Thursday 26 October 2023

The Case for War – or not


We debated this today in my Creative Writing group. One of our members had written an ode in response to John McRae’s In Flanders Fields. This poem is really a battle cry – exhorting others to join up and avenge the dead.

“Is there not another way?” asked our poet.

What if every person refused to go to war? There are a couple for problems with this. Firstly you need a blanket refusal and that’s unlikely to happen. Secondly what exactly do you do when someone invades your country? If you have a problem imagining that, what would you do if someone invades your home or tried to take your property? Isn’t the latter what justifies fire-arms to many Americans?

I’ve always thought anyway that it’s older upper class people (usually white males but not always – remember Thatcher?) who send young people out to war.

The Great War had a flimsy start but then the men on all sides flocked to do their duty for King or Emperor and country.  By World War II we had become wiser. It was more a case of needs must.   

“Why can’t somebody just go and get Putin?” another member of the group says. My sentiments exactly. Yet it’s proving to be very difficult; he’s elusive and Russia has a big land mass. Look as well at how many attempts were made on Hitler’s life. They failed.

How does Hitler compare, anyway? To me, he seems to have been mainly a figurehead. Although he joined in the evil, he wasn’t necessarily the main driver. And he was very good at public speaking.

What of the latest conflict? The Gaza strip has ever been problematic. The Palestinians and the Israelis find themselves in a curious position anyway. It was only right that room should be made for Jews in Israel. Never again should anything happens to them as happened in the Holocaust. Yet the Palestinians are losing tier territory .Nothing seems fair either way.

However Hamas is not the way. And neither is excessive aggression by Israel.

What if we had no borders?  Was Brexit a retrograde step?

I’ve just finished reading a book in which a blue fox wanders over 2000 miles in seventy-six days. No border official tries to stop her. Yet they do have to stop the mother and daughter who are tracking the fox’s progress; they don’t have the correct visas.

Everywhere we are asking to devolution and for the people to take care of their own affairs. Can you have devolution and open borders at the same time?

It’s all so complex. Maybe we just need to listen to one another a little more carefully.            

Saturday 7 October 2023



When I was student in Stuttgart, I had a room in a house owned by a couple of elderly sisters. I explained my connection to Stuttgart. This town had been recommended to me by my boyfriend’s mother and grandmother. I explained how Renate Edler, who later became my mother-in-law, had never known she was Jewish and had loved Stuttgart.  Her grandmother lived there and was involved with a school that Renate would have very much liked to attend: the Waldorf School.

“Oh, what was the family name of the grandmother?” asked one of the sisters.

“Lehrs,” I said.

“Oh, Haus Lehrs. That is such an important place for us.”

It was only thirty-seven years later that I would really understand what she meant.

I gradually unpicked Renate’s story. I remembered what she told us about a school that the Nazis had tried to obliterate and how the “Dad’s Army” equivalent had refused to cooperate, then the Hitler Youth had also refused and it was left to the BDM, the girls’ equivalent of the Hitler Youth, who finally did set fire to the place but got the children out first.

That school must surely be the one that took place in Clara Lehrs’ house.

I became more and more interested in Clara. My first internet search brought me to the Stolperstein site:

A Stolperstein is 10 cm concert cube in which a brass plate is embedded, showing the name and dates of Nazi persecution or extermination. The word literally means “stumbling stone”. You are meant to “stumble” over it and stop and think.  Metaphorically it portrays a stumbling block for humanity.

The first Stolperstein in London was laid on 30 May 2022.

On a trip to Rome in 2019, my group came across one as the owner of the house was just returning home and they were able to give us the full story.

Over 70,000 stones have been laid to date. Stuttgart and suburbs have over 1000.

I was invited to go and talk about my books in 2020. As you can imagine that didn’t happen.  Just this week I have been contacted again. I’m anticipating a visit there sometime soon.