This is no longer about a lifelong allegiance to a Labour movement, but about a certain morality, of humanity, self respect and debasement
Walking to the burial I saw the grave of someone born in 1848, exactly 100 years before me and I thought back through my history books at what he might have witnessed. A little further on was a memorial to some infants who had perished in the Holocaust and I realised that whatever he’d witnessed he’d never have imagined the horrors of WWll and that something like The Holocaust could ever have transpired, let alone happen again.
Returning last month to Yad VaShem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, for the first time in 30 years, I left feeling drained, my head pounding, my heart stricken. Six hours of walking, looking, listening, reading, watching and still no answers, no understanding, nothing clarified or distilled. After 70 years of wondering and wandering, I am no wiser, my brain stuffed with visions, images and anecdotes, that explain nothing other than a realisation that man can only see what he wishes to observe.
What didn’t the people know about the smoke, the trains stuffed to capacity, the disappearances and the stench? When their neighbours vanished, they didn’t notice, when the clouds of bodily smoke stenched the air around them, filled their nostrils with decay and rot, they never sneezed, their pitch-coated lungs never coughed and their hearts remained closed as did their front doors, slammed shut to the cries for life they refused to hear.
From the very first Yad VaShem takes you on a journey through the years before, during and after the most catastrophic period in all of history, when evil became personified in a way a human mind should never be allowed to fantasise, yet that became a reality.
What struck me most I was asked. How do you answer that when everything about that point in time strikes in a way that is incomprehensible? How can one rationalise first the invention, then the preparation followed by the execution of an industrial enterprise that created an entire people, a specific people, the Jews, as a commodity to be reshaped, humiliated and numbered beyond recognition, then to be destroyed and burned, the components used as human fertiliser for the surrounding forests?
At first I looked down the avenue of concrete walls, the v-shape directing the eye to film of how it was before, where the people lived innocently unaware of what was being prepared for their future. Children playing, men praying, families celebrating, the effect of the concrete walls moving passed these scenes of normality, when suddenly it dawns that the walls encage you in a carriage, locked in as you wonder, criss-crossing the lines, a journey transporting you through that time as though you are one of the 6 million. Shivers all over as you begin to experience life in Europe not even a century ago, within reach of my lifetime if I stretch my arms back just little, within earshot of the clunking doors, locked, with extras dropped in through the roof to stuff every available corner of the carriages with those at the start of the dehumanisation process, clickety-clack, clickety-clack, its cold, its wet, it reeks of puke and human excrement. Jackboots aplenty, whips made of steel wire covered in rubber used by Nazis and capos alike to herd the masses until they no longer even tried to resist.
In my childhood the Holocaust was known as the time when 6 million Jews were industrially murdered, the aim being to completely exterminate every Jew in the world, commit a genocide in the true sense of the word, not a single Jew to be left alive. As though to appease the collective guilt of a world that closed its hearts and ears, shut its eyes to the plight of my kinfolk, I am reminded that victims also included gypsies and the disabled. However, when the Nazis started to commit euthanasia of the unfit, the churches objected and the institutions were closed, with the personnel and equipment sent to Poland to deal with the Jewish question. Nobody objected, nobody came forward with a plea for the Jews, not even when word reached London and Washington. The plan to exterminate the Jews seemed to receive global tacit consent.
Kurt Tucholsky’s words jumped off the wall: “A country is not only what it does, but what it tolerates.”
Europe tolerated the mass murder of 6 million Jews under the banner of the Swastika carried by Hitler’s Germans and his Axis partners, Italians led by Mussolini and Muslims of the Middle East under the leadership of the so called Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin El-Husseini, plus all those countries Germany invaded that included Poland, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Latvia. And then there were simply the collaborators, like France, Holland, Sweden and even Switzerland. All were willing partners in the execution of the Jews. Even Herman Guring said “I would not like to be a Jew in Germany”. I would not have liked to be a Jew in all Europe and I’m beginning to feel that I’d rather not be a Jew in the UK.
Imagine what I saw at Yad VaShem. An archive that tells us what transpired then, now clearly in view for us right now, right here, in our time, a time we vowed would be ‘never again’, a time we said we would never repeat. But here it is, on the brink of creation in the 21st century, the threat nobody will see, or hear, and certainly not speak about for fear of reprimand, of sanction, of being labelled as racist in a projection of time in space over matter and fact. Are we afraid again? Yes we are and if we aren’t we should be.
“A country is not only what it does, but what it tolerates.” and there is much the UK tolerates and indeed has tolerated for quite some time. This is best articulated by Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP, who, having referred to “the cult of Corbynism”, continues to stump for the Labour Party in the current election cycle of 2019. On hearing she was about to be disciplined by her Labour Party she reportedly said:
“On the day I heard they were going to discipline me and possibly suspend me, I kept thinking – what did it feel like to be a Jew in Germany in the 30s? It felt almost as if they were coming for me….It’s rather difficult to define but there’s that fear and it reminded me of what my dad used to say. He always said to me as a child: ‘You’ve got to keep a packed suitcase at the door Margaret, in case you ever have got to leave in a hurry.'”
When Jeremy Corbyn sat on the back benches of Parliament, nobody paid hm much attention as he built his connections to the IRA, Palestinian terrorists and stumped for Iranian Al Quds with their Hezbollah flags. There were but a few activists watching, protesting, monitoring and recording his actions and his speeches. This voice would not be heard, until suddenly in 2015, the now aged racist is selected by happenstance as leader of the UK Labour Party. His patronage of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign / BDS and his involvement with Stop the War Coalition is the single most lucid indication of what the foreign policy of a 2019 Labour Government might look like. The idea that the recognition of a Palestinian state takes precedence over all other issues is a clear measure of the danger presented by a Corbyn led Labour Government. Questions need to be asked as to why Palestine, what is it about such an entity that lures Labour into the age old Middle Eastern conflict with the Jews that does not bode well in 2019 for UK Jews nor for the security of the world at large. A clue could possibly be found in Matthias Kuntzel’s 2018 article ISLAMIC ANTISEMITISM: HOW IT ORIGINATED AND SPREAD, in which he discusses Islamic anti-Judaism and the modern antisemitism of Europe.
We heard Jeremy Corbyn say during the ITV Leaders’ debate, without a flush to his cheek, his glasses askew, that he has done everything to eradicate antisemitism in the Labour Party, expelling all who express hatred for Jews as he looked straight into the eye of the camera. Mouth open, Boris Johnson was speechless, as were we all.
After WWll when the scale of the atrocities became known there was a common cry of “oh we didn’t know”, or “I was only doing my job” and the like, as though nobody noticed the disappearance of all Europe’s Jews in a matter of a couple of years. I cannot say 6,000,000 loud enough, or often enough as a red light warning should the UK elect a Corbyn led Labour Party into Government, even a coalition Government with a minor party, on Thursday 12 December 2019. After all would you want to be amongst those who could not see, or smell, who didn’t care sufficiently to prevent an atrocity? This is no longer about a lifelong allegiance to a Labour movement, but about a certain morality, of humanity, self respect and debasement.