The Lost World of Rhodes by Nathan Shachar book review

Mike Guilfoyle

Image © Mstyslav Chernov

I was immediately drawn towards Nathan Shachar’s evocative and moving book on the formative historic influences that have he notes contributed so much to the diverse and richly textured socio -cultural inheritance of the Greek Island of Rhodes, the largest of the twelve Dodecanese islands situated near to South-Eastern Turkey (remarkably it only became a part of Greece in 1948!).  An Island that has been so memorably shaped and contoured by the confluence of epochal storied events ably detailed in this deeply humane and insightful narrative.   Read more of this post


Katherine Edwards 

Image© Department for Education

Should history be about encouraging national pride, or perhaps facing up to collective guilt?  The emotive nature of this question might explain some of the vehemence behind the current controversy over the new curriculum.  There are some who perceive that history lessons are currently ‘denigrating this country’, such as Chris McGovern, Chairman of The Campaign for Real Education.  One the other hand the idea of a curriculum designed to ‘celebrate the distinguished role of these islands in the history of the world’ as Gove put it, has provoked outrage among many who feel that it is not the place of the history curriculum to encourage patriotism.  History teachers and academics have emerged from their classrooms, libraries and lecture rooms to enter the public debate in the press, online and on the airwaves as never before, and formed pressure groups such as Defend School History, the Facebook campaign Save School History and an e-petition to scrap the changes and ‘Keep the History Curriculum Politically Neutral’. Read more of this post

Bellow’s History

Nik Williams

Bosnian widows grieving at a mass funeral in 2010

‘To forget a Holocaust is to kill twice’, uttered by Elie Wiesel. This phrase haunts the legacy of the Holocaust, it leaks into every remembered tale, every history book, every elderly relative drawing at the twines of their memories, every town square and every memorial. To kill twice, to condemn not the already condemned body nor the mind, but the memory is a crime we can all become culpable in, as we let the shape of the Holocaust and its horrors dissolve into nothingness. When something is hidden from view, withdrawn from circulation, its outline becomes hazy and indefinite. Soon you redraw the image in your mind, but it is never the same. Lengths have shortened, curves emerged and proportions are tinkered with and soon you have in your mind, the last navigatory tool, a caricature of what was. But is the Holocaust trapped under the weight of our collective history, bound up in twine shunted against the wall in the room coddled with cobwebs, to be missed, to be obstructed from view by the miscellany and knickknacks of modern life?

You think history is the history of loving hearts? You fool! Look at these millions of dead. Can you pity them, feel for them? You can nothing! There were too many. We burned them to ashes, we buried them with bulldozers. History is the history of cruelty, not love as soft men think.

Saul Bellow wrote this in Herzog and when thinking about the Holocaust, genocide and crimes against humanity, how can history be anything but cruel? To think of Bellow’s cruel history is to think of a long and continuous thread tying us to the camps at Dachau, Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka, Chelmno, Majdanek, Belzec, Stutthof; the brutal war of independence in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan); Khmer Rouge’s utopic view of a ‘purer’ sense of communism that saw around 2 million people killed; the widespread murder and cannibalism of pygmy tribes in the DRC; inter-tribal violence in Rwanda that pitted Hutu and Tutsi against each other, severing villages and families; the annexation of East Timor by Indonesia and the list goes on. Reciting the list, part of me wants to call out to Wiesel: ‘how can we forget, it still happens, it is occurring around the world to remind us!’ But to remember a face, an individual instance, in such a sizable crowd, a mass of people where the edges of the crowd cannot be seen, is impossible. But how have we let such a crowd of the dead amass threatening to make the voices of each case inaudible above the din of the screams, yelps and sobs? Read more of this post

Is the holocaust still relevant in today’s climate?

Louisa Pawsey

Image © Matt Brown

Holocaust Memorial Day brings with it the knowledge that there are still people who remember suffering at the hands of the Nazis. It also brings pain to people whose families will never be complete because there is someone or multiple someones missing from the dinner table.  But for the rest of us exactly how important is the 27th of January? Just another day in the calendar?  Another day for you to live your life?  Have you even noticed that Holocaust Memorial Day is now printed in every diary and on every calendar? Is anyone interested?

As a military historian, I should be shouting from the rooftops about the importance and relevance of Holocaust Memorial Day – but I just can’t.  In fact, the more I study, the more I realise how little people care and how little relevance the holocaust has to anybody that wasn’t affected or involved.  Of course it’s not just the holocaust that has this effect, every year the amount of people wearing a poppy in November has seemed to dwindle and it is fashionable to protest against the armed forces.  As a historian, the first thing you learn is that the further back in history you go, the less interest people have and there will come a time when all the Holocaust survivors will have disappeared.  Read more of this post