what i learned over the past two weeks…

1. rose valland, a quiet and unassuming art historian who worked at the jeu de paume museum in paris during the war had an excellent memory and the ability to speak german. neither of these two qualities was known by the occupying germans who were busy plundering art from the museum during the war. she paid attention, and kept track of which artwork went where and to whom. this resulted in many works being recovered.

2. russian forces used anti-tank dogs to attack german forces. bombs would be strapped to hungry dogs who were trained to think that someone on a tank would feed them. the theory is that the dog would drop the bomb and run, but this was only a theory…

3. when the nazi’s were exterminating jews in the ukraine, they found that lining them up single file and shooting them, one-by-one was taking too long. so, they convinced 30,000 people to come by a ravine at babi yar where they were mowed down by machine gun fire over two consecutive days.

4. one of the greatest examples of the placebo effect was that of a mr. wright, reported by a dr. bruno klopfer. wright was dying of a lymphatic cancer and was convinced that, if he was put on a drug trial for a new drug, he would be cured. after one dose of the drug, his tumours started shrinking at an unbelievable rate. upon hearing that the drug trials were proving to be unsuccessful, he died within days. this is the short version of the story – the longer, more interesting version can be found here.

5. norman mailer stabbed his wife. she didn’t press charges but, if she had done so, his defence would have been that, had he not stabbed her, the suppressed anger would have resulted in him developing cancer. this probably wouldn’t have been a successful defence…

6. nikita kruschev was responsible for a number of “purges” (massacres) committed for stalin before world war 2.

7. during world war 2, the paris austerlitz train station was turned into a large warehouse for all the stuff that was being stolen from the jewish homes in the city. homes would be emptied into trucks, the truck would drive to austerlitz where everything was emptied, sorted, repaired and then put on trains to be given to germans. most of this work was done by jewish prisoners who, in some particularly sad cases, saw things from their own homes go through the station.

8. the british had a plan to build aircraft carriers out of a sawdust-ice mixture called pykrete which is much stronger than regular ice.

9. each year, more persons are killed as a result of eating sharks than as a result of being eaten by sharks.

10. there was an award called “righteous among the nations” which, in a secular context, was given to non-jews who risked their lives to rescue jews from the nazi’s.

11. hitler had parkinson’s disease (something tells me that i learned this before and forgot it…)

12. hitler took cocaine eye drops

13. the most devestated city of world war 2 was warsaw. the second-most-devestated city was manila.

14. adidas and puma were started by two brothers in a small town in germany. the two companies were in a long-standing family feud until this past week.

15. there is a link in some children between cases of strep throat and obsessive compulsive disorder. see this link for more info.

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