Mermelstein: The man who forced us to remember

August 20, 2012

I first posted a version of this back in August 2006.  Since that time not much showed up on the internet to commemorate the story of Mel Mermelstein, nor to burn his deeds into the history books.  Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub had many fewer readers each day, then too.  This is a story that should not be forgotten about a story that must not be forgotten.

Mr. Mel Mermelstein, in 1993, recording an oral history for the US Holocaust Memorial  Museum

Mr. Mel Mermelstein, in 1993, recording an oral history for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

In early August 1985, Melvin Mermelstein struck a powerful blow against bogus history and historical hoaxes. Mel won a decision in a California court, in a contract case.

A group of Holocaust deniers had offered a $50,000 reward for anyone who could prove that the Holocaust actually happened. Mermelstein had watched his family marched to the gas chambers, and could testify. He offered his evidence. The Holocaust deniers, of course, had no intention of paying up. They dismissed any evidence offered as inadequate, and continued to claim no one could prove that the Holocaust actually occurred.

Mermelstein, however, was a businessman and he knew the law. He knew that the offer of the reward was a sweepstakes, a form of contract. He knew it was a contract enforceable in court.  He sued to collect the offered reward.  The reward was an offer, and Mel Mermelstein accepted the offer and, he said, he performed his part of the bargain. The issue in court would be, was Mermelstein’s evidence sufficient?

Mermelstein’s lawyer had a brilliant idea. He petitioned the court to take “judicial notice” of the fact of the Holocaust. Judicial note means that a fact is so well established that it doesn’t need to be evidenced when it is introduced in court — such as, 2+2=4, the freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, 0 degrees Celsius, etc.

The court ruled that the evidence presented overwhelmingly established that the Holocaust had occurred — the court made judicial note of the Holocaust. That ruling meant that, by operation of law, Mermelstein won the case. The only thing for the judge to do beyond that was award the money, and expenses and damages.

You can read the case and other materials at the Nizkor Holocaust remembrance site.

Appalachian State University takes the Holocaust seriously — there is a program of study on the issue, reported by the Mountain Times (the school is in Boone, North Carolina — not sure where the newspaper is).

Teaching the Holocaust to Future Generations

Mountain Times, August 17, 2006

As co-directors of Appalachian State University’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies, Rennie Brantz and Zohara Boyd are always eager to expand and improve the center’s methods of education. Seldom, though, does this involve airfare.

Brantz and Boyd recently visited Israel to participate in the Fifth International Conference for Education: Teaching the Holocaust to Future Generations. The four-day conference was held in late June at Yad Vashem, an institute and museum in Jerusalem that specializes in the Nazi Holocaust. [link added]

“Yad Vashem is an incredible institute,” Brantz said. “It was founded in the ’50s to remember and commemorate those who perished in the Holocaust, and has been the premier international research institute dealing with the Holocaust.”

As Santayana advises, we remember the past in order to prevent its recurring. Clearly, this is a past we need to work harder at remembering.

Despite having been ordered to acknowledge the Holocaust, pay up on their sweepstakes offer, and apologize to Mr. Mermelstein, Holocaust deniers continue to publish claims that Mr. Mermelstein’s account is not accurate, or that it is contradictory or in some other way fails to measure up to the most strict tests of historical accuracy.  So it is important that you remember the story of Mel Mermelstein, and that you spread it far and wide.

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How screwed up is Oklahoma?

August 20, 2012

 

Oy.  Perhaps this school district itself needs a little schooling in the First Amendment, and what passes for conversational English these days.

Is this Prague, Oklahoma, or Prague in the old Soviet satellite Czechoslovakia?

High school valedictorian denied diploma over graduation speech

   By Dylan Stableford, Yahoo! News | The Lookout

An Oklahoma high school valedictorian who used the word “hell” in her graduation speech in May has yet to receive her diploma.

Kaitlin Nootbaar graduated from Prague High School with a 4.0 grade point average, her father, David Nootbaar, told KFOR-TV. But school administrators told him that Kaitlin would have to submit a written apology in order to get her diploma.

Valedictorian Kaitlin Nootbaar, Prague High School, Prague Oklahoma - KFOR image

Valedictorian Kaitlin Nootbaar, Prague High School, Prague Oklahoma; Kaitlin has been denied the physical diploma for use of the word “hell” in her valedictory address – KFOR image

“We went to the office and asked for the diploma and the principal said, ‘Your diploma is right here but you’re not getting it. Close the door, we have a problem,'” David Nootbaar told the network.

“She worked so hard to stay at the top of her class,” he said. “This is not right.”

In her speech—inspired by a similar address in “Eclipse: The Twilight Saga”—Kaitlin recounted how annoying it is to be constantly asked what she wants to do as graduation approached. “How the hell do I know?” she said, according to her father. “I’ve changed my mind so many times.”

In the version she submitted to the school for approval, “hell” was “heck.” But in the version she delivered at graduation, “hell” it was.

The school declined to comment. “This matter is confidential and we cannot publicly say anything about it,” Prague schools Superintendent Rick Martin said in a statement to KFOR.

Surely Kelly Shackleford’s group will swoop in to the defense of Ms. Noorbaar. What? Shackleford is Missing in Action?

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Chess games of the rich and famous: William Windom

August 20, 2012

Windom may have been surprised at being called either rich or famous — but he should have been.

William Wiindom, in the orignal "Star Trek" television series

William Wiindom, in the orignal “Star Trek” television series

William Windom, an actor whose face and voice most Americans would recognize, died yesterday.  I became a fan of his years ago when he starred in a short-lived, quirky and ground-breaking television series, “My World and Welcome to It.”  The series was based on the work of humorist and cartoonist James Thurber.  Windom played a cartoonist whose drawings occasionally came to life, complicating his troubles with job, women and family.  The program ran for one season on NBC, 1969-70, with 26 episodes.

Too few guffaws for network television.

Buried in most notices of Mr. Windom’s death was the information that he was a pretty good chess player.

A few of his games got captured on film.

William Windom playing chess against John Wayne - image from Chess.com

William Windom, left,  playing chess against John Wayne – image from Batgirl at Chess.com. Wayne, known to friends and the chess world as Duke, played chess on almost all of his movie sets, and at least once in a movie role.

Windom’s game against Wayne is undated.

William Windom (right) playing chess against Erik Estrada, image from Anatoly Karpov Chess School

Windom, right, playing Erik Estrada. Image from AnatolyKarpoveChessSchool.com, undated (Is this photo by photographer Irwin Fisk?)

Windom, left, playing chess against Claude Akins.  AnatolyKarpovChessSchool.org

Windom, left, playing chess against Claude Akins. Image from AnatolyKarpovChessSchool.org

Windom playing Adam Baldwin, Los Angeles, 1988 - Anatoly Karpov Chess School image

Windom playing Adam Baldwin, Los Angeles, 1988 – Anatoly Karpov Chess School image

In this promo for “My World and Welcome To It,” one may get the idea NBC didn’t know what to do with the show, how to market it.


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