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Dec 2006 Journal

Letters to the Editor

A Stolperstein for Irma Zancker

Sir - I read with great emotion the article by Dieter Sienknecht in the October issue. Stolpersteine are going to be laid in memory of my parents, Siegfried and Trude Würzburger, and my brother, Hans Würzburger, outside our home in Frankfurt, on the 65th anniversary of their deportation to Lodz on 19 October 1941. All is arranged and paid for by 'Paten' (sponsors), self-appointed godfathers in a German Christian organisation, no doubt very similar to the organisation used by Dieter Sienknecht to commemorate the memory of his former Jewish neighbour.

As I only left Germany with the last Kindertransport from Frankfurt on 24 August 1939, I can fully understand how embarrassed ten-year-old Dieter must have felt in 1942 when he was suddenly meeting his parents' former Jewish friend Irma Zancker wearing the Star of David. How relieved he must have felt when she terminated the conversation quickly and, many years later, when he heard that she had perished in the Holocaust, how guilty he must have felt!

Dieter Sienknecht decided to sponsor a Stolperstein in Irma Zancker's memory in Hamburg, and I only hope that her son Klaus is still alive and that somebody can trace him so that he, or any other surviving member of his family, will find out about this very kind deed by his former German neighbour.

I am very pleased that hundreds of Christians all over Germany are trying to trace the families of Jews who perished in the Holocaust and place these memorial stones in front of the homes from which they were deported.
Kenneth Ward, Wickford, Essex

Sir - The article 'A Stolperstein for Irma Zancker' is in stark contrast with a very different experience I had in Munich. In May 2004 the Cologne artist Gunter Demnig placed Stolpersteine for my parents, Paula and Fritz Jordan, outside the block of flats where they had lived before their deportation to Kaunas, where, together with 998 other Munich Jews, they were shot soon after arrival.

The event had been researched, financed and organised, initially without my knowledge, by two local grammar school girls and their classmates. As the mayor of Munich, Christian Ude, as well as the representatives of Munich Jews were known to be inimical to Stolpersteine, the impending event had not been publicised. Nevertheless, a small group of well-wishers and a few journalists and photographers attended the ceremony. Six weeks later, during the hours of darkness and following a council meeting, the Stolpersteine were removed by council workmen. This act of vandalism was preceded by a council meeting in which, with the exception of the Greens, all parties, including the Jewish representative, had voted for the removal of the Stolpersteine. Councillors of the socialist majority had been forced to vote for the removal by a whipping motion by the mayor. The removal evoked strong protests, including a half-page advertisement, signed by many prominent people, in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, but to no avail.

As for the representatives of the Munich Jews, having received considerable financial support from Munich for various projects, they do not, it seems, wish to rock the boat. In the meantime, Gunter Demnig has made many more Stolpersteine for Munich. For the time being, they cannot be placed on Munich pavements: they are on public display, temporarily in the Musikhochschule. A final irony: the Musikhochschule occupies the Führerbau, Hitler's former Munich headquarters.
Peter Jordan, Manchester

Visit to Vienna

Sir - In 2005 my wife and I visited Vienna as guests of the city. While there we were invited to various functions. The most memorable of these was with a group of young, non-Jewish people who were researching the fate of Jews who had lived in the building where they now lived. A memorial tablet was unveiled outside the building in memory of the Jews who had lived in it in 1938. The group have a website entitled 'Servitengasse 1938 Schicksale der Verschwundenen/ The Fate of Those Who Disappeared: A Memorial Project by the Citizens of Vienna's 9th District'. This information may be of interest to all refugees, in particular those from Vienna.
Joe Winroope, Radlett, Herts

Open letter to Anthony Howard

Sir - Whilst I admire Anthony Grenville's brilliantly written and researched article (October issue), I can't help feeling that he has chosen the wrong forum and the wrong time for its publication. This letter should have been sent to the Times in July, immediately after Any Questions was broadcast, when Israel's attacks on Lebanon made headline news. Also, Anthony Howard is unlikely to read the AJR Journal, dear though it is to our hearts, and we ex-refugees know that the systematic genocide of millions of innocent Jews has no parallel in history.

Nevertheless, I who, like most of us, lost close relatives then, including my stepmother, who raised me from the time I was a small child, believe that it demeans her suffering, and that of all who perished in the camps, to wheel out the Holocaust every time Israel needs an excuse for inappropriate behaviour.
Edith Argy, London W9

Visit to Vienna

Sir - It is time you were made aware that a large proportion of your readers does not share your uncritical support of Israel. I prefer to associate myself with them rather than with those who approve what you are pleased to refer to as the 'unplanned and unintended' killings and use of cluster bombs by the IDF in the Lebanon, the theft of Arab lands, the building of the illegal separation wall, and the persecution of the Arab population of Gaza and the West Bank

It is no excuse to point at war crimes committed by other nations: all atrocities - yes, even those by Britain in the course of its desperate struggle to save us from the Nazis - are an assault on our human values. However much it may infuriate you, the activities of the IDF invite comparison with the Nazis - especially to those of us who have lost their dearest relatives in the Holocaust. It is these activities - not the comparison - which dishonour the memory of Nazi victims.
Heinz Grunewald, Pinner, Middlx

Dividing line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism

Sir - There is now a very fine - and shrinking - dividing line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism and, when I think of our ilk, only the Neturey Carta and, of course, Gerald Kaufman, Harold Pinter et al, can be considered to fall into the first category. The main culprit is the biased BBC, and particularly Channel 4, which are completely lacking any kind of impartiality, with support from the Manchester Guardian and many other left-wing papers. So now we have the antics of Baroness Jenny Tonge, whose outbursts do justice to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Sheikh Hilali in Australia.
Anthony Goldsmith, Wembley, Middx

Bombing of Dresden

Sir - I have followed with interest the article and letters on the bombing of Dresden, and feel moved to comment on one aspect, which seems to have slipped past the arguments. Dresden was described before the war as a jewel of a city. One just has to see the Canaletto paintings to realise this. As such, it was a cultural heritage belonging to humanity as a whole, not just the German people, and especially not the Nazis. The bombing by the German forces of Coventry and Rotterdam - to give just two examples of similar destruction of cultural heritage - does not excuse the bombing of Dresden.

In this world, where beauty and monuments of great human achievement continue to be destroyed - like the famous bridge in Mostar (Bosnia), the giant Buddha statues in Afghanistan - or deliberately damaged in battle - like the great temple complex in Angkor (Cambodia) - we, as cultured, civilised human beings should stand up against all destruction of monuments, which belong to all of us. There should be no excuse. Furthermore, according to the memoirs of Albert Speer, Germany never had more than three months' fuel to run its war machine after the battle of Stalingrad. It relied almost totally on the conversion of brown coal to fuel performed in 17 factories along what is now the Czech-German border. Although no further for bombers than Dresden, none of these factories was ever bombed. Why?!
Karl A Bettelheim, Southgate, London

'Children of the Kindertransport'

Sir - Thank you so much for the postcard showing the new sculpture at Liverpool Street Station. I was also one of the boys who arrived with a suitcase and a violin, so you can understand that I feel especially touched. I am very happy that my brother, H. Edward Levy, is a trustee of your organisation.
Henry F Levy, Wollerau, Switzerland

National Railway Museum

Sir - I find Mr Leavor's letter regarding the supply of a Güterwagen to the Railway Museum in York rather confusing. The main consideration is, of course, that the wagon be of the required age and type as that used for the deportation of Jews, preferably with a breakhouse used by the armed guards and the words 'Deutsche Reichsbahn' and 'Standorf' with the wagon number on its side. Some had the number of people forced into them painted in crude white letters i.e. '73 Personen' added. Put 73 dummies into a Göterwagen of the period and it will give visitors to the museum some idea of the suffering of human beings incarcerated in them for days without food or water. A leading manufacturer of electric toy trains has recently produced in HO gauge a truck of this type including sliding doors. It is an exact copy without, of course, the legend '73 Personen' on it.
Ernest G. Kolman, Greenford, Middx

'Association of Jewish Continentals'

Sir - Unlike your correspondent Adele Gotthelf (October), I am glad to belong to an Association of Jewish Refugees - a reminder to me, my children and grandchildren that we found help and shelter when the need was greatest in a country with a proud tradition of aiding the persecuted. At Passover we are bidden to remember a time of rescue 'as if we ourselves had been saved at that time'. Let our descendents not forget that they owe their existence to those who found 'refuge' in Britain and therefore bore the title of 'refugees' gladly to the end of their lives.
S S Prawer, Queen's College, Oxford