Metro 69

Richard Herring studies magazines on the top shelf and does some interesting reading

Friday 21 Jun 2013 6:00 am

This week, Richard Herring packs flask and cagoule to spot some reading material – and he’s not happy with what he finds.

I was at Glasgow airport last week. The security there is amazing. I saw four policemen with machine guns before I’d even entered the terminal. I presume they are there to protect any terrorists from attack by Glaswegians.

I browsed through the magazines at WHSmith. I was stunned to discover a publication called Railways And The Holocaust. That’s quite a niche interest, surely?

There are loads of magazines about trains and quite a few dedicated to the horrors of World War II, but at last there’s one that brings those two things together. Before, if you liked reading about rolling stock and Nazi war crimes, you had to splash out on two magazines. Not any more. Thanks to Railways And The Holocaust. It’s not called ‘Railways Of The Holocaust’ so I assumed it was about both railways and the Holocaust in general.

I am hoping someone will bring out a magazine about my twin interests of speed boats and the civil war in Rwanda. Or pedalos and King Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents. Or tuk-tuks and the extermination of the Native American people.

But if the magazine is, as seems more likely, actually about the railways used to take Hitler’s enemies to the Death Camps, is that any less sick and offensive than the one that caters for Nazi-obsessive train-spotters? The railway is an odd focus to have on one of the most horrific chapters in human history. It was part of it, but I’d say not the most significant part.

The subheading on the cover reads: ‘The trains that shamed the world.’ As if the whole situation was the fault of the method of transport used, rather than the people who carried it out. The implication seems to be that those trains have let down all other less genocidy trains by agreeing to take part in all of this. It’s the trains that are to blame, not Hitler and his willing executioners.

It’s like blaming the assassination of President Kennedy on the bicycle that Lee Harvey Oswald rode to the book depository. How could that bike embarrass all the other bikes in the world by taking part in something so heinous? Send it to the gas chamber. It’s the only way to teach other bikes that they should not allow assassins to sit on them.

But my main problem with Railways And The Holocaust is that the publisher refers to it as ‘a bookazine’. It is trying to confer some academic respectability on to its cynical tome by implying it’s better than the other magazines.

It’s more like a book. Not so much like a book that it can be put with the books, due to its glossy paper and magazine-like dimensions and content. It sits snootily among the magazines, proclaiming its superiority, but it knows it can never be a book. It’s a paucity of ambition that would make even Gary Sparrow laugh.

If you want to read about the Holocaust I’d suggest a bookazine is not the most respectful of formats. Anyway, it’s not a bookazine. Because that’s not a thing. It’s either a magazine or a book, there’s nothing in between. Why are these people trying to shame objects and create descriptions for non-existent reading formats?

I guess the real sadness of Railways And The Holocaust is that it only exists because there are people out there prepared to buy it. Though we can’t blame them for handing over cash and reading it. It’s clearly the fault of Railways And The Holocaust for existing at all. It’s the bookazine that shamed the world.

For details of Richard Herring’s live dates and his forthcoming new Edinburgh Festival show, We’re All Going To Die!, visit