Friday, September 15, 2006

September 15

On this date in 1935, the National Socialist Worker’s Party adopted two of the so-called Nuremburg Laws, bringing to unholy completion the segregation of Jews from the social, economic and political life of Germany. Rooted in bogus scientific claims about racial genealogy, the “Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor” forbade marriage and sexual congress between Jews and “nationals of German or kindred blood”; denied Jews the right to employ German women in their homes; and prohibited Jews from hoisting the Reichsflagge (while permitting them to fly the blue and white Zionist flag, a legal protection intended to highlight the “international,” alien loyalties of the Jew -- and thus to further rationalize their exclusion and extermination). The “Reich Citizenship Law,” adopted the same day, defined a “citizen of the Reich” as one who is constituted with “German or kindred blood, and who, through his behavior, shows that he is both desirous and personally fit to serve loyally the German people and the Reich.” Full political rights were restricted only to such authentic specimens of German blood and character.


Nearly 30 years later, on 15 September 1963, the boundaries of race and citizenship were delineated in a most horrific fashion in Birmingham, Alabama. Determined to terrorize those who resisted the state’s Jim Crow laws -- the battery of exclusions that helped inspire the Nuremburg codes -- the city’s chapter of the Ku Klux Klan planned and executed the destruction of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Just after 10:00 on that Sunday morning, a bomb ripped a hole through the east wall of the church, killing Addie Mae Collins (14), Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14) and Cynthia Wesley (14). Investigators in Birmingham soon identified four men as the likely conspirators; although the local office of the FBI recommended the prosecution of Robert Chambliss, Herman Cash, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry for the murder of the four girls, national director J. Edgar Hoover suspended the investigation, determining that the chances of achieving a conviction were “remote.” Fourteen years after the bombing, “Dynamite Bob” Chambliss was convicted of murder and sent to prison, where he died, unrepentant and continuing to claim innocence, in 1985. Blanton and Cherry were each sentenced to life in 2000 and 2002. Cash died, uncharged, in 1994.