A Story, Advice and Wartime
|May 21|| 10|
At a Sufi gathering, Shahabuddin Less tells one of Shamcher’s favourite stories: Moses and the High Priest and the Drunk. Listen now.
The Shamcher Bulletin brings you snippets from Shamcher’s writings that might help frame and context our experience of the world we live in today. If this was forwarded to you and you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do it here.
We began this issue with audio from Amir O’Loughlin’s treasure trove of recorded Shahabuddin Stories. Below are excerpts from Shamcher’s correspondence on Sufism, a short wartime interview, and Part One of a long read about his involvement in an MI5 plot to kidnap Hitler.
“I don’t think long life is a sign of a man being very wise. But keeping the mind bubbling with ideas all the time helps a man to live fully.”
Me, I “retired” from a desk in Keyport to a desk in Sea Water Lab U of Calif — same desk I had had fifteen years ago, can you think of anything sillier? Only on Saturday do I go to the beach, rain or shine, run (as you run at 82, not fast) and that’s the only day I live. I envy you in your mountain cabin. I envy your hard muscles. Keep it up! Cram for the finals? Don’t worry. Not you. Sometimes I go to Sufi events. Why? Then in the middle of a dozing dribble my name is called, “Do you remember that, Shamcher? In Suresnes?” Pir Vilayat is interrupting his beautiful guided meditation to play hommage [sic] this old desk-fellow.
And tell me what you thought it all would be, and how we became so different, so confusing to you, so upsetting. Is it because you expected to reach a firm concept, know it all, and found you know less and less? But that is excellent, the exactly right direction. All “knowledge” will drop from your mind like useless toys, and you will begin to see – but not with your mind though.
Sufis are average people. Putting on the Sufi label does not make them (us) angels, does not even change us immediately. Just a longing, a hope that we add to life to make it richer.
Only when you look sternly at “leaders” do you see division, and you see division among others who also look sternly and expectantly at “leaders”. But “leaders” are not leaders in that sense. Before you have learned dependance on yourself alone and on whoever you find who represents unity, whether they are “leaders” or floor-sweepers, you can find no “unity”.
What could I have done for you? I am not a teacher. Wonder if any one is.
God never punishes, but some souls punish themselves. So unnecessary. Masochism. They even try to “punish” others.
Cheer up. “Oh Lord, liberate me from all the obscuring veils, allurements and chains of attachment” This is the cry of the seeker after truth.
From THE POUGHKEEPSIE EAGLE NEWS, November 28, 1940.
PEACE - Just arrived from Oslo is Brynjolf Bjorset, Norwegian civil engineer, reserve officer and writer, who fought in Norway; didn’t surrender as a good boy when the others did. He crossed Hitler’s lines five times with four British officers, and with a secret report escaped to Sweden.
When on his way to the U.S. he was recaptured in the Arctic Ocean and fell into the hands of the Gestapo. They put him through the mill of trial and questioning, his adventures making him liable to the death sentence at that time. But knowing the German trend of mind from long experience in world traveling, he intrigued his questioners into heated arguments and outbursts of humor - and how he loves New York!
“I can’t really explain why I was let out,” says Mr. Bjorset. “I could give many explanations, but I am not really sure which of them is correct. One thing I discussed very ardently with my German questioners was the problem of peace. The start was Hitler’s talk of July 20—the day I was captured. ‘This peace proposal has no conditions in it,’ I said. ‘What do you think Hitler really wants? Because I think a peace feeler now is very sensible. The war has come to a deadlock. Neither England nor Germany can win a quick definite victory…’
‘What are you telling us?’ they roared, hotly, and the argument was on. When in September it had been proved that I was pretty much right they were more friendly. I even got my visa to leave the country, and finally was let out in October. I have a strong feeling that the Germans are dead tired of this killing business they have been carrying on and that they are yearning for friendship and understanding again. Maybe they don’t dare to ask for it!”
(Although WWII officially began with Nazi Germany's attack on Poland in September 1939, the US did not enter the war until after the Japanese bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, a year after this article was published.)
John Heartfield, 1932, Adolf Der Übermensch: Schluckt Gold und redet Blech
(Adolf The Superman: Swallows Gold and spouts Junk)
To Kidnap a Head of State (Part 1)
I was part of an international band assigned to kidnap Hitler. First we had just assigned ourselves. Following this, we were assisted and egged on by an ever-growing crowd of notables, including intelligence bosses, generals and statesmen until the supreme personality in the Allied leadership turned us down.
Wars tempt us to play along the surfaces, though in the centers sit dictators, the Hitlers and the Stalins, players whose pawns are soldiers who form cushions protecting the crimes and the criminals. Rather than fighting these innocents with our own innocent soldiers, airmen, swabs and spies we craved to hit the center.
Our plot developed almost by itself. Hitler was so notoriously kidnapable. No other person in history was such an obvious fraud and so reckless.
Stalin may have been comparable as a person, but he was much better protected and, despite his monstrous acts, he had more sincere followers all over the world. His Secret Police effectively hid the smoldering sentiments of his victimized subjects. Above all, we were never in a shooting war with Stalin’s Russia.
With Hitler everything fell into place. We were in a hot war with him, or rather with his Nazi party. We had ample proof of widespread discontent in Germany. Half of Germany’s top men were eager to risk their lives in any effort to rid Germany of a nightmare.
The Nazi Party’s first serious challenge to Germany and the world came with the depression in the early twenties, which caused a quarter of the votes to be cast for the Nazis in 1924. During the boom of 1928 the Nazi vote sank to a fraction then rose to 44% in 1933 when Germany shared with us “the Great Depression”.
I lived in Germany at that time and watched how this crisis evoked memories of the early twenties when millions starved. This frantic mood upped the Nazi vote. Still, 44% is no majority. Through lies, blackmail and a few well-planned murders Hitler sailed into power. Therefore it was not surprising that a strong anti-Hitler underground sprang up immediately. Among its leaders were Generals Beck and Hammerstein, top army men, later joined by generals Rundstedt and Rommel, famous wartime army commanders. Among civilian members were Leipzig’s mayor, Lederer and Konrad Adenauer and Willy Brandt, both later to become Chancellors of West Germany. The approaches of this group to allied statesmen and church leaders have been widely publicized. There was another side to the story that may now be revealed.
Having owned a business in Berlin (“ORIENTALISTENGEMEINSCHAFT”) and even being able to pronounce this name, I was considered a linguist of note and a point of contact. My escapades in occupied Norway had further endeared me to British Intelligence. In the summer of 1943 while Londoners slept in the subways with suitcases for pillows, occasionally surging to the surface to laugh derisively at the German raiders, Germans ranking from buck privates to generals arrived fresh from Hitler’s headquarters to MI5. Colonel Malcolm Munthe of that body, tall, polished, patient, listened for hours as they talked. In response, a plan of operations emerged which the sober minds of the merely fact-finding MI5 were not permitted to even dream. Colonel Munthe called on a general of a bold operational unit. The general’s worry wrinkles deepened appreciatively.
Our German guests had painted a picture of anguished confusion at Hitler’s war headquarters. Irate generals would come bursting in, pleading for or demanding changes in important commands. Hitler fumed, a real hassle would develop and often just because the generals had already made the changes without consultation, hoping Hitler would comply.
Our plan took off from there. We proposed to be the next such group of irate generals, elevated into the highest ranks by the matchless art of London tailors, aided and abetted by proper insignia and decorations. Instead of pleading for decisions already made, we would invite Hitler to come along with us to make his own arrangements. We would invade the sacred area of Hitler’s in aircraft properly marked and flashing the right signals. Landing, we would make our way SOFORT to the FUEHRER, preferably by exclusive use of the weapons of wit, though, if necessary, aided by hardware.
(To be continued in next week’s issue)
An excerpt from Shamcher’s book, Underground, an account of some of his wartime experiences.
Hitler Photomontage by John Heartfield. See more of his remarkable work here: http://www.johnheartfield.com/John-Heartfield-Exhibition
Beach Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash
Thanks for responding, sharing, and subscribing! Issues of the Shamcher Bulletin come to your inbox on Wednesday or Thursday of each week.
If you like this post, please click the heart.
Please reply to this email if you have stories, photos or correspondence to share.
The Shamcher Bulletin is edited by Carol Sill, whose newsletter, Personal Papers, is HERE.