Sunday, February 21, 2016

Karl du Fresne: What will these trials achieve?

Former SS sergeant Reinhold Hanning is on trial in Germany for his involvement in the deaths of 170,000 people at Auschwitz. He is reportedly hard of hearing and in poor health. He is 94.

His trial will be followed by that of Hubert Zafke, who is alleged to have been a paramedic at the same concentration camp. Zafke is 95 and suffers from dementia.

What will these trials achieve? That’s what I ask myself when I read of feeble old men being called to account for things that happened more than 70 years ago.

Any punishment that might be meted out to them at this stage in their lives can only be symbolic. What, then, is the purpose? And why have charges been brought against them when they are probably past the point of being able to defend themselves?

I discussed this recently with a Jewish friend. We agreed that these prosecutions are largely driven by Germany’s desire to acknowledge its guilt for the Nazi extermination camps. Beyond that point, our discussion was inconclusive.

For me, there remains a nagging feeling that these proceedings almost qualify for the description of show trials. 

But if they are indeed show trials, what do they show?  That the Nazi regime exterminated innocent human beings on an unprecedented scale? We know that already.

Is the purpose, then, to prove that Germany is no longer the country that it was under Hitler? We know that, too. Germany has spent much of the past seven decades re-establishing its credentials as a civilised, humane country.

Perhaps the rationale is simply that justice demands that these men be punished, even after all this time. But such punishment seems pointless, even vindictive, at this stage in their lives.

Besides, Zafke has served a three-year prison term already. He was convicted and sentenced by a Polish court after the war for being a member of the SS.

This time he faces trial on more specific charges: namely, that as a para-medic at Auschwitz he was party to the murders of 3681 people who went to the gas chambers while he was on duty.

It’s not clear whether he’s alleged to have been actively involved in their extermination. All that’s necessary, it seems, is for the prosecution to prove that men like Zafke and Hanning were cogs in the Nazi extermination machine, and therefore culpable.

But even if that’s proved, as seems likely, surely there are problems here too.

For one thing, it can be argued that all of Germany was complicit in the war crimes committed by the Nazi regime.

The German people allowed Hitler and his murderous accomplices to take power. They stood by and did nothing as the Nazis ramped up their persecution of the Jews. 

There was no secret about the Nazi agenda – it was clear for all to see. The existence of extermination camps may not have been public knowledge, but the camps were the logical, ultimate conclusion of Nazi anti-semitism, which the German people appeared to condone. Arguably, that made all of them accessories in the murder of six million Jews.

Why, then, select for symbolic punishment those whom the records show were physically present when the gas was turned on? They were just the front end of an evil ideology that inexplicably captured an entire country.

And here’s another thing. How realistic is it to now demand that individuals such as Zafke and Hanning should have taken a moral stand and refused orders to work in places like Auschwitz?

They were simply going along with something their countrymen appeared to endorse. They were caught up in a murderous national hysteria.

Besides, they would very likely have been shot for refusing to obey orders. How many of us can say that in a similar position, we would have put our lives on the line to save others?

The expectation seems to be that these men should have shown the moral courage of martyrs. That’s an extraordinarily high demand to make of ordinary men caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

I have been to Auschwitz. It’s impossible to grasp the enormity of what went on there.

I entirely understand the sentiments of the Auschwitz victim’s grandson who was reported as saying he would cheerfully put a rope around Hanning’s neck. For him, it’s deeply personal.

But the men primarily responsible for the extermination of Europe’s Jewry have long since been brought to justice. Perhaps it’s time to finally close the door on the ghastliest episode in 20th century history.

Karl du Fresne blogs at First published in the Dominion Post.


Brian said...

Karl raises a very old question which has haunted the legal system for fact Shakespeare in Hamlet (Act 11) raises the same point.
“I have heard that guilty creatures, sitting at a play,
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim’d their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue,
Will speak”......
Is a crime not a crime by virtue of the passing of the years? Do we not shudder at past crimes whether international or domestic? One has only to watch the television and those programmes devoted to crime, the more lurid and violent, the more they are accepted into our living rooms regretfully as normality.

We must not be so smug ourselves, as the crux is Karl’s paragraph which states:
“The German people allowed Hitler and his murderous accomplices to take power. They stood by and did nothing as the Nazis ramped up their persecution of the Jews.”
In concert with other Western Nations we here in New Zealand have been doing the very same thing, in firstly allowing Communism to raise an Iron Curtain, expand its control and see it finally implode financially, and now recover re invigorated. Only to now stand by to witness a new threat, that of a Muslim invasions and expansion.

The Nuremburg Trials after World War 11, a show piece rather than a trial, guilty as charged before any defence was spoken; that they were guilty was obvious.
Fascist ideology was also sitting in that dock, but conspicuous by its absence was its fellow traveller Communism. For if Hitler murdered his millions, then Stalin murdered his tens of millions yet the guilty Communist “Gestapo” have yet to be brought to trial!

Perhaps in this context we must have to accept. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes dictum that..
“The winner is always right”

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

These trials are largely political in the sense that nationalism in Europe is on the rebound and people need to be constantly reminded of certain events associated with the nationalism of the 1930s/40s. It's the same kind of strategy that underlies anti-capitalist propaganda by reminding people of 19th century workhouses and sweatshops.
By the way, the Soviets claimed that 4 million had died in Auschwitz. The Polish government subsequently revised that down to about one and a quarter million and that has since been revised down again. These revised figures have been widely accepted by the academic community.

Karl du Fresne said...

The Dominion Post today has a response to my column from Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre:

Anonymous said...

Hollywood is largely run by American Jews who, understandably, have a vested interest in keeping the Holocaust and the evils of Nazism before the public.

But by default, a penumbra of neglect has fallen over Nazism’s similarly evil twin, Communism. Much of this is attributable to the fact that Communism was an ideology celebrated by many of our intellectuals and opinion-shapers from inside free societies.

Nazism and Communism both grow out of the same poisoned soil and the fact that they are widely regarded as polar opposites is of enormous assistance to both of them.

For the benefit of those who assert that Nazism (National Socialism) was unmitigated evil, while Communism (International Socialism) was a noble experiment perverted by the evil Stalin, let's examine the evolution of Marxist-Leninist thinking:

"The bourgeoisie as a class must be made impossible" - Marx

"We'll ask the man where he stands on the question of revolution. If he's against it, we'll stand him up against a wall" - Lenin

"A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths are a statistic" and "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs" - Stalin

Acting on these assumptions, Stalin was responsible, at a conservative estimate, for the mass murder of 30 million Russians.

Mao Tse-Tung’s death count through mass murder and indirectly via man-made famines has been conservatively estimated at 60 million Chinese.

Most would simply view these Communist dictators as insane and evil.

But within the narrow bounds of their Communist ideology and "scientific socialism," what Stalin did in the Soviet Union, Mao did in Red China, and Pol Pot and his minions did in Cambodia, was both rational and an act of profound humanity [sic].

This probably explains why former Green MP (and long-time Marxist-Leninist) Keith Locke penned a 1975 Socialist Action editorial entitled "Cambodia Liberated: A Victory For Humanity."

To understand why Communists feel entitled to murder entire groups and classes of people, we might apply the analogy of a farmer who discovers that his herd of cows is beginning to come down with foot-and-mouth disease.

Some animals are irremediably sick and must be exterminated to keep others from also falling ill (those who are too wedded to the institutions of a free society: private property, individual rights, freedom of speech, freedom of association, faith in a Creator, and refusal to worship the Total State).

Others are beginning to come down with the bug but if quarantined and given appropriate treatment are likely to recover (those who can get well with a "tenner" in a labour camp learning the value of working unselfishly for the collective good). But of course, if the quarantined animals prove resistant to “treatment” they must be killed directly or worked to death.

The vast majority of the herd simply need to kept apart from the infected animals for their own protection (the proletarian masses).

British novelist and historian, Dennis Wheatley said this: "Communists are swine. The vast majority Gadarene Swine who race headlong over a cliff to their destruction; the few your ordinary voracious swine who would eat you alive if you fell into their pen and couldn’t get out."

Socialism in both its Communist and Fascist variants appeals to four kinds of people: Those who imagine that under such a system they will be the leaders; those who welcome the freedom from life's cares and personal responsibilities that the wannabe leaders promise; those who like to mind other people’s business in small petty ways; and those who under such systems are the secret police and camp guards, with state-sanctioned licence to indulge the pathological impulses largely kept in check by a civilised society.

And guess what? Many of the Soviety Union's leading Communists ( ) were Jews who'd abandoned their Jewish religion for the secular social religion of Marxist-Leninism.

Anonymous said...

Leading Jewish Bolsheviks

a) Leon Bronstein (Trotsky), Commander of the Soviet Red Army.

b) Grigory Apfelbaum (Zinoviev), Director, Soviet Secret Police, seized Church-owned property, murdered tens of thousands of Orthodox Christians.

c) Maxim Wallach (Litvinov), Soviet Foreign Minister.

d) Solomon Lozovsky, Deputy Soviet Foreign Minister.

e) Yuri Andropov, Jewish Director of the Soviet KGB

A PROMINENT JEWISH JOURNALIST now admits that in 1934, 38% of those holding high office in Stalin’s murderous regime were Jews:

1. Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich: Millions of Orthodox Christians were murdered by order of Kaganovich. He orderered the destruction of hundreds of Christian churches including Christ The Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.

In 1991, after living the life of a prince, Kaganovich committed suicide in fear of the “open society,” that is, “glasnot” which would have exposed his murderous deeds.

2. Ilya Ehrenburg: Minister of Soviet Propaganda for Stalin. He wrote, “The Germans are not human beings. Nothing gives us greater joy than corpses of Germans.”

3. Yevgeny Khaldei: Red Army photographer. Born in the Ukraine of Jewish parents. He staged the raising of the Hammer & Sickle Flag in the German Reichstag in Berlin in 1945, the emblem of the slaughter of millions of peasants and Christians, describing it as “the Russian national symbol of justice, triumph, and revenge.”

4. Bela Kun (Cohen): Dictator of Hungary in 1919. Kun was later Stalin’s chief terrorist in the Crimea. Kun’s eventual successor was Matyas Rakosi, a Jewish Communist mass murderer of Christians in Hungary.

5. Moshe Pijade: Commander, Yugoslav Communist People’s Army. Tito’s top butcher of hundreds of thousands of Yugoslavian Christians