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The Girl From Krakow is Rita Feuerstahl, a Jew who speaks both Polish and German. She is twenty, tall, blond, and blue-eyed — “almost beautiful,” in our author’s words — and very smart. She wraps herself in a trench coat. Because she is Jewish and there are quotas for Jews, she audits some classes offered by the law faculty, but she finds she prefers hanging out in the philosophy library, making her a girl after my own heart. In one of her law classes she meets a young doctor named Urs Guildenstern and marries him. He is cautious and methodical, perhaps because caution and routine allay his anxiety. Rita is not in love with him, but is pleased to acquire some creature comforts from the marriage.
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Kelly Cherry‘s new poetry book is Quartet for J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her book of flash fiction titled Temporium is forthcoming later this year.
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The Cold War, basketball, and the Grateful Dead

Sports are full of clichés. Play one game at a time. Leave it all out on the field. There’s no “I” in team. Clichés allow fans to make sense of the unpredictable nature of athletic competition. Without them, how else would we be able to explain results that don’t make sense? How else did the underdog beat the favorite if they didn’t have more heart? The odd nature of sports clichés is that despite them being an exercise in generalities and vagueness, there can be truth behind them. There is a reason they became clichés in the first place. Sometimes a game isn’t just a game. Sometimes a basketball team isn’t just a basketball team. Sometimes a warm-up jersey isn’t just a warm-up jersey. The 1992 Lithuanian Olympic Basketball team wasn’t just a team who played in a game with an odd-looking warm-up jersey. They represented a whole lot more…. More…

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Pacifism is like virginity. It doesn’t work half way. Anybody can be a pacifist when nothing is at stake. The trick is to be a pacifist even in the face of aggression against oneself or the people one cares about. The principle of pacifism, genuine pacifism, is that violence is always counterproductive. Always. A corollary principle is that wars are always bad for everyone involved. Wars, in that sense, are never winnable. Never. Any position that varies from this line isn’t really pacifism. It is more like prudence or restraint. It is saying that war ought to be avoided but that it’s still a genuine option.

It turns out that Nicholson Baker, the author of such bestselling novels as Vox and The Mezzanine, is a hardcore pacifist. His newest book, Human Smoke, is about the lead-up to and… More…

The street where residents say Mengele spent his final days.

Eugene, a Belgian computer programmer, has retired to a cottage in southern Paraguay, and the pride of his golden years is his view. From his stone patio, he sees forested hills, the fringes of yerba mate plantations, and, in the distance, the crumbling ruins of a Jesuit settlement two centuries old. “Like a picture,” he says, and I nod to agree, even though my mind is not on the beautiful vista, but on the dark figure who once shared it.

The Nazi doctor Josef Mengele cheated justice for decades by hiding out in South America, sometimes in these very hills. Had he stayed in Germany he would almost certainly have died by the noose. Jews and Gypsies at Auschwitz called him “the Angel of Death”: He killed men and women for the dubious medical value of dissecting them, and for pleasure. He injected dyes into children’s eyes to see if… More…

The dictator who smelt it, dealt it.

Guests at the Berghof, Hitler’s private chalet in the Bavarian Alps, must have endured some unpleasant odors in the otherwise healthful mountain air.

It may sound like a Woody Allen scenario, but medical historians are unanimous that Adolf was the victim of uncontrollable flatulence. Spasmodic stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhea, possibly the result of nervous tension, had been Hitler’s curse since childhood and only grew more severe as he aged. As a stressed-out dictator, the agonizing digestive attacks would occur after most meals: Albert Speer recalled that the Führer, ashen-faced, would leap up from the dinner table and disappear to his room.

This was an embarrassing problem for a ruthless leader of the Third Reich. With uncharacteristic concern for his fellow human beings, Hitler had first tried to cure himself when he was a rising politician in 1929 by poring over medical manuals, coming to the conclusion that a largely… More…