by Philip Austin Responding to the crisis Messages regarding the Covid-19 virus from some politicians and journalists are heavily laced with militarist language that seems at odds with the work that is being done up and down the country to save lives. Perhaps a more appropriate analogy is the massive restructuring of military industries and … Read more
I recall an incident that must have been in about 1970. We were told that a boy from Germany was to be visiting the school, and one of my classmates piped up with ‘Will he have a gun?’.
I am reluctant to write about my feelings about the second world war, because I was born in Germany. Therefore, I bring with me a complicated relationship with that difficult past bound up with the wartime experiences of my parent’s generation.
I’ve always been ambivalent about the 2nd World War. On the one hand, as a lifelong pacifist, peace activist and Quaker, I am against “the occasion of all wars” as it says in the Peace Testimony. On the other hand, Nazism was an unalloyed evil that murdered its way around Europe and, once it was in power, could only be stopped by violence, and extreme violence at that. So it looks like, if it wasn’t so much a just war, it was at least a necessary war.
I was born in 1952, and have a ration book in my name. Eating up all the food on your plate, not wasting food, preserving food – they were all there from the start (inherent sustainability for me). ‘Make do and mend’ was also part of my childhood in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, which was one of the New Towns after the war.
My views on World War 2 are very strongly influenced by conversations over the years with my late father Charles Mills, who survived a very rough time in the war – he always felt later in life that if he could cope with all that he could cope with anything.
I was almost 15 years old when the war commenced in 1939, still at school – a Quaker boarding school – Ackworth. My parents had been pacifists in WW1, my father spending over three years hard labour in prison as a Conscientious Objector and mother having a hard time, insulted and even spat on for being his fiancé.