Ethics Hero Emeritus: Rose Valland (1898-1980)

Rose-Valland

The remarkable 2008 documentary “The Rape of Europa” tells the story of the Nazi plundering of fine art across Europe. It is full of many accounts of heroism, none more impressive than that of Rose Villand, a meek-looking librarian out of central casting, who is as perfect and example of how ordinary people can rise to extraordinary levels of courage and innovation in times of crisis.

Rose Valland was born in Saint-Étienne-de-Saint-Geoirs, France on November 1, 1898. She earned two degrees in the arts from the École des Beaux-Arts in Lyon and also studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, then added degrees in art history from both the École du Louvre and the Sorbonne. Her academic credentials, however, did not immediately advance her career, as Valland began work at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris as an unpaid volunteer.

In October 1940, during the Occupation of Paris, the Nazis commandeered the Jeu de Paume Museum and converted it into the headquarters of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, or ERR, the Nazi art looting organization created by frustrated artist Adolf Hitler. There The Nazis stored paintings and other works of art stolen from private French collectors and dealers, including thousands of works taken from Jewish-owned galleries. The museum’s collaborating curator, Andre Dézarrois, fell ill in the summer of 1941, and in a stroke of fate for civilization, Valland became the de facto director of the museum. Jacques Jaujard, Director of the French National Museums including the Louvre, gave Valland a daunting assignment: she was to use her post in the museum to spy on the Nazi art theft operation.

The Germans, as explained in “The Rape of Europa,” took scant notice of the “little mouse” of a woman who kept her head down, seldom spoke, and appeared to follow orders. They didn’t even realize that she spoke German, but under their noses she was acquiring crucial information from the conversations of drivers, guards, and packers relating to the looted art treasures…60,000 of them. Villand witnessed the frequent shopping trips of Nazi Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering as he made more than twenty separate visits to the Jeu de Paume to select works of art for Hitler’s planned Führermuseum in Linz, Austria, and his own personal collection. Possessing a remarkable memory for details, she recorded her discoveries regarding the movements, names of the victims, number of pieces and where they were going, names of the agents responsible for transfers, names of the carriers, brands of the boxes, numbers and dates of convoys,as well as the names of the artists and the dimensions of the pieces that passed before her. She relayed the information to Jaujard and the French Resistance while keeping her own meticulous records. She warned the Resistance of convoys containing important artworks so that they would be spared, all while knowing that she would be executed as a spy if her activities were discovered by the Nazis—and at least twice, they nearly caught her.

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Evening Ethics Night-Cap, 1/18/2021: What A Terrible Bunch Of People!

nightcap

1. Wow. Now that’s a sex scandal even in France! Olivier Duhamel, a prominent French political scientist, radio show host and television commentator has quit his media and university posts after being accused of committing incest with his teenage stepson more than 30 years ago. His resignations included the Sciences Po university, where Duhamel, now 70, headed the body overseeing the renowned Paris institution. A book called “La Familia Grande,” just published and written by one of his stepchildren, revealed that Duhamel abused her twin brother beginning when he was 14. The brother told the news media, “I confirm that what my sister has written about the actions of Olivier Duhamel toward me is correct.”

Addressing her step-father directly in the book, Camille Kouchner wrote: “I am going to explain to you who sound off on the radio, you who offer the gift of your analysis to students, and strut about on TV stages. I am going to explain that you could, at least, have said sorry.”

Now there is a #MeToo-style incest movement in France, #Metooinceste, with over 20,000 tweets so far posted on accounts of people who say they had been sexually abused as children by adult family members.

2. This would be pretty embarrassing, if only the news media had the integrity to point it out. DC AG Karl Racine pronounced himself outraged that anyone would compare the Black Lives Matter riots to the Capitol riot. Last week, Racine called comparisons (accompanied by accusations of double standards and hypocrisy), “shocking and outrageous.”

Right. The BLM riots resulted in at least 8 dead, hundreds of wounded officers, and over $2 billion in damages. The D.C. installment of the riots attacked the White House and injured 150 officers. 60 members of the Secret Service’s Uniformed Division were injured holding off the mob while President Trump and his family were taken to a bunker. 65 Park Police officers were wounded and 11 had to be hospitalized, as compared to the January 6 toll of 60 Capitol Police and 58 D.C. cops injured.

One difference is that Democrats and the media accused police of violently assaulting “peaceful protesters” instead of condemning the BLM mob whose members threw bricks, bottles, fireworks, and bodily fluids at law enforcement officers. The BLM rioters set the White House gatehouse and the Church of the Presidents on fire. D.C. Democrats responded by demanding law enforcement leave and naming a plaza “Black Lives Matter.”

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Comment Of The Day: “From The Law Vs. Ethics Files: This Controversy Has Everything—Fine Art, Nazis, Lawsuits, Sheep…”

hitler-art

Genie Baskir, who has commented on Ethics Alarms since 2011 and averages about two entries a year, makes her latest comment count: it’s an unusually tough and moving Comment of the Day, on the post, From The Law Vs. Ethics Files: This Controversy Has Everything—Fine Art, Nazis, Lawsuits, Sheep…:

Everything was stolen from Leone and her own children and grandchildren. The painting represents the hole in her life and that of her descendants whether obvious or not. The University of Oklahoma’s insistence on keeping the spoils of Holocaust looting represents the continued suffering of every victim of massacre and mass murder since WWII. Overcoming this trauma does not absolve offspring collaborators of their offenses and, let me make this clear, the University of Oklahoma is an offspring collaborator. It knows that Leone Meyer was in the subordinate position in this negotiation and now it wants to continue it descendant collaboration in mass murder and looting because it thinks it can just like the first Nazis held their collective victims’ feet to the fire 80 years ago.

The majority of Holocaust survivors are dead now but their children know and remember the hole in their collective lives as they are collateral victims themselves. We know and remember. Leone Meyer knows and remembers.

My own mother died not ever knowing what happened to her parents and brother. Both of my parents were sole survivors of large extended families. Imagine having no grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or any close blood relations. Imagine being a child processing that everyone of immediate consequence has been murdered. I claim no uniqueness. Massacres and the resulting survivors are still a common occurrence. What’s missing is the empathy and compassion of those who have not that knowledge.

When my mother, aged 15, returned to her home after walking across Poland in late 1944 the next door neighbor, stunned that she survived, reported that the home had been looted by all of the neighbors. He then returned to her a doll and her movie star picture albums. The neighbor then told her to get out of town or she would be murdered by her other neighbors who were complicit in the disappearance of the Jewish families.

The back of the returned movie star pictures had my mother’s mother’s handwriting on them. This handwriting is the only extant evidence that Augusta Pecenik Fischer ever lived at all. Lucky for me that no one is fighting me for these artifacts.

If possession is 9/10ths of the law and the painting is still in France then let France continue to atone for its own collaboration in mass murder. Who will enforce the Oklahoma District Judge’s Order anyway? Who does he or she think they are? After everything that has happened to us, we are afraid of a contempt order from a Judge with no enforcement ability anyway? This Judge is another offspring collaborator if he or she thinks those of us with knowledge care about the ruling.

The burden is on those of us with the knowledge of such tragedy and trauma to try and relieve the suffering of those who are continuing victims. The Judaicide of the 20th century is unique only in that its surviving victims had the strength and wherewithal to demand wholeness in the aftermath. No one was ever made whole but the ability to continue the struggle was rejuvenating as was the ability to start again with new families and offspring and new wealth.

Anyone who knew my mother in the United States without knowing what happened to her would never have guessed what was taken from her when she was just a little girl. Her suffering was never an exterior mien burdening all who met her. She channeled her efforts at wholeness into amassing her own impressive wealth and living well as her revenge. Leone Meyer is struggling for wholeness as represented by this great work of art and she is already the winner.

Offspring collaborators like the University of Oklahoma are empty vessels of opportunity mixed with ignorance and hatred for their moral obligations. We must pray for them to realize the errors of their ways.

From The Law Vs. Ethics Files: This Controversy Has Everything—Fine Art, Nazis, Lawsuits, Sheep…

stolen painting

The painting above is “La Bergère,” or “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,” by Camille Pissarro, a renowned French Impressionist. The 1886 painting, like so many other priceless works of art, was stolen by the Nazis in 1941, when they looted the French bank where the Jewish family who owned, the Meyers, it had placed the painting for safe-keeping. Dr. Léone Meyer, whose mother, grandmother, uncle and brother died in Auschwitz, searched for her family heirloom ever since the end of World War II. Finally, in 2012, she traced the painting to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma.

In 2016, she negotiated a compromise to trade the painting back and forth between the university and a French museum, but the controversy was re-opened when Dr. Meyer decided that she wants the painting permanently dispalyed in France. Now the courts are involved, on two continents. A judicial tribunal in Paris is deciding whether to block the work from being shipped out of France, and ordered Dr. Meyer and the university to meet with mediators. A federal judge in Oklahoma, meanwhile, has threatened to hold Dr. Meyer in contempt if she continued to pursue litigation in France. A trial is scheduled for January 19 in Paris to hear Dr. Meyer’s arguments for keeping the work there, and a second hearing is set for March on whether to prohibit the painting’s trip back to where the the wind comes sweeping down the plain.

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Comment Of The Day: “Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 1… Ethics Quote Of The Month: President Donald Trump”

Adding international and historical perspective  to yesterday’s post regarding President Trump’s “dark and divisive” speech at Mt. Rushmore ( the mainstream media narrative has been so remarkably consistent that it has been credibly suggested that a memo went out. I could believe it…), E2 gives us this Comment of the Day on “Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 1… Ethics Quote Of The Month: President Donald Trump”:

Re the media’s race/Trump racism false commentary:

Doesn’t anyone know any history? As an amateur historian of British history, Churchill, the Holocaust, and WWII, I understand the horrors of British imperialism in the 18th-19th century (Africa, the Near and Far East, and on and on), but…

Queen Victoria (against the South’s fond hopes) refused to support the Confederacy for one reason: slavery. Despite England’s need for cotton, she wouldn’t put her stamp of approval on slavery in the interest of their economy. Of course one could argue that British imperialism was almost as bad as slavery, but it really was not, and unlike the French, who conquered African nations, hunted with chieftains, slept with their women, stole their resources, then left when it seemed appropriate or necessary, the British, in their unique fashion, created whole government structures (e.g. India) that survived as useful bureaucracies after WWII and the end of British imperialism. Smart they were, though, creating the British Commonwealth, which their conquered countries could join if they chose. An amazing number did.

But slavery of a particular race was not in the British ethic. (Or the Romans either, who enslaved everyone they conquered, regardless of race/origin/culture…) The result — especially after WWII — is that Britain became populated by traditional Englishmen, Indians, African blacks, Asians — all with the hope and most always the realization of good, safe, respected, lives. (The European Union, Brexit, etc., is changing that, I’m sure. It’s been a decade since I’ve been to England.) But to the point: Continue reading

Ethical Quote Of The Month: French President Emmanuel Macron

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, controller-general under King Louis XIV, who drafted the Code Noir, or Black Code, which regulated slavery in French colonies.

“I will be very clear tonight, compatriots: The Republic won’t erase any name from its history. It will forget none of its artworks, it won’t take down statues.”

—Emmanuel Macron, President of France,  during a televised speech yesterday.

While vowing to be “uncompromising in the face of racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination, the French president said everyone in the country “should look at all of our history together,” with an aim to find the “truth” instead of “denying who we are.”

Perfect.

Not Surprisingly, The French Are Just Plain Wrong About Vertical Dating

..and so is blogger Amy Alkon, who launched her objections to vertical dating prohibitions with this report  by Ibtissem Guenfoud at ABC about the French reaction to McDonald’s CEO being sacked for having a sexual relationship with a subordinate, in violation of the company’s policy:

Some are calling it the latest case of American puritanism, “far from French ways,” and reminding the French public that, at least in France, employees and bosses are free to date and protected by their right to privacy… in France, the company’s rule not to date “employees who have a direct or indirect reporting relationship to each other” is seen as anti-freedom, including sexual freedom.Therefore, to exclude sex from the workplace as a means of protecting women is perceived as an exclusion from the sexual realm that they fought so hard to have access to, thereby reducing them again to the status of objects who need protection from men. “We are putting walls in places where it is not necessary,” Rudisuhli said. “The sexuality of people does not concern the company. Women are big enough to know what they want. All women do not dream of marrying their boss. There is contempt for women as if we were venal and we need to protect them. It’s contemptuous.” Rudisuhli voiced the concern that women in France risk being victimized in the wake of the #MeToo movement and reduced to an inferior position of needing protection, in the sexual realm as well as in the workplace. It is through this lens that many consider McDonald’s rules to be patriarchal….

Sure. In reality, it is through this lens that bosses who want to abuse their workplace power to get laid and employees who think they can use sex to get an edge on advancement see a threat to their unethical and destructive agendas.

I get it: the French culture embraces sexual harassment. That’s their choice, but don’t insult everyone else’s intelligence by trying to justify it by using a wave of rationalizations so high it would drown Marseilles. Continue reading

Friday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/19/2019: There’s More To Ethics Than Mueller Freakouts, You Know…

Happy Easter weekend

(For me and other Greek-Americans, Easter presents a yearly choice: Greek Easter is calculated on a different calendar (it also has only boring red eggs), and just once in a red moon coincides with the non-Greek holiday.  This year it’s a week later, so we’re not putting our eggs in any baskets until next Sunday. We celebrate Greek Easter in honor of my Mom, who was fanatic about all holidays. The Greek Orthodox Church was dead to us once a priest told the congregation that the offspring of “mixed marriages”–that is, Greek and non-Greek spouses like my parents—were considered illegitimate by the Church. (My dad walked out of the service.)

(The other Churches became dead to us a bit later, and for varying reasons.)

1 A brief Mueller interlude…a) Rep. Gerald Nadler is grandstanding by demanding the full, unredacted report. Giving secret grand jury testimony to Congress would be  illegal. Anything to inflame the public, I guess…b) It’s incomplete, but Scott Horton, a smart libertarian who has been tracking the various complexities of the Russiagate investigation far more closely than I have, tears the Mueller report to shreds in convincing fashion. I’m accepting the conclusions of the report on faith, but Horton demonstrates how open to attack the investigation may be. The post is long and overly colloquial, and I don’t have time to check Horton’s facts, but it is worth reading. c) April Ryan, the CNN hack who has a long history of attacking Trump press secretary Sarah Sanders, now says Sanders should be fired for “lying.” Sanders at one point said that “countless” FBI agents had said that they had lost trust in James Comey, then later said that “countless” was a misstatement. With very few exceptions over the last 50 years, Sanders’ job is that of a paid liar and obfuscater; I got tired of flagging all of the lies and spin issued by Obama’s three spokesmen. They all should be fired, I guess, but not for offenses like using the word “countless” when the correct word would be “plenty.” Heck, I even heard through contacts and back-channels that FBI agents were disgusted with Comey. How could they not be?

2. And now for something completely different: Walrus Ethics. This isn’t a Climate Change Denial post, it’s a “See, this is why so many people don’t trust climate change doomsday scenarios” post.

Netflix’s climate change propaganda documentary  “Our Planet,” narrated by David Attenborough, showed masses o the walruses climbing up cliffs in northeast Russia because, we were told, of a lack of sea ice. Then we saw the large pinnipeds over the cliff edges onto the rocks below, leaving hundreds of dead animals piled on the shore. Attenborough said their poor eyesight made it hard for them to return safely to the ocean.

 Dr. Susan Crockford, a Canadian zoologist specializing in evolution and the ecology of Holocene mammals (including polar bears and walrus), claims that the scene was a hoax. She called Netflix’s narrative over the “Our Planet” scene i“contrived nonsense… fiction and emotional manipulation at its worst”:

“The walruses shown in this Netflix film were almost certainly driven over the cliff by polar bears during a well-publicised incident in 2017.” Even if the footage shown by Attenborough was not the 2017 incident in Ryrkaypiy, we know that walruses reach the top of cliffs in some locations and might fall if startled by polar bears, people or aircraft overhead, not because they are confused by shrinking sea ice cover.”

Anthony Watts, a weather technology expert and author,  also suspects the footage captured was the 2017 Siberian incident.

I’ve been able to show that Crockford’s supposition about the geographical origin of the footage is correct: analysis of the rock shapes in the film and in a photo taken by the producer/director both match archive photos of Ryrkaypiy. The photo was taken on 19 September 2017, during the events described by the Siberian Times.

But whereas the Siberian Times and Gizmodo website, which also reported on the 2017 incident, were both quite clear that the walruses were driven over the cliffs by polar bears, Netflix makes no mention of their presence. Similarly, there is no mention of the fact that walrus haulouts are entirely normal. Instead, Attenborough tells his viewers that climate change is forcing the walruses on shore, where their poor eyesight leads them to plunge over the cliffs.

This is all very troubling as it raises the possibility that Netflix and the WWF are, innocently or otherwise, party to a deception of the public.

If the climate change urgency is as real as we are constantly told, why can’t it be demonstrated with real facts rather than fakery like this?  Is it any wonder the public is skeptical? [Pointer: Legal Insurrection] Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/4/18: The Red Sox Do The Right Thing, France Does The Wrong Thing, The News Media Does Their Usual Thing, And All Sorts Of Stuff In Between…

Good Morning!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

1. The sad part is that this is newsworthy. The Boston Red Sox accepted their invitation to visit the White House and be honored for their World Series victory. In doing so, they buck the trend of the past couple years of championship teams “boycotting” what should be a unifying, purely ceremonial event of national pride (and fun, since that’s what sports are supposed to be about) in order to make some kind of incoherent statement of disapproval  regarding President Trump. Of course, this is all virtue-signalling, as if being expressly unpatriotic, disrespectful and divisive while insulting the President is a virtue. (Sportswriter love the boycotts.)

Boston manager Alex Cora is Puerto Rican, and had criticized the national response to the island’s hurricane emergency. Some thought that he would lead his team to snub the White House, but Cora is a smarter, wiser, stronger leader than that, as he showed all season long.

2. Great. France accepts government by mob rule. President Emmanuel Macron’s administration today suspended planned increases to fuel taxes for at least six months in response to weeks of  violent protests. The fuel taxes, which most heavily burden  French citizens least able to endure them, were expressly aimed at curbing climate change, though there isno evidence whatsoever that they would accomplish that. So it was a bad policy, but even bad policies should not be vetoed by mob rule. Macron’s capitulation to violent protests is cowardly—though so, so French—and undermines the rule of law, not just in France, but worldwide.

These are the times even the most hardened-Trump-hater should be grateful that the U.S. has a leader who cannot be extorted in this manner.

Should be, but, of course, won’t.

3. If they didn’t have double standards…well, you know the rest. Human rights groups say China has detained up to 2 million Uighurs, a Muslim minority in the country, to promote “ethnic unity” in the country’s far west. This week over 270 scholars from 26 countries released a statement drawing attention to “mass human rights abuses and deliberate attacks on indigenous cultures” taking place in China. “In the camps, these detainees, most of whom are Uighur, are subjected to deeply invasive forms of surveillance and psychological stress as they are forced to abandon their native language, religious beliefs and cultural practices,” the statement said.

Never mind. The news media is just thrilled that the President has called a temporary truce in the trade war with China, is meeting with its leader, and that the two countries may soon again be working together, creating jobs and wealth on both sides of the Pacific. Meanwhile, the same people cheering our efforts to accommodate China have pronounced the President a monster for not risking relations with the Saudi’s over the murder of a single journalist. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/25/2018: Parlor Games! [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

I know that’s a photo from last night’s Red Sox World Series victory, but thinking about this catch by Andrew Benintendi it has certainly brightened MY morning…

(Psst! Joe, you idiot: George Wallace was crippled for life by an attempted assassination.) Said Joe Biden at a political rally two days ago, “This president is more like George Wallace than George Washington!” Long before Trump came along, Joe told African Americans that Mitt Romney would but them back in chains. I know it’s unfair to focus on Simple Joe (or Hillary, or Maxine, or Elizabeth, or Nancy, or Keith…) to characterize Democrats, but according to polls, this guy is currently the party front-runner for the Presidential nomination. [Pointer: Ann Althouse, who rejoined, “Because he doesn’t own slaves?”] Joe really is a boob, but he makes for good parlor games. My favorite comments in the Althouse thread…

“He’s more like George Washington…they both got elected president.”

“Trump is more like Elizabeth Warren because they’re both not Indians.”

“Because he doesn’t own slaves?” No, because he worries about black unemployment. Washington never worried about that.

“Because Wallace was a Democrat, like Trump was his whole life until 15 minutes before he ran for president?”

2. Fake News. New York Times headline:Pipe Bombs Sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and CNN Offices.”

How much more dishonest can a single headline be? There were no “pipe bombs,” but hoax bombs, and the hoax bomb sent to “CNN offices” was addressed to John Brennan. The headline deceitfully aims to suggest that the target was the news media.

3. I figured this out when I was 17 years old. A new book called The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, by Merve Emre, (Doubleday, 336 pages, $27.95) explains that the iconic personality test is junk science. I first took the test in high school, when my parents paid a psychologist to advise me where to apply to college. He complained that the battery of tests I took had contradictory results. Yes, that would be because it was so obvious how to manipulate them, and also how insulting they were, since any fool could see the little pigeon holes the tests were trying to stuff you into. Essentially, the test was designed to create bias on the part of employers. Writes Reason,

“This book is a useful study of how a dubious idea can gain traction if it arrives at the right time.”

There’s another parlor game: which dubious ideas are gaining traction now, supported by junk science, junk research, or false assumptions? Continue reading