politics

Sites of Genocide: Lidice & Lety

Where Lidice used to lie

Where Lidice used to lie

On a more somber note, we also visited two sites of mass murder that took place during WWII. A town called Lidice, and a concentration camp for Roma (commonly called Gypsies) named Lety.

Memorial at Lety

Memorial at Lety

Lidice was burned to the ground, all the men killed, and most of the women and children sent to concentration camps, except those who were deemed ethnically suitable to be Germanized. All this because they were suspected of harboring two Czechs who had been trained by British special forces to Assassinate Heydrich, one of Hitler’s high ranking officers who presided over Bohemia during WWII. The intention was to make an example of the town, in order to warn others who considered rebelling. During it’s time, the Allied Powers used it as a symbol to rally behind, on why we must protect the innocent victims from Germany.  Because of this, there are remnants of the tragedy found in the obscure places in the United States, for instance the town outside of Chicago that was renamed Lidice in honor of the Victims. Despite all this, I had never heard of Lidice before studying in Europe.

The actual visit was powerful, the former town has been left empty and desolate, a reminder of those lost. With a museum and a memorial built near the edge.

Memorial to the Children killed during WWII

Memorial to the Children killed during WWII

We were lucky enough to be accompanied on this trip by Torben Jørgensen, who specializes in Holocaust and Genocide Research, and (teaches a class on it) at DIS, as well as being  a favorite among students for just being supremely interesting. I’m not the first, and I’m sure I won’t be the last to blog about what a great experience it is to have him as a teacher and friend.

Torben Jørgensen

Torben Jørgensen

Later we continued to Lety, where a concentration camp specifically for Roma had been situated. It’s here that you begin to find some of the more complicated nuances of who perpetrated the crimes of the war. The Roma people have a long history of being persecuted for their migratory lifestyle and struggle to fit into mainstream society, and Lety was actually originally run by Czechs, before Germans took the camp over during the war. Furthermore the Roma Victim’s memorial is denigrated by the fact that a pig farm now lies on the land that used to be a concentration camp, leaving only a small, and fairly recent memorial off to the edge.

Torben explained that sadly, this may have to do with the fact that Roma are still heavily persecuted in Europe, often continuing to live on the outskirts of society. He also explained that “Atrocities will not be remembered unless the victims push for remembrance,” drawing light to the fact that history in some ways is a coping mechanism, for dealing with the darker sides of what humanity is capable of.  As human beings, we may want to forget things that have damaged us, but we must also realize the importance of remembering to cultivate empathy, understanding, and hopefully move towards a “better” world.

Advertisements

#WhyStudyAbroad

A multimedia account of my time in Denmark

A  couple days ago CNN started asking students to share their study abroad experiences in honor of Michelle Obama’s upcoming trip to China encouraging more students to study abroad. Last year only 1% of U.S. Students studied abroad. Finding out the number is so small is disappointing, because my personal experience studying abroad has contributed to my life in a way that is completely irreplaceable. From fostering independence and personal growth, navigating unfamiliar languages and cultural norms, to developing logistic skills and learning to coordinate travel and lodging, all while staying on top of your coursework, my time in Denmark has been the final step of not relying on Mom & Dad that started with moving out for college almost three years ago.

Although I’ve done my best to describe my experience in words over the past 6 months, sometimes easy  to watch visuals can be even more descriptive.

Statskunskab Saturday: Pay for Anti-Gay

My favorite political story of the week has to do with the Danish nation’s condemnation of anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

Denmark gives 310 million kroner (about 62 million USD) to Uganda every year, approximately a third was normally given to the Ugandan government for state run aid.

But since the Ugandan President’s approval of an anti gay bill that gives life prison sentences to “repeat homosexuals,” as well as restricting freedom of speech by making it a crime to defend homosexuality, Denmark’s trade and development minister, Mogens Jensen made the decision to have Denmark’s monetary aid to Uganda circumvent the government.  The World Bank and other European organizations are also  (rightly) postponing monetary support to Uganda for the country’s attack on civil rights.

The Ugandan anti-gay bill is particularly interesting to me from a personal standpoint as an American from the conservative Southeast. My own state proposed a “Don’t Say Gay” bills, and Mississippi’s recent anti-gay segregation bill has used language similar to that of the old Jim Crow laws. Even if neither are as extreme as Uganda’s life sentences, the fact that both pieces of legislation have been formed in a wealthy, educated, and developed country that calls itself progressive and democratic is an outrage.

I personally think that the Federal Government could take a cue from European nations and use the old tool of block grants to speed up individual states legalization of gay marriage, in the same way that they effectively raised the country’s drinking age from 18 to 21 forty years ago.

Thanks for reading my brief take on the intersectionality of American  and Danish politics.

Mange Hilsner,

Molly

Statskunskab Saturday: Freedom of Information

Now that people have stopped talking about the giraffe killing, and a new leader is in place for SF, the Danish political scene seems relatively quiet.

One current issue is that many publicly owned companies are seeking exemptions from a law that requires them to be relatively transparent and have accessible information.  The reasoning behind the law is that since public holdings are payed for with tax dollars, citizens have a right to know about how those companies operate. However, more companies are seeking exemption from the law, most claiming that they cannot allow competition access to sensitive information.

Personally, the fact that DSB, the company that runs nearly all the trains in Denmark (therefore making it an extremely dominant part of everyday life) holds an exemption from access laws. It seems absurd to me that there need be confidential information on a company that runs public transportation.

Statskunskab Saturday: The SF drama continues

Writing my third Statskunskab Saturday post is not nearly as fun as writing the first one was. Mostly because all recent political news has just been a  continuation of what happened 2 weeks ago. Socialtisk Folkeparti has appointed a new leader, Pia Olsen Dyhr–seemingly unopposed. CPH posted noted that she is only the 7th leader in the young party’s history (it was founded in 1958) but the third since last September. Hans Mortensen, who wrote a book about SF’s history says that the party will likely face more problems in the future because it is divided and does not have a perfectly clear identity (or at least that’s what I gathered from THIS

But long story short, thats my take on Danish politics for the week.

hilsner, Molly

Late Stateskunskab Saturday

My posting tradition of a weekly political update has already been compromised because of travel. I got back from Hamburg for core course week at 11 pm last night, but that’s a story for another blog post.

So without further ado: since Socialtisk Folkeparti dropped out of the coalition government last week leaving 6 ministry positions to be filled, no less than three members of SF have changed parties, joining either Radikale or Socialdemokratern. In the appointment of 6 new ministers, 11 positions were shuffled, and 9 were left unchanged. 

Image

The New minister’s being presented (Photo: Scanpix via CPH post)

 

Notably, all twenty ministries in the supposed “coalition” government are now led by members of either Radikale or Socialdemokratern. 

Introducing: Statskundskab Saturday

On Tuesday all the official DIS Bloggers gathered and met to talk a little about ways to improve and enhance our blogs. One of their suggestions was to create some sort of weekly posting tradition to help ensure that no one gets in a forgetting to blog kind of rut. Past Bloggers have included traditions such as “watercolor Wednesday” (show casing paintings from an art class) and “Typography Tuesday.”

I’ve been agonizing for two days over what I should make my posting tradition, running through a whole slew of ideas such as “Thankful Thursday,” “Translation Tuesday,” and “Music Monday.” However, my obsession with the Danish TV show Borgen (a political drama, supposedly very similar to the American drama “Commander in Chief”) has led me to try out the idea of “Statsminister Saturday.” With this tradition I have a motive to keep myself informed, continue obsessively watching a fantastic show (I’m not alone in my opinion, Salon  published a recommendation last May) and hone my political writing—a skill that will be extremely necessary in my future (hopeful) journalism career.

“Statskundskab” is the Danish word for Political Science; each Saturday I’ll summarize the current state of affairs in Danish politics from an American perspective, to the best of my abilities. Hopefully I can provide any prospective DIS students with a taste of Danish current events, heavily supplemented by my class discussions in Danish language and culture and the English language Copenhagen Post.

The current state of Danish politics is actually extremely interesting and dramatic. An entire party, the Socialist People’s Party has dropped out of the government, leaving the prime minister with 6 ministry seats to fill, she will supposedly announce who will be filling the seats sometime next week.

The departure of SF or Socialistisk Folkeparti is motivated by the recent approval of a deal that will sell ~20% of Danish Oil and Natural Gas (DONG) to Goldman-Sachs. My understanding of the issue is that formerly, the state of Denmark had a larger share in the company, and thus had more power to regulate and provide incentives to DONG that would help Denmark maintain it’s #1 status in renewable energy.

In Scandinavia communism is far-left & radical, but not dangerous.

In Scandinavia communism is far-left & radical, but not dangerous.

On Wednesday, there was a protest outside of Christiansborg, which seemed to be dominated mostly by members of Enhedslisten (the party that is farthest left in the Danish political spectrum), but in fact 80% of Danes are against allowing DONG to sell such a large portion of shares to Goldman-Sachs, partially because the company played such a large role in what ended up being a global financial crisis, and partly because Goldman-Sachs intends to operate their shares from Vermont, Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands. Operation from well-known tax havens is not looked upon kindly from a country that culturally sees taxes as an important part of maintaining a civilized (and absolutely crucial) welfare society.