Victims of Antisemitism: The Anne Frank Huis and Museum Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind

Last summer I had the opportunity to travel around Europe stopping in a number of countries. Today I will be looking at two museums I visited, the first in Amsterdam and the second in Berlin. Both museums despite being 409 miles apart due to the horrors of the Holocaust bear a similar story. The first of these museums is the Anne Frank Huis, the site of the annexe that a teenage Anne Frank hid with her family and four others hoping to avoid being sent to concentration camps, which sadly as I’m sure everyone knows failed when they were discovered by the Gestapo. The second museum is far less known, Museum Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind. The museum is based where the German Otto Weidt had his workshop which specialised in hiring blind workers. Weidt himself was blind, and during the years that the Nazis ruled Germany Weidt hired and hid disabled Jews in an attempt to rescue them from deportation. Sadly the story ended similarly to those who hid in the annexe, with few surviving the war.

Other than the above similarities I decided to write about the two of these together for one simple reason: the story of Anne Frank is known across the world, especially in the West even by those who know little about history while Otto Weidt is not. This was true for me too. My first exposure to Anne Frank was via Anne Frank: The Whole Story, a 2001 TV adaptation, sometime around this time as I can’t find the British premiere date. I would’ve been about seven years old and despite being quite traumatized due to the depiction of the reality of the camps, I quickly became fascinated by Anne and her story. I attempted to read the diary at this age but unsurprisingly struggled and reattempted when I was about ten. I decided that one day I would visit the Anne Frank Museum, but this would not be possible until 2016. My decision to visit the Museum Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind however does not have the same lengthy history. Throughout both my education and own research I learnt of the millions of others like Anne Frank who suffered. During my GCSEs I was given the opportunity to visit Auchwitz concentration camp, Oskar Schnindler’s factory and the Krakow Ghetto with my school. I’ve spent many hours reading about the people who tried to escape the Holocaust and those who risked their lives to help them. Otto Weidt, however, I did not find out about in any of those ways; my sister found the museum as she trawled Trip Advisor reviews when she was looking for things to do in Berlin. Therefore prior to my visit my own knowledge was what I had been told by her, a far cry from what I knew about Anne Frank.

For such a famous museum it is surprising to learn that the Anne Frank Huis only has around a million visitors a year; however once you’ve been inside it isn’t so surprising simply because how small the annexe is. Since its opening to the public in 1960 the museum has been expanded into the neighboring building and extensive works have taken place to allow footfall, but the annexe has been carefully preserved to give visitors a full appreciation of the cramped conditions the eight lived in. I’ve read the diary, I’ve seen numerous adaptations of the story and I’ve read extensively about the annexe but there is nothing quite like being in there to realise how small it was. Anne’s frustration becomes so understandable.

Otto Frank insisted that there be no furniture in the annexe and therefore each room contains a photo of each room reconstructed as how it was alongside the plaques and videos. I felt this was enough to gain an understanding of what it would have been like, although I understand some may disagree. Otto Frank’s reasoning for the lack of furniture was he wished it to symbolize ‘the void left behind by the millions of people who were deported and never returned’.  Personally I felt this did exactly as he intended, especially so in the room that Anne shared with Fritz Pfeffer which retains the original wallpaper with Anne’s postcards and pictures. For me this was one of the most moving aspects of the visit; I think possibly more than any other moment the fact that Anne was a teenager strikes you. She has been elevated to almost a mythical figure that sometimes it is very easy to forget that she was a normal teenage girl, living in horrendous circumstances. There were millions of girls just like her, whose lives were taken and destroyed, but the reason we remember her is her diary and that it was saved.  She was a young girl who never got to live.

The Museum Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind is almost as hidden as its story. Hidden down an alley in central Berlin, the museum is easy to miss even if you’re trying to find it. Like the Anne Frank Huis, it is a minimalist museum tells the story of the relatively unknown Otto Weidt. His story has only become somewhat known because of the efforts of students to open the workshop as a museum in 1999, and the help of Inge Deutschkron, a Jewish woman who was helped by Weidt. He has sometimes been referred to as the ‘German Oskar Schindler’; however I would dispute this as unlike Schindler, Weidt never supported the Nazis or worked for them. Weidt had gradually gone blind and learned brush making and broom binding to provide for himself. He opened the workshop in 1936 and began to hire disabled Jews to protect them from deportation. By this time Jews who remained in Berlin found it easier to stave off deportation if they were in work. Weidt’s workers however were not invulnerable, and Weidt spent a great deal of money bribing the Gestapo to stop them from taking his workers. In one case, despite his protests, the Gestapo came and rounded up his disabled workers to be taken for deportation. Weidt followed and via bribes and arguing he could not produce the items required by the war effort, he managed to rescue his workers. However by the end of February 1943, with the exception of those in hiding and Jewish workers married to non-Jews, his workers were deported. Weidt did not just hire disabled Jews and financially protect them from deportation. Along with a circle of helpers he helped many Jews find hiding and provided false documents to help them avoid detection. Within the workshop itself Weidt hid a family whose daughter Alice he was in love with, and employed. When the family was discovered and deported, Alice managed to contact Weidt to let him know she had been sent to Auschwitz by throwing a postcard from the window of the train she was taken in. By sheer luck the postcard reached Weidt who immediately went in search of her, organising with a local Pole who had access to her to provide a hiding place for her when she could escape. Alice managed to escape and survived the war. Weidt survived the war but died of heart failure in 1947. In his final years he helped fund a home for orphans and elderly survivors of the Holocaust.

The two museums in their set up are similarities. Like the Anne Frank Huis, the Museum Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind lacks furniture focusing instead on information plaques and interactive materials. However as I mentioned previously I was struck by how similar their stories were. They show how far the Nazis reach was and how many lives were destroyed, in these cases specifically those of Jews. How despite their best efforts these attempts failed to protect most of those in hiding, leaving few survivors. The sheer despair and destruction is horrendously apparent. The only comfort that both these museums provide is they show, despite when the very worst of humanity gains power, that there were many who stood up to such hatred by risking their lives to help those who were targeted.

Girona: Travel guide, Medieval past & Sightseeing

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This post will talk about the small city of Girona in the Autonomous Community of Catalonia in Spain within the medieval period, paying particular attention to my recent visit to the city, the Cathedral and the history of Girona’s Jewish population. Girona is roughly 62 miles (22Km) north of its more famous neighbouring city, Barcelona. Before I go into more detail about my visit and medieval Jewish Girona, I will provide some important information regarding Girona’s formation and background history. Girona itself has a complex history in that it was claimed a number of times.

In Ancient times the city was named Gerunda. When the Romans claimed Hispania they adopted this name and they built a citadel in the city. After the Romans left Hispania, the Visigoths ruled Girona that was until the Moors from North Africa arrived in 715 to conquer the city. The Moors is a name that is attached to people of Muslim origin, commonly used when describing the medieval period. However, the name does not denote a particular ethnicity it largely encompasses people who were from the Arab world (this includes the Berbers from North Africa). In 785 however, Charlemagne conquered Girona from the Moors. Some years later in 793 the Moors reclaimed Girona. The Moors maintained their control over Girona and much of the Iberian Peninsula at this time. However in the year, 1015, the Moors were eventually driven out of Girona permanently. This however did not prevent the Moors from sacking Girona in years to come. The Moors sacked Girona in; 827, 842, 845, 935 and in 982. Girona was amalgamated into the County of Barcelona in 878. The County of Barcelona was originally under the rule of the Carolingian dynasty. The County of Barcelona in a sense formed the basis of what was to become Catalonia. Through marriage alliances other Catalan territories were acquired. The County Of Barcelona itself became amalgamated to the Crown of Aragon when Ramon IV of Barcelona married Petronilla of Aragon in the twelfth century. When their son Alfonso I became ruler of Aragon, he was styled as Alfonso I of Aragon. From this point monarchs from Aragon dropped the title of Count and Countess as this was to be included in the title, Aragon. In the eleventh century Girona was designated as a city.

Girona is a pleasant city to visit and it is relatively easy to get to from Barcelona as a day trip. I recommend using the AVE (High speed train) Barcelona Sants to Figueres route and get off at Girona. It is the most expensive option but it saves time, which means you have more time to explore Girona! This journey is approximately 45 minutes. Another alternative for budget wary travellers is to use the Rodalies (Catalonia train service) that provides access to Girona. The journey time takes longer, however it is less expensive than the AVE route. Travelling by bus is doable and can sometimes be cheaper than both AVE and the Rodalies. However, the distance between Barcelona and Girona by road is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. After arriving at Girona, whether it be via train or by bus the destination is the same because the trains and the buses terminate at the same place. The City centre is a 20 to 25 minute walk. I recommend walking along the river when you reach Carrer Nou. That way you can get beautiful views of the river and it leads you directly to the tourist office for further information about Girona and the surrounding area.

I only spent a day in Girona, however a day is doable providing you have idea of what you would like to see and have access to a map to avoid getting lost and time wasting! I wanted to visit Girona because I like to tick off as many Cathedrals as I can on my travels, seeing as Girona had a Cathedral this made me really happy! It may sound bizarre but I heard about Girona Cathedral because of Game of Thrones. Whether or not you are a fan of the show it has certainly made me aware of the beautiful filming locations and the real history behind it, Girona Cathedral was indeed one of them. Girona Cathedral was used to film the exterior of the Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing.

The Cathedral, full name, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona is a beautiful structure that dates back to the eleventh century and was completed in the eighteenth century. The style of the Cathedral contains many different architectural types. Firstly, when the Cathedral was consecrated in the eleventh century of how we see it today the style was built in the Romanesque fashion. Now only the bell tower and the cloisters remain as part of the Romanesque style. However in the thirteenth century the style was built in the Gothic fashion. Girona Cathedral has the longest Gothic nave in the world measuring at 22.98 metres. The last style the Cathedral has is a Baroque façade at the entrance which was completed in 1607. The interior is certainly worth a look inside, my favourite part was seeing the altarpiece. This altarpiece is from the fourteenth century and is silver gilded with gold. Included in the price of one ticket is an audio guide (English is available) and a visit to the Basilica of Sant Feliu. If you have the time it is worth seeing the Basilica. The Basilica is behind the Cathedral and similarly it contains three different styles; Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque.

The prices for the Cathedral are as follows-

Adults- 7€

Concessions (students and pensioners)- 5€

Children under the age of 7- Free.

*Please note- all pricing is correct at the date and time of submission. Please refer to the relevant websites in the future if this changes.

 

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My personal favourite place in Girona was the old Jewish quarter. The Jewish quarter, otherwise known as “The Call” in Girona had its heyday in the thirteenth century as the Christians and Jews appeared to get along nicely. For instance, the Girona Synagogue was even situated next to the Cathedral. In addition, Girona had one of the largest Jewish settlements in Catalonia. Naturally the streets were narrow and winding, complete with cobbled streets. It almost felt like being in a giant maze. You could certainly use your imagination when walking down the tiny alleyways that this once bustling quarter was full of people selling and buying goods. However, this peaceful coexistence soon ceased. Later in the thirteenth century the Jewish population became scapegoats and were frequently targeted by racist abuse. Eventually the Jewish population were consigned to just the call and had no freedom to travel elsewhere in the city. In this sense, the quarter turned into a ghetto. Violence soon sprang upon the Jewish residents and in 1391 a local mob vandalised and attacked the Jewish quarter and people. Many Jewish people were injured and there was approximately 40 casualties. In spite of all these atrocities happening to the Jews, they were still under royal protection and as such were meant to be protected. The survivors of this massacre were sent to Galligants Tower, north of the Cathedral. This was regarded to be for the protection, nevertheless it did not stop non Jewish residents from ransacking their homes and looting their possessions. Many of the Jews converted to Christianity or left. In 1492 when the Kingdom of Spain was unified under King Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the remaining Jews (all Sephardic Jews) were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula.

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Points of interest-

Museu d’Historia dels Jueus de Girona

Museu d’Historia de Girona

Sant Pere de Galligants, now houses the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia

Arya film scene in Game of Thrones where she passes through the old Jewish quarter and leaves her blood from her fingers on a wall in this quarter

 

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Somerset House (London): One Morning, 2 Exhibitions

Hello again. Here I come to tell you some more about my trip to London during the August bank holiday weekend, packed with culture. So on Saturday 29th me and my dad stopped by Somerset House, a nice Neoclassical building on the Strand in London – just crossing the river from Waterloo train station. As it happens, Somerset house is free, and as we had never stopped by, we decided to go and see what it could offer. Turns out that week they had several temporary exhibitions going – the building is generally speaking an arts center and it works as a gallery/museum. As we were a bit short of time, we focused on 2 of the collections they were presenting- Unseen Waterloo: The Conflict Revisited, and Out of Chaos. Both of them I would recommend if you have the chance or come across them (the first one ended on August 31, but Out of Chaos should be there until December 13 2015). I will not go in too much details or give too much of a long overview, as both of them were based on art works, I swear I could spend ages on each piece…So I will try to give you a general idea of what both exhibitions presented and why they are worth while.

Unseen Waterloo: The Conflict Revisited

Exhibition Cover Image including one of the re-enactment drummers at Waterloo
Exhibition Cover Image including one of the re-enactment drummers at Waterloo

Obviously, you will remember earlier on this year Michael did a post in commemoration of the Battle of Waterloo 1815. However, this exhibition is not so much about the actual conflict, but the representation of itself. This is a collection of portraits produced by the artist Sam Faulker. He has been travelling to the site of the re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium since 2009 and taken pictures of the people taking part in the event. A few details about the photographer may come in handy. Sam Faulkner grew up in Norwich and graduated with a philosophy degree from king’s College london in 1994. He then became a reporter and photographer, which has driven a lot of his work to be related to warfare – he was in Afghanistan. Effectively, Faulkner has replaced the traditional artist drawing portraits of the soldiers on the spot, by taking pictures of these in full historical custom. These garments are created by the individuals, as accurately as possible from period paintings available and known to the public. In total, the exhibition presents 70 images, which are displayed on walls covered by Hainsworth fabric: the red woollen cloth that they used to dress the “red-coat” soldiers in 1815. ( And the cloth that still nowadays creates the garments of the Royal Guards). I thought this was a very nice detail; as all the pictures are portraits with a black background the red makes a nice visual break, and contextualises all the images in an actual physical way. The portraits include a variety of soldiers from different nationalities (British, French, German, Prussian, Dutch), including different regiments and ranks-from grenadiers to dragons, drum players and marechals. It truly brings alive the diversity amongst the troops and the kind of people who would take part in the war. It is a very original way of exploring warfare and its human face, while using modern techniques! Fresh and innovative.

 

Another example of the profiles this photographer was looking at and creating.
Another example of the profiles this photographer was looking at and creating.

Out of Chaos“Exploring a century of émigré history in London through the hidden treasures of the Ben Uri Collections”

Exhibition leaflet
Exhibition leaflet

 

They are currently holding this in the Indigo rooms, so the exhibition entrance is at the top and the you go downs the stairs for the display. This is also an art exhibition, so you will find paintings, portraits, but also carvings, and even more modern media – posters, film, etc. The exhibition is constituted of a main hall as you go in, followed by a brief introduction of what the project is about, a history timeline regarding Jewish movement and migration, then the topic of immigration in general, with a focus on the Jewish community, and finally the archive section at the end of the hall. In addition, there are 5 lateral rooms where the specific themed discussions take place.  The first room on the left discussed integration and introduction, so this is developed through the art works of the Yiddish artists settling in the East End of London and how they incorporated themselves to British society. The work displayed includes several artists such as Simeon Solomon, Lily Delissa and Alfred Wolmark. Then we move into the second room which goes through the time of conflict – First World War- and how this affected the Yiddish community. This is the section where they speak about the ‘Whitechapel Boys’, and their contribution to British modernism, with the works of David Bomberg, Mark Gertler and Isaac Rosenberg amongst others.

The third room drop us into the issues of Jewish identity and the rise of the Nazi regime. It also explores the subsequent movement of people from central/easter Europe into the western areas of the continent, particularly the UK. The works display are from Max Liebermann, Josef Herman and Emmanuel Levy and a few more. The fourth room on out left still covers the Yiddish community in the post-war period and its artistic development. This is a period for the bloom of abstract and conceptual work, and some of the pieces, I found quite interesting, perhaps even naive in a way. Look out for Leon Kossoff, Eva Frankfurther and Bernard Cohen. Finally the last room, (5) is at the end of the corridor on the right hand side. It is entirely dedicated on the new art, particularly since the recent turn of century. They also play a film about Ben Uri as a way of contextualising the room, the exhibition and what they believe to be the future of Yiddish art and its community in the UK.

What I thought was great of this exhibition, which perhaps the other one lacked, was the degree of interaction with the information displayed. I mean, you cannot interact a lot with a painting – apart from looking at it…- but they had incorporated some digital devices as well where you could explore further paintings in context of the ones in display, or where you could look into the artists with a bit more of detail. I thought that was useful. They also had several books around for the same purpose that you could used as a reference. In addition, we missed it but they did have talks and tours around the gallery, and evening events, so it was quite a dynamic environment.

One thing I found incredibly disappointing was the amount of people visiting either of these exhibitions. Morning/Lunch time on a saturday, bank holiday weekend, with bad weather, the city plagued with people everywhere, and I am sure we were alone at stages, at least in the Waterloo portraits, and with not much more company in the Ben Uri gallery. Considering that they were both free, small so not overwhelming at all, I thought they would deserve more attention! But in any case, they were enjoyable. If this has instigated you to go have a look, I will at least be pleased.

The Angel of Auschwitz: Gisella Perl

Gisella Perl was one of the several million Jews to be sent to a concentration camp during the Second World War. She was one of the lucky few to survive unlike the majority of her family. Despite the death and horrors of the camps, Perl managed to save many of the lives of her female camp mates. Yet Perl’s name is largely unknown. Why? The likelihood is how she saved many of these women’s lives, by providing them with abortions.

Gisella Perl was born in Romania in 1907, graduating first in her high school as the only woman and the only Jew. Her father was initially reluctant to allow her to enrol in medical school fearing she would lose her faith, but when he relented Perl learnt the skills that saved hers and countless of others’ lives. After graduating she became a gynaecologist in Sighetu Marmației.

However her work was interrupted when the Nazis invaded this part of Romania, illegally, via Hungary. Originally placed in a ghetto, Perl and her family, barring her daughter who was sheltered by a non-Jewish family, were sent to Auschwitz in March 1944. Due to her medical training she was selected to work for the camp hospital under the notorious Joseph Mengele.

While called a hospital, it lacked the proper equipment and resources that a hospital required and could be almost as dangerous as the gas chambers. Even basic resources like anaesthesia and drugs were not available. This along with poor nourishment, and hygiene due to a lack of toilets, all made the job of staff much harder. Perl began to rely on her voice as a treatment, hoping she could at least give her patients some kind of relief:

”I treated patients with my voice, telling them beautiful stories, telling them that one day we would have birthdays again, that one day we would sing again. I didn’t know when it was Rosh ha-Shanah, but I had a sense of it when the weather turned cool. So I made a party with the bread, margarine and dirty pieces of sausage we received for meals. I said tonight will be the New Year, tomorrow a better year will come.”

However Perl, like many in the camps, did not realise the true extent of Mengele’s experiments until too late. Mengele had told Perl to send pregnant women to him, telling her they would be sent away for better nutrition. Many women upon hearing this themselves would approach Mengele telling him they were pregnant. Perl then found out that these women were used as guinea pigs in Mengele’s twisted experiments:

“…two lives would be thrown into the crematorium. I decided that never again would there be a pregnant woman in Auschwitz.”

Perl, due to her beliefs had not performed abortions prior to the war and under her own admission struggled greatly with this decision. However she believed it was better to save the life of the mother by performing an abortion before a woman could be sent away where they would die along with their foetus. Perl hoped these women would one day be able to give birth in safer conditions. Such abortions were made harder as Perl was forced to perform these with her bare hands, in the filthy barracks at night without any pain relief. It has been estimated that around 3000 abortions were performed by Perl, giving the women she performed them on a chance continue working, which in turn saved them at least temporarily from death.

Perl ended the war in Bergen-Belsen, moved with the surviving Auschwitz prisoners as part of the desperate attempts of the Nazis to mask what they had done from the oncoming Allied troops. As the camp was liberated she was delivering a baby, the first to be born not under threat of death. Perl had saved countless lives not just through abortions but her care to her fellow inmates, spending many of her nights treating them for the lacerations they suffered from whips brandished by guards. The testimony from her fellow inmates saved her from being accused of collaboration. However the death of her family in the camps; her husband, son and her parents drove Perl to attempt suicide whereupon she was placed in a convent to recuperate. Perl then moved to the US and eventually managed to open a new practice before moving to Israel. Upon entering the delivery room every time she prayed:

“God, you owe me a life – a living baby.”

Perl would go on to deliver around 3000 babies before her death in 1988. Over a hundred mourners attended her funeral with the Jerusalem Post bequeathing the title of “the angel of Auschwitz” on her.

The choice that Perl made has been subject to some debate, some have been inflexible on the position on the morality of abortion. These people believed no matter the circumstances there was no justification such as David Deutschman who said:

“there is no rational or moral justification for . . . wholesale slaughter of infants . . . whether it was done by the brutal Nazis, or by a sentimental and well-meaning female medical personality.”

However many, even those who may generally not approve of abortion, have defended Perl such as Hans Meyerhoff who said:

“[She] risked death and eternal damnation . . . and came to be hailed on behalf of ‘simple humanity’ at the price of thousands of lives which might have been, but never were and never will be. [She] was right in being what she was by committing this enormous wrong.”

Such supporters of Perl believed that she was faced with a choice of preserving the life of the mothers or losing both, Perl did her best to save as many lives as possible, which under the circumstances was only possible through the termination of the foetus. However more important than any moralist’s opinion on Perl’s actions, was the opinion of Perl’s patients who considered her to have saved their lives. One anonymous patient proclaimed:

“Without Dr. Perl’s medical knowledge and willingness to risk her life by helping us, it is would be impossible to know what would have happened to me and to many other female prisoners”.

In the opinion of this writer, whilst I am pro-choice and in support of abortion under circumstances in cases much less horrific than this, I find it hard to see how those who did not suffer under such circumstances, those who faced a choice between abortion or the death of themselves and their foetus, to judge the actions of a doctor who was just doing her best to save as many lives as possible.

The Jewish Migration after WW2

The formation of Israel has often been a talking point in politics.  After the Second World War, the creation of a Jewish state was decided and mass migration of Jewish people went to live in the newly created state.  However, its formation was quite controversial and a lot of blame was put on the British handling of it, even when the facts are to the contrary.

This influx of people caused problems, namely it forced the nation of Palestine to move and it created conflict with the local Arab population.  The British government supported the idea of a separate nation of Israel, but it stuck to the 1939 White paper polices for political reasons.  Therefore it had to act due to the increasing level of illegal immigration coming from Europe.  Like we see today with the immigration coming from the Middle East into Europe, the people crossing the waters were in ill prepared boats, which often sank, with many loosing their lives.  It was up to the British military, namely Bomber Command to go and save the immigrants, their job was to find them in the waters and then report back their location.  My Grandfather did this job, however, a problem came, with terrorism, due to the British not allowing immigration into the region lawfully (for one it would cause problems with the local inhabitants who lived there for centuries), the British bases came under heavy terrorist attacks, even those who had saved the lives of Jewish immigrants.

Between 1945 and 1948, it is estimated that around 100,000–120,000 Jews left Poland alone. Their immigration was largely organized by those who wanted to see a Jewish state, under the group known as Berihah. They were also responsible for the organized emigration of Jews from other Eastern European countries such as Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, many of whom were Holocaust survivors.

The whole immigration problem came to a head in 1946, when Etzel bombed the British military Headquarters, killing around 91 people, the city of Tel Aviv was then put under a curfew.  This move was criticised by the U.S, however the U.S. motives must be analysed, due to heavy support for the creation of a Jewish state.  The Labour government of 1947, handed the problem over to the newly created UN and Britain became a peace unit, to ensure the state was created without much trouble.

In 1947, The General Assembly of the United Nations, created the, United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), to report on ‘the question of Palestine’.  The report would suggest an independent Jewish and Arab state.  This decision would create problems that we still experience today.  War broke out between the communities.  Britain remained as the peacekeeping force, but found itself in the middle of a conflict, with its own forces being attacked.  It would leave in 1948.  The role of the British is often undervalued, and seen as getting in the way, but I do wonder how more bloody it would have been without British involvement.

The Arab League members Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq refused to accept the UN partition plan, after all, what right did the Jewish population have to suddenly barge their way in and take control?  They proclaimed the right of self-determination for the Arabs across the whole of Palestine. They therefore decided to march all of their forces into what had, until previously, been the British Mandate for Palestine, starting the first Arab–Israeli War.  More would follow

At the end the sudden immigration into old Palestine (modern-day Israel) caused huge problems.  The conflict keeps stirring up, it was only recently did Israel invade Palestine, and of course the deaths and problems with immigration into Europe recently seem very similar to that of the Jewish immigrants moving to Israel.  As my Grandfather experienced, even though he saved their lives, they would turn on the British.  Now this post is not either in favour, nor against immigration, however, the sudden influx of the Jewish people clearly upset the balance in Palestine, and should have been dealt with better by the UN and by the British.  It should be time where we examine the role of the terrorist organisations at the time and just show how utterly pointless they were and the fact they killed hundreds/thousands of lives, for really no reason, they would get their own state, the British government even supported the idea, however, as always, timing is key.

Review: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

My dear friends, if you want a good reading this summer, go for it. If you are a would-be film-maker in search for first class stuff, go for it. But I have heard the Cohen brothers are up to it. This is a magnificent novel and it has all that you expect; even better: do you like hybrids? Then forget about Toyota Prius. This is what you were waiting for. It is a detective tale, a buddy movie, a postromantic love story, a political thriller…and, yes, it is also Alternate History.
Let’s see. The Arab-Hebrew war in Palestine, back in 1948, ended in a complete defeat of the latter who, obviously, were expelled from the Promised Land. And, curiously enough, found a lease in the remote area of Sitka, Alaska. But it is a lease, they will have to renegotiate soon.
Then there is this policeman. Meyer Landsman. A tough guy, old school, somewhat humorous, somewhat in his way to self-destruction in the best literary detective’s tradition. The perfect hero for our story turned History. Because trying to solve another petty crime, he falls over a plot, led by an extreme orthodox rabbi and his quite gangster-like group of followers: they are trying to start a new war in Palestine, convinced that the rabbi’s own son, the victim whose dead was investigating Meyer Landsman, was in fact the Messiah.
Of course Landsman will abort the plot after no few trouble and beating, but the interesting thing here is the counterfact, at least when you are finished enjoying the lecture and begin to think about what is written between the lines. What if Arabs had won the war. Where would be established the Jewish People when expelled from Palestine, if anywhere at all? Would the ultra orthodox factions unleash a war of terror in Palestine?
In the end, there’s something we must think about: after WWII, the Jewish Affair could have ended in any possible way. Maybe like Chabon imagined in his book. And what would do the modern States, the pitiful and ineffective UN? So now, you can read the book, have fun, enjoy a very good story. But please think: the fate of a comparative minority of mankind could spread a global world. Gives one the creeps, do not you think so?