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Scumbag studies: Generalkommissar Wilhelm Kube

It’s high time for another of these, for there are so very many scumbags yet to review. This one you might not have heard about. Wilhelm Kube was from Glogau in Silesia, and was an early adopter of Nazi philosophy. (Interesting bit: he attended college in Berlin on a Moses Mendelssohn Scholarship.) In 1933 he joined the SS as an Oberführer (senior colonel), and soon received promotion to Gruppenführer (major general).

An active Christian–what to make of his devotion, in light of his conduct, is up to the reader–Kube was also a corrupt intriguer. By 1935 he was a Gauleiter (regional Nazi party boss), and managed to get himself investigated by no less than Martin Bormann’s father-in-law on suspicion of adultery and corruption. Based upon his general character, it seems credible that he was guilty as all hell. Guilty or not, he was a bit dense. He retaliated for the resulting reprimand by sending an anonymous letter accusing Bormann of being part Jewish. Oops. The Gestapo discovered that Kube was the author, and he was canned from all positions. He also managed to get crosswise with Reinhard Heydrich, one of the most dangerous Nazi leaders. That got him booted from the SS.

By 1941, Kube was back to work in the Nazi machinery. Hitler planned to make him Nazi boss in Moscow, but the Soviet military did not cooperate. Instead he received  an appointment as Generalkommissar for Belarus (then referred to as Weissruthenien). Here he becomes very difficult to figure; he behaved as if he had a personality disorder. Weird as it sounds given his demonstrated anti-Semitism, he spoke out against massacres of Jews and non-Jews by the Einsatzgruppen (essentially, death battalions). He was loud enough to trigger an in-person ass-chewing from his old pal Heydrich, who flew out to Minsk for the task. And yet he participated in massacres, including one in which SS thugs threw a number of children into a sandy pit to die.

One theory, suggested by Christopher Ailsby, is that Kube was trying to take it easy on the populace with one hand while being mean enough with his other to make the Nazi leadership stay off his back, and that the goal here was to increase his own gain. I consider it possible. Kube does seem to have always been above all about Kube.

After Heydrich said whatever he said–and we may safely assume there were dire threats involved–Kube straightened up and flew wrong. By mid-July 1942, he was directing the atrocities that would earn him the title “Butcher of Belarus.” The Nazi occupation committed numerous well-documented atrocities on his watch, and for them he was therefore responsible. Despite his moments of semi-decency, he deserves his place in scumbag studies. Had he survived the war, it is impossible to imagine him ending any way but at the end of a rope.

Thankfully for history and decency, if he would not restrain himself the Soviet partisan movement was prepared to restrain Kube. A Belarusian woman, Yelena Mazanik, got a job as his maid. On September 21, 1943, Mazanik emplaced a time bomb under Kube’s bed. It detonated early in the morning of September 22, killing Kube and triggering a wave of reprisal murders. Also thankfully, Mazanik managed to escape and continue the war as a partisan. I drafted this during Women’s History Month, making it perfect time to honor her and her closest accomplices. Their names were Nadyezhda Troyan and Maria Osipova, and all three earned the highest honor the Soviet Union could bestow: the title of Heroine of the Soviet Union (in Russian, Geroniya Sovietskovo Soyuza). Mazanik passed away in 1996, Troyan in 2011, and Osipova in 1999.



As my youth catches up with me, invoicing me for my poor decisions, I encounter the tendency to start dreading this or that now rather than wait.

While I might perhaps be avoiding long lines, I have to fight that. It would not do myself any favors.

I think some of us are more keenly affected by surprise than others. At the dentist, I ask her to let me know when we are a quarter of the way through, halfway, three-quarters, and nearly done. (I have a marvelously compassionate dentist.) If I’m having a medical exam, I must rassle my mind away from predicting all the possible batches of very bad news. Telling me my A1C needs to come down thus seems bearable, given that I was preparing to hear they were concerned about some mass in my abdomen.

Earlier this month my wife and I celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of her acceptance of my marriage proposal. We might be the only couple out there who celebrate such a day, but that’s all right with us. The fact that we’re having one, and that the only thing that will prevent a twenty-sixth is if one of us has something sudden happen to him or her, speaks for itself. Celebrate a day, again and again for a quarter century, and one communicates that one remains grateful for it.

Something sudden is the problem. If not restrained, my mind is sort of like a cat. Now and then it will wander off into someplace that doesn’t help anyone, and this would become paranoia if not handled in a sane fashion. For me, that means refraining from pre-suffering. It’s one thing to grieve ahead of time for a friend lost to pancreatic cancer–something I recently did–because it’s not paranoid to imagine that the friend will not survive it. Few do. It’s another thing to take that ball, run with it, and start thinking about a day in the future when one or one’s spouse might be given news of such a deadly affliction. And then to start processing grief on some level.

That’s pre-suffering, and it helps no one. It also carries with it a terrible pessimism, and this also must be battled. Imagine I were to find myself a sudden widower. If I’d worried myself half to death about that possibility for two decades, would the pre-suffering and all the time it had ruined do one bit of good to help me once the real thing was present and undeniable? I don’t think so. We have no idea how we will react to close loss, regardless of what we imagine. If I were eighty-five and received a diagnosis of dementia, would I grieve less if I’d screwed around for the last twenty-five years fearing dementia? Bet most people would not.

In essence, pre-suffering is an investment in an emotional stock that looks on the surface to be a huge bargain but in fact is going to zero. It is the Thornburg Mortgage of mental attitudes. (Let’s not talk about why that analogy rings so true for me.)

The abrupt truncation

I apologize for the lack of further galleries.  Here’s what happened.  I tried to post a third, but WordPress barfed it.  Unfortunately, I learned that if that occurs, the only ways to get it are 1) start playing with a bunch of HTML code (which I simply am not going to do), or 2) re-upload the whole batch of pics.  Which takes about an hour including ordering, captioning and so on.  WordPress’s blithe expectation is that one shouldn’t mind doing either, as a tech support answer told me after about three days.  It is not my doing that the software barfs, and if there is one area in which I am impatient, it is in doing a lot of drudgery twice for no good reason other than ‘our software is faulty, sorry’.  It is very difficult to force myself to do an exacting task all over again, with no guarantee it won’t all throw up a second time.  How many times might it take?

What will probably happen, therefore, is that I will either load smaller galleries here (so that when WordPress barfs and I am handed a lame solution, I will lose less work), or I will just load the rest of the photos to Faceplant and caption them there.  If you have a preference please comment.  Mainly, I wanted the kind and faithful readership here to enjoy them first, in something of an intimate setting not dependent upon being my FB friend, and for the pics of the animals at least, we got there.

Alaskan images #2

We continued through the Alaska zoo, and it got special.  Here is the blog post that went with these.


Alaskan images #1

I promised.  This first post is a bit of  test post.  I’ll eventually load them all to Facebook, but I prefer to share first with you all.

All that said about Alaska…

…there are a few other key caveats to offer you here, dear readers who have come north with me, and whose readership and interest and wishes for our health warm the soul.

Alaskans joke (some are dead serious) that the great benefit of Anchorage is its proximity to Alaska.  In other words, compared to much of the state, this is coddled luxury.

These conditions are not particularly snowy or harsh for an Anchorage December.  As I type, it is 12 F (about -10 C) outside.  It can be better but it can be far worse.  No one here is walking around like a Michelin (wo)man.  No one is refraining from living life.

Winters in Glenallen are far harsher, as are those in Fairbanks–where they are also darker.  We have some five hours of dim daylight now.  Fairbanks has less.  Barrow has two months with no sunrise.

Eight days of this was a vacation.  Six months of it, as normal life, is no vacation.  They get real sick of it by February.  In short, we have had a great time, but all it proves about me is I’m okay with a week of sustained cold and snow.  Anyone who knows me already knew that.  I am not at all sure I could handle a full calendar year here.  It’s not easy in this Alaska–it’s tougher in the rest of it.

I didn’t bring a USB cable (stupidity), but when we get back, I’ll have some images for you.  While they’ll be on Faceplant at some point, I want to caption and share them with you all specifically.  I’m looking forward.

“There are some popsicles out on the grill.”

Yet another on the List Of Statements Made Mainly In Alaska.  I just made it, and I was not wisecracking.  I brought my wife home the fruit popsicles she enjoys, but there was no room in our hosts’ freezer, so I stuck both boxes in the snow piled atop the grill on the back porch.  They’re still out there.

In a normal place, the response might have been:  “Honey, have you been drinking?”

In Alaska:  “Great, dear, will you please bring me one?”

That place used to be a strip joint

That’s the most common comment from Deb as we drive through the snowy streets of Anchorage.  It makes me wonder if 1970s Anchorage had any establishments that were not strip joints.  Maybe some were just bars, which is why they’re out of business–they failed to offer the necessary entertainment.

To go out and about:  wade through the snow to your car, start it.  Don’t lock the keys in.  Go back inside.  Come back in fifteen minutes, and brush 6″ of snow (that’s about 10 cm for our metric friends) off your car.  Brush it all off, don’t just leave the roof covered in it.  Get the lights, breaking off the ice.  Lift up the wipers and smack them down hard enough to break the ice off.  Back out of your parking with a burst of speed, but do not do this when a road grader is plowing the street.  Get ready for streets narrowed by snow berms on each side.  The sidewalks are buried in the berms, so do not hit the young lady walking down the side of the road in her toque and bunny boots.

It is overcast, the daylight is dim to begin with, and powdery snow swirls through the wheel ruts on the main drag.  Visibility ranges from a couple of miles to a few hundred yards.  Most road activity happens with the slowed pace necessary when it’s possible to skid nearly anywhere.  Your wife (your chauffeuse) swears at anyone who blasts past her, appears about to pull out in front of her, straddles lanes, or commits some other breach of good driving etiquette in her estimation.  Corners involve a certain caution, plowing through churned snow.  Roundabouts, which I’m not sure really suit Alaskan conditions, need special care, especially those double lane roundabouts as macho road warriors skid around them and think it’s great fun.  In essence, there is a mudbogging feel about Anchorage winter driving from start to stop–just replace the mud with snow.

Deb felt strong enough today to get out and about, which was just as well because I broke Herb’s snow shovel early in the visit, and I was overdue to replace it despite his protestations that we didn’t need to.  That was a good excuse to go back to Title Wave Books, one of the great things about Anchorage.  Do you like travel books? Our Barnes & Noble in Kennewick has one section of ‘travel essays’.  Title Wave has six times that.  It has even more books about bears.  If there is anything about bears, from lies told to cheechakos (‘tenderfeet’…’Outsiders’…’people from the lower 48’) to authentic treatises on the habits of the grizzly, that Title Wave’s bear book section cannot answer, that’s because everyone who learned it got mauled to death before being able to put it into print.

I begin to think that Alaskan isn’t a state residency, but a citizenship.

Hacking your way to the store

Unfortunately, everyone but Herb came down sick last night.  Though, since Herb has battled two different kinds of cancer and is still trying to get off the feeding tube, I frankly would rather it were me than him that was sick any day.  I know it’s not dysentery, but the symptoms are about the same.  Last night was a bad night for Lynda, Deb and me.  I’m better today but still shaky, shivery and such; the women are both miserable and do not go too far from a bathroom.

It was necessary for us to run to the store to get them stuff like crackers and ginger ale, especially in Deb’s case as she must not let her sugar fall too low.  That meant we had to battle our way out into the night, neither of us at 100% but we’re what they’ve got.  Unfortunately the snow had narrowed the driveway, and Lynda’s car wouldn’t start.  We had to jump it with Herb’s truck, which due to the narrowed driveway couldn’t quite back out without scraping her car.  It took about an hour of hacking away at ice, jumpstarting, shoveling, and so on, but we did it.

(Ever wonder how someone could build anything out of snow blocks? When it accumulates, the stuff at the bottom is more like soft ice.  Just cut it up and start building.)

The point:  this is how they live up here.  This is normal life.  Cars don’t start, snow accumulates and narrows pathways, and people battle through.  This is Alaska.

And Fairbanks makes this look like cosseted, pampered living.

Into the interior: where Bullwinkle watch is no joke

Today we went to our friends’ daughter’s home in Wasilla.  (Yes, that Wasilla.  No, we did not see Levi, Bristol or Sarah.)  You know the DEER XING signs in many states, depicting a leaping stag on his way to a party? Alaska has the same thing, but silhouetting a creature six feet high at the withers with antlers the size of large dogs.  Once again, that was my job:  keep an eye out.

The interior of Alaska (this part, anyhow, and at this time) in winter looks forested, frosty, snowy, hazy and chilly.  You know how some places don’t look as cold as they really are? Alaska looks even colder than it is, which is fairly cold.  I think this is because so much of it is unoccupied that anyone could walk a mile off a main road, ill-prepared, and choose to freeze to death if one failed to take the climate seriously.  Chances anyone would blunder across you are low.  If no one knew where you had gone, it would not be needle and haystack but needle and hayfield.  Snow tracks would be a factor–unless it snowed again.  I alluded to Jack London in an earlier post.  Come here, and you can see just what he meant about the darkness of the wild.  In fact I’d recommend a winter pilgrimage for any truly serious London enthusiast.  (You can hire dogsled rides.  That’s one way mushers pay to keep up their dogs.)

The road wasn’t bad, but don’t tell that to Lynda, my hostess.  Riding with one of the most terminally reliable and responsible men I know, her husband Herb, of 35 years, she was as nervous as I am when riding with a tailgater.  I don’t know how she survives six months of this, much less how she has done so since the Carter administration.  A very nice time, though, afternoon with children and a puppy plowing over, around and through presents.  Can you picture me helping a little girl assemble her Barbie Veterinarian Set? Hey, I had a meaningful role.  That stuff takes muscle to fit together.  I had to horse on it.  Perhaps the only more comical picture than me helping put it together is me barely having the physical strength to do so.

A wonderful time, all told, delicious dinner by niece Lisa (by mutual adoption), no one hit a moose and only one person got their vehicle stuck in a snowbank.  By Wasilla December standards, that’s all kinds of win.

To the faithful readership of the ‘Lancer, good holidays to you all in whatever form you may celebrate or enjoy them, whether they are solemn times of faith or just reasons to overeat.  Thank you for every single time you checked in, and as the year winds down I look forward to keeping the blog up in the coming cycle.