Home' Greymouth Star : May 21st 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Edgar Feuchtwanger, the son of a
prominent German Jewish family with
roots in Bavaria going back centuries,
vividly remembers when he was a young
boy and nearly bumped into his neighbour
It was 1933 and Hitler, who had
just become German chancellor, kept
a sprawling flat on Munich’s elegant
Prinzregentenplatz next door to
Feuchtwanger’s family home.
Eight-years-old at the time,
Feuchtwanger had been taken by his
nanny for a walk when they nearly collided
with the country’s most powerful man.
“ It so happened that just at the moment
when we were in front of his door, he
came out. He was in a nearly white
mackintosh,” Feuchtwanger told AFP.
“ We were in his way. He looked at me
and there were a few casual bystanders in
the street — it was about half past eight in
the morning and they of course shouted
‘Heil Hitler!’. He just lifted his hat a little
bit, as any democratic politician would do
— he didn’t give the (straight-armed Nazi)
salute — and then he got into his car.”
Feuchtwanger, who said several Jewish
families lived in the neighbourhood, made
eye contact with Hitler, who looked at him
“ I have to emphasise that if he had
known who I was, I wouldn’t be here,” he
“ Just my name would have been like a
red rag to him.”
He was referring to the fact that he was
a Jew, but also to his famous uncle, Lion
Feuchtwanger, one of the most popular
German authors of the early 20th century.
He penned a scathing 1930 satire of
the Nazi leader called Success, which for
a time ran neck-and-neck with Hitler’s
Mein Kampf in the bestseller rankings.
Feuchtwanger, who is 89, is about to
go on a German tour for a book of his
own, When Hitler Was O ur Neighbour,
starting, of course, in Munich.
He now lives in Britain, where in 1938
his parents were able to buy a visa that
would save the lives of his family, just
as the noose was tightening around
Feuchtwanger said his family at first had
only an abstract sense of the danger posed
to them by the National Socialists and
their personable neighbour.
“ He went around Germany ceaselessly
and he tended to come into Munich at the
end of the week, spend a short time — he
sometimes went to his favourite restaurant,
the Osteria — and then he would move on
to his mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden,”
“After about 1935-36, you couldn’t any
longer walk past his front door. You were
kept to the opposite side of the road but
you could see these cars parked there so I
knew he was there even before I left the
Feuchtwanger believes he as a child had
a keener sense of what his thoroughly
German Jewish parents and their friends
could not believe: that the country they
loved would turn on them with speed,
hatred and finally, bloodlust.
“ We were aware of the threat probably
even in 1932,” he said, his English still
lightly accented by his native German.
“ But of course we didn’t realise how
radical that threat was, how lethal it would
get. My father had got that quite wrong.”
That changed during the Kristallnacht
pogrom of November 9-10, 1938, when
his father Ludwig, who worked for a
publishing house until he was stripped of
his job, was swept up in the mass arrests.
He was seized at the family’s flat, within
view of Hitler’s front window, and held at
the Dachau concentration camp north of
Munich for six terrifying weeks.
Lion Feuchtwanger had already fled for
France in 1933 because his books were
banned and burned by the Nazis.
He and a few other relatives pooled
together to give Ludwig the then hefty
sum of £1000 ($1979) upon his release
that would allow the family to escape the
Fourteen-year-old Feuchtwanger was
sent to England first and his parents
joined him two months later.
His aunt Bella stayed behind in Prague
and would die at the Theresienstadt
When the war broke out in September
1939, Feuchtwanger was beginning a new
life at a British boarding school.
His start was difficult, with the
English boys making fun of his German
name, calling him “fish finger” and
But he would go on to outlive Hitler,
study at Cambridge, marry a British
general’s daughter and become a
history professor at the University of
He said French journalist Bertil Scali
approached him a few years ago with the
idea of a “literary” memoir that would
expand on the given facts.
The German publication has drawn
wide media coverage, with Munich-based
national daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung
saying it read like a “spooky fairy tale
— more Franz Kafka than the Brothers
Feuchtwanger, who is still looking for
an English publisher, said his birthplace
now seemed completely transformed.
“ I tend to look at the German
newspapers on my computer. One feels
that somebody like (Chancellor) Angela
Merkel, she’s blissfully without charisma,”
he said with a hearty laugh.
“One’s had enough charismatic
personalities in German history to last
for good and all.” — AFP
Hitler’s Jewish neighbour looks back
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uLetters to the editor
1471 - King Henry VI of England is murdered
in the Tower of L ondon.
1840 - Captain William Hobson claims
British sovereignty over all New Zealand, even
though negotiations are incomplete and it does
not become a British colony until 1841.
1945 - Lauren Bacall and
Humphrey Bogart are married.
1969 - Sirhan B Sirhan is
sentenced to death for the murder
of US presidential candidate Robert
Kennedy in 1968. The sentence was
later changed to life imprisonment.
1977 - Advance Australia Fair
easily wins Australian opinion poll on proposed
1982 - British troops attack Argentine-held
Falkland Islands, with British military saying it
has established beachhead at Port San Carlos;
HMS Ardent sinks with the loss of 22 lives.
1989 - Students occupying Tiananmen Square
in China reject government ultimatum to leave
1991 - Rajiv Gandhi, candidate for prime
minister of India, is assassinated in Madras.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Albrecht Duerer, German artist (1471-1528);
Alexander Pope, English poet (1686-1744);
Henri Rousseau, French painter (1844-1910);
Fats Waller, US jazz musician
(1904-1943); Harold Robbins, US
novelist (1916-1997); Raymond
Burr, Canadian-born actor (1917-
1994); Malcolm Fraser, former
Australian prime minister (1930-);
David Groh, US actor (1939-2008);
Ron Isley, US singer (1941-); Leo
Sayer, British singer (1948-); Mister T, US
actor (1952-); Mark Cavendish, British cyclist
(1985-); Tom Daley, British diver (1994-).
“A ship in the harbour is safe. But that is not
what ships are built for.” — Anonymous.
“ For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways My ways . . . For as the
Heavens are higher than the earth, so are My
ways higher than your ways and My thoughts
than your thoughts.” — (Isaiah 55:8-9).
will be reduced to
the barest minimum next month. Latest to
join the resignation list is Mr M J Bowden
who is to take up a position as staff engineer
with the Hawke’s Bay Catchment Board. Mr
Bowden has had nine years of ser vice with the
Greymouth local body.
With his departure, one man will be left
to handle the duties in the key borough
department. He is the acting-engineer, Mr W
R Hall. Late last year the main engineer, Mr
J H McElhinney, took up a new position in
Invercargill. Efforts to find a replacement for
him have not been successful.
Compulsory testing for Tb in cattle which
was enforced in the Grey-Westland area at the
beginning of April, has revealed that about 5%
of the cattle in the Grey area are affected by
the disease, against 7% in the Westland area.
A team of three specialists employed by the
Agriculture Department are conducting the
tests which will be conducted quarterly.
A member of the Department of Agriculture
in Greymouth said this morning that the
farmers throughout the two declared areas
were quite satisfied with the tests. He said that
farmers who owned affected cattle had the
option of keeping the beast until the end of the
dairy season or having it slaughtered straight
“ Farmers receive a flat rate of £8 per beast
slaughtered,” he said. “ In addition to this
figure, most carcases are acceptable as beef so
the farmer invariably receives more than his
compensation fee. ”
uFood for thought
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hen Brazil drafted
plans to host the
Cup, this Atlantic
was exactly the type
of city it wanted to show off.
A nationwide economic boom was
transforming the once-sleepy backwater
into a fast-growing city typical of the new
Brazil, a country at last poised to make its
long-promised leap into the first world.
Who cares that Natal, in the historically
poor north-east, lies far from the ner ve
centres of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo?
Or that its stadium, home to middling
regional teams, was hardly a venue for
big-league soccer, let alone the world’s most
Natal would build a state-of-the-
art new arena, authorities said, and all
manner of additional infrastructure, too.
They promised a light rail network, a
new hospital, a beachfront facelift and
Five years later, and four weeks before
kickoff, little besides the arena and a
remote, untested airport are complete.
Almost half the more than $1.3 billion in
promised developments never began. What
did has languished, including ongoing
road work that has rendered the stadium’s
outskirts a raw sprawl of rebar, dust and
“This is a missed opportunity,” says
Fernando Mineiro, a state assemblyman
for the leftist Workers’ Party, now in its
12th year in national power. “Natal failed to
Cities go after the World Cup, the
Olympics and other events because
the tourism, broadcast exposure and
other revenues can justify infrastructure
investments and other “legacy ” benefits like
those that famously remade Barcelona for
the 1992 Olympics.
But waste is also common, often leaving
idle infrastructure, like useless South
African stadiums after the 2010 Cup, as
legacies of little but vanity.
Across Brazil, especially its 12 cup venues,
locals are lamenting high costs, delays and
Bureaucracy, corruption and political
squabbling, they say, has led to the usual
lack of follow-through that has often
hobbled development in Latin America’s
A $16b bullet train between Rio and
Sao Paulo never got off the drawing
board. Instead of a new airport terminal,
passengers in Fortaleza will pass through a
huge tent. A $700m rail line in the farm-
belt capital of Cuiaba will not be ready until
well after the Cup.
Nationwide, only 36 of 93 major projects
are complete, according to Sinaenco, a trade
group of engineers and architects.
The shortfalls compound already
widespread discontent over the roughly
$11b spent on the event. The cost is
particularly vexing now that Brazil’s
economy, after a near-decade of average
annual growth over 4%, has lumbered to
half that rate.
Mass protests erupted across Brazil last
June during a tournament considered
a World Cup warm-up, and smaller
demonstrations have continued. The cup,
many Brazilians say, reveals still-glaring
divides in a country big on spectacle
but weak on health care, infrastructure,
education and other vital ser vices.
“It will be a beautiful tournament,” says
Maria Santos, a 29-year-old Natal nurse in
line for a bus to a hospital where she and
colleagues often work without latex gloves
and syringes. “But whatever they spend on
it would be better spent elsewhere.”
Like other host cities where ambition
outpaced reality, and Brazil’s economy itself,
Natal fell far short of developed-world
The city of just under a million residents
is beset by soaring crime, crippling traffic,
erratic public finances and local politics
so baroque, and allegedly corrupt, that
a mayor was recently ousted and the
current State governor faces possible
“Things haven’t gone quite as predicted,”
says Josa Aldemir Freire, an economist at
the local office of Brazil’s national statistics
agency. “ There were some investments, yes,
but not on the scale expected.”
FIFA, soccer’s global authority, at first
expected only eight host cities.
But Brazil’s government and national
soccer kingpins wanted to show off more,
scoring regional political points in the
process. Brazil, they told FIFA, would
prepare 12 venues, unleashing a scramble
among second-tier cities.
“ We were an ugly duckling,” recalls
Fernando Fernandes, a former State
secretary for the event.
But Natal had advantages.
At the elbow of South America, it is
closer to Europe than any other destination
in Brazil. Natal’s shoreline, along towering
dunes that shape its landscape, boasts more
hotel rooms than any host besides Rio, Sao
Paulo and Salvador.
When FIFA announced Natal’s name at a
ceremony in May 2009, residents gathered
beachside to watch live on a giant screen.
Fireworks flared overhead and local officials
promptly began making promises.
Their first challenge was the new stadium.
FIFA required an arena for at least 42,000
spectators — 10 times the average for
routine Natal games. L ocal officials decided
to demolish the existing stadium and build
They hired architects and calculated a cost
of $180m for the new arena. When they
sought bids for the job in 2010, though,
contractors said it could not be built for
Organisers scaled back the blueprint,
reducing the size of a wavy canopy around
the top that is a nod to the nearby dunes.
They settled for 32,000 permanent seats,
the additional 10,000 for the cup installed
In February 2011, OAS SA, a Sao Paulo
builder, took the job.
The federal government, meanwhile,
agreed to finance an airport.
Though an existing airport easily
accommodates Natal’s passenger traffic,
local industry wanted another facility
to boost cargo capacity. The federal
government would invest roughly $260m
but would rely on a contractor to build it
and the state of Rio Grande do Norte, of
which Natal is capital, to lay access roads.
The city, for its part, agreed to improve
traffic and drainage near the stadium. But
the promise of six new tunnels and two
new viaducts stalled.
Locals pressed then-mayor Micarla de
Sousa for results.
“S he did absolutely nothing,” says Carlos
Eduardo Alves, Natal’s current mayor.
De Sousa said she struggled to secure
financing. She also suffered health
problems that led her by early 2012 to
announce she would not seek re-election.
In October 2012, two months before
her term’s end, a State court ousted her,
alleging irregularities in city contracts. De
Sousa, in an inter view, denied wrongdoing.
She says her removal was orchestrated
by opponents and notes she has yet to be
charged with a crime.
Regardless, Natal by 2013 had little city
work under way.
Alves, the incumbent, says he revamped
the plans and finally began $290b worth of
construction early this year. He says most
of the ongoing work will be completed, or
cleaned up, by showtime.
Stadium neighbors, weary of the
jackhammers, are skeptical.
“Good thing people can’t drive to
the games,” scoffs Rodrigo Pereira, a
shopkeeper near one of the tunnels, citing
FIFA rules for a large security perimeter
around matches, forcing attendees to walk.
“My customers can’t even reach me.”
The State, too, is under fire.
The stadium contract, a partnership with
the builder, obliges the State to reimburse
construction loans and pay management
fees. O ver two decades, it is expected to
pay over $900m, approximately five times
the job cost.
While most locals say they like the
stadium, with its undulating roof, they
worry about the bill. “ We have real
concerns about the ultimate price,” says
Luciano Ramos, an auditor with a State
court reviewing the contract.
The state is also criticised because it
is only now finishing the first of two
airport roads. The airport itself may not be
operational by game time — a tentative
launch is scheduled May 22.
Governor Rosalba Ciarlini blames
bureaucracy and high personnel
costs, an “ inheritance” from previous
administrations that she says limit the
State’s ability to invest.
Payroll is so bloated the State pays
salaries late. Some contractors, including
suppliers to hospitals, have quit transacting
with the State.
Controversial herself, Ciarlini faces
impeachment efforts because a State
court earlier this year found she favoured
political allies with pork-barrel spending.
Ciarlini calls the ruling politically
motivated. The stadium’s cost, she says, will
be offset by revenues from future events,
even though critics say Natal has neither
the soccer heft nor the pull on the concert
circuit to guarantee profitability.
The price of the partnership, she says, is
the cost of long-term financing. “ This is
like buying a car. You don’t pay the sticker
Besides, “we have the prettiest new arena
in Brazil. ” — Reuters
Brazilians left wanting
The new stadium in Natal, Brazil.
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