Reading List #11: Determined survivors and secret agents

This is Reading List #11, a selection of recent Holocaust-related news stories and links from around the internet.

The Cut runs a profile of concentration camp survivor Marga Griesbach which originally appeared in New York magazine. Rebecca Traister, author of this fascinating article, spent a day with Griesbach, now 92, hearing the story of her life, from her childhood in the German town of Witzenhausen (pictured above), through the rise of the Nazis and on to her survival, after internment at Stuttof camp in Nazi occupied Poland. The story opens with Griesbach’s travails trying to reach a cruise ship on which she was due to make a journey earlier this year, just as the COVID19 pandemic was beginning to spread.

The work of British secret agents during WW2 is remembered by The Guardian, who report on the fates of some in Nazi concentration camps. Agents of the Special Operations Executive faced extraordinary risks behind enemy lines, but their stories are still little-known. The son of one, Major Francis Suttill, who operated in France under the codename “Prosper”, appeared in the popular BBC TV programme The Repair Shop last week, with a holdall owned by his father used to store weapons during the Second World War. Major Suttill’s son, also called Francis, was only two-years-old when this father died and has no memory of him, but is quoted in the article explaining that “it has left its scars and I do well up when people ask me about my father’s time in Sachsenhausen.”

Labour MP Ruth Smeeth recalls the moment a groups of Holocaust survivors challenged her about her continued membership of the political party, at the height of the Labour antisemitism controversy (Jewish Chronicle). “I can’t tell you how truly devastating and heartbreaking that was – or how you justified to them that you were staying to fight from within, after their experiences,” says Smeeth. “Can you imagine a Holocaust survivor asking you why you are still a member of a party with Holocaust deniers? It was completely horrendous.’’

The Times Literary Supplement reviews Learning From the Germans by Susan Neiman, which looks at the ways in which German post-war restitution and reparation to Jewish survivors of Nazi persecution might be applied in other settings. The book is of particular relevance at the moment, given the explosion of debate around issues of racism and post-colonialism in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer.

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If you have seen a relevant article that could be included in next week’s reading list, why not get in touch via the contact page, or on Twitter, @holocaustreader?

Inclusion of articles on this list does not necessarily indicate endorsement of opinions expressed within them.

Images in this post are used under the principle of fair use for the purposes of review, education and study, and will be removed at the request of the copyright holder(s).

The header image shows Witzenhausen, Germany, which was the birthplace of Marga Greisbach. Image by Robin Wolff from Pixabay.

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