More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Balsamo » Thu Feb 23, 2017 4:50 am

Statmec:
As far as killing 70 SS I don't recall the number being that high, much lower. My memory may be faulty. But the number of SS killed is not really the point.


Tell that to Bruno Bettelheim who made the forword for Milkos book.
Agree, the number of SS killed is not the point...one killed would have been something, and the destruction of one krema a huge success.


As for the rest, i am going to take a break.

My uncle saved over 250 RAF pilots by leading them all the way from Northern France / Belgium/ Netherlands all down to Spain...without thinking that this action might have attracted the attention of the Germans...well it did, and he died shot by the Feld Gendarmerie a couple of meters form the Spain borders, because he tried to save the pilot from drowning...and it made noise...So silly form him!

According to you, he shouldn't have...as he attracted the attention of those bastards, so it was better to keeping the job???

Last question: was Miklos seeing those SK playing soccer with the SS a lie or should we consider the game as a spontaneous unconscious form of direct therapy, between two mass killing ? Was them eating the food confiscated from the victims, smoking their cigs, also a form of "communion" with the victims?
Or, please, tell me Miklos is a liar ! Or if he was not, please tell me how you integrate this in you point of view?

Or and one important question: Did they or did they not know that the deal "do what we ask, and live in comfort" would only last 3-4 months?

You know the "Milgram experience", well there is an often forgotten part of the candidates who did say "{!#%@} you, Professor"... But well, let's have a pray for the minority who would have killed just because they have been told so...or how to put this to "save their buts?"

I will make one more post for JEFFK...

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby scrmbldggs » Thu Feb 23, 2017 4:52 am

Oh, another point I read from other Auschwitz survivors: survival had become defiance.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Balsamo » Thu Feb 23, 2017 5:06 am

scrmbldggs wrote:
Balsamo wrote:My point has been expressed many times,

It is yours that is becoming less and less clear.

The last one being you could not do anything without getting attraction by your captors. Where does that goes?
How did a SK team able to organize a "suicidal" revolt despite of every actions they took potentially posing the risk of getting attraction by the captors?

What the hell is wrong here?
Do you really think that the Resistance were left doing nothing because of the risk or the probability that "their actions" would be potentially get attraction by the enemy?
What would be the lesson here ?
Do not do anything that might get attraction because you would get in trouble? That they might even kill you?
So please DON'T DO ANYTHING THAT MIGHT ATTRACT THE ATTENTION OF THE ENEMY? OR THE CAPTOR?

You are scaring me.
Now it is really time to worry if such principles is promoted.
Who is going to fight next time?


I clearly was speaking about the work they performed, not their every second of their every day:

scrmbldggs wrote:
Balsamo wrote:Of course, they could influence the pace of murders...but not doing the job, or doing it more slowly...

From what I've read, that would have hardly been possible without attracting the attention of their captors.

That^ was the one thing they were taken for, the one thing they wanted them to do.

To which StatMech rightfully added:
Statistical Mechanic wrote:...
Agree. The men reported that they were under a general threat of death - this was in the fabric of their daily lives, a threat of which they ere highly aware. Gradowski e.g. has a passage describing the omnipresent, omniscient guard detail. Lewental describing a specific incident: “no one held the illusion that we were going to save ourselves. On the contrary, we had clearly made the assessment that it was a certain death, but everyone was happy with this . . .” Also, in the scrolls the writers sometimes explain their slave-condition as a walking death, perceiving themselves as virtually dead already. Certainly doomed, but more than that - trapped in a unique state, mostly dead, hovering there for a long moment before their final disappearance.




__________________________
Furthermore and as an aside, I do not in the least begrudge those tortured souls the little comfort of some decent food etc. Food that was no longer helpful to the arrivals and that also might not necessarily have gone to any of their fellow inmates.



We all know the jobs they were forced to do.
But all those jobs gave opportunity to kind of "sabotage" the process, discreetly by slowing down work effort...all the way to the insurrection.
Of course, the final price would have been death.
The Jews who revolted in Warsaw also knew they would have no chance at all...But they did it anyway.

Is they anyone here still aware that i just do not want those brave who scarified their lives to be put on the same level as a common SK?

As i said, i do respect the "scrolls writers", but that is how many out of how many?
And you and Stat want to give to all of them the credit of a few...Sorry, but i won't follow that path.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Thu Feb 23, 2017 2:15 pm

Balsamo wrote:
scrmbldggs wrote:
Balsamo wrote:My point has been expressed many times,

It is yours that is becoming less and less clear.

The last one being you could not do anything without getting attraction by your captors. Where does that goes?
How did a SK team able to organize a "suicidal" revolt despite of every actions they took potentially posing the risk of getting attraction by the captors?

What the hell is wrong here?
Do you really think that the Resistance were left doing nothing because of the risk or the probability that "their actions" would be potentially get attraction by the enemy?
What would be the lesson here ?
Do not do anything that might get attraction because you would get in trouble? That they might even kill you?
So please DON'T DO ANYTHING THAT MIGHT ATTRACT THE ATTENTION OF THE ENEMY? OR THE CAPTOR?

You are scaring me.
Now it is really time to worry if such principles is promoted.
Who is going to fight next time?


I clearly was speaking about the work they performed, not their every second of their every day:

scrmbldggs wrote:
Balsamo wrote:Of course, they could influence the pace of murders...but not doing the job, or doing it more slowly...

From what I've read, that would have hardly been possible without attracting the attention of their captors.

That^ was the one thing they were taken for, the one thing they wanted them to do.

To which StatMech rightfully added:
Statistical Mechanic wrote:...
Agree. The men reported that they were under a general threat of death - this was in the fabric of their daily lives, a threat of which they ere highly aware. Gradowski e.g. has a passage describing the omnipresent, omniscient guard detail. Lewental describing a specific incident: “no one held the illusion that we were going to save ourselves. On the contrary, we had clearly made the assessment that it was a certain death, but everyone was happy with this . . .” Also, in the scrolls the writers sometimes explain their slave-condition as a walking death, perceiving themselves as virtually dead already. Certainly doomed, but more than that - trapped in a unique state, mostly dead, hovering there for a long moment before their final disappearance.




__________________________
Furthermore and as an aside, I do not in the least begrudge those tortured souls the little comfort of some decent food etc. Food that was no longer helpful to the arrivals and that also might not necessarily have gone to any of their fellow inmates.



We all know the jobs they were forced to do.
But all those jobs gave opportunity to kind of "sabotage" the process, discreetly by slowing down work effort...all the way to the insurrection.
Of course, the final price would have been death.
The Jews who revolted in Warsaw also knew they would have no chance at all...But they did it anyway.

Is they anyone here still aware that i just do not want those brave who scarified their lives to be put on the same level as a common SK?

As i said, i do respect the "scrolls writers", but that is how many out of how many?
And you and Stat want to give to all of them the credit of a few...Sorry, but i won't follow that path.


Let's try this again:

We can say this about all the inmates in the concentration camps, death camps, labor camps, what have you. Even the inmates who eventually revolted at Sobibor and Treblinka did so with the knowledge that their time was coming to an end and their deaths were imminent. Does this make them guilty? The camps ran smoothly with their assistance.

We can look at concentration camp inmates. The camps ran smoothly because there was very little resistance. Does this make the inmates complicit? In a way their passivity made the terror even more effective. There were many more inmates than SS, if the majority decided to revolt they could have torn the camps down and killed the guards. So, because they didn't do this were they also guilty of assisting the SS?

What about the Red Army POW's that committed cannibalism against their dead comrades in order to survive the POW Camps? That's also a choice. Most normal people find cannibalism a deviant behavior, were these men vile cannibals because of their choice? Or because circumstances forced them to be cannibals? Were they criminals because of this? What about the citizens in Leningrad who committed cannibalism? What about the Ukrainians who did this during the Holdomor? Also guilty?

Balsamo, you cannot blame people forced into extreme conditions because of circumstances beyond their control for the behaviors they engage in to survive. The SS, Wehrmacht and the Communist Party were the responsible parties in all of this, not their victims.

I'll go further. Were all Kapos guilty? Depends. Someone had to do it. There were Kapos who abused their positions so I could call those men (and women) guilty of crimes. But there are degrees. There were Kapos that did everything they could to alleviate the conditions of the inmates. Sometimes that involved being a part of the terror apparatus....but that actually helped, because they could go easier and save lives. To me that is humane and alleviates guilt.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Balsamo » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:56 am

Hi Jeffk, and thanks for your post,

Indeed in a very global perspective - and this is where Primo Levi's reflections are the best - all the inmates were facing choices on a hourly basis. And as i said, some did good things, some did bad things, and some did very bad things. Which shows that there was a variety of experiences

Even in free society, those various behaviors exist. We have people who work and take care of their family and at the other extreme criminals, murderers, and drug dealers selling {!#%@} to your kids.

To sum up grossly, there are good people and bad people (or people turned bad).

But then, if i do belief in guilt, i also believe in redemption. So yes those who helped run Sobibor smoothly - as you put it - were guilty but they gained their redemption by revolting. They put a really mess down there.
It is really tough to express almost philosophic topic in English.

I am not a "super hero", and will never judge anyone for not being one. Fear, weakness, etc are all part of every individuals. But there is one thing is that everyone is responsible for his actions - except say the law those who are judged fundamentally irresponsible - then the actions can be considered and attenuated because of context, background, lack of education, traumas, etc. or even of "awareness of guilt".
But all those should not "erase" the act, and would never "erase" the consequences of this act.

So yes, your Russian pows succumbed to their hunger and ate their fellows who died. Of course they had a choice, and probably some chose not to eat them and died, while other ate. But if they had KILLED their fellows in order to eat them, this would be another case. And then, yes, i would in this case find them guilty.
Not to eat human flesh - as you said - is a purely moral and/or religious consideration - not a real crime. It is not that they enjoyed it like in some shitty movie.

But i don't know how one can compare all these with what was going on under the Sonderkommando.
Some KAPO's in KZ were judged and sentenced for their bad actions, other had been slaughters by the Inmates, even a brave Resistant fighters (Resistance) if identified as having spoken out, even under torture, were most of the time shot by their former companions, a soldier who betrayed even under torture, if the result is damaging for the army, would be put in front of a Martial Court, this is how things works...not saying it is good or bad...it is just like that. If you become a threat for national security and did transmitted Top secrets documents to a hostile nations, well it would not matter much if you say " Someone threatened to kill my family"...you would be indicted, with the hope that the context might attenuate the anger of the government.

I personaly reprove "private justice".
I realized that indeed my catholic education did leave some traces after all. I do believe in "personal responsibility", in "guilt" that some of our actions can imply, as well as in redemption. I do think you can be forgiven for the bad things you might have done as long as you recognize having done them, sincerely regret them, and sincerely ask for forgiveness by correcting the wrongs you might have done. Those who revolted in 1944, just did that. Those who committed suicide - retaking control of their destiny, did that, those who try to escape even with the only perspective to be shot or electrified, did that, those who left a testimony for the posterity, did that.
It does not mean that they did not take the "wrong decision", but they completed their redemption.
It should not be confused by concluding " they did not do nothing wrong, after all", they did. And unfortunately, this is the conclusion i sense in Grief, and in some reactions on this forum.

Balsamo, you cannot blame people forced into extreme conditions because of circumstances beyond their control for the behaviors they engage in to survive. The SS, Wehrmacht and the Communist Party were the responsible parties in all of this, not their victims.


Let's put that the other way should every acts committed by people because of circumstances beyond their control for the behaviors they engage in to survive, should this principle have a universal significance and implementation? Should these circumstances "excuse" every individual bad actions, every individual behavior? every " bad choice"? Should it have a global signification?
It is too far theoretical, unless we would all accept that this principle is only valid for the SK!
While it may of course help understanding how it was possible, and of course be used to temper the judgment (whether judicial or moral) one might have, it cannot stand on its own (that is on its theoretical base).
Even if we fully agree with this principle, we can only see that it did not have any influence in other cases, even in those involving the KZ...

And when it comes to concrete examples - also quite theoretical - like:
"the crime would have happened any way" (so why not to be involved in order to testify)
"There is nothing they could have done anyway"

Well, it is not really based on reality neither, nor have those example been developed and fully explained.
I have just finish Miklos's "A doctor at Auschwitz", and from what he described, those affirmation seems baseless. But i do not feel any demand for those to be discussed.

And as i wrote to Statmec, the fact that a revolt did take place and achieved the destruction of at least one of those killing center just prove that there was things to be done

And the other aspect i have been insisting on, is that, if you do apply this principles fully to conclude that all those SK are only to be considered as pure victims, some even say "victims among the victims" and that they just cannot be subject to any form of reproach, let alone condemnation, then it annihilates or bury the merits of those who did refuse.

I have just came across this article here:
http://www.jewishmag.com/90mag/rosarobata/rosarobata.htm

Here is the extract that interested me: when it address the "Acts of resistance".
For some of our brothers and sisters, it was an act of resistance to throw oneself on the camp’s electrified barbed wire. This was a supreme act of resistance, an act that deprived the SS of the pleasure of controlling the death of another Jew. For some, resistance was refusing to work in the Sonderkommando, as did an entire group of Greek Jews. Do you know any of their names?


For some, resistance was refusing to work in the Sonderkommando, as did an entire group of Greek Jews. These proud Jews from Greece declined to do the German's dirty work of murdering and burning their fellow Jews. For this they were all killed immediately.Do you know any of their names?


For some, resistance meant pleading for Vengeance – nekomo – in their own blood as death approached. Resistance meant stealing food or clothing for other prisoners, or sabotaging the production equipment in the slave-labor plants, or carrying messages for the camp underground. Resistance might even mean risking the death penalty by fasting on Yom Kippur. Do you know any of their names?


For some, for those fortunate enough to have escaped the deportations, resistance was direct, and costly to the German enemy. In virtually every country, proud Jewish men and women studied the art of war, learned to kill their people's killers, succeeded in fighting back with pride and with distinction. Do you know any of their names?


And it continues.
I cannot agree more.
Well, no, we don't know their names.
We do know name like Levental, Dragon, the Gabai brothers, Chazan or Cohen, etc.
But we do not know the names of those who did say NO, NOT ME!
That is one of one of my most important Point. Considering that the acceptation to participate/or having a role, pick the word, is something that can be easily forgiven because easily understood - while it is not that obvious in both cases - makes the courageous decision of those Jews from Greece not only ignored, but pointless, almost futile.

Hope it clarifies some things.

Again, it proves that choice was possible.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby scrmbldggs » Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:41 am

Balsamo, if I may, it would seem it's not so much your (often valid) point as your refusal to allow for all facets of human nature and psyche (strengths and weaknesses), which will allow one thing for one but not for the other, as also a tendency by you to ascribe meaning to a statement that was not necessarily intended by the author. Or often being "all inclusive" when in fact specific points were being made.

IIRC, we were discussing those who survived, and their plight and possible circumstances. That does not take away from those who did differently, imho.

And the living also did not get away scot-free. They walked away with a life sentence.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Fri Feb 24, 2017 4:13 am

On Primo Levi:
The most repugnant pages of this autobiography [Höss's] are those on which Höss is quick to describe the brutality and indifference of those Jews who were assigned to get rid of the corpses [the Sonderkommando members]. These passages contain a loathsome charge, an accusation of complicity, as if these unfortunates (weren't they too 'carrying out orders'?) could assume the guilt of the people who had created and delegated them.

Foreword, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant of Auschwitz (1992), p 8 (Primo Levi, written in 1985)
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

- Rudolf Hess, letter, 1927

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Jeff_36 » Fri Feb 24, 2017 4:35 am

Statistical Mechanic wrote:On Primo Levi:
The most repugnant pages of this autobiography [Höss's] are those on which Höss is quick to describe the brutality and indifference of those Jews who were assigned to get rid of the corpses [the Sonderkommando members]. These passages contain a loathsome charge, an accusation of complicity, as if these unfortunates (weren't they too 'carrying out orders'?) could assume the guilt of the people who had created and delegated them.

Foreword, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant of Auschwitz (1992), p 8 (Primo Levi, written in 1985)


One cannot say, therefore, that the memoir is a forgery.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Denying-History » Fri Feb 24, 2017 5:09 am

Statistical Mechanic wrote:On Primo Levi:
The most repugnant pages of this autobiography [Höss's] are those on which Höss is quick to describe the brutality and indifference of those Jews who were assigned to get rid of the corpses [the Sonderkommando members]. These passages contain a loathsome charge, an accusation of complicity, as if these unfortunates (weren't they too 'carrying out orders'?) could assume the guilt of the people who had created and delegated them.

Foreword, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant of Auschwitz (1992), p 8 (Primo Levi, written in 1985)
Jus to add some quick input of which has sort of already been said by others.

I have my contentsions with Hoess's description, I also have some issues with Nathan's points as well. (Mainly on the SK smoking and eating during work which seems possible, as well that they had been emotionally destroyed.) The main reason for bringing his memoir up though is that excerpt itself sort of answered the original question of the SK's family being under some kind of protection.

While Hoess has his own scrutiny, Levi is under his own scrutiny though considering he did not live the experience of the sonderkommando. In reality the best look into the sonderkommando's mind are most likely the buried letters found near the crematoriums. And the early descriptions by Tauber.

Would you agree?
« Oral history is a complex field. After all, memory can be a distorting mirror, as anyone who has ever worked with memoir literature knows very well...They may be imperfect, and, at times, inaccurate as the narrator tries to cast himself in the most favorable light, but all sources are imperfect. Even an archival document reflects how the person who drafted it understood something and remains something less than the unvarnished truth. »
- James Mace

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Fri Feb 24, 2017 5:35 am

Denying-History wrote:While Hoess has his own scrutiny, Levi is under his own scrutiny though considering he did not live the experience of the sonderkommando. In reality the best look into the sonderkommando's mind are most likely the buried letters found near the crematoriums. And the early descriptions by Tauber.

Would you agree?


Yes, I agree.

I think these men shut out what they did as much as they could but those buried messages tell us a lot. I remember reading one that was an apology to his wife and asking for her forgiveness for any arguments they had while they were together (she was most likely dead).

There's no way all of them could write and conceal these messages but the ones we have say a lot.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Fri Feb 24, 2017 11:57 am

Denying-History wrote:
Statistical Mechanic wrote:On Primo Levi:
The most repugnant pages of this autobiography [Höss's] are those on which Höss is quick to describe the brutality and indifference of those Jews who were assigned to get rid of the corpses [the Sonderkommando members]. These passages contain a loathsome charge, an accusation of complicity, as if these unfortunates (weren't they too 'carrying out orders'?) could assume the guilt of the people who had created and delegated them.

Foreword, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant of Auschwitz (1992), p 8 (Primo Levi, written in 1985)
Jus to add some quick input of which has sort of already been said by others.

I have my contentsions with Hoess's description, I also have some issues with Nathan's points as well. (Mainly on the SK smoking and eating during work which seems possible, as well that they had been emotionally destroyed.) The main reason for bringing his memoir up though is that excerpt itself sort of answered the original question of the SK's family being under some kind of protection.

While Hoess has his own scrutiny, Levi is under his own scrutiny though considering he did not live the experience of the sonderkommando. In reality the best look into the sonderkommando's mind are most likely the buried letters found near the crematoriums. And the early descriptions by Tauber.

Would you agree?

As with any such question, I think one needs to take into account all the evidence we have - SK testimonies (autobiographies, interviews, etc), the "scrolls," German sources, non-SK witness observations, etc. That said, the "scrolls" and the interviews conducted by Greif are what I would recommend someone read to become familiar with the case of the Auschwitz SK and especially their own responses and state of mind. I agree on Tauber, too. As much as I admire and use Levi, I don't see his writings about the SK being based on a wide enough empirical foundation to be anything like the main word. He relied on really two individual accounts to draw conclusions about the men themselves, and one of these sources was an outside, so to speak, observer. So, yes, the "scrolls," Tauber, Greif's later interviews.

Were these men damaged by their forced experiences? Yes, they themselves say that they were, and some of them far more than others. The scrolls, the revolt, their recollections speak to efforts to resist the corrosive impact of what the Germans did to them.

But the reason I posted this is different. Above it was written, in defense of the idea that the SK in general made bad choices and were complicit, that "Primo Levi's reflections are the best" - yet Levi himself rejects the conclusion that the SK were in general guilty. Almost angrily, calling the charge of "complicity" of these men "the most repugnant." So I posted this statement from Levi for a more limited reason - and not to rely on Levi's views - but just to clarify what those views were. I do, however, like Levi's turn of phrase, concerning the guilt of those who created this monstrous institution . . . it returns us to sanity.
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

- Rudolf Hess, letter, 1927

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Balsamo » Fri Feb 24, 2017 7:06 pm

scrmbldggs wrote:Balsamo, if I may, it would seem it's not so much your (often valid) point as your refusal to allow for all facets of human nature and psyche (strengths and weaknesses), which will allow one thing for one but not for the other, as also a tendency by you to ascribe meaning to a statement that was not necessarily intended by the author. Or often being "all inclusive" when in fact specific points were being made.

IIRC, we were discussing those who survived, and their plight and possible circumstances. That does not take away from those who did differently, imho.

And the living also did not get away scot-free. They walked away with a life sentence.


I am not sure i understand your sentence here.
As to ascribe meaning to a statement that was not intended, i got my share of it, i think.
A couple of examples:

Balsamo:
Starting with the picture:
But then, maybe the rest of the groups are still lining up, and there is no real panic within the hidden group...Maybe she is not even afraid to be gassed at this stage but only had a nervous breakdown and wanted to go back to his husband, sons, who were taken away... And maybe those three men are just pissed off because the lady's behavior put the whole group at risk of reprisal by the surrounding guards...
(...)But again, that is making the picture speaks too much. All these, whatever we interpret the picture, is pure speculation. And it is not really important.


This had nothing to do with the SK discussion.
Statmec, mixing the two conversations
In this case, those limits, whatever they are, were not clearly broken; in fact, you write also, to the contrary, that "Regarding those three men on the picture, one can only speculates, and that should be kept in mind. It is sensitive because those guys could very well be victims as well."

There was two paragraph...One about the post of Kleon (?), and another paragrah concerning the picture.
While it is true that i kind of promoted the hypothesis on CODOH, it was only to put their face into their own {!#%@}, because they cannot deal with SK - as Statmec pointed later, accused of showing their "nature" by committing crimes they deny having existed".
The limits and the picture were two different things.

Who among you would kill his/her loved ones just because someone put a gun on your head.


becomes first:
Statmec
It is also important to keep in mind that Sonderkommando members didn't kill their loved ones. AFAIK saying so is a calumny.


Where did i say that since i am quite sure that none "AMONG YOU" were SK.

Later
Balsamo:
Every Lodz ghetto survivors can testify. Besides, one can also compared the way he ruled his ghetto with how other Elders ruled theirs and reacted in 1942. [b][b]Not all Elders[/b] were Rumakowski and some - faced with the unthinkable - chose death or just refused to participate at the prize of their lives.[/b]


is recieved:
I would hope that your feelings towards Elkes in Kaunas, who served as head of the Jewish Council there and abetted the ghetto underground would not be the same as your feelings about Rumkowski.

Which is ambiguous for my poor English.
As i understood it, there were no "hope" to have since i specifically said i was making the distinction.
Therefore, i still wonder to whom you addressed this:
But a black-and-white statement that any and all obedience by members of the Judenrate is to be condemned strikes me as ahistorical.


All the way to the accusation of calumny:
Not at all: but you raise the question - on what are your calumnies based then?


Then i had to defend my "wording" rather that my point.
In case, i am associate with the most stupid denier of all time.
I honestly don't know what to say. I've never seen anything like this. I thought only goofy deniers like Jim Rizoli actively accused the SK's of responsibility.


Which is even not true. There are still many Survivors who do not share Grief's presentation.
Maybe it is only my impression but even Bettelheim, in his forward of Miklos' Doctor at Auschwitz, seems to find it difficult to present the case. Often he uses "those Jews who served the SS better than the SS".

Sorry if i did misinterpret some of your posts.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby scrmbldggs » Fri Feb 24, 2017 7:36 pm

Yeah, I think we don't always read all things the same. It's even worse in writing than in a spoken conversation, where stuff will still get mixed up. :)


Balsamo wrote:
scrmbldggs wrote:...to allow for all facets of human nature and psyche (strengths and weaknesses), which will allow one thing for one but not for the other, ...


I am not sure i understand your sentence here.


We don't expect a penguin to suddenly take flight. In the same way we cannot expect everyone to respond to the same circumstance in the exact same (or preferred by us outsiders') way. Each did as their constitution allowed.

I also do not think that any of them didn't mind, or worse, enjoyed, being caught up in all that. But I think their minds somehow found ways to cope with it.
Last edited by scrmbldggs on Fri Feb 24, 2017 7:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Fri Feb 24, 2017 7:39 pm

Bettelheim! But seriously, Bettelheim was in Dachau and Buchenwald IIRC but not Auschwitz. He misrepresented his academic credentials, plagiarized in his writing and falsified his therapy results, belittled and even struck students in his care, and developed the theory that mothers were responsible for autism ("refrigerator mothers"). He was a pitchman for Arendt's views. I recall him as a rabid right winger, and self promoter; he hasn't traveled well, let's say.
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

- Rudolf Hess, letter, 1927

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Sat Feb 25, 2017 12:32 pm

Bettelheim, "expert" on Auschwitz, explaining how Arendt's frame and his own exceptional resistance to the Nazis (ahem) apply to the gas chambers and reveal the deepest cause and meaning of the genocide:
The unique feature of the extermination camps is not that the Germans exterminated millions of people—that this is possible has been accepted in our picture of man, though not for centuries has it happened on that scale, and perhaps never with such callousness. What was new, unique, terrifying, was that millions, like lemmings, marched themselves to their own death. This is what is incredible; this we must come to understand. . . . It may have been Jewish acceptance, without retaliatory fight, of ever harsher discrimination and degradation that first gave the SS the idea that they could be gotten to the point where they would walk to the gas chambers on their own. Most Jews in Poland who did not believe in business-as-usual survived the Second World War. . . . Those who stayed on to continue business-as-usual moved toward their own destruction and perished. Thus in the deepest sense the walk to the gas chamber was only the last consequence of a philosophy of business-as-usual.

No surprise that Bettelheim, who relied on psychoanalytic theory to understand the KLs and winds up making Jews responsible "in the deepest sense" for the genocide, and tried to make the KL and eventually the mass extermination an example of his theories, would also be useful to "proving" SK complicity. Or as Levi put it: "interpretations, even those of someone like Bruno Bettelheim, who went through the trials of the Lager, seem to me approximate and simplified, as if someone wished to apply the theorems of plane geometry to the solution of spheric triangles."
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

- Rudolf Hess, letter, 1927

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Balsamo » Sat Feb 25, 2017 11:45 pm

scrmbldggs wrote:Yeah, I think we don't always read all things the same. It's even worse in writing than in a spoken conversation, where stuff will still get mixed up. :)


Balsamo wrote:
scrmbldggs wrote:...to allow for all facets of human nature and psyche (strengths and weaknesses), which will allow one thing for one but not for the other, ...


I am not sure i understand your sentence here.


We don't expect a penguin to suddenly take flight. In the same way we cannot expect everyone to respond to the same circumstance in the exact same (or preferred by us outsiders') way. Each did as their constitution allowed.

I also do not think that any of them didn't mind, or worse, enjoyed, being caught up in all that. But I think their minds somehow found ways to cope with it.


Of course not, how has to come to even think that it was my conclusion?
And of course, it is more complicated than that. But remains the ACT, what they did. As i said many times, my point is not to promote a kind of trial.
But i cannot refrain from reacting like when you say "they find a way to cope with IT" , should we not all remember and take into consideration what this IT was?

Of course, i know you all know what the IT was, but then why such a disconnection with this IT when it comes to the IT?
I sense a spirit that would not even make a fair trial possible. As " fair trial" i mean a trial which very well might result in a global or individual discharge! A fair "trial" where the element would be considered objectively.
As it seems that for most of you there is not even a single element for even thinking building a case. And thinking otherwise is like being as goofy as a denier.

But i don't even want a trial, just honest assessments, considerations...My god, it is almost a crime to consider that they might have just some "personal guilt" and that it should close the debate.

@Statmec:
Ok, Bettelheim is an imposter. He only went to Dachau and Buchenwald, so what would he know about being forced to killing people, and besides he is a academic fraud...ok...Most probably he would have just been a SK like the others...
Cannot argue about that as i only read a forward of him, i just don't know the guy.

But on the other hand, Filip Muller who was a member of the SK since early 1942, managing for 3 years to never to be part of the liquidation of its crew with no question asked why, as a victim whom not even the idea of a "blame" can be casted about...
Right i understood that, but i disagree (not specifically on Bettelheim).

Statmec:
Statistical Mechanic wrote:On Primo Levi:
The most repugnant pages of this autobiography [Höss's] are those on which Höss is quick to describe the brutality and indifference of those Jews who were assigned to get rid of the corpses [the Sonderkommando members]. These passages contain a loathsome charge, an accusation of complicity, as if these unfortunates (weren't they too 'carrying out orders'?) could assume the guilt of the people who had created and delegated them.

Foreword, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant of Auschwitz (1992), p 8 (Primo Levi, written in 1985)


Well in one Haaretz 's review of Grief i have read - here is the link - http://www.hagalil.com/shoah/holocaust/greif-0.htm
Levi is also quoted for having said:

The writer Primo Levi described then as being "akin to collaborators." He said that their testimonies should not be given much credence, "since they had much to atone for and would naturally attempt to rehabilitate themselves at the expense of the truth."


Sorry, but there might be some truth in this.
The problem i have with Grief's approach is that basically, he let the SK write their own story. I am not saying everything is wrong, of course. But on the details of their every day life in the Crematoriums, contradictions are plenty. Comparing the various renditions is quite interesting, actually.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Sat Feb 25, 2017 11:48 pm

Balsamo wrote:@Statmec:
Ok, Bettelheim is an imposter. He only went to Dachau and Buchenwald, so what would he know about being forced to killing people, and besides he is a academic fraud...ok...Most probably he would have just been a SK like the others...
Cannot argue about that as i only read a forward of him, i just don't know the guy.

He was in two KLs in the late 1930s. His time in the KL didn't give him insight into Birkenau or other killing operations. The problems with his research etc have been well known since his death. He applied a heavy-handed Freudian framework to the KLs. IMO not successfully. You used him as an authority twice.

Balsamo wrote:The problem i have with Grief's approach is that basically, he let the SK write their own story. I am not saying everything is wrong, of course. But on the details of their every day life in the Crematoriums, contradictions are plenty. Comparing the various renditions is quite interesting, actually.

What an outrage, letting people explain themselves.

Also, Levi wound up even his passage on the SK in "The Gray Zone", having acknowledged the insufficiency of the source material, saying, "Therefore I ask that we meditate on the story of 'the crematorium ravens' with pity and rigor, but that judgment of them be suspended."
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

- Rudolf Hess, letter, 1927

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby scrmbldggs » Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:27 am

Balsamo, why should there be a trial against people who to all appearances were forced to do things against their will. AFAIK, none of them signed up for that, even if they had raised their hand following a question like we have read about numerous times (who here is a carpenter, etc...).

They were not soldiers who committed to something, trained in that and with even some rights to deny service going against certain rules.

They were simply humans with human strengths and weaknesses and did what most human animals (yes we are) are wont to do - act on a natural survival instinct. And under extraordinary circumstances shared by many. I don't understand why all members of that (small) group should be held to special and lofty standards. And under intense mental and physical distress should have turned into superhuman heroes and thus become less human.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Balsamo » Sun Feb 26, 2017 1:00 am

Statistical Mechanic wrote:Bettelheim, "expert" on Auschwitz, explaining how Arendt's frame and his own exceptional resistance to the Nazis (ahem) apply to the gas chambers and reveal the deepest cause and meaning of the genocide:
The unique feature of the extermination camps is not that the Germans exterminated millions of people—that this is possible has been accepted in our picture of man, though not for centuries has it happened on that scale, and perhaps never with such callousness. What was new, unique, terrifying, was that millions, like lemmings, marched themselves to their own death. This is what is incredible; this we must come to understand. . . . It may have been Jewish acceptance, without retaliatory fight, of ever harsher discrimination and degradation that first gave the SS the idea that they could be gotten to the point where they would walk to the gas chambers on their own. Most Jews in Poland who did not believe in business-as-usual survived the Second World War. . . . Those who stayed on to continue business-as-usual moved toward their own destruction and perished. Thus in the deepest sense the walk to the gas chamber was only the last consequence of a philosophy of business-as-usual.

No surprise that Bettelheim, who relied on psychoanalytic theory to understand the KLs and winds up making Jews responsible "in the deepest sense" for the genocide, and tried to make the KL and eventually the mass extermination an example of his theories, would also be useful to "proving" SK complicity. Or as Levi put it: "interpretations, even those of someone like Bruno Bettelheim, who went through the trials of the Lager, seem to me approximate and simplified, as if someone wished to apply the theorems of plane geometry to the solution of spheric triangles."



Well, actually, he explains his "theory" of "business as usual" over more pages than the couple of paragraphs you quote. I am not saying he got the full picture, but his concept of "business as usual" makes some points.
Now i have expressed my self on the so called "Jewish resignation", but i fail to see where Bettelheim considers the Jews "responsible" (in the sense you attributed to me) for the genocide.

The question would be whether the global attitude - due as i explained above - to various external factors made the Genocide easier to be implemented by the Nazi, then the answer is clearly yes, unfortunately, and by saying that i don't put any blame on the victims.
Personally i understood the "business as usual" as a kind of fate that somehow they would get through the nightmare as they did before. Of course, the Jews who chose this way/attitude could not believe or imagine the level of hate the Nazi had and the level of means they put in place for their policy.

Especially in Eastern Europe, Antisemitism was really strong sometimes since before the Nazi took power.
And as a matter of facts, those who thought that the Nazi storm was yet another Antisemitic storm that would pass like the others, did died, while those who realized the seriousness of the threat, and concluded that those were no time for a "business as usual" spirit, and took or could take the proper measures in prevent the hell falling upon them, well did survived.

He is also right when he says that the Warsaw ghetto's revolt could have taken place earlier...well kind off, but at least in the year 1942, there were more black market, still more Jews able to fight. The same way the SK revolt of October 1944 could have been put in place before the start of the Hungarian action (other topic not to be mixed with what follows)
.But this reasoning is only valid if the authority and the global Jewish population DID believe of the reality of their fate, not just as a "saying" or a rumor or a mere fear, but concretely.
This is why i understand the "business as usual" spirit as the fact to maintain even only a small hope that there is a way to get through the storm by just letting it go through.
And i do not conceive any human being - even in the direst situation - that could not think like this unless confronted concretely with the reality.
So i do not share the "lemming" comparison the way Bettelheim sees it, but again, one have to remember that he was a person of his time. This view has long been shared by many, including Jews.
And as a matter of fact, this "historical" promptitude of the Jews - especially in Eastern Europe, and in Russia most of all, was one of the factor of the "Bundist movement", inspired by a comtempt of the former generations, and the secularization of the Russian Jewish youth that will turn "revolutionary".
Just to say that the verdict is not that unfounded.
There was a "traditional" tendency to resignation among Eastern Jews which has less to do with any kind of jewish nature or tendency but the result of a heavy load of historical past.

And as a matter of facts, it could also be applied to Protestant during the Inquisition, or Christian today in the middle east...
When hostility is a given reality from the start, it is not easy to make the difference between a hard hostility and a destructive one. This was the trap. The first measures taken by the Nazis were no different from the measures that had been taken in Romania and Poland, the difference is that the dynamic never ceased in the case if Nazi Germany. And a Jew by 1941 in Berlin could honestly conclude that he would be safe now as every possible measures had already been taken against the Jews. To forecast a genocide such as the one that was going to happen is just a unrealistic assumption, even after rumors has started to spread.
But you take Bettelheim approach at the letter, while he is pointing this distinction that separate the Shoah from other genicide from the past - insisting on a attitude that he thinks wrongly as unique - to propose reflections that would allow us to understand, that is the pages that follow.

On the other hand, the SK guys were on the front line and knew it all. But i have decided to finish Greif before continuing this topic. But as far as i can say, nor is he to be exempt from critics, neither are his subjects, and in those cases, it seems that psychoanalytic - or even psychiatric - approaches and theories pose no problem and are just fine.
Just wondering.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Balsamo » Sun Feb 26, 2017 1:10 am

scrmbldggs wrote:Balsamo, why should there be a trial against people who to all appearances were forced to do things against their will. AFAIK, none of them signed up for that, even if they had raised their hand following a question like we have read about numerous times (who here is a carpenter, etc...).

They were not soldiers who committed to something, trained in that and with even some rights to deny service going against certain rules.

They were simply humans with human strengths and weaknesses and did what most human animals (yes we are) are wont to do - act on a natural survival instinct. And under extraordinary circumstances shared by many. I don't understand why all members of that (small) group should be held to special and lofty standards. And under intense mental and physical distress should have turned into superhuman heroes and thus become less human.


This is why my position, as i said, is not that they face some kind of justice, in the sense of a legal court. Hey i don't even approve the trial of 91 years old former SS guards!

But your approach, if taken globally, should apply to other cases, like the Kapos.
Well in the 50's, the State of Israel put 40 of them on trial, 15 or so were sentenced, up to life in prison.
Poland after the war, sentenced a couple of Kapos to death.
Kapos were included in most of the post war German trials, AR camps as well as the Auschwitz ones, if i am not wrong.
Not all got a sentenced, some were acquitted. But what you are saying is that none of them should have been brought to justice in the first place.
After all, Kapos would not have been Kapos hadn't they been put in the camps by the Nazi in the first place.
So all Kapos are not guilty, only the Nazis that put them there and chose them.
They only crime would them be to have accepted a post of responsibility they could not refuse "under circumstances they did not control".

There is somewhere a quote from Himmler about the Kapos i am not going to search now, but it basically says, IIRC, that a kapo is a kapo as long he behaves like one and obey orders...Otherwise, he would return to nothing, that is a higher percentage of dying.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Sun Feb 26, 2017 1:15 am

I don't know what to say. You keep contradicting yourself, making statements that I can't decipher, throwing in tangents I don't get, to the point I really don't know what you're saying or what it has to do with your original argument, which I thought I understood, that "There are limits, and those limits were clearly broken in this case. Who among you would kill his/her loved ones just because someone put a gun on your head. Well, not me, i will try to kick this {!#%@} or die trying." And that these men were "disgraceful" and "complicit." Now? I'm lost. Which is, actually, just fine . . .
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

- Rudolf Hess, letter, 1927

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby scrmbldggs » Sun Feb 26, 2017 1:21 am

Sorry, I can't equate the majority of Kapos - many of whom were convicted criminals selected for their duties and who not only quite willingly cooperated but took their own initiative - with SKs. I just cannot...


ETA Those of the death camps seem to deserve a somewhat different view than those of KLs or mixed camps, though. But I have to confess a lack of information in that regard.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Sun Feb 26, 2017 1:53 am

Ok, Balsamo. I've thought about what you have to say. Here it goes:


Balsamo wrote:But then, if i do belief in guilt, i also believe in redemption. So yes those who helped run Sobibor smoothly - as you put it - were guilty but they gained their redemption by revolting. They put a really mess down there.
It is really tough to express almost philosophic topic in English.


So, then, by extension, those that didn't revolt at Chelmno and Belzec, they died "unredeemed?"

They died guilty of some sort of crime?

Balsamo, if someone straps bombs on me, sends me to a public area and then detonates the bomb, does this mean that I'm just as guilty? After all, I had a choice, right?


I am not a "super hero", and will never judge anyone for not being one. Fear, weakness, etc are all part of every individuals. But there is one thing is that everyone is responsible for his actions - except say the law those who are judged fundamentally irresponsible - then the actions can be considered and attenuated because of context, background, lack of education, traumas, etc. or even of "awareness of guilt".


These men (and in the case of the ARC and Canada at Birkenau, women) were placed in this position by their captors, i.e., they were hostages. Are hostages responsible for what their captors make them do?


Some KAPO's in KZ were judged and sentenced for their bad actions


Yes, they were, for EXCESSES. Even the earliest trials made some distinction because of choice, Balsamo. Kapos had some choices. They could go easier, they could try to alleviate what the SS did, but even then their choice was limited because the SS were in charge. So, was it a crime when the Kapos punished other prisoners? Well, did the Kapo try and go easier? Or did the Kapo go all out because he enjoyed it? Or because he wanted to please the SS overseer?

SK's didn't have that option, Balsamo. There were no choices for them, no grey areas to work with. The SS gassed the victims, the SK's only cleaned up afterwards. They also helped with the preparation, helping them undress, reassuring them and so on.
But, isn't this also redemptive? These people were dead the moment they got off the train, Balsamo. Isn't it mercy to try and keep them calm and minimize the terror and pain these people went through?

I get the feeling we aren't going to agree. I can't change your mind and you certainly aren't going to change mine.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Sun Feb 26, 2017 2:01 am

scrmbldggs wrote:Sorry, I can't equate the majority of Kapos - many of whom were convicted criminals selected for their duties and who not only quite willingly cooperated but took their own initiative - with SKs. I just cannot...


This almost deserves a thread of it's own.....

The Kapos were a diverse bunch. From what I remember the camp personnel preferred political criminals over common criminals.

Many of the Kapos tried to alleviate the hardship of the other inmates but this was split along lines, i.e., the Communist Kapos tried to protect Communists, Social Democrats tried to protect Social Democrats, etc.

I'll have to drag out some sources on it.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Sun Feb 26, 2017 2:10 am

Jeffk 1970 wrote:
scrmbldggs wrote:Sorry, I can't equate the majority of Kapos - many of whom were convicted criminals selected for their duties and who not only quite willingly cooperated but took their own initiative - with SKs. I just cannot...


This almost deserves a thread of it's own.....

The Kapos were a diverse bunch. From what I remember the camp personnel preferred political criminals over common criminals.

Many of the Kapos tried to alleviate the hardship of the other inmates but this was split along lines, i.e., the Communist Kapos tried to protect Communists, Social Democrats tried to protect Social Democrats, etc.

I'll have to drag out some sources on it.

Off the top of my head: 1) Kapos were not under a general death threat (poor performance or other problems usually meant being busted back to ordinary prisoner - which could indirectly mean death, for certain Kapos) - and as you say they had and took advantage of options not available to members of the SK; 2) at some camps (e.g., Buchenwald being the prime example) the politicals came to dominate the ranks of Kapos and other functionaries, as a result of organized activity, almost a war fought by Reds against Greens, and, whilst the intent was to end the reign of the Greens, the political Kapos oftentimes were no better than the Greens, on an individual basis; other times they acted to improve the situation in the camp - but even then as you say, the help was often directed exclusively or first and foremost to their own group; 3) there were, of course, some Jewish Kapos; 4) individual Kapos often committed atrocities - acted with cruelty, identified themselves as overlords and sucked up the privileges available, and prisoner-testimonies distinguish between Kapos based on how they exercised the role.

Your turn to open a new thread :)
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Balsamo » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:31 am

scrmbldggs wrote:Sorry, I can't equate the majority of Kapos - many of whom were convicted criminals selected for their duties and who not only quite willingly cooperated but took their own initiative - with SKs. I just cannot...


ETA Those of the death camps seem to deserve a somewhat different view than those of KLs or mixed camps, though. But I have to confess a lack of information in that regard.


It was not what i meant, when i said that Israel indicted 40 kapo's, and sentenced 15, the State held fair trial, and those who acted in good faith or with attenuating circumstances were aquitted., in this case 25 were declared innocent of the charge - which sorry to say- was of "collaboration" with the enemy.
That should temper your initial belief that all Kapòs were recruited among convicted criminals - all of them convicted on Nazi's perception of Justice - well that is just not true. The testimony of Yaa'kov Dabai gives some insight of that world.

That is what i am trying to say from the start. There were just "good" Kapo even if there were part of an insane minority, but the fact that some were indicted and released/discharged proves that not all them committed crimes.
Kapo was a function in a system. The system worked partly because of them. It does not change the system nor the result.

And the SK crew had their own Kapos under the authority of a "oberskapo", and under the Kapos, there were spècial (sonder) posts that were fulfilled and granted a "prominente" status. Some of the SK did the job for almost 3 years.

But just as you, i also lack some information,... but not basic principles.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Balsamo » Sun Feb 26, 2017 4:59 am

Statistical Mechanic wrote:I don't know what to say. You keep contradicting yourself, making statements that I can't decipher, throwing in tangents I don't get, to the point I really don't know what you're saying or what it has to do with your original argument, which I thought I understood, that "There are limits, and those limits were clearly broken in this case. Who among you would kill his/her loved ones just because someone put a gun on your head. Well, not me, i will try to kick this {!#%@} or die trying." And that these men were "disgraceful" and "complicit." Now? I'm lost. Which is, actually, just fine . . .


I am contradicting myself? Where and when?
That you not follow, i can understand.
So let me explain one last time:

" There are limits and those limits were clearly broken"
yes, if you agree to have a role in the mass murders of thousands on a daily basis, you are clearly outside the "Grey zone" that Primo Levio was talking about.

Who among you would kill his/her loved ones just because someone put a gun on your head

Yes, because if you can do that - and admit that you may be able to do that - which is equally "unthinkable", then yes you'll be in a position to conclude that the "SK has never done something that can be considered as "of criminal nature".
Which was your starting point, Stat. I am the guilty for pointing out that "misleading people to their fate, knowing that this fate would be death, and then hurry to clean up the mess" has some similarity of a criminal act.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby scrmbldggs » Sun Feb 26, 2017 5:28 am

OK, here's one of those things I mentioned earlier that makes this discussion more difficult than it could be:

Balsamo wrote:That should temper your initial belief that all Kapòs were recruited among convicted criminals - all of them convicted on Nazi's perception of Justice - well that is just not true.


I did not say that. I did not then nor do I now hold such a belief.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Sun Feb 26, 2017 11:52 am

Where are you contradicting yourself? I wrote at length about this a few days ago and I am not going to search for the post.

No, Balsamo, you are "guilty" of repeating yourself and thinking that doing so proves your point - and then of contradicting yourself and veering off on tangents and misstating what's been written (as with scrmbldggs just now, and where you now try making out that I started with a claim that no SK ever did anything criminal, as with Levi's views . . .) and backtracking and moving the goalposts, so to speak. We go around in a circle, wandering hither and yon, until we finally arrive back where we started - and then you repeat yourself, until we wander off again.

Just as an example, before this thread was opened, one of my responses was, "The one point I want to add is that SKs were not Kapos or like Kapos" yet yesterday you were trying to force scrmbldggs' argument about the SKs to apply to Kapos . . . a distortion that had been dealt with over a week ago . . . so three of us wind up basically reiterating the earlier points made . . . round and round . . .

This is taking too much energy for where we're going. Not interested at this point. Sorry.
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Kleon_I XYZ Contagion » Thu Mar 02, 2017 8:41 pm

I'm sorry I couldn't follow the topic and all the discussions in their entirety, but I just remembered I had saved once a pdf which could be of potential interest:

Appendix to How reliable and authentic is the Broad report - Appendix S Testimonies on Sonderkommando uprising Leon Cohen from the book 'Gideon Greif, We Wept Without Tears, pp 358-359

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5Y87- ... sp=sharing
According to experts and scholars, the 10 stages of every genocide are
Classification Symbolization Discrimination Dehumanization Organization Polarization Preparation Persecution Extermination
... and finally the 10th stage:
Denial
http://www.genocidewatch.org/genocide/t ... ocide.html

XYZ Contagion (‘Because the truth is contagious‘), an investigative/research political and historical website, deals also with the Srebrenica Genocide
https://xyzcontagion.wordpress.com/about/#English

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Balsamo » Wed Mar 08, 2017 7:23 pm

scrmbldggs wrote:OK, here's one of those things I mentioned earlier that makes this discussion more difficult than it could be:

Balsamo wrote:That should temper your initial belief that all Kapòs were recruited among convicted criminals - all of them convicted on Nazi's perception of Justice - well that is just not true.


I did not say that. I did not then nor do I now hold such a belief.


You and others wrote these kind of statement:
The Kapos were a diverse bunch. From what I remember the camp personnel preferred political criminals over common criminals.


Sorry, I can't equate the majority of Kapos - many of whom were convicted criminals selected for their duties and who not only quite willingly cooperated but took their own initiative - with SKs. I just cannot..


Statmec added:
"The one point I want to add is that SKs were not Kapos or like Kapos" yet yesterday you were trying to force scrmbldggs' argument about the SKs to apply to Kapos
. .

I am really confused here as you seem to think that the SK somehow was spared the classic organization found in all the camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, which by the way is the only that matters. the SK were also organized with an ober-Kapo, kapos for groups of SK, foremen for smaller groups; their barracks had a blockalteste, etc.

Statmec also wrote that :
1) Kapos were not under a general death threat (poor performance or other problems usually meant being busted back to ordinary prisoner - which could indirectly mean death, for certain Kapos)


Which already contains some contradiction, especially when confronted with Himmler's quote (wiki page)

The moment he becomes a Kapo, he no longer sleeps with them. He is held accountable for the performance of the work, that they are clean, that the beds are well-built. [...] So, he must drive his men. The moment we become dissatisfied with him, he is no longer Kapo, he's back to sleeping with his men. And he knows that he will be beaten to death by them the first night.
—Heinrich Himmler, June 21, 1944[1]


I am personally not sure that a Jewish Kapo at Birkenau were getting a permanent "pass to live"...
Were the Kapo and other prominents from the Czech camp were spared and relocated when this camp was liquidated?...I don't think so, but I may be wrong of course. Although, of course, they might have thought so...at least for a while.

The Ober-Kapo of the SK, Kaminski was shot by the SS.

None of what i have written is intended to somehow diminish the responsibility of the SS, that would be silly of course, but i oppose the affirmation that somehow every human being would have reacted /acted the way the SK members did.

What an outrage, letting people explain themselves.


I did not say it was an outrage to let people explain themselves. I said that those explanations should not be the "end of it". Indeed, there are testimonies. But as i said, they cannot be considered as unbiased, especially if you look for real "understanding" or comprehension.
Sorry to say, but even after having read Grief, it is difficult to really comprehend. And i do not even think that historians have the proper training for those things.
I am not blaming him for letting people explain themselves, but for his lack of conclusions.
His method to introduce each of his "guests" by praising them before he lets them talk, is also disturbing. Then, when confronted with contradictory testimonies, well he just seems to let go.
Reading those, i was focus on specific things: their arrival/recruitment, their life outside their terrible duties (lodging, food, leisure(sorry no other word), their interactions with the SS, their actual "job" (my focus was what was happening outside the Krema and inside the undressing room), and how they feel about their tragic experience.

Well, all i can say is that the disparity of the given answers would have force some kind of conclusion, and to speak frankly, additional "investigations". Why is Schlomo Dragon lying about the SK food and accomodation? just to take this example. Who is right when it comes with "interaction with the SS"?; with the "liberties" of movement enjoyed by SK members? Is Miklos the only one who remembers a soccer game between SS and SK? (sorry but this one really shocked me). Is is lying when he says having saw hundreds of packs of cigarettes on the SK tables? Is Gabai hallucinating when confessing that they had a lot of cash and gold? When he tells that the SS and guards were joining them for dinner and that they sang?

I admire you if you managed to make a synthesis of all there is.
I personally am left with more questions than answers.

Also, Levi wound up even his passage on the SK in "The Gray Zone", having acknowledged the insufficiency of the source material, saying, "Therefore I ask that we meditate on the story of 'the crematorium ravens' with pity and rigor, but that judgment of them be suspended.
"

Insufficiency of sources? I agree with that.
The same way i agree with the use of "pity AND rigor", and not only pity, and would even agree for the judgment to be "suspended".
But there is a huge gap between a suspension of judgment and a global absolution. But defending the absolution is a form of judgement, not a "suspended one".
This quote of him does not negate the one i gave. And Levi's moderate conclusion does not erase his use of the term "Un caso-limite di collaborazione". (wrongly translated as Grief notes, as it means a "borderline case of collaboration".)

And while in Grief, the focus is on the murder/gassing and cleaning up, mine is on what took place before and to quote Hoss (quoted by Grief):
" Most of all, they (the SK) tried to calm those who seemed to guess what was ahead. Even though they might not believe the SS soldiers, they would have complete trust in those of their own race...It was interesting to see how the SK lied to them and how they emphasized these lies with convincing words and gestures"


Now, explanation about this part of quite overlooked in Grief although it is a subject of many contradictions among his witnesses.

Nevertheless i agree with a suspension of judgment, as Primo advised.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Wed Mar 08, 2017 7:42 pm

Balsamo wrote:I am really confused here as you seem to think that the SK somehow was spared the classic organization found in all the camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, which by the way is the only that matters. the SK were also organized with an ober-Kapo, kapos for groups of SK, foremen for smaller groups; their barracks had a blockalteste, etc.

I'm further confused. That the SKs had Kapos, block leaders, etc doesn't make SK members in general like Kapos. I'm not sure what you're saying and if I've understood it correctly, but yes, there were Kapos for the SKs but, no, the SKs situation was not generally like that of Kapos.

Balsamo wrote:Statmec also wrote that :
1) Kapos were not under a general death threat (poor performance or other problems usually meant being busted back to ordinary prisoner - which could indirectly mean death, for certain Kapos)


Which already contains some contradiction, especially when confronted with Himmler's quote (wiki page)

The moment he becomes a Kapo, he no longer sleeps with them. He is held accountable for the performance of the work, that they are clean, that the beds are well-built. [...] So, he must drive his men. The moment we become dissatisfied with him, he is no longer Kapo, he's back to sleeping with his men. And he knows that he will be beaten to death by them the first night.
—Heinrich Himmler, June 21, 1944[1]

I wrote about this, too; I have no idea the statistics on Kapos being beaten to death.

Balsamo wrote:I am personally not sure that a Jewish Kapo at Birkenau were getting a permanent "pass to live"...

No Jews at Birkenau were going to be allowed to live, but the fate of Jews selected for labor or prisoner functionary duties was not as clear to the inmate himself or herself as was the fate of SK members.

Balsamo wrote:Were the Kapo and other prominents from the Czech camp were spared and relocated when this camp was liquidated?...I don't think so, but I may be wrong of course. Although, of course, they might have thought so...at least for a while

The Ober-Kapo of the SK, Kaminski was shot by the SS..

This confuses outcomes with perceptions in the course of things.

Balsamo wrote:I said that those explanations should not be the "end of it".

No one here said that they were.

Balsamo wrote:Well, all i can say is that the disparity of the given answers would have force some kind of conclusion, and to speak frankly, additional "investigations".

For sure. Which is one reason for paying so much attention to primary source documentation, such as the "scrolls."

Balsamo wrote:I admire you if you managed to make a synthesis of all there is.
I personally am left with more questions than answers.

But you didn't set out with questions; in fact, raising questions was why I brought up Greif. You began with guidance for what these men should have done and statements blaming them for not doing what you thought they should have done.

Balsamo wrote:
Also, Levi wound up even his passage on the SK in "The Gray Zone", having acknowledged the insufficiency of the source material, saying, "Therefore I ask that we meditate on the story of 'the crematorium ravens' with pity and rigor, but that judgment of them be suspended.
"

Insufficiency of sources? I agree with that.
The same way i agree with the use of "pity AND rigor", and not only pity, and would even agree for the judgment to be "suspended".
But there is a huge gap between a suspension of judgment and a global absolution. But defending the absolution is a form of judgement, not a "suspended one".

I personally don't think of this in terms of absolution, which is a religious concept. IIRC having to do with penance on account of one's guilt. As I've said over and over, I find your framework both alien and unhelpful - anyway, I don't think in the terms you seem to think that I do. Absolution doesn't enter into it for me.

Balsamo wrote:This quote of him does not negate the one i gave. And Levi's moderate conclusion does not erase his use of the term "Un caso-limite di collaborazione". (wrongly translated as Grief notes, as it means a "borderline case of collaboration".)

And while in Grief, the focus is on the murder/gassing and cleaning up, mine is on what took place before and to quote Hoss (quoted by Grief):
" Most of all, they (the SK) tried to calm those who seemed to guess what was ahead. Even though they might not believe the SS soldiers, they would have complete trust in those of their own race...It was interesting to see how the SK lied to them and how they emphasized these lies with convincing words and gestures"

We've been over this. You're not saying anything you haven't, and I don't have anything to say that I haven't said. Repetition of something I've already responded to won't convince me to change my frame of reference.
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Balsamo » Wed Mar 08, 2017 11:27 pm

Statmec:

I personally don't think of this in terms of absolution, which is a religious concept. IIRC having to do with penance on account of one's guilt. As I've said over and over, I find your framework both alien and unhelpful - anyway, I don't think in the terms you seem to think that I do. Absolution doesn't enter into it for me.


Sorry but you did it again.
Here is the quote you are answering:

Insufficiency of sources? I agree with that.
The same way i agree with the use of "pity AND rigor", and not only pity, and would even agree for the judgment to be "suspended".
But there is a huge gap between a suspension of judgment and a global absolution. But defending the absolution is a form of judgement, not a "suspended one".
This quote of him does not negate the one i gave. And Levi's moderate conclusion does not erase his use of the term "Un caso-limite di collaborazione". (wrongly translated as Grief notes, as it means a "borderline case of collaboration".)


Which was about Primo Levi, we both quoted.
The only thing you focus on is the ONE WORD i use "absolution"...which i agree is too religious but fit in the context somehow (hell is also a religious concept)...But then if you do not like it...chose it yourself. Acquittal or discharge...maybe it is too legal? forgiveness? or is it too paternalist and sentimental?

Statmec:
I'm further confused. That the SKs had Kapos, block leaders, etc doesn't make SK members in general like Kapos. I'm not sure what you're saying and if I've understood it correctly, but yes, there were Kapos for the SKs but, no, the SKs situation was not generally like that of Kapos.


I was hoping that the quotes i gave - which i was reacting to - would help ease the confusion. In this context, the YOU used was plural and addressed to the authors of the three quotes i mentioned.

Statmec:
I wrote about this, too; I have no idea the statistics on Kapos being beaten to death.


I gave some...and was answered that those put on trial were put there for "excesses" while the indictment clearly stated "collaboration"...Many were put on trial - which did not mean they were all guilty as many have been discharged. As for those slaughtered outside any judgement, well one will have to check camp by camp. But then, as i said, only Birkenau matters in this discussion.

Statmec:

No Jews at Birkenau were going to be allowed to live, but the fate of Jews selected for labor or prisoner functionary duties was not as clear to the inmate himself or herself as was the fate of SK members


So if i understand, the Kapo's of the camps could hope they would be spared, but this perspective is out of question for the SK members?
Even though you wrote earlier that:
OTOH the Camp SS seems to have curtailed that practice around the end of 1942/beginning of 1943 in favor of keeping "skilled laborers" on the job; a number of those SK members alive in 1944, and taking part in the revolt, had been added to the SK in early 1943.



So it is so unreasonable to think that some form of perspective of surviving by doing the job - contradicting Miklos who stated that every Sk members knew they only had 4 months to live - existed? After all 6 out of 8 of the survivors interviewed by Grief were "veterans" (late 42, early 43).
Don't get me wrong for once...I am not saying that there had not been mass killings of SK members.

Just that some managed to get through all or most of them. You have mentioned this Poles member of SK bearing the number 1200 which is described by one witness as having work at Bunker I as soon as 1941...and that it could have been enough to give some hope for survival.
If one accepts that idea, what is left of the difference of a Kapo at Birkenau, a Kapo at the SK and a SK members...Am i crazy to consider that they might all have been motivated by a tiny chance to survive hell?

Quite frankly, i am not convinced by their declared certainty to be killed within four months (Miklos) or other time frame, and if i may add, it quite contradicts one of the main reasons given which is the intrinsic "will to survive".
Frankly had they all comply with the orders - with such kind of orders - with the certainty that they will all be killed short term, that would just blur the picture even more.

But you didn't set out with questions


Not at the start. I have admitted from the start that i have a unfavorable bias towards the SK, while you made it clear you had a favorable one. From there, question arose. Just like those you did not quote and therefore not addressed:

Why is Schlomo Dragon lying about the SK food and accomodation? just to take this example. Who is right when it comes with "interaction with the SS"?; with the "liberties" of movement enjoyed by SK members? Is Miklos the only one who remembers a soccer game between SS and SK? (sorry but this one really shocked me). Is is lying when he says having saw hundreds of packs of cigarettes on the SK tables? Is Gabai hallucinating when confessing that they had a lot of cash and gold? When he tells that the SS and guards were joining them for dinner and that they sang?



Here is a quote from one of the survivors interviewed by Grief.

"I want to explain to you that i was ashamed. Ashamed of myself, of the things a man is capable of. That is why my wife and children didn't know. Who would believe me? Why did i do it? What excuses can i give?"


This man has all my sympathy.
I should check, but i don't remember having read something similar with the others.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby scrmbldggs » Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:04 am

Balsamo wrote:
scrmbldggs wrote:OK, here's one of those things I mentioned earlier that makes this discussion more difficult than it could be:

Balsamo wrote:That should temper your initial belief that all Kapòs were recruited among convicted criminals - all of them convicted on Nazi's perception of Justice - well that is just not true.


I did not say that. I did not then nor do I now hold such a belief.


You and others wrote these kind of statement:
...

Sorry, I can't equate the majority of Kapos - many of whom were convicted criminals selected for their duties and who not only quite willingly cooperated but took their own initiative - with SKs. I just cannot..

I responded to what happens all too often, a slight but important change in meaning. As you can see, in the passage you quoted I wrote many to which you responded with all. That's the kind of thing I referred to and that's, imho, not conducive to a discussion - neither the incorrect reading of a quote and surely not the answering of the then assumed meaning. :)

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Thu Mar 09, 2017 4:19 am

I just want to reply to what I can understand in your post and what isn't totally repetitious:
Balsamo wrote:Statmec:

No Jews at Birkenau were going to be allowed to live, but the fate of Jews selected for labor or prisoner functionary duties was not as clear to the inmate himself or herself as was the fate of SK members


So if i understand, the Kapo's of the camps could hope they would be spared, but this perspective is out of question for the SK members?
Even though you wrote earlier that:
OTOH the Camp SS seems to have curtailed that practice around the end of 1942/beginning of 1943 in favor of keeping "skilled laborers" on the job; a number of those SK members alive in 1944, and taking part in the revolt, had been added to the SK in early 1943.



So it is so unreasonable to think that some form of perspective of surviving by doing the job - contradicting Miklos who stated that every Sk members knew they only had 4 months to live - existed? After all 6 out of 8 of the survivors interviewed by Grief were "veterans" (late 42, early 43).
Don't get me wrong for once...I am not saying that there had not been mass killings of SK members.

Just that some managed to get through all or most of them. You have mentioned this Poles member of SK bearing the number 1200 which is described by one witness as having work at Bunker I as soon as 1941...and that it could have been enough to give some hope for survival.
If one accepts that idea, what is left of the difference of a Kapo at Birkenau, a Kapo at the SK and a SK members...Am i crazy to consider that they might all have been motivated by a tiny chance to survive hell?

Quite frankly, i am not convinced by their declared certainty to be killed within four months (Miklos) or other time frame, and if i may add, it quite contradicts one of the main reasons given which is the intrinsic "will to survive".
Frankly had they all comply with the orders - with such kind of orders - with the certainty that they will all be killed short term, that would just blur the picture even more.

I think you misunderstand my point about the general threat of death: the men had, and expressed the awareness that they had, no chance of survival. They did not believe that they'd get out of their situation alive. This is different to the period of cycles of murders of the squads. It was a certainty to these men that they would not be permitted to survive and that they would be killed at once if they resisted.

Understanding of the revolt is also important. The timing of the revolt was in fact triggered by the SK underground determining that that the Camp SS was going to begin liquidating the squad members (a correct reading of a "transfer" order).

To remind you, I had written this, which is not about the earlier periodic murder-replacement of the squads and comes from months after these cyclical murders had ceased: "The men reported that they were under a general threat of death - this was in the fabric of their daily lives, a threat of which they ere highly aware. Gradowski e.g. has a passage describing the omnipresent, omniscient guard detail. Lewental describing a specific incident: 'no one held the illusion that we were going to save ourselves. On the contrary, we had clearly made the assessment that it was a certain death, but everyone was happy with this . . .' Also, in the scrolls the writers sometimes explain their slave-condition as a walking death, perceiving themselves as virtually dead already. Certainly doomed, but more than that - trapped in a unique state, mostly dead, hovering there for a long moment before their final disappearance." I do not see how this can be interpreted as referring to the murder-replacement cycles.

Btw early in the thread you yourself described the situation of SK members as a "gun to the head." I'd thought we all agreed on this point, but now I don't know. I am by no means saying that conditions in other crews in Auschwitz were not potentially lethal and heavily fraught: but they weren't as extreme as the conditions of the SK.

Balsamo wrote:I have admitted from the start that i have a unfavorable bias towards the SK, while you made it clear you had a favorable one.

Not exactly, I started out with a view that these men were put into a horrific situation and that criticism of them for not killing their guards day one failed to recognize the situation. I said that the men were "like us" but they we also have to take into account their worldview and background, that as a group they do not deserve condemnation, that many of them did revolt, that the men responded to their situation in different ways (suicide, burying teeth, writing the scrolls, apathy, rebellion planning, turn to religion, and so on), that some of the men wrote very sensitive and informative texts, that there were cliques among the SK, that the men talked and shared their observations and feelings, that some of the men mourned for and attempted to pay respect to the victims, that the men were subjected to pressures for habituation and psychological manipulation, and so on. To argue, as I have, that the men were not criminals and murderers is different to lionizing them.

I have, true, argued against what you think all SK members should have decided at once - which also is a standard by which you judge them negatively. I don't judge the men in general negatively, just because they were in the SK and didn't at once kill their captors. That's so.

Again, we really are cycling round and round the core disagreement and not really making any progress. I am going to focus on Hungary now.
"World peace is certainly an ideal worth striving for; in Hitler's opinion it will be realizable only when one power, the racially best one, has attained complete and uncontested supremacy. That can then provide a sort of world police, seeing to it at the same time that the most valuable race is guaranteed the necessary living space. And if no other way is open to them, the lower races will have to restrict themselves accordingly."

- Rudolf Hess, letter, 1927

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Balsamo » Thu Mar 09, 2017 11:54 pm

Statistical Mechanic wrote:I just want to reply to what I can understand in your post and what isn't totally repetitious:
Balsamo wrote:Statmec:

No Jews at Birkenau were going to be allowed to live, but the fate of Jews selected for labor or prisoner functionary duties was not as clear to the inmate himself or herself as was the fate of SK members


So if i understand, the Kapo's of the camps could hope they would be spared, but this perspective is out of question for the SK members?
Even though you wrote earlier that:
OTOH the Camp SS seems to have curtailed that practice around the end of 1942/beginning of 1943 in favor of keeping "skilled laborers" on the job; a number of those SK members alive in 1944, and taking part in the revolt, had been added to the SK in early 1943.



So it is so unreasonable to think that some form of perspective of surviving by doing the job - contradicting Miklos who stated that every Sk members knew they only had 4 months to live - existed? After all 6 out of 8 of the survivors interviewed by Grief were "veterans" (late 42, early 43).
Don't get me wrong for once...I am not saying that there had not been mass killings of SK members.

Just that some managed to get through all or most of them. You have mentioned this Poles member of SK bearing the number 1200 which is described by one witness as having work at Bunker I as soon as 1941...and that it could have been enough to give some hope for survival.
If one accepts that idea, what is left of the difference of a Kapo at Birkenau, a Kapo at the SK and a SK members...Am i crazy to consider that they might all have been motivated by a tiny chance to survive hell?

Quite frankly, i am not convinced by their declared certainty to be killed within four months (Miklos) or other time frame, and if i may add, it quite contradicts one of the main reasons given which is the intrinsic "will to survive".
Frankly had they all comply with the orders - with such kind of orders - with the certainty that they will all be killed short term, that would just blur the picture even more.

I think you misunderstand my point about the general threat of death: the men had, and expressed the awareness that they had, no chance of survival. They did not believe that they'd get out of their situation alive. This is different to the period of cycles of murders of the squads. It was a certainty to these men that they would not be permitted to survive and that they would be killed at once if they resisted.

Understanding of the revolt is also important. The timing of the revolt was in fact triggered by the SK underground determining that that the Camp SS was going to begin liquidating the squad members (a correct reading of a "transfer" order).

To remind you, I had written this, which is not about the earlier periodic murder-replacement of the squads and comes from months after these cyclical murders had ceased: "The men reported that they were under a general threat of death - this was in the fabric of their daily lives, a threat of which they ere highly aware. Gradowski e.g. has a passage describing the omnipresent, omniscient guard detail. Lewental describing a specific incident: 'no one held the illusion that we were going to save ourselves. On the contrary, we had clearly made the assessment that it was a certain death, but everyone was happy with this . . .' Also, in the scrolls the writers sometimes explain their slave-condition as a walking death, perceiving themselves as virtually dead already. Certainly doomed, but more than that - trapped in a unique state, mostly dead, hovering there for a long moment before their final disappearance." I do not see how this can be interpreted as referring to the murder-replacement cycles.

Btw early in the thread you yourself described the situation of SK members as a "gun to the head." I'd thought we all agreed on this point, but now I don't know. I am by no means saying that conditions in other crews in Auschwitz were not potentially lethal and heavily fraught: but they weren't as extreme as the conditions of the SK.

Balsamo wrote:I have admitted from the start that i have a unfavorable bias towards the SK, while you made it clear you had a favorable one.

Not exactly, I started out with a view that these men were put into a horrific situation and that criticism of them for not killing their guards day one failed to recognize the situation. I said that the men were "like us" but they we also have to take into account their worldview and background, that as a group they do not deserve condemnation, that many of them did revolt, that the men responded to their situation in different ways (suicide, burying teeth, writing the scrolls, apathy, rebellion planning, turn to religion, and so on), that some of the men wrote very sensitive and informative texts, that there were cliques among the SK, that the men talked and shared their observations and feelings, that some of the men mourned for and attempted to pay respect to the victims, that the men were subjected to pressures for habituation and psychological manipulation, and so on. To argue, as I have, that the men were not criminals and murderers is different to lionizing them.

I have, true, argued against what you think all SK members should have decided at once - which also is a standard by which you judge them negatively. I don't judge the men in general negatively, just because they were in the SK and didn't at once kill their captors. That's so.

Again, we really are cycling round and round the core disagreement and not really making any progress. I am going to focus on Hungary now.



Well maybe we got lost arguing about details.
So thank you for your summary.

I may be bias from my negative view of those men, i admit that, and explained why from the start.
I have read Grief and can now say that i do not agree with his core view, which does not mean i see all the SK as a bunch of criminals that should be put on trial altogether.
I just do not agree with Grief main premises. While i agree that people like me might have been to severe in the past, Grief targets mainly Hannah Arendt whom he accuses to have focus too much on Hoss, to draw her conclusions.
The main problem i sense with Grief is that he is so obsessed with rehabilitating and "rehumanizing" the members that he does not realize that he falls in the same excesses than those he criticizes. If Arendt did indeed based too much on Hoss testimony, Grief ignores those and will take whatever comes from the SK witnesses to make his point. Even Primo Levi takes a lesson for having dared to just having used the term "collaboration"...Actually all those who do not think like him are misinterpreting, lack of comprehension...A testimony like Hoss is to be considered as testimony from a criminal (true), hence subject to extreme care, if not plain rejection (no so true), while those of the SK only tell the truth.

So basically we passed in one go from a global defiance, reproach "approach" to almost a "apology" of those men, while - thinking about it - both are probably wrong. One cannot just selected the sources that pleases us in order to make a point. Meanwhile many questions are still left unanswered: Did witnesses really saw SK members hitting victims with batons? Were they outside the Krema or did they meet the victims only in the undressing rooms?
Even the modus operandi is still not clear.
Grief thinks it is as he sees the SK men in the undressing room assuming some kind of relief job, helping the old, reassuring those who are afraid... as the whole approach is not only to give them back some humanity, some discharge, but in his word:
"These men became the most tragic figures and the most woeful individuals in the history of the Holocaust"

This is the thesis he wants to defend, and persuade all his readers. You read it in the first few pages of his book, and he will make sure you 'll follow him on his course.
Before each interview, we are granted - not only a biography - but nothing less than an apology of the human qualities, nothing less, of each of them.

Is this the way it should be done? seriously?

When it comes to the premises i have mentioned. Let's start with this one:

Jeffk took this example above:
Balsamo, if someone straps bombs on me, sends me to a public area and then detonates the bomb, does this mean that I'm just as guilty? After all, I had a choice, right?


Wouldn't your obvious choice trying to escape and at least try to reach the least populous area, knowing that you are doomed anyway? Of course you would not be held responsible for the deaths you would cause - i have never said that - but you would have some part of responsibility if you chose to follow the instructions and get into the stadium and not trying to get to the parking area.
Now just to be nasty, if you followed your "orders", being trapped, and headed straight to the stadium, would it be legitimate or not for the services in charge to suspect you were maybe a "suicide bomber" more than a victim of some trap? In other words, would it be legitimate for them to investigate you, despite the fact that in reality you were a victim?

But if i took this example, it is only to show that this option seems not to exist for Grief. He seems to conclude that when a choice involve death, there is no choice, and if there is no choice, there is only helplessness left...
However one wants to believe in such statement, it is just not true, no matter how many times one repeats it to oneself...just not true.

Quoting Sofsky :
"To kill oneself would not have saved a single life"


Again, may sounds nice and brave, even if quite pessimistic. But again, is this true?
Well yes, maybe if one speaks of individual actions. But as i said before, such reasoning would make a military division useless. If the power of the division is only based on the behavior of ONE private, then it is rather ineffective. What difference does it makes if one soldier refuse to shoot at the enemy? nothing, of course. Had the whole division reacted like this private, it would have had consequences on the field.

Again, don't get me wrong, i am not arguing that the whole newly selected SK had to act like this, but just to point out that if such a suicidal commitment had been taken by the group, it would have saved lives.

As a matter of fact, had the Krema IV blown up in early 1943, it would have diminished the killing capacity of Birkenau of at least 2000 a day.

Only with the acceptation of those two premises: No choice and futility of suicide (or disobedience=death) can one conclude that there was no alternative to obey orders.

As i say often, if the two premises are at least debatable, then the conclusion is also.

There are much more premises like those ones, but i can sense that i have already bored you for the next 10 months or so.

GREIF also writes:
" ...a moral discourse has certain boundaries that, if breached, will create the danger of doing injustice, albeit unintentional, to the victims of the Holocaust"

and
"the prime imperative in historical analyses of the Holocaust is to avoid causing the victims further injustice"


So, basically, no moral discourses...Keep them for anything but the SK subject (Kapos outside those of the SK seem ok)...they are of course valid outside this specific scopè!
Sorry, i would really ask him if he still sees any other victims of the Holocaust - like the millions no longer here to suffer from unintentional effects of some moral discourses - but his beloved SK members?

Nevertheless, he concludes his introduction with this quite hypocritical phrase:
" Thus, in accordance with Primo Levi's conclusion, our final judgment of the Sonderkommando prisoners should be "judgment suspended"


Sorry i picked that quote today, and yes it sounds just like the one i wrote yesterday...but this is just not what he is doing in his book. Primo Levi's whom he took the quote from is just one of the other mislead, miscomprehended, misinformed people like all those who are still skeptical.
Greif has pronounced his judgement in the first pages of his book, but did not suspended it.

THE SOURCES:
Well i think i have already mentioned the result of my reading of the 8 testimonies provided by Grief, in addition to the one of Miklos (doctor at Auschwitz), for which Grief makes no real conclusion, trying to mix them into some compromise, seemingly accepting what i consider a legend that the SK members were only given an extra ration of rotten soup after a cremation, while acknowledging the profusion of food later on (while the whole thing is contradicted by one witness who remembered having seen plenty of food in the SK barrack in 1942, but who cares?)...

We have Hoss, and other criminals but one is told to take them with care.
We have testimonies from other inmates, but as Arendt or Levi, tainted with miscomprehension.
And then we have the scrolls written in 1944 - the year of the awakening - which should be taken as neutral primary source while forgetting that they were precisely written to be read by the posterity, by the future generations, and hence were written in this perspective.

Well i am not dismissing any of them, and just ordered those scrolls, and i will learn more and ready to revise some and maybe all of my prejudices.

But until then, my feeling is that we just don't know enough, and indeed maybe time of a suspension of judgement, but definitely not for being forced to embrace what looks like a DOXA that is supposed to impose itself on everyone.
This i do not accept.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby scrmbldggs » Fri Mar 10, 2017 2:13 am

Balsamo wrote:Were they outside the Krema or did they meet the victims only in the undressing rooms?

This photo shows them (men with light short-sleeved shirts, dark pants and caps, seen a little more clearly in the cropped images) outside with a group of victims.

Image
Image
(one man with his back to the lady nearest to us, both on the bottom right of the image, and perhaps another SK in the center background facing away)

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Kleon_I XYZ Contagion » Fri Mar 24, 2017 9:45 pm

Kleon_I XYZ Contagion wrote:
Jeffk 1970 wrote:One of the things that struck me as poignant was the fact that the SK's at the Birkenau Kremas wrote notes and buried them.

Here are some examples:

http://auschwitz.org/en/museum/news/voices-of-memory-6-the-crematoria-and-gas-chambers-of-auschwitza-new-publication,814.html

I always thought of these as a form of resistance on their own.


There was also Greek Jew Marcel Nadjari, a former ELAS partizan, and then, after his arrest on late December 1943 in Athens, a SK in Block 13.
In 1980, in the soil of Birkenau, a (I don't know the English word for it, anyway something like a) bottle for heating coffee was discovered. Inside, there were 12 pages of Nadjari's writings. Nadjari survived. In 1947 he wrote a 40 pages account with his whole story from 1940 to 1947. He also made some sketches. Both manuscripts, the 12 pages found in 1980 in the soil, and the 40 pages that Nadjari wrote in 1947, some pictures of Nadjari, a scanned page of 'Manuscript A' and the sketches of 'Manuscript B' and an introduction by a historian were published in a 108 pages book, 'Chronicle 1941-1945', Thessaloniki, Etz Haim 1991


If anyone is interested in, here's a translation of the 12-pages Nadjari's manuscript which I found by pure luck on-line:

- Marcel Nadjary Transcript in English - Winds of Change.NET: Terra Nostra: The Sonderkommando
https://web.archive.org/web/20080826034 ... 006905.php
(The book with both his manuscripts is only in Greek, as far as I know, except somebody here knows otherwise for other non-Greek editions).

The dots [...] signify areas that were destroyed. The parentheses ( ) signify areas that are thought to mean what's written.

Page 1
...Stephanidis...street...number 4 Thessaloniki Greece

Page 2

To my loved ones, Demetrio Athan. Stephanidis, Elia Cohen-Georgios Gounaris My beloved friends. Smaro Ephraidou of Athens and many others that I always remember and to finish, to my Beloved Country Greece where I always was a good citizen.
We left our Athens on 2 April 1944 after I was tortured for a month in Haidari military base, where I always received the packages of good Smaro, and her efforts for me which are unforgettable in these bad days that I'm going through [...]

Page 3

[...]later[...]Birke(nau) [...] where we stayed around one month and from there they sent us [...] where? where? [...] and after they collected 3,000 people, they close the door and kill them with the gas. After 6-7 minutes [...] tortured they die

Page 4

[...]

Page 5

[...] tragedy they threw the Gas [...] shipment [...] we transported the dead bodies of these innocents [...] went transported to the ovens [...] one hundred [...] put in the ovens the ones who still [...] burning material [...] who have one each [...] besides [...] which [...] they made us sift and passed it through a thick sieve and then the [...] in a car and they threw them in the river that passes from nearby [...] Vistula and so [...] destroyed all evidence [...] the tragedy that my eyes have seen is undescribable [...] my eyes. Around 600,000 Jews from Hungary, French, Poles [...] at this time [...] around [...]

Page 6

[...]

Page 7

[...]

Page 8

[...] but it held me again the feeling of revenge. I wanted and want if I live to revenge the death of my Dad, my Mom and my dear sister Nellie [...] it is impossible to imagine from what my eyes have seen. So, Elia, my beloved little cousin, if I don't exist, know you and the friends [...] your duty. I learned from [...] Sarrika [...] My only maybe last wish is that you receive [...]

Page 9

[...] Mitso [...] Elia [...] my cousin. [...] so you have only [...] all here [...] you understand [...] from no one [...]

Page 10

In Birkenau [...] I am not sorry that I will die, but because I will not be able to revenge, as I want and as I know [...] and if by chance you receive a letter from our relatives abroad, please write them immediately that the family Nadjary is erased murdered by the civilised Germans (New Europe) [...] My Nellie's piano, Mitso, take it from the Sionidou family and give it to Elia. This now will be with him so he will remember her since he loved her so much and she loved him as well. Every day we think if there is a God, and in spite of all this I believe there is and whatever God wants his will be done. I die pleased, since I know that this moment [...] our Greece is liberated. I will not live but may they live [...] my last words will be long live Greece

Marcel
Na(dja)ry

Page 12

[...] RESPECTED GREEK EMBASSY will receive [...] from a Greek [...] Emmanuel or Marcel Nadjary from Thessaloniki, address, street Italia num.9 Thessaloniki.
My letter, please, send it to the address:
Demetrios Athanasios Stephanidis
Krousovou 4 Thessaloniki
Greece
This is my last will. I am sentenced to death by the Germans because I am of the Jewish religion.

Thank you

[unable to read signature]

According to experts and scholars, the 10 stages of every genocide are
Classification Symbolization Discrimination Dehumanization Organization Polarization Preparation Persecution Extermination
... and finally the 10th stage:
Denial
http://www.genocidewatch.org/genocide/t ... ocide.html

XYZ Contagion (‘Because the truth is contagious‘), an investigative/research political and historical website, deals also with the Srebrenica Genocide
https://xyzcontagion.wordpress.com/about/#English

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Sat Mar 25, 2017 6:23 pm

In "Why? Explaining the Holocaust" Peter Hayes talks about "Honor Courts" that sprang up after the war to punish "Jewish collaborators" that the courts did not convict. Rather than opening a new thread about this I will put this information here.
An Honor Court in Italy convicted two Jewish Council Members from Lviv and Bedzin and banned them from taking part in any public life of the Jewish people. The same occurred in for a Jewish councilor from Upper Silesia and for David Cohen and Abraham Asscher, the Co-Chairs of the Jewish Council in Amsterdam (later the Netherlands Israelite Church Organization overturned that decision).

I have a personal contact with this. A survivor named Wolf Murmelstein, a man I first met on FG's Blog, is the son of Benjamin Murmelstein. For those of you who have read Eichmann before Jerusalem the name is familiar, Mr. Murmelstein dealt with Eichmann in Austria, later Mr. Murmelstein wound up at Terezin and was President of the council there. A Jewish Honor Court punished him for his role there and Wolf has spent most of his life trying to clear his father's name. There is a movie called "the Last of the Unjust" that details this.
https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.thegua ... ust-review

The Soviets also punished Council leaders. The Soviets sentenced Moshe Kopelman, the Kovno Ghetto Jewish Police Chief to fifteen years hard labor in 1944. He died a year later. The Soviets executed Walter Lustig, the last leader of the Reichsvereinigung in 1945 for collaboration.


So, to sort of drive home the point, it didn't pay for the SK's to talk about their experiences because there was a threat of punishment over their roles at Birkenau.

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Re: More Auschwitz: The Sonderkommando Thread

Postby Kleon_I XYZ Contagion » Sat Mar 25, 2017 8:07 pm

There was a similar court in Salonica, Greece, too:

- Salonika Jews Sponsor Trial Of Collaborators
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/sal ... laborators
According to experts and scholars, the 10 stages of every genocide are
Classification Symbolization Discrimination Dehumanization Organization Polarization Preparation Persecution Extermination
... and finally the 10th stage:
Denial
http://www.genocidewatch.org/genocide/t ... ocide.html

XYZ Contagion (‘Because the truth is contagious‘), an investigative/research political and historical website, deals also with the Srebrenica Genocide
https://xyzcontagion.wordpress.com/about/#English


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