Oct 2011 Journal

Letters to the Editor


Sir - Herbert Haberberg’s reference to Dr Grenville’s views as ‘moralistic claptrap’ (July) spoils what is surely a realistic description of the facts. Dr Grenville’s reply - ‘We fought the war to show that our standards were superior to those of the Nazis …’ - is not convincing. It sounds good, but why we fought the war depends on who we were.
It is unlikely that the large majority of us went into the war on those grounds. The reason for going to war against the Nazis had a variety of facets. The strongest one must surely have been to stop Hitler and the spread of his power and creed. I would not exclude the desire of retribution by many of us, the earliest victims, and by more and more British people as the war went on. Dr Grenville may consider retribution immoral, but then he must find all punitive actions immoral, although they are part of our superior standards. And one huge facet of the reason must surely have been that of defending ourselves against the threatening danger to our lives.
My impression is that Dr Grenville bases his concepts on a fixed standard of morality. He writes ‘War is in itself immoral.’ The meaning of the term ‘war’ is not a fixed one. I hold that certain wars are not immoral and, in some cases, not going to war is immoral.
Is Dr Grenville old enough to have experienced the Second World War? I believe that all those of us who were involved in that war, which went on and on and became a way of living, had none of the moral inhibitions Dr Grenville suggests we should have had over the bombing of Dresden.

Eric Sanders, London W12

Sir - Some of your correspondents have either forgotten the Second World War or are too young to remember it.

First, Hitler never obtained 99.9 per cent of the German vote, as Eric Bourne (August) suggested. He is thinking of the late Hafez al-Assad. Hitler reached his peak in the 19 April 1932 election, when he obtained 36.8 per cent of the vote. On 31 July 1932, his party won 230 seats out of 608 in the Reichstag, but on 6 November 1932 lost two million votes and 34 seats.

Second, the argument against the strategic bombing offensive was only secondarily a moral one. The prime criticism was that it failed. Its aim was to destroy Germany’s war capacity by destroying her production facilities and undermining the morale of her population. ‘Bomber’ Harris tried to do this by general area bombing, and he was unenthusiastic about attacking specific targets. He even opposed Barnes Wallis’s ‘bouncing bomb’. In 1942 the bombing was claimed to have reduced Germany’s output by an unimpressive 2.5 per cent, a figure later reduced to a niggardly 0.7 per cent of general production and 0.5 per cent of war production. A total of 200,000 tons of bombs were dropped in 1943 and German armaments production rose by 50 per cent. The cost of the offensive was horrendous. During the Battle of the Ruhr alone (March-July 1943), Bomber Command lost 872 planes, with an overall loss rate of 4.7 per cent - close to what it could sustain. In terms of morale, the Germans proved as resilient as the British.

Despite objections from Harris, the bombing campaign changed during the summer of 1944. Precision bombing of Germany’s oil installations reduced the Luftwaffe’s fuel supply to 10,000 tons out of a monthly requirement of 160,000 tons. This had a more serious impact on Germany’s ability to fight than the thousands of tons of bombs dumped on civilian targets.

The biggest Allied mistake was not to bomb the German Haber process plants, which produced fertilisers and explosives for the war effort. The plants were situated on the Rhine near Ludwigshafen and were more accessible and more vulnerable than population centres. The reason they were not attacked was only partly Harris’s enthusiasm for attacking civilians. F. A. Lindeman (later Lord Cherwell) was Churchill’s scientific adviser and a supporter of carpet bombing. As a physicist who knew little chemistry, he did not realise the significance of the Haber plants.

Bryan Reuben, London N3

Sir - It was November 1940. We were still in Prague when I actually saw Goebbels’s article in Das Reich in which he coined the word ‘kowentrieren’. His grammar wasn't that good but his intention was clearly spelled out: to reduce to rubble every British city. Surely, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

The Kaiser’s army chiefs saw the potential of terrorising civilians with improved versions of Zeppelins filled with hydrogen which raided London, Dover, Southend, Ipswich, Ramsgate, Hull, etc. A total of 557 people were killed and 1,358 injured. They flew above the ceiling of a BE2, an early fighter, which took all of 50 minutes to reach 10,000 ft. The RFC responded with the Sopwith Camel and incendiary bullets which set the hydrogen alight.

Having come to enjoy terrorising the civilian Englaenders, the Kaiser’s air force ordered Gotha bombers powered by two Mercedes engines which bombed at night. The 27 raids by Gothas cost 835 civilians killed and 1,990 wounded.

Undeterred by losses and determined to continue blind bombing of civilians, they constructed Zeppelin Straaken giant bombers powered by four Mercedes engines which succeeded in blowing up a wing of the Chelsea Hospital with an enormous 1,000-pound bomb in 1918. A truly heroic achievement!

Frank Bright, Martlesham Heath (a 1917 RAF airfield), Suffolk


Sir – With regard to the article ‘British Quakers and the rescue of Jewish refugees’ in your June issue, the picture shown was indeed taken in 1939 in Harrogate, Yorkshire, of a Kindertransport from Hamburg in December 1938.
We were 25 girls in a hostel that served in summer as a holiday camp for underprivileged Jewish children. I can identify most of the girls in the picture. I am in the centre wearing a dress with a white collar in the second row. My sister is in the front row, to the left of Eva Wolf, who is wearing glasses.
I was invited to be cared for by a five-person committee of philanthropists from Leeds and Harrogate in December 1938, shortly after my sister Hildegard Gernsheimer, at the time 12 years old, and I (née Simon), 13 months older, arrived. We entrusted our lives to accept the offer made to our group of 25 religious girls to be cared for in Harrogate.

Ruth Heinemann, Lantana, Florida, USA


Sir – Anthony Grenville’s review of Vera Fast’s A History of the Kindertransports in the September issue certainly shows up the deficiencies - so far - in providing a full academic study of the KTs, which they deserve. However, it seems to me that he is a little hard on Vera Fast. To have compressed the complex story into less than 200 pages is a feat accomplished by few; to accuse her of shortcomings on the 1938-39 KT – ‘only’ 168 out of 198 pages - seems ungracious since that amounts to 85 per cent of the book. That leaves just 30 pages for the rest - but again there is the accusation that ‘only’ 20 pages deal with the ‘later years’.

The AJR is indeed not a subject for just a couple of footnotes. So the conclusion must be to agree with the final sentence of his review - that ‘a truly authoritative history of the subject remains to be written.’ Now, by whom better than Dr Grenville himself - and when better than as soon as possible after June 2011’s successful 70th anniversary celebratory event, which for a whole week added greatly to understanding how most of the German-speaking Jewish refugees integrated successfully into British life!

Eric Mark, Brussels

Sir – Anthony Grenville states: ‘Surprisingly, no proper academic history of the Kindertransports in English exists.’ I would refer to my doctoral thesis ‘Anglo-Jewry and the Refugee Children 1938-1945’ (University of London 2001). This is a fairly comprehensive account of the work of the Refugee Children’s Movement, the rescue activities of Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld under the auspices of the Chief Rabbi’s Religious Emergency Council, and containing a final chapter based on interviews with and testimonies of some of those who came on the Kindertransports.

Surprisingly, my work is listed (fairly high) on the resources page of the American Kindertransport Association (www.kindertransport.org). I am, however, not aware of any such list having been created by the KT Association in England.

Anthony Grenville: This is an unpublished PhD thesis.

Paula Hill, PhD, Jerusalem


Sir – Further to my letter last month voicing concern that the Holocaust is being steadily de-Judaised in the UK, it has even been hinted that this approach is desirable by certain letter-writers in these columns - where I would least have expected it.

Now we read that France is to ban the word Shoah as ‘too Jewish’ and replace it with an innocuous French word for ‘annihilation’: anéantissement.

Apparently the term Holocaust is not used in France but, by implication, they of course mean that too. School textbooks, on instruction from the education ministry, are to avoid any Jewish connotation for the genocide of the Jews. French Holocaust deniers have been handed a victory. I wonder how long it will take for the idea to cross the Channel and for something similar to be introduced here. They will have a dilemma with the designation Holocaust Memorial Day - but then anything goes and nothing is sacred in the post-modern times we live in, all in the interests of universalism and political correctness.

Rubin Katz, London NW11


Sir - Victor Ross (May, Letters) will be relieved to learn that the pictures he saw on the walls of the Austrian Ambassador’s residence at 18 Belgrave Square come neither from a museum nor from looted art treasures - they have been there for a long time. Except for a recently added portrait of Franz Joseph, they were certainly there in 1937, when my late brother saw them at the then Austrian Legation, and had probably been there since the building first became the Austro-Hungarian embassy in the 1860s.

F. M. M. Steiner, Deddington, Banbury


Sir - In response to Nicholas Reed’s enquiry about Eleanor Rathbone’s funeral: Eleanor left it to her closest friends, Elizabeth Macadam and Eva Hubback, to decide how her remains should be dealt with. As she was not a practising Christian, she was cremated, although where is uncertain. There followed a private service at Highgate Unitarian Chapel and her remains are believed to have been interred in the family crypt in Smithdown Road, Liverpool. Her name and dates are certainly on the obelisk, along with those of her parents and other family members.

Three memorial services were held in her honour: at St Margaret’s Westminster, at Liverpool Cathedral for family and friends, and at Bloomsbury House, London, attended by people involved in the refugee cause.

Although Mr Reed mentions Eleanor’s long-running and ultimately successful campaign for the family allowance, this was only one aspect of her working life as a great humanitarian activist. I was disappointed, and surprised, that he did not refer to her immensely important role as a refugee activist from 1933 until her death in 1946. From the moment in April 1933 when she stood up in the House of Commons and denounced Hitler and his regime, she became the most ardent campaigner on behalf of refugees, especially Jews, from Europe, committing herself wholeheartedly to championing their cause both inside and outside Parliament, and destroying her health along the way. I would recommend that Mr Reed read my monograph, Rescue the Perishing: Eleanor Rathbone and the Refugees, so that he can get a real picture of this great lady, who had no equal and deserves much greater public recognition.

(Dr) Susan Cohen. London NW11


Sir - I would like to endorse Anthony Grenville’s praise of Hannah Horovitz in your September issue. I became acquainted with Hannah while I was at Oxford through a friend of mine, John Wood, who, sadly, like Hannah, died last year. I saw much of her in the early to late fifties, but then we lost touch.

Just a very few years back, at the Groucho Club, there was a tap on my shoulders. ‘Excuse me, are you Peter Pfeffer?’ I was asked. I hadn’t a clue who this person was. ‘I’m Hannah Horovitz,’ she said, ‘Don’t you remember me?’ Of course I remembered her but, admittedly, I failed to recognise her. How she recognised me, after 50 years, is unbelievable! We had a drink. She was a lovely, highly intelligent lady and fully deserved the honour of the concert held for her at the Royal Academy of Music.

Peter Phillips (born Peter Pfeffer), Loudwater, Herts


Sir – Our present government is currently involved in persuading the young unemployed to find employment and so become independent of state assistance. An examination of an event in 1938-39 might offer some guidance! Some 10,000 children without parents, money or personal goods arrived in the UK. Community support was provided for their existence. Their ages varied between 6 and 14. On closer examination, you will find that in later years the vast majority became ‘middle class’. What was the drive that made this possible?

Michael Sherwood, Bushey


Sir - You guessed it! The cost of rounding up the mobile-communicating mob and charging them - the trials, solicitors’ fees (typically £400 per hour) and the courts - is just the beginning. The expense of rebuilding people’s homes and businesses, cars, cleaning up, repairs, restocking etc is immeasurable, resulting in more price rises. Add the recall of Parliament, police, fire service, provision of cells, incarcerating the criminals, their supervision, appeals, not forgetting the ‘human rights’ of their families! How does one compensate the families who have lost their homes, their jobs, and the mental damage done? The list is endless, the cost astronomical.

One thing is certain: insurance charges will be eye-watering, surpassing any previous ones. Inevitably, so will taxes in one form or another. Who is responsible for all this? Why should we bystanders have to foot the bill? Ultimately, we will have to blame ourselves. We entrust the politicians, the police and financial ‘experts’ with our lives and livelihood. Obviously our trust is widely misplaced. The Establishment is in disarray, blaming one another for the catastrophe for which they should be held responsible. The basic cause of the events and dealing with them are the concerns of the top echelons of society. They failed utterly. We saw in disbelief the inaction of the police and the government, which fiddled while England burned! The top policemen had resigned. The Mayor of London wielded a new broom. Those who wreaked havoc were not even made to clean it up!

Instead of apprehending ‘a handful’ of looters, over 2,500 so far, at the scene of their crime, 16,000 officers - too many and too late - relied on CCTVs, stating ‘Police will hunt down rioters for two years!’ No problem: we will pay for it!

Fred Stern, Wembley, Middx


Sir – Post-war anti-Semitism has taken some odd twists and turns along its ugly route. Picture this: a rather scruffy-looking, local green grocer displaying many boxes filled with self-destructing fruit and veg placed on the pavement outside the shop. On that particular day, much of the fruit was certainly on the turn, but winking at me invitingly was a large heap of fragrant, fully ripe mangoes in a box marked ‘Grown in Israel’.

Unable to resist any longer, I grabbed one of the mangoes and hurried inside to pay. Imagine my surprise/horror when the shop owner wrenched the fruit from my hand. Smiling broadly, he looked around to the other startled customers, presumably to ensure they would listen and watch.

‘Oh Madam, no Madam,’ he yelled, ‘You don’t want to buy no mangoes. Them’s Jew food – they’re grown in Palestine. No, Madam, you don’t want that – it’s Jewish!’

I never returned to this shop but, even one year on, my mind still boggles at the sheer stupidity of a trader who buys ‘Jewish’ food grown in Israel, but then warns his customers not to buy.

Laura Meyer Levy (address not supplied)