Aired June 22, 2013 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vY5RnQxvRcc
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of June 23rd, 2013.
The Holocaust. We couldn’t live with it, and 70 years later, we can’t live without it. When it comes to Germany, I believe we can do business with them, we can visit, we can share their arts and culture, and we can even appreciate that the grandchildren of Nazis and the third Reich are blameless for the events of World War II. Nevertheless, it is premature to forgive and forget and make like the Holocaust was ancient history.
We don’t have to wallow, but we also don’t just shake hands and say, “ehhh, the gas chambers were before color TV, so no hard feelings. Your grampa’s a good egg, no matter what paraphernalia he keeps in a trunk in the attic.” We are still reminded of the legacy of that era, most recently by the former Pope, who was a Hitler youth. Yes, every kid was forced to be Hitler youth back then, so it didn’t make the Pope evil, but it sure didn’t make the sonofabitch holy.
And now, in Minnesota, we learn that a Nazi has been living in plain sight for nearly 60 years. Michael Karkoc, 94 years old, lied to American authorities in 1949 when he told them he never did military service for the krauts. Turns out, he was commander of a legion that massacred civilians in the Ukraine and helped stamp out the revolt in the Warsaw Ghetto. Proving that he, directly, killed or tortured anybody will be virtually impossible, but they’ve got strong evidence that Michael Karkoc was yet another pimple on the ass of inhumanity.
What was the smoking gun? His own memoir! This moron published his autobiography, in the Ukranian language, back in 1995. It’s in the Library of Congress for chrissakes. Shelved right between the book of Job and Milan Kundera. Of course, in his American years, Michael Karkoc has been a model citizen, active in his church, a member of the carpenters’ union and cute like a teddy bear. If he was my next-door neighbor, I probably wouldn’t have suspected a thing – well, unless the lampshade in his window looked suspiciously like my father’s cousin.
But seriously, people are questioning how this demon was allowed into the United States. How did he avoid Nuremberg and get to Minnesota? Granted, living in Minneapolis is its own torture, but still. It is common knowledge that dozens of semi-innocent Germans were given a free pass by the American government for their scientific knowledge and skilled labor. Other war criminals forged documents, paid bribes or lied their way into the good old USA. Ancestry.com and Google did not exist in 1946. Back then, if you didn’t find the birth certificate or the Hollerith card that said, “This guy experimented on gypsies” or “that guy built a scaffold for carrot stealers,” how would you know? In Michael Karkoc’s case, they blew it.
And now you’ll have ignoramuses compounding the travesty by saying, “He’s 94 years old, he’s been a good American, he didn’t pull the trigger – why waste time and money prosecuting a harmless old fart? How many villages is he gonna burn down when he can’t even stir his own Metamucil?” By that logic, every senior citizen behind bars should get a free pass. Charles Manson, Son of Sam – hey, Mark David Chapman isn’t going to kill John Lennon again. Let’s give him fifty bucks, a shoeshine and a rent-controlled apartment in the Dakota.”
Insanity. Some crimes against the world mandate that whoever committed them be removed from society and punished. There is no statute of limitations on the Holocaust. When the last German, or Austrian, or complicit Frenchman or Italian collaborator – when the last person who was alive in 1945 drops dead, then we can truly talk about the Holocaust being history. Until then, I don’t care if you’re 94 or 114, you should be shot like a wild dog and your body dumped in a compost pile for pigs to feast on. Of course, I also feel that way about Kenny G, but this is different. Living a long time does not make you innocent. It makes you lucky to escape the retribution you should have endured way back when. And if Michael Karkoc was just following orders, well, so are the Polish prison doctors who’ll strap him to a table and jam that last needle in his arm. Cruel? It’s an easier way to go than his victims.
So congratulations to the justice department for finding this insect, better late than never. And even if Michael Karkoc joins the choir of eternal hell before standing trial, may he never sleep another peaceful night, may he watch his wife – yes, he has a wife – may he watch her die of heartbreak and shame. And cancer. And may Karkoc’s son – who, of course, denies that his father was a Nazi – like he would know – may his son become like a beacon unto the world. By pouring gasoline on himself and lighting a match.
In this case, the sins of the fathers do get visited onto the children because the father was allowed to live and procreate – a blessing denied the dozens of Jews shot to death or burned alive by his military unit. Yes, I may sound extraordinarily punitive, but nothing about the Holocaust was, or should ever be, ordinary. For the past seven decades, Michael Karkoc passed himself off as an ordinary man. And soon, he will be an ordinary corpse in an ordinary grave. In fact, the only thing out of the ordinary will be the stench of my urine on his weeds.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
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