Friday, May 2, 2008

Yom HaShoah -- Holocaust Remembrance Day -- Part II

The Nazis’ brutal murder of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others didn’t end with the millions of people considered untermenschen. The Nazis also killed many “normal” people.

When my husband and I were stationed with the U.S. Army in Munich, Germany, from September 1970 to May 1972, we got two newspapers: the army newspaper The Stars and Stripes and the International Herald Tribune.

Below is an article from the October 18, 1971, International Herald Tribune with the headline “Nazis of Oradour Massacre Hail War in Beery Reunion.”

ROSENHEIM, West Germany, Oct. 17 (Reuter) – Some 500 members of the Nazi “Das Reich” SS division, which massacred over 600 men, women and children in a French village in 1944, today wound up a weekend conference to form an old comrades’ association with beer and wartime songs.

The massacre was in revenge for the death of an SS officer.

Middle-aged and many a little paunchy, they cheered as the chairman of the newly formed association, Lt. Col. Gunther Wisliceny, pledged them to “preserve the comradeship of the last war, sealed in blood.”

Col. Wisliceny, of Hannover, one of the most decorated officers in the Nazi forces, was chosen chairman of the association at the foundation meeting yesterday. He was the last commander of a Panzer regiment within the division.

One of the organizers of the meeting, Hermann Buch, is a brother-in-law of Hitler’s deputy Martin Bormann and a former staff officer of SS leader Heinrich Himmler.

Units of Das Reich division fought all through the Russian campaign and the retreat through Hungary and also in France in the closing stages of the war.

On June 10, 1944, a detachment entered the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, where an SS captain had been shot, and wiped out the population. The 190 men were herded into barns, which were set ablaze, while the 245 women and 207 children were mowed down by machines guns. Only 10 people survived. After the war, 20 men were convicted of responsibility for the massacre. Only two were executed.

Other detachments of Das Reich division were accused of hanging partisans in the French village of Tulle and of various killings in the Soviet Union.

Press officer Martin Schwaebe, who served as divisional historian during the war, said the new association has no political aims. It is a social and welfare organization formed to maintain the division’s traditions “in the same way as members of British, French and American regiments had stayed together since the war.”

The Bavarian Social Democratic party in a public protest commented, “The comradeship of Das Reich division was not sealed with blood, but smeared with the blood of innocent citizens like those in Oradour.”

During yesterday’s meeting about 1,000 West German trade-unionists marched around the hall carrying banners with slogans proclaiming “No More Nazis” and “Once was enough.”

In response to my reproducing this article, many people might say that this cheery reunion of brutal murderers took place in 1971 and would not, of course, take place today. And, yes, perhaps it would not take place so openly now. But we are much mistaken if we think such “reunions” of infamous mass murderers no longer take place.

One can only hope that those dedicated Nazi hunters such as 86-year-old Tuviah Friedman in Israel continue their quests to bring to justice the still-living notorious Nazis from World War II. And one can also hope that this long arm of the law will serve as a warning to all current and future mass murderers.

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