Tuesday, July 14, 2009

OPNY Affiliate Members Visit Tourist Attractions In Maryland & New Jersey

Objectivist Party of New York affiliate members attending the Objectivist Party's Multi-Affiliate Meeting and Pool Party in Maryland on July 10, 2009 decided to visit a few tourist attractions on their way to and from the event. In Maryland, they visited the Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine, The National Katyn Memorial, the Baltimore Holocaust Memorial and the Baltimore Museum of Industry. In New Jersey, they visited the Thomas Alva Edison Memorial Tower.

Fort McHenry is a star-shaped fort best known for its role in the War of 1812 when it successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy in the Chesapeake Bay. Francis Scott Key, a Washington lawyer who had come to Baltimore to negotiate the release of Dr. William Beanes, a civilian prisoner of war, witnessed the bombardment from a nearby truce ship. An over-sized American flag had been sewn by Mary Pickersgill in anticipation of the British attack on the fort. When Key saw the flag emerge intact in the dawn of September 14, 1814, he was so moved that he began that morning to compose the poem "The Defence of Fort McHenry" which would later be renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner" eventually being set to the tune of The Anacreontic Song to become the national anthem of the United States. While at the Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine, we saw the film "The Defense of Fort McHenry" that was playing in the Visitor Center Auditorium.

The National Katyn Memorial on S. President Street in Baltimore, Maryland honors those Polish officers who died in three Soviet prisoner of war camps during World War II. In 1918, Poland regained her independence after enduring three partitions and domination for 123 years by Russia, Prussia, and Austria. Barely 21 years later, on September 1, 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the west, triggering the Second World War. On September 17, the Soviet Union, in cooperation with the Nazis and without a declaration of war, invaded and occupied eastern Poland. The Soviets deported some 1.5 million Polish citizens to Siberia. They seized some 250,000 Polish military personnel and sent over 20,000 army, navy, air force and frontier-guard officers to three prison camps in the Soviet Union: Kozielsk, Starobielsk, and Ostashkov. Most of these officers were reservists: doctors, professors, school teachers, lawyers, judges, civil servants, priests, ministers, and rabbis. They were Poland’s leaders and thinkers, the flower of Polish intelligentsia. Through the severe winter of 1939-40, the prisoners defied political indoctrination and endured interrogations by the Soviet secret police (NKVD) about their backgrounds and their political views. In March they were ordered to gather their belongings and were told they were being returned to Poland. For the next few weeks, day after day, 200-300 of them were taken away by train. They were then transferred to special prison buses, locked singly into cramped cubicles and taken deep into the Russian forests. There, one-by-one, each prisoner was murdered with a pistol shot to the back of the head. In June, 1941 Germany turned on its ally and invaded the Soviet Union. In April 1943 in the Katyñ Forest, near Smolensk in German-occupied Russia, a local peasant led the Germans to a site called Goat Hill. There the Germans found the bodies of nearly 5,000 Polish officer-prisoners who had been in the Kozielsk prison camp. One of the people brought to the gravesite as a witness to the proceedings was an American Prisoner-of-War, Lieutenant Colonel John Van Vliet, Jr. After his release from captivity at the end of the war, he prepared a report in which he concluded that the Soviets were responsible for the murder of the Polish officers found at Katyñ. This report, classified TOP SECRET, disappeared. In 1949, at the request of the Department of Defense, Lt. Col. Van Vliet again dictated his report and this time it was made public. In 1951, the US House of Representatives established the ‘Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation into the Katyñ Forest Massacre’. After a 13-month inquiry, the Committee concluded that, beyond any reasonable doubt, the massacre had been committed by the Soviet NKVD. It was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union that the truth was acknowledged. In 1989, the head of the Communist Party broadly admitted Soviet guilt. In 1991, other mass graves were uncovered near Kharkov and in Mednoye. These graves contained the bodies of the murdered officers from the Starobielsk and Ostashkov camps. In 1992, the Russian President released to Poland secret documents, including the death sentences signed by Stalin and by the head of the NKVD at the time of the atrocities. The world finally knew the truth after 50 years of lies and deception.The phrase Katyñ Massacre is used to signify the murders at all three of the Soviet camps.

The Baltimore Holocaust Memorial is located at the intersection of Lombard and Gay Streets, two blocks from the Inner Harbor attractions. In the front center sits the Joseph Sheppard Holocaust Sculpture. The statue depicts the horror of the Holocaust by portraying emaciated bodies of the victims’ bodies contorted in a ball of flame. The base of the sculpture bears the quote from George Santayana: "Those who do not remember the past are destined to repeat it." The center plaza of the site is a large concrete triangle. The form represents the shape of the badge that the holocaust victims were required to wear. Two yellow triangles, one lying over the other, identified an individual as a Jew. The Holocaust Sculpture stands at the apex of the triangle. A raised triangular memorial plaque stands just behind the sculpture.

The Baltimore Museum of Industry (BMI) was founded in 1977 to preserve the City's rapidly disappearing industrial heritage. In May, 1981, BMI moved into the historic Platt Oyster Cannery building (c.1870) in South Baltimore. The mission of the Baltimore Museum of Industry is to collect, preserve, and interpret the industrial and technological heritage of the Baltimore region for the public by presenting educational programs and exhibits that explore the stories of Maryland's industries and the people who created and worked in them. OPNY members were treated to a 2-hour private tour of the museum and its exhibits.

The Thomas Alva Edison Memorial Tower is a memorial to inventor and businessman Thomas Edison, located in the Menlo Park area of Edison, New Jersey. It was built in 1938 and dedicated on February 11, 1938, on what would have been the inventor's 91st birthday. The 131-foot tall tower is at the exact spot where the Menlo Park laboratory was located. After Edison and his staff left in 1884, the original buildings deteriorated until by 1925 all the buildings had either collapsed or burned. Thomas Edison owned a house across the street from the tower which burnt down sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. He also owned 35 acres of property in the area which is now a park. The tower's pinnacle is meant to represent an incandescent light bulb. Originally, the tower was not only a tribute to the incandescent light, but also recorded sound. It had speakers loud enough to be heard two miles away, but was discontinued to avoid noise pollution, according to a 2004 Weird NJ magazine article.

OPNY affiliate members found these tourist attractions to be an extraordinary educational experience.

In Liberty,

Dr. Tom Stevens
Objectivist Party of New York

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