Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A response to a reader.

One of the risks one takes in presenting a personal take on things in the digital and online age, is the ability for others to respond in ways that are not necessarily governed by what is generally regarded as "netiquette".  The immediacy of the internet and email communication coupled with a facade of anonymity make it easy to vent, be less than even tempered, and just plain rude.  I have been fortunate that most of the people who have responded to my blog either through comments left online or in private emails and contacts, have been positive, offering constructive criticism and pointers for further research. 

Regretfully, there have been several who believe anyone who disagrees with their worldview is, ipso facto, opposed to them, not interested in academic discussion or sharing of resources, but deserving of contempt, thinly veiled personal insults and patronising comments to let someone like me know, that in the scale of things, my thoughts are not as high as theirs.

My skin is getting thicker!

One of the more persistent writers who uses colourful adjectives and phrases, that have had me on an American-English dictionary website to figure out at least one of them, has also done me a service by pointing out several mistakes in my last two posts on Heinz Wisla.  For that I am grateful.  I will not publish that person's comments in full because of some of the less than kind remarks, but I will address the questions.

1. Who was  Father Weller the German priest Wisla met in Rome?

While there is no 100% certainty, my reader says it could be probably be the Pallotine priest, Father Anton Weber who was well known among German circles in Rome throughout the war.

2. How did Wisla's story get into the Palestine Post in 1944 given that Wisla is not mentioned?

This question posed by my reader is a fair one.  The simple answer is, as far as I can judge, that after he arrived in Palestine in February 1944, Wisla submitted his story to the paper by any number of means, and the paper published it.  Why it was published anonymously is another puzzle.  More than that I cannot say.

3.  Why was Wisla's account of the audience not picked up before or challenged?

Again this is a fair question.  I suspect the answer lies somewhere between the story getting lost over the years and a possible suspicion on the part of historians that something was not quite "right" with it.  Given that the Hebrew/German edition was published in Tel Aviv in 1966 when Holocaust history was still in its infancy and the furour cased by The Deputy had made any discussion of Pius XII as a possible rescuer of Jews in many Jewish and non-Jewish academic circles very difficult, it may well have been the case that Wisla's story was simply not believed. 

4. Checking facts.

My reader pointed out two major errors in recording details about William Doino and John Bierman. 

Despite having written about William Doino's work before I incorrectly titled him as "rabbi".  Doino is a Catholic.

I then made an even more silly mistake when I wrote that John Bierman was a fellow traveller with Wisla on the Pentcho and his book, Odessey, was a memoir.  I stand corrected on both counts.  John Bierman (1929-2006) was a British journalist with a number of significant historical works to his credit.  His account of the voyage of the Pentcho is not a memoir but a history.  I have made the appropriate adjustments to the entries on the blog. And for that I thank my reader.

Finally.  There is a position held in some circles that because a person takes a position on a subject, that position is to be held forever.  I read John Cornwall's Hitler's Pope in 1999 and I wrote a review for the journal, Patterns of Prejudice where I suspect I made some comments along the lines that Cornwall has opened up the debate well and truly.  I cannot recall my exact words as I no longer have a copy of the review, but I would be the first to say that my opinion of Cornwall's work is not positive because of the poor quality history it is.  I would be surprised to find anyone who has not changed their opinion or attitude towards a particular subject in the light of new information.  On this point my reader and I will, I suppose, agree to disagree.


  1. I agree that the immediacy of the internet creates a netiquette gap between those that are educated and those that are not. Thinking before you write is taught.

  2. Thank you for your comment David. Good manners cost nothing. I have had a look at your website and heartily recommend it.


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