Imgard Furchner, a 96-year-old resident of a special care facility in Germany, is being investigated as a war criminal. She will appear in court in a wheelchair, which is now her customary way of moving about, the Swiss magazine DieWeltwoche reports. She did try to escape from her accusers in a taxi but was apprehended and has been spending time in jail pending the outcome of the court proceedings.
Furchner is a mind-boggling example of the German word Sündenstolz, which means being proud of confessing one’s sins. This word was invented to describe the weird combination of self-debasement and righteousness that has characterized the German reputation in recent years for ostentatiously parading their forefathers’ iniquities before the world, particularly before the leftist media in other Western countries.
Although Furchner had been asked to testify in 1954 and 1962 about a concentration camp near Gdansk (then Danzig) to which she had been assigned as a stenographer, no charges were brought against her at the time. It was properly assumed that she had done nothing to kill the 65,000 inmates who died in the prison camp. She belonged to the clerical help whom the German government had assigned to that location. She neither set nor carried out the practices of the SS-Totenkopfverbände units that ran the facility. The Weltwoche commented mockingly that the German justice system is now treating a very old lady “who never held a gun” as a war criminal.
Weltwoche explains that while in the 1950s and 1960s the German government went after murderous Nazis who committed true atrocities, it now seems motivated by a “changed disposition” affecting the entire system of justice. Once that system is finished with the lady in the wheelchair, it will go on to investigate a 100-year-old invalid, who is suspected of having collaborated, however remotely, with some Nazi malefactor.
While these zany investigations proceed, German political parties bulge with officials who were informers for the former East German Communist secret police, the Stasi. Germany’s democratic socialist party, Die Linke (“Left Party”), has happily admitted to leadership positions those who, like Gregor Gysi, held high places in the Soviet-style Communist regime. These individuals have rarely suffered the grief that has befallen the relatively blameless Fuchner. Moreover, Germany’s former foreign minister Joschka Fischer began his career as a bomb-throwing leftist terrorist. This inconvenient fact hardly ever comes up in the German mainstream media. Nor has the German left become a model of tolerance since Fischer’s success as a media darling 20 years ago. At a recent party meeting Die Linke discussed what should be done to eliminate the “influence of old white men.”
We might contrast how the Germans are harassing senile workers who were stenographers in the Third Reich with post-Soviet Russia’s treatment of Communist mass murderers. In 1991 Lazar Kaganovich, a deputy premier under Stalin, died peacefully in bed in Moscow at the age of 97. To my knowledge no attempt was made after the fall of the Soviet government to prosecute Kaganovich, who ranked as one of Europe’s most villainous mass killers. Among his evil deeds, Kaganovich was charged with carrying out Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture in the Ukraine, an assignment that resulted in millions of deaths through starvation in the famine of 1932-33. Later during the Great Purge, which started in 1936, Kaganovich was instrumental in causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands more people. His crimes were comparable to those of any Nazi mass murderer, yet there was no international call sounded for his prosecution or imprisonment.
Thus, mass killers and secret police collaborators who cause untold suffering, but are identified with the left, seem to avoid the fate of poor Fuchner. There is no limit as to how far the onetime lackeys of totalitarian regimes can rise in today’s woke versions of democracy.
Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.
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