in the garden

 

Nov 2008 Journal

Letters to the Editor

AUSTRIANS REVISITED

Sir - Rubin Katz (October issue) is not the only ‘survivor’ whose bitterness prevents him from changing his attitude to Austria. His feelings must be respected. So should the feelings of those who see things differently, e.g. mine. His use of coloured language - for instance, ‘cuddly Lederhosen-clad Austrians, yearn[ing] for the Tyrolean mountains, and hunker[ing] after such delights as Sachertorte’ - is unconvincing. Be honest, Mr Katz. Did the Tyrolean mountains ever participate in Jew-bashing and has any Sachertorte ever proved to be anti-Semitic? Surely a glass of red wine with a slice of Sachertorte is an innocent and attractive experience.
He accuses us of short memories. Short? The seven years of Nazi control of Austria ended 65 years ago. What’s short for some is a lifetime for many. The pre-Hitler Austria in which we lived had been a democracy for only 18 years. After the war Austria became a democracy again and has remained one to the present day. Anyone who claims the country has not undergone great changes for the better must be frozen in the ice blocks of the past. There are some 15,000 Jews living in Austria and the numbers are increasing. One of the earliest Jews to settle in Austria was a man called Wiesenthal. True, the extreme right received 29 per cent of the votes cast recently. Even assuming that every one of their voters is a Nazi or an anti-Semite, that means that 71 per cent of the population are not. So, when I visit Austria I can enjoy the company of those who belong to the great democratic majority.
Mr Katz ends his attack with a truly unkind statement: ‘[T]he difference in this willingness to promote everything Austrian … lies between those who were happily ensconced in this country during the war and those who were unlucky enough to be trapped in Europe.’ Happily? The majority of the 10,000 children who came to Britain in the Kindertransports never saw their families again.
I was much luckier. My parents and I came to England before Kristallnacht and had close English relatives here. I went back to Austria and stayed in Vienna for almost a year in 1946. In uniform. I haven’t a short memory but I find nothing wrong with visiting Germany or Austria.
 

Eric Sanders, London W12

THANK YOU, QUAKERS

Sir – Your recent articles regarding the Quakers reminded me that I really have to thank this organisation for my rewarding nursing career.

In 1938, during my year at the Goldschmidt Schule in Berlin, I was approached by Mrs Elizabeth Landsmann, who suggested I join a Kindertransport to England. Of course, she also consulted my mother in Dresden. However, I refused the offer as I didn’t want to leave my mother and brother.

In April 1939 my mother, my brother and I arrived in England to look after 40 children from Bilbao – refugees from the Spanish Civil War. Whilst there, I was approached by a Mrs Atkinson of Dorchester, Dorset, who had been given my name by Mrs Landsmann in Berlin.

This Quaker lady started me, aged 17, on my nursing career, which lasted until 1983. As, at the time, I was too young to do my general training, I began with my orthopaedic training. That was followed by four years’ general training in London during the war. After working as a midwife, a Queen’s District Nurse and a health visitor, I moved on to being a nursing administrator. I retired in 1983, rounding off my career in the Department of Health. Thank you, Quakers, for a wonderful career and a good life!
 

Annemarie Seelig, Teddington, Middx

Sir – Some months ago I wrote to the AJR Journal about my father, Edmund Redisch, who was interned on the Isle of Man. My mother and I came to England with the help of the Quakers early in 1939. Father, being Jewish, had to obtain a forged passport before he could join us, which he did shortly before hostilities began.

My father was one of those who volunteered to join the British Army rather than spend the duration on the Isle of Man. My mother then obtained his holiday pay and was allowed to take up paid employment (10d per hour for house cleaning!). Father joined the Pioneer Corps and was happy to serve the Allies and have regular home leave to see his family.

By the way, the British government allowed father to anglicise his name to Edward Redcliffe. I would love to hear, via the Journal, from anyone who met him, either on the Isle of Man or in the Army.
 

 

(Mrs) Maria Blackburn, Newport Pagnell

Sir – Your recent articles regarding the Quakers reminded me that I really have to thank this organisation for my rewarding nursing career.

In 1938, during my year at the Goldschmidt Schule in Berlin, I was approached by Mrs Elizabeth Landsmann, who suggested I join a Kindertransport to England. Of course, she also consulted my mother in Dresden. However, I refused the offer as I didn’t want to leave my mother and brother.

In April 1939 my mother, my brother and I arrived in England to look after 40 children from Bilbao – refugees from the Spanish Civil War. Whilst there, I was approached by a Mrs Atkinson of Dorchester, Dorset, who had been given my name by Mrs Landsmann in Berlin.

This Quaker lady started me, aged 17, on my nursing career, which lasted until 1983. As, at the time, I was too young to do my general training, I began with my orthopaedic training. That was followed by four years’ general training in London during the war. After working as a midwife, a Queen’s District Nurse and a health visitor, I moved on to being a nursing administrator. I retired in 1983, rounding off my career in the Department of Health. Thank you, Quakers, for a wonderful career and a good life!

 

Annemarie Seelig, Teddington, Middx

THE BRITAIN WE LIVE IN

Sir – I am more than disenchanted with Bronia Snow’s reaction (October) to my letter. I recall my correspondence with Lord Leonard Cheshire about 60 years ago. Referring to the concentration and extermination camps, I wrote to him: ‘Surely you must have known what was going on – why didn’t you do anything about it?’ He responded almost immediately: Yes, we did know what was going on and I would have been privileged and keen to have gone on a mission (which was planned) to bomb the outskirts of camps like Auschwitz, but the Foreign Office and Anthony Eden put a stop to any such efforts ‘for political reasons’. Yes, I spent the war in camps like Plaszow, Mauthausen, St Valentine and Ebensee. Not once did we see any RAF planes above the camps.

When the Warsaw uprising broke out, the RAF was able to drop some weapons for the fighters. A bit earlier, the Warsaw ghetto uprising broke out. Szmuel Zygelboim, a Polish-Jewish MP at that time in the UK, pleaded vigorously for some help for the ghetto. None came. Out of complete frustration, Zygelboim committed suicide, leaving a letter saying: While I was alive I pleaded in speeches and writings for some help for the ghetto fighters. Nothing was done.

The Poles took a major part in the Battle of Britain and certainly a decisive part in breaking German secret codes (see Bletchley Park). Britain, as stated, fought bravely but why was the ‘second front’ started so late?

Mrs Snow views things through pink spectacles in the country in which she was lucky to find herself.
 

Roman Licht, London NW8

ALL CREDIT TO VALLENTINE MITCHELL

Sir – Emma Klein writes (September): ‘To my surprise, the three books from Vallentine Mitchell’s Library of Holocaust Testimonies were perfectly readable.’ Let me assure Ms Klein that before publishing my book German Writers in French Exile, Vallentine Mitchell and its copy editors went to enormous trouble to ensure my text was accurate and readable. I presume it was VM’s partner from the US who changed my ‘City’ (of London) to ‘city’.

Response from Emma Klein:

I’m glad that Martin Mauthner was impressed by Vallentine Mitchell’s copy-writing team and am sure they do an excellent job. My comment about the volumes I reviewed was not intended to cast aspersions on the publishers but arose from my experience of reviewing a large number of books on the Holocaust, some of which have been very poorly written. If all the books in the Library of Holocaust Testimonies are as well presented, all credit to Vallentine Mitchell.

 

Martin Mauthner, Waterloo, Belgium

‘AWSOME’ AJR TEA

Sir - I want to congratulate all AJR staff on a terrific function at the Watford Hilton. I can only begin to imagine what a colossal feat of organisation this event was and marvel at how smoothly everything went. To cope with such huge numbers and the inevitable moans there must have been (?!) was awesome. Great to see Ludwig Spiro in such good form too - his speeches are always sensational.

 

John Dunston, Reading

Sir – Once again we had a most wonderful Annual Tea and Concert. The choice of musical repertoire was excellent, the violinist, pianist and singers were all first class, and we all enjoyed the lovely tea. I also appreciate the Cleve Road AJR Centre with their appetising good meals and friendly staff, as well as the musical entertainment and interesting talks at Luncheon Clubs and Kindertransport lunches. Thank you for all the hard work. The outings are also much appreciated


 

Josie Dutch, London NW2

HANNELE WITHOUT SCHLAGOBERS

Sir – Believe it or not, I saw the Hannele Victor Ross writes about in the October issue. How we came to be asked, I don’t know. I was a little boy taken by my father and we were not Schlagobers. My father was a furrier, so Der Biberpelz would have been a better choice! I remember how frightened I was of the noise when the door opened: I had no idea it was a vacuum cleaner. There was an old man with a beard to whom I made a bow and clicked my heels - I suppose it was Professor Freud but I can’t be sure. Victor Ross has a way of writing that brings it all back to me.

 

Eric Clammer, London N12

ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS

Sir – Peter Prager quotes the discredited Olmert, who has become the darling of the left, with whose support he had hoped to cling on to his position. Were future leaders to adopt the naïve logic of Inge Trott, Peter Prager et al, hardly a ‘Jewish dog’ would be spared if the Arabs ever got the upper hand. You only have to look at the areas relinquished by Israel to see how they tore down the infrastructure, preferring to brandish guns and subsist on Hamas hand-outs, courtesy of Teheran and European aid agencies.

Witness the strife prevailing in all the countries where Muslims share a land with people of another religion. What about all those non-Arab indigenous people decimated by creeping Islamisation: Copts, Berbers, Chaldeans, Maronites, Zoroastrians, Assyrian Christians and, not least, Jews, who lived in Iraq and in other places before the Arabs.

Peter Prager appears unaware of the Israeli High Court’s ruling against house demolition, in spite of the bulldozer atrocities. He has also conveniently forgotten there were suicide bombings before Israel was forced to erect the security fence. He also claims that Jews for Justice for Palestinians have Israel’s interests at heart. So why don’t they make their voices heard about human rights abuses in Arab lands and about Iran, which blatantly denies the Holocaust and threatens another one?

But Fred Barshak’s histrionic letter takes the biscuit. He claims to be a Zionist yet he has a problem with a handful of devout Jews who display a strong attachment to biblical Hebron and whom he labels ‘settlers’. There was a time when such people were admired for their idealism - but all that went by the board when the far left abandoned Israel and adopted the Palestinian/Arab cause.

The Hebron community lives under siege in a small enclave, where Jews had always lived, until massacred by an Arab mob in 1929, incited by the Grand Mufti of Hitler fame. Thereafter, they had no access to the Cave of the Patriarchs until after the Six-Day War, when they returned to the homes once owned by Jews. Why should they not be allowed to live there? These dedicated people are the true Zionists of today - were it not for them, there would be no access for Jews to this holy site. And as for the army barring ‘peace supporters’ from visiting Hebron, they would not have done so without a court order.

The fact is that these left-wing activists regularly bus ‘observers’ and ‘study groups’ to Hebron to harass and to gawk at these families behind their iron grilles, as if they were animals in a cage. I saw it for myself and I know how I felt like reacting. And for what purpose do Messrs Barshak and Prager think these activists go there - to offer prayers at the shrine?
 


 

Rubin Katz, London NW11

Sir - Your correspondent Fred Barshak should add to the ‘atrocities’ committed by Israel the much more numerous atrocities practised on Israel. That would make him a more credible Zionist. As for the sad cases of Inge Trott, Miriam Margolyes, Harold Pinter, Gerald Kaufman and company, their hobby of attacking Israel at every opportunity fills me not only with anger but pity - for them.


 

G. J. Fisher, Bushey Heath, Herts

Sir – Re the letter by Henry Schragenheim (September), I knew a Polish family who lived in the Lvov area from which they were forcibly moved by the Ukrainians and then ‘resettled’ in the now Polish territory in Eastern Germany. This was done so quickly that the Germans didn’t have time to take all their belongings with them!

He failed to mention the forcible total eviction of Germans from East Prussia by the Russians, with considerable casualties suffered by the Germans, and from Eastern Germany by Poland.

All this is forgotten – but the ‘occupied’ West Bank and the retaliation by Israeli forces, some of it with undue vigour, for the mortar, rockets and suicide attacks by the Arabs is constantly portrayed by the media here as an example of Jewish terrorism.

Some non-Jews I know talk with horror of Arab families being wiped out by Israeli raids. But they are too young to know of Eastern Germany and certainly of what went on in East Prussia – and maybe don’t want to know!
 

Alex Lawrence, Marlow

Sir - Peter Phillips’s cri de coeur (August) is understandable. His comments relate to a phenomenon in world Jewry, both in Israel and the diaspora, which appears to promote anti-Zionism and thus anti-Semitism in equal measure. It is difficult to explain how and why this has come about, not least because the situation in Israel and the Middle East has, historically, occurred in a complex, multilateral manner, starting with the Balfour Declaration. It would be simplistic to try to explain it simply in terms of colonialism or occupation by belligerents. The explanation must be sought deep in the Jewish psyche, which has become accustomed for over 2,000 years to fill the role of victim rather than that of conqueror. Those in whom this paranoia manifests itself should try to analyse their motivation and, hopefully, rid themselves of what must surely be a painful experience.

 

 

Dr Emil Landes, Highgate

Sir – Recently the AJR Journal and The Guardian Weekly landed on our doormat. In the Journal, Peter Phillips said, more or less, that Mail-readers can’t easily distinguish between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism (any more than between paedophiles and paediatricians) and that the most convenient course is to respect their confusion and not criticise. Frank Bright urged us not to bother arguing with meshuggene, i.e. Jews who espouse the Palestinian cause.
The Guardian Weekly carries an interview with Daniel Barenboim and members of his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Amichai Grosz, a viola player, said: ‘There is Gaza, the rockets coming out of Gaza, and it shouldn’t be like that. But then the way we treat the Arabs is not a solution. Everything you do will come back to you somehow .…’
 

George Schlesinger, Durham

Sir - It saddens, and annoys, me to read so many anti-Israel letters in the AJR Journal, although it gladdens me to read the responses by fair and balanced pro-Israel readers.

As for the so-called Palestinians, there are no such people, just as there never was such a land - only the false name given to Judea 2,000 years ago by Emperor Hadrian after he had razed Judea and its capital, Jerusalem, to the ground. Gazans are actually 99.9 per cent Egyptians who often visit their villages and families on the Egyptian
side of the border. Arabs in Judea-Samaria and mid and north Israel are
mainly from Syria, the Arabian desert (now Saudia), even Iraq.

 


 

Trudy Gefen, Tel Aviv

Correction

The sentence in the first paragraph of the letter by Fred Barshak in last month’s issue should have read: ‘Nor do I need to prove my Zionist credentials, having spent two wars in Israel by choice.’

 


Sir – Some months ago I wrote to the AJR Journal about my father, Edmund Redisch, who was interned on the Isle of Man. My mother and I came to England with the help of the Quakers early in 1939. Father, being Jewish, had to obtain a forged passport before he could join us, which he did shortly before hostilities began.

My father was one of those who volunteered to join the British Army rather than spend the duration on the Isle of Man. My mother then obtained his holiday pay and was allowed to take up paid employment (10d per hour for house cleaning!). Father joined the Pioneer Corps and was happy to serve the Allies and have regular home leave to see his family.

By the way, the British government allowed father to anglicise his name to Edward Redcliffe. I would love to hear, via the Journal, from anyone who met him, either on the Isle of Man or in the Army.
 

 

(Mrs) Maria Blackburn, Newport Pagnell