21 September 2006

Sometimes it takes decades for the past to catch up with you.

Many news sources are carrying the story of Elfreide Rinkel who, for over 60 years, hid a a dark secret from friends and family. Although to her friends and family, especially her Jewish husband Fred, Mrs Rinkel was one of many Germans who had come to the US after the second world war to seek a better life.

On Tuesday the US Department Justice announced that Mrs Rinkel had been deported to Germany after US investigators discovered she had worked as a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp, north of Berlin, from June 1944 to April 1945.

According to US charges filed in April, Elfriede Huth, who was born July 14 1922 in the east German city of Leipzig, had applied for a US immigrant visa in Frankfurt in 1959. The application told her to list all her residences from 1938, but she omitted Ravensbrück. She was admitted to the US in September 1959 at San Francisco.

Her sister-in-law, who was married to Mrs Rinkel's brother, Fred Rinkel had no idea of his wife's dark past. His funeral service was held at a Jewish memorial chapel and he was an active member of the Jewish service organisation B'nai B'rith. "He had to leave Germany during all that terrible stuff that happened there and had to relocate in Shanghai," she said. "A lot of the Jewish Germans went to Shanghai."

Mrs Rinkel had met her husband at a German-American Club in San Francisco. She lived in the US until her deportation. "We did help her to close up her apartment and helped her to buy her airplane ticket and go to the airport and buy her luggage - but never a word about why she was leaving," said her sister in law. "We thought she was going because her situation in her apartment had deteriorated. She said she just wanted to go back to Germany ... we believed her."

Completed in 1939, Ravensbruck was built almost exclusively for female prisoners. More than 130,000 women, mainly came from Poland or the occupied Soviet Union, passed through the camp during its history .. Only 40,000 survived. German historians said Mrs Rinkel had been one of about 3,500 young, unattached and mainly uneducated women from Germany and Austria who were overseers at the camp, some of whom were later executed.

Ephraim Zuroff, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, said Mrs Rinkel's story was typical. Many low-ranking Germans who collaborated with the Nazis kept silent about their role to family and friends for decades afterwards, he said. He conceded, however, that what made Mrs Rinkel's case extraordinary was that she had then married a German Jew.



10 comments:

the flying monkeys said...

excellent post...difficult to argue with it. You are quite correct.

Redwine said...

"Mrs Rinkel's case extraordinary was that she had then married a German Jew" - did she know he was a Jew, I wonder....quite a pervert lady, really, or love abiove everything...

Redwine said...

However, I personally know about a case where a lady was interrogated (here), not very nice things were done to her (she was tortured and such), and finally she fell for her tortioner and later married him. Consistent people....but as they say, only oxen are consistent....

jams o donnell said...

It is one that caught my eye Flying.. I suppose like most people the idea that a concentration camp guard would marry a jew is odd but there is nothing new under the sun I suppose. With over 6 billion people on this planet I am sure that just about every odd act has or soon will be enacted.

Looking further at the story Red I think she must have known he was a jew or she did pretty soon. According to the news reports they were active in tehe jewish community. Perhaps it was love, who know? Perhaaps she will speak. Again that The one thing that does strike me is that those germans sent to the US under Operation Paperclip were never deported... Hmm I wonder why.

Again Red, it is surprising on one level but then I suppose it is bound to happen from time to time. I must be getting jaded!

elasticwaistbandlady said...

England Dan sang it best, "Light of the world, shine on me, LOVE IS THE ANSWER." I really do love that song. Maybe her husband captured her heart by looking really sexy in his yamulka and making her the best latkes she ever tasted?

At this point, manmade justice is sort of meaningless for all these war criminals. They're elderly, senile, and frail. In the end we are all acountable for our actions and will pay for it whether in this life or the next.

jams o donnell said...

YOu never know ewbl.. the heart is a strange and perverse organ. I am sure it was love.

Just about all of the big and medium players are dead (having cheated justice in South America or in the likes of Syria) or got their retribution so it is likely to be the minnows left now... Is it worth going for them now? Perhaps not. It is for the likes of Mengele et al that I would like to beleive in a very wrathful god who would ensure that retribution was infinite.

beakerkin said...

Jams

A miconception on the part of many is that those who worked in concetration camps were abnormal. Many were just ordinary people who did vile things collectively. The book ordinary Germans and the Holocaust show letters and photos from these people. The leap to barbarism is not as steep as we commonly presume.

I also am quite familiar with accounts of the Gulags and Japanese POW capms. On the whole these guards posses lower than average intelligence and are natural followers.

jams o donnell said...

True Beakerkin.. most of them were ordinary people given a modicum of power over others. Quite right.. the slide to barbarism can be all too short

Redwine said...

Beakirkin, Jams,

the banality of evil? Yet it cannot be Hannah Arendt was right.

jams o donnell said...

She was a tiny cog in the Nazi machine. There is no point trying to make her out to be anything else. To describe her as banal seems qiute apt.