Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nazi hunters: Unsung Heroes

Sixty-four years have passed since the end of World War II, and it is still widely talked about today. When I interviewed Dr. Paul Kopperman at OSU, he mentioned that especially because of the popularity of Hollywood movies, the interest in WWII has “gained momentum since the 80’s.” Alongside Hollywood’s view, we have dates to recognize veterans, memorials to remember communities lost; memoirs to learn about personal strife, like those of Anne Frank and Ellie Wiesel. Museums, speakers and survivors around the world are dedicated to remind us of the tragedy that was the Holocaust. Even the villains like Josef Mengele are remembered for their atrocities in hopes that we can learn to be better people, to remember that all have equal rights.

Overlooked by some, and unknown to others, and supported by survivors and victims, there are some unsung heroes of this awful tragedy. Simon Wiesenthal, Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, Efraim Zuroff are just a few of a special group dubbed as Nazi-hunters, who should be particularly remembered when speaking about the Holocaust.

These four people, among others have made a living seeking out and bringing to justice Nazi war-criminals like Mengele who were or are hiding out around the world. Mengele was known as ‘The Angel of Death’ working as a doctor at different death camps, doing notorious experiments on twins. Individuals like the Klarsfelds, and governments, including the United States and Germany, are still very active today in seeking out justice against perpetrators of war-crimes, “trying to come to terms with happened,” says Kopperman.

A Nazi war-criminal is one who is suspected of committing war crimes, crimes against peace, or crimes against humanity. When I spoke with Michele Wilson, anthropology instructor at LBCC she said “these are people who removed basic human rights.” After the war, many suspected war criminals, like Mengele fled to other countries seeking exile and protection. They had help from Nazi sympathizers to escape to places like Argentina and Paraguay who had particularly good relationships with Germany according to Kopperman, and refused to cooperate in the apprehension of suspected criminals. Unfortunately, Mengele was never brought to justice, believed to have died on a beach in Brazil in 1979.

When I asked Holocaust survivor, and Oregon local Alter Wiener his opinion of those in pursuit of Nazi war criminals he said, "They [war criminals] should be brought to justice. I'm not looking for revenge, revenge is to only please me."

Kopperman noted that hunters like Wiesenthal, who passed away in 2005 and the Klarsfelds, who are actively and legally pursuing those suspected of war crimes during World War II. “They kept meticulous files and work off of leads and experience,” he goes on to say that “they have exonerated some who did not act out of malice”. It is important to note that not all who participated in the war as Nazi’s are sought, only those who cruelly stripped away basic human rights. Once found, these criminals are often sent back (not always) to the location of their crime, typically Germany or Austria.

“We can define [Nazi Hunters] them as heroes on a humanitarian level,” says Wilson, “ We feel better when we get rid of evil.”

Photo of Auschwitz block 10 where Mengele conducting twin experiments; by athena. [flickr]

1 comment:

Carole Clarke said...

Those who do evil must be found and exposed to the world. There can be no place for them to hide. If we do not pursue them, they will continue to do evil and others will copy them, sure of escape. Evil exists and so does good - their fight is never-ending. No matter how old, or sick or tired the evil-doer is, let him be dragged forth to Justice.

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