O P I N I O N
by Michael Pinto-Duschinsky
The following is the author’s prepared statement for a panel discussion this evening on rights and freedoms prior to a performance of Harold Pinter’s “Hothouse” at Trafalgar Studios, London SE1. Panelists are: Shami Chakrabarti, Jonathan Cooper, Nicolas Kent and Michael Pinto-Duschinsky.
In 1970, twelve years after the first performance of “Hothouse”, Harold Pinter chose to accept a valuable award called the “Shakespeare Prize”. The series of Shakespeare Prizes were donated from the 1930s onwards by a Hamburg multi-millionaire with a record for actively supporting the Nazis before, during and after the Second World War.
The prize itself was originally part of a series of propaganda and subversive activities in support of Hitler’s annexationist policies in Europe conducted by Alfred Toepfer, The Merchant of Hamburg, in cooperation with high ranking members of the SS, Joachim Von Ribbentrop, Josef Goebbels and other notorious figures.
During the War, Toepfer’s firm was involved with the SS in the Lodz ghetto.
After the War, Toepfer actively helped leading Nazis to escape justice. I am still engaged in a controversy with the University of Oxford because it continues to accept Toepfer’s Nazi-tainted largesse.
Unfortunately, money talks. Pinter was one of a number of prominent UK literary and theatrical figures who agreed to accept money and honour from a thoroughly dishonourable source. Maybe he and they didn’t know. If so, they perhaps should have inquired more carefully.
There is a fatal tendency to airbrush some of the history of Nazism. It may surprise some of you that Germany officially refuses to accept that slave labour in Hitler’s concentration camps was illegal.
Cruelty exists not only in ghettos, killing fields, concentration camps, and death factories. There is everyday cruelty to the sick, old, very young and the mentally handicapped.
There is a huge and essential task before us to guard constantly against complacency and to create a more humane society here and now.
But in order to do this, we also have a great deal of unfinished work to do to ensure that the horror of horrors, the abuse of all abuses — the Nazi Holocaust does not continue to be greywashed, obfuscated and minimised and that its illegality is finally recognised while some Holocaust survivors are still alive.
In case you are under any illusion about the prevalence of soft-core Holocaust denial, I suggest you look at the website of Dovid Katz titled “Defending History”.