On April 10, 1963, the USS Thresher sank during deep-diving tests more than 200 miles off the coast of Boston. All 129 crew and shipyard personnel died.
Five years later, 99 crewmen died when their submarine, the USS Scorpion, mysteriously disappeared near the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago some 1,000 miles west of the European continent.
Fifty years ago this fall, Catholic bishops gathered in Rome for a council that would bring the church “up to date” by making it speak more directly to the modern world. After three years of deliberation, the bishops voted on and accepted statements that permitted the faithful to attend mass in their own languages, encouraged lay reading of scripture and entreated Catholics to think of other religions as sources of truth and grace. The council referred to the church as “people of God” and suggested a more democratic ordering of relations between bishops and the pope. It also passed a statement on non-Christian religions, known by its Latin title, Nostra Aetate (“In our times”). Part four of this declaration, a statement on the Jews, proved most controversial, several times almost failing because of the opposition of conservative bishops.
Nostra Aetate confirmed that Christ, his mother and the apostles were Jews, and that the church had its origin in the Old Testament. It denied that the Jews may be held collectively responsible for Jesus Christ’s death, and decried all forms of hatred, including anti-Semitism. . . .
The Catholics who helped bring the church to recognition of the continuing sanctity of the Jewish people were converts, many of them from Jewish families.
Most important was Johannes Oesterreicher, born in 1904 into the home of the Jewish veterinarian Nathan and his wife, Ida, in Stadt-Liebau, a German-language community in northern Moravia. As a boy, he took part in Zionist scouting and acted as elected representative of the Jews in his high school, but then, for reasons that remain inexplicable (he later said he ”fell in love with Christ”), Oesterreicher took an interest in Christian writings (Cardinal Newman, Kierkegaard and the Gospels themselves), and under the influence of a priest later martyred by the Nazis (Max Josef Metzger) he became a Catholic and then a priest. In the early 1930s he took over the initiative of the Diocese of Vienna for converting Jews, hoping to bring family and friends into the church. In this his success was limited. Where he had an impact was in gathering other Catholic thinkers to oppose Nazi racism. To his shock, Oesterreicher found this racism entering the work of leading Catholic thinkers, who taught that Jews were racially damaged and therefore could not receive the grace of baptism. His friends in this endeavor included fellow converts like philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand and the theologian Karl Thieme and political philosopher Waldemar Gurian. In 1937, Gurian, Oesterreicher and Thieme penned a Catholic statement on the Jews, arguing, against the racists, that Jews carried a special holiness. Though it constituted orthodox teaching, not a single bishop (let alone the Vatican) signed on.
Oesterreicher escaped Austria when the Nazis entered, in 1938, and continued work from Paris, broadcasting German-language sermons into the Reich, informing Catholics that Hitler was an “unclean spirit” and the “antipode in human form,” and describing Nazi crimes committed against Jews and Poles. In the spring of 1940 he barely eluded an advance team of Gestapo agents, and via Marseille and Lisbon he made his way to New York City and ultimately Seton Hall University, where he became the leading expert on relations with Jews in America’s Catholic Church.
Oesterreicher gradually abandoned his “missionary” approach to the Jews and increasingly called his work ecumenical. He and like-minded Christians tried to figure out how to ground their belief in continued vocation of Jewish people in Christian scripture. If the battle before the war was against the superficial assumptions of Nazi racism, after the war it took aim at the deeply rooted beliefs of Christian anti-Judaism.
In Paris, the Rev. Paul Démann, a converted Hungarian Jew, began publishing the review Cahiers Sioniens and, with the help of fellow converts Geza Vermes and Renée Bloch, refuted the anti-Judaism in Catholic school catechisms.
At one critical moment in October 1964, priests Gregory Baum and Bruno Hussar joined Oesterreicher in assembling what became the final text of the council’s decree on the Jews, voted on by the bishops a year later. Like Oesterreicher, Baum and Hussar were converts of Jewish background.
They were continuing a trend going back to the First Vatican Council in 1870, when the brothers Lémann — Jews who had become Catholics and priests — presented a draft declaration on relations between the church and Jews, stating that Jews “are always very dear to God” because of their fathers and because Christ has issued from them “according to the flesh.” Without converts to Catholicism, it seems, the Catholic Church would never have “thought its way” out of the challenges of racist anti-Judaism.
The high percentage of Jewish converts like Oesterreicher among Catholics who were opposed to anti-Semitism makes sense: In the 1930s they were targets of Nazi racism who could not avoid the racism that had entered the church. In their opposition, they were simply holding their church to its own universalism. But by turning to long-neglected passages in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, they also opened the mind of the church to a new appreciation of the Jewish people.
The Jewish community in Ethiopia, labeled in the past as Falasha or Beta Israel, is perceived in Israel as a traditional-religious community which, while in Ethiopia, conducted its life in isolation from its inimical neighbors and from the processes unfolding around it, with all its aspirations focused on immigrating to Israel.
A new study, which I conducted, reveals that men and women in this community were political activists and members of Marxist underground movements during the revolutionary years and civil war in that country (from the 1970s until 1991). Acquaintance with the role of Ethiopian Jews in these movements may change the commonly held image of this community in Israeli eyes. (The study is published in the Hebrew book, “The Other Journey: Life Stories of Ethiopian Jews, Activists in the Ethiopian Civil War 1974 – 1991.”)
In the first half of the 1960s, it seemed that the Ethiopian empire was more stable than ever. Emperor Haile Selassie and his right-hand man Aklilu Habte-Wold charted the state’s path through the troubled waters of African politics, navigating the rivalry of the superpowers as well as the upheavals in the Middle East. The fact that an Eritrean struggle for independence, a string of local uprisings in other areas of Ethiopia and a coup attempt in 1960 did not manage to shake the throne contributed to an almost mythic view of Haile Selassie, indicating that he may rule for many years to come, contingent on his health.
Things began to change dramatically starting in the mid-1960s, when students at the Haile Selassie University (later the Addis Ababa University) began organizing and protesting against the ossified regime. Gradually, under the influence of students who had studied at foreign universities (mainly in Western Europe and North America), they started taking interest in Marxist ideas, subsequently becoming more radical. Their demands included education for all, democratization, equality and the right of self-determination for diverse ethnic and linguistic groups, a demand which conflicted with the imperial policy of giving supremacy to Amharic. They also demanded the distribution of land to farmers who were working them in practice (in contrast to a quasi-feudal control of the land which was common in many areas in the days of the emperor), as well as other demands.
. . . .
Man, I don’t think I could vacation in Egypt…
The daughter of a British couple who died while on holiday in Egypt claims her parents’ bodies were sent home with missing organs.
John Cooper, 69, and his wife Susan, 63, died in August while in their hotel room at the Seigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada.
Their daughter Kelly Ormerod, 40, is now criticising UK test delays and claiming her parents are ‘missing body parts’.
This comes as new reports have emerged that another Brit, David Humphries, 62, had had his heart and kidneys removed, before his body was sent back to the UK.
(Not sure if this is accurate. Posting for future reference.)
Amongst themselves, the Jews are quite candid about their sympathy for and involvement in Bolshevism.
On 4 April 1919 the Jewish Chronicle: “There is much in the fact of Bolshevism itself, in the fact that so many Jews are Bolshevists, in the fact that the ideals of Bolshevism at many points are consonant with the finest ideals of Judaism.”
(Perhaps this explains why the Red Army uses a Jewish star as its symbol?)
Probably the best-known exposé of the Jewish role in the Bolshevik coup d’état was by Sir Winston Churchill, writing in the Illustrated Sunday Herald of 8 February 1920. Churchill wrote “With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of leading figures are Jews. Moreover the principal inspiration and the driving power comes from Jewish leaders.”
Communism was of course founded by Karl Marx whose grandfather was a rabbi by the name of Mordeccai. Marx was given his initial encouragement by a Communist-Zionist by the name of Moses Hess. As founder and editor of the Rheinische Zeitung, the main organ of leftist thought in Germany, he provided Karl Marx with his first important platform. Later, in Brussels, he collaborated with Marx on The German Ideology. It was Hess too who converted to Communism Friedrich Engels, the wealthy textiles magnate who later subsidised Marx from the profits of sweated labour in Britain and Germany.
When the Bolsheviks overthrew the short-lived democratic government in Moscow and St. Petersburg in October 1917, it was a virtual Jewish coup d’état. The most prominent Jewish Commissar was Trotsky, real name Bronstein. He had been married by a rabbi in 1900, and whilst in exile in New York he had worked for Novy Mir, described in the Church Times (23 January 1925) as a “Yiddish newspaper.”
The various reporters and diplomats who were there at the time of the “Revolution” have given evidence as to its Jewish nature.
The widow of the Guardian’s correspondent Mrs. Ariadna Tyrkova-Williams wrote: “In the Soviet Republic all the committees and commissaries were filled with Jews.”
The most detailed description of Jewish influence in the Bolshevik ‘revolution comes from Robert Wilton, the Russian correspondent of The Times. In 1920 he published a book in French, Les Derniers Jours des Romanofs, which gave the racial background of all the members of the Soviet government. (This does not appear in the later English translation, for some odd reason.) After the publication of this monumental work, Wilton was ostracised by the press, and he died in poverty in 1925. He reported that the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party was made up as follows:
Bronstein (Trotsky) Jew
Apfelbaum (Zinovief) Jew
Lourie (Larine) Jew
Rosenfeldt (Kamanef) Jew
Sverdlof (Yankel) Jew
Nakhamkes (Steklof) Jew
Ulyanov (Lenin) Russian
“The Council of the People’s Commissars comprises the following:
MINISTRY NAME NATIONALITY
President Ulyanov (Lenin) Russian
Foreign Affairs Tchitcherine Russian
Nationalities Djugashvili (Stalin) Georgian
Agriculture Protian Armenian
Economic Council Lourie (Larine) Jew
Food Schlichter Jew
Army & Navy Bronstein (Trotsky) Jew
State Control Lander Jew
State Lands Kauffman Jew
Works V. Schmidt Jew
Social Relief E. Lelina (Knigissen) Jewess
Public Instruction Lounatcharsky Russian
Religions Spitzberg Jew
Interior Apfelbaum (Zinovief) Jew
Hygiene Anvelt Jew
Finance Isidore Goukovski Jew
Press Volodarski Jew
Elections Ouritski Jew
Justice I. Steinberg Jew
Refugees Fenigstein Jew
Refugees (assist.) Savitch Jew
Refugees (assist.) Zaslovski Jew
“The following is the list of members of the Central Executive Committee:
Sverdlov (president) Jew
Avanessof (sec.) Armenian
Rosenfeldt (Kamenef) Jew
Apfelbaum (Zinovief) Jew
Ulyanov (lenin) Russian
Nakhamkes (Steklof) Jew
Bronstein (Trotsky) Jew
Karakhane Karaim (Jew)
Sobelson (Radek) Jew
Levine (Pravdine) Jew
“The following is the list of members of the Extraordinary Commission of Moscow:
Dzerjinski (president) Pole
Peters (vice-president) Lett
Jacob Goldine Jew
G. Sverdlof Jew
I. Model Jew
Stanley Levinson was treasurer of the American Jewish Congress and considered by the FBI to be a coordinator for the Communist Party USA.
Even in tolerant America, with its stable constitution and strong values of equality and liberty, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the legendary war hero who saved the Union and went on to serve as president, had a brief anti-Semitic phase.
What made this great commander sign the order for the expulsion of all Jews from Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi in the midst of the Civil War?
At about the same time, across the ocean, Karl Marx was laboring on his masterpiece. Perhaps Marx’s work can explain the reason for this with some simple economic principles.
As we know, the official reason for the outbreak of the Civil War was slavery. Before the war, that it until 1861, some 32 million people lived in the United States. Of the 12 million in the South, four million were slaves, a free resource that the white cotton tycoons were not going to give up without a fight. . . .
Either way, according to Marx, the economic factor was the crucial one. During the war, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, the price of cotton rose frantically. Anti-Semitic rumors marking the Jews as cotton profiteers begain to spread. They started in one town and escalated to the claim that all Jews sold cotton on the black market.
Soon enough it became a known “fact” that all the Jews are profiteering from cotton, which had very little to do with reality: The fact was that out of 200 sellers who traded with the South, only four were Jewish. The concept of fake news was certainly not made up in 2016. . . .
It was a snowball effect. American Jews were marked as blood-sucking traitors selling their homeland for some extra bucks. One of America’s most popular newspapers, Harper’s Weekly, published an aggressive editorial pointing a finger at all Jews.
It was also published that three Jews were caught smuggling medicine to New Orleans, which was under siege, and might be executed for the crime. A few local newspapers called for the annihilation of the entire Jewish community.
He supports the idea of mass murders of Jews (as do I), but has some doubts about gas chambers.
David Cole, the Jew who dared to investigate the claims. Here is his breathrough film from 1992, in which he disputed Auschwitz claims (by actually visiting the camp):
And here are his articles on where he thinks mass murder of Jews truly occurred:
On Oct. 1, 1967, China’s National Day, Sidney Rittenberg had reached the pinnacle of his revolutionary career. It was the 18th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and Rittenberg was seated on a reviewing stand less than fifty feet from Mao Zedong, overlooking a sea of thousands who had crowded into Tiananmen Square to mark the occasion.
For a Chinese language version of this story, click here.
Rittenberg was one of the very few foreign nationals who had remained in China after the communists came to power in 1949 and one of an even smaller number who had managed to work their way into Mao’s inner circle, serving the communist leadership as valued advisers, trusted emissaries and even revolutionary leaders.
In addition to Rittenberg, there was Austrian, Jakob Rosenfeld, commanding officer of the Communist 4th Army’s medical unit; Israel Epstein from Poland, a journalist who served as the Chinese government’s head of international public relations; and London-born David Crook, dean of the Beijing Foreign Languages University.
Although their backgrounds were varied and their motivations for coming to China diverse, these doctors, writers and educators had one thing in common — all of them were Jewish.
The story of how thousands of Jews fled Europe, took refuge in Shanghai, and eventually built schools, synagogues and businesses there is one that is well known. This often-told story eventually ends with the departure of all the Jews from China when the communists take over in 1949, a clean and satisfying end to a moving chronicle that leaves no ends loose or questions unanswered.
But in fact, not all those Jews left. Many stayed, and of those who did, a handful lived out dramatic lives that provide a rare glimpse into the early years of Communist China
A backbreaking job treating skunk skins in a windowless building at the heart of Manhattan’s Garment District was certainly not the most obvious or auspicious first step on a path that would eventually lead David Crook to China and into the highest echelons of China’s Foreign Service. His mother, matron of a middle-class Jewish family living in the outskirts of London, originally had much greater aspirations for him. After all, he had shown early promise as a student and had done well enough on his exams to get accepted to Oxford. But before he could even set foot in a classroom, the family business collapsed, a traumatic event that brought his budding academic career to a premature end and dashed his mother’s dreams. Faced with limited prospects and a shortage of funds, Crook eventually accepted an offer of employment, undoubtedly an opportunity of last resort, from a distant relative who was a furrier in New York.
To be sure, tanning skunk pelts for Garment District furriers was a far cry from rubbing shoulders with Oxford dons, but, as harsh an experience as this may have been, it did afford the young Crook a keen insight into the conditions of the working class and an appreciation for its plight. It was a transformative experience that would redefine his view of the world and determine the course his future would take.
Like Crook, Rittenberg early in life developed an appreciation for the challenges and conditions faced by the American worker, although there was nothing in his background to suggest that he would have any affiliation with miners, bricklayers and pipefitters, much less end up playing a central role in the Chinese Revolution.
Scion of a wealthy family that was a pillar of the close-knit Jewish community of Charleston, S.C., Rittenberg grew up in privileged circumstances worlds away from the factory workers and day laborers whose cause he would come to champion. Like Crook, Rittenberg excelled as a student and, although he did well enough to secure admission to Princeton, he too would never set foot on campus. However, Rittenberg’s failure to take advantage of higher education at one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions was not the consequence of a reversal in family fortune, but the result of a conscious decision to reject an institution whose values, Rittenberg reasoned, were not aligned with his own. Rittenberg concluded that the academic environment provided by an elitist university whose students represented a privileged social class would not suit someone who was an active participant in labor strikes, had joined the Communist Party, and had even spent time behind bars as a consequence of his actions.
Given Rittenberg’s age and circumstances, one might be tempted to dismiss such an unorthodox decision as an act of youthful rebellion, but as Rittenberg’s life unfolded, this inclination toward contrarian positions and strict adherence to principle emerged as a consistent character trait that surfaced at critical junctures and guided his most important decisions.
This admixture of unabashed idealism and commitment to the socially disenfranchised informed a worldview that Crook and Rittenberg shared and that would ultimately bring them to China and sustain them in their darkest days.
Rittenberg’s initial engagement with China was purely coincidental. Shortly after his conscription into the U.S. Army at the outset World War II, Rittenberg learned that his first tour of duty would, ironically, be in a classroom learning Chinese, a language he knew nothing about. Teaching new recruits Chinese was a tactical element of the Army’s broader efforts to build up the resources that would help strengthen its position in a country whose political landscape was shifting and whose strategic value was increasing. Much to his surprise, Rittenberg found that he enjoyed learning the language and soon reached a level of proficiency that qualified him for posting to China and assignment to a unit that was operating on the ground in Shanghai .
The China Rittenberg encountered on arrival in 1943 was in turmoil after years of economic instability, occupation by foreign powers and the looming threat of civil war. He was particularly struck by the abject poverty and dire circumstances that the average Chinese lived. His involvement in relief organizations brought him to the attention of the Communist underground. They sent an agent to approach him with an offer: Join the Communist revolutionaries and serve as a liaison to the representatives of foreign countries, especially the U.S. Rittenberg accepted the offer on the spot, but with one condition — that he be allowed to join the Chinese Communist Party.
The path that Crook followed to China was equally coincidental, but much more circuitous. Recuperating in a Madrid hospital from injuries he had sustained while fighting in the Spanish Civil War, Crook came across a copy of the newly published, “Red Star Over China,” American journalist Edgar Snow’s classic account of the Communist movement in China
Crook, who had become an avowed Marxist, came to Spain to fight in support of those on the left. While there, he was recruited by the Comintern, ostensibly to spy on suspected Trotskyites. Inspired by his reading of Snow’s book, Crook decided that his destiny lay in China. To get there, he proposed to his Comintern handlers that a they send him to Shanghai, a vantage point from which, he suggested, he would be able to keep an eye on a number of prominent Trotskyists who had gravitated to the city and report on their activities. It didn’t take long for Crook to succumb to Shanghai’s various diversions and, much to the KGB’s dismay, was soon paying more attention to handicaps at the race tracks than to the task of spying and intelligence gathering. When Trotsky was assassinated in 1940, the KGB finally decided it no longer had need of Crook’s services and terminated its relationship with him. After some time casting around for other opportunities of employment, Crook eventually drifted into teaching English and was introduced to a member of the Communist movement through an acquaintance.
In contrast to Rittenberg and Crook, who came to China because they were attracted by the prospect of adventure and driven by a sense of mission, Rosenfeld and Epstein came to China to escape deteriorating conditions in their home countries and to avoid being engulfed by a wave of oppression that was sweeping across Eastern Europe and putting their lives at risk.
Rosenfeld, who graduated from the University of Vienna’s prestigious medical school, had no sooner set himself up in practice and embarked on a promising career as an obstetrician than Nazi Germany annexed Austria and promptly set about ridding the country of its Jewish population. Like many other Jewish professionals in Vienna, Rosenfeld was forced to shutter his practice and was eventually sent to a labor camp outside the city, his fate irrevocably sealed. In less than a year, though, Rosenfeld would walk out of the camp with a visa in hand that granted him passage to China and asylum in Shanghai. As miraculous as this turn of events may be, and as vague the circumstances surrounding them, it is plausible to assume that Rosenfeld had the good fortune to come to the attention of Ho Feng Shan, the consul general of the Chinese Consulate in Vienna who single-handedly saved the lives of hundreds of Austrian Jews by exploiting poorly enforced regulations (in cities such as Shanghai, whose systems and infrastructures had been undermined by years of turmoil) to issue so-called “asylum” visas that gave them shelter in China.
Like Shanghai, the city of Harbin at the heart of Manchuria China’s vast northeast region, was in in a state of upheaval. Extension of the Trans-Siberian Railway at the turn of the 20th century had fueled Harbin’s rapid evolution from a remote trading outpost to a full-fledged transport hub and commercial center of strategic value to the Chinese, Russians and Japanese, who by 1930s, were engaged in a tug-of-war over its control. The resulting unrest and dislocation that resulted distorted many of the usual legal rules, political conventions and social norms or dissolved them outright. This combination of factors — a transport hub with poorly enforced regulations — made Harbin an increasingly accessible and therefore attractive destination for revolutionaries, opportunists and refugees.
It was under these circumstances that Epstein’s family came to Harbin in the belief that it would serve them as a haven from the increasingly violent pogroms that were threatening Jewish communities across Poland. A brief encounter with the city’s chaotic urban landscape and the denizens that inhabited it — the American consul who roamed the streets in broad daylight with a drawn pistol in hand, the Japanese film studio director who doubled as a spy with an impressive murder record, and Chinese warlords whose tendency was to shoot first and ask questions later — made it clear to Epstein’s parents that Harbin was a city of questionable safety and certainly no place to raise a young family. In short order, they moved to the city of Tianjin, a bustling port, that today lies just an hour’s train ride southeast of China’s capital, Beijing.
In Tianjin, Epstein received an education in British schools. At a young age, he became interested in journalism, an interest that deepened as he entered his teenage years. By the age of 15, he was freelancing for United Press. He eventually dropped out of school so that he could devote himself full time to reporting on the dramatic events that were unfolding across northern China. Perhaps because of his own firsthand experience with oppression and social upheaval, Epstein, like Crook and Rittenberg, was very sympathetic to the plight of the poor Chinese he encountered, a sympathy that had been cultivated and reinforced by his father, Herman, who admonished the young Israel not to forget the plight that the Jews had suffered.
Epstein’s journalistic talent and the sympathy he expressed in his writing for the Chinese people, attracted the attention of Song Qingling, Sun Yat-Sen’s widow, who took him under her wing. Song Qingling was a visionary who recognized that China’s success in getting the support it needed would depend on the strength of its image overseas, and set about finding ways to enhance that image. Epstein was one of those ways. She enabled him to launch broad-based publicity campaigns targeted at audiences in the U.S. and Europe by leveraging her network of influential contacts and access to significant financial resources. Establishment of the monthly pictorial China Today with Epstein as editor-in-chief was an outgrowth of these efforts. As the country became more and more distant from the West, the publication effectively became (and remained) Communist China’s voice to the outside world.
On the eve of the Communist takeover in 1949, Rosenfeld had achieved the rank of officer in the Communist military, a post he had secured largely by making himself indispensable as a leader and doctor who not only dressed the wounds and eased the suffering of the rank-and-file soldiers but, more importantly, attended personally to the needs of senior revolutionary officers who would later occupy prominent posts in the government of the new People’s Republic of China. Given his standing, Rosenfeld was well-positioned to enjoy the fruits of victory and the rewards for everything he and his Chinese comrades had struggled for. Yet, ironically, even before the revolution reached its victorious conclusion, the “Big-Nose Medical Saint,” as he was known by the troops, decided to return home to Vienna. Now that the war was over, Rosenfeld was convinced that Austria was on the road to recovery and that he would eventually be able to revive his livelihood. He also had learned that his sister was still alive and he was eager to be reunited with her.
On the eve of the Communist victory, Crook was also serving on the front lines in northeastern China, applying his teaching experience to the education of young leaders on the battlefield who would come to occupy senior posts in China’s Diplomatic Corps and laying the groundwork for the establishment that would become China’s Foreign Languages Institute. Crook distinguished himself and gained the trust of the Communist leadership through the degree of his self-sacrifice and, as a party member, willingness to subject himself to self-criticism and abnegation that was as harsh if not harsher than what his Chinese colleagues endured.
Known to the Chinese as “Li Dunbai,” Rittenberg proved his revolutionary mettle and demonstrated his zeal by struggling side-by-side with Mao, Zhou Enlai and other Communist revolutionaries on an arduous 500-mile journey to the refuge of caves in remote Yan’an that would become known as the “Long March.”
Like the other revolutionaries, Rittenberg lived a spartan life in Yan’an and followed a routine that was well-circumscribed: By day, he was an adviser to Mao, providing insights into American policy and drafting official correspondence to President Harry Truman and other American government officials on Mao’s behalf. By night, he was an active participant in the impromptu dances the revolutionaries organized, an activity that enabled him to forge bonds and deepen relationships with influential members of the communist movement that would play a consequential role in his life in China. One such acquaintance was Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, an actress who, in Rittenberg’s estimation, was a lot better at dancing than she was at acting. Rittenberg also served as an occasional translator for the Laurel and Hardy movies that Mao, Zhou Enlai and the other revolutionaries were so fond of watching on Friday evenings after dinner.
The next 30 years that Rittenberg would spend in China had all the arc and sweep of a classic Greek tragedy: The hubris of the young revolutionary eager to make history who is catapulted into the very center of a movement that would change the lives of millions, the reversal of fortune that would lead to a fall from grace, and finally enlightenment, a change from ignorance to awareness.
In the early 1960s, on the eve of a decade of upheaval that would come to be known as the Great People’s Cultural Revolution, Rittenberg was working in the foreign affairs office of the Central Broadcasting Bureau, a powerful organization whose strategic importance would place it on the leading edge of the revolution. Rittenberg, true to his nature, took an active role in the Cultural Revolution at its earliest stages. His engagement in mobilizing workers, organizing revolutionary study sessions and other related activities catapulted him into a position of revolutionary leader.
The following excerpt from a speech he delivered to audiences across the country — from peasants in small villages to students in auditoriums and workers in stadiums — brought him to national prominence and turned him into a celebrity:
“When I was a young man growing up in America, I worked alongside steelworkers and miners. I joined the American Communist Party. So I have experienced at firsthand how capitalism exploits workers. The life of a worker in the U.S. is a tough and painful one. China should avoid going down the path of capitalism at all costs.”
His spectacular revolutionary career reached its apex with the bold takeover of Central Broadcasting Bureau that he engineered as the leader of a radical faction.
Emboldened by his power and success, he increasingly used his speaking platform and stature to bring the revolutionary commitment of others into question and point out contradictions in their behavior, a tactic that ended the careers of not a few innocent citizens and brought misery to their families.
A Reversal of Fortune
One of the targets of Rittenberg’s defamatory speeches was Jiang Qing, who for Rittenberg would always be the B actress and dance companion he knew from Yan’an and, in any event, hardly a threat to someone such as him, who wielded so much power and influence. This turned out to be a severe miscalculation that would ultimately lead to his downfall. Since Yan’an, Jiang Qing, perhaps proving that she was a worthy actress after all, had succeeded in transforming herself into the “White-Boned Demon,” ringleader of the notorious Gang of Four and the object of fear and loathing. In a matter of weeks after delivering his stinging criticism of the woman many had come to see as an object of fear and loathing — hence her nickname — Rittenberg found himself in solitary confinement behind the walls of Qincheng Prison, a correctional facility on the outskirts of Beijing that was less forbidding than Alcatraz, perhaps, but no less notorious.