It’s an indisputable fact that following World War II, many not just Nazis but Nazis who could conceivably be called war criminals were recruited by the West particularly the United States to help in the cold war effort.
Spymaster Reinhard Gelen who was an intimate of Adolph Hitler’s became a main intelligence asset after WWII. The brutal way the CIA treated the peoples of other countries who chose to stand up to their own US backed authoritarian governments is I believe a direct descendant of the Nazi influence . In addition, he used the power he’d been given to help many other Nazis escape justice.
Joachim Peiper who masterminded massacres in Russia and Italy as well as the massacre in Malmendy, France of 80 US POWS served ten years in jail and then rose to assume a major role within Porsche until public outcry forced him to step down
Kurt Blome was accused of experimenting on prisoners and also taking part in euthanasia. He was hired by the US Army Chemical Corp to work on chemical warfare following WWII.
, and Werner Von Braun, inventor of the V2 rocket and clearly linked to the Nazi use of slave labor, was given safe haven in the US and helped with the space program. Tom Lehrer once sung about Braun
Some have harsh words for this man of renown
But some think our attitude should be one of gratitude
Like the widows and cripples in old London town
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun
I don’t necessarily think two wrongs make a right but I want to bring this up when discussing the case of John Demjanjuk who passed away the other day.
The tale of John Demjanjuk was not one of justice long delayed but rather instead a tale of prosecutorial misconduct, blind vengeance, mistaken identity, and the double standards I mentioned above.
To recap, Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian who was captured by the Nazis while fighting with the Red Army during WWII. After being held for awhile, he was retrained as a guard (common for Russian POW's at the time)and spent time at several concentration camps including Trawnicki and Sobibor. After the war he immigrated to the US where he raised a family and lived quietly until 1977 when his citizenship was revoked following an Immigration and Naturalization department investigation that concluded he had lied on his original immigration application about his past.
In 1986, he was extradited to Israel to face trial for being Ivan the Terrible a war criminal from the Treblinka concentration camp. He was convicted and sentenced to death but this was overturned on appeal when it was shown that there was no way Demjanjuk could have been Ivan the Terrible and in fact another man had already been identified by the Soviets as Ivan.
So Demjanjuk was sent back to the US where he became the victim of a vengeful bureaucracy who hate to see their divine judgment overturned. They went after him with great zeal but in the end all they could find out was what they knew at the beginning - he had been a guard at several concentration camps.
Again, the US stripped of his citizenship and finally Germany agreed to prosecute the ill, 80 years old + Demjanjuk. Their rationale here was that during Demjanjuk’s time at the Sobibor camp it was an extermination camp only not a concentration camp so even though there is no actual evidence Demjanjuk committed any atrocities, just by being there he is guilty.
This is a very tenuous argument. Technically, everybody’s guilty in that case. What about when the United States commits atrocities against the citizens of a country it invades? Who is ultimately guilty? The soldier who commits the crime, the commanding officer, even the politicians who vote to fund these wars and what about the people in a democracy? They vote for the governments that start these wars so aren’t they also guilty?
I remain convinced that John Demjanjuk was not guilty of anything except fighting to stay alive after being captured by his country’s enemy during wartime and of winning against an out of control INS department (the real villain here). His case became a cause célèbre for those eager to dredge up Nazism in a time when it is going to be increasingly harder due to old age and health to find any Boogeymen so as not to talk about the war criminals of today-the Neoconservatives . Let’s talk instead about the real crimes that are going on in the world now in Palestine and other places.