Longform's Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.

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.


"Hildebrand Gurlitt's Deep Nazi Ties," By Felix Bohr, Lothar Gorris, Ulrike Knöfel, Sven Röbel, and Michael Sontheimer, Der Speigel.

The man who assembled the massive Nazi art collection recently discovered in a Munich apartment was deeply involved in the trade of looted artworks.

When Captain Robert K. Posey and his assistant, Private Lincoln Kirstein, known as "Monuments Men," inspected the castle in early May they found an enormous art warehouse. It contained paintings and sculptures from the museum in nearby Bamberg and a picture gallery in the central German city of Kassel, whose directors had sought to protect the works from Allied bombs. They also discovered suspicious private property, some 13 crates of artworks marked as belonging to Heribert Fütterer, the commander of the German Air Force division for Bohemia and Moravia. The estate chapel contained suitcases and bags full of art, which Ewald von Kleist, the former commander of Army Group A of the Wehrmacht, had left there. Captain Posey declared the estate a restricted area and had signs reading "Off Limits" posted at the property.

A few days later, a Monuments Man noted: "In addition, rooms containing paintings, tapestries, statues, valuable furniture and documents from the belongings of two notorious German art dealers were found in the castle." They were the collections of Karl Haberstock and a certain Hildebrand Gurlitt, who had also lived in the castle with his family since their house in Dresden was burned down.

A note dated May 16 reads: "A large room on the upper floor with 34 boxes, two packages containing carpets, eight packages of books ... one room on the ground floor containing an additional 13 boxes owned by Mr. Gurlitt." Most of these boxes contained pictures and drawings.


"Start-Up Spirit Emerges in Japan," by Martin Fackler, the New York Times.

A budding start-up culture in Japan could mean the revival of entrepreneurship in the country.

Some top universities - the same ones that have long defined success as a job in an established company or elite government ministry - have begun not only to create their own incubators and venture funds, but also to develop curriculums on birthing start-ups. And while some young entrepreneurs say real progress will come only if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acts as promised to shake up Japan's hidebound corporate culture, they say the stock market rally and broader optimism created by the economic plan known as Abenomics are already making it easier to find investors and customers.

"This is the beginning of something that could rejuvenate Japan," said Mitsuru Izumo, the founder of Euglena Corporation, a biotechnology start-up valued at $1 billion, and one of the country's most prominent new entrepreneurs. "If we don't unleash our youth, then Japan will become too weak to survive another blow like Fukushima. Entrepreneurship is Japan's last chance."


"Where Will We Live?" by James Meek, the London Review of Books.

A Thatcher-era housing policy has resulted in a devastating housing shortage in Britain.

Right to Buy thus created an astonishing leak of state money - taxpayers' money, if you like to think of it that way - into the hands of a rentier class. First, the government sold people homes it owned at a huge discount. Then it allowed the original buyers to keep the profit when they sold those homes to a private landlord at market price. Then the government artificially raised market rents by choking off supply - by making it impossible for councils to replace the sold-off houses. Then it paid those artificially high rents to the same private landlords in the form of housing benefit - many times higher than the housing benefit it would have paid had the houses remained in council hands.

In other words, since Thatcher, the British government has done the exact opposite of what it has encouraged households to do: to buy their own homes, rather than renting. Thatcher and her successors have done all they can to sell off the nation's bricks and mortar, only to be forced to rent it back, at inflated prices, from the people they sold it to. Before Right to Buy, the government spent a pound on building homes for every pound it spent on rent subsidies. Now, for every pound it spends on housing benefit, it puts five pence towards building.


"Edward Snowden, After Months of NSA Revelations, Says His Mission's Accomplished," by Barton Gellman, the Washington Post.

Six months after his first revelations, Edward Snowden reflects on the repercussions of his choice to leak a trove of top-secret NSA documents to journalists.

Snowden offered vignettes from his intelligence career and from his recent life as "an indoor cat" in Russia. But he consistently steered the conversation back to surveillance, democracy and the meaning of the documents he exposed.

"For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission's already accomplished," he said. "I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself."

"All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed," he said. "That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals."


"'We Must Topple the Whole System,'" by Harriet Salem, Foreign Policy.

Foreign Policy talks to boxing legend and Ukrainian opposition figure Vitali Klitschko about the "Euromaidan" protests and his country's political future.

True to form, Klitschko, who has never been knocked out in a professional boxing match, says he isn't throwing in the towel. He recently called Yanukovych his "personal rival" and challenged the president to meet him "in the ring" -- that is, as opponents in early elections. Klitschko has also given up his World Boxing Council title to focus on politics.

On Dec. 22, we spoke to Klitschko, considered Ukraine's most popular politician, about his country's would-be revolution. What will it take to deliver Yanukovych a final blow?

CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images; EPA/ALEX HOFFORD; Oli Scarff/Getty Images; The Guardian via Getty Images; GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images


Longform's Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.

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.


The Chinese Military Machine's Secret to Success: European Engineering, by David Lague, Reuters

German diesel engines now power China's stealthy submarines -- among the many weapons and parts Beijing has sourced from America's European allies.

Emulating the rising powers of last century -- Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union -- China is building a powerful submarine fleet, including domestically built Song and Yuan-class boats. The beating hearts of these subs are state-of-the-art diesel engines designed by MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH of Friedrichshafen, Germany. Alongside 12 advanced Kilo-class submarines imported from Russia, these 21 German-powered boats are the workhorses of China's modern conventional submarine force.

With Beijing flexing its muscles around disputed territory in the East China Sea and South China Sea, China's diesel-electric submarines are potentially the PLA's most serious threat to its American and Japanese rivals. This deadly capability has been built around robust and reliable engine technology from Germany, a core member of the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization.


Cows Might Fly, by Veronique Greenwood, Aeon

When the land is all filled up, it's time to get creative with it, as small countries like Switzerland already know

The sheer difference in national size means that US farms, though enormous -- the average Swiss farm is between 40 and 50 acres, the average US farm around 10 times as large -- are not much encountered by the average grocery store customer. Swiss cities are smaller and more permeable. It is not hard to see farms and cows. In fact, it is unavoidable, once you are a negligible number of minutes from a city's center. And the herds themselves are far smaller, thanks in part to the paucity of land.

This closeness between city and farm means that the culture is less comfortable with treating animals inhumanely, suggests Moser. 'The bigger the farms are, the less individually animals can be treated,' he said. 'This creates a distance between yourself and the other.' In the 19th century, Swiss agronomists travelling to the US were floored by what the inhabitants were doing with the enormous amount of land available to them, and at the same time shocked by the way animals were treated, Moser said.

In modern Switzerland, those old feelings have translated into strong animal protection laws and direct payments to farmers for treating animals well, along with those for maintaining the landscape -- for instance, for taking their cows out into the fresh air.


Who Am I to Judge?, by James Carroll, the New Yorker

A radical Pope's first year.

"Who am I to judge?" With those five words, spoken in late July in reply to a reporter's question about the status of gay priests in the Church, Pope Francis stepped away from the disapproving tone, the explicit moralizing typical of Popes and bishops. This gesture of openness, which startled the Catholic world, would prove not to be an isolated event. In a series of interviews and speeches in the first few months after his election, in March, the Pope unilaterally declared a kind of truce in the culture wars that have divided the Vatican and much of the world. Repeatedly, he argued that the Church's purpose was more to proclaim God's merciful love for all people than to condemn sinners for having fallen short of strictures, especially those having to do with gender and sexual orientation. His break from his immediate predecessors -- John Paul II, who died in 2005, and Benedict XVI, the traditionalist German theologian who stepped down from the papacy in February -- is less ideological than intuitive, an inclusive vision of the Church centered on an identification with the poor. From this vision, theological and organizational innovations flow. The move from rule by non-negotiable imperatives to leadership by invitation and welcome is as fundamental to the meaning of the faith as any dogma.


Hunting the Lynx with the Old Believers, by Ben Judah, Standpoint

The Old Believers rejected Peter the Great's reforms to the Russian Orthodox Church. Ben Judah travels to southern Siberia to lift a veil on this untouched-by-time community.

They were Old Believers. Their fore-fathers had first come to Tuva in search of Belovode. This was the first Russian utopia: a mythical land the peasants believed existed out in Siberia down the rivers in the farthest east; a magical kingdom of plenty where the white Tsar ruled with true justice. Whole migrations went in search of it in the 1840s. Peasants believed Tolstoy had been there. It was as late as 1898 that the last Cossack expedition set out to find it. 

The Old Believers are the remains of Russia's great schism. While Peter the Great was building St Petersburg, his Patriarch Nikon set out to reform the Russian Orthodox Church, to purge it of paganism and inconsistency with Greek Orthodoxy. Rituals and the spelling of Christ were modified. The way men crossed themselves was changed. 

... On the eve of the revolution the Old Believers made up maybe 20 per cent of Russia's population. It was said that if the anathemas on them were ever lifted, half the peasantry would convert to this anarchic, priestless village faith which ruled itself through meeting halls. Today there are only about two million -- mostly in exile. And of the priestless a few tens of thousands live out in the most remote forests of Siberia. 


Stuck on a U.S. Government Blacklist?, by Jamila Trindle, Foreign Policy

Call Erich Ferrari, the lawyer who makes a living defending alleged drug kingpins and arms dealers.

The U.S. government's financial sanctions programs have been credited with bringing Iran to the negotiating table by decimating its economy and driving the value of its currency to record lows. But they're not just used against Tehran. Alleged drug kingpins, associates of deposed war criminals, and supporters of various dictatorships also find themselves on the Treasury Department's target list. The key innovation in these modern sanctions is the ability to target individuals and companies and make it illegal for U.S. banks and companies to interact with them. Putting trade embargoes into place against countries like Cuba hasn't worked, but pressuring specific individuals and companies has. Ferrari is one of a small group of lawyers making a good living relieving that pressure.

Guang Niu/AFP/Getty Images; SEBASTIEN FEVAL/AFP/Getty Images; Franco Origlia/Getty Images; JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images; Courtesy of Erich Ferrari