Monday, January 25, 2010
Last week saw Holocaust survivor Thomas Blatt, 82 give testimony at the trial of John Demjanjuk. Blatt stated that he still has nightmares about his time at the camp at Sobibor, "I go there in my dreams, they are so real. In them I am still there. I can't get it out of my head. This is the price I paid for getting out."
Ukrainian born John Demjanjuk, 89, is accused by the Munich court of being an accessory* in the death of 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor camp while being a German POW. As it happens, the German Justice system is now chasing accessories to the Nazi crime. Embarrassingly enough it doesnt do very well in the current case. Demjanjuk denies anything to do with the crime referred to him and furthermore, the German prosecution lacks any evidence whatsoever that supports or links Demjanjuk personally with murder or any other holocaust related criminal event.
Mr Blatt does not remember John Demjanjuk either, nor can he say if he is guilty as charged of helping to gas 27,900 Jews. "More than 60 years have passed said Blatt I can't even remember the faces of my parents. The court must decide if he was there. If he was there when I was there then I can imagine he shoved Jews at bayonet point to the gas chambers.
According to The Mirror, Blatt was brought to the court to give a living voice to the horror instead of a dusty historical account. Seemingly in our current state of hyper realistic world affairs, historical documents and factuality are diminished to dust while a personal narrative, saturated with speculation, associations and emotions are realised as a persuasive living voice. At the end of the day, Demjanjuk, a geriatric man is accused here of assisting in the death of no less than 27,900 people. The German court better bring something concrete rather than mere speculations.
Mr Blatt maintained that Ukrainians like Demjanjuk were the worst of the worst. We were more afraid of them than we were of the Germans." There were 120 Ukrainian guards compared with only 17 S.S. men at any one time said Blatt to the German court. Blatt clearly got away with generalisations. I wonder whether a Palestinian boy suggesting that Jews like Blatt who killed his family a year ago dropping bombs on a UN shelter in Gaza, would also be welcomed at the Munich court. For some bizarre reason, within the context of the Western liberal discourse, where Jews are concerned, generalising is okay and so is freely employing racial categories and even suggesting guilt by association. Somehow the rest of humanity is advised to avoid such a manner of speech.
However, such crude blanket accusations of the Ukrainians as a people that apparently pass as evidence in the Munich court, may actually throw light on the sinister motivation behind the current court case. Like the rest of humanity, the Germans seem to show some clear signs of Shoa fatigue. They appear to prefer to withdraw responsibility from the Nazi past and to leave Ukrainian POWs to take the heat. Similarly, we could expect that at a certain stage America and Britain may decide to use the same tactics and to charge their collaborators in the Arab world for the death and carnage they themselves left behind. Israel, that is now facing pressure for its mounting record of crimes against humanity, may also put the German trick into action. It may also want to cherry pick some Palestinians and charge them for being accessories to the crimes against the Palestinian people.
But there is a much more interesting twist to this evolving shameful legal case. While Demjanjuk denies being an accessory to the Nazi crime, Mr Blatt freely admits working for the SS and assisting in what he himself describes as a death machine: Another job was to cut the hair of women about to be killed, says Blatt. "Those from places like Holland believed the lie," he maintains. "The women would say to me: 'Please don't cut my hair too short!' But the Polish Jews - they already knew. They had heard too many stories, smelled the bonfires at night. Blatt continues, "they would say 'How can you do this? How can you work for the S.S.?' I did it to survive."
One may wonder why Blatts will to survive is more Kosher than an Ukrainian prisoners desire to come home. In other words, considering Blatts admission in assisting the SS, why isnt he charged by the same German court for being an accessory for the Nazi crime?
One possible answer is that Blatt is a Jew and Demanjuk is a Goy. As sad as it may be, in the eyes of the Munich court, a Jews will to survive must be superior to an Ukrainians desire to make it to the end of the war in one piece. If this is indeed the case, the German court fails to operate ethically and universally. Accordingly, it would be reasonable to argue that the Munich court fails to draw the necessary and elementary lesson from Germanys Nazi past. German Justice somehow differentiates between people according to their race and ethnicity.
*An accessory is a person who assists in the commission of a crime, but who does not actually participate in the commission of the crime as a joint principal.
To read more:
Thursday, December 3, 2009
German State Prosecutors Hans-Joachim Lutz announced yesterday that Mr John Demjanjuk, 89, is accused of being an accessory of the death of 27,900 Jews.
Many of us may not understand what the legal notion of accessory stands for. An accessory is a person who assists in the commission of a crime, but who does not actually participate in the commission of the crime as a joint principal.
Bearing that in mind. I wonder what Demjanjuks court case is there to serve?
If the Germans are really after a last Holocaust spectacular trial cant they pick something slightly more juicy than an alleged accessory?
In1986 John Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel where he was put on trial. According to the Israeli prosecutors, Demjanjuk was brought to a German POW camp in Chelmno in July 1942. He then volunteered to collaborate with the Germans and was sent to the camp at Trawniki, where he was trained to guard prisoners and was given a firearm, a uniform, and an ID card with his photograph. The principal allegation was that Demjanjuk was in fact "Ivan the Terrible" the notorious cold blooded murderer of Treblinka. On April 18, 1988, the Israeli court found Demjanjuk guilty of all charges. One week later it sentenced him to death by hanging.
In 1993, five Israeli Supreme Court judges overturned the guilty verdict on appeal. They realised that the case against Demjanjuk was based on mistaken identification. We restrained ourselves the Israeli judges wrote, from convicting the appellant of the horrors of Treblinka. Ivan Demjanjuk has been acquitted by us, because of doubt, of the terrible charges attributed to Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka
By the time the Israeli supreme court decided to release Demjanjuk the Israeli Attorney General was fully aware of John Demjanjuk being a guard in Sobibor. And yet he decided not to pursue accessory charges against him. Amongst other arguments in favour of Demjanjuks release Israeli Attorney General claimed that new charges would be unreasonable given the seriousness of those of which he had been acquitted he also argued that conviction on the new charges (being a German guard) would be unlikely. The Israeli Attorney General grasped that charging Demjanjuk for being an accessory would be counter effective.
Seemingly the German legal system lacks that necessary Jewish wisdom performed by Israeli supreme judges and Attorney general. As it seems, the German court found a very embarrassing method to deal with the German past. They are now charging a dying Ukrainian/American for attempting to survive a Nazi POW camp by collaborating. That is, a onetime German prisoner became an accessory of the German killing machine.
If the Germans are insisting to search for Nazi collaborators and brutal accessories, survivor Israel Shahak can adivise them where to find them. Every Jewish child was taught (in the Ghettos) says Shahak that "if you enter a square from which there are three exits, one guarded by a German SS man, one by a Ukrainian and one by a Jewish policeman, then you should first try to pass the German, and then maybe the Ukrainian, but never the Jew".( Prof. Israel Shahak, 19 May 1989. Kol Ha'ir, Jerusalem). Apparently, this story is reflected in many survivors personal and academic accounts. The Jewish capos and Judenrat were the most brutal of them all.
I think that the Germans better move on and let go of their past. Composing great symphonies and writing philosophy is by far a superior contribution to humanity than Holocaust trials. Guilt is a futile and destructive mode of being. However, if the Germans still feel at fault, they better transform their guilt into responsibility. They better remember that the Palestinians are de facto the last victims of Hitler. Their ordeal is far from being over. If the Germans feel culpable about their past they should never send German warships to Israel. If Germans are concerned with their history they better transform it into meaning. Rather than charging an 89 year old for being an alleged accessory they better bring to justice some of the perpetrators of genocidal crimes that are taking place in front of our eyes.
Rather than pushing old Demjanjuk into court in a wheelchair, the German ministry of Justice better pursue Tony Blair, George Bush, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, and Shimon Peres. They are all free and healthy enough to stand a trial. Unlike alleged accessory Demjanjuk they are all perpetrators of colossal crimes against humanity.
Posted January 27, 2010