Sunday, February 19, 2012

UPdates on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui Items

Plea to aid sister jailed in US for 86 years
February 24 2012 at 11:40am
By Yusuf Omar


Dr Fowzia Siddiqui, in Soweto, is on an international tour to raise awareness about her sister, Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who has already served 3 251 days in a US prison. Photo: Dumisani Sibeko

We meet at the Dlamini mosque in Soweto, an unlikely first stop for neurologist Dr Fowzia Siddiqui’s international tour to raise awareness about the plight of her US-imprisoned sister, Aafia Siddiqui.

Today marks 3 251 days since Aafia, an American-educated Pakistani woman, was incarcerated for assault with intent to murder her US interrogators while she was being detained in Afghanistan.

She is serving an 86-year sentence in solitary confinement in the US, and is believed to have cancer.

Fowzia’s left arm is in a cast, broken last week in Pakistan when she says the vehicle she was travelling in was attacked by policemen with batons. She was on her way to a march at the US embassy with tens of thousands of people.

She notices a bundle of Wikipedia printouts with her sister’s name on them in my hand. “If you are going to believe that stuff, then the interview is cancelled,” she said, stern-faced.

Nine years in the media spotlight has made her sceptical of the pens and flashing lights. “But if you want the truth, listen to me,” she said.

Aafia is commonly cited as a neuro-scientist, but her sister said she had a doctorate in education. “She didn’t even major in biology or physics. They just want to make her look scary and push this terrorist idea.”

Supporters of the campaign believe she is a 9/11 pawn, framed on terrorism charges and innocent on all accounts. Others call her a dangerous al-Qaeda member.

For the first five years of her sister being in prison, Fowzia said she wrote letters to her every day. “The US Embassy would have a closetful by now.”

Fowzia said she and her family had received death threats, but she was tired of being unheard.

“If she was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman, the world would be standing… How can she be imprisoned for 86 years? She didn’t kill anyone.”

The Siddiqui family have one more appeal left against the sentence. “We will use it when we think the time is right, when enough support has emerged and when we can clarify all the misconceptions.”

Fowzia, who said she would continue the fight to free her sister for the rest of her life, will take the campaign to the UK next. - The Star


To learn more plz go to and to International Justice Network (where Tina Foster has been working hard behind the scenes to find out whatever happened to Aafia's missing baby along with other issues.) See "Just the Facts" at both websites and you will also find plenty if you search for oneheartforpeace and nomorecrusades with Aafia Siddiqui in the search topic.

See the latest by Stephen Lendman who has written quite a few articles about Aafia which have been published in a number of sources here

See a short summary of the recent appeal for Dr. Aafia represented in court by US lawyer Dawn Cardi (The Nation (Pakistan) here

A write up of major legal and other concerns early 2011 here

You may also want to take a look at an earlier still excellent analysis
(2008) "Don't Blame the Victim here

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Twelve Steps: Applications for Us All (personal and beyond)

See the post just below for possible ways to use these steps:

1. We admitted we were powerless over ______________ -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10.Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11.Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12.Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Using the 12 Steps as a Peacemaker's Tool

The 12 Steps have been used for years in application to addictive substances and the feeble/mistaken attempts of loved ones seeking to help their broken, addicted family or friend.

Years ago as I drove people to such meetings, I was moved and felt the help, challenge and grace in these 12 steps for us all.

Now, as I look at these steps again in a more personal way, I also remember how helpful it is to substitute ANY addiction here.

Some applications are surely NEEDED DESPERATELY in our World of Warring in need of a World of Peace-making.

As we put in the addictions of our own nation's, pseudo-religion, group, family or personal challenge.

Here are a few possible addictions for the term for alcohol/substance in the blank for the TWELVE STEPS post above



POSSESSION (of things or others' things, oil, land, etc.)

CONTROLLING SPIRIT (personal or national)

DENIAL (personal, social, national, religiosity-related)

RUDENESS (general discourtesy of all manner -- including in relationship to other peoples -- nations)




PHOBIA (put in your own)


WEAPONS (of limited or mass destruction -- all kinds including words)

Let's find a way to CHOOSE LOVE (which has been here waiting all along.)

Cold, Cold Heart" by Kathy Kelly

"We lull ourselves into a comforting delusion that we're waging humanitarian wars, and then wonder why people aren't more grateful."

Read this personal article by the visionary of Creative NonViolence -- one of the most consistent peace movements and communities of our times. GO here

Glenn Greenwald is a Brave Soul (We must listen to him)

While of course the other nations he seeks to save from war are themselves FAR from perfect...yet the point is Glenn does rais undeniable questions about are priorities and over and over again we MUST ask as he does: How is going to war with yet another nation going to help the people of that nation -- Just WHAT is our track record of THAT?

Look for this one on February 13, 2012 in the archives:
US v Pakistan on Transparency and Accountability (this is a respected constitutional

You may want to keep checking Glenn's work day by day:

Greenwald has been boldly questioning much of the US mainstream media's blind furthering of war-mongering.

He's a force to reckon with even when he takes lots of time to read. Seems his commentators don't mind the length. I'm surprised The New York Times has published his books in the past and I wonder if they will in the future?

I'm not sure I agree with his take on Ron Paul although he does give lots of facts, food for thought and his own qualifiers here.

Among his comments -- which are getting bolder and bolder -- a kind of "righteous anger" -- he said most recently about media revving up anti-Iran rhetoric -- rather mindlessly:

"It’s the sort of thing you would produce if you set out to create a mean-spirited parody of mindless, war-hungry, fear-mongering media stars, but you wouldn’t dare go this far because you’d want the parody to have a feel of realism to it, and this would be way too extreme to be believable."

One example of his recent questioning of the media here

Meeting Joseph in the Quran for the First Time

(Hello, I'm reposting this one from August 2009 on One Heart for Peace -- because I just now received a notice February 2012 that Fatima's response was pending my approval. So sorry, Fatima -- yet I'm glad to see it now since the reminder is good for me today. Also, I'm not sure why links to my posts are not working? This appears to be new for my blogsites. So, plz refer to dates and simply the name of my blogs rather than links if you pass these on.)

Joseph was a man singled out for this amazing purpose: to help his nation's people as well as helping family who had misused him -- and while so doing being a forerunner of others specially so marked. Constantly he was forgiving and turning evil into good. Yet Joseph -- good man 'though he was -- knew he needed supernatural help with some situations like we all do -- to ward off misconduct. Striking that to Joseph - doing right was so precious that he risked jail rather than to act wrongly. The way Joseph begged so urgently, fervently for God's help at some points strikes a strong reminiscent chord.

Revenge was not for Joseph -- even when it was common -- he found other ways. He navigated among peoples with other beliefs apparently at ease with himself, his own role and with great dignity. He worked to help society (the poor as well as the well established) with most basic physical as well as moral needs without becoming part of any war machinery. He neither took on values contradictory to his own convictions nor did he force his on others. He found his own way to accomplish the Divine will.

While Joseph became highly esteemed, he did not reduce his calling by arrogance. Even his imprisonment he turned into blessings. Joseph brings to mind the role of those who "stand in the gap" -- who become a bridge between the rich and poor, the oppressed and the rulers who may have ignored or oppressed them.

His role was one of peace.

I noticed something in this the story of 'Joseph' which reminds me of a frequent theme in my discussions and readings: the value of dignity in all. Nor did Joseph reduce this dignity -- even to his conniving brothers by offering "cheap grace". Yet for their own sake and for perhaps the sake of his own respect, Joseph made sure some lessons were well-learned. Kind acts for Joseph needed discretion, knowledge and craftily-wise intuition - important qualities to include along with compassion. Those given to natural and frequent acts of charity can sometimes be used or misled and thus lose dignity and then so do those who misuse the giving person.

There is a universal and timeless pattern here between the Divine and the seer, mystic, prophet or savior of the people: "Your Lord is choosing you and teaching you how to interpret events, and completing His favor towards you..." Just consider that it is the One - Love in complete Essence -- the only Pure, Merciful, All-Knowing One wants us to learn to discern -- to interpret events in our own time and often provides the means.

THERE IS A CONTINUITY HERE IN JOSEPH - a continuity from generation to generation -- between historical eras even -- which so often we forget. After editing this -- I read Khurram Ali Shafique Sahib's offering on Joseph in Republic of Rumi and especially noted this that "every single item is a metaphor that may never run out of applications in the lives of individuals, nations and humanity."

So much of life seems to be an emergency today as then. The fast pace in Chapter 12 of the Quran also gives this sense. Yet by contrast, how helpful to see this universal wisdom from the mouth of Joseph's father earlier in story "Patience is beautiful!" And then in the narrative that -- with Joseph -- Love "was Dominant in his affair, even though not realize it." Love was there all along.

Connie L. Nash (I hope to present other references/updates sooner or later)


Original source of photo at top of page - by Urang Awak - an Indonesian here

10 Years Ago: Dennis Kucinich Prayer for America

This was ten years ago last Friday Feb 17 2-12

GO here

Oh to know and live our BEST history and to be so sorry and make amends for the rest.

Then perhaps we will heal our land and end our revengeful soul.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

'Slavery by Another Name' Official Selection of 2012 Sundance Film Festival

This program premiere(d) Monday night but there is also another viewing
Wednesday at 7 and 10 AM (SEE KQED WORLD Channel 9 -- Quite early but it's California time usa & may be seen by internet?)

‘Slavery by Another Name’ An official selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival This would be a superb film to order when available later or to tape from the show
for your class or group discussion.

There's also an interview with Blackmon by Bill Moyers (which took place when the book came out in 2008) Find interview transcribed at “‘Slavery by Another Name’: the re-enslavement of Blacks from the Civil War to World War II.”

SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME is a 90-minute documentary that challenges the belief that slavery ended with the Civil War. Go here The Book "Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II"
Author: Douglas A. Blackmon Publisher: Doubleday here Also look for the Online Film Guide | Sundance Institute

Sam Pollard performs a remarkable act of historical reclamation in this documentary, recounting the many ways in which American slavery persisted -- See Film guide:

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Long Way to Go... from poem by Tomas Transtromer

This poet as most readers here may know was just last year given the international laurel wreath for poetry.

I am fascinated by the images and density of the words and find them so appropos...

"He who has gone furthest has a long way to go."

"The Europeans mostly stay clustered by the car as if it were Mama."

"The crickets are as strong as electric razors."

Tomas Transtromer's "From an African Diary"/thanks to Hal Johnson

On the Congolese marketplace pictures
shapes move thin as insects, deprived of their human power.
It's a hard passage between two ways of life.
He who has arrived has a long way to go.

A young man found a foreigner lost among the huts.
Didn't know whether to take him for a friend or a subject for extortion.
His doubt disturbed him. They parted in confusion.

The Europeans mostly stay clustered by the car as if it were Mama.
The crickets are as strong as electric razors. The car drives home.
Soon the beautiful darkness comes, taking charge of the dirty clothes.
He who has arrived has a long way to go.

It helps perhaps with handshakes like a flight of migratory birds.
It helps perhaps to let truth out of the books.
It is necessary to go further.

The student reads in the night, reads and reads to be free
and having passed his exam he becomes a step for the next man.
A hard passage.
He who has gone furthest has a long way to go.

--Tomas Tranströmer
tr. Robin Fulton

fr. Bells and Tracks (1966)
and in The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems
[New York: New Directions, 2006]

I found the above here

See this Tomas Stranstromer Interview here

More Stranstromer poems - short Bio here

I feel a resonance with this newly-discovered poet because of the poetry and also because I am one-half swedish.

The photos above found as follows:

The Orient-Express train here

The Congo River (with village in background) 1889. Photo from Vingt années de vie africaine: 1874-1893, by Alexandre Delcommune, 1922. Public domain.

Healing Hearts on Valentine's Day

"Love is just a matter of practice."

Annie Renaud had a very important question for Rais Bhuiyan during a fourth-period class Friday at Glastonbury High School."Do you think there is any crime that is unforgivable?" Annie, a freshman, asked.

"Well —" Bhuiyan responded, pausing. "On a regular basis, we ask God, 'Please forgive me.' Why you cannot pass it to others? …There is nothing you can't forgive, if I can forgive my attacker who tried to end my life. It's just a matter of practice." See the full story below*** on World Without Hate.

Here's the latest By Rais Bhuiyan:

Can we make Valentine’s day a LOVE day for all? February 14th is Valentine’s Day - a day to celebrate the heart and love.

Some of us will give cards, flowers, chocolates, hugs and kisses (maybe virtual ones!) to our loved ones to show we care.

While we are opening our hearts, let us open that same heart to those who hurt us.
We can forgive them and reach out by email, text message, or phone call to tell them they are forgiven. And, we can ask them to forgive us. It will heal our hearts.

Can we make this LOVE DAY one of compassion and forgiveness, a love day for all?...

See more at World Without Hate here and here

*** See the full post about Rais speaking with High School Students here

From Rumi: Mature yourself and be secure from a change for the worse. Become the light. Only from the HEART Can you touch the sky.

From a Prayer by Allama Iqbal

These lines are from "The Secrets of the Self" XVIII An invocation.

O THOU that art as the soul in the body of the universe,
Thou art our soul and thou are ever fleeing from us.
Thou breathest music into Life's lute...
Once more let us hear thy call to honour,
Strengthen our weak love...

Give us the sleepless eye
and the passionate heart,
Give us again the nature of quicksilver...

Burn with our fire all that is not God!

When the people let the clue of Unity go from their hands,
They fell into a hundred mazes.

We are dispersed like stars in the world;
Though of the same family, we are strange to one another...


"I stand under the starry sky and feel the world creeping in and out of my coat as in an ant-hill". from Swedish Poet Tomas Stranstromer (see more of his work under post for February 14 above on this site)

* Star Painting by Laura Rispoli

Friday, February 10, 2012

UPDATE 23 Feb -- Brief Comments Re: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui Appeal

GO here to follow the ongoing work to bring attention worldwide to this case.

Further Update Saturday 2:01 PM ET 2012

Plz send post cards to Dr. Aafia Siddiqui...GO to:

One Heart For Peace or here

Be sure to watch the official family (of Dr. Aafia siddiqui) website at Free Aafia dot org

Some brief media is coming in late Friday night to early Saturday am ET 2:09 a:

The Nation Pk here and International Justice Network here

World GO to
to see this excerpt in context:

"...Back in Pakistan, people are perturbed by her plight and have been protesting on the streets urging the government to secure her release. Her capture and subsequent trial is rightly seen as a classic example of ‘extraordinary rendition’- a tool with which the US has been secretly picking up alleged terror suspects. Even forensic investigations have revealed that the gun she is accused of handling, did not have her fingerprints. The charge that she was an Al-Qaeda sympathiser does not hold water. The case was attached undue hype by the US government demonising a convenient capture and tapping into fears of the American public concerning terrorist activities. The subsequent sentence of 86 years has made a travesty of the American judicial system..."
Note mid-Friday:

There is the same pattern going on as in Dr. Aafia's trial among journalists/headlines...the superficial habit of merely copying much of the last persons work or using the various "wires" for a model-- whether by using the same article, the same title and/or the same terminology.

In the case today, the same misleading description of Aafia is being circulated with a very similar it's been somehow arranged ahead...Hmmn...the reader surely must ask...what' going on? Are the journalists merely robots?

There is no information available yet which can prove that Aafia actually shot the US Soldiers...yet the implication is here that she was the instigator -- look into the facts to find the opposite...

Here is an example of the only mainstream headlines -- news available on the mainstream at the moment:

Court Hears Appeal For Pakistani Scientist Who Shot At U.S. Soldiers CBS New York - 2 hours ago

Court hears appeal for woman who shot at US troops Associated... - 5 hours ago

NY court hears appeal for Pakistani scientist who shot at US troops in Afghanistan Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune - 6 hours ago

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Universal Prayer for the Social Order

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart...

that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease;

that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace...

Let it be so...

(from the Book of Common Prayer)

Hebe Kohlbrugge Interview with Tips for Today

“You Do Not Have to Answer All the Questions”
an interview with a member of the Dutch Resistance of World War II

by Jim Forest

Hebe Kohlbrugge was one of the few Dutch people who had a clear idea of the nature of Nazism before the invasion of Holland in 1940. Working in Germany at the time of Hitler’s rise to power, she was arrested for her opposition to Nazism, imprisoned, and eventually deported to her native country, the Netherlands. There, following the Occupation, she became one of the organizers of the resistance, especially to Nazi anti-Jewish policies. Caught in 1944, she was sent first to a Dutch prison camp and later to Ravensbrück, Germany. There she developed friendships with Eastern European prisoners which, in the post-war years, drew her to work with human rights activists in the Warsaw Pact countries. She also plunged into material and spiritual aid for Germany on behalf of the Netherlands Reformed Church. Later, on the staff of the Department for Interchurch Aid with her work expanded to many other countries, including Vietnam, she was one of the first church leaders to offer support to the social service programs of Vietnam’s Unified Buddhist Church.

For her work on behalf of victims of war and racism, Hebe Kohlbrugge has received various awards. There is, however, no evidence of the awards in her home or on her person. She draws attention to them only when to do so might further her efforts for those persons in trouble today. Once, during the Vietnam War, while trying to arrange a meeting between a Vietnamese Buddhist representative and a Minister of the Dutch Cabinet, an assistant assured her the Minister was too busy. Hebe put on the desk the Bronze Lion Award she had received from the Dutch government for courage and gallantry in the resistance. The meeting with the Minister followed immediately.

Jim Forest: What were you doing when the war began? What drew you ln the direction of resistance?

Hebe Kohlbrugge: I was 25. I had been working in the “Bekennende Kirche” — the anti-Nazi Confessing Church — in Germany, and I had seen what was going on. I worked there until l was imprisoned in Berlin in 1939. Thanks to the Dutch ambassador, I was released. I was ordered out of Germany “für Ewig” — for eternity — and I came home. So in 1939 when the war started, I knew what was going to happen. I didn’t have to have it explained to me who Hitler was. I had seen him, and I had made up my mind when I went to the Confessing Church.

What was it that brought you to the Confessing Church in Germany to begin with?

I had originally gone to Berlin to study. I was very interested in what was going on politically. In Berlin I happened to live in the parish of Martin Niemöller, so I saw and heard Hitler, and Niemöller as well. Arriving in Berlin as someone very interested in what was going on — not at all against Hitler, just interested — I discovered from Niemöller and from what l saw myself that Hitler was quite the wrong man. So I decided that I had to take the side of Niemöller. When I finished my course, I wrote my parents, “I want to help where help is needed.” And they wrote, “Okay.” So I went and helped until I was thrown out.

Did you have any sense at all of what was coming for the Jews?

I was in Germany on Kristallnacht in 1938… Of course, in the Confessing Church we often talked of “the great sin of anti-Semitism.” I can remember Bonhöffer coming and talking about such things as: What does it mean to help Jews? It couldn’t be spoken of so openly, but it was talked about.

One of the reasons I was put into prison in 1939 was that I had told the groups of children I worked within the church that Jews were nice people. Of course, the kids had told their parents, and some of the parents were Nazis. “How do you know?” they would ask. “Well, Hebe said . . .”

What other reasons did they give for imprisoning you?

Not saying “Heil Hitler,” but saying “Good morning!” Ringing the bells for Niemöller together with the children.

Why the bells?

When Niemöller was imprisoned, all the churches of the Confessing Church began ringing the bells at six o’clock to think of Niemöller and pray for him. It was for Niemöller at first, but later for all the others in prison. I went with all the kids to the bell tower of our church and said, “Now you ring, and now I ring, and now you ring.” I wanted them, by doing it themselves, to understand what we were doing. We wanted to remind people that it was time to pray. And the kids loved it. Kids love ringing church bells. Of course they went home and said, “We did this for Niemöller.” So, it was Niemöller, it was the Jews, and it was “Guten Tag,” instead of “Heil Hitler.”

Tell me more about the Confessing Church.

As always in church life, what a church did depended a great deal on the individual pastor, the church members, and so on. But if I were to generalize, I would say there were regular meetings — sometimes a whole Saturday or Sunday, sometimes several evenings over a few weeks. There were many gatherings, many chances for people to get to know each other and become each other’s friends. Church life was far more intensive than I had ever known it at home.

In the Confessing Church, all questions of interest were taken seriously. Things like this are normal now, but at that time it was all new. What happened with the church offerings gives one illustration of how it was. All of a sudden the state began to confiscate them. So it became a question for us: What shall we do with our offerings? I had never before thought about that! This was new. Finally it was agreed the offering should be taken and put on the altar. The SS didn’t dare take it from the altar. They were afraid. Then the next day the pastor took the offering and put it where it had to go.

But before this decision was reached, there was much discussion. One pastor came saying, “I don’t want to be a member of the Confessing Church any longer, because I don’t think it is worthwhile to fight with the state over some money.” He brought biblical texts showing money is not so important in the church. It was a big question: “Have we to fight for money in the church?” In the end we saw that we were not to fight for our own money, but that we had to fight for the money people gave us, to use it in the right way — and that the state must not be allowed to steal it. Therefore we had to hide it from the stealer.

We talked about everything concerning life, including church and politics. This was a very new thing to think about. Far more openness came. In the Confessing Church for the first time it became clear that Reformed and Lutheran had to take Holy Communion together. This was new.

All these conversations seemed to be frightfully important. And they were.

In 1939 you were sent out of Germany. What next?

First, in April, I went to Basel and studied with Karl Barth — but only one semester, because then the war came. I was home on holiday in September 1939 when the war started and then I couldn’t go back. I had to earn some money, and the Council of Churches in Amsterdam hired me as secretary. It was a half-time job for very little money, but it was enough. Eight months later, in May 1940, the German army invaded Holland

Did you anticipate the invasion?

No. No one did.

What happened then?

I talked with friends about what we could do. I couldn’t say, “We must do this.” But to very good friends, I said, “We must do something. We can’t wait. What can we do?” These friends decided to come together as a group and talk things over. That was in July 1940. Such a meeting was still possible then — very openly writing letters: “Will you come to a conference?” So we came together, a group of 35 people, and talked over what we might possibly do. Practically nothing was agreed upon immediately. But all of those who came together could be relied upon later on.

What was the first action you took part in?

In October 1940 the Germans asked all those who were in official jobs to put down if they were Jews or not. Just a question: “Are you a Jew, or not?”

In our group of 35 there had earlier been discussions of secretly publishing samizdat papers and pamphlets. Now one person from the group came to me and said, “We have talked about samizdat publishing, and now we have to do it.” I agreed. So we wrote the first pamphlet. Together with my sister — we lived together at the time — we decided 30,000 copies would be the right number. We found a little printer and in a very short time he had printed them.

What was the first pamphlet called?

Bijna te laat — “It’s nearly too late.” Our group of 35 was able to distribute them all over Holland.

What was its main point?

The main statement was: You are not allowed to answer nasty questions. Remember, we lived in a time when people were polite to one another. If you asked me, “Are you a Jew?” I answered, “No, I’m not,” or “Yes, I am.” So one of the main issues was that if a non-trustworthy person asks you a question like that; you answer: “That has nothing to do with you.”

That was new. Even today some people wonder about this sentence. When I received the Münster Prize, I had in my speech the sentence: “You do not have to answer all the questions.” The speech was sent to several friends in Rumania, and five different friends in Rumania wrote that this was the most important sentence. This was new to them, still.

Isn’t this still an issue for people everywhere? To dare to be silent before certain questions, certain orders?

And to say quite clearly, “This I will not answer. This is not your business.” You not only kept your mouth shut if they asked you with whom you worked. That was clear; you could not betray people. But even a Dutchman who resisted the Nazis said to me about the pamphlet: “You can’t send this! If someone asks you a question, you have to answer. Otherwise you are wrong, because then you are nasty.” He said you must answer; I said you can’t. He said, “No, if something happens to the Jews, then we will do something.” But then it was too late. And so it happened. “Nearly too late” became too late.

What effect did the first publication have?

It’s hard to say. This was not the very first action, though it was the first large one. I know the Nazis were furious that they couldn’t find where it came from and who had run the whole thing. We had done a thing that was rather clever at that time — we took the available lists of names from all the schools, and the addresses were done in many different handwritings and on many typewriters.

Then we posted the envelopes on the same night, between six and eight, from all the various places. So they tried to find out: “Does it come from Utrecht?” “No, it comes from Groningen.” “No, it comes from Zeeland.” “Oh no, it’s coming from Alkmaar! ”

Were you personally suspected by the Nazis at first?

No, not at all.

You continued with your job at the Council of Churches?

Yes. That was lovely. I had the whole church to hide my things — the Nieuwe Kerk, the biggest church in Amsterdam. No one could find anything. There was just myself there, and the custodian — and he didn’t know what I was doing.

What did you do after the first booklet?

We continued publishing. We had a series of subjects we had decided on.

How quickly did the German removal of Jews begin?

Almost immediately. In October they asked the question, and then the arrests began. They didn’t take them all together. If they had, they would have had a big fight in Holland. They took them one by one.

How did you feel when you first heard a Jew had been taken away?

To answer that, I have to remind you that we knew nothing about Auschwitz then. What we knew was that children were being taken, women were being taken, and whole families. We were afraid for their lives. Jews were taken to Westerbork in Holland, which was not nice but it was heaven compared to the death camps. We knew transports were taken from there to Germany — we did not know where. We did not know about gas.

What did your group do at that point?

The only thing we could do — we began to hide the Jews.


It was all very easy — and very difficult! You started with your parents, and after your parents you went to uncles and nieces and friends of parents and friends of nieces — and friends and friends of friends. We didn’t make big organizations. We went from one to the other. We just followed our own track.

How did Jews find you?

It happened. Holland is a small country. It happened like it happens today. A call comes: “Can you help . . . ?” As soon as you started, the connections were made.

Have you any idea how many, ultimately, were sheltered in this way? In the thousands?

Yes. But many were found halfway down — in hiding, like Anne Frank’s family. And there were others hiding who couldn’t stand it any longer and went out into the street.

Were there times when the Nazis were close to breaking your ring?

Very often. Practically all of my friends were shot.

How many were shot?

I never counted.


Yes. Some had a trial, some were just shot.

It was just a matter of fortune that you weren’t shot?

Some groups, of course, had a spy in them, and then the whole group was taken. Our group never had a spy. Some groups had the bad luck that one was taken and tortured so badly that he gave all the names. But we decided that, if one was taken, we would all leave our addresses, immediately.

We wouldn’t come back until we had a message from the person, or we heard what had happened. This arrangement was also a help for those who were arrested. If you finally gave in, you knew no one would be in danger — they would have left.

Did the Gestapo ever come for you?

Yes. In February 1942, the Gestapo found me at my office in the Nieuwe Kerk. I had with me a package of samizdat papers. Normally I never had anything with me, but I wanted to give these papers half an hour later to a boy who was to deliver them somewhere.

I walked into my office, and there sat three gentlemen from the Gestapo. I thought of my bag, and I thought, “This is the end.” They said, “We want to look through your office!” I said, “My office is upstairs.” This wasn’t true. At the time I was working downstairs because the upstairs was so cold. “Then we’ll go upstairs,” they said. “Take everything with you. Bring your bag.” (I had tried to leave it behind.) To go upstairs we had to climb an old spiral staircase. They wanted me to go first, but I said, “No, if you are gentlemen, you go first.” And they did! They wanted to be gentlemen. So on the way upstairs, while walking as loudly as I could, I threw the package of papers downstairs — hoping it wouldn’t bump too hard. It was the only chance I had. When we got upstairs, they said, “Open your bag.” Well, I opened it — and there was nothing but a dirty handkerchief!

Then they looked through my “office” — and there was nothing there, of course. When we came back downstairs, I dreaded that the package would still be where it fell, but the wife of the custodian had been so kind as to remove it. So the Gestapo found nothing at the church. But they insisted on going to the room where I lived. I said, “I must first call my boss, because he is due any moment and I can’t just go away like this.” They agreed, but of course they listened. I called my boss and said, “I am here with the German police. They want to go with me to my house, so I’m sorry, if you come I will not be in.” “Okay,” he said, and he immediately rang the house where I was staying to warn them I was coming with the police, and they were able to take certain things out of the house.

I was staying with a pastor and his wife. They had no children, and they were willing to take in young people who didn’t earn much money. Another girl and myself were staying there. I knew the other girl did nothing illegal — so I took the Gestapo into her room and said, “This is my room! ”

They searched her room up and down. The only thing they found was a picture of the Queen [who was with the government-in-exile in London]. They were furious, but that was not a thing for which they could take me to prison. They searched for three hours and finally left. The girl was furious with me! Ridiculous girl . . . She was angry because they made such a mess.

Then I knew it was dangerous for me and that it was now better for me to hide. I went to another address.

And there were no more encounters with the Gestapo?

After I had left, I remembered that I had left something at the house which I needed very badly. So I thought, “Well, it’s Friday evening — I will go and get it.” I went to the house, got to my former room, and at that moment the Gestapo arrived at the house and rang. I thought, “There they are! “You just feel it, you know?

I went out of the room up to the attic. It was the only thing I could do. I heard the very nice pastor’s wife say, “Yes, she must be in the house, because her bicycle is here.” She had the idea, like most people at that time, that no matter what, you had to be honest. They went up to my room. It was clean and in order. Then they began a search. For five hours they searched that house, and they didn’t find me. They were terrible hours. But I was lucky, I had found a small cupboard — just a crawl space under the eaves. I got in and put something in front of me and laid there and didn’t move. They went over the whole attic, but they did not open the door. I think they didn’t realize a door was there. It was all in the same color, and by the time they got to the attic they were tired.

By this time it was clear that they wanted to arrest you?

Yes, absolutely. As it was, they took the pastor’s wife. Three hours later I came out of the attic — after eight hours. I couldn’t stay there any longer. By then the pastor was frantic. “My wife! My wife! You have to go and turn yourself in.” But I said, “No. Nothing will happen to her, but for me there is great danger.” He was furious! She was released the next morning, as I expected.

For another day I had to stay there in the attic. There was at all times a Gestapo man posted in front of the house — we saw him walking up and down. Finally on Saturday evening at 5 o’clock, they had free time, and they left. So I was able to go. It was very dangerous, of course, and very frightening, but I went. From that time on, I lived underground.

What was your work then?

The same. Finding homes for Jews, helping with ration cards, helping with other things. First it was the Jews, then there were students, then laborers who didn’t want to go to forced labor in Germany, and then other underground people. We also went on with the samizdat papers, which came out regularly every four to six weeks.

What was in them?

News. Warnings. Information. Articles explaining in a popular way why we were fighting against Nazism. Then in July 1942, someone had to go to Switzerland, so I went.

How did you do that?

Walking, mostly — Holland to Belgium, then the train into northern France, and then walking into Switzerland.

What was the purpose of that trip?

To get information to London — to the Dutch Queen and the government in exile.

At that time they had several radio stations, like “Voice of Holland,” broadcasting to us. And sometimes they were sending absurd information. It was vital that the government should have clearer reports about what was happening, so they wouldn’t risk people’s lives. We also wanted to give them information about where troops were and what they were doing, and to remind them of the dangers.

What kind of dangers?

Well, you can drown a country like Holland if you blow up the electrical generators — because these run the pumps, and most of the country is below sea level. The Germans placed dynamite near all the power stations. We were always fighting this. We would steal the dynamite. We expected that all Holland would be drowned.

interviewer’s note: In 1944 Hebe Kohlbrugge was finally arrested, though she managed to give a false name and to convince her captors she was a German citizen. After a period in a Dutch prison camp, she was transferred to Ravensbrück, 80 kilometers north of Berlin — the concentration camp known as “the women’s hell.”

At least 50,000 persons died here, and many others were sent on to death camps. I once talked with a girl in Ravensbrück, and she was very down, and I said to her, “Keep your head up!” And she said, “You can. You know why you’re here. I’m here only because of my nose.” I think that’s very important. We knew why we were there; we had been fighting. This poor girl hadn’t. She was there only, as she said, because of her nose.

When were you at Ravensbrück?

From September 4, 1944, until February 1945.

What did you do there?

I worked in the hospital, as I had in the Dutch prison camp. I had to look after the babies. Their mothers were mainly from Poland. The Germans had taken whole villages, and some of the women, of course, were pregnant. Every day, one or two babies were born. I never had more than 35, so you can count how many died. Most were born beautifully. The births were like anywhere — the mothers rejoicing about their nice new babies, so beautiful. But the mothers did not have enough food. They couldn’t nurse. After three days the babies would begin to shrink. They died, generally very quietly. It was hard, especially for those mothers who had lost their husbands. The baby was all they had left.

But the ones who had perhaps the worst situation at Ravensbrück were the gypsies. They were even more crowded than the rest of us, more pressed together. The Nazis had decided that these people, like the Jews, should be wiped out. The mothers would be told that if they allowed their daughters to be sterilized, the daughters could be let free. The mothers would say, “Okay. Then my little girl gets out.” Then there were these girls — eight, nine, ten, twelve years old — who were sterilized with electric shock. It was too terrible for words. Their screams were unbearable. It was the most awful thing I experienced at Ravensbrück. It was torture of children.

But I don’t think one should stay too long with these old memories. Torturing is still going on. All the countries are doing it. In 1980 we can’t talk too much about the torturing by the Nazis. We cannot say they were the most evil. Black is black.

What was important in helping you survive the experience?

There were various things. One was that I wanted to overcome. I wanted to survive, not only because I was afraid of dying, but because I didn’t want to give the Germans the chance to rejoice! Secondly, I had come through the experiences of prison, of not giving names, of pretending to be a German, of being one of the many in the camps, and I had the feeling, “I have come through so far — I will come through to the end.” I didn’t want to die as Christina Dormann [her false name] — I wanted to go home as Hebe Kohlbrugge.

I was very busy with the mothers and babies, and trying to do something for them. I first heard from the Polish mothers about life in Poland in the war. I hadn’t known Poland had been so much worse than Holland. Much worse. So I started to realize that my experiences were not so important — in fact they were unimportant in light of what these Polish girls had to tell me. We had been busy only with ourselves; now we started to get busy with more important things.

Working for the babies, I really had to work from roll call in the morning until midnight. I hardly had any sleep. So I really hadn’t much time to think of what would keep me alive. I hadn’t even much time for religious life or praying. Probably not enough. I knew that I was a Christian, I knew that as a Christian I fought against the lie of Nazism, I knew that I tried to help these mothers, and I did what I could.

How do the sorts of experiences you had affect your religious faith?

There is a book which has recently been published here, How Can I Believe After Auschwitz? I think the question is ridiculous. Evil didn’t begin or end with the Nazis. There is all we know about Vietnam, Afghanistan, the Gulag Archipelago, Cambodia, Argentina, Chile, many countries in Africa . . . And there are events like these all through human history. How can we just talk about believing after Auschwitz? If we read the Revelation of St. John, we are told that history will go this way. And it does go this way. So if I believe, I believe. If I don’t, I don’t. We push away our present difficulties by thinking only of 1944-45.

What about the guards — people who kill and torture? Does this require a certain kind of person, or can it be anyone?

I remember at Ravensbrück one day there came new guards — ten or twenty. They were girls sent from a factory that had been closed. They came and were told what they had to do. And they said, “We don’t want to do that.” All of them. Then they were told, “Either you are a guard, or you are a prisoner.” Now what shall the normal factory girl do? Can you expect her to choose to be a prisoner? So she becomes a guard. And then what happens? She tries not to be too nasty. But they tell her she must be more nasty. “If you are not, we will send you to be a guard some place even worse.” So she starts shouting. But it wasn’t true for everyone. Not everyone became cruel. We knew some who would never tell what they had seen. But many just went along step by step. A few were real sadists, and they tried to push the rest.

What happened when you were released?

I went home — which took me a good week — and I had to go to bed immediately, because I had very bad tuberculosis. I had known in Ravensbrück that I had it; in fact I had already been sick in bed in the camp. It was not allowed to release sick people, but the doctor did. He liked me — I don’t know why. At home they looked after me and I had a good doctor. The war ended in May.

In the years since then, you have spent a great deal of time working for refugees and for people in trouble because of war. Was it inevitable that you should go on to do these kinds of things?

Immediately after I came back from Switzerland where I had been recuperating for two years, the churches of Holland asked me to take up contact with Germany. The churches were very much aware of the hatred Holland had for Germany, and aware that for the churches the hatred couldn’t go on. They wanted someone to build bridges, and they asked me. I did this work from 1948 to 1957.

How did you get involved in work in Eastern Europe?

I had so many friends, especially in Czechoslovakia and Poland. Most of the Polish friends I never found again after the war, but the Czech friends I did find. I was very interested in life in their countries, very interested in what Communism did when it was in the chair. They had convinced me everything would be fine in Czechoslovakia, so I wasn’t against it. I wanted to see what it would be like. Then I found out that it was not what they had promised it would be. Most of my friends were in charge of very important jobs in Czechoslovakia, and then they all went with Dubcek, and they were thrown out — out of their jobs, out of the party, and all of that. I have no personal contact anymore, because I am not allowed to go in.

What are appropriate ways for people in the West to gain an understanding of what is happening in Eastern Europe and do something to help?

People must read one or two books about the problems of Eastern Europe. Otherwise we are just like the Germans who said after the war, “We didn’t know it, and we didn’t want it.” I think of the book To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter by [Vladimir] Bukovsky. He gives a clear account of how he came to be one of the dissidents, what happened to him, how he lived through prison. It’s not difficult to read, and there’s lots of humor in it, so you needn’t be afraid of reading it.

People are obliged to read books like that. You can’t live in one world and not know anything about it. You can’t know everything about everywhere, but people should have at least some basic information about what it’s like. What does it mean if you have lived through the lie of Nazism — which is not to compare that with Communism, for they are quite different — and if you know Communism, the “real existing socialism” as it is now, is also a lie and is forcing people into a lie? If you once have fought against a lie, for the truth, it is impossible to come home and say, “Now I will sit in my chair and not fight anymore.”

I am struck by the lack of bitterness in the way you speak about things which could, for other people perhaps, be rather embittering.

It is much easier for those who have been in it to be without rancor and bitterness than for those who have stood aside. Those who didn’t do anything — mainly out of fear — still have hatred, because they feel in some way that they themselves have not done the right thing. They hate those who hindered them from being as they know they ought to have been.

And of course if you have lost a husband or someone dear to you, it is different. You can’t make an absolute line. I had no husband, no children. My sisters did not die. My father and mother did not die. They all survived. My father was once driven around for half an hour with a pistol in his back, but at the last moment they did not shoot him. If he had been shot, I don’t know what I would feel now, what I would say.

We can only account for what has happened to us. Nothing very bad happened to me. I was not once beaten in prison, because they believed I was German. I went through no torment at all — except in the concentration camp, like everybody. I must state that very clearly, because otherwise I would give an impression that is not true.

References easy to cut & paste:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Citizens for Diplomacy with Iran

It is critical that President Obama take concrete steps to set a new tone with Iran...

These steps should include:

- Pursuing wide-ranging, direct negotiations without preconditions with Iran.

- Refraining from hostile rhetoric and saber-rattling with Iran.

- Announcing that the US does not threaten regime change in Iran.

For years America's relationship with Iran has been defined by fear, and the Bush presidency set us on a course towards military confrontation. Unfortunately, the Bush approach of isolation and aggression still has powerful supporters, several of whom are advisors to President Obama. Change will not come easily....

(We need to get) average Americans involved in Citizen Diplomacy, to help shape the American conversation about a more hopeful exchange with Iran. To counteract the fear, we are showing how much Americans and Iranians have in common, including a shared desire for peace.

From the ground up, we (must) remind our political leaders that we can't afford a military confrontation with Iran, and that Americans need a more constructive relationship with Iran to solve our common problems, including stabilizing Iraq and making progress towards a nuclear weapons free world.

Iran: Congress Must Prevent a New War
Despite the Bush administration’s repeated insistence that they are not planning to invade Iran, they have not pursued the serious diplomatic negotiations needed to resolve conflict between the two governments. In fact, the administration (and Congress) keeps taking actions that are likely to inflame tensions with Iran.

Write to your representative asking for concrete Congressional action to prevent another war.

Iran: Take Action for Proactive Diplomacy with Iran
Even after the November elections, voices both within and outside the administration have continued pushing for a military strike on Iran. It is critical that Congress call for forceful diplomatic action now.

Speak out now in support forceful and proactive diplomacy.

Send a letter to your representative.

Keep Speaking Up Against Military Attacks on Iran

(Plz see PeaceAction; FCNL; World Cant Wait)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Compassion for Self and Others Leads to Freedom:

He saw death as a path to freedom. He had spent so much time ministering with the dying – one of the greatest privileges of ministry, as far as he was concerned – that I felt he was, while totally committed to living life to the full, somehow also looking forward to his own death. Not in a morbid sense, but simply because he did believe that our own death is a step forward.

He often said ‘when you enter into freedom, possibility comes to meet you’ – I imagine that he is, right now, experiencing a kind of freedom about which he would – at the very least - write some pretty marvellous poetry. It is hard to begrudge him his death when part of him was so ready for it. I wonder how he’d describe it. For those of us left behind, well, we miss him dearly, and are grateful for the spaces he opened in our lives. I find it almost impossible to believe that he is gone; but if he was right about his own future, we will meet again.

BY JOHN O’DONOHUE, from ‘Benedictus – A Book of Blessings’:

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,May the music of laughter break through your soul.

As the wind wants to make everything dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.

Like the freedom of the monastery bell,
May clarity of mind make your eyes smile.

As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May a sense of irony give you perspective.

As time remains free of all that it frames,
May fear or worry never put you in chains.

May your prayer of listening deepen enough
To hear in the distance the laughter of God.

Also see O'Donohue's Talk on Compassion for Self and Others: