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Blog 43 MORE ON THE GOD OF SPINOZA

A Good Friend Writes……..

Years ago I would have struggled with the God of Spinoza.  However, as I have gotten older and learned more about life I find the God of Spinoza very appealing.  I love a God of love and grace who gives us room to grow and even make mistakes.  I love a God who encourages us to enjoy nature and to build community with others instead of hiding out in isolated prayer that keeps us apart from others. I love a God who is the opposite of one who is all about fire, brimstone and eternal punishment. I love that kind of God that I see evident in the most wonderful people I have met in this life-and guess what?  Many of those people don’t go to church! 

A GOOD READ The Good German by Joseph  Kanon.  An American correspondent goes to Berlin at the end of World War II, begins to investigate a murder, and finds the killer. The story was later made into a movie starring George Clooney.

HISTORY OF LITURGICAL MUSIC. In 313, Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as entitled to equal rights and protections alongside other religions of the Empire.  The church now emerged from the underground.  Latin replaced Greek as the official language of the liturgy at Rome.  As the powers of the Roman Emperor in the West declined, the authority of the Roman Bishop increased.  This gradually led to the predominant authority of Rome in matters of faith, discipline – and music

With great numbers of new converts and growing prestige, the church began to build large basilicas in the 5th to 7th centuries and to create music appropriate for such large assemblies.  By the 8th century, a trained music school existed at Rome.

The culmination of liturgy and music is traditionally ascribed to Pope Gregory I (The Great).  Gregorian chant emphasized order and discipline. 

 Today’s Gregorian chant is not necessarily 100% true to that sung centuries ago; the oldest manuscripts with musical notation did not appear until 300 years later

Gregorian chant constitutes one of the most ancient bodies of song still in use anywhere in the world.

 Many people find Gregorian chant to be extremely restful and conducive to prayer.  For a good example, see YouTube – the 99 most essential Gregorian chants  or 1 Hour Divine Gregorian Chant Compilation Mix – Chant of the Mystics Vol. 1 Album – Mystical Chants

THE CHAMPION, magazine of the NAACP L. Interesting articles on:

  • Defense efforts to close the door on social media evidence; and
  • Qualified immunity

MORE ON PBS “CROSSING THE ATLANTIC.”

FACT OR FICTION? Was the President infatuated with Norway’s Crown Princess?

Fact or Fiction: FDR had romantic feelings for Princess Martha.

LIKELY:  “There were many rumors about their relationship—many at the time thought [it was] romantic,” says series creator, director, co-writer and executive producer, Alexander Eik. “We do not know for certain that was the case, but we know that President Roosevelt was infatuated with Martha and this has been confirmed by many sources [including] two of his grandchildren. … Early in the war, British Intelligence [also] reported from Washington to London that the President was infatuated.”

It’s true that in his spare time between 1941-1945, FDR’s most frequent companion was Martha, though others were often with them as well. “We have assumed President Roosevelt had romantic feelings for the Crown Princess,” sums up series’ co-writer and historian, Linda May Kallestein. “That does not mean they had a physical relationship.”

And what did Martha feel for Roosevelt? “That we don’t know,” says Eik. “She was very private. We don’t even know if she wrote anything down in her diaries or in any letters. … We certainly haven’t been able to find any evidence for her feelings towards the President. … Personally, I think she had very warm feelings for him. We know their friendship was intimate, that it was a deep friendship. Was it romantic? I don’t know.”

Fact or Fiction: Eleanor Roosevelt and Princess Martha became good friends—eventually.

FACT:  “In our research we found Eleanor’s relationship with Martha developed during the war,” says Eik. “As far as we know, the First Lady didn’t think much of the Crown Princess when she first arrived.”  While Eleanor was a strong voice in the White House and a political activist, Martha focused on her children. Later Eik adds, “it was clear the President was flirting with Martha. Someone confronted Eleanor about it and she is said to have shrugged and said, There’s always a Martha.”

But Norway’s Crown Princess ended up making a great effort for her country and she and Eleanor were definitely on friendly terms as the war progressed, according to Kallestein. One of Martha’s heralded achievements was a 1943 speech in Madison Square Garden to raise Red Cross funds and it’s true that the First Lady introduced her on stage. However “the part about Eleanor’s helping Martha with her fears of public speaking is something we made up to fit  Martha’s dramatic arc,” Kallestein explains.

Eventually, Eleanor became a close friend and supporter of Martha. “Eleanor visited Oslo after the war as the royal family’s guest and met with Martha when [the Crown Princess] traveled several times to the U.S. for medical treatment,” says Kallestein.

Fact or Fiction: Martha invited injured sailor Alfred Isaksen to dinner as guest of honor.

FICTION:  She did not invite a wounded veteran to challenge prominent guests including the President; the situation is fictional as is the character named Alfred Isaksen. It is true, however, that the Crown Princess met a Norwegian seaman who had survived a torpedo attack and who rejected her inquiries during a hospital visit, say the series co-writers. Martha later learned the sailor was anxious about his family, investigated their situation, and wrote him a letter conveying news they were doing well. The next time she visited, the man cried tears of joy thanking her. It is also “true that President Roosevelt brought high-ranking guests to [Martha’s] home,” says Eik. “The representation of her home as an informal, social arena is correct.”

Fact or Fiction: Merchant seamen from Norway were overnight guests at Pook’s Hill.

FICTION:  The Norwegian Embassy arranged day trips to Pook’s Hill for both war refugees and wounded sailors, however series co-writers say they found no evidence that any spent the night. Episode 5 scenes of men being assigned bedrooms and Martha calming the young sailor Otto’s nightmares are fictionalized. “Otto represents several characters we found in our research,” says Eik. “Many Norwegian refugees in the U.S. had major problems and we know the Crown Princess helped as many as she could.”

Princess Martha did visit area hospitals to personally thank Norwegian seamen and listen to their stories. And in 1943, she and Prince Olav also opened a 51-acre center in the U.S. for Norway’s seamen and refugees.

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 STILL MORE ON  PBS ‘s “CROSSING THE ATLANTIC.”

To better appreciate the fine PBS presentation, here are continuing notes on Scandinavia during World War II.

Humanitarian effort

As the war began to shift in favor of the Allies, the Swedes changed their strategy with regard to aiding the precariously situated European Jews, who up to that point had been refused refuge in Sweden. The first shift in Sweden’s stance towards Jews occurred in 1942. When the Germans began their campaign of persecution against the Jews of Norway, the Swedish government accepted 900 Jewish refugees, slightly more than half of Norway’s Jewish population.

In 1943, Sweden received nearly all of Denmark’s 8,000 Jews (along with 9,000 Danish Christians who were seeking refuge from conditions of war).  With the dissolution of the Danish government in the summer of 1943, the German authorities decided to deport Denmark’s Jewish population to concentration camps. However, the Danes successfully ferried all but 450 of the Danish Jews across the straits between Copenhagen and the Swedish mainland, across waters that were patrolled by German ships, in an unprecedented rescue effort.

 Once in Sweden, the Danish Jews were granted asylum and taken in by Swedish families. Many stayed in Sweden after the war. Sweden also received refugees from Finland and Norway, including some of Norway’s Jews. All this, as well as the protection of Sweden’s own Jewish population, was made possible by Sweden’s neutrality.

A daily newspaper in Sweden, the Svenska Dagbladet said that Sweden did more to assist and save Jews than any other country

Neutrality also allowed Sweden to have physical access to Germany, which was useful to Allied intelligence. 

King Gustav V of Sweden attempted to use his diplomatic connections with German leaders to convince them to treat Jews more humanely, as evidenced through his correspondence, although to little effect.

Count Folke Bernadotte, a relative of the Swedish royal family, was able to communicate with the German government and relay information back to Sweden, as did other diplomats. He also contributed in saving 15,000 prisoners from concentration camps, as did Valdemar Langlet and the famous diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who may have saved up to 100,000 Hungarian Jews.

Many Swedish noblemen used their personal connections and wealth to take in and find temporary Swedish homes for children from neighboring countries, mainly Denmark and Finland[ Werner Dankwort served as the first secretary for the German legation in Stockholm during the German Nazi regime and secretly helped Jewish children to escape from Germany into Sweden inside wooden crates.

Press Freedom

The Swedish public’s sentiments were widely published in the Swedish press, causing many protests from the German government and prompting the Swedish government to censor some areas of the press.  Newspapers fell under the control of several authorities, despite contemporary claims that the Swedish press was free. The Swedish Government Information Board determined what military information could be released and what information should remain secret.

The Swedish government was concerned that its neutrality might be compromised should the press become too vocal in its opinions. Both the Swedish Press Council and the Information Board issued advice such as: “….attempts should be made not to give prominence to the reports of one side at the expense of the other.”

Relations with Nazi Germany

Perhaps the most important aspect of Sweden’s concessions to Germany during the Second World War was the extensive export of iron ore for use in the German weapons industry, reaching ten million tons per year. As Germany’s preparations for war became more apparent and the risk of another war became obvious, international interest in Swedish iron ore increased. At the time, British intelligence estimated that German industry relied heavily on Swedish iron ore and a decrease or halt in Swedish ore exports could have a disastrous effect on Germany’s military efforts .

Britain had been unable to prevent the successful Nazi invasion of both France and Norway; Sweden was not convinced that the British could protect them and opted to continue exports. The iron ore provided much needed gold bullion, food and coal from Germany. These shipments were subject to attacks from British aircraft and submarines in the Atlantic and North Sea and by Soviet submarines in the Baltic. About 70 vessels were sunk and 200 sailors killed during the war.

Responding to German appeals for volunteers to fight the Soviet Union, approximately 180 Swedes enlisted in Germany’s Waffen-SS, and saw combat against Soviet troops on the Eastern Front… Their number was small compared to occupied countries, in which officials encouraged enlisting for the Eastern Front (Norway 6,000; Denmark 6,000; France 11,000; Netherlands 20,000).

With an Allied  blockade of the Skagerrak straits between Norway and the northern tip of Denmark, the Swedish merchant navy found itself physically divided. The vessels inside the Baltic Sea traded goods with Germany during the war; elsewhere, vessels were leased to the Allies for convoy shipping. Approximately 1,500 Swedish sailors perished during the war, mostly victims of mines and U-boat attacks.

Relations with the Allies

Sweden made efforts to help the Allied Forces. From May 1940, a large part of the Swedish merchant navy found outside the Baltic, (totaling about 8,000 seamen) was leased to Britain. 300 Swedes traveled to Norway to fight the German invasion  German telegraph traffic to occupied Oslo went through Swedish-leased cables which the Swedes intercepted

The German cypher code was broken by Swedish mathematics professor Arne Beurling in early summer 1940 and the results were sent to the Allies through the Polish resistance movement.

 US planes were allowed to use Swedish military bases during the liberation of Norway, from spring 1944 to 1945, and the Allies were also collaborating with the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service. Sweden allowed Allied spies to listen to German radio signals from a station on Öland. A radio beacon was also established in Malmö for the British military to guide bombing of Germany

 From 1943 onward, Norwegian and Danish soldiers (Den danske Brigade) were trained at Swedish military bases. Sweden had also set up a series of training camps along the Norwegian border for the Norwegian resistance movement. Toward the end of the war Swedish intelligence cooperated with US air transport in relief efforts directed toward areas liberated by the Red Army.