Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist's trove of paintings discovered in Prague house - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

Fearful that the occupying Nazi forces in Prague could confiscate a lifetime’s worth of artwork, Jewish painter Gertrud Kauders decided in 1939 to hide her vast array of paintings and drawings.

Nearly 80 years later, in the summer of 2018, Michal Ulvr was leading a demolition team tearing down a decrepit house south of Prague when “about 30 paintings tumbled out and fell onto my head,” he told RFE/RL.

As the day wore on, the crew turned up more stashes of strikingly beautiful artwork as they dismantled the house — some were under floorboards, others behind walls. By the end of the day some 700 paintings and sketches lay out in the open on the worksite as summer rain clouds gathered over Prague.

IN PHOTOS: The Art Of Gertrud Kauders (25 Images)

When Jakub Sedlacek, the owner of the house, was alerted to the strange discovery, he realized immediately what had been uncovered. Sedlacek had been raised on stories of exquisite art hidden inside the family home he recently inherited. A close inspection of the canvases confirmed the family legend was real — many of the paintings were signed “Gertrud Kauders.”

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

Kauders was born in 1883 in Prague, one of two children in a well-to-do Jewish home. After the Nazis rose to power in neighboring Germany and began a step-by-step takeover of Czechoslovakia, most of Kauders’ family fled the country and urged her to do the same. But Kauders, whose first language was German, refused to believe the Nazis would hurt someone as harmless as her and she chose to stay.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

Nazi troops march into Prague Castle as crowds salute them in March 1939.

But as the full horror of the German plans for Europe’s Jews was slowly laid bare, Kauders turned to a close friend, Natalie Jahudkova, for the favor of a lifetime.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

Jahudkova was an elegant Russian woman born in 1895 in a small town north of Moscow. She had emigrated to Czechoslovakia in 1920 after catching the eye of one of the Czechoslovak Legionnaires — volunteer soldiers fighting for their homeland during World War I. The legion famously battled their way across Siberia after being caught up in Russia’s civil war.

Jahudkova was one of about 1,000 Russian women who married one of the dashing European fighters and sailed with them from Vladivostok for the newly-founded Czechoslovakia, a country their husbands had helped fight into existence.

Kauders and Jahudkova met while students at Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts. The two became close while taking weeks-long trips with their professor, noted artist Otakar Nejedly, to paint the landscapes and cities of France and Italy.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

A city scene that may have been painted during one of Kauders’ and Jahudkova’s trips through Europe.

By 1939, those carefree days of summer painting trips abroad with their famous professor were a distant memory as Nazi bureaucrats and their jackbooted enforcers were busy making life impossible for Czechoslovak Jews. With time running out, Kauders untacked her canvasses from their frames and smuggled her entire life’s work to Jahudkova’s house in the southern Prague suburb of Zbraslav.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

A canvas edge, showing where tacks were pulled out so the paintings could be separated from their frames and more easily transported and hidden.

At enormous risk to herself, Jahudkova — probably helped by Kauders — hid some 700 artworks throughout the structure of her house. Jahudkova’s new home was still under construction, making the hammering and labor of the two friends’ secret project relatively inconspicuous.

Soon after the artwork was safely embedded in the Zbraslav house, Kauders was snagged in the nightmarish machinery of the Nazi state. After being identified as Jewish, records show she was arrested and transported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in May 1942. Kauders was held briefly among the starving and sickly prisoners in the camp north of Prague, then transported some 600 kilometers east to Majdanek, an extermination camp in Lublin, Poland.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

Smoke rises from the Majdanek extermination camp in October 1943.

Sometime after May 17, 1942, Kauders was killed in the camp and her body burned in ovens built for the industrial-scale murders that would come to be known as the Holocaust.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

The house in Zbraslav where Kauders’ work was discovered.

Although a handful of Czech news outlets wrote about the accidental discovery of the artwork in 2018, it was reported at the time that just 30 paintings and sketches were found. Ulvr believes a Czech journalist may have misunderstood his description of the event and assumed the 30 paintings that fell onto his head during the demolition were the entire find.

Photos released to Czech media at the time showed only a handful of sketches and watercolors that are among the least compelling of Kauders’ work.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

Natalie Jahudkova’s gravestone stands in a Zbraslav cemetery. It remains a mystery why the Russian emigrant to Czechoslovakia took the secret of Gertrud Kauders’ hidden art to her grave when she died in 1977.

How The Scale Of The Discovery Was Uncovered:

Both Kauders and Jahudkova were childless, but Kauders’ brother had a son, Cornelius, who fled Czechoslovakia for New Zealand in 1939. He had five children, including Miriam Kauders.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

Miriam Kauders with a pencil sketch of her father, Cornelius, as drawn by Gertrud Kauders.

Miriam Kauders learned about the 2018 discovery and made repeated inquiries from her home in New Zealand into the whereabouts of what she thought were 30 paintings and sketches by her great aunt.

Though early reports of the find indicated the paintings would be donated to the Jewish Museum in Prague, Miriam Kauders learned the museum had not received the art.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

Jakub Sedlacek in August 2020. Sedlacek’s link to Natalie Jahudkova is complex — he is the grandson of a Russian immigrant to Czechoslovakia who was taken into Jahudkova’s care as a child and raised as her own.

After RFE/RL inquired on Miriam Kauders’ behalf, Sedlacek eventually met with its journalists at his home in a quiet Prague suburb.

Then, on September 25, Sedlacek allowed Kauders’ entire collection of some 700 paintings and sketches, laid out like giant packs of playing cards in a Prague storeroom, to be photographed by RFE/RL.

Sedlacek said that before knowing Gertrud Kauders had living descendants he was thinking about monetizing what he knew was a historic art discovery – perhaps through exhibitions.

But after RFE/RL showed documentation proving Gertrud Kauders had living heirs, he said he “wouldn’t be able to live with [himself]” knowing that there were descendants of Gertrud Kauders unhappy with what he was doing with the art.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

Jakub Sedlacek leafs through some of the work of Gertrud Kauders. He said stories of what happened to Kauders were his first introduction to evil when he was a boy.

Sedlacek said he is ready to donate the art to a Czech museum if Gertrud Kauders’ descendants give him the power of attorney to do so. Miriam Kauders has also said she would be willing to bestow the art but reserved the right for her and her siblings to keep some portraits of her long-deceased relatives — including their father — for their own walls.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

A sketch captioned with the phrase “Were you frightened, little one?” may depict Gertrud Kauders with Cornelius (1916-2002), the father of Miriam Kauders.

Miriam Kauders said her father was known as a humorous boy who was nicknamed “clown” in his school years. But she said his personality darkened after the war and he “never recovered” from the Holocaust, largely because of what the Nazis did to his beloved aunt. He remembered Gertrude Kauders as a kind, gentle woman with an unusually quiet life and “no interest in men.”

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

A self-portrait of Gertrude Kauders

When photos of Gertrude Kauders’ artwork was shown to Michaela Sidenburg, the chief curator of Prague’s Jewish Museum, she called the discovery “unique in the context of the history of art within the Czech lands” due to the number of paintings and the fact it seems to represent nearly the entire life’s work of a significant artist who largely kept her art to herself.

Sidenberg applauded Sedlacek’s decision to go public with the entire discovery.

“I can imagine all kinds of horrible scenarios where the art was destroyed, or sold in secret, so Mr. Sedlacek absolutely deserves credit for coming forward with this,” she said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the Battle of Hue City was so intense

The Vietnam War is one of the most controversial conflicts embarked upon by the United States. The Marines that retook the city of Hue City are the gold standard of urban warfare. Battalions of Americans, South Vietnamese, and the Viet Cong faced off fighting for every inch of the city. Essentially fighting with one hand tied behind their back, they triumphed over an overwhelming, well trained enemy. The battle was close, it was up to who wanted victory more – the communists or the Marines.

Communists massacred civilians

Not only were government and military officials massacred, but so were innocent civilians, including women and children, who were tortured, executed or buried alive.

Olga Dror, The New York Times

The battle for Hue City happened during the Tet Offensive, a nationwide coordinated assault on U.S. and allied controlled areas. During the initial days of the attack, communists massacred as many as 5,700 civilians. The victims are buried in mass graves when the city fell into enemy hands. The Viet Cong occupied the city for close to month before the Marine Corps liberated the city.

Supporters of the failed Struggle Movement escaped from the city in two years before the battle. Those same people would turn on their neighbors when they returned with the communists. With their help, the communists gathered intelligence of the city and selected people for death.

Politics attempted to restrict the Marines

Due to the historic aspect of many of the buildings in Hue, the usage of heavy weapons was significantly restricted during the initial days of fighting on both sides of the river. As friendly casualties mounted, and as initial estimates of the size of the enemy force in the Hue City area was significantly increased, fire restrictions were ultimately lifted. In our respectful opinion, our ability to successfully complete the mission was, initially, severely impacted by the rules of engagement.

Lessons Learned, Charlie 1/5, Operation Hue City, 31 January 1968 to 5 March 1968

To the uninitiated in Rules of Engagement, they’re a set of rules established by high command that dictate what weapons and tactics may be used. Anyone in violation of that can be charged with a war crime. In the example of the Battle of Hue City, also known as the Siege of Hue, the Marine Corps is forbidden to damage the buildings. That is absurd. This is war. The reasoning is that the city was the home to the Nguyen Dynasty, the last dynasty in Vietnam until 1883, and historically significant to Vietnamese culture.

Any commander worth his salt knows that the life one Marine, let alone an American, is worth ten thousand times the value of a structure. The Vietnam War was often hindered by policy makers micromanaging the boots on the ground. You wanted a war? Let the Marines fight it and shut up.

House to House, Street to Street

…Even with proper support of heavy weapons, which was ultimately provided to the Marines, we faced “hard corps” North Vietnamese Army troops who fought from prepared positions, moved to secondary positions, fought again, and finally, very reluctantly, died. In the capture of each room, each floor, each rooftop, each building, each street, it was ultimately the Marine rifleman who won the battle.

Lessons Learned, Charlie 1/5, Operation Hue City, 31 January 1968 to 5 March 1968

The fighting was so intense that Alpha company lost their Commanding Officer and many of their lieutenants. Charlie Company lost every single officer for the exception of two. The ferocity of combat and the escalating casualty rates saw PFC’s as platoon commanders in the thick of the fighting. Combat promotions were a common sight on the battlefield.

The Marine Corps’ sent three battalions to face off against 15 to 18 NVA battalions for domination of Hue. Initially supported by small arms and the South Vietnamese Army and Marines, it took everything to defeat the determined Viet Cong. The combined allied casualites at the conclusion of the battle climbed to over 3,800. The enemy sustained over 5,000 dead and an unknown amount of wounded.

The Marines adapted their tactics and with heroic determination drove the NVA and Vietcong from Hue despite being spread too thin and fire support being largely restricted  – Richard Camp’s (Col. Ret). Death in the Citadel: U.S. Marines in the Battle for Hue City, 31 January to 2 March 1968 (2017)

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a new battle brewing in the Atlantic

The National Defense Strategy issued by the Defense Department in 2018 declared a new era of great power competition with “revisionist powers” — namely, China and Russia.

A new period of tension and competition with Russia has been evident in Europe since 2014, when Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine.

In the years since, NATO has sought to improve its position in Europe, while Russia has displayed new naval capabilities in the waters around the continent.


In an email interview, Magnus Nordenman, a NATO expert and author of “The New Battle for the Atlantic: Emerging Competition with Russia in the Far North” who was previously director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, explained what this new era of competition in the Atlantic looks like, what each side brings to it, and how the conditions continue to change.

Christopher Woody: As mentioned in the title of your book, there have been several battles for the Atlantic, namely during World War I and II and the Cold War. How does the present situation resemble those battles and how does it differ?

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

Coast guardsmen aboard the US Coast Guard cutter Spencer watch the explosion of a depth charge, blasting a German submarine attempting to break into the center of a large US convoy in the Atlantic, April 17, 1943.

(Public domain)

Magnus Nordenman: During each great conflict in Europe during the 20th century the Atlantic has served as the crucial bridge that allowed the flow of war-winning supplies and reinforcements from America to Europe.

If a conflict between Russia and NATO erupted in the coming years, the Atlantic would serve that role again.

But it would not be a re-run of previous battles for the Atlantic. Changes in technology, a new-style Russian navy, and the context of global great-power competition would all help shape a future battle for the Atlantic.

Woody: Russia has made an effort to rebuild its navy in recent years. What capabilities does that force, its submarines in particular, have now that it didn’t have in the years after the end of the Cold War?

Nordenman: Unlike during Cold War days, the Russian navy is going for quality rather than quantity. And given that it has relatively limited resources it must focus its investments where they can make the biggest difference, and that is with its submarine force.

Russia has also focused on giving its navy a long-range strike capability with Kalibr missiles, which have been used to great effect in Syria. The use of long-range strike missiles from submarines was nearly an exclusive US domain until relatively recently.

Russia fires six Kalibr missiles at IS targets in Syria’s Hama

www.youtube.com

All this suggests that Russia would not try to halt shipping coming across the Atlantic from the US but would instead seek to attack command-and-control centers and ports and airfields in Northern Europe to disrupt US efforts to come to the aid of its European allies.

Woody: On the Center for a New American Security podcast in August, you mentioned that when it comes to dealing with Russia, you think there’s less an “Arctic problem” and more of a “Kola Peninsula problem.” Can you elaborate on the difference between the two and what that distinction means for NATO?

Nordenman: Arctic security is a growing theme, but I think it often confuses the debate rather than enlightens it.

The North American, European, and Russian Arctics are three very different places in terms of politics, accessibility, operating environment, and international relations. To place it all under the rubric “Arctic security” is not always helpful.

In the case of NATO and its mission to provide deterrence on behalf of its member states it comes down to the Kola Peninsula, where Russia’s northern fleet is based.

Woody: The Arctic remains a challenging region for navies to operate in, but climate change is altering the environment there. What changes do you expect naval forces to have to make in order to keep operating there effectively?

Nordenman: NATO member navies need to get familiar again with operating in the broader North Atlantic.

The last two decades have seen those navies primarily operate in places such as the Mediterranean, the [Persian] Gulf, and Indian Ocean. Those are very different domains in comparison to the Atlantic. And while the far North Atlantic is warming, it is not a hospitable place. It still remains very remote.

In terms of climate change, there are, for example, indications that warmer waters are changing the patterns of sound propagation in the far North Atlantic, which means that they must be measured and catalogued anew in order to conduct effective anti-submarine warfare.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Is Putin the richest person in the world?

While many a news outlet regularly reports when Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates flip-flop as to who is the richest person in the world, with Bernard Arnault and Warren Buffet nipping at their heals, as we previously noted in our article on the richest people in history, Bezos and Gates’ combined wealth barely matches that of the known fortune of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who ruled over that oil rich country for over three decades before being ousted and then killed in 2011. So how wealthy was Gaddafi? In the years since his death, so far nearly $200 billion dollars have been found in secret accounts, real estate holdings, and other investments directly belonging to him. No matter whether he acquired it ethically or not, assets are assets, and Gaddafi had the most of any known person so far this century by a huge margin.

Another individual who has more or less ruled a petroleum-rich nation for about two decades now is likewise rumored to secretly have a net worth in excess of $200 billion. We are, of course, talking about Vladimir Putin. But is Putin actually the richest person in the world, or are these just rumors?


To begin with, as you might imagine being born in the Soviet Union in 1952, Putin didn’t exactly start out life in the lap of luxury. In a bit of 1950s-era role reversal, his father was a cook and his mother a factory worker. Putin himself would grow up to join the KGB in 1975 working a variety of positions with that institution over the years. While you might envision Hollywood spy type scenarios were his daily life, in fact, according to journalist and biographer Masha Gessen, “Putin and his colleagues were reduced mainly to collecting press clippings, thus contributing to the mountains of useless information produced by the KGB.”

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

Putin in the KGB.

The first rumor that Putin was using a government position to stash away quite a lot of money for his own personal gain came in the early 1990s when he, in his then position as head of the Committee for External Relations at the Mayor’s Office in St. Petersburg, allegedly helped broker a million deal to acquire various food supplies for the city. In a nutshell, various companies were granted permits that would allow them to supply a huge amount of materials to foreign entities, and in exchange would be given an equivalent value back in foodstuffs to then be used within the famished city. The thing was, as far as anyone can tell, while the companies did send out the materials, no foodstuffs came back in return. The matter was ultimately investigated by one Marina Salye at the behest of the city council, with Salye in turn claiming Putin’s signature could be found authorizing the deals.

She states, “The raw materials were shipped abroad but the food didn’t materialise. There’s 100% proof that in this Putin was to blame. As a result in 1992 – when there was no food at all – the city was left with nothing. The evidence I have is as solid as it gets…. Putin – well, his committee – made bartering contacts to get food for the city. He issued licenses. And commodities – wood, metal, cotton, heating oil, and oil – flew out of the country.”

That said, while she states Putin was to blame and, at least according to her, she had definitive proof, she did not find any evidence that Putin had received anything in return for the apparently botched deals. As for Putin, he claimed the companies that had been given the export permits in the deal were to blame for foodstuffs not coming back as they were supposed to have- implying that Putin had no knowledge the deals wouldn’t be completed as originally brokered when he issued the licenses.

The city council would move forward with further investigation, but ultimately Mayor Anatoly Sobchak put a stop to it and the matter was dropped. While you’ll read in many outlets reporting this story that Salye would die of so-called natural causes mere weeks after she made these accusations and the investigation was killed, in truth she would go on to help found the Free Democratic Party of Russia and more or less continually rail against Putin to anyone in the media and public who would listen, until eventually giving up in 2000 after the election and moving to the countryside. There she lived until her death at the age of 77 in 2012, though she did give a handful of interviews during that span, still unabashedly anti-Putin.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house

A portrait of Marina Salye during the 2012 Protests after the 2011 Russian elections.

As for Putin, from that 1992 political position, he worked his way up to becoming one of a trio of Deputy Prime Ministers, and was known to be Boris Yeltsin’s preferred successor, despite before this being a relative unknown among the wider public. Ultimately he did indeed become president in 2000 after winning the majority vote.

Once elected, Putin, like his predecessor, reported his finances and holdings publicly, including his salary and exact amount in his many bank accounts. He has continued to do so since. The result? Over the years while his salary has changed regularly from year to year, he has made approximately 0K-0K annually in that span, for example in 2018 reporting an income of 5K. Today between his wife’s and his own accounts, the couple seem to have a little over a half a million in cash in various bank accounts, though why he isn’t investing this is rather curious given his apparent lack of any other investments and almost complete lack of actually needing any cash for his day to day life given the government foots the bill for most everything. Of this, Putin states, “Honestly speaking, I don’t even know what my salary is. They deliver it to me, I take it, put it my bank account and don’t even count it…”

As for his other assets, he also owns a studio sized apartment in Saint Petersburg, a slightly larger apartment in Moscow, owns a small garage, a couple cars, a small plot of land outside of Moscow, and otherwise has various minor assets of no great worth.

Of course, over the years people can’t help but notice that Putin has a collection of watches he wears very publicly whose purchase price combined is around that of his reported entire net worth, ringing in at about 0,000-0,000 if various reports are to be believed. For reference, the highest valued watch he has been spotted wearing costs around 0,000- a Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar watch.

On top of that, the clothing he can often be seen wearing is likewise extremely expensive, such as his 00+ tailored suits from outlets like Kiton and Brioni. Not just expensive suits, in one photo of him working out, Putin can be seen wearing sweatpants that cost over id=”listicle-2641610333″,400 a pair, apparently made from silk, cashmere and the tears of impoverished children, along with a similarly priced top.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house
Giphy

On top of that, among other mansions, he is long rumored to own an estate known as “Putin’s Palace” near Praskoveevka, widely reported to be worth id=”listicle-2641610333″ billion by media outlets. However, this was actually sold in 2011 to one Alexander Ponomarenko, a former associate of Putin’s, for somewhere around 0 million. (Note, the exact amount has not been publicly disclosed, but Ponomarenko has indicated it’s in the ballpark of that widely reported figure.)

Ponomarenko purchased the estate from a group led by businessman Nikolai Shamalov. Ponomarenko claims he decided to buy the company behind the estate project, and thus the mansion, as it was a steal of a deal owing to the project being stalled from lack of funds to complete the estate and the business group wanting to cut their losses on it rather than complete it.

That said, Russian businessman Sergei Kolesnikov, who is exiled from Russia, claims the palace was built specifically for Putin’s use. He claims Putin was able to afford its construction in part thanks to a gift given him by the aforementioned Nikolai Shamalov in the form of 94% of the shares in a company called Lirus Holding. Among other personal knowledge of the development of the palace, Kolesnikov claims Shamalov himself told him this and, to quote him, “I have no reason not to believe (him).”

However, no documents concerning any ownership connected to the project seem to indicate Putin, or any holdings of Putin’s, ever were directly involved with this estate. That said, some contract documents concerning its construction allegedly have the signature of one Vladimir Kozhin, one of Putin’s inner circle of confidants. Of course, this still doesn’t definitively indicate whether Putin actually owned the palace or even was behind its building at all- simply, allegedly someone he is close to was involved in some capacity and later someone else he is close to bought it- a bit of a theme for a lot of these rumors.

Putin himself denies he had anything to do with the palace being built. Nevertheless, Putin allegedly frequents the palace and Federal Protective Service guards have been seen at the mansion, along with locals reporting seeing Putin in the area regularly.

Of course, among the extremely wealthy with such mansions, it’s not uncommon at all to allow friends to guest in one’s estates whenever they please, so Putin would not have to actually own the thing to stay there, nor would it be a big ask to do so- more or less par for the course among the exorbitantly wealthy.

That said, on top of all this estate, Putin has been connected to causing to have had built or secretly owning several other mansions, yachts, planes, etc.

Whether he actually owns any of these or, like Putin’s Palace, seemingly is just using them when he pleases, his flashing of extreme wealth in the case of his watches and other such items, along with an awful lot of not implausible allegations of widespread corruption within his government connected to him, has led to the belief that he has boatloads of money secretly stashed away in accounts throughout the world.

Photo exclusive: Hidden from the Nazis, murdered Jewish artist’s trove of paintings discovered in Prague house
Giphy

Others speculate Putin is simply using the government coffers to finance all these extravagances. For many items, this would not actually be that uncommon for a major world leader, if a lot more excessive than most. For example, the replacement Air Force One planes the U.S. President will soon have at his disposal has a budget of over billion. The U.S. President also gets a pretty posh mansion (The White House) and vacations spots to go to at their leisure with the tax payer footing the bill for quite a lot of such perks with few batting an eye at this.

But, of course, the U.S. government isn’t funding 0,000 watches for the President (though bullet proof tailored suits occasionally worn by the president are presumably paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. To attempt to clarify these items, requests have been made to the Russian government asking if, for example, Putin’s watches are actually his or property of the state that he is just wearing, but no answer to this question has been given that we could find.

Whatever the case, yet others claim Putin is simply enriching many people around him and it is they who are then happy to provide Putin with anything and everything his Judo-master heart can desire.

Yet others claim it is all three- Putin is enriching himself through shady means and using government funds and people he is helping make wealthy to get whatever he wants while he’s in office.

But the question of the hour is not whether Putin’s net worth is more than he is letting on- that is very apparently true by his watch collection alone, whether he purchased them or they were gifted. The question of the hour is whether he is secretly the richest person in the world with a net worth in excess of 0 billion as so many claim.

So what does the man himself say about all these rumors? “I am the wealthiest man, not just in Europe but in the whole world…”

Case closed, right? He admitted it! Well, in truth, he wasn’t finished talking. He goes on, “I collect emotions. I am wealthy in that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with the leadership of a great nation such as Russia. I believe that is my greatest wealth.”

Of course, whether he collects emotions or not doesn’t inherently negate the first part of that statement, simply that he considers that a greater wealth than whatever he has possession-wise.

Argue amongst yourselves whether this was Putin cleverly admitting to being the wealthiest person in the world while making it seem like he was saying he wasn’t, and also simultaneously admitting he’s a Lizard Person given a hallmark of these creatures is apparently feeding on human emotions… ?

For a more direct answer to the question about the rumors of his extreme wealth, he clarifies, “It’s just chitchat, nonsense, nothing to discuss… They picked it out of their noses and smeared it on their pieces of paper.”

The Press and Information Office of the President of the Russian Federation’s also asserts of these rumors, “This information has no substance. As you may know, the declarations of Mr. Putin’s income and property are published annually… We recommend you to use only reliable sources henceforward and not to believe fake news in 2018.”

Naturally, nobody seems satisfied with these assertions given his apparent and frequent flashing of wealth far beyond what anyone with his salary should be able to afford.

So what do others who might know a little more say? First, we have political analyst and noted critic of Putin Stanislav Belkovsky who claimed to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2012 that Putin had net worth of approximately billion, though how he came up with this figure isn’t exactly definitive nor inspiring confidence in his hard knowledge here. In his own words, “The figure of billion emerged in 2007. That figure could now have changed, I believe at the level of -70 billion…. Maximum we cannot know. I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about.”

Mildly more concrete, at least in terms of given something more specific, he also claims much of this wealth is because of Putin’s alleged 4.5% stake in Gazprom, 37% stake in Surgutneftegas, and allegedly 50% ownership of Gunvor. How he knows this, however, isn’t fully clear. Belkovsky simply states he got this information through sources he has within the companies. It’s also noted that for a time Gunvor was co-owned by a friend of Putin’s, billionaire Gennady Timchenko.

So what do the three companies say? For whatever it’s worth, Corporate Affairs Director of the Swiss-based Gunvor Group, Seth Thomas Pietras, states, “President Putin has never had any interest in, investment in, or involvement with Gunvor Group either directly or indirectly… Mr. Belkovsky’s claims are based on absolutely nothing and are fundamentally ridiculous. And the U.S. government, despite its statement has never sanctioned Gunvor in any capacity, nor has it provided any evidence of its own.”

Moving on to Surgutneftegas, they likewise deny Putin owns any shares.

Gazprom, which is majority owned by the Russian government itself, with the rest of the stock publicly traded, likewise shows no records of Putin owning any shares.

Belkovsky counters these denials by the companies and lack of records stating Putin has a rather elaborate network of off-shore companies and funds that own the shares, which all ultimately mask that he himself actually owns, or at least, controls them.

Moving on to the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, Bill Browder, he is the one that seems to have started the widespread rumor that Putin’s personal wealth is in excess of 0 billion, stating before a Senate Judiciary Committee

I believe he is worth 0 billion. The purpose of the Putin regime has been to commit terrible crimes in order to get that money…He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation. Therefore, he has a significant and very personal interest in finding a way to get rid of the Magnitsky sanctions.

On this latter note, one of Browder’s former associates, Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, was investigating corruption within the Russian government and allegedly found evidence of various Russian officials taking part in a near quarter of a billion dollar tax fraud scheme. Magnitsky himself was then arrested for allegedly being the mastermind behind the tax fraud, and died while in jail before his trial. At the partial encouragement of Browder, the U.S. then passed the Magnitsky Act in 2009. In an oversimplified nutshell, this allows the U.S. government to sanction various individuals thought to be human rights offenders, ban them from entering the U.S., and more importantly freeze their assets where the government is able. The bill was essentially meant to allow the government to legally hold somewhat accountable those thought to have been involved in Magnitsky’s death.

As for hard data, however, Browder offers little.

Next up, noted economist Anders Aslund, author of the book Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy, states, “I would estimate that Putin is worth around 0-160 billion. We can see that Putin and his friends have taken -15 billion from Gazprom every year since 2004. That’s just Gazprom. There are large numbers of transactions being made… What’s much more difficult is to see where the money goes. It’s typically Cyprus, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Willmington, Delaware…”

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(Kremlin.ru)

As to how he came up with these figures, he states, “My assessment is that since Putin’s circle got its looting fully organized around 2006, they have extracted -25 billion a year, reaching a total of 5-325 billion, a large share of the Russian private offshore wealth. Presuming that half of this wealth belongs to Putin, his net wealth would amount to 0-160 billion. Naturally, Putin and his cronies cannot enjoy their wealth. It is all about power. If they are not the wealthiest, they fear they will lose power.”

Why he assumes Putin would get half of these alleged amounts instead of some other percentage isn’t fully clear.

On that note, like so many before, nobody seems to be able to actually offer hard evidence that Putin has any money stashed away anywhere not publicly known, which when talking sums of allegedly 0 billion, is a pretty neat trick for someone who has been so highly scrutinized, including by the U.S. Senate, who presumably if they wanted could just ask the CIA or other entities good at collecting such data to look into it. Given, instead, they are asking the likes of Browder, it has been presumed and widely claimed, that the CIA and other such government entities have no definitive intelligence on this either.

From this lack of a paper trail directly linking money or assets to Putin, yet his clearly lavish lifestyle indicating he does indeed have access to an awful lot of money, this has led many to conclude that Putin himself doesn’t actually officially own most or all of the wealth attributed to him, but rather he is leveraging his position and connections to enrich those close to him who, in their gratitude, are then more than happy to provide Putin with any money or items he wants, from access to mansion to yachts to sweatpants that keep his Judo-jubblies ultra comfortable when working out.

As alleged evidence for this, we turn to 11.5 million documents from the Panama Mossack Fonseca law firm made public in 2016, dealing in off-shore holdings by over 200,000 entities. While Putin himself is not listed in any of them, the documents do reveal three close associates of Putin’s among those having off-shore holdings partially managed by the law firm, with a combined amount of around billion between the trio.

Despite not owning these assets, there are many claims by various individuals that Putin uses some of these like his “personal bank account”, most notably the holdings of a man claimed by many in the media as Putin’s best friend- famed Russian musician and conductor Sergei Roldugin. Not just a friend, Roldugin is also the godfather to one of Putin’s children and was the man who introduced Putin to Putin’s wife.

As for where Roldugin supposedly got his extreme wealth, beyond his noted music career, starting in the 1990s Roldugin began investing in various oil and other business entities, to great success. Beyond all of this, in 2019, Roldugin also was accused of being involved in a massive multi-billion dollar money laundering scheme in conjunction with Sberbank CIB, which allegedly profited him greatly.

That said, for those using these records as proof of Putin having money elsewhere via his associates, it should be again noted these are the records of well over 200,000 entities throughout the world. And the vast majority who are using the firm are doing so completely legitimately, including actor Jackie Chan who reportedly had six perfectly above board off-shore companies the law firm helped manage various facets of. So that three among Putin’s numerous friends who are exorbitantly wealthy should be included isn’t necessarily proof of anything other than they wanted to have some assets outside of Russia, which isn’t uncommon among the wealthy in Russia. As some formerly close to Putin who have had their assets stripped and forced to flee the country demonstrate, having some off-short holdings is probably a good security blanket of sorts, just in case.

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Giphy

On this note, political scientist professor and author of Putin’s Kleptocracy, Karen Dawisha, stated before her death from lung cancer in 2018, “Why is it that 0 billion left the country last year? Because they believe that their wealth can only be secured in the long term outside their own country.”

Coming back to the posed question of whether Putin is secretly the richest person in the world, whether these funds are being held for him or not, this is still not Putin’s money, not just technically, but we’re guessing regardless of the amount of good-will Putin has built up with these various businessmen and women, should he no longer be in power, they might quickly find themselves less than willing to continue to support his lifestyle, if that is what has been happening as is widely believed. And some speculate he might even find himself in a rather unsafe circumstance in that case.

For example, one-time billionaire and the man formerly known as “Putin’s banker”, but now exiled from Russia, Sergei Pugachev, says “Everything that belongs to the territory of the Russian Federation Putin considers to be his. Everything – Gazprom, Rosneft, private companies. Any attempt to calculate it won’t succeed. He’s the richest person in the world until he leaves power.”

As for leaving power, he goes on that Putin chose not to leave office after his first term and beyond, not because of a desire for continued power, but rather because he feared for his own safety should he no longer be in that position. Even today, Pugachev claims, “I don’t see any guarantees for him [if he steps down]. Putin doesn’t see them either,” which is why he finds it unlikely that Putin will ever willingly leave office. Though it should be noted that Putin himself has stated he will not be running for president at the end of his current term in 2024.

Also for whatever it’s worth, Pugachev, despite having billions stripped from himself by the Russian government, being currently in fear for his life, and in exile, states, in his opinion, Putin himself is not evil, nor did Putin originally plan to setup a corrupt government when he took power, simply that, “He surrounded himself with like-minded people whom he didn’t know very well and who had served with him in the KGB. They immediately began enriching themselves….Putin wanted to get rich, too. He was a pragmatic person. We talked about this. He didn’t want to leave office poor.”

As for the Russian government’s position with regards to Pugachev, it is claimed that Pugachev defrauded the government of hundreds of millions of dollars which is why the one-time bosom-buddy of Putin originally had to go on the run.

Pugachev counters, “The state steals something then has to defend its theft. In my case the scale is huge, but in other respects this is a normal contemporary practice in Russia.” This has all left the one-time billionaire with, by his own account, only about million to his name which he kept in off-shore holdings. It must be rough…

In truth, this amount is unfortunate for him because Pugachev allegedly was offered a deal from a Russian official that if he paid 0 million to certain entities, his legal issues in Russia would be made to be resolved to his benefit and he could return to Russia.

Further siding in the camp that Putin doesn’t have hundreds of billions stashed away he officially owns, the aforementioned Karen Dawisha, who perhaps gives some of the best account and most concrete details of the alleged corruption within the Russian government in her Putin’s Kleptocracy book, states that Putin’s real wealth comes from his position. “He takes what he wants, When you are the president of Russia you don’t need a written contract. You are the law.”

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Again backing up this position, financial investigator L. Burke Files, states, “Putin controls wealth through proxies.” He then makes up examples to illustrate, “Sergey owes his fortune to Putin, so when Putin asks Sergey a favor, the favor must be honored. A luxury cruise, use of a private dacha, expensive consumer goods, etc….Ivan owns a shipping company and owes his wealth to Putin, so when Putin requests a favor, Ivan— like Sergey—honors the request.”

So, is Putin the richest person in the world? While, as Gaddafi demonstrated, it is possible to squirrel away 0 billion secretly, given the level of scrutiny thrown Putin’s way by governments the world over looking into the matter, with nobody seemingly able to come up with any hard evidence, most think this figure grossly inflated, though it is generally accepted that he probably does have at least some significant amount stashed away somewhere.

For most, however, the explanation for his rather luxurious lifestyle is more reasonably explained by the simple fact that he can pretty much have the Russian government foot the bill for anything he wants without much uproar or oversight. And it does seem like an awful lot of his compatriots have gotten exceedingly wealthy during his tenure at least in part thanks to their connections with Putin and him leveraging his position to help facilitate their enrichment. Thus, if that is what has happened, it’s reasonable enough that many of those are happy to scratch his back whenever he feels the need for a new yacht or the like, without Putin needing to have anything in his name to avoid the backlash that would result should he be discovered to have such.

But as to answering the question of Putin’s own wealth, as the consensus seems to be that most of his wealth is tied up in his position and associates, rather than funds he directly has, it seems a bit of a stretch to call him the richest man in the world, though not a stretch at all if talking the money he currently has strong influence over. His position as President of Russia alone would be enough for that.

And as to the idea that he really does have 0 billion simply being held in other people’s names, as alluded to, we’re guessing even if many of these individuals are actually holding money for Putin, that should he step down from power and ask for that money be given to him en masse, or even remain in power and ask for a combined sum of 0 billion, that shortly thereafter memorials and monuments would be being built for the former Russian leader who sadly died in his sleep of natural causes…

Thus, to sum up, while given his lifestyle and various possessions, Putin most definitely does have access to quite a lot of wealth between the Russian government and a lot of friends in high and wealthy places, when talking his own assets, there simply isn’t any real hard data to date backing up the claim that he is the wealthiest person in the world. And, while not impossible certainly, it would be quite the hat trick to squirrel away a couple hundred billion without any world governments able to find hard evidence that he owns a dime of it. Of course, while some might argue access to vast sums should still count- access is not ownership, even if one can benefit from it on some level.

In the end, unless he really is one of the Lizard People, he’s probably not immortal, so at some point in the next few decades he will shuffle off this mortal coil and, perhaps then, like Gaddafi, more definitive data will be revealed. Or perhaps sooner when he no longer has the protection of his position in 2024, as he is constitutionally unable to run for the presidency that year. Although, of course he could always do as he did in 2008 and take a different position while remaining in power.

Whatever the case, for now, at least, while it is technically possible he does have 0 billion in secret, and even probable that he has drastically more than he is letting on publicly, which isn’t difficult given his paltry public assets for a man in his position, given the current data at hand, the needle is seemingly tilted more towards Gates and Bezos being wealthier than Putin, at least in terms of money and assets they officially own.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 slams five targets at once in new video

A video has surfaced on several social media outlets including Reddit and Instagram showing a Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter releasing five air-to-ground weapons simultaneously with subsequent scenes where the weapons hit several targets precisely. The video sources go on to claim that at least one of the targets was “moving at almost 40 mph”.


The telemetry displayed in the video dates it on Nov. 28, 2018 (even though the close up on the moving target is dated Dec. 3, 2018), but the video surfaced on the internet in January 2019 (it was released by the RAF 17Sqn on Instagram). Defense expert and author Ian D’Costa told TheAviationist.com, “It’s an F-35 at NTTR (Nellis Test and Training Range), I could be wrong, but it [seems to be] dropping five Paveway IVs and hitting all five targets with GEOT (Good Effect on Target).”

Ian D’Costa’s analysis is likely accurate even though the location is probably the controlled range at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California and different types of bombs might have been used.

There have been test drops of the Paveway IV precision guided bomb from both test F-35 aircraft and from U.S. Marine F-35Bs. However, only the British and the Saudi Arabians are currently reported to be using the Paveway IV 500-pound smart bomb operationally.

In the weapons carrying configuration shown in the new range video the F-35 is carrying the Paveway IVs in a “third day of war” configuration sometimes referred to as “beast mode” on the outside of the aircraft. The F-35 is equipped with an internal weapons bay capable of carrying munitions including air-to-air missiles and, in U.S. service, two 2,000-pound GBU-31 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) with Mk-84 warheads.

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Load carrying capability of F-35 in both low-observable “stealth” and “beast mode” for more permissive air defense environment.

(Lockheed Martin)

When the F-35 carries all of its weapons internally it maintains its low observability or “stealth” capability. This is a critical asset during the earliest phase of a conflict when combat aircraft are operating in a non-permissive environment with threats like surface-to-air missiles, automatic radar guided anti-aircraft guns and enemy aircraft. The F-35s low observability and internal weapons bay enable it to operate with greater autonomy in this high-threat environment. Once the surface-to-air and air-to-air threat is moderated the F-35 can begin to prosecute targets using externally carried precision strike munitions that will increase the aircraft’s radar signature but are employed at a time when enemy air defenses have been suppressed and are less of a threat to aircrews.

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File photo of RAF F-35B with full external bomb load of Paveway IVs.

(BAE Systems)

This video is significant since it continues the trend of showcasing the F-35’s emerging capabilities, at least in a testing role. Critics of the F-35 program have often claimed the aircraft is limited in its ability to effectively operate in a hostile environment. In 2018 however, both the Israeli Air Force and the U.S. Marines employed the F-35 in different variants in combat. In the case of the Israelis, there was a persistent surface-to-air and air-to-air threat in the region where the combat operations were conducted.

Earlier in 2018 an F-35 made headlines when it intercepted two drones, or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA’s) simultaneously during a successful test using AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced, Medium Range, Air-to-Air Missiles). The two drones were simultaneously detected and killed using the F-35’s Electro Optical Targeting System or “EOTS”.

USAF Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, Director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force and Commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California, told reporters last year, “Two AMRAAMs had multiple targets – to shoot two airborne targets simultaneously. It was a complex set up that happened over the Pacific. They were shooting at drones.”

While potentially valid criticisms of the F-35 program continue, many focused on cost and maintainability of the complex weapons system, the program has scored a consistent year-long run of developmental and operational victories with only one significant setback when a U.S. Marine F-35B crashed in late September 2018. The pilot escaped that accident.

In the social media space the buzz about the F-35 took a turn last week when smartphone video of the USAF’s new F-35A Demo Team practicing at Luke AFB surfaced. Online observers expressed surprise and excitement over the maneuvers displayed in the video with one comments on social media remarking, “With this (new video) and the maneuvering GIF I’m beginning to think the F-35 might be more capable than the naysayers have been complaining about.”

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US military might be building Trump’s border wall

Stymied by the lack of funding for his promised US-Mexico border wall in the latest spending bill, President Donald Trump now wants the military to pay for the barrier.

The Pentagon confirmed on March 29, 2018 that Trump has spoken with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about using military funds for the wall’s construction.


“The secretary has talked to the president about it,” Pentagon press secretary Dana White said, according to Military Times. “Securing Americans and securing the nation is of paramount importance to the secretary. They have talked about it but I don’t have any more details as to specifics.”

The $1.3 trillion spending bill, which Trump ruefully signed late March 2018, only included $1.6 billion for fencing and levees on the border and just $641 million for new primary fencing in areas that do not currently have barriers. The bill also limits that money to “operationally effective designs” that were already in the field by May 2017.

That amount is well short of the $25 billion in long-term funding Trump was pursuing in negotiations with Democrats (offering three years of protections for young immigrants in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), and that stipulation means the prototype walls Trump has reviewed cannot be used.

Trump — upset about potential disappointment among his supporters and invoking “national security” — is now reportedly eyeing the $700 billion allotted for the Pentagon, The Washington Post first reported, a sum he touted as “historic,” to provide funding for the wall. Two advisers told The Post that Trump’s comment in a recent tweet, “Build WALL through M!” referred to the military.

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Photo by James N. Mattis

During a press briefing on April 3, 2018, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not explicitly deny the report when asked about it, saying only the Trump administration was continuing to work on it.

After broaching the idea to advisers, Trump told House Speaker Paul Ryan that military should provide funding, three people familiar with the meeting told The Post. Ryan reportedly offered little response.

Senior officials in Congress told The Post such a move was unlikely, and a senior official at the Pentagon said redirecting money from the 2018 budget would have to be done by lawmakers. Setting aside money in the 2019 budget would require Trump to offer a budget amendment — which would still need 60 votes to pass the Senate.

Trump has also suggested to Mattis that the Pentagon pay for the wall rather than the Homeland Security Department.

Mattis has sought to distance himself from contentious issues, chief among them the border wall, that have wounded US relations with its southern neighbor.

During a September 2017 trip to Mexico, Mattis emphasized that US-Mexican military ties were strong and that the two countries shared common concerns.

“We have shared security concerns. There’s partnerships, military-to-military exchanges, that are based on trust and respect. I’m going down to build the trust and show the respect on their Independence Day,” Mattis said at the time. “Every nation has its challenges it deals with. And Mexico is keenly aware of these, and I’m there to support them in dealing with them.”

When asked about his role in the border-wall issue, Mattis said the US military had no role in enforcing the border.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These images of U.S. troops in tight spaces will make you sweat

A space is confined if it has a limited or restricted entry or exit point.

“Confined spaces include, but are not limited to, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, equipment housings, ductwork, pipelines, etc.,” according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

And the US military trains for all different kinds of scenarios in such spaces.

Here’s what they do.


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Air Force Joseph Chavez from the 120th Airlift Wing, Montana Air National Guard performs a confined space rescue on Feb. 13, 2017.

(US Air Force photo)

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Senior Airman Jada Lutsky, a fuel system specialist with Pennsylvania Air National Guard, dons a respirator during a confined spaces rescue exercise on Feb. 24, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

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Members of the 911th Technical Rescue Engineer Company enter a manhole and extract simulated patients during a training exercise on Aug. 1, 2018.

(Department of Defense photo)

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Army Spc. Ridwan Salaudeen, 758th Firefighter Detachment, climbs through a confined space at Fort McCoy, Wis. on Aug. 9, 2017.

(US Army photo)

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An Army Reserve soldier navigates his way through a building collapse simulator at Fort McCoy, Wis. on Aug. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

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Marine Cpl. Seth White, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) defense specialist, crawls through an underground tunnel while wearing a Level-C hazmat suit on Oct. 3, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo)

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Army Reserve Spc. Alex Thompson, 376th Engineer Firefighter Detachment, crawls through a tube for training at Fort McCoy, Wis. on Aug. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

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Army Reserve Brett Lehmann, 376th Engineer Firefighter Detachment, crawls through a tube for confined space familiarization training at Fort McCoy, Wis. on Aug. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

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Army Reserve Pvt. Kenneth Collins, 376th Engineer Firefighter Detachment, pulls himself from a confined space familiarization tube at Fort McCoy, Wis. on Aug. 13, 2018.

(US Army photo)

And the whole thing seems pretty grueling.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Navy made Tom Cruise and Jerry Bruckheimer Honorary Naval Aviators

Naval aviators are often considered to be the best aviators in the world. The training is intensive and it can take students years to earn their wings of gold as fully qualified aviators. Although the Navy does confer the designation of Honorary Naval Aviator upon select individuals, the title is extremely exclusive. On September 24, 2020, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and actor Tom Cruise became the 35th and 36th Honorary Naval Aviators, respectively.


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Bob Hope receives his wings at NAS Pensacola on May 8, 1986 (U.S. Navy)

The Honorary Naval Aviator Program was started in 1949 as a way for the Navy to honor individuals who have greatly contributed to or have provided outstanding service to Naval Aviation. Individuals who receive the title earn the right to wear the coveted gold wings and are entitled to all honors, courtesies, and privileges afforded to Naval Aviators. The program is managed by the Chief of Naval Operations, Director Air Warfare and final approval of a nomination is made by the Chief of Naval Operations. Famous Honorary Naval Aviators include Jim Neighbors of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. fame and Bob Hope.

On September 24, Bruckheimer and Cruise received their wings of gold from the Commander of Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III, prior to an advance screening of Top Gun: Maverick at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The citation read:

In the history of motion pictures, there is not a more iconic aviation movie than the 1986 Paramount Pictures film Top Gun. Its characters, dialogue and imagery are ingrained in the minds of an entire generation of Americans. The movie captured the hearts of millions, making a profound positive impact on recruiting for Naval Aviation, and significantly promoted and supported Naval Aviation and put aircraft carriers and naval aircraft into popular culture.

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Vice Adm. DeWolfe H. Miller III, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Rear Adm. Kenneth R. Whitesell following the winging ceremony (U.S. Navy)

Top Gun‘s contribution to Naval Aviation was arguably even greater than its box office success of 0 million. Following the civil unrest and turmoil of the 60s and 70s, the military was not an attractive prospect for many Americans. Top Gun made the military, and particularly Naval Aviation, cool again. Michael Ironside, who played Lt. Cdr. Rick ‘Jester’ Heatherly, noted how effective the film was at recruiting after two sailors approached him angrily following the release of Top Gun saying, “We joined because of that f*****g movie.” Perhaps it was too effective a recruiting tool.

In the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster hit and cultural icon, Cruise reprises his role as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell with Bruckheimer returning to produce the film. Reportedly, Val Kilmer also returns to reprise his role as Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky. Top Gun: Maverick follows America’s favorite hotshot pilot into the cockpit as an instructor and is scheduled to premiere on July 2, 2021.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US is painting jets to look like Russian fighters

The US Air Force’s 64th Aggressor Squadron, which uses 20 F-16 fighter jets to train the rest of the force on realistic battle scenarios against enemy fighters, will use the paint scheme of Russia’s newest fighter jet, the Su-57, for one of its jets.

And this should give the US a considerable advantage in aerial combat against the Russian jet that’s meant to take on US F-22 and F-35 fighters, Brig. Gen. Robert G. Novotny, who commands 38 squadrons including the 64th, told The Drive.


Beyond-visual-range radars and missiles that can seek heat or electronic emissions have made visual camouflage on aircraft somewhat less of a priority over the years, but Novotny said camo still has an important psychological effect.

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A rendering of the F-16’s new paint scheme.

(57th Wing Commander / Facebook)

The Su-57 sports a “digital shark” paint job of pixelated blues and grays that distorts what pilots may see in the air. The US, as a counterpoint, has largely abandoned painting its jets with camouflage and has moved to integrating stealth coatings.

“Long ago, when aerial combat almost always involved visually acquiring the adversary, an enemy aircraft paint scheme could provide an advantage by either delaying detection, i.e., it blended in with the background environment, or it could confuse a pilot by masking its aspect angle or range,” Novotny told The Drive.

In the past, the Aggressor Squadron has sported paint jobs from Russia’s Su-34 and Su-35 fighters, as well as China’s J-20 stealth fighter.

A major advantage for US fighters

“The aggressor paint schemes serve a purpose other than just looking cool,” Novotny said. He cited the book “Red Eagles: America’s Secret MiGs” by Steve Davies that explains “buck fever,” a phenomenon that happens to fighter pilots upon seeing the enemy.

Novotny said Davies described it as “the emotion a new hunter feels the first time they aim a rifle at a deer,” or something that can cause well-trained pilots to freeze up and fail to act in combat.

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(Russian Embassy / Twitter)

“Although the 64th Aggressors are not flying actual [Russian] aircraft, we use adversary paint schemes to help mitigate the risk of buck fever,” Novotny continued. “Based on that threat-representative training, our warfighters are much more likely to arrive at a merge, visually identify the enemy, and kill!”

The Aggressor with the new paint job will soon start in on a busy schedule of simulated air combat against US fighters like F-15s, F-22s, and F-35s in exercises like Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, where the squadron is based.

While the Su-57 paint job is designed to ready the US for combat against a formidable Russian fighter, it was not the obvious first choice, or even a choice made by Novotny — he posed the question to his Facebook followers, who overwhelmingly chose the Su-57.

Though the Su-57 has no large orders on the books and may never see a large role in Russia’s air force, people apparently jumped at the idea of a US fighter taking on the new challenge.

Novotny, for his part, agreed that the Su-57 was a relevant foe to train against.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Russia has pledged to go ahead with a massive WWII memorial parade despite its growing coronavirus outbreak

Despite steadily mounting infections from the coronavirus in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has so far refused to cancel a massive parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Soviet triumph Nazi Germany.

The annual Victory Day parade on May 9 typically includes tens of thousands of troops, military equipment, and hundreds of thousands of spectators.


The event came under fire last week after social media footage showed thousands of re-enactors rehearsing for the event, despite a government ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

One video, found by Rob Lee, an open source military researcher who focuses on former Soviet militaries, shows re-enactors at a military base in Alabino, outside of Moscow.

Video purportedly of Russian troops at the Victory Day Parade rehearsals in Alabino who aren’t quite meeting the 1.5 meter social distancing requirement instituted by local officials. https://vk.com/milinfolive?w=wall-123538639_1404052 …pic.twitter.com/JIQLTPFUMQ

twitter.com

Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny circulated the video, and other politicians criticized organizers for letting them go ahead.

The government announced it would halt rehearsals, but still planned to hold the main event on May 9, according to the Guardian.

The 2020 parade had been scheduled to be especially large, given its importance marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism, which cost tens of millions of Soviet lives.

Putin had planned to include not only the cream of Russia’s modern military but thousands of WWII-style re-enactors armed with historically accurate gear.

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To prepare for the event, Russia spent years accumulating working models of the famous Soviet T-34 tank, sourcing them from as far afield as Laos and Albania.

Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, currently at 6,000 recorded cases but growing fast, may yet end hopes of the parade going ahead.

Russian government officials have attacked news organizations that report on the increasing number of cases in Russia, as well as anyone who suggests the event should be canceled.

static.kremlin.ru

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “May 9th is a sacred date for millions upon millions in Russia and [ex-Soviet] countries. The Victory Day parade is scheduled (sanitary measures taken) and will march on Red Square,” according to the Guardian.

Alternative plans being considered for the parade, according to multiple Russian media outlets, include conducting the parade for TV cameras without a live audience, or postponing it until other historically significant anniversaries in September or November.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy eyes new missile modules for stealthiest submarines

The US Navy is getting creative with the weapons payloads of the Virginia-class submarines, one of the deadliest and most technologically advanced subs in the world.

The Virginia Payload Module (VPM), a weapons system intended to give the late-block Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs) a bit more punch, was initially viewed solely in the context of giving these submarines the kind of firepower seen on the aging Ohio-class guided-missile submarines (SSGNs).


“We were only really allowed to talk about it as a replacement for SSGN strike,” Program Executive Office for Submarines Executive Director George Drakeley said at November 2018’s Naval Submarine League symposium, USNI News reported Nov. 15, 2018. “The handcuffs are off now, and lately we’ve been talking about other capabilities,” he said at the event.

The US Navy awarded BAE Systems a contract in 2018 to develop new payload tubes — the new VPMs — for two Block V Virginia-class submarines, Defense News reported in June 2018. One of the four VPM tubes reportedly has the ability to carry and launch up to seven Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles (TLAMs). This technology can triple the sub’s payload capacity, significantly boosting its firepower.

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Rendering of Virginia-class attack submarine.

(US Department of Defense graphic by Ron Stern)

There are also opportunities to innovate and apply this technology to new missions, a necessity as the US refocuses its efforts on preparation for high-end conflict with rival powers. “We’re in a great power competition now, and so we need to be focusing on other potential capabilities,” Drakeley told those in attendance.

Both Russia and China are increasingly advancing their undersea warfighting capabilities. “In the undersea domain, the margins to victory are razor thin,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, told Pentagon reporters in October 2018.

A new report evaluating the National Defense Strategy, which also highlights the threat posed by great power competition, recommended the US bolster its submarine force. But numbers are not everything, as capability is also key.

“We have to get past the days of just ADCAP (advanced capability Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo) and TLAM (Tomahawk land-attack missile) as being our two principle weapons,” Rear Adm. John Tammen, the director of undersea warfare on the staff of the chief of naval operations, explained to attendees.

Tammen told USNI News that the surface warfare community is looking into a next-generation land-attack weapon, and the undersea warfare directorate would then look at ways to adapt it to the VPM, giving the Virginia-class subs an alternative to the Tomahawks.

At the same time, the Navy is also interested in VPM-launched unmanned undersea vehicles, but the pairing process has proven something of a challenge.

This new technology, as long with new torpedo systems, could potentially be seen on the Block VI and VII Virginia-class SSNs.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

America almost conducted a doomed invasion of France in 1942

In the lead up to American involvement of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt committed his administration to a “Germany-First” policy if the U.S. entered the war. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it shook his commitment, but he stuck to it. Although, in his rush to take the pressure off the U.K. and the Soviet Union, he almost pressed American forces into a doomed invasion.


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Workers assemble fighter aircraft at Wheatfield, New York.

(Public Domain)

The American war machine had to shake itself awake at the start of 1942. While the industrial base had achieved some militarization during Lend-Lease and other programs, it would need a lot more time to produce even the tools necessary to make all the vehicles, uniforms, and even food necessary to help the troops succeed in battle.

And those troops needed to be trained, but almost as importantly, many of the military leaders needed to get seasoned in combat. There were generals with limited experience from World War I and plenty of mid-career officers and NCOs who had never fought in actual battle.

But there was limited time to ramp up. England was barely staving off defeat, beating back German attack after attack in the air to keep them from crossing the English Channel. And the Soviet Union was facing 225 German divisions on the Eastern Front. According to Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn:

If Soviet resistance collapsed, Hitler would gain access to limitless oil reserves in the Caucasus and Middle East, and scores of Wehrmacht divisions now fighting in the east could be shifted to reinforce the west. The war could last a decade, War Department analysts believed, and the United States would have to field at least 200 divisions….
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Russian anti-tank infantrymen in the important Battle of Kursk. Soviet troops were reliant on American arms for much of World War II, but there sacrifice in blood inflicted the lion share of casualties against Nazi Germany.

(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)

To get the pressure off the Soviet Union and ensure it survived, thereby keeping hundreds of German divisions tied up, Roosevelt committed U.S. forces to a 1942 invasion. And his top officers, especially the new Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, Adm. Ernest J. King, told Roosevelt that the American invasion had to be made at France.

And this made some sense. While Great Britain was lobbying for help in North Africa in order to keep Italy from taking the oil fields there, invading North Africa would pull few or no troops from the Eastern Front. And while the oil fields in North Africa were important, the Italian military hammering there was less of a threat than the German attacks on the Soviet Union.

And attacks into Europe could be driven home straight into Berlin. A landing in France or Denmark would be about 500 miles or less from Hitler’s capital as soon as it landed, a serious threat to Germany. But a landing in Africa would be 1,000 miles or more away and would require multiple amphibious landings to get into Africa and then on to Europe.

King and other senior leaders like Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall thought it would be a waste of time and resources.

And so planning went into effect for Operation Sledgehammer, the 1942 Allied invasion of France. But the British officers immediately started to campaign against the attack. They had already been pushed off the continent, and they knew they didn’t have the forces, and that America didn’t have the forces, to take and hold the ground.

Germany had over 24 divisions in France. For comparison, the actual D-Day landings and follow-on assault in 1944 were made with only nine divisions with additional smaller units. And that was after the military was able to procure thousands of landing craft and planes to deliver those troops. In 1942, many of those tools weren’t ready.

And, the timeline forced planners to look for a Fall landing. The Atlantic and the English Channel in the Fall are susceptible to some of the worst storms a landing could face. High winds and surging seas could swamp landing craft and destabilize the naval artillery needed to support landings.

Worse for Britain: a failed landing across the channel in 1942 would result in bodies floating in that body of water by the thousands or tens of thousands. And if Germany successfully bottled the landing up and then slaughtered the Allied troops day by day, then those bodies could have been visible on the English coast for days and weeks.

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Americans with the 45th Infantry Division prepare equipment in Sicily for movement to Salerno.

(U.S. National Archives)

So Britain renewed its lobbying for an invasion of Africa, instead. Churchill led the campaign, pointing out that German troops there could be bottled up and potentially even captured, the Suez Canal would be re-opened, and Americans could get combat experience in a theater where it would have a balance of forces in its favor rather than fighting where it could be overwhelmed before it could learn valuable lessons.

And so Operation Sledgehammer was shelved in favor of Operation Torch, the November 1942 invasion that landed on multiple beachheads across the northern coast of Africa. America would learn tough lessons there, but was ultimately successful.

Unfortunately, that hope of isolating and capturing the German force would be partially prevented by a German escape at Messina where many Nazi troops made it across to Sicily. But the Allies took the oil fields in Africa, took Sicily, and landed in Italy, building the experience needed to land in France in 1944.

Meanwhile, America sent as much industrial support to the Soviet Union as it could to keep it from falling, and it was successful, largely thanks to the heroic sacrifices of the Communist troops who turned back the Axis troops at Stalingrad, Kursk, and other battles.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Intimidation: Army crew names their howitzer ‘Coronavirus’

The U.S. military is famous for several things. The food in the DFACs, early morning PT and extreme grooming standards, just to name a few. One of the most underrated things about the military though is the sense of humor amongst troops in the field.


One gun crew from the 1st Armored Division certainly lived up to that legacy of laughs this week after a picture was posted on the division’s website showing that soldiers had named their M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer “Coronavirus.”

ALWAYS VIGILANT! We’re taking preventative measures in the field as we continue to train and protect the safety of our Soldiers and Leaders. As a force we must stay alert as we train to be lethal in combat. #IronSoldiers #BulldogBrigade #COVIDー19 #IIICorpsCOVID19pic.twitter.com/V79CftGvf1

twitter.com

Yes, the virus currently circling its way around the globe and through the media has made its way into the psyche of a few soldiers.

But these 13Bs are hardly the first to christen their weapons with names. Earlier this year, an M1 Abrams belonging to the 3rd Infantry Division, was spotted sporting the name “Baby Yoda.” Other colorful names include “Change of Regime,” “Bull Dog II”, and “New Testament.”

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The traditional isn’t limited to U.S. soldiers either.

In fact, soldiers have been naming their weapons since at least medieval times, when knights gave names to their trebuchets. And today, visitors to historic battlefields like Gettysburg can still make out the names etched on the back of a few artillery pieces.

As for the coronavirus, of COVID 19 as it is officially called, at press time, there are currently 11,500 cases in the U.S., according to a report from the Washington Post.

The U.S. military is on the frontlines of the country’s pandemic response. In addition to the thousands of National Guardsmen currently activated, President Donald Trump recently tasked the U.S. Navy to deploy both of its hospital ships to treat COVID 19 patients, reports Reuters.

The Navy operates two hospital ships, the U.S.N.S. Comfort and the U.S.N.S. Mercy. Although the ships belong to the Navy, the deck crew is usually manned by civilian members of Military Sealift Command, while the health care staff is comprised of military personnel.

The two ships, which were converted to floating hospitals from oil tankers in the 1970s, are the military’s only such vessels, with one covering the Atlantic and the other the Pacific.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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