May 2014 Journal
Letters to the Editor
‘DO NOT FORGET US’
Sir – The review of the online book It’s Not the Fatherland’s Fault in your April issue omits the most important statistic: 12,000 German-Jewish soldiers were killed - as the Germans put it, ‘on the field of honour’.
Some years ago, I saw in a booklet about the Jews of Wesel (North Rhine-Westphalia) a photograph of a memorial to six Jewish soldiers of that city that had been affixed to the local synagogue. The memorial had been destroyed together with the synagogue on Kristallnacht and never replaced.
It occurred to me that the memory of these soldiers’ sacrifice ‘for Kaiser, Vaterland und Heimat’ would forever be forgotten unless a new and suitable plaque were to be created and appropriately displayed and I made it my business to do whatever I could about this.
After some years and considerable trouble and aggravation, a large block of black granite containing the names of the fallen incised in gold lettering was placed in the city cemetery. In actual fact, there were seven names. My research discovered one soldier who, for some reason, had been left out. The dedication was by a rabbi from, I think, Düsseldorf.
At a subsequent ceremony, I requested a guard of honour with a trumpeter playing ‘Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden’ (something like the ‘Last Post’). Both guard of honour and trumpeter were furnished by soldiers of the new Bundeswehr. I invited the chairman and members of the Royal British Legion District of Germany to attend the ceremony and I myself laid a wreath obtained from the British Legion with a large ribbon and the message ‘Vergiss uns nicht’ (Do not forget us). I also gave an address concerning the treatment of Jews in the Kaiser’s armed services which came as a considerable shock to those present.
The main purpose of this letter is to encourage all Jewish refugees to write to the Bürgermeisters, ministers or other people of influence and standing to see that the German-Jewish heroes of 1914-18 have their names recorded in war memorials and that the ceremonies that take place in August will especially commemorate their sacrifice - for their ultimate reward was not the medals they were awarded but the deportation of their nearest and dearest to extermination and concentration camps.
The Jewish veterans organised themselves into the RJF (Reichsbund jüdischer Frontsoldaten - Association of Jewish Frontline Soldiers) in 1923 in order to combat the rampant anti-Semitism. All in vain.
If we forget them, so will everyone else. And that would be injustice compounded.
A MATTER OF BIAS
Sir - I take exception to the opinions expressed by your correspondent Eric Sanders in your April issue. He is sharply critical of the Daily Telegraph, which, although not as pro-Israeli as in the days of Conrad Black and Max Hastings, is incomparably more on our side than the anti-Israeli and anti-American Guardian. As for Education Secretary Michael Gove, he is the most pro-Israeli member of the government and a real friend of ours. Mr Sanders should not support our enemies. He should keep his biased opinions to himself.
At the same time, looking at the large adverts placed in the papers by Marks and Spencer, it occurs to me that both Mr Marks and Mr Spencer must be turning in their graves. Emma Thompson and Annie Lennox are both prominent anti-Israeli campaigners. As for Baroness Lawrence, with respect, what is she doing in a fashion advert? Are these ‘models’ anything to do with the lousy figures that are now the norm for M&S?
Sir - Michael Gove is quite the most respectable politician we have. He is attempting to restore some rigour in an educational system that has been allowed to deteriorate. I am surprised that you published Eric Sanders’s invective against him.
Sir - I thank Eric Sanders for his sane comment on the Guardian controversy. Perhaps I can finally settle this tiresome debate with the following information. The Guardian has just - and not for the first time - been named ‘newspaper of the year’ in the Press Awards, one of a host of prizes given to individual Guardian writers and its digital service. No doubt to the horror of Peter Phillips, the award was given principally for the paper’s reporting on government surveillance! According to the judges, the Guardian ‘broke a story of global significance that went to the heart of the debate on press freedom .... The job of a newspaper is to speak truth to power and the past year has seen the Guardian do this with will and verve.’
I rest my case. If only German newspapers had shown the same courage and independence during the Nazi era!
Sir - Michael Gove is ‘destructive, ignorant and reactionary’, says leftist Eric Sanders. Obviously Mr Sanders does not believe that children should have the same opportunities of education that he and I enjoyed. Pity. He should write to the Guardian with his views. I am sure they would gladly print them.
Pity, too, that Anthony Grenville hardly mentions the suffering of Austrian Jews in his otherwise excellent front-page article. They suffered as much as the German Jews and were constantly reminded that Hitler was an Austrian. What’s more, they received their so-called compensation about 50 years after the Germans because Austria claimed for years that it had been ‘invaded’ - as opposed to the reality of its having been a partner. Perhaps Dr Grenville should now write an article about the fate of the Austrian-Jewish refugees in the UK?
Interesting how Marc Schatzberger (March) ignores my question about how he would feel if someone like Edward Snowden had given information about Bletchley Park to the Guardian during the Second World War and the Guardian had printed it!
Snowden is a traitor and the Guardian is complicit in his treachery. I think Marc would agree that had a spy exposed Bletchley Park, that spy could have been executed for treason. Or does Marc think it is permissible to whistle-blow the Americans and British of today simply because their politics are not left-wing enough for him?
Marc defends the Guardian and Snowden, saying they have ‘moral scruples’. Would a whistle-blower on Bletchley Park have had the same ‘moral scruples’?
I have just come out of hospital and feel a little weak - but not weak enough to ignore Victor Ross’s article ‘The Right Climate’ in your February issue!
Let me quote him: In New York, he writes, ‘I felt twice the man I was in England’; ‘English colleagues … I would call acquaintances rather than friends’; Victor lives in ‘an almost exclusively German-Jewish milieu’; at a milestone birthday the guest list consisted of ‘not one bona-fide Englishman’. He continues ‘I do not feel truly at home among the English’, although he admits he was ‘lucky to be let in, lucky to be alive, thankful and anxious to show my gratitude’. He concludes by saying that ‘he never felt he belonged here and never felt anything other than a guest’.
This is so sad. I feel sorry for myself for feeling low following my operation but, believe me, I feel far more sorry for Victor for having lived such a miserable life in the country that rescued him from the Nazis! I was born in Austria but my home is England and all my best friends are English, whether Jewish or gentile.
RETRIEVING ASPECTS OF CHILDHOOD
Sir – Having spent several years of my life (1939-47) as a German refugee child in Great Britain, I am now trying to retrieve aspects of my childhood.
I wonder whether readers can help me trace copies of The Migrant: Children’s Paper, later renamed Children Calling: Children’s Paper, a newsletter issued by the Refugee Children’s Evacuation Fund in London from 1942 onwards.
I also wonder whether readers can help me get in touch with any so-called First or Second Generation persons who at one time or another stayed in one or more of the refugee children’s homes run by the Czech Refugee Trust Fund during the War in Broadstairs, Kent; Lancing, East Sussex; Hayton, Cumberland; Denbigh, Denbighshire; or Theydon Bois, Essex.
I would also like to get in touch with First or Second Generation persons who during the War lived in Scotland - Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen in particular - and were in one way or another affected by the Free German Youth in Great Britain, the Free German League of Culture in Great Britain, or the Free German Movement in Great Britain.
Perhaps readers even know of someone who, like me, benefited from the Foster Parents’ Scheme initiated by the Refugee Children’s Evacuation Committee (later renamed Refugee Children’s Evacuation Fund) from 1940 onwards.
Sir - The makers of BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? and ITV’s Long Lost Family are working on a new series for BBC1 provisionally called The Gift.
Exploring the themes of forgiveness and gratitude, the programme will help those looking for someone important to express how they feel. Has someone ever helped you or your family? Have you been touched by the kindness of a stranger? Did they ever know the impact they had? If you would like to be able to find someone who has had a lasting effect on you, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 301 8486.
‘THE ENGLISH WAY’
Sir - I was amused to read Lady Milena’s article about knitting ‘the English way’ in your last issue. I too caused considerable interest and amusement with my ‘funny’ method of knitting. And how much quicker the Continental method is too!
We were knitting socks for the troops at our school. I got on swimmingly while my friend Beate Frankfurther was at school with me because she used to turn the heel for me. To my shame, I never did learn how to do it and, after she left school, I had to give up knitting socks. I didn’t take up knitting again until my grandchildren came along.
JEWISH AGENTS IN THE ABWEHR
Sir - The last two issues of the Journal have referred to the strange story of Jewish agents in Admiral Canaris’s Abwehr. I have no special knowledge of this but there is material on the internet and in a television programme I have seen about Canaris - one of the many on aspects of the Second World War constantly being shown and repeated on daytime television - that suggest what happened.
A group of agents selected by the Nazi Party were sent to the USA but most were executed as spies. Hitler was furious. When Canaris pointed out that it wasn’t he who had chosen them, Hitler told him to send Jews and criminals instead of Nazis on such missions. This gave Canaris the excuse to send the Jews to Switzerland. But there had apparently been previous occasions when the Abwehr had also sent Jews abroad, for instance to Latin America.
Another programme I saw some time ago told the extraordinary tale of the German Jew who had fought in Russia with the Waffen SS. He had fled the Nazis and settled in Paris, only to be overtaken there by the occupation. With great boldness he had gone to a Wehrmacht office and volunteered his services. They told him they could not recruit people abroad but that he should try the Waffen SS, which did accept suitable volunteers. He was accepted by them after explaining that he had been circumcised for medical reasons. The man spoke anonymously on the programme and said that, in effect, his fellow soldiers were a great bunch of guys - but if they had known his origins he would have been left hanging from the nearest tree. His testimony left me pretty disturbed!
POLITICAL WARFARE EXECUTIVE
Sir - I am currently researching any German or Austrian Jewish émigrés who were recruited into the British Political Warfare Executive (PWE) in the Second World War.
The PWE was concerned with propaganda to Germany and the occupied countries. This included the production of clandestine radio stations from a secret recording studio near the village of Milton Bryant in Bedfordshire.
I am keen to contact anyone, or their relatives, who may have been employed by the PWE and particularly those who worked at Milton Bryant. Little is known about those who actually worked there and the staff lists that survive in archives mostly just mention the senior British staff.
I have previously published several books on the subject, but more based on the results of their labour than about the people involved.
Readers’ help would be most appreciated.
NEED FOR A CIVIL LEGAL SYSTEM
Sir - Good to read in the last ‘Letter from Israel’ that there are people there with a vision of creating a modern democracy by separating the laws of the state and those of religion.
Having a civil court for marriage, women’s and human rights does not stop religious people practising what they believe to be right as long as they give the same right to others. In the early days, some kibbutzniks did not get married as they disagreed with some rabbis – over, for instance, not permitting a widower to attend his wife’s funeral if his name was Cohn. Not being married eventually meant there would be no pension if a partner was killed, so they gave in and had the religious ceremonies. Some orthodox Jews did not believe in having a state, so some early Zionists had already broken with their traditions by coming to Israel. But now there are many more sects as, of course, there are in most religions. Even more need for a civil legal system!
POOR OLD SCHOTTENGYMNASIUM
Sir - I find myself in the unusual position of replying to two separate letters in your columns, viz those by George Vulkan (March) and Hans Eirew (April). Both seem to have it in for the poor old Schottengymnasium - without telling us precisely what it is meant to have done wrong, either since the War or in 1938, before the Nazis closed it down.
As described in earlier correspondence, in 1938 the Schottengymnasium was the only school in Austria (and perhaps Greater Germany) to disregard the official instructions about ‘non-Aryan’ students and it stood by them until the end of the school year, helping us with, among other things, emigration problems. I am delighted to read in Hans Eirew’s letter how well the Hietzinger Gymnasium behaved towards its own victimised scholars and that it treated them ‘with courtesy until the day we left’. The difference is that we neither left nor were asked to leave.
If I can understand George Vulkan’s complaints, it seems that he thinks they were unhelpful in unearthing the history of his school and that they seemed unwelcoming to him as an old boy. He has clearly not grasped that there was never any identity between the two schools - no contact - or even, if I think back, any awareness - of each other’s existence. (I didn’t discover anything about the Schottenschule on the other side of the Schottenhof until 2010 after reading Cölestin Rapp’s history of the Schottenstift, published in 1959.) As an old boy of the Schottenschule, a public municipal primary school which no longer exists, he would not have been an old boy of a monastic grammar school closed down by the Nazis but reopened by the Abbey after the War and still flourishing.
As for our ‘notoriously snotty’ (does he mean snooty?) Schottengymnasium, I don`t recognise myself or the school in this description and would be very interested to hear how it manifested itself to him or anyone else now or in 1938. Hans Eirew too may have missed the point about there being no identity between George Vulka’`s primary school and our senior grades.