December 27, 2009

FORGOTTEN HEROES: VICTOR GOLLANCZ



Since it appears to some that maybe I have an issue with publishers (and I don't, I have issues with assholes), let me tell you about a man. To those who live in Great Britian, that name may mean something, to most in the rest of the world, it may mean nothing. To me, the name means a lot. It is the name of a hero. That name is Gollancz. Victor Gollancz.

Now, Gollancz Publishing these days is an imprint of Orion Books, which in turn is owned by Hachette, which in turn is owned... you know the drill. It publishes a good deal of great and classic Science Fiction and Fantasy, and I believe that their complete Conan edition is wonderful (simply because it looks great on a bookshelf, and everybody should own one).

But it is not Gollancz' publishing legacy that should be remembered, as good a topic as that would make. No, I am here to remind us of the man. In 1943, it was him who published a pamphlet entitled Let My People Go, which urged the Western powers to do anything and everything to rescue Jews in occupied Europe that were under the threat of, well some say extermination, I say genocide, because the word extermination would evoke the nasty imagery used by the Nazi Germans that compared people of Jewish faith to all sorts of rodents and insects, from cockroaches to rats back to cockroaches again (if you don't believe me, look into it, check out some of the propaganda films and posters, go at it, get sickened by it). And for a brief moment, in 1942 and 1943 there was a mass audience that was willing to listen to Gollancz... and then it became clear that the Allied governments weren't all that interested in rescuing Jews, because it would siphon off power from the war effort (just as Americans turned away a ship full of refugees in 1939, citing that they were technically Germans, and now that the war had started, oh well, tough shit for you, boys and girls, eh?)

Incidentally, as much as I think that Israel's policies these days are woefully retarded (which would be an entirely different post), if there's anybody on this planet has the right to be paranoid about being murdered wholesale with the rest of the world watching... it's people of Jewish faith. We didn't give a damn about them while they were being massacred the last time, why should they believe our "we stand by your side" now? Nu-uh. No matter how you folks in France, in Britain and yes, in America delude yourself as to the reason why you fought World War 2 was to rescue Jewish people from genocide... when shit came to the shoe level, you all left them alone... just as their neighbours and friends and acquaintences in Germany did.

But then there was Victor Gollancz. And he pleaded. And he told the truth. And for a brief moment, people listened. That alone should have qualified him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Not that he ever got one, because apparently that voice of passion and kindness, hell, that wasn't enough. Better to give it to heads of state, not that this has really changed, has it? Barack Obama anybody? Yeah, right...

Listen to this... come here, listen closely what Gollancz wrote...
 They live crammed together in shacks without consideration for gender and age ... They ranged in age from 4 to 80. Everyone looked emaciated ... the most shocking sights were the babies ... nearby stood another mother with a shrivelled bundle of skin and bones in her arms ... Two old women lay as if dead on two cots. Only upon closer inspection, did one discover that they were still lightly breathing. They were, like those babies, nearly dead from hunger ...
The horrible atrocities that people do to other people, right?

The horrors of a concentration camp.

Oh, I am sorry.

That wasn't from the above mentioned Let My People Go. It was from another text he wrote. This one was called Our Threatened Values, published in 1946, and the people dying here? Were not Jewish, they were Sudeten Germans (an ethnic minority in what was then the Czech Republic) incarcerated in a Czech Concentration Camp after the war had ended (what? The Czech had concentration camps? Kids, you'd be surprised how many other nations thought that was a perfectly valid way to get rid of.... let's call them "unwanted elements", shall we?)

Oooops.

Oh, did I mention that Victor Gollancz was Jewish? I didn't? Oooops. Shouldn't he have shouted and demanded such a treatment? Shouldn't he have every and any right to demand that Germans be treated in exactly the same that they had treated his family, his brothers and sisters?

But wait. It gets better. In the winter of 1945/46, millions of Germans faced starvation. Several hundreds of thousands did die, both of starvation and what would be known as the White Death, in other words, one of the harshest winters of the 20th century. Not only did the Allied Council refuse to allow other countries and the Red Cross to bring in food and supply, no, Field Marshall "Monty" Montgomery, stated that Germans better live off 1,000 calories a day, after all, the prisoners in the concentration camps had to live off 800 calories (if they received that at all, let me reiterate, the purpose of the Nazi concentration camps were to kill as many people as possible as fast as possible). And so, fuck you, Germans, you brought this on yourself.

Ah yes, Monty. That great defender of life and liberty! Who probably was also in it, because he thought that we needed to save those in danger of genocide and oppression. Oh, wait. Damn. That would be the same Monty who believed that Apartheid in South Africa was just a splendid ole thing. Wot's all this, then, eh?  Like I stated here, as long as it's the niggers, the spics and everyone else not white, gosh, those types of Untermenschen should really, really know their place, right?

But back to our story here.

Gollancz would have had any and every right to follow suit in that assessment of Germans.

Monty (who also really, really hated gay people, but was apparently, let's say, hm.... he was very Michael Jackson with a 12-year old boy from Sqitzerland) didn't have that right.

Gollancz did.

But what did Gollancz do? He stood up for them.

Let me make this perfectly clear.

He stood up for the needs of those who tried and in a large number succeeded in killing people of his same faith. He stood up, because it was the right thing to do.

"There is really only one method of re-educating people," Gollancz stated, "namely the example that one lives oneself." One wishes that numerous Christians these days would follow suit, especially certain ones with glasses, the disposition to lie and who shoot wolves from helicopters, ahem. But we are not here to talk about retards. We are here to talk about a hero. At least it's damn heroic  to me what he did. Not only did he point his finger at something, he also was that damn convincing that after the pamphlet Leaving Them To Their Fate: The Ethics of Starvation had an impact in Britain. Others in Britain followed. Others in Britain stood up. Others in Britain spoke out, until in December 1946 they forced the British government to repeal the ban on sending provisions into Germany.

Later on, Gollancz campaigned for war. But not the way you might think. he campaigned and established a foundation named War On Want to fight poverty. That war is still ongoing. He also was instrumental in the campaign to abolish capital punishment in Britain in the 1950s. Now,  if there was anyone better to be given the Nobel Peace Prize, I find myself not finding one.

Victor Gollancz, ladies and gentlemen.

A guy who should be in everybody's good book.

He sure is in mine.