Harry's Last Stand Refugee Tour

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Raised by 2,058 people in 10 months

My name is Harry Leslie Smith.  Harry Leslie Smith Wikipedia 
My life is at eventide because I will be 95  in February 2018. For close to one hundred years, I have witnessed humanity at its best and worst. And right now in this present age, mankind is in one of its most difficult stages. It’s why  I need your help today, so that I can complete the last great challenge of my existence before old age consumes me.  I am one of the last few remaining voices left from a generation of men and women who built a better society for our children and grandchildren out of the horrors of the Second World War as well as the hunger of the Great Depression. Sadly, that world my generation helped build on a foundation of decency and fair play is being swept away by neo liberalism and the greed of the 1% which has brought discord around the globe. Today, the western world stands at it’s most dangerous juncture since the 1930s. 
So, before my time dwindles down to a few precious moments,  I want to travel to as many refugee hot spots as possible in Europe, North America and possibly Australia to document this preventable tragedy that may lead us to another war as gruesome as the one I helped fight against Hitler over 70 years ago. I want to turn my research, my impressions, my outrage and passion into a book that can help shake people from their complacency. Moreover, while I am in the field, researching my new book on the refugee crisis; I also want to be podcasting, writing and tweeting from these camps of despair.  I know that my advanced age, activism over the last decade and use of social media can make this tour and this book an important  rallying cry to help end the Refugee crisis or at least start a sincere dialogue to mitigate the suffering of vulnerable people, everwhere.  My twitter feed has over 123k followers. Harry's Last Stand Twitter , so I know I can communicate and reach people.

Your help not only guarantees the success of my new book but it will ensure that I can continue expanding the reach of my podcast which speaks out against austerity, neo liberalism and the death of the welfare state at the hands of the entitled. It already has over 60k listens. Harry's Last Stand Podcast 

Over my close to one hundred years of life, I have witnessed or participated in the great and terrible events that shaped the 20th century. Those impressions will not die with me because I have delivered my memories of those turning points in our collective history in the five books I have already written including the much praised Harry's Last Stand, Love Among the Ruins and my latest Don't Let My Past Be Your Future.  In those works, I have laid bare the tragedies and struggles of my early life, so that the  extreme poverty I experienced as a child won't be repeated in the 21st century. During my tenth decade of life; I have traveled the length and breadth of Britain and Canada  to speak to audiences of all sizes about their responsibilities as citizens to not let society fall again into the clutches of demagogues. Most of my speaking tours have been funded from my old age pension as well as the small royalty fees I receive as a writer.  However, this new project I am undertaking will need close to 18 months to complete and much travel  which is beyond my abilities to fund alone. Moreover, I do not wish to leave debt to my family when I am gone because of my activism endevours. So, I am asking you to help share my burden of informing the ordinary citizens of this nation about the dire consequences that will occur if we do not attend to the refugee crisis, the scourge of demagoguery in modern politics as well as the growing inequalities between rich and poor citizens in all countries of the world. You have my thanks for reading my appeal. Please know that what ever I receive from you, I will make sure that this last great task of my life will be a fitting testament to my generation’s commitment to leaving the world a better place. Thank You, Harry.
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From my essay in today's Independent on Refugee Week
As the northern hemisphere wends its way into summer, my sense of calm has been broken by the anguished cries of refugees the world over who have been denied their human right to a life free of war or poverty. Maybe it’s my advanced age and knowing that I will be dead soon that makes me angry and resolved not to remain quiet.

I cannot sit back in good conscience while the world my generation built is left to turn feral in the hands of right-wing populists and indifferent capitalists. Too many people died and too many lives were cut short or mangled by the Great Depression and the Second World War for me to accept that the architecture of fascism being built by Donald Trump along with demagogues in Europe and Asia should be allowed to go unchallenged.

I am a very old man whose only weapon is that I have endured the catastrophic history of the 20th century and I am not afraid to tell younger generations what I saw and experienced in my youth. I want my memories to be a testament of what must not happen again, especially when it comes to the treatment of those who flee their countries because of war or persecution.

So even though I am close to 100 years old, I travelled two days ago to Ottawa because I think Canada has shown leadership when it comes to the current refugee crisis. I came to meet with Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts because I wanted to explain why, at the age of 95, I am making the refugee crisis my last stand.





In this meeting I was asked how my journey towards refugee advocacy started. For me, it began near dusk on a day near the end of April 1945 when my RAF unit made camp close to the Dutch-German border.



Jeff Sessions says US border control detention centers not comparable to Nazi concentration camps: 'Jews were trying to leave the country'
In the distance, artillery rumbled, sounding to my ear like thunder did when it struck the moors, miles from my mother’s one-up-one-down house in an ugly part of Halifax. The fragrance of spring flowers coming into bloom jarred against the remnants of war that surrounded me, from burnt-out German vehicles to the bloated corpses of horses that lay at the side of the roadway.

All of Europe ached from the pain of battle, hunger, injury, loss, and death. We were a generation bleeding out from the madness of fascism that had butchered a continent. Humanity, however, hadn’t deserted my generation even if the war had stolen our innocence.

That’s why, on that night, when scores of refugee children came to our perimeter fence enticed by the smell of stew that cooked on our camp stoves, we didn’t turn our backs on those children, like so many well-fed people do today in Europe and America. No, we fed them, played with them and gave them a safe place to kip until the Red Cross arrived and took them to safety.

I look back and think how different life was because all we wanted was the right to grow old in dignity under the umbrella of a welfare state. Think about it: out of the ashes of the Second World War, the United Nations was conceived and the declaration for human rights written, enacted and for decades held as sacred and inviolable. Whereas from the funeral pyre of the Iraq War was born the furies of Isis and total destabilisation in the Middle East.

In this era we live in grotesque inequality and ignorance. Populism and fascism ride about the world stage like a victorious sports team in a city parade. The United States under Donald Trump cages refugee children, pulls out of the UN Council and uses dehumanising terms about other races; doing so has, from Nazi German to Rwanda, always been a harbinger of genocide.

In Italy, a new government coalition comprising a right-wing faction which would make Mussolini proud bars the rescue of refugee ships that trawl the Mediterranean Sea searching the waters for desperate souls who left Africa in boats that wouldn’t be safe to punt down the river in Maidenhead. These men, women and children make this crossing because staying in their home countries means certain death, perpetual rape or devastation from economies that only benefit the wealthy.

Even worse, the interior minister in Italy is drawing up lists like Nazis of old against the Roma to deport them from their nation’s borders, making them eternal refugees.

Most disturbing to me are the people I encounter every day who have food in their bellies, a job to go to and holidays to eagerly await and yet they judge refugees who have endured horrible privations as corrupt swindlers. They in their selfish, racist myopia become a tide of malevolence that drowns the aspirations of too many people who have on an individual level suffered the same horrors as people in the death camps of the Nazis or the gulags of Stalin.


Right now, there are 64 million people the world over who are displaced. They are either living in squalid camps or fleeing for their lives over dangerous terrain, looking for sanctuary in western countries who are ignoring the warning signs of this crisis with same tenacity as the ancient people of Pompeii ignored the rumblings of Vesuvius.

It’s why at 95, I cannot be silent any longer about this growing threat to humanity’s survival. I am spending the little time I have left to live on earth travelling the world to visit refugee camps, government leaders and ordinary people to try to end this madness.

There is a good chance because of my age that I will die on my travels, but I am not worried about my end. I am more worried about the end of a world that believes that all human beings have a right to peace and prosperity, not just the entitled few.

We cannot let the candle of civilisation be blown out by the likes of Donald Trump, which is why, to resist him, you must in your way help end the refugee crisis. So I ask you to flood your government representatives with letters, emails and tweets in support of refugees – because it is only the slender thread of fate that separates our destiny from theirs.
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For almost a hundred years, I have been alive. I have witnessed the seasons of life come and go. I have experienced both the harshness of life lived in poverty before there was a social safety network and the plenty of life lived under the umbrella of the post world war two Welfare State that tried to make many Western Nations meritocracies. Now in 2017 as winter nuzzles itself against my window pane and snow blankets the world around me; the approach of Christmas warms my heart. It reminds me of all the love I have known and shared throughout my days on earth. It makes me recall the wonder I felt on Christmas Eve 1945 when the whole world was at peace for the first time, since 1939. I was in Hamburg- a city pulverised by war. But from the hovels where survivors of the war lived you could hear families singing Christmas carols. Moreover, in the refugee camps that dotted the city, there was a feeling of hope that the next year would be brighter than the last. All of those people are now gone from the stage of existence but I hope their off spring, still find in their hearts the grace of hope. Our time on this earth is a brief dance that is mixed with joy, sorrow, love, hate, want and plenty. The world right now is fraught with much peril and I fear for civilisation's survival. But what gives me optimism is the generosity I have seen from of all you who contributed to my Harry’s Last Stand Refugee Tour. I take comfort in knowing that there are many like me, who want to keep a candle burning in the window at the midnight, to guide those who are lost to somewhere that is safe and welcoming. Your faith in me has guaranteed that in 2018, I will begin my last great odyssey of my existence to the refugee hot spots of the world. So I’d like to send you my affection and respect. I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and the best of the season.
Until next year, take care, Harry.
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Harry's Last Stand Refugee Tour has reached 51% of its goal. Thanks to Amir, Yvonne and Alison.
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It’s my wife’s birthday today but she has been dead for 19 years now. Friede was born in 1928 in Hamburg Germany during the turbulent Weimar Republic era. As a child she saw the rise of fascism and as a child of a trade unionist, she learned quickly how evil fascism was for those who cherished liberty. Had she not died in 1999, I think Friede would have found the 21st century with its austerity and perpetual war on terrorism, despairing because she would have understood that it is leading us to totalitarianism.
Make no mistake, my wife Friede knew humanity could be cruel because she had grown up in Hitler’s Germany. But she also knew that ordinary people like her mother and others would risk their lives to show compassion to the dispossessed or those deemed enemies of state, no matter the cost to their safety.
I fell in love with my wife in 1945 in the ruins of a defeated Nazi Germany when their shattered cities were strewn with war debris and refugees. To be alive then was to feel every emotion in the sinews of your soul because we had survived the greatest bloodletting known to mankind. During my courtship of Friede, I came into contact with the great suffering of those who because of the tragedies of war had been made refugees. It was an overwhelming tide of sadness that washed across my eyes during the first few months of peace after the defeat of Hitler. Yet as a member of the RAF and as a human being I determined to do my level best to help where I could. But I was not alone then because even though Britain had been hard hit by the war, we still believed in the motto that all of us are our brother’s keepers. We gave what we could and more because, the Britain of my youth knew that not to give sanctuary refugees displace by war would ensure another war. Today, I think we’ve lost that wisdom of long ago.

In 2017, we as individuals and as a nation have to come to terms with our responsibility in solving this present day refugee crisis because across the islands of Greece, the dusty back waters or Anatolia, the windswept regions of Africa as well as the monsoon soaked regions of Asia, innocent, unlucky people languish in sub human concentration camps where despair and anger hold sway over their emotions. If the refugee crisis is not alleviated soon the dogs of war will set in upon us all. Take care, Harry
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