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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Smear that Failed

An introduction to this post seems to be in order considering my post on George VI in March of this year, 2013 was based on my having seen "The King's Speech" many times on a DVD and also having found an English review of the King’s Speech that helped me understand some of the historical background. However, it was only after finding the history of the Kindertransport that I ran into the smear involving criticism of the film itself and George VI in particular which happened more than 2 years ago in 2011. 

I had never run into information about this smear until about one month ago when I felt it necessary to give the history of this smear attempt and show that it was unwarranted and unfair. The fact that I never ran into this information about the smear of the film and the King probably speaks for itself in showing that the smear was indeed a failure. Now I will return to the start of my post published only yesterday and hope that this introduction will answer any questions about the tardiness of the smear in relation to my posting of the story of George VI and “The King’s Speech” earlier this year.

A short time before the Oscars were to be presented for movies of the year 2011, an e-mail of unknown source was directed to Scott Feinberg, a Hollywood commentator. The e-mail accused the directors and producers of “The King’s Speech” of covering over history by not revealing German sympathies of King George VI and accused the King of anti-semitism by assisting in preventing Jewish refugees to emigrate to Palestine before the outbreak of war with Germany. 

As to the charge of German sympathies before the war, the King had supported appeasement of the Germans by the then Prime Minister of England Neville Chamberlain with the hope of forestalling involvement of England in a war with Germany which the king believed would be so devastating. Winston Churchill on the other hand knew that Hitler was a tyrant and that inevitably war with Germany would come. George VI, having had thought of appeasement as a way of avoiding war did not support Winston Churchill for prime minister in the election of 1940 because he mistakenly thought of Churchill as wanting war.  

As a result, in the beginning of Winston Churchill’s tenure as prime minister, the King and Churchill did not get along; but this was of short duration as war had already been declared by England against Germany and the king now realized his duty was to join the fight against the declared enemy of England. He and Churchill worked closely together in fighting Germany; the king was privy to all British and Allied strategy which Churchill shared with the king during the entire war.

As to the charge that the king was anti-Semitic because he approved the prevention of Jews emigrating to Palestine prior to the war, it is pointed out that this was British policy because of Arab sympathies with Germany; it was thought by the British government that allowing Jewish emigration to Palestine at that time would have complicated the attempt by Britain to avoid war with Germany. 

The historian, Andrew Roberts, pointed out that George VI was just supporting British policy at that time, and to conclude from this that the king was therefore anti-semantic, was ludicrous.  In fact the British allowed 70,000 Jews to emigrate to England prior to the opening of war with Germany including 10,000 mostly Jewish children in the
Kindertransport.

Parliament passed a law in December of 1938 allowing the immigration of 10,000 Jewish children under the age of 18. This movement of so many children with the assistance of many jewish and non-jewish humanitarian agencies was called the Kindertransport. The king is always involved with laws that are passed by Parliament so one must presume the king was in support of the Kindertransport.   When war broke out with Germany these mostly German Jewish children were labeled as “enemy aliens”. But very quickly these children announced their loyalty to King George VI and were designated as “the King’s most loyal enemy aliens”.  Most of the older children joined the British Army and fought the Germans. 

There is a memorial plaque in Parliament thanking Parliament and the British people for rescuing these children; much to the disgrace of the United States and other large nations there was no such transport of Jewish children before the opening of the war in December of 1939, to save them from the Holocaust where two and a half million children perished, one and a half million of them Jewish.

A Jewish woman, Irene Coffee, born Brann, living in Britain with her mother, out of fear of being captured by the Germans, were Germany to invade England and deport Jews to death camps, attempted suicide along with her mother, by swallowing poison, in October 1941; Irene survived while her mother died; since suicide was against the law as well as assisting in a suicide, Irene was sentenced to death in an English court. 

Appeal was made to King George VI who commuted her sentence and within 3 months sympathetic people and officials saw to it that she was released from prison. Her words of praise and thanks to this compassionate King were in glowing terms.

Many in the entertainment industry pointed out that all films, especially involving war, are produced with the best of intentions to relate events that are truthful; however many liberties are taken to make the film more entertaining by not including events that are not really necessary to the plot. Most people took this point of view; as a result, “The King’s Speech” won the Academy Award for best picture of 2011.  Colin Firth, who played George VI won best actor, Tom Hooper won best director and best original screen play was won by David Seidler, a Jewish writer whose grandparents died in the Holocaust according to the British newspaper, The Guardian. 

“The smear failed and “The King’s Speech” is now recognized as one of the film industry’s finest films; and more importantly, the reputation of King George VI had been restored to it’s rightful place: King George VI is one of England’s best kings, if not the best.

References:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk 'Nazi' smears on George VI threatens Colin Firth's Oscar hopes 
By John Bingham 10:54PM GMT 16 Jan 2011

The King's Most Loyal Enemy Aliens: Germans Who Fought for Britain in the Second World War  Fry, Helen. Sutton Publishing, Great Britain, 2007

London Evening Standard  The King’s Mercy: How George VI saved a refugee’s life  By ALLAN HALL  UPDATED: 19:28 EST, 8 March 2011

THE WRAP  Covering Hollywood
Forget the Critics; Here’s Why Oscar’s Voters Liked ‘King’s Speech’ Best

London Evening Standard  Judge The King's Speech as a film, not as history  
by SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE  Published: 21 January 2011



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 By wmw_admin on January 24, 2011