A Trip to Romantischer Rheinland in May 1952

 

In May 1952 my mother Anne Berns, then aged 25, persuaded my grandparents to take her on a touring holiday of Germany, centered on the ‘Romantischer Rheinland’. Many of her friends thought she had no business going for a holiday in a country which had so recently come within an ace of destroying our own, and which had committed such unspeakable crimes, above all the Holocaust: but as she said, she wanted to go there “to see if the Germans were human”.

        1952 May Frank & Fanny BERNS in Garmisch   1952 May Anne BERNS Mittelsburg

Frank & Fanny Berns                        Town Centre

 

They hired a car & driver and toured a great swathe of West Germany (as it was then): the capital Bonn, Cologne, Heidelberg, Neuschwanstein, Oberammergau, Wiesbaden, Dinkelsbühl, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. They ended up in the Alpine resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen which their driver particularly recommended to them as an outstandingly beautiful spot.

So how were the Germans? As Churchill said in his speech to the US Congress in 1943: “The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet”. With the exception of a one-legged veteran in the ruins of Cologne who spat at them – Cologne had been flattened utterly, except for the cathedral which had been spared, but the city was a neat & tidy ruin –  everybody in the shops, resorts and hotels fawned obsequiously over my mother and grandparents and couldn’t do enough for them.

Britain had been starving for years under rationing, and even my grandparents who were in the fortunate position of being shopkeepers had their work cut out to organise enough food for themselves & their daughter. What they saw in West Germany made their eyes pop out of their heads. In Garmisch-Partenkirchen there were the biggest cream cakes they’d ever seen. Every shop was stuffed full with first-rate produce. My mother particularly remarked upon the beautiful leather handbags. As for the locals, they were plump, smug and beautifully – and expensively – dressed. The war had only been over five years, and Britain was still on its knees recovering. But in West Germany the appearance of the people and the towns was as if there had never been a war. Or if it had, they looked like victors.

1952 May Anne BERNS Garmisch Lodge1952 May Anne BERNS Garmisch Fat_Happy Burgers

In Garmisch-Partenkirchen

 

The manner of the Germans – those who were not fawning in service – was uniformly self-satisfied. It did not appear that they gave a thought to what they and their families had done during the war. It seemed they did not consider themselves responsible for any wrongdoing, and the concept of repentance was utterly alien to them.

Yes, the Germans were human. But they were quite devoid of what we would call humanity.

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The Dragon Masters – a Mirror War

In 1962 Jack Vance published an award-winning novella called ‘The Dragon Masters’. On a distant planet humans had bred a race of lizard-like creatures into fighting animals. Like dogs, there were many different breeds, with different characteristics and sizes, from the man-sized Termagants through the Spiders that serve as war-mounts to the elephantine Juggers. Their human masters use them in combat both against each other and against a space-faring race called the grephs.

It turns out the grephs are in fact the ‘basics’ – the lizard-like ancestors of the Dragons. As humans bred some of their captured ancestors, so the grephs captured and bred humans for combat. Against the Termagants they match Heavy Troopers; against Spiders they ride Mounts; and they have bred Giants to match Juggers in size.

We Jews are faced with a similar situation. So many Jews have been seduced into being anti-Zionist, and even anti-Jewish: Gilad Atzmon, David Baddiel, Moshe Ber Beck, Geoffrey Bindman, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Greenstein, Henry Kissinger, Miriam Margolyes, Ilan Pappe, Jacqueline Rose, Michael Rosen, Shlomo Sand, George Soros, Philip Weiss, Yisroel Dovid Weiss – the list is depressingly long.

Against this wealthy and powerful army – and they number hundreds, if not thousands – we seem to be able to muster a bare handful of extraordinarily brave Muslims who understand and sympathise with the predicament of Jews and Israel. Maajid Nawaz, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, Noor Dahri – precious few else.

Where are our Giants?

The Chakrabarti Inquiry: Evidence that it ignores antisemitism

This was my submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry:

As a concerned Jew I am writing to ask for your response to the following two questions about the Inquiry into the Labour Party which you will shortly be chairing:

  1. Can you confirm that you will not be applying double standards by on the one hand dismissing the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and Pickles governmental definitions of antisemitism, and on the other hand giving weight to accusations of Islamophobia made against those who merely wish to protest the incitement of violence?
  2. Can you confirm that you will not be perversely standing Macpherson on its head by accepting the testimony of those Jews who categorise such statements as “the creation of Israel as a Jewish State was a crime” and “Jews of all people should have learnt from the Holocaust to turn the other cheek ” as fair comment, and not the antisemitism that they are?

The following excerpts from the Inquiry prove that the response to my concerns is a resounding “No!”

[page 4]: “…  it  is incredibly important that whilst individual testimonies are acknowledged, universal principles are then applied. So for example Islamophobia, antisemitism and Afriphobia are all equally vile forms of racism.”

This was meant to be an inquiry into antisemitism. Islamophobia and hatred of people of African descent are serious problems, but of different origin and merit different treatment in a separate inquiry

[page 6]: “  In  1987  Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng, Bernie Grant and Keith Vaz were elected to the House of   Commons..”

All four of those MPs are egregious in their attacks on Israel. It is an insult to Jews for their names to be included in this inquiry.

“  The  Iraq War (to be  discussed  in  the  long-awaited  report  of   another  inquiry),  as  well  as  stop and search without suspicion, punishment without charge or  trial and the domestic extremism agenda left many British Muslims feeling suspect and alienated in their natural political home.”

The Iraq war was against the regime of Saddam Hussein which rained Scud missiles down on Israel. How on earth is this comment helpful to an inquiry into antisemitism?

[page 14]: “I  am in no way suggesting that bad taste metaphors and comparisons should ever be a matter for the criminal law any more than say ill-judged and incendiary cartoons.  I am told that they are frequently used in Israel. However, they are all too capable, not only of bringing the Labour Party into disrepute, but of actively undermining the cause of peace, justice and statehood for the Palestinian people which forms part of Labour’s current “two-state” foreign policy and which so many Jewish people (including in the Labour Party) actively support.”

This paragraph implies that insults used by Jew against Jew are fine for Gentiles to use against Jews. It also implies that the only Jews whose opinion is worth taking into consideration are those who support a Palestinian state.

[page 15]: “Crucially, I have heard testimony and heard for myself first-hand, the way in which the word “Zionist” has been used personally, abusively or as a euphemism for “Jew”, even in relation to some people with no  stated  position  or even a critical position  on  the  historic  formation  or  development  of  modern Israel. This has clearly happened so often over a number of years as to raise some alarm bells in Jewish communities, including amongst  highly orthodox  people  who,  whilst  perhaps  most “visibly Jewish” (e.g. in dress and or  observance), would never see themselves as Zionists.”

“A  further  complexity   comes  from  left-wing British  Jewry, including, but  not  exclusively,  young people becoming increasingly  critical of, and disenchanted  with Israeli Government  policy  in  relation  to settlements in the West Bank and the bombardment of Gaza in particular. This has led to some people personally redefining their Zionism in ways that appear to grant less support to the State of Israel and more solidarity to fellow Jewish people the world over.”

This clearly references Neturei Karta, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and their ilk. So these two tiny minorities are to be given as much weight when considering antisemitism as the vast majority of Jews who support Israel?

“ But  surely  it  is  better  to  use  the  modern  universal language  of  human  rights,  be  it  of dispossession,  discrimination,  segregation,  occupation  or persecution and to leave  Hitler,  the  Nazis and the Holocaust out of   it?”

This language is not universal but “When did you stop beating your wife?” It takes as a given that the Palestinian Arabs are dispossessed,  discriminated,  segregated,  occupatied  and persecuted.

 [page 16]: “What I cannot do is legislate for which causes activists within the Party spend their time and energies ,or require that people only highlight issues relating to one country or  government if they spend equal time  on  infractions or injustices elsewhere.  No doubt  my  many  years  as  a  domestic  human  rights campaigner may  have  led  some  people  (not  least  in  past  Labour  Governments)  to  question  my preoccupation with abuses by the British State when there was so much worse in North Korea, Saudi Arabia,  Syria,  Russia  and  elsewhere.  No doubt some people suspected my motives or my loyalty to Britain.  In truth it was my background, experience and a view that Britain should lead the world that informed my choice of activism.”

This is itself the antisemitic accusation of ‘whataboutery’ and comes straight out of the PSC playbook.

“ It is especially pernicious,  in  my  view,  to  blame  those who share  platforms with people who  went on (often some considerable time later) to say and do things with which we profoundly disagree and even abhor.”

“Sharing a platform or having a meeting around some kind of problem or injustice never has meant, does not and never will mean, sharing any or all of the views (past, present or future) of everyone in the room.  It is instead the business of peace-building and of the promotion of fundamental human rights.”

Far from being pernicious, this is shining a spotlight on a disingenuous protestation, here shamelessly repeated.

[page 19]: “Some care should also be taken to identify and record the identity of complainants. This would allow and facilitate genuine sensitive communication and “aftercare” in relation e.g. to a Labour Party member who has been targeted or upset unpleasantly by a fellow member.  However, it would also create an important distinction between such a complainant and a hostile journalist or political rival conducting a trawling exercise or fishing expedition in relation to a particular person or group of people  within the Labour Party.  I am not going so far to say that a politically motivated complaint should always be disregarded, just that motivation may have relevance, as will context. I also recognise that the Party’s elected structures (Leader, the NEC etc.) should be able to raise concerns of their own volition about a member in danger of   bringing the  Party into disrepute.  However, if  an  investigation arises  via this  route,  that  should  be  also  clearly recorded.  Further, subjects of complaint should normally be informed both of  its  substance  and  author  at  the  earliest  opportunity unless there is a clear and pressing reason for protecting the identity of a complainant.”

“Submissions to my Inquiry reveal a level  of concern and confusion (in  some  quarters) about the “Macpherson”  definition  of  a  racist  incident.  This is of course a reference to the famous Report of   1999 into the Metropolitan Police after its appalling mishandling of Stephen Lawrence’s murder.  The principle  that  an  incident should be recorded as “racist” when perceived that way by a victim may indeed  have  some  useful  application  outside  the  policing  context,  and  even  here  in  the  world  of   Labour Party discipline. However the purpose of   the approach is to ensure that investigators handle a complaint with particular sensitivity towards the victim.  It is to suggest the seriousness  with which  a complaint must be handled, but in no way to determine its outcome.  If I complain to the police that I have been the victim of a racist attack on the street, I should expect my complaint to be so recorded. However investigation and due process must of course then follow and it is perfectly possible that an investigator, prosecutor or magistrate will subsequently find either that no attack took place at all, or that its motivation was something other than racism.  In the present context, my complaint that I have been subject to racist or other personal abuse by a fellow Party Member should be so recorded, taken seriously and handled sensitively. However it will be for the investigation and any subsequent process to determine whether my complaint was ultimately well-founded.”

I am reminded of George Colman’s famous phrase: “Love and a cottage! Eh, Fanny! Ah, give me indifference and a coach and six!” Here, ladies and gentlemen, is Ms. Chakrabarti caught in the act of driving that indifferent coach and six through the spirit of the Macpherson Report. Macpherson clearly concluded that the accusation of prejudice is indeed in the gift of the victim: it is not for authority, and above all not for the perpetrator, to decide.

[page 27]: “I explained earlier why the trigger of antisemitism notwithstanding ,I believed that it was right that my terms of reference embrace all forms of racism. I also explained that it is not enough to avoid being clearly, expressly or deliberately racist in the Labour Party if anyone feels excluded from their instinctive political home. That is why the idea of ensuring “Labour is a welcoming environment for members of all communities “constitutes the fundamental underpinning of my task. The journey of this Inquiry has reinforced the importance of this, not just in principle, but sadly in practice as well.”

“ I believe it right, natural and wholly positive for the Labour Movement, that so many new-comers to Britain, their children and grandchildren have gravitated to the party of social justice since its origins and inception. There is nothing inherently suspect about this tendency, and it should be welcomed and positively encouraged by all in the Party.”

Having had the chutzpah to trample Macpherson underfoot, Ms. Chakrabarti compounds it by arrogating to herself the decision as to who is fit to join the Labour Movement. You do not have to be a social justice warrior to support Labour. If they expel the Blairite New Labour Centrists for good, then Labour will never again have the chance to form a government.

Trains from the East

I’ve been looking at those trains passing through Hungary, carrying refugees from further east, and seeing the Hungarian police offer them food and water, which they throw on the ground in contempt. And I’m reminded of other trains travelling the same route, 72 years ago, also en route to a place that in those days was in Germany. Those passengers, when the train stopped at a station, offered gold and jewellery for the privilege of a mug of water. But this was denied them. They arrived in a Germany, all right, but there were no lines of happy faces carrying placards saying ‘Welcome’. Just soldiers, dogs and whips. And a chimney.

EU Elections: Vote Or UKIP Gets It

I hope you voted in the European Parliament election today. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a high percentage of those who would tend to support Labour or the LibDems don’t vote (viz: “Don’t vote – it only encourages them.”) Conversely, as UKIP is all about Europe and getting out of it, pretty much everyone who warms to UKIP will make the effort to vote for them.
So, if YOU don’t vote, UKIP is heading for a shoo-in.
You have been warned.