Friday, 17 June 2011

Armenian Holocaust

ISMAIL ENVER PASHA, Germany's ally, when Armenians massacred.$plit/C_4_maincontent_2414669_largeimage.jpg

ORHAN PARMUK , Nobel prizewinning author, not safe in Turkey.

"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?".

Thus Adolf Hitler is alleged to have assured his senior military commanders of impunity, in a speech on August 22 1939, a week before the invasion of Poland, when he urged them to be ruthless in wiping out civilians, so as to create lebensraum for Germans.

Whatever Hitler said, he was wrong.

His speech itself, said to have been recorded in unofficial notes by Admiral Canaris, is the subject of denial, Turkish officials claiming the remark was invented by Armenian propagandists. Almost a century after the events in May 1915, which led to the death of over a million Armenians, and spurred the flight of refugees to form the bulk of today's Armenian diaspora, the Armenian tragedy remains the subject of fierce controversy.

In the United States, leading Jewish organisations lobbied against the official recognition of the Armenian genocide, it was said because of threats to Turkey's Jewish community, but a more likely reason was their taking a lead from Israel, which valued Turkey as an ally in the Middle East, as did the United States of course. It may be a coincidence, but only since the Mave Marmara incident has the Congress Foreign Affairs committee been persuaded to describe the 1915 massacre as genocide.

Many Armenian refugees settled in Iran, now home to 100,000 Armenians. The former Soviet Armenia and Iran have important trading relations, including a pipeline, supplying Iranian natural gas. The Islamic Republic has been supportive of Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan. But remarks by Iranian Vice President Hamid Baghaei, that the Turkish deportation of Armenians in 1915 amounted to genocide, upset the Turkish government, and caused strains in Iran itself. President Ahmadinejad needed to reassure Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, and other government MPs, anxious to maintain and build on good relations with Turkey. While it suits Ahmadinejad to play tension with the West to counter unrest within Iran, his regime presumably feels safer if it can count on Turkey not to be the bridgehead for a threatened attack. Both governments share an interest in keeping down the Kurdish people in between.

It was Winston Churchill, then of course making war on Turkey, who used the Greek word Holocaust - originally meaning a sacrifice by fire - to refer to reported burning of Armenians in a pit, and thus gave the word its modern meaning of genocide.

In Cardiff's Garden of Peace, a memorial to the Armenians was vandalised on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day in 2008. In November the previous year some 300 Turks had been bused to protest at the inauguration of the monument.

On September 21, 2010, the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling that Turkish authorities failed to protect journalist Hrant Dink, a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent, who was murdered outside his newspaper's office in Istanbul in 2007. The Court found that the authorities violated Dink's rights in 2005 when they prosecuted him for "denigration of Turkishness", because he raised the Armenian issue. The journalist was subjected to a hate campaign by the nationalist right, but the authorities failed to act on information they received that could have prevented his murder, the court says, and failed to investigate the role of state officials in his death.

Best-selling writer Orhan Pamuk, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2005, the first Turkish citizen to win a Nobel, brought a storm on his head when he told a Swiss interviewer: "Thirty thousand Kurds have been killed here, and a million Armenians. And almost nobody dares to mention that. So I do." Pamuk's books were burned at right-wing rallies, and the government brought in a new law, Article 301, which states: "A person who, being a Turk, explicitly insults the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly, shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months to three years."

When the attempt to prosecute Pamuk retroactively failed, partly because of international reaction, the far Right plotted to assassinate him along with other enemies. Orhan Pamuk has not retracted anything he said, but he no longer resides and works in his homeland.

It has been the contention of Turkish governments and their apologists that the May 1915 deportations and killings were just part of the war, in which Armenians sided with Russia and fought against Turkish rule, and atrocities were committed on both sides; that the numbers of Armenian dead have been exagerated; and that Armenians today are just raising the issue for gain, or from malice against Turkey. Why they should do so, or why Turkish people today should feel responsible for the deeds of a long-gone regime, is not obvious. Reading the more aggressive writings of Norman Stone, a British historian (and former adviser to Mrs.Thatcher), who has made Turkey his home, and denial his business, one is reminded of David Irving in a bad mood.

Armenians had lived under Ottoman Turkish rule for centuries, but the 1915 catastrophe was not the first massacre. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Turkish empire had lost most of its Balkan lands to national freedom struggles, which were backed by Tsarist Russia, and marred by massacres of Muslims, while Christians were slaughtered in turn when the empire unleashed its irregular bashi bazouks. Faced with the expanding Russian Empire taking Armenia under its wing, and Armenians within Turkey demanding civil rights, Sultan Abdul Hamid II declared that the Christian world was out to destroy his empire, and he did not distinguish between Armenian militants and Armenian citizens in general. In eastern Turkey an armed band known as the Hamidiye was set up in 1890, formed of Kurdish irregulars who were told to "deal with the Armenians as they wished."

While some coveted the Armenians' land or assumed wealth, the authorities hit them with heavy taxes provoking unrest which brought a military response. In some places the Armenians fought off the forces sent against them and in 1895 they brought their plight to the attention of the Great Powers who were interested in Ottoman affairs. The Sultan signed reforms, but his police broke up an Armenian rally, and he unleashed a series of pogroms and massacres in which at least 100,000 Armenians were killed. In some places, Muslim Turks defended their neighbours, but at Urfa Ottoman troops set fire to the cathedral in which 3,000 people had sought sanctuary. In Istanbul, where Jews had sheltered Armenians in their homes the mob stormed a synagogue on Yom Kippur in 1897.

In 1908, Abdul Hamid was forced to step down when part of the Army threatened to march on the capital, and the 'Young Turks', or Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), took over the country. The new leaders were secularists, including men of Jewish origin. Their government was committed to modernising the state, and it was welcomed by Turks, Armenians, Greeks, Jews and Arabs alike, glad to see the back of the Sultan. A counter-coup by more reactionary officers of the military who wanted the Sultan back, supported by Islamic theological students who wanted sharia law, led to new attacks on the Armenians. Thousands were killed in Adana. But the CUP managed to suppress the rising, and court-martial its leaders. In 1912 the sultan, self-claimed defender of the Faith, was sent off to Salonika.

That year the opposition Liberal Union took office, with support from Armenian and other minority parties opposed to the CUP's centralised power. But the CUP came back with a vengeance, in 1913, executing or exiling its opponents. By 1914, when Turkey entered the First World War, and the following year when its government launched their onslaught on the Armenians, it was being run by a triumvirate - War Minister Enver, Interior Minister Talat, and Navy minister Cemal - the three pashas. Western investment and influence had been growing for some decades, and these three were allied to one particular European power.

Mass killings are as old as the hills, mentioned and even exhorted in the Bible, and we need only think of those who suffered and died in the Atlantic slave crossing to put other ordeals in perspective. But it was in supposedly enlightened, modern times that states gave themselves the right to deport entire populations, and acquired the means to organise mass slaughter, even turn it, as we know, into an industry.

Genocide in South West Africa

Neither Jews nor Armenians were the first victims of 2oth Century genocide. That honour belongs to the Herero and Namaqa poples of what is now called Namibia. In 1904 they rose up against the growing German colonisation of their country, where they faced loss of their land and cattle, being forced into reservations or working in bondage to the settlers. The Herero leader Chief Samuel Maharero told his warriors to avoid killing Englishmen and Boers, or women and children in general.

In contrast, the German commander General Trotha wrote a letter before the battle of Waterburg against the Herero:
“ "I believe that the nation as such should be annihilated, or, if this was not possible by tactical measures, have to be expelled from the country...This will be possible if the water-holes from Grootfontein to Gobabis are occupied. The constant movement of our troops will enable us to find the small groups of natives who have moved backwards and destroy them gradually.".

Jan Cloete, who had been acting as a guide for the German troops, witnessed what happened. "After the battle all men, women, and children who fell into German hands, wounded or otherwise, were mercilessly put to death. Then the Germans set off in pursuit of the rest, and all those found by the wayside and in the sandveld were shot down and bayoneted to death. The mass of the Herero men were unarmed and thus unable to offer resistance. They were just trying to get away with their cattle." ”

Some Herero managed to cross the desert and reach Botswana. But General Trotha deployed his troops to prevent Herero in the desert from reaching wells, and even poisoned some well water. Up to 100, 000 Herero and 10,000 Nama were killed. Many were also herded into concentration camps, where without adequate food, they were worked to death, and some were used in medical experiments. Skulls were sent to German universities, displayed in scientific lectures on the superiority of the white race.

Namibia wrested its independence from South Africa in 1990. In 2001 Hereros filed a lawsuit in the United States demanding reparations from the German government and the Deutsche Bank, which financed the German government and companies in Southern Africa. On August 16, 2004, at the 100th anniversary of the start of the genocide, Germany's Minister of Economic Development Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, officially apologized, :
“ We Germans accept our historical and moral responsibility and the guilt incurred by Germans at that time."

Germany arrives at the table

Having come late to the table, Imperial Germany had obtained only scraps in the struggle for overseas colonies. But without overcoming British naval supremacy it could turn elsewhere, expanding its domain without necessarily having to raise its flag.

At the 1878 Congress of Berlin the Powers sought to limit Russian expansion but extend influence over Turkey. Within four years the first German military mission arrived in Constantinople, with then Major, later Field Marshall, Von der Goelz as instructer to reform the Turkish army, and Krupp to supply the hardware.

At Heidelberg, Professor Aloys Sprenger, who had travelled widely in the East, including India, and written on "The History of Military Science among the Muslim Peoples", produced a new tract in 1886: "Babylonia, the Richest Land of the Past, and Most Remunerative Field of Colonisation in the Present". Later an artillery officer, Kannenberg, wrote on "Asia Minor's Natural Riches".

The importance of Middle East oil was just dawning. Russia had opened the Baku oilfields for exploration in 1872, and in 1901 an Englishman called D'Arcy started prospecting in Iran. But German geo-strategists had a bigger picture. In 1878, Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia and Hercegovina, and in 1882 Germany and Austria-Hungary became allies. It only remained to bring Turkey on side. In 1888 the Sultan awarded a railway contract to a German company, In 1898, discussions began on the Baghdad railway. With finance arranged by the Deutsche Bank, this would run from Berlin to Baghdad, ennabling oil and mineral ores to be sent back to Germany, while a spur extended to Basra would bring German power and manufactured goods to the Gulf. The British in India, still playing the Great Game of spying and intrigue against their Russian rivals in Asia, began to realise they might face a new foe in common, one that could both sidestep and threaten the Suez canal. .

In 1889 and again in 1898 Kaiser Wilhelm II paid visits to Turkey. Some people in Germany protested the pogroms against Armenians in Turkey, but they did not have any influence on foreign policy. Chancellor Bismarck dismissed the "hypocrisy" of Russia and Britain in raising the issue. A theologian accompanying the Kaiser on his trips, Friedrich Naumann, observed that German interests required "our political indifference to the suffering of Christians in the Turkish Empire, piainful as these must be to our private feelings."

In both Istanbul and Jerusalem in 1898, the Kaiser was visited by a Viennese journalist called Theodor Herzl, soliciting his support for the Zionist project. Nothing came of the meetings, though Herzl used them to boost his prestige. In Damascus, the Kaiser proclaimed himself the champion of the world's 200 million Muslims.

In 1901, Herzl got the audience he had been seeking with the Sultan. The founder of political Zionism promised - on what basis we don't know - that Jewish finance would pay Turkey's national debt if the Sultan blessed the Zionist project in Palestine. Abdul Hamid told him "if one day the Islamic State falls apart then you can have Palestine for free, but as long as I am alive I would rather have my flesh be cut up than cut out Palestine from the Muslim land."

Kaiser Wilhelm called Abdul Hamid " a blessing for his subjects -except for a handful of Armenians", and later complained about the Young Turks "they dethroned my friend the sultan". It was said a secret wireless link had been set up from the sultan's Yildiz palace to Berlin. Abdul Hamid was allowed to send his agents to Berlin to counter reports of massacres. German embassies in Russia, Britain and France collected information on Armenian nationalist activities so the Ottoman authorities could be informed. When the sultan was deposed the links remained.

On August 3, 1914, Enver Pasha signed the secret treaty allying Turkey with Germany. On the Mediterranean, early on August 4, Rear-Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, commanding the German warships Goeben and Breslau, which had been assigned to attack French transports from Algiers, received orders from Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz:: "Alliance with government of CUP concluded August 3. Proceed at once to ─░stanbul."

On August 16, having slipped past the Royal Navy ships which had orders to tail but not attack, the Goeben and Breslau reached Constantinople. The Turkish government was still bound by official neutrality not to allow belligerents through the Straits. In a small ceremony, the German crews donned Turkish fezzes, and their ships were transferred to the Turkish flag, becoming the Yavuz Sultan Selim and the Midilli. Admiral Souchon remained in command, and on September 23 he was appointed commander in chief of the Ottoman Navy.

At the end of October the Goeben, Breslau and a squadron of Turkish warships sailed to attack the Russian Black Sea ports of Novorossiysk, Odessa and Sevastopol. At Novorossiysk the Breslau's guns sank 14 steamers in the harbour, and set 40 oil tanks on fire, sending streams of burning petroleum through the streets. Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire on November 2, France and Britain following on November 5. Thus two ships began the events of war that would topple the Ottoman empire, along with its Russian enemy, and entirely change the map of the Middle East.

Between Tsar and Kaiser

Before the war, the Russian government had been preparing an international conference on Armenia, and urged the Armenian nationalists to show restraint, so they would appear as victims rather than revolutionaries. But in the Summer of 1914, as well as sending Armenian conscripts to its western front in Europe, the Russian imperial army set up Armenian volunteer units to fight in the Caucasus. The Armenian national liberation movement also formed partisan units. In December, Tsar Nicholas II visited the Caucusus and was received by the head of the Armenian Church and Armenian nationalists in Tiflis, the Georgian capital. There he proclaimed:

"From all countries Armenians are hurrying to enter the ranks of the glorious Russian Army, with their blood to serve the victory of the Russian Army... Let the Russian flag wave freely over the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, Let your will the peoples [Armenian] remaining under the Turkish yoke receive freedom. Let the Armenian people of Turkey who have suffered for the faith of Christ receive resurrection for a new free life..."

Many Armenians must have felt a wry contempt for this glorious 'Christian' liberator annexing their freedom struggle just as his regime had annexed their land. In 1905-7 the Tsarist regime had responded to strikes and unrest in the Baku oilfields with its usual divide and rule methods, encouraging Muslim Azeri pogroms against the Armenians, just as in Odessa its mob targeted the Jews.

The top German agent in the Middle East, Max Freiherr von Oppenheim, who may have inspired the Kaiser's speech as 'protector of Islam', had also urged that in the event of war the Turkish government must proclaim jihad. The CUP had been materialists, with little time for religion, but now Enver Pasha persuaded the Sultan, still head of the Caliphate, to declare jihad. The aim was to stir Muslim revolt against Britain and its allies, but there were implications for non-Muslim minorities within Turkey. Some religious Muslims resented the use of their religion to cloak political aims, seen when converts to Islam were not exempt from persecution by the state.

Enver Pasha blamed Armenian resistance and sabotage for the defeat of Turkish forces in the Caucasus at the end of 1914 nd beginning of 1915. He might just as well have blamed the mountain winter, for which his forces were ill-fed, ill-clad and unprepared.

On February 25, 1915, Enver ordered that all Armenians serving in the Ottoman forces should be disarmed and sent to labour bttalions, the ameles. Thus those conscripted were neither able to defend their home towns and families or themseves.

Special units, many of them recruited from convicts, were formed for action against the Armeninians. At Van, where the Armenians were in a majority, they resisted after nearby towns and villages had been cleared, holding out from April 20, for three weeks until they were relieved by the arrival of Russian forces under Genberal Yudenich.

On April 24, Interior minister Mehmed Talat passed the order claiming that the Armenians had rebelled against his government. Some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Istanbul were taken from their homes and placed in special holding centres. Elsewhere, Armenians were being forced on long marches, without food or water, into the Syrian desert. The guards who escorted them were often from the special detachments, and only too ready to attack, dob and rape those they were guarding.

Satisfied that "the deportation of the Armenians has been decided", General Fritz Bronsart von Schellendorf at army GHQ., thought he understood the way these helpless people were being treated:

"...the Armenian is just like a Jew, a parasite outside the confines of his homeland, sucking of the marrow of the peoples of the host country. Year after year they abandon their native land -just like the Polish Jews who migrate to Germany -to engage in various activities. Hence the hatred which was,in a medieval form, unleashed itself against them s an unpleasant entailing their murder. "

In fact there is evidence the hatred was neither spontaneous nor universally shared. A secret order, revealed at a post-war court martial, said that "any Muslim who dares to harbour an Armenian will be hanged in front of his house". It also warned any official or officer who broke ranks with the policy they would be stripped of their rank and court-martialed.

From Erzurum, in June, officers reported that young Armenian men had either been conscipted for labour battalions or shot. No bombs or weapons had been found in house to house searches , and there was no sign that the Armenians were preparing am uprising. Bronsart still insisted on the "military necessity" of deporting women, children and old men.

On June 17, 1915 German ambassador Wangenheim informed Berlin that Armenians from Dyarbakir who were supposed to be deported to Mosul "were en route to be slaughtered".

On June 29 he testified "The deportees are being set upon and butchered"

On July 7, he concluded that " the manner in which deportees being treated...shows that the government is in fact pursuing the goal of annihiliating the Armenian race in Turkey".

The forces sent to remove the Armenians sometimes found shorter ways than taking them on long marches. The Italian consul at Trabzon in 1915, Giacomo Gorrini, writes: "I saw thousands of innocent women and children placed on boats which were capsized in the Black Sea". An affidavit presented in post war trials in Trabzon described how Armenian villagers were burned. "The shortest method for disposing of the women and children concentrated in the various camps was to burn them." ... "Turkish prisoners who had apparently witnessed some of these scenes were horrified and maddened at remembering the sight. They told the Russians that the stench of the burning human flesh permeated the air for many days after."

US ambassador Henry Morgethau tried unsuccessfully to intercede with the Turkish authorities for the Armenians, and reported to Washington what was being done. "Early in July 2,000 Armenian "ameles" were sent from Harput to build roads. ...practically every man of these 2,000 was massacred".

Some Germans were shocked by what they saw. Dr.Walter Rossler, the consul in Aleppo, said he could not believe his eyes when he read an official document referring to "temporary relocation" of Armenians. He relayed to the Chancellor in Berlin the account of a German cavalry captain who had witnessed the slitting of throats of young Armenians in a labour battalion, and seen hundred of corpses by the roadside in September 1915.

But Colonel Felix Guse, IIIrd Army chief of staff described the Armenians as a people deserving "punishment". The official line was that the Turkish authorities were protecting themselves and their country from Armenian insurrection. The German Foreign Office made sure that 191 Reichstag deputies were unable to see a report on anti-Armenian atrocities

Lieutenant Colonel Boettrich, chied of railway services at Ottoman GHQ, ordered the deportation of Armenian railway workers, engineers and clerks who had been engaged in construction of the Baghdad railway. The Armenian workers were "despatched with the knife". The Baghdad Railway which had seemed so important to the war was now delayed because so many workers and technicians had been killed

General Bronsart attacked "agitators " and "the Jew Morgenthau", for interfering. In August 1916 he put in a request to his superior, General Lyman von Sanders, for the deportation of Greeks from Turkey's coastal areas..

The Three Pashas escape trial, but not justice
Immediately after the war there trials at Harput and Trabzon, for what had
been done to the Armenians. But the big three Turkish leaders - Enver, Talat, Cemal - were among seven whom Bronsart von Schellenburg and Lt.General Seekkt assisted to escape trial, if not justice of a sort.

Talat was assassinated with a single bullet on 15 March 1921 as he came out of his house in Hardenbergstrasse, Charlottenburg. His assassin was a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) from Erzurum, Soghomon Tehlirian..

Cemal was assassinated on July 21, 1922, in Tiflis (Tbilisi), Georgia, by Stepan Dzaghikian, Bedros Der Boghosian and Ardashes Kevorkian, all members of the ARF. His body was returned to Turkey for burial, also at Erzurum.

Enver Pasha seemed to enjoy a second and even third life, owing to his chutzpah, but it was not to last. He showed up at the Congress of Peoples of the East in Baku in 1920, supposedly representing revolutionaries in the Maghreb, Egypt and India, and denouncing imperialism. The following year he was entrusted with a mission to Bokhara to help suppress anti-Soviet Basmachi rebels. Switching to the rebel side, he became their commander, reorganising them with Turkish officers.

On August 4, 1922, near Dushanbe, his headquarters were attacked by Red Army Bashkir cavalry, and Enver was killed by machine gun fire . As luck would have it, the raiders were commanded by Yakov Melkumov , aka Agop Melkumian, an Armenian.

Yet the book remains open on the true significance of the Armenian tragedy, and so do the wounds. We have seen how some leaders take such enormous crimes not as a warning from history but an encouragement to do it again. We have a duty to uncover and recover the truth, if 'Never Again' is to mean, as it should, never again to anyone.

(first published in Jewish Socialist No.61 Winter 2010)

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Black Book

SALOME. Aubrey Beardsley illustration for Oscar Wilde's 1896 play.


By the Winter of 1917 the British Army had lost more than a quarter of a million men in a few months of hell in the shell-ravaged quagmire of Passchendaele. On 10 February, 1918 a small ad appeared in the Sunday Times, announcing two private performances of Oscar Wilde's Salome at the Prince of Wales Theatre, starring the dancer Maud Allan.

One might be hard put to make a connection be­tween these events other than on a surrealist canvas. But the conspiracy theorists could; and though Wilde's depiction of bloody sadism from lust might resonate strangely with the slaughter for greed in Flanders, that wasn't the connection made, or wanted. If the war wasn't going well, someone must be blamed.

The politicians could blame the generals. The generals blamed the politicians. But people like Arnold White, Marie Corelli, Pemberton Billing MP, Hamilton Beamish and Harold Spencer concocted a much more ingenious theory. There was a Hidden Hand at work undermining Britain. It was the Jews. Them and the urnings. The urnings?

Pemberton Billing had set up a paper called The Imperialist with financial help, it is said, from Beaverbrook. When the wily Canadian press lord joined Lloyd George's government and his right-wing Tory allies felt cheated, The Imperialist became The Vigilante, and carried on campaigning; Beaverbrook joined its foes.
Arnold White was an antisemite, who had cam­paigned against Jewish immigration (albeit not averse to taking Jewish money to explore other places for Jews to settle — as far from these shores as possible).

Now he was concerned about prominent Jews in government circles. But an article by him in the right-wing English Review at the end of 1917, reproduced in The Vigilante, raised another danger. Entitled "Efficiency and Vice", it claimed that most German men were homosexuals. As evidence, White cited a book by Otto Weininger extolling love between men, and the campaign to repeal Clause 175 of the German Penal Code which made sexual acts between men an offence. "How does all this German garbage, which I am forced to quote, affect the course of the war?" asked White, as well he might. Not that he was in any-real doubt. Not only were the German troops raping women, as every English newspaper reader knew, but they were out to spread homosexuality among English­men, to undermine national efficiency.

But if homosexuality so sapped a nation's spirit, how come all those homosexuals — urnings was the German expression White borrowed to show his erudition — hadn't already weakened Germany itself? Don't get logical now; we have entered the strange realm of conspiracy theory! "The English conception of their national life is that the home is the unit of the nation...," White explained, "but if the conception of home life is replaced by the Kultur of the urnings, the spirit of the Anglo-Saxon world wilts and perishes..."

If the 70-year-old White's fear of wilting wasn't enough, he went on to warn of "the systematic seduc­tion of young British soldiers by the German urnings and their agents..." and "a great cancer, made in Germany" eating at the heart of civilisation. "Every father and mother in the British Empire should know" that legalisation of homosexuality was one of the aims of the German Empire, to restore Sodom and Gomorrah, and "infect clean nations with the Hunnish erotomania".

"When the blond beast is an urning, he commands the urnings in other lands. They are moles. They burrow. They plot. They are hardest at work when they are most silent. Britain is only safe when her statesmen are family men..."

White made one serious mistake. He suggested that even the Kaiser's family and the other great German houses were "tainted with the inherent vices of the Huns...". Moutbatten (Battenburg) had been treated as a suspect alien; Margot Asquith might be whispered about as an alleged lesbian; but attributing a tainted inheritance to the relatives of the British Royal Family was going too far.

The Black Book

On 26 January 1918, however, The Imperialist had carried another sensational tale: "The First 47,000", written by Captain Harold Spencer, which began: "There exists in the cabinet noire of a certain German prince a book compiled by the Secret Service from the reports of German agents who have infested this
country for the past 20 years, agents so vile and spreading debauchery of such a lasciviousness as only German minds could conceive and German bodies execute."

This "Black Book", he claimed, contained instruc­tions for "the propagation of evils which all decent men thought had perished in Sodom and Lesbia". But the book also listed, according to Spencer, "the names of 47,000 English men and women... Privy Councillors, youths of the chorus, wives of Cabinet Ministers.
dancing girls, even Cabinet Ministers themselves, while diplomats, poets, bankers, editors, newspaper proprie­tors and members of His Majesty's household follow each other with no order of precedence..."

This veritable London phone book, however, also contained details "of the unnatural defloration of children who were drawn to the parks by the summer evening concerts..." German bands, perhaps? And if the worthy readers of The Imperialist weren't already salivating, there was more: "Wives of men in supreme positions were entangled. In lesbian ecstasy the most sacred secrets of State were betrayed." One can just imagine it, that insistent throaty whisper at the height of passion: "Cynthia, about the secret clauses of the Sykes-Picot agreement concerning the Dardanelles..."

Well, perhaps romantic novelist Marie Corelli could swallow it, being an antisemite and devotee of con­spiracy theory. On 10 February, seeing the advertise­ment for Maud Allan's performance, Miss Corelli promptly clipped it and sent it to the office of The Vigilante, as Pemberton Billing's paper had just been re-named. She enclosed a note:

Dear Mr Billing,

I think it would be well to secure a list of subscri­bers to this new "upholding" of the Wilde "cult" among the 47,000.

Yours sincerely Marie Corelli.

PS Why "private"performances?

The reason they were private was simple, as Corelli should have known. The Lord Chamberlain had banned public performances of Salome.

Captain Spencer was first to see Marie Corelli's billet doux, and although The Vigilante was about to go to press, he felt inspired to include the following little item:

'The Cult of the Clitoris

To be a member of Maud Allan's private perfor­mances in Oscar Wilde's Salome one had only to apply to a Miss Valetta, of 9 Duke Street, Adelphi, WC. If Scotland Yard were to seize the list of these members, I have no doubt they would secure the names of several thousand of the first 47,000'.

On trial

Encouraged by her producer, Jack Grein, Maud Allan decided to sue Pemberton Billing for "obscene libel", treating his headline as an allegation of lesbianism. The trial, which opened on 29 May 1918, must rank as one of the most bizarre in British legal history, with strange witnesses for the defence, attempts to drag in the names of the famous, and the most jumbled pseudo-expertise on "sexual perversions" interspersed with readings of Wilde's purple prose, like "thy mouth like the vermilion that the Moabites find".

Curiously, as David Rose discovered ( "Secrets of a Closed Society". Guardian Weekend, January 7, 1989), there is still a file in the Public Record Office at Kew listed as "The Black Book mentioned in the criminal libel action against Mr.Pemberton Billing MP". It's in "HO (the Home Office) 144/364780, 1918. And it is "closed for 100 years".

Pemberton Billing's mode of defence ws to step up his attack, making little distinction between Maud Allan and the character she portrayed on stage, and imputing lesbianism, sadism and necrophilia, as well as reminding the court that Salome was under age! He argued that unless Maud Allan had a medical education the fact that she understood the word "clitoris" was itself proof of her immorality! And he was allowed to bring up the little known, and irrelevant, fact that a brother of Maud Allan had been hanged for murder in Canada, declaring that this showed a hereditary evil in her family.

Turning his attack to the play's producer, Jack Grein (who, besides being a foreigner and a Jew, was a protege of the now hated Beaverbrook), Billing now brought up the "Black Book" and the famous 47,000. He called as witness a Mrs Eileen Villiers-Stuart, who claimed to have been shown the Book by two officers, now unfortunately killed in action in Palestine. But that wasn't all. She had seen some of the names in it. "Is Mrs Asquith's name in the book?" (The former prime minister's wife had aleady been mentioned for having invited Maud Allan to tea at Downing Street before the war.) Both Mr and Mrs Asquith were listed, claimed Mrs Villiers-Stuart. "And Lord Haldane?" Him too. And, to put the final cherry on the cake, the witness was able to testify that Mr Justice Darling, who was hearing the case, was in the "Black Book" too!

Special witnesses

A former mistress of Neil Primrose, government Chief Whip and son of Lord Roseberry, who was one of the officers killed in Palestine, Villiers-Stuart implied both that he had let the "Black Book" get back to Germany, and that he had been killed for what he knew. Nothing if not patriotic, she had since married first one, then another, soldier, and was later to face charges of bigamy. At the time of the trial, she was claiming to have been employed as a secret agent to discredit Pemberton Billing, but to have switched to his side.

Captain Harold Spencer, who claimed to have seen the"Black Book" while on special service in Albania, said he had been warned by senior officers in military intelligence that to publicise it "would undermine the whole fabric of the government". He had come to fear that "the Germans had such a grip on our affairs
that nothing could be done". But then, through meeting Henry Hamilton Beamish at a meeting of the National Party he had been introduced to Pemberton Billing.

Besides giving details of German plots and naming some names, the author of "The First 47,000" was able to enlighten the court on such matters as sadism, and the meaning of "orgasm", explaining also that he had obtained the word "clitoris" from his village doctor. What Captain Spencer was less forthcoming
about was his own medical discharge from the forces on grounds of "delusional insanity".

A Dr Cooke, Tuberculosis Officer for Lambeth, was brought in as an authority on Kraft-Ebbing and sexuality to testify that, in his belief, Jack Grein must be a sadist and a "sodomist"; that anyone connected with Oscar Wilde's play must have "a perverted mind"; and that the phrase, "The Cult of the Clitoris", was legitimate as a heading.

While judge and jury were struggling to swallow, if not digest, all this erudite information, a character from an earlier case was brought in for a touch of class — none other than Lord Alfred Douglas, once Oscar Wilde's friend "Bosie", now ready to call Wilde "the greatest force for evil that has appeared in Europe during the last 350 years ... the agent of the devil in every possible way".

Regretting his part in translating Salome, "a most pernicious and abominable piece of work", he agreed that it could only appeal to perverts — and Germans. "Bosie" was cheered from the public gallery when the case ended — with Pemberton Billing's acquittal and a homily from Justice Darling against Wilde's play and Maud Allan's immodest costume on stage.

This trial, in which the editor of The Vigilante was able to turn the plaintiffs into the accused, and make the court a platform for his campaign demagogy and fanaticism, puts on show the ignorant bigotry and political corruption of its period. But more than that: the evidence suggests that Maud Allan was targeted so viciously simply because she had innocently strayed on to the battlefield of a dirty political war. There was indeed a "Hidden Hand": that of a powerful right-wing faction among the ruling class, backing, using and protecting the fanatical Pemberton Billing and his crew. '

Jingoism and bigotry

In March 1914, just months before world war broke out, the British government had faced revolt. The Ulster Unionists armed against Home Rule, the British Army officers staged their "Mutiny at the Curragh" (telling the King they would refuse orders to march against Ulster), and the mighty in the land gathered at country houses to cheer right-wing rebellion. At West­minster the prime minister was shouted down, Margot Asquith commented that she had "never known the Tories so vile". The ever-patriotic Daily Express said the PM deserved "neither respect nor a hearing".

The government backed down.

The war brought no respite from internal conflict. In 1916, the Right hoped Asquith's fall would bring the Ulster Unionist, Carson, and imperialist, Lord Milner, into office. Disappointed, they had turned on Lloyd George and Beaverbrook. Now, in 1918, with rumours that the Hague negotiations on prisoners of war might lead to peace moves, it was the military and the extreme Right who backed Pemberton Billing, crusading against "traitors".

Mixing patriotic hysteria with sexual anxiety, jingo­ism and bigotry, moral panic and paranoia, Pemberton Billing and his associates stirred a potent and poison­ous brew. But it was not their only weapon. Hatred of the "alien" and, specifically, the Jew, was a persistent theme with them.

On 23 March 1918 as a German counteroffensive drove the British back in Flanders, The Vigilante "ex­plained" that the Germans and "the Ashkenazim" had"complete control of the White Slave Traffic", and blamed Jewish-controlled prostitutes for deliberately spreading disease among the British troops.

Earlier, an article thought to be by H H Beamish had suggested that Beaverbrook's family name, Aitken, might be "derived from an original name of Isaacs. If this is true, he belongs to the same tribe as our Lord Chief Justice..."

As for another paper saying that the writing was on the wall for Germany because revolution loomed, Beamish warned: "The real writing on the wall is in German but the characters are Hebrew and the decep­tive whole is known to the world as Yiddish, the camouflaged tongue of the Bolsheviks."

The last issue of The Vigilante appeared on 9 Feb­ruary 1919. A few months later, Henry Hamilton Beamish founded the Britons society, which was joined by Lord Sydenham of Coombe and others including Victor Marsden. Morning Post correspon­dent and translator of the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The "Britons" became publishers of the Protocols and Beamish became a strong Nazi sympathiser in later years.

Between 1920 and 1923 Lord Alfred Douglas and Captain Harold Spencer ran a weekly called Plain English. Their pet theory was that Jews had contrived the death of Lord Kitchener when his ship went down in 1916, and had also profited in some way from the Battle of Jutland, with the help of Winston Churchill. It all seems so long ago and far away, and yet... And yet in 1988, seventy years after Pemberton Billing presented homosexualitv as a conspiracy, the Conser­vative government inserted a clause in its Local Government Act outlawing the "promotion" of lesbianism and homosexualitv. In the autumn of that year, Choice, published by the Dowager Lady Birdwood, featured Victor Marsden's version of the infamous Protocol as a genuine document.

And, as though to prove that nobody learns any­thing from history, a Jew, Sir Alfred Sherman, consorts with the French fascist leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who thought the gas chambers "a mere detail", then writes in the Jewish Chronicle (23 December 1988) attacking left-wingers, not least fellow Jews, for "the promotion of unnatural vice"; blames "disaffected ethnic minorities who abuse our tolerance" and "sexual perverts" of being alike part of a conspiracy to overturn "ordered society".

From his defence of "order" to conspiracy theory, from his espousal of "Christian values" to indignation against disaffected minorities; what a pity a mere detail of ancestry must inhibit the next logical step of endorsing some edition of the Protocols. And how the Pemberton Billings and Beamishes must be laughing, somewhere in hell.

Further reading

Sex Scandals by Keeler and Meadley (Xanadu, 1985)

Salome's Last Veil by Michael Kettle (Granada, 1977). This gives a full acount of the trial and background.

British Fascism edited by Lunn and Thurlow (Groom Helm, 1980). Particularly important is the chapter by Gisela C Lebselter on Beamish.

Fascism in Britain by Richard Thurlow (Basil Blackwell, 1987).

(this article first appeared in Jewish Socialist no.16, Spring 1989)

Fighter from Galicia

TREPPER. "No Regrets"

Leopold Trepper's life of commitment to fighting fascism and serving international socialism went largely unrecognised — until he died, when everyone tried to claim him as one of them.
says Charlie Pottins

Lenin once remarked that it was often the fate of great revolutionaries and fighters for the oppressed to be "can­onised" after their death, turried into harmless icons to console and dupe the masses, by those who hated and pilloried everything they had stood for when alive. Were he able to look down from the beyond on his own mausoleum in Moscow, he would often have seen ample confirmation for that aphorism!

When Leopold Trepper died in Jerusalem in 1982 and it was reported that Israel had awarded him a post­humous medal, presented to his widow Luba by Ariel Sharon, it brought to mind once more Lenin's prescient observation.

Claimed alternately in Socialist Worker as "one of us" and by the Jewish Chronicle as having been "a Zionist almost in spite of himself", Trepper was truly neither. The wartime chief of the famous "Red Orchestra" spy network was a lifelong socialist, a proud and devoted fighter for the Jewish people and a firm internationalist. His heroic and brilliant activity as an anti-Nazi master spy certainly deserves recognition from the Jewish people; but he and his wife and comrade Luba also deserve some­thing better than a medal from the soiled hands of Ariel Sharon!

On the Road to Socialism

Leopold Trepper's life and outlook might be summed up by the remark with which he opened a chapter in his book The Great Game (1977): "I became a Communist because I am a Jew".
Like many of his generation and back­ground, as a youth Trepper had been drawn almost instinctively to the side of the October Revolution and the cause of socialism. For him the year 1917 had also seen, after the loss of a brother in the World War, the early death of his father from overwork and poverty. Trepper felt repugnance for the religion of the Rabbi who preached acceptance of one's fate and the will of "the Almighty".
"Instead of being fed, the people were crammed full of opium. I found out this truth not from reading Marx, whom I had never heard of, but from life in rural Poland — a good book for anyone who wanted to learn."

From this point on, the young Leopold Trepper became convinced that humanity must solve its own problems, and the Jewish problem with them — and not by prayer. His encounters with antisemitism and class struggle hardened his will to fight.

The long and winding road which was to take this boy from the poverty-stricken Galician town of Novy-Targ, by way of both Nazi and Stalinist prison cells, to his death in Jerusalem, first landed him on the shore of Palestine in 1924, as a chalutz (pioneer) and militant of Hashomer Hatzair, the socialist Zionist youth move­ment. The youthful ideal of creating a new Jew in a socialist Israel soon brought him and his comrades into conflict with the British Mandate and with the Zionist bourgeoisie and the Histadrut (Jewish trade union) leadership, too.

The young Jewish workers and pion­eers were confronted with the difficult question of what to do about Arab labour. Leaders like Ben Gurion and Golda Meir saw their task as getting rid of the "prob­lem", taking the path of separatism and national conflict, worker against worker. Trepper and others like him chose the harder, less "realistic" way, striving to achieve Arab-Jewish unity in a spirit of working class internationalism. They were increasingly isolated, attacked on all sides, and ultimately defeated. We are still paying the price of that defeat today. But we can take some inspiration from the courage and resolve of these early Palestine Communists who tried.

Political Exile

The hardship of victimisation, unemploy­ment, repression, imprisonment by the British in Acre's medieval dungeons, deportation and the wandering life of a political exile, all strengthened Leopold Trepper's reolutionary commitment. In Paris, he worked tirelessly to organise the Jewish workers, launched a Yiddish community newspaper, took part in cultural work, and mobilised immigrant Jews into anti-fascist activity. Luba, who joined him after being hounded by the police in Palestine, was equally active, and represented the Party's Jewish section at the big 1931 anti-fascist congress.

As Trepper frankly acknowledges, during this period he also loyally carried out the Party's orders to combat the Trotskyists, whose influence he says "was very strong among Jewish communists."

Forced again to move by police repression, the Treppers went to the Soviet Union in 1932. At this time, there seemed much to bear out the high hopes he had placed on Soviet Communism. He saw a lively Jewish culture growing from the new life of Jewish workers and thriving Jewish collective farms and districts where Yiddish had become the official language. Five or six Jewish daily papers, Jewish writers published in editions of millions, university courses in Jewish literature, and Jewish students freed from the old discrimination, graduating to make their contribution to Soviet science and arts. From being synonymous with antisemitism and pogroms, the new Russia was becoming a serious contender with "the Promised Land" for Jewish aspirations.

But these fruits of Revolution were not to last.

A new counter-revolutionary wave, and new "Black Hundredism" was about to be launched by the Stalin regime. Trepper in his book faithfully records the fate of his old friends. and inspirers who perished in the Stalin purges, like Daniel Averbuch, a leader first of the Left Poale Zion and then of the Palestine Commu­nist Party, who was recalled to Moscow and died in the Lubianka.

He describes how Esther Frumkin, once spokesperson for the Communist fraction of the Bund, and rector of the Marchlevski University for national minorities which Trepper attended, was sentenced to death on trumped-up charges in 1937. He recalls also the words of Averbuch's son: "My father was accused of being a counter­revolutionary, but I say that it is the leaders of the country, starting with Stalin, who are the real counter­revolutionaries". He too ended up in a Stalinist camp, as did most of the Averbuch family.

Although he was naturally closest to the Jewish victims and saw the devas­tating effect of this period on Jewish life, Trepper does not separate this from what was happening to the Soviet Union and international communism in general. His book refers to the frame-ups of old Bolshevik leaders and Red Army generals, and to the grim fate of German, Polish, Bulgarian and other communists who fell victim. Thus, while his feeling for the Jewish people is not in question, it is free from the narrow outlook which led others to merely see in this period rein­forcement for their own prejudices and to draw reactionary conclusions.

He is unforgiving to those who preten­ded they knew nothing until Khruschev's 1956 "revelations", but who were, in reality, "knowing accomplices of the liquidations, including those of members of their own parties." (a charge that applies to the British CP leaders, for example). Less fairly, one feels, he even accuses himself among those who did not rise up and who share responsibility.

"But who did protest at that time?" he asks, ''Who rose up to voice his outrage?".
"The Trotskyites can lay claim to this honour," Trepper answers, "following the example of their leader who was rewar­ded for his obstinacy with the end of an ice-axe, they fought Stalinism to the death, and they were the only ones who did."

In a remarkable tribute to those who were, after all, once his political opponents, Trepper praises the bravery of the Trotskyists who defied Stalin, even in the Siberian camps, going on to say:
"Today, the Trotskyites have a right to accuse those who once howled with the wolves. Let them not forget, however, that they had the enormous advantage over us of having a coherent political system capable of replacing Stalinism. They had something to cling to in the midst of their profound distress at seeing the revolution betrayed. They did not "confess" for they knew that their confession would serve neither the party nor socialism."

At War with Hitler

Leopold Trepper earned his place in history through activity in which his role and name had to be kept concealed, of course, and in which one mistake or indiscretion could mean death for himself and others. It required selfless dedication, courage, constant alertness and self-discipline. If his years of hard work and clandestine international activity had provided an apprenticeship, then his powerful desire to do something against Adolf Hitler was sufficient motivation. When General Jan Berzin of Red Army intelligence (himself to be a victim of Stalin's inquisition) approached Trepper with the opportunity to leave Russia and continue working for Socialism, the Jewish communist from Galicia did not hesitate: here was his great opportunity, he said, to fight the Nazis.

Fight them he certainly did. His net­work, a veritable "International Brigade" of dedicated agents, penetrated right into the heart of the Nazi state for its secrets. Hidden radio transmitters nightly relayed their information back to the Soviet Union. -on the latest German tank. the
Nazis' forces in Western Europe, the state of the Italian army. Relentlessly the Gestapo sought to silence this "Red Orchestra" and above all, to track down "the Chief". But even after capture, Trepper managed to outwit them and continue in the game.

His greatest scoop, however, shared to an extent with his lone colleague in Tokyo, Richard Sorge, was the one the Soviet leadership ignored: the warning of Hitler's invasion plans, of "Barbarossa". The all-powerful and brilliant genius Stalin knew better, his lackeys dared not contradict him and twenty million Soviet citizens were left to pay for the Great Leader's little "mistake". For that and for the previous murder of the Red Army's officer cadre - at which Hitler had openly rejoiced. The purges had also hit the Soviet intelligence service badly -Trepper's network was compromised and exposed to Gestapo attention largely through the stupidity and ineptitude of those Stalin proteges who had replaced men like Berzin.

Unlike Sorge, who was executed by the Japanese, Trepper survived the War, and to embarrass the Soviet leaders with what he knew. His return to Moscow brought him "postgraduate study" in the cells of the Lubianka and Lefortovo prisons, to further his knowledge of Stalinism. Not till 1955 was he released, and granted a Soviet pension. But Trepper's odyssey was still not over.

Disappointments, But No Regrets

In 1957 Leopold Trepper returned to Poland where he aimed to serve the rem­nant of Polish Jewry. There were the Warsaw Ghetto revolt commemorations; a post at the Yiddish Buch publishing house and then as president of the Jewish Social and Cultural Association. Most of the Jews of Novy-Targ, including many of Trepper's family, were in a mass grave. But antisemitism was not yet dead or buried. The veteran fascist Piasecki was alive and well and rumoured now to be a Soviet agent. There was a new figure looming from the security police, General Moczar.

In 1967, and more so in response to the student unrest of 1968, the new regime resorted to the tried weapon of old:
"Yes", wrote Trepper, "more than 25 years after the end of the war, in the country of the Warsaw Ghetto, where the Jews had suffered more than anywhere else from Nazi barbarity, and under a regime that called itself socialist, the monster of antisemitism was rising from its ashes."

Against this background, the Treppers waged a long fight for permission to leave the country, winning international sup­port as their case became known. It was, he would write, the "last and most pain­ful battle of my life."

I have in front of me a photograph of Luba Brojde, taken in 1973 when the couple were in Denmark. It is the face of a woman who has fought and suffered, a tough face — but with all the warmth and irreverent good-humour that neither suffering nor oppressors could defeat. From Trepper's account, as a young and beautiful girl when they first met, Luba was not only a "born rebel" but one with a mischievous sense of humour; no respecter of authority. Having early in her career spent two periods in jail at the hands of the Palestine Mandate and the Jewish police, at a time when the Zionist Establishment regarded her and Trepper as outcasts, perhaps Luba sees a funny side to getting a medal now from the Israeli authorities!

For Trepper, who regarded the period when he was outwitting the Nazis and in constant danger as the finest hour of his life ("if I had to start all over again, I would do so with joy", he declared) perhaps an equally gratifying tribute came soon after he had left Poland, though it was unintended as such. The French security authorities deemed him still a dangerous character who must not be admitted to France.

Leopold Trepper epitomised a generation of Jewish militants won to the communist cause when the Russian Revolution was still young and uncorrupted. Despite all the pain and bitter betrayals, he never deserted the cause to which he had committed himself in youth, that of the Jewish people, of humanity and of socialism. He remained firm in his principles, and frank in his willingness to render a true account of what he had seen, however painful.

In 1973 at a meeting in Denmark he was asked whether he had not sacrificed his life for nothing. "No," replied Trepper. And he adds in his book:

"No, on one condition: that people understand the lesson of my life as a communist and a revolutionary, and do not turn them­selves over to a deified party. I know that youth will succeed where we have failed, that socialism will triumph, and that it will not have the colour of the Russian tanks that crushed Prague."

We must pay tribute to Trepper, not as a dead hero, but as living inspir­ation for those of us who must take up the struggle he waged. If we can recognise the continuity, if we can learn as much as possible from the lives of fighters like Trepper, this will not only be the finest tribute, but a vital asset in our own struggles, today and tomorrow.

(first published in Jewish Socialist No.4, Winter 1985-6)