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Oct 2006 Journal

Letters to the Editor

Vienna, Mozart and Da Ponte

Sir - Just a footnote to the recent anti- and pro-Austria correspondence. On a one-day 'transit' journey via Vienna, we visited the Jewish Museum and enjoyed a wonderful exhibition - during this Mozart year - about Lorenzo da Ponte, his major librettist. We had no idea he had been born Emmanuele Cogneliano, of a Jewish family in Canada. When his mother died early, his father, on remarriage, had the family baptised by the local bishop, whose name was ... Lorenzo da Ponte.

Da Ponte's adventurous career - as a renegade priest, librettist, resident in Venice, Vienna, London, Trieste and finally 33 years in New York - is beautifully presented in original documents, photos and letters in Italian, with commentaries in German and English. He married Nancy Grahl, the daughter of a London trader in - what is suspected but cannot be proved - a Trieste synagogue. Casanova advised him to make a career in London rather than Paris. Da Ponte founded the first Italian opera in New York. His Jewishness was acknowledged by the Nazis, who promptly invented a different librettist for a Germanised Mozart.
Eric mark, Kraainem, Belgium

Refugee Children in North Cornwall

Sir - Miss Marjorie Moos, whom Harry Grenville mentions (August), taught me Jewish religious studies at South Hampstead High School for Girls, where I was in 1940. She was generous in her marking of our examination papers in that we Jewish girls always got embarrassingly high marks compared with those gained by the others in their papers.

One day, during assembly, our headmistress announced that we were privileged to have with us the sister of Miss Moos, who had just returned from a visit to Belsen and would tell us all about it. It happened to be the very morning on which I had received the news that my parents and little brother had perished in Auschwitz, dashing all my dreams of a reunion with them. However, since I did not wish to attract attention to myself and as I had by then learned the art of the stiff upper lip, I sat through the talk. Years later, I heard that Marjorie Moos was still alive and, I believe, she lived to a ripe old age - she may even have reached 100.
Bronia Z. Snow (née Ringler), Esher, Surrey

Sir - I am one of the children from Regent's Park School and was more than interested to read the article by Günter Guttman. Now, being over 81, I cannot remember the names of my fellow students, but I do remember playing the triangle in the school concert at Hampstead Town Hall.

My memory of Mr Petley, a first-class teacher who pole-vaulted to the first-floor platform on the back staircase, will always be vivid. Having caught me smoking grass rolled up in cigarette paper, he gave me lines to do. These were not done, so they were doubled. On the Thursday before the end of term they were doubled again, with the threat of six on each hand the following day should they not be there. Knowing the lines would not be ready, I asked if I could get the six on each hand in advance. This was done and, after that, I was allowed the king-pin job of helping him to set up his telescope. We were the best of friends. If there are any ex-Schindler pupils, why not contact one another? My name has not changed - even the Wolfgang in the middle is still there.
Hardy W. Seidel, London NW7

Bombing of Dresden

Sir - I have Agata Schindler's book and appreciate her penetrating research into Dresden's 'musical' Jews. Frank Bright's review (June) is his opinion of the book - which I share - but for its political observations, which I find too strong for my taste. It is his review and his right to say it.

Likewise, I find David Kemp's outburst (August) disturbing. May I recommend to him just two books out of the numerous publications on the Dresden air raids: Goetz Bergander, Dresden im Luftkrieg, Vorgeschichte - Zerstörung - Folgen (Munich: (Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, 1977) and the more recent book by Frederick Taylor, Dresden: Tuesday 13 February 1945 (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2004). This will, I think, soften Mr Kemp's condemnation. On the other hand, I could also recommend Norbert Haase, Steffi Jersch-Wenzel, Hermann Simon, Die Erinnerung Hat Ein Gesicht: Fotografien und Dokumente zur Nationalsozialistischen Judenverfolgung in Dresden 1933-1945 (Leipzig: Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, 1998).
Peter C. Rickenback, London NW3

Sir - Those who do not shed a tear for German casualties of a war of their own making are not necessarily morally deficient. Dresden was a perfectly legitimate target. Apart from being a railway junction to the Eastern Front, the German High Command's Weapons Office recorded 127 factories there working on war products - as we now know, a low estimate. Zeiss Ikon had stopped making cameras and made fuses for the German Navy. The Wiener Library has a copy of a film made by an employee. The vast majority of the slave labourers shown working there perished in the death camps of Poland. Whether Guernica, Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, Canterbury, York, Bath, Exeter, Norwich, Ipswich etc were equally legitimate strategic targets is doubtful but they, and many others, were bombed nevertheless.

I have a bone to pick with Francis Deutsch as well, also in the August issue. The end of the war did not mean that from then on we lived happily ever after. With no home, no relatives, a lost youth and resentment that we had had the temerity to survive, we turned to Palestine as our salvation. The British, subservient to Arab demands, shut the door in our faces. All of us could have been saved. The then Labour government carried on where Hitler had left off. If Francis Deutsch can think of an alternative to fighting the British and their Jordanian allies, who shelled Jewish Jerusalem in 1947 with British guns, in order to prise open the gates of Palestine - or at least a small part of it - I for one would like to hear of it.
Frank Bright, Ipswich

Ireland, Jews and Antisemites

Sir - While I am unable to refute any of your - as always - thoughtful points completely, your views on the country in which I've lived longer than any other (June issue) leave me with a very possibly biased unease. This is despite the fact that I can easily add to your list of Irish antisemitism as follows.

First, there is the case of the parliamentary deputy Oliver J. Flanagan, who said in 1944 that the Jews perhaps deserved what was happening to them - and went on to ministerial office and to become a cheerful, self-important old boy when I met him.

Second, there is De Valera's defence of the rights of small nations like Abyssinia at the League of Nations and acquiescence in Hitler's seizure of the Sudetenland.

And, third, in my own times, there was a sense of latent antisemitism when Israeli-supported Christian forces regularly killed Irish UN soldiers in Lebanon.

Moreover, at least one older friend admitted to me with horrified hindsight that 'Of course we supported Hitler.' And this is where I begin to take issue with you. If, as one family member always told me, he thought he was an assimilated German Jew before Kristallnacht, can often far less educated Irish people all be totally blamed for being so wrong?

As for Padraig Pearse's Blut und Boden sentiments, they were part of a European nationalist war psychosis. Rupert Brooke was not all 'And is there honey still for tea?', using Pearse-like language in The Dead.

Freud, as I and many of your readers first sadly learned from the pages of AJR Information/Journal, wrote in 1915 that only with the prospect of 10,000 daily deaths did life recover 'its full content and become interesting again'.

Carl Zuckmayer admtted that he experienced instant conversion from pacifism to military mania in 1914 when even the beloved Max Liebermann allowed himself to be tempted into war-slogan 'art' - albeit briefly.

In De Valera's lifetime, a significant proportion of Jews were not prevented from making significant contributions to Irish life, winning election to parliament and the mayorships of Dublin and Cork.

While the Jewish population declined through emigration in the economic hard times you noted - often through lack of potential marriage partners rather than antisemitism - the Celtic Tiger has boosted that population again, mainly through young Israelis in the computer industry.

As for today's Sinn Fein: if Islamic extremists had learned as much as Adams and his co-signatories of the Good Friday Agreement, might both Jews and the whole planet be happier?
Andrew Sheppard, Dublin

National Railway Museum

Sir - Further to my letter in your August 2006 issue, the National Railway Museum in York have now confirmed that they would like to acquire a Güterwagen such as was used to transport Jews to concentration camps. Herr Gottwaldt knows where one is available and it remains to work out logistics and cost.

In the review of Martin Gilbert's book Kristallnacht by Marian Maler in the same issue, she missed a mistake - not surprisingly in the wealth of information - namely, that the synagogue in Bayreuth was not destroyed as it was adjacent to a theatre.
Rudi Leavor, Bradford

Association of Jewish Continentals

Sir - One of my relations has pointed out to me that 'You cannot be a refugee after 60 years in a country!' What about Association of Jewish Continentals?
Adele Gotthelf, New Barnet, Herts

Meals on Wheels: A Short Note of Thanks

Sir - Just a short note of thanks to Susie and Sandra for the wonderful service they provide for 'meals on wheels'. It has always been a pleasure to speak to them on the phone when making orders. The two gentlemen who deliver the meals are charming. As for the meals themselves - they are just delicious and so beautifully served and packaged. I wish you every success in the future. Many thanks for all your kindness.
Charlotte Collins (on behalf of Konrad Schreiber), London N3

Back to Leipzig

Sir - What a refreshing article by Naomi (September)! Big heart, clear thinking and forward-looking - that's what we ought to be doing, rather than bemoaning the past. I too am an Opa, lucky in having grandchildren similar to Naomi. Let us encourage them to build a better future than our, and even our children's, generations.

Marc Schatzberger, York