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Police state

March 2, 2013 - Harry Eagar
Not infrequently, we hear rightwingers complaining that America has become a police state, and somewhat less frequently, the same from leftwingers. Time for a reality check.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum has issued a new report -- surprising in two ways -- that simply counted the number of slave labor camps, Jewish ghettos, concentration camps, prisoner-of-war camps, brothels of sex slaves, camps to kill the old and sick, do forced abortions, "Germanize" aryan-looking subject people or transport victims to the death camps. (The report left out the "clinics" for murdering the mentally defective.)

"The numbers astound: 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettos; 980 concentration camps; 1,000 prisoner-of-war camps; 500 brothels filled with sex slaves; and thousands of other camps used for euthanizing the elderly and infirm, performing forced abortions, “Germanizing” prisoners or transporting victims to killing centers."

The total is 42,500. The researchers had expected the total to be around 7,000. It is surprising that nobody counted them all till now.

It is also surprising that it took so long for the New York Times to find this story. The information was reported to scholars at a conference in January.

The Times story is regrettably brief. It notes that for most people "Nazi camp" means either one of the six big death centers, or a ghetto, especially, the big Warsaw ghetto. In the Times report, "1,000 prisoner-of-war camps" sounds bland enough. Didn't every combatant nation have POW camps?

Few Americans know that more men were murdered in German POW camps than in Auschwitz and the other death camps -- of the 6 million Jews who were murdered, perhaps a quarter were shot in 1941-2 before the death camps were up and running. But 5 million prisoners, mostly Russians, died in German POW camps.

They were starved to death. No elaborate machinery of selection, execution and corpse disposal was used.

There are still people today who wonder why the United States (eventually) and Britain (early) fought Nazism rather than communism. A friend of mine used that theme -- only in the context of North Korea and Iraq -- the other day to query why nations sometimes attack police states and sometimes leave them alone.

My answer to him was, in short, national leaders are touchy about borders and apt to overlook crimes committed wholly within some other country's borders. That, I take it, was what Churchill meant when he said that if Hitler had invaded Hell, he (Churchill) would feel obliged to at least say a few favorable words about the devil in the House of Commons.

Which is neither here nor there to the theme of this post. The nut graf from the Times:

"Dr. Dean, a co-researcher, said the findings left no doubt in his mind that many German citizens, despite the frequent claims of ignorance after the war, must have known about the widespread existence of the Nazi camps at the time. 'You literally could not go anywhere in Germany without running into forced labor camps, P.O.W. camps, concentration camps,' he said. 'They were everywhere.' ”


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