Learning – the socks protecting against tyranny


I’ve been reading a lot of books about the Holocaust and the impact of Nazi ideology of late, most recently If This Is A Man and The Trust by Primo Levi. It is my firm belief that reading about the Holocaust is more important than ever, especially as the number of living survivors is shrinking each year.

And because of the times that we are living in.

Many, potentially too optimistically, proclaim that we could never descend into another world war, another fascist dictatorship, or indeed another Holocaust. A superb book, Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes, addresses, albeit in a strange fiction, just how easily some could fall for a fascist dictatorship.

Our lack of ability to learn from history is very much on the minds of people, and it is bothering them.

Within the last week a leading candidate for the Presidency of America declared that he wanted Muslims put in camps, for them to potentially be forced carry ‘Muslim ID‘, and for them to be barred from America. In the last fortnight it was announced that Mein Kampf is to be republished now that its copyright has run out. Both of these things are worrying.

Mein Kampf is, and should be, studied as an academic text because without an understanding of it then we can’t keep the ideologically warped wolf away from the door of decent society. However I’d argue that republishing to the masses for profit is morally backward. It is a book that people were forced to buy, forced to devour, and from it spawned The Holocaust, the darkest hour in modern human history. I’m not against freedom of speech, but I am a believer that some things just aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on unless they’re used for learning and the positive development of our society.

As it’s being republished, we’re entering a race for arguably the most important political job in the world and a man who is freely compared to Adolf Hitler is leading the charge for one of the only two political parties in the race. I have no doubts that the American people will reject him, but it’s incredibly disconcerting that huge numbers are indeed embracing his approach.

In 1919 the Allied Powers crushed post-war Germany with the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty was seen as a way of making sure that Germany could never start a world war again. Instead of achieving their ultimate aim, the humiliation it dealt to the German people is well documented to have been a major factor in the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party. It’s time we learnt that demonising and humiliating people only leads to a horrific backlash, if not now – in the years to come.

We have a duty to learn from our past, and for me a way to learn from the past is reading first hand accounts of those that were there. That’s why I’ve been reading about The Holocaust – because only by trying to understand just how people facing persecution feel (not that we can ever truly understand) can we not persecute others. It’s not good enough any more to be passive to the persecution of others, we must come out against it.

Read anything that the potential American Republican Presidential candidate writes and replace the world ‘Muslim’ with your own religion, nationality, ethic group, or other identifiers, and consider just how you’d feel if you were seeing that in every news outlet, every single day.

The Nazi’s burnt books. Books terrified them. So here are some books that look at the Holocaust and Nazi ideology that I’d recommend reading. Some are fact, some fiction, and some drift between depending on which accounts of experience you believe.

The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz – Denis Avey

The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

Look Who’s Back – Timur Vermes

The Zone of Interest – Martin Amis

If This Is A Man / The Truce – Primo Levi

The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Memoir – Chil Rajchman

The Journal of Helene Berr – Helene Berr

An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin – Gad Beck

It’s far harder, and a brave thing to do, to stand up against those who want to spread hate. Learning makes you brave, learning makes the hard a bit easier, and learning puts you in a position where you can contribute to the dialogue.

Learning is the socks that cushion your pounding feet as you stamp and call for a better world.



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