Sunday, December 22, 2013

If Ben-Gurion’s remark about “the connection between Nazis and some Arab rulers” was pointless, his failure to mention present-day West Germany in this context was surprising. Of course, it was reassuring to hear that Israel does“not hold Adenauer responsible for Hitler,” and that “for us a decent German, although he belongs to the same nation that twenty years ago helped to murder millions of Jews, is a decent human being.” (There was no mention of decent Arabs.) The German Federal Republic, although it has not yet recognized the State of Israel presumably out of fear that the Arab countries might recognize Ulbricht’s Germany - has paid seven hundred and thirty-seven million dollars in reparation to Israel during the last ten years; these payments will soon come to an end, and Israel is now trying to negotiate a long-term loan from West Germany. Hence, the relationship between the two countries, and particularly the personal relationship between Ben-Gurion and Adenauer, has been quite good, and if, as an aftermath of the trial, some deputies in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, succeeded in imposing certain restraints on the cultural-exchange program with West Germany, this certainly was neither foreseen nor hoped for by Ben-Gurion. It is more noteworthy that he had not foreseen, or did not care to mention, that Eichmann’s capture would trigger the first serious effort made by Germany to bring to trial at least those who were directly implicated in murder. The Central Agency for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, belatedly founded by the West German state in 1958 and headed by Prosecutor Erwin Schüle, had run into all kinds of difficulties, caused partly by the unwillingness of German witnesses to cooperate and partly by the unwillingness of the local courts to prosecute on the basis of the material sent them from the Central Agency. Not that the trial in Jerusalem produced any important new evidence of the kind needed for the discovery of Eichmann’s associates; but the news of Eichmann’s sensational capture and of the impending trial had sufficient impact to persuade the local courts to use Mr. Schüle’s findings, and to overcome the native reluctance to do anything about “murderers in our midst” by the time-honored means of posting rewards for the capture of well-known criminals.
The results were amazing. Seven months after Eichmann’s arrival in Jerusalem - and four months before the opening of the trial - Richard Baer, successor to Rudolf Höss as Commandant of Auschwitz, could finally be arrested. In rapid succession, most of the members of the so- called Eichmann Commando - Franz Novak, who lived as a printer in Austria; Dr. Otto Hunsche, who had settled as a lawyer in West Germany; Hermann Krumey, who had become a druggist; Gustav Richter, former “Jewish adviser” in Rumania; and Willi Zöpf, who had filled the same post in Amsterdam - were arrested also; although evidence against them had been published in Germany years before, in books and magazine articles, not one of them had found it necessary to live under an assumed name. For the first time since the close of the war, German newspapers were full of reports on the trials of Nazi criminals, all of them mass murderers (after May, 1960, the month of Eichmann’s capture, only first-degree murder could be prosecuted; all other offenses were wiped out by the statute of limitations, which is twenty years for murder), and the reluctance of the local courts to prosecute these crimes showed itself only in the fantastically lenient sentences meted out to the accused. (Thus, Dr. Otto Bradfisch, of the Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing units of the S.S. in the East, was sentenced to ten years of hard labor for the killing of fifteen thousand Jews; Dr. Otto Hunsche, Eichmann’s legal expert and personally responsible for a last-minute deportation of some twelve hundred Hungarian Jews, of whom at least six hundred were killed, received a sentence of five years of hard labor; and Joseph Lechthaler, who had “liquidated” the Jewish inhabitants of Slutsk and Smolevichi in Russia, was sentenced to three years and six months.) Among the new arrests were people of great prominence under the Nazis, most of whom had already been denazified by the German courts. One of them was S.S. General Karl Wolff, former chief of Himmler’s personal staff, who, according to a document submitted in 1946 at Nuremberg, had greeted “with particular joy” the news that “for two weeks now a train has been carrying, every day, five thousand members of the Chosen People” from Warsaw to Treblinka, one of the Eastern killing centers. Another was Wilhelm Koppe, who had at first managed the gassing in Chelmno and then become successor to Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger in Poland. One of the most prominent among the Higher S.S. Leaders whose task it had been to make Poland Judenrein, in postwar Germany Koppe was director of a chocolate factory. Harsh sentences were occasionally meted out, but were even less reassuring when they went to such offenders as Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, former General of the Higher S.S. and Police Leader Corps. He had been tried in 1961 for his participation in the Rohm rebellion in 1934 and sentenced to three and one half years; he was then indicted again in 1962 for the killing of six German Communists in 1933, tried before a jury in Nuremberg, and sentenced to life. Neither indictment mentioned that Bach-Zelewski had been anti-partisan chief on the Eastern front or that he had participated in the Jewish massacres at Minsk and Mogilev, in White Russia. Should German courts, on the pretext that war crimes are no crimes, make “ethnic distinctions”? Or is it possible that what was an unusually harsh sentence, at least in German postwar courts, was arrived at because Bach-Zelewski was among the very few who actually had suffered a nervous breakdown after the mass killings, had tried to protect Jews from the Einsatzgruppen, and had testified for the prosecution at Nuremberg? He was also the only one in this category who in 1952 had denounced himself publicly for mass murder, but he was never prosecuted for it.
There is little hope that things will change now, even though the Adenauer administration has been forced to weed out of the judiciary more than a hundred and forty judges and prosecutors, along with many police officers with more than ordinarily compromising pasts, and to dismiss Wolfgang Immerwahr Fränkel, the chief prosecutor of the Federal Supreme Court, because, his middle name notwithstanding, he had been less than candid when asked about his Nazi past. It has been estimated that of the eleven thousand five hundred judges in the Bundesrepublik, five thousand were active in the courts under the Hitler regime. In November, 1962, shortly after the purging of the judiciary and six months after Eichmann’s name had disappeared from the news, the long awaited trial of Martin Fellenz took place at Flensburg in an almost empty courtroom. The former Higher S.S. and Police Leader, who had been a prominent member of the Free Democratic Party in Adenauer’s Germany, was arrested in June, 1960, a few weeks after Eichmann’s capture. He was accused of participation in and partial responsibility for the murder of forty thousand Jews in Poland. After more than six weeks of detailed testimony, the prosecutor demanded the maximum penalty - a life sentence of hard labor. And the court sentenced Fellenz to four years, two and a half of which he had already served while waiting in jail to be tried. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that the Eichmann trial had its most far-reaching consequences in Germany. The attitude of the German people toward their own past, which all experts on the German question had puzzled over for fifteen years, could hardly have been more clearly demonstrated: they themselves did not much care one way or the other, and did not particularly mind the presence of murderers at large in the country, since none of them were likely to commit murder of their own free will; however, if world opinion - or rather, what the Germans called das Ausland, collecting all countries outside Germany into a singular noun - became obstinate and demanded that these people be punished, they were perfectly willing to oblige, at least up to a point.
Chancellor Adenauer had foreseen embarrassment and voiced his apprehension that the trial would “stir up again all the horrors” and produce a new wave of anti-German feeling throughout the world, as indeed it did. During the ten months that Israel needed to prepare the trial, Germany was busy bracing herself against its predictable results by showing an unprecedented zeal for searching out and prosecuting Nazi criminals within the country. But at no time did either the German authorities or any significant segment of public opinion demand Eichmann’s extradition, which seemed the obvious move, since every sovereign state is jealous of its right to sit in judgment on its own offenders. (The official position of the Adenauer government that this was not possible because there existed no extradition treaty between Israel and Germany is not valid; that meant only that Israel could not have been forced to extradite. Fritz Bauer, Attorney General of Hessen, saw the point and applied to the federal government in Bonn to start extradition proceedings. But Mr. Bauer’s feelings in this matter were the feelings of a German Jew, and they were not shared by German public opinion; his application was not only refused by Bonn, it was hardly noticed and remained totally unsupported. Another argument against extradition, offered by the observers the West German government sent to Jerusalem, was that Germany had abolished capital punishment and hence was unable to mete out the sentence Eichmann deserved. In view of the leniency shown by German courts to Nazi mass murderers, it is difficult not to suspect bad faith in this objection. Surely, the greatest political hazard of an Eichmann trial in Germany would have been acquittal for lack of mens rea, as J. J. Jansen pointed out in the Rheinischer Merkur [August 11, 1961].)
There is another, more delicate, and politically more relevant, side to this matter. It is one thing to ferret out criminals and murderers from their hiding places, and it is another thing to find them prominent and flourishing in the public realm - to encounter innumerable men in the federal and state administrations and, generally, in public office whose careers had bloomed under the Hitler regime. True, if the Adenauer administration had been too sensitive about employing officials with a compromising Nazi past, there might have been no administration at all. For the truth is, of course, the exact opposite of Dr. Adenauer’s assertion that only “a relatively small percentage” of Germans had been Nazis, and that a “great majority [had been] happy to help their Jewish fellowcitizens when they could.” (At least one German newspaper, the Frankfurter Rundschau, asked itself the obvious question, long overdue - why so many people who must have known, for instance, the record of the chief prosecutor had kept silent - and then came up with the even more obvious answer: “Because they themselves felt incriminated.”) The logic of the Eichmann trial, as Ben-Gurion conceived of it, with its stress on general issues to the detriment of legal niceties, would have demanded exposure of the complicity of all German offices and authorities in the Final Solution - of all civil servants in the state ministries, of the regular armed forces, with their General Staff, of the judiciary, and of the business world. But although the prosecution as conducted by Mr. Hausner went as far afield as to put witness after witness on the stand who testified to things that, while gruesome and true enough, had no or only the slightest connection with the deeds of the accused, it carefully avoided touching upon this highly explosive matter upon the almost ubiquitous complicity, which had stretched far beyond the ranks of Party membership. (There were widespread rumors prior to the trial that Eichmann had named “several hundred prominent personalities of the Federal Republic as his accomplices,” but these rumors were not true. In his opening speech, Mr. Hausner mentioned Eichmann’s “accomplices in the crime who were neither gangsters nor men of the underworld,” and promised that we should “encounter them - doctors and lawyers, scholars, bankers, and economists - in those councils that resolved to exterminate the Jews.” This promise was not kept, nor could it have been kept in the form in which it was made. For there never existed a “council that resolved” anything, and the “robed dignitaries with academic degrees” never decided on the extermination of the Jews, they only came together to plan the necessary steps in carrying out an order given by Hitler.) Still, one such case was brought to the attention of the court, that of Dr. Hans Globke, one of Adenauer’s closest advisers, who, more than twenty-five years ago, was co-author of an infamous commentary on the Nuremberg Laws and, somewhat later, author of the brilliant idea of compelling all German Jews to take “Israel” or “Sarah” as a middle name. But Mr. Globke’s name - and only his name - was inserted into the District Court proceedings by the defense, and probably only in the hope of “persuading” the Adenauer government to start extradition proceedings. At any rate, the former Ministerialrat of the Interior and present Staatssekretär in Adenauer’s Chancellery doubtless had more right than the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem to figure in the history of what the Jews had actually suffered from the Nazis.

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