Sir David Attenborough has invoked the Holocaust in response to a question about Brexit and the changing political forces sweeping Europe, recalling how his own family took in two Jewish refugees.
In an interview with Italian journal La Repubblica this week, he avoided saying how he had voted in the Brexit referendum, but warned of the “lunacy” that overcame Europe in the run-up to the Second World War.
“I am old enough to remember the last war,” said the 93-year old naturalist. “We had two German Jewish refugees living in our house. When I see mobs… mobs of people are a very, very ugly sight. When I see people losing all reason and just becoming enraged, that’s not a pretty sight.”
He added that he was concerned for the future, saying the UK’s political system had got itself into “an absurd mess,” warning: “I hope that people remember the lunacy that took over Europe years ago… Dreadful.”
Throughout the war, Attenborough’s Methodist father Frederick was principal of University College in Leicester, and the family took in Irene and Helga Bejach, two Jewish sisters who had arrived on the Kindertransport.
One of the sisters gave the 12-year old David a piece of Baltic amber containing perfectly preserved insects caught in the resin tens of thousands of years ago. It stimulated his love of the natural world.