Saturday, May 16, 2015

Careless characterizations and Bao Dai's bed

One of the oddities of the current culture war involving among other things politics, sexual orientation and gender identity is careless use of the term "Nazi," alighted upon quite often as a way to describe one's opponents. Neither side gets a free pass here. And I could be a lot more self-righteous about this if I weren't guilty of casually throwing the word around, too --- although not in the same context. Rather, "fashion Nazi," "food Nazi," and the like.

I've been watching this week via Netflix the three episodes of a BBC documentary series issued a couple of years ago, "The Last Nazis," broadcast, too, on PBS --- and available as well in pirated form on YouTube and elsewhere.

Two of the films in the series, "The Hunt for Dr. Death" and "Most Wanted," deal specifically with searches for the last living Nazi war criminals, men now in their 90s if alive at all.

But I found the third, "Children of the Master Race," most compelling. It tells a little of the story of  the Nazi "Lebensborn" program through the lives of men and women who resulted from it.

That program involved in some instances selective breeding to produce "Aryan" infants; in other instances, the kidnapping of youngsters in subjugated countries who had the "right" racial characteristics.

The documentary has been criticized for overstating the scale of the Lebensborn and related programs, but because the Nazis destroyed program records as World War II neared its end, no one really knows.

All three programs serve as a good reminder, however, to stop casually throwing the word "Nazi" around. We're no where near that level of horror.


I enjoy watching Anthony Bourdain eat, so was really happy when Netflix also added new episodes to its file of "Parts Unknown." Had to watch immediately Episode 4, documenting a vist to Hue, once Vietnam's imperial capital and, during 1968, the site of horrific fighting and a massacre of civilians by communist forces during the Tet Offensive. 

Vietnamese food is terrific and, besides, I once sat on what was alleged to be Emperor Bao Dai's childhood bed. So how could I not?

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