Holocaust Memorial Day

The Holocaust, for those of us not able to remember it, and that’s most of us, is generally taken to refer to the mass killing of Jewish people in Nazi Germany.

Reasonably, in my view, there are also definitions of the Holocaust to include disabled people and Romani people. Here’s an example of Jews and Romani together.

Vera Alexander was a Jewish inmate at Auschwitz who looked after 50 sets of Romani twins:
I remember one set of twins in particular: Guido and Ina, aged about four. One day, Mengele took them away. When they returned, they were in a terrible state: they had been sewn together, back to back, like Siamese twins. Their wounds were infected and oozing pus. They screamed day and night. Then their parents—I remember the mother’s name was Stella—managed to get some morphine and they killed the children in order to end their suffering.

Quote was from wiki. How utterly sick was this?

Other groups included in the wider definition of Holocaust include homosexuals, transexuals, Soviet and Polish civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, Serbians, Roman Catholic clergy, freemasons, Jehovah’s witnesses, political opponents ie anyone remotely left-wing, people who were mentally ill, physically disabled or mentally retarded. That brings the total of people killed by the Nazis to around 17 million according to one source. That’s nearly a third of the people killed in WW2 ie sixty million.

Of this, the greater part was the Jewish community with an estimated six million deaths.

Here’s a helpful Hitler quote, again from wiki:

As early as 1922, he allegedly told Major Joseph Hell, at the time a journalist:
Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows—at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example—as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit. As soon as they have been untied, the next batch will be strung up, and so on down the line, until the last Jew in Munich has been exterminated. Other cities will follow suit, precisely in this fashion, until all Germany has been completely cleansed of Jews

Racist par excellence. And all this in the pursuit of the master Aryan race of tall, blond, blue-eyed Germans, from a short, brown-haired, apparently blue-eyed, Austrian. I wouldn’t have thought with only one out of four criteria that you would have survived your own genocide programme Mr Hitler.

I live in the Jewish quarter in Gib. Or so people tell me. I suspect anywhere within walking district of a synagogue is the Jewish quarter, but the freeholder of my block is Jewish (and very pro-British), my neighbour on the other side is Jewish, and I suspect the freeholder of the block up the street is also Jewish.

One of the residents in our block is Indian. He’s been here for many years.

‘First the Jews come and establish a base, buy the best places, and start to make money. Then the Indians and the British follow, but the Jews have got it tied down.’

And it’s often been said to me, that one reason for the hatred of Jewish people is their ability to make money. Sheer envy.

I was brought up with Jewish stallholders on the market, so I’ve been used to mixing with them for years and hearing the odd word of Yiddish. They would sell cheap goods on the market and go home to their posh houses in the best part of Leeds. They would get dispensation from the Rabbi to work on shabbat.

Not so here in Gib. Every Jewish shop or business is closed from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Religious holidays are strictly observed. If there is any work carried out on a Jewish property over a holiday, a fine is imposed.

My neighbours upstairs don’t use the electric buzzer to get in the block on shabbat. They can’t touch a computer, watch television or use anything electronic. There is no work of any kind. You can’t carry a pen. I mean this is seriously extreme. It doesn’t leave them much to do apart from wander around the streets and talk to other Jewish people who can’t do anything else either.

Socialising in Main Street after schul on shabbat
Socialising in Main Street after schul on shabbat

The men are dressed in their formal black attire with either the little tiny skull caps or huge broad brimmed ones. The women normally wear black too. Long skirts. Long sleeves. Hair covered or with a very broad headband. Flat shoes apart from the odd renegade wearing slight heels. Thick stockings. Draw your own conclusions about whether or not it is prescribed by sexism.

Judaism here is orthodox, and for the most part, Sephardi Jews, who trace their origins back to the expulsions from Spain and Portugal.

And now …. the history lesson

Jewish people have been in Gib for longer than it has been Spanish, or British come to that. Some six or seven hundred years. And without anti-semitism too – apart from – yes, you guessed, when Gib was Spanish.

For those of you who don’t know their history, Jews were expelled from both Spain and Portugal in the 1490s. They are pretty used to being victimised, methinks. They had also been chucked out from the UK in 1290, but Oliver Cromwell decided to allow them back in a few hundred years later. So by the time the Brits had taken Gib, we were a bit more tolerant.

Apparently, Spain added a clause to the Treaty of Utrecht saying that Gib shouldn’t allow Jews or Moors to live in Gib. Well, stuff you Spain, Gib wasn’t yours then (isn’t now) so the Brits promptly allowed Jewish, and Muslim residents.

As ever, Britain was doing deals all over the place, and came to one in 1729 with the Sultan of Morocco, giving his Jewish subjects the right to live in Gib. Twenty years later in 1749, Jewish people were given the right to permanent settlement.

The oldest synagogue in Gib was founded in 1724. It was the first one on the Iberian peninsula since the Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal in the 1490s.

It has been rebuilt since then, with most of the current-day building dating from 1812 (cue music Tchaikovsky please)

. It is in Engineer’s Lane and for a ‘Great Synagogue’ looks very unprepossesing.

The window of the great synagogue in Engineer's Lane
The window of the great synagogue in Engineer’s Lane
Cycling past a window of history
Cycling past a window of history

Gib has four synagogues. The others are in Irish Town, Line Wall, and Parliament Lane.

Back in the 1750s there were around 600 Jews – an amazing third of the population of Gib. These days the number isn’t too dissimilar, around 6-700, but a much smaller percentage of the population, around 2-3%. Despite that, the Jewish community is very prominent and plays a significant part in Gibraltar society.

Portrait of a Jew in Gibraltar in the 19th century, by Janet Lange, from a painting by P Blanchard, from the collection of the Jewish Museum in London. Attribution - Wiki Commons
Portrait of a Jew in Gibraltar in the 19th century, by Janet Lange, from a painting by P Blanchard, from the collection of the Jewish Museum in London.
Attribution – Wiki Commons

In the Spanish sieges and in the Peninsular wars, Jewish citizens helped defend Gibraltar. More recently, Gibraltar’s first mayor and chief minister, Sir Joshua Hassan, volunteered as a gunner during WW2 and was one of the few civilians who remained on the Rock when most of the Gibraltarian population was evacuated.

And Solomon Levy, although the eleventh mayor of Gib, has been described as the ‘first civic mayor’ during his period in office from 2008-2009. Momy also served in the British Army spending 18 years in the military. He is noted around Gibraltar for his elegant dress sense, no doubt if there was a best dressed man in Gib competition he would win it hands down.

Do I have a view about the Jewish community I live in? Well, they live within their own community mostly. Certainly we speak to the ones in the block and I have a good working relationship with the freeholder of our block. I may not get invited to social events, but I have made it onto his Christmas card list. OK, so he sends a couple of hundred, but still, I’m one of those :D

We did get asked to price a job for a prominent Jewish family who own stores in Main Street. ‘I’m afraid that’s a bit too rich for our blood,’ came the reply when I sent the estimate. Three or more shops down Main Street and a flash flat in an exclusive block and they couldn’t afford a few hundred quid for a large feature wall? Anyway, we all had the last laugh. We heard from another decorator – who had also priced and been told he was too expensive – that they finally got a nice cheap job. Except the wallpaper got hung upside down.

So I don’t have a strong view about Jewish people per se. Bit tight with their money but good at making it. You could say that about any of us. As sexist and racist as most people. I don’t think they need gassing to death though.

Nor does anyone else who holds opposing views to mine, looks different, doesn’t have perfect health, is LGBTQ, doesn’t have white skin, comes from another country, or goodness knows what. Are we learning the lessons? I doubt it.

Poster for memorial day - but who noticed?
Poster for memorial day – but who noticed?

Most sources were wiki, but the Gibraltar Jewish Community has a good website here.

My new blog posts elsewhere:

Everypic has one about some Gib history as well. This time it is Catholic religion though.

56 comments on “Holocaust Memorial Day

  1. Fascinating history, and more horrifying causes to wonder at the human penchant for groups finding reasons to hate other groups and then becoming – what? Not bestial; beasts are far better than that. Not inhuman, because it seems to be a human characteristic. Savages is too mild a term. Spawn of evil might fit.
    Of course, some groups do exacerbate the dislike they attract by clinging to outmoded and nonsensical customs.


    • I’ve wanted to write about the Jewish community in Gib for ages, and the Holocaust Day seemed appropriate. Not sure what the point of the day is apart from me to write a blog post though.

      One of my blog friends often quotes the Whitman one about ‘I think I could turn and live with animals’. Not a bad idea, at least mostly, you know where you are with them.

      But what is outmoded and nonsensical? Don’t you think all ‘groups’ are actually similar, have the same views, and claim that their way is the best? Off to play with the puppy me :) At least I know where he is coming from.


      • When people insist on stupid and restrictive dress, ‘cultural’ customs which are unhealthy, demeaning to women, or harm animals, or beliefs which stunt the minds of their young, then I believe they should change, and fast.


        • Ironically I don’t have a problem with the clothes the Jewish women and young girls wear, ie the flat shoes and long sleeved shirts are eminently sensible. But I do have a problem with the reasoning behind it. Their attitude to animals is bizarre. I was going to add it to this post, but it seemed a bit too flippant, so I’ll add it onto another one later.

          The trouble is, who is to define the parameters?


          • I think common sense and proper regard for rights and dignity should help with the definitions.
            At least they aren’t covered up in glorified bin-bags.


          • I think the issue is choice though. But we can’t have choice if we don’t think outside our cultural norms. You pin-pointed that when you referred to the minds of young people. However it takes a long time for all of us to learn to think for ourselves. Well it did me!


  2. The deeper you look into jewish persecution, the more shocking it is. Before the big expulsion there were a number of smaller persecutions. Sometimes they just moved from one part of Iberia to another, sometimes they left all together seeking refuge in Britain or France- then they had to face the pirates who specialized in holding ships carrying jews hostage until the people who were waiting for them in other countries paid a ransom. If they finally got there, they then faced further persecution like special taxes and forced conversions in late 16th to early 17th century France.


    • Yeah there was a pirate story about Gib too. I don’t really care what religion someone is, so long as it doesn’t impact on my life. But I think the incessant racism/persecution is totally unreasonable, as it is for any other minority group. There was conversion in Portugal as well, they were a bit more lenient than Spain. Los RC were a real pair of bastards.

      Anyway, when are you going to change your avatar or are you leaving it up to annoy puritanical non-smoking me? I thought you were cutting down/attempting to stop/getting nowhere? Hope you haven’t sold your house yet, dear neighbour :)


  3. I wonder if all the mutterings about Spain wanting Gib back ( how long is it since they held it?) If they’d start their persecutions of the Jewish community there or whether the Jewish community would just leave to find sanctuary elsewhere. Maybe they’re much more tolerant in Spain now.
    It’s odd to read of the holocaust that RC Clergy were taken to the camps since Hitler intended to have good relations with the Vatican and some of the SS who escaped after the war were moved through Catholic Churches it’s said.
    You further surprised me when you talk of a Christmas Card list since I have close Jewish friends and I’ve never known them send one yet.
    xxx Hugs xxx


    • More than 300 years, Anglo Dutch forces took Gib in 1704.

      I think the Spanish would persecute everyone :D

      Hey, I just repeat what I read on the internet, occasionally it may be accurate. The broad idea of this post was that killing people because they don’t look like your or me is a bit unkind.

      My Jewish neighbour who sends the Christmas cards is very pro-Brit, and like me he doesn’t technically send Christmas cards, rather ‘Seasons Greetings’ which suits me fine as I prefer that anyway. It’s basically a business thing rather than a personal relationship though. Still nice though :)


  4. I do wish that those who govern Israel would consider the past persecutions suffered by Jewish people when dealing with Palestinians.
    Learning from history is not a one way street.


    • I’ve never understood the Israeli/Palestinian war. I know the theory and *some* of the history, but it always seems so complex. Makes Northern Ireland look simple. But yes, they do seem to have had more than a lifetime of persecution. The ‘you’re different to us’ factor?


      • It’s a bit late tonight…and if I get started I’ll have to go on, so I’ll content my self with saying that I have two approaches, which inevitably intermingle.

        Allowing a Zionist state to be set up and recognised was one of the worst decisions of the then world leaders…ensuring instability in a post colonial Middle East made unstable already by the post WWI carve up of the Ottoman empire.
        That’s the reasoned ground.

        On the emotional ground, my cousin served in Palestine, under attack from the Stern Gang and Irgun…and didn’t forget the torture and murder of comrades.
        And neither do I.


        • Palestine and all that is one of those vague blurs in my historical memory, which is probably why I have never understood any of the endless wars around it. I think we may have spend 10 minutes out of a 40 minute history lesson on it. So I had to look up Stern and Irgun.

          Which may well explain why my father would mutter endlessly about Begin and later Shamir being nothing better than terrorists and couldn’t understand how they suddenly became political leaders. On his Med jolly in WW2 he did visit that area, no idea what he did apart from have a couple of photos taken, must post them when I bring my photo album back from the finca.

          Perhaps one day you may write a post about it. It would be an interesting read. There are always more than two sides to every coin.


  5. Very interesting article, Roughseas.

    With fewer and fewer survivors alive, I do think it’s important that today’s generations learn about how much damage that little man caused. It’s different meeting someone who actually lived it … see their tattooed number, and so on, but that will not be possible for obvious reasons.

    In Sweden, in 1998, they made a book, which is distributed free of charge to all schools or to anyone who wants it, the there’s an online forum associated with the book [or eBook]. Unfortunately, is the Wiki only in Swedish, but the forum is in English too.

    That’s amazing that there are four synagogues in little Gib! :) There’s only one here in SJ, but in Quebec City there was none. They all moved.


    • Thanks colderweather (brrr, even typing that makes me shiver!)

      Yes, I think it is a genuine worry that younger generations don’t realise the impact that WW2 had on Europe alone, before you even get to Russia, India, China, Japan, Dutch East Indies – the list is endless, it was truly a world war.
      For me though, while socially unwanted groups may not be being rounded up and herded off to gas chambers, vicious discrimination against people of all types continues. The obvious one that comes to mind at the moment is the Nigerian anti-gay law. I don’t think people realise that the same things are happening, they just aren’t in German concentration camps.

      Discrimination and racism continue to be a – vile – part of our lives, some 70 years later.

      As I said in the post, the Jewish community has been in Gibraltar for hundreds of years, since the 14th century I think from memory. Although now small compared with the rest of the population, it is still a solid, visible and influential part of Gib life. The history of the synagogues is interesting, so maybe for another post. When I find the pix I took of the others! or take some more.


  6. The Kings of Europe/England often used the Jewish people as their bankers – and threatened them when the royal coffers were low or they wanted to finance a war. Blackmail. “Hand over money or we’ll treat you as the church says we should.” The Jewish people walked a fine wire constantly.
    My neighborhood growing was heavily Jewish. The kids were friends (but often couldn’t eat at your house because it wasn’t kosher – but that was OK), but the adults, while friendly kept to their groups. Some had relocated after the war – and had the numbers on their arms. Many were very nervous. As children we were taught to be kind and always respectful. And age appropriate information of Hitler’s treatment of those he didn’t like – or those he wished to use as scapegoats
    My dad was one of the first medics in Dachau. I remember him saying he couldn’t believe man could be so inhumane to others.
    Thanks for remembering. Tolerance today seems to be practiced less now. Disturbing trend for sure.


    • That’s an interesting point that I didn’t know although it makes sense. I do think they get bad press. It’s not as though they go around trying to convert people to Judaism, and they largely keep themselves to themselves – as your comment says.

      My neighbourhood wasn’t remotely Jewish, but because my father mixed with them at work on Saturdays, so therefore I spoke to them too, it was easy to feel comfortable with them. The women never went to work of course, unlike my mother and I. One of the wives would turn up occasionally on a social visit to see her husband, a total stunner. They weren’t very orthodox though, as well as working Saturdays, they would often wander over to our market stall and ask for a couple of slices of boiled ham for their lunchtime sandwich. Tut tut. If you did that in Gib you would be excommunicated or whatever the Jewish version is. A huge fine, I suspect.

      I remember you saying about your dad being a medic. I think Dachau was the one I visited when I went on my jaunt around the world. I’ll try and look out my photos (think they are glued in an album). Gloomy place with a nasty feel of – nothing. Not fear or spooky, just – nothing.

      We seem to be on a cycle of decreasing tolerance and respect for other ways of life. Truly worrying. I am turning into my parents, harping on about the past, and one I didn’t even live through, but those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. And so we see it happening in different guises.


      • Henry the 8th was pretty bad about holding them for ransom – along with France and Spain…had to finance wars, crusades, weddings, feasts and such…pretty well documented in history. Royals got called on the carpet once in a while for dealing with them by Rome..but it seems that since Jews weren’t Christians, it was OK to treat them badly.
        You’re not the only one worried. Too much fantasy and being emotionally/easily led – too little facts and logical thinking.


        • I studied Tudors at school but none of that came into it. Oddly enough, it did influence my view about income tax though, I’ve always figured that the state needs an income from somewhere to wage wars, defend the realm, or dish out beneits, whatever. I must be the only person in the world who doesn’t begrudge paying tax, because how else can you run a country?

          I put it all down to poor education and lack of analytical skills. Or maybe too many soundbites and social media lives?


  7. I started out thinking “I can’t read this!” with Mengele’s twins but then toughed it out down to the 1812- which put a smile on my face UNTIL I couldn’t get it to play! I know! I know- I fiddled with the mute and all the + and – buttons. Easier to just sing it myself, but by then I didn’t care any more. :) My attention span is short sometimes.
    I try to love all my pink, yellow and candy-striped neighbours. Some people are easier to love than others. Hitler? His mother couldn’t have loved him! It’s not a joking matter, is it, but we live in such a flawed world. It’s very sad. People seem to be especially intolerant of anyone who “gets on”. The Poles are some of the hardest-working, “make something from nothing” people I ever met. And then there’s those jealous “have nots”! Rough- I’m trying not to show my prejudice here. Rant over! Have a good week :)


    • You could always have skipped the gory bits. I just wanted to set the context of persecution, discrimination and abuse. Perhaps ‘just’ isn’t quite the right word, but I think writing about the Holocaust needs a strong reminder of the atrocities that were carried out on people of all races, religions, health, sexuality and whatever I have missed in that broad description.

      I’ve checked out the recording, still works for me, on while I’m writing this now, so nice. It’s the recording I’ve got on a 78 so is obviously my favourite. Not remotely relevant to the post, but when I saw the year of the synagogue I couldn’t resist it.

      (interesting link – http://www.torah.org/features/holydays/tchaikovsky.html)

      Me, I just want to live in harmony with people. I don’t want to be in their faces and vice versa, or in and out of their houses but I’m happy to help people if they need something (eg carrying bags of shopping upstairs yesterday for older Indian neighbour who isn’t well – what does that cost me? two seconds).

      I only love one person, although my two older Spanish neighbours are borderline. Mostly I’m neutral towards people, apart from the ones I dislike instantly when I first meet them (there are quite a few of those). I’m also fond of (there’s a good description) of my older neighbours opposite here in Gib.

      Now you mention it, I’ve never heard anything about Hitler’s mother. Oh dear, I do hope I don’t end up looking her up now. The Polish got a bit of a raw deal under Mr H did they not? And you’ll remember the post I did on the conspiracy theory about Prime Minister Sikorski getting killed off Gib, too many problems appeasing everyone with the carve-up of Poland for him to stay around. All the – few – Polish people I have met, and Partner too, have been nice, hardworking, straightforward people. No doubt there are bad ones as well as there are bad everyones, but they certainly didn’t deserve the deaths meted out by the Nazis.

      After Phil (above) mentioned Dachau I couldn’t resist a quick browse. Dachau was the camp were the clergy were concentrated. Out of 2720, 1780 were Polish, of whom approx half were killed. In addition they were singled out for worse treatment and favourites for medical ‘experiments’. Evil, sheer evil. Prejudice and rants are welcome here, although preferably ones I agree with :D Busy week up front now I have got this out of the way, papers to write for my board meeting. But still, keeps the odd few remaining brain cells active. Hope you are getting to grips with Suits. Reminds me, I must see how it plays out on this out of interest.


        • Do you need to size the photos to fit the header though?

          Hitler’s mother died in 1907/08 (advanced breast cancer) so she didn’t get to see what happened to him …. He also won two iron crosses for bravery in WW1. None of that is to excuse him. Just a couple of things I didn’t know about him.


          • A quick read shows that he was gutted by his mother’s death, failed getting into Vienna Art School twice, slept on street benches and wasn’t too happy that Germany lost WW1. None of which is a good reason to take it all out on anyone who wasn’t tall, blond, blue-eyed and German/Aryan/Nordic. I could only manage two of those!


    • I think it is interesting that such a small part of the present day community has played such a strong and consistent role in Gib’s history. I suppose I can hardly miss it as it is very much around me, but you wouldn’t think they were only 2-3% of the population when you see them at the weekend, they seem to be 50% of the outdoor population in Main Street.

      While the Jews suffered the most in numerical terms, I think it’s also important to note all the other groups who were killed by Nazis, whether for race, religion, health, or sexuality.


  8. Interesting piece. Difficult to understand why a single race is singled out for such hatred. I have been to many places in Europe where we are told that this is where the Jews used to live!
    While reflecting on the Nazi atrocities (as opposed to German of course) it is worth bearing in mind that it is estimated that Josef Stalin is held responsible for an estimated 20,000,000 people including an estimated 5,000,000 Ukrainians – almost as many as the number of Jews who died in the holocaust. No one really knows with any degree of accuracy how many people have died in North Korea but 20,000,000 is a number often used for victims of the cultural revolution in China and Pol Pot is generally held to be responsible for 3,000,000 murders in Cambodia.


    • It’s a bit like witches isn’t it? Something strange and alien. A real case of ‘other’ syndrome. I’d always heard about York being a nasty place for Jews: http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/features/features/9477455.York_Jewish_History_Trail_looks_back_to_a_dark_day/http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/features/features/9477455.York_Jewish_History_Trail_looks_back_to_a_dark_day/
      Did I say German? I tried to say Nazi, but I may have slipped up. Reb mentioned Bosnia, and Cambodia and Pol Pot always come to my mind, (probably because I thought The Killing Fields was a very good film) it doesn’t really matter which example you choose, we haven’t learned a thing. Unless it is not to gas people in concentration camps, just kill them differently.

      How was Newcy? I do hope you saw more than Eldon Square or the Metro Centre at Gateshead. I expect to see a post about it!


      • I didn’t see any of it. It rained continuously for two days and we were confined to the house. I shall have to go back.
        You didn’t say German, I didn’t expect you to, but lots of people do!


        • Well that’s a let down :( I was expecting at least three Newcastle posts to cover the weekend. Would have made a change to read a UK post from you!

          I did say Nazi Germany, but I think that is reasonable. It’s a bit like saying Thatcher’s Britain, for want of a better example. It describes the situation in the country at the time without tarring all Germans with the same brush. I didn’t really think about it too much, but I did consciously think about writing Nazi and not German though. While some ordinary ie non-Nazi Germans may well have been complicit, what do you do under a vicious and repressive dictatorship? Become a martyr?


          • I think there is a big debate around the whole issue of complicity but I was thinking more along the lines of Nazism beyond Germany. Lots of Austrians, Hungarians, Slovenes and Croats also liked dressing in black and oppressing people. Most Nazi atrocities in Greece were carried out by Austrian troops but that is straying away from the point of your post and the Jewish issue.


          • Not really, and nothing new there anyway. I can handle the odd tangent. But I think the point of Holocaust Memorial Day should be to look wider than at the Jewish murders. Which is why I mentioned all the other groups. But in terms of the Nazi ‘side’ so to speak, I nearly mentioned the ones that got dispensation from the camps or death or whatever, eg the Croats and Slovenes as I thought it would complicate an already complex issue. I underestimated my readership as everyone is coming back with lots of additions to the tale :D

            My knowledge of Nazi atrocities in Greece is limited to Captain Corelli, the book, which I would not cite as a reputable historical source.


  9. I went through a phase years ago where I read lots on the Holocaust – both fact and fictional accounts – Leon Uris is worth a read, especially QB7. I also worked with a delightful Jewish lady at one point – I learned a lot from her as she had had family members exterminated, her husband (German) was taken as a prisoner of war here until the end of hostilities,when they married and lived here ever since.
    Like you, as a child I was brought up knowing a fair few Jewish people as my Dad traded in the diamond business, much of which took place in Hatton Garden. He had many Jewish friends – one of the outstanding attributes of those friends was their incredible sense of humour.
    One Christmas time, Dad took us to Isow’s in Soho – a kosher restaurant where the menu was extensive and very colourful- pictures similar to Mabel Lucy Atwell style. I don’t remember the actual food, but I was allowed to take the menu home and it was pasted up on my wall for ages. All encounters I have had with Jewish people have been enriching.


    • I didn’t read that much on it, but we did study Nazi Germany for O level, so I’d always got that as a backcloth. Plus my mother’s very anti-German attitude (brother killed in RAF during war). I did have a phase of reading Leon Uris though, and I seem to recollect reading QB7.

      Bit of a difference between my parents selling bacon and cheese on the market and your dad trading in diamonds in Hatton Garden! They are an interesting society, they value education, hard work, money – and if you display those, even as a gentile, you’ll get some respect (moreso if you have the money). As with anyone if you treat them with disrespect they won’t be too happy, and if you give them a chance to get one over on you, they’ll probably take it – again, as do most people. I’ve certainly never had any Jewish friends as such, but with the few I do know here in Gib, I have a polite and sociable relationship. And that’s all that needs to happen for different groups to get along.


      • Trading is trading – the actual merchandise is incidental – a good salesman can sell anything – and I think many Jewish people are good at selling – and buying – at a good price. Something we should be teaching in schools, perhaps? ;)


        • Trading is a good point. My dad used to say he didn’t sell bacon, he sold himself. Working on the market did a lot for me in terms of self-confidence. Terrified at first, oozing it later. Could explain the later PR career. My forte was always buying houses, but I leave the selling to Partner.


  10. Sure, the Spanish formally expelled Jews in 1492, but they also rescinded that decree a mere 476 years later, in 1968. ;)

    From what I have read, the Christian prohibition on usury meant that during Medieval times Jews were often the only individuals able or willing to legally lend money to monarchs. On more than one occasion, a king who was up to his eyes in debt simply evicted the Jews from his country, not only wiping out the debt, but also taking the occasion to seize the assets the Jews were forced to leave behind.

    There has been some argument as to whether Spain’s decision to expel its Jews, along with its final defeat of Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula around the same time late in the 15th century, set the stage for the nation’s gradual decline as a world power by chasing off a small but talented segment of its population.


    • Is that true? I didn’t know that.

      I’ve read about the usury prohibition, so it would fit neatly to let Jews lend as they didn’t really count, and also about kicking them out and seizing their assets. An all-round winner for the despot monarchs. Interesting the Christian usury ban though, pretty much like the present-day Muslim one.

      I thought the generally accepted theory was that Spain, like every other empire, basically spread itself too thinly, milked its foreign acquisitions, and couldn’t afford to maintain a heavy presence. Like the Greek, Roman, British empires for example. Kicking out the Moors was pretty stupid though. They did a hell of a lot for Andalucía. Ferdinand and Isabella’s desire to unite Spain as a Catholic country came at a price.


      • Yes, there are proponents and detractors of the theory, but both the Jews and Muslims added an element of creativity and mercantilism within Spain that seemed to have disappeared as the 16th century progressed, after both groups were expelled. I think Spain also suffered from a monarchy that had its fair share of inept rulers, heavy debt and a host of other problems. I came across this page which explains some of the country’s problems, and they were legion: http://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/351/351-06.htm


        • Reading that link just seems to suggest that the Spanish were lazy snobby bastards. And seeing the way some of them (don’t) work in the construction industry here in Gib bears that out. Certainly the monarchy didn’t help without a doubt. The amount of bureaucracy is astounding but the concept of being a monarch without a care in the world is equally as bizarre.


          • Yes, I read a biography of Franz Joseph of Austria once and it noted that he spent countless hours year after year after year pouring over documents, signing papers and working. It didn’t save the empire, but certainly left him with a little more respect that some of other royals over the centuries. I mean, how many mind-numbing parties and yacht trips can one take if that’s all one ever does?


          • I’ve no idea about Franz Joseph – didn’t much cross my history studies – but I can certainly get bogged down with pouring over documents and creating them. Preferable to parties and yacht trips for me though.


          • Spain’s problem was the influx of precious metals from its colonies….a bit like current governments printing money without the spin doctors to hide the inflation figures.


          • I think Spain was just incapable of controlling an empire so geographically far apart. If you look at it in terms of land mass, it wasn’t a very clever way to establish an empire in either geographical or administrative terms. The Roman one was far more clever, most of western Europe and the bread basket of north africa, and even that became unsustainable.


  11. Hitler was pretty clear right from the beginning that he was evil. Those who supported him thought they could control him. And no one bothered reading Mein Kampf. And today it became a best seller due to hype in the media. Not sure if you heard about that.

    It’s interesting that most of the leaders of the Third Reich didn’t fit the bill. Goebbels–club foot, Himmler–tiny man with glasses, Goring–large and addicted to morphine. Speer was the only one that comes to my mind.


    • No I didn’t know that. I rely on blogs for my news :D I wouldn’t necessarily think that all the sales were due to an outbreak of neo-nazism or anti-semitism, could be people interested in reading it because of the mention of holocaust day. I’ve neither read Mein Kampf nor Das Kapital. I don’t think reading either one out of interest would make me a fascist or a communist.

      You know more about the third Reich leaders than me. But your examples just show how crazy it is to pigeon hole people and judge them on appearance. The beautiful people?


      • Here’s the blog post about Mein Kampf: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/fake-controversy-alert-hitlers-mein-kampf-was-not-a-digital-bestseller/

        I agree, reading these types of works doesn’t mean you want to be a fascist or communist. I’ve read the majority of both Mein Kampf and Das Kapital for research projects in grad school. And trust me, I didn’t become either one.

        I agree, you shouldn’t pigeon hole people since everyone is different. I find Hitler and his attempts to create a master race pure hypocrisy considering the people he put in charge. Personally, I don’t care what people look like.


        • After you mentioned it, I did look it up to read about the so-called increase in sales. Bizarre. That was a good read on your link, he refers to sloppy journalism and he is quite right too. Standards are terrible these days. (I joke not)

          A master race is a whacky concept in the first place. Would all those clever super-intelligent beautiful people want to clean the streets on minimum wage? Or unblock drains/sewerage? Or drive buses? Or operate tills at supermarket check-outs?


  12. Lord save us! What a raft of comments! After all this time it still mystifies me why Jewish people are still in this so called modern age set apart.
    Perhaps it’s the harsh environment and climate in NL causes it to be a simple fact that we have to cooperate (or perish) or perhaps we’ve all learned the hard way to just get over ourselves but one of the things I am thankful for is that the various sub-groups (English, Jewish, Various middle Eastern, etc. and Micks like me) don’t make a big deal out of it except for fun and food. My Jewish friend Jonathan will likely say “shalom” to greet me and maybe drop me off some smoked meat just because it’s something he’s always done but aside from that we’ll sit down, drink beer, eat, laugh about whatever we want and that’s that. I’d just as soon that it stayed that way too. We work with what we have in common, not with what divides us and save the fighting for the hockey rink :-) at least in theory… A pissed-off Canadian is still a nasty thing…there’s always that.


    • Late to the party again eh? Anyway, half of the comments are nearly always mine. One of those topics I suppose where people of a certain age, those who are aware of some of the history, or just ‘thinking’ people anyway, will have a viewpoint.

      I daresay to writers/readers of fluffy blogs, it would be insufferably boring, but that’s not really my readership anyway. To me it remains a very complex issue, which is why I think it is an interesting one, and the presence of the Jewish community in Gibraltar for so many hundreds of years, and their contribution, plus the fact they live in harmony here without persecution makes a good example of what can happen should people put their minds to it.

      Walking Snowy at around 6.30am I met my Jewish neighbour just leaving his house. Good morning, said I. Have a nice day, he said. You too, I replied. It’s not exactly difficult.

      Apart from your rather vile climate, NL doesn’t sound that different to Gib. Well, we do have the Treaty of Utrecht and invasive Spaniards stealing our fish in common! We are a small place with a large population (ie density), whereas you are much larger with a far lower pop density (difference – we are more than 4000 per km² and you are just over 1 per km²). But a strong sense of identity helps towards a spirit of co-operation. The standard saying here is ‘Gib is a small place’ which translates to, it’s not a good idea to fall out with people, so you all learn to get along.

      I am concerned though that increasingly wars and what happened are consigned to the past. Saying that it can no longer happen is crass, it continues to happen just in a different guise. That’s what worries me :(


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