Friday, January 12, 2007

January 12

By grotesque coincidence, two of the central actors in the German Third Reich squirmed loose into the world on 12 January 1893 -- the 400th anniversary of the expulsion of Sicily's entire Jewish population. Reichsmarschall Herman Goering -- a Bavarian who eventually rose to be Hitler's second in command during World War II -- and the Estonian racial theorist Albert Rosenberg shared fifty-three birthdays on this earth, although Rosenberg managed to outlive Goering by a single day.

As it happened, both were scheduled for execution by hanging on 16 October 1946, as set forth by the judgments of the Nuremberg court. Goering, however, somehow came into possession of a small dose of potassium cyanide, which he ingested the night before his date with the gallows. Abandoned by the man with whom he shared a birthday, Rosenberg nevertheless had plenty of company in his last moments and may not have missed Goering at all. Instead, he ascended the scaffold with Hans Frank (Governor-General of occupied Poland), Wilhelm Frick (Interior Minister), Alfred Jodi (chief of the armed forces operational staff), Ernst Kaltenbrunner (head of the Gestapo), Wilhelm Keitel (chief of staff for the armed forces high command), Joachim von Ribbentrop (foreign minister), Julius Streicher (anti-Semitic editor and Reich propagandist), Arthur Seyss-Inquart (who oversaw the deportation of Dutch Jews), and Fritz Sauckel (whose labor bureau forcibly conscripted millions of unfree workers to advance the cause of the German people). By the time his former colleagues' necks snapped at the end of a rope, Herman Goering had been dead of a massive cardiac arrest for hours.

Far from Nuremberg on the southern cape of Africa, Pieter Willem Botha -- a racist Afrikaner who had grown disillusioned with the Nazis he once openly admired -- turned 30 years old that day. A lawyer by training, Botha was only two years away from entering the South African parliament as a representative from the town of George. In 1978, Botha assumed the title of Prime Minister, defending the apartheid system with a noxious zeal that was at times described as "reformist" and "pragmatic."

In an almost completely unrelated matter, January 12 also happens to be the birthday of Rush Hudson Limbaugh III. Known at earlier points in his radio career by the quasi-porn star names Rusty Sharpe and Jeff Christie, Limbaugh roared ass-backward into the embittered, revanchist ideological climate of the early 1990s. His derisive style made him a star, though his wealth was never enough to secure his true heart's desire -- enough Oxycontin and Vicodin to keep him in a perpetual state of drooling self-satisfaction. Long an advocate for "family values," Limbaugh has wheezed his way through a trio of failed marriages, none of which brought forth the fruit of his shriveled loins.