Although he served three years in Hitler's army and was an armed concentration camp guard, Michael Gruber claims that he never touched a prisoner ("Unforgiven," by Katherine Marsh, June 17). That's a feat comparable to serving three years as a dentist without touching teeth. Who did Gruber guard? Other SS members?
Let's assume that Gruber was indeed that rarest of creatures, a benign SS guard. What is so distasteful is that Marsh's article is not only an apologia for purportedly low-level Nazis such as Gruber, but also a diatribe against the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations. Why continue to spend millions of dollars to track down and deport Nazi war criminals, Marsh seems to ask. They're all so old now.
Well, the reason they are all old is because they have gotten away with their crimes for almost 60 years. They have had the privilege of growing old peacefully--something denied their millions of victims. Just because they have had the good fortune to elude justice for decades does not mean that they are now the pitiful and the persecuted.
Linda M. Stock
Boo hoo! Poor Michael Gruber. Elderly, infirm and perhaps unable to die in the United States at the ripe old age of 86. I wish my father's parents, grandparents, siblings, wife and two young children had had the opportunity to die at the age of 86. Instead they all perished in concentration camps guarded by people like Michael Gruber.
Margot Stern Bennett
It is a terrible shame that elderly Croatian Michael Gruber, who was so severely buffeted by Europe's battles, now has to face the wrath of [OSI director] Eli Rosenbaum--a man so vengeful that he has lost his own humanity--and that our government pays for this futile exercise.
I am a survivor of 3 1/2 years of Nazi concentration camps. I was not yet 15 when incarcerated. By the war's end I was 18. In my years at Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dora, I did not meet an SS guard who was a saint. Let's not have sentimental feelings for Gruber because he is sick and old. He participated (directly or indirectly) in the misery of prisoners and the torture and killing of millions.
G. B. Benedict
With a staff of 34 and an expenditure of more than $4 million, plus trips to Europe [and the help of] translators, historians and researchers, the OSI gets not [Hitler's right-hand man] Martin Bormann, but Michael Gruber. Obviously there is a sweet deal here for the Nazi hunters, as there is no guarantee that the former prison guards will die in their 80s. They may live to be 105. Thus Eli Rosenbaum and company can hope to reach retirement age while hunting former prison guards--with taxpayer money. What a shameful waste of resources!
Gruber is more than a former New Jersey garage mechanic. He was a member in good standing of the Waffen SS, and in that capacity he served as a guard at one of the Nazi death camps. His advanced age is irrelevant. Millions of decent, innocent human beings did not have the luxury of reaching Gruber's age because of Gruber and his SS brethren. I, for one, will save my tears for the victims murdered by those SS officers. Gruber's deportation order should be enforced.
To say that Eli Rosenbaum and his associates at the OSI are working for justice is ludicrous. Only the naive fail to see that the U.S. government is subsidizing the personal political agenda of Rosenbaum. Government employees such as Rosenbaum and Kenneth Starr ruin the lives of numerous citizens at the taxpayers' expense. I challenge Rosenbaum and his OSI team to consider working with the same fervor in investigating the Palestinian Holocaust that is currently taking place in the Middle East when they are done destroying the lives of innocent people such as Gruber.
I fail to have any sympathy for Gruber. The U.S. isn't trying to put him in jail. They're simply saying that he should go back to his country to face justice if his country decides to take up his case. Why are we protecting him? Because he is a citizen? If he has citizenship, he got it under false pretenses. In recent years, many Latin American immigrants have been shipped back to their countries for relatively minor crimes (such as selling marijuana) that happened many years ago. They've been ripped away from spouses and children who cannot support themselves. Those are the people I feel sympathy for--not some unrepentant old man who's been allowed to evade his crimes for 50 years.
Rosenbaum seems to think that war is black and white, and that guilt can clearly be defined by association. His fanatic persecution of anyone who had the misfortune of wearing the wrong uniform is a disservice to justice. Horrible crimes were committed, and those who perpetrated them should be punished. But to broaden the definition of guilty to anyone who was shipped to Germany from a foreign country and forced to wear a uniform is persecution in its own right.
Rosenbaum (and anyone who did not live the war as a European) is not qualified to judge what choices an individual must make when deciding between life and death, right and wrong. To presume that a moral choice is the only one to be made is high-minded Monday morning quarterbacking. Perhaps Rosenbaum should consider how many Jews turned on their own in an attempt to survive before he blames others for their tacit participation.
Should Michael Gruber in Krindija, Croatia, have said, "No, Adolf Hitler, I will not fight in your army. In fact, I will come to Berlin and find you and shoot you." If he had said this, then he would have been dead right there on the spot in 1942. We would not be having this discussion about Gruber because he wouldn't have had a life. Like members of his family who were killed, he also would have been dead.
Rancho Palos Verdes
I remember the massacre of Oradour-sur-Glane in central France. I remember the 500 people whom the SS gathered inside the village church, and how the SS sealed all of the exits and set the edifice on fire. I remember the flames. I remember the smoke. I remember the stench of burning human hair and flesh. One never forgets those horrible moments. They are branded in your mind for the rest of your life.
I have a debt of gratitude for the young GIs who died on the beaches of Normandy to rescue me, a small Jewish French boy. Had it not been for them, I would not be here today. I will never forget their sacrifice. We cannot desecrate these brave boys' valor and gallantry by allowing Gruber to remain in the United States. He must be returned to Austria, face the music and dance to a different tune. The time for Gruber has come to stop being the "anything-to-save-my-ass" opportunist that he has been all along.
Maurice V. Polar