View Full Version : The Day the Holocaust Came to Manchester

Dan Dare
07-12-2006, 09:54 PM
This looks interesting. Howard Jacobson is a fine comic writer, I have a number of his books, and will probably buy this one as well.

I was born in Withington, a district in Manchester, and had no idea until reading this that its main thoroughfare was known as ‘Palestine Road’ not Palatine Road. Or that the adjacent suburb was ‘Yidsbury’, not Didsbury. You live and learn.

Incidentally, besides Dan Dare, Withington is noted for being the birthplace of Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis fame, as well as the home of Factory Records. Aficiandos may recall that one the last releases on the Factory label was the four-volume compilation set titled ‘Palatine’ now a much sought-after collector’s item.

But what really caught my attention here was the reference to two phenomena that had a dramatic impact on my formative years. The first was the newseel footage of the liberation of Belsen, which I was first exposed to at a similar age to Jacobson, although quite a number of years later. As I recall, they were included in an episode of the BBC series War in the Air, and those horrific images appearing quite unexpectantly shocked me rigid and gave me nightmares for weeks.

The second phenomenom was Lord Russell’s book “The Scourge of the Swastika”. Like Rosenthal I recall this being surreptiously passed around among school friends, who would take ghoulish delight in poring over the photographs not only of the victims of Nazi atrocities but also pictures of Third Reich leaders in their death throes or, like Goering, in repose. If memory serves, until relatively recently (say the 1980s) Russell’s book was probably one of the very few in general circulation that sought to depict the Holocaust, and it had a seminal influence on me as well as many others.

Howard Jacobson: The day the Holocaust came to Manchester

In his latest, darkly funny novel, Howard Jacobson pushes the reader into deeply uncomfortable areas. Tom Rosenthal meets him to discuss the roots of his humour and creativity

Published: 02 July 2006

Howard Jacobson and I know each other slightly, yet we almost grew up together; although the age gap of seven years is an aeon if you're still a child. But we both sprang from the Jewish areas of Manchester during and after the war, separated by a few miles which in those days was a vast voyage. He was brought up in Prestwich and Cheetham Hill, not in the Crumpsall so hilariously described in his new novel, Kalooki Nights. My home was in Withington, just off the Palatine Road - known as Palestine Road - and next door to Didsbury, known as Yidsbury. Political correctness was unknown and anti-Semitism was as robust in the north as it was in the south. When I was a child, there were as yet no particular reasons to suppress it. So you took the rough with the rough.

During those last years of the war, my father was with the Army in Egypt but, although money was scarce, my contemporaries and I lived relatively well off Hershey Bars donated by huge American soldiers stationed nearby and I earned enough small change from odd jobs to be able to go to the local cinema, the Scala in Withington, whenever I wanted. News of the war came from the Manchester Guardian and the scrupulously monitored BBC radio news - no TV then. And the Pathé or Gaumont British newsreels at the cinema.

I have devoted some 60 years to reading, I hope not obsessively but certainly attentively, about the Holocaust. Yet, aged 10, as the war was drawing to a close, I had not heard of the concentration camps. One sunny afternoon I was inside the Scala when the Pathé News came on and showed the first film footage of Belsen. Nothing I read since, by Primo Levi or any other camp survivor, affected me, then or ever after, like those shots of piled up corpses, of mounds of skulls and bones, of starved, shaven headed men and women, their sex indistinguishable in their ragged striped uniforms, only their huge staring eyes of normal size; none of that can ever be expunged from one's memory and seeing it as an unformed 10-year-old, without warning, in the welcoming place where one went to see Laurel and Hardy or Randolph Scott and Roy Rogers, established and then froze one's views of the Nazis forever.

In Jacobson's case, after reading and re-reading his novels, I see the formative influence of a book, The Scourge of the Swastika by Lord Russell of Liverpool, published in 1954 when Jacobson was 12. I have nothing but respect for Russell, a triple winner of the MC in World War I and an eminent military lawyer who worked on the post-World War II war crimes trials in Germany. He gave up his judicial office when the Lord Chancellor told him that publication of his book about Nazi atrocities was incompatible with his judicial role. It was not his fault that those with a sadistic interest in that sort of thing bought his book, and a parallel volume about Japanese atrocities The Knights of Bushido, in vast quantities or that the wretched Myra Hindley and Ian Brady had studied his books before they committed the Moors Murders.

Link … ( http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/books/features/article1150913.ece)

07-12-2006, 10:28 PM
I have devoted some 60 years to reading, I hope not obsessively but certainly attentively, about the Holocaust.

I have those two booklets of Lord Russell. I thought they were written in the 1940s, so silly are they. Some allied prisoners of war were kept in cities, and when the allied airforce murdered civilians they killed some of their own as well. Lord Russell considers not the bombing of axis civilians a warcrime, but the fact that allied prisoners were kept near the civilians that were bombed!

I shudder at the thought that Lord Russell had any say in the "judicial" proces against Germans or Japanese prisoners.