February 24, 2006 by cosmoakacitizensmith
This doesn’t mean that I reckon he was gifted with some divine ability or whatever. He just managed to look into the future, put two and two together and appreciated the dangers of what would happen if people decided it made five.
He was dead clever cos, amongst other things, he looked into history and realised that English people, despite their role in the downsides of the Empire, were not too disposed to totalitarianism. At least not in recent memory anyhow. And certainly not compared to their continental neighbours.
I think this can be said of British people as a whole as well. We just weren’t having it.
As well as this, Orwell managed to give us a vocabulary with which we can describe complex totalitarian ideas in English. Expressions like 1984 and Big Brother have become part of our language.
We knows what they mean, clart, even if we didn’t live through it!!
In Central and Eastern Europe, though, it’s a bit of a different story.
In 1944, the Nazis decided to annex Hungary, which was already a German ally. They put Adolf Eichmann in charge. He started to have Jewish people rounded up and sent to death camps. The village where my father’s family lived was small and it had a number of Jewish people living there.
My grandfather was one of the people in the village entrusted to look after money and other valuable possessions of the Jewish community and hold it all in trust when they got taken away.
Well, erm… he buried what he was given at the bottom of the garden. There was nowhere else safe to put it.
But this meant that if and when they came back, the Jewish people of the village would have something there for them.
Not all of them came back, but those that did were very grateful to my grandfather and looked out for him when the war was over.
It was difficult to speak out against what was happening for fear of reprisals. My grandfather tried to but to no avail. When people from the village asked where the Jews were being taken, the Nazis said they didn’t know.
In other words, one of my family’s first direct experience of Nazis was of them lying about the Holocaust. And Nazis are still lying about the Holocaust today.
Take David Irving, the pillock – sorry, historian – who has just been banged up in Austria. He denied the Holocaust in a speech made there in the late eighties, and then in a show of bravado, went back recently, only to be taken to court. Holocaust denial is a crime in Austria, and he got a Go to Jail Free card.
Back in Blighty, people are like….well, yeah but at least it’s not a crime here, we have freedom of speech, unlike those Johnny Foreigners who, let’s face it, killed lots of people in death camps, (again, best not to mention the Empire), and need to keep themselves in check. I mean, good golly, if someone comes out with all that Holocaust denial nonsense in this country, we let him/her say his/her piece and shoot him/her down in flames…etc etc…..
I sometimes wonder if there’s an undercurrent of resentment that an Englishman has been banged up by a former Nazi country for speaking his mind, but that aside….
Fast forward to the early 80s. My family is in Austria on its way visit relatives in Hungary. We’re driving there – it takes three days but it’s loads cheaper than flying, (this is pre-Easyjet). We book into a B and B and we’re sitting in the bar. My dad starts talking to some of the clientel. Soon, the conversation turns to Hitler. The people in the bar, which by this time is pretty full, go on about what a great man he was, and talk at length about all the great things he did.
My mum takes me and my brother, who are very young at the time, swiftly outta there and puts us in our rooms.
This is the early eighties, remember.
Fast forward again a few years to the late eighties. My father and mother are in Hungary at my dad’s school reunion, this time without us kids. My father is talking with a small group of his ex-school friends. They start talking about how Hungary is controlled by Jews and what a terrible thing this is. My dad pulls an knife on them and says something to the effect of “You c*nts have not learned anything in the past 40 years.”
Enter my poor mum again, bless her, who spirits him away from the conversation.
I’m not trying to imply that Central and Eastern Europe is filled with hordes of ordinary people who will show their true Nazi colours in the blink of an eye. But it is a part of the world which has experience of the reality of it within living memory, certainly within people’s family history.
And like the old man, I tend not to be able to think reasonably when considering what should be done about these types of people.
I do think there was something particularly sick and fucked up about the Holocaust which in many ways sets it apart from other acts of genocide. But I don’t think this is the reason why people who say we should rename it “Genocide Day” are missing the point. By all means have a Genocide Day, but it’s a separate idea. A competition it aint.
We shouldn’t be blind to other histories, or be complacent about our own.
And we also should never forget the fact that our current global system uses economics in the same way Hitler used gas chambers.