With all the self-importance of the writers
of “THE IRISH TIMES VIEW”, that paper once declared that it had is eye on
Russia. It was long, long before my time, and I never once cast my eye on that
paper, its successor, THE SOUTHERN STAR, and perhaps only half a dozen times upon the CORK EXAMINER or EVENING ECHO.
But I consider it no harm to learn about places far away in order to make sense of this WORLD IN CHASSIS.
I first saw the light in Dublin, in December 1941, precisely three weeks after the Japanese attack on the U.S..Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbour in the Hawaian archipelago,, which had been seized by the United States in 1898. My godparents, my father’s sister Maev and her husband Bill, who had qualified as doctors in UCC a few years before were unable to attend my christening, as they were in England, so proxies took their place. Bill had enlisted in Britain’s Royal Army Medical Corps.
In January 1942, near Berlin REINHARD HEYDRICH, an SS officer presided over a conference that resolved to murder all the Jews in Europe. About the same time British Cabinet, led by Winston Churchill,instituted a policy that in the following two years caused a famine in Bengal, killing millions of people whom no government body bothered to count.
Since England’s East India first seized Bengal
when it was one of the richest places on earth, repeated famines killed
millions of Bengalis and other Indians. In 1942 some 20,000 members of the
Indian Congress Party were held in prison by the British without charge or
trial.The French and Dutch Empires held Asians in subjection with little better
respect for them.
In February 1942 a small Japanese land force captured the “impregnable” British fortress at Singapore from about 140,000 British, Australian and Indian troops, and Japan’s Imperial Navy sank two
state -of-the-art British Battleships. My mother’s youngest brother Leo, two years her junior, a Senior Warrant Officer in Britain’s Royal Army Service Corps, had been evacuated on a ship which was
sunk by the Japanese. It was only when the war was over that his death was confirmed.
By then, in Europe Auschwitz had been liberated by Red Army and Bergen-Belsen by the British. I’m told that my Uncle Bill was the first Doctor from Britain’s RAMC into Belsen. He was a lovely GP and, like most of the decent men caught up in war, chose not to go on about it, and I didn’t get the story from him.
I happened to visit Berlin a few years ago. I saw the Holocaust Memorial there, near the Reichstag. Appropriate, for the planning of the extermination of the Jews originated near that city.
A proposal to erect a similar memorial in London has been made recently. I fear that it might be used to pin all the evil in the world on the Germans in twelve years of atypical behaviour.
The centuries of atrocities of Empires built on the Slave Trade, the extermination of nations and tribes, the pushing of opium on millions, the mass murders in the Congo by Leopold and his successors are to be airbrushed out of history. All such atrocities should be highlighted.
Reinhard Heydrich, the SS mass murderer was a cultured European and a gifted violinist. He had an equally cultured British friend, educated at Balliol College, Oxford, Sr Norman Kendal,Assistant Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police. “Shortly before the German invasion of Poland in 1939 (Kendal) had cancelled an official visit to the Nazis which would have included a lecture on policing methods by SS-Gruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich and a tour of the Dachau facilities. (‘I am more sorry than I can tell you to miss you and all my other friends,’ Kendal wrote to Heydrich’s deputy, ‘but we must hope for better luck some other time.’)” My source here is “An English Affair – Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo” by Richard Davenport-Hines, my own essential book if marooned on a desert Island.
Evil did not begin or end with the Third Reich or within the borders of the Nazi occupied countries. A Russian surveying world history might detect evil in 1840s Skibbereen . The Illustrated London News, a fine journal, recognised it at the time.