lunes, 20 de octubre de 2014

The Pink Triangle and the BA connection

The British Cemetery at the Chacarita cemetery in Buenos Aires holds the tombstone of a man named Carl Peter Vaernet. The name alone does not catch the attention of visitors, but truth is Vaernet was a notorious SS doctor of Danish origin who, in 1942, joined the Nazi ranks as a scientists conducting experiments leading to a long-sought Nazi dream: eternal youth.

But Vaernet’s biological experiments soon led to hormone treatment for the “cure” of another “illness” threatening the very existence of a pure German race: the existence of homosexual men who would not hold the heterosexual pattern of reproduction. This is where Vaernet extreme theories, never proved but tried on homosexual prisoners at Nazi concentration camps and who bore the infamous Pink Triangle mark as a sign of their “deviant” sexual orientation, began to take shape in the form of monstruous procedures — biological and surgical — to “cure” homosexuality and reorient the patients toward “normal” heterosexual behaviour.
Although the history of the Nazi holocaust perpetrated against Jews until their annihilation to attain a “pure” Arian race is well documented and rightly brought to the present through memorials and history books, articles and movies, very little is actually known about the fate of homosexual victims of the Nazi holocaust, imprisoned and segregated from the rest of prisoners just on account of their “abnormal” sexual orientation, drive and behaviour.
When commenting on Nazi biological experiments with purification and the supposed eventual triumph and predominance of the superior Arian race, the name of the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele, who, like many other Nazis, fled to secure, protective havens in South America, immediately comes to mind. With the protection of a network of former SS members, Mengele sailed to Argentine in 1949, living in and around Buenos Aires and eventually fleeing to Paraguay in 1959 and Brazil in 1960. Sought by West German, Israeli and Nazi hunters such as Simon Wiesenthal, Mengele eluded justice until his accidental death while swimming off the Brazilian coast in 1979.
Less known but equally prominent in the SS quest for a perfect arian race is Vaernet, a physicist of Danish origin who claimed to be able to bring a “solution” to the Nazi preoccupation with the “high percentage” of male homosexuals in the German population. The solution to the homosexual was not extermination but rather finding a cure for this “illness” so that reproduction and the triumph of the perfect race could be achieved.
In the Nuremberg trials conducted between 1945 and 1949 prosecuting the perpetrators of the Nazi horrors, including high-ranking military officers, doctors, lawyers, and industrialists indicted on charges of crimes against peace and against humanity, no mention was made of crimes against homosexuals. According to Nuremberg records, many of the known SS doctors, who had performed biological and surgical procedures on homosexual prisoners, were never brought to account for their heinous actions. Moreover, homosexuals, clearly victims of human rights violations, continued to be incarcerated for their sexual conduct, which was considered illegal and liable to criminal prosecution, and were not mentioned as “Pink Triangle” inmates at the Buchenwald and Neuengamme camps. Vaernet, one of the most notorious physicians to blame for masterminding and performing such experiments, was never tried for his crimes and escaped to South America thanks to a political safeconduct.
Continuing his “homosexual cure” for homosexual conversion to heterosexuality in the posh BA neighbourhood of Palermo, Vaernet practiced for some 20 years before his death as a free man in 1965.
Already shown in the city of Rosario and other venues, El Triángulo Rosa — Y la cura Nazi para la Homosexualidad was formatted as the story of an investigator who unearths the Health Ministry’s contract to conduct research, the results of which remain unsolved to this day. The film unveils the PI’s search for traces of Vaernet’s life and work in Buenos Aires, making an effort to understand his personality and all the while exploring the public opinion and diverse political moves restricting or handling homosexuality over the last 100 years, based on the expose revealed in the book Carl Vaernet: Der Dänische SS-Artz Im Kz Buchenwald, by H Davidsen-Nielsen; N Hoiby; N Danielsen; J Rubin; et al.
As the PI investigates the real-case stories of Argentine patients taken to Vaernet’s office for cure through his hormone injection method, the documentary unexpectedly wraps up with a direct reference to the historic approval of the same-sex marriage bill in Argentina, which set a precedent for other countries where the LGBT community seeks egalitarian treament of their rights.
“You don’t always go searching around for stories, sometimes they come to you,” says co-director Nacho Steinberg. “In this case, I was always interested in the subject of WWII. I was never able to understand nor accept such a disaster, so much human imbecility at the service of weapons, conquest and hegemonic madness. The dead, the genocide, the lack of sense (of it all) hurt. After dealing with Holocaust in a stage plays, a historian friend, moved by the piece, suggested that I write a story about Carl Vaernet, the Danish doctor who sought refuge in Argentina,” Steinberg continues. “It was a revelatory story, unknown, concealed and that eventually did not come to prominence because, until very recently, the world shared this notion that homosexuality is an illness.

jueves, 16 de octubre de 2014

Excavation of gas chamber at Nazi Sobibor concentration camp completed

With the assistance of supporters, archaeologists Yoram Haimi from Israel and Wojciech Mazurek from Poland have excavated the remains of the gas chamber at the Nazi Sobibor concentration camp near Lublin, near the eastern Polish border, as Spiegel Online reported on September 23.
In a clearing near the old Sobibor train station, one can see the newly discovered finds and remains of the walls. It includes the remains of an estimated four gas chambers, each 5 by 7 metres, which served as death chambers for between 70 and 100 people. Haimi and Mazurek hope that their findings will make the Nazi crimes at Sobibor more comprehensible. The Nazis destroyed the concentration camp 71 years ago, after SS officers and their allies had murdered between 170,000 and 250,000 people, mostly defenceless Jews and Roma.
The Sobibor, Belzec and Treblinka concentration camps were designed to carry out the systematic extermination of Jews and Roma living in the “General Government,” which was composed of those parts of Ukraine and Poland occupied by the Wehrmacht. Jews from the Netherlands, Germany and other states were also murdered there.
From the outset, the concentration camps were purely extermination camps. Only a small number of the people sent there were employed in forced labour. Most were driven directly from the goods wagons to the gas chambers.
In the three camps, between July 1942 and October 1943, at least 1.7 million Jews and 50,000 Roma were killed, more than in Auschwitz-Birkenau, which became the synonym for industrial mass murder. The implementation of the mass murder, code-named “Operation Rheinhardt,” was tasked to the SS and the police chief in Lublin, Odilo Globocnik, by SS leader Heinrich Himmler.
According to Spiegel Online, the Nazis ensured that no trace was left of Operation Rheinhardt. In the midst of the war, the war criminals, following the extermination of the Jews, sought to methodically eliminate all remaining traces of them. Between November 1942 and December 1943 they exhumed bodies, killed almost all remaining residents of the three concentration camps in eastern Poland, and burnt all of the remains of bodies.
Plans and documents referring to the camps were also destroyed, as well as the buildings. The grounds were flattened, forests planted and farms established. As few traces as possible of the monstrous crimes planned and carried out within the framework of Operation Rheinhardt were to be left.
Only very few people survived the three concentration camps. On October 14, 1943, 50 prisoners launched an uprising and broke out from Sobibor and survived the remainder of the ongoing war. In Treblinka, where 800,000 people were murdered, only around 60 survived. In Belzec, more than 430,000 were killed and only eight survived.
The excavations were initiated by the Israeli archaeologist Yoram Haimi, who came as a visitor to Sobibor in April 2007 to pay tribute to his two uncles who died there. “At that time the museum was closed,” he said. “There were monuments to see, but nothing that showed where and how the murders were carried out.”
He decided he would look for the remains of Sobibor himself and in the Polish archaeologist Wojciech Mazurek he founded an equally engaged partner for the project. Together they fought to obtain the necessary financing and authorisations from the authorities.
Already in 2010, next to the square with the monument, the archaeologists discovered remains of security barriers. One year later, they discovered the so-called “route to heaven,” along which the new arrivals were driven to the gas chambers. “It was quite clear to us that the gas chambers would be at the end,” Haimi told Spiegel Online.
But at first they could go no further. The memorial faced closure. Due to a lack of money, the visitors’ centres had to be temporarily closed. Then the foundation for Polish-German reconciliation and the Majdanik State Museum took over responsibility for the grounds.
Haimi and Mazurek continued their excavation and found remains from barriers, barracks, crematoriums, as well as skeletons. The Rabbi of Warsaw gave them authorisation to remove the tarmac from the suspected site of the mass grave.
On September 8 this year, the archaeologists discovered remains of walls of red brick. Everything pointed to the conclusion that they were standing on the remains of the gas chamber. The area was between the “route to heaven,” the crematorium and the remains of a barracks of the “special commando unit,” as well as a water hole. Experts from Auschwitz confirmed the find.
The discovery was of “the greatest importance for Holocaust research,” said David Silberklang, historian at the Yad Washem memorial in Jerusalem. He expected that it would become possible to provide a more accurate estimate of the victims, and know more precisely about how the murders had taken place.
Traces of Jewish life were also found during the excavations at Sobibor, such as an earring with the engraving, “see, you are dear to me,” and a metal plaque with the date of the birth of the then six-year-old Lea Judith de la Penha from Amsterdam. As a result of this find, a television crew from the Netherlands are to film a documentary about the story of the child and her family. At least some of the victims of Sobibor will thereby be recognised.
Eighty-four-year-old Philip Bialowitz, one of the few living survivors from Sobibor, responded with satisfaction to the excavation finds. As a youth, he had belonged to the group of conspirators who planned the Sobibor uprising of October 14, 1943.
He was able to escape and was taken in and concealed along with his brother by a Polish farmer until the Red Army arrived. He had spent his life travelling the world, “because I swore that I would tell my story to young people as long as I am able. What happened back then should never be forgotten.”
Another survivor of the Sobibor camp, and participant in the 1943 uprising, was Thomas Blatt. He turned his recollections of the period into a book titled, “Sobibor, the forgotten uprising.”
Both Philip Bialowitz and Thomas Blatt appeared as witnesses and joint plaintiffs in January 2010 during the trial of SS helper John Demjanjuk in Munich. They described the terrible experiences they had as forced labourers in Sobibor.
The historian of Munich’s Institute of Contemporary History, Dieter Pohl, presented a report to the court. He described the establishment of the National Socialists’ system for exterminating Jews in the areas of Eastern Europe occupied by the Nazis, and the emergence of the extermination camps, including Sobibor. Since May 1942, Jews from throughout Europe had been systematically murdered in this camp in Poland, Pohl told the court. “The sole aim was murder.” The leadership of the camp was composed of 25 to 30 SS soldiers, while the dirty work was carried out by 100-120 so-called Trawnicki guards, Demjanjuk among them.
Although the trial of Demjanjuk shed light on the crimes of National Socialism, it left many decisive questions unanswered. Dumjanjuk died shortly after his conviction in May 2011, before the sentence of five years imprisonment for assisting in the murder of 28,000 Jews in Sobibor went into force.
A major problem in the trial of Demjanjuk was that most of those chiefly responsible for the Nazi crimes and those who assisted them were never brought before the courts in post-war Germany. Many of those responsible in the judiciary, intelligence services and police continued to be active in the federal republic without interruption, and without being held to account for their actions.
In the 1960s and 1970s, only half of the SS men prosecuted in the Sobibor trials were convicted. The camp’s chief at the time received a life-long custodial sentence, and the others imprisonment of between three and eight years.

martes, 23 de septiembre de 2014

Should We Continue to Prosecute Nazi War Criminals?

The recent conviction of a 93-year-old Auschwitz guard reignited a debate about prosecuting the remaining few Nazi war criminals. Most observers call for a no-holds-barred hunt for the Holocaust perpetrators who have evaded justice for decades, but others point to their old age, legal issues and difficulty in proving the crimes, arguing that after nearly 80 years, the pursuit should come to a conclusion.
In the most recent case, German prosecutors charged Oskar Gröning, a former SS member, with at least 300,000 counts of accessory to murder while he was stationed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Mr. Gröning, known as the “accountant of Auschwitz,” collected money from the luggage of newly arrived prisoners, which he would then turn over to the SS headquarters in Berlin, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Gröning case is among 30 others, all against former Auschwitz-Birkenau guards, a result of a wide investigative push announced by German war-crime prosecutors in April. Whether they will be put on the stand depends on the investigation’s results and on the health of the accused.
The precedent for the latest action came in 2011 with the conviction in a German court of John Demjanjuk, a former Sobibor death camp guard, who was found guilty on charges of accessory to murder. Being a guard with no direct involvement in the killings, the court ruled, was sufficient reason for conviction.
“My personal opinion is that in view of the monstrosity of these crimes, one owes it to the survivors and the victims not to simply say ‘a certain time has passed, it should be swept under the carpet,’” Kurt Schrimm, the special prosecutor who is leading the renewed effort to bring the Nazi criminals to justice, told Der Spiegel last year.
Thomas Walter represents 20 Auschwitz victims and their families in the case. He said that it’s the victims’ last chance “to bring justice to one of the SS men who had a part in the murder of their closest relatives.” He added that many of them are among the last survivors of the infamous camp.
But some experts point to legal issues related to the Demjanjuk precedent.
Christoph Safferling, a criminal law professor at the Philipps University of Marburg, told The Wall Street Journal that the case “brought a loosening of established law practice” because the crime lies in having worked as a guard and not a specific act directly involving the accused in the killings.
Others argue, however, that the definition of a crime should be broadened in the case of the Holocaust. For now, according to German law, “just participating in the Holocaust doesn’t count,” the law professor Ingo Müller told The Guardian. And that, he says, is a historical failure, as past efforts to convict SS members have failed precisely because of this narrow legal basis.
“We can’t just let it stand that the German judiciary says participating in the Holocaust is not a crime,” Mr. Müller says. “If two or three more people were to be convicted — they don’t actually have to go to prison, they can stay in their old people’s homes — it would have a symbolic effect.”
This debate comes as part of a continuing discussion about prosecuting the aging participants in the Holocaust.  
The advanced age of the often frail suspects has brought forth sympathy among some in Germany, raising questions of whether it is just to pursue prosecutions now after having let them live out so many years in peace,” Melissa Eddy writes for The New York Times.  But the general sentiment in the country, Ms. Eddy writes, is that Nazi crimes are “better pursued late than never.”
Outside of Germany, the most vocal advocate for prosecuting Nazi crimes is Efraim Zuroff, known as the world’s last “Nazi hunter.”
Mr. Zuroff called the Gröning charges “very good news” and told The Jerusalem Post that “it is unfortunate that this proactive approach has only been applied so many years after the end of World War II.”
In a 2012 op-ed for CNN, Mr. Zuroff emphasizes that the passage of time does not diminish Nazi criminals’ guilt. “They are just as guilty today as the day they committed their crime — and they do not deserve a prize for eluding justice for so long.”
He also says that hunting down Holocaust perpetrators is a warning and a lesson. “It has to be crystal-clear that persons who commit such crimes will almost certainly be caught and punished,” Mr. Zuroff says. He adds that it’s also an important component of the fight against Holocaust denial.
In her profile of Mr. Zuroff for Foreign Policy magazine, Katie Engelhart cites several experts who disagree with the famous Nazi hunter. The historian Michael Marrus told Ms. Engelhart that he is concerned that the proceedings aim to “close the chapter” of history, which should not be the role of any court.
Guy Walters, the author of “Hunting Evil,” told Foreign Policy that part of the problem with the hunt for Nazis is that “it becomes a very bipolar moral universe.” He worries that the story that emerges from the trials shows that everyone engaged in Germany’s World War II machine is a war criminal, regardless of individual circumstances.
Mr. Gröning has defended himself in that vein in the past. He said that calling him an “accomplice” would be “almost too much,” and described his role as “a small cog in the gears” in a 2005 Der Spiegel interview. “If you can describe that as guilt, then I am guilty, but not voluntarily. Legally speaking, I am innocent.”
The question remains — should these people, “cogs” or not, be brought to justice?

miércoles, 3 de septiembre de 2014

Disabled victims of Nazi gas chambers to be commemorated with Berlin memorial

 Hundreds of thousands of people were deemed unfit to live by the murderous policies of Adolf Hitler and condemned to die.

More than 300,000 disabled people who were murdered by the Nazis are to be honoured with a memorial due to open this week in Berlin.
It will be the fourth and probably final major memorial to Adolf Hitler’s victims built in or near Berlin's central Tiergarten park, following sites dedicated over the last decade to Jews, gays and Roma slaughtered in the Holocaust.
"The murder of tens of thousands of patients and residents of care homes was the first systematic mass crime of the National Socialist regime," said Uwe Neumaerker, director of the memorial foundation.
"It is considered a forerunner of the extermination of European Jews."
The site next to the city's world-renowned Philharmonie concert hall will commemorate the fates of people like Benjamin Traub, a German schizophrenic who was admitted to a psychiatric hospital near the Dutch border in 1931.
Nine years later, with Hitler at the height of his power, he was selected for transfer nearly 300 kilometres (190 miles) away to a Nazi "intermediate facility" in the western state of Hesse.
In 1941, he was taken to a clinic nearby in the town of Hadamar which had been transformed into a factory of death. There, immediately after his arrival, Traub was sent to a gas chamber and murdered with carbon monoxide.
Between January 1940 and August 1941 doctors systematically gassed more than 70,000 people - the physically and mentally handicapped, those with learning disabilities, and people branded social "misfits" - at six sites across the German empire.
In an elegant villa at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin, more than 60 Nazi bureaucrats and like-minded doctors worked in secret under the "T4" programme to organise the mass murder of sanatorium and psychiatric hospital patients deemed unworthy to live.
From August 1941 until the war's end in 1945, tens of thousands more died through forced starvation, neglect or fatal doses of painkillers such as morphine administered by purported caregivers.
The German parliament voted in November 2011 to erect a memorial to the victims of the Nazis' cynically labelled "euthanasia" programme where the villa once stood.

miércoles, 20 de agosto de 2014

Expérience, subjectivité et mémoire chez les SS (Experience, subjectivity and memory with the SS)

domingo, 3 de agosto de 2014

Major Josef Hell interviewed Adolf Hitler on Anti-semitism in 1922 (Text in English, Spanish and German)

The retired Major Josef Hell was a journalist in the twenties and in the beginning of the thirties, during which time he also collaborated with Dr. Fritz Gerlich, the editor of the weekly newspaper Der gerade Weg, as cited in Fleming, Gerald, p. 28-29.

Josef Hell,  "When I now broached the question of what the source of his so strongly felt hatred for the Jews was, and why he wanted to destroy this so undeniably intelligent race - a race to which the Germans and all other Aryans, if not the entire world, owed an incalculable debt in virtually all fields of art and knowledge, research and economics - Hitler suddenly calmed down and gave this unexpectedly sober and almost dispassionate explanation:"
"It is manifestly clear and has been proven in practice and by the facts of all revolutions that a struggle for ideals, for improvements of any kind whatsoever, absolutely must be supplemented with a struggle against some social class or caste.

"My object is to create first-rate revolutionary upheavals, regardless of what methods and means I have to use in the process. Earlier revolutions were directed either against the peasants, or the nobility and the clergy, or against dynasties and their network of vassals, but in no case has revolution succeeded without the presence of a lightning rod that could conduct and channel the odium of the general masses.

"With this very thing in mind I scanned the revolutionary events of history and put the question to myself against which racial element in Germany can I unleash my propaganda of hate with the greatest prospects of success? I had to find the right kind of victim, and especially one against whom the struggle would make sense, materially speaking. I can assure you that I examined every possible and thinkable solution to this problem, and, weighing every imaginable factor, I came to the conclusion that a campaign against the Jews would be as popular as it would be successful."

Source: Institut für Zeitgeschichte, IfZ ZS 640

Text in Spanish

Hitler concede una entrevista al Mayor Josef Hell –periodista de los años veinte y principio de los treinta y colaborador del Dr. Fritz Gerlich, editor del semanario Der gerade Weg, donde explica la razón de su antisemitismo.

“Es evidente y se ha probado en la práctica por los hechos de todas las revoluciones que la lucha por ideales, por mejoramientos de cualquier clase, debe ir acompañada indiscutiblemente por una lucha contra alguna clase social o casta.

Mi objetivo es crear un primer porcentaje de levantamientos revolucionarios, independientemente de los métodos y medios que se utilicen en el proceso. Las revoluciones anteriores fueron dirigidas tanto contra los campesinos, la nobleza y el clero, o contra las dinastías y su red de vasallos, pero en ningún caso la revolución tuvo éxito sin la presencia de un pararrayos que pudiese conducir y canalizar el odio de las masas.

Recordando esto, escudriñé los hechos revolucionarios de la historia y me pregunté, ¿contra qué elemento racial podía desatar en Alemania mi propaganda de odio con la mayor perspectiva de éxito? Tuve que encontrar la víctima ideal, y especialmente una contra quien la lucha tuviese sentido, materialmente hablando. Puedo asegurar que examiné toda posible y concebible solución a este problema, y, sopesando cada factor imaginable, llegué a la conclusión de que una campaña contra los judíos sería tan popular como exitosa”.[1]

[1] Texto original facilitado por el Institut für Zeitgeschichte, ZS 640. 

Original Text in German

“Es ist klar und hat sich bei allen Revolutionen durch die Praxis und die Tatsachen erwiesen, daß ein Kampf für Ideale, für Verbesserungen irgendwelcher Art unbedingt ergänzt werden muss durch den Kampf gegen irgendeine Gesellschatsklasse oder Kaste.

Bei früheren Revolutionen –meine Ziele sind revolutionäre Umwandlungen 1.Klasse, gleichgültig, welche Methoden und Wege ich dabei beschreite- ging der Kampf bald gegen die Bauern, bald gegen den Adel oder die Geistlichkeit, gegen Fürstenhäuser und deren viel verzweigte Gefolgschaft, aber keine der Revolutionen ist jemals ohne eine solchen Blitzableiter, durch den die Hassgefühle der breiten Massen abgeleitet werden, ausgekommen.

Gerade daraufhin habe ich die revolutionären Vorgänge in der Weltgeschichte nachgeprüft und mir dann die Frage vorgelegt: Gegen welchen Volksteil in Deutschland kann ich mit der grössten Aussicht auf Erfolg meine Hasspropaganda einsetzen? Gefunde musste ein solches Opfer werden und zwar eines, gegen das der Kampf auch materiell lohnte. Ich kann Ihnen die Versicherung geben, ich habe alle überhaupt denkbaren und möglichen Lösungen dieses Problems geprüft und auf Grund aller in Frage kommenden Faktoren bin ich zu dem Ergebnis gekommen, daß ein Kampf gegen die Juden ebenso populär wie erfolgreich sein würde”.

jueves, 31 de julio de 2014

Le Visage Outragé (The Insulted Face)