Wednesday, December 29, 2010

From the Pages - Hitler's Master of the Dark Arts

Hitler’s Nazi Party, at its evil roots, embraced a bizarre interpretation of ancient European paganism, blending it with fragments of other traditions from sources as diverse as tenth-century Saxon warlords, nineteenth-century spiritualism, and early-twentieth-century fringe archeology.

At the heart of the evil was Hitler’s “witch doctor,” Heinrich Himmler, and his stranger-than-fiction cult, the deadly SS. The mundanely named Schutzstaffel, literally “protective squadron,” was the very essence of Nazism, and their threatening double lightning bolt was one of the most dreaded symbols of the Third Reich. With good reason: what the SS was truly protecting was the ideology of Aryan superiority.
In the following excerpt from HITLER'S MASTER OF THE DARK ARTS, author Bill Yenne explores how Himmler and his SS doctors used of concentration-camp inmates as the subjects of many disturbing "scientific" experiments.  

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The cruelest corollary to the villainy institutionalized by Heinrich Himmler and SS Totenkopfverbände during World War II was probably the use of concentration-camp inmates in the furtherance of what the SS and its Ahnenerbe had the audacity to describe as “science.”

Again, their line of thinking stretched back into the nineteenth century to the Social Darwinists and their pseudoscientific belief in a racial hierarchy. When the Social Darwinists wrote of natural selection in human society, advocating the sidelining those in society who were considered inferior, they opened the door to those who considered the inferior human races to be not human at all. The same pseudoscience that gave the Nazis their excuse to eradicate the untermenschen like head lice gave the Nazis permission to use the untermenschen as lab rats.

The use of people from concentration camps for gruesome medical experiments was widespread, although it was not centrally directed, as the “ancestral research” conducted under the Ahnenerbe was. The SS functioned as a sort of medical foundation of the dark side, facilitating various projects with infrastructure, personnel, and, of course, human guinea pigs. Much of the funding and encouragement was filtered through the Institut für Wehrwissenschaftliche Zweckforschung (Institute for Military Scientific Research), which was set up within the Ahnenerbe and headed directly by Wolfram Sievers.

One of the most notorious of the SS doctors was Dr. Eduard Wirths, the primary physician at Auschwitz. Having become a member of the NSDAP while a medical student at Würzburg, he joined the Waffen SS in 1939. After suffering a heart attack on the Eastern Front in 1942, he was transferred to concentration-camp duty, first at Dachau and then at Auschwitz. It was at the latter that numerous medical experiments were conducted by SS doctors that were under Wirths’s direct command. He was particularly interested in experiments around the spread of typhus and in a large-scale project involving the removal of reproductive organs from live women, which were then sent to various institutes in Germany for study. Most of the subjects involved in both projects died as a result.

While Wirths supervised actual doctors, including those providing medical care to the übermensch SS personnel, he also had a number of doctors on his staff whose principal, or only, function at Aushwitz was “research” using human—or rather “subhuman”—subjects.

Conducting experiments on female subjects under Wirths at Auschwitz was Dr. Carl Clauberg, a prewar professor for gynecology at the University of Königsberg turned SS Gruppenführer. When it became established policy under the Final Solution to prevent the untermenschen from breeding, Clauberg approached Heinrich Himmler personally with a proposal to conduct experiments aimed at finding a practical method of mass sterilization. All he needed, implored Clauberg, was access to experimental subjects. Himmler sent Clauberg to Aushwitz in December 1942. There Clauberg experimented on both Jewish and Gypsy subjects, using drugs, acid, and radiation—almost always without anesthetic.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beyond the Book - Q & A with Brian Stann ("Heart for the Fight")

From the collegiate football field to the battlefields of the Middle East and into the Octagon of the WEC and UFC, Brian Stann’s life has been one adrenaline-packed conflict after another. And while his sporting life has pushed him to physical and mental limits that would break even the most tough-as-nails characters, it is Stann’s experience as a Marine Corps platoon commander in Iraq that has most dramatically shaped the character, drive, and dogged determination of one of the brightest up-and-coming stars in mixed martial arts (MMA) today.

In the following interview, Stann talks about his new book Heart for the Fight, his preparation for and experiences on the battlefield and in the Octagon, and his work with Hire Heroes USA assisting returning veterans with finding employment.

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ZENITH PRESS: Before you ever set foot in the Octagon, you put your boots to the ground in Iraq. How did your first impression of the combat/war in Iraq compare with what you had envisioned and been trained for stateside?

BRIAN STANN: The war was what I expected it to be from my training. This is solely due to the Marine Corps ability to adapt their training to the current climate in both Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. My instructors had participated in these wars and were in constant contact with the front lines.

ZP: For those who have never served in the military, it can be difficult to understand just how strong the bonds can become between soldiers—in your case, Marines. Can you describe what that relationship has meant to you, both during your two tours in Iraq and in your life since?
BS: The men I led and served with are like family to me. No matter what they do or say, we are always committed to one another through the shared hardships and sacrifices we endured side by side.

ZP: How much of what you’ve learned through your military training and service—both mentally and physically—have you been able to harness and use in your MMA career?
BS: Much of what I developed in the military has aided me in my fighting career, discipline and commitment in my training, honor and courage while I fight. Both the military and mixed martial arts are martial cultures, therefore the intense training I received in the Marine Corps truly gives me an advantage in the sport of MMA.

ZP: Thus far in your career, you’ve been labeled first and foremost as a dangerous striker. Heavy hands aside, what do feel is the most improved area in your MMA skill-set?
BS: I have improved everything. I never stop training, specifically in between fights I like to concentrate on my weaknesses. I will train specific disciplines of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and wrestling to improve my overall skill set. I believe I have become a dangerous ground fighter, particularly when I am in top position reigning down strikes.

ZP: When not training for your next fight, you spend your days serving as president of Hire Heroes USA. Could you tell us a little about the mission of Hire Heroes USA?
BS: Hire Heroes USA’s mission is to offer transition assistance, job search assistance, and job placement services to those who have honorably served in the US military – and to their spouses – in order to reduce veteran unemployment. HHUSA prioritizes veterans statistically most likely to be unemployed: veterans of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM, and veterans that are wounded or disabled.

ZP: You’ve experienced and overcome more adversity in your young life than some people will experience in a lifetime. If you could have readers take one message from Heart for the Fight, what would that be?
BS: People are judged by their ability to cope with adversity and mistakes. Regardless of the difficulty, we all need to grow and learn from mistakes to improve as a person. This growth may not be a measured accomplishment by money, awards, or notoriety, but in the true measurement of a human beings character these accomplishments can be much more important.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Military Snapshot - U.S. Marines at Peleliu's Umurbrogol Mountains

The unforgiving terrain of Peleliu was a key reason why the battle to dislodge Japanese defenders was as deadly as it was for U.S. Marines. In this photo, Marines cautiously approach the face of the Umurbrogol Mountains, always keeping both eyes open for Japanese troops. Sheer walls and broken ground down to sea level characterized most of the terrain in the Umurbrogols. Photo courtesy of USMC Official Archives, from Islands of Hell: The U.S. Marines in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945 by Eric Hammel.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Aerospace Snapshot - White Knight and SpaceShipOne

Equally as important as the design of the SpaceShipOne itself was the design and creation of White Knight the jet-powered aircraft that would be responsible for launching the spacecraft. Although White Knight began flying about a year before SpaceShipOne, construction of both vehicles began at about the same time. High-strength, lightweight composite fiber/epoxy were used to build the primary structure of both vehicles. Photo Courtesy of Tyson V. Rininger, from SpaceShipOne: An Illustrated History by Dan Linehan.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

From the Pages - Predator

To the enemy, they are the modern war’s version of the angel of death. To friendlies below, they are a much different kind of angel. They are the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA)—the rarely seen, often-impactful aircraft of the 21st century battlefield. 

In the following excerpt from Predator: The Remote-Control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot's Story, LTC Matthew J. Martin recounts hunting insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq with his MQ-1 Predator.


Hunting terrorists and insurgent fighters required indefatigable patience. The business of intelligence gathering was long, slow, tedious, unglamorous work only occasionally punctuated by intrigue and excitement. That was true whether in the clandestine “in the enemy’s camp” business or flying a reconnaissance RPA. We could have sent troops busting through Fallujah rooting out the cancer house by house, except that would have been extremely dangerous and would have taken a lot of troops. Fallujah was a big city. Instead, we used spies and informants on the ground and Predator in the air to locate and track bad guys until we could take them out. With prejudice.

The process of locating a suspected terrorist or an insurgency leader more or less followed a set pattern. It often began with some snitch sneaking up to one of the marine outposts that still ringed the city. Most of the time he came in the middle of the night to keep from being seen or recognized by his neighbors or fellow Iraqis. If al Qaeda learned of his perfidy, he became the next dead man hung from a light post or left beheaded in the middle of the street.

His motive for informing, therefore, had to be strong enough to overcome his fear. Frequently, he sought revenge for some slight or perceived wrong committed against him, which made the information he supplied less reliable than if he were prompted by mere greed. Greed produced the best information.

“I know of a house where they have many weapons. You pay me, I tell where it is . . .”

Monday, December 6, 2010

"War in Pacific Skies" Sweepstakes

Zenith Press would like to give aviation and history buffs everywhere a chance to win a free copy of Charlie and Ann Cooper's classic aviation art book War in Pacific Skies.

Available in paperback for the first time, War in Pacific Skies fuses art and history in accurate detail, complete with the personal insights of World War II combatants. Cover the most famous air engagements of the Pacific Theater, never-before-published photographs, artwork, and personal accounts bring to life the air battles at Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, Midway, Guam, Tinian, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and more.

You can enter the contest one of two ways (see below)

Contest entry:
1) "Like" Zenith Press on Facebook AND let us know which Allied aircraft had the biggest impact on the war in the Pacific (as a comment on the Zenith Press Facebook page -- under the contest post).


2) Send us an email with your name and reply email address to “zenith (dot) press (at)” AND let us know which Allied aircraft had the biggest impact on the war in the Pacific.

Deadline for entries is 11:59 pm CST on Sunday, December 19, 2010. We will pick the winners on Monday, December 20, 2010.

Follow Zenith Press’ Facebook page and/or Zenith Press…The Blog to learn about future book contests, learn about new releases, read exclusive book excerpts, and much more!

*Terms and Conditions – This contest is for five (5) individually awarded copies of War in Pacific Skies to five contest winners drawn at random. Books will be new and provided by the publisher. All entrants must complete the entry task(s), or in case of any issues an email to zenith (dot) press (at) One entry per household. All information provided will be kept confidential. Entries must be received by Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 11:59pm Central Standard Time. Contest winners will be drawn at random and notified after the close of the contest. The books will be shipped directly to the winners. US and Canadian residents only.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Military Snapshot - French Armored Division Preps for Battle

A French armored division manning American M4A2 Sherman medium tanks fills an assembly area. The XX Corps of Patton's Third Army included the 5th and 6th Infantry Divisions, as well as the Free French 2nd Armored Division, which had been trained and equipped by the U.S. Army. Photo courtesy of National Archives, from Patton's Third Army in World War II by Michael Green & James D. Brown.