Havent we learned anything from the Holocaust?

Opinion

I wanted to stay out of it, hoping that someone else would make a comparison between the torturers in the Iraqi prisons and the Nazi death camps. But I can’t. After having narrowly escaped the Holocaust with my family in 1939, and after having relatives ground up in the death camps, I can’t help but draw a connection between the photographs of smiling U.S. soldiers and private interrogators standing over the bodies of tortured Iraqi prisoners, and images of SS troops of the World War II German Army laughing over the inhumanities they had committed.

When George W. Bush states that we are in Iraq to give the Iraqis freedom, I am reminded of the inscription above the gate of a Nazi death camp, Dachau, that read: “Arbeit macht frei” (Work makes free). We who survived supported organizations such as Simon Wiesenthal’s in hunting down the Nazi torturers wherever they were. It didn’t matter if they were 75 or 80 years old. It didn’t matter if they had settled down and raised American families. If they were caught, they were tried and given appropriate just punishment. Some were hanged. Some were deported. But in the end, some justice prevailed.

One must ask, what kind of justice will be handed out to the torturers of Iraqi prisoners? How – some 60 years after the downfall of the Nazi regime – can young Americans place such a low value on human life that they can duplicate the same kind of treatment in Iraqi prisons? One must ask if wrist slaps by the military and dishonorable discharges of low-level soldiers, or simply firing private contractors, is enough punishment.

Perhaps the torturers should undergo deprivation in the same prisons where they committed their acts. Perhaps they should face a world court tribunal, so that all the world could see the full meaning of George W. Bush’s statement presenting freedom to the Iraqis. Most of all, how can Bush, the commander-in-chief, evade responsibility for these crimes?

One must also draw a connection between the treatment of these Iraqi prisoners with involvement of private intelligence contractors hired by the Pentagon out of $87 billion of our tax money, and the fact that prisons built by private contractors here in New Mexico were not only constructed without proper air conditioning, but also allowed or encouraged guards to mistreat their prisoners in a similar inhuman manner as the guards in the Iraqi prisons. And one has to ask: what were private intelligence contractors doing running interrogation of prisoners? That is like creating a private SS away from the public’s eye.

Hasn’t American humanity learned anything from the Holocaust? Or is this supposed to have been simply a “nightmare” in human existence, to be dismissed as much as a science fiction horror movie on a Saturday night? The survivors of the Holocaust and their friends and relatives want to know, where is the humanity and morality of these people?



Emil Shaw is chair of the New Mexico Communist Party. He can be reached at shawemil@msn.com.