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The Holocaust refugee who was driven to pacifism

Marina Cantacuzino tells of the way – surprising to many – that victims of horrific events can go on to forgive the perpetrators (‘I remember feeling incensed’: the woman who spent 18 years learning about forgiveness in the face of atrocity, 9 August). Her next project is about the emotions that start and end wars; she should find further examples of thinking that some initially find counterintuitive.

When I was first part of an organised pacifist group many years ago, our weekly meetings were hosted at the home of a woman with a German-Jewish background. She had reached Britain as a refugee in the second world war era; many of her family were murdered in the Holocaust. At our group’s public events, people aware of her background would often express surprise that she had adopted a principle of unconditional opposition to the taking up of arms in any circumstances whatsoever, insisting that she must accept the “need” for physical resistance.

Her reply was straightforward – it was precisely the Holocaust that caused her to become a pacifist. She saw people recycling the violence they said they opposed; this had failed for millennia. The only future was one where the world chose a revolutionarily different pacifist path. “And,” she said, “let it begin with me.”
Albert Beale
London

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