From her sonnet The New Colossus and inscribed on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of The Statue of Liberty, poetess and social activist Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) writes, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
It is unfortunate Miss Lazarus did not include an advisory that murderers of children, women and men need not apply.
The Alleged Perpetrators
“Oh leave them alone. They are tired, old men in their nineties whom you hope to denaturalize and deport from their country of adoption,” their defenders plead indignantly.
Invariably the same voices would speak up whenever the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) announced that it intended to open case files on specific individuals it suspected of Nazi war crimes primarily against Jewish civilians and thereafter entering The United States of America illegally by withholding such vital information from immigration officials.
Desperate to enter this country at a time when the winds of war had shifted in their favor and abetted by a State Department culture that favored Nazis over communists, these post-war refugees proved themselves rather adept in gaining entry into the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. Only years later would the truth about what they had done during the Second World War come to light.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave … “
“They have been good, industrious and law-abiding (naturalized) citizens. Besides, hasn’t the statute of limitations run out?” their defenders query disingenuously, fully aware there is no statute of limitations for murder.
Though prosecuting these suspected offenders is, I think without question, the only right thing to do, American law does not allow for their criminal prosecution because the crimes of which they have been accused did not take place on American soil.
Denaturalization leading to deportation over evidence of involvement in Nazi war crimes, however, is allowable and was the focus for many years of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) about which Allan Ryan, former director of OSI, authored Quiet Neighbors: Prosecuting Nazi War Criminals in America (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984).
We don’t hear much about the OSI and their investigations of war criminals these days because, like the Holocaust survivors whose numbers have dwindled due to aging and natural death, those suspected of war crimes who have managed to remain largely undetected all these years later, are also dying of natural causes. OSI’s raison d’être has nearly vanished.
As a result, it merged after 2010 with the Domestic Security Section to form a new unit of the Criminal Division: the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section.
Now among the survivors were many exemplary human beings who had only recently survived a churban (a catastrophe) unprecedented in the affairs of man.
When those who chose Palestine in which to resettle first set foot on the soil of the “promised land”, the world watched with amazement as these “walking skeletons” responded enthusiastically not only to the call to rebuild Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) but defend Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel) as well.
Other victim émigrés arrived in the United States preferring the Goldene Medinah (Yiddish, literally, The Golden State).
In Our Times When Time Is Running Out
While one can feel bad for the children and grandchildren of fathers and grandfathers accused of heinous crimes against humanity, let there be no doubt that we are referring to the nice little old man sitting in the park surrounded by his grandchildren. It was his own free will and actions that prevented countless numbers of human beings, Jews or non-Jews, from living and enjoying life in the same manner that he seems to have enjoyed.
Their defenders rely on the psychological incongruence of such ghastly crimes being committed by nice little old men who sit in the park bouncing their grandchildren on their knee.
“No way that old man could have committed these crimes,” the many incredulous assert and they are, in one sense, not wrong. The “old man” didn’t but the “young man” he was seventy years ago, did.
Hard to imagine? Try looking at it from this angle. What would you say if it became known that the elderly gentleman who lives on your block, gives your kids candy treats on Halloween and pats them on their heads as they walk to school is the same man who as a young member of the Ukrainian auxiliary police, aided invading Einsatzgruppen German soldiers in the collection and murder of thousands of Jewish children, women and men, young and old alike?
“Last Chance” hunt for Nazi war criminals to start in Germany
The above Chicago Tribune headline from several days ago really caught my attention. A wake up call to remind us there are offenders out there who’ve yet to face the bar of justice after nearly seventy years. Time is running out.
Think about that. Seventy years. A lifetime. Somebody else’s. Perhaps it belonged to one of the 1.5 million (1,500,000) children murdered at Auschwitz.
Ninety-three year old defendant Hans Lipschis, presently charged with having served as a guard in Auschwitz and participated in the “machinery of death”, may have had some hand in that grotesque enterprise.
Lipschis, whose case is pending, denies such involvement claiming he was a lowly cook and nothing more.
For whom he cooked, we do not know at present but if for the prisoners, he would have had plenty of extra time on his hands. After all, the recipe for soup at Auschwitz was to combine a fifty-five gałlon barrel of rancid water with one rotten turnip. Heat and serve.
Will Germany finish the job?
Only time will tell, but Kurt Schrimm, head of the Central Office of the Judicial Authorities for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes, said his purpose was not to put old men behind bars but to give the victims a sense that justice is being done, and to shed light on historical events.
The era of The Holocaust draws to an end, but its lessons and memories will never. And of all things, please do remember that back then, it wasn’t that there were no good people, just too damn few.