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text 2017-12-27 18:46
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 7 - International Human Rights Day

Tasks for International Human Rights Day: Post a picture of yourself next to a war memorial or other memorial to an event pertaining to Human Rights. (Pictures of just the memorial are ok too.)


Anógia village, Crete: the Andartis (resistance fighter) monument near the museum to the village's destruction in WWII.

Crete was occupied by the German military in the 1940s, fierce resistance by the local population notwithstanding. During one particularly memorable episode (later the subject of a book and a movie both titled Ill Met by Moonlight), a joint group of Cretan resistance fighters and British intelligence operatives, led by Major (and writer-to-be) Patrick Leigh Fermor -- in the movie, portrayed by Dirk Bogarde -- and Captain W. Stanley Moss (author of the book Ill Met by Moonlight), abducted German Major General Heinrich Kreipe near his home in Heraklion and marched him all the way across the Psiloritis mountains to the south coast of Crete, from where he was eventually shipped off to Egypt. He spent the rest of WWII in a British POW camp.

Patrick Leigh Fermor's evocative account of their struggle across the slopes of Mount Ida has come to particular fame for its "Horace Moment" -- his trademark poetic description of the moment when he and the German general realized that they had both enjoyed the same sort of profoundly formative, classical humanistic education and, as a result, had come to share the same values. Here it is, as taken from a Report written for the Imperial War Museum in 1969 and as published in Words of Mercury (2010):

"Everything ahead was a looming wilderness of peaks and canyons, and in the rougher bits it would be impossible for a large party to keep formation, or even contact, except at a slow crawl wich could be heard and seen for miles. The whole massif was riddled with clefts and grottoes to hide in. We must all vanish into thin air and let the enemy draw a total blank. [...]

We woke up among the rocks, just as a brilliant dawn was breaking over the crest of Mount Ida which we had been struggling across for two days. We were all three [i.e., Stanley Moss, Leigh Fermor, and their captive] lying smoking in silence, when the General, half to himself, slowly said:

'Vides ut alta stet nive candidum
Soracte ...' **

I was in luck. It is the opening line of one of the few odes of Horace I know by heart (Ad Thaliarchum, LIX). I went on reciting where he had broken off:

'... Nec iam sustineant onus
Silvae laborentes, geluque,
Flumina constiterint acuto' **

and so on, through the remaining five stanzas to the end.

The General's blue eyes swivelled away from the mountain-top to mine -- and when I'd finished, after a long silence, he said: 'Ach so, Herr Major!'*** It was very strange. 'Ja, Herr General.' As though, for a long moment, the war had ceased to exist. We had both drunk at the same fountains long before, and things were different between us for the rest of our time together."



** You see how high Soracte stands, bright with
snow, and no longer do the straining forests
support the burden, and the rivers have
frozen with sharp frost.
*** "Oh, I see, Major!"



Leigh Fermor unfortunately doesn't mention, however -- at least, in the published version of his account -- that inter alia by way of retribution for Kreipe's abduction, as well as in retribution for a number of other acts of resistance, the German military, later in 1944, annihilated the entire village of Anógia (from where the group had embarked on their climb across the mountains), killing every single one of its several 100 souls and reducing the whole village to ashes. It was only in 2009 (65 years later), after having lived there for a number of years and slowly gained the population's trust, that German artist Karina Raeck was able to take a major step towards reconciliation by opening a museum commemorating the village's destruction and by creating, together with the village population, a large artistic display in memory of its resistance fighters on the Nida Plain above the village; likewise entitled "Andartis."


Anógia after its 1944 destruction by the German military.


The "Andartis" monument on the Nida Plain, created by artist Karina Raeck and the villagers of Anógia in 2009.


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review 2016-05-23 00:00
Between the Woods and the Water
Between the Woods and the Water - Patrick Leigh Fermor,Jan Morris I have to believe that Fermor's reputation as one of England's greatest writers must rest on many of his earlier books. Or maybe it's the the recommendation of lesser writers like Morris. This book gets three instead of fewer stars merely because 1) I'd recently passed through some of the same terrain 2) He told me something about my family history I never would have guessed, although I'd spent days in the same city bequeathed to Teutonic Knights, entirely unaware of its history.

I CAN see how his technique would become soothing or mysterious to readers who'd never seen precisely the same foreign lands. His writing is a singular collection of strange nouns, which become clunky and tedious unless one is instantly mesmerized by exotic locations and words. But when he describes the next city on the trip, Sibiu, which neither he nor I have really seen? Both of us become mesmerized.

The nice thing about his obsession with nouns is that you begin to notice an astonishing variety of cultures packed into quite a dense area of Europe. This he can accomplish because he whips back and forth among the castles of Austro-Hungarian archdukes, Jewish mountain homes, and island mosques. He also claims that the astonishing variety of costumes represent well-established, intricate hierarchies in each tribe's work life. Perhaps it is invaluable as a memoir of what was lost between the wars, aside from his dubious virginity and most of the notes and notebooks he'd sent or kept at the time. All of the costumes seem to have vanished by now, along with the water buffalo.

I was going to say that this book works best as a history lesson, but in hindsight it seems that rivalries between mountain tribes and Austro-Hungarian or Rumanian royalty seem quite insignficant compared to two world wars and their aftermath. By no means have Romanians forgotten Vlad the Impaler, but I wonder if there's a point in dredging up bickering over Transylvania? Vlad conquered Ottoman forces, for example, but Turks still live quite openly in the population centers of Bucharest and Transylvaina.

Fermor never seems to touch much on conflict, including the world wars, although his writing is sometimes so elliptical it's hard to tell. I did make a special note to mention that his one page synopsis about the history of anti-semitism in Europe is one of the greatest, most balanced explanations I've ever seen.

But as memoir? He only expresses strong emotion about three things: the loss of his notebooks years after his travels, the loss of updates he sent to his mother, also years later, and the loss of Trajan's bridge, along with the strange rapids it once bridged and the last island refuge of ancient Turks, all of which happened when bordering countries created a lake between the Carpathian and Balkan mountains. None of that strong emotion shows up as regret for the host families lost in the war and other tragedies, or the melancholy joy of drinking strange liquor to gypsy music, or taking another man's wife deeper and deeper into the woods.
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review 2015-12-06 19:11
Between the Woods and the Water (Trilogy #2) by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Between the Woods and the Water - Patrick Leigh Fermor,Jan Morris
bookshelves: series, lit-richer, nonfiction, autobiography-memoir, paper-read, autumn-2015, nonfic-nov-2015, giftee, travel, hungary, romania, adventure
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Read from March 19 to November 30, 2015


A giftee! **Pets the package** Thanks Judy, Susanna, Bob. xx

Description: The journey that Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on in 1933—to cross Europe on foot with an emergency allowance of one pound a day—proved so rich in experiences that when much later he sat down to describe them, they overflowed into more than one volume. Undertaken as the storms of war gathered, and providing a background for the events that were beginning to unfold in Central Europe, Leigh Fermor’s still-unfinished account of his journey has established itself as a modern classic. Between the Woods and the Water, the second volume of a projected three, has garnered as many prizes as its celebrated predecessor, A Time of Gifts.

The opening of the book finds Leigh Fermor crossing the Danube—at the very moment where his first volume left off. A detour to the luminous splendors of Prague is followed by a trip downriver to Budapest, passage on horseback across the Great Hungarian Plain, and a crossing of the Romanian border into Transylvania. Remote castles, mountain villages, monasteries and towering ranges that are the haunt of bears, wolves, eagles, gypsies, and a variety of sects are all savored in the approach to the Iron Gates, the division between the Carpathian mountains and the Balkans, where, for now, the story ends.

So where Book One ended on a bridge, this carries straight on: PERHAPS I had made too long a halt on the bridge. The shadows were assembling over the Slovak and Hungarian shores and the Danube, running fast and pale between them, washed the quays of the old town of Esztergom, where a steep hill lifted the basilica into the dusk. It is April, the Easter weekend, 1934.

The Medieval Visegrad Castle - 13th century


St Stephen's Basilica, Pest, Hungary.

5* A Time of Gifts
CR Between the Woods and the Water
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review 2015-03-15 19:10
Review of A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor
A Time of Gifts - Patrick Leigh Fermor,Jan Morris

What a gem of a book!  I can't believe I have never been recommended this book by anyone I know personally and had to find out about it reading reviews online.  This book contains the travel writings of Patrick Leigh Fermor as he left his England in 1933 and set off on foot to Constantinople at age 19.  This is the first of what is a trilogy, and it takes him across the Channel through the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia.  If nothing else, this is great literature and Fermor is a master at weaving together descriptive language, culture, history, social customs, and personal interactions.  The whole time I was reading, I could not help but think of how exciting it would have been to take this journey with this impressive thinker.  Very excited to have found this and am ordering the next in the trilogy right away.

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review 2014-09-30 22:01
"The Cretan Runner" by George Psychoundakis
The Cretan Runner: His Story of the German Occupation - George Psychoundakis,Patrick Leigh Fermor

I am working my way through all of Patrick Leigh Fermor books and, whilst he is only the translator here (also adding a few helpful footnotes and an introduction) Crete feels an important part of his myth, as well as an interesting slice of WW2 history in its own right. Actually Patrick Leigh Fermor is really only a bit part player in this book, though he adds a few helpful footnotes in addition to translating the book into English.

This is a fascinating insight into an active member of the Cretan resistance during WW2. George Psychoundakis was a young shepherd boy when the Nazis invaded his home in 1941. Whilst clearly very bright and perceptive he was relatively uneducated. This does not hamper his descriptive powers and, bearing in mind his lack of education, this is a remarkable book.

As George Psychoundakis explains, Crete has a long history of occupation and counter-resistance, and he had no hesitation in participating in the resistance. He was a runner, carrying messages between different resistance groups and across diverse, usually mountainous terrain, barely resting for weeks. A risky and courageous existence, frequently achieved with very little food or sleep, in extreme conditions and all for no recompense. The conflict in Crete between the Cretan guerrillas, supported by a handful of British soldiers, and the Nazi occupiers was extreme. The hated Germans behaved barbarically to the Cretans and punished acts of insurrection by torturing and destroying entire communities. This book describes the backdrop to these years.

Prior to WW2, George had never left the island of Crete. For a short period during the war he left Crete and visited Egypt and Palestine. Viewing these new worlds through his eyes is a real pleasure and one of the many highlights in the book.

I found the huge array of different characters to be a little confusing however this did not hamper my enjoyment of this guileless account of a courageous and extraordinary resistance fighter.


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