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Extracts from the Aug 2008 Journal

The sorrow of Belgium

The history of the Jews of Belgium during the Second World War has received surprisingly little attention, especially considering the exceptionally high number of Jewish children who survived the Holocaust in hiding there. Michael Marrus’s The Holocaust in History, to take just one example, contains a few scattered passages on Belgium, and that is pretty typical. My interest in this subject was sparked by Marrus’s passing reference to the fact that the only known attack by a resistance group on a train deporting Jews to the extermination camps took place in Belgium. [more...]

Getting to know the natives

The English: Are They Human? is the title of a book by a Dutchman called Gustaaf Renier published in the early 1930s. Well, are they? My first real chance to get to know the citizens of my host country came in the spring of 1942 when, a fresh-faced 22, I arrived in Maidenhead. Up to then, since my deliverance from domestic servitude, I had shared a room with a relative, but now I was to live in a completely English ambiance in a boarding house owned and run by a formidable lady – aptly named Miss Bull – who presided over breakfast and dinner with great decorum. [more...]

Darfur refugees find safety in Israel

A group of AJR members recently spent an excellent week in Israel. One evening we heard a moving account by two Darfuri refugees who had found safety in Israel. [more...]

Love in the time of reason (theatre review)

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger was so rooted in his concept of being that he failed to resist - or even recognise - the Nazis when they came knocking on his door. Resistance, of course, would have threatened his status as rector of Freiburg University and so the acclaimed author of Being and Time moved seamlessly into the Nazi embrace. Dissembling, equivocal, the man who exalted the Germany of Wagner, Beethoven and Schubert über alles and who wrote ‘Man is not the lord of beings. Man is the shepherd of beings,’ eventually fell from grace and stood accused of infecting a generation of students with Nazi ideology. [more...]

Viennese tart

This is not a recipe for something sweet although it is about ‘Das Süsse Mäderl’. It is probably the first article in this publication about pornography.
Some time ago I was asked by a friend of a friend to help her clear the house of a German scientist who had died, as she was the executor and knew no German. I think it was really to help decide what should be done with technical books and papers but there was also quite a varied collection of books. Many of these have now found homes in educational libraries.
One book intrigued me. I had vaguely heard of it but had never seen a copy. This was Josefine Mutzenbacher, subtitled The Autobiography of a Viennese Prostitute As Told By Herself, published anonymously. I am not an expert in this type of stuff and have often been told that it’s really rather dull and repetitive. After all, there is a limited amount that even the most fertile imagination can produce about sex. I looked at some of it and extended my vocabulary. The nicely brought-up, average-middle-class eight-year-old Viennese boy is not normally exposed to the words used here. I wonder whether my mother knew these words as she was Hungarian. If my father (brought up in Leopoldstadt and the Austrian army) knew them, he never uttered them in my presence. There is an entertaining glossary at the end entitled Beiträge zur Ädöologie des Wienerischen and written in phonetic Viennese, which taught me some more.
The text was originally published in Vienna in 1906. This particular edition, proudly stating that it is the full and uncut text, was printed in Munich in February 1970 and gives its publishing history as ‘1st impression of 5,000 copies October 1969, 2nd impression of 30,000 copies November 1969, 3rd impression of 20,000 copies February 1970’. Clearly, selling like hot cakes. On the back of the title page is a statement to the effect that the purchaser has assured the bookseller that he is over 21, has promised to keep it away from young persons and all who might be adversely influenced by the text, and will not lend it to anyone.
A newspaper cutting dated February 1971 was inside the book, reporting that a Munich court had ruled that this book, as well as a companion volume and one by Apollinaire, had been found to have no artistic merit or social-history value and was to be banned. This was more than a year after the citizens of Munich had started buying it in large numbers. It was also more than ten years after the Lady Chatterley trial in the UK had decided that D. H. Lawrence had written a literary work that could be read by the general public, in spite of its four-letter words. I had not realised that the Germans were so prude in comparison to Britons.
The editor’s foreword was very instructive in another way, as it told us about the author of this anonymous text. Imagine my surprise when the originator was revealed as Felix Salten. I have probed a bit and my literary friends tell me that Felix Salten, who was born Siegmund Salzmann in Budapest but grew up in Vienna, was actually quite well-known for his pornography, written under a variety of pseudonyms (always with the initials FS). Certainly, his children’s book Bambi, about a young fawn, should perhaps be viewed in a rather different light! I have not kept the book but given it away ...

The most unforgettable character I ever met

This was the title of a long-running series in Reader’s Digest magazine, presenting pen portraits of the good and the odd. Long after we killed it, people still talked about these articles with the affectionate derision reserved for our most popular offerings: the jokes, advice on health, the easy Word Power tests, the sanitised pieces on sex. [more...]

AJR Report

In response to problems concerning the processing of applications for a ghetto pension (known in German by the acronym ZRBG), the German government has introduced a Humanitarian Fund in acknowledgment of ‘Ghetto Work without Force’. [more...]

Theresienstadt martyrs remembered

Every year the Theresienstadt Martyrs’ Remembrance Association holds its annual general meeting at Beit Theresienstadt, located in Kibbutz Givat Hayim-Ihud, where there is a museum and archive devoted to the Theresienstadt Ghetto. Every three or four months a newsletter is sent out to members and during the year educational activities are held there for schoolchildren from all over Israel. [more...]

Art notes (review)

Light falling in a grid over rice paddy fields, anarchist marchers, angelic mothers and wild, wicked women – the Italian Divisionists say it all at the National Gallery’s Radical Light exhibition. Linking the discovery of optical science and the physics of light to the technique of dividing thin lines of colour, they also politicised their subject matter. [more...]

Letters to the Editor

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