A Movie That Matters

  • Katyn
    a film directed by Andrzej Wajda, written by Andrzej Mularczyk and Andrzej Wajda

The ruins of a Russian Orthodox monastery, 1939: paint peels from the walls, light filters in from the cracks in the ceiling, cigarette smoke whirls through the air. Primitive wooden camp beds are stacked up high, one on top of the other, for the monastery has been turned into a prison. The prisoners, soldiers in khaki-brown wool uniforms and black boots, are gathered in a large group. Craning their heads forward, they listen to their commanding officer make a speech. Solemn and tired, he does not ask them to fight. He asks them to survive. “Gentlemen,” says the general, “you must endure. Without you, there will be no free Poland.” Continue reading “A Movie That Matters”

Wir wollen Veränderung

Als ich vergangenen Sommer in Neu Mexiko die Lokalzeitung „Santa Fe New Mexican“ in die Hände bekam, war darin von Hillary Clinton oder Barack Obama keine Rede. Im Fokus der Wahlberichterstattung des „New Mexican“ stand der allseits bewunderte demokratische Gouverneur des Staates, Bill Richardson, der damals noch im Rennen um die Präsidentschaft 2008 war. Continue reading “Wir wollen Veränderung”

The Mystery of Condi Rice: Where did she learn how to play the game?

  • Condoleezza Rice: An American Life
    by Elisabeth Bumiller,
    Published by Random House, 2007, 400 pp.

Way back when George W. Bush was still a candidate and “Condi” was not yet an internationally recognized nickname, someone who had observed the present secretary of state in a previous incarnation told me to watch her carefully. “Everyone underestimates her, because they think she’s a token. Condi’s not a token. Condi plays the game better than anyone else.” Continue reading “The Mystery of Condi Rice: Where did she learn how to play the game?”

How Hitler Could Have Won

  • The Greatest Battle
    by Andrew Nagorski, Simon and Schuster, 366 pp.
  • Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War
    by Rodric Braithwaite, Knopf, 398 pp

Hitler invaded the Soviet Union at 0400 hours on June 22, 1941. By June 23, the Wehrmacht had destroyed the entire Soviet air force. By June 26, the Soviet commander of the Western front had lost radio contact with Moscow. By June 28, German troops had entered Minsk, the capital of Soviet Belarus. And on the morning of June 29—just a week into the invasion—Stalin failed to appear in the Kremlin. Continue reading “How Hitler Could Have Won”

Memory speaks volumes

  • The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia
    by Orlando Figes Allen Lane, 784pp.

It’s a dangerous business, oral history, at least when you try it in Russia. Without oral history a complete history of the Soviet Union is almost impossible to write. Archival documents are dry, containing only the official point of view; memoirs, often written years later, are unreliable and frequently slide over important details. Continue reading “Memory speaks volumes”