Thursday, June 11, 2009

Holocaust memories

Attack in D.C. brings to mind
another sad day at the museum

The murderous attack Wednesday at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by a crazy octogenarian American nazi brought to mind my last journey there, at the behest of a houseguest who had been a child in Germany during World War II – and a victim of sorts.

Leo, our visitor, shared a few of his time-dimmed memories – the first of them being Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass in November 1938, when Hitler’s thugs began in earnest the genocide that would claim some 6 million European Jews and untold millions of others.

Among the thousands of homes and businesses ransacked as Jews were rounded up, and thousands deported to concentration camps, was a neighborhood confectionery. Leo’s memory was of his asking his parents why the candy store had been destroyed, and not getting much of an answer.

Eventually, Leo said, his family had to move to a town in Poland.

His father – a Nazi official – had been appointed as its de-facto mayor.

Leo’s next shared memory, a little more vivid, comes from late in the war: His mother hurriedly packing the car, and big guns firing in the distance that heralded a Russian advance. His family fled back to Germany, and survived. Leo said his father was sent to some sort of re-education camp, and subsequently came home – and did not speak of his role as a Nazi before dying in the 1950s.

But Leo, as he grew up, learned what happened in the war and eventually moved to America. A retired physician in his early 70s, Leo wanted to visit the Holocaust museum to see firsthand the evidence that so much cruelty and murder had left behind – walk through a rail car that had carried the victims to death camps, see the room filled with their shoes, see the pictures of people who vanished into gas chambers and ovens and mass graves, mothers, fathers, children.

Leo wept. It was the legacy of his father: Guilt and overwhelming sorrow for horrors that had surrounded his childhood.

And I, who grew up Jewish in Northwest Baltimore, put an arm around him offering consolation.

Maybe 88-year-old James W. von Brunn is also a victim. He is, after all, afflicted with a disease all too common in the United States: Hatred. And after voicing it for years, von Brunn, a convicted felon, stepped out of his car and into the museum Wednesday carrying a rifle. In the ensuing exchange of gunfire, von Brunn was critically wounded and a security guard was killed.

Accounts of the event describe von Brunn as, among other things, a white supremacist. His victim Wednesday, Stephen T. Johns, who had worked at the museum for six years, was an African American – and, with the other guards whose quick action protected a crowd of visiting schoolchildren and tourists from injury, a hero.

The slain security guard likely was on duty the day that Leo and I took our sad walk back through time.

To see a few photos from that day, check out Bonnie's Journeys blog at

Friday, June 5, 2009

Women’s tackle football

Tydesha Mayo heads for a score in Burn's May 2 victory against Binghamton. (Photo by Bonnie J. Schupp)

Baltimore Burn need
a field of their own

Team playing all over the (city) map

The Baltimore Burn take the field – but not the same field – Saturday afternoon in a women’s tackle football league season that has been up and down, and all over the Baltimore map.

Trouble is, the Burn lack a regular home field as the team has bounced from high school to high school – from the luxury of artificial turf at Mergenthaler Vo-Tech’s immaculate Art Modell Field, to the rougher grass surface at Northwestern High. The June 6 game will see yet another home field, this one at Patterson High.

“We need a field we can call our own,” says co-owner and defensive tackle Debra Miller, adding that for all the cost of renting a school field, a little consistency of place would be nice.

The team played last year in Annapolis, on what Miller says was “a beautiful field.” But it was also too far away from Baltimore for the team to grow its fan base and build up sponsorships and fund-raising. Home game attendance – in the low 100’s at best this year – is clearly not bringing in enough money to pay the bills. (Tickets are $10 for regular admission, but discounted for children, seniors and folks in public safety or the military.

Complicating the Women’s Football Alliance league team’s quest for field space is the fact that it’s not the only women’s tackle football squad in town. Its May 2 game was moved to Northwestern while the Mervo field was being used that day by the Baltimore Nighthawks playing against the Detroit Demolition, both in the Independent Women’s Football League. (According to the league Web site, the Nighthawks fielded only 14 players but managed to hold off Detroit through three scoreless quarters before losing 14-0.)

As for the up-and-down part of its season, the Burn squad won its scheduled road opener through a forfeit when the Connecticut Cyclones sent word it could not field a team. A week later, the Burn’s April 25 home opener at Mervo wasn’t very pretty: A 43-6 loss to the Philadelphia Liberty Belles.

On May 2, at Northwestern, a better-prepared Burn team whipped the Binghamton Tiger Cats 36-0, and that was the score after just half a game. The Tiger Cats’ coach took the visiting team off the field early in the third quarter, complaining about the playing surface and ending the injury-marred game as a Binghamton player lay nearly immobile on the field awaiting an ambulance. (It took nearly 20 minutes after a 911 call before the first responders arrived – a Baltimore fire truck crew – followed about 10 minutes later by a city fire ambulance.)

In a road game in Pennsylvania May 9, the Burn notched a 20-16 win over the Keystone Assault, then returned north May 30 and showed how much it had improved in a road game against the Liberty Belles, losing 13-10 (a far cry from the home-opener loss of 43-8 to the same team). Miller said the Burn had three touchdowns called back on penalties. And a Burn fumble deep in Philadelphia territory late in the game sealed the loss.

Philadelphia, which has defeated Baltimore twice this season, sits in first place undefeated in five games.

The third-place Burn, officially 3-2 on the season, take on the Assault again on Saturday. Kickoff is 4 p.m. at Patterson High, 100 Kane Street.

After that, just two games remain on the regular season schedule – June 13 at Binghamton, and the home finale June 20 against the New Jersey Titans. Exactly where that game will be played – well, we’ll let you know.

The future of newspapers

If you’ve been following The Real Muck reports on the Baltimore Sun layoffs and changes shrinking the print editions while focusing increasingly online, check out this report on a related panel discussion held Tuesday with participants who included its current editor and his predecessor:

The account above, by Joan Jacobson, links to another by panel participant Mark Potts that elaborates somewhat on what he had to say

Far more entertaining is an article by Maryland Daily Record editor Tom Linthicum, who made some remarks from the floor Tuesday. Tom, a colleague in my days at The Sun, interviewed former Sun editors Bill Marimow and John Carroll, former deputy managing editor Marty Kaiser (now heading the Milwaukee newspaper) and former Sun publisher Mike Waller. Their remarks are very interesting and occasionally amusing, like this tidbit from Waller, who was my favorite among the more than half-a-dozen publishers I outlasted at the Baltimore newspaper:

“Tribune management confuses innovation with idiocy. I could wear my underwear over my trousers and Tribune would think that’s innovation. Everybody else would think I was wacko.”

Daily Record reporter Liz Farmer also reported on the panel:

But what about The Real Muck? I’m still thinking about what to say. Some of what I heard leaves me at a loss for words. But I’ll be playing back my tinny digital recording of the event, because something… actually, a lot of things… bother me.

Daily fortune cookie message

All this stuff about newspapers has distracted me from a fun feature on this blog – although it has not kept me from eating too often at the Szechuan CafĂ© two miles up the road from my suburban Pasadena paradise.

But here’s tonight’s message of hope: You are never bitter, deceptive or petty.

Daily number: 647