Mar 2014 Journal

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Letter from Israel

I wanted to prepare a suitable version of the advertisement for my novel The Balancing Game for inclusion in a website which posts my articles from time to time and whose motto is ‘There is a Jewish Story Everywhere.’ For this purpose I enlisted the help of one of my sons, who, among his many talents, is a designer and computer whiz.

‘Oh, no!’ he exclaimed when I showed him the site on my computer. ‘Not Fraktur font! That’s what the Nazis used!’

To me it seemed that the editor had chosen a fairly innocuous, possibly quaint, Gothic-type font. The effect it had on me was to call to mind ancient texts and artistic calligraphy, but obviously my son’s association was very different.

Just to be on the safe side, I decided to try to verify what my son claimed. I remembered that tucked away somewhere in one of the three large files of documents, letters and other material that my late father had brought with him out of Germany in 1938 were a couple of posters put up by the Nazi Party and evidently taken down by him clandestinely.

Luckily, years before, when I had first opened those venerable files and inspected their contents I had decided to index them. My father had put everything in alphabetical and chronological order, but I removed the yellowing pages from the rusting ring-binders and, keeping their order, placed them in three plastic box-files.

All I had to do was look at the index page at the front of each box-file and within minutes I had found what I was looking for. Sure enough, right at the end of the last of the three files, the one containing material from between 1932 and 1934, were two folded-up posters, evidently dating from 1932, both screaming exhortations to the German public to vote for the National-Socialist Party (NSDAP) and, of course, the lettering used was the Fraktur font that my son had immediately identified. At first sight, the text seemed fairly innocuous:

In 8 months
2 million workers have lost their jobs and are starving!
Get rid of the class struggle and its parties!
Smite Bolshevism!
Defeat provincialism!
One Reich
Will restore order and cleanliness!
One nation -
One Reich -
One leader!
That is what will be achieved under Hitler’s leadership!
Hitler will
Set the country to rights and restore its honour!
Germany’s honour is your honour!
Germany’s fate is also your fate!
Vote Yes!
For Hitler and the NSDAP.

We all know what happened next. However, it seems a shame that this elegant and artistic font should arouse such ugly associations. Such, it would seem, is the power of print and visual association.

The sight of the posters caused my son to become quite agitated. For someone born and brought up in Israel, for whom the Holocaust and the tragedy of the Jews of Europe is something he has learned about from history books or possibly heard about from survivors, to see and touch such tangible evidence from that terrible time was a moving experience.

The posters were printed on poor-quality paper and are beginning to deteriorate. They are large, measuring 32 inches by 23, and are therefore too big to go into my photocopier.

But for the sake of posterity, I have included the content of that poster in the text of my forthcoming novel, Time Out of Joint: the Fate of a Family.

Dorothea-Shefer-Vanson

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