Monthly Archives: August 2021


During the Second World War, a soldier obtained leave allowing him to return to his home.

As soon as he reached the street near his house, he saw a parked military truck loaded with corpses and knew that the enemy had bombed his city.

The truck was carrying dozens of dead bodies and was preparing to transport them to a mass grave.

The soldier stood in front of the piled-up corpses to take a last look at them and noticed that a shoe on a woman’s foot looked like a shoe he had previously bought for his wife.

He went to his house in a hurry to check on her but didn’t find her. He quickly retreated and went back to the truck again to check the body and found his wife.

He was left shocked. He said, “I’ll not want my wife buried in a mass grave”.

So he asked her body be pulled from the truck in preparation for a proper burial.

During the transfer, it was found that she was still breathing slowly but with difficulty. He carried her to the hospital where the necessary first aid was given to her and she came back to life again.

Years after this incident and at the end of the war, the wife who was almost buried alive became pregnant and gave birth to a boy in the picture above named “Vladimir Putin”

He is the current president of Russia.

Putin’s Presidential yacht “Graceful”, built for $100 million (US dollar equivalent)

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One who fought the horror of her day

It is true that tiny dedicated groups of German young people, the best known among them were the WHITE ROSE group of students at Munich University (Munich was the city in which the Nazi party was first organized, and where “Mein Kampf” was written) were murdered in their attempts to arouse the German people to the atrocities committed in their name and the need to take action against Naziism. Only recently was the story of the heroine commemorated below been revealed. exists in memory of the WHITE ROSE group, along with various commemorative sites in Germany and France. None so far exists anywhere in memory of Mildred Harnack.

The untold tale of the only American to lead a resistance group against the Nazis

    Star Tribune
  • 19 hrs ago
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The untold tale of only American to lead a resistance group against the Nazis

“All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days” by: Rebecca Donner; Little, Brown (576 pages, $32)

Wisconsin native Mildred Harnack was the only American to help lead a Nazi-resistance group in Germany during World War II — and you’ve probably never heard of her.

Her largely unknown story is brought to light in “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days” by Rebecca Donner, also the author of a novel, a graphic novel and many essays. But this book is personal — Mildred Harnack was her great-great-aunt.

“Three generations separate us. She preferred anonymity, so I will whisper her name: Mildred Harnack,” she writes.

Donner relies on surviving family letters, declassified intelligence documents and interviews with survivors to tell Harnack’s story. Photos and snippets of letters and papers are sprinkled throughout this compelling book, which reads like a tragic novel where we wish we didn’t know the ending.

Harnack was guillotined on Feb. 16, 1943, at the age of 40 on Adolf Hitler’s direct orders, which we learn on page 6. Yet knowing her terrible fate from the onset shouldn’t dissuade you from reading this page-turner about Harnack’s perilous journey, no matter how much you know about the Holocaust and the brave resistance movement.

Born in Milwaukee, Mildred Fish was studying for a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin when she met German doctoral student Arvid Harnack. The two married and she followed him to his homeland, where she taught American literary history at the University of Berlin. Mildred quickly became troubled by the rise of Nazism.

Donner’s descriptive style takes us inside Nazi Germany and makes the book hard to put down. “Swastikas are cropping up like daisies everywhere: on posters pasted to the walls of U-Bahn stations, on flags and banners and pamphlets,” she writes.

Mildred is most anxious about the politician gaining popularity, “a high-school dropout named Adolf Hitler who, Mildred predicts, will bring ‘a great increase of misery and oppression.’”

She begins holding secret resistance meetings in her apartment, forming a group she and Arvid name The Circle. She recruits like-minded members who first distribute leaflets urging Germans to “resist, resist, resist,” and later put their lives at risk feeding intelligence about Hitler’s expansion plans to the U.S. and elsewhere.

We see Hitler’s rise to power and increasingly violent crackdown on his perceived enemies through the eyes of Mildred and Arvid. Donner’s book documents their sham trials on charges of treason. Its title stems from what a chaplain observed when he visited Mildred in prison, emaciated and struggling with tuberculosis, yet intensely focused on translating a volume of Goethe’s poems into English.

“In all the frequent troubles of our days / A God gave compensation — more his praise / In looking sky- and heavenward as duty / In sunshine and in virtue and in beauty.”

Mildred Harnack didn’t survive to see the end of the war or Hitler’s downfall. But her heroic actions may now get the attention they deserve through this heartbreaking work written by her descendant.

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Human bodies remodeled for war

English bowmen

7 August 2019

A man with a bow and arrow

Come rain or shine this weekend (and it’s looking like a mix of both) you can join in with our Indoor Archery event (King Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester UK) and take aim to see how many points you can score.

As it’s all about archery this weekend we asked Joe from our Visitor Services team to look back on one of the most famous types of soldier and weapons in English history – the longbowman and his bow:

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about longbows and their users and just as many interesting bits of trivia that our visitors might not know! Here’s a few facts about longbowmen to whet your appetite in time for the weekend…

Longbow Power
English longbows were powerful. You may have already assumed that but it’s hard to emphasise just how powerful they were. If you have ever had a go at archery before, you’ll be familiar with Olympic bows. They tend to have a reasonable “poundage” of about 50lbs, meaning it requires 50lbs of force to draw the bow. This is also reduced by modern technologies and mechanisms that make them easier to draw. In addition, modern bows have sights and rests to make aiming much easier.

No such luck with medieval longbows! Every aspect of using an English longbow was manual – your knuckle was used to rest your arrow as you drew it back and aiming was done largely through muscle memory and practice. Couple this with draw weights of anywhere between 100 and 200lbs and you can see why the longbow was such a devastating weapon!

Longbowmen skeletons
The skeletons of English archers were deformed from years of archery! The high poundage of war bows, coupled with years of training in their use from a young age, led to skeletons having over-developed shoulder and arm bones to compensate for the growth of muscle around those areas.

Below is an image of a reconstruction of the skeleton of an English longbowman. Notice how the arms are slightly bowed, the shoulders unusually hunched and that the right shoulder, the drawing arm, sits higher than the left.

The ‘English’ Longbow
The English longbow is legendary. It is known as the weapon that brought France to its knees and saw English domination of the medieval battlefield, a weapon that is quintessentially English… Except it isn’t! The ‘English’ longbow was in fact a weapon of Welsh origins.

It was first encountered by the English during William the Conqueror’s invasion of Wales in the 11th Century and impressed the Normans so much with its effectiveness that they adopted it for themselves. In fact, throughout much of what is considered the golden age of the longbow, a large proportion of longbowmen deployed in English armies were Welsh, the Welsh still being considered the best longbowmen in the land!

The Professional Archer
To this day there is a prevailing idea of the longbowman being a peasant soldier; a man forced by law to train in archery all the time and plucked from his farm to fight on foreign soil.

This has led to many of our ideas of the cream of the French nobility felled by a rabble of barely trained peasants. The truth is more complicated. Whilst it is true that a royal edict demanded that able bodied men above the age of 14 practice archery for two hours a week, the truth is that most archers in service to the king were professional soldiers.

The majority of the peasantry wouldn’t have been skilled enough with the minimal amount of training decreed by law (a law that was rarely enforced) and probably wouldn’t have even been able to afford bows powerful enough to use as war bows.

In reality, most archers were professional soldiers from what could be seen as a sort of early middle class and were paid a wage on par with a trained tradesman, such as a stonemason. They certainly weren’t nobles and there were definitely peasants amongst their ranks but to say that all English longbowmen were peasants is somewhat misleading.

Fire Arrows
One of the most popular images in Hollywood when it comes to archery is of the fire arrow. We’ve all seen the moment in a pitched battle when the archers light the end of their arrows to rain fiery death upon their enemies. This is very much “Hollywood” as it didn’t really happen.

Fire arrows definitely existed, in fact the siege of Oran in 1404 saw extensive use of flaming arrows loosed from low poundage bows to ignite houses. But that was basically their only use, as a siege weapon.

Against infantry, fire arrows would have been woefully ineffective as most medieval armour wasn’t highly flammable, the fire cage arrow had very poor penetration due to its shape and it simply couldn’t be loosed at high speeds from powerful bows without extinguishing the flames before reaching their target.

So, if you see archers in films using fire arrows against anything other than a building, it’s probably fantasy!

Below is a replica of a medieval fire cage arrow head. Cloth would be wrapped through the cage and ignited.

(Thanks to Sabana Grande, c/o Medium)

What We Didn’t Know About Longbows and Archers

British longbows, or “war bows,” were considered a superweapon during the Medieval ages. Despite that, many historians claimed that their power was exaggerated as the results described in old manuscripts could not be reproduced by modern replicas of longbows.

For example, these bows were supposed to be able to pierce even the thickest of steel plate armor. One account by a 12th-century clergyman called Gerald of Wales claimed that an arrow fired from a longbow once pierced a soldier’s armor, went through his thigh, and actually killed the horse he was riding on.

But when historians attempted to make longbows like these, they found that their draw weight of 60–80 lbs simply could not produce enough force to do that. In 1982, they were proven wrong as the 172 bows on the Mary Rose were, in fact, way more powerful than ever imagined.

Their draw weight was an estimated 100–200lbs (45-90kg). Given that the bows themselves were about 6.5ft (2m) in length, it seemed as if they were weapons made for giants or immensely powerful ogres to wield. The greatest archers of the day were able to fire 6–12 arrows per minute. This meant pulling back a weight possibly as heavy or heavier than their bodies with one arm up to 12 times!

To put this in perspective, the bows used by today’s Olympic athletes who trained their whole lives only have a draw weight of about 50 lbs. And many of the archers have lifelong shoulder problems after retiring.

But there was a reasonable explanation for why Englishmen from over 500 years ago could use these powerful weapons.

Everyone Had to Practice Archery by Law — Until Their Bodies Were Deformed

During Tudor times, archery was not only one of the most popular sports, but its practice was actually mandatory for all able-bodied men. Children as young as six years old were trained for 8–10 years before they became proficient at the use of longbows. This led to their bodies becoming deformed.

The first thing they would have noticed was that their left shoulders grew larger and more striated from holding the bow. The right sides of their backs would have similarly been more muscular than their left from pulling the strings.

But the skeletons on board the Mary Rose showed that bodily changes resulting from firing longbows were not limited only to the muscles. Surprisingly, all the skeletons of archers on board actually had their right shoulder sockets further up than their left sockets, meaning that they had one shoulder higher than the other.

Furthermore, their arms were naturally bowed — ie. bent outwards. They literally had twisted bones in their arms. And their backs were also hunched.

Aside from looking quite intimidating from all the muscle they carried back when they were alive, these folk would have looked quite weird.


It was through the discovery of the Mary Rose warship (discovered in the mud in the bottom of Portsmouth Harbor in 1971) that historians realized exactly what it took to fire these weapons. Longbows allowed the English to dominate European wars for centuries.

They were even better than crossbows in several ways. For example, they didn’t take as long to load and fire, and their strings could easily be removed and changed when they broke, while the ones on crossbows couldn’t. They also had a longer range and, for hundreds of years, they were the more powerful armor-penetrating weapon.

The only thing that put the longbows out of use were firearms, as demonstrated by the fact that the longbows on the ship were stored among guns. In other words, they were still considered somewhat useful even then —despite the fact they required a great amount of personal sacrifice to be able to use.

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Another Alexandria mystery

(Next time you visit Alexandria, bring your metal detector?)

Facts About Cleopatra’s Death That Sound Made Up – But Aren’t

Megan Summers

Updated December 18, 2020

Picture the scene: It’s summer in Egypt, and Cleopatra, the kingdom’s most famous ruler, knows Augustus, her mortal enemy, is in Alexandria ready to dethrone her with his legion of Roman soldiers. Cleopatra senses the end is imminent – not just for her, but for her long-time partner, the Roman general Mark Antony.

While historians debate the particular events that transpired that August in 30 BC, it’s certain that, by the end of the month, Cleopatra and Antony were no more. Over the centuries, the legend of Cleopatra’s death has overshadowed the true history of this often misrepresented, self-proclaimed goddess’s final days. However, the truth is sometimes more unbelievable than fiction, and no one proves this better than Cleopatra herself.

  • Photo: Justus van Egmont / 
  • After The Battle Of Actium, She Created A Goth-Sounding Secret Society In 31 BC, a year prior to her demise, Cleopatra watched as the combined naval fleets of Egypt and Mark Antony were decimated by Augustus’s forces at the Battle of Actium. While Augustus consolidated power in Rome, the ill-fated lovers retreated back to Alexandria to bide their time before Augustus’s next move.In the year following the Battle of Actium, Cleopatra and Antony put their exorbitant wealth toward one lavish party after another. They also dissolved their drinking club, “The Society of Inimitable Livers,” and formed a new one: “Companions to the Death.”Cleopatra took this macabre obsession with her demise to the next level, erecting her own mausoleum in Alexandria. In her defense, most of her Roman allies abandoned her. The queen knew her reign was coming to an end.
  • Photo: Sergey Sosnovskiy 
  • Believing Cleopatra Had Perished, Mark Antony Attempted To Do The Same. It all came to a head around August 1, 30 BC. Antony and Augustus battled on the outskirts of Alexandria, but Antony’s army was no match for his opponent’s. Antony’s men, knowing they were doomed, deserted him and joined Augustus. Antony had no choice but to surrender.When word of this reached Cleopatra, she fled to her mausoleum. She decided to fake her death by sending a note to Antony, believing he would follow suit. Some historians think Cleopatra was secretly negotiating with Augustus, and she knew Antony was doomed no matter what.Whatever her motivation, when the letter about Cleopatra’s demise reached Antony, he was devastated. As the Greek historian Plutarch tells it, Antony spoke these words:”O Cleopatra, I am not distressed to have lost you, for I shall straightaway join you; but I am grieved that a commander as great as I should be found to be inferior to a woman in courage.” Antony then stabbed himself in the stomach with his own sword.
  • Photo: Pompeo Batoni 
  • A Fatally Wounded Antony Was Carried To Cleopatra’s Tomb. The self-inflicted wound did not end Antony’s life. When word of his condition made it to Cleopatra, she had her injured lover brought to the mausoleum. Soon after, Antony expired in Cleopatra’s arms. Without her companion, Cleopatra likely worked many angles to win Augustus’s favor. It’s clear the would-be Roman emperor only cared about one thing: obtaining Cleopatra’s wealth, which she stockpiled in the mausoleum.
  • Plutarch wrote that Augustus “was fearful about the treasures in her funeral pyre, and he thought it would add greatly to the glory of his triumph if she were led in the procession” of victory back home in Rome.If there’s anything Cleopatra refused to be, it was a trophy.
  • Augustus Apparently Allowed Her To Give Antony A Proper Burial.
  • Nearly two weeks transpired between the passings of Antony and Cleopatra. While popular lore often excludes this detail, Augustus granted Cleopatra permission to tend to Antony’s body. Antony was either embalmed, inhumed, or cremated according to Egyptian customs.This funerary ritual may have filled Cleopatra with a sense of foreboding and dread, as she was well aware that a similar destiny awaited her.
  • Photo: Peter Paul Rubens 
  • She May Have Used A Snake To End Her Own Life. Museums around the world are full of paintings depicting a scantily clad Cleopatra grasping a venomous snake. As the story goes, the ruler lured a cobra or viper into her chamber, which promptly bit her. The snake’s venomous bite brought Cleopatra’s 39 years of life to an abrupt end.Spoiler alert: No one knows exactly how Cleopatra perished on or around August 12. Augustus made it clear her only option was to return to Rome with him, where she would be paraded around like a conquest. It’s on-brand that this powerful, female ruler would rather take her own life than be subjected to so much ridicule.Many historians believe Cleopatra either poisoned herself or was assassinated by Augustus. A hundred years after her demise, Plutarch hypothesized in his published annals that Augustus developed the snake bite narrative as a propaganda tool to amplify his power in Rome. Other ancient historians, most of them Roman, stand by the snake bite tale. More and more contemporary historians, though, think Plutarch’s theory is a more realistic one.
  • Photo: Juan Luna 
  • Two Of Her Maidservants Passed With Her. From the beginning of the ordeal, two of Cleopatra’s closest maidservants stayed by her side: Iras and Charmion. In multiple chronicles and works of art, the women flank the lifeless body of their ruler, having succumbed to the same plight as Cleopatra.Most portrayals show the three pallid women in Cleopatra’s mausoleum, surrounded by vestiges of her riches. If the saga is true, it’s less likely one venomous snake could be responsible for three fatalities, and more likely the women came into contact with a lethal concoction or poison.Ultimately, though, as the second-century writer Cassius Dio declares in his Roman History, “No one knows clearly in what way [they] perished.”
  • Before She Passed, Cleopatra Was Considered An Enemy Of The Roman StateBefore the Battle of Actium, Augustus and Antony vied for control of Rome in the wake of Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC. The two generals essentially split the growing Roman Empire between them, and Cleopatra sided with Antony.As Cleopatra and Antony’s romance blossomed, Antony neglected his wife in Rome – Octavia, Augustus’s sister. Augustus used the affair between Cleopatra and Antony to rile up his fellow Roman statesmen. When Antony officially divorced Octavia, Augustus used his power to declare war on Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, in 32 BC.The move was a strategic one for Augustus, who later journaled about how the declaration improved his chances of defeating Antony: “The whole of Italy voluntarily took oath of allegiance to me and demanded me as its leader in the war in which I was victorious at Actium.”
  • Photo: John William Waterhouse 
  • Her Only Child With Julius Caesar Also Met A Terrible Fate. Antony was not the first Roman general Cleopatra fell for. In 47 BC, she gave birth to a son named Caesarion, whose father was allegedly Julius Caesar. After Caesar was taken out by Roman senators, Cleopatra shacked up with Antony, with whom she had three children: one girl and two boys.When she lost the Battle of Actium, Cleopatra sent the teenaged Caesarion away, convinced he would be assassinated on the spot by Augustus’s army. Caesarion and part of his mother’s royal treasury sailed up the Nile River, where he hoped to eventually make it all the way to India.Unfortunately, the 17-year-old Caesarion was caught along the way and didn’t survive the trip.
  • While Her Daughter Survived, The Fate Of Her Two Sons With Antony Remains Unknown. Cleopatra and Antony shared twins (one female, the other male) and a young son. After their parents perished, the children were shipped to Rome and put under the care of Octavia, Antony’s former wife.The daughter, Cleopatra Selene, by all accounts went on to live a full life. The boys, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus, eventually disappeared without a trace. What happened to the young men remains shrouded in mystery.
  • Photo: Einsamer Schütze 
  • The Ptolemaic Dynasty Ended With Cleopatra. Even though she donned the title Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra was not ethnically North African. Her royal family, the Ptolemaic Dynasty, were all Macedonian Greeks who controlled Egypt for nearly 300 years. The first ruler, Ptolemy I Soter, rose to power after the demise of Alexander the Great, reigning as both an Egyptian Pharaoh and a Greek monarch.The Ptolemies, as they came to be known, isolated themselves in their capital city, Alexandria, and married within the family line in order to keep their lineage Greek. The kingdom came crashing down when Cleopatra perished, and what remained of it was eventually absorbed into the Roman Empire.
    • The so-far undiscovered tomb?
  • Photo: The Boucicaut Master 
  • Antony And Cleopatra Were Buried Together In An Alexandrian Tomb. Honoring Cleopatra’s final wishes, Augustus buried the deceased ruler next to Antony in a large tomb somewhere around Alexandria. Like something out of a Shakespearean play, the two lovers were reunited in their final rest.This story was corroborated by Plutarch, who wrote that Augustus declared that Cleopatra’s “body should be buried with that of Antony in splendid and regal fashion.” Another ancient historian, Suetonius, backs this up, explaining that Augustus “allowed them both the honor of burial, and in the same tomb, giving orders that the mausoleum which they had begun should be finished.”
  • The Location Of Their Tomb Has Yet To Be Discovered. Where is the fabled tomb that contains the remains of Cleopatra and Antony? What other treasures, if any, exist inside it? Despite what some archaeologists have claimed over the years, the location of the tomb remains unclear. One recent theory is that her tomb lies 30 miles outside of Alexandria in the ancient temple site of Taposiris Magna.Scientists have searched far and wide in and around Alexandria for clues, but the hunt continues for the queen of Egypt and her Roman lover.
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