The Shoa Must Go on

by Gilad Atzmon / January 25th, 2010

week saw Holocaust survivor Thomas Blatt, 82 give testimony at the
trial of John Demjanjuk. Blatt stated that he still has nightmares
about his time at the camp at Sobibor, “I go there in my dreams, they
are so real. In them I am still there. I can’t get it out of my head.
This is the price I paid for getting out.”

Ukrainian born John Demjanjuk, 89, is accused by the Munich court of being an ‘accessory’1
in the death of 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor camp while being a German
POW. As it happens, the German Justice system is now chasing ‘accessories
to the Nazi crime. Embarrassingly enough it doesn’t do very well in the
current case. Demjanjuk denies anything to do with the crime referred
to him and furthermore, the German prosecution lacks any evidence
whatsoever that supports or links Demjanjuk personally with murder or
any other holocaust related criminal event.

Mr Blatt does not remember John Demjanjuk either, nor can he say if
he is guilty as charged of helping to gas 27,900 Jews. “More than 60
years have passed” said Blatt.
“I can’t even remember the faces of my parents. The court must decide
if he was there. If he was there when I was there then I can imagine he
shoved Jews at bayonet point to the gas chambers”.

According to The Mirror, Blatt was brought to the court “to
give a living voice to the horror instead of a dusty historical
account”. Seemingly in our current state of hyper realistic world
affairs, historical documents and fact are diminished to “dust” while a
personal narrative, saturated with speculation, associations and
emotions are realised as a persuasive ‘living voice’. At the end of the
day, Demjanjuk, a geriatric man is accused here of assisting in the
death of no less than 27,900 people. The German court better bring
something concrete rather than mere speculations.

Mr Blatt maintained that “Ukrainians ‘like Demjanjuk’ were the worst
of the worst. We were more afraid of them than we were of the Germans.”
There were “120 Ukrainian guards compared with only 17 S.S. men at any
one time” said Blatt to the German court. Blatt clearly ‘got away’ with
generalisations. I wonder whether a Palestinian boy suggesting that
Jews ‘like Blatt’ who killed his family a year ago dropping bombs on a
UN shelter in Gaza, would also be welcomed at the Munich court. For
some bizarre reason, within the context of the Western liberal
discourse, where Jews are concerned, generalising is okay and so is
freely employing racial categories and even suggesting guilt by
association. Somehow the rest of humanity is advised to avoid such a
manner of speech.

However, such crude blanket accusations of the Ukrainians as a
people that apparently pass as evidence in the Munich court, may
actually throw light on the sinister motivation behind the current
court case. Like the rest of humanity, the Germans seem to show some
clear signs of ‘Shoa fatigue’. They appear to prefer to withdraw
responsibility from the Nazi past and to leave Ukrainian POWs to take
the heat. Similarly, we could expect that at a certain stage America
and Britain may decide to use the same tactics and to charge their
collaborators in the Arab world for the death and carnage they
themselves left behind. Israel, that is now facing pressure for its
mounting record of crimes against humanity, may also put the German
trick into action. It may also want to cherry pick some Palestinians
and charge them for being accessories to the crimes against the
Palestinian people.

But there is a much more interesting twist to this evolving shameful
legal case. While Demjanjuk denies being an accessory to the Nazi
crime, Mr Blatt freely admits working for the SS and assisting in what
he himself describes as a death machine: “Another job was to cut the
hair of women about to be killed”, says Blatt. “Those from places like
Holland believed the lie,” he maintains. “The women would say to me:
‘Please don’t cut my hair too short!’ But the Polish Jews — they
already knew. They had heard too many stories, smelled the bonfires at
night.” Blatt continues, “They would say ‘How can you do this? How can
you work for the S.S.?’ I did it to survive.”

One may wonder why Blatt’s will to survive is more kosher
than an Ukrainian prisoner’s desire to come home. In other words,
considering Blatt’s admission in assisting the SS, why isn’t he charged
by the same German court for being an ‘accessory’ for the Nazi crime?

One possible answer is that Blatt is a Jew and Demanjuk is a Goy.
As sad as it may be, in the eyes of the Munich court, a Jew’s will to
‘survive’ must be superior to an Ukrainian’s desire to make it to the
end of the war in one piece. If this is indeed the case, the German
court fails to operate ethically and universally. Accordingly, it would
be reasonable to argue that the Munich court fails to draw the
necessary and elementary lesson from Germany’s Nazi past. German
Justice somehow differentiates between people according to their race
and ethnicity.

  1. An
    ‘accessory’ is a person who assists in the commission of a crime, but
    who does not actually participate in the commission of the crime as a
    joint principal. []

Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He lives in London and is the author of two novels: A Guide to the Perplexed and the recently released My One and Only Love. Atzmon is also one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Gilad.

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