John Brown: A Swastika on my Desk

John was born in 1944 in Cardiff. His family then moved to London when he was six months old. At age four, John contracted Polio and was sent to hospital, where he remained until he was eight. Then he attended local special schools, going on to a local mainstream college at age nineteen.

Here John recalls being bullied at school.



They had some bullies at school but they didn’t recognise bullying in those days. In fact one of the chaps used to pinch me and I – I won’t mention his name, but anyway, my mum spoke to him ‘cause he used to go to the polio fellowship. And she spoke to this chap, she said, why did you – upset, you know, why do you?..' – and I think after mum speaking to him, he left me alone. Because he was a big chap and I’m a little chap, I’m only five foot three, and he was tall, strong, you know, disabled with one leg in a calliper but, you know, but a few were – there were bullies in that school. And because of me being a very sensitive person probably, and a quiet person and was always doing the right thing, not always getting – don’t get into trouble sort of thing, you’re picked on.

And I remember in 1956 I was thirteen, I had a swastika put on my desk. What do I know about politics? But obviously what happened was, they knew I was Jewish, probably because I used to have the Jewish holiday off, although I wasn’t practising but I used to have the New Year off, obviously thus must have known I’m Jewish ‘cause of that, and they put a swastika on my desk. You know, this is what I was – so I confronted bullying and anti-Semitism in school. I don’t know if they picked me ‘cause I was Jewish or they picked me ‘cause I’m quiet, I don’t know. You just don’t know why people pick on you, but I wasn’t that different ‘cause they were all disabled there. They say if you went to ordinary school – able bodied school, they’d pick on you because you’re disabled. In my case, I had two barriers to break.