July 31, 2015

“The Final Solution of the Jewish Problem” (“Endlösung der Judenfrage”)

“The Final Solution” is one of the most chilling phrases associated with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

It’s a euphemism for genocide.

“The Final Solution” was immortalized by a memo sent on July 31, 1941 by Hermann Göring (often spelled Goering in English), head of the Gestapo, to Nazi SS General Reinhard Heydrich.

The memo was drafted for Göring by Adolf Eichmann, head of the Nazi “Department for Jewish Affairs.”

The Nazis had previously considered several plans for getting rid of Europe’s Jewish population, such as mass sterilization and deportation to the island of Madagascar (the so-called “Madagascar Plan”).

Ultimately, those previous options were deemed impractical. Hitler wanted another option.

The memo Göring signed on July 31st ordered Heydrich to devise and implement a new plan for dealing with “the Jewish problem.”

Several versions of that phrase were used in the memo. But one in particular became infamous: “Endlösung der Judenfrage” — the “Final Solution of the Jewish Problem.” (This is also often translated as “Final Solution of the Jewish Question,” since the German word frage can mean either “question” or “problem.”)

Göring’s memo to Heydrich said:

    “In completion of the task which was entrusted to you in the Edict dated January 24, 1939, of solving the Jewish Problem by means of emigration or evacuation in the most convenient way possible, given the present conditions, I herewith charge you with making all necessary preparations with regard to organizational, practical and financial aspects for a total solution of the Jewish Problem [Gesamtlösung der Judenfrage] in the German sphere of influence in Europe…

     I further charge you with submitting to me promptly an overall plan of the preliminary organizational, practical and financial measures for the execution of the intended final solution of the Jewish Problem [Endlösung der Judenfrage].”

On January 20, 1942, Heydrich met with top officials from various ministries of Hitler’s Third Reich government at the Wannsee Conference.

There, the hideous intent of Göring memo was fully set in motion.

Over the next few years, the Nazis killed millions of Jewish men, women and children at mass extermination camps such Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka and Auschwitz.

Fortunately, the defeat of the Nazis and the death of Hitler in 1945 brought an end to implementation of “the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem.”

But by the end of World War II, a total of approximately six million Jews had been killed — two-thirds of the Jews living in Europe before the war began.

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July 27, 2015

As American as apple pie, cherry pie – and violence...

Apple trees are not native to America. They originated in Central Asia and were grown in Asia and Europe long before European colonists brought them to North America.

However, as explained in a post by the eminent word and phrase expert Barry Popik on his site, American-grown apples and American-style apple pies eventually became renowned for having a special sweetness and flavor.       

That led to the term “American apple pie,” which was used to distinguish American-style apple pies from pies made in other countries.

By the 1920s, the phrase “as American as apple pie” was floating around. By the 1940s it had become a common idiomatic expression.

There’s no famous quotation or date to cite for the origin of “as American as apple pie.” The exact origin is unknown.

But there is a notorious variation that’s linked to the date July 27.

On July 27, 1967, the black activist H. Rap Brown gave a rancorous speech at a press conference in Washington, D.C. that is widely cited as the origin of his well-known quote:

     “Violence is as American as cherry pie.”

In a way, it was the origin. However, that seven-word aphorism is the shortened, popularized version of what Brown said in his speech.

What he actually said that day was:

     “I say violence is necessary. Violence is a part of America’s culture. It is as American as cherry pie. Americans taught the black people to be violent. We will use that violence to rid ourselves of oppression if necessary. We will be free, by any means necessary.”

Ironically, at the time, Brown was Director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

His fiery remarks at the July 27 press conference were, in part, a reaction to an announcement President Lyndon Johnson made that day.

Johnson announced that he was creating a special government commission formally titled “The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.” It later came to be popularly known as The Kerner Commission, after its chair, Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois.

Johnson asked the 11-member Commission to determine the causes of the violent race riots that had swept through major American cities during the past few years, most recently in Newark and Detroit, and to recommend ways to stop such riots from happening in the future.

Brown decided to respond to this news by holding a press conference at SNCC’s Washington headquarters.

He scoffed at the idea that the causes of the riots were a mystery. “Rebellions are caused by conditions,” he said.

Then he made his famous comments about violence being necessary and as American as cherry pie and topped that off by adding: “If you give me a gun and tell me to shoot my enemy, I might just shoot Lady Bird.” (Referring to President Johnson’s wife, Claudia, whose popular nickname was “Lady Bird.”)
Brown went on to call President Johnson a “white honky cracker” and “a mad wild dog” and said that if America’s cities didn’t “come around” they “should be burned down.”

None of his comments that day gained the lasting notoriety of his cherry pie aphorism.

It’s not clear why he chose cherry pie instead of apple pie. But in his controversial 1969 autobiography Die Nigger Die!, Brown helped popularize his version of the saying by using it in the pithier form that’s often mistakenly attributed to his July 27, 1967 speech.

In the book, Brown wrote (using a lower case “a” for America, to show his disdain):

     “This country was born on violence. Violence is as american as cherry pie. Black people have always been violent, but our violence has always been directed toward each other. If nonviolence is to be practiced, then it should be practiced in our community and end there. Violence is a necessary part of revolutionary struggle.”

As I write this, the President of the United States is a black man who is serving his second term in office.

H. Rap Brown (who changed his name to Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin while in prison for armed robbery in the 1970s) is now serving a life sentence in prison for murder.

He was convicted of killing African-American police officer Ricky Kinchen in 2000, during a shootout in Georgia that occurred when Kinchen tried to serve a warrant on him.

On July 19, 2013, President Barack Obama held a press conference at the White House to express his views on a Florida jury’s recent decision to acquit George Zimmerman of murder for shooting and killing the young black teenager Trayvon Martin.

The President acknowledged that race relations in America are better than they were when he was Trayvon’s age.

But he noted that racism in America clearly has not been eliminated.

More recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere have seemed to give further credence to that view.

And, the continuing occurrence of gun-related homicides in the United states, affecting people of all races, seem to validate the view that violence is indeed still as American as cherry — or apple — pie.

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July 07, 2015

The day Leo Durocher said “Nice guys finish last.” (Or something like that.)

The famous sports quote “Nice guys finish last” has long been attributed to legendary baseball player and manager Leo Durocher. But for decades there has been a debate about whether he actually said it.

Most sources agree that the basis for the attribution comes from remarks “Leo the Lip” made on July 6, 1946, when he was managing the Brooklyn Dodgers.

That day, he was dissing the New York Giants and their manager Mel Ott to some reporters, during batting practice at the old “Polo Grounds” stadium. One of the reporters was sportscaster Red Barber. Another was Frank Graham, sportswriter for The New York Journal-American.

Graham’s column, published the following day, used the headline “Leo Doesn’t Like Nice Guys.” It also noted what Durocher said about “nice guys” — which does not include the famous quote.

Graham reported that Red Barber had asked Durocher “Why don’t you be a nice guy for a change?”

According to Graham, Durocher replied:

“Nice guys! Look over there. Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott? Or any of the other Giants? Why, they’re the nicest guys in the world! And where are they? In seventh place! Nice guys! I’m not a nice guy – and I’m in first place.” After pacing up and down the visitors’ dugout, the Dodger manager waved a hand toward the Giants’ dugout and repeated, “The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.”

In his excellent book The Quote Verifier, quotation expert Ralph Keyes says: “When Graham’s original column was reprinted in Baseball Digest that fall, Durocher’s reference to nice guys finishing in ‘seventh place’ had been changed to ‘last place.’…Before long Leo’s credo was bumper-stickered into ‘Nice guys finish last.’”

Over the years, some books of quotations have given Durocher credit for the “bumper sticker” version of the famed quote, while others cite it as “attributed” or as a paraphrase of what he said.

Durocher himself helped confuse the facts. Initially, he denied saying “Nice guys finish last.” But after it became famous, he embraced it. He even used it as the title of his autobiography (first published in 1975). And, in that, he gave a possibly revisionist version of what he said on July 6, 1946, which differs from what sportswriter Graham originally reported.

Here’s Durocher’s recollection from his book:

[T]he Giants, led by Mel Ott, began to come out of their dugouts...I called off his players’ names as they came marching up the steps behind him, “Walker, Cooper, Mize, Marshall, Kerr, Gordon, Thompson. Take a look at them. All nice guys. They’ll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last...Give me some scratching, diving hungry ballplayers who came to kill you...That’s the kind of guy I want playing for me.”

So, was Durocher’s version correct or was Graham’s? I don’t know, but I’ll add a couple of other pieces to the puzzle, based on my own recent Internet searches of newspaper archives.

In an article published on August 12, 1946 in the Uniontown, Pennsylvania Morning Herald, sports editor Jimmy Gismondi wrote that Dodgers fans “back up their manager [Durocher] when he leaps from his dugout to scream at an ump. ‘Nice guys don’t win pennants,’ the Dodger fans say. And sometimes we think they’re right. How’s Mel Ott doing these days?”

I also found an Associated Press article dated August 13, 1946, written by AP Sports Editor Frank Eck. In it, he said: “Brooklyn fans like their baseball rough. They remember when their heroes were second division duds six straight years in the thirties. But now they have a rough and tumble group to cheer and they love Durocher for saying: ‘Nice guys don’t win pennants.’”

So those articles clearly suggest that “Nice guys don’t win pennants” was a saying commonly used by Durocher and Dodgers fans at the time.

Then I found two news stories from 1948 commenting on a recent article Leo Durocher had written. Durocher’s article was published in the April 1948 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. The title of the article was “Nice Guys Finish Last.”

Was that title chosen by Durocher based on a quote he coined — or was it created by an editor at Cosmopolitan, who may be the real coiner of the line that Durocher later claimed as his?

I don’t know the answer to that either. If you do, please shoot me an email or post a comment on the Famous Quotations Facebook page. You’ll be clearing up a longstanding quotation mystery.

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