ARE WE THE NAZIS NOW?

46

by Robyn Banks

On the anniversary of VE day this year I tried to drive to the supermarket in my home town and was met by crowds of people in Sunday dress, lining the roads leading up to the war memorial and laying down wreaths of poppies as they waited for the procession, which I could hear approaching even from my car, complete with marching band. They were doing so to honour the soldiers lost in WW2; those who fought for our country, or, more ostensibly, those who fought for ‘freedom’.

There were many causes of the Second World War, but what we remember the Nazis for -the version of history we learn in school- is the holocaust. Children in history classes are taught to denounce a fascist regime which placed one type of person, the ‘true’ Aryan German, who was ‘really’ from Germany on the basis of their fair hair and white skin, in a hierarchy above other types of people who were not as worthy. This list included people who were disabled, gay or mentally ill but focussed mainly on Jews, who were considered to have little or no right to the land they lived in because of their ethnicity and heritage. They were not ‘true’ Germans. And it was freedom from this regime, freedom from persecution and discrimination, that most of us proudly believe we fought for. And it’s this which is epitomised in the phrase “If it weren’t for our brave soldiers, we might all be speaking German now”.

Between 1938 and 1939, the British project ‘kindertransport’ rescued 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, but Britain had planned to rescue five times that number. More than 70,000 Jewish immigrants had been accepted into the UK before the outbreak of war. Rationing continued until 1954, partly because of austerity measures to pay back British war debts and partly because it was decided imports were better off diverted to Europe to feed the millions of hungry people displaced by the war. After all, there would be no point in a military effort to help those people if the plan was then to leave them to die at the end of hostilities, right? In 1945, Britain was a country which was apparently content to live on tins of Spam rather than allow others abroad to suffer and die, or, at least, that’s the Britain we remember. A Britain which gracefully accepted those ‘genuine’ refugees, even at its own cost, because it was the right thing to do. Fast forward 70 years to 2015, and the picture looks very different.

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Refugees fleeing war torn homelands are met with batons on the Greek island of Kos. Those who make it to Calais find themselves stuck in the sprawling slum known as ‘the jungle’. There are 4 million* registered Syrian refugees, and 5.5 million Britons living abroad. That’s less Syrian refugees in the world than there are British migrants, and yes- we are migrants, not ‘ex-pats’. Germany has accepted over 73,000 refugees this year, Hungary over 32,000 and Britain? A measly 7,000. With 5,000 refugees amassed on our doorstep in appalling conditions, we can’t even bring ourselves to help them. Instead, we respond by putting up more fences, spending money on tighter and more brutish security. The ones who do make it here are locked up indefinitely in ‘detention centres’ sporting long records of human rights abuses, and the press and politicians alike encourage us to both fear and loathe them.

if you need more evidence that the average Briton is quite comfortable with this new fascistic reality, look no further. Folks behind the @DMreporter and @Bestofthemail twitter accounts experimented by posting real Nazi propaganda and Hitler quotes in the comments underneath Daily Mail articles about immigration. The result? They were all upvoted.

With so many men, women and children starving and dying because we refuse to help, who would really blink an eye if somebody suggested, oh, I don’t know, putting them to work in a labour camp? And if you need more evidence that the average Briton is quite comfortable with this new fascistic reality, look no further. Folks behind the @DMreporter and @Bestofthemail twitter accounts experimented by posting real Nazi propaganda and Hitler quotes in the comments underneath Daily Mail articles about immigration. The result? They were all upvoted. And yet, these are the same people who proudly sport a poppy on their blouse, the same people who share V-day pictures on Facebook and thank our ancestors that we’re not speaking German.
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Alas, the picture was not so rosy in the 1940s, either. The influx of Jewish refugees was met with a wave of hostility, and Britain tightened it’s immigration controls, fearing that too many immigrants could cause ‘antisemitic feeling’ across the country. Papers like the Daily Mail ran headlines about ‘swarms’ of Jewish immigrants (sound familiar?). But we don’t remember it that way, because if we did, what was it that really separated us from the Germans? We had no concentration camps, but we weren’t even aware of the German concentration camps until the end of the war, so that one won’t fly. What exactly is the basis for our moral superiority that we remember so warmly, as we line the streets in our fancy Sunday hats?

Because refugees don’t exist only in the rosy past, they exist right now.

Refugees then, refugees now. Recession then, recession now. But you’re unlikely to hear about Britons happy to live on rations so that others can eat, as Philip Hammond spreads panic about ‘marauding migrants’ threatening our quality of life and the press seems more concerned about disgruntled holidaymakers than families fighting for their lives. Members of the British Jewish community wrote a letter criticising the UK’s response to the refugee crisis, saying “Our experience as refugees is not so distant that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be demonised for seeking safety”. Because refugees don’t exist only in the rosy past, they exist right now.

Thankfully, all hope is not lost. Hundreds of ordinary Britons have risen to the challenge, running aid convoys to Calais and tirelessly raising funds and awareness. But if you refuse to do anything to help? Put down that poppy. Both of my grandfathers fought in WWII, but I’d rather be speaking German than thinking like a Nazi.

Auf Wiedersehen.

*All figures from the UN refugee agency

If you would like to help migrants at Calais see calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com and the ‘Calais- People to People solidarity- Action from UK’ facebook page 

46 thoughts on “ARE WE THE NAZIS NOW?

  1. Planning to accommodate 100’s of thousands of refugees across Europe will be a pointless exercise. The planning will need to accommodate at least 10million refugees before it can even start to be effective.

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  2. Bunch of overly liberal, blinded numpties, I’m sure you’re all good at counting, if so take yourself on a day trip to Calais and while you’re queuing for the ferry play a game of spot the poor refugee, you won’t get many as 90% of them are young men intimidating truck drivers and passengers crowding round trucks and piling in. Count how many are women and children it won’t be difficult you could probably do it with your fingers

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        • pdbright is right. Josh is missing the bigger picture and is confusing genuine refugees/ asylum seekers with migrants – the difference explained by someone else below.
          The situation is extremely simple and clear-cut to me: as you read these very words one of two things is happening (if not both) right now: someone is drowning in the Med and/or in a European country whole groups of desperate people are being beaten and treated like animals… Situation unacceptable.
          We (the West) helped create the situation with decades of dodgy foreign policy and in the case of Syria, stood idly by whilst the regime killed over 200,000 of its own people. So, not only do we first and foremost have a moral duty but we also have a duty of responsibility to these people, these human beings….
          The wealthy countries of Europe (UK included) can and must do a great deal more….

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  3. this is a global problem we and others cant keep taking refugees in we need to make there own countries safe and unless other countries work together to solve it where will it end

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  4. Well the world came together to fight the Germans, and then repatriated the migrants, do you think if we go and fight the ISIS and defeat them. Would they would go back? Do you also think allowing extremists to come here and preach their hatred of Britain’s on our streets is helping. That refugees come here and then cut the head off one of our brave soldiers on the street. You ask why we dont want illegal immigrants over here is because we are afriad of what will happen. Until this government and the so called moderate muslim stand up and stop these racists we wont trust anyone. I have grandchildren who i fear for when you have no go areas of this country where christians are not welcome and where they have patrols. We also are one of the top countries who give money to others. The national health is at breaking point the police, fire brigade and armed forces are at breaking point. We have elderly who cant put heating on in the winter, we have thousands of our own homless people, food banks we have suffering of our own people

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    • You realise that the men who beheaded a soilder were both British born? They were not refugees. Do you even know what the word refugee means? These people are not terrorists, they are fleeing terrorists. If ever a day came when us Brits had to even experience half of what these poor people have, we would do anything we possibly could to escape. These people need us, they need safety and all we do is turn our backs.

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  5. Back in the 1930s there was a place called palestine, and lots of jewish refugees went there, But the story didnt turn out well for the people who were the majority in palestine . in 1948 3 years after world war 2 those same desperate refugees fought a series of wars, and drove the former majority to become the refugees. You can see religious based terrorism in every part of europe with muslims, and to bring millions more your likely to see the same thing that happened in the yugoslav wars . The french and british armys say they are expecting jihadi insurrection . So things are not so easy or clearcut

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  6. Here’s a simple guide for fuckwits

    Syria – refugees that include entire families.
    Africans – Migrants, young, single men.

    Africans head from Africa into Italy and Syrians head from Turkey/Greece and then spread from there.

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  7. A very compelling article. Yes as a country we should do more no arguments. However. These people should stand and fight their oppressors; if ISIS rocked up in the UK I’d be reaching for a gun not running away.

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    • We’ve seen what happens when helpless people try to stand and fight their oppressors, when a Palestinian boy throws a stone (the only weapon available) at an Israeli soldier, the slaughter of Christians on a beach in Libya by ISIS, the gang rape of Yazidi girls, again by ISIS, the 240,000 killed in Syria by their own people. You’d be reaching for a gun, would you? Where would you get it? Because I, as a British civilian would not have a clue how to get one or fire one. Bravado is easy when you are safe and comfortable in your own home. Like those gun nuts in America whose answer to every mass shooting is to arm the teachers, arm the journalists, arm the movie theatre ushers while more three year old kids get hold of Daddy’s gun and accidentally fire it at their baby sister. Try to see the world as it is, not as you would want it to be.

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      • well if you bring in the population of north africa and afghanistan into europe, you better learn either to run or shoot, because they will bring the violence they flee from with them

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      • That’s a tad unfair Annabelle. I’m obviously not suggesting we should become like the Americans – no guns is a very sensible policy – I was talking metaphorically. Gandhi managed to come up with a viable alternative to violence.
        But I also have to point out that if I was facing gang rape (highly unlikely given my looks), ISIS or Israeli soldiers I most likely wouldn’t be doing it in the UK and guns would probably be a bit more accessible. As for not being able to figure out how to fire one; no comment.
        I suppose the point I was trying to make is that one should stand against extremism in any form and running from it allows it to spread.
        Quite frankly I think international borders should no longer exist. Yes I just said that. We’d be forced to face and deal with these issues then. Ideally there should be a charter of human rights that we should all be entitled to regardless of race, creed or location. By being fragmented by nations it allows one group to infringe on the environment of another and restricts your right to choose where you live.
        Send the troops in I say; what ISIS took from the world heritage at Palmyra last week can never be replaced. Annabelle If you don’t look at the world as you’d want it to be how will you ever figure out how to change it for the better? – Surely that has to be the most noble goal in life; to leave the world a better place?

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  8. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26116868
    This is what these people are fleeing from. They haven’t a choice. I am sure all these people thought that they had western and european support back in 2011 when they had the courage to take to the streets. Perhaps we should have the courage to step up and assist our fellow humans instead of buying into the fear mongering and de-humanizing tactics of our current governing and media coverage. Change the rhetoric. We can do better.

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  9. If someone is intending to claim asylum somewhere, is it not stated that they are to do so at the NEAREST safe country??? Not travel half way around the world through multiple countries to one they fancy???

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    • Lebanon has taken in over one million Syrian refugees despite currently struggling to meet the basic needs of its citizens. Turkey, engaged in a war against ISIS, has taken in two million. By contrast, the UK has taken in less than 500, and Germany has taken 30,000, despite the weapons they manufactured being used in the conflict to create even more refugees. The NEAREST safe countries have accepted as many as their infrastructure can bear, maybe even more, while those who played a part in creating the crisis have barely lifted a finger.

      Also, your suggestion that a family would risk their lives to pick a country they “fancy” is really quite a disgusting thing to say. I highly doubt these refugees are picking countries out of a brochure when they’re being stuffed into the engine rooms of boats by people smugglers.

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      • Other countries may have taken in thousands more but when you compare the size of our country to that of Germany, Turkey or the majority of countries around the world. We our a very small country, we do not have a capacity to take in thousands more, we are struggling with our own needs.
        Don’t get me wrong I’m not totally disagreeing, something should be done and rather than welcoming everyone in we need to get to the root cause and stop it!
        Other countries around the world haven’t taken in half as many refugees as we have over the years so maybe they should be doing more now it cannot be just us all the time!

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        • Lebanon has taken in over 1 million refugees from Syria, the UK has taken in less than 500 refugees, but the UK is 2330% larger than Lebanon. If this were a matter of simple geography, why aren’t those numbers reversed?

          Also, why not welcome people in, tackle our own needs, and stop the root cause? I don’t see why those are mutually exclusive and I certainly don’t see why we can only do two out of three.

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    • IF the “first safe country” rule was neutral, I’d agree with you, but it’s arbitrary. Some of the states listed as “safe”, are not safe for people of certain religions. Christian Orthodox Greece, for example, has centuries of bad blood with Turkey (and it’s predecessor the Ottoman Empire) which is majority Muslim, so North African refugees (unless they’re Copts from Egypt) get a much harsher welcome than most people suspect, as do Muslim refugees in Hungary and certain other central and eastern European states.
      There’s also the vexed question of our former empire, and the fact that we left Anglophones everywhere we went. Why wouldn’t people who speak English as a second language, seek refuge in a country that also speaks English, and in which there’s almost certain to be a settled community of fellow-countrymen? For example, we’ve had Somali and Bengali communities for over a century.

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    • What about all the countries of the World agreeing to harbour the refugees based on the available square mileage, share the responsibility fairly? We cannot just sit back and do nothing. Why can’t America have a few? The have had a finger in causing a lot of this to start with. If the refugees all went to the nearest country, eventually, they will run out of room, share the numbers out, organise it properly, it’s not rocket science.

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  10. This article repulses me. Here we have a bigoted radical student (who undoubtedly lives in a very ‘progressive’ middle class student life ‘YOLO’ bubble) comparing the country that has raised her to the Third Reich, which caused the deaths of millions of people. Miss Robyn Sands, you should be ashamed of yourself. This article insults the memories of the brave Britons, Jews, Poles, French, Americans, and countless others who fought against the evils of the Nazi ideology. I hope that you look upon your past self in years to come with embarrassment and shamefulness.

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    • Actually, she has a point in making this comparison. We have a wave in the UK of ‘neo-Nazis’ and ‘white pride’ groups, all touting Nazi ideals. Seriously.

      If you want to have a go at people making crude and insensitive links between our life now and the Holocaust, check out Robert F Kennedy Jr.’s likening of mandatory vaccination to the Holocaust. That truly is shocking and disgusting.

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    • Have a look in the mirror first chap.
      This article is no insult, if we fail to uphold our principles and give in to fear mongering, then we’re sleep walking into a facism.

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    • Here we have a bigot who assumes that the author is a middle class student; a bigot who cunningly determines that someone posting on a site called “The Norwich Radical” is radical; who doesn’t acknowledge that the UK itself has within its’ history committed crimes that caused the death of millions of people – do the Irish famine, the partition of India or the Bengal famine ring a bell? – but goes off on one at even the barest hint of that reality; who falls back on specious whining about “insults” to the honoured dead. You,sir, are a disgrace, and one whose blinkered perception of history the world could best do without.

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    • You don’t have to be, in your words, a “bigoted radical student” to see the mistreatment of refugees. We see it on our streets, in our workplaces and even in our homes (we all have that racist family member, who shares Katie Hopkins’ views, and whom we rarely invite over).

      You say you’re ashamed at the comparison, but you cannot refute it – day by day, we watch as more and more migrants are drowning in the sea. Is it any different letting them die by gassing them as opposed to watching them drown? Sure, we can excuse it and make ourselves feel better by saying that we didn’t actively kill them, but it still has the same result. It’s still the mass-extermination of a large group of people based on our choice of labelling them (i.e. “migrant” rather than “Jew”).

      This article cherishes the memory of all those who had fallen in WW2, and if you considered yourself a patriot – an honest-to-goodness, loyal, true British patriot – you would be in full support of this article. After all, our country is not a country of elitist, intolerant snobs whose fame to claim is murdering the poor and needy, and targeting minorities for harassment. Our country is a country of tolerance and liberalism, and that’s how we’ve always defined ourselves against the rest of the world, until recently. Our soldiers fight (and fought, back in WW2) for freedom, and people like you wish to take that away. How dare you consider yourself to be a nationalist. How dare you.

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    • It’s interesting that you don’t mention the soldiers from the USSR who were crucial in the defeat of the Nazis, or the Muslims and the thousands upon thousands of Indian soldiers who also fought. Perhaps that’s because the presence of the anti-semitic Stalin who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Jews among the Allies doesn’t fit in with your straightforward assessment of goodies and baddies. To recognise that their were sympathisers within the UK to the Nazis, like the Blackshirts and like the Daily Mail and similarly to be aware that Churchill was racist towards India, describing the two greatest threats to Britain as Hitler and Gandhi, or that de Gaulle was both anti-semitic and racist towards Algeria, is not disrespect towards those who fought the Nazis; it is simple;y accurate. It is important to understand that Britain has a record of racism if it is to be fought against now in the same way that it is important to recognise the misrepresentation of the nature of the migrants, the tiny minority who are seeking refuge in Britain and the dehumanising language used by current politicians and press if we are going to fight the sometimes explicit racism and show compassion to those fleeing atrocious conditions.

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  11. Where do we draw the line on fleeing refugees Robyn, do we allow 1000 in, 10,000 in, 1,000,000 in. Britain cannot just allow untold numbers to cross it’s borders. Where do they live, who shall feed them. Please be realistic in you views.

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    • Lebanon and Turkey both have lower GDPs than the UK but between them they’ve taken in over 3,000,000 refugees. You’re really telling me one of the richest countries in the world can’t take refugees in while Middle Eastern countries fighting ISIS on their doorsteps can? I suspect this is more about prejudice towards Arab people than it is about genuine financial concerns. Like the article states, I doubt you’d have been whinging during the Second World War when we were rescuing Jewish refugees. What’s different about rescuing Syrian ones? Maybe it’s the colour of their… Hats?

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      • What a lot of rot, if it were straightforward racial prejudice against Arabs or Africans or anyone of a darker tone than the average Brit then we would have no outcry against the influx of (mostly white) migrants from Eastern Europe.

        But there IS such an outcry.

        So maybe, just maybe, there are more issues around objection to mass immigration than simple racism. But that doesn’t make for such a juicy headline does it?

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        • No, actually that makes no sense. There can be both a racist outcry against refugees from the Near East *and* an outcry towards migrants from places like Poland and Romania. The two don’t cancel each other out, do they? Who’s to say it’s the same people giving the outcry? You might want to look a little harder at the logic, or absence thereof, in your argument. Last time I checked, hating Eastern European migrants did not automatically disqualify somebody from also being a white supremacist. For someone who calls themselves Captain Sensible, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of sensibility in your argument.

          As a favour, could you also point me to the part in my comment or in this piece where I said “the only issue around objection to mass immigration is simple racism”? I’m having trouble finding it, despite looking very very hard. I’m also wondering since when taking in fewer than 500 refugees counted as “mass immigration”, but maybe we can tackle that after you’ve pointed out the aforementioned line in my comment that I can’t seem to locate.

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            • Maybe you should ask the fossil fuel companies, car manufacturers, online retailers, and defense contractors that dodge tax and receive over £93 billion a year from the government that costs you over £3,500 a year. Those same defense contractors, who suck money out of the treasury like vampires, also often have a hand in creating the kinds of refugee crises we’re talking about.

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  12. Tony, If you spoke English as a second language or had family in England and you arrived in Southern Europe with nothing but the clothes on your back would you stop in the first country or would you try to get to the country that offered the best chance of a decent living? If you look at the migration to different European countries we get a really easy deal compared to most and we are certainly not pulling out weight in giving help to displaced people.

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  13. So it’s up to Greece is it ? What’s so holy about that ? This is a world humanitarian issue. Wake up and stop being so facile

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  14. The difference being that the refugees in the 1930s got to the first safe country and claimed asylum. Today these migrants are landing in Greece, Italy or Spain, then travelling to Calais and attempting to get into the UK illegally. If these people were to apply for asylum in Greece, or go to the UK Consulate or Embassy in the first country they get to and applied there, there would be no problem. However, they ignore between four and six of these Diplomatic Missions and try to cross the channel without paying or asking permission to enter.

    I am sorry for all those who have lost their lives in their flight from their homes, but for the love of all that is holy, do it the right way.

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    • Sorry Tony, but you’re wrong. The majority of refugees in the 1930s (in other words, mostly Jews), didn’t stop in the first “safe” country. Those that stopped in France either fled again post-Vichy or died. Those that stopped in Switzerland invariably got turned over to the Nazis, while Geneva and Berlin split the refugee’s assets. Very few stopped in Belgium because it was a small country with little capacity to absorb many refugees, and Denmark did what it could, but it wasn’t enough. As for the German Jews who fled to Poland (and some onward to Ukraine), they were either murdered by the death camps of the Central Government, or murdered by the Einsatzgruppen that followed to the rear of the three German armies advancing on Moscow.
      They may have stopped in the first country that wasn’t Germany, but unless they got to the UK, the US or some South American states, they weren’t in a SAFE country.
      BTW, are you aware how difficult it is, historically, to get official documents in dictatorships/former dictatorships such as Iraq, Libya and Syria, or chaotic states such as Afghanistan? Are you aware that it’s still easier to get a snide Pakistani passport in Afghanistan than to get the genuine Afghan one you’re entitled to?

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    • You have been misled about that. Don’t you think more than 500 refugees have attempted to come to the UK through the ‘proper’ channels? It is the government policy in this country which is driving people trying to enter to desperation.

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