Home Contact Us
Index Purchase Info
About Site About Us
Appendices Credits
Further Reading Links
Special Features
By Keyword:

Page Number:
Click on an image to see a larger, more detailed picture.
EPILOGUE: The Aftermath
 pg. 660 
An American stamp commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Allied liberation of the concentration camps in 1945.
Photo: Philip Drell
True, in the months and years after Auschwitz, she relearned what she had forgotten from before her ordeal. Here in the France to which she returned, she could do what was never possible there--such as use a toothbrush. Now she could do what was unthinkable then--such as calmly eat with a knife and fork. And yet, as she apparently became once more the person she had been before her intervening imprisonment in Auschwitz--charming, cultivated, civilized--she could hardly experience the smell of rain without recalling that "in Birkenau, rain heightened the odor of diarrhea." What happened in Auschwitz did little then or now, she testified, to unify, edify, or dignify life. For the most part, what happened in the Holocaust forever divided, besieged, and diminished life instead.

Delbo did not mean to suggest that post-Holocaust life is necessarily hopeless. "Useless" though her knowledge might be in one sense, Delbo used it to show how dangerous it would be to forget that there was a time when Auschwitz was "the largest station in the world for arrivals and for departures." Scholar Lawrence L. Langer, too, does not say that knowledge of the Holocaust is simply useless. To the contrary, he argues that to encounter the Holocaust through serious study is as important as it is difficult, for such work, he says, "gives us access to the central event of our time, and perhaps of the modern era."

Holocaust Justice and the Cold War

Even before the celebration of Victory in Europe Day, tensions were escalating between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. The division of Europe into "spheres of influence" exacerbated the rivalry, leading to decades of "Cold War."

The race to create powerful nuclear weapons, enter space, and ensure the success of postwar economies at times outpaced the quest for justice. Some executives of I.G. Farben, tried as war criminals but seen as integral to West German economic success, received only short prison sentences, even though I.G. Farben had been the biggest wartime employer of concentration-camp labor at Auschwitz. Friedrich Flick (pictured), head of the conglomerate Mitteldeutsche Stahlwerke, a coal and steel producer that had made extensive use of slave labor during the war, served only a few years in prison before resuming a career so successful that he became the richest man in Germany.

Scientists whose expertise was judged vital to the space program or the nuclear arms race were not held responsible for the use of slave labor in their wartime projects; NASA moon-rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun was one of these. In the postwar world, the quest for justice was tempered by the overarching desire to win the Cold War.
Photo: Bundesarchiv / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive

 November 4, 1947-April 13, 1949: Twenty-one former senior Nazi diplomats and government officials are tried at Nuremberg. Nineteen are sentenced to imprisonment; two are acquitted. All sentences will eventually be commuted to time served.
 November 28, 1947-October 28, 1948: Fourteen former members of the Wehrmacht High Command (OKW) are tried at Nuremberg. Twelve are sentenced to prison; two are acquitted. All sentences will eventually be commuted to time served.
 November 29, 1947: The United Nations votes in favor of a partition of Palestine that will create a Jewish state. Palestinian Arabs strongly oppose this.
 December 1947: Forty former members of the Auschwitz administration are tried at Kraków, Poland. Twenty-three are sentenced to death, 16 to imprisonment. One verdict is unknown.
EPILOGUE: The Aftermath
 pg. 660 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.