Monday 19 March 2018

Fergal Keane: Fearmongers keep flame of hatred alive in the city that burned

RALLY: Supporters of the Pegida movement in Dresden
RALLY: Supporters of the Pegida movement in Dresden

Fergal Keane

I first came to Dresden in the company of a dear friend who had been a slave labourer there towards the end of World War Two. By the time he arrived, Roman Halter had already survived the Lodz ghetto and Auschwitz. His entire family had perished. Through luck, tenacity and an almost superhuman will, Roman also survived the bombing of Dresden and escaped his Nazi captors. He was hidden with some other survivors by a German couple who lived on the outskirts of the city. The husband paid with his life for that act of generosity towards Jews.

Roman always carried the story of Klaus and Hertha Fuchs as a warning against the dangers of imposing collective guilt on any people. He was alive because Germans had risked their own lives to save him. My dear friend died three years ago at the age of 84. He was resolute to the end in speaking out against bigotry and intolerance, from whatever source it came.

I needed to summon his presence last week in Dresden and later as the odious language of fear spread across the screens and airwaves of the world.

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