Tuesday 8 March 2016

Potato peelings, anti-migrant sentiment and the Nazis

"The second world war ended over 70 years ago, and only those of a certain age still remember its events at first hand in Germany, and that includes those who worked at the extermination camps at Auschwitz and of course the survivors of the Holocaust. 
Of the thousands of Germans who worked at the death camps, only some of the senior figures were ever prosecuted. But now there are several trials being held in Germany, of lower ranking officials such as guards accused of being accessories to mass murder. They and their surviving victims are in their 90s, and as Jenny Hill’s been finding, it’s reminding Germany of its dark past. All the while anti-migrant sentiment is growing:

"Angela Orosz is small, energetic and she smiles a lot. I find myself laughing along with her as she tells me that her family never threw away potato peelings, preferring to eat them instead. “Potato peelings!” she exclaimed “Can you imagine?” 
Angela was born in Auschwitz. her story is an unimaginable story of human cruelty and human resilience. Her mother was pregnant when she was transported to the death camp. Somehow she survived despite the experiment she was subjected to. Somehow she sustained the pregnancy, eating potato peelings from the camp kitchen, and somehow Angela was born, concealed, and lived the first few months of her life in the camp before its liberation.  Decades later this immaculately dressed dark haired woman sits in front of me. we’re not smiling any more. “Potato peelings”, she repeats, carefully. “They saved my life.” 
Angela recently gave evidence at the trials of two SS guards at Auschwitz. A recent court ruling has made it possible for prosecutors to pursue anyone who worked in a death camp, regardless of their role. One man who’s been convicted of aiding and abetting mass murder, several others have been charged, but they’re all now in their nineties, it’s a race against time to bring them to safe justice. 
The trials fascinate and horrify Germany. They’re a searingly painful reminder of this country’s past. In the municipal blandness of the courtroom survivors recount surprisingly vivid detail. A young woman with bright red hair, shot by a uniformed Nazi; a father’s hand closing the gate on the family home before he was marched roughly away; a sewing machine, carefully, hopefully, carried into the chaos of the train to Auschwitz. It’s all recounted with quiet insistence as weak sunshine pales the wooden floor and traffic faintly murmurs past outside. 
Recently I watched as one of those survivors spoke directly to the former guard in the dock. Leon Schwarzbaum’s eyes are strikingly bright. he has a beautiful smile, but it’s often washed away by an expression of profound sadness. His whole family was killed in Auschwitz. Leon’s eyes were fixed on Reinhold Hanning who was accused of murdering tens of thousands of Jewish prisoners. Crammed together on flimsy plastic chairs, the watching journalists were absolutely still, and I realised I was absolutely holding my breath. “Mr Hanning” he began. “We are about the same age. We will soon face our final judge. I want you to tell the truth about what you did.” 
This, I thought really was Germany, confronting its past, face to face. 
I chatted recently with a lawyer who represents some of the survivors. “These trials” he told me, “really matter” His face creased, emphatic. “It’s about justice, yes, but it’s also about making sure this country doesn’t forget. It’s already forgetting.” 

I wonder whether he’s right, because it seems to me that as Germany confronts the horror of its past again, it’s also facing a stark present reality. 
The refugee crisis has revealed a painful glimpse of what the country’s president Joachim Gauck refers to as ‘dark Germany’. It’s there in the faces of screaming anti migrant protesters illuminated harshly in the headlights of a bus carrying refugees to what should have been a safe house. Or the mob, violently silhouetted by flames who clapped and cheered as a refugee home burned to the ground in front of them. And then there are the swastikas crudely splashed by night discovered by day on the walls of buildings, which house asylum seekers. There have been more than a thousand attacks like these on refugee homes in the last year. Most Germans are horrified. Even so, supports has grown for the grassroots political party in Germany which campaigns against migrants. Its leader recently proposed border guards should make use of their firearms. Germany’s constitutional court is currently deciding whether to ban another political party. The far-right NPD. Many here blame them in part for the current anti-migrant sentiment and violence, but in fact proceedings began two years ago when Germany’s 16 states petitioned the court to outlaw the party, which they claim is racist, antisemitic and has similarities to Hitler’s Nazis. 

I think back to Angela and her potato peelings. She’d also told me how she’s made her nine-year old daughter navigate the city’s subway system alone so that she could survive by herself if the Holocaust happened again. For all her determination and bravery, the circumstances of Angela’s birth have infused her life with a profound insecurity. It’s a frailty that touches Germany, even now.

That is a transcription of Jenny Hill’s FOOC (preceded by Kate Adie’s intro) I’ve done that so that you can judge for yourself. Jenny Hill (Welcome to Germany) regards all refugees fleeing from poverty or war, or seeking ‘a better life’  as unquestionably entitled to unlimited hospitality from western European countries, no matter who, why or where. 

But is the  plight of would-be migrants fleeing from poverty and war really comparable to Germany’s industrialised extermination of the Jews in WW 2? 

Does Germany’s guilt oblige European countries to absorb, permanently or temporarily, millions of destitute and desperate Muslims, when there are vast prosperous Arab countries that could accommodate them without those troublesome ideological differences? 

Did you wonder why Jenny Hill sought to sandwich the refugee crisis in between two slices of Holocaust? Well, she’s by no means the only one who does that, but it seems profoundly crass. She sees superficial similarities, so conflates the two. She alludes to ‘lessons’ that she thinks the Holocaust should have taught us. 
Not ‘Don’t tolerate antisemitism’.  The ‘lesson’ she takes from the Holocaust appears to be:  ‘opposing mass Islamic immigration is racist’ and those who do so (the far-right) are no different to the Nazis.

Is  she really equating Muslim refugees with victims of the Holocaust? Is she saying that opposing the influx of Muslim, (very likely antisemitic) refugees is racist? Have the recent  incidences of sexual harassment and violence in German cities, the rapes in Sweden and so on escaped her? 

I’d like to know what that lawyer meant by “Germany is already forgetting.” I do wonder if he meant that in the way Jenny Hill was emoting. Or the opposite. Forgetting about the consequences of antisemitism perhaps?  Never mind. 

I found Jenny Hill’s use of that ‘potato peelings’ tale cheap, inappropriate and clumsy.  


  1. I'm so sick of this false analogy. There was no Jewish gang molestation of women in any German city. No Jews ever blew up a Berlin disco. There were established Jewish communities in Germany for two centuries before the Nazis came to power, it wasn't tens of thousands of them showing up all at once, over the course of a few years or months. Far more German Jews were integrated than Muslims today. Jews served in the German army in WWI.

    There is no comparison, and the BBC is playing a very sick game. This narrative has already spread across the spectrum of BBC broadcasting, and there's no sign of stopping it because it's a convenient emotional cudgel for them to use. All superficial, no substance, emotion over reality. Typical BBC.

  2. Absolute poppycock. They simply trying to use Auschwitz to haul the migrant train because the Euro Express has broken down. People aren't stupid. They seen how a large minority of migrants have been behaving.

    It is a particularly galling analogy because most of the current migrants are followers of a legal system (Sharia) that mandates that no Jew may live in Arabia and also mandates second class treatment for Jews and Christians, along with other Kaffirs.

    As David P. says above - the BBC is playing a very sick game. Fortunately Jenny Hill has made a laughing stock of her reporting style with her "Welkommen to Berlin" tosh last year, and her failure to notice the events on New Year's Eve in Cologne.

  3. I do wonder where the Jewish leaders have gone.
    How DARE the Left piggyback on the biggest atrocity of the 20th Century, just so they can connive in ensuring that Jews will no longer be safe in Europe once again.
    I can`t believe that Sir Nicholas Winton would have allowed his Kindertransport notion to be so trashed by easy liberal lies that-like Weimar-ensured that such a step was necessary to save a few Jewish kids from the Socialists under Hitler.
    The Left have now returned to open anti-Semitism, because the likes of Corbyn confused Rock Against Racism with supporting Hamas, via Arafats PLO.
    When goons like Hella Pick agree to stop thinking in return for a Guardian piece or a "Press Review" spot on News24...they only make the job of todays Jews even harder.
    Islam is back and on the rise-and the idiot left are equally scornful of the Jew, when not clueless and historically venal.
    For both attacks on the Jewish people come from cowards and reflex idiots with NO sense of history, no care for the coming consequences...and we do need some strong Jewish speakers and leaders to shaft the pretension and presumptions of the BBC and its Islamic stoolies.

  4. It should also be remembered by the BBC that Jews were helped to migrate out of Germany prior to WW2 to ...

    ... Israel. Their own future homeland.

    Not all of them came to France, Britain or America.

    But the BBC doesn't do history and memory of facts of history these days.

    1. Beeboids certainly take that into account when pushing the 'European interloper/stolen land' agenda. Many of them believe this.


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