Dark Days Ahead
I give you the future of South Africa
Whenever I look at the charred ruin of what a few weeks ago was our home, and see on my bed when I close my eyes the flames that engulfed everything we owned, I can not help thinking of the flames that, to the nationalists of Germany, were the final solution to the Jewish question sixty years ago.
My wife’s grandfather, Landale Train, used to tell us of when, as a South African prisoner of war next to Dachau concentration camp, he used to smell the sweet sickly smoke of the burning Jews from the crematorium incinerators. The very word, “holocaust,” comes, I understand, from the Hebrew word “olah” which when translated to the Greek is holokausten. It means “a burnt offering to the Lord.”
Gradually, terribly, the German National Socialists had been working towards the final solution of the Jewish question for over two decades. It culminated in the grand titled, “Kristallnacht,” where thousands of Jewish homes and synagogues and businesses were burnt down in November 1938. The SS wrote at the time: “we no longer hear the world screaming…we shall take the Jewish question to its final solution. It is total elimination…” All police stations were told beforehand in a directive from the Gestapo chief that: “actions against Jews and especially their synagogues will take place in all Germany. These are not to be interfered with.” The burning began and the victims of destruction were arrested. In the next few days 30,000 people were sent to Dachau and other camps. The concentration camps had begun. Landale smelt the smoke of their final annihilation a few years later from Stalag 4.
Living in Zimbabwe, I can not help feeling that a NAZI nationalist type agenda lives on in the hearts of some of the African leaders today. Just as racism was the central and pervasive theme of NAZI ideology, so it is under Mugabe in our time. Propaganda has to portray a simple message to a mass audience. Just as the nationalist agenda in Germany taught people to hate other people that are not the same, so the nationalist agenda in Zimbabwe mirrors this aim. The message being spun to the party adherents is that all Zimbabwe’s problems are related to the white man. Mugabe calls the white men “criminals” just as Hitler called the Jews “criminals.” The NAZI party talked of their rise to power and the sorting out of the Jewish question as the beginning of a German “renaissance.” Echoes of the German “renaissance” live on in the “African renaissance” where white men can not be called “Africans” by the black nationalist leaders because of their pigmentation. They can not belong.
The white population, which at its height numbered 270,000 in Zimbabwe, has been in a state of exodus ever since the black nationalist racist policies began here. It has now been whittled down to perhaps 20,000. The relentless purge of white farmers in Zimbabwe which continues, has seen ninety percent of farmers being forcibly and illegally evicted over the last 7 years. We have left our homes and livelihoods without compensation, through a persecution process that has left some of my friends dead and others severely debilitated or traumatised. Most of our homes and other property has been ruined or burnt. Further, the invasions have resulted in over a million farm workers losing their homes and livelihoods too.
We live in a country where a desert stares out through the furtive eyes of so many of our soul scorched compatriots. Anne Frank wrote in her diary a little before she was captured in her attic and taken away and burnt at the age of 15: “that’s the difficulty in these times: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered…”
After they burnt our house my nine year old son Joshua, who saw the only home he had ever known consumed before his eyes asked me: “is water stronger than fire; or is fire stronger than water?”
I thought a bit and I said to him: “fire is very strong and consumes everything if water isn’t available to quench it – but if there is water, fires are extinguished and fire is weaker.”
Unfortunately, at out home, we did not have water because the thugs that have been persecuting us, had stolen our tractors and water carts and other fire fighting equipment; and so they laughed while our home burnt because they knew that the fire would burn everything we had.
There is a metaphor there. The nationalist fire that burns Zimbabwe with racial hatred burns on so strongly because nobody has cared enough or been brave enough to pour enough water on it and to put it out. So it was in Germany. Indifference served the NAZI cause. The small acts of complicity allowed the arrogance and cruelty of power to consume the Jews and ultimately destroy Germany. All of us have memories of times we should have done something and didn’t.
In Germany not one of the 1.4 million workers on the railways that transported people to their deaths is known to have protested or resigned. At the Wannasee conference where the “final solution” was agreed in January 1942 there was no voice of opposition despite the fact that half the delegates were intelligent and educated people with doctorates from German universities.
Have the Western “civilised” nations learned anything from the holocaust? If such racist practices were to take place against minority groups in Western nations today in a climate of fear, would there be an outcry? Or would it be easier to allow it all to take place again? In Africa, despite an African International Court – the SADC Tribunal – ruling that the confiscation process of our home and farm is racist and illegal, nobody in the western nations halls of power appears to be willing to lift a finger to stop the rule of law and human rights breakdown. The money rather goes to treat the symptoms. Zimbabwe is now the most food aid dependant country on earth. We also have the lowest life expectancy on earth; and the madness is just allowed to go on by the rest of the world. More than that, yesterday I heard that our local police officer in charge, Chief Inspector Manika, who has allowed the brutalisation of our workers and destruction and burning of our property, has been sent on a peace keeping mission with the United Nations to Liberia!
When my parents-in-laws house was burnt on the farm, two days after our own, the fire consumed a battered wallet that had been from Landale. In it there was a treasured photograph of my mother-in-law as a little child with “Stalag 4” stamped on the back. It survived that holocaust of the 1940s and was carried with Landale till the day he died. It came to Angela recently. Last month, in Zimbabwe’s version of the holocaust, it went up as the smoke of black nationalist incense – an offering to their “Lord.” The solution to the black nationalists white problem was in hand.
The German writer, Von Weizacker wrote for his people after the holocaust: “whoever closes his eyes to the past becomes blind to the present. Whoever does not wish to remember inhumanity becomes susceptible to the dangers of new infestation.” It is sad that the most of the Western leaders of today have such short memories.
Friday, November 20, 2009