So April 20th done for another year.
In 1971 ﬁve high school students came up with a plan to seek out a rumored hidden marijuana crop and designated a spot by their school in San Rafael, California, and the time of 4:20 PM for their meetings. They ultimately failed to ﬁnd the crop but continued to hang out and begun to be referred to as the Waldos [they met by a particular school wall] and 4/20 became their code for marijuana use. One of the group, Dave Reddix had a brother who was friends with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh and managed Lesh’s side projects, he offered Dave ‘Waldo’ a job as a roadie. Reddix spread the term among the crew and the band, the army of ‘Deadheads’ enthusiastically adopted the phrase. By the early 90s a movement began in Seattle advocating for the legalizing of cannabis. This gave birth to a festival soon to become known as Hempfest attached to 4/20 and billed as ‘half celebration and half call to action’, an annual event growing from an attendance of 500 ‘stoners’ to 100,000. What a long strange trip.
Unfortunately for the world there is another event that occurred, certainly not normally celebrated except by people of ill will, on April 20th. That day in 1889 the fourth of six, some say seven, siblings was born in Austria. There was a marriage, some infants died, there were also step siblings so who’s counting. His parents named him Adolphus Heidler/Hitler. He drifted through childhood beaten by his father, ignored by his mother and terriﬁed by her hunchbacked sister. Without completing his secondary education he moved to Vienna hoping to study Fine Arts however he was rejected and pointed towards Architecture but the lack of completed schooling blocked that academic pathway too. A few aimless years later he moved to Munich and when war broke out he enlisted in the army. This seems to have been a fateful break, at least for Herr Hitler. It opened the pathway to fulﬁlling his, as yet unknown, destiny. ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the ﬂood, leads on to fortune;’ to quote from the Bard’s Julius Caesar. Indeed technically as an Austrian citizen he had no business being in the Bavarian army. Instead he served with a modicum of distinction as a dispatch rider, itself a dangerous job, he reportedly, on one occasion, fell onto a grenade that tumbled into the trench he was in to shield his superior ofﬁcer. It turned out to be a dud. He was wounded in the thigh at the Somme and later narrowly avoided succumbing in a gas attack. His good, and the world’s bad, luck lasted 30 years. This good fortune included having a heavy conference table leg protecting him from an exploding bomb in a narrowly averted assassination attempt by a group of army ofﬁcers. It seemed like Brutus’ observation to Cassius was an accurate assessment until der Fuhrer’s life got ‘bound in shallows and miseries’ with the ﬁnal defeat of Nazi Germany and Hitler’s suicide – mayhap assisted by one of his generals who, er, guided the Fuhrer’s pistol.
At any time from 1914 a ‘simple twist of Fate’ could have saved the misery, death and destruction and the horrors of war and the work/death camps. Once the Fates start weaving the tapestry they don’t stop easily. As the camps were liberated, the full horrors were exposed. The liberating armies, the British, American and Soviets all came upon the camps between January 27 and May 9, 1945. The ﬁrst was Auschwitz by the Soviets whose soldiers, believe it or not, ran rampant among the female prisoners – one ﬁnal act of brutality, this time by the ‘good’ guys.
No longer behind barbed wire but, possessing no shoes or clothing to speak of, badly malnourished and no papers, they found family members gone for ever and no displaced persons assistance as yet set up. Many made their dazed way to wherever the crowded trainsaway from the camps were headed, others walked taking as much as a year to get to their home towns. Instead of a welcome they were received with hostility and resentment as they were perceived to be adding to the food shortages. Homes had been taken over or looted. There were those fortunate enough to ﬁnd cousins and other family members, and so support and shelter. Even as the baby boomers were being born, tens of thousands of refugees were still attempting to get their lives back on track – throughout Europe and the Soviet Union. Many applied for visas to the US which added to the wait.
Yom HaShoah is the day set aside to remember the Holocaust by commemorating the liberation of the various camps, the approximate 6 million Jews killed, as well as those who survived and those who resisted. The date was chosen based on the date of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, 20- 21 April.
Finally, inexorably the Fates, the three Goddesses, Old Ladies who weave the destinies of Mortals came to the end of the thread weaving Hitler’s path. In April 1945 Berlin was being surrounded in a pincer movement by the Western Allies and the Red Army. Hitler, his long time lover Eva Braun and the last of his generals were in their underground bunker. He surfaced long enough on his 59th birthday to hand out Iron Crosses to the teenagers of the Hitler Youth who were the soldiers about to face the Soviets outside Berlin, then descended back into the bunker for the last time. I believe there was cake and champagne. The news didn’t get any better and, typically, he raged at being let down, ordered a couple of erstwhile faithfuls arrested and others shot and declared he wouldn’t leave Berlin. By the 28th he had heard the news of Mussolini’s and mistress Carla Fracci’s ignominious end, he decided to marry Eva and jointly commit suicide. A honeymoon surprise. After the Civil ceremony and vows among the generals and staff the couple retired to his study where the plan was to take cyanide pills [what was almost standard issue among the Nazis] followed by a shot [lead not booze] for him. It’s a little hazy but some stories have Bormann entering the room and ﬁnding the Reichsfuhrer hesitant actually pulled the trigger himself, although this may well have been a propaganda effort to portray Hitler as cowardly. Either way, on April 29 Clotho ran out of Hitler thread. One heck of a month, April; beginning with a Fools day and ending with a Fool’s death – that’s probably being kind but – Poetic License.
The deaths throughout the period 1939 to 1945, when adding civilians and military to the Holocaust victims, reach maybe 60 million. A postscript from the bunker as mass suicides occurred in Berlin at the news of the approaching Soviets whose brutal style was well known, was the decision by Joseph and Magda Goebbels to kill their six children aged 5 to 13, one older step brother was not with them, with cyanide in something sweet [not quite kool aid] before committing suicide on May 1.
Fortunately the Weaver had inserted another thread on the 29th of April back in 1933. The Willie Nelson thread we still enjoy. Inhale – ’ere.