Wednesday, March 6, 2013

New Research: more than 42,000 Nazi labour camps

As time passes and memories of the war recede, the new research is an effective reminder of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis, said Sara Horowitz, director of the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University.

“I don’t think we lose the capacity to be shocked, but sometimes I think the general public, they think, ‘Yes, yes, we know all about it,’ ” Horowitz said.
“The main point is the intricate web that was woven by the genocidal machinery in Nazi Germany,” she added. “Those of us who work on aspects of the Holocaust — we never lose the capacity to be shocked by it.” (from "Nazi labour camps more widespread than thought, new research shows" by Jennifer Quinn, Toronto Star, March 4 2013, below)
The human capacity to "eat our own" in war, terror, revenge, out of sheer ambition for uberpower, and out of a deep-seated contempt for "others" different from us...based on faulty science of a "superior race" continues to unfold in this research into labour camps in World War II.
At the same time, (or close to it,) we are reminded of the horror of Hillary Clinton's discovery, while working to improve the education system in Arkansas when her husband was governor of that state, that there were teachers teaching what they termed "World War Eleven," because they did not know the meaning of Roman Numerals. And the disconnect from personal experience to complete disengagement and even denial continues.
We continue to be shocked by both extremes, seemingly irreconcileable, except in documentation.
And so the importance of continued research by scholars continues to grow, as the world staggers from crisis to crisis, even if the nature of those crises changes.
However, we must never be lulled into a state of semi-consciousness either about the human capacities both for desecration and for complete denial. Our human mind is capable of the most nefarious of actions, attitudes, beliefs and cover-ups.
And in every situation, where there is an overt effort to uncover the unpalatable truths of our past, there will also be an equally strong effort to "move on" and "leave the past in the past" because to uncover would be too painful.
We are committed, and we must carry the torch for that commitment, to every single effort to tell the truth about all of the pasts of all of the people in all of the most heinous situations, domestic, provincial national and global. How we then judge those facts, and how we make comparisons and the standards of both academic rigour and ethical discipline will shift from one cultural and historic period to another. As deceased New York Senator Moynihan reminds us, we are entitled to our own opinions but not to our own facts.
And that includes disclosing the traumas of our individual histories in our individual homes where too many secrets are still hidden, in letters, and in individual human memories never shared to protect the not-so-innocent.
It is our capacity to deny, to whitewash and to make nice that is as offensive, not only to the victims of violence but also to the survivors, as was the original violence to their dignity and self-respect and their race and faith. And too often that capacity to deny and to whitewash is linked to some religious belief or practice, making the denial faux-sacred, in our malicious and nefarious attempt to cover-up.

Nazi labour camps more widespread than thought, new research shows

New research has revealed there were more than 42,000 work camps, prisons and ghettoes established by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
By Jennifer Quinn, Toronto Star,  March  04 2013
In the Polish countryside, and in the centre of Paris. Hidden from view, and in plain sight. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners, or just a few dozen. All different, and deadly, and scattered across wartime Europe.
And all part of the Nazi killing machine.
New research has revealed there were more than 42,000 individual sites — ranging from massive concentration camps to small ghettoes — established by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. The number far exceeds the fewer than 10,000 sites researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum expected they’d uncover when the project began 13 years ago.
“The number itself is shocking — it really highlights how widespread the system was, and how many people had to be aware of it,” lead editor Geoffrey Megargee said in an interview. “It helps people understand the parts of the system, and how complex it was.”
Sites documented by the project include the well-known, such as the massive Auschwitz and Treblinka concentration camps. But it also counts prisoner-of war-camps, work-education camps, “Germanization” camps — where kidnapped or orphaned Polish children were taken to determine if they possessed valuable racial characteristics — small ghettoes, and brothels where women were forced to have sex with German soldiers.
And the results, which are being compiled in a seven-volume set of encyclopedias by the Washington, D.C.-based museum, include an astonishing number of forced labour camps — about 30,000.
“It was impossible to go anywhere in Germany and not know there were forced labourers at work,” Megargee said. “Every butcher, every baker, every candlestick maker, every railroad, school, government institution all had their quotas of forced labour.
“You just couldn’t escape the fact that these things were around.”
When Megargee began the research, he expected to find about 7,500 sites. A few years later, that rose to 20,000. And the new findings have surprised even the most informed scholars: “Just when you think you have the whole thing under control, along comes something else to upend all of that,” said Michael Marrus, professor emeritus of Holocaust Studies at the University of Toronto.
Detailed records kept by the Germans and the fall of the Iron Curtain — and the subsequent release of previously unseen material — have helped advance Holocaust research, Marrus said. But the confusion of wartime, the sometimes fading recollections of survivors and the lack of witnesses have, until now, kept the existence of some sites in the shadows.
“That’s one of the reasons for the great underestimation,” Marrus said. “And when you consider that sometimes, there are no survivors — plus, people are moved from one camp to the other, so sometimes people remember the camp that is largest or best known.”
As time passes and memories of the war recede, the new research is an effective reminder of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis, said Sara Horowitz, director of the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University.
“I don’t think we lose the capacity to be shocked, but sometimes I think the general public, they think, ‘Yes, yes, we know all about it,’ ” Horowitz said.
“The main point is the intricate web that was woven by the genocidal machinery in Nazi Germany,” she added. “Those of us who work on aspects of the Holocaust — we never lose the capacity to be shocked by it.”
For Megargee and fellow editor Martin Dean, the task of documenting the sites is not just a historical project — it’s also a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. At an early meeting to discuss their findings, Megargee recalls one survivor standing and placing his hand on the first volume and saying, “This is a holy book.”
“It keeps the Holocaust alive by personalizing it, and saving the personal experiences,” Dean added. “Many survivors have told me that when they were in these camps, they vowed to tell the story. It’s a very huge, complex story.”

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