Wednesday, October 03, 2007


I recently learned that there is an 85 year old man living in another part of metro Atlanta who may be a Nazi war criminal (registration required). His job in the SS was (allegedly) to train rottweilers to hunt down people who tried to escape from their concentration camps. These guard dogs "were trained to 'bite without mercy' anyone trying to escape and 'literally tear prisoners to pieces if they tried to escape.' "

He's been living in this country for a very long time--5o years or so. So now there's going to be some kind of trial to see if he can be deported.

What's amazing to me isn't that there is an old Nazi living here in Georgia, it's the responses to this deportation process. Here are a few representative comments on the blog associated with this article:

  • No, he should not be deported. There should be some sort of statue of limitations regarding this case - it was 65 years ago!!! You shouldn’t deport a man for the last years of his life for something that happened when he was 19 years old.
  • Deporting him serves what purpose? As a member of the military he was doing what was required of him. Has he committed a crime while in the US?
  • If this guy has led a clean life since World War II ended, then they should just leave him alone. He was a kid when this happened.
  • OK, if you are going to deport this old man then go get all the old white men that KILLED and TORTUED people of color and charge them with murder!!!!
  • Please leave this man alone and let he and his wife life the last few years of their lives together in peace. Please focus on things that matter today and not yesterday unless we are going to investigate slavery and lock up a few more people.
  • The Lord said justice is mine. Leave the old man alone.
  • Each side thinks their ideas are the right ones.
  • Although it is very sad that the Jews were tortured and killed in such a manner, this man was ordered to do what he did.
  • I am no more afraid of this frail old man than I am of my 5 year old daughter.
  • No, he should not be deported. What he did was horrible, but it during was a time of war and he was following orders just like every other soldier either allied or axis. If he disobeyed his superior officer he would have been shot too like the others.

Hello? McFly? If he did these things then of course he should be on the next plane outta here!

Yes, considered me amazed at the moral relativism, context-dropping, and completely irrelevant "arguments" that the average US citizen can muster on a topic such as this--and many, many others.

I probably should avoid these kind of news stories until my coffee has kicked in. Sheesh.


brendan said...

All of these comments are amazing to me, but let's pick a few REAL winners:

"...they should just leave him alone. He was a kid when this happened."

Well, we're not exactly talking about "youthful indescretions" are we? This goes a bit beyond leaving a flaming bag of dog squeeze on your neigbor's doorstep. THAT needs a statute of limitations. This -- no.

"OK, if you are going to deport this old man then go get all the old white men that KILLED and TORTUED people of color and charge them with murder!!!!"

Sounds good to me! By the way, NAZIs weren't so crazy about people of color, either; they had plans for them, too.

"Please leave this man alone and let he and his wife life the last few years of their lives together in peace."

Exactly my point -- he HAS lived a good life since WWII. 65 years of freedom, love, having kids and growing old together. It is so much more than he deserves. And he helped to deprive it to thousands of others, who by the way were INNOCENT.

"Each side thinks their ideas are the right ones."

Well, DUH. And by the way, so do you. It's just that YOUR side is stupid.

"I am no more afraid of this frail old man than I am of my 5 year old daughter."

Obviously you are not a Jew. It is his mind, not his frail old body, that you should fear.

"As a member of the military he was doing what was required of him."

You are quite correct; he was following orders. So was Josef Mengele, a man who committed absolute horrors -- please read up on him. The things he did are among the most unspeakable acts in human history. Brain surgery, on people who were alive, conscious, and unanesthetized. Monstrous -- not remotely human, this man. But he was dutifully following orders.

It's funny how people just assume that something like the Holocaust could never happen in today's society. We're too enlightened, right? Comments like the ones above show that the ground is still quite fertile for sowing these seeds again, and again, and again.

Anonymous said...

He was a war criminal on the level of Mengele, now? Not exactly. Who knows what his circumstances were. A lot of soldiers were forced into the Nazi military by threat of suffering to their loved ones. A lot of them were brainwashed -- which is easy to do to a teenager!! I find this too difficult to judge from my perspective, at least not enough to determine that his fate out to be imprisonment or death or that he is as evil as Mengele!

Did you read the wikipedia article? It makes it plainly clear that Josef Mengele came up with that shit all on his own! To compare him to a Nazi grunt is ridiculous. Mangele didn't need orders for to carry out his "experiments". He was using the Nazis' concentration camps as an opportunity to carry out his sick experiments on his own! He knew better and had the power to stop it. He did not. He was more evil than any dog trainer.


Rachel said...

Color me so very jaded. Sorry, Jenn, I guess I'm too far gone. Precious little about "popular" or "social" reactions amazes me anymore. Those comments don't surprise me in the least. Alas.

But I'm afraid I don't see it as an obviously open and shut case, "If he did these things then of course he should be on the next plane outta here!"

I'd like to know precisely what the law says on the matter. The article only says the State Department is trying to deport him. It doesn't say exactly what the allegations are. Okay, so he was a Nazi. Yes, it appears that he is admitting to being an exceptionally cruel person (and yes, that's an understatement). But they are seeking to revoke his American citizenship (or so I presume, since I know of no other way to deport someone), and even cruel people are permitted to be citizens. Is the allegation that he obtained his citizenship fraudulently? I mean is there a question on the application that asks if you are wanted by another government for crimes in that country? Or is it rather that there are clauses in some law or other that say people who committed certain acts in WWII cannot be granted citizenship? It matters. At least for the law as it actually exists.

As for the law as it might and ought to exist, here's a question I don't have the answer to. (And a quick google on the issue of "war crimes" only complicated the issue for me.)

If it is objectively established, according to the strict rules of evidence, in a moral country (i.e. properly free, respecting individual rights, etc.) that a certain individual committed a crime, and: this individual is not a citizen; his victim was not a citizen; the crime was committed outside the boundaries of this country; the crime is not considered criminal where the crime was committed; if all of these conditions prevail, then is it moral to punish the man who committed that crime?

I know that as a matter of law, we do not currently claim such jurisdiction, but what is the responsibility, if any, of the moral men of such a country and in such circumstances?

To apply this rather abstract question to more concrete circumstances, to give you a clearer idea of what I'm driving at, consider the case at hand. Perhaps we oughtn't merely to deport him? Perhaps we ought to actually try him for murder? Or what about the savages that commit terrible crimes against each other in Africa? Or how about those *really* primitive tribes in the Amazon? I mean they do some nasty things to each other, even their own children, all under the aegis of their local ideas of justice. There's a commercial running on one of those cables channels, right now, about a show, Taboo, I think it's called. They advertise what may, from the way the ad runs, be moral relativism. Anyway, one of the examples they give is that a boy undergoes over a thousand razor cuts in order to be recognized as an adult. Another is that a mother will deliberately flatten her daughter's breasts in order to make her sexually unappealing so that the daughter may go to college instead of getting knocked up (which destroys such dreams in such a society).

What may we do and what ought we to do about such things as we encounter them? Keep in mind that I'm not asking about vigilante-ism. Objective determination of guilt is necessary for the proper execution of justice. But if you can prove to any who would choose to examine the case that a crime was committed, what should you do about it?

Or what about OJ Simpson? I mean the creep is obviously guilty and the law in California is just so horribly mangled that it's almost unbelievable (one of the factors contributing to my aforementioned jadedness). I know that the correct solution to such a miscarriage of justice does not involve any real punishment of his crime(s). Double jeopardy applies, and he managed to slip through the system. The solution is to work for an overhaul of the legal system itself in order to prevent it in the future. But (and I don't know the answer to this one), does that mean that, similarly, this Nazi dog-trainer managed to capitalize on the collapse of justice in his area of the world and that he managed to escape his punishment?

I just don't think that it's as easy as declaring that if he did then he should be on the next plane out of the country.

Rational Jenn said...

Points well-taken, all. What bothered me about this article most is that so many people seem to think that since so much time has passed and it's kind of a big bother then this man should not be held accountable for his crimes--assuming they can be proved, of course.

I'm not a lawyer and I don't know what the laws actually state, whether they are good laws or not, or whether this case has merit. But, assuming they are good laws and there is a solid case against this guy, then I believe that we can safely assume that he lied in order to gain entrance into this country after the war. I can't find a cite for this just now, but my understanding is that Germans entering the US after the war had to list their wartime activities on their visa applications. In 1978 the Holtzman Amendment specifically allowed for the deportation of people involved in acts of persecution such as what the Nazis did. They were looking for war criminals, and we didn't want them here.

Of course, objective laws and justice should be applied to his case. If there is a good enough case against him to prosecute then he should stand trial. I don't care how old he is or how much time has passed. Now where is the proper place to stand trial--that may be a debatable question, but there is a mechanism for trying Nazi war criminals. Not knowing the ins and outs of that process, I'm not qualified to say whether that is a good process or not. But I do think that the US may have a case that he fraudulently got in this country and that in and of itself would be grounds for deportation.

He may be a nice old man now, but IF he did these things, his "nice old man-ness" should not be a Get Out of Jail Free card, which is what so many people seem to want.

It's probably a moot point anyway, as the article points out that the process to appeal the deportation takes years, and then if he gets deported and put on trial, that's a whole bunch more years and, well, he's already 86.

Thanks for your comments, you've given me much to think about.

brendan said...

Marnee, I did not claim that this guy was as bad as Mengele. There has hardly been anyone, ever, who was as bad as Mengele.

My point is simply that "following orders" does not excuse deplorable behavior. Training dogs to hunt down innocent people who are running for their very lives is deplorable.

And while the specific experiments were Mengele's ideas (nobody was standing there saying "OK now cut off that little boy's arm."), he was an officer in his military, acting under orders from his superiors to "prove" things like genetic inferiority, and behavior of so-called lesser beings.

My point still stands -- people should be held responsible for their own behavior. Justice for this man is LONG overdue. He should be deported; I know I don't want him as a neighbor.