Monday, November 24, 2008


This year, I couldn't write a post about Kristallnacht. Many point to it and say that this was the start of the Shoah. To find out how the destruction of over a 1,000 synagogues, the deaths of over 30 Jews(some say the deaths were in the thousands), the destruction of Jewish businesses, and the round-up of Jews, you have to look at the years before. For years, Hitler told the German people that Jews were to blame for all the ills of the world, that Jews were vermin, and that Jews were sub-human. Jews were not 'real' Germans. It was all too easy for 'real' Germans to stand-by or actively participate in the destruction of Jewish life.

It was all too easy for the rest of the world to remain virtually silent while the sounds of broken glass echoed through the streets of Germany. It was all too easy for Allied Forces to ignore the pleas of Jews to bomb the train tracks leading to the death camps even after it was verified that people were being fed to the ovens of Auschwitz.

Silence echoed through the halls of American justice. During World War II, men of all faiths joined American Forces. Jews were no different and they fought in Europe and in the Pacific. Some were captured as POWs. Even then, the Germans were intent on making sure their Final Solution took place. The Germans separated the Jewish soldiers and sent them to slave camps.

I cannot and will never understand the silence of the United States on the treatment of its Jewish soldiers:

From there, the Nazis separated 350 U.S. soldiers for being Jewish or "looking like Jews" and sent them to the slave camp around February 8, 1945. To this day, the U.S. Army has never officially recognized its soldiers were held as slaves inside Germany. Survivors of the camp signed documents to never speak about their captivity.

I cannot and will never understand why the US War Department reduced the sentences of those in charge of the slave camps:

It picks up with Charles Vogel, the uncle of Bernard and Martin. A veteran of World War I, Charles Vogel was a dogged and powerful attorney who was devastated by the loss of his nephew. At the time, he was the lead attorney for Adams Hats, with a Manhattan office at 1440 Broadway.

Working pro bono, Charles Vogel contacted more than 100 survivors of the Nazi slave camp after the war and built a case against the two Berga commanders: Erwin Metz and his superior, Hauptmann Ludwig Merz. He turned over his findings to the U.S. War Department, and the material was used against Metz and Merz in a war crimes trial in Germany. Not a single Berga survivor was allowed to testify at the trial.

Metz and Merz were both sentenced to die by hanging.

But on June 11, 1948, Charles Vogel received devastating news from the U.S. War Department.

"The sentence of Metz was reduced to life imprisonment and that of Merz to a term of five years. Because of the voluminousness of the record it is not possible to set forth in detail reasons for the reduction of the sentences," wrote Col. Edward H. Young, the chief of the War Crimes Branch, Civil Affairs Division, in a one-page letter.

One week later, Charles Vogel fired off a terse, four-page response, expressing outrage and urging the government to try the men again, this time allowing Berga survivors to testify about what they endured.

"The information contained in your letter of 11 June 1948 is a surprise and shock," Charles Vogel wrote.

He spent the next few months gathering signatures of dozens of "survivors of this horror and by the next-of-kin of the G.I. dead."

Charles Vogel went straight to the top of the U.S. government, pleading in a petition to President Harry Truman, Secretary of State George Marshall and Defense Secretary James Forrestal to act against "these monsters."

"The civilian prisoners received treatment on a par with that at Buchenwald and Dachau [Nazi concentration camps]. This in itself is sufficient cause for Merz and Metz to hang. The added crime that American G.I.s were treated so inhumanly magnifies their guilt. Merz and Metz were tried by the War Crimes Court and sentenced to hang," Charles Vogel said in his petition.

At least 350 American soldiers were sent to Nazi slave camps. They were separated from their brothers in arms because they were Jews. Why weren't these soldiers allowed to testify? Why were the sentences of Merz and Metz reduced to a travesty of justice?

At times. the adage of silence being golden is a mockery of decency, humanity, and justice.

H/t: Dov Bear

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