74 years ago today all Jewish people living in occupied Paris were ordered to sew yellow stars onto the left hand side of their coats by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The process of requiring Jews in Paris to wear these stars was preceded by a range of different insignia being required in different countries under Nazi control until August 1941 when the star became the preferred symbol. As we know this was merely the precursor to a much more violent set of activities.
The decision over the yellow stars, came 26 years after a different sort of battle fought on French soil which is being remembered today by President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel who will together remember those killed 100 years ago in one of the bloodiest episodes of World War I at Verdun. To mark the centenary, Hollande and Merkel will lay wreaths at cemeteries holding the dead of both sides in the French town. The offensive lasted 300 days and claimed more than 300,000 lives.
Europe is a continent containing many other historical events which impacted us indirectly like the treatment of the Jews and battle of Verdun, and others which involved us extensively such as the battle of the Somme which began in July 1916 in part to take the pressure off the French who were still fighting in Verdun. Our role in Europe is too important to leave in the hands of coteries of men and women who have dominated the so called debate on the EU referendum over the last 2 months. We need a fresh debate over the next 4 weeks which will allow information and understanding to emerge for those of us who are being invited to vote on this vital issue. Had we been Parisians 74 years ago all of us would have had the chance to change the discourse by adopting the badges of those who Goebbels hated. Even Hitler would have stopped short of murdering every resident of Paris. Today we have the opportunity to inhabit the space that is being manipulated by a political class with much lower risk to ourselves!