Pope Pius XII and the Concordat

Germany, the Catholic Church and Pope Piux XII
October, 2004
 
 
The German Catholic Church was very politically active and conservative in Germany of the 19th Century. Bismarck, who favored and sponsored social reform in Germany, started a long and determined attack on the Church in Germany during that period.(Not unlike what had happened in Mexico after their revolution in the 19th Century following the death of Maximillian.) Under the aegis of this policy of Kulter Kampf (Culture's Struggle) the German Catholic Church was put under immense state pressure. But interestingly German Catholic prelates and the Church itself, which had been quite politically active in Germany, was also very independent of the Vatican. After the turn of the century, Pacelli who was the child of Vatican lawyers, started to work on a Concordat that would restore some state recognition and funding to Church institutions and schools. This was an attempt to raise it to the same level institutionally as the Lutherans. The Lutheran Church had virtually the backing of the government as the “state” religion.. This document was to bring equality, in the eyes of the state to the German Catholic Church, restrict activities by priests and bring the German Church more into line with Vatican thinking and policies. Pacelli worked on this document for decades. Also Pacelli had been a priest working in Germany for many years, and I believe (this is all from memory, and I don't have the inclination to back it up at the moment) that he eventually became the Vatican's ambassador to Germany in the late 1920's.  He eventually became the Vatican Secretary of State. The Concordat had been refused by all German governments up to Hitler's time. To make a long story short, Hitler welcomed the long delayed document, and embraced it. As a consequence of that agreement certain realities emerged. The Vatican recognized the Hitler government and gave it more legitimacy around the world than it deserved, German Catholic prelates were silenced and banned from political activity of any type, and the Vatican had more power over the selection of local priests. In return, the Hitler government subsidized their schools and brought the Church into so-called parity with the Lutheran Church. There were other consequences of this agreement which I have forgotten, but in truth the Nazi government went back on its word and all religious outspokenness suffered.
 
Remarkably, during the war, the Church did not make a statement that threatened to excommunicate Catholics for war crimes. During the middle of the war, there were about 2000 mixed marriage families, still remaining in Berlin, that had husbands who were part or full Jewish and were also long-time converts to Catholicism. These men were rounded up, arrested and ordered to concentration camps. The wives of these men walked en masse to Gestapo headquarters, and with the support of the Pope, in an act of unusual courage and bravado, demanded that their husbands be freed. The protest was heard, and remarkably the men were eventually released to return to their families. It was a small protest, but it was embarrassing, and along with the statement of the Churxh and it worked. It only shows that a voice here and there could make a difference. I am sure that Pius XII could have made a statement decrying the treatment of the Jews and it would have put some pressure on the Nazi state. Remember about 30% of Germany was Catholic! I don't doubt that the Pope had the potential of being murdered, but many priests and nuns were murdered. I don't doubt that the Church's existence could have been threatened, but it would have survived the war. The Jewish religion and people survived the war. Hundreds of millions of Catholics would have certainly survived the war no matter if the Pope was martyred.
 
The debate regarding Pope Pius XII's actions have been far expanded far and wide since 1960. There have been many, many books written, by even Catholics, that bring into question his actions. Whether it be “Hitler's Pope,” or the “Sword of Constantine,” or a number of others, the role of the Church, vis-a-vis the Jews and the Allies is a very mixed one. Some controversies revolve around the slaughter of Serbian Eastern Orthodox Christians at the hands of Croatian Catholics and the continued stories regarding the escape of Nazis through the good offices of the Papacy and their helpers. I have done extensive reading on this subject and I am not one to re-fight or re-visit these old stories. But for anyone to state that the Pope did the “right” thing all the time is quite debatable. Even the argument that the Pope was out to protect the Church first and at all costs, rings a bit hollow. But times change, and Pope John XXIII, Pius's unlikely successor, was able to do some much good in his few short years, that the bitter memories of the war were but aside for a time. But today with calls for Pius to be canonized old allegations and bitterness as been awakened.
 
RJG 

John Kerry for President

John Kerry for President

By

Richard J. Garfunkel

 

Letter to the Editor:

The Journal News

 

October 25, 2004

 

On March 4, 1789 the New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the new Constitution of these United States. Therefore the Constitution became officially the “law of the land.”

 

The Preamble states the following:

 

We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.”

 

With regards to that famous and profound “Preamble” the Founding Fathers created a magnificent document that was in a philosophical sense a more conservative departure from the Declaration of Independence that stated:

 

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…”

 

Most Presidents, whether they are the good, the bad or the ugly have stood up for these precepts. But we are, as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has said, “ a different country every generation.”  Therefore with all the changes that history has witnessed over the last 228 years there have been many, many changes, but the Constitution has still remained relevant and the most important document in the history of free governments. But the Constitution without the Preamble and the Bill of Rights is still only a document creating a framework of government. I believe that Harold L. Ickes said “the Bill of Rights means nothing to a hungry man!” Therefore the Preamble and the Bill of Rights must deliver to keep on separating the American People from the rest of the governed around the world.

 

In regarding the Preamble, the phrase “insure domestic tranquility” is most important to me. No matter how we feel about politics, taxation, state’s rights, the “establishment clause,” foreign intrigue and adventurism, and the like, we all accept as a “given” that all Presidents will provide for the “common defense,” and protect our nation state in times of grave peril. Obviously that is why the Congress and the People of the United States usually back their Chief Executive on those matters. Whether it was the firing on Fort Sumter, or the “freedom of seas,” issue that came about with our Undeclared War with France, the Barbary Coast War, The War of 1812, or the First World War, or when we felt the Monroe Doctrine was being infringed upon, or whether we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, or whether we had treaty obligations, as with South Korea, the President was supported. In time of war we usually pull together and back our government.

 

The President is granted a great deal of latitude regarding these difficult periods. One could say that our current President was given that latitude regarding both Afghanistan, with its nest of Taliban and Al Quieda terrorists, and with Iraq regarding its history of regional bellicosity. Many of us backed both wars, understanding the gravity of our actions and the concerns expressed by the Executive Branch. Those two actions and their justifications are history now. We cannot remake them. We cannot go back in time. But now we have to consider whether these actions have been managed with sincerity and care. In my opinion they have been managed disastrously, and the continued rationale of the Iraq War becomes more of a question mark every day. In other words, it is always prudent and wise to smother or drown a fire, but throwing gasoline on a small brush fire can burn down the surrounding forest and may even threaten one’s own home. Therefore, from my perspective, as a person that would have certainly removed the Taliban and hunted down Osama Bin Laden to the ends of the earth, and I backed the President with those actions. Unfortunately he took his “eye off the ball,” diverted our attention and resources, and has so far mismanaged our whole effort. So where are we today, bogged down in an almost un-winnable war, fought by a “stretched out” and undermanned military. But that alone should not automatically cause me or most other reasonable people to “fire” a President.

 

Therefore one should explore further the record of accomplishment over the past four years, or even the intent. To me therefore the critical distinction revolves around how we survive domestically. With all that in mind, the President must remember the importance of the phrase “to insure domestic tranquility.” This President has done almost nothing to “insure domestic tranquility.” Coming into office without a majority of the electorate is not unusual, but receiving fewer votes than his opponent is quite unusual, but it has happened before. Coming into office in the wake of a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court is even more unusual. Therefore one would think that anyone coming into office with such a razor thin and judicially decided mandate, would work to heal the country, bring it together and to administer in a more bi-partisan effort. Therefore what is the record and why has the so-called “Compassionate Conservative” not achieved or even attempted this?

 

“Domestic Tranquility” is important to all. People do not eat in the “long run.” We have ongoing critical problems regarding our health care institutions, our failing educational system, our energy dependency, our trade deficits, our budgetary hemorrhaging, our blurring of the “establishment clause,” the future of our “safety net” entitlements, our job creation, our “jobs” outsourced overseas, our declining stock market, our soaring oil prices, our illegal immigration flood and a myriad of other problems.

 

But what has this President stood for? He has stood for tax cuts for millionaires, he has stood for state’s rights, he has stood for religious fundamentalism, he has favored the drug companies over the elderly, he has favored tax relief for the energy industry, he has favored the polluters over the environment, he has chosen and backed his anti-rights Attorney-General, he has supported buyouts of tobacco quotas, he is against “choice,” he is against scientific research, he opposed “caps on carbon dioxide emissions,” and he has sought to trivialize the US Constitution with frivolous amendments.

 

In other words, reflective of what he is for and what he has opposed, George W. Bush has divided this country unlike any President since the days of Vietnam. But he has gone one step farther. He has divided the country not only on foreign policy but also on domestic policy. Any and all Presidents must remember the phrase “insure domestic tranquility.” In other words people deserve from their government more activity than collecting tolls on a bridge.

 

As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his Second Inaugural on January 20, 1937:

 

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

 

 

Who are now the class of people who have too little? It is the elderly who must choose between food and drugs. It is our children who are looking at a new age of staggering debt; it is the next generation that deserves the cleanest water and air. It is a generation unborn that may see its coastlines disappear if the worst predictions of global warming come true. It is the middle-aged worker who is wondering whether after a lifetime of work he/she will see his pension disappear and social security bankrupt. It is the erosion of the middle-class, as jobs in manufacturing disappear from the American landscape. The real meaning of  “domestic tranquility” is peace and security at home. It is the promise of a bright future for all Americans. But we have entered into an age of anxiety and our leadership is deaf to all but the “squeaky wheel” of the powerful. It is the powerful that gets the proverbial “grease.”

 

Therefore I say it is time for a change, and we all have that power to actuate that change the democratic way, come next Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

 

FDR and Jews

FDR and the Jews 

October 24, 2004

Of course the question has been asked now for decades, could FDR have done more? It is a difficult one because of the context of the times, the conflict between Jewish groups before the war, and the increased level of anti-Semitism in the United States during the 1930’s.

During the 1930’s a xenophobic feeling became pervasive in America. A great deal of this xenophobia was focused against immigrants, refugees, and Jews in general. Much of this came from isolationists, in and out, of Congress. Much of it came out of the “revisionist” doctrines of the post WWI era. This revisionist thinking came from many Midwest German-Americans who were infuriated by the pro-British stance of the Wilson Administration during WWI. Many of these German-Americans (40% of the US population circa 1930) felt that the “Guilt Clause” that came out of the Versailles Treaty was patently unfair. As a consequence of our intervention in WWI, anti-German feeling reached a zenith in this country in 1917 and 1918. As a consequence of this feeling, German products were boycotted, German sounding names were changed, German was banned from the language curriculum of the high schools and generally there was a violent reaction to established German-American communities. As a result of this, a combination of reactions were fomented and actuated in the 1920’s. Historians and citizens, who were anti-British, questioned our effort and losses in WWI. This “revisionist” movement tried to bring discredit to the Wilson Administration and it somewhat started to influence public opinion. In a sense this stimulated and led to the “anti-war” and peace movements of the 1920’s.

In parallel to this discontent, the economic disaster that befell Germany had been exacerbated by the Allies demand for “reparations.” It is a long story, but to make it short, the resulting “hyper-inflation” and Depression in Germany, which foreshadowed our own economic collapse, led to open street warfare in Germany. The Nazi Movement, which used the Jews as their scapegoat, eventually took advantage of the resulting chaos and seized control of Germany. They made the hatred of Jews their mantra and public policy. This Jewish hatred spread to the United States, and infected many German-American national groups. Therefore, for the first real time, anti-Semitism started to grow dramatically. The German-American Bund and its rallies, along with the rise of neo-fascist American groups, who were opposed to the “Jew Deal” and FDR in particular, found fertile ground in the American Midwestern mainstream. Along with neo-fascist Protestant groups, Father Coughlin, a Catholic priest in Detroit, began his air ministry, reaching millions with his anti-Semitic, anti-British diatribes. Along with the widely admired Henry Ford, who was a virulent anti-Semite, their message was spread all over America. Coughlin lambasted the New Deal and its Jewish supporters, and Ford assailed the Jews through his Dearborn Gazette, in which he claimed that an international cartel of Zionist bankers, guided by the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” were out to control the world.

So the tone was set with people like Charles Lindbergh and his support of the American First Movement and conservative supported Liberty Lobby, which opposed all thoughts of intervention in Europe’s business. Even when FDR made his famous “Quarantine Speech” of 1937, public opinion was not swayed, but more divided. He was forced to back off his proposal to create “economic” boycotts against the “dictators” and to isolate and quarantine them. This would have been the start to a process to “strangle” the totalitarians before they grew to almost unlimited power. Of course this failed because the public opinion turned on FDR, and many newspaper editorials even called for his impeachment. FDR understood that getting too far in front of the public inhibited his ability to be effective. Therefore he turned to “less public” efforts to re-arm and to build “The Arsenal of Democracy.”

Because this is a long, involved and convoluted subject, and would take many more pages to give adequate coverage, I will sum up my thoughts in the next few paragraphs.

FDR had to balance many, many interests at one time. During the period between 1933 and 1938 over half the immigrants to the United States were Jewish, far above the quotas allowed for Germany and Austria. The “quota issue” became a hot button in Congress and the conservative FDR haters in that body threatened the termination of all quotas. Therefore many thousands of Jews reached the US through non-legal channels. The government tended to look the other way regarding this “underground” immigration. In regards to more “public” immigration process, like the “Oswego” community that involved a tiny amount of people (8000), the Jews were interned for basically the duration of the war and for public “show”. Therefore the public “saw” that Jewish immigration was not being prejudicially” favored. But realistically many hundreds of thousands of Jews found there way to America. But remember public opinion and Congressional pressure was totally against immigration and especially Jewish immigration. Also, at that same time, a vast majority of Jews left Germany (over 75% of the pre-war 500,000, or less than 1% of the population), assuming it would be until Hitler was overthrown or contained. Most went to Poland and other countries to the East and many went to France, Holland and other western European countries including England. But of course history proved that they weren’t secure outside of Germany, as long as they were within the grasp of the Nazi military. 

The bottom line to this all is that the Jews did not face extermination in Germany between 1933- and the start of WWII. Even up to Kristalnacht, in late 1938, only a few thousand Jews had even been interned in camps no less executed.  Many of the Jews that remained in Germany still thought that this “political” problem would “all blow over.” Many Jews did not want to give up their property, and their ancestral homes.Of course during WWII the ability to provide safe-haven or even escape for the vast majority of Jews that were killed, (from Germany, Poland, Russia, and Hungary) was impossible. With regards to bombing Auschwitz, Sir Martin Gilbert, who is the greatest living authority on the Holocaust, has covered those issues extensively. No trains ran in Germany during the daylight, and bombing railroad tracks does not work, and even if it did work by chance or luck, they were all repaired almost immediately. High altitude strategic bombing cannot destroy tracks. That type of bombing was way to inaccurate. Our heavy and medium bombers concentrated on railroad marshalling yards and inflicted considerable damage that took days to repair. But these yards had to be hit with multiple raids, and often were. Our long-range bombers could not effectively reach Poland, and if they could, they had to have round-trip fighter support, which wasn’t available until late in the war. By the time Auschwitz was determined to be the “killing camp” most of the Jews had been killed except those from Hungary. Auschwitz, in particular was a vast place and destroying it from the air would have taken multiple raids, if that effort were possible. In fact, there was much general opposition to bombing camps because that action would wind up killing basically Jews. By the way there is no record of FDR being asked to “bomb” Auschwitz. (See William vanden Heuval’s answer to Michael Beschloss in the accompanying documents.)

Remember by the time the Nazis, with their SS Einsatzgruppen troops, had moved into Russia over 2 million Jews had been killed in the field. The establishment of the camps was to relieve the troops of the job! Many were being psychologically affected and too many of the troops were tied down with the grisly work. Therefore the establishment of the “Death Camps.” Secrecy of the camps was of high priority and even people living nearby weren’t exactly sure what was going on. Most of the world was made to believe that these were work camps for the “war effort.” Only later on, in mid 1944, was the Jewish Agency, through the use of heroic volunteers, able to determine that Auschwitz-Birkenau was a terminus for Jews. Of course there were many other camps where Jews and others were either worked to death or merely executed. By then it was way too late to save the vast amount of Jews by attempting to destroy the heinous facility. Of course the only group left to murder were the 400,000 Jews of Hungary, and that saga is too long a story for here.

In retrospect, Lucy Dawidowicz, writes eloquently in her book The War Against the Jews 1933-1945, about the war aims of the Nazis, She chronicles and believes that one of the main war aims of the Nazis was to make Europe and the world Judenrein or free of Jews. Therefore they worked on this objective up until the last days of their existence. She rarely mentions FDR or his impact or lack of it one the fate of European Jewry.

Could more Jews have been saved? Of course! Could there have been a better humanitarian effort made? Possibly! But, all in all, the West and the United States came very close to losing the Second World War. It seems to me, that without the determined leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt, no Jews would have survived no less the rest of the Western World. Without his effort to finally mobilize America into the engine of Europe’s liberation, a “Dark Age,” dominated by modern Visigoths and barbarians would have enveloped the whole planet.

I can be reached at rjg727@optonline.net  

The Westchester Sports Hall of Fame Dinner October 7, 2004

The Westchester Sports Hall of Fame Dinner

A Temporary Escape into the Glorious Path!

 

By

 

Richard J. Garfunkel

October 7, 2004

 

 

Yesterday I found myself driving not only on the Cross Westchester Expressway towards the Boston Post Road and N. Barry Avenue, on my way to the Mamaroneck Yacht and Swim Club, but on a long meandering path leading back in time to a simpler and somewhat more enjoyable time. My parents were members of this club back in the late 1960’s, and I last spent an afternoon there with my newly married sister Kaaren and her husband Charles sometime in the summer of 1967.

 

The rationale for this new trip was the occasion of the 37th annual induction ceremony and dinner of the Westchester Sports Hall of Fame. I was invited to attend by one of the honorees, Mr. David Rider, who was a former track coach and administrator at Mount Vernon High School (from 1964-1976), whom I met during my college days when I visited the high school to see my great friend the late Henry Littlefield, of sainted memory. Mr. Robert Douglas, the chairperson of New York State’s Section I Athletic District, nominated Dave, who is regarded as one of the greatest track coaches in the United States, during that period, and who is still thought of with great affection, as an unparalleled legendary coach, advisor, friend and mentor to many. I was asked by Dave to second his nomination, and I did that service with the greatest of pleasure. Earlier well known Mount Vernon inductees were John and Ralph Branca, Frank Carideo, Notre Dame All-American, Bill Collins, Fred and Ken Singleton, Earl Tatum, Lorenzo Thomas, Tony Veteri, and Ed Williams. So Dave joins some very elite company.

 

Dave and I really connected back in September of 1967, while I was teaching at Mount Vernon High School, while awaiting an opening in the United States Air Force’s Officers Candidate School class. Henry had left Mount Vernon, in June of 1967 for the hills of Northampton, Massachusetts and eventually the hallowed ivy covered walls of Amherst College. I spent some time following and helping the wrestling program under the inspired leadership of his protégé and successor Randy Forrest. At that time I also met  Dave’s assistant, a big man named Bob Brooke, who had joined the staff around 1965. He was a gruff giant of a man who always amazed me that he could squeeze himself into his Corvette. Brooke, who was from Pelham, had gone to college somewhere down south and had adopted an annoying southern-style of speaking. His verbal savoir faire sort of reminded me of Joe Namath, who was also a northerner from Beaver Falls, Pa., and while and after attending the University of Alabama, started to drawl like a “good old boy” coming out of Talladega Raceway. But in spite of his faux southern accent and charm, he wasn’t bewitching to me, and we did not get along too terribly well. I never had a clue regarding his animus, but years and years later, Madeline Littlefield told me the story of Bob Brooke. Brooke was Henry’s assistant coach, while Randy Forrest was going back to college in Virginia. Henry told Brooke, that when Randy returned he would again be his assistant. Of course, according to Madeline, Brooke, in spite of his large size, seemed to be quite insecure and immature. He seemed to think of Henry’s choice of Randy, to be his assistant, as a type of personal “rejection.” He, like many, looked at Henry as a father figure and seemed to be depressed over Henry’s unrequited “love,” and loyalty to Randy, who was a friend, a great wrestler, and had been his former assistant.  Along with that, Brooke got into some social problems at the high school, and Henry, who was a rising star in the system and the assistant principal went to “the mat” for Brooke and saved his “rear-end.” Of course Brooke reacted without much graciousness, and after Henry’s departure to Northampton, Randy Forrest, Henry’s protégé and heir, became an object of his ire. When I entered the picture as a great friend of both Henry and Randy, I experienced the same chill. But being young and naïve, I assumed that his coldness and sarcasm was a product of my personality and shortcomings. Frankly it didn’t really affect my life, but I still recall that uncomfortable relationship without any level of fondness. Over the next number of years, long after I had left teaching in 1969, I still followed track and field and the career of Coach Dave Rider. More or less Bob Brooke was still around, and I kept my distance from him, except for a perfunctory salutation of greeting.

 

Many years have passed since those days, and recently I learned that Brooke was a victim of Parkinson’s disease, and as I walked into the club, I wondered if he was well enough to be there. Later in the evening as I made my way over to Dave’s table I saw a man whom I did not recognize. He was thin, almost gaunt and sitting there, amidst the tumult, quietly with a blank looking stare. Finally I asked someone if the man sitting there was Bob Brooke? Of course it was, and at age 62 or so, he looked 15 years older. I was stunned, completely shocked and saddened. When I last saw him almost 30 years ago, he must have weighed 80 pounds more, was blond, muscular and the image of power personified. He was a giant, a behemoth! What can one say; good health is second to nothing. It is number one, and when it goes, often it goes forever! I sat down, introduced myself, and offered a few banal inanities. What was there to say? Could I say I was sorry that this had happened to him? Of course not! I just said hello and wished him the best. So many amongst the throng of athletes in attendance looked great. So many had aged well. But Bob was different, very different.

 

The evening was about Dave Rider, Gus Williams the fabulous Mount Vernon basketball star from the “Dream Team” of 1971, an NBA All-Star, and a member of the Journal News All-Century Basketball Team, BJ Surhoff, the major league baseball player, Tim O’Toole, the basketball coach at Fairfield and the New Rochelle Olympic Gold Medallist swimmer Cristina Teuscher. 

 

Of course my son’s track coaches at White Plains High School, Nick Panaro and Fred Singleton, a high school and college All-American, were there. They were products of Dave Rider’s great program at MVHS, and they had been wonderful for Jon. I always appreciated their excellent coaching, and we have been friends now for many years. It’s always nice seeing these guys and re-living those marvelous times when Jon was running track and making his name academically at the high school. My memories of those days glow with everlasting satisfaction.

 

But in honor of Dave, and with the added allure of Gus Williams, many of Dave’s great stars were there. All one had to do was to turn around and see Mike Young, an All-American, Bill Collins, who was a high school and college All-American, and now world record holder for 50+ year old records in many sprint distances, Walter Kirkland, Valjean Garret, Ken McBryde, an All-American, Clinton Young, a County Legislator, Tony Wells, Steve Groom and Milton Cobb. Of course, there were many others there from those days and it was a pleasure going back in time and seeing so many familiar faces from those bygone years. I sat with Ed Abbaticola, Braulia Oria and Joe Gherardi who were longtime members of the Mount Vernon coaching staffs from the 1970’s through the late 1990’s. I had brought my track and wrestling photo albums that had many pictures accumulated from the 1960’s to today and shared those images with them.

 

Ron Lyons, who was my gym teacher at Davis had left, in 1961, to teach and coach up at Somers High School. Over the years, I had seen his name in the newspapers many times chronicling his long successful coaching exploits. In fact, he is also a Hall of Fame inductee. I went over to his table, said hello, and after 43 years, I was shocked and amused when he said that he had remembered me quite well. That was a real a real “kick!” He had wondered what had happened to me, and I gave him a quick summation of the almost half century that had passed, and when that party broke up, we parted with a hardy handshake and a big smile!

 

For the first time in decades I saw, Ed Sands, whom I recruited for the White Plains Democratic City Committee in 1972 and scores of athletes, who will never be forgotten by those who saw them compete, on the friendly fields of competitive sport. I must also note that I had the added pleasure of seeing Mike “Beaver” Ansbro, my old basketball buddy from Traphagen’s basketball courts and Stepinac fame, who I see in White Plains every once in a while, the former longtime Mount Vernon Superintendent of Schools Bill Pratella, who I played softball with when I was in 8th grade, and the great Harry Jefferson, the legendary lifelong White Plains, star athlete, coach, school administrator and mentor to thousands, including my daughter Dana.

 

It’s always fun to peak, for a brief moment, into the workings of another parallel world that is really so different from what I experienced as an adult. A world so necessary, and under appreciated, that develops so many of our leaders and role models. For few hours I traveled back to a time long passed, never to be replicated and only alive in the memories of those who have survived long enough to come and celebrate: life, good times, and the bitter sweetness of competition.

 

 

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Williams, fourth others inducted into Westchester hall of fame

By KEVIN DEVANEY JR.
THE JOURNAL NEWS

(Original publication: October 8, 2004)

MAMARONECK — The first days of Gus Williams' basketball career at Mount Vernon were humbling. He was cut from the junior varsity as a sophomore in 1969 and he didn't crack the varsity until he was a senior. As his career blossomed — taking him from starting point guard on the greatest team in Westchester basketball history, to earning a scholarship to play at USC, to winning an NBA championship only a few years later — one thing always stayed the same. Williams never lost sight of where he came from. “When he was playing in the NBA, he was a role model for all children in Mount Vernon,” said Caroline Walters, a retired math teacher at the high school. “And he came back and is still giving to the community. He still lives in Mount Vernon. It's where his heart is.” Williams, who turns 51 on Sunday, was recognized for his lifelong achievements last night at the Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club when he and four others became the 37th class inducted into the Westchester Sports Hall of Fame.

All five inductees were in attendance, including Rye's B.J. Surhoff, an 18-season major-league baseball veteran; New Rochelle's Cristina Teuscher, an Olympic gold-medal-winning swimmer; Tim O'Toole, a Stepinac graduate and longtime college basketball coach; and Dave Rider, a decorated track coach and athletic director at Mount Vernon.

While Williams was being recognized for his 11-season career as a professional, that's not only how he will be remembered. He was the cornerstone of Mount Vernon's 1971 state championship team, which is widely considered the greatest high school team ever in Westchester, and was named to the all-century team by The Journal News in 2000. Williams went on to star at USC before being selected in the second round by Golden State in '75.

After two seasons with the Warriors, Williams signed with the Seattle SuperSonics, with whom he reached the '78 NBA Finals and then won a championship, the only title in franchise history, the following season. He was a two-time All-Star who averaged 17.1 points and 5.6 assists over 825 games. From a kid who struggled to make his school team to a player gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, Williams is truly an inspiration. When he retired after his final season with the Atlanta Hawks in 1987, he went to the only place he ever called home. “It was important to me to stay close to Mount Vernon because this is where it all started for me,” Williams said.

Williams was nominated for the Hall of Fame by Walters, who taught at Mount Vernon for 34 years before retiring last spring. Until Walters retired, she would use Williams' story of determination to motivate students. “I would tell kids about him and how he didn't make varsity until he was a senior,” Walters said. “But I really held him up because he was such a good person. He was very unassuming. Even as his career went on, he never changed.''

Reach Kevin Devaney Jr. at kdevaney@thejournalnews.gannett.com or 914-696-8522.Reach Kevin Devaney Jr. at kdevaney@thejournalnews.gannett.com or 914-696-8522.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

\ i

Westchester Sports Hall of Fa11

 Class of 2004

­

 

O'TOOLE, TIMOTHY

A high school basketball standout at Archbishop Stepinac, he was named AII­

Archdiocese and AII-CHSAA before going on to Fairfield University, where he helped the team capture its second straight MAAC title. He has served in the position of assistant men's basketball coach at such distinguished schoolsa.sFordham UniversitY, Army, lona College, Syracuse University, Duke University and Seton Hall University. In 1998, he returned to Fairfield as head men's basketball coach, becoming the first alumnus to oversee the program.

RIDER, DAVID C.

Dave achieved renown as the track & field coach at Mt. Vernon High School, serving

also in the position of Athletic Director and Director of Health and Physical Education.

During his illustrious coaching career, his teams were ranked first in New York State in 1967,1968,1970,1974 and 1975. His 1970 team was cited as one of the top teams in the nation by “Track and Field News”. He is regarded as one of the major forces in this area's track & field tradition, serving as Section I Indoor Track Chairman and President of the Westchester Track and Field Coaches and Officials Association.

SURHOFF, WILLIAM]. “B.].”

A graduate of Rye High School, where he lettered in football, basketball and baseball,

B.J. went on to play baseball at the University of North Carolina. He earned AII­American honors twice and was a catcher on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team before becoming the No.1 overall pick in the 1985 major league baseball draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. He has gone on to play 18 years in the majors with the Brewers, Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves, and was named to the American League AII­Star team in 1999. As part of the Atlantic Coast Conference's 50th anniversary celebration in 2003, he was named one of the ACC's top 50 male athletes of all-time.

TEUSCHER, CRISTINA

A native of New Rochelle, Christina is recognized as one of the top student-athletes in

Ivy League history. This two-time Olympic swimmer won a Gold Medal in the 800 FreestYle Relay in 1996 at the Atlanta Games & a Bronze Medal in the 200 meter individual medley in 2000 at the Sydney Games. Cristina was recipient of the prestigious Honda Broderick Cup recognizing her as the best collegiate female athlete in the United States following her senior year at Columbia University. She was the winner of 3 Gold Medals at the 1995 PAN AM Games, a six-time USA National Champion, and winner of multiple World Championship medals and Goodwill Games Gold Medals. Additionally, she is the holder of numerous Metropolitan Championships and records.

WILLIAMS, GUS

This Mt. Vernon native and basketball “Wizard” played on Mt. Vernon's 1971

Championship team and was named by The Journal News to the “All-Century Team”. He went on to play for the University of Southern California and upon graduation was

drafted by the Golden State Warriors. In 1977, he signed with the Seattle SuperSonics, becoming their leading scorer for the next three seasons. In 1979, he led the Sonics to their only championship averaging 26.6 points per game. He was a two-time NBA AII­Star, later playing for the Washington Bullets and Atlanta Hawks. In 2004, the Sonics retired Gus' #1 jersey. He currently resides in Mt. Vernon where he serves as a role model for youngsters through his affiliation with the Boys & Girls Club.

 

Kerry vs. Bush The First debate-The Iraqi Issue!

Kerry vs. Bush- New perspectives, the same old problem!
October 6, 2004
 
My answer to sensible friends, soft on George Bush!
 
Well I am glad you both are starting to see a bit of the sense to “Anybody But Bush!” Of course the Rev. Al. and the Boy Mayor Dennis the Menace would have beeen a stretch for me. But of course that is not terribly relevant because the Dems did  select the “strongest” and most experienced candidate that was available. He won by hard work and a great effort. What happened to Wes Clarke,  Graham, Gephardt, Dean and the others? They didn't have it!
 
Campaigns are like battles in wartime. No one can exactly predict where both sides will meet, or for what rationale. As soon as the battle starts the “fog of war” has a tendency to take over. It is a “catch as catch can” effort. Who thought Guadalcanal, or Kursk, or Gettysburg would happen where they happened? For sure not the war college planners.? In a sense I am amazed that Bush's domestic record has meant so little to the media and the electorate. If Clinton is a fantasist, then Bush is an out an out liar. He has promised promises throughtout his tenure in office. He has funded or supported very few of those promises. Is a compassionate conservative, one who preaches compassion but doesn't deliver the “beef” but just the spin? In a sense it is like the idea to privatise a portion of social security. Bush has talked about this aspect from the 2000 campaign. Has there been action? No! But by the way has he mentioned that it would cost $2 trillion to replace those funds that are currently going to our parents and their peers, to shift them to private accounts? No! 
 
But going back to the “fog of war” for a minute. Who would have ever predicted that a year or so after “Mission Accomplished” we would be debating this war in the same way war was debated in 1952 and Vietnam in 1968. Funny how the Bush apologists compare this to the 1944 Election. It is hard for me to understand that. Of course in WW II we paid for the war, as much as we could borrow, had our war “goods and services” consuming 95% of our GNP, and taxed the rich pretty aggressively. We did not fight the war on the “cheap!”  But of course every day for a year or so we have been hearing that we are in a fight to the death with terrorists that threaten our very way of life. Well the campaign in Tora Bora didn't seem to reflect that same sense of urgency. Certianly our greatest threat is nuclear and Bush has done virtually nothing to protect our ports or to contain loose fissionable material that is known to be available. So where's the “beef?”
 
But, be that as it may, Sadaam Hussein was not a great guy. But for a while he was “our” guy in the Reagan Years. Somehow while arming him to the teeth we forgot that Israel maybe threatened by this brigand, and that he may become intoxicated by his power and encouraged by his weaponry. It was all well and good when he was attacking Iran, but Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were/are our current buddies! Funny that in 1991 when Iraq was really strong, at least regionally, 96 hours of “blitzkrieg” took out his vaunted army. So after 11 or 12 years of interdiction, embargo and being a world-wide pariah, he was still considered as strong. Well now we went from so-called liberators, from what or whom, to occupiers!
 
But, again no one could tell in 2000 where the next campaign or its issues would flesh out. I was not happy with this guy from the start. His illegitimacy was not the issue for me, it was his actions. Funny he won Florida by 5-4 in the Supreme Court. Over 20,000 people were thrown off the election rolls because they had the same name as felons, 500 elderly Jewish voters in Century Village voted for Pat Buchanon because of difficulty understanding the ballot machine, and 98,000 Floridians voted for Ralph Nader. Despite all of that Gore would have won Florida in county by county re-canvass!
 
But 9/11 intervened and Rudy Giuliani who was being hooted down in NYC because of his silly activities regarding a host of actions, became a hero.(By the way I like Rudy and I think he did a great job for a good part of his 8 years in office.) Clinton was excoriated because of his dalliances, but the Mayor of America, who was “boffing” his girl friend while his wife and children were clinging to Gracie Mansion, was given a pass. What a drama! She wouldn't even leave after they were divorced! Of course we have all but forgotten his first marriage that ended in annullment.Talk about phony morality. So 9/11 made heroes out of Rudy and “W.” What else is new! We are reading Kitty Kelly's book on him, and I notice that he hasn't attempted to deny her allegations. Pretty difficult because they are true!
 
So the challenge is ahead. Do we allow this phony born-again hypocrite to continue to pander to the religious right, give solace to the state's righters, and continue to devide the country or do we make a change. Kerry won't be perfect, and he won't heal the idealogical rifts that have widened in America, but he can do no worse. (By the way, I believe in prayer, and do go to services every year. In fact I go more than the obligatory 4 times during the High Holy Days, but I believe that prayer in school is wrong-headed!) Good for you Lew, I couldnt have said it better!  
 
RJ Garfunkel

Edwards vs. Cheney and Reagan rated in American Heritage

Edwards vs. Cheney- What Happened to Wyoming and
American Heritage rates Ronald Reagan
 
October 7, 2004
 
 
The current Bush administration has raised bureaucratic expenditure, with more people and higher pay then the Clinton Administration- military aside!~ Reflective of the past Vice-Presidential Debate, Cheney's voting record was horrible and he is too! There were actually Democrats elected in Wyoming at one time or another! Not that long ago Wyoming had Gale McGee for 20 years as a Senator and Ed Herschler, a governor who served 12 years and 3 terms up until 1987. Of course at the time Cheney was a Congressman, circa 1982, when he had won with 71% of the vote his ADA rating was 5 and his ACLU rating was zero! Even the conservative GOP Senators at that time Wallop and Simpson had ratings of  10/32 and 15/39! Yes he was a coming individual back in the early 1980's, but boy is he a scary figure now!
 
Edwards handled himself quite well. Ideology aside, my issue is domestic tranquility as opposed to a divided society at loggerheads with itself. Since the so-called Reagan revolution, where the right-wing got its foot in the door with their national Flaksperson in the Great Communicator we have spiraled out of control in regards to divisive rhetoric. Not helping all of this has been the lack-luster Presidents that we have had to endure. Many people do not like Clinton, but he was genial, well-liked, admired abroad and a hero to minorities in this country; women, blacks, Latinos and Jews. Unlike Carter, Ford, Bush and the current dunce, Clinton actually had a very, very good 8 years. Other than the lunatic fringe right who was mourning for Ruby Ridge, the demise of the nutty Branch Dividians, the Cuban boy sent back to Castro and a few other miss-steps, crime was down remarkably, government shrunk, deficits disappeared, surpluses emerged, jobs were created (22 million), peace was accomplished in the Kosovo Region (no American casualties) and there was engagement with the Israelis and the so-called Palestinians. But Newt Gingrich and his cohorts came in with Ronald Regan and vestiges of them remain in the (nut) House. They talk of family, small businesses, freedom, less government, but they wish to wiretap, censor, export jobs, cut taxes but spend more. They complain of illegal immigrants, but their friends in big business: hospitals, farms and big restaurants need them to survive and the government looks the other way. The President talks and regard himself as a “compassionate conservative” but he has left unfunded most of his so-called initiatives. His Congress did seem fit to find the time to round-up the votes to extend the assault weapon ban. But they want to allow guns to be carried in D.C. The NRA has an office right in the White House.
 
Interestingly enough in this month's current issue of ”American Heritage” Magazine- run by Steve Forbes, not Mr. Liberal bleeding-heart. AH lists its annual Underrated/Overrated analysis, and lo and behold, Ronald Wilson Reagan is regarded as “overrated.”  “In general, his adherents like to portray Reagan as a 'big vision' President, who was an expert at delegating and did not get bogged down in the details of governing…yet it is not clear whether his vision was really wide enough. His administration was engulfed in scandals, after all, ranging from the Iran-contra operation to the Savings and Loan debacle (the costliest in American and possibly world history).” To sum it up Reagan was seen by Forbes as being overrated, and as not being the person who should be credited for ”winning the Cold War.” “The supposed sterling economic record of the Reagan eighties was, in fact, bracketed by a deep recession and a stock market crash, while the go-go years in between were fueled be record peacetime deficits his successors labored for ten years to make up- and actions which contradicted nearly everything Reagan claimed to stand for before taking office.” Besides all of that, he was indifferent to those who were victims of almost anything but communism. His reaction to the AIDS epidemic was sluggish, he opposed all basic civil rights legislation, he was hostile to almost all social-welfare legislation, despite the fact that his own family was rescued through government  intervention during the Great Depression. He even invented and continued to popularized the infamous story of the black, Cadillac-driving “welfare queen” who never actually existed. This is all virtually word for word from this month's “American Heritage.” By the way, FDR is listed as the most underrated. It is only justic