The Story of This Book
(Preface to The Savage Hits Back)
by Julius Lips
Above Lake Chibougamau rises a steep cone‑shaped mountain like the wizard‑dwelling of the Shaman. "Conjurer's mountain" the Indians call it, "cooshapachiken uachi." Occasionally a white manperhaps the manager of the near‑by Hudson Bay Company's posthas visited it, but never an Indian. Spirits and dwarfs dwell there, and mətci məntu, the red man's devil, and the Wi'tigo, who frightens children. The man who hopes for good hunting will do well not to climb that mountain: the mink and the beaver might shun his traps, and Mûck'W, the black bear, never come before his gun. No man would dare to camp upon those slopes, for dreams are heavy there, fraught with ill‑hap, and filled with the battles of the ghosts. Sleep eludes a man.
All this was told me by the Indians when they brought to my tent the mail that was weeks overdue. In the mail I found a letter from my English publisher asking me to write an introduction to this book, describing its adventures before it appeared in print. This was not precisely pleasant news, for the months I had lived with the Indians in the woods and on the lakes of Labrador had made me forget the experiences I went through under the Third Reich for this book's sake. All that was past, the work should speak for itself; why should I speak for it? Besides, I thought it better to avoid climbingeven in dreamsthe conjurer's mountain of Europe, to‑day called Germany. The spirits and the ghosts there might set on to battle. For, indeed, it seemed to me sometimes that what had happened in Germany had all been a dream. In these bright Labrador nights the Redskin is not the only one to dream; the paleface too imagines things of anguish and of wizardry. When I thought of this, it seemed as though a Shaman had frightened me with his mista’peo, his wizard spirit. But this letter from the white man's world reminded me that it was all real and no dream fantasy. And the publisher is sometimes, even for an ethnologist, a mightier spirit than all the magic of Lake Chibougamau.
So I tried to recall my life in the world of Europe, and the more I thought of it the more I felt that I owed my friends an apology. They had been very ready to help me collect the material for this book; it was undoubtedly my duty to explain the lateness of its appearance. Then, too, the history of the book began to interest me in itself, and this chapter became inevitable. I must confess that a year before it would have seemed to me to be the most important chapter of the whole work, for The Savage Hits Back was meant to have a twofold meaning. But in the familiar happiness of new work all my personal experience had become only a stage in the progress toward new knowledge which pointed, not back, but forward. Writing this chapter was a question not merely of recounting a personal experience and personal knowledge but of registering a historical occurrence, making a contribution to the story of the philosophy of violence which the Third Reich is employing against science and intellect and thinking men in general.
It is true that here in Labrador this kingdom of violence was as far removed as Ursa Major, the 'Fisher Star'. The Indians have no word for Germany, and no notion of the things which are going on there. It is too far awaythat is what they think. Two of these Algonquian Indians fought in the Canadian contingent on the Western Front against Germany, that is, at that time, against me. They learnt the white man's arts of war, but far above these they value the feelings of justice and humanity that guide their own people. These Indians have become my best friends in America. I came, at the request of Columbia University, to collect and study their principles of law. And truly, in this sphere of law what a stretch it is from the barbarians of the Third Reich to the 'primitive' men of Labrador! What moral heights, what humanity, and what immemorial justice do the simple codes of the social life of these Indians show, compared with the new German law.
Reflecting on this, I realized that I had a duty. And so from my personal documents and experiences, I will tell the simple facts connected with this book.
Voyages of discovery into the territories of tribes the white man is all too ready to despise strengthened in me that modesty which is, especially for the ethnologist, a healthy virtue. And I was amazed at the countless times the white man bad felt impelled to write his thoughts about the world of coloured peoples, and his own subjective appreciation and criticism of so‑called primitive civilizations. There seemed to be no portion of the lives of these tribes that had not been investigated by a white explorer. It occurred to me that out of scientific curiosity and respect for the dignity and individuality of these other peoples one might come down from the stage of civilization and mingle with the people who sat below in darkness, not only to look into their faces, but above all to listen to their speech, their jests, and their criticisms of the white man. True, these red, black, yellow, and olive faces looked upward to the white actors, but did they really think them gods? Not by any means. This modern Haroun‑al‑Raschid heard some astounding opinions of himself and his kind. Not only did he see the white man as a clown with sensitive feet and stunted instincts appearing in the black man's theatrical compositions, and hear the white man's peculiarities hurled at his coloured brother as terms of abuse, but he lived the life of these people. He followed the artist of the primeval forest and the steppe, of the islands and the savannas to his primitive studio, and there saw him shape with his simple tools his pictures of the white man; and these pictures were so devoid of pity, so sharp in their criticism and so true, that the onlooker was tempted to shroud his face before them. What he saw was unexpected, full of knavery and genius, and inexorable.
Understanding and fascination together brought to growth the idea of collecting the artistic work of coloured people who knew the white manthe work in which they recorded their comment with censure, buffoonery, astonishment, misunderstanding. The unknown artist should have his say at last, with the sky for his north light, and his tools a piece of wood or iron, a mussel shell, or a piece of ochre: I set to work to assemble a collection of pictures which would speak for this unknown artist, since for the most part he has no other writing. This would be his opportunity to take vengeance upon his colonizer, or to honour the white man's mode of living and blend it with the magic of his own world of ideas. Whatever the result, the dumb mouth and the wilderness should find voice. The savage hits back.
The years 1929 to 1932, I spent in journeys through Europe and Africa. My material accumulated and became more and more diverse. Collectors and museums the world over assisted me by readily placing at my disposal illustrations from their stocks of exhibits. And as 1932 drew to a close the process of collecting and examining was finished. The work could be begun.
The Savage Hits Back could not be published in my own country. For on 30th January, 1933, Herr Adolf Hitler, hailing from Bohemia, became Chancellor of the German Reich. This apparently merely political event affected every private life, every intellectual pursuit, and every German study, and caused, as we all know to‑day, not only the distortion but sometimes the very annihilation of all German science. A few weeks of this regime were to prove to every scholar that objective work upon any kind of scientific question, no matter what its nature, had become impossible. For the National Socialist State demanded of its officials not simple tolerance or loyalty, but 'totality'. It required that the books and acts of every scholar should take the officially established colour, and that a man who had hitherto been a good German and a citizen of the world should now become an active National Socialist. What this meant was soon announced by the new Rector of Frankfurt University, Ernst Krieck, who, as deputy of the Minister of Education, outlined the National Socialist educational programme: "The task of the universities is not to teach objective science, but the militant, the warlike, the heroic." The militant? The warlike? As a volunteer for my country I had formerly taught my soldiers at the front "the militant, the warlike, the heroic", and tried to set them an example. But as a German university professor I felt it my duty to teach my students knowledge, neither Protestant, Catholic, nor Jewish, neither French nor German, but knowledge in its struggle towards the understanding and exploration of the truth.
And then suddenly the trumpets of long‑forgotten days rang out again, and the war cry of the incompetent and the noisy filled the country. Yet worse than that, there was lunacy. For the new Imperial Minister of Justice, Dr. Frank, pronounced the words of the rubric: "Hitler is lonely. So is God. Hitler is like God."
It became plain, however, that not Hitler alone was God: he had set up vest‑pocket images of himself; these too were gods. They all had authority not only over the private life of the German people, but over their religion, their art, and their science. There was no compromise with such 'totality'. And surely, hardly any science had been so wounded as had mine, the science of anthropology, by the demands of a racial dogma, by the intolerant overestimation of one single family of speech. I preferred therefore in March, 1933, to lay down the offices that I held for life, the directorship of the Cologne Rautenstrauch‑Joest Museum, and my professorship. Alas, I was the only 'Aryan' ethnologist to do so. For when it came to the decision which the representatives of my branch in particular had to make between the surrender of their position, and the surrender of their scientific honour, they made considerable haste to assure their material existence. Anyone who had thought that the ethics of university professors could be measured by a higher standard than that of the average job‑holder found he was mistaken.
Among the intellectuals it was the men who had been unsuccessful professionally and were unstable in character who swam to the surface in the new crisis. The large majority of professors awaited immediate developments; their silence may perhaps be excused and explained by the psychology of the German scholar. But the active co‑operation of the German intellectuals in the war waged by a political party upon humanity, justice, and truth, in other words upon civilization, will for ever remain a stain upon the white scutcheon of German science and the German nation. Even today I am convinced that a unanimous protest from the whole German professoriat, the teachers, artists, editors, and authors, combined with the immediate closing of the schools, universities, and art centres, would have prevented the Hitler government from coming into power. But the professors and intellectual bodies held their tongues. They proved unequal to the situation, which demanded a unanimous and total civil courage. They could muster only military courage, and no martial battlefield was available.
For this inaction the universities immediately had to pay. Their centuries‑old constitutions and administrations, once their pride, were brought to an end, freedom to teach and to learn was annihilated, and the position of the professor as an official was abolished. He was degraded to the position of a jobbing‑labourer in a political party, which could arbitrarily remove him to any other position. The Führer became the higher court, even in scientific and educational questions. On 1st May, 1935, he proclaimed to the German people: "My will shall be your creed."
This refusal of intellectual Germany to act is all part and parcel of the psychology of the German. The German soldier was courageous in the World War, but the German citizen proved himself a coward in 1933. The realization of their political instability was for most Germans themselves a surprise. But herein precisely lies the hope for the future, in the possibility of a sudden astonishing change in public opinion under definite conditions. The old German civilization is, after all, too healthy and too resistant to put up with Hitler's prophesied thousand years' kingdom of uncivilization. The people are well schooled to endure material hardships, but to the muzzling of the mind and the continued retrogression of civilized life they will not submit.
From now on the daily papers prescribed what was to be taught and what was to be believed, from the pulpit to the lecturer's desk. Professors were compelled, whether lecturing on the Euclidean conception of the world, on narcosis, or the Minnesang, to begin and end their lectures by raising the right arm and repeating "Heil Hitler!"
Happy was the man who possessed a house, an island of peace in the midst of the babel of new slogans. For any man who wished to live for science in those days could do nothing but withdraw to the silence of his own study and there work upon problems which had nothing to do with the noise of marching feet. This was what I had done, and before me lay completed this collection of pictures, testimony to an honourable contemplation and appreciation of the spirit of man in every continent and people.
But outside was 'totality', and if any man undertook to avoid it he was hunted out of his shell, threatened, if authority required it, deprived of the necessities of life, and allowed no peace till he crawled to the cross or was extinguished.
In my case they began by forbidding me the use of all public libraries, and by withholding from me my private scientific books which were in the Rautenstrauch‑Joest Museum. My successor as director there was one of my own students, not yet a graduate. After Hitler seized power, this man appeared in the role of an old partisan of the Nazi party, and at once began with fine talent to represent the total state. His execution of the Nazi programme first found expression in an order forbidding me to enter the museum, the scene of my long years of work. He assisted me with my private correspondence by personally opening and reading letters addressed to me, and at times actually answering them, after which he omitted to hand the letters to me. I protested to the Minister of Education in Berlin against this interception and was informed that the Minister "sees no possibility of and no cause for interfering in the matter in question". My colleagues abroad who were surprised at my apparent want of courtesy in employing my secretary to answer their letters will have learned by now that a non‑Nazi in Germany has no right to correspond on scientific questions with friends in other lands.
It interested me to watch the increase of such characters as this new director and to see that the mania for being a good Nazi literally transformed the German world overnight, even affecting the most fundamental feelings of moral decency, respect for science, and respect for self.
My reactions to nightly attempts at my conversion by experts in the art of persuasion exasperated the authorities. All I desired from the Third Reich was peace for my work. But it became a point of Nazi honour to break my spirit. There were anonymous and threatening telephone calls, letters, official summonses to the police, and house visitations.
So I was hardly surprised when one day in March, 1933, another of my former students, who was applying for a job in the museum, appeared at y my home accompanied by the State Secret Police, to confiscate the material for The Savage Hits Back. This student knew all about this property of mine; he had, in fact, as my assistant, helped to mount the pictures. In the name of the Nazi State he required me to deliver up immediately my scientific material, inasmuch as the idea of the proposed work was contrary to the racial theories of the Führer, and the cardboards on which the pictures had been mounted came from the museum and therefore belonged to it. All this he imparted in brusque military tones, in the house where for years he had enjoyed hospitality; and he added that I was also to give up the articles I had for the fifth volume of Ethnologica, as he was to take over the editorship of this periodical from me. There he stood before me, speaking his lines in my study, attended by uniformed representatives of the State Secret Police armed with the Swastika. But it was curious that the teacher's old powers of suggestion were still strong enough to show this swaggering youth a way to the door with his purpose unaccomplished. For the theft of my own intellectual property was the last thing to which I was resolved to submit at the hands of this Government.
I have often asked myself why the interest of these two students was so abnormally concentrated on wresting these illustrations from me, and why to achieve this they invoked the help of their party and of the State machinery. In the museum itself there were already some blocks of the pictures, and many duplicates of the original photographs. Of course what they did not possess was my scientific working‑up of the illustrations, and this was probablyas was the case with the issue of the Ethnologicaall they really wanted, for up to that date they had no personal scientific results of any kind to show. This seemed to be an opportunity to steal the work of their teacher.
That they should receive the willing co‑operation of the Nazi party, and with it that of the State is perfectly intelligible, if we consider the general attitude of the Third Reich to the 'non‑Aryan' world. A black man's head, even in an ancient coat of arms such as that of Coburg, was replaced by the Government with a sword and swastika. A wrestling match with a black man in Nuremberg was forbidden by Herr Streicher, and pilloried as a "shame upon the race", and an "appeal to the lower instincts". Consequently an uproar was produced by the simple fact that a Cologne professor had lying in his house a manuscript the theme of which was the criticism of the white race by their coloured brethren. In addition there were among the illustrations portraits of high German military and Government officials which were the work of blacks, one of the 'lower races'. The mere possession of the pictures was a crime against the State, how much more criminal the attempt to publish them!
It may, however, be that such gross cases as those of these two job‑hunting students were infrequent in academic life. My other pupilsand these were in the overwhelming majorityby petitions to ministries and risk of their own persons showed unceasing and touching proof of their attachment. But many other German university professors have had similar unpleasant experiences, always with some student With an inferiority‑complex, some assistant who had received special help, and who interpreted such help as weakness. Men with a diseased ambition, who had been handicapped by physical or mental deficiencies, had suffered from overtension, and degenerated morally, thought this the right moment to compensate their inferiority. They sought to copy the hysterical manner of their master. The Nazi slogan itself, "The common weal before one's own," was in many respects only a means to achieve thoroughly personal and deplorable advantages. The philosophy and the conception of the State held by Genghis and Kublai Khan had triumphed, and the compass of their despotism was only a few degrees greater than that of the three moguls in Berlin.
But it was useless to reflect on the collapse of German civilization and principle. I had to come to an understanding with facts and draw my logical conclusions from them. When, therefore, on the day following the visit of my former student, officials of the State Secret Police again made a forcible entry into my home to rob me of the data which conceded the black man a human personality and in fact critical power, I had already taken measures to insure that not a single illustration should be within their reach, and that the manuscripts for Ethnologica which had been intrusted to me should be returned to their authors. The police left my house with threats.
Similar experiences of scientists and artists I knew left me completely convinced that I was only at the beginning of a deep‑laid scheme of chicanery. I had dared to defend my personal property against the total State. My disobedience had become a question involving the prestige of the local Nazi‑party organization.
And indeed every manner of annoyance followed; but every menace, every oppression, and every robbery was accompanied by an assurance that the persecution would cease if I would give up the pictures. So it happened that the title of this book became the motto of my life. The illustrations were safe, and my determination to defend them was irrevocable, even if I myself in persisting became a 'Savage'.
From now on I frequently had the pleasure of greeting officials of the State Secret Police in my home. On one occasion their pretext was a search for arms, on another they confiscated a great part of my reference library. My colleagues in anthropology will be interested to learn that among the books dangerous to the State were Schmidt‑Koppers's ethnological Streitschrift and Leopold von Wiese's little publication Die Soziologie des Dorfes. Added to this came the final loss of my special library which I had built up in the museum, my African photographs, and many ethnological objects that were my private property. And yet the loss of property, however vitally important and irreplaceable, was easier to endure than the calumnies and denunciationsweapons against which I was not accustomed to fight. When I was next invited to appear in the office of the State Secret Police, a number of crumpled leaves from a calendar were handed to me, which the new director of the museum had picked out of the waste‑paper basket in my office and clipped together. On these slips were notes of appointments and telephone calls which, as director of the museum, I had had with leading men in old Cologne. This was part of a modest attempt to convict me of treasonable opinions and was accompanied by the renewed command to deliver the illustrated material for The Savage.
Leaving the police station a little depressed, and returning home, I found on my desk a fresh summons to appear before another sub‑group of the same authorities, and over the week‑end once again had to give an account of myself to the State Secret Police at their central office.
On this occasion I was greeted with "How long have you been a Communist?" and a pamphlet issued by the Communist Rote Hilfe was thrust at me, which they alleged had been found in my home during one of their last visits. When I remained cool and unmoved, it came out that this was a trick commonly employed with refractory brainworkers. When I left them, it was not without some inward elation.
I must confess that I had pictured my seclusion under the Third Reich somewhat differently. I thought my attitude had been honest enough, and that I should be allowed at least peace for my work. But this idea of the illustrations had become a semi‑official mania; although only the students had seen them, it was now the State, i.e. the Nazi party, that wanted them. When in course of time the State Secret Police manoeuvres had proved too clumsy, it was decided to retain the criminal methods, but not to leave them in the hands of indifferent policemen; power was to be given to those who had a private interest in my 'annihilation'. Chief of these was the mayor of Cologne whose efforts to convert me to Nazi use had so far proved inadequate.
His strategy was different from that of the police. The material for his proceedings, the necessary expert and personal knowledge, he secured through the two students he had pushed into jobs. He had cultivated a feverish curiosity about the vanished pictures, which were supposed to be lurid with "nigger atrocities" and "insults to Hitler".
His first demand for the surrender of my property I ignored. So he wrote me a letter in which appeared the dangerous sentence: "The administration of the city of Cologne considers your conduct to be sabotage." This last word can be fully appreciated only by those who were in Germany in the year 1933, and who know that not far from this word rose the concentration camp. My friends had already advised me to leave the country at once. But a man does not so easily quit the land in which he has taken root, and he may refuse to yield to injustice and threats. I remained.
Of course, scientific work had been out of the question for a long time, but I was tempted to stake my own person on my rights. I was inquisitive, too, about the structure and the continuity of these methods of persecution. My curiosity was soon to be satisfied. For now in the name of the Nazi State itself a public accusation was launched against me.
I was the criminal, the scene of my criminal action the lavatory of a beer garden, the official co‑plaintiff the student and museum director. It was sworn that in this place I had told an acquaintance that the new director of the Rautenstrauch‑Joest Museum was an 'idiot'. The man who claimed to have heard this ran to a go‑between; the go‑between ran to the museum. Here, in conference, it was decided that this was an insult not to a student and museum director, put in office by the State, but to the State itself. The conspirators hurried to the town hall, where they obtained the necessary moral supportand later came the public accusation in the name of the Nazi State.
Though these charges were grotesque, the situation was quite dangerous, and I owe it to fortunate circumstances that on appeal I won this case, after having been condemned in the lower court to pay a very heavy fine. The reason for quashing the sentence was that the witness for the State was a lavatory attendant who had obviously been bribed and that there happened to be a gentleman on the Bench.
I hoped for peace now, and breathed more freely, especially as I had at last received confirmation of my official dismissal from the post of museum director, in accordance with paragraph 4 of the well‑known law dealing with the reinstatement of professional officials. This paragraph is sufficiently interesting to be quoted here, since every individual case in which it was employed involved a breach of the Constitution protecting the rights of officials, which Hitler solemnly swore to Hindenburg to obey. During Hitler's Government thousands of life‑officials have been dismissed under this paragraph:
"Officials whose previous activities do not offer tile assurance that they will invariably and without reserve support the National State may be dismissed. Their usual salary will be paid to them for a period of three months after dismissal. After three months they will receive three‑quarters of their pension and the relevant family dependants' pensions."
According to this paragraph which established the grounds for my dismissal, and which, since it was intended for publication, had a certain ring of truth about it, I was entitled to a pension, on which I proposed to live quietly in my own home. Soon, however, a telephone call from a high Nazi quarter (telephoning instead of writing was part of the technique) informed me that all persecutions would end at once if I would voluntarily renounce the pension and give up my hidden "Nigger pictures, which were a crime against the race".
So starvation was going to join robbery. I was assured that I should be allowed to starve in peace, and that was not a concession to be sneezed at. But I was nevertheless obstinate enough to say no, and again, no. I had studied law and, in consequence, the old superstition concerning the primacy of justice was still too strongly rooted in me for me to be willing to abandon it.
Consequently my persecutors had no course left but to prepare for the general attack. Their rather miserable imagination had previously extended only to a lavatory, and the modest figure of a former student supposed to have been insulted by me. Now they played their highest card. This time I was alleged, not to have attacked any small Nazi, not to have laid hands upon the authority of the State, but to have violated the omniscient person of God himself, governing a universe of swastika planets.
At last they had hit on the right inspiration, and they solemnly swore before the authorities that in a course of lectures in the winter of 1932 I had publicly said: "Adolf Hitler ought to be hounded out of Germany with a horsewhip."
In the winter of 1932, Adolf Hitler was, as a matter of fact, not sufficiently interesting to find his name in any course of lectures on "Society and law among primitive tribes", even in a marginal note; and moreover the sentence was not even invented by those who denounced me, but by the former president of the Berlin Police, and at a very much later date when it was more applicable.
But in any case it was too late now for discussions of fact. The oath had been taken. The situation was critical. The date was fixed for the trial. I had decided to appear, and should have done so, had not a telephone call from a man who had been left in his high office by the Nazis conveyed to me an explicit and well‑grounded warning. I realized that there was no point in joining this battle; any defence would be about as useful as telling a highwayman that he is doing wrong. I decided to leave my house at once, leave my town and my country, and seek a place in the world where I might live on my knowledge. I went to Paris.
The following day they appeared to arrest me. When, after repeated visits, they could find neither the pictures nor me, they contented themselves with keeping my wife as a hostage for the production of the manuscript, appointing a day for compliance, and forbidding her to leave the town.
Regard for the safety of my friends forbids a description here of the journey which the illustrations in this book had to take before they reached my hands. But at last they were safe. I had, in my hotel room in the Quartier Latin, the chest which contained my treasure: and these pictures that had before been the building stones for a new work now became the starting point and foundation of a new life. They remained with me in Paris until the day that I started for New York to take up an invitation to teach in Columbia University. This determined the publication of my book in English. The pictures accompanied me to London, where I found in Lovat Dickson a friend who, without reading a line of my future book, concluded a publishing contract with me.
My wife succeeded in leaving the Third Reich, and followed me to a country which does not put barbed wire around the brains of its intellectual men. One thing, however, neither she nor I could dorescue my pension to which I was entitled even by the Nazi laws.
In Paris I saw street scenes with which I was only too familiar, citizens firing on their fellows. In London I learnt to recognize that the best form of government is the one which is least in evidence. On that very 1st May, 1934, on which Hitler made millions of German citizens who had been despoiled of their rights march past him in military step, the Majestic sailed into New York harbour. I waited with impatience to see the country whose democracy seems to me to be the strongest bulwark against the nascent European despotism of a new Middle Ages, and I thought of the sentence from the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self‑evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." These were more than symbols for me.
"Will you never go to bed, Iraquai?" Wa.pachioo, the 'Very Old', asked me. The candle was flickering and would soon drop into its little lake of melted wax.
Iraquai was the name the Indians had given me, the Smoke, and the tent was filled with the heavy fumes of innumerable cigars. Next door, under the guard of old Chenocum of the Tête‑de‑Boule tribe, slept my comrade, the hostage for the pictures of a distant bookThe Savage Hits Back.
Wa.pachioo flung back the flap of the tent; we stepped out into the brilliant night. The air was pure and cold. Above us streamed the northern lights with their three‑fold crown of short vertical lines of stars.
"What are the greatest blessings in your life?" I asked the old man, and he answered without hesitation, "Peace, freedom, and justice." He turned his gaze anxiously away from the summit of the conjurer's mountain, looked at me, and asked:
"And to‑morrow, Iraquai, shall we again talk of law?"
"Yes, Wa.pachioo. To‑morrow we will again talk of law and justice."
And then we lay down upon the bearskin, covered ourselves with the rabbit‑skin blanket and waited for the dreams that the Heavens of Labrador should send us.
SOURCE: Lips, Julius. The Savage Hits Back, introduction by Bronislaw Malinowski; translated from the German by Vincent Benson. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1966. First published in 1937. Preface: xix-xxxi.
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