Friday, November 24, 2006

Some news items, fresh and old

(with thanks to Rick Halperin)

Deported Holocaust Denier Goes On Trial

by TJ Reporter - Thursday 16th of November 2006
The trial of a man accused of being one of the world’s foremost Holocaust deniers began this week in Germany.

Germar Rudolf, 42, appeared in court in Mannheim on Tuesday following his deportation from the United States last year.
(Read the rest here.)

(HC Note: Rudolf didn't appear as a witness at Irving's trial (which was in 2000, not 1998.)

Millions Of Nazi Docs Opened To Public
The 21-year-old Russian sat before a clerk of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate's office, describing the furnaces at Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp where he had been a prisoner until a few weeks previously.

“I saw with my own eyes how thousands of Jews were gassed daily and thrown by the hundreds into pits where Jews were burning,” he said.

“I saw how little children were killed with sticks and thrown into the fire,” he continued. Blood flowed in gutters, and “Jews were thrown in and died there”; more were taken off trucks and cast alive into the flames.
(Read the rest here.)

It seems there will be quite a few interesting testimonies in this archive, and it is hardly a consolation for deniers.

For some it is a Holocaust industry:
Profiting from the Holocaust
If lawyers ever wonder, in a rare moment of introspection, why they are generally held in low esteem, they need look no further than the obscene fee application pending before a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Burt Neuborne, the court-appointed lead settlement counsel in a class action brought on behalf of Holocaust survivors against Swiss banks, has turned himself into the poster boy for avaricious attorneys. He demands $4.75 million for his role in administering the $1.25-billion settlement and determining distribution of the money.
(Read the rest here.)

Holocaust survivor wants her paintings removed from Auschwitz
Dina Babbitt once made a deal with Josef Mengele, the notorious Nazi doctor who subjected concentration-camp prisoners to horrendous medical experiments.

He needed someone to illustrate his perverse racial theories with portraits of Auschwitz's Gypsy prisoners, an inferior group according to Nazi ideology. A trained artist, she agreed to do the work as the price of saving her mother, as well as herself, from the concentration camp's gas chamber.

As things turned out, Babbitt, her mother and the portraits survived. She eventually settled in northern California, while seven of her paintings wound up in a museum at Auschwitz dedicated to preserving a historical record of the Holocaust.

Ever since discovering in 1973 that they were there, Babbitt has tried to get them back. Museum officials have steadfastly stonewalled her request, once invoking the legal principle of work for hire — the concept that the patron, not the artist, holds the rights to a commissioned work of art.
(Read the rest here.)

There's been lots of news about Babbitt. Here's the Museum's response, with which it is hard to disagree. Items and documents of historical value should stay in museums, period.

Auschwitz renovation sparks concern
A proposal to renovate the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp is drawing criticism from Holocaust survivors in Israel, who fear modernization will disturb the camp's original state and the somber memorial to those who suffered and died there.

The renovations, proposed last month by Piotr Cywinski, 34, the new director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, call for updating five exhibits housed in former prisoner barracks, and establishing a new education center to modernize the message of the memorial for younger generations.

Cywinski added that preserving original artifacts, including hair samples and personal belongings that were stripped from prisoners, is also a high priority.

Holocaust survivors in Israel, however, are worried that the renovations could make the camp seem more like a museum and less like the site where nearly 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, were slaughtered by the Nazis during World War II.

"We have a lot of museums. We have a lot of places where we talk about the Holocaust, but Auschwitz is the original place where it happened," said Noach Flug, president of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel. "You must have the feeling as it was then, the smell and the look. It is important not to change."


"It is a symbolic place and therefore it is important that the gas chambers and the crematoriums and the blocs and all the hairs and the shoes, all these thing should be in the original form," said Flug. "It should be as it was."
(The full article is here).

Flug's criticism is misplaced. Updating exhibits is not even an "option", it is a necessity. It is also necessary to remove or update the memorial plaques with "1,5 million" death toll, which are incorrect (the death toll is closer to 1 million) and which have thus become an easy target for deniers.

Besides, the crucial parts of Auschwitz and Birkenau - the crematoria - will never be in their "original state", since Krema I in the main camp is a reconstruction by the Soviets, and Birkenau crematoria are but ruins. So what all the fuss is about?


Roman Werpachowski said...

Is it just my incorrect impression that Mr Flug would like to see the area of Auschwitz-Birkenau taken from under Polish administration and turned over to him?

Joachim Neander said...

I fully agree with Sergey, and I'm afraid that Roman is near to the truth. All Holocaust and concentration camp memorial sites that do not want to degenerate into mere "horror cabinets," must present the history of these places in a way that can be understood by people who did not live through the Third Reich and World War II. Don't let us forget that for today's young people who visit these places, as high school or university students, the Nazi years are psychologically as far away as the Thirty Years War or the Swedish "Inundation" of Poland. What is more, the memorial sites have more and more visitors who are the offspring neither of victims, nor of perpetrators, nor of bystanders of Nazi crimes. I think e.g. of the growing share of youth with immigrant background in Germany, or of the steadily increasing number of visitors from Japan and Korea at Auschwitz. They cannot be reached by evoking guilt, shame, or sorrow with regard to their ancestors.

On the one hand, I can understand the Jewish point of view: Auschwitz is the largest (virtual) Jewish cemetery and a major place for collective Jewish mourning. On the other hand, if mankind shall learn their lessons from the Holocaust experience - and that is the reason why Jewish community leaders and politicians insist that Holocaust remembrance and education is made obligatory in all nations of the world, see e.g. the UN resolution of January 24, 2005 - then Auschwitz must be open toward the world as a whole and cannot be narrowly restricted to the the Jewish cause.

"It has happened. And that means, it can happen again," Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi reminded us. Auschwitz as the authentic place of the greatest crime in documented history has a unique duty in Holocaust education, not only for Jewish people, and it can fulfill this task only, if it adapts its presentation to the way today's - young - people are used to take in information. Therefore I wholeheartedly back the way the Museum has begun to go.