Wednesday, July 13, 2005

What goes round

Josias Kumpf has been keeping a secret for a long time.
Yes, he had been a "soldier for Hitler." Yes, he had served in the feared Nazi SS corps and stood sentry over Jewish prisoners as an SS Death's Head guard in concentration camps in Poland.

Josias is now 80 years old and faces deportation.
A federal judge in Milwaukee ordered his citizenship revoked and, should his appeals fail, Kumpf will be deported.

I find it difficult to be sympathetic.
This much is known: Jewish prisoners had been forced to dig a network of trenches and then lie down in them, naked. Guards machine-gunned them, a hundred at a time, until thousands filled the earth. Nazis blared music from the camp loudspeakers to drown out the cries all that morning, noon and night. When it was over, up to 10,000 corpses were set ablaze.

Some might think it harsh to punish an old man. I don't have a problem with it and neither do some of his former victims.
Chakin, like Kumpf, immigrated to this country; she too became a U.S. citizen and raised a family here. But she lost her parents and her only brother in the camps. She wants Kumpf gone.

"He had a good life. He had a family," said Chakin, 78. "That's what all my people never had. That's what my brother never had. So why not let him feel a little bit of the suffering? Shouldn't he be punished at last?"

Indeed he should be.

Of course Josias maintians his innocense.
When government lawyers deposed Kumpf in Milwaukee, he insisted he was not a killer. "I was a good boy before and I'm still a good boy now," he said. "I don't hurt nobody, and I don't even hurt the flies if they're behaving."

Other former guards have similar claims.
Prosecutors already had reviewed interviews of other SS guards taken by German authorities in the 1960s, when that country was beginning to confront its past.

"The whole business was the most gruesome thing I have ever seen in my life," recalled one guard, Martin Diekmann. "I often saw that, after a salvo was fired, Jews were only wounded and were buried still more or less alive together with the corpses of other victims, without the wounded receiving a so-called coup de grace."

Diekmann added, "I myself did not shoot."

Aleksandr Kurisa, an SS officer from Ukraine, said: "You could hear the moans, crying, and screams of those doomed to death. All Jews in Trawniki were exterminated."

Kurisa added, "I did not directly participate."

All the guards were good guys who had nothing do to with the brutal murders. I suppose all those poor victims voluntarily dug the trenches, stripped naked and shot themselves.

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