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.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Guilty As Charged

"I think those who have knowledge about the Holocaust, they believe it has to be done [final trials of accessory to genocide]. But there are also a lot of people, young people who are not interested, and they say, 'It costs a lot of money, let the old man die in his bed and let him go'."
Thomas Walther, 73, retired German justice

"The arbitrary terror was boundless and without any mercy. They [Jewish prisoners] were always on the brink of death."
"Why has it taken over 70 years for the defendant to be put on trial? The answer is as simple as it is shocking -- German society did not want to deal with the injustice of the Holocaust."
"It was late, very late [German decision to pursue SS officers as accessories to murder] just thankfully it comes in just enough time to provide some justice."
"This is the very least that our society can do to give survivors of the Holocaust at least a semblance of justice, even 70 years after the crime, even with a 94-year-old defendant."
"For two-and-a-half-years you watched as people were murdered in gas chambers. For two-and-a-half years you watched as people were shot. For two-and-a-half-years you watched as people starved to death."
"You had an important function. With your guard duties, you ensured a seamless performance of the killing machine."
Judge Anke Grudda, Detmold, Germany
Defendant Reinhold Hanning, a 94-year-old former guard at Auschwitz death camp, sits in a courtroom before his verdict in Detmold, Germany, June 17, 2016.     Reuters/Bernd Thissen/Pool

Justice Grudda, addressing an aged SS Death Corps veteran whose time in Auschwitz oversaw the unspeakable abomination of state-ordered-and-designed mass murder of a class and on a scale that no sane human being could ever envisage, sentenced that man to five years in prison. Had he been sentenced 70 years ago as a hale and hearty young man he might have served a long, very long portion of his life as an incarcerated felon held responsible for his part in facilitating the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

As it is, he was charged as an accessory to the murder of 170,000 Jews between 1943 and 1944 at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Former SS officer Reinhold Hanning would have the world accept his word that he knew nothing of torture, of starvation, of disease, of horrendous death on an impossible scale, all of which is just too barbaric for sane minds to digest. His authority at the camp, he would prefer his accusers to believe, was to maintain order. That the order was to accomplish the Final Solution is incidental.

This trial and its outcome owes entirely to the tireless work of Nazi hunter Thomas Walther. A retired German justice whose passion for truth and responsibility has led  his country to extend its reach into the citizenry of normal life and ordinary people to probe what those ordinary people did before they assumed their current status as respected citizens who never put a wrong foot forward. The pursuit of lower-ranking SS officers as accessories to murder is supported by their participation in the killing machine.

The industrialized-scale mass slaughter that unreasoning racial discrimination and viral hatred made possible through a gradual dehumanization of Jews as a pestilence on society saw Nobel-prize laureates like Albert Einstein leave Germany for haven where his genius was coveted and respected. Germany's love affair with anti-Semitism reflected a generalized European attitude of Jew-hatred prevalent in all stages and all ages of history, which the Second World War offered the stage to have it culminate in mass annihilation.
Jews on selection ramp at Auschwitz, May 1944
German Nazi death camp Auschwitz in Poland, arrival of Hungarian Jews, Summer 1944.  Photographer:
Ernst Hofmann or Bernhard Walte

SS officer Reinhold Hanning was rewarded during his time at Auschwitz with the recognition of two promotions. His invaluable assistance in ensuring that the wheels of genocide ran smoothly saw Jews, from babies to the elderly and everyone in between worked to death, or starved or gassed to death. By taking steps to safeguard their imprisonment he capably prevented their escape, aiding and abetting that collective destruction of helpless humanity.

Andreaas Eichmuller, a Munich historian, gives the figure of 6,500 SS military personnel serving time at Auschwitz having survived the war. Of that number, fewer than one hundred were tried in a court of justice. And of that one hundred, fifty percent were convicted. former SS officer Hanning volunteered for the Waffen-SS in 1940 fighting in the Netherlands, Yugoslavia and Russia until he was injured by a grenade in 1941 Kyiv. After which he was transferred to guard duty at Auschwitz.

Seventy years have since passed. But now in Germany there is no longer a statute of limitations respecting the Holocaust. And this entirely thanks to the unrelenting determination of Thomas Walther who after 31 years on the bench, retired to join the Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, in Ludwigsburg, Germany. Since that time he has advocated for prosecutions as accessories to murder.
Children arrested by a German soldier in the Warsaw ghetto. C.D.J.C.

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