The other night examined the crowds sheltering in Chancery Lane, Oxford Circus and Baker Street stations. Not all Jews, but, I think, a higher proportion of Jews than one would normally see in a crowd of this size. What is bad about Jews is that they are not only conspicuous, but go out of their way to make themselves so. A fearful Jewish woman, a regular comic-paper cartoon of a Jewess, fought her way off the train at Oxford Circus, landing blows on anyone who stood in her way. It took me back to old days on the Paris Métro.
Surprised to find that D., who is distinctly Left in his views, is inclined to share the current feeling about the Jews. He says that the Jews in business circles are turning pro-Hitler, or preparing to do so. This sounds almost incredible, but according to D. they will always admire anyone who kicks them. What I do feel is that any Jew, i.e. European Jew, would prefer Hitler’s kind of social system to ours, if it were not that he happens to persecute them. Ditto with almost any Central European, e.g. the refugees. They make use of England as a sanctuary, but they cannot help feeling the profoundest contempt for it. You can see this in their eyes, even when they don’t say it outright. The fact is that the insular outlook and the continental outlook are completely incompatible.
According to F., it is quite true that foreigners are more frightened than English people during the raids. It is not their war, and therefore they have nothing to sustain them. I think this might also account for the fact – I am virtually sure it is a fact, though one mustn’t mention it – that working-class people are more frightened than middle-class.
The same feeling of despair over impending events in France, Africa, Syria, Spain – the sense of foreseeing what must happen and being powerless to prevent it, and feeling with absolute certainty that a British government cannot act in such a way as to get its blow in first.
Air raids much milder the last few days.
 Probably Tosco Fyvel, with whom Orwell was then working. Peter Davison
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Turning pro Hitler? Okaaaaay.
Thank you for those facts. Very informative. Yes, today is Friday.
During the day, formations of high-flying German Me109 fighter-bombers make several attempts to raid London, however, very few penetrate the RAF fighter screen. Heavy casualties are reported when a loaded tramcars are hit. At dusk, German He111 bombers make a surprise raid on Montrose airfield in Scotland. During the night, London is attacked by about 150 German aircraft. Also, the Italian expeditionary air corps (Corpo Aereo Italiano), operating from bases in Belgium, is engaged for the first time in a raid on Harwich. Of 16 Fiat bombers sent on the mission, 3 are lost. Limited damage is reported.
A Jewish, female Lon-Chaney-as-Quasimodo gargoyle with numerous hairy warts somehow appears on a bus, when she wants off, people won’t clear a path and she plows through anyway [muttering (epithets?) in Polish]. As this is taking place, she is thinking to herself, “It’s too bad that Hitler is persecuting Jews, otherwise I’d like to see him rule the world.”
Meanwhile, Hercule Poirot is beside himself with the news that [t]he Belgian Prime Minister, Hubert Pierlot, and his Foreign Minister, Paul-Henri Spaak, have arrived in London after fleeing from Vichy France and escaping from arrest in Spain.
Now I understand the previous entries ‘joke.’
I thought there was a lot of jostling and rude pushing and shoving getting on and off the tube today, but seems like nothing compared to the 1940’s!
Bit surprised at the stereotyping, anti-semetic tone of this entry coming from such an intelligent, thoughtful champion of the left as Orwell. Well I never!
Around this time Orwell was finishing The Lion and the Unicorn. Seems to have been a particularly insular period for him.
JL3rd, you might be thinking of the ME110, the 109 didnt carry bombs. It was the fighter escort for the bombers, and fortunately had very limited range (inadequate fuel capacity). It could only hang around England for about 20-30 minutes. A big factor in the Luftwaffe failure.
This is one of the entries that is hard to bear. Immigrants now and in the past have always been hard for the natives to accept and cause for unfair categorizing. Jews have faced discrimination again and again but have still enriched every country in which they have lived.
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“Bit surprised at the stereotyping, anti-semetic tone of this entry coming from such an intelligent, thoughtful champion of the left as Orwell. Well I never!”
Orwell seems to have held a few prejudiced, even racist views typical of his class which occasionally surface in his work. It’s worth remembering, though, that (with the exception of his homophobia) argued against such views when espousing his moral and political position. I wouldn’t say Orwell was a hypocrite, on an ideological and moral level he knew anti-semitism was wrong in any form, but he didn’t always live up to his own standards.
This entry sounds like pseudo-Hitler hijacked Orwell’s brain. So very unlike him.
I have struggled with Orwell’s attitude in print towards Jews and to a lesser extent, Asians and what he refers to as “negroes’. Malcolm Muggeridge in conversation with life long friend of Orwell’s Cyril Connelly, for B.B.C. televisions “Monitor” arts programme long ago, described Orwell unequivocally as ‘anti-Semitic’. I think like Matty he was a product of his background – ruling class Empire builders – and it shows. Orwell’s comments about English working class people being “more frightened” in the bombing raids are in something of the same ‘officer class’ category. Yet, unlike many Orwell grew to understand and examine his own motives. A short piece (I am afraid I do not have the reference to hand but it may be in one of Orwell’s “As I Please” columns for Tribune) describes a row he had had years earlier in the 30s with a French taxi cab driver; it is very illustrative of how Orwell re-examines his own attitudes in the light of experience. I do not now believe as I once did he had the excuse for these unpleasant and frankly prejudiced opinions that the war was in its infancy and the systematic destruction of European Jewry unsuspected. He was here anti-Semitic and may indeed remained so in less obvious ways to his death.
Thank you for your prompt response to my request for a report on the “murmurings.” This Wormhole thing actually works, I guess.
Your reportage deftly validates the premise that bigotry and elitism are mutually inclusive; for example, your mention of The Fact that Should Not Be Mentioned. This may/may not make sense.
In general usage, the word “tribe” is taken to denote a primary aggregate of peoples living in a primitive or barbarous condition under a headman or chief. The unnecessary moralistic overtones that this usage implies can be avoided or minimized by the use of the expression “tribal society,” which is to be preferred to such synonyms as “primitive society” or “preliterate society.” At the same time, the word “tribe” need not be discarded. Indeed, it has become a technical term denoting a territorially defined political unit, a usage that recalls the original Latin use of the word for the political divisions or patrician orders of the Roman state.
Barry, am I reading right in that it was Muggeridge rather than Connoly who called Orwell antisemitic? I think I’m right in saying that Muggeridge and Orwell did not get along at all well. (Incidentally, I know Muggeridge’s conversion came late in life, but if you really want a clear-cut prejudice of Orwell’s then you won’t find a stronger one than his anti-Catholicism). Anyway, that judgement has to be put alongside that of Tosco Fyvell that Orwell was not antisemitic (in Orwell Remembered, or Remembering Orwell, I think?). Oh, and at least by the time he was at the BBC, Orwell referred to “Negroes” since he was understood it was racist without the initial capital.
However you do (or don’t) judge him, I think it is fascinating to see the conflict between a desire for rational analysis (“objective” is the word he would have used, I think) and the prejudices arising from his period and background that crop up continually in Orwell’s writings on Jews, homosexuality, Catholics, foreigners in general.
Orwell on Antisemitism in Britain (1945) http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/o/orwell/george/o79e/part24.html is worth a read.
Ah, I misremembered about Orwell and Muggeridge not getting on. Must have been thinking about someone else.
Here’s what Fyvel said about Orwell being anti-semitic (from Fyvel’s “George Orwell a Personal Memoir” reproduce in Orwell a life in letters p 421) “Put baldly like that I would not agree….It was unthinkable that he should ever be openly anti-Semitic. But his ideological views concerning the assimilation into British culture of a strong Jewish ethnic minority were a different matter.”
Phil. Thank you. I agree with mush you write. Muggeridge described Orwell as ‘anti-semitic’ to Connolly (a friend from Eton days) who did not as I remember disagree. I rejected this remark and tried to examine Orwell’s published material. I though I had convinced myself it as untrue but I do not feel so confident today. He was a more conflicted person than we are given to understand by the wholly convincing style of Orwell’s prose, where the translation of the gangly Old Etonian Imperial Indian Poice inspector into George Orwell, tramp and political writer is so natural and sensible. One moment traipsing through the jungle feeling the resentment of the Burmans like daggers in his back, the next hard up and counting eggs in Berkshire. His writing life time is so brief also, something to consider. He made a journey which in literary terms is defining; in his personal life it was astounding. Muggeridge knew Orwell only towards the end of his life roughly 1944 to 1950. Muggeridge arranged for Orwell to meet P G Wodehouse, under a cloud for his wartime broadcasts to America on German controlled radio. Orwell’s essay ‘In Defence of P. G. Wodehouse’ is one of his best. Later, when Orwell lay dying Muggeridge had Evelyn Waugh (another Catholic convert, like later Muggeridge and earlier Greene) to visit and remarks in his autobiography of this event that how much he would have wished to be present at this meeting between the made up proletarian and the would-be aristocrat. Muggeridge was not at all holy in early life. Like St Augustine of Hippo he wished God to make him good but not yet.
“much you write” obviously. Apologies.
Barry, one comment I find useful to bear in mind when thinking about Orwell’s prejudices is the apology he made to Stephen Spender for some “mean things” he said about him: “not having met you I could regard you as a type and also an abstraction” [Complete Works XI, 435, p.132]. I don’t think he ever shook off that tendency to categorise people as “types” (I believe it was quite common at the time) whether the type be English, Jew, Catholic, “pansy poets”, “lower upper-middle class writers” or “fruit-juice drinking, nudist, sandal-wearing, sex maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’, pacifists”. I’m not even sure he regarded it as a fault. He was, however, able to overcome these prejudices when relating to an individual. I can just imagine him saying “But some of my best friends are Jews”.
No need to apologise, I do write mush at times ;-)
“don’t think he ever shook off that tendency to categorise people as “types”
Well, we all do that, don’t we, and probably that’s generally, when it it’s expressed as it is in this entry, what racism, antisemetism or most other kind of prejudical ‘ism’ is.
I think this is your taxi reference; it inexplicably stuck in my head enough to track it down. Perhaps now I shall find peace…
Click to access 15_September_1944.pdf
It came up in the diaries 10 June 1940.
Some top-class bollocks from George here. But that’s why the diaries are so wonderful – get to see the man behind the myth.
Interesting read, thanks Greg.
Greg. Thank you. This is precisely the piece I had in mind (but not your energy to find). I think people commenting have played fair with Orwell. It may be that he had not at heart any burning hatred for anyone; he passed up on his one ‘good’ chance to kill a fascist when at the front in Spain. But I am still uneasy about his attitude towards Jews shown here; simply put, he seems to delight in it. I do not feel his anti-Semitism is a decideable question based on simply one judgement (by Muggeridge) and some remarks taken out of context. But doubt hovers.
His failure to examine his own attitude when he has such an exqusite abilty to observe others is completely indefensible for such a writer. The woman fighting her way off the train – Come on. I think old George has been treated too fairly here. He doesn’t even try to hide his hatred.
Thank you, Greg. I found the whole article most interesting.
Nothing like expressing a bit of Jew-discomfort to spike the comment tally – very clever, Eric! Press on!
@TheLazyAussie: Curiously, Orwell says much the same thing in his “Antisemitism in Britain” article linked above. It’s well worth a read.
“What vitiates nearly all that is written about antisemitism is the assumption in the writer’s mind that HE HIMSELF is immune to it. “Since I know that antisemitism is irrational,” he argues, “it follows that I do not share it.” He thus fails to start his investigation in the one place where he could get hold of some reliable evidence — that is, in his own mind.”
Is this a personal reproach for previous behaviour? I doubt Orwell would be so astoundingly ignorant to write such a line without contemplating the issue in himself, but it provides an odd contrast with this journal entry.
Georgie you little racist! Fascinating to see him as he never intended us to see him. Wonder what he’d make of the 2/3 non-White British London I live in now?
I’ve been thinking about that. Had an idea for a science fiction story about a crashed WWII pilot who ends up in modern Britain. I’ve come to the conclusion that he’d basically die of culture shock or just turn into a rabid, drooling fascist.
They make use of England as a sanctuary, but they cannot help feeling the profoundest contempt for it.
Also again, then as now with the anti-immigrant feeling. We should recognise our own faults in Orwell, not just condemn him out of hand here. Plenty of people feel that way about “asylum seekers” now.
You’re all a bit hasty, I think. The “Jewess…landing blows on anyone who stood in her way” was compared with– Parisians. The Jews supposedly preparing to support Hitler were equated with “almost any Central European”. And he gave a reasonable rational for the foreigners he’d earlier claimed were over-represented in the shelters. All in all, not so offensive in the midst of a brutal bombardment campaign by the country many of the refugees lived happily in not too many years before.
Pick one: Eric Blair is a sociopath, an elitist, a narcissistic misanthrope or a peacenik.
As an aside, I think that, above all, Eric would like to personally take out all of the blimps; his hatred for them seethes through the pixels like an icy wind.
Is it true that you consider Bertie Wooster a role model?
Thursday, November 7:
Anna Wolkoff, the daughter of a former Russian naval attache in London, has been jailed for ten years for offences under the Official Secrets Act and the Defence Regulations. Mr Justice Tucker said that she had tried to send a coded letter to Lord Haw-Haw, “a traitor who broadcasts from Germany for the purpose of weakening the war effort of this country.”
Dublin: Despite Winston Churchill’s anger, Eire will remain neutral and continue to refuse to allow the use of its ports as British bases, the prime minister, Eamon de Valera, told the ‘Dail’ [parliament] today. He denied rumours that German submarines were being refuelled and re-provisioned in Eire.
U.S.A.: The middle section of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington state collapsed during a windstorm.
On the 8th:
U.S.A.: Washington: The government ponders raising the US debt limit from $49 billion to $65 billion to fund rearmament.
GERMANY: Berlin: The RAF bombs the city, forcing Hitler to delay his traditional speech marking the anniversary of his attempted coup in 1923. When he finally gets to speak Hitler asserts the certainty of German victory and that his determination to continue the struggle to a clear decision was unalterable. “Today I reject any compromise,” he declared.
Come on George, stop following Jews around and taking notes about how bad they are, and get another entry in here. It’s been nearly three weeks!
Cabinet Office has been informed of the sad death of Mr Neville Chamberlain MP. Commons statement by PM Churchill expected in next few days
Please write something, George. I tire of rereading this same crappy entry. I guess it’s not the most cheerful moment in the history of the world, but what about your audience? Throw us a bone…
George must be wondering as he dashes from London one bomb shelter to the next, gets mixed up with these terrible frightened working class people and even it seems gets shoved off the Oxford Circus train by some angry woman with an evil eye and a gamp: “Where the hell are the Americans? Where is the blasted cavalry?” At least I’d be wondering it if I was George.
Maybe that’s the problem George. No Yanks with chocolate and nylons. Not yet.
In my relentless search for truth snuggled within your ingenious posts I have found the following revealing nugget:
Whereas you are an expert at gaging the relative fear factors of complete strangers, you seek validation from Tosco R. Fyvel for your theories.
Did Fyvel ever visit you at 18 Dorset Chambers in Chagford Street?
I’m guessing George has a green arm again… the next diary entry will start off with a text like “Have been sick for the past three weeks and haven’t been able to write at all…”
Terribly selfish, George, terribly selfish…
No chocolate, no nylons and no ‘friendly fire’. Not yet.
Yes Svensson, although poisoned willy is much more common than poisoned arm.
Lazy Aussie, this poisoned willy problem wouldn’t have anything to do with the drunken Australians who (Eric Rudsdale tells us) rampaged through All Saints Churchyard just the other day, would it? They were about to be shipped out to Africa or the Near East, so we mustn’t be too hard on them.
@Barry Larking, and others: I think this is quite revealing of the fact that antisemitism wasn’t purely a “German” sentiment in WWII. Many people of the age had the same feelings as Orwell has here. JFK’s father, Joseph, likely did not become president himself because he publicly outlined his antisemitic views.
Let’s not forget too that this is a private journal, not necessarily views that Orwell would have said out loud… Although this is difficult and perhaps even repulsive to read, he may not have even been considered a “racist” at the time (which explains Fyvel’s comments). If history teaches us anything it’s that our perception of racism changes with the times.
Yeah, they’ll do that.
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