Aug 062013
 

A few years ago, I wrote something about a visit to Auschwitz, which has come back to mind for three different reasons.

One is that Bullet visited the camp in the last few days and I’m looking forward to seeing him again when he gets back from his travels because I want to hear what he thought of the experience.

The second is that I’ve had five years to reflect on that visit and try to make sense of what went on in those hellish industrial-murder camps of Auschwitz, Belzec, Sobibor, Majdanek and Treblinka.

And the third is that, going through some of my photo collection, I came across an image I took in a Krakow hotel that exemplifies for me precisely what the old central European elegance meant.  It was taken in what used to be the old Jewish quarter of Krakow before the brutes of the SS marched in and ejected the people who used to live there.

Krakow Dining Room

The day after taking this picture, I went to visit Auschwitz, about 20 miles west of Krakow, and there I took very different pictures.

Many years ago, I found myself in London, bored and in need of mental stimulation, so I signed up for a course in German.  I don’t know why, but it seemed more attractive than Spanish and besides, I already had some grasp of French, however shaky.  It was Whitechapel, in the East End of London, and your average Eastender had little interest in learning German when there were other courses on offer.  Motor maintenance.  Plumbing.  Flower-arranging, even.  Photography.  And that’s why I found myself alone in a class, the only student of a native German speaker, Mr Henry Glanz, a Polish Jew from Danzig / Gdansk, whose parents were murdered in Auschwitz and who had been evacuated as a young child in the Kindertransport.

I can’t say I was the best student he ever had but I did manage to obtain a half-decent grasp of conversational German, though it  has withered over the years from lack of use.  I also gained something far more precious: an insight into why extreme thinking is such an abomination, and a great respect for Mr Henry Glanz, who was an immensely cultured and modest East End Jew with an enormous intellect and a vast understanding of European history.  He taught me far more than my few words of German.

I promised myself that one day I’d do honour to the memory of those who gave Mr Henry Glanz life and civilisation, though to my shame, I never made the same promise to Henry himself.  That’s a pity because I know he’d have appreciated it.

Fast forward to 2008 when a bunch of us landed in Krakow.  Because it’s the 21st century, we carry an overlay of all the images and factoids that have been thrown at us, and therefore we know, or think we know, all manner of things.  We think we know that this is where Oskar Schindler, who might also be Liam Neeson, had his factory.  We know that this is a city just like many others in Europe, where the Nazis rounded up Jews to be exterminated in the nearby death factory at Oswiecim, or Auschwitz as the Germans renamed it.

podgorze-jewish-ghetto-wall-krakow_2

The area of Kazimierz, just north of the Vistula, is where the Jews lived from the 14th century until the brutes of the SS rounded them up 600 years later and exterminated them like vermin.  Herding them into the Podgórze ghetto across the river , they surrounded the open-air prison with a concrete wall in the shape of Jewish tombstones.  On the 20th March, 1941, the Nazis barricaded 18,000 Jews into this tiny space, less than one-tenth of a square mile in area, before gradually emptying the ghetto of its prisoners, either murdering them in the street or at Auschwitz and other camps.

As we looked at that wall, parts of which still survive, I found myself trying to imagine what sort of mindset could devise such an obscene visual joke.

I failed.

Sometimes, the human imagination is defeated, and as we walked among the houses once occupied by Jews, all I could think about was the effort it took to construct these pre-cast concrete wall slabs shaped like tombstones.  Why surround a Jewish ghetto with such things when a plain concrete wall would have been far cheaper?

The answer is simple: it was sadism.

If ever there was a tangible monument to insanity, irrationality  and cruelty, it was these appalling walls.

In the public square at Podgórze , the people of Krakow have placed an art piece intended to evoke the shocking brutality of the Germans against the Jews of the city.  It consists of chairs, thrown around as the furniture of the people was in the 1940s when the thugs dragged the people from their homes, but for me it seemed a bit tame.  I found it a little bland, but maybe that’s just me.  It needs to be more chaotic.  More disordered.  Brutal.

Krakow chairs 001

By 1952, of those Jews who survived the death camps, few remained in Krakow.   Most had left by then to escape anti-Jewish attacks by their predominantly Catholic fellow Poles.

krakow jews evictions

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Oswiecim train station_resize-2

Oswiecim is a modest town of 40,000 people with little to distinguish it.  In contrast to the ancient medieval charm of Krakow, it has the drab, downtrodden, mass-produced feel of any post-Soviet dormitory town.  The Czechs have a word for it: Panelák

When you arrive at the railway station, there’s no indication that you have arrived at the heart of darkness, which perhaps is understandable for a place whose name in German has become synonymous with evil, but still, we were surprised that there wasn’t a single sign, brochure or indication of the remotest kind that this was the place where the Nazis’ most notorious extermination camp was established.

If you don’t know where to go, you’ll need to stop somebody in the street and ask with sign language how to find Auschwitz, which proves almost as bizarre as the conversation in the Krakow train station when buying a ticket.  Do you want a one-way or a return? asks the clerk, and we do a little double-take.  What?

Auschwitz surroundings 001-3

Walk down the street directly across the road from the railway station.  Pass row after row of apartment blocks, and eventually you’ll come to a mixed small industrial area.  There’s the guy who changes tyres.  There’s the exhaust-replacement shop.  That’s the concentration camp, and over there is the place where you can get your diesel injectors fixed.

Wait.

What?

Go back.

Yep.  It’s about as stark as that.  The infamous concentration camp is located in a nondescript suburb in a small Polish dormitory town.  That guy up there in his apartment might get up tomorrow morning and as he shaves, look out his  window at Auschwitz.

z Auschwitz Museum Oswiecim Poland

Of course, Auschwitz isn’t just one camp.  It’s three.

This is the first one, built by the banks of the Sola River, on the site of an old Polish army artillery barracks.

About two or three miles north-west is Birkenau, or Auschwitz II, the place where the Nazis set up an industrial-scale death factory, one of several in Poland, to carry out Aktion Reinhard, the systematic murder of all Jews.  And about three miles north-east is Monowice, where Auschwitz III, Monowitz, supplied slave labour for IG Farben.

IG Farben is beyond doubt the really important link in this mesh of lies, criminality, greed and madness.  The giant manufacturing conglomerate provided the means by which the Nazis were able to wage war, producing synthetic rubber, fuels, explosives and assorted chemicals including the notorious Zyklon B insecticide, which was used to murder prisoners in the death camp gas chambers throughout Europe.

Without IG Farben, Hitler simply would not have been able to prosecute the war.  It supplied his forces with nearly everything they needed, to the extent that the company and the State almost merged into each other.  It never attempted restitution to any of its its slaves, and yet many of its personnel convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg went on to assume senior positions in German business, though of course, it wasn’t alone in its crimes of slavery.

Household names like BMW, Opel, Bayer, Krupp and Volkswagen all used slaves from the death camps, not to mention Austrian firms such as Puch and Steyr.

There are Trans-Atlantic ripples too.  Exposure of IG Farben’s connections with Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, exposed in 1941, should have led to an investigation but this was  shelved due to America’s entry to the conflict.  In Dora-Mittelbau,  20,000 Jewish slave labourers died to support the rocketry efforts of Wernher Von Braun, who later became the darling of the US space program.  The good SS Sturmbannführer Dr Baron Wernher Magnus Maximilian von Braun went on to become Vice President of Fairchild Industries and a director of Daimler-Benz, a company that happily used Jewish slave labour from Majdanek and Mauthausen-Gusen.  General Motors somehow magically severed its connections with Opel from 1939 until 1945 yet regained control of its subsidiary right after the war.  It even contrived to get $30 million in compensation from the US government for the loss of a factory bombed by the US airforce.

IG Farben chose the Monowice location for a number of reasons:  good access to coal-mines, availability of limestone, suitable geology, proximity to the Polish railway system which sat at the hub of European communications, but mostly because the Auschwitz concentration camp was so convenient.  They built their factory on land from which the Polish population had been expelled and they housed their executives in homes formerly owned by the Jews who were now dying in the camps.   They knew it.  They knew the SS were killing people on the factory grounds.  They knew about the beatings because their engineers witnessed them every day and sent reports back to HQ.  Indeed, when prisoners became too weak to work, they insisted on replacements, in the full knowledge that the rejects would be murdered.

Their argument was a cold economic one: why should we house such slow workers in barracks that cost us so much money to build?

That’s where comprehension breaks down.  Brutes commit murder because murder is what brutes do, but it’s when supposedly civilised, sophisticated, educated human beings display such callous disregard for human life that the spirit recoils.

Auschwitz I, the original camp, sits on a site far smaller than the the vast Birkenau complex a few miles away, but it retains every bit as much menace.

IMG_6489_resize-2

Noted worldwide for their black humour, and already chuckling at the grim wit of the gravestone walls around the ghetto, how the Jews must have laughed as they read the sign over the gate: Arbeit Macht Frei.  Little did they realise how free they’d become as they slaved in the IG Farben factory, just up the road.

Mengele AuschwitzThis was the place where the young doctor, Josef Mengele, conducted his experiments on prisoners in a building so shameful, even to the SS, that they felt it necessary to shutter the windows, for fear people would hear the screams of suffering.   This is where they had a torture block, with cells in the basement into which prisoners were crammed with no space to sit or lie, so that they all had to remain standing for days on end.  In the same block are the suffocation cells with windows so tiny they don’t admit enough air to sustain life and where the SS sometimes lit a candle, to eat up whatever oxygen was available, the quicker to extinguish a prisoner’s life with maximum suffering.

Auschwitz Mengele block

It must have been quite a feeling for SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudold Höss to be appointed Kommandant of this camp at the age of 40.   Under this devoted family-man’s control, it was a strange, strange place, where savagery and humanity became one and the same thing.  All the time he was caring for his children in the commandant’s house, he was also finding ways to improve on the mass-killing methods at Treblinka and found ways to keep the prisoners calm until the very last minute.  He found new ways to murder people, but at the same time, he was happy enough with traditional methods and with torture.  He had no difficulty with random murders in the street, random beatings and arbitrary attacks for no reason.

L-R Dr Josef Mengele, Rudolf Höss, Josef Kramer, commandant Birkenau

L-R Dr Josef Mengele, Rudolf Höss, Josef Kramer, commandant Birkenau

Less than two hundred yards from his children’s bedrooms, between Mengele’s block and the torture block is a yard where SS guards used to machine-gun prisoners against the killing wall.  Estimates vary but it seems that about 25,000 human beings were murdered in this very spot, by other human beings.  And it’s said that eventually, the practice was ended, because the murderers were losing their minds as the body-piles grew higher and they found themselves wading up to their ankles in blood.

Note that it wasn’t for the well-being of the prisoners that this practice ended, but because the killers were suffering.

Arthur Liebehenschel took over from the barbaric Rudolf Höss as camp commandant at the end of 1943 and was horrifiedLiebehenschel,_Arthur by the savagery of the place.  He immediately closed the torture chambers, the standing cells and the suffocation rooms.   He put an end to the machine-gunnings and the random beatings, and yet he continued to order shootings of prisoners trying to escape and he continued to send slaves to IG Farben.

It’s true that by the time Liebehenschel arrived at the camp (as a punishment, reportedly, for leaving his wife, a thing Himmler didn’t approve of,  and for becoming involved with a woman who had Jewish friends),  Birkenau was now under a separate commandant, Josef Kramer, the so-called Beast of Belsen, and the gas chamber in the old camp had ceased operation.  Liebehenschel  didn’t send prisoners to the industrial death camp a short distance to the West, but he still tolerated the activities of Mengele and his fellow doctors in the camp and he still presided over a piece of the Nazi death machine.

One way or another, the slightly less brutal regime ended abruptly when Höss returned and Liebehenschel was sent to take over the Majdanek death camp.

His conflicted feelings didn’t do Liebehenschel much good.  After his capture by the Americans and conviction in the Krakow Auschwitz trials he was summarily hanged in 1948.

Rudolf Höss, meanwhile, was back in Auschwitz to do a specific job: murdering all the Hungarian Jews, a task for which he was well suited given his utter lack of human empathy, his logical appproach to any task he was given and his technical grasp of the techniques necessary to murder large numbers of people and dispose of their bodies.  He killed 400,000 of them, by his own estimate.  And yet, behind all the logic and the detachment, there’s an element of utter irrationality.  Höss returned on the 8th May, 1944, when it was obvious to all but the most obtuse that the war was lost.  And yet, instead of expending valuable resources on defending their homeland, consolidating their defences and withdrawing to strong positions, the Germans were still devoting scarce resources, manpower and money on a campaign of murder and extermination that provided no conceivable gain and was guaranteed to come back and haunt them.

Why?  I don’t know if anyone will ever begin to explain such madness.

What did young Mengele think as he stood here, surveying the new arrivals?  He was only 32 when he arrived at the death camp.  Did he ever imagine, during his Horst Fischermedical training, that his principal activity would be murder?  How about Horst Fischer, another young doctor, who arrived in Auschwitz at the age of 31 and also took part in the selection of new arrivals.

You are strong enough to work, so you live.

You are old.  You die.

You are sick. You die.

You are a child.  You die.

What did Fischer’s young wife think of this?  Did they hope for children of their own?

They hanged Höss here, fifty paces from the house he occupied as commandant.  If his children had still been there, they could easily have seen the spot from their bedroom windows, just as they could see the crematorium beside it.

Rudolf Höss  gallows Auschwitz

It doesn’t seem to have bothered him too much.  Contemporary accounts suggest that he went calmly to his death without showing distress or empathy for his victims.

Rudolf Höss execution Auschwitz

It’s a scary, strange place and it fits in with all the images we’ve absorbed over the years, from movies and from novels, but yet, we’re only scratching the surface, because the thing that makes this place so sinister is not the brutality.  It’s not the mass murder.  It’s not the savagery.  These are things we see all the time in every corner of the world.

What makes Auschwitz, and by extension all the other Nazi murder camps, so terrifying, is the fact that the people running them were able to switch from being monsters to being perfectly normal people doing a job and leading a life, without a single thought for the poor souls they imprisoned, tortured and murdered.

I’ve said this many times before and I won’t stop saying it.  There’s no point dismissing the Nazis as monsters, because we expect monsters to do monstrous things.  What’s much more horrifying is when small, banal, boring workaday people carry out monstrous acts.

When dog-lovers like Karl Hoecker can ignore the fact that they are part of a mass-killing machine.

 

When camp staff can socialise and sing and celebrate after a day wading through the blood of their fellow human beings.

Auschwitz camp staff

 

What does it mean?

To me, it means that no one human being can comprehend it.

To my way of thinking, it means we all have this darkness in us, to one degree or another.  It means that condemnation isn’t enough because, even though retribution might satisfy some primitive atavistic urge deep inside the amygdala fish-brain that twitches at the core of our central nervous system demanding revenge, that’s all it achieves.  It scratches an itch inherited from some primitive slime-dwelling creature before it evolved a thinking brain.

If we wish to confront this darkest of urges, we need to do more than condemn.  We need to do more than shoot and hang people, and I say this as someone who enjoys the thought as much as the next man.  We all love the idea of catching the bad guy and giving him his come-uppance, but where does it get us?

Anyone who lives a reasonable length of time on this planet will know by now that revenge is the most futile, self-defeating urge there is.  Revenge works only in the imagination and in the movies.

The world was rightly horrified by the images coming out of Auschwitz, of Majdanek, Treblinka, Buchenwald and all the countless other places of obscenity inflicted on Europe by the Germans in WWII, but yet barbarity seems to be hard-wired into the human psyche.  After all, it didn’t end with the Nazis and it’s not a numbers game.  Stalin systematically killed more people than Hitler.  Pol Pot engineered the most horrible genocide on his own people.  The Ustasha and Bosnian Muslims, allies of the Nazis, inflicted unimaginable suffering on the Jews and the Serbs of Croatia.  The Serbs in return visited the same horrors on the Bosnian Muslims and Croats in the 1990s.  The Hutus in Rwanda slaughtered half a million Tutsi in a few months but nobody in Europe cared because they were all black.

There’s no end to it.

What happened when those Jews who survived the Polish murder camps went back to try and regain their homes?  Many of them were murdered by their Catholic Polish neighbours who now lived in those same homes.  What an appalling irony.

Have I achieved a deeper understanding of what happened in that place, after five years of contemplation?  I’m not sure I have, but I’m more conscious that injustice begets injustice.  The surviving European Jews, those who fought like lions and who were filled with the spirit of Nie Wieder, fled to a land designated as holy and I’m sorry to say that they started the whole process all over again.

Does anyone ever learn?  Are we condemned always to this?

Auschwitz

 

 

Auschwitz Birkenau

 

 

Auschwitz Birkenau

 

 

Auschwitz gas chamber

 

 

Auschwitz

  34 Responses to “Old Europe, Old Civilisation and Old Savagery”

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  1.  

    You write: ‘To my way of thinking, it means we all have this darkness in us, to one degree or another.’ Absolutely. Deliver us from [the] evil [parts of ourselves]. The more one peers at the inner workings of the psyche, the more nasty things one sees. If not, one is not looking hard enough.

  2.  

    Very thought provoking piece Bock.
    I remember getting a text message from you during your visit to Auschwitz and I recall the “One way or return ticket” remark. My reply, was a very facetious ‘Are the wagons comfortable”! and for that, I must apologize. I completely overlooked the savagery that took place in Auschwitz and the other death camps like it. Tact, is not one of my strong points. I also recall, your expression of bewilderment at what you were seeing and for once it seemed, you were at a loss for words.
    I suspect, some of us are capable of murder against someone who has caused us some form of grief, but, to participate in the murder of people completely unknown to us, including women and children, because of some warped belief, just boggles the mind.
    Propaganda, appears to have been the primary weapon used to get the Nazi machine in motion, and it’s probably still in use to this day worldwide.

  3.  

    Thanks Mr Brock. Most informative. I posted something in last weekend’s Weekly Photo Challenge that might interest you:

    http://michealdebarra.com/2013/08/02/weekly-photo-challenge-foreshadow-sachenhausen-concentration-camp-germany-arbeit-macht-frei/

  4.  

    The biggest hope is, that there are still people around who simply can’t comprehend any cynical or other atrocity at all. Who don’t have the imagination to conflict such torture on anyone, be it their fellow human being, be it their fellow animal being, full stop.

    I have a photograph of my maternal grandfather in his Wehrmacht uniform back in the 1940s in his native Lithuania – yes, the Baltic States were very much German and very much Nazi, then. A family photograph, him proudly smiling amidst his wife and children, among them my late beautiful mother as a girl.

    This photo is one of my most disturbing and yet weirdly precious visual possessions.

    You know, I remember this very grandfather as a kind and understanding and very down-to-earth grandad, who was always on my side when I had a tantrum about this and that. He was then a good man in my mind – until I learned all about what happened in the past and that my grandparents were probably involved.
    (They never talked about it, which was indication enough).

    It is, as Hannah Arendt’s famous book describes, ‘The Banality of Evil’.

    The banality lies in the need to fit in. You only see what you are told to see. (Think about it at least about your own recent history)
    My former mother in law grew up in then Silesia beside a concentration camp. She swore she never knew and only found out after the war. Hard to believe, though she was a very young girl and was never the sharpest anyway.

    On the other hand, when a whole people was brainwashed and happily so after a lot of humiliation and hardship; when a downtrodden nation, once proud of their cultural achievements, suddenly get’s the chance to feel superior again by killing everything and everyone they deem privileged in every way – there was probably no stopping them to fall for the promise of being on top of the world again.

    I didn’t know about the tombstone walls around the Ghetto. Thanks for that information. It’s sick.

    But what wasn’t sick about the treatment of the European Jews and other outcasts…
    The Nazis really tried to outperform each other with ‘playful’ inventions.
    I like to see it like that, that perverted politics attracts perverts.
    And there is a little pervert in each of us, if we dig deep enough.

    Just look at modern internet comments, where self-righteous and often mindless people describe all the torture they would afflict on people they consider as deserving of such like treatment, and sometimes just venture their violent and quite inventive revenge on anyone they don’t like – without even thinking. And then imagine someone who transfers their imaginations into reality. How many would jump up?

    Of course we say that’s just talk. But it always starts in the mind, with talk.

    I’d like to say that we Germans know all about ‘just talk’ turning into action in the worst ever way. But I’m not so sure about it.

    When in doubt I look at that old photograph of my grandfather’s family and remind myself that people’s minds and people’s perceptions are very complicated indeed.

    I wish I would have met my paternal grandfather. He was a Jew and disappeared and was never talked about in the family.

    But I’ve met people like your Henry Glanz a lot, all over Europe: educated, intelligent and full of all that what made Europe great.

  5.  

    People are strange that’s for sure and mindfulness a rare commodity.
    We do mindlessness quite well.

  6.  

    Isn’t it amazing though, that there are people still alive today living in Israel to remember this, and all of their offspring that have heard all about these horror stories, indeed this whole event that has shaped a large part of their identity today AND YET they treat the Plestinians they way they do…..funny lot

  7.  

    Excellent article Bock – thanks

  8.  

    Great piece.

  9.  

    Here is something most Irish will not know.Cork woman, Mary Elmes is the first Irish person to be awarded the title of “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Matryrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Israel. Mary helped organize “children’s colonies” and succeeded in saving a great number of Jewish children from the Nazis including Ronald Friend, who is now professor emeritus of psychology at Stony Brook, New York. A story of what she did needs to be told, He was arrested by the Gestapo in France and survived and save many Jewish children in France. She passed away in 2002.

  10.  

    Here is something most Irish will not know.Cork woman, Mary Elmes is the first Irish person to be awarded the title of “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Matryrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Israel. Mary helped organize “children’s colonies” and succeeded in saving a great number of Jewish children from the Nazis including Ronald Friend, who is now professor emeritus of psychology at Stony Brook, New York. A story of what she did needs to be told, He was arrested by the Gestapo in France but managed to survive. She died in 2002.

  11.  

    I too was there about 5 years ago and it had the same effect on me, it scared me to think that the general population could turn a blind eye to this and let it happen. We are a barbaric race, it is just below the surface, there is no other animal on this planet that would this to their on kind and it still goes on today

  12.  

    Thank God we live in more enlightened times now where people are free to paractise their religious beliefs around the world without fear.

  13.  

    Plenty of Irish fought for the US army against the Native American Indians. Considering that most would have been forced into emigration by British rule and/or famine it seems strange that they would choose to oppress others.
    The Draft Riots in New York in 1863 were lead by Irishmen protesting against the potential freedom of Black Slaves and thus competition for jobs.

  14.  

    Mark: #12: “Thank God we live in more enlightened times now where people are free to paractise their religious beliefs around the world without fear.”

    I’m not sure about that. So-called religious wars are still raging all over the world. Only the official Western propaganda improved since then. Nowadays it’s the Muslims who are the “evil race”.

    I truly believe by now that the US-American establishment is the new Nazi-State.

    Hello, NSA? Have a good read?

  15.  

    I was wondering who would realise that my post was dripping with sarcasm !!
    Wello done Carrig.
    To be honest I find that the monolopy the jewish race seems to have on being perscuted somewhat wearing, Yes I know all about the holocust and it was beyond awful,
    but in the early 90s we all stood back and watched ethnic cleansing take place in Europe.
    where is the memorial for that event

  16.  

    Mark, the Nazi extermination campaign went far beyond ethnic cleansing. It was a deliberate attempt to wipe various groups of people from the face of the earth.

  17.  

    As did the US so called Indian Wars.

  18.  

    Indeed.

  19.  

    ….and in Aus , Tasmania in particular .

  20.  

    Mark, sorry I didn’t see your sarcasm. I don’t follow all your postings, so I don’t know you, but I lost by now so much faith in the thinking abilities of the world at large and people as such that I took you at face value.
    And your kind of sarcasm wasn’t that obvious to me. Try again.

    The extermination of other people(s) for usually invented and self-serving reasons is indeed not new (the so-called and not existing ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq anyone?).
    But the killing of the Jews in Germany and Austria and other Nazi-occupied countries is truly unique in history, as Bock pointed out.
    It is not about the numbers or the killing as such, it’s about the organised and industrial proceedings to do so, without even needing an excuse.

  21.  

    It seems to me that of the countries that participated in the Nazi campaign, including Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Finland, Romania, Italy, Vichy France, Croatia, Slovakia, the only one that has properly confronted its past is Germany. All the others remain in denial.

  22.  

    Well, yes, that seems so. As you know I am German and so used to that German guilt that I sometimes can’t see beyond our own mindset.

    But it’s for all and sundry so easy to blame the source of that evil which is indeed Germany/Austria.

    All the other countries you named above claimed after the war – to put it simply – that they were just forced to comply or to avoid bigger atrocities or whatever. But still happily participating.
    It’s nice to be a ‘victim’ in history and not being forced to do some soul-searching.

    Which might be even more dangerous because they don’t recognize their own inherent fashist traits. Hence no reason to fight against it.

    As it happened in the GDR: The communist government refused to acknowledge that they were the same Germans who were part of the old Nazi-regime. But after the reunification they had and still have the most neo-nazis, emerging finally out of decades of denial.

    As it happens in Hungary which turns out to be the most reactionary, xenophobic and fashist nation in Europe I now of, so far.

  23.  

    68 years is a very short time, and Germany / Austria needs to keep remembering what sprang out of it because if it happens again we will all be destroyed.

    However, in addition, the other countries that took part in those acts need to engage realistically with the obscenity of Nazism and Fascism. So far they have failed to do so and this is where the real threat lies.

  24.  

    They’re not the only EU applicants that need to do some soul searching

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide

  25.  

    The Turks are in complete denial.

  26.  

    But they won’t. Never being blamed apparently means never feeling guilty and being forced to look at their own connection to their Nazi-past and -traits.

    And maybe there is some truth in that old chestnut of German angst and guilt for whatever. My home country was a major player or rather initiator involved in two world wars, after all.

    So it’s hard to forget for us, especially as the media, museums, memorials and simply everything reminds of the German role in history.
    An of course, as long as Monty Python don’t mention the war …

    68 years is indeed historically a very short time, but for a couple of generations quite long. And the guilt is still ingrained in the third and probably the fourth generation. I can’t imagine otherwise for my own sanity.

    But believe me, the old fascist monster is only sleeping. Following the German news and by the odd experiences I’ve had when visiting the old sod, it’s important to remind the world and especially Germany over and over again about the consequences of Fascism.

    So do mention the war.

  27.  

    Germany was not the initiator of the first world war. That conflict was one of the greatest follies in history and should never have happened.

    Despite the barbarity of WWI, which derived among other things from a French desire for revenge after the Franco-Prussian war, the Treaty of Versailles terms were savagely harsh and led directly to the rise of Hitler. We must make sure those conditions never arise again.

    By the way, France’s historic alliance with Serbia manifested itself again most disgracefully in recent years with Philippe Morillon’s abandonment of the people in Srebrenica.

  28.  

    Whilst I fully agree in relation to all the other countries you mention, I think Finland’s involvement in the what they call the ‘Continuation War’ had a certain justifications. Finland was never an Axis Power, simply a co-belligerent.

    Yes, Finland did commence full-scale engagements against Soviet Union three days after the commencement of Operation Barbarossa. But this attack’s sole objective was the regaining of the territories wrested from them by the Soviet Union from them in 1940 after the Winter War.

    Much to the annoyance of Hitler, the Finns refused to press home their advantage (only advancing to their 1939 borders) and refused to join in the Siege of Leningrad.

    Finland’s small Jewish population went largely unmolested throughout the war and when eight Jews were handed over to the Gestapo, the public outcry was loud and angry, no further such actions occurred thereafter.

    Finland was never a member of the Axis Powers and remained a constitutional democracy throughout the war. So, they simply took advantage of Hitler’s war of aggression to recover the lost territories.

    Why the need for soul-searching there?

  29.  

    You make a fair point there.

    As a matter of interest, who handed over the eight Jews and on what basis did they do so?

  30.  

    Not certain Bock bur I recall reading that it was most likely authorised at a lower level officials (ranking police officers I think), and made under duress causing a snap decision to be made.

  31.  

    I should add that the Jews in question were refugees and not Finish citizens.

  32.  

    Never met an intelligent fachist in my life, they are all over the place, they
    hate everyone and everything they cannot understand.

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