Greg Lance – Watkins
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it is Holocaust Memorial Day once more the 27-Jan., the anniversary of the relief of Auschwitz in 1945, though I was not alive during the war, having been born on 26-Jan-1946 memories of the Holocaust have been very much a part of my life.
Knowledge of my father’s direct memories of the Holocaust as a young man in his early 20s were indellibly engraved in his mind and in his values throughout my life. I became yet more aware as Clifton College where I was at school was the only boarding school in Britain with a Jewish boarding house.
I have visited various of the many German Death Camps and whilst living in Germany knew individuals associated with the camps.
In my early 20s I lived for a time in Golders Green with many Jewish friends of my own age, with parents only too willing to show the tattooed numbers they had on their forearms, from their days in those very death camps.
In Germany of course it was impossible to be unaware of the abuse, torture, transportation, enslavement and murder of Jews on an industrial level – many participated in the holocaust whilst the rest merely turned a blind eye!
The Holocaust and slaughter of Jews was not a unique event, as homosexuals, the handicapped, gypsies & mentally handicapped were also murdered. Nor was it an isolated event in German history, consider the genocide Germans carried out in South West Africa slaughtering the Herera.
On Holocaust day as on every other we should always remember what ordinary people are capable of doing to eachother consider the obscene level of killings of slaves by the Belgians in King Leopolds private feifdom of The Belgian Congo. The slaughter in Angola in the 1960s and the French responsibility for the genocide in Rwanda.
Whether the claim of 6 Million Jews being systematicly murdered is an accurate figure or not is immaterial to the obscenity of the behaviour of the Germans, as was the slaughter of between 30 & 50 Millions in the USSR under Stalin, or the similar numbers in China under Mau.
Not to forget the brutality & slaughter of prisoners by the Japanese both in Nankin and across the Far East.
Slightly more recently we must remember the totally innocent peoples of Cambodia under Pol Pot.
None of these can be portrayed as honourable acts of defence or warfare they are brutal acts of cowardly murder, akin to the behaviour of Assad in Syria, ISIS in various places & the lies & War Crimes of Tony Blair, his Cabinet and co conspirators.
If you told me this time last year that, come January 2019, I’d be standing in Parliament, addressing a room full of people at a Holocaust memorial event, describing the hideous abuse I’ve been receiving daily since I started speaking about the growing problem of antisemitism in the UK, I wouldn’t know where to begin with my incredulity.
My own identity as a Jew has been a confusing one. As I often joke, my mum’s Jewish and my dad’s Man United, and we’ve worshipped far more often at the Theatre of Dreams than I’ve ever been to shul. As a child, I knew not to sing the Jesus bit in the assembly hymns but the bacon sandwiches mum would feed us meant I didn’t quite know where we fit into all of this.
But one part of my Jewish identity, that forms part of my very being, is the deep and irreparable sorrow I feel in relation to the Holocaust.
I’ve always known that having just one Jewish grandparent, in the lifetime of my own Jewish grandparents, was enough for some to feel justified in carrying out unspeakable acts of inhumanity against them, like ripping babies out of mothers’ arms and smashing them against walls.
I visited Auschwitz for the first time in November. Most memorable to me were the videos in the Shoah exhibition of normal looking people in the 1930s – Jews – having fun in swim suits on the beach, playing cricket, enjoying family together, who would soon be reduced to dust.
The enormous mountain of hair, including little girls’ plaits, some blonde, some brunette, tied neatly, presumably by their loving mothers, before they would have to say goodbye forever, with all that would be left of them, cut off to be made into fabric. I’ve never experienced the literal feeling of being emotionally punched in the stomach like I did standing by that display.
I’d never understood why they did this, nor did I try to get inside the mind-set of a Nazi, to empathise with their feelings or work out why anyone could ever think this was ‘noble’.
I thought all Jew-haters were like them, loud and proud, and acting through irrational hate which could neither be explained nor understood – and I also thought that that the horrors of the Holocaust would mean that antisemitism would never rear its ugly head again.
Sadly, I was wrong on both counts.
I first started following the story of antisemitism in Labour after the protest outside parliament in March last year. I started listening and I started reading. And the more I read, the more shocked I became.
At first it was just online. Rothschild bankers here, Holocaust revision there, but gradually I began to see the ripple effects from this undercurrent of antisemitism, appearing in places I would never have expected.
I finally broke my silence when a number of bus stops in London, the city where I live, were plastered with “Israel is a Racist Endeavour” posters – a reaction to Jeremy Corbyn’s attempt to omit parts of the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism.
Knowing how decimating the Holocaust was in the years immediately preceding Israel’s inception, and the desperate plights that people faced to flee somewhere, anywhere to safety, and how often they were refused and turned away, I found this description as to the character of Israel’s existence deeply offensive.
Without irony, I’m shown just how little many people understand about antisemitism, simultaneously denying any evidence of it whilst actively participating in it – vilifying me, the Jew calling it out, as a paid Israeli shill, angrily comparing Israel to Nazis, or classing me as “Zionist racist scum” in response to me posting about anything but the subject of Israel and Palestine.
They cry “smear” or “anti-Zionist is not antisemitism” even in the face of outright Holocaust denial, finding new and obscene ways to explain or obfuscate it way, echoing the excuses often heard from their political heroes.
On Twitter, the messages I’m sent are often indistinguishable from that which you’d expect from a Neo-Nazi, yet the tweeters are identifiably not Neo-Nazis. The markers of the red Labour rose, coupled with the Palestine flag and the hashtags #GettheToriesOut and #JC4PM along with the standard claim to be “against racism in all forms” are their signature giveaways.
If I had a penny for every cry of, “Where’s your evidence” at the bottom of a whole thread of evidence, I’d be as rich as the so-called Rothschild bankers they hate so much.
In the name of Labour, I’ve been called a hypocrite, lying propagandist, teeth, tits and ass, clothes-horse dolly-bird, weaponiser of antisemitism, facist, right–wing extremist, Nazi sympathiser, Twitter-cancer, thick, Tory, brainwashed, an antisemite, white-supremacist, Zio-political trollster, not a real Jew, a child bully, bonkers mad conspiracy theorist, a paedo-protector minion puppet whom my dead grandfather would be disgusted by.
After I used the recent anniversary of my 10 years as Countdown’s numbers lady as an opportunity to give this topic a bigger platform, with an on-camera interview, an 11,500 word article was written with the sole intention of discrediting many brave and dedicated people standing up to antisemitism. I can only describe this article, as A-grade conspiracy garbage, complete with go-to clips, neo-Nazi like, to use to ‘prove’ that “antisemitism’s just a trick”. A quarter of the article was about me, including how I’m antisemitic and should be fired.
Subsequently, rewarded for his efforts, the author of this article tweeted delightedly to have been followed on Twitter by both Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby. (I remain unfollowed by them.) On my birthday, I was shown a tweet from Karl Hansen, political advisor to Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald, which told his followers how I “smear my political opponents”, boost troll accounts and don’t stand up to bullying – I am a bully.
This is the tactic used over and over again against Jews – and indeed anyone speaking out against antisemitism in the Labour Party. The victim becomes the aggressor and the aggressor becomes the wronged-party. It’s gas-lighting. They can’t attack the facts so they attack the messenger.
I’ve had to do so much research and learning to even begin to have the tools to fight this. I’ve read books, watched videos, taken an online course, spoken to experts, spoken to Jewish groups, spoken to Labour Party members and MPs. I spent 6 hours on Christmas Day watching education videos on the history of antisemitsm, including so much not so festive stuff about the Holocaust.
It pains me to revisit these atrocities, it tires me, it angers me, but knowledge and truth are our only weapons. If I can do this in just a couple of months, there is no excuse for any Labour official not to take-up the same kind of learning themselves, when they clearly still haven’t got to grips with understanding this problem.
You need to know next to nothing to propagate Nazi or Soviet Jew-hating propaganda, reframed to fit today’s narrative, which spreads like wildfire, and is dangerous. But you need to know nearly everything in order to combat it. The odds are stacked in the antisemite’s favour.
Every Labour official who labels this a smear, every disciplinary decision that gives the perpetrator a free pass while its victims are abused or even disciplined themselves, is a disgrace.
My level of engagement in this issue is directly proportional to the amount of antisemitism and hostility to Jews and their allies I’m witness to, which is why it’s currently consuming my life.
Since speaking out, I’ve attracted the attention of a Who’s Who of antisemites and apologists, who’ve publicly criticised me. Neo-Nazis, naturally, have also shown their interest. A local Labour Party secretary repeatedly libelled me to Channel 4, ignoring my requests for her to check her facts and stop. Labour supporters have taken it upon themselves to contact my employers, calling for me to be sacked, suggesting we should rename our show ‘Eight out of Ten Cats does Paedophilia’ in my honour. I’ve seen thousands of untrue slights against my character, with those making them knowing they can do so to praise from their echo-chambers, in all likelihood with impunity – yet one misplaced word from me could be ruinous.
We need to re-stack those odds. No-one should have to risk their safety and jeopardise their career speaking out against antisemitism in Britain in 2019.
This has been happening to others for the last three years. Campaigners – the large majority ex-Labour people, deeply hurt by what they are seeing – have been called every name under the sun. They’ve postponed careers, degrees, lost businesses through harassment and in recent weeks I’ve even seen three people baselessly libelled as paedophiles in a desperate attempt to discredit and silence them, and it’s all been allowed to happen in quiet.
It’s lonely speaking out about this. And we can’t win this fight alone, nor should we have to try.
We’ve seen where antisemitism can lead from centuries of persecution. It never ends well.
We need to remember our history and I am so grateful to groups like the Holocaust Educational Trust and speakers like Eva Clarke, who by sharing their stories help in the only way we know how to safeguard future generations from this ever being allowed to happen again.
This needs a bigger spotlight. This should be a national scandal. We need action rather than words. I call on all people, the media and politicians from every side to stand with us and Be Louder against antisemitism.
Enough is enough.
To view the original text of Rachel Riley’s speech CLICK HERE.
Bergen-Belsen where the German final solution was in action for two years and slaughtered an accurately documented 70,000+ inmates.
As a pilot, with a front line fighter squadron he, with his fellow pilots, flew from Anson strips just behind the front line and on arrival at Belsen they went to the camp where they set to to help the plight of the victims and clear the horrors of the German killing spree!
One of the first actions was to drive into the town of Belsen where the people clearly knew exactly what was happening at the camp just up the road, they rounded up the local council and the fit and set them to work stripping the houses in the town of linen, blankets and clothing which they took to the camp and distributed to the inmates.
They also set the fit and active townsfolk to the task of cleaning up the camp.
For the young men of the RAF not only were they carrying out their duties as pilots but also working to try to make life survivable for the inmates of the horrors of the camp.
In documenting the survivors, and helping them, it was agreed not to have eye engagement to grant them some dignity. On one occasion my Father was unable to maintain this as taking the date of birth of one victim her date of birth was the same as my Mother’s and when he looked up at the naked, emaciated woman with her shaven head and gaunt and haunted eyes he remembered that young woman’s face to his death.
Were this camp just a single example perhaps it could possibly be forgiven and overlooked, but when you consider there were some 1,600+ such camps CLICK HERE this was a hatred that was all pervading and endemic in Germany where treachery, torture and contempt for life was all too clear – a chauvenism that was only stopped by extreme measures that forced even the civilian populations’ involvement as with Dresden and the fire bombing of Hamburg & Hannover, without which the war could well have dragged on.
The man who stumbled on HELL:
His place in history has never been revealed. But a just published memoir by an SAS officer recounts how he uncovered the horrors of Belsen
- Lieutenant John Randall thought iron gates led to a grand country house
- Then he saw figures, dressed in rags, shuffling from a hut
- Trying not to retch at the smell, Randall addressed the prisoners
- Afterwards he noticed the emaciated corpses locked in hideous embraces
- The camp contained 50,000 prisoners, most of all near death
When Lieutenant John Randall first saw the iron gates, he thought they were the entrance to a grand country house. Beyond them led a track that curved into a dark wood of pines and silver birch. Intrigued, Randall ordered his corporal to turn the Jeep to the left.
The safer option would have been to have driven on, but the winged dagger badge on his beret meant that Randall was not that type of man. The regimental motto of the SAS is ‘Who Dares Wins’, and what the 25-year-old dared to do that day would stay with him for the rest of his life.
As the two men headed into the woods, Randall sensed danger, and drew his pistol from his holster. The Jeep drove through the trees, then emerged into the brightness of a vast clearing in which stood numerous ranks of one-storey wooden huts.
Randall saw the SS guards first. Normally, he would have shot those wearing the dreaded uniform on sight, but these men seemed to pose no threat that April morning. Instead, they merely stared at the two SAS men.
Randall’s attention was drawn to something else, the like of which he had never seen. Emerging from the huts was a shuffling group of figures, some of whom were dressed in rags, while others were naked. Their bodies were skeletal, their skin yellow. Rising from them was a hubbub of noise, as they pleaded for the SAS men to help them.
Doing his best not to retch at the smell, Randall stood and addressed the prisoners.
He told them that he was simply the very tip of the Allied advance, and that he would shortly be followed by those who would be able to help.
Although he was not to know it at the time, one of those he spoke to was a 15-year-old Hungarian Jew called Mady Goldgruber.
She had spotted the Jeep through the filthy window of her hut, and despite being extremely weak, had managed to stagger outside.
After spending years in a series of Nazi camps — including Auschwitz — Mady regarded the arrival of these two British soldiers as a miracle.
Before the desperate men, women and children could grab them, the corporal drove off, pulling up some yards away in front of what Randall initially thought was a vast potato patch.
This, though, was no vegetable garden. All that was sown here was death, hundreds of emaciated, naked corpses, locked together in hideous embraces.
On that day — April 15, 1945 — John Randall made history, as he became the first Allied soldier to enter Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany. The compound contained more than 50,000 prisoners, nearly all of whom were near to death. Around them lay the corpses of a further 13,000 — proof, if it were needed, of the utter barbarism of the Nazi regime.
Most accounts of Belsen focus on the work of a British officer called Brigadier Llewellyn Glyn Hughes and he has become most closely associated with the liberation of the camp.
Arriving shortly after Randall, it was Glyn Hughes who, as senior medical officer, had the immense responsibility of tending to the sick and cleaning up the camp.
However, as a new book reveals, it was Randall — now 94 years old — who was the first Allied soldier to enter what was undeniably a living hell.
Although he was an officer in the SAS, nothing could have prepared him for what he saw that day. He had been fighting in Europe since parachuting into France in July 1944, during which time he had served as a radio operator alongside the French Resistance.
Together with his driver, Cpl Brown, Randall had also seen action. Early one morning in August, the two had driven into a small village near Epernay in the Champagne region, where they saw a firing squad of SS men lined up.
In front of them, standing against the wall of a church, were six French civilians in blindfolds, all of whom were clearly about to be shot. Randall knew that he had to act quickly, and his elite training kicked in.
He stood up, and took hold of the powerful Vickers machine gun that was mounted on the Jeep. He pulled the trigger, and scores of heavy .50 calibre rounds tore into the SS men. Within a few seconds, the Germans lay either dead or dying.
Today, Randall is modest about the fact that he saved so many French lives in a single, courageous action. When interviewed about the episode, all he says is: ‘We had the satisfaction of eliminating the German patrol.’
It is that modest reticence that has seen Randall described as the ‘last gentleman of the SAS’, and indeed, the epithet fits, even if it may disgruntle other SAS officers and troopers.
However, when Randall arrived at Belsen, he had to summon all his self-control to deal with those who ran the concentration camp.
Those Germans who remained were a minimum staff, but among them was the commandant, Josef Kramer, and Irma Grese, who was in charge of the female prisoners. Kramer had the nerve to approach Randall and to introduce himself and the blonde Grese with a chilling half-smile.
‘To our astonishment he offered us a guided tour of the camp,’ Randall recalled many years later. ‘We followed them. We pushed open the door of one of the huts and were overpowered by the stench.
‘Emaciated figures peered out at us, in fear and surprise, from the rows of bunks. Lying among them, on the same bunks, were dead bodies.’
By now, Randall and his driver had been joined by two other SAS men — Major John Tonkin, and the battle-hardened Sergeant-Major Reg Seekings. As the British left one of the huts, they saw one of the guards beating up a prisoner — the type of event that had taken place every day for the past five years of the camp’s existence.
The German had finally picked the wrong day to do it. A furious Seekings asked permission from Major Tonkin to teach the guard a lesson. Permission was granted. ‘So Reg went over and hit the guard in the face,’ Randall recalled. ‘He got up and was then knocked out by another punch to the head.’
After that, Kramer and Grese were put immediately under arrest. Both were hanged that December, after a trial that shocked the world when it exposed the depths of sadism to which the Nazis had sunk. Witnesses testified to the fact that Grese — nicknamed the ‘Beast of Belsen’ — had even whipped women to death.
Randall left Belsen after only an hour. His reconnaissance mission was still not complete, and it was clear that neither he nor Cpl Brown had the ability to help the prisoners. Not only was there a terrible risk of catching typhus, but the prisoners needed specialist medical care.
That came soon enough, along with two British journalists, one of whom was Richard Dimbleby — father of David and Jonathan.
It was Dimbleby’s harrowing report — which the BBC initially refused to broadcast because executives could not believe the scenes that he described — that brought the attention of the world to the savagery of Belsen.
‘This day at Belsen was the most horrible day of my life,’ Dimbleby reported. ‘I saw it all — furnaces where thousands have been burned alive. The pit — 15ft deep — as big as a tennis court, piled to the top at one end with naked bodies.
‘The British bulldozers — digging a new pit for the hundreds of bodies lying all over the camp days after death. The dark huts, piled with human filth in which the dead and dying are lying together.’
Randall’s war would end when he was fortunate enough to witness Montgomery taking the German surrender, but that short time in Belsen would stay with him for ever.
In particular, the awful smell seemed to linger. ‘The stench was horrific,’ Randall said. ‘It was a mixture of rotting flesh and excrement — a smell that I couldn’t get rid of for weeks. I would wake in the night with this ghastly smell in my nose.’
After leaving the Army, Randall tried to put Belsen behind him. He married, had two children, ran a very successful business consultancy, and then became senior course director at the Institute of Marketing.
However, nearly ten years ago, he was interviewed for a newspaper about his experiences to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen. For a 75-year-old woman called Mady Gerrard living in Wales, the article struck a deep chord, as did the accompanying photograph of the young Lieutenant Randall.
‘I screamed,’ Mady recalled, ‘because in front of my eyes was the face that I had been carrying around in my head for 60 years.’
Mady Gerrard was, of course, Mady Goldgruber. She had survived the war, and had created a new life for herself as a clothes designer in the U.S. and Britain.
She immediately wrote a letter to Randall, and a few days later, he called her at home. ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ Mady shouted down the phone. ‘I cannot believe that I am talking with the man who basically saved my life!’
Six decades after their first encounter, John and Mady met in somewhat different circumstances when they had lunch at the Special Forces Club in London. They chatted for three hours.
Typically, John came across as the complete gentleman, and Mady even said to him: ‘You not only turned out to be the most important man in my life, but as a bonus you are a very nice person, too!’
When Mady wrote a book about her life, John wrote the foreword.
In it, he assured readers that nothing could compare to ‘the actual experience of seeing with my own eyes the true horror of the situation at Belsen’.
- The Last Gentleman Of The SAS by John Randall and M J Trow is published by Mainstream at £17.99.
Dirk Bogarde’s account. as yet another one of the first Allied officers in April 1945 to reach the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, gave yet another account of the horrors of Belsen which not only was my Father closely involved in at the time, but which should never be forogotten lest future generations become party to such evil ever again – sadly I do not doubt they will as it seems all too clear that the only thing mankind can be counted on to learn from history is that mankind does not learn from history!
Naturally Dirk Bogarde found Belsen to be an experience that had the most profound effect on him and about which he found it difficult to speak for many years afterward. A situation I well remember of my Father and others who witnessed these obscene actions of the Germans first hand!
“I think it was on the 13th of April – I’m not quite sure what the date was” [it was the 15th] “- in ’44” [sic, the camp was liberated on the 15th April 1945, and it was the 20th April 1945 when Bogarde made his visit] “when we opened up Belsen Camp, which was the first concentration camp any of us had seen, we didn’t even know what they were, we’d heard vague rumours that they were. I mean nothing could be worse than that. The gates were opened and then I realised that I was looking at Dante’s Inferno, I mean … I … I still haven’t seen anything as dreadful. And never will. And a girl came up who spoke English, because she recognised one of the badges, and she … her breasts were like, sort of, empty purses, she had no top on, and a pair of man’s pyjamas, you know, the prison pyjamas, and no hair. But I knew she was girl because of her breasts, which were empty. She was I suppose, oh I don’t know, twenty four, twenty five, and we talked, and she was, you know, so excited and thrilled, and all around us there were mountains of dead people, I mean mountains of them, and they were slushy, and they were slimy, so when you walked through them … or walked – you tried not to, but it was like …. well you just walked through them, and she … there was a very nice British MP, and he said ‘Don’t have any more, come away, come away sir, if you don’t mind, because they’ve all got typhoid and you’ll get it, you shouldn’t be here swanning-around’ and she saw in the back of the jeep, the unexpired portion of the daily ration, wrapped in a piece of the Daily Mirror, and she said could she have it, and he” [the MP] “said ‘Don’t give her food, because they eat it immediately and they die, within ten minutes’, but she didn’t want the food, she wanted the piece of Daily Mirror – she hadn’t seen newsprint for about eight years or five years, whatever it was she had been in the camp for. … she was Estonian. … that’s all she wanted. She gave me a big kiss, which was very moving. The corporal” [MP] “was out of his mind and I was just dragged off. I never saw her again, of course she died. I mean, I gather they all did. But, I can’t really describe it very well, I don’t really want to. I went through some of the huts and there were tiers and tiers of rotting people, but some of them who were alive underneath the rot, and were lifting their heads and trying …. …. trying to do the victory thing. That was the worst.”
“After the war I always knew that nothing, nothing, could ever be as bad … … but nothing could frighten me any more, I mean, no man could frighten me any more, no Director … … nothing could be as bad as the war, or the things I saw in the war.”
The horror and revulsion at the cruelty and inhumanity that he witnessed still left him with a deep-seated hostility towards Germany; in the late-1980s he wrote that he would disembark from a lift rather than ride with a German of his generation. Nevertheless, three of Dirk Bogarde’s more memorable film roles were as Germans, one of them as a former SS officer in The Night Porter (1974).
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