Kinder Sculpture


May 2007 Journal

Letters to the Editor


Sir – Anthony Grenville was right to say in his informative article about Munich (March) that Nazism plays no significant role today. When I said in my letter concerning Stolpersteine that some things had not changed, I was referring to the atmosphere which in some respects is still very reminiscent of the sinister milieu described so well in Feuchtwanger’s Erfolg. The officialdom in Munich certainly finds too much remembering as distinctly ungemütlich.

My friend the Munich artist Wolfram Kastner is in constant trouble with the authorities in Munich and Salzburg for remembering in unauthorised ways and quantities well above their comfort zone. A typical example was his request to commemorate the 1933 book-burning on the spot where it had originally taken place. The request was turned down by Munich town hall on the grounds that there was no historical continuity. How come? Wait for it! The Nazi book-burning had taken place on the lawn of the Koenigsplatz. They then paved the whole square over to hold parades. After the war it was grassed over again. The grass on which the commemoration was to take place was not the same as that on which the original book-burning had taken place. Therefore no historical continuity! The bureaucrats of Erfolg would have been proud to think that one up! Following considerable publicity for the town hall, the commemoration was eventually sanctioned.

Concerning the Munich Jews of today, many of them are recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union and therefore not overly concerned with local matters. As for the ‘natives’, no one is trying to coerce them into having any Stolpersteine for their relatives against their will. All Stolpersteine are sponsored anyhow. They, on the other hand, should not dictate to others how we want to commemorate our murdered relatives. I regard the streets of Munich, where they walked, as the right place for my five Munich family members who perished in the Holocaust to be remembered.
Peter Jordan, Manchester

Sir - With reference to your excellent article on Munich, on 22 March a new Jewish Museum was opened there with an official ceremony at the Rathaus to which a number of former Jewish citizens were invited by the Mayor, Christian Uhde. They were also asked to join him at a preview two days earlier. There is a Chair of Jewish History at the university, established ten years ago. The anniversary is being celebrated by events organised this summer by the holder, Professor Michael Brenner. These include a lecture on Lion Feuchtwanger and Munich by Hans-Jochen Vogel, former Mayor, Federal Minister of Justice and SPD Chancellor candidate.
Edgar Feuchtwanger, Winchester


Sir- Having enjoyed a long absence from Britain, one of my more interesting tasks on returning was to catch up with the January and February issues of the AJR Journal. That, of course, included the always fascinating Letters to the Editor.

What joy to read of Peter Zander’s strength of character in carrying his integrity with him where’er he goes. Even to Berlin. Given that he is only concerned with his British and German nationality, it is a shame that he feels obliged to write also about Israel.

Francis Steiner is maligning Hitler if he accuses him of having been influenced by the Mufti of Jerusalem. From what I have read very few Jews had intended to emigrate to Palestine before Hitler. A tiny number of those organised in Zionist movements - I was one of them - were prepared to spend their lives working in a kibbutz. Of course, once Hitler’s persecution started – I wonder who put him up to that – the few turned into masses. My brother was one of them.

Perhaps Francis Steiner has not heard of the Muslim Brotherhood. One article in their constitution demanded the annihilation of the Jews, in line with an action by the Prophet Mohammed, who, it is written, on one occasion wiped out a whole town of Jews. I doubt whether, in 1928, the Brotherhood really feared the coming of a Jewish state.

He also seems to believe that a Jew ceases to be a Jew if he is not religious. Presumably, by this argument, an atheistic or agnostic Israeli is not a Jew. When the various Jewish community councils from different countries met to discuss what help can be given to Jews in Germany and in Austria, they decided to include the non-believing Jews in their assistance schemes.

It is probably correct that, had it not been for the Holocaust, the State of Israel might not have come into being in the way it did. Has it occurred to Erika Millman that without the support of America, Israel might be in danger of being annihilated?

May I suggest that all who see themselves as Jews are accepted as such? It is like being part of a huge family connected by strands of common roots, especially when antisemitism and anti-Judaism are still rampant all over the world. It would be unnatural for us not to be concerned for the well-being of Israel, a country initially created to be a haven for Jews. Of course, it is not obligatory.
Eric Sanders, London W12

Sir – I am surprised to find myself categorised by Peter Phillips as anti-Israeli (March). My thought was, and is, that the country would appear to have run out of ideas about its future international relations. Of course, its continuing need to be, and to feel, secure takes priority.

I may, in comparison with others, be ill-informed about Israeli strategic thinking, but the establishment of the State of Israel and its immediate concerns must be a bar to looking ahead to what kind of world our successors must be encouraged to want to live in. Nation-states are not necessarily the last word on the subject. Thinking does not stop today.
Alan S. Kaye, Marlow, Bucks

Sir - I was appalled at the views expressed under the heading ‘Stick up for Israel’ (April). I am amazed any of your readers feel moved to condone the Israeli policy of ‘dominating, expelling, starving and humiliating an entire people’ (in the words of a group of experienced IDF officers). Are these readers honestly in favour of building settlements on occupied territory, in clear violation of international law? Of the massive increase in settler numbers since the Oslo peace talks? Of the illegal appropriation of land by building parts of the separation wall on Palestinian land, beyond the 1967 borders? And the now well-documented shootings by the IDF at unarmed civilian targets?

Maybe it is high time to profile in your pages some of the many organisations within Israel which are fighting for a different way forward: Rabbis for Human Rights, Checkpoint Watch, Breaking the Silence (testimony of soldiers who have served in the occupied territories), the Bereaved Families Forum/Parents Circle, the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, Yesh G’vul, Physicians for Human Rights - to name but a few. Surely the least we can do is attempt to understand why so many voices within as well as outside Israel feel compelled to speak out against the aggressive actions of successive Israeli governments.
Caroline M. Salinger, Leicester


Sir – May I ride to the rescue of Anthony Grenville regarding whether or not Theriesenstadt was a ghetto (Letters, March). I was there for 15 months before being sent to Auschwitz and from there to a slave-labour camp. Theriesenstadt was a ghetto. It may have been a grim place compared to home, but it was paradise compared to anything that followed.
Frank Bright, Ipswich


Sir - As a non-Jewish reader, may I say how much I enjoy your journal, especially the lively Letters page.

A small but significant correction should be added to your article on Hamburg (March, page 2). Unlike his son Julius, who became a lecturer at the University of Sussex, Rabbi Joseph Carlebach did not come to Britain. Showing great courage, he decided to stay behind to care for the Jewish community in Hamburg, together with his wife Lotte and their youngest children. In 1942 they were deported to the death camps in the East.

Further information about the family can be found in Jedes Kind ist mein Einziges, the poignant memoir by Miriam Gillis-Carlebach about her mother Lotte and their family life in Hamburg.
Professor Edward Timms, Centre for German-Jewish Studies, University of Sussex


Sir - I strongly object to the phrasing in the article by Victor Ross (April). He describes the disproportionate amount of Jews who ‘grabbed’ a Nobel Prize. It is my understanding that this prize is awarded to deserving and special people in politics, the arts, literature, the sciences, etc. I am not aware of anyone, particularly a Jew, ever ‘grabbing’ this prize. Talk about Jewish self-hatred! I think an apology and a correction are in order.
Ellen Stein, Bronxville, NY, USA


Sir - Your by now annual ‘In Memoriam’ for the deported and then murdered Dresden Jews in 1943 is a valuable antidote to too much guilt for the subsequent bombing of that city two years later. Those who fail to see the connection may be reminded that the burning of German cities began on 10 November 1938.
Enid and Robert Miller, Leatherhead


Sir – I was very interested to read the two articles on Frank Meisler in a recent issue. He came from Danzig, as I did. It certainly brought back memories.

In the profile there was mention of a Dr Itzig, who was head of the Jewish congregation in Danzig in 1939. He succeeded my father, Ernst Berent, in that position after we left Danzig in 1938 and came to England.I believe that between them Dr Itzig and my father organised the Kindertransports from Danzig. As far as I remember, father even had an interview with Anthony Eden about this and about the possibility of allowing Jewish children into Israel, or Palestine as it then was.

Father was very much concerned with the AJR in its early days – they published a most impressive obituary after his death in the AJR Information of November 1961, a copy of which I treasure.
F. Renee Martin, Sheffield


Sir – There is something unusual about the AJR Journal. In contrast to all the other journals that land on my doorstep, I read it from cover to cover. My interest in it would, however, be enhanced if the Journal reflected the diversity of the cultural background of the AJR membership more.

I appreciate that the great majority of AJR members come originally (or are descendents of former refugees) from Germany or Austria (my wife came to the UK with the Kindertransport from Vienna). But surely there are others. Many came from Czechoslovakia – and not only from the German-speaking Sudetenland but also from the Czech- (like myself) or Slovak-speaking parts, Hungary, Poland and other European countries. I feel that the Journal’s contents should better reflect this diversity by occasionally (more than at present) including articles and news of interest to this section of the membership. Am I alone in this view?
Professor Pavel Novak, Newcastle upon Tyne


Sir – Disturbed, like your critic, by the film Black Book (March), I have just visited the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation to get a balanced picture. The best estimates say approximately 24,000 Jews went into hiding in the Netherlands and about one in three of these were captured. Rescuers faced great difficulties, including the rationing system and the Dutch police, who mostly collaborated with the Germans. Dutch Calvinists were especially altruistic. There was also a strike of municipal workers in Amsterdam and other cities against the arrest of Jews. (It’s a disgrace that we outside the Netherlands do not participate in the annual February commemoration of that event.) Black Book seems to have created no great stir in Holland.
George Landers, Crete, Greece


Sir – On reading the article by Harry Bibring in a recent issue, I came across the name of Theodore Bikel. I am the daughter of the actress Clara Meisels and Abish Meisels, who translated The Merchant of Venice and other works into Yiddish. Mama retold the story that when she was appearing at the Grand Palais in Whitechapel Teddy played a little boy and sat on her lap (I can’t remember the name of the play).

On his return to London after the war, he called on my parents for a visit. I was out of the ATS by than and had the pleasure of meeting him. He is a delightful person with a great sense of humour but I thought his best joke was that mama ought now to sit on his lap.
Ruth Schneider, London N8

Letter to the Editor