Skip to comments.Germany and its Nazi past: forever seeking closure
Posted on 09/25/2013 11:37:46 AM PDT by nickcarraway
As Germany runs out of time to bring ex-Nazis to justice, we examine a country trying to come to terms with its history
It is a week in which Germanys history has seemed inescapable. Yesterday, the German president Joachim Gauck became his countrys first head of state to visit Oradour-sur-Glane, the perfectly preserved French village where, in June 1944, 642 men, women and children were massacred by a Waffen-SS company. On Tuesday, German federal authorities announced that 30 men and women alleged to have acted as guards at the Auschwitz death camp should face prosecution. And at the start of the week, former SS officer Siert Bruins went on trial at a court in Hagen, western Germany, accused of murdering a Dutch resistance fighter while serving with a German border patrol.
The renewed focus on the Third Reich comes at a time when it is rapidly slipping beyond living memory. Bruins is 92; the oldest of the alleged death-camp guards facing indictments is 97. Nazi-hunters, fearing that time will cheat justice, launched a poster campaign in German cities and the Baltic states this summer to track down the last surviving perpetrators. The campaign, Operation Last Chance, told the German public that the hour was Spät aber nicht zu spät late, but not too late.
But there are signs that, despite the flurry of 11th-hour prosecutions, the tone of Germanys national conversation about the Holocaust has shifted that, for some Germans, it is already too late.
Hans Kundnani, author of Utopia or Auschwitz, a book about Germanys 1968 generation and the Holocaust, says: Some time around the millennium, a shift took place the collective memory of Germans as perpetrators started to become weaker, a collective memory in which Germans are victims starts to become stronger. The Allied bombings
(Excerpt) Read more at telegraph.co.uk ...
I can still hear Sir Laurence Olivier's narration:
"Down this road, on a summer day in 1944. . . The soldiers came. Nobody lives here now. They stayed only a few hours. When they had gone, the community which had lived for a thousand years. . . was dead. This is Oradour-sur-Glane, in France. The day the soldiers came, the people were gathered together. The men were taken to garages and barns, the women and children were led down this road . . . and they were driven. . . into this church. Here, they heard the firing as their men were shot. Then. . . they were killed too. A few weeks later, many of those who had done the killing were themselves dead, in battle. They never rebuilt Oradour. Its ruins are a memorial. Its martyrdom stands for thousands upon thousands of other martyrdoms in Poland, in Russia, in Burma, in China, in a World at War..."
I honestly don’t get the point of going after ageing camp guards well into their 90s. War crimes were originally meant for policymakers and higher ups, not low level soldiers and guards.
The Soviets and Chicoms slaughtered millions more people than Hitler did in their gulags, how come no concerted efforts are made to go after their ageing camp guards and personnel?
Especially after Ukrainians, who faced a choice of either getting shot by the Soviets, or getting shot by the Nazis.
They were on the winning side. Only losers get hanged.
A favorite series of mine. Another is the nearly forgotten WW2 GI Diary if I got the title right.
Funny how Austria always seems to get a pass. Some of the most fanatical and evil Nazis were Austrians.
“...how come no concerted efforts are made to go after their ageing camp guards and personnel...”
Because the National Socialists (Nazis) are the BAD socialists.
The International Socialists - Soviets, ChiComs, Democrats - they’re the GOOD socialists!!!
Yup, 8 million Ukrainians (at least) were liquidated by Stalin in Holodomor-—a forgotten holocaust-—no museums, few books, not taught in our schools-—almost completely forgotten.
I feel the same way, and I say that as someone whose paternal grandparents were Auscwitz survivors. Even if they found my grandparents’ prison guards at 90 years of age I would say that going after them at this point is not even close to being among the highest of national or global priorities.
False dichotomy. As if victims cannot also be perpetrators and perpetrators can't also be victims.
In actual fact, most humans are both in their lives, sinned against and sinners.
The notion that they can't be both is part of the idiotic glorification of victimhood. Victims having replaced heroes in our collective mythology. As if victim is not a role we all play to varying degrees, but a designation for specific people, or more accurately certain groups of people. Same being true for perpetrators/oppressors.
BTW, recent research indicates the actual death tolls at both Auschwitz and Dresden were significantly lower than the conventional wisdom.
It is truly a blessing your grandparents survived Auschwitz-—so few did.
How many Auschwitz survivors are alive today?
How many could positively identify a 92 year old camp guard would have been about 25 years old in 1945?
Actually, that was true for a lot more people than Ukrainians. Just about everybody in the eastern half of Europe, for example.
I think only those who have refused to participate in evil despite great risk to their own lives have the moral right to denounce those who failed such a test.
Unfortunately, most of these people were promptly killed, the risk being quite real, and in my experience the relatively few survivors are not particularly likely to do the denouncing.
There is something truly repugnant about people who have never been faced with an existential moral decision piling on scorn against those who have.
There’s something seldom discussed about the surviving guards. There is a general but unspoken conventional wisdom that they were just eeevill people and that was why they did what they did in the camps.
Yet by all accounts most if not all of them promptly disappeared back into society and lived unexceptional and non-criminal lives, in fact often quite admirable lives.
Liberals are constantly claiming that imprisonment should be for purposes of rehabilitation, not revenge/punishment. Yet the great majority of the camp guards appear to have rehabilitated themselves, by liberal standards. So why prosecute elderly men now?
Does the fact that brutality and criminality does not appear to have been root elements in their personalities, as seen by their abandonment of them once the war is over, mean that many if not most people are capable of similar behavior under the same circumstances? Is that sneaking suspicion part of the reason for the apparently unreasonable pursuit of them?
I will simply state this:
THERE ARE NO MAJOR NAZI WAR CRIMINALS ALIVE TODAY. PERIOD.
Anyone alive today was a low level cog in a very big machine, more likely than not conscripted into service and following orders.
I think we should close this chapter on WWII. There is no more need for Nazi war crime hunters....although I do suggest you tune into the Military Channel tonight where they are beginning tonight with a new series on this subject. Tonight I think it will be about Martin Bormann...whose remains were found in Berlin in the 1990s.
If only the Moslem countries were as assiduous in pursuing their war criminals...
You don’t get the point? Then justice for the victims means nothing and all is forgotten. No. The killers shouldn’t have the right to die peacefully in their sleep. Their victims didn’t.
I’m all for going after the Germans and Austrians who ordered the massacres.
Going after Demjanjuk was just Germany’s attempt to say, “See, it wasn’t just Germans who participated in the Holocaust.”
So is murdering a thousand people less murder than two thousand? Or ten thousand murdered less murder than twenty thousand?
It’s no less murder. But fairly obviously murdering a larger number of people is worse than killing a smaller number.
The Communist murderers of 100M+ innocents have been forgotten, while low-level camp guards implicated even remotely in the approximately 12M killed by the Nazis are still being pursued.
Does that seem right to you?
At least Germany has made a good effort to admit what happened and bring criminals to justice. The country that concerns me is Japan, where so far as I can tell there is still widespread denial about the crimes they perpetrated.
I’ve never understood the whole thing. Not excusing it, not denying it, just saying there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
As far as I’m concerned there has never been a solid public explanation offered as to why the Holocaust occurred. The Germans just woke up one morning and said “F it, let’s kill 10-12 million people”? It doesn’t make sense. You have to be really really (really) pissed off to scale up for that kind of wholesale slaughter. Nothing I’ve read or seen offers an explanation for the scale and intensity of what occurred.
That one should be pursued..Yes. That the other not...No. But politics will always be more important than morality and no hand is too bloody for a politician to shake in partnership.
I agree it's not right that certain people are not punished, but what your saying is going down a weird road.
In the United States, some people are convicted of murder, while other people get away with much worse crimes. (possibly their identities are never discovered)
Do you really think the United States should not prosecute murderers, if "worse" murderers have not been prosecuted? Because that's the comparison.
Now if you limited your debate to the level of Nazi that should be prosecuted or the fact that evidence is murky after that long, that is a difficult point,
Personally, I think a criminal should be punished for murder no matter how long after their crime is. But obviously, evidence is difficult at this point. It's also hard to say whether certain people were involved to a level of culpability.
In the case of Nazi Germany, war criminals could be punished at the Nuremberg trials, and subsequently by Germany, the U.S., and Israel in trials in those countries.
I wish Stalin or Mao could have gone on trial. I wish others beneath them could have. But how was that going to happen? Unless Russia, China, etc. did it? And that was never going to happen. Israel was able to kidnap Eichmann in Argentina, but because of the nature of communist countries such kidnappings were not possible.
If you guys have Superman's number, let us know so we can call him. Other than that, how was it possible to punish these terrible people?
(More than 30 years later they are holding some trials against the Khmer Rouge)
And Leftists demand I give up my rifles.
no hand is too bloody for a politician to shake in partnership
Well.... I suppose you could start with Mein Kampf....where Hitler goes into great detail about his disgust and loathing of the Jewish people his belief that that are rats and parasites feeding off the host of the German people. Anti-Semetism is DEEPLY ENGRAINED in European history.
Leaders don’t like to hang other leaders since the political winds can go against them too.
“How/who would punish them?”
There is no real means. And then how far down the food chain does one go to punish the guilty?
Yeah, but one nutter with a screwed up monograph doesn’t make the trains run on time to Treblinka. Like I said, I’ve read the major works, and the closest I’ve come to seeing a candid discussion of contributing factors is Marci Shore’s recent *The Taste of Ashes*. There is more to this story than some thrice-gassed Austrian corporal with a poorly written rant the size of a Manhattan phone book suddenly waking to find everyone had hit the “like” button and deciding to whack over ten million of their fellow Europeans. There’s a lot of good research and publishing coming out of the region. Shore’s book and Snyder’s *Bloodlands* indicate there is a measure of revisionism or at least reevaluation occurring in the field.
Since that’s not my contention, I’m unclear who you are disagreeing with.
As others have pointed out, there are no high-level Nazi war criminals left alive.
There are also many, many Communist and other war criminals living happy and unpursued lives around the world.
Yet we persist in chasing down very elderly SS guys, as if the SS was the most egregiously evil institution in all world history.
I agree they were among the worst, and a contender for #1. But the time and energy spent on pursuing low-level Nazi war criminals relative to that spent pursuing much higher level criminals of other ideologies indicates to me that the issue for the pursuers is not the crimes they committed.
It’s that their ideology (and all other ideologies that can be associated with it, however illogically, such as American conservatism) must be demonized. I agree that Nazism should be denounced. What I’m objecting to is the disproportion in the reaction to Nazism vs. other murderous ideologies.
Good points. The only way to punish them is for their own present governments to be willing to do so. Since they aren’t, they won’t be.
Even the conventional history recognizes that the Nazis initially had no intention of killing all the Jews. What they had in mind was grand scale ethnic cleansing. With the Jews and other undesirables expelled from Europe, not murdered en masse. Though nobody was going to be bothered if a few, or a few hundred thousand, got killed in the process.
It wasn’t until January, 1942, at the earliest, if I remember correctly, that the decision was made to launch mass killing. And the major reason was that it had become obvious that due to the war there was just no way to exile the Jews in any reasonable timespan. Also the extensive German conquests in eastern Europe had multiplied by many times the number of Jews they would have to exile.
So they’d just kill them, instead.
The mass murder of Jews began in the summer of 1941. By that time, conditions in the Ghettos in Poland were abysmal. The Nazi's were purposely starving the Jews to death in all of the major ghettos. Thousands a month were already dying in Warsaw alone. Hitler made the decision to kill the Jews in 1939. He stated it publicly many times. In January 1939 he said, "Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"
I remember that episode from ‘’World At War’’. It frequently shows up on ‘’The Military Channel’’. The atrocity was the work of the 2nd. Waffen SS Panzer Division ‘’Das Reich’’. This unit was under the command of SS General Heinz Lammerding. Lammerding was in British custody after the end of the war. The French tried him in abstention and sentenced him to death but the Brits would not extradite him to France. Lammerding was released and returned to Dusseldorf where he was from and he became a successful business man, retiring in 1971 and dying peacefully in his sleep which is more than his victims ever got.
And what Olivier didn’t mention was that the women and kids were locked in that church and then it was set on fire. This was a favorite tactic of the SS. Real tough guys. Killing women and kids. Bloody bastards is all they were.
The mass murder of Jews began when Adolph Hitler opened his mouth and the German people shut theirs.
From 1958 to 1961 we lived in Poitiers, France. My Father was a career Army officer. One of the few things I remember clearly from that time was our visit to Oradour.
Yo ameribbean expat, Yehuda's long explanation aside, I suspect you're a Jewhater, but who knows, you may simply be pig ignorant. Lot's of pig ignorant folk out there, even pig ignorant conservatives.
Thanks for the reply. First, Marci Shore’s previous work *Caviar and Ashes* won a National Jewish Book Award, so I’m thinking she’s probably not an apologist one way or the other. Nor am I, and I have never written an Amazon review on any book so let’s dispense with unfounded characterizations of my intent in mentioning the work. It’s a short walk from hurling unfounded statements to paranoia. Neither are especially productive over the long term.
The Ashes book and Bloodlands are both fresh and thorough evaluations (and in some instances, reevaluations) of a region which suffered immensely over the past century. How much of what occurred in those countries was due to the complete failure of national leaders to grasp and make a successful transition from agriculture to an industrial economy? And when the consequences of that failure began to seep into the day to day life of people in the region, the politicians came making promises they had to know the people they made them to would be asked to underwrite with their own blood. I’d ask the Kulaks how those political promises grounded in economic redistribution worked out for them, but there aren’t many around these days. Right?
All of this concerns me because one does not have to look far to see a similar failure emerging in the American education and labor arenas with regard to both the development and application of technology. My concern is to avoid Blood and (later) Ashes and part of that is to avoid what didn’t work last time, leading to Eastern Europe’s horrific 20th century.
Unfortunately somewhere north of half of American voters in the past two presidential elections demonstrated the consequences of an inadequate education. This coincides with our arrival at a point where failed states have to pass on the tab for their failures to the national government. But states are a funny thing— much easier to view Illinois and Texas as separate planets rather than states in the same federal system of national government.
Long term the issue becomes not what Illinois can pass on, but what Utah or Texas or Arizona or Tennessee will tolerate.
I think what should really scare the hell out of the left is that they need the right to pay for their programs. The right on the other hand doesn’t really need the left. That sets up the scenarios described in Bloodland and Ashes. Particularly a Bloodland scenario— which hopefully we can all agree is something to work to avoid. But it will be difficult because so many have come to accept the idea that they have a (recurring) right to the fruits of other’s labors. The others doing the labor increasingly have a different opinion, and have begun to wonder what are the limits to charity (or tzedakah), particularly in light of the ingratitutde of the recipients. At some point compelled contribution becomes injustice.
I’ve read both Goldhagen and Shirer, and I’m not making any arguments beyond saying that the explanations, to date, as to causation are incomplete. The European holocaust can be and is studied because it is so well documented on both the micro and macro levels. Mao and PolPot weren’t meticulous record keepers. But to look at such documentation I’m looking at effects, the consequences of decisions long since taken.
Again: I do not understand how something of the scope and intensity of the Holocaust occurred. Period. Don’t assign ulterior motives to that statement, because there aren’t any. At least you did a more adequate job of camouflaging hyperbole than another respondent.
With the opening of government archives in post-Soviet Eastern Europe, there was bound to be a reevaluation of what had been written about the first half of the 20th century in that region. When new primary source material becomes available, reevaluation is appropriate. Depending on the content of that primary source material, revision may be called for. It may also be called for if people who played a central role in important events come to see matters in a different light. Both of these circumstances are now occurring in Eastern Europe.
To the degree you are Jewish and conservative, I understand that entails no small measure of difficulty (and frustration) in political matters. But also understand that unpleasant questions— such as those found in the middle chapter of Shore’s book— are being raised in academia and that those will percolate through the broader culture over time. If I were Jewish, I would want demand some serious scholarship on the kibbutz movement. And as long as were being candid, it should be revisionist because the kibbutz is, in my opinion, derivative of Europe’s Romantic nationalism. And Romantic movements never end well.
Over and against the questions raised by Shore should be read the work of Brandy Aven at Carnegie-Mellon and her peers. Before the kibbutz there were extensive trade networks. Both should be re-evaluated in terms of sustainability and consequences. The answers are much more clear in that regard than they were even 20 years ago.
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