Leo Baeck 1


Jun 2006 Journal

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Point of View

Who is our enemy now?

'My love-hate relationship with Vienna', my piece in the March issue, told how I felt about that city. Yes, I was only three when we were forced to leave. Yes, my father, a doctor, had had his teeth kicked in while doing a visit. Yes, but for a loyal patient, he would have been sent to Dachau. But I don't hate Vienna. And that's where the trouble began. I had four letters condemning me for my love-hate relationship with Vienna. 'It should only be hate', one writer said.

Let me make it quite clear. The Holocaust must never be forgotten. I am very proud that in my neck of the woods, each year, on Holocaust Memorial Day, Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue get together with Northwood United Synagogue to teach the schoolchildren in our area about the Holocaust (we had 2,000 pupils this year). However, Ezekiel 18:20 states that 'the son shall not bear the indignity of the father'. How do you blame people for what they have not done? All those who were Nazis - and there were many - are now well into their eighties. I agree with Goldhagen that they were 'Hitler's Willing Executioners'. So, if you want, let's hate them - but don't let's hate their children too. David Irving has just been imprisoned in Austria for Holocaust denial. I doubt whether the English would have given him such a penalty. In Germany, impersonating Hitler is punishable by a heavy fine or imprisonment. Prince Harry, over here, was merely considered a bit of an idiot. Ken Livingstone and George Galloway have been allowed to get away with defamation of Israel and Jews in general such as would never be allowed in Germany or Austria. Should I now hate the English? And what about the French? According to the Jewish Chronicle, the country in Europe with the highest number of antisemitic incidents is France. Shall I hate the French too?

Angela Merkel of Germany and Heinz Fischer of Austria have not, to the best of my knowledge, ever uttered one word against the Jews or Israel. But theirs are the countries some of you still want me to hate. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran denies the Holocaust and wants to wipe Israel off the face of the map. So does Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, which is now the biggest Palestinian political party. So do the leaders of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. And so does Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Not forgetting, of course, the worst enemy of them all: Osama bin Laden of al-Qaeda. Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Goering - they are all long dead. It's the Islamic fundamentalists who are the danger now and to whom our hatred should be turned. They are the murderers. It's Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri - not Julius Streicher and Alfred Rosenberg.

I have a certain sympathy with Daniel Barenboim. Of course, Wagner was a rabid antisemite but should we not be allowed the pleasure of the Ring cycle? I become sentimental when listening to the Vienna New Year's Day Concert. Should I feel guilty? And, oh dear, I prefer wiener schnitzel to falafel. Perhaps I'm committing yet another sin?

I apologise to those I offended by admitting that I have some love for Vienna. But surely you must realise that times have changed and that the enemy today is Islamic fundamentalism, not National Socialism. And, on a controversial note, I haven't heard many of you condemn Stalin and the Communists. Under Stalin, millions of Jews were killed too. How come your silence about him? Some of you didn't support Communism before the Second World War, did you?!
Peter Phillips

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