Category: 20th century


On November 9 to November 10, 1938, in an incident known as “Kristallnacht”, Nazis in Germany torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews. In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, also called the “Night of Broken Glass,” some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps. German Jews had been subjected to repressive policies since 1933, when Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) became chancellor of Germany. However, prior to Kristallnacht, these Nazi policies had been primarily nonviolent. After Kristallnacht, conditions for German Jews grew increasingly worse. During World War II (1939-45), Hitler and the Nazis implemented their “Final Solution” to the “Jewish problem,” and carried out the systematic murder of some 6 million European Jews in what came to be known as the Holocaust.

Let’s never forget that this was the beginning of the aggressive and violent atmosphere that tantamounted to Nazi Germany.

As a child and teenager, I always shuddered thinking of this night for being what it was. As an adult, I get goose pimples and I would wish that never ever we will be faced with such insane enforcement of an individual’s delusion that made a nation become murders of so many Jewish people, communist, homosexuals, introducing delusional terms for the definition of culture and censured all culture and all types of art.

What happens if we have censure in a country?
Basically, it stifles all fluid intelligence or makes people go somewhere else. This basically happened in Nazi Germany and very quickly for that matter, and in a historically enormous dimension. I don’t want to name all the artists who had to leave Germany for the sake of their families and of their own sake, but whoever is interested will find the right source who these people were and where they went.

The reason why I decided to make a commemorative blog entry today was basically because in Spain, where I’m currently living, we have a problem with censorship. And this is something that keeps giving me the creeps. I foolishly thought that this was a thing of the past.

Having said that, I would wish that more people became aware of the fact that Kristallnacht and the way people and society as a whole reacted, was one of the many mosaic pieces of tendencies and unfortunate constellations that made Nazi Germany possible. This does not in any way say that this could ever be explained on a rational basis. However, it is important not to forget about recent history. Neither about Franco, nor about Hitler, nor Stalin, nor any other person of that calibre.

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The less inclined we are to actually get up and do something about a situation which we know is wrong, the less chances we have to stop an unfortunate event in time for it to get worse and spread like a fungus. There always will be a moment where we become guilty in a historic dimension if we decide to look away. If you know about something which you know is wrong, and needs to be changed, it is your ethical and personal challenge to make it known. Don’t be afraid to let others be participant in what you see, and let others help you.

We are one people, whatever creed, whatever nation, whatever language.
And if mankind finally got around to understand that we are on a damn sick road here, there would be a way out of this huge mess we created.

However what we need are people who are attentive, and assertive enough to point out the flaws, and the errors of the system. If these whistleblowers are being put into prison and chased like criminals, while the real criminals get voted, and re-voted, while so many other things are turning our society upside down that it is hard to keep up and not end up confused.

Maybe, this is another foolish thought of mine but I do believe that at least we would have the means to get out of this one, using and implementing the basics that are innate to the human being: curiosity, creativity, and also a good portion of sane criticism.

Don’t believe everything at face value. If you switch on the tele tonight, please think about Spain, and the way that censorship got the better of them. This is 21st century. We cannot allow this.

We live in an age where information and the communication media play an immense role. What I find unfathomable is that nevertheless the way how to use all these wonderful ways to communicate has not really been internalized by a great number of people.

Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that we get served all information we would necessarily need. Make an effort to read, and browse all the information that is accessable for you. Inform yourself. Not just once. Each day and every day!

Oh yes, and if in doubt, if you are wondering if you are critical enough, you are not. That is for sure. Read, read, read, but most of all: Noam Chomsky and all the critical writers you can lay your hands on! Be a critical person. Ask rather than accept facts and statistics as being god given.

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Orwell –  a dystopian writer or a socio-realist?

Down and Out in Paris and London” was the first book Orwell ever wrote and therefore it demands some special attention. He wrote it in 1933.

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Who was George Orwell? He was born Eric Arthur Blair 110 years ago, on June 25th 1903. He died on January 21st, 1950, some 46 years later. To me, Orwell has always been an important touchstone, a true pleasure to read since he is different in as much as he combines some traits I find important for any writers: will for social and political justice, very clear language, intelligence, sharp observation, wit and accuracy in the depiction of social realities.

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I’ve read him ever since I was little and funnily enough, at school, we read 1984, just in the year of 1984, when I was 13. Yes, it did make a huge impact on me. I cannot say anything else. We discussed the book. We wrote essays on it. We saw the movie 1984. It was a blatant attack against totalitarianism. That much was clear. And for a classroom with a lot of rebellious hormones flying around, Orwell was just right in showing us what society would be if we allowed ourselves to be let astray. Everyone in class including the teacher was sure that there would never be any similar surrounding, that everything depicted in the book, was pretty much a dark pessimistic fantasy, way out, and that basically this was a dystopia which would never happen.

Now about 30 years later, I am not so sure anymore. I find that Orwell had the unusual talent of absorbing very slight historical tendencies and thinking them till the bitter end and turning it into fiction. Orwell’s fiction is never just fiction. It is a moral signpost that says “Don’t go there. It might happen if you don’t watch out.” On the other hand, he wrote a lot about what happened in real life. He was in no way a writer in his ivory tower. He was pretty much connected and set in the real life of his time and confronted with real-life problems. “His work is marked by clarity, intelligence and wit, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and commitment to democratic socialism.” That’s what Wikipedia says, and I solidly agree with that.

Orwell. The dystopian writer, the social critic

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There are many books by George Orwell, well worthwhile reading which are hard to come by because of course, 1984 and Animal Farm are the evergreens and the bestsellers that cannot be surpassed.

Retracing his steps, we find that he was basically a middle upper lower middle class son, who was born in India, grew up in Burma, living a privileged life within a well bred family. But as he grew older, and after having returned to Europe, he seemed to have been a wandering spirit. He tried out multiple ways in order to live, he had something inside him, a search of something else, a weariness of everyday life about him. Something that made him seek out adventures. He led an unusual life. Orwell wrote his first book with the title “Down and out in Paris and London” (1933) which I would like to recommend today with all my heart.

In a nutshell, it is a desolate depiction of what the social reality for poor people, for people out of a regular existence, jobless, homeless, sometimes vagabonds and basically impoverished people must have been like. The daily search to get by on a minimum of money is shown with a pinch of salt. It is not someone who is crying into his bowl of water-soup at the workhouse. There is nothing that resembles rage or an accusation against the state or the state of things in there. It just shows the reality of what things were like. Without commenting as much on it. That is Orwell’s English side. And this is what made me have goose pimples all over when I first read the book at 20. It was hair-raising. The cruelty and the sometimes really very harsh if not brutal realities are depicted in a very formal and sometimes offhand manner. It is something hard to digest at first. But that way, the reader gets to the bottom of things, to the places where Orwell leads him, to the darkest corners in pre-war Paris and pre-war London. The reader must ask himself what made Orwell endure all of this. He wanted to be a first-hand narrator. He did not want to narrate the hell of others, of vagabonds, he first wanted to endure it so he could write his books with a totally different stance. Today, we might call him an investigative journalist. Yes, but Orwell was more than that. He was a critic in his way not to criticize anything but depicting every cruel detail of what happens to poor people and what happens if you get to the point where you lose your job, you home and your social framework. Something which in the nineteen-thirties must have been something not so easy to endure.

Another very good book by Orwell is “Burmese Days” where Orwell actually lets us in on the secrets of his upbringing in the colonies. It is an eye opener. Truly recommended.

All in all, I can only recommend George Orwell again and again. I know, that 1984 is a must read for many classes (at school as well at university) but it rightly is so. As well as Animal Farm has become a total classic. However, Down and Out in Paris and London, as well as Burmese Days and his collected Essays should find more readers, the way I see it.

Orwell was a bright man, with a vision.

Ending this post, I would like to point out that in fact, the more I think about it, the more I feel that Orwell is a more than a modern classic, he is a post-modern writer, someone to foresee something sinister that was about to happen. Let’s us all see to it that we can make this dystopia stop before Big Brother and the thought police become reality.

I wonder what Orwell would write if he was alive today.

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