27 May 2019

Yesterday, after Sunday lunch I walked down to the primary school around the corner to vote in the European elections. I've been casting my vote there for the past 20 years, in local, national and EU elections and yesterday, for the first time, there was a long queue. A long, young and cheerful one. In front of me were two young guys who had arrived on skateboards debating whether to leave the boards outside or not. I told them to go right ahead and bring them along, skate in if you have to, I said. As we got talking it turned out only one was eligible to vote, the other - two days short of his 18th birthday  - had come along "for the vibe" and I almost hugged him. Both, the massive increase in turnout and in the votes for climate action are encouraging.
I want to be hopeful.

And yet, I started to read the diaries of Victor Klemperer again. I made a deal with my father, that we read this in instalments every morning and then talk about it whenever we feel like it but at least once a week.
The idea was - initially - to get him interested in something else beyond soccer and the weather but also because we did this ten years ago - only he cannot remember that we did.

Klemperer, a German Jew, was a lecturer in Romance languages at Dresden University in 1933 and kept a detailed record of events right from the onset of the nazi terror. (Abbreviated versions of his diaries are available online in English here.)

This is from April 1933 (the nazis came to power in January of that year):

Every speech of the Chancellor, the Ministers and Commissioners - and they speak every day - such a brew of the most open, clumsy lies. Hypocrisy, phrases, nonsense. And always the threatening, the triumphant and the empty promise.

 And here, in June 1933, he is referring to friends:
In the evening, after a very long break, Mrs and Mrs von R come to visit. She says she simply cannot cope with all this anxiety and wants to go somewhere where there are no newspapers. When she hears my outrage, she says she does not want to know what's really going on here.

Sounds familiar? In the first quote, replace "speak" with "tweet", if need be and as for the second quote, remember, this was in June 1933, just six months after hitler seized power - long, long before the real atrocities set in. Looking away always feels easier.


  1. Sitting here speechless. I know it's all true. I feel he is capable of horrific things in the name of nationalism. I see the evidence of it already. But it is also paralyzing....and anxiety inducing. He needs to be gone.

  2. we cannot look away much as we want to. sometimes we need to unplug for sanity, but we dare not do so for long. what is happening in our world is a mirror of that time, or as someone on TV said, not history repeating itself so much as it's sequel. We all need to write a new ending. Those young people at the voting place give me hope.

  3. There is nothing new under the sun, is there? And we never learn.

  4. How wonderful it was that those two young men on skateboards were so enthusiastic about voting. That made me so happy. All young people these days need to get out there with their excitement and vote like their lives depended on it. We are living in such nerve-wracking times. I’m so worried. There was an editorial in the NY Times yesterday that really shook me. Here’s a link to it: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/26/opinion/antisemitism-europe-germany.html

  5. Yup, there are those who say they're not interested in politics, as if it were an academic subject which one merely studied. Damn it, we're living it! Fintan O'Toole hilarious, brilliant and truthful at Hay Festival - Brexit from an Irish viewpoint. No doubt you kept up to date with our woes last Thursday, but then you've got other fish to fry. We are not - as so many foolishly believe - the centre of the universe. Is it OK to write nazis with a lower-case n? Of course it is.

    1. I will reserve the privilege of proper spelling and respectful upper case to people and organisations who/that earned it.

  6. So happy to hear there was"massive increase in turnout and in the votes for climate action." I want to be hopeful, too.