Feb 2008 Journal
Letters to the Editor
THE YOUNGEST KINDERTRANSPORT REFUGEE?
Sir – I was interested to read Erika Klausner’s letter in the December issue. I arrived via Kindertransport at Cotton Wharf, London, on the SS Warszawa on 16 February 1939 at the age of 20 months. I had the very good fortune of being accompanied not only by my three older siblings but also by my parents. They had been given permission to travel with us at the very last moment, because of my young age, from the refugee camp in Zbonszyn, where we had been since leaving Freiburg in October 1938.
KINDERTRANSPORT REFUGEES’ UNHAPPY MEMORIES
Mr Katz writes that many of the Anglo-Jewish community did not consider Jewish refugee boys suitable escorts for their daughters. This brings back many unhappy memories as the girls were also not considered suitable for their sons. When I first met my late mother-in-law, she was so much against me that she told me no son of hers would marry a refugee – but we did marry and were married for 49 very happy years. My late mother-in-law and I eventually became friends. I forgave her but I shall never forget the hurt.
MEMORIES OF A ‘FRIENDLY ALIEN’
Sir – ‘I well remember appearing at an internment tribunal in Cambridge before a magistrate and two assessors who questioned me to decide my status as an alien’, writes Ernest G. Kolman (December, Letters). This gave me a feeling of déjà vu for I too was sitting in the self-same place in 1941, an extremely frightened 16-year-old schoolgirl, terrified in case she was giving the wrong answer or making a bad impression.
I had come along with my parents. We were sitting in the corridor outside the courtroom waiting for my name to be called out. After a while, we saw a young girl emerge from there, sobbing uncontrollably and being led away by her parents. It was heart-rending to watch and it made my apprehension even more real. What grave crime might this young girl have been accused of to deserve this, I recall wondering. Fortunately for me, I seemed to find favour in their eyes and was classified as a ‘friendly alien’.
WHAT IS A JEW?
Sir - Harold Saunders, in your January issue, equates Liberal Judaism (which accepts the paternal line as valid for being Jewish as long as the child is brought up ‘Jewish’), with ‘Jews for Jesus’. This is an appalling analogy and not worthy of any fair-minded person. If Mr Chapman did not mean this comparison he should apologise. ‘Jews for Jesus’ is a cult. Liberal Judaism is a highly respected part of Progressive Judaism. The comparison is insulting and odious.
TRIBUTE TO RONALD CHANNING
Sir - May I add a footnote to your farewell tribute to Ronald Channing (January)? His outreach activities, which you rightly emphasise, included strengthening the links between the AJR and researchers at British universities who have become increasingly interested in documenting the experiences of refugees from the 1930s.
Here at Sussex, we have been fortunate in having Ronald on the Steering Committee for our project on British Archival Materials Relating to German-Speaking Refugees (1930-1950), while he was instrumental in helping us - with support from the AJR - to build up our programme of Holocaust education, including well-attended public events to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
The momentum created by Ronald’s work for the AJR is likely to continue long after his retirement.
‘PEACE FOR OUR TIME’
Sir – I refer to the article ‘”Peace for our time” rides again’ in your January issue. One of the important reasons I have for not wanting to miss any of Dr Grenville’s articles is the very informative and high standard of journalistic presentation of the truth that was hidden by the establishment during the last war and, alas, I am still missing even more truth.
This concerns Russia before Britain knew that the Soviet Union was misled by a dictator possibly not known even to the heads of state at that time. Was the Fascist dictator Hitler less dangerous than the Russian one? After all, one may assume that the intelligence departments in the Western world were able to expose anything contrary. They would surely have known all about the concentration camps and the tragedies that were to follow. This would have been more available if the Western states would have acted immediately to Russia’s request to open a second front. The war would have ended a few years sooner than 1945. This would have saved six million Jews and millions of other innocent lives. However, England and other Western supporters had different long-term objectives.
Sir - There is a certain lack of clarity in Anthony Grenville’s article. As I understand it, Dr Grenville is trying to equate the current Eurosceptic line with appeasement, in that Eurosceptics don’t want to be involved in Europe and neither did the appeasers in 1938. But the two things are completely different. Appeasement allowed the surrender to a bully on the basis that postponement was better than dealing with the matter head-on. It was not necessarily anti-Europe, simply putting Britain's own interests first. The world paid the price for this appeasement.
The Eurosceptic line is, I suggest, not necessarily anti-Europe per se. What it is opposed to is diktat by a few unelected officials in Brussels who presume to tell sovereign states what to do and how to run their lives. While some Eurosceptics may favour a total withdrawal from Europe (and there may be sound free-trade economic arguments for so doing), others would simply opt for a United Europe of States, rather than a United States of Europe.
The light of freedom which has been the hard-won cornerstone and basis of life in the United Kingdom for centuries, and is respected the world over, is now in danger of being extinguished once again by another subtler form of dictatorship - that of a centralist, unelected, uneconomic and corrupt bureaucracy.
Martin Gilbert’s Churchill and the Jews describes Churchill’s denunciation of the MacDonald White Paper as a betrayal of the Mandate, which he considered an obligation towards world Jewry, entered upon during the First World War, and much earlier, the massacre of the ancient Jewish community in Hebron was not prevented by the Mandate authorities. However, my main grievance against the Chamberlain government was their attitude at Munich, when they dismissed Czechoslovakia as a strange country of no interest to Britain. The attitude to the Holocaust, in which so many of my family died, was not just heartlessness – appeasement was an incredibly foolish and brutal policy. Friends were sacrificed to keep the wolf from the door and – unsuccessfully – to avoid another world war.
Sir – Your article in connection with the Marxist family of Miliband stated that David was part-Jewish. I am flabbergasted. I have lived eight decades but I have never heard of anyone being part-Jewish. In my beloved country, people could be Jewish or outsiders, but you were either of the Chosen People or not of the Chosen People. Could you kindly enlighten me on what is a part-Jew? What part of David is Jewish?
He refers to a street in Hebron that he claims is reserved for Jews only. Would it be so terrible if Jews had the one street? But it’s not true. The street in question is not closed to Arabs, but is subject to tight security, as it leads to the small enclave where Jews once lived, before they were all massacred in 1929, and to the Cave of the Patriarchs, from where Jews were barred when it was controlled by Arabs. At best, they were allowed to go as far as the 7th step - any further and you would have your throat cut. Under Israeli jurisdiction, Arabs have free access to Abraham’s tomb, but Jewish worshippers are only allowed in one day a month, when it is closed to Arabs. Israel is entitled to maintain certain pockets for security reasons under the Wye Agreement.
Two years ago, when I travelled to Hebron, I had to do so in an armour-plated bus. The street Mr Prager refers to as Shuhuda St (sic), Israelis know as King David St. No doubt local Arabs call it that, as it stands for ‘martyrs to the cause’ or ‘suicide bomber’ street. In Arabic idiom, it is one and the same.
The deeply religious Jews who choose to stay there do so because after Jerusalem this is their most revered site, if not more so. There were Jews in Hebron long before King David made Jerusalem his capital. And for Mr Prager to claim that they all belong to the Kach Party, which is outlawed, is simply an aspersion. If they do belong to anything, it would be to Yesha, the umbrella organisation for the communities of Judea and Samaria - but to some that is equally a sin.
I wonder which organisation sponsored his daughter’s ‘study tour’ of Hebron. How could she have come by that shocking street name unless it was from a suspect source? I know she didn’t get it from any official map or street sign. She also told her father that there was netting there to stop ‘settlers’ from throwing stones and rubbish at Arab shoppers – as if Palestinians never throw stones! The Israeli authorities put up netting where there’s a danger to the public. You will also find it at the very top of the Western Wall, to stop stones from raining down onto the worshippers below - unless Ms Prager would have us believe that this is in place to stop garbage from reaching to the top!
I fear little will come of Annapolis, because resurgent Islam has amply demonstrated that it is unwilling to share a land with another people or religion, least of all Jews. They are unable even to live in peace with each other, unless it is under an absolute dictatorship. Come on, Mr Prager, open your eyes!
‘MUSINGS FROM THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE’
Sir - Victor Ross’s article (January) made me smile and I found myself nodding approval of his comments, especially his insight that ‘we refugees [in my case, Holocaust hidden child] are defined by age as no others - you can't be a young refugee from the Nazis. I suppose the youngsters among us are in their seventies’.
By the will of G-d, I find myself single again and, whenever I meet a fanciable contender, I can’t even chop off a dozen years as automatically mental arithmetic would come into play. C’est la vie!