Today On Ujima – Books, Social Media & Auschwitz

My first guest on today’s show was Amy Morse. Like me Amy is part of the organizing committee for this year’s Bristol Festival of Literature. She was on the show to talk about the crowdfunding effort that we have launched to help raise the money necessary for venue hire, printing publicity materials and other incidental costs of putting on the Festival. You can find that campaign (and a video of Amy) at the Fundsurfer website.

Along the way I talked about the SF&F events that we’ll be having. The BristolCon Fringe event will feature new novels from Jo Hall and Jonathan L Howard. And I’ll be chairing a comics event featuring Mike Carey, Paul Cornell and Cavan Scott.

Amy stayed with me for the second half hour to talk about social media and blogging. Amy is running some courses in Bristol next month, and I figured this was a good opportunity to talk about life online. A great deals of nonsense gets talked in the mainstream media about what goes on online, and while what happens to people like Briannu Wu is indeed terrible, the wailing and gnashing of teeth that follows any (usually thoroughly justified) denunciation of white feminism’s media darlings is quite ridiculous. People need to know how to stay safe online, and much of it revolved around “don’t be an idiot”.

Anyway, you can listen to the first hour of the show here.

Interesting though my conversation with Amy was, I hope she will forgive me for saying that the second hour was spectacular. My guest on the studio was Christina Zaba, a local journalist of Polish extraction. Christina has been heavily involved in Bristol’s Holocaust Memorial Day. As a result of this she has visited Auschwitz. This has led her to discover some family history, and also the stories of two remarkable men. Kazimierz Piechowski was a young man during the war. He escaped from Auschwitz disguised as an SS officer and is still alive (he’s 95). Witold Pilecki was an officer in the Polish resistance who volunteered to get himself arrested so that he could help organize the prisoners and perhaps stage a revolt. He too later escaped from the camp, but was executed by the Russians after the war.

Both Piechowski and Pilecki were also members of the Polish Boy Scouts. The Nazis regarded the Scouts as a paramilitary organization and singled them out for special persecution, which of course led them to becoming a key part of the Resistance. Christina also talked about the Girl Guides who helped smuggle messages, food and tools into the camps.

Christina is writing a book about the Polish Resistance and the part they played in the history of Auschwitz. I’ve already told her that I want her back on the show when it comes out. Gut-wrenching though it can be at times, we do need to keep talking about this history. Auschwitz was both a slave camp run by Nazi businessmen and a giant factory dedicated to murder on an industrial scale. This sort of thing should not be allowed to happen again.

You can listen to the second half of the show here.

Being on air also allowed me to give a mention to various Jamaica-related stories. Tomorrow (August 6th) is Jamaican Independence Day. The past week has seen Jamaica’s first ever Pride. And of course Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings, a novel based on an attempted assassination of Bob Marley, has found its way onto this year’s Booker Prize long list.

Today’s playlist was as follows:

  • I Want Your Love – Chic
  • Thriller – Michael Jackson
  • Computer Blue – Prince
  • Are Friends Electric – Tubeway Army
  • The War Song – Culture Club
  • Redemption Song – Bob Marley
  • No Borders – Jama

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