Leo Baeck 1


Mar 2006 Journal

Letters to the Editor

Are there too many immigrants?

Sir - I agree with Peter Prager (Point of View, February) when he cites the way in which earlier immigrants were absorbed and became an asset to this country; also that Britain needs more young immigrants to contribute to our economy and to help with the looming pensions crisis. But I cannot agree with him when he ridicules as prejudice, akin to the old prejudice against Jewish immigration, the apprehension of 'many Jews' (and surely not of Jews alone) that the influx of so many Muslims may intensify the dangers of violence in Britain. The comparison with Jews is completely misplaced. Such active hostility as existed was entirely by the host community against the immigrants: it was not reciprocated by the immigrants. Jewish immigrants kept their heads down; they aspired to integration; they were too economically sufficiently and upwardly mobile for there not to be a pool of young people who felt hopeless and, if they did feel deprived of economic opportunities, they would perhaps turn to socialism and its class solidarity, but not to a specifically Jewish resistance. Indeed, there was no ideology of religiously-inspired resistance, no preaching inside the country to exhort to it, and no feeling that such resistance would be encouraged by powerful forces outside the country.

Of course, the great majority of Muslim immigrants want to, and will, integrate in the same way as the Jews did, but it is not prejudice to be apprehensive about the trouble that can be caused by the minority who do not. Economic hardship is sometimes caused by discrimination on the part of the host community, but sometimes also by social factors within the immigrant community. Whatever the cause, the articulation of grievance and anger which it generates seems to be greater in the Muslim community than, for example, among Hindus.

I am not arguing that Britain should discriminate against Muslim immigrants - that would be a counter-productive overreaction. Not only are the great majority of Muslims valuable contributors to British society, but such discrimination would indeed justify the feelings of peaceful Muslims that Britain is Islamophobic - just as restrictions on Jewish immigration were justifiably resented by Jews as antisemitic. It is precisely our legitimate apprehensions which should stimulate us at least to make sure that there is no economic or social discrimination on our side. That cannot entirely solve the problem, but it would reduce it rather than exacerbate it.
Ralph Blumenau, London W11

Sir - Mr Prager's article, while well-intentioned, does not fully state the facts. In order to declare an interest, I too arrived in England in late 1939 as a Jewish refugee. We came as genuine asylum-seekers in fear of our lives. Today's immigrants are frequently economic immigrants claiming to be asylum-seekers. Often brought in by gangs who make huge sums of money, mostly they come without skills.

Britain needs skilled and educated people willing to integrate. Let us welcome genuine asylum-seekers. The Jewish refugees who were allowed asylum in the late thirties were mainly highly skilled and educated, contributing out of all proportion to their number in the arts, science, medicine, business and many other fields. The same holds true of the Russians who went to Israel, and of many of those who re-emigrated to the USA and Australia. The 'Kinder' came from backgrounds which gave them the will to succeed despite the huge disruption.
Bob Norton, Nottingham

Sir - I agree wholeheartedly with Peter Prager. The other day, an English friend of mine complained that the waiting lists in our hospitals were so long because 'too many people are coming into this country'. I reminded her that there might be no hospitals at all if these people hadn't come: the NHS would grind to a halt without them, as would public transport in London. It is bad enough to encounter such xenophobic attitudes among the English, but it really saddens me when Continental Britons express similar views. We, as erstwhile refugees, should never forget that Britain was once afraid to be 'swamped' by us.
Edith Argy, London W9

Sir - There is a notice in my local library stating that the Borough of Barnet is prepared to help immigrants to obtain British citizenship by procuring the necessary forms for them, completing them, and sending them to Croydon (Home Office). When we were naturalised in the 1940s we had to do everything ourselves - no official help was offered. Moreover, we had to prove that we could read and write English as well as speak it.
(Mrs) A. Saville, London NW4

Coalitions and other concoctions

Sir - Congratulations on your leading article 'Coalitions and other concoctions' (February issue). The fate of the Weimar Republic is often held to be a dire warning to those of us who would like to see proportional representation in this country, and I think you have laid that particular ghost (and a few others). It is extraordinary that Britain can claim to be a model democracy when its electoral system elects governments on minority votes, and that a party such as the Liberal Democrats should have 66 MPs after receiving almost a quarter of the votes cast in the last general election.
Professor Leslie Baruch Brent, London N19

German ambience

Sir - May I as one whose mother tongue is German but who is now more familiar with Shakespeare than Goethe put it to your contributors Halberstam (December 2005) and Graff (February 2006) that if they really miss the German ambience so much, they may like to consider returning there.
Robert Miller, Leatherhead, Surrey

George who?

Sir - Anthony Grenville's attempt to belittle the late George Best is not only in bad taste but also betrays ignorance of football basics. First and foremost, the British are a nation of football fans - hence the fuss about the demise of one of their one-time greats was only to be expected. Second, everybody who saw Best play - and, above all, his Manchester United colleagues such as Bobby Charlton - confirm that he was the outstanding British player of his time. He was faster than Stanley Matthews, had a greater variety of skills, and could score goals. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum.
Fred Rosner, Chigwell, Essex

Sir - The AJR Journal should concentrate on more articles about the 1920s-50s (see Dorothy Graff's letter, February issue) and on German/Austrian-Jewish matters. Anthony Grenville's article 'George Who?' has no place in your journal.
C. Lang, London NW6

Brundibar Revival

Sir - On the day I read about the Brundibar revival in your January 2006 issue, I received notice from the convent near Freiburg where she lived of the death of Schwester Veronica Grüters at the age of 83. As a sister of the Benedictine order, but with a musical education and some Jewish blood from one of her ancestors, she single-handedly resuscitated the score of Brundibar from sheets of music used in the Theriesenstadt concentration camp.

You published my review of a recording of the music in January 1990. My wife Marianne and I met Veronica Grüters in her home a few years ago and found her to be a vivacious lady who refused an invitation to dinner in a restaurant because her order would not permit her to indulge in outside entertainment.
Rudi Leavor, Bradford

Commendable comments

Sir - I have read Rudi Braude's comments (January issue) in response to Inge Trott's letter and find these comments commendable. Could you please tell me what is prompting you to frequently publish her vitriolic and uninformed letters on the Israel-Palestinian Arab Islamic conflict?
Raph Freeman, Jerusalem

The best years of my life

Sir - I am writing to express my gratitude for making my life so comfortable at the age of nearly 82. I was born in 1924 in Hamburg with two sisters and a brother, of whom only one sister survives. Our lives were comfortable until 1938, when all our luxuries, business and home were seized. My father was one of the few given the chance to escape Germany for Shanghai. My brother, sisters and I escaped by Kindertransport.

On arrival in England, I was sent to a hostel for girls in London. I took a job as nursemaid for an English family in Wallington. My working life was to include some very menial jobs. I met my husband while working at an ammunitions factory. Early marriage was hard and our accommodation was one large room. Working and looking after the family fell solely on my shoulders, which resulted in the breakdown of my marriage.

Being a single parent, I began night shifts at the Reading Battle Hospital, affording me the time to look after my family during the day. I met my new husband at the hospital but, due to his ill health, I became his nursemaid. He died in 1983. I began work as a carer at the Waylands Mental Hospital, Bradfield, until it closed.
I continued working as a carer in the private sector until the age of 70.

By chance at the age of 76, I became involved with the AJR. This has resulted in my last six years being the best years of my life. Having had to struggle most of my life, I am not used to anyone, especially an organisation, that is prepared to offer assistance unconditionally. This has allowed me to stop worrying about little things and enjoy living. I consider my AJR social worker a true friend that I can turn to at any time.

I would like everyone to appreciate what a wonderful organisation AJR is and to thank its thankless individuals who work tirelessly trying the make lives better for people like me.
Inge Farr, Reading