Hard facts can sharpen the collective memory

I’m teaching a course on the Holocaust at Augsburg this semester, and I’ve been following Star Tribune articles about the Nazi-themed party at a local restaurant.

A March 20 commentary (“Mpls. group ‘plays’ Nazi: Sorry, no trifle”) by several University of Minnesota scholars observes that “Nazism and the Holocaust have entered a stage of extreme trivialization.” I think that a larger problem is the simple passage of time — the natural blurring of shared memory as generation follows generation. Which is why I insist that my Auggies learn sharp, hard facts. Ever heard of Belzec? My kids have.

According to a news story, the owner of the restaurant is originally from Kozienice, “a town that saw a brutal purge of its Jewish residents during World War II.” To judge by his picture, the owner would have been a baby then, if he was even alive.

“A brutal purge” is a blurred description. According to, the town had 4,208 Jewish residents in January 1940. Four thousand more Jews were forced to leave homes in that region and resettle in Kozienice. They did hard labor until they were sent — all 8,000 — to the killing center at Treblinka on Sept. 2, 1942. That year, 713,555 people were murdered at Treblinka.

Thanks for a “teachable moment.”

John W. Van Cleve, Minneapolis



Same excuses, nothing changes, ban remains

Once again we hear the same old refrain — the votes just aren’t there — regarding changing state law to allow Sunday liquor sales. Decade after decade it’s been the same. Politicians continue to protect special interests, and they consistently demonstrate the attitude that they know better what is good for us.

If the law is not changed, I suggest that more Minnesotans strike out and explore the many beautiful towns just across our borders, in all directions. There are dozens of quaint small towns, for example, along the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers. Enjoy the scenery and give those local businesses a shot in the arm. Minnesota legislators just don’t care!

Mike Hohmann, Minneapolis



It’s time to update a constitutional benefit

Looking for a bipartisan way to spend part of Minnesota’s $1.23 billion budget surplus? Article XIII, Section 8 of Minnesota’s Constitution provides that “[t]he state may pay an adjusted compensation to persons who served in the armed forces of the United States during the period of the Vietnam conflict or the Persian Gulf War.” It’s time for us to amend this language to include veterans who served in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11. Feel the same? Contact your legislators and ask them to put thiws constitutional amendment on the ballot in November and to set aside the amount necessary to fund the bonus. If contacting them on Twitter, please use the hashtag #MNvetbonus.

Tom Corbett, Stillwater



It’s a bit uncanny how ‘un-Minnesotan’ it is

When Gov. Mark Dayton recently lambasted Sen. Tom Bakk’s proposed $90 million Senate office building, he did not use snide terms such as “Bakk’s boondoggle” or “Taj-Ma Bakk.” Instead he rolled out the nuclear weapon of Minnesota political discourse, the infamous “U word,” calling the proposed building’s luxury “un-Minnesotan.” This seems to be a uniquely Minnesota usage; I’ve lived in other states and cannot recall a politician calling an idea “un-Illinoisan” or “un-Indianan” or “un-Massachusettsian.”

Usually, however, the “U word” is used by Minnesota liberals to denounce conservative ideas that are so outrageous that they cannot be categorized by the liberals’ second-favorite derisive term: “mean-spirited.”

So, in a strange way, to have the “U word” used by a liberal governor to denounce the proposal of a liberal state senator must be a sign of hope.

George Woytanowitz, Minneapolis



Panhandlers, taxes are repelling factors

The concept of spending to revitalize Nicollet Mall is interesting but misses a big point (“Nicollet Mall rehab would boost downtown, study says,” March 20). If the attempt has anything to do with getting casual diners to come downtown outside of the opportunities associated with major evening entertainment events, the issue is panhandlers. My wife and I enjoy an outside summer dining venue, but we have had unpleasant experiences with panhandlers interrupting the ambience of a streetside table on the Mall. Dining is also more expensive (sales taxes) downtown. It’s a no-brainer to pay less and have a more pleasant environment in other venues such as the Warehouse District or the burbs.

Jim Bracke, Eden Prairie



I’ll see your attack and raise you $400 billion

The Star Tribune displays a well-developed sense of what one might charitably call “irony” by making its March 19 Letter of the Day an argument for antibullying legislation based on an ad hominem attack against former General Electric CEO Jack Welch. During Mr. Welch’s tenure, the market capitalization of GE increased by nearly $400 billion. Not bad for a “sociopath.” Meanwhile, since taking over the reins at GE, Obama sycophant Jeffrey Immelt has presided over a 37 percent decline (about $150 billion) even as the S&P 500 has risen 72 percent. Crony capitalism seems to make about as much sense as using scurrilous attacks (what some might call “bullying”) as an argument for anything.

B. Robert Smith, Minneapolis