Freedom, Freedom

By John Hertz: (reprinted from No Direction Home 26)  We could take 2018 or 2019 as the 70th birth-anniversary year of Walt Kelly’s Pogo.  It began as a newspaper comic strip in 1948.  It was adopted for syndicated national distribution in 1949.  It ran through 1975.  Judith Merril put a Pogo sequence in her 6th annual Year’s Best S-F (1961).

I’ve recommended America’s Great Comic-Strip Artists, subtitled  from “The Yellow Kid” to “Peanuts” (R. Marschall, rev. 1997).  Kelly is penultimate (p. 255):

Fantasy was the specialty of Winsor McCay [1867-1934, Little Nemo in Slumberland 1905-1926 his magnum opus]; George Herrimann [1880-1944, Krazy Kat1913-1944] made it his bailiwick too, while staking ground in the realm of literary and intellectual expression.  Cliff Sterrett [1883-1964, Polly and Her Pals1912-1958] also appealed to intellectuals, as Charles Schulz [1922-2000] would later do in Peanuts [1950-2000].  Farce and parody were the domains of E.C. Segar [1894-1938, Popeye from 1929 (in Thimble Theatre; after 1938 continued by others, Hy Eisman since 1994)], and the graphic sense he lacked was displayed with seeming instinctiveness by Frederick Opper [1857-1937, Happy Hooligan 1900-1932].  Dialogue – incisive, distinctive – that revealed not only the personalities of the characters but also the world view of the cartoonist was the special gift of Al Capp [1909-1980, Li’l Abner 1934-1977].

In the company of great cartoonists such as these, one stands out as a monumental talent…. Walt Kelly [1913-1973] was master of all that could be surveyed, the many tools and techniques available to comic-strip artists.  Pogo… generously included elements of fantasy, literary and intellectual touches, farce and parody, graphic brilliance … wonderful dialogue … also … philosophy, politics, whimsy, poetry, metaphysics, social commentary, and good old-fashioned slapstick.

– o O o –

St. Nectarios Greek Orthodox Church, 20340 E. Covina Bl., Covina, CA 91724, held its annual festival 23-25 Aug.  On Saturday evening I went for a few hours.  I’ve told of another one.

Lots of different folks go to these Greek church festivals.  Vendors stock accordingly.  I saw displayed a pair of T-shirts, An Armenian Man Is Never Wrong and An Armenian Woman Is Always Right.  Alas, I did not see them on any husband & wife with the husband wearing Armenian Woman and the wife wearing Armenian Man.

– o O o –

At Hampton, Virginia, it was African Landing Weekend.  The 24th was African Landing Day.  In August 1619 “20 and odd” Africans from what is now the Republic of Angola arrived on the White Lion at Old Point Comfort, now Fort Monroe National Monument, Hampton, the first black slaves to land in English North America.

On Saturday, Governor Ralph Northam, Doug Wilder the first elected black Governor (66th Governor of Virginia 1990-1994, now 88 years old), Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck, United States Representative Karen Bass (Democrat – California) chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and 11-year-old Brycen Didly a pupil at Larkspur Middle School in Virginia Beach, were among those who spoke.  Two thousand people came.  The Norcom High School Choir from Portsmouth ended the program with “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (poem by James W. Johnson 1900, music by his brother John R. Johnson 1905; called the Negro national hymn by the Nat’l Ass’n for the Advancement of Colored People, 1916).

Governor Northam announced a new State Commission on African American History Education.  Didly, who got a standing ovation, said “There is another way that we can give back to our community.  We can start with how we treat one another.  Are you kind to others daily?”

– o O o –

August 20th would have been the 100th birthday of Rodrick W. Edmonds (1919-1985), who during World War II was a Master Sergeant in the 106th Infantry Division.

On 1 Nov 44 the 106th was assigned to VIII Corps, 1st United States Army, 12th Army Group; on 6 Dec moved to France, joining the Rhineland Campaign; 10 Dec crossed into Belgium; 16 Dec assigned to the Ardennes-Alsace Campaign.  On 19 Dec the 422nd Infantry Regiment, including Edmonds, was overrun by Germans in the Battle of the Bulge, and forced to surrender.  In fact the men of the 422nd were still green, with 19 days overseas training in England during November.

Edmonds was taken to Stalag IX near Ziegenhain (in the Rhineland-Palatinate).  Stalag was short for Stammlager, itself short for Kriegsgefangenen-Mannschafts Stammlager; Stamm is a stem, or a tribe, and like that; Lager is a camp; Krieg is war; gefangen is capturedMannschaft is a crew: a Stalag was a prisoner-of-war base camp – but not for officers, who were held separately.

Edmonds was the highest ranking NCO (noncommissioned officer, i.e. up through sergeant) of 1,275 U.S. soldiers held in Stalag IX on 27 Jan 45.  They had just arrived.  It was bitter cold.  A German officer, Major Siegmann, told Edmonds to identify the Jews by the next morning.

The next morning Edmonds ordered all the U.S. soldiers to assemble outside the barracks.  They did.  Major Siegmann was infuriated.  He walked up to MSG Edmonds snarling, in English, “I ordered the Jews to be separated, to be identified.”  Siegmann drew his Luger pistol and put it to Edmonds’ head.  “You are to identify the Jews, immediately.”

Edmonds did not flinch.  “We are all Jews here,” he said.  He told Siegmann that to shoot the Jews the Nazis would have to shoot everyone.  The Geneva Convention required prisoners only to give their name, rank, and serial number, not their religion. Edmonds said that if any of the prisoners were harmed, Siegmann would be hunted, tried for war crime, and convicted.  Siegmann holstered his Luger and left.  Three months later Allied forces freed these U.S. soldiers.

Edmonds had saved 200 Jews.  He never told the story.  After he died it was pieced together by his son Chris Edmonds, Pastor of the Piney Grove Baptist Church in Marysville, Tennessee.  On 2 Dec 15 Yad VaShem (Hebrew, “a place of memorial”; yad is a hand, shem is a name; Isaiah 56:4-5) the World Holocaust Remembrance Center recognized Edmonds as Righteous Among the Nations.  On 27 Jan 16 in a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy, with President Obama and Ambassador Dermer attending, Rabbi Israel Lau the Chair of the Yad VaShem Council (himself a Holocaust survivor: Buchenwald) presented Pastor Edmonds with Roddie Edmonds’ medal and certificate, the fifth American so honored.

2 thoughts on “Freedom, Freedom

  1. Righteous, indeed. There must have been many acts of courage like that, mixed in with the failures and the evil. It is elevating to read each one. Thank you.

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