LETTER from THE EDITOR

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The Independent Online
Nervous laughter in the office: ''let's phone Lord Dacre''. Any big historical story, particularly anything involving the Nazis, makes most journalists wince and think thrice, recalling the notorious Sunday Times/"Hitler's Diaries'' fiasco. But the declassified US documents on the finances of companies and individuals who thrived under the Nazi regime (up to and including Hitler himself), being dug out for the World Jewish Congress are, in the opinion of everyone who has seen them, authentic. Nor are they of mere historical interest: if evidence is found that funds were indeed exported abroad, then banks may open their accounts and law suits may start.

All of which shows how, a half-century on, the Nazi era still shadows our imagination. It isn't only the fringe of neo-Nazi maniacs. Nazi insignia, war machines, uniforms, personalities and flags have a white-knuckled grip on the imaginations of millions of men and boys. Robert Harris's bestseller Fatherland was only the latest in a series of Nazi-based fictions. Years ago, I seem to remember, Alan Coren, the humorous writer, produced a book called Golfing for Cats, with a Swastika on the front cover, based on a publishing anecdote about what sold books - golf, cats and Nazis. This means, perhaps, that Hitler's regime simply had the best advertising department of the century; nasty ''creatives'' whose designs and slogans worked better than anything dreamed up subsequently in Wardour Street.

The spread of CJD among farmers; the condition of the marsh Arabs of southern Iraq; strikes in further education; links between overseas aid quangos and large industrial companies; the fate of the elderly lady carried from her home on a stretcher after protesting at the east London road extension; the scare about phthalates in baby milk formula ... all these are among the subjects readers have written to me about since last week, when I asked for comments about stories you thought newspapers in general, and the Independent in particular, had reported and then forgotten.

Some of these I have done basic research on. (Which sounds good; but editors do basic ''research'' by picking up the phone and asking colleagues questions in what is intended to be a brusque and commanding manner.) For instance, there have been no new CJD cases reported recently; but scientists and doctors are now, I'm told, very cautious and wary of media hype. Some of the suggestions that have come in reminded me of stories I too had forgotten. For instance, Dave Excell of Bracknell mentioned the Real World Coalition of interest groups. A few months ago, you may remember, they were offering a sort of non-party alternative political leadership. What has happened since? I don't know; but with this eternal election campaign getting under way, it seems a good moment to ask.

Then there is Lockerbie. The father of one of those killed on Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 writes that the story is not over: ''If it were all cleared up by now; if the truth had been made public; the perpetrators identified, tried and found guilty; lessons learned and applied about aviation security, about the treatment of relatives and victims of disasters ... then relatives would carry on with their private grieving, knowing that the public interest had been largely served. But none of these conditions has been adequately met.''

Finally, many thanks to Robert Mills from Ebford in Devon who writes that for continuity the paper is ''excellent''. This lifted my spirits, until I got to the next sentence, which said: ''I am usually in a minority of one, so you should weight my views accordingly.''

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