Great Britain and the Holocaust: Poland's Role in Revealing the News
Seminar paper from the year 2010 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: sehr gut, University of Frankfurt (Main) (Institut für England- und Amerikastudien), course: Memory of the Camps: The Holocaust in British Literature and Culture, language: English, abstract: The insular character of Great Britain has always played a role in its relations with other European countries. The political idea of 'splendid isolation' could have only originated in that country. The British mentality, which is specific in many respects, means that the perception of events taking place on the other side of the English Channel is inevitably distinct from the perception of other European nations. A particular way of viewing and reacting to political developments in Europe from a distance was given expression in many periods of history. One example is at the beginning of the Second World War. It did not affect Great Britain directly, but the country was obliged due to the Anglo-Polish military alliance to assist the Polish in defending their country. The result was a situation, which is known today as Phoney War. Britain declared war on Germany but did not fulfil the terms of the agreement. This attitude was a manifestation of the appeasement policy pursued by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. The result was that Britain (as well as France) only started major military actions in May 1940, when German troops had marched into the Benelux countries, and as it had become clear that there might be a serious threat to the British in a short period of time. The neutral approach towards a catastrophe taking place far away on the continent is particularly disturbing in the case of what is known today as the Holocaust: the mass extermination of European Jews in the years 1941-1945. One must say that the British approach to this event was and is inexorably different than the German or Polish one. The genocide took place in Poland, in a country which suffered severely under Nazi occupation; it is at this important to bear in mind that three out of six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust were Polish citizens. Germany, as the country of the perpetrators, must have its own characteristic view on the event; it is for instance understandable why this country feels obliged to remember and remind of the Holocaust today so much. The British on the other side were neither perpetrators nor victims. They did, of course, take active part in military actions during the war, but since the Holocaust is regarded as a systematic murder on its own and as something distinct from what happened on the battlefields, one cannot really say that Britain was directly affected by it.
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