February 5 2017 – A Poetry Evening to mark the Birthday of Bishop George Bell -Friends Meeting House -Priory Road, Chichester









Dear Editor


A well-attended poetry event took place at the Friends Meeting House in Chichester last Sunday to mark the life and work of Bishop George Bell.

Poems were read on the twin themes of Love and Justice, including those by TS Eliot, John Betjeman, WH Auden, Wendy Cope…and George Bell.

At the end of the evening there was a collection for the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture.

A similar event is now planned for Bishop Bell’s 60th anniversary next year.

Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society


4 thoughts on “February 5 2017 – A Poetry Evening to mark the Birthday of Bishop George Bell -Friends Meeting House -Priory Road, Chichester

  1. Pingback: The Chronology – 1912 to 2017 – Justice for Bishop George Bell of Chichester – The Bell Society

  2. richardwsymonds37 Post author



    In May 1939, several ships, including the passenger liner St. Louis, brought Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany (including recently annexed Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia) to Havana, Cuba.

    On May 27, 1939, the day that also saw the arrival of the St. Louis, the British Pacific Steamship Navigation Company’s Orduña landed at the harbor in Havana, carrying 120 Austrian, Czech, and German Jews. The Cuban authorities permitted 48 Orduña passengers, all of whom held landing permits, to enter Cuba, but refused to allow the remaining 72 passengers to disembark. The Orduña set off again on May 29, bound for South America, but with no assurance that the passengers would be allowed to land in any harbor. Two days later the passengers appealed to President Roosevelt in a radiogram for U.S. assistance, noting that 67 of the 72 remaining refugees held affidavits or registration numbers for immigration into the United States and had intended to wait in Cuba for their entry visas to be issued.

    For weeks the Orduña sought a safe harbor that would accept the refugees. After traveling through the Panama Canal, the ship made brief stops at ports in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. While in Ecuador, a Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) representative arranged refuge for four of the 72 Jews. At the same time, the Orduna’s captain made contact with Rabbi Nathan Witkin, Jr., a representative of the U.S.-based Jewish Welfare Board stationed in the U.S. controlled Canal Zone. With the support of the British Pacific Steamship Navigation Company and the JDC, Witkin arranged for the remaining 68 refugees to be transferred in Lima, Peru, to the British Orbita, which was en route to Europe via the Panama Canal.

    Witkin then persuaded U.S. authorities in the Canal Zone to permit the Orbita’s refugee passengers to disembark in Balboa, a town near the Pacific end of the zone. Once in Balboa, seven Jewish refugees obtained Chilean entry visas and departed for Chile. The remaining 55 stayed in Balboa at Fort Amador, the location of the Canal Zone Quarantine Station, until the end of September 1940. With the assistance of the JDC and the New York-based Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Rabbi Witkin arranged the transfer to the United States of the 55 refugees and 79 additional refugees, who had arrived at Fort Amador since May 1939, on the U.S. transport ship American Legion.

    The success in finding refuge in the United States for the Orduña’s passengers was not matched for other Jewish refugees arriving in Havana harbor in 1939. At the end of May 1939, the French Line’s Flandre brought 104 German, Austrian, and Czech Jewish passengers to Havana. As in the cases of the St. Louis and the Orduña, Cuban officials would not permit the Flandre’s passengers to disembark, and the ship set sail for Mexico. During the second week of June, the Flandre sought permission for its refugee passengers to disembark at several Mexican ports, but without success. After a short time, the Jews aboard the Flandre were forced to return to France, where they were subsequently admitted but interned by the French government.

    Similarly, on May 27 the Orinoco, the St. Louis’ sister ship, left Hamburg with 200 passengers bound for Cuba. Informed by radio of the difficulties in Havana, the captain of the Orinoco diverted the ship to waters just off Cherbourg, France, where it remained for days. The Cuban treatment of the St. Louis refugees, and to a lesser extent of those aboard the Flandre and Orduña, had focused international scrutiny on Cuba’s immigration procedures. Nevertheless, neither the British government nor the French government was prepared to accept the Orinoco refugees. The United States government then intervened, but halfheartedly. U.S. authorities did not accept the refugees either, though U.S. diplomats in London pressured the German ambassador to give assurances that the German authorities would not persecute the Orinoco refugees upon their return to the German Reich. With this dubious assurance, the 200 refugees returned to Germany in June 1939. Their fate remains unknown.

    1. richardwsymonds37 Post author

      “Refugee Blues” by WH Auden

      (Read by Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson – Poetry Reading – Chichester – February 5 2017)

      Say this city has ten million souls,
      Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
      Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us.
      Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
      Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there:
      We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.
      In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
      Every spring it blossoms anew;
      Old passports can’t do that, my dear, old passports can’t
      do that.
      The consul banged the table and said:
      “If you’ve got no passport you’re officially dead”;
      But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.
      Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
      Asked me politely to return next year:
      But where shall we go today, my dear, but where shall we go today?
      Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said:
      “If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread”;
      He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.
      Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
      It was Hitler over Europe, saying: “They must die”;
      We were in his mind, my dear, we were in his mind.
      Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
      Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
      But they weren’t German Jews, my dear, but they weren’t German Jews.
      Went down to the harbour and stood upon the quay,
      Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
      Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.
      Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
      They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
      They weren’t the human race, my dear, they weren’t the human race.
      Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
      A thousand windows and a thousand doors;
      Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.
      Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
      Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
      Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.

      From Collected Shorter Poems 1927‐1957 by WH Auden

      1. richardwsymonds37 Post author


        When like the light, our lives
        with sleep fade in the night,
        is there some difference discernible, yours and mine,
        and all the millions stretched mindless
        in their slumber?

        And on the resumption of the day
        and our activity,
        what real distinction can we make
        between the bald head and the other, lustrous,
        bent in thought or boredom,
        in their work and play?

        There is no difference.
        The Million frames are one.
        The million brains, united willy-nilly
        over a common theme:
        survival; life;
        making the best of it;
        erratic attempts at improvement.

        Can it be right?
        All humanity is served
        by a common dream,
        And still we fight.

        © Sandra Saer

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