The New York Times is reporting somewhat ruefully that “The Mission to Hunt Nazis Has Become a Race Against Time.” The U.S. Government’s zeal in going after alleged former “Nazis” began in 1979 when the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) was established within the Justice Department. In 2002, OSI included 13 attorneys, almost all of whom were Jewish, backed up by 10 “historians.” In 2010 it merged with the Criminal Division’s Domestic Security Section to create a new unit, the current Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP).
HRSP engages in a range of enforcement activities, but one of its principal focuses is the arrest and repatriation of claimed human rights violators associated with the German concentration and prison camp system preceding and during the Second World War. In the cases of those individuals linked to the camps, the HRSP has reportedly pursued the cases with some urgency because “These people are old, and they’re dying,” suggesting that the pursuit of World War II’s possible surviving criminals is more about revenge than justice. The Times article describes it as a “race against natural life spans.”
The man in charge of ferreting out hidden Nazis is Eli Rosenbaum, highly educated in the usual places and a lawyer. Wikipedia describes him as an Israeli-American, the dual-bit, if true, presumably in spite of the fact that he holds a high-level and highly paid American government job, an all too common feature of officials who engage in so-called holocaust related issues. Rosenbaum has been seeking out what he describes as Nazis as what amounts to a full-time job since 1980, though he disdains descriptions of him as a Nazi hunter
The most recent victim of the Department of Justice’s HRSP and Rosenbaum is a 94 year-old man living in Tennessee named Friedrich Karl Berger, who was recently ordered by Memphis federal judge Rebecca Holt to be returned to Germany. Holt ruled that he was deportable under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act due to his “willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place” which constituted rendering voluntary assistance to a Nazi-sponsored persecution.
Some facts regarding Berger’s involvement on World War II were presented by his defense and do not seem to have been disputed by the prosecution represented by Rosenbaum, who regretted that the passage of 75 years since 1945 means that Berger might be the last real live “Nazi” that he is able to punish.
Berger was drafted in 1943 when he was 17 years old, at the height of the war, and was enlisted in the navy. In 1945, he was seconded to the Neuengamme prison camp near Hamburg as a guard. Neuengamme was in fact a complex of as many as 80 camps and subcamps that were relatively low security. Berger was at a subcamp near Meppen. Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Latvians, French, Italians and political opponents of the Nazis were imprisoned in the camps and it is believed that some of the prisoners, mostly Russians, were the victims of medical experiments or were gassed to death. Many prisoners also reportedly died from malnutrition and abuse as well as from actual starvation when the allies began to bomb the railroads and roads that provided food to the camps.
The camps were run by the SS, but the guards, which included women for women inmates, were drawn from a number of branches of the military services as well as from the police. Berger was therefore not SS even though the prosecution kept referring to Neuengamme as an SS camp, and he was not even armed except possibly for a brief period when the prisoners were being moved to the main camp near Hamburg as the war was ending. The prosecution claimed that the prisoners were forced to work outside digging defensive trenches during the winter of 1945 “to the point of exhaustion and death… Berger was part of the SS machinery of oppression that kept concentration camp prisoners in atrocious conditions of confinement.”
In fact, the largest loss of life of the Neuengamme prisoners took place when 9,000 of them were being evacuated in late April 1945 on the passenger liners Deutschland and Cap Arcona and two large commercial steamers the Thielbeck and Athen. The British bombed the ships, possibly thinking that they were full of fleeing government officials, killing at least 7,100 prisoners and crew.
In his justification for revoking citizenship and expatriating Berger, Rosenbaum claimed that the man had made two mistakes: “Mr. Berger made his choice to enlist in 1943 in the German military” and he then made another choice “not to request a transfer when he was assigned to a sub-camp overseeing prisoners…” Both claims are not completely credible as Berger was drafted and, as a low-ranking enlisted man being ordered to take up a position, he was hardly in control of where he was sent and what he would be called upon to do. If he had objected at that point in the war he might have been shot.
After the war Berger emigrated legally to Canada and then on to the United States in 1959. His entry into the country was completely legal and he eventually became a citizen, married and had children who are American citizens and settled down in a modest house in Oak Ridge Tennessee. He worked in a factory that made wire stripping machines. Acquaintances recall him as friendly and talkative, a kind man who took care of his sick wife until she died some years ago. One neighbor who knew him for 30 years described him as “proud to be living in the United States.”
The Times article illustrates what critics of the media have sometimes described as the “poisoned pen.” In the second paragraph of the article it describes Berger as one of many “under-the-radar Nazi collaborators.” It goes on to report on the “cases that played out over the years in the long shadow of World War II and the Holocaust, as collaborators were discovered and rooted out from often-cozy American existences that had normalized them and scrubbed them of their complicity.” The piece concludes with “Devora Fish, the director of education for the Tennessee Holocaust Commission, who opined that prosecutions like those of Mr. Berger help ensure that the sins of the past will not be forgotten. ‘Every time that somebody is brought to justice, even from 50 years ago or longer, that is a message to the world. Because we are not going to stop until everybody is brought to justice. Even if it’s something you did years ago, it will catch up to you.’” In another comment, Efraim Zuroff, a holocaust historian (sic) and currently the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s top Nazi hunter, praised the deportation of Berger, saying his age did not diminish his guilt, adding the usual spin of Jewish perpetual victimhood, and observing “Especially these days, when we see anti-Semitism on the rise and the rise of right-wing movements, this is a reminder that, if you commit such crimes, even many years later, you will be held accountable.”
How destroying the end of the life of a 94 year-old who was seventeen when he got caught up in a war that victimized him as much as millions of others provides justice is not completely clear, particularly as Berger was not a decision maker and was not personally linked to any mistreatment of anyone. Revenge is not justice but it is something that the United States government and the U.S. media promote relentlessly through the activity of taxpayer funded Rosenbaum and also the ridiculous bizarre State Department offices of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism and the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues.
And going after “Nazis” with such virulence ignores other war crimes like the fire bombings of Tokyo which killed 100,000 and Dresden where 25,000 died, mostly civilians. Or Hamburg itself, close to camp Neuengamme, where 35,000 died in a firestorm that destroyed the city and which was possibly witnessed by Berger. And then there are Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 2 million dead Vietnamese and more than a million dead Muslims since 9/11. Inevitably, he who controls the media controls the narrative while the winner in a war writes the history books and also decides who is guilty.
One also has to wonder about modern day war crimes and what Eli Rosenbaum would do about them. Israel has just killed its 10,000th Palestinian since 2000. In Gaza alone, Israeli snipers shooting unarmed demonstrating Arabs in the past year have killed more than 200 and injured 8,000. The favored sniper tactic has become shooting the Palestinians in their knees. One leading sniper boasts that on one day alone he shot forty-two knees, mostly of teenagers, crippling them for the rest of their lives. “I remember the knee in the crosshairs, bursting open” said another marksman. Will Eli Rosenbaum, once he runs out of potential victims and stops chasing “Nazis,” be representing the interests of those severely injured in Gaza to punish the Israeli war criminals and bring justice?
Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is [email protected].