This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Does the Passage of Time Expunge Responsibility and Justice?

"This is monumental for us, absolutely monumental. Seventy years ago, this man helped murder my family and I wouldn't be here when he's brought to justice? Wouldn't you be? This is something I never ever dared to dream of."
"I thought it would be terrible to be here in Germany and to be surrounded by the German language that I dreaded in Auschwitz, but because of the wonderful people I have met, it took the weight and the heaviness from my heart."
"Whoever asks that question of me [should someone implicated in mass murder be excused in recognition of advanced age and/or illness?] I would ask them, 'How would they feel if their mother and father and family were murdered, would it matter if they found the murderer 70 years later?' I'm sure they would want justice, no matter how long it took."
Hedy Bohm, 88, Holocaust survivor, witness, Detmold, Germany

"This is the very last of the Nazi trials. I don't think there will be more."
"The world has to know what has happened. I'd like to be able to say, 'Don't listen to me. Listen to a German court, a German court that says: 'Here is a man who's convicted of the crimes."
"There's going to be three generations there [father, daughter, grandchild] we can say, 'Hey, you didn't win at the end. We're here'."
"In my almost daily recurring thoughts, I see this piece of godforsaken earth -- this ramp -- as the worst piece of ground on Earth."
"These heartless murderers decided with a flick of a finger who is to live and who is to die. No warrant, no document, no judge nor jury."
Bill Glied, 85, Holocaust survivor, witness, Detmold, Germany
Auschwitz guard Reinhold Hanning attends a hearing in Germany
Former SS sergeant Reinhold Hanning, Bernd Thissen/The Associated Press

"It is not true that you had no choice; you could have asked to be transferred to the war front," 
"That shows [promotions during the years spent at the camp] that you had proven your value as a willing and efficient henchman in the killings."
Judge Anke Grudda
Reinhold Hanning, an elderly German man, faced 170,000 counts of accessory to murder as a guard at the Auschwitz death camp. In his defence he denied overseeing beatings or deaths. At Auschwitz-Birkenau 1.3-million Jewish lives were systematically extinguished. Two Holocaust survivors from Toronto were among those who travelled to Germany to attend the trial and to give their testimony in court.

German jurists -- correction, some extraordinary German jurists -- could not live with their consciences had they not viewed SS functionaries at Auschwitz indispensable to the orderly and systematic machinery that exemplified the Final Solution. Reinhold Hanning had acted as  squad leader of the 3rd SS Division Totenkopf (Death's Head Division), guarding transports of Jews, particularly the influx of Hungarian Jews between May and July of 1944.

In a 56-day period a half million Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz in rail cars. Most, on arrival at Auschwitz were sent directly to the Birkenau gas chambers. Those chosen to die immediately rather than join the slave labourers, were securely locked into giant "shower" chambers where Zyklon B was vented from the ceiling. When the desperate screams finally ceased, workers entered to remove gold tooth fillings before consigning the bodies to the furnaces.

Bill Glied brought his daughter and granddaughter with him from Toronto to Germany, planning to have them by his side as he confronted the former SS guard at the trial. As the months'-long trial neared its end the hitherto silent former Nazi apologized for his membership in the SS, while insisting he was never involved in the killings. When the Second World War ended six million Jews were dead. Nazis like Mr. Hanning returned to the peace and calm of civilian life.

He operated a dairy close by where he lived, in a nearby town. No one there had any inkling of his past; those who might have, didn't seem to be bothered by it. He is now a grandfather of three. He has a comfortable home, and a well-tended rose garden he once shared with his wife who predeceased him. During all those years after the war to the present, Reinhold Hanning lived a satisfying life, a normal life. Not for him, as for the survivors, the horrors of nightmares.

When he uttered the words "I'm sorry", at the conclusion of the trial, he no doubt was sorry. But for what, precisely? His penalty for his part in prosecuting the Nazi drive to exterminate European Jews is his conviction for assisting countless deaths, and five years in prison, though it is doubtful he will spend any time incarcerated; the victory in his conviction is a moral one.
The front gate to the former concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland
Flicker : Peuplier  One and a half million Jews died at Auschwitz

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