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A Jewish Hitler? April 7, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
A Jewish Hitler?

One of the most interesting ‘urban legends’ about Hitler is that the fuhrer was himself part Jewish: a notion perhaps helped along by his particularly unaryan features. It would, as a matter of fact, be truer to say that Hitler may have had Jewish ancestry. The ambiguity comes about not from Hitler’s maternal side but […]

A Bugged Conversation from June 1945? May 26, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
A Bugged Conversation from June 1945?

***Dedicated to Cristiano and the memory of his old friend Johann Elser*** In the 1930s and the 1940s Britain boasted perhaps the best intelligence services in the world, with only the Soviets as rivals. SIS (aka MI6) operated throughout the Empire but also in allied and potential enemy countries to great effect. When World War […]

Decisions Within March 26, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Decisions Within

History takes place between societies, within societies and among groups of individuals. Historians have proved quite competent at measuring these interactions. But what happens when history takes place strictly within a single human heart, in a place where there are no records, no archives or scholars with searchlights, when one decision changes the track of […]

Germania: A Nightmare Deferred March 17, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Germania: A Nightmare Deferred

‘Egypt’s might is tumbled down/ Down a-down the deeps of thought;/ Greece is fallen and Troy town,/ Glorious Rome hath lost her crown,/ Venice’s pride is nought./ But the dreams their children dreamed/ Fleeting, unsubstantial, vain/ Shadowy as the shadows seemed/ Airy nothing, as they deemed,/ These remain.’ Beautiful poem Mary (Coleridge), but thankfully some […]

Hitler’s Bizarre Sex Life? February 3, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Hitler's Bizarre Sex Life?

Hitler’s sex life has spawned thousands of pages of discussion and speculation. Indeed, there are whole books given over to the subject, many chapters and countless paragraphs. Hell, there are even schools of thought: Hitler the copromaniac, Hitler the homosexual, Hitler the heterosexual… All compete to give an insight into Hitler’s anger and his surreal […]

Long-Knife Victims September 24, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Long-Knife Victims

Beach has several times over the years enjoyed the nonsense that historians spout about numbers. How many people lived in Roman Britain. How many witches were dragged to the stake in the burning years. How many Christians were sold in the slave markets of northern Africa in modern times? The sheer range of numbers is […]

Crowds #2: Speaking to Crowds June 18, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Crowds #2: Speaking to Crowds

W.B.Yeats once wrote that the most important thing for a ‘man’ was, in his day, no longer a sword but a tongue to speak to the masses. Yeats was living in an age when that was still true. Microphones were allowing the amplification of voices and transport meant that a politician or preacher could travel […]

John Lukacs: The Legacy of the Second World War April 5, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
John Lukacs: The Legacy of the Second World War

John Lukacs’s The Legacy of the Second World War is, like most books by that brilliant and maverick historian, a bit of a mess. The chapter headings say it all. Chapter One, ‘Seventy Years Later’ and Chapter Two ‘the Place of the Second World War’ can pass muster. However, then everything is thrown off kilter. […]

Crowds #1: And so it begins… Images from 1914 March 21, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Crowds #1: And so it begins... Images from 1914

  [students in Berlin, off to enlist] Beachcombing has recently become interested in crowd photography: large groups of people, preferably in rather strange or extreme situations. And as part of this ‘project’ he started collecting photographs from perhaps the dizziest month in western history: August 1914. The war is just beginning and young and not […]

Dunkirk and Golden Bridges December 13, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Dunkirk and Golden Bridges

Dunkirk is one of those moments in recent history that you have to look at sideways to have even a modest chance of understanding and still then there is something that defies analysis. How was it that the British Expeditionary Force, demoralized, bloodied and on the run, with the greatest army of the twentieth century […]

Luftwaffe Kills Two Rabbits, Perhaps December 10, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Luftwaffe Kills Two Rabbits, Perhaps

  Little Miss B in seventh heaven last night and this morning as the family has been gifted a small black rabbit. This black rabbit is not destined to have the happiest of lives as LMB insists on watching Disney cartoons with it. Beachcombing, in any case, fell asleep with rabbits and woke up thinking […]

Hitler’s Italian Fantasy Life November 16, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Hitler's Italian Fantasy Life

Beachcombing offers today an other example of a historical dream. However, unlike the nightscapes of Leonardo or Augustine, here, instead, is a fantasy from Adolf Hitler. Now Hitler’s private life is not particularly well known. There are unsubstantiated rumours about his genealogy and his sexual preferences, and his family relations (including a possibly murdered niece). […]

The Great Crying November 11, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern

Beachcombing has been troubling his unpretty little head about notable cloudbursts of tears in modern history. In the ancient world, some honest tears seem to have been acceptable: from Alexander crying at learning he would only ever conquer one world, to Aeneas shedding some big ones over women and burnt cities, to Odysseus ‘We must […]

Berlin, 30 April 1945 October 22, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Berlin, 30 April 1945

Beachcombing had two formative experiences over the last week. One was discovering that peanut, banana and honey sandwiches can be substantially improved through the use of raw ginger. The other was watching Die Untergang (Downfall) the 2004 film describing the final days of Hitler in April 1945. On balance, Beach prefers the liberal use of […]

Agony at the Dentists October 7, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Agony at the Dentists

Beachcombing went to the dentist this morning and had the inside of one of his teeth removed: apparently too many peanut, honey and banana sandwiches are bad for you… But, in the inevitable passing-the-time-of-day conversation between scoops of tooth, something interesting came up – pain control. Beach had noticed in his last trips that dentists […]

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