Can those struggling for Catalan independence be compared to Anne Frank? Image from the Westerbork Remembrance Centre in Hooghalen, Netherlands.
Maybe it was listening to John Major being interviewed by Nick Robinson on his BBC podcast, Political Thinking.
Or maybe that was just the first time I was aware of the thought. Then, when José-Maria Aznar went back to Congress in September for a generational clash with Gabriel Rufián, a younger—and ideologically opposed—MP who grilled the former Prime Minister at a commission, I had the thought again. Even Tony Blair sounded reasonable on Brexit. Perhaps it was just me getting slightly older and slightly wiser about the ways of the world.
But then this past week it went right off the scale and left me convinced that the newer younger generation of politicians has lost contact with reality.
First, a clip appeared of Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias chatting with another gentleman, Jaume Asens (who is now going to run as a Podemos Catalonia candidate at the general election), on Iglesias's online talk show, La Tuerka. They appear to be enjoying the experience, musing about the law and totalitarianism, when Asens brought up the leader of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera. “Rivera could be…”, he began to wonder out loud. Mr. Iglesias finished the sentence for him, with a giggle: “…Eichmann”. Exactly, responded Asens: “Rivera is Eichmann”. “We all have a bit of Eichmann inside us”, he continued.
Second, the current spokeswoman for the regional government in Catalonia, Elsa Artadi, published a tweet, with a little yellow separatist ribbon, and a quote she said was from…Anne Frank's diary. “We are not allowed to have our own opinion”, wrote Artadi: “People want us to keep our mouth shut, but that doesn't stop you from having your own opinion. Everyone must be able to say what they think”.
Artadi's version—a misquote compared to the original—was, she said, “very appropriate for today”, and she got in a reference to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. According to the Catalan separatist narrative, of course, Junqueras, Forcadell and the rest are on trial at the Supreme Court for their opinions, not what they are accused of doing.
Iglesias giggling about Albert Rivera being Adolf Eichmann and Artadi comparing Catalan separatism to Anne Frank's torment. This must stop.
Iglesias holds a doctorate in political science. Artadi holds a doctorate in development economics from Harvard University. They are both, in theory, intelligent political leaders.
“Shameful”, was the Israeli Embassy's response to Artadi's Anne Frank tweet. Quite right.
Do Iglesias and Artadi really need reminding who Eichmann was and what he was responsible for? “I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction”, he said, according to one of the prosecutor's at his trial.
Do we need to dust off the history books and dig out more quotes? Let's just grab a random interesting one, of the hundreds available, “The Nuremberg Interviews”, by Leon Goldensohn, who was an American psychiatrist at Nuremberg. One of the chapters is about Rudolf Hoess, the commandant of Auschwitz, who appeared as a witness at that trial.
“In about 1945, Eichmann had to submit a report to Himmler”, Hoess told Goldensohn: “because Eichmann was the only one who had to save the numbers for Himmler. Eichmann told me before he went to Himmler that in Auschwitz alone 2.5 million people were killed by gassing. It is quite impossible to give an exact figure”.
The Nazis had built a death factory so efficient that it was overloaded with corpses to dispose of: “Burning two thousand people took about twenty-four hours in the five stoves”, said Hoess, the man in-charge of it all: “Usually we could mange to cremate only about seventeen hundred. We were thus always behind in our cremating…”.
Comparing a political opponent in a modern democracy to a monster such as Eichmann is vile. Comparing the “plight” of Catalan separatists on trial according to the procedures of the rule of law at a Supreme Court to the torment Anne Frank suffered is pathetic.
Hanna Arendt, who covered Eichmann's trial in 1961 for The New Yorker, famously described “the banality of evil”.
Perhaps we should now have a serious debate about the frivolity of fools in 21st Century politics, detached from reality, always striving for the latest cool tweet or viral video during an election campaign, the latest stupid stunt in parliament to get on the lunchtime news, or, as we have seen with Catalan separatism, a whole sub-culture of imaginary unreality, an entire make-believe worldview sold to two million supporters as a plausible political option by a man who ran away to Belgium and pretends his house is the seat of the new republic.