Strong title, but I’ll explain.
We have to take ourselves back to 20th April, 1889. Does the date ring any bells? That’s Hitler’s birthday, which makes him an Aries. Apparently an Aries is courageous, determined, confident, enthusiastic, optimistic, honest, passionate, short-tempered, aggressive, moody and likes taking on leadership roles. I’m not much for star signs and all that, but this rings true doesn’t it? Anyway, during Hitler’s well-documented life, he became pretty prejudiced against a particular religion and the people who identified with it (ring bells – anti-islamic people anyone?). However, Hitler’s prejudice was against Jewish people. Hitler’s motivations for being so prejudiced against Jewish people are complex and well-documented. Historian Timothy Snyder argues that it wasn’t just about German nationalism, but the world.
“Hitler saw the Jews as an ecological or planetary threat—that they were truly existentially damaging the planet with their ideas and their attempts to invert the natural order. … They were “un-nature.””
This doesn’t wholly different from the attitude that I’ve heard come out of people that I know here in the UK in 2016. Scary.
Anyway, Hitler was really prejudiced about Jewish people whether they were in Germany, Russia, Poland, the UK or anywhere else. It could also be argued that he didn’t really see them as people, also explained by Snyder in the article linked above.
Anyway, you all know the story, right? Hitler failed as an artist, joined the DAP which shortly became the NSDAP and gave regular speeches in beer halls and attracted large crowds to listen to him blaming scapegoats for their economic hardships.
“We erupted into a frenzy of nationalistic pride that bordered on hysteria.” – Alfrons Heck, a member of the Hitler Youth, about the popular speeches Hitler gave in the beer halls.
After this, a lot of stuff happened including him trying to overthrow the government, going to prison, leaving prison, becoming a candidate for presidency, becoming chancellor of Germany and transforming his government into a de facto legal dictatorship. Lovely, what could possibly go wrong?
Hitler really didn’t like the Jews and we all know that he was pretty angry about the reparations that Germany was still paying. Well, Hitler’s first six years as president resulted in the swift economic recovery from the Great Depression, the effective renouncement of constraints imposed on Germany after WWI, and the takeover of areas that were home to millions of ethnic Germans – actions which gave him great support from the German public. So this guy was not seen as a bigoted oppressor, but as an inspiring leader who was truly making Germany great again.
Of course though, he had his critics. Some people saw him for what we now know him to be. There is a quote from Liselotte Hubner, translated by Sebastian Mueller-Soppart, which although the wording might be difficult to get correct, her ideas about Hitler during his popular reign was clear.
“My fellow citizens, the rise of this blusterous man bewilders the educated among us, conjoins opposing politicians, agonises our international allies, threatens minorities, spits on the disabled, and touches the hearts of those who just don’t know any better. Let us stop propounding how mad this all is, but instead, do something.”
Hitler, a far right-wing man, had a lot of resistance from left-wing political parties (which he eventually banned), an anti-fascist group, some churches and priests, the “unorganised resistance” (many of whom gave refuge to Jewish people), a network within the governance (the army, Foreign Office and the German intelligence agency) and notably informal networks of youths who refused to join the Hitler Youth and went against the cultural policies of the Nazis in varying ways. So, we know that there were people who opposed Hitler and they are now remembered favourably and even recognised for their resistance. People often say “well what were the German people doing when Hitler was around? Didn’t they try and resist him?” and I think that we can agree that most people seemed in favour of him, or at least tolerated him and didn’t see how truly dangerous he was as president with his prejudiced views.
Keep reading, I’m getting there.
So, in 50 years or 100 years, do you think that people will look back at the refugee crisis and remember favourably those people who said “go back to your own country!”, “they are only coming here for our benefits, why can’t they go to other countries?” or “all these bloody Refugees seem to be men, there aren’t many women and children are there? They should go home and fight!”?
Probably not no. It’s not brave or compassionate to be ignorant and not understand the situations of some of the most desperate people in the world. The Jews needed help, and some people gave it to them, not enough people helped, but some did and they are rightly remembered for it. The refugees need help, and some people are giving it, but again, not enough. I’m not saying you should drive to Calais and hand out biscuits (but if you want to, go ahead), I’m saying we should try to be supportive of these people who are in a terrible situation.
Imagine being a German parent 15 years after the holocaust and having your children ask what you did to help the poor Jewish people who were being oppressed and killed, and you say have to either lie or say “I did nothing”. You didn’t kill anyone, you didn’t support Hitler, but you didn’t dissent or try and save anybody. I understand how dangerous this situation was, if you disagreed with Hitler or helped Jews, you were liable to face the consequences yourself too. I fully understand why people did nothing, but if it was me, I would still feel bad.
But look now at our situation in 2016 – we don’t face prosecution or death for giving refugees positive support. We can support humanity and help everyone to live a good life, without the fear of prison for doing so. What do we have to lose? People are fleeing bombs, famine and prosecution. No one flees their country without having a damn good reason. I know there are a lot of people who think that people leave their countries and make the perilous journey mainly because they want to claim benefits, but the facts show that to be untrue. We can quote case studies all we want – there are economic migrants and I’m not going to go into that. But the drivers of displacement (bombs, death, oppression) are much more likely to make someone flee their country than the pull of benefits. You notice that so many of the refugees have mobile phones, suitcases, clothes, tents – they’re not generally people fleeing poverty, because they’re fleeing something much more dangerous than poverty. Years ago, before they fled, they could have been lawyers, managers, shop owners, receptionists, but now they’re living somewhere much safer than where they came from, even if that is in a tent in a makeshift camp in Calais. Not ideal, not clean, not living the dream, but safe. But can’t we give more than that? Can’t we give support instead of reading The Sun and believing it’s lies (which it has to keep apologising for but the apologies never get heard by everyone)?
The UK has notably recently allowed in some child refugees from Calais. This has been met with mixed reactions. As mentioned above, The Sun stoked even more prejudice and hatred towards refugees by publishing a photo of a “child refugee” and saying that he looked about 40 years old and had crows feet.
We have seen no evidence to support that this is a child refugee, but many people have taken it and ran with it, desperate to find something to demonise the child refugees who have been allowed in to the UK, to create more hate, stigma and prejudice. There are loud calls for dental checking all child refugees to make sure they are under 18. These are children who have seen things that I hope the British public never has to. They are children who will never be able to fully articulate what they went through. They are not only fleeing bombs, war, oppression etc. but they have also lived for months in a very unsanitary refugee camp in Calais, before, by sheer luck, being picked to go to the UK and going through the care system. But once they get here, it seems that they are being met with hate, prejudice and disgust.
“Unless someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get
better, it’s not.”
Ok, so how can you support refugees without driving to Calais and handing out food?
- Don’t make comments such as “go back to your own country” to other people, on Facebook, on Twitter, or anywhere else you voice your views.
- Give support to the refugees by voicing your positive, supportive message to other people, on Facebook, on twitter, or anywhere else you voice your views.
- Sign petitions to support refugees getting a better quality of life on sites such as Change.org and the UK Petitions website (if you are from the UK).
- Watch this video on the refugee crisis and why it is happening
- Read up (or watch the videos – click on the links) on the situation in the countries the refugees are fleeing (Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Nigeria)
- Look at how the Help Refugees organisation curently needs support.
- Look at how Refugee Action currently needs support.
- If you have time to give, volunteer your time with the Red Cross, Refugee Action, the International Rescue Committee or one of the many other organisations who have calls for volunteers accross the UK (just search “volunteer with Refugees in Bradford” or wherever you live).
- Support Solidarity With Refugees to advocate for policy changes to allow all people to live in safety with dignity.
- Join the Calais – People to People Solidarity Facebook Page to see what help/donations they need and your nearest drop-off point.
- Support the #MigrantsContribute campaign, which promotes the cultural, economic, and political contributions that migrants make to society.
- Donate an old car for scrap to Refugee Action
- Donate a percentage of your eBay sales to Refugee Action using the PayPal Giving Fund.
- Give money, or fundraise to donate money, to Médecins Sans Frontières, Migrant Offshore Aid Station, Aylan Kurdi Fund, Refugee Council, Save the Children, British Red Cross, Islamic Relief or UNHCR.
Thank you for taking the time to read this – maybe you learnt something, maybe you didn’t. If you didn’t think anything other than “what other rubbish” then that’s also fine! I’m not here to have arguments or anything like that, just to provoke a different train of thought.
Now go and have a great day!