One Of The Greatest Cover-Ups Of The 20th Century

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One Of The Greatest Cover-Ups Of The 20th Century Empty One Of The Greatest Cover-Ups Of The 20th Century

Post by phildidge on Thu Feb 28, 2019 11:56 am

John Heminway is an author and award-winning filmmaker who has produced and written more than two hundred documentaries on subjects as varied as travel, brain science, evolution, and natural history. He has won two Emmys, two Peabody Awards, and a duPont-Columbia Award. Most recently, he is known for his exposés of the illicit ivory trade. In Full Flight is his sixth book. Heminway lives in Montana.

One Of The Greatest Cover-Ups Of The 20th Century 171334-infullflight2

How frequently do we learn that our good friend-- the one we think we know so well-- we never knew at all? No surprise that almost all humans harbor secrets, but what if those secrets, once disclosed, are darker than midnight?

In Full Flight is a story of two lives in one body. They belonged to Dr. Anne Spoerry, a good friend of mine who kept her two selves separated by a vertiginous wall of silence. At one level, In Full Flight pays tribute to Africa for its gift of secrecy—faithfully providing cover for those on the run. At another, it illuminates the burden a person of substance must shoulder even in the far reaches of a wild land. The last fifty years of Anne’ life, all in Kenya, were distinguished by her drive to help the rural poor-- a source of considerable pride to her, her adopted country and an ever-widening circle of admirers from around the world. It also illuminates the personal cost of such secrecy. 

What about her European past? I was told never to ask. So I became one of the intemperate ones who did repeatedly, only to suffer the consequences—thunderclaps of temper that reduced me to quivering jello. 

I knew Anne exclusively in Africa during the last 20 years of her life at a time when many Kenyans had taken to calling her “saintly” for her work as a medec in volant, flying doctor. Since I was only able to judge her through my Africa lens I too focused on her self-sacrifice and bravery. 

Anne and I had met because a magazine assignment. Later my profile of her grew into a chapter in one of my books. In time, our professional association mutated into a wonderful friendship—not unusual for Africa. During the many dinners Anne and I shared in Nairobi there was no disguising my admiration. Her tales of derring-do were mesmerizing. Eight years before her death, I filmed her for a PBS film.

In whatever medium I chose, I reported only on triumphs—those perilous cross-country flights to East Africa’s distant reaches-- all to better the health of forgotten peoples. Over her lifetime, I wrote that the number of patients Dr. Spoerry treated and saved was simply incalculable.
When Anne died in 1999, age 80, her admirers were so numerous her family organized four memorial services to accommodate every sector of the population.  At each, the air virtually trembled with tributes. So moved was I by this outpouring of admiration for Anne I determined to write a biography, focusing on her singular approach to health care. 

A year after Anne’s death, while honeymooning with my wife on the island of Lamu, I came upon Anne’s nephew, Bernard Spoerry, and told him of my plans. “But why,” I asked off handedly, “Was she so secretive about the war?” Bernard seemed startled. All he knew was that she had bravely served in the Résistance, had been captured by the Germans and interned in a concentration camp. As for details, he had no ready answer—only that his aunt’s time in Ravensbrück had always been a well-guarded family secret. Bernard’s father, Anne’s beloved brother, knew all, but, alas, he had taken those secrets to his grave. Perhaps, Bernard suggested, the contents of Anne’s farmhouse safe would shed light on my question. A week later I opened the file, hidden away in that up-country safe for at least 50 years. On it Anne had written: “Do not open.”  

I opened it. Topmost were three attached pages, dated 1947 and headed: “CROWCASS: Central Registry of War Criminals And Security Suspects.” I read down the list by nationality. Under the heading “Switzerland,” there was one entry: “Anne Marie Spoerry… Crimes against humanity including torture.”

More to read on the link and very fascinating


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