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#1 G.MITCHELL

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 05:51 AM

I`ve got to ask this community, Could you have restrained yourself unlike Howard did in 1945 ?


"It's a very strange feeling, sitting in a cell with a man who you know killed your parents," he says, referring to Hoess.

"People used to say to me: 'You can take revenge, you can take a knife into his cell.'

He says that, despite the psychiatrists' best attempts, no great insight was gained into psychological source of the Nazi mentality.


19 September 2011 Last updated at 17:37

Jewish US army translator who got close to the NazisBy Mario Cacciottolo BBC News

Posted Image Hermann Goering considered himself to be the star prisoner at Nuremberg
A German Jew who became a US military translator is the last surviving member of a team that carried out psychological tests on leading Nazis after the war. They learned very little, he says - but he gained unique insights into their characters.
"If you took away the names of these Nazis, and just sat down to talk to them, they were like your friends and neighbours."

Howard Triest, 88, spent many hours with some of the most notorious leaders of the Third Reich, acting as a translator for American psychiatrists at Nuremberg.

It was September 1945, shortly after the end of World War II in Europe, and the highest-ranking Nazis still left alive were about to be tried for war crimes.

"I'd seen these people in the time of their glory, when the Nazis were the rulers of the world," he says. "These rulers had killed most of my family, but now I was in control."

Among them were Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering, Hitler's former deputy Rudolf Hess, Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher and former Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoess, among others.

"It's a very strange feeling, sitting in a cell with a man who you know killed your parents," he says, referring to Hoess.

"We treated them in a civil way, I kept my hate under control when I was working there. You couldn't betray how you really felt because you wouldn't get anything out of their questioning.

"But I never shook hands with any of them."

Escaping the Nazis

Howard was born into a Jewish family in Munich in 1923, and was already a teenager when Nazi persecution intensified.

His family left for Luxemburg on 31 August 1939, the day before Germany invaded Poland, intending to travel onward to the United States in due course. But a shortage of money prevented them making the journey together. So Howard went first, in April 1940, with his parents and younger sister due to follow a month later.

For his parents, the delay proved fatal. His mother Ly, 43, and Berthold, 56, were later sent from France to Auschwitz, where they both died.

His sister Margot was smuggled out to Switzerland and from there also left for the US, where she still lives, like her brother.

Posted Image Howard Triest was still technically a German when he joined the US Army Howard's attempts to enlist into the US army were initially rebuffed because he was not a citizen but eventually, in 1943, he succeeded. He was made a US citizen a few months later.

After being posted to Europe and landing at Omaha Beach a day or two after D-Day, he found himself working for military intelligence, thanks to his ability to speak fluent German, a valuable skill as the Allies pushed across the continent towards Berlin.

In summer 1945 he was discharged, but immediately began work for the American War Department as a civilian - and was sent to Nuremberg to assist Major Leon Goldensohn with his psychiatric evaluations of the defendants awaiting trial.

That is how a Jewish man, who had fled the rule of the Nazis, came to spend hours in their company, sitting with them in their cells, translating the psychiatrist's questions, and their responses.

Maj Goldensohn was conducting diagnoses such as the Rorschach tests, in an attempt to unravel the prisoners' personalities and motivations.

Howard is now the last surviving member of the psychiatric team, and his account of his experiences in a new book, Inside Nuremberg Prison, by historian Helen Fry, provides some vivid character sketches.

'Zombie' Hess

"Goering was still a very pompous man," he recalls.

"He was the eternal actor, the man that was in charge. He considered himself the number one prisoner, because Hitler and Himmler were dead. He always wanted the number one seat in the courtroom.

"He arrived at Nuremberg with eight suitcases, mostly packed with drugs, because he had a big habit, and was surprised that he was treated as a prisoner and not as a famous personality."

We didn't find anything abnormal, nothing to indicate something that would make them the murderers they would become”

Howard also came into contact with Rudolf Hess, once Hitler's deputy until his flight to Scotland in May 1941, where he was captured.

He recalls Hess as being "like a zombie".

He added: "Hess thought he was being persecuted, even when he was being held in England. He made sample packages of food and gave some to me and the psychiatrists and asked for them to be analysed, as he thought he was being poisoned.

"He was a quiet prisoner, who answered a few questions but didn't go into details. Nobody knew how much was play acting and what was real, how much he could actually remember."

Hidden hate

In the course of his duties, Howard also came face to face with Rudolf Hoess, a meeting all the more intense because of the death of Howard's parents at Auschwitz, once under Hoess's control.

"Both Maj Goldensohn and I were with him many times. Sometimes I was with him alone in his cell," Howard says.

"People used to say to me: 'You can take revenge, you can take a knife into his cell.'

"But the revenge was that I knew he was in prison and that I knew he would be hanged. So I knew he was going to die anyway. Killing him myself wouldn't have done me any good."

Posted Image Nuremberg saw trials of some the most notorious Nazis left alive after the war He describes Hoess as "very normal. He didn't look like someone who had killed two or three million people."

One remarkable incident occurred with Julius Streicher, whose Der Stuermer newspaper had done much to whip up anti-Semitic hysteria among Germans.

"He was the biggest anti-Semite of all. I interviewed him with another psychiatrist, Maj Douglas Kelley.

"Streicher had some papers that he didn't want to give to Maj Kelley, or anyone else, because he said he didn't want them to fall into Jewish hands.

"Eventually he gave them to me - I was tall, blond and blue-eyed. He said 'I'll give them to your interpreter because I know he is a true Aryan. I can tell by the way he talks.'

"Streicher talked to me for hours because of his idea I was a 'true Aryan'. I got a lot more out of him that way."

In fact, none of the Nazis who Howard translated for were ever aware he was Jewish.

Lessons learned?

He says that, despite the psychiatrists' best attempts, no great insight was gained into psychological source of the Nazi mentality.

"Did we learn anything from these psychiatric tests? No. We didn't find anything abnormal, nothing to indicate something that would make them the murderers they would become.

Posted Image Howard Triest now hopes the story of the Holocaust will continue to be told "In fact, they were all quite normal. Evil and extreme cruelty can go with normality.

"None of them ever showed remorse. They said they knew there were camps but they didn't know about the annihilation of people.

"It was a pity they didn't go through the same things that their victims went through, that Hoess didn't suffer in a camp the same way his prisoners did."

Howard says he hopes the story of the Holocaust is never forgotten.

"But look at the world today. Is it much quieter? Some of the victims have changed, but there are still victims around the world," he says.

Before we finish our interview, Howard is keen to tell a further anecdote about Nuremberg's would-be number one inmate.

"Goering once said that if any bombs were dropped on Berlin, he would eat a herring. Well, I was in charge of censoring his post, and someone did actually send him a herring.

Howard chuckles gently. "I threw it away. It smelled a little bit."



#2 Flores Hopman

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 06:17 AM

Amazing !

Thanks for sharing.

rgds
Flores

#3 FJBoccia

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 07:59 AM

As has been said on this site by several of us before, attempts to characterize the Nazi mentality as a form of insanity are dangerously wrongheaded --dangerous because if we're to spot the next Hitler, we'll overlook him because we're looking for a madman spraying spittle while screaming into a microphone rather than a skilled and charismatic politcian manipulating the fear and anger of his countrymen. It does not surprise me that the psychiatrists found these men to be "normal". Even Goering's self-delusional posturing and egotism, while almost amusing in its gradiosity, is nothing more than what I personally have enountered several times in my life, as have most of us.

The most telling and accurate of phrases I have heard (which, by the way, was NOT used in reference to the Nazis, but to a ring of pedophile murderers) is the "banality of evil".

Thanks for the post, Gary.

FJB

#4 IRISH54

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 09:22 AM

Gary, as always you've come up with not one, but two great posts. Todays being, for me at least, and exceptional story. Yesterdays post really struck a nerve though too. As I was reading it I thought about the major book store/chain thats going out of business up at the local mall. I don't want to even think of a world without books...but you tend to hear that said more and more in this "High Tech" age. Take care my friend. As always....Thanks for posting. -Jim-

#5 maddevon

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 10:05 AM

Thanks Gary, I will be sure to look for the book referenced in your post.

#6 AQuaker

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 10:09 AM

Excellent post and the irony of the whole situation is palatable. Revenge is in the hands of the Lord or in these cases the hangman.

#7 PaulV

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 10:28 AM

The most telling and accurate of phrases I have heard (which, by the way, was NOT used in reference to the Nazis, but to a ring of pedophile murderers) is the "banality of evil".


So true. For the overwhelming majority of humanity the decision to commit evil is a simple choice, not an uncontrollable urge brought about by some exotic mental illness.

#8 IMike

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 11:14 AM

Note also -- in their normality, they didn't consider themselves evil!

There is currently an inexplicable belief -- inexplicable in light of mankind's known history, and of what can be inferred fo his pre-history -- that homicide is somehow unnatural in men, that "normal" men don't do that. It seems to continue that if we can just isolate those aberent tendencies and cure people of them, the world will be a safe, peaceful place for us to live.

If we should ever do that, we will quickly find we have been displaced by a new breed of "sub-humans" who have no qualms about killing anyone that gets in their way.

Mike



#9 Frenchie

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 12:39 PM

Thank you Gary, very very interesting indeed.

We didn't find anything abnormal, nothing to indicate something that would make them the murderers they would become”


So they knew what they were doing... they couldn't have been excused because of mental problems.

#10 AQuaker

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 10:17 PM

The End by Ian Kershaw - review

How can one explain Germans' continuing loyalty to Hitler in the last days of the Third Reich?

Mark Mazower
guardian.co.uk, Friday 16 September 2011 17.55 EDT
Article history

Adolf Hitler decorates members of the Hitler Youth in Berlin on 25 April 1945, five days before he killed himself. Photograph: AP


The End starts with a grim tale from the final seconds of the war. With allied troops at the gates, Robert Limpert, a young theology student from Ansbach, tries to hinder Wehrmacht efforts to defend the town by cutting the phone wires from the commandant's base. He is immediately sentenced to death by a kangaroo court. The crowd that watches makes no effort to help him even when he manages momentarily to run off. Five hours later, his body is removed by American soldiers.


The End: Hitler's Germany, 1944-45
by Ian Kershaw

The end of the Third Reich presents an enduring historical enigma. How can we explain the extraordinary cohesion of German society right up to the bitter end – the lack of rebellion or mutiny, the relatively low levels of desertion from the ranks of the army, and the tenacious hold of the National Socialist state over the lives of ordinary people until, very suddenly, it was all over? The most obvious explanation – that people really did believe in Him (a phrase from the reich brilliantly analysed at the time by Victor Klemperer) – raises a second puzzle: why, if German society remained basically Nazified, was there so little resistance to foreign occupation after "liberation"? These two riddles continue to preoccupy historians, and now Ian Kershaw, the doyen of English scholars of the Third Reich, seeks the answers.

Fundamental in his view were the structural shifts in the regime's internal balance of power that followed the failed assassination attempt against Hitler in July 1944. That failure proved critical for several reasons. First, it placed a premium on obedience within the army and made it impossible for those generals who argued that the war was lost to gain a hearing. Power shifted initially into the hands of a triumvirate of paladins – Himmler, the head of the police and SS and the chief architect of the apparatus of terror; Goebbels, in charge of Berlin and of nationwide propaganda and one of the enduring radicals of the regime; and the sinister figure of Martin Bormann, Hitler's gatekeeper and the architect of the party's return to real power.

Himmler brought the terror that had ravaged eastern Europe back into the reich. Goebbels used the advance of the Red Army in particular and the overall deterioration in the reich's position in general to terrify the population. And Bormann made sure that German towns and villages were run by men "of the first hour" – the party bosses at whom educated types had scoffed for many years but whose unconstrained outlook and deep devotion to the Führer met the needs of the moment. None of these three men sought absolute power in his own right; all enjoyed their ascendancy on the basis of their close ties with the Führer, whose "charismatic authority", here as in Kershaw's biography of him, remains the cement holding the entire edifice together.

The regime's ever more draconian treatment of its own population is never in doubt. Kershaw cites staggering statistics showing, for instance, that German courts martial resulted in the execution of some 20,000 German soldiers, an astonishing figure when set either against the numbers the British (40) or the French (103) shot, or indeed that the Germans had executed in the first world war (48). The civilian toll was probably even worse. At the same time, Kershaw, whose earliest work on Nazi Germany made pioneering contributions to the study of popular opinion, insists that the German people were not simply terrorised into obedience. Terror alone cannot explain the almost bizarre efficiency of German civil servants, worrying about cleaning bins and foreign bursaries right up until the 11th hour, or – more impressively – organising an exemplary relief effort for Dresden in the aftermath of the February bombings. Still less can it explain the evidence from a range of sources – letters, diaries, eavesdropped conversations of captured soldiers – that shows the degree of support for Hitler up to the last month of the war. For the troops fighting in the east against the Red Army, the explanation is not hard to find: sheer fear and the desire for self-preservation, especially once Goebbels had made sure to publicise the atrocities committed by Soviet troops in one of the first east Prussian villages they occupied. But for the western front, and for the populations living in the Rhineland, fear of Bolshevism was not a motivating factor. Nor really was the allied policy of unconditional surrender. German generals dithered over when to surrender in Italy, for example, because they were simply not sure whether their troops would follow them or string them up for treachery to the Führer.

The narrative approach adopted by Kershaw makes for readability, but it does not, it must be said, make it easy for him – or the reader – to disentangle the various elements of the "mentalities" he traces and to work out which mattered and how. It is helpful to be reminded that there was, right to the end, a surprising range of mentalities and outlooks, but that only makes it harder to know what weight to attach to each of them, especially as the regime ratcheted up the terror in the final weeks and months. Nevertheless, a few things stand out.

One is the importance of the memory of 1918. An officer held by the British remarked in the spring of 1945 on the contrast between the two endings. "In 1918 we experienced more open revolutionary tendencies … As the end drew near, the men were already behaving in a very insolent fashion. They don't do that now." Hitler's determination to mould a society that would not fragment under the pressure of total war had paid off, and terrorisation was only one reason for his success. Another was that National Socialism had endlessly asserted the values of a classless national community, and by intensifying the Nazification of the army with the appointment of political commissars, the regime had made that the key embodiment of the new Germany. German generals were not nearly as anti-Nazi as they liked to claim after the war. And as in Britain, the idea that the war had levelled social difference was an enormously popular one that helped to foster a spirit of collective sacrifice.

The third factor was faith in Hitler himself. There was huge relief that the plot against him had failed, and a widespread sense that his leadership was the difference between life and death for Germany. In short, he had succeeded in spreading the view that the survival of the nation and the survival of the National Socialist regime were one and the same. Popular unease at the crimes Germany had committed and at the likely consequences bolstered this view, but did not explain it. One of the striking features of the end-game is how little mileage there seems to have been in the idea of National Socialism without Hitler; a few of the more politically obtuse Nazis toyed with the idea in the late spring of 1945, and a few even less successful extremists tried out the idea under Adenauer in the 1950s. But to all intents and purposes, National Socialism died with the Führer, and not even the fact that polls showed surprising support for the idea well into the time of the Korean war could bring it back.

Some young Germans took the notion of loyalty to the reich so far as to agree to act as Nazi partisans, and they organised a spate of killings of German "collaborators" with the allies in the Rhineland in the spring of 1945. But the threat from pro-Nazi Werwolves quickly vanished; most of them got bored holing up in shepherds' huts in the Black Forest or the Austrian Alps and made for the warmth of home in a matter of days or weeks. Kershaw's account gives a vivid impression of a world closing in on itself as the borders shrank, armies pressed in from all sides and some of the Nazis' deepest prejudices surfaced: if foreigners were untrustworthy, this was then the moment – abandoned by all so-called allies – when the Germans could prove their mettle.

By the same token, it was also the moment for maximum vigilance within Germany itself, now teeming with millions of alienated and resentful foreign labourers. If Germans were capable of being melded into a single cohesive entity, this was their moment to prove it, and all those Germans such as Robert Limpert who challenged this achievement would have to be eradicated. Nazi logic fed on itself and the victims piled up. "Germany awake!" had been the title of one of the Nazis' favourite songs. But the spring of 1945 brought an awakening of a different and more enduring kind.

#11 misako

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 12:41 AM

So true. For the overwhelming majority of humanity the decision to commit evil is a simple choice, not an uncontrollable urge brought about by some exotic mental illness.


I agree with that completely....

#12 AQuaker

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 09:01 AM

This is why true evil frightens me more than actions of a madman. It is not as surprising when it is the latter, but when average Joe, and some of these guys were below average, commit atrocities, I stop and remember that after all we are just intelligent mammals. Through thousands of years of warfare either one's humanity evolves or it doesn't.

#13 FJBoccia

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 11:45 AM

By the same token, it was also the moment for maximum vigilance within Germany itself, now teeming with millions of alienated and resentful foreign labourers. If Germans were capable of being melded into a single cohesive entity, this was their moment to prove it, and all those Germans such as Robert Limpert who challenged this achievement would have to be eradicated. Nazi logic fed on itself and the victims piled up. "Germany awake!" had been the title of one of the Nazis' favourite songs. But the spring of 1945 brought an awakening of a different and more enduring kind.

This last paragraph verges on or achieves incoherence. I'm not sure what he intends to say. But the question of how a highly advanced, civilized, educated and intelligent population could do what it did before and during the war has of course haunted any thinking person. Part of the answer lies in that marvelous phrase of G K Chesterton, where he speaks of the "Pressure of the Ordinary". He uses it to explain the inability of so many well-intentioned people to achieve true Christianity --the needs of every-day life prevent us from breaking away from our familiar routines. I think it applies here as well. Germans did what they did as much or more because of the requirements of their settled lives as from conscious decision. Quite literally, the awful specter of National ocialism and what it brought about was blocked from view by the simple day-to-day tasks of baking bread, mending shoes, running a railroad or tilling a field.

Most human beings are comfortable doing what they have always done, what they are good at doing, what fills their days with known results. To break away from that, to step back and make decisions that bring about a radical change in one's cirsumstances, requires enormous effort. Add to that natural conservatism the very real threat of draconian punishment and I think we can readily understand why so few Germans were able to defy the Nazi machine.

The two phrases I've quoted go together hand-in-hand. The pressure of the ordinary is a major contributing factor in the banallity of evil. And make no mistake: That conformity to the daily routine is not a specifically German trait, much as we would like to believe otherwise. How many americans really protested the internment of the Japanese-American population during WWII?

FJB

#14 AQuaker

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 03:51 PM

natural conservatism the very real threat of draconian punishment and I think we can readily understand why so few Germans were able to defy the Nazi machine.

That is an accurate assessment of the situation.

How many americans really protested the internment of the Japanese-American population during WWII?
The Brethen, Unitarians and the Catholic Church and of course
Quakers - http://afsc.org/stor...ican-relocation





Edited by AQuaker, 21 September 2011 - 03:52 PM.


#15 FJBoccia

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Posted 22 September 2011 - 07:14 AM

Sheila, I didn't say no Americans protested; many did. Missing from your list, for example, is J Edgar Hoover, who forcefully and publically disagreed with these measures. But overall, the nation accepted them. For that matter, the worst violation of civil rights took place during the Wilson administration, and in particular in that period following America's entry into WWI. The measures taken by both the federal and state governments against, not just dissent, but even basic first amendment rights, were staggering in their severity and arbitrariness. A man in Minnesota was sentenced to 25 years in prison for questioning the need for a potato-rationing decree. He committed no crime, urged no disobedience, but merely asked a question. His sentence was never commuted. And by and large, such extreme punishments for the most trivial of reasons were accepted and unquestioned, save by a few civil libertarians. Let us remember that Wilson was the Great Idealist; but this is what he wrought, all in support of the war effort.

By the way, only slightly off-topic: This assault on first amendment rights contributed substantially to the spread and lethality of the great flu epidemic, which arose during the war. (Research shows that the disease began in a small rural county in Kansas; at any other time in American history it would have spent itself among the sparesely populated plains of Kansas. But young men from that county were sent to an Army recruit base in Missouri, and from there to several locations on the east coast; the strain spread rapidly in the conditions of a WWI era military camp.) Not just America, but almost all participants in WWI severely limited the news; anything which might detract from the war effort, or affect civilian morale, was routinely kept from the public. Thus, reports of increasing numbers of deaths from the influenza were ruthlessly suppressed. Because of that, civil authorities in most countries were kept unaware for too long of the severity and scope of the disaster. Ironically, the disease became known as the Spanish Influenza, and even today some history books attribute its origin to Spain. In fact, the disease neither started in SPain, nor was it particularly severe there. But SPain was a neutral in WWI, and thus had no press censorship, so the SPanish newspapers fully reported the course of the disease. SInce Spanish accounts were the only ones that even mentioned it, all other governments, including Great Britain, France, Germany and Russia, trying their best to keep the stories from appearing, the impression was that the influenza epidemic was taking place only in the Iberian penninsula. And hence the name.

This was all accepted, even by such staunchly freedom-loving peoples as the Americans and Britons. Elsewhere, Sheila, several people on this site have talked about the American South, and how easily Jim Crow laws, accompanied by an often violent suppression of black poltical expression, were maintained for generations, even though the majority of Southerners were decent people. It is all too easy to live one's life in a moral vaccuum; that is not a modern phenomenon.

FJB




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