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.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Never Forgotten, Never Forgiven

"Decades I spent trying not to remember. And now I have to keep on remembering. I could speak for those who can't. I have to do it."
"I didn't know that the road my mother followed was taking her to the crematorium, to be killed along with all the children, young mothers with babies in their arms and grandmothers I witnessed being led away by the Nazi soldiers."
Hedy Bohm, 88, Holocaust survivor

"It was dehumanization by starvation. Your body is disappearing right in front of your eyes."
"You're becoming a skeleton. People would kill for a crumb of bread."
"I had a few seconds to say goodbye. My father gave me a blessing and told me if I survived this, I should tell the world what happened." 
"I can never forget; I can never forgive. It was hell on earth. It was the machine of the devil [Zyklon-B 'shower room' and the crematoria]."
Max Eisen, Auschwitz survivor
Max Eisen Holocaust survivor sits in Toronto Holocaust Museum on Monday June 6, 2016. Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

"Seeing that the Germans themselves want to make clear that this was a heinous crime, I think it was very important to me."
"I hope that somehow or other, this will close a phase in my life, too, that I will not have to look at the past with such fear."
Bill Glied, Auschwitz survivor
In this file photo taken just after the liberation by the Soviet army in January 1945, shows a group of children wearing concentration camp uniforms including Martha Weiss who was ten years old, 6th from right, at the time behind barbed wire fencing in the Oswiecim (Auschwitz) Nazi concentration camp. (AP Photo)

The formality of enlisting justice and the laws of humanity and human rights in rejecting the genocidal efforts to exterminate the presence of European Jews from their place in the great pattern of life and history and survival, served to deliver a message. That not all the savage evil that the world produces will go unremarked and without consequences. Some might argue that placing a 94-year-old man through the rigours of a trial represents itself a bitter travesty of justice served cold.

But the courtroom condemnation and the disgrace of revelations implicating the elderly man who had once been a young man unfazed by the inhumane treatment of Jewish children, their parents and the elderly, to the point where he saw no inhumanity in starving them and working them to death, or simply ordering them to the line that led directly to the gas chambers, but that he was simply doing his duty as a loyal soldier of the Third Reich is no longer an acceptable fiction.

That this man, former SS-Unterscharfuhrer Reinhold Hanning simply returned to civilian life after the end of the Second World War, resuming his normal life where it had left off when he had voluntarily become a member of the Nazi Party, prepared to serve on the war front, then at Auschwitz-Birkenau represents itself a failure of justice. For 70 years he lived a comfortable life of marriage, raising children, operating a dairy, growing roses in the garden of his home.

A normal life, a life of normal accomplishments hard on the heels of an atrociously brutal life of overseeing death for hundreds of thousands of helpless, innocent people. Justice for Reinhold Hanning's choices arrives late. It will not diminish or destroy what he was able to accomplish and enjoy in those 70 years following his deep involvement with the SS and the annihilation of European Jewry.

For the survivors whom a former German judge felt compelled to enlist to ensure that justice did arrive, however tardily, there is a palpable sense of relief. That now, finally, close to the natural ending of their own long lives where memory and anguish accompanied them by day and by night,  the tension of survival when all others whom they loved did not, can rest a trifle easier that they have done what they could to bring justice to prevail.

Hedy Bohm, who survived the death camp determined to defeat death, convinced that when liberation arrived she would be reunited with her mother: "That was my reason to live", never  until much later understanding that the line her mother was ordered to enter was one that would bring her to a speedy death, unlike her own that recognized her as young and strong and healthy, someone who could be used as a slave until youth and strength and health abandoned her.

Max Eisen who joined a work detail every day to strive for ten hours a day on the allotted 300 calories given the slave labourers. Until July 9, 1944 when his father and his uncle were absent from the columns of labourers marching out to the fields. After his work detail, the thirteen year old boy that he had been back then found his father and uncle in an quarantine area, "selected" for death, too weak to continue working, no longer of any use.

He had already lost his mother, his three siblings and his aunt, who had all been exposed to Zyklon B. He saw SS visitors watching the dying process through glass holes placed for that purpose on the outer walls of the gas chambers. The gas chambers did their work of extermination, providing an entertainment occasion for the members of the SS curious to watch how human beings reacted to being murdered en masse.

As for Bill Glied, thirteen when he ans his parents were forced onto a cattle car packed with distraught humanity: "It never occurred to me ... what the end of that train ride would be". He and his father had been sent to work in Germany as slave labourers for an underground airplane factory. Close to war's end, they both contracted typhoid fever. His father died of it at Dachau concentration camp. Nine days later the camp was liberated.

Arrival of a deportation train bringing Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz death camp in German-occupied Poland, circa 1942. Auschwitz-Birkenau (1940-1945) was the largest of the German concentration and extermination camps. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

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