Were “hitmen” a real historical occupation?

Were “hitmen” a real historical occupation?

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The trained killer-for-hire is a fairly standard trope in all kinds of media about courtly intrigue. That way, the king's life can be in danger basically all the time. But did these people actually exist? Wikipedia has a list of assassinations, but all of them seem to have been carried out by secret police or regular people with a grudge like John Wilkes Booth or Gavrilo Princip.

I know about the hashashin, but they seem to be a militant religious order with their own agenda rather than a group of mercenaries that worked for the highest bidder.

I don't care if they were rare, I know that it's not exactly an occupation on the level of "blacksmith" or "hunter." I want to know if they existed at all prior to the modern age.

(I've tagged this middle-ages and renaissance because I wasn't sure what else to add, and these seem to fit the period when these sort of people could have appeared).

Many famous people in history died of allegedly natural causes and were suspected of being poisoned.

Thus there are many people in history who might have been assassinated by poison if poisoning is counted as an assassination method. In these cases there were often persons suspected of ordering the poisoning but the actual poisoners were usually unknown.

We may suspect that some of the alleged victims were actually poisoned and in some of those cases the poisoners worked for payment and were more or less poisoners for hire.

Guilia Tofana (executed 1659) was an Italian professional poisoner who allegedly sold poison to hundreds of women to murder their husbands.

Locusta (executed AD 69) was a famous alleged professional poisoner in ancient Rome.

In the Affair of the Poisons in 1677-1682 many people were arrested and tried on charges of witchcraft and murder by poison. Those convicted and executed included alleged professional poisoners such as Marie Bosse and La Voisin.

Some historic people died in possible accidents such as King William II of England, shot while hunting in 1100. Since nobody knows if his death was accidental or murder, nobody knows if someone paid someone else to kill him.

And other people were murdered and the identity of the murder is not known, for example King Wenceslaus III of Bohemia and Poland in 4 August 1306. If the identity of the killer is not known, nobody can know if he was paid by someone else to kill the victim.

The Nazi Occupation of the Islands of Guernsey

The Islands of Guernsey are what’s known as an ‘archipelago’ – a collection of islands located on the English Channel between England and France. Guernsey is the largest of five, and its sister Islands of Herm, Sark, Alderney and Lihou are a short boat trip (or even walk) away. Although considered to be hidden gems, the islands were not able to evade German occupation during World War II and subsequently the number of fortifications that still stand today and the history that surrounds them is both fascinating and astonishing.

Guernsey was officially occupied from 30th June 1940 when it was left undefended after the British Government decided to de-militarise it. Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister at the time, was hesitant to make this decision but the Islands offered no strategic benefit. German planes bombed the harbour in Guernsey’s capital parish of St Peter Port after mistaking a group of tomato lorries for a convoy of troop carriers and, after 48 hours, German troops began to land and their flag was raised. Around half of the Islands’ population including four fifths of school children were evacuated to the UK. Little did they know this would be for almost five years.

All five Islands quickly found themselves under German rule, each serving their own purpose for what became known as ‘Hitler’s Island Madness’ as the Channel Islands became the most fortified place in the world.

Dame Sybil Hathaway, Seigneur of Sark during the Occupation

16.2km away from Guernsey, Sark residents made the decision to remain and Dame Sybil Hathaway, the Seigneur of the Island, was the main point of contact between residents and German soldiers at the time. On October 3rd 1942, 12 British Commandos of the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) launched ‘Operation BASALT’ raiding Sark Island to capture prisoners and offensive reconnaissance. Sark itself is still a unique time capsule as one of the few remaining places in the world where cars are banned and exploring on foot, by bike or on a horse drawn carriage is the best way to get around.

Herm Island, which is only 20 minutes away from Guernsey by ferry, was initially passed by the Germans but was later claimed by the Third Reich on July 20th 1940. It was used to practise landing from barges in preparation for the invasion of England, under the guise of shooting a propaganda film called ‘The Invasion of the Isle of Wight’. Officers used the Island for shooting and training, and by the end of the Occupation there was only one Guernsey family living there. Today, it is a tranquil paradise with waters often mistaken for the likes of the Caribbean. As a popular place for walking through naturally beautiful surroundings, it is hard to imagine that it was once part of such turbulent times.

World War Two German Bunker, Alderney

In Alderney, virtually all residents were evacuated and this became the most heavily fortified of the Islands. Alderney celebrates ‘Homecoming Day’ on December 15th as an alternative to Guernsey’s Liberation Day celebrations in May, as the Island required a huge amount of clearing and it operated as a communal farm while order was restored. Alderney’s experience of the Occupation was very different to the other Islands, but at just 3 miles long by 1 ½ miles wide, it packs a great deal of history into its modern day visitor offerings with natural trails, military walks, Victorian forts, bunker open days and other annual events and tours.

The smallest of the Islands of Guernsey, called Lihou, is situated just off the west coast of Guernsey and accessed by a causeway at low tide for about two weeks every month. When the tide is right, you can walk over and explore the abundance of flora and fauna, a Benedictine Priory from the 12th century and a crystal clear Venus Pool. There is one house on Lihou, which was used for target practice by heavy artillery during the Occupation. One could say it is a miracle that the remains of the Priory were not completely destroyed as you can still go and see them to this very day.

The Islands were the only British territory Hitler ever conquered, and locals had most of their lands, belongings, food and freedom taken away. Some were sent to prisons and camps, while others resisted with acts of protest and defiance between 1940 and 1945. From changing the clocks to reflect the time in Germany to restricting activities such a fishing, club meetings and the singing of patriotic songs, islanders had to abide by these newly imposed laws otherwise they would have been arrested, or even faced the risk of being deported. The mounting pressure on food and ration supplies resulted in the early release of prisoners, but the situation was becoming critical.

Islanders collecting Red Cross parcels from Le Riche’s shop in St Peter Port, Guernsey

The SS Vega, a vessel run by the Red Cross was a lifeline and arrived with a lifesaving cargo in December 1944. She brought with her food and medical supplies. Rumours had spread through the islands about the ship’s arrival, and emotions were running high as islanders shouted with gratitude and cried with relief once it entered the harbour.

There are many families living in Guernsey whose parents or grandparents can recall specific details from life as a child during the Occupation. Some children would play pranks on German soldiers, while others were excited by the arrival of alien-like army trucks. Some even remember specific acts of kindness from soldiers who wanted to help rather than take control. But, many parents tell a different story as their future was looking increasingly uncertain as the years went by. Although islanders were given work by the Germans, many refused it despite the benefits that were promised to them. WWII fortifications across the Islands of Guernsey were constructed by captured men forced into work.

Islanders all had different experiences of the war as some sadly lost their lives and loved ones, while others formed civil relationships and found new ways to live with their enemies. Finally, in 1945, an announcement was given by Prime Minister Winston Churchill:
‘Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight tonight. And our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today.’

On 8th May 1945, Churchill announced the end of the war in Europe, and the Islands of Guernsey were freed on the following day. For 75 years, Liberation Day has and will continue to be celebrated on 9th May, while Sark Island celebrates theirs on the 10th. It gives islanders a chance to rejoice in their freedom and reflect on those who had to endure everything that the Occupation brought with it.

68th Liberation Day 2013, The Guernsey Event Company

9th May is a Bank Holiday on the Islands of Guernsey, and Guernsey’s capital town of St Peter Port comes alive with thousands of people attending parades, firework displays, live music, entertainment and activities for everyone to enjoy. A sense of freedom, and the reminder of how truly resilient the islanders of Guernsey were, is what underpins the celebratory atmosphere that runs through all of the festivities. It is a time to think about how relieved and happy everyone must have felt. It is also a day of remembrance for those who bravely fought and lost their lives to serve an Island that thousands are proud to call home.

[FICTION VS. HISTORY] The fact and fiction in ‘Mr. Sunshine’ : Historical sweep is captured but some anachronisms and motivations irk viewers

On both the silver screen and television, the historical drama has never gone out of style. Fans of period dramas, both here and abroad, like to be transported to a different time and learn about the high dramas that swept up - or were put in motion by - our ancestors. Some like to see continuity with the past. Others like to see progress. Foreign Korea-philes may believe they can get a crash course in Korean history from such films. But all historical dramas create characters, add love stories, and conflate or invent events to make sure viewers don’t lose interest. Through “Fiction vs History,” the Korea JoongAng Daily attempts to distinguish fiction from fact in popular period dramas and films for clarification and to dispel any misunderstandings.

In 1875, on the second day after Ko Ae-shin’s birth in Japan, a plot by Korea’s Righteous Army to assassinate the pro-Japanese collaborator Lee Wan-ik fails. Ko’s parents, who were involved in the plot, are killed by Lee. Swaddled in a blanket, baby Ko is sent back to Joseon by her parents’ comrades to her grandfather, who was once King Gojong’s teacher. Ko grows up as a noble lady, but with the patriotic genes of her parents she trains to become a sniper and eventually becomes a member of the Righteous Army, an irregular guerrilla army that was formed to fight the Japanese.

From top: Beginning in the fifth episode, the producers tell viewers that they are watching a “fiction based on historical events” Eugene Choi, played by veteran actor Lee Byung-hun pro-Japan collaborator Lee Wan-ik, played by Kim Eui-seong.[SCREEN CAPTURE, TVN]

In the autumn of 1875, not long after Ko’s return to Korea, the Battle of Ganghwa takes place. It was an example of the gunboat diplomacy used by Japan to enter the Korean peninsula.

Ko, played by Kim Tae-ri, is a fictional character created by the celebrated writer Kim Eun-sook to help tell this story in “Mr. Sunshine,” which recently wrapped up its 24 episodes with high ratings both on local television and on Netflix. Since this is historical fiction, some of the characters and stories are made up, and some are based on historical fact. Distinguishing fiction from fact would not be that difficult for Koreans, who have been educated in the history. It’s not as easy for outsiders.

In the drama, Ko’s parents - members of Korea’s Righteous Army - went to Japan before the outbreak of the Battle of Ganghwa to promote the anti-Japanese movement in Japan. But in fact, Japan’s pillage of Joseon began after the Battle of Ganghwa, stimulating the uprising of such patriotic groups as the Righteous Army in Korea. Experts say systematic action by the Righteous Army started after Japan’s assassination of the Empress Myeongseong, in what is known as the Eulmi Incident in 1895. Moreover, during the time that Ko’s parents were in Japan in the drama, it would have been difficult even for tradesmen, let alone common people like Ko’s parents, to go to Japan exchanges between the two countries had been cut off.

Such advancing of the timeline may have helped the producers dramatize the story. But historians argue that it seems like an unnecessary historical tweak that weakens its credibility.

The drama, which is set in Korea in the late 1800s and early 1900s before the Japanese occupation, is a wartime love story between a Korean-born U.S. Marine named Eugene Choi, played by Lee Byung-hun and Ko.

Male character Koo Dong-mae, played by Yoo Yeon-seok, was initially described as a low-class butcher boy from Korea who grows up to be a member of the notorious Gen’yosha of Japan, an influential ultranationalist group. He returns to his motherland Joseon by becoming the leader of the group’s branch, the Black Dragon Society in Hanseong, which was the capital city of Joseon. It is a historical fact that Gen’yosha is suspected of launching a task force team in Korea for a future invasion and was involved in the assassination of Empress Myeongseong.

However, the fact that Koo directed brutalities against Korea angered many Korean viewers. In the drama, he is portrayed as a poor Korean boy who was abandoned by his own country and had no choice but to feel the thirst for revenge.

“It seems like the drama is saying that there was a reason why the Black Dragon Society was so merciless against Koreans,” wrote one netizen on broadcaster tvN’s website.

Some people even took the issue to the Blue House, submitting a petition on July 16, arguing that such historical distortion should be regulated. They claimed that the drama is being aired on Netflix, raising the risk that foreigners may misunderstand the history of Korea and the Japanese invasion. In response, the drama’s production team issued an apology stating that they had no intention to “romanticize the pro-Japanese stance,” and that the team had decided to modify the entire character in later episodes. From Episode 5, the Black Dragon Society was given a fictional name and a notification was shown at the start of each episode that said, “This is a work of fiction based on historical events.”

Left: The photograph of the Righteous Army taken in 1907 by journalist Frederick McKenzie. Right: The scene as reenacted in the television drama. [KOREA’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM, SCREEN CAPTURE]

The drama did end on Sept. 30, however, by shedding light on the real Right-eous Army of Korea. A scene was based on a black and white photograph of the Righteous Army, many nameless people who fought for the country, taken in 1907 by Frederick McKenzie, a writer and war journalist who worked for the London Daily Mail. The photograph is familiar to most Koreans because it is in history textbooks. The episode also stayed true to history, using quotes from McKenzie’s interviews such as, “We know that all of us are bound to die if we continue this fight. But we’d absolutely hate to live as Japanese slaves. We’d much rather die as free men.” Eugene Choi brings the foreign journalist to the Righteous Army, which agrees to the interview and to being photographed in the belief that the world should learn about its righteous struggle. That photograph is, in fact, the only existing photograph of Korea’s freedom fighters.

The Monuments Men (2014)

Generals Omar Bradley (left), George S. Patton, and Dwight D. Eisenhower (right) inspect art stored in Merkers salt mines in central Germany on April 12, 1945.

Though the movie keeps its focus on an Allied platoon of seven, The Monuments Men true story reveals that they were actually made up of many more individuals, eventually growing to a group of 350 or so men and women from thirteen nations. They were assigned to an Allied unit known as the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives) program that was tasked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the support of General Dwight D. Eisenhower (pictured). As in the movie, the group was comprised of art historians, curators, museum directors, artists, architects and educators. Many of them had also been military reservists. -The Monuments Men book

Was the only duty of the Monuments Men to recover and protect looted artworks?

Was the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program the idea of George Stout?

Yes, but in a more roundabout way than in the movie. Though George Clooney's Frank Stokes character's real-life counterpart, George Stout, was instrumental in the creation of the real Monuments Men (the book calls the MFAA his "brain child"), his influence wasn't as direct as the movie implies. In conjunction with his colleagues at Harvard, Stout was an invaluable influence on the creation of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, later known as the Roberts Commission. It was the Roberts Commission that created the MFAA program. George Stout was recruited as one of the unit's first members and he was one of the first Monuments Men to go ashore at Normandy. He was later appointed Lieutenant Commander of the MFAA. In the second half of 1945, Stout headed for Japan where he served as the Chief of the Arts and Monuments Division, headquartered in Tokyo. There, he carried on his role as a Monuments Man.

The Monuments Men director/actor George Clooney (left) in the 2014 movie and his real-life counterpart, George Stout, in Europe in the mid-1940s.

Did the Monuments Men really have to go through Basic Training?

Yes. Many of them were already reservists, but others, who had no military experience, did go through Basic Training. That training often took place in England prior to entering the field.

Did the real Monuments Men ever work together in a group?

No. Unlike the film, ". the (Monuments Men) never worked together in a group," says historian Lynn Nicholas, author of the first scholarly examination of the story, The Rape of Europa, published in 1994. -USAToday.com

Was Rose Valland really hesitant to confide the details of Nazi looting to Lt. James Rorimer?

Yes, like in the movie, it took the real Claire Simone, whose name is actually Rose Valland, some time to confide the details of the Nazi looting to Lt. James Rorimer, the real-life James Granger (Matt Damon in the movie). She was weary about who to trust and feared that the pieces would be stolen by whoever she told. Her knowledge pertained specifically to the locations that the looted objects were being shipped to. Valland, an employee of the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris, had secretly recorded the movements of the stolen objects that the Nazis had plundered in France. The Nazis were using the museum where she worked as the headquarters for the ERR (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg), a special Nazi task force that engaged in the plunder of cultural valuables in occupied countries. The Nazis had allowed Rose to continue her work at the museum. Unbeknownst to the Nazis, she understood German and had listened in on their conversations. -MonumentsMen.com

Actress Cate Blanchett (left) channels the real Rose Valland (right), who was the overseer of the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris.

Did the men really learn key information from a chatty German dentist?

Yes. In researching The Monuments Men true story, we discovered that by the end of March 1949, Robert Posey (Bill Murray in the movie) had developed a severe toothache. With the nearest army dentist being a hundred miles away in France, he and Lincoln Kirstein (portrayed by Bob Balaban) tracked down a German dentist. The talkative dentist ended up telling them about his son-in-law, an art scholar who knew France well and was there during the occupation. He then took the men to meet his son-in-law, who to their surprise ended up being a former SS officer who knew Hermann Göring, in addition to the locations of a significant amount of stolen art (including the location of Göring's collection). He also knew which of the treasures had been distributed to German museums and which art dealers in Berlin were actively trading the looted works.

Unlike the movie, the dentist's son-in-law did not have stolen art hanging in his home. The Monuments Men book states that "the walls were lined with photographs of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Versailles, and other famous Parisian landmarks." Despite trying to tell the men that he viewed the Nazis as "complete frauds" and only carried out his duties as an SS officer for the sake of protecting the art, Robert Posey and Lincoln Kirstein later discovered that, like in the movie, they had been speaking to Hermann Göring's corrupt Kunstschutz official who had been one of the key figures in the infamous looting operation at the Jeu de Paume, the museum in Paris where Rose Valland worked.

How much artwork did Nazi leaders take for themselves?

TOP: Nazi Party leaders Hermann Göring and Adolf Hitler admire a painting. BOTTOM: A 1940s Nazi model of the city of Linz, Austria that displays the planned Führermuseum.

Did Hitler really order that the art be destroyed should he die?

Yes. Through the issuance of the 1945 Nero Decree, officially titled the "Demolitions on Reich Territory Decree," Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered that if he died or Germany was about to lose the war, then the nearly 5 million pieces of stolen art were to be destroyed, along with factories, supply depots, transportation and communication facilities - basically anything of value that the Allies could utilize. If he lived and Germany won the war, he planned to showcase much of the art in the unbuilt Führermuseum that he envisioned for his hometown of Linz, Austria (in the movie Hitler stares at a model of this monument to himself). The Nero Decree was named after Emperor Nero, who was blamed for the fire that destroyed most of Rome in the year 64 AD. -Variety.com

Did Hitler's order that the art be destroyed ever go into effect?

No. Despite the two criteria Hitler set in the Nero Decree having been met (his death and Germany on the verge of losing the war), the decree was never actually implemented. Albert Speer, Hitler's Minister of Armaments, was given the order, but he had become disillusioned with Hitler toward the end of the war and persuaded Nazi generals to ignore the directive, a secret that he kept from Hitler. In the face of defeat, Speer believed that if things such as factories, bridges and communication lines were still in place, it would be much easier for Germany to rebuild after the war. Hitler on the other hand believed that Allied forces would plunder Germany. -Yahoo Movies

Did any of the Monuments Men actually die?

Yes, but not quite as romantically as they do in The Monuments Men movie. In the film, Monuments Man Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) bravely sacrifices himself in a failed effort to save Michelangelo's Madonna of Bruges. In real life, this did not happen. However, two Monuments Men did perish in the war. Ronald Balfour, 41, who is in fact the real-life counterpart of actor Hugh Bonneville's character Donald Jeffries, died from a shell burst while trying to move parts of an historic church's medieval altarpiece to safety (not while protecting the Madonna). The other was an American architect named Walter Huchthausen, who was shot in April 1945 near Aachen, Germany. In the movie, the fictional French character of Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) is shot and later dies. -TheGuardian.com

Monuments Man George Stout (right) works to secure Michelangelo's Bruges Madonna for removal from the salt mine in Altaussee, Austria on July 10, 1945. George Clooney (left) secures a sculpture in the movie.

How many times was the Mona Lisa moved in an effort to protect it?

During the war, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa was moved six times before she was returned to the Louvre. The painting was certainly an item that the Germans would have loved to have gotten their hands on. The Nazi's had created "shopping lists" of items that were earmarked for priority "removal" and transport back to Germany. Museum officials, along with the help of the Monuments Men, often went to great lengths to keep priceless works of art out of Nazi hands. -Journey of the Monuments Men

Did James Rorimer really step on a land mine like Matt Damon's character in the movie?

No. In a comedic moment of the movie, Matt Damon's character steps on a land mine, to which George Clooney's Frank Stokes replies, "Why did you do something like that?" The comment is then repeated by John Goodman's character, Walter Garfield. In relation to the real James Rorimer, Robert Edsel's Monuments Men book does convey Rorimer's concerns with mines and minefields, not only mentioning the dangers but also Rorimer hearing the sounds of exploding mines, minesweepers and signs that warned of land mines. However, at no point does James Rorimer accidentally step on a mine. Mines were common in the war and presented an ever present danger when searching for and attempting to recover and safeguard artifacts.

James Rorimer (right center) supervises American GIs carrying paintings down the steps of Neuschwanstein Castle (pictured left) in Germany's Bavarian Alps in May of 1945. The palace, built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria and completed in 1892, was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Did they really find gold fillings like in the movie?

Yes. The book describes a soldier at Merkers salt mine showing Generals Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley a bag of gold fillings that had been pulled from the teeth of Holocaust victims. Other reports describe the discovery in more detail, citing chests full of gold fillings, similar to what is seen in the movie. -MonumentsMen.com

Did they really discover a stash of gold bullion?

Yes, and as we explored the true story, we learned that the press focused more on the gold than the recovered art. -RollingStone.com

The Monuments Men discover Nazi gold bullion in the movie (left). In real life, more than 100 tons of Reichsbank gold was discovered in the salt mine at Merkers (right), April 15, 1945.

How many art and artifacts were looted?

During our investigation into The Monuments Men true story, we came across estimates as high as 20 million. However, in general the estimates vary widely, with many placing the number of looted art and artifacts far lower, at somewhere between five and six million. Much of it was taken by Hitler and his Nazi lieutenants for themselves and Germany. The MFAA managed to recover and return around five million pieces to their owners or their countries of origin, since many belonged to Jews who had died in the Holocaust. -USAToday.com

Is some of the art stolen by the Nazis still missing?

Plundered masterpieces still missing include (clockwise from top left): Bernardo Bellotto's "View of the Grand Canal in Venice," Sandro Botticelli's "Portrait of a Man," Claude Monet's "Manet painting in Monet's Garden" and Van Gogh's "Vincent on his way to work."

Yes. Unfortunately to this day, not all of the stolen art has been recovered. Despite the discoveries of thousands of art repositories that were used to conceal the Nazi's looted treasures, priceless masterpieces like Bernardo Bellotto's "View of the Grand Canal in Venice" and Sandro Botticelli's "Portrait of a Man" have never been found (both are pictured on the left). They join a number of other celebrated paintings that remain missing, including Van Gogh's "Vincent on his way to work" and Claude Monet's "Manet painting in Monet's Garden." These are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of cultural treasures that are still missing. -Journey of the Monuments Men

In as recently as November 2013, a stash of art consisting of over 1,200 works was discovered in the Munich apartment of an art dealer who was in business during that time. The story made headlines around the world and it is believed that some of the art might have passed through the Monuments Men's hands. It was often difficult to be sure that the art was being returned to the proper individuals. -SFGate.com

Does George Clooney's real-life father appear in the movie?

Were any of the real Monuments Men alive in 2014 at the time of the movie's release?

Yes. The real-life counterpart to the movie's Pvt. Sam Epstein, a German-Jewish teen who is the driver and translator for the men in the film, is still living. In real life, his name is Harry Ettlinger. He was 19 when he volunteered to join the Monuments Men after hearing that a small group was looking for someone who could read and write German. Ettlinger's family had left Germany and fled to New York in 1938. Of the 350 or so total Monuments Men, Harry Ettlinger is one of six who are still living. -NYTimes.com

TOP: Monuments Men commander Lt. Dale Ford and then 19-year-old Monuments Man Harry Ettlinger look over an original self-portrait by Rembrandt hidden by the Nazis in the Heilbronn-Kochendorf salt mines. BOTTOM: The discovery of the painting is depicted in the movie.

Were all of the descendants of the real Monuments Men happy with the film?

No. The descendants of Ronald Balfour, a British medieval historian and one of two Monuments Men who perished in the war, were upset that the film didn't more closely represent Ronald. Actor Hugh Bonneville's character, Donald Jeffries, has been linked to Ronald. Like Ronald, the character is an English historian serving with the MFAA who holds the rank of major. However, one of Ronald's nieces, Polly Hutchison, says that the actor is "so different." She says the family was astounded when they heard that Hugh Bonneville was going to portray the character they hoped would be her Uncle Ronald. It should be noted that the official Monuments Men movie website does in fact pair Hugh Bonneville's character with Ronald Balfour, in addition to other online sources that have confirmed the correlation. -TheGuardian.com

Are there any modern-day "Monuments Men"?

Yes. The desire to protect art during times of war was not just a concern during World War II. Evidence of similar efforts still exist today, though not on the same level as during WWII. For example, Major Corine Wegener (retired) is a modern-day "Monuments Woman" who served in Iraq. A curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) and a member of the Army Reserves, Wegener was called into service in 2003, shortly after the start of the Iraq War. Her job was to work with the staff of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad in response to the substantial looting that took place. After retiring from the military in 2006, Wegener created the US Committee of the Blue Shield, which is the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross. She went to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and in 2012 Wegener took a job with the Smithsonian to lead efforts to protect cultural heritage around the world. -Minnesota Public Radio

What efforts are being made today to ensure that art is protected during times of war?

In addition to people like former museum curator and retired Army major Corine Wegener (discussed above), increasing efforts are being made to improve military training pertaining to the protection and preservation of cultural property. However, during World War II, it was much easier to find an art expert in the ranks of the military, especially following the draft. With regard to the Iraq War, finding experts on Iraq archaeology in today's all-volunteer military is far less likely. -USAToday.com

Have any other movies been made about the Nazi plundering of art during WWII?

Yes. Director John Frankenheimer's 1964 film The Train starring Burt Lancaster tells the story of a group of Resistance fighters who must stop a train loaded with French art that is bound for Germany. It is loosely based on Rose Valland's non-fiction book Le front de l'art.

Watch an interview with real Monuments Man Harry Ettlinger, who is represented by Dimitri Leonidas in the film (the young driver/translator). Also, check out The Monuments Men movie trailer.

Harry Ettlinger, born in Karlsruhe, Germany on January 28, 1926, fled to the U.S. with his family in 1938, the day after his Bar Mitzvah. They settled in Newark, N.J., and six years later Harry was drafted by the Army and returned to Europe, where his fluency in German allowed him to volunteer to help the Monuments Men. In this interview, he talks about Nazi plundering and the respectful decision by America to return the recovered cultural treasures to their proper countries, including Germany.

Watch The Monuments Men movie trailer for the film starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman. Directed by George Clooney, the film is based on Robert M. Edsel's similarly titled book that tells the story of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program that the allies carried out during WWII to protect valuable pieces of art and other culturally significant items from destruction by Hitler and the Nazis.

Were &ldquohitmen&rdquo a real historical occupation? - History

If these Magi were from Persia and the star was in the east they would end up in India so either the star was in the west or the Magi came from the west. You cannot have itboth ways so the famous star in the east means the Magi came from egypt or further west.

Somewhere recently in BAR I read where they were determined to be natives of Shiraz in Iran, a good sturdy rug-weaving town I believe that I own one.

The way I read the Bible is in a spiritual manor. What we need to get from this band of men is “they were wise men”. As opposed to foolish. We when we look up verses that refer to wise and foolish, we see people doing what they are supposed to be doing “wise”, and others NOT WATCHING for the return of Jesus “foolish”.
IMO, these were Jews living in Babylon, but they knew about the prophesy of the star. They watched the sky’s, so you might say they were astrologers, but they could be called astronomers. If you read your Bible and are watching for the return of Jesus, you are wise. If you are not watching for His return, He will come at a time you are not aware. Leviticus 23 establishes He will return on some Feast of Trumpets, at the Last Trump. The day no one knows the day or the hour is Rosh Hashanah.
The wise virgins of Mat 25 were ready to go, but the foolish weren’t prepared. Yet they were all virgins. Virgins are eligible to marry the High Priest, (Deut) and Jesus is the High Priest forever.
Just as Rabbi’s know He would be born of a virgin, they also knew there would be a star over Bethlehem. Whatever the “star” was, they knew it was not normally in the sky. Knowing these things is neat to know, but what application is it for our lives? We are told we will be at the wedding feast on Trumpets. We will be hidden away to hide from God’s wrath as Noah was put in a room in the Ark while God judged the world. God’s wrath will fall for 7 years instead of 10 because no flesh would survive 10 years. We will be judged on Atonement, and return to live with Jesus for 1000 years on earth. Then the earth will burn and the eighth day will represent eternity with God.
Leviticus 23 speaks of His first coming with Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. Pentecost is the birth of the church, and the Fall Feasts teach us of His second coming.
Do a word search for the word “watch”. 99% will deal with the Rapture and Jacob’s trouble beginning. God took Noah out 7 days before the Flood and took Lot out 3 days before the fire fell. He does NOT judge without warning. We have been warned. “As it was in the days of Noah and the days of Lot”, He will return.
Look UP, your redemption draweth nigh. Watch therefore that you are not overtaken as a thief. That’s real “wise”.

The question of who the Magi were is addressed in several paces by the late Chuck Missler, including this article: http://www.khouse.org/articles/1999/142/ They were originally Medes, here’s an extract from the article:

Most of what we associate with the “Magi” is from early church traditions. Most have assumed there were three of them, since they brought three specific gifts (but the Biblical text doesn’t number them). They are called “Magi” from the Latinized form of the Greek word magoi, transliterated from the Persian, for a select sect of priests. (Our word “magic” comes from the same root.)

As the years passed, the traditions became increasingly embellished. By the 3rd century they were viewed as kings. By the 6th century they had names: Bithisarea, Melichior, and Gathaspa. Some even associated them with Shem, Ham and Japheth-the three sons of Noah-and thus with Asia, Africa, and Europe. A 14th century Armenian tradition identifies them as Balthasar, King of Arabia Melchior, King of Persia and Gasper, King of India.

(Relics attributed to them emerged in the 4th century and were transferred from Constantinople to Milan in the 5th century, and then to Cologne in 1162 where they remain enshrined.)

These are interesting traditions, but what do we really know about them?

The Priesthood of the Medes

The ancient Magi were a hereditary priesthood of the Medes (known today as the Kurds) credited with profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. After some Magi, who had been attached to the Median court, proved to be expert in the interpretation of dreams, Darius the Great established them over the state religion of Persia.2 (Contrary to popular belief, the Magi were not originally followers of Zoroaster.3 That all came later.)

It was in this dual capacity, whereby civil and political counsel was invested with religious authority, that the Magi became the supreme priestly caste of the Persian empire and continued to be prominent during the subsequent Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian periods. 4

One of the titles given to Daniel was Rab-mag, the Chief of the Magi.5 His unusual career included being a principal administrator in two world empires-the Babylonian and the subsequent Persian Empire. When Darius appointed him, a Jew, over the previously hereditary Median priesthood, the resulting repercussions led to the plots involving the ordeal of the lion’s den.6

Daniel apparently entrusted a Messianic vision (to be announced in due time by a “star”) to a secret sect of the Magi for its eventual fulfillment. But first let’s review some historical background.

Since the days of Daniel, the fortunes of both the Persian and the Jewish nation had been closely intertwined. Both nations had, in their turn, fallen under Seleucid domination in the wake of Alexander’s conquests. Subsequently, both had regained their independence: the Jews under Maccabean leadership, and the Persians as the dominating ruling group within the Parthian Empire.

It was at this time that the Magi, in their dual priestly and governmental office, composed the upper house of the Council of the Megistanes (from which we get the term “magistrates”), whose duties included the absolute choice and election of the king of the realm.

It was, therefore, a group of Persian-Parthian “king makers” who entered Jerusalem in the latter days of the reign of Herod. Herod’s reaction was understandably one of fear when one considers the background of Roman-Parthian rivalry that prevailed during his lifetime.

Pompey, the first Roman conqueror of Jerusalem in 63 B.C., had attacked the Armenian outpost of Parthia. In 55 B.C. Crassus led Roman legions in sacking Jerusalem and in a subsequent attack on Parthia proper. The Romans were decisively defeated at the battle of Carrhae with the loss of 30,000 troops, including their commander. The Parthians counterattacked with a token invasion of Armenia, Syria, and Palestine.

Nominal Roman rule was reestablished under Antipater, the father of Herod, who, in his turn, retreated before another Parthian invasion in 40 B.C.

Mark Antony reestablished Roman sovereignty in 37 B.C. and, like Crassus before him, also embarked on a similarly ill-fated Parthian expedition. His disastrous retreat was followed by another wave of invading Parthians, which swept all Roman opposition completely out of Palestine (including Herod himself, who fled to Alexandria and then to Rome).

With Parthian collaboration, Jewish sovereignty was restored, and Jerusalem was fortified with a Jewish garrison.

Herod, by this time, had secured from Augustus Caesar the title of “King of the Jews.” However, it was not for three years, including a five months’ siege by Roman troops, that Herod was able to occupy his own capital city! Herod had thus gained the throne of a rebellious buffer state which was situated between two mighty contending empires. At any time his own subjects might conspire in bringing the Parthians to their aid. At the time of the birth of Christ, Herod may have been close to his final illness. Augustus was also aged, and Rome, since the retirement of Tiberius, was without an experienced military commander. Pro-Parthian Armenia was fomenting revolt against Rome (which was successfully accomplished within two years.)

The time was ripe for another Parthian invasion of the buffer provinces, except for the fact that Parthia itself was racked by internal dissension. Phraates IV, the unpopular and aging king, had once been deposed and it was not improbable that the Persian Magi were already involved in the political maneuvering requisite to choosing his successor. It was conceivable that the Magi might be taking advantage of the king’s lack of popularity to further their own interests with the establishment of a new dynasty, which could have been implemented if a sufficiently strong contender could be found.

At this time it was entirely conceivable that the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, culminating in the writings of Daniel, one of their own Magians, was of profound motivating significance. The promise of a divinely imposed world dominion at the hands of a Jewish monarch might be more than acceptable to them. (Their own Persian and Medo-Persian history was studded with Jewish nobles, ministers, and counselors and in the great Achaemenid days, some of the kings themselves were of Jewish blood.)

The Entourage to Jerusalem

In Jerusalem, the sudden appearance of the Magi, probably traveling in force with all imaginable oriental pomp and accompanied by an adequate cavalry escort to insure their safe penetration of Roman territory, certainly alarmed Herod and the populace of Jerusalem.

It would seem as if these Magi were attempting to perpetrate a border incident which could bring swift reprisal from Parthian armies. Their request of Herod regarding the one who “has been born King of the Jews𔄩 was a calculated insult to him, a non-Jew8 who had contrived and bribed his way into that office.

Consulting his scribes, Herod discovered from the prophecies in the Tanach (the Old Testament) that the Promised One, the Messiah, would be born in Bethle-hem.9 Hiding his concern and expressing sincere interest, Herod requested them to keep him informed.

After finding the babe and presenting their prophetic gifts, the Magi “being warned in a dream” (a form of communication most acceptable to them) departed to their own country, ignoring Herod’s request. (Within two years Phraataces, the parricide son of Phraates IV, was duly installed by the Magi as the new ruler of Parthia.)

Living six centuries before the birth of Christ, Daniel certainly received an incredible number of Messianic prophecies. In addition to several overviews of all of Gentile world history,10 the Angel Gabriel told him the precise day that Jesus would present Himself as King to Jerusalem.11

It is interesting that Daniel’s founding of a secret sect of the Magi also had a role in having these prominent Gentiles present gifts at the birth of the Jewish Messiah.

The gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were also prophetic, speaking of our Lord’s offices of king, priest, and savior. Gold speaks of His kingship frankincense was a spice used in the priestly duties and myrrh was an embalming ointment anticipating His death.

In the Millennium, He will also receive the gifts of gold and frankincense12 but no myrrh: His death was once and for all.

What gifts are YOU going to give Him this year? Discuss it with Him.

For a review of other background items, see The Christmas Story: What Really Happened. Also, for a complete study of one of the most captivating and astonishing books of the Bible, see our Expositional Commentary on the Book of Daniel.”

The idea that the magi came to Bethlehem is not biblical. In fact, the Bible claims that Herod inquired the magi carefully about when they had seen the star. Based on that he ordered the killing of all babies up to two years, all the way down to Rama. Upon which Joseph, Mary with their baby fled to Egypt. After they had returned from Egypt to Nazareth, the magii saw the start above the house (not stable) where they lived (not visited).

Interesting background story (and stories), but someone ought to say something in behalf of the more straightforward explanation relating to Zoroastrian magi ( singular or plural, depending on language in which encountered).

Were it not for the account at the beginning of the NT and Matthew, the term magi would have remained rather obscure. But since it is there, it should be understood as well that the documentation in its behalf can be traced to the writing of Darius I King of Persia on the monument at Behistun – and also the commentaries of Herodotus in his Histories, evidently as passing references to Zoroastrian priests. In the former instance, the Rosetta-stone like inscriptions on Behistun cliff wall, carved during the reign of Darius I, refer to tribal Medes or perhaps Zoroastrian priests in the ancient Persian – and presumably translated into the other two languages (Elamite and Babylonian cuneiform).

Herodotus uses the term “magi” twice in the Histories (Book.paragraph:1.101 and 1.132). He speaks of the magi as one of the tribes/peoples (ethnous) of the Medes. Later (1.132), Herodotus uses the term “magi” to generically refer to a “sacerdotal caste”. Elsewhere, “we hear of Magi not only in Persia, Parthia, Bactria, Chorasmia, Aria, Media, and among the Sakas, but also in non-Iranian lands like Samaria, Ethiopia, and Egypt. Their influence was also widespread throughout Asia Minor. It is, therefore, quite likely that the sacerdotal caste of the Magi was distinct from the Median tribe of the same name.”[ Zaehner, Robert Charles (1961), The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, New York: MacMillan]

Xenophon, in his early 4th century BCE Cyropaedia, depicts the magians as authorities for a depicts the magians as authorities for all religious matters (8.3.11).

Subsequently, in Roman times, “magikos” was associated with Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism with writers such as Pliny the Elder remarking on Greek fascination with it. And all this is quite difficult to summarize here and would require examining a whole host of writings about magic and deciding which ones were related to Zoroastrians directly – or just assumed.

While we are familiar in the Bible with the Proclamation of Cyrus that ended the Babylonian captivity ( in Chronicles II and Ezra), it should also be noted that there was a universal version of this proclamation, i.e., the Cyrus Cylinder. How many other peoples beside the people of Judea were carried into captivity and then released is another story or controversy, but the Cylinder is the basis for the claims. When the document is examined, one notes that while Cyrus disparages Nabonidus, he pays homage to traditional Babylonian beliefs and the god Marduk. But yet only a few decades later with Darius I, there is a significant contrast. At Behistun ( in old Persian “Begastan” or “place of God”) the royal inscription speaks in terms of the deity in other terms. Repeatedly, Darius declares that “by the grace of Ahuramazda”, I became king. Yet at the same time, his path to ascendancy was blocked by “the Magian” Gaumata, despite the best efforts of both Persians and Medes. Mede and Magi are not equivalent.

So admittedly there are riddles and discrepancies about the explanation for what is a magi even with the testimony of many Greeks, Romans and Darius himself. He was a Zoroastrian who quarreled with a rebellious magi? Was his predecessor a Zorastrian or a believer of something else? But altogether, I find it likely that Matthew was referring to Zoroastrians.

The Greek word maʹgoi at Matthew 2:1 is translated in several Bible translations as astrologers………..it wasn’t until about the 6th century that these three magi were called kings…….and they were certainly not led to Herod the Great in Jerusalem by a sign (star) from God.

(Hebrews 6:20) says, where a forerunner has entered in our behalf, Jesus, who has become a high priest in the manner of Mel·chizʹe·dek forever.

(Hebrews 7:17) 17 For it is said in witness of him: “You are a priest forever in the manner of Mel·chizʹe·dek.”
ACCURATE knowledge is far better God’s Word is far more reliable than that of so called scholars………in light of the 2 scriptures above we can see that Jesus is likened to Melchizedek, in that he was a priest and king, and Jesus will also fulfill the role of high priest and king of God’s Kingdom……….and certainly NOT to be aligned with the magi or astrologers

I believe the Magi to be Tibetan monks, if you have any understanding of their beliefs you may understand their knowledge of life.
The Bible tells us that these “three wise men” Tibetan monks are trained in the art of developing wisdom, of the ages.
The Bible tells us that theses “Three Wise men” Traveled from the East, If you place a ruler on a world map at Bethlehem and Tibet you will find that ruler is exactly due East, of Bethlehem.
The Tibetan Monks are the wisest people of this world, as far as I can ascertain, they were fulfilling a prophecy that was handed down from Dalai Lama to Dalai Lama. Cheers.

Agreed..the three wisemen r tibetian monks..

The Magi were ‘wise men’ that were schooled in the Old Testament prophecies, as well as having knowledge of the natural world (both heavens and earth) and they put together these ‘specialties’ to come to the conclusion that something special was taking place in Israel–the birth of the ‘King of the Jews’. It is credible that if they came from ‘the East’, that they may have been from Babylon, where the Jewish people were taken captive around the year 600 B.C. If Daniel were a highly placed official in the Babylonian government and was highly respected why wouldn’t the other Babylonian ‘wise men’ not be interested in studying where Daniel got his wisdom from?

Justin Martyr, Origen, and Tertullian, all equated these magi with astrologers from the East and Babylon was in the past, and at this particular time, a “hot bed” of magic, astrology, divination, etc……..as a matter of fact the term magi was used as a “generic” term for astrologers of the East………the circumstantial evidence is that these magi who visited Jesus with gifts, were, as translated in several Bibles as astrologers.

One thing leaped out: how could being “a descendant of Seth” be so special? Noah was a descendant of Seth, and WE ALL are descendants of Noah.

As for the star descending to earth, that seems very far fetched, if only because there is no biblical proof of it. In fact, the whole thing sounds ridiculous.

I’ve heard other views like Ralf’s, from people I consider very credible.i believe in the Daniel connection too! Makes perfect sense. Good work Ralf!

I did a long study long ago that had to do with connecting the Jewish diaspora to the birth of Jesus. An understanding of how it paved the way and set the stage. My own study connects the Magi back to Daniel in the book of Daniel. After interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Chapter 2, Daniel is placed in charge of Babylon and all it’s wise men Dan. 2:48. In Chapter 4, verse 9 Daniel (Belteshazzar) is called “Chief of the Magicians” which is to say the Magi.

In those days, “wise men” would be a rough mix of theologians, scientists, historians, alchemists and magicians (root word, “magi”). Daniel, with his special abilities to interpret dreams and special connection to God would have fit right in with this group and in fact, he was in charge of them.

My theory is that this is where the Magi who were in the East got their influx of Jewish prophecy and knowledge of Yahweh, the Jewish God. They would have undoubtedly mixed it with their astrology and other beliefs to create a group that easily would have looked like the Magi of the New Testament. They would have had knowledge of Old Testament Jewish prophecies and their history going back earlier to Daniel and his companions.

this is a great thing to let people know about the magi’s.

Well, John in comment two, seems to have made two critical errors in his assessment. First, the claims of the Magi being descended from Seth are what the document says, not what Brent Landau claims. Brent Landau is simply telling what the document says. Second, he apparently didn’t read the end of the article where Brent Landau says that he doesn’t believe this was actually written by the Magi, whomever they were. I don’t know why he claims that the author doesn’t have a “shred of forensic evidence” for earlier versions of this 8th century document just because it doesn’t get into all of that in this article. He has a whole book about this where, presumably he goes into all of his research. It seems, then, that it is John, not Brent whose conclusions are based on assumptions.

No one knows the real facts it is all assumptions, and most of people’s assumptions are to justify what ever it is they believe.

See book “the king of the world”, by Rene Guenon.
This very knowledgeable author explains who the magi were, linking them to Melchizedek.
Knowledge is better than imagination.
Rick Merlin

Hey there, the photo towards the top of this web site article is reloading a little bit odd to me? I used delivering an email however it bounced again.

[…] story. A far more mystical account of these men and their star-led journey is preserved in an eighth-century C.E. Syriac manuscript held in the Vatican Library. But since we live in an age where mystical experiences are too often […]

[…] few years ago, an ancient text called, “Revelation of the Magi,” was recently found in the Vatican library and was translated for the first time into English. […]

For the last 30 years I have be looking at the Pyramids of Egypt, there is a story that goes with this, weird ! but interesting, this I will keep for another time. I am not a religious person ! I believe I have stumbled onto a theory that you may find interesting, I don t think that the pyramids where built just to service the afterlife of the pharaohs, but rather they were leaving a permanent legacy to mankind for the ages. Each stone is a principal component that makes up the superstructure and the shape is significant in what I want to tell you! Let us start with a question! Why would the Knights Templar who were imprisoned in Chi none castle in France, scratch on the walls of their cell, the star of David, this had no significance to the Jewish people, other that King David and his son Solomon, or did they know something the star of David is 2 pyramids (integrated). I believe it predates the pyramids , it was a pagan symbol and the ancient Egyptian symbol for SUNRISE. The great pyramid as discovered by Napoleons surveyor general, makes up HALF PI, that s half a circle, for anything to be whole, it would need to have 2 halves. As I found in the star of David, place each to each other s base and we have the full circle. Now it gets tricky! Oh- for a white board, half pi is an arch, just maybe! That missing arch, and is the pyramid in real terms not a covenant? Hieroglyphics are interesting as all their expressionism was done through pictures and symbols, yet today we use words , but at the end of it! We say do you get the picture! Same thing just a different pen. Now listen to the words we use, APEX, ATTITUDE, ENCLINED, PERSPECTIVE, HIGHERARCHY, ASPECT, ASPRATION, etc. etc., this is all pyramidal. Trans actual analysis is the parent, adult, child in our communication with one another, and the aspects of our own nature. One may have parent child relationship with our partner, by talking down to them. Yet, within ourselves we must come to terms with our maturity, the brain we were bo!
rn with,
is the same one we carry thru life, as we evolve from child to adult, just like dropping a pebble into a pond, we get the rings, like the tree that s cut in half, we get the rings of growth, so it is with the pyramid and the star of David (the Magan star). The base of the pyramid is the broad spectrum that youth requires to run around in as we age we need less, I believe the expression goes, as we get older life tappers of. Yet! All our experiences and wisdom rises with use, by now you should be pushing thous 2 halves of the pyramid together, you see just like the pyramids we are also the sum total of our principals. HELL this is getting scatty! Sorry! I will try to make sense of all this. Today! Pyramids influence our lives, just people don t notice them, In Australia, our capital building, has a structure in the shape of a pyramid, it hold up our flag! Underneath it there is a small glass pyramid, there is 1 outside the Louvre in Paris, 1 outside in Rome,1 in Memphis there all over the place. They are probably Masonic, but the idea came from somewhere. This is all about enlightenment, as sunrise (half pi) is first light, a time when we can start to relate to a new day, apart from warmth, so why wouldn’t one worship the sun, half pi is also a moon sign, Horus is a moon sign, you see! When the moon is in 2 halves, dark and light! This to the ancients was the way they came to terms with the way their minds worked, you know! If something is not understood, we say! I am in the dark, after reasoning, we might say! Oh yes I see the light. Jesus said! I, am the truth the light and the way. This then is the essence of truth, the 2 halve of the pyramid, shows us how the 2 halves of the moon, has value. The eye of Horus (moon sign), by the way! 1 eye white and the other dark. When Jesus came to heal the blind! It was not the physical, but the metaphysical, the mind! Oh yes I see, henceforth, I understand, just bake to sunrise! If one was to have a sudden awareness about something! We may say, oh yes!!
It just
dawned on me, – there’s that sunrise again! In the Mason there are 3 pillars, 1 with a moon, 1 with a sun, and 1 with a man s head (symbols), all aspects of enlightenment, illumination. Genius let there be light, in the book of Isaiah, there will be discovered in the land of Egypt, a monument to the Lord of hosts. in the Luke he who falls from the cornerstone, with be Brocken, this is not the cornerstone of the upright pyramid, but the corner of the inverted pyramid., for if one goes too far outside your base principal one could make a fool of one’s self. (needs explanation). In the Masons, there is a pyramid shape, it has in it an inverted T , this is the key, all experience in life is horizontal , until we encounter adversity, then we stop an reflected, then we start to grow UP ! so ! I believe thous Egyptians were really smart. Love to talk and shed real light on all this. As Budda said ! I could talk all day, finding someone to listen is a problem, finding someone who understands is a bigger problem. I trust you get my drift with all this, and I might add! Dan Brown got a lot right sort of! In his movie, the Divinci code, Robert Landon (Tom Hanks) said whilst addressing a class, at the beginning of the move! We must search for basic truth, well once again the way we talk has clues of its own, like the truths out there, the truth as it stands, etc. etc. The best place to hide something is right under your nose! I say again the 2 halves of the pyramid give us 2 hemispheres, just like the half moon, just 1 we can’t see. I am sorry this is all over the place! But it all can be explained notice churches, especially European ! they have 2 towers either side of a pyramid shape, the information is all there we just have to see it. Hope you understand this! The grail is the star of David and it can be explained !

was Jesus created by the Magi, through the power of suggestion ? I believe he was.



MGM, 2006, 140 minutes
Cast: James Franco, Martin Henderson, Jean Reno, Jennifer Drecker, Abdul Salis, Phillip Winchester, Tyler Labine and David Ellison
Story: Blake Evans
Screenplay: Phil Sears, Blake Evans and David Ward
Producer: Dean Devlin
Director: Tony Bill

Historical Background

Determined to remain neutral, President Woodrow Wilson’s administration would not prevent American citizens from serving in the French army during WWI, but it would not help them either. Although attracted by the propaganda benefits of an American squadron fighting for France, the French government feared contravening American neutrality, therefore volunteers had to first join the French Foreign Legion and were then detached to the squadron. The American Escadrille (squadron) first saw combat in May 1916 during the Battle of Verdun. Repeated protests from the German ambassador motivated the decision to change the name to Lafayette Escadrille. The original squadron had drawn so many recruits that additional squadrons were formed, creating the Lafayette Corps. Participating in the Battles of Verdun and the Somme, the Passchendaele Campaign and the Nivelle Offensive, the squadron soon gained a good reputation, so it was often requested as an escort for bombing and reconnaissance missions. In fact, the Lafayette Escadrille had become famous by early 1917, so it received a steady stream of visiting newsmen and American officers. The United States entered the war on April 6, 1917. The pilots had expected that the air force would eagerly want their experience, but the tiny American air force lacked the technical expertise needed to quickly expand. As a result, the Lafayette Escadrille became the first American squadron, the 103rd Pursuit Squadron, only in February 1918. The fame of the squadron ensured that thousands of men later claimed to have been members of the squadron.

Plot Summary

Left to right: Skinner, Beagle, Toddman, Jensen and Lowry

In 1916, a small group of Americans join the Lafayette Escadrile: Blaine Rawlings (James Franco) had to leave town after beating the banker who had foreclosed on his ranch Eugene Skinner (Abdul Salis), an African-American boxer, enlisted because France has treated him better than his own country William Jensen (Phillip Winchester) enlisted because all of the men in his family have fought in wars Briggs Lowry (Tyler Labine) joined because his rich father made him, hoping that he would find direction and Beagle (David Ellison) is on the run after robbing a bank. Although the escadrile is commanded by Captain Georges Thenault (Jean Reno), the new recruits serve under a grizzled veteran, Reed Cassidy (Martin Henderson), who obsessively hunts an evil German pilot. Rawlings quickly falls in love with a local girl, Lucienne (Jennifer Drecker), and unexpectedly finds himself playing a leadership role.

Historical accuracy

Inspired by the true story. There is a lot of wriggle-room in that sentence.

To be fair, viewers will actually learn a little about the war. The training sequence is quite good, and is probably better than the training the real pilots received. Thenault explains that the pilots wore silk scarves because they were always turning their heads looking for the enemy. Cassidy gives them pistols to shoot themselves in case their planes catch fire, since they don’t have parachutes.

The movie gets most of the basic facts right. Thenault was the actual commander of the real squadron. The escadrille did have a lion, Whiskey, as a mascot. In fact, it had two lions, the second was named Soda. However, the lions were moved to a zoo after a playful Whiskey knocked Thenault down into the mud, and started chewing on his cap.

There is a good shot of the abrupt transformation from peaceful farmland to the front. Since the front did not move for most of the war, the area behind it remained untouched.

The script captures the real pilots’ heavy drinking and endless discussions about the merits of various types of planes, but it does not show that how rapidly technology advanced in WWI. The introduction of a new model would give one side a temporary advantage for a few months until the other side introduced a newer plane that could fly faster or was more manueverable.

Skinner is clearly based on Eugene Bullard, a black American who had moved to France to escape racial discrimination, and fought for France, first in the Foreign Legion, and then in the Lafayette Flying Corps. The script acknowledges the rampant racism in the United States, admitting that Skinner was not allowed to fly in the American air force after the United States entered the war.

Speaking of the Lafayette Flying Corps, where is the corps? The movie covers the period from 1916 to America’s entrance into the war in 1917, but the dwindling group of pilots in the escadrile seem to be the only American pilots in France. In reality, the escadrile was so popular that it was expanded into a corps. Presumably, the writers chose to focus on a small group of characters, but would it have hurt to mention the Lafayette Corps?

To be honest, the film is not about the real Lafayette Escadrille, it is just a generic WWI aviation film that happens to feature Americans fighting for France. Cassidy is the squadron commanding officer because every single other veteran is dead, which is ridiculous. It gets worse. Meeting the new recruits for the first time, the veteran Cassidy informs them that their life expectancy is three to six weeks. The Lafayette Escadrille took losses, but it was not the Suicide Squad. I suspect that there are no other experienced pilots in the squadron other than Cassidy because the script focuses on the young stars, and experienced pilots would have distracted from the young heroes’ story.

However, the amazing aerial combat scenes are the movie’s strength. In particular, a battle against a zeppelin, which is heading for Paris, is simply stunning. Unfortunately, the movie does not explain that the zeppelins’ main advantage was their ability to bomb from such a height that the fighters had trouble climbing high enough to actually shoot at them. Zeppelins did bomb high-profile civilian targets like London and Paris, but the attacks usually took place at night because the greatest threat to the zeppelins was anti-aircraft fire, not fighter planes. Still, it is a cool scene, and it is nice to see the huge size of the zeppelins.

Despite the constant repetition that they are knights of the air, the idea that aces routinely fought duels is more than a bit of an exaggeration. Most aces died because they were exhausted or were surrounded, not in duels.


Flyboys was made early in James Franco’s career, and he was not ready to play the lead. Nor is he believable as a bad boy. However, the writers did their best to give Rawlins as many opportunities to be heroic as possible. Learning that the Germans have penetrated French territory, Rawlings makes a nighttime flight to evacuate Lucienne, who had chosen to be rescued by the hero, instead of simply leaving with the rest of the refugees. The escape from the Germans who have taken over her house is probably supposed to be thrilling, but it is merely blah.

The romance is a little boring, although I appreciate Lucienne’s efforts to fight her growing attraction to Rawlings, aware that he will either die or leave. The language barrier is nice, but it is sad that he can not say a single word in French. Apparently, an American hero can not be expected to learn French. Instead, Lucienne has to make the effort to prepare what she wants to say in English. One of the few good parts about Lafayette Escadrile (1958), which covered the same unit, was that both of the lovers were struggling with the other’s language. I like the French adjutant’s comment, “typical Americans, they come here but can not speak French.”

While the use of the newsreel to introduce the escadrille at the beginning of the film is good, the script does not deserve an award for originality. A rebellious loner learns to lead war threatens to separate young lovers a pilot must conquer his fear and a racist learns to respect a black comrade. There is a even good German ace and a bad German ace. At least the racist is a rich easterner, not a southern redneck, which is a nice change of pace

Jean Reno is good but wasted as the the weary commander, who has seen far too many young men fly off and fail to return.

The film is gorgeous, and the producers clearly loved flying since the movie shows several types of bombers and even a zeppelin. Unfortunately, the amazing aerial footage is not matched by the cliché-ridden screenplay.

When her husband was captured, Antonina stepped in

Eventually, though, his part in the resistance caught up with him. In 1944 he fought in the Warsaw Polish Uprising and was caught by the Germans. While he was a prisoner, his wife Antonina and their son, Ryszard, continued helping Jews at the zoo.

Born as a strict Catholic and having lost her parents during the Russian Revolution by the Bolsheviks, Antonina knew the costs of war in a very personal way. Despite being characterized as nervous and fearful, she did not let that nor the loss of her parents prevent her from helping those escaping the Nazis. As a lover of animals and believing that every living creature was important, Antonina played an indispensable role in saving hundreds of Jewish lives. "I looked at them with despair," she said. "Their appearance and the way they spoke left no illusions. … I felt an overwhelming sense of shame for my own helplessness and fear."

Although much of the zoo was damaged due to bombing, Antonina, Jan and their son allowed Jews to hide in empty animal cages, in their house (sometimes up to a dozen at a time), and secret underground tunnels. Antonina used music to communicate to the escapees, playing a particular tune to signal when they needed to hide and then playing a different tune when the coast was clear. She even dyed the hair of an entire Jewish family so they could disguise their background. To conceal their Jewish names, Antonina gave some of the families animal nicknames (e.g. The Squirrels, The Hamsters, The Pheasants) and gave some of the zoo animals human names.

Following this summer semester, Frank worked at a local bank for one year. He had also recently begun studying economics. When a former classmate set up an internship for Frank at Macy&aposs Department Store in Manhattan, New York, he jumped at the chance to gain business experience. Unfortunately, in 1909, just a couple of weeks after Frank arrived in New York for his internship, his father passed away. Frank quickly headed home for the funeral. Determined to forge ahead in his career, Frank soon returned to the states and spent the next two years working there𠅏irst at Macy&aposs and later at a bank.

In 1911, Frank went home to Germany and took a job with a company that fabricated window frames. During World War I, he worked for a manufacturer of horseshoes for the Germany military. In 1914, however, Frank was conscripted into the German army and sent to the Western Front, where he achieved the rank of lieutenant. When the war ended, Frank took over the family bank, which his younger brother had been managing poorly.

Years later, in 1936, Frank would further exhibit his business acumen by establishing the Opekta Company and appointing himself its director. Two years later, he would set up a second company, Pectacon.

A history of Paris during Nazi occupation

Armed fighters take part in the liberation of Paris. Under the Nazi occupation, many Parisians not only cooperated with the Germans but felt humiliated, guilty and defensive about it. (Keystone/Getty Images)

Like so much else that happened in France during World War II, the Nazi occupation of Paris was something entirely more complex and ambiguous than has generally been understood. We tend to think of those four years as difficult but minimally destructive by comparison with the hell the Nazis wreaked elsewhere in the country. But just as Keith Lowe made plain in his magisterial “Savage Continent” (2012) that, in the years following Germany’s surrender in 1945, France was a place not of peace but of widespread hatred and violence, so Ronald C. Rosbottom leaves no doubt, in “When Paris Went Dark,” that the Nazi occupation was a terrible time for Paris, not just because the Nazis were there but because Paris itself was complicit in its own humiliation:

“Even today, the French endeavor both to remember and to find ways to forget their country’s trials during World War II their ambivalence stems from the cunning and original arrangement they devised with the Nazis, which was approved by Hitler and assented to by Philipe Petain, the recently appointed head of the Third Republic, that had ended the Battle of France in June of 1940. This treaty — known by all as the Armistice — had entangled France and the French in a web of cooperation, resistance, accommodation, and, later, of defensiveness, forgetfulness, and guilt from which they are still trying to escape.”

Rosbottom, who teaches at Amherst College, has written an unconventional account of the Nazi occupation, focusing on its thematic aspects rather than providing a standard chronological history. His book “aims to give an account of how the Parisians viewed the Germans and vice versa of how the Parisian citizen figured out a code of daily conduct toward his nemesis and effected it of how the citizen of the Occupation handled his psychological and emotional responses to the presence of a powerful enemy and of how each side perpetuated real and symbolic violence on the other.” It is almost certainly a unique event in human history, one in which a vicious and unscrupulous invader occupied a city known for its sophistication and liberality, declining to destroy it or even to exact physical damage on more than a minority of its citizens yet leaving it in a state of “embarrassment, self-abasement, guilt and a felt loss of masculine superiority that would mark the years of the Occupation” and that, Rosbottom persuasively argues, continued long thereafter.

To this day, he writes, one must be struck by “how sensitive Paris and Parisians remain about the role of the city and its citizens in its most humiliating moment of the twentieth century.” The history of Paris from 1940 to ’44 gives the lie to the old childhood taunt: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. The Germans for the most part spared Parisians sticks and stones (except, of course, Parisians who were Jewish), but the “names” they inflicted in the form of truncated freedoms, greatly reduced food and supplies, an unceasing fear of the unexpected and calamitous, and the simple fact of their inescapable, looming presence did deep damage of a different kind.

It is difficult to visit Paris today and conjure up much sense of the city in the early 1940s. It is indeed, as it is called throughout the world, the City of Light, but it was “a darker city — gray and brown, not to mention noir (black), were required adjectives to describe the absence of ambient light.” It was a quiet city as well: “The cacophony of daily urban engagement — passersby, hawkers, street minstrels and performers, construction work, and especially traffic noise — was severely diminished . . . writers of the period, such as Colette, emphasize how quiet Paris became during those years. Sometimes the silence brought benefits, when pleasant sounds — birdsong, music — were able to reach Parisians’ ears. . . . But mostly, the new silence in such a vital capital must have been confusing and intermittently frightening. Police sirens were more menacing, airplane engines meant danger, a shout or scream demanded a more nervous response.”

‘When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944’ by Ronald C. Rosbottom (Little, Brown)

The sirens must have been especially terrifying because those who usually sounded them, the French police, were no friends to the ordinary citizens of the city: “Though the French police have spent years trying to dodge their reputation as enablers, there is no doubt, now that the archives are almost all freely open, that the French forces of order were active, not reluctant, collaborators with the Germans. Indeed, there is no way the Germans could have succeeded as well as they did in rounding up . . . ‘illegals’ if it had not been for the help of the local police forces. The Germans quite simply did not have enough personnel to track and keep files on Jews or plan and carry out raids, arrests, and incarcerations. Nor did they know as intimately the labyrinth that was the city of Paris.”

The city was dark, silent and constricted “physical and psychological space seemed to progressively narrow.” Rosbottom continues: “The very term occupation connotes ‘taking a place,’ and the most compelling stories of this period concern how ‘places’ — apartments, shops, subway trains, bookstores, buses, parks, cafes, streets and sidewalks, restaurants, cabarets, even brothels — were taken over by foreign soldiers and bureaucrats as well as by smug French collaborators.” Perhaps the most useful way one can attempt today to get some sense of what Paris was like then is to imagine one’s own city occupied by a foreign power. It is easy enough for me, looking out my window onto Logan Circle in Washington, to see in my mind two armed men in uniform standing at the streetlight in front of our building, and armored vehicles crowding civilian vehicles to the side around the circle itself. Imagine that, and you should have little trouble imagining how Paris shrank into itself, how the life of the city was squeezed into a thin trickle of silent despair.

Eventually Paris did resist the Nazis, but the effects were limited — the most to be said is that the Resistance there “did keep the Reich and their Vichy allies on the alert and did send a message to the world that Paris was not being benignly held prisoner” — and the myths the French have derived from it are only tangentially related to reality. “French resistance against the Nazis has been asked to serve critical functions in that nation’s collective memory,” Rosbottom writes. The myth “served to postpone for a quarter of a century deeper analyses of how easily France had been beaten and how feckless had been the nation’s reaction to German authority, especially between 1940 and 1943. Finally, the myth of a universal resistance was important to France’s idea of itself as a beacon for human liberty and as an example of the courage one needed in the face of hideous political ideologies.”

Paris in those years was “a city where many, many young and middle-aged men were in prison, concentration camps, in hiding, or in the underground,” so almost by default the Resistance became in significant measure a movement of the young and of women and girls, without whom “the Parisian resistance, no matter its ideology, could not have been as successful as it was.” It did keep the Germans and their henchmen in the police force on the qui vive, but there remained “the ethical questions that would haunt France for decades: Which actions, exactly, constitute collaboration and which constitute resistance?”

The unhappy truth, about France generally and Paris specifically, is that there were more overt acts of collaboration than of resistance, though that began to change as German resources were challenged elsewhere from 1943 onward, leaving weak and vulnerable occupation forces in the city. The French have been eager to present themselves as far more important to the fight for freedom than they actually were, and the Resistance mythology has been essential to maintaining what is largely a fiction, if not a fantasy. As this fine book makes clear, there is little to celebrate in the story of Paris in the occupation and much to lament.

Contenders for the Crown

Current academic consensus considers the evidence for a historical Arthur unconvincing. British archaeologist Nowell Myres (1902–1989), who devoted 50 years to the search, wrote near the end of his life that “ no figure on the borderline of history and mythology has wasted more of the historian’s time .” The absence of evidence, however, does not always constitute evidence of absence. Some scholars propose that although Arthur himself was not a historical person, his legend may have been inspired by one.

Some of these proposed pseudo-Arthurs are frankly implausible. The claims for Artúr mac Áedán , a prince of a 5th-century Gaelic kingdom in the west of Scotland, and Lucius Artorius Castus , an Etruscan-born Roman cavalryman who occupied Britannia in the 2nd century, hinge mostly on their names they are 400 miles too far north and 300 years too early, respectively, to be truly credible.

More promisingly, cultural historian Geoffrey Ashe (born 1923) identified the 5th-century Romano-British military commander Riothamus as a possible pseudo-Arthur. Of obscure background, Riothamus (or Riotimus) is mentioned in Roman histories as leading a war party in Brittany, the Celtic province in the north of France, supporting Roman troops in a campaign against the Goths around the year 470. His historicity is further established by a surviving letter written to him by the bishop of Clermont. The Gothic historian Jordanes even called Riothamus “King of the Britons,” in 551 — although the size and location of his kingdom is unknown. He may even have been a native of Brittany, making him, in fact, king of the Bretons.


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