Review: ‘Torn From Home’ for Holocaust Memorial Day at the University of Suffolk 25th January

Rwanda, 1994. Evariste Kanamugire was a child when he came home to be met by a neighbour. ‘You must leave now.’ All of his family had been massacred. Telling  this story on Holocaust Memorial Day, Evariste paused as he struggled to keep his composure. The trauma of his story and his quiet determination to tell it, especially given that he had for a long time been unable even to speak, left the audience silent and struggling to articulate a response.

‘Torn From Home’ was brilliantly put together by Northgate High School, Ipswich Faith and Community Forum and the University of Suffolk,  along with several other groups and individuals. The contribution from Northgate, in particular, was highly commended by Holocaust educator and speaker Mike Levy as ‘outstanding.’ Their presentation of dance and poetry was compelling and a wonderful coming together of the school’s different departments.

Elizabeth Sugarman of the Suffolk Liberal Jewish Community was the first speaker on the programme. Her relatives were Dutch Jews. 70% of the Jewish population in Holland were murdered by the Nazi regime, the single biggest loss in Western Europe. One of Elizabeth’s relatives was Nanette Blitz Konig, who was taken to Westerbork with her family, before being sent to Bergen-Belsen. There, she met an old school friend, one Anne Frank. Unlike Anne, Nanette survived and after recovering from typhus travelled to Eindhoven, England and then, finally, to Brazil. She is still alive, and survived by several children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The Northgate students next interviewed Frank Bright, whose family moved from Berlin to Prague, hoping it would be safer. But the family were sent to Theresienstadt getto. The people already there, he recalled, were not friendly but jealous of the extra time that new arrivals had spent outside. He would soon feel the same emotion. Frank and his family were transported to Auschwitz.  ‘We didn’t know what Auschwitz meant,’ he said.
Alone of his family, Frank survived. ‘Being liberated did not mean living happily ever after.’ He was 17, on his own, with no education. He compared what schooling he had received before being sent to the ghetto, to child minding – after all, why educate Jewish children?

Frank’s response to the promise of ‘never again’ was stark. It’s wishful thinking, he said. Study the subject yourself, he advised, and don’t rely on hearsay.

Mike Levy, a Holocaust educator, expanded on the increasing build up to the Holocaust. He described the awful events of Kristallnacht, reminding us that this took place in a country where Jewish people made up only 1% of the population when Hitler came to power.

The audience was shown a Pathe news reel of children arriving on the Kindertransport on 2nd December 1938. Over 200  children arrived on the boat from Hook of Holland to Harwich, and were bussed to Dovercourt, then a Warners holiday camp. Some would have been told that their parents would follow which, of course, they never did. That winter was the coldest of the century and their hot water bottles froze in the unheated chalets. While most of the country and media welcomed the children, some newspapers hoped no more would come to ‘steal their jobs.’

Elsewhere in Suffolk, evidence of the Jewish children remains visible: on a farm building at Lodge Farm in Saxtead, for example, shalom – Hebrew for peace – is written in white paint. And fifteen children, he told the Ipswich audience, found homes in the town.
Mike also invited up Ann Chadwick, who was two when 5-year-old Suzie Spitzer arrived from Prague as her new foster sister.

Martin Simmonds of Suffolk Refugee Support, which helps refugees from countries like Eritrea, Sudan and Syria, told us that there are some 68.5 million people displaced globally – more than the UK population. He read out quotes from refugees about how they felt on leaving their countries. No one wanted to leave their homes. It is as if, one person said, part of the soul remains behind.

And so we heard how Evariste, the final speaker, has slowly learned to talk again, is married and has children, and completed his studies to be a social worker. He sleeps now, something he was unable to do for several years. But he has nightmares. And although he has refugee status, he is waiting to officially become a British citizen to feel truly at  home.

A shared act of Reflection and Commitment, and an exit to the haunting sound of Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus  played by Nick Parry and Nigel Tuffs – and composed by Olivier Messiaen in a Nazi Prisoner of War camp – was a suitably contemplative end to the event.

 

Review by Libby Ruffle
Contrubtions are welcome from all Suffolk Coastal Green Party members

Deep Adaptation – facing climate breakdown

As we struggle to respond to the IPCC report, here’s a summary of one dynamic perspective.

Professor Jem Bendell‘s premise is that climate breakdown and its threat to humanity is a given. Even if all governments and individuals take immediate, radical action, our lives are about to change by processes which have already been set in motion and which can’t be reversed.

Bendell explores why this message of imminent climate catastrophe isn’t more widely spread and accepted e.g. a paternal attitude from some scientists that ‘we know best’; a fear that we would inevitably feel hopeless and become apathetic.

He explores the possible range of psychological and emotional reactions people might feel when confronted with this uncomfortable truism, including denial. It is indeed an unprecented challenge to overcome what he calls ‘semi-censorship’ about our possible extinction. We feel the same difficulties responding to death. But, at the same time, our priorities and outlooks can be drastically changed confronting those events (this resonates with me after my dad’s horrific terminal illness).

Bendell comes up with a ‘Deep Adaption Agenda’  a ‘map’ of resilience, relinquishment and resources.

Resilience: what are the human values we want to preserve?

Relinquishment: what will we have to give up?

Resources: how can local communities, and governments, work together? (locally:  producing medicines, exchanging products and services; govt: wider support for increased movement of people, securing nuclear sites from collapse)

Could the three Rs be a useful model?

Faced with our demise, we might end up leaving our jobs; we’ll have to emark on our own research and learning. Accepting the inevitable breakdown while not falling into apathy is a powerful, albeit challenging, starting point as we come togther to fight climate breakdown.

Active Remembrance and Waging Peace Together

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Green Party MP Caroline Lucas gave this year’s Movement for the Abolition of War lecture at St John’s in Waterloo.

The theme was ‘Active Remembrance and Waging Peace Together.’

In this centenary of the WW1 Armistice, she reminded us of the importance of remembering actively and informing ourselves, rather than a passive remembrance. Passive remembrance, she warned us, can lead to an airbrushing of war’s realities, so that we become less likely to rise up and prevent it.

Europe and peace

Caroline’s focus for much of the talk was the part the European Union has played in maintaining peace in Europe since WW2, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. She did not gloss over its failures, like its hostility to refugees and supporting NGOs, and its punishment of Greece, also pointing out that Greece had itself forgiven Germany’s debts after the 39-45 war.

All this is true, she said, and yet…

While we mustn’t forget the negatives, we must never lost sight of  the positives. Caroline recalled her time working as an MEP, appreciating the courage, ambition and vision of the Parliament. Anything so ambitious, she said, will be imperfect. It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

So what we can do?

We need to strengthen our narrative of hope and reach out.

How many Remainers are reaching out to Leavers? She reminded us of the truth that climate breakdown, the refugee crisis and gross inequality are better solved together.

A takeaway action she gave us is to talk about these benefits of EU membership; talk about the People’s Vote; reach out to the Leavers. We can all, she said, be a better version of ourselves. No one is all good or all bad.

 Sharing

Sharing reality is something we need to do more of. Terrorism and repression feed off each other in a continuous cycle. As Remembrance Day approaches, Caroline’s comment that weapons can move freely and go anywhere, but that refugees are vilified, and compassion chased out of town, was particularly sobering.

We don’t have the moral high ground over, say, North Korea. 120 states support the nuclear ban treaty – the UK is not among them. Rather than more WMDs, we should focus instead on crime, terrorism, cyber warfare and endemics. Even the Pentagon recognises the threats of climate change and conflict.

But we can protest and mobilise to ask our government to get on board too. Remember what we have achieved. She reminded us of history’s positive moments: the aversion of full-scale war between India and Pakistan; Harold Wilson’s refusal to send troops to Vietnam; the banning of biological and chemical weapons and landmines.

Remember, learn, make a difference

Caroline pointed out that we are the first generation to know what we’re doing to the planet, and  the last to be able to do something about it. To feed our lifestyles, we’ve stolen from the future, and from other countries. Despite the IPCC special report, and the WWF species extinction warning, the government has gone ahead with fracking.

Even her resolve to find hope was tested, conceded Caroline.

But then she reminded us that Spain is going to close its coal mines and instead invest money into early retirement, training for the young and reskilling. In the past, the Lucas Plan made a similar transition.

The important thing is to unite our campaigns. The Stansted 15, food banks, fracking… at the heart of all these different groups is the question of how we live on our planet. We need to reflect on who we are and the world we want to build; we need to talk about sufficiency, not efficiency. A total and rapid reversal is needed.

In the 12 years we have, the global economy is set to triple. This calls for changing the logic: less disposable and more mendable consumerism; more sharing; usership not ownership. She talked about other principles, too, from contraction and convergence; ato a GCSE in Natural HistoryCould we, she asked, come up with our own Citizens’ National Security Strategy which addresses climate breakdown? Could we come up with a new Lucas Plan, with a conversation about energy at its heart?

We should not sacrifice our principles, but build on our strengths. She name checked pinoeers like Bruce Kent, in the audience, Paul Rodgers and Deborah Johnson.

Is hope naïve, or something strong? She quoted Rebecca Solnit: hope is not a lottery ticket you sit on the sofa and clutch, but a force that shoves you out of the door. To hope is to give yourself to the future.

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Article by Libby Ruffle

 

 

 

 

 

Climate crisis or just a hot summer?

Opinion piece by SCGP member Libby Ruffle

Waldringfield resevoir in the heatwave
Waldringfield resevoir almost dried-out in the heat. Please note: no small dogs were harmed in the taking of this photograph!

As we approach what’s predicted to be the hottest day on record in the UK, I’ve been interested in – OK, annoyed by! – the local media’s coverage of the heatwave.

There are obvious, valid comparisons between 2018 and 1976.  A mere three-year-old at the time, with no personal recollection of the scorching summer and significant drought, I’m nonetheless polite enough(!) to allow for some detailed and lengthy reminisces (zzzz…) and the painstaking mulling over of parallels between then and now…

Acutally, I welcome those concrete comparisons, which give us a necessary and valuable insight into trends and changes. But what I won’t concede to certain of my elders, is the pronouncement that we ‘mustn’t jump to conclusions’ about climate breakdown.

The East Anglian Daily Times printed a gentle, nostalgic article by Paul Geater on Monday, in which he fondly recalled – yes, you guessed it – the summer of ’76.

But nowhere in the paper was there any reference to climate change.

In a fit of heatstroke-prompted insanity, I fired off a letter. (It’s a well-known fact that writing to the papers is the first sign of madness. But, reader, I was cross. And I still think it’s irresponsible journalism…)

Paul Geater’s response (if I can claim it as a response, which is pushing it!) was to say that we must wait until next year before considering this summer part of a global warming trend.

To be fair to Paul Geater, his sentence was cut: “I’m not sure that trying to see individual weather events through the prism of global warming,” he wrote. Erm…  Well, something’s missing there, so that point of his argument is lost.

The question is whether to reply. I soon get bored when two readers, or a reader/journalist, get into a lengthy debate – or rather, a reentrenchment of their own positions. But other readers probably enjoy the tos and fros of an argument.

My conclusion is that if Mr Geater doesn’t think we already have enough ‘long-term trend’ evidence of climate breakdown, then it will take more than a series of readers’ letters to convince him otherwise; or for him to show me enough proof to convince me that I’m mistaken. The platform would be several hours face-to-face discussion. And even then, I suspect we might ‘agree to disagree.’

In the meantime, he has a column to write, and I need to research water purification systems…

Is there a responsibility to counter his words in print, to provide other readers with the opposing view? Perhaps. But, be honest, have you ever been moved by a letter written by anyone other than an admirably wise, fellow reader with whom you entirely agree…?!

We welcome opinion pieces from all SCGP members

Ipswich Against Trump!

 

Donald Trump has pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, said that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese and is a supporter of fracking.

So is it any wonder that SCGP members joined the protests in Ipswich when he visited the UK?!

For those who couldn’t make it into London, the meeting at the wonderful La Tour Cafe – hosted by Stop Trump Ipswich and Ipswich National Education Union – was an evening of resistance, solidarity and some hilarity!

Mr Trump surprised no one with his inconsistent and alarming statements. 250,000 people marched in London to tell the US president that his divisive and hostile policies are not welcome here.

post by Libby Ruffle
Personal posts do not necessarily reflect the views of all members.

Climate change news: weekly round-up 18th July

After weeks of dry weather, a temporary hosepipe ban will be introduced in the North West next month. It will affect seven million people.

The hot weather has caused several fires acoss Suffolk, in Chelmondiston, Great Wenham and Bungay, and near Sudbury. Further afield, fires have raged inside the Arctic Circle.

And the good news…??

Suffolk County Council is to consider two motions on Thursday 19th July for a Suffolk-wide network of cycle routes. Add your voice here!

Penzance has shown that it is possible to become plastic free!

This is the last of our weekly round-ups of climate breakdown news. For a fantastic resource, head over to Climate Change News, where you can sign up for a weekly email.

Climate change news: weekly round up 9th July

The UK heatwave was the big story last week. The country saw Britain’s longest heatwave in five years. Vehicles and people sank into melted tarmac.

The death of Ella Kissi-Debrah is thought to be the first directly linked to illegal levels of air pollution.

Greenhouse gas emissions have risen significantly in the past couple of years in Wales; carbon emissions in West Suffolk are 55% higher than average. 

At least 100 people have died after flooding in Japan. Refugees in Rohingya are in danger from landslides as monsoon season approaches.

Campaigners in Marseille are challenging pollution from cruise ships.

The UN has released a report showing worrying levels of over fishing.

BUT…

Projects in India are underway which make innovative use of discarded plastic.

460 acres of land in the Peak District will be made into a wildflower site.

 

ACTION!!

SCGP are undertaking a project this summer to monitor local levels of pollution.
Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

If you’re going on holiday, take a staycation and explore beautiful Suffolk.

Ditch the plastic, and take advantage of the water refill points in Woodbridge.