Book Review: The Assisi Underground:he Priests Who Rescued Jews

The Assisi Underground: The Priests Who Rescued Jews
Ramati, Alexander Stein and Day, New York 1978

Alexander Ramati’s The Assisi Underground: The Priests Who Rescued Jews recounts how in Assisi that Jews were saved by Catholic priests, nuns, and locals. And remarkably none of the Jews sheltered by them were captured by the Nazis.

The fall of Mussolini in August 1943 brought the German occupation of northern Italy, which meant that Jews faced arrest and deportation to concentration camps. In the Vatican, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty ran an operation to help conceal Jews and later escaped allied prisoners of war. Through a network of priests and others, Jews were also transited to outlying cities and towns like Assisi, where this story takes place. Assisi is a unique city owing to its religious significance. St. Francis and St. Clare both came from here and the city has a rich and deep spiritual history with famous churches (Basilica of San Francesco, Basilica of Santa Chiara, Cathedral of San Rufino, and Church of San Damiano). The city is also a major Christian pilgrimage site.

Father Rufino Niccacci, a Franciscan, and Bishop Giuseppe Placido Nicolini would lead the efforts to conceal in Assisi. Father Rufino would be summoned to meet with Bishop Nicolini after the Germans occupied Rome to help Jews that had fled get to safety. Father Rufino was stunned and asked why he was being asked to do this. Bishop Nicolini responded he wanted someone who would not lose his head in dealing with the Germans and OVRA (the Italian secret police). The group of Jews was being disguised as Catholic pilgrims heading home. Father Rufino’s task was to make sure they got to Florence. One of the group, a Rabbi, asked the Bishop to safeguard the Torah until he returned, which the Bishop was happy to do so.

The trip itself by train was uneventful until the Germans at one point boarded to check identification papers. Fortunately, an allied bombing cut that short and the train had to quickly move on. Rufino thanked God and the British for their intervention. So began Father Rufino’s involvement in the Assisi Underground. At first the task was simply to try to move Jews out of the country (by land to Switzerland, to a port where they could get on a ship, or across a river in the south to get into Allied controlled Italy). Those options became impossible as the Germans began cracking down and the Swiss were refusing entry to but the very old or pregnant. This meant Jews had to be concealed for the long haul requiring the use of convents, monasteries, and private homes to hold them.

It also meant having to come up with skillful counterfeit identification documents, which was done by a local printer (Luigi and Trento Brizi). Their birthplaces were all in areas under Allied control, so there was no way to verify them. For those who could easily move about (many were native born Italians so spoke Italian well), they taught them various Catholic customs and traditions so they would pass easily and not stand out. Some men were disguised as monks and learned how to look like they were in deep prayer in church should anyone notice them. Those who had stronger accents generally had to stay concealed as that would raise suspicions. Concealing was not enough since raids were not uncommon, so they set up a system that in case a raid was spotted coming to Assisi, bells would ring 5 times and Jews would go into a more secure place to avoid being caught. Many who lived in private homes showed their counterfeit identification and were never arrested.

Assisi under German occupation meant the city faced the possibility of being bombed, so effort was made to change that by having it declared an open city. While the city, the Bishop, and the Vatican sought this, help would come from an unlikely source: Colonel Valentin Müller. Müller as a doctor was in charge of treating wounded German soldiers in Assisi. As a devout Catholic, he appreciated the spiritual side of the city. He wrote to Field Marshal Kesselring asking Assisi to be declared a hospital city. This was agreed to, and German troops and military police departed leaving only the hospital staff and its patients in Assisi. Colonel Müller became a familiar site through his walks, drinking wine in the public area, attending church, and seeing the holy sites with Father Rufio as his guide. He also met with Bishop Nicolini and had extra food rations sent to them during Christmas. Father Rufio believed he had been sent by God to help Assisi.

Despite it being a hospital town, the regional SS along with the OVRA were hard at work to find antifascists, partisans, and of course Jews being hidden. The local SS captain ordered raids of convents, monasteries and churches and had no scruples about violating areas deemed off limits by the religious order. Rufio fell under suspicion from this SS captain after returning from a expedition south near the Allied demarcation line (he went there to test out it being used to smuggle Jews across the river) where smuggling was going on. He would be arrested at one point by this SS captain, forced to endure three days without food and water, and then taken to an execution site to see what happens to those who oppose them. Rufino did not give him anything and faced execution but was reprieved and released from custody thanks to some high-level intercession.

During this time, the Jewish children still attended school but not in public. Thanks to people such as Don Aldo Brunacci, lessons would continue so they would not lose time in getting educated. Brunacci also working with Bishop Nicolini, found housing for over 300 Jewish refugees. For Father Rufino, working with Jews opened his eyes about who they were. Since Jews were mostly in the large cities like Rome, he never encountered them and thus had no experience in their customs and practices of Jews. He learned much during this time which opened his eyes and appreciated more deeply the Jews he was helping.

When the Allies defeated the Germans at Monte Cassino, it was the end of the German occupation. Sappers were sent to Assisi to mine the city, but Müller received orders (counterfeit it turns out) from Kesselring that Assisi was an open city. Müller ordered the German army and the SS out and started the evacuation of the German wounded that were scattered over the city. Before he left, Müller left all the medical supplies to Assisi. When the British arrived, they were greeted with joy by the people of Assisi. All of those who had been hidden during the occupation came out of hiding in joy. For Father Rufino and Bishop Nicolini, it was a great moment in time. Most of the Jews that were hidden would return home though one family did choose to stay. The wife of one of those who had died while being hid now had her name changed to Weiss with a Star of David above it. As Jews recorded their stories of survival in Assisi, others outside became aware of the remarkable effort to conceal and save Jews from being deported and killed in the Nazi death camps.

This remarkable story shows how Catholic priests, nuns, and bishops took the risk of helping Jews from being caught by the Nazis. They did not for any fame or glory but because it was the right thing to do. They certainly knew the risk. Many religious in other places under German occupation had been arrested and sent to concentration camps (often to die there from infections or execution). The Vatican could not publicly support this for obvious reasons that it would result in the Germans occupying the Vatican. So, the public posture was to appear neutral but behind the scenes to do anything they could to assist (such as Monsignor O’Flaherty). Both Rufio and Nicolini, along with Don Aldo Brunacci would be recognized by Yad Vashem, which would award them Righteous Among the Nations. This is a very special honor given to non-Jews who helped Jews during the Holocaust. Oskar Schindler was given the same honor as well as were others who risked their lives to help Jews during this time. Colonel Müller would return in 1950 with his family and be warmly welcomed. At the time the book was published, there was no official recognition of his role in helping Assisi during this time. There is now with the road to the hospital bearing his name and a plaque.

The book is well written and really gives you a good look at how they concealed Jews (and others as well) during the German occupation. The fact it was a simple Franciscan priest who spearheaded the effort speaks as well to the simple faith that guided his and others to do it. There was never any question of doing it, just the logistics. The Jews that were saved were grateful and let it be known. Ramati had learned of the story when he was there after the liberation and said that one day, he would write a book to chronicle this remarkable story. And it is a book worth reading to see how the accomplished it under German control. Whether Müller knew what Rufino was doing is not clear, but as Ramati reveals from interviewing his son, he probably did and why him being there made a difference.

The book was made into a 1985 movie The Assisi Underground starring Ben Cross as Father Rufino and James Mason as Bishop Nicolini (it was his last movie). It is okay but takes liberties with the source material and adds an unneeded search for a scientist. Maximilian Schell plays Colonel Müller pretty close to the original (there were a few deviations from the book but not too many). Read the book and then watch the movie is my humble suggestion.

Stars: 4
Genre: History/non-fiction
Audience: 15+

The book is out of print though checking your local library would be a good place to start. Libraries are part of a shared network so even if they do not have it, you can retrieve the book to be checked out. Amazon does have it available for purchase as a used book, so you can also try there. The movie can also be found in many libraries and as of the date of this posting, available for free viewing by Amazon Prime members.

The Assisi Underground and Related Books

Remembering History: Storming the Bastille (14 Jul 1789)

The Storming of the Bastille by Jean-Pierre Houël (1735–1813)
National Library of France
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

On 14 July 1789, the storming of the Bastille, a formidable stone prison originally built to protect the eastern entrance to Paris, is considered the launch of the French Revolution and celebrated as a holiday in France. The prison often held political prisoners and was seen as a sign of tyranny. By this time in 1789, the prison only held seven prisoners none of whom were of a political nature. Four were charged with forgery and two were considered mad or lunatics. The Bastille was actually being scheduled for demolition to make way for public square.

France was facing economic and social problems. Louis XVI had inherited considerable debt from his predecessor but continued to spend (along with his wife Marie Antoinette) considerable sums of money further deepening government debt. Crop failures in 1788 led to a national famine and the cost bread prices to soar. Unemployment was a factor as well and many thought they had lost jobs due to lessening of customs duties with England (resulting in more jobs there than in France). With violent food riots breaking out, King Louis XVI tried to resolve it through the Estates-General (a national assembly of clergy, nobility and the common person).

While in theory all three were equal, two of the other parts could outvote the third. This left many deputies upset demanding a greater voice and proclaiming their own National Assembly. This would lead to the famous Tennis Court Oath of 20 June 1789 not to separate until they had a constitution. Many nobles and clergy crossed over to this National Assembly which Louis XVI gave consent to. His ordering of army regiments into Paris though made many fear he was going to break up the assembly by force. The dismissal of Jacques Necker, a non-noble minister for the government on 11 July, triggered massive protests and destruction of custom posts. Custom posts were hated as they imposed taxes on goods.

On 14 July a mob seized muskets and cannons from a military hospital and then decided to get more at the Bastille. The governor of the Bastille saw the mob and invited them in to discuss terms of surrender. Outside the crowd grew restless awaiting word and it is possible some thought the delegates had been arrested. A group climbed over the outer wall and climbed in to open the drawbridge to the courtyard. The governor broke his pledge not to fire and bullets rang out killing 100 outright leaving others wounded. The royals only lost one soldier. The arrival of the French Guards, sympathetic to the mob, would force the governor to surrender after having cannons blasting away at the Bastille. Without adequate provisions, he surrendered the Bastille. Some of the royalist troops would be butchered after the surrender. The governor was taken prisoner and beheaded by the mob.


The Bastille was dismantled, and its only prisoner later would be Louis XVI. He would be executed on 21 January 1793 along with his wife. The French Revolution, once thought a means to reform France into a constitutional monarchy, slid into a revolutionary government that completely overturned the ancien regime. During its tenure, it became increasingly bloody killing off enemies of the new order. Anyone who was thought to disagree with them could be denounced and executed. Instead of creating a better stable system, it became one long food riot as one professor said to me once. And the revolutionaries fought amongst themselves as to who was the better one to lead. That led to more bloody executions and the guillotine became the image of the French Revolution. Ultimately the people tired of this turmoil and wanted order. And it would come from Napoleon Bonaparte, but that is another story.



Titanic News -World’s Deepest Shipwreck; Fight Over Titanic Artifacts

World’s Deepest Shipwreck, Over 10,000 Feet Deeper Than Titanic, Found In Philippines
India Times, 9 Jul 2022

The USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) circa in June 1944, while off Boston, Massachusetts (USA)
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The destroyer, USS Samuel B. Roberts was identified on Wednesday, broken into two pieces on a slope at the depth of around 6,985 meters (around 22,916 feet). To put things into perspective, the popular Titanic sank and rests at a depth of around 12,600 feet. The destroyer participated in the Battle off Samar, the final phase of the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, where the Imperial Japanese Navy suffered its biggest loss of ships and failed to dislodge the US Forces from Leyte that they invaded earlier as part of the liberation of the Philippines. Previous records have indicated that the destroyer took down a Japanese heavy cruiser with a torpedo while damaging another.  After it lost all of its ammo, the ship was critically hit by the lead battleship Yamato, which caused it to sink.


Wirral Baker Went For Drink As Titanic Sank And Survived
Liverpool Echo, 9 Jul 2022

He went back up to help women and children onto the escape vessels, throwing some in because the Titanic was tilting, which made the lifeboat swing “about a yard and a half from the ship’s side”. When the order for him to board the boat as the captain never came, Charles assumed it was full and went back to his room once more, where he “had a drop of liqueur” with water at his feet.Upon remerging above deck, “all the boats had gone”, so Charles started throwing deck chairs into the water as flotation devices. All the while, the Titanic listed further to one side until Charles “heard a kind of a crash as if something had buckled”, like the “iron was parting”.



Judge Gavel
George Hodan

Titanic Caretakers In Court Battle To Stop Artifacts From Being Sold
New York Post, 9 Jul 2022

A British gold coin, two US bank notes and a block of coal retrieved decades ago from the detritus of the doomed passenger liner wrongly fell into the hands of a company that is trying to auction them off, claims RMS Titanic Inc., which owns the salvage rights to the ship and is suing to stop the auction. RMS Titanic is the “steward and custodian” of the wreck, and claims in Manhattan Supreme Court papers that one of its former execs, G. Michael Harris, took the artifacts, which were then sold off to Mobile Grocers of America Inc. when Harris later filed for bankruptcy. Harris claimed the four items had been gifted to him by another Titanic exec, George Tulloch, with whom he frequently butted heads, the group charges in court papers. RMS Titanic contends Tulloch had no right to gift the artifacts to anyone.


The Anne Frank Controversy

May 1942 photo for passport
Anne Frank House, Amsterdam.
Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons

Yeah, Anne Frank had white privilege. Bad things happen to people with white privilege also, but don’t tell the whites that.” (Twitter posting)

Anne Frank, whose diary has become required reading in many schools, was a victim of the Holocaust. Except for Holocaust deniers, this is an unescapable truth. The fact that Nazi Germany was antisemitic is undeniable either. The Nazi’s devised the Nuremberg Laws that codified their antisemitism by denying Jews (considered a race by them and identified by family line) German citizenship. Yet now there are those on the Internet (and elsewhere) that try to posit the notion that what happened was not racism but rather a case of white superiority.

The proponents of this argue that since Jews are not a minority the Nazi’s did not practice racism but white superiority. It was simply one white group trying to dominate another and race had nothing to do with it. Whoopi Goldberg repeated this as well on The View and was put on leave because of the angry response to her claim. Jews, in this view of things, do not qualify as being members of a minority. One poster of this view quipped they were too white to hide their faces.

Antisemites are pleased with this because the posters of this thinking on social media are helping to continue to downplay what happened to the Jews, especially when those promoting it are African American. Antisemites love to point out to African Americans (and there are antisemitic African Americans as well) that Jews helped enslave their ancestors, used racial laws to keep them suppressed, had businesses that took advantage of them, and other nefarious things as well. So, this new tactic of trying to deny Jews being victims of racism is just a newer way to diminish what happened to them in the Holocaust.

It is a form of racial superiority but in a twisted way. Only certain groups, non-white ones, can suffer racism. Jews being white and being classified as a race by the Nazi’s does not count. It was just one group vying for power over the other. And since Anne Frank was born with “white privilege” her status as a victim of a horror is lessened. Thus, everyone equally born with white privilege as well. The mass murder of millions of humans is thus diminished and loses importance in this mindset. And what a dangerous one it is. For you can see the obvious extension of this already being played out. World War II then was just war between white people fighting out who would be in control of Europe.

Of course, those who advance this do have a problem with Japan, since they sought to establish their own rival empire in Asia and toss out the colonial powers. Turns out they had very definite ideas of who was superior and who was not as well. People who had thought the Japanese would liberate them from colonial oppression found themselves in the same position as before, just now it was the Japanese running things. Turns out other non-white peoples have notions of racial superiority as well. The argument of World War II being between two white powers seeking superiority over the others echoes what the Marxists said about World War I as between capitalist powers just being retooled for a new audience.

“Selection” of Hungarian Jews on the ramp at Auschwitz II-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland, around May 1944. Jews were sent either to work or to the gas chamber. The photograph is part of the collection known as the Auschwitz Album.
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commo

The woke culture, in doing this, is helping antisemitism. Nazis and the adherents of their racial policies viewed Jews not only as a separate race but believed them sub-human. Through relentless depictions in every media available to them and in schools, Germans were taught to treat the Jews no better than rodents. That is why it was so easy for a German soldier to grab an innocent baby, bash it against a wall to stop it from crying, and hand it back to the mother. Once you dehumanize, it is all too easy to treat them in the most vicious way possible without remorse. Which is what many Germans did and were happy to shove Jews into trains, into the gas chambers, and ultimately into the ovens as well. They were rodents and unfit to live.

The attempt to diminish what happened to Anne Frank and all the Jews killed in the Holocaust to make yourself a bigger victim is despicable. People who peddle this nonsense should be loudly and publicly mocked as a form of antisemitism.


Remembering History: Liberty Bell and Commodore Perry Goes to Japan

Liberty Bell
Photo: National Park Service
Public Domain

On 8 Jul 1776, the “Liberty Bell” rang out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia to call citizens to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence. The 2,000-pound copper bell had been originally commissioned to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Pennsylvania constitution in 1751. Due to cracking, it had to be recast twice before being installed in June 1753. The bell was used to summon people for special announcements and occasions.

When the British were approaching Philadelphia in autumn 1777, the bell was removed and hidden in Allentown. After the American War for Independence ended in 1781, the bell was returned where Philadelphia served as the nation’s capital from 1790-1800. The bell was rung annually to celebrate George Washington’s Birthday on 22 February. It was not called “Liberty Bell” until an epic poem written by an abolitionist in an 1839 poem.

Its famous crack was likely caused in 1835 for the funeral of John Marshall, chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. And then got bigger when it was rung for Washington’s Birthday rendering it unusable. Today it is ceremoniously tapped on important events in Independence Hall (formerly the Pennsylvania State House).


Japan had been closed to most of the world since 1639. The Dutch were allowed to maintain a trading post in Nagasaki and along with the Chinese, were the only ones allowed to have contact and trade with Japan. Foreigners were subject to arrest and execution if they landed on Japanese soil. The Tokugawa Shogunate, which had ruled since the early 1600’s, had closed Japan and it brought an era of peace and stability to the country. However, by the late 19th century, the Tokugawa was showing its age. While the Western world had changed, Japan was still feudal in many ways hindering its development. As other countries began industrializing and some of its people were exposed to its wonders, the time for change was approaching. With a mission to open relations with Japan, Commodore Matthew Perry was sent with a squadron of four vessels with letters from U.S. President Milliard Fillmore arriving on 8 Jul 1853 in Tokyo bay.

Commodore Matthew Perry, circa 1856-1858
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection (The Met object ID 283184)
Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

The arrival of the American ships was a shock to the Japanese. At first, they refused communications and then sent messages to move his ships to Nagasaki. Messages went back and forth between the parties but Perry was firm that he would consult with direct representatives of the Emperor. All gifts and compromises were rejected by Perry and made sure their guard boats were herded away. He performed battle drills daily so that the Japanese could see how well trained his crews were and the weapons they had at their disposal. Finally on 14 July an imperial barge appeared carrying two imperial princes, Ido and Toda. A historic meeting took placed at a special meeting constructed for the event.

The letters from President Fillmore and one from Commodore Perry offered friendship and the advantages of opening up trade with the United States. And that a treaty could be drafted to formalize the agreement. Commodore Perry promised them time to consider the proposals and would return the following spring for an answer. Perry, though was asked to depart right away, would have his forces linger for three days. During this time, they would conduct hydrographic studies and also deliver a subtle message he would go when he decided to go. For the Japanese, it meant their carefully constructed isolation was being challenged. Perry would return, and after the usual delays and threats, the Treaty of Kanagawa (1854) was signed allowing for trade between the two nations and the exchange of ambassadors. The Japanese would send their first diplomats in 1860.

Japan would be changed forever. While stability and prosperity had occurred during the Tokugawa period, the agricultural sector was not producing enough. This resulted in famines and unrest. As more Japanese became exposed to Western culture via contact with the Europeans and Americans, it showed a world outside different from their own in many ways. And if they wanted to build up their country, they would need to learn how to develop themselves to be on par with Western nations. Resentment against imposed treaties with Western nations also fed into the desire to change the status quo as well.  In 1867, the Tokugawa was overthrown, and power restored to the Emperor formalized with the Meji Constitution of 1889. It would remain in effect till 1947.


Liberty Bell
Independence National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service)

Commodore Perry
Brief Summary of the Perry Expedition to Japan, 1853 (Naval History and Heritage Command)
Treaty of Kanagawa (


Titanic News: Saving Titanic Memorial; Norwegian Cruise Ship Hits Iceberg

Titanic Memorial Lighthouse,South Street Seaport Museum, New York (2008)
Image: Andy C (Wikipedia)

If you are ever in New York City, specifically in the lower financial district at Fulton and Pearl Streets, you are going to see something different than the ordinary sidewalk with cars passing by and people going to and fro. For there stands a 60 foot lighthouse which is a Titanic Memorial erected by public subscription in 1913 and with the support of Molly Brown.

The lighthouse originally stood on the roof of the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey where it looked out on the East River. Between 1913 to 1967, it had a time ball that would signal twelve noon to ships in the harbor. And it was exceedingly accurate since it was connected by telegraphic signal to the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C.

When the Seamen’s Church Institute moved to 15 State Street in 1968, the memorial was donated to the South Street Seaport Museum. It was erected in its current location in May 1976 with funds provided by Exxon Corporation. Since then it has stood there In silent testimony to the tragedy of 1912.  And during that time it slowly but surely started looking a bit dingy since nothing was done to keep it spiffy. The South Street Seaport Museum has struggled financially so it could not afford a major refit of the lighthouse.

Stepping up to meet the challenge is a group that decided to help raise funds to renovate the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse.  Meanwhile it looks like the South Street Seaport Museum may be getting a huge donation from the Howard Hughe’s development project going up Titanic. It is a marvelous idea this group wants to do and one hopes they will raise the money need to make the memorial stand brightly again.

Neglected Titanic Memorial: ‘Like their graves have not been tended’ Indian Express, 3 July 2022


A Norwegian cruise ship in Alaska (Norwegian Sun)  encountered a growler (an iceberg that is mostly underwater) which was filmed by some passengers. It is quite a dramatic moment. The ship was damaged but not severely enough to evacuate.

Video shows Norwegian Cruise ship hit iceberg: ‘Titanic 2.0’
Fox Business, 1 July 2022

A video went viral this week after it showed footage of a Norwegian Cruise Line ship that hit an iceberg in Alaska over the weekend. The cruise company cut short the remainder of its scheduled trip due to damage from the collision. In the viral video, a passenger can be heard exclaiming, “Titanic 2.0,” after the ship hit an iceberg that floated to the surface following the impact. Other passengers in the video could be heard gasping at the collision and size of the iceberg floating next to the ship.


The Week has a interesting story about Ruth Blanchard. She was born in India and was on Titanic as they migrated to America.

Titanic At 25: The Survivor From India Who Never Returned
The Week, 3 Jul 2022

Lynch says Ruth had an important Indian connection—she was born and raised in India. “The last Titanic survivor to have a really good memory of the ship was someone from India. Ruth was an American, but she grew up in India. She could tell the story of the fateful day from start to finish. She gave us a wonderful account of the sinking,” says Don over phone from Los Angeles.

Remembering History: Anne Frank’s Family Takes Refuge (6 Jul 1942)

May 1942 photo for passport
Anne Frank House, Amsterdam.
Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons

After receiving word that they would be deported to a Nazi work camp, Ann Frank and her family take refuge in A Secret Annex of an Amsterdam warehouse. Her family was from Germany and fled in 1933 to Holland to escape Nazi persecution. The Netherlands declared its neutrality but that did not stop the Germans from invading on 10 May 1940. After the bombing of Rotterdam, its military forces surrendered, and its government and royal family fled to London Germany would occupy the country until the German surrender in May 1945.

The initial phase of the occupation was mild and often called the “velvet glove” where Germans under Arthur Seyss-Inquart did not impose the harsher rules of occupation found in other countries. The economy was doing well, and repression of the Jewish population was light. Starting in June 1941, that changed as Germany started demanding more from the occupied territories which lowered the standard of living. Repression of Jews began now in earnest as many were now deported to extermination camps.

Otto Frank had come to Amsterdam from Germany in 1933 with his wife Edith and their two daughters Margot and Anne. He worked for Opetka, which sold pectin and spices for jam production. A second company he started, Pectacon, sold wholesale spices, pickling salts, and herbs for sausage production. As things got more tense with Germany, he tried, unsuccessfully to move his business to Britain. When the occupation came and German laws about making businesses Aryan, he transferred ownership to his employees to keep it out of German hands. He unsuccessfully sought to emigrate to the United States.

Otto approached his bookkeeper, Miep Gies, to see if she could help hide his family. He also asked other employees to assist as well in bringing food to them in the secret annex hidden behind on a movable bookshelf. Another family, Van Pels would join them later as would Fritz Pfeffer making 8 people in total hiding in the Secret Annex.

For the next two years Ann would record in her diary her thoughts, humor, insight, and what was going on inside the annex. There were a lot of disagreements between the various people living together and Anne records how her father acted as a peacemaker. For two years they kept quiet during the day as people worked below and Nazi patrols were out on the streets. It all came to an end on 4 August 1944 when Dutch police officers with a member of the SS in charge raided the Secret Annex and arrested them all. Two employees were also arrested. They were all sent to Auschwitz, including the two men who had helped them. When Otto got off the train in Auschwitz, it was the last time he saw his wife and children. He would learn after the war his wife died in Auschwitz. Both Margo and Ann were moved to the Bergen-Belson concentration camp in Germany, where they both perished of typhus.

Otto would be the only one to survive and returning to Amsterdam he was given Anne’s diary by Miep Gies. After reading it, he was advised by others who had read it to have it published. It took a while, but it was first published in 1947 and into English in 1952. It has since then been translated into 70 languages and became a best seller and acclaimed movie. The diary stands as a testament to the six million Jews whose lives were taken by the Holocaust.


Remembering History: Battle of Kursk (4-13 Jul 1943)

On 13 July 1943, the largest tank battle in history came to an end when the Russian Army repulsed the German offensive. Both Germany and Russia had concentrated their forces near the city of Kursk in western Russia. The Soviet Union held a 150-mile-wide pocket into German lines. The German attack began on 5 Jul with 38 divisions of which half were tanks moving from south and the north. The Soviets had better tanks and air support by this time, unlike previous battles. The fighting was bitter and intense, but the Soviet antitank artillery managed to damage or destroy nearly 40 percent of the German armor. Some of the tanks destroyed were the newer class Mark VI Tiger tanks. After six days of warfare, German General Field Marshal Gunther von Kluge called off the offensive. The Germans retreated to their original positions by 23 Jul making it a decisive victory for the Russians, though a very costly one.


Happy Independence Day!

On 2 July 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution that formally declared that American colonies independent of Britain. A final document had to be created explaining the reasons. A committee of five composed of John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson worked on a draft form for the Congress to approve. On 4 July 1776 the Declaration of Independence was published. Although John Adams believed 2 July would be remembered for generations, it would be the day the Declaration was published that would be remembered.

Declaration of Independence (1819) by John Trumbull (1756-1843).
Public Domain

It would be spread in July and August in a variety of ways. It was published in newspapers throughout the American colonies. It was spread via word of mouth by horseback and by ships. Newspapers published the Declaration and was read aloud for people and troops serving the Continental Congress. It was also sent to Europe as well. The Declaration clearly spelled out the reasons for the split and roused support for the American Revolution. It was a shocking document read in London and in other capitals. For it laid out clearly and precisely the reasons why a people could, and under the proper circumstances, rise up and replace their government with something better.

“4th-of-July-1819-Philadelphia-John-Lewis-Krimmel” by John Lewis Krimmel – Unknown. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Thomas Jefferson, one of the principal writers of the Declaration, wanted to convey in a commonsense manner the reasons for the split. He wanted everyone who read or heard it read aloud to know exactly why this had to occur. He drew upon well-known political works in the language he used. His most important goal was to express the American mind against the tyranny of Britain.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. 

 The Declaration announced to the world the uniqueness of the American Revolution. This was not like simply toppling a monarch and replacing him with a Cromwell or another king. It was about creating a government that believed and supported civil liberties along with the idea of self-government. A government that ruled with the consent of the governed, and not the other way around which was common in most of the world. The Declaration would become the cornerstone of what the United States would stand for and inspire others around the world to believe in it as well.

Fourth of July Parade Boise, Idaho
Circa 1917-1920
Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress,digital id#cph 3a18275)


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton


Welcome to July

July, from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry
Limbourg brothers (fl. 1402–1416)
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to July everyone! July is the seventh month in the Gregorian calendar and is named for Julius Caesar. On the old Roman calendar, it was called Quintillis meaning fifth as July was the fifth month on that calendar. It is generally the hottest month in the Northern Hemisphere and the coldest month in the Southern Hemisphere, which is in winter. The old phrase “Dog days of summer” has nothing to do with canines, but an event in the night sky. During the early parts of July–often the most hot and humid–the star Sirius can be seen in the night sky and is part of the constellation Canis Major (the largest dog). The hot days of July then became described as the dog days in reference to the astronomical event.

July has another astronomical event of note, a Supermoon. There are different names for it (Buck Moon, Thunder Moon, Hay Moon etc) This occurs when the Moon is the closest to the Earth making it appear larger than it normally would appear. It can be either a new moon or a full moon. The July Supermoon is often called a Buck Moon since it in this month new antlers appear on the deer buck’s forehead. It turns out that male deer shed their antlers every year and grow new ones.

There are many observances and events, but two biggest national holidays are Independence Day (U.S., 4 July) and Bastille Day (France, 14 July). Independence Day celebrates the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain on 4 July 1776 while Bastille Day in France commemorates the storming of the Bastille in Paris on 14 July 1789. It is considered the start of the French Revolution.