — he just doesn’t
want his son playing with you. Black children grow up early to life in
The Matrix. We’re not given a choice of the red or blue pill. Most white people, like my aunt, never have to choose. The system was made for
White people, so White people don’t have to think about living in it.

But we can’t point this out.

Living every single day with institutionalized racism and then having to argue its very existence, is tiring, and saddening, and angering. Yet if we express any emotion while talking about it, we’re tone policed, told we’re being angry. In fact, a key element in any racial argument in America is the Angry Black person, and racial discussions shut down when that person speaks. The Angry Black person invalidates any arguments about racism because they are “just being overly sensitive,” or “too emotional,” or– playing the race card. Or even worse, we’re told that we are being racist (Does any intelligent person actually believe a systematically oppressed demographic has the ability to oppress those in power?)

But here is the irony, here’s the thing that all the angry Black people know, and no calmly debating White people want to admit: The entire discussion of race in America centers around the protection of White feelings.

Ask any Black person and they’ll tell you the same thing. The reality of thousands of innocent people raped, shot, imprisoned, and systematically disenfranchised are less important than the suggestion that a single White person might be complicit in a racist system.

This is the country we live in. Millions of Black lives are valued less than a single White person’s hurt feelings.

White people and Black people are not having a discussion about race. Black people, thinking as a group, are talking about living in a racist system. White people, thinking as individuals, refuse to talk about “I, racist” and instead protect their own individual and personal goodness. In doing so, they reject the existence of racism.

But arguing about personal non-racism is missing the point.

Despite what the Charleston Massacre makes things look like, people are dying not because individuals are racist, but because individuals are helping support a racist system by wanting to protect their own non-racist self beliefs.

People are dying because we are supporting a racist system that justifies White people killing Black people.


see this in how one Muslim killer is Islamic terror; how one Mexican thief points to the need for border security; in one innocent, unarmed Black man shot in the back by a cop, then sullied in the media as a thug and criminal.

And in the way a white racist in a state that still flies the confederate flag is seen as “troubling” and “unnerving.” In the way people “can’t understand why he would do such a thing.”

A white person smoking pot is a “hippie” and a Black person doing it is a “criminal.” It’s evident in the school to prison pipeline and the fact that there are close to 20 people of color in prison for every white person.

There’s a headline from The Independent that sums this up quite nicely: “Charleston shooting: Black and Muslim killers are ‘terrorists’ and ‘thugs’. Why are white shooters called ‘mentally ill’?”

I’m gonna read that again: “Black and Muslim killers are ‘terrorists’ and ‘thugs’. Why are white shooters called ‘mentally ill’?”

Did you catch that? It’s beautifully subtle. This is an article talking specifically about the different way we treat people of color in this nation and even in this article’s headline, the white people are “shooters” and the Black and Muslim people are “killers.”

Even when we’re talking about racism, we’re using racist language to make people of color look dangerous and make White people come out as not so bad.

Just let that sink in for a minute, then ask yourself why Black people are angry when they talk about race.

The reality of America is that White people are fundamentally good, and so when a white person commits a crime, it is a sign that they, as an individual, are bad. Their actions as a person are not indicative of any broader social construct. Even the fact that America has a growing number of violent hate groups, populated mostly by white men, and that nearly *all* serial killers are white men can not shadow the fundamental truth of white male goodness. In fact, we like White serial killers so much, we make mini-series about them.

White people are good as a whole, and only act badly as individuals.

People of color, especially Black people (but boy we can talk about
“The Mexicans” in this community) are seen as fundamentally bad.
There might be a good one — and we are always quick to point them
out to our friends, show them off as our Academy Award for “Best Non-Racist in a White Role” — but when we see a bad one, it’s just proof that
the rest are, as a rule, bad.

This, all of this, expectation, treatment, thought, the underlying social system that puts White in the position of Normal and good, and Black
in the position of “other” and “bad,” all of this, is racism.

And White people, every single one of you, are complicit in this racism because you benefit directly from it.

This is why I don’t like the story of the good samaritan. Everyone likes to think of themselves as the person who sees someone beaten and bloodied and helps him out.

That’s too easy.

If I could re-write that story, I’d rewrite it from the perspective of Black America. What if the person wasn’t beaten and bloody? What if it wasn’t so obvious? What if they were just systematically challenged in a thousand small ways that actually made it easier for you to succeed in life?

Would you be so quick to help then?
Or would you, like most White people, stay silent and let it happen?

Here’s what I want to say to you: Racism is so deeply embedded in this country not because of the racist right-wing radicals who practice it openly, it exists because of the silence and hurt feelings of liberal America.

That’s what I want to say, but really, I can’t. I can’t say that because I’ve spent my life not talking about race to White people. In a big way, it’s my fault. Racism exists because I, as a Black person, don’t challenge you to look at it.

Racism exists because I, not you, am silent.

But I’m caught in the perfect Catch 22, because when I start pointing out racism, I become the Angry Black Person, and the discussion shuts down again. So I’m stuck.

All the Black voices in the world speaking about racism all the time do not move White people to think about it– but one White John Stewart talking about Charleston has a whole lot of White people talking about it. That’s the world we live in. Black people can’t change it while White people are silent and deaf to our words.

White people are in a position of power in this country because of racism. The question is: Are they brave enough to use that power to speak against the system that gave it to them?

So I’m asking you to help me. Notice this. Speak up. Don’t let it slide. Don’t stand watching in silence. Help build a world where it never gets to the point where the Samaritan has to see someone bloodied and broken.

As for me,
I will no longer be silent.

I’m going to try to speak kindly, and softly, but that’s gonna be hard. Because it’s getting harder and harder for me to think about the protection of White people’s feelings when White people don’t seem to care at all about the loss of so many Black lives.

The British tycoon who sleeps in Hitler’s BED

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

 

  • Kevin Wheatcroft, 55, from Leicestershire is reportedly worth £120million
  • His father fought for Britain in the war and returned with a German wife 
  • Kevin started his collection with stormtrooper’s helmet when he was five
  • He is often accused of being a Nazi but says he likes the items because every one has a story 

 

When he was five, Kevin Wheatcroft received an unusual birthday present from his parents: a bullet-pocked SS stormtrooper’s helmet. He had requested it especially.
The next year, at a car auction in Monte Carlo, he asked his multi-millionaire father for a Mercedes: the G4 that Hitler rode into the Sudetenland in 1938. Tom Wheatcroft refused to buy it and his son cried all the way home.
Kevin Wheatcroft is now 55, and according to the Sunday Times Rich List, worth £120 million. He lives in Leicestershire, where he looks after his late father’s property portfolio and oversees the management of Donington Park Racetrack and motor museum (which he also owns).

Tycoon: Kevin Wheatcroft, owner of the world's biggest collection of Nazi memorabilia reportedly worth in excess of £100million although no-one knows the true value
Tycoon: Kevin Wheatcroft, owner of the world’s biggest collection of Nazi memorabilia reportedly worth in excess of £100million although no-one knows the true value
Forgotten army: The tycoon keeps uniforms form an era of history that many find too shocking to amire
Forgotten army: The tycoon keeps uniforms form an era of history that many find too shocking to amire

The ruling passion of his life, though, is what he calls the Wheatcroft Collection — widely regarded as the world’s largest accumulation of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia.
The collection has largely been kept private, under heavy guard, in industrial buildings Wheatcroft owns near Market Harborough, or at his homes in Leicestershire, south-west France and south-west Germany. There is no official valuation, but some estimates put the worth at more than £100 million.
Among the internet tribes of World War II enthusiasts, the Wheatcroft Collection is spoken about as a near-mythical trove. Now he is guardedly opening it up to a wider audience, launching a rather creaky website and putting a handful of vehicles on display at his motor museum.
Wheatcroft’s father, Tom, a building site worker from Castle Donington, returned from World War II a hero. He also came back with a wife, Wheatcroft’s mother, Lenchen, whom he had first seen from a tank turret as he pulled into her village in Lower Saxony.
Tom, who died in 2009, made millions in the post-war building boom, then spent the rest of his life indulging his zeal for motor cars.
Exact figures are hard to come by, but the annual global turnover of the market for Nazi memorabilia is estimated to be in excess of £30 million. The trade is either banned or strictly regulated in Germany, France, Austria, Israel and Hungary. No major auction house will handle Nazi memorabilia and neither will eBay.

Aiming high: Mr Wheatcroft started his collection with a stromtrooper's helmet that his parents bought him for his fifth birthday and has built it into what is believed to be the world's biggest hauls of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia
Aiming high: Mr Wheatcroft started his collection with a stromtrooper’s helmet that his parents bought him for his fifth birthday and has built it into what is believed to be the world’s biggest hauls of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia
Still, the business flourishes, with interest from buyers in Russia, America and the Middle East.
When I went to see the collection, Wheatcroft met me off the train at Market Harborough. ‘I want people to see this stuff,’ he told me. ‘There’s no better way to understand history. But I’m only one man and there’s so much of it.’
He recently purchased two more barns and a dozen shipping containers to house his collection. As we made our way into the first warehouse, he stood back for a moment, as if shocked by the scale of it all.
‘Every object has a story,’ Wheatcroft told me as we stepped over U-boat torpedoes and V2 rockets. He owns a squadron of 88 tanks — more than the Danish and Belgian armies combined. We stood beside a Panzer IV, patched with rust and freckled with bullet holes.
Wheatcroft scratched at the paintwork to reveal layers of colour: its current livery, the duck-egg blue of Christian Phalangists from the Lebanese civil war, the green of the Czech army who used the vehicles in the Sixties, and finally the original German taupe. The tank was abandoned in the Sinai desert until he shipped it home to Leicestershire. The value of his machines is dazzling. ‘The Panzer IV cost me $25,000. I’ve been offered two-and-a-half million for it.’
Trying to work out the value of the objects around me, I gave up somewhere north of £50 million. Wheatcroft has made a fortune, almost without realising it. ‘Everyone assumes I’m a spoilt rich kid who wants to indulge in these toys,’ he said. ‘It’s not like that at all. My dad supported me, but only when I could prove that the collection would work financially.’

Whiter than white: Mr Wheatcroft tries to avoid questions about why he keeps the collection as people often accuse him of being a Nazi himself. He says he likes the items because every one tells a story
Whiter than white: Mr Wheatcroft tries to avoid questions about why he keeps the collection as people often accuse him of being a Nazi himself. He says he likes the items because every one tells a story

In one of the warehouses, I spotted a dark wooden door, heavy iron bolts on one side.
‘That’s the door to Hitler’s cell in Landsberg Prison,’ he said. ‘Where he wrote Mein Kampf. I was in the area when the prison was being pulled down. I drove there, parked and watched the demolition.
‘At lunch, I followed the builders to the pub and bought them a round. I did it three days in a row and by the end I drove off with the door, some bricks and the iron bars from his cell.’
Near the door sat a trio of rusty wine racks. ‘They were Hitler’s. We pulled them out of the ruins of the Berghof [Hitler’s home in Berchtesgaden] in May 1989. The place was dynamited in ’52, but my friend and I climbed through the ruins of the garage and down air vents to get in.’
Later, I came across a massive bust of Hitler. ‘I have the largest collection of Hitler heads in the world,’ he said. ‘This one came from a ruined castle in Austria. I bought it from the town council.’
Wheatcroft’s huge, modern home sits behind high walls and heavy gates. A Krupp submarine deck gun stands sentry outside the back door. One outer wall is set with maroon half-moons of iron work, inlaid with runic symbols.
‘They were from the officers’ gates to Buchenwald [concentration camp],’ he told me in an offhand manner. ‘I’ve got replica gates to Auschwitz — [embellished with the words, Work Brings Freedom] Arbeit Macht Frei — over there.’
The immense, two-storey barn conversion behind his house wore fresh paint and shiny new locks. ‘I have to have strict rules,’ he said, ‘I don’t show many people the collection, because not many can understand the motives behind it, people don’t understand my values.’ He kept making tentative passes at the stigma attached to his obsession, as if baffled by those who might find his collection distasteful, yet desperately keen to defend himself, and it.

Mr Wheatcroft's father returned from the war a hero. He also returned with a wife, Kevin's mother, whom he had first seen from a tank turret as he pulled into her village in Lower Saxony 
Mr Wheatcroft’s father returned from the war a hero. He also returned with a wife, Kevin’s mother, whom he had first seen from a tank turret as he pulled into her village in Lower Saxony
In-house: Mr Wheathouse keeps his most precious memorabilia in his own home but the collection is so large that he keeps hauls of items in various secure locations
In-house: Mr Wheathouse keeps his most precious memorabilia in his own home but the collection is so large that he keeps hauls of items in various secure locations

The lower level housed the Mercedes G4 that Wheatcroft saw as a child in Monaco. ‘I cried and cried because my dad wouldn’t buy me this car. Now, almost 50 years later, I’ve finally got it.’
Upstairs, in a long, gabled hall were dozens of mannequins in Nazi uniform — Hitler Youth, SS officers, Wehrmacht. One wall was plastered with sketches by Hitler, Albert Speer and some rather good nudes by Göring’s chauffeur.
On cluttered tables sat a scale model of Hitler’s Kehlsteinhaus mountain eyrie, a twisted machine-gun from Rudolf Hess’s crashed Bf110 (in which he flew to Scotland), the commandant’s phone from Buchenwald, Enigma machines.
We were standing in front of signed photographs of Hitler and Göring.
‘I think I could give up everything else,’ he said, ‘the cars, the tanks, the guns, as long as I could still have Adolf and Hermann. They’re my real love.’
I asked whether Wheatcroft was worried about what people might read into his fascination with Nazism. ‘I try not to answer when people accuse me of being a Nazi,’ he said. ‘I tend to turn my back and leave them looking silly. I think that Hitler and Göring were such fascinating characters in so many ways. Hitler’s eye for quality was just extraordinary.
‘More than that, though, I want to preserve things. I want to show the next generation how it actually was. This collection is a memento for those who didn’t come back.’
His most treasured pieces are kept in his house. In the drawing room sat Eva Braun’s gramophone and record collection in a handsome walnut case. The cluttered snooker room housed a selection of Hitler’s furniture, picked up at a guesthouse in Linz

Famous faces: The collection includes busts of prominent Nazi figures, including numerous examples of Hitler himself. Mr Wheatcroft boasts he has the largest collection of Hitler heads in the world
Famous faces: The collection includes busts of prominent Nazi figures, including numerous examples of Hitler himself. Mr Wheatcroft boasts he has the largest collection of Hitler heads in the world

‘The owner’s father’s dying wish had been that a certain room should be kept locked. I knew Hitler had lived there and finally persuaded him to open it and it was exactly as it had been when Hitler slept in the room. On top of the desk was a blotter covered in Hitler’s signatures in reverse, the drawers were full of signed copies of Mein Kampf. I bought it all. I sleep in the bed, though I’ve changed the mattress.’ A shy, conspiratorial smile.
In the galleried dining room was fugitive SS physician Josef Mengele’s grandfather clock, topped with a depressed-looking bear. ‘I had trouble getting that out of Argentina. I finally had it smuggled out as tractor parts going to the Massey-Ferguson factory in Coventry.’
By a spiral staircase, Wheatcroft paused beneath a full-length portrait of Hitler. ‘This was his favourite painting of himself, used for stamps and official reproductions.’ In an unexceptional bedroom, Wheatcroft reached into a cupboard and with careful hands pulled out Hitler’s white dress suit.
‘I was in Munich with a dealer,’ he said, showing me the tailor’s handwritten label: Reichsführer Adolf Hitler. ‘We had a call to visit a lawyer, who had some connection to Eva Braun.
‘In 1944, Braun had deposited a suitcase in a fireproof safe. He quoted me a price, contents unseen. The case was locked.
‘We drove to Hamburg and had a locksmith open it. Inside were two full sets of Hitler’s suits, two Sam Browne belts, two pairs of shoes, two bundles of love letters written by Hitler to Eva, two sketches of Eva naked, sunbathing, two self-propelling pencils. A pair of AH-monogrammed eyeglasses. A pair of monogrammed champagne flutes. A painting of a Vienna cityscape by Hitler that he must have given to Eva.

Mein Kampf: The famous and extremely controversial book that Hitler wrote while in prison
Mein Kampf: The famous and extremely controversial book that Hitler wrote while in prison

‘I was in a dream world. The greatest find of my collecting career. Now, it’s hard to know what to do with all the stuff. I feel I’m a caretaker until the next person comes along, but I must display it, I must get it out into the public.’
Many would question whether such artefacts ought to be preserved at all, let alone exhibited.
It is, perhaps, their very darkness that attracts collectors. In the conflicting narratives and counter-narratives of history, there is something satisfyingly simple about the evil of the Nazis.
The strange thing about my visit was not its weirdness, but its normality. I had expected a wild-eyed goose-stepper; instead I met a man wrestling with a hobby that became an obsession and was now a millstone.
Collecting was like a disease for him. If he was mad, it wasn’t the madness of the anti-Semite, rather the mania of the collector.
n ALEX PRESTON is the author of In Love And War (Faber & Faber, £7.99). A version of this article first appeared in The Guardian.
Signed copy of Mein Kampf recently sold at auction

 

 

Is this the most extreme window display ever?

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

tumblr_m8vj4zvLBA1rwyyzxo1_500

A young woman was restrained, force-fed and injected with cosmetics in a high street shop window as part of a hard-hitting protest against animal testing.

Jacqueline Traide was tortured in front of hundreds of horrified shoppers in a bid to raise awareness and end the practise.

The 24-year-old endured 10 hours of experiments, which included having her hair shaved and irritants squirted in her eyes, as part of a worldwide campaign by Lush Cosmetics and The Humane Society.

The disturbing stunt took place in Lush’s Regent Street store, one of the UK’s busiest shopping streets.

Jacqueline appeared genuinely terrified as she was pinned down on a bench and had her mouth stretched open with two metal hooks while a man in a white coat force-fed her until she choked and gagged.

The artist was also injected with numerous needles, had her skin braised and lotions and creams smeared across her face.

Passers-by were gobsmacked to see Jacqueline, a social sculpture student at Oxford Brookes University, forced to have a section of her head shaved.

The gruesome spectacle aimed to highlight the cruelty inflicted on animals during cosmetic laboratory tests and raise awareness that animal testing is still a common practise.

The Humane Society International and Lush Cosmetics have joined forces to launch the largest-ever global campaign to end animal testing for cosmetics.

The campaign, launched to coincide with World Week for Animals in Laboratories, is being rolled out simultaneously in over 700 Lush Ltd shops across forty-seven countries including the United States, Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Russia.

Lush campaign manager Tamsin Omond said: “The ironic thing is that if it was a beagle in the window and we were doing all these things to it, we’d have the police and RSPCA here in minutes.

“But somewhere in the world, this kind of thing is happening to an animal every few seconds on average.

“The difference is, it’s normally hidden. We need to remind people it is still going on.”

For more information about the campaign, visit www.fightinganimaltesting.com

Amanda Pollard Booby Trapped Ex-Boyfriend’s Home, Told Friend ‘Payback’s A Bitch.

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

n-AMANDA-POLLARD-largeAn Illinois woman faces felony and misdemeanor charges after she allegedly booby trapped the home of a former lover who had her evicted from his house.

Amanda Pollard, 28, is charged with felony tampering with food, and misdemeanor trespassing and criminal damage to property, according to the Peking Times. Police said the jilted girlfriend put rat poison pellets in her ex’s coffee container, tucked a severed electric blanket cord under a mattress, and peed in his mouthwash.

Pollard’s former lover, Joshua Brewster, had her evicted Dec. 1. When he allowed her to return to collect some of her things three days later, she reportedly threatened to burn the house down with him in it.

Pollard was discovered cutting the blanket cord by Brewster’s friend, who’d gone to the house at his request to see if she’d come back.

The woman reportedly told the friend, “Payback’s a bitch” and described her plans, the Journal Star reports. The friend called police, who discovered the rat poison.

Police said Pollard told them she was “hurt and angry” over her abrupt eviction. Pollard’s Facebook status updates allude to her being “happy” and “in a relationship” shortly before the events unfolded.