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Documentary Exposes Buried Death Camp; By the Numbers; Worth Quoting

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Worth Quoting

“[In the 1960s], American students sought to wrest themselves entirely from the disciplinary control of their colleges and universities, institutions that had historically operated in loco parentis, carefully monitoring the private behavior of undergraduates. The students of the new era wanted nothing to do with that infantilizing way of existence, and fought to rid themselves of the various curfews, dorm mothers, demerit systems, and other modes of institutional oppression. If they were old enough to die in Vietnam, powerful enough to overthrow a president, groovy enough to expand their minds with LSD and free love, then they certainly didn’t need their own colleges—the very places where they were forming their radical, nation-changing ideas—to treat them like teenyboppers in need of a sock hop and a chaperone. It was a turning point: American colleges began to regard their students not as dependents whose private lives they must shape and monitor, but as adult consumers whose contract was solely for an education, not an upbringing. The doctrine of in loco parentis was abolished at school after school.”

—Caitlin Flanagan, in her article, “The Dark Power of Fraternities,” in the March issue of The Atlantic

Documentary Exposes Buried Death Camp

A death camp in Poland shut down and buried by the Nazis. A Springfield native, now a PBS documentary maker, who is following the archaeological dig that’s now exhuming the Sobibor camp and has located its most appalling component, the gas chamber. On March 23 at Sinai Temple in Springfield, Valley residents will have a chance to view a part of the documentary-in-progress, Deadly Deception at Sobibor, in which Gary Hochman has invested five years of work and passion—even more passion since year four, when he discovered that 17 people with his own name, Hochman, had passed through the camp. His research has not yet determined whether any were his relatives. But because of the name, says Hochman, “It is pretty clear to me in my heart that I was meant to be here. I was meant to do this.”

Sobibor was a much smaller camp than Auschwitz; only about 250,000 people, including Jews from France and Holland and some non-Jews, passed through it. But the atrocities that occurred here were of the same nature. The Nazis carried out mass executions by suffocating victims, in this case with fumes from a large automotive engine. The camp is known because of the testimony of survivors, and a small museum has existed at the site, but the physical layout has been invisible because the Germans covered it over and planted the site with trees.

“If the archaeologists hadn’t gotten drawn into it, we would have known from eyewitness testimony that things happened, but we wouldn’t have known where they happened,” Hochman said. The excavators are using aerial photos, including Nazi photos, to determine the location of the gas chamber at the end of a walled path the Nazis called the Road to Heaven.

Hochman, who hopes to finish the documentary within a year, said he found the strenuous Sobibor dig a compelling subject because “anytime you find information the Nazis tried to conceal, when you have science to corroborate what the people have said, that’s like a victory for the people. The Nazis never figured that anyone would come back and do anything this crazy.”

Gary Hochman screens footage from his unfinished documentary, Deadly Deception at Sobibor, at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, March 23 at Sinai Temple, 1100 Dickinson Street, Springfield. $5 admission for nonmembers covers breakfast of lox, bagels, eggs and coffee.


By The Numbers

43: The percentage of respondents to a MassInc Polling Group survey of Massachusetts residents who think “prevention” should be “a top priority for dealing with crime”

21: The percentage who chose “rehabilitation” as the top priority

15: The percentage who chose “punishment”

44: The percentage who said that, when it comes to sentencing, judges should be able to “decide the punishment each time on a case by case basis”

11: The percentage who prefer mandatory minimum sentencing 

Comments (8)
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Please make a "historically accuracy" correction to the "Documentary Exposes Buried Death Camp" above. There was never any such thing as a "Polish" death or concentration camp. These monstrous places were designed, planned , constructed, managed - and sometimes attempted to be hidden - by German Nazi's during WWII, many of them constructed on land in German-occupied Poland. So, please CHANGE the text above to describe these sites accurately, especially in memory of the 3 million non-Jewish Poles who also perished at the hands of the German Nazi's during WWII (but about whom there is much less media coverage).

The text should more accurately read as: "A German Nazi death camp constructed during WWII in Occupied Poland then shut down and buried by the Nazi's."

Thank you.

On behalf of the Facebook Group: Polish Media Issues

Posted by Zamoyski on 3.20.14 at 6:54

The term used 'A death camp in Poland' is factually invorrect. The German Nazis established the 'death camps' on occupied Polish soil. The camps were not Polish as implied by the comment. PLease correct the error.

Posted by Jim Przedzienkowski on 3.20.14 at 11:36
I'm totally sympathetic with what I believe to be driving your critique. I have argued over and over with people who had the impression that Poles were complicit in the Holocaust, a view that I believe is libelous to Poland. (I have read in Polish, for example, the wonderful memoir of Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, later the Polish foreign minister, who was in a labor camp himself and helped to found underground organizations that aided Jews; it's very educational on this subject. And I have Catholic friends in Poland whose relatives were in Auschwitz.)
Of course the death camp was not a Polish death camp. I would never use such a phrase. I do recall many years ago that TIME magazine used it, and quickly apologized after it was corrected by the Polish embassy. I'm familiar with the way the Nazis annexed Polish territory on which they built, for example, Auschwitz. Please read this article carefully, without overreacting to one sentence. The article makes it clear that the Nazis operated the Sobibor camp and tried to hide it. A death camp in Poland is not a Polish death camp anymore than a mosque in Israel is an Israeli mosque.
You have a valid grievance and you should check out, for example, high school "Holocaust" courses that attribute the establishment of the ghettos and camps partly to complicity by Poles. There are many fronts on which these concepts need to be challenged. But the VALLEY ADVOCATE does not deal in such distortions.
Stephanie Kraft, Reporter
Posted by Stephanie_Kraft on 3.21.14 at 12:19

Ms Kraft: Absolutely no need to describe how knowledgeable you are about GERMAN Nazi atrocities during WWII, or to comment on other people's knowledge. All you need to do now is to add "German-occupied" in front of the word "Poland". You defend your use of the phrase "death camp in Poland" - but I do worry that, with a German name like Kraft, you just might be a little bit shy of mentioning the word German in connection with the Nazi's. This is what the German Nazi's - still quite a few around AFTER the war - did to try to dis-connect Germany from the Nazi's (this is well-documented). But I'm sure that you would never stoop to that, so that is not an accusation nor an insinuation, to be crystal clear.

But I do still wonder why the ONLY mention of "Germans" in the entire article is in the phrase "Germans covered it over and planted the site with trees" and this does not make clear if this happened during or after WWII. If this happened during WWII, then surely these were Nazi Germans - which is what your article should clearly state, if that was the timing of this activity. So, please amend your text accordingly. Doing so would honour the 3 million non-Jewish Poles who also perished at the hands of the German Nazi's during WWII. Many thanks, in anticipation.

Posted by Zamoyski on 3.27.14 at 4:11

Spokojnie, spokojnie, panie. Polska jest szlachetnym krajem--tam odwiedzialam przez 25 lat, dlatego troche mowie i pisze po polsku--i masz sprawiedliwa rzecz, ale nie pomagasz sobie z tymi uwagami.

Czytelnicy nasi dobrze wiedza ze Nazis byli Niemcami. Dla nich, "German Nazis" to tylko zbedne powtorzenie. Co do mojego nazwiska-- absurdalnie. To nazwisko mojego meza; rodzina Jego tu byla dlugo, dlugo przed wojna. Nie czuja sie ze sa Niemcami.

Zycze panu wszystkiego najlepszego,

Stephanie

Posted by Stephanie_Kraft on 3.28.14 at 8:36

Ms. Kraft:

Unfortunately, there are readers who have a low aptitude for history, and do not necessarily associate Nazis with Germany. How do you explain the alarming increase in terminology such as "Nazi Poland" and "Polish Nazi" or "Polish Holocaust"? "Nazi" is an ambiguous term behind which Germans hide in order to disconnect themselves from their history. In the time it took you to write these patronizing explanations, you could have easily changed the text.

Posted by Yvonne Kowalczewski on 4.1.14 at 5:40

Stephanie,

Just do the simple, honorable and decent thing, and change the first sentence of your article to read as: "A Nazi German death camp built by them in Occupied Poland was shut down and buried by the Nazis themselves, to hide it."

If you are truly "sympathetic" to our concerns, then you will stop being obstructive and politely dismissive, and just make the changes. Good, honest journalism is clear and fair to ALL the victims.

Dan Zamoyski

Posted by Zamoyski on 4.1.14 at 5:51

My paper's readers are Americans. I have never seen such an expression as "Polish Nazi" in the American press, and I have never known an American who did not know that the Nazis were Germans. To Americans, the expression "German Nazi" is redundant. They would simply ask, What other Nazis were there? In Europe, I know, it is more complicated.

Stephanie

Posted by elizabeth barlett on 4.2.14 at 10:16
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