German Chancellor Angela Merkel Meets With President Obama Regarding Ukraine: Diplomacy Or Weapons?


President Obama says he is looking into the option of sending lethal defensive weapons to Kyiv “if diplomacy fails” to solve the current crisis in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels have been fighting government troops.

Speaking after talks in Washington with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on February 9, Obama said he hoped that a diplomatic solution is still possible but that it is clear Russia has violated its commitments on Ukraine.

Merkel was in Washington on February 9 to discuss with Obama the French-German efforts to revive last year’s Minsk peace agreement, which collapsed amid intensified fighting in eastern Ukraine.

“It’s clear that they violated just about every commitment they made in the Minsk agreement. Instead of withdrawing from eastern Ukraine, Russian forces continued to operate there, training separatists and helping to coordinate attacks. Instead of withdrawing its arms, Russia has sent in more tanks and armored personnel carriers and heavy artillery,” said Obama.

Merkel has repeately made made clear she opposes supplying Kyiv with lethal arms.

She admitted diplomatic efforts were largely unsuccessful, but said that they would continue.

“I’ve always said that I don’t see a military solution to this conflict, but we have to put all our efforts into bringing about a diplomatic solution,” Merkel said.

What can stop the conflict escalating in Ukraine, diplomacy or weapons?  Western leaders will make the final decision after peace talks in Minsk on Wednesday.

Long-Lost Hitchcock War Documentary Uncovered

There will be a new HBO documentary about the discovery of the German concentration camps at the end of World War II will be shown on January 27th, 2015.  The HBO documentary, Night Will Fall, was directed by André Singer and narrated by Helena Bonham Carter and Jasper Britton, tells the story of how a lost film came back to life.

The HBO film is about a “lost” documentary directed by none other than Alfred Hitchcock titled German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey.

According to The Daily Beast, Sidney Bernstein, the chief of the Psychological Warfare Film Section of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, was commissioned to create the documentary chronicling the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps in 1945.

His goal was, in his words, to “prove one day that this had actually happened” and have it serve as “a lesson to all mankind as well as to the Germans.”

He eventually brought in his good friend Alfred Hitchcock to be the film’s supervising director.

However, the horrifying and heartbreaking footage of numerous concentration camps, shot by British, American, and Russian World War II soldiers as they were being liberated, became tangled up in a complicated web of politics and artistic rows.

The new HBO documentary rediscovers and uses footage from German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey.

The film-on-a-film, called Night Will Fall, will premiere January 27th, 2015 on HBO. It is narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, produced by Stephen Frears and Brett Ratner, and directed by Andre Singer, who serves as president of The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and who executive produced the documentaries The Act of Killing and Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss.

It was done in concert with London’s Imperial War Museum and took 18 months of looking through thousands of feet of film to trace the making of the unmade epic.

“When I first saw material, it was shattering to see; a horrific experience,” Singer tells The Daily Beast. “I’ve been in the film world a long time and seen lots and lots of footage and you think you’ll get anesthetized to it, but that isn’t the case. This is something that is once seen, never forgotten.”

Singer’s documentary opens with footage from German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey of the British 11th Armored Division liberating the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Northern Germany on April 15, 1945. There, the Allied troops discovered a strange sight.

“Neat and tidy orchards. Well-stocked farms lined the wayside. And the British soldier did not fail to admire the place, and its inhabitants—at least, until he began to feel a smell,” says a narrator in voiceover.

The decommissioned film was resurrected for the HBO documentary.  Authorized in the spring of 1945 by the Allied forces, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey captured the monstrous realities found during the liberation of Nazi death camps, including Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and Auschwitz.

Yet by August of that year, the film was shelved by British authorities. Everything—reels of footage, the script, the cameramen’s notes—was boxed up and buried in the archives of the Imperial War Museums (IWM) in London.

After the American and British governments approved his film, Bernstein handpicked a powerhouse team, including Alfred Hitchcock and other influential filmmakers.  They had just three months to complete the documentary from footage captured by British, American and Russian cameramen.

Night Will Fall shows many of these scenes, and they are rife with unspeakable details: Dead bodies are strewn across plots of land, some in heaps and others lined up like a carpet of human carcasses.

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey is Hitchcock’s only known documentary feature. Though his tenure on the film lasted just one month, he made lasting contributions, helping to outline the story and emphasizing the importance of showing just how close the concentration camps were to picturesque villages where German civilians lived during the war.

Hitchcock wanted the film to be as believable and irrefutable as possible to ensure that the massacre of 11 million people, including 6 million Jews, would never be forgotten.

In the summer of 1945, plans for German Concentration Camps Factual Survey began to unravel. The American government grew impatient with Bernstein’s slow, meticulous process and pulled its footage, hiring its own director, Billy Wilder, to create a shorter film.

Wilder’s Death Mills premiered in Wurzberg following an operetta with Lillian Harvey. Of the 500-odd people in the audience at the beginning of the screening, less than 100 were in their seats at the end.

Bernstein’s work had also become a political headache for American and British officials. The consensus was that the film was no longer necessary.

“Policy at the moment in Germany is entirely in the direction of encouraging, stimulating and interesting the Germans out of their apathy, and there are people around the Commander-in-Chief who will say ‘No atrocity film,’” read a memo Bernstein received on August 4, 1945, from the British Foreign Office. German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey was shelved in September 1945, though its footage was key evidence in the trials of Nazi war criminals.

Four years ago, the Imperial War Museum began restoring and completing Bernstein and Hitchcock’s film, as they had originally envisioned it, including the sixth reel, which was unfinished when the project was shut down. Night Will Fall ends with a scene from the now-completed documentary German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey.  A large group of civilians (it’s unclear who) walk through one of the camps, passing by decaying bodies on both sides of the road. As the camera zooms in on the grotesque faces of the dead, the narrator speaks: “Unless the world learns the lesson these pictures teach, night will fall. But by God’s grace, we who live will learn.”

War Crimes Case Filed in Germany Against Architects Of Torture Program

Democracy Now

A human rights group in Berlin, Germany, has filed a criminal complaint against the architects of the George W. Bush administration’s torture program. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has accused former Bush administration officials, including CIA Director George Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, of war crimes, and called for an immediate investigation by a German prosecutor.

Former Nazi SS Officer, 89, Not Charged For WW II Massacre Of French Village

A German court has sensationally thrown out a case against a former Nazi SS member accused of taking part in the massacre of hundreds of French villagers during the Second World War.

Werner Christukat, 89, had been accused of being a member of an armored SS division that attacked Oradour-sur-Glane on June 10, 1944 – savagely murdering nearly all of its inhabitants.

The case against the elderly suspect – who had been charged in January with the murder of 25 people committed by a group, and with aiding and abetting the murder of several hundred others – was dismissed recently for lack of evidence.

Overall, 642 people were killed in the massacre.

Christukat, who lives in Cologne, admitted being in the village with his S.S. regiment on the day, but denied ever killing anybody.

Had he been convicted, it is almost certain that  Christukat would have spent the rest of his life in jail.

The massacre the man had been accused of taking part in took place in the tiny village of Oradour-sur-Glane in western France on June 10, 1944.

 Today Oradour-sur-Glane exists as a massive memorial – a time capsule where the burned out homes remain exactly as they were on the day they were torched.

Christukat, 89, was accused of being a member of an armoured Nazi SS division that attacked Oradour-sur-Glane on June 10, 1944 - savagely murdering nearly all of the its inhabitants

SS members stormed a barn where 181 men had gathered, using pistols and automatic weapons to murder them all before setting fire to the structure. They are believed to have then moved on to a church where a further 254 women and 207 children were killed using explosives and machine guns.

The remains of homes in can be seen in Oradour -sur-Glane, where inhabitants were massacred and all homes and businesses destroyed.

Christukat says he has had nightmares about the massacre ever since it took place, particularly overr one small boy whose life he was unable to save.

‘Not a night goes by in which I don’t think of Oradour. In front of me, I can still see the church through the treetops. I hear a bang and then the screaming of women and children.’

Last September German president Joachim Gauck (left) became the first German leader to visit the site when he joined François Hollande (right) and two of the three living survivors on a tour of Oradour-sur-Glane.

Memories: Hollande and Gauck were accompanied by two of only three living survivors of the Oradour massacre - Robert Hebras, 88, and Jean-Marcel Darthout.

The village has been a ghost town since the massacre, with rusting cars nestled long-abandoned beside the rubble of the burned-out church.

Today Oradour exists as a massive memorial – a  time capsule where the burned out homes remain exactly as they were on the day they were torched, and even the car of the mayor still lies rusting in the main street.

The location of Oradour-sur-Glane is in central France, approximately 250 miles south of the capital Paris.

German soldiers killed all 642 inhabitants, including children. The men were rounded up and shot in barns, the women were herded into the local church which was set ablaze with hand grenades

Homes and business were all torched by rampaging S.S officers, leaving just empty shells remaining.

The atrocity is an understandably sensitive subjective for France, and last September German president Joachim Gauck became the first German leader to visit the site when he joined François Hollande and two of the three living survivors on a tour of Oradour-sur-Glane.

In a sign of post-war unity, Gauck said he felt a ‘mixture of gratitude and humility’ as he visited the site with his French counterpart Hollande.

The statesman added: ‘The Germany that I have the honor of representing is a different Germany from the one that haunts memories.’

In return, Mr Hollande said: ‘You have made the choice to visit – this is a tribute to you, and at the same time it forces us, once the past has been acknowledged, to go boldly into the future.’

Hollande and Gauck were accompanied by two of only three living survivors of the Oradour massacre – Robert Hebras, 88, and Jean-Marcel Darthout.

However, many could not be extradited from the new East Germany, and 14 of them were Alsatians – French nationals of German descent.  20 men were found guilty, but were all released from prison within five years.

In 2010, Germany re-opened the war crimes file into the massacre after a historian uncovered evidence from former East German files implicating several still-living suspects.

Prosecutors identified seven previously unknown members of the SS unit that carried the attack.

Investigations are now underway into six of the men. The other suspect is Christukat, against whom charges were recently dropped on December 9th.