It’s a long time ago now, but I still remember it vividly. They took our clothes, and put them in a big plastic box. The same type of box, now I think of it, that They (the ‘authorities’) use now for collecting recycled paper. I was just a nine-year-old then, so I didn’t think anything of the indignity of my clothes being treated like post millennial trash. We were shown into a large, noisy arena. But only after being made to walk through an ankle deep pool of mysterious water which, we were told, would disinfect our feet.
I remember damp shivering children, in queues, waiting to climb ladders. Only to be slid back into the water – where they would have to swim for themselves. Then suddenly, a stentorian voice came over the Tannoy. “Would all those wearing yellow arm bands please leave the pool?” To this day, I remember looking at my nine-year-old wrist, and seeing a red arm band. I was safe, I thought. I don’t have to get out the pool. For now. First they came for the yellow arm bands, and I said nothing, because there was more room in the pool for me.
That was South Norwood Swimming Pool in 1970s Croydon. But it could have been likened to Hitler’s Germany. Anything can these days, if you’re left wing. It doesn’t take much thought. No need to worry about how it cheapens the experience of real victims or relatives of the Holocaust. Besides, they’re likely to be friends of Israel, which seems to be deeply unfashionable among the condescenti.
In fact, most seem to be stuck in a groove from which they can’t escape, forever condemned to benchmark everything against their limited knowledge of the Third Reich. The fact that the condescenti assume they are broadminded, when their horizons don’t seem to ever extend beyond Hitler, is an irony they are unable to spot. Mainly because that irony has no ready comparison with events they witnessed on a Channel 5 documentary or a Quentin Tarantino film.
My local paper, The Surrey Comet, had an account of a local councillor who stood up at a council meeting and performed her rendition of that poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller. (The one about the need to confront fascism that begins with “First they came for the socialists, and I said nothing…”) Which might be OK if the nation was on a war footing or facing invasion by a hostile murderous force. But the motion under debate, in Surrey County Council, was something about parking tickets or library fines. And the councillor she was opposing is Jewish.
Shouldn’t something be done about all this offensive hate speech? I’m just asking.
OK, maybe it shouldn’t be a crime to be so narrow minded that you only have a single historical reference point. It might be legally dangerous to litigate against people who routinely label anyone and everything they don’t like as fascist. But surely, using events leading up to the Holocaust as a form of political marketing is grotesque and offensive isn’t it? Would it be possible to legislate against this? Any legal experts out there?