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Engineer Menni: A Novel of Fantasy

Alexander Bogdanov Indiana University Press ePub

After the events which I described in the book Red Star, I am once again living among my Martian friends and working for the cherished cause of bringing our two worlds closer together. The Martians have decided for the immediate future to refrain from all direct or active interference in the affairs of Earth. For the time being they will restrict themselves to studying our humanity and gradually acquainting us with the more ancient civilization of Mars. I wholly agree with them that caution is of the essence, for if their discoveries on the structure of matter were at the present time to become known on Earth, the militaristic rulers of our mutually hostile nations would gain control over weapons of unprecedented might, and the entire planet would be devastated in a matter of months.

The Martians have established a special unit for the dissemination of the New Culture on Earth, affiliated with the Colonial Group. I have taken a position there as translator, that being the work for which I am best qualified; we hope in the near future to enlist other Earthlings of various nationalities for the same purpose. This is not at all as simple as it may appear at first glance. Translation from the single Martian language into those of Earth is much more difficult than translation from one Earthly language to another, and it is often even impossible to give a full and exact rendering of the content of the original.

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Red Star: A Utopia

Alexander Bogdanov Indiana University Press ePub

Letter from Dr. Werner to Mirsky

Dear Comrade Mirsky,

I am sending you Leonid’s notes. He wanted them published, and you, as a man of letters, can arrange that matter better than I. He himself has gone into hiding. I am leaving the clinic to try and trace him. I think I shall probably find him in the mountains, where the situation has lately become critical. By exposing himself to the dangers there he is evidently indirectly trying to commit suicide. He is obviously still unstable mentally, although he impressed me as being near complete recovery. I shall inform you the moment I learn of anything.

My warmest regards,

N. Werner

24 July 190? (illegible: 8 or 9)

 

 

It was early in that great upheaval* which continues to shake our country and which, I think, is now approaching its inevitable, fateful conclusion.

The public consciousness was so deeply impressed by the events of the first bloody days that everyone expected a quick and victorious end to the struggle. It seemed as though the worst had already occurred, that nothing more terrible could possibly happen. No one had realized how tenacious were the bony hands of the corpse that had crushed and still crushes the living in its convulsive embrace.

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Bogdanov’s Inner Message

Alexander Bogdanov Indiana University Press ePub

Loren R. Graham

 

Alexander Bogdanov’s novels Red Star and Engineer Menni were popular illustrations of his theories of politics and philosophy.1 Red Star portrayed developed socialism on the planet Mars and it opposed socialist humanity and cooperation to capitalist cruelty and individualism. The hero, Leonid, held out the hope that socialism could soon be created in Russia. Published almost ten years before the Russian Revolution of 1917, the book was popular among Russian radicals both before and after that date. Engineer Menni, published five years later, in 1913, was based on the success of the earlier work and portrayed the history of Mars during the period of capitalism that preceded the events narrated in Red Star. Let us look more closely at these novels, first Red Star and then Engineer Menni, in an attempt to understand more fully Bogdanov’s intentions.

The primary ideological goal of Red Star, the encouragement of revolution, is clear. However, the novel contains a secondary message which has not been noticed, yet which is striking and prescient. Indeed, the novel is an example of how the readers of a utopia may consider it a success yet not understand what the author meant when he wrote it.

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Fantasy and Revolution: Alexander Bogdanov and the Origins of Bolshevik Science Fiction

Alexander Bogdanov Indiana University Press ePub

Richard Stites

“Blood is being shed [down there] for the sake of a better future,” says the Martian to the hero of Red Star as they are ascending to Mars. “But in order to wage the struggle we must know that future.” The blood he speaks of was the blood of workers shot down in the streets of St. Petersburg, of revolutionaries put against the wall of prison courtyards, of insurgent sailors and soldiers, of Jewish victims of pogroms in the Russian Revolution of 1905. And by “that better future” he means not the immediate outcome of the revolution but the radiant future of socialism that will dawn on earth after revolution has triumphed everywhere. In order to inspect the coming socialist order, the hero—a Bolshevik activist named Leonid—has accepted the invitation of a Martian visitor to fly with him and his crew to Mars.

In this manner Alexander Bogdanov, a major prophet of the Bolshevik movement and one of its most versatile writers and thinkers, begins his Utopian science fiction novel Red Star, first published in 1908. The red star is Mars; but it is also the dream set to paper of the kind of society that could emerge on Earth after the dual victory of the scientific-technical revolution and the social revolution. Bogdanov, a professional revolutionary, was one of those people, peculiar to revolutionary societies of our century, who moved easily back and forth between the barricade and the study table, the prison cell and the laboratory. He was a physician and a man of science; and he was the first in Russian fiction to combine a technical utopia, grounded in the latest scientific theories of the time, with the ideas of revolutionary Marxism. This was the central theme of both Red Star and his other novel, Engineer Menni.

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A Martian Stranded on Earth: A Poem

Alexander Bogdanov Indiana University Press ePub

 

 

Published as a supplement to the second (sixth) edition of Red Star in 1924, the poem outlines the content of a third novel which Bogdanov planned but never completed. A Martian has reached Earth but is unable to return to his native planet, where mankind has attained a superior level of communist civilization.

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6. In the Torture Chamber: Legal Reform and Psychological Breakdown

Joseph Klaits Indiana University Press ePub

Without torture there would have been no witch craze. Certainly, some trials for witchcraft would have occurred in early modern Europe even without the use of torture to elicit confessions. But the immense scale of witch hunting derived in large part from the spread of coercive techniques in criminal law procedure. Even in England and New England, where most forms of torture were forbidden, the authorities’ ideas about witches were strongly influenced by continental writers who drew their evidence from confessions extracted by torture. In the same way, those who encouraged suggestible men and women to believe themselves bewitched had become familiar with witchcraft through accounts extracted under threatened or actual torture.

A case study can illustrate the impact of torture on witchcraft prosecution. Among the most wrenching documents to come down to us from the witch trials is the letter of Johannes Junius, a burgomaster in the German city of Bamberg. Junius was arrested on charges of witchcraft in 1628, while the community was in the midst of a large-scale witch panic. He was tortured, confessed, and went to the stake, but before his death Junius managed to compose an account of his imprisonment in a letter to his daughter. The burgomaster described his interrogation:

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2. Medieval Witches

Joseph Klaits Indiana University Press ePub

Witch trials were virtually unknown until the final centuries of the Middle Ages. Through most of the medieval era, churchmen generally held that anyone who believed women went flying about at night was a victim of superstition. But, even as these assertions became formalized in influential collections of the church’s canon law, the foundation on which they rested was slowly eroded in the course of the medieval Catholic encounter with nonconformists whom the church perceived to be dangerous deviants.

Jews, heretics, homosexuals, and magicians were among the most important of the nonconforming groups. From the twelfth century on, outsiders came under increasing verbal and physical attack from churchmen, allied secular authorities, and, particularly in the case of Jews, from the lower strata of the population. In the early Middle Ages, a more easygoing acceptance of social diversity had usually been the norm. After 1100, however, new patterns of enmity quickly emerged, and a climate of fear and hostility became frozen into place. Not until the end of the seventeenth century, when ancient hatreds receded somewhat, did a few areas of Western culture temporarily abandon the stress on social conformity and unanimity of belief. But, by the time of this decline in preoccupation with unconventional behavior, the witch craze had run its course.

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4. Classic Witches: The Beggar and the Midwife

Joseph Klaits Indiana University Press ePub

Clashes of religious confessions during the Reformation, warfare of unprecedented scale and intensity, a doubling of Europe’s population, a five-fold increase in prices, and the persistence of plague and other epidemic diseases, as well as changes in behavior imposed by reforming elites—clearly, European communities were confronted by a galaxy of pressures from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries.

A witchcraft trial was one of the few outlets for stress acceptable to both the authorities and the populace. A phenomenon as pervasive and widespread as the witch hunts almost certainly answered the needs of more than one social level. Whether seen as malefice by the villager or construed as devil worship by the elites, witchcraft was a reality to early modern Europeans of all backgrounds. For this reason, efforts to see the witch craze exclusively as a kind of elitist conspiracy against popular culture are ultimately unconvincing. Almost a century ago, rationalist historians assumed that the clerical establishment was the sole active agent, imposing witch trials on a passive and inert population. Now there is a tendency once again to neglect the popular sources of agitation for witch trials. No doubt the predispositions of the elites, together with their control of the judicial apparatus, were necessary conditions for large-scale witch hunting. But there is also much evidence of popular pressure to initiate witch prosecutions. The witch craze is an outstanding example of reciprocal influences among higher and lower cultures in early modern Europe.1

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3. Sexual Politics and Religious Reform in the Witch Craze

Joseph Klaits Indiana University Press ePub

Why did the number of witch trials in Western Europe increase greatly after about 1550? Why did the crime of witchcraft, familiar for centuries, suddenly appear so much more menacing that thousands of trials unfolded between 1550 and 1700, whereas only a few hundred seem to have occurred earlier?

These questions have been posed by many writers on the witch trials over the past century. But they have taken on fresh urgency recently, in light of the findings (discussed in the previous chapters) of Norman Cohn and Richard Kieckhefer concerning medieval witch trials. These scholars, working independently, have uncovered convincing proof that previously accepted accounts of large-scale witch hunts undertaken by the Inquisition in fourteenth-century France and Italy were based on modern forgeries and other fraudulent evidence. Their discoveries have necessitated a complete revision of the chronology of European witch hunting. Until now, the mainstream of scholarly interpretation suggested a continuing flow in witch prosecution from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Periods of flood may have alternated with relatively dry spells, and there were some especially spectacular inundations around 1600, but in the accounts of earlier scholars the channel of witch hunting remained intact over the centuries, with few and minor changes of course. Thus, Henry Charles Lea could devote nearly half of his massive digest on witchcraft to the period before the mid-sixteenth century. And, as recently as fifteen years ago, H. R. Trevor-Roper could argue that the witch craze was primarily an extension and magnification of earlier witch hunting.

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7. An End to Witch Hunting

Joseph Klaits Indiana University Press ePub

In a span of one or two generations, witchcraft went from a source of obsessive dread to a matter of apparent indifference. Witch trials rapidly declined in the late seventeenth century. Except in Eastern Europe, where the decline was somewhat delayed, trials had practically disappeared by 1700. Witchcraft cases, formerly classed among the most heinous crimes, vanished from the statute books and the criminal courts. Within half a century after the Salem trials, it was no more possible to bring a charge of witchcraft in nearly all Western courts than it is today.

What caused these dramatic changes? Any attempt to answer this question must confront certain built-in difficulties. As in all efforts to explain nonevents—in this case, the absence of continued witch trials—the problem is in finding relevant evidence. In general, historians find negative questions difficult. The tools of historical research seem inadequate to establish why something did not occur. Scholars admit as much when they call the decline of the trials the most baffling aspect of the witch craze.1 Much of the evidence for the decline of witchcraft is indirect or circumstantial, and the consequently tentative conclusions must be understood in light of their problematic derivation.

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5. Classic Accusers: The Possessed

Joseph Klaits Indiana University Press ePub

Demonic possession became a leading theme in witchcraft trials of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The idea itself was ancient by 1600. In the gospels, Jesus cures several individuals possessed by “unclean spirits,” and his early followers banished demons by uttering the Savior’s name. During the Middle Ages, stories of people whose bodies had been taken over by demons circulated in numerous manuscript collections.1 Eventually such tales became a staple of early modern works on demonology. But only as the witch craze reached its climax in Western Europe and North America did possession regularly move from the theoreticians’ pages into the real lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of men, women, and children.

To introduce the subject, consider a typical case of seventeenth-century demonic possession and witchcraft. This dramatic episode unfolded around 1620 in Lorraine, where witch trials had long been common. Elizabeth de Ranfaing, daughter of an upper-class family, had exhibited considerable religious feeling from early childhood. In order to dampen her disquieting piety (or so it would appear), her parents married her off at age fifteen to a professional soldier forty-two years her senior. Her husband treated Elizabeth with brutality. When he died some nine years later, she was left with six children. The young widow’s religious fervor was still strong, and she went off on a pilgrimage to Remiremont. After finishing her devotions, Elizabeth stopped to rest at a local inn, where she met a well-known doctor named Charles Poirot. Poirot bought her food and drink in which, Elizabeth later recounted, there was mixed a love potion that placed her under the doctor’s control. His very breath was enough to cast a spell over her, and she soon was invaded by “the Other,” who caused her to sink into convulsive seizures and utterly outrageous blasphemies. The local apothecaries could only recommend further treatment from Dr. Poirot, whom Elizabeth regarded with a mixture of fascination and horror. At last the village priest sent her to Nancy, where exorcists cast the devils out of her body. Elizabeth remained cured until she chanced to meet Poirot again. Her symptoms immediately returned, and this time exorcism was ineffective. Representatives of various religious orders sent their best men in hope of reaping the honor that would go to the healer of the demoniac of Ranfaing. But each specialist eventually had to admit defeat.

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1. The Witchcraft Enigma

Joseph Klaits Indiana University Press ePub

Were there really witches? Did women attempt to inflict harm on their neighbors by magic? Did they actually gather for nocturnal rites of devil worship? Among modern interpreters of the witch trials, opinions about the existence and activities of witches have ranged from total credulity to complete skepticism. Even the most basic questions lack firm answers, and nearly all the logical possibilities have been upheld: that the idea of witchcraft was a hoax invented by self-interested churchmen and other authorities, that witches not only existed but also possessed supernatural powers granted them by Satan, and numerous intermediate positions. The witch trials constitute perhaps the greatest enigma of the least understood era in modern history. There is still no complete consensus among historians on this subject, but recent scholarship has approached the problem of the witch hunts with a high degree of precision and has achieved notable advances in our knowledge.

Seventy years ago there was little controversy. Numerous studies of the witch trials appeared from the 1880s to the years of the First World War, and scholarship pointed toward a single conclusion. Marshaling mountains of sources, the indefatigable writers of that generation, most notably the German scholar, Joseph Hansen, and Americans Andrew Dickson White, Henry Charles Lea, and George Lincoln Burr, concluded that witchcraft trials were the sad result of medieval superstitious fears and the copious use of torture to elicit confessions. From wide reading in the surviving trial records and demonological handbooks, these scholars became convinced that the authorities, particularly those in the Catholic church, were hypocritically manipulating a gullible public to enhance their own power. Or, alternatively, they classed churchmen and other officials among the gullible—honest but foolish victims of the superstitious belief in witchcraft.1

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2 Operation Reinhard: Organization and Manpower

Yitzhak Arad Indiana University Press ePub

The preparations for the extermination of the Jews of the General Government had actually started months before the Wannsee Conference. A special organization, later called “Operation Reinhard,” was established in Lublin, and the SS and Police Leader of the Lublin district, Odilo Globocnik (or “Globus,” as Himmler nicknamed him), was appointed its commander.

Globocnik was an Austrian, a member of the Austrian Nazi party, and in 1933 had received a prison sentence for his part in the murder of a Jew in Vienna.1 He had earned Himmler’s high esteem for his contribution to the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria to Germany, and when Austria became part of the Reich, he was appointed Gauleiter of Vienna. In January 1939, he was accused of illegal speculation in foreign currency and was stripped of his post and all his party honors. After Globocnik’s demotion to the ranks of the Waffen SS, Himmler pardoned his friend, and in November 1939 appointed him the SS and Police Leader in the Lublin district. The SS and Police Leader was the highest SS authority in the district.

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9 Belzec: March 17 to June, 1942

Yitzhak Arad Indiana University Press ePub

The full-scale extermination of Jews in Belzec began on March 17, 1942, with the onset of the deportation of the Jews of Lublin. This date marks the actual start of Operation Reinhard.

In an entry in Goebbels’ diary regarding the beginning of Operation Reinhard, ten days after the killings started in Belzec, on March 27, 1942, he wrote:

Beginning with Lublin, the Jews in the General Government are now being evacuated eastward. The procedure is a pretty barbaric one and not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews. On the whole it can be said about 60 percent of them will have to be liquidated whereas only about 40 percent can be used for forced labor.

The former Gauleiter of Vienna [Globocnik], who is to carry this measure through, is doing it with considerable circumspection and according to a method that does not attract too much attention. Fortunately, a whole series of possibilities presents itself for us in wartime that would be denied us in peacetime. We shall have to profit by this. The ghettos that will be emptied in the cities of the General Government will now be refilled with Jews thrown out of the Reich. This process is to be repeated from time to time.1

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12 Reorganization in Treblinka

Yitzhak Arad Indiana University Press ePub

In the second half of July 1942, the three death camps were in operation; however, serious administrative problems were involved in keeping them active. It became necessary for Globocnik to establish an authority within Operation Reinhard headquarters that would be directly in charge of the camps. Himmler’s order of July 19, 1942, which stated that by the end of December 1942 all the Jews within the General Government, with a few exceptions, should be liquidated, set a time limit for the entire operation. This made the need for a commanding authority to supervise and guide the activities in the camps even more urgent. The main problem was to accelerate the extermination process by shortening the time it took to liquidate a transport after its arrival at the camp. This required streamlining the extermination process and increasing the absorptive capacity of the gas chambers. To carry out this improvement and to achieve more control and more efficient supervision over the activities in the camps, Christian Wirth was appointed inspector of the three death camps at the beginning of August 1942. This was after he had completed the reconstruction of the gas chambers in Belzec and had been replaced there by SS Hauptsturmführer Gottlieb Hering. Wirth took with him from Belzec Oberscharführer Josef Oberhauser, who became his aide-de-camp. Wirth’s new headquarters were in Lublin in the “old airport” camp.

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