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"They gave me a uniform, a little gun and little pistol"
August 22, 2007 4:38 AM   Subscribe

"Before you kill me, can you give me a bit of bread?" How a Jew, orphaned by Nazi atrocity, became a mascot -- to the Schutzstaffel.
posted by orthogonality (33 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, astonishing. Thanks for this post.
posted by piratebowling at 5:03 AM on August 22, 2007


(Oh course, as the article notes, six-year-old Kurzem was also used a a Judas goat to draw out other Jews to their deaths.)
posted by orthogonality at 5:11 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Talk about having a bit of emotional baggage to carry around... jeez.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:17 AM on August 22, 2007


Not a helpful contribution since I can't recall the film's title but this story has an uncanny resemblance to a holocaust film about a Jewish boy who alternately masqueraded as a German and as a Russian depending on which army caught him. In the end he was in German uniform about to be executed by the Russians when his brother recognized him. The last scene is them urinating openly since the hero of the film had spent the war ingeniously trying to hide that he was circumcised.
posted by Seth_Messinger at 5:28 AM on August 22, 2007


Fascinating. Thanks, orthogonality.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:34 AM on August 22, 2007


Seth_Messinger writes "I can't recall the film's title...."

Europa Europa (aka Hitlerjunge Salomon).
posted by orthogonality at 5:34 AM on August 22, 2007


On not previewing: Seth, you may be thinking of Europa, Europa.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:38 AM on August 22, 2007


Well, there's my daily dose of horrifying.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:51 AM on August 22, 2007


wow
posted by caddis at 5:59 AM on August 22, 2007


Wow is right. Talk about survivor guilt at another order of magnitude.
posted by psmealey at 6:06 AM on August 22, 2007


Pretty creepy how the SS apparently had child-sized uniforms and pistols on hand to give out to little boys. Or did someone make these things especially for him?

Also, I don't quite understand how he was luring other Jews into the cattle cars with chocolate. It surely can't be the way I'm imagining it: that the Nazis left a cattle car sitting out somewhere as a trap, and then this kid had to lure them in, and then someone slammed the door shut? And I imagine only Jewish children would be fooled by chocolate, not Jewish adults...which only makes it creepier.
posted by creasy boy at 6:12 AM on August 22, 2007


Also, on the topic of emotional baggage: what kind of sexual conflict would it trigger in a child of that age to know, between the ages of 5 and 9, that if anyone sees your private parts they're gonna kill you...
posted by creasy boy at 6:15 AM on August 22, 2007


Amazing story. Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 6:22 AM on August 22, 2007


From movies (The Pianist especially), in the Warsaw ghetto (which I assume this kid never got near) they would round up the Jewish families into an assembly area prior to loading onto train freight cars. I imagine that this child played some role (in other towns where the Jews were being separated from the general population) in quelling the anxiety and mob tensions when the Quisling police or Nazi SS folks began moving the assembled Jews onto the train cars. This is pure speculation, of course, but it's how I could see it happening.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 6:27 AM on August 22, 2007


"Pretty creepy how the SS apparently had child-sized uniforms and pistols on hand to give out to little boys. Or did someone make these things especially for him?"

Ever heard of the Hitler Youth? It was one of the reasons that Nazi Germany was able to build up their military so quickly.
posted by j-urb at 7:11 AM on August 22, 2007


this is a film that is based upon a true story but the film, to be made by and starring Jerry Lewis has never seen the light of day (lawsuits tied it up)

http://www.subcin.com/clowncried.html
posted by Postroad at 7:14 AM on August 22, 2007


Ever heard of the Hitler Youth? I guess I assumed he was wearing an SS uniform. The Hitler Youth was for boys 10 or older even at its worst. Also I'm wondering if they gave him a real mini-pistol or a toy pistol. In other words: they were so taken with how cute he was that they gave him a gun? Anyway I'm not surprised that the Nazis were pretty awful, just these are the aspects of the story that struck me.

i_am_a_Jedi: still, I imagine it was primary other children who were mollified by chocolate in that situation. So I'd speculate that he knew nobody else his own age, and his only interaction with other children was trapping them for his Nazi wards. This is beyond my imagination. Also even this level of attention to the psyche of the Jewish prisoners seems out of line with everything else I've read. Surely they could have just pushed the prisoners into the train car? So maybe they just wanted to give their mascot something to do to make him feel included...

Has anyone read this book?
posted by creasy boy at 7:36 AM on August 22, 2007


This is another reminder of how I am just a comfortable, white bread middle class north american whining pansy who has never seen real hardship in his life.
posted by PsyDev at 7:59 AM on August 22, 2007 [6 favorites]


No kidding, PsyDev.
posted by brundlefly at 10:03 AM on August 22, 2007


That's pretty disturbing. Though it does make a sick sort of sense. Even the SS "elite" was so traumatized by the unpleasant business of shooting a million people that serious questions were raised whether the SS man had been irredeemably 'tainted' by such actions. Many turned to alcohol and despair. Of course this just led to finding improved, less personal ways to do the killing.
posted by nixerman at 10:29 AM on August 22, 2007


Stories like this one, which show the lengths a human being will go to in order to survive, continue to astound me.

There is a saying that all that is necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing. Even worse than that is what good people can become when they must choose between evil and survival. There were good men and women in Germany who did nothing. Moreover, there were people, decent people probably before the war began, who took part in manhandling and torturing prisoners and, while doing so, berated their victims for acting like animals, as if the prisoners' behavior somehow justified the mistreatment. Men promised hot showers to concentration camp victims entrusted to their care as they shuffled them off into the gas chambers. Teeth were pulled from living victims for the metal their fillings contained. Medical experiments were performed, without anesthesia, on sets of twins and pregnant women.

And the prisoners-of-war, themselves, were forced to do the untenable to survive. Men worked in the furnaces, shoveling their own families' ashes. Women serviced Nazi soldiers for another day's survival. Children, half-frozen themselves, forced to run through the night by SS men fearing advancing allied forces, left their fathers behind to die in the snow rather than turn back and risk being shot themselves.

That any kindness at all existed during such a time is remarkable, given the consequences for such behavior, but we see that, too. The little girl who throws apples over barbed-wire fences to concentration camp victims. The family that shelters Jews in their attic. The nameless people who offer food and temporary shelter to escapees. And this man, who made a Jewish boy into an Aryan mascot.

This story was new to me. Thank you for the thread.
posted by misha at 11:18 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Anybody see the movie Blood Diamond? I was just thinking about the little boy in that. He starts out as a beloved son but then is taken away and trained to be a guerrilla as revenge upon his father. When survival instincts kick in, what else can a child do but react to his environment in the only ways that will keep him alive? As was said earlier in the thread... when good people have to embrace evil in order to stay alive. The power of our inherent survival instinct is just mind blowing.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:00 PM on August 22, 2007


This is another reminder of how I am just a comfortable, white bread middle class north american whining pansy who has never seen real hardship in his life.

Well, in your defense, a number of years ago, you were shoved headfirst and screaming through a vagina. And in the years to come you're gonna be perforated by wires and tubes and then finally shoved headfirst into a hole in the ground. And you'll be paying for all of this yourself. Happy now?
posted by kid ichorous at 2:34 PM on August 22, 2007


Well, in your defense, a number of years ago, you were shoved headfirst and screaming through a vagina.

What a wussburger. I was holding on for dear life and had to be dragged out by my feet.

And other people were ripped Alien-style from gaping wounds in their mother's abdomens. That's badass.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:43 PM on August 22, 2007


Some people think that a clear cut distinction can be made between the killed and the killer, arguing that the killer can't
but be "evil" whereas the not killers are "good" ; therefore if there are many killers among a group of humans, one could conclude many humans are killers, statistically evil by nature. Some will consider Nazis as "not human" or "subhuman" because of their horrific, despicable behavior.

Ironically the same killer think their victims were subhumans, therefore moral rules such as "don't kill" shouldn't apply to them, but only to the restricted few, the elites. Elites that were built upon a suggested illusion of superiority, sometime capitalizing on their inferiority complex and fears, sometime literally teaching the kid that they were "not humans" but "superhumans" , capitalizing on what seems to be the natural propension of kids to just imitate a number of adults behariovs, so gradually becoming adults themselves not only by aging, but also by acting/behaving as adults behaved.

I wonder what could happen to a young kid that was taught that you _must_ work to _earn your living_ , learning that you are not entitled to have what some humans have if you don't have enough _success_ (read money or any other artificially scarce good) ; and what happened to the kids that were tought there can't but be such a system.
posted by elpapacito at 2:46 PM on August 22, 2007


white bread middle class north american whining pansy who has never seen real hardship in his life.

To put it differently than others have, real hardship is always available to you if you really want it. Such is the world we live in. You can quit your job today and hop a plane, a boat and a bus to Darfur and be knee deep in it by the end of the week, or else you can experience a domestic form of it on the Mississippi Delta. Failing the urge for either of those you can also do what many of us are doing and sit around waiting for inevitable economic collapse.

Either way, enjoy what you have for as long as you have it.
posted by psmealey at 2:55 PM on August 22, 2007


Or did someone make these things especially for him?

It would surprise me little that soldiers with spare time between battles, some tailoring skill (you'd be surprised at the ingenuity and craftsmanship some trigger pullers possess -- they're not all mere knuckle-draggers) and a razor blade, needle and thread would do this. I'm too lazy to Google examples right now, but American soldiers, sailors and Marines have accomplished similar feats of martial haberdashery for indigenous younglings during and between America's wars.

Sigh. Where the hell is SCDB when you really need him?

I don't know how germane this really is, but the Waffen-SS wasn't quite the same deal as the Allgemeine SS (apart from certain of the Totenkopfverbände guys, some of whom ran concentration camps themselves). One was the general ideologically motivated bunch; the other was an elite combat-arms branch after a lot of the fashion-show types got kicked out. I'm speculating wildly here, I admit, but I get a sense the Waffen guys were motivated, committed warriors who didn't really care all that much about racial or ideological purity so much as mililtary prowess and

And I can completely comprehend how people who have to deal up-close-and-personal with death and brutality might resort to adopting a human mascot. Maybe it's a way, consciously or not, of keeping their humanity alive within themselves as a response to so much inhumanity -- moments of stark terror, horror and ultraviolence interspersed with long periods of frustration and boredom. I recall something like this happening with drummer boys and "contraband" (ex-slaves) with Union regiments in the US Civil War.
posted by pax digita at 6:07 PM on August 22, 2007


That any kindness at all existed during such a time is remarkable, given the consequences for such behavior, but we see that, too.

Misha, even though I know it's fashionable and all too easy to scoff at Christianity here in the blue, let me introduce you to a gen-yoo-wine war hero.
posted by pax digita at 6:13 PM on August 22, 2007


"If I'd been born in Germany, I suppose I would have been a Nazi, bopping Jews and gypsies and Poles around, leaving boots sticking out of snowbanks, warming myself with my virtuous insides. So it goes."
posted by Meatbomb at 11:01 PM on August 22, 2007


Note to self: remember that my kids are probably capable of accomplishing far more than their typical cushy North American life will ever ask of them, and so make sure they're being really challenged.

also, as per usual on posts like these: hug them harder.
posted by davejay at 11:17 PM on August 22, 2007


Hmm ... the Waffen SS/Allgemeine SS distinction is less clear cut than some people would like you to believe. There was free transferring between the Totenkopf (concentration camp guards) and the Waffen SS, for starters. The Waffen SS spent a lot of time preforming 'anti-partisan' activity, and less time on the front lines.

The Waffen-SS was not permitted to train at the Army schools until the mid-war, (and spent a great deal of time on Nazi indoctrination as well), and the Army generally felt that the Waffen SS tended to be fanatical and tactically less than subtle, with a fondness for bloody frontal assaults (with the attendant high casualty rates).

Nor was the Waffen-SS generally an elite unit -- there were some elite divisions, but others (for example, Direlwanger), were not particularly 'elite' by any sense of the word.

The Waffen-SS was the armed branch of the Nazi Party, no more, and no less.
posted by Comrade_robot at 4:48 AM on August 23, 2007


There was free transferring between the Totenkopf (concentration camp guards) and the Waffen SS, for starters. The Waffen SS spent a lot of time preforming 'anti-partisan' activity, and less time on the front lines.

Again, this is not really the case. More often than not the Waffen SS was the tip of the sword. And, while many Totenkopf were assigned to the Waffen SS (essentially shored up into divisions) the Wafen SS generally had very little regard for the Totenkopf and saw them as unworthy and undesirable.

Army generally felt that the Waffen SS tended to be fanatical and tactically less than subtle, with a fondness for bloody frontal assaults (with the attendant high casualty rates).

This was only true in the early war when the Wafen SS was denied armor by the Army. Once the SS Panzer units showed up their casualty rates dropped significantly and their combat effectiveness was undeniable.

Nor was the Waffen-SS generally an elite unit -- there were some elite divisions, but others (for example, Direlwanger), were not particularly 'elite' by any sense of the word.

I'm not sure why you would say such a thing. The Wafen-SS was very much elite in every sense of the word. They were respected both by Army commanders, the German populace, and Hitler. American, British and Russian commanders repeatedly praised the Wafen-SS divisions as the best divisions in the entire theatre.

The Waffen-SS was the armed branch of the Nazi Party, no more, and no less.

Well this is just not true.

I'm speculating wildly here, I admit, but I get a sense the Waffen guys were motivated, committed warriors who didn't really care all that much about racial or ideological purity so much as mililtary prowess...

This isn't true. Though it's somewhat debatable just how 'tainted' the Waffen-SS really was (and after the war many commanders claimed total innocence, insisting they were purely military and not political at all) a close look at the facts reveals that many horrendous crimes can be laid at their feet.
posted by nixerman at 7:54 AM on August 23, 2007


So ... uh, you would dispute that the Nazi Party Yearbook of 1941 ever said anything along the lines of, oh, say:

"The Armed-SS-divisions, a garrisoned organization, which have been constructed in accordance with the experiences of the SS and with the National-Socialist principles of selection, education, and formation of the will and leadership have been fully materialized during the winter 1938/39. They are at the exclusive disposal of the Fuehrer."

You would say that Waffen SS troopers did not receive more indoctrination than the Regular Army?

In 1940, the Waffen SS was comprised of 100,000 men. Of those men, 56,000 came from the Verfuegungsiruppe. The rest of those men came from ...?

The personnel for SS Division Totenkopf came from ...?

Did Hess write that the "Waffen SS were more suitable for the specific tasks to be solved in occupied territory owing to their extensive training in questions of race and nationality."?

There were certain divisions of the Waffen SS which could be considered 'elite'. Others (Dirlewanger, for example), not so much.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:31 PM on August 26, 2007


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