WWII Case Awkward for Israel
Wed, July 13, 2005
By Peter Worthington
It is the stuff of fiction -- up to a point. A Jewish Holocaust survivor whose family died in Auschwitz and who at war's end was made commandant of a prison camp for Germans is now accused by Poland of "crimes against humanity."
In 1994, Solomon Morel, now 86, fled to Israel from his native Poland to escape prosecution for genocide. This month, for the second time, Israel has refused to extradite him to face charges.
Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which investigates war crimes, holds Morel, as commandant of the Swietochlowice concentration camp, responsible for the deaths of 1,538 prisoners -- mostly civilians, a mixture of men and women, children and old people, Polish and German, who were abused, beaten, starved, raped and brutalized. "There is no basis to accuse Morel of the crime of genocide ... he and his family are survivors of genocide ... committed by the Nazis and their Polish collaborators," says a communique issued by Israel's justice ministry.
Accusations against Morel aren't new. They were first made by the late John Sack, a Jew and a respected journalist whose book, An Eye for an Eye, purports to tell Morel's story.
In 1993, CBS' 60 Minutes investigated the case (Morel declined to be interviewed) and substantiated many atrocities. It seems Soviet dictator Josef Stalin sought out Jews to run prison camps for Germans because he didn't trust Poles and felt Jews had no reason to be loyal to Poland and would want revenge on Germans.
When asked on 60 Minutes if he found it implausible that a Jew who lost his family in the Holocaust would exact revenge on Germans, Elan Steinberg, then executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said: "I find it hard to believe he wouldn't."
Sack documented physical and psychological brutalities that Morel personally inflicted on prisoners. He said he felt Morel just snapped (some 30 members of his family died at Auschwitz) and would likely be acquitted if this was presented to a jury.
An attempt to have Morel extradited in 1998 was refused; Israel has no extradition treaty with Poland. Since then, more evidence of war crimes has been collected. Morel supposedly told prisoners that he had survived Auschwitz and intended to exact revenge.
Polish prosecutor Eva Kok told the Associated Press: "There should be one measure for judging war criminals, irrespective of whether they are German, Israeli or any other nationality."
The case is awkward for Israel in particular and Jews in general. While Israel has sought extradition of alleged war criminals, it seems odd it is so defensive about Morel who, for 74 years, was a Polish citizen with no links to Israel.
Some feel that at his advanced age and frail health, whatever Morel may have done in 1945 has little relevance now and should be dropped, something many Jews don't grant to Ukrainians who as teens committed no crimes but were forced to work for the Nazis.
Micky Goldfarb, who claims to be Morel's cousin, urges compassion because Morel lost his whole family in the Holocaust and "was only 26 when he was made commandant of this camp."
Crimes in World War II seem never to fade. Last New Year's, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued greetings to one Vassily Kononov ("You have defended not only your honest name but historical justice and the honour of your fighting comrades"). Kononov, 80, was convicted in Latvia of having murdered nine civilians, including a pregnant woman, when he was a Communist partisan under Nazi occupation. He was sentenced to 20 months -- the time he'd served awaiting trial.
Putin's greetings offended Latvians, who recall the Soviet occupation.
As for Morel -- how can the Israeli justice ministry exonerate him of anything without a trial? Israel can block extradition, but that's neither justice nor proof of innocence.
How to deal with an anti-Semite
A N D R E W C OY N E
Jul 13, 2005
Suppose I told you that the Jews — not Jews, you understand, but the Jews — by dint of their vast economic power and secretive blood ties, now held the government of Canada in their thrall; or more delicately, that “the Jewish lobby” exercised such disproportionate sway in the halls of power as to put democracy itself in peril. Well, no need to suppose: I just have.
I don’t mean a word of it, of course. But suppose I did. Indeed, how do you know I don’t: Maybe my disavowals are just pro forma, a bow to political correctness. The point is, whether I believe what I am saying is unknowable. It is also irrelevant. Even if I don’t believe it, that is, others may. And having put such thoughts in circulation, I am surely responsible for what follows. In which case, why were the newspapers that reported on David Ahenakew’s arraignment, trial and conviction not also charged with the same crime: willful promotion of hatred?
The former native leader, as everyone knows by now, uttered the vilest possible sentiments about Jews in an interview with a Saskatchewan newspaper reporter two and a half years ago — sentiments so hateful and odious as to call into question, not just his morals or his judgment, but his sanity. The standard technique of anti-Semites, after all, is to deny or minimize the Holocaust, not to justify it.
I will not repeat his precise words here. I don’t have to: They have been repeated, verbatim and at length, countless times in every media outlet in the country. Indeed they gained a great deal more currency, we may be sure, from the prosecution of Mr. Ahenakew than would have been the case had he never been charged. But never mind: If the point of using the law against Mr. Ahenakew was, as the judge who convicted him maintained, that his words were likely to expose Jews to violence, then surely that is true whether they come from Mr. Ahenakew or some reporter. In which case, why were the media not also charged, as one may be held to account for repeating a libel?
Let me suggest a reason: Because there is in fact no evidence — none whatever — that a single person’s safety was in any way put in jeopardy by Mr. Ahenakew’s disgusting outburst. Indeed, had the judge himself truly believed there was, he would not have let Mr. Ahenakew off with a $1,000 fine. He would have thrown him in jail.
To be sure, the judge said that Mr. Ahenakew’s statements comparing Jews to a disease were such as to “invite extremists to take action against them.” But so might all manner of statements — extremists do not generally need much in the way of provocation, more or less by definition. Is it possible that somebody somewhere might find inspiration in his words to do something nasty to somebody else? Maybe. But maybes, mights and somebodies are not ordinarily the business of the law. Ordinarily we insist on evidence, proof, hard facts — especially, one would think, before going to the extraordinary length of prosecuting someone for the sounds that came out of his mouth.
If there were such evidence, there would be no need to charge Mr. Ahenakew with promoting hatred, a law of comparatively recent invention: He could be charged under the longstanding Criminal Code provision against “incitement to violence.” The crime of which he has been convicted, then, is unrelated to any harmful act. It is not even about the contents of his speech, the actual words he uttered — else, as I say, the media would be as guilty. The reason he stands convicted and they do not is because, unlike the media, he believed what he said. We have tried and convicted a man, quite literally, for his thoughts. I rather thought we were past that sort of thing.
This is an altogether different matter than whether he should have his status as a member of the Order of Canada revoked. Decent people are entitled to shun the company of bigots and racists, and a free and democratic society is entitled to choose which of its citizens it will honour, and which it will not. If it wishes, by such means, to express its disapproval of certain opinions, it is entitled to do that, too. What it is not entitled to do is to outlaw them.
But perhaps you think just stripping him of his OC is insufficient. Here’s a suggestion, then: Rather than fining people whose views we don’t like, or throwing them in jail, why don’t we set up an opposite version of the Order of Canada, a Disorder of Canada if you like: a dishonour roll, a hall of shame, where those who had offended against common decency in some way short of the Criminal Code could be publicly recognized, rather as the Speaker “names” a member of Parliament who has acted up.
There could be several ranks and designations: CB (Crashing Bore), TH (Talentless Hack), DLSS (Devious Little Soand-So). The title of SOB, of course, would be reserved for those who had especially distinguished themselves, and I can think of at least one person I might propose for immediate elevation.
Germany to investigate Nazi links of diplomats
By Ruth Elkins in Berlin
Published: 13 July 2005
Germany has established a five-man panel of historians to shed light on the Nazi past of its foreign ministry.
The move, by the Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, is intended to squash a revolt by ageing diplomats who have been arguing that former ambassadors with Nazi pasts should be honoured by the ministry when they die. There is little doubt that the investigation will dig up some dark secrets.
The American historian Christopher Browning has already said that during the Nazi period Germany's foreign ministry "contributed significantly to the Final Solution [the mass murder of Jews]".
Mr Fischer announced that he would establish the commission in May, after his decision to stop the foreign ministry's in-house magazine, InternAA, publishing obituaries for workers and diplomats with clear links to Nazi Germany.
It was a move which angered many former diplomats who responded with a letter stating that Mr Fischer's decision "showed the over-simplification of people who, as recently as 1968, thought they couldn't trust anyone over the age of 30".
The dispute broke out earlier this year after Mr Fischer objected to a InternAA tribute for a former consul general. He had been a member of the Nazi party and was later convicted of war crimes.
Mr Fischer was also said to be perturbed that a portrait of Baron Alexander von Dörnberg, a Foreign Office head of protocol and friend of the Nazi Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, was still hanging in the gallery of the foreign ministry. Mr Fischer said the ministry must face up to "the personal continuities and lines of connection" between the Nazi-era and the post-war West German foreign ministry.
When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, German diplomats continued to work for the regime. Many joined the Nazi party but said that it had been for career reasons.
Although some diplomats did support the resistance against Hitler, the only high-level public resignation came from Friedrich von Prittwitz, who gave up his post as German ambassador to the US in 1933.
The investigative commission, which is scheduled to meet in September, will be composed of three German professors, Eckbert Conze, Klaus Hildebrand and Norbert Frei, the American historian Henry A Turner from Yale University and Professor Moshe Zimmermann from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
The commission will investigate to what extent ex-Nazis continued to work for the foreign ministry after the war and how well the ministry dealt with its own past. The work is likely to take up to five years.
The only previous investigation was ordered in 1951 but it petered out quickly amid fears about what it might discover.
A Nazi's Day of Judgment. Josias Kumpf, 80, faces deportation.
The former SS soldier denies killing Jews. 'I was a good boy,' he says -- but tell that to a death camp survivor.
By Richard A. Serrano
Times Staff Writer
July 12, 2005
Kumpf faces deportation after a federal judge in May revoked his U.S. citizenship, ruling that he “personally advocated or assisted” in Nazi Germany’s persecution of the Jews.
(Mark Hertzberg / Journal Times)
July 12, 2005
RACINE, Wis. — Two government lawyers knocked at the door of a brick, ranch-style house here two years ago and, getting no answer, wandered around back. There they found an old man sitting alone on a patio chair. He wore a cap to shield himself from the afternoon sun. He noticed that one of the lawyers was pregnant, and he cleaned off another chair. Sit down, he said.
Josias Kumpf had been living in the United States for nearly half a century. He had been an American citizen for 40 years. He had married, raised five children and worked for 35 years stuffing sausage at a factory in Chicago. Retired and a widower, his health failing, he was living at his daughter's home in Racine.
His visitors were prosecutors from the Justice Department. They had come to inquire about his immigration status. There was a more urgent matter too, but before they could get to it, they recalled, Kumpf, 80, laughed out loud. He knew why they were there. Without prompting, he snapped them a "Sieg Heil" salute. They talked for more than an hour, and Kumpf signed a four-page, 17-point, handwritten sworn statement that the lawyers drafted right there on the patio.
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.
But, he added, "I have nothing to hide. I don't do nothing to nobody. My fingers are clean."
In May, Kumpf became the 100th former Nazi successfully prosecuted by the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations. A federal judge in Milwaukee ordered his citizenship revoked and, should his appeals fail, Kumpf will be deported.
The Justice unit was formed in 1979 to identify, hunt down and remove former Nazis who came into the United States after World War II. With a staff of lawyers and historians, the office found Kumpf after matching newfound Axis records and SS muster rolls with U.S. immigration documents.
In all such cases, federal officials are racing the clock. Just as America's World War II veterans are dying, so are those who fought on the other side. And so too are the concentration camp survivors who might be able to identify their persecutors.
As memories fade, accounts of individual atrocities become murky. So it may never be known for sure what role Kumpf played on Nov. 3, 1943, at the Trawniki labor camp in Poland.
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.
Kumpf says that he cannot be held responsible for what happened that day. But at least one survivor of Trawniki, Vivian Chakin of Beverly Hills, scoffs.
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?"
Kumpf's German accent remains thick and his round face shows his age. Sometimes neighbors see him walking his scruffy gray dog up and down Rodney Lane. Other times they spot him on his riding lawnmower.
"He's an upstanding man, and I would leave him alone," said Tom Fosbinder, a neighbor. "Even before they broke the news about his past, he told me that he had had no choice, that he was just a teenager when the Germans knocked on his door with guns and conscripted him into the army."
Kumpf and his family will not discuss his past while he is appealing the deportation order. But his story is documented in depositions, sworn statements, historical records and other papers that make up the government's case to remove him.
An ethnic German, Kumpf was born April 7, 1925, in Neu Pasua, Yugoslavia. He attended the local Lutheran church and, after less than three years in school, he quit to help his father on their small horse farm. Like most in the town of 8,000, the Kumpfs were poor.
He grew to be a big man, nearly 6 feet tall with brown eyes and black hair. They called him "Schwarze Hund," a nickname for a dog. "Here is a strong man," he told prosecutors last year, patting his chest at the U.S. attorney's office in downtown Milwaukee while giving a deposition. "I was strong once. Strong."
The German army marched into Neu Pasua in fall 1942. Kumpf was 17 when he was ordered to report for duty at the local train station.
Any young man not boarding the train, Kumpf said, "would be put up against the wall." Some tried to run, and they "were brought back before the rest of us and shot."
Valdis O. Lumans, a German historian retained by Kumpf's lawyer, said Kumpf "certainly was not one of the enthusiastic ones. He did not volunteer. They came and took him."
The army made Kumpf a private and gave him a gray and green SS uniform. His hat had a skull sewn on it, as did the collar of his shirt. A Nazi tattoo was etched under his left arm. He was issued firearms and trained to use a rifle, a machine pistol and a light machine gun.
For 11 months, he served as a tower guard and sentry at several camps in Germany. Thousands of prisoners arrived by truck or rail. Thousands never left.
"I watch them, how they go," he said. Many went to the crematoriums. "I hear they put the people in and that's all," Kumpf testified. "They don't come out no more, that's what I hear."
On Oct. 29, 1943, Kumpf and others from his Death's Head battalion boarded trains bound for Trawniki, site of an abandoned sugar factory, in eastern Poland. They arrived early on the morning of Nov. 3. The Nazis, pestered by a series of small uprisings at other camps, were cracking down.
The male Jews at Trawniki already had been forced to dig trenches in a zig-zag pattern; they were told it would provide them cover in the event of an air raid. Before dawn, prisoners awoke to the marches and waltzes of Johann Strauss blaring from the camp speakers.
Stripped naked and prodded with nightsticks and rubber truncheons — some were shot for not moving fast enough — the prisoners were taken to the trenches, a hundred at a time. Not all went silently. Some of them, as if trying to drown out the music, cried: "Shema Israel!" — "Hear! O Israel!"
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."
But prosecutors were not ready to confront him with Trawniki. From a legal standpoint, proving he came to America fraudulently would be enough to get him removed. To get him deported was more important, they said.
Kumpf's war ended in the fall of 1945, when he was freed from a Russian prisoner-of-war camp. He had been captured by the advancing Russian army after leaving Trawniki and being sent to fight along the eastern front. He later joined his father in Austria, married and, on the advice of a friend in the Chicago area, decided to make America his home.
Elizabeth B. White, chief historian for the Office of Special Investigations, said that on March 21, 1956, Kumpf applied for an immigrant visa to enter the United States. He visited the U.S. consulate in Salzburg, Austria, and stated on his application that his place of residence from 1942 to 1945 was "German Army: Germany, Poland, France."
During Kumpf's interview, White said, "he did not disclose his service as an armed SS Death's Head guard." Richard Bloomfield, then the U.S. vice consul in Austria, told prosecutors the system regrettably was lax.
Though Bloomfield could not specifically recall Kumpf, he processed countless visa applications. "I wouldn't ever have anybody admit he was a guard in a Nazi concentration camp," Bloomfield said. "That's why they got visas. They lied. But if I knew they had been a guard in a concentration camp, usually that would be a reason to deny it."
Prosecutors questioned Kumpf in Milwaukee about his visits to the Austrian consulate.
"You did not tell them that you were a guard at Trawniki?"
"They don't ask," he said.
"You didn't tell them you were in the SS?"
"They didn't ask this either."
Kumpf received an immigrant visa and, on May 25, 1956, entered the U.S. via New York. He settled in Chicago, and went to work at a Vienna Sausage factory.
Eight years later, he petitioned to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Again, he listed his past as "German Army, 1942 to 1945." Under oath, Kumpf told a U.S. immigration examiner in Chicago that he had served only as a combat soldier. On May 9, 1964, he received a certificate of naturalization.
For four decades, he told prosecutors, "I was happy in America."
When the two lawyers came to his patio in March 2003, they knew Kumpf was more than just a German infantryman. They knew he was a Death's Head guard and had arrived at Trawniki just as the first naked prisoners were being hurried into ditches.
The prosecutors asked him about Trawniki, and he admitted he was there. But he also said he never told U.S. immigration officials that he had belonged to the SS. "I shut up," Kumpf told the prosecutors, explaining it had always been his position to say nothing about Trawniki. Then, according to Michelle L. Heyer, the pregnant prosecutor to whom Kumpf had offered a chair, he made a zipping motion across his mouth.
He later would have to answer their questions about Trawniki.
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."
Then there were the stories told by survivors.
Estera Rubinstein lay all day long among the dead. In interviews with a Jewish historical commission soon after the war, she said:
"We were taken to the pits and I only saw SS men standing with machine pistols and shooting the naked women in the head. The pits were already full of corpses. Since I did not want to watch them kill me, I hid my face in my hands and jumped into the depths with the call, 'Shema Israel!' "
She was not hit. But as bodies fell across her, she grew cold. "I was pressed between the corpses…. I wanted to call out a few times, but couldn't. It was as though I was being strangled."
An SS guard lifted her head, checking for signs of life. But she was smeared with blood, and he moved on. She heard others pulled out and "finished off." Amid all that, her ears filled with the waltzes. Then, when night fell and all was quiet, she said, she crawled over bodies and fled across the fields. Weeks later, she made it to Warsaw, more than 100 miles away.
As Rubinstein was leaving Trawniki, Chakin, then 14, was arriving.
She remembers seeing the dead bodies overflowing the trenches. A few days later, she said, a team of male prisoners was ordered to burn the dead. When they finished, the guards shot them.
Chakin and other female prisoners were ordered to clean the barracks, and they found a 4-year-old boy named Mark hiding in a pile of old bedding. Mark's mother and brother had been killed earlier in the war; his father had been shot to death after helping to burn the bodies. The Germans at first let the women keep the young boy. For five months they mothered him, encouraging him to hope. Then the SS took Mark away too.
"Because the children," she said, "they did not keep."
Chakin, her voice brittle with anger, added: "So you ask me how I feel I about him, this Josias Kumpf, and how he got to live to be 80 years old?"
At his deposition in the fifth-floor conference room at the U.S. attorney's office, Kumpf — now boxed in, confronted by prosecutors with SS documents placing him at Trawniki — maintained that he did not fire, either. He insisted that he merely served as a perimeter guard, standing a distance away from the killing trenches.
When he arrived by train that morning, he said, he and other SS guards ate breakfast. Then they heard the shouts and gunfire. "All the people were in the hole…. I [went] over there too and look. I turn around and I … sorry, it's not for me, that's what I told my friends."
He finished his breakfast, coffee and rye bread with butter. He said he was ordered to watch, to make sure no one escaped.
"I was watching them shoot some people," he said. "Some people was shot and not good enough so they was still able to move, you know. That's what we have to watch so that they don't go no place."
Then, Kumpf said, "Everybody was excited because so many dead ones to see, you know. I was not excited. I feel sorry for the people."
On May 10, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman in Milwaukee revoked Kumpf's citizenship. He ruled that Kumpf had misrepresented himself to immigration authorities. "American citizenship," the judge said, "is bestowed only upon those who meet fundamental standards imposed by law."
The judge further ruled that Kumpf's mere presence at Trawniki meant he "personally advocated or assisted" in the massacre, and as a result, was ineligible for a U.S. visa in the first place.
Kumpf's attorney, Peter Rogers, said he was appealing the ruling before the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Should his client be forced out, Rogers said, "it is murky territory on where he can go. A lot of countries won't take people with his circumstances."
While he waits, his fate all but out of his hands, Kumpf often is frightened awake by nightmares. For years he had hoped to keep his secret about Trawniki.
But now, he said, it is too late. "I'm in trouble, more in trouble" than ever, he said.
Jamal Qarisli on 'Anti-Semitism' in Germany
Report; Posted on: 2005-07-12 08:18:33
National Vanguard from Final Conflict newsletter
Excerpts from an interview with former German MP of Syrian origin Jamal Qarisli, which aired on Syrian television on June 27, 2005.
Host: Your book A Polemic on Antisemitism has aroused great controversy and it was translated into several languages. Tell us about this book. I have read its draft, but…
Qarisli: This is the book's second edition. Actually, I gave it a new name. In Arabic it's called Germany: Between the Guilt Complex and Fear.
Through this book, I'd like the book to show the world what is the role of the Zionist lobby in Germany, and how it controls the decision making there.
In German this book has a different title: A Muzzle on German Mouths, because the Germans can't express their opinions, and when you talk to them, they keep looking left and right, and if someone is around, they do not talk about this.
Many politicians and officials believe that discussing this subject is like walking into a minefield. So they avoid this subject.
Host: But you knew it was a minefield when you knocked on this door.
Qarisli: Yes, but there was no other way but walking through this minefield. So I walked through it and it has brought me to a place where the double standards are evident.
Host: Didn't you fear you would end up like your colleague Jürgen Mollemann?
Qarisli: Of course I did, and to be honest, I still do. But I ask: Until when? Until when are we going bend to kneel down? Until when will we refrain from presenting our just case to this society? Until when will we remain silent in the face of the Jenin massacres, or the crimes perpetrated every day in occupied Palestine? This is why I really have no choice but to walk through this minefield.
Host: What's the connection between your book and the book by [Norman Finkelstein], The Holocaust Industry?
Qarisli: I didn't refer to the Holocaust industry. I took a different approach. I wanted to show the reader unfamiliar with the subject how Germany is being exploited, how German history is being exploited, how Germany is being blackmailed, how pressure is exerted on German society and politics in order to blackmail them. We can see what happened in recent months. Israel demanded from Germany submarines carrying nuclear warheads, without paying for them. In 1999, they took two submarines without paying for them. In 2000, they took another one.
Host: The "Dolphin"…
Qarisli: The "Dolphin", which is the best of its kind. I wanted to show the world…
Host: ...that the blackmailing process has continued since the end of the war.
Qarisli: It continues, and I wanted…
Host: ...and it is based on myths.
More on Qarisli
Qarisli visits Israel
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