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The Holocaust


Often the history, the story we tell, is as important as the events that lie behind it. Take the disputed Holocaust as an example.   The Jewish Board of Deputies says the number killed was six million; holocaust deniers say that far less were killed.  What can we make of this?  Unless a lot of film and documented eyewitness accounts have been doctored, I'm reasonably sure it was a pretty big number.  Does the claimed number differ from the actual events?  If so does it matter?

The fact itself, as it really happened, changed the future.  Many people died; many more were never born; paintings were never made; music was never written; inventions were not conceived; discoveries not made; businesses never started.  Almost everyone alive today would never have been born if it had not happened just so.  Why then is the historical version, the story, so controversial?  It's one of few stories, perhaps the only one remaining, that in some countries has legal sanctions attached if people doubt it and say so. 

It's because the story itself, independent of the event it describes, has utility.

In the 1970's I met a widow who had a property in Castle Hill NSW.  In 1945 she said, she had fled from Auschwitz, with the other prisoners; together with their German guards who were also starving; ahead of the advancing Russian Army.  English was not her first language but I understood that she was a Polish political prisoner accused of being an anti-German activist; but the prisoners and their guards were more scared of the Russians than of the Germans. 

She was not Jewish and was not sympathetic to Jews.  She confirmed that the Jewish prisoners were very badly treated and many/most died.  She was, she said, not aware of the extermination ovens.  When they got to apparent safety the allied troops wanting to help gave them food from ration packs.  This proved to be too rich and many of them died as a result of this kindness. 

Her husband had fought with the Russians and for his pains was sent to a forced labour camp, from which he somehow escaped.  Reputedly the Russians massacred numerous troops who had previously fought with them.  For the remainder of their lives they lived in fear of the 'authorities' but most particularly of the Russians in the context of the 'cold war'.

As a result of the actual events that took place you and I are here.  We would not be had not the events that led to these deaths, and the millions of others in two world wars, been exactly as they were.  I explain why in more detail elsewhere on this website.  

But over and above what actually took place are the stories we tell about those events.  In the case of the Holocaust they are still told as an apparent justification for continuing to settle on the land of people who were totally remote from the actual events; and of the stories told about them.


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A Little Background

The land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea, known as Palestine, is one of the most fought over in human history.  Anthropologists believe that the first humans to leave Africa lived in and around this region and that all non-African humans are related to these common ancestors who lived perhaps 70,000 years ago.  At first glance this interest seems odd, because as bits of territory go it's nothing special.  These days it's mostly desert and semi-desert.  Somewhere back-o-Bourke might look similar, if a bit redder. 

Yet since humans have kept written records, Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, Ancient Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, early Muslims, Christian Crusaders, Ottomans (and other later Muslims), British and Zionists, have all fought to control this land.  This has sometimes been for strategic reasons alone but often partly for affairs of the heart, because this land is steeped in history and myth. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

A Digger’s Tale

- Introduction



The accompanying story is ‘warts and all’.  It is the actual memoirs (hand written and transcribed here; but with my headings added) of Corporal Ross Smith, a young Australian man, 18 years of age, from humble circumstances [read more...] who was drawn by World events into the Second World War.  He tells it as he saw it.  The action takes place near Rabaul in New Britain. 

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Opinions and Philosophy

The Prospect of Eternal Life




To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream:
ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause:
… But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;






When I first began to write about this subject, the idea that Hamlet’s fear was still current in today’s day and age seemed to me as bizarre as the fear of falling off the earth if you sail too far to the west.  And yet several people have identified the prospect of an 'undiscovered country from whose realm no traveller returns' as an important consideration when contemplating death.  This is, apparently, neither the rational existential desire to avoid annihilation; nor the animal imperative to keep living under any circumstances; but a fear of what lies beyond.


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