c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service=
The New York Times said in an editorial on Monday, March 3:
Fifty years after the end of World War II, Europe is awash ininformation that nations which considered themselves neutral oreven victims of the Nazis actually profited from the Holocaust.They trafficked in gold, strategic minerals, art and real estate.Newly opened archives reveal that others knew of the slaughter ofJews and stayed silent. The test for these countries today is notwhat they did then, but what they will do now to uncover the truthand to compensate the victims.
Switzerland was not the only supposedly neutral nation thatserved as banker and supplier to the Nazis. Swedish bankers alsotook billions of dollars of gold from the Nazis without inquiringabout its origins, and the government allowed German soldiers topass through Swedish territory. Portuguese officials recentlydisclosed that neutral Portugal acquired stolen gold by sellingtungsten to the Germans, and later secretly sold the gold in Asia.According to declassified documents, Spain acquired $138 million inNazi gold and kept almost all of it after the war. Poland and theNetherlands are also investigating what happened to the wealth oftheir own victims, while France and Austria are learning that arttreasures in national museums were looted or bought at bargainprices from Jews.
More shocking, perhaps, than the looting is the evidence thatBritain knew in 1941 that the Nazis were systematicallyexterminating Jews in the Soviet Union. Yet London said and didnothing.
None of this should be very surprising. It is useful to recallthat the U.S. government, while waging all-out war, took few stepsto deal directly with the extermination of European Jews. It failedto bomb the death chambers at Auschwitz even as it carried outbombings 5 miles away. It took as refugees only a small proportionof the Jews that it had promised to take. It did not drop leafletsor send radio broadcasts to the ghettos warning Jews of what lay atthe other end of the train tracks.
President Roosevelt was likely reluctant to divert soldiers andweapons from the effort to defeat the Nazis. Nor, apparently, didhe want to risk identifying the war as a `` Jewish'' cause during atime when America was a good deal more anti-Semitic andanti-immigrant than today.
America's role in the war encompassed both shameful neglect ofthe Jews and a heroic war effort. The same complexities apply toother nations now discovering their complicity. Two Swedish bankersaccused of taking looted gold and making large loans to a Germancompany without collateral are the uncles of Raoul Wallenberg. Hewas the diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in Budapest withSwedish safe-conduct passes. He was arrested by the Soviets anddied in prison.
The rather banal lesson of the new revelations is thatinstitutions such as banks and governments will often do the wrongthing unless closely watched. News of the past should not, however,be a reason for condemnations of Sweden or Switzerland today. Whatis a proper basis for judgment is how the governments and citizensof these countries are reacting to the news now. Are they coveringup the accusations and continuing to profit from their behavior _in effect, still collaborating? Or are they assuming theirresponsibility by embracing full investigations and recompense?
Few countries deal honestly with their past. American textbooksabout World War II long neglected to publicize the government'sfailure to save Jews. The French are only now challenging popularmyths that celebrated the French resistance while minimizing Frenchcollaboration with the Nazis.
The nation that treated its past guilt most seriously after thewar was probably West Germany. It paid 85 billion marks incompensation and reparations and beginning in the late 1950s triedthousands of its citizens for killing Jews. Germany's effortsremain imperfect. Most of those tried received absurdly lightsentences and large numbers of victims never got payments. FewGermans spoke of the Nazi era until a generation passed, but nowthey speak of it constantly. Given the scope of the crimes, this isas it should be. But such introspection is a rare thing, and worththe attention of other nations suddenly discovering that their ownrecords are less than pure.
c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service=
MUNICH, GermanyThe old man with memories and the young womanwith questions had not met before this day, but seemed drawn to oneanothershe to inquire, he to warnabout the unwanted legacythat both binds and divides Germany's generations: the Nazi past.
Briefly, their paths entwined at an exhibit in the Gothic CityHall that has stirred unaccustomed passions in this southern city,confronting Bavarians with evidence directly contradicting thefondly held belief that Hitler's army remained aloof from theHolocaust.
Here, in grainy black-and-white photographs, some taken asgrisly souvenirs, ordinary German soldiersnot SS madmenareshown humiliating Jews and conducting summary executions by firingsquad and hanging. Here is a letter written home by a young soldierboasting that his unit had killed 1,000 Jews``and that was notenough.''
The exhibit has already toured 15 cities in Germany and Austria,but only in traditionally conservative Munich, where Nazism tookroot in the 1920s, has it become an object of ferocious politicaldivision, to the extent that both the far right and leftist groupscalled rival demonstrations.
(Thousands of local residents and left-wing activists ralliedagainst neo-Nazis protesting the exhibit on Saturday, but atwo-hour standoff between the groups ended without major clashes,Reuters reported. The police said 55 people were detained.)
Yet, most remarkable of all, the exhibit has broken a wall ofsilence between young Germans, who learned principally about theHolocaust during high school, and a much older generation that tookpart in World War II and then, by and large, took refuge inself-imposed silence.
``Up until today this had not been discussed across thegenerations,'' said Lucy Wilbers, a 22-year-old student, whoseencounter Sunday with Hubert Endl, a 79-year-old military veteran,touched off one of many spontaneous debates.
The exhibit, sponsored by a private foundation run by thetobacco heir Jan Phillip Reemtsma, is called ``War of Destruction _The Crimes of the German Army, 1941-1944.''
Its theme is that, as the catalog puts it, ``in 1945, barelyafter the defeat of Nazi Germany, the generals of that period beganthe fabrication of a legendthe legend of the `clean Army',''according to which ``the soldiers kept their distance from the Naziregime and Hitler, fulfilled their military duties with decency anddignity.''
However, the exhibit's organizers said, ``from 1941 to 1944, theGermany Army in the Balkans and the Soviet Union conducted not a`normal war' but a war of destruction against Jews, prisoners ofwar and civilians that claimed millions of victims.''
That conclusion, supported by photographs and documents, hasinspired Bavaria's conservative rulers in the Christian SocialUnionthe sister-party of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's dominantChristian Democratsto urge a boycott of the exhibit on theground that it besmirches a proud military record, inspiringclashes with left-wing parties that support a more open debateabout the past.
But, despite the boycott call, many Bavarians, young and old,have stood in line for hours to view the exhibit, fascinated andintrospective.
``I was drafted in 1942,'' said a 73-year-old veteran, whodeclined to give his name. ``I wasn't in the places where thesethings happened,'' he said, gesturing to photographs of hangingsand mass graves. ``And thank God I wasn't. Because if I had been,I'd have done the same. The choice was to shoot or be shot fordisobeying orders.''
All the same, though, he said, he had served in a place in theUkraine that he suspected was among the many sites where Jews wereknown to have been killed. ``I said to my comrades: If the thingsare happening that I think are happening, then we will all have torepent them.''
Then, he turned to young people in their jeans and leatherjackets who had clustered around him, waving his walking-stick ashe declaimed: ``It must never, ever happen again.''
For Ms. Wilbers, the student who spoke with Endl about his timewith the German army in the Ukraine and Yugoslavia during the war,the old man's stories illuminated what she had been told at school.``There were books and videos and we studied them,'' she said.``But, until today, they were not so real.''
Ms. Wilbers belongs to a generation of Germans that has beentaught never to suppress the memory of the Holocaust and to accept,not guilt for it, but a national responsibility.
Endl, by contrast, is from a generation much closer to questionsof guilt and its denial. ``I believe that after 50 years, we shouldnot bring all these things up again,'' he said, ``because what yousee here is a result of the way German soldiers were mistreated.Why is it always the Germans who are blamed? Did no one else do anykilling?''
``Yes, but it must be aired, it must be out in the open,'' saida younger man who asked not to be identified by name.
The exhibit has contributed to a surge of fascination in thereunified Germany about World War II and the Holocaust. Such is theapparent hunger for explanations that, last year, a book by DanielJ. Goldhagen, a Harvard academic, on the role of ordinary Germansin the persecution of Jews, became a best-seller here.
The book's thesisin contrast to German historical worksattributing the Holocaust either to the inherent evil of the Nazileaders or to the system of genocide they createdwas that thekilling of six million Jews stemmed directly from a particularlyvirulent, German anti-Semitism that sought the annihilation of theJews as a ``national project.''
The fascination with the past is ascribed by some Germans to agenerational shift.
``It has become so much easier for this generation to deal withthe past,'' said Josef Joffe, a leading newspaper commentator herewho has followed the debate closely. ``The young generation canrelive the fascination without reliving the fear andstigmatization. It can look the evil in the eye.''
The debate, though, is more tangled than that, coaxing forth thearray of emotions by which Germans seek to absorb the notion thattheir forebears committed what many consider to be history's mostappalling crime. Most notably, many argue that, whatever happenedin the past, they should not be the only ones to shoulder guilt.
``Other countries pushed out their Jews and sent them to us _isn't that true?'' said a middle-aged woman who declined to beidentified by name, bursting into a debate between two war veteransand a group of students in their early 20s.
And, cutting across generational lines, some asked why, after 50years, Germany could not shake its past. ``We should be creating anew Europe,'' said Bernhard Ehreke, a 22-year-old hoteladministration trainee. ``We should be looking forward and notback.''
Then, as if to answer his own question, he said: ``War is cruel.War is hell. It brings out criminal instincts that we should layaside. And we should never forget that.''
c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service=
DURHAM, N.C.One week after announcing that he was becoming aMuslim and now wearing the dark bow tie of the Nation of Islam,Benjamin Chavis, the former NAACP leader, returned Sunday to hisNorth Carolina roots for his debut as a minister in theorganization headed by Louis Farrakhan.
Chavis' career path, from imprisoned militant, to politicallyactive minister, to beleaguered leader of the NAACP, to his latestsurprising stop, has been nothing if not complicated. The smallerjourney he undertook this morning in the wooded North Carolinacountryside also seemed to cover a great distance.
He traveled 20 miles from a friendly, music-filled rural church,filled with the smiles and bustle of Sunday services, to anaustere, brick and warehouse-like structure that serves as thelocal mosque, in an industrial district in north-central NorthCarolina.
Posted conspicuously outside the mosque were Nation of Islamguards, all wearing bow ties, some in a quasi-military blueuniform. Chavis' inaugural address was off-limits to reporters, inkeeping with a Nation of Islam policy firmly announced by theconvert, now known as Chavis Muhammad, on the building's wornsteps.
As the leader of the National Association for the Advancement ofColored People, Chavis had generated deep and widespread discomfortin associating with Farrakhan. Forced to resign in August 1994 asthe organization's executive director after revelations that he hadused scarce NAACP money to pay a settlement to a woman who accusedhim of sexual harassment, Chavis became the national director ofthe committee organizing Farrakhan's Million Man March.
On Sunday, speaking to reporters after services at the MountZion African Methodist Episcopal Church in nearby Hillsborough,Chavis, who is 49, left no doubt about his allegiance to Farrakhan.
``I want to live the rest of my life working closely with theperson I consider the most effective black leader in Americatoday,'' he said.
Chavis dismissed suggestions that he might now be considered thelogical successor to Farrakhan.
``My motive is not to succeed but to help,'' he said. ``I am aminister in the Nation of Islam, and I am working closely with andfor Minister Louis Farrakhan. We have a good workingrelationship.''
Chavis also described a continuity between his past as aminister in the United Church of Christ, and his present in theNation of Islam.
``The same God that called me into the Christian ministry calledme into the Nation of Islam,'' he said. ``What I am going to workon is helping to improve the quality of life in the blackcommunity. That's my forte.''
Chavis had planned to attend the church in which he wasordained, in nearby Manson, but scheduling difficulties preventedthis, he said.
Chavis sat quietly and inconspicuously through services at theMount Zion church. He greeted a few people afterward, but most didnot seem to know who he was. The minister, Larnie Horton, saidlater that he supported Chavis' conversion and added, ``I got nonegativism about his being here this morning.''
KARREMANS AND HIS TIME IN LEBANON: From ROBERT FISK HARIS,SOUTHERN LEBANON - In March of 1979, a young Dutch army captaincalled Tom Karremans took command of 100 Dutch UN troops at Charliecompany in the desolate - and dangerous - coastal strip of southernLebanon where Palestinian guerrillas and Israeli troops confrontedeach other, three years after Israel's first invasion of Lebanon.Israel's Lebanese militia allies, most of them Shia Muslims, wouldassault the Dutch troops along the tenuous front line which theyheld across the foothills east from the Mediterranean. Former Dutchsoldiers remember how men from Israel's proxy army, run by arenegade major called Sadd Haddad, would steal weapons andammunition and sometimes money from the beleaguered Dutch soldiers.On one occasion, a Dutch officer - his identity still undiscovered- was made to lie on the road in front of his men while amilitiaman held a rifle to his head.
All this would be history - the UN force remains in southernLebanon, but the last Dutch troops left more than 11 years ago -were it not for the fact that Tom Karremans was later given a farmore responsible UN position, in a town that was to be the scene ofthe worst atrocity committed in Europe since the Second World War.The moustachioed Karremans - by now a 46-year old lieutenantcolonel - was commander of the Dutch Air Mobile Brigade in theBosnian UN 'safe haven' of Srebrenica, the UN force which watchedimpotently as Serb gunmen herded up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men onto buses for their subsequent mass murder in the forests above theDrina river. The UN's Bosnian interpreters would later claim thatDutch troops had failed to protect the population, linking this toKarremans' experiences as a UN soldier in Lebanon. ``Apparently,the Muslims treated the Dutch soldiers badly in Lebanon,'' one ofthe former UN Srebrenica translators told the 'Independent'newspaper.
Karremans did indeed serve in the 1st Dutch battalion inLebanon. A Dutch defence ministry publication called 'Blue Berets'shows that 'Karremans, Thom J. P.' served in the UN sector in theearly days of the UN's deployment. One of his fellow officers hasconfirmed to the 'Independent' that he commanded the unit justnorth of the Ras al-Bayada cliffs for six months in 1979.``Karremans was right on the line between the Israelis, theirmilitia allies and the PLO,'' the retired colonel said. ``We alwayshad bad experiences with the IDF (Israel Defence Force) and the PLObut for the local people - apart from the (Shia Muslim) Amalmilitia - we had very good co-operation.'' This is confirmed bynumerous interviews with Lebanese Muslim inhabitants of the formerDutch battalion area who recall the peace keepers' efforts toimprove security.
Many Muslims in Haris, where the Dutch maintained theirbattalion headquarters, still treasure photographs of themselves inthe company of Dutch officers and doctors; the medical facilitiesof Dutchbatt - as the unit was called in UN parlance - were open toall families who lived in the sector. Several Dutch soldiers stillsend Christmas cards to Lebanese Muslims, more than a decade and ahalf after they left. No such warmth will ever be felt by thesurvivors of Srebrenica towards the Dutch soldiers who failed toprotect their loved ones from the Serbs.
But records here show that the Dutch were regularly threatenedby Palestinian guerrillas, that Israeli troops and their Lebanesemilitia allies frequently fired over their heads - especially overthe orange groves in which Karremans' Charlie Company was located,a transit point for Palestinian guerrillas trying to infiltratesouth towards the Israeli border only 10 miles away. One UN Postwas called by its Dutch soldiers 'Fort Desperation' - the name canstill be seen in faded paint on the wall. There were personalclashes with Israeli troops who were using hooded collaborators toidentify anti-Israeli villagers and, before the Dutch battalionfinally left - when Karremans was no longer in Lebanon - there weretwo confrontations with angry Muslims after the Dutch stagedparties outside the local Haris 'Husseiniya', the village mosque.On one occasion, sticks of dynamite were exploded nearby; in thesecond, a chair was broken over the head of a Dutch army majorafter a blond Dutch artiste had knelt on all fours close to themosque to sing a pop song.
Retired Dutch soldiers often compare their UN experience inLebanon with that of Srebrenica. Tom Milo, a captain-translator inthe UN's Lebanon Dutchbatt who spoke fluent Arabic, was surprisedthat Karremans took no Dutch interpreters with him to Srebrenica,relying only on Bosnian employees. He also noted that while theDutch brought dozens of armoured vehicles to Lebanon to defendthemselves, Karremans had few vehicles, only light weapons andlittle petrol to operate in Srebrenica.
When Israeli troops burst through Dutch UN lines in 1982, Dutchofficers burned all their intelligence files on Lebanese villagersso that the Israelis could not use them to make arrests; inSrebrenica, almost all the inhabitants were allowed to fall intothe hands of the Serbs. The Dutch defence ministry withdrew all butan infantry company from Lebanon in 1983. Villagers burned tyres onthe roads to try to stop the Dutch troops leaving. ``They told uswe'd be sorry they left,'' the Haris mayor, Sulieman Ahmed, toldthe 'Independent'. ``But we didn't regret it.'' When the Dutchreturned from Srebrenica, they were given a hero's welcome inHolland. Some weeks later, Karremans was promoted to full colonel.
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