Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The Road to Heaven: John Demjanjuk's Alledged Role in the Sad Story of Sobibor
Mainstream news media organizations from the BBC-News to the New York Times reported on a frail 89 year-old resident of Seven Hills, Ohio named John Demjanjuk (pictured left)being deported to Germany to face charges that he was one of the Nazi SS guards who took part in the killing of over 250,000 Jews in the concentration camp known as Sobibor (pictured, top) over an 18 month period in 1942-1943.
In our 24-7 media-saturated world the here and now often seems to take precedent over the lessons of the past; stories that are 40-minutes old can be considered old news let alone a story that begins more than 40 years ago.
What will become of the past in the future?
With the rapid migration of news to electronic platforms and a seemingly ceaseless demand for faster delivery of information, will future generations remember Sobibor and the other extermination and labor camps constructed by the Third Reich to exterminate human beings?
Sobibor was constructed in the forests of Poland and completed in 1942. by May the facility was gassing large numbers of Jews using carbon monoxide from the exhaust of tanks according to Wikipedia.org.
After arriving at a railway platform, prisoners were marched along a 100-meter stretch of road through woods to their deaths. The road is known as the Himmelstrasse, or Road to Heaven.
Nicholas Kulish of the New York Times notes that sadly, so many years have passed since WWII that fewer and fewer first-hand witnesses with accurate memories of the camp survive; so Demjanuk's trial may be one of the last major court prosecutions of former-Nazis accused of taking part in mass extermination.
Will our current media consumption habits preserve those memories, or bury them?
Neo-Nazis are intoxicated with portraying the Holocaust as a myth and yet cloak themselves in the Nazi flag and idolize Adolph Hitler.
The only thing more horrific than the Holocaust is the thought that it could occur again because people forgot that it ever happened.
Sobibor was the site of one of the very few successful uprisings in German concentration camps - after it happened Henrich Himmler ordered the camp closed and trees planted where thousands of innocent people were gassed because of their religion.
Let's hope that our thirst for "data" never obscures the trees that line the Road to Heaven. Or that time never dims the light of justice.
Is John Demjanjuk really too old for prison? You decide.