Dealing with the truth

It’s something the British aren’t good at. Brexit showed that. As the FOREX markets constantly show, sterling isn’t a strong currency. The UK is not an economic powerhouse. We don’t have an export market, or certainly not one in credit. We don’t talk about what used to be called the balance of trade, because we don’t have a balance of trade. We’re nearly $9 billion overdrawn on that, unlike say, Germany, which manages to export $300 billion more than it imports. This does not make us a strong trading partner able to dictate terms, any more than going into Tesco the day your unemployment benefit is paid gives you leverage over the prices on the things on the shelves there, or how long the store is going to stay open. When people state these facts they’re accused, as they have been for the past 30 years, of talking down the economy, while the reason people actually do talk like this is that there really isn’t much of one to talk about.

We’ve done it since the war. And we made up some really good lies about that. Much the same as Cameron’s ‘we’re all in it together,’ ‘they were all in it together’ is still pretty much what many people believe. Because it gives Brits something to believe in, a fantasy to replace the dreary slide into nonentity that real-life Britain plc actually holds as its core values.

“We were living in a society where despotism, hate, and lies had become the normal state of affairs.” Inge Scholl

Alone in Berlin is probably the best film I have seen. It followed Hans Falada’s book hugely accurately to tell a true story.

Berlin 1940. The city is paralyzed by fear. Otto and Anna Quangel are a working class couple living in a shabby apartment block trying, like everyone else, to stay out of trouble under Nazi rule. But when their only child is killed fighting at the front, their loss drives them to an extraordinary act of resistance. They start to drop anonymous postcards all over the city attacking Hitler and his regime. If caught, it means certain execution.

Soon their campaign comes to the attention of the Gestapo inspector Escherich and a murderous game of cat-and-mouse begins. But the game serves only to strengthen Otto and Anna’s sense of purpose and a renewed love for each other. Slowly their drab lives and marriage are transformed as they unite in their quiet but profound rebellion… as the makers Xfilme put it. Oh, grow up.

Very ordinary people did an extraordinary thing, knowing perfectly well that they would almost certainly be killed for it. As of course, they were. An oddity of the People’s Court was never explained by Falada or the film; why the couple were only executed months after their sentence, whereas the much better-connected Sophie School, who did much the same thing in Hamburg, was bundled out of the court with the usual speed and efficiency as soon as the sentence was read out. Presumably to save time the People’s Court in Nazi Germany pretty much only had once sentence to read anyway.

And it was a true story. It took the Gestapo over two and a half years to track down this unfunded, apolitical factory foreman. Of course they were going to execute him, just the same way the British were of course going to execute Lord Haw-Haw, the Nazi propagandist, for ‘treason,’ irrespective of the fact he wasn’t actually British, making the issue of how he could be acting against ‘his’ king when he had no allegiance to him anyway more than moot. We went in for state-sanctioned murder just as devotedly as anyone else. But you won’t find that in history books.

Nor, in British schools, unlike German ones, will you find a single mention of Sophie Scholl. Or her brother Hans, or Christoph Probst, or anyone else in the White Rose. Or the Eidelweiss Pirates. Or any other resistance to Nazism that annoyed the Gestapo and belied the British and American fiction that ‘they’ were all Bad and ‘we’ were all good that we’ve been fed and obediently swallowed for the past 70 years. And still do.

There’s a problem when you take-on an enormous goverment agency and a whole state that thoughtlessly, the ‘they were all in it together’ believers never consider, that the film and the book dealt with well: when you see the police, th army, the courts, the whole system of justice failing, what do you do? When you see the police take someone away and kill them, what are you going to do? Call the police? Or look the other way and hope they don’t take you? Or believe a simplistic lie, the way it all started?

And by the way: Nightmare in Berlin is the exact same book with a different title for the US market. Don’t get fooled again.


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