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Franz Stangl
(1908 - 1971)

Franz Stangl, the son of a night-watchman, was born in Altm=FCnster,
Austria, on March 26, 1908. After working as a weaver, Stangl joined
the Austrian police in 1931 and soon afterwards the then illegal Nazi
Party.

After Anschluss, Stangl was quickly promoted through the ranks. In
1940, Stangl became superintendent of the T-4 Euthanasia Program at the
Euthanasia Institute at Schloss Hartheim where mentally and physically
handicapped people were sent to be killed.

In 1942, he was transferred to Poland where he worked under
SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Odilo Globocnik. Stangl was commandant of
Sobib=F3r from March 1942 until September 1942, when he was transferred
to Treblinka. Always dressed in white riding clothes, Stangl gained a
reputation as an efficient administrator and was described by Odilo
Globocnik as "the best camp commander, who had the greatest share of
the entire action...."

At the end of the war, Stangl managed to conceal his identity and,
although imprisoned in 1945, he was released two years later. He
escaped to Italy with his colleague from Sobib=F3r, Gustav Wagner, where
he was helped by some officials of the Vatican to reach Syria on a Red
Cross passport. Stangl was joined by his wife and family and lived in
Syria for three years before moving to Brazil in 1951. With the help of
friends, Stangl found work at the Volkswagen plant in Sao Paulo, still
using his own name.

For years his responsibility in the mass murder of men, women and
children had been known to the Austrian authorities, but Austria did
not issue a warrant for Stangl's arrest until 1961. It took another six
years before he was tracked down by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and
arrested in Brazil.

After extradition to West Germany, he was tried for the deaths of
approximately 900,000 people. He admitted to these killings but argued:
"My conscience is clear. I was simply doing my duty ...". Found guilty
on October 22, 1970, Stangl was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died
of heart failure in D=FCsseldorf prison on June 28, 1971.

Franz Stangl was interviewed by the author Gitta Sereny in 1970 and his
comments later appeared in the book Into That Darkness: An Examination
of Conscience (1983):

    "Would it be true to say that you got used to the liquidations?"

    He thought for a moment. "To tell the truth," be then said, slowly
and thoughtfully, "one did become used to it."

    "In days? Weeks? Months?"

    "Months. It was months before I could look one of them in the eye.
I repressed it all by trying to create a special place: gardens, new
barracks, new kitchens, new everything; barbers, tailors, shoemakers,
carpenters. There were hundreds of ways to take one's mind off it; I
used them all."

    "Even so, if you felt that strongly, there had to be times, perhaps
at night, in the dark, when you couldn't avoid thinking about it?"

    "In the end, the only way to deal with it was to drink. I took a
large glass of brandy to bed with me each night and I drank."

    "I think you are evading my question."

    "No, I don't mean to; of course, thoughts came. But I forced them
away. I made myself concentrate on work, work and again work."

    "Would it be true to say that you finally felt they weren't really
human beings?"

    "When I was on a trip once, years later in Brazil," be said, his
face deeply concentrated, and obviously reliving the experience, "my
train stopped next to a slaughterhouse. The cattle in the pens hearing
the noise of the train, trotted up to the fence and stared at the
train. They were very close to my window, one crowding the other,
looking at me through that fence. I thought then, 'Look at this, this
reminds me of Poland; that's just how the people looked, trustingly,
just before they went into the tins..."'

    "You said tins," I interrupted. "What do you mean?" But he went on
without hearing or answering me.

    "... I couldn't eat tinned meat after that. Those big eyes which
looked at me not knowing that in no time at all they'd all be dead." He
paused. His face was drawn. At this moment he looked old and worn and
real.

    "So you didn't feel they were human beings?"

    "Cargo," he said tonelessly. "They were cargo." He raised and
dropped his hand in a gesture of despair. Both our voices had dropped.
It was one of the few times in those weeks of talks that he made no
effort to cloak his despair, and his hopeless grief allowed a moment of
sympathy.

    "When do you think you began to think of them as cargo? The way you
spoke earlier, of the day when you first came to Treblinka, the horror
you felt seeing the dead bodies everywhere - they weren't 'cargo' to
you then, were they?"

    "I think it started the day I first saw the Totenlager in
Treblinka. I remember Wirth standing there, next to the pits full of
blue-black corpses. It had nothing to do with humanity, it couldn't
have; it was a mass - a mass of rotting flesh. Wirth said, 'What shall
we do with this garbage?' I think unconsciously that started me
thinking of them as cargo."

    "There were so many children, did they ever make you think of your
children, of how you would feel in the position of those parents?"

    "No," he said slowly, "I can't say I ever thought that way." He
paused. "You see," he then continued, still speaking with this extreme
seriousness and obviously intent on finding a new truth within himself,
"I rarely saw them as individuals. It was always a huge mass. I
sometimes stood on the wall and saw them in the tube. Bu t- how can I
explain it - they were naked, packed together, running, being driven
with whips like ..." the sentence trailed off.

    "Could you not have changed that?" I asked. "In your position,
could you not have stopped the nakedness, the whips, the horror of the
cattle pens?"

    "No, no, no. This was the system. Wirth had invented it. It worked
and because it worked, it was irreversible."

Sources: Hell of Sobibor; Wikipedia. This article is available under
the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License




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