This is an unpleasant, distressing and disturbing story. The most disturbing thing about it is that it’s true.
In an email response to my recent review of Denial, the film about Holocaust denier David Irving, a friend wrote ” If you google ‘Gas Chambers’ most of the entries read ‘Holohoax’ and are largely Holocaust Denial sites, which inevitably link to White Supremacist sites”. I’ve just googled “Gas Chambers” and am relieved to be able to report that I got pretty much what I would expect. However, reflecting on this subject has reminded me of a story my father used to tell and which, after a lot of consideration, I repeat below.
My father started work as an office boy in 1937, aged 15. In those days, most people started work at 14, an age at which they would be regarded as children rather than “young people” or “teenagers”. As well as office boys, there were office girls. Amongst the adults there were people of every political view from fascist to communist. The girls were overseen by a woman of a fascist persuasion.
One day – or it may have been on more than one occasion – the woman who had charge of the girls organised them to go out into the town in the dinner break, look for Jews and pin yellow stars on them.
This wasn’t in some far away country or a big city with a high immigrant population- it was in a small town in the North-West of England.
Like many such towns, proximity to the large ports of Liverpool and Manchester meant that it had a small Jewish population. As Jewish people were often people of standing in the community – doctors, lawyers and, in this commercially savvy manufacturing district, successful business people, they tended to be held in high regard, so this may well have been the action of an isolated and fanatical individual rather than the product of communal anti-semitism. Even so, it remains a chilling story and leaves a chilling question mark over what might have happened if this country had fallen into fascist hands.