On the 9th of November 1938, Nazi leaders instigated a pogrom against the Jewish population and their property across German cities. The attack was a ‘retaliation’ for the murder of a German staff member in the Parisian German Embassy. This man was killed by Herschel Grynszpan, a young man acting alone and out of anger for the expulsion of his Polish born parents from Germany. The retaliation lasted for days, cost 91 lives, synagogues and buildings were destroyed and the police and fire service intervened only to protect the property of the non-Jewish population. In the days following the attack approximately 30,000 Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Jews who had had nothing to do with the murder, who wanted to be left alone to live their lives, were attacked, rounded up, sent to concentration camps and murdered.
To add some context vis a vis the religious situation in Germany at the time, the Catholic Church in Germany had just emerged from the Kulterkampf put in place by Bismark, and as such their loyalty was under question. The church stood accused of ultramontanism. Their status in Germany was settled only through the Concordat between Germany and the Vatican in 1933. Though it guaranteed the Catholic Church autonomy in Germany, it also demanded official Catholic silence on all anti semitic policies. In short they were bound on a promise of non intervention made in advance (the moral being if a regime like the Nazi party asks you to make open ended promises of non-involvement and silence in advance in return for basic civil liberties, it’s very probably a bad idea. That said, silence in the face of atrocity appears to be something the Catholic church is rather good at…) Some even went so far as to support the newly rising Zionist movement alongside the nationalist groups which increased during the interwar years. Then, through the Protestant population, Nazism, found it’s ally and a route to power. To them to be German was to be Christian and the Jews represented a secular threat to Christianity. Christian apologists can scream until they’re blue in the face the misnomer that Hitler was an atheist, the German people were certainly not…
The anti-semitic legislation in place since the beginning of Nazi rule in Germany in 1933 did not only mean displacement, it meant loss of civil liberties, being barred from certain professions, barred from owning and running their own business. The universities had strict quotas on Jewish admissions which they could not exceed so he had no hope of self improvement. At the same time the Nazi propaganda circulated blamed the Jews for all the nation’s troubles. They were called parasites and vipers. Legislation was brought in to beggar them and then the were pilloried for what the Nazis had made them. Young Herschel Grynszpan may have had some small justification for his act.
Popular intolerance had been promoted throughout the interwar years with papers, pamphlets, and church agitation reinforcing traditional prejudice all played their part in the rise of nationalism. The extreme right was embroiled in rivalry between the center right, weak leadership at the center of power, combined with the acculturation of the Jews despite the economic decline of Germany, their decisiveness as a group, the failure of zionism (at this point, the British were severely limiting all Jewish emigration to Palestine) to provide any meaningful or sustainable solutions to the ‘Jewish question’ symbolises the mean situation of Eastern central Europe in the interwar years (1918-33), up to the beginning of Nazi rule and beyond.
On May 22 2013, two young men, one recent a convert to Islam, set upon a 20 year old British soldier, brutally killing him with a meat cleaver in revenge for his part in the conflict in Afghanistan. They believed that Islam was under attack from non-Muslim powers. Since this brutal and utterly unwarranted attack, mosques have been attacked, the Daily mail has been printing its standard fare of anti-islam and anti-immigrant (anti anyone who isn’t rich, white, christian… well, them really) tosh, and even Radio 4’s ‘Any Answers’ had it’s share of right-wing ramblers on demanding that non-white and non-christians be deported. I was disgusted.
These young men (like the brothers in Boston) radicalised themselves through viewing online videos of radical preachers who have twisted their view to suit the agenda. The one that gives them the best possible chance of influence. Since they [the preachers] were unable to gain credibility off their own merit, they are happy to recruit from a supply of vulnerable young men, who are equally happy to see others as a maleficent influence, deliberately ‘keeping them down’. These preachers feed the vulnerable the easy answers that will get them onside and listening. They promulgate an ideology so far from the truth of either reality or their actual religion that it’s virtually unrecognisable to the majority of British Mulsims. These loose canons and lunatic mal-contents manage to convince others that they are under attack and must defend their faith with as much force as possible: in short, terrorise the majority until they submit and convert. They are one trick ponies who love to think that Islam in general is undergoing the same ordeal as the Jews in wartime. They are not. Not in the west
What do the crimes have in common?
Both victims were military personnel but neither victim, past or present, had any part in the decision making process of their respective government. They were both killed by young men radicalised by a sense of victimhood: one justified (the victimhood, not the murder). In the case of the Nazi staff member, he was JUST following orders as Germany was not a member of the Geneva convention, so even if he had been involved (and as he was not a diplomat or official, we have no reason to believe he was), he was not protected by the convention should he have disobeyed an order. This is not to say that this historical murder was justified, merely that his killer was a disenfranchised young man: a Jew who had witnessed his own parents ejected from their homes and the country they knew and loved. They had not been killed but this was a group of people whose existence really was under threat.
The murderer of the soldier and young father by these young men, had no ties to Afghanistan other than a religion in common. They had not seen their rights curtailed, nor businesses ruined, their existence threatened. They had not been barred from further education or the professions, they had not been attacked and persecuted by the state… Their attack was ‘revenge against ‘the British’ for the deaths of muslims overseas. These ‘deaths’ (not denying there are any) were the ‘everyone knows‘ deaths referred to by demagogues without an argument
Satirical dialog moment:
Demagogue: “refer to a few deaths here, mate”…
Demagogue: “cos it really draws in the crowd, plus nobody argues about “deaths'”
History is only repeating itself insofar as the reactions to both murders were grossly out of proportion. Britain is not the relatively new state Germany was in 1933 (only unified as a nation state since 1870), and nor has Britain had it’s economy smashed by a punitive non-aggression treaty (whole other post). We can thank the bankers for that… The historic actions of a nation under a fascist totalitarian state is in no way comparable to what is going on today in Britain, or with the majority of our overseas action. The recent MoD balls-up is a subject for another time. This is not to say persecution is a thing of the last century either: for example Israel’s occupation of Palestine is a disgraceful act. Israel are no longer a nation of displaced persons, they have become the aggressors in an illegal conflict (yet another post) and their history does not justify their behaviour. Nor should the comparison with the Holocaust just be bandied about the moment a group is feeling picked on as so many love to do but this seems a more typical trait of American evangelists, who claim that Christianity (their version) is under siege.
News flash: this is not new, the 17th century settlers felt ‘picked on (they weren’t allowed to persecute Catholics anymore) and under threat , its why they moved there. It has gone on so long that the idea of Christianity under threat has merged with the evangelical mission to convert followers (provided motivation) It downgrades what the actual victims of that hellish time went through, and insults the real victims when, for example, a spoiled and pampered ‘news’-doll for Fox can score a few cheap sympathy points with the idiots staring at their legs, bums, and boobs. There is only one conflict which even comes close to the actual holocaust and even that was mostly politically driven: the first and second Boer wars, where the Boers were rounded up into camps etc… by the British (Read Thomas Packenham -‘ The Scramble for Africa’ and ‘The Boer War’) (oh look another idea for a post).
What is it the right wing groups picked up on in Woolwich? The groups as equally maniacal as the preachers they deplore? They pick up on the inferences spread by the right-wing hack rags and then act on them. The EDL added 2 and 2 and made 17, and then good people who had nothing what happened in Woolwich were attacked for being Muslims. To my international readers, the English Defense League are a source of national embarrassment. They are not representative of the population as a whole, no matter how much they would like people to think they are. What else is happening in response to a gruesome murder committed by two people, acting alone? A Conservative government suggesting they reconsider the monitoring of everyone’s individual internet browsing habits… in short, the thought police want to know what people are reading/and watching just in case… Just how they plan to operate this scheme after they have been letting public sector workers go in their thousands is beyond me. It would probably be privately outsourced… the Tories just love doing that.
If we just ignore the ‘swivel-eyed’ loons of the extreme (insert fringe group of nutters) there is very real a danger that history will repeat itself. Pretending its not happening is not a solution which is why people like me speak out the way we do. Sometimes the nutters need to be mocked and pointed at, just so the rest of the world is aware of the danger they pose to us all. If we are vigilant and make sure people are equipped with the skills of reason and critical thinking from an early age, we may avoid another Woolwich tragedy. The Pope’s ‘atheists aren’t so bad’ speech and the invitation for tea (see, TEA is the answer), biscuits and football, from a Mosque in York to the wider community in front of, and inclusive to EDL supporters was a brave and positive step toward peaceful coexistence. I hope to see more of the same. Considering the reactions of the last week though, I fear there is more conflict on its way before we see any real improvement.