Monday, 11 November 2013

Remembrance Day

Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday, and Britain came, briefly, to a standstill as all across the country old soldiers, sailors and airmen, Boy Scouts, Guides, Sea Cadets, Army Cadets, Air Cadets and members of the public gathered at War Memorials and the Cenotaph in London other major cities, to remember the dead of two World Wars and all the many 'little' wars since. As usual there were those who tried to make a 'political' issue of it, and there was, as ever, the stupid attempt by the anti-war lobbyists to highjack it with their inane 'white' poppy.

Despite this, it was a solemn and well conducted ceremony in the vast majority of places. What the small minority forget in their strident campaigns against 'nationalism' and 'jingoism' and another other '-ism' they can attach to it, is that it is none of those things. It is a time set aside to remember those whose sacrifice gave us the freedom to do the stupid things like hand out white poppies, to try to disrupt parades, or to make inane public posturing by communist Student Union members de rigeur.

It is interesting that the date has great significance in most of Europe, since the 11th November is the Feast Day of Martin of Tours, the fourth century Roman soldier who converted to Christianity around 300AD risking his life and freedom in the process. Famously he shared his cloak with a beggar he encountered in freezing weather, tearing the garment in half to do so. Later he dreamed that he encountered Christ, with Jesus wearing the other half of his cloak. He became the Bishop of Tours sometime after 314AD after defeating the Arianists in a long running debate and series of Synods. It is worth noting that the leading Arianist at that time was none other than the then Bishop of Rome, who changed sides under Martin's erudite arguments. Had Martin not succeeded Christianity in the West would probably now resemble something akin to the Shia version of Islam.

The irony is that Martin of Tours is the Patron Saint of soldiers, sailors and airmen, and the Armistice was signed on his feast day - which many saw as an auspicious omen. So, while the rest of Europe marks St Martin's Day, we British mark the Armistice.

This year, in Germany, there has been an additional element, since two days earlier, on the 9th November, there were ceremonies, church services and civic functions to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the infamous "Kristallnacht" which saw 1,200 Jews murdered and the first 30,000 'deportations' under the Nazis. The 9th and 10th of November are marked annually by small remembrance services, but this years have been of particular note. It is difficult to understand how a minority - and the 'real' Nazis always were a minority - could cow an entire population into accepting such an act of blatant savagery, with murders being committed publicly and the murderers going unpunished. That is until you realise that the Brown-shirted thugs were well organised, armed and given a licence to kill, beat or abuse anyone who attempted to stop them; that they had appointed their own people in charge of Police, Fire Brigade and Ambulance services, and that these services were under orders to stand aside. The local Fire Brigade was ordered to stand by while the Synagogue in Wiesbaden, a particularly magnificent one, burned. Their orders were to 'prevent the fire from spreading' - no attempt was to be made to save the synagogue.

Today a huge memorial stands were it was, recording some 20,000 names of the Jews deported and exterminated in the Death Camps. Ironically, it stands in Sankt-Martinstrasse.

Of growing concern to the German people is the fact that many Middle Eastern immigrants - largely the second generation of immigrants - are now breeding a new wave of anti-semitism. There are some one million Jews in Germany today, and five million Muslims. A recent study for the BBC rather smugly declared that 'antisemitism is on the rise in Germany' and announced that Britain is the least anti-semitic state in Europe. They failed to mention there are entire cities in the Uk where Jews do not go, or that almost all the assaults on Jews in Germany are committed by immigrants and the small number of radical 'converts' to Islam - something universally condemned by the ordinary Germans.

So this season is one for remembering. It begins with the feasts of All Hallows and All Souls (the first having an Octave which means the last day of the feast of All Saints ends on the 9th November) and now we have the additional 'remembrances' of the events of the 9th and 10th November in 1938, plus the signing of the Armistice on the 11th in 1918.

I have, as is my habit, marked the remembrance day with prayers for the souls of the members of my family who died and those who survived the two world wars, and those of my school friends who also fought in the proxy wars in Africa.

They shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning.
We will remember them.

We remember and honour the dead, yet we seem to forget the survivors who lived with traumatic mental scars. Those who survived the horror and the slaughter, and who really did set out to build a world we, their children, could enjoy in freedom. We should remember them as well, perhaps even remind our nihilistic student bodies who babble of 'revolutions' and our politicians who have stolen almost every benefit our fathers and grandfathers fought to obtain or preserve.

1 comment:

  1. Slim Jim agrees with the Monk. The people who denigrate the remembrance of the fallen, and decry such ceremonies as militaristic, really have no idea what their forefathers went through. These people are the type who would appease the likes of the Nazis. Today, they seem to support radical Islam by turning a blind eye to it. If it weren't for the sacrifice of our fathers and grandfathers they would not be enjoying the freedoms most of us experience today. They know where they can stick their white poppies!

    I attended the Remembrance Service in the town where I live, and the Monk would be saddened at how much it has declined in the last couple of years. The 'march past' consists of mainly Girl Guides and the local retained Fire Service. Nothing wrong with that per se, but I was saddened to hear the the local British Legion has been disbanded! Oh, we're going to hell in a handcart, and I hope and pray that in future years, we shall continue to remember the Fallen.