Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Like many people of Polish origin I get very irritated when lazy journalists describe the notorious death camps in Poland, such as Auschwitz or Treblinka, as simply "Polish". he lazy unfeeling bastards! These camps are no more "Polish" than Hadrian's Wall is British just because it is in Britain. Do British POWs who survived those horrific camps in Burma describe them as "Burmese"? No brainer. Of course not. They are righfully described as "Japanese". And exactly for that reason camps like Auschwitz should be descibed as "German" or "German Nazi". Certainly not "Polish".
It's funny how it is no longer PC to say something critical about the Germans these days. Here is a recent article in the Daily Star. It's a lovely touching story:
Mother and newborn baby were about to be sent to Auschwitz. There was surely no hope, no escape.
Once they arrived at the Polish death camp, tiny Agnes Grunwald would have been torn from her mother Leona's arms and thrown into the fires.
But the terrified young woman and her daughter were not herded onto trains waiting to transport yet more Hungarian Jews to their deaths. That day, the guard ordered all mothers accompanied by children back to their Budapest homes.
Why they survived the Holocaust when six million others didn't, Agnes, now 66 and a Sheffield JP, will never know. What motivated that soldier to leniency she can only guess.
"I have no means of knowing who he was, what his motives were, or his fate. It may have been an act of kindness; he may simply have been obeying an order from on high, set for an entirely logical, rather than sentimental, reason.
"But it is chilling to think that for his actions, I would have been murdered before I was aware of life," says Agnes.
A mother of three sons and a grandmother thanks to the actions of that unknown guard, she is now the author of a new book charting other amazing stories of survival against the odds.
The Other Schindlers: Why some People Chose To Save Jews In The Holocaust is not a harrowing account of the atrocities, however.
Conversely, it is an uplifting collection of memories from rescuers and rescued, which lift the soul and send a chill of emotion the length of your spine.
It tells of 30 brave and courageous non-Jews from around the globe who risked their own lives to save those of others from Nazi persecution during World War Two.
"The actions of the Holocaust rescuers are truly one of the lights in that great darkness," says Agnes, a trustee of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
But a book wasn't her initial aim; it began as a personal quest for knowledge to pass down the family line which had so nearly been extinguished in the autumn of 1944.
"Most survivors of the Holocaust don't talk about it. People had horrible experiences; things they want to forget. But this leaves a gap of knowledge with the next generation. It had in mine," she says."
Aerial photograph of Auschwitz-Birkenau
We hear the word "Polish" in this article and references to "Budapest" but where is there any mention of Germans?
Or consider this article. From the Exmouth Journal:
STUDENTS at Exmouth Community College have been listening to harrowing stories associated to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Caitlin Wilson and Ellie Rivers, both post 16 students, visited the Polish camp recently as part of an educational project based on fighting prejudice and discrimination.
The girls delivered a presentation at the college about what they had learnt during the trip.
Auschwitz was the scene where more than a million men, women and children, were murdered during World War II. The site is now a museum.
The school has held a number of Auschwitz-themed events this academic year.
Earlier this term, year 10 art students got the chance to talk to an artist, Vincent Ryszka, whose family owned the land that Auschwitz was built on.
Terri Cooke, the college's head of art, said: "He told students about the death camp and how conditions were so awful prisoners committed suicide by throwing themselves on the electric perimeter wire at night.
"Vincent's father and a friend tried this, and the guards threw a grenade at them. It ripped a limb off the friend as well as blowing a hole in the fence. They escaped through into the woods and joined the resistance.
"These tales have influenced Vincent's artwork and students were encouraged to work from their experiences and passions to create expressive images."
Again a good local story. The camp is described as "Polish". But who organised the camp and massacred the prisoners? Mum's the word! I have nothing against modern Germany - in many ways a model of civilisation and democracy. But historical truth is historical truth.
The Polish Media group run by Jan Niechwiadowicz have spent several harrowing obsessive years monitoring and seeking corrections on so-called "Polish" concentration camps in the British media. Some newspapers agree to print corrections and amend their websites, others treat these interventions with contempt. They either respond by mocking the earnest letter writer, but mainly they just ignore them.
Today the Labour Friends of Poland (in fact 4 MPs - Alan Whitehead, Steve Pound, Andrew Slaughter and Denis MacShane) have brought together some of the Polish Media Group's examples and sent an angry statement about this to the Press Complaints Commission.
It is about time the PCC pulled their finger out on this as these press aberrations are in breach of paragraph 1. i/ of the PCC's Editor's Code of Practice concerning inaccuracy in reporting. If the Ontario Press Council and the Australian Press Board can make statements criticising the misuse of the word "Polish" in relation to extermination camps, then why not the PCC?
Let us hope that Poland's friends in the Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties make similar appeals. It is about time the PCC advised the British press to reform their ways.
Sunday, 1 August 2010
I'm still really sad about the Labour leadership. 4 people who have done nothing in life accept pass academic exams and then become professional politicians and then there's crazy lovable mixed up Diane.
I have met and personally liked David Miliband and he has the intellectual capacity, the warmth and the sense of humour that a potential Labour leader might need. But he is not a connecter in his conversation and appears not to do small talk. He is too intellectual, too inclined to cover a policy fudge with a turn of phrase that will delight him and his Westminster friends but confuse the public, and he lacks guts and courage - or so far I've seen no sign of it. I fear that a newly confident Cameron could knock the stuffing out of him in parliamentary confrontations.
Nor does the average British voter like or trust an intellectual as leader of the country. In the past John Major tried to curry favour with the British public by lying about the fact he had failed ALL his O levels. Soon it transpired that he had actually gained a couple.
Ed Miliband has the guts, at least to stand up to his brother, but not much more. Better at human contact then his brother but not realy a listener either. Seems a bit sneaky to me although he is good on green issues.
The pugnacious Ed Balls is his own worst enemy. At present he is the only one carrying the fight to the Tories, especially over Gove's mad school "reform" programme, but he has so much bluster, is so associated with the worst aspects of Brown's sad fight against his own party and has the effrontery to turn against Labour's earlier bold decision to open up the UK labour market to Poles, Hungarians and other Central Europeans. Nobody trusts him, except perhaps his loving crafty wife, Yvette. Now I could see HER as a future Labour leader. But then Ed Balls as PM's consort? Oh, no! Worse than Denis Thatcher, who at least kept out of active politics.
I cannot make much impression of earnest and hard-working Andy Burnham, as he is too young and too colourless at present. A bit of a swot. In 10 years time he may be a lion, but I have yet to believe that.
Diane Abbott has the fire and personality to be leader and she can certainly increase the black vote for Labour. At least she knows more about life outside politics and can share the concerns and suffering of ordinary voters.
But she is unstable and not very intelligent, inclined to bully to reinforce her prejudices and her leadership could endanger support from Labour's Asian voters. However any future leader who failed to put her in a Shadow Cabinet job, would be mad, even if he would have to put up with her occasional nonsense. She could be the next John Prescott.
I loved her stand on her son's education. No, really. After her bombastic attacks on Harriet Harman and Tony Blair over sending their children to more selective state schools, she goes the whole hog and sends her own son to a private school - the City of London School.
I couldn't believe it was her when I first ran into her at a parents' reception at the school. She wore a label showing her name as "Thompson" or something, but I could not take my eyes off her. As she walked past me, drink in hand, I bent over to her and whispered in her ear "Nice to see another Labour Party supporter here". She stopped in astonishement and then screwed up her face into a mischievous smile and put her finger over her lips. In view of her earlier public statements I was quite astounded by her presence there and mentioned it half jokingly to my MP, asking him if he was sending his kids to a private school as well. He thought I was bonkers and had imagined the whole thing.
Anyway the story broke in the press several months later and I admired her for her sheer brazen response that as a Labour politician there was no justification for what she had done, but as a mother she had made the right choice in order to counter the lure of Hackney street culture. I actually agreed with that answer. I just wish she had not made such a hypocritical song and dance about it over other MPs children beforehand. I even sent her an e-mail of support and got a sweet response from her in return.
Sadly, none of the 5 contenders has the necessary range of quality attributes to be the next Labour leader. You need a combination of political courage, intelligence, intellectual honesty, capacity for hard work and be attuned to the language and needs of the voter, especially as we all face this bewildering minefield of massive cuts which would undermine Bitain's economy for decades if implemented as announced by Osborne and Co.
Individually none of the candidates measure up. But between the 5 of them those qualities are there, provided that they can group around whoever is finally selected on September 25th and all five of them serve as leaders together in the new shadow cabinet. Because all 5 of them have some quality they can input. The electorate would react positively to a harmonious collective leadership. David could be the nominal leader, the Eisenhower, the "primus inter pares", and be able to delegate decision-making and policy leads to his colleagues, in a way that Blair and Brown were incapable of doing.
There lies the only hope for Labour. And for the country as a whole.