Sunday, November 24, 2013

Anne Frank


There is an Anne Frank exhibition at the Dublin City Library and Archive in Pearse Street. It is short and to the point. Anne was arrested and murdered because she was a Jew. No other reason.

It is not surprising then, that in a talk he gave on Anne Frank: an Irish Dimension there on Thursday, Yanky Fachler was was upset at what he saw as the politicisation of the memory of Anne Frank both by the official website and others who had begun to omit the fact that she was a Jew from their publicity material. He even instanced the leaflets at the exhibition which contained the Anne Frank set of commitments, pointing out that they did not mention her Jewishness. He put these things down to pressure from the pro-Palestinian anti-Zionist lobby in Europe.

I have looked at the Anne Frank house site which now does make it clear that she was Jewish and that the Nazis were bent on exterminating the Jews. I am glad to see that glaring omission rectified though I cannot understand for the life of me how they got away with omitting this kernel of the story in the first place.

In any event, Yanky's talk was very interesting. He was basically drawing connections between Ireland's Jewish community and WWII, particularly the concentration camps.

He mentioned Ettie Steinberg, the only member of the Irish Jewish community to have been exterminated in the camps. He told the story of Tommi Reichenthal, who survived the camps and eventually came to settle in Ireland. He reminded us of Chaim Herzog, raised in Bloomfield Avenue off the SCR who, as an intelligence officer in the British Army, was one of the first to enter Bergen Belsen concentration camp during the liberation. He mentioned Dr Bob Collis, a Dublin doctor who ran a children's hospital in Belsen after the liberation and who "smuggled" some Jewish children into Ireland on his return.

He was particularly critical of the refusal of the Irish government to accept Jewish refugees from the Nazis both before, during, and, to a lesser extent, after WWII. He also reminded us of our pro-Nazi Ambassador Bewley in Berlin at the time.

He told us that, according to recently unearthed documents, all of the roughly 4,000 Jews in Ireland were earmarked for the gas chambers by the Nazis.

Yanky has written a book, Kaleidoscope, containing short pen portraits of 100 characters who helped shape the Irish-Jewish community. You will probably recognise many of the names in it and, in many cases, be surprised to find they were Jewish. The Jewish community in Ireland has certainly made a more than proportionate contribution to the life of the nation.

He mentions Raphael Siev, with whom I had some slight contact. Raphael was for a number of years a legal advisor in the Department of Foreign Affairs and subsequently curator of the Jewish Museum in Portobello. Raphael was quite convinced that the Nazi bombings of Terenure and the SCR were purposely aimed at the synagogues and Jewish communities in those areas. These views are lent some weight by Raphael's own standing and German plans to exterminate the Irish Jews.

That the later North Strand bombing does not fit into this pattern does not make it any the less likely. Accidents do happen too.

In the Q&A after the talk, I mentioned that I had been reading the children's visitors' book at the exhibition outside and was encouraged to find the entries very positive, though one child had written "Hitler Sucks", not exactly positive, but on message, nevertheless.

I contrasted this with what I had seen reported about the Israeli state sponsoring Jewish children's visits to the concentration camps and using this to effectively reinforce negative feelings towards the Palestinians (as in: this is what they will do to you if we don't sort them out now). I was making the point as a sort of counterweight to the politicisation of Anne Frank referred to earlier. I don't think it went down too well and perhaps I did not nuance my point sufficiently. I think it was taken to mean that one should forget the Holocaust and not visit the camps.

I do not think one should forget the Holocaust. It is a graphic illustration of man's inhumanity to man and a reminder that "eternal vigilance is the price of peace". I was, myself, very affected by my visit to the Dachau camp in the 1970s.

My point referred to the political use made of the visits by an Israeli state which is, to all intents and purposes, behaving like a war criminal itself.

I look forward to dipping into Yanky's book and putting some flesh on what have to me been mostly only names over the years.


1 comment:

Póló said...

I had some follow up discussion with Yanky after the event where he took severe exception to my comment on the Israeli State's political use of the camps.

I think, however, that recent comments of Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, blaming the Mufti of Jerusalem for the Holocaust, reinforce my point.