Collection this Month
The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) is a charity working to create a just, humane and effective penal system in the UK. It was set up in 1981 in London and now aims: To improve prison regimes and conditions, defend and promote prisoner’s human rights, address the needs of prisoners families and promote alternatives to custody.
It carries out research on all aspects of prisons, such as: prisoners’ views on prison education; mental health needs of women prisoners; older prisoners; those with disabilities; prisoner councils; foreign national prisoners, prisoners’ votes; and has written a report on how sentencers make the decision to imprison offenders.

The Trust’s activities also include information and advice, education, parliamentary lobbying and provide a secretary for the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group.

If you wish to donate but can’t attend at the Meeting House, please send a cheque to Rachel Bach made out to “Ipswich Quakers”. Please send this before the end of the month concerned.

Quaker Faith and Practice
This year passages from Quaker Faith and Practice will alternate monthly with short poems by the American poet Carl Sandburg.

– QFP 10.05  We recognise a variety of ministries in our worship. These include those who speak under the guidance of the Spirit, and those who receive and uphold the work of the Spirit in silence and prayer. We also recognise as ministry service on many committees, hospitality and childcare, the care of finance and premises and many other tasks. We value those whose ministry is not in an appointed task but is in teaching, counselling, listening, prayer, enabling the service of others, or other service in the meeting or the world. The purpose of all our ministry is to lead us and other people into closer communion with God and to enable us to carry out those tasks which the Spirit lays upon us. (London yearly Meeting, 1986).

Film Evening 23rd June
Film Night- 23rd June at 7 pm- documentary about Satish Kumar, titled ‘ Earth Pilgrim’ .It explores the relationship between humans and the natural world, using the wisdom of this writer, ecologist, pacifist and editor of ‘Resurgence’ magazine. The documentary portrays his home area of Dartmoor. Time 48 minutes, no subtitles but clear speaking. This will be followed by a short Concord film ‘The Red Stain’ about the effects of militarisation. Length 13 minutes, no subtitles but no spoken words.


Tim Newell was the Swarthmore lecturer at Yearly Meeting in the year 2000. I was a Quaker attender and it was the first time I had been to Friends House. Tim made such a lasting impression that when I heard last year from another Quaker Prison Chaplain that he had been speaking in Winchester, I immediately contacted him and asked if he would consider coming to Ipswich to talk to us about his life and interests.

Tim spent 38 year of his life as a Prison Governor, the last 10 in HMP Grendon, and he gave his Swarthmore lecture on Restorative Justice just two years before his retirement. I was delighted that he agreed to come, and offered to tell us more on that theme, and also on Circles of Support and Accountability, and on his latest interest, a charity called Escaping Victimhood.

Tim comes from a long line of Anglican Clergy, and was born in India where his parents were missionaries. He was a churchgoer until adulthood, when, on impulse, one Sunday morning, instead of taking his usual route to church on the right, he turned left to the Quaker Meeting House. I like to think of that impulsive swing away from convention as a metaphor for his life’s work. He has turned away from the conventional British approach to Criminal Justice, which he sees as gratuitously punitive, and has espoused and followed the concept of restoration; which means the possible recovery, healing, growth and re-habilitation of the prisoner, so that he has an opportunity to return to the community outside and live a life with some meaning and value.

Many of us, like myself as a new attender, have not thought much about prisons and what they do. They are places where troublesome people are shut away out of sight and out of mind. We have a limited idea about the profile of a typical prisoner, his experience inside, and what the kind of life he is offered. Nor do many of us realise that release from prison, as one offender said, is as traumatic as “falling off a cliff”.

Tim started his career as prison Governor in the early 60s. By the time he moved to Grendon, in the early 90s, conditions were being studied and criminology had become a serious study subject. No doubt all prisons were changing their style, but Grendon was already exceptional. It began life in 1962 as an experimental psychiatric prison but developed the concept of the therapeutic community, and specialises now in the treatment of serious sex offenders and violent men. It is a place where everyone has a right to speak out without inhibition, and the whole of the staff, at all levels meet up regularly with all the men. There are 5 and sometimes 6 different wings with about 40 men in each, and the idea is to uncover and treat serious mental health and other problems, encourage the exploration of each man’s crime, and offer support by a staff of professionals, but also by officers and by one’s peers, in seeking recovery and preparing to move on .

I have discovered from the prisoners I see locally that in Grendon there is a powerful Quaker ethos, and Quaker Meetings are frequent and well attended. It seems that Tim Newell was important in furthering this in Grendon, adding Quaker principles to a restorative system which was already different, in aiming to let go of punishing regimes, prevent conflict, build relationships, and repair harm.

Restorative Justice is a movement which brings those harmed by crime or conflict, and those responsible for the harm, into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward. In effect, this often means that the offender eventually meets the victim and is able to understand the harm he or she has caused. Often it involves apology and forgiveness, and gives the victim greater understanding of why the incident occurred

Tim talked extensively about his prison experience, and explained that men who go through the Grendon system talk a great deal. They often have arrived in Grendon silent and closed, but the system helps them to open up and express all kinds of things. Moving on afterward into a regular prison, they say they need to learn to shut up again, because they find there is no longer a listening ear immediately available.

Tim’s second theme, Circles of Support and Accountability, was about a pilot scheme, financed by the home office and initially carried out by Quakers, to support sex offenders when they are released from prison. This scheme was eventually supported nationwide. Sex offenders have a tough time of it in prison, yet many of them seem to stay on indefinitely, sometimes in special units. Release can be particularly alarming for them. Paedophilia, for example, is an addictive behaviour which means that it is very difficult to resist the urge to re-offend, especially in a hostile world outside where they have been branded for their crime, and have their names are on a sex offenders list available to the public. Circles of Support and Accountability is a small group of trained volunteers who will meet regularly with an ex-offender in an informal way, and be available at all times, to try to support him or her in resisting the urge to re-offend. They are also expected to report any further offences to the justice system and the offender may then be returned to prison. This system has now in addition been opened up as Circles of Support for all released ex-offenders. It appears to be very effective. Many prisoners are so traumatised by release to the world outside that they quickly re-offend in order to be re-committed. This venture is helping to reduce the numbers who return.

Tim’s last theme was a charity which he helped to found, called Escaping Victimhood. This is the other side of the Restorative Practice coin, in that it seeks to help victims of crime recover from their undoubted trauma. Those who wish, if they can find a group in their area, are given a time of retreat in a lovely quiet place, where they are cut off from their familiar world and pampered. There are therapists and psychologists on hand and the idea is to explain to these victims what trauma is. Once they have profoundly understood, they can access their own trauma, and begin to release it and come to understand it. There are massages, aroma-therapy, tai chi trainers, and a whole group of supportive people on hand, and the food and setting are always attractive. The hope is for healing and a return to a bearable life.

This sounds like an expensive venture, but Tim’s ambition is to further extend this system, and he asked us to hold a retiring collection for this charity at the end of his talk.

The evening was challenging, for both Tim and his audience, and there were many questions, so we over-ran our time limit. The effort was very worthwhile and Tim is a delightful, gently humorous man, as impressive as ever, who stayed on with us for tea and hot cross buns afterwards. We had 50 people attend, many Quakers, one prisoner, several students, and we collected over a £100.
Helena Woddis  

Tim Newell Evening
It was interesting to compare Tim Newell’s approach at Grendon with that described by Andrea Needham when she and the other three women were on remand for their trial , when they were found not guilty of damaging a warplane bound for the genocide going on in East Timor. This was described in her book ‘Hammerblow’. She repeatedly describes the ridiculous nonsensical rules they had to obey and, when all other reasons had been exhausted, the prison officers simply told them ‘Because I said so.’ Their only recourse was complaining to staff or the governor and they were involved in no decision making.

At Grendon the inmates were houses in blocks much smaller than for a normal prison and had a degree of decision making which included prisoners having to present them with reasons for requesting home or compassionate visits and they decided the outcome. However when they had successfully responded to the Grendon system they then had to return to a larger and more formal prison regime where they had to disguise their previous way of doing things otherwise they would be picked on, isolated or bullied by other inmates. I can remember this being evident on a visit to see Suffolk Punches at Hollesley Bay. We were told that many of the prisoners, conscious that others were looking for any emotional signs of ‘weakness’ in them, developed a very close relationship with the horses, since these magnificent animals did not judge them and by working with them they could unlock emotions that had to be kept to themselves back in the prison system.
Richard Stewart.

Talk/Discussion on Restorative Justice by ex Prison Governor

Tim Newell, Quaker and former Governor for 10 years of Grendon Prison came to talk to the Ipswich Discussion Group about Restorative Justice on 31 Mar 17. At Grendon the restorative justice approach is central to prison life.

Extent of Restorative Justice has been widened to include not just “Healing the Hurt” between Offender and Victim, but also with their Communities, including the Police and other associated Agencies affected by the crime.

Where Restorative Justice has been used is in 100 Countries: Canada is a forerunner, S Africa notably (Truth and Reconciliation Commission), N Ireland (limited extent in the Troubles, success in youth justice), UK schools (spearheaded by schools in Hull starting 8 years ago), Business and Public Sector (here and there especially for conflicts arising out of change)

The Process of Restorative Justice begins with helping those involved, making connections in terms of seeing others points of view and developing an understanding  for others. There is no expectation that e.g. forgiveness will be achieved. However such things may come later. The whole process is very open and allows feelings to be expressed.

Benefits include reducing the risk of re-offending of ex offenders, combating (PTSD) post traumatic stress disorder amongst victims, and various stresses amongst other participants. Amongst prisoners there may be crime related and historical PTSD. Home Office/ Ministry of Justice research found that where offenders of serious crimes met their victim, reoffending fell by 27% (and of course future victims of those offenders fell by 27%) For prisoners serving community sentences it fell by 55%.

Disbenefits are that it costs more at the time, but the research showed that for every £1 spent on delivering that Restorative Justice, up to £9 was saved in lowering the cost of offending.

Grendon holds over 200 prisoners. They request to come to Grendon because they want to give up crime. They stay for over two years, before usually returning to a normal prison to continue their sentence. Most are prisoners on an indeterminate sentence and have committed homicide, violent or sex offences. There is a waiting list for Grendon.
It is run very democratically, with prisoners divided into communities of 40. E.g. a community decides whether one of them should have home leave or, who should do the cleaning. They are supported by therapists with a range of skills. Attitudes and expressions, which would not normally be tolerated in prison, are accepted and used to give feedback to prisoners. Much therapeutic dialogue occurs in small groups with prisoners often experiencing real feelings for the first time. This leads them to be able to confront their behaviour where they have hurt people or property, and to have a greater understanding of their behaviour.

Returning to a Normal Prison after Grendon, prisoners have to return to adopting a “system head” which includes showing no feelings and not talking about their crime, in complete contrast to Grendon . For this Grendon prepares them with a strategy for coping with being back in a normal UK prison.

Possible Role for you and me Leaving prison is often a frightening experience. No family, no accommodation and no work and only £50 in your pocket. However just like in prison there are volunteer chaplains, outside there are too, but lamentably all too few. They are for ex offenders of any faith or none and an ex offender would have a “circle” of volunteers supporting their different needs.. Circles of Support and Accountability are especially valuable for sex offenders for whom integration back into society is most difficult. Prisoners have to be clear of drugs for 3 to 4 months before early release into such a scheme is considered. The deal is that if volunteers feel unhappy about an ex offender’s behaviour the volunteers will report it to the authorities. That can lead to reimprisonment. Typically support is for about a year but it can be for much longer.
There is also a community chaplaincy system throughout England at present. This trains volunteers to mentor people coming out of prison to help them resettle more safely.
Training for such volunteer chaplains or mentors is 6 half days. A Volunteer will have a supervisor who they work under. Tim is now involved in this chaplaincy. You can apply to become a volunteer from
Questioning him afterwards he said that he was aware of only about 10 of the 100’s of ex sex offenders had reoffended who had been supported by a Circle of Support.

Bad Publicity turned out Good when the Daily Express featured ex prisoners getting special treatment – Circles of Support and Accountability it led to a surge in applications for volunteers to work this way.

Escaping Victimhood is Tim’s latest charity. This is a system of small group retreats for people who have suffered the trauma of a bereavement through homicide or a criminal assault, whether it be physical or material. Tim and his colleagues believe that what must be understood  for these people is the trauma which they have experienced, as many of them don’t understand or acknowledge it. The groups are brought together in a beautiful retreat centre, although the coming together is now called a workshop as a ‘retreat’ put people  off  coming initially. Here good food and pampering help participants to relax and open up. They are told in detail what trauma is, and can thus come to understand their own post-traumatic stress. In understanding what has been inflicted upon them and what their symptoms are about, they begin a process of healing which helps them to lift away from their roles as “victims”, and begin to escape those roles. It is, if you like, the reverse side of the same coin as Restorative Justice. RJ helps the criminal to face his crime and sometimes even his victim, whereas Escaping Victimhood helps the victim to become able to live with the horror he or she experienced at the hands of the criminal. In both cases the aim is to diminish suffering and offer the possibility of a reasonable life in the future, to those who had lost it through a crime.
Ian Taylor

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Discussion meetings are held every Sunday in the Library, from 9.15 -10.15am where we are looking at passages from Quaker Faith and Practice, interesting articles from The Friend or any relevant topics

  • Saturday 3rd at 10.30 to 12.00 Community Café
  • Sunday 4 th Shared Lunch after Meeting for Worship
  • Wednesday 7th QQ Discussion Group with Bal Kaur Howard, talking of her forced marriage and her life since escaping.
  • Sunday 11 th at 12 Business Meeting
  • Friday  24th Film Night Sateesh Kumar


Discussion meetings are held every Sunday in the Library, from 9.15 -10.15am where we are looking at passages from Quaker Faith and Practice, interesting articles from The Friend or any relevant topics

  • Saturday 6th  Community Café from 10.30 to 12
  • Sunday 7th  Shared lunch. All welcome.
  • Weds 10th QQ Discussion Group, Stan will talk about his life in prison and his           spiritual journey at 7pm. All welcome.
  • Sunday 14th Business Meeting  at 12
  • Sunday 21st MOP meeting at 12
  • Sunday 21st Area Meeting    Leiston     2 pm
  • Friday 26th Film Night “To Kill a Mockingbird” at 7pm. All welcome.


Collection this Month
Our collection is for The Teapot Project- local charity recycling with special emphasis on not wasting out of date food- linked to the Cycle cafe in Ipswich
If you wish to donate but can’t attend at the Meeting House, please send a cheque to Rachel Bach made out to “Ipswich Quakers”. Please send this before the end of the month concerned.

Red And White
Nobody picks a red rose when the winter winds howl and the
white snow blows among the fences and storm doors.
Nobody watches the dreamy sculptures of snow when the summer
roses blow red and soft in the garden yards and corners.
O I have loved red roses and O I have loved white snow-
dreamy drifts winter and summer-roses and snow.
Carl Sandburg.

Film night- May 26th- 7 pm start in the library- To Kill A Mockingbird.
Gregory Peck plays Atticus Finch, a white widowed lawyer defending a black man accused of raping a white woman in the deep south of the USA. The story is seen through the eyes of his daughter, nicknamed Scout. The running time of 2 hours 4 minutes cannot include all the nuances and subtleties of the original novel but this is still a very powerful film. Subtitles are available.

A Visit to Bressingham Gardens and  Railway Museum,  Diss
on Saturday 1st July 2017

We are organising a day trip to this pleasant place which was founded by Alan Bloom who was a Quaker.

There are the fantastic gardens to visit plus the railway museum  and four narrow gauge and standard gauge railway lines plus a working old-fashioned galloping horses roundabout. There are six  Bressingham Gardens in total and include two world famous and distinctly personal gardens.  These are  Alan Bloom’s Dell Garden, son Adrian Bloom’s Foggy Bottom Garden, also a spectacular Summer Garden, a Fragrant Garden, Adrian’s Wood and a Winter Garden.

Our plan is to depart from the Meeting House at 10am.  Eric Walker is organising the visit.   If we get 12 people then we can get reduced price tickets. Invite your family and friends.

Adults:  admission to gardens and museum and unlimited rides on the railways   £9.50.  children  3 to 16   £8.00

Eric needs payment by June 15th.

Please say if you can go in your own car and how many spare seats you have or if you would like a lift, please tell Eric:


Everyone seeks happiness, joyfulness, but from outside – from money, from a big car, from a big house. Most people never pay much attention to the ultimate source of a happy life, which is inside, not outside. We can become a reservoir of joy, an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that ripples out to all of those around us.
The Dalai Lama

Regional Gathering takes place three times a year in various venues throughout Essex. They take place on the last Saturday of February, June and September. Any members and attenders can go and enjoy the Friendship offered.

Our February event consisted of a drama by the Journeyman Theatre who depicted various graphic scenarios concerning torture.

Saturday June 24th Chelmsford MH
, continuing our commemoration of WW1, Janet Scott of Hartington Grove Meeting will develop our understanding of the impact of WW1 particularly on Friends by sharing her research from this period. Her series of articles is appearing in The Friend.

Saturday 30th September Saffron Walden MH
: The world faces turbulent times post Brexit and Trump. Juliet Prager, deputy recording clerk, will lead our exploration of the issues, what Friends are doing and how we might respond corporately and individually.

Feeding the Darkness
QCAT (Quaker Concern for the Abolition of Torture) appointed the Journeyman Theatre to carry out this drama which has had great success with 6th Form students in schools. About 15 Friends and 20 members of Amnesty International and Campaign Against Torture participated in the afternoon which concluded with a discussion of the issues raised.

The performance was a series of “ministries” (monologues, duologues and poems) written from extensive research into torture which is state approved.  Lynn and Dave Morris brought us face to face with the insidious nature of state crime and the state sanctioning of torture; with the vulnerability of some of those trained to be perpetrators; with the complicity of governments, and with the role of global trade in the perpetration of torture. A denial of state sanctioned torture is a form of passive acceptance.

We were reminded that the perpetrators are also victims and damaged; of the essential role of medical personnel to monitor the use of torture, and of the trauma and suffering which results. Torture is used by governments to extract information, to intimidate and control opposition, and becomes almost acceptable by the blurring of the boundary between interrogation and torture. The language used is of utmost importance as the word “torture” is not used but “maximum duress” is preferred by governments.

The Quaker position on torture is laid out in the 1976 Hamilton Declaration and the UN Convention on Torture (1965) Article 1, which are now clearly being abused by UK and world-wide governments.

Dave explained that applause at the end was not appropriate but we had a period of silence to reflect. The play was followed by an illuminating time of discussion and comment during which F/friends responded actively and emotionally.

What can we do to make inroads into this darkness?
•    Campaigning and protest letters to press and MPs can bring responses and we are encouraged to keep ourselves informed and to be active. Only 5 letters to an MOP about the same subject causes them to ask questions.
•    Protesting at the Arms Fair and Yarlswood.
•    Spreading the word to young people and getting them engaged as they have a keen sense of injustice and feel as though they are global citizens.
•    Protesting at the small firms who each have a small piece of manufacture of the overall jigsaw of the arms trade or torture implement, particularly in the Birmingham area. Knowing that we in Britain are implicit in this industry and informing people of this.
•    At least 30% of asylum seekers here in the UK have been tortured and need long term therapy; we can help by offering some sort of “normalisation” to help them recover and regain parts of themselves which have been lost, by volunteering to be a listening ear, offering classes in yoga, cooking, crafts, gardening etc.
•    Coming together and feeling the strength of other people. Talking about it helps.




Ipswich Quaker Film Nights in 2017

23 June- ‘Earth Pilgrim’ – documentary about Satish Kumar, writer, ecologist, pacifist, set in Dartmoor; followed by short Concord film ‘The Red Stain’ -both without subtitles but the second has no spoken words

28 July- Agora – set in Alexandria, Egypt, 391 AD and exploring the relationship between pagan rulers and increasing numbers of Christians-subtitles

25 August- The Crucible– film version of the famous play about the Salem witch trials- subtitles

22 September- Blackfish– documentary about the treatment of performing and captive orcas- no subtitles

27 October- Selma- Martin Luther King and the American civil rights marches- subtitles

24 November- The Boy With The Striped Pyjamas– exploring the growing friendship between the son of a Nazi death camp commandant and a boy inside the fence- subtitles

15 December- Quartet– lightening the atmosphere with a very positive film about old age- retired opera singers in a home, plus a superb soundtrack- subtitles

Note earlier date for December to keep clear of Christmas. More details in each relevant newsletter.

We try to hold our Film Night the last Friday of the month but occasionally it clashes with something else and we hold it the Friday before.

Ipswich Quaker Film Nights in 2017


This year passages from Quaker Faith and Practice will alternate monthly with short poems by the American poet Carl Sandburg.

QFP. 10.09- We were meeting in the long sitting-room, and the floor space was as usual filled by the children. The room was pretty full. Then Sophie’s father came in and put her in her carry-cot on the floor. She was very young, and we hadn’t expected to be greeting her so soon. I looked around the adults, wondering which of us would minister.
At the other end of the room Cathy, aged three, slipped down from her mother’s knee. Slowly, carefully, and mostly upright she clambered in and out, past all the other children. She reached the carry-cot and peeped in at the baby. Then she turned and gave everyone a smile of pure delight. Still smiling, without a word, she returned to her mother.
Nobody else spoke either. Sophie had been welcomed into meeting. (William Fraser, 1989).

Film Evenings – these will start promptly at 7pm in the library, with the film being shown without an interval and a short discussion afterwards. The film for this month is Dead Man Walking which is a 1995 American crime drama film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, and co-produced and directed by Tim Robbins, who adapted the screenplay from the non-fiction book of the same name. Sister Helen Prejean (Sarandon) establishes a special relationship with Matthew Poncelet (Penn), a prisoner on death row in Louisiana, acting as his spiritual adviser after carrying on correspondence with him. It runs just under 2 hours and there are some harrowing scenes so be warned! It will be shown on Friday 28th April.

Holocaust Memorial Day 27th January 2017
by Barbara
As part of my chaplaincy role, I attended the Holocaust memorial Day event at the University of Suffolk where I met and heard from an amazing gentleman Mr Vernon Katz who came to England as a child escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport. .
He spoke of the changes he faced, his friends all disappeared, the males from his family taken, his mum imprisoned, but before that was the changes in language in attitude. The rhetoric of them and us, the subtle hate which built up to Kristallnacht, a Nazi pogrom throughout Germany and Austria on the night of November 9–10, 1938, during which Jews were killed and their property destroyed.

Vernon wrote “The Blue Salon and Other Follies” which vividly recounts his 1930’s childhood in Lippe, Germany. Through the eyes of an observant young boy, Vernon reveals how Jewish life in a country town gradually eroded as the Nazis came to power. Vernon recaptures his childhood and family life through light-hearted anecdotes and pictures, as well as dramatic events, including his mother’s escapes from imprisonment and death by the Nazis. In the early years of Nazi rule, his parents fail to take heed of the dangers that lie ahead. Rooted in German soil and having built a successful brush factory together, they think it is all a passing phase. Fifteen months after Hitler’s rise to power, when a tribute to his father appears in a German business journal, his mother joyfully redecorates the house and creates the luxurious blue salon. When the Nuremberg Laws are enacted, the situation darkens. Vernon at age ten, is stoned, persecuted and terrified by his Nazi teachers. Ultimately, on Kristallnacht, the author’s father is imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp. The family doctor sends Mrs. Katz to a mental institution to protect her from the Gestapo. As the Nazis grow even more insidious, the family must take desperate measures to try to save themselves.

Over 6 million people were murdered: Jews, Romani’s, homosexuals, dissidents and disabled people. But it didn’t happen overnight; during the 1930s, basic rights were taken away from the Jews and other minorities, for instance a Jewish employer could only employ women aged over 45. Gradually their human rights, such as the right to work and to practice their religion, were taken away. Key lessons learned from the holocaust are that protecting our basic human rights could be an early warning system against tyranny; a society based on justice, equality and fairness protects the individual and protects minorities being persecuted by majorities.

It was almost unimaginable to hear what had happened then we saw so many similarities to the tone of the rhetoric we hear today.

Beverley Levy spoke about the prelude “Letters from Warsaw” by Joseph Phibbs which was based on the book “Marysia” written by Krzysztof Chorzelski and the co-ordinator of the Syrian Resettlement Scheme also spoke about the 200 Syrians who were coming to Suffolk in the next weeks.

I felt hope when we heard from some students from Northgate: they spoke with passion and determination about how these terrible events cannot happen again, about the need to have a society that welcomes and protects the vulnerable and one that does not stand for hate and prejudice.

Rabbi Sacks stated “The Holocaust did not define what it is to be a Jew. The Holocaust defined what it is to be human. Any assault on Jews becomes, very rapidly, an assault on our shared humanity. That is why we must continue to remember, not for the sake of the past, but for the sake of the future”. (

Vernon Katz at UoS

The Pianist
by Richard Stewart
This is a summary of the discussion following the showing of this film, to an audience of twelve, in our library on Holocaust Memorial Day.

1) A brief summary was given of a well-attended Holocaust Memorial Day event, at which Vernon Katz, who came over with the Kindertransport, said that ‘All governments are innocent’, i.e. they reflect the collective consciousness of their people. Unfortunately there wasn’t time to fully discuss this statement.

2. Modern comparisons were made between the building of the Warsaw ghetto wall and that planned between USA and Mexico. Some of the scenes of devastation could have been transposed to Aleppo or other Syrian cities.

3. The Germans justified their actions in the belief that all Jews were greedy, corrupt, inferior and sub-human. Studies were mentioned showing how soldiers, initially reticent about carrying out atrocities, eventually progressed to even worse ones, not only meticulously documenting them but boasting of their deeds in personal diaries.

4. It was pointed out that Jews initially didn’t register strong objection to measures they saw as just inconvenient, not fully realising how the gradual progression in the loss of their rights eventually led to their transportation to the death camps. Some even seemed prepared to believe a German officer’s promises of more food in future.

5. Complicity was discussed, which occurred all over occupied Europe and even with Norwegian civil servants. The question was asked as to whether those ordering the cattle wagons, and knowing their true purpose, were as guilty as Auschwitz guards. Several examples of Jewish complicity within the ghetto were included in the film, especially the actions of the Jewish ‘police’. However, they were also responsible, during the loading of the cattle wagons, for allowing Wladyslaw Szpilman, The Pianist, to escape.

6. The strong human determination to survive, whatever the circumstances, was emphasised, the alternatives in the ghetto being to give up and die or die heroically in an uprising, which the film graphically portrayed. Others outside the ghetto put their lives at risk to help The Pianist and there was discussion about the motives of the high-ranking German officer who discovered The Pianist in hiding, didn’t arrest him, and helped his survival by giving him food parcels. Was he simply reacting to the knowledge that the war was lost and there was no point in killing him? Was he, as the film showed later, hoping that his kindness might be reciprocated? Did he, after listening to The Pianist playing, realise through his own artistic sensibilities that he couldn’t destroy such genius? Or was he just a ‘good Nazi’? The director, Roman Polanski, deliberately included a photo of the officer’s family and showed him carefully reading documents before signing them- some being death warrants? Polanski doesn’t normally ‘do religion’ but the officer’s comments on leaving had a Biblical analogy: ‘Don’t thank me, thank God. It’s His will that we should survive. Well, at least it’s what we should believe in’. Then he gave The Pianist his warm greatcoat as a farewell offering.

7. There was a difference of opinion, arising from the film, about the numbers of people prepared to volunteer in good causes, and if percentage responses were reduced if the volunteering could include the risk of confrontation and even verbal or physical abuse.
The film obviously had considerable impact as it was mentioned in two separate ministries on the following Sunday and in discussion after the Meeting for Worship.

It is normally something that we don’t like to think about, but is something that will save a lot of unanswered questions when we are no longer here and able to answer in person! We have had for a number of years now, a funeral wishes form, which gives instructions as to what to do in the event of your death. The questions on the form are quite straightforward, and will help in the event of your death, with things like memorial meetings.

The idea is that once completed, 3 copies of the form are placed into individual envelopes, one for your solicitors, one for your next of kin and one for your meeting. The outside of the envelope would be labelled ‘ To be opened in the event of my death’ with your name on it as well. These sealed envelopes from Ffriends would then be kept in the office at the meeting house, securely locked away, and only opened and used when needed.

I hope that Friends will consider filling one in so as when the time comes your wishes can be considered. If there are any questions, please ask either Lydia or myself and we will do our best to help.

We can be contacted via email or the meeting house number of 01473 257649

Editorial Note: ‘Our apologies to Mike Medhurst for errors in the March ‘Golden Envelope‘ article, which didn’t have our normal corrections system -The Editors.
Richard and Barbara

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Discussion meetings are held every Sunday in the Library, from 9.15 -10.15am where we are looking at passages from Quaker Faith and Practice, interesting articles from The Friend or any relevant topics.

Dates for your dairy

  • Saturday 1st Community Cafe
  • Sunday 2nd Shared Lunch
  • Sunday 9th Business Meeting
  • Weds 12th QQ Discussion Group on Morality, Good or Bad, Right or Wrong?
  • Friday 28th Film Night “Dead Man Walking”