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Sunday, February 06, 2005
Could things have been different?

The late, greatly revered Robert Maxwell used to tell the following story about one of his encounters with a Russian premier - I think it was Leonid Brezhnev. The two of them were discussing World politics, wondering how, if relatively trivial events had gone differently, the general picture might have turned out differently, too. (Could it be that this was the beginning of chaos theory?)
Brezhnev: Things would have been very different had Khrushchev been assassinated instead of Jack Kennedy in 1963, don’t you think?.

Maxwell: How so?

Brezhnev: Do you want the short or the long answer?

Maxwell: The short answer.

Brezhnev: Aristotle Onassis would not have married Mrs Nikita Khrushchev.
[Please note that this is a more accurate rendering of the joke than is contained in Tom Bower’s book ‘Maxwell – The Final Verdict’]

The death of Max Schmeling makes us think of how other ‘minor’ happenings may have affected large scale World events. Schmeling first beat Joe Louis in 1936. The obituary from which I quote is to be found here.
Schmeling's success happened two months before the Nazi attempt to use the Berlin Olympics as a showcase for white, Aryan supremacy (ruined by the triumph of black American athlete Jesse Owens).
Worse was to come for the leader of the Master Race:
Max Schmeling... will primarily be remembered as the boxer who lost the most politically charged sporting bout in history. That was his crushing, one-round defeat by the American Joe Louis, the "Brown Bomber", at New York's Yankee Stadium on June 22, 1938.
Seeing Aryan champions being defeated by ‘inferior’ blacks did not derail the mad little Corporal’s attempt at World domination but one thing could have reduced him to a laughing stock, even among his own followers: the crash of the Hindenburg. Germany’s flagship piece of technology, decked out with swastikas.

What is little-known is that, before her launch, Hitler wanted to have the airship called ‘Hitler’. The airship’s designer, Eckner, was not a supporter of the Nazis and rushed to have the vessel named ‘Hindenburg’.

Just imagine if Hitler had had his way. Would his regime have survived the 1937 Lakehurst NJ flaming crash of the airship named after him?

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