Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Hitler’

May Day Blues

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 1st May, 2017

Mayday 2012 Clerkenwell LondonI was having lunch at the Café Rouge in Kingsway, Camden, watching the rain outside when a May Day parade of trade unionists and socialists went past. I’ve always had a soft spot for trade union banners, some of which are truly beautiful, though my eyes nearly popped out when one particularly well-crafted banner went past with a large picture of Stalin on it. I’ve always considered Stalin to be just as bad as Hitler — two sides of the same coin — both guilty of presiding over the deaths of millions of their own people (not that Hitler considered Jews, Roma, gays etc as truly German). There are obviously still some Communists about in London, as the flurry of red flags, proudly bearing the hammer and sickle, went past on Kingsway, along with some banners proclaiming “Smash Capitalism!” Those made me feel almost nostalgic for the student revolutionary politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s, though such revolutionary romantic feelings evaporated when a large contingent of Venezuela’s government went past, seemingly unconcerned that years of socialism in that oil-rich country have brought the economy to its knees, while supermarket shelves are empty and those fortunate enough to live near enough to the border with Colombia go shopping there. As I saw for myself in Nicaragua in the mid-1980s and Cuba a decade later, leftist policies just don’t work. And whereas slogans such as Workers of the World Unite sound lovely and fraternal, the class hatred engendered by Marxism-Leninism and some of its later offshoots promises not nirvana but mayhem. Doubtless many of those marching on the parade today are all fired up because there is an election on and they have a new hate figure in Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May. Well, I dislike her too, mainly because of the way she has embraced Brexit, but I don’t buy into the discourse of smashing things in the name of the people. Besides, after the thousandth red banner went past, I felt quite bilious. Ah well, to all of those who were stirred by today’s May Day festivities:  enjoy its closing hours and reflect on the fact that Britain’s early May bank holiday won’t actually fall on May Day again for several more years.

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The Bell Tolls for Dictators

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 22nd August, 2011

Like many bloggers and tweeters I stayed up late last night, transfixed by the scenes in Tripoli, where the National Liberation Army (as I prefer to call it) penetrated neighbourhoods of the city, including the iconic Green Square, which was immediately renamed Martyrs’ Square. At least two of Mouammar Gaddafi’s sons have been captured and it can only be a matter of time before Gaddafi himself is cornered. Will he do a Hitler and shoot himself, or arrange things so that he gets killed? Or will the cause of justice be served by him and some of his closest associates being taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC)? It’s staggering to think how fast events have moved since the impoverished Tunisian fruit-vendor Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself last December. The Tunisian President Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s President Mubarak was forced to resign and is now on trial, Yemen’s President Saleh was seriously injured in clashes during the uprising to oust him and remains in hospital in Saudi Arabia — which has a reputation now as the retirement home for dictators, beginning with Uganda’s Idi Amin. And now Gaddafi’s day of judgement is nigh. To remind ourselves of the speed and significance of these events, just take a look at the photo here of the four dictators looking so pleased with themselves at an African Union Summit last year. And next? Syria, inshallah.

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International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 27th January, 2011

Cities round much of the world will be marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day today, as several years ago the United Nations designated 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Last night, the Slovak Embassy in London held a memorial event that mixed glorious music (courtesy of members of the Slovak National Opera) with moving testimony by Holocaust survivors and other reatives of those who perished in the worst case of genocide in human history. The Jews were the largest group who were condemned by Hitler’s Final Solution, but as a Polish rabbi who spoke at the event pointed out, political prisoners, gypsies, homosexuals and the disabled, amongst others, all were declared undesirable and destined for extermination. It is hard to credit that there are still Holocaust deniers in this world, given all the physical and documentary evidence, which is why it is important that new generations are made aware of what happened. And even those, like myself, who often find the policies of the present Israeli government towards the Palestinians despicable — as well as illegal — and so campaign for justice and respect for International Law in the Middle East, must not forget what happened to the Jews in the last century.

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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.

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