Longform’s Picks of the Week

Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.   Being the Son of a ...

EPA/SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER; ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images; Bruce Bennett/Getty Images; WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images
EPA/SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER; ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images; Bruce Bennett/Getty Images; WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images
EPA/SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER; ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images; Bruce Bennett/Getty Images; WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform's new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.

 

Being the Son of a Nazi, Nicholas Kulish and Souad Mekhennet, The Atlantic.

Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.

 

Being the Son of a Nazi, Nicholas Kulish and Souad Mekhennet, The Atlantic.

In 1975, Rüdiger Heim landed in Egypt with one question on his mind: Was his father a Nazi? Over the next two decades, he found out. 

“Aribert Heim lived at the Karnak Hotel, of which he was a partial owner. He had a small room with a view of Midan Ataba, the square where the twisting lanes of Islamic Cairo met the orderly grid of the European quarter. It was one of several property investments he had made in Egypt. The purchases were complicated by ownership rules that forbade foreigners to buy property, but with the help of local partners he owned a share of the post-war building in Cairo, an apartment in Alexandria, and a plot of land he was trying to develop in the coastal resort of Agamy Beach. He intended to show them all to his son. He had many plans-and even more opinions. 

The boy wanted to ask about his father’s sudden departure from Germany in 1962 and the reasons behind it, but he never found the right moment. Questions about Heim’s military service and possible war crimes were never broached. Instead Rüdiger studied his father, asking himself, ‘Is this how a Nazi behaves? Was he one?’ Rüdiger’s notion of Nazis was based on Hollywood films, which presented those Germans as racists who felt justified in exterminating those to whom they felt superior. They were people who killed without being troubled by the act.” 

 

Sarajevo: The Crossroads of History, Simon Kuper, Financial Times Magazine. 

On a street corner here 100 years ago, a 19-year-old Serb nationalist shot the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and triggered the first world war. The assassin, Gavrilo Princip, is still a potent and divisive symbol.

“‘Sophie, Sophie, don’t die! Stay alive for the children,’ the dying Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand urged his wife as she slumped over him in the open-topped sports car. But Gavrilo Princip’s shot had already killed her. A bodyguard asked Franz Ferdinand if he was in pain. ‘It’s nothing!’ he replied repeatedly. Those were his last words. 

If Princip could return today to the scene of his crime, he’d recognise almost every corner of Sarajevo’s old town, well restored since the Serbian siege of the early 1990s. The quay along which the royal couple motored to their deaths on June 28 1914 remains a pleasant backwater of Habsburg-era buildings, a sort of cut-price Vienna. The town hall, the last place the couple visited that lost summer morning, is now almost restored to its mock-Moorish splendour of 1914. Around the corner, locals in the medieval Ottoman bazaar are still drinking Bosnian coffee. Sarajevo is still a sleepy Balkan town, still dwarfed by its surrounding hills, still smelling of death.” 

 

The Chaos Company, William Langewiesche, Vanity Fair.

Wherever governments can’t-or won’t-maintain order, from oil fields in Africa to airports in Britain and nuclear facilities in America, the London-based “global security” behemoth G4S has been filling the void. 

“G4S is based near London and is traded on the stock exchange there. Though it remains generally unknown to the public, it has operations in 120 countries and more than 620,000 employees. In recent years it has become the third-largest private employer in the world, after Walmart and the Taiwanese manufacturing conglomerate Foxconn. The fact that such a huge private entity is a security company is a symptom of our times. Most G4S employees are lowly guards, but a growing number are military specialists dispatched by the company into what are delicately known as “complex environments” to take on jobs that national armies lack the skill or the will to do. Booyse, for one, did not dwell on the larger meaning. 

For him, the company amounted to a few expatriates in the Juba headquarters compound, a six-month contract at $10,000 a month, and some tangible fieldwork to be done. He felt he was getting too old to be living in tents and mucking around in the dirt, but he liked G4S and believed, however wearily, in the job. As he set out for the west, his team consisted of seven men-four de-miners, a driver, a community-liaison officer, and a medic. The medic was a Zimbabwean. All the others were soldiers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the S.P.L.A., now seconded to G4S, which paid them well by local standards-about $250 a month. At their disposal they had two old Land Cruisers, one of them configured as an ambulance with a stretcher in the back.” 

 

He Remade Our World, Mark Danner, New York Review of Books.

Why didn’t I know about this?
-George W. Bush

“Almost exactly a decade ago, Vice President Dick Cheney greeted President George W. Bush one morning in the Oval Office with the news that his administration was about to implode. Or not quite: Cheney let the president know that something was deeply wrong, though it would take Bush two more days of increasingly surprising revelations, and the near mass resignation of his senior Justice Department and law enforcement officials, to figure out exactly what it was. ‘On the morning of March 10, 2004,’ as the former president recounts the story in his memoirs, ‘Dick Cheney and Andy Card greeted me with a startling announcement: The Terrorist Surveillance Program would expire at the end of the day. ‘How can it possibly end?’ I asked. ‘It’s vital to protecting the country.’

The Terrorist Surveillance Program, then known to the handful who were aware of it only as ‘the Program’ or by its code name, ‘Stellar Wind,’ was a highly secret National Security Agency effort-eventually revealed by The New York Times in December 2005 and then in much greater detail by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last June. Among other things, Stellar Wind empowered the agency to assemble a vast collection of ‘metadata,’ including on the telephone calls and e-mails of millions of Americans, that its analysts could search and ‘mine’ for information.”

 

High-Speed Empire, Tom Zoellner, Foreign Policy

Chinese rail is sprawling, modern, and elegant. It’s also convoluted, corroding, and financially alarming. Wanna take a ride?

“The bullet train hurtles toward the industrial city of Taiyuan in northern China, and seemingly within seconds, the modern, smog-soaked Beijing skyline gives way to open fields. David Su is munching on pistachios in the bar car, careful that not a crumb hits his blue foulard scarf, as he heads some 320 miles to reach his early-morning appointment for a private equity firm. Over his shoulder, the Chinese countryside is a disembodied blur: farms and factories receding at the mind-aching speed of 186 miles per hour. Cars on a nearby highway seem to be creeping along by comparison. 

Su travels frequently for his job at Global Capital Investments Group, and he likes this new high-speed train, zipping along on one of several dozen lines built by the Chinese government in a decade-long blitzkrieg program that now has a price tag of $500 billion.

‘This will take a financial loss for a few years,’ he says, as the aerodynamic carriage rocks and sways. ‘But 10 to 20 years from now? This will turn out to be a great investment. I mean, look at it now. It’s full!’ He puts down his bag of pistachios to gesture to the car, where drowsy travelers are hidden behind newspapers, young hipsters are nodding along with their earbuds, and a group of policemen are playing a voluble game of cards: a workaday commuter scene in front of a hallucinogenic smear of color outside the windows.

China’s extraordinary high-speed train enterprise, officially launched in 2007, has often been held up as a grand case study for how a determined nation can build its way to prosperity. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has admiringly termed it a ‘moon shot’ of technological confidence, of a piece with China’s front-line work in aviation, biosciences, and electric cars. Trains make dozens of departures a day from supermodern stations with indoor gardens and mirror-like floors; the lead cars are needle-nosed, their trailing bodies majestic and sleek as swans; and young attendants in zinfandel-colored uniforms and berets serve wine, beer, and coffee.”

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