Monday, July 19, 2021


Twelve years ago, when I sat down to write 21 Aldgate, I wanted to record history, history that my generation and that of my parents had lived through.  I interviewed survivors of the Holocaust and those who, as children, escaped the Nazi regime, were brought to England on the Kinder Transport program. Many of whom never saw their families again. They spoke about their own experiences, and each one had a story to tell.  As each day passes, my generation becomes lesser in number, so it behooves us to continue to speak out.  Hitler, with his propaganda and constant lies, promised bread and work for everyone. Goebbels had stated early on: “He who can conquer the street can also conquer the masses and thereby conquer the state. The Weimar Republic, under Hitler’s rule, disintegrated and became a lawless society. It was a terrible mistake. Once Hitler was in power, it was too late to rectify and led to the horrors of the Second World War.

I re-read 21 Aldgate to see if it held up, to make sure I had accomplished what I set out to do, only to realize I could write it all over again, only this time, not about the past but about the present. The theme of 21 Aldgate is as relevant today as it was when I first put pen to paper. We have all the makings of an all-out attempt to ignore history, to deny what is actually documented. These are close to identical situations of the 1930s and ’40s; refugees on our borders, children in cages.  Globally, autocratic politicians vying for positions of importance. Antisemitism on the rise. Undisguised racial prejudice. Nazi and Confederate flags held high on protest marches and, what we thought unimaginable, an attack on The Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Democracy is in danger because lies are interpreted as truth. Conspiracy theories run rife. Politicians with more charisma than actual knowledge given pulpits galore; unconstitutional voter discrimination, gerrymandering to shift districts to win votes.

When has this happened before? We saw it when Hitler rallied his followers and blamed the Jews. I wrote about it in 21 Aldgate, except then they were Blackshirts and autocrats believing there would be ‘peace in our time.’ Autocrats who couldn’t have been proven more out of touch with reality. Today, they are Cowboys, Oath takers, Qanon, and Proud Boys.  White Supremacists with prejudice against Jews; Muslims, immigrants, socialists, liberals, people of color– in fact, anyone who does not match their profile. This happening in a country founded on the principles of freedom, liberty, and equality of all men? A country built by immigrants from every nation, race, and ethnicity.

In your reading of 21 Aldgate, I have every hope for you to compare the Thirties and Forties of the last century to this period of this twenty-first century. I fear for my grand and great-grandchildren, for they could well inherit what can be avoided if only we look back to recognize the dangers and commit to not repeat what came to pass in my lifetime.

Patricia Friedberg

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