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A visit to Auschwitz

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A few weeks ago I traveled to Poland. The purpose of my trip was to visit Auschwitz, the infamous labor (Auschwitz 1) and extermination camp (Auschwitz 2 Birkenau) where over one million human beings were murdered, the vast majority of whom were Jews. Before I left the few people I told that I was going asked me why. Why would I go there? What’s the point? I still get the same question now when people ask me where I’ve traveled to lately.

Why did I go? I think the answer is I was drawn to that place to see how I would react, both emotionally and intellectually. Would visiting Auschwitz force me to reconsider my position on the State of Israel and my opposition to the type of Zionism that drives it? Would standing in the one extant gas chamber at Auschwitz 1 force me to consider my luck at having been born a Jew in 1976 in New York as opposed to 36 years earlier somewhere in Europe and therefore change my political values?

I landed at Krakow’s Pope John Paul II airport on a damp and dreary day, a fitting welcome to Poland, I thought to myself. On the ride into town the driver of my taxi made an ill-advised left turn that could easily have ended very badly. Suffice to say I was uncomfortable from the get go.

I had no firm plans, but I wasn’t ready to go to Auschwitz yet. I spent the next day exploring Krakow. I walked down to the Kazimierz district, the former Jewish quarter that is experiencing a strange sort of revival. There’s a row of Jewish-themed restaurants, I stopped for lunch at one called “Ariel.” I asked the waiter what was good, he said “I recommend the Jewish roast beef.”

I had the Jewish roast beef; my grandmother’s brisket was better.

Later on after visiting the requisite museums and such I went back to my hotel and asked the concierge about going to Auschwitz. It felt awkward asking someone about tours to a Nazi death camp. But there’s a brisk business in tours there, so I put the awkwardness aside.

The next morning I went downstairs at 9:00 to begin my journey to Auschwitz. I skipped breakfast. I got into a van. Inside men with British accents were talking among themselves. One of them said something about Barack Obama not being born in the US. “Not worth it,” I said to myself. The van drove for a couple of minutes to a staging point. We were told to get out. “Salt mine tour that bus,” barked a hefty looking Polish woman. “Auschwitz, that bus,” she pointed towards a minivan. I thought to myself that this is bizarre. My dark side sensed the irony and I snickered to myself. I got onto the small van to Auschwitz.

After a 90 minute drive through the Polish countryside we arrived in the town of Oświęcim. We passed the main train station and a few hotels and pizza restaurants before turning into the parking lot for Auschwitz 1, the labor camp and POW camp. We got off the bus and walked towards a large building. There were lots of people around. By now the sun was out and it was getting very warm. I got a bottle of water while the others did their thing, ten minutes later we walked through the gate.

Auschwitz 1, photo by Scott Roth

Auschwitz 1, photo by Scott Roth

I have to admit that I didn’t care much for the museum aspect of the tour. I already knew the story and was familiar with the machinery of death and torture the Nazis used. I didn’t want to see exhibits as much as I wanted to experience being at that place and feeling whatever feelings the place evoked. It was hard to focus on what the guide was saying. My mind would wander. I looked out the window and saw that there was a highway running along the back of the camp. There seemed to be a lot of traffic, I wondered what, if anything, the people driving by thought about the place. The exhibits were tedious, I didn’t need an education, I wanted contemplation.

Before leaving camp 1, we stopped at Crematorium 1, the only remaining gas chamber at the entire complex. It was originally a morgue attached to the crematorium but it was converted to a gas chamber by way of Nazi ingenuity. The place shook me to the core. I had studied aspects of the Final Solution in high school and college and I understood what happened to a human body dying of Zykon B poisoning. I thought of the terrible scene(s) that took place in that concrete room. The tortured screams as the victims began to understand the grim reality of their situation. And the silence twenty minutes later and then the mass of tangled bodies, soiled by blood urine and feces (Zyklon B caused its victims to evacuate their bowels.) I had an urge to take a picture but my conscience wouldn’t allow it. So many thousands of people died in this place, snapping a photo felt self-indulgent. Just then our guide asked that no one take pictures. I had had enough of the gas chamber and turned to leave. While walking out I passed a man taking a picture.

We got back into our little van for the 2 kilometer drive to Birkenau. Birkenau was the true death center at Auschwitz. Between 1943 and 1944 the four gas chambers and crematoria there worked nearly nonstop, taking over one million living people and reducing them to their basic chemical compounds – ash.

Birkenau, the iconic main building, photo by Scott Roth

Birkenau, the iconic main building, photo by Scott Roth

The iconic main gate of Birkenau came into sight. I was struck by how small it seemed. I had seen literally hundreds of pictures of that gatehouse, the pictures always showing scenes of the selections that took place when transports of Jews arrived from all over Europe. But that’s the thing about that place, everything seems just plain and ordinary, in spite of the enormity of the acts that took place there.

We walked to that main gate and waiting for our guide for this second and final portion of the tour. While we waited I spotted two high-school age young men carrying a large Israeli flag towards the gate. They walked with purpose and had determined looks on their faces. I wondered what they were thinking.

Our guide was a young Polish woman with a very good command of English. We walked through the gate. Immediately she began explaining the history of Birkenau and my mind wandered. Now I saw several young people wearing Israeli flags as if they were shawls and then I understood that these were Israeli high school students on a school trip to Auschwitz. I thought of Yoav Shamir’s documentary “Defamation,” and I shook my head.

We made our way towards the back of the camp where the crematoria were. Our guide kept saying that those “sentenced to death” were murdered in these spaces. I kept thinking that no one really was sentenced to death, not in the way I understand the term. What went on there was a nihilistic orgy of death. Nothing resembling due process resulting in a sentence of death took place there.

We approached the site of Crematorium 2 (all the former crematoria at Birkenau were destroyed, one in a revolt by Jewish prisoners). Next to it is a small pond where we were told the ashes of victims were poured. On the banks of the pond were very small Israeli flags on wooden toothpicks. I had seen enough.

The pond outside Crematorium 2, Birkenau, photo by Scott Roth

The pond outside Crematorium 2, Birkenau, photo by Scott Roth

On our way back to the main gate we stopped at what we were told was a women’s barracks for laborers.(Birkenau was unique in the constellation of Nazi death and concentration camps in that as well as being a killing center it also housed thousands of laborers.) “Prisoners woke up at 4:00 AM and roll call went on for three hours,” the guide said. “Every night people would die, the living would have to hold the dead up at roll call because the Germans were meticulous about getting a proper count. It was easier in the winter because they would stick the corpses up in the snow and they wouldn’t have to hold them up.”

I was numb. I left the group and walked back towards the gate alone. On the way I saw more young Israelis. They were hugging each other and sheltering each other under their flag. When I got to the gate I saw that there was a bookstore. I went in. It was a bookstore and nothing else. No trinkets or souvenirs for sale, but a bookstore nonetheless. I wondered what that space was used as when Birkenau was operational. The group eventually made its way back to the gate. I thanked our guide and gave her a generous tip. We walked a few hundred meters back to the minivan, and I felt relieved that we were finished.
On the drive back to Krakow I tried to make sense of what I had seen and felt. To be honest I had no major epiphany. I just felt numb. No major radical change in my worldview regarding Israel or anything. Just the same sense that the best we can do is guarantee equal rights for all and punish those who unlawfully harm others. Ethnic chauvinism as a response to ethnic chauvinism isn’t the answer. It’s a capitulation.

I was very hungry now and I fell asleep. I woke up probably thirty minutes later. We drove by the intersection where that taxi driver had made that almost tragic mistake two days earlier. I exhaled, I knew we were only a few minutes outside of Krakow. Fifteen minutes later we got off the van at the main old town square. I stopped at one of the dozens of outdoor restaurants and sat down at the first empty table I found. I ordered a schnitzel and a large glass of beer. I took out my phone and dialed a number.

“Hi Scott, what’s up?” said the voice on the other end of the line. “I saw what I came to see, can you see if I can get on a flight back to JFK tomorrow?”, I asked. “Let me see,” said the voice. I took a big swig of my beer and waited for the response.

Scott Roth

Scott Roth is publisher of Mondoweiss.net. Follow him on twitter at scottroth76 .

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121 Responses

  1. just on November 2, 2014, 12:07 pm

    Thank you.

  2. Walid on November 2, 2014, 12:17 pm

    “… I didn’t want to see exhibits as much as I wanted to experience being at that place and feeling whatever feelings the place evoked.”

    Exactly what I look to experience whenever I go someplace. No BS and no propaganda offered by Scott, but I felt the horror of the place and what had happened there. Fascinating story-telling that made me feel I was there with Scott.

    • Walid on November 2, 2014, 12:21 pm

      What are those containers in the top photo?

      • John O on November 2, 2014, 12:34 pm

        Used tins of Zyklon B, casually cast aside like old cans of paint.

      • Ellen on November 2, 2014, 12:54 pm

        I believe they are spent Zykon B canisters. An appropriate photo of the industrialization and dehumanization and industrialization of death and extermination of human beings.

    • bilal a on November 2, 2014, 12:31 pm

      This cannot be true, there is no museum:

      German Postwar Diary

      We arrived in the city of Heilbronn by the Neckar, In the end we counted 240,000 men, who lived on the naked ground and without cover.

      Spring and summer were mild this year, but we were starving. At 6;00 am we received coffee, at noon about a pint of soup and 100 grams of bread a day……..

      The ‘Amis’ gave us newspapers in German language, describing the terrors of the concentration camps. We did not believe any of it. We figured the Americans only wanted to demoralize us further.

      The fields on which we lived belonged to the farmers of the area…soon nothing of the clover and other sprouting greens were left, and the trees were barren. We had eaten each blade of grass…..

      Sometimes it happened that groups of our own men were gathered and transported away. We presumed they were discharged to go home, and naturally, we wished to be among them. Much later we heard they were sent to labor camps! My mother’s cousin, feared that he would be drafted into the Hitler Youth SS, he volunteered to the marines, in 1945 his unit was in Denmark. On April 20th they were captured by the Americans. his experience in the POW camp was identical that of my brother’s. They lived in open fields, did not receive and food and water the first six days, and starved nearly to death. German wives and mothers who wanted to throw loaves of bread over the fence, were chased off. The prisoners, just to have something to chew, scraped the bark from young trees. my cousins job was to report each morning how many had died during the night. “and these were not just a few!” he adds to his report he wrote me.

      American Guard Account

      In Andernach about 50,000 prisoners of all ages were held in an open field surrounded by barbed wire. The women were kept in a separate enclosure that I did not see until later. The men I guarded had no shelter and no blankets. Many had no coats. They slept in the mud, wet and cold, with inadequate slit trenches for excrement. It was a cold, wet spring, and their misery from exposure alone was evident.

      Even more shocking was to see the prisoners throwing grass and weeds into a tin can containing a thin soup. They told me they did this to help ease their hunger pains. Quickly they grew emaciated. Dysentery raged, and soon they were sleeping in their own excrement, too weak and crowded to reach the slit trenches. Many were begging for food, sickening and dying before our eyes. We had ample food and supplies, but did nothing to help them, including no medical assistance.

    • MHughes976 on November 3, 2014, 1:00 pm

      See also Keith Lowe, Savage Continent (2012).

      • MHughes976 on November 3, 2014, 1:54 pm

        The topic of postwar atrocity is important and disturbing – however, Scott is describing Auschwitz and his experience there and we must ‘never forget’ that terrible atrocities were perpetrated against a near defenceless Jewish civil population during the War years. It’s a big ugly fact and other ugly facts don’t mitigate it.

      • Mooser on November 3, 2014, 2:14 pm

        “It’s a big ugly fact and other ugly facts don’t mitigate it.”

        No, they don’t mitigate it, they put it into context.

      • MHughes976 on November 4, 2014, 12:04 pm

        It’s true what you say about context, Mooser – I don’t deny it. But we need to be on our guard lest we fall into our own version of Whataboutery.

      • Mooser on November 4, 2014, 3:55 pm

        “we need to be on our guard lest we fall into our own version of Whataboutery.”

        I don’t know, I can only see the events being understandable and historically and emotionally undeniable in the context of the 20th Century history which surrounded it, and drove it, as the actual events and living memory recede into the thing called history.

    • Stephen Shenfield on November 4, 2014, 3:52 pm

      I don’t see the point of your visit. Auschwitz as death factory and Auschwitz as tourist park are the “same place” only in the trivial geographical sense. Auschwitz and Vorkuta, for instance, are the “same place” in a more essential sense despite being several thousand miles apart. Reading a survivor’s memoir would give you deeper insight than visiting Auschwitz (if you had to choose between them). Especially when the guide has no real understanding of what happened there or is conducting an indoctrination exercise and the tourist lacks the knowledge to realize that.

      • Mooser on November 6, 2014, 4:20 pm

        “Reading a survivor’s memoir would give you deeper insight than visiting Auschwitz”

        Are we headed towards ILM here?

  3. Jackdaw on November 2, 2014, 12:20 pm

    Thanks Scott,

    I wonder when our hosts, Phil and Adam, are going to ‘get on the bus’?

    • just on November 2, 2014, 1:27 pm

      WHAT?

      • Mooser on November 2, 2014, 1:46 pm

        <a href="http://www.timesofisrael.com/dachaus-work-sets-you-free-sign-stolen/"Maybe they have already visited a Holocaust site seeking inspirational decor for the Mondo office?

      • Mooser on November 2, 2014, 1:50 pm

        That wasn’t supposed to come out like that. This no edit is going to get me in trouble.

        Anyway, Jackdaw, I wouldn’t hope for too much from Phil and Adam. They’re not susceptible teens any more, and if they go, they will go as individuals, not as part of an indoctrination program, like those poor Israeli kids.

      • Mooser on November 2, 2014, 2:41 pm

        I was referring to this: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/1.624187

        I didn’t even get the link right.

        Some misguided person or persons stole part of the infamous ‘Arbecht macht frei’ sign from Dachau. Be a heck of a thing to put up in an office, like those “beatings will continue until morale improves” posters I used to see, but much worse.

    • Mooser on November 2, 2014, 1:51 pm

      “I wonder when our hosts, Phil and Adam, are going to ‘get on the bus’?”

      When you get off the grassy knoll.

    • eljay on November 2, 2014, 6:40 pm

      A visit to a death camp should – and, in most cases, it likely does – move people to desire justice, accountability and equality.

      But for some reason, a visit to a death camps moves Zio-supremacists to desire Jewish supremacism in an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State”. It makes them loathe the concept of justice, accountability and equality.

      There is something horribly wrong with the minds and/or hearts of Zio-supremacists.

    • seafoid on November 3, 2014, 12:42 pm

      We are all going to throw Israel under the bus

  4. bintbiba on November 2, 2014, 12:22 pm

    So true, Walid. Superb story-telling. I felt quite numb reading…. to the core of my soul.
    “It’s a capitulation” , Scott says. What an insightful comment. Thank you.

    • Mooser on November 3, 2014, 11:30 am

      ““It’s a capitulation”

      I mean, hey, if Hitler says you are a race, a people, why disagree? I mean, he seemed so positive about it.

      • Mooser on November 3, 2014, 2:20 pm

        That’s what I’ve always felt was the biggest capitulation , or one of the capitulations, of Zionism.

  5. tokyobk on November 2, 2014, 12:57 pm

    I was struck by how normal Auschwitz (I) looked. Just like the barracks it was built as. Could have been any kind of camp, not just the work/death camp it was. Auschwitz II Birkenau on the other and leaves so many horrors in the mind. The housing that looks like a stable. The tiny cement cubicles prisoners were locked into. I scraped my foot on the ground near a dingy pond and found a human tooth. It was clearly a place to temporarily house the dying. The “no crematorium” line of holocaust-denial goes irrelevant when you see how this was built for typhus to finish the job that gas might not.

    And also the town of Oświęcim which resents the German name that has been indelible along with the history of what happened nearby.

    It was summer and kids were swimming in the stream nearby the town which also runs along a road to the camp.

    • seafoid on November 2, 2014, 1:28 pm

      When I visited Auschwitz what struck me most apart from all the lies of the Nazis was a picture of a group of naked Jewish women just before they were executed. How fucked up was Nazism that those women were seen as vermin rather than attractive women.
      It was such a fucked up time.

      Poland and Ukraine got the worst of it.

      Another story that really resonated with me was that of Lajos Schlinger, born in 1896 in Cluj in Romania. He was a Jewish doctor who used to be visited by a Bayer rep called Capesius.
      He was sent to Auschwitz in 1944 with his family.
      The man who met him on the ramp at Auschwitz was Capesius. He assured him that his wife would be taken care of. She was selected for immediate execution.
      The lies.

      Wir sind angekommen in Nachtzeit. Die Waggone waren nicht aufgemacht, wir warteten zwei, drei Stunden lang. Männer haben geschreien, Frauen weinen, Kindern brüllen. Es war eine schreckliche Situation. Ich, nachdem wir sind heraus vom Waggon, ich habe mich herumgeschaut, ich habe mich einige Male herumgedreht: Was ist hier? Was für eine Hölle ist das? Und auf einmal, plötzlich, sehe ich an der Rampeden Doktor Capesius. Mit großer Freude hab ich zu ihm gelaufen und ich hab ihn gegrüßt, und die erste Frage war das: „Wo sind wir eigentlich?“ Er sagte mir: „In Mitte Deutschlands.“
      (89. Verhandlungstag, 14.9.1964)

      We arrived at night. The Wagons were uncomfortable, we waited for hours. Men screaming, Women crying, Kids screaming. It was a dreadful situation. After I got out of the wagon I turned around a few times – what is this? What sort of a hell is this? and suddenly I saw Dr Capesius on the ramp. I ran to him with such happiness and greeted him and my first question was “where are we , actually? He replied “In the middle of Germany”.

      • lysias on November 3, 2014, 6:39 pm

        Reminds me of Hans Sachs’s monologue at the beginning of Act III of Meistersinger:

        Wie friedsam treuer Sitten,
        getrost in Tat und Werk,
        liegt nicht in Deutschlands Mitten
        mein liebes Nürenberg!

        Had such an innocent meaning there.

    • Mooser on November 2, 2014, 2:22 pm

      “the vast majority of whom were Jews”

      If I am not mis-remembering what I have read, Auschwitz was also the place at which Poles and Polish Catholics met their fate. Their numbers are not insignificant, don’t they also run into the millions?

      • lysias on November 3, 2014, 6:43 pm

        From the Wikipedia entry on Auschwitz concentration camp:

        A larger study started by Franciszek Piper used timetables of train arrivals combined with deportation records to calculate at least 960,000 Jewish deaths and at least 1.1 million total deaths,[159] a figure adopted as official by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in the 1990s.[160] Piper also stated that a figure of as many as 1.5 million total deaths was possible.[160]

        . . .

        The next largest group of victims [after the Jews] were non-Jewish Poles, who accounted for 70,000 to 75,000 deaths. Twenty-one thousand Roma and Sinti were killed, along with 15,000 Soviet POWs and 10,000 to 15,000 peoples of other nations.[161] Around 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned at Auschwitz, at least 152 of whom died.[163]

      • Jabberwocky on November 4, 2014, 8:21 am

        Post WWII the total number of deaths was put at 4 million. After the fall of the Soviet Union the actual records were found and the number revised to 1.1MM. Still an horrific example of man’s inhumanity to men but not allowed to be discussed, so very difficult to understand the extent of the horrors visited on various ethnic, political and religious groups.

    • Daniel Rich on November 2, 2014, 5:26 pm

      @ tokyob,

      Q: The “no crematorium” line of holocaust-denial goes irrelevant when you see how this was built for typhus to finish the job that gas might not.

      R: What an incredibly dishonest and completely unsubstantiated load of horse manure.

      • tokyobk on November 2, 2014, 10:39 pm

        How so?
        Do you understand what I meant?

        The death camps were intended to kill people.

        Some Holocaust hitch there denial on the existence of gas chambers and crematoria.

        My point is that even without them, when you see Birkenau you understand this was a point of no return either by disease, starvation or murder.

        So, now, why is this “horse manure”?

      • tokyobk on November 2, 2014, 10:40 pm

        some holocaust deniers hitch their denial on..

      • Mooser on November 3, 2014, 9:43 am

        “So, now, why is this “horse manure”?”

        Don’t worry about it, tokyobk. In order to understand why he says that, you would have to know what words are for and how they work in communicating ideas. You don’t want to bother with that. It’s a big hassle.

      • tokyobk on November 3, 2014, 4:11 pm

        So, now, why is this “horse manure”?”

        Don’t worry about it, tokyobk. In order to understand why he says that, you would have to know what words are for and how they work in communicating ideas. You don’t want to bother with that. It’s a big hassle.

        Ha, totally gratuitous, and not answering my question as to why the assertion that death by disease and starvation was one of the strategies of the Nazis (and most genocides) but kind of funny.

      • tokyobk on November 3, 2014, 4:14 pm

        “So, now, why is this “horse manure”?”

        Don’t worry about it, tokyobk. In order to understand why he says that, you would have to know what words are for and how they work in communicating ideas. You don’t want to bother with that. It’s a big hassle.”

        Ha, totally gratuitous, and not answering my question as to the assertion that death by disease and starvation was one of the strategies of the Nazis (and most genocides) but kind of funny.

      • Mooser on November 3, 2014, 5:45 pm

        “Some Holocaust hitch there denial on the existence of gas chambers and crematoria.”

        Both? Denying that either existed, or were attached to the camps? That’s shocking. Like I said, I thought the facts were pretty well established. I didn’t think there’s any real doubt about the existence and use of both those things in the Holocaust. And there’s vast documentation and any number of contemporaneous accounts, from both victims and Nazis. After the war, all through the 50′ and 60′ as things came to light, it was reported on heavily. (Even if, as I read somewhere, when you toted it all up, actually more people were simply lined up in front of Einsatzgruppen, machine-gunned, and buried in pits, than were gassed, that’s bad enough.)

        I wonder what would compel someone to doubt those facts? What conditions could only be accounted for by some denial of those facts? I wish I knew.

      • lysias on November 3, 2014, 6:51 pm

        The immediate purpose of the Auschwitz camp was economic. Jews were killed both because Hitler and the Nazis hated and feared them and because, unless they could contribute economically to the German war effort, they were considered not just “useless mouths” whom it was considered counterproductive to allow to continue to live when Germany was blockaded, but domestic enemies who positively endangered the war effort. Unlike Sobibor and the other exclusively death camps, Auschwitz was a combination of death and concentration camp. It contributed substantially to the war effort by the production of critical materials like synthetic rubber. That is why there was the selection, when the Jews arrived in Auschwitz, between those who could usefully work and those who could not, and who therefore were condemned to an immediate death. As for those who worked, the Germans for a long time were not too concerned about maintaining their health, since there were plenty others to replace them (until there was a labor shortage in the last months of the war). Hence things like the typhus.

      • Daniel Rich on November 3, 2014, 10:17 pm

        @ tokyobk,

        Q: this was built for typhus to finish the job that gas might not.

        R: This is absolutely not true.

        They were built to house way too many inmates per unit and the results of overcrowding and no hygiene are very well documented.

        The Others’.

        F. H. Hinsley’s original volumes are out of print, but British Intelligence in the Second World War: v. 1: Its Influence on Strategy and Operations (History of the Second World War) captures most of the essence of British Intelligence Operations during WWII and what they did know about the various camps.

      • Daniel Rich on November 4, 2014, 1:56 am

        @ Mooser,

        Q: I wonder what would compel someone to doubt those facts?

        R: I don’t know either. Both the presence [and use] of gas chambers and crematoria in Auschwitz and its satellite camps is established beyond any doubt. The provable use of Zyklon B as well. Denying any of these facts as fabrications is delusional.

        I wrote a short story [many moons ago] about a perfect murder. Premise of the skit was simple; man comes home, man finds spouse in bed with another guy, man kills both and disposes of the bodies. The perfectness lay in the fact that he drove the corpses to a nearby crematorium [late at night], broke into it, started up the machinery, burned the bodies, grinned the remaining bones and teeth to a fine dust and released that back into the ocean. No bodies, no murder. I thought I’d come up with a nifty short little tale. The only thing I didn’t know was how long it would take to burn a body [I thought about 10 minutes], so to be accurate I called a random crematorium to find out. The woman who answered the phone told me it depends on the height, size and weight of a person, but that it would take about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

        Facts are facts and even if everybody believes in a lie [like the Germans in their 1,000 year rule] that doesn’t make it true.

      • Mooser on November 4, 2014, 3:09 pm

        Q: “this was built for typhus to finish the job that gas might not. “

        Tolkyobk, did you perhaps switch the order of the words “gas” and “typhus” in the sentence, inadvertently? If I read it:

        ‘this was built for gas to finish the job that typhus might not’

        it makes much more sense to me.

        That is, gas could be used to finish off victims who did not succumb to the slave labor, overcrowding, typhus and other deadly conditions at the camp.

    • bilal a on November 3, 2014, 9:48 am

      many german soldiers and civilians died from typhus, which evidently, was less of a threat than the NKVD raping its way to Berlin:

      From January 17 to 21, the Germans marched approximately 56 thousand prisoners out of Auschwitz and its sub-camps in evacuation columns mostly heading west, through Upper and Lower Silesia. Two days later, they evacuated 2 thousand prisoners by train from the sub-camps in Świętochłowice and Siemianowice. The main evacuation routes led to Wodzisław Sląski and Gliwice, where the many evacuation columns were merged into rail transports. From the sub-camp in Jaworzno, 3,200 prisoners made one of the longest marches—250 km. to Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp in Lower Silesia.

      http://en.auschwitz.org/h/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=15&Itemid=14&limit=1&limitstart=3

  6. Mooser on November 2, 2014, 1:07 pm

    “The “no crematorium” line of holocaust-denial goes irrelevant when you see how this was built for typhus to finish the job that gas might not.”

    Is the ” “no crematorium” line of holocaust-denial” (BTW, who are you quoting in “no crematorium” and to what purpose?) one that you run into a lot, Biorabbi? Don’t quite understand why you bring it up.

    • Mooser on November 2, 2014, 1:11 pm

      Oh my Gosh, I’m sorry, I was addressing “tokyobk” not ‘biorabbi” and I apologize for the mistake.

  7. tokyobk on November 2, 2014, 1:13 pm

    Hi Mooser,

    Not sure what you mean by Biorabbi, but yes “there were no crematoria at Auschwitz” (in quotes to offset it as a theme) is a very common type of holocaust denial.

    My point here is when you see how people were packed into the huts at the camp its fairly obvious that when you were moved to Birkenau you were supposed to die.

    I brought it up because its part of my memory of that day, inspired by Scott’s post.

    • Mooser on November 2, 2014, 1:58 pm

      “Not sure what you mean by Biorabbi,”

      Didn’t mean anything, “tokyobk”. “Biorabbi” is the name of another poster, and I simply had a ‘brain-fart’ and typed the wrong name. I am sorry I couldn’t correct it.

      • tokyobk on November 2, 2014, 2:08 pm

        Ok, got it.

      • Mooser on November 2, 2014, 2:27 pm

        “there were no crematoria at Auschwitz” (in quotes to offset it as a theme) is a very common type of holocaust denial.”

        Very shocking. If again, my memory isn’t playing me false, a lot of the Holocaust, documentation, accounts, photos, was fresh (and horrible) news when I was young. I thought the facts were well established.

      • Eva Smagacz on November 3, 2014, 7:07 pm

        The idea of “no crematoria” in Auschwitz, maybe badly understood argument between experts whether the specific building now being shown by museum as a gas chambers, was, in fact, used to gas prisoners.

        Zyklon B leaves residue on the walls of the buildings in which it was used, and the building in question has very low quantities of it in the walls.

        As far as I am concerned, it is a legitimate question, and contradictory evidence is well known – for all we know, Russians, who kept Auschwitz as a monument to the evil of Germany, may have provided a gas chamber where none of original survived.

        But it is sickening to use the above as a “evidence” that very idea of gas chambers in death camps is questionable, when it is most emphatically not – just like crematoria, gas chambers are matter of record.

  8. seafoid on November 2, 2014, 1:36 pm

    I went to Sabra camp in Beirut after I visited Auschwitz. The same insanity except this time It was a Jewish army.

    And Auschwitz wasn’t the worst either in terms of mortality rates . That would have been Belzec or Sobibor. Only seven Jews are known to have survived Belzec.
    But the Nazis destroyed everything, so Auschwitz became the poster child

    One other thing about Auschwitz was the fate of the Sondercommandos, the Jews who had to clear the dead bodies away from the gas chambers. They were all murdered too.

    • Daniel Rich on November 2, 2014, 5:36 pm

      @ seafoid,

      Mexican visitors were forced to strip naked and subjected to ‘screening’ (for homosexuality, low IQ, physical deformities like ‘clubbed fingers’) and to ‘disinfection’ with various toxic fumigants, including gasoline, kerosene, sulfuric acid, DDT and, after 1929, Zyklon-B (hydrocyanic acid) – the same gas used in the Holocaust’s death camps.

      The ostensible reason for the US fumigation was the fear of a typhus epidemic. Yet in 1916, the year before such ‘baths’ were enforced, only two cases of typhus had occurred in the poorest El Paso slum.

      How America inspired the Third Reich.

      When I realized that the stories I’d been told as an impressionable kid were not true, it didn’t have the same impact as finding out Santa had become a Coca Cola wet dream come true. I had been lied to. That fact has made very cautious, and honestly, I can’t blame myself for being this way.

      • Mooser on November 3, 2014, 9:46 am

        .” I had been lied to.”

        Don’t take that as an insult, Daniel. I say this sincerely. If you were lied to, it meant you are, or were, worth fooling. They didn’t even bother lying to me, I wasn’t worth the trouble.

      • Daniel Rich on November 3, 2014, 5:24 pm

        @ Mooser,

        I was a gullible kid, my man… and gullible kids can’t be insulted, only fooled.

        Blood is red no matter where it flows. Pain is universal no matter how strongly I clutch my own bit to my chest. To reach out over all these makeshift trenches to the ‘other side’ might be treacherous at times, but never tiresome or a reason to give up.

      • just on November 3, 2014, 11:19 pm

        well said, Daniel.

      • Mooser on November 4, 2014, 10:32 am

        “I was a gullible kid, my man…”

        I was also very gullible, heck, Dan, I still am. I thank my lucky stars I did not have anything to make me worth trying to fool, because it would have been a very, very easy job.

      • Mooser on November 4, 2014, 10:40 am

        It took me a long time to figure it out, but I’m afraid it’s true. When I was young, all they would have had to do was tell a young adult to admire me, or take an interest in me, for a time, and I would have been theirs for life. And a few years later, they wouldn’t even have needed to work that hard, just point a girl at me.

      • Daniel Rich on November 4, 2014, 11:58 pm

        @ Mooser,

        off topic.

        Sometimes ppl tell me, “You’re so naive!”

        I think of being naive as something charming and innocent, but they pronounce the word as if’s a highly contagious and deadly disease. Oh, well…

      • Mooser on November 5, 2014, 1:21 pm

        But Dan, the point remains, and I’m pretty much certain of it.
        I was not subjected to a Jewish-Zionist indoctrination nearly as heavy or intensive as many, many other people describe, people in virtually the same religious-econimic-social circumstances. I used to congratulate myself on resisting it, but maturer years shows me the truth: I wasn’t worth the effort of recruiting intensively.
        And I can appreciate their point of view, Zionism needed Jewish leaders, not just ordinary, typical Jews.

      • Daniel Rich on November 6, 2014, 2:57 am

        @ Mooser,

        I wholeheartedly agree.

    • jon s on November 3, 2014, 3:47 pm

      Seafoid, “The same insanity”? If you mean that all forms of racism are similar to a certain degree – I would agree.
      I would not agree that Beirut was “the same” as Auschwitz. And the massacre in Sabra was directly perpetrated by the Falangist Lebanese Christian militia, not a “Jewish army”. The IDF was guilty – of indirect responsibility, of turning a blind eye, but not of the actual deed.

      • annie on November 3, 2014, 11:19 pm

        to be fair, they did lot more than turn a blind eye.

      • just on November 3, 2014, 11:26 pm

        a whole lot more than ‘turning a blind eye’…

        how can you call it ‘indirect responsibility’, jon s?

        i bet you think that the massacre on the USS Liberty was an ‘accident’ as well.

      • Walid on November 4, 2014, 9:51 am

        jon, not to take anything away from the horrors of Sabra, these were somewhat mild in comparison to what the Israeli animals had done to the south of Lebanon and to Beirut just before they unleashed the Phalangists on the camp. 30,000 dead and an equal number of injured, 90% of which were civilians. There was nothing indirect in Israel’s savage massacres and deliberate bombing of hospitals. The Lebanese will never forgive or forget the viciousness of Israel.

        Noam Chomsky wrote about it in vivid detail:

        http://www.chomsky.info/books/fateful01.htm

      • seafoid on November 4, 2014, 11:13 am

        Walid and Jon

        If you consider the long term Zionist plan- the complete extinction of the Palestinian presence in Erez Israel- how different is it really to the Shoah ? Isn’t that what the Nazis achieved in Poland ?

      • Walid on November 4, 2014, 11:25 am

        Not just in Israel, seafoid, but everywhere because of the specter of the RoR that’s always there. The million stateless refugees in the camps of Syria and Lebanon are a constant menace to Israel; a little less or so from those in Jordan that are almost at home there.

  9. Horizontal on November 2, 2014, 2:38 pm

    Scott ~

    Great writing that makes you feel that you’ve been there — which I haven’t. (I also have found that famous things are smaller when you finally see them in person: The Alamo, Dealey Plaza, even Mt. Rushmore. I’m not sure why that is.)

    People can’t seem to left to their own thoughts anymore. Everything needs to be active, packaged and processed. This, of all places, should be where one could be with their own thoughts and listen in silence to whatever emerges.

    Yes, it’s capitulation to use a gross injustice to perpetuate another, and dehumanizes everyone it touches just a little bit.

    I was also struck by the scene of normalcy you describe just outside the window. The cars passing by. What a beautiful metaphor for us as individuals, racing along in our lives, blind to the injustice & pain that surrounds us, unless we choose not to be.

  10. concernedhuman on November 2, 2014, 2:39 pm

    The brutality and insanity that was committed by human beings here can never be justified by any context. world powers then stood, watched and did nothing to stop it.

    Those world powers now are doing int again when the then victim is committing it on palestinians. Though not that equal in proportion .

    • Mooser on November 3, 2014, 9:58 am

      ” world powers then stood, watched and did nothing to stop it. “

      Yes, but WW2 inconvenienced them quite a bit.

  11. 666 on November 2, 2014, 4:55 pm

    scot roth sees

    A few weeks ago I traveled to Poland

    I thought of Yoav Shamir’s documentary “Defamation,” and I shook my head

    I saw what I came to see

    • Mooser on November 3, 2014, 6:09 pm

      666, you want seventeen syllables, no more, no less.

      • RoHa on November 3, 2014, 8:57 pm

        And a season word.

  12. W.Jones on November 2, 2014, 4:56 pm

    “ the living would have to hold the dead up at roll call because the Germans were meticulous about getting a proper count.”

    “He described how dead men were held up at roll call on entering the camp in order for others to grab their rations” -Heroes of the Holocaust, by Lyn Smith

  13. piotr on November 3, 2014, 1:00 am

    “Salt mine tour that bus,” barked a hefty looking Polish woman. “Auschwitz, that bus,”

    Serious mistake. Salt mine Wieliczka is actually very interesting.

  14. Marnie on November 3, 2014, 7:17 am

    There are memorials all over the world to visit the horrors we humans have been inflicting on each other since we decided it was better to kill each other than talk to each other. I don’t think these memorials or museums serve any purpose whatsoever and are a total fail. Those who beat their breasts and say “Never Again” are almost guaranteeing there will be an “Again” and “Again”. I don’t get the need to visit Auschwitz or any other cemetary. I understand some people do, but the way it has been cynically used to promote and continue to be the impetus for every wrong done to Palestinian people, who, if I know my history, did not operate the crematoria, dig mass graves, pull out the gold teeth, or utter “go to the left” or “go to the right” to anyone, yet they continue to pay the price for the horrors of 70 years ago.

  15. michelle on November 3, 2014, 1:22 pm

    .
    here & now
    .
    where hate dies where lies end
    where scars fade where wounds mend
    .
    where hopes renew where dreams grow
    where peace loves where hearts sow
    .
    the past is gone the future near
    the present now is what is dear
    .
    here(hear) the echos from the past
    it’s gone too soon it doesn’t last
    .
    live & love dance & sing
    care well for all & everything
    .
    G-d Bless

    • just on November 3, 2014, 1:28 pm

      that’s really lovely, michelle. thank you.

      • michelle on November 4, 2014, 2:15 am

        .
        would that it were as lovely as you
        your thoughtful kindness is a gift to all
        thank you just
        .
        G-d Bless
        .

      • just on November 4, 2014, 12:12 pm

        thank you for your very kind words, michelle.

  16. jon s on November 3, 2014, 4:16 pm

    I’ve had the experience of visiting Poland , including Auschwitz, with groups of Israeli high-schoolers. Last year I had the privilege of leading a delegation of 96 kids and 6 teachers.
    For all of us –students and teachers – it was a moving , emotional, encounter, quite different from classroom learning.
    Incidentally, I absolutely forbade them to wrap themselves in the flag like the kids Scott saw. The flag isn’t a shawl, a shroud or some kind of accessory.

    One of the texts we read was this poem:

    Written in Pencil in the Sealed Freight Car

    Dan Pagis
    (translated by T.Carmi)

    Here in this carload
    I Eve
    With my son Abel
    If you see my older boy
    Cain the son of Adam
    Tell him that I

    • seafoid on November 3, 2014, 4:51 pm

      What sort of material did you cover other than the Shoah?

      The Bund? The long history of Judaism in Poland ?
      The suffering of the country under the Nazis ? Gorecki’s music?

      • jon s on November 4, 2014, 5:41 am

        Seafoid,
        Yes to all of the above, except the music.

      • seafoid on November 4, 2014, 7:17 am

        Thanks Jon

        how do the kids react to that ?
        Do you have them ready any books before they go?

    • Mooser on November 3, 2014, 5:57 pm

      Hey, Jon s, maybe you can help me out on one point I’m a little confused about. I know about the Holocaust, and antisemitism, and they are horrible things. But what I don’t get is why any of that stuff is supposed to make me listen to Zionists, or see them for anything than what they are?

      Just because other people were bad to us, how does that validate Zionism? How are these Zionist leaders any different than the Jewish leaders of the past? Or different than any other people who try to pull off the same nation-building-based-on-“race” bullshit? Hope you can enlighten me on this.

      • jon s on November 5, 2014, 4:43 am

        Seafoid,
        In short, the trip to Poland stands on three legs, so to speak:
        The Jews in Poland , pre-WW2 (“what was lost?”)
        The Shoah
        Poland -history and culture

        As for books, I usually recommend Primo Levi :If This Is A Man

        (and how many kids read books these days?)

      • Mooser on November 5, 2014, 1:27 pm

        Looky Jon, stop trying so hard to avoid the question. Let me put it raw for you:

        What actions of “Jewish leaders”, and Jewish religious figures and Zionists during the terrible times in Europe and the colonisation of Palestine would incline me towards listening to or even subjecting myself to, the tender ministrations of Zionism?

    • Mooser on November 3, 2014, 6:04 pm

      ” The flag isn’t a shawl, a shroud or some kind of accessory.”

      Heck no it ain’t! And I can’t wait until the honorifics “Destroyers of the Palestinians” and “Conquerors of Jerusalem” are added, to resound to our credit down through the ages!

      • jon s on November 5, 2014, 3:12 pm

        Mooser, you’re asking what actions by Jewish leaders 70 years ago, would cause you, today , to open your mind?
        I have no idea. Probably none.

      • Mooser on November 7, 2014, 11:28 am

        “I have no idea. Probably none.”

        Okay, that was 70 years ago. And since then? Wanna tell me about all the brave, ethical, and for-every-Jews-good thing Zionist leaders have done since then which would make me even want to look at them?

    • Mooser on November 3, 2014, 6:06 pm

      I googled “Jon s” poem. It’s the standard one they all use.

      • jon s on November 7, 2014, 3:38 pm

        Mooser,
        I could make a list of good things (and also not-so-good) but I doubt that you would change your mind. You would probably make a nasty remark about every item.
        When was the last time you visited Israel?

      • Mooser on November 7, 2014, 9:40 pm

        “When was the last time you visited Israel?”

        Don’t be absurd. What the hell for? To see the stolen land, and the devastation, both natural and human? To (ha,ha,ha) meet Israelis? Most of all, I don’t think I could stand the shame,if I went there it might give me a stroke.

      • Mooser on November 7, 2014, 9:42 pm

        “When was the last time you visited Israel?”

        Excuse, but what the f–k are you supposed to be? A travel agent? Are you a real estate agent too? Wanna sell me some occupied territory?
        “When was the last time you visited Israel?” Ptoo,ptoo,ptoo.

    • eljay on November 3, 2014, 6:21 pm

      About 25 years ago, I visited Dachau while I was in Europe with friends. I wasn’t sure if or how the place would affect me, but I found the experience to be rather sobering.

      At no time during or after my visit, however, did it occur to me that the proper response to acts of injustice and immorality committed by Nazi Germans against Jews and non-Jews was the establishment of an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State” in Palestine.

      • jon s on November 8, 2014, 5:24 am

        Mooser,
        So I take your answer to be “never”.
        Interesting.
        Actually seeing the reality may confuse you.

      • Mooser on November 8, 2014, 1:00 pm

        “Actually seeing the reality may confuse you.”

        Wait a minute there “jon s” you totally lost me!
        Are you saying that if I went over to “Israel”, saw the Wall for myself, saw Gaza for myself, saw Zionism play out in Israeli law and society, heard Israelis tell me their ideas and hopes, I would change my mind? If I actually saw for myself the kind of danger Israelis are in? Sure, okay.
        I don’t get it, “jon s” what is it I am supposed to see in Israel which will change (“open”) my mind? That they would tell me how wonderful it is to be a Jew? I already know that.

        So they have buildings? Sidewalks, roads, bridges, various businesses and houses? I know the Jewish Israelis don’t live in holes in the ground.

        So please, tell me, “jon s” what I will see in Israel which will change my mind?
        Must be the folk-dancing.

      • Mooser on November 8, 2014, 1:09 pm

        Gosh darn it! I hate being wrong, but hey, when I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But I am wrong, and ‘jon s” is right Goin to “Israel” and seeing for yourself does make a big difference, to all sorts of people!

    • Mooser on November 3, 2014, 5:59 pm

      “See CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on his journey”

      “Jon s” would explain it himself, but he’s to verklempt to speak right now.

    • just on November 3, 2014, 6:04 pm

      no thanks.

    • jon s on November 8, 2014, 1:39 pm

      Mooser’s comment provides a link to an Anti-Semitic website.

      Mooser, I think our “conversation ” ends here.

      • Mooser on November 10, 2014, 10:31 am

        “Mooser, I think our “conversation ” ends here.”

        No, “jon s” our conversation certainly won’t end here. I will be here and answer almost every one of your comments.
        And you will sit there, and take it, because you haven’t got a goddam thing you can say which would pass muster outside of an insane asylum or a prison.

        Are you denying the episode in the link happened?

      • Mooser on November 10, 2014, 10:33 am

        Of course, I may have made a mistake, the website is the right colors, and has Stars ‘o David all over it, perhaps I was fooled.

        Would you like me to link to the episode on lots and lots of other sites?

      • Mooser on November 11, 2014, 10:31 am

        Oh well, I guess I’m not going to get a response from “jon s” He must be busy with yard-work. I mean, even non “anti-Israeli writers” have to “mow the lawn” occasionally.

  17. Brewer on November 4, 2014, 3:19 am

    It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.

    Alfred North Whitehead

    • jon s on November 11, 2014, 3:42 pm

      OK Moooser , I’ll take your admission of a “mistake ” and assume that you regret posting that link.
      I never urged you to visit Israel, I was just curious as to whether you ever had. Many people , maybe most people, have an inclination to see only what they’re looking for , what they expect, so that their pre-determined opinions are reinforced. So, in your case, you would look for , and find, the faults and end up hating Israel even more.

      …” you haven’t got a goddam thing you can say which would pass muster outside of an insane asylum or a prison. ”
      You don’t seem to have much to say beyond personal insults. Please show one comment of mine that was irrational. Or is it that anything you disagree with is insane asylum material, in your mind?

  18. Weiss - Wife on November 4, 2014, 8:07 am

    I never even wanted to go – let alone read about it. This is beautifully, inwardly, told and the small truths come out as wonderful shocks because it is so counter to the way that people usually write about it. Thank you.

    • just on November 4, 2014, 8:22 am

      “This is beautifully, inwardly, told and the small truths come out as wonderful shocks because it is so counter to the way that people usually write about it.”

      well said. it’s real.

      • Mooser on November 4, 2014, 10:51 am

        “well said. it’s real.”

        Should the site be left as it is, mostly silent, still, but maintained as a memorial, or would inter-active audio and visual installations and performance pieces enhance the experience?

      • just on November 4, 2014, 11:11 am

        it should be left as it is.

        meanwhile, I think that the plethora of ‘Holocaust museums’ worldwide shouldn’t really have been built/supported with such gusto– it’s all part of the ‘Industry’. (h/t NGF).

        jmo.

      • lysias on November 4, 2014, 11:30 am

        In Washington, D.C., where there is a Holocaust Museum on government-donated land on the central Mall, there are no museums of slavery or of the genocide of the American Indians. What is wrong with this picture?

      • Walid on November 4, 2014, 11:34 am

        Nothing wrong with having holocaust museums, Just, they are needed but the great numbers of them that already exist and more being built are bound to become counterproductive. Some countries now have several museums.

      • eljay on November 4, 2014, 11:57 am

        >> Walid: Nothing wrong with having holocaust museums …

        Although Zio-supremacists and “Jewish State” would no doubt find them offensive and perhaps even anti-Semitic, I’d prefer to see “Crimes Against Humanity” museums in which all acts of injustice and immorality – including oppression, colonialism and supremacism – are treated as acts of immorality and injustice that have no place in this world and for which people (individuals, groups, governments) should be held accountable.

      • just on November 4, 2014, 12:01 pm
      • Walid on November 5, 2014, 2:04 am

        Just, the Wiki leak is misleading in showing that France has over 75 holocaust museums, which isn’t so. There are holocaust museums in France but most of those 75 listed are about the deportations of French people, which included Jews, of course, but these are devoted mostly to non-Jews that fought in the resistance against the Nazi occupation such as communists, fascists, nationalists and so on.

        There’s currently a movement in the French courts to force the French railways system (SNCF) to admit its guilt in having transported Jews in France to concentration camps, to pay compensation and to put up a specific holocaust museum. On the downside for the SNCF if it refuses to comply, bit’s being threatened (with the backing of the US Congress) with the cancellation of some of its rail management contracts in the US and from the bidding on the Florida and California TGVs projects.

      • Walid on November 5, 2014, 2:39 am

        “Although Zio-supremacists and “Jewish State” would no doubt find them offensive and perhaps even anti-Semitic, I’d prefer to see “Crimes Against Humanity” museums in which all acts of injustice and immorality ”

        I agree, eljay, too much of the holocaust memorializing and telegraphing of guilt is starting to reach the point of diminishing returns in places such as France. The Zios there would have you believe that the high rise of anti-Jewish feelings are because of the great numbers of North African and other Muslim immigrants. In fact, France has had its share of putting up with the antics of both Jews and Muslims.

      • just on November 5, 2014, 1:41 pm

        okay, Walid.

        Pretty impressive list of museums though, eh? way to go, USA!

    • Mooser on November 6, 2014, 4:33 pm

      “I never even wanted to go – let alone read about it.”

      I think (now that I think about it, I could check) I remember the facts about the Holocaust coming to light and the entire awful picture taking shape, as current news in the 50’s and 60’s. (Culminating with the Eichmann trial, maybe.)
      As I remember, it was impossible not to looknot to read. Almost impossible, for a time, in my time and place, not to be obsessed by it.

  19. Mooser on November 5, 2014, 1:32 pm

    Well, it’s possible, given the skill and effectiveness with which media technology evokes the images and actions of violence, suffering and war, and the incredible amount of simulated violence people seem to desire to subject themselves to, that you may reconsider leaving the sites as is.
    I mean, think what you could do with lighting, film, sound, and a few actors! Or even robotics!

  20. German Lefty on November 8, 2014, 8:33 am

    I have never been to Auschwitz, but I visited Mittelbau-Dora twice and Buchenwald once.

    “But that’s the thing about that place, everything seems just plain and ordinary, in spite of the enormity of the acts that took place there.”
    -> I totally agree with that observation.

    “Our guide kept saying that those ‘sentenced to death’ were murdered in these spaces. I kept thinking that no one really was sentenced to death, not in the way I understand the term. What went on there was a nihilistic orgy of death. Nothing resembling due process resulting in a sentence of death took place there.”
    -> To Europeans, due process doesn’t make any difference in this context. Either way, it’s murder by state and a violation of human rights. A so-called “due process” doesn’t make murder by state any more acceptable.

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