Flick and press squeezes

March 29, 1996

The article by David Cesarani was confused and confusing - one's strong impression was that it was written merely to have his name publicly associated with this controversy.

In line with Oxford University and Balliol College, Cesarani states at one point that "it would indeed be unjust to visit" the sins of "old man Flick" (!) on "his children and grandchildren". But what else, then, is the point of the rest of his tirade, other than to parade the depths of his emotional hatred for all things German in the 1990s?

He consigns to the dustbin decades of international academic research on precisely what we mean by genocide in the 20th century and how Nazi Germany's policies of genocide - it was a plurality of genocides not simply directed at Jews - relates to that wider subject.

Of course, had Mr Flick provided money to establish a university chair in Jewish studies in the United Kingdom, Cesarani and many others in the Anglo-Jewish community would be singing a different tune entirely.

As it is, John Burrow, the first incumbent of the Gert-Rudolf Flick chair of European thought at Oxford University, has made it abundantly clear that his brief is to pursue those aspects of European intellectual life which have transcended national as well as disciplinary boundaries and which have been influential on European thought generally.

That is far from simply a brief to thrust the intellectual thought of Adolf Hitler down everybody's throats. Really, the matter ought to be allowed to subside into the quiet obscurity of Balliol College. If not, and the unreasonable fuss continues, Mr Flick ought to do what any reasonable-minded person would do in similar circumstances - and give his money to an institution in another country whose wider citizenry would appreciate it better.


Baring Road, London SE12

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