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Denial and guilt
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-02-06 10:17:46
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It’s like the postman who always knocks twice the way news surrounding the Nazi era hit this last week. I never lived that era, born long after, but my father had very vivid memories since he was a young man during WWII and, of course, other members of the family lived during the war and the Nazi occupation in Greece.

The stories these people told me were not exactly the stories you would like to hear or I presume you would like to tell so it was very rare any of them said any and often they tried to finish the story quickly avoiding my curiosity saying that these were hard times nobody wants to remember or live again. During WWII nearly a million Greeks lost their lives, a lot from starvation since the occupation army was stealing all the food and sending it to the Nazi army leaving the local population literally starving to death. Photos from that period are apocalyptic to how far human cruelty can go and how low levels humanity reached during these years.

The Greek-Jewish community, especially in Salonika, suffered a lot and this is a very kind way to describe the truth, trains full travelled through Yugoslavia and Bulgaria to Dachau and Auschwitz-Birkenau with very few of them finding their way to return home alive, the stories that came with these people are just beyond any logic. I know, where I grew up in Athens we had a neighbour survivor of Auschwitz. Believe it or not until the end of his life the man was feeling guilty because he survived, so hard was the trauma of the experience.  He said very little about it but somehow you didn’t need him to do so, a look at his face and the stories that had already been part of the world’s history was enough to see the unbelievable pain and sorrow.

The Greeks who followed the train's way to Dachau and Auschwitz were not only the Greek-Jews; there were gypsies, Communists and getting closer to the end of the world everybody who opposed them, including the people who joined the resistance, politicians and clerics of the Greek Orthodox Church. There were indeed priests who saw the real face of evil and opposed it going to the mountains joining the partisans of the resistance or helping in the cities the ones who looked for a shelter and in many cases the role of some priests proved heroic and admirable. But as I said before a lot of them followed to rail-road to Auschwitz without return with very few to return and talk about their experiences.

Their experience had a lot of death, gas chambers, torture and executions and there is no doubt for the truth behind their stories. Actually one of them later became the leader of a political party with critical personal involvement in the Modern Greek political history and even though he was very rarely referring to these stories you could feel the pain he carried from the experience. And this was Greece, one of the many European countries that suffered dramatically during the WWII and one of the many countries that lost a part of its population in these gas champers, in these camps out of hell.

These stories are not legends or myths created to emphasize the need of a nation or to explain a phenomenon but historical facts and what makes them more painful is not that there are written stories or films about these camps but that there are living witnesses, there are people who saw them, who lived with the smell of the dead bodies and again if that is not enough a visit to Auschwitz is enough to make you feel embarrassed that these people called themselves humans. As I said I born after the WWII but the stories, these very few stories my father told me they were so horrifying that I know that the people who did that were able for any kind of crime and then the eyes and the face of my neighbour, old Abraham will be in my mind all my life like a stamp of the truth his eyes seen. Finally in early eighties I visited Auschwitz, the place has often haunted my dreams and what I saw was a disserted monument to human monstrosity, empty buildings and yes the gas chambers to remind me all my compatriots who died in there.

No, I cannot understand how somebody can say nowadays with all this proof that gas chambers never existed and that there were victims but not so many as history says and yes I agree with the hunt of the Nazi war criminals sixty years after because all these millions of souls need rest and prove that there is justice in this world. In general I think I am a person with a lot of tolerance but no I cannot accept that; I cannot accept that a man dares offend so badly so many dead people because that’s what happened with the British Bishop Richard Williamson actually in cases like that I believe that these people regarding their position in the society have another often personal agenda and they use democracy’s tolerance to promote these agendas and that makes them dangerous, because I saw Abraham’s eyes but my daughter will have only the written stories to believe.

The case of the ‘death-doctor’ Aribert Heim is part of all the above, the death-doctor just like Josef Mengele and the Butcher of Lyon are part of the prove to what happened in those concentration camps and yes justice doesn’t mean eye for eye but that they must stand and face their crimes in front of the world. Coming to Bishop Richard Williamson with his denial he is nothing else than a partner to these crimes even with sixty years difference and the Vatican should examine his real motives which hopefully have nothing to do with the church.

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Emanuel Paparella2009-02-06 14:08:39
Indeed, the Vatican is presently examining his motives and the present Pope has already declared that he had no prior knowledge of bishop Williamson’s misguided views before reinstating him to communion to Rome. That explains why such a state of affairs came about. Bishop Williamson till a few weeks ago was not in communion with Rome. He was one of the four renegade bishops ordained by bishop Lefebvre, a schismatic ultra right French bishop who broke from Rome over Vatican II. Indeed, better vetting should have been done by the Vatican before reinstating clerics who wish to re-write history to make it conform to their particular ideological biases.

In more general terms, Tony Judt has it on target in his voluminous book Europe after 1945 where he coins the word “misremembering,” by which he means that erecting monuments to the Holocaust, and museums and all kinds of commemorations, is merely a way of assuaging our guilty consciences and moving on while at the same time neglecting to reflect on the lessons of the monstrosity the holocaust is; a monstrosity that happened barely 60 years ago in one of the most culturally advanced nations of Europe; a monstrosity that makes even the inquisition look bland by comparison. Indeed, less “misremembering” and more remembering is greatly needed. Elie Wiesel never tires of pointing out that the lessons of the Holocaust have not been learned and therefore the possibility, even probability, remains that such a sorry history will eventually be repeated.

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-06 15:48:04
P.S. This is the latest official declaration on the matter as of two days ago: "Williamson, in order to be admitted to the episcopal functions of the Church, must in an absolutely unequivocal and public way distance himself from his positions regarding the Shoah [Holocaust]," the Vatican said in a statement. These views were "absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father."

AP2009-02-07 00:12:18
Newspaper headlines, the day before yesterday:
"Nazi Death Angel Created the Capital of Twins in Brazil
(with a photo of dozens of twins and the subtitle: World Capital of the Twins)

In the South of the country (Rio Grande do Sul region) there is a city with an almost entirely Aryan population. Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor also known as «Death Angel» is responsible for the high incidence of twin births in a small city in the South of Brazil. The revelation was made recently by the Argentinian historian Jorge Caramasa.
The fugitive doctor used to be described by the locals as an "educated and respected" man. Mengele arrived there saying that he was a veterinary, but afterwards he offered medical treatment and assistance to many women, giving them strange medicines and asking them for blood samples, the inhabitants say.
Josef Mengele had been given by Adolf Hitler the task of artificially rising the birth rate of the Aryan race in the Nazi Germany. In 1945 Mengele escaped from Germany due to the Russian Red Army's threat and went to South America. According to Jorge Caramasa (the author of "Mengele: the Death Angel in South America"), during the sixties the main responsible for Nazi eugenics lived in the city of Cândido Godoi, where he continued his experiments and tried to create a superior Aryan race, with blond hair and blue eyes. For many years, scientists were puzzled when trying to explain how was it possible that twins had resulted from one in every five pregnancies in this city, when the normal average of twin births is one in every eighty-five pregnancies! And, even more peculiar: most of the city's twins are blond and have blue eyes.
The answer - Caramasa, an expert in the Nazis' escape to South America in the period just after WWII, says - is in Mengele's experiments. "The city of Cândido Godoi was Mengele's laboratory, the place where he finally tried to fulfill his dreams of creating a superior race of Aryans" - Caramasa said to the British newspaper "Telegraph". "There are witnesses describing the fact that he made appointments with many women, followed and assisted their pregnancies, and treated them with new types of medicines. Back then, he talked about artificial insemination in human beings, kept working with animals at the same time, and is quoted affirming that he was able to make cows give birth exclusively to breeds of male twins".
The Nazi Mengele died in 1979 in São Paulo's state, he drowned accidentaly or had a heart attack while sea swimming."

The inevitable question is: until when will we keep dumping our trash in South America??

AP2009-02-07 00:22:44
errata - accidentally

AP2009-02-07 00:50:38
And the second question in my mind is: are the people/institutions who helped Mengele to escape going to assume their responsibilities and pay a compensation to the population of this entire city? It would be at least fair, I would say...

AP2009-02-07 00:55:58
Who knows what kind of aberrations (and sons/daughters of whom??) he produced...

AP2009-02-07 02:02:34
"Mengele's laboratory"??! For f... sake, no one deserves to be that! That's more like a genetic crime!!

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-07 07:39:07

The above link will tell a slightly different story about the involvement and collaboration of the Catholic Church with Nazism as at least implied in the Mengele reporting. The whole story needs to be told, not half truths and cherry picked facts. Telling half truths or cherry picked events is a sure sign that an agenda is at work. When an agenda is at work or an axe is being ground, truth is not served, merely the agenda.

AP2009-02-07 16:30:26
"as at least implied in the Mengele reporting"
Excuse me? "Implied in the Mengele reporting"? The only thing implied in this story is itself. Anyone mentioned the Catholic church but yourself? I mentioned a genetic crime and responsibility by the people who helped him to escape. You know who they were?

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-07 16:50:00
Ms. Pereira, I assume you have read the balancing link with its article by Thomas Mc Govern on the protest against Nazism by Cardinal Von Galen of Munster. I will answer your question when you answer this one: do you know who the persecutors of Cardinal Von Galen were?

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-07 16:57:15
If you google Mengele you will find plenty of half truths and cherry picked on the alleged collaboration of the Catholic Church with Nazism and the facilitation of the escape of criminals such as Mengele. Precious few on Cardinal Von Galen. That's what half-truths do. They establish false assumptions which are then reported as facts. The whole truth, Ms. Pereira would require that the story of Mengele's escape be reported with that of Cardinal Von Galen. Otherwise it remains a half truth.

AP2009-02-07 17:48:10
That's your agenda, nothing to do with my personal indignation with this genetic crime. We dump all sorts of trash in South America, and that's not fair. Maybe the brazilian secret services knew where Mengele was and are guilty too? I don't know. But whoever helped him to escape is responsible as well.

AP2009-02-07 18:02:32
I am more interested in the lives of these twins (now 29 to 50 year-olds) and their families than anything else.

AP2009-02-07 18:08:04
... and I think that's the only right way to approach the subject.

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-07 18:49:41
Fair enough Ms. Pereira. Correction well taken. In fact, you did not mention the Catholic Church, you simply mentioned people and institutions without specifying which people and which institutions. The fact remains however that the Catholic Church has been repeatedly and gratuitously accused of collaboration with Nazism and facilitating the escape of Nazi war criminals, and there may be some truth to that, but the whole truth needs to be told, and then we also have to acknowledge that it is not fair and balanced to make blank accusations of a whole wide-world institution that has been around for 2000 years or so and has greatly influenced the history to the Western World, for good or bad as the case may be, and leave it at that. The whole truth needs to be told as today’s article on modern journalism's cherry picking facts by Mr. McGill aptly points out. That is my concern, that was indeed the concern of a George Santayana, an atheist who nevertheless pointed out that not to understand the complexity of the Catholic Church is to understand precious little about Europe’s cultural identity and Western Civilization and what makes it tick. Admittedly that is a different concern from yours, but, I dare say, relevant neverthless and another way of looking at the matter, for, it seems to me that if the WHOLE truth is not told then we lose credibility even on the half truths. Perhaps we can agree on that much?

AP2009-02-07 19:47:00
Yes, it IS a different concern and only very peripherically related to this, objectively talking.

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-07 20:34:33
As the title of the article indicates, its primary concern was about guilt and denial and what I placed on the table, which seems to me is very much in sinc with it, is Tony Judt's concept of "misremembering" to which you answered with Mengele's eugenic experiments. I suppose both concerns have to do with guilt and denial, objectively speaking.

AP2009-02-09 16:39:42
I wasn't answering you, I was commenting Thanos' article, with news about further Nazi crimes (long after WWII).

AP2009-02-09 16:42:08
As a curiosity/tragedy which deserves to be known.

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