Feb 042018
 

Today is the birthday (1906) of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship has become a modern classic. Both the book and Bonhoeffer’s exemplary life were deeply inspiring to me as I prepared myself for ordination. Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being accused of being associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was quickly tried, along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office), and then executed by hanging on 9 April 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing, and weeks before his prison camp was liberated by the Allies. I make no apologies for the length of this post: Bonhoeffer is of fundamental importance to me.

Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland), into a large family. In addition to his other siblings, Dietrich had a twin sister, Sabine Bonhoeffer Leibholz. He and Sabine were the 6th and 7th children out of 8. His father was psychiatrist and neurologist Karl Bonhoeffer, and his mother Paula Bonhoeffer, née von Hase, was a teacher and the granddaughter of Protestant theologian Karl von Hase and painter Stanislaus Kalckreuth. His oldest brother Karl Friedrich Bonhoeffer became a chemist, and, along with Paul Harteck, discovered the spin isomers of hydrogen in 1929. Walter Bonhoeffer, the second born of the Bonhoeffer family, was killed in action during World War I, when the twins were 12. The third Bonhoeffer child, Klaus, was involved in the 20 July plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, along with Dietrich. He, too, was executed by the Nazis. Both of Bonhoeffer’s older sisters, Ursula Bonhoeffer Schleicher and Christel Bonhoeffer von Dohnanyi, married men who were eventually executed by the Nazis. Christel was imprisoned by the Nazis but survived. Sabine and their youngest sister Susanne Bonhoeffer Dress each married men who survived Nazism. His cousin Karl-Günther von Hase was the German Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1977. Bonhoeffer completed his Staatsexamen, the equivalent of both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, at the Protestant Faculty of Theology of the University. He went on to complete his Doctor of Theology degree at Berlin University in 1927.

At 24 years old Bonhoeffer was too young to be ordained. Bonhoeffer went to the United States in 1930 for postgraduate study and a teaching fellowship at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary. Although Bonhoeffer found the US seminary not up to his exacting standards (“There is no theology here” – he remarked), he had life-changing experiences and friendships. He studied under Reinhold Niebuhr and met Frank Fisher, an African-American seminarian who introduced him to Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where Bonhoeffer taught Sunday school and formed a lifelong love for African-American spirituals, a collection of which he took back to Germany. He heard Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., preach the Gospel of Social Justice, and became sensitive not only to social injustices experienced by minorities, but also the ineptitude of the church to bring about integration. Bonhoeffer began to see things “from below”—from the perspective of those who suffer oppression. He observed, “Here one can truly speak and hear about sin and grace and the love of God…the Black Christ is preached with rapturous passion and vision.” Later Bonhoeffer referred to his impressions abroad as the point at which he “turned from phraseology to reality.” He also learned to drive a car, although he failed the driving test three times. He traveled by car through the United States to Mexico, where he had been invited to speak on the subject of peace. His early visits to Italy, Libya, Spain, the United States, Mexico, and Cuba opened Bonhoeffer to ecumenism.

After returning to Germany in 1931, Bonhoeffer became a lecturer in systematic theology at the University of Berlin. Deeply interested in ecumenism, he was appointed by the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches (a forerunner of the World Council of Churches) as one of its three European youth secretaries. At this time he seems to have undergone something of a personal conversion from being a theologian primarily attracted to the intellectual side of Christianity to being a dedicated man of faith, resolved to carry out the teaching of Christ as he found it revealed in the Gospels. On 15 November 1931—at the age of 25—he was ordained at the Old-Prussian United St. Matthew’s Church (St. Matthäuskirche) in Berlin.

Bonhoeffer’s promising academic and ecclesiastical career was dramatically altered with the Nazi ascension to power on 30 January 1933. He was a determined opponent of the regime from its first days. Two days after Hitler was installed as Chancellor, Bonhoeffer delivered a radio address in which he attacked Hitler and warned Germany against slipping into an idolatrous cult of the Führer (leader), who could very well turn out to be Verführer (mis-leader, or seducer). He was cut off the air in the middle of a sentence, though it is unclear whether the newly elected Nazi regime was responsible. In April 1933, Bonhoeffer raised the first voice for church resistance to Hitler’s persecution of Jews, declaring that the church must not simply “bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself.”

In November 1932, two months before the Nazi takeover, there had been an election for presbyters and synodals (church officials) of the German Landeskirche (Protestant established churches). This election was marked by a struggle within the Old-Prussian Union Evangelical Church between the nationalistic German Christian (Deutsche Christen) movement and Young Reformers—a struggle which threatened to explode into schism. In July 1933, Hitler unconstitutionally imposed new church elections. Bonhoeffer put all his efforts into the election, campaigning for the selection of independent, non-Nazi officials.

Despite Bonhoeffer’s efforts, in the rigged July election an overwhelming number of key church positions went to Nazi-supported Deutsche Christen people. The Deutsche Christen won a majority in the general synod of the Old-Prussian Union Evangelical Church and all its provincial synods except Westphalia, and in synods of all other Protestant church bodies, except for the Lutheran churches of Bavaria, Hanover, and Württemberg. The non-Nazi opposition regarded these bodies as uncorrupted “intact churches,” as opposed to the other so-called “destroyed churches.”

In opposition to Nazification, Bonhoeffer urged an interdict upon all pastoral services (baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.), but Karl Barth and others advised against such a radical proposal. In August 1933, Bonhoeffer and Hermann Sasse were deputized by opposition church leaders to draft the Bethel Confession, a new statement of faith in opposition to the Deutsche Christen movement. Notable for affirming God’s faithfulness to Jews as His chosen people, the Bethel Confession was so watered down to make it more palatable that Bonhoeffer ultimately refused to sign it.

In September 1933, the national church synod at Wittenberg voluntarily passed a resolution to apply the Aryan paragraph within the church, meaning that pastors and church officials of Jewish descent were to be removed from their posts. Regarding this as an affront to the principle of baptism, Martin Niemöller founded the Pfarrernotbund (Pastors’ Emergency League). In November, a rally of 20,000 Deutsche Christens demanded the removal of the Old Testament from the Bible, which was seen by many as heresy, further swelling the ranks of the Emergency League.

Within weeks of its founding, more than a third of German pastors had joined the Emergency League. It was the forerunner of the Bekennende Kirche (Confessing Church), which aimed to preserve traditional Christian beliefs and practices. The Barmen Declaration, drafted by Barth in May 1934 and adopted by the Confessing Church, insisted that Christ, not the Führer, was the head of the church. The adoption of the declaration has often been viewed as a triumph, although by Wilhelm Niemöller’s estimate, only 20% of German pastors were supporting the Confessing Church.

When Bonhoeffer was offered a parish post in eastern Berlin in the autumn of 1933, he refused it in protest at the nationalist policy, and accepted a two-year appointment as a pastor of two German-speaking Protestant churches in London: the German Lutheran Church in Dacres Road, Sydenham. and the German Reformed Church of St Paul’s, Goulston Street, Whitechapel. He explained to Barth that he had found little support for his views—even among friends—and that “it was about time to go for a while into the desert.” Barth regarded this as running away from real battle. He sharply rebuked Bonhoeffer, saying, “I can only reply to all the reasons and excuses which you put forward: ‘And what of the German Church?'” Barth accused Bonhoeffer of abandoning his post and wasting his “splendid theological armory” while “the house of your church is on fire,” and chided him to return to Berlin “by the next ship.”

Bonhoeffer, however, did not go to England simply to avoid trouble at home; he hoped to put the ecumenical movement to work in the interest of the Confessing Church. He continued his involvement with the Confessing Church, running up a high telephone bill to maintain his contact with Martin Niemöller. In international gatherings, Bonhoeffer rallied people to oppose the Deutsche Christen movement and its attempt to amalgamate Nazi nationalism with the Christian gospel. When Bishop Theodor Heckel—the official in charge of German Lutheran Church foreign affairs—traveled to London to warn Bonhoeffer to abstain from any ecumenical activity not directly authorized by Berlin, Bonhoeffer refused to abstain.

In 1935, Bonhoeffer was presented with a much-sought-after opportunity to study non-violent resistance under Gandhi in his ashram, but, perhaps remembering Barth’s rebuke, decided to return to Germany in order to head an underground seminary in Finkenwalde for training Confessing Church pastors. As the Nazi suppression of the Confessing Church intensified, Barth was driven back to Switzerland in 1935; Niemöller was arrested in July 1937; and in August 1936, Bonhoeffer’s authorization to teach at the University of Berlin was revoked after he was denounced as a “pacifist and enemy of the state” by Theodor Heckel.

Maria von Wedemeyer

Bonhoeffer’s efforts for the underground seminaries included securing necessary funds. He found a great benefactor in Ruth von Kleist-Retzow. In times of trouble, Bonhoeffer’s former students and their wives would take refuge in von Kleist-Retzow’s Pomeranian estate, and Bonhoeffer was a frequent guest. Later he fell in love with Kleist-Retzow’s granddaughter, Maria von Wedemeyer, to whom he became engaged three months before his arrest. By August 1937, Himmler decreed the education and examination of Confessing Church ministry candidates illegal. In September 1937, the Gestapo closed the seminary at Finkenwalde, and by November arrested 27 pastors and former students. It was around this time that Bonhoeffer published his best-known book, The Cost of Discipleship, a study on the Sermon on the Mount, in which he not only attacked “cheap grace” as a cover for ethical laxity, but also preached “costly grace.”

Bonhoeffer spent the next two years secretly traveling from one eastern German village to another to conduct “seminary on the run” supervision of his students, most of whom were working illegally in small parishes within the old-Prussian Ecclesiastical Province of Pomerania. The von Blumenthal family hosted the seminary on its estate of Groß Schlönwitz. The pastors of Groß Schlönwitz and neighbouring villages supported the education by employing and housing the students (among whom was Eberhard Bethge, who later edited Bonhoeffer’s “Letters and Papers from Prison”), as vicars in their congregations.

In 1938, the Gestapo banned Bonhoeffer from Berlin. In summer 1939, the seminary was able to move to Sigurdshof, an outlying estate (Vorwerk) of the von Kleist family in Wendish Tychow. In March 1940, the Gestapo shut down the seminary there following the outbreak of World War II. Bonhoeffer’s monastic communal life and teaching at Finkenwalde seminary formed the basis of his books, The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.

Bonhoeffer’s sister Sabine, along with her Jewish-classified husband Gerhard Leibholz and their two daughters, escaped to England by way of Switzerland in September 1940.

In February 1938, Bonhoeffer made an initial contact with members of the German Resistance when his brother-in-law Hans von Dohnányi introduced him to a group seeking Hitler’s overthrow at Abwehr, the German military intelligence service. Bonhoeffer also learned from Dohnányi that war was imminent and was particularly troubled by the prospect of being conscripted. As a committed pacifist opposed to the Nazi regime, he could never swear an oath to Hitler and fight in his army, though not to do so was potentially a capital offense. He worried also about consequences his refusing military service could have for the Confessing Church, as it was a move that would be frowned upon by most Christians and their churches at the time.

It was at this juncture that Bonhoeffer left for the United States in June 1939 at the invitation of Union Theological Seminary in New York. Amid much inner turmoil, he soon regretted his decision despite strong pressures from his friends to stay in the United States. He wrote to Reinhold Niebuhr:

I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period in our national history with the people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people… Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose but I cannot make that choice from security.

He returned to Germany on the last scheduled steamer to cross the Atlantic.

Back in Germany, Bonhoeffer was further harassed by the Nazi authorities as he was forbidden to speak in public and was required to regularly report his activities to the police. In 1941, he was forbidden to print or to publish. In the meantime, Bonhoeffer joined the Abwehr (a German military intelligence organization). Dohnányi, already part of the Abwehr, brought him into the organization on the claim his wide ecumenical contacts would be of use to Germany, thus protecting him from conscription to active service. Bonhoeffer presumably knew about various 1943 plots against Hitler through Dohnányi, who was actively involved in the planning. In the face of Nazi atrocities, the full scale of which Bonhoeffer learned through the Abwehr, he concluded that “the ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live.” He did not justify his action but accepted that he was taking guilt upon himself as he wrote, “When a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it… Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace.” In a 1932 sermon, Bonhoeffer said, “The blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness.”

Under cover of the Abwehr, Bonhoeffer served as a courier for the German resistance movement to reveal its existence and intentions to the Western Allies in hope of garnering their support, and, through his ecumenical contacts abroad, to secure possible peace terms with the Allies for a post-Hitler government. His visits to Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland were camouflaged as legitimate intelligence activities for the Abwehr. In May 1942, he met Anglican Bishop George Bell of Chichester, a member of the House of Lords and an ally of the Confessing Church, contacted by Bonhoeffer’s exiled brother-in-law Leibholz; through him feelers were sent to British foreign minister Anthony Eden. However, the British government ignored these, as it had all other approaches from the German resistance. Dohnányi and Bonhoeffer were also involved in Abwehr operations to help German Jews escape to Switzerland. During this time Bonhoeffer worked on Ethics and wrote letters to keep up the spirits of his former students. He intended Ethics as his magnum opus, but it remained unfinished when he was arrested. On 5 April 1943, Bonhoeffer and Dohnányi were arrested and imprisoned.

On 13 January 1943, Bonhoeffer had become engaged to Maria von Wedemeyer. Bonhoeffer remained a reluctant suitor in part because there was a significant age gap between him and Maria: he was 36, she was 18. The two also spent almost no time alone together prior to the engagement and did not see each other between becoming engaged and Bonhoeffer’s 5 April arrest. Once he was in prison, however, Maria’s status as fiancée became invaluable, as it meant she could visit Bonhoeffer and correspond with him. While their relationship was troubled, she was a source of food and smuggled messages. Bonhoeffer made Eberhard Bethge his heir, but Maria, in allowing her correspondence with Bonhoeffer to be published after her death, provided an invaluable addition to the scholarship.

For a year and a half, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned at Tegel military prison awaiting trial. There he continued his work in religious outreach among his fellow prisoners and guards. Sympathetic guards helped smuggle his letters out of prison to Eberhard Bethge and others, and these uncensored letters were posthumously published in Letters and Papers from Prison. One of those guards, a corporal named Knobloch, even offered to help him escape from the prison and “disappear” with him, and plans were made for that end. But Bonhoeffer declined it, fearing Nazi retribution against his family, especially his brother Klaus and brother-in-law Hans von Dohnányi, who were also imprisoned.

After the failure of the 20 July Plot on Hitler’s life in 1944 and the discovery in September 1944 of secret Abwehr documents relating to the conspiracy, Bonhoeffer was accused of association with the conspirators. He was transferred from the military prison Tegel in Berlin, where he had been held for 18 months, to the detention cellar of the house prison of the Reich Security Head Office, the Gestapo’s high-security prison. In February 1945, he was secretly moved to Buchenwald concentration camp, and finally to Flossenbürg concentration camp.

On 4 April 1945, the diaries of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr, were discovered, and in a rage upon reading them, Hitler ordered that the Abwehr conspirators be destroyed. Bonhoeffer was led away just as he concluded his final Sunday service and asked an English prisoner, Payne Best, to remember him to Bishop George Bell of Chichester if he should ever reach his home: “This is the end—for me the beginning of life.”

Bonhoeffer was condemned to death on 8 April 1945 by SS judge Otto Thorbeck at a drumhead court-martial without witnesses, records of proceedings or a defense in Flossenbürg concentration camp. He was executed there by hanging at dawn on 9 April 1945, just two weeks before soldiers from the United States 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions liberated the camp, three weeks before the Soviet capture of Berlin and a month before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

Here a few salient quotes:

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.

In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.

Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God’s word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity.

The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.

When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them.

A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol.

There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.

God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world.

Bonhoeffer was very fond of the Advent season for the same reasons that I am (that is, if you “unpack” Christmas as I do, rather than treat it as a giant buying spree overlaid with a jumble of sacred and secular images). Advent is a season of hope and expectation. It is also filled with wonderful foods. For one Advent in prison his family smuggled in for him some German smoked goose. I give you two methods for preparing goose breast, the first more traditional German than the second. Usually Germans buy smoked goose rather than prepare it themselves. For me the joy is in the preparation. First method, you can prepare the breast for smoking by using a dry rub. This mix uses Instacure No. 1, also known as pink curing salt. It is about 94% sodium chloride (table salt) and 6% sodium nitrite. It is used to speed up the curing process in preparation for smoking. Second method, prepare the breast for smoking using a marinade.

German Smoked Goose Breast

Ingredients

2 lb boned goose breast, skin on

Dry Rub

45 gm kosher salt
3 gm of Instacure No. 1
25 gm sugar, about 2 tablespoons
4 gm crushed juniper berries
10 gm freshly ground black pepper

Marinade

½ cup orange juice
⅓  cup olive oil
⅓ cup Dijon mustard
⅓ cup brown sugar
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup honey
1 tbsp dried minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder

Instructions

For the dry rub: mix all the ingredients together thoroughly. Place the goose breasts on a platter and dredge them liberally with the rub on both sides, pressing the rub into the meat making sure that the rub covers the entire surface of the meat. Wrap the meat tightly in cling wrap. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 days, periodically turning the meat and adding more rub as needed.

For the marinade: whisk together the orange juice, olive oil, mustard, sugar, soy sauce, honey, onion, and garlic powder in a bowl. Either use the ziplok bag method (see HINTS) or place the goose breasts in the marinade in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

For smoking: Here you are on your own. If you have a smoker, follow the instructions. I used to have an outdoor wood smoker with a fire chamber which generated the smoke which then flowed into the smoking chamber where I place the meat on racks. Breast meat should take around 45 minutes. The internal temperature should be 165˚F/74˚C.

Oct 292017
 

Admiral John Byng was baptized on this date in 1704. His birth date is not known. Byng has gone down in history as the British admiral who was executed on his own quarterdeck for failing “to do his utmost” in the defense of Minorca, giving rise to Voltaire’s sardonic comment in Candide, “Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres.” I’ll get to that in a minute. First some background.

John Byng was born in the village of Southhill, Bedfordshire, in England, the fifth son of Rear-Admiral Sir George Byng (later Admiral of the Fleet).He entered the Royal Navy in March 1718, aged 13, when his father was a well-established admiral at the peak of a uniformly successful career. George Byng had supported King William III in his successful bid to be crowned King of England in 1689 and had seen his own stature and fortune grow. He was a highly skilled naval commander, had won distinction in a series of battles, and was held in esteem by the monarchs whom he served. In 1721, he was rewarded by King George I with a viscountcy, being created Viscount Torrington.

Early in his career, John Byng was assigned to a series of Mediterranean postings. In 1723, at age 19, he was made a lieutenant, and at 23, rose to become captain of HMS Gibraltar. His Mediterranean service continued until 1739 and was without much action. In 1742, he was appointed Commodore-Governor of the British colony of Newfoundland. He was promoted to rear-admiral in 1745, and to vice-admiral in 1747. He was Member of Parliament for Rochester from 1751 until his death.

The island of Minorca had been a British possession since 1708, when it was captured during the War of the Spanish Succession. On the approach of the Seven Years’ War, it was threatened by a French naval attack from Toulon, and was invaded in 1756. Byng was serving in the Channel at the time and was ordered to the Mediterranean to relieve the British garrison of Fort St Philip, at Port Mahon. Despite his protests, he was not given enough money or time to prepare the expedition properly. His fleet was delayed in Portsmouth for five days while additional crew were found. By 6 April, the ships were sufficiently manned and put to sea, arriving at Gibraltar on 2 May. Byng’s Royal Marines were landed to make room for the soldiers who were to reinforce the garrison, and he feared that, if he met a French squadron, he would be dangerously undermanned. His correspondence shows that he left prepared for failure, that he did not believe that the garrison could hold out against the French force, and that he was already resolved to come back from Minorca if he found that the task presented any great difficulty. He wrote home to that effect to the Admiralty from Gibraltar, whose governor refused to provide soldiers to increase the relief force. Byng sailed on 8 May 1756. Before he arrived, the French landed 15,000 troops on the western shore of Minorca, spreading out to occupy the island. On 19 May, Byng was off the east coast of Minorca and endeavored to open communications with the fort. The French squadron appeared before he could land any soldiers.

The Battle of Minorca was fought on the following day. Byng had gained the weather gage and bore down on the French fleet at an angle, so that his leading ships went into action while the rest were still out of effective firing range, including Byng’s flagship. The French badly damaged the leading ships and slipped away. Byng’s flag captain pointed out to him that, by standing out of his line, he could bring the center of the enemy to closer action, but he declined because Thomas Mathews had been dismissed for so doing. Neither side lost a ship in the engagement, and casualties were roughly even, with 43 British sailors killed and 168 wounded, against French losses of 38 killed and 175 wounded.

Byng remained near Minorca for four days without establishing communication with the fort or sighting the French. On 24th May, he called a council of his captains at which he suggested that Minorca was effectively lost and that the best course would be to return to Gibraltar to repair the fleet. The council concurred, and the fleet set sail for Gibraltar, arriving on 19th June, where they were reinforced with four more ships of the line and a 50-gun frigate. Repairs were effected to the damaged vessels and additional water and provisions were loaded aboard.

Before his fleet could return to sea, another ship arrived from England with further instructions, relieving Byng of his command and ordering him to return home. On arrival in England he was placed in custody. Byng had been promoted to full admiral on 1 June, following the action off Minorca but before the Admiralty received Byng’s dispatch giving news of the battle. The garrison resisted the Siege of Fort St Philip until 29th June, when it was forced to capitulate. Under negotiated terms, the garrison was allowed passage back to England, and the fort and island came under French control.

Byng’s failure to relieve the garrison at Minorca caused public outrage among fellow officers and the country at large. Byng was brought home to be tried by court-martial for breach of the Articles of War, which had recently been revised to mandate capital punishment for officers who did not do their utmost against the enemy, either in battle or pursuit. The revision followed an event in 1745 during the War of the Austrian Succession, when a young lieutenant named Baker Phillips was court-martialed and shot after his ship was captured by the French. His captain had done nothing to prepare the vessel for action and was killed almost immediately by a broadside. Taking command, the inexperienced junior officer was forced to surrender the ship when she could no longer be defended. The negligent behavior of Phillips’ captain was noted by the subsequent court martial and a recommendation for mercy was entered, but Phillips’ sentence was approved by the Lords Justices of Appeal. This sentence angered some of parliament, who felt that an officer of higher rank would likely have been spared or else given a light punishment, and that Phillips had been executed because he was a powerless junior officer and thus a useful scapegoat. The Articles of War were amended to become one law for all: the death penalty for any officer of any rank who did not do his utmost against the enemy in battle or pursuit.

Byng’s court martial was convened on 28th December 1756 aboard the elderly 96-gun vessel HMS St George, which was anchored in Portsmouth Harbour. The presiding officer was Admiral Thomas Smith, supported by rear admirals Francis Holburne, Harry Norris and Thomas Broderick, and a panel of nine captains. The verdict was delivered four weeks later, on 27th January 1757, in the form of a series of resolutions describing the course of Byng’s expedition to Minorca and an interpretation of his actions. The court acquitted Byng of personal cowardice. However, its principal findings were that Byng had failed to keep his fleet together while engaging the French; that his flagship had opened fire at too great a distance to have any effect; and that he should have proceeded to the immediate relief of Minorca rather than returning to Gibraltar. As a consequence of these actions, the court held that Byng had “not done his utmost” to engage or destroy the enemy, thereby breaching the 12th Article of War.

Once the court determined that Byng had “failed to do his utmost”, it had no discretion over punishment under the Articles of War. In accordance with those Articles the court condemned Byng to death, but unanimously recommended that the Lords of the Admiralty ask King George II to exercise his royal prerogative of mercy. First Lord of the Admiralty Richard Grenville-Temple was granted an audience with the King to request clemency, but this was refused in an angry exchange. Four members of the board of the court martial petitioned Parliament, seeking to be relieved from their oath of secrecy to speak on Byng’s behalf. The Commons passed a measure allowing this, but the Lords rejected the proposal.

Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder was aware that the Admiralty was at least partly to blame for the loss at Minorca due to the poor manning and repair of the fleet. The Duke of Newcastle, the politician responsible, had by now joined the Prime Minister in an uneasy political coalition and this made it difficult for Pitt to contest the court martial verdict as strongly as he would have liked. He did, however, petition the King to commute the death sentence. The appeal was refused; Pitt and King George II were political opponents, with Pitt having pressed for George to relinquish his hereditary position of Elector of Hanover as being a conflict of interest with the government’s policies in Europe. The severity of the penalty, combined with suspicion that the Admiralty had sought to protect themselves from public anger over the defeat by throwing all the blame on the admiral, led to a reaction in favor of Byng in both the Navy and the country, which had previously demanded retribution. Pitt, then Leader of the House of Commons, told the King: “the House of Commons, Sir, is inclined to mercy”, to which George responded: “You have taught me to look for the sense of my people elsewhere than in the House of Commons.”

The King did not exercise his prerogative to grant clemency. Following the court martial and pronouncement of sentence, Admiral Byng had been detained aboard HMS Monarch in the Solent and, on 14th March 1757, he was taken to the quarterdeck for execution in the presence of all hands and men from other ships of the fleet in boats surrounding Monarch. The admiral knelt on a cushion and signified his readiness by dropping his handkerchief, whereupon a squad of Royal Marines shot him dead.

Byng’s execution was satirized by Voltaire in his novel Candide. In Portsmouth, Candide witnesses the execution of an officer by firing squad and is told that “Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres” which is usually translated as, “in this country, it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, in order to encourage the others.” This has, in fact, gone down as a painfully inadequate translation, especially of “pour encourager les autres.” The French (and the original English) verb means “to make more courageous” but the English verb has changed in meaning to become “to urge on.” Hence the phrase is ridiculously mistranslated, but, in some ways, even funnier. Instead of being a wry comment, it is farcical.  After all, the actual intention of the 12th Article of War was to prevent inaction, or ineffective action, in the face of danger.

Byng was the last of his rank to be executed in this fashion and, 22 years after the event, the Articles of War were amended to allow “such other punishment as the nature and degree of the offence shall be found to deserve” as an alternative to capital punishment. Such policy considerations were no comfort to the family of their victim. Warren Tute said “far from encouraging anyone at all, this judicial murder had the opposite effect”. Admiral Byng was buried in the Byng vault at the Church of All Saints in Southill, Bedfordshire. His epitaph there expresses their view and the view of much of the country:

Bedfordshire clanger immediately sprang to mind for today’s recipe. First, the Byng family holds estates in Bedfordshire and Byng was born there and buried there.  Second, we have a horrible pun. A “clanger” in Britspeak, for those who don’t know, is a terrible mistake. We can argue who dropped a clanger here, Byng or the government, but “someone had blundered.” The Bedfordshire clanger is one of those dishes that labors under numerous misconceptions because the general public has an endless need to repeat falsehoods that sound like they ought to be right. The Bedfordshire clanger is a suet pastry roll with a savory filling at one end and a sweet filling at the other that was originally made at home to be taken into the fields by farm workers for their midday meal: meat and pudding in one package. I believe that one end was probably Sunday leftovers or simply potatoes and other vegetables and a little jam at the other end. It was more often than not boiled rather than baked, so that it was a filled suet pudding, but nowadays you’d be hard put to find a boiled one. I’ll have a go at the original one day. It is also said that the crust was not eaten because the workers would get it dirty with hands that had worked in the fields all day. I find this claim patently laughable. Workers carried their clangers in napkins which they could use to hold them while they ate to protect them from dirty hands, and the idea that a 19th century agricultural laborer was so dainty that he wouldn’t want any dirt on his food is absurd. I suspect that this bit of folklore has been transferred to the clanger from the Cornish pasty which was also occasionally made with sweet and savory ends and was taken down tin mines by the miners for their meal. They might have been more fussy about eating the pastry of a pasty soiled with toxic mine dust, but I doubt this also. Why would miners’ or farm workers’ wives go to all the trouble of making a suet pastry daily only to have it thrown away? If you ate only the filling of a clanger (especially as made these days) you’d go hungry for the afternoon. I wish people would use their brains once in a while when repeating such idiocies.

This recipe uses fruit rather than jam, but you can really use any fillings you want.

Bedfordshire Clanger

Ingredients

500 g stewing beef, chopped
beef stock
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cooking pears, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
300g-350g self raising flour
1 tsp salt
85 g shredded beef suet
60 g butter, chilled and coarsely rated
1 egg

Instructions

For the meat filling: heat half the vegetable oil in a heavy skillet and gently cook the onions for two to three minutes until soft and translucent. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the pan again over a high heat, add the rest of the vegetable oil, season and add the chopped meat. Brown on all sides Remove the meat from the pan and mix with the onions.

Add a cup of stock to the pan together with the Worcestershire sauce, and boil until you have only two to three tablespoons left, then add the meat and onions back to the pan and cook over a high heat until the sauce has reduced until it is just coating the meat. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Meanwhile, make the pastry: mix the flour, salt, suet and grated butter with your fingers into a fine breadcrumb-like consistency. Mix in about 150-160ml water and the beaten egg to form a smooth dough and knead it for a minute. Roll the pastry on a floured table to about 1/2cm thick and cut into rectangles about 12-14cm long by 8cm wide, then brush the edge of the long end with beaten egg. Retain any of the pastry cut-offs.

Next, spoon the meat filling in one half and the chopped pears into the other, using a little piece of molded spare pastry to separate the two in the center. Roll the pastry over into a large sausage roll shape, folding over the ends, place on a lightly greased or non-stick baking tray and brush with the beaten egg. Mark the sweet end with two short slashes so that you can tell sweet and savory apart.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.

Oct 122017
 

On this date in 1915 nurse Edith Louisa Cavell (1865 – 1915) was executed by a German firing squad. She is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides without discrimination and in helping about 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during the First World War, for which she was arrested. She was accused of treason, found guilty by a court-martial and sentenced to death. Her execution received worldwide condemnation and extensive press coverage. She is well known for her statement that “patriotism is not enough, I must have no hate in my heart.” Her strong Anglican beliefs propelled her to help all those who needed help, both German and Allied soldiers. She was quoted as saying, “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved.” The Church of England commemorates her in their Calendar of Saints on this date.

Cavell was born on 4 December 1865 in Swardeston, near Norwich, where her father was vicar for 45 years. She was educated at Norwich High School for Girls, then boarding schools in Clevedon, Somerset and Peterborough. After a period as a governess, including for a family in Brussels 1890–1895, she returned home to care for her father during a serious illness. The experience led her to become a nurse after her father’s recovery. In April 1896, at the age of 30, Cavell applied to become a nurse probationer at the London Hospital under Matron Eva Luckes. She worked in various hospitals in England, including Shoreditch Infirmary (now St Leonard’s Hospital). As a private traveling nurse treating patients in their homes.

In 1907, Cavell was recruited by Dr Antoine Depage to be matron of a newly established nursing school, L’École Belge d’Infirmières Diplômées, (or The Berkendael Medical Institute) on the Rue de la Culture (now Rue Franz Merjay), in Ixelles, Brussels. In 1910 she launched the nursing journal, L’infirmière” and within a year she was a training nurse for three hospitals, 24 schools, and 13 kindergartens in Belgium.

When the First World War broke out, she was visiting her widowed mother in Norfolk. She returned to Brussels, where her clinic and nursing school were taken over by the Red Cross. Cavell had been offered a position as the matron (head nurse) in a Brussels clinic. In November 1914, after the German occupation of Brussels, Cavell began sheltering British soldiers and funneling them out of occupied Belgium to the neutral Netherlands. Wounded British and French soldiers as well as Belgian and French civilians of military age were hidden from the Germans and provided with false papers by Prince Réginald de Croÿ at his château of Bellignies near Mons. From there, they were conducted by various guides to the houses of Cavell, Louis Séverin and others in Brussels; where their hosts would furnish them with money to reach the Dutch frontier and provide them with guides obtained through Philippe Baucq. This placed Cavell in violation of German military law. German authorities became increasingly suspicious of her actions, further fueled by her outspokenness.

She was arrested on 3 August 1915 and charged with harboring Allied soldiers. She had been betrayed by Gaston Quien, who was later convicted by a French court as a collaborator. She was held in Saint-Gilles prison for ten weeks, the last two of which were spent in solitary confinement. She made three depositions to the German police (on 8, 18 and 22 August), admitting that she had been instrumental in conveying about 60 British and 15 French soldiers as well as about 100 French and Belgian civilians of military age to the frontier and had sheltered most of them in her house.

In her court-martial she was prosecuted for aiding British and French soldiers, in addition to young Belgian men, to cross the border and eventually enter Britain. She admitted her guilt when she signed a statement the day before the trial. Cavell declared that the soldiers she had helped escape thanked her in writing when they arrived safely in Britain. This admission confirmed that Cavell had helped the soldiers navigate the Dutch frontier, but it also established that she helped them escape to a country at war with Germany.

The penalty according to German military law was death. Paragraph 58 of the German Military Code said that guilty parties; “Will be sentenced to death for treason any person who, with the intention of helping the hostile Power, or of causing harm to the German or allied troops, is guilty of one of the crimes of paragraph 90 of the German Penal Code.” The case referred to in the above-mentioned paragraph 90 consists of “Conducting soldiers to the enemy”, although this was not traditionally punishable by death.  Additionally, the penalties according to paragraph 160 of the German Code, in case of war, applied to foreigners as well as Germans.

While the First Geneva Convention ordinarily guaranteed protection of medical personnel, that protection was forfeit if used as cover for any belligerent action. This forfeiture is expressed in article 7 of the 1906 version of the Convention, which was the version in force at the time. The German authorities instead justified prosecution merely on the basis of the German law and the interests of the German state.

The British government could do nothing to help her. Sir Horace Rowland of the Foreign Office said, “I am afraid that it is likely to go hard with Miss Cavell; I am afraid we are powerless.” Lord Robert Cecil, Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, advised that, “Any representation by us, will do her more harm than good.” The United States, however, had not yet joined the war and was in a position to apply diplomatic pressure. Hugh S. Gibson, First Secretary of the U.S. legation at Brussels, made clear to the German government that executing Cavell would further harm Germany’s already damaged reputation. Later, he wrote:

We reminded [German civil governor Baron von der Lancken] of the burning of Louvain and the sinking of the Lusitania, and told him that this murder would rank with those two affairs and would stir all civilised countries with horror and disgust. Count Harrach broke in at this with the rather irrelevant remark that he would rather see Miss Cavell shot than have harm come to the humblest German soldier, and his only regret was that they had not “three or four old English women to shoot.”

Baron von der Lancken is known to have stated that Cavell should be pardoned because of her complete honesty and because she had helped save so many lives, German as well as Allied. However, General von Sauberzweig, the military governor of Brussels, ordered that “in the interests of the State” the implementation of the death penalty against Baucq and Cavell should be immediate, denying higher authorities an opportunity to consider clemency. Cavell was defended by lawyer Sadi Kirschen from Brussels. Of the 27 persons put on trial, five were condemned to death: Cavell, Baucq (an architect in his thirties), Louise Thuliez, Séverin and Countess Jeanne de Belleville. Of the five sentenced to death, only Cavell and Baucq were executed; the other three were granted reprieve.

When in custody, Cavell was questioned in French, but the session was minuted in German; which gave the interrogator the opportunity to misinterpret her answers. Although she may have been misrepresented, she made no attempt to defend herself. The night before her execution, she told the Reverend Stirling Gahan, the Anglican chaplain who had been allowed to see her and to give her Holy Communion, “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.” These words are inscribed on her statue in St Martin’s Place, near Trafalgar Square in London. Her final words to the German Lutheran prison chaplain, Paul Le Seur, were recorded as, “Ask Father Gahan to tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country.”

From his sick bed Brand Whitlock, the U.S. minister to Belgium, wrote a personal note on Cavell’s behalf to Moritz von Bissing, the governor general of Belgium. Hugh Gibson; Maitre G. de Leval, the legal adviser to the United States legation; and Rodrigo Saavedra y Vinent, 2nd Marques de Villalobar, the Spanish minister, formed a midnight deputation of appeal for mercy or at least postponement of sentence. Despite these efforts, on 11 October, Baron von der Lancken allowed the execution to proceed. Sixteen men, forming two firing squads, carried out the sentence pronounced on her, and on four Belgian men at the Tir national shooting range in Schaerbeek, at 7:00 am on 12 October 1915.

In the months and years following Cavell’s death, countless newspaper articles, pamphlets, images, and books publicized her story. She became an iconic propaganda figure for military recruitment in Britain, and to help increase favourable sentiment towards the Allies in the United States. She was a popular icon because she was a woman, her nursing profession, and her apparently heroic approach to death. Her execution was represented as an act of German barbarism and moral depravity.

The Imperial German Government believed that it had acted fairly towards Cavell. In a letter, German undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Dr Alfred Zimmermann (not to be confused with Arthur Zimmermann, German Secretary for Foreign Affairs) made a statement to the press on behalf of the German government:

It was a pity that Miss Cavell had to be executed, but it was necessary. She was judged justly…It is undoubtedly a terrible thing that the woman has been executed; but consider what would happen to a State, particularly in war, if it left crimes aimed at the safety of its armies to go unpunished because committed by women.

German laws did not make distinctions between sexes, the only exception to this rule being that according to legal customs, women in a “delicate” condition (that is, pregnant), could not be executed. However, in January 1916 the Kaiser decreed that regarding women from then on, capital punishment should not be carried out without his explicit prior endorsement.

I’ve chosen a Norfolk recipe for today because of Cavell’s place of origin: Norfolk dumplings. They are sometimes known as “sinkers and swimmers” because of the habit of some of them to float and some to sink when cooked. You should really prefer the swimmers to the sinkers. Unlike other British dumplings, the Norfolk variety are traditionally made without suet or fat. Because of the lack of fat they are a bit more digestible for invalids I suspect. They can be served on their own as a side dish, but they are usually cooked in stews. This recipe is absolutely plain and basic, but you can add some flavorings such as parsley, if you prefer.

Norfolk Dumplings

Ingredients

½ lb plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
salt

Instructions

Sieve the flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Mix all the ingredients together with enough water to make a light dough.

Turn the dough on to a floured board, knead lightly. Then pinch off small pieces and form into round dumplings.

The dumplings can be cooked in gently boiling water for 20 minutes, or added to a stew 20 minutes before serving.

Dec 302016
 

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Today is Rizal Day in the Philippines, a national holiday that commemorates the execution of patriot José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda, popularly known as José Rizal, on this date in 1896 by Spanish colonial authorities. He was a key member of the Filipino Propaganda Movement which advocated political reforms for the colony under Spain. His sole “crime” was that of writing in opposition to Spanish rule. I am a great admirer of rebels like Rizal; they show how powerful writing can be, and how much writers are to be feared by the corrupt and inhumane. Guns, tanks, bombs, police brutality etc. etc. are certainly things to be mortally afraid of, but it is the words of the poet that endure.

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Rizal was born in 1861 in the town of Calamba in Laguna province. He had nine sisters and one brother. His parents were leaseholders of a hacienda and an accompanying rice farm owned by the Dominicans. Both their families had adopted the additional surnames of Rizal and Realonda in 1849, after Governor General Narciso Clavería y Zaldúa decreed the adoption of Spanish surnames among the Filipinos for census purposes (though they already had Spanish names).

Like many families in the Philippines, the Rizals were of mixed origin. José’s patrilineal lineage could be traced back to Fujian in China through his father’s ancestor Lam-Co, a Chinese merchant who immigrated to the Philippines in the late 17th century. Lam-Co traveled to Manila from Amoy in China, possibly to avoid the famine or plague in his home district, and more probably to escape the Manchu invasion. He finally decided to stay in the islands as a farmer. In 1697, to escape the bitter anti-Chinese prejudice that existed in the Philippines, he converted to Catholicism, changed his name to Domingo Mercado and married the daughter of an indigenous Philippines resident. On his mother’s side, Rizal’s ancestry included Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Tagalog blood. His mother’s lineage can be traced to the affluent Florentina family of Chinese mestizo families originating in Baliuag, Bulacan.

From an early age, Rizal showed a precocious intellect. He learned the alphabet from his mother at 3, and could read and write at age 5. Upon enrolling at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, he dropped the last three names that made up his full name, on the advice of his brother, Paciano and the Mercado family, thus rendering his name as “José Protasio Rizal”. Of this, he later wrote: “My family never paid much attention [to our second surname Rizal], but now I had to use it, thus giving me the appearance of an illegitimate child!” This was to enable him to travel freely and disassociate him from his brother, who had gained notoriety with his earlier links to Filipino priests Mariano Gomez, José Burgos and Jacinto Zamora (popularly known as Gomburza) who had been accused and executed for treason.

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Despite the name change, José, as “Rizal” soon distinguished himself in poetry writing contests, impressing his professors with his facility with Castilian and other foreign languages, and later, in writing essays that were critical of the Spanish historical accounts of the pre-colonial Philippine societies. In 1891, the year he finished El Filibusterismo, this second surname had become so well known that, as he writes to another friend, “All my family now carry the name Rizal instead of Mercado because the name Rizal means persecution! Good! I too want to join them and be worthy of this family name…”

Rizal first studied under Justiniano Aquino Cruz in Biñan, Laguna, before he was sent to Manila. He took the entrance examination in Colegio de San Juan de Letran but he then enrolled at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila and graduated as one of the nine students in his class declared sobresaliente or outstanding. He continued his education at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila to obtain a land surveyor and assessor’s degree, and at the same time at the University of Santo Tomas where he did take up a preparatory course in law. Upon learning that his mother was going blind, he decided to switch to medicine at the medical school of Santo Tomas specializing later in ophthalmology.

Without his parents’ knowledge and consent, but secretly supported by his brother Paciano, he traveled alone to Madrid in May 1882 and studied medicine at the Universidad Central de Madrid where he earned the degree, Licentiate in Medicine. He also attended medical lectures at the University of Paris and the University of Heidelberg. In Berlin, he was inducted as a member of the Berlin Ethnological Society and the Berlin Anthropological Society under the patronage of the famous pathologist Rudolf Virchow. Following custom, he delivered an address in German in April 1887 before the Anthropological Society on the orthography and structure of the Tagalog language. He left Heidelberg a poem, “A las flores del Heidelberg”, which was both an evocation and a prayer for the welfare of his native land and the unification of common values between East and West.

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At Heidelberg, the 25-year-old Rizal, completed in 1887 his eye specialization under the renowned professor, Otto Becker. There he used the newly invented ophthalmoscope (invented by Hermann von Helmholtz) to later operate on his own mother’s eye. From Heidelberg, Rizal wrote his parents: “I spend half of the day in the study of German and the other half, in the diseases of the eye. Twice a week, I go to the bierbrauerie, or beerhall, to speak German with my student friends.” He lived in a Karlstraße boarding house then moved to Ludwigsplatz. There, he met Reverend Karl Ullmer and stayed with him in Wilhelmsfeld, where he wrote the last few chapters of Noli Me Tángere.

Rizal’s amazing multifacetedness was well known. He was an ophthalmologist, sculptor, painter, educator, farmer, historian, playwright and journalist. Besides poetry and creative writing, he dabbled, with varying degrees of expertise, in architecture, cartography, economics, ethnology, anthropology, sociology, dramatics, martial arts, fencing and pistol shooting. Rizal’s life is one of the most documented of 19th century Filipinos due to the vast and extensive records written by and about him. He wrote in several languages and translated many for publication. Overall he was fully conversant in 22 languages. He was also well traveled. He lived and worked in various parts of Asia and Europe, and also visited the United States.

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Rizal’s two most famous novels were originally published in Europe:  Noli Me Tángere, published in Berlin in 1887, and El Filibusterismo, published in Ghent in 1891. These works angered both the Spanish colonial elite and many rich, educated Filipinos. Among other things,They are critical of Spanish friars and the power of the Church. Rizal’s friend Ferdinand Blumentritt, an Austria-Hungary-born professor and historian, wrote that the novel’s characters were drawn from real life and that every episode could be repeated on any day in the Philippines.

Blumentritt was the grandson of the Imperial Treasurer at Vienna in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and a staunch defender of the Catholic faith. This did not dissuade him from writing the preface of El Filibusterismo after he had translated Noli Me Tángere into German. As Blumentritt had warned, these books (and many other published essays on conditions under Spanish rule) resulted in Rizal’s being prosecuted as the inciter of revolution. He was eventually tried by the military, convicted, and executed. This act triggered an enormously adverse reaction in the Philippines and helped fuel the Philippine Revolution of 1896 which ended Spanish rule.

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Moments before his execution on December 30, 1896, by a squad of Filipino soldiers of the Spanish Army, a backup force of regular Spanish Army troops stood ready to shoot the executioners should they fail to obey orders. His last words were those of Jesus Christ: “consummatum est”, – it is finished. He was certainly a deliberate martyr. Rizal was arrested in Spain en route to Cuba and transported back to Manila for trial. During the return journey he was given ample opportunity to escape but refused to take it. He was 35 years old when he was executed.

He was secretly buried in Pacò Cemetery in Manila with no identification on his grave. His sister Narcisa toured all possible gravesites and found freshly turned earth at the cemetery with guards posted at the gate. Assuming this could be the most likely spot she made a gift to the caretaker to mark the site “RPJ”, Rizal’s initials in reverse.

His undated poem, “Mi último adiós” believed to be written a few days before his execution, was hidden in an alcohol stove, which was later handed to his family with his few remaining possessions, including the final letters and his last bequests. During their visit, Rizal reminded his sisters in English, “There is something inside it”, referring to the alcohol stove given by the Pardo de Taveras which was to be returned after his execution, thereby emphasizing the importance of the poem. This instruction was followed by another, “Look in my shoes”, in which another item was secreted. Exhumation of his remains in August 1898, under US rule, revealed he had not been buried in a coffin, and whatever was in his shoes had disintegrated. Now he is buried in Rizal Monument in Manila.

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In his letter to his family he wrote: “Treat our aged parents as you would wish to be treated…Love them greatly in memory of me…December 30, 1896.” He gave his family instructions for his burial: “Bury me in the ground. Place a stone and a cross over it. My name, the date of my birth and of my death. Nothing more. If later you wish to surround my grave with a fence, you can do it. No anniversaries.”

This last request was not honored. Rizal Day was first instituted with a decree from President Emilio Aguinaldo issued December 20, 1898 and celebrated December 30, 1898 as a national day of mourning for Rizal in Malolos, Bulacan and all victims of the Spanish colonial rule of the Philippines. Daet, Camarines Norte was the first town to follow the decree, building a monument designed by Lt. Col. Antonio Sanz, led by Sanz and Lt. Col. Ildefonso Alegre, and financed by the townspeople of Camarines Norte and the rest of the Bicol Region.

With the victory of the US over Spain in the Spanish–American War, the US took control of the Philippines. In an effort to demonstrate that they were more pro-Filipino than the Spaniards, the US Governor-General William Howard Taft in 1901 named Rizal a Philippine national hero. A year later, on February 1, 1902, the Philippine Commission enacted Act No. 345, which made December 30 a public holiday. To underscore the solemnity of the event, President Elpidio Quirino signed Republic Act No. 229 into law on June 9, 1948 that prohibits cockfighting, horse racing, and jai-alai every December 30. The law also requires that flags across the country remain at half staff throughout the day.

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Adobo is an obvious dish to celebrate the life and work of Rizal. I gave a recipe for chicken adobo here http://www.bookofdaystales.com/araw-ng-kasarinlan-independence-day-philippines/ Now it’s time for pork adobo. This is not just a change in meats, but in cooking style in general. Although the name adobo is taken from Spanish, the cooking method has evolved from techniques indigenous to the Philippines. Cooking meat in vinegar and salt dates back to before the Spanish conquest and was used for both pork and chicken. When the Spanish colonized the Philippines in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, they encountered this cooking process. It was first recorded in the dictionary Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala (1613) compiled by the Spanish Franciscan missionary Pedro de San Buenaventura. He referred to it as adobo de los naturales (“adobo of the native peoples”). Dishes prepared in this manner eventually came to be known by this name, with the original term for the dish is now lost. Chinese traders introduced soy sauce which has replaced salt in the dish. However, there are adobo purists who continue to use salt in their adobo.

There are, of course, numerous variants of the adobo recipe in the Philippines. The most basic ingredient of adobo is vinegar, which is usually coconut vinegar, rice vinegar, or cane vinegar (although sometimes white wine or cider vinegar can also be used). Almost every ingredient can be changed according to personal preference. Even people in the same household can cook adobo in significantly different ways. Adobo without soy sauce is known as adobong puti (“white adobo” or “blond adobo”), which uses salt instead, to contrast it with adobong itim (“black adobo”), the more prevalent versions with soy sauce.

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The following is just a suggestion from the hundreds of possibilities. The kind of vinegar you choose makes all the difference. I use rice wine vinegar which is not very traditional, but I prefer the flavor to harsher vinegars.

Adobong Puti

Ingredients

2 lbs (1 kg) pork belly, cubed
1 cup white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1  bay leaf
1 tbsp kosher salt
5 (or more) black peppercorns, cracked
cooking oil (for deep frying)
1 tsp sugar

Instructions

Combine the pork, vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, salt, peppercorns, and 1 cup of cold water in a large stock pot. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the pork is tender (at least 1 hour).

Use a slotted spoon to remove the pork from the broth and leave it to dry on the surface. You can pat it with paper towels if need be.

Heat the oil to 350°F/175°C and deep fry the pork in small batches until it is golden on all sides.

Return the pork to the broth and simmer until the liquid has been reduced by a half. Add the sugar and adjust the seasonings to taste. I often add a little extra minced garlic and some freshly ground black pepper at the end. Simmer a few minutes longer.

Serve hot in deep bowls with rice and a tomato salad.

Serves 6

Feb 272016
 

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On this date in 1902 Australian lieutenant Harry “Breaker” Morant (along with his comrade in arms, Peter Handcock) was executed by firing squad by the British army after being convicted for murder during the 2nd Boer War. Morant, and Handcock, along with lieutenants George Witton, Henry Picton, Captain Alfred Taylor and Major Robert Lenehan – of the Bushveldt Carbineers (BVC), an irregular British force active during the Boer War – were all brought up on charges of murder which were, in part, prompted by a “letter of complaint” signed by James Christie and 14 other members of the BVC, stating that lieutenant Morant had incited the co-accused to murder about 20 people, including the Boer commando Visser, a group of eight Boer prisoners of war, Boer civilian adults and children, and a German missionary named Heese. Morant and Handcock were acquitted of killing Heese, but were sentenced to death on the other two charges and executed within 18 hours of sentencing. Their death warrants were personally signed by Lord Kitchener (before the verdicts were read).

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It was not until 1907 that news of the trial and executions was made public in Australia when Witton published Scapegoats of the Empire. The Australian government ensured that none of its troops would be tried by the British military during World War I, but by then Australia was a nation, whereas during the Boer Wars Australia was a series of colonies which came directly under British rule. The official court records have never been found, prompting accusations of a British cover up.

Conflicting opinions continue to swirl around the trial and execution, not least because of interest aroused by continued publications, and the release of the 1980 film Breaker Morant. The facts of the matter have never been in dispute, and were never denied at the trial. Morant had ordered the summary executions of Visser and 8 prisoners of war. Controversy continues concerning the reasons for the trials of these men at this time. As one of the characters notes in the movie, the Boer War was “a new kind of war for a new century” – what we now call “total war” and what became normative in the 20th century.

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Total war, which, it can be argued, started with the Boer War, involves such tactics as the lack of differentiation between combatants and non-combatants since opposing sides can consider nearly every human resource, even that of non-combatants, as part of the war effort. Thus, civilians and other non-combatants and their resources can become “legitimate” targets of war – evidenced by the carpet bombing of industrial cities, such as Coventry and Dresden in World War II, or the use of nuclear weapons in Japan, in which large numbers of civilian men, women, and children died. Total war can also involve commands to take no prisoners as a tactic.

Let me be quite clear on my moral stance before exploring the complexities and differing opinions on this case. I am utterly opposed to violence on any grounds. I am a confirmed pacifist and cannot be moved from that position. So, in examining the various viewpoints concerning the trial and execution of Morant I begin from the stance that war under any circumstances is morally wrong and, therefore, ALL acts of war are atrocities by definition, and cannot be condoned. That said, it’s possible to examine the arguments on all sides in Morant’s case.

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Bruce Beresford, director of Breaker Morant has made it very clear what his motives were in making the movie:

The film never pretended for a moment that they weren’t guilty. It said they are guilty. But what was interesting about it was that it analysed why men in this situation would behave as they had never behaved before in their lives. It’s the pressures that are put to bear on people in war time… Look at all the things that happen in these countries committed by people who appear to be quite normal. That was what I was interested in examining. I always get amazed when people say to me that this is a film about poor Australians who were framed by the Brits.

I find Beresford’s remarks a tad disingenuous, although I understand his main point. The underlying reality is that the Boers, caught in a conflict that they felt they could not win, had begun resorting to guerrilla tactics that involved the killing of civilians and destruction of their property, as well as the execution of prisoners of war, so that the British felt justified in retaliating in like fashion. Many believe that such tactics were tacitly approved of by the British high command, including Lord Kitchener, but there were no public declarations or direct orders to that effect because such edicts would have been condemned internationally, and, hence, Morant et al were part of a show trial so that Britain could distance itself from tactics which it secretly condoned.

Then we get to the tricky question – the so-called Nuremburg defense. Can soldiers be excused acts of barbarity during times of war simply because they were following orders? Not a question with a straightforward answer. The answer in Nuremburg and Morant’s case was a resounding NO. But I can understand how a soldier, even one of high moral standards, could feel conflicted. The penalty for disobeying orders might be execution. This point, in fact, leads directly to Beresford’s central idea: modern war brutalizes people such that they are never the same afterwards. Here’s the summation by defense counsel from Breaker Morant. What do you think?

If you don’t want to watch the clip, here is an abbreviated transcript:

Now, when the rules and customs of war are departed from by one side, one must expect the same sort of behavior from the other. Accordingly, officers of the Carbineers should be, and up until now have been, given the widest possible discretion in their treatment of the enemy.

Now, I don’t ask for proclamations condoning distasteful methods of war, but I do say that we must take for granted that it does happen. Let’s not give our officers hazy, vague instructions about what they may or may not do. Let’s not reprimand them, on the one hand for hampering the column with prisoners, and at another time, and another place, hold them up as murderers for obeying orders.

The fact of the matter is that war changes men’s natures. The barbarities of war are seldom committed by abnormal men. The tragedy of war is that these horrors are committed by normal men in abnormal situations, situations in which the ebb and flow of everyday life have departed and have been replaced by a constant round of fear, and anger, blood, and death. Soldiers at war are not to be judged by civilian rules, as the prosecution is attempting to do, even though they commit acts which, calmly viewed afterwards, could only be seen as unchristian and brutal. And if, in every war, particularly guerrilla war, all the men who committed reprisals were to be charged and tried as murderers, court martials like this one would be in permanent session. Would they not?

I say that we cannot hope to judge such matters unless we ourselves have been submitted to the same pressures, the same provocations as these men, whose actions are on trial.

Of course the judges in the court martial were military officers, so such a summation was wasted on them – coupled with the fact that the verdict was a foregone conclusion. I would hope that, if anything, the trial brings to light the fact that in modern total war, atrocities are the norm, and are habitually condoned by the high command. It’s well past time to stop using war as a political tool.

Morant's grave

Morant’s grave

I could not find a record of Morant’s last meal before execution. It surely would have been accorded him even though he was shot a bare 18 hours after the verdict was read, which meant he had no chance of appeal, and the entire proceedings had been kept secret from the public. What would your last meal be? I’ve asked this question many times of people. I think I’d have to fall back on comfort food, such as, cock-a-leekie soup, steak and kidney pudding, and apple crumble with egg custard — all British standards which I’ve mentioned numerous times before. However, I would not want to rely on a prison cook to make them the way I like, so they might be wasted choices. Considering that problem, I’d probably have to base my decision on where I was, and what dishes were available locally. Then I’d be down to questions like, “What’s your favorite dish in San Francisco? Nairobi? Tokyo? Adelaide? . . .” I can’t say what my favorite dish of all time is. There’s too many, and, in any case, my tastes change. So maybe just something gargantuan and varied. I’ve always been a fan of all-you-can-eat buffets. I use a small plate, take small portions of one or two different things, and return often.

bm7

I don’t get many comments on this blog, so this is a perfect moment for you to weigh in. What’s your pick for a last meal?