Mar 2008 Journal
Letters to the Editor
MY PRIVATE HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL
Sir – Memorials can take different forms. In my case, it is my clothes hanger. It has lived quietly in my wardrobe for many, many years, among all the wire and plastic hangers. This one – for me a very special one – is made of wood with a faded pink silk cover with black lettering saying: Richard Brill, Praha 1, Celetna ul. 18. Richard and his wife were my mother’s uncle and aunt. As the hanger says, they had a ready-made ladies’ dress shop in Celetna Street, near the Old Town Square in Prague. They worked hard in their little shop to make a living and to bring up their daughter Rose well.
When Rose grew up, she became a regular contributor to women’s journals and wrote a novel or two. With the onset of Nazism in Germany, the Brill family, like most of us Czech Jews, said: ‘This cannot happen here.’ Rose married a gentile, a dashing Czech pilot. It all seemed so good. However, the unthinkable happened. When the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia, the dashing pilot got scared of losing his fine job, being married to a Jewish woman. She loved him and agreed to a divorce. He lost his job anyway, but his wife and her parents lost their lives. These were just a few ordinary people among the 6 million who perished in the Holocaust.
My clothes hanger is only a tiny object, but for me it has always been my private symbol and memorial.
‘MUSINGS FROM THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE’
Sir – The following poem, by my mother, Eva Ehrenberg, was written in 1960 and reflects her experience as a refugee:
Andere kann ich trösten
Aber nicht mich.
Die die Welt erlösten,
Erlösten sie sich?
Others I can comfort
But not myself.
Did those who redeem the world
This seems to me a direct contradiction of Victor Ross’s ‘No one of note has celebrated our terminal condition in poetry, the proper medium for swan songs’ in your January issue.
THE YOUNGEST KINDERTRANSPORT REFUGEE?
Moreover, Trevor Chadwick’s family personally rescued three of us, i.e. they became guarantors. Sadly, he died before the Kindertransports became public knowledge and he received none of the accolade now happily accorded to Sir Nicholas. I myself tried to have him recognised by Yad Vashem as a ‘righteous Gentile’ - one winces at the oddity of the phrase - but was unsuccessful.
Does it matter? Yes it does. It matters to his family, who are rightly proud of him. And it matters historically. He should not be overlooked.
VOYAGE OF THE DUNERA
The military escort came from the British Pioneer Corps, which, in effect, consisted of ex-prisoners and the like. On embarkation, they confiscated valuable objects such as watches, fountain pens and gold rings. With their bayonets they slit open our luggage and took whatever they fancied. They threw passports, documents etc overboard. I feel it necessary to put the record straight. The Royal Navy was never involved in any of this.
ISLE OF MAN INTERNMENT: ONE MORE FOOTNOTE
Sir – Regarding the footnotes in the Isle of Man article in your February issue: here is another reference - Professor Maxine Sellers, We Built Up Our Lives (University of Chicago, October 2001). It is the story of the internment of Jewish refugees. There is a copy at the Wiener Library.
‘PEACE FOR OUR TIME’
THE EXCITEMENT OF THE SIXTIES
Sir – Dr Grenville manages in the February issue to capture some of the excitement and promises of change offered by the arts and politics of the 1960s. In addition, there was the parallel exhilaration triggered by the 1967 Six-Day War, which offered a fleeting glimpse of potential peace between Arab and Jew. The cafés of Jerusalem, Paris and West Hampstead were galvanised by the possibilities. Sadly, many of these opportunities never came to fruition.
WHAT IS A JEW?
Sir - Mr Phillips (February) must not put his own spin on what I wrote. I neither equated nor compared - I expressed a personal point of view. To be exact, I wrote (January): ‘I am quite happy to accept the paternal line as equally valid for being Jewish – but then, I am also ready to accept ‘Jews for Jesus’ as being Jews.’ In fact, I go further, I also accept anyone who claims to be a Jew to be such without delving into antecedents. Mr Phillips refers to a Mr Chapman who is unknown to me but who, I am sure, can speak for himself. Personally, I have no desire to take this futile exchange of letters any further.
WHAT IS A JEW?
Sir – I don’t wish to enter into any argument with Peter Phillips on whether Judaism is a race rather than a religion, although the Liberal and Reform movements are doing their very best to undermine both aspects of it. What I do wish to point out, however, is that what he states about a Muslim race and an Islamic religion shows a complete lack of knowledge of the subject. There is no such thing as a Muslim race, Islam being a proselyting religion whose adherents can be found in many parts of the world and among many races in, for example, Indonesia, Malaysia, Somalia, northern Nigeria, Bosnia, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan – not to speak of the Arab world. Moreover, the words ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ are both derived from the same root, meaning submission to G-d in Arabic.
RONALD CHANNING, A MAN OF MANY TALENTS
Sir – I am sorry to see Ronald Channing retiring from his job. I always enjoyed reading his articles and interviews in the Journal and he was a great credit to the Kindertransport activities. It was always nice to see his friendly face and sometimes we also enjoyed his wonderful piano-playing. A man of many talents indeed, he was a good organiser and communicator. Thank you, Ronald, we will miss you at the Cleve Road Centre.
COMING TO TERMS
KRISTALLNACHT COMMEMORATION IN TORONTO
Sir – I thought it might interest and ‘console’ Otto Deutsch (December, Letters) that here in Toronto, even in our small synagogue, there is a ‘Kristallnacht Commemoration’ every year. Our synagogue, Habonim, Reformed – to be compared with a Liberal one in London - is only a small one, founded just before the Second World War by immigrants from Europe, but it does keep all the ‘memorable’ events that happened during the Nazi period. As a matter of fact, I was interviewed a few years ago by a TV crew about my experiences of Kristallnacht and was rather surprised when a few days afterwards people in shops came up to me to tell me they had seen the programme and did not realise I was a Holocaust survivor.
PS: Love your publication, which I always read from end to end, and thoroughly enjoy it.
PALESTINE AND PALESTINIANS
For years I have asked anyone wishing to listen this question, but I have never been able to back it up anywhere nearly as well as Mr Storz has done. I admire his research and the details of historical developments that he outlines. The interesting thing would be for anyone reading this to challenge his viewpoints with equal back-up of history.
I hope Mr Storz will send his article to the national press to see what debate he can start. What a wonderful thing it would be to have a public debate on this topic with Mr Storz proposing a motion on the basis of his clear knowledge of this matter. Perhaps the Oxford Union or a similar body would take up the challenge.
HATS OFF TO THE PALESTINE POLICE
Sir – Further to Dr Anthony Grenville’s article ‘The British and the Mandate’ in the December issue, your readers may be interested to see the above photo of my husband Charles when he was in the Palestine Police.
THREE LITTLE PIGS
Sir - I heard with great sadness the news that a re-issue of the story of the three little pigs - who tried various construction methods to build themselves affordable housing and of the big bad wolf who huffed and puffed to blow them down - failed to be nominated for a prize for some very spurious reasons which, one suspects, have to do with the dreadful PC. Such considerations diminish the language, free expression and even heritage - another buzz word.
This could have serious repercussions. For instance, is it still ‘on’ for grandparents to talk about ‘This little pig went to market, this little pig stayed at home, this little pig ate all the roast beef, etc’ without being apprehended by the thought police? Will pigs still be able to fly? Will it cease to be possible to ‘make a pig’s ear of it’? And what will be the alternative to silk purses? Our beloved English is the poorer for such follies.