Flavin's Corner

Tales from the Vienna Fingers

The word is about there's evolving,
Whatever may come the world keeps revolving,
They say the next big thing is here; that the revolution's near,
But to me it seems quite clear,
That it's all just a little bit of history repeating...
From "History Repeating," by the Propellerheads (featuring Shirley Bassey).

     Johannes Brahms moved from his native Germany to Austria in 1868
because, in part, of his uneasiness with the Neudeutsche Schule ("new German
school"), best represented by the music of Liszt and Wagner.  Much like Frodo
chose the same path through the bushes as Bilbo had years before (in Tolkien's
The Lord of the Rings), Brahms "followed" Beethoven to Vienna, some forty
years after Beethoven's death.  Austria, home to Johann Strauss, Jr. (a friend of
Brahms who produced G'Schichten aus dem Wienerwald, or "Tales from the
Vienna Woods," that year), has maintained in modern times the delightful image
of a rustic, Alpine country, with Vienna as a leading cultural focus.  Most of the
world is still in shock at the recent political gains of Jrg Haider and his racist
Freedom Party (FP) in Austria.  I used to think of "Vienna Fingers" as a
popular cookie, but I now regard those rigid "fingers" of Haider and the FP as
flipping-off history and a crude challenge to the future of Western society.  Well,
I still like the cookies, but I'll always despise Nazis...

     As is commonly accepted (I hope), in 1913 and at the age of 24, the
deranged monster known as Adolf Hitler left his native Austria for Germany to
avoid being drafted into the Austrian military.  A year and a half later he joined
the German army.  By Nov. 5, 1937, Hitler was Germany's Frhrer and
Chancellor, and in a position to seize his homeland "To arrest the decline of
Germanism in Austria..." [From the so-called "Hossbach Memorandum."  Click
 here  to read.] Four months later, Hitler announced the Anschluss, or "union,"
with Austria.  With Haider and his FP praising SS officers as "men of
character," it seems the "union" between Nazi Germany and Austria still exists.

     Like many of the Austrian literati of the time, dn von Horvath, author of
the still highly regarded play, "Tales from the Vienna Woods" (named after the
work by Strauss, but sharing nothing besides the title), left his homeland because
of the rise of Nazi power and settled in Paris.  In 1938, two years before Paris
itself would be consumed by the Nazis, Horvath was killed by a falling tree in the
middle of a thunderstorm.  The playwright was 37 years old, and though not
killed by a bullet, bomb, or oven, may be regarded as no less a victim of Hitler
and his Nazis.  Horvath loathed the Nazis and fled, but not all Austrians shared
his feelings.  Some Austrians, like former United Nations Secretary General Kurt
Waldheim, elected to join Hitler and his Nazis.

     Kurt Waldheim joined the Austrian diplomatic service in 1945, advanced
slowly through the ranks while holding a variety of posts, and was elected
United Nations Secretary General in late 1971, serving two four year terms,
from 1972 to 1980.  He ran for and won the Austrian presidency (which he held
from 1986 to 1992), despite allegations that he was a Nazi.  Waldheim denied
the charges, an international historian's commission proved he served in the
Nazi-occupied Balkans as an intelligence officer, and in that position cleared the
way for subsequent Nazi atrocities.  The United States prohibited Waldheim
from ever entering the country again in 1987, yet in 1994 he was awarded the
Pius Order decoration, a Papal honor which has the equivalence of
"knighthood."  Waldheim is a creepy, old man who should be dropping dead
soon, but he still defends his Nazi past, as in his recent book, Die Antwort ("The
Answer," 1996, Amalthea Vlg. Publishers, Munchen, ISBN: 3850023710), in
which he claims he didn't do anything wrong during his time with the Nazis.
Apparently the Catholic Church believes him...

      Some political analysts say Austrians (and, ipso facto, everyone else as well)
shouldn't be alarmed by Haider and the FP.  They hold that Austrian voters
responded positively to the FP because of fears that immigrants and refugees
would lower their standard of living if something isn't done and not because the
voters support Haider's flippant, pro-Nazi rants.  France has the openly racist
Jean-Marie Le Pen, who spouts the same hysteria connecting a rise in crime and
a poorer economy with the steady influx of foreigners, and many other European
countries have similar loudmouth punks.  The political analysts insist the
Austrian voters who backed the FP are just nervous and not evil Nazis.  Gee,
that's good news!

     Last Saturday, Oct. 16, 1999, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles,
meeting in Tampere, Finland, drafted a policy which would protect the rights of
those fleeing injustice.  Many human rights groups have referred to the new
15-member European Union as "Fortress Europe" because of the various threats
from different countries to close their borders.  This threatened isolationist
position is something most Americans can understand, as we've had our own
loudmouth punk, in Pat Buchanan, who's been screaming about outlining the
continental United States with barbed-wire for years now, and who the Simon
Wiesenthal Center refers to as the ""PREEMINENT GURU OF AMERICA'S
HATERS." [Click  here  for a review of Buchanan's latest book.]

     In a free society, such as America's, tolerance is the avowed position we
assume toward that which we disagree.  We defend the loved and the hated
equally.  My personal assessment of Pat Buchanan, who apparently is defecting
from the Republican Party this week, as a "loudmouth punk," is honored by the
First Amendment co-equal with Buchanan's xenophobia and other disorders.  No
entertainment pundit gives Buchanan's dream of political office any more of a
chance than O. J. Simpson has of guest-starring in Naked Gun #4.  It won't
happen...  He's a jerk, he's "our" jerk, and Buchanan best represents the dark
side of American moral immaturity.  Oh, and he defends Nazis like Kurt
Waldheim... [Click  here  for more on Pat Buchanan.]

     Discussions about Nazis are difficult because of the intense hatred attached
to their movement.  We've reacted to the Nazi horror by employing the term,
"Nazi," as a vile invective.  Today, calling someone a "Nazi" holds all the power
of the severest profanity.  It's our best expression to describe that which is
despicable and foul.  Oddly enough, as these things go, even when the subject of
discussion actually does concern the historical Nazis, as opposed to the uniform
fetishists and skinheads of today, most people turn away in disgust at the mere
mention of the term.  There's a fair chance much of this column will not be read
by many because it contains the term, "Nazi." [For info regarding Godwin's Law
about how the mention of "Nazi" effectively ends civil discussion, click  here.]

     My father, being in the Army and stationed in Munich, had the habit of taking
the family for a Sunday drive and would often simply drive in any direction for a
couple of hours and then return.  Any direction would do, as we loved being
together.  On several occasions he steered towards Austria and I vividly recall
the picturesque, Alpine vistas outside the car windows.  I remember looking at
flowing water from cracks in the rock face of passing, roadside mountains and
thinking that the Earth was crying.  It was a powerful image, one that was only
reinforced, after all these years, this past spring in Down East Maine, as I
witnessed a thaw and saw water issue from seemingly solid rock.  Some things
don't change, as I still had the image within of the Earth "crying."

     Kurt Waldeim has continued his support of Jrg Haider and the FP.
Austria's leading Rabbi has publicly stated that the world should not be
concerned with the gains of the FP and that the matter is internal and will be
resolved by Austrians.  Tolerance is a high benchmark of civilization, but dealing
with Nazis, and here I mean the fetish-oriented ones, is just plain ...dumb.  It
remains the "survival of the meanest" and we must join in changing this.  Just
because history repeats itself doesn't preclude altering the rules.  Change occurs
when we want it to...

rethinking Schnitzel,

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