Saturday, 23 January 2010


Something of a break with my normal post content.
In the news recently is the trial of John Demjanjuk, who is accused of having been a guard at the Sobibor concentration camp.
Demjanjuk is 89 years old, he is sick, and is wheeled into the court.
He was sentenced to death by an Israeli court, in 1988, on the grounds that he had been a guard at Treblinka known as "Ivan the Terrible". It was alleged that he was one of the two Ukrainians who ran the gas chamber there.
He had been, for twenty five or so years, a car worker in Cleveland, Ohio. The people there saw him as an ordinary man, nothing to fear.
Yet he was extradited to Israel as a war criminal, a vile sadist, Ivan the Terrible. He was found guilty, sentenced to death...  and then acquitted, because, after all that, it was found he was NOT Ivan the terrible.
After  five years on death row, he was again in court to hear the Israeli Supreme court overturn his conviction, with clear evidence that "Ivan" was a different man, and papers that showed Demjanjuk in a different place at the time of the events of which he was accused. Some of those papers had been knowingly withheld from the courts previously by the U.S. government.
Anyway, Demjanjuk, who had been in the grip of various justice systems since the nineteen seventies was released. Not to return home to the U.S., though, it was clear that, even though he had been proved not to be Ivan, he had probably been, in 1943, at Sobibor.

A couple of days ago, a Sobibor survivor testified in court in Munich, to the terrible things that happened there. No, he couldn't identify Demjanjuk, but, he said, the Ukrainian guards were the worst, and if Demjanjuk was one, then he was guilty.
It seems to me that this witness' testimony would not normally have been accepted in most courts. It merely re-iterated what we already knew, that Sobibor was a place where people were murdered in large numbers. The witness had no knowledge whatsoever of the defendant.

 The key point seem to be "was this man at Sobibor?" if it can be proved that he was, then was he a guard? And if he was a guard, was he a war-criminal, was he guilty of mass-murder?

He's been, effectively, a prisoner, facing death, since the nineteen seventies. Whatever he did at Sobibor, under the orders of the SS, as a captured soldier in the Russian army, he did as a young man, not as the person he is now. He claims he worked there as a farm labourer, as a prisoner of war, not as a guard. No Sobibor survivor has identified him as a guard.
Following the war, "according to an article in news magazine Der Spiegel on the legacy of German guilt, of over 100,000 investigations that were carried out in postwar Germany into Nazi crimes, only around 6,500 people were convicted. Thirteen death sentences were passed, 167 life sentences, and the rest received shorter prison sentences or fines. Only a fifth of those convictions were for murder".
Generally, the courts went for those who had freely, of their own will, committed war-crimes, and subordinates, following explicit orders were treated as less culpable.
 Out of all those nazis, only 13 were sentenced to death at Nuremberg. The heaviest sanctions were for the persons who devised and oversaw the atrocities.  Yet now, we have an old man who nobody seems to be able to say more against him than that there is an identity card that appears to place him at Sobibor in 1943.

That seems to be it. No evidence as to what he might have done there, just an I.D.card which might be him, 1943.

It seems to me that post-war Germany was full of people provably involved, knowingly, in mass murder, who have not been pursued by the courts. That the Allies snapped up german personnel with direct links to slave-labour and death camps, Werner Von Braun being a prime example. German chemists were in great demand. The companies that made the poison gases used in the camps still exist, the railway workers who drove millions to their deaths, they were required to rebuild germany, as were so many with blood on their hands.

Some might remember another war, Viet-Nam, and the My Lai massacre. 2nd Lt William Calley ordered his men to destroy a village, and wipe out its inhabitants, a non-combatant village that offered no resistance. According to U.S. records 347 civilians were killed, though U.S. personnel made no body count at the time, Vietnamese records, and the names on the memorial there, say the number was 504. Men, women, children, babies.
Some of the women were gang-raped by members of c-company, bodies were found with "C-company" carved into their chests. People sheltering in a ditch were machine-gunned, others were burned in their huts, any who tried to escape were shot or bayoneted to death. The death toll would have been greater were it not for a helicopter crew who put themselves into the line of fire, and contacted headquarters, to protect survivors.
How did those men, clearly placed and identified as killers and rapists, as the committers of an atrocity, fare? There was no doubt there, Calley was there, he ordered the killings. C-Company carried them out. With gusto.
26 soldiers were charged with criminal offences. Only one, Calley,  was convicted, despite there being eye witnesses and photographic evidence.

Extract from the testimony of Paul Meadlo

"He  (Calley)said, "How come they're not dead?" I said, I didn't know we were supposed to kill them." He said, I want them dead." He backed off twenty or thirty feet and started shooting into the people -- the Viet Cong -- shooting automatic. He was beside me. He burned four or five magazines. I burned off a few, about three. I helped shoot ‘em.
Q: What were the people doing after you shot them?

A: They were lying down.

Q: Why were they lying down?

A: They was mortally wounded.

Q: How were you feeling at that time?

A: I was mortally upset, scared, because of the briefing we had the day before.

Q: Were you crying?

A: I imagine I was....

Q: What were the children in the ditch doing?
A: I don't know.

Q: Were the babies in their mother's arms?

A: I guess so.

Q: And the babies moved to attack?

A: I expected at any moment they were about to make a counterbalance.

Q: Had they made any move to attack?

A: No."

"Nineteen-year-old Nguyen Thi Ngoc Tuyet watched a baby trying to open her slain mother's blouse to nurse. A soldier shot the infant while it was struggling with the blouse, and the slashed at it with his bayonet. Tuyet also said she saw another baby hacked to death by GIs wielding their bayonets. Le Tong, a twenty-eight-year-old rice farmer, reported seeing one woman raped after GIs killed her children . Nguyen Khoa, a thirty-seven- year-old peasant, told of a thirteen-year-old girl who was raped before being killed. GIs then attacked Khoa's wife, tearing off her clothes. Before they could rape her, however, Khoa said, their six-year-old son, riddled with bullets, fell and saturated her with blood. The GIs left her alone then"

Lt William Calley was sentenced to Life Imprisonment with Hard labour, but in reality, he served four and a half months in jail at Fort Benning, and the rest of his three-year sentence under comfortable house-arrest at Fort Benning. And then he was freed.

Compare the evidence against these American soldiers, and the single sentence served, with the case of John Demjanjuk.
It seems to me that John Demjanjuk is being treated as a scapegoat, that Germany is focussing on him being Ukrainian, in an attempt to forget the truth, that Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz, all those horrors and sins were created by Germany.
What is served, by this witch-hunt, where nobody alive can remember the defendant being there? Surely, it's time now to let it go, stop endlessly chasing revenge, 67 years have gone by.
Even if he was there, a guard, 67 years ago, isn't this time enough to say "Let God decide".

There was, and still is, a considerable support for Calley, many in the u.s.military were angry that any trial took place, witnesses were threatened. It was said that the experiences of soldiers in war made such events excusable.
Demjanjuk had been fighting in the Russian Red Army, on the eastern front. It is well documented that soviet captives were treated far more harshly than western allies.

I  realise that some readers will think I'm an apologist for the nazi cause, an anti semitic fascist.
I'm not.
It's just that this case has been in the news for the last week, and it got me to thinking about concepts of justice and revenge, and asking myself what the purpose is of this trial.

Computer Fail. Huge.

I'm very annoyed.
I'd say I'm mad, but that might be too revealing a glimpse into my mental state. I want a gun. One that shoots lots of bullets. Not too fast, I want the bastard to suffer, not to be gone in a zzzzzzzzzzzzzippp! moment. Who?

Him. That damned computer. Normally he stays on, all the time, just sits there on his shelf, humming slightly. I'd post a pic, but I can't, as I'm pecking this out on the laptop, and the laptop and I have only a weak truce. Real computer, the thing with too many hard drives to count, he's my real adversary.
See, windows demanded a reboot, after yet another security update, and computer hung on the motherboard startup screen. then I tried again, got windows started, only to have it freeze. Damn. try again... multiple times,
Sometimes we get to the boot screen, sometimes not. That's bad, because it suggests the problem is not in Windows, but right at the root, at the motherboard, at the place where the lizard-brain of computer cognisance resides, the part that has to wake and see what drives are present, which one to look for booting instructions from. And that part keeps saying "No OS"- no operating system.  Pithed frog.
This laptop should be the key to salvation, via the netgear wireless N router. But guess what. The Netgear Wireless N router, whose sales receipt I can not find, seems not to want to do the wireless stuff for which I spent good money.
The laptop can see a number of other networks, all secured, but not the one about ten feet away. nor  can my phone detect a wireless signal there.
So I can't sit in the armchair, and use the laptop, I have to be tethered by a wired connection. Which rather loses the whole point of a laptop, with its inferior keyboard and nasty mousepad.
This thing's an Acer Aspire 5735Z, It looks nice and shiny,  I suppose. I bought it a few months ago, and I'd be a lot happier about it if its speakers didn't sound like wasps in jam-jars, and if the bluetooth symbol on a keyboard button didn't bring up a "No Bluetooth Device" message. In short, if only it wasn't a glossy fraud. When I bought it, I kinda liked the idea of watching movies on it and listening to music, using it with my bluetooth headset for skype, and  so on. But it doesn't do bluetooth, and its sound stinks, and i hate HATE wired headsets.
Anyway, we're  digressing. The object of my rant is the main computer. i powered it down, unplugged and replugged everything on the mainboard, tried again a thousand times. It's dead.
So do I go out to buy a new one?
but maybe it's the drive with XP on it?
Oh. And a new one would take Sata drives, not IDE drives, and the four drives I have are, you guessed it, IDE.
So I'd need to buy a new hard drive too. And a new motherboard would take, almost certainly, different memory. Mine has 2GB of 333 DDR, a new one would take faster than 333, so... my oh my, buy new memory too. And I'd need to be able to get the data off my old drives too,  so an IDE to USB adaptor neede. See how it's all mounting up? see why I'm not a happy bunny?
Oh. and the joys of reinstalling windows too. Assuming I can find the disc and the serial numbers, assuming it will let me use that on a new motherboard.

Or maybe it's cheaper on the long run just to buy a ready-built box, running windows 7?
I know nobody wanted to read that rant, but it's therapeutic for me to write it.