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Margaret Thatcher and Yom Hashoah

According to the late Iron Lady, saving an Austrian Jewish girl was her proudest moment

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(Getty)

As tributes begin to pour in from across the world to honor Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister who passed away earlier today, the hope is that the global mourning for Thatcher will not obscure another important observance–Yom Hashoah.

Fortunately for us, history sometimes dovetails nicely and the remembrances of Thatcher–who held many honorifics as a long-serving prime minister and woman pioneer in British politics–can boast Thatcher’s sensitivity toward and fidelity to the important Jewish causes of her era. Leading this, I’d like to point back to Charles Johnson’s thorough exploration of Thatcher’s relationship with the Jews, written in late December of 2011.

Johnson starts with what Thatcher often said was her greatest accomplishment, which was not her work in helping to topple the Soviet Union or being the first British woman to hold the post of prime minister, but rather, was her work as a child to save a Jewish teenager in Austria from the grasp of Hitler’s terror.

In 1938, Edith Muhlbauer, a 17-year-old Jewish girl, wrote to Muriel Roberts, Edith’s pen pal and the future prime minister’s [Margaret Thatcher] older sister, asking if the Roberts family might help her escape Hitler’s Austria. The Nazis had begun rounding up the first of Vienna’s Jews after the Anschluss, and Edith and her family worried she might be next. Alfred Roberts, Margaret and Muriel’s father, was a small-town grocer; the family had neither the time nor the money to take Edith in. So Margaret, then 12, and Muriel, 17, set about raising funds and persuading the local Rotary club to help.

Edith stayed with more than a dozen Rotary families, including the Robertses, for the next two years, until she could move to join relatives in South America. Edith bunked in Margaret’s room, and she left an impression. “She was 17, tall, beautiful, evidently from a well-to-do family,” Thatcher later wrote in her memoir. But most important, “[s]he told us what it was like to live as a Jew under an anti-Semitic regime. One thing Edith reported particularly stuck in my mind: The Jews, she said, were being made to scrub the streets.” For Thatcher, who believed in meaningful work, this was as much a waste as it was an outrage. Had the Roberts family not intervened, Edith recalled years later, “I would have stayed in Vienna and they would have killed me.” Thatcher never forgot the lesson: “Never hesitate to do whatever you can, for you may save a life,” she told audiences in 1995 after Edith had been located, alive and well, in Brazil.

Throughout Thatcher’s life, this commitment never waned. Divisive as she was, her energetic work to supplant British support for the Arab boycott of Israel, her hectoring of Soviet Union officials about the treatment of Jewish refuseniks, her inclusion of Jewish leaders in her cabinet (to the frustration of some), and her landmark visit to Israel–the first by a sitting British prime minister–will likely keep her as a cherished figure in the collective Jewish memory for a long time to come.

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This is the type of story I expect from Tablet.

HannaH43 says:

she was a blessing to the world. The baroness Margaret Thatcher

Sooke says:

I think the measure of her greatness is the amount of hatred still heaped upon her by the left, twenty years after she stepped down as Prime Minister.

    altershmalter says:

    Whoa, Sooke. Even those of us left of center admired her honesty and “no b s” attitude. We could all take a lesson.

she is and will forever remain my role model
may her Gentle soul rested in perfect peace The “world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America and Jews and Israelis has lost a true friend” I truly am saddened. I did love her much

not since Winston Churchill hasn’t been such a great Prime Minister she will always be alive in my heart and mind. As someone in my little way to try to emulate my thoughts

    Yechiel Gordon says:

    I agree that Churchill and Thatcher belong together in the collective historical memory.

    One parallel among many comes to mind:

    While Churchill dreamt of using chemical weapons of mass destruction against lower races, Margaret Thatcher deemed them incapable of governing themselves, even after democratic elections.

    In the case of the PLO, she wanted them to renounce terror, but did not call on Israel to renounce its own use of terror, far greater in magnitude; she also considered the recognition of a non-existent right — the right to exist — as incumbent on Arabs, but not upon anyone else.

    And, of course, Thatcher supported the racist apartheid South African regime.

    A few illustrative quotes follow:

    I am strongly in favor of using poisoned [sic] gas against uncivilized tribes.
    — Winston Churchill note to the British War Office, May 1919

    The first to use gas against the Arabs was Winston Churchill…
    — US Representative Henry Gonzalez, 1992

    I’ve tried in every way I could to persuade the main branch of the PLO to renounce terrorism and accept Israel’s right to exist … we have to find other Palestinians who truly represent the Palestinian people.
    — Margaret Thatcher, Chicago Tribune, May 28 1986

It’s always amusing to see the accolades heaped on some people when they have died even though the record for those people when they were alive is nothing to be proud of. She trampled over those who were less fortunate and those who were well off did well with Thatcher’s policies.

    she stamped over the less fortunate you say.you mean she broke the back of the unions who were strangling England. you did not know if the electricity stay are not the garbage piled up in the streets She took a country with 11% unemployment and brought it down to 5% so the poor unfortunate people could have a job.we could use a little of that trampled over the poor and unfortunate in United States

      Yechiel Gordon says:

      Funny you should say that, because Thatcher’s policies — which accomplished essentially the opposite of what you state — mirrored the contemporaneous policies instituted by the Reagan Administration, and, of course, are well-known to have had the predictable effect of crushing the poor of the US as well as Great Britain.

        they are well known. But you don’t seem to know under Ronald Reagan a lot less children were in poverty and the data is not hard to find

        Great Britain will surely economically much better off under the Prime Minister Thatcher. The evil empire crumbled and millions of people became free Poland Estonia, Latvia Czechoslovakia Bulgaria, Hungary and more because of three great leaders Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Ronald Reagan and Pope John

Thatcher was a great who cared deeply for the Jewish community in Britain. I for one am immensely proud of her.

    HannaH43 says:

    she once said it was from the Jews. We got the idea Of freedom and a quality for the Jews taught us that all were equal under G-d law, so surely we had to be equal under man’s law

Yechiel Gordon says:

I thought she would have been prouder of naming Nelson Mandela a “terrorist,” while backing the South African apartheid regime; or for her support of mass murderer Augusto Pinochet (see many photos online of the two friends together); or for increasing Great Britain’s poverty levels (see Guardian graph available online): or for waging a class war against miner’s unions that she referred to as “”the enemy within;” or for helping to create Britain’s housing crisis; or for supporting the Reagan policies that, predictably, led to international financial crisis. Oh — didn’t she also support the Khmer Rouge? Turns out she did that, too. (See Salon, etc..)

    HannaH43 says:

    United States and Great Britain in a struggle with the Soviet Union . The Marxist government, which murdered more people than Hitler
    Mandela was a Marxists bomb thrower. One can understand how he became Marxists.but he was a Marxists. Even after his presidency, he never once spoke up against other dictators In the Third World. his favorite people to visit was Qadhafi. visited often. And in today’s ANC South Africa. More people have been murdered in police custody there in the 30 years of apartheid. White or black, have much better chance of being murdered in ANC South Africa. Which has one of the highest murder rates in the world. The highest child rape in the world. President Jacob Zuma had over 270 charges of corruption charges against him. So what did he do a dissolved the Police Department Scorpio, which was investigating him. It was also charged with rape. But they said he was too handsome and a woman attack him. When told she had AIDS. He said I know that’s why took a shower. When I went home. In today South Africa with your colored(mixed-race) Asian are white. There is no future for you the rainbow South Africa. The ANC is a very racist government if you are poor, white you cannot get government food for the poor because you are white.

2000

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Margaret Thatcher and Yom Hashoah

According to the late Iron Lady, saving an Austrian Jewish girl was her proudest moment

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