Were the Jews of an inferior value after all?

In relation to a seminar at the National Holocaust Center, on the issue of to what extent the economical restitution to the Jewish community in Oslo was linked to the fact that Jews were deported to Germany, retired Registrar and current research associate at the Holocaust Center, Christopher S. Harper, has written an oped published in Aftenposten, carefully analyzing the restitution process of Jews and Jewish property after WWII.

His findings point at a can of worms that we as a nation urgently need to review.

Were the Jews of an inferior value after all?

The Treason Trials. Participation in the arrest of the Jews may not have been not the central point in the post WWII treason trials.

The persecution of Jews in Norway during the occupation 1940-1945, which culminated in the deportation and murder of nearly a third of the Jewish pre-war population, represents the biggest single tragedy that struck the civilian population in Norway during the war. In all, 771 Jews deported, only 34 survived. A survey carried out by the Holocaust Center include Treason Trial cases against 23 Norwegians and one German who were involved in the deportations.

This survey shows that the persecution was one of the main elements in the case against Vidkun Quisling and also in part in the cases against Albert Viljam Hagelin and Sverre Riisnæs. It was central to the case made against the German Wilhelm Wagner and it was central to the case against Police commissioner of the State Police, Knut Rød . In virtually all cases it was argued by the defendants that they had only carried out orders and unaware of the fate that awaited the Jews.

The prosecution did a thorough work in the case against the Quisling regarding his responsibility for Jewish persecution and deportation. Quisling was in this connection charged with violation of Penal Code § 233, homicide chapter. Quisling rejected any responsibility for the deportation as he claimed it was a German action and that he did not know about the Donau deportation until after it had taken place. It is remarkable that this was the only significant detail in the case against him which was partially upheld.

The court was divided on this point and the majority found no reason to go further than to accuse him of manslaughter under § 239 of the Penal Code as “the court believes the defendant has not been fully aware that the Jews by the action he initiated would be exposed of losing his life, when a did not have the knowledge of the German treatment of Jews in gas chambers and the like later received “. A minority of two judges, Presiding Judge Solem and a lay judge, said however that Quisling had to have been aware “that several of the Jews would be led to their deaths when he executed the order.”  They voted for conviction under the homicide charges.

Knut Rød
The Quisling affair was the only case in the trial against the Norwegians regarding the persecution of the Jews that applied the homicide provisions in the indictment. In the first criminal case against Knut Rød, the indictment was  thecriminal code. § 223, illegal deprivation of liberty. After the first acquittal in the case against him, the charge was changed to “aiding the enemy,” criminal code. § 86. In all the cases that followed, aiding the enemy was the primary charge against the persons who had participated in the arrests. The Penal Code includes several provisions that should have been applied, for instance, the Criminal Code § 224, which makes it a criminal offense to “Abandon someone in a helpless condition, detention or any other form of dependency in a foreign country”, or Criminal Code § 225, which includes the prohibition on enslaving another person. Why were none of these provisions applied?

Aiding the enemy
By only applying “aiding the enemy” as the main charge, one may raise the question whether one in this way placed the main responsibility for deportation on the Germans, and thereby reducing the Norwegian responsibility to some degree of accessory participation.This image is reinforced by fact that the German, Wagner, was charged for homicide. He too had only followed orders form his superiors.  For this, Wagner was sentenced to death in the Court of Appeal, but his life was saved by one vote after an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Police Inspector Knut Rød’s leading role in the arrest of Jews in Oslo was a central part of the case against him. Rød was acquitted in two trials. In addition to his role as police commissioner, he had also supported a group of resistance fighters operating within the police forces. The final acquittal was based on an overall assessment which concluded that he had not rendered assistance of any value to the enemy.

Nazi membership
A characteristic feature of several of the following cases was that having participated in the illegal detention of Jews, was not material to the charges against the suspects. This, despite the fact that any police officer or sheriff had to know that the Jews who were arrested were innocent, and further, that it should be equally obvious that the Jews were subject to systematic persecution. In contrast, their Nazi party membership was a much more serious concern for the indicted police officers.

This fact transpired in a case a sheriff who, in addition to his Nazi party membership, also had been indicted for the illegal arrest of Jews in his district. The District Court acquitted him of the arrest of Jews on the grounds “that the arrest of Jews was a necessary consequence of the fact that he retained his position as sheriff.” However, he was convicted of his Nazi party membership. In another case, charges were not brought against a police chief who had ordered the sheriff in his district to arrest Jews. He had not been a member of the Nazi party. A police chief in another district, however, who was a member of the NS and who had also ordered a sheriff to arrest Jews, was indicted and convicted for having issued such orders. Thus, having been a Nazi party member was material to whether or not to press charges.

Of a lesser value
The survey shows that of all the Norwegians who after WWII, were prosecuted for complicity in this persecution of the Jews, only one (Quisling) was convicted of complicity in murder, but then only manslaughter. All the others were convicted for having aided and abetted the enemy.  Of the 23 cases we have reviewed, 11 were found guilty of complicity in the deportations, in three cases the defendants were acquitted, while seven cases charges on illegal deportation was not included in the indictment, even if the investigation showed that the suspects had either been involved in illegal detention, or that such illegal arrests had been committed in their police districts. In one case, the defendant died before the case came up and in one case, the case was aborted.

Only four cases was the participation in the illegal arrests and deportation of Jews mentioned as an aggravating circumstance in connection with sentencing. In Quisling’s trial, the Supreme Court’s arguments for the death penalty, did not mention Quisling’s actions against the Jews, but only referred to “his involvement in various murders after January 22, 1942”. One can rightly recall the title of an article penned by  Bernard Goldberg in Dagbladet  on May 10 1947: “Are we Jews are still of lesser value?”