May 2008 Journal
Letters to the Editor
CLOTHES HANGERS ‘OUR INHERITANCE’
Sir - I was delighted to read Hana Nermut (March, Letters) on how a simple clothes hanger brought back memories of people who mean so much to us. These anecdotes are our inheritance. We have little else.
I was reminded of my own clothes hangers, which I inherited from my aunt. Tante Liese (Krämer) came to England on a domestic permit. She scrubbed floors in York after having run the ‘Hort’, perhaps the most desirable Froebel Kindergarten in Frankfurt.
When as a young woman my mother tried to tidy my aunt’s wardrobe, she would sneak into her room to ‘borrow’ a few clothes hangers. Every now and then she would ‘make amends’ by buying some plain wooden hangers, incising on them the words ‘gestohlen bei Liese’.
In June 1939, aged 10, I reached England with the KT. As an adult, I visited my aunt regularly. When she died I inherited her few possessions, among them the clothes hangers. They are my treasure.
A VISIT TO THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES
Sir – Having had my naturalisation certificate stolen years ago, I recently needed a copy of it. I visited the National Archives at Kew, where I was able to order a copy. I was charged £50 for a ‘certified’ one - £25 per page. After protesting to my MP, I received a refund.
While at the National Archives, I also made copies of documents relating to ‘Kinder’ who found themselves orphans at the end of the war and were granted British citizenship free of charge under a special dispensation (1946-47). Access to these files is restricted to the people concerned.
In February, I received a letter from Catherine Hodgkinson, Freedom of Information assessor of the Records Management and Cataloguing Department at the National Archives, stating that the files the Home Office held on us would now be made available at the National Archives in Kew subject to the provisions of the 1998 Data Information Act. I was locked in a room to examine my file and that of my wife (also a Kind). As there were 80 documents in all, I paid to have them copied. I was surprised to find how much information the ‘authorities’ had on us.
Anyone whose memory is not what it was and is anxious about his/her past will be well rewarded by contacting the National Archives, whose staff are more than helpful – even to a computer-illiterate like me.
A PLAQUE FOR BISHOP GEORGE BELL
Hermann Maas Stiftung
Sir – We are sponsoring a plaque to be affixed in the former home of Bishop George Bell of Chichester to commemorate his exertions, which helped nearly 10,000 Jewish children under the age of 16 to be admitted to this country prior to the outbreak of the Second World War and other refugees during the Nazi period in Germany. The opening is planned for 5 October 2008.
Have any of your readers who arrived on the Kindertransport recollections of fellow children or their descendents who became prominent celebrities? We would like to invite interested persons and hope you will be able to come. Meanwhile, thanks for any help you can give us in good time so that we can plan accordingly.
Sir – Last October, I was asked by Mieczyslaw Abramowicz, a Polish-Jewish writer and historian from Gdansk, if I could find men and women from Danzig (now Gdansk) sent to Britain on the Kindertransport.
With the help of Hadashot and the AJR Journal, I located 30 living in the UK. The mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz, came to London to meet them. He also laid a wreath at the monument commemorating the arrival of those children at Liverpool Street Station.
The meeting, at the Polish embassy, was attended by around 20 ex-Danzigers, some with their spouses and even (adult) children. Each of the assembled ex-Kinder spoke about their experiences. Many brought memorabilia, which Abramowicz will use for his forthcoming book on the Jews of Danzig and which will be deposited in the Gdansk museum.
The mayor is inviting all ex-Danzigers to visit Gdansk in May 2009 to mark the 70th anniversary of the German invasion of Danzig and Poland. Health and old age permitting, I, my wife and our two sons are going!
BAD POLES AND GOOD POLES
Sir – Rubin Katz (March) generalises about the Poles. Yes, there were bad Poles. I know about Jedwabne, Kielce and Crakow. But my life was saved by Poles on several occasions during the Second World War. Yes, there were bad Poles. Yes, there were bad Englishmen.
THE OLYMPICS: MEMORIES OF 1936
MIXED FEELINGS OVER HAKOAH RE-OPENING
Sir - It was with mixed feelings that I read in your Journal that Hakoah Sports Club has re-opened in Vienna. My late father, Dr Marcus Pfeffer, was one of its doctors and he was very proud of its pre-war achievements. He never tired of telling me that in 1924-25 the Hakoah football team won the Austrian League Championship, and that in 1923 they beat West Ham United 5-0 - the first foreign team to beat an English one on English soil.
But was Dr Ariel Muzicant, the leader of the Austrian Jewish community, right in using Holocaust survivors’ money to fund the re-opening, particularly bearing in mind how few Jews remain in Vienna? The money should perhaps have gone to the General Settlement Fund to help compensate victims a little more generously than the GSF was able. I would be grateful to know what your other readers think.
NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY AND THE EU
Sir - In his article (April) in favour of further EU integration, Mr Grenville admitted that some problems are best dealt with at national level. The question is where the line is to be drawn. The arguments against further European integration are that the present EU is both corrupt and unaccountable.
By and large, MEPs are superannuated politicians who have failed in their home countries and have been pensioned off to Brussels and Strasbourg. They are not approachable. I see my local MP perhaps twice a year without trying. If I wish to bend his ear, he has surgeries. He replies politely to my letters. Most of the time, MEPs are not even in the country. In terms of the European Parliament, the voice of the individual voter is unheard.
The European Parliament is far more corrupt than the UK Parliament, partly because of its lack of accountability. The EU accounts have been rejected by the auditors for the past 12 years. Would you work for a firm with that record? The MEPs have stolidly rejected all attempts to get them to account for their huge expenses – an order of magnitude higher than those of MPs, and MPs are being forced to come clean.
I have done a job for the EU, in the course of which the UN representative in an East European country explained to me that the EU was totally committed to giving money away, even when it could be demonstrated that the money was going astray. The recent report ‘Europe’s Hidden Hand: EU Funding for Political NGOs in the Arab-Israel Conflict’ details the lack of transparency and accountability in the EU. In 2005-07, it provided tens of millions of euros to organisations whose activities directly contradict EU policy. The EU is funding Arab terror. I see no signs that the issues of corruption and accountability are going to be cleared up - hence I oppose any further sacrifice of national sovereignty.
Sir – I always enjoy Dr Anthony Grenville’s brilliant, if occasionally controversial, front-page articles. However, in his current piece on national sovereignty and national interest, there are a number of statements which seem misleading. For instance, how can the writer expect us to swallow his comparison of the United States’ obvious national homogeneity with the very different individual, historical, linguistic and traditional idiosyncrasies of each EU member country, large or small? We may be getting on in age, but we are not all senile.
Should a recession hit a country like Germany, would they not love to be in the same situation as the UK or Switzerland, who are still in a position to control their own individual rate of interest? With a number of East European economically weak countries forming part of the single Euro currency zone, does Dr Grenville expect us to believe that such a financial arrangement can always be immune to potential major fluctuations? There certainly are benefits of belonging to a single currency, but a chain can only be as strong as its weakest link.
Economic history has demonstrated time and time again that free trade can be implemented only between independent sovereign nations.
The mounting cases of convicted criminals to invoke their ‘human rights’ tend to make people increasingly concerned about their own safety from knife attacks etc. The human rights lawyers are laughing all the way to the bank.
Finally, we all know that Blair and Brown failed to honour their undertakings to hold a referendum as regards joining the EU Constitution. Gordon Brown’s semi-clandestine manner of signing the Treaty of Lisbon without discussing it in Parliament speaks for itself. So much for ‘democratic decisions’.
POINTS OF VIEW
Sir - May I be permitted to comment on several topics raised in your April issue.
Helga Zitcer’s quotation ‘Heil Schuschnigg, unser Führer …’ was not known to me in Vienna. I do, however, recall another one, sung by boys in my seventh form: ‘Haut’s as ‘raus, die ganze Judenbande, haut’s as ‘raus, aus unserm Vaterlande.’
On another aspect of that period, I did not experience Jussi Brainin’s claim that ‘one had to become a member of the Vaterländische Front’, although I generally share his feelings in respect of Vienna.
Inge Trott pleads for Israel to ‘talk to Hamas’. The comparison with British policy in respect of the IRA does not hold good. The IRA did not want to abolish Great Britain. Hamas aims to abolish the state of Israel. The reality is surely that neither side trusts the other: the first step has to be that Hamas (and all other Islamist organisations) recognises Israel’s existence.
Alan S. Kaye is surely correct in stating that the name Palestine was applied to the region well before the war, but he is wrong in implying that the Arabs who settled there called themselves Palestinians. What is more, they rejected the United Nations’ offer of a Palestinian state. It is very unlikely that the six Arab states which made war on Israel in 1948 intended the creation of a Palestinian state. From 1948 to 1967 Egypt and Jordan were respectively in control of Gaza and the West Bank. What prevented them from creating independent states in those areas? Before the outbreak of the war in 1967, Israel offered to keep out of the West Bank if Jordan did not join on Egypt’s side. Jordan, however, did.
ISRAEL AND HAMAS
Sir - The Middle East is not Ireland: treaties and conventions count for little. The Oslo Agreement is one case in point. Ceasefires had been agreed in the past, then violated by some faction with a previously unheard-of name. And when Israel is compelled to respond, it ends up being blamed. Hamas and Hezbollah will be satisfied with nothing less than wiping Israel off the map.
Inge Trott says (April) Hamas was democratically elected. Some democracy! The Gaza Strip is controlled by a bunch of brutal gunmen and anyone daring to oppose them risks being pushed off a high-rise.
Sir - When Arab terrorists rain down rockets on Israeli civilians, is Israel not to defend itself? If British cities were subjected to such attacks, the cry would go out ‘Hit back at them hard!’ Inge Trott must be aware that Arab terrorists have always operated from among refugee camps and, when they were sought out and any innocent civilians were hurt, this was used for propaganda purposes. Ms Trott will also be aware that in World War II, after British cities had been bombed, the RAF carried out many bombing raids on German cities in which tens of thousands of civilians died.
Sir - Did the IRA rejoice when civilians were killed? Ms Trott must be aware that Hamas denies the Holocaust and shows programmes to children personifying Israelis and Jews as evil. The Israelis want peace more than anything, but who is there to negotiate with?
A STRAIGHT MAN AND A COMIC
Sir – I like the way you have engaged yourself a straight man (Grenville) and a comic (Ross). They make a good mix, although Dr G can be over-serious. I wish I knew what Ross did in his working life. He must always have been a writer, I think. This sort of skill does not grow on trees. Up the Journal!