Saturday, 2 September 2023

Asylum Seekers, Illegal Immigrants and the Value of Migrants


There was a fear as well at the time of the Kindertransport that if we gave asylum to a lot of Jews there would be a backlash from the people who were suffering because of the Depression. So, it was decided that only children would be invited. Even that wasn’t an easy decision. If you go to the Wiener Holocaust Museum in London you can read the minutes of the meetings that were held about it. If you do, you may wonder how it ever happened at all. And we should remember it was a mere 10,000 we saved. In fact, not even quite that many.   

These children were asylum seekers, not illegal immigrants. Far from it; they had to be sponsors and £50 (the equivalent of £3000 today) had to be found in order for them to get a place here.

How does this compare with people who cross the sea on unseaworthy boats? Are they illegal immigrants? Surely they’re not until they have been proved to be such. Asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants. If people are refused asylum and don’t go home, then they are illegal immigrants.

I remain rather astounded that two government ministers associated with this debate have a migrant background. Would their families have been allowed in the UK under the regimes that they’re trying to create? I find that bizarre.

So, it’s a problem, though, we’re getting overcrowded. Are we? Didn’t a lot of EU nationals go home? Don’t we have a skills shortage? Aren’t there a lot of empty homes? Immigrants aren’t causing a housing shortage or homelessness. These are caused by a lack of political well and inept administrative systems.    

When I broke my arm badly, the person who put on the second plaster was very concerns about the number of immigrants, in their opinion, taking up hospital beds and making waiting lists longer. They were so upset about it all that they pulled my cast too tight and it had to be adjusted in the middle of the night. Now, let me see. I was treated by three people form the Commonwealth, two EU nurses and just one Welsh nurse though we may do well to note that NHS England and NHS  Wales are two separate entities and the former had to pay the latter for my treatment. All of the patients on the ward with me were British nationals, white and middle aged or old. Our EU migrants in fact paid more in taxes that they cost us.

I recently read a study that stated that where there were large numbers of migrants there were also large numbers of patents In other words migrants are more creative than static populations. Is it because they are more creative and daring that they decide to take the risk? Or does taking that risk help them to become more creative and daring? Whichever is true, surely they are an asset?

Ouistreham in Brittany is plagued with economic migrants who are simply seeking a better life in northern Europe. They are not chased by war or famine. But even they may be of value.

In a way the unseaworthy boats help us to understand exactly how desperate these people are. They would rather risk that than stay where they are.  

I’ve read some arguments in the last few days that many of these people are simply economic migrants. They are therefore illegal immigrants.  But surely, until their case has been heard they are asylum seekers.       


Monday, 14 August 2023



Lebensborn: literally “spring of life”.  

I have written a little about this elsewhere but have been reminded of it again after watching World on Fire on BBC 1. The story is all a little disjointed especially about Lebensborn but I was glad to have remembered it.  

I’m not intending to write a book about it as part of the Schellberg cycle but I may well write one at a later date in my historical fiction series.  It will be a while; after Schellberg 7 I have three books planned set in a slightly earlier era.

Lebensborn was established on 12 December 1935.  It looked at first like an innocent organisation that cared for unmarried mothers. Heinrich Himmler was in charge. Medical Director Gregor Ebener oversaw 3000 births at the Steinhoering home.  He was a close friend of Himmler’s. But already it becomes more sinister; he also carried out reproduction experiments on many women. The doctors at the home not only cared for the women and babies but also had to carry on with Nazi propaganda. Fourteen homes were established in Germany and Austria.      

You can see a brochure for the Lebensbron programme here:

The Lebesnborn children were extremely healthy. The homes contained fantastic facilities for mothers and babies.  The regime looked after them well but after the war the mothers and children were often ostracised.  

There was a decline in the population after the Great War. Marriage prospects for German women once World War II had started were slim. Lebensbron offered an opportunity for maternity. Unmarried mothers could seek sanctuary at a home. Hitler declared that “it shall be forbidden to despise a child born out of wedlock”.  As well, Hitler expected every family to produce four children. German girls were prepared for motherhood in some of their BDM activities. We may marvel that Hitler did not marry – expect just before he committed suicide in the bunker - or produce children. Was he afraid of his own impurity? There was some history of mental illness in his family. There are rumours also that
he was impotent and had some Jewish ancestry.  

For a young woman to be admitted to a Lebensbron home her racial purity had to go back at least three generations. If the mother didn’t want to bring up the child it would be adopted or more precisely given to a “caretaker”. The homes were attractive but not all that easy to get into; only about 40% of the women who applied got a place there.

The Nuremberg trials later found out that many children were kidnapped between 1939 and 1945 if they had the right Aryan qualities  

This eventually became part of the Nazi programme about furthering the Master race.  It involved matching good Aryan girls with smart German officers. We may raise our eyebrows at Margret Attwood’s Gilead but this is just as horrific, if not more so. Every German soldier was encouraged to father a child before going to war.   

An unpleasant side effect of this programme was the increase in the occurrences of venereal disease.

There was also a problem of what to do with these children at the end of the war.  Homes had been established in other countries.  In Norway for example, they decided to carry on caring for the children. This led to a lot of resentment amongst the ordinary population that was still trying to recover from the war. 12,000 Lebensborn children were born in Norway compared with 8000 in Germany.  Anni-Frid Lyngstad, member of ABBA, is a Lebensborn child. She and her mother and grandmother moved to Sweden, where her mother died of kidney failure.  She was raised by her grandmother.   In 2018 Prime Minister Erna Solberg offered an apology to the mothers and children for the way they had been treated.    

Mothers who chose to keep their child also chose not to tell them the truth about their birth and made ups stories about a father that had left them or who died in the war.  

Sunday, 16 July 2023

Launch of Face to Face with the Führer


We’ve actually had two launches of this book. One was held on-line and was about the book itself. The other was held at The Met at Bury, in the Stanley Bar, and was more to do with the whole cycle.

You can watch the video here of the online launch. 

Some interesting points came up at both meetings.

At the Face to Face with the Führer I was able to explain how the whole project started. I also discussed how I actually discovered some facts by writing about them.  

We talked too about how by fictionalising true stories we bring them to life.

What would the consequences have been if Käthe had shot Hitler? And yes, I confirmed that this incident had really happened.   

We discussed Käthe’s personality. She‘s a feisty woman, a feminist.   

At the meeting about the Schellberg cycle (24 May 2023) we chatted for a while as people arrived and then I gave a presentation about the cycle. I started off by showing everyone a photo of the house. Interestingly I’ve only seen a phot myself recently and surprisingly it was just exactly as I imagined.

I explained what a Stolperstein is and why there was one in front of Clara’s house. 


I explained how the letters have two main themes: duty and camaraderie. In many ways the letters are quite bland and careful. Is this because their former teacher was joining in? Or was it indeed because she warned them to be careful?

      I pointed out that it raised some questions: How did a school for the disabled manage to resist the Nazi regime?

      What was it like being a young girl / woman in Nazi Germany?

      Why was the propaganda so successful?

      How could a German father work on the V2 bomb when his wife and child were living in London?  

We looked at pictures of BDM uniforms, a BDM magazine and the demonstration of how the 1935 Nuremberg race laws defined a Jew.  




We looked at a picture of Clara, the memorial to how she was transported to Theresienstadt and how her final transport note gave her true name back.

I finished by concluding that the Schellberg story do far is a story about three feisty women:

      Renate 13-22  1938-1947 

      Kathe - her mother

      Clara - her grandmother

Question: Were they victims or survivors?    

There was time also for a few questions and to chat some more.

I had the book on offer: £10 for one, £15 for two, £18.00 for three and £20.00 for four.  There are still some left and they are still on offer while stocks last.  Find out how to order here.   


Tuesday, 9 May 2023

What is this cycle, actually?


Redo, Restart, Retry, Arrows, Green


Well, Book Four is well and truly out now. I took along three copies to my German conversation group this morning. All three were taken up.  Hopefully they’ll like it.

“Do you need to read Book One first?” asked one of my friends.  

You absolutely don’t.  That’s why it’s a cycle. You can read the books in any order.

There is some overlap but even where that happens the story is being told form a different point of view.

The point of view in Face to Face with the Führer is that of Käthe Edler, mother of the main character in The House on Schellberg Street and daughter of the main character in Clara’s Story. All three are based on real people but there is a lot of fiction here.

Or might we call it educated guesses.

It may come down to the fundamental questions about how did that school for the disabled survive in Stuttgart? Some of it must be down to Clara and Käthe for being wonderful feisty women. Renate, from The House on Schellberg Street, was mainly absent from Schellberg Street but her influence was surely on two other feisty women; her friend Hani  and  Hani’s mother.  

Books Five and Six are also written but not yet published. Book Seven, the final book, is just in my head.

Fiction in this case becomes a way of exploring what might have happened. It can help to fill the gaps in our knowledge. In fact I would say it helps us establish what probably did happen. I wondered about how Renate’s father could have worked on the V2 bomb whilst his daughter and wife were in England.  I worked out that he would have probably dragged his feet. A few weeks after I’d written that I read that the German engineers working on the V2 found it so horrific that they delayed its use as long as possible.   

Yes, fiction can be extraordinary in how it digs out the truth.    

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.