Mahnstein


In front of Adolf Hitler’s birthplace (Salzburger Vorstadt 15, Braunau am Inn, Austria, the building where the first Führer of the Third Reich was born on April 20th, 1889) is a memorial stone called the Mahnstein, literally translated ‘Remembrance Stone’. It is a memorial to all the victims of the Nazi regime, although the monument itself refers to crimes (past or future) of all extreme right-wing organisations.

The stone for the memorial came from a quarry on the grounds of the former Mauthausen Concentration Camp, near Linz, Austria. The inscription on the memorial reads:

FÜR FRIEDEN FREIHEIT
UND DEMOKRATIE
NIE WIEDER FASCHISMUS
MILLIONEN TOTE MAHNEN

The translation is as follows: “For Peace, Freedom And Democracy. Never Again Fascism. So The Millions Of Dead Remind Us.”

Anton Schmid


Anton Schmid was an electrician who owned a small radio shop in Vienna. He was drafted into the German army after the Anschluss of 1938. Little did he know, that his short military career would posthumously become a case for innate basic human decency.

Yellow badge Star of David called

Yellow badge Star of David called ‘Judenstern’

Schmid found himself stationed near Vilnius in the autumn of 1941. During much of the 19th century and continuing in the 20th century until the Nazi invasion, Vilnius and Warsaw were Europe’s two pre-eminent centres of Jewish cultural, intellectual, religious and political life.

In the summer of 1941, the Nazis launched a genocidal campaign of mass murder and deportations to death camps that, in three years, systematically killed about 180,000 Jews, i.e. about 94% of the Jews living in Lithuania before World War II, the largest percentage of any country.

As a sergeant of the Wehrmacht, Schmid witnessed the herding of Jews into two ghettos and the shooting of thousands of them in nearby Ponary. In a letter to his wife, Schmid described his horror at the sight of mass murder and of “children being beaten on the way”. He related: “You know how it is with my soft heart. I could not think and had to help them.”

Anton Schmid was moved by the suffering of the Jews in the Vilnius ghetto and decided to help. He managed to release Jews from jail and risked his own life by smuggling food into the ghetto. His courageous assistance involved the saving of more than 250 Jews whom he managed to hide. He also supplied material and forged papers to the Jewish underground.

Schmid was arrested in January 1942, and summarily tried before a Nazi military court on February 25. He was found guilty and executed on April 13 by the Nazis for his humanitarian acts.

If Sergeant Schmid’s acts were enormously rare, he evidently saw nothing extraordinary in them.

“I merely behaved as a human being,”

he said in his last letter to his wife. In all the hell that was breaking loose around him, he chose to stay awake, to keep his head up and his heart opened. In the midst of so much death and destruction, he found some way to value life. Schmid stood out as one of the few known German soldiers who had enough courage to do what they felt was right.

In her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Hannah Arendt singled out the example of Sergeant Schmid as illustrating the lesson that “under conditions of terror, most people will comply but some people will not.” She continued, “How utterly different everything would have been in Israel, in Germany, in all of Europe, and perhaps in all countries of the world, if only more such stories could have been told.”

On 16 May 1967, the Israeli government paid tribute to Sergeant Anton Schmid. Yad Vashem awarded his widow the medal Righteous Among the Nations which bears the inscription:

“Whoever saves one life – saves the world entire.”

Odd City Names


Let us point an accusatory finger at the oddest city, town and village names from around the world.

Climax Springs, USA.
Although the name sounds appealing, it only refers to a small village of around 80 people in Camden County, Missouri.

Condom, France.
Also known as Condom-en-Armagnac, Condom is located on the Via Podiensis and home to two castles that dates back to the 13th century. Other than the castles and its odd name, the town is known for the production of Armagnac brandy.

Dix Hills, USA.
Located in Suffolk County, New York, Dix Hills is often described as one of the ‘nicest communities’ on Long Island. Most of its allure is derived from the fact that it was home to American jazz musician John Coltrane during the last years of his life.

Owanka, USA.
Even though the city is not tracked by the American Census bureau, Owanka has been assigned a zip code. Owanka is officially an unincorporated community in the Pennington County of South Dakota.

Placentia, Canada.
Located on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland and Labrador, the town of Placentia is home to several communities that amount to around 3,900 inhabitants. Sadly, the population is in rapid decline.

Shag Point, USA.
This is a point on the north coast of South Georgia, between Camp Bay and Sunset Fjord in the Bay of Isles. The name was chosen by the British, with first use on a 1931 chart.

cropped version of Image:Fucking, Austria, str...

Fucking, Austria

Pussy, France.
The small French village of Pussy is located in the community of La Léchère. The name comes from the Gallo-Roman name Pusiacum – pusus actually means little boy.

Fucking, Austria.
The number one puzzling town name is in western Upper Austria. In 2005, it was home to 104 people and 32 houses. Fucking has been around since 1070, named apparently after a legendary 6th century character called “Focko”. Translated, the name of the town simply signifies “place of Focko’s people.”

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Franz Josef Haydn (1732-1809) is often said to be an Austrian composer but, though he was born in Austria, he was in fact 100% German. Haydn was from a poor background: his mother was a cook and his father was a wheelwright.

Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven

A young Ludwig van Beethoven

The chemical element germanium was discovered by the German chemist Clemens Winkler (1838-1904) and named after Germania, Latin for Germany.

The German poet Christian Morgenstern died of tuberculosis in 1914. He had contracted it from his mother, who had died 33 years earlier.

The German composer Beethoven was taught music by the Austrian composers Mozart and Haydn and the Italian composer Salieri. He himself was of Belgian extraction – his grandfather was a Belgian.

The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Germany (1500-58) was said to have spoken French to men, Italian to women, Spanish to God and German to horses.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts