Tag Archives: anti-semitism

FAMILY REUNIONS

We had all nine grandchildren in the house last week, Monday through Friday.   Hence, the lack of a blog post a week ago.   Visits to the grocery store were frequent, as was taking them places.   There was no time to write, or even watch the news.

After our mini-family reunion, I really hope they will want to see each other after my wife and I are no longer around to host the gathering.   I’m sure they will!

I was struck (again) by how much louder the five younger ones, all boys, were, than their four older female sisters and cousins.   Noise, noise, noise!   Can’t boys do anything quietly?   Clearly not.

I found myself walking through the daily debris silently reminding myself that “children are a blessing!”  They certainly are and I’m already looking forward to when we can all be together again.

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THEN AND NOW

When everybody was gone, I started reading Boris Johnson’s “The Churchill Factor:   How one man made history.”

You may have heard of Boris Johnson.   He’s sometimes been described as “Britain’s Donald Trump.”   On his recent visit to England, Trump expressed the opinion that Boris would make “a great prime minister.”   A poll earlier this week showed him to be the favorite to succeed Theresa May.   Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have known each other for some time and are good friends.

Boris served two terms as a very successful Mayor of London.   More recently, he was Britain’s Foreign Secretary, the equivalent of Secretary of State.

He resigned a few weeks ago over Brexit.   His objection, supported by many, is that Mrs. May, the Prime Minister, seems to want to compromise with the European Union.   This would not deliver the Brexit (total independence) from the EU that was promised after the referendum over two years ago.   There is still no agreement between the UK and the EU over future trade.   Boris Johnson’s point is that the United Kingdom doesn’t need one – that new trade deals can be signed after breaking away from Brussels.   Have faith – it will all work out.

I must admit to sympathy with his stance.   Get out quick.   Don’t hesitate.

His book on Churchill was written a few years ago and published in 2014.   I’m now reading chapter 17 (there are 23 chapters).   The chapter is titled “The Wooing of America” and details Churchill’s relationship with Franklin Roosevelt.   His single-minded mission was to bring the United States into the war against Hitler.   At their first wartime meeting, the two leaders were concerned that Hitler had recently invaded Russia.   But Churchill knew that after Russia, he would come after Britain; and that if Britain fell and Hitler sank the Royal Navy, America would be next.   The whole world would very quickly descend into the barbarism of fascism.

A lot was at stake when they met in Newfoundland on August 10th, 1941.   This was the handshake that was to change the history of the twentieth century.

“As he stretches out that elegant white hand he knows he is reaching for his only lifeline; and yet there is nothing about him to convey the gloom of his position.   On the contrary, his face is suddenly wreathed in smiles, babyish, irresistible.

“Roosevelt smiles back; they grip hands, for ages, each reluctant to be the first to let go, and for the next two days Churchill maintains his schmoozathon.   We don’t know exactly what they say to each other at the first such Atlantic conference — the direct ancestor of NATO; but we know that Churchill lays it on thick.   His mission is to build up a sense of common destiny; to work with the grain of Roosevelt’s natural instincts, and to turn the USA from distant sympathizers into full-blown allies in bloodshed.” (page 235)

This was a family reunion, only the second time a President of the United States had shaken the hand of a British prime minister in office.   160 years after Yorktown.   160 years after the United States had separated itself from the rest of the English speaking world.   Now the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon world (the two sons of Joseph) were to be united in a common purpose.  They met in Canada, the oldest Dominion of the  British Empire, a nation founded by Loyalists at the end of the Revolutionary War.  The alliance that was forming  has remained the foundation of global peace and order for 77 years.

As I read Johnson’s book, I could see parallels with today.   There’s no fighting this time (not yet, anyway), but once again Britain is trying to free itself from European despotism, as it has so often in history.   There are those, like the current prime minister, who want to compromise; but others, like Boris Johnson, who are in a Churchillian mood, wanting to raise two fingers to the German-dominated EU (the two fingers were “V for Victory” in WWII, but, reversed, they have another meaning in England, which you will have to Google!)

History may repeat itself.

Confidence in Mrs. May is waning.  The Opposition Labour Party is scandalizing Britain with its anti-semitism.   The smaller parties are not credible.   An internal coup in the Conservative Party could replace Mrs. May with Boris Johnson, just as Chamberlain was replaced with Winston Churchill.

There’s another analogy.

Mr. Trump repeated a commitment to Mrs. May that the US will offer a free trade deal to the United Kingdom when Britain leaves the EU.   (EU rules mean that no deal can be signed until D-Day on 29th March next year; D for Departure!)    American farmers, losing markets in the current trade dispute with the EU, will benefit from a new trade deal with the UK; Britain will benefit with plentiful supplies of cheap food.

Once again, the New World may come to the aid of the Old.

Once again, a family reunion could make a big difference in the world.

There’s another lesson from Churchill’s meeting with FDR.   After the historic meeting of president and prime minister, there was a “divine service” on the Sunday morning.   Sailors of the two nations sang hymns together – “chosen by Churchill – that express that single heritage:   two broadly Protestant nations bound together against a vile and above all a pagan regime.”   (pages 235-6)

This was just a few weeks after the National Day of Prayer called by King George VI during Dunkirk.

At such a critical time, today’s leaders should follow the example of their predecessors and ask God for divine help through a very challenging time.

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BEWARE OF CHINESE TIES

Britain is keen for a sweet deal with China after Brexit – but watch out for Beijing’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’, says Michael Auslin.   For decades we’ve heard dire warnings about China’s growing military power, but these doom-mongers have missed the point.   China isn’t on the war path.   Where old empires would start by invading, it starts by trading.   Only when an economy has become dependent on trade does Beijing begin to demand more, with the aim of creating an ever-expanding ‘Greater China’ in its near abroad.   (Freddy Gray, The Spectator, 8/2)

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FARMERS IN CRISIS

There’s increasing talk of land redistribution in South Africa, the wealthiest nation on the African continent.   It’s been almost a quarter of a century since the end of apartheid, a period in which few black South Africans have seen any benefits.   A wealthy elite has been created through corruption at the highest level, but little has been done to help the average person.

Neighboring Zimbabwe confiscated land from white farmers at the turn of this century.   The result was mass starvation, the collapse of the currency and economic chaos.

The European farmers who colonized southern Africa in the nineteenth century brought a great deal of development to the region.   Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) was the ‘breadbasket of Africa;” now, after almost forty years of independence, it’s the “basket case of Africa.”   The white farmers who once dominated Rhodesia were “commercial farmers,” similar to their American and Canadian counter-parts. African farmers are “subsistence” farmers, who just grow enough food for their own families.   This is a major cultural difference the world does not understand.   Confiscating white farmland can only have one consequence – a dramatic drop in food production (Zimbabwe saw a 90% drop, with a consequent famine).

Farmers in South Africa are being murdered at an alarming rate.   Many have chosen to leave the country.   Western Australia is one area that is attracting them.   Other parts of Africa are offering the farmers 99-year leases to boost their own agricultural production. Even Russia is encouraging them to relocate.

Other farmers from Europe moved to North America, Australia and New Zealand in the nineteenth century.   These commercial farmers produce a disproportionate percentage of the world’s food.   Higher tariffs on agricultural produce could affect this, along with changes in the weather and massive fires that seem to be a permanent fixture of our landscape.   All of these threaten today’s farmers.

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AFRICAN ELECTION

Zimbabwe’s woes never seem to end.   The “first free election” held at the weekend, has been followed by riots and violence as the losing party claims to have won.   It’s not possible to determine who really won, but after 38 years, ZANU-PF is still in power.   Most people will not be surprised.

Prior to Zimbabwe, Rhodesia had elections for decades without any violence.   Zimbabwe has not been able to achieve that.   As is the case elsewhere in Africa, tribalism and corruption have led to democracy being compromised.   Zimbabwe’s first leader, Robert Mugabe, was in power for almost 38 years, leading a very corrupt regime.

It’s doubtful there will be any significant change.

 

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REPEATING THE 1930’s

Chamberlain (right) shakes hands with Mussolini after signing the Munich Agreement while Hitler and other European leaders look on, 30 September 1938. Photograph: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

It’s DEJA VU all over again!

The world is starting to resemble the 1930’s, which ended in WWII.

1) ITALY may not seem important.  But In 1922 the fascists came to power and Mussolini proclaimed a revival of the Roman Empire.   That was the beginning of World War II in Europe.   Fascism was a major force in a number of European countries in the thirties.

The country had an election last Sunday.  The result stunned Europe — two populist parties got most of the votes.   The two parties are widely seen as the equivalent of the fascist party that ruled Italy up to and during WWII.

This follows an election a few months ago that had a similar outcome in Germany.  The AfD there is now the main opposition party.   These parties in Germany, Italy and elsewhere in Europe are often labeled “far-right.”   They are all “populist” parties that have gained support at the expense of mainstream political parties.   They are anti-EU and anti-immigrant, as well as very nationalistic.

2)  There is increasing talk of a TRADE WAR on both sides of the Atlantic.   What started out as retaliation against unfair Chinese trade policies is spreading into a full-scale trade war between the US and the EU.   The Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 followed the stock market crash and put high tariffs on US imports.   It is considered a major development on the road to the GREAT DEPRESSION, which led in turn to WW2.  It is difficult to see how the western alliance can hold together with increasing conflict over trade.

Historically, trade wars increase unemployment;   while unemployment leads voters to turn to the right, becoming more nationalistic.   A trade war will strengthen populist parties everywhere.

3) GERMANY REARMING  — President Trump has been pushing  for this to force Germany to contribute more to western defense.   Germany now has a military presence in the Sahel,  Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and Baghdad.  Germany is also at the forefront of calling for a united European military force.

4)  UK & GERMANY AT LOGGERHEADS — In 1938 the British government was seeking to appease Germany; it still is, though this time there’s no talk of war. Just TALK, TALK, TALK over trade following Brexit. It does not look good for Britain as I write.

5)   GROWING ANTI-SEMITISM.    There have been a number of attacks on Jews in France, so many, in fact, that French Jews are leaving in record numbers for Israel; the Polish parliament has passed a law that forbids people from claiming Polish involvement in the Holocaust, even though it’s known that 200,000 Poles helped the Nazis round up Jews during World War II and assisted in the extermination camps; thirdly, Iceland has just banned male circumcision, while other countries are considering it.   This action will affect Muslims as well as Jews.

6)  RUSSIA IS MAKING THREATENING NOISES UNDER PUTIN, just as it did under Stalin.   Could Russia and Germany repeat the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact?    Both China and Russia now have dictators for life.   A prominent spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church is calling for the restoration of the monarchy in Russia.  He seems to have Putin in mind as Czar.  Whatever happens domestically in each country, the US will likely be in confrontation with both in the future.  In the 1930’s Stalin’s threats were ideological;  now the threats are just plain old-fashioned nationalism.

7)  AMERICA FIRST – in the 1930’s it was AMERICAN ISOLATIONISM, now it’s called AMERICA FIRST. And it’s not just Trump – America is focused on itself.   There is little foreign news on TV and most people just aren’t interested in what’s happening overseas.  It took Pearl Harbor to wake Americans up.   What will it take this time?

CONCLUSION

History repeats itself.  But it does not repeat itself exactly.   It remains to be seen how future events play out.  But the similarities with the 1930’s are definitely there.

There are, however, two big differences.

During the 1930’s the world’s only superpower was the British Empire.    This no longer exists.   There is also no Winston Churchill warning of the dangers ahead.   Without a warning message it is doubtful nations will make the changes needed to change course and avoid the mistakes of eight decades ago.

The above is a speech I’ve prepared for Men’s Speech Club  tomorrow.   I decided to post it to my blog.

 

 

 

 

 

LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ, 70 YEARS AGO TODAY

auschwitz

I had originally intended to return to the US and give a sermon on it, but I couldn’t.   I would not have been able to hold back the tears.

I’m referring to my visit to Auchwitz, one of the worst of the Nazi death camps where six million Jews died.   An estimated 1.1 million people died in Auschwitz, most of them Jews.   Men, women and children.

Most memorable in my mind was all the pony-tails cut off the heads of little girls.   They were stacked up high behind a see-through glass wall.   This was the hair of young female victims.   All I could think about was my four young grand daughters!   Auschwitz is set in a peaceful rural setting – what happened there could happen anywhere.   I had had the same thought when visiting Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, which reminded me of where my grandparents lived.

Auschwitz is the stuff of nightmares.   At the arrival point, where families had to get out of box-cars and were immediately sorted into those who would live and those who were assigned to immediate annihilation, I felt their hopelessness.   There would have been no opportunity to say good-bye to loved ones, none at all.   People were treated like animals.

The gas chamber was particularly horrific.   I stood under one of the vents through which came Zyklon B, the poisonous gas that quickly killed its victims.   In an adjacent room we saw where the corpses were first taken – to remove gold from teeth and cut off hair that could be made into rope or wigs for fashionable ladies.   The people who did all the work were inmates, forced to work on fellow inmates who had been selected to die.   Bones were boiled and made into soap.

The dormitories left an indelible impression on my mind.   Bunk beds were stacked to the ceiling.   There were three levels and, I believe, nine people slept to a bed.   Everybody would rush to get in the dormitory when bed-time came.   If you could get to the top level, there was fresh air coming through a gap between the wall and the roof.   Also, at the top, you would avoid human waste falling through the slats onto you during the night.   Because the diet was so poor, concentration camp victims had permanent diarrhea.   They could not use toilet facilities, such as they were, during the night and simply lay there relieving themselves onto those below.   How could one forget such an image?

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops.   When they arrived they found 7,000 survivors, all ill or starving.   In the West, we tend only to remember what our nations did in World War II.   We fail to appreciate that it was the Russians who contributed the most to the defeat of Nazi Germany.   Russia (the USSR) lost twenty million people.   They were the first to get to Auschwitz and, a few weeks later, to Berlin, where Hitler had committed suicide rather than face a trial for war crimes that included the camps.

The cool and calculated way in which the Nazis selected Auschwitz as their biggest concentration camp is chilling.   Auschwitz is close to Krakow, Poland, at the very heart of Europe.   Trains from all over the continent could easily get there, bringing Jewish victims in their tens of thousands.

A tour of the Jewish quarter in Krakow is a suitable accompaniment to the day in Auschwitz.   At one time the quarter was thriving.   Now only thirty Jews congregate in the one remaining synagogue that is still used.    Jews started moving to Krakow when they were expelled en masse from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella.   In the same year that Christopher Columbus was sent to discover the New World, the king and queen decided they wanted their country to be free of Jews. 450 years later, Hitler wanted the same thing for Europe.

I asked our tour guide in Krakow why people hated the Jews so much. His reply was that “the Jews are different.   They go to church on Saturday, we Poles go on Sunday.”   In other words, they were persecuted for keeping the seventh day Sabbath.   Poles, like other conquered Europeans, co-operated with the Nazis when it came to handing over Jews.   Some helped the Jews, but most people were too afraid.

James Carroll, a former priest in the Roman Catholic Church, traces anti-semitism back to the church, which always blamed the Jews for killing Christ.   His book (also a DVD) is called Constantine’s Sword:   The Church and the Jews – a History.   He did not set out to blame his own church for the holocaust but his book shows the historical connection.   When Hitler visited Cologne Cathedral prior to World War II, he told the Archbishop that all he was doing was finishing the work the Catholic Church had started.

Sadly, anti-semitism is once again on the rise. Last year, almost 7,000 Jews left France for Israel.   In Britain, a recent survey showed Jews are increasingly afraid to live there.   The biggest single factor in anti-semitism is Europe’s rising Muslim population.   France has 500,000 Jews, the biggest number in Europe; the Muslim population is ten times that, at five million.   There have been a number of attacks on Jewish targets in recent years, the latest being the terror attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris last month.   Anti-semitism did not begin with the Nazis and it didn’t end with the fall of the Third Reich, either.

Why did God allow it to happen?   This is the question most often asked.   To me, the answer is quite simple – man rejected God. Men do not want to obey the Laws of God.   So they reap the consequences of disobedience, including the Holocaust.   Auschwitz is a sobering reminder to pray fervently “Thy Kingdom Come” (Matt 6:10).

If you can ever go to Poland, be sure to visit Krakow and Auschwitz. One is a well-preserved medieval city, the other a constant reminder of man’s inhumanity to man.

Everybody should go to Auschwitz.   Everybody.   If they don’t, it could happen again.