Police raided nine homes of elderly men in southwest Germany on suspicions that they served as Nazi guards at the infamous Auschwitz death camp. The probes led to three arrests, all on allegations of accessory to murder. The move comes just five months after German authorities announced they would devote new efforts to finding former guards at Holocaust concentration camps. Authorities say they found “diverse papers and documents from the Nazi era” in the homes of the men, whose ages ranged 88-94. About 1.5 million people were killed at Auschwitz, mostly Jews. Click here to read the story.
”I’m going to Auschwitz. Kisses, your Heini,” reads the final line in a letter from SS commander Heinrich Himmler to his wife, one of hundreds of such letters found in a private collection in Tel Aviv.
Himmler, one of the architects of the Final Solution and one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany, wrote hundreds of letters to his wife, his mistress and his daughter. The collection, which includes photographs and even recipes, was kept under the bed of Tel Aviv resident Chaim Rosenthal for 40 years. It will be published in a series in the German newspaper Die Welt. Click here to read the story.
An 88-year-old German man has been charged with involvement in one of the most infamous World War Two massacres.
The charges relate to Oradour-sur-Glane in central France, where 642 people were murdered by SS troops in 1944. Many were herded into a local church into which hand grenades were thrown before it was set on fire. Read more here.
Israel has asked Germany to return art from a massive Nazi-looted stash found earlier this year to Jewish or Israeli museums if their heirs cannot be found. Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin also said Israel has requested to join the German investigation into the recovered art collection. Police discovered some 1,400 artworks worth an estimated $1 billion which had been stolen by the Nazis, mainly from Jewish art dealers.
JNS.org – Brandeis University says it’s suspending its decade-old partnership with Al-Quds University following a recent Nazi-style rally at the Palestinian school in Jerusalem. At the Nov. 5 rally, Al-Quds students wore black military gear, carried fake automatic weapons, gave the Nazi salute, and surrounded the main square of their campus with banners depicting images of “martyred” suicide bombers. Photo: Mideast Dispatch/Tom Gross
How culpable for the slaughter of innocents is a man who, while he may never have pulled a trigger on a death camp Jew, who may never have himself marched a Jew into the chamber, nonetheless stood guard as others did?
How important is it for organizations such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center – whose founder helped snatch up Adolph Eichmann in Buenos Aires and placed him on trial in Israel in 1960 – to continue to flush out aging Nazis?
How citical is it, now, for the Germans themselves to do the scouring and the prosecuting and the capturing and the sentencing-to-whatever-life-remains?
These are questions raised by this morning’s New York Times piece by Nicholas Kulish and they’re worth our consideration, all these years gone.
Germany’s Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes has decided to move ahead, largely on the strength of the conviction of the deported American, John Demjanjuk, 66 after his crimes. The Germans are digging through hundreds of files hoping swiftly to bring to justice men who so far have escaped responsibility for their roles as guards in actions like that of Demjanjuk. That man has been convicted in a German court. Twenty-eight thousand and sixty Sobibor camp Jews in Poland were murdered on his watch.
The German prosecutors’ theory in these cases is that if a man was “working at an extermination camp, his function as a guard automatically made him an accomplice to the murders committed there.”
This makes sense: one needn’t line up men, women, and children to be shot to assume a measure of guilt if one knows he’s employed at an death camp. He knows he’s part of extermination’s machinery whether he shoots a mother holding her baby or if he simply and routinely points his luger at them.
The Wiesenthal Center believes that the new German effort could, in the end, bring to light and justice several dozen Nazi fugitives “who served at the most lethal installations” and in the mobile gassing units, men who “spent as much as two years carrying out mass murder on a daily basis.” The German prosecutors say they plan trips to Russia, Belarus, Greece, and to Brazil in pursuit of men they believe the documentation shows are fugitive war criminals.
So: seven decades on, is it necessary to put on trial and potentially imprison-for-life men in their eighties and nineties, men whose health (like Mr. Demjanjuk’s) may already point to their imminent deaths? I’d say that it is necessary.
Beyond the fact that the German government clearly wants to continue its soul-purging, there is something to the idea that we’re all part of one human collective, a collective that requires of us justice no matter how long history’s arc toward it may bend, and that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and the keepers of the souls of the innocent dead.
Under Paragraph 175 of the National Socialist Criminal Code, Rudolf Brazda and thousands of other gay men were routinely rounded up from Germany and beyond and trained to detention centers. Like other bio-cultural enemies of the New Order, Jews and Gypsies, for instance, gay men were sent to an array of slave-labor and death camps.
As Jews were forced to wear the Star of David, homosexual men were forced to wear the Pink Triangle. While there are no records of gays being gassed or lined up, shot, and buried in mass graves, the majority of the 15,000 hauled to the camps died within a year. Mr. Brazda, considered the longest surviving ‘Pink Triangle’ prisoner-witness, defying nearly intractable odds, lived until this past Wednesday. He died in his adopted home, France.
Mr. Brazda was imprisoned three years at Buchenwald and was liberated by the G.I.s who took the camp in the spring of 1945. There is, now, in Berlin’s Tiergarten park, a formal memorial to National Socialism’s homosexual victims, across from its memorial to six million Jews. It’s a fitting juxtaposition, and fitting too, to recall today an ordinary yet gutsy, tough man, persecuted, imprisoned, and most of all, a survivor of state-directed hate, who, like the Gypsy and Jew, was targeted for nothing more than being who he was.