Sandy Brown Baltic Shores

Sweden wasn’t the only Baltic area with an election yesterday. The voters of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, in Germany’s northeastern corner, dealt a heavy blow to the ruling Social Democrat-postcommunist (SPD-Left) coalition. The SPD dropped 10 percent, but still received the largest share of votes, topping the Christian Democrats (CDU) 30.2 percent to 28.8 percent. The postcommunist (or possibly post-postcommunist, depending on how you look at these things) party, now known as the Left, rose marginally from 16.4 percent to 16.8 percent. The SPD can either attempt to continue the current coalition, which would then have a one-seat majority, or it can try to forge a grand coalition with the CDU, with all of the pluses and minuses currently on display at the national level.

But relatively mundane state politics are not what today’s headlines are about.
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Belgium yet again in turmoil over killings

In the night between May 6th and 7th 2006 five skinheads, coming from De Kastelein, a known extreme right café in West Flanders, beat up Raphaël Mensah, a fifty year old Parisian artist of Gabonese descent, and his thirty seven year old Belgian friend Alain Bouillon. Bouillon was heavily wounded and Mensah is now lying in a coma. According to Bouillon “the skinheads weren’t after money, they went after us because my friend has the wrong skin colour”. In fact, according to Belgian French-language La Dernière Heure, Mensah’s wallet was recovered on the crime scene with the 150 euros he carried on him still in it.

On May 11th, in an Antwerp street very close to where I used to live, an 18-year old man, Hans Van Themsche, went on a killing spree. His first victim, 46-year old Sonhul Koç, a Turkish woman who was sitting on a park bench reading a book, was heavily wounded. Van Themsche had shot her in the back from a distance of six meters (6.5 yards).

The second and third victims were both killed. They were a 24-year old Malinese woman called Oulemata Niangadou who worked as an au pair and the little Belgian girl she was looking after, two year old Luna. Van Themsche had spotted Oulemata and Luna walking down the street, he passed them, turned around and fired at them, in theirs backs, from point blank range. When he was later questioned about his motive for killing the little girl, he is reported to have said: “She was in the wrong place at the wrong time”. In all it took Van Themsche just four minutes to destroy three lives. He was stopped by a policeman who arrived at the scene and shot Van Themsche, apparently a willing target since he shouted “just shoot me”, in the stomach. Van Themsche is now in the hospital, but he will survive.
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David Irving: My Part in His Downfall

David Irving, as no doubt we all know, is beginning his new career as a jailbird, in the great grey walls of the Josefstadt prison next to the even greater and greyer Landesgericht between Vienna’s city hall and its university. Now, there are plenty of facile things to say about this: freedom of expression is vital, dammit!/Nazis must be suppressed!/What if he was a Muslim? But I hope to raise some others.

Total disclosure: I participated tangentially in Irving’s lawsuit against Deborah Lipstadt. At the time I was a student of the world Holocaust authority, Professor Peter Longerich, who was one of the team of historians who acted as expert witnesses under the direction of Professor Richard J. Evans. Whilst Longerich was known to be preparing for one of his court appearances, he asked me to borrow various works of reference from the Bedford Library at Royal Holloway for him. I was not pleased, some time later, when the librarians demanded I pay fines on the books, although Irving’s defeat was some relief.

Irving is a liar who deserves nothing but contempt. (Richard Evans’s book on the case is strongly recommended for detail.) It cannot go unremarked that he has always chosen to “challenge conventional wisdom”, in the charitable way people put it, in front of audiences who are both already converted to his point of view and willing to pay well for confirmation of theirs. His lecture circuit – mad US militias, western European fascists, apartheid South Africa – speaks for itself, as do those who admit to financing him.

And there’s the rub. In Britain, his nonsense might just be tolerable. But this is in a sense a luxury afforded by a lack of fascists. I can think of many countries where this is so:
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The Strange Case of Odysseas Tsenai

In the news today the Comission and Spain/Poland are still haggling over the price of the constitution. Meantime from another pole of Europe, a curious story of one young Albanian, and the struggle to assert his elementary rights in his new homeland: Greece. My feeling is that in our current preoccupations, our conception of Europe lies too far to the North and too far to the West. I also think, that when we come to look at the contribution and participation of immigrants in Europe, we all too often forget the adversity they face.

Background: in 1990 the Greek Alabania border opened. Over the mountains and across the sea the Albanians started arriving in Greece. Their numbers were large but never counted: their number still constitutes material for scare stories on popular Greek TV. The actual number is unknown but it might be as high as a million all over Greece (if you include the ethnic Greek Albanians ). The first arrivals came from a country whose isolation was proverbial. They were destitute, blinded by the city lights and the consumer goods, and clueless as to what they could do to earn a living.
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