Thursday, September 08, 2011

Remembering Our Childhood Questions...

 'But How Did This Happen? Why Did No-one Stop Them?'


First they came for the communists
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Whilst all of us will be familiar with the words of Pastor Neimoller, particularly those of us who have Jewish blood running in our veins, we are much less aware of the actions taken against disabled people in 1930’s Germany. At a time of economic crisis disabled people were labelled with a black triangle, propaganda was issued explaining to the ‘good German volk’ how much each disabled person cost the taxpayer and the first state sanctioned euthanasia of a disabled person took place in 1938. 

As a child growing up in a Jewish/Catholic family I learnt from my grandmother how privileged I was to have been born free, how the members of my family lucky enough to have escaped persecution in Russia had recognised the signs during the 1930’s and had urged those family members who had found refuge in Austria, Germany and Poland to once again flee to safety. None heeded these warnings and all were killed in the camps. The understanding that few had the courage to speak out against the persecution of their fellow humans shaped my entire life and made me determined to never allow fear for my own safety to prevent me opposing injustice.

However, it was not until I became a disabled adult that I learnt how the Nazi’s had first experimented on the most vulnerable group of all; sick, disabled and mentally ill people. We will never know whether speaking out against the euthanasia of disabled people in 1930’s Germany would have helped prevent the massacre of millions of Jewish people, but we all know the lessons history teaches us; to never remain silent in the face of evil. 

The Welfare Reform Bill is not to be equated with Nazism, nor is it in any way appropriate to suggest the actions of any British politician are similar to those of the Nazis. However, the warnings from the past are clear. During a time of economic difficulty it is all too easy to label one group of people as less worthy than others, to dehumanise them, to mark them out as being a financial burden upon society, and that once one group of people have been singled out for such treatment, that without opposition to that it inevitably leads to other groups being so demonised. 

My Lords, I urge you to remember the lessons of all our childhoods learnt at our parents and grandparents knees. That we have a responsibility to our pasts and to our futures to always speak up for those persecuted and prevent future generations looking back to us and wondering why, of all people, those of us directly descended from those with first hand experience of such evil did not heed our childhood lessons and speak out for those unable to speak for themselves. Please remember the question we all asked when first we learnt of our history – ‘but why did no-one speak up for us?’ and vote against the Welfare Reform Bill.

2 comments:

Socrates said...

nor is it in any way appropriate to suggest the actions of any British politician are similar to those of the Nazis.

I'm really not sure that is a sustainable position, given the off-the-record briefings given by some Government ministers and special advisers.

The Government is deliberately defaming people like myself to make their politically driven benefit cuts more palatable to the public.

On a trivial level, I feel an increase in hostility towards me from my already hostile neighbours - because of my disability and my benefit scrounging scum council-house lifestyle.

I have been threatened with violence, intimidated and physically assaulted - because the people know that the Police and the Government are at one in viewing me as a parasite and a burden.

Also, I am genetically disordered and autistic people like me are scheduled to be eliminated from the gene pool just as soon a Science catches up with the public's desire to be free from the £30 billion a year cost of people with autism.

We will join the people with Down's Syndrome in our non-existence.

For us, this spices Die Zeitgeist to an unpleasant degree of heat.

Nazi newspapers and magazines are available in many German online archives and pay well for the time spent patiently translating a few paragraphs at a time.

What is the qualitative difference between

Volksgenoße, das ist auch Dein Geld!

and the recent headlines in the Daily Express and the behaviour of the Government ministers behind them?

There is none.

Your assertion of 'no equivalence' is realpolitik sitting in the middle of the M1 waiting for the inevitable.

Hossylass said...

Thank you for the highlighting the similarities without descending into hysteria.
We risk reducing the full horror of the circumstances of those who died due to the actions of the German government at the time, however we have to aknowledge that the similarities are too strong to ignore.
Same crime, different scale, but I think BendyGirl has managed to convey this quite clearly.

We need the Lords to stop and recognise that the demonisation of disabled people is a step backwards and also recognition of several other unsavoury periods in history regarding the abuse of sick and disabled people.