November 28, 2019

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NEED TO KNOW

GERMANY

Justice, and Forgiveness

Bruno Dey joined the SS when he was a teenager in Nazi Germany, landing a job as a guard in the Stutthof concentration camp between 1944 and 1945.

Today, the 93-year-old is on trial in a Hamburg court, facing 5,230 counts of accessory to murder.

“Right after the war, only those directly connected to the crimes were targeted – some of the key figures like those in the Nuremberg trials and some lower-ranking people in separate trials,” Rajmund Niwinski, an attorney representing Holocaust survivors, told the Independent. “The guards, not directly connected to specific crimes, just weren’t on the radar of those prosecuting.”

Around 60,000 people lost their lives in the Stutthof camp, near Gdansk, Poland. Some were shot. Some were poisoned. Some starved.

Dey heard people screaming and banging on the doors of the gas chambers but claimed he didn’t know people were being gassed. But he also watched as camp guards brought corpses to the furnaces for burning. He told the court that he regretted working in the camp, that the memories of that time have haunted him, reported the Associated Press.

Because he was only 17 years old at the time, Dey is being tried as a minor. If convicted, he faces as much as 10 years in prison. German law doesn’t allow consecutive sentencing.

Is it useful to bring an old man to justice? Writing an op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, journalist Liam Hoare believes the answer to that question is yes. Respect for the victims of the camps demands it, Hoare argued, adding that the historical record needs to be set straight. He noted that Dey’s memory was sharp when asked about his youth but somehow the former guard can’t quite recall all the details in Stutthof.

German prosecutors agree. They’ve developed novel cases that need only prove that someone aided and abetted the machinery of death rather than participated directly in murder, Time reported. Now they’re doggedly pursuing the few remaining people who might qualify for prosecution, even as time is running out, wrote the Washington Post. Charges are pending against 23 individuals.

A survivor who was born in Stutthof, 76-year-old Moshe Peter Loth, forgave Dey. During the trial, Loth hugged him, bringing tears to both men’s eyes, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. Loth said he grew up “full of hate, until I recognized that I had to forgive.” Loth even asked Dey to forgive him for his hatred toward his former captor.

Loth’s conversion to love and forgiveness is a testament to the human spirit. But some say more must face up to their crimes. Because justice is not entirely blind.

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WANT TO KNOW

NORTH KOREA

Think Of The Children

North Korean children are “constantly in danger” of sexual abuse and are unable to seek legal protection due to the resulting social stigma, according to a recent report by a Seoul-based children rights group.

A 195-page report from the People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE) said that sexual abuse in the isolated nation is “institutionalized and widely accepted as a normal part of life,” Reuters reported.

For the report, researchers interviewed more than 200 young male and female North Korean defectors settled in the democratic South to study child abuse at home, at schools and at other state institutions, such as prison camps and orphanages.

They said that North Korea has breached a United Nations convention on children rights, to which it is a signatory.

Last year, Human Rights Watch also reported on sexual abuse in North Korea after interviewing 100 defectors, but it acknowledged that the sample was too small.

North Korean officials have previously denied human rights abuses and said critics are trying to topple its leadership.

BOLIVIA

Total Recall

Bolivia’s interim government appointed the country’s first ambassador to the United States in 11 years as part of its measures to reset the country’s foreign policy following the departure of former President Evo Morales, Al Jazeera reported Wednesday.

The high-profile appointment of Walter Serrate Cuellar, a former Bolivian representative to the UN, was approved by the Senate controlled by Morales’ Movement for Socialism (MAS) party.

Relations between Bolivia and the US have been tense for 13 years after the former president accused Washington of meddling in his country’s affairs.

Morales resigned on Nov. 10 after protests erupted against disputed presidential election results. He fled to Mexico and was granted political asylum.

His successor, interim President Jeanine Añez, has taken steps to revamp the country’s foreign policy.

She broke ties with communist-ruled Cuba and socialist Venezuela under Nicolas Maduro: She even recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s president.

Añez’ interim government, meanwhile, has promised to hold new elections soon in a bid to defuse tensions in the country after weeks of deadly protests.

Morales has been barred from participating.

MYANMAR

Taking (Some) Action

Myanmar’s military began a rare court martial of soldiers earlier this week following an investigation into alleged atrocities committed during a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, as the country prepares to face genocide charges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

Spokesman Zaw Min Tun told Reuters that soldiers and officers deployed to Gu Dar Pyin village, where the alleged massacres occurred, were “weak in following the rules of engagement.”

The army stated on its website that soldiers were involved in “accidents” in the village and are being court martialed.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape a military offensive in August 2017, which UN investigators say had a genocidal intent.

The news comes as the country is facing mounting international pressure over its treatment of the Rohingya.

Earlier this month, the tiny West African nation of The Gambia filed a lawsuit against Myanmar over alleged genocide against the ethnic Rohingya.

Myanmar officials have promised to investigate the atrocities even as very few have been punished to date.

DISCOVERIES

The Invention of Tradition

Modern Thanksgiving in the US is mostly cozy and calm, with families coming together, turkey and stuffing on tables, and lines forming at stores for Black Friday sales.

But it wasn’t always like that, JSTOR Daily reported.

Historian Elizabeth Pleck wrote that both Thanksgiving and Christmas were once flamboyant communal celebrations with poor children and “lower-class males demanding treats from the wealthy.”

Pleck explained that the Thanksgiving holiday was originally proposed by magazine editor Sarah Hale in the 19th century and that it was declared a national holiday in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.

Initially, the holiday was not accepted fully in the South and not everyone could afford a turkey, but things changed near the turn of the 19th century.

Thanksgiving became a tool for the Americanization of newcomers since it was seen as a family celebration acceptable in many Catholic and Jewish circles. “The melting pot in action meant, for instance, a pan of lasagna next to the turkey,” JSTOR wrote.

Mass commercialization also shaped the holiday by replacing the carnival parades of working-class people with the advertising extravaganzas we see today – think Macy’s famous parade in New York City. Meanwhile, consumer spending on Black Friday and Cyber Monday is watched by economists as a sign of national economic health.

Football also became ingrained in the holiday as a way for men to bond “with other men and their masculinity,” according to Pleck.

“Invented traditions like Christmas and Thanksgiving are based on largely fictitious history,” said the report. And as time passes, “these become traditions of their own, accruing history, even as they transform.”

We at DailyChatter wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!