Jul 2001 Journal

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When victims become culprits

It may be true, pace Shakespeare, that one man in his time plays many parts – but it is given to few to act out the diametrically opposite roles of victim and perpetrator.

One of the few was the Bulgarian Georgy Dimitrov, a political émigré in Germany who shot to international prominence when the Nazis cast him as the chief accused in the Reichstag Fire Trial. In the dock, Dimitrov put up such a consummate defence that the judicial authorities had to release him. He went to Moscow where Stalin put him in charge of the Comintern. In that post, Dimitrov acted as the paranoid Georgian’s compliant henchman in the purge of foreign Communists like Bela Kun and Heinz Neumann.

Another courageous victim-turned-transgressor is Nathan Sharansky who first attracted worldwide attention as the Soviet Union’s best-known Jewish refusenik. On his release Sharansky went to Israel where he set up a Russian immigrants’ party. Their voting strength suffices to secure him a permanent seat in the cabinet. As Sharon’s Minister of Housing he is currently expanding Jewish settlement in the Occupied Territories, thereby maintaining Palestinian resentment at fever pitch.

Lastly, a ‘victims’ friend’ turned calumniator. The Victorian pictorial artist George Cruikshank produced eye-catchingly incisive cartoons castigating two of the greatest evils afflicting London’s poor: alcohol addiction and polluted drinking water. He was also the illustrator of Charles Dickens’ early works which included Oliver Twist. Cruikshank’s ‘art work’ for the latter included images of Fagin, who in his hideousness looks a precursor of the subhuman Jewish types which populated Stürmer cartoons a century later.        
Richard Grunberger

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