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Easter 1944 – US and UK Bombers Were Murdering Their Serbian Christian Allies

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The American and British air force bombed Belgrade and various Serbian towns on Sunday, April 16, 1944, during Christian Serb holiday of Easter. The bombing was performed in a fashion more savage than Hitler did it three years earlier on Sunday, April 6, 1941.


There is no easy explanation and certainly, there is no excuse for this barbarity. To make it even more shocking – while the number of Serbian cities were mercilessly bombed on this Eastern Orthodox holiday – none of the Croat cities saw the same destiny. Why were the Serbs – the nominal allies bombed while the nominal enemy was not? Theories are many and we can only guess.

Michel Lees was one of the British liaison officers dropped by the special forces into Axis-occupied Yugoslavia in 1943. He spent a year among the Chetniks. Chetniks were Serb Royalists loyal to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and to King Peter. They were anti-Nazi guerilla fighters lead by Serbian patriot General Draza Mihajlovic. This is a quote from Mr. Lees’ book…

What should be so secret about an air force operation?

Excerpt from:
Michael Lees
THE RAPE OF SERBIA,
The British role in Tito’s Grab for Power 1943-1944

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1990
ISBN 0-15-195910-2


QUOTE, pp 301-302:

The theory [in some Serbian circles] is that strikes by Western Allied aircraft of the Balkan Air Force were called down specifically against Serbian towns and villages, cynically choosing Serbian Orthodox religious holidays for the bombing. It is an undeniable fact that there was carpet bombing of Belgrade for three consecutive days coinciding with the Orthodox Easter in April 1944, the intensity of which surpassed even the Luftwaffe attacks of April 1941. On Saint George’s Day 1944 the Montenegrin towns of Niksic, Podgorica, and Danilovgrad were blasted by Allied planes, allegedly because there were strong Loyalist concentrations around those areas, but, in truth, to demoralize the pro-Mihailovic populations. The same was done even to Zara [Zadar] to demoralize the Italian population. [British liaison to Tito’s partisans] Maclean’s book Eastern Approaches gives his impressive and horrifying eyewitness account of the devastation of [central Serbia city of] Leskovac on the opening day of Ratweek, purportedly in order to destroy a concentration of German armor and motor transport. But fifty Flying Fortresses were used, and Maclean “tried not to think of the population of small farmers, shopkeepers and railway workers, of the old people, the women and children, who at this moment would be going about their everyday business in the streets. … the whole of Leskovac seemed to rise bodily into the air … the civilian casualties had been heavy.”

Militarily it was using a sledgehammer to kill a gnat. … But to the Partisan leadership the purpose of that bombing and others was not military, it was political. It was to show the strongly pro-Loyalist population of Jablanica who were the masters now.

The nominal bombing procedure was that Tito and his commander specified the targets through the British mission and their RAF advisors. One wonders why the BLOs, or the Balkan Air Force advisors at base, did not question the necessity of extensive bombings of Yugoslav [actually exclusively – Serbian] areas, of hospitals, and of churches — and on religious holidays too — it there was not some political motive. Why did Maclean not question the need to flatten [the Serbian town of] Leskovac? Massive bombing of civilians in German cities was one thing. Germans lived there, and the German morale had to be broken. But bombing Belgrade or Leskovac on the odd chance of hitting a German barracks or tank and with the certainty of killing massive numbers of Yugoslav [actually – Serb only] allies was surely something very sinister. I feel certain that the Allies would never have contemplated a blanket bombing of Paris, for example, on Easter Sunday — or any other day — however many German tanks were passing through.

But of course Tito had made it clear from the start that his was a sovereign army and that he would decide. Did that go for ordering out massive formations of allied bombers too?

… Regrettably, the Balkan Air Force files are permanently closed like the main SOE files and those of SIS. One wonders why. What should be so secret about an air force operation?

History seems to repeat itself again. It was Bosnian Muslim forces that, in 1995, issued target lists to NATO pilots when Bosnian Serbs were to be bombed to submission. Four years later, during NATO’s assault on Yugoslavia in 1999, Albanian KLA terrorists were to provide NATO aviation with data how to bomb Serbs [again] in the very cradle of the Serbian culture – Kosovo.

To summarize: the Western allies were always ready to provide their proxies on the ground with air cover. It is not only the case with recent Yugoslav civil wars. It is true – different times – round the globe. In the second half of the twentieth century, the Serbs – nominal allies of United States and Great Britain in WWII struggle against the Nazis – were target of vicious “ally” air attacks at least three times. Again, this simply because the “allies” had found themselves proxies they wanted to help:

  • Tito’s Communists in 1944
  • Croat new Nazis in their attack on Krajina in 1995
  • Islam fundamentalists in Bosnia in 1995
  • Albanian terrorists and drug dealers in 1999

Each one of the chosen proxy is more astonishing than the next. Each choice of the proxy is more puzzling than the next.

That Tito was Churchill’s hand-picked proxy in the Balkans is not a secret anymore. From declassified letters Churchill sent to Roosevelt we see that Churchill insisted Roosevelt should stop supporting Serbian Royalists.

Doc. 345
CHURCHILL TO ROOSEVELT

No. 638

April 6, 1944

It is said that OSS [U.S. Office of Strategic Service] have received instructions, which have been approved by you, to arrange for a small intelligence mission to be infiltrated to General Michailivic’s headquarters, and we have been asked to organize the necessary arrangements.

We are now in process of withdrawing all our missions from Mihailovic and are pressing [Yugoslavia and Serbia] King Peter to clear himself of this millstone,… If, at this very time, an American mission arrives at Michailovic’s headquarters, it will show throughout the Balkans a complete contrariety of action between Britain and the United States. The Russians will certainly throw all their weight on Tito’s side, which we are backing to the full. Thus we shall get altogether out of step. I hope and trust this may be avoided.

 Published in
“Roosevelt and Churchill,
Their secret wartime correspondence,” page 482
Saturday Review Press / E.P. Dutton Co.
New York, 1975

Immediately, in the letter (Doc #346, No. 515) two days later (April 8, 1944) President Roosevelt agrees and says: “My thoughts in authorizing an OSS mission to the Mihailovic area was to obtain intelligence and the mission was to have no political functions whatever… I have directed that the contemplated mission be not repeat not sent.”

Not much persuasion needed. In English, whether the British or American version of it the word “ally” actually means – a useful fool. Only months before, and maybe even during the time when the American President penned the above letter, the Royalist Chetniks were saving lives of American pilots fallen over Yugoslavia. Some six hundred of them! To viciously bomb Serbian cities by another group of American pilots was a typical cowboy way to say thanks.

In 1941 Churchill asked Serbs to commit suicide and say “No!” to Hitler at the time when he was at the peak of his power. The Serbs did it and paid with more than million lives! Churchill praised them at the time. Only three years later he was expressing his gratitude to the same astonishing people of Belgrade who dared chant to Hitler’s face “Rather war than the pact; rather death than slavery…” by viciously bombing them on their most important Christian holiday. On Easter Sunday!

Such is Western morality and every future ally of the  Brits and Americans should know the above story.

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How Italy came to be Europe’s coffee capital

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Given how protective Italians can be over their coffee culture, you might be forgiven for thinking they invented the drink.

But that title actually goes to Ethiopia, where much of the world’s coffee is still grown today.

According to the coffee blog Home Grounds, the story goes that in 700 AD, an Abyssinian goatherder named Kaldi found his goats prancing around and acting strangely.

Seeing red berries on some nearby bushes, Kaldi surmised that they might be behind his charges’ odd behaviour.

At this point different versions of the story emerge: one says Kaldi gave the berries to a monk, who was happy to find something to help him stay awake to pray all night; another says the monk disapproved and threw the beans on the fire, where they released the delicious aroma of roasted beans.

Unripened coffee beans growing on branches.
Unripened coffee beans growing on branches. Photo by Rodrigo Flores on Unsplash

Either way, humans started drinking coffee, and they haven’t stopped since.

From Ethiopia, coffee spread across the ocean to Yemen and proliferated throughout the Arabian peninsula. Here it gave rise coffeehouses or qahveh khaneh, which became hubs of social and cultural activity.

Coffee didn’t make its way to Italy until 16th century, when Venetian sailors brought it back from the Ottoman empire.

READ ALSO: Where, when and how to drink coffee like an Italian

At first this black, bitter liquid was feared to be from the devil, and local priests called on Pope Clement VIII to denounce it.

But, the legend goes, the pope decided to give the drink a try before delivering his judgement; and after a few sips, he proclaimed, “This Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.” He gave the drink his blessing – but not before baptising the beans, just to be safe.

Coffeehouses subsequently started popping up in Venice in around the late 17th century, and by the mid-1700s there were over 200 of them, frequented by great artists, writers and poets of the time.

But it wasn’t until the late 19th century that a series of Italian inventors started coming up with the innovations that led to Italy gaining its current reputation as Europe’s custodian of coffee.

As coffee became more and more popular, people started looking for ways to produce it at speed rather than having to leave each cup to brew for several minutes, and the idea of forcing steam through coffee grounds at pressure in order to make coffee quickly began to take hold.

An old-fashioned Italian espresso machine.
An old-fashioned Italian espresso machine. Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

The first effort at something approaching an espresso (literally, ‘pressed out’) machine was presented by Angelo Moriondo at the Turin General Exposition in 1884, where it won a bronze medal – but the device was somewhat impractical in its design, and was never produced commercially.

READ ALSO: Why is Italy called Italy?

A while later, in 1901, Milanese inventor Luigi Bezzerra developed and patented a smaller and more efficient version of the machine, making it commercially viable, though it still had some faults.

By 1906, Bezzerra and fellow inventor Desiderio Pavoni had more or less perfected their version of the instrument, and the first steam-based espresso machine went on the market.

This device was ultimately replaced by Achille Gaggia’s 1938 invention, which dispensed with the steam (which could give the coffee a burnt flavour) and made espresso by forcing hot water through the coffee grounds at very high pressure, producing a highly concentrated drink very similar to what we think of as espresso today.

In between, one Alfonso Bialetti came out with his stovetop Moka caffettiera in 1933, which allowed ordinary Italians to make something not unlike espresso coffee in the comfort of their own homes.

A bialetti moka caffetiera.
A Bialetti moka caffetiera. Photo by Sten Ritterfeld on Unsplash

With these inventions, Italy developed a reputation for being Europe’s, if not the world’s, coffee capital – a recognition it guards fiercely today.

The question of who ‘owns’ Italy’s coffee culture was raised earlier this year, when it transpired that the Consortium for the Protection of Traditional Italian Espresso Coffee in Treviso and the Region of Campania had separately sought UNESCO recognition for the espresso coffee tradition; the consortium representing all of Italy and Campania representing Naples, which is particularly proud of its coffee culture.

READ ALSO: Guardia di Finanza to Carabinieri – who does what in the Italian police force?

One academic who worked on Campania’s bid decried the Treviso consortium’s application as “an act of war by the north against the south”, the Wall Street Journal reported at the time, while the consortium’s founder Giorgio Caballini described Naples’ attempt to assert ownership over Italian espresso as “unacceptable”.

In the end, neither won: Italy’s UNESCO committee told the two groups it was disallowing both their candidacies, and to apply again as a united front next year.

Hopefully, they can resolve their differences – perhaps over an espresso or two.



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European Commission recommends travel ban on southern Africa amid fears over new Covid variant

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The EU is expected to announce an immediate travel ban to southern Africa because of the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant.

The B.1.1.529 variant, which is more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant and could evade vaccines, has been discovered in South Africa’s most populous province Gauteng.

The EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “The @EU_Commission will propose, in close coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529.”

The future of this year’s United Rugby Championship (URC) could be in jeopardy as it has four South African teams in it.

Munster are in the country to play Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday night and are due to stay on to play Lions in Johannesburg next weekend.

The UK has suspended flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland).

Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer, Michael McBride, said the emergence of the new variant was “undoubtedly a matter of concern”.

Recent arrivals to Northern Ireland from the six countries on the UK list will be contacted by the Public Health Agency (PHA) and asked to self-isolate and take a PCR test, which will be prioritised for genomic sequencing.

Further assessments will be made concerning other countries with strong travel links to South Africa, the North’s Department of Health said.

Dr McBride said the introduction of travel restrictions was on a “precautionary basis, while we await further evidence on the spread of this variant in South Africa and understand more about it.”

The official Munster rugby Twitter account stated: “We all are safe & well in Pretoria. We are working with URC on the ongoing situation relating to Covid-19 & will provide an update once we know more #MunsterInSA.”

The Covid adviser for the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), Mary Favier has warned that if the new South African variant of the virus manages to “out run” Delta, then “we will have a problem”.

It was still unknown if vaccines would work against the new variant which was why so much attention was being paid to it, she told Newstalk Breakfast.

Dr Favier also welcomed plans to extend the vaccine programme to children aged 5-11. GPs knew the difference that vaccines could make, however, she pointed out that it would be a parental decision and GPs would be willing to discuss the issue with parents.

On RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland programme immunology expert, Professor Christine Loscher said she expected the World Health Organisation (WHO) to move the status of the new variant from one of interest to one of concern in the near future.

The new variant was of concern because of the number of mutations in the spike proteins and it was still unclear how this variant would respond to vaccines. It was a case of wait and see the impact, she said.

Within the coming weeks it would be known how good current vaccines were at neutralising antibodies in the variant, added Prof Loscher. But she pointed out that vaccine manufacturers have been able to “tweak” vaccines as the virus changed.

“That’s a positive thing to know, that they have the technology to vary the vaccine as variants arrive.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he is “deeply concerned” about the new Covid variant.

The Department of Health said it is monitoring the situation in a number of countries in southern Africa and in Hong Kong. No cases have yet been reported in Europe.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) will meet on Friday to to further assess the significance of this variant.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has not updated its travel advice to South Africa on its website. It no longer advises against non-essential travel.




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Italy tightens Covid restrictions as some regions face return to ‘yellow’ zone

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A government decree that comes into force from December 6th will require a ‘super green pass’ health certificate to access most venues and services across the country, in a bid to contain Italy’s rising infection rate and ensure Christmas celebrations can go ahead as planned.

The ‘super green pass’ can be obtained only by those who are vaccinated against or have recovered from Covid-19. 

It supersedes the basic ‘green pass’, which was also available to those who had recently tested negative for the virus; though the basic green pass will still be valid for use on public transport and to access workplaces.

READ ALSO: Italy to impose ‘super green pass’ Covid restrictions on unvaccinated

Speaking at a televised press conference on Monday evening, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the restrictions would mean a “normal” Christmas this year for those who are vaccinated, and would “give certainty to the tourist season”.

The announcement comes amid media reports that some Italian regions will be placed under increased restrictions starting next week.

People wearing a face mask do some window shopping on Piazza di Spagna in central Rome on December 13, 2020.

People wearing a face mask do some window shopping on Piazza di Spagna in central Rome on December 13, 2020. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

The northerneastern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia will be returned to the more restricted ‘yellow’ zone from Monday, after it met all of the Italian government’s criteria for tightened restrictions.

Italy operates under a four-tier colour coded system for coronavirus restrictions, with ‘white’ zone areas under the most relaxed rules, and ‘yellow’, ‘orange’ and ‘red’ zones under increasingly strict restrictions.

Since October, the entire country has been in the least-restricted white zone – but this week, Friuli Venezia Giulia’s hospital ward occupancy and Covid infection rates exceeded the limits put in place by the government last summer.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How will Italy’s Covid restrictions change in December?

The region’s figures stood at 15 percent Covid patient ICU occupancy and 18 percent general hospital ward occupancy as of November 24th, according to data provided by Agenas, Italy’s National Agency for Health Services.

Under a law introduced by Italy’s government in July, any region above the threshold of 10 percent ICU and 15 percent general ward Covid patient occupancy and with a new weekly incident rate of 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants should automatically be placed in the yellow zone.

It’s thought that mass demonstrations held in the region’s capital of Trieste last month to protest the introduction of a Covid health certificate requirement for Italy’s workers are partly behind its deteriorating health situation.

A Santa Claus puppet wearing a face mask is displayed in the window of a food store at Rome's Trevi fountain square on December 23, 2020.

A Santa Claus puppet wearing a face mask is displayed in the window of a food store at Rome’s Trevi fountain square on December 23, 2020. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

According to Italian media, Friuli Venezia Giulia’s governor Massimiliano Fedriga has agreed to enforce the government’s ‘super green pass’ rules from Monday, allowing the region’s vaccinated population to bypass restrictions they would otherwise be subject to.

READ ALSO: Q&A: How will Italy’s new Covid ‘super green pass’ work?

Currently, ‘yellow zone’ restrictions require an area’s inhabitants to wear a mask both outdoors and in indoor public spaces, and restaurants can seat a maximum of four diners to a table.

While those in a yellow zone will still be required to mask up outdoors, under the new rules, people who hold the ‘super green pass’ will be able to access “indoor catering”, shows (such as theatre performances), parties, nightclubs, sporting events, and “public ceremonies”, as normal.

Other parts of the country currently expected to join Friuli Venezia Giulia in the yellow zone within the next couple of weeks are the autonomous province of Bolzano, which had 10 percent ICU and 15 percent general ward Covid patient occupancy rates as of November 24th; as well as Marche, Liguria, Lazio, Calabria, which all have figures approaching the threshold.

Some of Italy’s larger cities are putting into place their own preemptive strategies to try to contain their infection rates.

On Thursday, Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala said he was preparing to sign a measure making facemasks mandatory outdoors across the city center from the coming weekend, reports news agency Ansa.

And in Venice, mayor Luigi Brugnaro has already signed an order requiring the use of masks at Christmas markets and other large outdoor gatherings in the city, reports Sky TG 24.



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