History speaks volumes
A few weeks ago my wife and I joined 248 supporters of Hillsdale College for a tour into St. Petersburg, Russia; Berlin and Potsdam, Germany; and London. The theme was, “A Salute to Freedom.” Actually, the tour was a cruise on the Baltic Sea on the Crystal Symphony.
Accompanying us aboard ship was a group of guest lecturers, all prominent authors of many books, including William Rusher, past publisher of National Review; Midge Decter, past editor of Harpers; Herbert Romerstein, former head of the Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation at the USIA; Edwin Meese III, counselor to President Reagan and former U.S. attorney general; Martin Gilbert, official biographer of Winston Churchill; Dr. Thomas Conner, Hillsdale College historian; and Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. All heavy hitters.
In Berlin we were given a private lecture by the noted British historian, Ian Kershaw, author of the book, “Hitler,” and in London we were the guests of Celia Sandys, Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, at Chartwell, the Churchill estate. Sandys is the author of “Churchill: Wanted Dead or Alive,” “From Winston with Love and Kisses,” and “The Young Churchill.” When at sea, the lectures were in the morning or the afternoon every day. And we had ample time to visit one-on-one with all of our lecturers. Midge Decter was my favorite. What a mind!
While in St. Petersburg, we were allowed to visit Lenin’s posh home and headquarters, now a “museum” of sorts, partially off limits to most visitors. I stood next to Lenin’s desk, which still has the primitive telephone through which he gave verbal death warrants for more than 16,000 of his fellow Bolsheviks whom he perceived as competitors.
Was I in awe being in the very room where The Revolution was born? No. My instincts were to destroy everything in it, but destroying the trappings of history never changes anything, does it?
While in Potsdam, we visited the castle where Stalin made his headquarters during the latter part of the war and where he, Clement Atlee, Harry Truman and other fools brutally carved up Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia and other countries. This time standing next to Stalin’s desk and the big round table where all of this happened left me with the same disgusted feelings I had in St. Petersburg.
Truman can be excused because he hadn’t been president long enough to know Stalin, and Roosevelt never included him in top level briefings. But the British were the dumbest of all, not to stick with Churchill until the aftermath of the war was cleaned up. His successor, Atlee, was a socialist, sympathetic to the communists, as were some of Truman’s advisers.
While in Berlin, Ian Kershaw gave us a long lecture on Hitler, more specifically about what was in Hitler’s mind during those years. What surprised me was his saying that Hitler’s purge of the Jews had less to do with achieving a pure Aryan race than his fear of the Jews intellectually and monetarily, and the fact that a large number of German Jews were communists. It’s no secret that Karl Marx, the father of communism, and Trotsky and Lenin, who were the organizers of The Revolution, were of Jewish descent (Lenin was half Jewish). And according to our Russian tour guide, herself a university teacher, many of Lenin’s lieutenants were atheist Jews. Certainly they couldn’t have been orthodox Jews, who themselves would later be purged by Stalin.
In London we were hosted by Celia Sandys with a two-hour tour and tea in Chartwell, the Churchill estate since the 1920s. On display were all of Winston’s memorabilia, 100 of the 500 of his paintings, his writings, including 42 books, and his personal effects. Sandys also gave us a 30-minute lecture on what it was like being Churchill’s granddaughter. She was superb.
On the last day we visited Churchill’s war room, deep in a bunker in downtown London. It was just as it was during the war. Here, I was awed, standing behind Churchill’s chair at the huge table with his cigar in the ashtray. All during the blitz Churchill refused to conduct the war from the safety of his country residence, Checkers. He insisted on being in London, taking his chances with everyone else. His bunker would not have survived a direct hit by a 1,000 pounder.
What did I learn from the trip? Lots of things, but the most significant was in one of Midge Decter’s lectures where she stated, “Wars and revolutions are not started by the workers or the peasants of the world. They’re started by intellectuals, the intellectuals of the world who are out of power and want to be in power.”
And to that I add, “don’t confuse intellectualism with intelligence.” The trip was a breath of fresh air, like Hillsdale College.
Bob Thomas is a Carson City businessman, local curmudgeon and former member of the Carson City School Board and Nevada State Assembly.