Feature Christmas 2014: In Love and War

Don’t look away now

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7622 (Published 16 December 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7622
  1. Tony Delamothe, deputy editor, The BMJ
  1. tdelamothe{at}bmj.com

What should be the guiding principles in deciding the journal’s coverage of “difficult” topics, wonders Tony Delamothe

Between qualifying as a teacher and getting her first job, my aunt, Margaret Milner, edited her local newspaper, The Weekly News Broome. “Newspaper” may be a slight exaggeration for a set of duplicated pages stapled together. Nevertheless, it read like a regular newspaper, with national and international news stories jostling for attention with items of more local interest—horse races, murders, tide times. My guess is that my aunt “sourced” her news stories from newspapers begged and borrowed from passengers on the ships that stopped at Broome, an isolated port on the northwest coast of Western Australia.

Leafing through the papers in Broome’s Historical Society and Museum a few years ago I was struck by this story that appeared in the newspaper during my aunt’s editorship:

Nazi’s control increasing

The Governments of Saxony, Bavaria, and Baden, the three states in the south and south west of Germany, have resigned and the Nazis have gained control of these states.

The Nazis are still bitter in their offensive against Jews and Communists, many of whom show traces of beatings and are hastening out of Germany. The Communist members of the Reichstag will not be permitted to take their seats but will be confined in concentration camps.1

It was dated 15 March 1933, six weeks after Hitler’s seizure of power.

My discovery among the manila folders in the museum wasn’t long after the publication of Daniel Goldhagen’s controversial book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which explored the complicity of “ordinary” Germans in what was being done in their name.2 How had my clear eyed aunt registered what was happening 8500 miles from her home town? And what, I wondered, had my own publication said about Germany between …

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