“Writing about people with difficult histories” – my author talk in London

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On 21st June 2013, I gave a talk in London on three books I have written about people with difficult histories. They are :

Slovenia 1945: Death And Survival After World War II
A Foot In Both Camps : A German Past For Better And For Worse
The Budapest House: Traumas Of Eastern Europe (to be published in September)

In all three countries, a catastrophic historical event continues to cause harmful divisions in societies today.

In Slovenia, it was the murder of 13,000 surrendered and disarmed Home Guard soldiers – 2% of the Slovene population – by Communist Partisans after World War II had ended.

For Germans, it was the fatal mistake of bringing Hitler to power, participating in genocide of the Jews and ravaging Europe with a World War.

For Hungarians, it was colluding in the dispatch of 500,000 of their Jewish compatriots to Auschwitz.

In all three countries, events confronted people were with finely-balanced moral dilemmas. Their choices had enormous consequences. Germany has accepted guilt and recovered, but in Eastern Europe, the resulting internal conflicts continue to hinder the harmonious development of societies.

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6 Responses to ““Writing about people with difficult histories” – my author talk in London”

  1. Ronald FIschman Says:

    Indeed, Marcus – the title made me think about people with difficult personal histories. Your subject sounds like “Writing about People from Difficult History,” about which I will paraphrase Viktor Frankl: “In the and, all you have control over is your response to your situation.”

  2. quietoaktree Says:

    Please excuse me from replying on a personal level.

    Having lived in three countries (societies) for a minimum of twelve years in each, North America (including Montreal), UK and Germany, your choice of topics do interest me greatly. However, to be honest the net you throw for societal comparison appears far too short if an explanation of why the Holocaust and other atrocities occurred. ´Mans´ inhumanity to man´ has long been insufficient as a basis to understand anything that develops over time.

    “In all three countries, a catastrophic historical event continues to cause harmful divisions in societies today.”

    Very true, but only a part of the whole picture of the time. A denial by many of the ´non- catastrophic´ events, also causes ´harmful divisions in societies today.` Societies (countries) that have ´manipulated´ their own history books (and got away with it) are in constant denial and require a continual ´dumbing down ´of its citizens as to their moral superiority –from only being ´mentally unstable´ instead of ´ totally insane´.

    Concentrating on WWll atrocities instead of events from WWl and the rise of the Communist ideology all over the world gives a false picture of the struggles of societies against Serfdom and Colonialism. Fascism was the answer to Communism at the time.
    For many Royal elites that caused WWl –they had nothing against it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_George_Square

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cable_Street

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/young-women-from-britain-in-1930s-nazi-germany-a-905617.html

    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Fascism/Trading_Enemy_excerpts.html

    — And then there is the Sinti and Roma that many wish to forget.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/monument-to-sinti-and-roma-murdered-in-the-holocaust-opens-in-berlin-a-863212.html

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/sep/16/roma.race

    –still persecuted and despised as ´untermenschen´–even by many in the UK from many religions.

    Article 20 German Constitution–

    ” All Germans shall have the right to resist any person seek- ing to abolish this constitutional order, if no other remedy
    is available.”

    –one of the few societies that has learned from its history and perhaps the only that has admitted it.

    • mferrar Says:

      Thank you for these comments. I agree, what I have written is not the full story. I have much more to say, an do so in my books. In particular, the development of Communism is often underestimated in the West as a trauma still felt by the societies where it was imposed. Hence, the finely-balanced decisions which forced people into dilemmas.

  3. quietoaktree Says:

    Dear Mr. Ferrar,
    I thank you for your reply.

    The links posted are intentionally varied, as are the many attempted explanations of events leading to the Holocaust and other atrocities. I have not read your books (but others) and am fully aware of the thinking necessary to form any ´logical´ (if possible) theory or theories — and the necessary decades required.

    No doubt we differ on many major points –especially as we have had varying experiences –in different countries with different discussions.

    Perhaps a blog is not the most optimal place for an extensive exchange of views ?

    –But Track 17 — a unifying location where to end and also to begin ?

  4. quietoaktree Says:

    “In particular, the development of Communism is often underestimated in the West as a trauma still felt by the societies where it was imposed. ”

    — I am still pondering the meaning and intention of that statement. (clarification ?).

    The following links are to correct a BBC and British misconception –more not.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-tobacco_movement_in_Nazi_Germany

    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maßnahmen_gegen_das_Rauchen_im_NS-Staat

    However both laws passed and social perception of ´smokers´ do allow an insight into the ´social´ events of 1933 to 1945. Of course they are not equivalent in conclusion (as yet) — but similarities of feelings held by both victims and perpetrators –are. Covering most of the ´Free World´ and accepted by it.
    –as was anti-Semitism (anti-Jewish) –at the time.

    From a portion of society being acceptable –to becoming ´outcasts´ has taken long, but a few laws did serve their purpose. From invited guests being requested to restrain from smoking while visiting, to demands that urine tests be accepted and even all outdoor smoking be criminalized. ( many links available).

    The banning and criminalization of smokers –is a success story.

    Return now to Nazi Germany — the social pressure and wished guilt the victims should feel –was accomplished — friends rejected them and with the discrimination laws — all had Right on their side.

    With increasing ´radicalization´ the ´free thinkers´ and Nazi opponents (Communists and Socialists) also were the hunted.

    A ´smokers´ land is not discussed but perhaps their children –will be accepted by foster parents. My surprise at realizing societal ´insanity´ is easily achieved –being a victim (of sorts) –enables an understanding of how a postcard was sufficient –and transport from ´Track 17´possible.

    Countries and their societies exist at various stages of ´mental instability´–it often requires little nationalism to deny it.

  5. quietoaktree Says:

    The previous (unpublished) contribution was to demonstrate how simple it is to ´target´ a section of a society for discrimination over a time span -so that those with that view — are supported by law(s) –that reinforce the view — thus having no need to consider the plight of the victimized.

    Unfortunately even the BBC blogs are filled with vitriol –supported often by government statements.

    Apologizing for past deeds is difficult for most societies, and you correctly praise Germany for this — however Germany has taken the apology one step further –it utterly rejects victimization within.

    — It knows where it can lead –if the beginning is allowed to take seed.

    One of the few countries that apparently do.

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