Historical Humanitarian lagniappe

December 14, 2020 |

Big Al writes: 

In April 1945, Gollancz addressed the issue of German collective guilt in a pamphlet, What Buchenwald Really Means that explained that all Germans were not guilty. He maintained that hundreds of thousands of gentiles had been persecuted by the Nazis and many more had been terrorized into silence. Equally, UK citizens who had done nothing to save the Jews despite living in a democracy, were not free of guilt. This marked a shift of Gollancz's attention towards the people of Germany. In September 1945, he started an organisation Save Europe Now (SEN) to campaign for the support of Germans,[17] and over the next four years he wrote another eight pamphlets and books addressing the issue and visited the country several times.

Gollancz's campaign for the humane treatment of German civilians involved efforts to persuade the British government to end the ban on sending provisions to Germany and ask that it pursue a policy of reconciliation, as well as organising an airlift to provide Germany and other war-torn European countries with provisions and books. He wrote regular critical articles for, and letters to, British newspapers, and after a visit to the British Zone of Occupation in October and November 1946, he published these along with shocking close-up photos of malnourished children he took there in In Darkest Germany [18] in January 1947.

On the expulsion of Germans after World War II he said: "So far as the conscience of humanity should ever again become sensitive, will this expulsion be an undying disgrace for all those who remember it, who caused it or who put up with it. The Germans have been driven out, but not simply with an imperfection of excessive consideration, but with the highest imaginable degree of brutality." In his book, Our Threatened Values (London, 1946), Gollancz described the conditions Sudeten German prisoners faced in a Czech concentration camp: "They live crammed together in shacks without consideration for gender and age … They ranged in age from 4 to 80. Everyone looked emaciated … the most shocking sights were the babies … nearby stood another mother with a shrivelled bundle of skin and bones in her arms … Two old women lay as if dead on two cots. Only upon closer inspection, did one discover that they were still lightly breathing. They were, like those babies, nearly dead from hunger …" When Field Marshal Montgomery wanted to allot each German citizen a guaranteed diet of only 1,000 calories a day and justified this by referring to the fact that the prisoners of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp had received only 800, Gollancz wrote about starvation in Germany, pointing out that many prisoners never even received 1,000 calories. "There is really only one method of re-educating people," explained Gollancz, "namely the example that one lives oneself."

Stefan Jovanovich  writes: 

The folly of revenge is its unshakeable belief that time's arrow can somehow be reversed, that wrong can be undone by doing it to "them".





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