The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

SS General


Anthony McIntyre • 31 May 2004

During my first spell in prison, I picked up a book by Sven Hassel entitled Wheels of Terror. What attracted me to it was that beneath the title ran words to the effect, ‘the book no German publisher would print.’ Assuming that there must be merit in something that someone does not want others to read I was instantly determined to find out what it was. In the end not very much. Then a friend went abroad to Guernsey to pick tomatoes and from there posted a parcel of Sven Hassel books to me. As I didn’t ask for them, I wondered if all 17 year olds read Hassel; some right of passage that saw us progress from skinhead novels to books in which violence moved up a notch only now to be inflicted and legitimised to the tune of martial music. It certainly gave me an interest in delving into the Second World War. One book in the batch was SS General. I had forgotten all about it until this month.

When the Blanket protest drew to a close towards the end of 1981, I began to devour books. For years we had been without them. Now to have them in unlimited quantities seemed a reward in itself for having sustained the ennui of the protest years. To read was to scratch the burrowing itch of intellectual deprivation occasioned by the Northern Ireland Office deciding that books were bad for those prisoners who did not share the jailers’ view of their status. I often thought that gave us one of the few things we had in common with the screws – neither of us could read. We because we had no books, and they because they just couldn’t.

Books on Irish politics were then banned as the censors laboured under the belief that we could be domiciled into docility if we were fed a diet of Wilbur Smith, Stephen King, Harold Robbins and James Herbert. For some reason, tomes on Nazi Germany were plentiful. They were the pick of the bunch and I ploughed through a sizeable portion of them throughout 1982. It seemed an ironically appropriate year to be reading about massacres. While I lay on my bed, reading about exterminations in Auschwitz, Ariel Sharon was taking lessons on how to acquire expertise in genocide in the camps of Sabra and Chatilla.

Being exposed to so much literature on the Nazi extermination of the Jews led to my developing a deep admiration for those who took up arms against the exterminators, whatever the circumstance. I was hardly a pacifist and I am not one today. Gary McNally, easily the quickest reader in the H-Blocks, handed me Mila 18 by Leon Uris. It was a difficult one to put down. The author had crafted a narrative of the SS operation to raze the Warsaw Ghetto as a final phase in the evacuation of Polish Jews to the death camps. When young Jewish men and women, many in their teens, attacked and killed the SS I identified with them. It was only a fictionalised account but I hoped it conveyed something of what had happened within the ghetto; that someone had stepped out, dissented violently, and made it clear to the occupying force that there was a price to pay. It lessened the sense of impotence experienced on reading about strutting, unbridled arrogant power. Something had intervened to mitigate it. Similar feelings visited me when I read of the 13 Israeli troops killed in Gaza earlier this month. Why be a hypocrite about it and engage in pious cant dismissing all the violence in the occupied territories as being of an indivisible sameness?

The Israelis, with breathtaking double standards, have referred to the deaths as a ‘terrorist attack.’ But what is terrorist about taking up arms against overwhelming firepower which sees fit to prey on weak and vulnerable civilian populations, inflict collective punishment and demolish homes? Former Israeli government minister Yossi Sarid contended that such activities are illegal under international law and constitute war crimes. And when General Dan Harel, responsible for overseeing the destructive Operation Rainbow - and who for some reason brought to mind Sven Hassel’s book, SS General - claimed that Israel was confronting an enemy that had ‘lost its humanity’ I could think only of the Palestinian civilian Ashraf Hana who rather than losing humanity, found his dignity: ‘I was very happy. Yes, we got damaged. Yes, all these homes were damaged but we feel satisfaction. We are suffering from the Israelis for years. They invaded and there is no reason for this invasion so they got hit and this is happiness for me.’

The Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto arose in legitimate armed revolt against General Jurgen Stroop and his SS thugs. The Palestinians of Gaza did likewise against General Dan Harel and his IDF brutes. After the Nazi defeat Stroop had his neck stretched in Warsaw. The least that can be hoped for of Harel is that he serve a stretch somewhere in Gaza, the scene of his crimes.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

1 June 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


No More Lies


Can Irish Speakers Survive Reverse Colonialism?
Seaghán Ó Murchú


On the One Road
John Kennedy


The Wretched of the Earth at the Polls
Mick Hall


SS General
Anthony McIntyre


In Solidarity with the Iraqi People
Ghali Hassan


Neo-Cons, Fundies, Feddies, and Con-Artists
Francis A. Boyle


Mis-reporting Venezuela: Hugo Chavez as processed by the "Independent" newspaper
Toni Solo


29 May 2004


Door to Door: An Irish American House Call
Matthew Kavanah


Republicans who do not follow the Sinn Fein line are also entitled to their opinions
Dolours Price


What Made Us Distinct
Tommy Gorman


US Schools Must Disclose Information About Crime on and Around Campus - (Clery Act USA): Is Similar Legislation Required in Northern Ireland?
Sean Mc Aughey


Old Friends, New Friends
John Kennedy


Memorial Day on WBAI


No More Tears
Omar Barghouti


The Nothing Here to Celebrate Israel Parade, NYC
Mary La Rosa


Génocidaires In Gaza
Anthony McIntyre


A Writer's Writer
Henry McDonald




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