Scrapbookpages Blog

January 30, 2014

Today’s Germany — no country for old men

Filed under: Germany — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 7:48 am

In a news article in The Daily Beast, which you can read in full here, Michael Moynihan wrote that “There Should Be No Statute of Limitations on Prosecuting War Crimes.”

He means German war crimes, of course.  No Allied soldier, who served in World War II, was ever put on trial for war crimes, and none ever will be put on trial.  Only the losers are war criminals. Only the winners are allowed to make up new laws, after a war is over.

At the end of World War II, the Allies made up ex-post-facto laws, under which the Germans were put on trial by the Allies in the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal and the American Military Tribunal held at Dachau, Germany.  One of these ex-post-facto laws was called “common design” or “common plan.” Under the new common design law, anyone who was anywhere near the place where a war crime, or a Crime Against Humanity, had been committed, was guilty simply because he was there.

Under the new laws made up by the Allies after the war, the Waffen-SS was declared to be a criminal organization, as was the National Socialist political party, known to Americans today as the Nazis.

If Germany had won the war, the Germans might have designated the US Marines as a criminal organization, along with the Democratic political party.  Anyone who belonged to either of these organizations would have automatically been a war criminal, under the new laws.

The ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane

My photo of the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane

Moyniham’s article includes a great photo of the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane, a village in France, where a German soldier named Werner C. was present when the Germans did a reprisal action against the village for the kidnapping and murder of German soldiers, including Major Helmut Kämpfe, a beloved German officer, who was believed to have been killed at Oradour-sur-Glane.

This quote, regarding the Oradour-sur-Glane reprisal, is from Wikipedia:

A few days later, survivors were allowed to bury the dead. 642 inhabitants of Oradour-sur-Glane had been murdered in a matter of hours. Adolf Diekmann claimed that the episode was a just retaliation for partisan activity in nearby Tulle and the kidnapping of Helmut Kämpfe.

Under the Geneva Convention of 1929, a reprisal was legal.  Under the Geneva Convention of 1949, which is currently in effect, reprisals are no longer legal.

This quote is from the article written by Michael Moynihan:

…. German prosecutors, mining information from East German secret police files, have assembled a case against former Waffen-SS soldier Werner C. (German privacy laws protect the accused’s identity), an 88 year old from Cologne who acknowledges being present in Oradour-sur-Glane on that grim day [June 10, 1944] but claims to not have participated in the orgiastic violence.

But they are right to haul—or wheel—a geriatric SS man present at a notorious, if largely forgotten, massacre into the courtroom. Countries who don’t reckon with the past, shunting memories of political and institutional violence to the side in favor of “moving forward,” risk banalizing totalitarianism. For instance, a recent Gallup poll found that “residents in seven out of 11 countries that were part of the [Soviet Union] are more likely to believe its collapse harmed their countries than benefited them.” And Germany saw a recent wave of nostalgia for East German dictatorship (bloodlessly called “Ostalgie”), because there was no commensurate Nuremberg Trial, no nie wieder, no truth and reconciliation at the collapse of Soviet communism.

It’s unclear what role Werner C. played in the massacre, though years of rigorous academic research of Nazi crimes both inside and outside Germany have punctured the myth of soldiers merely “following orders,” lest the poor conscript too became a victim of fascism. If Werner C. pulled a trigger or pulled the pin from a grenade, or pushed children into a locked church in Oradour, he should breathe his last breath inside a prison. A small measure of justice, 70 years later, and reassurance that not all the perpetrators have “escaped the penalty of their crime.”

If Werner C. is put on trial in Germany, it will not be because he “pulled a trigger or pulled the pin from a grenade, or pushed children into a  locked church in Oradour.”  He will be put on trial and will be automatically convicted because he was there when a reprisal was conducted against the villagers in Oradour-sur-Glane. If he was there, he is guilty under the ex-post-facto law, known as “common design.”

John Demjanjuk was recently convicted, in Germany, under the “common design” law, which set a precedent for new charges to be brought against any former German soldier, who is still alive.

What really happened in Oradour-sur-Glane, that caused the German soldiers to do a reprisal?  Ever heard of “the tragic well” in Oradour-sur-glane? The photo below shows the tragic well.

The tragic well where bodies of German soldiers were found in Oradour-sur-Glane

The tragic well where bodies of German soldiers were found in Oradour-sur-Glane

You can read about the bakery, where burned bodies were found by the German soldiers when they entered the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Oradour-sur-Glane/Tour/Ruins/Bakery.html

You can read the SS version of what happened at Oradour-sur-Glane on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Oradour-sur-Glane/Story/Synopsis02.html

My photo of an old car in the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane

My photo of an old car in the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane

You can read the notes that I wrote, after my visit to the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane, on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Oradour-sur-Glane/Story/TripNotes2.html