Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Anschluss’

1938 Hitler’s Gamble

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 6th August, 2009

1938The British historian Giles MacDonogh’s last acclaimed book After the Reich was an admirable study of the disruption and misery prevalent in continental Europe that followed the defeat of Nazi Germany. Few nations came out smelling of roses in their treatment of the hordes of refugees then, not to mention the misdmeanours of the victorious armies. So there is a pleasing reverse symmetry in the conception of Giles’ latest offering, 1938 Hitler’s Gamble (Constable, 20 pounds), which charts month by month the prelude to the Second World War while demonstrating just how shitty almost everyone was towards the Jews. Inevitably, the canvass becomes a little cluttered, as the tale has to embrace the Anschluss of Austria, and the betrayal and dismemberment of Czechoslovakia as well as the central theme of increasingly institutionalised anti-semitism. But the author is good at presenting telling details and poignant vignettes in sometimes journalistic prose that is vivid and effective. I winced at the description of Neville Chamberlain as Britain’s Head of State, but such occasional slips aside, this is a gripping and at times disturbing read. At least there are some genuine human souls in evidence, including British and American Quakers who were involved in organising the Kindertransporte evacuating German Jewish children to safety as well as good upper class Germans who realised early on just what a ghastly — and dangerous — little man Adolf Hitler was.

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Austria Confronts Its Past

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 21st February, 2009

Being part of the European Union is partly about forging a new destiny, in partnership with the other 26 member states. But often this involves re-evaluating the past — whether this is a history of conflict, as between Britain, France and Germany, or a period of Communism, or the dark days of dictatorship. Austria is going through such a period of re-evaluation now, in relation to its own Nazi past. There is an old joke that the Austrians perfected the art of spin, by portraying Beethoven as an Austrian and Hitler as a German. But at long last — decades after Germany went through the process — Austria is confronting the Hitler years.

I wrote about this in a article in the current issue of ‘Diplomat’ magazine, focussing on Linz as this year’s European Capital of Culture (alongside the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius). The castle in Linz has a vast exhibition on Hitler’s plans for it as his capital of culture, which includes some chilling film footage of his triumphal entry into the city at the time of the Anschluss. But here in London, too, the Austrians are examining what happened following 1938, with a whole series of lectures and events at their Cultural Forum in Rutland Gate. The next one is a talk on the legacy of Nazi-expropriation in Austria, given by Clemens Jabloner, former Chairman of the Austrian Historical Commission, on Tuesday 3 March at 7pm. Given the rise of anti-semitism in this country, following the Israeli assault on Gaza, it is salutory to be reminded where anti-semitism can lead.

(for further details email: culture@austria.org.uk)

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