lady painting

 

Oct 2010 Journal

Letters to the Editor

‘UNTIMELY DEMISES’

Sir - Anthony Grenville’s wide-ranging article ‘Untimely Demises’ (August) cleverly takes us from contemporary Britain into German history, as far back as 1888. The resignation of David Laws as an opening device rivets our attention to a recent political event. He suggests that ‘Laws with his experience of the financial world … had seemed to be an almost ideal candidate for the post [Chief Secretary to the Treasury] until a scandal arising from his private life brought him low’ (emphasis added). This is a cruel epitaph for the man who was chosen for his specific experience to ‘bring down the British government’s budget deficit’.
In the opinion of a number of insightful and honest political commentators, and indeed of myself, Anthony Grenville’s view sadly reflects the prejudices of the wider community. It is very well documented that the financial and indeed banking world is ruthless in its homophobia, and political careers were never helped by honesty about same-sex orientation. No wonder that David Laws, in order to pursue his career, should have been forced, it would seem, to internalise these prejudices and to have had to deny both to himself and to the world that the landlord to whom he paid rent was, as the press have insisted, his ’sexual partner’. The ‘scandal’ arguably attaches itself to The Daily Telegraph and the press in general who give a voice to the prejudices of the wider community. And it is this wider community which was indeed ‘brought low’, using Anthony Grenville’s words.
Interestingly, the recent Kindertransport survey had no option in its questionnaire but to declare one’s status as being in a ‘civil partnership’ or same-sex partnered. The authors of the survey, it would seem, could not tolerate the thought that as a refugee one was not either married or widowed. We refugees should know about prejudice and intolerance and we have an obligation to show understanding to others who have suffered so cruelly from persecution.
 

Edward Mendelsohn, London W11

THE FREE GERMAN LEAGUE OF CULTURE

Sir - I found Anthony Grenville’s article (September) intriguing. In the late 1960s-early 1970s, I attended the Leipzig Trade Fair on a regular basis. One evening I received an invitation to dinner at the press club - although I had no connection with any branch of the media. I was intrigued to find present a large number of fellow refugees who had returned to what was then the GDR and held important positions within the East German press, radio and TV. It has to be said that they were not overly interested in my media input but rather nostalgically wanted to hear about happenings in mainly the Swiss Cottage area and whether Cafe Cosmo was still the haven it had been. My responses did not allay their curiosity.

 

Herbert Haberberg, Barnet

BRINGING BACK MEMORIES

Sir - Your article about the late Edmund Wolf was of special interest to me as I used to work for and with him after the war in the German Features Section of the BBC in Bush House, where some of his scripts were used in the broadcasts to Germany. He was always very exact and perhaps a little bit too serious, but otherwise it was a pleasure to work with him. Thus your article brought back many happy memories for me.

I vividly remember the Free German League of Culture as my best friend at the time, Marion Grau, joined and wanted me to come with her, but I refused as I had heard it was mainly a platform for Communists. She met her future husband, the lawyer Hans Einhorn, here and they both went back to Germany to rebuild it with their own hands! Later they ended up in East Germany, where she was not as happy as her husband as she missed London so much and actually came to visit us there as well as in Canada.

By the way, I still love your Journal, especially the articles by Dr Anthony Grenville, which I always find interesting and stimulating. I also love ‘Letter from Israel’.
 

 

Kitty Schafer (née Kaufmann), Toronto, Canada

ALBANIANS AND THE HOLOCAUST

Sir - In her thought-provoking article about the Albanians rescuing Jewish refugees from Nazism (September), Natasha Korn states that the Albanians acted in this way ‘when the rest of the world (excluding Sweden and a number of brave individuals) acted in the opposite way.’

As Sweden had not been invaded by the Germans (they did not need Sweden since the Danish and Norwegian coasts were ‘Fortress Europe’s’ defence against Britain and America) the question of risking one’s life to help Jews did not arise in that country. It was the Danish people who helped their Jewish compatriots and the Jewish refugees who had found asylum in Denmark to escape to the safety of Sweden when the Germans, three years into the occupation, decided to deport the Jews of Denmark. In this rescue operation, organised by the Danish resistance, the entire population at every level of society was involved as the Danes - not unlike the Albanians - simply would not tolerate what the Germans had in store for fellow Danes.

The story of the fishing vessels ferrying Jews to Sweden (my father and me included) is well known, and the welcome we found in Sweden from the people and the authorities deserves gratitude - but was no more than Scandinavians would expect from one another. Our fellow Jews in Norway were not so fortunate.
 

Walter E. Goddard, London SW7

Sir – Albania proved the only country that would have granted us asylum in 1938 when, along with all other aliens, we were expelled from Yugoslavia at short notice after five very productive years in that country (Yugoslavia having been our first country of exile on emigrating from Germany in the summer of 1933).

We were fortunate in that Britain granted us permission to settle here at what seemed almost the last minute. One of my mother’s uncles, long settled here, had come to our rescue. So, fortunately, we didn’t have to avail ourselves of Albania’s offer.
 

Margarete Stern, London NW3

RECOVERING FAMILY PROPERTY

Sir – I am writing to ask other readers of your magazine whether anyone has tried to repossess properties in Poland previously owned by their families and with what success.

My brother and I have identified and located a house, workshops and grounds where our grandparents lived until their disappearance around 1942. Over ten years ago we engaged lawyers to assist us in our repossession of the site and to gain the benefits of any rents payable by the current occupants. It has been a long struggle through the courts and we have not reached a final outcome.

But we have read of similar instances where other families have been successful in recovering their family’s property and we would like to compare notes and see if we can pick up useful guidance.

If any of your readers have any helpful information could they email charles@grunwerg.co.uk.
 

Charles Grunwerg, Sheffield

‘LOSING THE SYMPATHY VOTE’

Sir - On returning to the UK from Zichron Yaacov, where I live when not in the UK, I read Peter Phillips’s piece ‘Not the Israel I knew’ (July). Initially, it registered no more than any number of diatribes critical of the Jewish state. It seemed in its initial empathy for Israel to carry the well-worn gentile stereotype of the Jew facing extinction, the brave new state fighting for its existence and its survival with the odds against - David and Goliath on a national scale. Who, even among the gentiles, could be unsympathetic? The liberal, enlightened and educated looked on with pity, as they had in the 1930s and 40s, at the inevitable destruction, but were also somewhat comforted by the consistency of the historical narrative of the persecuted Jew about to meet his end.

It didn’t play out like that. Israel survives and becomes stronger. And, with that role reversal, loses the sympathy vote. And none of us should shed a tear at that.

However, at that point I realised that, despite his name, our Peter is a Jew. So I do care about his views. And am astonished at his naivety. Oxford University was where he learned that what cannot be seen {God) does not exist? That religious Jews should not have the vote? That parts of Israel should be judenrein? Extraordinary, is it not, how all the liberal, pluralistic claptrap goes out of the window where Jews are concerned!

Wake up all you Peters, Israel is the national home of the Jewish people. Even if they wear hats. It is ours. It is strong. It is imperfect. It is real. It is ours because God (yes, Him!) gave it to us. We have very little claim to it but that! Lots of different Jews live there and contribute in their own way, including those embarrassingly religious types who prick our subconscious and teach our children that they are Jews and what that means. And I know it goes against the grain of the last 2,000 years but, if we are threatened, we are going to spill the other guy’s blood before he gets at our kids.

And Peter, we do not give a monkey’s what your gentile friends think. And nor should you. Why? Because we can do without their Holocaust memorials, their sympathy, their ‘proportionate’ response, their regrets, their homilies, their encyclicals, their approval and their respectful attendance at our graves.
 

 

Amnon Needham, Zichron Yaacov, Israel

Sir - As always, the ‘Letters to the Editor’ in your September issue represent an interesting part of the Journal and, as always, they stimulate thought and provoke argument. Whereas I do not disagree with Lionel Blumenthal’s criticism of Peter Phillips’s views, I think he is going too far when referring to the ‘betrayal by so many Jews, blinded from reality by the leftish ideology that pervades our political and cultural environment’. It is a biased statement and claims that his reality is the only correct one.

I also doubt his assertion that most of the world is prepared to let Israel go under. My feeling is that most of the world is prepared to let any peoples go under. It’s still a world of extreme nationalisms, underpinned by huge dollops of bigotry, greed for power and enjoyment of violence - a world of global voyeurism.
I am grateful for Alex Lawrence’s reference to Col. Kemp’s statement at a UN human rights session although I tend to believe that this Israeli attack [Gaza] was a mistake. As one of the thousands of ‘refugees from Nazi persecution’, human rights are the all-absorbing issue and I do not believe that they can always be enforced by peaceful means. The nationalistic governments of the UN member-states are, however, not always prepared to take the actions necessary to enforce UN decisions. That, I consider to be a major factor which started Israel’s problems. When the UN created Israel it failed to protect the new state from the immediate war waged on it. This failure has continued to the present day.
Nicholas Jacobs goes to another extreme in asserting that the Palestinians were also victims of the Holocaust. That is surely turning the facts upside down. Did not the Mufti of Jerusalem call for a holy war against Britain in 1940 and organise Arab Waffen SS units? The Arabs living in Palestine looked at the Nazis as an ally against the Jews and so did their neighbours.
I cannot agree with Ruth Barnett’s statement that ‘So-called races are inventions: they are cultural groups’. To me the word ‘race’ refers to the descendants of a family. It infers genes. That is what makes us Jews and that is why we should be concerned for other members of the family when they are suffering.
But perhaps there is a little hope for peace on the horizon at present?
 

Eric Sanders, London W12

Sir - I take exception to Peter Simpson (September) describing the UK as fascist. This is utter rubbish! Also, I read with interest Bryan Reuben’s article in the same issue about the effect of criticism on Israeli policy. Even President Obama has not managed to stop the settlements, although I wish they would listen to him.

 

Nicholas Marton, Bromley

INTERNMENT EXPERIENCES

Sir - Reading your articles about internment in 1940, I was 16 at that time and, together with my father and brother, was interned in the Hutchinson Camp on the Isle of Man for about four months. Many years ago I recounted my experiences on the BBC website ‘WW2 People’s War’ when they asked persons to recall any experiences of the wartime years.

I had forgotten all about my contribution to the BBC website when, about a year ago, I received an email from a man who had read my article. According to his email, he was brought up in Douglas on the Isle of Man. He told me he would pass our camp every morning on his way to school and that when the guards weren’t looking he would throw stones at the internees over the barbed-wire fence as his ‘contribution to the war effort’. He had the grace to end his email by saying that he hoped that none of the stones had hit me.
 

Freddy Godshaw, Welwyn Garden City

DUNERA PASSENGERS ‘SAVED BY ILL-TREATMENT’

Sir - Re David Kernek’s letter (September), I was an RAF pilot on Coastal Command seeking out U-boats. We were warned that often after a depth charge attack on a U-boat all sorts of debris appeared on the surface, giving the impression that the boat had been sunk. In fact, some U-boats carried such debris in a special water-tight chamber. It was released whilst the boat dived to a safe depth in the hope that the attacking aircraft would go away. This did happen from time to time.

 

Alex Lawrence, Marlow

‘THE OTHER GERMANY’

Sir - With reference to the article ‘The other Germany’ by Erwin Schneider (August), a few years ago I took my wife, two sons and their families to Czechoslovakia, where I was born and spent my early years. We visited Prague, Terezin and my home town of Teplitz, some 15 miles from the German border. This was, of course, Sudetenland, the German-speaking part of the former republic.

Standing outside my grandfather’s old house, I was photographing my family against that background when I heard voices speaking German just behind me. It was two couples, with one man explaining in a loud voice that he had once lived just up the road from my grandfather’s house. The man asked whether I too had come from the town. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘That was my grandfather’s house.’ He replied ‘And when did they throw you out?’ He was, of course, referring to the Czech ethnic cleansing of the local German population in 1945-46 across the border into Germany. I said ‘In 1938.’ He looked puzzled and then asked ‘Why then?’ My answer was ‘Because I am a Jew and you threw us out!’ His, and his companions’, faces were a picture I will never forget.
 

Bob Norton, Nottingham

LEGAL MIND NOT NEEDED

Sir – No legal mind needed: ‘einmalige Zahlung’ (Peter C. Rickenback, Letters, September) means ‘one-time payment’ – that’s all.

 

Alice Fink, Chicago

‘RISCHES’


Sir - I wonder whether you or your readers can advise on the origin of the German-Jewish word ‘Risches’, meaning anti-Semitism. I have checked with several Yiddish speakers and they didn’t know the word.

 

Peter Fraenkel, London EC2

‘NOT AN IGNORAMUS’

Sir – Recently, my wife phoned the Royalty Theatre, a very good small theatre in Sunderland, to ask if they had any productions coming up. The answer was ‘Yes, we have one next week but it contains very strong language!’ Any other information? ‘Well, it’s about two Jewish brothers in Gateshead running a porn cinema.’

‘My husband will be interested in that. He’s Jewish.’ ‘He’s Jewish? Would you put him on?’

The man’s problem was that he was acting one of the brothers and had a Yiddish phrase he could neither understand nor pronounce: ‘Kayn amhorets, yingele!’ Later, I phoned back with my brother-in-law’s translation and pronunciation: ‘Not an ignoramus, laddie!’

We went to see the play, Bones, by Peter Strangham, who wrote the script of the film Men Who Stare at Goats. The first half, in which the brothers were convinced they had Reggie Kray tied up in the bathroom, was the funniest thing we had seen for some time. The second half went gratuitously gory. The Jewishnness, the single Yiddish phrase, the blood, even the porn cinema, seemed to have nothing relevant to contribute - to have been added on as spice.

But there was one pleasant consequence. My brother-in-law presented me with Leo Rosten’s Joys of Yiddish. He also reminded me that our fathers had had a comic routine which began ‘Rachmones (the patient) entered Beth ganev (the … Hospital). Amhoretz (the chief surgeon) ...’. Unfortunately, neither he nor even, surprisingly, Paul Samet could take it any further. Can any of your readers help?
 

 

George Schlesinger, Durham