Crash Course Blog Notes

A number of regular features will be taking an intermittent month off in July because of my cycling schedule. They will return without interruption in August. At the same time, I am for the most part off of social networking for the same reason in July, but hope to post when I can – both in social media and the blog when time permits and when I can’t be quiet about something.

Thanks very much for visiting and for continually reading Crash Course!

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Little Known History: Soviets Attempt Crashing America’s Moon-Landing Party

Apollo 11 Astronaut, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin descends from the Lunar Module to the Moon’s surface.
Photo: NASA

While the world watches spellbound, little did people know that a Soviet spacecraft was landing on the other side of the Moon. It’s a story from the Space Race that no one talks about.

In the Space Race, putting a man on the moon looms as the big prize. The US has been working all along on the Apollo program, whose mission is to land a manned spaceship on the moon. After a battery of test missions in 1969, Apollo 11 is ready for a lunar launch.

At around the same time, in an effort to undercut America’s achievements, the Soviets launch the Luna 15 space probe on July 13th. Luna’s mission is to collect the very first soils samples from the moon. If it is successful, the Soviets will throw a national celebration with a parade for the soil through Red Square and hopefully steal some of America’s thunder.

The New York Times Reports on 2nd Day of Moon Mission

The New York Times Reports on 2nd Day of Moon Mission

In Washington, NASA officials get wind of the Luna 15 mission and fear radio transmissions might jam Apollo 11’s frequencies. But the US won’t let anything stand in the way of the moon launch. On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 blasts off from Cape Kennedy and on July 20th, while a worldwide television audience of more than 500 million watch Neil Armstrong take the first giant leap for mankind, Luna 15 is already nearing its 42nd orbit around the moon.

The men of Apollo 11: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz E. Aldrin

The men of Apollo 11: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz E. Aldrin

After 21 hours, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin complete their mission. But as they pack up and prepare to head back to the command module, Luna 15 is coming in for a landing on another part of the moon and it’s traveling way too fast.

Luna 15, which was identical to Luna 16 and 17.

Luna 15, which was identical to Luna 16 and 17.

Luna 15 loses control and crashes into the moon’s surface at almost 300 mile per hour – just 500 miles from the Apollo landing site.

It’s wrecked along with the Soviet dream of getting a soil sample.

Despite the crushing blow and years of intense rivalry between the US and the USSR, the Soviet’s viewing room burst into applause when watching Neil Armstrong take that first step.

A cosmonaut, Alexi Leonov later wrote:

“Everyone forgot for a few moments that we were all citizens of different countries on Earth. That moment really united the human race.”

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Little Known History: The Secret Apartment Within the Eiffel Tower

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It may not boast all the chic amenities you would expect from a French home, but it definitely has the best view in all of Paris.

The designer of the structure, Gustave Eiffel, completed the tower in 1889. It is at that time that Gustave decided to build himself a hidden apartment on the third level of the tower, 1,000 feet above the Champs duMars.

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It has been revealed that the secret apartment had a grand piano, wooden furniture, colorful patterned wallpaper and important high-tech scientific equipment. Gustave Eiffel would use the tiny hidden home as a small laboratory for his work.

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (b/w photo)  by Nadar, (Gaspard Felix Tournachon) (1820-1910); black and white photograph; Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France; (add. info.: Alexandre Gustave (1832-1923): French civil engineer and architect; metallic structures; bridges; Bordeaux bridge; tower); Archives Charmet; French, out of copyright

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (b/w photo) by Nadar, (Gaspard Felix Tournachon) (1820-1910); black and white photograph; Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France; (add. info.: Alexandre Gustave (1832-1923): French civil engineer and architect; metallic structures; bridges; Bordeaux bridge; tower); Archives Charmet; French, out of copyright

The Parisian elite frequently begged Mr. Eiffel for the opportunity to rent out the secret apartment but to no avail. Eiffel would not let anyone use the exclusive space. Even now, 92 years after his death, the apartment is rarely opened for public viewing.

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Unknown History: Amazing Ideas Born on a Train

40s passenger train ideas

Back when train travel was popular (and necessary) and before the advent of mass travel by car or plane, there were those who slept on trains, ate on trains, rode on trains, and got their best ideas while on a train.

AH

Alfred Hitchcock was riding in France when he came up with the Notorious balcony scene, starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant, after he saw a girl clutching the arm of a boy who was urinating against a wall.

JKR

J. K. Rowling said that he idea for the young wizard Harry Potter and the series’ other characters came to her “fully formed” when she was on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990.

GG

George Gershwin wrote Rhapsody in Blue after hearing what he called the “steely rhythms” and “rattle-ty bang” of the engine when he was riding the rails from new York to Boston in 1924.

MG

Mohandas Gandhi began to develop his idea for nonviolent resistance after he was thrown out of a whites-only, first-class carriage that he had a ticket for when he was a young lawyer in South Africa in 1893.

WD

Walt Disney, a train fanatic, not only cooked up the plan for Disneyland while riding through new Mexico in 1948 but he also made his first sketches of Mickey Mouse on a cross-country-trip expedition in 1928.

LH

Langston Hughes was crossing a bridge over the Mississippi River near St. Louis in 1920 when he thought up the first verses for “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” He finished the poem on that same train trip.

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Little Known History: The Boy Who Didn’t Want To Be Photographed With Hitler

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1936: Gerhard Bartels, age 4, with Hitler.

Gerhard Bartels speaks about being photographed with Hitler, and being used for Nazi propaganda.

With his blue eyes, fair hair and Aryan features Gerhard Bartels was the perfect Nazi poster child. And, because his uncle was a friend of Adolf Hitler, being pictured with the dictator became an annual event for the youngster.

In the years before the outbreak of the Second World War his face appeared on postcards, books and campaigns for the regime.

Eight decades later, Mr Bartels, 83, has spoken for the first time about being used by the Nazi propaganda machine.

He said that in 1936, aged four, his parents told him to put on his best clothes because he was ‘going to meet the Fuhrer’.

‘I was not allowed to play with the other children that day in case I might get my clothes dirty,’ Mr Bartels recalled.

Gerhard Bartels, now 80, with the first of several photos with the German dictator.

Gerhard Bartels, now 80, with the first of several photos with the German dictator.

‘I didn’t like that, I just wanted to be out with the other children.’ Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal photographer, captured the images that were used to promote Nazi campaigns for the adoption of Aryan children.

Hitler was a regular visitor to Weiss’s Bavarian hotel, which was next to the Alpenhof guesthouse owned by Mr Bartels’ parents.

Mr Bartels, who still works in the Alpine hotel, said: ‘Hitler was just a gangster. The Nazis used me for propaganda purposes. I was used to show Hitler loved children.

‘But every dictator did the same, from Mussolini to Stalin. I was also chosen because I obviously fitted what Hitler thought a good Aryan child should look like.’

Mr Bartels said that he defied instructions to greet Hitler with the customary words ‘Heil Mein Fuhrer’. He added: ‘Even at such a young age, deep down I knew I was being manipulated.’

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Little Known History: Amtrack Derailment Exact Repeat of History

1943 derailment - bodies being carried away from crash site.

1943 derailment – bodies being carried away from crash site.

Little Known History is a continuing series highlighting what history didn’t remember or neglected altogether.

Tuesday night May 12, 2015, an Amtrak train that was going 106 mph in a 50 mph zone derails – killing thus far 7 people, with several still missing and hundreds injured.

It was also on this same spot on On Sept. 6, 1943, a Pennsylvania Railroad train crashed at Frankford Junction in northeast Philadelphia, killing 79 people and injuring 117 others.

The 541 passengers on board the Congressional Limited train that day had been traveling for Labor Day weekend. Service members were on board.

As the train traveled between Washington, D.C., and New York City, an overhead journal box overheated, causing one of the wheel axles to fail. Smoke and flames could be seen underneath the seventh car, but before workers could stop the train, the car jumped the tracks, resulting in death and devastation.

“The coach, hurtled into a steel pole supporting overhead power lines, was cut in two vertically as though by a giant axe,” The Associated Press wrote. “The coach behind jammed accordion-like against it. Six other cars behind them were thrown from the rails, but all the dead and most of the injured were in the seventh and eighth cars.”

Workers spent days clearing the wreckage, using acetylene torches to cut open the wrecked cars, trying to rescue as many people as possible.

Witnesses watched in horror as the victims were pulled from the wreckage.

“I never heard such crying and screaming before,” air raid warden Norman Ebinger said at the time. “We heard the crash and rushed up with our first aid equipment. There were at least 50 people strewn all over the tracks, many of them with their arms and legs broken.

“The panic was terrible. The screams of the injured and dying cut right through me.”

More than 70 years later and the area is once again the focus of sadness and shock, as yet another train derailed with loss of lives.

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Little Known History

A series of posts highlighting what history books forgot or never knew.

#MilitaryMonday – Germany, 1945

MilMon

1945 – Captain J. McMahon, of the U.S. 9th Army, carrying a child over a bombed bridge at the River Elbe, Tangemunde. The bridge was blown up by retreating German troops.

Franceska Mann, the Tiny Dancer

Franceska Mann

Franceska Mann was a Jewish dancer remembered for an act of heroism at Auschwitz- Birkenau in 1943. One of a group of women preparing to enter the gas chamber, Mann distracted the guards and grabbed one of their guns.

She fired several shots, killing one guard and severely injuring another before she was overpowered. She was then murdered along with the entire group of women. Mann was 26 years old at the time of her death.

Carousels

Carousels

Carousels may date back to the Middle Ages, when knights first used them as training tools for combat.But it wasn’t until the 19th century the carousel began to appear as an amusement ride at European carnivals and fairs.

The traditional carousel consisted of rows of wooden horses hanging from poles or chains from a canopy top, all held together by a central pole (there was no bottom platform). Some early carousels were human-powered, meaning a person would rotate the entire structure using either a hand crank or pull rope. Others relied on animal power. In each case, the turning of the carousel caused its horses to fly outward like a swing ride as a result of centrifugal force. This earned them the moniker of flying-horses carousels.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Corgi Graveyard

QEII

The Queen began using the pet graveyard at Sandringham estate after the death of her first beloved Corgi, Susan and has buried many of Susan’s descendants there since.

grave1

Tiny headstones of Royal pets that spent years as ‘loyal companions’ pictured in quiet corner of Sandringham. The Queen is known to be inseparable from her beloved Corgis. Now poignant pictures have emerged of the graves of royal pets from throughout the generations.

grave2

The little-known plot is hidden away in a quiet corner of the 20,000-acre Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

grave3

It was created by Queen Victoria after the death of her Collie, Noble, in 1887, and revived in 1959 when Elizabeth II wanted somewhere to bury her first Corgi, Susan.

But it is not just for her Corgis. The boundary wall of the graveyard is inset with plaques commemorating the lives of the family’s many other pets as well.

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Little Known History: Mom

A series bringing history to light that was forgotten by or unknown to history.

Let It Be

Family portrait: Michael (left), mother Mary, father Jim and Paul (right).

Family portrait: Michael (left), mother Mary, father Jim and Paul (right).

Paul McCartney penned the song ‘Let it be’ for his Mother – Mary McCartney who had died of an embolism when Paul was just 14.

Paul would later say it came about as a result of a dream he’d had in 1968, when, though The Beatles were at the height of their fame and creativity, fissures had begun appearing in the camaraderie of the band.

John Lennon had recently become attached to Yoko Ono, and the future looked uncertain for The Beatles, which devastated Paul.
Suddenly, in the middle of the turmoil, he found himself dreaming about his mother.

‘There was her face, completely clear, particularly her eyes,’ he would recall. ‘And she said to me very gently, very reassuringly: “Let it be.”

‘It was lovely. I woke up with a great feeling. It was really as if she’d visited me at this very difficult moment in my life and had given me this message: “Be gentle, don’t fight things, just try and go with the flow and it will work out.” ’

Then on a night in 1968, when playing ‘Let It Be’ for the first time, for an impromptu private audience – it was cut short when a young, fair-haired American woman in a raincoat turned up at the studio along with her small daughter. Her name was Linda Eastman, and she and Paul were to marry, in the face of much opposition from the group’s fans, a few months later.

‘It was as if my mum had sent me her,’ he would say.

Words of wisdom: Paul McCartney, left, with his mother Mary and brother Michael during a family trip to Wales.

Words of wisdom: Paul McCartney, left, with his mother Mary and brother Michael during a family trip to Wales.

From all the traumas and trials of The Beatles relationship break-ups, theirs was to become a spectacularly happy marriage, with Linda a rock at his side, helping create the close family life that had been cut short in his teenage years.

Their first daughter was named Mary, after his mother, and when, following the birth of Stella, a son was born, he was called James, after Paul’s father.

Lyrics to ‘Let It Be’

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

And when all the brokenhearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be

For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Yeah, there will be an answer let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be

I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Yeah, let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

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Little Known History: Remembering Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn: Star quality and class without even trying.

Audrey Hepburn: Star quality and class without even trying.

On May 4th, 1929, Audrey Hepburn was born and the world was introduced to an individual who would eventually grow up to captivate the hearts and minds of people everywhere.

Monday would have been Audrey Hepburn’s 86th Birthday. In honor and remembrance, here are a few historical notes about the classiest of them all.

Audrey Hepburn was an extremely talented dancer and had aspired to become a prima ballerina.

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Grace and beauty

Ever wonder how or why Audrey looked so effortlessly graceful on film? Well, she began taking ballet lessons at the age of 5 and showed tremendous potential. At around the age of 10 in 1939, little Audrey began to attend the Arnhem Conservatory in the Netherlands where she was trained in ballet.

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By 1944, Hepburn had become a proficient ballet dancer. In 1945, after World War II had ended, Hepburn took ballet lessons for three years with Sonia Gaskell, a leading figure in Dutch ballet. With all her training and recognition, Audrey seemed destined to become one of the great ballerinas.

Unfortunately, her hopes and dreams came crashing down when, during a requested review of her performance, she was told by her superiors that she was too tall to ever become a prima ballerina.

”My first dream was to be a ballet dancer. I didn’t know about success at all. You can only hope to get a combination of happy work and a happy life.”

While the world could have seen Audrey Hepburn as one of the most prominent ballet dancers in history, fate seemed to have greater things in store for her as an actress. Fate also eventually acknowledged Hepburn’s love of ballet in the 1957 film Funny Face, her debut musical, where she showcased her dancing talents as a beatnik bookstore clerk alongside the legendary Fred Astaire.

Audrey trained and worked as a dental assistant before becoming an actress.

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Audrey was very self-conscious about her physical appearance.

Despite being hailed as a timeless beauty by many, Miss Hepburn was very insecure about her size 10 feet, her small bust, angular shoulders, and her “big nose.” However, Audrey also knew that outward appearances weren’t everything, and expressed it’s our unique imperfections that make us beautiful in ways that matter more.

Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows & the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.”

She Sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to JFK the year after Marilyn Monroe did.

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It’s odd knowing that the act of singing Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy—an act forever tied to the legacy of Marilyn Monroe — was also done by Audrey Hepburn.

Audrey had a pet deer named Pippin.

Audrey first met the female fawn, affectionately named Pippin, while shooting the 1959 film Green Mansions where she portrayed a young girl living in the Venezuelan jungle. Reporter Harrison Carol noted the bond that Hepburn had with the animal. He wrote:

“When I talked to her [Audrey] on the set, she was petting the fawn that will work with her in the film. It’s a cute little thing. It lay contentedly in her arms, kept nuzzling her neck and trying to lick her cheek”. (Sep 15, 1958)

The animal trainer on the set of film had suggested that Audrey take the fawn home to get to know her, as well as to strengthen their relationship so that their performances together would translate well on screen. Immediately upon taking her in, Pippin won the heart of Miss Hepburn.

UPI Writer Vernon Scott dedicated an entire article on the relationship between Audrey and Ip (the nickname bestowed upon Pippin by Audrey herself). He wrote:

The diminutive actress cuddles the animal as if it were a child. In return, “IP” (Audrey’s name for the fawn) bathes her face with kisses and runs to her side when she calls.

“I’ve fallen in love with her”, Audrey said, holding IP in her lap between takes. “Lord knows what I’ll do when the picture (Green Mansions) is over and they take her away…”

So whatever happened to Ip? According to the blog aptly titled Via Margutta 51, “the information about how the story ended for the two friends is confusing. Some say they separated and some say that Audrey kept the fawn.” I personally would like to think Audrey got to keep her beloved friend by her side until the end of their days.

Hepburn was an EGOT.

The acronym “EGOT” was coined for individuals who had won four distinct awards: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Only twelve individuals have been able to obtain such an achievement. Hepburn received her fourth distinct award posthumously in 1994. Between 1953 and 1994, Hepburn received a total of six awards.

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Hepburn with her award for Best Actress (1953)

She was the fifth person to complete the feat and the first to do so posthumously. She was also the first winner to win two of their awards in consecutive awards shows (the 1994 Grammys were the first Grammys since her win at the 1993 Emmys).

Hepburn’s “EGOT” accolades include:

  • 1953: Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role – Roman Holiday
  • 1993: Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement, Informational Programming – Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn
  • 1994: Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children –Audrey Hepburn’s Enchanted Tales
  • 1954: Tony Award for Best Actress in a Drama – Ondine
  • 1968: Special Tony Award, Special Achievement Award
  • 1993: Special Academy Award, Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

Audrey was fluent in 5 different languages.

Audrey’s family on her mother’s side was situated in the Netherlands and her father worked as a financial adviser in Britain, which resulted with her family often travelling throughout various countries. With her multinational heritage, she inevitably became multilingual. She was fluent in French, Spanish and Italian in addition to her native English and Dutch.

E.T. and The Princess Bride were among Audrey’s Favorite Films.

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The Princess Bride (1987) & E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

The world knows just how amazing of a person Audrey was and she will forever be remembered for her kindness, her charity, style, her class, elegance, beauty, and her grace on and off the screen. Knowing that she enjoyed such classic films as E.T. and The Princess Bride just goes to show how Audrey Hepburn had great sensibilities in just about everything.

Her real name isn’t actually Audrey Hepburn. She was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston. The name Hepburn belonged to her great-grandmother.

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Ruston or Hepburn… her legacy was destiny

Audrey Hepburn was a survivor.

Stories of Audrey Hepburn’s feats of bravery, perseverance and unwavering courage during World War II have always been very well documented, but Hepburn secretly helped the Dutch Resistance in spite of the fact that her parents were true Nazi sympathizers.

During World War II, Audrey, then only a teenager, righteously went against the ideologies of her and mother and father and helped funded the Dutch Resistance by singing and dancing for money despite her parents’ affiliation with Nazi Germany. In her screen test for Roman Holiday, Hepburn recalled performing ballet for audiences that were afraid to applaud because they didn’t want the Nazis to catch them.

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Hepburn had also resorted to eating tulip bulbs to survive while living under Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. Interestingly enough, suffering malnutrition under Nazi oppression is actually what attributed to Hepburn’s much envied slender frame.

In 1990, the past caught up with Audrey in positive force when a new breed of tulip was named after her. According to the Netherlands Flower Information Society, the white flower was named for Hepburn, “as a tribute to the actress’ career and her longtime work on behalf of UNICEF.”

“I can testify to what UNICEF means to children, because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II…”

Because of what Audrey had to go through during her youth, fighting each day to survive during wartime, Hepburn turned to humanitarian efforts later in life and became an ambassador for UNICEF to spread hope and love to others in such inspiring fashion.

Though, to be honest, such a path of resolute kindness only seemed natural for Miss Hepburn. After all, this inspiring actress was “born with an enormous need for affection… and a terrible need to give it.

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On the Web:

Crash Course: More Stories of Little Known History

Audrey Hepburn on Wikipedia

Audrey on What Culture

Audrey Hepburn on Wow What Wear

Audrey Hepburn – Biography

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Crash Course: More Little Known History – Sunday Edition

In the continuing series of the lesser-known items of world history that have been omitted or forgotten…

money kite

1923: A boy with a kite made of banknotes in Hanover, Germany, during the post-war hyperinflation when escalating inflation rendered much currency worthless.

Money Kite

In order to pay the large costs of the First World War, Germany suspended the convertibility of its currency into gold when that war broke out. Unlike France, which imposed its first income tax to pay for the war, the German Kaiser and Parliament decided without opposition to fund the war entirely by borrowing, a decision criticized by financial experts.

The result was that the exchange rate of the Mark against the US dollar fell steadily throughout the war from 4.2 to 8.91 Marks per dollar. The Treaty of Versailles further accelerated the decline in the value of the Mark, so that by the end of 1919 more than 32 Marks were required to buy one US dollar and it grew more in the beginning of the 1920’s.

freedom rider

Winonah Myers is shown in her arrest photo in 1961.

The Freedom Rider

Her name is Winonah Myers and she was a white student at the historically black Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. Arrested for being a Freedom Rider, she stayed in Parchman for her full 6-month sentence, the only Freedom Rider to serve a full term. “I felt there should be a little historical footnote that for sitting next to a friend on the bus who just happened to be black, this was the punishment meted out,” she added. “I didn’t think it would be recorded if no one had done the time.” said Myers so she refused bail.

the list

Part of the first page of an original Schindler’s List, detailing names of hundreds of Jews that were saved by the German businessman Oskar Schindler.

Schindler’s List

In 2000, the original list of Jewish employees drawn up by Oskar Schindler to save them from the Nazis was discovered in a suitcase full of papers left to a German couple. The couple, relatives of close friends of Schindler, found the list of 1,200 workers among other papers which deal mainly with Schindler’s life after World War II.

The list is on letterhead for Schindler’s enamelware factory in Krakow. Schindler wrote the names and jobs of 1,200 Jews at the Plaszow concentration camp and gave the list to the Nazi SS. No one at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum, had ever seen the original list.

A second list, the one that appears in the 1993 film “Schindler’s List,” was created a month before the war ended. Schindler made up that list with fictitious jobs for each worker to convince the SS that they were vital to the war effort:

L. = list number, Ln. = line number, Rel. = religion, Natn. = nationality, H. No = prisoner number.

On the Web:

Freedom Riders – The Pop History Dig

Oskar Schindler – Schindler’s List

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