Carroll introduces the item:
“A German mediation panel has started hearing evidence in a dispute about the ownership of a vast collection of medieval religious art, believed to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds. The Guelph Treasure is currently housed at the state-founded Bode Museum in Berlin. But the heirs of Jewish art dealers who owned it in the 1930s say they sold it to the Nazis under duress. Israel has taken the unusual step of writing to the German government to say it’s watching the matter closely. Our correspondent Steve Evans has been to see the treasures in the darkened vault where they’re on display.”
Steve Evans has been the BBC’s Berlin correspondent since September 2010. He tells listeners:
“These works are without doubt stunning. Here in the Bode Museum in Berlin are the most ornate gold and silver-work crucifixes. There’s a magnificent twelfth-century carving of a church here with engravings of the apostles and of Christ on the cross, all in ivory and pearl and domed in gold.
In 1671 these treasures passed from the church in Germany to the Duke of Brunswick-Luneberg whose family kept them for nearly three centuries. Then, in 1929, a group of Jewish art dealers bought them. Four years later the Nazis came to power and Goering, the founder of the Gestapo, decided he wanted these treasures for the Nazi Reich.
In the atmosphere of terror at the time, the art dealers sold their treasures: a forced sale say their descendants today. It was a time when Jews, who displeased the Nazis, risked their lives. Now an official commission will decide if these treasures can stay here.”
There are perhaps two ways of reading that miserable sentence. Were one being charitable, it could be interpreted as intending to say that Jews who did something to incur the displeasure of the Nazis risked their lives. Clearly that was not the case: Jews were persecuted and exterminated en-masse not because of anything they had done or said, but purely and simply because they were Jews.
But when one actually listens to Evans’ report, one notes that he pauses after the word ‘Jews’ and again after the word ‘Nazis’, thus clearly indicating that his intention is to convey to listeners that in general, Nazis were “displeased” by Jews.
Steve (Stephen) Evans’ statement is not merely a reduction of the famous British understatement to the absurd. The crass description of a racist, persecutory, genocidal regime as “displeased” and the inversion of action and reaction in that sentence – which makes Jews the active party who “displeased” the passive Nazis – is both historically ridiculous and offensive.
BBC editors and correspondents – and especially one based in Berlin for over three years already – should know a lot better.
BBC Watch has received the following e-mail from Mr Evans:
I don’t normally spot your website but on a slow day I came across it. Can I say that what you write about me and my piece is drivel. It reveals a level of historical knowledge and awareness that would shame any moderately intelligent fifteen year old with half an interest in the events of the last century. The works were sold in 1935 – the same year as the Nuremberg Laws – so there was no systematic murder of Jews by the state at that time. What there was, rather, was widespread persecution. As I pointed out: any Jew who displeased Nazis risked extreme violence. Feel free to incorporate my views in your “analysis” – though somehow I suspect you won’t!
Berlin Correspondent, BBC
So once again, as noted above, Steve Evans is suggesting a connection between what Jews did – “displeased Nazis”- and the risk of “extreme violence” against them and is apparently unwilling to acknowledge that in fact, racist attitudes towards Jews as a group – rather than anything specific individuals did or did not do – were the basis for both “widespread persecution” and “extreme violence”.