In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

The Blissful Ignorance of American neo-Nazis

American neo-Nazis
The violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville reflects the dangerous, vicious, open-the-floodgates culture that having a Bully-in-Chief in the White House has created in America.

Hundreds of protesters descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017 for a “Unite the Right” rally. 

The rally was dispersed by police minutes after its scheduled start at noon, after clashes between rallygoers and counter-protesters, and after a torchlit pre-rally march Friday night descended into violence.

But later that day, as rallygoers began a march and counterprotests continued, a reported Nazi sympathizer drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19.

Self-described “pro-white” activist Jason Kessler organized the rally to protest the planned removal of a statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee from a park in Charlottesville. 

Kessler is affiliated with the alt-right movement that uses internet trolling tactics to argue against diversity and “identity politics” — part of a broader cultural backlash that helped elect Donald Trump.

But the rally quickly attracted other more traditional groups of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan.

Lest we forget, here is how ordinary people, men and women, even children, died at the hands of the zealed lackeys of the Master Race.

Here are  the outlandish stories of Maximilian Kolbe and the children of the Bullenhuser Damm (see below).

These two stories, which are lost in an ocean of similar nightmarish stories, encapsulate the very essence of the Nazi ideology and its absolute contempt for life and for humankind. Please read them and share them. 

Who in their right minds would want to fly a Nazi flag on their porches, in America of all places, where so many sons, fathers and brothers gave up their lives to bring about the downfall of the Third Reich and an end to the countless horrors and abominations the Nazi regime stood for?

Who in their right minds would?

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes or a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

- Primo Levi, If this is a man

Lest we forget.

-- Death Penalty News, August 15, 2017

Maximilian Kolbe

Maximilian Kolbe
Maximilian Kolbe
Maximilian Maria Kolbe was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar. After the outbreak of World War II, which started with the invasion of Poland by Germany, Kolbe was one of the few brothers who remained in the monastery, where he organized a temporary hospital.

After the town was captured by the Germans, he was briefly arrested by them on 19 September 1939 but released on 8 December. He refused to sign the Deutsche Volksliste, which would have given him rights similar to those of German citizens in exchange for recognizing his German ancestry.

Upon his release he continued work at his monastery, where he and other monks provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from German persecution in their friary.

On 17 February 1941, the monastery was shut down by the German authorities. That day Kolbe and four others were arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On 28 May, he was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670.

Continuing to act as a priest, Kolbe was subjected to violent harassment, including beating and lashings, and once had to be smuggled to a prison hospital by friendly inmates.

At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp, prompting SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men to be starved to death [yes, you got that right: "starved to death" -- DPN] in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, "My wife! My children!", Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

According to an eyewitness, an assistant janitor at that time, in his prison cell, Kolbe led the prisoners in prayer to Our Lady. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered.

After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. “The guards wanted the bunker emptied, so they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Kolbe is said to have raised his left arm and calmly waited for the deadly injection. His remains were cremated on 15 August, the feast day of the Assumption of Mary.

Kolbe was declared venerable by Pope Paul VI on 30 January 1969, beatified as a Confessor of the Faith by the same Pope in 1971 and canonized as a saint by Pope John Paul II on 10 October 1982, in the presence of Franciszek Gajowniczek."

Source: Wikipedia

Hamburg: The Children of Bullenhuser Damm

The school on Bullenhuser Damm
The school on Bullenhuser Damm, Hamburg
In April 1945 the Allied armies have pressed far into National Socialist Germany. The outcome of the war has been decided long ago. But not until 8 May is a conditional surrender signed. Up to that point, those who are aware of the crimes they have perpetrated have been busily erasing as much evidence as possible.

At this time, 20 Jewish children are living in Neuengamme Concentration Camp outside Hamburg.

They are aged between five and 12 years. There are ten girls and ten boys, including two pairs of siblings. For months, the SS doctor Kurt Heißmeyer has been maltreating them as test objects for medical experiments: he has injected live tuberculosis bacilli under their skin and used probes to introduce them into the lungs. Then he has operatively removed their lymph glands. In an interrogation in 1964, Heißmeyer declared that for him “there is no difference in principal between Jews and laboratory animals”.

On 20 April 1945 the children, and four of the adult prisoners who have been looking after them in the camp, are brought to a large school building in Hamburg. It is almost midnight when they arrive. The adults are the two French doctors, Gabriel Florence and René Quenouille, and the Dutchmen Dirk Deutekom and Anton Hölzel.

This is the school on Bullenhuser Damm, which serves as a satellite to the Neuengamme Concentration Camp. The group is brought into the cellars. The adults are hanged from a pipe under the ceiling in the boiler room. The children are injected with morphine and then, sleeping, hanged from hooks on the wall. SS man Johann Frahm hangs on to the children with his whole body weight, because they are so thin that the noose does not close. In a hearing in 1946 Frahm said, he had “hung the children up on the wall like pictures”. None of them cries.

Then the next group of 24 Soviet prisoners-of-war is hanged. No one knows what their names are to this day.

Then, as if the children’s murder had never taken place, life in Hamburg continued as usual. The school became a school again, although its pupils were never told about the events that had taken place in the cellars of the building. No search was ever made for the parents and families of the victims. The perpetrators of the crime were soon forgotten. Every year a handful of ex-Neuengamme fellow prisoners brought flowers to Bullenhuser Damm.

The children show the scar where the axillary lymph nodes were excised.
The children show the scar where the axillary lymph nodes were excised.
In the Curio-Haus trials in 1946 some defendants implicated the former superintendant of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp subsidiary camp in Hamburg, Arnold Strippel, of being involved in the murders at Bullenhuser Damm. In 1949 Strippel was convicted of murders committed in Buchenwald Concentration Camp and condemned to serial life sentences; in 1969 he was released, however, and paid financial compensation.

An investigation into Strippel’s involvement at Bullenhuser Damm by the Hamburg state prosecutor’s office was shelved in 1967 because of “insufficient evidence”.

In the same year, lawyer Barbara Hüsing laid a charge of murder against Strippel on behalf of the relatives, which prompted the public prosecutor to reopen the investigation. The case was shelved again in 1987. In order to draw attention to the failure of the German justice system, the Children of Bullenhuser Damm association organized an “international tribunal” in 1986. Those giving evidence before the tribunal included relatives and former prisoners of Neuengamme Concentration Camp, as well as legal experts.

Some of the children’s relatives had survived the ghettos and concentration camps. But despite intensive searches over many years they still did not know for sure what had happened to the children. Many of the survivors had also lost their possessions – and thus their personal mementoes through the process of deportation. The few photos which relatives who had emigrated or gone underground had managed to keep were the only remaining reminders of the children.

Then, 33 years after the terrible event, journalist Günther Schwarberg discovered the story and published a series of articles called “The SS Doctor and the Children” in the magazine Stern.

The Rose Garden
The rose garden for the children of Bullenhuser Damm
After many years of research in many countries, Schwarberg had managed to track down some relatives of the children. Schwarberg preserved the children’s story for posterity in his book, “The Murders at Bullenhuser Damm: The SS Doctor and the Children”, which was translated into six languages. The relatives of 17 of the 20 children have been traced so far.

Children came to the remembrance ceremony in the school at Bullenhuser Damm for the first time on 20 April 1979 and with them came 2,000 Hamburg residents. The Children of Bullenhuser Damm association was founded to keep alive the memory of the children. It maintains close contact with relatives. The honorary president is Philippe Kohn of Paris, the brother of Georges-André Kohn.

Since 1980, the cellars of the building have housed a memorial. In 2010/2011 addition space in the basement was converted to be used for a new exhibition. Today, the memorial in the school at Bullenhuser Damm is not only an important place of remembrance for Hamburg and an extra-mural place of learning for schools, it is also internationally known.

A rose garden for the children of Bullenhuser Damm was laid out in which many thousand people have planted rose trees in memory of the children. In 1991 in the newly developed Hamburg suburb of Schnelsen-Burgwedel, streets, a kindergarten, a play house and a park have been named after some of the 20 children. The remembrance ceremony which takes place every year on 20 April is attended by many Hamburg citizens.

Source: The Children of Bullenhuser Damm association

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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning