Thursday, 24 December 2009

Pius XII and the Nazis

I distrust and despise the zestful trendies, articulate and polemical who make a name for themselves and lots of money by writing faction – calumnies on historical figures such as Pius XII who are safely dead. Such is the nature of our society that there are plenty of people who will eagerly lap up such rubbish. They would rather believe a lie because it fits with their outlook and makes them feel smug than the boring truth. 

People say that Pope Pius XII did not speak out enough against the Nazi persecution of the Jews. This criticism sits well with today’s exhibitionist-moralists, whose idea of protest is to wear a band on their wrists to protest against slavery to show how nice they are, or to march in democratic countries dressed up as a polar bears.  Their other comfort gesture  is to apologise for something for which they had no responsibility and which happened a long time ago. They are stuffed with cant and hypocrisy. 

So what did they expect would have happened if the Pope spoke out against Nazi atrocities? An appearance on a Berlin  chat show to be interviewed by a Nazi equivalent of Jeremy Paxman? 

The Pope had to be very careful about when to speak out. He saw that every time there was a protest, the Nazis adopted even harsher measures. So what would protest achieve? Far better to work below the radar and provide practical help. 

On occasion, he did speak out. In response to the Pope’s Christmas message of December 1942, the Reich Security Main Office sent a telegram to all representatives in countries where there were Catholic populations. 

‘In a manner never known before, the Pope has repudiated the National Socialist New European Order. Here in this declaration he has virtually accused the German People of injustice to the Jews and has made himself a mouthpiece for Jewish War Criminals. 

When Pius died in 1958, many world famous Jews made their tributes: 

Golda Meir, later to become Prime Minister of Israel: “We share the grief of the world on the death of His Holiness Pope Pius XII. During the 10 years of Nazi terror, when our people passed through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and to commiserate with their victims”. 

Naham Goldman, President of World Jewish congress ‘with special gratitude we remember all he has done for the persecuted Jews during the darkest period of their history’. 

Chief Rabbi of Rome:  ‘More than anyone else, we have had the opportunity to appreciate the great kindness filled with compassion and magnanimity that the Pope displayed during those terrible years of persecution and terror. 

Earlier Albert Einstein (died 1953) had said that ‘only the Catholic Church protested against the Hitlerian onslaught on liberty. Up until then I had not been interested in the Church, but today I feel a great admiration for the Church, which alone has had the courage to struggle for spiritual truth and moral truth. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised, I now praise unreservedly’ 

Proper historians like Sir Martin Gilbert, who himself is Jewish and has has praised Pius XII’s efforts to save Jews and says that Pius personally saved more Jews in Rome (percentagewise) than was saved in any other capital city under the Nazis, except Budapest, which was also a Papal initiative. 

For example, when the Germans had occupied Rome except the Vatican, Pius was informed in the early hours of one morning that 8000 Roman Jews would be rounded up the next day and deported. He immediately arranged as many as possible to be spirited away and hidden in convents and monasteries and in the Vatican itself. Just 1000 Jews were eventually deported to the death camps. 1000 too many, but 7000 were saved. 

The Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo was turned into a sanctuary for refugees during the war, including scores of Jews. Pius’ own bedroom was converted into a makeshift nursery, and some 40 babies were born there. A June 1944 article in the Palestine Post records a group of Jews who had taken shelter in Castel Gandolfo passing on their thanks to the Pope. 

The Pope had placed his housekeeper, Sr. Pasqualina Lehnert, in charge of the Vatican storerooms during the war, and personally directed her to drive trucks with food and other supplies out to religious houses around Rome where Jews were being sheltered. 

Sir Martin Gilbert says that Nations continually rewrite history to fit in with their current fears and perspectives, but there is such a thing as true history. The interview with Sir Martin Gilbert can be accessed here. It's a long interview but worth listening to carefully. It is very rewarding to hear the measured tones of an expert in his field, without polemic. 

He also mentions the role of the Polish nation and the number of Catholics who were executed by the Nazis for trying to help their Jewish compatriots. 

New York Jewish businessman and philanthropist Gary Krupp, who says he grew up “hating” Pius XII, has emerged as a passionate defender of the pontiff once famously excoriated as “Hitler’s Pope.” 

“It’s our obligation to recognize somebody who saved more Jews than all the other world leaders and religious leaders combined,” Krupp said in an interview with NCR. “This man should be raised up as righteous among the nations, not demonized." 

American Rabbi David Dalin has proposed that Yad Vashem recognize Pius as “righteous among the nations. 

People say that the Holy Father should have waited until the archives had been opened to satisfy the critics. Would they have ever been satisfied? Probably not. Once a head of steam has been generated in a protest, it’s almost impossible to relieve the pressure.  There is too much amour propre invested in it for the supporters ever to admit they were wrong.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Pests 2 - Tickerdammerung

This evening my daughter came downstairs and announced that the cat Frankie had picked up a tick. It was attached to his neck and was already bloated like a filthy leech.

The internet provided conflicting advice, but all were agreed that it was necessary to get it off immediately. The cat wasn't too fussed about all this. He was just purring sleepily.

In the absence of the special tool to lever out the tick, the advice was to use a loop of cotton and pull steadily. While my daughter held the cat I looped the thread around the tick and pulled. There was a discernable click as the tick was released.

The tick still had all its legs (eight of them - it's of the spider family). The advice was to immerse it in alcohol. But why waste alcohol? Brainwave - use methylated spirit. That is methyl alcohol. So we dropped the tick in a thimbleful of meths.

Second brainwave. Meths is inflammable, why not immolate the creature. No sooner said than done. We found the metal top of a paint tin and put the now bedraggled tick onto the lid. Then poured some meths on top and lit up.

So surrounded by blue flames the tick had a funeral a la Brunnhilde and Siegfriede.


It struck me later that the Tick is a perfect metaphor for the Labour party. They suck your blood, become bloated and are almost impossible to destroy.

Immolation may be the only way to get these bastards out. The House last burned down in 1837 or so. Time for another conflagration?

Pests - Musca Autumnalis

We are fortunate to live in a country village in Dorset where the skies are very dark at night and you can actually see the Milky Way.  But there are certain disadvantages, one of the most irritating being that every Autumn, round about September cluster flies (sometimes know as loft flies) enter our loft.  The swarm is preceded by 'scout flies' which find the suitable accommodation. They then alert the main swarm, which creeps under the roof felt and hibernates for the winter. The flies that do not hibernate die and hundreds of their little bodies are strewn about the loft. In spring the remainder buzz off and spend the summer in the fields.

Our loft is boarded and has a couple of velux windows let into the roof to provide light. We use the loft for storage of things like books, but we soon found that unless these are covered with a plastic sheet, they will get contaminated by the flies. 

In the early days I found a neat way of persuading the flies to go elsewhere. I used to buy two Vapona insecticides and hang them in the loft in late August.  When it came to hiberate, the scouts would take one sniff and go elsewhere. 

Then came 1997 and New Labour and the Nanny state. It was decided that products like Vapona might (only might) be injurious to health. So they were taken off the shelves and my problems returned.

The only way to curb the flies is by constant spraying using other types of fly spray, which are probably far more injurious to my health.

Although they look like house flies, they are not and apart from their nuisance value they don't have house flies' disgusting habits. But it is not as if I could leave them be. They are very sensitive to light and their latest trick is to crawl through the holes in the ceiling plaster that need to be made to run cables for the ceiling light. This way they can get into the bedrooms.

A few nights ago, I was reading in bed when there was a loud buzzing and a fly appeared seemingly from nowhere. A few minutes later, more buzzing and another fly appeared. soon about six were buzzing round the room like a squadron of Messerschmidts. And this was 12 o'clock at night. I managed to locate some PTFE tape and wound a strip round the hole in the ceiling rose and stopped any more getting in. Then getting to work with the fly spray I dispatched the others. Luckily I had a fly spray which was odourless.  So I went to sleep to the sound of dying flies, emitting a noise as if their main engines had taken a hit and were stuttering into silence.

I told this story to a colleague. 'Only six flies?' he said. 'Last night my wife and I were sitting quietly in our lounge and up to 17 of those little devils appeared buzzing furiously'. He didn't tell me how he got rid of them. Perhaps he and his wife retreated to bed.

Thank you Tony Blair and your busybody cohorts. Unfortunately if the Tories get back, I can't imagine that they will be able to redress all the petty regulations that make life more irritating and provide so much employment to the army of anally retentive jobsworths that now pervade this country.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Memories of Hillsborough 1989

Today 15th April 2009 is the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster where 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed at a football ground at the start of the FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottington Forest. The day has extra resonance for me as members of my own family were at the match and fortunately survived. 

1989 was a difficult year for my family. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a mastectomy in the February. In early April my 80 year old mother was rushed into hospital in Liverpool with blocked circulation in the leg, which resulted in an amputation. I had taken the train up to Liverpool on the weekend of 14th April to see my mother and stayed with my sister and her family in Birkdale, near Southport.

On the morning of Saturday 15th April, my birthday, John, my brother in law was taking my niece Zoe and two others to Sheffield to the football match. I remember feeling rather envious of them going off to see such a fantastic match.

Helen and I went to Broadgreen Hospital in Liverpool to see my mother. We were round her bed when at 3:15 there were reports that the game had been stopped because there were fans on the pitch. My first thoughts were of irritation that those football hooligans were at it again but there were no details. At 3:45 my sister drove me into Liverpool were I was going to bide my time until the visiting was allowed again in the evening. Meanwhile Helen drove home to Birkdale. 

I wandered round the city centre, but on visiting the Bluecoat arts centre I heard that at least 74 were dead; I immediately rang my sister. Helen was distraught as John and Zoe had not rung in.  I decided to go back to Birkdale to be my sister should she need me. That was a dreadful journey, but when I got there, I found that they had rung to say that they were safe.

Later I went back into Liverpool to catch the local train at Lime Street for Broadgreen. People were milling around anxiously awaiting the football trains coming back from Sheffield. A British Railways notice said that all football trains were all running to time. The anxiety was palpable. By that time the full death toll was known.

After spending the evening at the hospital, my brother drove me to Seaforth station to catch the train to Birkdale. I met two young boys on the train who were returning home from Sheffield - and had lost their friend. 

When I got back, John and Zoe had returned. Amidst all the distress and tears and the harrowing tales, one thing that Zoe related that stands out was the support of the Police and the kindness people of Sheffield who invited strangers into their homes, comforted them, gave them tea, allowed them to use the bathroom and to phone home. 

Sunday was a day of weeping on Merseyside. Radio City was all morning retelling the story of Hilsborough. The 11 am Mass at St Marie's Church, Southport was highly emotional. The Priest pointed to the five grains of incense on the Easter candle - the five wounds of Christ - and affirmed that with the Resurrection death was not the end of life.