Thursday, December 21, 2006

How to Actually Read a Book and Embarrass a Holocaust Denier

Episode 17 of One Third of the Holocaust, "Belzec Chronicles," [You Tube version] begins with a treatment of SS-Oberscharfuhrer Josef Oberhauser, who was in charge of the building of Belzec. The Ugly Voice insinuates that there is something fishy in the fact that the sentence he received when tried in January 1965 in Munich was four-and-a-half years. The UV notes that Oberhauser had already gotten a fifteen-year sentence by a Soviet military tribunal (he was released in 1956).

Read more!

One of the rhetorical questions brought up by the UV in this section, by the way, is why it took West Germany twenty years to begin prosecuting death camps cases (not just the Reinhard(t) camps, as the UV says, but Auschwitz also). The answer is rather simple: The Cold War. Germany, as we all know, was partitioned after World War II, and East Germany became part of the Soviet bloc. Poland, where these camps had all been, was also in the Soviet bloc, and these nations sought to prosecute these criminals first and, in many cases, alone.

The "Khrushchev Thaw" after Stalin's death in 1953 allowed a great deal of information that had not been previously available to West German authorities to be released in 1958. Many of the defendants in these trials then had to be tracked down, and even once West Germany had the necessary information to try the war criminals, there were still jurisdictional disputes with East Germany, Poland, and the Soviet Union. In addition, there was the sluggishness of West German criminal justice in getting down to investigating and prosecuting Nazi homicides, pointed out in this article.

Incidentally, the UV reveals, especially in this clip, that he read what Arad wrote about the trials of former AR camp staff before West German courts. How, one wonders, does his awareness of these trials match with the fuss he made in Clip # 5 about the Nuremberg record of the AR camps amounting to only 20 minutes of supposedly unreliable testimony? (See the related article).

Back to the issue at hand: Why did Oberhauser only get four-and-a-half years at Munich? You can read about the Belzec trials in greater detail here, from which the following excerpt is taken:
To rebut the general defence proffered collectively by the defendants, the prosecution relied on one principle: that the defendants were guilty of collective participation, even though they had not acted as instigators. In principle, the one in charge who gives the orders (Wirth, Hering), is solely responsible. The one who carries out these orders must also share the responsibility if he knows the task in hand is unlawful. The jury disagreed. On 30 January 1964 the trial collapsed and all the defendants, with the exception of Oberhauser, were acquitted. The defence of "acting out of fear for life" was accepted by the court. (emphasis mine)
The emphasized passage shows that the court considered in the acquitted defendants’ favor that they had carried out their murderous activities in a situation of duress, subject to a fearsome superior’s authority. Even the only one of the defendants who was eventually sentenced for his activities at Belzec, Oberhauser, benefited from such considerations, as pointed out on the above-mentioned site:
One point, that came over very strongly during the trial and was corroborated by all the defendants to Oberhauser’s advantage, was that Wirth’s law and discipline was fearful with no way of challenge.
However, as the same source tells us, the claim of having acted out of fear of the terrible commandant Wirth was somewhat less than credible in the case of Oberhauser due to his close association with the commandant. This was why Oberhauser was not acquitted, though the court, as becomes apparent from the respective judgment, considered in Oberhauser’s favor that his contribution to the mass killing at Belzec by obtaining material for the gassing installation had been a comparatively insignificant one (!), that he had led an orderly life after the war, and that he had joined the SS at age 20, at a time when he was not yet able to realize that this formation would one day be used to commit mass crimes. Furthermore, the court considered in Oberhauser’s favor that he had been but a subordinate executor of orders and that long years of National Socialist indoctrination may have reduced his respect for the lives of others, especially such whom the state leadership proclaimed to be inferior.

These arguments invoked by the court in Oberhauser’s favor are somewhat less than convincing, but they are in keeping with a phenomenon that was already addressed in this article, i.e., the sometimes outrageous leniency of West German courts in sentencing participants in Nazi mass killings on account of their proven criminal deeds. Contrary to the ignorant speculations, based on wishful thinking alone, that the Ugly Voice and other “revisionists” indulge in, this leniency was not the result of any “deals” that defendants cut with the prosecution or the court, accepting to tell them what they supposedly wanted to hear in exchange for a light sentence, but came from a soft spot that West German judges, some of them with their own Nazi pasts themselves, tended to have for defendants who had “merely” carried out orders and not also murdered on their own initiative.

As mentioned in the same article, the light sentences often issued for participation in mass killing brought harsh criticism from scholars, prosecutors, and other entities in Germany or abroad. Now, what “revisionists” like the Ugly Voice would have us believe is that the criminal justice authorities of the German Federal Republic -– which, after all, is a constitutional state with criminal procedure laws aimed at protecting suspects and defendants against any arbitrariness, and with a judiciary independent of the other powers of state and subject to the law alone –- violated their legal duty to establish the truth and committed the crime of sentencing innocents for crimes they had not committed, in order to comply with the instructions of some sinister conspiracy or of a German government seeking to demonstrate such compliance, and that only to see their infamous “work” destroyed or at least diminished by their handling a great many Nazi killers with kid gloves. The absence of any evidence supporting it aside, this is a self-contradictory proposition without any connection to reality. But, then, so is “revisionism” as a whole.

The UV then segues indelicately to a treatment of the testimony of Rudolf Reder, who he claims to have been the sole survivor of Belzec who lived past 1946. He also asks why "no one else escaped". The UV shows his utter idiocy again. Arad has a whole sub-chapter in his book which is called "Escapes from Belzec" (pp. 264, 265). He mentions the escapes of Mina Astman, Malka Talenfeld, dentist Bachner, Rudolf Reder and Chaim Hirszman. UV shows this very sub-chapter in this part of his video.

Also, Carlo Mattogno in his Belzec book quotes M. Tregenza (p. 51):
At the end of 1945, only seven surviving Jews were known to have survived Belzec,[133] one of whom was murdered a year later at Lublin by Polish anti-Semites. Of these seven survivors, two – Rudolf Reder and Chaim Hirszman[134] – testified to the mass murder in court after the war. Only Rudolf Reder, the most famous survivor, published a brief account of his experience in Krakow in 1946.
Mattogno's footnote:
133 Rudolf Reder, Sara Beer, Hirsz Birder, Mordechai Bracht, Samuel Velser, Chaim Hirszman, and a Jew nicknamed “Szpilke.”
So much for "why no one else escaped" nonsense.

(A side note: when mentioning that Adalbert Rueckerl uses Reder in his book, the UV calls him a "Holocaust writer". Apparently, the Ugly Voice doesn't know that Rueckerl wasn't a mere "Holocaust writer", but the head of Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen zur Aufklärung nationalsozialistischer Verbrechen.)

Reder escaped from Belzec in November 1942, while on a day trip to Lvov to gather tin to bring back to the camp. The UV finds Reder's account unreliable based on several points:
  1. That a prisoner would go on a mission outside the camp in the first place.

    Why is this such a big deal? It's not as if people didn't know that Jews were being employed as slave laborers. This was not something that the SS attempted to hide.

  2. The SS were the elite forces of the German army. Why would four SS men be sent on such an errand? Why not send a regular soldier?

    As already pointed out in Roberto’s article about Clip # 1 and in Sergey’s article An Ugly Analysis, most of the murderers who staffed the Aktion Reinhard(t) camps were not members of the German armed forces at all. Most of them had been made available to Aktion Reinhard(t) by the German police or by the authority conducting Aktion T4, the Nazi "euthanasia" program of killing physically and/or mentally disabled patients of German sanatoria, the reason for this choice of staff probably being that these men had some experience in the institutional killing of helpless human beings on a large scale and/or were expected to be already inured to such killing. Oberhauser was one of the few who had actually seen combat duty as a member of the Waffen-SS, but in November 1939, as mentioned in his short biography available here, he had been detached to Aktion T4 and worked as a “burner” at the “euthanasia” killing centers Grafeneck, Brandenburg and Sonnenstein.

    So the answer is that those weren't "elite soldiers" who went with Reder. Why they went to load tin sheets is anyone's guess: perhaps the business was urgent and there weren't other available people, perhaps they themselves didn't load anything and went mainly for entertainment (Reder says that he was left alone with a guard while all the others "went for entertainment" - quite possibly, they went immediately after arriving in Lvov), or maybe they just thought that a little bit of physical exercise was good for their health.

  3. With five able-bodied men, was it necessary to bring Reder along, particularly when he was sixty-one years old?

    The question assumes that at sixty-one years old Reder would be weak or infirm, and this is obviously not necessarily so. So why bring Reder along? Perhaps there were no other available guards that day, and it was a six-man job. Perhaps the guards "trusted" Reder more than other prisoners for some reason unknown to us. Perhaps they figured an old man would be expendable. Or perhaps Reder was a strong and healthy man, despite his age, and he was chosen to aid in this job, again, despite his age. All of these are, at the very least, possible explanations for why Reder was brought along. Just because we may not know all the details, Reder's story doesn't become somehow absurd.

  4. How could a guard fall asleep?

    He had worked all day, he and Reder were not speaking, and it was nighttime. Figure it out.

  5. Why was Reder so concerned about pulling his hat down so no one would see his face?

    Actually, the whole bit about covering his face is the UV's interpolation. All Reder says is this: "I pulled my hat over my eyes; the streets were dark and nobody saw me" (qtd. in Arad, p. 265). And given that it was November in Poland, he'd probably have been wearing a coat over any prison uniform, if such uniforms were even issued in the Reinhard(t) camps, which by many accounts they were not.
So these probing questions by the UV are hardly as revealing as he'd like us to believe.

The UV returns to the Oberhauser clip from Shoah before talking about the camp boundaries. (By the way, am I supposed to be made to feel sorry for Oberhauser by these repeated clips from Shoah? Even if the UV were 100 percent correct -- and let's be abundantly clear that he isn't -- and no Jews were killed at Belzec, the man still willingly worked at a camp where Jews were wrongfully sent and he was still in the SS, an overtly anti-Semitic organization. Are we supposed to forget that, even if we have a complete psychotic break from reality and dismiss the murder charges against him?)

During his discussion about the camp's security the UV says the barrier was merely a barbed-wire fence. Again, he's lying or he hasn't read Arad's book, particularly Chapter 3, entitled "Belzec: Construction and Experiments." Here's what's in Arad's book about the barrier; the person speaking is a Polish prisoner, Stanislaw Kozak:
During the time that we Poles built the barracks the "Blacks" [Ukrainians] erected the fences of the extermination, which were made of dense barbed wire. (qtd. in Arad, p. 25).
A mere two pages later, we get more detail on the barrier: "It was surrounded by a high fence of wire netting, topped by barbed wire and camouflaged with netting" (p. 27). Why doesn't the UV tell us about this high fence, which would make simply lifting the barbed wire and letting a fellow escapee through rather impossible?

Two more quotes, this time from the above Web site on Belzec, tell us more about the barrier:
The entire camp occupied a relatively small, almost square area. Three sides measured 275 m; the fourth, south side measured 265 m. An adjoining timber yard was incorporated into the camp, which was itself surrounded by a double fence of chicken wire and barbed wire. The outer fence was camouflaged with tree branches. During the later reorganisation of the camp, the space between the two fences was filled with rolls of barbed wire. On the east side, another barrier was erected on a steep slope by the fixing of tree trunks to wooden planks. During the second phase of the camp's existence, a wooden fence was built along the side of the road at the foot of the steep eastern slope. A line of trees was planted between the western outer fence and the Lublin - Lviv railway line.
The decommissioning of Belzec commenced in Spring 1943. The elaborate system of fences and barriers, the barracks and gas chambers were all dismantled and items of use were taken to the KZ Majdanek. The entire area was then landscaped with firs and wild lupines. Wirth's house and the neighbouring SS building, which had been the property of the Polish Railway before the war, were not demolished.
Despite all this evidence that disproves the UV's lies, the UV sarcastically tells us that the "barbed-wire fence" had "tree brances woven into it." He points out that during Christmas, his Christmas tree gets dry and brittle. Well, at the AR camps they had the same problem, and at Treblinka they solved it by constantly replacing these tree branches woven into the barbed wire fence to prevent outside observation, as mentioned on p. 110 of Arad's book:
Since it was constantly necessary to replace dried-out branches with fresh ones, the camouflage work was continuous.

Although Arad only mentions Treblinka, it stands to reason that the SS wouldn't have allowed the tree branches on the fences drying out and thus losing their camouflage function at Belzec and Sobibor either. This argument has also been treated at length here.

One final point about this section: Before returning to the clip from Shoah, this time showing Oberhauser being confronted with a photo of Christian Wirth, we are told that the tin that Reder et al. were sent to fetch was "obscure." Has the UV seen his own film? He should look at Episode 24, or at least keep track of his lies as he goes along. In Episode 24, he cites p. 176 of Arad: "removing the remains of the charred bones from the grill and placing them on tin sheets" (emphasis mine).

Well, now we can make a reasonable guess about why they went to Lvov for tin, don't we?

And when the UV returns to Oberhauser for the last time, the UV asks, "Does this look like a man that would choose barbed wire with tree branches propped into it for security in a top-secret death camp?" Well, we know that this was not the complete composition of the barrier. But am I supposed to be able to look at a bartender and tell whether he's smart enough to built a sufficient barrier for a concentration camp? I have no freaking idea.

The final scene of this part of the film is a quote from Anton Spiess, a German State Prosecutor in the death camp cases, also from Shoah. Spiess says that Oberhauser was a driver for Odilo Globocnik, who was in charge of running the Reinhard(t) camps.

Let's take the quote at face value for a moment. Apparently, the UV is unaware that Globocnik is as important a figure in Holocaust historiography as he is, or else he wouldn't have included this clip -- twice in a row, I might add, presumably for emphasis -- without any comment as if to demonstrate that Oberhauser was an unimportant person. He was only unimportant if being the adjutant to the head of the whole Reinhard(t) operation (as the "literal" interpetation of Spiess' words entails) was insignificant. Here's a clue for the UV and his believers: it wasn't insignificant. I guess the UV would know Globocnik better if he'd read Arad's book. The man is mentioned on 40 separate pages of a 400-page book, or 10 percent of the text.

Of course, there is no reason to think that Oberhauser ever worked as Globocnik's driver. Probably, all Spiess meant by "former driver" was that he was Globocnik's driver during that specific trip to Treblinka in 1942 (we know that Oberhauser accompanied Globocnik on that trip, see Michael Tregenza's article "Christian Wirth. Inspekteur des SS-Sonderkommandos "Aktion Reinhard", Zeszyty Majdanka, vol. XV, 1993).

So much for your subtle, sarcastic hints, Mr. Ugly Voice.

Many thanks to Roberto for providing the all-important legal history in this piece.

No comments: