Not Past It - Nazi Battle to Pop Musical?

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Hey, not past it listeners.

We’ve got something a little different for you this week.

We’re calling it a historical domino effect.

You know that thing where you line up a bunch of bright Domino’s and then you tip over that first one and it hits the next one and the next one and the next one and it goes like this is an idea that’s actually inspired by a viral Tick.


Tock that asked what’s a random historical domino effect.

You absolutely love.

This came from ER Haytham J.

So shout out.

Well, in our version, each Domino will be a mini history story, that leads you to the next event in a chain reaction.


And we’ll end up at a completely different place than where we started on today’s episode.

We’re going back, 80 years ago this week to June 22nd 1941 the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, but that’s just where we’re starting.


Because sometimes the darkest moments in our history can trigger some of the most joyful ones.

From gimlet media.

This is not past it a show about the stories.

We can’t quite leave behind.

I’m Simone polenin.

We’ve done the hard work, folks.


The dominoes are all lined up.

So let’s knock em down after the break.

Before we get started with our game of historical dominoes to make this a little more fun.


It is my pleasure to have my dear friend, the Beautiful, the lovely, the incredibly intelligent Mary Halliwell.



All right.

Thank you so much for having me Simone.

It is my deepest pleasure.

Maybe before we get started, we should tell the audience.

How do we know each other?

We went to college together and I just sort of been a loving admirer of yours ever since.


So if I feel like before I knew you, I was like, oh I could never be friends with Mary.

She’s like, way too cool for me.

So I have a story for you.

I’m going to take you on a journey through time.

Are you ready?


Oh, yeah.

Domino number one.

So, we are going to begin our chain of events in World War II World War II.

Okay, the second one number two on the second world war.


Yeah, for you.

I’m curious.

What comes to mind when you think of World War Two?

Oh my God, I guess predominantly the Holocaust would be the now thing World War II for me.


I think that’s the case for a lot.

Of people understandably.


So, you know, most of us know about the Holocaust during which 11 million people were killed, which included six million Jews, but also black people gay people, Roma people.

And the goal of this being essentially to cleanse the world of this undesirable population, you know, and thighs of the Nazis and their goal was to build a totally Aryan.


Nation full of, you know, blond-haired, blue-eyed white people.

Yeah, but the Holocaust was just one strategy in this larger goal of building.

This world wide area and Empire.

Another strategy that the Nazis used was this idea of laban’s ROM, which in German basically means living space.


Which just feels like a really gentle way to say like, oh, we are invading other countries, taking their land.

The setting up shop.

And this brings us to 80 years ago this week because one of the countries, that the Germans invaded was the Soviet Union.


The Soviet can go back a long way.

Russia is a vast country.

She can afford to yield if need be more devastated miles all the time, lowering the Germans into a Barren Wilderness Which is far indeed from Hitler’s bursted, expectations of Swift easy Victory.


So this Invasion began on June 22nd 1941.

And it was called Operation Barbarossa.

What is that all about?

Well, we actually talked to a historian Roger, moorhouse.

He specializes in German and polish history.


Yeah, it’s still, I think the largest military invasion in history across the Thousand Mile front, three and a half million men.

It’s absolutely vast in its conception all the way from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

The ought the entire area of that front line between Germany and the Soviet Union.



So Operation Barbarossa is this massive attack and really massive in the sense of like just the amount of land that they’re invading because again, this goes back to this idea of laban’s ROM, which is creating this living space but not for the people who already live there.


This is for the future Aryan Empire that the Nazis are trying to build one thing.

We have to bear in mind when with talking about Barbarossa.

Course, is that this is an ideologically driven race wall.

And so obviously, as the Nazis are invading these territories, you know, there are already people living in these places.


And so the Nazis, what they try to do as they try to exterminate Exile or enslave as many of the existing population as possible and they do over the course of the war.

They do that to millions of people on the Nazis do this with the goal of basically conquering.


Land, killing the people procreating, and repopulating that land with Aryans.

And that brings us to number two.

So the Germans are building their area, an Empire on these invaded territories, these conquered lands.


And as a part of that they’re on the hunt for children that fit the Aryan Beauty standard and when I say they’re on the hunt for them, what I really mean is there like essentially, they’re abducting these kids.

The Nazis are going out looking for area and looking children and abducting them to be a part of their own Aryan Empire.


Jesus Christ.


Yeah, Levens.

ROM was like living space.

So invading territories to use that land for the area and Empire, and hand in hand with that is another Nazi policy with its own political association, called lebensborn, which means fount of life.


And it’s all about populating that space.

It’s such a weirdly, like, gross Lee like Whimsical term for something.

That’s like, so, Gusting.

Oh my God, right?


Here’s Roger moorhouse, again than any child that sort of fitted, those criteria would essentially be brought to Germany would be raised as a German word.


Very often be given to childless SS families, for example, and would be raised in some German orphanages and children’s homes and so on which is really I mean hideous actually.

It’s like no fucked-up thing.


Should surprise me that the Nazis would do but like that’s also incredibly fucked up.

Yeah, like you would you don’t expect to be surprised by like how horrible Nazis can be and yet like we still are and unfortunately it does get worse or maybe continues to be horrific, which is that part of this lebensborn program was So finding non-german women, who looked suitably Aryan, and forcing them to have children, with SS soldiers.


That’s insane.

She’s so, we’re essentially talking about, you know, state-sanctioned raped at this point.

This is like handmaid’s tale.

It is very handmaid’s tale.

I didn’t even think about that.

So in pursuit of this lebensborn program, where do you think the Germans went to?


Find their area and looking people.

Yeah, I mean, I would guess like somewhere in the North like I’m picturing like blond-haired Scandinavian type like double braids milkmaids type thing.


That’s right.

You gotta ride ding.

Ding, ding, ding ding.

Yes, the Nazis did.

I think I got excited about all?

I’m excited for you getting the answer, right?

I’m not excited for the reality of the Events were talking about very important distinction.


Got to kind of make that clear, but you are right.

The Nazis did make their way to the Northern parts of Europe to the Scandinavian countries and specifically to Norway which was under German occupation from April of 1942 May of 1945.


So for a solid five year, period, Norway was under German occupation, which is not something I personally learned about it.

School, I don’t know about you.

I didn’t mind that either and that’s like, more or less like the whole War, right?


And during that five-year, occupation, several thousand Norwegian women had their children fathered by German soldiers as a part of this lebensborn program.


Did you learn about this when you were learning about World War II in school?

Absolutely not.



For sure.

You feel like that’s something that would do like stuck.

Yeah, it’s wild.

Because like 10 to 12,000 kids came from this lebensborn program, but where did they live?


And what actually happened to these kids?

Well, I can tell you about one of them and this brings us to jump it on number three.

One of the kids born out of this lebensborn.


Experiment was named.

Any freed links Dot, and she was conceived at the tail end of the war and was born right after it ended.

Do you know who I’m talking about?

No, I don’t.


All right, great good.

So the mystery continues, so any freed actually leaves Norway.

She moves to Sweden with her mother after.

The war’s over, you know, she never meets her father.

She doesn’t know anything about him.


Basically, any Friedan her mom moved to Sweden to lead a new life.

And he freed gets involved in music at a young age and she actually becomes a dance band singer.

And she gets into singing, sort of these like light Breezy pop songs think like Bossa Nova tracks, but translated into Swedish.


Should, are you there?

You fixed rate.

That should be a Spotify playlist for sure.


We just Bossa Nova And so and we actually talk to somebody about this.


We talk to Carl Magnus Palm, who is a music writer?

And he’s an expert on one particular band that I’m not going to name yet.

But he is very familiar with any freed.

She had a breakthrough in the talent contest in 1967, and she she all of a sudden she was on national TV and Sweden, only had one channel at the time.


So you can imagine Impact that made and she got a record contract and all of a sudden, you know, you know, everyone in Sweden know who she was.

So at this point and he freed star is rising, right?


That’s around this time that she needs.

Three, very important people to her life.

They are named Benny Bjorn.

And on Yetta.

Oh my God, and they eventually form a band and side note.

Any freed also goes, by the name, Frida.


Anyway, so jump to 1969 Beyond gets together with an onion.

So they get romantically involved and around the same time.

The same thing happens with Benny, and Heda, so now you have like two you have to songwriters.

You have two singers and you have to romantic couples and what’s the first thing they do?


They go into Cabaret because Cabaret was quite a big thing in Sweden at the time.

So, you know, Lounge singing Cabaret.

It’s pretty much the same thing.

Pretty good acted.

So you’ve got this kind of incestuous band going made up of two couples.

They’re making their music and they’re doing fine in Sweden, but they don’t really break out the beyond that because, you know, all their music is in Swedish.


They decide they’re going to record a song in English.

I’m so thrilled right now.

All right, and their band name is an acronym for their names.


You’ve got on Yetta, Benny Bjorn and Annie freed.

Oh my God, they are their best possible destination.


I mean talk about girls.

Is that next we get to Merrill.




We are going to got your head in the right place.

But before we get to Merrill, we have the birth of ABBA and we’re about to go to their big break at the 1974 Eurovision song contest.


But before we get there, we have to take a little break.

So since you’re the guest Mary, I would love it.

If you could do me the honor.

Of throwing to the break if you could do your best post impression.


Oh my God, stay tuned after this break Eurovision 1994, 1984, 74 your clothes night.


How could it possibly have been nicely want to be 1994, but that’s okay.


Before the break we time traveled all the way from Operation Barbarossa in 1941 and the Soviet Union to the Nazis laban’s born program in Norway where we met any freed and we just found out that any freed is a member of ABBA.


So now we’re getting to the fun part.

An ABBA is about to have their big break at Eurovision 1974 specifically that year.

There are people who have lived, pre Abba, sadly for that.


Wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

So Eurovision, is this annual song contest where countries from all over Europe compete against each other?

It’s like I think yeah, it feels like it’s a cross between like the Olympics and The Hunger Games and American Idol, but with the budget of like a small nation, it’s like huge.


And in 1974 that is the Eurovision where Abba made their massive International Splash and we’re moving out across and just sweet the largest of the Scandinavian countries.

And do, you know what song they debuted was?


Oh my God, I don’t I hope it’s Dancing Queen, but I can’t be it’s not they actually debut their classic track Waterloo.


They did Waterloo.

Yeah, that’s like one of the best one by Abba for Sweden.


Watch this one.

And so let me bring Carl and again and I can say now the band that he’s an expert in is obviously Abba.

Oh my god.

Dream job the day before you revision.


No one outside.

Scandinavia knew they were the day after Eurovision.

Everyone in Europe knew who they were and the United States soon.

Followed Australia soon followed, you know, the entire planet, some followed.


So that was, that was their big break through that kind of establish them as a pop band for for the entire world.

So, Eurovision was the stage that launched Abba and to Global Fame.


And actually, right after this is, I love this.

I just the power of this band.

Okay, right after they have their Eurovision performance.

They release their self-titled.

ABBA album in 1975, which gives us hits like Mamma Mia and SOS, which I’m sorry to debut of the Waterloo and then to follow up with Mama.


Me and Sol like it’s an absolute tour de force.


I like a superhuman levels of like pop Perfection.

They never stop.

They don’t even slow down, you know, like it’s just bottom after Bob, top Relentless perforation.


Oh, yeah.

If you’re listening and you’re like, just play a full ABBA song already, I legally can’t do that.

But we took your advice Mary and we did make a Spotify playlist with some of these gems.


It’s linked in our show notes, go check it out.


Currently one of my housemates is obsessed with Abba.

So it’s like kind of always playing in my house.

So this is really nice.

I guess my mom really loves them.

And I feel very aware of their like impeccable fashion sense.


Well, huh.

Cub, I want to go dancing so badly, but all I like, I need somebody to in 2021, just spin a pure, Abba party.

I loved the joyful songs, the Dancy songs, but I also loved those like, heartfelt ballads.


Yes, the bat like it’s really dig into like, yeah, but emotion.

Yeah, raw and beautiful.


Oh my God, you’re in chained by your own Sorrows.

Like, she’s like you.


Shakespeare like, what?


Okay, but that is all to say.

Like I have a deep deep deep.

Deep love for Abba.

And I think the rest of the world does too.



Because This leads us into Domino number four.

So after a decade of chart-topping, success around the world, Benny and Bjorn get approached by this theater, producer named Judy Kramer.


So, you know, Judy approached them with this idea of making a musical.

And their one request was like, sure, just don’t make it about us, so Judy, Kramer and her team take all of the ABBA songs and they write a totally original story to go with them and they call the musical Mamma Mia.


Oh my God.

The musical Mamma Mia premieres on the west end in London in 1999 and then on Broadway in New York in 2001.

And do you know the story of the show of Mamma Mia story of a young girl who doesn’t know who her father is.


And then, I guess her mom had had three boyfriend’s at some point and then she like invites all of them to like come, is it to her wedding?

She invites them to her own wedding.

Yeah, and then like You know, fun hijinks ensue if she tries to figure out.

The thing that’s really important about this thing, isn’t necessarily figuring out like, who the dad is, it’s really understanding that love makes the world go round, and we must cultivate as much love as possible Among Us and characters end up discovering new things about themselves and you know, opening new doors to new emotions, but it’s really a party musical.


I mean, it’s like, it’s for love.

Hours of ABBA to sort of watch the story unfold, but really like, hear the music bring this world to life.

So the Broadway musical is a huge hit and that leads us to number five.


It’s 2008 and this trailer comes out, every girl has a dream, the perfect wedding.

And I want my father to give me away.

Look at my baby, your whole life.

Every family.

I read.


Mom’s diary has a secret and I have three possible fathers.

Oh my God, which one?


I just love that.

We have like the biggest grids, like just listening to the trailer like this.


Matt doesn’t say anything about the power of this.


The movie was directed by Philadelphia Lloyd and starred Meryl.

Streep Colin, Firth.

Amanda Seyfried, and I mean, just a host of other incredible actors and the film was shot in Greece, and actually apparently Pierce Brosnan signed on to The film sight, unseen.


Just knowing that, it was starring Meryl, Streep.

And that I would be shot in Greece.

Good instincts, Pierce.

It’s really like, I would like, Would we not all do the same?


Hey, come to Greece and Meryl Streep’s going to be there, right?


Yeah, you say last school.

So the movie is incredibly popular makes an insane amount of money.

How much money do you think it made of?

Box office.



I don’t know how any economy works, but I’m gonna guess a hundred and ninety-five million dollars.

Mamma Mia, the movie made over 600 million dollars.

Oh my God. 600, you know, there’s six hundred million dollars and the worldwide box office and that’s actually more than Twilight which came out that same year Mamma Mia made more money than Twilight.


Oh my God like Mamma Mia beat out preteen girl dollars.

That’s my Serve, but I’m certain amount of money.

That is insane and they often of those dollars were definitely mine.

I absolutely side of the Earth.


So before we wrap up, I just want to reiterate the journey that we’ve been on, you know, we started off in the Soviet Union in the early 40s, and we ended up, like, in the most, like beautiful, like, movie musical disco party celebration Extravaganza.


It’s tempting to sort of be like, oh, you know, we wound up at this beautiful place and, you know, it’s Ending with this disco ball of happiness and everyone but it’s like there’s still that kind of like Paul over it of the just absolute the heartbreaking things that led to it.


Like it’s just I don’t know.

It’s a really complicated thing, but I think there is something really beautiful about imagining people all around the world that year when the film came out like putting together that amount of money to go see and just like smiling.


Mile at the screen for two hours.

That’s just like a very nice.

Happy worldwide.

Thought I guess.

And I feel like, you know, this this idea of this being like a domino effect, you know, it’s this idea that like one event topples over into the next and leads into the next, but like, you don’t know what each Domino is going to be, right?


Like, you don’t really know like when that Domino is toppling over, whether it’s going to lead into a positive event, or a negative event, and there’s like this.

Unpredictability to how these like historical events fold and to one another.


We are very invested in like trying to figure out a pattern or try to figure out, you know, just have some kind of predictability something to Anchor to.


Because you’re always trying to figure out like, okay, like this causes this causes this but then it’s like sometimes it’s just yeah, it’s unpredictable.


All right, Mary.

We’ve come to the end of our journey.

Thank you so much.

Thank you.

This has been so much fun and so like enlightening.

So thank you so much.

Well, it’s been such a pleasure to have you.

You’re welcome back anytime and actually before we go, I’m feeling like we should probably go to Eurovision next year right on.


It’s a done deal.

If I don’t see you before your vision 2022.

I’m going to I feel like five minutes.

So 5i.

Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp.


Media next week.

We’re going to the movies.

It didn’t give me nightmares or make me wanna rip.

Anybody else’s heart.

I’ve never wanted to rip.

Somebody’s heart.

Good, good, good to hear.


This episode was produced by Jake, Maya are low, Kinsey Clark, and Sarah, Craig Julie, Carly is our associate producer.

Laura Newcombe is our intern.

The supervising producer is Erica Morrison editing by Andrea be Scott and Zach Stewart Ponte a fact-checking by Jane, Ackerman sound design and mixing by Bobby, Lord and Jake Nyah.


Arlo original music, by Sachs kicks, Ave.

Willie Green.

J bless and Bobby.


Our theme song is Toko Liana by Coco, Co with music supervision by Liz Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin.


And Talia Rahman, the executive producer.

Dad’s DSP media is Zach Stewart Ponte a the executive producer from gimlet is Abbie.

Ruzicka, special.

Thanks to Dave, Schilling, Lydia Pole Green, Dan Behar and Clara Sankey Emily wiedemann list Styles and Nabil.


Cholan pot.

Follow, not past it.

Now, to listen for free exclusively on Spotify.

Don’t forget to check out our special Abba playlist and follow me on Twitter at Simone, polenin.

Thanks for Hangin.

We’ll see you next week.