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“The S.S. Officer’s Armchair” opens up an almost totally unknown aspect of Nazi history

“The S.S. Officer’s Armchair – Uncovering the Hidden Life of a Nazi”
By Daniel Lee   Published 2020   Available on Amazon

The armchair/SS Officer Robert Griesinger

Reviewed by BERNIE BELLAN
In 2011 a British historian by the name of Daniel Lee had just completed his PhD in history “that examined the experiences of Jews in Vichy France.”

Lee is Jewish – and, as he explains during the course of his fascinating new book, “The S.S. Officer’s Armchair”, his family, originally from Poland, lost several relatives during the Holocaust.
But, simply by accident, in 2011 he was introduced to a young woman at a dinner party he was hosting in Florence, which was where he was living at the time. That chance encounter led to Lee’s going down a rabbit hole that took him all over Europe – and to the Unites\d States as well, in search of answers to a mystery that was unveiled to him at that party.
What happened is the young woman, who had heard that Lee was a historian of the Second World War, asked him whether he might be interested in examining some documents that her mother, who was living in Amsterdam, had discovered had been hidden in the cushion of an armchair that she had owned for years – ever since she herself was a young student in Prague.
The documents evidently belonged to someone by the name of Robert Griesinger who, as evidenced by all the swastikas imprinted on the documents, must have been some sort of a functionary in the Nazi regime.
Naturally, Lee was fascinated by the story he heard. He proceeded to Amsterdam to interview the woman’s mother and to examine the documents for himself. That initial journey led to Lee’s dogged pursuit of one clue after another as to the background of Robert Griesinger – and the eventual discovery that Griesinger was a member of the SS (also the Gestapo), who was very likely involved in atrocities during the war.
But, what set Griesinger apart from other Nazis whose crimes have been the subjects of lengthy investigations, however, was that he was not at all a notable member of any of the organizations to which he belonged. He was actually a lawyer by training, but as Lee shows, he wasn’t a particularly good one; in fact, his entire life can
be said to be noteworthy not because of anything exceptional he did, rather because his achievements can be described fairly as having been so mediocre.

What compelled Lee to spend years tracing the life of such an unimportant figure? As he explains early on, “The famous fanatics and murderers could not have existed without the countless enablers who kept the government running, filed the paperwork, and lived side-by-side with potential victims of the regime in whom they instilled fear and the threat of violence.”
At the same time Lee’s comprehensive investigation of Griesinger’s life adds to the body of knowledge that other historians, especially Daniel Goldhagen, in his “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”, have developed in showing not just how thoroughly aware most Germans were of the atrocities that were being committed by the Nazis, they were, if not actively supporting the Nazis, complicit in not objecting to what was so clearly happening.
It was the active and willing participation of hundreds of thousands of low-level functionaries working for the Nazi state that allowed the machinery of the regime to function. As Lee also notes, “The narrative I trace will show how low-ranking officials might have existed in between two disconnected worlds; the first filled with the regime’s well-known high functionaries, and the second that comprised the ordinary German population.”
How Lee goes about his tireless pursuit of leads that begin to fill out the mystery of those documents in the armchair forms the basis of a first-rate mystery novel, let alone a non-fiction work that relies on detailed footnoting – as one would expect from a professional historian.
Many of the individuals to whom Lee turns for information are either initially reluctant to speak with him or simply turn him down outright, but in time he is able to interview sufficient members of Griesinger’s surviving family members to arrive at a thorough knowledge of Griesinger’s life, from birth almost to death. It would be impossible to know the exact circumstances of Griesinger’s death in 1945 in Prague, as Lee explains, since following the defeat of the Nazis at the hands of the Russians, aided by Czech rebels, the tables were quickly turned on whatever Germans were living in Prague at that time and they were subjected to much the same atrocities that Nazis had perpetrated on so many Czechs for years.
But, in true mystery style, Lee does uncover some quite fascinating information about Lee’s probable death from dysentery – again, from a most unlikely source.

In researching his book Lee decided to go back as far as he could in sourcing Griesinger’s familial roots. To his surprise, he learns that Griesinger’s father was actually born in New Orleans, which is to where Griesinger’s grandfather had emigrated in the 19th century.
The American connection proves highly important to understanding not only Griesinger’s racist attitudes, also the attitudes of many other Germans, it turns out. As Lee uncovers information about German immigration to the deep south of the U.S., he learns that many Germans were involved in the slave trade – and when many Germans returned to Germany (as was the case in the 1870s when the U.S. was in the grip of a severe economic depression), they brought back those racist ideas with them.
Griesinger came from an upper class background, moreover, in which anti-Semitic attitudes, in addition to racist attitudes toward Blacks, were also typically deeply engrained. Much has already been written about how could such a sophisticated culture as was Germany’s have produced such abhorrently racist ideas, but in “The SS Officer’s Armchair,” Lee is able to probe the thinking of specific individuals in Griesinger’s family to show how relatively easy it was for Hitler’s racism to be commonly accepted within the German upper and middle upper classes.
One character in particular, Robert Griesinger’s mother, “Wally”, proves to be an invaluable source for Lee, as he comes across a detailed diary that Wally had kept from the time she was a young girl throughout her life and during the Second World War. The resentment that Wally exhibits towards those who “betrayed” Germany during the First World War, which was one of Hitler’s paramount themes in engendering support for his racist platform, helps put a clear understanding how Hitler was able to go from being a marginal figure eventually to the unquestioned ruler of the German Reich.
Griesinger’s family lived in Stuttgart, which is located in south-west Germany. Robert Griesinger’s home is now owned by Jochen Griesinger, a nephew of Robert’s who, it turns out, is not on speaking terms with either of Griesinger’s daughters, Barbara and Jutta. Jochen, however, was quite willing to talk to David Lee – and to show him around the house.
In the course of his investigation Lee discovers that two of Robert Griesinger’s next-door neighbours in Stuttgart, Helene and Fritz Rothschild, were Jewish. The Rothschilds were able to escape to Paris and survived the war. Almost all the other Jews in Stuggart were not so lucky.
Robert Griesinger was an unexceptional student. Given the German well-known propensity for record-keeping, Lee is able to find reports on Griesinger’s educational career from his earliest days at school throughout his period at Tubingen University. Remarkably Griesinger was able to obtain a doctorate in law but, disappointingly for him, the most he was able to do with that degree was teach agricultural law at a rural agricultural college.
There is no particular indication from anything that Lee is able to uncover that Griesinger was an early follower of National Socialism. But, as was the case with so many other of his peers, Griesinger saw the opportunity to career advancement by joining the party.
Eventually Griesinger became a member of both the Gestapo (secret police) and the SS (strike force). Although Lee is not able to produce any documentation to show that Griesinger was involved first hand in either the torture or murder of anyone, he is able to deduce from various records that, even if he wasn’t directly involved in any specific activities of that sort, he was at the scene where those activities took place.
In particular, while working for the Gestapo (as a lawyer), Griesinger’s place of work in Stuttgart was the Hotel Silber, which was used by the Gestapo to detain and torture individuals. Lee surmises that Griesinger, whose office was situated directly over the basement of the hotel, would have had to have heard the screams of the torture victims.
Later, during the actual war, Griesinger served for a time on the Eastern Front, in Ukraine, where he was eventually wounded and sent back to Stuttgart for rehabilitation. But, during Griesinger’s period of service in Ukraine, his Wehrmacht unit was stationed outside Kiev, and he was in service at the time 30,000 Jews were murdered at Babi Yar over a two-day period, which was the worst massacre of Jews to that date (later to be surpassed by other massacres in Odessa and Poland).

Griesinger had long wanted to be posted to Prague during the war, as Prague was seen as a haven of tranquility for Germans living there. In 1943 he got his wish and he was able to move his wife Gisela, his two daughters, and a stepson from a previous marriage of his wife, to Prague, where they were mostly spared the deprivations that ordinary Germans were suffering throughout Germany as the result of heavy Allied bombing.
While in Prague, Lee is able to piece together Griesinger’s duties, which involved the arrest and deportation of thousands of individuals, both Jews and non-Jews. His principal duty was to arrange for the shipment of Czechs to be used as slave labourers in German factories and mines. Griesinger was also responsible for the confiscation of Czech factories from their rightful owners – always done with the imprimatur of official Nazi regulations.
As Lee works his way through an ongoing series of visits to repositories of archives and interviews with anyone who might have some knowledge of Griesinger’s life, he is able to put together an amazingly detailed description of what life would have been like for Griesinger.
Considering that he was still conducting interviews as recently as 2018 the fact that he has produced such a compelling read is testament to his skill as not just a historian, but a very talented writer who was able to work quickly, as well.
Toward the end of his book Lee revisits his motivation in wanting to go to such extraordinary lengths to describe the life of a “faceless bureaucrat”: “This book shows that it is possible to trace the life of one of those ordinary Nazis whose role in war and genocide seems to have vanished from the historical record. Returning texture and agency to one such perpetrator affords Griesinger the opportunity to stand in for the thousands of anonymous ordinary Nazis whose widespread culpability wreaked havoc on so many lives and whose biographies have, until now, never seen the light of day.”
In looking at some of the reviews posted by readers on Amazon, there is a consistent theme of gratitude expressed to Lee for opening up a door to a part of history that has hitherto remained largely unknown – not because historians were disinterested in the subject; rather, they were stymied by the lack of evidence to paint the sort of detailed picture of just an “ordinary” Nazi bureaucrat that Lee has so brilliantly succeeded in doing. If it weren’t for that chance meeting at a Florence dinner party, however, this book would never have been written.

 

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Features

Popularity of Online Casino Games in Canada

In recent years, the popularity of online casino games in Canada has surged, captivating the attention of a diverse audience seeking thrilling entertainment. With the convenience of accessing these games from the comfort of home, Canadians are exploring the vast world of virtual casinos that offer an extensive array of gaming options.

Diverse Selection of Casino Games:

One of the key factors contributing to the widespread appeal of online casino games in Canada is the vast selection available. There are hundreds of top casino games online, covering every genre imaginable. From classic table games like poker and blackjack to immersive slot machines with captivating themes, Canadian players have a plethora of options to choose from.

The Rise of Online Slots:

Among the various casino games, online slots have witnessed a significant surge in popularity. The ease of gameplay and the potential for substantial payouts make slots a preferred choice for both seasoned players and newcomers. With themes ranging from ancient civilisations to popular movies and TV shows, online slots offer a diverse and engaging experience for players of all preferences.

Convenience and Accessibility:

The accessibility of online casino games is a key driver behind their growing popularity in Canada. Players no longer need to travel to a physical casino to experience the thrill of gambling. Instead, they can enjoy their favourite games with just a few clicks on their computer or mobile device. This convenience has opened up the world of online gambling to a broader audience, attracting both seasoned gamblers and those trying their luck for the first time.

Technology Advancements:

Advancements in technology have played a pivotal role in enhancing the online casino gaming experience. High-quality graphics, realistic sound effects, and seamless gameplay contribute to an immersive environment that mirrors the excitement of traditional brick-and-mortar casinos. Additionally, the integration of live dealer games brings an authentic touch to online gaming, allowing players to interact with real dealers in real-time.

Regulatory Environment:

The regulatory environment in Canada has also contributed to the popularity of online casino games. While each province has its own regulations, the overall legal framework allows for a thriving online gambling industry. This has given rise to reputable online casinos that prioritise player safety and adhere to strict industry standards, ensuring a fair and secure gaming environment.

Social Aspect and Community Engagement:

Online casinos in Canada are not just about individual gameplay; they also provide a platform for social interaction. Many online casinos feature chat rooms and community forums where players can connect, share experiences, and discuss strategies. This sense of community adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the gaming experience, making online casinos a social activity beyond the solitary pursuit of winning.

The popularity of online casino games in Canada is undoubtedly on the rise, driven by a combination of diverse gaming options, convenience, technological advancements, and a favourable regulatory environment. With a wide array of top casino games available at their fingertips, Canadians can indulge in the excitement of gambling from the comfort of their homes. As the online casino industry continues to evolve, it’s clear that virtual gaming is here to stay and will likely continue to captivate audiences across the country.

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Features

Life in Israel four months after October seventh

Orly & Solly Dreman

By ORLY DREMAN

(Special to the JP&N) Feb. 1, 2024

In every news broadcast that we hear that “The IDF spokesman is permitted to announce”… then every person in Israel sits down, holds their breath and waits to hear the names of the soldiers fallen in action that day. This causes deep sadness to every family in Israel. For example, I found out the son of my T.V technician was killed and my handyman’s son was seriously injured. Death in Israel is so personal.

Our synagogue recently mourned twenty seven year old Inbar Heiman who was kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music nature party on October seventh and was murdered in captivity. She was a gifted young woman filled with love and compassion. She was a creative artist that was supposed to enter her senior year at university this academic year. We had prayed and wished that she would return until her family received the tragic news of her death.

When we made personal medical visits to the Hadassah hospital, we often heard helicopters overhead bringing in wounded soldiers from Gaza. In the surgery department we saw a reserve soldier being released after six weeks in the hospital. His wife and newborn baby were with him. The department had a touching farewell gathering with Israeli flags, music and cakes. This is how every soldier who leaves the hospital is treated. More than fourteen thousand civilians and soldiers were hospitalized since October seventh with most of the injuries being in the hands and legs, burns, head and eye injuries.

We seldom are in the mood to go to a restaurant these days, but if we do, such outings are accompanied by guilt feelings. Is it right to go when our people are suffering?- the hostages are starving. We all wear the metal disc that says “Bring Them Home now- Our hearts are captured in Gaza”. They occupy our thoughts pervasively. Some of the hostages have suffered untreated gunshot wounds and the hygiene conditions are poor, many of them not showering for four months, sitting thirty meters under the ground in dark tunnels, with no electricity and suffering from extreme malnutrition. Some of them have diseases like Celiac, Asthma, Colitis, Diabetes, Fibromialgia, heart diseases and allergies. They are getting no medications and time is running out for them. Twenty five of them have already perished. What sort of civil society will we be if we abandon them?

Whole families are recruited for combat duty in different areas of the country. It might be a brother and a sister fighting in Gaza or a father in Judea and Samaria while another brother is fighting on the Lebanese border. If you ask soldiers who have lost their siblings in combat if they wish to go back to fight after the shiva, they do not hesitate, even though it is so hard on the parents. This demonstrates the dedication of Israeli citizens and their wish to complete the task of exterminating the Hamas, while at the same time knowing their family member did not die in vain. The grief is intergenerational and we are even acquainted with grandparents whose grandchildren are in combat and they are given the opportunity to go to workshops that help them with their anxiety.

In a Knesset Committee it was recently reported That many survivors from the Nova party have taken their own lives. Others continue to experience the trauma of the horrific events. They cannot sleep nor eat. Many were sexually abused and even though they were not murdered they continue to experience the pain- the sights, voices- cries for help and the fear. They are in a sense also fighters who awaken to a new existence everyday and continue to fight for their existence.

At the military cemeteries there is one funeral process after another and the families are asked to leave the site to make room to prepare for the next funeral. Wounded soldiers arrive in ambulances, on hospital beds or wheelchairs in order to eulogize their fallen comrades.

The reservists who return home after months of combat are having troubles adjusting because this war, like the War of Independence, is very meaningful. It is the most justified war our homeland has encountered. Upon their return there is a big downfall in physical and mental energy. A stranger cannot understand this. These soldiers were disconnected from normal civilian routine for a long time and they had difficult and intimate experiences with their combat mates. They have lost friends and did not have time to mourn. They must release the stress they were exposed to. They are back in body but not always in spirit. They also might be recruited again in the near future to the southern or the northern front, the war is not over. Many men who were injured worry about their future fertility and sexual functioning.

They entertain such existential thoughts as would it be better that I am killed in action before I have children and leave no descendants, or losing my life and leaving behind orphans. Dozens of children remain orphaned from both parents. They also have witnessed their family members being murdered and their homes burned down. Years ago, Solly treated and did a follow up on a family where both parents were murdered in a terrorist attack. Even though the children were adopted by loving relatives they suffered from survivor guilt and this expressed itself in such phenomena as dropping out of school, turning into juvenile delinquents and having trouble in intimate relations.

The evacuees from the south and the north are dispersed in hundreds of hotels in the center of the country. Hence, they have no permanent home, have no privacy and many have no work, nothing to do for months on end and experience feelings of powerlessness. Some pupils are not capable of returning to their temporary schools because of anxieties, depression and fear. Some teenagers have turned to drugs and alcohol which increases violence and vandalism. For them school is experienced as a waste of time. Their friends were murdered, some still have relatives in captivity and everything is falling apart. They also experience sleep disruptions and are in no mood to study. For them life is a living hell. Some families are moved from city to city several times. The children do not have friends in the new locations and they feel lonely and express a lack of social support.

In the realm of parenting many mothers even those who were NOT directly exposed to the dramatic events reported that their children cry more (eighty three percent). Others say the children have difficulties sleeping (seventy three percent), have concentration problems (fifty four percent) and many children are developing eating disorders. In sixty percent the anxiety of the children is so high it hurts functioning. For example, they are often afraid to leave the house. Other disturbances were reported such as bed-wetting, insisting on sleeping with their parents and acts of anger and aggression.

We, as Israelis are also concerned with our Jewish brethren who are experiencing thousands of antisemitic incidents, higher than the number of all incidents in the last decade. There are many Jews in the diaspora who are considering emigration to Israel after experiencing antisemitic events such as seeing their synagogue, Hebrew school, kosher butcher and other Jewish businesses being stoned and burned. For them Israel is their safest haven.

On a more optimistic note the Jewish people have prevailed over thousands of years despite terrible events. In spite of the uncertainty not everything is lost. We are united and strong. The soldiers are full of motivation and good values. I firmly believe that if we are patient and persist, the Jewish people and the state of Israel will prevail.

Orly Dreman is a 10th generation Israeli. Her cousin, Ruvi Rivlin, was a former president of Israel. Orly’s father was a diplomat who served both in North America and in Europe.
By profession Orly is an English teacher. She has dealt with children suffering from ADD.
Since childhood, Orly has been involved in voluntary work with the disabled, the challenged, new immigrants, the elderly and others. 

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Features

The Critical Job Roles in Online Business

More companies than ever are embracing remote working. As of 2023, around 16% of businesses have a fully remote working model, with many more adopting a hybrid one. All of this should come as welcome news to anyone looking for a better work-life balance. As well as saying goodbye to grueling commutes, remote employees can embrace lucrative salary packages, generous benefits, and more. Ready to reap the benefits of online work yourself? Below are just a handful of remote working opportunities to consider.

Video Game and Casino Platform Development

Whether it’s creating Canadian online slots for real money casinos or an open-world epic, great games need talented developers. Thankfully, this is one sector where the typical rules of the 9-5 don’t apply. In the US, an experienced game developer can expect to take home around $103,000 annually. For a midweight casino games developer, a starting salary of around $65,000 is fairly respectable.

Software Engineering

If you have a background in software engineering, you’re in luck. Currently, it’s one of the highest-paid online roles around, with an average salary of $108,000. There’s no one size-fits-all remit for a software engineer, but typical roles include designing applications, testing, and creating system upgrades.

UX Design

User experience is becoming increasingly important as companies strive to make their digital products more accessible. Unsurprisingly, there’s a high demand for user experience designers, with many positions now advertised as remote-first roles. You’ll need to have sufficient software and development experience to excel here. What’s more, you’ll need to work closely with clients to meet the needs of the consumer. If you think you could do well in a role like this, expect an annual salary in the region of $97,000.

Web Design

One role you’ll never struggle to find is that of a web designer. It’s a pretty broad field, so expect a lot of disparity when it comes to job remits and starting salaries. At a minimum, a web designer worth their salt should be able to create accessible websites for a wide range of clients. You’ll also need to be familiar with coding languages and testing. Less experienced web designers can expect to command a starting salary of around $43,000. If you’ve been working professionally for more than a few years and have a solid portfolio to back you up, you can easily negotiate twice that amount.

Entry-Level Online Roles

For digital natives, remote working will come as second nature. Don’t have the skills to land a web designer or developer job? Not to worry. There are an increasing number of entry-level remote roles out there.

Customer service roles are readily available, with positions to cater to all experience levels. At the bottom rung of the ladder, you might be tasked with making sales calls or resolving complaints from customers. A customer service agent can comfortably make around $40-50,000 a year. If you operate on a commission basis or can take advantage of a generous bonus scheme, you could easily double this annually.

Is Remote Working Here To Stay?

Even as many businesses encourage workers back to the office, there’s an deniable upward trend in the number of remote and hybrid-only roles on the job market. Video conferencing technology and collaboration tools are making it easier than ever for remote teams to remain connected. Meanwhile, company executives are finding it hard to argue with significantly reduced overheads and increased productivity.

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