Today is one of the days that I think about my Dad quite a lot. He was a WWII bomber pilot, flew 40 missions, was shot down over Bucharest in Rumania, held prisoner of war, escaped, returned to the UK, lived a full and successful life and passed away aged 69 in 1987.
My father was an avowed anti fascist. As kids, we were not allowed to go on holiday to Spain as he detested the fascist regime of General Franco. I was only 24 when he passed away, but we had several very deep conversations about fascism, racism and human decency. He was a committed Roman Catholic and deeply believed that fascism and Nazi ideologies were deeply anti Christian. He held that anyone who subscribed to these beliefs was a complete hypocrite. He would quote the parable of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans were despised by the audience Jesus was addressing, as outsiders and infidels. He said the whole point was that no one should be judged by colour or creed.
A couple of months after he died, I was in the Three Hammers pub, when I was approached by an elderly Jewish chap, who I recognised as one of my fathers customers. I used to wash and valet cars and make tea for my father's business in the school holidays for pocket money. This guy was a regular. My father would always indulge in what can only be described as pretty grown up banter, which involved some pretty offensive stereotyping of both my father's Australian heritage and the chaps Jewish heritage, especially over the payment of bills. What was clear was that they both had huge respect for each other and were friends, but were happy to exchange insults. At the time I didn't understand their relationship at all.
When this chap approached me, he looked very upset and said "I just wanted to pass on your condolences, your Father was the finest man I knew". He then said he wanted to buy me a pint. When we sat down, he started to explain why he held my father in such high esteem. He told me that if it wasn't for men like my father, men prepared to put their lives at risk, he'd have gone to a gas chamber, his wife would have gone to the gas chamber, his two lovely daughters would have gone to the gas chamber and his grandchildren would never have existed. He said that as my Dad had bombed the Axis war effort, he was eternally grateful. He then told me a story that my father had never mentioned.
It turned out that the guy was involved in the 60's and 70's in a Jewish group that ruggedly opposed fascists. He was a bit of a hardnut when he was younger. I am not sure if he was involved in the '62 group as shown in the recent Ridley Road drama, but it wouldn't surprise me at all. He told me that he needed transport for some of the guys involved to get to an 'engagement' with some fascists. They knew that the Police were keeping an eye on them, so they didn't want to use their own cars. He nipped down to see my Dad and asked if he could borrow his work van to move some furniture. My Dad was a generous soul and said "Sure, just top it up with some petrol". My Dad thought no more of this, until a couple of days later. A police officer turned up and demanded to know his whereabouts on the previous Saturday My Dad was quite perplexed. He told them that he'd been at The Sacred Heart Church Xmas bazaar running the raffle. The officer said "Can anyone verify this?". My Dad said "About 200 people, I do it every year". The officer then asked "Can you explain why your van was used in a crime in the East End of London at the time?". My Dad enquired. Apparently a National Front 'get together' was disrupted by some 'Zionist thugs' and the perpetrators were seen leaving in his van. My Dad was shocked. He could offer no explanation, although occasionally his employees borrowed it if they were moving furniture. My Dad assured the officer that none of his workmen were Jewish, so it seemed highly unlikely. He asked if the Police had considered whether the van had dodgy number plates.
With this the police departed. A couple of days later, my Dad bumped into his mate. My Dad explained that the police had visited him. My Dad asked why he'd not told him the real purpose. The chap explained that it was better that my Dad didn't know and he was sorry that he'd had trouble. My Dad replied that it was a shame that he'd not told him, as he'd loved to have bought the guys a pint. He said "You can borrow it any time you like".
My Father said he'd seen the carnage first hand that Fascism and Nazism had caused. In 1944 he'd been stationed in Foggia in Italy, he'd bombed sites in Germany, Yugoslavia, Rumania and Italy. He'd seen half his squadron lose their lives. As a POW he'd buried his best friend, F/O Andrew Murphy, who was the tail gunner on his Wellington bomber. He'd attended his funeral as a guest of the Rumanian airforce, also paying respects to their fallen colleagues. He'd seen the devastation of Bucharest, which he'd bombed and the Germans bombed when Rumanian changed sides and supported the Allies.
|My Father in Italy in 1944|
All of this happened because people allowed a corrosive ideology to take hold. These ideologies destroyed the nations that adopted them. Germany was divided for nearly 50 years, Italy was invaded and many ancient sites destroyed. Families were torn apart. Even in countries such as Spain, that did not participate in WWII, the countries were ripped apart by civil wars and then stagnated under corrupt and repressive regimes. The ideology of Fascism is one that is clearly one that attracts those who have lost out in society. Rather than trying to pull the marginalised up, it seeks to put the boot into those who are easy targets. In the 1930's this was the Jewish population of Germany. In the 1960's and 70's British Fascists started to attack Asians, Blacks and the Jewish population. Now it is generic Asylum Seekers, Eastern Europeans, gypsies and the EU. There is clearly problems in the UK, where we have not built enough social housing, whilst bulldozing any available plot of land for luxury flats. The fascist ideologues do not put the blame where it is due, with the ineffective politicians who have failed to properly plan for any of their decisions. They blame the poor, marginalised people who have nowhere else to live, for having the audacity to simply want to live in peace.
Germany killed six million Jews as a result of their atrocious racist policies. What did this achieve? The vast majority of those murdered were not the 'wealthy bankers and financiers' the Nazi's railed against. It was the poor people who didn't have the money to escape. They were simply scapegoats for a policy of hate, where it is never the fault of those in power. Even by their own standards, they were a failure. When it comes down to it, it's always the poor and marginalised who bear the brunt of repression. Their policies resulted in a huge instance of 'anti Darwinian' evolution. The strongest and most able soldiers were mown down in Eastern Europe's killing fields. Their best pilots were wiped out by Allied Air superiority. The wealthy and well to do City dwellers were incinerated in Dresden and other cities carpet bombed by the Allies, long after it was clear to all that Germany had lost the war.
The German generals and the Nazi Hierarchy were too cowardly and too incompetent to tell Hitler that the war was lost and that they had to sue for peace in September 1944. They let him launch the disastrous Battle of the Bulge, which lost what scant resources they had left and meant that they had no means to slow down the Russian advance on Berlin. I've heard Nazi apologists claim that they had better technology. This is nonsense, the Allies were light years ahead in any technology that mattered, such as Radar, manufacturing and atomic weapons. Whilst the Nazi's were wasting huge resources on V1 and V2 weapons, which had no strategic value, the allies built heavy bombers, transport planes, trucks, boats and bombs in vast numbers. In short, the Axis had a bunch of incompetents, obsessed with vanity projects fig
|My parents at the VE day celebrations|
hting against a huge machine that was dedicated to producing what was needed to win.
The Germans finest general Erwin Rommel realised the game was up and paid the price for speaking the truth with his life. Hitler was a loser on a scale never seen before or since. And for what? So that he could have murdered my Dad's mate, his wife and his kid? People who lived a quiet life, contributing to the community in Mill Hill and Edgware. I'm proud of the efforts my Dad made in the RAF to oppose this. I'm just as proud that he lent his van to his mate, so a few idiots who wanted to start the whole corrosive Nazi project again got a good duffing up. My only regret was that at the time I wasn't a blogger, so I didn't record the whole story properly.