But that day I thought only/Of the loneliness of the dying

This one will be unusual.

Imagine a slightly AU HP fanfic…

*

In a version of Wizarding Britain, where Grindelwald’s rule was particularly long and harsh, only the Purebloods were tolerated by the regime. Or rather allowed to live, we should say, as it was a brutal occupation, with the regime draining the resources to finance further conquests, and killing everybody who dared question it.

A point of some importance – it was an occupation by foreign forces, and the continental wizards and witches in Grindelwald’s service committed most of the atrocities uncovered by the American Expeditionary Forces that eventually ended Grindelwald’s Empire.

This world had been quite racist since forever, especially since the Mud- and Half-bloods started to get uppity and demanded to be treated equally by the British magical society. Your average Pureblood would not actually want to kill the less-worthy magical people, you understand. Maybe some criminals would, but the proper wizards… maybe, after a few pints, they would joke about it, but never seriously consider it. No, the decent people of the pre-occupation Wizarding Britain would be perfectly satisfied with the Mudbloods being moved somewhere far away, like Madagascar perhaps. Their property, of course, would have to be confiscated to cover the cost of relocation, and given to the deserving poor among the better part of the society. It would be only fair, Purebloods would think, considering how these Mudbloods monopolized profitable business opportunities, keeping their morally and culturally superiors neighbours in destitution. Decent wizarding folk simply wanted to stop that, and to stop the advance of the impure on such important institutions as Hogwarts, where a few years before the invasion all non-pureblood teachers were sacked and the 10% quota for impure students introduced. Ok, maybe there were occasional burnings of Mudblood-owned commercial establishments, some shops and inns introduced the “only for Purebloods” policy, but the government never sanctioned most of these things. All the actual atrocities are a foreign concept of the occupation era. And once a Half-blood wizard killed a Pureblood kid who only wanted to have some fun and maybe threw a jinx or two…

So, you have to always remember that, during the regime, it was the Grindelwald’s forces who killed 95% of the non-pureblood population. There was no self-government in the occupied Wizarding Britain and it’s a spit in the face of all the heroes of the resistance, and the brave Aurors who fought alongside the American Expeditionary Forces to suggest any culpability of the British Wizardry in the atrocities of the Foreign Occupiers. Maybe some Halfbloods, who returned from exile and wanted to get their homes back, were killed by unknown perpetrators, but you have to understand the difficulties in the management of the “post-halfblood property” in the post-occupation Britain and the fact that the new government was unable to question the difficult status quo there.

And there were heroes. Quite a few Halfbloods and Mudbloods were rescued by brave Purebloods, so how dare you question what the rest did? If you dare, it’s up to three years in prison.

*

That’s the image of Polish anti-semitism in our reality in the debate around the new law proposed in Polish parliament to regulate what can be said and written about the difficult problems of our history… click here for a short NYT editorial on this issue.

We live in Poland, a country where, up to 80 years ago, a large minority lived, of people with religion different from the dominant one, with their own language and rich, wonderful culture. In our city – one in three citizens belonged to that group. They are not here any more. The city is Kraków and Auschwitz is a short ride away.

We don’t want to get overtly political here, so we’ll only say we believe anti-Semitism is a very real problem in Poland, historically and in our times (25% of people believe in the stories that Jews used to kidnap Christian children for use in their dark rituals!), and that our current regime plays on the racist feelings and unjustified pride of the right-wingers to ensure its continuous popularity. The death camps were, of course, build by the German Nazis, but there were other crimes, and the silence of the majority of the Christian population during the Holocaust. Some helped the Jews, some partook in the crimes, hundreds of thousands moved into suddenly empty houses and lived their lives with uneasy conscience. When the government tries to impose their simplified vision of history under a threat of prison sentences, it’s painful.

We studied sociology together with Łukasz Krzyżanowski, who wrote a great book on Polish anti-Semitism in the aftermath of the war, to be published in English by Harvard University Press. Here you can read his short article.

Title of this post is a quote from Campo Di Fiori, a powerful poem by Czesław Miłosz.

2 thoughts on “But that day I thought only/Of the loneliness of the dying

  1. As I always say when I ‘like’ hard-hitting posts such as this, I like the passion and compassion they express without in any way condoning the ugly inhumanity that they lay bare. Rowling’s portrayal of ‘mudblood’ prejudice in both the HP series and Fantastic Beasts screenplay was a deliberate commentary on 20C eugenicist attitudes which sadly have never really gone away, either in Trumpian America or in closet neo-Nazi European regimes. And that includes the UK Tory government and its diehard supporters as much far right leaning governments in Austria, Hungary and, yes, the Poland that Solidarity once helped to liberate and liberalise.

    That whole Madagascar thing not being just a lunatic fringe idea was forcibly brought home to me by a BBC TV documentary series presented by Harrying Potter actor Miriam Margolyes. As a self-confessed lesbian Jew she travelled through conservative Trump-supporting Midwest America seeking for evidence of common humanity and compassion amongst evangelicals, preppers and law enforcement officers. She found some nuanced beliefs, to be sure, but chillingly at least one group advocated the forcible removal of Jews to Madagascar, along with sterilisation and, yes, a final solution in all but name. Such naked wickedness is very hard to take.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks.You are right. I can only add, I was naive enough to believe such sentiments are no longer that popular in Poland. The survey is only available in Polish, but numbers are staggering, I wanted to shout at people around me when I read it on a tram. Not fringe ideas at all.

      Harry Potter – I think the political, deeply humanistic message is under-appreciated, especially in the fanfic community. There are many stories about Harry being heir to countless aristocratic families, showing outsiders their place, making fun of Hermione’s emancipatory ideals. Not enough stories about empowerment and overthrowing oligarchy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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