Tag Archives: antisemitism

The White Rose Opposition to Hitler

Oxford University has hosted a reading of the pamphlets, produced by the White Rose student opposition movement to Hitler, (in English translation). All of the White Rose’s members were executed by Nazi Germany.

You can listen to English readings of all of the pamphlets, together with introductory comments, here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqhoCj5MXzo&feature=youtu.be.

Crackpot Conspiracy Theories Have Consequences

On Wednesday evening, I received a telephone call from an acquaintence. Having asked how I was, she proceeded to relate how she’d watched a video which explained that COVID-19 (the Corona Virus) is a hoax and is, in point of fact caused by radiation generated from mobile telephone masts.

I responded that the persons promulgating such theories are “nutters” and conspiracy theorists and that such ideas are highly dangerous as they mislead people into believing fraudulent claims and by so doing actually help to spread not only the Corona Virus, but also the virus of misinformation. Eventually the conversation ended leaving me seething inwardly.

Lies/conspiracy theories have consequences as exemplified by the attacks which have taken place not only on mobile telephone masts but also on engineers tasked with maintaining them. See, for example this article in “Wired”, https://www.wired.co.uk/article/5g-coronavirus-conspiracy-theory-attacks.

One of the instances sighted in the “Wired” article concerns an engineer who was spat upon by a conspiracy theorist. The engineer subsequently developed Corona as a consequence of the incident.

I am not, of course arguing that all followers of the (wholly eroneous) theory that 5G is responsible for Corona destroy masts or attack individuals. Most people holding such crackpot views do not engage in criminal activity. However anyone who perpetuates such myths is helping to spread untruths and thereby contributing to a climate of unreason in which attacks on masts (and individuals) are made more likely.

The conspiracy theory that 5G is the cause of the current epidemic (rather than the Corona Virus), lies in a long line of dangerous ideas. Back in medieval times it was believed that Jews poisoned wells and horrific acts of cruelty where committed against them owing to this wholly irrational belief, (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well_poisoning#Medieval_accusations_against_Jews).

Antisemitic conspiracy theories manifested themselves in their most extreme form in the Nazi “Final Solution” (the Third Reich’s attempt to exterminate European jewry, (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_Solution).

I am not suggesting that those who believe the present conspiracy theory regarding 5G are antisemitic (although some of them may well be). Rather I am arguing that (as with antisemitism) the present crackpot theory is based on unreason and is highly dangerous. So next time you receive a message on Watsap (or via some other form of social media) regarding an outlandish theory, please think very carefully before forwarding it on to others.


“On The Brink Of A Pit”, by David Holbrook, Analysis

In “On The Brink Of A pit”, David Holbrook describes taking his daughter, Kate to a party being held to celebrate the 12th birthday of her Jewish friend, Melanie.

The friendship between the 2 children is very close:

“I took our child to her party, carrying a book-token
Covered in child-gay seals, because they love one another”.

“Melanie assured me with her guileless big blue eyes
Her father would bring Kate home, fondly drew her into the house”.

Here we have a beautiful picture of 2 children, one Jewish and the other non-Jewish who love one another and are unconcerned with racial or religious differences.

This beautiful portrait is enhanced as the street is full of birdsong and:

“Warm sun honeyed the suburban gardens”.

Yet the line:

“handsome women
tapped over a few skeleton leaves on the muddy pavements”, signifies that all is far from being right. “skeleton” speaks of death. The leaves are as dead as the Jews who perished in Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution”, under which approximately 6 million Jews where murdered in gas chambers and by other means.

Holbrook wants “a thousand lives to worship what Melanie was”, and the thought of the horrors of the mass extermination of Jews causes him to openly weep in the street
“There being as much hate in garden cities as at Majdenek”.

This is a deeply shocking poem which never fails to move me. It is as relevant today as when it was written. In its mildest forms I have heard people say, “the Jews control the media”, or “Jews are mean”. Such words are often spoken by those who would be genuinely horrified if they thought that by speaking them they could be contributing to antisemitism, and that they could, indirectly cause a resurgence of virulent Jew hatred. Yet such words do feed the monster of hatred towards Jews, and I hear behind the words spoken in pubs or over dinner tables the crunch of jackboots in concentration camps.

Other expressions of antisemitism are more direct, ranging from the desecration of Jewish graves to the murder of Jewish people.

It is sometimes said, by ignorant people that poetry doesn’t matter. Holbrook’s poem prooves them wrong.

(“On The Brink Of A Pit”, can be found in “The Golden Treasury of The Best Songs And Lyrical Poems In The English Language”, selected and arranged by Francis Turner Palgrave. Updated by John Press. Sixth Edition”. page 571).

They refused him entrance

“They refused him entrance because he was a Jew.
Imagine that today”.
He didn’t say
What his view
Of the matter was
And because
It was
Not my affair
I left them there
To talk
And took a walk
In God’s fresh air


As obscene as the breaking of glass,

Or the whisper of gas from the past.

“The jews are mean” you said.

Dead bodies in a camp.

The lamp shines on the food divine.

You drink more wine.

A train somewhere in the distance passes,

Somewhere glass smashes.

Norwood’s Literary Heritage

I moved to the Norwood area (Upper Norwood to be exact) in 1997. Norwood possesses the advantage of being high above sea level which means the air is much fresher than certain other areas in the sprawling mass which constitutes greater London. The name Norwood derives from “The Great North Wood”, vestiges of which can still be glimpsed by residents and visitors alike.

Norwood has a fascinating history including a rich literary heritage. Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor and the Queen’s Hotel which stands some 10 minutes walk from my home has a plaque commemorating the French novelist, Zola’s residence, (Zola fled France at the time of the Dreyfus Affair. He advocated for Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer falsely accused of spying for a foreign power).

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sets one of the Sherlock Holmes adventures, “The Adventure Of The Norwood Builder” in the area, (http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/AdveNorw.shtml). In “The Norwood Builder” the former lover of the mother of a local solicitor fakes his own death and attempts to frame her son. However, in his usual brilliant manner Holmes proves the innocence of the son and the builder is apprehended.

There is a fascinating article on the history of Norwood here, (http://www.norwoodsociety.co.uk/articles/68-on-the-trail-of-norwood.html).

Disappearing Books

I love the solidity of paper books. The feel of a book in my hands coupled with that unique scent which books possess is, surely one of the pleasures of owning physical books. Naturally the greatest joy to be derived from books is the reading of them, however the physicality of books mingles with the reading experience producing a medley of pleasures.

In contrast to physical works e-books have the advantage of allowing the possessor to have a veritable library of literature without the inconvenience of books being piled up throughout their home. There is nothing wrong with having books occupying almost the entire floor of your spare room but unless you are lucky enough to inhabit a mantion there will come a point where one simply runs out of space! Another great advantage of e-books is that most are accessible to blind people such as myself. I can enjoy an e-book using the text to speech facility on my Kindle or Voiceover on my iPad.

Despite the many advantages of e-books they possess one major flaw – there ability to disappear without trace from websites. I recently experienced this for myself when my collection of short stories, “The First Time” vanished from Amazon’s Kindle store. The links still appeared on Google but on clicking on them the dreaded “404 page not found” error raised it’s cheery head. Fortunately I still had the original file on my computer and with the help of a friend “The First Time” was soon back on Amazon, however old broken links are still showing on Google (at the top of the search results) while the new (correct) links languish somewhere near the bottom. Now of course physical books can disappear also. A bookshop or library may take a decision to remove particular works from their shelves or at the more extreme end of the spectrum regimes such as Nazi Germany have burned books by authors of which they disapproved. However even if a book is comprehensively purged the chances are that the book will still survive in the hands of a few individuals to be passed around clandestinely. In contrast e-book retailers can with the aid of technology remotely delete books from devices. In practice this happens rarely due to the perfectly understandable angry reaction provoked among the owners of the works being removed. However in an authoritarian state in which all publishers are either owned by the government or subject to governmental interference one can imagine books disappearing from e-book readers. Don’t like that author because he is a “Conservative”, “Communist”, “Jew”, “Liberal”, “Christian” etc. No problem remotely delete their works from e-book readers. In practice I suspect that some technically savvy individuals would find ways to preserve their copies of banned books but many would no doubt disappear into the virtual trash can. Pause for thought?

I should point out that Amazon did not delete my book from e-readers nor did the company delete it from their site due to concerns over it’s contents. The book was removed due to a misunderstanding and is now, as I said above back up on Amazon and can be found here, http://www.amazon.com/The-First-Time-ebook/dp/B00FJGKY7Y/ref=la_B00CEECWHY_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380885715&sr=1-4