Remembering the victims of the holocaust

A candle tribute to the victims at Auschwitz

A candle tribute to the victims at Auschwitz - Credit: Archant

A view from East Devon District Council leader Paul Arnott

East Devon District Council leader, Councilor Paul Arnott. Picture: Paul Arnott

East Devon District Council leader, Councilor Paul Arnott. Picture: Paul Arnott - Credit: Archant

One of the most authentically frightening experiences I have ever had came one hot afternoon in the Market Square of the usually calm town of Colyton, about fifty yards from my front door, and it featured our much-esteemed local butcher Anton Bolton. Now, if that is not a good first line for a short story …

This, however, is true. Here in Colyton we are very keen on the brand “The Most Rebellious Town in Devon”. This resurfaced a few years ago with the “Colyton Laundry Rebellion” but that is another story. A simple search on the internet tells that one if you are curious.

The original rebellion, however concerned the landing at Lyme Regis of the Duke of Monmouth in June 1685. Monmouth was the son of the deceased “Merry Monarch”, Charles II, and opposed after his father’s death to Charles’s brother, James II, who was a much more fundamentalist Catholic kettle of fish. It's a long story.

On his way from Lyme to Somerset, where his cause ended in catastrophic defeat, Monmouth raised men to fight with him. 105 Colyton men enlisted, more than any other town, and ended up variously dead, transported or executed. Encouraged by fine research from the well-respected local historian Colin Haynes, the town regularly commemorates this. It’s respectful, but fun too

Which is how Anton the Butcher and his fine brigade of re-enacters from the Taunton Garrison came marching into the Market Square that afternoon. And it was really, genuinely scary. You could hear their marching feet as they came around the corner from the direction of the Vicarage, and as they broke into the open square with drums thundering and military orders being barked out the sound pounded through the onlookers’ chests.

I couldn’t help thinking then what it would have been like when James II men - bent on revenge – had marched into the town in 1685, thumping on doors and making arrests. For a local event, it had a remarkable punch. It also helped me understand some of the terror of worse attacks on civilian populations.

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Next week, on 27th January, Holocaust Memorial day will be marked. Last year at East Devon District Council’s Honiton HQ, we held a ceremony attended by representatives of local synagogues and local Jewish people. It was a sobering occasion. It’s impossible to meet a Jewish person anywhere in Europe whose own family wasn’t directly affected by the wicked and murderous genocide perpetrated by the Nazis. Those present that day were no different.

Scariest always to me is the complicity of the German people - as well as Austrians, Poles, French and many more – in this persecution. It reminds me of that often quoted parable from the German pastor, Martin Niemöller.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The Germans have renounced their actions since, but still there are pockets of neo-Nazis, casual anti-Semites and people spouting the same wicked conspiracy theories about Jewish people and money. That one is worth addressing. Jews became bankers three hundred and fifty years ago in Holland precisely because they were banned by the Dutch from taking part in any other aspect of

trade. So they became good at financing ship voyages and therefore good at international banking. That’s all there is to that dangerous prejudice.

This year, EDDC’s chair, Dr Cathy Gardner has announced that as we cannot gather she will take part in a virtual Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January at 7pm. You can register online, with links to be found https://eastdevon.gov.uk/news/2021/01/holocaust-memorial-day-2021-to-be-marked-in-virtual-ceremony/


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