It was in 1938 that the Daily Mail warned about a flood of Jews “pouring into this country”. Not about the policies of a German government, which it rather liked, which was forcing them to flee.
This side of the Second World War, and what we know happened in such places as Belsen and Auschwitz, the callousness of that warning seems barely credible.
Substitute the word “migrants” for “Jews” and it sounds horribly current.
Once again, desperate people fleeing for their lives are being demonised. As if they were the cause of a deadly situation, not its victims.
In Greece – a country whose difficulties make our own appear trivial – heroes on the beaches rescue boatwrecked refugees from drowning. Here, and in Brussels, our leaders talk not of giving sanctuary to those fleeing wars at least partly of Western powers’ making but of sinking the boats of the “illegal traffickers”.
Closing an escape route that would not be needed if a legal one was available.
I wouldn’t deny the criminality of those who make money by sending helpless people to sea in unseaworthy craft. But one has to ask how desperate the victims must be to undertake such a journey.
America and its puppets – including us – do a lot of meddling in the world in the name of freedom.
What a bitter blow it must be to those escaping from a nightmare to find that Europe isn’t offering them freedom at all.
Already this year, more than 1,600 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, “at least 348,000” people attempted the crossing last year, and 3,400 died in the attempt.
They are not “health tourists”, nor yet “economic migrants”. They are escaping from the civil wars in Syria and Mali and the dictatorship in Eritrea, from the conflicts in Libya, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq.
And if it would be simplistic to blame America and Europe for the hell those lands have become, it wouldn’t be entirely wrong either.
The Middle East today is still reaping the whirlwind sown in 2003 by the invasion of Iraq. The Euro-American intervention in Libya in 2011 made a bad situation worse.
The failure to plan adequately or appropriately for life after Saddam and Gaddafi has left chaos that grows ever more frightening for the people of those countries – and worrying for us, however unhysterical you are about immigration.
But even if you deny any British responsibility for their plight, no humane person, surely, could withhold a helping hand from the drowning.
One candidate at a hustings session I attended last week said that when he saw the boats in the Mediterranean, he didn’t see “migrants” to be repelled, he saw people needing help. Hearteningly, he got the evening’s biggest burst of applause.
Had Britain and America been as heartless in 1938 as some urged – and as some are urging today – the Nazi genocide might have been even worse. That’s a big thing to say, given the sheer scale and horror of the Holocaust. But – just as in the 1930s – this is a time when big things need saying.
Even those who lived through the 1930s can’t look back now without the view being coloured by knowing what was to come. But things written at the time suggest there was a sense of foreboding.
I get the same sense now. A feeling that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
The big issue they don't want us to talk about
One party keeps banging on about the election being about whether we’re governed from Westminster or Brussels. Another talks about the Scottish tail wagging the English dog.
I’ve heard very little debate about the issue that could take power out of the hands of governments altogether.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP for short) sounds very dull. Probably deliberately. They don’t want us to talk about it.
It’s a trade agreement between Europe and the US, and discussions about it have been on-going since February last year. Quietly. We don’t get a vote on it.
So what’s it all about, and why should we care?
Well, lots of things and lots of reasons.
It could hasten the break-up of the NHS by increasing the power of the big drug companies. It could prevent governments from regulating banks. It could prevent governments ruling on things like factory farming, GM crops, fracking, nuclear power, the arms trade. Potentially even schools, railways, prisons.
It could take jobs out of Europe and into the US, where working conditions are poorer.
How will it do all this? By allowing multi-national companies to sue governments whose decisions hamper their ability to make big profits.
So power is taken away from our democratically elected representatives, who are at least supposed to look after our interests. And handed over to the bosses of big firms, whose only interest is in making money.
If there was a way to vote against that, I would.