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Poppy Day

Last updated: 2003-11-07

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen

Here in Britain at this time of the year you will see lots of little plastic red poppies on sale and worn in lapels. The money raised from selling them goes to the British Legion which takes care of retired and wounded soldiers. But the red poppy is essentially related to the final victory that ended the Second World War.

Sadly this custom is considered by too many Jews to be irrelevant. Of course there is the well-known Association of Jewish Ex Servicemen (otherwise known as AJEX) which I guess most younger people think is a cleaning liquid. It tries hard to keep memories alive. But as generations born within a generation of the Nazis slowly disappear, the significance inevitably fades too.

Perhaps nowadays many confuse the poppies with all the other little plastic tokens being distributed by fund raising missionaries or advocates of unusual sexual variations. If only they knew the real significance and how relevant it is to us. We have a long religious tradition of remembering, both the good and the bad. But I believe this is something special we must not forget.

On Sunday 9th of November at 11 am we have two minutes silence. It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month that the armistice was signed and 11 o'clock on the nearest Sunday is the moment at which we in Britain commemorate the final defeat of the Nazi disease and red poppies commemorate those who gave their lives to protect Britain from the sub-human Nazi terror.

If Britain had not stood up to Germany not one of us Jews would be here in Britain today or indeed anywhere in Europe. If Winston Churchill had not spearheaded British resistance we might well have become like France, a country ruled by Nazis and we know what the French did with their Jews, both those directly under the Nazis and those under the Vichy stooges.

There were plenty of British politicians ready to do a deal, 'appeasement' it was called. And there were plenty of Britons like the very popular and the Duke of Windsor, former king Edward VII, and the revolting Oswald Mosely together with his seraglio of Mitford and Guinesses who were only too willing to become the Nazi government of Britain.

Winston Churchill galvanized resistance and united the country in resistance.

The youngsters who do not learn any history simply do not realize how close we came to defeat. In May 1940, at Dunkirk the demoralized British army was all but destroyed. The Nazis were preparing to invade Britain and there was virtually no army to oppose them. In preparation the Luftwaffe threw all its massive weight against the RAF in an attempt to control the skies before its invasion flotilla left the French ports. The Battle of Britain raged during the last weeks of October of that year. The RAF lost 915 planes, the Luftwaffe lost 1,733.  The Battle of Britain was a crucial episode in British history. A handful of British pilots fought off the overwhelming superiority of the German Air force.

There is a tendency nowadays to want to give credit to the noble professionalism of the German pilots. But let us not forget that if they had won, their leaders who they served so unquestioningly and devotedly, would have come over here and sent us all to the Gas Chambers. I get really annoyed when I see these old fascists interviewed on Television as old warriors who fought according to a code of military honour. They did no such thing. As murdering supporters of a sick regime they ought to be hiding in shame, not spouting on BBC TV or the History Channel. We owe our lives to those British pilots who saved us. As a result of the Battle of Britain, Hitler turned away from Briton towards Russia, which fortunately was the beginning of his downfall.

Of course Armistice Day records the final victory and we know that without American support we probably would not have defeated the Nazis. But America held back until both sides were weakened. Had it not been for Britain they could not have come over to invade Europe. Had Britain not held firm it is conceivable that today the Nazis would control the world. And that would have meant a world Judenrein, free and clear of Jews.

So I believe we all ought to buy poppies and we all ought to stop on Sunday and thank God that some very gallant non-Jews were responsible for saving us. Maybe it was not their intention or their motive to help save the Jews. Certainly the Allies were not in anyway motivated by the plight of the Jews and frankly probably didn't give a damn.

Anti Semitism was endemic in America at the time as much as it was the norm amongst the British Upper Classes. But God works in many wondrous ways. He used a drunken Persian king to save us two and half thousand years ago and he used the Allied soldiers sixty years ago. Praise the Lord but let us show our gratitude to His agents as well.

Shabbat Shalom