I recently visited the Facebook of the right wing Monmouth Tory David Davies MP to take issue with his suggestion that dental examinations should be used to prove the age of teenagers looking for refuge in the UK. I suggested that demanding that we see the teeth of migrants was sinister and rather called to mind the Nazi’s looking at the teeth of Jews during the hellish genocide in the mid-20th century.
I was immediately attacked for trying to allow ‘rapists’ and ‘terrorists’ into our schools and country (or a small number of under 18 year olds if you get your news from somewhere other than the Mail and the Sun) and told to stop exaggerating by comparing the succession of racist horrors in the UK to the actions of the Nazi’s and their countrywide supporters in Germany. This was on the one hand an insult to those who died and an insult to them (as upright citizens) who were merely pointing out the ‘facts’.
History teaching in the UK, as I know to my cost, is not always very good. All I learnt during my years in school was a little about the Romans in York, Henry 8th and the development of the Spinning Jenny. But I have read a lot of books and watched quite a lot of serious telly so I have made up for some deficiencies in my knowledge, but I accept that I may have got it wrong vis a vis how genocide happened in Germany.
Apparently it must have happened like this – 1942 WW2 starts and overnight suddenly everyone is a Nazi in Germany, Hitler dies, the war ends and its all back to normal with everyone suddenly respecting the Jews, Romany’s, homosexuals, communists, trade unionists and mentally/physically disabled people. And of course it’s been a forward march to enlightenment ever since.
I thought (in my ignorance) that hatred for Jews and minorities had been built up over time with smaller humiliations and losses of dignity, insults and other-ing, hate speech and intolerance – long before the machinery of the the Holocaust was in place. That bigotry and prejudice set the background for horrendous policies that should still shame everyone that took part in them (and everyone who knew what was happening – and did nothing).
We are not Hitler’s Germany yet, but I am not reassured that we are any more civilised, tolerant and forgiving than we were less than a century ago. And if we cannot be more welcoming to people who need our help now, and if we continue to tolerate bigoted and xenophobic speech, who can say with any confidence that we will avoid a repetition of the Holocaust.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.