too kind to
It is true that the phrase 'Polish death camps' misrepresents the truth of the origins, responsibility and administration of German Death Camps in Poland during the second world war (6 June).
It is also true that the Poles suffered horrifically under the Germans (and then the Russians), though whether Poland was a 'country which suffered like no other in Europe during the second world war', as the current Polish prime minister claims, is open to debate. In fact, per capita of population Belorussia probably was, but it depends on your criteria. There is also the open question of the status of Polish Jews, who, through their historical compact with the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom, operated as a nation within a country. Perhaps a third of the Polish population perished, as opposed to around 90% of Polish Jews.
In any case, under Hitler's plans for the east, Poles would have provided slave labour to the Reich (many did anyway); thereafter survivors would have probably been subject to genocide. Hitler was no fan of Slavs either. But Alan Fisher needs to be more nuanced and more accurate in dealing with the terribly complex matter of what happened in Poland during the war. This is not a subject that can be dealt with adequately through the prism of one book, or one remarkable man – Jan Karski. One could write a history of Hitler's years in power through the prism of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but it would hardly represent the whole truth.
Fisher asserts that it is a dreadful error to suggest that Poles were involved in the operation of the camps, but the fact that Poles were also victims of the Germans and the camps does not make this statement true in toto – it just reveals what a difficult subject this is. Because there is also abundant evidence that many Poles were enthusiastic collaborators in the German policy of Jewish extermination. Even after the worst was known, those Jews that did survive the camps and who tried to return to their Polish villages were chased away. Nor was the terrible truth of the camps ever adequately dealt with in Polish post-war society, as demonstrated by the anti-semitic campaigns sponsored by Poland's post-war governments as late as the 1960s. Still today there is no restitution for Jewish losses in Poland, and even in the 2000s one can find town mayors in Poland denying that Jews were ever part of their community.
None of this is especially particular to the Poles: the vast majority of Europeans were also enthusiastic collaborators in the destruction of European Jewry, from France to Russia. Though deeply shameful, it's hardly surprising, since anti-semitism is a long constant of European history. Nor is this about a kind of Jewish victimology. Many Jews, albeit secular, were involved in mass murder themselves – just look at the history of the Russian Cheka.
I really shouldn't have to point this stuff out. Alan Fisher contends that President Obama should be better read: glass houses. There is a vast corpus of minutely referenced historical literature on what happened in Poland and wider afield in Europe. One could do worse than starting with four books: Karski's, which was republished last year; Paul Kriwaczek's 'Yiddish Civilization: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation'; Timothy Snyder's 'Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin'; and 'Treblinka Survivor: The Life and Death of Hershl Sperling' by Mark Smith.
Finally, no matter how much sympathy one might have with the Poles on this issue of nomenclature, history shouldn't be written, or rewritten, by nation states. It doesn't belong to them: and they never tell the truth anyway. I would have thought that someone who does the kind of job that Alan Fisher does would be confronted by this truth on a daily basis.
I laughed out loud on several occasions while reading Kenneth Roy's article (24 May) concerning Stagecoach's Number 24 bus. As a regular user of the Stagecoach bus service, may I say that his words rang most graphically true, but with one minor exception. Perhaps it is Fife and Dundee that are exceptional, as I will explain in my experience on Stagecoach's Numbers 95, 99 and X60.
The majority of the drivers I find to be friendly, obliging, courteous, joking and without beer-bellies, especially the female drivers. However Kenneth's article does portray with painful accuracy the attitude of the rest. On far too many occasions, once the bus door is closed, even with potential passengers yards away from it, that door shall not open for any man, woman, child or, indeed, dog. Somebody said to me that it sometimes seems that Stagecoach don't want passengers.
The worst example of this occurred in St Andrew's bus station a few weeks ago. Just as an elderly woman was approaching the bus, the door slammed shut. She started knocking on the door only to be totally ignored by the driver, to protests from several passengers including myself. Suddenly another potential passenger appeared, causing the first lady to shout for all to hear: 'I'm waiting for my sister' pointing to her struggling and limping in some obvious distress. Undaunted, the driver honked his horn, the whistle blew and we were off on the road to Dundee.
'Behold I stand at the door and knock' are words Sir Brian will recognise and their source.
How short is thy memory Kenny boy...Paxman all but lost his usual smug poise when faced with the supreme cool of the Eck. The boy Paxman was, quite frankly, ready to draw his handbag more than once during his attempted joust and as such clearly nailed a suspiciously less than neutral set of pro-union colours to the mast.
In relation to Roy's evaluation of the flotilla thing...yes indeed it was basically a very English thing and as such didn't require a tour around every block in Scotland before he reached the crux of the issue. Don't get me wrong here because, despite being an Englishman, I happened to find the whole thing little more than the pointless waving of a distinctly wind-torn and tattered Union Jack under which far too many sad saps still strain their ears to hear the residual echoes of empire or the ghostly strains of the indefatigable 'blitz' spirit.
As a member both of UKIP and the Tory Party, please can I nail once and for all the canard (yes, that's a French word: I speak French) that we are 'Europhobes'? I am not unusual, I am sure, in circles opposed to Britain's membership of the European union, in speaking four or five European languages (including Scots); I was educated partly in mainland Europe and have worked most of my adult life in improving British relations with Russia – a European language I also speak.
I happen to believe that the EU project is fatally undemocratic, and that Britain's membership of it is expensive, misconceived and unnecessary. We are a great trading nation. I am all for trading freely with our neighbours as non-EU members Norway and Switzerland do, as well as with the rest of the world. And the botched euro currency is a disaster which threatens to beggar us all.
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