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Oskar Groning: The Comfortable Life of the Morally Guilty April 23, 2015

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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Meet Oskar Groning SSUnterscharführer.  Perhaps the last of the participants in the Final Solution devised by the Nazis to rid the Reich (the 1,000 Year Reich) of Jews, Gays, Infirm, Romany, Disabled and a laundry list complete with designations and badges that were essentially tickets to death.  Just a bookkeeper – he committed no crimes but he was fully trained to do so and he was armed.  And he watched.  As he collected from the walking dead their belongings – money, jewelry, anything of value and recorded it neatly in a ledger so that the Reich would be able to balance its assets as it completed its war to own the planet.

You can read Oskar’s boring early history at Wiki and see that he was bright and destined for better things than being a foot soldier.  He believed in the fight and wanted to join the ranks of the elite who could strut and swagger in their SS uniforms complete with insignias, lightening bolts and boots and britches.  Clean and turned out as a highly placed man in a position of authority and doing meaningful and important work.  What could be more meaningful than being a bookkeeper in a busy death camp, stealing from innocent people about to be gassed and burnt to ashes?  Who needs to shoot prisoners to destroy them?  And how such a mundane assignment relieves the burden of guilt.  His description of his own job, in his own words, makes it sound so routine and clerical one might almost believe that’s all it was.  But it wasn’t and he knew that.  Not for humane or guilty reasons,  He knew what he was doing and why.  He did it because he was a Nazi and a true believer.  And his recounting of the circumstances of his work left me literally sick to my stomach.

I have read all my life –  and since I was very young, as early as JHS, countless of books on the Nazis.  Not an obsession but an attempt over and over to understand why my tribe and 5 million others were so dangerous and lethal to the Nazis they would expend money and energy to make the world free of them.  I should also mention that I read everything on every subject that interested me and this was by no means limited to Nazis but it was of great interest and I simply couldn’t establish any reason for the acts and atrocities that justified or even explained them to e. or made it just a war thing.  The plan was the central leitmotiv for the SS and it did, in many ways, cost Hitler the war.  His loyal foot soldiers starved and froze while Adolf kept the ovens burning and the aktions moving briskly along.

Reading about Nazis is not light reading.  But missing from the entire body of work were the observations of those who worked on their side.  Denials were invented and documents burned to erase this massive murder plot; war trials were held and the convicted hung or locked up for life but there was another them in those events – those poor SS men were only following orders.  Orders they signed up to follow.  And judging from their job enthusiasm; the orders were followed to the letter and with gusto.  But in the main our knowledge comes from the survivors or the liberators.  The survivors who escaped death but not the memories of their devastating ordeal.  The stories are many things – and each story is part of an homage to human spirit and strength and reading them brings grief and redemption because we know such bravery and honor exists among our species.

So meet Oskar Groning who sat on the other side of the desk.  Who willingly did his job and lived to tell about  it.  Too little too late because despite his accurate and honest descriptions of this savagery, he  said it became routine and he stayed at it for at least two years.  When he was sent to the UK as a laborer and subsequently released he went back to a good and comfortable life and thrived to the grand old age of 93.  Should he get a pass for his self-claimed moral guilt and having “to live with his memories”.  Has he “suffered enough?”  I don’t think so. Nor do I believe he suffered at all.  Read his own words and you decide – I am sure there will be reams of quotes and millions of comments but for me, finally hearing it reported from a live  SSUnterscharführer; in the tongue of The Fatherland; an uniformed officer who saw it happening and kept writing down the numbers.  Three hundred thousand souls vs. 70 years of a clean and comfortable life they never had.  Keep this quote in mind before you excuse him.  There is no excuse.

…a baby crying. The child was lying on the ramp, wrapped in rags. A mother had left it behind, perhaps because she knew that women with infants were sent to the gas chambers immediately. I saw another SS soldier grab the baby by the legs. The crying had bothered him. He smashed the baby’s head against the iron side of a truck until it was silent.[4]

After witnessing this, Gröning went to his boss and told him that he was not able to work at Auschwitz any more, stating that if the extermination of the Jews is necessary, “then at least it should be done within a certain framework”.[3]:138 The superior officer denied Gröning’s request.[3]:138  The framework had already been built.

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Town and Gown Antics – Cambridge 2009 August 3, 2009

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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“On July 16, 2009, (Skip) Gates returned home from a trip to China to find the door to his house jammed. His driver attempted to help him gain entrance. Responding to a report of a possible break-in, a Cambridge police officer arrested Gates and charged him with disorderly conduct after a confrontation. Prosecutors later dropped the charges.[10] The incident spurred a politically-charged exchange of views about race relations and law enforcement throughout the United States.[11]”  Wikipedia.
 
I have been following the Skip Gates saga since it started; the many twists to the story are fascinating and while I don’t think any “dialogue” of race has been started I do think it’s worth noting how polarized people have become over this incident and for interesting reasons.  Here’s one:
 
I was born in Boston and have lived in Cambridge.  It is its own city with its own police force.  Having said that- the Cambridge PD are not hired by or from Harvard.  I think there are people that imagine that Cambridge attracts a better,  more educated kind of cop.  In fact,  the City of Cambridge draws their police form the same gene pool that Boston PD does.  Good or bad – these are local folks for whom the idea of being a cop is a good salary, respect (maybe), a nice pension, medical insurance, overtime, camaraderie, better than a gang and you get to carry a gun.  You become the law.  Not everyone should become the law.
 
Skip Gates is a distinguished Harvard professor who lives in a lovely home in Cambridge.  He was disabled at 14 and requires a cane to help him walk.  He has degrees from Yale and Clare College, Cambridge (UK).  He is a Ph.D.  His area of expertise is African American Humanities and related fields.  His list of honors is a long one. 
 
James K. Crowley is a sergeant with the Cambridge Police and is the responder to the call of a possible burglary in progress at an address that happened to be Gates home.  A passer-by called it in.
 
Did I mention it was broad daylight – around lunch time. 
 
I think everyone behaved poorly;  Gates was jet-lagged and Crowley was over zealous.  When Crowley established it was indeed Prof. Gates’ home he should have simply said – “sorry – we have to check every call for service” and left.  Gates should have cooled his jets. Crowley or someone in the CPD instead called for back-up.  He asked Gates to step outside.  Gates got really irate and mentioned Crowley’s “momma”.  Gates was then handcuffed and arrested for DISORDERLY CONDUCT”.
 
Let’s review – Crowley has the gun, Gates has the cane, Crowley is overwrought, Gates is furious.  A crowd has also gathered.  Look at all the police.
 
NB: Black people do not get treated by the police – in general – the same way white people get treated. This is not Black paranoia – this is experience.  Black parents train their kids how to act when pulled over by a cop.  Do you imagine white parents do?  The main idea is not to get hurt or worse and stay out of jail.  We have all heard of Driving While Black.  This is a real thing – not a Dave Chapelle sketch.  DWB embraces every possible experience Black people could have with the law, even when they are the victim.  Deny it, sputter, shake your head.  But I been there. And I am not the Black person in the car or store or house.
 
White folks don’t think this happens at all and Black folks wish it wouldn’t happen so often.
 
So the other day a woman, whom I know from my area,  and I were chatting and the subject of Skip Gates came up and she went off. Like a bottle rocket. And she was specific – she hated Gates; hated his interview on TV with Ethiopian Jews years back when she says he lied about these Jews  and hence he was an asshole , a liar and no good.  (She is a 60-something Jewish lady who says she’s a Democrat and loves the President).  The Cambridge Police, she claimed, were not like other police and were polite and reasonable and they were specially trained to be police in a university area and better than other cops.  And Gates lied and he did it.  And I just stood there. She was so angry and so adamant that I feigned “gotta go” and went.  We were not having what I consider a “chat” at that point.
 
So what have we learned through all this ordeal – including beer at the White House?  Did it become a teachable experience for  all of us who swim in this multicultural ocean?  I don’t know – I jumped in and got bitten by a shark.  I suspect she could have been arrested for disorderly conduct as her voice got louder – but no passerby called 911.  Just as well.