Thursday, 23 March 2023

Nazi Language

Artificial Intelligence, Robot, Ai

So, Gary Lineker caused a rumpus by saying: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?” (Twitter)

This is yet another issue that has polarised opinion. Some see Linker as an overpaid star who is out of touch with reality. Others see him as Still Mr Nice Guy.

As I started on this project, I was alarmed at the parallels I saw between what is happening now in the world, particularly in the UK government, and what happened in 1930s’ Germany. It’s perhaps all the more dangerous because it’s understated and not so obvious. But at least there haven’t been pictures of Boris Johnson in all classrooms and students haven’t been forced to worship him. Anyway, saying it is now exactly as it was then would be underestimating just how bad things were then.  

So, BBC journalists have to be impartial. It is good practice for them to argue against their own opinions. But there is actually no such thing as impartiality and we all show our bias no matter how neutral we try to be by what we choose not to say.

Lineker of course is not a journalist but a sports presenter.

And what of “evil happens when good people do nothing”? I’m with Lineker to some extent. Asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants.  Although the boat journeys are organised by criminal gangs, the migrants themselves are not criminals. We should be mindful too of the degree of desperation induces people to take this route? They shouldn’t be further punished for trying to escape an appalling situation.  

I’m perhaps more concerned at the continuous threats that seem to be being made to Human Rights.  The Declaration of Human Rights is simple and beautiful. It does allow us to deal with the anti-social. It needs no adjustment.   

I’m not sure that the language itself has been all that similar to what the Nazis used even if the urge to send migrants to Rwanda comes from an impulse similar to that which led to the death camps; people are worried about “Lebensraum”.  Whether we take fewer refugees than other European countries or not depends on how you configure the statistics.

The young German women I portray in these novels set in Nazi Germany are somewhat innocent. Two words appear time and time again: “duty” and “camaraderie”. These sound harmless enough and even quite virtuous.  We all know now that they had a more sinister meaning at that time.  It’s probably also important for us also to look now below the surface to see what is really going on.              

Friday, 24 February 2023


Demagogue, Populist, Autocrat, Dictator

We resisted Napoleon. It took a while. We resisted Hitler. It took a while. We are resisting Putin. It’s taking a while. And there are countless others.

Is there something that we can understand that makes these people the way they are? Or are they just complete psychopaths? Is that a mental illness?

Working on this project has enabled me to form an opinion about Hitler. This is just an opinion but it is reasonably well informed.

·         He was a frustrated artist.

·         He was bullied and abused by his step-father.

·         He saw himself as a  martyr when he was imprisoned though his contacts on the outside and the inside made sure his stay wasn’t too uncomfortable.  

·         He really believed in a master race and that he was destined to establish its supremacy.

·         He believed Germany was ill-treated after the outcome of the Great War.

·         He brought some hope and unity to a country that was suffering.

·         He was a figurehead behind whom a much deeper evil existed.

·         He wasn’t very bright.

·         There was a slight trace of Jewishness in him and he was afraid of that.

·         He was very good at making speeches and could incite mass hysteria.

·         His gentler side: he was a vegetarian and towards the end he would rather train his dogs than work on military strategy.

So, my impression of Putin:  

·         He’s more intelligent than Hitler.

·         He is a psychopath and a megalomaniac.

·         He has a belief that the Ukraine is the home of Russian history. He loves the Ukraine. Or this may just be the way he spins it.

·         He may be ill and therefore may want to make a point before he dies.  

I always felt uneasy about the war in Iraq and in fact I’m one of the writers who contributed to Lines in the Sand, the protest / charity book put together by writers who objected to the war. It was so disappointing as I’d been quite impressed with Blair’s government up until then. Double whammy: it was actually his government that stopped compulsory language learning in schools. Yet fast forward a few years and I overhear one of my academic colleagues arguing that it was a positive that we had rid ourselves of Saddam Hussein. Perhaps he was right. My concern anyway about the war in Iraq was how other countries condemned us for it and how the United Nations was divided. I was also worried about how it was harming civilians. That is always the problem with war.

“Hasn’t anybody got Putin yet?” I ask at regular intervals. I’m convinced that if someone did that would be the end of it. There is the fear though that others would just take over the cause.  Though if Hitler really did take his own life in the bunker there was little evidence that the powers behind him carried on after his death though who knows actually what is behind the new wave of fascism that’s on the rise in the world. And getting rid of Hussein did not lift all threats.

And if someone did get Putin what would we do with him?

I’m against capital punishment. We do not have the right to take another human life in peace time other than in self-defence. In any case, life-long imprisonment is more of a punishment though it costs the tax-payer more.

So, we carry on walking on egg-shells around Putin. He seems deranged enough to be too trigger happy with a certain red button. My mother-in-law always used to say that the nuclear threat wasn’t form the Soviet Union. The Cold war was taking care of that; it was if some crack-pot got hold of a nuclear weapon. Oh, the irony!

Monday, 6 February 2023

The Little Underground Theatre

Stage, Woman, Curtain, Silhuettes

Will that be the title of Schellberg 7?


This is the way my ground work on the story about the German resistance is taking me.

Imagine the place: it is the cellar of a bar in the artist’s quarter of Munich. It has the atmosphere of a speakeasy and is originally an underground jazz bar.  We have to remember that the Nazis hated jazz. It was considered degenerate. However, they did not ban it completely until on 17 January 1942 when public and private dance events were finally prohibited. 

Yet here it is underground. Every night there is a cabaret. Gradually that begins to include short satirical sketches that ridicule Hitler and his crew. By day there is no sign of the little theatre. And even when it is in full swing it can be evacuated in seconds.

Young people are gradually involved and that includes Gabriela’s niece, Anika, with a connection to Schellberg 1 and Schellberg 5.

Schwabing was and is the artists’ quarter in Munich. It did go a little quiet during the Nazi time but in this story there will still be something going on, thanks to Tante Gabriela. There are memorials now in Schwabing to the White Rose movement, which Gabriela will have an interest in and also to Georg Elser, who made a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler in the Bürgerkeller beer hall in 1939.  A light installation on Georg-Elser-Platz square is switched on every night at 9:20 p.m. to this day to commemorate the latter.

Is Gabriela’s theatre one that led to the Münchner Lach- und Schießgesellschaft (a political cabaret theatre founded by Sammy Drechsel and Dieter Hildebrandt in 1956)?

The Nazis banned works by certain playwrights but Shakespeare was allowed. Could Tante  Gabriela and Anika twist a Shakespeare play and use it as resistance?   


Sunday, 22 January 2023

Book 4 Out: Face to Face with the Führer


A gun, an anteroom, a Führer; will she shoot him?  

Käthe wants to be a scientist. She sees herself as more than a housewife and a mother. And she is in her own eyes definitely not Jewish.

Life in Nazi Germany sees it another way however. She has to give up a promising career and her national identity. She has to leave the home she has built up for her husband and daughter. But she is not afraid of challenges. She enlists the help of a respected professor to help her fulfil her ambition, she learns how to use a gun and how to drive a car. But what will she do when she finds herself fact to face with the Führer or, indeed, with the challenges of modern life?

Face to Face with the Führer is the fourth novel in the Schellberg cycle.

If you would like a review copy, please get in touch, otherwise you can find it here.    


Saturday, 7 January 2023

Would Jesus, Mary and Joseph have had to go to Rwanda?

Ship, Beach, Sea, Storm, Wave, Shipwreck

You don’t do it lightly, do you? You don’t abandon your home, spend your life savings on a trip where there are no guarantees and risk your life in an unsubstantial boat that struggles to keep afloat even in more clement weather. Then you arrive soaked and ill.  You’ve almost certainly see death on route and you are less than welcome.

Seeking asylum is not illegal yet you are treated like an illegal immigrant.

You don’t do it lightly. You come to another country whose language you can just about speak but it’s not easy.  They are friendly towards you because they believe that a tyrant has illegally and immorally invaded your country. You are considered to be a person who resembles your host. But it’s still not easy living in another person’s home. Nor is finding work or being apart from your extended  family or even from your closer family; many mothers and children have come from Ukraine without the family father.  And you watch the goodwill slowly ebb away.

You don’t do it lightly, do you? You take your newly born son and your wife, already tired from a long journey and giving birth while you are both overwhelmed by realising you and your family have fulfilled a prophecy, and you drag them off to another country where in the past your people have been slaves. An angel had warned you in a dream about the actions that a jealous king was about to take. After the shepherds and the wise men had been so kind and respectful and after the angels had appeared and rejoiced.

We forget when we celebrate Jesus’ birth that very soon afterwards many young children were killed because of him. The Coventry Carol isn’t a lullaby for the new born baby. It’s a lament for those about to lose their lives. Herod “in his raging, hath chargeth this day, his men of might, in his own sight, all young children to slay.”

Mary and Joseph were asylum seekers. They had good reason to ask for help: their son’s life was in danger.  Reason enough for any parents.  His special status made no difference.

If this had happened in 2023, and Jesus, Mary and Joseph had crossed the Channel to seek refuge in the UK, would we have sent them to Rwanda?        

Thursday, 15 December 2022

Invaders or refugees?

Ufos, Spaceships, Sci-FiMap Of The World, People, Group

Some people see it as an invasion: lots of desperate families crossing the sea in inadequate boats, people just like us fleeing a war zone or escaping a punishing regime.  

What would you want to happen if you were one of those people?

It’s worth remembering that those people don’t make those decisions lightly. It takes courage to leave your home. You have to take your head out of the sand and face the reality of what is happening. You give up a lot.  You have to be innovative and creative.

Interestingly, where there are a lot of migrants in a community, a lot of patents are granted. They bring new ideas. So maybe even the economic migrants should be welcomed. They all also bring some of their culture and we can learn from them.

As the Holocaust took hold we welcomed just 10,000 children into our country. 10,000 compared with the 6 million who were murdered. We would only accept children as there was a fear that there would be too much resentment if adults came and took up jobs in a world where there was mass unemployment and an economic depression.

I’m only realising now that my two groups of projects actually overlap. Both the Schellberg Cycle and the Peace Child series deal with otherness, xenophobia and getting beyond misunderstandings.

Significantly in the latest Peace Child novel, peace begins to stand a chance as Petri, the incumbent Peace Child, begins to see the apparent invaders as refugees. Their need is so great that they have come aggressively. The aggression is still not right and is not actually needed, but understanding why they need to take refuge on the planet Zandra and why they are so desperate that they have become aggressive is a step towards an eventual harmony.                   

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

How we get persuaded into war


War, Soldier, Rifle, Dark, Brave

Does anyone actually really want war? Maybe a few psychopath megalomaniacs do? We often hear the argument that if people refused to fight there would be no war. However, it’s not that simple.

We wouldn’t have expected the Ukrainians just to sit back and do nothing when Russia invaded, would we?

I once had an A-level German student who in his prepared talk for his oral exam argued that women shouldn’t be expected to fight. I played devil’s advocate and pointed out how mothers in the animal kingdom protect their young. So, yes they would fight.

Surely we need defence? And in order to have defence we need trained forces. These same forces can be useful in peace times too: for example, in the recent pandemic, when there are climatic catastrophes and when essential services strike or are overwhelmed.

The argument for being allowed to keep guns is that one has the right to defend one’s home and one’s family.

Sometimes we have to get involved. When Hitler marched into the Sudetenland he was given an ultimatum by our prime minster. We had to follow through with our threat.

We’ve been at war a couple of times in my life time and both times I’ve felt very uncomfortable. 

At the time of the Falklands we lived near a lot of naval families. They felt it all keenly. We knew some of the families of people who died.

The war in Iraq was so divisive.  The United Nations couldn’t agree about it. Many other nations disapproved of our involvement. Maybe it was a good thing that we got rid of Saddam Hussein. Can’t somebody do something similar to Putin? Though I’d like him to be taken alive and made to face up to what he’s done. Where were these weapons of mass destruction? And why did the best prime minister I’d ever known let me down so much? His government as well as taking us into the war abolished compulsory language learning for secondary school children. Language learning may even help to prevent some wars.

What motivates people to start wars? They feel that some injustice has been done even if it’s imagined? Germany did have a rough time after the Great War. Their aggression may be a reaction to this. Putin is looking for some idealised version of Russia. Thatcher was scared of losing some power.  Blair may well have been sincere in his belief in the existence of those terrible weapons and how Hussein might have used them.

And what of weapons of war anyway? They can be atrocious. Look at the gas in the Great War and the Doodlebugs and V2s that Germany invented in World War II. What we did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki was appalling. What’s up next? Even more sophisticated nuclear weapons? Biological weapons? Cyber-attacks?      

What about the men and women who are drawn into the fight? Many volunteered for the Great War out of sense of honour and also because it offered employment. By the time of World War II people were seeing thing more clearly. Conscription was a necessary evil. Now we see war a little differently. Even the professional military would rather be rescuing families from floods and delivering food parcels than dropping bombs. Yet they have the training and it kicks in when they’re in confrontational situations.

It saddens me when one looks at the history of wars that it’s always decisions of politicians, dictators, and world leaders, often older white males, (many argue that Thatcher always behaved like a man) that send younger people to war.

“Make love not war,” was the cry of the woke-Boomer-hippies. This was probably mainly in response to Vietnam. Yet it is too great a love for something, clinging on to a past that we can no longer have, that sometimes provokes those very wars we believe to be the opposite of love.