Thursday, February 12, 2009

NEED FOR RELIGIOUS SELF-REFLECTION--Mother of Suicide Bombers, Jim Jones, Hamas, Israel, Vietnam, Ira, Hitler-like Love, and Frankie Goes to Hollywoo

NEED FOR RELIGIOUS SELF-REFLECTION--Mother of Suicide Bombers, Jim Jones, Hamas, Israel, Vietnam, Ira, Hitler-like Love, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood

By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden, Germany

Nearly twenty residents have publicly left the Catholic church in Wiesbaden, Germany this month, i.e. in the wake of Pope Benedict’s inability to apologize (and admit the fallibility of a Pope) after the blunder of his Papacy recognizing a holocaust denier (named Williams) amongst the members of the Pius Brotherhood. That is--those questionable group of Catholic separatists who were recently allowed to rejoin join the church last month.

Meanwhile, during these last weeks in Wiesbaden in January and February rhis 2009, there have been a series of reflective remembrances on both the 76th anniversary of the Nazi’s seizure of power (Jan. 30) and on the 65th anniversary of the freeing of Soviet Army’s capture of Auschwitz (Jan.27) and the subsequent freeing of Polish, Jewish and other surviving inmates. (See the Appendix 1 below for further German history memories and commemorations being recognized this year.)

For example, in mid-January 2009, the Aktives Museum in Wiesbaden opened with an exhibition, which recognized the stories of the few German Luftwaffe members, like the Israeli recognized righteous gentiles. This exposition focused on a German named Karl Flagge. Flagge was working for the Nazi Luftwaffe (Air Force) during WWII in Lithuania. at the time he took the advantage of his position to save at least one-hundred Jews, who would have otherwise been the victims of pogroms and Nazi-inspired massacres.


In January, there was a presentation on the Warsaw Ghetto at the Wiesbaden Courthouse as well as a whole set of presentations, discussions, and films on how a society like Germany ought to continue to go about remembering the past. For example, there were numerous showings of a famous documentary on the Stolpersteine Project.

“Stolpersteine” means “stumbling block in Germany and Wiesbaden has been participating in this national art and commemoration project to recall and remember the victims of the Nazi-era in each community in Germany (as well as—so far—in Austria, the Netherlands, and Hungary.

The names of victims are researched by local residents and bricks (stolpersteine) paid for by individuals in each city. Then the names, birth and death location of these victims are placed on walkways in different parts of each city. In Hamburg, Germany alone as of April 2007, “there were in Berlin along 1,800 Stolpersteine in front of former residences or in the case of the homeless homosexuals in front of the shelter (Pik As), which were initiated by district‘s and victim’s initiatives. There’s another stumbling block in commemoration of a former senator, 15 paces to the right of the entrance of Hamburg’s town hall. Many papers report about the project and expand the investigations. Between 1941 and 1945 10.000 Jews were deported from Hamburg.”

The artist’s first Stolpersteine were placed in Cologne in the early 1990s by the artist, Gunter Demnig. The Antoniter Church was the first church community to support Demnig. Soon the project moved to Kreuzberg in Berlin.

Soon local communities all over Germany, Austria and elsewhere were investigating the names of local victims of the Third Reich and commemorating them by their name under foot throughout their cities and communities.


On the 2nd of February, I went again to the Wiesbaden City Courthouse to hear a presentation on the “Motives and Practices of the Members of the White Rose.”

According to the Spartacus website, “The White Rose, was formed by students at the University of Munich in 1941. It is believed that the group was formed after the Archbishop of Munster, spoke out in a sermon against the Nazi practice of euthanasia (the killing of those considered by the Nazis as genetically unsuitable).”

The group sent letter out all over Germany indicating that overthrowing Hitler and standing up for what was right was in the German people’s hands. “[I]n 1943 the group explained the reasons why they had formed the White Rose group: "We want to try and show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of the system. It can be done only by the cooperation of many convinced, energetic people - people who are agreed as to the means they must use. We have no great number of choices as to the means. The meaning and goal of passive resistance is to topple National Socialism, and in this struggle we must not recoil from our course, any action, whatever its nature. A victory of fascist Germany in this war would have immeasurable, frightful consequences."

Naturally, most The White Rose group was tracked down and executed by the Nazis and their followers within the next month, i.e. February 20, 1943. This talk on the “Motives and Practices of the Members of the White Rose” was sponsored by Martin Niemoller’s Gegen Vergessen Fuer Demokratie (Against Forgetting—For Democracy).

NOTE: I think Americans need to have such organizations set up to remember and educate on crimes against human right and human beings. Explicitly, there should be memorials and commemorative art work in every city and town. I say this because in all my travels in the USA, I recall only observing the occasional black and white MIA (Missing in Action) flag as the single common reminder found in villages and cities in America the Vietnam War. Those flags which focus primarily on U.S. soldier victims in war are the only artifacts which come close to commemorating the 14-plus year war with the Vietnamese (and other nations in Southeast Asia).

Later, on the first Friday night this same February, I arrived home to watch Germanys ARD-TV present a program called TATORT that claimed “it has discovered the fate of one of the ‘most wanted’ Nazi criminals, Doctor Aribert Heim” who had “worked at Mauthausen concentration camp during the Second World War, conducting sadistic experiments and killing hundreds of inmates, earning him the nickname ‘Doctor Death’. The television report details Heim’s movements since fleeing Germany in the 1960s, concluding that he died, while living under a pseudonym, in Egypt in 1992.”

That particular ARD- TV program almost every single week takes time to report on Nazi crimes using investigative journalist techniques to track down facts and rumors from the Third Reich era.

Overall, I am fairly impressed by the way Germans are currently handling and debating their past, especially their ancestors’ experiences and crimes. In short, not a day goes by when one doesn’t find at least one or more lengthy documentaries on the subject of the Nazi Germany of their forefathers.

On the one hand, some of these memorials focus only on German soldiers and families. However, in recent decades these memorial locations have seen a whole new culture of alternative memorials and commemorations, such as the Stolpersteine movement described above.

I will never forget my first visit to the new Holocaust Memorial in the center of Berlin some years again. This is because juxtaposed with what the memorial location is the topography of the area around the Holocaust Memorial and Museum. For example, that particular memorial is situated where the Wall between East and West Berlin used to run. Moreover, arriving at the monument by way of the park across the street from the new memorial, I observed that there was an ancient statue of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe looking in the direction of the new monument.

The fact that the Goethe commemorative statue or monument was allowed to conintue to quietly peer through the greenery at a monument to genocide (perpetrated by his great-great grandchildren) left me both amused and thoughtful at the way monuments juxtaposed across from one another over generations share a much fuller sense of history than singular commemorative events and holidays, such as the U.S. holiday for veterans or a holiday for presidents.

Moreover, in Germany there are numerous monuments galore to the stupidity of war and to the memory of genocide are prolific.

For example, the fire bombings of Hamburg under Britain’s Operation Gomorrah destroyed most of the city in 1943 but left the third largest church tower in the country of Germany, the Nikolai Church, still standing. This church tower was subsequently dedicated as a monument against the stupidity of WWII.

All these monuments, certainly make me ponder what the world would be like today if Americans had had to daily face on their TV screens and in their daily experience critiques of the wars of our fathers (and mothers), for example of the Vietnam War or of the Filipino Occupation.

Why doesn’t most every city memorialize victims of crimes and war which Americans have been involved in dating at least back to the U.S. Civil War?

If I look at American TV, even the number of critical documentaries dissecting U.S. wars in Central America, the Middle East and in East Asia over the last 50 years are not shown on TV very much anymore. (There are a growing number of websites, though. See my NOTES section below for more on this very topic by clicking on links.)

Sure, I might find in the U.S.A. a few TV channels, like the History Channel or a few public broadcasting stations, playing documentaries and leading discussions, but most Americans don’t have their nose shoved into criminal home country history like many in Germany have had as a living and growing up experience on a daily basis all of their lives—i.e. monuments or Stolpersteine in the street, articles in the press, or in commercial and public media on at least a weekly basis

NOTE: On the one hand, this constant barrage of news of and from the past leaves some German youth quite disaffected and sometimes even hardened. It is emblematic of Germany that when the Martin Niemoller Society sponsored the discussion of the few famous Germans who opposed Hitler and his War in early February, not a person in the Wiesbaden County Court hall discussion room under the age of 40 years. (Of course, university exams were being taken the following week.) On the other hand, despite the fact that many youth feel this focus on the past is overdone, most know quite a bit more about their nation’s past than do Americans as a whole.

JIM JONES’ STORY IN GERMAN--& Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Then on Saturday night recently, for a change of pace, I was surprised to come across one German channel, ZDF-TV, showing the 2006 documentary Jonestown: Life and Death of the People’s Temple.

This Stanley Nelson documentary on the People’s Temple and Jim Jones is insightful and places the concepts of (a) suicide, (b) victimhood, and (c) the role of peer pressure as well as (d) the power of crazy or misguided charismatic leader in an entirely new American context.

However, these four concepts are assuredly well-known in Germany.

That is, for German historians, modern educators, and students, the story of Jim Jones and the Rise and Fall of the People’s Temple is not all that foreign as one reviews the 12 nasty years under Hitler ideology, a period of new nation building of modern man and society or if one looks at either the story of East Germany under the Communists through the end of WWII through 1989. (One might even look at the popularity of Che Gueverra and the rise of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, too, to see that terrorism and revolution still find sympathetic ears in Germany—as is the case in America—when it comes to war or for fighting for justice.)

It was fascinating to watch this translated (into German) documentary and relearn or retrace the phases in the idyllic Rise and Suicide of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple Community, i.e. in the language of the evil Hitler (who was actually an Austrian.)

As Jim Jones spoke about love and building a new society in America or on Earth (in German), I could imagine Hitler doing the same thing in his own way, i.e. Hitler and his Nazi cohorts created some of the same imagery of building a better and more modern society, especially as the charismatic Hitler and his henchmen had bonded with the Germanic peoples so well by playing on the theme of idealized love of/for any German to his country or his motherland--or tradition of the fatherland and its growing identity as a people and nation..

For many Germans in the 1930s, following a horrible period in their history in the wake of WWI and the Treaty of Versailles, love of family and love of one’s society became the dominant national dream.

That same Nazi German leadership, in turn, gave (non-Jewish) German citizens not only positive dreams and ideals—but physical gifts, such as national work projects, roads, sports-centers, and even family beach resorts (for the masses).

These gifts all came along with a sense of economic security--not witnessed in Germany for more than an entire generation.

Naturally, the way Jim Jones talked of love in the German language reminded me, too, of the the ironic TWO TRIBES song from 1980s Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

This song and other Frankie Goes to Hollywood (TGTH) tunes and texts were popular in Germany in the early and mid-1980s, i.e. as both East and West Germany citizens felt like they were being served up politically and militarily to the Gods of NATO and the Warsaw Pact during the biggest arms build up in history. The two tribes referred to were the West and the East during the latter years of the cold war.

In the live version of that (TGTH) TWO TRIBES song, one man carefully imitates the voice of Ronald Reagan and talks of love.

This Ronald Reagan-voice spoke passionately of love as revolutionary and then also whispered of the wonderful love of heroes for a better cause.

In this, the Reagan-voice, specifically showed his admiration for revolution and the revolutionary love of a man, like Che Guevarra, who had died for his greater cause.

When I first heard that live version of the song TWO TRIBES, I had had to laugh because that voice of Reagan was not only done well , but this Reagan’s passion for ultra-patriotism and love of country had turned to praise a passion for love of all others—and the love of revolution.

If you readers recall, back in the early 1980s Cold-War-era, a coalition of the West, i.e. NATO was positioning weapons in Central Europe ostensibly in order to preempt a long range nuclear attack on the USA from the Soviet Union.

In those same 1980 years, I didn’t see nor appreciate much love in the words of Ronald Reagan—but I do, indeed, know other Americans who felt Ronald Reagan was an honest and loving man.

Reagan was often called the “Teflon President”, and for many Americans who loved the man, his deeds, and his words or ideals, he represented the Teflon persons they wanted to be. There love for each other and their ideas would allow all rationale critique to bounce off their hero and their Weltanschauen (world view).

The joke or irony in many of the various songs from Frankie Goes to Hollywood were not lost out on by the Germans in that divided nations back in 1983, i.e. as the stationing of missiles in West Germany were soon to face off against the Soviets, Eastern Europeans and East Germans. For Germans and other Central Europeans, this arms meant a suicidal gambling-with-their-lives. (In summary, the stationing of medium ranged missiles in Central Europe meant for many a far from rosy few future for them and no-hope for their children.)

This, lack of hope in Germany and Western Europe at that time (1981-1988), could be contrasted with the apparently typical hope that many pro-Reagan Americans placed in the symbol of a U.S. President who was willing to blow up half the world to prove that his opinion of the universe and love of God and state were right.


According to most German- and American memories, Jim Jones was simply a leader of a Doomsday Cult, which eventually carried out its plan to move on to a better universe or heaven.
Both the documentary I saw on German TV and have read on various websites claim : “The Peoples Temple was initially structured as an inter-racial mission for the sick, homeless and jobless. He assembled a large following of over 900 members in Indianapolis IN during the 1950's. ‘He preached a 'social gospel' of human freedom, equality, and love, which required helping the least and the lowliest of society's members. Later on, however, this gospel became explicitly socialistic, or communistic in Jones' own view, and the hypocrisy of white Christianity was ridiculed while 'apostolic socialism' was preached.’”
However, websites also typically note of the People’s Temple, “It was an interracial congregation -- almost unheard of in Indiana at the time. When a government investigation began into his cures for cancer, heart disease and arthritis, he decided to move the group to Ukiah in Northern California. He preached the imminent end of the world in a nuclear war; Esquire magazine listed Ukiah as one of nine in the U.S. that cold survive a nuclear attack. They later moved to San Francisco and Los Angeles.”
Actually, the interracial congregation throughout most of the 20th century remained in most corners of the United States unheard of.
That is, Sunday mornings remained the most segregated time of each week in America, a supposedly free and open country.
One documentary reviewer noted, “Many of the cult followers were struggling with the social injustice and racial discrimination in the 60s and 70s. Jim Jones offered them equality and sense of belonging that the society didn't offer. So Peoples Temple becomes their utopia where they could be so happy and united. Only the sad part is that later some of them realize they were betrayed and they had no way out.”
At times, many Americans (and of course others around the globe) feel they are “betrayed and they had no way out”.
I understand that the Americans who supported America’s war on terrorism and other idealists who have gone to war over the past 8 years have certainly felt at some point that they were betrayed but that they had had no way out.
These Americans (and America’s allies) may have gotten into the army, air force, marines, or National Guard with good intentions or ideals but at times they have felt misspent and betrayed.
They feel they are victims.
Meanwhile, many of these same American victims of the Cult of the War of terrorism call themselves Christians but, in turn, cannot fathom how Christians, like those who had ideals like those in the People’s Temple (which was originally a spin-off from the Disciples of Christ in Indiana), ever found themselves moving to equality and then mass-suicide in Guyana.
Nor can they imagine why there are suicide bombers all over the Middle East--and sometimes in the USA, Europe, Asia, Africa and elsewhere.
The fact is that most of us learn all our concepts about suicide, war, fraternity, God and memory by what our immediate elders, schools, topography, or society is teaching us. (By topography, I mean our physical landscape, including schools, statues, theaters, etc.) That is one reason why Jim Jones fled with his tribe from the USA to build a community in Guyana anew.
In this way, Jonestown in Guyana could be built up from one side to look like a very idyllic community here on Earth, where race and gender didn’t matter and where other artifacts of America’s racial, political-economic and social messes and injustices were banned.
On the other hand, as one watched the film (in German) about the Jonestown camp, one realized immediately that what was being narrated was the story of a concentration camp.
Jonestown, like some military and concentration camps around the globe, was a camp where American radio and other news were not to be heard in 1977-1978.
The only news reports allowed in the camp were made-up news reports by Jim Jones and his immediate followers. In this context, Jones could drum into the inmate’s heads that America was killing itself in a horrible class war and that nuclear annihilation was coming on any day now.
Moreover, the inmates of Jonestown were told that the world hated them and that any day invaders from America might come to take away their dreams
REMEMBER: The USA government had been drumming this idea of a nuclear annihilation into the American children’s heads since World War II. Many of those adults in Jamestown Guyana had experiences as children the now-infamous duck-and-cover training at U.S. taxpayer expense in American schools growing up.

Similarly, many Americans who had stood by and allowed America in 2003 to be marched into a war in Iraq were in some ways victims of the same sort of control of media and mass propaganda of the Bush administration (acquired during the Reagan era)—carried out in the most systematic and efficient way from media-manipulation masters and charismatic leaders.

I believe that if counselors, churches and educators do not deal better with the past and memory, we will continue to repeat the debacles in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam.

What is required is that physical monuments (1) to the stupidity of war and (2) the crimes that have been done to Americans in the name of ideals or in the name of a faith—whether it is a faith in country or faith in a church—need to be immortalized in stone much more often than has been the case in U.S. developmental history to date.

The need for physical monuments and memorials in the American landscape becomes more important as the U.S. wages wars far from the continental USA (and bomb other nations remotely by their drone robot flights.)

America is already a place where people move away from their villages and towns quite regularly. Americans thus need to have constant physical reminders as to where they (and their people) have been and who they are.

Without the visual- and physical places of memory and commemoration, our children will never wrestle with their pasts as the Germans have been forced to.

The society cannot depend on TV or any single electronic nor print media to teach and raise citizens who are ready to fight for what is right—ie. when the government is wrong.

In conclusion, the physical place of mourning and loss of innocence needs to be much more ever-present in our lives (especially in the case of long distance war-making carried out by remote-control battalions.)

Without such monuments and memorials, we are no better educationally than many of the Middle Eastern Muslim lands where statues and memorials are forbidden in much of the public domain.

FAST FORWARD: Middle Eastern Suicide Cadres 2000-2009

In case you aren’t aware, many Muslims in the Middle East are quite certain that both Islam and the Koran ban images of people.

This is, of course, not correct at all.

Nonetheless, the ban against image laws have been in place in many Muslim regions for centuries. This means that in the many centuries when few Muslims in the Gulf Arab states could neither read nor write, there developed an overdependence on the spoken word for interpreting or acquiring one’s belief systems. Neither images of Islamic characters nor images of Koranic stories to be found anywhere.

Even today, there are not many pictures or statues for a community of religious believers to discuss or reflect on anywhere in most Gulf state lands. This is naturally why Muslims in many countries point-blank oppose images of Prophet Mohammed.

Behind this self-taught (or cultural) belief in (and tradition concerning) the prohibition of images, the authority of one’s elders is becomes primary to interpret and understand one’s world—even well into adulthood for many.

This is one reason (among many reasons) why so many young people in the Middle East and elsewhere fall for the message-controlled-by-authorities in these Gulf State (and neighboring) lands and end up ignoring what contrary views there are in our planets multimedia world.

This controlling of the message is one reason I wasn’t surprised to learn of the Iraqi women who is purported to be the Mother of Suicide Bombers in Iraq.

The martyr-making women is in her 50s. Her name is Samira Ahmed Dschassim.

After her capture, a video of Samira confessing to having persuaded dozens of Iraqi youth to go through suicide bombing training—i.e. to actually be prepared to die in such suicide attacks all over Iraq. Samira’s motherly face has been shown repeatedly on Iraqi TV and around the world this past week.

Samira claims to have persuaded already around 80 young Iraqis to sign up to become mass-killing suicide-bombers, claiming that the only-way-out for them to have a better life is through suicide.

In the case of many young suicide-bombing girls, these young ladies often had been attacked and raped by some people known by Samira.

In their shock and consternation, these young women then turned to Samira for help. (In these same Middle Eastern lands, a non-virgin unmarried girl is threatened with death or shame over the whole family.)

In short, Al-Qaida, for whom Samira indirectly was active for in Iraq, was doing what Hitler, Jim Jones, and the Bush-Cheney administration had done.

They played on the fact that they could control information and manipulate the youth and adults whom they worked with by playing on love for culture, faith, tribe, or family/.

Recall that in the Iraq of the Baathist (or Sadam Hussein) era that the media and PUBLIC ART was controlled by the Baath party. Only Sadam Hussein and Baathist party statues or monuments could be created in those days.

Starting in 2003, there would be no more statues from Saddam Hussein and the despondent youth and adults in Iraq reverted to pre-Baathist cultural and religious identities.

In the last 6 years, there were few alternative memorials created in Iraq—even in the ruins for the world that Hussein had left behind and that Americans and their allies had helped create.

Ruins, however, remind only of loss and do not teach the stupidity of endless wars and other educational factors cultivated in Iraqi poverty of recent decades.

The U.S. should both build memorials to this war of stupidity in the USA and leave memorials that can teach peace and reconciliation whenever they leave (or after they have left) a land. Like the German government, American church’s and states need to even pay in foreign countries for monuments of apology, which are to be maintained for eternity to remember the crimes to be commemorated.

What do you think?

In the meantime, religious leaders must control their messages less and teach adults and children to identify stupidity where they see it.

Moreover, I believe that church leaders or mosque leadership need to stop using the terms suicide or martyr for what is a cruel and horrific act of self immolation, i.e. with each suicide bomber or freedom fighter. (This includes soldiers of nations who considered themselves to be freedom fighters as they invaded Iraq.)

Only by building permanent education campaigns which include permanent memorials as historical witness for crimes will we grow up spiritually and mentally as nations and statesmen.

Appendix 1: Anniversaries in 2009 of last 300 years of German history

As some of the readers of my writings may have noticed, I am spending a bit of time this year in Germany. This is a particularly interesting year to be in Germany witnessing the struggle which present day Germans always face in dealing with history, culture, and religious heritage.

You see…. This is the 20th anniversary of the Wall separating East and West Germany being opened up.

2009 is also the 60th anniversary of the modern federal German democratic republic.

2009 is the 65th anniversary of the failed coup of von Stauffenburg and other generals.

It is the 70th anniversary of Hitler’s Nazi Germany invading both Czechoslovakia and Poland, i.e. officially kicking off the European portion of WWII. (It is also when the Nazis signed a secret treaty to divide up Poland and the Baltic states.)

2009 is the 75th Anniversary of President Hindenburg’s passing away and Hitler taking over all governmental leadership posts in Nazi Germany. Only months before the Nazis murdered the Austrian Chancellor Dolfuss.

2009 is the 90th anniversary of the somewhat unequal Treaty of Versailles.

It is the 95th anniversary of the start of WWII.

2009 is the 120th anniversary of the birth in Austria of one Adolf Hitler.

It is the 160th anniversary of the Hohenzollern turning down the crown from the first Democratic National Assembly in Frankfurt.

2009 is 175th anniversary of the first major European customs union, i.e. putting Germany on the path to becoming a federal state.

It is the 195th anniversary of the start of the Congress of Vienna, which under Austrian and Prussian leadership would redraw the map of Europe.

2009 is the 220th anniversary of the French revolution, which eventually leads to the invasion and transformation of Germanic Kingdoms across the continent.

It is the 300th anniversary of the Catholic Union being formed, which eventually helped lead nearly a decade later to the 30 Years War.


American Wars,

American Wars, American Peace,

American Experience—Vietnam Online,

American Wars—In Whose Interest?

Cultural Memory,


Honor Our Fallen,

A Fearful War to Remember,

The Forgotten War,

In the Long Shadow of the Vietnam War,

Jonestown: Life and Death of the People’s Temple

Let the Dead Bury the Dead,

Memorial Day 2005,

Mind Games,

Mr. Roberts and American Remembering,

Really Remember the Alamo,

Remember American Veteranos,

Remember Beirut,

Remember the Bufallo Soldier,

Remember the Cost of War,,15202,98712,00.html

Remember the Filipinos in War,

Remember the Maine,

Remember the Philippines War?

Remember American-Indian War Veterans Memorial,

Remember African-Americans in Civil War,

Remember the Yom Kippur War,

Remembering American Occupation of Munich,,1518,354029,00.html

Remembering American Soldiers with Little Red Sweaters,

Remembering Black American Loyalties,

Remembering France,

Remembering the Forgotten War,

Remembering a Treaty,

Remembering John Ripley,

Remembering our Bloodiest War,

Remembering One War,

Remembering Falluja,

Remembering War: A U.S.-Soviet Dialogue,

Remembering “the Good War”,

Remembering Which Victims?

Remembering those Who lost the War,

Remembering World War II,

Remembering World War II, The Revisionists have Got it Wrong,

Remembering the Vietnam War

Remembering the Victims of Those Who Profit from War,

The War Dead,

Veteran Museum,


Your Memories,



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